Wednesday briefing: Biden to Trump – you're embarrassing US

·10-min read
<span>Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Top story: ‘We don’t see anything slowing us down’

Hello, I’m Warren Murray, and when it comes to news reporting we only stock the best – here are today’s offerings.

Joe Biden has said Donald Trump is “an embarrassment” for refusing to concede the election. The president-elect has vowed to move forward with the transition despite Trump lawsuits, Republican obstruction and attempts to mount a blockade of the mechanisms of the presidential succession. The General Services Administration run by a Trump appointee has yet to recognise Biden as the president-elect. Until the decision is made Biden’s staff cannot meet with their counterparts in the White House and other federal agencies, begin background checks for potential appointees or receive security briefings. But Biden said: “We don’t see anything slowing us down, quite frankly.”

Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s secretary of state – America’s most senior diplomat – has given a bizarre press conference in which he pretended Donald Trump had not been defeated, instead foreshadowing a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration”. Boris Johnson has phoned Biden with congratulations on becoming president-elect – but the PM’s congratulatory message on Twitter accidentally contained hidden text congratulating Trump instead.

A mail worker who made voter fraud claims that were seized upon by Republicans is understood to have admitted he was lying after being interviewed by US Postal Service investigators. Meanwhile supreme court proceedings have begun to determine the future of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which the Trump administration is trying to have struck down. Two conservative judges have indicated that while parts of the healthcare regime may be unconstitutional, those parts are “severable” and can be removed while leaving the rest of it in place.

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Coronavirus latest – University students in England will be given a six-day window next month in which to travel home before Christmas, with mass testing carried out on campus beforehand. They will leave on staggered departure dates from 3 December to 9 December under plans just announced by the Department for Education (DfE). Students testing positive would need to self-isolate for 10 days. It has emerged that a care home called police when a woman denied visits to her 83-year-old husband for eight months sneaked in to get him out. After discussions involving police and health officials he was allowed to be taken out the next day. The case highlights the dilemma that coronavirus precautions pose for care homes and families, which MPs are due to debate in parliament today. The US has recorded its seventh straight day of 100,000 new cases. More coronavirus updates from around the world at our live blog.

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Midweek catch-up

> China has passed laws to force pro-democracy lawmakers out of Hong Kong’s legislative council, effectively ripping up the “one country, two systems” model. As soon as the laws passed, the Hong Kong government expelled the Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, Kwok Ka-ki and Dennis Kwok as well as Kenneth Leung of the Professionals Guild.

> Downing Street is planning a total ban of online junk food advertising. It would cover foods deemed too fatty, salty or sugary but there are concerns it might affect not only traditional “junk food” but things like avocados, jam and cream. It would be the strictest such regime in the world and has shocked the UK ad industry.

> An inquiry has raised serious concerns that the distribution of a £3.6bn towns fund for deprived areas was politically biased. The communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, has denied any role in selecting his constituency, Newark, for a £25m grant despite boasting about it during the general election.

> In the Diana interview scandal, the graphic designer who says he mocked up bank statements for Martin Bashir has asked for an apology from the BBC. Matt Wiessler says he was secretly banned by the BBC and his career suffered after fakes he prepared innocently as props were used as leverage to obtain the interview.

> A child from an ethnic minority background is far more likely to encounter an animal main character when reading a book than a character of their own ethnicity, an analysis has found. The number of books featuring Bame characters has reached 10% – up from 4% in 2017 but still low considering a third of primary-aged children are from Bame backgrounds.

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‘Fierce desire to protect her’ – Lawyers for Britney Spears have failed in rare public court proceedings to have her father removed as trustee or “conservator” of her life and career. Judge Brenda Penny declined to suspend James Spears from the role he has held since 2008 when Britney was struggling with her mental health.

Britney Spears at a Los Angeles movie premiere in July 2019.
Britney Spears at a Los Angeles movie premiere in July 2019. Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Britney Spears’s attorney, Samuel D Ingham, told the Los Angeles hearing: “My client has informed me that she is afraid of her father. She will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career.” James Spears’s attorney said he had a perfect record as his daughter’s conservator, which had seen her net worth go from debt to well over $60m, and he was motivated by “a fierce desire to protect her from those trying to take advantage of her”. The judge ordered that as requested by Britney a corporate fiduciary, the Bessemer Trust, would be added as co-conservator over her estate.

