BBC 2024-06-07 09:37:27


The devastating cost of fighting Myanmar’s military dictatorship

Yogita Limaye,BBC News

An abandoned Myanmar military camp sits atop a wooded hill, overlooking a picturesque lake which is well known in these parts because of its unique heart-like shape. Landmine canisters and spent bullets litter the ground. Yellow wildflowers have sprouted through piles of corrugated tin sheets strewn about where soldiers’ barracks used to be. Hastily dug trenches line one part of the camp.

Under the overcast sky, a flag flutters in the wind – red, white and blue horizontal stripes with the picture of a hornbill at the centre – the flag of the Chin National Army (CNA), an ethnic armed group fighting against Myanmar’s military junta in the western Chin state.

Seven months ago the CNA, along with local armed civilian groups, pushed Myanmar’s army out of this camp at Rihkhawdar – a border trade town with India – and from other areas in the Chin state. It’s an unprecedented advance for Chin insurgents fighting against Myanmar’s military dictatorship which crushed the country’s fragile democracy in a coup in 2021.

It is the first time that the military has lost control of these areas, and the BBC has had rare access to see these rebel advances in the west of the country.

The win at Rihkhawdar was not straightforward. It came after multiple offensives were launched for more than a year. And for some families it came at an excruciating cost.

Seventeen-year-old Lalnunpuii loved dancing. Her social media feed was full of her imitating trending viral videos.

“She used to sassily dance around all the time. But she was not into dressing up. She used to idolise soldiers and would listen to songs all day that talked about soldiers who dedicated their lives for the country. She was brave and strong, and not scared of anything,” says Lalthantluangi, Lalnunpuii’s mother.

After the coup, the teenager convinced her parents to allow her to join the armed civilian movement in their village Haimual. In a handwritten essay at school, in English, she explained why.

“Myanmar is broken now… The soldier of Burma are enemy for me because they have no mercy… My future is People Defence Force and I like it,” it read.

In August 2022, armed civilians from her village along with other groups launched an attack on Rihkhawdar camp.

“We rained drones on them for 13 days straight. Most of the bombs were made by me as I was the main welder for my unit,” says Lalzidinga, Lalnunpuii’s father. A truck driver before the coup, he became one of the organisers of the People’s Defence Forces in Haimual.

They were unsuccessful in taking the camp during this attempt, but there were casualties on both sides.

On 14 August 2022, in an apparent retaliation for the attack, the Myanmar army stormed into Haimual village. Residents tell us they torched nearly a dozen homes. We saw the remains of many such houses. There are accusations against the Myanmar army of burning tens of thousands of civilian homes in the north and west of the country, in a bid to suppress the resistance.

In Haimual, Lalnunpuii and her fifteen-year-old brother Lalruatmawia were among 17 people taken hostage by the army. All except the siblings were released. Their family believes the army was taking revenge against their father.

Two days later, their bodies were found by villagers in a shallow grave in a forest outside Haimual.

Both had been brutally tortured and bludgeoned to death with the butt of a gun. Lalnunpuii had been raped. Her brother’s chest, arms and genitals bore burn marks from boiling water. The BBC has seen detailed photographs of the bodies and the post-mortem reports.

Myanmar’s military is yet to respond to the BBC’s questions about these allegations.

“I don’t have the courage to think of what happened to my children,” says Lalzidinga, pausing for a moment, struggling to find words. “My children were martyrs. I didn’t deserve them.”

A bit later he continues. A proud father speaking lovingly of his children. “My son had become two inches taller than me. He was talkative and he didn’t hesitate to do any work around the household,” he says. “The two were inseparable. My daughter brought joy and laughter to gatherings.”

Lalthantluangi wipes tears from her face and cradles their youngest daughter, four-year-old Hadaci.

“I tell my husband not to be discouraged by our children’s deaths. It’s not just about us. The coming generations too need freedom. Living in such a state where you don’t have any rights, where you’re at the mercy of the military, that is not correct. It is a fight worth sacrificing one’s life for. I am so proud of my children,” she says.

Through our time in Myanmar we meet people dressed in military fatigues, some carrying assault rifles and other guns – not professional soldiers, but farmers, students, ordinary people displaying remarkable resolve in the face of a savage conflict.

Commander Vala of the People’s Defence Forces points to the lush green valley below Haimual and tells us with a smile that the Myanmar military has been pushed out of all of it, and their closest base is now more than 30 miles (48km) away as the crow flies. At the local cemetery he shows us fresh graves, covered with pink and white plastic flowers.

“These are the people who died fighting against the junta,” says Vala as he straightens a bouquet that’s fallen over near the grave of his brother-in-law. We also spot Lalnunpuii and Lalruatmawia’s graves.

Most of the civilians we meet were trained in the CNA’s Victoria Base, south of Haimual. Driving on winding, bumpy roads through dense forests and mountainous terrain we arrive at the base.

We see hundreds of youngsters, new recruits in uniforms, marching in an open field.

“Our motherland, the land we love, we’ll defend it with our blood and life,” they sing as the drills end.

It’s followed by weapons training. We hear shots ring out later.

We’re told they are all over the age of 18, but many looked younger. Masses of teenagers who had a taste of freedom when Myanmar moved towards democratic rule in 2011, and who now find military rule unacceptable, have chosen to abandon their dreams to join the uprising.

Nineteen-year-old Than Dar Lin had aspired to be a teacher.

“The first year after the coup wasn’t too bad. But then the military began shelling our village. It destroyed our home. Troops entered our village, burnt houses and killed people, and even our animals. We fled to the jungle, so many of us, that the jungle itself became a village,” she says.

“My uncle was cruelly shot dead. I hate the military, and so to defend my country and my people I joined the CNA,” she says.

Almost everywhere we go, we see Myanmar’s young swept up in a wave of revolution.

Thousands who worked for the Burmese state have also switched sides.

Twenty-two-year old Vanlalpekthara was a policeman.

“He used to earn a comfortable salary. We were happy and content. But then the government was overthrown in a coup and he decided to join the resistance,” his mother Molly Khiang tells us, bringing out three well-worn photos of her son from when he was in police training.

Speaking of her own youth, spent under military rule, she says, “There wasn’t a single day of joy back then. We were so scared of them. That’s why I supported my son’s decision.” Six days after he joined rebel forces in March 2022, Vanlalpekthara was killed.

“My son was stabbed here and here,” says Molly pointing to her chest and back. “He was brutally assaulted. His foot was cut off,” she continues breaking down. “It’s hard to talk about it.”

Vanlalpekthara’s wife was pregnant with their child when he died. Their baby boy, now nearly 18 months old, is living in a refugee camp further away.

Molly pumps her fist in the air when I ask about how she felt when the military was pushed out of her village. “I’m so happy, but I want to see full victory.” Her second son is also part of the People’s Defence Forces.

It’s this support of swathes of ordinary citizens that has propelled relatively weaker rebel forces to turn the course of this conflict and push the far more powerful and well equipped Myanmar military on to the backfoot.

“They appeared to be winning at first. But whether it’s war or politics, without the support of the people, no one can win. They may have superior weapons, but they do not have the people on their side,” says Pa Thang, a politician who’s been named “prime minister” of a parallel government established by rebel groups in Chin state. He’s also a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

The parallel government claims to control nearly 80% of the territory of the state, although Myanmar’s military still controls most of the strategic towns including the capital.

But the rebels have momentum – earlier this week they took over Tonzang township.

“This is our land. It’s not the land of the Burmese military. We are winning because we know every corner of it intimately,” says the CNA’s spokesman Htet Ni.

Another key reason for their success is that a number of rebels groups in different parts of the country have aligned together, forcing the military to choose where to focus their efforts. The CNA says it’s allied with the Kachin Independence Army, the Karen National Liberation Army and the Karenni Army.

The biggest challenge facing rebel forces is infighting among different groups. Numerous factions operate within Chin state alone, and traditionally many of them have been hostile to each other.

Pa Thang insists they can maintain unity, and also says they have a plan for the future to operate under the National Unity Government (NUG) which represents the elected civilian government led by Ms Su Kyi, who was jailed by the military following the coup.

“We are diligently writing laws and a constitution. We will have two ministers and one deputy minister from the Chin State as part of the NUG. We are keeping everything ready for when the Myanmar army concedes defeat,” he says.

What’s evident among everyone we met is a belief they can win.

“It won’t be long,” Pa Thang says. “It’s not good to make predictions about such things but I have faith that we won’t be fighting for more than two to three years.”

Witnesses tell of ‘unimaginable’ Gaza shelter air strike

Yolande Knell,BBC Middle East correspondent

In a classroom-turned-bedroom at a UN school in Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, Palestinian children clamber through rubble and blood-stained mattresses.

Just hours earlier, at least 35 people were killed and many more wounded at the site in an Israeli military strike early in the morning, according to the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa.

“I saw pieces of iron flying and everything falling down. What happened to us is unimaginable,” said Naim al-Dadah from Gaza City, one of hundreds of displaced people sheltering there.

Israel’s military says it carried out a “precision, intelligence-based strike” to target between 20 to 30 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters who were using the school as a staging ground to plan and launch attacks.

However, 14 children and nine women were among those killed, the Hamas-run government media office says. Earlier, medics reported similar numbers to a local journalist working with the BBC.

During the war, Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of hiding its operatives in schools, hospitals, and other buildings, using civilians as human shields – charges the armed group denies.

“All of the red lines have been crossed,” said Mr al-Dadah, suggesting that being in a UN institution had given his family no protection. He added: “The world treats us with double standards. Israel has violated all international laws.”

Israel has faced growing diplomatic isolation over its conduct of the war, with cases against it before two international courts, but insists it has acted within the laws of armed conflict as it tries to counter what it sees as an existential threat from Hamas.

On a call with journalists, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said that some of the Palestinian armed fighters based in the Nuseirat school had been involved in the 7 October attacks, which killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel and triggered the war in Gaza. No evidence was immediately given.

Col Lerner suggested that Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives would have “felt relatively safe” at the building, because it belonged to the UN.

The IDF published a photo of the school with classrooms on the first and second floors marked to show the locations it said were targeted by warplanes.

To an unusual extent in this case, the Israeli military has stressed that it took steps to reduce the risk of harming civilians. “We actually called off the strike twice,” Lt Col Lerner said.

The overnight attack was the latest case of mass casualties among Palestinians trying to find safety as Israel expands its offensives in the Gaza Strip.

Some of those staying at the UN school said that they came from northern Gaza – but had heeded Israeli military evacuation orders and headed south in the early stages of the war – only to be displaced in the past month from Rafah, on the Egyptian border.

This week, the IDF announced a new ground and air assault in central Gaza, targeting what it said were Hamas fighters who had regrouped there. Its forces have repeatedly returned to parts of the Palestinian territory which they previously withdrew from.

In a courtyard of the UN school, more than 20 corpses were lined up in body bags and blankets. A journalist working with the BBC filmed several women cradling the heads and hands of their dead sons.

“It was a very harsh night,” says Ibrahim Lulu, a teenager who said his cousin, Mohammed was killed.

“My brothers, friends and I were sitting together when suddenly there was an explosion. The mattress protected me because I was sitting against the wall. All the bodies were dismembered and torn.”

Residents said the part of the school targeted was being used as a shelter for men and boys, with women and girls sleeping in a separate section. Part of the school had previously been targeted by an Israeli strike in mid-May with the IDF then saying it was being used as a “Hamas war room”.

Overnight, casualties were rushed from Nuseirat to the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in nearby Deir al-Balah. In recent days it has been struggling to treat hundreds of wounded people following intense Israeli bombardment and shelling in the surrounded area.

The hospital had earlier reported an electrical generator failure saying that this would make it harder to treat patients.

On Wednesday, Medics from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) which is supporting the hospital described chaotic scenes there. It said that in the previous 24 hours, at least 70 dead people had been brought in, and more than 300 wounded, mostly women and children.

Hiker finds pipe feeding China’s tallest waterfall

Fan Wang,BBC News

A controversy over a waterfall has cascaded into a social media storm in China, even prompting an explanation from the water body itself.

A hiker posted a video that showed the flow of water from Yuntai Mountain Waterfall – billed as China’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall – was coming from a pipe built high into the rock face.

The clip has been liked more than 70,000 times since it was first posted on Monday.

Operators of the Yuntai tourism park said that they made the “small enhancement” during the dry season so visitors would feel that their trip had been worthwhile.

“The one about how I went through all the hardship to the source of Yuntai Waterfall only to see a pipe,” the caption of the video posted by user “Farisvov” reads.

The topic “the origin of Yuntai Waterfall is just some pipes” began trending all over social media.

It received more than 14 million views on Weibo and nearly 10 million views on Douyin – causing such an uproar that local government officials were sent to the park to investigate.

They asked the operators to learn a lesson from the incident and explain the enhancements to tourists ahead of time, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

‘A little help for my friends’

The park later posted on behalf of the waterfall saying, “I didn’t expect to meet everyone this way”.

“As a seasonal scenery I can’t guarantee that I will be in my most beautiful form everytime you come to see me,” it adds.

“I made a small enhancement during the dry season only so I would look my best to meet my friends.”

Located in central Henan province, the 312-metre Yuntai falls is located inside the Yuntai Mountain Geopark, a UNESCO Global Geopark.

Millions of visitors travel there every year, drawn by geological formations that date back more than a billion years.

Park officials told CCTV that the water they used to pump water into the falls was spring water, adding that it would not damage the natural landscape.

Many social media users appeared to be understanding of the situation.

“Yuntai park: Does this person not have better things to do?” a comment liked nearly 40,000 times on Douyin reads.

“I think it’s a good thing to do. Otherwise people would be disappointed if they end up seeing nothing there,” a user on Weibo said.

But there is also criticism.

“It’s not respecting the natural order, and not respecting the tourists,” a Weibo user wrote.

“How could it be called the No.1 waterfall anymore,” another user commented on Douyin.

This is not the first time artificial measures have been used to “help” famous waterfalls in China.

Huangguoshu Waterfall, a famous tourist destination in the southwestern Guizhou province, has been helped by a water diversion project from a nearby dam since 2006 to maintain its flow during the dry season.

Hunter Biden’s ex-girlfriend ‘panicked’ after finding gun

Bernd Debusmann,Nadine Yousif

Hunter Biden’s ex-girlfriend has testified that she “panicked” when she searched his car and found a gun – a moment that set off a chaotic string of events that has brought the president’s son to a federal courtroom.

Hallie Biden, who is also the widow of the defendant’s late brother, said she discovered the revolver amid piles of clothes and litter in the console of Hunter Biden’s truck.

Ms Biden, 50, also told the court she was “embarrassed and ashamed” to have started smoking crack cocaine herself after Mr Biden, 54, introduced her to the drug.

It is the first trial for the son of a sitting US president. He could face up to 25 years in prison if found guilty.

Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to three charges related to his possession of a firearm while allegedly using narcotics.

He is accused of knowingly lying on federal paperwork when he purchased the revolver and ammunition from a gun shop in Wilmington, Delaware, on 12 October 2018.

His defence team says he was in recovery at the time, so was truthful when he indicated on the paperwork that he was not a drug user.

On Thursday, the court heard from a central figure in the case – Hallie Biden – who became romantically involved with the defendant shortly after the 2015 death of his brother and her husband, Beau Biden.

In an often emotional, detailed testimony, she spoke of the pair’s “volatile” and “off-on” relationship, as well as their struggles with drug use and agonising battles to recover.

Concerned after seeing Mr Biden looking “exhausted” and fearing he could have relapsed into crack use, Ms Biden told jurors she searched his truck early in the morning on 23 October 2018 – something she frequently did.

There, among piles of clothes and garbage, she found “remnants” of crack cocaine as well as drug paraphernalia.

“Oh, and the gun, obviously,” she added.

Almost instantly, she recalled, panic set in.

“I didn’t want him to hurt himself, and I didn’t want my kids to find it and hurt themselves,” the mother-of-two said.

“I was afraid to kind of touch it. I didn’t know it was loaded,” Ms Biden added.

Fearful, she wrapped the .38 calibre Colt Cobra revolver into a leather pouch, stuffed it into a purple “little gift shopping bag” and drove to a nearby grocery store, where she threw it in a rubbish bin.

“I realise it was a stupid idea now,” she said. “But I was panicking.”

Initially, she did not plan to tell Mr Biden about what she had done. But when he woke up that morning, he realised it was missing.

“Did you take that from me Hallie,” read one angry text shown to jurors. “You really need to help me think right now, Hallie. This is very serious.”

At his urging, she returned to the store to find the gun but was unable to. She then filed a police report.

“I’ll take the blame,” she texted him from the scene. “I don’t want to live like this.”

It has previously emerged that the weapon had been discovered by a man who often rummaged through the grocery store’s refuse to gather recyclable items.

Ms Biden also told the court that she did not see Mr Biden use crack cocaine in the days leading up to him buying the gun and her disposing of it.

As she testified, Hunter Biden appeared to look intently in her direction.

He also looked back at his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, who has attended each day of the trial so far.

