First Thing: California could become an abortion ‘sanctuary’ | US news

California is preparing to become a “sanctuary” of reproductive care for people from other states seeking abortion if the supreme court overturns Roe v Wade.

The California Future of Abortion Council, made up of more than 40 providers, advocacy groups and lawmakers, published a list of 45 recommendations, including covering travel and accommodation costs and procedures for people from other states.

  • How many people travel to California for abortions? We don’t know – but about 15% of all abortions nationally are performed in the state.

  • How will the costs be covered? California will have an estimated $31bn surplus next year.

  • How many states could ban abortion? More than two dozen states are ready to do so if the supreme court overturns Roe v Wade next year.

US government to go carbon neutral by 2050

Joe Biden
Joe Biden visiting Kansas City, Missouri, on 8 December. Photograph: Ed Zurga/EPA

The federal government – the largest landowner, energy consumer and employer in the US – has pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 after Joe Biden signed a new executive order.

The government will reduce its emissions by 65% by 2030, before reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, by transitioning to a completely electric fleet of vehicles and using electricity only from clean energy sources.

  • What are the deadlines before 2050? All new government vehicles from 2035 will be zero-emission versions, while buildings must halve their emissions by 2032. All electricity must be clean by 2030.

  • What difference will this make? The order will tackle about 15% of all carbon emissions in the US.

Maxwell trial: third accuser’s ex-boyfriend corroborates her account

Maxwell massaging Epstein’s feet on his jet.
One of two photographs released by the prosecution, showing Maxwell massaging Epstein’s feet on his jet. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The third accuser in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial has had details of her testimony corroborated by an ex-boyfriend.

The accuser, Carolyn, said Maxwell began booking her in to give Jeffrey Epstein sexualized massages when she was 14, and also testified that Maxwell groped her. Carolyn said Epstein’s abuse went on to include penetrative sex and group encounters.

She said she was introduced to Maxwell and Epstein after her boyfriend at the time, Shawn, introduced her to Virginia Giuffre in the early 2000s. Giuffre asked Carolyn if she wanted to earn money giving an older man a massage. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

  • What did Shawn testify? He said Carolyn “only had two jobs ever” – working for a fast-food restaurant and “working for Jeffrey”. Shawn said he would drive Carolyn and Giuffre to Epstein’s house and they would leave with “hundred dollar bills”.

  • When did this happen? Carolyn said she went to Epstein’s house more than 100 times from age 14 to 18. She stopped seeing him at 18 when she was “too old”.

In other news …

young person smoking
The legal age for smoking and cigarette prices will increase every year in New Zealand to make it smoke free by 2025. Photograph: Rattanakun Thongbun/Getty Images/EyeEm
  • New Zealand will ban smoking for the next generation by raising the legal age to buy tobacco every year, so those aged 14 and under today are never legally able to buy it. The measure is one of a raft of policies aimed at making the country entirely smoke-free within the next four years.

  • The evidence against Jussie Smollett is “overwhelming”, the prosecution has said in closing arguments in his criminal trial. The former Empire actor is facing charges, which he denies, that he lied to Chicago police about an 2019 attack.

  • The number of journalists in prison globally reached a new high in 2021, according to a study that found 293 reporters were behind bars on 1 December. At least 24 journalists were killed this year because of stories they had covered.

  • A diver pulled a woman’s body out of a car submerged in water near the edge of the Niagara Falls on Wednesday. It was too late to rescue the woman, who was said to have lived nearby.

Stat of the day: nearly 100 former British Council staff remain hidden in Afghanistan

Taliban forces stand guard outside the passport office in Kabul
Taliban forces guarding the passport office in Kabul. Photograph: EPA

Almost 100 former British Council staff contracted to teach British values and the English language remain in hiding in Afghanistan after being refused the right to come to the UK. A former British Council Afghanistan English manager, Joseph Seaton, has said their applications have not been processed or responded to, months after they were sent. They are “living in constant fear of their lives”, Seaton said.

Don’t miss this: one woman’s lifelong crusade against Hitler’s favourite film-maker

Nina Gladitz 70th birthday celebration dinner
Nina Gladitz celebrating her 70th birthday. Photograph: Kate Connolly

The documentary maker Nina Gladitz made it her life’s work to prove the complicity of Leni Riefenstahl in the horrors of nazism. As Hitler’s favourite film-maker, Riefenstahl worked as a propagandist during the Nazi era, producing films considered landmarks of early cinema. After the war ended, she tried to distance herself from the regime, saying she had only wanted to make beautiful art: “I don’t know what I should apologise for. All my films won the top prize.” Berlin correspondent Kate Connolly charts Gladitz’s “obsessive” efforts to hold Riefenstahl to account.

… or this: an Indian woman’s fight to reclaim her son after adoption without consent

Anupama and Ajith playing with their son Aiden, near their house in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
Chandran and Kumar playing with their baby son, Aiden, near their home in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Photograph: Jayesh Vijayan

After Anupama Chandran’s parents put her baby up for adoption without her consent, she began a hunger strike, sitting by the gates of the Kerala state secretariat in all weathers. Chandran, the daughter of a local communist leader, and who is upper-caste, faced anger from her parents after falling in love and having a child with Ajith Kumar, a man from India’s lowest caste. Hannah Ellis-Petersen, the Guardian’s south Asia correspondent, reports on how the couple defied the odds to get their baby back.

Last Thing: Botoxed camels barred from Saudi beauty contest

Camels line up at the 2020 annual King Abdulaziz camel festival in Saudi Arabia.
Camels competing for $66m in winnings at the 2020 annual King Abdulaziz camel festival in Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

More than 40 camels were disqualified from a beauty contest in Saudi Arabia after authorities ruled they had been given Botox injections and other cosmetic alternations. Artificial touch-ups are strictly prohibited at the King Abdulaziz camel festival, where camel breeders are invited to compete for about $66m in prize money.

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