French far-right leader Bardella slams Mbappe on election comments

French far-right leader Bardella slams Mbappe on election comments
French far right leader Marine Le Pen celebrates with newly elected leader of the National Rally president Jordan Bardella during the party congress in Paris in 2022. Bardella criticised star footballer Kylian Mbappe for calling on the youth to vote against the "extremes" in parliamentary elections (AP/File)
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Updated 18 June 2024
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French far-right leader Bardella slams Mbappe on election comments

French far-right leader Bardella slams Mbappe on election comments
  • “We must respect the French, we must respect everyone’s vote,” Bardella told CNews TV
  • Forward Marcus Thuram had earlier urged people to “fight daily” to prevent Bardella’s National Rally (RN) from gaining power

PARIS: French far-right leader Jordan Bardella criticized star footballer Kylian Mbappe on Tuesday for his call on the youth to vote against the “extremes” in parliamentary elections this month.
“I have a lot of respect for our footballers, whether Marcus Thuram or Kylian Mbappe, who are icons of football and icons for youth ... But we must respect the French, we must respect everyone’s vote,” Bardella told CNews TV.
“When you’re lucky enough to have a very, very big salary, when you are a multi-millionaire ... then I’m a little embarrassed to see these athletes ... give lessons to people who can no longer make ends meet, who no longer feel safe, who do not have the chance to live in neighborhoods overprotected by security agents,” he said.
France captain Mbappe, who is hugely popular, said on Sunday, during a press conference on the eve of France’s opening match at Euro 2024 that “the extremes are knocking at the doors of power.”
Forward Marcus Thuram had earlier urged people to “fight daily” to prevent Bardella’s National Rally (RN) from gaining power.
Mbappe did not name the RN but said he supported the same values and position as Thuram.
“Kylian Mbappe is against extreme views and against ideas that divide people. I want to be proud to represent France, I don’t want to represent a country that doesn’t correspond to my values, or our values,” Mbappe said.
That call resonated with some youths in Mbappe’s old neighborhood, an underprivileged Paris suburb, but was immediately criticized by the RN.
Bardella was speaking a day after France won its Euro 2024 opening match in which Mbappe suffered a broken nose.
Bardella’s euroskeptic, anti-immigration party has its first real chance of winning national power in the June 30 and July 7 ballot. Opinion polls have consistently placed the RN first since President Emmanuel Macron’s shock decision this month to dissolve parliament.
Meanwhile, French Football Federation President Philippe Diallo told a press conference at the team’s camp in Germany that players were free to express their opinion. He urged political parties not to use these comments to their benefit.


Trump gunman Thomas Crooks leaves behind pile of mysteries

Trump gunman Thomas Crooks leaves behind pile of mysteries
Updated 17 sec ago
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Trump gunman Thomas Crooks leaves behind pile of mysteries

Trump gunman Thomas Crooks leaves behind pile of mysteries
  • An FBI review of Crooks’ phone found he had searched for images of both President Joe Biden and Trump, and other famous figures in the days before the shooting, New York Times reports

BUTLER, Pennsylvania: Thomas Crooks was pacing next to a warehouse building outside the Butler Farm Show grounds as a crowd gathered for one of former President Donald Trump’s signature outdoor rallies.
Crooks had already been flagged as suspicious by law enforcement. By the time two police officers walked over to check him out, he was on the roof, belly crawling.
“He’s got a gun,” a bystander yelled.
One officer hoisted the other to the lip of the roof. As the officer pulled his head over the edge, a long-haired young man wearing glasses turned toward him, wielding an AR-15 -style rifle. The officer dropped back to the ground, the Butler County sheriff told Reuters.
Crooks, an introverted 20-year-old computer whiz who had just earned a spot at a college engineering program, turned back to his target about 400 feet away. He squeezed off several shots at Trump, clipping the former president’s ear, killing an audience member and wounding two others before Secret Service snipers on a nearby building killed him with counterfire.
This account of the first assassination attempt to injure a US president since 1981 is based on interviews with more than two dozen people, including law enforcement officials, Crooks’ school associates and witnesses who attended the rally, along with public records and news accounts.
Crooks fired his rifle at approximately 6:10 pm, according to a Reuters photographer at the rally. Trump winced and grabbed his right ear. Secret Service agents tackled the former president and some supporters dived for cover. A bullet hit what appeared to be the hydraulic line of a forklift that held a bank of speakers to the right side of the stage. Fluid spewed across the crowd and the lift’s arm collapsed. To the left, screams erupted where a spectator had been fatally shot.

