US briefing: Death penalty, election security and trade aid to farmers – The Guardian


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

Five federal executions scheduled for December and January

The US government will carry out its first federal executions since 2003, attorney general William Barr announced on Thursday. Citing congressional legislation signed by Donald Trump, Barr said he had scheduled the executions of five murderers being held on death row for December and January. The news was met with outrage by critics of capital punishment, including the Democratic presidential candidate and former prosecutor Kamala Harris, who described it as “immoral and deeply flawed”.

  • Unusual punishment. The federal government has executed just three defendants since restoring the death penalty in 1988. The most recent was in 2003, when Louis Jones was put to death for the 1995 rape and murder of a young female soldier.

  • State laws. Thirty US states still have the death penalty, but the governors of four of those states have issued moratoriums on executions.

GOP blocks election security efforts despite Mueller warnings

Robert Mueller warned of Russia’s ‘sweeping and systematic’ efforts to meddle in US elections.



Robert Mueller warned of Russia’s ‘sweeping and systematic’ efforts to meddle in US elections. Photograph: Michael A McCoy/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

This week the former special prosecutor Robert Mueller told Congress of Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” efforts to interfere with US elections, warning that those efforts were ongoing and would continue through 2020. Yet since Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday, Senate Republicans have twice blocked legislation aimed at improving election security, including a House-backed bill that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell dismissed as “partisan”.

  • Senate report. The Senate intelligence committee has released a report on election security, which found states were not appropriately warned of the threat to their voting systems into 2016, and noted that many still used vulnerable, outdated voting machines.

Government to pay $16bn to farmers hurt by China trade war

A soybean farm in North Carolina.



A soybean farm in North Carolina. Photograph: Charles Mostoller/Reuters

The US government has announced an aid package totaling about $16bn to farmers who have lost out in the trade war with China. China is the biggest buyer of US soybeans, the US’s most valuable farm export, shipments of which fell to a 16-year low in 2018. Announcing the measures, the agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, said Trump had “a great affection for America’s farmers and ranchers”, who were among the president’s key constituencies.

Republican aiming to unseat Omar charged with shoplifting

Danielle Stella, who is running for Congress against Ilhan Omar in Minnesota.



Danielle Stella, who is running for Congress against Ilhan Omar in Minnesota. Photograph: Stella campaign

A pro-Trump Republican candidate aiming to oust Ilhan Omar from her Minnesota congressional seat has been arrested twice this year and charged with a felony after allegedly shoplifting more than $2,300 worth of items from a Minneapolis branch of Target, as well as goods valued at $40 from a grocery store. Danielle Stella, a 31-year-old special education teacher who reportedly subscribes to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000 if convicted.

  • ‘Not guilty’. Stella denied the allegations in a series of text messages, saying: “If I was guilty of crimes, I would never run for public office, putting myself in the public eye under a microscope to be attacked by all political sides.”

Crib sheet

  • Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands recorded their highest-ever temperatures for the second day in a row on Thursday, as Paris also broke its all-time heat record with a high of 42.6C, in Europe’s second heatwave of the summer.

  • Up to 150 people trying to make the dangerous sea crossing from Libya to Europe are thought to have died after two migrant boats capsized, the highest death toll from a shipwreck in the Mediterranean this year.

  • A gunman in Los Angeles has been arrested after killing four people – his father, brother and two others – in a 12-hour shooting spree across San Fernando Valley.

  • Nasa has bypassed its traditional system of awarding contracts and asked the industrial corporation Northrop Grumman to fast-track an astronaut habitation module, in time to meet the White House’s 2024 deadline for putting humans back on the moon.

Must-reads

Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook in HBO’s Succession.



Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook in HBO’s Succession. Photograph: Hbo/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

Succession’s Matthew MacFadyen: ‘Dreadful. Excruciating. Joyful’

The British actor previously best known abroad for playing Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice 14 years ago is returning as the unfortunate Tom Wambsgans in the second series of HBO’s horribly hilarious drama, Succession. “It’s very caustic, which you recognise as a Brit,” he tells Emma Brockes.

House of pain: who exactly are the Sacklers?

Their name was once synonymous with cultural philanthropy, attached to museum wings on both sides of the Atlantic. Now, though, the Sacklers are becoming better known for their alleged role in the opioids crisis. Joanna Walters studies the family behind Purdue Pharma.

The everyday cruelty of a border immigration court

At a federal immigration court in El Paso, asylum seekers wait in limbo after long and dangerous journeys from central America. Adam Gabbatt spent two days watching hearings, witnessing the chaos and fear caused by the Trump administration’s border policies.

Gaia theorist James Lovelock at 100

The scientist, writer and creator of Gaia theory, James Lovelock, turns 100 on Friday. As he looks back on a life studded by insights – and early warnings about the climate emergency – Lovelock tells Ian Sample that the greatest threat to humanity is asteroids. “I don’t like the idea we’re going to be wiped out. It seems such a waste.”

Opinion

Google and Facebook announced soaring profits this week, despite increased criticism, regulatory scrutiny and a $5bn FTC fine for Facebook. To stall these companies in their quest for domination, we need a more radical approach, says Siva Vaidhyanathan.


These companies engage in massive and pervasive surveillance of uninformed users around the world. They take the raw material of sensitive personal data to manufacture persuasion machines.

Sport

Julian Alaphilippe remains the overall leader in the Tour de France as defending champion Geraint Thomas and pre-race favourite Egan Bernal battle for second. The latter two men are both members of Team Ineos, whose coach Dave Brailsford has defended his team’s conduct after captain Luke Rowe was disqualified earlier this week.

A second professional boxer has died in less than a week from injuries sustained in the ring. The Argentinian super lightweight Hugo Alfredo “Dinamita” Santillan died on Thursday, aged 23, after a fight in Buenos Aires. His death came two days after that of the 28-year-old Russian fighter Maxim Dadashev in Maryland.

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