US briefing: NZ volcano, China trade war and Christian bill mill

Tim Walker
Photograph: George Novak/AP

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

Tourists missing at active volcano in New Zealand

Five people have been confirmed dead following an eruption at White Island, the most active cone volcano in New Zealand. The tiny, uninhabited island close to the country’s Bay of Plenty is popular with tourists. Some two dozen people remain unaccounted for in the aftermath of the blast, which took place soon after 2pm on Monday, sending up a huge plume of ash and toxic gases that have prevented rescue teams searching the island.

  • Australian tourists. Police said fewer than 50 people were on the island at the time of the eruption. More than 20 of them were Australian tourists. Twenty-three have been rescued; five have since died.

China deals blow to tech firms with foreign equipment ban

China’s president, Xi Jinping, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The order will result in an estimated 20-30m pieces of hardware needing to be replaced. Photograph: Pool/Getty Images

The US-China trade dispute is becoming a tech cold war, after the Chinese government ordered all foreign computer equipment and software be removed from government offices and public institutions within three years. According to the Financial Times, Beijing’s directive will mean up to 30m pieces of hardware will have to be replaced, dealing a blow to US tech firms such as HP, Dell and Microsoft, in retaliation for the Trump administration’s ban on Huawei.

Mueller findings could be folded into articles of impeachment

The House could vote on whether to impeach Trump before members go home for Christmas. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

The House judiciary committee will on Monday hear testimony that could result in material from the Mueller investigation being included in the articles of impeachment against Trump, alongside evidence regarding his dealings with Ukraine. The committee’s chairman, Democrat Jerry Nadler, said on Sunday that he considered the Mueller report evidence of a “pattern, demonstrating that “the president put himself above this country several times”.

  • Impeachment timetable. The committee could vote on articles of impeachment by the end of this week, leading to a House vote on whether to impeach Trump before Christmas and a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate early in the new year.

Ohio lawmaker linked to rightwing ‘bill mill’ despite denials

A Republican legislator in Ohio, who claimed ignorance of a right-wing bill mill called Project Blitz, is in fact the co-chair of the state branch of one of three Christian right organisations behind the campaign. Timothy Ginter recently sponsored a bill on religion in schools that is almost identical to one promoted by the group. But when first contacted by the Guardian, he said via email that he had “no knowledge of Project Blitz”.

  • Prayer Caucus. The Guardian subsequently learned that, in January 2019, Ginter was listed as the co-chair of the Ohio state chapter of the Congressional Prayer Caucus – one of the groups behind Project Blitz. He has not responded to repeated requests for further comment.

Cheat sheet

  • A top climate scientist has warned that the COP25 UN climate talks under way in Madrid are so busy focusing on “incremental technicalities” that they risk ignoring the most important issue: how fast the world needs to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

  • The 34-year-old Finnish lawmaker Sanna Marin has been selected as the country’s next – and youngest ever – prime minister. Marin will be Finland’s third female government leader and the world’s youngest serving prime minister.

  • Japan’s wartime government was involved in procuring so-called “comfort women” to work as sex slaves in military brothels in the late 1930s, according to contemporaneous official documents that have now come to light.

  • René Auberjonois, the prolific character actor best known for his roles in the TV series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and in the classic 1970 film M*A*S*H*, has died at his home in Los Angeles, aged 79.

Must-reads

How Juice WRLD helped to define a new sound

The young Chicago rapper Juice WRLD was taken ill and died in his home city on Sunday. Despite making his breakthrough just 18 months ago with the single Lucid Dream, writes Al Horner, the 21-year-old had already reached millions with a fresh sound and anthems that focused on depression, addiction and heartbreak.

The battle to build four new prisons for New York

New York’s mayor has announced an $8.7bn plan to close the notorious Rikers Island jail and build four smaller facilities across the city. While prison reformers are in favour of closing Rikers, they are divided over the plans to replace it, as Daniel A Medina reports.

The shocking persistence of virginity tests

As a child, Michelle Northcote’s pediatrician regularly checked her hymen, an invasive practice that she didn’t know was unusual until she discussed it with friends in college – and realised her Catholic mother must have demanded confirmation of her virginity. So-called hymen checks still happen across the US, learns Poppy Noor.

The impossible body standards of the modern action hero

Last month Henry Cavill, aka Superman, revealed that he had once auditioned for the role of James Bond, only to be told he was too “chubby” to play 007. That’s just one symptom of the near-impossible body standards being set by today’s male action heroes, says Steve Rose.

Opinion

As a Facebook moderator, Chris Gray regularly witnessed murder, torture and other horrors – and shielded regular users from seeing the same. Yet Mark Zuckerberg says moderators’ complaints about their working conditions are “overdramatic”.

Facebook says it provides ‘wellness’, which meant invitations to finger painting and yoga, but try taking time off to take care of yourself when you have targets to meet and your boss is agitating because there’s a backlog in the child sexual abuse images queue. Someone has to take care of the innocents, it’s our job, but we can’t face it any more.

Sport

The world’s top chess player, Magnus Carlsen, is on the verge of another sporting triumph after climbing to third place – out of more than 7 million players worldwide – in the Fantasy Premier League. Despite his success in the online soccer game, Carlsen claims he has “just been lucky”.

The 49ers pulled out a thrilling 48-46 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. San Francisco are a revelation this season, writes Melissa Jacobs, so why does the NFL’s ridiculous seeding system still put them below the woeful Cowboys?

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