BBC 2024-03-06 10:31:59


Super Tuesday: Trump and Biden sweep Super Tuesday, as Haley scores Vermont surprise

While it’s overwhelmingly likely Donald Trump will win the overall Republican nomination as more states cast their votes in the coming days, he could be in trouble when he goes head-to-head with Joe Biden.

Shannon Felton Spence from the Harvard University political think tank, The Belfer Centre, told the BBC this morning Republican voters are disenfranchised.

“[Donald Trump] is sweeping this primary election, but [Nikki Haley] is taking a large share of who should be, in theory, Donald Trump votes – sometimes 30%, sometimes 40%, and that spells trouble for him in the general election,” she told the Newsday programme.

“In a primary, he should be clearing states in the way that Biden is clearing states, which is 70%, 80%, 90%, and he is not,” she said.

Republican voter turnout has been “so incredibly low,” she added, that it’s clear that voters don’t want either candidate.

Key takeaways from Super Tuesday results

Super Tuesday wasn’t as super this year due to a slew of predictable results, but there were a few surprises and some warning signs for Donald Trump and Joe Biden ahead of their expected rematch in November.

Here are some of the key takeaways after millions of voters in 15 states and American Samoa chose their preferred party candidates for president.

Full steam ahead for Trump

He posted a dominant performance, with wins in states across the country. “They call it Super Tuesday for a reason,” Mr Trump told supporters in Florida. “This is a big one.”

Some of the victories were staggering in their size: a 70% margin in Alabama, 61% in Texas, some 70% of the vote in California.

The former president will walk away with a near-insurmountable lead in convention delegates, even if he will have to wait until next week to mathematically lock the Republican nomination.

Exit polls give some indication of why the former president won so big.

  • LIVE – results and analysis
  • Trump and Biden dominate Super Tuesday

In North Carolina, 43% of Republican primary voters said immigration was the most important issue for them – a topic that has been at the top of Mr Trump’s political agenda since he launched his first presidential bid in 2015. In Virginia, 64% said that they trusted Mr Trump over Nikki Haley on border security.

Those Virginia primary voters also said they wanted a candidate who shares their values and fights for people like them- qualities that tilt toward Trump – over temperament and electability.

Electability was one of Ms Haley’s central pitches to voters. It apparently fell flat.

But there were some alarm bells

Despite the big win, there were indications of continued disaffection with Mr Trump among some Republican primary voters.

In Virginia and North Carolina, Ms Haley continued to do well in counties with large numbers of young, suburban and college-educated voters – and some of their concerns registered in exit polls.

Forty percent of Republican primary voters in Virginia and 32% in North Carolina said that Mr Trump – who faces four criminal cases – would not be fit to be president if convicted of a crime.

Among North Carolina Haley voters, only 21% said they would vote for the Republican nominee “no matter who it is”.

Late on Tuesday night, the Haley campaign pointed to such results and issued a warning. “Today, in state after state, there remains a large bloc of Republican primary voters who are expressing deep concerns about Donald Trump,” a spokeswoman said.

Of course, opinions could change in the heat of the autumn general election campaign. Back in 2016, exit polls found that 75% of non-Trump voters in the Republican primary said they would be dissatisfied with Mr Trump as the eventual nominee.

But in the end, 90% of Republicans backed him against Hillary Clinton in the election.

Nikki Haley’s Vermont surprise

The former South Carolina governor chose not to hold a public event on the evening of Super Tuesday, perhaps reflecting the campaign’s belief that there would be little to celebrate from the day’s results.

She should have held a victory party in Vermont. Despite polls showing her trailing badly in the small north-eastern state, Ms Haley pulled out a narrow win there, her second victory of the primary season.

She campaigned in Burlington on Sunday alongside the state’s popular Republican governor, Phil Scott, who said Republicans, independents and Democrats should join together to stop Mr Trump.

  • Haley scores surprise Vermont victory over Trump
  • Voters views: ‘I wish younger candidates had a chance’

In Vermont it worked. In all the other Super Tuesday contests, however, there simply weren’t enough anti-Trump voters – even in states like Virginia that allow non-Republicans to vote in the party primary – to translate into wins or even narrow defeats.

