US briefing: Trump bribery claims, California shootings and recycling day

Tim Walker
Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

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

Yovanovitch to testify on state department’s fear of Trump

The Democrats are clarifying their case against Donald Trump, after Nancy Pelosi described the president’s demand for dirt on Joe Biden from Ukraine, in return for military aid, as “bribery”: a specific, impeachable offence. “The cover-up makes what Nixon did look almost small,” the House speaker said. On Friday, the second day of impeachment hearings, the former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch is expected to testify about how she was undermined by the state department’s fear of crossing Trump.

  • Giuliani jokes. The president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, a central figure in the unfolding Ukraine scandal, has joked in an interview with the Guardian that he has “very good [health] insurance, in case Trump “throws him under a bus”.

  • Tax returns. Trump has turned to the supreme court in his battle to prevent his tax returns going public, asking justices to block a subpoena for the documents from the Manhattan district attorney.

At least two dead in shooting at Santa Clarita high school

Students embrace during a vigil in the aftermath of the shooting at Saugus high school. Photograph: Marcio José Sánchez/AP

At least two students were killed and three injured after a 16-year-old boy opened fire at Saugus high school in Santa Clarita, southern California, on Thursday morning. The victims were a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. Officials said three other injured teenagers remain in hospital, while the student suspect, who ended the attack by turning the gun on himself, was said to be in grave condition.

  • Walmart reopens. The Walmart in El Paso, Texas, where a gunman targeting Mexicans killed 22 people in August, reopened on Thursday as the city continues to come to terms with one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history.

Recycling awareness day is cover for polluters, say critics

A worker gathers plastic waste at a trash bank in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city. Photograph: Juni Kriswanto/AFP/Getty Images

The EPA is vigorously promoting Friday’s second annual America Recycles Day as an opportunity to encourage Americans to recycle more. But critics say the event, backed by the likes of Coca-Cola and Nestlé, is really just a cover for corporations that produce a vast amount of single-use plastic waste that ends up as pollution. Just 9% of plastics are recycled, while worldwide production is expected to rise by 40% over the next decade.

  • Toxic Indonesia. A study has found the human food chain in Indonesia is being contaminated by extreme levels of toxins, which it blames in part on the high levels of hazardous chemicals produced by plastic waste imports to the country.

Hong Kong protesters reopen highway after violent week

Protesters at a Hong Kong university throw Molotov cocktails into an empty swimming pool. Photograph: Jérôme Favre/EPA

After one of the most violent weeks of protest since the unrest in Hong Kong began in June, pro-democracy demonstrators have reopened a blocked highway on condition that local elections proceed as planned on 24 November. A 70-year-old man was killed in clashes between protesters and pro-China residents on Thursday, as foreign universities urged exchange students in Hong Kong to return home, and two large companies with interests in the territory reported lower profits as a result of the crisis.

Cheat sheet

  • The executors of the estate of the late Jeffrey Epstein have asked a judge to approve the creation of a fund to compensate about a dozen women who filed lawsuits accusing the financier of sexually abusing them before his death in August.

  • A 25-year-old US-born woman who left Alabama to join Islamic State in 2014 will remain in limbo in Syria with her young son, after a federal judge sided with the Trump administration in ruling that she is not a US citizen.

  • Facebook is under fire again after being listed as a “gold circle sponsor” for the annual gala dinner of a rightwing legal group, the Federalist Society, which featured Brett Kavanaugh as its keynote speaker on Thursday.

  • Taylor Swift has claimed “tyrannical” music managers Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta, who own the rights to her early albums, are blocking her from performing her old hits at the AMAs, where she is to receive the artist of the decade award.


Adam Driver (centre) plays former Senate investigator Daniel Jones (left) in The Report, written and directed by Scott Z Burns (right). Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Torture report author warns of CIA backsliding

In the new film, The Report, Adam Driver plays Daniel Jones, the investigator behind the Senate report on CIA torture during the so-called war on terror. Jones tells Julian Borger the failure to find accountable any of the officials responsible for the torture or the coverup leaves the agency at risk of resorting to illegal methods again in future.

Meet the meat industry’s ‘weapon of mass destruction’

The Washington lobbyist Richard Berman has worked to shield some of the US’s most powerful industries from criticism, earning himself the nickname Dr Evil, among others. Now he’s trying to convince the country that plant-based burgers are no healthier than beef. Jessica Glenza reports.

Where are Biden’s millennial supporters?

Joe Biden may still be the Democratic frontrunner but, unlike his main rivals, the former vice-president’s supporters are at the older end of the electorate. Adam Gabbatt went looking for Biden-backing millennials on the campaign trail in New Hampshire – without much success.

Why regional rappers are storming the UK charts

London has long dominated the UK rap scene, with artists such as Dizzee Rascal and Stormzy bestriding the charts for the best part of 20 years. But now some of the most successful UK rap tracks come from beyond the M25. Ben Beaumont-Thomas meets Manchester’s Aitch, Coventry’s Jay1 and Leicester’s Trillary Banks.


The US and Britain have been waging- war in the Middle East for 18 years without pause. The “conflicts of 9/11” must rank among the cruellest, most costly and senseless of the post-imperial age, says Simon Jenkins.

Unknowable thousands of civilians have died, and billions of pounds’ worth of property been destroyed. Christianity has been all but wiped out in the region, and some of the finest cities in the ancient world have been bombed flat. No audit has been made of this. The opportunity cost must be unthinkable. What diseases might have been eradicated, what climate crisis relieved?


Cleveland Browns’ defensive end Myles Garrett lost his cool in the closing moments of his team’s clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night, tearing off Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet, hitting him over the head with it and sparking a mass brawl that overshadowed Cleveland’s 21-7 win.

The LA Angels slugger Mike Trout has ended a season marked by injury and tragedy on a high by winning his third AL MVP Award, while the NL prize also went to Southern California with the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger.

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