BBC 2024-06-12 00:08:02


Four US college instructors stabbed in public park in China

By Laura Bicker & Frances Maoin Beijing and Singapore

Police in China have arrested a 55-year-old man after four US university tutors were stabbed at a public park.

The Iowa Cornell College instructors were taken to hospital after a “serious incident” during the daytime attack in the northern province of Jilin, a college statement said.

Iowa Representative Adam Zabner said his brother, David, was one of the four instructors injured in what he described as a stabbing.

China’s foreign ministry said that none of those injured were in a life-threatening condition.

Police said an assailant with the surname Cui clashed with one of the Americans and then stabbed the person. He went on to injure three other US visitors and a Chinese tourist who tried to come to their rescue.

Mr Zabner said the group of instructors had been visiting a local temple on Monday when they were attacked by a man with a knife.

He said his brother had been stabbed in the arm at Beishan Park in Jilin city and was recovering well in hospital.

“My family is incredibly grateful that David survived this attack,” he told the BBC.

“We’d like to see David home in Iowa as soon as possible,” he added. “We’re deeply thankful to the state department and Iowa’s federal delegation and understand that they are working hard to make that happen.”

Cornell College said the four instructors had been teaching “as part of a partnership with a university in China”. The group had been accompanied by a member of Beihua University at the time of their visit to the park on Monday.

China’s foreign ministry said the injured were immediately rushed to hospital where they received treatment.

Spokesperson Lin Jian told reporters that police believe the attack was a random incident, but an investigation is ongoing.

“This was an isolated incident and the investigation continues,” he said. “China is widely considered one of the safest countries in the world and China will continue to take relevant measures to ensure that foreigners are safe in the country.”

“We believe this will not damage relations with other countries,” he added.

A US state department spokesperson had earlier told the BBC they were aware of reports of a stabbing incident in Jilin, but could not provide more information.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that she was in contact with the department about the “horrifying” attack.

“Please pray for their full recovery, safe return, and their families here at home,” she wrote.

Images of the incident circulating online appear to show at least three people bleeding and lying on the ground.

However, the pictures appear to have been quickly censored on China’s internet.

On Tuesday, searches for terms such as “foreigners Jilin” produced no results despite the search term trending on Weibo.

Internet users instead resorted to discussions under adjacent topics while some were also seen asking for more information about the incident.

Online commentator Hu Xijin, who is formerly the chief editor of China’s Global Times, had earlier posted on Weibo that China has been seeing a growing number of foreign visitors and the Chinese are “typically friendly” toward them. He described the incident as a “chance event”.

The post has since been removed.

There are also few reports about the incident in Chinese state media.

Mr Zabner said his brother, a Tufts University doctoral student, had visited China before and was on his second trip to the country with Cornell College.

According to a 2018 news release from Cornell, the US school began a partnership with Beihua University that year to provide money for Cornell professors to live in China and teach a part of a course over a two-week period.

The partnership focused on computer science, mathematics and physics, Cornell said at the time.

Beihua University serves 24,000 students in the north-eastern Chinese city of 4.4 million people.

Amid tense diplomatic relations, Beijing and Washington have sought to re-establish people-to-people exchanges in recent times.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has unveiled a plan to invite 50,000 young Americans to China in the next five years, while Chinese diplomats say a travel advisory by the US State Department has discouraged Americans from going to China.

Blinken says fate of ceasefire plan down to Hamas

By Tom BatemanUS state department correspondent, travelling with Antony Blinken • Raffi BergBBC News

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “reaffirmed his commitment” to a Gaza ceasefire plan, and that if it does not progress Hamas will be to blame.

Mr Blinken reiterated his call for Hamas to accept the plan as outlined by President Biden 11 days ago. He was speaking a day after holding talks with Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

He said the onus was on “one guy” hiding “ten storeys underground in Gaza” to make the casting vote, referring to Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.

Mr Netanyahu has not publicly endorsed what Mr Biden outlined nor said whether it matches an Israeli ceasefire proposal on which Mr Biden’s statement was based.

Mr Blinken described as a “hopeful sign” Hamas’s response to a resolution passed by the UN Security Council on Monday supporting what Mr Biden had announced.

The resolution noted that Israel had accepted what Mr Biden had presented and called on Hamas to do so as well.

Hamas issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming “what was included” in the resolution.

But Mr Blinken said Hamas’s response was not conclusive, adding that that “what counts” is what is said by the Hamas leadership in Gaza, “and that’s what we don’t have”.

If the proposal did not proceed then it was “on them”, he said.

After months of stuttering ceasefire talks behind closed doors, Mr Biden publicly announced last month what he said was an Israeli “roadmap to an enduring ceasefire and the release of all hostages” which he then went on to outline.

The proposal involves an initial six week ceasefire with Hamas releasing some hostages in exchange for Israel releasing an undefined number of Palestinian prisoners.

A second phase would see the remaining hostages released by Hamas and a total withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza as part of a “permanent” ceasefire, but the latter would still be subject to negotiations.

Mr Blinken’s trip is part of an intense diplomatic effort by the US to try to push the sides into making progress on the proposal, but clinching an agreement faces major obstacles.

Mr Netanyahu has acknowledged his war cabinet has authorised the plan but has not voiced unequivocally support for it. Far right ultranationalist members of his cabinet have threatened to quit his coalition and trigger its collapse if the deal goes forward, seeing it as surrender to Hamas.

Meanwhile, Hamas is likely to seek clear guarantees that the proposal would lead to the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces and a permanent end to the war.

So far, it has yet to formally respond to the plan.

The actual Israeli proposal – reportedly lengthier than the summary presented by Mr Biden – has not been made public and it is unclear whether it varies from what the president conveyed in his statement on 31 May. It was presented to Hamas days prior to Mr Biden’s speech.

The Israeli proposal was agreed upon by Israel’s three-man war cabinet and has not been disclosed to the wider government. Some far-right ministers have already made clear they oppose it.

The Biden administration is trying to leverage popular pressure as part of its campaign to bounce the sides into progress on the proposal.

As Mr Blinken met Israeli officials in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, protesters outside his hotel held American flags calling for an agreement. Many held pictures of hostages and chanted: “SOS, USA”, and “we trust you, Blinken, seal a deal”.

Vicki Cohen, the mother of Nimrod Cohen, 19, an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas on 7 October, held a banner showing his picture.

She told the BBC: “We come here to ask Blinken and the USA government to help us, to save us from our government. Our prime minister doesn’t want to bring our loved ones back, we need their help to pressure our government.”

Mr Blinken later spoke with Ms Cohen and other families of hostages, including Americans, during a brief interaction with them outside the hotel.

“You’re going to be here every day, we’re going to be here every day,” he told them.

The secretary of state continued the whirlwind diplomatic visit, flying by US military plane to the Jordanian capital, Amman, and from there by helicopter to the Dead Sea for a conference of Arab leaders calling for greater aid access into war-ravaged Gaza.

The ride involved five Jordanian air force helicopters carrying Mr Blinken, his officials and the BBC among the travelling press pool. The fleet headed west, flying low, to the town of Swemeh on the shores of the Dead Sea, sitting directly across the water from the occupied West Bank.

“The horror must stop,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the conference. “The speed and scale of the carnage and killing in Gaza is beyond anything in my years as secretary general,” he said.

UN humanitarian coordination chief Martin Griffiths described the Gaza war as a “stain on our humanity” and appealed for $2.5 billion to meet the humanitarian needs of Palestinians in Gaza from April until December.

The war began after Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and taking 251 others back to Gaza as hostages. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 37,000 people have been killed in the Israeli offensive since then.

