The Guardian 2024-07-05 20:14:31


Disney heir joins other Democrat backers to pause donations until Joe Biden steps aside

Abigail Disney says choice to suspend donations is based on ‘realism, not disrespect’, and suggests Kamala Harris as an alternative

In the minutes after Joe Biden and Donald Trump stepped on to the stage for the first debate of the 2024 presidential campaign, the grand narrative of this election year shifted off its axis and, in the words of CNN’s veteran broadcaster John King, “a deep, wide and aggressive” panic set in among Democrats.

A week on, and Biden has said he isn’t going anywhere, but a trickle of major Democratic donors speaking out against the president has grown into a stream.

On Thursday, Abigail Disney – the heir to the Disney family fortune and a major party donor – announced she would withhold donations unless Biden dropped out of the race.

“This is realism, not disrespect,” Disney told CNBC, adding “if Biden does not step down the Democrats will lose. Of that I am absolutely certain. The consequences for the loss will be genuinely dire.”

In her statement, Disney said vice-president Kamala Harris could be an alternative candidate to beat Trump. “If Democrats would tolerate any of her perceived shortcomings even one tenth as much as they have tolerated Biden’s … we can win this election by a lot,” she said.

For now, Disney represents a minority of donors, but within Biden’s campaign, a clear and concerted effort to tamp down panic among campaign funders is under way.

On Monday, the campaign held a hastily scheduled call with hundreds of top Democratic donors, according to the Reuters news agency. On the call, Biden’s team reportedly promised to make the president more visible at town halls and through interviews to reassure the public.

Despite their reassurances, the campaign was reportedly forced to field “pointed” questions from donors, including “can the president make it through a campaign and another term?”

According to Reuters and the Associated Press, another call with about 40 top donors over the weekend turned tense after Biden’s campaign manager was asked whether the campaign would offer a refund if Biden doesn’t run.

In the days that followed, one major fundraiser for the Biden campaign said some donors were learning fast how little influence they had in this situation. “There are a lot of people who think they are more important than they actually are,” the fundraiser said.

Some donors have taken the same path as Disney; to halt funding unless the Democratic candidate changes.

Screenwriter Damon Lindelof who has been a significant contributor to the party proposed on Wednesday a “DEMbargo”, withholding funding until Biden stands aside.

“When a country is not behaving how we want them to, we apply harsh economic sanctions. It’s a give and take – short term hurt for long term healing,” Lindelof wrote in Deadline.

According to CNBC, philanthropist Gideon Stein will pause almost all of a planned $3m in planned donations. “Virtually every major donor I’ve talked to believes that we need a new candidate in order to defeat Donald Trump,” Stein said.

On Wednesday, Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix and a Democratic party megadonor, joined calls for Biden to take himself out of the presidential race.

Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin, have been prolific supporters of the Democratic party, donating more than $20m in recent years, including roughly $1.5m to Biden during his 2020 campaign, according to the New York Times.

The Biden campaign is eager to show its fundraising strength is holding up after the debate and have highlighted record “grassroots” fundraising in the days that followed the event. The day of the debate and the Friday after were best days for fundraising from small-dollar donors to date, with more than $27m raised across both days.

But Biden’s standing in opinion polls has taken a hit, with 59% of Democrats responding to a Reuters/Ipsos poll saying that the president of their own party was too old to work in government and 32% saying he should give up his reelection bid.

Biden held a $100m funding advantage over Trump just a few months ago, but his campaign and the Democratic National Committee entered June with $212m in the bank, compared with $235m for the Trump operation and the Republican National Committee.

However, analysts predict that if Biden can continue to attract donations in the weeks leading up to the Democratic convention, he will be able to offer party strategist and fellow congressional colleagues a reason to stay on as the candidate.

Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn and an influential donor, has continued to throw his weight behind Biden, telling his donor network in an email that he felt it was counterproductive to be “musing on Biden’s flaws” and that they should be “organising around Trump’s flaws”.

Reuters contributed to this report

Explore more on these topics

  • Joe Biden
  • US politics
  • Democrats
  • US elections 2024
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • UK general election 2024 results live: Labour wins in landslide
  • LiveKeir Starmer promises a ‘government of service’ in first speech as PM – live
  • Coffee, eggs and white rice linked to higher levels of PFAS in human body
  • Hurricane Beryl barrels through Cayman Islands after battering Jamaica
  • The 2024 election’s ‘Portillo moments’: which ‘Big Beasts’ have lost their seats?

