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French diplomat: Relations with Egypt “strong”, trilateral talks important for settling Gaza crisis

ALEXANDRIA – France’s Consul General in Alexandria Lena Blin affirmed the strength of the relations between Cairo and Paris, which encompass various political, economic, social, and cultural fields. In statements to MENA, the diplomat said that there is constant and ongoing coordination between Egypt and France regarding regional and international issues, emphasising Egypt’s pivotal role in enhancing security and stability in the region. Blin underscored the importance of the trilateral talks held by the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, and France in Cairo on Saturday, regarding the situation in Gaza and joint action plans to achieve a permanent ceasefire and alleviate the humanitarian crisis affecting the inhabitants of the Strip. She added that this strengthened the close coordination to resolve the regional crisis, affirming that the war in Gaza must come to an end, noting that France has repeatedly called for a ceasefire. She continued, saying, “Pressure must be exerted to bring in more humanitarian aid and reach a ceasefire that can protect all civilian populations.”

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Canadian towns on solar eclipse’s path of totality brace for crush of visitors

Municipalities across Central and Eastern Canada have spent months preparing for an event that will last just three-and-a-half minutes: a total solar eclipse that will cast parts of the country into complete darkness. Many cities and towns in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are gearing up to host thousands of visitors from across Canada and beyond hoping to catch a rare alignment of the sun, Earth and moon on April 8. And municipalities are not missing this chance to welcome tourists in large numbers. Visitors may feel like the busy travel season has come early, with hotels at capacity and seasonal attractions such as live music performances and food trucks available before their typical summer hours begin. For Miramichi, N.B., the solar eclipse is going to be the highlight of the year’s tourism season, says Paul McGraw, economic development officer for the city about 180 kilometres northeast of Fredericton. “We recognized the opportunity early in 2023, but then it was like: ‘How can we take advantage of this?’” McGraw recalled. Miramichi will host solar eclipse-themed events starting Wednesday (April 3) and running into the weekend — with a drone light show, astronomy conference, music festival and an innovation fair welcoming 2,500 students from across Atlantic Canada. The city, which has a population of about 18,000, has ordered 20,000 eclipse eyewear, while also leaving room for local businesses to sell equipment. On the day of the eclipse, enthusiasts can head to the Miramichi-Chatham Airport parking lot for an unobstructed view for free, McGraw said. “We’re upwards of 800 (bookings) right now and we have a capacity of 1,500 (cars),” he said, adding an estimated 6,000 people can be gathered for the eclipse. “It’s pretty optimistic.” Elsewhere, demand and prices for hotels and short-term rentals for the solar eclipse weekend have surged. Niagara Falls and Montreal are the two most booked destinations for that weekend, a report from Airbnb said. “This eclipse makes Montreal attractive, especially for those living north of the trajectory, so it’s this clientele that we’re expecting to see more of on April 8,” said Montreal public affairs spokesperson Aurélie de Blois in an email. In the Niagara region, many hotels are booked to capacity, and some charged as much as double their typical price for the weekend. The city is expecting upward of one million visitors over the eclipse weekend. “We have 14,000 hotel rooms,” said Janice Thomson, president and CEO of Niagara Falls Tourism. “The hotels generally are almost completely booked up.” She added travellers had made reservations months in advance for the special event, while many locals from nearby regions are expected to come by train or car for the historic moment. There will be additional GO Transit trains running to and from Niagara Falls that day as the regional transit operator expects the number of travellers to surge. It is also adding extra cars to its trains to accommodate as many people as possible. Ontario is home to several other spots along the path of totality — where the full eclipse will be visible — including Hamilton, Belleville and Kingston. A boat trip on Lake Ontario during the eclipse is one option for visitors to Kingston. “The 1000 Islands Cruise does not typically open this early in their season,” said Ashley Bradshaw, destination development manager at Tourism Kingston. “We don’t usually see our major attractions open until late May and into the summer season.” Bradshaw added Kingston hotels have also seen an uptick in bookings, going as far back as last fall, and are expecting visitors from Japan, England and Finland. Port Colborne on Lake Erie, about 30 kilometres south of Niagara Falls, has set up shops to make the day an educational expedition for visitors. The day will be packed with an inflatable planetarium with astronomical projections, telescope tours to observe sunspots and flares; and Let’s Talk Science with Brock University experts. “There really is something for everyone,” said Scott Luey, chief administrative officer of Port Colborne. “If you want to be on the lake, it can be on the lake. If you want to be at one of our parks, you can be at the park,” Luey said. “We are a front-row seat to the event. It’s a great place to gather.”

