BBC 2024-01-30 08:55:31

Imran Khan jailed for leaking state secrets

Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan has been sentenced to 10 years in jail in a case in which he was accused of leaking state secrets.

Mr Khan, who was ousted by his opponents as PM in 2022, is already serving a three-year jail term after being convicted of corruption.

He has called all the charges against him politically motivated.

The conviction under the secrets act comes the week before general elections in which is he barred from standing.

Former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi – vice-chairman of Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party – was also sentenced to 10 years in prison by the special court.

The so-called cipher case revolves around the alleged leaking of secret diplomatic correspondence sent by Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington to Islamabad when Mr Khan was prime minister.

It relates to his appearance at a rally in March 2022, a month before the former cricketer was ousted from power in a vote of no confidence. Imran Khan appeared on stage, waving a piece of paper that he says showed a foreign conspiracy against him.

He said it detailed that “all will be forgiven if Imran Khan is removed from power”. He didn’t name the country – but was subsequently highly critical of the United States.

The prosecution said that Mr Khan’s actions amounted to leaking a classified document and damaging diplomatic relations. The latter charge can lead to life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

The case has been heard over the last few months inside a special court set up within the jail where Mr Khan has been held since August. International media were not allowed to attend.

Local media reported that the judge had recently been told to expedite the trial.

Mr Khan’s PTI party said it would challenge the court ruling and called it a mockery.

The general election will be held on 8 February, amid allegations that the PTI is being prevented by the authorities from campaigning. Mr Khan is fighting scores of other legal cases.

Foreign residents sue Japan over racial profiling

Three foreign-born residents in Japan have sued the country’s authorities over alleged racial profiling.

The plaintiffs say they have suffered distress from repeated police questioning based on their appearances.

“There’s a very strong image that ‘foreigner’ equals ‘criminal’,” Pakistan-born Syed Zain told reporters.

The lawsuit filed on Monday aims to confirm that racial profiling is illegal and to seek 3m yen ($20,250; £15,740) in damages for each plaintiff.

This is the first such lawsuit in Japan, according to the men’s lawyer, Motoki Taniguchi.

Mr Zain, who is a Pakistan-born Japanese citizen, has lived in Japan for two decades, went to school there and is fluent in Japanese. The 26-year-old told a press conference on Monday that he has often been stopped, questioned and searched by police.

“The time has come to rethink the way police questioning is handled.” he said.

The UN defines racial profiling as “the process by which law enforcement relies on generalisations based on one’s race, skin colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, rather than objective evidence or individual behaviour, to subject people to stops, detailed searches, identity checks and investigations, or for deciding that an individual was engaged in criminal activity”.

Another one of the plaintiffs, Matthew, who is of Indian descent and a permanent resident in Japan, claimed that he has been questioned by the police at least 70 times since he arrived in Japan in 2002. He said he now avoids going out, Japanese newspaper The Manichi reported.

“I never knew what social withdrawal was until recently… I feel like every time I finish work, I’m hiding in my house,” he said. Reports said he declined to provide his last name for fear of harassment.

Maurice, an African-American who is a permanent resident in Japan, told the newspaper he has also been questioned by “regular Japanese people”, including some who have asked if he is overstaying his visa.

“Even if we lose… I want people to understand that this is an everyday occurrence, an everyday thing, and that we have to do something to prevent that for the future generations,” he told reporters.

The three men have filed their case against the National Police Agency, the Tokyo metropolitan government and the Aichi prefectural government at the Tokyo District Court.

It has come on the heels off a renewed debate on what it means to be “Japanese”, after a Ukrainian-born model was crowned Miss Japan last week. While some see her victory a nod for diversity, others have said she does not look like a “Miss Japan” should.

In December 2021, the US embassy in Tokyo warned citizens of “suspected racial profiling” of foreigners by Japanese police.

“The US Embassy has received reports of foreigners stopped and searched by Japanese police in suspected racial profiling incidents. Several were detained, questioned, and searched,” it said on Twitter then.

