The Guardian 2024-07-10 00:13:17


Good morning, US politics blog readers. Today we’ll be continuing to keep an eye on Congress, where lawmakers are mulling how – or if – to deal with the question of whether to call on Joe Biden to halt his re-election campaign after a devastating debate performance that raised questions about his age and ability to win in November. Biden has scored the surprising and weighty endorsement of the progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), who has in the past clashed with Biden over policy. Biden’s meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus also went well for the president, with members of the caucus reportedly presenting unified support for Biden. That kind of institutional support on the Hill will help Biden, but it hasn’t quelled anxieties about his re-election bid – and more members of Congress could rally around his ouster still.

Here’s what else we’re following today:

  • House Democrats are scheduled hold a 9am all-member meeting at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington DC.

  • Donald Trump will hold a rally in Florida this evening. With less than a week to go before the Republican National Convention, Trump is expected to name a running mate any day now.

  • Kamala Harris will speak in Nevada on Tuesday to shore up support for the Biden-Harris ticket in the battleground state.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez backs Biden for re-election: ‘The matter is closed’

Progressive tells reporters ‘He is in this race, and I support him’ while six House Democrats call for him to step aside

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The matter of Joe Biden’s hold on the Democratic nomination for president is “closed”, the progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in a full-throated endorsement of his candidacy as he works to shores up support among leading Democrats before more cracks appear in their ranks.

Several prominent Democrats have joined Ocasio-Cortez in voicing unequivocal support for the president, including fellow progressive Ilhan Omar, the congresswoman from Minnesota, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, signaling support from a critical voting bloc.

Six House Democrats have so far called for Biden to step aside, however, evidence of a party in disarray over how best to respond to Biden’s disastrous debate performance last month in which he appeared weak and confused while Donald Trump spewed a stream of unchecked lies.

Others Democrats are reported to have said in private that they believe Biden should go, with Patti Murray of Washington state, the Senate president pro tempore, the latest to issue a statement expressing concern.

In response Biden came out fighting this week with an open letter to Democrats insisting he wasn’t dropping out and a surprise interview on MSNBC in which he said he had not felt well during the debate and railed against party “elites” he said were behind calls for him to quit.

“I have spoken to the president over the weekend,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters outside the Capitol on Monday evening while voicing her support. “I have spoken with him extensively. He made clear then and he has made clear since that he is in this race.

“The matter is closed. He had reiterated that this morning. He has reiterated that to the public. Joe Biden is our nominee. He is not leaving this race. He is in this race, and I support him.”

On Monday night Biden also held a private meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, a key support bloc representing voters who form a powerful part of Biden’s base, having fueled his surge to the Democratic nomination in 2020.

“You’ve had my back, and I’ll continue to have yours,” Politico reported saying in the meeting. “I need you guys. They were wrong in 2020, 2022 [when Democrats did much better than expected in midterm elections] and now. With you guys, I know we can win this thing.”

Congressional Hispanic Caucus leaders, Nanette Barragán of California and Adriano Espaillat of New York, said on Monday: “We stand with President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

“For the last year and a half, the Biden-Harris administration partnered with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ initiative to take CHC on the Road. Through that initiative we have worked to empower Latino communities across the country.

“We look forward to our continued partnership on the road and legislative wins to benefit the American people.”

Ocasio-Cortez, from New York City and popularly known as AOC, is a key member of the Squad, an informal grouping of high-profile House progressives. In her re-endorsement of Biden she pointed to a lack of Republican calls for Trump to step aside, even after he was convicted on 34 criminal charges in his New York trial arising from hush-money payments made to an adult film star.

A fellow House progressive, Pramila Jayapal from Washington state, underlined that point in a statement, saying: “Any reporter or pundit who is asking about or talking about the aftermath of President Biden’s debate performance and his health should also be spending at least the same amount of time and energy talking to Republicans about why they are still supporting a convicted felon who incited an insurrection and wants to be dictator on day one.”

Jayapal, Ocasio-Cortez and other leading congressional progressives have clashed with Biden but ultimately backed his legislative agenda.

On Monday, Ocasio-Cortez said Biden should “commit to the issues that are critically important to working people across this country.

“If we can do that and continue our work on student loans, secure a cease-fire [in Israel’s war against Hamas], and bring those dollars back into investing in public policy, then that’s how we win in November.

“That’s what I’m committed to, and that’s what I want to make sure that we secure.”

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White House releases more details on Biden’s health after press room shouting match

White House physician clarifies in letter that Biden has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physicals

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The White House clarified on Monday that Joe Biden has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physicals, following a heated exchange between the president’s press secretary and journalists seeking an explanation for why a Parkinson’s disease specialist visited the White House eight times in as many months.

In an evening letter the White House physician, Kevin O’Connor, said the specialist, Kevin Cannard, has been a neurology consultant to the White House medical unit since 2012. He said Cannard had visited multiple times a year since then, and that the neurologist was chosen for his breadth of experience and expertise.

“Seeing patients at the White House is something that Dr Cannard has been doing for a dozen years,” O’Connor wrote. “Dr Cannard was chosen for this responsibility not because he is a movement disorder specialist, but because he is a highly trained and highly regarded neurologist here at Walter Reed and across the Military Health System, with a very wide expertise which makes him flexible to see a variety of patients and problems.”

He added that Cannard was the neurologist who had examined Biden for his three annual physicals since becoming president.

Biden’s last medical examination in February had not shown “any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or ascending lateral sclerosis, nor are there any signs of cervical myelopathy”, O’Connor wrote.

