Slovak PM Fico stable but in serious condition

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A convoy believed to carrying shooting suspect Juraj C arrives for an interrogation at the Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok, north of Bratislava, Slovakia on May 18, 2024. (AFP)
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Slovak Defense Minister Robert Kalinak addresses a press conference in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, on May 17, 2024, in front of the hospital, where Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is being treated after he was shot “multiple times” on May 15. (AFP)
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Updated 18 May 2024
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Slovak PM Fico stable but in serious condition

  • Robert Fico underwent a two-hour operation on Friday that increased hopes for his recovery
  • Slovak police have charged a man identified by prosecutors as Juraj C. with attempted murder

BANSKA BYSTRICA, Slovakia: The condition of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has stabilized but remains serious, the country’s health minister said on Saturday, following Wednesday’s assassination attempt against the central European leader.

Slovakia’s deputy prime minister also said the transfer of Fico to the capital Bratislava from the small-town hospital near the area where he was shot five times at point blank range would not take place in the coming days.

There was no need to formally take over Fico’s official duties and some communication with the premier was taking place, Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak told reporters in front of the hospital where Fico was being treated.

Fico underwent a two-hour operation on Friday that increased hopes for his recovery. The attack sent shockwaves throughout Europe and raised concerns over the polarized and febrile political situation in the nation of 5.4 million people.

Slovak police have charged a man identified by prosecutors as Juraj C. with attempted murder. Local news media say he is a 71-year-old former security guard at a shopping mall and the author of three collections of poetry.


China says conducting joint military drills with Russia

Updated 4 sec ago
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China says conducting joint military drills with Russia

  • China and Russia have drawn closer in recent years and tout their friendship as having ‘no limits’
BEIJING: China said Friday it was conducting joint military drills with Russia along its southern coast, after a US-led Western defense alliance met in Washington and Japan warned of a growing threat from Beijing’s strong ties with Moscow.
China’s defense ministry said the two militaries had begun the exercises, called Joint Sea-2024, in “early July” and they would last until the middle of this month.
The drills in the waters and airspace around Zhanjiang, a city in southern Guangdong province, are “to demonstrate the resolve and capabilities of the two sides in jointly addressing maritime security threats and preserving global and regional peace and stability,” the ministry said.
It added that the exercises “will further deepen China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era.”
They were taking place in accordance with Beijing and Moscow’s annual plan for military engagement, according to the ministry.
The announcement came in the same week that NATO leaders convened in Washington to reaffirm support for Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.
China and Russia have drawn closer in recent years and tout their friendship as having “no limits,” and both share hostile relations with NATO.
NATO leaders said in a declaration on Wednesday that China had “become a decisive enabler” of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting Beijing to warn NATO against “provoking confrontation.”
China maintains that it is not a party to the Ukraine conflict but has been criticized by Western leaders for giving political and economic support to Russia, including in the trade of goods with both civilian and military uses.
Chinese forces are also staging drills this week with Belarus, another Russian ally, on NATO’s eastern border.
And Japan said Friday that joint China-Russia activities near its territory pose a “grave concern from the perspective of national security.”

Covid still kills 1,700 a week: WHO

Updated 36 min 48 sec ago
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Covid still kills 1,700 a week: WHO

  • More than seven million Covid deaths have been reported to the WHO, though the true toll of the pandemic is thought to be far higher

Geneva: Covid-19 is still killing around 1,700 people a week around the world, the World Health Organization said Thursday, as it urged at-risk populations to keep up with their vaccinations against the disease.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sounded a warning on declining vaccine coverage.
Despite the continued death toll, “data show that vaccine coverage has declined among health workers and people over 60, which are two of the most at-risk groups,” the UN health agency’s chief told a press conference.
“WHO recommends that people in the highest-risk groups receive a Covid-19 vaccine within 12 months of their last dose.”
More than seven million Covid deaths have been reported to the WHO, though the true toll of the pandemic is thought to be far higher.
Covid-19 also shredded economies and crippled health systems.
Tedros declared an end to Covid-19 as an international public health emergency in May 2023, more than three years on from when the virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.
The WHO has urged governments to maintain virus surveillance and sequencing, and to ensure access to affordable and reliable tests, treatments and vaccines.


Four people die in attempt to cross the English Channel — French coast guard

Updated 12 July 2024
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Four people die in attempt to cross the English Channel — French coast guard

  • A total of 67 people were aboard the boat off the coast of Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France

Boulogne-sur-Mer: Four migrants who tried to reach Britain died in the night from Thursday to Friday after their boat capsized in the Channel, a French coast guard spokesperson said on Friday, confirming earlier media reports.
A total of 67 people were aboard the boat off the coast of Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France, the spokesperson said, adding that 63 of them were rescued by an operation involving four ships and one helicopter.
Several thousand people have arrived in Britain this year via small, overloaded boats — usually flimsy inflatable dinghies — that risk being lashed by the waves as they try to reach British shores.


