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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Nicola Slawson

First Thing: Do the latest legal woes spell the end for Donald Trump?

Donald Trump waving
‘He’s done,one expert said of Donald Trump. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

Good morning.

Donald Trump’s legal perils have become insurmountable and could snuff out the former US president’s hopes of an election-winning comeback, according to political analysts and legal experts.

Trump and three of his adult children were accused of lying to tax collectors, lenders and insurers yesterday in a “staggering” fraud scheme that routinely misstated the value of his properties to enrich themselves.

The civil lawsuit, filed by New York’s attorney general, came as the FBI investigates Trump’s holding of sensitive government documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and a special grand jury in Georgia considers whether he and others attempted to influence state election officials after his defeat there by Joe Biden.

The former US president has repeatedly hinted that he intends to run for the White House again in 2024. But the cascade of criminal, civil and congressional investigations could yet derail that bid.

  • What do the experts say? “He’s done,said Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University in Washington, who has accurately predicted every presidential election since 1984. “He’s got too many burdens, too much baggage to be able to run again even presuming he escapes jail, he escapes bankruptcy. I’m not sure he’s going to escape jail.”

  • Could the New York civil fraud suit bring down the Trump Organization? Restrictions sought by Letitia James include bans on Trump and his children that would tear his real estate empire from his control, writes Hugo Lowell.

Biden denounces Putin’s nuclear threats as ‘reckless’ in UN address

Riot police detain a demonstrator during a protest against mobilization in Moscow last night.
Riot police detain a demonstrator during a protest against mobilization in Moscow last night. Photograph: Dmitry Serebryakov/AP

Joe Biden and allied leaders have reacted angrily to Vladimir Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons and pledged to maintain support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s partial mobilization and planned annexation of more Ukrainian regions.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, also shrugged off Putin’s moves to escalate the war, saying his country’s forces would continue their counteroffensive, not giving Russia breathing space to mobilize and dig in on Ukrainian soil.

The US president was speaking hours after Putin announced Russia’s first mobilization since the second world war and warned that Moscow had “lots of weapons to reply” to what he claimed were western threats on its territory.

Since Putin’s announcement, more than 1,300 people have been arrested in 38 Russian cities, according to the OVD-Info monitoring group. These are the largest protests since Putin launched his invasion in February.

  • Why is Putin planning partial mobilization? The UK’s defense ministry says Russia needs the manpower to continue its fight. “The move is [in effect] an admission that Russia has exhausted its supply of willing volunteers to fight in Ukraine,” its daily intelligence briefing said today.

Democrats will struggle to keep control of Congress in midterms, expert says

A view of the Capitol building
‘It’s a long shot that the Democrats would get more than half.’ Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Since 1978 Ray Fair, ​​a professor of economics at Yale University, has been using economic data to predict US election outcomes, writes Dominic Rushe. His bare-boned, strictly by the numbers approach has a fairly impressive record, usually coming within 3% of the final tally.

Sadly for Democrats – if Fair’s on track again this time – the Biden administration will struggle to keep control of Congress in November’s crucial midterm elections.

Elections are noisy events and this year’s is no different. Recent polling suggests Joe Biden is on a roll, reclaiming some of the ground he lost earlier in his presidency. The Democrats have passed major legislation. There has been a sharp increase in women registering to vote after the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade. Abortion rights drove voters to the polls in deep-red Kansas. Gas prices, if not overall inflation, are falling. In the meantime, Donald Trump and the candidates he has backed are dominating the headlines and helping Democrats’ poll numbers.

But if Fair is right, we can largely set aside the personalities and the issues: the economy is the signal behind the noise and Biden is still in trouble.

  • What does Fair’s data predict? Using data going back to 1916 Fair’s latest analysis suggests Democrats will get 46.7% of the national vote in November – down from the 51.3% in 2020 when Biden defeated Donald Trump and took control of the House and a slim majority in the Senate.

In other news …

Children receiving Covid vaccines
More than 1,400 children have died from Covid in the US, and at least 533 of those deaths have been in children under five. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA
  • Only about 6% of kids under five have had the first shot of a Covid vaccine, according to data from the CDC – the lowest rate by far of any age demographic. Meanwhile, Biden said on Monday the pandemic was ending – a message that could result in a continued lag.

  • The conservative activist Virginia Thomas, the wife of the supreme court justice Clarence Thomas, has agreed to participate in a voluntary interview with the House panel investigating the January 6 insurrection, her lawyer said. The attorney Mark Paoletta said Thomas was “eager to answer the committee’s questions”.

  • A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed Fat Leonard, who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in US military history, has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing, authorities say. The international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended with his arrest on Tuesday morning.

  • A former Minneapolis police officer who pleaded guilty to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd was sentenced yesterday to three years. Thomas Lane is already serving a two and a half year federal sentence for violating Floyd’s civil rights.

Stat of the day: Two firms control 40% of global commercial seed market, dominating the global food chain

Syngenta logo
Syngenta is majority owned by the Chinese government through Sinochem and ChemChina. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

The dominance of a small number of big companies over the global food chain is increasing, aided by the rising use of “big data” and artificial intelligence, research has found. Only two companies control 40% of the global commercial seed market, compared with 10 companies controlling the same proportion of the market 25 years ago, according to the ETC Group, an eco-justice organisation. Agricultural commodity trading is similarly concentrated, with 10 commodity traders in 2020 dominating a market worth half a trillion dollars.

Don’t miss this: I love you but I don’t want to see you for the next six weeks; the case for a ‘marriage sabbatical’

Is the sabbatical just a waiting room for divorce? Illustration: Spencer Wilson at Synergy/the Guardian

It’s not a divorce, a trial separation or a chance for a guilt-free fling, just an opportunity for husbands and wives to live apart, forget all the little irritations and realise how much they miss each other. At least that’s the theory. The idea was coined by Cheryl Jarvis in 1999 who conceived a marriage sabbatical very much in the style of the workplace sabbatical – taken to pursue a dream of your own. But what if you don’t have a dream or a project – what if you don’t care about hiking, and your only goal is getting away from your spouse? Is the sabbatical just a waiting room for divorce?

Climate check: Denmark offers ‘loss and damage’ funding to poorer countries for climate breakdown

People displaced because of the floods gather to receive food aid in a camp, after severe flooding in Sehwan, Pakistan.
People displaced because of the floods gather to receive food aid in a camp after severe flooding in Sehwan, Pakistan. Photograph: Reuters

Youth groups in Africa are preparing to embark on a series of climate demonstrations tomorrow to highlight the problem of poor countries blighted by climate breakdown as only one rich country has so far stepped up with funding for the problem. Denmark became the first central government of a developed country to propose funding devoted to “loss and damage” – which refers to those ravages of climate-related disasters which are so extreme that no protection against them is possible. No other developed countries have indicated they are likely to follow the Danish lead.

Last thing: Taste of kale makes unborn babies grimace, finds research

4D ultrasounds images of a fetus
First study to look at facial responses of fetuses to tastes shows crying expression twice as likely for kale than carrot. Photograph: Fetal taste preferences study/Fetal and Neonatal research lab/Durham University/PA

If the taste of kale makes you screw up your face, you are not alone: researchers have observed foetuses pull a crying expression when exposed to the greens in the womb. While previous studies have suggested our food preferences may begin before birth, the team says the research is the first to look directly at the response of unborn babies to different flavors. Researchers are now looking to explore the reaction of babies after birth to the different flavors. “Hopefully we will see less negative reactions, if they were exposed to kale prenatally,” one said.

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