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Thursday briefing: House to endorse impeachment inquiry

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Top story: John Bolton slated to give evidence

Hello – I’m Warren Murray with today’s roster of must-read stories.

The US House of Representatives will today vote on formalising the Trump-Ukraine impeachment inquiry – and actually, it was the Republicans’ idea. The president’s party has argued the hearings being held into Trump’s alleged Ukraine coercions are illegitimate without congressional approval. Despite there being no such constitutional requirement, Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, is obliging – and turning it into something of an event. Her Democratic party controls the House and is unlikely to have any trouble getting the vote through.

Another resignation from the Trump administration is on the cards: his top Russia adviser, Tim Morrison, is about to give testimony to the impeachment inquiry that is unlikely to help the president, and is being given in defiance of a White House order not to participate. Recent White House departee John Bolton may be soon to testify as well – the national security adviser sacked by Donald Trump in September has been asked to make a deposition on 7 November. Previous witnesses are understood to have told impeachment investigators that Bolton said he wanted no part of whatever “drug deal” was being cooked up concerning Ukraine by the circle that included Rudy Giuliani. It has also emerged that the White House blocked plans to censure Russia for attacking and then seizing Ukrainian vessels.


Election catch-up – Jeremy Corbyn will today position Labour as the people’s party, declaring: “This election is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country, take on the vested interests holding people back and ensure that no community is left behind.” The Jewish Labour Movement has announced that because of the antisemitism scandals within Labour it will not mount a blanket campaign for the party, instead supporting only individual “exceptional candidates”. A tactical voting website from the pro-remain Best for Britain organisation has been accused of advising people to vote Lib Dem in Labour-held seats where doing so could actually result in a leaver Conservative being elected. Best for Britain insists the data behind its advice is robust.

City of London analysts say they are hoping for a “Boris bounce” if Johnson retains the key to No 10 and secures a deal with the EU – though some dissenters say a hung parliament leading to a second referendum, with an option to remain, would be better for business confidence. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is due to publish a review of its £100,000 grant to the company of Jennifer Arcuri, who has said Boris Johnson knew there was potential for conflict of interest around their relationship. And the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, steps down today. Please enjoy our made-to-ORDER! video tribute.

Political lies ‘are not free speech’ – Twitter will ban all political advertising, its CEO has announced, taking the opportunity to get in a few digs at Facebook which has refused to even stop political adverts that peddle lies. The policy will come into effect on 22 November, in time for the UK snap election, and also apply to ads related to political issues. Jack Dorsey, in a seeming riposte to the Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said: “This isn’t about free expression … It’s not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad … well … they can say whatever they want!’” By its own admission Facebook doesn’t need the money from political advertising – Zuckerberg has just announced a 29% jump in revenue to $17.7bn. “We estimate that these ads from politicians will be less than 0.5% of our revenue next year,” he said.


‘Exquisitely planned’ – The Pentagon has released video from the raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Isis leader, which shows people outside the Syrian compound being fired upon from the air and special forces moving in.

The head of US Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, confirmed Baghdadi fled into a hole and blew himself up, killing himself and two children. One other man and four women were killed in the exchange of fire as US forces assaulted the compound. Two men were taken prisoner. As part of the “exquisitely planned” operation the compound was bombed to the ground after it had been evacuated, to prevent it becoming a shrine, McKenzie said.


CIA link to Afghanistan abuses – A pro-Afghan government force backed by the CIA is being blamed for at least 14 deadly raids including cases of civilians being shot dead on the spot or “disappeared”. The units comprised of thousands of men have rampaged through traditional Taliban strongholds, according to Human Rights Watch. “In ramping up operations against the Taliban, the CIA has enabled abusive Afghan forces to commit atrocities including extrajudicial executions and disappearances,” said Patricia Gossman, author of the HRW report on the subject. The Nato combat operation in Afghanistan officially ended in 2014 but the US has a separate counter-terrorism mission that has continued fighting aggressively and includes the covert CIA-backed forces.

