The coronavirus came a step closer to the Oval Office on Monday, as it emerged the US national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, had tested positive for Covid-19. O’Brien is the most high-level Trump administration official to have caught the virus so far. Though the White House insisted there was “no risk” of the president himself having been exposed, O’Brien recently returned from a trip to Europe, where he was pictured without a face mask or social distancing in meetings with several foreign officials.
Also on Monday, the White House coronavirus adviser Dr Anthony Fauci touted new late-stage trials for a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the US biotechnology company Moderna, though any vaccine remains unlikely to be widely available until 2021. The WHO has warned that the global pandemic is still accelerating, with worldwide case numbers doubling in the past six weeks alone and parts of Europe preparing for a possible second wave.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo criticised concert organisers for “egregious social distancing violations” after seeing footage from a weekend charity concert in the Hamptons featuring the Chainsmokers and Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, who also performs as a DJ under the name DJ D-Sol.
An Asian San Francisco bus driver says he has suffered racial abuse and physical assault during the coronavirus crisis, including a recent attack by a group of teenagers whom he had asked to put on face masks as they rode the bus.
The GOP’s relief plan is ‘totally inadequate’, say Democrats
On Friday, funding will expire for the $600 weekly jobless benefit that Democrats say has been a lifeline to out-of-work Americans. The Republicans want to cut it by two-thirds, to $200 per week, claiming the federal benefits are too generous and have discouraged people from returning to work – amid an out-of-control coronavirus pandemic.
The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, said the $1tn relief package unveiled by the GOP majority leader Mitch McConnell on Monday was “totally inadequate”, compared to the $3tn bill put forward by House Democrats.
Bill Barr claims ‘anarchists’ hijacked the Portland protests
The US attorney general, Bill Barr, is set to tell the House judiciary committee that legitimate Black Lives Matter protests have been “hijacked” by “violent rioters and anarchists,” as he defends the Trump administration’s decision to send federal agents to crack down on unrest in Portland. At the hearing on Tuesday, Barr will argue that the ongoing protests, which have spread from Portland to other cities, are now disconnected from the demonstrations originally sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Fossil fuel firms are funding powerful police groups. An investigation has found that some of America’s largest oil and gas companies have contributed to police foundations: the opaque private entities that raise money to pay for training and equipment for police departments in major US cities.
Larry Hogan has ‘a bigger tent message’ for Republicans
Maryland’s Larry Hogan is a Republican governor in a blue state, and one of the few leaders in his party prepared to highlight his own differences with the president – differences highlighted by the two men’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Whether or not Trump wins re-election this year, Hogan is predicted to make a White House run in 2024. He tells Daniel Strauss the GOP must take a more expansive approach to attracting voters:
I’ll be one and maybe I’ll be the only one that’ll be arguing for a Republican party that’s going to be more inclusive and taking a harder look at trying to grow the party and be back to the way it used to be.
In other news…
California’s only known wolf pack has a new litter of pups, its fourth, increasing the family to at least 14 wolves in total. First seen in Lassen national forest in 2017, the pack is only the second confirmed in California in the past 100 years.
Malaysia’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, has been found guilty at his first trial over the 1MDB fraud scandal, which saw billions of dollars allegedly looted from a state fund set up to promote development.
The US prison population has dropped by 8% during the Covid-19 crisis, according to an analysis. Yet the decrease is not thought to be due to efforts to release vulnerable prisoners amid the spread of the disease, but rather because the pandemic has held up the workings of the justice system.
The climate countdown: 99 days to save the planet
Ninety-nine: that’s the number of days to go until the US withdraws from the Paris climate agreement; it’s also the percentage of coral reefs that are projected to decline if global heating reaches 2C.
Today in our climate countdown series, Nina Lakhani reports on how dangerous heatwaves will exacerbate America’s racial injustices, while Mustafa Santiago Ali says environmental racism is already killing people of colour.
The simple fact is that Black, Brown, Indigenous and lower-wealth communities have disproportionately been the dumping grounds for our country’s deadliest toxic pollutants
Ramy Youssef on faith and his fictional self
Youssef won a Golden Globe for the first season of Ramy, his sitcom about a Muslim millennial. Its fans included Mahershala Ali, who now plays a sheikh in the second season. “You never see a religious leader on TV that isn’t chockful of hypocrisies,” Youssef tells Iman Amrani. “We get to have this guy who is full of love.”
The doctor who has gone without soap for five years
James Hamblin is a doctor, medical writer and podcaster who washed his hands regularly even before the pandemic. But he has not showered with soap for more than half a decade. He tells Amy Fleming why our obsession with cleanliness harms the germs that keep us healthy.
Opinion: The pandemic era will end if we protect rainforests
Pandemics begin when human civilisation rubs up against the wildlife-rich, tropical rainforests of west Africa, the Amazon basin and south-east Asia. Until we reduce deforestation and the wildlife trade, argues Peter Daszak, such diseases will keep emerging.
If we are to prevent future pandemics, we will need to reassess our relationship with nature, blocking each step in the chain of disease emergence. This should begin with reducing the rampant consumption that drives deforestation and wildlife exploitation.
Last Thing: the Amazing Grace of John Lewis
Representative John Lewis, the civil rights leader and maker of “good trouble” known as “the conscience of the Congress”, was born to Alabama sharecroppers and grew up on a farm in the Jim Crow South. On Monday he became the first Black member of Congress to lie in state in the US Capitol rotunda, resting on a catafalque previously used for Abraham Lincoln.
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