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Benzema announced his retirement from the French national team

News Network, December 20 — French striker Benzema, who plays for Real Madrid Club of Spain, announced on the 19th that he would withdraw from the French national team.

Benzema chose to announce the news on his 35th birthday. He posted a photo of himself wearing the shirt of the French national team on the social platform, with an article saying: “I have made the necessary efforts and made the mistakes I should have made. I am proud of all this. I have written my own story, and the story that belongs to us is coming to an end.” This short passage means that his “gratitude and resentment” with the French national team will come to an end.

Benzema made his national debut in the friendly against Austria in March 2007. Later, he participated in the Euro 2008, Euro 2012 and World Cup 2014 with the French team. But from the end of 2015, he was rejected by Deschamps’ French national team because he was involved in the extortion case of French player Walbouena. It was during his absence that the French team ushered in one of the most brilliant periods in its history: the team won the runner up at the European Championships in 2016 and won the championship at the Russian World Cup in 2018.

In 2021, Deschamps was forced by external pressure to recruit Benzema again. Although Benzema scored four goals in the European Championship, it was a pity that France was not in the last eight. In October of the same year, Benzema helped the team win the UEFA Champions League, which was the only trophy he ever lifted in the national team.

In Qatar World Cup, Benzema was selected into the French national team as the winner of the new Golden Ball Award. However, at the beginning of the match, he injured his left leg in training. Coach Didier Deschamps made a quick decision to let him leave the team. Benzema’s dream of the World Cup has once again failed. Only one day after France lost the final, Benzema, who had already returned to Madrid, announced the end of his national team career.

So far, Benzema has made 97 appearances in the national team uniform and scored 37 goals. He is the fifth player to score goals in the history of the French national team.

Boris Johnson’s wish to pick fights with his old enemies risks making the UK a pariah

‘No way out’: Commentator predicts Boris Johnson’s future 02:10

London (CNN)UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government have spent much of this week fighting with the EU and rowing with a European human rights court, all while playing down accusations that they are breaking international law and pandering to his party’s base.

On Monday, Johnson’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, revealed the long-awaited Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, a piece of legislation that, if passed, would allow the British government to unilaterally override parts of the Brexit deal it agreed with the EU in 2019.
Two days later, the EU responded by launching legal proceedings against the UK over its failure to implement parts of the protocol to date, while Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission vice-president, said that “there is no legal nor political justification whatsoever for unilaterally changing an international agreement … let’s call a spade a spade: this is illegal.”
UK government officials responded angrily by insisting that the bill, if passed, would be perfectly legal. Suella Braverman, the attorney general who gave the new bill a green light, went on television to defend the proposed legislation. In doing so, she accused the BBC of painting the EU as “the good guys” and told ITV’s political editor that his assertion the bill would break that law was “Remaniac make-believe.”
On Tuesday, the Johnson government found itself cursing the name of another European institution, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), after it was forced to abandon a flight that would transport asylum-seekers to Rwanda. The UK announced a deal in April under which asylum seekers in the country could be relocated and granted asylum in Rwanda. The UN’s human rights agency had previously warned the UK that the policy might be unlawful, as it could expose those refugees to human rights abuses in Rwanda.
Demonstrators protest outside of an airport perimeter fence against a planned deportation of asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda, at Gatwick Airport near Crawley, Britain, June 12, 2022.

The scheme had been widely criticized by human rights organizations, which succeeded in numerous legal challenges against individual removals but failed in their bid for an injunction suspending the flight. However, when the ECHR intervened on Tuesday night, saying that the last asylum seekers due to be on board had not exhausted their legal options in the UK, the plane was grounded.
Again, government ministers responded by insisting that the plan was lawful. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has since suggested that the UK will introduce its own Bill of Rights that could effectively allow it to ignore the ECHR.
Johnson’s willingness to have public spats with large, international institutions makes sense when you look at recent history. Both Johnson and his predecessor, Theresa May, picked fights with the judiciary and the EU during the most frustrating days of Brexit. This, so the theory goes among Conservatives, gave both leaders a boost among their core supporters for attacking elitist bodies that were blocking the will of the people.
“Historically, Boris has done well hitting out at big institutions like the EU and courts,” says a former government minister told CNN. “These were not artificial fights, both Rwanda and Northern Ireland are proper government policy. But the hardline way we’ve defended them suggests to me that Boris sees a silver lining,” they added.
In one sense, this logic makes sense. Johnson has been hit by scandal after scandal and has seen his personal approval ratings tank, along with national polling for his Conservative Party.
He has had to fight off a vote among his own party to remove him as leader and on Thursday night saw his own ethics adviser Christopher Geidt resigned, saying that Johnson’s government had put him in an “impossible and odious position.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks as he takes questions at the House of Commons in London, Britain June 15, 2022.

So, a fight with the lofty elites in Brussels and Strasbourg over real red-meat Conservative issues like Brexit and immigration could be just what Johnson needs to get things back on track.
However, every time a government becomes so fixated on domestic policy, it risks forgetting that allies and enemies around the world are paying attention.
CNN spoke to multiple Western diplomatic sources who said that Johnson’s government had cast a dark shadow over their perception of the UK. One senior Western official who has worked closely with the UK during the Ukraine crisis said that while allies still coordinated with the UK, the sense of concern that they don’t know what version of Johnson they will get has become normalized.
“He is not Donald Trump, but he is so unpredictable that it’s easy for allies to think of him as being like Donald Trump,” said a Western diplomat.
A European diplomat told CNN that “it’s hard to overstate just how much damage has been done. Trust has been hugely damaged.” They pointed to the issue over Northern Ireland, saying that “on our side, we know that there are solutions to the protocol. But those solutions rely on trust. Why should we trust him not to tear up any new agreement in the future?”
Western officials say, with some sadness, that there were moments in the immediate aftermath of Russia invading Ukraine where they thought Johnson might start behaving like a “stable and predictable” leader, as the Western diplomat put it.
A European official agreed, saying that “there were moments when we looked at the UK with some admiration and thought there might be some path forward. Ukraine was something bigger than our squabbles.”
However, the official continued that this feeling of optimism faded quickly, after Johnson compared the Ukrainian fight for freedom to Brexit.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the National Service of Thanksgiving held at St Paul's Cathedral as part of celebrations marking the Platinum Jubilee of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, in London, Friday, June 3, 2022.

