Top story: ‘Difficult time for our country’
Good morning – Warren Murray with the stories shaping the day.
The US House of Representatives has sent articles of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate, setting in motion a trial that could unearth damaging evidence of misconduct against the president as the 2020 election contest heats up. Nancy Pelosi signed the articles (with contentious ceremonial pens), which were placed in folders and moved in a procession at sunset from the House to the Senate. The Senate invited House members to return to formally “exhibit” the articles on Thursday.
The Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said the chamber would hold opening arguments on Tuesday. McConnell asked his fellow senators to rise above partisanship. “This is a difficult time for our country – but this is precisely the kind of time for which the framers created the Senate.” Trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over a scheme in which he is alleged to have pressured Ukraine to announce false investigations of the former vice-president, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter and then fought an inquiry into the scheme. He is the third president in US history to face an impeachment trial in the Senate but his removal from office is a distant likelihood, with Republican loyalists vowing to protect him. The White House released a statement saying “President Trump has done nothing wrong” and “expects to be fully exonerated”.
* * *
Oxford diversity jumps – A record 70% of Oxford University’s undergraduates next year will come from state schools. Five years ago state school applicants to Oxford received just 56% of undergraduate offers and 43% went to those educated at independent schools, despite a substantial imbalance in the numbers applying. The university found itself regularly criticised for ignoring well-qualified, state-educated students, especially from black or disadvantaged backgrounds. Target Oxbridge – a diversity recruitment programme which has the author Zadie Smith as a patron – says it has helped a record number of British students of black heritage gain places at Oxford and Cambridge. Naomi Kellman, one of its founders, said: “We started with just six students in 2012, and so it is amazing to see the programme now supporting over 70 black British students to secure Oxbridge offers.”
* * *
Only safe pint a shared pint? Alcohol is the leading cause of drug harm, outstripping heroin and crack cocaine, according to the former government adviser David Nutt. The professor was sacked as chair of the drugs advisory committee in October 2009 for his views. According to Nutt, the optimal dose of alcohol is 5gm a day, which is about a third of a glass of wine or half a pint of light beer. “Order a pint or glass of wine and three straws and share it with two friends,” he recommends. “We see a continual attempt to undermine the concept of alcohol harm by saying it has health benefits” yet it is the leading cause of death in men under the age of 24, Nutt said. He has argued that prohibition of recreational drugs has frequently led to more dangerous substances that kill more people arriving on the black market, such as fentanyl and spice. “There’s never been a death in prison from cannabis, but last year there were over 60 deaths from spice.”
* * *
Poll predicts tighter Labour race – Rebecca Long-Bailey is expected to win the backing of Momentum after a poll placed her ahead of closest rival for the Labour leadership, Keir Starmer. The shadow business secretary came out ahead of the shadow Brexit secretary based on first preferences in the poll, conducted by Survation of more than 3,800 LabourList readers. Starmer receives most second preferences but they are not enough to eliminate Long-Bailey’s first-round lead. The poll will be viewed as a boost for Long-Bailey, who was well behind in a previous poll by YouGov for the Party Members Project that had her losing to Starmer by 61% to 39% in the last round.
* * *
Breakthrough clue to complex life’s origins – Scientists have succeeded in culturing an elusive species of archaea microbes, believed to a precursor to the Earth’s first sophisticated living cells, known as eukaryotes. The theory goes that for the first two billion years life on Earth comprised two microbial kingdoms – bacteria and archaea – until they somehow merged to create eukaryotes, which went on to form the basis of all complex life from plants to humans. Archaea still exist but many species are found in inhospitable environments and are incredibly difficult to grow in the lab. The Japanese team responsible for the 12-year effort had to dredge up a sample from 2.5km under the sea, feed it with methane for more than five years and eventually coax the cells to multiply by feeding them nutrients including powdered baby milk. The resulting cell line is called Asgard. “The importance of this work – it’s hard to describe,” said Nick Lane, professor of evolutionary biochemistry at UCL. “Finally you see what the cell looks like and it’s not what anyone expected.”
