Stormy Daniels’ testimony leads to Trump’s curses in court

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Wednesday, 8th May 2024.

Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress at the centre of Donald Trump’s hush money trial, testified Tuesday about a disturbing sexual encounter she says she had with him, leading to angry, profane muttering from the former president that alarmed Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan who called Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche to a sidebar during a midday break to say that Trump was “cursing audibly” and possibly intimidating Daniels, who had begun testifying. “I understand that your client is upset at this point,” Merchan told the defence attorney, “but he is cursing audibly and he is shaking his head visually and that’s contemptuous. It has the potential to intimidate the witness and the jury can see that.” Blanche assured the judge he would speak to Trump. “I am speaking to you here at the bench because I don’t want to embarrass him,” Merchan said. “You need to speak to him. I won’t tolerate that.”

The Washington Post says the exchange punctuated a day of rage – sometimes whispered from the defence table, sometimes declared loudly by Daniels from the witness stand. It was one of several surreal moments on the thirteenth day of the first criminal trial of a former US president, including descriptions by Daniels of their alleged sexual encounter in 2006 that were so detailed that defence attorneys demanded a mistrial. While Merchan rejected their request, Daniels at times seemed to be describing non-consensual sex that could be considered highly prejudicial for the jury, which in turn could give Trump solid grounds to appeal if he is found guilty.

Trump is accused of 34 counts of falsifying business records for allegedly disguising financial transactions related to a $130,000 hush money payment made to Daniels in 2016 to keep her quiet about what she said happened between them. He has denied the charges, and denied having sex with Daniels.

Trump classified documents trial postponed indefinitely

Meanwhile, a federal judge Tuesday indefinitely postponed the criminal classified documents trial of former President Donald Trump. The trial on charges that Trump willfully retained classified national security records after leaving the White House and then hid them from federal authorities was scheduled to start May 20. But the new ruling from US District Judge Aileen Cannon vacates that date and sets a new slate of pre-trial proceedings, the latest of which is a hearing set for July 22. The ruling casts more doubt on whether Trump will face trial on the federal criminal charges prior to the November 5 election. Lawyers for Trump have urged Cannon to set the trial after the election. Cannon wrote in Tuesday’s court order that it “would be imprudent” to finalise a trial date “at this juncture” when various pretrial issues have yet to be resolved.

‘Hamas offer aimed to sabotage Rafah operation’ – Netanyahu

The latest hostage deal proposal from Hamas was intended to sabotage Israel’s planned operation in Rafah, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted Tuesday, shortly after a low-level Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo to continue hostage deal talks and close the gap between Israel’s demands and the terms accepted by Hamas on Monday night. “The Hamas proposal yesterday was intended to torpedo the entry of our forces into Rafah,” Times of Israel quotes Netanyahu saying in a video statement. “That did not happen.” The purpose of the Rafah operation is to bring back the hostages and eliminate Hamas, he continued, adding that Israel “already proved in the previous hostage release [that] military pressure on Hamas is a pre-condition for the return of the hostages.”

Echoing Israeli officials who said on Monday that the terms of the deal had been altered and “softened” from those Israel had approved several days prior, rendering it unacceptable, Netanyahu emphasised that the Hamas offer was “very far from Israel’s vital demands”. “Israel will not allow Hamas to restore its wicked rule in the Strip,” he insisted. “Israel will not allow it to rehabilitate its military capabilities in order to keep working toward our destruction. Israel cannot accept a proposal that endangers the safety of our citizens and the future of our country.”

Of the 252 hostages seized by Hamas during the October 7 massacre in southern Israel, 128 are believed to remain in captivity in Gaza, less than 100 of them alive. The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed the deaths of 35 of those still held by Hamas, citing intelligence and findings obtained by troops in Gaza. In addition to the hostages taken on October 7, Hamas has also been holding the bodies of two fallen IDF soldiers since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, who entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord around the same time, and are believed to suffer from mental illness. Efforts to secure a deal for the release of the hostages were hampered by Israel’s refusal to dispatch a delegation to join the negotiations before Tuesday, an Arab diplomat told The Times of Israel, adding that Israel’s absence from talks over the weekend had led to it being out of the loop when Hamas agreed to an alternate proposal.

