AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

 Slovakia’s populist prime minister shot in assassination attempt, shocking Europe before elections BANSKA BYSTRICA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s populist Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot multiple times and gravely wounded Wednesday, but his deputy prime minister said he believed Fico would survive. The prime minister had been greeting supporters at an event when the attempted [[{“value”:”

Slovakia’s populist prime minister shot in assassination attempt, shocking Europe before elections

BANSKA BYSTRICA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s populist Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot multiple times and gravely wounded Wednesday, but his deputy prime minister said he believed Fico would survive.

The prime minister had been greeting supporters at an event when the attempted assassination took place, shocking the small country and reverberating across Europe weeks before an election.

“I guess in the end he will survive,” Tomas Taraba told the BBC, adding: “He’s not in a life threatening situation at this moment.”

Doctors fought for Fico’s life several hours after the pro-Russian leader, 59, was hit in the abdomen, Defense Minister Robert Kalina told reporters at the hospital where Fico was being treated.

Five shots were fired outside a cultural center in the town of Handlova, nearly 140 kilometers (85 miles) northeast of the capital, government officials said. Fico was shot while attending a meeting of his government in the town of 16,000 that was once a center of coal mining.


Who is Robert Fico, the populist Slovak prime minister wounded in a shooting?

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot multiple times after a political event Wednesday afternoon, an episode of violence that punctuated his decades-long career in politics.

His deputy prime minister Tomas Taraba later told the BBC he believed Fico would survive the attack, saying “he’s not in a life threatening situation at this moment.”

Fico, 59, was born in 1964 in what was then Czechoslovakia. A member of the Communist Party before the dissolution of communism, he took a law degree in 1986 and was first elected to Slovakia’s parliament in 1992 as a member of the Party of the Democratic Left.

He served for several years in the 1990s as a governmental agent representing the Slovak Republic before the European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission of Human Rights. In 1999, he became chairman of the Smer (Direction) party, of which he has been a pivotal figure ever since.

He and Smer have most often been described as left-populist, though he has also been compared to right-wing politicians like the nationalist prime minister of neighboring Hungary, Viktor Orbán.


Xi meets Russia’s Putin on a state visit to China that’s a show of unity between the allies

BEIJING (AP) — China’s leader Xi Jinping welcomed Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Thursday as he began a two-day state visit while Moscow presses forward with a new offensive in Ukraine.

Putin arrived in Beijing by plane at dawn before his motorcade pulled in front of the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square. Members of the People’s Liberation Army stood at attention while artillery fired a multi-gun salute.

Xi warmly greeted Putin as the shook hands at the bottom of the entrance to the classically designed building before they entered to hold talks.

Their meetings were expected to emphasize their commitment to the “no limits” relationship they signed in 2022, just before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Since then, Russia has become increasingly economically dependent on China as Western sanctions cut its access to much of the international trading system.

On the eve of the visit, Putin said in an interview with Chinese media that the Kremlin is prepared to negotiate over the conflict in Ukraine. “We are open to a dialogue on Ukraine, but such negotiations must take into account the interests of all countries involved in the conflict, including ours,” Putin was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.


Netanyahu fends off criticism at home and abroad over his lack of a postwar plan for Gaza

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday fended off criticism that he is not planning for a postwar reality in the Gaza Strip, saying it was impossible to prepare for any scenario in the embattled Palestinian enclave until Hamas is defeated.

Netanyahu has faced increasing pressure from critics at home and allies abroad, especially the United States, to present a plan for governance, security and rebuilding of Gaza.

He has indicated Israel seeks to maintain open-ended control over security affairs and rejected a role for the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority. That position stands in contrast to the vision set forth by the Biden administration, which wants Palestinian governance in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank as a precursor to Palestinian statehood.

The debate over a postwar vision for Gaza comes as fighting has erupted again in places Israel had targeted in the early days of the war and said it had under control, as well as in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, which has sent hundreds of thousands fleeing.

For Palestinians, that displacement has renewed painful memories of mass expulsion from what is now Israel in the war surrounding the country’s creation in 1948. Palestinians across the Middle East on Wednesday were marking the 76th anniversary of that event.


Biden and Trump, trading barbs, agree to 2 presidential debates, in June and September

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump on Wednesday agreed to hold two campaign debates — the first on June 27 hosted by CNN and the second on Sept. 10 hosted by ABC — setting the stage for their first presidential face-off to play out in just over a month.

The quick agreement on the timetable followed the Democrat’s announcement that he would not participate in fall presidential debates sponsored by the nonpartisan commission that has organized them for more than three decades. Biden’s campaign instead proposed that media outlets directly organize the debates between the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees.

The debate is so unusually early on the political calendar that neither Biden nor Trump will have formally accepted his party’s nomination.

Hours later, Biden said he had accepted an invitation from CNN, adding, “Over to you, Donald.” Trump, who had insisted he would debate Biden anytime and anyplace, said on Truth Social he’d be there, too, adding, “Let’s get ready to Rumble!!!” Soon after that, they agreed to the second debate on ABC.

“Trump says he’ll arrange his own transportation,” Biden wrote on X, working in a jab about the perks of incumbency. “I’ll bring my plane, too. I plan on keeping it for another four years.”


The jurors in Trump’s hush money trial are getting a front row seat to history — most of the time

A gag order. The House Speaker turning up outside court. Angry denouncements of the judge overseeing the case.

Some of the most explosive moments in Donald Trump’s hush money trial have played out for most of the world to see — except for the people who are actually deciding his fate: the jury.

