Wednesday briefing: ‘Shut up man’ – angry debacle as Biden and Trump clash

Top story: President refuses to condemn far right

Hello, Warren Murray with interesting scenes to bring you.

Neither candidate could be said to have acquitted himself well in the first presidential election debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The pair hurled personal insults in unedifying scenes as they clashed over healthcare, the coronavirus and the supreme court. They interrupted each other with Biden losing his patience at one point as he tried to make a reply, shouting at Trump: “Will you shut up, man? This is so unpresidential.”

The debate moderator, the Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, had to continually warn Trump to stick to his campaign’s promises that each side would be allowed two minutes’ uninterrupted monologue on each topic. The president repeatedly broke the rule. As Trump tried to smear Biden’s son, Hunter, over past drug misuse, an irritated Wallace intervened: “I think the American voters would rather hear about more substantial subjects.” Commentators afterwards called the display a disservice to the electorate and questioned whether voters had learned anything to help them choose.

‘Will you shut up, man?’: Biden and Trump clash in first US presidential debate – video

Trump, pressed on new revelations that he avoided paying federal taxes for years and paid only $750 in 2016 and 2017, claimed he had paid “millions of dollars” in taxes in those years. He bragged that he took advantage of tax loopholes and that as a successful businessman he didn’t “want to pay taxes”. The president again declined to commit to accepting the election result if he loses, floating conspiratorial and wholly unsupported claims about ballot fraud.

Trump luridly drawled “you’re wrong, you’re wrong” as Biden attempted to make a point about the safety of postal ballots. The president refused to condemn white supremacists who have menaced Black Lives Matters protests, saying “somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left”. Biden exhorted voters to exercise their right to vote either by post or in person: “He cannot stop you from being able to determine the outcome of this election … is it gonna change, or get four more years of these lies?”


Brexit bill goes to Lords – The controversial Brexit bill that breaches international law has cleared the House of Commons by 340 votes to 256 and will go to the House of Lords. It faces potentially stiffer opposition from peers, not least from Michael Howard, the former Tory leader who has condemned the law-breaking provisions of the internal market bill, which gives ministers the power to unilaterally rewrite elements of the withdrawal agreement with the EU. No Conservative MPs voted against the bill on Tuesday night, though more than 20 did not vote, with the majority assumed to be abstentions, including vocal opponent Theresa May.


Midweek catch-up

> Walt Disney has announced it is laying off 28,000 employees from its theme park business because of the coronavirus pandemic.

> The fight for Hong Kong, our special coverage of the crisis in the territory, reveals today that tech companies may be handing Hongkongers’ data to the Chinese authorities; examines how protests and Covid have locked the city into recession; and the dilemmas facing the bank HSBC – headquartered in London but dependent on Hong Kong and China for profits, and under pressure from the US to stop “kowtowing” to authoritarian Beijing.

> If given the green light by ambulance service chiefs, paramedics in the Lake District could next summer be using lightweight jet-packs to fly across treacherous terrain and reach stranded casualties after a demonstration rescue was deemed a success.

Rapid response ‘jet suit paramedic’ trialled in Lake District – video

> Two in five of the world’s plant species face extinction because of humans, according to an international report led by Kew gardens. Scientists says they are in a race against time to catalogue an untapped “treasure chest” of food, medicines and biofuels – with more than 4,000 species of plants and fungi discovered in 2019 alone.

> Helen Reddy, the Australian singer best known for her anthemic 1972 hit I Am Woman, has died at 78. Reddy had been diagnosed with dementia in 2015 and moved into a Los Angeles nursing home for professional entertainers.


Coronavirus latest – The UK’s largest care home provider, HC-One, has had Covid outbreaks in 70 of its facilities, prompting questions about whether official figures on the virus’s return to social care may be too low. HC-One said it had closed one in five of its 329 homes and 20 homes had seen new outbreaks in the last fortnight. Bupa said that in the last 28 days people had tested positive at 21 of its 130 locations, while Care UK has had positive tests at 19 of its 110 homes. Few of the 20,900 ventilators bought for £569m by the government have been used, it has emerged – all but 2,150 are still being held in a defence warehouse in case needed for a second wave. Meanwhile more than 80 Conservative MPs are prepared to rebel against the government on Wednesday over powers to scrutinise sweeping coronavirus laws. You should keep our coronavirus live blog open in a tab as developments continue to come in.