Warning shots from South as NK soldiers cross border

By Joel GuintoBBC News

South Korean soldiers fired warning shots after North Korean troops crossed the border by mistake, Seoul’s military said on Tuesday.

The incident at the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) on Sunday comes as tensions continue to rise between the two Koreas.

A small group of North Korean soldiers carrying field tools including pickaxes entered South Korea at 12:30 local time (05:30 GMT), Seoul’s military said. They were among 20 who were in the border area at that time.

They retreated immediately after the South Koreans fired the warning shots.

In recent weeks, the North has flown hundreds of rubbish-filled balloons to border towns in the South.

Seoul has responded by broadcasting propaganda and K-pop music to the North using loudspeakers. Activists have also flown propaganda balloons into the North.

There was no notable movement from the North in the DMZ after its troops retreated on Sunday, Seoul’s military said.

“Inside [the border area] the vegetation is overgrown, and the border markers are hidden. There are no paths, and they were wading through the overgrowth,” it said.

On Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, threatened the South with “new counteractions” if it continues loudspeaker broadcasts and does not stop activists from sending balloons.

Last December, Mr Kim ended all efforts at a peaceful unification with the South, accusing Seoul of “hostility” towards the North.

Since then, the North demolished a highly symbolic unification monument in Pyongyang and ended all communication with the South.

Earlier this month, South Korea suspended what remained of its 2018 military agreement with the North, which will allow it to resume drills and propaganda activities such as loudspeaker broadcasts.

South Korea had partially suspended the agreement last November, following the North’s launch of a spy satellite.

In recent months, Seoul detected North Korean soldiers planting landmines along the border and disconnecting railways to the South. North Korean soldiers were also seen installing guard posts within the DMZ.

Singapore Airlines turbulence victims offered payouts

By João da SilvaBusiness reporter

Singapore Airlines has offered to pay compensation to those who were injured on a London to Singapore flight that encountered severe turbulence.

The airline said it will pay $10,000 (£7,800) to those who sustained minor injuries, in a Facebook post.

For passengers with more serious injuries, the airline is providing “an advance payment of $25,000 to address their immediate needs” and further discussions to meet “their specific circumstances”.

A 73-year-old British passenger died and dozens more were injured when flight SQ 321 encountered turbulence over Myanmar and was diverted to Thailand in May.

Singapore Airlines has not yet responded to a BBC News request for further information on how many people will be entitled to the payments.

More than a hundred people who had been on SQ 321 were treated in Bangkok hospital after the incident.

Early investigations showed that the plane accelerated rapidly up and down, and dropped around 178ft (54m) over 4.6 seconds.

Passengers described how crew and those not wearing seatbelts were sent flying and slammed into the cabin ceiling.

A hospital in Bangkok where passengers are being treated said there were spinal cord, head and muscle injuries.

There were 211 passengers – including many Britons, Australians and Singaporeans – and 18 crew on board the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft at the time of the incident.

The company said it would offer a full fare refund to all passengers on the flight, including those who did not suffer any injuries.

On top of this, Singapore Airlines said passengers will received delay compensation in accordance with European Union or United Kingdom regulations.

The airline also offered S$1,000 ($739; £580) to all passengers to cover immediate expenses and it arranged for loved ones to fly to the Thai capital where requested.

Under international regulations, airlines must offer compensation when passengers are injured or die while on a plane.

The incident brought attention to seatbelt practices, as airlines usually allow passengers to undo their belts during normal cruise conditions.

Eight more die as India faces ‘longest’ heatwave

By Meryl SebastianBBC News, Kochi

A severe heatwave continues to wreak havoc in India as the eastern state of Odisha on Monday reported eight deaths within a 72-hour period.

Official figures released in May suggested 60 people died between March and May across India due to heat-related illnesses.

But the number is likely to be much higher as heat-related deaths go under-reported in rural areas.

Officials say India is in the middle of the longest heatwave it has seen since records began. Temperatures have crossed 50C in some areas recently.

“This has been the longest spell because it has been experienced for about 24 days in different parts of the country,” Mrutyunjay Mohapatra of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) told the Indian Express newspaper.

Parts of northern India have been experiencing extreme heat since mid-May, with temperatures hovering between 45-50C in several cities.

Some areas of the country have also been impacted by water shortages, with extreme heat placing huge demands on supplies.

Earlier this month, at least 18 polling officials deployed for the final phase of the general elections died of heat-related illnesses in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states, authorities said.

On 31 May, at least 33 people, including election officials, died of suspected heatstroke in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha.

The monsoon, which hit India’s southern coast in Kerala state on 30 May, is expected to bring some relief as it spreads to northern parts of the country in the coming days.

  • Is India ready to deal with extreme temperatures?
  • Heat kills at least 15 in India as temperatures near 50C

The IMD has predicted an above-average monsoon season for the country this year.

But Mr Mohapatra said that “heatwaves will be more frequent, durable and intense, if precautionary or preventive measures are not taken.”

The weather office has predicted heatwave conditions for northwest and eastern India for the next five days.

India is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, relying heavily on coal to generate power for its needs.

“Human activities, increasing population, industrialisation and transport mechanisms are leading to increased concentration of carbon monoxide, methane and chlorocarbons,” Mr Mohapatra said.

“We are endangering not only ourselves, but also our future generations.”

Fire at famous Bangkok market kills 1,000 animals

By Kelly Ng & Ryn Jirenuwatin Singapore and Bangkok

Around 1,000 animals were killed in a fire in Bangkok’s famous open-air Chatuchak market early Tuesday, gutting nearly 100 shops.

Birds, dogs, cats and snakes were burnt to death in their cages in the pet zone, which also included rats, pythons and geckos.

The blaze was started by an electrical short circuit, authorities said, adding that no human casualties or injuries have been reported.

The incident prompted renewed calls for authorities to shut the pet zone, which has long been criticised for the animals’ poor living conditions and has reportedly led to high rates of disease and death.

With tens of thousands of shops crowding narrow lanes, Chatuchak is one of South East Asia’s biggest markets.

It’s also the largest and best-known of Thailand’s weekend markets. It claims to draw nearly 200,000 tourists every Saturday and Sunday.

But the portion of the market selling pets is open through the week. This accounts for about four of the 27 sections in Chatuchak market and is arguably its most controversial trade.

This zone of the market is subjected to regular inspections.

“When I got here, everything was gone, all burned down,” says Amporn Wannasut, a shop owner who rushed to the market after being alerted to the fire.

“I couldn’t do anything because it was dark inside as well. I couldn’t help them at all. They were all gone.”

The 42-year-old sold turtles, pythons, and king snakes, among other reptiles, as pets.

“I don’t even know what to do next. I think we have to start all over again but I don’t know how,” she adds. “I froze some of the dead snakes so that we can calculate how much [money] we lost.”

The fire damaged most of the 118 shops in the pet zone, which covers about 1,400 sq metres (15,000 sq feet), according to a preliminary inspection.

When the BBC arrived at the market on Tuesday afternoon, shop owners were standing in line to register their requests for compensation. Some of them looked distraught and several were crying.

There were also people taking selfies in front of the destroyed shops, even as police officers warned them not to go near the affected structures, which could collapse.

Recounting her narrow escape, a shopowner called Meecha told online news outlet Thaiger that she was awakened by the animals’ cries in the loft above her shop.

“Suddenly, thick smoke filled the air, making it impossible to breathe,” said Meecha, who climbed through a window to safety.

Some shop owners do live in the market, but it’s unclear how many were there when the fire broke out.

According to the Chatuchak District Office, the blaze started around 04:10 local time on Tuesday (21:10 GMT on Monday) and was extinguished 30 minutes later.

