The Guardian 2024-07-10 04:12:36


Senate Democrats were tightlipped leaving their weekly lunch, after an hours-long discussion about the viability of Biden’s candidacy. Few wanted to speak to reporters, save for Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who stressed Democrats were firmly united behind the goal of defeating Donald Trump.

Of course, the question is whether Biden is the candidate that can do that.

Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, one of the president’s most vocal supporters following his debate, believes he is, though he appeared to acknowledge his view was not universally held among his colleagues. “He’s our guy,” Fetterman told reporters.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer deflected questions about Biden’s ability to win the White House in November, repeating three times: “I’m with Joe.”

Just like this morning, several senators dodged reporters, darting to the Senate floor to vote or ducking onto the elevator.

Senator Debbie Stabenow, the Michigan Democrat who is retiring at the end of the year, declined repeatedly to say whether some Democrats had called on Biden to exit the race. So far no Democrats have said so publicly.

Calling the meeting a “private family discussion” she said Biden had been “the best president Michigan has ever had” but would not say what the best path forward was for the party. “It’s in his hands,” she said, apparently in reference to the president.

A reporter, trying a different tack, asked her about speculation that Michigan’s governor, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, could be Kamala Harris’s running mate on a very hypothetical Democratic ticket.

“Wouldn’t that be exciting,” she said whimsically.

Through the senators’ reticent, clipped commentary, it was clear they were still searching for a consensus. Surrounded by a scrum of reporters, Vermont senator Peter Welch said: “We’ve got a ways to go.”

Democrats lean toward accepting Biden even as party members voice concerns

Six House Democrats have so far called for president to step aside, evidence of a party in disarray after disastrous debate

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Many House Democrats appeared ready to accept Joe Biden as their nominee, despite widespread concern about his electoral viability, as prominent Black, Hispanic and progressive lawmakers rally behind the president during a crucial day of meetings on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers emerged from a closed-door meeting on Tuesday morning stone-faced, appearing uneasy about Biden’s path forward, even if most weren’t ready to publicly call on him to step aside as concerns deepen over the 81-year-old president’s age, mental acuity and ability to win the White House for a second term. Asked if the party was on the same page, Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee quipped: “We’re not even in the same book.”

Arriving at the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill, the New York congressman Jerry Nadler told reporters any concerns he may have about Biden’s candidacy were now “beside the point”.

“He’s going to be our nominee, and we all have to support him,” he told reporters ahead of Tuesday morning’s meeting. It was previously reported that Nadler had told colleagues in private that Biden should abandon his re-election bid.

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, 78, 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. Democratic senators were set to meet for their weekly lunch on Tuesday afternoon to discuss concerns about Biden’s candidacy.

Few Democrats were eager to talk to reporters, who lined the pavement, pelting lawmakers with questions, as fresh polling shows Biden falling farther behind Trump, the former president and presumptive Republican nominee viewed by the incumbent and his party as a singularly dangerous figure to American democracy. Most ignored the questions, some held a phone to their ear, and the Pennsylvania representative Summer Lee walked with headphones on, declining to stop.

“Joe Biden is, will be and should be our nominee,” the Florida representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former DNC chair, said tersely after the meeting.

Yet Biden’s closest allies were eager to voice their support.

“We’re ridin’ with Biden,” Representative James Clyburn repeated several times as he strode toward a waiting car. The South Carolina Democrat is credited with reviving Biden’s successful 2020 campaign against his presidential predecessor Trump – and is seen as one of the few people whose opinion on the matter could sway the president.

Prominent progressives have rallied to the president’s side. The matter of 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 on Monday night.

Several prominent Democrats, including senior members of the Black and Hispanic caucuses, have joined Ocasio-Cortez in voicing support for the president. On Tuesday morning, Representative Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat facing a serious primary challenge, likened her fight for political survival to Biden’s and said the party must unite to defeat the influence of Trump-aligned “Maga Republicans”.

Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, a member of House Democratic leadership, said she shared her constituents’ “real concerns” about Biden’s “ability to beat Donald Trump”, given that a second Trump presidency would “do irreparable damage to women and to our country”. Demanding the president “act with urgency to restore Americans’ confidence so we can win in November”, Trahan said she would do “everything in my power to help”.

