The Guardian 2024-06-12 09:30:44


US ‘evaluating’ Hamas response to Gaza ceasefire proposal

Hamas was reportedly seeking some amendments to the proposal, as Antony Blinken puts pressure on both sides to accept the deal

The US has said it is “evaluating” Hamas’ formal response to its Gaza ceasefire proposal, as the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, attempts to channel global support for a UN security council resolution backing the proposal into pressure on the Palestinian militant group and Israel.

Late on Tuesday, a Hamas official said they had submitted a response to Egyptian and Qatari mediators, seeking some “amendments”, and that their priority was to bring a “complete stop” to the war. A separate Hamas spokesperson, Jihad Taha, said the response included “amendments that confirm the ceasefire, withdrawal, reconstruction and [prisoner] exchange”.

Washington received the reply and was “evaluating it right now,” national security council spokesperson John Kirby told journalists on Tuesday night, while declining to provide details on its content.

Blinken, on his second day of a visit to the Middle East, said Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had “reaffirmed his commitment” to the proposal.

Blinken met Israeli opposition leaders on Tuesday morning, and spoke privately to hostages’ families before travelling to Jordan for an emergency summit on humanitarian aid for Gaza, where more than a million people are on the brink of famine and most of the population are displaced.

He announced an extra $404m (£317m) funding for humanitarian aid for Gaza at the conference, and called on other countries to step up donations.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said the international community had a responsibility to press Israel to open land crossings into Gaza. His Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said international pressure was needed to stop Israel using hunger as a weapon.

Blinken had been in Egypt on Monday, and was expected to visit Qatar as well. Both countries have served as key mediators with Hamas.

The deal, which was approved by the UN on Monday, was unveiled by the US president, Joe Biden, at the end of May. Biden presented it as an Israeli initiative although Netanyahu has been at best ambivalent about the plan, saying any ceasefire proposal before Hamas military and governance capacity had been destroyed was a “non-starter”.

That position appears to contradict the terms of the agreement, which calls for an initial exchange of elderly, sick or female hostages for Palestinian detainees held by Israel, in the course of a first six-week halt to fighting.

The ceasefire would evolve into a permanent end to hostilities and the release of all hostages in a second phase. A final stage would see the launch of a major reconstruction effort.

Hamas’s position could also complicate progress. It has said it would only accept a permanent ceasefire deal, after one temporary break in fighting collapsed last winter, and reportedly asked for international guarantees of any ceasefire.

Senior officials from the group on Tuesday welcomed the resolution and said it was ready to negotiate details. A spokesperson, Jihad Taha, said Israel was “stalling and procrastinating and creating obstacles” so it could continue fighting.

The UN vote on Monday was the first time a deeply divided security council has endorsed a comprehensive plan for Gaza. Palestinian support for the US resolution made it much harder diplomatically for Russia or China to veto it.

The rare show of relative unity puts pressure on both parties to the conflict, though both have shown themselves to be far more influenced by local constituencies and the personal interests of leaders than by international public opinion.

Netanyahu’s government has shifted to the right since Biden unveiled the deal, with the war cabinet member Benny Gantz resigning from the government over the failure to make a long-term plan for Gaza.

That has increased the weight of hardline extremists, who want to keep fighting and have said they would resign if Netanyahu accepted a deal.

However, the prime minister is also under pressure over the fate of hostages still in Gaza, whose relatives are lobbying hard for Israel to accept the deal. They demonstrated outside Blinken’s hotel in Tel Aviv, and he also met hostages’ families.

Four hostages were rescued at the weekend by Israeli special forces, in a mission that killed more than 270 Palestinians, many of them civilians, prompting international outrage at what the top EU diplomat, Josep Borrell, called a “massacre”.

The UN human rights office said it was “shocked” by the impact on civilians of the rescue operation, and warned that Israeli forces and Hamas may both have committed war crimes.

The operation brought the total freed in military operations to just seven, a tiny proportion of the 250 people captured in the Hamas cross-border attacks on 7 October, when militants also killed about 1,200 Israelis.

Relatives say military operations cannot free all their loved ones. Most of those who are now home were handed over under a temporary ceasefire deal last November. There are still 120 held in Gaza, at least a third of whom are presumed to have died.

In Gaza there was scepticism that the deal would bring a halt to Israeli attacks that have killed more than 37,000 people, according to health authorities in the strip, and brought at least half the population to the brink of famine.

“We will believe it only when we see it,” said Shaban Abdel-Raouf, 47, displaced with his family of five to the central town of Deir al-Balah. “When they tell us to pack our belongings and prepare to go back to Gaza City, we will know it is true,” he told Reuters.

Four Israeli soldiers were killed there in an ambush on Tuesday, Israeli media reported. Forty Palestinians were killed in Gaza over the last 24 hours, and 120 injured, Gaza health authorities said.

Fears of escalating conflict between Hezbollah and Israeli forces across the northern border were also on Blinken’s agenda in Israel. Late on Monday Israeli forces killed three fighters when they hit a convoy of tankers, and on Tuesday Hezbollah fired a barrage of about 50 projectiles towards the Golan Heights.

Blinken told Gantz that the ceasefire deal for Gaza would improve Israel’s security by taming tensions on that border, the US state department said.

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‘Unprecedented scale’ of violations against children in Gaza, West Bank and Israel, UN report says

More ‘grave violations’ committed in occupied territories and Israel than anywhere else in world, report says

More grave violations against children were committed in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel than anywhere else in the world last year, according to a UN report due to be published this week.

The report on children and armed conflict, which has been seen by the Guardian, verified more cases of war crimes against children in the occupied territories and Israel than anywhere else, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, Nigeria and Sudan.

“Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory presents an unprecedented scale and intensity of grave violations against children,” the report said.

