The Guardian 2024-06-10 18:01:54


The health ministry in Gaza has issued new casualty figures, claiming that 37,124 Palestinians have been killed during Israel’s military campaign, with 84,712 injured.

The claims have not been independently verified. It has not been possible for journalists to verify casualty figures being issued during the conflict.

US-made Gaza pier resumes aid shipments after storm damage

Repairs complete but security concerns after Israeli operation to free hostages mean food has not yet been distributed

Humanitarian assistance has begun to come ashore in Gaza from a US-made pier once more, two weeks after the short-lived sea corridor was suspended due to storm damage, but security concerns after one of the bloodiest days of the war meant the aid was not distributed.

The head of the World Food Programme (WFP), Cindy McCain, said the food distribution from the pier had been “paused” because she was “concerned about the safety of our people”. An Israeli military operation on Saturday freed four hostages but killed 274 Palestinians and left one Israeli commando dead. McCain said two of WFP’s warehouses in Gaza had also been rocketed and a staffer injured.

The suspension of WFP operations across Gaza is the latest in a string of obstacles that have dogged efforts to open a maritime aid corridor. The repaired pier had just been reattached to the Gaza coast on Friday after having been seriously damaged by a storm on 25 May. It had been operating for just five days before that.

After repairs in the Israeli port of Ashdod, it was floated back to the Gaza coast and on Saturday, 492 tonnes of food were unloaded from US naval vessels, the US Agency for International Development (USAid) said. That is roughly 30 truckloads, a 20th of what aid workers say is needed each day to contain the famine that has spread across Gaza.

USAid said it was working to restore distribution of the aid arriving at the pier.

“USAid remains in close contact with our colleagues from across the US government and humanitarian partners on the ground to ensure that aid can safely and effectively resume movement following completion of the security review that the humanitarian community is currently undertaking,” a USAID spokesperson said.

Since Joe Biden first announced on 7 March that the US military would build a pier and deliver aid by ship from Cyprus, humanitarian officials have expressed concern that the telegenic drama of the US operation, which costs $230m according to revised Pentagon estimates, would distract attention from the need for the international community to pressure Israel to open all land crossings – a far more efficient and cheaper means of delivering aid – and to improve distribution around Gaza.

The pier is only made to operate in conditions up to sea state 3, with waves up to 1.25 metres, and was intended as no more than a temporary complement to land crossings with a lifespan of three or four months before the sea becomes too choppy.

“Historically, by early September, the seas begin to rise and Mother Nature gets a vote here,” Vice-Admiral Brad Cooper, deputy head of US Central Command, said. “I think we’re just going to have to see what the weather looks like going forward.”

Meanwhile, the severity of the famine in northern Gaza has receded slightly, aid officials said, with a moderate increase in the number of trucks crossing through the West Erez crossing, on Gaza’s northern border near the coast and an Israeli base and kibbutz at Zikim. A total of 190 trucks crossed in the first five days in June. However, the situation there remained grave, according to aid agencies.

“Since 20 May, we have increased deliveries to the north of Gaza via the Zikim corridor resulting in modest improvements in the north,” a World Food Programme official said. “However, there are no fresh vegetables, and when available, the quality is very poor and prices are exorbitant.”

The most lethal conditions are now in southern Gaza, after more than a million people who had been sheltering in the southernmost city of Rafah were forced to flee by the Israeli offensive. The newly displaced population are now in makeshift camps, hard or impossible to reach from the southern crossing points at Rafah, on the Egyptian border, and Keren Shalom in southern Israel, which were the main access points for humanitarian deliveries until the Rafah offensive began a month ago.

Rafah crossing is now under Israeli military control and closed to traffic. Keren Shalom is functioning, with 764 trucks crossing so far in June, but only a fraction of those deliveries are reaching people in need because of the dangers of attempting aid distribution in such an active war zone.

“Conditions in the south are rapidly deteriorating,” a US official said. “The population displaced from Rafah are being displaced to places where there is absolutely no infrastructure. The humanitarian community has also lost a lot of access to warehouses and distribution points in and around Rafah because of the increased fighting and then the Rafah closure.

“More trucks are crossing, but it is now harder to distribute, particularly in the south, because the insecurity is so bad,” the official said.