The 12-person panel is shown evidence and witness testimony so they can decide whether the former president is guilty of a scheme to buy up and bury seamy stories in an effort to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election. But it’s a highly curated experience; jurors are not getting the full picture seen by those who follow along each day.

They don’t even witness Trump enter or exit the courtroom. He’s already there by the time they are brought into the room, and he stays until they are dismissed.

This is by design. Laws carefully govern how a criminal case is tried to ensure that a jury’s decision on guilt or innocence isn’t affected by fights over evidence or other legal sparring. It’s routine to hold back a jury while trial lawyers argue with the judge about what can and can’t be included for jurors to see during the trial. And attorneys often gather quietly at the judge’s bench to talk about sensitive topics, out of their earshot.


Supreme Court orders Louisiana to use congressional map with additional Black district in 2024 vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered Louisiana to hold congressional elections in 2024 using a House map with a second mostly Black district, despite a lower-court ruling that called the map an illegal racial gerrymander.

The order allows the use of a map that has majority Black populations in two of the state’s six congressional districts, potentially boosting Democrats’ chances of gaining control of the closely divided House of Representatives in the 2024 elections.

The justices acted on emergency appeals filed by the state’s top Republican elected officials and Black voters who said they needed the high court’s intervention to avoid confusion as the elections approach. About a third of Louisiana is Black.

The Supreme Court’s order does not deal with a lower-court ruling that found the map relied too heavily on race. Instead, it only prevents yet another new map from being drawn for this year’s elections.

The Supreme Court could decide at a later date to hear arguments over the decision striking down the Louisiana map.


Now armed with AI, America’s adversaries will try to influence election, security officials warn

WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s foreign adversaries will again seek to influence the upcoming U.S. elections, top security officials warned members of the Senate Wednesday, harnessing the latest innovations in artificial intelligence to spread online disinformation, mislead voters and undermine trust in democracy.

But the U.S. has greatly improved its ability to safeguard election security and identify and combat foreign disinformation campaigns since 2016, when Russia sought to influence the election, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The latest warning from security officials comes as advances in AI make it easier and cheaper than ever to create lifelike images, video and audio that can fool even the most discerning voter. Other tools of disinformation include state media, online influencers and networks of fake accounts that can quickly amplify false and misleading content.

Russia, China and Iran remain the main actors looking to interfere with the 2024 election, security officials said, but due to advances in technology other nations or even domestic groups could try and mount their own sophisticated disinformation campaigns.

Russia remains “the most active foreign threat to our elections,” Haines said, using its state media and online influencers to erode trust in democratic institutions and U.S. support for Ukraine.


All eyes are on Coppola in Cannes. Sound familiar?

CANNES, France (AP) — Francis Ford Coppola on Thursday will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival a film on which he has risked everything, one that’s arriving clouded by rumors of production turmoil. Sound familiar?

On Thursday, Coppola’s self-financed opus “Megalopolis” will make its much-awaited premiere. Other films are debuting in Cannes with more fanfare and hype, but none has quite the curiosity of “Megalopolis,” the first film by the 85-year-old filmmaker in 13 years. Coppola put $120 million of his own money into it.

Forty-five years ago, something very similar played out when Coppola was toiling over the edit for “Apocalypse Now.” The movie’s infamous Philippines production, which would be documented by Coppola’s late wife, Eleanor, was already legend. The originally planned release in December 1977 had come and gone. Coppola had, himself, poured some $16 million into the $31 million budget for his Vietnam-set telling of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”

“I was terrified. For one thing, I was on the hook for the whole budget personally — that’s why I came to own it,” Coppola said in 2019. “In addition, in those days interest was over 25, 27%. So it looked as though, especially given the controversy and all the bogus articles being written about a movie that no one knew anything about but were predicting it was ‘the heralded mess’ of that year, it looked as though I was never going to get out of the jeopardy I was in. I had kids, I was young. I had no family fortune behind me. I was scared stiff.”

Gilles Jacob, delegate general of Cannes, traveled to visit Coppola, hoping he could coax him into returning to the festival where the director’s “The Conversation” had won the Palme d’Or in 1974. In his book, “Citizen Cannes: The Man Behind the Cannes Film Festival,” Jacob recounted finding Coppola in the editing suite “beset by financial woes and struggling with 20 miles of film.”


The first Mexican taco stand to get a Michelin star is a tiny business where the heat makes the meat

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Newly minted Michelin-starred chef Arturo Rivera Martínez stood over an insanely hot grill Wednesday at the first Mexican taco stand ever to get a coveted star from the French dining guide, and did exactly the same thing he’s been doing for 20 years: searing meat.

Though Michelin representatives came by Wednesday to present him with one of the company’s heavy, full-sleeved, pristine white chef’s jackets, he didn’t put it on: In this tiny, 10-foot by 10-foot (3-meter by 3-meter) business, the heat makes the meat. And the heat is intense.

At Mexico City’s Tacos El Califa de León, in the scruffy-bohemian San Rafael neighborhood, there are only four things on the menu, all tacos, and all of which came from some area around a cow’s rib, loin or fore shank.

“The secret is the simplicity of our taco. It has only a tortilla, red or green sauce, and that’s it. That, and the quality of the meat,” said Rivera Martínez. He’s also probably the only Michelin-starred chef who, when asked what beverage should accompany his food, answers “I like a Coke.”

It’s actually more complicated than that. El Califa de León is the only taco stand among the 16 Mexican restaurants given one star, as well as two eateries that got two stars. Almost all the rest are pretty darn posh eateries (hint: a lot of expensive seafood served in pretty shells on bespoke plates).

The Associated Press


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