The Guardian 2024-07-05 08:13:08


Biden says he ‘screwed up’ but vows to continue as polls show six-point lead for Trump

President gives interviews with stations in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania as report says he plans to cut back on events after 8pm

Joe Biden has told a radio show he “screwed up” and made a “mistake” in last week’s debate against Donald Trump, but vowed to stay in the election race, even as a series of polls show him now trailing the ex-president by about six points.

In two interviews conducted Wednesday and aired Thursday with local radio stations in the battleground states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where he will also hold events this weekend, the president urged voters to judge him on his time in the White House.

“I had a bad night,” Biden told Milwaukee radio host Earl Ingram. “And the fact of the matter is that I screwed up. I made a mistake. That’s 90 minutes on stage – look at what I’ve done in three and a half years.”

To Ingram’s largely Black audience, Biden pointed to achievements during his presidency that increased representation.

“I picked a Black woman to be my vice-president. I’ve appointed the first Black woman to be a supreme court justice,” Biden said. “I’ve appointed more Black judges, more Black women judges, than every other president in American history combined.”

Biden also attacked Trump for comments the former president made about Black workers during their TV debate a week ago, when Trump said migrant workers could be taking as many as 20m Black jobs.

“He’s done terrible things in the community, and he has about as much interest and concern for Black, minority communities as the man on the moon does,” Biden said.

The interviews are part of a blitz of public appearances over the next few days that the president himself reportedly told a key ally were critical for whether he could successfully make a case for his re-election to the public, following a debate performance in which he appeared at times to lose his train of thought or blank out entirely.

Although he secured the continuing support of Democratic governors in a meeting on Wednesday evening, the New York Times also cited two people in that meeting who said Biden admitted to the governors he had been feeling the effects of fatigue, needed to work less and get more sleep, and was aiming to reduce his number of engagements after 8pm. Hawaii’s governor, Josh Green, is reported to have asked Biden about his health. “It’s just my brain,” Biden said, in what some heard as a joke but at least one person found odd.

As well as the Wisconsin and Pennsylvania rallies, Biden will also give an another interview on Friday to ABC News, then to Good Morning America over the weekend.

Clips of the ABC interview were originally scheduled to be aired on Friday night in the news time slot, with the full interview in two parts on Sunday and Monday, but the network announced on Thursday that it would now run the interview in its entirety on Friday.

On Thursday, the White House told CNN that Biden had been examined by his doctor after the debate, during which he reportedly had a cold. The statement appeared to contradict the press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s assertion a day earlier that Biden had had no medical exams since his February physical.

The White House spokesman Andrew Bates told CNN “the president was seen to check on his cold and was recovering well”.

A gathering number of opinion polls conducted after the debate appear to show that his worrying performance, including an inability to successfully argue against Trump’s stream of unchecked lies, has hurt Biden with voters.

According to a Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday, on Trump has opened a six-point lead nationally, at 48% to 42%, with 80% of respondents saying the president is too old to run for a second term – an increase of seven points since February.

It also found that Biden is viewed favorably by 34% of voters, and unfavorably by 63%. Less than 40% approved of his handling of the economy, immigration or his time in office overall.

Another poll, from the New York Times/Siena, released on Wednesday also showed a six-point advantage to Trump, up from three a week earlier. Among registered voters, Trump led by eight points.

According to the Journal poll, one-third of respondents, including 31% of independents – a key bloc of US voters on whom the election may turn – said the debate made them more likely to vote for Trump, while just 10% said Biden.

A similar percentage of Democrats and Republicans – roughly three-quarters – said they considered Biden too old to run. Two-thirds of Democrats said they would replace Biden with another candidate.

Meanwhile, a Fourth of July campaign message from the president also attacked the recent supreme court ruling that presidents are immune from criminal prosecution for an acts deemed “official”, saying it paved the way for the presidency to become a de facto monarchy.

“Our nation waged a war based on the revolutionary idea that everyday people ought to govern themselves,” Biden said in the message, quoting the US constitutional principle “that we will swear fealty to no king” and that everyone is equal under the law – a founding principle that Biden said “conservatives on the court have decided presidents are free to break”.

Speculation has been intensifying about whether more elected Democrats will call for Biden to step aside: only two congressmen have so far done so. Potential replacement candidates, including Kamala Harris, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer and California governor Gavin Newsom, have strongly stated their support for Biden’s re-election.

In a call to campaign workers on Wednesday, he is reported to have said: “I’m the nominee of the Democratic party. No one’s pushing me out. I’m not leaving.” In a fundraising email after the call, Biden said: “Let me say this as clearly and simply as I can: I’m running.”

Trump had been running a roughly two-point lead in the polls earlier in the year, though his lead appeared to narrow and the candidates seemed to be running neck-and-neck before the debate.

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Trump calls Biden ‘broken-down’ and claims he quit 2024 race in leaked video

Clip obtained by Daily Beast shows ex-president sitting in golf cart, holding cash, as he discusses presidential debate

“A broken-down pile of crap” on the verge of “quitting the race” was Donald Trump’s summation of Joe Biden in a surreptitiously filmed video leaked on Wednesday.

The clip, obtained by the Daily Beast, shows the 78-year-old former president sitting in a golf cart, holding a pile of cash, and with son Barron alongside, as he offers an analysis of the 2024 presidential campaign.

Trump asked a group off-camera: “How did I do with the debate the other night?” before predicting that Biden would not seek re-election.

“He just quit, you know – he’s quitting the race”, Trump said. “I got him out of the – and that means we have Kamala.”

The White House and most Democrats maintain Biden will remain the party nominee, though voter polls suggest that he has slipped six points behind Trump and that the vice-president, Kamala Harris, could be a stronger Democrat candidate in November.

“I think she’s gonna be better” as an opponent, Trump continued in the video, but added: “She’s so bad. She’s so pathetic” and appeared to say: “She’s so fucking bad.”

Biden’s campaign has denied he is stepping down. “Absolutely not,” said the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, on Wednesday. Several Democratic governors repeated the phrase “in it to win it” after meeting with Biden.

The Trump campaign has not commented directly on the video but on Wednesday predicted the “total collapse” of the Democratic party following Biden’s poor debate performance and mounting calls for him to step aside.

The Biden-Harris campaign responded to the video in a statement: “The American people have already seen low after low from Donald Trump,” it said, described the video as a “new rock bottom” for him.

The clip was leaked hours after the Trump campaign released its first attack ads against Harris, who is the most likely candidate to replace Biden if he decides to quit the race.