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.”

The Texas Democratic representative Jasmine Crockett added on X: “Let me make this crystal clear … JOE BIDEN IS THE NOMINEE. He said he’s not stepping down & so I … AM RIDING WITH BIDEN; Period!”

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 Biden 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.” On Tuesday, she declined to answer reporters’ questions and said she would support the nominee – whoever that may be.

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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Leaders head to Nato summit amid Biden doubts and concern for Ukraine

Nato official warns there could be further Russian strikes on Ukraine this week to try to draw attention away from event

World leaders flew into Washington DC on Tuesday for a two-day Nato summit where they are expected to agree enhanced military support for Ukraine against a backdrop of questions about Joe Biden’s mental sharpness.

Britain’s new prime minister, Keir Starmer, and Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, were among those arriving at the US capital amid a warning that Russia could step up missile strikes on Ukraine this week, repeating a barrage that killed at least 38 on Monday.

The summit is expected to agree a fresh package of military aid for Ukraine, including at least four additional Patriot air defence systems and progress on supplying F-16 fighters, to help Kyiv better fend off devastating Russian attacks.

On his arrival in Washington, Zelenskiy said he was “fighting for additional security guarantees for Ukraine” and described these as “weapons and finances, political support”, in a video on his Telegram channel.

A senior Nato official warned on Tuesday that there could be further Russian missile barrages on Ukraine this week to coincide with and draw headlines away from the summit. Moscow could seek to create “a split screen” of events to try to detract from decisions being made at the summit, the official said.

A children’s hospital in Kyiv was among the sites bombed on Monday. Ukraine said it was hit by a Kh-101 cruise missile. Two people were reported killed at the site and rescuers were still searching the rubble. The hospital was described as being no longer able to function.

There will be no meaningful progress on Ukraine joining Nato in Washington, although alliance members will seek to dress up the latest package of support as part of what is described as “a bridge to membership”. The summit’s final communique is expected to say Ukraine’s path to joining is “irreversible”.

The US, Germany and Italy are concerned that allowing Ukraine to join Nato while the war with Russia continues would bring the alliance into direct conflict with Moscow. Even a more limited form of what could be considered direct military intervention in support of Kyiv attracts similar concerns.

A year ago, at the last summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Zelenskiy complained in an outburst about the lack of progress being made towards Ukrainian membership. Leaders will be anxious to avoid a row on this occasion.

Biden is due to make a speech on Tuesday evening ahead of the opening of the summit and to close proceedings with a press conference on Thursday afternoon that is expected to be a critical test of his acuity after his disastrous performance in a television debate with Donald Trump last month.

Concerns about Biden and his ability to defeat Trump hang over the summit, given Trump’s past scepticism about Nato and uncertainty about whether he would be willing to continue to supply large volumes of military aid.

Nato leaders have been emphasising that a record number of members, 23 out of 32, now meet a commitment first agreed 10 years ago to spend 2% of GDP on defence. Trump has repeatedly complained that smaller Nato countries do not “pay their dues” and this year threatened not to defend any country that was “delinquent”.

More recently, allies of Trump have argued that if elected again the Republican would demand a reorientation of Nato where European countries would be asked to increased defence spending further, while the US focuses more on China.

But such is the size of the US defence budget – $860bn, two-thirds of the total of all Nato members – that it would be difficult for European countries to replace a significant reallocation of resources from a Trump White House and to continue supporting Ukraine at the existing level of about €40bn a year.

On Monday Mike Johnson, the speaker of the House of Representatives and a leading Trump ally, said that while Republicans valued the military alliance and would stand by member countries in preventing conflict, “we also believe that Nato needs to be doing more”.

A senior Nato official said Ukraine remained on the defensive in the ongoing war, with Russia mobilising 30,000 fresh soldiers a month, allowing it to “absorb high losses” for some time. Ukraine, by contrast, was not yet able to mount a counteroffensive to take back territory lost earlier in the conflict, and the official said “it’s going to take some time to get the personnel in place” before it was able to do so.

The official indicated that the war was now expected to last into next year and beyond, with Vladimir Putin still believing time was on his side. “We all have to be prepared to continue to support Ukraine well beyond 2025,” the official said.

