First Thing: the FBI thinks China could hack US vaccine research

Tim Walker
Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty

Good morning.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have warned that hackers linked to the Chinese government may target US firms and institutions conducting research into Covid-19, adding fuel to the tensions between Washington and Beijing. “China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nation’s response to Covid-19,” the US cybersecurity agency said on Wednesday, without citing any specific examples.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman dismissed the accusations as “rumours and slanders”, describing China as a staunch upholder of cyber security and saying the country was “leading the world in Covid-19 treatment and vaccine research”. While China has spoken of offering global leadership during the pandemic, writes Peter Frankopan, it is doing little to lead international collective action:

Nor, for that matter, is the US, the EU or anyone else. And in our me-first world, where states put their interests first, and find collaboration either increasingly difficult or unpalatable, this indeterminacy could have very significant consequences for global affairs.

Wisconsin’s conservative court has reopened the state

A bar patron in Appleton, Wisconsin, toasts the state supreme court’s decision to end the lockdown on Wednesday. Photograph: William Glasheen/AP

The Wisconsin supreme court has struck down its stay-at-home order, overruling the Democratic governor Tony Evers and reopening the state for business. The 4-3 decision, written by the court’s conservative justices, was made despite a poll suggesting almost 70% of Wisconsin residents supported Evers’ approach.

The ruling appears to follow Donald Trump’s lead. On Wednesday, the president said repeated warnings from Dr Anthony Fauci, his administration’s top infectious diseases expert, about the dangers of lifting lockdown restrictions too soon were “not acceptable”. Oliver Milman reports on how Trump has sidelined science and the CDC during the pandemic.

Elsewhere in the US…

  • …Oil companies are capitalising on the crisis, with new analysis showing that financially troubled fossil fuel firms have taken at least $50m in taxpayer-backed coronavirus loans intended for small businesses.

  • …South Dakota’s governor might sue the Sioux after two Native American tribes vowed to go on operating road checkpoints to protect their communities from coronavirus.

  • …Another conspiracy theory is gaining traction after the spread of a viral video called ‘Plandemic’, in which disgraced scientist Dr Judy Mikovits blames Bill Gates, Fauci and others for the pandemic.

Mexican border factories are being forced to keep running

Factory workers in the border city of Ciudad Juárez protest against the lack of Covid-19 safety measures in their workplace. Photograph: Hérika Martínez/AFP via Getty Images

Mexico’s border states are home to more than 6,000 maquiladoras – largely foreign-owned factories that manufacture products for export. And despite official efforts to keep them closed during the pandemic, they are facing intense pressure from companies – and the US government – to keep running regardless of the risks. Mexico on Wednesday recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll so far, adding to fears of a surge across Latin America.

Elsewhere in the world…

Trump lumped Biden into his ‘Obamagate’ conspiracy theory

Trump, Obama and Biden at the former’s inauguration in January 2017. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

As he tries to pivot away from the pandemic towards smearing his presumptive election rival, Trump has expanded his so-called “Obamagate” conspiracy theory to implicate Joe Biden. Ric Grenell, the president’s acting director of national intelligence, has handed Congress a list of top Obama administration officials whom he alleges were involved in the “unmasking” of retired general Michael Flynn, including Biden himself. Unmasking is a routine practice used to identify a person anonymously referred to in an intelligence document. It takes place hundreds of times a year, without controversy.

Trump’s obsession with Obama is an effort to distract from his own failures, writes Richard Wolffe:

Trump has many good reasons to sail away to the land of smears. They’re called the polls, and they are – for the sociopath sitting in the White House – even worse reading than the pandemic death tolls or the latest unemployment claims.

In other news…

A sign at a beer store in Mexico, which translates as ‘I don’t have beer.’ Photograph: Julio César Aguilar/AFP via Getty

Great reads

Dr Ernest Ceriani, photographed by Life magazine for the 1948 photo-essay that made him a US hero. Photograph: W Eugene Smith/the Life Picture Collection via Getty Images

The Rocky Mountain GP who healed the US

After he was featured in a seminal Life magazine photo-essay in 1948, the Colorado physician Ernest Ceriani briefly became a national hero. That pictorial record of his tireless efforts to treat a rural population of 2,000 singlehandedly resonate more than ever, writes Sean O’Hagan.

The rise of mutual aid under coronavirus

The lockdown has been a struggle for almost everyone in society, but it has also inspired a remarkable amount of generosity, kindness and solidarity. Rebecca Solnit reports on the spontaneous rise of mutual aid.

I made Robert Pattinson’s ungodly pasta recipe

In a recent interview, Robert Pattinson described his own recipe for piccolini cuscino, a pasta dish with fast-food credentials that “you can hold in your hand”. Max Benwell writes about his attempt to make it, and then eat it: “I’ve never taken so much pleasure in scraping something into the bin.”

Opinion: Even face masks are a partisan issue in the US

It didn’t take long for the global pandemic to become another battleground in the US culture wars, says Arwa Mahdawi. Now even wearing a face mask is seen as a political statement.

Wearing one signals that you believe in science; that you believe in putting the greater good ahead of your individual comfort. To some people, they are a sign of solidarity; to others, they signify that you are a liberal snowflake.

Last Thing: Ghana’s dancing pallbearers

The Nana Otafrija dancing pallbearers of Accra, Ghana, gained prominence in 2017 after their signature coffin-based moves were featured in a documentary. Now, with the world holding far more funerals than usual, they have become a global meme – and an example of how to mourn joyfully.

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