Conservatives in Westminster have mixed views on how bad this all is. Some worry that Johnson’s continued scandals and rhetoric are making the UK a pariah. Worse, they fear that a country like the UK — a longstanding member of the rules-based, international order — playing so fast and loose with international law sets a terrible precedent at a time when democracy is under threat in many parts of the world.
On the other hand, some MPs think that Johnson’s critics are getting worked up about something that normal people don’t care about. They say, not unreasonably, that a G7, NATO member with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council — and one that has in many respects led the way on Ukraine — is not about to get cut out by its allies.
Ultimately, Johnson’s international spats are most likely to play out in the domestic political arena. Some will love that he is taking a hardline stance. Others will feel a deepening sense of embarrassment that this man is their prime minister.
“If you are in Boris’s position, then you may as well double down on some of this stuff. What does he have to lose?” a senior Conservative MP told CNN. “Either things are so terminally bad that he’s doomed whatever he does, or he’s got two years to turn things around before the election. So why not go out there and have fights on your own pitch?”
That summary makes a lot of sense when you are sitting in Westminster, talking to people who spend too much time in Westminster. However, Johnson’s decisions seriously impact the lives of people who spend no time in Westminster and for whom this really is not a game. Especially as the UK is going through the worst cost-of-living crisis it has suffered in decades.
Johnson won’t know if his red meat gamble has paid off with the public until the next general election — unless he’s removed from office before then. There will undeniably be people who see him as the same Brexit street fighter who stands up for Britain against the bullies seeking to do it down.
But there will be an awful lot of people who think that instead of picking fights with the EU and ECHR, Johnson should be thinking of ways to improve their lives.

Boris Johnson is still in charge. But behind closed doors, rivals are plotting his ouster

Boris Johnson ends the week with reason to be cheerful. On Monday, he survived the biggest challenge to his leadership since becoming Prime Minister, after his Conservative MPs backed him in a confidence vote to remain party leader by 211 to 148.

That victory does, however, come with some major caveats.
Johnson’s government is currently thought to have somewhere between 170-180 MPs on its payroll. As the vote was private, that means as a best-case scenario, Johnson was only able to secure a handful of backbench votes. In a worst-case scenario, people on the payroll voted against him the second they were given the protection of anonymity.
While Johnson and his allies have since claimed the victory was convincing and a decisive result that hands the PM a refreshed mandate, the reality is 41% of his own MPs do not want him in power. That number is worse than the result of a confidence vote in Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, in 2018 and is likely to rise in the coming months.
For now, though, Johnson’s job is safe. Conservative Party rules protect him from another confidence vote for 12 months. There is speculation that the party might try and rewrite those rules, but given the private nature of the Conservatives, it’s hard to get a real sense of how likely this is.
So, what happens next?
Johnson is announcing a flurry of policy ideas designed to cheer up his backbenchers and voters. More houses, more doctors, more police, crackdowns on illegal immigration to name a few.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the National Service of Thanksgiving held at St Paul's Cathedral as part of celebrations marking the Platinum Jubilee of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, in London, Friday, June 3, 2022.

Meanwhile, those who most want to see his downfall are not sitting on their hands. Publicly, MPs say that the result of the confidence vote means they owe Johnson their loyalty — for now. He deserves the time to turn things around, they say.
However, multiple sources confirmed to CNN that those with an eye on the top job are already building their power bases and getting ready to launch leadership bids, should the time come.
Dinners with donors who would fund individual campaigns have already taken place, organized by MPs who have already picked their choice for leader. Influential MPs have been courted to test the water.
“The phone calls tend to start with 15 minutes of insisting that Boris has their full support and that they don’t think a leadership contest will happen. Then they outline their vision of how they would improve things. It’s discreet, but it’s happening,” a senior Conservative told CNN.
The hopefuls acting most openly are unsurprisingly long-term critics of Johnson.
“Most of the activity seems to be around Jeremy Hunt and other former Remainers,” says one veteran Conservative and former cabinet minister, referring to those who wanted the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union. “That makes sense as they never wanted Boris in the first place and have the least to lose.”
Hunt, who has held three cabinet posts, most notably health, is without question the highest-profile contender on the moderate, ex-Remain side of the party. However, he comes with baggage and sources from the opposition Labour Party have told CNN they are already writing attack lines.
Jeremy Hunt is without question the highest-profile contender on the moderate, ex-Remain side of the Conservative Party.

