Wednesday briefing: Judge of character? Trump pick dodges scrutiny

Wednesday briefing: Judge of character? Trump pick dodges scrutiny

Amy Coney Barrett at her confirmation hearing.
Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Amy Coney Barrett grilled on Obamacare, abortion and election result … calls intensify for ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown … and a tiny glowing accomplishment


Main image:
Amy Coney Barrett at her confirmation hearing.
Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Top story: Coney Barrett ‘just here to apply law’

Hello, Warren Murray making sure nothing slips past you this morning.

Donald Trump’s election-eve nominee for the US supreme court has dodged senators’ questions on how she might rule on a challenge to Obamacare and legal abortions, and what she would do if there were a lawsuit over the presidential election.

Amy Coney Barrett repeatedly denied any implication that her political views would colour her rulings on the court. Democrats argue the nomination of Barrett – a conservative who has been involved with anti-abortionists and the sect-like People of Praise Catholic group – is a herald of the overturning of the 1973 ruling Roe v Wade, which made abortion legal. Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice-president, said the confirmation panel should “not pretend that we don’t know how this nominee views a woman’s right to choose to make our own healthcare decisions”.

Barrett told senators: “I am not here on a mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act. I’m just here to apply the law and adhere to the rule of law … I have made no commitment to anyone – not in the Senate, not in the White House – on how I would decide a case.” Democrats are insisting the appointment of a new judge to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg be left until after the election. On the campaign trail, Joe Biden has said Donald Trump views older voters as “expendable” and “forgettable” as the Democratic presidential candidate sought to win fresh support in the battleground state of Florida.

Migrants barred from NHS – Migrants needing NHS care are being denied treatment for an average of 37 weeks for conditions such as cancer, heart problems and kidney failure, according to research. One in three end up waiting between six and 12 months, and one woman with a serious heart complaint waited for more than four years, according to the charity Doctors of the World, which provides healthcare to people without access to the NHS. The report has renewed calls for the government to scrap its requirement for normally penniless migrants to pay 150% of the cost of normal NHS care upfront before they can receive it.

Midweek catch-up

> As the three-tier Covid alert level system comes into force in England, Keir Starmer has been backed by mayors and a senior Tory in his call for a two-week England lockdown as recommended by the Sage panel. Northern Ireland’s Stormont assembly met overnight and is expected to finalise tighter coronavirus restrictions today. More updates at our global live blog.

> Joe Biden’s lead over Donald Trump has surged to a record 17 points as the US election enters its final sprint, an Opinium Research and Guardian opinion poll shows.

> A French museum has refused to bow to Chinese government demands that an exhibition about Genghis Khan not use the words “Genghis Khan”. The resulting cancellation of the exhibition comes as Beijing hardens discrimination against ethnic Mongols.

> Nuclear arms control talks have sunk into confusion after the top American negotiator claimed there was “an agreement in principle”, an idea Russia quickly rejected as a “delusion” amid suggestions the Trump administration wants to announce an extension of the 2010 New Start treaty in time for the election.

> Environmental campaigners have failed to strengthen post-Brexit protections against over-fishing as the government rejected amendments to the fisheries bill. The battle will now move to the House of Lords where peers are expected to try to restore some conservation measures.

The Embrace – Sergey Gorshkov’s image of an Amur Tiger hugging an ancient Mancurian fir tree has won the prestigious wildlife photographer of the year 2020 award.

The Embrace by Sergey Gorshkov

The Embrace by Sergey Gorshkov. Photograph: Sergey Gorshkov/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The intimate moment, in which the tigress is marking her territory, will feature alongside other category winners in an exhibition at the Natural History Museum from Friday 16 October. See all the winners in our gallery.

Watch out for the tardigrades – The spaceproof, radiation proof, Ant-Man menacing, crumpled Hoover-baggish microscopic creatures also known as water bears or moss piglets can add another superpower to their CV: they can throw up a blue fluorescent shield against lethal UV light.

Tardigrade crawling over a surface.

Tardigrade crawling along there … Photograph: Science Picture Co/Getty Images

Among their other survival tactics, tardigrades can shrivel up in a dormant state to survive indefinitely (say, until after a pandemic or a presidential election). Scientists think substances produced by tardigrades may also be able to protect other organisms from harmful environmental conditions.

Today in Focus podcast: What if Trump won’t concede?

The US president has repeatedly stated that he may refuse to accept defeat in the coming election. As Lawrence Douglas explains, things could get very messy if the result is a close one.

Today in Focus

What if Trump won’t concede?


Lunchtime read: Nicks here and there, no more Botox

At 72 the singer Stevie Nicks is still looking for adventure. She talks about her years with Fleetwood Mac, the abortion that made them possible, and her friendship with Harry Styles.

Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks. Photograph: Randee St Nicholas


The Premier League will attempt to finalise a bailout package for the English Football League today but the anger generated by Project Big Picture has left some clubs unwilling to hand over money while Rick Parry is the EFL’s chairman. Golf’s world No 1 Dustin Johnson has pulled out of this week’s CJ Cup after testing positive for Covid-19, while the Portuguese Football Federation has confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo has also returned a positive test. In rugby league, two more positive tests have thrown Salford’s Challenge Cup plans into doubt. Gareth Southgate has lost Kieran Trippier for the Nations League tie against Denmark tonight as the full-back must attend an FA disciplinary hearing to answer charges relating to the breaking of betting rules.

The beleaguered British Gymnastics chief executive, Jane Allen, has announced that she is to step down but has denied her decision is related to the abuse scandal that has rocked the sport. Dr Richard Freeman accepted a free bike worth several thousands of pounds as a “gift” from Shane Sutton that was “cleared off” the British Cycling budget, a medical tribunal has been told. And Fernando Alonso has described his first outing in a Formula One car for Renault since leaving the sport two years ago as a new beginning.


Asian equities have slipped after Johnson & Johnson paused its vaccine trial and Eli Lilly and Co put its antibody treatment on hold. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.2%, the Nikkei dipped 0.2%, Australia was off a touch and South Korea stumbled 0.7%. In China the CSI 300 fell 0.3%. At time of writing the FTSE is trending about 0.4% higher before it opens this morning, while the pound is worth $1.293 and €1.101.

The papers

Keir Starmer ties up the front pages today with his call for a two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown as recommended by the government’s Sage panel. The Guardian says “Starmer heaps pressure on PM with call for national lockdown” while the Mirror has “Labour’s demand: give us a full two-week lockdown”.

Guardian front page, Wednesday 14 October 2020

Guardian front page, Wednesday 14 October 2020.

The big conservative mastheads also acknowledge that the heat is on. “Pressure grows on PM for half-term lockdown” says the Times while the Telegraph portrays it as “Lockdown battle begins”. The FT says much the same while the i has: “Starmer breaks Covid consensus”.

Sometimes you’ve got to laugh and the Express delivers the catalyst with this intro to its splash story: “Boris Johnson is planning a ‘short, sharp lockdown’ … ” attributing this revelation to “Tory insiders”. The Metro is critical of the PM – “Boris jokes while Covid cases soar” – after Johnson said people might enjoy the chance to avoid their in-laws at Christmas. Vaccine stories are always a winner, so the Mail moves on from lockdown discussions: “Vaccine boss: no hope of normality till July”.

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