First Thing: Populism imperils fight against climate breakdown, says John Kerry

<span>John Kerry: ‘People are being purposely frightened by the demagoguery that is oblivious to the facts or distorting the facts.’</span><span>Photograph: Ørn E Borgen/AP</span>
John Kerry: ‘People are being purposely frightened by the demagoguery that is oblivious to the facts or distorting the facts.’Photograph: Ørn E Borgen/AP

Good morning.

The populist backlash against net zero around the world is imperilling the fight against climate breakdown and must be countered urgently to avoid facing planetary destruction “beyond comprehension”, the US climate chief, John Kerry, has warned.

He hit out at the rise of “disinformation” and “demagoguery” that he said were damaging the transition away from fossil fuels, and being used as tactics by special interests to delay action.

“People are not being told the truth about what the impacts are from making this transition [to net zero greenhouse gas emissions],” Kerry said. “They’re being scared, purposely frightened by the demagoguery that is oblivious to the facts or distorting the facts. And in some cases outright lying is going on.”

Political leaders must be guided by the science of the climate crisis and reject the calls for delay, he said. “We have politics now entering into this – fighting for delay and fighting for progress. They’re procrastinating and they’re part of the disinformation crowd that are willing to put the whole world at risk for whatever political motivations may be behind their choices here,” Kerry told the Guardian in an interview in London.

  • Did he name any politicians? No. Though Kerry refused to name any specific interests or people, his words reflect the widespread concern that the climate is likely to be weaponised in the US election campaign this year, and in other countries as billions of people around the world head to the polls.

Biden wins Michigan primary but sheds support over Gaza

Joe Biden has won the Democratic primary in Michigan, despite a concerted effort by anti-war activists to vote “uncommitted” in the race that could overshadow his win.

The US president faced no real primary challenger in the contest. But a campaign that formed just weeks before the primary to vote “uncommitted” in protest over his continued support for Israel’s war in Gaza signalled the fury and betrayal some Arab-American and younger voters in the state feel for Biden.

The group pushing for voters to choose “uncommitted” – called Listen to Michigan – set the goal of 10,000 uncommitted votes in the primary. With more than half of the votes tallied Tuesday night, “uncommitted” had received 74,000 votes out of a total of more than 580,000 – almost 13% of the vote.

For context, when Barack Obama ran uncontested in the 2012 race, about 21,000 voted “uncommitted” against him in Michigan’s primary, with about 194,000 voting in total – just over 9% of voters.

  • How did Trump do? Donald Trump has won Michigan’s Republican primary election, the latest in a string of primary victories as he closes in on the GOP presidential nomination. The Associated Press called the race for Trump over the former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley at 9pm ET.

Star witness for Trump defendants in Georgia fails to give damning testimony

Lawyers for Donald Trump’s co-defendants charged in Georgia over efforts to overturn the 2020 election were unable yesterday to get their star witness to repeat in court what he had previously alleged about the Fulton county district attorney’s affair, as they seek to have her thrown off the case.

“I was speculating and I never witnessed anything. It was speculation,” Terrence Bradley said about text messages he sent to one of the defense lawyers in January that alleged the district attorney, Fani Willis, and her deputy Nathan Wade were romantically involved earlier than they had claimed.

Bradley’s inability to confirm anything about the affair meant there was no new evidence introduced at the hearing in Fulton county superior court as the presiding judge, Scott McAfee, weighs whether there was a conflict of interest requiring Willis’s disqualification.

Trump and more than a dozen allies were charged last year with violating the Georgia state racketeering statute when they took steps to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, including by advancing fake slates of electors and pressuring state officials to reverse Trump’s defeat.

  • What had lawyers hoped to prove? The defense lawyers had been hoping for weeks that Bradley would contradict the testimony from Willis and Wade, who claimed it started months after Wade had been hired to work on the Trump case in November 2021, as that could undercut their credibility in the eyes of the judge.

In other news …

  • Satoshi Kirishima spent almost half a century evading arrest, until mortality intervened. As deathbed confessions go, his was astonishing: having lived a double life as a construction worker, the 70-year-old was admitted last month to a hospital near Tokyo where he told staff he was, in fact, one of Japan’s most wanted fugitives.

  • The main facility that assembles and disassembles America’s nuclear arsenal shut down its operations last night as fires raged out of control in Texas. Unseasonably warm temperatures, strong winds and dry grasses are fuelling the Smokehouse Creek fire, the largest in the state.

  • The EU should consider using profits from frozen Russian assets to buy military supplies for Ukraine, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said today. “It is time to start a conversation about using the windfall profits of frozen Russian assets to jointly purchase military equipment for Ukraine,” she said.

  • Qatar has accused Israel of facilitating “the deliberate starvation of the Palestinian people” in a weekly briefing given by foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al Ansari. He called on the international community to apply more pressure on Israel, and said it was “painful” that the delivery of aid was still an issue.

  • Courtroom testimony by an independent gun expert yesterday cast new doubt on Alec Baldwin’s account that his gun went off without his pulling the trigger in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer during a 2021 rehearsal on the set of the western movie Rust.

Don’t miss this: ‘Medical colonialism’ – midwives sue Hawaii over law regulating Native birth workers

Six midwives, including three midwifery students, and three patients sued the state of Hawaii yesterday after the government last year prohibited birth workers without a specific midwifery license from providing maternal healthcare. The lawsuit by the Center for Reproductive Rights, claims that state lawmakers have criminalized Indigenous birthing customs and hollowed out medical care for pregnant women and families across Hawaii. The lawsuit, one of the first major legal challenges designed to protect Native Hawaiian healing practices, comes amid renewed calls for Indigenous self-governance after the Maui wildfires of August 2023.

Climate check: Did a marine heatwave cause 7,000 humpback whales to starve to death?

In 1972, a humpback whale nicknamed Festus was first spotted off the mountainous coast of south-east Alaska. He returned each summer for 44 years, entertaining whale watchers, local people and biologists. But in June 2016, Festus was found floating dead in Glacier Bay national park. The primary cause of death was starvation, which scientists believe was likely caused by the most extreme marine heatwave on record. New research, published today by Royal Society Open Science shows the humpback population in the North Pacific declined by 20% between 2013 and 2021 after warmer water upended the ecosystem.

Last Thing: Everyone Knows That – can you identify the lost 80s hit baffling the internet?

It’s only 17 seconds long, and sounds a bit like 80s-era Genesis playing at the bottom of a swimming pool. But this snippet of bouncy yet sonically degraded pop has become one of the biggest and most enduring musical mysteries on the internet. The clip was uploaded in 2021 by someone called Carl92, who wanted to know if anyone could identify it. “I don’t remember its origin,” he wrote on a site called WatZatSong, saying he found it “between a bunch of very old files in a DVD backup … it sounds somewhat familiar to me.”

Entire online communities have developed around naming this 17-second snippet of catchy pop – and three years after it was uploaded no one has solved the mystery.

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