Posted on

US briefing: Taliban talks, Iraq protests and US money in UK politics | US news

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

Trump says Taliban ‘want to make a deal very badly’

Donald Trump surprised US troops in Afghanistan on Thursday by making his first presidential visit to the country, where he told reporters he had restarted peace talks with the Taliban. During a Thanksgiving trip in which he served turkey to troops and met with his Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani, at Bagram airbase near Kabul, Trump insisted US forces would remain in the country “until such time as we have a deal or we have total victory,” adding that the Taliban “want to make a deal very badly.”

  • Taliban response. In a statement on Friday morning the group said it was “way too early” to speak of resuming direct talks.

  • Camp David. US peace talks with the Taliban collapsed in September, with the two sides reportedly on the verge of a deal, after it emerged that Trump planned to host the militants at then presidential retreat in Maryland on the anniversary of 9/11.

Southern Iraq ablaze as protesters set light to politicians’ homes

Iraqi demonstrators burn tyres in the city of Karbala during anti-government protests. Photograph: Mohammed Sawaf/AFP via Getty Images

Across the south of the country, protesters have been setting light to the homes of politicians and militia leaders. Anger at those perceived to have profited since the defeat of Islamic State has fuelled resentment, reports Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, who has been travelling through the region.

  • Mounting violence. Thursday was one of the most violent days in two months of unrest. At least 45 protesters were shot dead by security forces. The deaths could mark a turning point for a protest movement led by young people that has been motivated by accusations of government corruption, mismanagement, lack of services and unemployment.

Warren bill would strip medals from Wounded Knee soldiers

The Wounded Knee Memorial on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

The Wounded Knee Memorial on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images

Elizabeth Warren has unveiled a Senate bill that would strip the Medal of Honor from the US soldiers who carried out the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, killing hundreds of mostly unarmed Native Americans in what is widely seen as the final, violent act of the conflict between the US government and the Great Plains tribes. “The horrifying acts of violence against hundreds of Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee should be condemned, not celebrated,” she said.

  • Deb Haaland. Warren announced the legislation with fellow Democratic senator Jeff Merkley. It follows from a bill on the subject introduced to the House in June by representatives including New Mexico Democrat Deb Haaland, one of the first female Native American US lawmakers.

Wealthy US donors giving millions to rightwing UK thinktanks

John Templeton, the ultra-conservative US billionaire financier whose foundations gave more than $3m to three UK thinktanks.

John Templeton, the ultra-conservative US billionaire financier whose foundations gave more than $3m to three UK thinktanks. Photograph: Ron Bull/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Four leading British rightwing thinktanks have benefited from millions of dollars in donations from wealthy US donors, raising fresh questions about the influence of foreign money in UK politics. The donations in question came from 11 US donors, including foundations created from the fortune of the late billionaire financier John Templeton, which have given a total of $3.3m to three UK thinktanks that have been instrumental in reshaping the country’s ruling Conservative party.

  • Fox pundit. Among the other notable donors was the Center for Independent Thought, which promotes the views of John Stossel, a climate science denier and former Fox Business Channel host.

Cheat sheet

  • A new abortion ban bill introduced in the Ohio state legislature would threaten doctors with a charge of “abortion murder” if they do not “reimplant an ectopic pregnancy” into a woman’s uterus – a procedure that does not exist in medical science.

  • The renowned US free solo climber Brad Gobright has died after falling around 1,000ft from an almost sheer rock face, while climbing near the northern Mexican city of Monterrey. He was 31.

  • Thousands of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong held a pro-US “Thanksgiving rally” in the city on Thursday, to acknowledge Trump having this week signed legislation intended to protect their human rights.

  • Ken Cuccinelli, Trump’s deputy homeland security chief, was forced to leave a DC bar by Martin O’Malley, a Democratic former Maryland governor, who loudly railed against Cuccinelli, calling him “the son of immigrant grandparents who cages children for a fascist president”.


Some of the thousands of native potato varieties that grow in Peru.

Some of the thousands of native potato varieties that grow in Peru. Photograph: The International Potato Centre

How Peru’s potato museum could stave off a world food crisis

As climate change threatens more and more people around the world with food insecurity, a living museum high in the Peruvian Andes is looking to identify strains of a global food staple that might be capable of withstanding frequent and intense droughts, floods and frosts. Dan Collyns reports from Cusco’s Potato Park.

Ed Norton and Thom Yorke on Motherless Brookyln

Twenty years ago, Thom Yorke was asked tentatively to write the soundtrack for the future classic Fight Club. But at the time, he tells Xan Brooks, he was “mentally incapable.” Now, Yorke and Ed Norton have worked together at last, on the score for the actor’s new film Motherless Brooklyn. “Thom is my Billie Holiday,” says Norton, who also directed the movie.

Floods rise around long-struggling tribal community

The White Swan community on the Yankton Sioux reservation in South Dakota has long struggled in the deep end of social and economic inequality. Now, finds Nina Lakhani, the tribe is facing fresh challenges from increasingly frequent extreme weather events – and the flooding and disease they bring with them.

Why Dungeons & Dragons is casting its spell again

After lying dormant throughout the age of the video game, Dungeons & Dragons is enjoying a renaissance, thanks in large part to its central role in the Netflix series Stranger Things. Keith Stuart talks to the D&D stalwarts who say digital natives are starting to embrace real-world role play.


Last year, Black Friday generated $6.2bn in online sales in the US alone – a growth of almost 25% compared with 2017. That growth may drive the economy, says Eva Kruse, but our rivers, oceans, forests, labor force and coming generations are footing the bill.

We used to think we could shop our way out of an economic crisis – but today, to sustain humanity, we’ll need to reduce our consumption and do business in an entirely different and sustainable way.


Arsenal coach Unai Emery has been sacked after 18 months in charge after a sequence of disastrous results that culminated in a deathly home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League on Thursday. Emery’s interim replacement is Freddie Ljungberg, the club’s assistant coach and former star winger.

Fewer than 100 games into his NBA career, the Dallas Mavericks’ young Slovenian star Luka Dončić is an early frontrunner for this season’s MVP award. The league knew he was talented when he was drafted last year, writes Tom Kludt, but few predicted he would be one of its best players before turning 21.

Sign up

The US morning briefing is delivered to thousands of inboxes every weekday. If you’re not already signed up, subscribe now.

Sign up for the US morning briefing