Pictures online showed extensive sections engulfed in flames and cages charred. Some appear to have been burned out of shape.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) group said the fire “underscores the urgent need for action.”

“Animals are not ours to use for our entertainment… Peta urges the Thai government to ensure that this facility, where captive animals suffer, never reopens,” said the group’s senior vice-president Jason Baker.

The Wildlife Friends Foundation in Thailand described Chatuchak market as a “shame on Bangkok”.

“Many of these poor animals are smuggled into the country, often illegally. It is immoral, cruel, a health and safety hazard, and completely unnecessary,” the foundation’s director Edwin Wiek said.

“The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration needs to act and stop this senseless cruelty to animals,” he said.

‘Becoming a totalitarian state’: UK judge on why he quit Hong Kong court

By Frances MaoBBC News

A high-profile British judge who resigned from Hong Kong’s highest court last week has warned the city is “slowly becoming a totalitarian state” and judges are being compromised by an “impossible political environment created by China”.

Lord Sumption’s comments on Monday came as a third senior foreign judge in the past week resigned from the Court of Final Appeal.

“The problem in Hong Kong has been building up over the last four years and I think all the judges on the court feel concerned about this,” Lord Sumption told the BBC’s Today programme.

“I have reached the point eventually where I don’t think that my continuing presence on the court is serving any useful purpose.”

On Monday he wrote in a newspaper op-ed that the city’s rule of law has been “profoundly compromised”.

Hong Kong’s government said it “strongly disapproves” of Lord Sumption’s opinions, calling them a “betrayal against Hong Kong’s judges”.

It highlighted remarks from the other leaving judges who said they still believed in the independence of the courts.

Canadian judge Beverley McLachlin, who resigned on Monday citing her wish to spend more time with family said: “I continue to have confidence in the members of the Court, their independence, and their determination to uphold the rule of law.”

But her departure as well as that of Lords Sumption and Lawrence Collins – another former UK Supreme Court justice- last week means at least six senior foreign judges have stepped down from sitting in Hong Kong since a major national security law (NSL) was imposed by China in 2020.

Lord Sumption has been much more overtly critical than his peers- arguing that the laws, which have been widely criticised as being draconian, have overridden the independent functioning of courts and heaped pressure on the judiciary.

“Intimidated or convinced by the darkening political mood, many judges have lost sight of their traditional role as defenders of the liberty of the subject, even when the law allows it,” he wrote in the Financial Times.

An ‘oppressive’ situation in Hong Kong

Speaking to the BBC on Monday, Lord Sumption said it had become increasingly clear that Hong Kong’s supercharged security laws were being used to “crush peaceful political dissent, not just riots.”

Legal experts have for some time now warned about the city’s degraded rule of law in the wake of laws enacted by Beijing.

China and Hong Kong have defended the NSL laws as crucial to maintaining law and order in the city after major pro-democracy protests and unrest in 2019 and 2020.

But rights groups and Western governments say the law has been used to criminalise acts of free speech and assembly, leading to a near complete silencing of dissent in the global financial hub,.

More recently, the EU and the US heavily criticised as “politically motivated” the conviction of 14 democracy activists on 30 May for “subversion” . The defendants in the landmark Hong Kong 47 case face a minimum of 10 years in prison and could even be jailed for life.

That case “was the last straw”, Lord Sumption said, referencing the court’s assessment that organising a political primary was tantamount to a national security crime.

“The judgement… was a major indication of the lengths to which some judges are prepared to go to ensure that Beijing’s campaign against those who have supported democracy succeeds.”

He also emphasised the other major problem: “If China doesn’t like the court’s decisions it can reverse them.”

Such a precedent was set in 2023, when in the high-profile prosecution of Hong Kong billionaire Jimmy Lai, Beijing overturned the Court of Final Appeal’s ruling to allow the democracy activist his choice of lawyer.

He also spoke of further pressures on judges, describing in his op-ed an “oppressive” environment. He wrote of the government’s “continued calls for judicial ‘patriotism’” and the outrage sparked in the rare instances when a judge acquits or grants bail to an NSL defendant.

“It requires unusual courage for local judges to swim against such a strong political tide. Unlike the overseas judges, they have nowhere else to go,” he wrote.

Why are there foreign judges serving in Hong Kong?

It is a holdover from Hong Kong’s past as a British colony.

After the UK handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the agreement between the countries stipulated that the special territory would continue to operate with its freedoms and systems for 50 years- including its common law legal system which operates in several other jurisdictions worldwide.

Currently there seven foreign judges remaining on the court– three British and four from Australia. Typically they are very experienced senior judges who have retired from their countries’ senior courts.

They operate as overseas non-permanent appointees; a typical appeal bench of five judges at the Court of Final Appeal will see a foreign judge hearing the case along with three other local judges.

Their presence was long seen as a sort of bulwark protection to help uphold the British-style common law legal system which has been key to Hong Kong’s stature as a global financial hub.

As recently as March this year, Hong Kong’s leader praised the foreign judges saying their appointments “help maintain a high degree of confidence in (Hong Kong’s) judicial system”. According to recent media reports, they are paid £40,000 per case.

Lord Sumption had said most of Hong Kong’s judges are “honourable people with all the liberal instincts of the common law.”

“But they have to operate in an impossible political environment created by China.”

Controversial presence

Since Hong Kong’s security laws kicked in, rights groups, critics and even the UK government had questioned the foreign judges’ continued presence on the court.

In 2020, a senior Australian judge was the first to step down from the court. James Spigelman directly cited the impact of the wide-sweeping National Security Law which hadn’t kicked into operation yet.

Two years later, UK Supreme Court justices Robert Reed and Patrick Hodge also stepped down following concerns raised by the British government.

Lord Reed, the chief justice of the top UK court, said he agreed with the government that serving Supreme Court justices could not continue to serve in Hong Kong without appearing to endorse a government that had “departed from values of political freedom, and freedom of expression”.

The remaining judges on the court at the time – which included Lords Collins and Sumption – issued a statement shortly after defending their position.

They said they believed their “continued participation” would be “in the interest of the people of Hong Kong”.

But on Monday, Lord Sumption said he no longer believed this.

He told the BBC he had chosen to stay on the first few years “to see how things develop and to hope that one can make a positive contribution.” He had written he hoped “the presence of overseas judges would help sustain the rule of law.”

“It’s taken a long time to conclude that that is not realistic.”

His sharp criticism and the resignations of the other judges will further fuel concerns about Hong Kong’s status as an international city, particular as the latest resignations come just weeks after the city implemented a second, even more wide-scoping security law known as Article 23.

Legal scholar Eric Lai, told the BBC the two British judges had been “well known” for their support of Hong Kong’s legal system in the past and their commitment to the court in critical cases.

“Their change of mind to resign signals the worsening legal environment in HK,” he said.

But the city’s authorities defend the integrity of their legal system.

The chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal said last week the court would continue to function regardless of the resignations.

Andrew Cheung stressed the court’s independence: “All judges and judicial officers will continue to… administer justice in full accordance with the law, without fear or favour, self-interest or deceit”.

BMW China parts probe expanded by US Senate panel

By João da SilvaBusiness reporter

The head of the US Senate Finance Committee has expanded an investigation of BMW after the car maker was found to have imported vehicles to America that contained banned Chinese parts.

In a letter to BMW North America, Senator Ron Wyden, asked whether it had stopped importing components suspected of being made by people from China’s Uyghur minority group in forced labour conditions.

BMW Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last month, BMW said it had “taken steps to halt the importation of affected products”.

It came after a two-year long investigation by Senator Wyden’s staff revealed at least 8,000 BMW Mini Cooper cars with banned parts had been imported into the US.

The report found that the cars contained components made by Chinese firm Sichuan Jingweida Technology Group (JWD).

