BBC 2024-06-09 18:08:07


Palestinians describe chaos and carnage in hostage rescue operation

By Thomas MackintoshBBC News

Palestinians living in the densely populated area where Israeli hostages were being held by Hamas have described the terror of coming under intense bombardment and heavy gunfire during the rescue operation.

On Saturday Israel’s forces, backed by air strikes, fought intense gun battles with Hamas around the Nuseirat refugee camp to free four hostages.

Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrei Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, who had been abducted from an Israeli music festival eight months ago have been returned to Israel.

But, the rescue operation also saw scores of Palestinians killed in and around a refugee camp, including women and children, the Hamas-run health ministry said.

One man, Abdel Salam Darwish told the BBC he was in a market buying vegetables when he heard fighter jets from above and the sound of gunfire.

“Afterwards, people’s bodies were in pieces, scattered in the streets, and blood stained the walls,” he said.

The return of the hostages to their families has sparked jubilation in Israel and world leaders including US President Joe Biden have welcomed the news of their release.

But there has been criticism of the deadly cost of the operation inside Gaza, with European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell saying he condemned it “in the strongest terms”.

“Reports from Gaza of another massacre of civilians are appalling,” he wrote on X.

An Israeli minister said he should condemn Hamas instead.

Images from the Nuseirat refugee camp area show intense bombardment and people mourning the dead.

Two hospitals in Gaza, al-Aqsa hospital and al-Awda hospital said they had counted 70 bodies between them. The Hamas-run health ministry released names of 86 people it says were killed during the two-hour operation, while Hamas’s media office put the death toll at at least 210.

Israel’s military spokesman Daniel Hagari estimated there were fewer than 100 casualties in what was a “high-risk, complex mission” based on “precise intelligence”.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said special forces operated “under heavy fire” when rescuing the hostages. One special forces officer was wounded and later died in hospital.

Videos from Gaza taken in the aftermath of the raid show scenes of carnage.

Footage from the al-Aqsa hospital shows numerous people with severe injuries laying on the ground, leaving barely any space on the blood-stained floor for doctors to move between patients.

Other video shows a frequent stream of new cases being driven in by car and ambulance and carried into the building.

The director of the Al-Awda Hospital in Nuseirat told BBC Arabic the number of dead coming to the hospital increased throughout Saturday.

Dr Marwan Abu Nasser spoke also about the lack of a morgue in the hospital to accommodate the bodies of those killed who had been taken to the hospital.

Grief in Gaza as scores killed in IDF hostage raid

One man, who said more than 40 members of his family have been killed since the conflict began in October, described to the BBC being in a house which was hit by a strike.

“As soon as these children and women entered the house, the bombing attack took place, claiming the lives of all those inside it,” he said,

“This home, which used to house approximately 30 people who then became 50, was bombed… only me, my father, my wife, and a young man survived…we are the only survivors out of 50 people.

The bloodshed on the ground prompted a rare venting of criticism at Hamas from people in Gaza.

Hassan Omar, 37, said he lamented the unnecessary loss of lives in Israeli strikes, telling the BBC: “For each Israeli hostage they could have freed 80 Palestinian prisoners and without any bloodshed – [that] is a million times better than losing 100 dead.

“My message to Hamas is stopping the loss is part of the gain, we should get rid of those who control us from Qatar hotels.”

The rescue of hostages came amid efforts for a ceasefire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been urged to reach an agreement but faces opposition from far-right allies who say military action is the only way to bring the hostages back.

Saturday’s operation is the most successful rescue of hostages by the Israeli military in this war – and analysts say it could change the calculation of a prime minister who is under increasing pressure.

In response to the military offensive in Nuseirat, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said Israel could not force its choices on the group.

He said the group would not agree to a ceasefire deal unless it achieved security for Palestinians.

During its 7 October attacks in southern Israel Hamas killed about 1,200 people and took some 251 people.

Some 116 remain in the Palestinian territory, including 41 the army says are dead.

A deal agreed in November saw Hamas release 105 hostages in return for a week-long ceasefire and some 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

On Saturday, the Hamas-run health ministry said the death toll in Gaza is now 36,801 people.

How Israel’s hostage rescue in Gaza unfolded

By Jon Donnison@jondonnisonbbcCorrespondent
Reunions after four Israeli hostages freed in IDF raid

Four hostages have been rescued by the Israeli military from central Gaza, in an operation that was weeks in the planning.

For Israelis it brought celebration and relief. For Palestinians it brought more suffering, with hospitals saying dozens of people – including children – were killed in the raid on the densely populated Nuseirat camp.

Dubbed “Seeds of Summer”, the raid was unusually carried out in the daytime – which the Israel Defense Forces says allowed it a better element of surprise.

The mid-morning timing meant the streets were busy with people shopping at a nearby market.

It also meant greater risk to Israel’s special forces, not only getting in, but especially getting out.

One special forces officer was wounded and died in hospital, Israel police said.

“It was on a scale like Entebbe,” according to the IDF’s Chief Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari referencing Israel’s rescue of 100 hostages in Uganda in 1976.

Acting on intelligence, and after crossing into Gaza from Israel, he said specialist commandos simultaneously raided two residential apartments in Nuseirat where the hostages were being held.

In one apartment was 26-year-old hostage Noa Argamani. In the other were 41-year-old Shlomi Ziv, 27-year-old Andrey Kozlov and Almog Meir Jan, 22.

Mr Hagari said they were not in cages but in locked rooms surrounded by guards.

He said Israeli commandos, having forced their way in, seized the hostages wrapping themselves around them to provide protective shields before bundling them into military vehicles outside.

As they left he said they faced fierce resistance from Palestinian fighters.

Mr Hagari said Israel’s military had planned the raid in great detail, even building mock-ups of the two apartments to train in.

The US also provided intelligence support to Israel for the operation, according to the BBC’s partner CBS News which cited two US officials.

Mobile phone video from the scene shows people diving for cover as missiles whistled in and gunfire rang out.

Later footage showed bodies strewn in the street.

Grief in Gaza as scores killed in IDF hostage raid

The raid clearly involved massive force. Doctors at the two hospital in central Gaza said they had counted more than 70 bodies.

Mr Hagari estimated less than a hundred, while the Hamas media office said more than 200 had been killed.

The BBC has been unable to verify the number of casualties.

“I have gathered the body parts of my child, my dear child” Nora Abu Khamees, sheltering in Nuseirat, told the BBC as she crumpled in tears.

“My other child is between life and death. Even my husband and my mother in law, our whole family is destroyed. This is a genocide.”

Ten-year-old Areej Al Zahdneh, speaking at a nearby hospital, told us there were airstrikes, tanks and shooting.

“We couldn’t breathe. My sister Reemaz was hit by shrapnel in her head and my five year old sister Yara was also hit my shrapnel.”

‘Spy mania’: Why is Russia accusing its own physicists of treason?

By Sergei GoryashkoBBC Russian

Russian President Vladimir Putin frequently boasts that his country is leading the world in developing hypersonic weapons, which travel at more than five times the speed of sound.

But a string of Russian physicists working on the science underlying them have been charged with treason and imprisoned in recent years, in what rights groups see as an overzealous crackdown.

Most of those arrested are elderly, and three are now dead. One was taken from his hospital bed in the late stages of cancer and died soon afterwards.

Another is Vladislav Galkin, a 68-year-old academic, whose home in Tomsk in southern Russia was raided in April 2023.

Armed men in black masks arrived at 04:00, digging through cupboards and seizing papers with scientific formulae on them, a relative says.

Mr Galkin’s wife, Tatyana, says she has told their grandchildren – who liked to play chess with him – that he’s on a business trip. She says Russia’s security service, the FSB, has forbidden her from speaking about his case.

Since 2015, 12 physicists have been arrested who are all associated in some way with hypersonic technology or with institutions that work on it.

They are all charged with high treason, which can include passing state secrets to foreign countries.

Russian treason trials are held behind closed doors, so it’s not clear exactly what they are accused of.

The Kremlin has said only that “the accusations are serious” and it can’t comment further because special services are involved.

But colleagues and defence lawyers say the scientists weren’t involved in weapons development and that some of the cases are based on them openly collaborating with foreign researchers.

And critics suggest the FSB wants to create the impression foreign spies are chasing weapons secrets.

Hypersonic refers to missiles that can travel at extremely high speeds and also change direction during flight, evading air defences.

Russia says it has used two types in its war on Ukraine – the Kinzhal, launched from an aircraft, and the Zircon cruise missile.

However, Kyiv says its forces have shot down some Kinzhal missiles, raising questions about their capabilities.

As the technology has been developed and deployed, the arrests have continued.

Shortly after Mr Galkin’s arrest in April 2023, he was remanded in court on the same day as another scientist, Valery Zvegintsev, with whom he had co-authored several papers.

The state-owned news agency Tass has cited a source saying Mr Zvegintsev’s arrest may have been prompted by an article published in an Iranian journal in 2021.

Mr Galkin and Mr Zvegintsev are both named on an article about air intake mechanisms for high-speed aircraft published by the journal.

In summer 2022, the FSB arrested two colleagues from the same institute as Mr Zvegintsev – its director and the former head of a laboratory for work on aerodynamics at high-speeds.

Employees from the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (ITAM) penned an open letter in support of their three arrested colleagues.

Now removed from the institute’s website, it said they were known for “brilliant scientific results” and had “always remained faithful” to their country’s interests.

It said the work they had shared publicly had been repeatedly checked for restricted information by ITAM’s expert commission – and none had been found.

“Hypersonic is a topic you are now obliged to put people in jail for,” says Yevgeny Smirnov, a lawyer with First Division, a Russian human rights and legal organisation.

Mr Smirnov defended scientists and others accused of treason in court before he moved from Russia to Prague in 2021, fearing repercussions from his work.

He says none of the dozen scientists had anything to do with the defence sector, but were studying scientific questions such as how metals deform at hypersonic speeds or the effects of turbulence.

“This is not about making a rocket, but about the study of physical processes,” he says, and points out that findings may be used later by weapons developers.

The arrests had started a few years earlier with Vladimir Lapygin. Now 83, he was jailed in 2016 but released on parole four years later.

He had worked for 46 years for the Russian space agency’s main research institute, TsNIIMash.

Lapygin was convicted over a software package for aerodynamic calculations that he sent to a Chinese contact. He says he sent a demo version as part of discussions about potentially selling the full package on behalf of the institute.

But he maintains the version he shared did not contain any secret information, just an example that had been “repeatedly described in open publications”.

Lapygin told the BBC all those arrested apparently in connection with hypersonics “had nothing to do with” developing weapons.

Another scientist detained was Dmitry Kolker, a specialist at the Institute of Laser Physics, also in Siberia, who was arrested in 2022 while he was in hospital with advanced pancreatic cancer.

His family said the charges against him were based on lectures he had delivered in China, but that the content had been approved by the FSB and that an agent travelled with him.

Kolker died two days after his arrest, aged 54.

“There’s a conflict within the system,” says a colleague of one of the arrested scientists, who wished to remain anonymous.

Scientists are still expected to publish internationally and collaborate with foreign colleagues, “meanwhile, the FSB thinks contact with foreign scientists and writing for foreign journals is a betrayal of the Motherland”, they say.

The ITAM scientists feel the same. “We just don’t understand how to continue doing our job,” their open letter said.

“What we are rewarded for today… tomorrow becomes the reason for criminal prosecution.”

They warn that scientists are afraid to engage in some areas of research, while talented young employees are leaving science.

The letter was a rare example of public support. The other institutes where arrested scientists worked have not commented.

Other cases are also understood to relate to international collaboration.

An investigation into two other scientists was related to Hexafly, a European project to develop a hypersonic civilian aircraft, according to the lawyer Mr Smirnov, who worked on the case.

That project, now finished, was led by the European Space Agency and began in 2012.

The agency told the BBC “all technical contributions and exchanges were agreed and foreseen” in a co-operation agreement between the Russian and European parties involved.

Both scientists were sentenced to 12 years in prison last year, though Russia’s Supreme Court has ordered a retrial of one of them.

Other arrests related to a study into the aerodynamics as a space vehicle re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.

It was funded by a European Union scheme and run by the von Karman Institute of Fluid Dynamics in Belgium.

FSB investigators were concerned about a rounded cone shape that looked like a warhead in research that one of the scientists, Viktor Kudryavtsev, sent to the von Karman Institute, according to his widow, Olga.

The institute says the programme, which ran from 2011 to 2013, “very clearly excluded military research”. It says it “could not find any trace of disclosing secret information” by Kudryavtsev’s team.

Human rights groups see a pattern.

Mr Smirnov says that, in private conversations, FSB officers have admitted to him that cases about sharing hypersonic secrets were being opened “to satisfy the wishes of those higher up”.

He believes the FSB wants to give the impression that spies are hunting Russian missile secrets “to flatter the ego” of Mr Putin.

The cases come amid a wider rise in treason cases.

Sergei Davidis, who leads work supporting Russian political prisoners at the Memorial human rights centre, speaks of an “atmosphere of spy mania and isolationism”, especially since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking from Lithuania, where his organisation moved after it was banned in Russia, Mr Davidis says he believes the FSB, keen to show it is delivering, “builds up its reporting statistics through the fabrication of cases”.

But he believes there may be other factors in the arrests of scientists, such as competition for state contracts, or even a Kremlin message of dissatisfaction aimed at all scientists involved in hypersonics.

Mr Smirnov says the FSB sometimes offers more lenient sentences if suspects confess and implicate others.

Kudryavtsev was offered a plea bargain under which he would admit guilt and point the finger at someone else, according to his widow, Olga.

He refused. He died of lung cancer in 2021, aged 77, before his case came to trial.

Retired FSB General Alexander Mikhailov says the FSB “must ensure the confidentiality” of military technology.

He says “undoubtedly” that there must be “substantial grounds” for severe sentences such as the 14-year prison term handed down in May to one of the three ITAM scientists, Anatoly Maslov.

Gen Mikhailov says the current spike in treason cases is the product of the expansion of freedoms and democracy in the 1990s.

He says this led to a change in attitude from Soviet times, when he says those with access to state secrets were “thoroughly vetted” and “understood the responsibility” of disclosing them.

“Some people were talking too much and leaks appeared,” he adds.

As for Mr Galkin, it is now over a year since the masked agents arrived. His relative says he spent the first three months in solitary confinement.

Tatyana, his wife, says she is able to speak to him by phone through a glass partition and recently even considered asking to be arrested too “because he just sits there, day after day”.

“I could ask them to put me in the same pre-trial detention centre. It would be easy enough – you just have to suspect someone of something.”

Other scientists arrested in Russia:

  • Alexander Shiplyuk, 57, director of ITAM, arrested 2022, awaiting trial
  • Alexander Kuranov, former director of St Petersburg Scientific Research Enterprise for Hypersonic Systems, arrested 2021, jailed for seven years in April 2024
  • Roman Kovalyov, colleague of Vladimir Kudryavtsev at TsNIIMash, sentenced in 2020 to seven years in prison, died 2022

South Korea to resume loudspeaker broadcasts over border in balloon row

By Shaimaa KhalilThomas MackintoshBBC News

South Korea has said it will resume propaganda broadcasts against North Korea for the first time in six years in response to Pyongyang’s campaign of sending rubbish-filled balloons across the border.

Over 300 North Korean balloons were detected over Saturday and Sunday with around 80 landing in the South carrying scrap paper and plastic sheets.

North Korea is yet to respond to the announcement, but Pyongyang considers the loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts an act of war and has threatened to blow them up in the past.

Last month North Korea appeared to send at least 200 balloons carrying rubbish over the border in retaliation for propaganda leaflets sent from the south.

Over the weekend North Korea resumed its waste campaign against its neighbour by sending balloons carrying sacks of rubbish over the border into South Korea.

It was in retaliation for activists in the South sending 10 balloons containing leaflets critical of the North Korean regime on Friday, according to AFP news agency.

South Korea’s military said there are no more balloons in the air adding that no hazardous materials have been found.

It has warned the public not to touch the balloons and to be aware of falling objects.

The public should report any sightings to the nearest police or military unit, the military added.

Following the latest batch of balloons, South Korea’s National Security Council said loudspeaker broadcasts on the border would resume on Sunday after agreeing to restart the loudspeakers for the first time since 2018.

On Thursday an activist group in South Korea said it had flown balloons into North Korea carrying leaflets criticising the leader Kim Jong Un, dollar bills and USB sticks with K-pop music videos – which is banned in the North.

In recent years, the broadcasts have included news from both Koreas and abroad as well as information on democracy and life in South Korea.

The South Korean military claims the broadcasts can be heard as much as 10km (6.2 miles) across the border in the day and up to 24km (15 miles) at night.

In May, a South Korea-based activist group claimed it had sent 20 balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets and USB sticks containing Korean pop music and music videos across the border.

Seoul’s parliament passed a law in December 2020 that criminalises the launch of anti-Pyongyang leaflets, but critics have raised concerns related to freedom of speech and human rights.

North Korea has also launched balloons southward that attacked Seoul’s leaders.

In one such launch in 2016, the balloons reportedly carried toilet paper, cigarette butts and rubbish. Seoul police described them as “hazardous biochemical substances”.

Will coalition turn domineering Modi into a humbler leader?

By Soutik Biswas@soutikBBCIndia correspondent

India is no stranger to coalition governments.

Some of the world’s largest coalitions, comprising between six and a dozen parties, have been formed in the world’s most populous democracy.

From 1989 to 2004, six general elections produced no single-party majority. Some of these coalitions have been particularly chaotic: between 1989 and 1999, eight were formed and many quickly collapsed.

But some of India’s most significant economic reforms and highest growth rates have come under coalition governments, led by both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

  • Why India’s Modi failed to win outright majority

Now, for the first time since 2014, India will have a coalition government, with no single-party majority.

Narendra Modi of the BJP, set for a third term as prime minister, has seen his majority reduced by a resurgent opposition, and now primarily relies on two allies in his National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for a parliamentary majority.

But will Mr Modi, who always ruled with a majority as chief minister of Gujarat state and as India’s prime minister, and dominated politics for a decade, be able to run a coalition?

Can he shed his domineering style and carry disparate regional allies along? And will he curb a growing personality cult stoked by his party and a friendly media to adopt a more consensual, humbler image?

Many believe it’s unlikely to be smooth sailing for Mr Modi in a coalition.

The two allies that Mr Modi is most dependent on are two regional parties, Janata Dal (United) and Telugu Desam Party (TDP). They have 28 seats between them. Both are led by veteran, astute leaders – Nitish Kumar and N Chandrababu Naidu, respectively – who have previously served in BJP-led federal coalition governments and then quit over differences with the ruling party, specifically over Mr Modi.

In 2019, while serving as Andhra Pradesh chief minister, Mr Naidu labeled Mr Modi, then his political rival, a “terrorist”.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows – India is no stranger to that fact.

Coalition governments dependent on just two or three allies are particularly vulnerable to collapse if even one withdraws support.

Many believe a coalition government under Mr Modi could contribute to a healthier democracy. They say it could reduce the prime minister’s dominance, decentralise governance, increase checks and balances, embolden the opposition, and make institutions like the bureaucracy, judiciary and media more independent.

Atal Behari Vajpayee, one of the BJP’s stalwarts, ran a successful multi-party coalition government from 1998 to 2004. The avuncular leader privatised state-owned firms, facilitated foreign investment, built expressways, relaxed trade barriers, and even ignited an IT revolution.

He ended a decades-old moratorium on nuclear tests, eased tensions with Pakistan and built closer ties with US.

Much of this had to do with Mr Vajpayee’s consensual style.

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But Mr Modi’s coalition is vastly different from the ones in the past.

Despite securing fewer than the 272 seats needed for a majority government, the BJP still took 240 seats, so remains an influential and dominant coalition leader.

And in the past, successful minority governments have been run with even less seats. Congress were able to run a successful minority government with 232 seats in 1991- and with just 145 and 206 seats in 2004 and 2009.

Furthermore, Mr Modi leads an aggressive and revamped BJP. Amit Shah, his closest confidant, embodies a redefined top leadership that Congress leader Shashi Tharoor characterises as a “my way or the highway” approach to governance.

In the past, BJP-led coalitions put the party’s key ideological and polarising issues on the backburner to accommodate the demands of their allies.

Much of the party’s agenda – revoking the autonomy of Kashmir, building the Ram temple – has already been achieved under Mr Modi’s leadership. Will his allies now urge him to tone down his divisive rhetoric, particularly against Muslims, which he used freely during the election campaign?

Effective coalition politics demands collective action to function as a bloc and offer checks and balances. The key question now is what major issues the coalition partners and the BJP can agree upon.

