The Guardian 2024-07-06 08:12:41


Joe Biden’s interview with George Stephanopoulos has begun. Stephanopoulos said the interview is unedited.

Biden said Trump’s shouting during the debate got to him: “I let it distract me. I realized I just wasn’t in control.”

He’s broadly defending his record and says he’s “optimistic” about the future of the country. “Trump’s plan would cause a recession.”

Biden calls debate ‘a bad episode’ in potential make-or-break TV interview

US president speaks with George Stephanopoulos in interview to be shown in full on ABC News

Joe Biden was “exhausted” and “feeling terrible” going into last month’s presidential debate, he has claimed during a potential make-or-break TV interview that will be aired in full this evening.

The US president sat down with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday after a fiery campaign rally where he vowed to fight on against rival Donald Trump.

Stephanopoulos, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, began by citing representative Nancy Pelosi, who this week questioned whether Biden’s feeble performance represented an episode or a condition.

“It was a bad episode,” the 81-year-old insisted, his voice sounding strained after the rally, in an early clip broadcast on World News Tonight with David Muir. “No indication of any serious condition. I was exhausted. I didn’t listen to my instincts in terms of preparing and – I had a bad night.”

Stephanopoulos noted that Biden had returned from Europe 12 days before the debate and that he had spent six days at the presidential retreat Camp David. Why wasn’t that enough rest time, enough recovery time?” he asked.

The president replied: “Because I was sick. I was feeling terrible. Matter of fact, the doc’s with me. I asked if they did a Covid test because they’re trying to figure out what was wrong. They did a test to see whether or not I had some infection, you know, a virus. I didn’t. I just had a really bad cold.”

Stephanopoulos asked whether Biden had watched the debate afterwards. Instead of giving a firm yes or no, he hedged: “I don’t think I did, no.”

The interview went on to ask what Biden had been experiencing during the debate and whether he had known how badly it was going. Just as he did on that night, the president zigzagged in his answer from one point to another. He said: “Yeah, look. The whole way I prepared, nobody’s fault, mine. Nobody’s fault but mine.

“I – I prepared what I usually would do sittin’ down as I did come back with foreign leaders or National Security Council for explicit detail. And I realised – partway through that, you know, all – I get quoted the New York Times had me down, 10 points before the debate, nine now, or whatever the hell it is.

“The fact of the matter is, what I looked at is that he also lied 28 times. I couldn’t – I mean, the way the debate ran, not – my fault, nobody else’s fault, no one else’s fault.”

Stephanopoulos interjected: “But it seemed like you were having trouble from the first question, even before you spoke.”

Biden replied tersely: “Well, I just had a bad night.”

The interview will be shown in full on ABC at 8pm. It is part of a major campaign offensive over the weekend to assuage doubts over Biden’s fitness for office and ability to beat Trump.

At least three House Democrats have called for him to step down as the nominee, with Seth Moulton of Massachusetts joining Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Raúl Grijalva of Arizona in pushing for an alternative. Massachusetts governor Maura Healey said in a carefully worded statement on Friday that Biden now has a decision to make on “the best way forward”.

Addressing around 300 supporters at a school in battleground Wisconsin, Biden acknowledged his poor debate, saying he “can’t say it was my best performance”. But, he declared: “I am running, and I’m going to win again.”

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Biden dismisses age concerns and tells Wisconsin rally ‘I am running’

President tells audience ‘I wasn’t too old to create over 50m new jobs’ as worries mount following debate performance

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Joe Biden had a clear message at his Wisconsin rally on Friday: he isn’t going anywhere.

“There’s been a lot of speculation – what’s Joe going to do?” said Biden. “Here’s my answer: I am running and am gonna win again.”

He dismissed concerns about his age.

“We’ve also noticed a lot of discussion about my age,” said Biden. “Let me say something. I wasn’t too old to create over 50m new jobs.”

Biden focused largely on Donald Trump, decrying the January 6 insurrection and warning that a second Trump term could bring about the end of democracy.

“Donald Trump isn’t just a convicted criminal,” Biden exclaimed. “He’s a one-man crime wave.”

If Biden can find enthusiastic supporters amid a struggling campaign, it might be here, in Madison, Wisconsin, a liberal city with a history of turning out Democrats in droves during presidential elections.

“I support him no matter what,” said Marcy Wynn, a Democratic party activist attending Biden’s Wisconsin rally on Friday.

The rally formed part of a blitz of public appearances intended to reinvigorate support for Biden, whose faltering and confused debate appearance last week has spurred Democratic party leaders and donors to call for him to step down.

Ben Wikler, the chair of the Wisconsin Democratic party, acknowledged that Biden’s debate performance had sparked anxiety within the party.

“There’s no question that the debate was rough,” said Wikler. “It was even more scary watching the US supreme court announce that presidents have immunity from prosecution.”

Biden’s campaign has cast the 2024 presidential election as a choice between democracy and dictatorship, pointing to Trump’s attempted self-coup in 2020 and the rightwing Heritage Foundation’s autocratic Project 2025 plan as evidence.

“The specter of dictatorship looms over America,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, while addressing the crowd. At stake, said Rhodes-Conway, is the “right to vote and to have a government that is accountable to we the people.”

