First Thing: Oath Keepers founder guilty of seditious conspiracy

Trial was biggest test yet for authorities after attack that shook foundations of democracy. Plus, Senate votes to protect same-sex marriages

Good morning.

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the rightwing Oath Keepers militia, has been found guilty of seditious conspiracy, a charge arising from the attack on the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump.

Rhodes and his co-defendant Kelly Meggs are the first people in nearly three decades to be found guilty of the rarely used civil war-era charge at trial. The trial was the biggest test yet for the Department of Justice in its efforts to hold accountable those responsible for the attack that shook the foundations of US democracy.

Rhodes is a Yale Law-educated former paratrooper and disbarred attorney. In an eight-week trial, he and four associates were accused of fomenting a plot to use force to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

  • How significant is the case? Harry Litman, a former US attorney turned legal analyst, said the guilty verdicts represented “a huge, huge victory for the [justice department] in a challenging and deeply important, even historic, case”.

US Senate passes bill protecting same-sex marriage

The US Capitol building
The US Capitol building. Public support for same-sex marriage is at an all-time high of about 70%. Photograph: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The Senate has passed the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation to protect same-sex unions that Democrats are hurrying to get to Joe Biden to be signed into law before Republicans take over the House next year.

Nearly 50 House Republicans supported the measure earlier this year. In the Senate, support from 12 Republicans was enough to override the filibuster and advance the bill to yesterday’s majority vote, which ended 61-36.

Although the Respect for Marriage Act would not codify Obergefell v Hodges, the 2015 supreme court decision that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide, it would require states to recognise all marriages that were legal when performed, including in other states.

Same-sex marriage has been thought to be under threat since June, when the conservative-dominated supreme court struck down the right to abortion. Then, the hardline justice Clarence Thomas wrote that other privacy-based rights, including same-sex marriage, could be reconsidered next.

  • Public support for same-sex marriage is at an all-time high of about 70%. But according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, if the supreme court did overturn the right, at least 29 states would be able to enforce bans.

US rail unions decry Biden’s proposal to impose settlement through Congress

A train heads south out of Oklahoma City
All 12 rail unions had to ratify their contracts to prevent a strike, but the power to do so legally could be removed by Congress. Photograph: Sue Ogrocki/AP

Railroad workers have expressed dismay at Joe Biden’s proposed solution to a looming strike that threatens to derail the US economy, which they say belies his image as the most pro-union president in generations.

As a 9 December deadline looms in the long-running labor dispute between the US’s largest railway companies and their unions, Biden has called on Congress to intervene and block a strike that could cost the economy about $2bn a day by some estimates.

Today, Congress is expected to pass legislation that will force a settlement. But union leaders are unhappy that Biden’s solution appears to be the imposition of a settlement reached in September that has already been rejected by many for failing to address members’ concerns about pay, sick days, staff shortages and time off.

“Joe Biden blew it,” said Hugh Sawyer, the treasurer of Railroad Workers United, a group representing workers from a variety of rail unions and carriers. “Sadly, he could not bring himself to advocate for a lousy handful of sick days. The Democrats and Republicans are both pawns of big business and the corporations.”

  • Why are workers threatening industrial action? A lack of paid sick time and the rail companies’ disciplinary attendance systems, in which they are penalized for taking unpaid time off – an issue workers say has contributed to a lack of a work-life balance on the job.

Covid restrictions lifted in Chinese city of Guangzhou after protests

A person holding an umbrella with a slogan on it takes part in a protest near the Chinese consulate in New York on Tuesday
A person holding an umbrella with a slogan on it takes part in a protest near the Chinese consulate in New York on Tuesday. Photograph: David Dee Delgado/Reuters

Authorities have abruptly lifted Covid restrictions in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, where protesters scuffled with police on Tuesday night, as police searched for demonstrators in other cities and the country’s top security body called for a crackdown on “hostile forces”.

After days of extraordinary protests in the country that have prompted international demonstrations in solidarity, the US and Canada urged China not to harm or intimidate protesters opposing Covid-19 lockdowns.

On Wednesday, authorities suddenly announced a lifting of lockdowns in about half of the districts across the southern city of Guangzhou. Official announcements told local officials to variously remove “temporary control orders” and to redesignate areas as low risk. They also announced an end to mass PCR testing.

  • In lockdown or getting ready for lockdown: Beijing life under zero-Covid. A resident tells of days filled with health codes, constant threat of shutdowns and moments of hope.

In other news …

A person holds a placard in support of Julian Assange in London on 8 October
A person holds a placard in support of Julian Assange in London on 8 October. Photograph: Alberto Pezzali/AP
  • The Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, says he has personally urged the US government to end its pursuit of the WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange. He vowed to continue to press for it to be brought to a close.

  • Researchers discovered two new minerals on a 15-tonne meteorite grounded in Somalia. The phenomenal finds have been named elaliite and elkinstantonite, and Canadian scientists are analysing a third mineral

  • The parents of a four-month-old baby are refusing to allow his life-saving heart surgery to go ahead unless non-vaccinated blood is used, leading New Zealand’s health service to make a court application over the guardianship of the child.