Biden had threatened he would refuse to provide weapons for a Israeli offensive on Rafah in the absence of an adequate humanitarian plan, but US arms supplies to Israel have continued to flow.

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Moderate politician Benny Gantz resigns from Israeli war cabinet

Move does not immediately pose a threat to Benjamin Netanyahu, but PM will now be more reliant on far-right allies

The Israeli politician and former military chief Benny Gantz has followed through on a threat to resign from Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency war cabinet, leaving the prime minister more reliant than ever on far-right elements of his coalition government.

Gantz, a major Netanyahu rival, former defence minister and leader of the centre-right National Unity party, joined the three-man war cabinet as a minister without portfolio in the aftermath of Hamas’s 7 October attack, a move he said was for the sake of the country’s unity.

But as Israel’s war effort in Gaza dragged on, disagreements over strategy and how best to bring the 250 Israeli hostages home spilled into the open, culminating in Gantz accusing the prime minister of pushing strategic considerations such as a hostage deal aside for his own political survival. Last month, he gave Netanyahu an ultimatum of 8 June to present concrete “day after” plans for the Gaza Strip.

Gantz delayed his resignation speech by a day after the unexpected rescue of four Israeli hostages in an operation that the health ministry in Gaza said killed 274 people and injured another 696. The withdrawal of his party also means Gadi Eisenkot, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) general and war cabinet observer, and the minister without portfolio, Chili Tropper, are also stepping down.

“Netanyahu is preventing us from progressing towards a true victory,” Gantz said in a televised address on Sunday night. “For this reason we are leaving the emergency government today, with a heavy heart, yet wholeheartedly.”

Gantz also called on Netanyahu to set a date for elections, adding: “Do not let our nation tear apart.”

The move does not immediately pose a threat to Netanyahu, as the prime minister still controls a majority coalition in parliament. It does, however, affect the Israeli government’s respectability on the international stage; centrist Gantz is well liked in Washington, where he was seen as a useful brake on Netanyahu, and his absence means the prime minister’s far-right allies are likely to now have more sway over the trajectory of the war in Gaza and the growing threat of war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Bezalel Smotrich, the far-right finance minister, slammed Gantz, saying “there is no less stately act than resigning from a government in time of war” as “the kidnapped are still dying in the Hamas tunnels”, and the extremist national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has already asked Netanyahu for Gantz’s seat on the war cabinet. Both ministers have repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the coalition if Israel makes any concessions to Hamas in a hostage and ceasefire deal.

Netanyahu took to X in the wake of Gantz’s announcement, saying that this is the time to “join forces” rather than quit.

Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, said: “Gantz and Eisenkot’s decision to leave the failed government is important and correct.

“The time has come to replace this extreme and reckless government with a sane government that will lead to the return of security to the citizens of Israel, to the return of the abducted, to the restoration of Israel’s economy and international status,” he added.

Netanyahu and his defence minister, Yoav Gallant, are the only two remaining members of the war cabinet, and also often do not see eye to eye. The prime minister is now said to be considering shuttering the war cabinet and reverting to a former model in which security issues are first discussed in a limited forum before being presented to regular cabinet meetings, in which he seeks ministerial approval.

The longtime prime minister, facing corruption charges as well as scrutiny over the security failures that led to 7 October, is widely believed to see staying in office as his best chance of escaping prosecution. He also needs to parry an internal challenge from the two ultra-Orthodox parties in his coalition over the issue of military conscription.

Like many top Israeli commanders, Gantz, 65, entered politics in 2018 after a career in the military, announcing a new party with the explicit goal of ending Netanyahu’s grip on Israeli politics. He had been viewed as a favourite to lead a new coalition in the event that the government collapses and early elections are called, although he has slipped in the polls in recent months.

His National Union party submitted a bill last week to dissolve parliament and hold early elections.

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Belgium headed for new government as PM set to resign after general election

The governing coalition of Alexander De Croo lost its ability to form a majority – while an expected surge for far right Vlaams Belang failed to materialise

Belgium is heading for a new government after a general election in which an expected surge for the far right party Vlaams Belang failed to materialise and the outgoing governing coalition headed by liberal prime minister Alexander De Croo lost its ability to form a majority.