Biden was joined on Friday by an entourage of Democrats, among them the progressive Democratic congressman Mark Pocan and Wisconsin governor Tony Evers, who both spoke at the rally.

“If I had to summarize the last couple of years it would go something like this – Democrats getting shit done,” said Evers, who emphasized the state’s use of federal dollars to supplement infrastructural developments and repairs during Biden’s term in office. “The future of democracy runs right through the state of Wisconsin.”

Biden’s difficult debate performance – and the supreme court’s decision to grant presidents broad immunity from criminal prosecution – underscored the stakes of the election and raised fears about Biden’s ability to garner enough support to beat Trump in November.

The Wisconsin rally drew some of Biden’s strongest supporters – including Pat Raes, the president of Wisconsin SEIU, a union representing service sector workers.

“Fearmongers,” said Raes, when asked about the reaction to Biden’s debate last week. “I can’t think of another person as smart as Biden.”

Earlier in the morning, Wendell Mullins – a retiree who lives near the middle school where the Friday rally was held – reacted with considerably less enthusiasm.

Mullins watched the scene unfolding from his front yard and wondered how much good Biden’s last-minute effort would do.

“Right now, if the election was held tomorrow, Trump would beat him easy,” said Mullins. “I’m 82 years old, so I know pretty much how I feel, and I’m sure he doesn’t feel much better.”

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Donald Trump attempting to claim to ‘know nothing’ about Project 2025

Critics point out political roadmap for a potential second term created by ‘more than 20 officials Trump appointed’

Donald Trump is trying to claim he has “nothing to do” with Project 2025, a political roadmap created by people close to him for his potential second term.

The project, which is led by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative thinktank, seeks to crack down on various issues including immigration, reproductive rights, environmental protections and LGBTQ+ rights. It also aims to replace federal employees with Trump loyalists across the government.

Trump wrote in a post on his Truth Social network: “I know nothing about Project 2025. I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.”

The former president’s post came a day after the Heritage Foundation’s president, Kevin Roberts, said the US was in the midst of a “second American revolution” that can be bloodless “if the left allows it to be”. He made the comments on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast, adding that Republicans are “in the process of taking this country back”.

In response to Trump’s post, several critics were quick to point out that it appears unlikely that he is unaware of Project 2025, given that many individuals involved in the project are his closest allies.

“Many people involved in Project 2025 are close to Trump world & have served in his previous admin,” CNN’s Alayna Treene said.

Economist and Guardian columnist Robert Reich wrote: “Don’t be fooled. The playbook is written by more than 20 officials Trump appointed in his first term. It is the clearest vision we have of a 2nd Trump presidency.”

The Trump campaign has previously pushed back on claims that he would follow the policy ideas set out in Project 2025 or by other conservative groups. His campaign told Axios in November 2023 that the campaign’s own policy agenda, called Agenda47, is “the only official comprehensive and detailed look at what President Trump will do when he returns to the White House”, though the campaign added that it was “appreciative” of suggestions from others.

Still, Heritage claimed credit for a bevy of Trump policy proposals in his first term, based on the group’s 2017 version of the Mandate for Leadership. The group calculated that 64% of its policy recommendations were implemented or proposed by Trump in some way during his first year in office.

The Heritage Foundation also created the first Mandate for Leadership that heavily influenced Ronald Reagan’s administration in 1981.

The foundation claims that Reagan gave copies of the manifesto to “every member of his Cabinet” and that nearly two-thirds of the policy recommendations it laid out were either “adopted or attempted” by Reagan.

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Hurricane Beryl makes landfall in Mexico as category 2 storm and expected to reach Texas

Hurricane warning issued for coast from Puerto Costa Maya to Cancún, including Cozumel, with coastal residents in Texas told to prepare

Hurricane Beryl has made landfall as a category 2 storm in Mexico’s top tourist destinations, triggering a red alert in the region following its deadly trail of destruction across several Caribbean islands.

The storm’s core shifted over the Yucatán, with winds slowing to approximately 100mph (160km/h) as it reached the north-eastern region of Tulum, famed for its white-sand beaches, lush landscapes and Mayan ruins.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) predicted that the storm will move towards north-eastern Mexico and southern Texas towards the end of the weekend. In anticipation of that, Texas officials on Friday urged coastal residents to prepare to deal with Beryl.

Video posted on social media on Friday showed fierce winds battering Tulum’s downtown.

A hurricane warning was issued for the coast from Puerto Costa Maya to Cancún, including Cozumel.

Hurricane Beryl, the first of the 2024 Atlantic season, was at one point a category 5 storm, making it the earliest storm of that magnitude on record. This extraordinary storm season is believed by scientists to be fueled by the climate crisis.

Mexico’s civil protection agency issued a red alert, signaling a maximum hazard threat. The agency has advised residents to remain in their homes or seek refuge in storm shelters.

The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, echoed this advice, urging those in the storm’s path to seek shelter. He emphasized the importance of prioritising life over material possessions in a social media post.

In Quintana Roo, home to Cancún, the governor, Mara Lezama, posted a video of Tulum’s downtown showing strong winds and rain already affecting the region. Posting on X, she urged residents to remain indoors, saying: “We’re asking everyone to stay in your homes, in your shelters, do not leave.”