Weeks ago, Ms Haley pledged to stay in the race until Super Tuesday, hoping to add to her delegate total. Tuesday’s results will do that, but not in any substantial amount.

Now the waiting game commences for when – and how – she will throw in the towel.

Earlier this week, she said she did not feel committed, despite an earlier pledge, to support Mr Trump if he is the party’s nominee.

Will she ultimately back the former president, despite her recent sharp criticisms? Is she angling for an independent presidential bid? With all the drama now stripped out of the nominating contests, the South Carolinian’s future is one of the few immediate sources of mystery.

More on the US election

  • Explained: A simple guide to the US 2024 election
  • Analysis: Where Biden v Trump will be won and lost
  • Policies: What a Trump second term would look like
  • Economy: Voters feel better – will that help Biden?
  • Recap: The Trump life story to date

Biden struggles to shake Gaza protest vote

In the Michigan primary last week, more than 100,000 voters – 12% of the total – turned out to cast ballots for “uncommitted” instead of the incumbent president, as part of an organised Gaza war protest.

That phenomenon reared its head again on Tuesday. In Minnesota, “uncommitted” garnered approximately 20% of the vote and topped that mark in the counties around Minneapolis, the state’s largest city.

In North Carolina, one of the few true general election battleground states on the Super Tuesday schedule, 12% of voters opted for “no preference”.

“Tonight’s numbers showed that President Biden cannot earn back our votes with just rhetoric,” said Vote Uncommitted MN spokesperson Asma Nizami. “Over 35,000 Minnesotans made it clear that Democrats want Joe Biden to change his policies.”

Pro-Palestinian groups are already targeting next week’s primary in Washington state, which has a sizeable left-wing activist population. If the Biden campaign was hoping that Michigan, with its large population of Arab-Americans, was the beginning and end of the anti-Biden protest vote, Tuesday will have been a rude awakening.

Anthony Zurcher offers his weekly take on the world of American politics:

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Haiti PM Ariel Henry in Puerto Rico as gang violence continues

Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry has landed in Puerto Rico after apparently being unable to return to his country.

According to local media, he arrived in the capital San Juan on Tuesday after flying from the US state of New Jersey.

For the past few days, Mr Henry’s whereabouts had been unknown following a visit to Kenya.

Violence in Haiti has spiralled in his absence – with armed gangs trying to take over the international airport to stop him from landing.

Their leader, Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, has demanded the prime minister stand down – warning that the country is headed “straight for a civil war that will lead to genocide” otherwise.

The fact that Mr Henry seems to have been turned away from the nation he leads is a sign of just how dysfunctional Haiti has become in recent days.

If it was not already, Haiti is now perilously close to becoming a failed state.

Ariel Henry’s plane was forced to divert to Puerto Rico – a US territory – after it was denied entry to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, local news sites reported.

The Dominican Republic on Tuesday announced it was closing its airspace with neighbouring Haiti, with which it shares the island of Hispaniola.

The country’s leader, Luis Abinader, recently said measures would be taken to ensure a level of “peace and control” was maintained at its land border.

Several reasons may explain why Mr Henry’s plane was not allowed to land in Haiti – it may simply have been procedural.

Since a state of emergency was imposed on Sunday, all flights have been cancelled until further notice and the airport in the capital Port-au-Prince is, in essence, closed.

The other reason may be for his own safety. Mr Henry would be a clear target for the gangs who are demanding that he step down, and his return at this point may simply be deemed more of a hinderance to the nation’s stability, than a help.

The wider fear for the prime minister and his supporters though, including in Washington, is that his failed attempt to return home only weakens him further.

It gives the impression that authorities beneath him are overruling his wish to get back onto Haitian soil. Instead, he is sitting in Puerto Rico from where he must figure out his next step as his country descends further into chaos.