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Zelenskiy says world can stop ‘Russian terror’ after attack on Kyiv children’s hospital

Rescue efforts continue after strikes that killed 38 people, as Ukraine president renews call for more air defences

Rescuers have continued to dig through the rubble of a children’s hospital in Kyiv after a wave of devastating Russian missile strikes across the country on Monday that killed 38 people, including four children.

On the eve of a Nato summit in Washington, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, renewed his call for more air defences and said the world had the “necessary strength” to stop what he called “Russian terror”. The US president, Joe Biden, who is expected to meet Zelenskiy, described the strike as a “horrific reminder of Russia’s brutality”.

Ukraine’s SBU security service said missile fragments recovered from the scene, as well as flight path data, showed Moscow had targeted Okhmatdyt children’s hospital with a Kh-101 cruise missile. It ploughed into a two-storey building, killing a 30-year-old doctor named Svitlana Lukianchuk, a paediatric nephrologist, and the mother of a patient.

The SBU’s chief, Vasyl Maliuk, promised “maximum retribution” against the Russians involved in planning and executing the attacks, which took place in the capital in the middle of the morning, and in the cities of Dnipro and Kryvyi Rih. “A terrorist state is not an abstract concept. There are specific names of murderers. Nothing will save them from justice,” he said.

On Tuesday, volunteers, the fire brigade, police and soldiers continued to sift through a sea of masonry. One wing, home to the hospital’s dialysis unit, was entirely obliterated. Furniture, cuddly toys and desks were piled up on a pavement. Windows in the main building were blown out. The heads of 32 diplomatic missions in Kyiv toured the dust-covered ruins, amid widespread international outrage.

Donations to rebuild the shattered complex have reached £5.7m, Ukrainian media reported.

“We were in the middle of an operation. Our patient was a two-year-old girl,” said Iryna Filimonova, head nurse on the hospital’s urology ward. “There was a huge explosion. We looked at each other and carried on.” Her colleague Liudmyla Puzko said she had sheltered in the corridor, adding: “This was an act of incredible baseness. Children are not guilty of anything.”

The hospital was no longer able to function, Filimonova said. Its 2,000 staff treated children from across Ukraine, with a six-month waiting list for appointments and surgery, she said. On Tuesday, Zelenskiy said all patients had been transferred to other medical institutions. They included children who were being treated for cancer, who took cover in a basement. A maternity hospital nearby was also hit.

Zelenskiy said 190 people had been injured and 64 hospitalised as a result of Monday’s country-wide attacks. “I am grateful to everyone who is rescuing and caring for our people, to everyone involved, and to everyone who is helping,” he wrote on social media, adding: “We continue our work to increase the protection of our cities and communities from Russian terror.”

Kyiv’s mayor, Vitaliy Klitschko, said rescuers on Tuesday found the bodies of two woman buried under the rubble of a residential house. Other local victims were named as 10-year-old Maksym Symaniuk, his nine-year-old younger sister Nastia, and their mother, Zoriana. Makysym was keen on karate, friends said. The family was killed at home in their apartment, the mayor added.

Zelenskiy and other senior Ukrainian officials have expressed frustration at restrictions imposed by the Biden administration on the use of US-supplied weapons at targets inside Russia. The White House in May allowed Kyiv for the first time to attack enemy troops and weapons systems in locations just across the border, in Russia’s Belgorod region, that were used as a staging post for raids into Kharkiv oblast but Ukraine cannot use long-range artillery to take out the Russian military airfields, which took part in Monday’s and other attacks.

Anton Geraschenko, a former adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry, said Putin had ordered the strikes to send a message to western leaders. It told them they were “weak” and said the Nato summit would “not change anything”. It also reinforced the idea Ukraine should capitulate since “nobody will protect you,” he suggested.

Russia’s state media largely ignored the attack on the children’s hospital. There was criticism by Zelenskiy of India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, who met Putin on Monday. Modi appeared to offer a rebuke of sorts, saying that the death of innocent children was painful and terrifying. But he stopped short of criticising Moscow, or blaming it directly.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, claimed a Ukrainian interceptor missile was responsible for the hospital strike, even though video footage clearly shows a Russian Kh-101 missile moments before impact. Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesperson, said Ukraine was staging “a PR operation steeped in blood” ahead of the Nato summit.