Gaza’s largest aid agency ‘desperate’ after funds paused

More countries have halted funding to the largest UN agency operating in Gaza, as the crisis deepens over the alleged role of some staff in the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel.

Japan and Austria said they were suspending payments to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

The US, UK, Germany and Italy are also among those who have suspended funding.

UNRWA has told the BBC it is “extremely desperate” and that “the humanitarian needs in Gaza are growing by the hour”.

The agency has sacked several of its staff over allegations they were involved on 7 October, when Hamas gunmen infiltrated Israel, killing about 1,300 people – mainly civilians – and taking about 250 others back to Gaza as hostages.

More than 26,000 people – mostly women and children – have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched a major military operation in response, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says. Another 1.7 million people have fled their homes, with many of them sheltering at UNRWA facilities.

According to a report in the New York Times, an Israeli intelligence dossier alleges that nearly 200 UNRWA workers are Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives, without providing detailed evidence.

The dossier also alleges that at least 12 workers crossed into Israel on 7 October. UNRWA has sacked nine of those employees and says it is investigating.

Another report published by the Wall Street Journal, also citing the Israeli intelligence dossier, alleges that about 1,200 of UNRWA’s 12,000 employees in Gaza have links to Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to confirm the contents of the dossier, describing the agency as “perforated with Hamas”.

“We discovered that there were 13 UNRWA workers who actually participated, either directly or indirectly, in the 7 October massacre,” he said in an interview with UK channel TalkTV.

“In UNRWA schools, they’ve been teaching the doctrines of extermination for Israel – the doctrines of terrorism, glorifying terrorism, lauding terrorism.”

The UN has declined to comment, saying an internal investigation into the agency is under way.

But earlier on Sunday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “horrified” by the accusations relating to the 7 October attack. Despite that, he has appealed to donor countries to “guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s operations”.

In a statement on Sunday, he said: “Of the 12 people implicated, nine were immediately identified and terminated by the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini; one is confirmed dead and the identity of the two others is being clarified.”

He said Gaza should not be penalised for the allegations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the reports about UNRWA staff were “deeply troubling” and it was “imperative” for the organisation to investigate in order to hold people to account and review its procedures.

But he said that UNRWA played an “absolutely indispensable role in trying to make sure that men, women and children who so desperately need assistance in Gaza actually get it” and added it was therefore imperative that the organisation’s role continues.

Earlier on Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he had cancelled meetings with Mr Lazzarini and called on him to resign.

An UNRWA spokesperson said that if funding was not resumed, the agency would not be able to continue its operations beyond the end of February.

Announcing its decision to suspend payment, Japan’s foreign ministry said late on Sunday that it was “extremely concerned about the alleged involvement of UNRWA staff members in the terror attack on Israel”.

It added that it had been “strongly urging” UNRWA to investigate the allegations “in a prompt and complete manner”.

Japan is the sixth-largest donor to the agency, according to UNRWA’s 2022 figures.

On Monday, Austria said it was following suit, calling for “a comprehensive, swift and complete investigation into the allegations”.

Juliette Touma, the director of communications at UNRWA, said in a BBC interview that the allegations were “extremely serious” and that Mr Lazzarini had taken an “extraordinary measure” in immediately dismissing the staff members in question.

“We are extremely desperate. It has come at a time when the humanitarian needs in Gaza are growing by the hour,” she said, adding that she had visited the territory herself last week.

“People continue to be displaced. People are hungry. The clock is ticking fast towards famine.

“We are doing everything possible to avert us from getting towards famine. But this lack of funding that we have been faced with now, when at least 10 of the largest donors have put a temporary pause on the funding, this is going to have very, very serious repercussions on what is, right now, the largest humanitarian operation in Gaza.”

She said UNRWA had not seen the evidence, but the allegations were being investigated by the UN’s oversight office in New York.

