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As Italy votes, Europe fears populist, euroskeptic gains

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Italians voted Sunday in one of the most uncertain elections in years and one that could determine if Italy will succumb to the populist, euroskeptic and far-right sentiment that has swept through Europe.

The campaign was marked by the prime-time airing of neofascist rhetoric and anti-migrant violence that culminated in a shooting spree last month against six Africans. While the center-right coalition that capitalized on the anti-migrant sentiment led the polls, analysts predict the likeliest outcome is a hung parliament.

That will necessitate days and weeks of back-room haggling and horse trading to come up with a coalition government that can win confidence votes in Parliament. Just which parties coalesce from among the three main blocs – the center-right coalition, center-left coalition and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement – will determine Italy’s course.

“Basically it is very likely that, at the end of the day, none of these three groups will have an absolute majority and they will be forced to start talking to each other and see how to put together a coalition government,” said Franco Pavoncello, dean of the John Cabot University in Rome.

More than 46 million Italians were eligible to vote from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (0600-2200 U.K. time), including Italians abroad who already mailed in ballots. Exit polls were expected after polls closed, projections sometime thereafter and consolidated results Monday.

Some polling stations remained closed in Palermo hours into election day because the wrong ballots were delivered and 200,000 new ones had to be reprinted overnight. The outgoing Senate president, Pietro Grasso, complained that such delays were “unacceptable” and that he hoped they wouldn’t discourage turnout.

In Rome, meanwhile, some early voters said the ballots were confusing and the process to cast them — which for the first time requires an anti-fraud check by polling authorities — too time consuming.

“You feel as if you have gone there prepared but it is not that clear,” complained Sister Vincenza as she cast her ballot on Rome’s Aventine hill before heading to Mass.

With unemployment at 10.8 percent and economic growth in the eurozone’s third-largest economy lagging the average, many Italians have all but given up hope for change. Polls indicated a third hadn’t decided or weren’t even sure they would vote.

“The situation is pretty bad,” said Paolo Mercorillo from Ragusa, Sicily, who said he had decided not to even bother casting a ballot. “There aren’t candidates who are valid enough.”

The 5-Star Movement hoped to capitalize on such disgust, particularly among Italy’s young, and polls indicated the grassroots movement launched in 2009 by comic Beppe Grillo with the mantra for Italy’s political establishment to “(expletive)-off” would be the largest vote-getter among any single party.

But the 5-Stars weren’t expected to win enough to govern on their own, and they have sworn off forming coalitions. The movement’s leader Luigi Di Maio has recently suggested he would be open to talking with potential allies, however.

Analysts predict the only coalition with a shot of reaching an absolute majority is the center-right coalition anchored by ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. The coalition includes the anti-migrant League and the nationalistic, neofascist-rooted Brothers of Italy party.

Berlusconi, 81, can’t run for office because of a tax fraud conviction, but he has tapped European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, considered a pro-European moderate, as his pick if the center-right is asked to form a government.

League leader Matteo Salvini is gunning for the top job too though, and some pro-European analysts envision a possible “nightmare scenario” of an extremist alliance among the 5-Stars, the League and Brothers of Italy. The presence in Rome this weekend of Steve Bannon, right-wing populist architect of Donald Trump’s White House campaign, was an indication of the stakes.

Roberto D’Alimonte of Rome’s LUISS University said such an outcome would be “catastrophic” for the markets. But he said the 5-Stars will have to decide if they’re going to join the right or the left if they’re going to move from their longtime perch in the opposition to actually help govern.

“This will be the moment of truth,” he said.

With polls showing the center-left trailing, Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi and the current premier, Paolo Gentiloni spent the final days of the campaign warning that the only way to guard against a turn to populists and extremists was to vote for the Democrats. Because Renzi alienated so many in the coalition, Gentiloni has been cited as a possible candidate for premier who would even be acceptable to some in the center-right.

A new law passed last year, ostensibly to make Italy more governable, calls for a combination of direct and proportional voting for both the lower Chamber of deputies, which has 630 seats, and the Senate, which has 315 seats.

A few quirks could affect the outcome, particularly for the 5-Stars.

For starters, the names of about a dozen 5-Star candidates will appear on the ballot, but they no longer represent the party. After party lists were finalized, these 5-Stars were kicked out for a variety of sins. If they actually win, other parties can woo them away to beef up their own ranks.

Analysts have also warned that the ballot itself might confuse voters and result in a higher-than-usual percentage of invalid votes.