Hallie Biden also told the court that it was only after their relationship began that she learned of Mr Biden’s drug use.

She found crack cocaine at her house – where he would frequently stay – and later repeatedly saw him use the drug.

Crack, she said, left him “agitated or high-strung, but at other times, functioning as well”.

She also testified that she had fallen into using crack cocaine herself after he introduced her to the drug.

“It was a terrible experience that I went through, and I’m embarrassed and ashamed, and I regret that period of my life,” she said.

Ms Biden testified that she stopped using the drug in August 2018, but that he continued to use.

The prosecutor asked on Thursday about a text message Hunter Biden sent to Ms Biden the day after he bought the gun, saying he was waiting for a dealer named Mookie.

She told the court that meant “he was buying crack cocaine”.

Two days after the gun purchase, he texted Ms Biden that he was “sleeping on a car smoking crack”.

The series of texts also included several emotional messages from Ms Biden in which she pleaded with him to get sober.

“I’m afraid you’re going to die,” one message read.

The defendant’s lawyers explained the texts by suggesting their client had been lying about drug use to avoid seeing Hallie Biden – noting that she has no way of knowing what he was actually doing at the time.

During cross-examination, Ms Biden confirmed that she had not seen him using drugs around this time.

Abbe Lowell, Mr Biden’s attorney, asked her whether the request to “help me get sober” could have also referred to alcohol – to which she agreed.

The prosecution’s case, however, rests on convincing jurors that he was an addict.

Ms Biden’s testimony was followed by Millard Greer, a former Delaware State Police lieutenant who recovered the weapon, as well as Edward Banner, an 80-year-old pensioner who found the weapon while looking for recyclables in in the grocery store’s bins.

The prosecution is expected to call two more witnesses, including an FBI expert and a DEA agent, before resting its case.

The defence team expects to call two or three witnesses before resting its case.

Mr Lowell said that no final decision had been made on whether Mr Biden will testify.

As his son appears in court, President Joe Biden has continued his public duties. On Thursday, he delivered a speech in France to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

In an interview with ABC News on the same day, Mr Biden said he would accept the outcome of his son’s trial and would not pardon him.

Hunter Biden also faces a trial in California in September on charges of failing to pay $1.4m (£1.1m) in taxes.

US urges Israel to be transparent over Gaza school strike

Matt Murphy,George Wright

The US has told Israel it must be fully “transparent” over an air strike that reportedly killed at least 35 people at a central Gaza school packed with displaced people on Thursday morning.

Local journalists told the BBC a warplane had fired two missiles at classrooms on the top floor of the school in the Nuseirat urban refugee camp.

The Israeli military said it had conducted a “precise” strike on a “Hamas compound” in the school, but Gaza’s Hamas-run government media office denied the claim.

The US called on Israel to identify publicly the Hamas fighters it said it had killed – just as the Israeli military gave the names of nine of them.

Israel frequently identifies militants it targets in air strikes but it is rare for the US to urge it to do so.

The Israelis “told us there were 20 to 30 militants they were targeting [and] they’re going to release the names of those they believe they’ve killed, those militants”, US state department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

“That is what they have said they would provide. We expect them to do that, as well as any other details that would shed light on this incident.”

In a near-simultaneous news briefing, Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari gave the names of nine Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters he said had been killed in the strike. He said more would be identified after work to “verify the information”.

In Washington, Mr Miller said the US has seen reports that 14 children were killed in the strike.

“If that is accurate that 14 children were killed, those aren’t terrorists,” he said.

“And so the government of Israel has said they are going to release more information about this strike… We expect them to be fully transparent in making that information public.”

The latest deaths come just a week after 45 people were killed in an Israeli strike in the Gazan city of Rafah.

The latest strike, local journalists and residents say, happened in the early hours of Thursday at al-Sardi school, which is in a south-eastern area of the densely populated, decades-old camp, where the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, provides services.

Videos shared on social media showed the destruction of several classrooms in one of the school’s buildings, as well as bodies wrapped in white shrouds and blankets.

Dead and wounded people were rushed to the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital, in the nearby town of Deir al-Balah, which has been overwhelmed since the Israeli military began a new ground operation against Hamas in central Gaza this week.

The BBC is working to verify the details of the strike in Nuseirat camp. Reports on the exact number of dead have varied.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 40 people had been killed, including 14 children and nine women, and 74 others had been injured.

Unrwa’s commissioner-general, Philippe Lazzarini, said at least 35 people had been killed and many more had been injured. The agency’s director of communications, Juliette Touma, told the BBC the figures were coming from Unrwa “colleagues on the ground”.

Witnesses described a scene of devastation following the strike.

“I was asleep when the incident occurred,” Udai Abu Elias, a man who was living at the school, told BBC Arabic.

“Suddenly we heard a loud explosion and shattered glass and debris from the building fell on us. Smoke filled the air and I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t expect to make it out alive. I heard someone calling for survivors to come out from under the rubble. I struggled to see as I stumbled over the bodies of the martyrs.”

Unrwa said 6,000 displaced people had been sheltering in the school complex at the time. Many schools and other UN facilities have been used as shelters by the 1.7 million people who have fled their homes during the war, which has lasted almost eight months.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the strike through a spokesperson, saying that UN premises must be “inviolable” and protected by “all parties” during conflicts.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said jets had conducted a “precise strike on a Hamas compound embedded inside” the school. An annotated aerial photograph highlighted classrooms on two upper floors of the building, which the IDF said were the “locations of the terrorists”.

US officials have continued to lobby for what President Joe Biden called an Israeli ceasefire proposal.

The three-part plan would begin with a six-week ceasefire in which the Israeli military would withdraw from populated areas of Gaza. There would also be a “surge” of humanitarian aid, as well as an exchange of some hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

The deal would eventually lead to a permanent “cessation of hostilities” and a major reconstruction plan for Gaza. Germany, France and Britain re-affirmed their support for the deal in a joint statement with the US on Thursday and called for “an enduring end to the crisis”.

CIA Director William Burns met mediators from Egypt and Qatar in Doha on Thursday to discuss the plans, but senior Cairo officials told the Reuters news agency that there had been no sign of a breakthrough on the deal.

At least 36,470 people have been killed in Gaza in almost eight months of fighting, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Hamas killed about 1,200 people and took 251 others hostage during its 7 October attacks on southern Israel.

The Nvidia CEO christened the Taylor Swift of tech

Annabelle Liang,Business reporter

These days, wherever Jensen Huang goes, adoring crowds chant his name and scramble for selfies and autographs.

The chief executive of Nvidia has nothing short of rock star status and during a visit to Taiwan this week, it was on full display. He posed for countless pictures and even scrawled his name on a woman’s top, just below her cleavage. It was pure “Jensanity” as locals put it.

His peers know the kind of fan frenzy that Mr Huang can stir. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has described him as “like Taylor Swift, but for tech”.

The bespectacled 61-year-old with grey hair dresses the part. He has made the black leather jacket his signature style.

Mr Huang is at the forefront of a technology boom as Nvidia is the world’s leading designer of artificial intelligence (AI) chips.

Earlier this week, Nvidia’s market value surged past $3tn (£2.3tn). With that, the firm overtook Apple as the second most valuable company in the world on Wednesday, before pulling back on Thursday.

Shares of Nvidia are also up by more than 200% over the last year.

“He is literally being treated like a rock star,” says technology analyst Bob O’Donnell.

“Nvidia’s last big conference in San Jose was in a stadium. It was jam-packed and huge lines of people couldn’t get in. It was like a rock concert,” Mr O’Donnell said.

“This time, he spoke in a sports stadium in Taiwan. I joked that he was on his arena tour.”

Nvidia, which is headquartered in California, was originally known for making the type of chips that process graphics, particularly for computer games.

Mr Huang co-founded the company in 1993. The company eventually changed its focus to AI, which it currently dominates.

Interest in AI peaked after the 2022 launch of ChatGPT, which was made possible by Nvidia chips.

The chatbot was trained using 10,000 of Nvidia’s graphics processing units (GPUs), clustered together in a supercomputer.

This success helped propel Nvidia to the elite club of US companies worth at least $1tn last May, joining the likes of Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft.

Although Microsoft is still the world’s most valuable listed company, Nvidia is not far behind.

In Asia, its success has boosted Taiwanese chipmaking giant TSMC, the sole production partner for Nvidia’s most advanced AI chips. Shares of TSMC hit a record high on the Taiwan Stock Exchange on Thursday.

A ‘casual, approachable energy’

Mr Huang credits his wife and daughter for his love of leather jackets. A spokesperson from Nvidia says he has been wearing the classic outerwear for more than two decades.

His latest pick, an embossed biker jacket from American fashion house Tom Ford, retailed for almost $9,000.

He has kept it on even during appearances in tropical countries like Singapore.

“Leather jackets can signal an edge: a willingness to break rules, do things differently and challenge the status quo,” says fashion stylist Sera Murphy.

“Jensen’s signature style gives him a casual, approachable energy,” she adds.

A signature style is not uncommon for technology CEOs.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs almost always wore the same outfit – a black St. Croix mock turtleneck sweater, blue Levi’s 501 jeans, and New Balance 991 trainers.

Mr Zuckerberg is known for wearing plain sweaters and t-shirts from luxury fashion brands. Last March, he posted a photo of himself and Mr Huang swapping jackets.

Ms Murphy says “uniform dressing” can help entrepreneurs create an image of stability around their companies.

“People need consistency from leaders. Dressing in a uniform makes things predictable in a market that is volatile and unpredictable,” she added.

Mr O’Donnell expects Mr Huang to continue making appearances at events around the world.

“At technology conferences, everyone wants Jensen on stage and he’s happy to join. What he has done makes him appear everywhere. He’s positioned himself as the figurehead of generative AI,” Mr O’Donnell says.

“The issue is the industry does not like monopolies. Nvidia has a huge market share, but competitors like AMD and Intel are starting to catch up,” he added.

“Jensen sees this opportunity to build on Nvidia. He’s obviously enjoying the moment. In Taiwan, he’s also the local boy done good. That is something people can rally around.”

  • Published

For cricket to break America, it needed something special.

It needed drama, entertainment, high-quality skill and a little bit of chaos thrown in.

So when the co-hosts of the T20 World Cup stunned former champions Pakistan in Texas in a super-over showpiece for the ages, cricket had delivered.

The United States played their first T20 international in 2019, are competing in their first World Cup and were playing Pakistan for the first time.

They are ranked 18th in the world behind Nepal and the UAE.

Pakistan reached the final of this competition the last time it was played in 2022 and won it in 2009.

This was not supposed to happen, but this is the land of opportunity. And this was Texas, where everything is bigger.

“Beating Pakistan is a big achievement,” said US captain Monank Patel. “It’s a big day for Team USA. Not just for USA, for the USA cricket community too.”

Over in New York, where the tournament’s other matches are being staged, the slow pitches have dominated the discussions and produced low-scoring, drab affairs.

But Texas has provided the fireworks; the blueprint to show that cricket in the States can work and it can be brilliant.

And all this in the backyard of the NFL’s most valuable team, the Dallas Cowboys.

Aaron Jones’ 10 sixes kick-started the tournament in style in the opener against Canada, before a collective team effort of unity, spirit and nerves of steel helped them over the line against Pakistan.

“I’ve got shivers down my spine,” said former Netherlands all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate on BBC Test Match Special.

“Coming from an associate nation myself, I know how difficult this is.

“But what a memorable day and a shot in the arm for USA cricket. If you ever wanted a marketing tool to show Americans what this great game is about, this is it.”

This could prove to be a game that changes the sport as we know it stateside, which is home to one of the world’s newest and most glamourous T20 franchise leagues, Major League Cricket, and where the sport will make its reappearance at the Olympic Games in LA in 2028.

“Beating Pakistan in the World Cup is going to open many doors for us,” added Monank.

“Hosting the World Cup in the USA and performing here as a team, it helps us to grow the cricket in the USA.”

Pakistan are one of 12 full member nations of the International Cricket Council while the USA are an associate member.

This means, like 93 other countries, they are recognised by the sport’s governing body but do not play Test matches.

‘A proper team effort’

For the United States team, the emotion and the impact of the result was evident in the post-super over celebrations.

They went toe-to-toe with Pakistan for the full 40 overs, with nothing to separate the sides after Haris Rauf’s dismal final ball was pelted over his head for four by Nitish Kumar.

And after Saurabh Netravalkar closed out the super over, holding his own after conceding an early boundary and bowling a couple of early wides, he was lifted upon his team-mates’ shoulders and paraded around the outfield in front of jubilant fans.

“I am so proud of how we played,” added Monank, who made a crucial half-century in his side’s initial run-chase.

“It was a proper team effort. Winning the toss, we knew we had to make sure we utilised conditions and credit to our bowlers for doing that.”

For Pakistan, their tournament is far from over after just one game but after such a shambolic opening performance, things are looking bleak for Babar Azam’s men.

They reached the final in 2022, where they were eventually beaten by England, but have little time to dwell on this with a showpiece event against rivals India in New York coming up on Sunday.

“If you lose a match, you are always upset,” said Babar. “We are not playing well, in both fielding, bowling and batting.

“I am upset. As a professional, you have to step up against such a performance or such a team in the batting, in the middle order. This is not an excuse that they played well. I think we played badly.”

The USA, meanwhile, now top Group A and will fancy their chances of reaching the Super 8s stage which follows.

‘Cricket’s reawakening in the US after 100-year hibernation’

This result becomes one of the landmark moments in the history of cricket in the United States.

The Gentlemen Of Philadelphia, inspired by the first great swing bowler John Barton King, scored victories over the counties on their UK tours of 1904 and 1908 when they beat the likes of Lancashire, Kent and Surrey in matches holding first-class status.

A private tour to North America organised by Arthur Malley in 1932, which included a honeymooning Don Bradman, saw an Australian XI held to several draws including some on US soil. Bradman was famously dismissed for a duck in New York on the tour.

A World All Stars XI captained by Tony Greig, and featuring Garry Sobers, Alan Knott, Gregg Chappell and others, surprisingly lost to an American side, most of whom were originally from the Caribbean, in an exhibition match at Shea Stadium in the Bronx in front of 8,000 fans.

Joe Lynn, the curator of the United States Cricket Museum at Haverford College, near Philadelphia, said the result was “huge” for cricket in the country.

“This tournament could not have started better from the US perspective. To win the first game against Canada was one thing, but beating a full-member nation like Pakistan is something else,” Lynn said.

“Perhaps it’s always been a misnomer to say cricket died in the US at the hands of baseball, but I think its been in hibernation more than anything else. With Major League Cricket and this World Cup it is a reawakening of sorts.”

Eleven tonnes of rubbish taken off Himalayan peaks

Mallory Moench,BBC News

The Nepalese army says it has removed eleven tonnes of rubbish, four corpses and one skeleton from Mount Everest and two other Himalayan peaks this year.

It took troops 55 days to recover the rubbish and bodies from Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse mountains.

It is estimated that more than fifty tonnes of waste and more than 200 bodies cover Everest.

The army began conducting an annual clean-up of the mountain, which is often described as the world’s highest garbage dump, in 2019 during concerns about overcrowding and climbers queueing in dangerous conditions to reach the summit.

The five clean-ups have collected 119 tonnes of rubbish, 14 human corpses and some skeletons, the army says.

This year, authorities aimed to reduce rubbish and improve rescues by making climbers wear tracking devices and bring back their own poo.

In the future, the government plans to create a mountain rangers team to monitor rubbish and put more money toward its collection, Nepal’s Department of Tourism director of mountaineering Rakesh Gurung told the BBC.

For the spring climbing season that ended in May, the government issued permits to 421 climbers, down from a record-breaking 478 last year. Those numbers do not include Nepalese guides. In total, an estimated 600 people climbed the mountain this year.

This year, eight climbers died or went missing, compared to 19 last year.

A Brit, Daniel Paterson, and his Nepalese guide, Pastenji Sherpa, are among those missing after being hit by falling ice on 21 May.

Mr Paterson’s family started a fundraiser to hire a search team to find them, but said in an update on 4 June that recovery “is not possible at this time” because of the location and danger of the operation.

Mr Gurung said the number of permits was lower this year because of the global economic situation, China also issuing permits and the national election in India which reduced the number of climbers from that country.

The number of permits will likely drop more after Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered the government in May to limit permits. The preliminary order didn’t set a maximum number.

Mr Gurung says he welcomes the order and the government is thinking about reforms such as staggering climbers to reduce traffic jams at the summit.

The government will work with experts to determine a safe number of climbers, Mr Gurung said.

“Without the scientific study, it can’t be said what will be the perfect number for Mount Everest,” he said.

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Search under way after TV presenter Michael Mosley goes missing in Greece

Adam Durbin,Nikos Papanikolaou,Joe Inwood

TV presenter Michael Mosley, known for popularising the 5:2 diet, has gone missing while on holiday on the Greek island of Symi.

A search and rescue operation is under way, including a police dog and a drone searching hard to reach areas.

A helicopter has been deployed from Athens to assist efforts.