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 he appeared to intend as a joke.

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.

Explore more on these topics

  • Joe Biden
  • US elections 2024
  • US politics
  • Democrats
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • UK general election 2024 results live: Labour wins in landslide
  • LiveKeir Starmer promises a ‘government of service’ in first speech as PM – live
  • Coffee, eggs and white rice linked to higher levels of PFAS in human body
  • Hurricane Beryl barrels through Cayman Islands after battering Jamaica
  • The 2024 election’s ‘Portillo moments’: which ‘Big Beasts’ have lost their seats?

It’s Friday morning, and the campaign is soon reaching its conclusion.

The far right National Rally’s Marine Le Pen appeared on Cnews – a channel critics have labelled the “French Fox News” – to urge supporters to go to the polls on Sunday.

“We have a serious chance of having an absolute majority in the national assembly,” she said.

Polling has shown, however, that the most likely scenario on Sunday is that National Rally will not win an absolute majority of seats.

Le Pen told viewers that the seats polling is not an exact science.

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.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Kylian Mbappé
  • National Rally
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • UK general election 2024 results live: Labour wins in landslide
  • LiveKeir Starmer promises a ‘government of service’ in first speech as PM – live
  • Coffee, eggs and white rice linked to higher levels of PFAS in human body
  • Hurricane Beryl barrels through Cayman Islands after battering Jamaica
  • The 2024 election’s ‘Portillo moments’: which ‘Big Beasts’ have lost their seats?

Viktor Orbán visits Vladimir Putin to condemnation from fellow EU leaders

Brussels disassociates itself from Hungarian PM’s Moscow trip, which he has tried to cast as a peace mission

  • Europe live – latest updates

Viktor Orbán, Europe’s most pro-Russia leader, arrived in Moscow on Friday for talks with Vladimir Putin, days after making his first visit to Kyiv, as the Hungarian prime minister attempts to position himself as a peace broker between Russia and Ukraine.

Orbán’s trip to Moscow has drawn strong rebukes from fellow EU leaders and comes in the week that Hungary took over the rotating EU presidency until the end of the year.

The Kremlin published a short clip showing Putin and Orbán meeting at the Kremlin.

Orbán published a photograph on social media of his arrival in Moscow earlier in the day with the caption: “The peace mission continues. Second stop: Moscow.”

Brussels was quick to denounce the visit, saying Orbán did not speak for the EU and had “not received any mandate from the EU Council to visit Moscow”.

“Prime minister Viktor Orbán’s visit to Moscow takes place, exclusively, in the framework of the bilateral relations between Hungary and Russia … The Hungarian prime minister is thus not representing the EU in any form,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, wrote in a statement.

Hungary has been at odds with other western countries over Orbán’s continued cultivation of close ties to Russia and refusal to send arms to Ukraine. Budapest’s foreign minister called plans to help the country a “crazy mission” in May.

Orbán acknowledged before his unannounced trip to Moscow that he was not representing the EU, signalling his personal ambition to find a solution to the 28-month war.

“You cannot make peace from a comfortable armchair in Brussels. Even if the rotating EU presidency has no mandate to negotiate on behalf of the EU, we cannot sit back and wait for the war to miraculously end,” he told Hungary’s public radio broadcaster Kossuth.

During his visit to Kyiv on Tuesday, Orbán said he had asked Volodymyr Zelenskiy to consider a quick ceasefire that could accelerate peace talks.

Both Zelenskiy and Putin swiftly rejected Orbán’s call for a ceasefire, with the Ukrainian leader saying his country “cannot just trust Putin in principle”.

“It is important that Hungary recognises that Russia is an aggressor,” he said in an interview after Orbán’s visit.

Ukrainians fear that without hard security guarantees, such as Nato membership, a ceasefire would simply allow Russia to regroup and attack again in the future.

Putin meanwhile said Russia could not agree to a ceasefire “because it is not sure of Kyiv’s reciprocal actions”.

Putin issued a new ultimatum last month to end the war, demanding Kyiv cede more land, withdraw troops deeper inside its own country and drop its Nato bid.