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51 min Lovely control from Dembele, killing a crossfield pass beautifully before passing a cross into Unai Simon’s grateful arms. The first time I saw him play, in a pre-season friendly for Dortmund, I thought i’d seen a superstar, but he hasn’t been able to stay fit enough for long enough nor improve enough. he does, though, still have time.

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 has 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 he 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, a 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 either their links to the Labour party or their backgrounds as civil servants. Trump is about 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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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 has 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 he 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, a 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 either their links to the Labour party or their backgrounds as civil servants. Trump is about 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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Israeli attack on Gaza City continues as Hamas says ceasefire efforts at risk

New wave of displacement as airstrikes hit northern and central Gaza and IDF says forces engaged in ‘close-quarter combat’

Northern and central Gaza were hit by a second day of heavy Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday, attacks Hamas said threatened to derail new international efforts to broker a ceasefire and hostage release deal.

Residents of Gaza City reported helicopter strikes, explosions and gun battles as Israel expanded its two-week-old offensive in Shuja’iya, an eastern neighbourhood, moving tanks into areas of the city where Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters have regrouped.

More than 50 people had been killed in airstrikes on Gaza City and the central town of Deir al-Balah and surrounding refugee camps in the preceding 24 hours, medics said. A third round of leaflets dropped on several neighbourhoods told residents to evacuate to southern Gaza, leading to a new wave of displacement of people who were unable or unwilling to leave their homes when Israeli troops first entered the city at the end of October. In a statement, the Palestinian Red Crescent said all of its medical clinics in Gaza City had been forced offline.

In Nuseirat camp, near Deir al-Balah, an Israeli airstrike in the early hours of Tuesday on a multistorey building killed 17 people, including 14 children, the Hamas media office said. Neighbours rushed to help medics and emergency workers recover bodies and search for survivors under the rubble.

“They were displaced during the night after Al-Nuseirat camp school was hit … They said they would sleep in the house, fearing for the children, and there was a massacre in the house. They are not safe in the schools nor the houses,” Yasser Abu Hamada, a local resident, told Reuters.

Witnesses said first responders had been unable to reach scores of bodies lying on the streets in Gaza City because of the ongoing fighting. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement that its forces were engaged in “close-quarter combat” in Gaza City and had killed more than 150 militants and destroyed tunnels and explosives in the past week.

The last few days of airstrikes on the blockaded Palestinian territory are some of the fiercest since the war broke out after Hamas attacked southern Israel on 7 October. Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, described the fighting as “the most intense in months”.

The new fighting has unfolded as international mediators make headway in ceasefire negotiations after a major concession from Hamas last week, when the group dropped its insistence on a “complete” ceasefire as a prerequisite for talks.

Mediation efforts led by Egypt, Qatar and the US have since accelerated, with Egyptian media reporting that talks are due to continue in Doha and Cairo this week, attended by the CIA director, William Burns, and Israel’s Mossad chief, David Barnea. “There is an agreement over many points,” a senior source told al-Qahera news on Tuesday.

But speaking on Monday night, the group’s Qatar-based political chief, Ismail Haniyeh, said that the “catastrophic consequences” of the latest battles on the ground in Gaza could “reset the negotiation process to square one”. The group has also accused Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of deliberately trying to thwart the truce talks.

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Canada: grizzly bear hunting quietly reinstated in Alberta

Conservationists say it’s a ‘slap in the face’ to those who are trying to save the threatened species

The Canadian province of Alberta has quietly reversed a two-decade ban on hunting grizzly bears, in what conservations described as a “slap in the face” amid continuing debate over the future of the threatened species.

Alberta first banned the hunting of grizzly bears in 2006 after the population of the species, which once reached as many as 9,0000 bears, collapsed due to generations of overhunting, agriculture development and urbanization.

In 2002, provincial authorities estimated there were approximately 850 bears living in provincial lands and nearly 200 in national parks. The bears were listed as a threatened species by Alberta’s government in 2010, and in a recent count there was a population of between 856 and 973.

But on 17 June, the province quietly amended the Wildlife Act to once more permit the hunting of individuals deemed to be “problem bears”.