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I couldn’t believe what my date did while I was in the bathroom

The nerve of this guy (Picture: Getty) ‘One day, we will go to Roma.’ I gazed at Giovanni* and couldn’t believe my luck. Was this suave, sophisticated, well-groomed, quite frankly gorgeous man on a date with me? His Italian designer coat and designer stubble stood out a mile among the other unshaven, tracksuit-clad men propping up the Edinburgh Old Town bar. I’d met my Italian stallion on a dating app, so although I’d had some idea of his looks and charisma before our in-person meeting, past experience had taught me to never trust profile pictures. This time, though, I was most definitely not disappointed. For the next two hours, Giovanni’s Italian charm threatened to overwhelm any sense of first-date decorum I had, as he poured me glass after glass of red wine while wooing me with tales of Rome, Florence, Venice, pizza and pasta. ‘Have you ever seen the sun set over St Mark’s Square?’ he whispered softly as he tucked a stray strand of hair behind my ear. ‘There is so much beauty in Italy, and we will see it together, one day.’ Yup, the man was smooth. Never usually one to be taken in by a display of charm, I tried turning the conversation to more practical matters, stopping me from inevitably leaning in to kiss him. ‘So, Giovanni, what do you do? For work, I mean.’ ‘I… ahh… right now I am between jobs. I am finishing my art degree and will become an artist, but it is not to happen just yet, I feel.’ Hmm. Had he just made being unemployed sound hopelessly romantic and edgy? ‘And you?’ ‘I’m a writer. I write features, opinion pieces, that kind of thing. I’ve been doing it… over a decade now, actually.’ That made me sound ancient, but I’m nothing but passionate about my job. ‘Cool. Do you make.. how is it in English? The big bucks?’ There had to be a catch (Picture: Paula Beaton) I snorted. ‘Hardly. It pays the bills and funds my shoe-shopping habit, so I’m pretty content. I think with your art and my writing, we’d make a pretty good living,’ I quipped, chuckling. There had to be a catch. So, he didn’t have a job. He was still by far the best-looking man in this place. In Edinburgh, actually. And he had family in Italy, a passion for travel and the desire to take me with him. What more could a girl want? We’d finished a bottle of red and were into our second when the wooziness kicked in. Excusing myself to go to the bathroom, I looked back at my outrageously handsome date as I headed upstairs, and almost tripped over my own feet. In the bathroom, I excitedly called my best friend. ‘…And he’s intelligent, and funny, and gorgeous…’ She spent 10 minutes listening to me ramble on about my amazing date, while she was holed up at home on a Saturday night eating chocolate and playing Switch. I should have felt bad, but seeing as this was my first good date in… forever, actually, I didn’t. ‘Kiss him!’ was her parting advice before I reapplied my lipstick, smoothed my hair — because what nobody tells you about having a fringe in Edinburgh is that windy weather means it will never, ever lie perfectly — and headed back out to my date. Casting my eyes down towards our table, I was surprised to see that Giovanni wasn’t there. Perfect, I thought, the best date I’ve ever had and he’s ditched me. I glanced towards the bar. Was that… Giovanni… speaking to a gorgeous dark-haired woman? Feeling like I was in some kind of Agatha Christie-esque 1920s spy farce, I took up a stealthy residence behind the huge potted palm at the foot of the stairs and continued to watch the scene play out. I could hear their voices from my — admittedly not completely concealed — location, and stifled a snort as a bemused waiter glanced in my direction as he headed for the kitchen. ‘In fact, I think you’re the most beautiful woman in here tonight… possibly the most beautiful woman I’ve seen in this entire city,’ Giovanni smarmed. The woman leaned in. ‘Scottish women are, you know, sometimes not as sophisticated as Italian women’ he finished. ‘I’d love to take your number so that we can have that drink sometime, when I’m not busy with my friend.’ Oh, so I was his ‘friend’ now, was I? ‘Who was that woman you were talking to?’ I grinned flirtatiously (Picture: Paula Beaton) I headed back over to the table, seething, but out of my traitorous date’s eyeline as he swapped numbers with the attractive stranger at the bar. As he headed back to our table, a brief flicker of concern crossed his face — he clearly wondered if I’d seen what had happened. ‘Giovanni!’ I greeted him like a long-lost lover, flinging myself on him and kissing him on each cheek. Over his shoulder, I could see the mystery woman head back to her friends, a look of confusion on her face. ‘Who was that woman you were talking to?’ I grinned flirtatiously, challenging him to lie to me. ‘Oh, that, that was my sister’s friend.’ The bare-faced… ‘Oh really? It seems like perhaps you thought one date wasn’t enough for you. I heard you swapping numbers with her.’ ‘I mean, I am Italian. We like variety’ He beamed, showing off sparkling white teeth and his perfect dimples. How would you have reacted? Have your say in the comments belowComment Now The man had no shame. ‘I’m sorry, Giovanni, but you’re really taking – how is it that you say it in Italy? – Taking the biscotti! I hope you enjoyed your wine, because you’re definitely not getting me for dessert.’ ‘Ah, Paola… I am sorry that you feel this way. Perhaps we are not meant to be after all.’ What the actual – the nerve of this guy. He could keep his pizza, pasta, Venetian sunsets and Roman holidays and stick them up his… I took a deep breath. ‘Ciao, Giovanni,’ I muttered over my shoulder as I got up to leave. Ciao, indeed. I was OK with the ‘he’s just not that into you’ dates, but did he really need to be into another woman in the middle of our date? I took myself home and ordered takeaway to commiserate. But no pizza. I swore off Italian food — and men — for the foreseeable. *Name has been changed So, How Did It Go? So, How Did It Go? is a weekly Metro.co.uk series that will make you cringe with second-hand embarrassment or ooze with jealousy as people share their worst and best date stories. Want to spill the beans about your own awkward encounter or love story? Contact jess.austin@metro.co.uk MORE : I read Metro and it led me to the love of my life MORE : I put him firmly in the friendzone – until I realised he’s the love of my life MORE : I got really drunk on our date and called him something awful

