US briefing: detention centres empty, McGahn subpoena, Google row

Tuesdays top story: immigration centres are almost empty, undermining breaking point claims. Plus, ex-White House counsel to testify over Mueller

Good morning, Im Mattha Busby with todays essential stories.

US detention centres nearly empty despite border crisis claims

Donald Trumps administration has claimed that the US-Mexico border is at breaking point as Central American families flee poverty and violence, but immigration detention centres that hold migrant parents and children have been almost empty for months. Two detention centres had nearly 2,000 free beds last week, prompting warnings that the government is inventing a crisis to justify its hardline immigration policies.

  • Why the wait. Backlogs of thousands of people in the largest border towns have developed due to a new policy of limiting how many people can request asylum each day.

Ex-White House counsel ordered to testify over Mueller report

Former
Former White House counsel Don McGahn (L) listens as Donald Trump speaks to the media. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Ex-White House counsel Don McGahn has been subpoenaed over the Mueller report, forcing him to testify before Congress and turn over documents in an escalation of the investigations into Trump amid calls from Democratic presidential candidates to launch impeachment proceedings. McGahn is a key witness in several incidents which lie at the heart of whether Trump obstructed justice.

  • Obstruction. The special counsels report, even in redacted form, outlines substantial evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction and other abuses, said the chairman of the House judiciary committee.

Google walkout organizers say company retaliated against them

Workers
Workers protest against Google on 1 November 2018 in Mountain View, California. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP

Staff who helped to organize mass protests in which tens of thousands of Google employees walked out in November 2018 have alleged in an internal letter that they were subsequently demoted and had their roles changed. A Google spokeswoman said that the company has already investigated and determined there was no retaliation, saying employees and teams are regularly reorganized.

  • Im not sick. Two months after the walkout, a Google employee with nearly 12 years service was demoted, had a previously approved project cancelled and was told to go on medical leave despite not being ill.

First burials in Sri Lanka as death toll rises and arrests mount

Coffins
Coffins of victims are carried during a mass burial at a cemetery near St Sebastian church in Negombo. Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Three minutes of silence were held across the south Asian island nation today in honour of those who were killed in Sundays bomb attacks against Christian worshippers and hotel guests, as the first burials took place with the country plunged into a state of mourning. The death toll now stands at more than 320 people including three children of the billionaire fashion tycoon behind Asos and there have been 40 arrests amid a state of emergency and the imposition of an overnight curfew.

Investigation. Police are looking at whether a local Islamist group named as the chief suspect in the attacks National Thowheeth Jamaath received international support, according to a government spokesman.

Crib sheet

  • The US has threatened to veto a UN resolution on rape as weapon of war, according to a senior UN official and European diplomats. The Trump administration has recently refused to agree to any such similar UN documents due to their apparent implied support for abortions.

  • Samsung has delayed the launch of its new $2,000 Galaxy Fold after reviewers reported the screens were flickering, freezing and dying, with the company saying it will now run more tests and announce a new later release date.

  • Teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg has given her support to a general strike for the climate, amid the ongoing Extinction Rebellion protests in London. This is not just young people being sick of politicians. Its an existential crisis, she said.

  • Brexit talks between the UK government ministers and the opposition Labour party are to resume today. However, there is little hope that a breakthrough can be achieved, and there are renewed efforts among Conservative MPs to oust Theresa May.

Must-reads

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A sign saying we howl as a pack at a protest in Madrid in 2018. Photograph: Pablo Blzquez Domnguez/Getty Images

The shocking rape trial that galvanised Spains feminists and the far right

For many women across Spain, the wolf pack case where five men were acquitted of rape on a legal technicality and found guilty of a lesser charge of sexual abuse exposed a misogynist society, sparking widespread protests. An anti-feminist backlash ensued, Meaghan Beatley writes.

His wife died in Afghanistan, his daughter is American, and he was deported

Jose Gonzalez Carranza was mistakenly deported to Mexico earlier this month and his life has spiralled out of control since; losing his job, facing a number of new legal issues and only having a months worth of savings to rely on. But why did Immigration and Customs Enforcement target him?

Above the law: the firms that own Americas voting system

A small network of private companies hold a near monopoly on election services such as voting machines and registration systems and are subject to scant oversight often keeping information about ownership and financial stability secret and there are fears of possible election tampering.

Massachusetts jails opioid addicts without charge to fight crisis

In a contentious tactic not seen elsewhere in the US, the north-eastern state is imprisoning patients and forcing them to rehabilitate inside correctional facilities. Critics say the policy is unconstitutional and increases the risk of relapse upon release.

Opinion

Global environmental catastrophe looms. However, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, writes that the transformative powers of renewable energies and the non-violent movement can prevent climate crisis and get us to believe in humans again.

What I care most about is preserving a world that bears some resemblance to the past: a world with some ice at the top and bottom and the odd coral reef in between And those seem to me profoundly conservative positions. Meanwhile, oil companies and tech barons strike me as deeply radical.

Sport

There are proposals to build a new $500m, 15,000 capacity cricket stadium in football-loving Texas as part of plans to spread the worlds second most popular sport across the US, where there is a growing south Asian population. But is there enough interest to justify the investment?

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