By theguardian |

US briefing: Acosta row, Trump slams ‘foolish’ May and RIP Rip Torn

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

Acosta proposed 80% cuts to anti-sex trafficking agency

Donald Trump has said he “feels badly” for his labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, over accusations that he helped Jeffrey Epstein to escape justice in 2008, when Acosta was a top prosecutor in Florida and the billionaire financier first stood accused of child abuse crimes. Epstein was charged with sex trafficking in New York this week. Acosta, meanwhile, is proposing to slash funding to the government agency that combats child sex trafficking by 80%.

‘Terrific guy’. Trump said in 2002 that he had known Epstein for 15 years, calling him a “terrific guy” who “likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side”. On Tuesday, the president claimed he was “not a fan of” Epstein.

Trump attacks ‘foolish’ May and her ‘stupid’ ambassador

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Kim Darroch (centre) watches Trump and May’s joint news conference at the White House in 2017. Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters

The diplomatic spat between the White House and London intensified on Tuesday as Trump lashed out once more on Twitter, describing the British prime minister, Theresa May, as “foolish” and the country’s “stupid”, “wacky” ambassador to Washington, Kim Darroch, as “a pompous fool”. The US commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, also postponed trade talks with his UK counterpart, Liam Fox, amid the growing crisis over leaked memos in which Darroch described the president as “incompetent” and “insecure”.

‘Radiating insecurity’. Richard Wolffe argues that Darroch’s memos stated simply what the whole world outside the Oval Office knows, while the president’s reaction has only confirmed the ambassador’s assessment.

Judge blocks new justice department lawyers in census case

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Immigration activists protesting against the citizenship question outside the supreme court in June. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

The legal battle over the inclusion of a controversial question on citizenship in the 2020 census continued on Tuesday, as a federal judge in New York ruled that the US Department of Justice could not replace the nine lawyers arguing its case in the dispute. The US district judge Jesse M Furman said the department had provided “no reasons, let alone ‘satisfactory reasons’, for the substitution of counsel”, less than two weeks after the supreme court blocked the Trump administration’s addition of the citizenship question.

Immigrant fears. The White House remains eager to include the question, which critics say would dissuade immigrants from submitting their census forms, thus skewing the results of the survey to Republicans’ benefit.

Cult actor and comedy titan Rip Torn dead at 88

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Torn in 1997’s Men in Black. Photograph: Columbia/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Rip Torn, the wildman actor and 60s counterculture veteran best remembered for his comic turn on The Larry Sanders Show, has died at his home in Connecticut, aged 88. Known in the 1960s as much for his irascibility as for his acting, the Texas-born Oscar nominee famously brawled with Norman Mailer on camera during the making of 1970’s Maidstone, and was replaced by Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider after rowing with Dennis Hopper.

Small screen. Peter Bradshaw writes that Torn “achieved his masterpiece on the small screen in the 90s, playing the unforgettably cantankerous and hilarious Artie, the TV producer on The Larry Sanders Show”.

Crib sheet

The US plans to recruit a coalition of allies to patrol the waters of the Persian Gulf, where it claims Iran is responsible for a spate of recent attacks, the Pentagon’s most senior general has announced.

Saudi Arabian officials complained about the country’s diminished ranking on the annual Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, less than a year after a Saudi death squad murdered the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A group of more than 100 descendants of German Jews who fled the Nazis are challenging the German government’s rejection of their applications to restore the citizenship that was stripped from their ancestors by Hitler’s regime in 1941.

Eight groundbreaking American buildings by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright have been added to the list of Unesco World Heritage Sites, the only modern US architecture to appear on the prestigious list, which also includes the pyramids of Giza.


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James Bond (Sean Connery) interrupts a faked moon landing in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. Photograph: Allstar/United Artists

Why the moon-hoax conspiracy theory lives on

Half a century after Neil Armstrong first set foot on the lunar surface, huge numbers of people still believe the moon landings were faked. Richard Godwin traces one of the internet’s favourite conspiracy theories back to one man’s pamphlet about “America’s $30bn swindle”.

Latin American migrants look to Europe

With Trump closing America’s doors to migrants, Latin Americans are looking to Europe instead, where an 11% increase in people seeking asylum since last year is being driven by those fleeing economic chaos, repression and violence in Central and South America, as Daniel Boffey and Sam Jones report.

Measles death exposes danger posed by anti-vaxxers

Catherine Montantes was a 28-year-old student with an autoimmune disorder, who caught measles from another patient at a clinic in 2015. She was vaccinated, but her medication suppressed her immune system’s response to the disease, and she died three months later. Her mother tells Jessica Glenza why her death ought to be a warning to anti-vaxxers.

How Trump ‘pulled the wool over workers’ eyes’

One of Trump’s signature promises in 2016 was to prevent American manufacturing jobs from moving abroad. Since he took office, however, almost 200,000 jobs have gone overseas – including with firms doing business with the US government. Michael Sainato spoke to some of the workers affected.


The country’s leading national news outlets would have you believe Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign is already doomed, says Kate Aronoff. That’s because they disproportionately represent a status quo-friendly viewpoint.

It’s not that pundits or even their network bosses are all scheming against Sanders. Neoliberalism, the ideology that Sanders challenges, is just the water they’re swimming in.


With back-to-back Women’s World Cup victories, the US coach, Jill Ellis, is the most successful manager in soccer. But with her contract set to expire, Caitlin Murray asks what Ellis will do next. If World Cup star Megan Rapinoe is wondering what to do in retirement, a new poll suggests she could beat Trump to the presidency in 2020.

Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant both made surprise moves to the Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets respectively, but those teams’ local rivals, the Lakers and Knicks, have not fared so well during NBA free agency. Hunter Felt sizes up the winners and losers from an eventful few weeks.

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