US briefing: Trudeau's narrow win, GOP disunity and ocean acidification

Tim Walker
Photograph: Cole Burston/Getty Images

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

Liberals overcome scandal to secure four more years

Justin Trudeau has won a second term as Canada’s prime minister after a closely fought election, but his Liberal party failed to secure an overall majority in the country’s parliament and will have to rely on the support of smaller parties to govern. The Conservatives won the popular vote, but had claimed only 121 seats to the Liberals’ 154 as of early Tuesday morning. Trudeau said the Canada had voted for a “progressive agenda” and vowed to fight for all citizens, not just those who voted for him.

  • Blackface controversy. Trudeau’s standing as one of the few progressives left leading a major democracy was dented – almost fatally – by the emergence of several blackface images, and criticism of his handling of a high-profile corruption inquiry.

  • Far-right flop. While the Liberal win was underwhelming, it was a far worse night for the forces of the far right, with the Trumpian People’s Party of Canada failing to win a single seat.

Trump tells Republicans to ‘get tougher’ over impeachment

Trump speaks at a cabinet meeting on Monday. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/EPA

Donald Trump has demanded the Republican party “get tougher and fight” in the battle against his impeachment, as the cracks in his once-staunch GOP support begin to show. Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting at the White House on Monday, the president described Democrats as “vicious” but said they “stick together”, alluding to Republican dissenters such as Mitt Romney, who this weekend told Axios on HBO it had been “shocking” of Trump to call on foreign governments to investigate Joe Biden.

  • Senate jitters? To remove Trump from office, about 20 GOP senators would have to vote to convict him, which remains unlikely. But in recent days Mitch McConnell criticised Trump’s Syria policy in a Washington Post op-ed, while even loyalist Lindsey Graham claimed to be persuadable on impeachment.

Facebook uncovers Iranian and Russian election interference

Mark Zuckerberg defended Facebook’s record on political speech in an address at Georgetown University last week. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook says it has taken down four separate foreign interference operations originating from Iran and Russia. One of the four appears to be linked to an infamous Russian troll farm, the Internet Research Agency, and was designed to target the US 2020 presidential elections via 50 Instagram accounts and a Facebook account with some 246,000 followers. The almost 75,000 posts uncovered include messages that were pro-Donald Trump, pro-Bernie Sanders, anti-police, pro-police and pro-Confederate.

  • Biden targeted. The social network analysis company Graphika reviewed the Internet Research Agency campaign for Facebook, and said both the “progressive” and “conservative” fake accounts shared “a systematic focus on attacking [Joe] Biden”.

Fossils show ocean acidification can cause mass extinctions

As the oceans absorb more and more carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, they are also becoming increasingly acidic. Now researchers say fossil evidence shows this byproduct of the climate crisis could lead to the mass extinction of marine life. Scientists analysed seashells in sediment laid down shortly after a giant meteorite hit the Earth 66m years ago, and found a sharp drop in the pH of the ocean in the period after the strike – an era in which three-quarters of marine species died out.

  • Brazilian beach clean. A 2,200km stretch of the Brazilian coastline has been blighted since early September by a mystery oil spill, which Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right government has apparently failed to handle, leaving volunteers to lead the cleanup.

Cheat sheet

  • The government of Japan has granted half a million pardons to people found guilty of petty crimes, such as traffic violations, to mark the enthronement of the country’s new emperor, Naruhito.

  • The head of Israel’s opposition Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, will be given 28 days to put together a new government after Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving leader, admitted he was unable to form a working coalition.

  • Macy’s has announced it will cease selling animal fur products across its stores, the biggest US retailer to make such a pledge, marking a major victory for animal rights campaigners.

  • New York’s Central Park will add three statues of women to its existing collection of 23 exclusively male figures, after a city commission voted to erect a monument to the women’s rights pioneers Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth.


A national treasure tries to save the world

Sir David Attenborough is the closest Britain has to a universally beloved public figure. But one charge has dogged him for decades: his failure to address the human threat to the planet. Now, he is taking up that challenge. It is not him that has changed, he tells Patrick Barkham, but the public mood.

How US schools spy on millions of children

Fueled by fears of school shootings, many US schools have turned to tech firms that offer 24-hour monitoring of their students’ emails and online chats. But with no independent evidence that such digital surveillance helps reduce violence and self-harm, Lois Beckett asks whether it might be doing more harm than good.

Mexico’s River People left without a river

Northern Mexico’s Cucapá tribe – the River People – got their name from the Colorado River delta, where they traditionally found abundant food, water, medicines and spiritual nourishment. But now the river is dammed at the US-Mexico border, and the lakes are dry, as Nina Lakhani reports from El Mayor in Baja California.

Why Mongolian rockers the Hu went viral

The Mongolian band the Hu sing exclusively in their native tongue, delivered in the ancient art of khoomei, or throat singing, mixing western rock sounds with the traditonial instrumentation of their homeland. Naturally, they’re big in Brooklyn. “People have never heard rock sound like this before,” they tell Jim Farber.


It is no surprise that Trump’s most loyal supporters in Congress should be Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows. They also represent two of America’s most wildly gerrymandered congressional districts, says David Daley.

In districts so uncompetitive that they reward birtherism and brush aside questions about sexual assault, Meadows and Jordan feel comfortable not only cheerleading for Trump, but defending him by advancing wild, discredited conspiracy theories.


The end of the superteam era means this season holds the first legitimately wide-open NBA title race in years. But with LeBron at the Lakers and Kawhi Leonard at the Clippers, it could all depend on how things shake out in Los Angeles. The Guardian’s writers make their 2019-20 predictions.

The reigning Super Bowl champions now have the best record in the AFC, after the Patriots dismantled their woeful divisional rivals, the Jets, 33-0 on Monday night, moving New England to 7-0 for the season.

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