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Running rings around the Allowance​​ Act

“I hear schools are struggling to get maths teachers these days,” notes Antoinette Hirst of Double Bay. ”I couldn’t help thinking how times have changed. Sorting through old papers, I came across my husband’s high school report of some 70 years ago: ‘For Latin.’ I told him, ‘it says lazy’. ‘We had a maths teacher teaching us Latin’, was his response.” Adrian Bell of Davistown says Michael Dunlop (C8) can relax: “Like many so-called national characteristics or traits, a locally designated trait is taken by outsiders to apply to the whole nation. For example, in Ireland the Kerrymen are deemed as ‘a bit thick’. Similarly, in Scotland, it is the Aberdonians who are reputed to be ‘mean’ – ‘mean, mean men from Aberdeen’. Anyone who has stayed or travelled through Scotland will testify to Scottish hospitality, generosity and ability to welcome outsiders – even Sassenachs!” Meanwhile, in Glasgow, a local lady noticed Kevin Hunt of Kenthurst “swearing at a parking meter on discovering it was coin only and insisted on giving me three pounds in coins, and refused my offer of a five-pound note in return. ‘I’m Scottish’ she said. ‘It’s my duty to help a visitor’. That’s PR for you.” Column8@smh.com.au No attachments, please. Include

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Press review: Chinese envoy sees consensus on Ukraine talks and Israel plans post-war Gaza