The letter, which O’Connor said he was releasing with the permission of both Biden and Cannard, followed intense speculation about the president’s cognitive powers following last month’s stumbling performance in a debate with Donald Trump in Atlanta, in which he repeatedly appeared confused and lost his train of thought.

It was released after Karine Jean-Pierre, the president’s press secretary, sparred with reporters in the White House briefing room in an exchange during which she asked them for “respect” and declined to confirm Cannard’s name, even though it had already been reported in multiple media outlets.

“There are thousands of military personnel that come to the White House and they are under the care of the medical unit,” she said.

“The president has seen a neurologist three times,” she added, and continued that there were “no findings which would be consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorders such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or ascending lateral sclerosis”.

She said Biden was not being treated or taking medication for Parkinson’s disease.

O’Connor’s letter may not be enough to quell the suspicions over Biden’s health and fitness to serve, amid revelations that he is a former business associate and longtime friend of the president’s family. Politico reported that he introduced Biden’s brother, Jim Biden, to a military-focused medical team in 2017, at a time when he was pursuing a business venture aimed at securing veterans’ affairs contracts, and the president’s sister-in-law, Sara Biden, has also described O’Connor as a friend who has dispensed medical advice to the family.

Jacob Appel, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, told Politico that presidential doctors could not necessarily be relied on to disclose the truth about their distinguished patients.

“Presidents’ doctors have deceived the public going back to the early 19th century,” said Appel, who has studied the medical dilemmas of multiple doctors acting for US presidents. “There are plenty of ways of saying something that are factually accurate that don’t convey the full sense of what’s going on.”

Speculation about matters relating to Biden that might not previously have been scrutinized before his poor debate showing has grown, such as the recent disclosure that his staff prepares memos, complete with large print and photos, mapping out his path to the podium for public engagements, though the campaign emphasised that such materials are prepared for all presidents.

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Donald Trump gears up for Florida rally after keeping lower profile post-debate

Strategy to sit back and let Democrats tear into each other after Joe Biden’s poor performance likely to take back seat

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Donald Trump will host a rally in the Miami suburb of Doral on Tuesday night and break a relative – and uncharacteristic – silence over the turbulent aftermath of June’s presidential debate that raised questions about Joe Biden’s candidacy.

A Trump campaign source and some political opponents say the former president’s strategy has been to sit back and let Democrats tear into each other following Biden’s dismal debate performance, intensifying calls for him to drop out of November’s general election.

“We’re trying something new and shutting up,” an anonymous campaign insider told ABC News last week, a position effectively confirmed by Trump’s decision to largely avoid public appearances since a prearranged rally in Virginia the day after the 27 June debate – and to limit his posts on his Truth Social platform.

Though Trump did appear on Monday on Fox News to rail about immigrants and crime, despite the FBI reporting a major drop in violence in the first months of the year, the former Republican congressman Steve Stivers told the Hill: “When your opponent is blowing himself up, don’t interrupt. There’s no reason to insert yourself in that conversation.”

In Florida on Tuesday night, before a loyal crowd at the Doral golf club he owns, and in the first of two rallies he is staging this week, the presumptive Republican nominee is expected to revert to his usually voluble self – at least if messaging from inside his campaign is a guide.

Trump’s media office did not respond to a question from the Guardian seeking confirmation that the campaign was deliberately avoiding talking much about Biden’s shaky debate performance. But in a statement, Trump acolytes attacked the president’s “flailing candidacy” and urged him to stay in the race.

“Please keep doing these interviews,” said Jake Schneider, rapid response director for the Republican National Committee (RNC), referring to Biden calling into MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday and insisting “I am not going anywhere.”

Only in Biden’s mind, the statement said, “is his defiance helping his case as a steady drip of Democrats call for a change at the top of their ticket”.

Some senior Democrats also have thoughts on the former president’s silence, including David Axelrod, a senior adviser for the Obama White House, whose relationship with Biden has been fractious.

“Trump’s not talking much about Biden’s bad debate. Trump’s campaign is not blitzing ads about it. And Lara Trump [RNC co-chair and Trump’s daughter-in-law] said last week it would be an affront to democracy if Biden were not the nominee,” he wrote Monday on X.

“Why do you think they are uncharacteristically holding fire?”

It is also possible that Trump is more concerned about advancing his own campaign, notably whom to choose as his running mate one week before the Republican national convention in Milwaukee will confirm his third run at the White House as a Republican candidate.

Among those who will attend Tuesday’s rally is Marco Rubio, a senior Florida US senator, believed to be one of the leading contenders for Trump’s vice-presidential pick. A failed challenger to Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, when Mike Pence emerged as Trump’s running mate, Rubio said on CNN on Sunday that he had “heard nothing”.

“Donald Trump has a decision to make. He’ll make it when he needs to make it. He’ll make a good decision,” he said.

Speculation has grown that the Doral event will provide Trump the perfect opportunity to unveil Rubio, particularly as Jason Miller, a senior Trump adviser, told Fox News on Monday that a decision was imminent.

Trump will also rally Saturday at Pittsburgh’s Butler Farm Show, close to Pennsylvania’s border with Ohio, where JD Vance – another understood to be on the shortlist – is a senator.

Vance, on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, also attempted to dampen expectations. “I have not gotten the call,” he said.

“Whoever his vice-president is, he’s got a lot of good people he could choose from, it’s the policies that worked and the leadership style that worked for the American people.”

Miller’s comments, meanwhile, hinted that Trump might also choose to wait to see if Biden drops out before declaring his hand.