  • Haiti country profile
  • How gangs came to dominate Haiti

Ariel Henry left Haiti last week to attend a regional summit in Guyana before travelling to Kenya, where he signed a deal on the deployment of a multinational police force to Haiti.

During his absence, a coalition of gangs led by Chérizier, a former police officer, went on the offensive – attacking police stations and storming two of Haiti’s biggest prisons. Around 4,000 inmates were able to escape.

Soldiers have been deployed to defend several of the country’s airports, including the Toussaint Louverture international airport in Port-au-Prince, and the city’s police academy has also been attacked by armed gang members.

According to the United Nations, some 15,000 people have been displaced in the latest flare up in violence.

Ariel Henry was sworn in, unelected, after Haiti’s President, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in 2021 by Colombian mercenaries.

Under a political deal, Haiti was supposed to hold elections and Mr Henry cede power by 7 February, but that did not happen.

It sparked protests as thousands took to the streets to demand he stick to the plan.

The assassination further fuelled gang violence in Haiti and left a power vacuum in the country – the poorest in the Western hemisphere.

Armed gangs, wielding weapons smuggled in from the US, have gained control of an estimated 80% of Port-au-Prince in recent years.

Mr Henry has asked the international community to send troops to help fight these gangs – but so far, none have arrived.

His recent visit to Kenya was to salvage a deal to deploy around 1,000 police officers to Haiti, after Kenya’s High Court blocked the plan in January.

The Bahamas and Benin have committed to sending troops, while Jamaica and the state of Antigua and Barbuda have said they are willing to help. The US has pledged £158m ($200m) to support the deployment.

Not only has Haiti been engulfed by widespread civil and political unrest, but its economy and public health system are also in tatters.

Haiti: The basics

  • Population: 11.5 million (estimate)
  • Area: 27,800 sq km (slightly smaller than Belgium, about the same size as the state of Maryland in the US)
  • Location: Caribbean country sharing a border with the Dominican Republic
  • Languages: French, Haitian Creole

The surprisingly complex history of the croissant

The croissant has been reimagined into a host of portmanteau pastries, from the cruffin to the Cronut. Now its latest iteration, the “crookie”, is taking Paris by storm.
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There may be nothing as prototypically Parisian as a croissant, with its crispy golden exterior and tender layers of buttery bliss within. But take a look in any bakery case from New York to Melbourne these days, and you’ll find the croissant has been contorted into a host of portmanteau pastries from the cruffin to the Cronut. Recently, Paris has even become home to its very own: a mashup of the croissant and the all-American chocolate chip cookie called the “crookie“.

Such creations may seem irreverent, especially given French gastronomy’s veneration of tradition. But given the complicated history of the country’s most emblematic baked good, these franken-pastries are not as blasphemous as one might think.

The croissant’s international origins hide in plain sight in any classic boulangerie (bakery). Neither pain (bread) nor pâtisserie (pastry), the croissant is technically a viennoiserie, a category of breakfast buns also home to the chocolate-stuffed pain au chocolat or chausson aux pommes, a “slipper” of puff pastry filled with apple compote. The category’s name is a testament to its origins, not in Paris, but rather in Vienna.

Armchair historians paint a pretty picture of the croissant’s birth during the Ottoman siege of the Austrian capital in 1683, and some even go so far as to give Marie Antoinette credit for bringing it to Paris. In reality, we have Vienna native August Zang to thank for the 1830’s arrival of the proto-croissant, which he introduced to Parisians at his rue de Richelieu bakery, Boulangerie Viennoise. His Viennese pains de fantaisie – literally “fantasy breads” – stood out from Parisian offerings at the time, thanks to new leavening technology relying on fast-acting beer yeast rather than sourdough starter and to frequent enriching with butter, eggs, sugar or milk.

Parisians went gaga over the results, inspiring no shortage of imitators, especially of the kipferl, a yeasted pastry crescent enriched with butter. But while this Viennese specialty may have resembled a croissant in shape, its texture was a far cry from the characteristic flakiness that sees most croissant-eaters’ chic scarves scattered with evidence of their breakfast.