Mr Modi’s party has been pushing for a controversial plan to hold simultaneous federal and state elections, something India gave up in 1967.

His party has also promised an Uniform Civil Code or UCC, a single personal law for all citizens, irrespective of religion, sex, gender and sexual orientation. This has been resisted in the past by both the country’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims.

Then there’s the delicate issue of redrawing of parliamentary boundaries, due after 2026. The wealthier, less populated southern states fear that Mr Modi will expand parliament, with the seat count favouring the poorer, more populous Hindi heartland states – a traditional BJP stronghold.

Mr Modi will also have to listen to regional and state-specific demands from the allies and accommodate their leaders’ ambitions. Both the TDP and JD(U) have demanded special status for their states, which mean more federal funds. The allies, according to media reports, are also eyeing influential ministries.

Despite a rebounding economy fuelled by government spending, Mr Modi needs to create more jobs and boost incomes for the poor and middle class. India’s economy requires many structural reforms in agriculture, land and labour. Mr Modi may need a consultative approach with allies to achieve any of this.

For a man used to basking in the spotlight, consensual politics may not come easily to Mr Modi, many believe.

“He has suddenly been asked to enact a role that he has never done before in his life,” says Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a biographer of the prime minister .

But successful politicians master the art of reinvention. Will India now see a humbler, more consultative and consensual Mr Modi?

“We will have to wait and see,” says Sandeep Shastri, a political analyst. “We have to view this through the lens of current circumstances, not past alliances.” Watch this space.

Body found in search for presenter Michael Mosley

By Joe Inwood in Symi and Andre Rhoden-Paul in LondonBBC News

A body has been found in the search for TV and radio presenter Dr Michael Mosley on the Greek island of Symi.

The 67-year-old went missing on Wednesday after setting off on a walk from Agios Nikolaos beach.

The body – which has yet to be formally identified – was found in a rocky area beside Agia Marina beach on Sunday.

Symi’s mayor said the body was found as teams were searching the coastline with cameras.

A police source told BBC News the deceased had been dead “for a number of days”.

The body was found next to a fence. It has not been moved from the location, a few metres away from where children are playing in the water at Agia Marina beach.

A bar manager who was with journalists found the body, PA news agency reported, after the island’s mayor “saw something” by the fence of the bar and alerted staff.

Agia Marina bar manager Ilias Tsavaris said: “They called me, they said ‘You know what, we saw something from far away, can you go and check’. So I went there.

“So when I walked up I saw something like a body.”

Rescuers had been searching the area every day with helicopters, he added.

Greek authorities had been conducting an extensive search for Dr Mosley over five days amid high temperatures.

The effort has included firefighters, dogs, helicopters, drones, local people and officers from Symi and outside the island.

On Saturday, BBC News obtained CCTV footage showing one of the last-known sightings of a man believed to Dr Mosley walking with an umbrella next to the marina in the village of Pedi on Wednesday.

His four children had also joined his wife, Dr Clare Bailey Mosley, on the island.

Dr Mosley was first reported missing after he left Agios Nikolaos beach to set off on a walk at about 1330 local time (11:30 BST).

His wife later reported him missing.

Dr Mosley studied medicine in London and qualified as a doctor and for the last two decades has been working as a presenter, documentary maker, journalist and author.

He is known for his TV programmes including Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, and BBC Radio 4’s Just One Thing podcast.

He has regularly appeared on BBC One’s The One Show and ITV’s This Morning, and was a columnist for the Daily Mail.

He is known for popularising the 5:2 and the Fast 800 diets, which advocate for intermittent fasting and low-carbohydrate meals.

His diets have attracted a lot of attention in the past, both for their methods and scientific accuracy.

While qualified as a doctor, Mosley was no longer registered as a medical doctor.

Dead in 6 hours: How Nigerian sextortion scammers targeted my son

By Joe Tidy@joetidyCyber correspondent, BBC World Service

Sextortion is the fastest-growing scam affecting teenagers globally and has been linked to more than 27 suicides in the US alone. Many of the scammers appear to be from Nigeria – where authorities are defending their actions and are under pressure to do more.

It has been two years since Jenn Buta’s son Jordan killed himself after being targeted by scammers who lured him into sending them explicit images of himself, and then tried to blackmail him.

She still can’t bring herself to change anything about his bedroom.

The 17-year-old’s basketball jerseys, clothes, posters and bedsheets are just how he left them.

The curtains are closed, and the door is shut to keep memories of him that only a parent would understand.

“It still smells like him. That’s one of the reasons I still have the door closed. I can still smell that sweat, dirt, cologne mix in this room. I’m just not ready to part with his stuff,” she said.

Jordan was contacted by sextortion scammers on Instagram.

They pretended to be a pretty girl his age and flirted with him, sending sexual pictures to coax him into sharing explicit photos of himself.

They then blackmailed him for hundreds of pounds to stop them sharing the pictures online to his friends.

Jordan sent as much money as he could and warned the sextortionists he would kill himself if they spread the images. The criminals replied: “Good… Do that fast – or I’ll make you do it.”

It was less than six hours from the time Jordan started communicating until the time he ultimately took his life.

“There’s actually a script online,” Jenn told BBC News, from her home in Michigan, in the north of the US. “And these people are just going through the script and putting that pressure on.

“And they’re doing it quick, because then they can move on to the next person, because it’s about volume.”

The criminals were tracked to Nigeria, arrested, and then extradited to the US.

Two brothers from Lagos – Samuel Ogoshi, 22, and Samson Ogoshi, 20 – are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to child sexploitation charges. Another Nigerian man linked to Jordan’s death and other cases is fighting extradition.

Jordan’s tragic story has become a touch point in the fight against the growing problem of sextortion.

Jenn is a now high-profile campaigner on TikTok – using the account Jordan set up for her – to raise awareness about the dangers of sextortion to young people. Her videos have been liked more than a million times.

It’s feared that sextortion is under-reported due to its sensitive nature. But US crime figures show cases more than doubled last year, rising to 26,700, with at least 27 boys having killed themselves in the past two years.

Researchers and law enforcement agencies point to West Africa, and particularly Nigeria, as a hotspot for where attackers are based.

In April, two Nigerian men were arrested after a schoolboy from Australia killed himself. Two other men are on trial in Lagos, after the suicides of a 15-year-old boy in the US and a 14-year-old in Canada.

In January, US cyber-company Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) highlighted a web of Nigerian TikTok, YouTube and Scribd accounts sharing tips and scripts for sextortion. Many of the discussions and videos are in Nigerian Pidgin dialect.

It’s not the first time that Nigeria’s young tech-savvy population has embraced a new wave of cyber-crime.

The term Yahoo Boys is used to describe a portion of the population that use cyber-crime to earn a living. It comes from the early 2000s wave of Nigerian Prince scam emails which spread through the Yahoo email service.

Dr Tombari Sibe, from Digital Footprints Nigeria, says cyber-fraud such as sextortion has become normalised to young people in the country: “There’s also the big problem of unemployment and of poverty.

“All these young ones who don’t really have much – it’s become almost like a mainstream activity where they don’t really think too much about the consequences. They just see their colleagues making money.”

African human rights charity Devatop has said the current methods of handling sextortion in Nigeria have failed to effectively curb the practice. And a report from NCRI said that celebrating sextortion crimes are an established part of the internet subculture in the country.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, the director of Nigeria’s National Cyber Crime Centre (NCCC) defended his police force’s actions, and insisted it was working hard to catch criminals and deter others from carrying out attacks.

Uche Ifeanyi Henry said his officers were “hitting criminals hard” and said it is “laughable” that anyone should accuse Nigeria of not taking sextortion crime seriously.

“We are giving criminals a very serious hit. A lot have been prosecuted and a lot have been arrested,” he said. “Many of these criminals are moving to neighbouring countries now because of our activity.”

The NCCC director pointed to the fact that the government has spent millions of pounds on a state-of-the-art cyber-crime centre, to show it was taking cyber-crime seriously, especially sextortion.

He said Nigerian teenagers are also being targeted, and he argued that the criminals were not just a Nigerian problem, with other sextortionists in south-east Asia. Tackling them would require global support, he said.

With that in mind, the director and his technical team are this week visiting the UK’s National Crime Agency, which last month issued a warning to children and schools about a rise in sextortion cases.

The visit is designed to improve collaboration on sextortion and other cyber-crime investigations. It follows similar recent meetings with Japanese police.

Meanwhile, Jenn Buta continues to campaign alongside Jordan’s father John DeMay. They regularly give advice to young people who may become victims.

Advice that Jenn and many law enforcement agencies regularly give people targeted by sextortionists includes:

  • Remember you are not alone and this is not your fault
  • Report the predator’s account, via the platform’s safety feature
  • Block the predator from contacting you
  • Save the profile or messages – they can help law enforcement identify and stop the predator
  • Ask for help from a trusted adult or law enforcement before sending money or more images
  • Co-operating with the predator rarely stops the blackmail and harassment – but law enforcement can

Millions voting on final day of EU elections as right seeks surge

By Paul KirbyBBC News, Brussels

Europeans in 20 countries are going to the polls on the biggest and final day of voting for the European Parliament.

In a year of pivotal elections, the EU vote is especially significant, on a continent witnessing polarised politics and increased nationalism.

The run-up to the vote has been marked by violent incidents – although an attack that left Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen with minor whiplash and forced her to halt campaigning is not being seen as politically motivated.

Europe’s main centre-right grouping is expected to come top across the EU when first projections emerge later on Sunday, however three parties on the far right all have their eye on winning the most seats nationally.

France’s National Rally, Italy’s Brothers of Italy and Austria’s Freedom Party are leading in the polls, as is Belgium’s separatist and anti-immigration party, Vlaams Belang.

Voting already began on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for some EU countries – but the majority of EU member states are voting on Sunday. The European Parliament is the direct link between Europeans and the EU’s institutions.

Voting for 16-year-olds

Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds will be able to vote for the first time in Germany and Belgium, increasing the size of Europe’s youth vote. Young Austrians and Maltese have been able to vote from 16 for some time, and Greeks can vote from 17.

In Germany alone there are an estimated 1.4 million eligible 16 and 17-year-olds among about five million first-time voters, so they could make a difference to the outcome.

The far-right Alternative For Germany (AfD) has claimed success in attracting young men especially, through campaigns on social media platforms such as TikTok.

Belgians are also voting in federal and regional elections, as well as in the European vote. Voting in Belgium is compulsory, and 16-year-old Princess Eléonore cast her ballot for the European election, along with Crown Princess Elisabeth and their two brothers.

But there was little enthusiasm among young Belgians ahead of the vote in the Flemish town of Aalst.

Vlaams Belang has won there before, although until now no other party has been willing to work with it. One young woman called Simona said young people especially were keen on their anti-immigration stance: “They like their policies on people coming here from abroad.”

Many of the town’s young voters approached by the BBC said they had not yet decided how they would vote, on a European or national level.

Dutch anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders visited Aalst on the eve of the vote to boost Vlaams Belang’s chances.

Dutch voters went to the polls on Thursday and exit polls have already suggested his party is narrowly behind a left-green alliance. The result will not be known until Sunday evening.

The priorities of European voters have changed dramatically since the last vote in 2019, with Russia’s war in Ukraine and the cost of living now central in people’s minds, while migration, health and the economy are also key. Five years ago, UK voters took part in the last election before Brexit.

“We want a Europe capable of defending itself,” says Ursula von der Leyen, who has led the European Commission for the past five years and is campaigning for another term. These elections will also play a big part in deciding who runs the EU’s executive.

But voters are swayed by national issues as much as European politics, as highlighted by the Dutch exit poll, which suggested they were equally important for 48% of voters.

The biggest race on Sunday is in Germany, where 96 of the Parliament’s 720 seats are at stake.

Ms von der Leyen’s conservative CDU/CSU in Germany is widely expected to win, and the biggest battle is for second place, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats challenged by both his coalition partner, the Greens, and opposition AfD.

Violence in run-up to vote

Several EU countries have seen violent attacks in the run-up to the vote, and in Germany politicians and campaigners alike have been targeted.

In the eastern city of Dresden, Social Democrat candidate Matthias Ecke was seriously hurt in an attack by teenagers and a Green activist was attacked, while in Berlin a former minister was hit over the head.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has warned of a new dimension of anti-democratic violence and said Germany’s law and constitution “must and will continue to increase the protection of democratic forces in our country”.

Slovak President Robert Fico narrowly escaped with his life after he was shot while meeting supporters last month.

He has since turned his anger on his political opponents, in an apparent bid to boost support for his populist left Smer party.

Denmark’s Social Democrat Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was knocked to the ground by a man on Friday, and although there was no apparent political motive she did have to halt campaigning.

Races to watch in France and Hungary

In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally is hoping to increase its share of the country’s 81 seats, with polls suggesting a big lead over President Emmanuel Macron’s Renew party and the resurgent Socialists under Raphaël Glucksmann.

The big draw for National Rally has been its 28-year-old leader, Jordan Bardella, who has led the European campaign.

So seriously has the government taken Mr Bardella that Prime Minister Gabriel Attal joined him in a one-on-one debate, attacking his party’s close relationship with the Kremlin.

Mr Macron’s party list for this election is led by Valérie Hayer, a little-known politician in comparison with Jordan Bardella.

Meanwhile, in Hungary, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party is facing one of the biggest challenges to his rule so far from Peter Magyar and his new centre-right Tisza party.

For all the big national races, the real power in the European Parliament is wielded by political groupings from different member states, and it is the centre-right European People’s Party made up of conservative parties across the EU that is widely tipped to remain the biggest political force in the 720-seat chamber.

The centre left has few parties in power in Europe, but is still expected to come second.

It is the two right-wing groups, home to several far-right parties, that are expected to increase their support.

Giorgia Meloni’s party Brothers of Italy sits in the European Conservatives and Reformists along with Spain’s Vox and the Sweden Democrats, while France’s National Rally is part of Identity & Democracy, as well as Italy’s League and Austria’s Freedom Party.

That leaves open the question whether they are prepared to work together, or if they might find common ground with the centre right.

The big losers in this contest could be the centrists, who include France’s Renew, and the Greens. As one Green campaigner in Brussels said on the eve of the vote: “Everything has moved to the right.”.

Danish PM ‘shaken but fine’ after street attack

By Jemma CrewBBC News

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen says she feels “saddened and shaken” but “fine” after being attacked in the street in Copenhagen.

Ms Frederiksen is said to have experienced minor whiplash after a man walked up to her and struck her in Copenhagen’s old town on Friday evening.

A 39-year-old Polish man, who was arrested, appeared at the Court of Frederiksberg for a preliminary hearing on Saturday.

He was charged with violence against a person in public service, and denies guilt, local media reported.

The suspect was remanded in custody until 20 June, Copenhagen Police said on X.

Ms Frederiksen’s office told the AFP news agency she had been taken to a hospital for a check-up after the incident.

Her official schedule for Saturday was cancelled.

In a message on Instagram posted at the weekend, she thanked people for the “many, many, many messages of support and encouragement”, she had received, which she called “incredibly moving”.

“I am saddened and shaken by the incident yesterday, but otherwise I am fine,” she wrote.

She added she now needed “peace and quiet” and to be with her family.

Ms Frederiksen, 46, is leader of Denmark’s Social Democrats, the biggest party in Denmark’s coalition government.

She became prime minister in 2019 after taking over as leader of the centre-left party four years earlier. This made her the youngest prime minister in Danish history.

European leaders have denounced the incident, which came two days before Danes head to the polls in the European elections on Sunday.

EU chief Charles Michel said on X that he was “outraged”, while French President Emmanuel Macron called it “unacceptable” and wished the Danish PM a “speedy recovery”.

Three swimmers hurt in shark attacks in Florida

By Francesca GillettBBC News

Beachgoers in the Gulf Coast of Florida have been told to be vigilant, after three swimmers were attacked by sharks in two separate attacks.

One woman was said to have had part of her arm amputated after being bitten on Friday in Walton County in north-west Florida.

Less than two hours later, at another beach four miles further east, two teenage girls were in waist-deep water with friends when they were attacked.

One of the girls suffered “significant injuries to the upper leg and one hand” while the other had minor injuries on one of her feet, fire officials said.

Authorities have been patrolling the shoreline in boats and some beaches were closed, although they reopened on Saturday with purple flags warning of dangerous marine life.

The first incident happened at around 13:20 local time on Friday when a woman, about 45-years-old, was attacked near WaterSound Beach, South Walton Fire District said.

She suffered “critical injuries” to her hip and lower left arm and was airlifted to hospital, fire officials said.

Part of her arm had to be amputated, fire chief Ryan Crawford later told a news briefing, according to the BBC’s US partner CBS News.

The second attack – on two girls about 15 years old – happened at about 14:55 local time near Seacrest Beach, the fire department added.

“Please swim carefully, respect the Gulf, stay hydrated, and look out for your loved ones,” South Walton Fire District said on X.

Walton County Sheriff’s office said on X on Saturday that during patrols, deputies spotted a 14 ft (4.2m) hammerhead shark in Santa Rosa Beach – but stressed they were “not uncommon”.

“We want to reiterate that sharks are always present in the Gulf,” they said.

“Swimmers and beachgoers should be cautious when swimming and stay aware of their surroundings.”

According to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, there are around 70 to 100 shark attacks every year worldwide, resulting in about five deaths.

The ISAF said last year, there were 69 unprovoked shark bites on humans and 22 provoked bites globally.

In Florida, the majority of shark attacks are by requiem sharks – a family of sharks that like warm seas and include species such as bull sharks or blacktip sharks.

Most attacks occur in nearshore waters, typically near a sandbar where sharks feed and can become trapped at low tide.

Small fish are traveling in schools near the shore this time of year, which might have been a contributing factor in Friday’s attacks, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office suggested.

The time of the attacks – in the middle of the afternoon – was also an anomaly, Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson said, according to CBS News.

Adults and teens turn to ‘dumbphones’ to cut screen time

By Emma VardyLA Correspondent, BBC News

Adults and teens concerned about their screen time are turning in their smartphones for “dumber” models.

Buried in the settings of many smartphones is the option to look up how much on average you are staring at your phone per day.

It can bring an uncomfortable realisation, that what was supposed to be a useful piece of technology has become an obsession.

“Social media is built around FOMO (fear of missing out), so I felt like I couldn’t get off it,” 16-year-old Luke Martin, from Canada, told the BBC.

“Instantly I got Instagram and it was a downward spiral.”

Luke is not alone.

According to a study by Harvard University, using social networking sites lights up the same part of the brain that is also triggered when taking an addictive substance. This has raised concerns about phone habits among youth.

In the UK, research by Ofcom estimates that around a quarter of children aged five to seven years old now have their own smartphone.

Links have been shown in some studies between use of social media and a negative effect on mental health – especially in children.

Some campaigners want age limits to be introduced for smartphone use. Others, like Luke, are choosing to swap their smartphones for much simpler devices, so-called “dumbphones”.

His new phone only has texts, calls, maps, and a few other limited tools.

“My friends’ usage is like four to five hours I think, and that’s how much mine used to be before I got this,” he said.

“Now mine’s like 20 minutes a day which is really good because I only use it for what I need it for.”

Parents are also turning to dumbphones, not only for their children, but to help themselves be more present for their families.

Lizzy Broughton, who has a five-year-old son, recently bought an old-school style Nokia “flip” phone.

“It helped me recalibrate my own habits, I have way more quality time with my son,” she explained.

She says that when it’s time for him to get his own phone, she’ll choose a similarly pared-down model.

“It doesn’t feel like the best idea to just start with a smartphone,” she said. “It’s like we’re handing over the world, like try to figure out how to navigate that.”

These are dumbphones, the low-tech devices on trend

Sales of dumbphones have been increasing in North America. At Dumbwireless in Los Angeles, store-owners Daisy Krigbaum and Will Stults cater to customers looking for low-tech devices.

“We have a lot of parents looking to get their kid that first phone, and they don’t want them drifting off on the internet,” he said.

But giving up the smartphone is easier said than done. Mr Stults said some schools require pupils to have certain apps. And it is difficult to hold the line when children see their friends being given expensive smartphones, said Ms Broughton.

“It’s going to require a community of parents to actually be like, can we do this differently?” she said.

One workaround is a device called “unpluq”, which you tap against the phone to wirelessly block certain apps, like social media.

“Parents can control the smartphone with this tag, and also monitor the usage,” Mr Stults said.

There are several phones that have now been developed particularly for users who want to avoid an addiction to mindless scrolling.

Chris Kaspar founded the company Techless to develop an “intentionally boring” but sleek device that looks much like an iPhone. The latest version is dubbed the “Wisephone II”.

“It has no icons, just words, two colours, and two fonts.” He describes it as “very peaceful, very tranquil”.