Schools in Quintana Roo have been closed and the Mexico’s defense ministry has opened around 120 storm shelters in the area.

Before reaching Mexico, Hurricane Beryl wreaked havoc in the Caribbean. It swept through Jamaica, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and northern Venezuela, claiming at least 11 lives, bringing down buildings and uprooting trees.

On Friday afternoon, Mexico’s civil protection agency said that no casualties had been reported in the country.

Beryl is expected to weaken rapidly as it crosses the Yucatán peninsula, but is forecast to regain strength when it moves over the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Beryl forced the evacuation of around 3,000 tourists from Isla Mujeres, an island near Cancun, the island’s tourism director, Jose Magana, said. Many residents, including fishermen, have sought shelter in anticipation of the storm’s impact.

About 100 flights were canceled at the Cancún international airport on Thursday, causing many tourists to rush to catch the last outgoing flights.

Mexico’s major oil platforms, primarily located in the southern Gulf of Mexico, are not expected to be affected or shut down, but oil projects in US waters to the north may be affected if the hurricane continues on its expected path.

Research by the ClimaMeter consortium determined that the climate crisis, caused by human activities, significantly intensified Hurricane Beryl. According to the study, the storm’s severity, along with its associated rainfall and wind speed, saw an increase of 10-30% as a direct result of the climate emergency.

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Théo Hernandez hits the spot as France beat Portugal in shootout to progress

Two teams who would not have scored all weekend finally found their range in the shootout but, eventually, somebody had to miss. It was harsh on João Félix that his aberration, a crisp but fractionally wayward penalty that rapped Mike Maignan’s right post, was decisive given he was not on the pitch for most of the fare that had preceded it. But it was fitting that this protracted, oddly absorbing tie went the distance and entirely in keeping with their performance over the past three weeks that France somehow pulled through.

Théo Hernandez ensured that, making it five successful conversions from five. As he stepped up Kylian Mbappé, withdrawn during extra time and clearly uncomfortable from an earlier blow to his broken nose, had crouched on the touchline and wrung his hands. The entire night had been imbued with an anxious, skittish, taut quality more befitting of a final. Mbappé watched his teammate convert and Spain now stand between him and the real thing.

Presumably the prospect of an unfulfilled tournament’s work had been racing through Mbappé’s mind. He has done his best given, in his own words, the view through his mask reminds him of 3D spectacles. This affair had, once a slow-burning first half was put aside, certainly been anything but flat and examples were served up regularly of the impotence that both sides had surmounted in getting this far.

The biggest reminder of all came three minutes into extra time after Francisco Conceição, the Portugal substitute, had scorched to the right byline and served the ball up on a plate. There was an era when its recipient, Cristiano Ronaldo, scored these in his sleep but his body shape was all wrong and he effected a rugby conversion from eight yards. Conceição, 18 years Ronaldo’s junior, ran over to console his captain. Heaven forfend a repeat of Monday night’s tears.

It was the closest Ronaldo came to goal all night, save for a successfully converted penalty to open Portugal’s set. An earlier free-kick, afforded him without quarrel because Bruno Fernandes had been withdrawn, was planted into the wall. There remain a subset who will not want to hear it but the fact he was still on the pitch after two hours made no sense. Persisting with Ronaldo against most available logic has become akin to drunkenly calling a former partner; little good has come of it for Roberto Martínez and Portugal.

He had attempted a first-half sprint before being shepherded away by an almost apologetic William Saliba; the rest of his contribution had amounted to the occasional lay-off in midfield and it felt unbecoming for a genuine icon of the sport, once the second-best player in the world, to remain in situ while an accomplished and mobile young forward in Gonçalo Ramos was unused.

That is not a blanket comment on footballing old age. For a complete contrast witness Pepe, who at 41 put on a masterclass here. One passage of play, which came towards the end of normal time straight after the equally exceptional Saliba had made a heroic block, encapsulated him better than words ever could. The blisteringly quick Marcus Thuram had just arrived on the scene for France and blazed a trail down the wing but Pepe, brain and legs in glorious sync, kept pace over fully 60 yards and was able to avert danger. Pepe ensured his pleasure was made fully known to Thuram; advanced years have, in his case, certainly not brought docility.

It was an evening to admire defensive arts far more than any of the attacking play that, while swinging from end to end like a basketball match for much of the second hour, generally ended in head-banging frustration. How to analyse two teams who, stacked with talent and so utterly accomplished in most of their movements, simply froze every time the chance came to convert? Portugal, the better side overall, will not enjoy poring over the component parts of their failure.

For all Ronaldo will be under the microscope there was the moment when, with virtually the last action before penalties, the left-back Nuno Mendes shot straight at Maignan from 16 yards when a finish to either side would have sparked delirium.

Maignan had earlier worked harder in denying the hugely impressive Vitinha, who should nonetheless have scored, and repelling an angled strike from Fernandes. Even Félix, deployed midway through extra time, had time to avoid his later ignominy but headed into the side netting. Portugal had the game’s best forward in Rafael Leão but his endeavours, repeatedly tormenting Jules Koundé, came to nothing.

