Tuesday briefing: US to vote in midterm elections

Tuesday briefing: US to vote in midterm elections

Top story: ‘Referendum’ on Trump presidency

Hello, I’m Warren Murray. Welcome to Tuesday’s news.

The US midterm elections will be held today, to fill all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate. Democrats are favoured to win control of the House, while Republicans are predicted to retain control of the Senate. Here is our guide to this pivotal moment in Donald Trump’s presidency.

Across the US, campaigns have made their final pitches amid reports of record turnout among early voters, especially the young. Donald Trump has made the midterms a referendum on his presidency – claiming credit for the economy and employment figures while forcing immigration, race and nationalism to the fore. A racist campaign advert in Trump’s name has been dropped by major TV networks.

Trump concluded a three-stop tour of the midwest with a rally last night in Missouri where he continued his typically divisive campaign form with attacks on immigrants, the media, Democrats, and the women who spoke out about Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Barack Obama delivered his own closing arguments against Trump when he told Democrats in Virginia: “The character of this country is on the ballot, who we are is on the ballot.”

As election day arrives, some regions of the south-eastern US are on watch for severe weather.

Hyde Park bomb suspect arrested –John Downey, who escaped prosecution over the deadly 1982 Hyde Park bombing, is expected to face extradition proceedings over the separate killing of two soldiers a decade earlier. Downey’s trial in 2014 was aborted because, as part of the Good Friday peace process, he had been given a letter of “clear and unequivocal assurance” that he was no longer wanted by any police force in the UK.

On Monday, Downey was arrested in Co Donegal over the car-bombing deaths in 1972 of Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldiers Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston, 32, and Private James Eames, 33, in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. He is due to appear at the high court in Dublin today.

Briton pleads guilty over wife’s sea death –A British-Australian yachtsman whose newlywed wife went missing at sea when their catamaran sank on a honeymoon sailing trip has admitted in the US to her involuntary manslaughter. The coast guard found Lewis Bennett, 41, on a life raft in the Caribbean in May 2017. He claimed an impact had woken him and that Isabella Hellmann, his wife of three months, was nowhere to be found as he abandoned the sinking boat. But on the raft with him, Bennett had $100,000 worth of coins stolen from a yacht he had worked onboard in 2016. The coast guard eventually found the catamaran and the FBI said it appeared to have been deliberately scuttled. Bennett, from Poole in Dorset, is due to be sentenced in January 2019 when he will face a maximum eight-year prison sentence.

Iran sanctions bite –Donald Trump’s further sanctions against Iran have come into force despite the country being deemed in compliance with the international deal on its nuclear programme. Targets of the US sanctions include 50 banks and their subsidiaries, the national airline, and 200 members of the shipping industry and vessels. “For ordinary people, sanctions mean unemployment, sanctions mean becoming poor, sanctions mean the scarcity of medicine, the rising price of dollar,” said Akbar Shamsodini, an Iranian oil and gas businessman who lost his job because of European companies pulling out of Iran in fear of US sanctions. “By imposing these sanctions, they want to force Iranians to rise up in revolt against their government but in practice, they will only make them flee their country.” European governments are trying to work around the US sanctions.

PM faces cabinet –Theresa May will seek the backing of her ministers today after the Irish taoiseach said he could not allow the UK to dictate the terms of any backstop. No 10 sources have indicated that the duration of any temporary deal concerning the Irish border is the last sticking point in Brexit talks. Leo Varadkar has said there is room for “a review mechanism” but not for Britain being able to unilaterally end the backstop. There appears to be a softening on the EU side toward an all-UK customs union – which would replace the idea of the Northern Ireland-specific arrangement repeatedly rejected by May and the UK government – but officials have indicated it would require Downing Street to accept it would be a permanent arrangement. EU officials believe there needs to be “decisive progress” by the weekend for Donald Tusk, the European council president, to be able to announce a summit for the end of November.