The terms appear to be a non-starter for Ukraine and its western allies, as Putin staked out a maximalist position that included claims on land that Russia has “annexed” without holding under its military control.

Orbán’s visit is the first by an EU leader to Russia since the Austrian chancellor, Karl Nehammer, made a fruitless effort to negotiate an end to Russia’s invasion in April 2022.

Friday’s trip will cause further anxiety in Brussels and in EU 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.

Citing Orbán who said the trip would “serve as an important tool in making the first step towards peace,” the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, quipped on social media: “The question is in whose hands this tool is.”

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, wrote on X: “Appeasement will not stop Putin. Only unity and determination will pave the path to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Viktor Orbán
  • Hungary
  • Russia
  • Vladimir Putin
  • Ukraine
  • Europe
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • UK general election 2024 results live: Labour wins in landslide
  • LiveKeir Starmer promises a ‘government of service’ in first speech as PM – live
  • Coffee, eggs and white rice linked to higher levels of PFAS in human body
  • Hurricane Beryl barrels through Cayman Islands after battering Jamaica
  • The 2024 election’s ‘Portillo moments’: which ‘Big Beasts’ have lost their seats?

India PM Modi to meet Putin in first trip to Russia since Ukraine war began

Trip scheduled for Monday, with Delhi a key trading partner for Putin since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine

Narendra Modi will visit Russia on 8 and 9 July and hold talks with Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin has said, in the Indian prime minister’s first trip to the country since it invaded Ukraine.

Modi and Putin will discuss “prospects for further development of traditionally friendly Russian-Indian relations, as well as relevant issues on the international and regional agenda,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Modi, who was re-elected for a third term in June, last visited Moscow in 2015. He has met Putin several times since at international summits and the leaders have spoken often by phone.

Monday’s trip is expected to reaffirm the longstanding ties between the two countries, which date back to the cold war. Russia remains one of India’s most important trading partners, particularly on weapons and defence.

India’s ministry of external affairs said that the two leaders would “review the entire range of multifaceted relations between the two countries and exchange views on contemporary regional and global issues of mutual interest”. The summit is scheduled for 9 July.

Delhi’s importance as a key trading partner for Moscow has grown since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. India and China have become key buyers of Russian oil after sanctions imposed by the US and its allies that shut most western markets for Russian exports.

Under Modi’s leadership, India has avoided condemning Russia’s action in Ukraine while emphasising the need for a peaceful settlement.

The partnership between Moscow and Delhi has become fraught, however, since Russia started developing closer ties with India’s main rival, China, because of the hostilities in Ukraine. Modi on Thursday skipped the summit of a security grouping created by Moscow and Beijing to counter western alliances.

Modi sent his foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at its annual meeting in the Kazakhstan capital, Astana, which was also attended by Putin and the Chinese president, Xi Jinping.

Jaishankar said he had raised the issue of the number of Indian nationals caught up in the frontlines of the war in Ukraine with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, after at least two Indians coerced into fighting for the Russian army were killed.

Modi’s increasingly close relationship to the US has also tested relations with Russia. On Thursday, the US ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, said his country was in continuous communications with India about working together to hold Russia “to account”.

Modi last visited Russia in 2019 for an economic forum in the far eastern port of Vladivostok. Putin last met Modi in September 2022 at a summit of the SCO in Uzbekistan. In 2021, Putin also travelled to Delhi and held talks with the Indian leader.

In the early 1990s, the Soviet Union was the source of about 70% of Indian army weapons, 80% of its air force systems and 85% of its navy platforms. But with the Russian supply line hit by the fighting in Ukraine, India has been reducing its dependency on Russian arms and diversifying its defence procurements, buying more from the US, Israel, France and Italy.

Explore more on these topics

  • India
  • Russia
  • Narendra Modi
  • Vladimir Putin
  • South and central Asia
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • UK general election 2024 results live: Labour wins in landslide
  • LiveKeir Starmer promises a ‘government of service’ in first speech as PM – live
  • Coffee, eggs and white rice linked to higher levels of PFAS in human body
  • Hurricane Beryl barrels through Cayman Islands after battering Jamaica
  • The 2024 election’s ‘Portillo moments’: which ‘Big Beasts’ have lost their seats?