Vlaams Belang’s arch rival the nationalist party N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) was on course to remain the largest party in Belgium’s parliament on Sunday while De Croo’s liberal party, Open VLD, slumped in Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of the country.

“Our obituaries were written, but we won these elections,” said N-VA leader Bart De Wever, who now looks a good bet to become Belgium’s next prime minister.

De Croo will remain caretaker prime minister until a new coalition, currently involving seven parties, is formed. According to protocol, he will hand in his resignation to Belgium’s King Philippe on Monday at the royal palace in Brussels.

“This is a particularly difficult evening for us, the signal from the voters has been clear,” De Croo told supporters, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye.

The French-speaking liberal party Mouvement Reformateur was the biggest in Brussels and French-speaking Wallonia, setting the country on course for months of challenging coalition talks.

The result came on a day of triple elections for Belgians who were also voting for regional and European elections, in which the far-right also made the biggest gains, preliminary results showed.

With over 90% of the vote counted, N-VA had a clear lead over Vlaams Belang, with De Croo’s party dropping to the ninth place, partial results published on the interior ministry website showed.

Neither N-VA nor Vlaams Belang – which has anti-immigrant policies and wants to split up Belgium – is part of the current seven-party governing coalition.

Despite picking up some 22% of the vote for the Flemish parliament and 14% for the federal parliament, Vlaams Belang looked set to remain excluded from power.

The anti-immigration Eurosceptics had been hoping that a dominant showing would see them force their way into the regional government, just as ally Geert Wilders had done on the national stage in the Netherlands with a win last year.

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Sudan: last hospital in North Darfur capital closes after paramilitary attack

MSF says hospital in El Fasher, last state capital not under Rapid Support Forces control, stormed and looted

The last functioning hospital in El Fasher, Darfur, in western Sudan, has been closed after an attack by paramilitaries trying to seize the key city, the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has said.

War has raged for more than a year between the regular military under the army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

El Fasher, the capital city of North Darfur state, is the only state capital in the vast western region not under RSF control, and a key humanitarian hub for a region on the brink of famine.

“On Saturday, MSF and the ministry of health suspended all activities in South Hospital, El Fasher, North Darfur, after RSF soldiers stormed the facility, opened fire and looted it, including stealing an MSF ambulance,” said MSF in a statement posted late on Sunday on X.

There have been sporadic clashes in El Fasher since war broke out in April 2023, but fierce fighting reignited on 10 May in what the UN secretary general, António Guterres, has called “an alarming new chapter” in the conflict.

Since then, “at least 192 people have been killed and more than 1,230 wounded” in the city, according to a conservative estimate by the medical charity.

MSF said “intensified fighting” around the hospital earlier this week had triggered its evacuation, and by the time of the paramilitary attack “there were only 10 patients and a reduced medical team” there.

“Most patients and the remaining medical team … were able to flee the RSF shooting,” MSF added. It noted that “due to the chaos, our team was unable to verify if there were any killed or wounded” in the latest attack.

Michel-Olivier Lacharité, the head of emergencies at MSF, said it was “outrageous that the RSF opened fire inside the hospital”.

“Warring parties must halt attacks on medical care,” he added. “Hospitals are closing. Remaining facilities can’t handle mass casualties.”

The war across Sudan has killed tens of thousands of people, including up to 15,000 in a single West Darfur town, UN experts say. Nearly 9 million people have been forced from their homes.

Both sides have been accused of war crimes including deliberately targeting civilians, the indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and blocking humanitarian aid. Rights groups and the US have also accused the paramilitaries of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

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EU expected to impose import tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles

Experts believe Beijing will retaliate with measures that could hit European exports from cheese to cognac

The EU is expected to notify China that it will impose tariffs on electric vehicle imports this week, firing the starting gun on a potential summer trade war with Beijing.

A formal pre-disclosure of tariffs could happen as early as Wednesday, after a lengthy investigation into China’s state subsidies for its car manufacturing, which is predicted to conclude that massive support continues to be concentrated on the EV sector.

Chinese manufacturers are already bracing themselves for new import duties, but experts anticipate that Beijing will retaliate with countermeasures that could hit a range of EU exports to the country, ranging from cognac to dairy products.

After meeting the Chinese president, Xi Jingping, in Paris last month, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, warned that “the world cannot absorb China’s surplus production”, saying the EU would “not waver” from protecting industries and jobs inside the bloc.