“I look ahead as a campaign strategist to what does that vice-presidential debate look like,” he said, citing the hypothesis that Kamala Harris, Biden’s vice-president, would replace him at the top of the ticket.

“We don’t know if that’s going to be Kamala, or maybe they swap her out for someone who’s even more liberal, more extreme, although that might be tough to do.”

The Trump campaign’s announcement of the Doral rally, meanwhile, gave little indication of what he will talk about, other than how the Biden administration was “having catastrophic consequences on Floridians”, economically and in terms of immigration.

“Florida is a place near and dear to President Trump’s heart as his home state,” it said, referring to his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach.

Trump holds a solid 10-point advantage over Biden in Florida, according to fivethirtyeight.com’s average of polls.

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Biden decries Russian ‘brutality’ over deadly Ukraine strikes as Nato leaders gather

US president pledges to boost air defences on eve of Nato summit, at which Volodymyr Zelenskiy will request more military aid

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Joe Biden has called one of the heaviest Russian airstrikes on Ukraine since the war began “a horrific reminder of Russia’s brutality”, amid widespread international revulsion at Monday’s attacks and as Nato leaders gathered to announce new measures to strengthen Ukraine’s air defences.

The government of Volodymyr Zelenskiy declared Tuesday a day of mourning after at least 38 civilians were killed in a series of attacks where targets included Ukraine’s largest children’s hospital, leaving an unknown number trapped under the rubble in Kyiv. Four of the dead were children, the Ukrainian president said on Tuesday.

“It is critical that the world continues to stand with Ukraine at this important moment and that we not ignore Russian aggression,” the US president said in a White House statement, adding: “We will be announcing new measures to strengthen Ukraine’s air defences to help protect their cities and civilians.”

The president’s statement came on the eve of a Nato summit in Washington that marks the 75th anniversary of the transatlantic alliance and which will bring together Zelenskiy and leaders of countries that have provided Kyiv with tens of billions of dollars in military aid.

On Tuesday Zelenskiy said rescue operations continued throughout the night after Monday’s attacks on Kyiv, as well as the cities of Kryvyi Rih and Dnipro. He said 190 people were injured and 64 hospitalised. “I am grateful to everyone who is rescuing and caring for our people, to everyone involved, and to everyone who is helping,” he posted on X.

More than 100 buildings were damaged. “The Russian terrorists must answer for this,” Zelenskiy said, adding: “Being concerned does not stop terror. Condolences are not a weapon.”

Images beamed around the world showed parents holding babies in the streets outside Kyiv’s Okhmatdyt hospital, dazed and sobbing after the rare daylight aerial attack. Windows had been smashed and panels ripped off, and hundreds of Kyiv residents were helping to clear debris.

The strike largely destroyed the children’s hospital toxicology ward, where patients with severe kidney issues were being treated. Hundreds of rescue workers and volunteers joined the effort to clear the debris and search for survivors. Officials and emergency staff said it was not immediately clear how many doctors and patients – dead or aliveremained trapped under the rubble.

All surviving patients had been transferred to other medical institutions, Zelenskiy said on Tuesday. A maternity centre in the capital was also hit. Zelenskiy was in Poland at the time of the attack before heading to Washington DC.

The government called a day of mourning on Tuesday for what is one of the worst air attacks of the war, adding that Monday’s strikes showed the urgent need to upgrade its air defences.

Zelenskiy, addressing a news conference in Warsaw on Monday alongside the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, called on Kyiv’s western allies to give a firm response to the attack.

“We will retaliate against these people, we will deliver a powerful response from our side to Russia, for sure. The question to our partners is: can they respond?” Zelenskiy said.

Zelenskiy has for months said his country does not have enough air defence systems and has requested at least seven more Patriot batteries in addition to those already donated by the US, Germany and the Netherlands. Russia has exploited the gaps in Ukraine’s air defences to carry out devastating strikes on civilians and infrastructure, and to pummel Kyiv’s troops on the frontlines.

Observers expect Nato members to pledge at least four additional Patriot missile batteries to Ukraine at the conclusion of this week’s summit.

The package put forward by Nato countries has been presented as “historic” and is widely seen as an attempt to “future-proof” continued aid to Ukraine – but it may not fully satisfy Kyiv.

The UN security council is set to meet on Tuesday at the request of Britain, France, Ecuador, Slovenia and the US.

In response to Monday’s attack, Britain’s prime minister, Keir Starmer, condemned “attacking innocent children” as the “most depraved of actions”, while the Italian foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, called the missile strike a “war crime”.

A spokesperson for António Guterres, the UN secretary general, said he strongly condemned the “particularly shocking” strikes against the children’s hospital and another medical facility.

The UN rights chief, Volker Türk, condemned the Russian strikes as “abominable”. France’s foreign ministry called the bombardment of a children’s hospital “barbaric” and the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, described the attack as “abhorrent”.

Russia, which has targeted civilian infrastructure throughout the war, denied responsibility for the deaths on Monday. In a statement, the defence ministry attributed the incident, without directly referencing the hospital blast, to Ukrainian anti-aircraft missiles, despite visual evidence that appeared to point to a Russian strike.

Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, shared an image on X that appeared to show a Russian missile over Kyiv moments before it struck a hospital, identifying it as a Kh-101 cruise missile. Ukraine’s security service said it found wreckage from the cruise missile, which flies low to avoid detection by radar, at the site.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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Keir Starmer to ‘wait until US election to name new ambassador’

Exclusive: PM wants to see whether Trump or Biden win before making pick, sources say, after considering Miliband and Mandelson

Keir Starmer is planning to wait until after the US election to name a new ambassador to Washington, sources have told the Guardian, as the prime minister wants to see who the next president is before making his pick.

