Author: Worldcrew

Russian Drones Attack Ukraine as European Leaders Gather to Show Ukrainian Support

Donations as Patriotism: Ukrainians Support Army During Two Years of War

During two years of war, Ukrainians have supported their army financially. Despite the tough economic situation in the country, the level of donations remains high, and volunteers find new ways to raise funds. Lesia Bakalets has the story from Kyiv. Video: Evgenii Shynkar

Dragons and Dancers Parade Through Manhattan’s Chinatown for Lunar New Year

New York — Dragons took a starring role at the Lunar New Year parade in Manhattan’s historic Chinatown on Sunday — it’s the Year of the Dragon, after all — as hundreds of revelers filled the cold clear air with the sound of drums, cymbals and puffs of confetti.

Lions and red lanterns were interspersed with around a dozen groups displaying traditional dragon puppets, which stretched up to 20 meters (65 feet) long, in interconnected segments held by up to 11 people walking beneath.

Two people also held up a giant golden picture frame with the Chinese character for “Dragon” on a red background.

Other staples of the parade included waves of red lanterns, a file of classic cars, as well as formations by local civic organizations, businesses, New York City agencies, and politicians. Many marchers yelled “Happy New Year” in English, mixing in traditional greetings in Mandarin and Cantonese wishing financial prosperity.

Asian communities across the world started ringing in the Lunar New Year on Feb 10, celebrating the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac. Fireworks, parades and other Lunar New Year rituals are centered around removing bad luck and welcoming prosperity.

In New York, there have already been major celebrations in larger Chinese immigrant enclaves in Queens and Brooklyn. While the symbolic new lunar cycle ended earlier this week with the full moon, Manhattan’s parade was scheduled for the weekend.

‘Past Lives,’ ‘American Fiction’ And ‘The Holdovers’ Are Big Winners at Independent Spirit Awards

Facing Chinese EV Rivals, Europe’s Automakers Squeeze Suppliers on Costs

London — Europe’s automakers and their already-stretched suppliers face a tough year as they race to cut costs for electric models to counter leaner Chinese rivals which are bringing cheaper vehicles to challenge them on their home turf.

A big question is how much more Europe’s automakers can squeeze out of suppliers that have already started laying off workers, with many smaller companies hard hit by supply chain issues during the pandemic.

The difference between Europe’s legacy automakers and more EV-focused Chinese manufacturers will be on stark display this week at the Geneva car show, which is returning after a four-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

The only major companies holding media events are France’s Renault and China’s SAIC Motors and the BYD Company — two of several of the country’s automakers that have set their sights on Europe.

Renault is launching its electric R5 and SAIC’s MG brand will unveil its M3 hybrid. Meanwhile, BYD’s Seal sedan is shortlisted for the Car of the Year award. If it wins, it would be the first Chinese model to get the prestigious award.

“They really are like chalk and cheese,” Nick Parker, a partner and managing director at consulting firm AlixPartners, said of the legacy European automakers and their Chinese rivals.

Unlike European automakers that are reliant on external suppliers with separate supply chains for fossil-fuel and electric, their Chinese rivals are highly vertically integrated, producing almost everything in-house and keeping costs down.

That helps them undercut their European rivals. In Britain, BYD’s electric Dolphin hatchback starts at 25,490 pounds ($32,300), about 27% less than Volkswagen’s equivalent ID.3 model. Tesla works in the same way.

Chasing those rivals means European automakers’ profit margins could be “heavily challenged” moving forward because there is only so much they can squeeze out of external suppliers, AlixPartners’ Parker said.

The challenge has been made more difficult by a slower-than-expected shift to EVs, leaving legacy automakers stuck with their dual supply chains. Data this week showed EU fully-electric car sales in January fell 42.3% from December.

Both Renault and Stellantis have stressed their EV cost-cutting efforts this month while Mercedes toned down expectations for EV demand and said it will update its traditional lineup well into the next decade.

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares has gone further, telling suppliers that with 85% of EV costs related to purchased materials, they need to bear a proportionate burden in reducing costs.

“I am translating that reality to my partners: If you don’t do your part of the job, then you exclude yourself,” he said.

Nickel and aluminum prices have also risen this week as Western countries expanded sanctions lists against Moscow, highlighting the lingering risks to raw materials prices even though there was no mention of the two metals.

Job cuts

Many legacy suppliers are already feeling the strain of cost cuts with FORVIA, Continental and Bosch all recently announcing or warning of layoffs, with more expected.

To preserve their profits, automakers focused production on higher-margin models during the recent semi-conductor shortage, but that meant less revenue and less upside for their suppliers.

Now industry experts say well-capitalized larger suppliers can adapt to the new reality but warn that plenty of smaller ones are teetering on the edge, like Germany’s Allgaier which filed for insolvency in July.

That means Europe’s automakers face a delicate balancing act between cutting costs to fend off Chinese rivals and avoiding pushing their suppliers too far. Philip Nothard, insight director at dealer services firm Cox Automotive, says automakers may even have to step in to bailout struggling suppliers.

“The risk is if (European automakers) try and screw those suppliers down too much, they’ll either push them into administration or they’ll push them into seeking different markets,” he said.

Belarus’ Lukashenko to Run for Seventh Presidential Term in 2025

Moscow — Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko said he would run for president again in 2025, Belarusian state news agency BelTA reported Sunday.

Lukashenko made his comments after voting in parliamentary and local council elections, denounced by the United States as a sham. The ex-Soviet state’s top election official dismissed the criticism and told Washington to look after its own affairs.

BelTA said Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, told journalists: “Tell them (the exiled opposition) that I’ll run. No one, no responsible president would abandon his people who followed him into battle.”

Lukashenko, 69, is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies and allowed the Kremlin to use his country’s territory to launch its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

“We’re still a year away from the presidential election. A lot of things can change,” he said in response to a follow-up question, BelTA reported.

“Naturally, I and all of us, society, will react to the changes that will take place in our society and the situation in which we will approach the elections in a year’s time,” Lukashenko said.

The U.S. State Department condemned what it called the “sham” elections in Belarus Sunday.

“The elections were held in a climate of fear under which no electoral processes could be called democratic,” department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

The chairman of Belarus’ Central Election Commission, in comments quoted by BelTA, said it was not up to the United States to comment on the election.