“I can’t believe I’m writing this, but the controversial Alberta grizzly bear hunt is back on,” wildlife photographer John Marriott posted on Facebook, alongside a link to the provincial parliamentary record. “A f**king THREATENED species is now about to be hunted again.”

In a statement, the right-leaning provincial government defended the move as a way of “protect[ing] Albertans”, citing 62 maulings and eight deaths from bear attacks since 2005. A spokesperson for the minister also cited 897 counts of livestock losses since 2016, which has “greatly impacted Alberta farmers”, but it was unclear if all of those losses were attributable to grizzly bears.

Fatal bear attacks are exceedingly rare and it is often the bear that comes out worse following interactions with humans. One study showed that the University of Alberta estimates 21 grizzlies were killed in collisions with trains in 2000 in Banff national park while 75 deaths were caused by vehicle collisions in the broader Bow valley region of Alberta.

“They’re just using fear to push their agenda,” said Nicholas Scapillati, head of the non-profit Grizzly Bear Foundation. “No one was consulted in this decision – not the biologists, not the independent conservation groups, not the First Nations. Were the government’s own scientists consulted? It’s an absolute slap in the face to the province’s grizzly recovery plan. We know how to lower the risk of dangerous interactions with bears – and it’s not going out and killing them.”

Under the province’s revised rules, the ministry of forestry and parks will create a pool of eligible individuals who may receive authorization to hunt a “problem” grizzly involved in a human-bear conflict or the killing of livestock.

If selected to kill a grizzly, the hunter must arrive at the location of the bear within 24 hours of notification to obtain the authorization. The hunter can only then pursue the bear if it is an area where hunting is already permitted.

“I’m just trying to make sense of this plan because it’s so full of holes,” said Scapillati. “You’re turning hunters into hitmen. It’s a stain on the hunting community, and you’re attracting an unscrupulous group of people who would want to kill a bear this way.”

Scapillati said the fact that the decision was “quietly made when no one was looking” reflects the ongoing battle conservation groups have to protect species – even when they are listed as threatened.

“There’s just no respect being shown, no respect for the bears, for the efforts of the conservationists that do the work on coexistence and grizzly bear recovery,” he said. “This decision is a warning, not just to Albertans but to those anywhere that a species should be protected: those species are not safe.”

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Spy cop who led special branch admits wrongly accusing activist of bomb plot

Roger Pearce withdraws allegation Dave Morris was among anarchists who planned to plant bombs at military base

An undercover police officer who went on to become the head of the Metropolitan police’s special branch has admitted he mistakenly accused an activist of planning to plant bombs at a military base.

Roger Pearce, the undercover officer who infiltrated anarchist groups in the 1980s, had alleged to a public inquiry that he drove to Aldershot with a group of anarchists to “recce bomb sites”. He accused Dave Morris of being one of the anarchists.

On Tuesday Pearce withdrew his allegation after it was denied by Morris. Morris is a longtime radical campaigner who was one of the defendants in the 1990s McLibel case.

The retraction of the allegation against Morris was heard at the judge-led public inquiry which is examining the activities of about 139 undercover officers who spied on more than 1,000 political groups since 1968.

The current phase of the inquiry is looking at covert operations in the 1980s and 1990s.

Pearce pretended to be an anarchist between 1980 and 1984 using the fake name of Roger Thorley. He was a member of the Metropolitan police’s special branch, the secretive division which was responsible for monitoring political groups. By 1999, he had been promoted to the head of special branch, a post he held until 2003.

In his witness statement, Pearce had claimed that during his deployment, he had been “drawn into helping to recce’ing bomb sites” at the Aldershot military barracks. He alleged that he drove a group of four or five anarchists in his car in a spontaneous trip to the town and named Morris as one of the group.

On Monday, Morris, giving evidence to the inquiry, said the claim was “a load of rubbish”, suggesting that Pearce had made it all up.

He added: “I don’t believe I’ve ever been to Aldershot and I certainly would never have been recceing a place for whatever he’s accusing me of.”

On Tuesday, Pearce backed down after he was challenged by David Barr, the inquiry’s barrister. “Yes, Mr Morris, I am convinced, was not involved in the reconnoitre of the Aldershot barracks, so this is a mistake,” Pearce said.

Pearce still maintained he made the trip with anarchists who were not named at the inquiry. He added that “nothing came of the reconnaissance”.