“Is BMW certain that it is not currently importing vehicles containing components produced by JWD?”, Senator Wyden’s letter said, asking for answers by 21 June.

Other car makers named in the report included Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen.

The US Congress passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) into law in 2021.

The legislation is aimed at preventing the import of goods from China’s north-western Xinjiang region where most Uyghurs live.

JWD was added to the UFLPA Entity List in December 2023, which means its products are presumed to be made with forced labour.

China has has faced accusations of detaining more than one million Uyghurs in Xinjiang against their will in recent years.

Beijing has rejected all allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has denounced the UFLPA saying it “harms the survival and employment rights of the people in Xinjiang”.

Ukraine ‘hits missile launch sites in Russia’

By Robert GreenallBBC News

The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has said that the situation there has been “calmer” since Russian missile launchers shelling it were hit by Ukrainian fire.

Ihor Terekhov’s comments came nearly two weeks after the US and other Western nations gave the go-ahead for Ukraine to hit targets inside Russia near Kharkiv.

He was speaking at a conference in Germany attended by President Volodymyr Zelensky which is aimed at encouraging European nations to support and invest in Ukraine.

Russia says it has captured two Ukrainian villages as it continues its offensive begun in May.

The defence ministry said Tymkivka in Kharkiv region and Miasozharivka in Luhansk region had been taken by its forces. Ukraine has not commented.

However, on Monday Mr Zelensky said Ukraine was continuing “counter-strike activities” in Kharkiv region.

He also denied reports by the pro-Russian Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov that his forces had captured a village in Sumy region, which borders Russia to the west of Kharkiv, saying there was no Russian presence in the area.

On Tuesday the Ukrainian president gave his first ever speech to the Bundestag, the German parliament, making emotional references to Germany’s Cold War history of division and calling on future reparations from Russia for the damage it had caused.

“We will finish this war, in the interests of all of us, of all Europe. We will finish this war according to our conditions,” he said.

“You can understand why we are fighting so hard against Russia’s attempts to divide us, to divide Ukraine. Why we are doing absolutely everything to prevent a wall between parts of our country,” he said, in reference to the Berlin Wall.

He also warned of the danger to the European Union of pro-Russian rhetoric, days after far right parties, some of which are pro-Russian, made gains in EU elections.

Mr Zelensky received a standing ovation, but his speech was boycotted by the far-right AfD and the far-left BSW parties – both of which made big gains in Sunday’s European elections. The BSW has campaigned against weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

The AfD characterised the boycott as a protest against Mr Zelensky as a “war president”.

Ukrainian officials have reported five deaths in Russian bombardments in the last 24 hours, four of them in Kharkiv region.

Mr Terekhov said that the shelling of Kharkiv had become more frequent in the last two days, but it had generally been calmer.

“There has been a break in the shelling, which I think is connected with the fact that the equipment that Kharkiv was being shelled with has been successfully hit,” he told Reuters news agency.

“As compared to May, we experienced a more or less calm week until Sunday… Therefore, it’s been a bit calmer, but I can’t say that it’s been completely so.”

Speaking alongside the Ukrainian president on Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany was sending more air defences, including a third Patriot system, and missiles to help Ukraine.

At the end of May, US officials said President Joe Biden had allowed Ukraine to use American-supplied weapons to strike targets in Russia, but only near the Kharkiv region.

The city of Kharkiv is close to the Russian border and therefore vulnerable to attack from within Russia.

Previously Western nations had restricted targeting of weapons they provided to Russian-held areas of Ukraine, because of fears that attacking Russia itself could lead to escalation of the conflict.

YouTube prankster voted in as Cyprus MEP

By Vicky WongBBC News

A popular YouTuber from Cyprus has been elected as an independent MEP to the European Parliament.

Fidias Panayiotou has previously described himself as a “professional mistake maker” and some of his online hijinks include trying to hug 100 celebrities – including Elon Musk – and spending a week in a coffin.

The 24-year-old has more than 2.6 million subscribers and – despite having no political experience – garnered the third-largest number of votes with 19.4%.

“It was a shock what happened, a miracle,” said Mr Panayiotou.

He told state broadcaster CyBC: “The parties should take it as a warning that they must modernise and listen to the people.”

Last year Mr Panayiotou was forced to apologise after he caused outrage in Japan for a YouTube video in which he dodged train fares and a five-star hotel breakfast bill.

The clip, which racked up millions of views, saw him travel across Japan on its famed bullet train, while dodging fares by hiding in toilets and feigning illness.

But on Sunday, he celebrated his win with a gathering at Eleftheria Square in the island’s capital Nicosia, where he said: “We are writing history. Not just in Cyprus, but internationally.”

According to Politico, Mr Panayiotou declared in January he would run in the polls.

Appearing on Cypriot TV, Alpha Cyprus – where he wore trainers, shorts, a suit jacket and three neck ties – he admitted that he had never voted, knew little about politics and the EU, but that he could no longer stand the continued rule of “nerds” in Brussels.

When Mr Panayiotou submitted his candidacy in April, he admitted that his goal was not to get elected but to motivate young people to get involved in politics.

The Mediterranean island nation has a population of about 900,000, of whom more than 683,000 were registered to vote in the weekend’s polls.

Turnout in Cyprus was at just under 59% – up from 45% in the 2019 elections, with analysts attributing the rise in part to the “Fidias factor”.

According analysis of exit poll data by news site Philenews, Mr Panayiotou won 40% of the votes from the 18-24 age group and 28% of votes from the 25-34 group.

Six Cypriot MEPs were elected.

Mr Panayiotou came third behind the conservative DISY (25%) which retained its two MEPs, and the communist party AKEL (22%) which lost one of its two MEPs.

Cypriot voters also elected an MEP from the ultranationalist party ELAM (11%) and the centrist party Diko (10%).

UN ‘shocked’ at Israeli hostage rescue’s impact on Gaza civilians

By David GrittenBBC News

The UN human rights office says it is “profoundly shocked” at the impact on civilians of the Israeli operation in central Gaza that rescued four hostages held by Hamas.

Palestinian health officials said hundreds of people were killed and injured in the densely-populated Nuseirat refugee camp on Saturday. Israel’s military said fewer than 100 were killed.

UN spokesman Jeremy Laurence said the action by Israeli forces “seriously calls into question whether the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution… were respected” and could amount to war crimes.

He also said Palestinian armed groups could face war crimes charges for continuing to hold hostages in built-up areas and “putting the lives of Palestinian civilians, as well as the hostages themselves, at added risk”.

Israel’s mission to the UN in Geneva accused the UN human rights office of “slander”.

“The toll of this war on civilians is first and foremost the product of Hamas’s deliberate strategy to maximise civilian harm,” a statement said.

“Those who continue to shield Hamas terrorists, including [the UN human rights office], are complicit in the suffering of Palestinians and Israelis alike.”

The Israeli military has repeatedly said it operates in accordance with international law.

There was no immediate comment by Hamas.

The four hostages freed on Saturday – Noa Argamani, Almog Meir, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv – were held in two apartment buildings about 200m (656ft) apart in Nuseirat – a historic, urban refugee camp which has seen an influx of displaced people since the start of the war.

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the Israeli commandos took Ms Argamani’s Hamas guards by surprise and quickly killed them. But the simultaneous move to free Mr Ziv, Mr Kozlov and Mr Meir from the second building sparked a fierce gun battle with their guards, during which a senior Israeli police officer was fatally wounded.