“We don’t denounce their elections. We make no statements, even if they had over  

there a lot of questions for all to see, even in their last presidential election,” Igor Karpenko was quoted as saying.

“They work according to the principle that we are bigger and can therefore tell everyone what to do. I think we can manage quite nicely conducting elections in our own country,” Karpenko said.

Election commission officials said voter turnout stood at just below 73% by mid-evening.

Lukashenko’s reelection to a sixth term in 2020 sparked unprecedented protests by opponents alleging mass vote-rigging. Putin offered support to Lukashenko and the demonstrations died out after mass roundups and detentions of protesters by police.

Lukashenko told reporters the role of parliament would be bolstered in his country.

“People are beginning to understand that in Belarus, for example, a president is not a tsar or a god. It is very hard work,” BelTA quoted him as saying. “Parliament’s role will be expanded, every month, every year.”

Kayakers Paddle in Death Valley After Rains Replenish Lake

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Calif — Kayakers have been paddling in one of the driest places on Earth after a series of record rainstorms battered California’s Death Valley and replenished Lake Manly.

Park Ranger Nichole Andler said Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park, which runs along part of central California’s border with Nevada, “is normally a very beautiful, bright white salt flat.”

This year it is a lake.

In the past six months, Death Valley has received more than double its annual rainfall amount, recording more than 12.45 centimeters (4.9 inches) compared to a typical year that gets about 5.08 centimeters (2 inches). Temperatures at or above 54.44 C (130 F) have only been recorded on Earth a handful of times, mostly in Death Valley.

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America at 85.95 meters (282 feet) below sea level and has been a favored spot for tourists to take selfies and briefly walk along the white salt flats ringed by sandy-colored mountains.

“It’s the lowest point, in North America. So it’s going to collect water, but to have as much water as we have now — and for it to be as deep and lasting as long as it has — this is extremely uncommon,” Andler said. “If it’s not once-in-a-lifetime, it’s nearly.”

Andler said kayakers should come soon since water levels are expected to drop in a matter of weeks, though the lake “will probably be here into April. If we’re lucky, May. And then it’ll be a muddy, wet mess, and then it’ll dry out into those gorgeous white salt flats.”

On Thursday, Heather Gang of Pahrump, Nevada, and her husband, Bob, were among hundreds of visitors playing in the water. Most waded into the lake, though the couple and others paddled where the water reached up to about a foot (0.3 meters) deep in parts.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to kayak Lake Manley,” Heather Gang said.

It was a sharp contrast to the Death Valley of the past where they figured they had once stood around the same spot and looked at the chalky salt flats for as far as the eye could see.

The couple has been eyeing the lake’s evolution ever since last year’s storms started filling the lake. In the fall, they drove out to see it re-emerge as a lake but they said it wasn’t deep enough for kayaks like now. This time the water reached up to the boardwalk.

The lake, which is currently about 9.66 kilometers long and 4.83 kilometers wide, is still nowhere near its original state thousands of years ago after it formed during the Ice Age and covered a significant part of the park and was several hundred feet deep.

Bob Gang said he had heard the lake had filled up to the point that boaters could go on it about 20 years ago, so he didn’t want to miss out on the experience this time.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Bob Gang, who gave a girl a ride on his kayak. “It’s good to see the little kids out here enjoying this and seeing something totally unique.”

It could be another 20 years before boaters return, he added, but “with climate change, who knows, maybe this will be the normal.”

Guo Yu, an assistant research professor of hydrometeorology at the Nevada-based Desert Research Institute, said the lake’s size is a “simple natural phenomenon.”

It’s linked to a wet winter from a strong El Nino — a natural and occasional warming of part of the Pacific Ocean that can lead to more precipitation than usual in California — plus climate change, which brings more intense atmospheric rivers to the area more frequently, Yu said.

Scientists need to study Lake Manly now, he said, to see if they can harness the water for other uses in the future, such as drinking water throughout the dry Southwest.

Tiffany Pereira, an associate research scientist at the institute, said the lake’s size now can be beneficial to local flora and fauna.

Certain seed species endemic to the area, meaning they only naturally exist in Death Valley, have lain dormant for a decade or more and are now beginning their short-lived life cycle because there is enough water to sustain them.

“They hang out, they do their thing, and as soon as it dries up, that’s it. They’re done,” she said.

For now, friends Trudell Artiglere and Sheri Dee Hopper of Las Vegas will enjoy paddling through the lake. At the end of the day on Thursday, Artiglere said, their salt-encrusted kayaks looked like “glazed donuts.”

US Airman Sets Himself on Fire Outside Israeli Embassy in Washington

WASHINGTON — A U.S. military service member set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington on Sunday afternoon, authorities said.

The man was transported to an area hospital after the fire was put out by U.S. Secret Service officers, DC Fire and EMS posted online.

The man remains in critical condition, a Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson said Sunday afternoon. An Air Force spokesperson confirmed that the incident involved an active-duty airman.

Local police and Secret Service are investigating the incident.

Israel’s embassy has been the target of continued protest against the war in Gaza. The war in Gaza has led to pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protests in the United States.

The protests started after Oct. 7 when Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that rules Gaza, killed 1,200 Israelis and seized 253 hostages in a cross-border attack.

Since then, Israeli forces have waged a military campaign against the coastal enclave, laying much of it to waste, with nearly 30,000 people dead, according to Palestinian health officials.

Corruption Scandals Cast Shadow Over Portugal’s Early General Election 

LISBON, Portugal — The official two-week campaign period before Portugal’s early general election began Sunday, with the country’s two moderate mainstream parties once again expected to collect the most votes but with the expected rise of a populist party potentially adding momentum to Europe’s drift to the right.

The center-left Socialist Party and center-right Social Democratic Party have alternated in power for decades. But they are unsure of how much support they might need from smaller rival parties for the parliamentary votes needed to form a government after the March 10 vote.

Corruption scandals have cast a shadow over the ballot. They have also fed public disenchantment with the country’s political class as Portugal prepares to celebrate 50 years of democracy, following the Carnation Revolution that toppled a rightist dictatorship on April 25, 1974.