Netanyahu wants war to go on, says Palestinian minister

There is no possibility for Hamas and Israel to strike a ceasefire deal because Benjamin Netanyahu wants the “killing” in Gaza to continue, the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki has told Euronews. “He wants to extend the war. And so a ceasefire will stop him from achieving his aims and objectives,” al-Maliki said in an interview on Tuesday after attending a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers in Brussels. “Netanyahu knows very well that if there is going to be a cessation of hostilities, Americans and many others would intervene in order to make what is really temporary become permanent,” he explained, adding that the Israeli premier is keeping the entire region “hostage to his own political ambitions”.

Al-Maliki, who represents the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah-run government in the West Bank, warned that the much-feared offensive on Rafah could trigger instability in the wider region, including potential violence in Lebanon, and a “regional war” involving the US. He said that no trucks, carrying humanitarian aid, have been able to cross into Gaza over the past 48 hours, warning that the situation is “really very dangerous” not only because of the threat of bombardments but also because of increasing famine among Gaza’s population.

Speaking earlier on Monday, the EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell criticised Netanyahu for flouting the bloc’s warnings and proceeding with the planned Rafah offensive. On Tuesday, Israeli officials said their forces had taken control of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing, which is the main route for aid to enter the besieged territory, and that it had also closed both the Kerem Shalom crossing in the south and the Erez crossing to the north.

Europe students’ Gaza protests spread

Protests by students demanding universities sever ties with Israel over the Gaza war spread across western Europe on Tuesday, sparking clashes and dozens of fresh arrests. Students at various European universities, inspired by ongoing demonstrations at US campuses, have been occupying halls and facilities, demanding an end to partnerships with Israeli institutions because of Israel’s punishing assault on Gaza. Amsterdam police said a total of 169 people had been arrested when officers broke up Monday night’s protests. In the eastern German city of Leipzig, the university said between 50 and 60 people occupied a lecture hall on Tuesday, waving banners that read: “University occupation against genocide”. Earlier, at Berlin’s Free University, police cleared a demonstration after up to 80 people erected a protest camp in a courtyard of the campus. Protests were prevalent in France, Switzerland amd Austria

US, several world leaders snub Putin’s swearing-in ceremony

The US and several other world leaders boycotted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s swearing-in ceremony for his fifth term on Tuesday, ushering in the beginning of at least another six years as Russia’s leader. The win makes Putin, 71, Russia’s longest-serving leader since Catherine the Great in 1796, surpassing the record held by former Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin. In the wake of ongoing scrutiny of Putin as Russia pushes forward with its invasion of Ukraine, many world leaders snubbed the inauguration ceremony. Seven European Union member states were expected to send envoys, including France, Greece, Hungary, Malta, Slovakia, and Cyprus, multiple media outlets reported. In his inauguration speech, Putin criticised what he called Western leaders’ “aggression” against Russia and suggested talks over security and strategic stability would only be possible if the West changed its approach. Putin told Russians at his inauguration that “we will win” despite the challenges facing the country as it continues with its all-out invasion of Ukraine.

Kyiv says it foiled plot to kill Zelensky

Ukraine’s State Security Service says it has caught Russian agents within the Ukrainian state guard service who were plotting to kill President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other senior government officials. “Counter-intelligence and SBU investigators thwarted the FSB’s (Russia’s security service) plans to eliminate the president of Ukraine and other representatives of the top military and political leadership,” the SBU said on Telegram. A statement said that two colonels in the State Guard of Ukraine, which protects top officials, were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the plan. Both were recruited to the service before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, according to the statement. Zelensky said in 2022 there has been at least 10 attempts to assassinate him. The announcement comes a few days after Zelensky sacked Ilya Vityuk, the head of the SBU’s cybersecurity department, amid allegations of corruption.

EU adopts first law tackling violence against women

EU member-states on Tuesday gave the green light to the bloc’s first law devoted to combatting violence against women. The sweeping new legislation aims to protect women in the EU from gender-based violence, forced marriages, female genital mutilation and cyber violence such as online stalking and the non-consensual sharing of intimate images. It also makes it easier for victims of domestic abuse to report crimes, which, according to a new framework, will be punishable by jail sentences of up to five years. Punishments for crimes against children, spouses, ex-spouses, politicians, journalists and human rights activists can be even more severe. But a failure to reach a common definition of rape was a source of contention between several member states. The European Parliament approved the new rules in April and the official adoption by member states on Tuesday was the final step before it becomes law. EU states now have three years to transpose the rules into national law.