It will have some limited third-party tools, such as the taxi application Uber, but no social media.

“We’re asking this question—what’s actually good for us?” Mr Kaspar said.

He first developed the phone with his teenage foster daughters in mind and says 25% of their sales are to children, but that it is marketed to adults.

“If you have a phone that’s branded as a kids’ device there’s some shame associated with that. So we made a very adult, sophisticated, Apple-esque, really nice device,” he said.

With revenue from apps and social-media advertisement in the billions of dollars, the big companies have little motivation to encourage different habits, he said.

Meanwhile, Canadian teen Luke says he is planning to stick with his new device, much to the amusement of friends.

“They think it’s pretty weird but at this point I’m like it doesn’t really matter because it’s helped me so much,” he said.

“It’s definitely taken me into a better spot right now.”

Nasa ‘Earthrise’ astronaut dies at 90 in plane crash

By Max MatzaBBC News

Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, who snapped one of the most famous photographs taken in outer space, has died in a plane crash at the age of 90.

Officials say a small aircraft he was flying crashed into the sea off Washington state.

Anders’ son Greg confirmed that his father’s body was recovered on Friday afternoon.

“The family is devastated. He was a great pilot. He will be missed,” a statement from the family reads.

Anders – who was a lunar module pilot on the Apollo 8 mission – took the iconic Earthrise photograph, one of the most memorable and inspirational images of Earth from space.

Taken on Christmas Eve during the 1968 mission, the first crewed space flight to leave Earth and reach the Moon, the picture shows the planet rising above the horizon from the barren lunar surface.

Anders later described it as his most significant contribution to the space programme.

The image is widely credited with motivating the global environmental movement and leading to the creation of Earth Day, an annual event to promote activism and awareness of caring for the planet.

Speaking of the moment, Anders said: “We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing that we discovered was the Earth.”

Officials said that Anders’ plane crashed at around 11:40PDT (19:40BST).

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the 90-year-old was flying a Beechcraft A A 45 – also known as a T-34. The agency said that the plane crashed about 80ft (25m) from the coast of Jones Island.

Witness Philip Person told King-TV in Seattle that he saw the crash.

The plane began doing what appeared to be a loop and became inverted, he told the network.

“I could not believe what I was seeing in front of my eyes,” Person told the local news station. “It looked like something right out of a movie or special effects. With the large explosion and flames and everything.”

Footage that allegedly captured the plane crash appears to show an effort to pull up at the last second, before it hits the surface of the water and becomes a fiery wreck.

BBC News has not verified the video.

Anders also served as the backup pilot to the Apollo 11 mission, that led to the first Moon landing on July 20, 1969.

Following Anders’ retirement from the space programme in 1969, the former astronaut largely worked in the aerospace industry for several decades. He also served as US Ambassador to Norway for a year in the 1970s.

But he is best remembered for the Apollo 8 mission and the iconic photograph he took from space.

“In 1968, during Apollo 8, Bill Anders offered to humanity among the deepest of gifts an astronaut can give. He travelled to the threshold of the Moon and helped all of us see something else: ourselves,” Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.

In a previous interview, Anders described taking the picture after being given “a little bit of photography training”.

He said: “We were in lunar orbit, upside down and going backwards so for the first several revolutions we did not see the Earth and then we twisted the spacecraft so it was going forward and suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw this colour – it was shocking.

“So I just took a shot, moved it took a shot, moved it.”

Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, was among others to pay tribute to Anders, calling him “an inspiration”.

Mark Kelly, a former astronaut who now serves as a US Senator for the state of Arizona, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that Anders “inspired me and generations of astronauts and explorers. My thoughts are with his family and friends”.

Who owns the Moon? A new space race means it could be up for grabs

By Rebecca Morelle@BBCMorelleScience editor

We’re in the midst of a Moon rush. A growing number of countries and companies have the lunar surface in their sights in a race for resources and space dominance. So are we ready for this new era of lunar exploration?

This week, images were beamed back to Earth of China’s flag unfurled on the Moon. It’s the country’s fourth landing there – and the first ever mission to return samples from the Moon’s far side. In the past 12 months, India and Japan have also set down spacecraft on the lunar surface. In February, US firm Intuitive Machines became the first private company to put a lander on the Moon, and there are plenty more set to follow.

Meanwhile, Nasa wants to send humans back to the Moon, with its Artemis astronauts aiming for a 2026 landing. China says it will send humans to the Moon by 2030. And instead of fleeting visits, the plan is to build permanent bases.

But in an age of renewed great-power politics, this new space race could lead to tensions on Earth being exported to the lunar surface.

“Our relationship with the Moon is going to fundamentally change very soon,” warns Justin Holcomb, a geologist from the University of Kansas. The rapidity of space exploration is now “outpacing our laws”, he says.

A UN agreement from 1967 says no nation can own the Moon. Instead, the fantastically named Outer Space Treaty says it belongs to everyone, and that any exploration has to be carried out for the benefit of all humankind and in the interests of all nations.

While it sounds very peaceful and collaborative – and it is – the driving force behind the Outer Space Treaty wasn’t cooperation, but the politics of the Cold War.

As tensions grew between the US and Soviet Union after World War Two, the fear was that space could become a military battleground, so the key part of the treaty was that no nuclear weapons could be sent into space. More than 100 nations signed up.

But this new space age looks different to the one back then.

One major change is that modern-day Moon missions are not just the projects of nations – companies are competing, too.

In January, a US commercial mission called Peregrine announced it was taking human ashes, DNA samples and a sports drink, complete with branding, to the Moon. A fuel leak meant it never made it there, but it sparked debate about how delivering this eclectic inventory fitted in with the treaty’s principle that exploration should benefit all humanity.

“We’re starting to just send stuff up there just because we can. There’s no sort of rhyme or reason anymore,” says Michelle Hanlon, a space lawyer and founder of For All Moonkind, an organisation that seeks to protect the Apollo landing sites. “Our Moon is within reach and now we’re starting to abuse it,” she says.

But even if lunar private enterprise is on the increase, nation states still ultimately remain the key players in all this. Sa’id Mostehsar, director of the London Institute of Space Policy and Law, says any company needs to be authorised to go into space by a state, which will be limited by the international treaties.

There’s still a great deal of prestige to be had by joining the elite club of Moon landers. After their successful missions, India and Japan could very much claim to be global space players.

And a nation with a successful space industry can bring a big boost to the economy through jobs, innovation.

But the Moon race offers an even bigger prize: its resources.

While the lunar terrain looks rather barren, it contains minerals, including rare earths, metals like iron and titanium – and helium too, which is used in everything from superconductors to medical equipment.

Estimates for the value of all this vary wildly, from billions to quadrillions. So it’s easy to see why some see the Moon as a place to make lots of money. However, it’s also important to note that this would be a very long-term investment – and the tech needed to extract and return these lunar resources is a some way off.

In 1979, an international treaty declared that no state or organisation could claim to own the resources there. But it wasn’t popular – only 17 countries are party to it, and this does not include any countries who’ve been to the Moon, including the US.

In fact, the US passed a law in 2015 allowing its citizens and industries to extract, use and sell any space material.

“This caused tremendous consternation amongst the international community,” Michelle Hanlon told me. “But slowly, others followed suit with similar national laws.” These included Luxembourg, the UAE, Japan and India.

The resource that could be most in demand is a surprising one: water.

“When the first Moon rocks brought back by the Apollo astronauts were analysed, they were thought to be completely dry,” explains Sara Russell, professor of planetary sciences at the Natural History Museum.

“But then a kind of revolution happened about 10 years ago, and we found out that they’ve got little traces of water in them trapped in phosphate crystals.”

And at the Moon’s poles, she says, there’s even more – reserves of water ice are frozen inside permanently shadowed craters.

Future visitors could use the water for drinking, it could be used to generate oxygen and astronauts could even use it to make rocket fuel, by splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen, allowing them to travel from the Moon to Mars and beyond.

The US is now attempting to establish a new set of guiding principles around lunar exploration – and lunar exploitation. The so-called Artemis Accords state that extracting and using resources on the Moon should be done in a way complies with the Treaty for Outer Space, although it says some new rules might be needed.

More than 40 countries have so far signed up to these non-binding agreements, but China is notably absent from the list. And some argue that new rules for lunar exploration shouldn’t be led by an individual nation.

“This really ought to be done through the United Nations because it affects all countries,” Sa’id Moshetar tells me.

But access to resources could also cause another clash.

While there’s plenty of room on the Moon, areas close to ice-filled craters are the prime lunar real estate. So what happens if everyone wants the same spot for their future base? And once a country has set one up, what’s to stop another nation establishing their base a bit too close?

“I think there’s an interesting analogy to the Antarctic,” says Jill Stuart, a space policy and law researcher at the London School of Economics. “We’ll probably see research bases being set up on the Moon like they are on the continent.”

More from InDepth

But specific decisions about a new lunar base, for example whether it covers a few square kilometres or a few hundred, may come down to whoever gets there first.

“There will definitely be a first-mover advantage,” Jill Stuart says.

“So if you can get there first and set up camp, then you can work out the size of your zone of exclusion. It doesn’t mean you own that land, but you can sit on that space.”

Right now, the first settlers are most likely to be either the US or China, bringing a new layer of rivalry to an already tense relationship. And they are likely to set the standard – the rules established by whoever gets there first may end up being the rules that stick over time.

If this all sounds a bit ad hoc, some of the space experts I’ve spoken to think we’re unlikely to see another major international space treaty. The dos and don’ts of lunar exploration are more likely to be figured out with memorandums of understanding or new codes of conduct.

There’s a lot at stake. The Moon is our constant companion, as we watch it wax and wane through its various phases as it glows bright in the sky.

But as this new space race gets under way, we need to start thinking about what sort of place we want it to be – and whether it risks becoming a setting where very Earthly rivalries are played out.

Crowd-pleasers: The art of choosing the perfect setlist

By Manish PandeyBBC Newsbeat

“Here’s one from my new album” are six words fans would probably rather not hear at a gig.

You might think that Taylor Swift would be immune from that but, based on the reaction to her changing her setlist one year in to her worldwide Eras tour, you’d be wrong.

When she announced that she’d revamped her track selection to incorporate music from her latest double-release, The Tortured Poets Department, reviews were mixed.

Some were delighted that new tunes like Fortnight and Down Bad were in, but others were disappointed to see older songs Long Live, The Archer and The 1 cut from the record-breaking tour.

But you’re never going to please everyone, even if you’re Taylor Swift.

So how do artists go about picking a setlist?

Charli XCX, who’s just released her latest album Brat, tells BBC Newsbeat the songs she picks are very much based on how she’s feeling.

‘A fine balance’

The Von Dutch singer describes herself as “quite a selfish performer generally”.

“I’m performing because I like listening to my own music out loud,” she says.

“I’ve done the setlist for me rather than for anybody else.

“I think that’s how you grow and you show people the new ways in which you’re developing, and your new tastes.

“And playing the same songs over and over and over again is really quite boring.

“So I like to switch it up.”

Chase & Status, who recently headlined Radio 1 Big Weekend, have released multiple albums and been putting out tracks for over 20 years.

That makes choosing your setlist tricky, as you’re potentially trying to please different generations of fans.

“I think you’re always kind of second guessing what the crowd is gonna be like,” says Saul Milton, aka Chase.

“Is it going to be fans of your older stuff or your new stuff? So it’s just making sure you don’t forget where we came from.

“But also you can’t forget that there’s young fans that maybe don’t know our old stuff.

That’s why it important to have “a nice balance,” he adds, “because it’s not just about what we want to hear”.

“We’re performing our music to people that support us. So we want to make sure they’re happy.”

“It does baffle my head sometimes trying to decide what to do for the setlist,” says Rapper Aitch.

“I do go through it a lot. I do try to switch it up as much as I can,” he says.

But in the end, Aitch says, he and his team try to have a mix of songs which can cater to everyone.

“There’s definitely some bangers on there. But there’s also some fan favourites on there,” he says.

“We always end up making a good decision.”

Like Aitch, many artists have a team behind them, and tour manager Emily Holt tells Newsbeat “there has to be a fine balance” when devising a setlist.

Emily manages talents including Becky Hill, Lana Del Rey and Self Esteem and says a setlist is normally a collaboration between the artist and musical director.

As tour manager, her job is to think about the length of time available, which can vary depending on the event.

Emily says Becky Hill’s recent Big Weekend set is an example of a shorter, “more impactful” set which included “hit after hit” but also had tunes from her new album.

Shows like this are a chance to attract new fans who might not have heard the most recent output, says Emily.

An artist’s own gig can be as long as their deal with the venue allows, says Emily, but still about balancing different demands.

“Fans always expect certain songs and want certain songs”, she says, but an artist also “wants to portray their new music”.

Sometimes staging requirements can affect the order of a set.

Emily says Lana Del Rey’s recent Coachella show featured the star making different entrances throughout the gig, so plans including the setlist were made around those different elements.

Emily also says location can affect song choice, as “audiences are really different” around the world.

That’s something British Asian artist Saloni, who sings in multiple languages, recognises.

Her music is a mix of original songs and cover versions that combine pop and R&B beats.

Saloni tells Newsbeat performing at Great Escape in 2023, with a largely Western crowd, meant she performed more numbers in English while retaining a flavour of her heritage.

“Asian music is what I do,” she says. “I mix the two it’s not like I just do purely Asian or purely pop.

“It’s displaying our culture to the rest of the world. Because I feel like that’s what needs the recognition.”

Setlists are important whether you’re a global superstar or an up-and-coming artist, but, according to singer Deeps, the pressures are slightly different.

There’s less demand to play “that one song” that can haunt better-known acts, but you have to work hard to keep the crowd interested, he says.

During a recent tour in May he switched up his set after finding his opener was “a real crowdpleaser” but that the middle section was lacking.

“So we ended up putting the very first song I ever wrote in the set and sandwiched it right in the middle,” he says.

“That’s the one that gets the crowd going the most.”

Deeps says the most important thing for him is performing songs he’s “really invested in” and really feels a connection to.

“Because that’s our job as artists – is to tell our truth,” he says.

“And on stage is no better time to do it.”

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

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I married the love of my life in a Ukrainian bunker – then he was killed

By Diana KuryshkoBBC Ukraine • Sarah ShebbeareBBC World Service

Mariupol was doomed. Relentless Russian bombing had turned streets into ruins and courtyards into graveyards.

But several metres underground in the south-eastern Ukrainian city, a romance was blooming.

Valeria Subotina, 33, had been sheltering in the enormous Azovstal steelworks, the final stronghold in the city, as it was surrounded by Russian forces in spring 2022.

She had taken cover in one of dozens of Soviet-era bomb shelters built to withstand nuclear war, deep beneath the industrial plant.

“You go down a semi-collapsed staircase, move through passages and tunnels, and go further and further down. Finally, you reach this concrete cube, a room,” Valeria says.

In the bunker – alongside soldiers and civilians – Valeria was working with the army’s Azov brigade as a press officer, communicating the horrors of Russia’s months-long siege to global media.

There, too, was her fiancé Andriy Subotin, a 34-year-old Ukrainian army officer, defending the plant.

The pair had found each other through work – Mariupol’s Border Guard Agency – around three years before the siege.

When Andriy met Valeria, it was love at first sight.

“He was special, it felt so warm to be around him,” Valeria says. “He was always kind and never refused to help anyone.”

Andriy was an optimist, she says. He knew how to be happy and found joy in small things: sunny weather, smiles, friends’ company.

“On the first day we met, I realised Andriy was very different to others.”

Within three months, they had moved in together, renting a small one-storey house in Mariupol with a garden. The couple started building a life together.

“We travelled a lot, went to the mountains, met friends,” Valeria says.

“We fished together and spent lots of time outdoors. We visited theatres, concerts and exhibitions. Life was full.”

They decided to get married and dreamed of a big church wedding with family and friends. They picked wedding rings.

Valeria quit her job and began to nurture her creative side, writing and publishing poems about the earlier years of fierce fighting with Russia in Mariupol.

“For a couple of years before the full-scale invasion, I was truly happy,” she recalls.

Everything changed in February 2022.

Spring had brought the sun to Valeria and Andriy’s garden, and the first flowers were appearing.

“I was starting to enjoy spring,” says Valeria. “We knew about Putin’s threats and realised there would be a war, but I didn’t want to think about it.“

A few days before 24 February, the day the full-scale invasion began, Andriy urged Valeria to leave the city. She refused.

“I knew that no matter what happened, I had to be in Mariupol, I had to defend my city.”

Weeks later, they were both underground, in the Azovstal bunkers.

They only got to see each other occasionally, but when they did those were moments of “pure happiness”.

At this point, Mariupol was nearing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Strikes to infrastructure had cut water and power supplies to parts of the city, and there were food shortages. Civilian homes and buildings, too, had been destroyed.

On 15 April, a large bomb was dropped on the plant. Valeria narrowly escaped death.

“I was found among dead bodies, the only one alive. On the one hand, a miracle, but on the other, a terrible tragedy.”

She had to spend eight days in an underground hospital in the plant with severe concussion.

“The smell of blood and rot was everywhere,” she says.

“It was a very scary place where our wounded comrades, with amputated limbs, were lying everywhere. They couldn’t get proper help because there were very few medical supplies.”

Andriy was deeply worried for Valeria after her injury and started planning a wedding right there, in the bunker.

“It felt like he was in a hurry, like we wouldn’t have any more time,” says Valeria.

“He made a couple of wedding rings out of tin foil with his own hands, and asked me to marry him. Of course, I said yes.

“He was the love of my life. And our rings made of tin foil – they were perfect.”

On 5 May, the couple were married by a commander stationed at the plant. They had a ceremony in the bunker, wearing their uniforms as wedding attire.

Andriy promised his wife that they would have a proper wedding when they returned home, with real rings and a white dress.

Two days later, on 7 May, he was killed in action at the steel plant, by Russian shelling.

Valeria didn’t find out about it straight away.

“People often say you feel something inside when a loved one dies. But I, on the contrary, was in a good mood. I was married and in love.”

One of the hardest things was having to hold in a “lump of grief”, as she was defending her city alongside “her boys” – comrades – at Azovstal.

“I was a bride, I was a wife, and now I am a widow. The scariest word,” she says.

“I could not react the way I wanted to at that moment.

“My boys were always around. They sat next to me, they slept next to me, they brought me food and supported me,” she says. “I could only cry when they weren’t watching.”

Drone footage shows level of devastation in Mariupol

At one point, it felt like the fear of being in the war zone was blunted by her grief.

“I didn’t care any more… You just understand that there are many more people waiting for you in the next world, if it exists, than there are here with you.”

The Ukrainian soldiers at Azovstal finally surrendered on 20 May. Valeria found herself among the 900 prisoners of war forcibly taken by the Russian military out of Mariupol.

“We stared through the windows of the bus at those buildings we loved, at those streets we knew so well. They destroyed and killed everything I loved – my city, my friends, and my husband.”

Valeria survived 11 months of Russian captivity, and has told of torture and abuse. Andriy often appeared in her dreams.

In April last year, she was released as part of a prisoner exchange, and is now back in Ukraine.

It is difficult to to say how many people were killed as a result of the Russian shelling of Mariupol, but local authorities say the number exceeds 20,000.

According to the UN, 90% of residential buildings were damaged or destroyed, and bodies are still in the rubble.

As far as Valeria knows, her husband’s body remains at the Azovstal steel plant in the now-occupied city.

Sometimes, she says, she looks to the sky and speaks to him.

Beyoncé tickets, Bali trips and book deals: Here’s how Supreme Court justices earned money this year

By Ana FaguyBBC News

Details about how the United States Supreme Court justices made money in the past year were made public Friday through the court’s financial disclosures.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was gifted Beyoncé tickets from the singer and Justice Clarence Thomas disclosed two trips gifted from major GOP donor Harlan Crow — a news report about the gifted trips landed the justice in hot water earlier this year.

Four of the justices disclosed financials related to book deals.

The reports, which cover the 2023 year, were made public for eight of the nine justices with Justice Samuel Alito requesting a 90-day extension for his report.

Supreme Court justices are required to file disclosures of gifts annually.

Justice Brown Jackson received four tickets from Beyoncé valued at more than $3,700 (more than £2,900) to the singer’s concert.

Justice Thomas, meanwhile, included in this year’s report a disclosure that he took two trips with Mr Crow in 2019 — one to Bali and one to California. The trips were added as an amendment to a previous disclosure.

The California trip was to a “private club” according to the report, possibly alluding to Bohemian Grove, a California club for rich, powerful men. Justice Thomas reportedly has visited the club in the past.