Leaked video and audio clips have previously been a source of embarrassment for Trump, including in 2016 with the notorious Access Hollywood tape in which he described women in vulgar terms and bragged about sexually harassing them.

In the latest video Trump expressed disdain for Biden’s ability to deal with foreign adversaries, including Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, and China’s president, Xi Jinping.

“Can you imagine that guy dealing with Putin?” Trump asked. “And the president of China – who’s a fierce person. He’s a fierce man, very tough guy. And they see him.”

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Relatives of India crush victims accuse authorities of leaving people to die

Family members and eyewitnesses say they had to dig in mud to find survivors and some of the more than 120 killed

Relatives of victims of the deadly crowd crush during a Hindu religious gathering in northern India have accused the authorities of leaving their loved ones to die in the mud and on hospital floors due to a lack of medical staff and ambulances.

More than 120 people died at the religious gathering of about 250,000 people held on Tuesday as devotees surged forward, causing panic, with many falling over in the wet conditions.

Most of those who died at the gathering for a popular spiritual guru, known as Bhole Baba, were women and children as the crush took place in a women-only section.

On Thursday, police said six people had been arrested. The four men and two women were aides to Baba who were involved in organising the event but fled when the crush occurred, police said.

According to a police report filed after the incident, permission was only granted for 80,000 people but more than three times that number were in attendance at the venue at a village in Hathras, with local organisers blamed for the “uncontrollable crowd”.

However, several victims’ relatives and eyewitnesses accused the police, authorities and a hospital of being slow to respond to the fatal crush, with families left to dig through the mud to find the dead and injured and carry them to get medical care due to a lack of ambulances, paramedics and police on site.

Hari Singh, 54, a construction worker from a village near Hathras, said his wife, Rekha, was only saved due to his frantic search for her in the aftermath.

Singh described rushing to the area of the disaster, searching for a glimpse of the bright orange of his wife’s sari. “There were no medical staff, police or ambulance around,” he said. “I walked over several dead bodies and many injured people who were desperately gasping for breath, and some were sobbing and wailing. I lifted the faces of several people lying lifeless and even helped some injured stand up.”

After almost losing hope, he finally found his wife lying unconscious, half buried in the mud. With no medical help or police around, he carried her in his arms and into a rickshaw, driving her to hospital where doctors said her life had only just been saved.

“I am so angry, dozens of people could have been saved if the injured were rushed to hospitals on time or if medics were around,” said Singh. He also claimed his wife had been forcibly discharged on Thursday morning without receiving proper treatment and was still suffering terrible pain in her spine and ribs.

Others described how many of the injured were left on hospital floors unattended due to a lack of beds and doctors, alleging that several had died due to a lack of immediate medical attention.

One doctor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said only eight doctors had been working at the hospital when the injured and dead started arriving, and claimed many more lives could have been saved if they were better staffed.

“The hospital was running out of capacity to handle so many injured and dead bodies,” they said. “Because of the shortage of staff to deal with such crises, we could not make proper efforts to revive patients.”

Surya Prakash, the medical superintendent of the district hospital in Hathras, said it was unprepared to deal with a catastrophe on this scale. “It was very difficult for us to handle the situation because of the panic and crowd in the hospital,” said Prakash. “It was difficult to manage the crowd and then treat patients.”

The hospital morgue, which usually only has space for six bodies, also quickly overflowed with the dead. “It was difficult for us to manage, and that is why ice cubes were brought in to manage the dead bodies,” he said.

Anuj Kumar, 31, a resident who rushed to the scene after watching the crush unfold, said he was among several villagers who had used local transport to carry the dead and injured to the hospital.

“I could see many lying in the field, crying out for help, but there were no ambulances,” he said. He described carrying 20 injured women and children into rickshaws, travelling to a hospital with three unconscious women in one vehicle. But as they arrived he said there were “no doctors and no hospital beds”.

“We kept each of them on the floor as there were no doctors to see them,” said Kumar. “They were alive. I put my ear on their chest, and their hearts were beating; they were breathing. But by the time doctors started checking them, two of them were dead, and another one also passed away soon.”

Shailender Kumar, from Agra, was at work when his uncle called him with the news that his aunt, Sangita, had been killed in the crush. They hired a vehicle and rushed to the trauma centre in the town of Sikandra Rao.

“I walked into a scene of carnage. It looked like a war zone. The injured were fighting for their last breaths. There were at least 100 or more bodies, some just lay unattended on the floor, and some on the beds. There weren’t enough beds or enough medical staff to attend to them. I didn’t see a single doctor. Those fighting for their lives weren’t given oxygen cylinders. Because they probably didn’t have any.

“I am outraged at the lack of responsibility in the face of such a tragedy.”

Reacting to a viral video of a man carrying the dead body of a relative on his shoulders, Kumar said: “The situation was worse than this. People were begging for help to carry the bodies of their loved ones home. There’s no dignity for us, even in death.”

The location of the guru, whose real name is Narayan Sakar Vishwa Hari, remains unknown since the incident but a statement by his lawyer on Wednesday accused “antisocial elements” of a conspiracy to stir up the panic.

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US calls new Hamas ceasefire proposal for Gaza a ‘breakthrough’

White House says proposal is in line with deal outlined by Joe Biden in late May, but work is still to be done

The White House has described the latest Hamas ceasefire proposal for Gaza as a “breakthrough” establishing a framework for a possible hostage deal, but warned that difficult negotiations remained over the implementation of the agreement.

A senior US official said the Biden administration received the latest Hamas offer “a couple of days ago” and had been studying it ahead of a 30-minute telephone call between Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday.

“The conversation was detailed, going through the text of the agreement, constructive and encouraging, while also clear-eyed about the work ahead [and] the steps that must be put in place to finalise this deal and then begin the implementation,” the US official said of the call.

Netanyahu was due to convene a meeting of his security cabinet on Thursday evening to discuss the Hamas proposal, and is dispatching a negotiating team to the Qatari capital, Doha, for talks with US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators in the coming days.

Israeli officials said the delegation would be led, as usual, by David Barnea, the head of the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad.

The White House predicted that the Doha talks could convene as early as Friday. It said the Hamas proposal was in line with the three-stage peace deal that Biden outlined on 31 May, which has formally been accepted by the Israeli government and endorsed by the UN security council.

US officials had said an earlier Hamas response contained elements that were negotiable but some that were not. The White House reaction to Hamas’s new response was much more positive.