As Secret Service agents tackled the former president, some supporters scrambled for safety. Others grabbed children and hustled toward the gates.
“The audience wasn’t like what you’d expect out of a crowd that just experienced something like this,” said Saurabh Sharma, a Trump supporter sitting near the front. “Everyone was really quiet. There were a few women crying. They were, you know, saying, ‘I can’t believe they tried to kill him’.”
Four days after the assassination attempt, a coherent picture of the moments before the shooting was emerging. But Crooks’ ideology and reasons for pulling the trigger remained a mystery.
A review of Crooks’ phone by the Federal Bureau of Investigation found he had searched for images of both President Joe Biden and Trump, as well as other famous figures, in the days before the shooting, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing US lawmakers briefed on the law enforcement investigation.
Crooks had been searching for the dates of Trump’s public appearances and of the Democratic National Convention, the report said. He had also looked up “major depressive disorder” on his phone, the Times said. Reuters was unable to independently confirm the report.
The shooting comes amid a years-long rise of political violence and threats in the US When that violence turns deadly, it has been more likely to be perpetrated by people on the American right, according to a Reuters analysis published last year. But the ideological motivation behind Saturday’s attack remains unclear.

Politically divided town

Crooks seemed to have a bright future, said two people who knew him at the Community College of Allegheny County, where he graduated in May with a two-year associate’s degree in engineering.
One college instructor told Reuters that she had gone back through his assignments this week, bewildered that the conscientious student who distinguished himself by going “above and beyond” could have turned murderous.
The instructor, who declined to be identified, said his homework responses were thoughtful and his emails polite. He excelled at an assignment to redesign a toy for people with disabilities. “He did a chess set for the blind. He 3D-printed it. He put the Braille on it. He talked to experts in the field,” she recalled. “He really took a lot of care.”
Crooks made less of an impression on classmates. Samuel Strotman, also enrolled in CCAC’s engineering program, took two online classes with Crooks. Strotman said Crooks never spoke in the lectures and had his camera turned off.
A college employee who knew Crooks said he was quiet but pleasant. “It’s just very, very, very unexpected,” the employee said. Crooks had seemed interested in pursuing a career in mechanical engineering, the employee said.
The college closed its engineering program on June 30. Crooks was planning to continue his engineering education at nearby Robert Morris University, that school confirmed.
Most recently, he worked as a dietary aide at a nursing home, where he “performed his job without concern,” the center said. The job was down the street from his home in Bethel Park, a middle-class suburb of Pittsburgh, where he had lived in a modest brick home with his parents and older sister.
At Bethel Park High School, where he graduated in 2022, he kept a low profile, according to classmates. One former classmate told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Crooks expressed conservative views in a history class where other students leaned liberal. Others said his views were never apparent. His photo was missing in his senior yearbook, with his name listed under “not pictured.” He enjoyed gaming and building computers, a classmate told Reuters.
Crooks’ town, Bethel Park, is divided almost down America’s political middle. In the 2020 election, Trump eked out a 65-vote margin in the borough of about 33,000 people, results show.
The political split showed up in the Crooks household. Thomas was a registered Republican. His father is a Libertarian and his mother is a Democrat, voter registration records show. Both are social workers. When Crooks was 17, he made a $15 donation to a political action committee earmarked for a Democratic turnout group, according to federal election data.
His school counselor Jim Knapp, who retired in 2022, said Crooks rarely came across his radar because he wasn’t a “needy type kid.” Knapp occasionally checked on him at lunch because he was sitting alone. “I’d say, ‘Do you want to sit with somebody?’ And he’d say, ‘No, I’m okay by myself,’” Knapp recalled.
Former high-school classmate Max Rich said Crooks was shy and “never seemed like the type” to commit such violence. He left virtually no digital footprint. He spent time on Discord, a gaming platform, but the company said it found “no evidence that it was used to plan this incident, promote violence, or discuss his political views.”
Crooks was a member of the local Clairton Sportsmen’s Club, a gun club. He was wearing a shirt advertising “Demolition Ranch,” a YouTube channel for firearms enthusiasts, when he was killed. After the shooting, Matt Carriker, a Texas veterinarian who runs the Demolition Ranch channel, posted a video on X saying he was “shocked and confused” to learn that Crooks was wearing his channel’s merchandise. “We keep politics out of it,” he said, adding that he did not know and had never met or communicated with Crooks.