Greek Police said Mr Mosley left his wife on the beach and set off on a walk to the centre of the island on Wednesday.

His phone was found in the place he was staying with his wife, who reported him missing, a police spokesperson told BBC News.

The 67-year-old broadcaster is well known for programmes including the BBC series Trust Me, I’m A Doctor and appearances on BBC’s The One Show and ITV’s This Morning.

  • Who is Michael Mosley?

After officers on the island were unable to find Mr Mosley, they requested help from the Greek fire department in Athens. Firefighters arrived in Symi from nearby Rhodes at 14:00 local time (12:00 BST) on Thursday.

Firefighters, volunteers and police officers are looking for him alongside a police dog, while a drone has also been deployed to help the search.

Officers are also searching CCTV footage for any sign of Mr Mosley.

The rescue operation is focusing on the Pedi area of Symi after a woman saw him there on Wednesday, the island’s deputy mayor Ilias Chaskas told BBC News.

He said the area is considered dangerous, but noted the woman had seen Mr Mosley on the road in a safer part of Pedi.

The island’s mayor, Eleftherios Papakalodoukas, said firefighters carrying out the search told him they believed it was “impossible” Mr Mosley was still there.

“It is a very small, controlled area, full of people. So if something happened to him there, we would have found him by now,” he told BBC News.

Mr Papakalodoukas said he believed it was likely Mr Mosley either “followed another path” or had fallen into the sea.

A helicopter assisting with the search was filmed flying over Symi

An appeal saying he was missing was posted on a local Facebook group on Wednesday, alongside a picture of Mr Mosley wearing a blue cap, polo shirt and shorts.

“Have you seen this man? He set off to walk back from [Agios Nikolaos beach] at about 13.30 and failed to make it home,” it said.

It was extremely hot in Symi on Wednesday, with the National Observatory of Athens reporting temperatures reaching over 40C (104F) at 15:00 local time.

Symi is part of Greece’s Dodecanese island group and sits about 12 miles (19km) north-west of Rhodes. In the 2021 census it had a population of approximately 2,600 people.

The majority of its beaches are remote and people are advised to take boats to visit them.

The area surrounding the Agios Nikolaos beach is extremely rocky and difficult to hike.

Local residents have said they are trying to understand why someone would leave there on foot and go on a hike – without their phone to navigate – in such challenging conditions, rather than taking the boat back.

With temperatures forecast to reach as high as 48C on Friday, an extreme heat warning has been issued on Symi.

The combination of the sweltering weather and rugged terrain will make the task for those searching for Mr Mosley even more challenging.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are supporting the family of a British man who is missing in Greece and are in contact with the local authorities.”

Mr Mosley studied medicine in London and qualified as a doctor but for the last couple of decades he has been working as a presenter, documentary maker, journalist and author.

His TV work has garnered awards, including an Emmy for a BBC science documentary The Human Face – which examined the science behind human perception of beauty.

Mr Mosley lived with tapeworms in his digestive system for six weeks after deliberately infesting himself to make his 2014 BBC Four documentary Infested! Living With Parasites.

He also writes a column for the Daily Mail, and has made several TV programmes about diet and exercise – including Channel 4 show Michael Mosley: Who Made Britain Fat?

Mr Mosley has been an advocate for intermittent fasting diets, including through the 5:2 diet and The Fast 800 diet.

He has four children with his wife Clare Bailey Mosley, who is also a doctor, author and healthy living advocate.

The couple recently appeared at the Hay Festival where Mr Mosley presented a special edition of his BBC Radio 4 series and podcast Just One Thing.

Reacting to the “shocking news”, his fellow Trust Me, I’m A Doctor co-star Dr Saleyha Ahsan said she was “praying he is found safe” and she feels “sick with worry”.

Presenter Jeremy Vine, who has featured Mr Mosley on his BBC Radio 2 programme, said in social media post: “I’m praying this lovely man is found and thinking of Claire and the whole Mosley family.”

On Thursday’s edition of The One Show, presenter Alex Jones opened the programme by expressing concern that “our friend” had gone missing.

“Our thoughts are very much with his wife Claire and the rest of his family at this worrying time. We hope for more positive news,” she added.

EU elections start with tight Dutch race – exit poll

Paul Kirby,Anna Holligan

Dutch voters have begun four days of voting across the European Union, with exit polls suggesting a tight race between a left-green alliance and the party of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders.

Right-wing and far-right parties are widely expected to make big gains in many of the EU’s 27 member states, and that appears to have been borne out in the Netherlands, to an extent.

Although the Green-Labour alliance is set to take more seats in the European Parliament according to the exit poll, Mr Wilders’ Freedom Party is on course for big gains.

But he has not repeated the runaway victory of last November’s general election.

Under European law final results are not released until every country has voted, late on Sunday evening. Some 373 million Europeans are eligible to vote in the world’s second biggest democratic election after India.

The next European Parliament will have 720 seats, with each country having seats proportionate to their population. Germany will have 96, France 81 and Italy 76, while the Netherlands has 31.

The Dutch exit poll will be closely watched across Europe for potential trends that will emerge elsewhere on the continent, even though many voters tend to vote on national issues at least as much as on European policy.

Ireland, Malta and the Czech Republic vote on Friday, and the rest of the EU votes over the weekend.

A shift to the right has been widely expected in this election, with far-right parties eyeing victory in France, Belgium, Austria and Italy.

Their opponents are likely to take some satisfaction from Thursday night’s exit poll, because of the Green/Labour alliance’s performance. Geert Wilders’ party came first in Dutch national elections last November, and has secured a cabinet deal with three other parties, even though he will not be prime minister.

Any substantial shift to the right in the make-up of the European Parliament could affect EU policies on climate change, agriculture and potentially defence.

According to the Ipsos I&O poll of 20-30,000 Dutch voters at 35 polling stations, the Dutch centre-left alliance under former European Commissioner Frans Timmermans is on course to win eight seats, one more than Mr Wilders’ Freedom Party.

However, the margin of error is such that the race is too close to call. Turnout was estimated at almost 47%, a five-point rise on five years ago. Before the vote there had been talk of voter fatigue after months of wrangling over the formation of a new government.

Mr Wilders said he was delighted with the “nice result”. It was only an exit poll but it was clear that the Freedom Party was the big winner, he said, as his party had only one seat in the outgoing European Parliament. Another far-right party, which has been on the slide for months, is on course to lose all four of its seats.

The exit poll is an indication of just how polarised the Dutch vote has become, with a pro-European party in favour of climate change policies in the lead, closely followed by Mr Wilders, who wants less Europe and promises a government with “the strongest asylum policy ever”.

However, commentators pointed out that an estimated two-thirds of votes had been picked up by pro-EU parties, many of them centrist or liberal.

Migration and asylum was the most important factor for Dutch voters, according to Ipsos, and that is likely to reflected in much of the rest of Europe.

Voters the BBC spoke to at a variety of polling stations in The Hague on Thursday talked about security as well as the wars in Gaza and Ukraine. Many said a stronger EU was essential in the face of global insecurity.

While a quarter of Dutch voters said they were motivated by European politics, 21% said it was domestic politics, and 48% said it was a combination of the two.

Biden links WW2 and Ukraine war in D-Day address

Matt Murphy,BBC News

US President Joe Biden has drawn parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and World War Two, in a speech commemorating the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France.

Speaking just steps away from where 9,388 members of the US military who participated in the landings are buried, Mr Biden warned democracies across the globe were once again under threat, adding autocrats were closely watching the Western response to Ukraine.

The president, born in 1942, will likely be the last US leader to have been alive at the time of the operation to liberate Nazi-occupied France.

A host of world leaders were present at ceremonies on Thursday, including French President Emmanuel Macron, King Charles III and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Thank you to the Ukrainian people for their bravery. We are here and we will not weaken,” Mr Macron said, as the gathered world leaders gave Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a standing ovation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was not invited to Thursday’s commemoration ceremony, launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Russia was a key ally during World War Two. Its victory on the eastern front was fundamental, like the western front Allied assault that followed D-Day, in bringing Nazi Germany to its knees.

Throughout the speech, Mr Biden frequently drew connections between the fight against fascism in World War Two and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Before a field dotted with the small, white tombstones of the dead US servicemembers, the president warned “the autocrats of the world are watching closely to see what happens in Ukraine”.

He vowed the US would “not walk away” from the conflict, claiming “if we do Ukraine will be subjugated, and it will not end there. Ukraine’s neighbours will be threatened, all of Europe will be threatened.”

And he launched a direct attack on President Putin, referring to the long-term Russian leader as a “tyrant”.

The president also sought to rally Western leaders, repeatedly highlighting the increasing threat from anti-democratic forces across the world and of freedom coming increasingly under threat.

He hailed the efforts of the “noble band of brothers” who participated in the D-Day landings, saying “the men who fought here were heroes”.

“They knew – beyond any doubt – there are things that are worth fighting and dying for. Freedom is worth it. Democracy is worth it. America is worth it. The world is worth it.”

  • What happened during D-Day?
  • 10 things you might not know about the Normandy invasion

Accompanied to the ceremony by President Macron, Mr Biden emphasised the importance of enduring partnerships between democracies across the world.

Emphasising the value of the Nato alliance, Mr Biden said “what the allies did here 80 years ago far surpassed anything we could have done on our own”, adding it was “a lesson that I pray we Americans never forget”.

The comments come amid increasing isolationism in parts of the Republican Party. Many members of the party have grown increasingly sceptical of sending military aid to Ukraine.

President Biden has blamed the party’s delay in approving fresh aid for some of Ukraine’s battlefield losses in recent months.

D-Day: ‘You’re the saviour of the people’ veteran tells Zelensky

In an earlier interview with ABC News, Mr Biden defended his decision to allow Ukraine to use US weapons to strike directly on Russia. He emphasised the strikes would be limited to areas around the border and would not extend to strikes on the capital, Moscow.

Present at the ceremony in the Normandy sunshine were a number of US soldiers who fought in the landings, which remain the largest seaborne invasion in history.

Over 150,000 US, British, Canadian and French troops landed on the five beaches on 6 June 1944.

Several of the men, identified by baseball caps showing their service, were awarded the legion d’honneur – France’s highest civilian honour – by Mr Macron.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took part in a separate ceremony commemorating the 381 Canadians who died on D-Day as they stormed Juno Beach.

Echoing Mr Biden’s message, the Canadian leader said: “We must all continue to stand for democracy day in day out, we owe it for future generation.”

The Prince of Wales, Prince William, was also present at the Canadian commemorative ceremony at Juno Beach in Normandy. He thanked Canadian veterans for their “extraordinary acts of bravery and sacrifice”.

At a British ceremony, King Charles III laid a wreath at the British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer with a note attached touching on the sacrifices made on D-Day.

In a speech, he said that he hoped the sacrifice made by the D-Day veterans will “never be made again”.

“Our gratitude is unfailing, and our admiration eternal,” he ended, to a round of applause.

Ex-Trump strategist Bannon ordered to prison

Caitlin Wilson,BBC News, Washington

A US federal judge has ordered Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon to report to prison by 1 July to serve a four-month sentence.

The order on Thursday comes after years of legal wrangling, with an appeals court last month upholding Bannon’s 2022 criminal conviction for contempt of Congress.

The right-wing podcaster was found to have illegally refused to testify before the committee investigating the 6 January 2021 Capitol riot.

Bannon, 70, has denied any criminal wrongdoing and his lawyer called the ruling a “horrible decision”.

After Thursday’s decision, Bannon said he and his lawyers would “go all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to”.

“There’s not a prison built or a jail built that will ever shut me up,” he defiantly told reporters outside the courthouse in Washington DC.

He called the legal challenges against him a plan for “shutting down the Maga movement” – a reference to former President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.

Bannon has said he was following legal advice in refusing to testify before the House committee investigating 6 January, when rioters ransacked the US Capitol with the goal of stopping the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.

Bannon’s lawyer David Schoen, who has called the case against his client politically motivated, also vowed to appeal to a higher court.

Mr Schoen said his client would have been violating Trump’s invocation of executive privilege – a legal concept that allows presidents to keep some communications private – had he testified before Congress.

But a three-member panel from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected that argument when it upheld his conviction in May, saying his claim “runs headlong into settled law”.

“This exact ‘advice of counsel’ defense is no defense at all,” Justice Bradley Garcia wrote in that decision.

A full appeals court could delay Thursday’s sentencing order if it took up the case and issued its own ruling stopping its enforcement.

Bannon was a key player in Trump’s 2016 rise to the Oval Office and later became chief strategist at the White House.

He left the administration after a violent far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, but remains a top ally of the former president.

Another senior Trump aide, Peter Navarro, reported to prison in March after his own contempt of Congress conviction.

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Myanmar soldiers cut off tattoos and gave detainees urine to drink, witnesses tell BBC

Jonathan Head & Burmese Service,BBC News

At least 50 people were killed by Myanmar soldiers in a raid on a village in Rakhine State last week, say local residents and opposition forces.

Eyewitnesses told the BBC the village was subjected to two-and-half days of terror as soldiers blindfolded and beat them up, poured burning petrol on their skin and forced some of them to drink their urine.

They were looking for supporters of the Arakan Army (AA), which has become one of the most effective ethnic fighting forces in Myanmar.

Fifty-one people aged between 15 and 70 were “violently tortured and killed”, the National Unity Government (NUG), representing the ousted civilian government, said in a statement. The AA estimated the death toll to be more than 70 people.

The ruling military council, or junta, has denied the accusations, which would amount to one of the worst atrocities committed in the three year-old Myanmar civil war.

“They asked the men if the AA was in this village,” one woman told the BBC.

“Whatever answer they gave, whether they said AA was there or it wasn’t, or they didn’t know, the soldiers hit them.”

In just six months, the AA has swept through most of Rakhine State, forcing the military to keep retreating. It ended a ceasefire with the army last year and joined ethnic insurgents in other parts of the country in a combined operation aimed at overthrowing the junta which seized power in February 2021.

“I saw with my own eyes my husband being taken away in a military vehicle. My son was separated from both of us, and I don’t know where he is. Now I don’t know if my son and husband are alive or dead,” the woman told the BBC.

The names of witnesses are not being used to protect them. They told the BBC that everyone in the village, which has just over 1,000 households, were kept out in the open for two days, under the sun, with little to eat or drink, while dozens of men were tied, blindfolded and some taken away in trucks for further interrogation. Many are yet to return.

“They were so thirsty, standing all day in the sun, and begged for water. But the soldiers urinated in water bottles and gave them to the men,” the woman told the BBC.

She said she heard “lots of gunshots”, but didn’t see who was shot “because we had to keep our heads down”.

“I didn’t dare to look. They called someone standing near me. Then I heard a gunshot. He never came back.”

She was crying throughout because she was worried about her husband and son: “I didn’t know if they were dead or alive. I was praying for them, ‘Buddha, please save them’.”

Survivors say they could hear soldiers asking for shovels to bury the bodies. They say some were clearly drunk.

More than 100 soldiers are believed to have raided the village Byai Phyu, which is just outside the state capital of Sittwe, on Wednesday.

Sittwe, a city with around 200,000 inhabitants, a large port and airport, is one of the Burmese army’s few remaining strongholds. But the insurgents are close, and enjoy the sympathy of much of the ethnic Rakhine population.

Men who had tattoos showing support for the AA were singled out for especially harsh treatment, locals said. One eyewitness said the soldiers cut out the tattooed skin, poured petrol onto it and set it alight.

Another eyewitness recalled an army officer telling the villagers he had come from the fighting in northern Shan State, where the military suffered heavy losses late last year, to take his revenge on them.

Losing Rakhine State on the border with Bangladesh would be one of the greatest humiliations ever suffered by the armed forces, which have dominated Myanmar since independence in 1948.

On Friday those left standing in the marketplace, mostly women, children and the elderly, were ordered to gather a few things and leave. They said the soldiers had already looted anything valuable, like gold, jewellery or solar panels from their homes. The locals were initially taken to a stadium in Sittwe, but most have moved to seek shelter in Buddhist monasteries in the city.

The BBC understands that the army still controls Byai Phyu, and no-one is being allowed back. There are reports that much of the village has been burned down.

The NUG has promised to bring those responsible for war crimes in Byai Phyu to justice. The AA also accused what it calls “the fascist military council” of “vicious cruelty”, and of gang-raping some of the women in Byai Phyu.

The junta has denied all allegations of torture, stating that they were only conducting “peace and security” measures in the village after spotting sandbag bunkers there. It accuses the Arakan Army of launching drone strikes from that area of Sittwe.

The isolation of Rakhine State and the intensity of the conflict make any independent investigation of what happened in Byai Phyu impossible for the foreseeable future.

But the accounts given by survivors are an ominous warning of what could happen elsewhere in Myanmar as the military continues to lose ground to an increasingly confident and capable armed opposition movement.

Trump heads to Silicon Valley with eye on fundraising haul

Emma Vardy and Regan Morris,BBC News in Los Angeles

Public support for Donald Trump used to be scarce in Silicon Valley, the land of tech billionaires, but something of a systems reboot is taking place.