The annual assessment – due to be presented to the UN general assembly later this week by the secretary general, António Guterres – lists Israel for the first time in an annex of state offenders responsible for violations of children’s rights, triggering outrage from the Israeli government.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, issued a statement that the UN had “added itself to the black list of history when it joined those who support the Hamas murderers”.

The report details only cases that UN investigators were able to verify, so it accounts for just part of the total number of deaths and injuries of children in the course of last year.

In all, the UN verified “8,009 grave violations against 4,360 children” in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank – more than twice the figures for the DRC, the next worst place for violence against children.

Of the total number of child victims verified, 4,247 were Palestinian, 113 were Israeli.

In all, 5,698 violations were attributed to Israeli armed and security forces, and 116 to Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Israeli settlers were judged responsible in 51 cases, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades was involved in 21.

Between 7 October and the end of December last year, the UN verified the killing of 2,051 Palestinian children, and said the process of attributing responsibility was ongoing, but the report noted: “Most incidents were caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas by Israeli armed and security forces.”

The report conceded it reflected only a partial picture of the situation in Gaza.

“Owing to severe access challenges, in particular in the Gaza Strip, the information presented herein does not represent the full scale of violations against children in this situation,” it said.

The report also found grave abuses by Israeli forces in the West Bank, with 126 Palestinian children killed and 906 detained. The UN verified five cases where soldiers used boys “to shield forces during law enforcement operations”.

In the course of 2023, in the run-up to the Hamas 7 October attack on Israel, the UN said Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s armed wings organised “summer camps”, in which children were exposed to “military content and activities”.

In the first three months of the war, the UN verified 23 separate cases of the denial of humanitarian access by Israeli authorities “related to denied coordination of humanitarian aid missions and prevention of access to medical care”.

In the course of the Israeli offensive in Gaza, the UN found “nearly all critical infrastructure, facilities and services have been attacked, including shelter sites, United Nations installations, schools, hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, grain mills and bakeries”.

“Children are at risk of famine, severe malnutrition and preventable death,” the UN report said.

“I am appalled by the dramatic increase and unprecedented scale and intensity of grave violations against children in the Gaza Strip, Israel and the occupied West Bank,” Guterres tells the general assembly in the report.

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Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes asks court to overturn fraud conviction

Lawyers say improper procedures call for new trials for Holmes, who has an 11-year sentence, and Sunny Balwani

Lawyers for Elizabeth Holmes, founder of failed blood testing company Theranos, urged judges in a federal appeals court on Tuesday to overturn the fraud conviction that earned her an 11-year prison sentence.

In an appeal hearing for both Holmes and company president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, lawyers argued improper procedures and evidence in both cases warrant new trials.

Holmes, who started Theranos as a college student and became its public face, was indicted alongside Balwani, her former romantic partner, in 2018. The two were tried separately in 2022, and sentenced later that year to 11 years and three months, and 12 years and 11 months, respectively.

Her legal team filed an appeal of her conviction in April 2023, but Tuesday marked the first court hearing on the matter.

Amy Saharia, Holmes’ lawyer, told a three-judge panel of the 9th US circuit court of appeals in San Francisco that the Theranos founder believed she was telling the truth when she told investors that Theranos’s miniature blood testing device could accurately run a broad array of medical diagnostic tests on a small amount of blood.

“There were in fact many good people working at Theranos, and believing they had good technology,” Saharia said. “Holmes believed that, and that is what she was telling investors.”

Saharia’s argument also focused on issues with two main witnesses for the prosecution: former Theranos employee Kingshuk Das, who testified as a scientific expert about Theranos’s product and former laboratory director Adam Rosendorff.

Holmes’ team argued Das should have faced cross-examination about his qualifications and that the judge should have allowed Holmes to introduce more evidence attacking Rosendorff, including details of a government investigation of his work after leaving Theranos.

Those mistakes could have made the difference in the “close” case, in which jurors were not able to reach a verdict on most counts against Holmes after seven days of deliberations.

Assistant US attorney Kelly Volkar, arguing for the government, disputed that Das had improperly testified as an expert, saying he was called to talk about his personal experience at Theranos. She also said that “it was not really contested that the device did not work.”

The judges had skeptical questions for both sides, and did not clearly indicate how they would rule. Circuit judge Ryan Nelson said that, even without the disputed testimony, “there was, it seemed to me, pretty overwhelming evidence”.

Circuit judges Jacqueline Nguyen and Mary Schroeder said that much of Das’s testimony concerned what he observed at the company, not his scientific opinions, as Saharia argued.

Nguyen and Nelson, however, also both told Volkar that they had concerns about what opinions Das was allowed to give during the trial. “I have some problems with how this happened,” Nelson said.

Jeffrey Coopersmith, Balwani’s lawyer, argued that prosecutors had gone beyond what was in the indictment against his client by introducing evidence that the commercial testing technology Theranos secretly used was not reliable.

The judges appeared more skeptical of that argument, though again did not clearly signal how they would rule. Appeals can take weeks or months to be decided. Representatives from Holmes’s legal team did not respond to request for comment.

Reuters contributed to this report

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‘Sanctions hole’: how secretive routes supply Russia with western tech and consumer goods

German exports of cars to Kyrgyzstan are up 5,100% since the start of the Ukraine war – with other routes channelling luxury goods and computer chips

Since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the west has imposed thousands of sanctions on Russia, and handed it the dubious distinction of being the most heavily sanctioned country on Earth.

Targeting everything from the finances of individuals to the major industries of its economy, international sanctions have aimed to isolate Russian consumers, with major brands such as Apple and McDonald’s ceasing their operations in the country.

