The Guardian 2024-07-03 02:12:54


Joe Biden has invited Democratic governors to meet with him on Wednesday, as he attempts to shore up support among his party’s leaders after his disastrous debate performance last week.

The meeting with governors is likely to be mostly virtual, according to Associated Press, and marks the strongest indication yet that Biden is attempting to reassure those in his own party that he is capable of continuing his reelection campaign.

Trump seeks to set aside hush-money verdict hours after immunity ruling

Lawyers ask New York judge to delay sentencing and Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg says he is not opposed

Donald Trump has asked the New York judge who presided over his recent hush-money trial to set aside his conviction as he seeks to capitalise on Monday’s supreme court ruling granting him broad immunity from prosecution.

In what is probably just the first real-world impact of the controversial ruling from the conservative-dominated court, which said Trump cannot be held criminally liable for many acts taken when he was president, Trump’s legal team sent a letter to the trial judge, Juan Merchan, asking him to postpone the sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for 11 July, while Merchan weighs how Monday’s court ruling affects the case.

Although the offences happened before Trump was president, the lawyers argue that the supreme court ruling confirms their argument that some evidence should be inadmissible because it related to presidential acts.

The president was convicted on 34 felony charges.

The office of Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney who prosecuted Trump’s hush-money case, said on Tuesday he would not oppose the move to delay his sentencing hearing.

“Although we believe [the] defendant’s arguments to be without merit, we do not oppose his request for leave to file and his putative request to adjourn sentencing pending determination of his motion,” the assistant district attorney Joshua Steinglass responded in a letter filed in response to the request.

The Trump team’s lightning-fast request, which was filed only a few hours after the supreme court decision, indicates it is likely the beginning of the fallout from a ruling that is being celebrated by Trump supporters but that critics warned paves the way to a vastly inflated definition of presidential powers, one which could lead to a future US dictatorship – perhaps even under Trump himself.

A Manhattan jury found Trump guilty on 31 May after a trial lasting several weeks on charges of falsifying documents to cover up hush money paid to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, shortly before the 2016 presidential election, which he won.

Trump had sought immunity from prosecution in prior court filings for conduct alleged to have involved official acts while he was president. While the lawyers did not raise this as a defence in the hush-money case, they argued that some evidence – including tweets about his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who testified against him in the trial – should have been ruled out because he was president at the time and therefore should have had immunity.

Trump reacted triumphantly to Monday’s high court ruling, writing on his Truth Social site: “Big win for our constitution and democracy. Proud to be an American!”

Joe Biden and senior Democrats condemned the decision, which complicates Trump’s prosecution on unrelated charges that he tried to overturn the 2020 presidential result and incited a mob to attack the US Capitol. The ruling stemmed from the former president’s claim that he had immunity from those charges, which are being pressed by a special prosecutor, Jack Smith, who accuses Trump of trying to defraud the United States by seeking to stay in office following Biden’s victory.

It means, in the first instance, that Trump’s trial is unlikely to take place before November’s presidential election. Should he win, he could order the justice department to drop the case.

Biden, speaking from the White House, said the ruling set a “dangerous precedent” and warned that it would embolden Trump if he is elected president again, freeing him to act without constraint.

“The American people will have to render a judgment about Donald Trump’s behaviour,” Biden said. “The American people must decide whether Trump’s assault on our democracy on January 6 [2021] makes him unfit for public office.”

Biden also invoked the dissenting opinion of the liberal justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said the 6-3 ruling was tantamount to elevating an elected president into a “king” who would be above the law.

“I concur with Justice Sotomayor’s dissent today. So should the American people dissent. I dissent. May God bless you all. May God help preserve our democracy,” Biden said, as he sought to portray the ruling as an attack on democracy that “undermined the rule of law”.

Biden’s remarks were his first in public since a weekend meeting with family members at Camp David, where they were said to have discussed his remarkably poor performance at last week’s presidential debate with Trump, a showing that has left his candidacy in crisis and sparked calls for him to step aside for a younger Democratic candidate.

Speaking from a teleprompter, the president cut a more vigorous figure than the raspy-voiced, frail-looking figure that frequently stumbled over his words in the Atlanta debate, but did not respond to questions from reporters, including one who asked if he planned to step aside after his debate performance.

Mike Johnson, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives and a close Trump ally, told Fox News that Biden’s remarks were “despicable” and “dangerous”, and accused him of “trying to undermine the supreme court”.

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House Democrat pledges amendment to reverse Trump immunity ruling

Congressman Joe Morelle vows to act in wake of supreme court decision – but plan is highly unlikely to succeed

A Democratic congressman is calling for a new constitutional amendment to reverse the supreme court’s ruling granting presidents broad immunity from criminal prosecution, a decision that could hamstring the federal case against Donald Trump over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Congressman Joe Morelle, a New York Democrat, raised the idea on Monday, just hours after the supreme court issued its 6-3 decision, which fell along ideological lines.

“I will introduce a constitutional amendment to reverse Scotus’s harmful decision and ensure that no president is above the law,” Morelle wrote on X. “This amendment will do what Scotus failed to do – prioritize our democracy.”

But Morelle’s plan is highly unlikely to succeed. A constitutional amendment can be proposed either by a two-thirds majority vote in the House and Senate or by a constitutional convention, which may be called by two-thirds of state legislatures.