While European capitals and Brussels were watching the outcome for its effects on policy and markets, some in Italy had more at stake personally. Even the three-time premier Berlusconi vowed in the heat of the campaign to repatriate 600,000 migrants if the center-right wins.

“Yes indeed I fear these results because I have arrived here with all my thoughts and dreams,” said Musab Badur, an asylum seeker from Sudan who is living in a Milan shelter. “And I never thought that one day maybe I would have to go back or anything like that.”

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Rudy Giuliani suspended from practicing law due to Trump statements

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A New York court on Thursday suspended Rudy Giuliani from practicing law in New York state due to making “false and misleading statements” about the election loss of former President Donald Trump, his client.

The suspension, which takes effect immediately, is a stunning blow to Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who previously served as a top Justice Department official and as the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan.

It also comes as Giuliani is under criminal investigation by that same federal prosecutor’s office in Manhattan in connection with his work in Ukraine.

Giuliani and Trump since last November have made false claims about the legitimacy of the election of President Joe Biden, claiming that Trump was swindled out of a victory only by widespread ballot fraud in key swing states.

Giuliani’s suspension, which was ordered a day short of his 52nd anniversary as a licensed lawyer in New York, was sought by the Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Judicial Department, which encompasses Manhattan. The suspension was granted by the Appellate Division for that same department of state Supreme Court.

The court, in its 33-page suspension order, noted that “interim suspension is a serious remedy, available only in situations where it is immediately necessary to protect the public from” an attorney’s violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

“We conclude that there is uncontroverted evidence that respondent communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020,” the order said.

The court also said Giuliani’s “false statements were made to improperly bolster respondent’s narrative that due to widespread voter fraud, victory in the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from his client.”

“We conclude that respondent’s conduct immediately threatens the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law, pending further proceedings before the Attorney Grievance Committee.”

One of the examples cited by the order was Giuliani’s repeated claim in an effort to discredit election results that “dead people ‘voted’ in Philadelphia.”

Giuliani at various times claimed that 8,021 dead people’s ballots were cast, “while also reporting the number as 30,000.”

“As the anecdotal poster child to prove this point, he repeatedly stated that famous heavyweight boxer Joe Frazier continued to vote years after he was dead and stated on November 7, 2020 ‘he is still voting here,’ ” the order noted.

In fact, the order added, “The public records submitted on this motion unequivocally show that respondent’s statement is false. Public records show that Pennsylvania formally cancelled Mr. Frazier’s eligibility to vote on February 8, 2012, three months after he died.”
Giuliani’s suspension is temporary, pending the outcome of a full formal disciplinary hearing.

Giuliani’s lawyers John Leventhal and Barry Kamins said in a statement, “We are disappointed with the Appellate Division, First Department’s decision suspending Mayor Giuliani prior to being afforded a hearing on the issues that are alleged.”

“This is unprecedented as we believe that our client does not pose a present danger to the public interest,” the statement said. “We believe that once the issues are fully explored at a hearing Mr. Giuliani will be reinstated as a valued member of the legal profession that he has served so well in his many capacities for so many years.”

New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman, (D-Manhattan, who had filed the formal complaint with the Attorney Grievance Committee, said, “I’m glad” about the suspension.

“The profession of law is a sacred and noble one,” Hoylman said in a statement. “And there can be no room in the profession for those who seek to undermine and undo the rule of law as Rudy Giuliani has so flagrantly done.”

This is breaking news. Check back for updates.

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China plans to send its first crewed mission to Mars in 2033

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A Long March-7 Y3 carrier rocket carrying the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft blasts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on May 29, 2021 in Wenchang, Hainan Province of China.

Yuan Chen | VCG | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China — China plans to send its first crewed mission to Mars in 2033 as it continues to boost its space ambitions in a battle with the U.S.

The world’s second-largest economy is planning regular crewed missions to the Red Planet.

Wang Xiaojun, head of the state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, outlined the country’s Mars plans for the first time this month at a space conference in Russia, according to the academy.

It comes just weeks after China landed a remote-controlled rover called Zhurong on Mars, making it the only country after the U.S. to do so.

Wang said the first step in China’s plans is to use robots to explore Mars to sample its surface and help select a place to build a base. The next stage would be to send astronauts up to Mars to build a base station there. Then China wants large-scale Earth-to-Mars cargo missions.

China has earmarked 2033, 2035, 2037, 2041 and 2043 for such missions and said it will explore technology to fly astronauts back to Earth.

A roundtrip to Mars would have a flight time of “hundreds of days,” the academy said.