  • Clarence Thomas and Bohemian Grove: What goes on at the all-male club?
  • Clarence Thomas: US Supreme Court judge acknowledges paid-for trips

Food and lodging for both trips were gifted to Justice Thomas, according to the disclosure, but he did not include the exact monetary value of the trips.

ProPublica reported last year that the 2019 trip to Bali may have cost as much as $500,000 (£403,000).

As part of its report, the non-profit news website found Justice Thomas accepted vacations from Mr Crow, a real estate mogul, nearly every year for two decades.

At the time the news story was released, Justice Thomas pushed back saying “this sort of personal hospitality” did not need to be part of the annual disclosure.

Scrutiny of the omission, led to similar criticism of other justices last year.

On Friday, Justices Neil Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh and Brown Jackson listed book royalties as part of their financial disclosures.

Justice Brown Jackson made more than $893,000 (more than £702,000) for a book advance for a yet-to-be released memoir.

Justice Kavanaugh disclosed receiving $340,000 (£267,000) for a forthcoming “legal memoir”.

The new language changing the dating scene

By Maisie LillywhiteBBC News, West of England

Forget wanting to meet someone with a GSOH for some TLC through the local newspaper. Dating apps in the 2020s have borne a whole new dictionary of acronyms and phrases.

Technology has progressed leaps and bounds since the turn of the millennium, redefining how young people communicate with friends and, more recently, how we date.

Whereas old acronyms include the likes of GSOH (Good Sense Of Humour) and WLTM (Would Like To Meet), newly popular configurations of capital letters include ENM (Ethical Non-Monogamy), ONS (One Night Stand), and NSA (No Strings Attached).

According to Ofcom statistics published in January, more than one in 10 UK adults use online dating services; 2.49m adults use the top app, Tinder, alone.

And the rise of swiping, prompts and ghosting has brought with it a new “language”, with many young single people across the world explaining what they’re after in jumbles of capitalised letters.

Consequently, acronyms have become indecipherable to some, with one dating expert claiming singletons are in fact “shortening their reach”.

‘Off-putting’

Matt turned to online dating after coming out of a 16-year relationship three years ago, but has also tried in-person dating events.

Although he thinks it is “easier” to strike up conversation with people online, he says the connection is “so much weaker” and acronyms can be “off-putting”.

“I find the use of acronyms like FWB (Friends With Benefits) and ONS really difficult,” the PE teacher said.

“I’m not looking for that, but seeing that makes me slightly concerned as I take a princess kissing frogs approach.

“The joy of dating now is you get to date lots of different types of people and it allows me to refine what it is I’m actually looking for.

“This person is just up for ‘Yes, let’s commit immediately, or let’s not do it at all’.”

But online dating in the 2020s has opened Matt’s mind to other ways of describing himself.

After someone explained to him the breakdown of his past relationship might partly be down to conflicting star signs, the 44-year-old from Bath has started using astrology to guide his decisions on swiping right.

“It’s not my sole deciding factor, but if I see somebody who lists her star sign as being one of the top four compatible with mine, I’m more likely to pursue a conversation with that person,” said Matt, who is also a mental health coach.

‘Isolates people’

Jacob Lucas, a dating coach from Westbury in Wiltshire, said acronyms can complicate and “take away the authenticity” from the “competitive” 21st Century dating experience.

“What [the use of acronyms] does is it isolates people who don’t know what they mean,” he told the BBC.

Jacob said someone that ticks all the boxes may be looking for something “NSA”, but doesn’t know what the acronym stands for and decide they are “not going to bother” with a potential match.

As a result, it can lead to daters unintentionally “shortening their reach”, so Lucas recommends communicating your desires in plain English.

But, Jacob said, acronyms can act as a “green light” to other potential dates, especially those who are interested certain types of sexual encounters and kink communities.

Common acronyms used to communicate sexual wants on dating apps include ONS and GGG (Good, Giving and Game).

The latter means someone believes they are good in bed, give equally to their partner and are game to try new things in the bedroom.

“It’s filtering out people who don’t understand that lingo,” Jacob said.

“People who get really involved in that realm of the dating world know what those acronyms mean.

“It’s kind of like a signal, you can hit a target niche more.”

‘No idea’

Jordan has been online dating “on and off” since he turned 18.

Now 24, the mechanical engineer from Gloucester said he does not take it “super seriously”, usually describing himself using a funny one-liner.

“In terms of bios, people either don’t share a whole lot or they share too much,” Jordan said, admitting he has “absolutely no idea” what most acronyms mean.

“An ex told me what DDLG means, which I thought was strange, to put it lightly.”

Despite his confusion regarding some acronyms like DDLG (Daddy Dom Little Girl), Jordan would not let it stop him from getting to know someone.

“If I liked the look of someone, I’d just Google it or swipe right and ask later,” he said.

One concern about acronyms is the way they may “isolate” older people, who were not raised online.

Although older generations might have written a lonely hearts advertisement several decades ago, they may have no idea what modern acronyms found on the likes of Tinder, Bumble and Hinge may translate to.

“I can’t imagine how confusing it would be seeing all of these, it’s like a language you subconsciously learn,” Jordan said.

“For younger people, I feel like you would learn a lot of them through social media.”

‘Additional learning’

Jo Tucker returned to the dating world a few years ago after splitting from her husband, even dabbling in on-screen dating by appearing on Channel 4’s First Dates.

The 44-year-old from Paulton in Somerset said she struggled with the “2D-ness” of online dating, having encountered several profiles with AI-generated images.

In terms of acronyms, Jo finds them “mind-boggling”.

“GSOH I know, and I’ve learnt that ENM means ethical non-monogamy,” she said.

“I’ve absolutely matched with people before without reading the small print of them being in an open relationship, and then I’ve had to back out of meeting them.

“I think acronyms are additional learning on top of the learning curve of dating app etiquette.”

To Jo, meeting someone in person is the ideal situation.

The mum-of-three has alopecia and previously opened up to the BBC about how her condition has made her feel “evicted” from the dating scene.

“Dating is like the Wild West these days,” she said. “I would just like to meet someone relatively normal in a pub.

“Then you see them from the offset and take it all in, and can see if their shoes are rubbish.”

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Price hikes and boycotts: Is trouble brewing at Starbucks?

By Natalie ShermanBBC News

Andrew Buckley, a self-described “mocha guy”, recently swore off his Starbucks habit, reeling after the firm’s latest price increase sent the cost of his drink above $6.

The 50-year-old, who works in tech sales in Idaho, had been a loyal customer for decades, treasuring his near-daily venti mocha as a little luxury that allowed him to stretch his legs during the work day.

But the company’s latest price increase crossed a line.

“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back on my feelings of inflation in general. It’s like, ‘That’s it. I can’t do it anymore,'” says Mr Buckley, who rang up customer service with complaints before heading to social media to vent.

“I just lost it,” he said. “I don’t plan to be back either.”

The decision was a sign of the bigger troubles brewing at Starbucks, which is hitting new resistance from inflation-weary customers just as fights over unionisation and protests against the company cast as a way to oppose Israel’s war in Gaza are sparking boycott calls and tarnishing the brand.

Sales at the company slumped 1.8% year-on-year globally at the start of 2024.

In the US – by far the firm’s biggest and most important market – sales at stores open at least a year dropped 3% – the biggest fall in years outside the pandemic and Great Recession.

Among those jumping ship were some of the firm’s most committed customers – rewards members, whose active numbers marked a rare 4% fall compared with the prior quarter.

Former regular David White says he has stopped nearly all of his purchases with Starbucks in recent months, at times abandoning orders mid-purchase, aghast at the totals in his cart.

He says his outrage over price hikes has been bolstered by other company decisions, including its crackdown on workers seeking to unionise.

“They’ve gotten too full of themselves,” the 65-year-old from Wisconsin says. “They’re trying to squeeze their day-to-day customers too much and profit via their employees and prices.”

For Andrew Buckley, the decision to quit the firm was down to prices, but he notes that the various noise surrounding the firm on political issues has left a bad taste in his mouth.

“This is a coffee shop. They serve coffee,” he says. “I don’t want to see them in the news.”

On a conference call to discuss the firm’s latest results, Starbucks chief executive Laxman Narasimhan said sales had been disappointing, citing in part more cautious customers, while acknowledging that “recent misinformation” had weighed on sales, especially in the Middle East.

He defended the brand and vowed to bring back business with new menu items such as boba drinks and an egg sandwich with pesto, speedier service in stores, and a flurry of promotions.

Chief financial officer Rachel Ruggeri said this week that the company was seeing signs of revival, noting growth in active rewards members.

The firm does not intend to back away from its expansion plans, but she warned investors that the challenges would not quickly disappear.

“We do believe it’s going to take some time,” she said.

The firm’s struggles have stirred debate about whether they are a canary-in-the-coal-mine kind of warning that the go-lucky consumer spending that has powered the world’s largest economy in recent years might be abruptly losing steam.

Like Starbucks, a slew of other big fast-food brands, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King, have reported softening sales, announcing discount sprees to try to revive enthusiasm.

But many analysts believe Starbucks’ sales drop reveals more about the company than the wider economy.

“When you look back and you see the magnitude of the shift… that occurred in such a short time, that doesn’t usually point to something that’s macro in nature or price point-related in nature,” says Sharon Zackfia, head of consumer at investment management firm William Blair, who raised concern in a note to clients last month that the brand might be losing its lustre.

The company was already under pressure from a years-long fight with union activists, who have raised concerns about pay and working conditions that clashed with the firm’s progressive reputation.

Then in late October, after Starbucks sued the union for a social media post expressing “solidarity” with Palestinians, the dispute landed it in the middle of debates over Israel’s war in Gaza, sparking global boycott calls that took on a life of their own.

Starbucks – not the only American brand to face a backlash over the issue and not a target of the official Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – has blamed misinformation about its views, after issuing a blanket statement condemning violence in the region.

It has also taken a different tack with the union in recent months – the two sides are now issuing joint press releases claiming progress on contract negotiations.

But the boycott calls crescendoed on social media in January and continue to linger, according to a Bank of America analysis.

Last month, YouTube comedian Danny Gonzalez apologised to his 6.5 million followers for the incidental presence of a Starbucks cup in a recent video after a backlash.

Though Starbucks executives have remained relatively quiet on the topic during sales discussions, as Ms Zackfia puts it: “You’d really be putting your head in the sand not to think that it has had an effect.”

Bank of America analyst Sara Senatore says she had initially been sceptical that the boycott would have a major impact, but other causes seemed insufficient to explain such a sudden and severe sales drop, noting that the firm’s price hikes do not stand out from their competitors’.

She says a quick turnaround could be a tall order, comparing the impact to the brand crisis that faced Chipotle after its stores were found responsible for sparking e-coli outbreaks, which took years to shake off.

“All you can do is try to dampen the sound or essentially overcome it with other things,” she says. “It may just be a matter of time.”

On a recent sunny mid-day in New York, where the density of Starbucks cafes is among the highest in the world, it was hard to gauge the state of the business.

Some shops appeared empty, until customers darting in for a mobile order punctuated the calm.

Even loyal drinkers said they saw opportunities for improvement.

Maria Soare, a 24-year-old in town from Washington, DC, still picks up drinks from the company three or four times a week, but her patronage has dimmed since the pandemic, when it served as a reason to get out of the house.

She says recent price hikes “sting”, and advises the company to “change the food”.

For friends Veronica and Maria Giorgia, the feel of the company has changed.

Veronica, 16, says she doesn’t go as much anymore due to a combination of better options elsewhere, the jump in prices, and recent protests by labour activists.

“That opened my eyes,” she says. “It feels more like a chain.”

And while Maria Giorgia remains a regular customer, the 17-year-old says her perception of the firm has shifted.

“It used to be cool in middle school. Now it’s just convenient.”

The far right could make big gains in EU elections. What would that mean?

By Katya Adler@BBCkatyaadlerEurope Editor

“The far right is on the march” is something you often hear said across Europe right now. “This feels like Europe of the 1930s.”

So perhaps it is no surprise that with 350 million people across the European Union currently voting for their direct representatives in the European Parliament, there’s nail-biting by many a Eurocrat in Brussels. But are fears – and media headlines – exaggerated?

Millennials and first-time Gen Z voters are among those predicted to pull rightwards. Figures gathered recently for the Financial Times newspaper suggest around a third of young French voters and Dutch under-25s, and 22% of young German voters, favour their country’s far right. This is a significant increase since the last European Parliament election in 2019.

Far-right parties are predicted to take up to a quarter of the total seats, and if they do win big, the optics will be clear. But the granular detail of what impact it could have on life and policy-making in the EU is more nuanced.

And that is because the nationalist right itself is nuanced – different nationalist right politicians in different countries hold different positions. Some have toned down former far-rightist rhetoric to try to widen their appeal to voters.

So, what might change in Europe if the European Parliament swings to the right?

Push-back against green policies

The EU has long nursed a huge ambition – to be ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to the environment. But Europe’s voters are increasingly concerned about the cost of a green transition.

Take the recent mass farmers’ protests. Tractors from all over the EU descended on Brussels and the European Parliament, bringing them to a standstill. The protesters said EU and national environmental laws and bureaucracy were putting them out of business.

Nationalist-right parties in France, the Netherlands and Poland jumped on this bandwagon, spotting an opportunity to pitch their claim to be representatives of “ordinary people” against EU and national “out-of-touch elites”.

The result? The EU rolled back or rescinded several key environmental rules, including stricter regulations on the use of pesticides.

Environmentalists worry the EU has now avoided specifying how farmers should contribute to its vision of slashing 90% of emissions by 2040. They believe a shift rightwards in the European Parliament could mean more watering down or endless delaying of green objectives.

Voices for national sovereignty

Most European voters say they don’t want to leave the EU, though they have plenty of gripes about how it works. Instead, right-wing nationalist parties are promising a different EU – more power for nation states, less “Brussels interference” in everyday life.

If their voice gets louder in the European Parliament, it could make it harder for the European Commission to take on more competencies from national governments, like health policy.

Obstruction around asylum…

You’d think this would be an obvious one, and that a swing to the right in the EP would lead to tougher EU legislation on migration.

Take far-right leader in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders. His PVV party became the largest group in the Dutch parliament this autumn after national elections. He’s promised “the toughest migration law of all time”, and exit polls suggest the PVV will do well in this election.

But it’s worth bearing in mind that EU migration and asylum policy has already long been nicknamed Fortress Europe. A huge priority is to keep people out. There’s been a flurry of economic deals with non-EU countries like Tunisia, Morocco, Libya and Turkey to crack down on people-smugglers sending over economic migrants or asylum-seekers.

What a bigger grouping of the hard-right in the European Parliament could change, though, are so-called solidarity policies.

EU countries are each supposed to take a quota of asylum seekers, or at least pay significant contributions, to help fellow EU members like Italy and Greece, where most migrants land by people smuggler’s boat. But nationalist-right MEPs may refuse to play ball, as we’ve already seen with populist nationalist governments in Hungary and, until recently, in Poland.

…and enlargement

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has prompted leaders across the EU to talk about making their “neighbourhood” more secure.

Not just by spending more on defence but by speeding up the process – or at least showing more concrete enthusiasm – for neighbouring countries to join the EU. I’m talking here about Ukraine, Georgia and western Balkan nations like Kosovo and Serbia, the latter being of great concern to Europeans because of its closeness to Moscow.

But the nationalist right is generally less than keen. They fear the costs of enlargement. A bigger EU, with more poorer countries in it, would likely need a bigger budget, with chunkier contributions from comparatively richer member states.

It would also mean members of the bloc who’ve received considerable EU subsidies like Romania, Poland and also French farmers (still the biggest single beneficiary of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy) would probably no longer benefit. Hard to imagine them getting a look-in if massive, largely rural agricultural Ukraine – nicknamed the breadbasket of Europe – were to join the EU, for example.

What’s unlikely to change

Security and defence tends to be viewed as a hobby horse of the right, but in these days of conflict, most in the EU agree that defence spending is a priority. Their conviction has been hardened by the prospect of Donald Trump returning to the White House as US president.

Since World War Two, Europeans have looked to the US to have their back in terms of security. Just look at how pivotal Washington has been in providing aid to Ukraine.

But Mr Trump has been clear that if he wins the presidency come the US elections in November, Europe should take nothing for granted.

EU’s leaders are convinced that they need to be better prepared.

Europe’s nationalist right will remain split

Ukraine is a clear example of why generalising about the hard right as if it’s a uniform movement can be very misleading.

It’s true, hard-right parties scattered across the EU say they intend to change the bloc from the inside. If they win more MEPs this week and if they make it into more national governments, that gives them a bigger voice in the European Parliament, at key EU ministers meetings and at EU leaders’ summits.

But it’s also true the impact they have on the EU depends on how united those political parties are. Ukraine is one example where they are deeply split.

Strains inside Italy’s government, encapsulate these tensions. Matteo Salvini and his hard-right Lega Party is in coalition government with right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy group.

She is an avowed Atlanticist who has pledged ongoing military and economic aid to Kyiv. Mr Salvini, on the other hand, is more typical of hard rights nationalists in Europe: somewhat USA-sceptic, closer to Moscow – like Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party.

In the past, Matteo Salvini has been fond of posting photos on social media of his visits to Russia, including one famously showing him posing in front of the Kremlin, in a T-shirt emblazoned with the image of Vladimir Putin.

Another obstacle to the co-ordination of European hard-right parties is leadership. The nationalist right tends to favour outspoken, charismatic national leaders, proclaiming “Italy first” or “Make Spain great again” or “France for the French”, depending on the country they come from.

Italy’s Georgia Meloni won’t want to be told by France’s Marine Le Pen what to fight for in Brussels. Ms Le Pen would be unlikely to accept having her wings clipped by Hungary’s Victor Orban, and so on.

Who are the far right, anyway?

Part of the problem here is terminology. Who are the hard right? How far right-of-centre must your political grouping be to be labelled “far right”?

Right-wing nationalist supporters complain mainstream media and traditional politicians are too quick to use the term.

Italy’s Giorgia Meloni is a high-profile example of a former “far right” figure that has sought to become more mainstream, to attract a broader spectrum of voters.

Where once she openly praised Italy’s former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, now she cites former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher as an inspiration. Marine Le Pen has tried to erase a reputation for racism and anti-semitism amongst her followers. And before the Dutch general election last year, Geert Wilders dropped the extreme anti-Islam attitude critics associated him with, to win big.

Muddying political definitions even further is that centre-right politicians across Europe have increasingly begun to ape “far right” rhetoric on hot button issues such as migration or law and order. By doing that, they hope to hold on to voters who might be attempted by the hard right.

This was the case with long-term prime minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, for example, and also France’s President Emmanuel Macron. His recent migration law was only passed in the French parliament with the support of the hard right. The French media debated whether Marine Le Pen had “won” – just as she’s hoping to do in this week European parliamentary election.

Dozens killed by suspected DR Congo rebels in spate of attacks

By Natasha BootyBBC News

At least 45 civilians have been killed in a spate of attacks over the past week across the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled North Kivu province.

Decades of fighting between armed groups over lucrative gold and mineral deposits has devastated the region, forcing millions from their homes.

The Congolese government has not confirmed who was responsible for this week’s killings, but multiple local sources say Islamic State-linked Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) were to blame.

The attackers targeted several villages in the region surrounding the city of Beni, to which many people have since fled.

Reports suggest that the worst-hit district was Mamove, where a number of homes were also torched and motorbikes were stolen.

“The [death] toll could rise as the search continues, the population is fleeing and heading towards supposedly secure areas,” Leon Siviwe, an administrative leader in Beni, told the AFP news agency on Wednesday.

The ADF was created across the border in eastern Uganda in the 1990s, and took up arms against the country’s long-serving president, Yoweri Museveni, alleging government persecution of Muslims.

Its alliance with Islamic State is thought to have begun about six years ago, but analysts say those links are tenuous.

An online post by Islamic State says one of this week’s attacks in North Kivu targeted Christians.

Joint military operations by Ugandan and Congolese forces against ADF rebels began in 2021 but they have failed to stop attacks on civilians.

Another rebel group, the M23, has recently revived its deadly campaign in eastern Democratic Republic and has been seizing territory from government forces.

Rwanda is widely understood to be backing the M23 rebels, but Kigali vehemently denies this.

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Giorgia Meloni gets personal as Italy votes in EU poll

By Laura GozziBBC News, Rome

Italians have started voting on the third of four days of European elections held across 27 EU countries.

Although the vote is for the next European Parliament, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is hoping the result will tighten her grip on Italian politics. She has even urged voters to “just write Giorgia” on their ballots.

Most EU countries are voting on Sunday, after a turbulent few weeks in which two European leaders and several other politicians come under physical attack.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was assaulted in the street in Copenhagen on Friday evening, ahead of Sunday’s Danish vote.

