US briefing: California coronavirus death, Super Tuesday fallout and abortion case | US news

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

Coronavirus cruise ship held off coast of San Francisco

The California governor, Gavin Newsom, has declared a state of emergency after a 71-year-old man with underlying health issues died from the coronavirus near Sacramento, the first of the 11 known US deaths to occur outside Washington state. A cruise ship on which the man is thought to have contracted the virus is being held off the coast of San Francisco. Elsewhere, the death toll in China has passed 3,000 people, while Italy has closed all schools and universities to slow the spread of the outbreak.

  • Political agenda. Donald Trump and his allies have attacked Democrats and the media, claiming their criticism of the administration’s response to the virus is simply an effort to further their anti-Trump agenda.

  • Thanks, Obama. Trump sought to blame a national shortage of virus testing kits on the previous administration, though experts were unsure how any Obama-era rules would have hindered testing as Trump claimed.

Sanders awaits his fate as Super Tuesday counting continues

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Sanders celebrates a win in his home state of Vermont on Tuesday night. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders remains upbeat about his presidential prospects after Super Tuesday, despite the surge of so-called “Joementum” that has left his rival Joe Biden leading the party’s delegate count. With several million votes still being counted in California – where some voters had to wait several hours to cast their ballots – Sanders’ final haul may not be known for days. Biden’s comeback has been partially credited to an endorsement from Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American Democrat in Congress.

Beijing hints at retaliation over Trump’s state media bans

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The Trump administration has capped the number of Chinese state-run media journalists who can work in the US, including those from its global TV network, Xinhua. Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

A fresh diplomatic feud is brewing between Beijing and Washington, over the treatment of American and Chinese journalists by each other’s governments. The Trump administration said this week it would cap the number of US-based Chinese nationals working for five state-owned media outlets, after China expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters over a critical editorial by the newspaper. Now the Chinese have hinted at further retaliation.

  • ‘Political oppression’. One Chinese government spokesperson described Washington’s actions as “political oppression” based on a “Cold War mindset”, while another tweeted: “Now the US kicked off the game, let’s play.”

Supreme court hears arguments in high-profile abortion case

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Abortion rights advocates rally outside the supreme court on Wednesday. Photograph: Eric Kayne/AP

The US supreme court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in its most high-profile abortion rights case for decades. The justices are being asked to consider a Louisiana state law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital – which would leave the state “with just one clinic and one doctor providing abortions”, said Julie Rikelman, lead counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

  • Texas law. Four years ago the court struck down an almost identical law in Texas, ruling it unconstitutional. But that was before the arrival of Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both considered hostile to abortion rights.

Cheat sheet


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Polygamist Joe Darger and his three wives enjoy brunch at their home in the Salt Lake Valley. Photograph: Stephan Gladieu/Getty Images

Is decriminalising polygamy in Utah good for women?

A proposed state law would effectively decriminalise polygamy for consenting adults in Utah, which due to its Mormon history has more people in plural marriages than anywhere else in the US. Advocates say the law will allow those families to step out of the shadows, and let women seek the help they need. Andrea Smardon reports.

Architect of the Paris accord on Trump and the climate crisis

Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat and architect of the Paris climate accord, has co-authored a book on the crisis that she describes as stubbornly optimistic. But that didn’t stop her being enraged by Trump’s withdrawal from the deal, she tells Emily Holden.

A peek into the world of antiquarian books

New documentary The Booksellers shows a historic trade at a turning point, writes Adrian Horton, as the rare book dealers of the past come to terms with the impact of the internet. But as one bookseller says, the web could in fact lead to a “golden age of book collecting”.

Geek Bowl: building America’s biggest pub quiz empire

Some 233 six-player teams have paid up to $750 to take part in this weekend’s Geek Bowl XIV at the Navy Pier in Chicago. John Dicker tells Dave Caldwell how he came to create America’s top trivia mega-competition.


The Netflix series Love is Blind is a superior car crash of a reality TV show, says Yomi Adegoke. And in showing women candidly expressing their desire to find a relationship, it also demonstrates the limits of the single positivity movement.

Self-love and romantic love aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive – and women who are open about their romantic aspirations shouldn’t need to be coy.


The former New York Knicks enforcer Charles Oakley has slammed the team’s management for its “plantation” mindset, following an altercation between superfan Spike Lee and security officials at Madison Square Garden, which saw Lee bail on his courtside season ticket for the remainder of the NBA season.

Wayne Rooney will face his old club Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round on Thursday, this time as the player-coach of Championship side Derby County. “I love the game, I want to stay in it,” he tells Ben Fisher.

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