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Biden, Putin Set For Tense Summit In Geneva

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Biden, Putin Set For Tense Summit In Geneva

Tension reminiscent of the Cold War hovers over the Geneva summit where President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin face off on Wednesday amid rising modern-day US concerns about Russian cyber attacks and what the White House sees as a dangerous authoritarian drift.

The setting — a sumptuous villa overlooking Lake Geneva — may be picturesque, but a gruelling diplomatic face-off awaits.
Up to five hours of talks are planned, starting at around 1:00 p.m. (1100 GMT), with no break for meals. Putin is due to arrive first, then Biden, with Swiss President Guy Parmelin acting as host.

Asked if the two leaders might share food together, a staple gesture of goodwill in summit diplomacy, a senior US official said no.

“There will be no breaking of bread,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The choice of Geneva, following long US-Russian negotiations, recalls the Cold War summit between US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the Swiss city in 1985.

The villa, surrounded by lush lawns against a backdrop of mountains, was under intense security. Grey patrol boats cruised along the lake front and heavily armed camouflaged troops stood guard at a nearby yacht marina.

This time, tensions are less about strategic nuclear weapons and competing ideologies than what the Biden administration sees as an increasingly hostile, rule-breaking regime.

From cyber attacks on American entities and meddling in the last two US presidential elections to human rights violations and aggression against Ukraine and other European countries, Washington’s list of allegations against the Kremlin runs long.

READ ALSO: French President Macron Slapped In Face On Public Walkabout

Putin, however, comes to the summit arguing that Moscow is simply challenging US hegemony. It’s part of a bid to promote a so-called “multi-polar” world that has seen Russia and arguably even more powerful US adversary China draw close.

Putin was to fly into Geneva from Moscow right before meeting the US president. Biden, ending an intensive first foreign trip as president, arrived on Tuesday after summits with NATO and the European Union in Brussels, and a G7 summit in Britain.

Asked if he was ready for Putin, Biden smiled and said: “I’m always ready.”

In an interview with NBC, Putin scoffed at US accusations of dirty tricks abroad and authoritarian crackdowns at home.

As well as denying any connection to what the United States says are Russia-based hacking and ransomware gangs, Putin rejected having any hand in the deaths of many of his opponents during two decades in power.

Addressing one of the main irritants in relations with Washington and with the European Union, Putin insisted he also could not be blamed for the near-fatal poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, one of the few remaining major opposition figures in Russia.

Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, told journalists in Moscow that the US-Russian relationship was “at an impasse”.

There is “not much” ground for optimism, he added.

Biden’s team likewise expects no “big set of deliverables,” the senior Biden official said.

Biden says his main goal is simply to establish clear “red lines” for what the White House will no longer tolerate from Russia.

“I’m not looking for conflict,” he said in Brussels after the NATO summit, but “we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities”.

Biden, who had previously characterised Putin as a “killer”, upgraded the Russian leader to a “tough” and “worthy adversary”.

Going into the summit, Biden has emphasised that he has the backing of his Western partners.

Russia was one of the top topics at the NATO summit in Brussels, where the defence alliance warned that Russian military build-ups on the edge of eastern Europe “increasingly threaten the security of the Euro-Atlantic area and contribute to instability along NATO borders and beyond”.

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But for all the rhetoric, the White House and Kremlin both say they are open to doing business in a limited way. Officials point to the recent extension of the New START nuclear arms limitation treaty as an example of successful diplomacy.

According to Russian and US officials, one possible baby step might be quick reinstatement of the two countries’ ambassadors, who returned home this year in response to tensions.

Officials from the two sides say Biden and Putin will initially huddle only with translators and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. They will then switch to a larger format.

However, unlike in 2018, when Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump met Putin in Helsinki, there will be no joint press conference at the end.

The US side clearly wants to avoid the optics of having Biden sharing that kind of platform with the Russian president.

In 2018, Trump caused a stir by saying, as Putin stood beside him, that he believed the Kremlin leader over his own intelligence services when it came to accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election bringing Trump to power.

AFP

 

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Police Fine British Prime Minister For Not Wearing Seatbelt In Car

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Police Fine British Prime Minister For Not Wearing Seat Belt In Car

The British Police have fined Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for not wearing a seatbelt in the back of a moving car while on a trip to northern England.

Sunak, who recorded an Instagram video on Thursday, was seen turning in his seat to talk to the camera without a seatbelt on, a video that has now been deleted from the social media site.

The PM’s office at Downing Street said the incident was a “brief error of judgment”, but Lancashire constabulary announced they were fining Sunak for the infraction, The Guardian UK says.

The force said: “You will be aware that a video has been circulating on social media showing an individual failing to wear a seatbelt while a passenger in a moving car in Lancashire.

“After looking into this matter, we have today issued a 42-year-old man from London with a conditional offer of fixed penalty.”

Reacting, a spokesperson for Sunak said: “The prime minister fully accepts this was a mistake and has apologised. He will of course comply with the fixed penalty.”

