The US, Britain and the rest of the NATO alliance are expected to sharpen their language on the challenge posed by China, keep up pressure on Russia and for the first time make tackling the impact on security of climate change a key task.
President Joe Biden will touch down in Brussels on Sunday evening ahead of a summit on Monday of all 30 alliance leaders, including Boris Johnson, at NATO‘s giant, glass headquarters on the outskirts of the Belgian capital.
It comes ahead of Mr Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with Russia‘s Vladimir Putin in Switzerland on Wednesday and follows a three-day summit of the G7 in Cornwall – all designed to display democratic unity to the Kremlin.
Russia’s president told NBC News in an interview ahead of his meeting with Mr Biden that relations between Moscow and Washington were at their “lowest point”.
Speaking ahead of the NATO summit, its chief, Jens Stoltenberg, said it was a “pivotal moment” for the alliance.
“We are in an age of global competition and we must respond to many threats and challenges at the same time,” he said in a press conference on Friday. “We will also address the security impact of climate change, for the first time, making this an important task for NATO.”
The atmosphere at the summit is set to differ from the previous two gatherings in 2017 and 2019, when then-president Donald Trump stole the show.
He upturned what is usually a carefully choreographed and planned piece of diplomatic theatre, berating allies as “delinquent” for failing to pay their fair share of the bill towards collective defence and instead overly-relying on the US military.
Mr Trump even threatened to pull the US out of NATO – a move that would have dealt a hammer blow to what is regarded by its members as the cornerstone of their security.
All eyes this time will be on Mr Biden.
In a return to the language normally expected from US leaders, he is expected to affirm his country’s “unwavering commitment” to the alliance and to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which requires all allies to come to the defence of any member state if attacked.
But allies remain under pressure, even without Mr Trump’s threats, to meet previous commitments to move towards spending at least 2% of national income on defence by 2024 – a pledge made at a NATO summit in Wales in 2014.
Failure to do so would send the wrong signal to the Biden administration and to NATO’s adversaries, a European source said.
The summit on Monday will be relatively short, taking place just in the afternoon.
In terms of concrete outcomes, allies are expected to sign up to a communique which looks set to include a toughening of language about the challenge posed by China, according to three European sources.
China was mentioned for the first time in a NATO leaders’ communique after the previous summit, hosted by the UK, in 2019 – when it was described as a challenge and an opportunity.
Eighteen months later, this language will remain balanced but is expected to give more of a sense of how Beijing, with its growing military power, poses a challenge to the world’s democracies.
The allies will still stress areas of co-operation, including climate change.
But there is concern particularly in the US about the threat posed by a rising China, with officials accusing the ruling Chinese Communist Party of human rights abuses and attempting to undermine international rules established since the Second World War.
NATO allies will also finalise what is being called the NATO 2030 initiative – a plan to transform the alliance to meet emerging and future threats. It includes plans to better exploit emerging technologies, enhance cyber defences, and combat climate change.
The initiative was devised after Mr Trump and France‘s President Emmanuel Macron questioned the relevance of an alliance that was established at the start of the Cold War to tackle the then-Soviet Union.
Darryl George: Family sues state governor after student suspended over dreadlocks
The family of a black student who was suspended from school in a row over his hairstyle has filed a lawsuit against the state’s governor and attorney general.
Darryl George, 17, a junior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, has been expelled since 31 August because school officials said his dreadlocks fall below his eyebrows and ear lobes, violating the district’s dress code.
His mother Darresha George has denied this and said his hair is neatly tied and twisted in dreadlocks on top of his head.
The lawsuit accuses Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton of failing to enforce the CROWN Act, a new state law outlawing racial discrimination based on hairstyles.
The lawsuit claims the pair, in their official duties, failed to protect Darryl’s constitutional rights against discrimination and violated his freedom of speech and expression.
Darryl George “should be permitted to wear his hair in the manner in which he wears it because the so-called neutral grooming policy has no close association with learning or safety and when applied, disproportionately impacts Black males,” according to the lawsuit.
Second complaint in hair row
On Tuesday, his mother previously filed a formal complaint against the Texas Education agency and said Darryl was harassed and mistreated by officials because of his hair.
They claim during his suspension he was forced to sit for eight hours on a stool and was denied the free hot lunch he was eligible to receive.
The agency is investigating the complaint.
Florida: Alligator killed after being discovered holding human remains in mouth
An alligator was spotted with human remains in its mouth by a passer-by in Florida.