But two years on, Russia’s economy is showing surprising resilience and is forecast to grow faster than most of the world’s advanced economies, although experts say that it is unsustainable in the long term. With efforts to constrain the Russian economy in the spotlight, the US said on Tuesday that it would announce a sweep of new “impactful” sanctions and export controls at the G7 in Italy this week.

“We’re going to continue to drive up costs for the Russian war machine,” White House spokesperson John Kirby said.

With reports that the US treasury will target financial institutions that help in the transfer of war-related imports – attention is likely to turn to banks in the club of countries that have not imposed sanctions and are facilitating the supply of goods and services to Russia.

The Russian economy has been party sustained by such imports.

Internal data from the Russian customs agency shows imports rebounding to close to their prewar levels, researchers say, although at considerably higher prices. Those imports have helped sustain vulnerable industries, such as aviation and the car industry.

Observers have referred to this as a “sanctions hole” – where anything from semiconductors to aeroplane parts to iPhones can be routed and re-exported into Russia through firms in China, Turkey or the UAE, or via Armenia, Kazakhstan and other former Soviet republics.

They include highly scrutinised items like microchips for use in the Russian war effort – among them those made by US producers such as Xilinx and Texas Instruments, or processors from Intel. The technology is often bought by companies in Hong Kong or China and re-exported to Russia, the data shows.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exposed a governance crisis in the EU. The EU has become an enabler of the war,” said Robin Brooks, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution during a webinar on Russian sanctions evasion.

Brooks, who has been tracking the effectiveness of export controls, pointed to examples such as German exports of cars to Kyrgyzstan, up 5,100% since the beginning of the war.

“It is not because people in Bishkek decided that they love Mercedes. These are cars that are going to Russia. This stuff mostly doesn’t even arrive in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan just is put on the invoice,” Brooks said.

Export data shows that this trend is happening in “every single European country”, says Brooks.

“It roughly offset about half the drop in direct exports to Russia.”

Studies have revealed that the Russian military has exploited these loopholes to obtain critical western military technology. According to a report by the Royal United Services Institute defence thinktank, more than 450 foreign-made components have been discovered in Russian weapons found in Ukraine.

The US and EU have recently stepped up their efforts against companies and banks in middle countries trading with Russia.

In a speech to German business leaders in Berlin, the US deputy treasury secretary Wally Adeyemo urged companies to stop Russia importing critical components from or via China.

“The US is increasingly putting pressure on banks to address the issue of re-export of dual-use goods from or via China. Without it, battlefield items will flow to Russia unabated,” says Maria Shagina, a senior sanctions researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

But some of the countries crucial to Russia’s sanction evasion efforts are resisting western pressure.

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, the chair of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, the oil state’s main trading hub, said sanctions on Russia were having no impact outside the west, and attempts to stop the flow of business just redirected it elsewhere.

“The fact that the economy is not purely controlled by one side of the world makes these sanctions less effective,” said Hamad Buamim.

“Trade continues flowing, it just flows in a different way.”

‘Great Greek Tanker Sale’

Continuing imports to Russia and sustaining the wider economy would be impossible without the substantial revenues generated from its energy resources – and here too, Moscow has been reliant on outside actors willing to defy the west’s sanctions coalition.

In December 2022, the UK, alongside G7 countries, Australia, and the European Union, implemented a $60-per-barrel price cap to restrict western companies from transporting, servicing, or brokering Russian crude oil cargoes in order to undermine Russia’s oil trade, which is heavily reliant on western-owned and insured tankers.

To ship crude oil abroad and earn much-needed foreign currency, Russia turned to a “dark fleet” of older tankers with murky ownership.

Greek shipping magnates, who wield an outsized role in the global oil trade, have stepped in and sold Russia hundreds of old vessels in a phenomenon dubbed the “Great Greek Tanker Sale.”

According to the trade publication TradeWinds, Greek shipowners have sold at least 125 crude and vessel carriers, worth over $4bn, to bolster Russia’s “dark fleet”.

As G7 leaders meet in Italy, they will face a spectrum of issues, with the challenge of how best to support Ukraine expected to be near the top of their agenda. As things stand, western officials and analysts largely agree that the impact of sanctions on Russia has been slower than hoped.

“So far we have failed on the main objective, which is to get Russia out of Ukraine,” said Brooks.

He argued that the key to hurting Moscow remained in targeting its energy profits. Measures proposed by Brooks and other sanction experts included reducing the oil cap to $20 a barrel and banning the sale of western oil tankers to undisclosed buyers.

“If Europe is willing to take decisive action, we will witness a financial crisis in Russia,” Brooks said.

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Danish PM ‘not doing great’ four days after assault in Copenhagen

Mette Frederiksen gives first interview since assault, saying it was ‘a kind of attack on us all’

Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, has said she is still “not doing great” but will continue to work, in her first interview since she was assaulted in a Copenhagen square last week.

Frederiksen, 46, suffered minor whiplash in the attack last Friday, which is not thought to have been politically motivated. A 39-year-old Polish man was detained on suspicion of assault.

“I’m not doing great, and I’m not really myself yet,” Frederiksen told the Danish broadcaster DR in an interview broadcast on Tuesday.

Frederiksen gave no details of the attack, but said “it was very intimidating when someone crosses the last physical limit you have. There is some shock and surprise in that”.

She said it was “probably also an accumulation of many other things. Threats over a long period of time on social media have got worse, especially since the war in the Middle East. Shouting in public space. Maybe that was the final straw”.

“As a human being, it feels like an attack on me,” Frederiksen said in the 10-minute interview. “But I have no doubt that it was the prime minister that was hit. In this way, it also becomes a kind of attack on all of us.”

“No form of violence has any place in our society.”

She continued: “I would rather have a Denmark where the prime minister can bicycle to work without being worried. I am Mette at my core, but I am the country’s prime minister. Thus, an institution that you must not attack, like the police.”