Armenia is trying to kill two birds with one stone by moving its armed forces to the border with Azerbaijan, Niyazi Niyazov, doctor of historical sciences and Azerbaijani expert on the military security of the South Caucasus countries, told the newspaper. On the one hand, the Armenian authorities are trying to convince the public of the need to return the Azerbaijani settlements by playing on fears of a resumption of hostilities with Baku. On the other hand, Yerevan is trying to gain military and financial support from Western countries by capitalizing on the threat of a new war, the expert added. Tensions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border occur from time to time when Yerevan tries to sabotage any agreements with Baku, according to Stanislav Pritchin, senior researcher at the Center for Post-Soviet Studies at Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS). Although the Armenian authorities’ have shown rhetorically they are ready to conclude a peace treaty with Azerbaijan, in reality the parties have not even come close to this prospect, he added. “The occupied villages on both sides [of the border] are the stumbling block in the issue of border demarcation. Although the parties have held several meetings to resolve this issue, these negotiations have taken place without any specific results. The demarcation process has not even started, and there are no guarantees that it will begin in the near future,” the expert told Vedomosti. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Romania, Bulgaria partially join EU’s visa-free Schengen zone On March 31, a historic event took place for Bulgaria and Romania as both countries officially joined the Schengen visa-free travel agreement. The citizens of both Balkan countries, 17 years after joining the European Union, are expected to have all the rights of EU members in the future; for now border controls have been removed only at entry and exit points for air and water travel. Removing them at Romania and Bulgaria’s land borders with other EU countries, however, will require a decision of the European Council, the timing of which is not yet clear. As for Russian travelers, it will most likely now be more difficult for them to enter Romania and Bulgaria than before, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Comments in the Romanian and Bulgarian press are not enthusiastic, however, noting that only the most difficult obstacle has been overcome, namely opposition from Austria, as Vienna has been the most consistent opponent of full Schengen membership for Bucharest and Sofia, and for a long time blocked the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen zone, fearing that this would lead to a massive influx of illegal immigrants. The measures taken by Bucharest and Sofia to combat illegal immigration were considered insufficient in Vienna. “Austria and the Netherlands, and a little earlier Finland, were against the inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen zone, mainly because of problems with corruption in the two countries. Therefore, Romanians and Bulgarians have to go through a number of transitional stages before joining Schengen,” Lyudmila Babynina, head of the Center for Political Integration of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the newspaper. Until last year, the only thing Bulgaria and Romania were able to achieve was a visa-free regime with the EU in 2014 and the removal of all restrictions on their citizens’ employment in the European Union. In theory, citizens of third countries outside the EU should also benefit, but probably not Russians. In order to enter Bulgaria and Romania, a Schengen visa is currently needed, which is subject to stricter requirements. In addition, Russian citizens will no longer be able to enter these two EU countries with a Cypriot visa, as was previously the case. Izvestia: Cross-border trade forex flows to impact second quarter ruble exchange rate The ruble exchange rate has been quite stable since the beginning of the year, and at the end of the quarter fluctuations in it were close to zero. In recent weeks, however, the Russian currency has weakened noticeably against foreign currencies, especially against the dollar; since March 7, the dollar has added more than 2%, which happened despite the current tax period, as tax receipts serve to normally support the national currency. Foreign exchange flows from foreign trade activity will be the decisive factor in the future of the ruble rate, experts told Izvestia. “We expect that the ruble will continue to trade near current levels in the coming quarter at 92-93 per dollar. In April the government is likely to announce a decision to extend the standards for mandatory sales of exporters’ foreign exchange earnings, and the Central Bank will continue to conduct large sales of foreign currency at least until the end of this half year. In addition, the government recently revised the maximum allowable discount on the Urals oil for tax purposes, which means that oil and gas budget revenues will decrease, as well as currency purchases by the Ministry of Finance,” BCS Forex analyst Anatoly Trifonov told the newspaper. According to Mikhail Altynov, investment director at Peter Trust Investment Company, “inflation will not decrease as expected. In addition, we can note a decline in export revenues due to sanctions and a possible decrease in oil production – all of which are negative for the ruble.” “The rate in mid-2024 is quite capable of approaching or exceeding 100 rubles per dollar,” he said. “The future of the ruble until the end of the first half of 2024 will be determined by currency flows from foreign economic activity. We believe that by the end of June the ruble will reach 93-97 rubles per dollar, 100-102 rubles per euro, and 13.3-13.6 rubles per yuan,” Digital Broker lead analyst Daniil Bolotskikh told the newspaper. “Our forecast for the dollar exchange rate until the end of the second quarter is in the range of 91-95 rubles. However, in the second half of 2024, the Russian currency will likely begin to weaken again and end the year at about 98-102 rubles to the dollar against the backdrop of rising government spending and continued sanctions pressure on Russia,” Alexander Potavin, analyst at Finam Financial Group, told Izvestia. TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews

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Best April Fool’s pranks you can do over text, Whatsapp or Facebook

Elevate your pranking game this April Fools with these genius jokes guaranteed to trick your friends and family. It’s that day of the year again – when Brits are suddenly suspicious of everything they read on Facebook and fake proposals circulate on family group chats. But, most of these pranks are easy to spot and don’t really fool anyone (except your internet-obsessed aunt who has already sent a congratulatory bouquet of flowers). So, we’ve compiled some next-level jokes you can post on Facebook and WhatsApp that will fool the most doubtful amongst us. PS. None of these pranks deal with fake pregnancies, mental health, or terminal illnesses. Bon voyage! If you’re the jet setter type, posting a photo of you in a foreign country could be an easy win. The key with this joke is to not go too far (literally) – as nobody is going to believe you’ve randomly moved to a remote island in the Indian ocean. But, had a promotion and relocated from London to Belfast – now that’s believable. If you have a few friends that are in on this joke, you can make it more realistic by making them comment in support. Things like ‘Knew you’d get it! Can’t wait to visit’ kinda thing. Starstruck Put your Photoshop skills to the test and mock up an image of you and a celeb to share with your friends and family. Again, the key with this is to be realistic – you’re probably not going to stumble across Brad Pitt while queuing up for a Greggs sausage roll, but the manager of your local football club, or a one-hit wonder from the 80s? That’s way more believable. Just post the edited photo up with a simple caption like ‘he’s actually so nice and didn’t mind us taking pictures’ and you’re bound to fool at least your starstruck parents… Happy birthday! Now this one requires a little bit of skill, as you’ll have to access a family member’s Facebook – which is easy if your gran leaves her account logged in while she nips to the kitchen to make a brew. Simply change the personal settings so Facebook thinks today is her birthday, and watch in amusement as she gets flooded with celebratory messages. Want to avoid the doom and gloom? Get the latest positive news sent straight to your inbox with our Bright Stuff newsletter Adopt a… kangaroo? OK, this may sound a little farfetched at first – but if you’re known for a being an animal lover, why not announce you’ve adopted an unusual pet? Perhaps you’ve rescued a pigeon and decided to name him birdy, or decided to adopt a bunch of chickens so you can make scrambled eggs each morning. If you’ve got good Photoshop skills, you can always craft an image of you and your new furry friend to really convince your pals… ‘Sorry, wrong person’ We’ve all experienced that moment of dread after realising we sent a message to the wrong person – but this blunder can make for the perfect April Fool’s prank. For example, text your parents saying you’ve not told them you’ve been fired from work or have spent £3,000 on a new handbag – quickly followed by ‘ignore that, wrong person’. Then, just wait for the incessant calls to roll in… What’s the best April Fool’s prank you’ve ever pulled off? Let us know in the comments section below

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ISIS has ‘strong desire’ to attack US and attempt is ‘inevitable’, former top general warns