Morris is best known for his involvement in the long-running McLibel trial. In that David v Goliath case, he and another environmental campaigner, Helen Steel, were sued for libel by the US fast food giant McDonald’s over a leaflet they had distributed criticising the company’s practices.

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Spy cop who led special branch admits wrongly accusing activist of bomb plot

Roger Pearce withdraws allegation Dave Morris was among anarchists who planned to plant bombs at military base

An undercover police officer who went on to become the head of the Metropolitan police’s special branch has admitted he mistakenly accused an activist of planning to plant bombs at a military base.

Roger Pearce, the undercover officer who infiltrated anarchist groups in the 1980s, had alleged to a public inquiry that he drove to Aldershot with a group of anarchists to “recce bomb sites”. He accused Dave Morris of being one of the anarchists.

On Tuesday Pearce withdrew his allegation after it was denied by Morris. Morris is a longtime radical campaigner who was one of the defendants in the 1990s McLibel case.

The retraction of the allegation against Morris was heard at the judge-led public inquiry which is examining the activities of about 139 undercover officers who spied on more than 1,000 political groups since 1968.

The current phase of the inquiry is looking at covert operations in the 1980s and 1990s.

Pearce pretended to be an anarchist between 1980 and 1984 using the fake name of Roger Thorley. He was a member of the Metropolitan police’s special branch, the secretive division which was responsible for monitoring political groups. By 1999, he had been promoted to the head of special branch, a post he held until 2003.

In his witness statement, Pearce had claimed that during his deployment, he had been “drawn into helping to recce’ing bomb sites” at the Aldershot military barracks. He alleged that he drove a group of four or five anarchists in his car in a spontaneous trip to the town and named Morris as one of the group.

On Monday, Morris, giving evidence to the inquiry, said the claim was “a load of rubbish”, suggesting that Pearce had made it all up.

He added: “I don’t believe I’ve ever been to Aldershot and I certainly would never have been recceing a place for whatever he’s accusing me of.”

On Tuesday, Pearce backed down after he was challenged by David Barr, the inquiry’s barrister. “Yes, Mr Morris, I am convinced, was not involved in the reconnoitre of the Aldershot barracks, so this is a mistake,” Pearce said.

Pearce still maintained he made the trip with anarchists who were not named at the inquiry. He added that “nothing came of the reconnaissance”.

Morris is best known for his involvement in the long-running McLibel trial. In that David v Goliath case, he and another environmental campaigner, Helen Steel, were sued for libel by the US fast food giant McDonald’s over a leaflet they had distributed criticising the company’s practices.

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Rudy Giuliani is treating his bankruptcy case like a ‘joke’, creditors say

Filing opposes Trump ally’s attempt to change his chapter 11 bankruptcy into a chapter seven liquidation of assets

The former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is treating his bankruptcy case as a “joke”, lawyers for the Donald Trump ally’s creditors said in a new filing, alleging the former president’s sometime attorney was attempting to avoid accountability by “hiding behind the facade of an elderly, doddering man”.

“Since day one,” attorneys said, “Giuliani has regarded this case and the bankruptcy process as a joke, hiding behind the facade of an elderly, doddering man who cannot even remember the address for his second multimillion-dollar home and claims impending homelessness if he must sell that second multimillion-dollar home.

“In reality, Giuliani has treated this court, the bankruptcy process and the committee … with utter disrespect and without accountability.”

Giuliani, 80, led New York through the 9/11 terrorist attacks, made millions once out of office and ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. But he has suffered a precipitous fall.

The former mayor faces legal and financial jeopardy on multiple fronts, mostly arising from his central role in Trump’s attempt to overturn his conclusive defeat by Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

Indicted on charges related to attempted election subversion in Arizona and Georgia, Giuliani has pleaded not guilty.

He filed for bankruptcy protection last December after two Georgia election workers won a $148m defamation verdict against him.

The new filing in US bankruptcy court in the southern district of New York was made by attorneys acting for Giuliani creditors, including one of those election workers, Shaye Moss.

Attorneys also filed on behalf of Noelle Dunphy – a former associate suing Giuliani for $10m, alleging sexual assault and harassment – and Dominion Voting Systems, which reached a $787.5m settlement with Fox News over its broadcast of Trump’s election lies and also sued Giuliani.

