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First Thing: Devin Nunes to quit Congress for Trump media job

·7 min read

Republican congressman to become head of Donald Trump’s social media platform. Plus, source of California’s ‘stench of death’ found


Good morning.

Devin Nunes, the California congressman and close ally of Donald Trump, has announced he will be leaving the US House of Representatives next month to join Trump’s new social media venture.

The Republican, who represents a rural California district, wrote a letter to constituents on Monday, saying wanted to pursue a “new opportunity to fight for the most important issues I believe in”.

Shortly afterwards, Trump Media & Technology Group announced Nunes would become the company’s chief executive in January.

In a statement, Nunes said: “The time has come to reopen the internet and allow for the free flow of ideas and expression without censorship.”

  • Who is Devin Nunes? The 48-year-old has served as a congressman since 2003 and became known as one of Trump’s staunchest defenders in the House during his first impeachment.

  • Meanwhile, Wall Street’s top financial regulators are investigating Trump’s $1.25bn deal to float his new social media venture on the stock market, a filing showed on Monday.

Latest Emmett Till murder investigation ends without charges

Mamie Till Mobley weeps at her son Emmett Till’s funeral in 1955
Mamie Till Mobley weeps at her son Emmett Till’s funeral in September 1955. Photograph: AP

The US Department of Justice is ending its latest investigation into the death of Emmett Till, a Black teenager who was brutally abducted, tortured and killed in 1955, without filing any charges after failing to prove that a key witness lied.

Till’s family expressed disappointment that there will continue to be no accountability for the infamous lynching.

“Today is a day we will never forget,” Till’s cousin the Rev Wheeler Parker said during a news conference in Chicago. “For 66 years we have suffered pain … I suffered tremendously.”

The DoJ reopened the investigation after a 2017 book quoted Carolyn Bryant Donham, a white woman, as saying she lied about Till whistling and making sexual advances toward her. But the investigation ended without charges against Donham, who told the FBI that she had never recanted her accusations.

  • What did the DoJ say? In a news release on Monday, it said there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she lied to the FBI”.

  • Why was the case so infamous? Till’s murder galvanized the civil rights movement after Till’s mother insisted on an open casket and Jet magazine published photos of his brutalized body.

China attacks US diplomatic boycott of Winter Games as ‘travesty’ of Olympic spirit

China has reacted angrily to the US government’s diplomatic boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics, as more countries said they would consider joining the protest over Beijing’s human rights record.

Chinese officials dismissed Washington’s boycott as a “posturing and political manipulation” and tried to discredit the decision by claiming that US diplomats had not even been invited to Beijing in the first place.

The White House confirmed on Monday that it would not send any official or diplomatic representatives due to “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity”.

“The athletes on Team USA have our full support,” said the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki. “We will be behind them 100% as we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.”

  • Have any other countries chosen to do the same? New Zealand said it would not send diplomatic representatives at a ministerial level but cited Covid-19 as the primary reason, adding that officials have made clear their concerns about human rights issues.

  • Any others? The UK, Canada, and Australia have said they were considering their positions. Last week, Lithuania announced neither its president nor ministers would attend the Games.

In other news …

Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland, in June.
Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland, in June. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP
  • Joe Biden is taking part in a virtual summit today with Vladimir Putin, after days of close consultation with European allies on a joint response to an invasion of Ukraine and armed with a wide range of punitive measures at his disposal.

  • The chief executive of a US mortgage company has drawn criticism after he reportedly fired 900 employees on a Zoom call. “I come to you with not great news,” Vishal Garg, CEO of Better.com, is heard saying in footage of the call which was widely circulated on social media.

  • Since early October, residents of Carson, California, have been sickened by a noxious smell coming from the Dominguez Channel that has been likened to “a rotten egg” or “the stench of death”. Now, officials have pinpointed a cause: a fire at a warehouse that stored beauty and wellness products.

  • US immigration judges are embroiled in a tense dispute with Joe Biden over their battle to restore union rights taken away from them under the Trump administration. The head of the federal immigration judges’ union has accused the Biden administration of “doubling down” on its predecessor’s efforts.

Stat of the day: People in counties that voted for Trump nearly three times more likely to die from Covid

The rate of Republican Covid vaccination has plateaued at 59% while 91% of Democrats have been vaccinated.
The rate of Republican Covid vaccination has plateaued at 59% while 91% of Democrats have been vaccinated. Photograph: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

People in counties that voted Trump are more likely to die from Covid-19, than those who live in counties that voted for Biden, according to a study by National Public Radio. NPR examined deaths per 100,000 people in about 3,000 counties across the US since May 2021. According to NPR, 1 May was chosen as the start date as it is roughly the time when vaccines became universally available to adults. The study found that areas that voted for Trump by at least 60% in November 2020 had death rates 2.7 times higher than counties that voted heavily for Biden.

Don’t miss this: children of big oil employees discuss climate crisis with their parents

What do you do when your family has deep ties to the oil and gas industry, yet all agree that burning fossil fuels is accelerating the climate crisis? For one family, the fossil fuel industry’s role in stoking the climate emergency is more than just a dinner table debate. It’s their legacy. Andy and Wendy, who met in the 1970s while working as engineers for Exxon, sit down with their children, James and Liz, the day before Thanksgiving to discuss the climate crisis and how the family reckons with their fossil fuel connection.

… or this: A Native American designed Washington’s logo. Now his family want it back

National Football League’s Washington Redskins will change the Redskins name and logoepa08543526 A Washington Redskins shirt for sale at a store in Alexandria, Virginia, USA, 13 July 2020. The National Football League’s Washington Redskins will change the Redskins name and logo, the team announced in a statement on 13 July 2020. The new name has not been announced. The Redskins name has been criticized as an offensive ethnic slur. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS
Walter S ‘Blackie’ Wetzel based the logo on portraits of a Blackfeet chief named White Calf. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Last year, when the Washington football team ditched their racist nickname, they also ditched their logo, the profile of a Native American. It was designed by Walter S “Blackie” Wetzel and now Walter’s son Don Wetzel wants it back, but it is unclear whether Washington own the copyright. Wetzel wants to repurpose the logo so that it becomes the face of the Blackie Wetzel Warrior Society, which hopes to raise public awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women, but Washington is yet to agree. “It’s more of a moral battle than a legal battle,” Don said.

Climate check: All coral reefs in western Indian Ocean ‘at high risk of collapse in next 50 years’

Closeup of bleached patch of coral.
Closeup of bleached patch of coral. Photograph: Pete Niesen/Alamy

All coral reefs in the western Indian Ocean are at high risk of collapse in the next 50 years due to global heating and overfishing, according to an assessment. From Seychelles to the Delagoa region off the coast of Mozambique and South Africa, the reef systems are at risk of becoming functionally extinct by the 2070s, with a huge loss of biodiversity, and threatening the livelihoods and food sources for hundreds of thousands of people.

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Last Thing: Street name honour for unloved ‘castle lady’ dismays Belgian village

The people of Moorsele are happy with a street named for Marie Curie (pictured) but less so with one named for Marie Conillie.
The people of Moorsele are happy with a street named for Marie Curie (pictured) but less so with one named for Marie Conillie. Photograph: AP

Cities around the world have been inspired by the #MeToo movement to rename their streets after women. But in the Flemish village of Moorsele, which is happy to honour Marie Curie with Marie Curiestraat, there is despair over Marie Cornilliestraat. Named after Marie Cornillie, who was a landowner known as the “castle lady of Moorsele”. She lived there between 1793 and 1867 but the people of the village have a long memory. They say she was no role model but a haughty figure who loved her dog more than the locals and had a tendency to urinate in the street.

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