The election is being held after a Socialist government collapsed last November following a corruption investigation. That case brought a police search of Prime Minister António Costa’s official residence and the arrest of his chief of staff. Costa hasn’t been accused of any crime.

Also in recent weeks, a Lisbon court decided that a former Socialist prime minister should stand trial for corruption. Prosecutors allege that José Sócrates, prime minister between 2005-2011, pocketed around 34 million euros ($36.7 million) during his time in power from graft, fraud and money laundering.

The Social Democratic Party has also been tainted by corruption allegations.

During the recent weeks of unofficial campaigning, a graft investigation in Portugal’s Madeira Islands triggered the resignation of two prominent Social Democrat officials.

The scandal erupted on the same day the Social Democratic Party unveiled an anti-corruption billboard in Lisbon that said, “It can’t go on like this.”

A housing crisis, persistent levels of low pay and unreliable public health services are other areas where the records of the two main parties are at issue.

Hot-button topics that have driven political debate and encouraged populist parties elsewhere in Europe, such as climate change, migration and religious differences, have largely been absent in Portugal’s campaign.

A five-year-old populist and nationalist party called Chega! (in English, Enough!) has made the fight against corruption one of its political banners. “Portugal needs cleaning out,” one of its billboards declares.

The party’s leader, 41-year-old lawyer André Ventura, has been riding in third place in opinion polls and could become a kingmaker if his political influence grows. His party got just 1.3% of votes in the 2019 election but jumped to 7.3% in 2022. It could collect more than double that this time, polls suggest, if a protest vote materializes.

A key question is whether the Social Democrats will end up needing the votes of Chega! to make up a parliamentary majority after eight years in opposition.

The Socialist Party could, as in the past, forge parliamentary alliances with the Portuguese Communist Party or Left Bloc party to take power.

Socialist leader Pedro Nuno Santos, his party’s candidate for prime minister, is a lawmaker and a former minister for housing and infrastructure. Santos, 46, quit the previous government under a cloud over his handling of bailed-out flag carrier TAP Air Portugal and a dispute over the site of a new Lisbon airport.

Luís Montenegro, the 51-year-old Social Democrat leader aiming to become prime minister, has been a lawmaker for more than 20 years. He heads the Democratic Alliance, a grouping with two smaller right-of-center parties formed for the election.

As Ukraine Awaits Weapons, It Places Hope on Peace Summits

The urgency of providing Ukraine with the weapons it needs to stop Russian military advances was again underscored Sunday both in Europe and the United States. At the same time, calls for stopping the human suffering and efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to the conflict were also brought to the forefront. Veronica Balderas Iglesias reports.

Biden, Utah’s Governor Call for Less Bitterness, More Bipartisanship in Politics

Washington — President Joe Biden and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox disagree on many issues but they were united Saturday in calling for less bitterness in politics and more bipartisanship.

“Politics has gotten too personally bitter,” said Biden, who has practiced politics since he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972. “It’s just not like it was.” The Democratic president commented while delivering a toast to the nation’s governors and their spouses at a black-tie White House dinner in their honor.

Biden said what makes him “feel good” about hosting the governors is “we have a tradition of doing things together. We fight like hell, we make sure that we get our points across. At the end of the day, we know who we work for. The objective is to get things done.”

Cox, a Republican and chairman of the National Governors Association, preceded Biden to the lectern beneath an imposing portrait of Abraham Lincoln above the fireplace in the State Dining Room.

The Utah governor said the association “harkens back to another time, another era, when we did work together across partisan lines, when there was no political danger in appearing with someone from the other side of the aisle and we have to keep this, we have to maintain this, we cannot lose this,” he said.

Cox leads an initiative called “Disagree Better” that aims to reduce divisiveness. He had joked earlier in the program that he and Biden might be committing “mutually assured destruction” by appearing together at the White House since they’re both up for reelection this year.

He told Biden that as state chief executives, governors “know just a very little bit of the incredible burden that weighs on your shoulders. We can’t imagine what it must be like, the decisions that you have to make, but we feel a small modicum of that pressure and so, tonight, we honor you.”

Biden said he remembered when lawmakers would argue by day and break bread together at night. He is currently embroiled in stalemates with the Republican-controlled House over immigration policy, government funding and aid for Ukraine and Israel.

Cox went on to say that his parents taught him to pray for the leader of the country.

“Mr. President, I want you to know that our family prays for you and your family every night,” he said. “We pray that you will be successful because if you are successful that means that United States of America is successful and, tonight, we are always Americans first, so thank you.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat who is the association’s vice chairman, also offered a toast.

“We have a lot more in common and a lot more that brings us together as Americans for love of country and love of the people of our country,” he said.

Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, were among Cabinet secretaries and White House officials who sat among the governors. The group included North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who in December ended his bid to become the Republican presidential nominee and challenge Biden.

Guests dined on house-made burrata cheese, an entree choice of beef braciole or cod almandine and lemon meringue tart with limoncello ice cream for dessert.

After dinner, the program moved to the East Room for a performance by country singer Trisha Yearwood.

The governors, in Washington for their annual winter meeting, heard from Biden and Harris on Friday during a separate session at the White House.

‘One Love’ Gets More Box Office Love, No. 1 for Second Week

Los Angeles — For a second straight week, biopic “ Bob Marley: One Love” continues to exceed expectations by claiming the No. 1 spot at the box office, overcoming two debut films and Sony’s “Madame Web” that’s still producing subpar numbers.

The Paramount film starring Kingsley Ben-Adir pulled in $13.5 million during its second week of release. The project, which was produced for about $70 million, already eclipsed that mark, grossing nearly $72 million domestically in North America.

It’s an impressive achievement for the Reinaldo Marcus Green-directed Marley’s musical biopic that’s focused on the Rastafarian legend’s story during the making of his 1977 album “Exodus” while leading up to his impactful concert in his native Jamaica.

“Some of his greatest hits came out nearly 50 years ago, but his music still resonates through this film,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore.

“One Love” drew nearly $2 million more than “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To the Hashira Training” which placed No. 2. The latest installment in the Japanese anime series from Crunchyroll and Sony debuted with $11.7 million.

“Demon Slayer” scored the impressive opening number from only 1,949 locations — far less than “One Love” with 3,597 and 3,020 for “ Ordinary Angels ” — a faith-based Lionsgate film starring Hilary Swank that placed third at the box office with an estimated $6.5 million.