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Power to ban foreign buyouts – Ministers are seeking sweeping powers to block takeovers by Chinese and other foreign companies on national security grounds. A bill is due to be published today that would let ministers retrospectively halt acquisitions up to five years after a deal is concluded. Some Conservative backbenchers want amendments to prevent takeovers on human rights grounds as well. Nils Pratley, the Guardian’s finance editor, writes that even before Huawei and 5G, the mood had cooled towards Chinese investment in Britain’s infrastructure, and nuclear power is one area where the effects will be felt: “The extreme laissez-faire approach has had its day.”

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Biden brings climate cheer – Preparations for the next vital UN summit on the climate, one of the last chances to set the world on track to meet the Paris agreement, have been given a boost by the election of Joe Biden as US president. In the last few weeks China, the EU, Japan and others have committed to long-term targets on greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate agreement, which Biden has vowed the US will rejoin once Donald Trump is gone. The UN Cop26 summit, intended for this year before Covid happened, is to be held in 2021 in Glasgow. Jonathan Watts lists some of the obstacles to a global green recovery that will remain even in the post-Trump era, from China’s funding of dirty industries to big carbon’s lobbying power in Europe and, in the UK, climate sceptics in Boris Johnson’s inner circle.

Today in Focus podcast: Death of the White Helmets founder

James Le Mesurier took his own life a year ago today. The Guardian’s Martin Chulov describes the immense pressure on the co-founder of the White Helmets, aka Syria Civil Defence, as he saw the humanitarian organisation he built slipping away from him.

Lunchtime read: ‘A heavy metal album with guitar shredding’

At the age of seven she flew to Birmingham from Saint Kitts on her own – and became the first globally successful female songwriter. As she wins the award she once gave to Margaret Thatcher, Joan Armatrading looks back over her life and career.

Joan Armatrading in 1980
Joan Armatrading in 1980. Photograph: Anne Fishbein/Getty Images

Sport

Greg Clarke has been forced to quit as FA chairman in ignominious circumstances after a series of offensive gaffes to MPs left the reputation of his organisation seriously damaged. Rory McIlroy says he is playing well in practice at Augusta but happy to have the spotlight on others going into the Masters. Tiger Woods has voiced deep admiration for the remarkable transformation of Bryson DeChambeau’s body and career, with the 15-times major champion insisting the 27-year-old has made strides unheard of in golf. The England defence coach, John Mitchell, has urged the players to draw inspiration from African wild dogs for Saturday’s Autumn Nations opener against Georgia.

Defending champions Mumbai Indians claimed their fifth Indian Premier League title after thrashing Delhi Capitals by five wickets in Tuesday’s final in Dubai. Mason Mount says that the comparisons between him and Jack Grealish are unfair. The Football Supporters’ Association has been at the centre of fan organisation in the men’s game for decades and is now working to help supporter groups in the women’s game. The West Indies cricket squad will be banned from training and confined to hotel rooms after CCTV captured multiple breaches of New Zealand quarantine rules. And the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pursuit of a perfect season has a new opponent after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and three other teammates were added to the team’s reserve/Covid-19 list.

Business

Shares have mostly been higher in Asia-Pacific trading, following the worldwide rally sparked by hopeful vaccine news. Benchmarks advanced in Tokyo, Seoul and Sydney but edged lower in Hong Kong and Shanghai, where new Chinese regulations focused on technology companies prompted selling. You can expect $1.326 or €1.121 for a pound while the FTSE is trending 0.1% lower ahead of the opening bell.

The papers

More bad news in the Guardian if you need to see a doctor about something other than coronavirus: “GP services will be cut to allow millions to receive Covid vaccine”. The front-page picture is the FA boss Greg Clarke who has had to resign after insensitive comments about the race, gender and sexuality of players. The Times has “NHS plans to vaccinate one million every week” and the Express says “NHS vow: we’ll get vaccine out by Christmas”. The i has “Vaccine challenge revealed”, as in the scale of it.

The Metro says “Don’t screw it up!”, reporting predictions by the coronavirus taskforce member Sir John Bell of an end to the pandemic by spring “provided [the government] don’t screw up the distribution of the vaccine”. The Telegraph says “Vaccine drive to get under way on Dec 1”.

Polls are on the nose after the US election but that doesn’t deter the Mail from reporting its own: “UK says yes to jab … but you go first Boris!” – a sentiment that does not seem to arise from concern for the PM’s health. The Mirror goes it alone with a big investigative number: “Drug dealers ‘work in care homes to recruit kids’”. The FT’s having a day off from Covid as well with a story we’ve also covered: “EU hits Amazon with competition charges on handling of sellers’ data”. And oh dear, a certain type of headline is being seasonally inflicted upon us: “Good Elf” says the Sun, referring to what a vaccine before Christmas means for recipients, and showing Boris Johnson in an elf costume grasping a giant syringe.

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