Lucy Letby handed 15th whole-life jail sentence

Former neonatal nurse proclaims innocence from dock as she is sentenced for attempted murder of newborn baby

Lucy Letby cried from the dock “I’m innocent” after she was sentenced to a whole-life order for attempting to kill a newborn girl in what the judge called a “shocking act of calculated, callous cruelty”.

The former neonatal nurse made the remark as she was taken to the court cells after being sentenced.

The judge, James Goss KC, told the prison officers to take the defendant down when she turned to face him, turned out her palms and said “I’m innocent”, to gasps in the courtroom.

Members of her newborn victim’s family – who had moments earlier described the everlasting grief of her crimes – appeared visibly shocked and emotional at Letby’s outburst.

Letby, 34, was found guilty on Tuesday of trying to kill the extremely premature infant less than two hours after she was born on 17 February 2016.

Letby was handed a 15th whole-life order, having been jailed last year for murdering seven babies and attempting to kill another six.

Letby was convicted of attempting to kill a seventh infant, known as Baby K, after a three-week retrial at Manchester crown court.

Goss told Letby she had deliberately interfered with the breathing tube of the tiny newborn – who was born 15 weeks’ premature and weighted only 692g (1.52lbs) – when a nurse had briefly left the infant’s side.

Her actions were “completely contrary to the normal human instincts and nurturing and caring for babies”, he said, and were “in gross beach of the trust that all citizens place in those who work in the medical and caring professions”.

Baby K died three days later after being transferred to a separate hospital. Letby was not accused of causing her death.

Sentencing Letby, Goss said she could not be blamed for causing Baby K’s death but she was guilty of a “shocking act of calculated, callous cruelty”.

As Letby stared straight ahead, Goss told her she was a “conscientious, hard-working, confident and professional nurse … which allowed you to harm babies without suspicion”.

“Only you know the reason, or reasons, for your murderous campaign,” he said, adding that the impact of her crimes was “immense”. “You have no remorse. There are no mitigating factors,” he added.

Eight members of the jury were in court to watch the sentencing.

Fighting back tears, Baby K’s mother told a silent courtroom how she and her husband had been “beyond ecstatic and overwhelmed with love” when they heard their unborn child’s heartbeat for the first time, after a previous miscarriage.

She described how their loss had affected every area of their lives, damaging their relationships, friendships and careers. “The impact is across all aspects of your life,” she said, “like ripples in the water, layer by layer of your life is touched”.

As relatives became emotional in the public gallery, Baby K’s mother said the “biggest future struggle that plagues us each day” was how to tell their children about her death.

“The devastation expands so far and for so long when a child is lost let alone under these circumstances,” she said. “Will we get answers and the verdict that we want? Will that actually bring some peace and closure?”

Addressing Letby from the witness box, Baby K’s mother said her daughter was “not here, never will be, we will never have what would give us peace, closure, or a feeling of being complete family unit”.

She went on: “However, you, Lucy Letby, will never hurt another child or have the privilege and joy that children give.

“Our time and effort that you have absorbed over the years will stop today and our focus will remain on our beautiful children and building the most exciting and love-filled life that we possibly can.”

Benjamin Myers KC, for Letby, said his client “recognised the sympathy” for the families but that she maintained her innocence. He said there was no mitigation. “The sentence is inevitable and there is no more I can say,” he said.

Explore more on these topics

  • Lucy Letby
  • Crime
  • Cheshire
  • England
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • UK general election 2024 results live: Labour wins in landslide
  • LiveKeir Starmer promises a ‘government of service’ in first speech as PM – live
  • Coffee, eggs and white rice linked to higher levels of PFAS in human body
  • Hurricane Beryl barrels through Cayman Islands after battering Jamaica
  • The 2024 election’s ‘Portillo moments’: which ‘Big Beasts’ have lost their seats?

Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and top Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya discussed the latest developments in the Gaza Strip and negotiations aimed at reaching a ceasefire there during a meeting, Hezbollah said on Friday.

Reuters reports that Nasrallah received Hamas deputy chief Hayya for the meeting, which reviewed “the latest security and political developments” in the Gaza Strip.

“They also discussed the latest developments in the ongoing negotiations these days, their atmosphere, and the proposals presented to reach an end to the treacherous aggression against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,” the Hezbollah statement said.