“There might not be any huge blockbuster films recently, but there some real gems out there for moviegoers to see,” Dergarabedian said.

All three of those films outperformed better than “Madame Web,” which has struggled to find its footing after the superhero movie flopped last week. It was thought the Spider-Man spinoff would draw strong numbers — especially with Dakota Johnson starring as the film’s lead Marvel character.

But so far, it hasn’t lived up to the hype, producing just $6 million in its second week and grossing a little more than a disappointing $35 million.

After its 10th weekend, Universal’s animated “Migration” rounded out the top five with $3 million, bringing its domestic total to $120 million. “Argylle” placed sixth with $2.8 million barely outpacing “Wonka,” which reeled in $2.5 million. Paul King’s musical starring Timothee Chalamet as a young Willy Wonka has grossed more than $214 million in 11 weeks.

The Ethan Coen-directed “Drive-Away Dolls” debuted eighth with $2.4 million ahead of “The Beekeeper” and “The Chosen” season four, a Christian series focused on Jesus Christ.

Dergarabedian called this past week a slow one. But next week, he expects it’ll pick up greatly with the highly anticipated “Dune: Part Two” making its long-waited debut, which should end the top spot reign by “One Love.”

“It’s the calm before the sandstorm,” he said.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

  1. “Bob Marley: One Love,” $13.5 million.

  2. “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To the Hashira Training,” $11.5 million.

  3. “Ordinary Angels,” $6.5 million.

  4. “Madame Web,” $6 million.

  5. “Migration,” $3 million.

  6. “Argylle,” $2.8 million.

  7. “Wonka,” $2.5 million.

  8. “Drive-Away Dolls,” $2.4 million.

  9. “The Beekeeper,” $1.9 million.

  10. “The Chosen,” Episodes 4-6, $1.7 million.

Polish Farmers Block Key Road Into Germany 

Warsaw, Poland — Polish farmers on Sunday blocked a major highway into Germany in the latest such protest against EU regulations and taxes.

Farmers across Europe have been protesting for weeks over what they say are excessively restrictive environmental rules, competition from cheap imports from outside the European Union and low incomes.

On Sunday, farmers from Poland blocked the A2 motorway near Slubice, in the east on the border with Germany.

“The blockade began at 1:00 pm (1200 GMT). Both sides of the A2 motorway have been stopped,” Ewa Murmylo, a spokeswoman for local police, told AFP.

Initially the farmers had been planning a 25-day blockade but reduced it following talks with local representatives, businesses and transporters.

They have decided “to unblock the road probably tomorrow,” Monday, said Dariusz Wrobel, one of the Polish farmer organizers.

“This will depend on things that we can’t predict,” he told AFP. “We need to start taking ourselves seriously”.

On Monday, EU agriculture ministers are due to meet in Brussels.

They are to discuss new European Commission proposals aiming to change regulations at the heart of the discontent, for example reducing the number of checks on produce.

Polish farmers say they are targeting the European Union’s so-called Green Deal on energy, transportation and taxation, which is an element of the 27-nation’s bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

They say they have been especially hit by increased taxes and other rules.

The farmers have also blocked crossing points at Poland’s border with non-EU member Ukraine border to denounce what they say is unfair competition from their war-torn neighbor’s cheaper produce.

On Friday, Polish officials snubbed a delegation led by Ukraine’s prime minister seeking to resolve tensions caused by weeks-long Polish farmer protests at the shared border.

Polish authorities said they had never agreed to a border meeting over the demonstrations, which Ukraine says threaten its exports and are holding up deliveries of crucial weapons for its war against Russia, now entering its third year.

Zelenskyy Voices Optimism Over Peace Plan That Could Include Russia  

Serbia Protests After Croatian Foreign Minister Calls Vucic ‘Russian Stooge’ 

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia on Sunday sent a protest note after Croatia’s foreign minister described Serbia’s populist President Aleksandar Vucic as a Russian “satellite” in the Balkans.

It was the latest spat between the two neighbors that have been at odds for most of the time since the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman told N1 television Saturday that Vucic must decide which side he is on, Russia or the European Union, “because it is impossible and uncomfortable sitting on two chairs at the same time.”

“He shouldn’t have a big dilemma,” Grlic Radman said, adding that Vucic can remain Moscow’s ally but “malign” Russian influence that could undermine the stability of the Western Balkans will not be allowed.

Vucic and other Serbian officials reacted with anger.

“The Croatian minister not only brutally interferes in the internal affairs of Serbia, but as usual he lies and insults the Serbian people and threatens its citizens,” Vucic said on Instagram.

“Grlic Radman is right about one thing, maybe I am someone’s satellite … but I have never been anyone’s servant, which cannot be said for Grlic Radman.”

In its protest note, the Serbian Foreign Ministry said that it expects that in the future Croatian officials “will refrain from statements that represent interference in the internal affairs of Serbia and will lead a policy of reconciliation and good-neighborly relations between the two states.”

Vucic’s government has maintained close ties with Moscow despite its aggression against Ukraine, and the Serbian autocratic leader has often boasted about his close personal relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite Serbia’s formal bid to join the European Union.

Serbia has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia, a traditional Slavic ally, while allowing Moscow propaganda outlets such as RT and Sputnik to spread their narrative throughout the Balkans. EU officials have repeatedly said that Serbia must align its policies with the bloc if it really wants to join and warned of the increasing Russian influence in the war-torn region.

Croatia, which is an EU and NATO member, and Serbia have been involved in a series of spats between their officials in recent years. The two countries have lately also been involved in a mini arms race that analysts believe could further escalate the tensions in the region.

Consumers Pushing Back Against Price Increases — And Winning

Washington — Inflation has changed the way many Americans shop. Now, those changes in consumer habits are helping bring down inflation.

Fed up with prices that remain about 19%, on average, above where they were before the pandemic, consumers are fighting back. In grocery stores, they’re shifting away from name brands to store-brand items, switching to discount stores or simply buying fewer items like snacks or gourmet foods.

More Americans are buying used cars, too, rather than new, forcing some dealers to provide discounts on new cars again. But the growing consumer pushback to what critics condemn as price-gouging has been most evident with food as well as with consumer goods like paper towels and napkins.

