BBC 2024-02-04 12:03:17


Houthis vow to respond after US and UK strike 36 targets in Yemen

BBC Verify

Let’s take a step back from the strikes on the Houthis for a moment, to talk about Friday’s strikes on targets in Syria and Iraq.

On Friday 2 February, the US-led coalition hit a number of
targets in the two countries.

Among
them, an important ammunition storage facility in Eastern Syria.

BBC
Verify has been analysing a series of satellite images from the region and has
located the site in Ayyash, about 10km (6 miles) north of Deir al-Zour city.

An
image from 1 February shows the sites, composed of over 20 buildings, in good
condition. While an image from 3 February shows the same site now completely
destroyed.

This site is well known to the US intelligence as it
is connected to Iran-backed groups. The site had already been targeted by US strikes in August 2022.

Iran says US strikes are a ‘strategic mistake’

Iran has called US air strikes on Iraq and Syria a “strategic mistake” after 85 targets were hit across the region on Friday.

The US launched retaliatory strikes in response to last week’s drone attack on a US military base that killed three American soldiers.

The White House blamed the drone attack on an Iran-backed militia group.

The US and UK also launched a new round of joint strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday.

Iran’s foreign ministry said the strikes on Iraq and Syria “will have no result other than intensifying tensions and instability in the region”.

Earlier, Iraq said the US retaliatory strikes would bring “disastrous consequences” for the region.

At least 16 people, including civilians, were killed as a result of the strikes, Iraqi officials said.

A spokesman for Iraq’s prime minister said the strikes were a “violation” of his country’s sovereignty and that they would impact “the security and stability of Iraq and the region”.

While Syria said the US “occupation” of Syrian territory “cannot continue”.

According to a US military statement, the US struck Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militias in Iraq and Syria.

Several US aircraft were involved, including long-range bombers that flew over from the US.

Seven locations were hit – four in Syria and three in Iraq – with more than 85 targets being struck, the US military said.

There have been no strikes on Iranian soil.

Since Friday’s US strikes in Iraq and Syria, there has been one attack on American forces, a US defence official told the BBC’s US partner CBS News.

The attack in question targeted US forces based at the Mission Support Site Euphrates in Syria using rockets, but no injuries were reported.

  • What we know about US retaliatory strikes in Iraq and Syria

President Joe Biden said the US attacks “will continue at times and places of our choosing” but added his country “does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world”.

The strikes come after three US troops were killed and dozens injured in a drone attack on a US base near Jordan’s border with Syria.

US officials said the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an Iranian-backed militia group, was responsible for the attack. The drone was Iranian-made, they said, and similar to the ones being supplied to Russia.

The militant organisation – an umbrella group of multiple militias – is believed to have been armed, funded and trained by the IRGC.

Iran has denied any role in the attack on the US base, saying it was “not involved in the decision making of resistance groups”.

A spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry said US strikes on Iraq, Syria and Yemen “merely provide for the goals of the Zionist regime”, referring to US ally Israel.

Russia has called for an “urgent” meeting of the UN Security Council “over the threat to peace and safety created by US strikes on Syria and Iraq”, Moscow’s diplomat at the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, said on social media.

Russia – a permanent council member – has become a close ally of Iran.

The US attacks came several hours after Mr Biden attended a repatriation ceremony for William Rivers, 46, Kennedy Sanders, 24, and Breonna Moffett, 23, who died in the attack last weekend.

More than 40 other service members were injured in the same drone attack, which struck the US Tower 22 base.

US Republicans criticised the timing of the retaliatory strikes, saying that the US had waited too long to strike back. American officials said any hold up was due to cloudy weather obstructing targets.

Some foreign policy experts believe the delay allowed Iran to withdraw personnel, potentially avoiding a wider conflict between the US and Iran.

Namibia President Hage Geingob dies aged 82

Namibia’s President Hage Geingob has died at the age of 82 while receiving medical treatment at a hospital in the capital, Windhoek.