* * *
‘Experience list’ for teens – Leaders of the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) awards are calling on the government to support character building in schools by getting pupils to try veganism, perform random acts of kindness, take a digital detox, attend a music festival and go dancing. The DofE scheme, best known for intrepid, all-weather expeditions into the countryside, has drawn up the checklist of 25 experiences. Other suggestions include public speaking, learning a foreign language, work experience, spending time getting to know an older person and volunteering for a charity. DofE has drawn up “The Experience List: 25 of the best character hacks for teens”. Ruth Marvel, DofE’s chief executive, said: “Whether taking part in the DofE or not, all young people should have access to the kind of experiences on the list.”
Today in Focus podcast: Who can lead Labour back to government?
The race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party has been narrowed to five candidates. Political editor Heather Stewart looks at the challenge ahead for the party as it faces five more years of opposition. Plus: John Abraham on the warming of the oceans.
Lunchtime read: the retired pair who bring up the bodies
Gene and Sandy Ralston are a married couple in their 70s, who also happen to be among North America’s leading experts at searching for the drowned, having recovered more than 100 bodies, writes Doug Horner.
Marcus Rashford is a doubt for Manchester United’s trip to Liverpool after Ole Gunnar Solskjær admitted his introduction as a substitute in Wednesday’s FA Cup win over Wolves “backfired”. Hot weather and the hope of reverse swing could persuade England to risk playing Mark Wood in the third Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth. The World Athletics working group investigating the Nike shoes which have revolutionised marathon times is still deliberating over what limits to place on the carbon plate and foam technology and is unlikely to implement a wholesale ban.
Arsenal’s manager, Joe Montemurro, has described the 4,000 sell-out of Meadow Park for the game against Chelsea on Sunday as “fantastic” but wants to see it done more often before they think about opening up the Emirates Stadium for the women’s team. Johnny Sexton has been appointed Ireland captain for the Six Nations while new head coach, Andy Farrell, has named five uncapped players in his 35-man squad. And snooker referee Ben Williams felt the wrath of a wasp at the 2020 Masters after attempting to remove it from the Alexandra Palace arena.
The UK-based electric van maker Arrival has secured an £85m investment from South Korean car firms Hyundai and Kia – a cash injection that values the business at £3bn, defying the struggles of the British automotive industry.
It has a factory in Banbury but plans to build “microfactories” near major markets such as Los Angeles and New York that it says would be profitable producing only a few thousands vans a year. Arrival’s first product is a battery-powered electric van priced at the same level as comparable petrol or diesel vehicles and targeted at urban delivery.
On the markets, world stocks inched ahead to a record high after the US and China signed an initial deal to defuse their 18-month trade war. Chinese state press responded in muted terms. MSCI’s broadest index of world stocks firmed 0.04% in early trade while its index on Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.21%. Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.14% while mainland China’s Shanghai composite index was almost flat. Sterling is worth $1.303 and €1.169 while the FTSE is tracking higher by 0.1% at time of writing.
The Guardian leads today with the outcry in the medical profession over plans to scrap A&E waiting time targets. The FT leads on the Russian president’s rule-for-life gambit: “Putin’s Kremlin revamp opens way to prolong 20-year grip on power”.
Today’s angle on the Sussex saga is … the Cambridges. The Metro marks their visit to an Asian restaurant in Bradford with the headline “Keep calm and curry on”. “Kate the dazzling duchess shows how it’s done” says the Mail’s front page, though its actual splash is “NHS: Stop shameful bribes to gamblers”, as the mental health chief tells betting companies to stop luring addicted punters with perks. The Telegraph has a picture of Kate in Cambridge and says “Problems have to be tackled, says Duke of Cambridge”. It reads like he was speaking directly about the royal ructions, but he wasn’t.
The Times reports on the potential “Pensions tax windfall for high earners” resulting from efforts to ease the NHS staffing crisis. The Express is up in arms about a “Remainer stitch-up over Big Ben Bongs” – confecting a shadowy plot among pro-EU MPs to prevent the expensive Brexit bell-sounding. “Got him at last” – the Mirror celebrates the arrest of a suspect 14 years after the murder of PC Sharon Beshenivsky. The i says there are fears of a “national grid overload” from the surge in use of electric cars. The Sun has “Ant gives ex Lisa £31m” about a certain celebrity’s “mega divorce”.
The Guardian Morning Briefing is delivered to thousands of inboxes bright and early every weekday. If you are not already receiving it by email, you can sign up here.
For more news: www.theguardian.com