Bannon and other top Trump officials face legal peril | First Thing

As Trump takes action, Bannon and other former officials face legal peril for defying subpoenas. Plus, the women who live without love

Good morning.

Donald Trump has sought to block the release of documents related to the Capitol attack on 6 January to a House committee investigating the incident, challenging Joe Biden’s initial decision to waive executive privilege.

In a federal lawsuit, the former president said the committee’s request in August was “almost limitless in scope” and sought many records that were not connected to the siege.

Meanwhile, Steve Bannon and other former top officials in the Trump administration are facing legal peril for defying subpoenas issued by the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack, as the panel prepares to pursue criminal referrals for non-compliance.

The legal jeopardy for Bannon is anticipated after it emerged in a letter to his attorney, obtained by the Guardian on Monday, that he had claimed executive privilege protections on materials unrelated to the executive branch.

  • What has Trump said in the papers he has filed? He called the request for records a “vexatious, illegal fishing expedition” that was “untethered from any legitimate legislative purpose”.

  • What did Bannon’s final warning say? The House select committee chair considers Bannon as having violated federal law after he “wilfully failed to both produce a single document and to appear for his scheduled deposition”.

Tributes pour in for Colin Powell: the man who might have been America’s first Black president

Colin Powell with George W Bush in 2000.
Colin Powell with George W Bush in 2000. Photograph: David J Phillip/AP

Tributes are continuing to pour in for the former Republican secretary of state Colin Powell after the announcement of his death on Monday morning at the age of 84.

Powell, who played a pivotal role in attempting to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq, considered running for office in 1995, and if he had been successful he would have been the US’s first Black president.

Leading praise from the US and around the world, Joe Biden hailed “a dear friend and patriot of unmatched honor and dignity” on behalf of himself and the first lady, Jill Biden.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, eulogies for the former general were brusque and often unforgiving. “I am saddened by the death of Colin Powell without being tried for his crimes in Iraq,” said Muntader al-Zaidi, who famously threw his shoes at Bush at a press conference in Baghdad in 2008. “But I am sure that the court of God will be waiting for him.”

  • Had Powell been vaccinated? He was fully vaccinated against coronavirus but had a compromised immune system, having been treated for blood cancer.

  • Was he still a Republican when he died? By the end of his life, Powell, who previously voted Republican in seven consecutive presidential elections, had endorsed Democrats in the past four.

Bill Gates reportedly advised to end inappropriate emails with female employee in 2008

Bill Gates
Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, left his role with the company in 2020. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Bill Gates was allegedly advised in 2008 by executives at the company to halt inappropriate communication with a female employee, according to a report.

The claims, published by the Wall Street Journal, are the latest to shed light on potential misconduct by Gates while he was working at Microsoft. The Wall Street Journal had previously revealed claims Gates left the company’s board in 2020 amid an investigation into a past affair with a staffer.

Gates said at the time he was stepping down to focus on his philanthropic endeavors. However, the Journal report revealed board members at Microsoft pushed Gates out as they investigated an allegedly inappropriate relationship he had with a female employee.

The Wall Street Journal’s most recent coverage now says that more than a decade before Gates’s departure from Microsoft, executives had discovered emails between him and a female mid-level staffer.

A spokesperson for Gates denied he had been involved in inappropriate email communications.

  • What was inappropriate about the emails? The report alleges that Gates was flirtatious and propositioned the female employee by email. At the time, he was married and the board chair at Microsoft.

Covid pandemic has spurred engagement in online extremism, say experts

Teenage girl on a laptop in her bedroom
‘What we’ve seen is evidence of spikes of online activity in a wide range of extremist issues during lockdown,’ says the ISD’s Jacob Davey. Photograph: Alamy

Eighteen months of intermittent global lockdowns have led to growing engagement in extremist material ranging from terrorist content to conspiracy theories and disinformation, say experts.

Jacob Davey, the head of research and policy of far-right and hate movements at the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD), which studies extremism worldwide, said studies had shown “there has been a proliferation of harmful and troubling activity online” during the pandemic, with an impact that was impossible to predict.

