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Real Madrid beat Man City to reach Champions League semis

Rodrygo gave the visitors an early lead before Kevin De Bruyne hit back for the holders to leave the match level at 1-1 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate. However, City’s defence of the competition came to an end after Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic saw spot-kicks saved by Madrid’s unlikely hero Andriy Lunin. The Ukrainian, who has deputised this season for the injured Thibaut Courtois, had been at fault for City’s early opener in a thrilling first leg but more than made amends. Madrid will face Bayern Munich in the last four after the German giants beat Arsenal 3-2 on aggregate. City had not lost at home in the Champions League since 2018 but the holders were held at bay by a heroic defensive effort by the 14-time European champions despite having 34 attempts on goal. “It’s so difficult. They are continuously probing with the ball and move you around. Most teams would fall apart when City get on top of you but we stood up really well,” said Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham. “Today it came down to mentality.” Madrid were blown away by an early City blitz in a 4-0 defeat at the Etihad 11 months ago as Pep Guardiola’s men went on to win the competition for the first time. City also edged a semi-final first leg thriller 4-3 on home soil two years ago only to be stunned by a late Madrid fightback in the return leg. “In other sports for the stats we would win but football is like this and it’s marvellous,” said Guardiola. “Congratulations to Madrid because their capacity to resist and defend till the end, they did so fantastically. We didn’t manage to score in the final pass or final shot. “I don’t have any regrets. Always we try to create more and concede less (than the opponent) and we did everything.” Carlo Ancelotti’s men flipped the script on Wednesday with an assured start that was rewarded in the opening goal. Bellingham plucked the ball out of the sky with an immaculate touch to set Real roaming down the right. Vinicius Junior picked out the unmarked Rodrygo and he tapped in the rebound after his first effort was parried by Brazilian international teammate Ederson. Doku makes difference If City were slow to warm to their task they quickly had Madrid penned against the ropes but failed to land a telling blow for 76 minutes. Erling Haaland failed to score for a fourth consecutive clash between the sides but has rarely come up closer than when his looping header came back off the crossbar and left Silva no time to adjust to turn in the rebound. Lunin was forced to turn behind De Bruyne’s shot from outside the box and the tenacious Antonio Rudiger deflected Jack Grealish’s effort into the side-netting. The Madrid goalkeeper saved two more efforts from Grealish at the start of the second half before Guardiola sacrificed the England international for the extra pace of Jeremy Doku. That proved an inspired change as Rudiger failed to deal with a Doku cross and presented the ball perfectly for De Bruyne to smash into the roof of the net 14 minutes from time. De Bruyne should have turned the tie around single-handedly as he then blazed a glorious chance over. However, City’s threat was blunted during extra-time as both Haaland and De Bruyne had to be replaced. It was Real who had the best chance of the extra 30 minutes when Rudiger sliced over with a clear sight of goal after staying forward from a rare Madrid corner. But the German defender was still to have the decisive say as he slotted in the final penalty of the shootout. Ederson’s save from Luka Modric had given City an early lead. But Lunin calmly collected Silva’s attempted chip down the middle and then denied Kovacic low to his right. Bellingham, Lucas Vazquez and Nacho put Madrid on the brink before Rudiger landed the fatal blow to City’s hopes of a second consecutive treble. (AFP)

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US reimposes sanctions on Venezuela as Maduro continues opposition crackdown