Homemade bombs & ammunition

Crooks appeared to spend at least some time preparing for the Trump event. He bought ammunition on the day of the rally, stopping at a gun store in his hometown of Bethel Park to pick up 50 rounds, according to a joint bulletin issued this week by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is leading the investigation.
He built three homemade bombs – two found in his car and another in his home, according to the bulletin, which was reviewed by Reuters. In the preceding months, the bulletin noted, Crooks had received “multiple packages, including some marked as possibly containing hazardous material.”

An Allegheny County Police Department Bomb Squad vehicle makes its way to the home of assassination suspect Thomas Matthew Crooks on July 14, 2024. Police said three homemade bombs were found – two in his car and another in his home. (Reuters)

At the rally, Crooks caught the attention of local law enforcement while pacing around the grounds before Trump took the stage. One officer called in a report of a suspicious person and snapped a photo that was distributed electronically to other officers at the scene, according to Butler County Sheriff Michael Slupe, a Trump backer who was seated near the front of the rally as a special guest.
As two Butler Township Police officers responded to the call, people in the crowd already had noticed a man on the roof. Some yelled that he had a gun, according to crowd-shot video reviewed by Reuters. Slupe told Reuters the officer who initially pulled himself onto the roof had no time to unholster his gun when Crooks turned on him, leaving him no option but to drop back to the ground.
Secret Service officials have said their agency is responsible for securing the area within the event’s security perimeter; the building used by Crooks was just outside it. But some former agency officials and other security experts have disputed that contention, arguing that buildings with a direct sight line and within firing range of the former president should have been swept and under constant surveillance by the service’s sniper teams.
Local officials have bristled at any suggestions that town or county law enforcement was responsible for securing the building.
“The Butler Township Police Department had no security detail for this event,” Butler Township commissioner Edward Natali wrote in a Tuesday post on Facebook, noting that the township had seven officers on site solely for traffic duty. Even though the officer who confronted Crooks on the roof had to fall back, he added, the encounter “most likely forced the shooter to hurry his shots.”


Russia set to resume trial of US reporter Evan Gershkovich

Russia set to resume trial of US reporter Evan Gershkovich
Updated 18 July 2024
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Russia set to resume trial of US reporter Evan Gershkovich

Russia set to resume trial of US reporter Evan Gershkovich

YEKATERINBURG, Russia: US reporter Evan Gershkovich is set to appear in a Russian court on Thursday for the second hearing of his trial for espionage, a charge that his employer and the White House have labelled a sham.

The 32-year-old became the first Western journalist in Russia to be charged with spying since the Soviet era when he was detained in March 2023 on a reporting trip to the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

He has spent almost 16 months in Russian detention and faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years if found guilty.

The trial is scheduled to resume behind closed doors in Yekaterinburg’s Sverdlovsk Regional Court at 11:00 am (0600 GMT), almost a month earlier than expected at the request of his defense team.

Moscow and Washington have both said they are open to exchanging the Wall Street Journal reporter in a deal, but neither side has given clues as to when this might be.

