By theguardian |

US briefing: Jeffrey Epstein, Ted Cruz and Hong Kong extradition bill

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

Epstein sexual abuse case could suck in powerful friends

Senior Democrats have called for the US labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, to resign over his decision in 2008 to cut a “sweetheart” plea deal with Jeffrey Epstein, which spared the billionaire a jail sentence at a time when Acosta was Miami’s top federal prosecutor. Epstein has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges, over allegations that he “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls” at his homes in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005.

Longstanding allegations. The first claims of sexual abuse against Epstein date to 2005 and, as Edward Helmore reports, the case could draw in powerful men who mingled with the financier before and since, including Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew and Donald Trump.

Trump ‘will no longer deal with’ British ambassador

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Darroch with outgoing UK prime minister Theresa May, who said she had ‘full faith’ in the ambassador. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Trump launched a withering attack on the outgoing British prime minister Theresa May on Monday, declaring on Twitter that the White House would “no longer deal with” the UK’s ambassador to Washington, Kim Darroch, after the diplomat’s private assessment of the president as “inept” and “dysfunctional” was leaked to the Mail on Sunday newspaper. Trump accused May of making a “mess” of Brexit, after failing to follow his advice on the issue.

‘Full faith’. May has expressed her “full faith” in Darroch, despite insisting she did not agree with his “honest and unvarnished” assessment of the White House.

Darroch’s future. But the ambassador’s fate will likely be decided by the next prime minister, either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt, who may consider him an impediment to continued good relations with the US.

Ted Cruz raged at Fox’s pro-Trump bias in 2016, book claims

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Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who has grown a beard since losing the GOP nomination to Trump in 2016. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Ted Cruz became convinced Fox News and its late chief Roger Ailes had deliberately worked against him to secure the Republican presidential nomination for Donald Trump in 2016, according to a new book. The Guardian obtained a copy of American Carnage, a study of the “Republican civil war” by Tim Alberta, which quotes the Texas senator telling friends, after Ailes’ death in 2017: “I think it was Roger’s dying wish to elect Donald Trump president.”

Wisconsin win. The book also details an incident on the evening Cruz won the Wisconsin primary in 2016, when the senator allegedly flew into an expletive-filled rage over Fox host Sean Hannity’s favourable coverage of his rival, Trump.

Hong Kong leader says bill that sparked protests is ‘dead’

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'The bill is dead': Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam speaks after mass protests – video

Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong chief executive, has said the proposed extradition bill that has caused a political crisis and mass protests on the streets of the semi-autonomous territory, is “dead”. The law, which would have allowed China to pursue its political opponents in the former British colony, had been a “total failure”, Lam said. But the bill’s critics said Lam’s failure to formally withdraw the bill from parliament meant the protests would continue regardless.

Trade war. BASF, the world’s largest chemicals company, has issued an ominous profits warning that it blamed in large part on the US-China trade war, which has also affected the wealth of the world’s super-rich, according to a report.

Taiwan arms. The US has further stoked Chinese anger by approving the potential sale of $2.2bn in arms to Taiwan, which Beijing views as part of its own territory.

Crib sheet

US immigration authorities have accessed drivers’ licenses databases across the country and searched millions of people’s photos without their knowledge, including in states that have allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers’ IDs.

A New York couple is suing a Los Angeles fertility clinic after an apparent IVF mix-up left them pregnant with twins who turned out to be genetically unrelated to them, and to each other.

A Guardian investigation has revealed numerous cases of former Tesla workers who claim they were unfairly fired for using sick leave, and current workers who say they have been threatened with termination or disciplinary action.

California congressman Eric Swalwell has withdrawn from the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, to focus instead on his re-election to the House of Representatives.

Must-reads

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Michelle Carter was sentenced to 15 months in prison for coercing her boyfriend to kill himself via text. Photograph: HBO

Behind the suicide text scandal that shocked America

Massachusetts teenager Michelle Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2017, for coercing her boyfriend Conrad Roy to kill himself via text. Now a new HBO documentary takes a deeper look at the case that caused a tabloid frenzy. Charles Bramesco spoke to the filmmaker, Erin Lee Carr.

How Florida’s summer of slime changed Republicans’ minds

Last summer, Florida’s freshwater suffered a toxic, green-blue algal bloom, while the so-called “red tide” afflicted its coastline. Trump fan Ron DeSantis was elected governor on a promise to clean up the state’s pollution-induced environmental hazards – a rare model of Republican environmentalism. Rebecca Renner reports.

The murder of a Pakistani social media star

Qandeel Baloch was Pakistan’s first social media celebrity, whose risque videos were controversial in her culturally conservative homeland. In 2016, at age 26, she was murdered by her own brother. Sanam Maher charts her insta-rise and her tragic demise.

American Pie at 20

American Pie, the 1999 comedy about a group of boys determined to lose their virginity before high school graduation, could never be made today, says Scott Tobias. But while it is a relic from a randier era, the film also heralded a sweeter brand of raunch, rooted in friendships and the possibility of more mature romance.

Opinion

Facebook is ripe for exploitation all over again in 2020, writes Siva Vaidhyanathan. Not necessarily by Russia, but by domestic forces bent on distorting the political conversation to Trump’s benefit.

Facebook is certainly on guard to limit overt Russian influence in American politics, but it is unable to stem the flow of home-grown white nationalism.

Sport

Coco Gauff’s remarkable debut run at Wimbledon came to an end on Monday, when the 15-year-old was beaten 6-3, 6-3 in her last 16 match by No7 seed Simona Halep. Steve Brenner watched alongside Gauff’s extended family at her father’s bar in Florida. Over in the men’s contest, meanwhile, the veteran “big three” all went through to the quarter-finals with straight sets wins.

When the USA won their fourth Women’s World Cup trophy on Sunday, they also scored a major public relations victory in their fight with US Soccer over equal pay, writes Caitlin Murray. And now that people have fallen for women’s soccer, says Eni Aluko, leagues and broadcasters have to make sure they stay interested.

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