ISIS has a “strong desire” to attack the US and an attempt is “inevitable” following the Moscow massacre, a retired general has warned. Former top general Frank McKenzie has admitted the “threat is growing” from the Islamic terror group after ISIS-K took responsibility for a deadly attack in Russia that killed more than 140 people. Gunmen opened fire at Moscow’s Crocus City Hall, which is one of the biggest shopping and entertainment complexes in Russia, last month and a huge blaze began after the shooting which engulfed the complex. ISIS released a statement later in the evening claiming their fighters “attacked” a “big gathering for Christians in the Russian Moscow suburb” injuring “hundreds” and causing “major destruction.” Russia’s foreign ministry called the incident a “terrorist attack.” READ MORE: Nurse ‘bullied’ diabetic man, told him he was ‘next’ before lethal insulin dose Now, the former general has said the terror group, who also claimed responsibility for a mass bombing in Iran in January, should be believed when they say they want to attack the US. “We should believe them when they say that. They’re going to try to do it,” McKenzie told ABC News’ “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz. “I think the threat is growing. It began to grow as soon as we left Afghanistan, it took pressure off ISIS-K. So I think we should expect further attempts of this nature against the United States as well as our partners and other nations abroad,” McKenzie said. “I think this is inevitable.” For all the latest on news, politics, sports, and showbiz from the USA, go to The Mirror US. The retired general said the US maintains a large enough military presence in Iraq and Syria to stop extremists there but he believes there should have been a small troop presence kept in Afghanistan – rather than withdrawing completely in August 2021. It brought an end to America’s longest war but President Biden was criticised for the decision as he previously pledged there would be an “over-the-horizon capability” to “act quickly and decisively” in Afghanistan, even from a distance. However, McKenzie refuted those claims and believes it is not possible. “In Afghanistan, we have almost no ability to see into that country and almost no ability to strike into that country,” he said of the conditions on the ground now which he claims helps the Islamic State and other militants. “If you can keep pressure on them … in their homeland and their base, it makes it hard for them to conduct these types of attacks,” he said. “Unfortunately, we no longer place that pressure on them, so they’re free to gain strength, they’re free to plan, they’re free to coordinate.” He believes if the US and its allies kept some forces in Afghanistan. “Things would be different. I have to believe, Martha, that things would be different. … I think we might actually be safer than we are,” McKenzie added.

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Giovanni Pernice and Rose Ayling Ellis show sweet bond as BBC Strictly partners team up against him

Strictly Come Dancing’s Giovanni Pernice and Rose Ayling Ellis have put on a united front after a string of former co-stars complained about him. The professional dancer, 33, has been at the centre of a row regarding his future on the show. He has been a hit on the BBC dance competition since joining the cast back in 2015. However, his time was cut short during the latest series of the show after his partner Amanda Abbington quit halfway through. Following their departure, the actress claimed she suffered from PTSD and is said to have requested behind the scenes footage of their time together. Amanda reportedly met with Giovanni’s former dance partners Ranvir Singh and Laura Whitmore to discuss their experiences of working with the dancer. New reports suggest Steps star Faye Tozer also struggled to work with him. Giovanni lifted the Glitterball trophy with EastEnders actress Rose back in 2021. She made history as the first deaf contestant to compete in the show and formed an incredibly close bond with the dancer. Rose shared her latest Instagram post, giving her fans an update on her life recently. The Italian star showed his support to his close pal, as he commented three black love heart emojis. Giovanni’s future on Strictly has been put in doubt following the reports he is “too intense” to train and dance with. A source told The Sun: “Giovanni has a meeting with Strictly on Thursday about his return later this year. They have not received any official complaints and are backing him. He is an accomplished pro dancer and it’s expected he will be taking his place in the formal line-up when it’s announced later this month.” While a show spokesperson later told the publication: “The pro dancers for 2024 will be announced in due course.” His former dance partner Michelle Visage recently showed her support in a recent social media video. Giovanni kissed the RuPaul’s Drag Race star on the cheek, as he explained his professional partner, Lauren Oakley, was unable to perform alongside him in his show, Let Me Entertain You. He said: “Unfortunately Lauren is not doing the show. So I did have a replacement for that.” He then kissed Michelle as the Celebrity Big Brother star revealed: “I’m in.” Michelle, who was paired with Giovanni on Strictly in 2019, spoke out about his training style after Amanda quit the series in October. While conceding the Italian was the “toughest pro on the show”, she said she welcomed his discipline. Speaking on This Morning last year, she said: “I don’t like gossip, so I’m not here to gossip, but what I can say from my experience was yes, he’s tough. He’s probably the toughest pro there is. I wanted that. So it depends, some people can handle that, some people don’t want to handle that. I wanted that.” Michelle added: “We fought every day, and it was for good reason because we got to where we wanted to be, we looked beautiful together.” Follow Mirror Celebs on TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTubeand Threads.

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