Frederiksen said the tone had changed in politics recently.

A 39-year-old Polish man was arrested and will be held in custody until 20 June on preliminary charges of violence against a person in public service. In Denmark, preliminary charges are one step short of formal ones but allow authorities to keep criminal suspects in custody during an investigation.

In court, the suspect, who was not identified, reportedly praised Frederiksen as “a really good prime minister”, and investigators suspect he was under the influence of drugs and intoxicated at the time of the incident that happened just before 6pm on Friday.

Media reports said the man walked toward Frederiksen and pushed her hard while she was passing one of Copenhagen’s main squares. He hit her upper right arm with a clenched fist.

Frederiksen has not appeared in public since the attack and did not participate in public party events as the results of Sunday’s European parliament elections started coming in. Her party, the Social Democrats, faced a loss in the vote.

Frederiksen became the youngest ever Danish prime minister when she took office in 2019. She won re-election in legislative elections in 2022.

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Danish PM ‘not doing great’ four days after assault in Copenhagen

Mette Frederiksen gives first interview since assault, saying it was ‘a kind of attack on us all’

Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, has said she is still “not doing great” but will continue to work, in her first interview since she was assaulted in a Copenhagen square last week.

Frederiksen, 46, suffered minor whiplash in the attack last Friday, which is not thought to have been politically motivated. A 39-year-old Polish man was detained on suspicion of assault.

“I’m not doing great, and I’m not really myself yet,” Frederiksen told the Danish broadcaster DR in an interview broadcast on Tuesday.

Frederiksen gave no details of the attack, but said “it was very intimidating when someone crosses the last physical limit you have. There is some shock and surprise in that”.

She said it was “probably also an accumulation of many other things. Threats over a long period of time on social media have got worse, especially since the war in the Middle East. Shouting in public space. Maybe that was the final straw”.

“As a human being, it feels like an attack on me,” Frederiksen said in the 10-minute interview. “But I have no doubt that it was the prime minister that was hit. In this way, it also becomes a kind of attack on all of us.”

“No form of violence has any place in our society.”

She continued: “I would rather have a Denmark where the prime minister can bicycle to work without being worried. I am Mette at my core, but I am the country’s prime minister. Thus, an institution that you must not attack, like the police.”

Frederiksen said the tone had changed in politics recently.

A 39-year-old Polish man was arrested and will be held in custody until 20 June on preliminary charges of violence against a person in public service. In Denmark, preliminary charges are one step short of formal ones but allow authorities to keep criminal suspects in custody during an investigation.

In court, the suspect, who was not identified, reportedly praised Frederiksen as “a really good prime minister”, and investigators suspect he was under the influence of drugs and intoxicated at the time of the incident that happened just before 6pm on Friday.

Media reports said the man walked toward Frederiksen and pushed her hard while she was passing one of Copenhagen’s main squares. He hit her upper right arm with a clenched fist.

Frederiksen has not appeared in public since the attack and did not participate in public party events as the results of Sunday’s European parliament elections started coming in. Her party, the Social Democrats, faced a loss in the vote.

Frederiksen became the youngest ever Danish prime minister when she took office in 2019. She won re-election in legislative elections in 2022.

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Rare white grizzly bear and two cubs killed in Canada in separate car strikes

Cubs killed by cars earlier in the day before spooked Nakoda ran on to highway, where another vehicle struck her

National park staff in Canada are mourning the “devastating” loss of a rare white grizzly bear and her cubs after all three were killed in separate vehicle collisions on the same day.

The bear formally referred to as GBF178 but named Nakoda by locals had in recent months been spotted with her two cubs foraging on spring dandelions along a stretch of highway between Lake Louise and Yoho national parks.

But staff had grown increasingly concerned that her distinct platinum appearance, which often drew in curious onlookers, and her apparent love of scaling wildlife fences, could end in tragedy.

On the morning of 6 June, Nakoda’s two cubs crossed through a broken section of fencing, built to keep wildlife away from roads, and wandered on to the highway, where they were struck by a vehicle.

That evening, as park staff continued to mend the fencing, Nakoda was frightened by a passing train, prompting her to run on to the road and directly into the path of two vehicles.

“One vehicle was able to swerve and avoid a collision, but a second vehicle was unable to react in time and struck the bear,” said a Parks Canada spokesperson.

Nakoda nonetheless climbed a fence and lumbered the woods with a limp after being hit, park staff said, prompting hopes she would emerge bruised but largely unscathed from the encounter.

But days later, her GPS collar sent a “mortality signal”, meaning the tracking device hadn’t moved in 24 hours. When they found her, park staff said she “succumbed to internal injuries related to the collision”.

Her death has shaken park workers, who spent “hundreds upon hundreds of hours” with her over the years, Saundi Stevens, Parks Canada’s wildlife management specialist with the Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay field unit, told reporters.

“Just weeks ago, everyone in our office was actually celebrating her emergence from the den with two new cubs.”

But the chances of a deadly encounter had grown increasingly likely in recent years.

Grizzly bears normally range in colouration from dark brown to blond, but a white bear like Nakoda is incredibly rare. Her distinct appearance made her immensely popular among photographers, on social media and to travellers along the highway.

Experts say the colouring was the result of a recessive gene – not albinism. Nor was Nakoda a member of another Canadian subspecies, the Kermode “spirit” bear, which is found in the temperate rainforests of the country’s west coast. Those elusive animals also have white fur, but are a subspecies of the black bear – not the grizzly.

In 2022, Nakoda was relocated because she spent too much time near the highway and train tracks, and the next year Parks Canada installed electric wiring on some of the wildlife fences in an attempt to stop animals like Nakoda from climbing over.

Stevens said Parks Canada has tried to limit fatalities by putting in place no-stopping zones and ordering a speed reduction in areas where the bears have been spotted in the past.