“I think the framework is now in place and we have to work out the implementation steps,” a senior US official said. “What we got back from Hamas was a pretty significant adjustment to what had been their position, and that is encouraging. We have heard the same from the Israelis.”

The official stressed that the agreement was not yet final, however. “This does not mean this deal is going to be closed in a period of days. There’s significant work to be done on some of the implementation steps,” they said.

The main obstacle in negotiations until this week had been widely differing views on how the agreement would move from its first phase to its second.

The first phase involves the release by Hamas of elderly, sick and female hostages during a six-week truce, an Israeli withdrawal from Gazan cities, and the release of Palestinian detainees held by Israel.

The second phase would involve the release of all remaining hostages as well as the bodies of those who have died, a permanent end to hostilities and a full Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Phase three would mark the start of Gaza’s reconstruction.

The transition from the first to the second phase was to be negotiated during the first six-week truce, and the ceasefire would continue as long as good-faith negotiations continued, but Hamas wanted stronger guarantees over the path to a permanent ceasefire.

Netanyahu had publicly cast doubt on whether that would happen, vowing to complete the destruction of the militia, which has run Gaza for nearly two decades and which launched a surprise attack on southern Israel on 7 October.

“Some of the key issues on the transition from phase one to phase two have really been a stumbling block. I think we’ve had a breakthrough in that area,” the senior US official said, without giving details of the text presented by Hamas.

“Between phase one and phase two … you have to have conditions and arrangements in place. I think that is something that is obvious, but it’s something that Hamas has resisted,” they said, adding that Hamas had dropped its resistance to the imposition of conditions before reaching a permanent ceasefire.

The senior US official said many implementation issues to be negotiated in Doha involved “some sequencing and then a release of detainees”.

“I have to say, given the recent developments, we do believe there’s a pretty significant opening here, and we welcome the prime minister’s readiness to try to seize that opening by empowering his negotiating team to engage directly in Doha over the coming days,” the official said.

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Hezbollah says it has fired 200 rockets into Israel after killing of commander

Barrage from Lebanon one of group’s largest yet, as Israel discusses Hamas proposals for possible Gaza ceasefire

Lebanon’s Hezbollah says it has fired 200 rockets into Israel in one of its largest barrages yet, as Benjamin Netanyahu told the US that Israel will send a delegation to resume stalled negotiations with Hamas on a possible hostage release deal.

Israel confirmed the Iran-backed militant group had fired “numerous projectiles and suspicious aerial targets” from Lebanon on Thursday towards the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and more than 15 drones into Israeli territory, many of which it said were intercepted. An Israeli military spokesperson said there were no casualties reported.

Hezbollah said the barrage was in retaliation for a strike that killed one of its top commanders. It followed at least two attacks on Wednesday in response to what the group called “the assassination” of the commander Mohammed Nasser.

The militant group said it launched 100 Katyusha rockets at an Israeli military base in Golan and its Iranian-made Falaq missiles at another base in the town of Kiryat Shmona near the Israel-Lebanon border.

Nasser, killed by an airstrike near the city of Tyre in southern Lebanon, was one of the most senior Hezbollah commanders to die in the conflict, two security sources in Lebanon said. According to sources in Lebanon, he “was of great importance to Hezbollah”, which said he took part in battles in conflicts in Syria and Iraq from 2011 until 2016 and “fought in the group’s last war with Israel in 2006”.

US and French diplomats are working fervently to avert the escalation of tensions into a full-scale conflict, a scenario they worry may have ripple effects throughout the entire region.

Initial diplomatic attempts by Washington to maintain calm along the Lebanon-Israel border were conducted independently of the conflict in Gaza.

Hezbollah has declared its attacks on Israel to be in support of Hamas and indicated its willingness to halt its assaults if a ceasefire is reached in Gaza.

Israeli authorities, on the other hand, have said military action in Lebanon remains a potential course of action should diplomatic efforts prove unsuccessful.

Thursday’s attack came as Netanyahu prepared to convene a meeting of his security cabinet later in the day to discuss proposals from Hamas about a possible ceasefire deal in Gaza to pause the nearly nine-month war, a source in the Israeli prime minister’s office told Reuters.

Before the meeting, Netanyahu would have consultations with his ceasefire negotiations team, the source added.

Netanyahu told the US president, Biden, on Thursday that he had decided to send a delegation to resume stalled negotiations on a hostage release deal with Hamas, the two country’s administrations said.

In a phone call between the two leaders, Netanyahu repeated his position that Israel would end its nearly nine-month war in Gaza only when all its objectives had been achieved, his office said in a statement.

Israel received Hamas’s response on Wednesday to a proposal made public at the end of May by Biden that would include the release of about 120 hostages held in Gaza and a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory.

A Palestinian official close to the mediation effort told Reuters that Hamas had shown flexibility over some clauses, which would allow a framework agreement to be reached should Israel approve.

Hamas has said any deal must end the and bring about a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, while Israel maintains it will accept only temporary pauses in the fighting until Hamas is eradicated.

The strategy involves the step-by-step liberation of Israeli captives in Gaza and the withdrawal of Israeli troops during the initial two stages, alongside the release of Palestinian detainees. The third phase focuses on the rebuilding of the conflict-ravaged region and the repatriation of the deceased hostages’ remains.

‘’We hope that this is the end of the war, we are exhausted and we can’t stand more setbacks and disappointments,” said Youssef, a displaced person in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza. “Every hour into this war, more people die, and more houses get destroyed, so enough is enough. I say this to my leaders, to Israel and the world.”

On Thursday, tens of thousands of Palestinians continued to search for refuge after being ordered to evacuate, a directive that also encompassed the border city of Rafah.

The United Nations deemed this mandate as the most extensive since 1.1 million individuals were instructed to depart the northern region of Gaza in October.

The war began on 7 October when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people.

The military offensive launched by Israel in response has so far killed 38,011 Palestinians and injured 87,445, mostly women and children, the Gaza health ministry said on Thursday.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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Israel has approved ‘largest West Bank land grab in 30 years’, watchdog says

Peace Now says approval of more than 12 sq km is biggest since peace process began in 1993

  • Israel-Gaza war – live updates

Israel has approved the largest seizure of land in the occupied West Bank in more than three decades, according to a report released by an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog, a move that will exacerbate the escalating tensions surrounding the conflict in Gaza.