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 convened 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.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and top Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya discussed the latest developments in the Gaza Strip and negotiations aimed at reaching a ceasefire there during a meeting, Hezbollah said on Friday.

Reuters reports that Nasrallah received Hamas deputy chief Hayya for the meeting, which reviewed “the latest security and political developments” in the Gaza Strip.

“They also discussed the latest developments in the ongoing negotiations these days, their atmosphere, and the proposals presented to reach an end to the treacherous aggression against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,” the Hezbollah statement said.

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 convened 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.

Shell to take hit of up to $2bn on Rotterdam and Singapore sites

Oil firm’s warning comes after it had to halt work on Europe’s largest biofuel project and sell refinery in Asia

Shell has warned investors that it will take an impairment charge of up to $2bn (£1.6bn) in its next set of results after it was forced to halt work on Europe’s largest biofuel project and sell off a Singapore refinery.

The oil company told investors to expect a non-cash writedown of between $600m and $1bn when it publishes its second-quarter results next month because of trouble at a major biofuel project in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The company also expects to take a hit of between $600m and $800m on the Singapore refining and chemicals hub that it agreed to sell in May.

The company’s share price edged down 0.8% on Friday, making it one of the biggest fallers on the FTSE 100.

Shell announced on Tuesday that it had “temporarily paused” the construction of a big biofuel plant in Rotterdam, which was expected to convert waste into green jet fuel and biodiesel by the end of the decade.

The oil company’s biggest energy transition project has struggled with technical difficulties that have delayed its progress so far. It had expected to start producing up to 820,000 tonnes of biofuels a year in April, before this was pushed back to 2025.

“We’re taking the tough decision now to temporarily pause on-site construction,” a Shell spokesperson said on Tuesday. “This gives us the opportunity to take stock, complete engineering, optimise project sequencing and, in doing so, maintain capital discipline.”

The spokesperson added: “Low-carbon fuels form a key part of Shell’s ambitions to provide affordable and sustainable products to our customers.”

The writedown marks another worrying sign for the development of sustainable aviation fuel, which is seen by some as crucial if airlines are to cut their carbon emissions in line with global climate targets.

Last month, BP said it was scaling back its plans for the development of new SAF and renewable diesel biofuels projects at its existing sites. It set out plans to pause two potential projects while continuing to assess the viability of another three. BP said the decision was aligned with the oil company’s drive to “simplify its portfolio, focusing on value and returns”.

Explore more on these topics

  • Shell
  • Oil and gas companies
  • Energy industry
  • Oil
  • Commodities
  • Europe
  • Netherlands
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • UK general election 2024 results live: Labour wins in landslide
  • LiveKeir Starmer promises a ‘government of service’ in first speech as PM – live
  • Coffee, eggs and white rice linked to higher levels of PFAS in human body
  • Hurricane Beryl barrels through Cayman Islands after battering Jamaica
  • The 2024 election’s ‘Portillo moments’: which ‘Big Beasts’ have lost their seats?

Two dead after truck strikes group on Fourth of July in New York City park

Ford F-150 came down a street ‘at a high rate of speed’, went past a stop sign, on to the sidewalk and into a park

Two people were killed and nine others injured, four critically, when a pickup truck drove into a group celebrating the Fourth of July holiday in New York City, authorities said.

A Ford F-150 came down a street “at a high rate of speed” shortly before 9pm Thursday. The truck went through an intersection and past a stop sign, drove on to the sidewalk and into Corlears Hook Park on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, said Jeffrey Maddrey, the New York police department chief, during a news conference.

Two victims were confirmed dead at the scene, Maddrey said.

The injured included four people who were in critical condition, three who were seriously injured and two with minor injuries, said Michael Meyers, New York City fire department assistant chief.

The first fire department crew to arrive at the scene found the pickup truck on top of four of the victims and firefighters worked to quickly extricate them before emergency medical personnel began treatment, Meyers said.

Investigators do not believe the crash was an act of terrorism, said Maddrey and Eric Adams, the mayor of New York, in the news briefing at the scene.

Authorities were testing the driver for possible alcohol use, which was believed to be a factor in the crash, Maddrey said.

Police were not immediately able to verify the ages of the victims, Maddrey said.