The coronavirus crisis has been punctuated by outbursts of online hate that have had real-world consequences. The most alarming examples are the 6 January Capitol riot in Washington, which was spurred by rightwing groups organising online, and the racist abuse of England footballers during Euro 2020.

Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a US- and UK-based campaign group, says the pandemic has “driven all types of movements which are based on protection of identity groups”.

  • An ISD study showed that content on rightwing extremist pages and groups in Canada increased by 33.7% on Facebook last year, while postings on the 4chan bulletin board were up by 66.5%.

In other news …

A Dollar General store in Mount Rainier, Maryland.
None of the US’s thousands of Dollar General stores are unionized. Photograph: Erin Scott/Reuters
  • Dollar General workers are pushing to unionize amid alleged hostility from senior staff. Employees have alleged intimidation at the low-cost retailer, which has more than 17,600 stores in 46 states and reported billions in sales last year.

  • Amid an unprecedented surge in opioid overdoses, harm-reduction groups are reporting shortages in naloxone, a usually affordable and easy-to-use medication that reverses overdoses and has been credited with saving lives.

  • The Biden administration has asked the supreme court to block Texas’s extreme abortion ban. The justice department wrote in its plea that the law defied the supreme court’s major decisions on abortion rights.

  • A sword believed to have belonged to a crusader who sailed to the Holy Land almost a millennium ago has been recovered from the Mediterranean seabed thanks to an eagle-eyed amateur diver, the Israel Antiquities Authority has said.

Don’t miss this: can the morning routines of the rich and famous make me a better person?

Writer Emma Beddington meditating in her garden as part of her new morning routine.
‘My minds churns like a cement mixer’: Emma Beddington tries early-morning meditation in her garden. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Observer

Morning people have a reputation for getting stuff done. Early rising is associated with energy, optimisation and efficiency; it is a foundational principle of all manner of self-help programmes. “If you look at many of the most productive people in the world, they will have one thing in common: they were early risers,” says one zealot in the trailer for the motivational guru Hal Elrod’s movie about his “miracle morning”, as Oprah Winfrey, Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein flash past. “What if you could change anything about your life just by changing the way you start your day?” asks Elrod’s movie. Time to find out.

Or this: the women who live without love

Illustration of a couple holding hands with a woman, head bowed, at the centre
Women may find it harder to find a partner they are attracted to as they get older. Illustration: Nathalie Lees

When a woman named Alana coined the term “incel” in the late 90s, she could not have predicted the outcome. What started as a harmless website to connect lonely, “involuntary celibate” men and women has morphed into an underground online movement associated with male violence and extreme misogyny. Meanwhile, a far greater number of women live unintentionally celibate lives, although they would not describe themselves as “femcels”. What is it like to go without a partner when you long for one – and when even a fleeting sexual connection feels impossible?

Climate check: US and China urged to find way to work together before Cop26

Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon said current pledges on cutting emissions from leading economies were insufficient to hold global heating at 1.5C. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, have been urged to meet before the UN Cop26 climate talks to search for common ground by the former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and other prominent global voices. “We are appealing to the leaders of the US and China to see their common interest and find a way to work together. We need an ambitious 2030 [carbon] target from China and the US to deliver what they have pledged,” said Ban, speaking on behalf of the Elders group of former world statespeople and prominent community and business leaders.

Want more environmental stories delivered to your inbox? Sign up to our Green Light newsletter to get the good, bad and essential news on the climate every week

Last thing: Indian couple float to their wedding in a cooking pot along flooded streets

A waterlogged street in the southern Indian state of Kerala
A waterlogged street in the southern Indian state of Kerala, where at 26 people have been killed after heavy rain and flooding. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

An Indian couple have arrived for their wedding in unusual style after sailing through the flooded streets of their town in a cooking pot after heavy rain wrecked havoc in the southern state of Kerala. Footage shared on social media showed the pair squeezed inside the aluminium vessel while two men and a photographer paddled them down a submerged street. Undeterred by the flooding and landslides, which killed at least 27 people across the state, the couple were unwilling to postpone their big day.

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Nicola Slawson

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