President Joe Biden’s administration suspended some sanctions after Maduro’s government and the opposition agreed in Barbados last October to hold a free and fair vote in 2024 under the watchful eye of international observers. But the thaw ended when Maduro’s opponents were not allowed to run against him in elections, and the United States said Caracas had now failed to make progress ahead of an April 18 deadline. “We are concerned that Maduro and his representatives prevented the democratic opposition from registering the candidate of their choice, harassed and intimidated political opponents, and unjustly detained numerous political actors and members of civil society,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement. “We again call on Maduro to allow all candidates and parties to participate in the electoral process and release all political prisoners without restrictions or delay.” Oil companies would have a winding-down period until May 31 to comply with the sanctions, Miller said. However Washington would “continue to assess sanctions policy” based on the Maduro government’s actions leading up to the election, the State Department said. Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, but production has plummeted after years of mismanagement and crushing sanctions. Caracas vowed its oil sector would keep going regardless of US policy. “We will not stop, with or without a license,” Petroleum Minister Pedro Tellechea told reporters ahead of Washington’s announcement. The sanctions move is not without risk for Biden as he makes his own bid for reelection this year. Venezuelan authorities have previously threatened to hit Biden in the sensitive area of migration. More than seven million Venezuelans have fled over the past decade, with many coming to the United States. Caracas has previously warned it will cancel migrant repatriation flights which started under the October deal if Washington continues with its “economic aggression.” Sanctions could also hit oil prices just as Americans face growing costs at the pump and rising inflation, and polls show that US voters are not buying Biden’s sunny messages about the economy. Tensions over Maduro The Barbados agreement collapsed after state institutions loyal to the regime disqualified Maduro’s main challenger Maria Corina Machado, and a proxy candidate, from running in the elections due on July 28. In comments to AFP, Machado said the reimposition of sanctions was the result of “a brutal wave of repression” under Maduro. “This is the consequence of having failed to fulfill their part of the agreement,” Machado said. Maduro, the anointed heir of the late firebrand anti-US leader Hugo Chavez, will be seeking a third six-year term after 11 years in office marked by sanctions, economic collapse and accusations of widespread repression. Dozens of countries including the United States rejected the results of 2018 elections that were won by Maduro and boycotted by the opposition. Most Western and Latin American countries switched recognition to then opposition leader Juan Guaido. But years of sanctions and other pressure failed to dislodge Maduro, who enjoys support from a political patronage system, the military and from Cuba, Russia and China. The Biden administration, after initially keeping the sanctions approach of his predecessor Donald Trump, shifted gears. In November, Washington gave a green light to US oil giant Chevron to operate in Venezuela and, just before Christmas, Venezuela freed 10 detained Americans in a swap with the United States, which released a Maduro confidant. Washington has already reimposed sanctions in the gold mining sector. (AFP)

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Volt party elects Sophie In ‘T Veld and the German Damian Boeselager

The Dutch Sophie In ‘T Veld and the German Damian Boeselager were chosen in Brussels as lead candidates in the European elections for Volt. Volt is a transnational political movement that brands itself as a truly European Party. Boeselager was the only Volt member who got elected in 2019. Now the party is running in 16 EU countries. Volt’s priorities are deepening integration, fighting climate change and building an EU army. Volt is running in 16 EU countries. They have a “symbolic” transnational list with candidates coming from different countries, but the real lists differ from one Member State to another. If some candidates are elected, they would join the Liberal of the Greens group in the next European Parliament: Volt would negotiate with the two groups and then submit the decision to a vote among its members.

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Paris’s Musée d’Orsay takes visitors back 150 years to Impressionism’s birth