“Nobody’s excited about Biden right now,” claimed David Sacks, an influential investor, on his popular All In podcast. “There’s a lot of people who I do think support Trump.”

The billionaire venture capitalist is holding a fundraiser for Trump at his mansion on “billionaire’s row” in San Francisco on Thursday evening.

Tickets are reportedly selling for up to $300,000 (£234,000). It is his first fundraiser since being convicted on all 34 criminal charges in the New York hush-money trial.

The event has drawn controversy in the famously left-wing American city.

A 10-metre (33 foot) inflatable chicken that bears a passing resemblance to the former president and sports a striped prisoner’s uniform will be there to greet him mockingly when he arrives to drum up dollars for his current presidential run.

Tech entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, who co-hosts All In and does not support Trump, said he’s getting “crucified” by friends asking why he associates with Sacks.

California was once a red state, home to Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, but a Republican presidential candidate has not won here since the 1980s.

Loyalty to the Democratic Party is still the most common currency among the titans of tech.

But a red tide – or at least a ripple – may be coming, fuelled by local frustrations, and emboldened by pro-Trump billionaires like Elon Musk.

The tech entrepreneur and richest man in the world, according to Forbes, helped usher Trump back onto X after he purchased the platform formerly known as Twitter.

He has also slammed Trump’s opponent President Biden, calling him a “sock puppet”.

“I know there’s going to be a lot of people [in tech] who support Trump, but they don’t want to admit it,” said Mr Sacks. “And I think that this event is going to break the ice on that.”

The reason for their support is varied – some see him as the ultimate “disrupter,” a term often used in Silicon Valley to describe out-of-the-box leaders. Others fear President Biden’s proposal to raise taxes for the uber-rich.

There is also the issue of regulation. Although Big Tech has enemies in both parties, the clamour to introduce stricter rules on competition and privacy has in recent years been louder among Democrats.

Chamath Palihapitiya, another Silicon Valley investor and co-host of “All In”, has given huge donations to Democrats in the past, but has now also been expressing approval for Trump.

He said that “both sides” appealed to him for different reasons, and that he would welcome hosting a fundraiser for Biden as well.

“I’ve donated to Bobby Kennedy. I’ve donated to the Democrats massively. And I will donate to Donald Trump,” he said during the 31 May podcast episode, which aired shortly after Trump’s criminal conviction.

“And if there’s an opportunity to donate to President Biden and really understand where he’s at, I’d donate to him as well.”

The Biden campaign has not exactly been short of the traditional tech and Hollywood billionaire support given to the Democrats during a presidential election cycle.

In May, on a fundraising swing through the West Coast, President Biden attended separate fundraisers hosted by billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and ex-Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer.

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, meanwhile, gave a political action committee backing Biden $6m earlier this year – just one of several multi-million dollar donations from tech or media titans.

But Trump has received several big-donor endorsements in the wake of his conviction in New York, and will be hoping for more on his West Coast tour.

Moments after the verdict on 30 May, another mega-wealthy Silicon Valley investor, Shaun Maguire from the venture capital firm Sequoia, wrote on X “I just donated $300k to Trump”.

Like Mr Palihapitiya, he too had previously donated heavily to Democrats.

While Trump hopes to cultivate relationships with wealthy tech players in Silicon Valley, at the grassroots level too there are signs of growing conservative support.

Jennifer Yan, a tech industry consultant in San Francisco who will not attend the fundraiser on Thursday, is a former Democrat who switched her support. She has now been elected to the local Republican committee.

Her concerns are less about big tech and more about doorstep issues.

“We are a rich city with a $14 billion budget, but the public service has been terrible,” she told the BBC.

Ms Yan, who is undecided as to who to vote for this autumn, is part of a new grassroots group, the Briones Society, which is focused on the local not national stage. The organisation recruits centrist candidates who want to make San Francisco a better place to live.

“We believe there is a large, unheard, and underserved constituency of voters in San Francisco who are tired of virtue signaling from the left and conspiracy theories from the right,” the society’s mission statement reads.

More on the US election

“I think there’s still that radioactivity around Donald Trump and Maga – he’s either the devil incarnate or the second coming,” co-founder Jay Donde told the BBC.

But, he said, many voters think Democrats have failed to solve entrenched problems in San Francisco concerning mental health, drug addiction and homelessness.

“And many of them are deciding that Donald Trump is the better option for them.”

He adds that he is “not an enthusiastic Trump supporter” but that he will support the presumptive Republican nominee.

That attitude has infuriated some of the local Republican leaders.

Jan Soule, president of the Silicon Valley Association of Conservative Republicans, worries that the more centrist Republicans will drive away true conservatives, calling them “Democrats in Republican clothes”.

John Dennis, Chairman of the San Francisco Republican Party, calls the Briones Society members “leftists” dominated by “never Trumpers”.

But if Trump hopes to have a chance in California, he will have to convince exactly these kinds of undecided voters. While that’s a big ask, the wealthy tech voices speaking up for him have global influence – and large pots of money.

A small shift in Silicon Valley can have big consequences elsewhere.

How Japan’s biggest brewer aims to attract sober Gen Z

Mariko Oi,Business reporter

For thousands of years, alcohol has been used as a social lubricant. In Japan, it is known as – a combination of the Japanese word for drink, , and communication.

The idea is that drinking alcohol creates a more relaxed environment.

Businesses have even tackled difficult issues in pubs, rather than conference rooms.

The late former chairman of then-bankrupt Japan Airlines, Kazuo Inamori, explained in 2012 how he used beer to get his employees to open up.

But there is now a whole new generation that chooses not to drink as much. Multiple studies in the UK, the US and Australia show that people from Gen Z are more sober than their parents and grandparents.

In Japan, faced with declining alcohol tax revenues, the authorities even arranged a national competition, named Sake Viva!, in an effort to reverse the trend in 2022.

The sober generation does not only affect Japan’s tax revenues, it also offers a whole new challenge for businesses that make and sell alcohol.

“We have realised that younger people are increasingly choosing not to drink as much alcohol,” said Atsushi Katsuki, the chief executive officer of Asahi Group Holdings.

However, Japan’s biggest brewer sees this as both a risk and an opportunity.

“Our firm is quite unique because while the majority of our sales comes from beer and alcoholic beverages, we also have the capability to produce non-alcoholic beverages or soft drinks which gives us a competitive advantage,” he said.

Asahi is also pushing its non-alcoholic and what it refers to as low alcohol offerings – such as alcohol-free beer or drinks with less than 3.5% alcohol – outside of its home market.

“By 2030, we want to double the share of beverages with zero or low alcohol to 20% of our overall beverage sales,” he said.

They are already popular in its home market. Mr Katsuki said that alcohol-free beers account for 10% of Asahi’s beverages sales in Japan as people avoid drink driving.

But the Japanese market is shrinking because of an ageing population and falling birth rates.

“Alcoholic beverages sales in Japan will continue to decline because we cannot go against the shrinking population, which means we cannot expect the Japanese market to grow massively,” he said.

That means Asahi’s main growth opportunities are overseas, and it has been expanding rapidly abroad for 15 years. Today, more than half of its sales are generated outside Japan.

One major market the firm has yet to tap is the US. The question is: can alcohol-free beer get as popular there as it is in Japan?

Vincent Ball and Samantha Benaitis are a 20-year-old couple who live in Jacksonville, Florida. In the US, laws relating to alcohol vary in different states but the minimum age for purchasing it is 21 across the country.

While those above the age of 40 in their families enjoy boozy nights, the Gen Zers do not drink much alcohol.

“I think drinking in moderation is perfectly fine,” said Vincent, adding that he would enjoy having a beer after work but “not crazy parties”.

“I just find other things more enjoyable, and I don’t find drinking very important, especially in party settings.”

For Samantha, it was a lesson learnt from seeing others drinking heavily.

“I definitely was influenced by everybody around me in my life getting way too drunk or hammered, and making mistakes that impact them for a lifetime rather than just for that night.”

So instead, Samantha drinks kombucha – a fermented black or green tea, which is often flavoured – because “if you’re just drinking water, I’ve been asked many times, oh, are you really just drinking water?”

To avoid peer pressure, would they drink alcohol-free beer? Their answer was a resounding “no”.

Asked how Asahi would tackle new, non-drinking, consumers like Samantha and Vincent, Mr Katsuki said the firm has learned an important lesson.

“We realised that we have been producing non-alcoholic beverages from the point of view of alcohol drinkers,” he said, admitting that Asahi has not yet been particularly successful in appealing to non-drinkers.

“We’ve been collecting data in Japan by asking those who cannot or choose not to drink alcohol to understand what kind of products they want.”

In a sign of uphill battle drinks companies face as they try to win over Gen Z, Vincent’s younger sister, Josie, explained how she feels about people getting drunk.

“I definitely understand people who overdrink. Would I do it myself? I hope not because people kind of tend to make a fool of themselves when they overdrink.”

Down the Rabbit hole: Pocket-sized AI gadget put to the test

Zoe Kleinman,Technology editor

I’ve just spent the past few days with the latest gadget billed as being able to take on the smartphone: the Rabbit R1.

I wanted to see if I could imagine this portable, artificial intelligence (AI) digital assistant one day becoming what my phone is now – something I can’t live without.

You can see the thinking behind it: millions of people have played with AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT, Claude and Gemini.

Given that success with software, it seems the Next Big Thing for the tech giants is to do the same with hardware, and find ways to physically embed AI tools.

Microsoft is doing it with laptops, while Apple is rumoured to be following suit with the next iPhone.

But there are also people trying to come up with an entirely new category of gadget too – which is where the R1 comes in.

Rabbit says its new device is “an intuitive companion” that can “handle everyday digital tasks”.

A portable AI-driven assistant that can help you as you go about your day, get you off your phone and back into the real world… you can see how that would potentially be a useful gadget.

The problem though is there have already been a couple of similar products launched – and the reality has fallen well short of the hype.

Take the Humane pin – a brooch-like, AI-driven device.

US tech reviewer Marques Brownlee, who has 18 million followers on YouTube, captured the mood when he described it as the worst product he’d ever reviewed

The R1 is now available in the UK and Europe. Does it fare any better? I’ll tell you his – and my – verdicts later on.

But, first, let’s take a closer look.

Just ask it stuff

So let’s start with what’s good about it.

The Rabbit R1 is a fun bit of hardware, in an era where nothing is tactile any more, a luminous orange square with a big screen that you definitely won’t lose in your handbag.

It’s got a button, a scroll wheel, and a camera which you can see move from front-to-back, making a satisfying noise as it does.

And it’s affordable, priced at £159, with no subscription required.

But what are you supposed to do with it?

Well, basically, you can ask it stuff. It’s pretty limited in terms of anything else at the moment.

There’s no social media, messaging, shopping, health or banking – at least for now. You can sign in to Spotify or Apple Music accounts, but you’d want a bigger speaker than the in-built one.

And, randomly, you can also use Midjourney, the AI image generator. That’s about it.

The Rabbit R1 successfully told me the time, the weather forecast, gave me the right directions to my son’s school (after I told it my location), and swiftly translated some conversation from English into German.

It listed the top 20 chess players of 2024 when my partner asked it who was the best, taking the answer from a list on chess.com. But it did better than the Amazon Echo in this department – Alexa plumped for Garry Kasparov, who retired from regular competitive chess in 2005.

We asked it about a few well-known conspiracy theories and it did not engage with them, and when I asked it who would win the next UK general election its response came from the YouGov poll of that day.

So yes – it’s good at getting stuff off the web. But so am I.

Is this a flower?

It gave me photos of where I work – the BBC Scotland building in Glasgow – but it really struggled to tell me where to go for coffee.

The first time I asked it said “give me a moment” and then shut down after 112 seconds of silence.

I tried again and this time it delivered fairly quickly, but of the five options it listed, two of the coffee shops were 2.5 miles away, one had closed down and one I couldn’t find at all on Google.

The closest it came up with was 1.3 miles away – in reality, the building is flanked by many options, with two big coffee chains minutes away by foot.

It can use the camera to describe its surroundings – sometimes – but it hallucinated a lot.

It told me a vase of white peonies in my bedroom contained yellow chrysanthemums, and confidently misidentified a plate of poppadoms as tortilla chips.

When I pointed the camera at myself it described me as an “older woman” (deep breaths), and when my son pulled his most dramatic, angry face, it described him as a boy with “a friendly expression” (more deep breaths).

In the first hour we used up more than 20% of the battery life.

Meanwhile, all your activity is stored on an account in the cloud which is called your Rabbithole, and you can’t access this on the device itself.

My Rabbithole (stop sniggering at the back) is currently full of random photos of me and my surroundings, and some equally random Magic Camera versions of those photos.

The verdict is in

Ultimately, I have come away thinking that while it was fun to try this device out, it doesn’t yet do anything I can’t do already, either with my phone or my own eyes, and often more slowly.

Others agree: it has been called “half-baked” and a device that “fails at almost everything” by reviewers.

And I promised to tell you what Marques Brownlee had to say about the R1: “barely reviewable” was the title of his video about it.

The firm itself admits it is a work in progress.

“Being an early start-up, it’s never about winning or losing – it’s all about survival,” said Rabbit founder Jesse Lyu.

“In some ways, I’m happy we’re getting the pushback and doubts now because it’s pushing us to make an ever-improving and better product.”

And don’t expect the unflattering reviews of the R1 to stop the attempts to infuse AI into hardware.

“I expect to see many more devices in this genre over the next 18 months,” says smartphone industry watcher Ben Wood, from CCS Insight.

“Still, my bet is that the smartphone will transcend all these quirky products for the foreseeable future – but featuring many of the AI-powered innovations promised on stand-alone devices.”

That prediction feels like a good one to me.

My phone does all the stuff R1 can do, and so much more, plus it does it quickly and intuitively.

If anything, this “smartphone killer” has made me appreciate the device it is trying to take on even more.

Will the UK and US cut interest rates like Europe?

Natalie Sherman,BBC News

After pushing borrowing costs sharply higher in recent years to try to quell soaring prices, countries around the world are shifting gear.

The European Central Bank (ECB) on Thursday announced its first interest rate cut in five years, dropping its main lending rate from an all-time high of 4% to 3.75%.

It came a day after Canada took a similar step and followed a flurry of similar moves in recent months from countries including Sweden, Switzerland, Brazil and Mexico.

Officials in the UK and US, where borrowing costs now stand at the highest rate in years, are expected to hold off on any cuts at their meetings this month.

But many analysts are eyeing later in the summer or early autumn for action, maintaining it is only a matter of time.

It’s a sign that the global battle against inflation sparked by the pandemic is entering a new phase, as hope builds in some of the biggest and most severely affected economies that price inflation is finally coming under control.

“It’s an important move,” said Brian Coulton, chief economist at Fitch Ratings. “We’re moving into another stage.”

Just a few years ago, central banks around the world were hiking interest rates aggressively, hoping that higher borrowing costs would weigh on the economy and ease the pressures pushing up prices.

The moves were unusually synchronised, responding to global supply chain issues and shocks to food and energy markets that had sent prices leaping around the world.

That coordination has faded over the past year, and become more variable.

In Europe, the UK and US – economies that had not experienced inflation issues for decades – officials have been in a holding pattern, keeping rates at decades-highs levels.

The decision from the ECB is a declaration of confidence that trends are moving in the right direction, said Emma Wall, head of investment research and analysis at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“What the central bank is saying today is, although it might not be coming down in a straight line, they are confident they can get inflation back down to the 2% target level,” she said.

In Europe, inflation now stands at 2.6%, while in the UK, inflation has fallen to 2.3%, a long way down from a peak of over 11% in late 2022.

In the US, the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge, the personal consumption expenditures index, has dropped to 2.7%.

Still the Fed, which was at the fore of the move to higher rates, has moved cautiously, reflecting concerns that progress on the issue might have stalled and that stronger-than-expected growth and major government spending might make it trickier to resolve.

“The eurozone economy is in a different place than the US,” said Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG.

For now, many forecasters are predicting at least one if not more rate cuts in the US, Europe and UK this year, with more to follow in 2025.

Such moves would bring relief to businesses and households looking to borrow.

But analysts say that the path down for rates is likely to be slower and more halting than the climb up.

If central bankers lift rates too quickly, they risk unleashing a wave of economic activity that sends prices bubbling up again.

Move too slowly, and the weight of higher borrowing costs could bring on a more severe economic downturn.

In announcing its rate cut on Thursday, the ECB was careful to stay away from promising future action, noted Mark Wall, chief economist at Deutsche Bank.

“The statement arguably gave less guidance than might have been expected on what comes next,” he said. “This is not a central bank in a rush to ease policy.”

In Europe, the forces that kept rates low before the pandemic, including slower growth and an aging population, are likely to re-emerge, ultimately sending them back closer to zero, said Joseph Gagnon, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

But he said the US is unlikely to see a return to the ultra-low borrowing costs that prevailed in the decade after the financial crisis, pointing in part to big budget deficits that are likely to keep upward pressure on rates.