Biden says during press conference he’s going to ‘complete the job’ despite calls to bow out

Updated 12 July 2024
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Biden says during press conference he’s going to ‘complete the job’ despite calls to bow out

  • Biden holds highly anticipated news conference to deliver forceful defense of foreign and domestic policies
  • Insists his support among the electorate was strong and he would stay in the race and would win

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden used his highly anticipated news conference Thursday to deliver a forceful defense of his foreign and domestic policies, and batted away questions about his ability to serve another four years even as he flubbed a reference to Donald Trump in one of his first answers.
“I’m not in this for my legacy. I’m in this to complete the job I started,” Biden said as he insisted his support among the electorate was strong and he would stay in the race and would win.
Fumbles notwithstanding, the president pushed back at every suggestion that was slowing down or showing noticeable signs of decline, or that he was not in command of the job. But he was facing a growing chorus of calls from lawmakers, celebrities and other prominent Democrats to step aside from the 2024 race.
“My schedule has been full bore,” he declared. “So if I slow down and I cant get the job done, that’s a sign that I shouldn’t be doing it. But there’s no indication of that yet — none.”
Democrats are facing an intractable problem. Top donors, supporters and key lawmakers are doubtful of Biden’s abilities to carry on his reelection bid after his disastrous June 27 debate performance, but the hard-fighting 81-year-old president refuses to give up as he prepares to take on Trump in a rematch.
“I’m determined on running but I think it’s important that I allay fears — let them see me out there,” he said.
The first questioner of Biden’s press conference asked about him losing support among many of his fellow Democrats and unionists, and asked about Vice President Kamala Harris. Biden was at first defiant, saying the “UAW endorsed me, but go ahead,” meaning the United Auto Workers. But then he mixed up Harris and Trump, saying, “I wouldn’t have picked Vice President Trump to be Vice President if she wasn’t qualified.”
Trump weighed in live on Biden’s news conference with a post on his social media network of a video clip of the president saying “Vice President Trump.”
Trump added sarcastically, “Great job, Joe!”
Most of the hourlong press conference was vintage Biden: He gave long answers on foreign policy and told well-worn anecdotes. He used teleprompters for his opening remarks on NATO, which ran about eight minutes. Then the teleprompters lowered and he took a wide range of questions from 10 journalists about his mental acuity, foreign and domestic policy and — mostly — the future of his campaign.
“I believe I’m the best qualified to govern. I believe I’m the best qualitied to win,” Biden said, adding that he will stay in the race until his staff says, “There’s no way you can win.”
“No one’s saying that,” he said. “No poll says that.”

Earlier, Biden’s campaign laid out what it sees as its path to keeping the White House in a new memo, saying that winning the “blue wall” states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan is the “clearest pathway” to victory. And it declared no other Democrat would do better against Trump.
“There is also no indication that anyone else would outperform the president vs. Trump,” said the memo from campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon and campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez that was obtained by The Associated Press.
The memo sought to brush back “hypothetical polling of alternative nominees ” as unreliable and it said such surveys “do not take into account the negative media environment that any Democratic nominee will encounter.”
Meanwhile, the campaign has been quietly surveying voters on Harris to determine how she’s viewed among the electorate, according to two people with knowledge of the campaign who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to talk about internal matters.
The people said the polling was not necessarily to show that she could be the nominee in Biden’s place, but rather to better understand how she’s viewed. The research came after Trump stepped up his attacks against Harris following the debate, according to another person familiar with the effort. The survey was first reported by The New York Times.
While Biden has expressed confidence in his chances, his campaign on Thursday acknowledged he is behind, and a growing number of the president’s aides in the White House and the campaign privately harbor doubts that he can turn things around.
But they’re taking their cues from Biden, expressing that he is in 100 percent unless and until he isn’t, and there appears to be no organized internal effort to persuade the president to step aside. His allies were well aware heading into the week there would be more calls for him to step down, and they were prepared for it.
But in announcing a compact that would bring together NATO countries to support Ukraine, Biden referred to the nation’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky as “President Putin” to audible gasps in the room. He quickly returned to the microphone: “President Putin — he’s going to beat President Putin ... President Zelensky,” Biden said.
Then he said, “I’m so focused on beating Putin,” in an effort to explain the gaffe.
“I’m better,” Zelensky replied. “You’re a hell of a lot better,” Biden said back.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer invited Biden’s team to meet with senators privately at the lunch hour to discuss concerns and the path forward, but some senators groused they would prefer to hear from the president himself. In the Senate, only Peter Welch of Vermont has so far called for Biden to step out of the race.
The 90-minute conversation with the president’s team, which one person said included no new data, polling or game plan on how Biden would beat Trump, did not appear to change senators’ minds. The person was granted anonymity to discuss the closed door session.
The meeting was frank, angry at times and also somewhat painful, since many in the room know and love Biden, said one senator who requested anonymity to discuss the private briefing. Senators confronted the advisers over Biden’s performance at the debate and the effect on Senate races this year
One Democrat, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, said afterward, “My belief is that the president can win, but he’s got to be able to go out and answer voters’ concerns. He’s got to be able to talk to voters directly over the next few day.”
At the same time, influential senators are standing strongly with Biden, leaving the party at an impasse.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, told the AP he thinks Biden “is going to win this election. I think he has a chance to win it big.”
Sanders said he has been publicly critical of the campaign, and said Biden needs to talk more about the future and his plans for the country. “As we come closer to Election Day, the choices are very clear,” he said.