In recent months, consumer resistance has led large food companies to respond by sharply slowing their price increases from the peaks of the past three years. This doesn’t mean grocery prices will fall back to their levels of a few years ago, though with some items, including eggs, apples and milk, prices are below their peaks. But the milder increases in food prices should help further cool overall inflation, which is down sharply from a peak of 9.1% in 2022 to 3.1%.

Public frustration with prices has become a central issue in President Joe Biden’s bid for re-election. Polls show that despite the dramatic decline in inflation, many consumers are unhappy that prices remain so much higher than they were before inflation began accelerating in 2021.

Biden has echoed the criticism of many left-leaning economists that corporations jacked up their prices more than was needed to cover their own higher costs, allowing themselves to boost their profits. The White House has also attacked “shrinkflation,” whereby a company, rather than raising the price of a product, instead shrinks the amount inside the package. In a video released on Super Bowl Sunday, Biden denounced shrinkflation as a “rip-off.”

Consumer pushback against high prices suggests to many economists that inflation should further ease. That would make this bout of inflation markedly different from the debilitating price spikes of the 1970s and early 1980s, which took longer to defeat. When high inflation persists, consumers often develop an inflationary psychology: Ever-rising prices lead them to accelerate their purchases before costs rise further, a trend that can itself perpetuate inflation.

“That was the fear — that everybody would tolerate higher prices,” said Gregory Daco, chief economist at EY, a consulting firm, who notes that it hasn’t happened. “I don’t think we’ve moved into a high inflation regime.”

Instead, this time many consumers have reacted like Stuart Dryden, a commercial underwriter at a bank who lives in Arlington, Virginia. On a recent trip to his regular grocery store, Dryden, 37, pointed out big price disparities between Kraft Heinz-branded products and their store-label competitors, which he now favors.

Dryden, for example, loves cream cheese and bagels. A 12-ounce tub of Kraft’s Philadelphia cream cheese costs $6.69. The store brand, he noted, is just $3.19.

A 24-pack of Kraft single cheese slices is $7.69; the store label, $2.99. And a 32-ounce Heinz ketchup bottle is $6.29, while the alternative is just $1.69. Similar gaps existed with mac-and-cheese and shredded cheese products.

“Just those five products together already cost nearly $30,” Dryden said. The alternatives were less than half that, he calculated, at about $13.

“I’ve been trying private-label options, and the quality is the same and it’s almost a no-brainer to switch from the products I used to buy a ton of to just the private label,” Dryden said.

Alex Abraham, a spokesman for Kraft Heinz, said that its costs rose 3% in the final three months of last year but that the company raised its own prices only 1%.

“We are doing everything possible to find efficiencies in our factories and other parts of our business to offset and mitigate further price increases,” Abraham said.

Last week, Kraft Heinz said sales fell in the final three months of last year as more consumers traded down to cheaper brands.

Dryden has taken other steps to save money: A year ago, he moved into a new apartment after his previous landlord jacked up his rent by about 50%. His former apartment had been next to a relatively pricey grocery store, Whole Foods. Now, he shops at a nearby Amazon Fresh and has started visiting the discount grocer Aldi every couple of weeks.

Samuel Rines, an investment strategist at Corbu, says that PepsiCo, Kimberly-Clark, Procter & Gamble and many other consumer food and packaged goods companies exploited the rise in input costs stemming from supply-chain disruptions and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to dramatically raise their prices — and increase their profits — in 2021 and 2022.

A contributing factor was that millions of Americans enjoyed solid wage gains and received stimulus checks and other government aid, making it easier for them to pay the higher prices.

Still, some decried the phenomenon as “greedflation.” And in a March 2023 research paper, the economist Isabella Weber at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, referred to it as “seller’s inflation.”

Yet beginning late last year, many of the same companies discovered that the strategy was no longer working. Most consumers have now long since spent the savings they built up during the pandemic.

Lower-income consumers, in particular, are running up credit card debt and falling behind on their payments. Americans overall are spending more cautiously. Daco notes that overall sales during the holiday shopping season were up just 4% — and most of it reflected higher prices rather than consumers actually buying more things.

As an example, Rines points to Unilever, which makes, among other items, Hellman’s mayonnaise, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Dove soaps. Unilever jacked up its prices 13.3% on average across its brands in 2022. Its sales volume fell 3.6% that year. In response, it raised prices just 2.8% last year; sales rose 1.8%.

“We’re beginning to see the consumer no longer willing to take the higher pricing,” Rines said. “So companies were beginning to get a little bit more skeptical of their ability to just have price be the driver of their revenues. They had to have those volumes come back, and the consumer wasn’t reacting in a way that they were pleased with.”

Unilever itself recently attributed poor sales performance in Europe to “share losses to private labels.”

Other businesses have noticed, too. After their sales fell in the final three months of last year, PepsiCo executives signaled that this year they would rein in price increases and focus more on boosting sales.

“In 2024, we see … normalization of the cost, normalization of inflation,” CEO Ramon Laguarta said. “So we see everything trending back to our long-term” pricing trends.

Jeffrey Harmening, CEO of General Mills, which makes Cheerios, Chex Cereal, Progresso soups and dozens of other brands, has acknowledged that his customers are increasingly seeking bargains.

And McDonald’s executives have said that consumers with incomes below $45,000 are visiting less and spending less when they do visit and say the company plans to highlight its lower-priced items.

“Consumers are more wary — and weary — of pricing, and we’re going to continue to be consumer-led in our pricing decisions,” Ian Borden, the company’s chief financial officer, told investors.

Officials at the Federal Reserve, the nation’s primary inflation-fighting institution, have cited consumers’ growing reluctance to pay high prices as a key reason why they expect inflation to fall steadily back to their 2% annual target.

“Firms are telling us that price sensitivity is very much higher now,” Mary Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and a member of the Fed’s interest-rate setting committee, said last week. “Consumers don’t want to purchase unless they’re seeing a 10% discount. … This is a serious improvement in the role that consumers play in bridling inflation.”

Surveys by the Fed’s regional banks have found that companies across all industries expect to impose smaller price increases this year. The New York Fed says companies in its region plan to raise prices an average of about 3% this year, down from about 5% in 2023 and as much as 7% to 9% in 2022.