With Republicans controlling the House of Representatives and a majority of state legislative chambers, that hurdle appears impossible to overcome. Republicans largely celebrated the court’s ruling as a win for the rule of law, despite legal experts’ warnings that the decision could set a dangerous precedent for future presidents.

“Today’s ruling by the court is a victory for former president Trump and all future presidents, and another defeat for President Biden’s weaponized Department of Justice and Jack Smith,” Mike Johnson, the Republican House speaker, said on Monday.

Even if a two-thirds majority of Congress members did somehow come together to propose Morelle’s suggested amendment, it would need to be ratified by three-quarters of state legislatures to be added to the constitution. Given that Democrats control just 41% of state legislative chambers, ratification efforts would almost certainly prove futile.

With few options to challenge the court’s ruling, Democrats seem intent on turning the immunity case into a campaign issue. As he addressed the court’s decision on Monday evening, Joe Biden called on Americans to prevent Trump from returning to the White House at a time when “he’ll be more emboldened to do whatever he pleases”.

“Now the American people have to do what the court should have been willing to do and will not,” Biden said. “The American people have to render a judgement about Donald Trump’s behavior.”

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James Carville calls on Democratic party to ‘deliver change’ and replace Biden

Strategist reiterates his months-long calls for party to look at ‘staggering talent’ of governors for candidate

James Carville, one of the few establishment Democrats to have warned about Joe Biden’s age before his disastrous debate performance, has called on his party to “deliver change” and replace the president as its nominee for November’s election.

In a Monday interview, the longtime strategist also said it would be in the US’s best interest for Biden’s Democratic presidential predecessors Barack Obama and Bill Clinton to help persuade him to suspend his re-election – and support an open nomination convention in Chicago in August to select a new ticket for the party.

“If it’s too hard for the Democrats to deliver change, then they’re going to hurt themselves bad – really bad,” said Carville, who led Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign. “Change is messy. But you have to listen to the vox populi. We want something new. I see staggering talent in the Democratic party.

“Let them speak their minds.”

Carville’s comments come after he has spent months saying Biden was too old, should not run again – and that the party’s governors were among the most “breathtaking talent”, as he put it in a 16 December interview. He added: “We’re keeping it bottled up.”

Democrats initially did not like hearing Carville attack Biden on the age issue. Pennsylvania senator John Fetterman told Politico he wished Carville would “would shut the fuck up!”

Avoiding a tangle with Fetterman, Carville fell in behind Biden after his re-nomination became inevitable. But in February, when Biden refused an interview offer during the Super Bowl, Carville fumed on CNN: “It’s the biggest television audience, not even close, and you get a chance to do a 20-, 25-minute interview … and you don’t do it, that’s a kind of sign that the staff or yourself doesn’t have much confidence in you.

“There’s no other way to read this.”

As Carville watched Biden debate Donald Trump in his room at the hotel where he was staying for the Ideas festival in Aspen, Colorado, Biden quickly began faltering. Text messages started arriving after three minutes.

“I wasn’t surprised this happened,” he said. “It’s like knowing where you were the night JFK got shot, you’ll remember where you were on Thursday night. Every election is about one thing: is this a change election, or a stay-the-course election? That’s the axis on which politics operates. This is clearly a change election.”

As the text traffic intensified, he got back to the Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein, saying: “I tried, man. I tried.”

He saw a theme emerge as people reacted to Biden’s raspy voice and confusion in certain answers, saying: “OMG – that was my daddy five years ago! Everyone understands old age as they go through it or help their parents through it. Everyone has helped an old lady across the street. This is a water-cooler issue.”

Carville turns 80 in October. “This is nothing to be ashamed of,” he said. “Ageing happens.”

But, Carville said, there are now “two wars going on”. On one hand, “the ugly, mad supreme court is greenlighting every element of corporate rapacity in their rulings trying to gut the EPA”.

The supreme court on Monday also issued a ruling granting “absolute immunity” from prosecution to presidents for acts that are considered official. Many interpreted the ruling as a boost to Trump’s efforts to combat prosecutions against him in connection with a sprawling effort to subvert the outcome of the 2020 election that he lost to Biden – all of which are still pending after his conviction in the New York case involving hush money paid to Stormy Daniels.

Meanwhile, Carville said, Biden is being told to “stay the course” by the first lady, Jill Biden, and son Hunter, recently convicted on federal gun charges.

“They have every reason in the world to love a tremendous dad, a guy who worships his wife,” Carville said. “My children love me, even though my oldest daughter says: ‘Daddy, I wish you wouldn’t say some of those things.’”

“Change is hard,” Carville said. “The polls show 72% of the public wants change – and not the kind Trump and his cult offer.”

Carville said organizers of an open convention could line up speakers including California governor Gavin Newsom, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, former New Orleans mayor and Biden re-election campaign co-chairman Mitch Landrieu, Vice-President Kamala Harris, and Maryland governor Wes Moore.

“You know how many networks would cover that as major breaking news?” Carville said. “It could split the party, yes. Then go cut a deal! Soothe the hurt feelings – do the things that make politics what fascinates so many of us.

“It was a lot of trouble for Magellan to go around the world. Martin Luther King Jr had a nice church in Montgomery – it was a lot of trouble to lead that bus boycott.”

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Negotiated outcome most likely result of Russia-Ukraine war, major poll says

In thinktank’s survey of 15 European countries, few respondents believe Ukraine can secure an outright victory

A negotiated outcome with Russia, as opposed to an outright Ukrainian military victory, is now seen as the most likely outcome in most European countries, according to a major poll of 15 countries.