Lily Gladstone says ‘people are ready’ for her Oscar win

The first Native American to be nominated for the best actress Oscar, Lily Gladstone is building momentum in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards – could she win?

A week has passed since Lily Gladstone made history by becoming the first Native American to be nominated for a best actress Oscar and since then, she’s been crossing continents in a tightly orchestrated campaign to win support for her film, Killers of the Flower Moon, and secure her chances of winning an Oscars trophy.

More like this:
–       Does Killers of the Flower Moon do right by Native Americans?–       How the shocking Osage murders were nearly erased from history–       Why Martin Scorsese fears for the future of cinema

In recent days, Gladstone has conducted media interviews in the US and flown across the Atlantic to do more press and photo shoots in London, where she spoke with the BBC. Although a novice to the Oscars campaign trail, she appears poised, warm and thoughtful in responses to questions.

Emma Stone might be favoured to win the best actress Oscar for portraying the uninhibited and wild Bella Baxter in the dark comedy Poor Things, but many pundits believe the best actress race is very close and that Gladstone could win. That’s why these coming days are crucial.

We’re kicking a door down and the impulse is to just run through it. Sometimes what we need to do is just stand there and hold it open

In Killers of the Flower Moon, Gladstone plays Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman in 1920s Oklahoma who finds herself in the midst of a nightmarish situation. Greedy white men are poisoning Indigenous people in a bid to claim the oil-rich lands of the Osage Nation. 

Oscar voters always like to be seen to be doing the right thing, and in this era of inclusivity on the part of the Academy, the fact that Lily Gladstone is Native American might alone bring her votes. “I know that a lot of people want to say that,” she says. But the actor believes she has support from Academy members because of fundamental change: “Times absolutely are changing; people’s perspectives are broadening. The Academy has gotten much more diverse in the last 10, 20 years. I think it’s also because Native and Indigenous filmmakers have been continually blowing audiences away with what we’ve been making… people are ready.”

Lily Gladstone: Everyone benefits from Native American representation, not just us

In many of the actor’s media appearances, Gladstone speaks eloquently on how Killers of the Flower Moon, which included 63 credited and named Native American roles, is a landmark film for her community in terms of representation. Historically, studies show that significant Native American speaking roles in Hollywood films are extremely rare. As for next steps, Gladstone quotes the comments of her Native American filmmaker friend Sterlin Harjo who, she says, told her: “We’re kicking a door down and the impulse is to just run through it. Sometimes what we need to do is just stand there and hold it open.”

But make no mistake: she definitely sees Killers of the Flower Moon as very significant. “By bringing Indigenous performers into a place where we’re leading ladies, we’re leading films that people are feeling they’re resonating with from all walks of life. That’s proving that we belong in these places and we have a lot to offer. Like the stories that we have to tell are ones that everybody can benefit from, not just us.”

A sincere trailblazer

Killers of the Flower Moon is intrinsically a Native American story and a chronicle of a terrible wrong perpetrated on the community by greedy white men. But this Native American tale of injustice has been shaped into a Hollywood narrative by white men from the movie industry: principally Martin Scorsese, the film’s key actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, and screenwriter Eric Roth. Lily Gladstone admits she was concerned by how these white men might craft a story that was so much a part of the Native American community. “There was apprehension about all of it and all aspects of it”, she says.

Leo had invited me over for dinner beforehand to get through the ‘star-struckedness’ of it all – he ‘unstruck’ me

However, she found reassurance that the story would be done responsibly because her co-star Leonardo DiCaprio was involved in the production. “You know, Leo with his climate activism in the way that I know his organisation centres grassroots, Indigenous people, I had a feeling that that’s what he would be like to work with on this project, and certainly was.”

Lily Gladstone: How Leo helped me get over being starstruck

For Gladstone, certainly the presence of many Indigenous people in the production did a lot to increase her comfort level: “The film had built such a strong safety net of Osage voices in every department around the whole production. So I never felt like I had to be alone or speak out of turn or speak for Osage people.”