The anti-subsidy investigation was launched last October amid suspicions that China was flooding the EU with cheaper EVs as a result of overcapacity and dampened domestic consumer demand.

It is one of more than a dozen inquiries being conducted by the EU into Chinese state aid, including an investigation into exports of solar panels, heat pumps and wind turbines, which the energy sector says are undercutting the EU by 50%.

Experts suggest Beijing will see the imposition of tariffs as a test of strength, given that the electric car sector is fuelling China’s success in exports.

They predict that Xi will not waver from the national bet he has made to dominate the green tech sector around the world through EVs, solar panels and electric vehicle batteries, instead seeing trade as a battleground where he can set the terms.

Should the EU investigation conclude on Wednesday, as expected, that Chinese car manufacturers have won a competitive advantage, Beijing will receive a formal pre-notification of tariffs and will have four weeks to provide any evidence to disprove the European case.

Any decision to apply tariffs permanently must be backed by member states in November, about 13 months after the launch of the investigation.

If imposed, the tariff schedule would involve three tiers: individual rates for the sample of companies investigated by the EU, which include the world’s biggest EV seller, BYD; an average tariff for companies that cooperated with inquiries but were not fully investigated; and a residual tariff for those that were not investigated at all.

The Rhodium Group consultancy, which specialises in research on China, said it expects the tariffs to be set at 15%-30%, which will be easy to absorb for conglomerates such as BYD, which launched its entry-level Dolphin hatchback in the EU last summer priced at just under €30,000 (£25,000). As part of its marketing push it is also an official partner of Uefa in the Euro 2024 football championship.

“Some China-based producers will still be able to generate comfortable profit margins on the cars they export to Europe because of the substantial cost advantages they enjoy,” Rhodium said.

“Duties in the 40-50% range – arguably even higher for vertically integrated manufacturers like BYD – would probably be necessary to make the European market unattractive for Chinese EV exporters.”

China has long argued that it has not been subsidising its automotive sector, and even if it were, its exports help the countries of the west achieve their green targets.

Earlier this week on a tour of Spain and Portugal the commerce minister, Wang Wentao, insisted cooperation with the EU was a “win-win” strategy. “I hope that the European side will abandon protectionism and return to the correct path of dialogue and cooperation,” Wang said, calling on Spain to easy “anxiety” over a potential costly rift.

He said the overcapacity the EU keeps talking about is not an excess of production capacity but an excess of anxiety, and the so-called market distortion is not a distortion of the market but a distortion of mindsets.

Western governments say China can easily modulate its strategy, absorb tariffs and compete on a level playing field, but it cannot be allowed to dominate the future clean energy and tech market.

European consumers have already paid a heavy price through higher energy bills after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exposed the EU’s over-reliance on Russian gas, and EU officials are determined not to repeat the mistake with China, pursuing an official “de-risk” strategy.

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Home Office asks Ukrainian woman scammed over visa scheme to leave UK

Anastasiia Drevynytska, whose parents are in UK, has been told she does not meet Homes for Ukraine scheme’s criteria

A young woman from Ukraine who sought sanctuary in the UK has been asked by the Home Office to separate from her parents who are living here and return to her war-torn home country.

Anastasiia Drevynytska, 20, came to the UK in December 2023 from her home in western Ukraine to join her mother, Svitlana, and father, Volodymyr, who had already arrived after finding sponsors under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Drevynytska had searched for a sponsor so that she could join them under the same scheme. A Ukrainian man offered to sort out the paperwork for her application if she paid him, allowing her to travel to the UK to join her parents. But when she arrived, she found that the paperwork the man had given her was incorrect and that she had been scammed.

The Home Office granted her six months’ temporary leave, which runs out on 19 June. She has received a letter from the Home Office asking her to return to Ukraine, although it is not government policy to forcibly return refugees to active war zones.

“I’m so scared of being returned to Ukraine, where missiles arrive at any time,” she said. “My parents were so worried about me while I was in Ukraine – every time an air raid warning went off. They wanted to make sure I always went into the bomb shelter.”

The Home Office letter states that Drevynytska does not meet the requirements of the Homes for Ukraine scheme and so her application has been refused. It says she did not apply for entry clearance before arriving in the UK. She said she was unaware that her paperwork was incorrect when she arrived.