The Kremlin has provided no public evidence for the spying allegations against Gershkovich, saying only that he was caught “red-handed” and was working for the US Central Intelligence Agency.

Prosecutors accuse him of spying on Russian tank maker Uralvagonzavod.

Washington has said the claims are fabricated, and a United Nations expert panel declared in July that he was being held arbitrarily.

His last public appearance in court was on June 26, when he spoke only briefly to greet journalists and his head was fully shaven.

The Russian penitentiary service refused to disclose to AFP where he would be held after the proceedings or why his hair had been cut.

Raised in New Jersey and a fluent Russian speaker, Gershkovich had reported from Russia for six years.

He carried on visiting the country on journalistic trips even after dozens of other Western reporters left in the wake of Russia’s Ukraine offensive and the introduction of strict military censorship laws.

In 2017, he moved to the Russian capital to work for an English-language newspaper, The Moscow Times, where he produced some of the outlet’s biggest stories on a shoestring budget.

He then worked for AFP before becoming a Moscow correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, weeks before the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine.

In the role, he covered how the conflict affected ordinary Russians, including by speaking to the families of dead soldiers.

There has been a major campaign to release Gershkovich, who spent almost 15 months in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison following his arrest.

“He is managing the best way he can,” his mother, Ella Milman, told The Wall Street Journal in March.

Russia holds other American citizens in its jails, including marine Paul Whelan, in prison for more than five years on spying charges, and US-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, who was detained last year while visiting family.

The White House has warned US citizens still in the country to “depart immediately” due to the risk of wrongful arrest.


Kenya police patrol Haiti capital after more forces arrive

Kenya police patrol Haiti capital after more forces arrive
Updated 18 July 2024
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Kenya police patrol Haiti capital after more forces arrive

Kenya police patrol Haiti capital after more forces arrive

PORT-AU-PRINCE: Kenyan police patrolled Haiti’s capital in armored vehicles Wednesday, a day after the arrival of 200 additional personnel from the African country as part of a multinational security mission, local officials said.

The vehicles patrolled the area around the National Palace and other parts of Port-au-Prince with Kenyan forces and Haitian police on board, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity and did not provide details about the objectives of the operation.

Several bangs were heard as the vehicles passed by, according to an AFP journalist, although it was unclear if they were shots fired by police or the armed gangs who control some 80 percent of the capital.

Kenya stepped up last year to lead the long-sought international force to help Haiti tackle its soaring insecurity.

The UN-approved mission, with an initial duration of one year, will total 2,500 personnel from countries also including Bangladesh, Benin, Chad, the Bahamas and Barbados.

Kenya has now sent around 400 personnel to Haiti — 200 on June 25 and 200 on Tuesday — with promises of another 600 in the coming weeks.

The United States has ruled out sending forces, but is contributing funding and logistical support to the mission.

Haiti has long been rocked by gang violence, but conditions sharply worsened at the end of February when armed groups launched coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince, saying they wanted to overthrow then-prime minister Ariel Henry.

The violence in Port-au-Prince has affected food security and humanitarian aid access, with much of the city in the hands of gangs accused of abuses including murder, rape, looting and kidnappings.


Prominent Democrat Schiff calls for Biden to withdraw, but party aims to nominate before convention

Prominent Democrat Schiff calls for Biden to withdraw, but party aims to nominate before convention
Updated 18 July 2024
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Prominent Democrat Schiff calls for Biden to withdraw, but party aims to nominate before convention

Prominent Democrat Schiff calls for Biden to withdraw, but party aims to nominate before convention
  • The Democratic convention runs in person from Aug. 19-22, but the party announced in May that it would hold an early roll call to ensure Biden would qualify for the ballot in Ohio