Support for Ukraine’s cause remains strong across Europe despite battlefield reverses, but European voters increasingly regard arming Ukraine as necessary not to achieve a complete Ukrainian battlefield victory, but instead to strengthen Ukraine’s hand in future negotiations with Russia.

The European Council of Foreign Relations (ECFR) thinktank polled 19,566 people in 15 countries in the first half of May 2024. The thinktank has regularly carried out surveys on Ukraine, but it is the first time it has also polled inside Ukraine itself, where it finds support for war and victory are strong, despite talk of weakening morale.

A total of 34% of Ukrainians currently say they trust the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, “a great deal”, while a further 31% trust him “quite a lot” – meaning that those who are keeping faith with their leader outnumber those who are not by two to one.

When asked about the most likely outcome of the war, 58% of Ukrainians foresaw a Ukrainian victory, 30% said it would end in a settlement, and only 1% expected Russia to emerge victorious. But a majority preferred ceding territory rather than abandoning sovereignty, defined by the right to join Nato and the EU.

Inside 14 European countries surveyed, only in Estonia was there a prevailing view (38%) that Ukraine would win the war outright. Nevertheless, majorities in Sweden and Poland wanted Europe to help Ukraine fight until all its territory is regained. Majorities in Italy, Greece and Bulgaria opposed this to the extent that they thought it was a bad idea to increase the supply of weapons to Ukraine. Overall, Italy emerged as the largest major European power least supportive of Ukraine. But in most European countries, large majorities still support sending more arms to Ukraine, even if it is to strengthen Ukraine’s negotiating hand.

A middle group of countries, including Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, lack a national consensus on the war and the EU’s role.In no country , even the most hawkish, was there support for sending troops to Ukraine.

A total of 69% of Ukrainians said more weapons were needed to defend itself, but this view did not translate into a disillusionment with the EU. Seventy-five per cent of Ukrainians regarded the EU’s role as positive and saw Ukraine’s membership as necessary to win the war.

Asked to list 10 countries according to the reliability of their support to their homeland, Ukrainians ranked the UK top with 88%, saying Britain had been “very or mostly reliable”, followed by Lithiuania on 77%, although most countries on the list were regarded as reliable.

But some Ukrainians – a third – admitted they were strongly concerned that the US would strike a peace deal with Russia without involving Kyiv.

The poll shows that the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has failed to persuade the French to follow him into his personal transition towards adopting a much harder pro-Ukrainian position. One-third of France was in favour of supporting Ukraine in regaining its lost territory, another third would rather push Ukraine towards negotiating a peace deal with Russia, while the final third remained on the fence.

A co-author of the survey report and the chair of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Ivan Krastev, said: “The striking thing about the state of public opinion, vis-a-vis Ukraine, is its remarkable stability – while the conflict has not frozen, in many aspects public attitudes have.”

Co-author and ECFR director Mark Leonard said: “Our new polling suggests that one of the key challenges for western leaders will be reconciling the conflicting positions between Europeans and Ukrainians on how the war will end. While both groups recognise the need for continued military provision, to help Ukraine push back at Russian aggression, there is a profound gulf around what constitutes a victory – and what the purpose of Europe’s support actually is.”

The polling was conducted by Datapraxis with YouGov, Norstat, Alpha Research and Rating Group in 15 countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine).

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Scores killed in crush at Hindu gathering in northern India

Scores reportedly killed as audience left sermon at celebration of deity Shiva in Hathras, south-east of Delhi

Dozens of people are feared to have been crushed to death at a Hindu religious gathering in northern India, police and media have said.

Crowds had gathered to celebrate the Hindu deity Shiva in the city of Hathras, 87 miles (140km) south-east of Delhi. The district police spokesperson Manish Chikara put the death toll at about 60 people, but said that figure might rise. Broadcaster NDTV said the death toll was at least 87 and local officials told India Today 107 people had died.

Deadly incidents are common at places of worship during major religious festivals in India, the biggest of which prompt millions of devotees to make pilgrimages to holy sites.

Authorities said a large crowd had gathered in response to a call from a local religious leader. “The incident happened due to overcrowding at the time when people were trying to leave the venue,” the Hathras district administrator Ashish Kumar told reporters.

Witnesses and local media reports said the victims were crushed to death as the audience left the sermon. “When the sermon finished, everyone started running out,” Shakuntala, a woman who gave only one name, told the Press Trust of India news agency.

“People fell in a drain by the road. They started falling one on top of the other and got crushed to death.”

An unidentified witness told the broadcaster India Today there was a narrow exit at the venue: “As we tried to exit towards a field, suddenly a commotion started, and we didn’t know what to do.”

The local chief medical officer, Umesh Kumar Tripathi, told reporters that most of the dead were women.

Videos on social media showed bodies piled up on the ground outside a local hospital.

The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, Yogi Adityanath, ordered an investigation. “Instructions have been given to the concerned officials to conduct relief and rescue operations on war footing and to provide proper treatment to the injured,” he posted on X.

Religious gatherings in India have a grim track record of deadly incidents caused by poor crowd management and safety lapses.

At least 112 people were killed in 2016 after a huge explosion caused by a banned fireworks display at a temple marking the Hindu new year. The blast ripped through concrete buildings and ignited a fire at a temple complex in Kerala state, where thousands had gathered.

