/US briefing: State of the Union, Iowa shambles and coronavirus latest

US briefing: State of the Union, Iowa shambles and coronavirus latest

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

Trump brags of ‘great American comeback’ amid walkouts

Hours before his near-inevitable acquittal by the US Senate, Donald Trump on Tuesday delivered a State of the Union address so divisive and bullish that it prompted House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to tear up the text, saying she could not find “one page with truth on it”. Having snubbed Pelosi’s handshake before the speech, Trump bragged of a “great American comeback”, touting the economy and fanning the flames of the culture wars, to which Democrats responded with heckles and walkouts.

  • Rush Limbaugh. Trump awarded the controversial conservative “shock jock” the Presidential Medal of Freedom during his address, a day after Limbaugh announced he had advanced lung cancer.

  • Rhetorical flourish? In the absence of facts, says Richard Wolffe, Trump’s speechwriters turned to nonsensical rhetorical flourishes, such as “Freedom unifies the soul”. What?

Susan Collins says she will vote for president’s acquittal

Senate leaders make speeches before final vote – video

Any lingering hope that Trump might yet be convicted in his impeachment trial was all but dashed on Tuesday when Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine who had last week voted in vain to hear from witnesses, said she would choose to acquit the president on both articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of congress. Senators continued making speeches on the matter before a final vote scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

  • Past presidents. Trump looks set to be the third president to remain in office following an impeachment trial. Tom McCarthy looks back to the previous examples for signs of what the near future might hold.

Buttigieg claims victory in Iowa as partial results released

Sanders on Buttigieg: ‘I don’t know how anyone claims victory without results’ – video

Pete Buttigieg, the previously little-known 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, held a narrow lead over Bernie Sanders in the Iowa Democratic caucuses on Tuesday night, with 71% of precincts reporting. The partial results put Elizabeth Warren in third place, trailed by the erstwhile frontrunner, Joe Biden. The chaos of this year’s caucus, apparently caused by a smartphone app, could see Iowa lose its long-held position as the nation’s first primary state – and the outsize political influence that comes with it.

Cruise ship carrying quarantined in Japan over coronavirus

The Diamond Princess anchored near Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

The Diamond Princess anchored near Yokohama, south of Tokyo. Photograph: AP

A cruise ship carrying more than 3,700 passengers and crew has been quarantined off the coast of Japan after 10 people onboard tested positive for the coronavirus. In Hong Kong, anyone arriving from mainland China faces compulsory quarantine amid efforts to prevent the further spread of the outbreak, which has killed 490 people in China and infected more than 23,000. On Wednesday morning, markets and oil prices jumped following unconfirmed reports of an effective treatment for the virus.

  • Escape from Wuhan. Australian Daniel Ou Yang shares his experience of being onboard an evacuation flight out of Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak.

Cheat sheet

  • At least 138 Salvadoran migrants and asylum seekers have been murdered and dozens more raped and tortured after being deported back to El Salvador by the US between 2013 and 2019, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

  • The number of homeless public school students in the US has gone up by 15% in the past three years, with more than 1.5 million students reported experiencing homelessness during the 2017-18 school year – the highest number in a decade.

  • Twitter has said it will start to label and even remove doctored or manipulated content designed to mislead people, amid fears that partisan so-called “deepfake” videos could be used to interfere with the 2020 election.

  • Police in the Indian metropolis of Mumbai, describing their city as “the honking capital of the world”, are trialling a new traffic light system designed to encourage patient driving by resetting the lights to red if the noise from car horns tops 85 decibels.


Charlotte Sullivan, who ended a pregnancy because neither her nor her husband could get paid parental leave.

Charlotte Sullivan, who ended a pregnancy because neither she nor her husband could get paid parental leave. Photograph: Oliver Parini/The Guardian

The obstacles US women face under capitalism

For the Guardian’s new series, Feminist Economics, Charlotte XC Sullivan explains how she made the difficult decision to give up a pregnancy for lack of paid parental leave, while Sophie Stuber finds out what happened when one firm chose radical transparency in an effort to close the pay gap.

Making federal buildings ‘beautiful again’

The Trump administration has drafted an executive order mandating future federal buildings be designed in “the classical architectural style”. But, as Martin Pengelly reports, that goes against longstanding government guidelines – not to mention the principles of 21st century liberal democracy.

New York’s Amazon workers condemn warehouse conditions

Amazon has signed a deal to expand its New York warehouse space by 450,000 sq ft. But employees are unhappy about their working conditions at the city’s existing warehouse sites, which, they tell Michael Sainato, are both unfair and unsafe.

The unsettling art of the American deep south

A landmark exhibition in Margate, England, collects the esoteric art of Alabama and its near neighbours in the US deep south to tell a secret history of black America, writes Lanre Bakare.


The World Health Organization is facing criticism for how it allowed China to handle the early days and weeks of the coronavirus outbreak. But health diplomacy with an increasingly authoritarian Beijing is a difficult business, writes Peter Beaumont.

[The coronavirus outbreak] asks how the UN’s international health diplomacy, confronted with a potential pandemic where a timely and accurate flow of information is crucial, should interact with one of the world’s most powerful, and controlling, states.


The Jacksonville Jaguars are to play two “home” games in London next year, potentially strengthening links with the UK as the franchise looks for ways to increase its revenue to compete with traditionally richer NFL sides.

Barcelona is facing a crisis after Lionel Messi publicly called out the Catalan soccer giant’s sporting director, his former teammate Eric Abidal, accusing him of tarnishing reputations by blaming players for the recent sacking of the team’s coach, Ernesto Valverde.

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