Peace Now said authorities recently approved the appropriation of 12.7 sq km (nearly 5 sq miles) of land in the Jordan valley, indicating it was “the largest single appropriation approved since the 1993 Oslo accords”, referring to the start of the peace process.

Settlement monitors say the recent land acquisition links Israeli settlements along a crucial corridor adjacent to Jordan, a development they say threatens the formation of a future Palestinian state.

Israel occupied the West Bank, capturing it from Jordan, in the six-day war of 1967. Since then, successive governments have made efforts to permanently cement Israeli control over the land, in part by declaring large swathes as “state lands”, which prevents private Palestinian ownership.

The recent land seizure, which was approved late last month but only publicised on Wednesday, comes after the seizure of 8 sq km of land in the West Bank in March and 2.6 sq km in February.

Peace Now says the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, “are determined to fight against the entire world and against the interests of the people of Israel for the benefit of a handful of settlers”.

“Today, it is clear to everyone that this conflict cannot be resolved without a political settlement that establishes a Palestinian state alongside Israel,” the group added. “Still, the Israeli government chooses to actually make it difficult.”

UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric called it “a step in the wrong direction,” adding that “the direction we want to be heading is to find a negotiated two-state solution”.

In a leaked recording captured by Peace Now, Smotrich, during a conference for his National Religious Party-Religious Zionism, disclosed that the land confiscations in 2024 surpassed previous years’ averages by approximately tenfold.

“This thing is mega-strategic and we are investing a lot in it,” Smotrich said. “This is something that will change the map dramatically.”

In May 2023, Smotrich, who said his “life’s mission is to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state”, had instructed Israeli government ministries to prepare for 500,000 more Israeli settlers to move into the occupied West Bank.

On 20 June, the Guardian revealed how the Israeli military has quietly handed over significant legal powers in the West Bank to pro-settler civil servants working for Smotrich.

An order posted by the Israel Defense Forces on its website on 29 May transfers responsibility for dozens of bylaws at the Civil Administration – the Israeli body governing in the West Bank – from the military to officials led by Smotrich at the defence ministry.

Since 7 October, settlers have stepped up beatings and attacks, forcing Palestinians to flee to nearby towns, and there has been an increase in army home demolitions.

Late in June, Israeli soldiers have destroyed 11 homes and other structures in Umm al-Kheir, a village in the occupied West Bank, leaving 50 people homeless, while early in July they fired live ammunition and teargas at six Palestinian villagers, including four women and a five-year-old girl.

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Kylian Mbappé laments ‘catastrophic’ French election vote for National Rally

  • French striker says runoff vote is ‘urgent situation’
  • ‘We can’t let France fall into the hands of these people’

Kylian Mbappé has branded the first-round results of France’s snap parliamentary election “catastrophic”, urging voters to turn out in force and fend off the threat of a National Rally-controlled government when polls open for the runoff vote on Sunday.

In the latest of several interventions by members of the France national football team, the influential captain Mbappé warned that the country must take its chance to ensure the far right, anti-immigration party is unable to seize power in what has become a tumultuous political battle.

“It’s an urgent situation,” he said when asked for his thoughts on a parlous state of affairs that saw National Rally win 33% of the popular vote in last weekend’s first round. “We cannot let our country fall into the hands of these people. It is pressing. We saw the results, it’s catastrophic. We really hope it’s going to change: that everyone is going to rally together, go and vote, and vote for the correct party.”

Mbappé emphasised the importance of voting “now, more than ever”. France’s players are currently in Germany for the European Championship but they have maintained close attention on events back home and, unlike their English counterparts, a number of them have felt comfortable commenting on political matters.

Speaking on Monday after their victory over Belgium, the defender Jules Koundé said he was “disappointed” with the level of support for a party that “seek to take away our freedom and take away the fact that we live together”. He stated that previous non-voters must be persuaded to the ballot box in order to ensure the extreme right do not gain an absolute majority.

Before the tournament began, the forwards Marcus Thuram and Ousmane Dembélé both made similar exhortations to those eligible to vote. Mbappé joined them, saying at the time that he is “against extreme views and against ideas that divide people”.

Those comments were criticised by, among others, the National Rally leader Jordan Bardella. Mbappé, who recently signed for the Champions League winners Real Madrid, is France’s star player and a figure whose voice holds considerable weight among the country’s youth.

France face Portugal in a quarter-final on Friday and it means Mbappé, who will again play in a mask after breaking his nose in the group stage, will face a former Real Madrid forward in Cristiano Ronaldo. It is widely held that this could be the moment Mbappé, who is 25, takes the baton of greatness from the 39-year-old Portugal legend. “He is one of a kind,” Mbappé said. “He has shaped football, inspired generations, scored goals. I can only sing his praises.”

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Kylian Mbappé laments ‘catastrophic’ French election vote for National Rally

  • French striker says runoff vote is ‘urgent situation’
  • ‘We can’t let France fall into the hands of these people’

Kylian Mbappé has branded the first-round results of France’s snap parliamentary election “catastrophic”, urging voters to turn out in force and fend off the threat of a National Rally-controlled government when polls open for the runoff vote on Sunday.

In the latest of several interventions by members of the France national football team, the influential captain Mbappé warned that the country must take its chance to ensure the far right, anti-immigration party is unable to seize power in what has become a tumultuous political battle.

“It’s an urgent situation,” he said when asked for his thoughts on a parlous state of affairs that saw National Rally win 33% of the popular vote in last weekend’s first round. “We cannot let our country fall into the hands of these people. It is pressing. We saw the results, it’s catastrophic. We really hope it’s going to change: that everyone is going to rally together, go and vote, and vote for the correct party.”

Mbappé emphasised the importance of voting “now, more than ever”. France’s players are currently in Germany for the European Championship but they have maintained close attention on events back home and, unlike their English counterparts, a number of them have felt comfortable commenting on political matters.

Speaking on Monday after their victory over Belgium, the defender Jules Koundé said he was “disappointed” with the level of support for a party that “seek to take away our freedom and take away the fact that we live together”. He stated that previous non-voters must be persuaded to the ballot box in order to ensure the extreme right do not gain an absolute majority.

Before the tournament began, the forwards Marcus Thuram and Ousmane Dembélé both made similar exhortations to those eligible to vote. Mbappé joined them, saying at the time that he is “against extreme views and against ideas that divide people”.

Those comments were criticised by, among others, the National Rally leader Jordan Bardella. Mbappé, who recently signed for the Champions League winners Real Madrid, is France’s star player and a figure whose voice holds considerable weight among the country’s youth.