In 2013, 115 devotees died after a crush at a bridge near a temple in Madhya Pradesh.

Up to 400,000 people were gathered in the area, and the crush occurred after a rumour spread that the bridge was about to collapse.

About 224 pilgrims died and more than 400 others were injured in a crush in 2008 at a hilltop temple in the northern city of Jodhpur.

  • Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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US woman who posed as Irish heiress extradited to UK to face fraud charges

Marianne Smyth is accused of stealing more than $170,000 from people she met through her work at UK-based mortgage companies

A US-born woman who posed as an Irish heiress to scam thousands of dollars from several victims has been flown to the UK to face additional charges there.

Marianne Smyth is accused of stealing more than $170,000 from five people whom she met through her jobs at UK-based mortgage companies between 2008 and 2010. For years, Smyth feigned being a witch, psychic and friend of A-list celebrities to deceive others into giving her money.

Notably, Smyth stole nearly $100,000 from a television producer, Johnathan Walton, who later helped send her to prison and publicized her crimes on a hit podcast.

A spokesperson for the justice department confirmed to the AP on Tuesday that Smyth had been extradited and referred additional questions to Northern Ireland authorities.

A statement on Tuesday from Northern Ireland police confirmed a woman matching Smyth’s description had been extradited on Saturday from the US “to stand trial … for a number of fraud offences”. It didn’t name Smyth but said she made an initial appearance in front of a judge on Saturday.

Smyth was arrested 23 February in Maine after being released from prison for defrauding Walton, who detailed Smyth’s crime spree in the Queen of the Con: The Irish Heiress podcast. The podcast explained how Smyth defrauded him and others, including in Belfast, Northern Ireland. And it was Walton who provided authorities with Smyth’s location – a short-term rental – prior to her arrest in Maine.

In 2009, police in Belfast had been planning on arresting Smyth after several victims reported her. Smyth was facing theft and fraud charges in the Northern Ireland capital.

But Smyth managed to flee, even killing more than a dozen dogs who were living with her at the time, according to what her daughter said on Walton’s podcast.

Years later, a listener of the Queen of Con podcast ultimately alerted Walton to where Smyth was staying. Walton, in turn, told the police.

In May, a US magistrate judge determined that there was enough evidence to justify Smyth’s extradition. In a statement to the Guardian on Smyth’s extradition order, Walton said: “It’s been said the pen is mightier than the sword, but let me tell you, the podcast is mightier still.

“My only desire now is for justice at long last for the victims in Northern Ireland.”

Smyth reportedly said she was afraid that she would be murdered if she was returned to Northern Ireland, according to a court transcript obtained by the Guardian.

Her attorney also unsuccessfully argued that there was not enough evidence to extradite her.

The Associated Press contributed reporting

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New Cuban radar site near US military base could aid China spying – report

CSIS calls site near Guantánamo a ‘powerful tool’ that will be able to monitor air and maritime activity of US military

Satellite images appear to show that Cuba is building a new radar site likely to be capable of spying on the US’s nearby Guantánamo Bay naval base, in the latest upgrade to the country’s surveillance capabilities long thought to be linked to China.

The base, under construction since 2021 but previously not publicly reported, is east of the city of Santiago de Cuba near the El Salao neighborhood, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said in a report published on Monday and later referenced by the Wall Street Journal.

Cuban vice foreign minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio denied that Cuba was harboring Chinese military interests on the island.

“[The] Wall Street Journal persists in launching an intimidation campaign related to #Cuba. Without citing a verifiable source or showing evidence, it seeks to scare the public with tales about Chinese military bases that do not exist and no one has seen, including the US embassy in Cuba,” de Cossio said on social media.

Cuba’s proximity to the US and its southern military bases makes it a good location for China, Washington’s top strategic rival, to seek to collect signals intelligence. The CSIS called the new site a “powerful tool” that once operational will be able to monitor air and maritime activity of the US military.

The facility, known as a circularly disposed antenna array with a diameter of approximately 130 to 200 meters, could be able to track signals as far as 3,000-8,000 nautical miles (3,452-9,206 miles) away, the CSIS said.

“Access to such an outpost would provide China with a highly strategic vantage point near Naval Station Guantanamo Bay,” it said, referring to the key US military base 45 miles (73km) east of Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city.

Such arrays were used heavily during the cold war, but Russia and the US have since decommissioned most of their sites in favor of more advanced technology, the CSIS said. However, the thinktank said China has been actively building new such arrays, including on reef outposts in the South China Sea.

Last year, Biden administration officials said Beijing has been spying from Cuba for years and made a push to upgrade its intelligence collection capabilities there beginning in 2019, allegations that both Beijing and Havana have denied.

The White House national security council and the US defense department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China’s embassy in Washington said the US had repeatedly “hyped up” the idea of China’s spying and surveillance from Cuba.

“Such claims are nothing but slander,” embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said.

The CSIS also said satellite images from March 2024 show Cuba’s largest active signals intelligence site at Bejucal, located in the hills near Havana and linked to suspected Chinese intelligence activity for years, has undergone “major updates” in the past decade, calling it a “clear indication of an evolving mission set”.

“Collecting data on activities like military exercises, missile tests, rocket launches and submarine maneuvers would allow China to develop a more sophisticated picture of US military practices,” the CSIS said.

It said certain radar systems installed in Cuba in recent years are in range to monitor rocket launches from Cape Canaveral and Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center, a likely interest for China as it seeks to catch up to US space launch technology.