What Mbappé would have given for any such opening. He was clearly not at full tilt, João Cancelo marshalling him adeptly before Nélson Semedo took on the job. That did not deter him from attempting a number of shots from around the penalty area; in his best nick at least one of them would surely have troubled Diogo Costa, who saved well from Hernandez in the opening period, but his end product was tentative.

The most painful moment for Mbappé came when, early in the second half, he strained to defend a corner and felt the full impact of a Bernardo Silva header. Obviously in discomfort, he removed the mask and sought treatment before carrying on until his eventual removal. France, without a goal in open play from any of their own players, soothed the agony later on but will need him badly from here.

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Mikel Merino breaks hosts’ hearts as Spain send Germany out of Euro 2024

Germany’s second summer fairy tale is over but Spain’s goes on, Stuttgart stunned at the last. With 65 seconds of extra time remaining, penalties looking inevitable and players pulling up all over the pitch, barely able to walk, Dani Olmo clipped in a glorious ball and there, deep in the penalty area, was Mikel Merino. A turn of the head, a twist of the neck and the selección were on their way to the semi-final, on the verge of finally defeating a tournament host at the tenth attempt.

On their way, which is not to say they were there just yet. Still they had to survive a scare – how could it be otherwise after an evening such as this, lived on the edge? – when Niclas Füllkrug headed past a post a minute into added time. And there was another one, four minutes beyond the 120, when with the very last kick of the game, the very last kick of Toni Kroos’s entire career, they faced one final delivery into their box. Manuel Neuer was up for that. So though was Unai Simón, clutching the ball and Spain’s place in the next round.

What an exhausting, bruising evening it had been, a game of 41 shots and 16 yellow cards, a red too right at the end when Dani Carvajal, as desperate as they all were, hauled down Jamal Musiala to set up what might have been a dramatic twist on the dramatic twist. It could have belonged to either of them. In the end, though, it belonged to Spain, who had resisted a modern Germany and the old Germany too.

They will have to count their men back in but there will be time to consider that, to work out how it had happened. For now what mattered was that they had made it. The hosts will ask the same question, from the other side. How? Twice they hit the post and there could been a late penalty too as inside this roaring, tense place, the feeling grew that this was one of those moments that mean you never write off the Germans. Behind early in the second half, they had pushed until they drew level on 89; with Spain either forced back, or taking refuge, they had seemed the more likely to win a wild, open game.

This had been presented as the best teams at the tournament taking a look in the mirror. Luis de la Fuente insisted on their similarities and so too had Julian Nagelsmann: two sides good in possession and transition, employing a high press and the counter-press; what awaited, Nagelsmann said, was a match “as interesting as everyone thinks.” What awaited, it turned out, was a bit of a battle too.

In the opening three minutes, while the smell of sulphur still lingered, Emre Can, Marc Cucurella and Pedri all went down. The first of those led to the first chance: by seeking the foul, Can allowed Spain to advance, Fabián Ruiz, Nico Williams and Álvaro Morata setting up a shooting position for Pedri. The last led to an early departure: Kroos sent Pedri flying, leaving the Spain midfielder limping off in tears.

Kroos had been fortunate to escape a booking then and a few minutes later he trod on Lamine Yamal, a glimpse of the intensity that Nagelsmann hinted at – even if the coach had quickly added that his team were not planning to kick Lamine Yamal “out of his socks”. On the touchline, De la Fuente was in the ear of the fourth official. On the pitch, the players were quick into each other, Antonio Rüdiger next into Olmo as he dashed through.

This was a game of moments, frantic, spaces only occasionally opening, chances hurried. Kroos could not control, Can lost the ball. In the chaos Rodri remained calm and Ruiz would emerge too. Williams could not be contained, but nor could he be decisive yet. Spain were quick to shoot, sometimes too quick. Germany worked a couple of chances for Kai Havertz: a header that Simón saved and then a scuffed shot from the edge of the area.

Spain almost led when Lamine Yamal found Morata who spun and struck over, and then did when the 16-year-old was next involved. Again, the fear could be felt, David Raum reluctant to be drawn too close. And so, Lamine Yamal slowed and set up Olmo, cool as you like. Arriving from deeper, the timing of the run as perfect as Lamine Yamal’s pass, Olmo swept past Neuer.

Füllkrug came on, gesturing to the fans. The noise rose, the style shifted. Florian Wirtz bent past the post. Spain were under pressure, the changes De la Fuente made speaking of resistance. Füllkrug was the target, a gravitational pull of his own. He set up Robert Andrich for a shot that Simón saved superbly and Havertz for another that Carvajal dived to block, then headed wide. When Wirtz escaped and crossed, he turned a shot against the post.

Simón then gifted an opportunity to Havertz who curled over him towards the open goal but over. Still, though, they came. This is Germany. A moment’s calm from Kroos, a superb cross from Max Mittelstädt and Joshua Kimmich’s header set up Wirtz with a minute to go and he struck in off the post to take them to extra time. There, Germany carried the weight of the game. The pitch felt huge, but so too was the effort to traverse it.

