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Setting red lines is all very well, as long as you follow through when they are crossed. President Joe Biden knows that all too well.

But he also knows that if he follows through on this big new red line of withholding offensive weapons for Israel it could cost him dearly domestically.

The push-me-pull-you balance of geopolitics and domestic politics is intensely difficult right now for the American president.

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I’ll break this down into two parts. The politics in a moment. First the challenges of red lines.

Western leaders throw them down in interviews, like Mr Biden’s pronouncement on CNN last night, as unequivocal threats. “Cross the line, if you dare!” is the rhetoric.

But too often they turn out to be flawed tools of geo-political diplomacy.

Barack Obama set a chemical weapons red line with Syria’s Bashar al Assad in 2012. He walked right through it.

Vladimir Putin remembered that when he walked through a red line Mr Biden had set on Ukraine in 2021. Mr Putin invaded. The rest is history.

Every red line is distinct, of course, and they vary in terms of the gravity of the event they are seeking to prevent.

But the principle behind laying them is the same, as is the message set when they are crossed.

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Joe Biden met with Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2011 when he was vice president and Mr Putin was Russian prime minister. Pic: AP
Image:
Joe Biden with Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow in 2011. Pic: AP

Biden’s frustration with Netanyahu

Over the past six months, as Israel has sought to defeat Hamas in Gaza, President Biden didn’t think he’d need to lay out red lines. After all, Israel is one of America’s closest allies.

Instead, the Biden administration thought gentle diplomacy and frank back-channels with a “close friend of America” would do the trick.

But gradually, as Mr Biden and the Netanyahu government increasingly diverged on protecting civilians and a plan for “the day after” in Gaza, a red line began to appear – Rafah.

This has become Mr Biden’s red line for Israel.

The American president has repeatedly made clear his opposition to Mr Netanyahu’s insistence on a ground invasion of the southern Gazan city (Mr Netanyahu’s own red line) where about 1.4 million people are living, half of them under 18.

Smoke rises from Rafah after an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza city
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Smoke rises from Rafah after an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza city this week. Pic: AP

The Israeli military has not (yet) moved into Rafah city but is instead concentrating its operations to the east of the city and around the crossing to Egypt.

That fact has allowed the Biden administration to claim its red line hasn’t yet been crossed. “They didn’t describe it as a major ground operation,” spokesman John Kirby said this week.

Sometimes, red lines are smashed through. Sometimes, they are gradually chipped away at.

To counter the chipping Mr Netanyahu has been doing for weeks, Mr Biden hardened his red line.

“I made it clear that if they go into Rafah – they haven’t gone in Rafah yet – if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities – that deal with that problem,” he told CNN.

A significant admission

That he has personally admitted what was already a fact – that American weapons have killed thousands of civilians – is significant.

But there is important nuance in his red line.

He’s talking about stopping the delivery of offensive weapons for the type of operations that have flattened much of Gaza and could do the same to Rafah.

He is not threatening to cut Israel off from all US weapons, of course not.

Defensive weapons to counter Iranian proxy rockets will keep coming. As will long-range weapons and jets to counter Iran. None of that will stop being delivered.

Still, it’s a big shift for Biden. It’s not been done before and symbolically for Israel, in the middle of its longest and most critical war, it looks terrible.

The domestic political risks

And that brings us to the domestic politics of all this.

For every lever of influence Mr Biden pulls (and he’s seen they have their limited use) there is a domestic political calculus.

Pretty much all Republicans are against every lever; they want nothing less than unequivocal support for Israel.

More than that though – a significant number of his own Democrats will also be uneasy about America limiting weapons for Israel.

But critical voters in key states are very pro-Palestine. President Biden isn’t oblivious to their cry “Genocide Joe!”

It is a perilous political push-me-pull-you and the election is six months away.

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Oregon: Woman crushed by grand piano shows ‘amazing spirit’ after being told she will never walk again

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Oregon: Woman crushed by grand piano shows 'amazing spirit' after being told she will never walk again

A woman has been left unable to walk after a piano slipped and dropped on her while she was helping a friend move the instrument.

Danielle Drummond, 28, who had recently relocated from Cleveland, Ohio, to Oregon for a fresh start, is now hoping for a scientific breakthrough after the ordeal left her needing both a wheelchair and a carer.

She told Cleveland-based broadcaster 19 News she had tried to stabilise the piano when offering to help last month, but her friend lost her grip.

“She dropped like a whole upright grand piano on me, and it severed my spinal cord,” Ms Drummond said.

“Now, I’m paralysed from the waist down.”

Ms Drummond has no family in Eugene, the city in Oregon where she lives, and also needs to find a permanent home, having been living in a van with her dog, Lotus.

Danielle Drummond. Pic: GoFundMe
Image:
Danielle Drummond. Pic: GoFundMe

Compounding her problems, she does not know how she would begin to move back to her family in Cleveland and transfer all her belongings and medical equipment.