France face Portugal in a quarter-final on Friday and it means Mbappé, who will again play in a mask after breaking his nose in the group stage, will face a former Real Madrid forward in Cristiano Ronaldo. It is widely held that this could be the moment Mbappé, who is 25, takes the baton of greatness from the 39-year-old Portugal legend. “He is one of a kind,” Mbappé said. “He has shaped football, inspired generations, scored goals. I can only sing his praises.”

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France to deploy 30,000 police after election runoff amid fears of violence

Move comes after attacks on government spokesperson and RN candidate in buildup to Sunday’s poll

About 30,000 police will be deployed across France on Sunday night amid fears of violence after the final results of a snap election in which the far right hopes to gain a majority in parliament.

Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, said 5,000 police would be on duty in Paris and its surrounding areas to “ensure that the radical right and radical left do not take advantage of the situation to cause mayhem”.

Four people, including one under 18, were arrested after the government spokesperson, Prisca Thevenot, said she and her team had been attacked on Wednesday evening while putting up campaign posters in Meudon, outside Paris.

Her deputy and a party activist were injured after the team told a group of about 10 youths to stop defacing campaign posters. “We said to them, without being aggressive, that [defacing posters] was not allowed,” Thevenot told Le Parisien. She said police arrived less than five minutes after the attack.

“Violence is never the answer. I’ll continue my on-the-ground campaigning,” Thevenot wrote on X.

A few hours before being targeted, she had shared her anxiety as a person of colour in a “complicated” political climate with French broadcaster TF1.

“I don’t say this only as spokesperson of the government, but more as the daughter of immigrants and mother of mixed-race children,” Thevenot said, citing repeated and intensified racist attacks. “They no longer do it anonymously, but with uncovered faces and even with a certain pride.”

A candidate for Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party (RN) in Savoie, Marie Dauchy, also said she had been attacked, by a shopkeeper at a market on Wednesday.

Nicolas Conquer, a candidate for The Republicans, said on social media that he had been assaulted while distributing election flyers in the city of Cherbourg on Tuesday.

“Let’s reject the climate of violence and hatred that is taking hold,” prime minister Gabriel Attal wrote on Thursday on X, adding that violence and intimidation had “no place in our democracy.”

Sunday’s decisive second round is expected to result in the far-right, anti-immigration RN becoming the biggest party in parliament, whether or not it reaches the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority to form the next government.

Both the centrist grouping of the president, Emmanuel Macron, and a broadleftwing coalition, have withdrawn more than 200 candidates from the final runoff in a joint effort to limit the far right’s seats. The exact number of seats the far right RN and its allies could win in the 577-seat national assembly is hard to predict, but Harris Interactive polling for Challenges magazine on Wednesday suggested they could take up to 220.

Le Pen on Thursday claimed the party could reach an absolute majority if voter turnout was high.

“I think there is still the capacity to have an absolute majority with the electorate turning out in a final effort to get what they want,” she told BFM TV. “I say turn out to vote, as it’s a really important moment to get a change in politics in all the areas that are making you suffer right now.”

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Hurricane Beryl barrels through Cayman Islands after battering Jamaica

Category 3 storm with wind speeds of up to 120mph continues to wreak ‘utter devastation’ in Caribbean

  • Why Hurricane Beryl foretells a scary storm season

Hurricane Beryl is barrelling through the Cayman Islands after causing death and destruction in Jamaica.

The British overseas territory is bearing the brunt of the hurricane, which has been causing “utter devastation” in the Caribbean since Monday, when it almost destroyed parts of Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Now a category 3 hurricane with wind speeds of up to 120mph (193km/h), Beryl has brought thunderstorms and gale forces winds to the Cayman Islands.

Earlier on Thursday, meteorologists said the hurricane was 50 miles south-west of Grand Cayman and moving away from the island. However, they issued strong reminders to stay sheltered until the all-clear was given.

On Wednesday, Beryl touched down in Jamaica, forcing airports to close and sending nearly 1,000 people into government-designated shelters.

The hurricane’s eyewall skirted Jamaica’s southern coast as a powerful category 4 storm, ripping off roofs, uprooting electric poles and trees and causing widespread flooding.

“It’s terrible. Everything’s gone. I’m in my house and scared,” said Amoy Wellington, a 51-year-old cashier who lives in Top Hill, a rural farming community in southern St Elizabeth parish. “It’s a disaster.”

According to the most recent reports, many people in the country are without water, and on Wednesday night, officials said 60% of the population was without electricity.

On Wednesday evening, there were reports of a man being washed away, and confirmation that a woman had died in the parish of Hanover after a tree toppled on her house, bringing the death toll to at least nine across the countries affected by the hurricane.

But officials in the multi-island countries of Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) have said the death toll could increase as they struggle to assess the damage on some islands.

In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro told state television three people had died, four were missing, and more than 8,000 homes had been damaged.

Mexico’s tourist centres of Cancún and the wider Yucatán peninsula lie in Beryl’s predicted path. Cancún’s airport was thronged with tourists hoping to catch the last flights out before the storm arrived. Workers filled bags with sand and boarded up doors and windows of businesses for protection.

Mexico’s defence ministry opened about 120 storm shelters and asked visitors to heed instructions on evacuation or other measures.

Beryl is the 2024 Atlantic season’s first hurricane and at its peak earlier this week was the earliest category 5 storm on record. The prime minister of SVG has decried a lack of political will in western Europe and the US to tackle the global climate crisis.

Scientists say human-caused climate breakdown has increased the occurrence of the most intense and destructive tropical storms, because warming oceans provide more energy and increase their strength.

As the storm charts its deadly course through the region, leaders are seeking support for what they describe as the “herculean effort to rebuild”.

The SVG prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, expressed his concern about accessing grants to rebuild, while his Grenadian counterpart, Dickon Mitchell, told reporters he was hoping to trigger his country’s catastrophic risk insurance policy.

Since Monday, individuals, groups, countries and regional and international organisations, including the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the UN, and the Commonwealth, have pledged support to the devastated islands.

On Thursday, the Royal Navy said it would deploy its warship HMS Trent to deliver aid, including bottled water, basic emergency supplies, and equipment to the Cayman Islands.

King Charles has asked to be kept closely informed of the developing situation, and it is understood he will be making a substantial donation to the disaster recovery and relief efforts.