As the commandos evacuated to the coast, they came under fire from fighters armed with machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades, the IDF said. In response, Israeli aircraft, artillery and naval vessels carried out intense strikes on the area.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 274 Palestinians were killed and 698 others were injured during the operation. Its figures do not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

The Hamas-run Government Media Office reported that 64 children, 57 women and 37 elderly people were among the dead.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said its teams, along with medical staff at al-Aqsa hospital in the nearby town of Deir al-Balah and Nasser hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis, treated hundreds of severely injured patients, many of whom were women and children.

The charity also quoted one of its Palestinian doctors, Dr Hazem Maloh, as saying that dozens of men, women and children were killed, including his neighbours, friends or relatives.

The director of al-Awda hospital in Nuseirat told BBC Arabic’s Gaza Today programme that 142 dead and 250 injured people were brought to the hospital on Saturday, and that almost a quarter of the fatalities were women and children.

A senior official from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa), meanwhile, said its health centre in Nuseirat treated more than 125 injured people.

Mr Laurence noted that the UN human rights office’s ability to verify the casualty reports was limited because of access constraints, but that it still had “reliable” contacts on the ground.

He also said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk welcomed the UN Security Council resolution endorsing a proposed ceasefire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas, which was outlined by the US last month.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israel’s prime minister had “reaffirmed his commitment” to the plan at a meeting on Monday.

Hamas has yet to accept it, but Mr Blinken said a statement from the group welcoming the UN resolution was a “hopeful sign”.

The Israeli military launched a campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to an unprecedented cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 251 others were taken hostage.

More than 37,120 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

A deal agreed in November saw Hamas release 105 of the hostages in return for a week-long ceasefire and some 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Israel says 116 hostages are still being held, 41 of whom are presumed dead.

Danish PM still not feeling well after street attack

By Malu CursinoBBC News

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has said she is fulfilling her duties as the country’s leader, but has not yet fully recovered after last week’s street attack.

“I’m not really myself yet,” Ms Frederiksen said in an interview with Danish broadcaster DR.

The prime minister was struck by a man who walked up to her in Copenhagen’s old town on Friday evening.

“As a human being, it felt like an attack on me… but I have no doubt it was the prime minister who got hit,” the 46-year-old said.

“It was an attack on us all,” she added, as she talked about a perceived change in tone in Danish politics in recent times.

Ms Frederiksen is said to have experienced whiplash after the incident. The attack was not considered politically motivated.

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.

In her interview with DR on Tuesday, Ms Frederiksen said there was no place for any form of violence in Danish society.

The incident, which took place two days before Danes headed to the polls for European elections, was strongly condemned by world leaders, with EU chief Charles Michel saying he was “outraged”.

Ms Frederiksen, 46, became prime minister in 2019 after taking over as leader of the centre-left Social Democrats four years earlier, making her the youngest prime minister in Danish history.

During the same interview with the Danish broadcaster, the prime minister was asked about the results of the European Parliament elections, where her Social Democrats were beaten by Green-Left party SF which polled more than 17% of the vote.

Ms Frederiksen, who had to halt campaigning over the weekend to recover after the assault, said she was “really sorry” about the result, but emphasised that she was listening to the electorate.

Why the EU might be about to make Chinese electric cars more expensive

By Theo LeggettBBC international business correspondent

With China accused of selling electric cars at artificially low prices, the European Union is widely expected to hit them with tariffs this week.

The BYD Seagull is a tiny, cheap, neatly styled electric vehicle (EV). An urban runabout that won’t break any speed records, but nor will it break the bank.

In China, it has a starting price of 69,800 yuan ($9,600; £7,500). If it comes to Europe, it is expected to cost at least double that figure due to safety regulations. But that would still be, by electric car standards, very cheap.

For European manufacturers that is a worrying prospect. They fear the little Seagull will become an invasive species, one of a number of Chinese-built models poised to colonise their own markets at the expense of indigenous vehicles.

China’s domestic auto industry has grown rapidly over the past two decades. Its development, along with that of the battery sector, was a major component of the “Made In China 2025” strategy, a 10-year industrial policy launched by the Communist Party in Beijing in 2015.

The result has been the breakneck development of companies like BYD, now vying with Tesla for the title of the world’s biggest manufacturer of electric vehicles. Established giants such as SAIC, the owner of the MG brand, and Volvo’s owner Geely, have also become big players in the EV market.

Last year, more than eight million electric vehicles were sold in China – about 60% of the global total, according to the International Energy Agency’s annual Global EV Outlook.

For policymakers in Europe and the US, however, this is a cause for concern. With Chinese brands having plenty of surplus capacity and moving into international markets, they fear their own companies will be unable to compete. They claim hefty subsidies for domestic production allow Chinese firms to keep prices at a level other firms will struggle to match.

According to a report by the Swiss bank UBS, published in September, the Chinese advantage is real. It suggested that BYD could produce cars at some 25% lower cost than the best of the legacy global carmakers.

It said BYD and other Chinese firms were “set to conquer the world market with high-tech, low-cost EVs for the masses”.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, the Alliance for American Manufacturing warned that the introduction of cheap Chinese cars could be an “extinction-level event” for the US auto industry. It called for a “dedicated and concerted effort to turn those imports back”, concluding that there was “no time to lose”.

Last month, the US took decisive action. The Biden administration raised its tariff on imports of Chinese battery-powered cars from 25% to 100%. Sales of Chinese-made EVs in the US are currently negligible; with the new tariffs, they are likely to stay that way.

The move was part art of a wider package of measures targeting imports from China that has been condemned by Beijing as “naked protectionism”.

At the same time, the US is subsidising its own car industry, through tax incentives that make domestically-produced vehicles cheaper to buy.

The EU appears to be taking a more moderate approach, despite tough rhetoric.

In her state of the Union address in September last year, the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced an investigation into Chinese imports.

“Global markets are now flooded with cheaper Chinese electric cars,” she said.

“Their price is kept artificially low by huge state subsidies. This is distorting our market.”

The initial results of that investigation are now imminent.

It is widely expected that the Commission will provisionally raise duties on EVs imported from China, from the standard level of 10% for third country imports to between 20 and 25%.

According to Matthias Schmidt of Schmidt Automotive Research, this would be a rather more proportionate response than the US move.

“The 100% tariff is just pure protectionism, regressive and stifles innovation, and prevents a competitive landscape for the consumer,” he says.

“If the EU imposes tariffs of no more than 25%, it will be more about levelling the playing field, and evening out the 30% cost advantage Chinese manufacturers have.”

Nevertheless, tariffs could hurt European companies as well as helping them.

Firstly, they would not just affect Chinese brands. For example, BMW’s iX3 electric SUV is built at a factory in Dadong and exported to Europe. The company also intends to import large quantities of Chinese-made electric Minis.

Both models would be subject to the tariffs, leaving the manufacturer to absorb the extra cost, or raise prices. The US manufacturer Tesla would also be affected, as it builds cars in Shanghai for export to Europe.

Secondly, although European makes have invested heavily in production in China in recent years, in partnership with local manufacturers, a number of them still export high-value models to Chinese markets.

If China wanted to retaliate by imposing its own hefty tariffs, these shipments could be targeted.

Small wonder then, that executives at European carmakers have been distinctly lukewarm about the EU’s initiative.

Earlier this year, Volkswagen Group’s chief executive Oliver Blume warned that the introduction of tariffs was “potentially dangerous”, because of the risk of retaliation.

Last month BMW boss Oliver Zipse told investors “you could very quickly shoot yourself in the foot” by engaging in trade battles, adding “we don’t think that our industry needs protection”.

Ola Källenius, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz has gone a step further, publicly calling for tariffs on Chinese EV imports to be lowered rather than raised, to encourage European companies to do a better job.

Support for the EU investigation has largely come from France. Yet even among French manufacturers, there is doubt as to whether tariffs are the correct approach.

