Donald Trump keeps claiming he has proof that Covid-19 originated in a Chinese virology lab. Mike Pompeo insists there is “enormous evidence” to support that theory. But Beijing says the claims are “insane”; the Five Eyes network of intelligence agencies from the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada says no such evidence exists; and the WHO calls the theory “speculative”, arguing that an “aggressive investigation” by the US government will hamper the wider effort to understand the disease.
The Trump administration is trying to blame Beijing for the pandemic, as part of a direct challenge to the power of the Chinese Communist party, writes Julian Borger:
The Trump administration’s campaign against China in the coming months will be both economic and diplomatic. The president has said he is contemplating punitive measures, reportedly exploring whether the US might sue China or cancel some of its debt to China as reparations.
America’s daily virus death toll could double by June
The US is now reporting between 1,000 and 2,000 Covid-19 deaths per day. As Trump pushes for the economy to reopen, it has been reported that his administration expects that number to rise to 3,000 by the start of June. The New York Times said it had obtained an “internal document” to that effect, “based on modelling by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” A Trump spokesman denied the story, saying it was “not a White House document, nor has it been presented to the coronavirus taskforce”.
California eases restrictions. The country’s most populous state, which has been more successful than some at slowing the spread of the virus, will allow some businesses to reopen from Friday, governor Gavin Newsom has announced.
Fancy a summer cruise? Carnival Cruise Lines has announced it will resume operations at the start of August when the CDC’s no-sail order expires, departing from ports including Miami and Galveston, Texas.
World leaders – but not Trump – pledge $7.9bn to a vaccine
The world’s governments have jointly agreed to fund the research and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine to the tune of around $7.9bn, with the notable exceptions of India, Russia and the US. At a virtual summit convened by the EU on Monday, European leaders were joined in their fundraising pledges by leaders from Canada, Japan, Jordan and South Africa, among other nations.
Elsewhere in the world…
A hospital in France has discovered that it treated a man with Covid-19 as early as 27 December, after retesting old samples from pneumonia patients.
A Singaporean sailor has been rescued by the navy in Fiji after spending three months stranded at sea, with ports continually turning him away due to their coronavirus closures.
In Chile, the lockdown halted six months of street protests, but the disease has only served to highlight the inequalities the unrest was intended to address, as John Bartlett reports from Santiago.
A climate emergency is coming even sooner than we thought
Areas of the world that are currently home to a third of its population could be as hot as the heart of the Sahara desert within the next 50 years, a new study has warned. That means at least 1.2 billion people are likely to be displaced or forced to live amid insufferable heat by 2070, many of them in Africa and southern Asia.
The so-called Anthropocene era began 12,000 years ago, when human domestication of the natural world began in earnest. Alastair Gee and Dani Anguiano say a string of natural disasters, including the coronavirus pandemic, shows the natural world is now in revolt:
There are forces that cannot be domesticated. Indeed, our interference with the natural world is making them more liable to flare up into tragedy. We created the Anthropocene, and the Anthropocene is biting back.
In other news…
Venezuela has detained two Americans over an alleged plot to assassinate its president, Nicolás Maduro. In a TV address, Maduro said the men were among 13 “terrorists” arrested trying to enter the country from the Caribbean coast on Monday.
The Senate won’t release records on Tara Reade. The secretary of the US Senate rejected a request from Joe Biden to release the sexual assault complaint Reade claims she made against him in 1993, saying the secretary does not have the legal discretion to disclose such files, if they do indeed exist.
Colson Whitehead has won a second Pulitzer prize for his novel The Nickel Boys, becoming only the fourth author ever to win two Pulitzers for fiction. This year also saw the first Pulitzer for audio reporting awarded to the podcast This American Life.
How America’s deadliest fire in a century was sparked
Early on 8 November 2018, a supervisor from California’s energy utility PG&E spotted a small fire beneath a power line in a canyon a few hours north of San Francisco. That blaze would go on to claim 85 lives and consume the town of Paradise. In this extract from their new book, Alastair Gee and Dani Anguiano tell its origin story.
Why is miscarriage so shrouded in mystery?
Jennie Agg had already lost four pregnancies before she set out to learn about the still-mysterious science of miscarriage. And then she found herself pregnant again, just as the lockdown loomed. “Mixed in with the fear and stress of uncertainty, there was also a guilty kind of sadness for the things I would not get to do,” she writes.
Opinion: Normal People is a deathly dull romance
Normal People is one of the big, home-viewing hits of the lockdown era, based on a beloved novel about two clever, fragile young Irish people edging towards love and self-acceptance. It’s a story as old as time, says Jessa Crispin, which is why she found it deathly dull.
The desire to tell an old story in a new way only really works if you actually have something new to say. And bringing the power imbalances between the classes or between the genders to the surface of the story only counts as new if you assume that romance novelists throughout time, and their audiences, were completely ignorant about these dynamics.
Last Thing: Call off the auditions, we’ve found our Joe Exotic
It’s been the subject of a fantasy casting frenzy ever since it landed on Netflix, and now the drama remake of the documentary series Tiger King has found its leading man. Oscar winner Nicolas Cage will reportedly take on the role of the flamboyant big cat collector and Texas prison inmate, Joe Exotic.
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