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New Cuban radar site near US military base could aid China spying – report

CSIS calls site near Guantánamo a ‘powerful tool’ that will be able to monitor air and maritime activity of US military

Satellite images appear to show that Cuba is building a new radar site likely to be capable of spying on the US’s nearby Guantánamo Bay naval base, in the latest upgrade to the country’s surveillance capabilities long thought to be linked to China.

The base, under construction since 2021 but previously not publicly reported, is east of the city of Santiago de Cuba near the El Salao neighborhood, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said in a report published on Monday and later referenced by the Wall Street Journal.

Cuban vice foreign minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio denied that Cuba was harboring Chinese military interests on the island.

“[The] Wall Street Journal persists in launching an intimidation campaign related to #Cuba. Without citing a verifiable source or showing evidence, it seeks to scare the public with tales about Chinese military bases that do not exist and no one has seen, including the US embassy in Cuba,” de Cossio said on social media.

Cuba’s proximity to the US and its southern military bases makes it a good location for China, Washington’s top strategic rival, to seek to collect signals intelligence. The CSIS called the new site a “powerful tool” that once operational will be able to monitor air and maritime activity of the US military.

The facility, known as a circularly disposed antenna array with a diameter of approximately 130 to 200 meters, could be able to track signals as far as 3,000-8,000 nautical miles (3,452-9,206 miles) away, the CSIS said.

“Access to such an outpost would provide China with a highly strategic vantage point near Naval Station Guantanamo Bay,” it said, referring to the key US military base 45 miles (73km) east of Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city.

Such arrays were used heavily during the cold war, but Russia and the US have since decommissioned most of their sites in favor of more advanced technology, the CSIS said. However, the thinktank said China has been actively building new such arrays, including on reef outposts in the South China Sea.

Last year, Biden administration officials said Beijing has been spying from Cuba for years and made a push to upgrade its intelligence collection capabilities there beginning in 2019, allegations that both Beijing and Havana have denied.

The White House national security council and the US defense department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China’s embassy in Washington said the US had repeatedly “hyped up” the idea of China’s spying and surveillance from Cuba.

“Such claims are nothing but slander,” embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said.

The CSIS also said satellite images from March 2024 show Cuba’s largest active signals intelligence site at Bejucal, located in the hills near Havana and linked to suspected Chinese intelligence activity for years, has undergone “major updates” in the past decade, calling it a “clear indication of an evolving mission set”.

“Collecting data on activities like military exercises, missile tests, rocket launches and submarine maneuvers would allow China to develop a more sophisticated picture of US military practices,” the CSIS said.

It said certain radar systems installed in Cuba in recent years are in range to monitor rocket launches from Cape Canaveral and Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center, a likely interest for China as it seeks to catch up to US space launch technology.

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Rudy Giuliani disbarred in New York for false statements about 2020 election

Ex-New York mayor and Trump adviser already had his license suspended for false statements about election

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and adviser to Donald Trump, has been disbarred in New York for making false statements on the results of the 2020 election.

A New York appeals court made the decision on Tuesday.

A panel of judges ruled that Giuliani would be “disbarred from the practice of law, effective immediately, and until the further order of this Court, and his name stricken from the roll of attorneys and counselors-at-law in the State of New York”, the Associated Press reported.

The decision comes as Giuliani already had his New York law license suspended for making false statements after the 2020 election.

In May, Giuliani was also suspended by New York radio station WABC for using his show to declare that Trump lost the 2020 presidential election because of supposed electoral fraud.

In an interview with the New York Times, billionaire John Catsimatidis, the Republican owner of WABC, said that Giuliani had been “warned” to not discuss lies about the 2020 election.

“We’re not going to talk about fallacies of the November 2020 election. We warned him once. We warned him twice. And I get a text from him last night, and I get a text from him this morning that he refuses not to talk about it … So he left me no option. I suspended him,” said Catsimatidis.

Despite the slew of legal trouble, Giuliani has said he has no regrets for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Last month after posting bond in the Arizona fake electors case against him, Giuliani said he doesn’t regret his actions.

“I’m very, very proud of it,” Giuliani said while leaving the state courthouse.

Giuliani has plead not guilty to criminal charges for reportedly pressuring Arizona legislators and the Maricopa county board of supervisors to change the state’s 2020 presidential election results. Giuliani also told Arizona Republicans electors to vote for Trump.

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Lucy Letby found guilty of trying to kill two-hour-old baby

Former neonatal nurse convicted on retrial after jury at original trial was unable to reach verdict

Lucy Letby has been found guilty of trying to kill a two-hour-old baby girl on the hospital ward where she murdered seven other infants.

The “cold-blooded, calculated killer”, who is serving 14 whole-life prison terms, was convicted on Tuesday of attempting to murder the “extremely premature” infant after a retrial at Manchester crown court.

The infant, known as Baby K, was born 15 weeks premature and weighed only 692g (1.52lbs) when the former neonatal nurse was alleged to have tampered with her breathing tube, causing a “life-threatening” deterioration.

The newborn died three days later. Letby was initially charged with her murder, but prosecutors later decided there was insufficient evidence.

Letby faced a three-week retrial on the single count of attempted murder, which she denied, after the jury in her original trial was unable to reach a verdict last year.

Baby K’s parents sobbed and held their heads in their hands as the jury’s unanimous verdict was delivered after three and a half hours of deliberation.