Gladstone comes across as self-assured but she admits she did become a little starstruck, getting wobbly or “the shakes”, as she puts it, when she first stood before the camera for the first time doing scenes opposite movie legends Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio. But she says Di Caprio put her at ease: “Leo had invited me over for dinner beforehand to get through the ‘star-struckedness’ of it all – he ‘unstruck’ me,” she laughs. “Later down the road, [the] shakes came back when I was in front of him… and really quickly, you just find yourself embraced and invited in and just part of the collaborative process to get to the truth of what these scenes are about.”

Unlike some Academy campaigns designed to serve an actor’s vanity, Gladstone appears to be participating in something bigger. She comes across as a very sincere trailblazer in her efforts to get the US film industry to represent the Native American people fairly and responsibly – and that authenticity, as much as her highly praised acting, may well help her win an Oscar.

Talking Movies’ Tom Brook’s interview with Oscar nominee Lily Gladstone will be on BBC News throughout the day on Thursday 1 February.

The 96th Academy Awards are broadcast on ABC on 10 March.

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Why power naps might be good for our health

Many of us refuse to power nap, thinking that it might affect a good night’s sleep later. But it may in fact be good for us.

In many cultures, having an afternoon nap is a daily ritual. The Spanish are known to enjoy a daily siesta and some Japanese workers indulge in a lunchtime sleep, known as hirune, or “afternoon nap”.

Tech giants such as Google, Samsung and Facebook all have nap pods in their offices, allowing workers to catch some shuteye during the working day.

Power napping is a rising trend worldwide. But does a quick catnap during the day actually work? Does it leave you feeling refreshed and energised, or do you end up feeling more tired than you did to begin with? How long should a nap last? And what’s the best time of day to have one?

BBC Future looks at the latest science to explore whether daily naps are good for our health.

What are the health benefits of napping?

Regular naps are good for the long-term health of our brain, research shows.

Habitual napping may help keep our brains bigger for longer and boost its overall health, according to a 2023 study by researchers at University College London (UCL) and the University of the Republic in Uruguay.

The researchers analysed data from 35,000 people, aged 40 to 69, who had taken part in a study by UK Biobank, a biomedical database ad research resource. They looked at previously identified DNA snippets associated with people who are habitual nappers.

Spanish football team Real Madrid has built power naps into its training regime (Credit: Getty Images)

The brains of people who napped several times a week were more than 15 cubic cm (0.9 cubic inches) larger than the brains of people who never had a daytime nap.

This equates to delaying ageing of the brain by between three to six years, says lead author Victoria Garfield, a senior research fellow at the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL.

“The big finding was that daytime napping is, quite robustly, causally linked to having a larger brain volume,” says Garfield. The brain naturally shrinks with age and a smaller brain volume has been linked to a wide range of diseases.

“People who have a smaller brain volume are more likely to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, or a diagnosis of sleep apnea… many have cardiovascular disease,” says Garfield. “We also see substantial shrinkage of the brain in [people with] Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.” (Read BBC Future’s story on why human brains were bigger 3,000 years ago.)

“Anything you can do to preserve your brain size for as long as possible is a good thing,” says Garfield. “It’s a really positive message that having a nap could help the brain.”

Short naps lasting five to 15 minutes can immediately improve how well we perform mentally

Napping has been shown to be critical for the cognitive development of babies, with trials showing that they were unable to remember new tasks if they did not have a long nap soon afterwards.

But the benefits of napping for adults are less well understood. The participants in Garfield’s study were aged between 40 and 69. “We tried to focus on that midlife point when people start to get diseases and [conditions] like diabetes and high blood pressure,” she says.

The long-term benefits are only seen in people who regularly nap, stresses Garfield. “It has to be cumulative.”

There are also short-term health benefits associated with napping. Short naps lasting five to 15 minutes can immediately improve how well we perform mentally. This mental stimulus can last up to three hours after we wake up.

