Thursday briefing: A civil debate – now on with the show | World news

Top story: ‘Greatest failure’ in presidential history

Good morning, Warren Murray getting you off the starting blocks.

Mike Pence and Kamala Harris have sparred over the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the only vice-presidential debate of the 2020 election. “The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate, said in her opening comments to Pence, Trump’s vice-president who leads the White House’s coronavirus task force. “This administration has forfeited their right to re-election.”

Harris calls Trump’s coronavirus response ‘greatest failure’ of any administration – video

Pence responded: “I want the American people to know, from the very first day, President Trump has put the health of America first,” he said. Promising a vaccine for the virus before the end of the year, he accused Harris of undermining faith in a potential treatment. The vice-president repeatedly tried to butt in on Harris and spoke longer than his allowed time repeatedly. But the largely orderly debate was in stark contrast to the chaotic encounter between Biden and Trump – discreet themes were actually discernible, although both candidates dodged questions. David Smith’s analysis from Washington: “Both candidates did a better job than their bosses in last week’s debate apocalypse. At times, it almost felt like a brief holiday in political normality.”

A fly that alighted on Pence’s head provided some distraction for viewers. The candidates were seated 12 feet apart and separated by plexiglass dividers – any guest who was unmasked was supposed to be shown the door, but afterwards Pence’s wife, Karen, joined him on stage without wearing one. Donald Trump, no doubt conscious of the spotlight falling somewhere other than on him, did another turn in front of the cameras as he remains under coronavirus watch – more of that further down.

Coronavirus latest – More than 80% of people who tested positive in a UK national coronavirus survey had none of the core symptoms the day they were tested, scientists say. Their findings carry a warning that controlling future Covid-19 outbreaks may hinge on more widespread testing in the community, universities and high-risk workplaces.

Donald Trump says catching Covid-19 was ‘like a blessing from God’ – video

While he is supposed to be quarantining, a deeply overtanned-looking Donald Trump has made another free-wheeling video address, this time saying his infection with coronavirus was a “blessing from God” and declaring he wants to give the Regeneron treatment to all Americans for free as he sweepingly and inaccurately hailed the unapproved therapy it as a “cure”. Developments are continuing to come in at our global live blog.

Brexit bill’s ‘slippery slope’ – Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, has urged the British government to come good on a Brexit deal but admitted it was “difficult to feel optimistic” as Boris Johnson pursues an internal market bill that violates the withdrawal agreement, endorses breaching international law and limits legal challenge. The bill is part of a “very slippery slope” towards “dictatorship” or “tyranny” under the government’s Brexit strategy, says the former supreme court president Lord Neuberger. The data watchdog has concluded Cambridge Analytica did not directly misuse data in the Brexit referendum or help Russia meddle in UK politics. But Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, warned its activities raised concerns about the influence of technology in politics. The Cambridge Analytica founder Alexander Nix has been disqualified from being a company director for seven years for “offering potentially unethical services” including bribery or honey traps and spreading information anonymously in political campaigns.

Climate crisis – The world this year experienced its hottest September on record, scientists have reported. Surface air temperatures were 0.05C warmer than in the previous year, say experts from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said. It was also the hottest September Europe has seen, beating the 2018 record by around 0.2C. The World Bank has estimated an additional 150 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty by the end of next year as conflict, climate change and Covid-19 end two decades of progress in raising living standards of those on the lowest incomes. Meanwhile a study has found the spread of intensive farming is threatening to jeopardise the world’s chances of meeting the aims of the Paris agreement on the climate crisis, as the increasing use of artificial fertiliser and growing livestock herds raise greenhouse gases to levels far beyond those in nature.

‘Spoon fed manipulation’ – Facebook, used by Russia to affect the 2016 election, has announced it will stop running political ads in the US after polls close on 3 November for an undetermined period of time, “to reduce opportunities for confusion or abuse”. But the internet freedom group Fight for the Future said: “At the same time they’re tweaking their algorithm to go into overdrive recruiting people into groups where they’ll be spoon fed manipulation and misinformation.” It comes alongside revelations by the InfluenceMap group that Facebook is exposing millions of people to climate denial ads funded by US conservative groups. Senator Elizabeth Warren said: “InfluenceMap’s devastating report reveals how Facebook lets climate deniers spread dangerous junk to millions of people.”