In a statement on behalf of the family outside court, DI Andrea Price, of Cheshire constabulary, said they were “heartbroken, devastated, angry and feel numb”. They added: “To lose a baby is a heartbreaking experience that no parent should ever go through, but to lose a baby and then learn of the harm that was inflicted in these circumstances is unimaginable.

“Over the past seven to eight years we have to had to go through a long, torturous and emotional journey twice from losing our precious newborn and grieving her loss to being told years later that her death or collapse might be suspicious. Nothing prepares you for that news.

“Today, justice has been served and a nurse who should have been caring for our daughter has been found guilty of harming her, but this justice will not take away the extreme hurt, anger and distress that we have all had to experience.”

The family said they were left with the pain of potentially never knowing why Letby attempted to murder their daughter.

Letby, 34, from Hereford, stared straight ahead and gave no reaction as she was told she would be sentenced on Friday.

She has now been convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder seven others at the Countess of Chester hospital between June 2015 and June 2016.

There are continuing police investigations and a public inquiry into how Letby was allowed to remain on the neonatal unit despite the concerns of senior doctors.

Letby, who has consistently maintained her innocence, was in May refused permission to appeal against last year’s convictions by the court of appeal.

In a 59-page ruling published on Tuesday, the court of appeal said none of Letby’s legal challenges had been arguable and that she had not met the criteria for admitting new evidence.

The nurse’s latest trial centred on Baby K, who was born at the Countess of Chester hospital in the early hours of 17 February 2016.

Prosecutors said Letby attempted to murder the infant about 90 minutes after she was born by displacing her breathing tube moments after the child’s nurse had left her side. This caused the child’s blood oxygen levels to plummet to “life-threatening” levels, the court heard.

By this time she had murdered five babies and attempted to murder three others. Senior doctors had linked her to a number of unexplained incidents but she remained on the neonatal unit for a further five months, going on to kill two triplet brothers by injecting air into their stomachs.

She was “caught virtually red-handed” trying to kill Baby K, the prosecution said, when a senior doctor walked in on her alone beside the infant’s incubator after she had tampered with the baby’s breathing tube.

The consultant, Dr Ravi Jayaram, said Letby was doing nothing to help the child as she fought for her life. An alarm on the baby’s monitor appeared to have been silenced, the court heard.

Prosecutors said the nurse tampered with Baby K’s breathing tube twice more in the following hours in an attempt to convince her colleagues that the newborn, who was sedated on morphine, had dislodged it by herself.

Nicola Wyn Williams, a senior prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, described Letby’s actions as those of a “cold-blooded, calculated killer”.

DCI Nicola Evans, of Cheshire constabulary, praised the “courage, strength and resilience” of Baby K’s parents and added: “A trained nurse responsible for caring and protecting a tiny, premature baby abused that position of trust in the most unthinkable way. The continued denials have caused significant upset for Baby K’s family as they have had to endure a trial and subsequent re-trial. No one should ever have to go through what they experienced.”

Giving evidence, Letby said she had never harmed any babies and that she was “not guilty of what I’ve been found guilty of”.

The defendant told jurors she could not remember the night in question and had no memory of Baby K beyond the fact she was so premature. She could not explain why she had searched for the child’s family on Facebook more than two years later.

Detectives are analysing the records of about 4,000 babies cared for by Letby during her time as a children’s nurse at Liverpool Women’s hospital and the Countess of Chester, both in north-west England.

Cheshire constabulary has launched an investigation into possible corporate manslaughter and is examining the decision-making of senior leadership at the time of the deaths.

A public inquiry led by Lady Justice Kathryn Thirlwall will begin in September into how Letby was able to continue working with babies despite the concerns of senior doctors who connected her to a number of suspicious incidents.

Dr Nigel Scawn, the medical director of the Countess of Chester hospital NHS foundation trust, said: “Our thoughts are with the family and loved ones of Baby K. We are extremely sorry that these awful crimes happened at our hospital.”

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Four dead as category 5 Hurricane Beryl wreaks havoc across Caribbean

With winds up to 160mph, the monster storm pushed through Grenada and is on track for Jamaica and the Yucatán peninsula

  • Why Hurricane Beryl foretells a scary storm season

At least four people have died as Hurricane Beryl wreaked “almost complete destruction” on small and vulnerable islands in the Caribbean.

The monster hurricane, which is now barrelling towards Jamaica, has strengthened to category 5 status, which means it can achieve wind speeds of over 157mph (253km/h).

Described by the US National Hurricane Center as “catastrophic” and “life-threatening”, Beryl left a trail of “utter devastation” in Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

According to early reports from the two multi-island nations, hundreds of buildings, including homes, schools, hospitals and police stations, have been badly damaged or completely destroyed.

At least 90% of building structures are believed to be affected in the Grenadine island of Union, part of SVG.

There was also a country-wide electricity blackout, and Beryl has severely affected communication and transportation channels, leading to difficulties in assessing the true impact of the devastation on some islands.

“The situation is grim,” Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell told Grenadians as he gave an update on the Grenadian islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique early on Tuesday.

“There is no power, there is almost complete destruction of homes and buildings on the island. The roads are not passable, and in many instances, they are cut off because of the large quantity of debris strewn all over the streets.”

“In half an hour, Carriacou was flattened,” Mitchell told a press conference late on Monday.

On Tuesday, officials in the two countries were assessing the damage and seeking support from regional and international agencies.