A veteran of the country’s independence struggle, Mr Geingob had been diagnosed with cancer and revealed the details to the public last month.

He died early on Sunday with his wife and children by his side, Vice-President Nangolo Mbumba announced.

Namibia “has lost… a distinguished servant of the people”, he said.

According to the constitution, Mr Mbumba will now act as president as there was less than a year left of Mr Geingob’s second term in office. Presidential and parliamentary elections had already been scheduled for November.

The exact cause of the president’s death was not given but last month he underwent “a two-day novel treatment for cancerous cells” in the US before flying back home on 31 January, his office had said.

Leaders from around the world have been sending condolence messages with many talking about Mr Geingob’s efforts to ensure his country’s independence.

Among them has been Cyril Ramaphosa, president of neighbouring South Africa, who described him as “a towering veteran of Namibia’s liberation from colonialism and apartheid”.

Mr Geinbob, a tall man with a deep, gravelly voice and a commanding presence was a long-serving member of the Swapo party. It led the movement against apartheid South Africa, which had effectively annexed the country, then known as South West Africa, and introduced its system of legalised racism that excluded black people from political and economic power.

Mr Geinbob lived in exile for 27 years, spending time in Botswana, the US and the UK, where he studied for a PhD in politics.

He came back to Namibia in 1989, a year before the country gained independence.

“Looking back, the journey of building a new Namibia has been worthwhile,” he wrote on social media in 2020 while sharing a picture of him kissing the ground on his return.

“Even though we have made a lot of progress in developing our country, more work lies ahead to build an inclusive society.”

Mr Geingob became president in 2015 and was in his second and final term in office.

He had already been the country’s longest-serving prime minister – in the post for 12 years from 1990 and then again for a shorter stint in 2012.

But going by results at the ballot box, his popularity had declined.

In the 2014 election, he won a huge majority, taking 87% of the vote. But five years later that had fallen to 56%.

Mr Geingob’s first term coincided with a stagnant economy and high levels of unemployment and poverty, according to the World Bank.

His party also faced a number of corruption scandals during his time in office. This included what became known as “fishrot”, where ministers and top officials were accused of taking bribes in exchange for the awarding of lucrative fishing quotas.

By 2021, three-quarters of the population thought that the country was going in the wrong direction, a three-fold increase since 2014, according to independent polling organisation Afrobarometer.

Three decades after independence, the heroic narrative of Swapo having liberated the country was losing its appeal among a generation born after the event, long-time observer of Namibian politics Henning Melber wrote in 2021.

Swapo, in power since independence, had chosen Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah as its presidential candidate for November’s planned elections.

She is currently the deputy prime minister, and will become the country’s first female president if she wins.

England lose Duckett in chase of 399 to beat India

Second Test, Visakhapatnam (day three of five):
India 396 (Jaiswal 209; Anderson 3-47) & 255 (Gill 104; Hartley 4-77)
England 253: (Crawley 76; Bumrah 6-45) & 67-1
England need 332 more runs to win
Scorecard

England lost Ben Duckett late on day three after being set an enormous 399 to beat India in the second Test in Visakhapatnam.

Duckett made 28 in a stand of 50 with Zak Crawley before offering a bat-pad catch off Ravichandran Ashwin.

Crawley remains on 29, alongside the promoted Rehan Ahmed on nine, with England 67-1 and in need of 332 more runs for another astonishing victory.

India were put into a position from which they are favourites to level the series by a classy century from Shubman Gill.

Amid some England excellence with the ball in the morning session, Gill could have been dismissed three times before he reached 20, but survived to make 104 and help India to 255 in their second innings.

Despite giving up a first-innings deficit of 143, England clung on with tenacity. James Anderson was magnificent in the first half hour and even though Gill shared stands of 89 with Axar Patel and 81 with Shreyas Iyer, the tourists chipped away.