The filing formally opposed Giuliani’s attempt to change his chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings – shielding him from creditors while he ostensibly reorganizes his financial books – into a chapter seven liquidation of assets.

Attorneys for his creditors said Giuliani was “playing the delay game”.

“He played games with the DC district court [in the defamation case] in continually agreeing to comply with court orders and then failing to do so, and he has been doing the same thing in this chapter 11 case,” the creditors’ attorneys said. “Giuliani’s goal is to continue to avoid responsibility for his malfeasance.”

Giuliani was recently disbarred from practicing law in New York. Disbarment proceedings are ongoing in Washington DC.

In their New York filing, his creditors’ attorneys said: “The New York supreme court’s decision on Giuliani’s disbarment just as easily could have been written about Giuliani and this bankruptcy case. This chicanery is what he does and who he is.”

A spokesperson for Giuliani did not immediately respond to a Guardian request for comment.

But the spokesperson, Ted Goodman, told Law & Crime that in seeking to change the contours of his bankruptcy case, Giuliani was “simply following available options to combat an entirely partisan and politically motivated proceeding”.

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French investigators open inquiry into finances of 2022 Le Pen campaign

Prosecutors to investigate allegations of embezzlement, forgery and fraud during failed presidential election bid

French investigators have opened an inquiry into the campaign finances of the far-right leader Marine Le Pen during her failed 2022 presidential election bid against Emmanuel Macron, as politicians on the left continue to discuss how a new government could be formed in France.

The Paris prosecutors’ office announced on Tuesday that an investigation had been opened last week to examine allegations over Le Pen’s campaigning funding, which include embezzlement, forgery, fraud, and a further allegation that a candidate on an electoral campaign accepted a loan. No further details were given.

Le Pen and her party have previously denied wrongdoing in connection with campaign financing.

The preliminary investigation was opened after a national commission in charge of scrutinising campaign finances, the CNCCFP, had alerted the prosecutor’s office last year.

The 2022 election was the second time Le Pen, who was then head of the anti-immigration, far-right National Rally (RN) party, faced Macron in the runoff and lost to him.

In December 2022, the commission had objected to expenses linked to putting up and taking down campaigning material on 12 buses, describing them as “irregular”. Le Pen had appealed but then dropped the case.

French politicians continue to ponder how to form a government after Le Pen’s far right was held back by tactical voting in the final round of a snap election on Sunday night, but no grouping has won an absolute majority.

The leftwing alliance, the New Popular Front (NFP) – a coalition which runs from the firmly leftwing La France Insoumise to the Greens, Communists and more centre-left Socialists – is still debating who to put forward as a potential prime minister and whether it could be open to working in a broader coalition.

But although the left was slightly ahead of Macron’s centrist grouping and Le Pen’s far-right RN, it remains about 100 seats short of an absolute majority. Parliament is now divided between three closely balanced political forces: the left, centrists and the far right.

Whoever governs would need some form of coalition. It is not certain that a prime minister from the left would survive a confidence vote in parliament.

Any left-leaning government would need “broader support in the National Assembly”, the Socialist MP Boris Vallaud told France Inter.

“None of the three leading blocs can govern alone,” Stéphane Séjourné, head of Macron’s Renaissance party, wrote in Le Monde. He suggested the centrist bloc could now try to form its own coalition and join with some parts of the centre left while refusing to work with others who are further left.

“The centrist bloc is ready to talk to all the members of the republican spectrum,” he added, saying any coalition members must support the EU and Ukraine and maintain business-friendly policies. These requirements, he said, would “necessarily exclude” La France Insoumise and its firebrand founder Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

After a meeting of the centrist group, the Renaissance lawmaker Pierre Cazeneuve told Reuters: “We have reaffirmed our red lines: No deal with La France Insoumise and no deal with the National Rally.”

Gabriel Attal is staying on as prime minister while the country remains without a new government, but discussions on how to form some kind of coalition could take weeks.

Macron called the snap election last month after his centrists were trounced by the far right in European elections. He said at the time that the nation needed “clarity”. But the political uncertainty could drag on over the summer.

Mélenchon on Tuesday accused Macron of deliberately “blocking the situation to keep power for as long as possible”.