On social media, the prime minister said the government was working to get relief supplies to both Carriacou and the island of Petite Martinique on Tuesday. “The state of emergency is still in effect. Remain indoors,” he wrote on Facebook.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, the prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, spoke about the “pain and suffering” across the nations and praised the resilience of the Vincentian people. He told reporters: “Hurricane Beryl has come and gone and has left in its wake immense destruction.

“The faces of our men and women are strained and anxious. But tomorrow, we get up with the conviction to rebuild our individual lives and our family’s lives. To rebuild our country, to recover.”

Grenada’s attorney general, Claudette Joseph, told reporters that the country was working with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the World Food Programme and Samaritan’s Purse on relief and rebuilding efforts.

Beryl ripped off doors, windows and roofs in homes across the south-eastern Caribbean on Monday after making landfall on the island of Carriacou in Grenada as the earliest category 4 storm in the Atlantic in recorded history, fuelled by record warm waters.

From St Lucia island south to Grenada, the streets were strewn with shoes, trees, downed power lines and other debris. Banana trees were snapped in half and cows lay dead in green pastures with homes made of tin and plywood tilting precariously nearby.

Early on Tuesday, the storm was located about 300 miles (485km) south-east of Isla Beata in the Dominican Republic. It had top winds of 165mph (270km/h) and was moving west-north-west at 22mph (35km/h).

“Beryl remains an impressive category 5 hurricane,” the National Hurricane Center said.

A hurricane warning was in effect for Jamaica and a hurricane watch for Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac and for Haiti’s entire southern coast. Beryl was forecast to start losing intensity on Tuesday but still be near major hurricane strength when it passes near or over Jamaica early Wednesday, near the Cayman Islands on Thursday and into Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula on Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Caricom, the regional intergovernmental organisation, was holding an emergency meeting to discuss support to the islands affected by Beryl.

Beryl gained its strength from record warm waters that are hotter now than they would be at the peak of hurricane season in September, according to meteorologists who say the hotter water temperatures are a result of the global climate crisis driven primarily by the burning of fossil fuels.

The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse contributed reporting

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Israel risking disastrous war against Hezbollah for political reasons, says former US official

Harrison Mann, military expert who quit over Gaza, says ruinous war in Lebanon would pull US into regional conflict

Israel risks going to war against Hezbollah to ensure Benjamin Netanyahu’s political survival, but it would be a miscalculation that could lead to mass civilian deaths in both Lebanon and Israel, a former US military intelligence analyst has warned.

Harrison Mann, a major in the Defence Intelligence Agency who left the military last month over US support for Israel’s war in Gaza, also told the Guardian that such a disastrous new war would pull the US into a regional conflict.

Despite an announcement in June by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) that planning for a Lebanon offensive had been completed, and increasingly bellicose rhetoric from Israeli politicians, US officials have been saying privately that Netanyahu’s government is aware how dangerous a war with Hezbollah would be and is not seeking a fight.

Mann, the most senior US military officer to have quit over Gaza to date, said that assessment was optimistic and that there was a high risk of Israel going to war on its northern border for internal political reasons, led by a prime minister whose continuing hold on power and consequent insulation from corruption charges, depends largely on the nation being at war.

“We know specifically that the Israeli prime minister must continue to be a wartime leader if he wants to prolong his political career and stay out of court, so that motivation is there,” Mann said in an interview. He added that any Israeli government would be sensitive to political pressure from tens of thousands of Israelis displaced from the border area because of Hezbollah rocket and artillery attacks.

On top of that, the Israeli military establishment is convinced that the heavily armed, Iranian-backed Shia militia will have to be confronted sooner rather than later, as it grows in strength, Mann said, but he argued the Israelis have miscalculated the costs of a new war in Lebanon.

“I don’t know how realistic their assessments are of the destruction that Israel would incur, and I’m pretty sure they don’t have a realistic idea of how successful they would be against Hezbollah,” the former army officer and intelligence analyst said.

He argued Israel military was well aware it could not strike a decisive blow against Hezbollah’s fearsome armoury with pre-emptive strikes, as the rockets, missiles and artillery are dug into the mountainous Lebanese landscape.

Instead Mann said the IDF would launch decapitation strikes against Hezbollah leaders, and bomb Shia residential areas, to demoralise the movement’s support base, a tactic known as the Dahiya doctrine, after the Dahiya district of Beirut which Israel targeted in the 2006 war.

“It’s not like an actual written doctrine, but I think we can be very comfortable assessing that bombing civilian centres as a way to compel the enemy is clearly an accepted and shared belief in the IDF and Israeli leadership. We’ve just seen them do it in Gaza for the past nine months,” Mann said – but he stressed that such a plan would backfire.

Mann predicted Hezbollah would unleash a mass rocket and missile attack, if it felt it was under existential threat.

“They probably have the ability to at least partially overwhelm Israel’s air defences, strike civilian infrastructure around the country, and inflict a level of destruction on Israel that I’m not sure Israel has really ever experienced in its history – certainly not in its recent history,” Mann said.

Unable to destroy Hezbollah’s arsenal in the air, the IDF would launch a ground offensive into southern Lebanon which would come at high cost in Israeli casualties. Mann warned the shelling of Israeli cities meanwhile would make it impossible for the Biden administration, in the run-up to an election, to turn down Netanyahu’s appeals for the US to become more involved.