The letter states that there is no right of appeal or administrative review against the decision to refuse her application. It adds that she can make a new application under the scheme, but “if your circumstances have not changed or you are unable to provide new information, it is likely your application will be refused again”.

It warns of the consequences of staying in the UK unlawfully, which may include being fined, imprisoned, removed and banned from returning.

She said she had tried everything she could to sort out her situation since arriving in the UK and discovering that her paperwork was incorrect, including seeking help from the Home Office, her local council and an immigration adviser. All had been unable to offer any solution.

“I didn’t try to hide anything with my paperwork and didn’t realise I had done anything wrong when I arrived here,” she said. “I wanted to do everything in a legal way and now I’m so worried I will be sent back to a war zone.”

Luke Piper, the head of immigration at the Work Rights Centre, which is supporting Drevynytska, said: “It’s deeply concerning that the Home Office is inviting people to return to a war zone, despite the UK’s commitment to Ukraine and the establishment of various schemes to protect the civilian population.

“It’s indicative of an increasing trend we are seeing of the UK government stepping away from its unwavering support for the people of Ukraine and prioritising bringing down migrant numbers by any means necessary.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on individual cases.”

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Home Office asks Ukrainian woman scammed over visa scheme to leave UK

Anastasiia Drevynytska, whose parents are in UK, has been told she does not meet Homes for Ukraine scheme’s criteria

A young woman from Ukraine who sought sanctuary in the UK has been asked by the Home Office to separate from her parents who are living here and return to her war-torn home country.

Anastasiia Drevynytska, 20, came to the UK in December 2023 from her home in western Ukraine to join her mother, Svitlana, and father, Volodymyr, who had already arrived after finding sponsors under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Drevynytska had searched for a sponsor so that she could join them under the same scheme. A Ukrainian man offered to sort out the paperwork for her application if she paid him, allowing her to travel to the UK to join her parents. But when she arrived, she found that the paperwork the man had given her was incorrect and that she had been scammed.

The Home Office granted her six months’ temporary leave, which runs out on 19 June. She has received a letter from the Home Office asking her to return to Ukraine, although it is not government policy to forcibly return refugees to active war zones.

“I’m so scared of being returned to Ukraine, where missiles arrive at any time,” she said. “My parents were so worried about me while I was in Ukraine – every time an air raid warning went off. They wanted to make sure I always went into the bomb shelter.”

The Home Office letter states that Drevynytska does not meet the requirements of the Homes for Ukraine scheme and so her application has been refused. It says she did not apply for entry clearance before arriving in the UK. She said she was unaware that her paperwork was incorrect when she arrived.

The letter states that there is no right of appeal or administrative review against the decision to refuse her application. It adds that she can make a new application under the scheme, but “if your circumstances have not changed or you are unable to provide new information, it is likely your application will be refused again”.

It warns of the consequences of staying in the UK unlawfully, which may include being fined, imprisoned, removed and banned from returning.

She said she had tried everything she could to sort out her situation since arriving in the UK and discovering that her paperwork was incorrect, including seeking help from the Home Office, her local council and an immigration adviser. All had been unable to offer any solution.

“I didn’t try to hide anything with my paperwork and didn’t realise I had done anything wrong when I arrived here,” she said. “I wanted to do everything in a legal way and now I’m so worried I will be sent back to a war zone.”

Luke Piper, the head of immigration at the Work Rights Centre, which is supporting Drevynytska, said: “It’s deeply concerning that the Home Office is inviting people to return to a war zone, despite the UK’s commitment to Ukraine and the establishment of various schemes to protect the civilian population.

“It’s indicative of an increasing trend we are seeing of the UK government stepping away from its unwavering support for the people of Ukraine and prioritising bringing down migrant numbers by any means necessary.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on individual cases.”

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Under threat of jail, microfinance pioneer vows to keep lending to poorest Bangladeshis

Muhammad Yunus tells the Guardian charges against him are politically motivated, and expresses concern about personal attacks from politicians

The Nobel peace laureate and microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus has said that years of fighting what he calls “dirty” politically motivated attacks on his work to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh have made life “totally miserable”.