Carlos Tavares, head of the Stellantis group which includes Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall/Opel and DS, has described them as “a major trap for countries that go down that path”.

He has warned that European carmakers are in a “Darwinian” struggle with their Chinese rivals, something that is likely to have social consequences as they pare back costs in an effort to compete.

Renault’s chief executive Luca de Meo, meanwhile, says “we are not in favour of protectionism, but competition must be fair”.

He has called for the adoption of a strong European industrial policy to promote the sector, taking inspiration from policies launched by the US and China – in an effort to compete with both.

Meanwhile, the UK is looking on with interest. The head of the country’s trade watchdog, the Trade Remedies Authority, has previously made it clear he would be ready to set up an investigation into Chinese EVs, if ministers or the industry wanted it.

So far it is understood no such request has been made. Ultimately, as a deeply political issue, it will be something for the next government to address, after the election.

What higher tariffs may give Europe is more time for both car manufacturers and policymakers to adapt to the challenge from China.

But many within the industry acknowledge that if Europe is to remain a major player in the global automotive sector, it will have to do much more than simply set up barricades at home.

Read more about electric cars

A cartoon cat has been vexing China’s censors – now he says they are on his tail

By Tessa WongAsia Digital Reporter

As anti-lockdown protests flared across China’s cities in November 2022, hundreds of thousands around the world were glued to an unlikely source: a mysterious X account, fronted by a cartoon cat.

Protest footage, details about police movements, news of arrests – Teacher Li Is Not Your Teacher posted a torrent of real-time updates sourced from ordinary citizens.

Little of it could be found on China’s tightly-controlled state media or internet. All of it was curated by one person, sitting in a bedroom in Italy – an art school student named Li Ying.

Mr Li has since become a vital chronicler of information deemed politically sensitive by Beijing. His X account is a window into Xi Jinping’s China where authorities’ vice-like grip on information keeps tightening. From major protests to small acts of dissent, corruption to crime, it is zealously scrubbed off the Chinese internet, only to turn up on Mr Li’s account.

He says this has earned him the wrath of the authorities and, in an interview with the BBC, he painted a clear picture of how Beijing pressures dissidents overseas. He alleged the Chinese government is not only harassing him but also his friends, family and X followers in a coordinated campaign of intimidation.

The Chinese government has not responded to our questions and we are unable to independently verify all of Mr Li’s claims. But the tactics he detailed have been documented by activists, rights groups and other governments.

His activism was an accident, he told the BBC over the phone.

“It is the Chinese authorities’ unrelenting constriction of freedom of speech and media freedoms that has led me to slowly change from an ordinary person to who I am today.”

Li’s online existence began with writing and posting love stories on Weibo, the Chinese microblogging platform. “I was someone who had made love my main creative theme, I had nothing to do with politics,” the son of two art teachers explained. Even the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which Beijing stamped out, hardly made an impact on him: “I was just like many ordinary people, I didn’t think that the protests had anything to do with me.”

Then the pandemic struck. As China sealed itself off, Mr Li – by now studying at a prestigious art school in Italy – became desperate to find out what was going on back home. Scouring social media, he was shocked to read about the crushing lockdowns: “There were people starving, even jumping off buildings… the feeling at the time was of a lot of suffering and pressure.”

He started discussing these stories on Weibo. Some followers privately sent him their stories asking him to publish on their behalf, which he did. Censors took notice, and blocked his account.

Undeterred, he began a cat-and-mouse game, setting up a new Weibo account each time they shut one down. Fifty-three accounts later, he had enough: “I said okay, I’m going on Twitter.”

On X, unfettered by China’s censors, yet accessible through virtual private networks, Mr Li’s following grew. But it only really exploded, to more than a million, in late 2022 during the White Paper protests against China’s punishing zero-Covid measures.

His account became an important clearing house for protest information; at one point, he was deluged with messages every second. Mr Li hardly slept, fact-checking and posting submissions that racked up hundreds of millions of views.

Online death threats from anonymous accounts soon followed. He said the authorities arrived at his parents’ home in China to question them. Even then, he was sure life would return to normal once the protests died down.

“After I finished reporting on the White Paper movement, I thought that the most important thing I could ever do in this life was finished,” he said. “I didn’t think about continuing to operate this account. But just as I was thinking about what I should do next, suddenly all my bank accounts in China were frozen.

“That’s when I realised – I couldn’t go back anymore.”

Fears about Chinese espionage have been steadily growing in the West as ties with China sour. What worries them are reports that Beijing is surveilling and pressuring its citizens who live in foreign jurisdictions. China has dismissed these allegations as “groundless and malicious defamation”, and said it is committed to protecting the rights and safety of its people abroad.

But the accusations are mounting. Last year US authorities alleged that a Chinese police taskforce was using social media including X to harass Chinese targets online, and charged dozens for “interstate threats”.

Australia is reportedly investigating a Chinese espionage operation targeting residents and a former spy has told Australian media how he targeted a political cartoonist in Cambodia and an activist in Thailand. Rights group Amnesty International found that Chinese studying overseas who took part in anti-government protests were being surveilled.

Analysts trace China’s so-called transnational repression back to the decade-old Operation Foxhunt to catch fugitive criminals. They believe those tactics are now used to target anyone overseas that Beijing deems a threat.

Mr Li believes there are enough signs suggesting he is now one of these people. He said the police showed up at a company in China from which he had ordered art supplies in the past, demanding his Italian shipping information. He received calls from someone claiming to represent an European delivery service and asking for his current address, though he had never placed the order.

Details of his former address and phone number were published on the messaging platform WeChat. A stranger turned up at his former home, asking to meet him as he wanted to discuss a “business proposal”.

It is not clear whether Chinese authorities were directly behind these incidents. But this kind of ambiguity can be intentional as it stokes “an ever-present fear of persecution and distrust” in targets, said Laura Harth, campaign director for rights group Safeguard Defenders which recently highlighted Mr Li’s situation.

Beijing is accused of working with middlemen, such as Chinese businessmen based abroad, so the government can later deny direct involvement. Safeguard Defenders alleges the person who showed up at Mr Li’s former home is a businessman linked to one of China’s controversial overseas police stations.

“Often there are nationalists and patriotic people who work with the government in a tandem, symbiotic relationship,” said Yaqiu Wang, China research director at Freedom House. The thinking, she said, is “if I do this for the authorities then it’s good for my business”.

The pressure has ramped up in recent months, Mr Li said.

Authorities began surveilling and questioning his parents more – at one point the visits happened every day, he said. Even officials from the school they used to work for asked them to persuade Mr Li to stop.

“They are interrogating everyone in China who is linked to me, even WeChat contacts, trying to understand my life habits, understand what kind of restaurants I like to go to,” he said. One person was allegedly even pressured to confess he was Mr Li.

Followers on X have been telling Mr Li they have been asked to “drink tea” – a euphemism for police interrogations – since the end of last year.

He estimated a few hundred people have been questioned and told to unfollow him. Some people have been shown long lists of names purportedly of his followers, with one list running up to 10,000 names, according to Mr Li. He believes authorities did this to show the scale of their interrogations and intimidate him and his followers.

“Of course I feel very guilty. They only wanted to understand what is going on in China, and then they ended up being asked to ‘drink tea’,” he said. In February, he made these reports public with a warning on X – overnight, more than 200,000 people unfollowed him.

It’s unclear how the authorities tracked down X users in China, where the app is blocked. While some could have been identified through their tweets, many would have tried to conceal their identities.

It is plausible the Chinese government asked for user details, said Ms Wang. If so, X “should be transparent” about whether it agreed to any such requests. X has yet to respond to the BBC’s queries.