She has suffered minor whiplash, her office says, and a suspect has been remanded in custody.

Leaders across Europe have united in shock at the latest attack, in the middle of elections involving a potential 373 million European voters.

Last month Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico survived an attempt on his life and only recently was allowed out of hospital. Several German political figures have also been targeted.

These elections are not supposed to have a bearing on national politics, but the reality is very different, especially in Italy.

Ms Meloni, who leads the far-right Brothers of Italy (FdI), was appointed prime minister in 2022 and has taken the rare step of putting her name at the top of her party’s ballot, even though she has no intention of taking up a seat in the European Parliament.

Giorgia Meloni has enjoyed steady poll-ratings since becoming prime minister in 2022, buoyed by a fragmentated centrist and left-wing opposition and the gradual decline of her junior coalition partner, Matteo Salvini’s once-powerful populist League party, whose voters are being lured by the pull of FdI.

In a bid to reverse the trend, Mr Salvini has been pushing his party’s rhetoric further to the right.

The League’s electoral posters – denouncing all manner of EU-backed initiatives, from electric cars to tethered caps on plastic bottles – have attracted some ridicule, but also considerable attention.

Mr Salvini’s lead candidate, Roberto Vannacci, has had the same effect. The army general was dismissed following self-publication of a book in which he expressed homophobic and racist views. Since becoming a League candidate, he has doubled down on them.

Hardly a day goes by when Roberto Vannacci’s messages are not amplified by the media. That could translate into votes for the League, but if it doesn’t then trouble might be in store for Mr Salvini, whose leadership is beginning to be questioned.

The same scrutiny will be applied to the results of the left-wing Democratic Party (PD), whose leader Elly Schlein will hope to match the 19% of the vote it won in the 2019 elections if she is to stay in her post.

Further to the left, all eyes will be on Ilaria Salis – a self-described antifascist activist who has been detained in Hungary since 2023 on charges of participating in the beating of three far-right militants and being part of a criminal association. She is now running on the Left/Greens platform.

Italians will be able to cast their votes until late on Sunday evening when elsewhere in Europe the elections have already wrapped up.

The Netherlands voted on Thursday, and a Dutch exit poll suggested a tight race between a left-green alliance, narrowly ahead of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party. An estimated turnout of 47% was the highest since 1989, rebutting any suggestion that voters had tired of politics.

Irish and Czech voters went to the polls on Friday.

Slovakia, Latvia and Malta also vote on Saturday, while Czechs vote for a second day.

Several Czech parties from different political groups in the European Parliament have formed a joint candidate list as a “cordon sanitaire” to counter populists from the ANO party of former Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

Germany is among the EU countries voting on Sunday, and latest polls indicate that the centre-right CDU/CSU may leapfrog Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party.

His party is fighting for second place with coalition partners the Greens and far-right opposition party Alternative for Germany (AfD). The AfD has been involved in a series of recent scandals over foreign interference, espionage and accusations of Nazism.

In France, which has the second largest number of MEPs in the parliament after Germany, President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party is also vying for second place with a resurgent Socialist party under top candidate Raphaël Glucksmann.

Both parties are trailing Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN), which is consistently polling above 30%.

Calling for a high turnout in a TV interview on the penultimate day of the campaign, Mr Macron warned that “Europe has never been so threatened” by the surge of the right.

Other leaders have adopted a similarly urgent tone before the EU vote.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who is recovering from surgery at home after last month’s assassination attempt, returned to the political scene this week with a well-timed attack on Slovakia’s liberal opposition, the “anti-government media” and foreign-funded NGOs which he said had created a climate of hatred and intolerance that made the shooting possible.

Hungary’s Viktor Orban – who has been the most vocal opponent of EU support for Ukraine – warned that Europe was reaching a point of no return in terms of preventing conflict from spilling beyond the borders of Ukraine, and hit out at what he called the EU’s “war psychosis”.

Polls in Italy will be the last to close at 23:00 (21:00 GMT) on Sunday.

A projection, combining the first provisional results from some EU member states with estimates for the rest, will come out soon after.

UN confirms 11 staff detained by Houthis in Yemen

The UN has called for the immediate release of 11 of its personnel who have been detained by the Houthi movement in Yemen.

The employees were taken in various parts of the conflict-torn country, in what appears to be a co-ordinated crackdown.

UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said the world body was pursuing all available channels to secure their safe and unconditional release as rapidly as possible.

The armed group sees itself as part of an Iranian-led “axis of resistance” against Israel, the US and the wider West, and has declared its support for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The Houthis have been targeting commercial shipping in the Red Sea, triggering retaliatory air strikes by the US and its allies.

Several employees of other international organisations were also detained, reports quoting officials from Yemen’s internationally recognised government said.

Phones and computers were seized during the raids on the workers’ homes and offices, which come after months of Houthi attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea.

The Mayyun Organisation for Human Rights said Houthi intelligence officers targeted 18 aid workers from several groups in Amran, Hudaydah, Saada and Sana’a at the same time.

Officials told Reuters news agency that multiple members of the US-backed National Democratic Institute (NDI) were targeted.

The detentions demonstrate the risks facing aid workers in a country where a decade-long civil war has reportedly killed more than 150,000 people and triggered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

They come as the Houthis face increasing economic difficulties and air strikes carried out by a US-led coalition.

The armed group controls the capital of Yemen – Sana’a – and the country’s north-west, running a de facto government which collects taxes and prints money.

The internationally recognised government of Yemen is based in the southern port of Aden.

Confident Putin warns Europe is ‘defenceless’

By Steve RosenbergRussia editor

Ever since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has been engaged in nuclear sabre-rattling, dropping a series of not-so-subtle hints that trying to defeat a nuclear power like Russia could have disastrous consequences for those who try.

Today President Putin claimed that Russia wouldn’t need to use a nuclear weapon to achieve victory in Ukraine.

He was being interviewed at a panel discussion at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum: the annual event often described as ‘Russia’s Davos’.

There are few occasions when Mr Putin looks dovish compared to the person asking him the questions.

But when the person asking the questions is Sergei Karaganov it would be hard not to. Mr Karaganov is a hawkish Russian foreign policy expert. Last year he called for a pre-emptive nuclear strike. Today he suggested holding a “nuclear pistol” to the temple of the West over Ukraine.

President Putin wasn’t so extreme in his language.

But he is no dove.

The Kremlin leader said he did not rule out changes to Russia’s nuclear doctrine: the document which sets out the conditions under which Russia would use nuclear weapons.

“This doctrine is a living tool and we are carefully watching what is happening in the world around us and do not exclude making changes to this doctrine. This is also related to the testing of nuclear weapons.”

And he delivered a warning to those European countries who’ve been supporting Ukraine: Russia’s has “many more [tactical nuclear weapons] than there are on the European continent, even if the United States brings theirs over.”

“Europe does not have a developed [early warning system],” he added. “In this sense they are more or less defenceless.”

Tactical nuclear weapons are smaller warheads designed to destroy targets without widespread radioactive fallout.

This has been a surreal week in St Petersburg. On the one hand, a huge international economic forum has been taking place , sending the message that Russia is ready for cooperation and that, despite everything, it’s business as usual.

Clearly, though, it is not business as usual. Russia is waging war in Ukraine, a war which is now in its third year; as a result, Russia is the most heavily sanctioned country in the world.

And, right now, tensions are soaring between Russia and the West.

Earlier this week, at a meeting with international news agency chiefs in St Petersburg, President Putin suggested that Russia might supply advanced conventional long-range weapons to others to strike Western targets.

This was his response to Nato allies allowing Ukraine to strike Russian territory with Western-supplied weapons.

He repeated the idea again today.

“We are not supplying those weapons yet, but we reserve the right to do so to those states or legal entities which are under certain pressure, including military pressure, from the countries that supply weapons to Ukraine and encourage their use on Russian territory.”

There were no details. No names.

So, to which parts of the world might Russia deploy its missiles?

“Wherever we think it is necessary, we’re definitely going to put them. As President Putin made clear, we’ll investigate this question,” Vladimir Solovyov, one of Russian state TV’s most prominent hosts, tells me.

“If you are trying to harm us you have to be pretty sure we have enough opportunities and chances to harm you.”

“In the West some will say we’ve heard this sabre-rattling before,” I respond, “and that it’s a bluff.”

“It’s always a bluff. Until the time when it is not,” Mr Solovyov replies. “You can keep thinking that Russia is bluffing and then, one day, there is no more Great Britain to laugh at. Don’t you ever try to push the Russian bear thinking that ‘Oh, it’s a kitten, we can play with it.”

CEOs from Europe and America used to flock to the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. Not any more. Instead I saw delegations from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America. Russia has been using this year’s event to try to show that, despite Western sanctions, there are plenty of countries in the world who are ready to do business with Russia.

And what have we learnt in St Petersburg about Vladimir Putin?

That he sounds increasingly confident and determined not to back down. He seems to believe that in the current standoff between Russia and the West, it is the West that will blink first.

Why Kenya’s president wants people to love the taxman

By Basillioh RukangaBBC News, Nairobi

Kenyans are learning the truth of the old adage that taxes – along with death – are the only two certainties of life.

This is because President William Ruto is trying to convince them that they should hand over more of their hard-earned cash, saying that, if anything, they are under-taxed.

He recently argued that Kenyans have “been socialised to believe they pay the highest taxes” when in fact, he added, the overall tax burden was lower compared to some other countries in Africa and beyond.

“We must be able to enhance our taxes,” he said, but acknowledged that it was “going to be difficult”.

Since he was elected president in August 2022, Mr Ruto’s government has raised a host of taxes while also introducing new ones.

Taxes on salaries have gone up, the sales tax on fuel has doubled and people are also paying a new housing levy and are due to pay more for health insurance.

Mr Ruto’s message is that if people want better public services and a reduction in the country’s debt burden then they have to pay up.

But many are angry.

The imposition of some of the new taxes, amid the rising cost of living, led to deadly street protests last year.

Today, ordinary conversations are often dominated by the pain of taxation, and the president’s view has exasperated Kenyans who already feel overburdened.

Mr Ruto said that last year government tax revenue amounted to 14% of the value of the economy as a whole, a figure that is known as the tax-to-GDP ratio, whereas the number for Kenya’s “peers in the continent is on average between 22% and 25%”.

This “means our taxes are way below those of our peers”, the president insisted.

However, it was not exactly clear which countries he meant by “peers”. While it is true that South Africa, Morocco, Mauritius and Namibia all have tax-to-GDP ratios close to or higher than 20%, many others, including Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia, do not.

According to an African Union report, in 2021 the average for the continent as a whole was 15.6% – not much higher than Kenya’s.

Opposition figure and lawyer Miguna Miguna summed up the incredulity that many felt.

“Kenyans are overtaxed, repressed, exploited and abused,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter, adding that people “don’t receive even 1% worth of value from our taxes!”

Despite the uproar, more taxes will be coming – the president has made a case for increasing taxes in the next couple of years to at least a 20% of GDP by the end of his term in 2027.

He has defended the raising of more taxes in order to boost government revenue and reduce borrowing. Kenya has a national debt of nearly $80bn (£62bn) much of it inherited from previous administrations.

“The last regime went on a borrowing spree. Our regime is balancing, paying off debts plus re-generating the economy,” government spokesman Isaac Mwaura told the BBC.

Already, the government’s budget proposal for the next financial year introduces new measures that seem unpopular, including a mandatory tax for car owners and sales taxes on bread as well as financial transactions.

But economist Odhiambo Ramogi argues that focusing on the tax-to-GDP ratio is the wrong remedy.

He says that rather than taxes being too low, tax collection is inefficient and poor governance means that a lot of state spending goes to waste.

The economist points out that despite taxes going up the tax-to-GDP ratio has actually fallen, suggesting that more people are withholding their money.

He attributes this to the effect of the “Laffer curve” – a theory that tries to explain the relationship between taxes and revenue. It suggests that when they go beyond a certain point they reduce people’s incentive to work and pay up.

“High tax rates naturally lead to low collection,” he says.

Mr Ramogi says that countries in the West with high tax rates generally have good public services to show for it.

In contrast, he argues, despite there being many taxes and levies waiting for Kenyans, people still have to “pay school fees, hospital bills, you have to pay for all public services, it’s double taxation all across the board”.

He says that in order to grow, Kenya should first ensure taxes are properly collected and utilised, as well as eliminate corruption – a problem which the government spokesman says President Ruto is already “very clear” in addressing.

Ken Gichinga, the chief executive of analyst firm Mentoria Economics, adds that higher taxes may be self-defeating as they increase the cost of doing business, which leads to closures, job losses and subsequently a reduction in the amount raised from income tax.

There are also some who challenge the logic of the president’s case that raising the tax burden to match some other African countries will necessarily produce a better economic outcome.

Economist and former MP Billow Kerrow mentions two of Africa’s largest economies: Nigeria, which in 2021 had a low tax-to-GDP ratio, and South Africa, which had one of the highest on the continent. In other words, the tax rate is not an indication of the strength of an economy.

“The crazy focus by the government on tax is completely misleading,” Mr Kerrow told KTN television.

But the president appears determined.

“I have a lot of explaining to do,” he said.

“People will complain but I know finally they will appreciate… We have to begin to live within our means.”

You may also be interested in:

  • The ‘tax collector’ president sparking Kenyans’ anger
  • Africa’s ‘flying presidents’ under fire
  • Protest and pain – Kenya’s month-long doctors’ strike

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Body found in search for presenter Michael Mosley

By Joe Inwood in Symi and Andre Rhoden-Paul in LondonBBC News

A body has been found in the search for TV and radio presenter Dr Michael Mosley on the Greek island of Symi.

The 67-year-old went missing on Wednesday after setting off on a walk from Agios Nikolaos beach.

The body – which has yet to be formally identified – was found in a rocky area beside Agia Marina beach on Sunday.

Symi’s mayor said the body was found as teams were searching the coastline with cameras.

A police source told BBC News the deceased had been dead “for a number of days”.

The body was found next to a fence. It has not been moved from the location, a few metres away from where children are playing in the water at Agia Marina beach.

A bar manager who was with journalists found the body, PA news agency reported, after the island’s mayor “saw something” by the fence of the bar and alerted staff.

Agia Marina bar manager Ilias Tsavaris said: “They called me, they said ‘You know what, we saw something from far away, can you go and check’. So I went there.

“So when I walked up I saw something like a body.”

Rescuers had been searching the area every day with helicopters, he added.

Greek authorities had been conducting an extensive search for Dr Mosley over five days amid high temperatures.

The effort has included firefighters, dogs, helicopters, drones, local people and officers from Symi and outside the island.

On Saturday, BBC News obtained CCTV footage showing one of the last-known sightings of a man believed to Dr Mosley walking with an umbrella next to the marina in the village of Pedi on Wednesday.

His four children had also joined his wife, Dr Clare Bailey Mosley, on the island.

Dr Mosley was first reported missing after he left Agios Nikolaos beach to set off on a walk at about 1330 local time (11:30 BST).

His wife later reported him missing.

Dr Mosley studied medicine in London and qualified as a doctor and for the last two decades has been working as a presenter, documentary maker, journalist and author.

He is known for his TV programmes including Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, and BBC Radio 4’s Just One Thing podcast.

He has regularly appeared on BBC One’s The One Show and ITV’s This Morning, and was a columnist for the Daily Mail.

He is known for popularising the 5:2 and the Fast 800 diets, which advocate for intermittent fasting and low-carbohydrate meals.

His diets have attracted a lot of attention in the past, both for their methods and scientific accuracy.

While qualified as a doctor, Mosley was no longer registered as a medical doctor.

Palestinians describe chaos and carnage in hostage rescue operation

By Thomas MackintoshBBC News

Palestinians living in the densely populated area where Israeli hostages were being held by Hamas have described the terror of coming under intense bombardment and heavy gunfire during the rescue operation.

On Saturday Israel’s forces, backed by air strikes, fought intense gun battles with Hamas around the Nuseirat refugee camp to free four hostages.

Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrei Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, who had been abducted from an Israeli music festival eight months ago have been returned to Israel.

But, the rescue operation also saw scores of Palestinians killed in and around a refugee camp, including women and children, the Hamas-run health ministry said.

One man, Abdel Salam Darwish told the BBC he was in a market buying vegetables when he heard fighter jets from above and the sound of gunfire.

“Afterwards, people’s bodies were in pieces, scattered in the streets, and blood stained the walls,” he said.

The return of the hostages to their families has sparked jubilation in Israel and world leaders including US President Joe Biden have welcomed the news of their release.

But there has been criticism of the deadly cost of the operation inside Gaza, with European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell saying he condemned it “in the strongest terms”.

“Reports from Gaza of another massacre of civilians are appalling,” he wrote on X.

An Israeli minister said he should condemn Hamas instead.

Images from the Nuseirat refugee camp area show intense bombardment and people mourning the dead.

Two hospitals in Gaza, al-Aqsa hospital and al-Awda hospital said they had counted 70 bodies between them. The Hamas-run health ministry released names of 86 people it says were killed during the two-hour operation, while Hamas’s media office put the death toll at at least 210.

Israel’s military spokesman Daniel Hagari estimated there were fewer than 100 casualties in what was a “high-risk, complex mission” based on “precise intelligence”.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said special forces operated “under heavy fire” when rescuing the hostages. One special forces officer was wounded and later died in hospital.

Videos from Gaza taken in the aftermath of the raid show scenes of carnage.

Footage from the al-Aqsa hospital shows numerous people with severe injuries laying on the ground, leaving barely any space on the blood-stained floor for doctors to move between patients.

Other video shows a frequent stream of new cases being driven in by car and ambulance and carried into the building.

The director of the Al-Awda Hospital in Nuseirat told BBC Arabic the number of dead coming to the hospital increased throughout Saturday.

Dr Marwan Abu Nasser spoke also about the lack of a morgue in the hospital to accommodate the bodies of those killed who had been taken to the hospital.

Grief in Gaza as scores killed in IDF hostage raid

One man, who said more than 40 members of his family have been killed since the conflict began in October, described to the BBC being in a house which was hit by a strike.

“As soon as these children and women entered the house, the bombing attack took place, claiming the lives of all those inside it,” he said,

“This home, which used to house approximately 30 people who then became 50, was bombed… only me, my father, my wife, and a young man survived…we are the only survivors out of 50 people.

The bloodshed on the ground prompted a rare venting of criticism at Hamas from people in Gaza.

Hassan Omar, 37, said he lamented the unnecessary loss of lives in Israeli strikes, telling the BBC: “For each Israeli hostage they could have freed 80 Palestinian prisoners and without any bloodshed – [that] is a million times better than losing 100 dead.

“My message to Hamas is stopping the loss is part of the gain, we should get rid of those who control us from Qatar hotels.”

The rescue of hostages came amid efforts for a ceasefire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been urged to reach an agreement but faces opposition from far-right allies who say military action is the only way to bring the hostages back.

Saturday’s operation is the most successful rescue of hostages by the Israeli military in this war – and analysts say it could change the calculation of a prime minister who is under increasing pressure.

In response to the military offensive in Nuseirat, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said Israel could not force its choices on the group.

He said the group would not agree to a ceasefire deal unless it achieved security for Palestinians.

During its 7 October attacks in southern Israel Hamas killed about 1,200 people and took some 251 people.

Some 116 remain in the Palestinian territory, including 41 the army says are dead.

A deal agreed in November saw Hamas release 105 hostages in return for a week-long ceasefire and some 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

On Saturday, the Hamas-run health ministry said the death toll in Gaza is now 36,801 people.

How Israel’s hostage rescue in Gaza unfolded

By Jon Donnison@jondonnisonbbcCorrespondent
Reunions after four Israeli hostages freed in IDF raid

Four hostages have been rescued by the Israeli military from central Gaza, in an operation that was weeks in the planning.

For Israelis it brought celebration and relief. For Palestinians it brought more suffering, with hospitals saying dozens of people – including children – were killed in the raid on the densely populated Nuseirat camp.

Dubbed “Seeds of Summer”, the raid was unusually carried out in the daytime – which the Israel Defense Forces says allowed it a better element of surprise.

The mid-morning timing meant the streets were busy with people shopping at a nearby market.

It also meant greater risk to Israel’s special forces, not only getting in, but especially getting out.

One special forces officer was wounded and died in hospital, Israel police said.

“It was on a scale like Entebbe,” according to the IDF’s Chief Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari referencing Israel’s rescue of 100 hostages in Uganda in 1976.

Acting on intelligence, and after crossing into Gaza from Israel, he said specialist commandos simultaneously raided two residential apartments in Nuseirat where the hostages were being held.