In a message to the people of the Caribbean who had been affected by Beryl, he said: “My family and I have been profoundly saddened to learn of the dreadful destruction caused by Hurricane Beryl across the Caribbean. Above all, we send our heartfelt condolences to the friends and families of those who have so cruelly lost their lives.

“I have seen the extraordinary spirit of resilience and solidarity that people across the Caribbean have shown in response to such destruction – a spirit which has been called upon too often – and so I also send my particular gratitude to the emergency services and volunteers who are supporting the rescue and recovery efforts.

“At this most difficult of times, please know that our most special thoughts and prayers are with all those whose lives, livelihoods and property have been so utterly devastated.”

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Germany summons Turkish ambassador over ‘wolf’ goal celebration

Diplomat urged to explain gesture by Turkey footballer Merih Demiral and take measures to prevent a repeat

Turkey’s ambassador to Germany has been summoned to the foreign ministry in Berlin over the rightwing extremist “wolf salute” displayed by the Turkish footballer Merih Demiral, as his goal celebration at the European Championship became the subject of diplomatic exchange.

Ahmet Başar Şen was urged to explain the gesture and take measures to prevent its further use, a ministry spokesperson said, the day after Germany’s ambassador to Turkey was summoned to the foreign ministry in Ankara as Turkey’s government accused Berlin of “xenophobia” over its criticism of the symbol associated with the Grey Wolves group.

The Grey Wolves are classified as a rightwing extremist group with 18,500 to 20,000 members in Germany, making it the second-biggest rightwing extremist organisation after Alternative für Deutschland, according to the domestic intelligence agency, the federal office for the protection of the constitution (BfV).

However, neither the group nor the symbol are banned in Germany, unlike in neighbouring Austria and France, despite years of debate about doing so.

Demiral displayed the wolf salute after scoring in Turkey’s round of 16 match against Austria, which his team won 2-1.

Turks make up the largest single ethnic minority in Germany – 1.54 million in addition to 1.4 million German citizens who are of Turkish descent – the largest single Turkish diaspora. The national team’s success in the Euros has triggered a rapturous response by Turks across the country.

Germany’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, condemned the gesture, writing on X: “To use the football championships as a platform for racism is completely unacceptable.”

She called on the European football governing body, Uefa, to investigate and consider imposing sanctions on the Turkish team. Uefa has said it is investigating but by Thursday afternoon had yet to make a decision.

According to reports on Thursday lunchtime in German and Turkish media, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has made a last-minute adjustment to his travel plans to allow him to fly to Berlin en route to Azerbaijan, to attend the national team’s quarter-final against the Netherlands on Saturday evening. Erdoğan was said by insiders to have made the decision in reaction to the fallout from the Demiral salute, telling his advisers he wanted to give the team his backing.

The wolf salute is the symbol and identifying logo of the Grey Wolves, representing the head of a wolf: forefinger and little finger forming the ears, the thumb, middle and ring fingers forming the snout.

Experts in extremism say the worldview of the Grey Wolves is hardline nationalist and Islamist, with hatred shown to Kurds, Jews, Christians, Armenians, Greeks, the EU and the US. The group, which has a long history of terrorism going back to the 1970s, has been blamed for bomb attacks in Paris and Bangkok and the 1981 attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II.

Its founder, Alparslan Türkes, said of the salute: “The little finger symbolises the Turks, the index finger symbolises Islam, the ring – or snout – symbolises the world. The point where the remaining three fingers join is a stamp. It means: we will put the Turkish-Islamic stamp on the world.”

Türkes founded the Nationalist Movement party, which governs Turkey with Erdoğan’s Justice and Development party.

Demiral said of the gesture: “Of course I was very happy to have scored two goals. How I celebrated has something to do with my Turkish identity. I had seen members of the audience making this gesture. We are all Turks. I’m very proud to be a Turk. That is the meaning of the gesture.

“I hope I’ll have more opportunities to make this gesture. There is no hidden message in it, I simply wanted to show how joyful I was and how happy I am.”

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Orbán to meet Putin in Moscow visit likely to anger EU

Hungarian PM ‘trying to mediate between Russia and Ukraine’ after Hungary took over rotating EU presidency

Viktor Orbán will travel to Moscow on Friday for talks with Vladimir Putin, sources said, days after Hungary’s prime minister made his first visit to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country.

Two sources in Budapest told the Guardian about the trip, saying it was planned as part of a package with the Ukraine visit after Hungary took over the rotating EU presidency this week.

A high-level EU source confirmed they had been told of the planned visit, which is likely to cause fury in Brussels.

There has so far been no official confirmation of the trip from either Budapest or Moscow, and Hungarian government spokespersons did not reply to requests for comment. Orbán is due to attend a Turkic summit in Azerbaijan later in the day.

In an apparent reference to the planned visit, the European Council president, Charles Michel, wrote on X on Thursday evening: “The EU rotating presidency has no mandate to engage with Russia on behalf of the EU. The European Council is clear: Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is the victim. No discussions about Ukraine can take place without Ukraine.”

Orbán, widely seen as the EU’s most pro-Russian leader, has sought to portray himself as a “pro-peace” politician, but has frequently repeated Russian talking points about the war. He has also held up EU support to Ukraine on numerous occasions, to the frustration of many other European leaders.

“Orbán’s team planned the Moscow trip before he met with [Volodymyr] Zelenskiy,” said a source close to the Hungarian government. “He is trying to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. And after his talk with the Ukrainian president, this meeting makes sense.”

A trip to Moscow is likely to cause further anxiety in Brussels and in other member states, where many are already horrified that a leader who they feel has done everything to undermine European unity and the rule of law in recent years is now the bloc’s main representative for the next six months.

The Hungarian leader maintains links with rightwing groups across the globe and has long suggested Hungary could play a role in bringing peace to Ukraine, but has been mostly ignored.

However, with elections in France later this week and a possible return to the US presidency for Donald Trump, Orbán may sense that the geopolitical winds are changing. “We have had ambitions for a mediating role from the very beginning,” said the source.

In Kyiv, Orbán floated the idea of a quick ceasefire that might accelerate peace talks, a suggestion that Zelenskiy did not comment on.

“The aim of the Hungarian presidency is to contribute to solving the challenges ahead of the European Union. That’s why my first trip was to Kyiv,” Orbán wrote on Facebook.

The Hungarian leader last visited Russia in September 2022 to attend funeral of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, but did not meet Putin on that occasion.

The only other leader of an EU country to visit Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine is the Austrian chancellor, Karl Nehammer, who travelled there in April 2022, weeks after the start of the invasion.