Shortly after Mr Li posted about the interrogations, anonymous accounts began flooding his inbox and X comment threads with spam. They sent crude cartoons of his parents and pornographic content; in recent weeks, he has received gruesome images from horror films, and photos and videos of cats being tortured – he said it’s because they know he loves cats. The BBC has seen screenshots of this.

These messages have hit a fever pitch in recent days, with one showing up in his inbox every few minutes. This coincided with Mr Li’s posts related to the Tiananmen massacre in 1989 ahead of its anniversary on 4 June, a taboo topic for the Chinese Communist Party.

Personal information about him and his parents, including their pictures, have been posted on a website promoted by anonymous X accounts. The website also alleges he is working for the Chinese government, in a seeming attempt to sow distrust among his followers.

A check on the website’s domain found it was set up in April and its registrant listed their location as China and Tasmania. Its IP address is hosted by a Hong Kong company.

It is not clear who is behind all of this, but Mr Li said it is a “psychological attack” aimed at wearing down his nerves.

China is not alone in going after overseas dissidents, said political scientist Ho-fung Hung of Johns Hopkins University, pointing to similar allegations against India and Turkey. “As more overseas communities become more active and social media connects them to people back home, authoritarian governments increasingly feel diaspora communities can pose a threat to them,” he said.

But in China’s case, he added, they are stepping up their tactics because of “the growing paranoia of the Chinese government” besieged by an economic slowdown and outward flows of money and talent.

Observers say this paranoia appears to be fuelling a uniquely intense repression of Mr Li. Ms Wang said what was happening to him had the signs of a “national, really high-level plan”.

“He has become the aggregator which people send information to, and that is very scary to the authorities… he has a kind of power that nobody else has had in the past.”

Wryly, Mr Li said he could be dubbed China’s “most dangerous cat” – a reference to his X profile picture, which he drew.

His government targets him because he stymies their vast efforts to censor negative news, and also because he represents a new generation of internet savvy, politically conscious Chinese youth, he said. “What this White Paper protest generation represents is exactly the kind of ideology they do not want everyone to see.”

His work has come at an enormous personal cost. He moves frequently within Italy, staying only a few months in each location, and hardly leaves the house. He hasn’t found steady work, and survives on online donations and earnings from YouTube and X.

He lives alone with his two cats, Guolai and Diandian. In previous interviews he had mentioned a girlfriend, but they have since parted ways. “I’m all by myself now,” he said matter-of-factly. “There was too much pressure. But I don’t feel lonely because I interact with a lot of people on social media.”

He admitted, though, that he is feeling the mental strain of his situation and the long hours he spends online. “I feel lately my ability to express myself has dropped, and I’m very unfocused.”

Though he recently renewed his passport, he believes Chinese authorities allowed this to keep tabs on him. It is a bitter gift from his government – once an avid traveller, he now feels trapped.

“I often mourn [the life I could have],” he added. “On the other hand, I don’t regret this.”

“I don’t see myself as a hero, I was only doing what I thought was the right thing at the time. What I’ve demonstrated is that an ordinary person can also do these things.” He believes that if his account shuts down, “naturally a new Teacher Li will appear”.

The thought of getting arrested scares him, but giving up is not an option. “I feel I am a person with no future… until they find me and pull me back to China, or even kidnap me, I will continue doing what I’m doing.”

By going public with his allegations, he hopes to expose the Chinese government’s tactics. But it’s also because he believes they crossed a line by escalating their repression, and wants to fight back. “I post something you don’t like, so you crush me, that is the process of a mutual fight. But doing all these things to my parents, I really don’t understand it.”

Now, he is making defiant plans to expand his operations, perhaps recruiting others to join his mission, or posting in English to widen his influence. The Chinese government “is really afraid of outsiders knowing what China is really like… [Posting in English] is something they are even more afraid of.

“They may feel they have a lot of tactics, but I actually have a lot of cards I can play.”

The Malawi vice-president who was plucked from business

By Basillioh RukangaBBC News

Malawi’s Vice-President Saulos Chilima has died at the age of 51 after a military aircraft he was flying in crashed in a forest in the north of the country.

He had been vice-president for 10 years, initially under former President Peter Mutharika, who picked him from the business sector for the second most senior post in government.

He was described as a “performer” and “workaholic” but he was perhaps defined by being at the centre of corruption allegations in government.

First as an accuser, and then as an accused.

Before Dr Chilima became vice-president in 2014, he was the managing director of the country’s leading telecommunications firm Airtel Malawi, the first Malawian to head the organisation.

Mr Mutharika had reportedly said he was partnering with a “reliable and productive” person.

But four years later, Dr Chilima fell out with the president, accusing the government of not doing enough to fight corruption and protecting some people.

Under Malawian law the president cannot fire the vice-president – Dr Chilima defied calls to resign despite publicly challenging the government he was in.

He later formed his own political party, the United Transformation Movement (UTM), calling for radical change and reform in the country.

He ran for president in 2019 as the party’s candidate and came third.

Mr Mutharika won that election but it was subsequently annulled by Malawi’s top court because of widespread irregularities.

It was the first time in Africa that an election result was both overturned by a court and then the sitting president went on to be defeated in a re-run.

Dr Chilima teamed up as the running mate of Lazarus Chakwera in the historic 2020 re-run.

Mr Chakwera, who had emerged second in the discredited poll of 2019, was resoundingly elected president, and Dr Chilima became his vice-president.

But the vice-president would soon himself face corruption allegations, which he had so much rallied against in the previous administration.

He was arrested in 2022 on claims that he received money in return for influencing the awarding of government contracts – which he denied.

The president fired other officials who were named alongside him.

As he could not sack the vice-president, Mr Chakwera promised he would no longer delegate any official duties to Dr Chilima while he was facing trial.

But the charges were dropped last month with no reasons given – in a move that raised questions about the handling of corruption cases.

Before his role as a political heavyweight in Malawi, Dr Chilima had held other senior roles in the corporate sector, including at Coca Cola and Unilever.

He was an economist and held a PhD in knowledge management.

While serving in government, he was also the minister responsible for economic planning and public sector reforms.

The government’s website said he was a “performer”, “workaholic” and “an achiever”.

Dr Chilima was born on 12 February 1973 in Ntcheu district in central Malawi.

He leaves behind his wife Mary and two children, Sean and Elizabeth.

More BBC stories on Malawi:

  • High hopes of Malawi cannabis farmers are dashed
  • Malawians who abandoned Israeli farms deported
  • How a Malawi WhatsApp group helped save women trafficked to Oman
  • Malawi country profile

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‘Becoming a totalitarian state’: UK judge on why he quit Hong Kong court

By Frances MaoBBC News

A high-profile British judge who resigned from Hong Kong’s highest court last week has warned the city is “slowly becoming a totalitarian state” and judges are being compromised by an “impossible political environment created by China”.

Lord Sumption’s comments on Monday came as a third senior foreign judge in the past week resigned from the Court of Final Appeal.

“The problem in Hong Kong has been building up over the last four years and I think all the judges on the court feel concerned about this,” Lord Sumption told the BBC’s Today programme.

“I have reached the point eventually where I don’t think that my continuing presence on the court is serving any useful purpose.”

On Monday he wrote in a newspaper op-ed that the city’s rule of law has been “profoundly compromised”.

Hong Kong’s government said it “strongly disapproves” of Lord Sumption’s opinions, calling them a “betrayal against Hong Kong’s judges”.

It highlighted remarks from the other leaving judges who said they still believed in the independence of the courts.

Canadian judge Beverley McLachlin, who resigned on Monday citing her wish to spend more time with family said: “I continue to have confidence in the members of the Court, their independence, and their determination to uphold the rule of law.”