Tom Hartley claimed four wickets, Ahmed three. Ben Foakes was excellent behind the stumps and Ben Stokes took a wonderful catch to remove Iyer. India lost their last six wickets for 44 runs.

For as hard as England battled, they still need to break records to win. A successful chase would be their highest in Test cricket, the highest by anyone against India and the highest in this country.

No visiting team has ever made 300 in the fourth innings of a Test in India, regardless of the result.

England also have a concern over Joe Root, who took a blow to the finger at slip and was off the field from the drinks break in the morning session.

  • Reaction to day three in Visakhapatnam

England need history once more

England have already made history under captain Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum. It was against India at Edgbaston in 2022 that they set the record for England’s highest chase and only last week overturned a 190-run first-innings deficit to win the first Test in Hyderabad.

That they still have the feintest sniff here is down to the intensity they showed in Sunday’s first session and the perseverance they demonstrated across the rest of the day.

Shubman could have batted England out of the game, especially with Anderson barely used after lunch and Root’s off-spin unavailable. Instead, Stokes marshalled a trio of young spinners with only three previous caps between them and toyed with the field to induce Indian errors.

Ultimately it has probably come too late, albeit on a pitch still good for batting, bar occasional uneven bounce. It is likely that England will come to rue the 6-68 they lost in their first innings on Saturday.

There was at least precedent for what Stokes’ men achieved in Hyderabad, whereas victory here would mean doing something no England team has done. In fact, England have only twice chased more than 100 to win in India, neither of which were in the past 40 years.

Crawley and Duckett laid a platform and India will be wary of what England are capable of, but this feels like a stretch, even for the Bazballers.

Gill repays the faith

Gill has been an enigma to the India Test team. The 24-year-old has the second-highest one-day international average of all time, but has struggled to build on a promising start to his Test career. His highest score in his 12 previous innings was 36.

On Sunday Gill repaid the faith shown in him, albeit after coming through a torrid start to his innings. He overturned being given lbw to Hartley on four, survived a marginal lbw review off Anderson on the same score and on 17 edged Hartley between keeper and slip.

With determination, Gill grew in stature and scored all around the wicket. He played powerful sweeps, delicate cuts and lofted two sixes down the ground. Gill was particularly harsh on Ahmed en route to his third Test century.

The stands with Shreyas, who made 29, and Axar, who hit 45, pushed the game away from England, only for Gill to make the mistake that allowed the fightback. As Stokes left a gap on the off side, Shubman played a reverse-sweep for the first time in his innings and gloved Shoaib Bashir to Foakes.

India ground to a halt and lost 4-18 in 10 overs, leaving Ashwin to inch on in the company of Jasprit Bumrah, who chewed up 26 deliveries for his duck.

Bumrah’s vigil ended when he pushed Hartley to gully and in the next over Ashwin was last man out for 29, edging Ahmed behind.

England persevere

With India 28-0 at the beginning of the day, already 171 ahead, England needed everything to go their way. As Anderson swung the ball in the hazy morning humidity, it felt like it might.

Anderson needed only four deliveries to nip one past the defence of Rohit Sharma and into off stump. In Anderson’s next over, Yashasvi Jaiswal followed a wide one and edged to first slip. It made Anderson the first 41-year-old pace bowler to take five wickets in a Test since 1923.

India were rocked, but somehow Gill and Iyer built their stand. Just as India were getting on top, Stokes produced his moment of magic. Iyer miscued Hartley, Stokes turned from mid-off and sprinted towards the boundary, holding a breath-taking diving catch as the ball dropped over his shoulder.

Anderson bowled only three overs after lunch, so Hartley, Ahmed and Bashir carried the attack. Like the first Test, Hartley was a much better bowler in the second innings, Bashir got the crucial wicket of Gill and Ahmed’s 41.3 overs in the match are the most of his first-class career. Foakes took two super catches up to the stumps.