Labour has been considering a political appointee, such as Cathy Ashton, David Miliband or Peter Mandelson, to be the country’s representative to the US. Ministers have decided not to appoint Tim Barrow, the outgoing national security adviser, whom the Conservatives had chosen for the role shortly before the election.

With Joe Biden floundering however and Donald Trump ahead in the US polls, ministers now want to see who wins the November election before making a decision.

Starmer is to meet Biden this week for the first time at the White House as he travels to Washington for a Nato summit of world leaders.

Officials say Starmer, is considering reappointing the current ambassador Karen Pierce, who enjoys a good relationship with Trump and is a frequent guest on Fox News.

Starmer’s choice will be one of the most important diplomatic decisions the new prime minister makes in his first year in the job, and is likely to shape UK-US relations for the next four years at least.

One official said: “The big dilemma for Starmer will be whether to make a political appointee or a more routine civil service appointment. He’s going to wait until after November to see who is in the White House before he makes that decision.”

Another said the government had begun a recruitment process for the post and aimed to have someone in place by 25 January, when Pierce’s first term ends.

Bronwen Maddox, the chief executive of the Chatham House foreign policy thinktank, said: “This post really matters – it is one of those diplomatic posts that really forges the relationship between the two countries.”

She added: “It is a relationship with Congress as much as it is with the president, and that is something that is not accessible to the prime minister. It is not like a relationship with a European country, much of which can be handled over the phone.”

Rishi Sunak’s government had decided to replace Pierce with Barrow, much to the chagrin of Labour officials, who wanted the chance to make their own choice.

Barrow’s appointment was in effect suspended by the general election, allowing Starmer and the foreign secretary, David Lammy, to start the process from scratch. Barrow has now been told he will not be getting the job.

Several high-profile names were reported to be in the running for the job, including Ashton and Mandelson, both former EU commissioners, and Miliband, the former foreign secretary. Simon Fraser, the former head of the diplomatic service, is also believed to be in the frame.

However, many of these candidates are unlikely to curry favour with a new Trump administration, given their links either to the Labour party or their backgrounds as civil servants. Trump is around two points ahead in the polls, while Biden is under pressure from his party to quit the race after his recent disastrous televised debate performance.

The former president demanded the resignation of Pierce’s predecessor, Kim Darroch, after a leaked diplomatic cable showed Darroch calling his administration “uniquely dysfunctional”.

Trump does have a good relationship with Pierce however, and was reported to have spoken glowingly about her to Boris Johnson when Johnson was prime minister and Pierce was the UK ambassador to the UN in New York.

Pierce is also seen in Labour circles as someone who “can do Fox News”, which has previously proven one of the most effective ways of capturing the former president’s attention.

Pierce is known to be keen to stay in post, even if not for a full second term, and reportedly told an event in Washington last spring that she would “have to be dragged out of here by my fingernails”.

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Rishi Sunak has no plans to move to US after election defeat, allies say

Former PM takes up place on opposition benches and says he looks forward to continuing to represent Richmond and Northallerton

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Rishi Sunak is understood to have told MPs he has no plans to leave for California and will do all he can to facilitate a smooth leadership transition.

Sunak has moved into the offices of the leader of the opposition in Portcullis House and chaired his first shadow cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

He took his place on the opposition benches for the election of the Commons speaker, when he congratulated Keir Starmer, saying it was a “formidable task” and that they “argued vigorously … but still respect each other”.

Sunak said: “To be sent to this place by our constituencies is the greatest honour and responsibility”, and said he looked forward to continuing to represent Richmond and Northallerton. He said they would take on opposition duty “respectfully, professionally and humbly”.

Allies of the former prime minister said he was keen to strongly counter any rumours that he was eager to abandon the party in favour of a life over the Atlantic. Sunak paid particular tribute to his own constituency, where the result made him the safest Conservative MP in the country.

Conservative MPs met on Tuesday to begin the process of electing a new 1922 Committee of backbenchers, which will set the timetable for a leadership election. The two remaining members of the committee – Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and Bob Blackman – will go head-to-head in a bid to chair the powerful body, which was previously headed by Sir Graham Brady.

Senior Conservative sources said there was a broad consensus that MPs did want a longer contest, which was likely to mean there would be no new leader in place by party conference. “The herd is very much for going long,” said one.

It is likely to mean an interim leader is needed, though some MPs and other Tories believe that would leave a risky gap for Nigel Farage and Reform.

Others have warned it will give Labour an opportunity to set the narrative of the parliament, blaming all misfortunes on the past Conservative government. “We saw how effective that was in 2010 when we could do that to Ed Miliband,” another Tory said.

The new backbench committee will also consider whether any new rules will be required for the leadership contest, including whether candidates must reach a threshold of nominations to be on the ballot.

The size of the parliamentary Conservative party means that the threshold for a leadership challenge is very low – only 18 MPs would need to submit a no confidence motion in order to spark a vote among the remaining 121 MPs.

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France’s Hugo Auradou and Oscar Jégou arrested on sexual assault charges

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Two France international rugby players have been arrested after an allegation of sexual assault was made against them during Les Bleus’ South America tour. The president of the the French rugby federation’ (FFR), Florian Grill, told reporters in Buenos Aires that if the facts are proven they are “incredibly serious”.

