US briefing: Michael Bloomberg, the China cables and Evo Morales

Tim Walker
Photograph: Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters

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

Former NY mayor to skip first four Democratic primaries

Michael Bloomberg, the self-made billionaire and former three-term mayor of New York City, has formally launched his late bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination with a $30m national TV ad campaign, in which he casts himself, one of the world’s richest men, as a “middle-class kid who made good”. The 77-year-old’s self-funded campaign will skip the first four primary states to make a play for the “super Tuesday” states in early March.

  • ‘Existential threat.’ Bloomberg is reportedly running because of his concern that none of the existing Democratic candidates can defeat Donald Trump, whom he describes as “an existential threat to our country and our values”.

  • Amy Klobuchar. The Minnesota senator, one of the more centrist candidates in the Democratic field, said on Sunday that her party “better not screw this up” by alienating independents and moderate Republicans.

Republicans remain unified in defence of Trump

Republicans are hoping to close the impeachment case, even as new evidence continues to emerge. Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

Any hope that congressional Democrats held of building bipartisan support for the president’s impeachment appears to have been dashed, with the GOP remaining united in its defence of Donald Trump. Despite a week of damning testimony, in which fresh evidence emerged of Trump’s misconduct over Ukraine, those Republicans who braved the Sunday shows stuck firmly to a series of pro-Trump talking points that are misleading at best.

  • Navy secretary. The US defence secretary, Mark Esper, has fired the Navy’s top official, Richard Spencer, over his handling of the controversial case of a Navy Seal accused of war crimes in Iraq, who had won Trump’s backing on Twitter.

Leaked China cables reveal extent of Uighur crackdown

A set of classified internal documents, known as the China cables and leaked from within the Chinese Communist party, describes the workings of the network of prison camps that holds more than a million ethnic minority Uighur Muslims from the country’s north-western Xinjiang region. The documents also throw light on the surveillance technology being used by Beijing to monitor the same minority communities, both inside China and beyond its borders.

Exiled Morales: ‘civil conflict’ risk if I stand in next elections

Evo Morales in Mexico City. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

The former Bolivian president Evo Morales has ruled out standing in his country’s next elections, to try to prevent the current unrest descending further into civil conflict. “In the name of peace, sacrifices have to be made and I am sacrificing my candidacy even though I have every right to it,” he told the Guardian’s Jo Tuckman in an interview in Mexico City, to which he fled following the “coup” that ended his 14-year socialist rule earlier this month.

  • ‘Racist’ elite. At least 32 people have died in recent clashes between the Bolivian authorities and pro-Morales protesters, who are mostly poor and indigenous. Morales blamed the crisis on the country’s “racist and vengeful” old elite, backed by the US “empire in the north”.

Cheat sheet


Florida nudist resorts split between purists and partygoers

Pasco county near Tampa Bay is the nudist capital of the world, home to at least 13 nudist resorts and neighborhoods. But an ideological gap has opened up between Lake Como, the oldest and most traditional of the resorts, and the nearby Caliente Club, known for its wild swinger parties, as Jordan Blumetti discovered.

Dennis Quaid: ‘I didn’t go looking for someone younger’

Dennis Quaid has long grown bored of talking about the cocaine addiction that landed him in rehab three decades ago. But now he’s in the tabloids for another reason: his engagement to a 26-year-old PhD student, Laura Savoie. And that, he tells Martha Hayes, he’s more than happy to discuss.

Mass shooting leaves Fresno Hmong community shattered

Last weekend gunmen fired into a backyard where friends had gathered to watch a football game in Fresno, California. Four people were killed, all of them members of Central Valley’s tight-knit Hmong community who, writes Sam Levin, came to California as refugees fleeing violence in south-east Asia.

Wexit: Alberta’s push for independence

Alberta, the oil-rich western province known as the Texas of Canada, has suffered years of recession and frustration with the federal government. Now a new party founded by an Alberta farmer is channeling those resentments into a push for secession, or “Wexit”, as Leyland Cecco and David Agren report.


Facebook, Twitter and Google have vowed to “self-regulate” in an attempt to appear responsible amid forthcoming elections in the US and UK. But after years of shallow claims about their democratic potential, it’s clear the tech giants are in fact a major threat to democracy around the world, says Siva Vaidhyanathan.

More than 60 countries will hold elections in 2020. Facebook and Google will be important variables in almost all of them.


The third season of the US annual rugby competition, Major League Rugby, will kick off in February with three games over two weekends in Las Vegas. But despite some big new signings, there are rumours one of MLR’s founder clubs might leave to form a breakaway league, writes Martin Pengelly.

Despite their 2-1 defeat by Manchester City, Chelsea’s midfield has been reinvented under Frank Lampard’s management, a turnaround to give their fans hope for the future. Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Southampton, by contrast, was a disappointment that leaves Unai Emery’s future very much in doubt. Those are two of 10 talking points from the weekend’s action in the Premier League.

Sign up

The US morning briefing is delivered to thousands of inboxes every weekday. If you’re not already signed up, subscribe now.