Mikel Oyarzabal flashed wide and Thomas Müller set up Wirtz but his shot spun past the post. Musiala’s goalbound shot was stopped by Cucurella’s hand, Füllkrug hit wide, and so did Oyarzabal, then Simon brilliantly saved Füllkrug’s diving header. And then came Merino’s moment, history made.

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Andrew Tate can leave Romania while awaiting trial, court rules

Restrictions eased on self-professed ‘misogynist influencer’ who is charged with human trafficking and rape

The controversial social media influencer Andrew Tate will be allowed to leave Romania while awaiting trial on charges of human trafficking, a court has ruled.

Tate, 37, had been banned from leaving the country but will now be permitted to travel within the EU without restrictions while awaiting the trial.

The self-professed “misogynist influencer” was indicted in June 2023 along with his brother, Tristan, and two Romanian female suspects for alleged human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women, allegations they have all denied.

In April this year the Bucharest court ruled that their trial could start, a decision Tate has appealed against. Pending a ruling on his appeal, the four suspects had been banned from leaving Romania, but Friday’s court decision lifted the restriction within the EU.

The Bucharest tribunal’s decision was hailed by Tate’s spokesperson Mateea Petrescu as a “significant victory and a major step forward” in the case.

In a social media post on X, Tate wrote: “I am free. For the first time in 3 years I can leave Romania. The sham case is falling apart.”

In a video also posted on X, he said: “My judges decided … I’m allowed to leave Romania, so do we take the [Ferrari] SF90 to Italy, the [Maserati] MC20 to Cannes, the [Ferrari] 812 Competition to Paris, where do I go?”

Eugen Vidineac, one of Tate’s lawyers, said: “We embrace and applaud the decision of the court today, I consider it a reflection of the exemplary behaviour and assistance of my clients.”

He said the Tates were “still determined to clear their name and reputation”.

Vidineac said the ability to travel within the 27-country EU bloc would allow the Tates to “pursue professional opportunities without restriction”.

The brothers, who are dual UK-US nationals, were held in police custody during the criminal investigation from December 2022 until April 2023 to prevent them from absconding from Romania or tampering with evidence.

They were then under house arrest until August, when courts placed them under judicial control. In January a Romanian court rejected an appeal by Tate to ease the judicial control measures.

Tate, a kickboxer who has 9.1 million followers on X, has repeatedly claimed that prosecutors have no evidence against him and that there is a political conspiracy to silence him.

He was previously banned from various social media platforms for expressing misogynistic views and for hate speech.

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French PM urges calm after assaults in run-up to second round vote

Gabriel Attal’s call comes on tense last day of campaigning after more than 50 candidates and canvassers attacked

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The French prime minister, Gabriel Attal, has urged all political parties to call for calm on a tense last day of campaigning for a snap election in which the far right hopes to win a majority in parliament.

“Violence and intimidation have no place in our society,” Attal wrote in a social media post.

The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said: “This campaign is short and yet we already have 51 candidates, substitutes and activists who have been physically assaulted.”

Darmanin told BFM TV that some of the assaults had been extremely serious and led to people being admitted to hospital. He said more than 30 arrests had been made across France and denounced what he called “a climate of great violence towards politics and all that it represents”.

It was too early to establish a “typical profile” of the people carrying out the attacks, but they ranged from people who had “spontaneously got angry” to “political activists either from the ultra-left or ultra-right”. The assaults had happened against people on all sides, he said.

About 30,000 police will be deployed across France after the results on Sunday, including 5,000 in Paris and the surrounding area. Darmanin said he feared “excesses” and had asked the Paris police chief to ban street protests expected outside parliament on Sunday night. He said he feared the “ultra-left” above all. He also said he anticipated demonstrations in Lyon, Rennes and Nantes or “anywhere there is the ultra-right or ultra-left”.

The Paris Bar Council has asked the public prosecutor’s office to open a case after a far-right website called for the “elimination” of lawyers who had signed an article against Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration National Rally (RN).

The far-right party has said it could win an absolute majority of 289 seats in parliament and form a government. Latest polling, however, suggests it will fall short of that target, but it is expected to become the largest party. An Ipsos poll forecast the RN would get between 175 and 205 seats and Ifop pollsters put the figure at between 170 and 210.

Polls also showed that tactical voting could limit the RN’s gains. Emmanuel Macron’s centrists and a broad leftwing coalition agreed this week to withdraw more than 200 candidates from the final round to avoid splitting the vote against the RN.

Polls suggest only between a third and a half of centrists could switch to the leftwing alliance to fend off the far right, while perhaps two-thirds of left-leaning voters could back a centrist.

If the RN and its allies do not win an absolute majority but end up as the largest party, there could be deadlock in parliament and a struggle to form a government.

Le Pen said on Friday that such deadlock would “not [be] chaos but a quagmire, a total standstill”, urging her supporters to turn out and give her party the biggest score possible. She said that if the RN did not have a clear majority, “no law will be voted … for a year, the country will be at standstill at the worst moment for France”.

If no party reaches a clear majority, there is uncertainty about how a government could be formed, weeks before Paris hosts the Olympics.

Attal, an ally of Macron, was campaigning on Friday in Paris and did not rule out his minority administration remaining in place for “as long as necessary” after polling day. That was understood to mean the government could continue for a brief period in case of deadlock in parliament, but Attal did not explain further.