In one apartment was 26-year-old hostage Noa Argamani. In the other were 41-year-old Shlomi Ziv, 27-year-old Andrey Kozlov and Almog Meir Jan, 22.

Mr Hagari said they were not in cages but in locked rooms surrounded by guards.

He said Israeli commandos, having forced their way in, seized the hostages wrapping themselves around them to provide protective shields before bundling them into military vehicles outside.

As they left he said they faced fierce resistance from Palestinian fighters.

Mr Hagari said Israel’s military had planned the raid in great detail, even building mock-ups of the two apartments to train in.

The US also provided intelligence support to Israel for the operation, according to the BBC’s partner CBS News which cited two US officials.

Mobile phone video from the scene shows people diving for cover as missiles whistled in and gunfire rang out.

Later footage showed bodies strewn in the street.

Grief in Gaza as scores killed in IDF hostage raid

The raid clearly involved massive force. Doctors at the two hospital in central Gaza said they had counted more than 70 bodies.

Mr Hagari estimated less than a hundred, while the Hamas media office said more than 200 had been killed.

The BBC has been unable to verify the number of casualties.

“I have gathered the body parts of my child, my dear child” Nora Abu Khamees, sheltering in Nuseirat, told the BBC as she crumpled in tears.

“My other child is between life and death. Even my husband and my mother in law, our whole family is destroyed. This is a genocide.”

Ten-year-old Areej Al Zahdneh, speaking at a nearby hospital, told us there were airstrikes, tanks and shooting.

“We couldn’t breathe. My sister Reemaz was hit by shrapnel in her head and my five year old sister Yara was also hit my shrapnel.”

Dead in 6 hours: How Nigerian sextortion scammers targeted my son

By Joe Tidy@joetidyCyber correspondent, BBC World Service

Sextortion is the fastest-growing scam affecting teenagers globally and has been linked to more than 27 suicides in the US alone. Many of the scammers appear to be from Nigeria – where authorities are defending their actions and are under pressure to do more.

It has been two years since Jenn Buta’s son Jordan killed himself after being targeted by scammers who lured him into sending them explicit images of himself, and then tried to blackmail him.

She still can’t bring herself to change anything about his bedroom.

The 17-year-old’s basketball jerseys, clothes, posters and bedsheets are just how he left them.

The curtains are closed, and the door is shut to keep memories of him that only a parent would understand.

“It still smells like him. That’s one of the reasons I still have the door closed. I can still smell that sweat, dirt, cologne mix in this room. I’m just not ready to part with his stuff,” she said.

Jordan was contacted by sextortion scammers on Instagram.

They pretended to be a pretty girl his age and flirted with him, sending sexual pictures to coax him into sharing explicit photos of himself.

They then blackmailed him for hundreds of pounds to stop them sharing the pictures online to his friends.

Jordan sent as much money as he could and warned the sextortionists he would kill himself if they spread the images. The criminals replied: “Good… Do that fast – or I’ll make you do it.”

It was less than six hours from the time Jordan started communicating until the time he ultimately took his life.

“There’s actually a script online,” Jenn told BBC News, from her home in Michigan, in the north of the US. “And these people are just going through the script and putting that pressure on.

“And they’re doing it quick, because then they can move on to the next person, because it’s about volume.”

The criminals were tracked to Nigeria, arrested, and then extradited to the US.

Two brothers from Lagos – Samuel Ogoshi, 22, and Samson Ogoshi, 20 – are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to child sexploitation charges. Another Nigerian man linked to Jordan’s death and other cases is fighting extradition.

Jordan’s tragic story has become a touch point in the fight against the growing problem of sextortion.

Jenn is a now high-profile campaigner on TikTok – using the account Jordan set up for her – to raise awareness about the dangers of sextortion to young people. Her videos have been liked more than a million times.

It’s feared that sextortion is under-reported due to its sensitive nature. But US crime figures show cases more than doubled last year, rising to 26,700, with at least 27 boys having killed themselves in the past two years.

Researchers and law enforcement agencies point to West Africa, and particularly Nigeria, as a hotspot for where attackers are based.

In April, two Nigerian men were arrested after a schoolboy from Australia killed himself. Two other men are on trial in Lagos, after the suicides of a 15-year-old boy in the US and a 14-year-old in Canada.

In January, US cyber-company Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) highlighted a web of Nigerian TikTok, YouTube and Scribd accounts sharing tips and scripts for sextortion. Many of the discussions and videos are in Nigerian Pidgin dialect.

It’s not the first time that Nigeria’s young tech-savvy population has embraced a new wave of cyber-crime.

The term Yahoo Boys is used to describe a portion of the population that use cyber-crime to earn a living. It comes from the early 2000s wave of Nigerian Prince scam emails which spread through the Yahoo email service.

Dr Tombari Sibe, from Digital Footprints Nigeria, says cyber-fraud such as sextortion has become normalised to young people in the country: “There’s also the big problem of unemployment and of poverty.

“All these young ones who don’t really have much – it’s become almost like a mainstream activity where they don’t really think too much about the consequences. They just see their colleagues making money.”

African human rights charity Devatop has said the current methods of handling sextortion in Nigeria have failed to effectively curb the practice. And a report from NCRI said that celebrating sextortion crimes are an established part of the internet subculture in the country.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, the director of Nigeria’s National Cyber Crime Centre (NCCC) defended his police force’s actions, and insisted it was working hard to catch criminals and deter others from carrying out attacks.

Uche Ifeanyi Henry said his officers were “hitting criminals hard” and said it is “laughable” that anyone should accuse Nigeria of not taking sextortion crime seriously.

“We are giving criminals a very serious hit. A lot have been prosecuted and a lot have been arrested,” he said. “Many of these criminals are moving to neighbouring countries now because of our activity.”

The NCCC director pointed to the fact that the government has spent millions of pounds on a state-of-the-art cyber-crime centre, to show it was taking cyber-crime seriously, especially sextortion.

He said Nigerian teenagers are also being targeted, and he argued that the criminals were not just a Nigerian problem, with other sextortionists in south-east Asia. Tackling them would require global support, he said.

With that in mind, the director and his technical team are this week visiting the UK’s National Crime Agency, which last month issued a warning to children and schools about a rise in sextortion cases.

The visit is designed to improve collaboration on sextortion and other cyber-crime investigations. It follows similar recent meetings with Japanese police.

Meanwhile, Jenn Buta continues to campaign alongside Jordan’s father John DeMay. They regularly give advice to young people who may become victims.

Advice that Jenn and many law enforcement agencies regularly give people targeted by sextortionists includes:

  • Remember you are not alone and this is not your fault
  • Report the predator’s account, via the platform’s safety feature
  • Block the predator from contacting you
  • Save the profile or messages – they can help law enforcement identify and stop the predator
  • Ask for help from a trusted adult or law enforcement before sending money or more images
  • Co-operating with the predator rarely stops the blackmail and harassment – but law enforcement can

‘Spy mania’: Why is Russia accusing its own physicists of treason?

By Sergei GoryashkoBBC Russian

Russian President Vladimir Putin frequently boasts that his country is leading the world in developing hypersonic weapons, which travel at more than five times the speed of sound.

But a string of Russian physicists working on the science underlying them have been charged with treason and imprisoned in recent years, in what rights groups see as an overzealous crackdown.

Most of those arrested are elderly, and three are now dead. One was taken from his hospital bed in the late stages of cancer and died soon afterwards.

Another is Vladislav Galkin, a 68-year-old academic, whose home in Tomsk in southern Russia was raided in April 2023.

Armed men in black masks arrived at 04:00, digging through cupboards and seizing papers with scientific formulae on them, a relative says.

Mr Galkin’s wife, Tatyana, says she has told their grandchildren – who liked to play chess with him – that he’s on a business trip. She says Russia’s security service, the FSB, has forbidden her from speaking about his case.

Since 2015, 12 physicists have been arrested who are all associated in some way with hypersonic technology or with institutions that work on it.

They are all charged with high treason, which can include passing state secrets to foreign countries.

Russian treason trials are held behind closed doors, so it’s not clear exactly what they are accused of.

The Kremlin has said only that “the accusations are serious” and it can’t comment further because special services are involved.

But colleagues and defence lawyers say the scientists weren’t involved in weapons development and that some of the cases are based on them openly collaborating with foreign researchers.

And critics suggest the FSB wants to create the impression foreign spies are chasing weapons secrets.

Hypersonic refers to missiles that can travel at extremely high speeds and also change direction during flight, evading air defences.

Russia says it has used two types in its war on Ukraine – the Kinzhal, launched from an aircraft, and the Zircon cruise missile.

However, Kyiv says its forces have shot down some Kinzhal missiles, raising questions about their capabilities.

As the technology has been developed and deployed, the arrests have continued.

Shortly after Mr Galkin’s arrest in April 2023, he was remanded in court on the same day as another scientist, Valery Zvegintsev, with whom he had co-authored several papers.

The state-owned news agency Tass has cited a source saying Mr Zvegintsev’s arrest may have been prompted by an article published in an Iranian journal in 2021.

Mr Galkin and Mr Zvegintsev are both named on an article about air intake mechanisms for high-speed aircraft published by the journal.

In summer 2022, the FSB arrested two colleagues from the same institute as Mr Zvegintsev – its director and the former head of a laboratory for work on aerodynamics at high-speeds.

Employees from the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (ITAM) penned an open letter in support of their three arrested colleagues.

Now removed from the institute’s website, it said they were known for “brilliant scientific results” and had “always remained faithful” to their country’s interests.

It said the work they had shared publicly had been repeatedly checked for restricted information by ITAM’s expert commission – and none had been found.

“Hypersonic is a topic you are now obliged to put people in jail for,” says Yevgeny Smirnov, a lawyer with First Division, a Russian human rights and legal organisation.

Mr Smirnov defended scientists and others accused of treason in court before he moved from Russia to Prague in 2021, fearing repercussions from his work.

He says none of the dozen scientists had anything to do with the defence sector, but were studying scientific questions such as how metals deform at hypersonic speeds or the effects of turbulence.

“This is not about making a rocket, but about the study of physical processes,” he says, and points out that findings may be used later by weapons developers.

The arrests had started a few years earlier with Vladimir Lapygin. Now 83, he was jailed in 2016 but released on parole four years later.

He had worked for 46 years for the Russian space agency’s main research institute, TsNIIMash.

Lapygin was convicted over a software package for aerodynamic calculations that he sent to a Chinese contact. He says he sent a demo version as part of discussions about potentially selling the full package on behalf of the institute.

But he maintains the version he shared did not contain any secret information, just an example that had been “repeatedly described in open publications”.

Lapygin told the BBC all those arrested apparently in connection with hypersonics “had nothing to do with” developing weapons.

Another scientist detained was Dmitry Kolker, a specialist at the Institute of Laser Physics, also in Siberia, who was arrested in 2022 while he was in hospital with advanced pancreatic cancer.

His family said the charges against him were based on lectures he had delivered in China, but that the content had been approved by the FSB and that an agent travelled with him.

Kolker died two days after his arrest, aged 54.

“There’s a conflict within the system,” says a colleague of one of the arrested scientists, who wished to remain anonymous.

Scientists are still expected to publish internationally and collaborate with foreign colleagues, “meanwhile, the FSB thinks contact with foreign scientists and writing for foreign journals is a betrayal of the Motherland”, they say.

The ITAM scientists feel the same. “We just don’t understand how to continue doing our job,” their open letter said.

“What we are rewarded for today… tomorrow becomes the reason for criminal prosecution.”

They warn that scientists are afraid to engage in some areas of research, while talented young employees are leaving science.

The letter was a rare example of public support. The other institutes where arrested scientists worked have not commented.

Other cases are also understood to relate to international collaboration.

An investigation into two other scientists was related to Hexafly, a European project to develop a hypersonic civilian aircraft, according to the lawyer Mr Smirnov, who worked on the case.

That project, now finished, was led by the European Space Agency and began in 2012.

The agency told the BBC “all technical contributions and exchanges were agreed and foreseen” in a co-operation agreement between the Russian and European parties involved.

Both scientists were sentenced to 12 years in prison last year, though Russia’s Supreme Court has ordered a retrial of one of them.

Other arrests related to a study into the aerodynamics as a space vehicle re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.

It was funded by a European Union scheme and run by the von Karman Institute of Fluid Dynamics in Belgium.

FSB investigators were concerned about a rounded cone shape that looked like a warhead in research that one of the scientists, Viktor Kudryavtsev, sent to the von Karman Institute, according to his widow, Olga.

The institute says the programme, which ran from 2011 to 2013, “very clearly excluded military research”. It says it “could not find any trace of disclosing secret information” by Kudryavtsev’s team.

Human rights groups see a pattern.

Mr Smirnov says that, in private conversations, FSB officers have admitted to him that cases about sharing hypersonic secrets were being opened “to satisfy the wishes of those higher up”.

He believes the FSB wants to give the impression that spies are hunting Russian missile secrets “to flatter the ego” of Mr Putin.

The cases come amid a wider rise in treason cases.

Sergei Davidis, who leads work supporting Russian political prisoners at the Memorial human rights centre, speaks of an “atmosphere of spy mania and isolationism”, especially since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking from Lithuania, where his organisation moved after it was banned in Russia, Mr Davidis says he believes the FSB, keen to show it is delivering, “builds up its reporting statistics through the fabrication of cases”.

But he believes there may be other factors in the arrests of scientists, such as competition for state contracts, or even a Kremlin message of dissatisfaction aimed at all scientists involved in hypersonics.

Mr Smirnov says the FSB sometimes offers more lenient sentences if suspects confess and implicate others.

Kudryavtsev was offered a plea bargain under which he would admit guilt and point the finger at someone else, according to his widow, Olga.

He refused. He died of lung cancer in 2021, aged 77, before his case came to trial.

Retired FSB General Alexander Mikhailov says the FSB “must ensure the confidentiality” of military technology.

He says “undoubtedly” that there must be “substantial grounds” for severe sentences such as the 14-year prison term handed down in May to one of the three ITAM scientists, Anatoly Maslov.

Gen Mikhailov says the current spike in treason cases is the product of the expansion of freedoms and democracy in the 1990s.

He says this led to a change in attitude from Soviet times, when he says those with access to state secrets were “thoroughly vetted” and “understood the responsibility” of disclosing them.

“Some people were talking too much and leaks appeared,” he adds.

As for Mr Galkin, it is now over a year since the masked agents arrived. His relative says he spent the first three months in solitary confinement.

Tatyana, his wife, says she is able to speak to him by phone through a glass partition and recently even considered asking to be arrested too “because he just sits there, day after day”.

“I could ask them to put me in the same pre-trial detention centre. It would be easy enough – you just have to suspect someone of something.”

Other scientists arrested in Russia:

  • Alexander Shiplyuk, 57, director of ITAM, arrested 2022, awaiting trial
  • Alexander Kuranov, former director of St Petersburg Scientific Research Enterprise for Hypersonic Systems, arrested 2021, jailed for seven years in April 2024
  • Roman Kovalyov, colleague of Vladimir Kudryavtsev at TsNIIMash, sentenced in 2020 to seven years in prison, died 2022

Price hikes and boycotts: Is trouble brewing at Starbucks?

By Natalie ShermanBBC News

Andrew Buckley, a self-described “mocha guy”, recently swore off his Starbucks habit, reeling after the firm’s latest price increase sent the cost of his drink above $6.

The 50-year-old, who works in tech sales in Idaho, had been a loyal customer for decades, treasuring his near-daily venti mocha as a little luxury that allowed him to stretch his legs during the work day.

But the company’s latest price increase crossed a line.

“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back on my feelings of inflation in general. It’s like, ‘That’s it. I can’t do it anymore,'” says Mr Buckley, who rang up customer service with complaints before heading to social media to vent.

“I just lost it,” he said. “I don’t plan to be back either.”

The decision was a sign of the bigger troubles brewing at Starbucks, which is hitting new resistance from inflation-weary customers just as fights over unionisation and protests against the company cast as a way to oppose Israel’s war in Gaza are sparking boycott calls and tarnishing the brand.

Sales at the company slumped 1.8% year-on-year globally at the start of 2024.

In the US – by far the firm’s biggest and most important market – sales at stores open at least a year dropped 3% – the biggest fall in years outside the pandemic and Great Recession.

Among those jumping ship were some of the firm’s most committed customers – rewards members, whose active numbers marked a rare 4% fall compared with the prior quarter.

Former regular David White says he has stopped nearly all of his purchases with Starbucks in recent months, at times abandoning orders mid-purchase, aghast at the totals in his cart.

He says his outrage over price hikes has been bolstered by other company decisions, including its crackdown on workers seeking to unionise.

“They’ve gotten too full of themselves,” the 65-year-old from Wisconsin says. “They’re trying to squeeze their day-to-day customers too much and profit via their employees and prices.”

For Andrew Buckley, the decision to quit the firm was down to prices, but he notes that the various noise surrounding the firm on political issues has left a bad taste in his mouth.

“This is a coffee shop. They serve coffee,” he says. “I don’t want to see them in the news.”

On a conference call to discuss the firm’s latest results, Starbucks chief executive Laxman Narasimhan said sales had been disappointing, citing in part more cautious customers, while acknowledging that “recent misinformation” had weighed on sales, especially in the Middle East.

He defended the brand and vowed to bring back business with new menu items such as boba drinks and an egg sandwich with pesto, speedier service in stores, and a flurry of promotions.

Chief financial officer Rachel Ruggeri said this week that the company was seeing signs of revival, noting growth in active rewards members.

The firm does not intend to back away from its expansion plans, but she warned investors that the challenges would not quickly disappear.

“We do believe it’s going to take some time,” she said.

The firm’s struggles have stirred debate about whether they are a canary-in-the-coal-mine kind of warning that the go-lucky consumer spending that has powered the world’s largest economy in recent years might be abruptly losing steam.

Like Starbucks, a slew of other big fast-food brands, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King, have reported softening sales, announcing discount sprees to try to revive enthusiasm.

But many analysts believe Starbucks’ sales drop reveals more about the company than the wider economy.

“When you look back and you see the magnitude of the shift… that occurred in such a short time, that doesn’t usually point to something that’s macro in nature or price point-related in nature,” says Sharon Zackfia, head of consumer at investment management firm William Blair, who raised concern in a note to clients last month that the brand might be losing its lustre.

The company was already under pressure from a years-long fight with union activists, who have raised concerns about pay and working conditions that clashed with the firm’s progressive reputation.

Then in late October, after Starbucks sued the union for a social media post expressing “solidarity” with Palestinians, the dispute landed it in the middle of debates over Israel’s war in Gaza, sparking global boycott calls that took on a life of their own.

Starbucks – not the only American brand to face a backlash over the issue and not a target of the official Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – has blamed misinformation about its views, after issuing a blanket statement condemning violence in the region.

It has also taken a different tack with the union in recent months – the two sides are now issuing joint press releases claiming progress on contract negotiations.

But the boycott calls crescendoed on social media in January and continue to linger, according to a Bank of America analysis.

Last month, YouTube comedian Danny Gonzalez apologised to his 6.5 million followers for the incidental presence of a Starbucks cup in a recent video after a backlash.

Though Starbucks executives have remained relatively quiet on the topic during sales discussions, as Ms Zackfia puts it: “You’d really be putting your head in the sand not to think that it has had an effect.”

Bank of America analyst Sara Senatore says she had initially been sceptical that the boycott would have a major impact, but other causes seemed insufficient to explain such a sudden and severe sales drop, noting that the firm’s price hikes do not stand out from their competitors’.

She says a quick turnaround could be a tall order, comparing the impact to the brand crisis that faced Chipotle after its stores were found responsible for sparking e-coli outbreaks, which took years to shake off.

“All you can do is try to dampen the sound or essentially overcome it with other things,” she says. “It may just be a matter of time.”

On a recent sunny mid-day in New York, where the density of Starbucks cafes is among the highest in the world, it was hard to gauge the state of the business.

Some shops appeared empty, until customers darting in for a mobile order punctuated the calm.

Even loyal drinkers said they saw opportunities for improvement.

Maria Soare, a 24-year-old in town from Washington, DC, still picks up drinks from the company three or four times a week, but her patronage has dimmed since the pandemic, when it served as a reason to get out of the house.

She says recent price hikes “sting”, and advises the company to “change the food”.

For friends Veronica and Maria Giorgia, the feel of the company has changed.

Veronica, 16, says she doesn’t go as much anymore due to a combination of better options elsewhere, the jump in prices, and recent protests by labour activists.

“That opened my eyes,” she says. “It feels more like a chain.”

And while Maria Giorgia remains a regular customer, the 17-year-old says her perception of the firm has shifted.

“It used to be cool in middle school. Now it’s just convenient.”