The two players – the 20-year-old Pau lock Hugo Auradou and the La Rochelle flanker Oscar Jégou, 21 – are set to be taken from the Argentinian capital to Mendoza, where the alleged incident happened. Mendoza staged the first Test between Argentina and France on Saturday, when Auradou and Jégou both started.

“An investigation is under way,” Grill said, in comments reported by L’Équipe. “If the facts are proven, they are incredibly serious. We must already have a thought for the young woman. If, once again, it is proven, it is the opposite of everything that rugby does. I have no details. I cannot say what happened. An investigation is under way. It is important to let it take place.

“We are in contact with the authorities. We are trying to support everyone. We have also notified the French authorities, because this is a potentially very important case.”

In a post on X, the French sports minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, said: “If the investigation establishes the alleged facts, they constitute an unspeakable atrocity. Thought for the victim. Thanks to Florian Grill for his right words and his emotion that everyone shares this morning. I remain in contact with the federation and our embassy there.”

In a statement on the club’s website, La Rochelle said: “Stade Rochelais was informed, through the press, of the arrest of Oscar Jégou in Argentina following an accusation of sexual assault. In the total absence of direct information on the ongoing procedure, the club will refrain from any comment for the moment.”

Pau, meanwhile, said the club had “learned this morning through the media of the arrest and serious accusations made against our second-row Hugo Auradou, currently on tour in Argentina with the national team. The club is awaiting more specific information from the French rugby federation and the initial conclusions of the ongoing investigation, which is essential at this stage.”

The France full-back Melvyn Jaminet was suspended from the tour on Sunday after a video surfaced online of the Toulon player making a racist remark. The video came from an Instagram story posted to his account. It has since been deleted, although copies of the video are on the internet.

The FFR condemned Jaminet’s comments in a statement and suspended him with immediate effect, while the player issued an apology shortly after his suspension was announced. France are due to play Uruguay in Montevideo on Wednesday, before Saturday’s second Test against Argentina in Buenos Aires.

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Weakened Tropical Storm Beryl moves east after at least seven killed in Texas

More than 2.3m homes still without power as storm weakens to tropical depression threatening flash flooding

Power started to come back for some of the millions of homes and businesses left in the dark when Hurricane Beryl slammed into the Houston area, while the storm – which killed several people before weakening – moved east, spawning suspected tornadoes and causing more damage.

Beryl was blamed for the deaths of at least seven people in the Houston area on Monday, officials said. Three of those people were killed by fallen trees, one died in a fire, two drowned, and a civilian police department employee died after being trapped in high water while driving to work.

One person died in north-west Louisiana during the storm when a tree fell on a home, according to authorities.

After a peak Monday of more than 2.7 million customers around Houston without power, the numbers improved with more than 2.3m homes and businesses lacking electricity by Tuesday morning, according to PowerOutage.us. The lack of cooling to people’s homes, downed power lines and non-functioning traffic lights led officials to ask residents to stay home if possible.

“Houstonians need to know we’re working around the clock so you will be safe,” the mayor, John Whitmire, said on Monday at a media briefing, urging residents to also know the dangers of high water, to stay hydrated and to check on their neighbors.

Beryl later on Monday weakened into a tropical depression and by Tuesday morning the National Weather Service (NWS) said it was about 95 miles (155km) north of Shreveport, Louisiana, moving north-east with maximum sustained wind speeds near 30mph (48km/h). Its strength was not expected to change much in the next day or two.

While weakened, Beryl threatened to unleash more harsh weather over several other states in coming days. The storm was expected to bring heavy rainfall and possible flash flooding from the lower and mid-Mississippi Valley to the Great Lakes on Tuesday into Wednesday, the NWS said.

A flood watch was in effect for parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, and tornadoes were possible through the early morning across parts of the mid-south. A few tornadoes were possible from midday to the early evening in Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, according to the NWS.

The storm still packed a punch, and the NWS confirmed on social media on Monday evening that tornadoes had been spotted in north-eastern Louisiana. The Bossier sheriff, Julian Whittington, said in a Facebook post that a woman was killed in the Benton area when a tree fell on her home.

Dozens of tornado warnings were issued in Louisiana and Arkansas on Monday evening.

Texas state and local officials warned it could take several days to fully restore power after Beryl came ashore as a category 1 hurricane, toppled 10 transmission lines and knocked down trees that took down power lines.

Beryl on Tuesday was far less powerful than the category 5 behemoth – the earliest on record in the Atlantic basin – that previously tore a deadly path of destruction through parts of Mexico and the Caribbean.

But its winds and rains still knocked down hundreds of trees that had already been teetering in water-saturated earth, and stranded dozens of cars on flooded roadways.

The loss of power was an all-too familiar experience for Houston: powerful storms had just ripped through the area in May, killing eight people, leaving nearly 1 million without power and flooding numerous streets.

Power crews were working to restore service as quickly as possible, an urgent priority for homes also left without air conditioning in the middle of summer. Temperatures in the 90s Fahrenheit (above 32.2C) were expected on Tuesday. The NWS issued a heat advisory that said the area heat index could reach 105F (40.5C).

The state was opening cooling centers as well as food and water distribution centers, said Nim Kidd, chief of state emergency operations.

Beryl was supercharged by extremely hot ocean temperatures resulting from the burning of fossil, according to experts. Its rains pounded Houston and other areas of the coast on Monday, closing streets in neighborhoods that had already been washed out by previous storms. Houston officials reported at least 25 water rescues by Monday afternoon, mostly for people with vehicles stuck in flood waters.