Billionaire bash: India’s lavish Ambani nuptials

Updated 12 July 2024
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Billionaire bash: India’s lavish Ambani nuptials

  • Ambani, 67, chairman of Reliance Industries, has a fortune of more than $123 billion, and is the 11th wealthiest person in the world
  • His younger son Anant and fiancee Radhika Merchant, both 29, are set to marry in three-day Hindu ceremony in Mumbai starting Friday

MUMBAI: Billionaire Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani celebrates the lavish finale of his son’s wedding this week, highlighting his staggering wealth, as well as India’s rapid economic growth and stark financial inequalities.
Ambani’s younger son Anant and fiancee Radhika Merchant, both 29, are set to marry in a three-day Hindu ceremony in India’s financial capital Mumbai starting Friday.
Asia’s richest man is no stranger to throwing a costly wedding.
He held the most expensive wedding in India to date for his daughter in 2018, which reportedly cost up to $100 million and saw US singer Beyonce perform.
This week’s opulent celebrations are set to raise the bar, with celebrities, politicians and business elite jetting into the monsoon-hit megacity of Mumbai.
Pre-wedding parties for his son included multi-day galas, a European cruise for 1,200 guests, a specially built Hindu temple and entertainment provided by pop stars ranging from Rihanna to Justin Bieber.
Ambani, 67, the chairman of Reliance Industries, has a fortune of more than $123 billion, and is the 11th wealthiest person in the world, according to the Forbes billionaires list.
He is a key ally of India’s right-wing Hindu nationalist leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Ambani inherited a thriving industrial enterprise spanning oil, gas and petrochemicals.

Billionaire and Chairman of Reliance Industries Mukesh Ambani (R) with his wife Nita Ambani attends a mass wedding ceremony of underprivileged couples ahead of their son Anant Ambani’s wedding to Radhika Merchant, at Reliance Corporate Park in Navi Mumbai on July 2, 2024. (AFP)

He grew it into a commercial behemoth with lucrative interests in retail, telecommunications and an Indian Premier League cricket team.
Ambani’s family home Antilia is one of Mumbai’s most prominent landmarks. The 27-floor building reportedly cost more than $1 billion to erect and has a permanent staff of 600 servants.
Merchant is the daughter of pharmaceutical moguls.
Wedding celebrations began in March with a three-day gala for 1,500-plus guests in Gujarat state.
Rihanna performed her first concert since last year’s Super Bowl for wedding guests including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and ex-US president Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka.
David Blaine did magic tricks.
Festivities also involved a trip to the Ambani’s “animal rescue center” housing exotic animals, and a specially built Hindu temple complex.
A second leg in June was a four-day Mediterranean cruise with 1,200 guests, Merchant told Vogue.
Singer Katy Perry performed at a masquerade ball at a French chateau in Cannes, while the Backstreet Boys and US rapper Pitbull also provided entertainment.
DJ David Guetta played at a toga party at sea.
The cruise ended in Italy’s Portofino, where tenor Andrea Bocelli serenaded the party in the town square.
The wedding invitation was an intricate chest incorporating a mini silver temple.
Merchant’s multiple dresses have been as elaborate.

Radhika Merchant (R) and her fiancé Anant Ambani, son of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, pose for a picture during their sangeet ceremony in Mumbai on July 5, 2024. (AFP)

They have included custom designs from Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, and a vintage Yves Saint Laurent for Dior, she told Vogue.
Another was a sweeping chiffon dress printed with a love letter from her fiancee, the magazine reported.
“I want to be able to show it to my kids and grandkids, and say that ‘this is what our love was’,” Merchant said.
India is the fastest-growing major economy, and the world’s fifth largest.
But despite massive advances, the world’s most populous country has a jobs crisis to match.
National per capita income is just $1,174, according to government data.

Nita Ambani (L), wife of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani and chairperson of the Reliance Foundation, greets underprivileged couples during a mass wedding ceremony ahead of her son Anant Ambani’s wedding to Radhika Merchant, at Reliance Corporate Park in Navi Mumbai on July 2, 2024. (AFP)

India was ranked 111 of 125 countries in the Global Hunger Index report last year, a peer-reviewed measure calculated by European aid agencies.
One percent of India’s 1.4 billion people earn more than a fifth of its wealth, according to the World Inequality Lab, an income share “among the very highest” in the world — greater than South Africa, Brazil or the United States.
Perhaps to preempt criticism, Ambani provided a feast for 50,000 people in his hometown of Jamnagar in Gujarat during the first round of parties.
Ambani also organized a mass wedding for 52 “underprivileged” couples near Mumbai, promising to support “hundreds more such weddings” across India.