“Our least escalatory participation will be possibly striking supply lines or associated targets in Iraq and Syria to help cut off lines of communication and armaments flowing to Hezbollah,” Mann said. “But that on its own is risky, because if we start doing that, some of the people that we hit could be Hezbollah, but they could be IRGC [Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps].”

He said he thought that the Biden administration would seek to avoid any direct clash with Iran, but the risk of such a conflict would rise anyway.

“I trust the administration not to do that, but I think between us or the Israelis striking Iranian targets outside of Iran, the risk of escalation is also going to get much higher,” Mann said.

Mann first submitted his resignation in November and it took effect in June. In May, he published a resignation letter on the LinkedIn social media platform, saying that US support for Israel’s war in Gaza had “enabled and empowered the killing and starvation of tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians”.

As the descendent of European Jews, Mann wrote: “I was raised in a particularly unforgiving moral environment when it came to the topic of bearing responsibility for ethnic cleansing.”

He said the response from his former colleagues since he resigned his commission had been mostly positive.

“A lot of people I worked with reached out to me, a lot of people I didn’t work with as well, and expressed that they felt the same way,” he said. “It’s not just a generational thing. There’s quite senior people who feel the same way.”

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Paris mayor says rise of far right will not dampen Olympics mood

Anne Hidalgo says Paris ‘stands up for freedom’ amid Marine Le Pen success in first round of voting

The Paris mayor has sought to reassure visitors that the festive mood at the Olympics will not be dampened by Marine Le Pen’s electoral successes in France’s snap parliamentary elections, with less than a month to go before the city hosts the Games.

“The party will not be spoilt,” Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo told broadcaster France 2 on Tuesday. “I say to visitors from the world over – come over! Because Paris is a city that stands up for freedom and is a city of resistance against the extreme right.”

Le Pen’s far-right, anti-immigrant National Rally (RN) and its allies finished first with 33% of the vote in Sunday’s first round.

Before the second, decisive round on 7 July, at least 200 candidates have withdrawn in an effort to build a united front capable of halting Jordan Bardella, Le Pen’s 28-year-old protege with no governing experience, from becoming prime minister.

Le Pen on Tuesday said her party would seek to form a government even if it fell short of an absolute majority, in a reversal of the party’s previous stance. The party could cobble support from a minimum of “for example, 270 deputies” and then find support from 19 more MPs in order to make Bardella prime minister, she said.

“If we then have a majority, then yes, of course, we’ll go and do what the voters elected us to do,” she told broadcaster France Inter.

The party’s worst results, however, were in Paris, where all of the party’s candidates were eliminated in the first round. Instead Parisians cast their votes for the leftwing New Popular Front alliance (NFP), which nationally earned 28% of the vote, and Emmanuel Macron’s broad alliance of centrists, who gained 22% of the vote across the country.

Hidalgo, who would not say if she would stand next to Bardella, should he become prime minister, at the opening and closing ceremonies, insisted that the focus at the moment should be on halting the RN’s rise to power. “We have to do all we can to make sure that doesn’t happen,” she said. “Why? Because it would be a catastrophe for the country. It would be a surrender of our values.”

She described the RN as a party “anchored in a programme of extreme racism”, pointing to the party’s promises to bar dual nationals from strategic jobs and the party’s language around immigration.

Hints of how the RN would act once in power could be seen in countries where the far right was already governing, such as Italy and Argentina, she said. “What do they do when they’re in power? They constantly, permanently attack women, foreigners, so-called minorities and people who are gay,” she said. “They attack all fragile people, they sow chaos.”

The RN on Tuesday said it would withdraw one of its candidates in north-western France after a photo emerged of her wearing a Nazi hat bearing a swastika, media outlet France Bleu Normandie reported. Ludivine Daoudi had placed third in the constituency, with 20% of the vote in the first round.

As questions swirled over the extent to which Macron’s centrist alliance would employ tactical alliances to block the RN, Hidalgo insisted there was no other choice. “We have to do it because if we don’t, it’s not just a hangover that we’ll have on 8 July,” she said. “It will be a disaster for the country.”

She linked the political turmoil to Macron’s shock decision to dissolve parliament “on a whim” and call snap elections. “Emmanuel Macron bears major responsibility for everything that has happened,” she added. “He’s obviously the one responsible for this chaos.”

In the weeks leading up to the snap election, Macron had reportedly suggested that the sporting event could work in his favour as he scrambled to shore up votes for his struggling alliance.

“I don’t think they [voters] want Olympic Games that look bad,” Macron told reporters on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in Italy, according to Le Monde. “French people are concerned about the image of France, in its ability to welcome the world.”

Bardella hit back, saying that he had confidence in the ability of state services to organise the games. “If we win the parliamentary elections, I will not change the arrangements that have been in place for several months. This event must be a major success for the nation,” Bardella said on social media at the time.

The interview with Hildalgo came days after it emerged that the Seine River had again failed water quality tests, casting doubt over one of the longest-running, most expensive and high-stakes endeavours of the Games: the plans to host the open-water swimming competition and the swimming leg of the triathlon in the river.

Tests completed last week suggested that levels of E coli bacteria – an indicator of faecal matter – remain far above the upper limits imposed by sports federations.

On Tuesday Hidalgo said she was still planning to swim in the Seine and that she had invited Macron to join her. She did not address the failed test results, which were released by her office.

“After letting the storms pass, we are in the process of setting the date which will be after 14 July but before the Olympics of course,” she said.

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