US briefing: COP25, Amazon's tax avoidance and London Bridge attack

Tim Walker
Photograph: Reinhard Krause/Reuters

Good morning, I’m Tim Walker with today’s essential stories.

UN chief praises youth ‘leadership’ over climate emergency

As delegates from across the globe descend on Madrid for the start of the two-week COP25 climate summit, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, has contrasted the inaction of the world’s governments with the “leadership” shown by young people on climate. The annual summit is smaller than expected, after plans to hold the event in Santiago were scrapped amid Chile’s political unrest. The Alliance of Small Island States, whose members face inundation by rising sea levels, issued a plea ahead of the summit, urging developed countries to take their plight seriously.

Amazon accused of “aggressively avoiding” tax worldwide

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person. Photograph: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

Amazon and the five other major US tech firms have been accused collectively of “aggressively avoiding” $100bn in global tax over the past decade. The online retail giant is named as the worst offender of a group that also includes Facebook, Google, Netflix, Apple and Microsoft, in a new report by the tax transparency campaign group Fair Tax Mark. The report found the firms moving revenue and profits through tax havens or low-tax countries to avoid tax, and delaying the payment of those taxes they do incur.

  • World’s richest. Amazon, whose founder Jeff Bezos is currently the world’s richest person, paid just $3.4bn in tax over a decade during which it recorded revenues of $960.5bn and profits of $26.8bn, according to the report.

Trump and lawyers refuse to attend impeachment hearing

Trump and his family return to Washington after a Thanksgiving break in Florida. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

Donald Trump and his lawyers have refused to take part in the house judiciary committee’s impeachment hearings this week, after complaining about a lack of “fundamental fairness” to the proceedings. The White House had been given until Sunday evening to say whether the president would send a legal representative to take part in the panel’s consideration of possible articles of impeachment, which would see him charged with misconduct over his dealings with Ukraine.

Related: US briefing: Taliban talks, Iraq protests and US money in UK politics

  • ‘Unfair process’. White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to committee chairman Jerry Nadler, saying Trump could not be “expected to participate … while it remains unclear whether the judiciary committee will afford the president a fair process”.

  • Rudy Giuliani. Despite his protestations to the contrary, the man once known as “America’s mayor” appears to face ever-increasing legal jeopardy over his involvement in the Ukraine scandal, as Tom McCarthy reports.

Johnson accused of politicising London attack as election issue

Boris Johnson has been accused of twisting the facts of Friday’s London Bridge terror attack for electoral purposes, against the express wishes of the family of Jack Merritt, one of the victims. The UK prime minister blamed the Labour opposition for the release from prison last year of the suspect, Usman Khan. As the UK intelligence service MI5 began an inquiry into the attack, investigators said they believed Khan, 28, had acted alone and may have acquired the materials for his attack as little as 24 hours beforehand.

Cheat sheet

Must-reads

Liam Payne on life after One Direction

Liam Payne was once known as the most vanilla member of the world’s biggest boyband. But behind the scenes, he says, “I was slowly losing the plot.” Elle Hunt hears about his battles with alcohol and the pressures of young fatherhood.

Big brother is watching in Chongqing

China has just introduced a rule requiring all mobile phone users to submit to a facial recognition scan. But that sort of privacy invasion is nothing new to residents of Chongqing, the world’s most heavily surveilled city, which has one CCTV camera for every six of its residents. Matthew Keegan reports.

How Biden helped create the student loan problem

On the presidential campaign trail, Joe Biden has repeatedly promised to fix the student loan crisis, which has saddled 45 million Americans with crippling debt that now totals a staggering $1.5tn. What Biden doesn’t mention, writes Ed Pilkington, is his own role in creating that crisis.

Kim steps out of his grandfather’s sartorial shadow

In the early years of his leadership, Kim Jong-Un dressed as if in homage to his popular grandfather and North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung. But in recent months he appears to have expanded his wardrobe and embraced a more ecletic personal style, says Justin McCurry.

Opinion

Donald Trump’s presidency coincides with a growing public distrust in the commercially driven media. But with the facts under siege, says Robert Reich, now is the time to invest in journalism that exists solely to serve the public.

Trump’s lies and ongoing attacks on his critics in the media score points with his base but at the expense of a weakened democracy. If a large enough portion of the public comes to trust Trump’s own words more than the media’s, Trump can get away with saying – and doing – whatever he wants. When that happens, democracy ends.

Sport

The US skier Mikaela Shiffrin has moved up to second place on the all-time list of women’s world cup winners, after her fourth straight slalom victory gave her the 62nd world cup win of her career, leaving her trailing just Lindsey Vonn on 82.

The Texans outplayed the Patriots, the Ravens toppled fellow titans the 49ers, the Bengals narrowly avoided a winless season, and the Steelers expanded their beef with the Browns to their wardrobes in an eventful NFL weekend.

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