Washington on edge for release of report how half of England is owned by 1% of population and a forensic scientist on making sense of disaster and death
Top story: Trump-Russia report to be released
Good morning, I’m Warren Murray, and a note before we continue: because of Easter, and barring the unforeseen, this is the last Briefing until next Tuesday.
A redacted version will be released today of the 400-page Mueller report into potential ties between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. It has been edited down, citing legal reasons, by William Barr – the president’s recently appointed attorney general, who previously rushed out a four-page summary that was generally favourable to Trump, and has been accused of “cherry-picking” its contents by Democrats.
The report will be handed out on paper at the Department of Justice in Washington DC. Beforehand, Barr will hold a news conference at 9.30am local time – a decision criticised by Democrats because Congress won’t even have the report yet. It will be interesting to see how consistent Barr’s previous summary is with Mueller’s actual report. Based on the contents, Barr has already ruled out charging Trump with obstruction of justice. The release may shed light on the extent of Russian operatives’ contacts with, and manipulation of, Trump campaign officials during the 2016 campaign, as well as the strength of any evidence that Trump obstructed justice over the firing of the then FBI director James Comey in May 2017.
‘Huge character’ – It emerged overnight that a man shot dead in Edinburgh was one of the supporting actors from the second Trainspotting movie. Bradley Welsh, who played gangster Mr Doyle, was found fatally wounded in the city’s West End around 8pm yesterday, police said. Apart from appearing in T2 and television shows, Welsh had been a champion boxer and ran a boxing gym. Tributes have been paid on social media to Welsh who was described as a “huge character” in his community.
The 1% win again – England is “astonishingly unequal” with half its land owned by less than 1% of its population who comprise about 25,000 landowners, typically aristocrats and corporations. If the land were instead distributed evenly across the populace, each person would have almost an acre. Major owners include the Duke of Buccleuch, the Queen, several large grouse moor estates and the entrepreneur James Dyson. Guy Shrubsole, author of the book in which the figures are revealed, Who Owns England?, argues things have not changed for centuries: “A few thousand dukes, baronets and country squires own far more land than all of middle England put together.”
Rescuer becomes the rescued – One of the British cave divers involved in a rescue of a group of boys from a Thai cave has himself needed rescuing after getting left behind during a spelunking expedition in the US. Josh Bratchley failed to emerge with his group as they left Mill Pond Cave in Jackson County, Tennessee, on Tuesday afternoon. He was brought out by a rescue diving team more than a day later and was said to be in good health and refusing medical treatment.
Parliament left hanging about – The deadlock over Brexit means Theresa May might delay the Queen’s speech until later this year, despite parliament appearing to have run out of things to do. Our excellent series “Brexit: how it came to this” today examines the genesis of the Irish backstop that has become the bane of May’s prime ministership. Timothy Garton Ash looks at the EU elections as an effective second referendum and profiles the pro-remain UK groupings set to take part. In other Brexit news the Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, has called for a judicial inquiry into Leave.EU after Channel 4 news said the campaign spearheaded by Arron Banks was involved in creating a faked video and photos about migrants as potential scare campaign tools shortly before the referendum in 2016.
Cosmic chemistry – Reports about faraway new Earth-like planets that might support life have become a bit ho-hum, so here’s one instead about the first molecule to coalesce into existence after the big bang. Astronomers have detected helium hydride, formed when a helium atom shares its electrons with a hydrogen nucleus, or proton. Scientists have been making it on Earth for about 100 years but this is the first time it has been spotted in space – in this case, in a 600-year-old planetary nebula about 3,000 light years away in the constellation of Cygnus. It was detected using a telescope mounted inside a Boeing 747 flying at 45,000 feet. You might find the odd helium balloon at that altitude but you will also find them tangling up the overhead lines on National Rail routes, causing about £1m worth of delays in the past year alone.
Token Easter-themed story – The first bunnies in Britain were likely introduced by the Romans in the first century AD, archaeologists have found. A 4cm fragment of tibia bone unearthed at Fishbourne Roman palace in Chichester, West Sussex in 1964 has turned out to be from a rabbit that was possibly a pet rather than a meal. Previously the Normans were thought to have brought rabbits to England in the 11th century. The first historical mention of an “Easter bunny” is in fact an Easter hare, and is found in a German text from 1682. It is not clear how, when or why the rabbit became linked to the Easter festival.
Today in Focus podcast: When rape cases don’t go to trial
Recorded rapes have increased by 15% but recent figures show only one-third of cases referred to the CPS led to charges being brought. ‘Rebecca’ discusses her experience, while the Guardian’s Alexandra Topping looks at why prosecution rates have dropped. Plus: Julia Finch on Mark Carney’s warning that global banks cannot afford to ignore climate change.
Lunchtime read: How to identify a body
In the late 1980s in the UK there were a series of disasters that claimed many lives. The Herald of Free Enterprise, the King’s Cross fire, Clapham Junction, Hillsborough, Lockerbie … the list goes on.
Read more: www.theguardian.com