WASHINGTON: California Rep. Adam Schiff on Wednesday became the highest-profile Democrat to call for President Joe Biden to drop his reelection bid, even as the party pushed ahead with plans for a virtual vote to formally make Biden its nominee in the first week of August.
The move to schedule the roll call, which would come weeks before the Democratic National Convention opens in Chicago on Aug. 19, follows nearly 20 Democratic members of Congress calling on Biden to withdraw from the presidential race in the wake of his dismal debate performance against Republican former President Donald Trump last month.
Late in the evening, ABC News reported new details about Biden’s private meeting over the weekend with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at his beach home in Delaware. It said Schumer told the president it would be “better for the Democratic party, and better for the country if he were to bow out.”
A Schumer spokesperson called the report “idle speculation. Leader Schumer conveyed the views of his caucus directly to President Biden on Saturday.”
Among Democrats nationwide, nearly two-thirds say Biden should step aside and let his party nominate a different candidate, according to a new AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll — sharply undercutting Biden’s post-debate claim that “average Democrats” are still with him even if some “big names” are turning on him.
Biden tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling Wednesday in Las Vegas and is experiencing “mild symptoms” including “general malaise” from the infection, the White House said.
“While the choice to withdraw from the campaign is President Biden’s alone, I believe it is time for him to pass the torch,” Schiff said in a statement. “And in doing so, secure his legacy of leadership by allowing us to defeat Donald Trump in the upcoming election.”
Schiff is a prominent Democrat on his own, and his statement will also be watched because of his proximity to Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi.
It was Pelosi who revived questions about Biden post-debate, when she said recently that “it’s up to the president” to decide what to do — even though Biden had fully stated he had no intention of stepping aside. The former House speaker publicly supports the president, but has fielded calls from Democrats since debate night questioning what’s next.
In response to Schiff’s comments, the Biden campaign pointed to what it called “extensive support” for him and his reelection bid from members of Congress in key swing states, as well as from the Congressional Black and Hispanic caucuses. Biden is traveling in Nevada this week, and the campaign noted that he’s been joined on the trip by “nearly a dozen” Congressional Black Caucus members.
Still, Schiff’s announcement came after Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries encouraged the party to delay for a week plans to hold the virtual vote to renominate Biden, which could have taken place as soon as Sunday, according to two people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
The Democratic National Committee’ s rulemaking arm is set to meet on Friday to discuss how the virtual vote plans will work and to finalize them next week.
“We will not be implementing a rushed virtual voting process, though we will begin our important consideration of how a virtual voting process would work,” Bishop Leah D. Daughtry and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, co-chairs of the rules committee for the Democratic National Convention wrote in a letter Wednesday.
The letter also said that the virtual roll call vote won’t take place before Aug. 1, but that the party is still committed to holding a vote before Aug. 7, which had been the filing deadline to get on Ohio’s presidential ballot.
The Democratic convention runs in person from Aug. 19-22, but the party announced in May that it would hold an early roll call to ensure Biden would qualify for the ballot in Ohio. That state originally had an Aug. 7 deadline but has since changed its rules.
The Biden campaign insists that the party must operate under Ohio’s initial rules to ensure Republican lawmakers can’t mount legal challenges to keep the president off the ballot.
Sen. Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat who wrote last week that Biden should leave the race “for the good of the country,” applauded the decision to move back setting a date.
“No shortcuts, no end around,” he said. “This process shouldn’t be rushed.”
Even if Democrats conduct a virtual roll call vote ahead of their convention, meanwhile, it wouldn’t necessarily lock Biden into the nomination. The DNC rulemaking arm could vote to hold an in-person roll call in Chicago, said Elaine Kamarck, a longtime member of the party’s rules committee and expert on the party’s nominating process. But since the Ohio law doesn’t go into effect until Sept. 1, Biden appearing on the state’s ballot remains a real concern, Kamarck said.
“This is a failsafe for the Democrats,” Kamarck said, adding that “the convention is the highest authority” in the nominating process.
The AP-NORC poll, conducted as Biden works to salvage his candidacy two weeks after his debate flop, also found that only about 3 in 10 Democrats are extremely or very confident that he has the mental capability to serve effectively as president, down slightly from 40 percent in an AP-NORC poll in February.
The letter from Daughtry and Walz follows a contingent of House Democrats wary of swiftly nominating Biden as the party’s pick for reelection circulated another letter raising “serious concerns” about plans for a virtual roll call. Their letter to theDNC, which has not been sent, says it would be a “terrible idea” to stifle debate about the party’s nominee with the early roll call vote.
“It could deeply undermine the morale and unity of Democrats,” said the letter obtained by the AP.
A spokesperson said that Huffman was pleased with the decision to delay and would hold off sending the letter from House Democrats as they continue monitoring the situation.