Such trends suggest that companies were well on their way to slowing their price hikes before Biden’s most recent attacks on price gouging.

Claudia Sahm, founder of SAHM Consulting and a former Fed economist, said, “consumers are more powerful than President Biden.”

Belarusians Vote in Tightly Controlled Election; Opposition Calls for Boycott

TALLINN, Estonia — Polls opened Sunday in Belarus’ tightly controlled parliamentary and local elections that are set to cement the steely rule of the country’s authoritarian leader, despite calls for a boycott from the opposition, which dismissed the balloting as a “senseless farce.”

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron hand for nearly 30 years, accuses the West of trying to use the vote to undermine his government and “destabilize” the nation of 9.5 million people.

Most candidates belong to the four officially registered parties: Belaya Rus, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Party of Labor and Justice. Those parties all support Lukashenko’s policies. About a dozen other parties were denied registration last year.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is in exile in neighboring Lithuania after challenging Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election, urged voters to boycott the elections.

“There are no people on the ballot who would offer real changes because the regime only has allowed puppets convenient for it to take part,” Tsikhanouskaya said in a video statement. “We are calling to boycott this senseless farce, to ignore this election without choice.”

Sunday’s balloting is the first election in Belarus since the contentious 2020 vote that handed Lukashenko his sixth term in office and triggered an unprecedented wave of mass demonstrations.

Protests swept the country for months, bringing hundreds of thousands into the streets. More than 35,000 people were arrested. Thousands were beaten in police custody, and hundreds of independent media outlets and nongovernmental organizations were shut down and outlawed.

Lukashenko has relied on subsidies and political support from his main ally, Russia, to survive the protests. He allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

The election takes place amid a relentless crackdown on dissent. Over 1,400 political prisoners remain behind bars, including leaders of opposition parties and renowned human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022.

The opposition says the early balloting that began Tuesday offers fertile ground for the vote to be manipulated, with ballot boxes unprotected for five days. Election officials said Sunday that over 40% of the country’s voters cast ballots during the five days of early voting. Turnout stood at 43.64% by 9 a.m. on Sunday, an hour after polls formally opened, according to the Belarusian Central Election Commission.

The Viasna Human Rights Center said students, soldiers, teachers and other civil servants were forced to participate in early voting.

“Authorities are using all available means to ensure the result they need — from airing TV propaganda to forcing voters to cast ballots early,” said Viasna representative Pavel Sapelka. “Detentions, arrests and searches are taking place during the vote.”

Speaking during Tuesday’s meeting with top Belarusian law enforcement officials, Lukashenko alleged without offering evidence that Western countries were pondering plans to stage a coup in the country or to try to seize power by force. He ordered police to beef up armed patrols across Belarus, declaring that “it’s the most important element of ensuring law and order.”

After the vote, Belarus is set to form a new state body — the 1,200-seat All-Belarus Popular Assembly that will include top officials, local legislators, union members, pro-government activists and others. It will have broad powers, including the authority to consider constitutional amendments and to appoint election officials and judges.

Lukashenko was believed a few years ago to be considering whether to lead the new body after stepping down, but his calculus has apparently changed, and now few observers expect him to step down after his current term ends next year.

For the first time, curtains were removed from voting booths at polling stations, and voters were banned from taking pictures of their ballots. During the 2020 election, activists encouraged voters to photograph their ballots in a bid to prevent authorities from manipulating the vote in Lukashenko’s favor.

Belarusian state TV aired footage of Interior Ministry drills in which police detained a purported offender who was photographing his ballot and others who created an artificial queue outside a polling station.

Belarus for the first time also refused to invite observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the election. Belarus is a member of the OSCE, a top trans-Atlantic security and rights group, and its monitors have been the only international observers at Belarusian elections for decades.

Since 1995, not a single election in Belarus has been recognized as free and fair by the OSCE.

The OSCE said the decision not to allow the agency’s monitors deprived the country of a “comprehensive assessment by an international body.”

“The human rights situation in Belarus continues to deteriorate as those who voice dissent or stand up for the human rights of others are subject to investigation, persecution and frequently prosecution,” it said in a statement.

Observers noted that authorities have not even tried to pretend that the vote is democratic.

The election offers the government an opportunity to run a “systems test after massive protests and a serious shock of the last presidential election and see whether it works,” said Artyom Shraibman, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center. “The parliament will be sterile after the opposition and all alternative voices were barred from campaigning. It’s important for authorities to erase any memory of the protests.”

Productivity Surge Helps Explain US Economy’s Surprising Resilience 

Washington — Trying to keep up with customer demand, Batesville Tool & Die began seeking 70 people to hire last year. It wasn’t easy. Attracting factory workers to a community of 7,300 in the Indiana countryside was a tough sell, especially having to compete with big-name manufacturers nearby like Honda and Cummins Engine. 

Job seekers were scarce. 

“You could count on one hand how many people in the town were unemployed,” said Jody Fledderman, the CEO. “It was just crazy.” 

Batesville Tool & Die managed to fill just 40 of its vacancies. 

Enter the robots. The company invested in machines that could mimic human workers and in vision systems, which helped its robots “see” what they were doing. 

The Batesville experience has been replicated countlessly across the United States the past couple of years. Worker shortages have led many companies to invest in machines. They’ve also been training the workers they do have to use advanced technology so they can produce more with less. 

The result has been an unexpected productivity boom, which helps explain a great economic mystery: How has the world’s largest economy stayed so healthy, with brisk growth and low unemployment, despite brutally high interest rates that are intended to tame inflation but that typically cause a recession? 

To economists, strong productivity growth provides an almost magical elixir. When companies roll out more efficient technology, their workers can become more productive: They increase their output per hour. A result is that companies can often boost profits and raise pay without having to jack up prices. Inflation can remain in check. 

The Fed’s aggressive streak of rate hikes — 11 of them starting in March 2022 — managed to bring inflation from a four-decade high of 9.1% to 3.1%. But, to the surprise to the economists who’d forecast a recession, the higher borrowing costs have caused little economic hardship. 