Using VR technology, visitors to “Paris 1874: Inventing Impressionism” can take a plunge into the streets, salons and beauty spots that marked a revolution in art. Through VR helmets, they can walk alongside the likes of Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Paul Cezanne on April 15, 1874, when, tired of being rejected by the conservative gatekeepers of the official art Salon, these rebellious young painters put on their own independent show, later seen as the birth of Impressionism. The Orsay has brought together 160 paintings from that year, including dozens of masterpieces from that show, including the blood-red sun of Monet’s “Impression, Sunrise”, credited with giving the movement its name, and his “Boulevard des Capucines” where the exhibition took place. In rapid, spontaneous brushstrokes, the Impressionists captured everyday scenes of modern life, from Degas’s ballet dancers to Camille Pissaro’s countryside idylls to Auguste Renoir’s riverside party in “Bal du Moulin de la Galette”. They came to define the excitement and restlessness of a new, modern age emerging out of a devastating war with Prussia and a short-lived Parisian revolt a few years earlier. “The Impressionists wanted to paint the world as it is, one in the midst of major change,” said Sylvie Patry, co-curator of the exhibition. “They were interested in new subjects: railways, tourism, the world of entertainment… They wanted to put sensations, impressions, the immediate moment at the heart of their painting,” she added. ‘Nuanced’ Thanks to loans from the National Gallery in Washington and other museums, it is the first time that many of the paintings — including Renoir’s “The Parisian Girl” and “The Dancer” — have hung together in 150 years. The exhibition also includes works from that year’s official Salon, showing how the Impressionists rejected the stiff formalism of traditionalists and their obsession with great battles and mythological tales, but also how there was some cross-over, as all sorts of painters gradually adopted new styles. “The story of that exhibition is more nuanced than we think,” said Patry. “The artists all knew each other and had begun painting in this different style from the 1860s.” Impressionism did not take off immediately: only some 3,500 people came to the first show, compared with 300,000 to the Salon, and only four paintings were sold out of some 200 works. It would take several more exhibitions in the following years for the movement to make its mark. The Orsay exhibition runs to July 14 and moves to Washington from September. The virtual reality experience has been extended to the end of the Paris Olympics on August 11. (AFP)

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Russia and China veto US proposal for Gaza ceasefire at the UN

Russia and China have vetoed a US-proposed resolution in the UN Security Council that called for a ceasefire in Gaza tied to a hostage agreement. The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 11 members in favour and three against, including Algeria, the Arab representative on the council. There was one abstention, from Guyana. Prior to the vote, Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian Ambassador to the U.N., stated that Russia was in favour of an immediate halt to hostilities. However, he criticised diluted language that referred to moral imperatives, which he called philosophical wording that does not belong in a U.N. resolution. Nebenzia accused U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield of “deliberately misleading the international community.” Thomas-Greenfield urged the council to adopt the resolution to press for an immediate cease-fire and the release of the hostages, as well as to address Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and support ongoing diplomacy by the United States, Egypt and Qatar. After the vote, Thomas-Greenfield accused Russia and China of voting for “deeply cynical reasons,” saying they could not bring themselves to condemn Hamas’ terrorist attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7, which the resolution would have done for the first time. A key issue in the vote was the unusual language related to a cease-fire. It said the Security Council “determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire,” – not a straight-forward “demand” or “call.” The resolution did reflect a shift by the US, which has found itself at odds with much of the world as even close allies push for an unconditional end to fighting. In previous resolutions, the U.S. has closely intertwined calls for a cease-fire with demands for the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza. This resolution, through awkward wording that’s open to interpretation, continued to link the two issues, but not as firmly. While the resolution would have been officially binding under international law, it would not have ended the fighting or led to the release of hostages. But it would have added to the pressure on Israel as its closest ally falls more in line with global demands for a cease-fire at a time of rising tensions between the U.S. and Israeli governments.

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Iceland volcano erupts for fourth time in three months