Explore more on these topics

  • New York
  • Road transport
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Iranians head out to vote in second round of presidential election

An expected low turnout reflects growing opposition to the Islamic Republic, critics say

Iranians vote today in the run-off round of a presidential election offering a choice between a veteran hardliner and a reformist who has backed pragmatic cooperation with the west – but against the backdrop of an expected low turnout that critics say reflects opposition to the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s two identities were on display in the final rallies of the campaign as the two presidential candidates offered contrasting visions of their country’s prospects, focused on whether sanctions have trapped Iran or are just a broken western lever that can no longer inflict damage to the economy.

The contest has become distilled into an increasingly sharp choice: on the one hand Saeed Jalili, for two decades close to the centres of power and the 85-year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and on the other Masoud Pezeshkian – a reformist outsider with a subtle appeal.

Jalili says Iran has bypassed sanctions. Pezeshkian and his effective running mate, the former foreign minister Javad Zarif, claim that sanctions mean Iran has been bypassed.

Jalili’s campaign used the giant Imam Khomeini Mosalla mosque for its final event – a slick hi-tech cinematic mass rally. From the atmosphere it would have been hard to have known that in the first round of the elections a week ago only 39% voted and Jalili had been beaten into second place with 1m fewer votes than Pezeshkian.

Videos of the Jalili campaign broadcast on six giant screens gave the impression of a leader that is being mobbed and praised wherever he goes, while mini-drones ran along lines in the ornate roof transmitting footage of the crowd’s enthusiasm as celebrities sang in Jalili’s praise, including a female actor who argued the hijab empowers women.

Traditional songs were sung and slogans chanted in praise for Qassem Suleimani, the former leader of the Revolutionary Guards Quds force killed in Iraq by the Americans. The crowd waved the flashlights on their phones when told Jalili was on his way and by the time there was a first glimpse on one of the screens of a shock of Jalili’s white hair, the volume of cheering meant it took at least five minutes between him being hoisted by his bodyguards on stage and the opening lines of his speech.

He said in his address that the election result would not affect Iran for just four years but possibly for 40, portraying his rival as a man that had no confidence in his own nation and repeatedly attacking Pezeshkian’s claim that the country is trapped in a cage.

“The nation does not see its country as a cage but like Martyr Suleimani it sees the country as a sanctuary.

“The enemy knows that this nation is a civilisation maker and that it gets what it wants and can become a model for the world. The enemy admits Iran is the most powerful country in the region and if hundreds of rockets are fired at Israel, the enemy dare not respond.”

Pezeshkian’s rally later that evening in the open air Haidarnia stadium was perhaps half the size – a younger wealthier crowd arriving independently on foot and willing to tell the heavy police presence they did not want the “morality police” around here. Women and men mixed together in the stands and on the pitch, and hardly a single chador was in sight, even if most women wore the hijab.

A heart surgeon with a record of opposition to the suppression of the women, life, freedom! protests after the death of Mahsa Amini, Pezeshkian knows he is entering a minefield if he is elected. He has staked a huge amount on his personal integrity to try to convince abstainers it is worth voting and that as president he can effect change. He knows voters’ experience of eight years of Hassan Rouhani, an earlier reformist, was of a president seemingly powerless in the face of the so-called shadow government.

“If I try my best and if for any reason I cannot fulfil my commitments I will withdraw and ask people to withdraw their votes and I will no longer take part in politics,” Pezeshkian pledged.

His supporters have argued on social media that abstention will only lead to worse censorship online, more girls being beaten, more professors fired and more migration of young people. “Those who think they send a message by not voting are making a mistake. If your message was meant to be heard by the authorities it would have been heard by now,” one said.

Dr Ebrahim Mottaghi, the head of the faculty of law and political sciences at Tehran University, said he believed Pezeshkian would win, with a small increase in turnout. “It is like a domino because more people realise after the first ballot in which Pezeshkian came first that he can win the presidency.”

Khamenei on Wednesday rejected the claims that a 39% turnout was an expression of opposition to the system. Mottaghi’s explanation was more subtle: that Iran was in a phase of transition. “Just as there is a gen Z in US and the UK, there is a new generation here that criticise everything, and cannot match themselves with the patterns of politics and authority here,” he said.