Modi’s party ordered to remove video targeting Muslims, opposition

India’s Election Commission directed social media platform X today to take down a video post by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party after an opposition complaint that it promoted enmity among economically-weaker groups. The takedown order for violation of poll rules came days after police registered a case against leaders of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including the president of its Karnataka state unit that had shared the post. The animated video published last week during India’s long general election accused opposition Congress leaders of planning to extend welfare benefits to the minority Muslim community at the cost of other disadvantaged tribal and Hindu caste groups. Congress denies making any such election promise.

Italy blocks NGO planes in the central Mediterranean.

The Italian National Civil Aviation Authority has issued a series of ordinances that “ban on the operation of aircraft and NGOs in the central Mediterranean Sea” due to the “irregular migratory phenomenon by sea coming from the coasts of North Africa”. The orders say that “anyone who carries out Search and Rescue activities outside the provisions of the current regulatory framework is punished with the sanctions referred to in the Navigation Code, as well as with the adoption of further sanctioning measures such as the administrative detention of the aircraft”.

‘April 2024 the hottest on record’ – Copernicus

April 2024 was globally the warmest on record, with an average surface air temperature of 15.03 degrees, 0.67°C above the April average for the thirty-year reference period 1991-2020 and 0.14°C above the previous record of April 2016. This was announced by the EU weather service, Copenicus, which specifies that this is the 11th consecutive month that is the hottest on record. April 2024 was also 1.58°C warmer than the pre-industrial April average (1850-1900). The global average temperature of the last 12 months, from May 2023 to April 2024, was the highest ever recorded, 0.73°C above the average for the thirty-year period 1991-2020 and 1.61°C above the average for pre-industrial era 1850-1900.

Eurovision organisers rebuke performer who wore keffiyeh

The Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden, officially began Tuesday evening with the first live semifinal, which went off largely without a hitch – except for an opening act performer who drew a rebuke from organisers for his political statement. Eric Saade – a Swedish singer and past Eurovision contestant who was one of the performers invited to take part in the opening act of the show on Tuesday – appeared on stage with his wrist wrapped in a keffiyeh, a Palestinian symbol often used in pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protests. Saade’s father is Palestinian. The EBU said, “We regret that Eric Saade chose to compromise the non-political nature of the event.” Eurovision organisers have been on high alert for disruptions and protests this week as the competition has been overshadowed by political conflict, with major rallies expected in Malmo against Israel’s participation. The city has significantly beefed up its police presence, including bringing in reinforcements from Denmark and Norway, and has even cleared out local jail cells in case of mass arrests. The biggest protests are expected tomorrow, Thursday, when Israel’s Eden Golan will appear in the second semifinal of the competition with her song “Hurricane”. Malta singer Sarah Bonnici will take part with her song “Loop” although her chances of her making it to the final are very slim.

Borussia Dortmund beat PSG to reach Champions League final

Borussia Dortmund are in the Champions League final after the Bundesliga side overcame Paris St Germain 1-0 in Paris for a 2-0 aggregate. A goal by Hummels five minutes into the second half decided the issue. The German side had its fair slice of luck with PSG ending the tie having hit the woodwork six times and scored no goals. But to speak only of luck though, would be to ignore the way Dortmund have played in what has now become a legendary run to the final. The team finished top of a group with PSG, AC Milan and Newcastle. They were last in a Champions League final in 2013 when they lost to Bayern Munich. The other semi-finalist will be known tonight when Real Madrid face Bayern Munich in Madrid as the aggregate score reads 2-2.

Brazil’s bid to host the Women’s World Cup tops European rival

Brazil’s bid to host the 2027 Women’s World Cup scored higher than its rival, a joint bid from Belgium, Netherlands and Germany, in a FIFA’s evaluation report released on Tuesday. The world soccer governing body bid report came ahead of the vote at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok on May 17, which will decide where the next Women’s World Cup will be held. Last week, Mexico and the United States withdrew from the 2027 race to focus their efforts on hosting the 2031 tournament.

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