A croissant is made using a technique called lamination, which sees a yeasted dough thrice “turned” or folded around sheets of butter, creating 27 layers of butter encased in 28 layers of dough. And laminating the croissant, according to Jim Chevallier, author of August Zang and the French Croissant, was a French idea, albeit by way of the Arab world, where lamination had already been in use since the 13th Century.

According to Patrick Rambourg, culinary historian and author of Histoire du Paris gastronomique: Du Moyen Age à nos jours (History of Gastronomic Paris: From the Middle Ages to Today), it wasn’t until the late 19th Century that the word croissant would systematically be used to describe a yeasted dough laminated on a marble slab and folded into a croissant– the French word for crescent.

The croissant is thus fairly new on the French culinary landscape – and it’s far from sacrosanct. Perhaps its most time-tested variation is the viennoiserie northern France dubs a pain au chocolat and southerners call a chocolatine: The dough wrapped around two bars of dark chocolate into a pillowy rectangle cannot justifiably be called a “chocolate croissant”.

Croissants ordinaires (left) and croissants au beurre (right) (Credit: Olha Afanasieva/Alamy; and Picture Partners/Alamy)

The word is nevertheless applied to other viennoiseries lacking the trademark curve. Croissants ordinaire (ordinary croissants) are characterized by their use of margarine, a cheaper, longer-lasting butter alternative invented in 1869 at the behest of Napoleon III. These days, most bakeries sell croissants ordinaires and croissants au beurre (butter croissants) side-by-side, with a price discrepancy of a few centimes and a slight difference in shape: To stand out from its vegetable fat-based brethren, the butter croissant is typically baked straight, looking less like a crescent than a rugby ball.

“Since a straight croissant is easier and quicker to make,” explained Dominique Anract, president of the Confédération Nationale de la Boulangerie et Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Française (French National Confederation of Baking and Pastry), “and since we make many more butter ones than ordinary ones, often we make the butter one straight and the curved one ordinary, so that people can recognise them. Because otherwise, you can’t tell just from looking.”

The confederation discerns France’s very best butter croissants with an annual contest, pitting victors from each of France’s 101 departments (administrative divisions grouping towns and communes) against one another first on the regional and then on the national stage. Lyon’s Alexis Douine from Boulangerie Henri Gay was the 2023 winner and is France’s reigning butter croissant champion.

The cruffin, a croissant-muffin hybrid, was created in Melbourne in 2013 (Credit: photo_chaz/Getty Images)

Until recently, these seemed to be the limits of the creativity one could take with croissants… at least in Paris. In 2013, French-born, New York-based Dominique Ansel invented perhaps the first portmanteau viennoiserie: his Cronut inspired exceedingly long lines of patrons eager to try the ever-changing flavours of this doughnut-croissant hybrid.

The world also welcomed its first cruffin in 2013 thanks to Melbourne’s Kate Reid of Lune Croissanterie. It wasn’t until 2022 that New York’s Lafayette Grand Café invented the “cromboloni” – a croissant-bomboloni (Italian pastry cream-filled doughnut) hybrid that attained viral status on TikTok.

Perhaps surprisingly, the appeal of these innovations was not lost on Parisians. The cromboloni, here dubbed le New York Roll, has made a significant splash, notably becoming a signature at Bo & Mie, where it’s seasoned with pistachio, key lime or rose and appears alongside croissants whose layered lamination produces colourful stripes evoking the flavour inside: pink for raspberry, brown for praline.

The French Bastards‘ six Parisian bakeries have become famous for their chocolate cruffin, with a chocolate laminated dough stuffed with dark chocolate ganache. At Boulangerie Utopie, the team led by co-founders Erwan Blanche and Sébastien Bruno have crafted a new viennoiserie every weekend since the bakery opened in 2014, departing from more established shapes to see croissant dough fashioned into the base of a tart-like viennoiserie stuffed with rice pudding and Buddha’s hand lemon curd or curved into a heart stuffed with apple, pink praline and vanilla cream.