As England prepared to face 14 overs under the floodlights, Ahmed hit throw-downs on the outfield but it looked as though he would not be required, only for Ashwin to strike with 19 balls of the day remaining.

And Ahmed, only 19 and in his third Test, had the confidence to take two boundaries off Axar in the final over of the day.

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Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish and SZA to star at Grammy Awards

Whisper it quietly… but could the Grammy Awards get it right this year?

The ceremony, which takes place in Los Angeles on Sunday, is notorious for scoring own goals, often rewarding middle-of-the-road heritage acts over cutting-edge, contemporary pop.

But this year’s nominees are straight-down-the-line populist picks, with R&B star SZA leading the field on nine.

There will also be performances from big names ranging from Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish to Joni Mitchell and U2.

Comedian Trevor Noah will host for the fourth year running, overseeing a staggering 94 categories, from best contemporary Christian album to best audiobook, where Michelle Obama will square off against Meryl Streep.

Elsewhere, Phoebe Bridgers’ indie-rock supergroup Boygenius, and pop star Victoria Monét have seven nominations each.

Chart stars Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey and Ice Spice also have multiple nominations in a female-led field.

  • Grammy Awards: The main nominees
  • Taylor Swift breaks record with Grammy nomination

Here are nine things to know ahead of the event.

1) How to watch the Grammys

First of all, brew a strong pot of coffee.

The Grammys are awards presented by the Recording Academy of the United States for outstanding achievement in music.

More than 80 will be handed out in what’s called the “premiere ceremony” at 20:30 GMT on Sunday (12:30 in Los Angeles).

It’s often worth tuning in. The winners in the more obscure categories are less polished and more excited about winning, and the performances are looser and, dare I say it, more musical than the Hollywood-scale set pieces you’ll see later.

You can watch the whole thing on the Recording Academy’s YouTube channel and on live.grammy.com.

The main show, which will start at 01:00 Monday GMT, will be broadcast live in the US on CBS and streamed on Paramount Plus. Speeches and select performances are usually uploaded to YouTube the following day.

2) Will Taylor Swift overtake Ol’ Blue Eyes?

If Swift wins album of the year for Midnights, she will become the first ever artist to lift the prestigious trophy four times.

At the moment, she’s tied with Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Frank Sinatra, who each have three wins.

But the Grammys have typically been less interested in Swift’s pop records than her forays into country and folk.

Her competition for album of the year is strong. Here’s the full list of nominees:

  • Boygenius – The Record
  • Janelle Monáe – The Age of Pleasure
  • Jon Batiste – World Music Radio
  • Lana Del Rey – Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd
  • Miley Cyrus – Endless Summer Vacation
  • Olivia Rodrigo – Guts
  • SZA – SOS
  • Taylor Swift – Midnights

3) Joni and Tracy could put young stars in the shade

Modern-day superstars Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, SZA and Olivia Rodrigo will no doubt put on lavish performances of their big hits.

But the show is likely to be stolen by two other female artists who have largely been out of the public eye in recent years.

Joni Mitchell is guaranteed a reception worthy of a living legend when she makes her debut Grammys performance at the age of 80.

And Tracy Chapman is heavily rumoured to be making a very rare public appearance to join country star Luke Combs on her 1988 classic Fast Car, which he took back to the charts last year.

The night’s other performers will include Billy Joel, Travis Scott and Burna Boy.

4) A win for SZA is a win for Scotland

In the US, SZA’s second album SOS topped the charts for 10 weeks and marked the singer’s ascension to the major league.

Born in Missouri and raised in New Jersey, the singer – real name Solána Imani Rowe – trained in marine biology before launching her music career.

If her latest album picks up a Grammy, it will also mean a win for a 20-year-old music producer from Scotland.

Blair Ferguson, who writes under the name BLK Beats, wrote the music for her hit single Snooze in his Glasgow bedroom, and it went on to sell more than two million copies in the US.