The Socialist leader Olivier Faure said he would be prepared for his name to be put forward for prime minister, but added: “That would be decided in dialogue with our partners. I don’t agree with anyone imposing their point of view on others.”

Yaël Braun-Pivet, the centrist former leader of parliament, told France Inter radio: “Mathematically, democratically, no one can govern alone today.” She said a coalition of different parties should agree on a handful of priority projects for the next year.

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US mountaineer buried by avalanche 22 years ago found preserved in ice, police say

William Stampfl was trying to climb Mount Huascarán in 2002 with two friends, one who was found and one who is still missing

Police have found the well-preserved body of an American mountaineer who was buried by an avalanche 22 years ago as he tried to climb one of the highest peaks in the Andes.

Police in the Ancash region found the body of William Stampfl on Friday near a camp 5,200 meters (17,060 feet) above sea level. The 58-year-old Stampfl had been trying to climb the 6,768-meter Mount Huascarán.

Police said Stampfl’s body and clothing were preserved by the ice and freezing temperatures. They said the body was easy to identify also because the climber had been carrying his driving license.

Hundreds of climbers visit the mountain each year with local guides, and it takes them about a week to reach the summit.

Stampfl, a self-employed civil engineer born in Austria, was with friends Matthew Richardson and Steve Erskine when they attempted the ascent in 2002.

Erskine’s body was found shortly after the avalanche, but Richardson’s is still missing.

Stampfl’s body was brought down the mountain over the weekend by guides and police officers and put in a morgue in the city of Huaraz.

As global warming causes glaciers around the world melt and recede, authorities have registered a significant increase in the number of human remains, as the bodies of hikers and climbers are released from the ice and snow.

The mountains of north-eastern Peru, which include peaks such as Huascarán and Cashan, draw climbers from around the world.

In May, the body of an Israeli hiker was found there nearly a month after he disappeared.

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Spain sentences 15 schoolchildren over AI-generated naked images

Teenagers each given a year’s probation after creating and spreading faked images of female classmates in south-west Spain

A court in south-west Spain has sentenced 15 schoolchildren to a year’s probation for creating and spreading AI-generated images of their female peers in a case that prompted a debate on the harmful and abusive uses of deepfake technology.

Police began investigating the matter last year after parents in the Extremaduran town of Almendralejo reported that faked naked pictures of their daughters were being circulated on WhatsApp groups.

The mother of one of the victims said the dissemination of the pictures on WhatsApp had been going on since July.

“Many girls were completely terrified and had tremendous anxiety attacks because they were suffering this in silence,” she told Reuters at the time. “They felt bad and were afraid to tell and be blamed for it.”

On Tuesday, a youth court in the city of Badajoz said it had convicted the minors of 20 counts of creating child abuse images and 20 counts of offences against their victims’ moral integrity.

Each of the defendants was handed a year’s probation and ordered to attend classes on gender and equality awareness, and on the “responsible use of technology”.

“The sentence notes that it has been proved that the minors used artificial intelligence applications to obtain manipulated images of [other minors] by taking girls’ original faces from their social media profiles and superimposing those images on the bodies of naked female bodies,” the court said in a statement. “The manipulated photos were then shared on two WhatsApp groups.”

Police identified several teenagers aged between 13 and 15 as being responsible for generating and sharing the images.

Under Spanish law minors under 14 cannot be charged but their cases are sent to child protection services, which can force them to take part in rehabilitation courses.

In an interview with the Guardian five months ago, the mother of one of the victims recalled her shock and disbelief when her daughter showed her one of the images.

“It’s a shock when you see it,” said the woman from Almendralejo. “The image is completely realistic … If I didn’t know my daughter’s body, I would have thought that image was real.”

The Malvaluna Association, which acted on behalf of the affected families, said the case had implications for wider Spanish society.

“Beyond this particular trial, these facts should make us reflect on the need to educate people about equality between men and women,” the association told the online newspaper ElDiario.es.

It said the case underlined the necessity of proper sex education at school so that children did not learn about sex from pornography, which “generates more sexism and violence”.

Explore more on these topics

  • Spain
  • Europe
  • Internet
  • WhatsApp
  • Social media
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Deepfake
  • news
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