“They live like in the novel The Stranger by Albert Camus, alienated and indifferent to their fate. Gen Z in the US support Gaza because the authorities support Israel, but Gen Z here are indifferent to the killing and genocide of the Palestinians. Discourse is no longer through the mosque or family but instead through social networks. Instagram is banned in Iran but 90% of young people use it. It has restricted social coherence throughout the Middle East.

He argued many voters feel their vote makes no difference. “As in The Stranger, voters feel they have no power to choose so they become indifferent.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Iran
  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
  • Middle East and north Africa
  • General election 2024
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • UK general election 2024 results live: Labour wins in landslide
  • LiveKeir Starmer promises a ‘government of service’ in first speech as PM – live
  • Coffee, eggs and white rice linked to higher levels of PFAS in human body
  • Hurricane Beryl barrels through Cayman Islands after battering Jamaica
  • The 2024 election’s ‘Portillo moments’: which ‘Big Beasts’ have lost their seats?

Sinn Féin on course to have more MPs than any other Northern Ireland party

DUP loses Lagan Valley seat vacated by former leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Ian Paisley defeated in North Antrim

  • General election 2024: live news
  • UK general election results live tracker

The Democratic Unionist party (DUP) is on track to lose three of its eight seats, which would leave Sinn Féin as the Northern Ireland party with most MPs.

The DUP lost the Lagan Valley seat vacated by its former leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who faces sexual offence charges, and suffered a stunning defeat in North Antrim where Ian Paisley lost a seat held by his family since 1970. It also lost South Antrim and had reduced majorities elsewhere.

The Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV), Ulster Unionists and Alliance were poised to take the DUP seats but the symbolic winner will be Sinn Féin which retained its seven seats and is on course to complete a hat-trick as the biggest party in local government, the Stormont assembly and Westminster.

The DUP leader, Gavin Robinson, fended off a challenge from Alliance’s Naomi Long in East Belfast but that could not conceal a devastating election for unionism’s biggest party.

Its record on Brexit and other missteps left it squeezed between moderate and hardline rivals.

In an astonishing reversal in North Antrim, Paisley, the son and namesake of the DUP’s late founder, came second to Jim Allister of the TUV, who blamed the DUP for post-Brexit checks on goods coming from Great Britain, which he said weakened Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

“This is a momentous outcome and is the end of an era and a dynasty,” said Allister. “Unionism does need to regroup in the light of what has happened and the DUP needs to carry the responsibility for their losses.”

Reform had originally backed the TUV but after becoming leader, Nigel Farage endorsed Paisley, a Brexiter ally. “I might say I’m here in spite of you, Nigel,” said Allister. Paisley conceded defeat and said the tides of life ebbed and flowed.

Sorcha Eastwood of Alliance won Lagan Valley in a historic swing for what used to be a unionist bastion. The DUP fielded Jonathan Buckley to replace Donaldson, who had held the seat for decades and stepped aside after being charged with sexual offences, which he denies.

Eastwood called it a “huge achievement” for her party. “I’m a Lagan Valley girl born and bred, and this has been in our heart for a long time and I’m just delighted,” she said. Alliance’s joy was tempered by its deputy leader, Stephen Farry, losing his seat in North Down to the independent unionist Alex Eastwood.

The Ulster Unionist candidate Robin Swann, a former Stormont health minister, ousted the DUP’s Paul Girvan as MP for South Antrim.

The Social Democratic and Labour party retained its two MPs, Colum Eastwood and Claire Hanna.

Sinn Féin held its seven seats and whittled the majority of the East Derry seat held by the DUP’s Gregory Campbell, prompting a recount. The republican party’s leader, Michelle O’Neill, called it a “tremendous result right across the board”.

Explore more on these topics

  • General election 2024
  • Northern Ireland
  • Northern Irish politics
  • Sinn Féin
  • Democratic Unionist party (DUP)
  • Ulster Unionist Party (UUP)
  • SDLP
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • UK general election 2024 results live: Labour wins in landslide
  • LiveKeir Starmer promises a ‘government of service’ in first speech as PM – live
  • Coffee, eggs and white rice linked to higher levels of PFAS in human body
  • Hurricane Beryl barrels through Cayman Islands after battering Jamaica
  • The 2024 election’s ‘Portillo moments’: which ‘Big Beasts’ have lost their seats?

