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First Thing: Biden blasts Republican attacks on voting rights

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Show caption Biden speaking on protecting the right to vote at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock First Thing First Thing: Biden blasts Republican attacks on voting rights President decries racist voting laws but notably omits any mention of filibuster in Philadelphia speech Vivian Ho Wed 14 Jul 2021 11.20 BST Share on Facebook

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Good morning,

Joe Biden made an impassioned stand on voting rights in his speech from Philadelphia on Tuesday, asking Republicans who are pushing for restrictive laws: “Have you no shame?”

Critics were quick to point out, however, that the president had failed to mention the filibuster in his speech, the Senate rule that Republicans used last month to block sweeping reforms to voting rights.

Seventeen states have enacted 28 laws that makes it harder to vote and 400 bills were pending, Biden said in his speech. The bills are likely to have a disproportionate impact on people of color.

Biden also took a stand against Donald Trump’s “big lie” about the election being stolen, saying it had led to “the denial of full and free and fair elections” and was “the most un-American thing that any of us can imagine”.

“We’re facing the most significant test of our democracy since the civil war,” Biden said, noting that even then the Confederates were unable to breach the Capitol as the insurrectionists did on 6 January.

One killed, at least 140 ‘missing or disappeared’ in Cuba’s historic protests

A 36-year-old man has died in the widespread demonstrations in Cuba over food shortages, high prices and other grievances, the Cuban government confirmed. Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, 36, died during a clash between protesters and police on Monday.

The government would not specify how many people had been arrested or injured , but Amnesty International believes at least 140 Cubans have been detained or disappeared to send a message to “those who dare to challenge the government”.

Spontaneous, peaceful rallies have sprung up in at least 48 locations since Sunday, when the largest mass protest on the island in three decades took place, according to Amnesty.

Cubans are protesting because the endless lines and penny-pinching under beefed-up US sanctions have reached new levels during the pandemic, they say.

Delta variant sweeps across poorly vaccinated US populations

The highly transmissible Delta variant is gaining ground in the US with a cluster of midwestern and southern states emerging as a centre of Covid-19 outbreaks.

Case numbers in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi are among the highest in the country, and vaccination rates among the lowest.

More than 60 wildfires rage across 10 western states

Wildfires are blazing across the west, with more than 60 burning in 10 states, including one nearly twice the size of Portland in Oregon.

Thousands of people have evacuated from Alaska to Wyoming. More than half of the large active fires were in Arizona, Idaho and Montana.

Britney Spears’ conservatorship case heads back to court

Britney Spears’ fight to end the conservatorship that has long controlled her life returns to courton Wednesday to decide whether she will be able to select and hire her own lawyer.

Spears spoke publicly about her “abusive” conservatorship last month when she called for the termination of the legal arrangement that has given her father and others authority over her personal life and career for 13 years.

It’s unclear if she will appear in court in person. The hearing is scheduled for 1.30pm local time in Los Angeles superior court.

In other news …

Residential school survivors embrace during a visit by Justin Trudeau to Cowessess First Nation. Photograph: Shannon Vanraes/AFP/Getty Images

At least 160 unmarked graves near a former residential school were discovered in British Columbia, Canada. The First Nation community has been left reeling in recent months as similar discoveries of mass graves of indigenous children have been uncovered around the country.

A Covid outbreak among vaccinated Las Vegas hospital workers has underscored the risk posed by the Delta variant in the US.

Four alleged Iranian spies have been charged with plotting to kidnap an Iranian-American journalist and activist based in New York.

Illinois has become the first state to require Asian American history be taught as part of the public school curriculum.

Stat of the day: A handful of companies control the majority market share of almost 80% of dozens of grocery items bought regularly by ordinary Americans

A joint investigation by the Guardian and Food and Water Watch found that a few powerful transnational companies dominate every link of the food supply chain, and that consumer choice is largely an illusion.

Don’t miss: the woman fighting to find her father – and all of Syria’s disappeared

Wafa Mustafa holding a picture of her father, among pictures of other victims of the Syrian regime, during a protest outside the trial of two alleged former intelligence officers accused for crimes against humanity. Photograph: Thomas Lohnes/AFP/Getty Images

Since the Syrian revolution began in 2011, it is believed that more than 150,000 civilians have been disappeared, tortured or killed. Wafa Mustafa’s father, Ali, was one of them, dragged from an apartment eight years ago by armed men.

Last Thing: Silicon Valley before the silicon

It’s hard to imagine a Silicon Valley before the Teslas, Patagonia vests and artisanal hand-poured coffees. David Pace received a Brownie Hawkeye camera for his eighth birthday in 1959 and captured a piece of northern California that has all but disappeared.

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