And finally – It’s Halloween and if you’re up for a scare, some of our writers have listed the films that haunted their childhood, from Witches to, umm E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Your Briefing compiler is still terrified of Event Horizon. I saw it in my 20s …

Today in Focus podcast: Johnson’s election gamble

The Guardian’s political editor, Heather Stewart, tells Anushka Asthana that the general election on 12 December will be highly unpredictable as Brexit preferences, unpopular leaders and tactical voting intersect. Plus: Guy Standing on the plunder of natural resources by private interests.

Lunchtime read: Playing it too safe?

“Here, they can play with very dangerous tools,” said Lady Marjory Allen, the postwar children’s rights activist who advocated junk-filled playgrounds. “They can create their own houses, their own climbing frames. They can take really dangerous risks and overcome them. And above all, it’s a place where they can meet their friends, where they can make new friends, in a very free and permissive atmosphere.”

Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, Kensington, London
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Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, Kensington, London. Photograph: Andrea Jones/Garden Exposures Photo Library

But by the 1990s and 2000s things had changed: “Climbing frames were getting smaller, roundabouts and swings were going more slowly,” says Nicola Butler, chair of Play England. “When playgrounds become really safe and boring, kids climb on top of bus shelters instead because it’s more fun.” Now, writes Oliver Wainwright, there is a fightback against risk-averse playparks.

Sport

Kyle Sinckler has been passed fit for England’s Rugby World Cup final against South Africa on Saturday with Eddie Jones selecting an unchanged XV to face the Springboks. The Washington Nationals are World Series championsfor the first time after a dramatic 6-2 win over the Houston Astros in Wednesday’s winner-take-all Game 7. Following Liverpool’s remarkable 5-5 draw and subsequent penalty shootout win over Arsenal at Anfield, Jürgen Klopp threatened to withdraw his team from the Carabao Cup should the EFL and Premier League fail to find what he considers “a proper date” for their quarter-final. Manchester United’s passage to the last eight was secured after Marcus Rashford scored an astonishing free-kick winner to give Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side a 2-1 victory at Chelsea. Manchester City went out of the Champions League after an own goal from Steph Houghton and Ángela Sosa’s second-half effort proved decisive in a 2-1 win for Atlético Madrid. Bianca Andreescu was forced to retire with a left knee injury while losing 6-3 to Karolina Pliskova at the WTA Finals as injuries continue to define the young Canadian’s career. And an independent review of football’s anti-racism organisation, Kick It Out, has found a series of governance failingsincluding poor communication and a lack of training in staff welfare.

The US central bank has cut interest rates for the third time this year in an attempt to keep the longest running period of growth in the country’s history continuing into the crucial election year of 2020. As a result most Asian stock markets have followed Wall Street higher. Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul and Singapore advanced, though Shanghai retreated on figures showing weaker Chinese factory activity. Australia’s S&P-ASX 200 also fell. This morning the pound is trading around $1.292 and €1.157 while the FTSE is ticking a little lower ahead of the open.

The papers

The looming election features on the front pages of the Times: “Morgan in exodus of moderate Tory MPs”, the Telegraph: “Brexit Party could aid Tories by not fighting hundreds of seats” and the Guardian: “Corbyn: the Tories don’t represent the people, we do”.

Guardian front page, Thursday 31 October 2019
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Guardian front page, Thursday 31 October 2019. Photograph: Guardian

The Mail reports on a “Poll: Boris more trusted than Corbyn on NHS”, whereas the Mirror has a rather different take on the same topic: “Boris & Trump plot NHS sell-off”. The Grenfell inquiry features on the front of the i: “Resign now: Grenfell families’ challenge to fire chief” and the Express: “So many lives could have been saved”.

The Sun leads on an interview with Will Bayley who has left Strictly Come Dancing after an injury: “Will: my Strictly tears” and the FT reports: “Fed unveils quarter-point rate cut but tempers hope of more easing”.

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