Babbling scouse youngster shows babies can have accents, say scientists

Newborns are tuned in to the ups and downs of speech, and even a cry mimics language heard while in the womb

The upward intonation, the guttural “ck” and even the cheeky comeback to win the argument: at just 19 months old, baby Orla has mastered the crucial elements of speaking like a scouser.

Impressively, the toddler who featured in a viral video this week appears to have done so without the need for actual words.

A clip posted on TikTok, and now viewed more than 20m times, shows Orla babbling in a Liverpudlian accent as her babysitter, Olayka, tries and fails to coax her into taking a nap. Scientists say that the cute exchange is also a vivid illustration of the processes by which babies acquire language – and the surprising role of accents.

Babies are so tuned in to the musical ups and downs of speech that even as newborns they cry in distinctive ways that reflect the languages that they have heard while in the womb.

In one 2009 study, Prof Kathleen Wermke, a pioneer in the field of speech development at the Würzburg University in Germany, found that French infants tend to wail on a rising note and German babies favour a falling melody and other patterns have been seen for Mandarin, Swedish and African languages. “When I started 40 years ago, if I told people I was recording babies crying and making high-pitched sounds they’d look at you and think ‘Is this really science?’,” she said.

Crying, once viewed merely as a distress siren, is now viewed as part of the array of pre-speech sounds that pave the way for future communication. “That’s how language comes into the brain of babies,” Wermke said. “They learn the musical features of the surrounding languages. The music is always first, it’s like a scaffold for the words.”

“It’s important to make parents recognise that any sound a baby is producing is part of his or her way into language,” she added. “We should admire that and listen to them – even if they’re sometimes in the mood to cry.”

The advent of machine learning has allowed researchers to analyse huge datasets of home-recorded infant and toddler sounds and this shows, as many parents would recognise, that babies don’t all acquire language in the same way. Some, like Orla, have advanced mastery of the intonation and music of language before they can articulate words.

“They have just the contours of the language that they will populate it with words,” said Prof Caroline Floccia, a developmental psychologist at the University of Plymouth. “Others start with isolated words and then they will construct sentences from that. Then you can have plenty of kids who are in the middle.”

Understanding the different patterns of how children acquire language could improve the ability to identify those who fall outside the normal range, possibly due to autism or developmental language disorder (DLD), and who could benefit from very early intervention.

Orla is also typical of research showing that children understand language before they can speak it, a phenomenon known as the “comprehension-production asymmetry”. Besides a definite “no” and “I wanna play”, the defiant toddler has few recognisable words, but there is no doubt she understands the gist of the conversation.

“Kids can definitely understand more than they can say,” said Dr Andrew Jessop, a psychologist at the University of Liverpool. Jessop’s lab has demonstrated this by showing that an infant’s gaze will switch to look at an object being named, before they can name the object themselves.

“Part of it might just be that their vocal apparatus isn’t developed enough,” he said. “Or they need more time to build up that knowledge. It’s a bit like in an exam how it’s much easier to recognise the right answer in multiple choice than to write an essay from scratch.”

There is also more to communication than words and Orla has clearly grasped the social element of conversation. Prof Kate Watkins, a neuroscientist who investigates language at the University of Oxford, said: “She’s very good at turn taking, she’s really good at eye contact, all of these pro-social things that are really important.“She’s really engaged and really communicative.”

This back and forth of conversation has been shown to have huge benefits for babies’ acquisition of language. One recent study showed that when parents were coached in how to engage with their infant, their babies babbled more and had more words by 14 months than those who were not trained and there are other studies showing that these benefits carry forward.

“One of the only things that we’ve found that can really boost language development is child-directed speech,” said Jessop. “The effect is so strong that we can bring a mum or dad into the lab and the parents that say the most words, their babies’ vocabulary grows at a faster rate and that benefit lasts years into the future.”

“It’s kind of like you’re being their language tutor, so taking the time to really talk to your baby is so important.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Language
  • Children
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • UK general election 2024 results live: Labour wins in landslide
  • LiveKeir Starmer promises a ‘government of service’ in first speech as PM – live
  • Coffee, eggs and white rice linked to higher levels of PFAS in human body
  • Hurricane Beryl barrels through Cayman Islands after battering Jamaica
  • The 2024 election’s ‘Portillo moments’: which ‘Big Beasts’ have lost their seats?

Leave a Reply