The new language changing the dating scene

By Maisie LillywhiteBBC News, West of England

Forget wanting to meet someone with a GSOH for some TLC through the local newspaper. Dating apps in the 2020s have borne a whole new dictionary of acronyms and phrases.

Technology has progressed leaps and bounds since the turn of the millennium, redefining how young people communicate with friends and, more recently, how we date.

Whereas old acronyms include the likes of GSOH (Good Sense Of Humour) and WLTM (Would Like To Meet), newly popular configurations of capital letters include ENM (Ethical Non-Monogamy), ONS (One Night Stand), and NSA (No Strings Attached).

According to Ofcom statistics published in January, more than one in 10 UK adults use online dating services; 2.49m adults use the top app, Tinder, alone.

And the rise of swiping, prompts and ghosting has brought with it a new “language”, with many young single people across the world explaining what they’re after in jumbles of capitalised letters.

Consequently, acronyms have become indecipherable to some, with one dating expert claiming singletons are in fact “shortening their reach”.

‘Off-putting’

Matt turned to online dating after coming out of a 16-year relationship three years ago, but has also tried in-person dating events.

Although he thinks it is “easier” to strike up conversation with people online, he says the connection is “so much weaker” and acronyms can be “off-putting”.

“I find the use of acronyms like FWB (Friends With Benefits) and ONS really difficult,” the PE teacher said.

“I’m not looking for that, but seeing that makes me slightly concerned as I take a princess kissing frogs approach.

“The joy of dating now is you get to date lots of different types of people and it allows me to refine what it is I’m actually looking for.

“This person is just up for ‘Yes, let’s commit immediately, or let’s not do it at all’.”

But online dating in the 2020s has opened Matt’s mind to other ways of describing himself.

After someone explained to him the breakdown of his past relationship might partly be down to conflicting star signs, the 44-year-old from Bath has started using astrology to guide his decisions on swiping right.

“It’s not my sole deciding factor, but if I see somebody who lists her star sign as being one of the top four compatible with mine, I’m more likely to pursue a conversation with that person,” said Matt, who is also a mental health coach.

‘Isolates people’

Jacob Lucas, a dating coach from Westbury in Wiltshire, said acronyms can complicate and “take away the authenticity” from the “competitive” 21st Century dating experience.

“What [the use of acronyms] does is it isolates people who don’t know what they mean,” he told the BBC.

Jacob said someone that ticks all the boxes may be looking for something “NSA”, but doesn’t know what the acronym stands for and decide they are “not going to bother” with a potential match.

As a result, it can lead to daters unintentionally “shortening their reach”, so Lucas recommends communicating your desires in plain English.

But, Jacob said, acronyms can act as a “green light” to other potential dates, especially those who are interested certain types of sexual encounters and kink communities.

Common acronyms used to communicate sexual wants on dating apps include ONS and GGG (Good, Giving and Game).

The latter means someone believes they are good in bed, give equally to their partner and are game to try new things in the bedroom.

“It’s filtering out people who don’t understand that lingo,” Jacob said.

“People who get really involved in that realm of the dating world know what those acronyms mean.

“It’s kind of like a signal, you can hit a target niche more.”

‘No idea’

Jordan has been online dating “on and off” since he turned 18.

Now 24, the mechanical engineer from Gloucester said he does not take it “super seriously”, usually describing himself using a funny one-liner.

“In terms of bios, people either don’t share a whole lot or they share too much,” Jordan said, admitting he has “absolutely no idea” what most acronyms mean.

“An ex told me what DDLG means, which I thought was strange, to put it lightly.”

Despite his confusion regarding some acronyms like DDLG (Daddy Dom Little Girl), Jordan would not let it stop him from getting to know someone.

“If I liked the look of someone, I’d just Google it or swipe right and ask later,” he said.

One concern about acronyms is the way they may “isolate” older people, who were not raised online.

Although older generations might have written a lonely hearts advertisement several decades ago, they may have no idea what modern acronyms found on the likes of Tinder, Bumble and Hinge may translate to.

“I can’t imagine how confusing it would be seeing all of these, it’s like a language you subconsciously learn,” Jordan said.

“For younger people, I feel like you would learn a lot of them through social media.”

‘Additional learning’

Jo Tucker returned to the dating world a few years ago after splitting from her husband, even dabbling in on-screen dating by appearing on Channel 4’s First Dates.

The 44-year-old from Paulton in Somerset said she struggled with the “2D-ness” of online dating, having encountered several profiles with AI-generated images.

In terms of acronyms, Jo finds them “mind-boggling”.

“GSOH I know, and I’ve learnt that ENM means ethical non-monogamy,” she said.

“I’ve absolutely matched with people before without reading the small print of them being in an open relationship, and then I’ve had to back out of meeting them.

“I think acronyms are additional learning on top of the learning curve of dating app etiquette.”

To Jo, meeting someone in person is the ideal situation.

The mum-of-three has alopecia and previously opened up to the BBC about how her condition has made her feel “evicted” from the dating scene.

“Dating is like the Wild West these days,” she said. “I would just like to meet someone relatively normal in a pub.

“Then you see them from the offset and take it all in, and can see if their shoes are rubbish.”

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Adults and teens turn to ‘dumbphones’ to cut screen time

By Emma VardyLA Correspondent, BBC News

Adults and teens concerned about their screen time are turning in their smartphones for “dumber” models.

Buried in the settings of many smartphones is the option to look up how much on average you are staring at your phone per day.

It can bring an uncomfortable realisation, that what was supposed to be a useful piece of technology has become an obsession.

“Social media is built around FOMO (fear of missing out), so I felt like I couldn’t get off it,” 16-year-old Luke Martin, from Canada, told the BBC.

“Instantly I got Instagram and it was a downward spiral.”

Luke is not alone.

According to a study by Harvard University, using social networking sites lights up the same part of the brain that is also triggered when taking an addictive substance. This has raised concerns about phone habits among youth.

In the UK, research by Ofcom estimates that around a quarter of children aged five to seven years old now have their own smartphone.

Links have been shown in some studies between use of social media and a negative effect on mental health – especially in children.

Some campaigners want age limits to be introduced for smartphone use. Others, like Luke, are choosing to swap their smartphones for much simpler devices, so-called “dumbphones”.

His new phone only has texts, calls, maps, and a few other limited tools.

“My friends’ usage is like four to five hours I think, and that’s how much mine used to be before I got this,” he said.

“Now mine’s like 20 minutes a day which is really good because I only use it for what I need it for.”

Parents are also turning to dumbphones, not only for their children, but to help themselves be more present for their families.

Lizzy Broughton, who has a five-year-old son, recently bought an old-school style Nokia “flip” phone.

“It helped me recalibrate my own habits, I have way more quality time with my son,” she explained.

She says that when it’s time for him to get his own phone, she’ll choose a similarly pared-down model.

“It doesn’t feel like the best idea to just start with a smartphone,” she said. “It’s like we’re handing over the world, like try to figure out how to navigate that.”

These are dumbphones, the low-tech devices on trend

Sales of dumbphones have been increasing in North America. At Dumbwireless in Los Angeles, store-owners Daisy Krigbaum and Will Stults cater to customers looking for low-tech devices.

“We have a lot of parents looking to get their kid that first phone, and they don’t want them drifting off on the internet,” he said.

But giving up the smartphone is easier said than done. Mr Stults said some schools require pupils to have certain apps. And it is difficult to hold the line when children see their friends being given expensive smartphones, said Ms Broughton.

“It’s going to require a community of parents to actually be like, can we do this differently?” she said.

One workaround is a device called “unpluq”, which you tap against the phone to wirelessly block certain apps, like social media.

“Parents can control the smartphone with this tag, and also monitor the usage,” Mr Stults said.

There are several phones that have now been developed particularly for users who want to avoid an addiction to mindless scrolling.

Chris Kaspar founded the company Techless to develop an “intentionally boring” but sleek device that looks much like an iPhone. The latest version is dubbed the “Wisephone II”.

“It has no icons, just words, two colours, and two fonts.” He describes it as “very peaceful, very tranquil”.

It will have some limited third-party tools, such as the taxi application Uber, but no social media.

“We’re asking this question—what’s actually good for us?” Mr Kaspar said.

He first developed the phone with his teenage foster daughters in mind and says 25% of their sales are to children, but that it is marketed to adults.

“If you have a phone that’s branded as a kids’ device there’s some shame associated with that. So we made a very adult, sophisticated, Apple-esque, really nice device,” he said.

With revenue from apps and social-media advertisement in the billions of dollars, the big companies have little motivation to encourage different habits, he said.

Meanwhile, Canadian teen Luke says he is planning to stick with his new device, much to the amusement of friends.

“They think it’s pretty weird but at this point I’m like it doesn’t really matter because it’s helped me so much,” he said.

“It’s definitely taken me into a better spot right now.”

CCTV appears to show missing Michael Mosley leaving village

By Joe InwoodKostas KallergisBBC News
New CCTV appears to show Michael Mosley walking towards rocky hills

New CCTV of a man believed to be missing TV and radio presenter Michael Mosley on the Greek island of Symi has been seen by the BBC.

The footage appears to show one of the last-known sightings of the 67-year-old walking with an umbrella next to the marina in the village of Pedi on Wednesday, heading towards rocky hills.

The mountainous terrain is described as “not easy” by those involved with the search.

Dr Mosley, known for his TV programmes and BBC Radio 4’s Just One Thing podcast, vanished four days ago while on holiday – after leaving a beach on foot.

A search and rescue operation, involving helicopters and drones, continues.

Search and rescue teams continue looking for Michael Mosley

The new image appears to show the man in good form and walking steadily, an unnamed police officer told BBC News.

This is believed to be one of the last two CCTV sightings of the man with the umbrella before he left the village.

Earlier on Saturday, firefighters started searching a 4 mile (6.5km) radius over a mountainous area that is surrounded by sea.

Asked if there had been any sign of Dr Mosley, he said there has been “nothing”.

One theory that has emerged is that Dr Mosley was trying to take a much longer route than previously thought, passing over miles of exposed hillside.

Dr Mosley’s accommodation was in the main town about 1 mile from Pedi.

Dr Mosely’s movements have been pieced together from a series of CCTV images.

A man believed to be the broadcaster was seen on Pedi’s main street holding an umbrella about 20 minutes after leaving the beach.

A member of the rescue team described the search as a “race against time” and said he could be “anywhere”.

His four children have arrived on Symi to help with the search. His wife Dr Clare Bailey Mosley has also been searching the island joined by her British friends, Symi’s mayor said.

All patrol boats, private boats and commercial boats near the island have been searching for Dr Mosley, Symi’s coastguard said, while police and firefighters have been using drones and a sniffer dog to try to locate the missing presenter.

Divers have been “looking into the water” with the help of the Hellenic Coast Guard.

Symi’s mayor Eleftherios Papakaloudoukas said the search will continue until Dr Mosley is found.

He added he was unsure why the missing presenter would try to make a long, potentially arduous journey in such heat, but he hoped the presenter is found “safe and alive”.

Greek police said Dr Mosley left his wife on the beach on Wednesday, before setting off on a walk to the centre of the island.

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

An appeal saying he was missing was posted on a local Facebook group on Wednesday, alongside a picture of Dr 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.

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.

Before moving into TV, Dr Mosley studied medicine in London and qualified as a doctor but for the last couple of decades has been working as a presenter, documentary maker, journalist and author.

He writes a column for the Daily Mail and his TV programmes also include Channel 4 show Michael Mosley: Who Made Britain Fat?

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

His wife Clare Bailey Mosley, is also a doctor, author and healthy living advocate.

The couple recently appeared at the Hay Festival where Dr Mosley presented a special edition of 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”.

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 Clare and the rest of his family at this worrying time. We hope for more positive news,” she added.

Timeline

Wednesday 1330 local time (11:30 BST) – Dr Michael Mosley leaves his wife Clare on Agios Nikolaos beach and sets off on a walk

1350 – Man carrying umbrella is seen on CCTV in Pedi

1357 – Same man is seen again at Pedi’s marina heading north-east

Thursday 1115 – Police are unable to find the presenter, so they inform Athens and request assistance from the Greek fire department

1400 – Greek fire services, with six firefighters and a drone team, arrive in Symi

1900 – Helicopter deployed to assist search

Friday – Divers join the search in the water around Symi

Saturday 0600 – Firefighters resume search for Dr Mosley

Three swimmers hurt in shark attacks in Florida

By Francesca GillettBBC News

Beachgoers in the Gulf Coast of Florida have been told to be vigilant, after three swimmers were attacked by sharks in two separate attacks.

One woman was said to have had part of her arm amputated after being bitten on Friday in Walton County in north-west Florida.

Less than two hours later, at another beach four miles further east, two teenage girls were in waist-deep water with friends when they were attacked.

One of the girls suffered “significant injuries to the upper leg and one hand” while the other had minor injuries on one of her feet, fire officials said.

Authorities have been patrolling the shoreline in boats and some beaches were closed, although they reopened on Saturday with purple flags warning of dangerous marine life.

The first incident happened at around 13:20 local time on Friday when a woman, about 45-years-old, was attacked near WaterSound Beach, South Walton Fire District said.

She suffered “critical injuries” to her hip and lower left arm and was airlifted to hospital, fire officials said.

Part of her arm had to be amputated, fire chief Ryan Crawford later told a news briefing, according to the BBC’s US partner CBS News.

The second attack – on two girls about 15 years old – happened at about 14:55 local time near Seacrest Beach, the fire department added.

“Please swim carefully, respect the Gulf, stay hydrated, and look out for your loved ones,” South Walton Fire District said on X.

Walton County Sheriff’s office said on X on Saturday that during patrols, deputies spotted a 14 ft (4.2m) hammerhead shark in Santa Rosa Beach – but stressed they were “not uncommon”.

“We want to reiterate that sharks are always present in the Gulf,” they said.

“Swimmers and beachgoers should be cautious when swimming and stay aware of their surroundings.”

According to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, there are around 70 to 100 shark attacks every year worldwide, resulting in about five deaths.

The ISAF said last year, there were 69 unprovoked shark bites on humans and 22 provoked bites globally.

In Florida, the majority of shark attacks are by requiem sharks – a family of sharks that like warm seas and include species such as bull sharks or blacktip sharks.

Most attacks occur in nearshore waters, typically near a sandbar where sharks feed and can become trapped at low tide.

Small fish are traveling in schools near the shore this time of year, which might have been a contributing factor in Friday’s attacks, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office suggested.

The time of the attacks – in the middle of the afternoon – was also an anomaly, Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson said, according to CBS News.

  • Published

When Jonny Bairstow spoke to the media on Friday he insisted defeat by Australia would not “derail” England’s campaign.

Twenty-four hours later, when Australia openers David Warner and Travis Head were in full flow, it felt like England’s train was teetering on the tracks.

At that point sitting in the Greenidge and Haynes stand should have come with a health warning.

Those behind on Rihanna Drive, the street where the pop star grew up, needed more than an umbrella for protection.

In a five-over spell Australia scored 70 runs, hitting seven of the 13 bruising sixes in their innings.

England scrapped to keep themselves in the game but that proved too big an advantage to overhaul.

Defeat leaves Jos Buttler’s side in a perilous position in their group, likely needing to beat Oman and Namibia well to progress to the Super 8 stage at the expense of a Scotland side who would like nothing more than to dump out their rivals.

But, perhaps more importantly, it brings back to the surface familiar questions about the direction of this England white-ball side under captain Buttler and coach Matthew Mott.

The Jacksperiment in Bridgetown – part-timer Will Jacks bowling the second over which began with two sixes and cost 22 runs – can now be added to list of missteps during last year’s 50-over World Cup in India, that included the selection hokey-cokey in the opening games and the decision to bowl first in the Mumbai heat against South Africa.

These decisions are easy to criticise in hindsight but at some stage their bold calls have to start coming off.

Afterwards Buttler said bowling Jacks, making it the first time England have begun with two spinners in a T20, was a “gut call”, having seen Moeen Ali’s opener cost only three runs.

But part-time off-spinner Jacks had only bowled two overs in T20s for England.

Seamer Jofra Archer, who has dismissed Warner nine times in 19 overs across formats, was waiting in the deep. Ask Warner or Head who they would rather face and there would be only one answer.

This was a case of England overthinking.

The decision to omit Reece Topley was another Buttler had to defend in his post-match news conference with the seamer’s record against left-handers like Warner and Head – an average of 19.8 in all T20s since the last World Cup in 2022 – among the best in the world.

When Mark Wood began with two leg-side deliveries and a full toss, each duly dispatched to the Kensington Oval’s short boundary by Warner – the first out of the ground towards the beach huts and rum punch on Carlisle Bay – saw Topley’s absence laid bare.

On announcing this squad England’s managing director of men’s cricket Rob Key backed Mott and Buttler unreservedly but also spoke of Topley’s importance to the side.

He was billed as the man to share the new ball with Archer.

Six weeks later Topley finds himself carrying the drinks and unable to get into the XI.

Having been described by Mott as “sloppy” in the 10 overs possible amid the rain against Scotland, England’s fielding was again far from perfect.

Archer was the most obvious recipient of a Jonny Bairstow glare and an Adil Rashid stare when he failed to dive to stop a Marcus Stoinis boundary.

Adam Zampa, who would later superbly tie England’s batters down with his leg-spin, delivered his cutting assessment of his opposition in the field.

“I think they were under the pump and it showed,” he said. “Our leadership isn’t like that, they are very calm.”

They were brief words that said a lot more.

England’s dressing room was said to be down in the aftermath and they now have five days to stew on the result.

They will hope a change of scenery in Antigua – they make the hour-long flight from Barbados on Sunday – brings about a change in fortunes.

Next for England is Oman on Thursday, followed by Namibia less than 48 hours later.

Even if they win both, a quirk of the fixture list means Australia and Scotland could go into their meeting in St Lucia on 16 June, the final match of the group, knowing a close Australia win would knock England out.

Of course the fact England have been here before cannot be dismissed.

They almost went out of a group that included West Indies and Ireland before going all the way to win the 2010 T20 World Cup on this very island.

In their recent win in 2022 they lost in the group stage to the Irish but came through on net run-rate before taking the title in Melbourne.

Buttler and Mott were captain and coach then but oversaw the debacle in India, England’s worst World Cup since their rebirth in 2015, which has left them on thin ice.

Progression from the Super 8s to the semi-finals would give them breathing space. Failure to even get there would rival last autumn’s struggles.

Mott and Buttler have reached the point of no return.

If the next week does not go their way, the ride may be over for one or both of them.

  • Published

George Russell said there was “more to come” from Mercedes after he took their first pole position for nearly a year at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Mercedes have been saying for a while that they felt they had finally found the right path under the new regulations that were introduced in 2022 and which brought their eight years of success in Formula 1 to a crashing halt.

A series of upgrades introduced to the car since Miami three races ago have slowly been working their effect, and for the first time in a long time the former champions have looked the fastest cars in the field this weekend.

The Briton delivered with style around Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

One line from Russell seemed to sum up the situation best after a gripping qualifying session in which the two drivers on the front row set exactly the same lap time, the Mercedes securing pole ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by virtue of achieving it first.

“It’s sort of come from nowhere,” Russell said. “But maybe not a surprise with the upgrades we’ve been bringing.”

Canada was the first race in which both Mercedes cars have had the full upgrade package that has slowly built up on the car.

New bodywork in Miami, followed by a new floor in Imola and then finally a new front wing, which only Russell had in Monaco, have revised the aerodynamics of the car. And Mercedes’ simulations say that they should perform even better at subsequent races.

It was the difference the front wing made in Monaco that really lit up Mercedes’ expectations.

Until Monaco, the car has been balanced in either high-speed corners or slow, but not both. Get it right in the high-speed, and there was a lack of front grip in the slow; get it right in the slow, and there was untameable oversteer in the fast.

The front wing has transformed it, and made what is known as the “through-corner balance” much better.

Russell said: “We brought these upgrades to Monaco, which has been a really challenging circuit for us in the past, and we were 0.1secs from the front row and we thought going into Montreal we had a shot here.

“It’s just turning really nicely through the corners. We struggled a lot with understeer before.

“Last year, we had a lot of oversteer and we’ve been trying to find the halfway house between what we had last year and what we had this year.

“And it feels like we’re sort of dialling in that sweet spot right now. So it feels like something we’ve been saying for a long time, in all honesty. But you know, just really a sense of relief to actually see it translate into a pole position.”

Despite winning in Monaco two weeks ago through Charles Leclerc, Ferrari were not in the fight for pole because neither driver could get out of Q2.

Leclerc will start 11th with team-mate Carlos Sainz alongside him in 12th and both drivers said they had “no grip at all”.