  • Indonesia has put a 100-island archipelago up for auction, prompting environmental concerns. The uninhabited Widi Reserve is in a marine-protected zone and is being promoted as “one of the most intact coral atoll ecosystems left on Earth”.

World Cup: ‘up to 500migrant workers died on stadium building projects, says official

Fans watch USA v Iran at a bar in Los Angeles
Fans watch USA v Iran at a bar in Los Angeles. Photograph: Caroline Brehman/EPA

USA’s adventure at the World Cup continues after they clinched a tense 1-0 victory over Iran to progress to the knockout stages, where they will face the Netherlands on Saturday. Not much was expected of this young American team, but they have impressed neutrals with their pace and technique, even if they struggle with the fairly important skill of scoring. The winning goal was scored by Christian Pulisic, who sustained an abdominal injury as he steered the ball home (some have speculated that “abdominal” may be a euphemism for an injury to a rather more delicate area). In Group B’s other game, England beat Wales to seal their place as group winners. They will play Senegal in the next round.

Iran’s defeat ended a gruelling few weeks for the team’s players. As well as the small matter of playing three matches against elite-level competition, they had to deal with the political turmoil back home. They may have even involved themselves in that turmoil when they didn’t sing the national anthem in their opening match against England, which many interpreted as a gesture of defiance towards the country’s regime. On Tuesday, Iran supporters at the stadium smuggled in personal protests, the words “women life freedom” printed on T-shirts hidden under T-shirts and scrawled in marker pen on their bodies.

Elsewhere at the World Cup:

  • France are already through from Group D and will be joined by one of Australia, Denmark or Tunisia, whose matches kick off at 10am ET on Wednesday. At 2pm ET, Group C’s final matches kick off with Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland all in with a chance of progressing. You can read about the various permutations here.

  • A Qatari official has said 400-500 migrant workers died on World Cup projects. The Guardian’s estimate puts the figure at closer to 6,500.

Stat of the day: ‘At least 45 Australian soldiers killed themselves after PoW training’

Australian defence force troops
Australian defence force troops. Photograph: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

At least 45 Australian defence force personnel who attended training to deal with potentially being captured, interrogated and tortured subsequently killed themselves, an inquiry has been told. But the force is yet to investigate whether the training was a direct trigger for the deaths in the two decades since 2001.

Col Simon Dowse, from the Defence School of Intelligence, told the royal commission into defence and veteran suicide that the force’s conduct after capture (CAC) courses were designed to help members cope if kidnapped or taken hostage. To his knowledge, Dowse said, no ADF members had been captured.

Don’t miss this: how Robert Downey Jr made peace with his maverick father

Like father, like son … the Robert Downeys Jr and Sr.
Like father, like son … the Robert Downeys Jr and Sr. Photograph: Netflix

In the twilight of his father’s years, Downey Jr wanted some answers about why his father didn’t take better care of him, writes Andrew Pulver. The resulting documentary – called Sr, with remorseless family logic – acts as part tribute, part therapy session and part last hurrah. “You did not give a mad fuck, did you?” Downey Jr tells his father.

The elephant in the room of Sr is Downey Jr’s turbulent period as a cocaine- and heroin-dependent young movie star (before he miraculously cleaned up his act to become at one point the world’s highest-paid actor), and the extent to which Downey Sr may or may not be responsible for his son’s addictions. In fact, it’s the elephant in the room until it isn’t.

Climate check: Science is making it possible to ‘hear’ nature. It does more talking than we knew

Female flying fox bat with cub on a branch in a tropical forest.
Female flying fox bat with cub on a branch in a tropical forest. Photograph: Natalia Lukiianova/Alamy

Scientists have recently made some remarkable discoveries about non-human sounds, writes Karen Bakker. “With the aid of digital bioacoustics – tiny, portable digital recorders similar to those found in your smartphone – researchers are documenting the universal importance of sound to life on Earth.

“As scientists eavesdrop on nature, they are learning some astonishing things. Many species that we once thought to be mute actually make noise – lots of it, in some cases. For example, research by Camila Ferrara at Brazil’s Wildlife Conservation Society has demonstrated that Amazonian sea turtles make more than 200 distinct sounds.”

Last Thing: Japan weighs up plan to expand nuclear power

Tsuyoshi Suda, an anti-nuclear campaigner, with Onagawa nuclear power plant in the background
Tsuyoshi Suda, an anti-nuclear campaigner, with Onagawa nuclear power plant in the background. Photograph: Justin McCurry/The Guardian

In a sweeping change to Japan’s energy policy, the prime minister, Fumio Kishida, has announced plans to build next-generation reactors and restart those left idle after the 2011 triple meltdown, in an attempt to end Japan’s dependence on imported fossil fuels and help meet its net zero target by 2050, writes Justin McCurry.

Kishida’s “green transformation”, which could include extending the lifespan of existing reactors beyond the current maximum of 60 years, underlines Japan’s struggle to secure an affordable energy supply as a result of the war in Ukraine and a power crunch that led to warnings of potential blackouts in Tokyo during this summer’s heatwave.

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Mattha Busby

The GuardianTramp

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