“We will be a little slower than Europe to cut, but I think we’re also going to end up at a higher interest rate when this is all over,” he said.

Witnesses tell of ‘unimaginable’ Gaza shelter air strike

Yolande Knell,BBC Middle East correspondent

In a classroom-turned-bedroom at a UN school in Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, Palestinian children clamber through rubble and blood-stained mattresses.

Just hours earlier, at least 35 people were killed and many more wounded at the site in an Israeli military strike early in the morning, according to the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa.

“I saw pieces of iron flying and everything falling down. What happened to us is unimaginable,” said Naim al-Dadah from Gaza City, one of hundreds of displaced people sheltering there.

Israel’s military says it carried out a “precision, intelligence-based strike” to target between 20 to 30 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters who were using the school as a staging ground to plan and launch attacks.

However, 14 children and nine women were among those killed, the Hamas-run government media office says. Earlier, medics reported similar numbers to a local journalist working with the BBC.

During the war, Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of hiding its operatives in schools, hospitals, and other buildings, using civilians as human shields – charges the armed group denies.

“All of the red lines have been crossed,” said Mr al-Dadah, suggesting that being in a UN institution had given his family no protection. He added: “The world treats us with double standards. Israel has violated all international laws.”

Israel has faced growing diplomatic isolation over its conduct of the war, with cases against it before two international courts, but insists it has acted within the laws of armed conflict as it tries to counter what it sees as an existential threat from Hamas.

On a call with journalists, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said that some of the Palestinian armed fighters based in the Nuseirat school had been involved in the 7 October attacks, which killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel and triggered the war in Gaza. No evidence was immediately given.

Col Lerner suggested that Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives would have “felt relatively safe” at the building, because it belonged to the UN.

The IDF published a photo of the school with classrooms on the first and second floors marked to show the locations it said were targeted by warplanes.

To an unusual extent in this case, the Israeli military has stressed that it took steps to reduce the risk of harming civilians. “We actually called off the strike twice,” Lt Col Lerner said.

The overnight attack was the latest case of mass casualties among Palestinians trying to find safety as Israel expands its offensives in the Gaza Strip.

Some of those staying at the UN school said that they came from northern Gaza – but had heeded Israeli military evacuation orders and headed south in the early stages of the war – only to be displaced in the past month from Rafah, on the Egyptian border.

This week, the IDF announced a new ground and air assault in central Gaza, targeting what it said were Hamas fighters who had regrouped there. Its forces have repeatedly returned to parts of the Palestinian territory which they previously withdrew from.

In a courtyard of the UN school, more than 20 corpses were lined up in body bags and blankets. A journalist working with the BBC filmed several women cradling the heads and hands of their dead sons.

“It was a very harsh night,” says Ibrahim Lulu, a teenager who said his cousin, Mohammed was killed.

“My brothers, friends and I were sitting together when suddenly there was an explosion. The mattress protected me because I was sitting against the wall. All the bodies were dismembered and torn.”

Residents said the part of the school targeted was being used as a shelter for men and boys, with women and girls sleeping in a separate section. Part of the school had previously been targeted by an Israeli strike in mid-May with the IDF then saying it was being used as a “Hamas war room”.

Overnight, casualties were rushed from Nuseirat to the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in nearby Deir al-Balah. In recent days it has been struggling to treat hundreds of wounded people following intense Israeli bombardment and shelling in the surrounded area.

The hospital had earlier reported an electrical generator failure saying that this would make it harder to treat patients.

On Wednesday, Medics from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) which is supporting the hospital described chaotic scenes there. It said that in the previous 24 hours, at least 70 dead people had been brought in, and more than 300 wounded, mostly women and children.

Shark seen regurgitating echidna in surprising first

Tiffanie Turnbull,BBC News, Sydney

A tiger shark in northern Australia has given researchers the surprise of their lives – by throwing up a fully intact and famously land-dwelling echidna.

The team from James Cook University (JCU) was on a trip tagging sharks near Orpheus Island in Queensland when they witnessed the moment in May 2022.

They believe it is the first time a tiger shark has been recorded eating one of the spiky animals, which can grow to about 50cm long.

“When it spat it out, I looked at it and remarked: “What the hell is that?” said shark researcher Nicolas Lubitz.

“I managed to only get one picture, but you can see the outline of the echidna in the water.”

The researchers believe the echidna – a species which can only be found in Australia and parts of Papua New Guinea – must have been nabbed while it swam in the shallows or even between islands.

Known for their voracious appetites, tiger sharks aren’t exactly picky eaters. They’ve been documented eating seabirds, tyres, licence plates and even a small TV.

“I’ve seen videos of them eating a rock for no reason,” Dr Lubitz said.

It is, however, more unusual for them to regurgitate food, but he suspects this 3m-long shark underestimated its catch.

“It was a fully intact echidna with all its spines and its legs,” he said.

“In this case, I think the echidna must have just felt a bit funny in its throat.”

The shark was unharmed during the encounter and was subsequently fitted with a tracker and released.

The JCU team was part of a three-year, state-wide effort to tag species such as snapper, mullet, rays and various species of sharks with acoustic and satellite trackers, in order to gather data on marine life inhabiting each area.

Boeing launches long-delayed astronaut capsule

Jonathan Amos,Science correspondent, @BBCAmos
Watch the moment of liftoff for Boeing Starliner’s first crewed mission

The American Boeing company has launched its Starliner capsule towards the International Space Station (ISS) with two Nasa astronauts aboard.

It’s the first time the vehicle has been entrusted to carry people after coming through a long and tortuous development programme.

Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams will be testing the capsule on a mission that’s expected to last just over a week.

Starliner is scheduled to dock with the space station on Thursday.

The capsule went up from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, riding a United Launch Alliance Atlas rocket.

The 12-minute powered ascent looked flawless.

Moments before lift-off, Commander Wilmore called out to thank all those who had worked to make the mission possible. Alluding to past difficulties, he said: “When the going gets tough – and it often does – the tough get going, and you have.”

Starliner’s pilot Suni Williams chimed in: “Go ‘Calypso’! (the name of the capsule). Take us to space and back.”

Starliner now has to raise itself to the orbit of the ISS, which circles the Earth at an altitude of roughly 400km (250 miles).

In the 24 hours this will take, Wilmore and Williams plan to put the vehicle through its paces, including taking manual control of the flight systems.

This mission is a critical venture for manufacturer Boeing, which has been under pressure after a series of safety incidents on its aeroplanes.

Starliner, likewise, has encountered numerous technical issues that have delayed its planned crewed debut by almost a decade.

The most dramatic of these problems occurred on the capsule’s first uncrewed test flight in 2019 when software errors forced the vehicle to abort its trip to the ISS. Nasa requested a second dummy run be conducted in 2022 to be sure the errors had been corrected.

Recent days have once again focussed on Starliner’s readiness with the discovery of a small helium leak in the spacecraft’s propulsion system.

Detailed analysis eventually led Boeing and Nasa to conclude the leak was not serious enough to hold up the launch.

Starliner was developed in response to Nasa’s request for commercial options to get its astronauts into space.

Following the retirement of the famous shuttles in 2011, the agency wanted to move away from owning and operating vehicles to an arrangement where it could simply purchase the service – just like a company might outsource its IT needs or payroll.

The new approach was designed to save Nasa money it could then spend on ambitious plans to return people to the Moon.

The agency gave contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to help bring their capsules into service and then pay them for six operational missions. But whereas SpaceX was able to fly its crew flight test in 2020 and then complete six operational missions by March this year, Boeing is still at the stage of the initial crew flight test.

If Starliner can prove itself over the coming days, it will join SpaceX’s Dragon capsule in the routine transport of astronauts, potentially as early as the beginning of next year.

“Right now, we have one provider giving us that access to the space station,” top Nasa official Jim Free explained. “This will give us a second provider, which means if we have a problem with either, we have ways to get our crews to and from station, which helps keep the tempo that we’ve had for 23 years of having humans in low Earth orbit,” the associate administrator said.

For Mark Nappi, the Boeing vice president who leads the company’s commercial crew programme, it was a relief to finally see the mission get away.

“My boss was here today. My boss’s boss was here today and my boss’s boss’s boss is here today. So obviously, it means a tonne to us,” he told reporters.

Starliner is heading up to the space station with about 340kg (760lbs) of cargo.

A key supply item is a replacement pump for the system on the ISS that purifies urine back to drinking water.

Much of the cargo, however, is simply Boeing merchandise that will become memorabilia for this important test flight.

This includes mission patches, coins, silver Snoopy pens, American flags and a hard drive with about 3,500 pieces of artwork from children across the world.

If all goes to plan, Wilmore and Williams will return to Earth late next week.

The Starliner is designed to come back to land, using airbags to soften contact with the ground.

There are a number of places in the US southwest where the touchdown could be performed, but mission managers will wait to see local weather forecasts before making a final choice.

The earliest opportunity would be 14 June at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

“There’s nothing magic about that date. A few days later, we have another set of opportunities as well,” said Steve Stitch, Nasa’s commercial crew programme manager.

Slovak PM blames shooting on opposition’s ‘hatred’

Rob Cameron,Prague

Three weeks after Robert Fico was gunned down in central Slovakia, he’s made a full-throated return to political life – on the eve of the European elections.

In a Facebook video apparently recorded at home in Bratislava, the Slovak prime minister laid the blame for the attack on Slovakia’s liberal opposition, the “anti-government media” and foreign-funded NGOs for creating a climate of hatred and intolerance that made the shooting possible.

Mr Fico, who was critically injured on 15 May after being shot multiple times in the abdomen, said he forgave his attacker – identified by prosecutors as 71-year-old Juraj C – and bore no hatred towards him.

However, he said his assailant was an “activist of the Slovak opposition”.

The man, who faces a lengthy prison sentence for attempted murder, was a “messenger of the evil and political hatred” whipped up by Slovakia’s “unsuccessful and frustrated” opposition, Mr Fico said.

Opposition parties – in particular the liberal Progressive Slovakia, which is neck-and-neck with Mr Fico’s left-populist Smer party ahead of the European Parliament elections – have condemned the shooting and have categorically rejected all links with the attacker.

Mr Fico, who has served as prime minister for more than 10 of the last 18 years, returned to power last October at the head of a populist-nationalist coalition.

Slovakia has become increasingly polarised in recent months and the attack has only deepened tensions.

In a video evidently recorded in the corridor of a police station hours after the attack in the central town of Handlova, the suspect – described as a poet and author – said he had been motivated by opposition to Mr Fico’s policies, including the abolition of public broadcaster RTVS.

Footage also emerged showing him at several anti-government demonstrations.

However, older videos showed the man addressing a meeting of a far-right Slovak paramilitary organisation, so there is lingering confusion over his political beliefs.

Mr Fico, appearing well and dressed in a crisp white and blue patterned shirt, said if all went well he would be able to return to work at the end of June.

He appealed to the “anti-government media” – especially those outlets he said were co-owned by companies linked to US philanthropist George Soros as well as foreign-funded NGOs and the opposition – not to downplay the reasons for the assassination attempt.

He had warned for months, he said, that the likelihood of an attack on a government official was “approaching certainty”.

The attack had taken place, he said, in an atmosphere where the opposition was exploiting the fact that the collective West was trying to force through a “single acceptable foreign policy”, notably on Ukraine, and riding roughshod over smaller nations that were trying to embark on a sovereign path of their own.

Mr Fico opposes military aid to Kyiv and says Vladimir Putin has been “wrongly demonised” by the West.

The opposition’s “violent or hateful excesses” against a democratically-elected government had been met with silence by international organisations, he said, simply because opposition views were in line with Western policy on Ukraine.

This was the atmosphere in which the assassination attempt had taken place, he said.

“I should be full of anger, hatred and revenge,” Mr Fico said.

“[But] I would like to express my belief that all the pain I have gone through and am still going through will serve something good.”

Prince Harry can appeal against UK security ruling

James Gregory,BBC News

The Duke of Sussex will be able to appeal against a High Court ruling which dismissed his challenge over a decision to downgrade his level of personal security when he visits the UK.

Prince Harry first took legal action against the Home Office in 2020 over a decision that he should receive a different degree of taxpayer-funded protection after he and wife Meghan stepped back from life as working royals.

In February, the High Court ruled that decision was lawful and dismissed Harry’s case, before in April refusing him permission to challenge that ruling in a higher court.

But the Court of Appeal has now said it will hear his challenge following a direct application from Harry’s lawyers.

The decision to downgrade his security in February 2020 was taken by the Royal and VIP Executive Committee (Ravec) – which has delegated responsibility from the Home Office over the provision of security arrangements for members of the Royal Family.

In a judgment this February, retired High Court judge Sir Peter Lane rejected the duke’s case and concluded Ravec’s approach was not irrational nor procedurally unfair.

In his 52-page ruling, he noted that Ravec’s decision was “legally sound”.

After the ruling, a legal spokesman for the prince said he intended to appeal, adding: “The duke is not asking for preferential treatment, but for a fair and lawful application of Ravec’s own rules, ensuring that he receives the same consideration as others in accordance with Ravec’s own written policy.”

Prince Harry now has the green light to challenge Sir Peter’s dismissal at the Court of Appeal, according to an order by Lord Justice Bean dated May 23.

Like other senior royals, Prince Harry and Meghan had received publicly-funded security protection before they stepped back from royal duties and moved to the US state of California.

His case against the government is one of a series of legal challenges the prince has brought to the court, including high-profile lawsuits against parts of the British press.

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  • Published

Premier League clubs have voted by 19-1 in favour of keeping video assistant referees (VAR) next season.

Wolves triggered a vote on the use of VAR in the 2024-25 season after formally submitting a resolution to the Premier League in May.

In order for VAR to be scrapped, 14 of the 20 Premier League clubs needed to vote in favour of doing so.

But only Wolves voted in favour of the proposal as they failed to gain any support from other top flight clubs.

Wolves said they were “disappointed with the outcome of the vote” but welcomed the Premier League’s “commitment to improve VAR”.

The Premier League has come under increasing pressure to modify VAR, which was introduced at the start of the 2019-20 season.

Wolves listed nine reasons to support its proposal to ban VAR, including the impact on goal celebrations, hostility towards match officials and the length of time needed to reach decisions.

It was reaffirmed at the meeting that semi-automated offsides will be introduced at some point in the autumn, while the Premier League confirmed in-game VAR announcements will be put in place.

The in-game announcements, which were used during the 2023 women’s World Cup, will see referees explain post-VAR decisions to supporters in stadiums.

In addition, the Premier League said the “high threshold” bar for VAR officials to intervene over subjective on-field decisions would be maintained.

Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters’ Association, said “enormous changes” were needed to the current system because fans “cannot carry on like this.”

Premier League has work to do

It is no surprise Wolves’ proposal to get rid of VAR was rejected.

Given the Premier League was committed to paying for it, whether they used it or not, any likelihood of clubs joining Wolves was non-existent.

However, Wolves’ secondary aim was to generate a wider debate and they have achieved that aim.

No-one, whether it is clubs, match officials or the Premier League, is happy with what is happening at the moment.

The Premier League wants greater transparency, which referees’ chief Howard Webb believes will lead to greater understanding of the decision-making process.

Clubs – and players – want better decisions more quickly.

The introduction of semi-automated offsides from next autumn should help achieve that.

League officials are stressing the technology, which has been tested and analysed during the current campaign, will not eliminate delays – but it should provide quicker decisions, particularly on the marginal calls, which seem to take forever at the moment.

The average reduction, it is being claimed, will be 31 seconds.

But there is still work to do. The Premier League needs to avoid finding itself in this position again, otherwise the vote might not be so clear-cut.

Finland and Sweden move to relax strict alcohol laws

Danny Aeberhard,Robert Greenall

Sweden and Finland have moved to relax strict laws that govern the sale of alcohol, while preserving wider state monopolies.

The government in Stockholm intends to allow what it calls “farm sales”, in which alcohol producers offer beverages directly to visiting customers.

Meanwhile, Finland’s parliament has approved the sale of fermented drinks such as beer, wine and cider with an alcohol content of up to 8% in supermarkets, up from the current 5.5% limit.

In Sweden and Finland, alcohol can generally only be bought in state-owned shops, or at licensed bars and restaurants.

They are the only EU countries to have alcohol monopolies. The long-standing practice is part of a wider Nordic tradition, and aims to limit consumption in the interests of public health.

Finland’s MPs voted by 102 to 80 in favour of its fermented drinks law, with all members from one party in the governing coalition, the Christian Democrats, voting against.

Those opposing the legislation justified their position on health grounds, amid fears of a rise in alcohol consumption.

The stronger beers, wines and ciders will be available in shops as early as next week. However, the new law does not cover distilled drinks.

Meanwhile Sweden’s centre-right government is planning to help entrepreneurs by opening small-scale sales of wine, beer, cider and spirits to those visiting the producers’ premises.

Ministers say it’ll help create “great memories”.

The measure, if approved, is expected to come into force in 2025.

Both decisions may need referring to the European Commission, to check they would not breach competition law.

The Commission has already voiced objections to Finland’s decision to exclude distilled beverages from its new law.