Perhaps the likeliest explanation is the greater efficiencies that companies like Batesville Tool & Die have managed to achieve. Before productivity began its resurgent growth last year, a rule of thumb was that average hourly pay could rise no more than 3.5% annually for inflation to stay within the Fed’s 2% target. That would mean that today’s roughly 4% average annual pay growth would have to shrink. Higher productivity means there’s now more leeway for wage growth to stay elevated without igniting inflation. 

The productivity boom marks a shift from the pre-pandemic years, when annual productivity growth averaged a tepid 1.5%. Everything changed as the economy rocketed out of the 2020 pandemic recession with unexpected vigor, and businesses struggled to re-hire the many workers they had shed. 

The resulting worker shortage sent wages surging. Inflation jumped, too, as factories and ports buckled under the strain of rising consumer orders. 

Desperate, many companies turned to automation. The efficiency payoff began to arrive almost a year ago. Labor productivity rose at a 3.6% annual pace from last April through June, 4.9% from July through September and 3.2% from October through December. 

At Reata Engineering & Machine Works, “efficiency was kind of forced on us,” CEO Grady Cope said. With the job market roaring, the company, based in Englewood, Colorado, couldn’t hire fast enough. Meantime, its customers were starting to balk at paying higher prices. 

So Reata installed robots and other technology. Software allowed it to automate the delivery of price quotes to customers. That process used to require two weeks. Now, it can be done in 24 hours. 

Many economists and business people say they’re hopeful that the productivity boom can continue. Artificial intelligence, they note, is only beginning to penetrate factory floors, warehouses, stores and offices and could accelerate efficiency gains. 

Automation raises fears that machines will replace human workers, killing jobs. Some workers supplanted by robots do often struggle to find new work and end up settling for lower pay. 

Yet history suggests that in the long run, technological improvements actually create more jobs than they destroy. People are needed to build, upgrade, repair and operate sophisticated machines. Some displaced workers are trained to shift into such jobs. And that transition is likely to be eased this time by the retirement of the vast baby boom generation, which is causing labor shortages. 

Some of today’s productivity gains may be coming not just from advanced technology but also from more satisfied workers. The tight labor markets of the past three years allowed Americans to change jobs and find others that pay better and make them happier and more productive. 

Justin Thompson, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, felt burned out by his job as a police officer, with its 16-hour workdays .”I was literally running myself into the ground,” he said. 

Thompson’s wife saw a job posting for operations manager at a charter airline. Even without airline experience, his wife felt he could use skills he gains as a Marine Corps infantryman — handling logistics for missions — during tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

She was right. Omni Air International hired him in 2019. 

Thompson, 43, loves the new job, which allows him to work from home when he’s not traveling. And his Marine experience — which included developing ways to improve efficiency — has proved invaluable. 

Other workers have switched from low-skill jobs to those that allow them to be more productive. 

At Reata Engineering, staffers were trained to use new sophisticated equipment. 

“The whole point is not to lay people off,” said Cope, the CEO of Reata Engineering. “The point is to make people do jobs that are more interesting” — and pay better, too. 

Former President Trump Beats Former UN Ambassador Haley in Her State

Former US President Donald Trump won the Republican Presidential Primary in the Southern state of South Carolina on Saturday, defeating former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in her home state. But Haley vowed to continue her campaign through Super Tuesday in early March, when a block of US states will have their say in who runs against President Joe Biden in November. VOA’s Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson has more.
Camera: Henry Hernandez and Ostap Yarysh

‘Oppenheimer,’ Lily Gladstone Win at 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards

Protesters Rally All Over World To Demand Putin End War in Ukraine

New York City Owl Flaco Dies After Crashing Into Building

NEW YORK — Tributes poured in Saturday for Flaco, the beloved Eurasian eagle-owl that became a feel-good New York story after escaping its Central Park Zoo enclosure and flying free around Manhattan.

Flaco was found dead on a New York City sidewalk Friday night after apparently flying into a building. It was a heartbreaking end for the birders who documented the owl’s daily movements and the legions of admirers who eagerly followed along.

“Everybody feels the same, they’re devastated,” said Nicole Blair, a New York City artist who devoted much of her feed on the X platform to photos and memes featuring the celebrity owl with checkerboard black and brown feathers and round sunset-hued eyes.

Staff from the Wild Bird Fund, a wildlife rehabilitation center, declared Flaco dead shortly after the collision. A necropsy was expected Saturday.

Flaco was freed from his cage at the zoo a little over a year ago by a vandal who breached a waist-high fence and cut a hole through a steel mesh cage. The owl had arrived at the zoo as a fledgling 13 years earlier.

Flaco sightings soon became sport. The owl spent his days perched on tree branches, fence posts and fire escapes and nights hooting atop water towers and preying on the city’s abundant rats.

Like a true celebrity, the owl appeared on murals and merchandise. A likeness occupied a spot on Blair’s New York City-themed Christmas tree, right next to “Pizza Rat,” the infamous rodent seen in a YouTube clip dragging a slice down a subway stairwell.

“I got to see him on my birthday,” Blair said of her encounter with Flaco in Central Park in the fall. “It was kind of an unbelievable situation, and I’m like, this is the best birthday present ever.”

But she and others worried when Flaco ventured beyond the park into more urban sections of Manhattan, fearing the owl would ingest a poisoned rat or encounter other dangers.

“The vandal who damaged Flaco’s exhibit jeopardized the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for his death,” the zoo said in a statement Friday. “We are still hopeful that the NYPD which is investigating the vandalism will ultimately make an arrest.”

Flaco fans shared suggestions Saturday for a permanent bronze statue overlooking New York City. One requested that the owl’s remains be buried in Central Park.

“Flaco the owl was, in many ways, a typical New Yorker — fiercely independent, constantly exploring, finding ways to survive ever-changing challenges,” read a post on the X platform, reflecting a common sentiment. “He will be missed.”

David Barrett, who runs the Manhattan Bird Alert account, suggested a temporary memorial at the bird’s favorite oak tree in the park.

There, he wrote in a post, fellow birders could “lay flowers, leave a note, or just be with others who loved Flaco.” 

Police Find 10th Body in Charred Spanish Apartment Block

VALENCIA, Spain — The death toll from a dramatic fire that left two residential buildings charred in the Spanish city of Valencia rose to 10 Saturday after authorities announced they had located the remains of what they believed was the last missing person.

