First Thing: China pushes Covid vaccines for older people after unrest

<span>Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Good morning.

Chinese health officials have announced a drive to accelerate vaccinations of older people against Covid, as police patrolled several cities to stamp out the protests against the country’s strict zero-Covid policy.

Low vaccination rates among older people are one of the hurdles to easing the zero-Covid policy, which has eroded economic growth, disrupted the lives of millions, and sparked three days of unprecedented protests.

The display of civil disobedience has triggered a firm response from police, who have begun inquiries into some of the people who gathered at the weekend.

  • Why is China still having severe lockdowns? In what could be read as a rare criticism of the country’s health system, a recent comment article published in China’s state-run People’s Daily quoted a pharmaceuticals analyst as saying that a full reopening might “threaten a health system that currently has far fewer ICU beds than those of other developed countries”.

Biden asks US Congress to block railroad strike that could ‘devastate economy’

A train
Members of a key rail union voted on 21 November to reject an agreement negotiated by the Biden administration, raising the risk of a strike shutting down the country’s railroads. Photograph: Étienne Laurent/EPA

Four rail unions that represent more than half of the 115,000 workers in the industry have rejected the deals that Biden helped broker before the original strike deadline in September and are back at the table trying to work out new agreements.

Eight other unions have approved their five-year deals with the railroads and are in the process of getting back pay for their workers for the 24% raises that are retroactive to 2020.

Congress has the power to impose contract terms on the workers, but it’s not clear what lawmakers might include if they do. They could also force the negotiations to continue into the new year.

  • How a potential US rail strike could affect the economy. Consumers and nearly every industry in the US will be affected if freight trains grind to a halt next month amid rail union concerns about demanding schedules and the lack of paid sick time.

Arizona secretary of state sues after Republican officials refuse to certify county election results

Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, was elected its next governor this month.
Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, was elected its next governor this month. Photograph: Matt York/AP

Republican officials in a rural Arizona county have refused to certify the results of the 2022 midterm election, despite no evidence of anything wrong with the count from earlier this month.

Some officials who have embraced voter fraud theories held out, defying a state deadline and setting the stage for a legal battle.

The move came amid pressure from prominent Republicans to reject results showing Democrats winning top races, and the county was holding out in the afternoon of a nail-biting day that was the deadline for several counties to confirm results.

In a lawsuit yesterday, the secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who narrowly won the race for governor, asked a judge to order county officials to canvass the election, which she said was an obligation under Arizona law.

  • What’s next? The two Republican county supervisors delayed the canvass vote until hearing once more about concerns over the certification of ballot tabulators, though election officials have repeatedly said the equipment is properly approved.

Giving Tuesday: help us raise $1m to cover crucial issues in 2023

From reporting on abortion rights and the climate crisis to publishing agenda-setting investigations, we already know what our new year’s resolutions are – but we need your help.

In a letter to readers today, the new Guardian US editor Betsy Reed lays out some of our key priorities for 2023, and why your donations are so important.

“At this moment of jeopardy for democratic values, we don’t settle for milquetoast, down-the-middle journalism that engages in false equivalence in the name of neutrality,” she writes.

“We know there is a right and a wrong side in the fight against racism and climate destruction and for democracy and reproductive justice.“Rather than relying on billionaire owners or pursuing profits to appease shareholders, we depend on support from readers.

Your donations are the reason we are able to carry on with our work.“If you can, please consider a gift to fund our reporting in 2023. We are very grateful.”

In other news …

With its array of Khmer empire temples dating back to the ninth century, the archaeological complex is Cambodia’s most popular attraction, powering the local economy with more than 2 million visitors every year.
With its array of Khmer empire temples dating back to the ninth century, the archaeological complex is Cambodia’s most popular attraction, powering the local economy with more than 2 million visitors every year. Photograph: Sergi Reboredo/Alamy
  • Mass evictions at Angkor Wat, Cambodia, leave 10,000 families facing uncertain future. Cambodian government claims “voluntary relocations” are necessary as part of Unesco status requirements, but stallholders say they are being forced out of the site.

  • Six artefacts looted by British troops 125 years ago from Benin City, in what is now Nigeria, are being repatriated to their place of origin, increasing pressure on the British Museum to follow suit.