UK’s Starmer uses European forum to press for EU reset, Ukraine support

UK’s Starmer uses European forum to press for EU reset, Ukraine support
Updated 18 July 2024
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UK’s Starmer uses European forum to press for EU reset, Ukraine support

UK’s Starmer uses European forum to press for EU reset, Ukraine support
  • “This meeting of European leaders is an opportunity to push on and begin delivering on the people’s priorities,” Starmer said

LONDON: Prime Minister Keir Starmer will use his role as host of a European forum on Thursday to press his desire to reset Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with the European Union and to reaffirm support for Ukraine.
Two weeks after winning a large majority in an election and fresh from his first international trip to NATO in Washington as prime minister, Starmer hosts the European Political Community (EPC) of more than 40 nations at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, to build cooperation on border security.
The one-day meeting of a group set up after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 provides Britain’s new leader another opportunity to push for closer defense cooperation especially before the possible election of Donald Trump who suggests that Europe must do more to protect its own security.
“We cannot let the challenges of the recent past define our relationships of the future. That is why European security will be at the forefront of this government’s foreign and defense priorities, and why I am focused on seizing this moment to renew our relationship with Europe,” Starmer said in a statement.
“The EPC will fire the starting gun on this government’s new approach to Europe, one that will not just benefit us now, but for generations to come.”
Starmer has been determined to reset EU ties after the 2016 vote to leave the bloc created years of rancour. He has said he does not see Britain rejoining the single market or customs union in his lifetime.
A decision by his predecessor Rishi Sunak to call an early election means Starmer can use NATO and the EPC to advance early talks.
Officials stress that the talks are very much in their infancy, and the ultimate goal of negotiating a security pact, covering a broad range of areas such as energy, supply chains, pandemics and migration will come much later in negotiations when the EU has been clear there will be no “cherry picking.”
But the EPC offers Starmer, flanked by foreign minister David Lammy and Nick Thomas-Symonds, his minister for EU relations, another chance to hold meetings in numbers it would normally take a new government months to set up.
In Washington, defense minister John Healey said the Labour team there had “met and talked with every one of the 32 member (NATO) nations, Ukraine of course ... and the Indo Pacific four nations that are here as well.”

MIGRATION AND MOLDOVA
At Blenheim Palace, the leaders, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, are expected to not only express renewed support for Kyiv but also to discuss energy security, safeguarding democracy and migration.
Some critics say the EPC is little more than a talking shop, often offering no firm agreements, but others say its informal nature encourages wider conversations, which one German government source said strengthens “geopolitical cohesion between the EU and third countries in the region.”
A French official said London wanted the EPC to call for action against the Russian shadow fleet of tankers, which avoid sanctions, by closing the loopholes, while Moldova, which borders Ukraine, and France would work on cooperation to fight against foreign interference.
Starmer would take part in the migration working group and the Moldova Group to underline the country’s sovereignty and democracy in the face of Russian interference. He will also champion a move to deploy staff to a new rapid returns unit to take control of national borders.
But perhaps most important to Starmer is the development of personal relationships with other leaders, something he says is essential to the way he works to get the best results.
He hosted Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris at his country residence Chequers on Wednesday and will entertain French President Emmanuel Macron over dinner on Thursday. He will also have a number of bilateral meetings, including with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
“This meeting of European leaders is an opportunity to push on and begin delivering on the people’s priorities,” Starmer said.