Forensic police found the 10th victim inside the scorched building, national government delegate in Valencia Pilar Bernabé told journalists. Police will proceed with DNA testing to confirm the identities of all the victims, she said.

While there were no other missing persons reported, Bernabé stressed that police and firefighters would continue the “complex” work of combing through the building debris in search of any other possible victim.

It was not immediately known how many people were in the two buildings when the fire broke out, but the complex had some 140 apartments.

The blaze that appeared to begin in one home Thursday afternoon engulfed the rest of the 14-story apartment block in less than an hour, raising questions about whether construction materials used on the façade may have contributed to the fire spreading so furiously.

Neighbors described seeing the rapid evolution of the flames, with residents stuck on balconies and children screaming. Those left homeless from the fire, including many Ukrainian refugees who lived in the large residential complex, were initially given refuge in city hotels but were expected to be moved to other accommodation over the weekend.

Experts suggested that a type of cladding might have made the blaze spread faster. However, Valencia Mayor María José Catalá said the fire’s cause was still unknown and that it was too early to comment on whether some materials used in the construction of the modern complex might have worsened it.

Trump Wins South Carolina Primary; Haley Heads to Michigan

charleston, south carolina — Former U.S. President Donald Trump won South Carolina’s Republican primary on Saturday, beating former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley in her home state and further consolidating his path to a third straight GOP nomination. 

Trump has now swept every contest that counted for Republican delegates, with wins in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The former president’s latest victory will likely increase pressure on Haley, who was Trump’s representative to the U.N. and South Carolina governor from 2011 to 2017, to leave the race. 

Haley has vowed to stay in the race through at least the primaries on March 5, known as Super Tuesday, but was unable to dent Trump’s momentum in her home state despite holding far more campaign events and arguing that the indictments against Trump will hamstring him against U.S. President Joe Biden in the fall. 

South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary has historically been a reliable bellwether for Republicans. In all but one primary since 1980, the Republican winner in South Carolina has gone on to be the party’s nominee. The lone exception was Newt Gingrich in 2012. 

Haley said in recent days that she would head straight to Michigan for its Tuesday primary, the last major contest before Super Tuesday. She faces questions about where she might be able to win a contest or be competitive. 

Trump and Biden are already behaving like they expect to face off in November. 

Trump and his allies argue Biden has made the U.S. weaker and point to the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Trump has also repeatedly attacked Biden over high inflation earlier in the president’s term and his handling of record-high migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Trump has questioned — often in harshly personal terms — whether the 81-year-old Biden is too old to serve a second term. Biden’s team in turn has highlighted the 77-year-old Trump’s own flubs on the campaign trail. 

Biden has stepped up his recent fundraising trips around the country and increasingly attacked Trump directly. He’s called Trump and his “Make America Great Again” movement dire threats to the nation’s founding principles, and the president’s reelection campaign has lately focused most of its attention on Trump, suggesting he’d use the first day of a second presidency as a dictator and that he’d tell Russia to attack NATO allies who fail to keep up with defense spending obligations mandated by the alliance. 

Haley also criticized Trump on his NATO comments and also for questioning why her husband wasn’t on the campaign trail with her — even as former first lady Melania Trump hasn’t appeared with him. Major Michael Haley is deployed in the Horn of Africa on a mission with the South Carolina Army National Guard. 

But South Carolina’s Republican voters line up with Trump on having lukewarm feelings about NATO and continued U.S. support for Ukraine, according to AP VoteCast data from Saturday’s primary. About 6 in 10 oppose continuing aid to Ukraine in its fight against Russia. Only about a third described America’s participation in NATO as “very good,” with more saying it’s only “somewhat good.” 

Haley has raised copious amounts of campaign money and is scheduled to begin a cross-country campaign swing on Sunday in Michigan ahead of Super Tuesday on March 5, when many delegate-rich states hold primaries. 

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham complimented Haley while speaking to reporters at Trump’s election night party in Columbia but suggested it was time for her to drop out. 

“I think the sooner she does, the better for her, the better for the party,” Graham said. 

Biden won South Carolina’s Democratic primary earlier this month and faces only one remaining challenger, Dean Phillips. The Minnesota Democratic congressman has continued to campaign in Michigan ahead of the Democratic primary there, despite having little chance of actually beating Biden. 

Though Biden is expected to cruise to his party’s renomination, he faces criticism from some Democrats for providing military backing to Israel in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The war could hurt the president’s general election chances in swing states such as  Michigan, which is home to a large Arab American population. 

UK Lawmaker Suspended After Accusing London Mayor of Being Controlled by Islamists

london — The U.K.’s governing Conservative Party has suspended ties with one if its lawmakers after he accused London Mayor Sadiq Khan of being controlled by Islamists, as tensions over the Israel-Hamas war roil British politics. 

The party said Saturday that Lee Anderson was suspended after he refused to apologize for remarks made about Khan in a television interview Friday. The action means that Anderson, a deputy chairman of the Conservatives until last month, will sit in Parliament as an independent. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and other senior Conservative leaders had come under increasing pressure to reject the comments, which the chairwoman of the opposition Labor Party called “unambiguously racist and Islamophobic.” 

The controversy comes as the Israel-Hamas war fuels tensions in British society. Pro-Palestinian marches in London have regularly drawn hundreds of thousands of demonstrators calling for an immediate cease-fire, even as critics describe the events as “antisemitic hate marches.” Figures released over the last week show that both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim incidents have risen sharply since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7. 

That anger has spilled over into Parliament, where some lawmakers say they fear for their safety after receiving threats over their positions on the conflict in Gaza. 

In his interview with GB News, Anderson criticized the police response to pro-Palestinian demonstrations in London, leveling the blame on Khan. 

Anderson said he didn’t “actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London.” 

Khan flatly rejected the allegations, telling the BBC that all forms of hatred need to be rejected, including antisemitism, Islamophobia and misogyny. 

“My concern is there’ll be people across the country, people who are Muslim, or look like Muslims, who’ll be really concerned about entering into politics because they know if these are the sorts of comments that are said against me by a senior Conservative, what chance do they have?” he said. 

Mother Receives Body of Russian Opposition Leader Navalny, Aide Says