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Good morning, I’m Tim Walker with today’s essential stories.

Northam and attorney general both admit blacking up

Virginia’s top three elected officials, all Democrats, are each facing calls to resign over three separate scandals. On Wednesday the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, admitted that in 1980, as a 19-year-old student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, he went to a party dressed as a rapper in brown makeup and a wig. Governor Ralph Northam is already embroiled in a controversy over a racist photograph from his 1984 medical school yearbook, and his admission that he once blackened his face with shoe polish to look like Michael Jackson for a dance contest in Texas.

Maduro orders aid blockade at Venezuelan border

Aid trucks arrive at Venezuela border as Maduro tries to woo security forces – video

Troops acting on the orders of the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, have blockaded a bridge connecting the country to Colombia, to stop an incoming convoy of US humanitarian aid. The convoy was requested by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, in part to test the loyalty of the military by forcing them to choose between turning it away or disobeying Maduro’s orders. Maduro denies his country is facing a humanitarian crisis, apparently fearful the admission could be used to justify foreign military intervention.

Federal prosecutor tries to stop Philadelphia opioid ‘safe site’

Plans to establish the nation’s first safe injection site to address the opioids crisis are facing a setback, after Philadelphia’s top federal prosecutor filed a lawsuit to block the project. Safehouse, the not-for-profit group set to open the site in Philadelphia this spring, is backed by the city’s mayor, Jim Kenney, and former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell. But US attorney William McSwain said on Wednesday that “normalising the use of deadly drugs like heroin and fentanyl is not the answer to solving the epidemic”.

  • Death rate. Philadelphia has the highest opioid death rate of any major US city, with more than 1,200 overdose deaths in 2017 alone.

JetBlue president warned workers against unionising

The JetBlue president, Joanna Geraghty, told the airline’s employees not to be “fooled” into joining a union, in an email sent last month and seen by the Guardian. Geraghty claimed the company’s recent accomplishments would have been impossible if workers unionised, citing such “successes” as the addition of new nail polish colours to the uniform policy.

  • Union vote. About two-thirds of of JetBlue’s inflight crew members last year voted in favour of joining the Transport Workers Union, which has organised drives to unionize some 6,400 of the company’s airport operation agents and 1,000 of its mechanics.

Crib sheet


Guns vs grief: the two sides of America’s firearms divide

A mass shooting occurs nine out of 10 days in the US. Stephen Marche reports on America’s two, coexistent gun cultures: “The first is a celebration of weapons and of the freedom weapons promise… the other, much newer, a perpetual caravan of mourning for senseless death.”

How a Facebook investor’s enthusiasm turned to shame

The venture capitalist Roger McNamee invested in Facebook early and even advised its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. But he soon grew increasingly dismayed by the firm’s failure to match its power with responsibility. John Harris reviews McNamee’s new book, Zucked.

Why are so many women writing about rough sex?

Rhiannon Lucy Coslett’s own novel contains an incident of non-consensual choking during sex. But other recent fiction by women goes far further in its depiction of violent and sadomasochistic sex. “It’s supposed to be edgy and transgressive,” she writes. “and yet it’s everywhere.”

The billboard campaigners battling Brexit

All across the UK, billboard posters have started appearing, featuring damning quotes by pro-Brexit politicians that expose their lies and hypocrisy. Sam Wollaston meets Led By Donkeys, the secretive remainer activists behind the campaign.


Nationalism has been sold to working-class and middle-class voters as “a war for the little guy”, writes Brooke Harrington. So why are Trump and Brexit so popular among the ultra-rich?

Many individuals with enormous wealth and power deeply resent any institutions that limit their freedom or hold them accountable to obey the law. Thus, they form common cause with populist political movements, which attack the authority and legitimacy of policy professionals and politicians.


Liverpool may have a game in hand, but Manchester City have joined them at the top of the Premier League after a 2-0 win at Everton. Coach Pep Guardiola said afterwards that “the lesson is: never give up.”

Until recently, women weren’t even allowed to watch sporting events in Saudi Arabia. Now, there’s talk of the kingdom hosting a women’s golf tournament. Former LPGA player Anya Alvarez says she would almost certainly decline the invitation – and most of her fellow professionals would do the same.

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