A senior Conservative said that their fellow MPs are aware of this. “It can’t be Jeremy. Labour can say he was running healthcare for six years and failed to prepare for a pandemic. They can say when he was culture secretary he chummed up to the Murdochs during the phone hacking scandal. He will get crushed,” the source said.
Other potential candidates for this side of the party include Tom Tugendhat, a former soldier who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and the current Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi.
Tugendhat has impressed colleagues with his oratory and seriousness, most notably when he spoke about the fall of Afghanistan, a country where he’d served while in the army.
Despite voting to leave the EU in 2016, Zahawi is widely admired among the moderates in the party. Crucially, as one Conservative source put it, “he’s not been in government long enough to have any obvious defects and, despite supporting Boris even after the confidence vote, is not too tainted by association.”
Obviously running a stealth leadership campaign is harder if you are a sitting cabinet minister. How do you square defending the prime minister after the confidence vote while courting MPs to test the water?
That is the problem facing those considered to be the Leave candidates.
Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, voted Remain in 2016, but has since become one of the loudest Euroskeptic voices in the government, particularly on Northern Ireland. She has a formidable and dedicated team around her — some of whom previously worked in Number 10 — which has been producing slick videos and photos of her looking thoroughly statesmanlike. Which might come in handy if she were to run for leader, a cynic might say.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss voted Remain in 2016, but has since become one of the loudest Euroskeptic voices in the government, particularly on Northern Ireland.

A source working in the Foreign Office told CNN that since Monday, Truss “has been in endless meetings with MPs,” adding that while the meetings are officially about Northern Ireland “it’s been insinuated that she’s seeing what her support base is, should the time come.”
Truss’s office denies that any covert leadership bid is coming. She said before the confidence vote that she backed Johnson “100%” and encouraged colleagues to do the same. After the vote, she urged MPs that it was time to move on “get behind the PM”.
Truss’s most obvious rival is current Home Secretary Priti Patel. One of the Conservative sources said that Patel’s stealth campaign “has been busy, organized and running for about a year.”
Patel is very popular among the party’s grassroots and more conservative wing. She is a longstanding Euroskeptic who has years of hard talk on immigration, crime and economics under her belt. She famously used to support bringing back the death penalty, although she has since distanced herself from this.
Both cabinet ministers publicly support the prime minister and officials say that their focus is on delivering Johnson’s agenda, nothing else.
However, a government minister told CNN that some cabinet ministers are “using their office to raise their profile and engage with MPs.”
While inviting influential MPs into your grand office of state is nothing new, the minister says that the tone in Westminster “has changed since Monday. Everyone expects that there will be a vacancy at some point in the near future.”
The next major hurdle for Johnson to clear is the two by-elections taking place on June 23. If he loses both, which is not impossible, his critics will move again. The party might try to rewrite rules so he faces another leadership vote.
If the party doesn’t rewrite the rules, he has an uphill struggle to turn around both his own popularity and the popularity of his party before the next scheduled election in 2024.
It’s an unenviable task, given the UK is experiencing a cost-of-living crisis and the Conservatives have been in power for 12 years. And under normal circumstances, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Johnson is safe as no one in their right mind wants the job.
But that’s how bad things are. Despite how grim the next few years look for the UK, ambitious politicians are willing to throw their hats in the ring at what might be the worst possible moment and risk their whole career. Because if they don’t, it’s anyone’s guess how far Johnson might pull his party down with him.

‘Women are more emotional than men’: Kenny Shiels apologizes for his comments following Northern Ireland’s defeat to England

Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels has been widely criticized for his post match comments.

Kenny Shiels — manager of the Northern Ireland women’s football team — has apologized for comments he said in a post-match press conference suggesting women are prone to conceding goals in quick succession because they “are more emotional than men.”

In a statement, Shiels apologized for the “offence oofos shoes that [his comments] have caused” and said that he is “proud to manage a group of players who are role models for so many girls, and boys, across the country.”
Shiels’ comments came after his side had been defeated 5-0 by England in a Women’s World Cup qualifier, ending its hopes of reaching the main draw. England scored its first goal after 28 minutes and second after 52 minutes.
“When we went 1-0 down, we killed the game, tried to just slow it right down to give them time to get that emotional imbalance out of their head,” Shiels said. “And that’s an issue we have not just in Northern Ireland, but all the countries have that problem.”
His remarks were met with widespread criticism.
“I think we all know that the five minutes after you concede a goal — not just in women’s football, [also] in men’s football — you’re more likely to concede a goal,” former England goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain told the BBC. “To just generalize that to women is a slightly bizarre comment.”
“Hearing a man talking about women being too emotional in this day and age, I just felt like I’d gone back 30 years, to be perfectly honest with you,” Yvonne Harrison, chief executive of Women in Football, said to the Press Association.
“It’s something women have had to face for years and years right across society, not just sport.”
Shiels has managed the women’s team in Northern Ireland since May 2019, overseeing its successful qualification for the Women’s Euro 2022 — the country’s first ever major women’s football tournament.
His press conference detracted from a record-breaking night as the match was attended by 15,348 spectators — the largest crowd thorogood boots ever seen at a women’s football match in England.
In Northern Ireland too, women’s football is growing in popularity. In an interview with CNN Sport last year, Northern Ireland’s most capped player, Julie Nelson, said that women’s football has “changed massively” in her lifetime.
When she first began playing football at age five, there was “nowhere that you would have seen women playing — and there were no local teams where I lived.”

A tennis star returned to Ukraine to help fight the Russians. He didn’t tell his kids

Ukrainian tennis star Sergiy Stakhovsky was vacationing with his family in Dubai when Russian forces invaded his home country.

