Trump rips prosecutors as “dirty, no good bastards”

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Friday, 14th June 2024.

Former US President Donald Trump gave a wide-ranging speech to House Republicans on Thursday, lashing out at his political enemies and praising his allies. Trump in particular criticised the prosecutions against him, calling the Department of Justice (DOJ) “dirty, no good bastards”, according to two sources in the room quoted by Fox News Digital.

One Republican lawmaker told that Trump touted the fundraising and popularity boost he got from his various state and federal criminal charges. Trump also called President Biden the “worst president in history” and referred to him as a “dope”.

Multiple House Republicans said the meeting went well, and that Trump touched on many topics, including military, trade and abortion policies, warning abortion had “cost” the party in previous elections.

He also blamed Biden for the presence of Russian warships in Cuba.

Russian warships in Cuba are no threat, says US

US officials have played down Wednesday’s arrival of four Russian naval vessels in Cuba for military drills. The visit of the vessels – which include a nuclear-powered submarine and a frigate – have been seen as a show of force amid Moscow’s tensions with the West over the war in Ukraine. They are anchored at the Havana Bay, some 145km from the US state of Florida. “We of course take it seriously, but these exercises don’t pose a threat to the United States,” the Pentagon said.

$50 billion loan for Ukraine utilising frozen Russian assets
Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) nations have finalised an agreement during their summit in Italy to extend a substantial $50 billion loan to Ukraine, leveraging frozen Russian assets, a senior US official announced on Thursday. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed, “We have achieved a high-level political understanding regarding this agreement. $50 billion will be allocated this year to support Ukraine.”

Earlier in May, European Union member states had greenlit a plan to utilise returns from frozen Russian assets to bolster Ukraine’s defense capabilities, potentially yielding between 2.5 to 3 billion euros annually. The United States spearheaded efforts within the G7 to utilise returns on approximately 300 billion euros of frozen assets from the Russian central bank within EU and G7 jurisdictions to secure the substantial loan for Ukraine.

The United States recently unveiled a comprehensive package of sanctions aimed at impeding Russian military activities in Ukraine by intensifying pressure on international banks engaged in transactions with Russia. In response, Moscow has pledged retaliatory measures.

The sanctions imposed by the US Treasury and State Department target over 300 entities, including entities in Russia as well as in countries such as China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, quoted by the TASS, affirmed that “Russia will not leave hostile actions by the United States unanswered.”

Leaders of the G7 industrialized nations, including Germany, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, are convening in Polignano a Mare, southern Italy, until Saturday, with several guest attendees.

One of the guest will bePope Francis, who will meet with the leaders of the G7 on the sidelines summit in Italy. The Pope, who in January warned against the “perverse” dangers of artificial intelligence, is due to take part in leaders’ talks on the new technology today. He is the first pope to take part in G7 discussions.

‘You don’t keep a woman waiting like that’

Italian host Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni yesterday morning jokingly rebuked President of the United States Joe Biden, after he kept her waiting over 20 minutes at the entrance of Borgo Egnazia, during the ceremony with which the leaders were welcomed by the Italian Prime Minister at the summit. “You don’t keep a woman waiting like that,” she can heard saying in the official video.

Biden, Zelenskyy sign 10-year US-Ukraine security pact

President Biden and Ukraine President Zelensky signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement on Thursday aimed at bolstering Ukraine’s defence against Russian invaders and getting Ukraine closer to NATO membership. The deal, signed on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Italy, aims to commit future US administrations to support Ukraine, even if former President Donald Trump wins November’s election, officials said.

“Our goal is to strengthen Ukraine’s credible defense and deterrence capabilities for the long term,” Biden said at a joint news conference with Zelensky. The group of rich nations also agreed to a $50 billion loan for Ukraine backed by profits from frozen Russian assets.

Ukrainian leader Zelensky said during a joint news conference with President Biden on the sidelines of the G7, that Chinese President Xi Jinping “gave me his word” that he will not sell weapons to Russia, “I had a telephone conversation with the leader of China. He said that he will not sell weapons to Russia. We will see,” he added.