The revelation of China’s Mars goals come after a string of successful space missions. China has begun construction of its own space station and earlier this month sent the first astronauts up there. It was the first time China sent a crewed mission to space since 2016.

Earlier this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke to the astronauts, congratulating them and highlighting how the country’s space ambitions are supported from the top. Space is an area China wants to lead as part of a broader technology battle with the U.S.

NASA says it plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

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JPMorgan Chase ‘strongly’ urges all U.S. employees to get vaccinated ahead of office return

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JPMorgan Chase is `strongly’ urging all its U.S. employees get the Covid-19 vaccine, warning that the jab may eventually be mandatory for workers, according to a memo sent late Wednesday.

The bank is now requiring all U.S. workers to log their vaccination status in a software portal by June 30. Those who are vaccinated don’t need to wear masks, socially distance or log their health status on a daily basis when they return to office life; those who aren’t vaccinated need to wear masks and are encouraged to take weekly Covid tests, JPMorgan said.

“We strongly urge all of our employees to be vaccinated because we think it protects you, your friends and family, your fellow employees, and the community at large,” the bank said in the memo, signed by its entire operating committee led by CEO Jamie Dimon.

“We also believe that the more employees who are vaccinated, the safer our offices will be for everyone,” JPMorgan said. “In the future, we may mandate that all employees receive a COVID-19 vaccination consistent with legal requirements and medical or religious accommodations.”

JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank by assets with almost 260,000 employees globally, is taking a more gradual approach to vaccine enforcement than smaller rival Morgan Stanley. Earlier this week, Morgan Stanley announced that only vaccinated employees and clients could enter offices starting July 12.

At JPMorgan, while employees can choose to keep their vaccination status private, it means they must continue all the precautions, including social distancing, of the pre-vaccine era.

And the unvaccinated are still expected to return to assigned office locations, along with all other U.S. employees, by July 6. Bloomberg reported the memo earlier.

Here is the memo:

Dear colleagues,

In our country today, we all should feel extremely grateful and fortunate that we are starting to see the pandemic in the rear-view mirror. Given the availability and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and other improved health indicators in the U.S., we are now taking steps to properly prepare for returning to the office in a safe and productive way. We are doing this because we believe that human interaction, spontaneous learning and creativity are so important to the way we run our company and serve our clients.

We want to be very specific about what we expect and what the requirements are related to working in the office.

I.        We need all U.S. employees — it is now mandatory — to log into and enter responses in the JPMC COVID-19 Vaccine Record Tool by June 30. If you don’t, your manager will follow-up with you individually until a response is received. We need you to enter this information so that we can properly prepare for and manage returning to the office in a very detailed way, and by location.

There are three possible answers to the question we will ask you:

a.       I am vaccinated

b.       I am not vaccinated

c.       I choose not to share my vaccination status with JPMorgan Chase (it is fine not to tell us, but you must respond)

   II.        If you have been vaccinated, have entered your data into the Tool, and have uploaded your COVID-19 vaccination card, you will no longer need to wear a mask or social distance in most locations in accordance with our current practices, and you will no longer be required to complete the Daily Health Check beginning July 6. (Note: U.S. Branch employees should continue to follow State-by-State Face Covering Guidance.)

  III.        If you indicate that you are unvaccinated or select the “I choose not to share my vaccination status with JPMorgan Chase” option, we still expect you to return to the office. You will be strongly encouraged to test for COVID-19 weekly and will also have to continue to wear a mask, complete the Daily Health Check and practice social distancing when in the office in accordance with our current practices.

  IV.        We strongly urge all of our employees to be vaccinated because we think it protects you, your friends and family, your fellow employees, and the community at large. We also believe that the more employees who are vaccinated, the safer our offices will be for everyone. In the future, we may mandate that all employees receive a COVID-19 vaccination consistent with legal requirements and medical or religious accommodations.

V.        Finally, beginning July 6, we expect all U.S. employees to move to a regular schedule, in your assigned office location, subject to occupancy limits and as directed by your manager. In many cases this may be five days each and every week, and for others it will mean a minimum of 50% of your workdays will be in the office, due to occupancy limits. We are aware that some teams are piloting a hybrid approach that varies by job, such as three days in the office or 50% rotations, but we want each of you back regularly so that we can test the effectiveness of these models as quickly as possible.

Over the past month it has been terrific to see more of you safely returning to our U.S. offices, and we have been pleased to hear from many of you that our workspaces are better than ever. You’ve commented on the health and safety protocols we’ve put in place, the new technology we’ve rolled out and, most importantly, how good it feels to see your colleagues in person.

We look forward to seeing more of you very soon.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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