Thursday briefing: Not quite the full Mueller

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.

Sinking
The sinking of the Marchioness killed 51 people. Illustration: Guardian Design

When the Marchioness pleasure boat was struck and sank in the Thames in August 1989, the city’s chief forensic pathologist, Richard Shepherd, swung into action. His account of the operation that followed – starting with the retrieval of dozens of young victims’ bodies – is graphic in parts, but compelling. “Over the following months, my team would be involved in reconstructing exactly what happened, and how each person died. Reconstruction is important. It matters a lot to anyone involved, and it matters to the wider world. As humans, we have a need to know – about specific deaths, and about death in general.”

Sport

Pep Guardiola and Manchester City’s quadruple hopes are on ice after Tottenham edged a seven-goal thriller to progress to the Champions League semi-final. The Spaniard hit out against a contentious VAR ruling that allowed Spurs’ winner to stand, “I support VAR but maybe from one angle Fernando Llorente’s goal is handball”. Meanwhile, Liverpool advanced comfortably to a clash with Barcelona courtesy a 4-1 defeat of Porto.

Jofra Archer has responded well to being chosen for England, according to the chief selector, Ed Smith, who said the Barbadian-born fast bowler was “excited by the prospect” despite not being named in the World Cup squad. And Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defence is looking for a new challenger after opponent Jarrell Miller returned an “adverse finding” during a drug test.

Business

Asian stocks have fallen after positive Chinese GDP data failed to ignite a rally on Wall Street. Benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong all retreated while Sydney was little changed. The slide in the US was led by health care stocks as reform ideas are discussed in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail. Qualcomm led gains in the technology sector. Intel climbed after pulling out of the smartphone modem market. T-Mobile and Sprint slumped on reports the Justice Department is questioning their proposed merger.

The pound has been trading around £1.304 and €1.154 overnight while the FTSE is trending towards a lower opening.

The papers

The climate protesters who have disrupted London transport systems feature on some front pages. The Telegraph lays the blame at the feet of the mayor, Sadiq Khan, saying his support has aggravated the disruption: “Khan feels heat from police over climate protest chaos”.

Guardian
Guardian front page, Thursday 18 April 2019.

The Mail is unhappy with police, who it says are “Waving the white flag”, while the Mirror has a striking front page, carrying a climate warning from Sir David Attenborough: “The end of life on Earth … unless we change now”. The i splashes with: “Pig brains revived after death”. The Guardian also has this story but leads with an exclusive: “Half of England owned by 1% of population”. The lead story in the Times is: “Farage party on course for EU election victory”.

The Express reports on Sajid Javid’s promise of an “Easter knife crime blitz” and the Sun has a story about a 16-year-old bringing in cakes stuffed with cannabis under the headline: “The really high school”.

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