The cromboloni, dubbed “le New York Roll”, has made a significant splash in Paris (Credit: Ika Rahma/Alamy)

“We do a flower quite regularly,” said Blanche of one of the more intricate forms such viennoiseries may take, with six whorls of pastry petals surrounding a heart typically filled with praline or fruit confit. “Praline-chocolate is a classic on that one, because there’s a graphic, visual side to it. And of course it’s very good, very moreish.”

And in October 2022, Paris became home to the crookie.

The idea, according to inventor Stéphane Louvard of Maison Louvard on Rue de Châteaudun, came about one Saturday morning, after he’d baked a particularly beautiful batch of croissants. “I thought to myself… you know what? Let’s have some fun.”

He split the croissants in half and stuffed them with chocolate chip cookie dough, rebaking them just enough so that the cookie set. They were a modest hit, with about 100 to 150 sold each day, until a TikTok influencer got wind of them in February 2024. Ever since, Louvard has been working overtime to keep up with the demand, fashioning 1,500 crookies a day – and 2,000 on Saturdays.

If the crookie has proven so popular, it’s not just down to the power of social media. Each crookie begins with a house-made croissant, whose dough takes three days to complete, allowing ample time for it to ferment and develop its fullest, richest flavour. Once baked, the croissants are left to age for just a few hours, long enough, Louvard explained, to be neatly sliced down the middle. Filled with 60g of cookie dough and topped with another 40g, they’re rebaked for 10 minutes, for an interior studded with chocolate that remains gooey long after the crookie has cooled. This, Louvard explained, is thanks to the chocolate from Xoco Gourmet, a producer cultivating terroir-driven cacao that’s roasted for half the time of industry standard and at a temperature 20% lower. The resulting chocolate is richly aromatic with no lingering bitterness; the Mayan Red 62% used in the crookie smells like confit fruit and tastes like heaven.

Croissants are filled and topped with chocolate chip cookie dough before they are baked (Credit: Emily Monaco)

The top-quality ingredients, know-how and time that go into each crookie contribute to its price of €5.90 (£4.65), more than triple that of a run-of-the-mill Parisian croissant. “It’s the price of a cookie plus a croissant,” said Louvard. “We don’t count the extra work or the second bake.”

The price hasn’t stopped people from traveling from far and wide to sample it. One young woman came all the way from Germany to get her hands on the delicacy, and even in the late winter rain, the queue snaked around the corner, much as it must have not quite two centuries ago, when August Zang first revolutionised Paris’ pastryscape.

Louvard still looked a bit incredulous at the crowds. “Every week, we say, ‘It’s going to calm down… right?'” he laughed. Not that he was complaining. Managing the increased demand isn’t easy. “But every day,” he said, “we do what we love.”

BBC.com’s World’s Table “smashes the kitchen ceiling” by changing the way the world thinks about food, through the past, present and future.

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Are rom coms making a comeback?

It’s been released on streaming platforms and only has a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes – yet movie-goers are still leaving home to see the mid-budget flick. Why?
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Anyone But You, the new film starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, is getting fans to the theatre. The film, a modernised take on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing from director Will Gluck, was released on 26 December 2023, and has been a slow-yet steady burn at the box office. After this past weekend, the little romantic comedy that could has earned £163m ($207m) globally, surging past The Marvels.

The movie follows Bea (Sweeney) and Ben (Powell), who find themselves forced together during a wedding after their extraordinary first date goes bad. Plot-wise, it’s nothing groundbreaking. Yet it has grabbed the attention of movie-goers – including Risa Bramon Garcia, a producer and casting director who worked on films such as True Romance, 200 Cigarettes, and shows like The Affair and Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. She tells BBC Culture that she intends to see the film largely because of its popularity in the zeitgeist right now. While plenty of people love “a good rom com”, she says, “this one in particular has taken hold” of movie-goer interest. 

