Good morning. Donald Trump’s “failures in leadership” have left America “in tatters”, said Joe Biden’s new running mate, Kamala Harris, during their first joint appearance on the Democratic presidential ticket in Delaware on Wednesday night. Together, Biden and Harris said they would guide the US through the three major national crises its faces in 2020: the Covid-19 pandemic, the struggling economy and a reckoning with systemic racism.
Trump, for his part, mustered a familiar insult for Harris at a White House press briefing, describing her as “nasty” for the way she grilled Brett Kavanaugh during his supreme court nomination hearing. Poppy Noor runs down some of the California senator’s best cross-examinations of powerful men – including Biden.
Oakland’s mayor said Harris’s hometown was “hella proud” of her VP selection, despite reservations about her track record on criminal justice among the city’s longstanding progressive community.
Bob Woodward got hold of Trump and Kim’s personal letters
The veteran White House reporter Bob Woodward has obtained 25 personal letters exchanged by Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and plans to reveal their details in Rage, his new book on the Trump administration. In one of the letters, according to Woodward’s publishers, Simon & Schuster, “Kim describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a ‘fantasy film’, as the two leaders engage in an extraordinary diplomatic minuet”.
The US government has proposed changes to shower pressure standards, following the president’s repeated complaints that American bathroom fixtures are insufficient to the task of washing his hair.
Trump’s border wall threatens several endangered species in multiple border states. Federal scientists warned officials of the risks to wildlife, but were repeatedly ignored by the Department of Homeland Security, according to documents seen by the Guardian.
Foreign monitors are coming to observe the US election
Ever since the disputed 2000 US presidential vote, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has sent foreign election observers to monitor America’s elections. In its most recent assessment, the OSCE warns of threats to the “integrity of election day proceedings”, describing the 2020 poll as “the most challenging in recent decades” – not least due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The organisation recommended its member states send 500 observers to monitor November’s vote, saying most of the recommendations it made after the 2016 election – including the restoration of a key plank of the Voting Rights Act – have not been implemented.
The 38 million Americans affected by poverty could represent a vast reservoir of previously untapped votes for whichever candidate is most capable of mobilising them in key swing states, new research suggests.
US hospitals pressured staff to work despite Covid symptoms
Despite mixed messages from government during the coronavirus crisis, one piece of public health guidance has remained consistent: if you’re suffering from symptoms of Covid-19, stay home. Yet as the Guardian and Kaiser Health News have learned, many US hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities have flouted that guidance, pressuring workers infected with the virus to return sooner than public health standards suggest is safe.
More than 900 US healthcare workers have died during the pandemic. Ron Klain, who was the Obama administration’s Ebola tsar and now advises the Biden campaign, says many of those deaths could – and should – have been prevented:
We did not give them the equipment they needed, nor did we do everything we could have to reduce the risks they faced: that may not make their heroism larger, but it does make our duty to remember them, and to change direction in our nation’s failing response to Covid, all the more urgent.
As the global coronavirus death toll nears 750,000, India has recorded a record daily rise in new cases – almost 67,000 – while New Zealand’s successful Covid-19 elimination strategy has suffered a setback, with an outbreak in its biggest city suggesting the virus may have been circulating undetected in the community for weeks. Some other countries have come up with clever, and macabre, solutions to the continuing crisis:
South Korea has equipped bus shelters in the capital, Seoul, with anti-Covid technology including temperature-checking doors and ultraviolet disinfection lamps.
Bolivian engineers have created a mobile crematorium in response to Bolivia’s soaring death rate, providing a cheap option for families who cannot afford a proper funeral service.
In other news…
The Amazon has suffered its worst start to a fire season for a decade, with more than 10,000 blazes spotted in the Brazilian rainforest in the first 10 days of August, 17% more than the same period last year.
Americans face a wave of suicides, drug overdoses and despair if the US government fails to reinstate enhanced federal unemployment benefits and eviction moratoriums during the coronavirus crisis, mental health experts have warned.
The world’s largest international maritime military exercise begins in Hawaii next week. The Rim of the Pacific (Rimpac) war games were delayed from April; critics say they should be cancelled amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in the state.
Climate countdown: 83 days to save the Earth
The world’s freshwater animals have declined by 83% since 1970, due in part to the climate crisis. And there are now 83 days until the US pulls out of the Paris climate accords. Today in our climate countdown series, Oliver Milman warns that the last decade was the planet’s hottest on record – a sure sign the crisis is accelerating.
How Europe’s greatest buildings were stolen from the east
When Middle East expert Diana Darke looks at Notre Dame or St Mark’s in Venice, she sees not European architectural achievements, but designs plundered from the Islamic world. “Against a backdrop of rising Islamophobia,” she tells Oliver Wainwright, “I thought it was about time someone straightened out the narrative.”
The model who partied with Warhol and took on Vogue
In the late 60s, Pat Cleveland was one of New York’s top models. She was photographed by Richard Avedon, partied with Warhol, dated Muhammad Ali. But in 1971 she left for France, vowing not to return until a black model was on the cover of US Vogue. “I just got fed up,” she tells Ellen E Jones.
Opinion: Pop culture is due a reckoning about colourism
Many people’s eyes are now open to systemic racism, but there’s a related form of discrimination that’s yet to face a cultural reckoning, writes Priya Elan: colourism, or discrimination based on skin tone.
A preference for lighter skin tones, even among people of colour, is one of the obvious legacies of eurocentric beauty standards. Yet colourism continues to hide in plain sight. Is it so insidious we can’t call it out or talk about it?
Last Thing: Nick Cave on cancel culture
Nick Cave, the Australian musician and writer, has weighed in on cancel culture on his popular personal blog, calling it “bad religion run amuck,” and warning that political correctness has begun to have an “asphyxiating effect on the creative soul of a society”.
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