Since then Putin has largely been shunned by western leaders, with the exception of Orbán, who travelled to Shanghai to meet the Russian president last October.

Orbán’s foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, who has been awarded a medal by the Russian government, has been a frequent visitor to Russia.

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Orbán to meet Putin in Moscow visit likely to anger EU

Hungarian PM ‘trying to mediate between Russia and Ukraine’ after Hungary took over rotating EU presidency

Viktor Orbán will travel to Moscow on Friday for talks with Vladimir Putin, sources said, days after Hungary’s prime minister made his first visit to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country.

Two sources in Budapest told the Guardian about the trip, saying it was planned as part of a package with the Ukraine visit after Hungary took over the rotating EU presidency this week.

A high-level EU source confirmed they had been told of the planned visit, which is likely to cause fury in Brussels.

There has so far been no official confirmation of the trip from either Budapest or Moscow, and Hungarian government spokespersons did not reply to requests for comment. Orbán is due to attend a Turkic summit in Azerbaijan later in the day.

In an apparent reference to the planned visit, the European Council president, Charles Michel, wrote on X on Thursday evening: “The EU rotating presidency has no mandate to engage with Russia on behalf of the EU. The European Council is clear: Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is the victim. No discussions about Ukraine can take place without Ukraine.”

Orbán, widely seen as the EU’s most pro-Russian leader, has sought to portray himself as a “pro-peace” politician, but has frequently repeated Russian talking points about the war. He has also held up EU support to Ukraine on numerous occasions, to the frustration of many other European leaders.

“Orbán’s team planned the Moscow trip before he met with [Volodymyr] Zelenskiy,” said a source close to the Hungarian government. “He is trying to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. And after his talk with the Ukrainian president, this meeting makes sense.”

A trip to Moscow is likely to cause further anxiety in Brussels and in other member states, where many are already horrified that a leader who they feel has done everything to undermine European unity and the rule of law in recent years is now the bloc’s main representative for the next six months.

The Hungarian leader maintains links with rightwing groups across the globe and has long suggested Hungary could play a role in bringing peace to Ukraine, but has been mostly ignored.

However, with elections in France later this week and a possible return to the US presidency for Donald Trump, Orbán may sense that the geopolitical winds are changing. “We have had ambitions for a mediating role from the very beginning,” said the source.

In Kyiv, Orbán floated the idea of a quick ceasefire that might accelerate peace talks, a suggestion that Zelenskiy did not comment on.

“The aim of the Hungarian presidency is to contribute to solving the challenges ahead of the European Union. That’s why my first trip was to Kyiv,” Orbán wrote on Facebook.

The Hungarian leader last visited Russia in September 2022 to attend funeral of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, but did not meet Putin on that occasion.

The only other leader of an EU country to visit Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine is the Austrian chancellor, Karl Nehammer, who travelled there in April 2022, weeks after the start of the invasion.

Since then Putin has largely been shunned by western leaders, with the exception of Orbán, who travelled to Shanghai to meet the Russian president last October.

Orbán’s foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, who has been awarded a medal by the Russian government, has been a frequent visitor to Russia.

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Melodies in chart-topping music have become less complex, study finds

Scientists say changes since 1950 could partly be due to new genres such as stadium rock, disco and hip-hop

“Won’t you play a simple melody,” sang Bing Crosby in his rendition of the Irving Berlin classic. Now it seems his wish has come true: research has revealed the tunes of modern chart-toppers are less complex than those of the past.

Scientists say the change could – at least in part – be down to the emergence of new genres over the decades, such as stadium rock, disco and hip-hop.

However, Madeline Hamilton, a co-author of the research from Queen Mary University of London, said the results did not mean music was dumbing down.

“My guess is that other aspects of music are getting more complex and melodies are getting simpler as a way to compensate,” Hamilton said, noting that while music in earlier decades was made with a handful of instruments – meaning complexity tended to be added through vocals – modern tracks involved many layers and sound textures.

Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, Hamilton and her co-author Dr Marcus Pearce describe how they studied songs placed in the top five of the US Billboard year-end singles music chart each year between 1950 and 2022. These included Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley, Hey Jude by the Beatles, Vogue by Madonna, Poker Face by Lady Gaga and Irreplaceable by Beyoncé.

They then analysed eight features relating to the pitch and rhythmic structure of the melodies. The results revealed the average complexity of melodies had fallen over time, with two big drops in 1975 and 2000, as well as a smaller drop in 1996.

Hamilton said one explanation was the rise of different genres of music, with the first drop occurring around the time stadium rock and disco music became popular.

“The [drop] around the year 2000 [is] probably at least partially due to the rise of hip-hop, because those melodies are very distinct. They’re very simple melodies, normally,” said Hamilton.

The smaller decline around 1996, she added, could also be linked to hip-hop, although another possible influence is the rise of the digital audio workstation, which makes it easy to loop sections and phrases within songs.

“We’re thinking that could be leading to an increase in repetition in the melodies,” she said.

But changes to melodies do not necessarily reflect the full picture. The analysis revealed chart-toppers had shown an increase in the density of notes – in other words the number of notes being sung per second – particularly since the year 2000.

“If you have a melody [with a] lot of notes per second, that kind of limits how complex [the melody] can be,” said Hamilton. “Whereas if you’re singing slower, you can sing more unexpected pitches, or you can do bigger jumps and stuff.”

The team said other studies had found no sign of a decline in the timbre or harmony of music over the 50 years since 1960. And while “revolutions” in popular music had previously been identified, their timing differs – something Hamilton and colleagues say could be down to other work focusing on different features of music, and the fact that the new study only looks at chart-toppers.

Hamilton said she was expanding her analysis to include other aspects of music: “Right now, we’re looking at chords. We also want to expand our analysis to include more songs, to see if this trend [for melodies] holds up for a bigger set of music.”

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Vatican’s chief of staff testifies in UK court in ‘trial of the century’

Convicted financier Raffaele Mincione is seeking to clear his name over Vatican’s €350m London investment

Pope Francis’s chief of staff has become one of the highest-ranking Holy See officials to testify in a foreign court, giving a British tribunal a detailed explanation of the negotiations at the heart of the Vatican’s “trial of the century”.

Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra was called to testify on Thursday on behalf of the Vatican secretariat of state in a British civil proceeding brought against the Vatican by an Italian-British financier who was involved in the transactions over a London property.