Her sister has set up a fundraising page to “support future medical needs”, with the aim of raising $10,000 (£7,850).

“Our family thanks you for all your support, consideration, thoughts, love and prayers,” her sister Rosie Hayne wrote, describing Ms Drummond as “strong”, “wise”, and “down to earth”.

In an update on the GoFundMe page, Ms Hayne added: “She wants to make it clear that she is not expecting to ever walk again.

“She has accepted the reality of her situation. But she has an amazing spirit and an overall positive outlook, focusing on what she can do.”

Ms Drummond told 19 News she hopes people going through similar circumstances “don’t give up”.

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Meanwhile, her wish remains for a new development in treatment.

“It definitely is a game change for me,” she said. “I try to stay hopeful.”

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Iowa town flattened as tornadoes cause fatalities and devastation in US Midwest

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Iowa town flattened as tornadoes cause fatalities and devastation in US Midwest

An unknown number of people have died after a powerful tornado ripped through a small town in Iowa.

Dramatic pictures showed the destruction left behind in Greenfield, with police confirming there had been fatalities and at least a dozen injuries, without being able to provide specific figures.

The devastation came as multiple tornadoes rolled through the US Midwest.

At least three 250-foot-high wind turbines were toppled by an apparent tornado in southwest Iowa.

One turbine was in flames, with black smoke pouring from the bent structure.

Officials said most of Greenfield, with a population of about 2,000 people, had been destroyed, with rescue efforts continuing in an attempt to find survivors.

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged homes, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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A trail of destruction was left behind in Greenfield. Pic: AP

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)
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Pic: AP

A firefighter walks among tornado-damaged homes, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Pic: AP

Pic: AP
A damaged car sits on a street after a tornado Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Pic: AP

Buildings, including homes and businesses, were flattened, trees shredded, and vehicles thrown down the streets which were left strewn with piles of debris.

Sgt Alex Dinkla, a spokesperson for the Iowa State Patrol, said: “This tornado has devastated a good portion of this town.

“Sadly, we can confirm that there have been fatalities. We’re still counting at this time.”

Pic: AP
The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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The extreme conditions in Iowa brought down wind turbines. Pic: AP

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Pic: AP

Pic: AP
The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Pic: AP

He said Greenfield’s hospital was among the buildings that were damaged, which meant at least a dozen people who were hurt had to be taken to facilities elsewhere.

Residents helped each other salvage their belongings as they tried to come to terms with what had happened.

Pic: AP
A firefighter walks among homes destroyed by a tornado Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Pic: AP

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged property, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Pic: AP

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Rogue Paxton said he sheltered in the basement of his home when the storm moved through.

He told WOI-TV he thought his family was lucky not to lose their house.

“But everyone else is not so much, like my brother Cody, his house just got wiped,” he said.

“Then you see all these people out here helping each other.

“Everything’s going to be fine because we have each other, but it’s just going to be really, really rough. It is a mess.”

The storms followed days of extreme weather which has ravaged much of the middle section of the US.

Strong winds, large hail and tornadoes swept across parts of Oklahoma and Kansas late Sunday, damaging homes and injuring two people.

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Ex-model accuses Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs of sexually assaulting her at his studio in 2003

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Ex-model accuses Sean 'Diddy' Combs of sexually assaulting her at his studio in 2003

A former model has accused Sean “Diddy” Combs of sexually assaulting her at his New York City recording studio in 2003 in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

Crystal McKinney’s allegations are just the latest in a series of accusations made against the rapper and producer.

McKinney says she was a successful 22-year-old model when she met Combs at a restaurant during Men’s Fashion Week in Manhattan.

The music mogul invited her to his recording studio later that night, according to the federal complaint filed in New York City.

The lawsuit states McKinney arrived and found Combs drinking and smoking cannabis with several other men.

She smoked some marijuana, which she “later came to understand” was laced with another narcotic or intoxicating substance, the lawsuit claims.

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McKinney says she felt as though she was floating, then Combs led her to the bathroom, where he sexually assaulted her, according to the lawsuit.

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Combs then led her back to the studio where she lost consciousness, later waking in a taxi where she realised what had happened.

Combs is yet to respond to these latest allegations.

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The lawsuit comes just days after CNN aired security video that showed Combs attacking singer Cassie in a Los Angeles hotel hallway in 2016.

Cassie, an R&B singer whose legal name is Cassandra Ventura, was his protege and girlfriend at the time.

On Sunday, the 54-year-old, released a video saying he was “truly sorry” and his actions were “inexcusable”.

He is not in danger of being criminally prosecuted for the beating because of the statute of limitations.

Combs, whose homes in Los Angeles and Miami were raided by Homeland Security Investigations agents in March, has faced a series of public allegations of physical and sexual violence as well as sex trafficking.

A lawsuit filed by Cassie in November alleging beatings and abuse was settled a day after it was filed.

The claim on Tuesday was filed under a New York City law that allows accusers to file civil litigation during a limited window, even if the events allegedly happened long ago.

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