“It is an unfortunate reality that bears that become habituated to people often have negative outcomes,” she said. “The team has developed a strong fondness and connection with GBF178, and her death has been devastating for the team that was so deeply invested in trying to prevent this outcome.”

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Hunter Biden found guilty on all three charges in federal gun case

Verdict comes after week-long trial in Biden family home town of Wilmington, Delaware

Hunter Biden, the eldest living son of the US president, was found guilty Tuesday on all three felony counts he faced relating to buying a handgun while being a user of crack cocaine.

Biden received the verdict in court as his friends and family, including the first lady, Jill Biden, stood in support.

The jury reached its verdict after about three hours of deliberation over two days. It followed a weeklong trial in the Biden family’s home town of Wilmington, Delaware, that featured sometimes excruciating testimony about his addiction habit, from some of his closest relatives. Hunter Biden chose not to take the witness stand in his own defence.

Joe Biden said Tuesday: “I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal.

“Jill and I will always be there for Hunter and the rest of our family with our love and support,” he continued. “Nothing will ever change that.”

The president has previously said he would not pardon his son should he be convicted. He has also praised his son’s resilience and strength throughout his recovery from addiction.

No sentencing date is set yet, though the maximum time in prison Hunter Biden could face is 25 years, which would be far more than expected for a first-time offender.

In a statement, Hunter Biden said he’s more grateful for his family and friends for their support than he is disappointed by the verdict.

“Recovery is possible by the grace of God, and I am blessed to experience that gift one day at a time,” he added.

His attorney Abbe Lowell said they were “naturally disappointed” by the verdict, but respected the process and would “vigorously pursue all the legal challenges available to Hunter”.

The Trump campaign sent a statement to CNN that the trial was “nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family”.

Hunter Biden was accused of making two false statements when filling out a form to buy a Colt revolver in October 2018: first by stating untruthfully that he was not addicted to or using drugs, and then by declaring the statement to be true. A third charge alleged that he then illegally owned the gun for 11 days, before his sister-in-law and then lover, Hallie Biden, threw it in a trash bin in a panic.

Lowell argued that the prosecution had provided no evidence that he had taken crack cocaine – which he later admitted in a memoir to having been addicted to before going into rehabilitation – in the month that he bought and owned the gun.

The defence lawyer also established that no one had seen Hunter use the drug in that period.

But messages retrieved from Hunter’s mobile phone undermined the argument that he had not been ingesting drugs in the period before and after purchasing the weapon. The day after he bought the gun, he sent a text to Hallie Biden saying he was meeting a known drug dealer called Mookie. Then, a day later, he revealed in another text that he was sleeping on a car and smoking crack.

His daughter, Naomi Biden Neal – testifying in his defence – told the court that her father had seemed sober in the weeks before the purchase. But the prosecution introduced more text messages that betrayed a strained and fraying relationship between the pair, including one in which Naomi told her father he had driven her to a breaking point.

The prosecution called other members of the Biden family, including his former wife, Kathleen Buhle, to whom he was married for 24 years, and Hallie Biden, the widow of his brother Beau, as it tried to show that Hunter’s drug use had continued during 2018 and 2019.

The testimony painted a portrait of Hunter Biden falling deeper into addiction as he struggled to cope with the death of Beau, who died from brain cancer in 2015.

After the breakup of his marriage, he formed a romantic relationship with Hallie Biden, who admitted to having smoked crack with him.

Summing up on Monday, prosecutor Leo Wise said Hunter Biden’s text message showed him trying to make drug deals before and after his gun purchase.

Calling the evidence against the defendant “personal, ugly and overwhelming”, he noted that Hunter Biden told Hallie Biden on 14 October 2018, two days after buying the gun, that he had been smoking crack. “That’s my truth,” he quoted Hunter as writing.

The evidence had included lurid testimony of Hunter Biden smoking crack pipes, backed up by photographs shown in court.

Zoe Kestan, Hunter’s former girlfriend who met him at a gentleman’s club, told the court last week that he frequently withdrew money to fund drug purchases.

She said he would smoke what she presumed was crack “every 20 minutes or so” and that she had seen him smoke it over several days in Malibu, California, in September 2018, the month before he bought the gun.

The proceedings were witnessed by Hunter’s stepmother, Jill Biden, who was present every day apart from last Thursday, when she flew to Normandy in France to attend the 80th anniversary of D-day with her husband.

Lowell told jurors that the fact that Hunter Biden had a famous last name did not mean he was less entitled to his rights than any other defendant, urging them to find him not guilty.

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Françoise Hardy, French pop singer and fashion muse, dies aged 80

Singer and actor who wrote some of her country’s biggest pop hits had suffered with lymphatic cancer for many years

Françoise Hardy, whose elegance and beautifully lilting voice made her one of France’s most successful pop stars, has died aged 80.

Her death was reported by her son, the fellow musician Thomas Dutronc, who wrote “Maman est partie,” (or in English, “mum is gone”) on Instagram alongside a baby photo of himself and Hardy.

Hardy had lymphatic cancer since 2004, and had undergone years of radiotherapy and other treatments for the illness. In 2015, she was briefly placed in an induced coma after her condition worsened, and had issues with speech, swallowing and respiration in the years since. In 2021, she had argued in favour of euthanasia, saying that France was “inhuman” for not allowing the procedure.

Hardy was born in the middle of an air raid in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1944, and raised in the city, mostly by her mother. Aged 16, she received her first guitar as a present and began writing her own songs, performing them live and auditioning for record labels. In 1961, she signed with Disques Vogue.

