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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

First Thing: Russia failing in its war aims, says top US diplomat | US news

Good morning.

Russia is failing in its war aims and “Ukraine is succeeding”, Washington’s top diplomat has announced after a visit to Kyiv during which he pledged additional military aid, including advanced weapons, and a return of US envoys.

The trip by the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, was the highest-level American visit to the capital since Russia invaded in late February.

During talks, Blinken and Austin told Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the US would provide more than $300m (£235m) in military financing and had approved a $165m sale of ammunition, bringing total US security assistance since the invasion to about $3.7bn. More than $400m will also be split among 15 other countries in central and eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Blinken also said US diplomats returning to Ukraine would probably restaff the consulate in Lviv in western Ukraine before returning to Kyiv, the capital. They previously said the diplomats would start returning this week.

  • What else did Blinken say? He told reporters this morning: “Ukrainians are standing up. They are standing strong. And they are doing that with the support that we have coordinated from literally around the world.

  • What has Russia said? The Kremlin has warned the US against sending more arms to Ukraine, Moscow’s ambassador to Washington told Russian state television. “We stressed the unacceptability of this situation when the United States of America pours weapons into Ukraine,” Anatoly Antonov said.

  • What else is happening? Here’s what we know on day 61 of the invasion.

Victorious Macron vows to unite France after fending off Le Pen threat

Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, wave at wellwishers
Emmanuel Macron vows to be ‘president of everyone’ during victory speech. Photograph: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

The pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron has vowed to unite a divided France after winning a second term as French president in a decisive victory against the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, who won more than 13m votes in a historic high for her anti-immigration party.

Macron became the first French leader to win re-election for 20 years, scoring 58.54% to Le Pen’s 41.46%.

Addressing a victory rally at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, where his supporters waved French and European flags, Macron pledged to respond “efficiently” to the “anger and disagreement” of voters who chose the far right.

“I know that a number of French people have voted for me today, not to support my ideas but to stop the ideas of the far right,” he said. The president called on supporters to be “kind and respectful” to others because the country was riven by “so much doubt, so much division”.

He added: “I’m not the candidate of one camp any more but the president of all of us.”

  • What were the results? Macron beat Le Pen with a lower margin than the 66% he won against her in 2017. Turnout was also lower than five years ago, with abstention estimated at a record 28%.

  • What’s next for Marine Le Pen? Far-right leader hails “victory in itself” and vows to fight on after winning more than 40% of the vote.

Ocasio-Cortez to unionized Amazon workers: victory is ‘just the beginning’

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez yesterday.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez yesterday. Photograph: Peter Foley/EPA

The progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Amazon’s first unionized workers in New York yesterday that their victory was “the first domino to fall” in what she expected to be a wave of similar votes for representation across the country.

The leftwing Democrat joined Vermont senator Bernie Sanders on stage in Staten Island to celebrate the historic achievement and to call for workers in more Amazon facilities in the US to follow their example.

“What happened out here … what you guys did in Staten Island was just the beginning. It was the first domino to fall,” she said, noting that workers at a second Amazon sorting facility in the New York borough were voting today.

“We have another election tomorrow, and we’re going to support them in that. And the day after that, and the day after that, all the way. But what we need Amazon to do first and foremost is to recognize the union that won their election.”

  • What have Amazon said? Amazon has so far refused to acknowledge the vote at its Staten Island fulfillment center. Immediately after the result, Amazon, owned by the world’s second richest man, Jeff Bezos, went to court to try to get the outcome overturned.

In other news …

Despite Joe Biden’s bipartisan achievements, the party is losing out in messaging to Republican culture wars.
Despite Joe Biden’s bipartisan achievements, the party is losing out in messaging to Republican culture wars. Photograph: Emily Elconin/Reuters
  • Democrats need to “get up off our rear ends” and work to bring down prices and runaway inflation, or face wipeout in November’s midterm elections, the Massachusetts senator, Elizabeth Warren, has warned. She told CNN: “We’ve got less than 200 days until the election and American families are hurting.”

  • Beijingers were flooding supermarkets to stock up on food on Monday, hoping to avoid Shanghai-style shortages in the event of a similar citywide lockdown as the capital records a growing number of Covid infections. Authorities in Beijing have ordered 3.5 million residents to report for tests.

  • Rescuers searching for survivors since a tour boat carrying 26 people apparently sank off north-eastern Japan have found the body of an 11th victim – a child – as questions intensify about why the vessel sailed in rough weather at a known hazardous location. The bodies of 10 people were found on Sunday.

  • Twitter began negotiations with Elon Musk on Sunday after he wooed shareholders with financing details on his $43bn acquisition offer, people familiar with the matter said. The company’s decision to engage with Musk did not mean it would accept his $54.20 a share bid, they added.

Don’t miss this: The parents group fighting new anti-trans laws

Jose and Lizette Trujillo with their son in Tucson, Arizona.
Jose and Lizette Trujillo with their son in Tucson, Arizona. Photograph: Cassidy Araiza/The Guardian

Across the country, more than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been filed this legislative year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Most of them target transgender children, a demographic not even old enough to vote against the politicians setting policy. As the Florida legislature was passing the “don’t say gay” bill and the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, was moving to classify gender-affirming care for trans minors as child abuse, a group of parents meet to push back against discriminatory legislation, share stories and celebrate.

Climate check: After the relentless rain, South Africa sounds the alarm on the climate crisis

A search and rescue team member looks for bodies with the help of a dog.
A search and rescue team member looks for bodies with the help of a dog. Photograph: Rogan Ward/Reuters

Survivors of South Africa’s devastating floods have described “sheet upon sheet of relentless rain” that washed away entire houses, bridges and roads, killing about 450 people and making thousands homeless. The storm, which delivered close to an entire year’s usual rainfall in 48 hours, took meteorologists by surprise and has been blamed by experts on climate change. The new disaster comes after three tropical cyclones and two tropical storms hit south-east Africa in just six weeks in the first months of this year.

Last Thing: California family discovers five bears hibernating in crawlspace under home

A bear
The unnamed residents called the Bear League, who helped usher the bear family into the woods. Photograph: Samson1976/Getty /iStockphoto

A family in California spent the winter dismissing odd noises that sounded a little like snoring, only to discover that five bears had spent the cold season hibernating under their house. The Bear League group, which works to preserve bear habitat, recounted the family’s astonishing episode last week. In a Facebook post, the group described how one mother bear, along with three of her own cubs and an adopted orphan, had decided to spend the winter in the crawlspace under a local house.

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