US briefing: Impeachment, Bolivia and saving America's largest forest

Tim Walker
Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

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

Pentagon official’s testimony revealed as TV hearings loom

With televised impeachment hearings set to start on Wednesday, the Democrats leading the inquiry have released a transcript of a closed-door session in which a national security official claimed the Pentagon had expressed concerns about the Trump administration’s freeze on military aid to Ukraine. Laura Cooper, the US deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia and Ukraine, said national security chiefs had been “unified … in their view that this assistance was essential”.

  • Public phase. The televised hearings give Democrats an opportunity to make the case against Trump directly to the American people, writes Tom McCarthy. But they also fear Republicans will turn the process into a circus.

Evo Morales flees Bolivia to claim asylum in Mexico

Police patrol the streets of La Paz, Bolivia’s capital, after they withdrew their support for Morales, hastening his resignation. Photograph: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images

The ousted Bolivian president Evo Morales has flown to Mexico, where he has been granted asylum following his shock resignation on Sunday, leaving his own country in a state of confusion and chaos. His exit was precipitated by unrest over the disputed results of a recent presidential election. At the weekend, the Bolivian army withdrew its support for Morales and urged him to step down. Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said he had granted Morales asylum because “his life and safety are at risk” in Bolivia.

  • Power vacuum. Morales tweeted a farewell to Bolivia, which now faces the troubling prospect of a power vacuum, but vowed: “Soon I will return with greater strength and energy.”

Iranian uranium: particles detected at undeclared site

Construction work is under way at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant. Photograph: Xinhua/Barcroft Media

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has detected unenriched uranium particles at a site in Iran that was not previously declared to the UN’s nuclear watchdog. The revelation appears in an IAEA report, which also confirms that Tehran has increased its uranium enrichment in defiance of the crumbling 2015 Iran nuclear accord, with its stockpile reaching the equivalent of 551kg, well beyond the 300kg limit agreed in the deal.

  • 2015 deal. Trump pulled the US out of the Iran deal in 2018 and there is domestic pressure on Tehran to do the same. The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain are to meet in Paris soon to discuss the revelations in the report.

Alaskans fight for the Tongass, US’s largest national forest

Environmentalists, fishermen and Alaskan tribal leaders will appear before Congress on Wednesday to argue on behalf of America’s biggest national forest, which they say is at risk from the Trump administration’s rampant anti-environmentalism. One of the world’s last intact temperate rainforests, the Tongass helps fight the climate crisis by sequestering atmospheric CO2, but Alaska’s GOP-led state government is seeking an exemption from the “roadless rule”, which would put the pristine forest at risk of logging.

  • Roadless rule. The Clinton-era regulation protects millions of acres by preventing mass clear-cutting of trees in undeveloped forested areas. It is considered one of the most widely supported environmental protections in the US.

Cheat sheet

  • The 95-year-old former US president Jimmy Carter has been admitted to hospital in Atlanta, ahead of a procedure scheduled for Tuesday morning to relieve pressure on his brain caused by bleeding due to his recent falls.

  • Boeing says its fleet of 737 Max jets may be flying again by January following safety checks on its software, which has been blamed for two deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

  • The chief of San Francisco’s Bart commuter train system has apologised to a black rider who was detained for eating a sandwich on a rail platform, leading to accusations that the transit system’s enforcement of its no-food rule was racist.

  • A turban-style hat made from byssus, or “sea silk” – an extremely rare material produced by the Mediterranean mollusk, Pinna nobilis – is to be auctioned in New York on Wednesday, in what is thought to be the first sale of such an item since 1767.

Must-reads

Is 2019 the worst year for movie trailers?

The promo for the forthcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie proved so unpopular that its creators literally went back to the drawing board to redesign the character. Movie trailers seem to be getting worse, says Ellen E Jones – and yet, if they get everyone talking, they might actually be good for business.

Could analysing the data of history help save the future?

In 2010, a letter published in the scientific journal Nature warned of global political instability ahead. Its writer, the biologist Peter Turchin, had used data analysis to predict patterns in the natural world – and then applied the same maths to human history. Laura Spinney asks whether his predictions could help prevent a looming crisis.

Doom creator on the problem with modern shooter games

John Romero, the founder of id software, helped invent the first-person shooter with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. He tells Edwin Evans-Thirlwell what’s wrong with their modern descendants: too many guns. “The more weapons you throw in there, the more you’re playing an inventory game.”

Seven times Donald Trump Jr has out-snowflaked the left

The president’s eldest son fled a book promotion event at the weekend when he was heckled by his father’s supporters. Despite writing a book about the over-sensitivity of the left, Don Jr seems remarkably susceptible to triggers himself, as Poppy Noor reports.

Opinion

On Tuesday the supreme court will begin its deliberations on the future of Daca, the Obama-era program that allowed young immigrants to join US society without fear of deportation. It was the most successful integration policy in recent history, say Roberto G Gonzales and Kristina Brant – until Trump canned it.

If the supreme court rules that Trump illegally ended Daca, these young beneficiaries will continue to thrive and build on their successes. If the supreme court rules in favor of Trump, however, its beneficiaries will be stripped of their new-found rights, and much of their progress will be reversed.

Sport

The 49ers’ 2019 winning streak was broken at last on Monday night, with a 24-27 defeat to their NFC West rivals, the Seattle Seahawks, at the Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco.

After a run of Premier League defeats, might Pep Guardiola be considering an exit from Manchester City? If so, it would follow a familiar career parabola for the former Bayern and Barcelona coach, writes Barney Ronay.

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