Search under way after TV presenter Michael Mosley goes missing in Greece

Adam Durbin,Nikos Papanikolaou,Joe Inwood

TV presenter Michael Mosley, known for popularising the 5:2 diet, has gone missing while on holiday on the Greek island of Symi.

A search and rescue operation is under way, including a police dog and a drone searching hard to reach areas.

A helicopter has been deployed from Athens to assist efforts.

Greek Police said Mr Mosley left his wife on the beach and set off on a walk to the centre of the island on Wednesday.

His phone was found in the place he was staying with his wife, who reported him missing, a police spokesperson told BBC News.

The 67-year-old broadcaster is well known for programmes including the BBC series Trust Me, I’m A Doctor and appearances on BBC’s The One Show and ITV’s This Morning.

  • Who is Michael Mosley?

After officers on the island were unable to find Mr Mosley, they requested help from the Greek fire department in Athens. Firefighters arrived in Symi from nearby Rhodes at 14:00 local time (12:00 BST) on Thursday.

Firefighters, volunteers and police officers are looking for him alongside a police dog, while a drone has also been deployed to help the search.

Officers are also searching CCTV footage for any sign of Mr Mosley.

The rescue operation is focusing on the Pedi area of Symi after a woman saw him there on Wednesday, the island’s deputy mayor Ilias Chaskas told BBC News.

He said the area is considered dangerous, but noted the woman had seen Mr Mosley on the road in a safer part of Pedi.

The island’s mayor, Eleftherios Papakalodoukas, said firefighters carrying out the search told him they believed it was “impossible” Mr Mosley was still there.

“It is a very small, controlled area, full of people. So if something happened to him there, we would have found him by now,” he told BBC News.

Mr Papakalodoukas said he believed it was likely Mr Mosley either “followed another path” or had fallen into the sea.

A helicopter assisting with the search was filmed flying over Symi

An appeal saying he was missing was posted on a local Facebook group on Wednesday, alongside a picture of Mr Mosley wearing a blue cap, polo shirt and shorts.

“Have you seen this man? He set off to walk back from [Agios Nikolaos beach] at about 13.30 and failed to make it home,” it said.

It was extremely hot in Symi on Wednesday, with the National Observatory of Athens reporting temperatures reaching over 40C (104F) at 15:00 local time.

Symi is part of Greece’s Dodecanese island group and sits about 12 miles (19km) north-west of Rhodes. In the 2021 census it had a population of approximately 2,600 people.

The majority of its beaches are remote and people are advised to take boats to visit them.

The area surrounding the Agios Nikolaos beach is extremely rocky and difficult to hike.

Local residents have said they are trying to understand why someone would leave there on foot and go on a hike – without their phone to navigate – in such challenging conditions, rather than taking the boat back.

With temperatures forecast to reach as high as 48C on Friday, an extreme heat warning has been issued on Symi.

The combination of the sweltering weather and rugged terrain will make the task for those searching for Mr Mosley even more challenging.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are supporting the family of a British man who is missing in Greece and are in contact with the local authorities.”

Mr Mosley studied medicine in London and qualified as a doctor but for the last couple of decades he has been working as a presenter, documentary maker, journalist and author.

His TV work has garnered awards, including an Emmy for a BBC science documentary The Human Face – which examined the science behind human perception of beauty.

Mr Mosley lived with tapeworms in his digestive system for six weeks after deliberately infesting himself to make his 2014 BBC Four documentary Infested! Living With Parasites.

He also writes a column for the Daily Mail, and has made several TV programmes about diet and exercise – including Channel 4 show Michael Mosley: Who Made Britain Fat?

Mr Mosley has been an advocate for intermittent fasting diets, including through the 5:2 diet and The Fast 800 diet.

He has four children with his wife Clare Bailey Mosley, who is also a doctor, author and healthy living advocate.

The couple recently appeared at the Hay Festival where Mr Mosley presented a special edition of his BBC Radio 4 series and podcast Just One Thing.

Reacting to the “shocking news”, his fellow Trust Me, I’m A Doctor co-star Dr Saleyha Ahsan said she was “praying he is found safe” and she feels “sick with worry”.

Presenter Jeremy Vine, who has featured Mr Mosley on his BBC Radio 2 programme, said in social media post: “I’m praying this lovely man is found and thinking of Claire and the whole Mosley family.”

On Thursday’s edition of The One Show, presenter Alex Jones opened the programme by expressing concern that “our friend” had gone missing.

“Our thoughts are very much with his wife Claire and the rest of his family at this worrying time. We hope for more positive news,” she added.

Hiker finds pipe feeding China’s tallest waterfall

Fan Wang,BBC News

A controversy over a waterfall has cascaded into a social media storm in China, even prompting an explanation from the water body itself.

A hiker posted a video that showed the flow of water from Yuntai Mountain Waterfall – billed as China’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall – was coming from a pipe built high into the rock face.

The clip has been liked more than 70,000 times since it was first posted on Monday.

Operators of the Yuntai tourism park said that they made the “small enhancement” during the dry season so visitors would feel that their trip had been worthwhile.

“The one about how I went through all the hardship to the source of Yuntai Waterfall only to see a pipe,” the caption of the video posted by user “Farisvov” reads.

The topic “the origin of Yuntai Waterfall is just some pipes” began trending all over social media.

It received more than 14 million views on Weibo and nearly 10 million views on Douyin – causing such an uproar that local government officials were sent to the park to investigate.

They asked the operators to learn a lesson from the incident and explain the enhancements to tourists ahead of time, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

‘A little help for my friends’

The park later posted on behalf of the waterfall saying, “I didn’t expect to meet everyone this way”.

“As a seasonal scenery I can’t guarantee that I will be in my most beautiful form everytime you come to see me,” it adds.

“I made a small enhancement during the dry season only so I would look my best to meet my friends.”

Located in central Henan province, the 312-metre Yuntai falls is located inside the Yuntai Mountain Geopark, a UNESCO Global Geopark.

Millions of visitors travel there every year, drawn by geological formations that date back more than a billion years.

Park officials told CCTV that the water they used to pump water into the falls was spring water, adding that it would not damage the natural landscape.

Many social media users appeared to be understanding of the situation.

“Yuntai park: Does this person not have better things to do?” a comment liked nearly 40,000 times on Douyin reads.

“I think it’s a good thing to do. Otherwise people would be disappointed if they end up seeing nothing there,” a user on Weibo said.

But there is also criticism.

“It’s not respecting the natural order, and not respecting the tourists,” a Weibo user wrote.

“How could it be called the No.1 waterfall anymore,” another user commented on Douyin.

This is not the first time artificial measures have been used to “help” famous waterfalls in China.

Huangguoshu Waterfall, a famous tourist destination in the southwestern Guizhou province, has been helped by a water diversion project from a nearby dam since 2006 to maintain its flow during the dry season.

Hunter Biden’s ex-girlfriend ‘panicked’ after finding gun

Bernd Debusmann,Nadine Yousif

Hunter Biden’s ex-girlfriend has testified that she “panicked” when she searched his car and found a gun – a moment that set off a chaotic string of events that has brought the president’s son to a federal courtroom.

Hallie Biden, who is also the widow of the defendant’s late brother, said she discovered the revolver amid piles of clothes and litter in the console of Hunter Biden’s truck.

Ms Biden, 50, also told the court she was “embarrassed and ashamed” to have started smoking crack cocaine herself after Mr Biden, 54, introduced her to the drug.

It is the first trial for the son of a sitting US president. He could face up to 25 years in prison if found guilty.

Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to three charges related to his possession of a firearm while allegedly using narcotics.

He is accused of knowingly lying on federal paperwork when he purchased the revolver and ammunition from a gun shop in Wilmington, Delaware, on 12 October 2018.

His defence team says he was in recovery at the time, so was truthful when he indicated on the paperwork that he was not a drug user.

On Thursday, the court heard from a central figure in the case – Hallie Biden – who became romantically involved with the defendant shortly after the 2015 death of his brother and her husband, Beau Biden.

In an often emotional, detailed testimony, she spoke of the pair’s “volatile” and “off-on” relationship, as well as their struggles with drug use and agonising battles to recover.

Concerned after seeing Mr Biden looking “exhausted” and fearing he could have relapsed into crack use, Ms Biden told jurors she searched his truck early in the morning on 23 October 2018 – something she frequently did.

There, among piles of clothes and garbage, she found “remnants” of crack cocaine as well as drug paraphernalia.

“Oh, and the gun, obviously,” she added.

Almost instantly, she recalled, panic set in.

“I didn’t want him to hurt himself, and I didn’t want my kids to find it and hurt themselves,” the mother-of-two said.

“I was afraid to kind of touch it. I didn’t know it was loaded,” Ms Biden added.

Fearful, she wrapped the .38 calibre Colt Cobra revolver into a leather pouch, stuffed it into a purple “little gift shopping bag” and drove to a nearby grocery store, where she threw it in a rubbish bin.

“I realise it was a stupid idea now,” she said. “But I was panicking.”

Initially, she did not plan to tell Mr Biden about what she had done. But when he woke up that morning, he realised it was missing.

“Did you take that from me Hallie,” read one angry text shown to jurors. “You really need to help me think right now, Hallie. This is very serious.”

At his urging, she returned to the store to find the gun but was unable to. She then filed a police report.

“I’ll take the blame,” she texted him from the scene. “I don’t want to live like this.”

It has previously emerged that the weapon had been discovered by a man who often rummaged through the grocery store’s refuse to gather recyclable items.

Ms Biden also told the court that she did not see Mr Biden use crack cocaine in the days leading up to him buying the gun and her disposing of it.

As she testified, Hunter Biden appeared to look intently in her direction.

He also looked back at his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, who has attended each day of the trial so far.

Hallie Biden also told the court that it was only after their relationship began that she learned of Mr Biden’s drug use.

She found crack cocaine at her house – where he would frequently stay – and later repeatedly saw him use the drug.

Crack, she said, left him “agitated or high-strung, but at other times, functioning as well”.

She also testified that she had fallen into using crack cocaine herself after he introduced her to the drug.

“It was a terrible experience that I went through, and I’m embarrassed and ashamed, and I regret that period of my life,” she said.

Ms Biden testified that she stopped using the drug in August 2018, but that he continued to use.

The prosecutor asked on Thursday about a text message Hunter Biden sent to Ms Biden the day after he bought the gun, saying he was waiting for a dealer named Mookie.

She told the court that meant “he was buying crack cocaine”.

Two days after the gun purchase, he texted Ms Biden that he was “sleeping on a car smoking crack”.

The series of texts also included several emotional messages from Ms Biden in which she pleaded with him to get sober.

“I’m afraid you’re going to die,” one message read.

The defendant’s lawyers explained the texts by suggesting their client had been lying about drug use to avoid seeing Hallie Biden – noting that she has no way of knowing what he was actually doing at the time.

During cross-examination, Ms Biden confirmed that she had not seen him using drugs around this time.

Abbe Lowell, Mr Biden’s attorney, asked her whether the request to “help me get sober” could have also referred to alcohol – to which she agreed.

The prosecution’s case, however, rests on convincing jurors that he was an addict.

Ms Biden’s testimony was followed by Millard Greer, a former Delaware State Police lieutenant who recovered the weapon, as well as Edward Banner, an 80-year-old pensioner who found the weapon while looking for recyclables in in the grocery store’s bins.

The prosecution is expected to call two more witnesses, including an FBI expert and a DEA agent, before resting its case.

The defence team expects to call two or three witnesses before resting its case.

Mr Lowell said that no final decision had been made on whether Mr Biden will testify.

As his son appears in court, President Joe Biden has continued his public duties. On Thursday, he delivered a speech in France to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

In an interview with ABC News on the same day, Mr Biden said he would accept the outcome of his son’s trial and would not pardon him.

Hunter Biden also faces a trial in California in September on charges of failing to pay $1.4m (£1.1m) in taxes.

Ex-Trump strategist Bannon ordered to prison

Caitlin Wilson,BBC News, Washington

A US federal judge has ordered Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon to report to prison by 1 July to serve a four-month sentence.

The order on Thursday comes after years of legal wrangling, with an appeals court last month upholding Bannon’s 2022 criminal conviction for contempt of Congress.

The right-wing podcaster was found to have illegally refused to testify before the committee investigating the 6 January 2021 Capitol riot.

Bannon, 70, has denied any criminal wrongdoing and his lawyer called the ruling a “horrible decision”.

After Thursday’s decision, Bannon said he and his lawyers would “go all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to”.

“There’s not a prison built or a jail built that will ever shut me up,” he defiantly told reporters outside the courthouse in Washington DC.

He called the legal challenges against him a plan for “shutting down the Maga movement” – a reference to former President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.

Bannon has said he was following legal advice in refusing to testify before the House committee investigating 6 January, when rioters ransacked the US Capitol with the goal of stopping the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.

Bannon’s lawyer David Schoen, who has called the case against his client politically motivated, also vowed to appeal to a higher court.

Mr Schoen said his client would have been violating Trump’s invocation of executive privilege – a legal concept that allows presidents to keep some communications private – had he testified before Congress.

But a three-member panel from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected that argument when it upheld his conviction in May, saying his claim “runs headlong into settled law”.

“This exact ‘advice of counsel’ defense is no defense at all,” Justice Bradley Garcia wrote in that decision.

A full appeals court could delay Thursday’s sentencing order if it took up the case and issued its own ruling stopping its enforcement.

Bannon was a key player in Trump’s 2016 rise to the Oval Office and later became chief strategist at the White House.

He left the administration after a violent far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, but remains a top ally of the former president.

Another senior Trump aide, Peter Navarro, reported to prison in March after his own contempt of Congress conviction.

More on this story

Witnesses tell of ‘unimaginable’ Gaza shelter air strike

Yolande Knell,BBC Middle East correspondent

In a classroom-turned-bedroom at a UN school in Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, Palestinian children clamber through rubble and blood-stained mattresses.

Just hours earlier, at least 35 people were killed and many more wounded at the site in an Israeli military strike early in the morning, according to the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa.

“I saw pieces of iron flying and everything falling down. What happened to us is unimaginable,” said Naim al-Dadah from Gaza City, one of hundreds of displaced people sheltering there.

Israel’s military says it carried out a “precision, intelligence-based strike” to target between 20 to 30 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters who were using the school as a staging ground to plan and launch attacks.

However, 14 children and nine women were among those killed, the Hamas-run government media office says. Earlier, medics reported similar numbers to a local journalist working with the BBC.

During the war, Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of hiding its operatives in schools, hospitals, and other buildings, using civilians as human shields – charges the armed group denies.

“All of the red lines have been crossed,” said Mr al-Dadah, suggesting that being in a UN institution had given his family no protection. He added: “The world treats us with double standards. Israel has violated all international laws.”

Israel has faced growing diplomatic isolation over its conduct of the war, with cases against it before two international courts, but insists it has acted within the laws of armed conflict as it tries to counter what it sees as an existential threat from Hamas.

On a call with journalists, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said that some of the Palestinian armed fighters based in the Nuseirat school had been involved in the 7 October attacks, which killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel and triggered the war in Gaza. No evidence was immediately given.

Col Lerner suggested that Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives would have “felt relatively safe” at the building, because it belonged to the UN.

The IDF published a photo of the school with classrooms on the first and second floors marked to show the locations it said were targeted by warplanes.

To an unusual extent in this case, the Israeli military has stressed that it took steps to reduce the risk of harming civilians. “We actually called off the strike twice,” Lt Col Lerner said.

The overnight attack was the latest case of mass casualties among Palestinians trying to find safety as Israel expands its offensives in the Gaza Strip.

Some of those staying at the UN school said that they came from northern Gaza – but had heeded Israeli military evacuation orders and headed south in the early stages of the war – only to be displaced in the past month from Rafah, on the Egyptian border.

This week, the IDF announced a new ground and air assault in central Gaza, targeting what it said were Hamas fighters who had regrouped there. Its forces have repeatedly returned to parts of the Palestinian territory which they previously withdrew from.

In a courtyard of the UN school, more than 20 corpses were lined up in body bags and blankets. A journalist working with the BBC filmed several women cradling the heads and hands of their dead sons.

“It was a very harsh night,” says Ibrahim Lulu, a teenager who said his cousin, Mohammed was killed.

“My brothers, friends and I were sitting together when suddenly there was an explosion. The mattress protected me because I was sitting against the wall. All the bodies were dismembered and torn.”

Residents said the part of the school targeted was being used as a shelter for men and boys, with women and girls sleeping in a separate section. Part of the school had previously been targeted by an Israeli strike in mid-May with the IDF then saying it was being used as a “Hamas war room”.

Overnight, casualties were rushed from Nuseirat to the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in nearby Deir al-Balah. In recent days it has been struggling to treat hundreds of wounded people following intense Israeli bombardment and shelling in the surrounded area.

The hospital had earlier reported an electrical generator failure saying that this would make it harder to treat patients.

On Wednesday, Medics from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) which is supporting the hospital described chaotic scenes there. It said that in the previous 24 hours, at least 70 dead people had been brought in, and more than 300 wounded, mostly women and children.