The president’s decision to call a snap vote three years ahead of schedule after his party was trounced by the far right in European elections was seen as the biggest gamble of his political career. He said at the time that it would allow French people to reject extremes and reset parliament.

Predictions are hard to make before Sunday’s second round but polling showed Macron’s centrists losing ground and the far right gaining support.

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French PM urges calm after assaults in run-up to second round vote

Gabriel Attal’s call comes on tense last day of campaigning after more than 50 candidates and canvassers attacked

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The French prime minister, Gabriel Attal, has urged all political parties to call for calm on a tense last day of campaigning for a snap election in which the far right hopes to win a majority in parliament.

“Violence and intimidation have no place in our society,” Attal wrote in a social media post.

The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said: “This campaign is short and yet we already have 51 candidates, substitutes and activists who have been physically assaulted.”

Darmanin told BFM TV that some of the assaults had been extremely serious and led to people being admitted to hospital. He said more than 30 arrests had been made across France and denounced what he called “a climate of great violence towards politics and all that it represents”.

It was too early to establish a “typical profile” of the people carrying out the attacks, but they ranged from people who had “spontaneously got angry” to “political activists either from the ultra-left or ultra-right”. The assaults had happened against people on all sides, he said.

About 30,000 police will be deployed across France after the results on Sunday, including 5,000 in Paris and the surrounding area. Darmanin said he feared “excesses” and had asked the Paris police chief to ban street protests expected outside parliament on Sunday night. He said he feared the “ultra-left” above all. He also said he anticipated demonstrations in Lyon, Rennes and Nantes or “anywhere there is the ultra-right or ultra-left”.

The Paris Bar Council has asked the public prosecutor’s office to open a case after a far-right website called for the “elimination” of lawyers who had signed an article against Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration National Rally (RN).

The far-right party has said it could win an absolute majority of 289 seats in parliament and form a government. Latest polling, however, suggests it will fall short of that target, but it is expected to become the largest party. An Ipsos poll forecast the RN would get between 175 and 205 seats and Ifop pollsters put the figure at between 170 and 210.

Polls also showed that tactical voting could limit the RN’s gains. Emmanuel Macron’s centrists and a broad leftwing coalition agreed this week to withdraw more than 200 candidates from the final round to avoid splitting the vote against the RN.

Polls suggest only between a third and a half of centrists could switch to the leftwing alliance to fend off the far right, while perhaps two-thirds of left-leaning voters could back a centrist.

If the RN and its allies do not win an absolute majority but end up as the largest party, there could be deadlock in parliament and a struggle to form a government.

Le Pen said on Friday that such deadlock would “not [be] chaos but a quagmire, a total standstill”, urging her supporters to turn out and give her party the biggest score possible. She said that if the RN did not have a clear majority, “no law will be voted … for a year, the country will be at standstill at the worst moment for France”.

If no party reaches a clear majority, there is uncertainty about how a government could be formed, weeks before Paris hosts the Olympics.

Attal, an ally of Macron, was campaigning on Friday in Paris and did not rule out his minority administration remaining in place for “as long as necessary” after polling day. That was understood to mean the government could continue for a brief period in case of deadlock in parliament, but Attal did not explain further.

The president’s decision to call a snap vote three years ahead of schedule after his party was trounced by the far right in European elections was seen as the biggest gamble of his political career. He said at the time that it would allow French people to reject extremes and reset parliament.

Predictions are hard to make before Sunday’s second round but polling showed Macron’s centrists losing ground and the far right gaining support.

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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

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Viktor Orbán, Europe’s most pro-Russian leader, met Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Friday on a rare trip to Russia that drew strong condemnation from other European leaders.

Orbán’s visit to Moscow came days after he made a similar unannounced trip to Kyiv, as the Hungarian prime minister attempts to position himself as a peace broker between Russia and Ukraine.

Shortly after landing in Russia for his first trip to the country since Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Orbán published a photo with the caption: “The peace mission continues. Second stop: Moscow.”

At the Kremlin, the two leaders held talks that a senior Moscow aide described as a “frank conversation” covering all issues related to Ukraine.

Speaking at a joint conference with Orbán afterwards, Putin signalled he was not ready to compromise on the maximalist demands he made of Ukraine last month.

Putin repeated his earlier ultimatum to end the war, demanding Kyiv cede more land, withdraw troops deeper inside its own territory and drop its Nato bid.

These terms have already been firmly rejected by Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his western allies as they imply that Kyiv would have to relinquish four Ukrainian regions that Russia has “annexed” but does not fully control militarily.

Orbán this week assumed the rotating EU presidency until the end of the year and he told reporters in Moscow that he viewed his six-month tenure as a peace mission.

“Many steps are needed to end the war but we took the first step to restore dialogue,” Orban said, admitting that “points of view remained far from each other in Kyiv and Moscow”.

Brussels was quick to denounce the visit, stressing that 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.

Ukraine condemned Orbán’s visit, saying it had been made “without approval or coordination” with Kyiv. The Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement that “the principle of ‘no agreements on Ukraine without Ukraine’ remains inviolable for our country”.

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.