Inspired by the French chanson style of crooned ballads as well as the emerging edgier styles of pop and rock’n’roll, Hardy became a key part of the yé-yé style that dominated mid-century French music. It was named after the predilection for English-language bands of the time to chant “yeah”, and Hardy had a hand in its coinage: an early song, La Fille Avec Toi, began with the English words: “Oh, oh, yeah, yeah.”

The self-penned ballad Tous les garçons et les filles was her breakthrough in 1962, and sold more than 2.5m copies; it topped the French charts, as did early singles Je Suis D’Accord and Le Temps de L’Amour. In 1963, Hardy represented Monaco at the Eurovision song contest and finished fifth.

Her growing European fame meant she began rerecording her repertoire in multiple languages, including English. Her 1964 song All Over the World, translated from Dans le Monde Entier, became her only UK Top 20 hit, but her fame endured in France, Italy and Germany. In 1968, Comment te Dire Adieu, a version of It Hurts to Say Goodbye (originally made famous by Vera Lynn) with lyrics by Serge Gainsbourg, became one of her biggest hits.

Hardy’s beauty and deft aesthetic – which encompassed cleanly silhouetted tailoring alongside more casual looks, including knitwear and rock-leaning denim and leather – defined the seeming effortlessness of 20th-century French cool. She became a muse to designers including Yves Saint Laurent and Paco Rabanne, and was also a frequent subject for fashion photography, shot by the likes of Richard Avedon, David Bailey and William Klein. Later, designer Rei Kawakubo would name her label Comme des Garçons after a line in a Hardy song.

Hardy was an object of adoration to many male stars of 60s pop including the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. Bob Dylan wrote a poem about her for the liner notes of his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan, beginning: “For Françoise Hardy, at the Seine’s edge, a giant shadow of Notre Dame seeks t’ grab my foot …”

She was also courted by directors, appearing in films by Jean-Luc Godard, Roger Vadim, John Frankenheimer and more.

Hardy left Disques Vogue amid financial disputes, and signed a three-year deal with Sonopresse in 1970. This creatively rich period saw her record with Brazilian musician Tuca on 1971’s highly acclaimed La Question, and continue her multi-lingual releases, but by the contract’s end her stardom had waned and it was not renewed.

She spent the mid-1970s chiefly focused on raising her son Thomas with her partner, musician and actor Jacques Dutronc. Releases restarted with 1977’s Star, and Hardy embraced – not always enthusiastically – the sounds of funk, disco and electronic pop. A longer hiatus in the 1980s was punctuated by 1988’s Décalages, billed as her final album, though she returned in 1996 with Le Danger, switching her palette to moody contemporary rock. She released six further albums, ending with Personne D’Autre in 2018.

Having first met in 1967, she and Jacques Dutronc married in 1981 – “an uninteresting formality”, she later said of marriage in general – and separated in 1988, though they remained friends. She is survived by him and their son.

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Françoise Hardy, French pop singer and fashion muse, dies aged 80

Singer and actor who wrote some of her country’s biggest pop hits had suffered with lymphatic cancer for many years

Françoise Hardy, whose elegance and beautifully lilting voice made her one of France’s most successful pop stars, has died aged 80.

Her death was reported by her son, the fellow musician Thomas Dutronc, who wrote “Maman est partie,” (or in English, “mum is gone”) on Instagram alongside a baby photo of himself and Hardy.

Hardy had lymphatic cancer since 2004, and had undergone years of radiotherapy and other treatments for the illness. In 2015, she was briefly placed in an induced coma after her condition worsened, and had issues with speech, swallowing and respiration in the years since. In 2021, she had argued in favour of euthanasia, saying that France was “inhuman” for not allowing the procedure.

Hardy was born in the middle of an air raid in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1944, and raised in the city, mostly by her mother. Aged 16, she received her first guitar as a present and began writing her own songs, performing them live and auditioning for record labels. In 1961, she signed with Disques Vogue.

Inspired by the French chanson style of crooned ballads as well as the emerging edgier styles of pop and rock’n’roll, Hardy became a key part of the yé-yé style that dominated mid-century French music. It was named after the predilection for English-language bands of the time to chant “yeah”, and Hardy had a hand in its coinage: an early song, La Fille Avec Toi, began with the English words: “Oh, oh, yeah, yeah.”

The self-penned ballad Tous les garçons et les filles was her breakthrough in 1962, and sold more than 2.5m copies; it topped the French charts, as did early singles Je Suis D’Accord and Le Temps de L’Amour. In 1963, Hardy represented Monaco at the Eurovision song contest and finished fifth.

Her growing European fame meant she began rerecording her repertoire in multiple languages, including English. Her 1964 song All Over the World, translated from Dans le Monde Entier, became her only UK Top 20 hit, but her fame endured in France, Italy and Germany. In 1968, Comment te Dire Adieu, a version of It Hurts to Say Goodbye (originally made famous by Vera Lynn) with lyrics by Serge Gainsbourg, became one of her biggest hits.

Hardy’s beauty and deft aesthetic – which encompassed cleanly silhouetted tailoring alongside more casual looks, including knitwear and rock-leaning denim and leather – defined the seeming effortlessness of 20th-century French cool. She became a muse to designers including Yves Saint Laurent and Paco Rabanne, and was also a frequent subject for fashion photography, shot by the likes of Richard Avedon, David Bailey and William Klein. Later, designer Rei Kawakubo would name her label Comme des Garçons after a line in a Hardy song.

Hardy was an object of adoration to many male stars of 60s pop including the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. Bob Dylan wrote a poem about her for the liner notes of his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan, beginning: “For Françoise Hardy, at the Seine’s edge, a giant shadow of Notre Dame seeks t’ grab my foot …”

She was also courted by directors, appearing in films by Jean-Luc Godard, Roger Vadim, John Frankenheimer and more.