‘Release frozen Palestinian funds’ – Blinken tells Netanyahu

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to release Palestinian tax revenues Israel’s ultranationalist minister of finance Bezalel Smotrich froze in early May, three US and Israeli officials told Axios. The Biden administration is extremely concerned the Palestinian Authority could collapse if the tax revenues are not transferred soon. An economic crash could in turn lead to an escalation in the West Bank in addition to the war in Gaza and rising tensions between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Blinken told Netanyahu during their meeting in Jerusalem on Monday that the tax revenue issue was highly important for the Biden administration and that he needs to fix it, US officials said. They added Netanyahu was again non-committal. Blinken met on Tuesday in Jordan with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa and briefed him on his discussions in Israel about the tax revenues, a Palestinian official said, noting that Mustafa asked Blinken to speed up the efforts to release the money and asked him to press Israel not to cancel its assurances for Israeli banks to conduct financial correspondence with Palestinian banks – a move that could destroy the Palestinian financial system.

Tax revenues Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority under an agreement between the parties are a major source of income for the PA, which is already in a deep financial crisis. After the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, Smotrich suspended the transfer of all tax revenue funds to the Palestinian Authority.

The issue was at the centre of a very tough phone call between President Biden and Netanyahu last December. Biden asked Netanyahu to solve the issue and when the Israeli prime minister answered in a non-committal way, the President said: “this conversation is over” and hung up the phone.

It took more than two months before Israel, Norway, the Palestinian Authority and the US reached a deal to resume the transfer of the tax revenues. But the deal didn’t last long. In early May, Smotrich once again put a hold on the Palestinian tax revenues, claiming it was because of the Palestinian Authority’s legal campaign to convince the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor to apply for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders. Two weeks later, after Norway recognised the state of Palestine, Smotrich demanded Norway give back the portion of Palestinian tax revenues it was holding in escrow as part of the agreement.

US officials said the White House was furious about Smotrich’s move not only because it further destabilises the Palestinian Authority and the security situation in the West Bank, but also because he violated an agreement the US negotiated and was party to.

Trilateral talks to ease Hezbollah-Israel tensions

French President Emmanuel Macron announced that G7 leaders have agreed to set up a trilateral committee to discuss a roadmap for defusing tensions between Lebanese Hezbollah and Israel. The committee includes France, Israel, and the United States.

The announcement follows a recent surge in hostilities, with Hezbollah launching more than 250 rockets at Israel within two days in its largest attack since the conflict began on October 7.

Hezbollah’s targeting was a response to an Israeli airstrike in the town of Jwaya, southern Lebanon, which killed four Hezbollah members, including the prominent commander, Taleb Sami Abdallah, also known as Abu Talib, the leader of Hezbollah’s ‘Victory’ unit. Lebanese sources stated that Abu Talib is the highest-ranking Hezbollah official to be assassinated since the onset of the Israeli war on Gaza and southern Lebanon.

The United States expressed concern over a possible escalation between the two sides. “We have had consistent and urgent conversations at different times with Israel and Lebanon over the eight months, from the very beginning of this crisis … to keep this from developing into a full-out war that could have implications to beyond elsewhere in the region,” the official said.

Hezbollah launched more than 100 rockets at northern Israel yesterday after its unprecedented barrage of over 215 projectiles the previous day. The initial wave of attacks followed an Israeli airstrike that killed Hezbollah senior commander Abu Talib. Israeli aircraft retaliated, striking several areas in southern Lebanon that the IDF characterised as housing military structures.

Amid this escalation with Hezbollah, the IDF continues to train forces for a possible war in the north. Combat teams from the 4th Armored Reserve Brigade, known as the Kiryati, trained with elements of the 226th Paratrooper Reserve Brigade over the first two weeks of June. The 4th Armored had fought in Gaza in December and January after its reservists were called up in October following Hamas’ attack. The 226th Brigade has been conducting defensive operations along the northern border.