Lava from a volcanic eruption in Iceland flowed Sunday toward defences around the town of Grindavik, which have so far held the molten rock back from the evacuated community. Scientists said the eruption appeared to be weakening and would probably peter out within hours. A volcanic system on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the country’s southwest erupted late Saturday for the fourth time in three months, sending orange jets of lava into the night sky. Iceland’s Meteorological Office said the eruption opened a fissure in the earth about 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles) long between the mountains of Stóra-Skógfell and Hagafell. The Met Office said Sunday that lava was flowing south and southeast at about 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) an hour, and might reach the ocean. Defensive barriers were built to stop it inundating the main road along the peninsula’s southern coast. Hundreds of people were evacuated from the Blue Lagoon thermal spa, one of Iceland’s top tourist attractions, when the eruption began, national broadcaster RUV said. No flight disruptions were reported at nearby Keflavik, Iceland’s main airport. The eruption site is a few kilometres northeast of Grindavik,a coastal town of 3,800 people) about 50 kilometres (30 miles) southwest of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. The town was evacuated before the initial eruption on 18 December. A second eruption that began on 14 January sent lava toward the town. Defensive walls that had been bolstered after the first eruption stopped some of the flow, but several buildings were consumed by the lava. Both eruptions lasted only a matter of days. A third eruption began 8 February. It ended within hours, but not before a river of lava engulfed a pipeline, cutting off heat and hot water to thousands of people. Iceland, which sits above a volcanic hot spot in the North Atlantic, sees regular eruptions and is highly experienced at dealing with them. The most disruptive in recent times was the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed huge clouds of ash into the atmosphere and led to widespread airspace closures over Europe. The latest eruptions signal a reawakening of the Svartsengi volcanic system after almost 800 years of quiet. It’s unclear when the period of activity will end or what it means for the Reykjanes Peninsula, one of the most densely populated parts of Iceland. No confirmed deaths have been reported from any of the recent eruptions, but a workman was declared missing after falling into a fissure opened by the volcano.

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The battle for Haiti is not over

On 12 March, Haiti’s president Ariel Henry agreed to resign after turmoil prevented him from returning to his country from a trip abroad. He is not alone in being stranded: over the past months, thousands of Haitians have fled chaos and gang violence to neighbouring Dominican Republic. The crisis recently intensified with weeks of protests against Henry and a mass prison break in Port-au-Prince and Croix-des-Bouquets. Following a meeting of the Caricom group of regional leaders, Guyana’s president Irfaan Ali announced Henry’s intention to resign, saying that a presidential council will oversee a transition. Henry — who is unelected and has repeatedly pushed back elections — came to power after the 2021 assassination of Jovenel Moïse as the preferred candidate of the US and UN at that time. Since the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804, in which enslaved people liberated themselves and overthrew French colonial rule, Haiti has experienced enormous upheavals, interference and natural disaster. Many observers describe the country as a failed state, though the researcher Jake Johnston prefers the term ‘aid state’ — one in which foreign donors make decisions usually handled democratically. Here is a selection of articles that shed light on the context of this latest crisis.

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German train drivers strike coincides with Lufthansa cabin crew walkout

Germany’s train drivers staged a 24-hour strike on Tuesday in the latest move of a long-running dispute over working hours with the country’s main railway operator, while a walkout by cabin crew at Lufthansa takes place. The GDL union called on drivers of state-owned Deutsche Bahn’s passenger trains to walk out starting at 2 a.m. The union is demanding for working hours to be reduced from 38 to 35 hours per week without a pay cut. In talks between the union and Deutsche Bahn, moderators suggested a reduction from 38 to 36 hours by 2028, but details of their proposal didn’t satisfy GDL. The union demanded a new offer by Sunday evening, which wasn’t forthcoming. The latest GDL walkout — the sixth in a dispute that started last year — coincided with a separate 19-hour strike by Lufthansa cabin crew on flights departing from Frankfurt, Germany’s largest airport. The UFO union called on cabin crew to strike from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday as it seeks a 15% pay increase and a one-time payment of 3,000 euros per employee to offset inflation. A similar walkout by cabin crew on flights departing from Munich is to follow on Wednesday.

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Former Honduran President convicted in US of conspiring with drug traffickers