Yunus told the Guardian he had come under 20 years of pressure from the Bangladeshi government for his work, which is credited with improving the lives of millions of poor people, particularly women.

In January, he was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, along with three other people, for violating labour laws at Grameen Telecom, the not-for-profit company he founded in 1983. He is now on bail pending an appeal but has been charged with more than 100 other crimes, all of which he denies.

“This thing continues and makes my life miserable,” said Yunus. “I can’t concentrate on anything because I’m busy digging up documents to prove that I didn’t do this, documents to prove that I never did that.”

Yunus is credited with pioneering microfinance, a financial service for people locked out of formal banking systems. It allows them to take out small loans to invest in building their own businesses. Piloted in 1976 among a group of women in a Bangladeshi village who were given small loans without needing collateral, by the mid-2000s it was seen as a key tool for ending poverty. Yunus and the Grameen Bank won the Nobel peace prize for the work in 2006.

The system’s success in lifting people out of poverty has since been questioned and microfinance has been the subject of several scandals over lenders charging exploitative interest rates.

In 2011, Yunus was forced to resign from Grameen after a campaign led by Bangladeshi politicians. Yunus, who was 70 at the time, was deemed too old to run the bank. He maintains the mandatory retirement age of 60 should not have applied to him as the bank was not a government institution.

The Bangladeshi government has defended the action against Yunus, and denies that it represents a misuse of the legal system, accusing the economist of having a “victim mentality” for claiming he was being personally harassed.

Last year, more than 100 Nobel laureates signed an open letter calling for the labour law charges to be suspended. Amnesty International said the case was “emblematic of the beleaguered state of human rights in Bangladesh, where the authorities have eroded freedoms and bulldozed critics into submission”.

Alongside the January conviction, Yunus has been charged with corruption, tax evasion and money laundering.

“These are all false, ask any Bangladeshi. Anybody will know this is all false, fabricated,” Yunus said.

Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has accused the microfinance sector of “sucking blood” from the poor, but it was a speech she made in 2022 during the opening of the country’s long-awaited Padma Bridge that particularly concerned Yunus.

Hasina accused him of blocking progress on the bridge, which had a $1.2bn (£940m) World Bank loan cancelled in 2012 over allegations of corruption by Bangladeshi officials. She called for him to be plunged into the river to “teach him a lesson”. “It’s a very dangerous thing we are inviting the people of the country to dunk someone [in the river],” Yunus said. Hasina “pours out her extreme hatred on me”, he added.

Yunus won’t be drawn on the reasons for Hasina’s enmity but it has been linked by others to his aborted attempt to launch a political party in 2007.

Despite the threat of imprisonment, the 83-year-old has remained in Bangladesh and is still working to eliminate poverty and unemployment.

He said other countries had offered to host him but he did not want to leave behind his work or his employees. “This will be all forgotten, removed, destroyed. I don’t want to see that.

“Leave me alone, let me do the thing I want, that I enjoy doing and that people benefit from. It is not for my own interest,” he said. “I enjoy finding out solutions for the problems that we see around us – global warming, wealth concentration, unemployment, poverty.”

Yunus is still committed to microfinance. He believes any problems are due to a lack of regulation that has allowed unscrupulous dealers to operate.

When done right, he said, the system could give poor people the freedom to improve their lives by building businesses instead of having to subsist on low-paying jobs.

“[With a job] you surrender yourself to somebody else’s wishes for the little money that they give you at the end of the month … that’s not what human beings are all about. Human beings are not built for serving somebody else. Human beings are very independent, packed with unlimited creative capacity,” he said.

“Our institutions have been designed the wrong way. If you have money, you get more money … but if you have no money, you don’t get any money. So you stay where you are.

“What microcredit has done is brought that finance at the lowest possible stage … finance is the oxygen of entrepreneurship. If you connect finance with people, people suddenly become very active, become alive, his mind starts ticking, he starts creating things. He’s looking at the world in a different way.”

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F-16 jets and military airfields outside Ukraine will become legitimate targets for Moscow if they take part in combat missions against Russian forces, the RIA state news agency quoted a senior lawmaker as saying on Monday.

Andrei Kartapolov, the lawmaker cited, is head of the State Duma lower house of parliament’s defence committee.