Raffaele Mincione is seeking to clear his name in the British courts after he was convicted by a Vatican criminal tribunal last year for his role in the Vatican’s €350m (US$375m) investment in the former Harrods warehouse. He is asking the British high court to declare he acted “in good faith”.

The London case, believed to be the first time the Holy See has been put on trial in a foreign court, is part of the collateral damage that the Vatican has incurred in deciding to prosecute 10 people for a range of financial crimes surrounding its money-losing London investment.

Vatican prosecutors accused Mincione and others of fleecing the Holy See of tens of millions in euros in fees and commissions. Another London broker, Gianluigi Torzi, was accused of then extorting the Vatican for €15m to cede control of the building. They were both convicted by the Vatican court, along with seven others including a cardinal, and are appealing.

In his written opening statement in London, Peña Parra provided a detailed play-by-play of the frenzied meetings, WhatsApp messages and negotiations in late 2018 when the property changed hands from a fund controlled by Mincione to a holding company controlled by Torzi.

The Holy See had engineered that transaction after it lost faith in Mincione and decided to entrust the property to Torzi’s management. Vatican prosecutors say Torzi, however, hoodwinked the Vatican and assumed all the voting shares in the company for himself.

Torzi, Mincione and the other defendants in the Vatican trial argued the Holy See was perfectly aware of the risks of its investment and understood the terms of the transactions, which they said were approved by top officials including Pope Francis.

Peña Parra barely mentioned Mincione in his written statement, since he joined the Vatican as “substitute” in the secretariat of state only in October 2018, a month before the property passed to Torzi.

His written statement deposited with the court focused instead on the role of his deputy, who oversaw the entire investment. Monsignor Alberto Perlasca headed the administrative office that proposed and approved the original investment with Mincione in 2013; Perlasca then signed the contracts giving Torzi control of the property five years later.

Perlasca’s fate has been one of the lingering anomalies of the London saga. He was never prosecuted for his role in the deal, whereas his underlings and bosses were, and he reportedly has resumed working as prosecutor in the Holy See’s highest ecclesial court, the Apostolic Signatura.

It is an unusual outcome given evidence that emerged during the Vatican trial that Perlasca had acted without authorisation in signing the contracts with Torzi and then was coached, manipulated and threatened by two mysterious women to change his story once Vatican prosecutors began investigating.

Some defence lawyers suspect that Perlasca or the women have incriminating evidence against Vatican figures and are using that information to ensure Perlasca escapes unscathed. Mincione’s lawyers noted that the Vatican did not make Perlasca available for the London trial, where he would have been subject to cross-examination.

Peña Parra’s testimony made clear that he only learned from Perlasca of the existence of the London investment only on 22 November 2018, the same day Perlasca signed the contracts with Torzi without authority.

“I had put trust in the officials of the administrative office, and I had never expected this kind of conduct. I felt betrayed,” he said in his prepared statement.

By December, Peña Parra realised the Holy See had essentially acquired an “empty box”, since Torzi controlled the building, and was weighing whether to sue Torzi or negotiate an exit strategy to get control of the property. The Vatican’s lawyers advised against litigation, since the outcome was uncertain and given Perlasca’s signed contracts.

He said Pope Francis “asked me to keep two things in mind: namely that we should try to lose the least amount possible and that we had to leave this business behind us and start over,” Peña Parra said.

He said during a private meeting with the pope on 26 December “it was agreed” that the Vatican would propose buying out Torzi’s voting shares for £1-£2m so it could have full control of the building. Torzi eventually demanded and received €15m – a payment that became the basis for his extortion conviction.

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Eurostar passenger carries stranger’s postal ballot from Paris to London

Lawrence Cheung received his card too late to post home, so went to the Gare du Nord to find someone who might be travelling to the UK

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If the swing constituency of the Cities of London and Westminster is won by a single vote, it may all be down to one man who was not even eligible to vote himself.

Moritz Hauschulz, a German citizen living in London, was about to board a Eurostar train at the Gare du Nord in Paris on Thursday morning when he was approached by stranger clutching an envelope.

The stranger, Lawrence Cheung, explained that he was a Briton living in Paris who had received his postal ballot too late and needed someone travelling to London to deliver it to a polling station there. Hauschulz agreed, and several hours later, managed to cast Cheung’s vote at a polling station in the Barbican, in what could prove to be a pivotal act in this closely fought constituency.

Hauschulz told the Guardian: “It is unusual to be approached by a stranger in a train station like that, but I tend to give people a listen to see what they’re asking for. It didn’t take long for me to understand what he was trying to do – not least because as a German I have been in a similar position before, when I was living in the US.”

Cheung said: “Moritz took my telephone number and promised he would message if he had a problem, or if he managed to deliver my vote. That’s what he did: he buzzed me by WhatsApp two hours later with a photo saying he had delivered it – I’m very grateful and relieved.”

This election has been beset by problems with postal voting, with widespread reports of people disfranchised because their ballot papers arrived too late. The problems have been blamed on a range of factors, including people going on summer holiday before their papers arrive and errors in the printing process.

Since one in five voters cast their ballots by mail, the problems have the potential to delay the results in some seats and even affect the outcome in parts of the country. The Election Commission has said it will investigate fully once the election is over.

Cheung’s ballot arrived at his Paris home the day before the election, too late for him to return it in time. He said the problem arose more as a result of his failure to find the correct documents to apply for the vote than because of any administrative errors by UK authorities or postal services.

Luckily for Cheung, he spotted a note on the front of his ballot form saying he or someone else could hand in his postal ballot to a polling station in his central London constituency. The only problem was, he was not due to travel back to London on Thursday, and did not know anyone else who was.

So Cheung did the only thing he could: he travelled across Paris to the Gare du Nord and tried to find a friendly Londoner who might take his vote back for him.

After around an hour of fruitlessly approaching strangers, Cheung happened across Hauschulz, who happily agreed, explaining that he had once been unable to cast a postal vote in a German election for similar reasons.

Hauschulz did not even ask which party he was helping by taking Cheung’s vote with him across the Channel. “I wouldn’t have wanted to know how he was voting,” Hauschulz said. “I didn’t want it to subconsciously affect me.”

After a brief delay while Hauschulz tried to explain to some baffled election officials over the phone what he was trying to do, he made his way to the Barbican and successfully cast Cheung’s vote there. Next time, he is hoping he might be able to do the same, but with his own ballot.

“I am planning to apply for citizenship next year, so hopefully I will be able to vote here soon,” Hauschulz said. “This time, at least, I was able to help the process.”

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