US briefing: coronavirus tsar, Trump sues NYT, and Milwaukee shooting

Tim Walker
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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

Saudi Arabia bans foreign pilgrims over Covid-19 concerns

In the face of a potential Covid-19 pandemic, Donald Trump has announced Mike Pence will take charge of the US response to the coronavirus. The president played down concerns over the disease, insisting the danger to Americans “remains very low”, even as a new case in California raised fears the virus is starting to spread within a US community. Other world leaders were not so optimistic.

Trump campaign sues New York Times over Russia story

The New York Times article suggested the Kremlin helped Trump win in 2016 to encourage a more pro-Russian foreign policy from the US. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

In an escalation of Trump’s long-running battle against the media, the president’s re-election campaign has filed a lawsuit against the New York Times, claiming the newspaper “intentionally [published] false statements” in a 2019 opinion piece. The article by Max Frankel was headlined “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo” and suggested the Kremlin had helped Trump to win in 2016 in exchange for a more pro-Russia US foreign policy.

  • Improper influence. The suit accuses the NYT of “extreme bias … and animosity” and cited what it called the paper’s “exuberance to improperly influence the presidential election in November 2020”.

Six dead after shooting at Molson Coors campus in Milwaukee

A 51-year-old Milwaukee man killed five fellow workers at the brewing firm before taking his own life. Photograph: Sara Stathas/Reuters

Six people died on Wednesday in a mass shooting at the Milwaukee campus of the brewing firm Molson Coors, when a 51-year-old man killed five fellow workers before turning his gun on himself, police said. There was no immediately apparent motive for the attack in a neighbourhood known as Miller Valley – after the Miller brewing company, which is now part of Molson Coors. Some 600 people are employed at the site, in both corporate offices and brewing facilities.

  • Mass shootings. In the first two months of 2020, there have reportedly been 45 mass shootings in the US, leaving 60 people dead and another 176 wounded.

Weinstein jurors face pressure to tell their story to the media

Jurors are escorted from the courthouse in Manhattan after finding Weinstein guilty of of rape and sexual assault. Photograph: Craig Ruttle/AP

After seven weeks of courtroom drama and five days of intense deliberation, the jury at the trial of Harvey Weinstein delivered a guilty verdict, convicting the fallen film mogul of rape and sexual assault. Now, reports Ed Pilkington, the TV and cable news media are scrambling to gain exclusive access to the 12 jurors and broadcast their side of the story – and perhaps to identify the assertive male juror who, as Juror No 2 told Inside Edition, “put everyone on the right path” behind the closed door of the jury room.

Cheat sheet

  • The congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose mother was a cleaner, and Yalitza Aparicio, Oscar-nominated for her role as a housemaid in Roma, met in Washington DC on Wednesday to help promote labour rights for domestic workers.

  • Brazilian lawmakers from across the political spectrum have expressed outrage after the country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, appeared to endorse a day of mass protests intended to attack and undermine its democratic institutions.

  • Two American students have appeared in court in Italy on the first day of their trial for murder, over the fatal stabbing of a Rome police officer during a botched drugs bust last July.

  • Russian scientists have said cases of polar bears killing and eating each other are on the rise in the Arctic as melting ice and human activity encroach on their habitat.


Will neuroscientists ever truly understand the brain?

Despite a vast accumulation of information about the human brain, Matthew Cobb writes that understanding of our most vital organ may be approaching an impasse. Is that because the most dominant metaphor in neuroscience – of consciousness as a computer – has been misleading scientists for decades?

David Cronenberg: ‘I’m cheap and available’

The polymath writer-director-novelist David Cronenberg appears onscreen as an actor in the new horror-thriller Disappearance at Clifton Hill. But he’s still busy trying to get his own movies made, he tells Charles Bramesco: “The more unusual a film is, the more resistance you’ll face.”

How Alabama blocked a man’s vote over $4

Alfonzo Tucker Jr was keen to vote at the 2018 midterms, but the state of Alabama denied him that chance, over $4 he supposedly owed in relation to an assault conviction in the past. Sam Levine learns how a racially biased system is still depriving people of their democratic rights.

My best shot: free climber Alex Honnold, falling

Alex Honnold is the climber most famous for ascending Yosemite’s El Capitan without ropes in the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo. Fortunately, when photographer Keith Ladzinski captured his favourite shot of Honnold falling, he tells Andrew Gilchrist, the climber was clipped in.


Bernie Sanders made a qualified defence of Fidel Castro’s Cuba in an interview last weekend. But if he knew of the Castro’s regime’s ruthless persecution of LGBTQ dissidents, says Aaron Hicklin, he might change his tune.

No thinking person, Sanders included, believes that Cuban literacy was worth the human cost, but it’s also likely that Cuba’s history of persecuting LGBTQ people wasn’t on his radar in 1980, when he first praised Castro’s record.


Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova, who burst on to the scene by beating Serena Williams to the Wimbledon title in 2004 aged just 17, has announced her retirement from tennis. Though she was always a media darling, writes Kevin Mitchell, inside the game she is respected more than loved.

Even Manchester City’s players were surprised by their coach Pep Guardiola’s tactics, after he left out three of his squad’s stars for their Champions League tie away to Real Madrid on Wednesday. Yet the gamble paid off in spades, with City claiming a glorious 2-1 victory over the “white-shirted aristos” at the Bernabéu.

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