Douglas Ross has announced that he will stand down as leader of the Scottish Conservatives on July 4 following sustained criticism of his three jobs and fresh allegations about improper expenses claims.

In a surprise statement on Monday morning, Ross also announced that – should he win the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East constituency at the Westminster election – he will also stand down as an MSP at Holyrood.

Last week Ross announced he plans to stand again for Westminster in a key SNP target seat, after the party blocked the anticipated candidate who is recovering from a serious illness.

David Duguid, who had been expected to stand, insisted that he was fit enough to contest the election but the party’s management board said it had a “duty of care” to protect the health of their candidates.

The decision, and Ross’s move to immediately replace Duguid, was met with fury by local party members while the Holyrood opposition dismissed it as “tawdry” and “a betrayal”.

Alongside his dual roles in two parliaments, Ross also works as a part-time match official for the Scottish FA, prompting regular jibes about his “three jobs” from political opponents. He donates his MSP salary to charity.

In his statement, Ross said

I have served as MP, MSP and Leader for over three years now and believed I could continue to do so if re-elected to Westminster, but on reflection, that is not feasible.

My party has a chance to beat the SNP in key seats up and down Scotland, including in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East. We must now come together and fully focus on doing exactly that.

The most recent YouGov MRP suggests Ross is on course to win the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East, beating the SNP by 37% to 31%.

The SNP is calling for Ross to make a personal statement to Holyrood about his expenses after the Sunday Mail reported that a Tory whistleblower had told the newspaper that Ross had submitted 28 parliamentary expense claims relating to his third job as a football referee.

After a couple of hours trading in Europe, here’s a recap of the main moves.

  • The Paris stock market has dropped deeply into the red, after Emmanual Macron stunned France by calling snap parliamentary elections last night. The CAC 40 is down 2% right now, a three-month low, with bank stocks falling over 4%.

    Macron called the snap poll after his centrist alliance was trounced by Marine Le Pen’s far-right movement in the European parliamentary vote.

  • The euro has dropped to its lowest level since August 2022 against the pound, which rose to €1.1829 this morning. The euro also dropped to a one-month low against the US dollar.

Charalampos Pissouros, senior investment analyst at XM, says:

Although socialist, liberal and center parties are set to retain a majority in the European Parliament, the surge in Eurosceptic nationalists is likely to make it more difficult for lawmakers to agree and push through reforms and policies that give the Union more power.

Combined with the prospect of a far-right victory in France, this could keep the euro pressured for a while longer.

  • European stock markets have been roiled too, with Germany’s DAX down 0.9% and Italy’s FTSE MIB losing 0.95%.

  • In the bond market, the ‘spread’ between the borrowing costs of Germany, and of France and Italy, has widened – a sign that investors are more nervous about the implications of Sunday’s election results.

Bill Blain, market strategist at Wind Shift Capital, said today:

There is nothing like the prospect of increasing European political instability, rising distrust of the EU and its agencies (including the ECB), and internal dissent to rile bond markets thinking about European Sovereign Bond markets.

The concept of a united monetary and fiscal union in Europe moves further away.

  • The UK election is also on the City’s mind, with JP Morgan saying a Labour win would be good for markets….and a Bloomberg poll finding it would support the pound.

Austrian-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach charged with sexual assault

Auto parts magnate, 91, arrested over five charges including rape, indecent assault and forcible confinement

Authorities in Canada have charged Austrian-Canadian auto parts billionaire Frank Stronach with sexual assault dating back to the 1980s.

Peel regional police said in a statement that Stronach, 91, was arrested on Friday and charged with five crimes including, rape, indecent assault on a female, sexual assault and forcible confinement.

Police allege the sexual assaults spanned from the 1980s to as recent as 2023.

A lawyer for Stronach did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

Constable Tyler Bell of Peel regional police said there was more than one alleged victim, but declined to say how many.

“Obviously, this is a high-profile case,” Bell said. “Our special victims unit is bound to protect the victims and in doing so that’s why we’re are being vague.

“There is more than one victim, but we won’t confirm that number yet.”

Bell said they were appealing to members of the public to come forward if they have information or have been victims.

The statement said Stronach had been released on conditions and will appear at the court of justice in Brampton, Ontario, at a later date.

The billionaire founder of Magna auto parts has also had major investments in horse racing. He has been named to the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest honors.

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