How Russell beat Hamilton

Russell owed his pole to some homework between final practice and qualifying.

His Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had been comfortably the quickest driver earlier in the day, Russell lagging 0.4secs behind. The younger man looked into what was going on.

“This morning we were so quick,” he said. “Lewis was driving so well and he was miles ahead of me and I had to look at his data to try and understand what that was.

“The tyres are so sensitive and Lewis was doing something a bit unique with the tyres and I implemented that in Q1 and straight away we were top of the timesheets.”

Hamilton, just over 0.2secs off Russell when it mattered, was not a happy man. His post-qualifying interview was monosyllabic, as it can often be in such circumstances.

“Had plenty of pace in P3 and in qualifying it just disappeared. Grip was just not there,” he said.

Mercedes were so quick that actually the dead heat between Russell and Verstappen at the end of qualifying was a bit of a red herring.

Both Russell and Hamilton had been faster than the eventual pole time in the second qualifying session, but neither could repeat those times in the top 10 shootout.

They were one-two again after the first runs, but the gap between them was large enough that when neither improved on their second laps five other drivers – Verstappen, both McLarens, RB’s Daniel Ricciardo and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso – inserted themselves into it.

Can Russell hold on in the race? The weather may play a part, for rain is predicted.

“We are the favourite at the moment because we have the fastest car and I was feeling great behind the wheel,” Russell said.

“But there is rain on the horizon and the wind is picking up. We are going to have to be so on our feet. It’s a bit of a shame in a way. But I am feeling optimistic.”

Antonelli heading for Mercedes seat

Off track, this weekend has been one dominated by the driver market, with Red Bull confirming Sergio Perez – who had his third qualifying stinker in a row and lines up 16th – as Verstappen’s team-mate for the next two years and then Yuki Tsunoda’s place at RB.

Mercedes still theoretically have a vacancy alongside Russell for 2025 following Hamilton’s defection to Ferrari, but it is increasingly likely their 17-year-old Italian protege Andrea Kimi Antonelli, racing in Formula 2 this year, will fill it.

The Perez deal was not a surprise, but it was a blow to Sainz, who had been hoping to land a top seat following his replacement by Hamilton.

But it has been looking for a while as if he would not get one, and that he will be left with a choice between Sauber/Audi and Williams. And Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff confirmed on Saturday that Sainz was not in his plans, either.

“Carlos deserves a top seat,” Wolff said. “He’s done a fantastic job, but for us we’ve embarked on a route now.

“We want to reinvent ourselves a little bit going forward and Kimi Antonelli definitely plays a part in that.

“We haven’t taken a decision yet for next year but we didn’t want to have Carlos wait as well because he needs to take decisions for himself and that’s fair, but he’s doing a super job.”

  • Published

Gareth Southgate is excited to welcome Jude Bellingham into the England camp after the midfielder won the Champions League with Real Madrid but said “we are not putting everything on” him.

England slumped to a dismal 1-0 defeat against Iceland in their final Euro 2024 warm-up match at Wembley on Friday.

Bellingham, 20, is the last player to join up with the 26-man squad having been given extra time off following the Champions League triumph.

Asked if Bellingham will help lift the squad, Southgate said: “I’m sure he will but it is not his responsibility to do that.

“I’m sure he is [capable of handling the pressure] but we are not putting everything on Jude. We’ve got a lot of good players and it is a collective thing to go and try to win this tournament.

“He is, of course, a player with a fabulous mentality and will have a big impact on the whole group.”

In his first season in Spain, Bellingham was named La Liga player of the season after scoring 19 times in the league to help Real win the title by 10 points.

Despite the defeat against Iceland, Southgate praised two other young players in his squad.

Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka made a substitute appearance after missing much of England’s recent training while Chelsea’s Cole Palmer won his fourth cap after a “fabulous” season at Chelsea.

“It was also good to get Bukayo on the pitch. He has missed a lot of the training and we needed to see him out there as well.”

On Palmer he added: “He’s had a fabulous season and got himself into a couple of fabulous positions. He probably took a touch too many on both occasions, but the fact is he was in there on both occasions and looked dangerous.”

England begin their Euro 2024 campaign against Serbia on Sunday, 16 June, in Gelsenkirchen.

  • Published

The end looked nigh for Iga Swiatek when she was match point down against Naomi Osaka in their second-round blockbuster at the French Open.

Tension was etched across the world number one’s face in the depths of a dramatic deciding set.

Sweat poured from a furrowed brow as she tried desperately to figure out what was going wrong.

Avoiding defeat, with an angled, crosscourt backhand return that Osaka hit into the net, proved to be the catalyst for Swiatek’s march to a third consecutive title at Roland Garros – and a fourth overall.

“[Coming back like that] gives me the feeling that I should always believe in myself, that I can find my tennis even if I’m in big trouble and fight back,” Swiatek said in her title-winning news conference.

“When you’re trying your best, it’s always the best solution. You have no regrets and you can turn tournaments into something like that,” she added, pointing towards the trophy.

Following that moment, the Polish top seed sailed serenely through the draw.

The 23-year-old won 64 of 81 games in a run which culminated in a commanding 6-2 6-1 victory over Italy’s Jasmine Paolini.

A 40-minute ‘double bagel’ over Anastasia Potapova in the fourth round laid down a significant marker, before 2019 finalist Marketa Vondrousova was sent packing in the quarter-finals for the loss of just two games.

US Open champion Coco Gauff offered more resistance in the semi-finals but Swiatek still asserted control against an opponent she has dominated in their previous meetings.

In a final which few expected her to lose, Swiatek crushed Paolini in a devastating performance which showcased her ability and authority on the red dirt.

“I’m a perfectionist, so there is always pressure,” said Swiatek.

“But I think I’m fine with handling my own pressure. It’s when the pressure from the outside hits me, then it’s a little bit worse.

“I managed it really well at this tournament.”

‘Double digits’ and ‘career Grand Slam’ – what can Swiatek achieve?

Swiatek’s aura at Roland Garros is becoming so great that she is now being dubbed the ‘Queen of Clay’.

The key statistics show why:

  • Swiatek has won 21 matches in a row at the French Open – the fourth-longest streak in women’s singles in the Open era

  • Swiatek has won 35 of her 37 matches at Roland Garros

  • She has not lost in Paris since 2021

By beating Paolini on Saturday, Swiatek has become the youngest woman to win four French Open titles in the Open era.

Only Chris Evert (seven), Steffi Graf (six) and Justine Henin (four) have matched or bettered her tally.

American great Evert, who won 18 major titles between 1974 and 1986, says she worries “every day” about Swiatek beating her record at Roland Garros.

“When I put my head under the pillow I’m worried about Iga,” Evert joked on Eurosport.

“I think Iga will end up on double digits. I don’t just think she will beat my record here – I think it’s double digits.”

Asked for her response to Evert’s comments, Swiatek smiled. “It’s nice to hear such words. But I’m not thinking in these categories,” she said.

“Even being here and winning five Grand Slams seems pretty surreal. I would never have expected that when I was younger.

“Getting to double digits here still seems a long shot.

“I will sure work for it and will do my best to become better and better every year – and play my best tennis here.”

While most of Swiatek’s Grand Slam success has come on the clay, her dominance on the WTA Tour has been underpinned by her ability on the hard courts.

Her other major triumph came at the 2022 US Open, with 13 of her 22 WTA titles coming on the acrylic.

Grass has been her least proficient surface – having played just 23 matches on the surface in her professional career, compared with 205 on hard and 90 on clay.

Wimbledon is the major tournament where she has had the least success as a professional.

Last year’s run to the quarter-finals was her best performance, although she did win the junior title at the All England Club in 2018.

“I think Swiatek will win all four Grand Slams,” said former British number one Annabel Croft, who was summarising the final for BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Look at Nadal – I think people thought he would never win Wimbledon but he found a way to win it.”

  • Published

For generations of football fans, a Germany side at a major tournament would be led by a prolific forward who would strike fear into opposition teams across the world – just by seeing his name on the team sheet.

In the early 1970s it was Gerd Muller for West Germany, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge straddled the 1970s and 80s, with Rudi Voller taking over through to the early 1990s and Jurgen Klinsmann then coming to prominence, before Miroslav Klose broke records to become his country’s all-time leading scorer.

But Klose retired from international football in 2014. In the decade since, Germany have had talented forwards, but no-one so deadly at the point of their attack as the aforementioned players.

“It is a huge point in our country,” former Germany international Steffen Freund told BBC Sport.

“We always had someone who scored goals in the past – Muller, Klinsmann, Voller and more recently Klose.

“But since Klose we don’t have a really world-class striker and that is why we are maybe not top of the world.”

At this summer’s European Championship it is Arsenal’s Kai Havertz who is most likely to lead the line, but he is not seen as an out-and-out forward in the traditional sense.

So what has happened to Germany’s world-class strikers?

Did 2014 win signal change to ‘false nines’?

The Germans have an international record that is the envy of many countries.

They have won the World Cup four times (three of those as West Germany) and the European Championship three times (twice as West Germany).

But since winning that fourth title in Brazil in 2014 their form at major tournaments has been poor, failing to get beyond the group stage at the past two World Cups and winning just one game at Euro 2020.

One of the issues that could be attributed to their decline is a lack of goals. In the four major tournaments they have played in since the 2014 World Cup they have scored 21 goals, compared with 50 in the four prior to it.

The start of a change in how the German team played could perhaps be pinpointed to 2010, when Spain won the World Cup playing with a false nine – a forward operating in deeper positions – instead of a striker.

Vicente del Bosque’s side knocked Joachim Low’s Germany out in the semi-finals, with Low full of praise for how their opponents played, describing them as “masters of the game”.

After that Low appeared to follow Spain’s blueprint, naming just two forwards in his 2014 World Cup squad – the 36-year-old Klose and Lukas Podolski, then of Arsenal.

During Germany’s run to the final Low often favoured playing without an out-and-out striker, with Mario Gotze regularly deployed in the false nine role.

“Low wanted to pick the best players and try to fit them into a system, rather than just picking a random player who might be a decent striker but would start only because he was available, basically,” says German football writer Constantin Eckner.

“There wasn’t really a plan behind it, it was more out of necessity.”

A switch in focus at youth level

It would be simple to suggest that if playing without an out-and-out striker is no longer working – why don’t Germany just start calling them up again?

But the problem is the country has a lack of them, and that stems from youth development.

“When you look at the youth teams in Germany, like the under-19s or under-17s of the big Bundesliga clubs, you see a lot of talented wingers, a lot of talented playmakers, but you don’t see many highly skilled strikers,” Eckner adds.

“It is almost like the one guy who is tall and doesn’t have the best technique ends up playing as a striker. Then when they are promoted to the Bundesliga, being technically limited hinders you. It is really tough to break out of the academy and be a competent Bundesliga striker.”

Germany’s 2018 World Cup failure, in which they finished bottom of a group containing Sweden, Mexico and South Korea, appeared to shock the country’s decision-makers into action.

Critics of Germany’s youth development say the system had become too rigid, with children not getting the freedom to express themselves and just have fun.

Two years ago, the German football federation announced plans to revolutionise its youth framework, with more focus on children being able to do what they enjoy – scoring goals.

“Playing with the ball and scoring goals are the main reasons why so many children and young people enjoy football,” the DFB said at the time.

The new forms of play introduced involved more smaller-sided games, so that players had more touches of the ball – the idea being it would improve their skills and confidence and lower the number of dropouts from children who were getting bored of not being involved.

Professor Matthias Lochmann, a former professional footballer and under-15s coach at Mainz when Jurgen Klopp was manager there, lobbied hard for several years for such changes to be made.

In 2018, following Germany’s World Cup exit, he gave a keynote speech on the issue and what should be done, catching the eye of Hansi Flick, who had recently been sporting director of the German football association and would go on to manage the national team.

“We had very good discussions about this,” Lochmann told BBC Sport.

“He always said to me we have to implement all these ideas, as the sooner it will come the better it will be.

“He recommended it internally to accelerate this process, but his influence was limited.”

While changes have been implemented at youth level, Lochmann feels it is happening far too slowly to have an impact on the national team in the medium-term future, let alone any time soon.

“Germany going out early in the last World Cup helped to push this innovation,” he added.

“It is stupid to say this as a German, but hopefully in the European Championship we will also go out and then the changes happen faster.”

Who are Germany’s attacking options at Euro 2024?

It looks most likely that Havertz will spearhead Germany’s attack, having enjoyed an impressive season for Arsenal.

The 24-year-old scored 14 goals in all competitions for the Gunners last season.

He is, however, another player who started out as an attacking midfielder and has been converted into a centre-forward.

Borussia Dortmund’s Niclas Fullkrug is Germany’s only real out-and-out striker option. He was the top scorer in the Bundesliga in 2022-23 and scored 15 goals in all competitions last season, but time is running out for him already on the international stage.

He did not make his senior debut until 2022, is now 31 and would probably accept himself that he is a very good striker, but not a world-class one.

Then there is the dependable Thomas Muller – but he himself does not consider himself a striker, external – plus exciting talents like Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz and Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala to consider.

But they fall into the category of hugely talented forwards who provide flair and tempo to the team, not players to start in the centre of the attack.

The question of who leads the line for Germany at the European Championship is something that has the country’s supporters split.

“Some fans want to see Fullkrug as the more traditional number nine, especially as in a sense it would be reminiscent of past number nines who have brought success for Germany,” Eckner adds.

“But some would prefer a fast player up front like Havertz. Germany excite their fans the most when they play a fast-paced style.”

For Euro 2024 at least, Germany do have the option to mix things up in attack, but it seems fans who are waiting for the next Muller or Klinsmann to emerge may be waiting some time.

  • Published

It was coming up to half past midnight on a chilly night at the Downing Stadium in New York in May 1989 when the excitable chattering crowd finally dispersed.

The floodlights at the venue on Randall’s Island – repaired and used for the first time in years – were still on, but you could still just about see the skyscrapers in Manhattan twinkling in the distance.

This was the place where Jesse Owens trained and where Pele made his debut for New York Cosmos. Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix and Ray Charles all played concerts there.

Downing Stadium was also the location for the first meeting in the Americas between India and Pakistan.

Forgot whoever was playing at Carnegie Hall or on Broadway that night, this was the place to be if you were a cricket fan in the Big Apple.

Yet much of what happened has been forgotten.

It was, in fact, the first of a series of three exhibitions matches. Fans had flocked, many after work, to witness a 40-over-a-side day-nighter featuring some stellar names.

Pakistan were skippered by Imran Khan and had many of the ‘Cornered Tigers’ who would win the World Cup in 1992 including Javed Miandad, Saleem Malik and Mushtaq Ahmed in their side.

Dilip Vengsarkar captained an India team including Mohammad Azharuddin, Kapil Dev, and Sanjay Manjrekar.

India all-rounder Ravi Shastri helped facilitate the matches against Pakistan, plus an earlier fixture against West Indies.

“In many ways we were the pioneers by coming to the United States,” Shastri told BBC Sport.

“To do something like that back then really was quite a brave thing. After that there were games right through the 1990s in different parts of the US.”

‘We still wanted to beat them’

A crowd of 15,000 made it to the stadium that night in New York.

Many came from the historic South Asian communities in nearby Jackson Heights, Queens, who had started emigrating to the USA ever since Lyndon Johnson signed the 1965 Immigration Act.

“Even though it was an exhibition game we still wanted to beat them,” former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja remembered.

“But there was never a problem between the players. Not an issue. We have the same culture and we eat the same stuff.”

There was no proper scoreboard at the Downing Stadium, and those sat on the bleachers were oblivious, at times, to who was actually batting and bowling.

The scorers were amateurs so there were quite a few mistakes.

TV coverage of cricket in the US in the eighties was limited so there were whole swathes of South Asian expats unaware of what their heroes actually looked like in the flesh.

Not that it mattered to those present who banged drums, waved flags and occasionally invaded the pitch.

Saleem’s 53 helped Pakistan post 162 on the matting wicket but India were the victors.

Robin Singh top scored for India with 47 while Vengsarkar hit the winning runs, with three balls to spare, launching Mushtaq for a towering six.

However, Pakistan squared the series in Toronto, at the home of the Blue Jays, after Imran’s brilliant 91 not out helped them chase down 222.

Pakistan then claimed a four-wicket win in Los Angeles thanks to 47 from Ramiz to lift the inaugural North American Cup.

‘The gravest cricket crisis’

The players taking part in the trilogy of India v Pakistan fixtures in the US pocketed $2,000 apiece for taking part.

This was an era of cricket when players in the game frequently struggled to make serious money from the game.

On previous trips to the United States during this time India’s players stayed in the homes of expat families.

Indeed, it was not unheard of for players to have to scrub their own whites with household bleach to get them clean between matches.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had signed off the players visiting the US on a “holiday” but forbid them from playing cricket.

India had gone to the US and Canada after a chastening tour of the West Indies where they had lost a four-match Test series 3-0 and suffered a 5-0 whitewash in the ODIs which seemingly irked the BCCI.

On their return to India the board banned Vengsarkar, Dev, Shastri, Azharuddin, Kiran More and Arun Lal for a year with the rest of India players involved issued with fines.

It was front page news and Indian cricket writer R Mohan called it “cricket’s gravest crisis” in the country at the time.

However, following protests, a newspaper campaign and a three-month court battle the decision was overturned.

“We did have a few issues after playing those games in the United States,” Shastri said, with a chuckle.

“We were supposed to be banned for a year but it didn’t happen like that. So all’s well that ends well.”

By contrast Pakistan’s players encountered no problems whatsoever.

“Imran was 10 in one in those days,” Ramiz said. “He was the board, he was the chairman of selectors, he was the captain so we had no issues with playing in the US.”

On Sunday at 15:30 BST – at a dazzling 32,000-capacity stadium in New York costing $32m – the two countries will play out the latest instalment of their rivalry on US soil.

“I recall in 1989 there were six or seven Americans at the game,” Ramiz added. “All of them were security guards!”

New York’s India v Pakistan contest in 2024 should feature quite a few more.

  • Published

After a day at school, a young Carlos Alcaraz would run home – desperate to watch his hero Rafael Nadal in action.

Now, just as 14-time French Open champion Nadal did, 21-year-old Alcaraz has a chance to create his own tournament legacy.

The Spaniard has already won two of the sport’s four biggest events – the 2022 US Open and Wimbledon last year – and takes on Germany’s Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s Roland Garros final.

Alcaraz’s five-set semi-final victory over incoming world number one Jannik Sinner made him the youngest man to reach Grand Slam finals on all three surfaces: hard court, grass and now the Paris clay.

A win on Sunday would add his name to a long list of Spanish French Open champions, which, as well as Nadal, also includes his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, Albert Costa, Carlos Moya and Sergi Bruguera, who have all triumphed in the past 30 years.

“I have a special feeling about this tournament,” said Alcaraz. “I remember when I finished school, running home just to put the TV on and watch the matches here in the French Open.

“I watched a lot of matches – of course Nadal dominating this tournament for, let’s say, 14, 15 years. It’s something unbelievable and I wanted to put my name on that list of the Spanish players who won this tournament.”

The match against Zverev takes place from 13:30 BST on Sunday, with commentary available on 5 Live Sport and the BBC Sport website and app.

First Slam title would ‘mean world’ to Zverev

Standing in Alcaraz’s way is 27-year-old Zverev, a player that began this year’s campaign with a straight-set victory over Nadal – who might have been playing his last match at Roland Garros.

Zverev has not won a Grand Slam, but came close to doing so at the 2020 US Open final when he was two sets ahead and then two points away from victory when serving for the tournament at 5-3 ahead in the final set.

However, Austria’s Dominic Thiem ultimately took the title following a fifth set tie-break in an epic four-hour final.

Zverev has reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in each of the past four years, although he suffered a serious ankle injury during the second set of his 2022 match with Nadal, with the German leaving the court in a wheelchair.

He has also lost in the final four in five sets to Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2021 and in three sets to Norway’s Casper Ruud in 2023, but saw off Ruud this year to reach his first final.

“Going from basically the US Open final where I was two points away, to being rolled off in a wheelchair here two years ago – it’s all part of my journey,” said Zverev.

“I’m in the final. I haven’t won yet. I just want to play my best tennis and give myself the best chance. If I’m able to do that and if I am able to lift that trophy, it will mean the world to me.”

On Friday, Zverev’s trial over domestic abuse allegations, made by his former girlfriend, was discontinued. Zverev has always denied the charges.

The Tiergarten District Court in Berlin said: “There has been a settlement between the defendant and the complainant. The decision is not a verdict and it is not a decision about guilt or innocence.

“One decisive factor for the court decision was the witness has expressed her wish to end the trial. The defendant agreed to the termination of the case.”