US urges Israel to be transparent over Gaza school strike

Matt Murphy,George Wright

The US has told Israel it must be fully “transparent” over an air strike that reportedly killed at least 35 people at a central Gaza school packed with displaced people on Thursday morning.

Local journalists told the BBC a warplane had fired two missiles at classrooms on the top floor of the school in the Nuseirat urban refugee camp.

The Israeli military said it had conducted a “precise” strike on a “Hamas compound” in the school, but Gaza’s Hamas-run government media office denied the claim.

The US called on Israel to identify publicly the Hamas fighters it said it had killed – just as the Israeli military gave the names of nine of them.

Israel frequently identifies militants it targets in air strikes but it is rare for the US to urge it to do so.

The Israelis “told us there were 20 to 30 militants they were targeting [and] they’re going to release the names of those they believe they’ve killed, those militants”, US state department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

“That is what they have said they would provide. We expect them to do that, as well as any other details that would shed light on this incident.”

In a near-simultaneous news briefing, Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari gave the names of nine Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters he said had been killed in the strike. He said more would be identified after work to “verify the information”.

In Washington, Mr Miller said the US has seen reports that 14 children were killed in the strike.

“If that is accurate that 14 children were killed, those aren’t terrorists,” he said.

“And so the government of Israel has said they are going to release more information about this strike… We expect them to be fully transparent in making that information public.”

The latest deaths come just a week after 45 people were killed in an Israeli strike in the Gazan city of Rafah.

The latest strike, local journalists and residents say, happened in the early hours of Thursday at al-Sardi school, which is in a south-eastern area of the densely populated, decades-old camp, where the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, provides services.

Videos shared on social media showed the destruction of several classrooms in one of the school’s buildings, as well as bodies wrapped in white shrouds and blankets.

Dead and wounded people were rushed to the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital, in the nearby town of Deir al-Balah, which has been overwhelmed since the Israeli military began a new ground operation against Hamas in central Gaza this week.

The BBC is working to verify the details of the strike in Nuseirat camp. Reports on the exact number of dead have varied.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 40 people had been killed, including 14 children and nine women, and 74 others had been injured.

Unrwa’s commissioner-general, Philippe Lazzarini, said at least 35 people had been killed and many more had been injured. The agency’s director of communications, Juliette Touma, told the BBC the figures were coming from Unrwa “colleagues on the ground”.

Witnesses described a scene of devastation following the strike.

“I was asleep when the incident occurred,” Udai Abu Elias, a man who was living at the school, told BBC Arabic.

“Suddenly we heard a loud explosion and shattered glass and debris from the building fell on us. Smoke filled the air and I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t expect to make it out alive. I heard someone calling for survivors to come out from under the rubble. I struggled to see as I stumbled over the bodies of the martyrs.”

Unrwa said 6,000 displaced people had been sheltering in the school complex at the time. Many schools and other UN facilities have been used as shelters by the 1.7 million people who have fled their homes during the war, which has lasted almost eight months.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the strike through a spokesperson, saying that UN premises must be “inviolable” and protected by “all parties” during conflicts.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said jets had conducted a “precise strike on a Hamas compound embedded inside” the school. An annotated aerial photograph highlighted classrooms on two upper floors of the building, which the IDF said were the “locations of the terrorists”.

US officials have continued to lobby for what President Joe Biden called an Israeli ceasefire proposal.

The three-part plan would begin with a six-week ceasefire in which the Israeli military would withdraw from populated areas of Gaza. There would also be a “surge” of humanitarian aid, as well as an exchange of some hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

The deal would eventually lead to a permanent “cessation of hostilities” and a major reconstruction plan for Gaza. Germany, France and Britain re-affirmed their support for the deal in a joint statement with the US on Thursday and called for “an enduring end to the crisis”.

CIA Director William Burns met mediators from Egypt and Qatar in Doha on Thursday to discuss the plans, but senior Cairo officials told the Reuters news agency that there had been no sign of a breakthrough on the deal.

At least 36,470 people have been killed in Gaza in almost eight months of fighting, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Hamas killed about 1,200 people and took 251 others hostage during its 7 October attacks on southern Israel.

Putin warns Russia could provide weapons to strike West

George Wright,BBC News

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Moscow could arm countries with a view to attacking Western targets.

Mr Putin made the statement while criticising the West’s delivery of long-range weapons to Ukraine.

Several countries including the United States have given Ukraine the green light to strike targets inside Russia.

Such action could lead to “very serious problems”, Mr Putin told foreign reporters.

“If someone thinks it is possible to supply such weapons to a war zone to attack our territory and create problems for us, why don’t we have the right to supply weapons of the same class to regions of the world where there will be strikes on sensitive facilities of those countries?” the Russian president said.

“That is, the response can be asymmetric. We will think about it.”

He did not specify which countries Moscow could supply weapons to.

Mr Putin singled out Germany, which recently told Ukraine it was free to hit targets inside Russia with long-range German-made weapons.

“When they say that there will be more missiles which will hit targets on Russian territory, this definitively destroys Russian-German relations,” Mr Putin said.

US President Joe Biden has given Ukraine permission to use American-supplied weapons to strike targets in Russia, but only near the Kharkiv region. The White House has said Ukraine cannot use long-range ATACMS missiles on Russian soil.

Ukraine has used US weapons to strike inside Russia in recent days, a US senator and a Western official told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Fierce fighting has been raging north-east of Kharkiv since a new Russian push across Ukraine’s northern border. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, is just 30km (18 miles) from the border.

UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron has said it is up to Ukraine to decide how to use British weapons and insisted it has the right to strike targets on Russian territory.

Ukraine says North Korean missiles are being used inside Ukrainian territory, and Western intelligence agencies say Russia has been using Iranian-made drones in the conflict.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Mr Putin was speaking to foreign journalists at the annual St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

He also warned that the West was wrong to assume that Moscow would never use nuclear weapons.

“For some reason, the West believes that Russia will never use it,” Mr Putin said when asked by Reuters about the risk of nuclear escalation over Ukraine.

“We have a nuclear doctrine, look what it says. If someone’s actions threaten our sovereignty and territorial integrity, we consider it possible for us to use all means at our disposal.

“This should not be taken lightly, superficially.”

Mr Putin also dismissed the idea that Russia has plans to attack Nato territory.

“You should not make Russia out to be the enemy. You’re only hurting yourself with this, you know?” Mr Putin said.

“They thought that Russia wanted to attack Nato. Have you gone completely crazy? That is as thick as this table.

Who came up with this? It is just complete nonsense, you know? Total rubbish.”

The Nvidia CEO christened the Taylor Swift of tech

Annabelle Liang,Business reporter

These days, wherever Jensen Huang goes, adoring crowds chant his name and scramble for selfies and autographs.

The chief executive of Nvidia has nothing short of rock star status and during a visit to Taiwan this week, it was on full display. He posed for countless pictures and even scrawled his name on a woman’s top, just below her cleavage. It was pure “Jensanity” as locals put it.

His peers know the kind of fan frenzy that Mr Huang can stir. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has described him as “like Taylor Swift, but for tech”.

The bespectacled 61-year-old with grey hair dresses the part. He has made the black leather jacket his signature style.

Mr Huang is at the forefront of a technology boom as Nvidia is the world’s leading designer of artificial intelligence (AI) chips.

Earlier this week, Nvidia’s market value surged past $3tn (£2.3tn). With that, the firm overtook Apple as the second most valuable company in the world on Wednesday, before pulling back on Thursday.

Shares of Nvidia are also up by more than 200% over the last year.

“He is literally being treated like a rock star,” says technology analyst Bob O’Donnell.

“Nvidia’s last big conference in San Jose was in a stadium. It was jam-packed and huge lines of people couldn’t get in. It was like a rock concert,” Mr O’Donnell said.

“This time, he spoke in a sports stadium in Taiwan. I joked that he was on his arena tour.”

Nvidia, which is headquartered in California, was originally known for making the type of chips that process graphics, particularly for computer games.

Mr Huang co-founded the company in 1993. The company eventually changed its focus to AI, which it currently dominates.

Interest in AI peaked after the 2022 launch of ChatGPT, which was made possible by Nvidia chips.

The chatbot was trained using 10,000 of Nvidia’s graphics processing units (GPUs), clustered together in a supercomputer.

This success helped propel Nvidia to the elite club of US companies worth at least $1tn last May, joining the likes of Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft.

Although Microsoft is still the world’s most valuable listed company, Nvidia is not far behind.

In Asia, its success has boosted Taiwanese chipmaking giant TSMC, the sole production partner for Nvidia’s most advanced AI chips. Shares of TSMC hit a record high on the Taiwan Stock Exchange on Thursday.

A ‘casual, approachable energy’

Mr Huang credits his wife and daughter for his love of leather jackets. A spokesperson from Nvidia says he has been wearing the classic outerwear for more than two decades.

His latest pick, an embossed biker jacket from American fashion house Tom Ford, retailed for almost $9,000.

He has kept it on even during appearances in tropical countries like Singapore.

“Leather jackets can signal an edge: a willingness to break rules, do things differently and challenge the status quo,” says fashion stylist Sera Murphy.

“Jensen’s signature style gives him a casual, approachable energy,” she adds.

A signature style is not uncommon for technology CEOs.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs almost always wore the same outfit – a black St. Croix mock turtleneck sweater, blue Levi’s 501 jeans, and New Balance 991 trainers.

Mr Zuckerberg is known for wearing plain sweaters and t-shirts from luxury fashion brands. Last March, he posted a photo of himself and Mr Huang swapping jackets.

Ms Murphy says “uniform dressing” can help entrepreneurs create an image of stability around their companies.

“People need consistency from leaders. Dressing in a uniform makes things predictable in a market that is volatile and unpredictable,” she added.

Mr O’Donnell expects Mr Huang to continue making appearances at events around the world.

“At technology conferences, everyone wants Jensen on stage and he’s happy to join. What he has done makes him appear everywhere. He’s positioned himself as the figurehead of generative AI,” Mr O’Donnell says.

“The issue is the industry does not like monopolies. Nvidia has a huge market share, but competitors like AMD and Intel are starting to catch up,” he added.

“Jensen sees this opportunity to build on Nvidia. He’s obviously enjoying the moment. In Taiwan, he’s also the local boy done good. That is something people can rally around.”

The devastating cost of fighting Myanmar’s military dictatorship

Yogita Limaye,BBC News

An abandoned Myanmar military camp sits atop a wooded hill, overlooking a picturesque lake which is well known in these parts because of its unique heart-like shape. Landmine canisters and spent bullets litter the ground. Yellow wildflowers have sprouted through piles of corrugated tin sheets strewn about where soldiers’ barracks used to be. Hastily dug trenches line one part of the camp.

Under the overcast sky, a flag flutters in the wind – red, white and blue horizontal stripes with the picture of a hornbill at the centre – the flag of the Chin National Army (CNA), an ethnic armed group fighting against Myanmar’s military junta in the western Chin state.

Seven months ago the CNA, along with local armed civilian groups, pushed Myanmar’s army out of this camp at Rihkhawdar – a border trade town with India – and from other areas in the Chin state. It’s an unprecedented advance for Chin insurgents fighting against Myanmar’s military dictatorship which crushed the country’s fragile democracy in a coup in 2021.

It is the first time that the military has lost control of these areas, and the BBC has had rare access to see these rebel advances in the west of the country.

The win at Rihkhawdar was not straightforward. It came after multiple offensives were launched for more than a year. And for some families it came at an excruciating cost.

Seventeen-year-old Lalnunpuii loved dancing. Her social media feed was full of her imitating trending viral videos.

“She used to sassily dance around all the time. But she was not into dressing up. She used to idolise soldiers and would listen to songs all day that talked about soldiers who dedicated their lives for the country. She was brave and strong, and not scared of anything,” says Lalthantluangi, Lalnunpuii’s mother.

After the coup, the teenager convinced her parents to allow her to join the armed civilian movement in their village Haimual. In a handwritten essay at school, in English, she explained why.

“Myanmar is broken now… The soldier of Burma are enemy for me because they have no mercy… My future is People Defence Force and I like it,” it read.

In August 2022, armed civilians from her village along with other groups launched an attack on Rihkhawdar camp.

“We rained drones on them for 13 days straight. Most of the bombs were made by me as I was the main welder for my unit,” says Lalzidinga, Lalnunpuii’s father. A truck driver before the coup, he became one of the organisers of the People’s Defence Forces in Haimual.

They were unsuccessful in taking the camp during this attempt, but there were casualties on both sides.

On 14 August 2022, in an apparent retaliation for the attack, the Myanmar army stormed into Haimual village. Residents tell us they torched nearly a dozen homes. We saw the remains of many such houses. There are accusations against the Myanmar army of burning tens of thousands of civilian homes in the north and west of the country, in a bid to suppress the resistance.

In Haimual, Lalnunpuii and her fifteen-year-old brother Lalruatmawia were among 17 people taken hostage by the army. All except the siblings were released. Their family believes the army was taking revenge against their father.

Two days later, their bodies were found by villagers in a shallow grave in a forest outside Haimual.

Both had been brutally tortured and bludgeoned to death with the butt of a gun. Lalnunpuii had been raped. Her brother’s chest, arms and genitals bore burn marks from boiling water. The BBC has seen detailed photographs of the bodies and the post-mortem reports.

Myanmar’s military is yet to respond to the BBC’s questions about these allegations.

“I don’t have the courage to think of what happened to my children,” says Lalzidinga, pausing for a moment, struggling to find words. “My children were martyrs. I didn’t deserve them.”

A bit later he continues. A proud father speaking lovingly of his children. “My son had become two inches taller than me. He was talkative and he didn’t hesitate to do any work around the household,” he says. “The two were inseparable. My daughter brought joy and laughter to gatherings.”

Lalthantluangi wipes tears from her face and cradles their youngest daughter, four-year-old Hadaci.

“I tell my husband not to be discouraged by our children’s deaths. It’s not just about us. The coming generations too need freedom. Living in such a state where you don’t have any rights, where you’re at the mercy of the military, that is not correct. It is a fight worth sacrificing one’s life for. I am so proud of my children,” she says.

Through our time in Myanmar we meet people dressed in military fatigues, some carrying assault rifles and other guns – not professional soldiers, but farmers, students, ordinary people displaying remarkable resolve in the face of a savage conflict.

Commander Vala of the People’s Defence Forces points to the lush green valley below Haimual and tells us with a smile that the Myanmar military has been pushed out of all of it, and their closest base is now more than 30 miles (48km) away as the crow flies. At the local cemetery he shows us fresh graves, covered with pink and white plastic flowers.

“These are the people who died fighting against the junta,” says Vala as he straightens a bouquet that’s fallen over near the grave of his brother-in-law. We also spot Lalnunpuii and Lalruatmawia’s graves.

Most of the civilians we meet were trained in the CNA’s Victoria Base, south of Haimual. Driving on winding, bumpy roads through dense forests and mountainous terrain we arrive at the base.

We see hundreds of youngsters, new recruits in uniforms, marching in an open field.

“Our motherland, the land we love, we’ll defend it with our blood and life,” they sing as the drills end.

It’s followed by weapons training. We hear shots ring out later.

We’re told they are all over the age of 18, but many looked younger. Masses of teenagers who had a taste of freedom when Myanmar moved towards democratic rule in 2011, and who now find military rule unacceptable, have chosen to abandon their dreams to join the uprising.

Nineteen-year-old Than Dar Lin had aspired to be a teacher.

“The first year after the coup wasn’t too bad. But then the military began shelling our village. It destroyed our home. Troops entered our village, burnt houses and killed people, and even our animals. We fled to the jungle, so many of us, that the jungle itself became a village,” she says.

“My uncle was cruelly shot dead. I hate the military, and so to defend my country and my people I joined the CNA,” she says.

Almost everywhere we go, we see Myanmar’s young swept up in a wave of revolution.

Thousands who worked for the Burmese state have also switched sides.

Twenty-two-year old Vanlalpekthara was a policeman.

“He used to earn a comfortable salary. We were happy and content. But then the government was overthrown in a coup and he decided to join the resistance,” his mother Molly Khiang tells us, bringing out three well-worn photos of her son from when he was in police training.

Speaking of her own youth, spent under military rule, she says, “There wasn’t a single day of joy back then. We were so scared of them. That’s why I supported my son’s decision.” Six days after he joined rebel forces in March 2022, Vanlalpekthara was killed.

“My son was stabbed here and here,” says Molly pointing to her chest and back. “He was brutally assaulted. His foot was cut off,” she continues breaking down. “It’s hard to talk about it.”

Vanlalpekthara’s wife was pregnant with their child when he died. Their baby boy, now nearly 18 months old, is living in a refugee camp further away.

Molly pumps her fist in the air when I ask about how she felt when the military was pushed out of her village. “I’m so happy, but I want to see full victory.” Her second son is also part of the People’s Defence Forces.