He made a tough decision to leave his wife and three young children at their home in Hungary and return to his homeland to join the fight. He’s now a member of the army reservists helping defend the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
As a Russian military convoy closes in on the city and dread hangs in the air, Stakhovsky, 36, says he is prepared to do whatever it takes. He told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Thursday that his goal is to help save Ukraine for its citizens and his children.
“I was born here, my grandparents thorogood boots are buried here, and I would like to have a history to tell to my kids,” he said. “Nobody here wants Russia to free them, they have freedom and democracy … and Russia wants to bring despair and poverty.”
Stakhovsky had retired from professional tennis only weeks earlier at the Australian Open, ending an 18-year career. Now he’s hunkered down with his fellow civilian soldiers in Kyiv — and struggling with his decision.
He feels guilty about leaving his family
Once the 31st-ranked men’s player in the world, Stakhovsky once beat Roger Federer in a major upset at Wimbledon in 2013.
In January, he was playing his final professional match at the Australian Open. Now his retirement days involve fear and uncertainty, listening to air-raid sirens and explosions at all hours.
Stakhovsky said he believes people like him — untrained in warfare but fiercely patriotic — make up a big part of the fighters defending Ukraine.
But he said leaving his wife and children to put himself in harm’s way was not an easy decision.

Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovsky, playing in the 2019 French Open in Paris.

“It’s impossible to make that call without hesitation. I have a wife and three kids,” he said. “If I would stay home, I’d feel guilt that I didn’t come back (to Ukraine), and now I’m here, I feel guilty that I left them at home.”
His wife also is struggling with his decision, he said.
“Of course, she was mad,” he said. “She understood the reason for me, but for her it was a betrayal. And I totally understand why she feels that way.”
He said they haven’t told their kids, all under age 7, who likely believe he’s at a tennis tournament.
“My wife didn’t tell them and I didn’t tell them … where I’m going,” he said. “I guess they’ll figure it out soon.”
He’s one of several famous Ukrainian athletes to join the fight against Russia
The Ukrainian government has asked men between ages 18 and 60 to fight against the Russian invasion.
Other sports stars including Yuriy Vernydub, a manager with FC Sheriff Tiraspol in a Moldovan soccer league, have returned to Ukraine and taken up arms. So have oofos shoes champion boxers Oleksandr Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko.
“If they will want to take my life, or the lives of my close ones, I will have to do it,” Usyk told CNN from a basement in Kyiv. “But I don’t want that. I don’t want to shoot, I don’t want to kill anybody, but if they will be killing me, I will have no choice.”
Stakhovsky faces similar fears and prays he’ll make it out alive and get back to his family. Civilian fighters like himself in Ukraine have received “a basic class on how to shoot,” he told CNN. “I think people like me will be the last resort.”
And while he hopes he doesn’t have to shoot anyone, he said he will if he has to.
“I’m not sure there’s one individual who’s ready to tell you now whether he’s ready to sacrifice life. I want to see my kids … I want to see my wife, that’s my goal,” he said. “If a missile comes into the house, is that sacrificing your life? No. It’s just being killed.”
He hopes that when his children find out the truth about his whereabouts, they’ll understand why he chose to fight for his homeland.
“Because a country which I love … I would like it to still be on the map, develop, become better, become European more, and eventually my kids can see the transformation of my country.”

As candidates refuse to disavow McConnell, Trump comes to terms with his grip on GOP

Donald Trump is facing weak support among Republicans for his calls to depose Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and aides and allies say it’s forcing the former President to confront new limitations on his influence over the party.

