First Thing: coronavirus is making a comeback in parts of the US

Tim Walker
Photograph: Eugene García/EPA

Good morning,

Just a few weeks ago, New York was considered the global centre of the coronavirus crisis. On Monday, the city cautiously began reopening for business, a moment that the mayor, Bill de Blasio, described as “a triumph for all New Yorkers”. But though the pandemic appears to have eased in the north-east, public health officials are concerned by a rise in cases across southern US states including Florida, Texas and California.

Researchers at the University of Washington have raised their forecast for Covid-19 deaths, predicting that more than 145,000 people will die with the disease in the US by August. While the recent mass protests could exacerbate its spread, the incubation period of the virus means this latest rise in cases can more likely be traced to a loosening of lockdown restrictions around Memorial Day weekend late last month.

Artists in Brasilia protesting against the Brazilian government’s handling of the crisis. Photograph: Sergio Lima/AFP/Getty Images

How two weeks of protest have already inspired change

George Floyd’s family is preparing to bury the 46-year-old in his home town of Houston on Tuesday, after a judge in Minneapolis set bail at $1.25m for Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with his murder. Meanwhile, across the US the push for radical reform inspired by Floyd’s death two weeks ago is gaining traction.

The Minneapolis council is grappling with how to implement its pledge to replace the city’s police department with a community-based public safety model. In New York, De Blasio has said funding previously earmarked for the NYPD will be diverted to “youth initiatives and social services”. And Democrats in Congress unveiled proposals with the potential to transform law enforcement across the US.

Cars, guns, pepper spray: the violence visited on protesters

The protesters against police brutality in cities across the US have repeatedly come up against violent responses, and not just from the police. In Minneapolis, a man drove a semi truck at protesters blocking a bridge. On Sunday, a man drove his car towards a demonstration in Seattle, and then shot a protester who approached his window. In Virginia, a self-described Ku Klux Klan leader was arrested after driving into a group of protesters.

Republican criticism of Trump is growing

Mitt Romney marches with Black Lives Matter protesters. Photograph: Michelle Boorstein/AP

The 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, marched through Washington DC on Sunday alongside Black Lives Matter protesters. On the same day, Colin Powell, the secretary of state under George W Bush, told CNN he would vote for Joe Biden in November. Criticism of Trump from the grandees of his own party is growing. But, asks David Smith, will it dent his unwavering support from the congressional GOP – or from the grassroots?

  • The Trump supporters who regret their vote. Polls suggest the president’s response to the coronavirus and the recent protests has chipped away at his own base. Matthew Teague reports.

In other news …

Harry Potter creator JK Rowling has been accused of transphobia over a series of tweets. Photograph: Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP
  • Daniel Radcliffe has addressed the controversy over JK Rowling’s trans tweets, saying “trans women are women”. The Harry Potter actor said he hoped the debate over recent comments by the author – which critics said were transphobic – would not “taint” the book and film series for its fans.

  • The US has officially entered recession for the first time since 2007-09, bringing to an end 128 months of growth – the longest economic expansion in US history.

  • Trump’s plan to withdraw 9,500 troops from Germany risks giving Russia a strategic advantage, and would further undermine the postwar western military alliance, European politicians and military experts have said.

  • Prince Andrew has accused US prosecutors of misleading the public. In a statement, his lawyers said that, contrary to the claims of US authorities, the DoJ has rejected three offers of help from the prince in their investigation of Jeffrey Epstein.

Great reads

An ‘umbrella protest’ in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park last August. Photograph: Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images

How Hong Kong caught fire

It is a year since demonstrations first began in Hong Kong over a proposed law that would fundamentally diminish its autonomy from China. Tania Branigan and Lily Kuo report on how the traditionally pragmatic city has been transformed by a radical protest movement.

A famed Yellowstone bear survives another season

The grizzly bear known as “399” is probably the most famous wild bruin in the world. The 24-year-old Yellowstone resident has done more than any other grizzly to change people’s perception of her species. And she recently re-emerged after another annual hibernation, writes Todd Wilkinson, with four cubs in tow.

Opinion: Trump’s ex-lawyer compared protesters to terrorists

Last week, the president retweeted a letter by his former personal lawyer John Dowd. In it Dowd described the peaceful protesters in Washington DC’s Lafayette Park as “terrorists”. That is a frightening rhetorical escalation, says Lawrence Douglas.

In labeling protesters as terrorists, Dowd engages in something far more ominous and shocking than mere rhetorical overkill. He is effectively erasing the difference between Americans peaceably exercising their constitutional rights and Isis insurgents laying down roadside explosives. 

Last Thing: The Sims goes green

The Sims has long been a virtual monument to conspicuous consumption. Now the game has added a new, eco-conscious expansion pack, allowing players to transform their smoggy town with upcycling projects, renewables and kombucha, says Keza MacDonald.

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