US briefing: Hong Kong, climate tipping points and Brazil's 'genocide'

Tim Walker
Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

Good morning and happy Thanksgiving. I’m Tim Walker with today’s essential stories.

Beijing slams ‘prejudice and arrogance’ of US bill

Donald Trump has raised the hackles of the Chinese government by signing into law a congressional bill backing Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. The legislation, approved unanimously by the US senate and by all but one member of the House, threatens sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese government officials accused of human rights abuses amid the semi-autonomous city’s continuing political unrest. Beijing said the bill was “a pure interference in China’s internal affairs … full of prejudice and arrogance.”

World may ‘have crossed climate tipping points’ already

Iceberg sightseeing has become a tourism draw in Newfoundland. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty

A group of scientists writing in the journal Nature have warned the world may already have passed one or more climate “tipping points, putting humanity in a “state of planetary emergency” that poses “an existential threat to civilisation”. Such points are reached when a major impact of global heating becomes unstoppable, for example the loss of rainforests or polar ice sheets. One of those impacts alone, the researchers warned, could lead to a cascade of others.

Sondland accused of sexual misconduct by three women

Gordon Sondland is a key witness in the impeachment inquiry. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, has been accused of sexual misconduct by three women who say he retaliated against them after they rejected his advances. Sondland, whose neck-deep involvement in the Ukraine scandal has made him a key witness in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, has categorically denied the claims, saying he believes they were “concocted and … coordinated for political purposes”.

  • ‘Unwanted kissing’. One of the accusers, a potential business partner, told ProPublica that Sondland had tried to kiss her during a tour of one of the hotels he owns, and then withdrew his offer of investment in her business after she rebuffed him.

Lawyers: indict Bolsonaro for ‘encouraging genocide’

Indigenous leaders meeting in Brasilia last week, where they denounced Bolsonaro’s approval of mining on indigenous lands. Photograph: Eraldo Peres/AP

Lawyers and leading human rights activists in Brazil are calling for the indictment of the country’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro by the International Criminal Court, claiming he has encouraged genocide against Brazil’s indigenous tribes. Since taking power, Bolsonaro has compared indigenous people to zoo animals and “prehistoric men”, made efforts to dismantle the agency responsible for protecting the country’s more than 300 tribes and pushed to open up their tribal lands to mining companies.

  • ‘Informative note.’ The campaigners on Wednesday delivered a request to an ICC prosecutor in the Hague for a “preliminary investigation of incitement to genocide and widespread systematic attacks against indigenous peoples” by Bolsonaro.

Cheat sheet

  • Five people have been killed in a fire at a public housing high-rise in Minneapolis’s Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, which is known as Little Mogadishu for the many Somali immigrants who have settled there.

  • Experts have questioned Trump’s decision to label Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organisations, suggesting the new designation would be mostly cosmetic – unless the president requires a pretext for US military incursions.

  • Ahead of the UK’s general election, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party has obtained documents which, it says, prove Boris Johnson and the Conservatives plan to put the National Health Service “on the table” in a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

  • The Chicago home of Jeff Tweedy, the frontman for the Grammy-winning rock band Wilco, was shot at at least seven times early on Tuesday morning. Tweedy’s son Spencer said he did not believe his family were deliberately targeted.


Limpy the limping turkey becomes a Thanksgiving star

A Massachusetts turkey, recognisable by his distinctive rolling gait, has charmed (some) residents of the town of Reading by disrupting traffic, chasing mail trucks and inadvertently raising hundreds of dollars for charity. Adam Gabbatt learns from Limpy’s inspiring refusal to let his disability define him.

Talking climate change with your family: a beginner’s guide

With the climate crisis more present than ever before, it’s a subject likely to come up at the dinner table over Thanksgiving. Emily Holden offers advice on how to navigate the contentious topic with sceptical relatives on both sides of the political divide.

How Michigan’s ‘political novices’ beat GOP gerrymandering

In 2016, a Michigan woman with no political experience asked her Facebook friends whether they wanted to help make elections fairer in one of America’s most gerrymandered states. Three years on, her group Voters not Politicians has succeeded in stripping redistricting power from lawmakers, as Sam Levine reports.

California islands tackle a plague of mice

The Farallon Islands off northern California are home to 300,000 breeding seabirds, five species of seals and sea lions, and a unique variety of cricket. They also contain more than a thousand mice per acre, a growing threat to the islands’ rich biodiversity. But efforts to cull the rodents might make matters worse, writes Alissa Greenberg.


At 41 and in the final phase of her fertility, Lynda-Marie Taurasi is in a happy relationship with a man who does not want children. So she is planning to have children alone – while staying with him.

I wasn’t going to depend on a relationship to become a mother. Many women have come to single motherhood through various means, and I am grateful for the women who have paved the way, often times unwittingly, for this to become an intended option.


The Liverpool coach, Jürgen Klopp, has said his team will relish the pressure of a Champions League group decider in Salzburg next month, after the title holders failed to book their place in the next round with a 1-1 draw against Napoli on Wednesday. Chelsea face a similar test after a 2-2 draw with Valencia, while Lionel Messi hit a career milestone as he led Barcelona to the knockout stages with a 3-1 win over Dortmund.

When the mixed martial artist Justin Wren was sent a video of a 12-year-old boy being violently bullied at school, he saw a version of his vulnerable younger self. Wren decided to step in, bringing out the MMA community and other sportspeople in support of his #StandWithRayden campaign. Loretta Hunt reports.

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