Indeed, Anyone But You’s box office success is intriguing, especially because romantic comedies haven’t gotten people off the couch the way they once did in more than a decade. According to a 2023 Reuters report, the 1990s through 2000s was the “golden age” for romantic comedies – kicked off no doubt by 1989’s When Harry Met Sally. Films such as Sleepless in Seattle, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Notting Hill, to name a few, had movie-goers lined up at the box office window – with the 2002 flick My Big Fat Greek Wedding perhaps learning from its decade of successful 90s predecessors to become the highest grossing rom-com of all time at £290m ($368.7m).

While fans might remember the titles (and the funniest or most heartfelt lines) of the 90s and early-noughties golden age fondly, some female stars who were known for their rom-com performances, felt betrayed by the way their films were ultimately viewed. In a 2022 interview with the New York Times, Sandra Bullock, who starred in films such as Miss Congeniality and While You Were Sleeping, revealed that she stopped making rom-coms on purpose because she felt they were “undervalued”. She was being type-cast into the roles, she said, while men who made rom coms weren’t subjected to the same fate. 

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“Anytime someone said ‘chick flick’ or ‘rom-com’, it was just disparaging,” Bullock told the Times. “I think when everything swung toward the very masculine action-adventure, women got relegated to the arm piece, or the damsel in distress. Then, when rom-coms came back in it was always like, ‘Oh, we’ll let the women come back in, but it’s going to be this formula that we like, and it can’t be too edgy.” 

At a time when Hollywood was increasingly betting on $200-plus million blockbusters with hopes of a billion-dollar gross (and a cinematic universe) – or, on the other end, a smaller-scale ‘prestige’ movie that might win a Best Picture Oscar – rom-coms were uniquely devalued in the marketplace – Scott Meslow

While some erstwhile romantic comedy stars began choosing different roles, by 2010, another sea change was evident: movie-goers weren’t shelling out for tickets to rom coms. Interest had fallen, and Hollywood producers started to bet, instead, on superhero action films. 

Scott Meslow, film critic and author of From Hollywood with Love: The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of the Romantic Comedy tells BBC Culture that while there has “always been an audience for rom coms”, mid-budget films faded out. “At a time when Hollywood was increasingly betting on $200-plus million blockbusters with hopes of a billion-dollar gross (and a cinematic universe) – or, on the other end, a smaller-scale ‘prestige’ movie that might win a Best Picture Oscar – rom-coms were uniquely devalued in the marketplace.” 

Now, Anyone But You’s box office success has critics wondering if rom coms are coming back in full force. After all, the film didn’t have a big budget – £19.7m ($25m) as opposed to the Marvels £190m ($240m). It didn’t have special effects, superheroes or even the draw of tropical scenery. Plus, it’s already been released to stream on AppleTV and Amazon Prime, and it only has a 54% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – solidly mediocre. And yet.

A TikTok trend, featuring the Natasha Bedingfield song Unwritten, may have heightened interest in Anyone But You (Credit: Sony Pictures)

The film does star Sydney Sweeney, however, who also appeared in two massively successful series, Euphoria and White Lotus – both of which earned her Emmy nominations. After photos of Sweeney and Powell together went viral, fans theorised that the co-stars were dating. The actors have maintained that they aren’t together, and Sweeney joked about the rumour in her Saturday Night Live monologue over the weekend. 

Meslow, for one, thinks the idea of the leads also having an offscreen romance likely helped the film, but posits that its popularity has been “largely been due to Gen Z moviegoers” – an entire generation whom “Hollywood has never seriously courted as a rom-com audience” before. 

“Those Gen-Z moviegoers really found Anyone But You as a word-of-mouth hit, and it’s definitely worth noting that the movie’s slow-burn success is due, in no small part, to a viral TikTok trend built around the Natasha Bedingfield song Unwritten, which features heavily in the movie’s plot.” The TikTok trend Meslow is referring to has users capturing their vibe after seeing the film. Even Bedingfield herself got in on it, posting her own TikTok mashup.

Anyone But You’s continued success even months after its theatrical debut may signify that audiences – particularly Gen Z – are yearning for a new “golden age” and the next Notting Hill. And Hollywood is paying close attention. 

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