  • Three men travel from Nigeria to Canary Islands balanced on an oil and chemical ship’s rudder. The stowaways were rescued by the Spanish Coastguard in Las Palmas yesterday after an 11-day voyage.

World Cup: Iran coach mentions US school shootings ahead of crunch match

US goalkeeper Kasey Keller dives unable to deflect the ball as teammate Eddie Pope looks on during the country’s loss to Iran at the 1998 group stage.
US goalkeeper Kasey Keller dives unable to deflect the ball as teammate Eddie Pope looks on during the country’s loss to Iran at the 1998 group stage. Photograph: Patrick Kovarik/EPA

It’s crunch time for the US as they face Iran in a game they must win to advance to the knockout stages. Rather predictably, much of the talk has been about the political background to the game rather than the playing abilities of two fairly unspectacular teams.

On Monday, Iran manager Carlos Queiroz brought up school shootings in the US following criticisms of human rights in Iran. Later in the day, a slightly puzzled US coach Gregg Berhalter, who thought he was going to talk about his team’s lack of a natural goalscorer, was questioned by Iranian journalists on everything from his country’s inflation rates to its immigration policy. “I’m not well versed on international politics. I’m a football coach,” pleaded Berhalter.

The game itself kicks off at 2pm ET (you can follow it with our liveblog here) and most experts believe the US have a 50-50 chance of progressing. In the day’s other games, England only need to avoid a heavy loss to Wales (also at 2pm ET) to go through, while the Netherlands, Ecuador and Senegal will qualify for the next round if they win (the latter three kick off at 10am ET). Two of the tournament’s heavyweights, Brazil and Portugal, qualified after their victories on Monday.

Elsewhere at the World Cup:

  • After dominating the first weekend of the World Cup with a monologue as lengthy as it was bizarre, Fifa president Gianni Infantino has kept a low-profile. As the Guardian’s chief sports writer, Barney Ronay, puts it: “Nobody puts Gianni in the corner. Except, it would seem, Hassan Abdullah al-Thawadi, chief executive of Qatar 2022, who some say is having a significant final pass on key details that affect supporters, federations [and] world football generally.”

  • A protester ran on to the field during Portugal’s match with Uruguay on Monday. The man held a rainbow flag and a shirt saying saying “Respect For Iranian Women”.

  • If you’re wondering why World Cup players are wearing strange face masks on the pitch, then wonder no more.

Don’t miss this: inside the palace coup that brought Saudi Arabia’s MBS to power

After King Salman commenced his reign, his nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef had been made crown prince at the age of 55, putting him next in line to the throne. But simmering behind the scenes was a vicious rivalry between Nayef and his upstart cousin, the king’s son, Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS as he is known, who rose from obscurity to become deputy crown prince, writes Anuj Chopra.

Nayef was allegedly confined to a room for hours, pressured to sign a resignation letter and pledge allegiance to MBS. At first, he refused. According to one source close to the prince, he was told that if he did not give up his claim to the throne, his female family members would be raped. Nayef’s medication for hypertension and diabetes was withheld.

Climate check: top-flight recovery: the inspiring comeback of the California condor

Despite being the largest flying bird in North America, with a wingspan of up to three metres, you would have been hard pushed to see a California condor in the wild in the 1980s, writes Patrick Greenfield. In a last-ditch effort to save the birds, after decades of persecution and population collapse, the few remaining were captured in 1987 for a multimillion-dollar intensive conservation programme.

Today, there are more than 200 in the wild, and local people are already starting to notice. In May 2021, about 10% of the entire population of the birds in the Golden State decided to roost on a woman’s home in Tehachapi, southern California, damaging her decking with “concrete-like” excrement, an incident that went viral on Twitter when her daughter posted photos.

Last Thing: are Tesla owners paying the price for Musk hate?

Tesla lost at least one customer this weekend, after Alyssa Milano tweeted that she had returned her model for a Volkswagen electric vehicle, prompting jokes from Elon Musk and conservative commentators about the German manufacturer’s Nazi origin story. Milano said she had ditched Tesla due to Musk’s ownership of Twitter, writes Alaina Demopolous.

Although there’s no official data to prove that Tesla drivers get more hate, an Axios report from August found that Iowa’s “Tesla drivers are routinely heckled, cut off in traffic, and blocked from charging stations.” Many put the blame on the company’s CEO, Musk, and the never-ending news cycle devoted to his frenzied Twitter takeover.

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