First Thing: Trump’s ‘serious’ approach to Covid-19 lasted a week – The Guardian

Good morning. Donald Trump’s “serious” new approach to the pandemic lasted all of one week. Speaking at his daily White House coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, the president described as “very impressive” a doctor who claims face masks do not combat the spread of Covid-19 and says DNA from aliens is being used in medical treatments.

Trump had shared an online video featuring the doctor and other supposed experts recommending the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, and contradicting official government guidelines on the disease. The clip, which was also touted as a “must-watch” by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, has since been removed by Facebook and YouTube for containing false public health information.

Trump halts daily briefing amid questions about support for ‘alien DNA’ doctor – video

Meanwhile, US officials say Russian intelligence services are using English-language websites to spread disinformation to Americans about the pandemic, as part of an ongoing effort to sow confusion before the presidential election in November.

Barr says the feds in Portland aren’t ‘looking for trouble’

The US attorney general faced a grilling from the House judiciary committee.

The US attorney general faced a grilling from the House judiciary committee. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The US attorney general clashed with Democrats on the House judiciary committee on Tuesday, as he denied the interventions of federal agents in Portland and in Washington DC’s Lafayette Square were motivated by Trump’s re-election efforts. “The president wants footage for his campaign ads, and you appear to be serving it up to him as ordered,” the committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, told Bill Barr, who insisted the federal forces cracking down on protests in Portland were “not out looking for trouble”.

A female protester is seized and bundled into an unmarked vehicle by undercover police in New York

A female protester is seized and bundled into an unmarked vehicle by undercover police in New York. Photograph: ACLU

Meanwhile in New York, there was outcry after police apparently bundled a protester into an unmarked minivan, in an arrest described by the American Civil Liberties Union as “dangerous, abusive, and indefensible”.

The unqualified antics of Trump’s ambassadors

Woody Johnson, left, the US ambassador to London

Woody Johnson, left, the US ambassador to London, is the co-owner of the New York Jets and a major Trump donor. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Trump is damaging America’s reputation abroad not only with his own antics, but also through those of his ambassadors, according to a report by Senate Democrats, entitled Diplomacy in Crisis. A record number of the president’s ambassadorial appointments have been political, and many such senior diplomats had no qualifications besides being big-money Republican donors, writes Julian Borger.

Woody Johnson, the billionaire Trump backer who became the US ambassador to London, has been accused of making sexist and racist remarks (which he has denied). Jeffrey Ross Gunter, the US ambassador to Iceland – and a dermatologist by trade – reportedly became so paranoid about security that he asked to carry a gun and to travel in an armoured car, despite the absence of security concerns in Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital.

  • The Five Eyes intelligence alliance could expand by adding Japan to its existing membership: the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some British Conservative lawmakers say widening the longstanding alliance would pool key strategic resources and help to lessen the west’s dependency on China.

Ninety-eight days to save the planet: will Biden’s climate gamble work?

Young climate protesters in Washington DC last year

Young climate protesters in Washington DC last year. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

As the Guardian continues its climate countdown in the run-up to the presidential election – and to Trump’s threatened withdrawal of the US from the Paris climate agreement – Emily Holden examines the environmental plans of the presumptive Democratic nominee. Joe Biden has pledged to link the climate fight to jobs, by spending $2tn on clean energy as quickly as possible within four years, and transitioning the US entirely to clean electricity by 2035.

The US needs collective action and systemic change to fight the climate battle, argues Prof Michael Mann – and the simplest way to start that systemic change is by voting:

Your vote will reverberate for years, as the efforts that have grown in the dark shade of the Trump administration are poised to bloom with a President Joe Biden, a climate-friendly Congress and state and local politicians who favour climate action.

In other news…

The Adler Ranch in Big Sur on the California coast

The Adler Ranch in Big Sur on the California coast. Photograph: Doug Steakley/AP
  • The Esselen tribe of northern California has regained part of its ancestral land after 250 years, buying a 1,200-acre ranch near Big Sur, which tribal leaders say will be used for education and cultural purposes, and to conserve local flora and fauna.

  • Mark Zuckerberg will tell Congress “companies aren’t bad just because they are big”, when he appears with other top tech CEOs at a hearing on Wednesday, part of a major antitrust investigation into the power and size of the big tech firms.

  • Abortion could be decriminalised in Mexico as the result of a potentially historic supreme court ruling on Wednesday, which is hotly anticipated by activists on both sides of the country’s abortion debate.

  • Americans have been warned not to plant seeds from packets reportedly sent to residents in several US states from China. The seeds are thought likely to be part of a “brushing scam”, whereby people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.

Great reads

Sidewalk photographer Jeff Mermelstein captures the private thoughts of New Yorkers as they compose emails and texts.

Sidewalk photographer Jeff Mermelstein captures the private thoughts of New Yorkers as they compose emails and texts. Photograph: Jeff Mermelstein

The photographer snapping New Yorkers’ private thoughts

Photographer Jeff Mermelstein has spent most of his career emulating the classic, 35mm sidewalk reportage of Diane Arbus or Joel Meyerowitz. But for the past three years he has been pursuing a new project: capturing New Yorkers’ private messages as they compose them on their phones, as he explains to Alex Rayner.

The white women defecting from Trump

Trump won in 2016 with help from a crucial and somewhat unlikely demographic: white women with college degrees. Four years later, finds Adam Gabbatt, some of them bitterly regret their decision – and are trying to make amends in 2020.

Opinion: Ed Sheeran shows eating disorders affect men, too

In a new interview, Ed Sheeran admits he used to binge-eat and vomit at the height of his fame. The revelation is a reminder that it’s not just women who can have a tortuous relationship with food, writes Arwa Mahdawi.

The late Steve Jobs is another example of how we mythologise rather than pathologize unhealthy eating in important men. According to his official biography, Jobs would sometimes live on only apples and carrots for weeks and would fast for days on end in an attempt to induce euphoria. That is something I did when I was 15 and it was quite rightly labelled anorexia.

Last Thing: inside Virgin’s new space plane

Virgin Galactic’s space cabin, which includes an ‘unrestricted astronaut float zone’ when in zero gravity.

Virgin Galactic’s space cabin, which includes an ‘unrestricted astronaut float zone’ when in zero gravity. Photograph: Virgin Galactic/PA

Virgin Galactic has unveiled images from the interior of the VSS Unity, the craft in which the commercial space firm plans to take paying tourists to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere. For most of us, the photographs are the closest we’ll get to a suborbital flight on Sir Richard Branson’s passion project: tickets cost $250,000 each.

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