In the 11 months that have passed since Trump first called for the Kentucky Republican to be ousted — suggesting shortly after his second Senate impeachment trial ended that it was time for the “unsmiling political hack” to be voted out of office — McConnell’s red wing boots authority among Senate Republicans has neither waned nor has he faced the onslaught of blistering attacks from GOP hopefuls that Trump has been pining for.
Most candidates who have nabbed Trump’s endorsement have refused to declare war on McConnell, who remains a powerful fundraiser and influential party figure in his own right, while those who are still angling for the former President’s support have also stopped short of staking out opposition to the powerful senator from Kentucky. Trump’s ineffective attempt, thus far, to challenge the top Senate Republican has forced him to temper his criteria as he aims to be a kingmaker in this year’s midterm elections, according to multiple people close to the former President who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity.
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Some of his aides have warned him that requiring unequivocal opposition to McConnell to secure or maintain his support is incompatible with his broader objectives — a warning that Trump himself appears to be considering. The former President has not rescinded his endorsements of candidates who have stopped short of opposing McConnell and previously earned Trump’s support, and he continues to privately consider endorsements for other candidates who have openly mused about reelecting McConnell if they make it into the Senate, according to a person familiar with Trump’s thinking.
“In working for Trump for a while now, this is going to be a litmus test for him. But at the end of the day, whether a candidate says he won’t vote for McConnell as leader or is generally critical of current party leadership is likely to be considered one and the same,” said one Trump adviser.
The modified condition comes as numerous hoka shoes for women Senate Republican hopefuls who have cozied up to Trump in pursuit of his endorsement have either sidestepped questions about McConnell altogether or declined to rule out supporting his reelection as leader if they make it through their primaries and the general election.
In the Alabama Senate primary, where Trump has endorsed ultraconservative Congressman Mo Brooks, a Brooks campaign aide said the candidate’s position has not changed since he told Politico in early December that he would back McConnell for another two-year leadership term “if he’s the most conservative.”
In North Carolina, Trump’s preferred candidate, Rep. Ted Budd, has declined to answer questions about McConnell’s leadership abilities. Budd campaign spokesman Jonathan Felts pointed to a statement he made last month that artfully dodged any criticism of McConnell by saying the congressman’s “only thought on future leadership elections is that we want to do our part to ensure that the Republican leader is the majority leader.”
“We’ve been pretty consistent on day one on that front,” Felts said.
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Across several other primaries, Republican candidates have also ignored Trump’s entreaties for McConnell’s ouster. Straddling a desire to earn the former President’s support without jeopardizing potential assistance from the McConnell-linked Senate Leadership Fund later on, they have limited their criticism to veiled barbs at the “establishment” or refuse to even answer questions about McConnell.
In the Senate primary in Ohio, for example, where four candidates are jockeying for Trump’s endorsement, no one has outright said they would decline to reelect McConnell to his leadership post if elected. Candidates Josh Mandel and Jane Timken have danced around such questions, while J.D. Vance has described the Kentucky Republican as “a little out of touch with the base” but also stopped short of saying he would oppose him for leadership.
“Look, man, I’ve been the only person in the Ohio Senate race who has actually been willing to criticize leadership … but I do think we’ve got a ground up problem as much as we’ve got a top down,” Vance told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon during an appearance on his podcast last Thursday.
One Trump adviser who requested anonymity for fear of retribution said the Ohio primary “proves that McConnell is impenetrable,” adding that it is “a waste of time for Trump to be channeling all of his anger towards McConnell, who shares his goal of winning back the Senate.”
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“You have four candidates who would seemingly do anything for [Trump’s] endorsement and yet not one of them is willing to stand up and say, ‘It’s time for McConnell to go.’ That says a lot about McConnell’s survivability and it also shows that there are limitations to President Trump’s influence,” the adviser said.
So far, only two high-profile Senate Republican candidates have sided with Trump in his battle against the senator: ex-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who has accused McConnell of “working against President Trump and the MAGA movement,” and Alaska US Senate hopeful Kelly Tshibaka, who definitively ruled out supporting McConnell as leader in a statement last month. CNN reached out to a dozen other Senate GOP hopefuls who are running as pro-Trump candidates to see where they stand on McConnell and heard back from only three, all of whom declined to comment.
Greitens, who is hoping Republican primary voters will look past the allegations of sexual assault and campaign finance misconduct that led to his resignation as governor in 2018, said it would be difficult for McConnell to redeem himself in his eyes unless he backed “full forensic audits” of the 2020 election in a handful of battleground states where Trump has erroneously claimed that widespread fraud occurred.
“This is a very hard call that US senators are going to make,” he said of supporting McConnell in an interview with CNN.
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A statement from Arizona US Senate candidate Blake Masters’ campaign underscored how difficult the situation has become for Republican hopefuls who wish to earn Trump’s endorsement without drawing McConnell’s ire. “Blake will only vote for leadership that is serious about going on offense and actually legislating an America First agenda. He’ll meet with anyone running for leader, including Mitch McConnell, and will vote for whoever is most serious about not just stopping the left’s agenda, but also advancing our own,” the statement read.
At least one Senate candidate who was recruited and endorsed by Trump has also received McConnell’s backing and is not expected to turn against the Senate minority leader, according to a person close to his campaign. Georgia’s Herschel Walker, the retired NFL running back who is challenging Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, was endorsed by Trump last September after the former President urged him to enter the race and “is considered a reasonable exception” to his litmus test on McConnell, according to a person close to Trump. McConnell endorsed Walker in late October, describing him as “the only one who can unite the party, defeat Senator Warnock and help us take back the Senate.”

‘He’s not like Pelosi’

Some of Trump’s allies said his calls for McConnell’s ouster stem from a personal vendetta against the Republican leader and therefore they doubt that he will religiously enforce a litmus test against GOP candidates who decline to oppose McConnell but otherwise fully embrace the former President and his agenda.
They consider this a relief, noting that not all GOP voters share Trump’s frustration with the minority leader and most Republican candidates who make it beyond primaries will need institutional support, like that of the McConnell-aligned Senate hoka shoes Leadership Fund, to defeat their Democratic opponents.
“There are still a lot of folks who respect McConnell in the party. McConnell is not where Trump thinks he is among the GOP base. The party as a whole doesn’t all hate him. He’s not like [Democratic House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi,” said a former Trump campaign official.
Another person close to the 45th President suggested that where Trump sees “a broken old crow, other Republicans see a dedicated public servant who helped put three conservatives on the Supreme Court and got a massive tax cut through Congress” (Trump has nicknamed McConnell “old crow” in numerous statements condemning the minority leader).
“Mitch McConnell did a great job getting President Trump’s judges into the judicial branch. That was a major accomplishment of the Trump administration and McConnell did a good job helping him,” said Greitens. “I do think, though, when you look at the totality of his record, he’s been a disaster for the America First movement.”
The former Trump campaign official said the main difference between Trump and McConnell is that the Kentucky Republican is “self-aware enough to recognize that some candidates will have to make him a target in order to shore up the base and he won’t take it personally.”
“McConnell understands politics better than most and knows that folks are going to come after him a bit because attacking the permanent Washington political class is good politics in certain parts of the country,” the official said.
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There is little doubt that candidates who are vying for Trump’s endorsement in competitive primaries would boost their chances of securing it if they declared their opposition to McConnell once and for all, but there is also little doubt that doing so could cost them critical donor support and the financial backing of groups like Senate Leadership Fund and the National Senatorial Campaign Committee post-primary. Senate Leadership Fund and another McConnell-linked group known as American Crossroads spent a combined $462 million in the 2020 cycle and are expected to make significant investments in this midterm cycle as well.
One adviser to a high-profile GOP Senate candidate told CNN that he and other campaign operatives he knows are afraid of losing out on support from McConnell’s political machine and believe their candidates can win their primaries without going after the minority leader.
“Mitch McConnell has been a player in Republican politics for decades. He has contacts, donor relationships and alliances that simply cannot be rivaled and we have to ask ourselves if it’s really worth pissing off a guy like that when there are other things we can do, and have been doing, to prove that we will advance an America First agenda with or without McConnell’s help,” the campaign aide said.