The Hungarian leader, who maintains links with rightwing groups around the globe, has long suggested Hungary could play a role in bringing peace to Ukraine. Aside from making vague calls for a ceasefire, he has not provided any details of a potential peace plan and has largely been ignored.

However, with elections in France later this week and a possible return to the US presidency for Donald Trump this year, Orbán may sense that the geopolitical winds are changing.

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

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

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 caused 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, said 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.”

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Trump asks judge to gut classified documents case after immunity ruling

Filing asks Aileen Cannon to take scalpel to any charges considered ‘official’ acts that could not be prosecuted

Donald Trump moved on Friday to capitalize on the US supreme court’s decision to confer broad immunity to former presidents, asking the federal judge overseeing his criminal case for retaining classified documents to take a scalpel to any charges that were “official” acts that could not be prosecuted.

The supreme court this week held that former presidents enjoyed some immunity from criminal prosecution for certain conduct they undertook in office, which also meant evidence of immune acts could not be introduced as evidence at any trial even if they did not form part of the charges.

The framework of criminal accountability for former presidents, as laid out by the ruling, has three categories: core presidential functions that carry absolute immunity, official acts of the presidency that carry presumptive immunity, and unofficial acts that carry no immunity.

The request from Trump’s lawyers did not say which parts of the indictment they considered to be official conduct that was immune. But if the US district judge Aileen Cannon agrees to go through the charges, it would almost certainly further delay the case by months.

The filing not only showed the far-reaching ramifications of the immunity decision, which is now affecting Trump’s documents case in Florida even though the ruling originated from a pre-trial appeal in the former president’s 2020 election subversion case in Washington; it also demonstrated Trump’s intent to use it to destroy the substance of the cases.

The 10-page filing from Trump’s lawyers asked Cannon for permission to file new briefs, arguing the immunity decision gutted prosecutors’ position that he had no immunity and “further demonstrates the politically-motivated nature of their contention that the motion is ‘frivolous’”.

But Trump’s filing was doubly notable as it asked Cannon to pause all other proceedings in the case until she decided whether the special counsel, Jack Smith, and his prosecution team were authorized to bring the case in the first place.

In a recent motion to dismiss the case, Trump’s lawyers argued that Smith had been improperly appointed since he was not named to the role by the president or approved by the Senate like other federal officers are – and that the attorney general, Merrick Garland, had no legal power to do so by himself.

The motion appeared destined for denial after a recent hearing in federal district court in Fort Pierce, Florida, when prosecutors countered that Garland – under the appointments clause of the US constitution – had authority to name “inferior officers” like special counsels to act as subordinates.

But as part of the supreme court’s decision, Justice Clarence Thomas gave the notion new momentum. “If this unprecedented prosecution is to proceed, the lower courts should thus answer these essential questions concerning the special counsel’s appointment,” Thomas wrote, albeit with respect to the 2020 election case.

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Israel-Hamas talks to resume, raising hopes of a Gaza ceasefire

Netanyahu sends intelligence chief to Qatar to study Hamas proposal, while Hezbollah says it would also stop attacks if hostilities paused

Hopes for a ceasefire in Gaza and de-escalation on the boundary between Israel and Lebanon were raised on Friday, as Israel’s intelligence chief was dispatched by the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to Qatar to resume stalled negotiations as Hamas reportedly told its Lebanese ally Hezbollah it had accepted a ceasefire proposal.

An official for the Lebanese group, which said on Thursday that it had fired 200 rockets into Israel in retaliation for a strike that killed one of its top commanders, also told Reuters that the group would cease fire as soon as any Gaza ceasefire agreement takes effect, echoing previous statements.

“If there is a Gaza agreement, then from zero hour there will be a ceasefire in Lebanon,” the official said.

The efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages held for nearly nine months gained momentum this week as Hamas put forward a revised proposal outlining the terms of an agreement, and Israel expressed readiness to resume discussions that had previously come to a standstill.

The head of the Mossad intelligence agency, David Barnea, travelled alone to Doha to meet Qatar’s prime minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, to study proposals from Hamas to pause the nearly nine-month war, the Kan public broadcaster reported, citing senior Israeli officials.

He returned to Israel after an initial meeting, and negotiations will resume next week, Netanyahu’s office said late on Friday.

The United States appears to hold high expectations regarding the recently resumed contact between Israel and Hamas, with the White House describing the latest Hamas ceasefire proposal as a “breakthrough” establishing a framework for a possible hostage deal.

‘‘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 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 cities in Gaza, 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 group, which had run Gaza for nearly two decades before it launched its surprise attack on southern Israel on 7 October.

A Palestinian official close to the internationally mediated peace efforts told Reuters the new Hamas proposal could lead to a framework agreement if it is embraced by Israel.

He said Hamas was no longer demanding as a pre-condition an Israeli commitment to a permanent ceasefire before the signing of an agreement, and would allow negotiations to achieve that throughout a first six-week phase.

The White House said Biden and Netanyahu had on Thursday discussed the response received from Hamas on the possible terms of a deal, and that Biden had welcomed Netanyahu’s decision on resuming the stalled talks “in an effort to close out the deal”.

A source in the Israeli negotiating team told Reuters: “There’s a deal with a real chance of implementation.”