“Napping is huge in sports science at the moment,” says Kevin Morgan, professor of psychology and a sleep expert at the University of Loughborough in the UK. “Anything that will improve an athletes’ performance by a tiny amount, known as incremental gains, is seized upon.

An afternoon nap may help with cognitive function, such as solving a crossword puzzle (Credit: Getty Images)

“Coaches want to bottle napping and give it to their athletes. They want to treat it as a sort of dietary supplement,” says Morgan.

Studies show that napping between 1pm and 4pm can benefit physical and cognitive performance as well as mood. “You consolidate memories, for sure. Your reaction times might improve and there may be some improvement in terms of coordinated performance,” says Morgan.

A study co-authored by Morgan found that elite athletes, who train up to 17 hours per week, fall asleep faster than non-athletes, despite reporting the same levels of sleepiness. Snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, ultramarathon runner Camille Herron and premier league footballers at Real Madrid have all incorporated napping into their daily routines.

Should napping be part of our daily routine?

Given these health benefits, should we all start having a daily nap?

Experts say it is important that napping doesn’t become a substitute for getting a good night’s sleep.

“Napping is usually a sign that you’re not getting sufficient sleep,” says Colin Espie, professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford. If you feel that you frequently need a daytime nap, it’s important to ask yourself whether you are compensating for a sleep problem or a lifestyle choice preventing you from getting enough sleep at night, says Espie. “The main thing we should be trying to do is to protect nighttime sleep. We can’t just graze on sleep like some animals do.”

Some nesting penguins, for example, nap more than 10,000 times a day for an average of four seconds at a time.

Many people don’t nap because they don’t find it easy to – Kevin Morgan

Naps lasting 15 to 20 minutes don’t allow people to fall into deep sleep. This is when the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds muscle and strengthens the immune system and is important for the consolidation of long-term memory and processing newly acquired information.

“Sleep is nature’s medicine,” says Espie. “We’re highly evolved and we need a lot of brain power. That’s why we need a lot of sleep at night.”

People who struggle to get enough sleep at night, such as parents of young children or shift workers, “will probably benefit from a period of disciplined sleep during the day,” says Morgan.

But not everyone is able to drift off to sleep quickly, he adds. “Many people don’t nap because they don’t find it easy to,” he says.

“Napping is a bit like treating sleep as an on-demand resource and for the people who can nap, it works,” says Morgan. But that doesn’t mean we should all nap. “That would be like saying that it’s beneficial to write with your left hand.”

How long should you nap for?

Timing is key for the perfect power nap.

If you are going to have a nap, make sure you do it in the mid-afternoon and don’t allow it to go on for longer than 20 minutes, says Morgan.

Some species of penguin will grab hundreds of tiny “micro sleeps” each day (Credit: Getty Images)

“Your body is going to be more accommodating of daytime sleep” between 2pm and 4pm as this is when there is a dip in the circadian rhythm and our body temperature drops, explains Morgan.

If you try to nap in the morning your body temperature is still rising, meaning you feel more alert, he says. If you leave it too late in the day, you will struggle to fall asleep at night.

If you nap for more than 20 minutes, you are likely to wake up feeling groggy and disoriented, known technically as sleep inertia, says Espie. “This is obviously counterproductive as you will struggle to get going afterwards,” says Espie.

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Sleep inertia relates to the depth of sleep and after 30 minutes you are drifting into slow wave sleep, also known as deep sleep, which is difficult to wake up from, says Morgan.

If you are going to start having naps, it is important to keep them brief and make them part of your lifestyle, like the tradition of the siesta in Spain, says Espie.

“Naps are common in many cultures in Mediterranean climates. But we do need to recognise that one effect of that is that people living there fall asleep much later and don’t fall asleep as easily because they’ve had a nap,” he says.

“Napping is not a choice, it’s a habit,” says Espie. “Once you get into the habit, your brain helps you stick with it.”

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