BAME gap in GCSEs – The largest exam board in the country, AQA, does not feature a single book by a black author among set texts for its GCSE English literature syllabus, according to a report by the education charity Teach First. More than half a million pupils sit AQA GCSE English literature every year – 80% of candidates. Its syllabus features just two texts by non-white authors: Meera Syal’s Anita and Me and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. AQA has said it is reviewing equality, diversity and inclusion in its English literature GCSE and other qualifications to “make sure they’re as representative as possible of modern Britain”.


‘Built with great skill’ – A long-forgotten London hospital, an imposing former brewery and a circus theatre, described as “fascinating survivors of history”, are among the top 10 most at-risk Victorian and Edwardian listed buildings, according to the Victorian Society charity. The hospital on Marylebone Road, west London, opened in 1889 and became the Samaritan Free Hospital for Women in 1904, eventually closing in 1997 and since falling into dereliction.


Brighton Hippodrome

Brighton Hippodrome. Photograph: Theatres Trust

Brighton Hippodrome is also sitting “empty and rotting”; while a former Anglo-Bavarian brewery in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, has languished partly vacant for many years. The Victorian Society’s president, Griff Rhys Jones, called for their preservation: “These buildings were built with great skill, and they brighten their urban environment.”

Today in Focus podcast: Universities’ Covid crisis

The academic year has started across the UK but far from the promised freshers’ experience, new students are finding themselves forced to isolate and attend classes online. Scottish universities were first to return and have already seen multiple clusters of cases with thousands of students.

Today in Focus

Universities’ Covid crisis

Lunchtime read: ‘A pre-death, a nothingness’

The beloved children’s writer Michael Rosen spent six weeks on a ventilator with coronavirus. He talks with Simon Hattenstone about the magic of the NHS, the mismanagement of the crisis and how his near-death experience has changed him.


Michael Rosen teaching a workshop at Trumpington Community College in January

Michael Rosen teaching a workshop at Trumpington Community College in January. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

Sport

José Mourinho has offered Frank Lampard some advice about touchline etiquette after Tottenham reached the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup by beating their London rivals on penalties. The Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcântara has tested positive for Covid-19. There can be no disguising the scale of British failure at this bizarre French Open after Heather Watson joined her five compatriots in exiting the tournament. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic had a comfortable start to his campaign, thrashing the young Swede Mikael Ymer 6-0, 6-2, 6-3. Wigan were trounced 42-0 by St Helens after frontline players were rested before the Challenge Cup semi-final. Sale thumped Northampton 34-14 but injuries to Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes will have left England fearing the worst.

The Essex captain, Tom Westley, has apologised on behalf of his team following the celebrations at Lord’s during which alcohol was poured over a young Muslim player. Michael Schumacher’s son, Mick, will take part in his first Formula One race weekend at the Eifel Grand Prix in Germany next week. And the London Marathon race director, Hugh Brasher, has said he is “doing the opposite of a rain dance” before the rescheduled event on Sunday because he believes world records could fall on the lightning fast course if conditions permit.

Business

The US dollar has been little changed in Asian trade as traders assessed the first debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The dollar index against a basket of currencies hardly budged at 93.821 after hitting a two-month high last week. The pound is on $1.284 and €1.094 while the FTSE is about 20 points down at time of writing.

The papers

Boris Johnson handed a gift to front-page editors when he stood in the middle of a building site scratching his head. The visual metaphor was there to be plucked. “Sorry, the PM hasn’t a clue” says the Metro, while the Mirror says “And you thought YOU were confused” – both in reference to the PM getting his own coronavirus rules wrong. “Confusion over rules quickens Tory revolt” reports the Telegraph more on that story here.


Guardian front page, Wednesday 30 September 2020

Guardian front page, Wednesday 30 September 2020.

The Guardian is more gentle, using a picture of the PM bedding a brick with his trowel. Its splash is “Minister calls on Whitehall to end private fees bonanza” – which is about Lord Agnew, who has castigated mandarins for spending money on consultants for things their staff should be able to figure out themselves. The Times leads with “Record rate of infection puts Britain on red alert”.

The i as well as the Mail and the Express cover a story summarised in the i’s headline: “One million women miss life-saving breast scans”. The FT is back on the Wirecard saga with “Whistleblower warned EY of fraud four years before collapse” – EY being the auditors Ernst & Young, for those do not frequent the financial pages.

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