A Gaza ceasefire could also allow for the de-escalation between Hezbollah and Israel on the Lebanese boundary. 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.

A Hamas delegation headed by the group’s deputy leader, Khalil al-Hayya, briefed Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah about the latest developments at a meeting in Beirut, the sources said.

Its deputy secretary general Naim Qassem on Friday publicly indicated that the group is not anticipating a full-scale war with Israel, but remains prepared for any extreme scenarios, in an interview with Russian outlet Sputnik.

“The possibility of expanding the war is not at hand at the moment but the organisation is prepared for the worst,” he said.

Mothers of Hamas-held hostages demonstrating in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square urged Israeli leaders to make an agreement. “There is right now a deal on the table,” said Shira Albag, the mother of 19-year-old Liri Albag, calling on the prime minister to “show leadership and courage and sign it off”.

One of the main obstacles to the negotiations within Israel is the far-right faction of the Netanyahu coalition government. The national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, issued a warning about potentially exiting the coalition during a highly charged security cabinet session on Thursday evening.

According to media reports in Israel, Ben Gvir criticised Netanyahu for engaging in private discussions with the defence minister, Yoav Gallant, and top security officials, painting the cabinet as merely a superficial facade.

“I want to make it abundantly clear, prime minister, that if you choose to act unilaterally, the consequences are solely your own to bear, and you will find yourself standing alone. I did not receive half a million votes to partake in a government where key security decisions are made outside the collective,” he was quoted as saying.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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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.

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Hackers leak alleged Taylor Swift ticket data to extort Ticketmaster

Hackers claim they obtained barcode data for hundreds of thousands of tickets to Eras tour and demand millions in ransom

Hackers claimed this week that they had obtained barcode data for hundreds of thousands of tickets to Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, demanding that Ticketmaster pay millions in ransom money or they would leak the information online.

The hacking group posted samples of the data to an online forum– ticket data on Swift’s shows in Indianapolis, Miami, and New Orleans – and alleged that it possessed an additional 30m million barcodes for other high-profile concerts and sporting events.

The ransom posts on the online forum were from the hacking group ShinyHunters, and an account that appeared to be associated with it called Sp1d3rHunters. The group has a history of claiming responsibility for major hacks against companies including Santander bank, AT&T, Microsoft and others.

Ticketmaster denied offering any money to the hackers, who had not engaged with the company about the ransom, according to a statement from parent Live National Entertainment. Ticketmaster also stated that its ticketing technology prevented such leaked barcodes from being used as tickets by refreshing barcodes every few seconds.

Hopeful Swifties probably won’t be able to attend their icon’s world tour with an ill-gotten ticket. Although the data appeared to be from the hacking group’s large scale breach of Ticketmaster and Live Nation earlier this year, cybersecurity experts who examined the leak agreed that the stolen data would not be useful for gaining access to an arena. The data could not be used as a ticket because the Ticketmaster mobile application uses dynamic barcodes, experts said, whereas the data in the hack is static.

“This data is almost certainly not sufficient to allow someone to recreate a barcode to get in,” said Don Smith, vice-president at the cybersecurity firm Secureworks. “If you’re running events of the size and scale of the Eras tour, you are not going to make it easy for someone to just get access to a database and then be able to create a fake ticket.”

Despite ShinyHunters’ ability to gain access to the Swift ticketing data, which included information on tickets for nine upcoming dates across the three US cities, experts said that companies such as Live Nation have more sophisticated measures to prevent that data from being used to actually steal tickets.

“If the thought here was that you’re going to create absolute chaos on all future Eras tour dates, I don’t think so,” Smith said.

The ransom threat to Live Nation is part of a broader rise in cyberattacks and ransomware in recent years. The attacks have targeted major corporations and public institutions, with analysts estimating that victims paid out $1.1bn in ransoms in 2023. The United Kingdom’s National Health Service is still reeling from a devastating attack by a Russia-based ransomware gang in June.

Earlier this year, ShinyHunters allegedly breached a third party contractor to gain access to Ticketmaster’s data that included the names, partial payment details, phone numbers, ticket sales and other information on around 560 million customers. LiveNation confirmed the hack in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in May after ShinyHunters took credit for the attack.

The hack added to Live Nation’s myriad of public relations problems and legal woes. The US Department of Justice sued the company in May, alleging it was illegally monopolizing ticket sales and seeking to break it up. Live Nation also faced widespread backlash over its handling of Swift’s Eras tour, with a botched sales process leading to hours-long waits, failure to handle consumer demand and tickets going on resale for exorbitant amounts. Swift herself has bashed the company repeatedly.

Swift’s tour has been the target of cyberattacks before. In February, hackers breached Australian events company Ticketek, breaking into individual accounts and reselling Eras tour tickets. The company set up pop-up stands outside Swift’s shows for fans to report their concerns and potentially regain their tickets.

ShinyHunters has also claimed responsibility for accessing bank and credit card numbers for around 30 million customers and employees at Santander bank earlier this year. The group attempted to sell that information to the highest bidder. In May, the FBI and US Department of Justice seized the online forum that ShinyHunters used to post information and ransom threats from its Live Nation and Santander hacks, but another site quickly popped up.

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