“SZA is just a genius and she’s able to transform any record with the way she comes up with a melody,” he told BBC News. “I don’t think any other artist could have made that track.”

5) Who’s a bigger rock star: Mick or Olivia?

The best rock song category is a culture clash for the ages, as Olivia Rodrigo’s punky Ballad Of A Homeschooled Girl faces off against The Rolling Stones’ Angry, a tale of a lovers’ quarrel.

So who is the face of rock ‘n’ roll in 2024? The Grammys like to reward longevity, but maybe they’ll be swayed by Rodrigo’s rock revivalism, which has helped to ignite the first resurgence in guitar music in over a decade.

It’s a strong field, with Foo Fighters, and Queens of the Stone Age also in the running. But the real contenders have to be Boygenius.

Formed by indie songwriters Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, last year they made an era-defining guitar album, stacked with spectral harmonies and poetic lyrics.

Nominated in all the major categories as well as the rock subgenres, it could be this year’s runaway winner.

6) A first for Africa

A new category, best African music performance, reflects the growing prominence of genres like Afrobeats and Amapiano but also “Africa’s profound influence on music history”, according to the Grammys.

The inaugural nominees – who would previously have slugged it out in the world music category – include Nigerian stars Burna Boy, Asake, Ayra Starr and Davido, alongside breakout South African singer Tyla.

“Honestly, specifically the Grammys is a huge accolade,” said Tyla, who scored a global hit with Water at the end of 2023.

Two other new awards have also been introduced for 2024 – best alternative jazz album and best pop dance recording.

7) Justice for Miley!

Despite her storied career, Miley Cyrus is yet to win a Grammy, and had only been nominated twice in the past.

However this year, the SFKAHM (Singer formerly known as Hannah Montana) has six nominations for her all-grown-up pop album Endless Summer Vacation.

Lead single Flowers, which was the biggest-selling song in the UK last year and topped the US Billboard charts for eight weeks, is up for record and song of the year, and best pop vocal performance.

But in a strong year for sad girls singing pop songs, she could leave empty-handed all over again.

8) Are the Grammys ghosting country music?

Country had a huge resurgence in the US last year. Streams of the genre rose 20%, and last August the top three positions in the Billboard Hot 100 were occupied by country songs for the first time.

But none of those artists – Morgan Wallen, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan – are nominated in the Grammys’ biggest, all-genre categories.

In fact, no country album has been nominated for album of the year since Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour five years ago (which won the award).

So what’s going on? It seems to be a reaction to the political and racial undertones of the genre’s biggest stars.

Voters are cautious about Wallen because of a headline-making incident in 2021, where he was caught on camera using a racial slur.

With Aldean, the politics were embedded in his song, Try That in a Small Town – a story of vigilante justice that some listeners interpreted as having racial undertones.

Aldean denied those accusations, but apologised when it transpired he’d filmed the video in front of a Tennessee courthouse that had been the scene of a brutal lynching in 1927.

While stars like Jason Isbell and Zach Bryan made thoughtful songs that challenged Nashville’s more regressive tendencies, they were also shut out of the big prizes.

It seems the Academy, with typical caution, has decided to steer clear.

9) How new does the best new artist have to be?

A mere 21 years after releasing his first song, Tennessee singer Jelly Roll is up for best new artist.

The musician, whose real name is Jason DeFord, isn’t a traditional contender for the category, but his recent move from the underground to the mainstream makes him eligible under Grammy guidelines.

A convicted criminal and former drug dealer, he has served multiple stints in prison and recently testified before the US Congress in support of anti-fentanyl legislation.

His emotional tales of addiction and redemption finally propelled him into the charts last year after a later-career pivot from rap into country music.

At 39, he would be the oldest-ever winner of the best new artist trophy – overtaking Sheryl Crow, who was 33 on the night of her victory in 1995.

But that’s nothing compared to the Latin Grammys, which gave a best new artist trophy to 95-year-old Angela Alvarez in 2022.