Hardy left Disques Vogue amid financial disputes, and signed a three-year deal with Sonopresse in 1970. This creatively rich period saw her record with Brazilian musician Tuca on 1971’s highly acclaimed La Question, and continue her multi-lingual releases, but by the contract’s end her stardom had waned and it was not renewed.

She spent the mid-1970s chiefly focused on raising her son Thomas with her partner, musician and actor Jacques Dutronc. Releases restarted with 1977’s Star, and Hardy embraced – not always enthusiastically – the sounds of funk, disco and electronic pop. A longer hiatus in the 1980s was punctuated by 1988’s Décalages, billed as her final album, though she returned in 1996 with Le Danger, switching her palette to moody contemporary rock. She released six further albums, ending with Personne D’Autre in 2018.

Having first met in 1967, she and Jacques Dutronc married in 1981 – “an uninteresting formality”, she later said of marriage in general – and separated in 1988, though they remained friends. She is survived by him and their son.

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US banana giant ordered to pay $38m to families of Colombian men killed by death squads

Landmark verdict against Chiquita marks first time major US company held liable for funding human rights abuses abroad

A Florida court has ordered Chiquita Brands International to pay $38m to the families of eight Colombian men murdered by a paramilitary death squad, after the US banana giant was shown to have financed the terrorist organisation from 1997 to 2004.

The landmark ruling late on Monday came after 17 years of legal efforts and is the first time that the fruit multinational has paid out compensation to Colombian victims, opening the way for thousands of others to seek restitution.

It also marks the first time a major US corporation has been held liable for such rights abuses in another country and could lead to a series of similar lawsuits involving rights violations across the world.

“This verdict sends a powerful message to corporations everywhere: profiting from human rights abuses will not go unpunished,” said Marco Simons at EarthRights, one of the law firms representing the families of those killed by the paramilitaries.

Chiquita pleaded guilty in 2007 to funding “a specially designated global terrorist” for secretly paying the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) $1.7m over seven years at the height of Colombia’s brutal conflict, but had never before been ordered to pay compensation to victims.

The rightwing AUC sprang up in the 1980s to protect landowners from leftist rebels such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), but went on to become the worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the south American nation – and one of the country’s largest drug-traffickers.

Until it disarmed as part of a 2004 peace process, the AUC was responsible for most of the civilian lives lost in Colombia’s brutal, six-decade-long conflict, which left 450,000 people dead and millions displaced.

Chiquita has argued that it was extorted by the AUC and that the payments were necessary to protect its employees from armed Marxists.

Court documents show that Chiquita continued paying the AUC after it had been designated an international terrorist organisation in the US in 2001 and that executives saw the payment as the “cost of doing business in Colombia”.

New evidence presented to the Florida courts also showed that Chiquita allowed the AUC to use its ports to import automatic rifles and its banana boats to smuggle cocaine across the seas, human rights lawyers at International Rights Advocates (IRAdvocates) said.

The civil cases were brought by the family members of trade unionists, banana workers and activists who were tortured, killed and disappeared by paramilitaries as they sought to control the vast banana-producing regions of Colombia.

Some victims were forcibly disappeared by the AUC merely for being suspected of sympathising with the rebels, the rights firms said.

Among the victims who presented evidence was the widow of a union leader who was tortured, decapitated and dismembered by the AUC in 1997.

“It’s a triumph of a process that has been going on for almost 17 years, for all of us who have suffered so much during these years,” said another of the victims, who asked not to be named. “We’re not in this process because we want to be. It was Chiquita, with its actions, that dragged us into it. We have a responsibility to our families, and we must fight for them.”

The case was a “bellwether trial”, said Terrence Collingsworth, executive director of IRAdvocates, one of the legal firms representing the victims.

If the other pending cases are not resolved by negotiation, a second bellwether trial is scheduled for 14 July.

“These brave women and the other Plaintiffs in this case have demonstrated that corporate criminals like Chiquita can be held accountable through courage and perseverance. Hopefully, this verdict will inspire others to fight for corporate accountability,” Collingsworth said in a statement. “In my experience, corporations operating in the global economy will do whatever they can get away with. We just showed them that there are real consequences for corporate outlaws.”

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Kevin Spacey says he was ‘too handsy’ in the past

Actor tells Piers Morgan in new interview that he had ‘pushed the boundaries’

Kevin Spacey has described himself as “pushing the boundaries” and “being too handsy” in the past, in a new interview.

The actor won a US civil lawsuit after being accused of an unwanted sexual advance at a party in 1986, and last year was acquitted at Southwark crown court after being accused of sexually assaulting four men in the period between 2001 and 2013.

He has always denied any criminal wrongdoing and misconduct allegations.

In an interview for the YouTube channel Piers Morgan Uncensored, Spacey said he had “pushed the boundaries” in the past.

When asked how, he told Morgan: “Being too handsy, touching someone sexually in a way that I didn’t know at the time they didn’t want.”

“I have caressed people, I have been gentle with people, that is the way that I am,” he added in response to accusations.

“You’re making a pass at someone, you don’t want to be aggressive. You want to be gentle. You want to see if they’re going to respond positively.”

He added: “They should let you know they don’t want to do it so that you can understand it’s non-consensual and stop.”

The actor also said his home is being sold at auction to settle legal bills after allegations of sexual misconduct made against him.

He said: “This week, where I have been living in Baltimore is being foreclosed on, my house is being sold at auction.

“I have to go back to Baltimore and put all my things in storage. So the answer to that question is I’m not quite sure where I’m going to live now, but I’ve been in Baltimore … since we started shooting House of Cards there … I moved there in 2012.”

When asked why he was selling the house, he replied: “I can’t pay the bills that I owe.

“A couple of times I thought I was going to file [for bankruptcy], but we’ve managed to sort of dodge it, at least as of today.”