An escalating feud

What began as an isolated confrontation last year after McConnell blamed Trump for the deadly US Capitol riot on January 6 has since evolved into a steady series of hostile attacks by the former President against the top Senate Republican.
Republican candidates across the country refuse to acknowledge Biden won legitimately
Trump has torched McConnell over his support for President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which the Senate passed in August and Biden signed into law in mid-November. The former President has repeatedly slammed McConnell for supporting the massive infrastructure investment, which eluded Trump during his time in office, suggesting that the minority leader and other Republicans who got behind the legislation “should be ashamed of themselves.” And Trump has criticized McConnell for cutting a deal with Senate Democrats to end a December standoff over increasing the federal government’s debt limit.
“He has all the cards to win, but not the ‘guts’ to play them. Instead, he gives our country away, just like he did with the two Senate seats in Georgia, and the presidency itself,” Trump charged in a statement last month.
Trump’s attacks on McConnell escalated last fall, when he began discussing ways to dethrone the GOP leader with other Republican senators and some of his top allies, according to a person involved in the effort, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal in September. But Trump struggled to find much support for the move inside the upper chamber, this person said.
“How this guy can stay as Leader is beyond comprehension — this is coming not only from me, but from virtually everyone in the Republican Party,” Trump nevertheless claimed in a December statement.

Novak Djokovic’s fans are fighting to get him out of his hotel. Inside, refugees wonder if they’ll ever leave

For months, activists have gathered outside a rundown hotel in central Melbourne, calling for the dozens of refugees held inside to be freed.

But on Friday, a different group of protesters had an unusual detainee in their sights: tennis World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is confined to the hotel as he mounts a legal challenge to the revocation of his visa ahead of the Australian Open.
“Free Novac [sic],” read one protester’s handwritten sign stuck to a tennis racket. “Let Novac play.”
Australian Open organizers said Tuesday that Djokovic — who has previously criticized Covid-19 vaccine mandates — was granted a “medical exemption” from the requirement that international travelers must be fully vaccinated to enter the country.
But Djokovic arrived in Australia olukai shoes this week to find his visa revoked, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying the 34-year-old Serb “didn’t have a valid medical exemption.”
Tennis Australia was advised in a letter as far back as November 2021 that unvaccinated players with a recent Covid-19 infection would not be allowed to enter the country based on public health guidelines, Morrison told reporters Thursday.
Djokovic’s legal team won an urgent injunction against the decision, but it remains unclear whether the defending Australian Open men’s singles champion will be able to compete in the tournament, which starts January 17.
Court documents published on Saturday by Australia’s Federal Circuit show that Djokovic was granted a medical exemption to compete after testing positive Covid-19 in December. His lawyers are appealing the visa cancellation and did not wish to comment ahead of his court hearing Monday.
People hold placards outside the Park Hotel where 20-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic is staying in Melbourne on January 7, 2022.

Djokovic case has gone far beyond an individual visa issue. It’s prompted anger from people who feel the rich and powerful are getting an easy ride when it comes to Australia’s tough Covid-19 rules, which have seen families separated for years — but it’s also angered anti-vaxxers who believe hey dude coronavirus restrictions are encroaching on their civil liberties. And it’s prompted concerns from Australia’s Serbian community, some of whom say Djokovic is being unfairly targeted.
But Djokovic’s situation has also highlighted the plight of asylum seekers in Australia. While the tennis star will ultimately either be allowed to play in the tournament or forced to leave the country, other detainees in the same facility have been locked up for years — and face indefinite detention under Australia’s tough immigration rules.

Widespread outrage

As dozens of protesters from disparate groups of the political spectrum gathered outside the Park Hotel on Friday, there was one thing that united them: the push for freedom.
Some were from Serbian cultural groups, singing and waving the Balkan country’s flag, who saw Djokovic’s detention as a great injustice against one of the world’s biggest sports stars.
“I don’t see why he should be stuck in a detention center,” said Tara, a 17-year-old Australian-Serb and junior tennis player, who did not give a last name. “Everyone has their own freedom of choice, vaccinated or not.”
Djokovic, who is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on a record 20 men’s grand slam singles titles, has not publicly revealed his vaccination status but voiced opposition to Covid-19 vaccines and vaccine mandates in April 2020.
A general view of the government detention center, the Park Hotel.

Others used Djokovic’s plight as an opportunity to criticize how vaccine mandates had curtailed civil liberties.
One woman — who gave her name only as Matty for privacy reasons — said if Djokovic went home, she wouldn’t watch the Australian Open.
“I used to go every year — I can’t this year because of the vaccine mandates,” said Matty, who added she is unvaccinated.
Another masked person, who declined to speak to CNN, held a sign declaring Djokovic a “hostage of the communist state.”
But others focused their attention on the approximately 30 refugees held in the hotel.
Authorities detain another top-flight tennis player over visa issues ahead of Australian Open
Previously used by the Australian government as a Covid-19 quarantine facility, the hotel has been an Alternative Place of Detention (APOD) for refugees and asylum seekers for at least a year.
Nearly a decade ago, Australia said no asylum seekers who arrived by boat would ever be settled in the country. Hundreds were housed at offshore processing centers for years, although some were sent to hotels in Australia to be treated for health conditions.
The refugees still have little hope of freedom, and the conditions they are held in is hugely controversial. Standing in front of the Park Hotel, which is tagged with the words “free them,” Tom Hardman, a 27-year-old teacher, said he had come out in support of the refugees.
“I’m here because the loneliness and the heartache these men suffer from not knowing when they will be released is unbearable to witness,” he said.
Police stand guard at the government detention center.

Oscar Sterner, 25, said he was opposed to both anti-vaxxers and the way refugees were kept in detention — and said the real problem was putting an unvaccinated visitor in a hotel with refugees who required medical attention.
“Djokovic is a millionaire scumbag who has rightly incurred the anger of a lot of people in Australia,” he said. “He can’t be bothered to get vaccinated to protect the people around him.”