‘Magna Carta for the web’ –Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, has launched a global campaign to save his creation and its users from abuse, discrimination, political manipulation and other threats. Berners-Lee has called on governments, companies and individuals to back his “Contract for the Web” that aims to protect people’s rights and freedoms on the internet. “We have online abuse, prejudice, bias, polarisation, fake news … This is a contract to make the web one which serves humanity, science, knowledge and democracy.” Under its principles, governments must ensure citizens access to all of the internet, along with privacy and the right to use it “freely, safely and without fear.” Companies must commit to making the internet affordable and accessible to all; respecting personal data; and making the web is “a public good that puts people first”. Facebook and Google have signed up – both have faced criticism over failures when it comes to privacy, censorship and abuse.

Today in Focus podcast: Britain’s role in Yemen crisis

Three years into a devastating civil war in Yemen, 9 million people are in urgent need of medical care and the UN has warned of an imminent famine. The Guardian’s Middle East correspondent, Bethan McKernan, has been reporting on the war in which all sides have killed civilians but some are using British-made weapons. Also today in our opinion slot: naturalist Bernie Krause on what he’s learned documenting wildlife through sound.

Lunchtime read: Songs that get into your head

Music, even when you are barely aware of it, can be surprisingly powerful. Researchers have found it can affect how long we think we’ve been in a queue, how cooperative shoppers are with sales staff, and even how sweet or bitter food tastes. One study has found shoppers prefer French or German wine depending on which country’s traditional music is playing.

Rob Wood is the founder and creative director of Music Concierge, a company that chooses background music for businesses. His clients include well-known fashion brands, luxury London hotels, even football clubs wanting playlists to foster their teams’ psychological and physical wellbeing. The background music industry – also known as music design and music consultancy – is booming.


England have compiled a dossier on how to beat the All Blacks based on information from the British & Irish Lions players who toured New Zealand last year. Meanwhile, New Zealand undertook a scouting mission at their own expense on Saturday, with the All Blacks attending Twickenham and seemingly without Eddie Jones’s knowledge.

Our coverage of the first Test is getting under way as England face Sri Lanka in Galle. In football, England’s players were not consulted by Gareth Southgate over the plan to offer Wayne Rooney a farewell appearance for the team, with the manager still considering which shirt to allocate the forward in the friendly against the United States. Jürgen Klopp has denied omitting Xherdan Shaqiri from Liverpool’s Champions League trip to Red Star Belgrade over security concerns but insisted it made sense “to cool the situation down” at the hostile Rajko Mitić Stadium. And the US Olympic Committee has taken the first steps toward decertifying USA Gymnastics’ recognition as the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States.


Share prices have been mixed in Asia as markets await the US midterm elections. Asia will be watching to see how the vote might influence US trade and security policies. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 1% and the Kospi in South Korea added 0.1% while Shanghai slipped 1.1% and the Hang Seng was down 0.2. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 advanced 0.3%. Markets were closed in Singapore for a public holiday.

Sterling has been trading at $1.305 and $1.144 overnight.

The papers

TheGuardianleads on our aforementioned Brexit news: “PM faces cabinet after Varadkar stands firm on Brexit backstop”. TheFTsplashes with: “May warns cabinet sceptics to cede ground or face no-deal Brexit costs”.

Several papers feature pictures of the mob that burned an effigy of Grenfell Tower as part of Guy Fawkes. TheMirrorhas that as its lead story under the headline “Flames of hate”. TheTimeshas reports of a new study: “Early risers ‘are 40% less likely to get breast cancer’”. TheExpresshas pleas from Prince Charles to rid the planet of waste: “My war on plastic for Meghan’s baby”. TheTelegraphcontinues its reporting on Philip Green: “US Topshop manager: I was Green’s victim too”. Theisays “MPs slam ‘pointlessly cruel’ benefits system” and theMailreports: “New death tax to hit grieving families” while theSunfollows the latest development in Ant McPartlin’s divorce: “Judge kissed off at Ant”.

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