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was convicted Friday in New York of charges that he conspired with drug traffickers and used his military and national police force to enable tonnes of cocaine to make it unhindered into the US. The jury returned its verdict at a federal court after a two-week trial, which has been closely followed in his home country. Hernández was convicted of conspiring to import cocaine into the US and two weapons counts. The charges carry a mandatory minimum of 40 years in prison and a potential maximum of life. Sentencing was set for 26 June. Hernández, 55, served two terms as the leader of Honduras, a nation of roughly 10 million people. Jurors reached a unanimous verdict, which was necessary for a conviction. Defence lawyer Sabrina Shroff said Hernández will appeal the conviction. In a release, US lawyer Damian Williams said he hopes the conviction “sends a message to all corrupt politicians who would consider a similar path: choose differently.” He added that Hernández “had every opportunity to be a force for good in his native Honduras. Instead, he chose to abuse his office and country for his own personal gain and partnered with some of the largest and most violent drug trafficking organisations in the world to transport tonnes of cocaine to the United States.” Hernández was arrested at his home in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, three months after leaving office in 2022 and was extradited to the US in April of that year. US prosecutors accused Hernández of working with drug traffickers as long ago as 2004, saying he took millions of dollars in bribes as he rose from rural congressman to president of the National Congress and then to the country’s highest office. Hernández acknowledged in trial testimony that drug money was paid to virtually all political parties in Honduras, but he denied accepting bribes himself. He noted that he had visited the White House and met US presidents as he cast himself as a champion in the war on drugs who worked with the US to curb the flow of drugs to the US. In one instance, he said, he was warned by the FBI that a drug cartel wanted to assassinate him. He said his accusers fabricated their claims about him in bids for leniency for their crimes. “They all have motivation to lie, and they are professional liars,” Hernández said. But the prosecution mocked Hernández for seemingly claiming to be the only honest politician in Honduras. During closing arguments Wednesday, Assistant US Attorney Jacob Gutwillig told the jury that a corrupt Hernández “paved a cocaine superhighway to the United States.” Stabile said his client “has been wrongfully charged” as he urged an acquittal. Trial witnesses included traffickers who admitted responsibility for dozens of murders and said Hernandez was an enthusiastic protector of some of the world’s most powerful cocaine dealers, including notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who is serving a life prison term in the US. Hernández, wearing a suit throughout the trial, was mostly dispassionate as he testified through an interpreter, repeatedly saying “no sir” as he was asked if he ever paid bribes or promised to protect traffickers from extradition to the US. His brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, a former Honduran congressman, was sentenced to life in 2021 in Manhattan federal court for his own conviction on drug charges.

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Former Twitter executives sue Musk for over $128 mln in unpaid severance

“Musk doesn’t pay his bills, believes the rules don’t apply to him, and uses his wealth and power to run roughshod over anyone who disagrees with him,” they said in the lawsuit filed in a California federal court. The plaintiffs include former CEO Parag Agrawal, who according to the lawsuit is claiming $57.4 million in benefits, as well as fired CFO Ned Segal who is asking for $44.5 million. The other plaintiffs are former chief legal officer Vijaya Gadde and the company’s then General Counsel Sean Edgett. Musk terminated Agrawal, Gadde and Segal from their posts in late October of 2022 after closing his contentious $44 billion takeover of Twitter. According to the suit, citing a recent authorized biography of Musk, the tycoon went out of his way to ensure the executives were not able to resign from the company before he fired them in the first moments after taking over. The executives “appropriately and vigorously represented the interests of Twitter’s public shareholders throughout Musk’s wrongful attempt to renege on the deal,” the suit said. “For their efforts, Musk vowed a lifetime of revenge,” it added. This referred to the bitter months leading up to the buyout, when Agrawal and his team drew Musk’s anger for going to court to hold the Tesla chief to the terms of a takeover deal he had tried to escape. “Because Musk decided he didn’t want to pay Plaintiffs’ severance benefits, he simply fired them without reason, then made up (a) fake cause and appointed employees of his various companies to uphold his decision,” the suit alleged. Musk, a self-declared “free speech absolutist,” vowed to remove restrictions at Twitter after he bought the platform. Twitter has since been renamed to X, and has seen its staff numbers drastically slashed, with content moderation put on the back burner, with many previously banned accounts reinstated. Musk has also seen major advertisers flee the site over the increase in troublesome content, and has struggled to build a strong enough subscription base to make up the lost revenue. In a separate case, Agrawal, Gadde and Segal are suing Musk to be reimbursed for costs of litigation, investigations and congressional inquiries related to their former jobs. (AFP)

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