Associated Press contributed reporting

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Weakened Tropical Storm Beryl moves east after at least seven killed in Texas

More than 2.3m homes still without power as storm weakens to tropical depression threatening flash flooding

Power started to come back for some of the millions of homes and businesses left in the dark when Hurricane Beryl slammed into the Houston area, while the storm – which killed several people before weakening – moved east, spawning suspected tornadoes and causing more damage.

Beryl was blamed for the deaths of at least seven people in the Houston area on Monday, officials said. Three of those people were killed by fallen trees, one died in a fire, two drowned, and a civilian police department employee died after being trapped in high water while driving to work.

One person died in north-west Louisiana during the storm when a tree fell on a home, according to authorities.

After a peak Monday of more than 2.7 million customers around Houston without power, the numbers improved with more than 2.3m homes and businesses lacking electricity by Tuesday morning, according to PowerOutage.us. The lack of cooling to people’s homes, downed power lines and non-functioning traffic lights led officials to ask residents to stay home if possible.

“Houstonians need to know we’re working around the clock so you will be safe,” the mayor, John Whitmire, said on Monday at a media briefing, urging residents to also know the dangers of high water, to stay hydrated and to check on their neighbors.

Beryl later on Monday weakened into a tropical depression and by Tuesday morning the National Weather Service (NWS) said it was about 95 miles (155km) north of Shreveport, Louisiana, moving north-east with maximum sustained wind speeds near 30mph (48km/h). Its strength was not expected to change much in the next day or two.

While weakened, Beryl threatened to unleash more harsh weather over several other states in coming days. The storm was expected to bring heavy rainfall and possible flash flooding from the lower and mid-Mississippi Valley to the Great Lakes on Tuesday into Wednesday, the NWS said.

A flood watch was in effect for parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, and tornadoes were possible through the early morning across parts of the mid-south. A few tornadoes were possible from midday to the early evening in Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, according to the NWS.

The storm still packed a punch, and the NWS confirmed on social media on Monday evening that tornadoes had been spotted in north-eastern Louisiana. The Bossier sheriff, Julian Whittington, said in a Facebook post that a woman was killed in the Benton area when a tree fell on her home.

Dozens of tornado warnings were issued in Louisiana and Arkansas on Monday evening.

Texas state and local officials warned it could take several days to fully restore power after Beryl came ashore as a category 1 hurricane, toppled 10 transmission lines and knocked down trees that took down power lines.

Beryl on Tuesday was far less powerful than the category 5 behemoth – the earliest on record in the Atlantic basin – that previously tore a deadly path of destruction through parts of Mexico and the Caribbean.

But its winds and rains still knocked down hundreds of trees that had already been teetering in water-saturated earth, and stranded dozens of cars on flooded roadways.

The loss of power was an all-too familiar experience for Houston: powerful storms had just ripped through the area in May, killing eight people, leaving nearly 1 million without power and flooding numerous streets.

Power crews were working to restore service as quickly as possible, an urgent priority for homes also left without air conditioning in the middle of summer. Temperatures in the 90s Fahrenheit (above 32.2C) were expected on Tuesday. The NWS issued a heat advisory that said the area heat index could reach 105F (40.5C).

The state was opening cooling centers as well as food and water distribution centers, said Nim Kidd, chief of state emergency operations.

Beryl was supercharged by extremely hot ocean temperatures resulting from the burning of fossil, according to experts. Its rains pounded Houston and other areas of the coast on Monday, closing streets in neighborhoods that had already been washed out by previous storms. Houston officials reported at least 25 water rescues by Monday afternoon, mostly for people with vehicles stuck in flood waters.

Associated Press contributed reporting

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Dyson to cut more than a quarter of UK workforce

Vacuum cleaner maker will axe about 1,000 jobs as part of global cost-cutting drive

The vacuum cleaner and air-filter maker Dyson is cutting about 1,000 jobs in the UK as part of a global restructure, reducing its British workforce by more than a quarter.

Staff were told on Tuesday morning about the cuts as part of moves to reduce the business’s 15,000-strong workforce around the world amid a wider cost-cutting drive.

Dyson, which is known for its bagless vacuum cleaner as well as hand-dryers and bladeless fans, has 3,500 UK employees, with sites in Wiltshire, Bristol and London. The review that led to the decision began some time before the general election was announced in May.

Hanno Kirner , the chief executive, said: “We have grown quickly and, like all companies, we review our global structures from time to time to ensure we are prepared for the future. As such, we are proposing changes to our organisation, which may result in redundancies.

“Dyson operates in increasingly fierce and competitive global markets, in which the pace of innovation and change is only accelerating. We know we always need to be entrepreneurial and agile.”

He said cutting jobs was “always incredibly painful” and promised the company would support those affected.

Dyson was founded by the inventor Sir James Dyson in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, in 1991. While it makes most of its products overseas, it does most of its research, development and design of products in the UK, and the country will remain a major R&D hub for the company.

Malmesbury will continue to be home to the Dyson Institute, where 160 undergraduate engineers work on Dyson projects three days a week, and study for two.

In Asia, Dyson’s biggest market, Dyson competes against local rivals that often come up with similar products shortly after its own appliances are launched. When the company’s pro-Brexit founder moved the group’s corporate headquarters to Singapore in 2019, he pointed to the growing importance of supply chains and customers in Asia.

Since it was founded more than three decades ago, Dyson has grown from making vacuum cleaners to hairdryers, fans and air filters. It was working on an electric vehicle until the project was abandoned in 2019.

It unveiled its first wearable product two years ago: air-purifying Bluetooth headphones with a visor. It also moved into the robotics industry, and hopes to roll out machines capable of doing household chores such as washing-up by 2030.