ECJ fines Hungary €200 million over breach of EU asylum law

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ordered Hungary to pay a lump sum of €200 million over the country’s long-standing restrictions on the right to asylum. Additionally, Hungary will have to pay €1 million per day of delay. The money will be automatically subtracted from Hungary’s allocated share of the EU budget, parts of which remain frozen over similar legal problems. The failure to “fulfill obligations constitutes an unprecedented and exceptionally serious breach of EU law”, the ECJ said on Thursday.

The dispute dates back to December 2020, when the court first ruled that Hungary, under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, had limited access to asylum procedures for those seeking international protection in the country, making it “virtually impossible” to file applications. The Hungarian authorities were also censured for unlawfully keeping asylum seekers in so-called “transit zones” under conditions that amounted to detention and violating their right to appeal.

Reacting to the news, Orbán described the court’s decision as “outrageous and unacceptable”.

Record 120 million people forcibly displaced globally, says UN

A staggering total of 120 million people are living forcibly displaced by war, violence and persecution, the UN said Thursday, branding the ever-increasing number a “terrible indictment on the state of the world”.

The United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR said forced displacement globally had once again smashed records, with conflicts in places like Gaza, Sudan and Myanmar forcing even more people to flee their homes. The global displaced population is now equivalent to that of Japan, it pointed out in a statement. “Conflict remains a very, very big driver of mass displacement,” UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi told reporters.

At the end of last year, 117.3 million people were displaced, UNHCR said in a report. And by the end of April, the number had swelled further, with an estimated 120 million people around the world living in displacement. The number is up from 110 million a year ago, and has been rising for 12 consecutive years – nearly tripling since 2012 amid a combination of new and mutating crises and a failure to resolve long-standing ones, UNHCR said.

UNHCR last year declared 43 emergencies across 29 countries – more than four times what was common just a few years ago, Grandi said. Of the 117.3 million displaced at the end of 2023, 68.3 million people were internally displaced within their own country. The number of refugees and others in need of international protection meanwhile climbed to 43.4 million.

King Charles, Prince William ‘shunning’ Prince Harry

Prince Harry has been eager to make peace with his father and brother, but his pleas have fallen on deaf ears, claims Christopher Andersen, author of The King, who said the royals aren’t in a forgiving mood.

“The King and the Princess of Wales’s cancer battles have made it easier for both King Charles and Prince William to put Harry out of their minds,” Andersen claimed. “They are both shunning him now.

“Charles and Harry aren’t speaking, period,” Andersen claimed. “The fallout from Spare has been eclipsed by Kate’s and the king’s cancer battles. King Charles and William hadn’t got the time to worry about whether Harry would take more potshots at them. Harry has already gotten the message that there are consequences for his attacks on the royals; his entire family has turned its back on him.”

Andersen’s claims came after royal author Tom Quinn told the UK’s Mirror that there would be “consequences” for the Duke of Sussex if he were to speak about the royal family. “Harry has been asked directly by his father not to write or say publicly anything further about the family or his brother that might cause trouble,” Quinn claimed to the outlet. “Everyone knows that when a king asks you to do something, there are going to be consequences if you do not obey,” Quinn added.

Harry, who has a strained relationship with his family, rushed to London in February for a very brief visit after the king, 75, was diagnosed with an undisclosed type of cancer. Harry, 39, has seen his father infrequently since the prince quit royal duties in 2020 and moved to California with his wife, Meghan Markle, citing what they said were unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. He has since detailed his rocky relationship with his family in TV interviews, a documentary and his memoir, Spare.

Football: Euro2024 kicks-off this evening

Euro2024, the month-long tournament between 24 European national football teams, kicks off this evening (9pm) at the Munich Arena in a Group A match between hosts Germany (16th in the UEFA ranking) and Scotland (39th). This will be Germany’s fourteenth time of making it to the Euro finals. Thedy won the compatition three times – in 1972, 1980 and 1996. Scotland made it four times to the finals. UEFA confirmed to AFP the stadium in Munich will display rainbow colours to celebrate Christopher Street Day, the city’s pride weekend.

Photo: Dave Sanders

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