Monday US briefing: At least 31 people dead in California wildfires

Tim Walker
Firefighters battle the Woolsey blaze in Malibu, California. Photograph: Eric Thayer/Reuters

Good morning, I’m Tim Walker with today’s headlines. If you’d like to receive this briefing by email, sign up here.

Top story: LA fire chief says climate change fuelled wildfires

A California fire chief says climate change fuelled the wildfires that have left 31 people dead across the state in recent days. The Los Angeles county fire chief, Daryl Osby, said climate change was happening statewide and would be a factor for the foreseeable future. With firefighters in northern California tackling the devastating blaze that killed at least 29 people in Paradise, those in southern California were left without backup resources to help fight fires close to LA, in which at least two people have died.

  • Ride out. In Thousand Oaks, near Los Angeles, the community rallied to help rescue horses that were threatened by the spreading fires, reports Gabrielle Canon.

Trump skipped armistice event to avoid causing traffic jams

Donald Trump ditched plans to attend an event honoring US war dead because he did not want to disrupt traffic in Paris, the White House said on Sunday. The US president had been scheduled to lay a wreath and observe a moment of silence at the Belleau memorial near Paris on Saturday, but his Marine One helicopter was grounded by bad weather.

  • Rain on the parade. Trump’s visit to Paris to commemorate the armistice centenary merely highlighted the divisions in today’s western alliance, writes Julian Borger.

  • Under investigation. The Democrat set to lead the House intelligence committee has said Congress will investigate whether Trump used “the instruments of state power to punish the press”.

Whitaker’s rise driven by partisan attacks on Democrats

Could the controversial acting AG, Matthew Whitaker, be shielded by his Senate patron, Chuck Grassley?
Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

Matthew Whitaker, Trump’s acting attorney general, built his legal career by mounting political attacks on Democrats, the Guardian has found. In one case he prosecuted in Iowa, a paid informant wore a wire to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting attended by a Democratic state senator. Whitaker also enjoyed the patronage of the Iowa senator Chuck Grassley, who as the chairman of the US Senate judiciary committee could shield him in his current role.

Planned Parenthood boss warns of women’s health ‘emergency’

Dr Leana Wen, the new president of Planned Parenthood. Photograph: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Dr Leana Wen, the former emergency room physician who is due to take over as the sixth president of Planned Parenthood this week, has said she intends to expand the reach and services of the US’s largest and most controversial reproductive healthcare organisation, amid what she describes as “a state of emergency for women’s health”.

  • Abortion laws. A 20-year-old woman who bore her rapist’s baby is facing 20 years in jail in El Salvador, after she was accused of attempting an abortion in a country where it is illegal under all circumstances.

Crib sheet

  • Israeli forces have killed seven Palestinians including a Hamas commander during an operation in the Gaza Strip, which also left an Israeli officer dead.

  • The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has told the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, that the US will hold accountable “all of those involved” in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

  • Journalists worldwide have expressed support for the Philippines news website, Rappler – which is critical of the country’s authoritarian regime – after its editor was charged with tax fraud.

  • The Florida governor, Rick Scott, has accused Bill Nelson, his rival for the state’s vacant US Senate seat, of trying to steal the election by committing voter fraud, despite officials saying there is no evidence to support the allegations.

Listen to Today in Focus: the cocaine trade’s trail of violence

Anushka Asthana talks to the journalist Joe Parkin Daniels in Colombia, as farmers harvest record coca crops to meet demand for cocaine in places such as the UK and west Africa, where the drug fuels addiction and violence.


Grand Canyon: Zinke has presided over the largest reduction of protected lands in US history. Photograph: Stephen Yelverton Photography/Getty Images

How the US interior department became a tool of industry

Ryan Zinke, the controversial secretary of the interior, has aggressively weakened environmental and land use protections to the benefit of big energy, reports Jimmy Tobias. He is facing a slew of misconduct allegations, but even if he goes, argues one interior department staffer, it will be too late to prevent tragedy.

Deep fakes are where truth goes to die

If you thought fake news was bad, get ready for new technology that can make it look as if anyone has said or done anything. Oscar Schwartz warns that “deep fakes” may be the next wave of misinformation warfare.

The myth surrounding Franco’s tomb and the Valley of the Fallen

The Spanish historian Nicolás Sánchez-Albornoz escaped Gen Francisco Franco’s regime after he was imprisoned at the site known as the Valley of the Fallen, where the dictator is buried. Today, the memorial is a flashpoint for disputes over Spain’s difficult past.

Why ‘cringe comedy’ came to dominate the screen

From Scorsese’s classic The King of Comedy to Catastrophe and Fleabag, comedy audiences appear to love awkward pauses and excruciating faux pas. Brian Logan explores the enduring appeal of the “cringe com”.


Four of the five Spice Girls have announced a six-date UK reunion tour. They may not share the musicianship of other veteran touring acts, but the Spices’ survival tells us they were on to something, says Alex Clark.

In a pop scene currently awash with soppy love songs, in which no classic remains unsullied by a wispy reinterpretation designed to fit around the contours of a glossy television advertisement, the Spices’ real discovery was just how much we liked to party.


Atlanta United have won their first MLS playoff series, beating New York City FC 4-1 on aggregate to reach the Eastern Conference final, where they will face the New York Red Bulls.

The Tennessee Titans sacked Tom Brady three times in their 34-10 victory over the Patriots, while Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes for the Saints as they beat the Bengals, taking him to 509 and second on the NFL career list behind Peyton Manning.

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