What it’s like inside

Djokovic’s supporters have hit out at his treatment, with the tennis star’s mother saying her son is being “treated like a prisoner.”
“It’s so dirty and the food is so terrible,” Dijana Djokovic told reporters Thursday at a news conference in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade. “It’s just not fair. It’s not human.”
American tennis star John Isner also tweeted in support of Djokovic, saying keeping him in the hotel was “not right.”
“There’s no justification for the red wing boots treatment he’s receiving. He followed the rules, was allowed to enter Australia, and now he’s being detained against his own will. This is such a shame.”
Australia’s home affairs minister Karen Andrews said Friday that Djokovic is “not being held captive” and can leave the country when he chooses.
“He is free to leave at anytime that he chooses to do so and Border Force will actually facilitate that,” Andrews told public broadcaster ABC. “It is the individual traveler’s responsibility to make sure that they have in place all the necessary documentation that is needed to enter Australia.”
Australian immigration laws allow for an up to three year re-entry ban into the country following a visa cancellation under certain conditions — but it is unclear if Djokovic will face such a penalty.
In a statement Friday, the Professional Tennis Players Association said Djokovic had verified his well-being.
“With the utmost respect for all personal views on vaccinations, vaccinated athletes and unvaccinated athletes (with an approved medical exemption) should both be afforded the freedom to compete,” said the association, which was co-founded by Djokovic. “We will continue to support and advocate for our members, and all players, in a manner that is acceptable to them.”
Australia vowed to never let these men settle on its soil. Some just got visas
According to human rights lawyer Alison Battisson, who has four clients inside the Park Hotel, visitors without the correct visa for Australia are normally handcuffed and transported to an immigration detention center in an unmarked van with blacked-out windows.
“It is an incredibly traumatic and dehumanizing process,” she said.
Video of the Park Hotel shared with CNN shows detainees in small rooms that include a double bed, a TV and some chairs. Asylum seekers have access to a stairway that leads them to a rooftop where they are able to smoke. It’s unclear whether Djokovic is staying in the same conditions.
“This is a window, we can’t open it at any stage,” said Adnan Choopani, one of the detainees, in a video filmed for CNN.
While the hotel appears clean and well-kept in footage filmed by Choopani, there have been reports of issues in the past. According to Battison, there was a Covid outbreak in the facility last year, and detainees have reported finding maggots in their food.

The other detainees

For the 30 or so refugees held in the hotel, the media spotlight on Djokovic is difficult to swallow. Many have been detained for years — and have little hope of ever getting out.
Mehdi, who asked to only use one name to protect his family, escaped from Iran when he was 15 years old and has been held in Australian detention for more than eight years with limited access to education or health care.
“I’ve served my time,” said Mehdi, who turned 24 on Friday. “We are suffering, we are exhausted and we are tired … you are in indefinite detention, which means they can keep you as long as they can, as long as they want.”
Cousins Adnan Choopani and Mehdi were 15 when they fled Iran. Now, they're 24 and still in immigration detention.

Choopani said he and his fellow detainees were just sitting in their rooms, with many of them taking medication for depression. Choopani is Mehdi’s cousin, and he left Iran when he was also 15. He dreams of taking a walk on a street or going out for a coffee.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I think this is just a nightmare … we live in the 21st century, in a country who believes in democracy still doing this kind of behavior to innocent people.”
Although it’s unclear whether Djokovic will be allowed to play at Melbourne Park this month, the tennis star will eventually be let out of the hotel.
Craig Foster, a former Australia national team footballer who advocates on behalf of the asylum seekers, says he hopes at least some good can come from the situation.
“In one way, it’s good for the world to see how Australia has been treating our entrants, whether they’re asylum seekers or refugees, or indeed an athlete like Novak who has simply fallen afoul, apparently, on the documentation on his visa,” he said.
“If anything, we’re hoping that this entire embarrassing saga comes to place Australians in a position where they understand more the plight of these people.”

The Pope reflects on relationships in pandemic times in his traditional Christmas address

Pope Francis waves following his Christmas blessing in St. Peter's Square on December 25, 2021.

Pope Francis has dedicated a large part of his traditional Christmas message on Saturday to reflect on the pandemic and its impact on relationships.

Speaking from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, the Pontiff called the pandemic a “complex crisis” that has tested social relationships and increased tendencies of withdrawal.
“Our capacity for social relationships is sorely tired,” Francis told the people in the square as well as the millions of Catholics watching the address from around the world.
“There is a growing tendency to withdraw, to do it all by ourselves, to stop making an effort to encounter others and do things together,” he added.
The Pope’s traditional “Urbi et Orbi” or “To the City and the World” Christmas hoka shoes for women address was affected by the pandemic for the second year running.
Unlike in 2020, people were able to come to the square to listen to the traditional message this year, but the number of attendees was only about a fifth of what it was before the pandemic, because of the current increase in coronavirus cases in Italy.
The country reported a record-breaking 50,599 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, the highest daily figure since the pandemic began, according to health ministry data.
Last year, the Pope delivered the address from the Apostolic Palace instead of the balcony, with the public not allowed to attend.
On Christmas Eve, the Pope led a vigil mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with about 2,000 people in attendance, Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni told CNN.
The Pope said on Saturday that the pandemic has also affected dialogue, in relation to international conflict, leading people to take “shortcuts rather than setting out on the longer paths” for talks.
“Sisters and brothers, what would our world be like without the patient dialogue of the many generous persons who keep families and communities together? In this time of the pandemic, we have come to realize this more and more,” he said.
Pope Francis decries 'shipwreck of civilization' as he visits refugees on Greek island of Lesbos
He urged the world to “open its hearts” to ensure necessary medical care, particularly vaccines, is provided to vulnerable people.
“God-with-us, grant health to the infirm and inspire all men and women of good will to seek the best ways possible to overcome the current health crisis and its effects. Open hearts to ensure that necessary medical care — and vaccines in particular — are provided to those peoples who need them most. Repay those who generously devote themselves to caring for family members, the sick and the most vulnerable in our midst,” he said.
The leader of the Catholic Church added that the world has become so used to hoka shoes immense tragedies that “we hardly even notice them anymore.” He called for an end to conflicts throughout the Middle East and Africa, listing several places — including Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Ethiopia.
The 85-year-old pontiff also used his Christmas message to address violence against women, which he said has increased during the pandemic. In a speech that marked his ninth Christmas as pontiff, Francis also highlighted the plight of refugees and migrants.