Spacey said he owed “many millions” of dollars due to legal bills, and seemed emotional at several points during the lengthy interview, which was conducted in person.

He was sacked from Netflix’s House of Cards when the 2017 allegations emerged during the show’s sixth season, and later edited out of the movie All the Money in the World and replaced by Christopher Plummer, who had to reshoot scenes at the last minute.

The actor also denied fresh claims of inappropriate behaviour that were aired in a Channel 4 documentary titled Spacey Unmasked, which he criticised.

A spokesperson for Channel 4 previously said: “Spacey Unmasked is an important film exploring the balance of power and inappropriate behaviour in a work environment, aiming to give a voice to those who have previously been unable to speak out.”

In 2022, Spacey was sued at the high court in London by a man who claimed he had been sexually assaulted by Spacey and suffered “psychiatric damage”.

The case was paused during his criminal trial, but has since restarted after a hearing in May.

Famous faces including Sharon Stone, Liam Neeson and Stephen Fry have been campaigning for his return to acting in statements to the Telegraph newspaper in May.

Spacey has two Academy Awards, for best supporting actor for The Usual Suspects in 1996 and best actor in 2000 for American Beauty, which also secured him a Bafta for leading actor.

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Bacchus Marsh Grammar: schoolboy arrested after 50 female students allegedly targeted in fake explicit AI photos scandal

A teenager at the private school in regional Victoria was held after images created with artificial intelligence were circulated in the area

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A teenage boy has been arrested after fake explicit images were allegedly circulated on social media of about 50 female students from a private school in regional Victoria.

The principal of Bacchus Marsh Grammar, Andrew Neal, told the ABC about 50 girls had been targeted.

The nude images appeared to have been created using artificial intelligence and photos of the girls’ faces taken from social media sites, and were then circulated online.

“[The girls] should be able to learn and go about their business without this kind of nonsense,” Neal told the ABC.

In a statement, acting principal Kevin Richardson said “Bacchus Marsh Grammar is taking this matter very seriously and has contacted Victoria Police”.

“The wellbeing of Bacchus Marsh Grammar students and their families is of paramount importance to the School and is being addressed, all students affected are being offered support from our wellbeing staff.”

He said the school has not been contacted by police regarding anyone arrested in relation to the matter.

Victoria police said officers were informed that a number of images were sent to a person in the Melton area, which is about a 15-minute drive from Bacchus Marsh, via an online platform on Friday 7 June.

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Police said the teenage boy was arrested in relation to the incident, but has been released pending further inquiries.

“The investigation remains ongoing,” police said.

It comes after a student from Salesian College, a Catholic boys school in Chadstone in Melbourne, was expelled after he used artificial intelligence to produce explicit images of a female teacher.

The federal government announced in May it would introduce legislation to ban the creation and sharing of deepfake pornography as part of measures to combat violence against women.

But the Nationals senator Matt Canavan said there was a broader cultural problem that needed to be addressed.

“It is a cultural issue across our society that for whatever reason the standards of behaviour are not being taught to young boys,” he told Nine on Wednesday morning.

“I wish I had the answers – I don’t – but I don’t necessarily think it’s something a government or a law can change.

“We’ve all got to chip in to try and make sure that young boys understand what it means to grow up to be a man and live by the standards that society expects.”

Technology has “supercharged” boys’ bad behaviour, Canavan said.

Image-based abuse, including deepfakes, can be reported to eSafety, which claims “a 90% success rate in getting this distressing material down”.

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Book about book bans banned by Florida school board

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz banned in Indian River county after opposition from parents linked to Moms for Liberty

A book about book bans has been banned in a Florida school district.

Ban This Book, a children’s book written by Alan Gratz, will no longer be available in the Indian River county school district since the school board voted to remove the book last month.

Gratz’s book, which came out in 2017, follows fourth-grader Amy Anne Ollinger as she tries to check out her favorite book. Ollinger is told by the librarian she cannot, because it was banned after a classmate’s parent thought it was inappropriate. She then creates a secret banned-books library, entering into “an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what she and her fellow students can read”, according to the book’s description on Gratz’s website.

In a peculiar case of life imitating art, Jennifer Pippin, a parent in the coastal community, challenged the book.

Pippin’s opposition is what prompted the school board to vote 3-2 in favor of removing it from shelves. The vote happened despite the district’s book-review committee vetting the work and deciding to keep it in schools.

Indian River county school board members disagreed with how Gratz’s book referred to other works that had been taken out of school, and accused it of “teaching rebellion of school-board authority”, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

Pippin is also the chair of the local Moms for Liberty chapter, a far-right organization that has been behind many of the book bans that have swept across the US in recent years. According to a 2023 PEN America report, 81% of school districts that banned books between July 2022 and June 2023 were within or adjoined a county with a local chapter of a group such as Moms for Liberty.

Besides Pippin, two of the school board members who voted in favor of banning the book, Jacqueline Rosario and Gene Posca, had support from Moms for Liberty during their campaigns.

Rosario and Posca did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement to the Tallahassee Democrat, Gratz noted the irony of his book being banned.

“They banned the book because it talks about the books that they have banned and because it talks about book banning,” he said. “It feels like they know exactly what they’re doing and they’re somewhat ashamed of what they’re doing and they don’t want a book on the shelves that calls them out.”

Book bans have picked up steam in recent years and not shown any sign of slowing down. In fact, the American Library Association issued data earlier this year that noted there had been a massive uptick in the number of titles targeted for censorship at public libraries in the US in 2023. The number of titles targeted for censorship increased by 92% over the previous year (2022), accounting for about 46% of all book challenges in 2023.

The data also noted that there had been 4,240 unique book titles targeted for censorship, as well as 1,247 demands to censor library books, materials and resources in 2023.

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