It’s this support of swathes of ordinary citizens that has propelled relatively weaker rebel forces to turn the course of this conflict and push the far more powerful and well equipped Myanmar military on to the backfoot.

“They appeared to be winning at first. But whether it’s war or politics, without the support of the people, no one can win. They may have superior weapons, but they do not have the people on their side,” says Pa Thang, a politician who’s been named “prime minister” of a parallel government established by rebel groups in Chin state. He’s also a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

The parallel government claims to control nearly 80% of the territory of the state, although Myanmar’s military still controls most of the strategic towns including the capital.

But the rebels have momentum – earlier this week they took over Tonzang township.

“This is our land. It’s not the land of the Burmese military. We are winning because we know every corner of it intimately,” says the CNA’s spokesman Htet Ni.

Another key reason for their success is that a number of rebels groups in different parts of the country have aligned together, forcing the military to choose where to focus their efforts. The CNA says it’s allied with the Kachin Independence Army, the Karen National Liberation Army and the Karenni Army.

The biggest challenge facing rebel forces is infighting among different groups. Numerous factions operate within Chin state alone, and traditionally many of them have been hostile to each other.

Pa Thang insists they can maintain unity, and also says they have a plan for the future to operate under the National Unity Government (NUG) which represents the elected civilian government led by Ms Su Kyi, who was jailed by the military following the coup.

“We are diligently writing laws and a constitution. We will have two ministers and one deputy minister from the Chin State as part of the NUG. We are keeping everything ready for when the Myanmar army concedes defeat,” he says.

What’s evident among everyone we met is a belief they can win.

“It won’t be long,” Pa Thang says. “It’s not good to make predictions about such things but I have faith that we won’t be fighting for more than two to three years.”

Will the UK and US cut interest rates like Europe?

Natalie Sherman,BBC News

After pushing borrowing costs sharply higher in recent years to try to quell soaring prices, countries around the world are shifting gear.

The European Central Bank (ECB) on Thursday announced its first interest rate cut in five years, dropping its main lending rate from an all-time high of 4% to 3.75%.

It came a day after Canada took a similar step and followed a flurry of similar moves in recent months from countries including Sweden, Switzerland, Brazil and Mexico.

Officials in the UK and US, where borrowing costs now stand at the highest rate in years, are expected to hold off on any cuts at their meetings this month.

But many analysts are eyeing later in the summer or early autumn for action, maintaining it is only a matter of time.

It’s a sign that the global battle against inflation sparked by the pandemic is entering a new phase, as hope builds in some of the biggest and most severely affected economies that price inflation is finally coming under control.

“It’s an important move,” said Brian Coulton, chief economist at Fitch Ratings. “We’re moving into another stage.”

Just a few years ago, central banks around the world were hiking interest rates aggressively, hoping that higher borrowing costs would weigh on the economy and ease the pressures pushing up prices.

The moves were unusually synchronised, responding to global supply chain issues and shocks to food and energy markets that had sent prices leaping around the world.

That coordination has faded over the past year, and become more variable.

In Europe, the UK and US – economies that had not experienced inflation issues for decades – officials have been in a holding pattern, keeping rates at decades-highs levels.

The decision from the ECB is a declaration of confidence that trends are moving in the right direction, said Emma Wall, head of investment research and analysis at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“What the central bank is saying today is, although it might not be coming down in a straight line, they are confident they can get inflation back down to the 2% target level,” she said.

In Europe, inflation now stands at 2.6%, while in the UK, inflation has fallen to 2.3%, a long way down from a peak of over 11% in late 2022.

In the US, the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge, the personal consumption expenditures index, has dropped to 2.7%.

Still the Fed, which was at the fore of the move to higher rates, has moved cautiously, reflecting concerns that progress on the issue might have stalled and that stronger-than-expected growth and major government spending might make it trickier to resolve.

“The eurozone economy is in a different place than the US,” said Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG.

For now, many forecasters are predicting at least one if not more rate cuts in the US, Europe and UK this year, with more to follow in 2025.

Such moves would bring relief to businesses and households looking to borrow.

But analysts say that the path down for rates is likely to be slower and more halting than the climb up.

If central bankers lift rates too quickly, they risk unleashing a wave of economic activity that sends prices bubbling up again.

Move too slowly, and the weight of higher borrowing costs could bring on a more severe economic downturn.

In announcing its rate cut on Thursday, the ECB was careful to stay away from promising future action, noted Mark Wall, chief economist at Deutsche Bank.

“The statement arguably gave less guidance than might have been expected on what comes next,” he said. “This is not a central bank in a rush to ease policy.”

In Europe, the forces that kept rates low before the pandemic, including slower growth and an aging population, are likely to re-emerge, ultimately sending them back closer to zero, said Joseph Gagnon, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

But he said the US is unlikely to see a return to the ultra-low borrowing costs that prevailed in the decade after the financial crisis, pointing in part to big budget deficits that are likely to keep upward pressure on rates.

“We will be a little slower than Europe to cut, but I think we’re also going to end up at a higher interest rate when this is all over,” he said.

  • Published

For cricket to break America, it needed something special.

It needed drama, entertainment, high-quality skill and a little bit of chaos thrown in.

So when the co-hosts of the T20 World Cup stunned former champions Pakistan in Texas in a super-over showpiece for the ages, cricket had delivered.

The United States played their first T20 international in 2019, are competing in their first World Cup and were playing Pakistan for the first time.

They are ranked 18th in the world behind Nepal and the UAE.

Pakistan reached the final of this competition the last time it was played in 2022 and won it in 2009.

This was not supposed to happen, but this is the land of opportunity. And this was Texas, where everything is bigger.

“Beating Pakistan is a big achievement,” said US captain Monank Patel. “It’s a big day for Team USA. Not just for USA, for the USA cricket community too.”

Over in New York, where the tournament’s other matches are being staged, the slow pitches have dominated the discussions and produced low-scoring, drab affairs.

But Texas has provided the fireworks; the blueprint to show that cricket in the States can work and it can be brilliant.

And all this in the backyard of the NFL’s most valuable team, the Dallas Cowboys.

Aaron Jones’ 10 sixes kick-started the tournament in style in the opener against Canada, before a collective team effort of unity, spirit and nerves of steel helped them over the line against Pakistan.

“I’ve got shivers down my spine,” said former Netherlands all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate on BBC Test Match Special.

“Coming from an associate nation myself, I know how difficult this is.

“But what a memorable day and a shot in the arm for USA cricket. If you ever wanted a marketing tool to show Americans what this great game is about, this is it.”

This could prove to be a game that changes the sport as we know it stateside, which is home to one of the world’s newest and most glamourous T20 franchise leagues, Major League Cricket, and where the sport will make its reappearance at the Olympic Games in LA in 2028.

“Beating Pakistan in the World Cup is going to open many doors for us,” added Monank.

“Hosting the World Cup in the USA and performing here as a team, it helps us to grow the cricket in the USA.”

Pakistan are one of 12 full member nations of the International Cricket Council while the USA are an associate member.

This means, like 93 other countries, they are recognised by the sport’s governing body but do not play Test matches.

‘A proper team effort’

For the United States team, the emotion and the impact of the result was evident in the post-super over celebrations.

They went toe-to-toe with Pakistan for the full 40 overs, with nothing to separate the sides after Haris Rauf’s dismal final ball was pelted over his head for four by Nitish Kumar.

And after Saurabh Netravalkar closed out the super over, holding his own after conceding an early boundary and bowling a couple of early wides, he was lifted upon his team-mates’ shoulders and paraded around the outfield in front of jubilant fans.

“I am so proud of how we played,” added Monank, who made a crucial half-century in his side’s initial run-chase.

“It was a proper team effort. Winning the toss, we knew we had to make sure we utilised conditions and credit to our bowlers for doing that.”

For Pakistan, their tournament is far from over after just one game but after such a shambolic opening performance, things are looking bleak for Babar Azam’s men.

They reached the final in 2022, where they were eventually beaten by England, but have little time to dwell on this with a showpiece event against rivals India in New York coming up on Sunday.

“If you lose a match, you are always upset,” said Babar. “We are not playing well, in both fielding, bowling and batting.

“I am upset. As a professional, you have to step up against such a performance or such a team in the batting, in the middle order. This is not an excuse that they played well. I think we played badly.”

The USA, meanwhile, now top Group A and will fancy their chances of reaching the Super 8s stage which follows.

‘Cricket’s reawakening in the US after 100-year hibernation’

This result becomes one of the landmark moments in the history of cricket in the United States.

The Gentlemen Of Philadelphia, inspired by the first great swing bowler John Barton King, scored victories over the counties on their UK tours of 1904 and 1908 when they beat the likes of Lancashire, Kent and Surrey in matches holding first-class status.

A private tour to North America organised by Arthur Malley in 1932, which included a honeymooning Don Bradman, saw an Australian XI held to several draws including some on US soil. Bradman was famously dismissed for a duck in New York on the tour.

A World All Stars XI captained by Tony Greig, and featuring Garry Sobers, Alan Knott, Gregg Chappell and others, surprisingly lost to an American side, most of whom were originally from the Caribbean, in an exhibition match at Shea Stadium in the Bronx in front of 8,000 fans.

Joe Lynn, the curator of the United States Cricket Museum at Haverford College, near Philadelphia, said the result was “huge” for cricket in the country.

“This tournament could not have started better from the US perspective. To win the first game against Canada was one thing, but beating a full-member nation like Pakistan is something else,” Lynn said.

“Perhaps it’s always been a misnomer to say cricket died in the US at the hands of baseball, but I think its been in hibernation more than anything else. With Major League Cricket and this World Cup it is a reawakening of sorts.”

  • Published

Carlos Alcaraz has labelled his French Open semi-final against Jannik Sinner as the match “everybody wants to watch”.

The pair are the highest-ranked players remaining in the men’s singles draw following Novak Djokovic’s withdrawal.

Italy’s Sinner, who will become the new world number one on Monday, is on a 12-match winning streak at Grand Slams this year after winning his first major at January’s Australian Open.

“I love these kind of matches. I love this kind of challenge, to have a really difficult battle against him,” said Spain’s Alcaraz.

He and Sinner will face off on Court Philippe Chatrier – not before 13:30 BST – before Alexander Zverev takes on Casper Ruud in the second semi-final.

Regardless of Thursday’s results, there will be a new French Open champion lifting the Coupe des Mousquetaires on Sunday.

In fact, it will be the first time since 2004 that one of the ‘Big Three’ – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Djokovic – will not feature in the Roland Garros final.

‘The best player in the world’

Wimbledon winner Alcaraz and Australian Open champion Sinner have proved themselves as potential successors to the ‘Big Three’ following their Grand Slam victories in the past 12 months.

Both players struggled with injury issues in the build-up to the French Open, but they have cruised into the last four, dropping just one set each.

Third seed Alcaraz – who also won the US Open title in 2022 – was triumphant in the pair’s last encounter, with victory at Indian Wells moving him level at 4-4 in his head-to-head record with Sinner.

However, Sinner holds just one clay-court ATP Tour title compared to Alcaraz’s seven, and the Spaniard has long been destined for French Open glory.

Despite this, Alcaraz, 21, says it will be the “hardest thing” to face Sinner.

“Everything he does, he does it perfectly,” Alcaraz said of his 22-year-old opponent.

“He probably is one of the most difficult challenges that we can face in tennis right now. I think he’s the best player in the world.”

The battle of tennis’ nearly men

Grand Slam success is long overdue for Zverev and Ruud, who are both still searching for their first title at a major.

Germany’s Zverev famously lost the 2020 US Open final to Dominic Thiem after leading by two sets, while all three of his semi-final appearances in Paris have ended in defeat.

Ruud, meanwhile, has fallen in straight sets in the last two French Open finals, losing to Nadal and Djokovic respectively.

However, the Norwegian seventh seed did get the better of Zverev in last year’s semi-final and he should be the fresher of the two for their rematch.

Ruud was handed a walkover in the quarter-finals after Djokovic’s withdrawal from the tournament through injury.

Fourth seed Zverev has played almost 17 hours of tennis in his five matches, four more than Ruud.

“I’ve played a total of eight-and-a-half hours over the last three days so I need to recover,” said Zverev after his straight-set win over Alex de Minaur in the quarter-finals.

Zverev is playing in the French Open while a trial is ongoing in Berlin relating to domestic abuse allegations against him. The 27-year-old has denied the claims.

  • Published

Iga Swiatek continued her dominance over Coco Gauff to reach the French Open final and move closer to a third straight title at Roland Garros.

World number one Swiatek will face Italian 12th seed Jasmine Paolini in Saturday’s final.

Poland’s Swiatek, 23, broke Gauff in the first game of the match and, apart from briefly losing serve in the second set, retained control to win 6-2 6-4.

Third seed Gauff saved three match points before Swiatek closed out victory.

The 20-year-old American has now lost 11 of her 12 matches against the world number one.

“It was intense, especially in the second set but I’m happy,” said Swiatek.

“I stuck with my tactics, didn’t overthink things and just went for it.”

Paolini, 28, beat unseeded 17-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva 6-3 6-1 in the second semi-final on Thursday.

Gauff cannot end Swiatek hex

Whatever happened between Swiatek and Gauff, the pair were still going to leave Roland Garros as the leading two women’s players in the world rankings.

But the outcome again illustrated the gulf between them when they face each other.

US Open champion Gauff talked bullishly after beating three-time major finalist Ons Jabeur in the quarter-finals, saying she had “nothing to lose” and claimed the pressure was on Swiatek.

That is not how it panned out. Gauff looked overcome by nerves from the start and paid the price.

Trying to land heavily with her forehand in the rallies did not come off, with a stream of errors from that side doing a lot of the work for Swiatek.

Gauff made 18 unforced errors in a first set where Swiatek only needed to hit two winners and the American’s body language showed she was feeling the pressure.

After going for a bathroom break to gather her thoughts, Gauff had to dig deep to hold serve at the start of the second set before a row with umpire Aurelie Tourte over a line call sparked her into life.

An emotional Gauff appeared to wipe away tears between points in the next game – but the energy fuelled her into breaking Swiatek’s serve for a 3-1 lead.

However, Gauff could not consolidate and, although she showed more resistance towards the end, she has more problem-solving to do about how to end Swiatek’s hex.

Can Paolini stop Swiatek?

The question before the tournament was whether anyone could stop Swiatek becoming only the third woman to win three French Open titles in a row.

She is aiming to join Monica Seles (1990–1992) and Justine Henin (2005–2007) as the only women to achieve the feat in the Open era.

Only former world number Naomi Osaka, who had little previous form on clay and won her four majors on hard courts, has come close to stopping her.

Swiatek has gone up several gears since that titanic second-round contest – where she saved a match point before winning in three sets.

She did not drop a game in a 40-minute thrashing against Anastasia Potapova in the fourth round and made light work of 2019 finalist Marketa Vondrousova in the quarter-finals.

Paolini is the final player in Swiatek’s way after reaching a maiden major singles final with a powerful performance against Andreeva.

The late-blooming Italian’s run at Roland Garros is the latest surprise in a season where she has registered several career milestones.

Paolini had never previously gone beyond the second round in Paris, but has built on lifting the first WTA 1,000 title of her career in Dubai and earning notable wins over some established top-20 players.

After beating third seed Elena Rybakina in the quarter-finals, she continued to use her powerful forehand to draw mistakes from 38th-ranked Andreeva.

The teenager, who was the youngest Grand Slam semi-finalist since Martina Hingis at the 1997 US Open, was visibly emotional as the second set ran away from her.

“I learned a bit later than other players maybe but to dream is the most important thing in sport and life. I’m happy I could dream this moment,” Paolini, who won the final five games of the match, said.

  • Published

Goalkeeper Craig Gordon and defender John Souttar are the Scotland players set to miss out on Euro 2024.

Head coach Steve Clarke must trim his squad from 28 to 26 for the tournament following Friday’s home friendly with Finland.

Scotland meet hosts Germany in the opening match in Munich on 14 June.

Clarke lost Aaron Hickey, Nathan Patterson and Lewis Ferguson to injuries before assembling his provisional group.

Since then Lyndon Dykes and Ben Doak have withdrawn, with Tommy Conway and Lewis Morgan called up.

BBC Scotland understands that Hearts veteran Gordon, 41, is in line to make an appearance against the Finns at Hampden, which would take him to 75 caps.

He has played just seven matches since breaking his leg in December 2022, while fellow Tynecastle keeper Zander Clark now appears to be the established second choice behind Angus Gunn for Scotland.

Rangers centre-half Souttar has made nine international appearances since his debut in 2018.

The 27-year-old missed the last three matches of the season through injury but has been training with Scotland.

With four goalkeepers and seven centre-backs listed, the two to be cut looked likely to come from those ranks.

Clarke gave nothing away during his media conference on Thursday afternoon, saying: “I’ve reached a decision. I haven’t had the conversation.”

When asked how difficult that process is, he said: “Almost impossible, but that’s my job. I have to do it. It won’t be nice, it won’t be easy, but we’ll deal with that between now and the the deadline.”

The official deadline for squad submissions is midnight on Friday.