The 13-foot reptile was spotted by Jamarcus Bullard in a canal in Largo, about 20 miles west of Tampa.
He said he saw the the alligator and a corpse in the water on Friday afternoon.
“I threw a rock at the gator just to see if it was really a gator and like it pulled the body, like it was holding on to the lower part of the torso, and pulled it under the water,” he told a TV affiliate of NBC News, Sky News’ US partner network.
Bullard said he started recording on his phone and contacted the authorities.
A video he shared with the news station showed an officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission measuring the reptile.
The 13-foot, 8.5-inch male alligator was removed from the water and was “humanely killed,” the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement, adding that the remains of an adult had also been recovered.
No details about the deceased have yet been released and an investigation is under way.
The medical examiner’s office will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
The discovery has left some locals nervous with Jennifer Dean telling WFLA that her children frequently walk by the canal.
Bullard also said he walks near the water to and from work and will be more careful now.
US death row inmate Anthony Sanchez executed for rape and murder of Juli Busken after being caught by his DNA
A man has been executed in the US for the rape and murder of a dance student which went unsolved for years until DNA from the crime scene was matched to him while he was in prison for burglary.
Anthony Sanchez, 44, protested his innocence as he was strapped down in the death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
He was declared dead 11 minutes after the lethal drugs started to be administered.
While Sanchez maintained he had nothing to do with the 1996 killing of 21-year-old Juli Busken, he took the unusual step of opting not to present a clemency application to the state’s pardon and parole board, which many viewed as the last chance to spare his life.
Ahead of his execution, Sanchez criticised his former lawyers and thanked his supporters, including his spiritual adviser who was in the chamber with him.
He said: “I’m innocent.
“I didn’t kill nobody.”
At one point during the procedure, a member of the execution team entered the chamber and reattached an oxygen monitor that prison officials said had malfunctioned.
Shortly before he was put to death, the US Supreme Court rejected a request for a stay of execution submitted by his new lawyer, who had said he needed more time to go through the case evidence.
Juli Busken’s family ‘has found closure and peace’
Ms Busken had just completed her last term at the University of Oklahoma when she was abducted on 20 December 1996, from the car park of her apartment complex.
Her body was found later near a lake on the outskirts of Oklahoma City.
She had been bound, raped and shot in the head.
Busken had performed as a ballerina in several dance performances during her time at the university and a scholarship was set up in her name at the College of Fine Arts.
Years later, Sanchez was in jail for burglary when DNA from the victim’s clothing was matched to him.
He was convicted and sentenced to die in 2006.
None of Ms Busken’s family attended Thursday’s execution, but state attorney general Gentner Drummond said he had spoken to them several times in recent months.
He said: “Juli was murdered 26 years, nine months and one day ago. The family has found closure and peace.”
Sanchez had long maintained his innocence.
In an interview earlier this year from death row. “That is fabricated DNA.
“That is false DNA. That is not my DNA. I’ve been saying that since day one.”
He said he had declined to seek clemency because even when the five-member pardon and parole board takes the rare step of recommending it, governor Kevin Stitt was unlikely to grant it.
Sanchez said: “I’ve sat in my cell and I’ve watched inmate after inmate after inmate get clemency and get denied clemency. Either way, it doesn’t go well for the inmates.”
Mr Drummond maintained the DNA evidence unequivocally linked Sanchez to Ms Busken’s killing.
He said the odds of randomly selecting an individual with the same genetic profile were one in 94 trillion.
‘Brutal rapist and murderer’
“There is no conceivable doubt that Anthony Sanchez is a brutal rapist and murderer who is deserving of the state’s harshest punishment,” Mr Drummond said in a recent statement.
A private investigator hired by an anti-death penalty group argued the DNA evidence may have been contaminated.
But former Cleveland county district attorney Tim Kuykendall, who was the county’s top prosecutor when Sanchez was tried, has said while the DNA evidence was the most compelling at trial, there was other evidence linking him to the killing, including ballistic evidence and a shoe print found at the crime scene.
Mr Kuykendall said recently: “I know from spending a lot of time on that case, there is not one piece of evidence that pointed to anyone other than Anthony Sanchez.
“I don’t care if a hundred people or a thousand people confess to killing Juli Busken.”
Sanchez is the third inmate put to death in Oklahoma this year and the tenth since the state resumed carrying out the death penalty in 2021 ending a six-year moratorium introduced over concerns about its execution methods.
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