‘Glad it reconsidered’ – Drone footage has captured an Australian surfer’s narrow escape from a 2.5m great white shark off the coast of Ballina in northern New South Wales. Matt Wilkinson was paddling on his board near Sharpes Beach on Wednesday when a shark swam quickly up behind him. “I heard a splash and a noise and looked around and couldn’t see anything,” Wilkinson said.

Shark circles world championship surfer in Australia in astonishing near-miss – video

“The drone came down and told me that there was a dangerous shark in the area, return to the beach. It looks like it’s going for my leg and it’s changed its mind … I’m just glad today the shark reconsidered at the last second.” Following the incident, the beach was evacuated and closed for the day.

Today in Focus podcast: The fight for trans rights – part 1

Stephen Whittle has been at the heart of trans activism for half a century. He discusses the legal and political progress that has been made over the past few decades while the Guardian’s Scotland correspondent Libby Brooks examines why there was a backlash over the 2015 Gender Recognition Act, which proposed a further expansion of trans rights.

Today in Focus

The fight for trans rights – pt 1

Lunchtime read: Bringing black power to London

The march that Leila Hassan Howe led in 1981 helped forge a black British identity. She talks about revolution, police brutality and Black Lives Matter.

Leila Hassan Howe photographed in London, July 2020

Leila Hassan Howe photographed in London, July 2020. Photograph: Yves Salmon/The Guardian


Gareth Southgate said England’s young players have proven nothing yet and warned them not to risk harming his squad’s reputation after Tammy Abraham, Ben Chilwell and Jadon Sancho were ruled out of Thursday’s friendly against Wales following their Covid-19 breach. The ‘Tanzanian Mbappé’, Juan Pablo Ángel’s son and the next Kai Havertz feature in Next Generation 2020: 60 of the best young talents in world football. The Rugby Football Union has issued a rebuke of how the Covid-19 outbreak at Sale has been handled amid calls for organisers to change their rules following the crisis that engulfed the Premiership’s knockout stages. Novak Djokovic is still in the French Open – but only after a four-set struggle against Pablo Carreño Busta, the Spaniard who cashed in at the US Open when the world No 1 was disqualified for striking a line official with a spare ball. Two world records were smashed within an astonishing hour in Spain on Wednesday as Nike’s controversial track spikes again proved a gamechanger for athletics. The former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman has changed his evidence to claim he destroyed a package of banned testosterone on the same day it was sent to the Manchester velodrome in 2011.


Nearly three-quarters of City firms are reviewing how much office space they will need in the future as the pandemic threatens to revolutionise the way we work. A CBI/PwC survey found almost half said that more than 90% of their workers could feasibly do their job without being in the office. The FTSE 100 is looking flat for the opening bell this morning while the pound is $1.293 and €1.098.

The papers

Early editions of the Guardian had a picture of the British-born Isis pair who have been flown to the US for prosecution over beheadings and hostage-taking. For the final we squeezed in Donald Trump after his latest odd to say the least video appearance. The lead story in our print edition is that pubs and restaurants in swathes of the north of England face new restrictions within days, while Nicola Sturgeon has announced a nationwide crackdown on indoor drinking in Scotland.

Guardian front page, Thursday 8 October 2020

Guardian front page, Thursday 8 October 2020.

And the pub restrictions dominate elsewhere too. “PM may shut pubs despite mounting Labour opposition” says the Telegraph while the Times has “Restaurants and pubs in the north forced to shut again”. “It’s grim sup north” says the Sun in a regrettable effort.

You can imagine how the page might look if Labour was in charge, but the Express shrugs on behalf of Matt Hancock about tight public health measures: “It’s very tough but we have to stick with it”. The Mail takes a different view: “So when will they listen?” it asks, as it says tough measures have not helped in 19 out of 20 northern towns, and continues to promote herd immunity theories that are, in the words of one expert, “outside the scientific mainstream”. The Mirror does join the Mail in asking: “Why aren’t local lockdowns working?” and the Metro says “Lockdowns ‘are failing’” citing analysis by Labour. “Local furlough in return for tougher rules” says an i headline that the Briefing had to read a few times.

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