First Thing: the US is officially out of the WHO – for now

Tim Walker
Photograph: Al Drago/AFP/Getty Images

Good morning.

The Trump administration has officially notified the UN that it is leaving the World Health Organization, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, accusing the global body of being too close to China. The process of withdrawal will take a year, and the Democratic presidential hopeful, Joe Biden, has pledged to reverse the decision and “restore our leadership on the world stage” should he win in November.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the administration’s top infectious disease expert, said this week that the country is “still knee-deep in the first wave” of the pandemic, with more than 131,000 dead and infection numbers rising at a rate of around 50,000 per day. In a reversal of Donald Trump’s migration rhetoric, some border towns in northern Mexico are now trying to stop people crossing from the US, for fear they could spread the virus.

in Brazil, the president, Jair Bolsonaro, has insisted he’s “doing fine” after testing positive for Covid-19. Like Trump, Bolsonaro has been widely criticised for his lack of response to the disease, which has killed more people in Brazil than in any other country besides the US.

Anti-abortion groups got millions in federal coronavirus aid

Anti-abortion protesters outside the supreme court in June. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

The US government is trying to claw back the $80m it loaned to Planned Parenthood under the coronavirus aid program, following criticism from conservative lawmakers. But Christian anti-abortion groups have also received millions in taxpayer-backed loans – which represents “a lightyear leap into direct government financing of major Christian right political entities on a scale we’ve never seen before”, says one expert on the US religious right.

Trump’s niece says he was ‘scarred’ by his ‘sociopath’ father

Donald Trump’s father Fred, who died in 1999, was a ‘high-functioning sociopath,’ his granddaughter Mary claims. Photograph: Alamy

Donald Trump’s “narcissim”, “bullying” and “grandiosity” are character traits shaped by the emotional abuses of his father, Fred, who was a “high-functioning sociopath”, according to the president’s niece – and Fred’s granddaughter – clinical psychologist Mary Trump. That’s just one of the revelations in her forthcoming book about the “malignantly dysfunctional” Trump family – which also describes her fear and frustration with the Trump presidency:

I watched in real time as Donald shredded norms, endangered alliances, and trod upon the vulnerable… The only thing about it that surprised me was the increasing number of people willing to enable him.

The FBI says China is forcing dissenters in the US to return

Police hold up a warning flag during a pro-democracy demonstration at a mall in Hong Kong on Monday. Photograph: Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images

The director of the FBI has claimed Chinese agents are pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US, trying to force dissidents and critics of the Beijing government to return home. In a speech in Washington DC, Christopher Wray said Chinese espionage was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property and to our economic vitality”.

In Hong Kong, the unofficial pro-democracy anthem Glory to Hong Kong has been banned in schools amid sweeping new national security laws imposed from Beijing. But activists in the supposedly semi-autonomous territory say they intend to continue voicing their opposition to the draconian new legislation.

In other news…

An aerial view of flooded homes in south-western Japan, where more than 50 people have died as a result of the extreme weather. Photograph: Jiji Press/EPA
  • More than 3.5 million people have been advised to evacuate in Japan, after torrential rains and flooding that has already claimed at least 58 lives.

  • Facebook boycott organisers are “disappointed after a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg, in which the social network’s CEO and other executives failed to commit to concrete solutions for addressing hate speech and misinformation on the platform.

  • Chechens across Europe are fearful following the killings of several dissidents and critics of the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov. The latest victim is 43-year-old Mamikhan Umarov, who was shot dead in Vienna on Saturday.

  • Nine in 10 Americans say racism and police brutality are problems in the country, a poll conducted by Opinium for the Guardian has found – suggesting Trump is increasingly out of step with public opinion.

Great reads

Donald Trump with Ghislaine Maxwell in New York in 1997. Photograph: Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images

Who hasn’t been photographed with Ghislaine Maxwell?

Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Kevin Spacey, Princess Diana … Ghislaine Maxwell – the socialite arrested last week on sex trafficking charges over her association with the late Jeffrey Epstein – has been photographed with them all, as chronicled by a popular new Instagram account. Poppy Noor reports.

Inside the world’s largest urban farm

On a rooftop in Paris’s 15th arrondissement, a team of young people are tending to the world’s largest urban farm, growing up to 35 different varieties of fruit and vegetables, sans soil. Jon Henley asks whether this innovative approach to agriculture could be a solution to future food shortages.

Opinion: the Mount Rushmore speech was an election preview

Trump used his Independence Day address to claim the greatest threat to the US is not the coronavirus, but the political left. Whipping up a culture war is his only strategy for re-election, argues Nathan Robinson.

Just as Trump himself often seems like a cartoon of an American businessman, Trump’s Fourth of July speech felt like a cartoon of 1950s American rah-rah jingoism, of a kind hard to take seriously today.

Last Thing: Fireflies keep their lights on in lockdown

A long exposure photograph shows fireflies dancing at Tatsuno Hotarudoyo Park. Photograph: Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images

The annual firefly festival in the Japanese town of Tatsuno was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus. But that didn’t stop the incandescent insects from showing up. The town’s mayor, Yasuo Takei, says watching the spectacle in silence only makes it more poignant: “The brief shining of the light is so impressive, making me feel that I also have to live my best.”

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