A fixed penalty means Sunak can pay a fine to avoid a court hearing.

The police did not disclose how much they had fined the prime minister, but according to the government’s safety campaign, any driver or passenger not wearing a seatbelt is breaking the law and is liable to be fined up to £500 if the case goes to court, according to The Guardian UK.

Sunak’s transportation habits were already a talking point in the United Kingdom before the incident, a report by AFP says.

 READ  ALSO: Rishi Sunak Becomes UK’s New Prime Minister

His political rivals have taken aim at his use of a private jet to make multiple short flights in recent days.

This is not the first time Sunak has been slapped with a police fine.

He was fined while serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer for attending a Downing Street party in June 2020 that violated the government’s rules on social distancing, according to an AFP report.

The latest fine makes Sunak the second Conservative prime minister to receive a police fine in less than 12 months. The Metropolitan police, in 2020, issued a fixed-penalty notice to Boris Johnson for attending a party during lockdown. Sunak was fined for attending the same event as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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World’s Oldest Nun Dies At 118

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World's Oldest Nun Does At 118

French nun Sister André who was the world’s oldest known person died at age 118 in the southern French city of Toulon, the city’s mayor Hubert Falco said on Wednesday.

Born in the southern French town of Ales on Feb. 11, 1904, as Lucile Randon, Sister André was listed as the oldest person alive by the Gerontology Research Group in April 2022.

The Frenchwoman worked as a home teacher in her youth and did not enter a religious community until she was in her early 40s.
Most recently, Sister André was confined to a wheelchair, and for several years she could no longer see properly.

READ ALSO: Eight Shot At Crowded Martin Luther King Day Block Party

She was an honorary citizen of Toulon, where she lived in a retirement home for several years.
Falco praised her as incredibly modern and a nun with a big heart.

Guinness World Records said Lucile, who took the name of Sister André in 1944, was the second-oldest French person and the second-oldest European person ever recorded.
More recently, Sister André received the record for the oldest COVID-19 survivor after an infection in 2021.

“It’s difficult to fathom that someone born before the patenting of plastic, zips or even bras were alive well into the 21st century, and robust enough to beat COVID-19’’, the Guinness World Records editor, Craig Glenday said in a statement.

“It’s been an honour to record her story in the pages of the Guinness World Records book, and she will live on in history as the fourth oldest person ever authenticated.’’

With her death, Maria Branyas Morera, who lived in Spain, assumed the title of the world’s oldest person at age 115.

 

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Eight Shot At Crowded Martin Luther King Day Block Party

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Eight Shot At Crowded Martin Luther King Day Block Party

Eight people were shot at a block party packed with more than 1,000 people celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Fort Pierce, Florida, Monday, police said.

All eight of those shot were adults and they were ferried to the hospital for treatment, including one person in critical condition, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Hester said during a news conference.

Six people, including a baby, were killed in a ‘massacre’ that is likely gang-related, California sheriff’s office says.

At least four others were injured as people ran for safety, the sheriff’s office said. One of those injured was a juvenile who was hurt as people rushed to flee the park where the event was being held, Hester said.

“As the shots rang out, people were just running in all directions,” Hester said. “There were people laying behind cars, laying behind anything they could lay behind. It was kind of hard to tell who was a victim and who was just hiding at that point.”

The shooting began at around 5:20 p.m. in Ilous Ellis Park, he said, where the community had gathered for an afternoon car show, dance performances, live DJ and kids activities to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an event flyer shows.

In a video taken by a witness, attendees are seen dancing by their cars and enjoying the music when what sounds like gunfire begins to resonate over the song. People in the crowd start to rush away from the noise, some ducking behind cars or grabbing children’s hands and running across the street.

READ ALSO: A Philosopher’s Spiritual Journey And Bertrand Russell’s Influence

The incident marks the 30th mass shooting in the country this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

So far this year, the US is averaging about two mass shootings per day.

Two sheriff’s deputies who were stationed in the park ran toward the scene and provided aid to those injured, Hester said. Several witnesses also helped to render aid and drive people to the hospital, he added.

The sheriff’s office has not named any suspects in the shooting, but investigators were following up on several leads from witnesses and community members Monday night.

Investigators preliminarily believe the gunfire involved multiple shooters and resulted from “a disagreement of some sort between two parties,” Hester said.

“So many innocent people that were injured or hurt were not part of the disagreement,” he added.

Survivors of mass shootings are left with lifelong wounds — and mounting bills

“It’s really unfortunate and it’s sad that during a celebration of someone who represented peace and equality, a disagreement results in a use of guns and violence,” Hester said.

He estimated as many as 40 sheriff’s office personnel were working the case Monday night as they processed the scene, spoke to victims at the hospital and followed up on leads.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about the shooting to contact authorities or submit anonymous tips through CrimeStoppers. The sheriff’s department is handling the case because the Ilous Ellis Park is a St. Lucie County park.

Fort Pierce is a coastal city about an hour’s drive north of West Palm Beach.

. CNN

 

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