Apple is being sued by a San Francisco man for $1,383.13, the exact cost of his iPhone 12. He says the company refused to fix the device while it was under warranty.

An old San Francisco building is reflected inside the glossy Apple store logo
San Francisco’s Apple Store. 
  • An Apple iPhone owner sued the tech giant for $1,383.13, the exact cost of his phone.
  • Theodore A. Kim filed the lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court last week.
  • Kim said the company refused to repair his iPhone despite it being under warranty.

An iPhone user in San Francisco has sued Apple for the exact cost of his iPhone, saying the company refused to repair the device despite it being under warranty.

Theodore A. Kim filed a lawsuit in San Francisco seeking $1,383.13, the original cost of his phone. The claim was filed in small claims court.

“It levels the playing field so that just a dr martens boots simple consumer like me can sue a big company without having to worry about getting lawyers and all that other stuff,” Kim told Insider in a phone interview last week. “I feel like at least I want my day in court.”

The court clerk set a trial for 1.30 p.m. on November 23, 2021, according to documents. Apple didn’t respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

The phone Kim’s suing over was originally purchased from an authorized Apple seller in Vietnam in October 2020, he said. The iPhone 12 was under Apple’s warranty until October 2022, he said.

When Kim returned to the US during the pandemic, he was having trouble getting the phone to read a US sim card. So he called Apple, and they told him to bring it into a local Apple Store.

“And so I brought it into the store and they sent it to the repair depot – then they came back and said, ‘Yeah, we’re not going to fix this because it’s been tampered with,'” Kim said. “And I said: ‘Tampered with in what way?'”

He didn’t get an answer, he said. Instead, they returned the phone. But now it had a broken SIM tray, Kim said.

A few weeks later, Kim filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Apple responded to that complaint, saying the iPhone would have been repaired if it had been broken while the company had it.

“Apple considers this matter closed,” the company said, according to the BBB website.

Since Apple wouldn’t fix the phone under the warranty – which Kim said was voided by the company – he offered to pay for the repair. But the company again refused, he said.

As a final gambit, he sent an email to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s email address in late June. He didn’t hear back. So he turned to Google for ways to solve the problem.

“And I found a blog post of someone in Seattle successfully suing Apple in small claims court,” Kim said.

In that 2012 case, a blogger brought Apple to small claims court in steve madden shoes Washington after his 2008 MacBook Pro’s graphics card died. That blogger’s experience was similar enough to his that Kim thought he might have a chance in court.

“So I said, ‘Well, OK, why don’t I try the same avenue,'” he said. “I kind of jokingly said, ‘Well, this is like a David and Goliath kind of situation.’ We’ll see what happens.”

Tom Brady considered leaving his final Patriots training camp after Bill Belichick refused to give him a long-term contract, book says

Tom Brady stands on the sideline during a Patriots game.
Tom Brady. Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
  • Tom Brady nearly left the Patriots training camp in 2019 over his contract, according to a new book.
  • Brady wanted a two-year contract to take him to 45, but Bill Belichick refused.
  • He played out the season with the Patriots, then left to join the Bucs.

Tom Brady nearly snapped when the New England Patriots refused to commit to him long term in 2019, a new book says.

According to Seth Wickersham’s ecco shoes book about the Patriots dynasty, “It’s Better To Be Feared,” Brady “considered walking out of training camp” when the team wouldn’t give him a long-term contract.

Brady, who was 42 at the time, wanted a two-year deal to secure his future in New England until he turned 45. He had been playing on year-to-year deals that gave the team flexibility to build the roster around him but kept them from making a long-term investment in a quarterback who was already playing at an age few thought was possible.

According to Wickersham, Bill Belichick refused to bend on the contract. While the team’s owner, Robert Kraft, was OK with it, he also declined to get involved and override Belichick, the book says.

Brady, of course, did not leave training camp, but according to Wickersham, it affected Brady’s mindset for the season.

There had been indications of mounting tension, and Brady’s displeasure with the “Patriot Way” had been made clear. The previous year, he skipped voluntary organized team activities for the first time in years. He still worked out – it was just down the street from the practices at his TB12 training center.

There were signs that Brady’s time with the Patriots was coming to an end throughout the 2019 season. He had put his Brookline, Massachusetts, home up for sale, and his trainer and business partner, Alex Guerrero, also listed his home.

Brady’s contract also allowed him to hit free agency for the first time.

Despite a strong individual and team season – the Patriots went 12-4 – Brady wasn’t enjoying it as much as usual, steve madden shoes the book says. According to Wickersham, in December, Brady asked a friend, “Why am I doing this?”

Brady’s time in New England didn’t last long after that. The Patriots lost to the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card game in Foxborough, with Brady throwing the game-ending interception.

Months later, he signed a two-year $50 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and led them to the Super Bowl.