That year, the company paid a £1.2bn dividend to the Singapore-based holding company of its founder. The dividend was paid to the parent company, Weybourne Holdings, which also owns the multibillionaire’s family office, Weybourne Group, and UK investments in land and insurance. The dividend was up from £1bn in 2021, and took the total extracted by Dyson from his technology company to £4bn over the past five years.

Dyson is one of Britain’s richest businesspeople and his fortune was estimated in May to be £20.8bn, according to the Sunday Times.

In December, he lost a libel claim against the publisher of the Daily Mirror after a columnist at the newspaper suggested that he had been a hypocrite because he had “championed Vote Leave … before moving his global head office to Singapore”.

Dyson was increasingly critical of the former Conservative government during its final year, claiming in May that Rishi Sunak’s pledge to turn the UK into a science and technology superpower was a “mere political slogan”.

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Plan to rename Milan airport after Berlusconi sparks outrage in Italy

Mayor describes transport minister’s decision to honour former prime minister, who died last year, as ‘crazy’

A backlash is growing in Italy against a decision to rename Milan’s main airport after the controversial late former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, with the city’s mayor describing the decision as “crazy”.

More than 35,000 people have signed a petition calling on Giorgia Meloni’s government to stop the plan after the transport minister, Matteo Salvini, said he would give the final go-ahead to a decision by Enac, the Italian civil aviation authority, to rename Malpensa airport “in memory of my friend Silvio”.

The mayor of Milan, Beppe Sala, accused Enac of succumbing to pressure from rightwing politicians while claiming that the decision was made without consulting SEA, the company that operates Milan’s airports.

Berlusconi was born in Milan and died in the city last year at the age of 86. Forza Italia, the party he founded, is a partner in Meloni’s ruling coalition.

“It is crazy that in Italy such a decision is made by a president of Enac,” said Sala, who had already blocked a proposal to dedicate Milan’s second airport, Linate, after Berlusconi. “I cannot understand how politics correlates with such a way of doing things,” he told the Italian media.

Ordinarily, there is a mandatory 10-year wait after a person’s death before a public place can be named after them.

The petition was launched by the youth wing of the centre-left Democratic party, which argued that the airport should instead be named after “a figure who embodies values of honesty, integrity and community service”.

“Silvio Berlusconi does not reflect these values, as demonstrated by the numerous criminal convictions he received over the years,” the petition said.

Marco Grimaldi, an MP with the Green and Left Alliance, cited plenty of “non-shabby” illustrious Milan-born figures whom the airport could be named after, including the composer Giuseppe Verdi, the poet Alessandro Manzoni, the dancer Carla Fracci and the poet Alda Merini.

Grimaldi said: “Who knows if minister Salvini is aware that Rome’s Fiumicino airport is named after Leonardo da Vinci, Venice’s after Marco Polo, and Genoa’s after Christopher Columbus. Then there’s Sandro Pertini for Turin airport, Catullus for Verona, Marconi for Bologna, Galileo for Pisa and last but not least Falcone and Borsellino for Palermo.

“I for one would be ashamed to take a flight from Falcone and Borsellino airport and land at Silvio Berlusconi airport.”

The decision was mocked over social media, including a joke video on TikTok by the low-cost airline, Ryanair.

The decision to give Berlusconi a state funeral caused an outcry in Italy, as did the government’s approval of a postage stamp marking the first anniversary of his death in June.

“Enough is enough,” said Grimaldi.

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Spanish tourist trampled to death by elephants in South Africa

Officials say 43-year-old man left his vehicle to take pictures of a breeding herd at Pilanesberg national park

A Spanish tourist has been trampled to death by elephants in a South African national park after apparently trying to take pictures of a breeding herd that included three calves.

The 43-year-old man was killed on Sunday morning at Pilanesberg national park about 130 miles (210km) north-west of Johannesburg.

According to park officials, the man, who was with three friends, climbed out of his vehicle and walked towards the animals to take photos.

“Despite warnings from his fellow passengers, and occupants from two other vehicles that were at the sighting, he unfortunately did not heed their warnings,” the North West province’s parks and tourism board said in a statement.

“An adult elephant cow charged at the man, who then ran from the elephant. He was unfortunately not able to escape or evade the elephant, which was now joined by the whole herd, and was caught and trampled to death.”

The board said the elephants then moved away without showing any aggression to the occupants of the vehicles.

Pieter Nel, the board’s chief conservation officer, told Agence France-Presse that the matriarch of the herd had attacked after becoming “agitated” by the man’s approach.

He said it was normal for elephants to try to defend their young, adding: “Lots of tourists are oblivious to the dangers and do not realise how dangerous these animals can be.”

The board said the “dangerous and unpredictable” nature of wild animals was always explained to visitors. “Tourists are forever educated on the importance of remaining in the safety of the vehicle, to respect distance between vehicles and animals and allow them first right of passage, and to only alight in specially designated areas,” the statement added.

The board offered its condolences to the dead man’s family and friends, saying it was “very saddened by this tragic incident”.

Elephant attacks are not uncommon in the region. In 2021 a suspected poacher was killed by elephants in Kruger national park.

Last year 50 people were killed and 85 injured by wild animals – mostly elephants – in neighbouring Zimbabwe, according to local authorities.

Spain’s foreign ministry has been contacted for comment. According to reports, the victim was from the city of Zaragoza in the north-eastern Aragón region. The central government’s representative to the region told La Vanguardia that consular staff were travelling to the scene of the accident to take possession of the man’s body and repatriate it.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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Florida: tree cactus becomes first local species killed off by sea-level rise

Key Largo tree cactus no longer growing naturally in US thanks to salt water inundation and soil depletion

Scientists in Florida have recorded what they say is the first local extinction of a species caused by sea-level rise.

The climate emergency has killed off the Key Largo tree cactus growing naturally in the US through saltwater inundation and soil depletion from hurricanes, according to researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History, and Miami’s Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

The species, which is now found only on a handful of remote Caribbean islands, northern Cuba and areas of the Bahamas, was already down to only a single population of six stems in the Florida Keys.

Those were removed to a greenhouse in 2021 to ensure the species’ survival, and frequent searches since have revealed no naturally growing Key Largo cactuses. There is also little prospect of it re-establishing itself, despite “tentative plans” with the Florida department of environmental protection (DEP) for a small-scale replanting project.

About 90% of the low-lying Florida Keys island chain is at 5ft of elevation or less, with Nasa predicting future ocean rise of up to 7ft by 2100.

“Unfortunately, the Key Largo tree cactus may be a bellwether for how other low-lying coastal plants will respond to climate change,” said Fairchild botanist Jennifer Possley, lead author of a study published Tuesday in the journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas that chronicled the species’ decline.

The scientists say they noticed the population of Pilosocereus millspaughii in the Keys was already ailing in 1992, when it was first discovered to be a separate species to the Key Tree cactus, which is similar in appearance and present elsewhere in the Keys, although also in declining numbers.

A storm surge event in the lower Keys in 2005 established a link between water salinity and mortality of cactuses. Subsequent surges from hurricanes and exceptionally high tides eroded the layers of soil and organic matter close to the shore where the Key Largo cactuses were growing.

Additionally, researchers found mammals deprived of fresh drinking water elsewhere were eating the moisture-retaining plants and causing even more harm.

“In 2011, we started seeing saltwater flooding from king tides in the area,” said study co-author James Lange, a research botanist at Fairchild, and member of a team that returned annually to gauge the health of the cactuses.

“We’d never seen cactus herbivory like this anywhere in the lower Keys, where flooding has tended to be less extensive.”

He said salt-tolerant plants that had been previously restricted to brackish soils beneath the mangroves slowly began creeping up the outcrop, an indication that salt levels were increasing. Those conditions alone, he said, would have eventually killed the species, and within a few years almost 50% of the Key Largo cactus population had been lost.

Then, in 2017, category 4 Hurricane Irma swept over south Florida, destroying even more cactuses and leaving the area flooded for weeks, followed by successive king tides in 2019, and the decision two years after that to “evacuate” the small number of stems that still survived.

Authors of the study, which included input from the DEP and researchers from the University of Florida, say the demise of the Key Largo tree cactus, and the necessity of its removal, has given them a better idea of what to expect as more species are affected by the climate crisis.

Lange, however, said countering the damage to environments and preserving them would not be easy.

“Understanding and predicting the fate of rare organisms and their habitats in the face of climate change will likely be complicated by similar ecological interactions, and will require a multi-disciplinary approach to conservation,” he said.

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‘Rage is your gift’: Paul Mescal battles Pedro, Denzel and a rhino in first Gladiator II trailer

Mescal steps into Russell Crowe’s sandals as the enslaved Lucius, in this first glimpse of the emperors and massive bloodstained rhinoceros he must defeat

The first trailer for one of the autumn’s most hotly anticipated films has arrived. Gladiator II, Ridley Scott’s sequel to his 2000 Oscar-conquering epic, is due in cinemas in November, but the promotional reel offers the first look proper at Paul Mescal, who has stepped into Russell Crowe’s sandals.

Mescal plays Lucius, son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) and the late Lucius Verus, who remembers watching the doomed heroics of Crowe’s Maximus in the first movie. Inspired by his courage, the enslaved Lucius vows to defeat new preening emperors Caracalla (Joseph Quinn) and Geta (Fred Hechinger).

In his way – or, possibly, giving him a bit of a leg-up – are Denzel Washington’s slave owner and power broker, Macrinus, who Scott has described as “pretty fucking cruel” to the arena fighters, as well as Pedro Pascal’s Roman general, Marcus Acacius.

Pascal has described his character as “a very, very good general, which can mean a very good killer”; trained under Maximus, his push to invade north Africa puts him firmly in the crosshairs of Lucius, who Macrinus identifies as being so full of animus that “rage is your gift”.

Mescal bulked up considerably for the role, earning the nickname “Brick Wall Paul”, courtesy of Pascal. “He got so strong,” Pascal said of his co-star. “I would rather be thrown from a building than have to fight him again.”

Also featuring in the trailer are brief glimpses of Tim McInnerny and a returning Derek Jacobi, lots and lots of swords, arrows, ships, crowds, water, shouting and a massive bloodstained rhinoceros Lucius must defeat.

The trailer also offers a preview of the stirring soundtrack – again composed by Hans Zimmer, as well as a snatch of a reworking of No Church in the Wild by Kanye West and Jay Z, featuring the apposite lyrics: “Tears on the mausoleum floor / Blood stains the Colosseum doors.”

Filming began last June but was interrupted by the actors’ strike in the US, before resuming in December and ending in January, some brief reshoots last month in Sussex notwithstanding.

The film is in UK cinemas on 15 November and out in the US a week later, where it shares a release date with the movie of the musical Wicked, which has moved forward a week to avoid competition with Moana 2.

The potential double bill has led many to predict another Barbenheimer marketing drive, though a decision on the portmanteau name – Wickiator or Gladicked – appears pending.

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