But her departure as well as that of Lords Sumption and Lawrence Collins – another former UK Supreme Court justice- last week means at least six senior foreign judges have stepped down from sitting in Hong Kong since a major national security law (NSL) was imposed by China in 2020.

Lord Sumption has been much more overtly critical than his peers- arguing that the laws, which have been widely criticised as being draconian, have overridden the independent functioning of courts and heaped pressure on the judiciary.

“Intimidated or convinced by the darkening political mood, many judges have lost sight of their traditional role as defenders of the liberty of the subject, even when the law allows it,” he wrote in the Financial Times.

An ‘oppressive’ situation in Hong Kong

Speaking to the BBC on Monday, Lord Sumption said it had become increasingly clear that Hong Kong’s supercharged security laws were being used to “crush peaceful political dissent, not just riots.”

Legal experts have for some time now warned about the city’s degraded rule of law in the wake of laws enacted by Beijing.

China and Hong Kong have defended the NSL laws as crucial to maintaining law and order in the city after major pro-democracy protests and unrest in 2019 and 2020.

But rights groups and Western governments say the law has been used to criminalise acts of free speech and assembly, leading to a near complete silencing of dissent in the global financial hub,.

More recently, the EU and the US heavily criticised as “politically motivated” the conviction of 14 democracy activists on 30 May for “subversion” . The defendants in the landmark Hong Kong 47 case face a minimum of 10 years in prison and could even be jailed for life.

That case “was the last straw”, Lord Sumption said, referencing the court’s assessment that organising a political primary was tantamount to a national security crime.

“The judgement… was a major indication of the lengths to which some judges are prepared to go to ensure that Beijing’s campaign against those who have supported democracy succeeds.”

He also emphasised the other major problem: “If China doesn’t like the court’s decisions it can reverse them.”

Such a precedent was set in 2023, when in the high-profile prosecution of Hong Kong billionaire Jimmy Lai, Beijing overturned the Court of Final Appeal’s ruling to allow the democracy activist his choice of lawyer.

He also spoke of further pressures on judges, describing in his op-ed an “oppressive” environment. He wrote of the government’s “continued calls for judicial ‘patriotism’” and the outrage sparked in the rare instances when a judge acquits or grants bail to an NSL defendant.

“It requires unusual courage for local judges to swim against such a strong political tide. Unlike the overseas judges, they have nowhere else to go,” he wrote.

Why are there foreign judges serving in Hong Kong?

It is a holdover from Hong Kong’s past as a British colony.

After the UK handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the agreement between the countries stipulated that the special territory would continue to operate with its freedoms and systems for 50 years- including its common law legal system which operates in several other jurisdictions worldwide.

Currently there seven foreign judges remaining on the court– three British and four from Australia. Typically they are very experienced senior judges who have retired from their countries’ senior courts.

They operate as overseas non-permanent appointees; a typical appeal bench of five judges at the Court of Final Appeal will see a foreign judge hearing the case along with three other local judges.

Their presence was long seen as a sort of bulwark protection to help uphold the British-style common law legal system which has been key to Hong Kong’s stature as a global financial hub.

As recently as March this year, Hong Kong’s leader praised the foreign judges saying their appointments “help maintain a high degree of confidence in (Hong Kong’s) judicial system”. According to recent media reports, they are paid £40,000 per case.

Lord Sumption had said most of Hong Kong’s judges are “honourable people with all the liberal instincts of the common law.”

“But they have to operate in an impossible political environment created by China.”

Controversial presence

Since Hong Kong’s security laws kicked in, rights groups, critics and even the UK government had questioned the foreign judges’ continued presence on the court.

In 2020, a senior Australian judge was the first to step down from the court. James Spigelman directly cited the impact of the wide-sweeping National Security Law which hadn’t kicked into operation yet.

Two years later, UK Supreme Court justices Robert Reed and Patrick Hodge also stepped down following concerns raised by the British government.

Lord Reed, the chief justice of the top UK court, said he agreed with the government that serving Supreme Court justices could not continue to serve in Hong Kong without appearing to endorse a government that had “departed from values of political freedom, and freedom of expression”.

The remaining judges on the court at the time – which included Lords Collins and Sumption – issued a statement shortly after defending their position.

They said they believed their “continued participation” would be “in the interest of the people of Hong Kong”.

But on Monday, Lord Sumption said he no longer believed this.

He told the BBC he had chosen to stay on the first few years “to see how things develop and to hope that one can make a positive contribution.” He had written he hoped “the presence of overseas judges would help sustain the rule of law.”

“It’s taken a long time to conclude that that is not realistic.”

His sharp criticism and the resignations of the other judges will further fuel concerns about Hong Kong’s status as an international city, particular as the latest resignations come just weeks after the city implemented a second, even more wide-scoping security law known as Article 23.

Legal scholar Eric Lai, told the BBC the two British judges had been “well known” for their support of Hong Kong’s legal system in the past and their commitment to the court in critical cases.

“Their change of mind to resign signals the worsening legal environment in HK,” he said.

But the city’s authorities defend the integrity of their legal system.

The chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal said last week the court would continue to function regardless of the resignations.

Andrew Cheung stressed the court’s independence: “All judges and judicial officers will continue to… administer justice in full accordance with the law, without fear or favour, self-interest or deceit”.

What son’s conviction means for President Biden

By Anthony Zurcher@awzurcherSenior North America reporter

Hunter Biden’s conviction for lying about his drug use on a handgun licence application will be a devastating personal blow for his father, Joe Biden.

The US president doubles as the patriarch of a tight-knit family that has seen its share of personal tragedy and trauma.

Now his surviving son has been found guilty on all three counts and faces a potential prison sentence.

But the verdict is unlikely to change how Americans vote in November’s election.

His father’s name will be on the ballot, not his. There’s no evidence connecting the president to his son’s offences. And there has been scant polling evidence that the public is following this trial closely.

At the start of the trial, the president released a statement hinting at the dual obligations demanding his attention.

“I am the president, but I am also a dad,” he said.

He added that he supported his son and was proud of the man he is today, but he wouldn’t comment on the proceedings.

Joe Biden may not have wanted to talk about the trial, but his son’s courtroom drama has followed him for weeks, as he conducts his official duties and campaigns for re-election. Hunter’s yet-to-be determined punishment may be similarly distracting as the president prepares later this month for a pivotal presidential debate.

While in France for D-Day commemorations last week, President Biden said that he would not consider using his authority to pardon his son. And he added that he would accept the jury’s verdict – a contrast from Donald Trump’s rejection of his own conviction as rigged and corrupt.

Trump’s trial became a partisan brawl, with Republican officials lining up behind the former president to condemn the proceedings. Hunter’s conviction had a different feel, marking the culmination of a dark period for a Biden family that has known more than its share of turmoil.

Hunter Biden spiralled into drug use around the time that his brother, Beau, died from brain cancer. His battles with addiction and the toll it exacted on his family relationships were presented in painful detail during the trial through excerpts from Hunter’s memoir, his text messages and emails, photographs and testimony from those close to him.

All the while, friends and members of Hunter Biden’s family – including First Lady Jill Biden and his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden – sat behind him, watched and sometimes hugged him or held his hand during breaks in the trial. His half-sister Ashley cried during the defence attorney’s closing arguments.

“Our family has been through a lot together,” Joe Biden’s earlier statement concluded, “and Jill and I are going to continue to be there for Hunter and our family with our love and support.”

The prosecuting attorney during his closing argument said the evidence presented was ugly and personal. He also said that it was overwhelming and it was necessary to show that when Hunter Biden filled out the federal background check application for a handgun, he knowingly lied when he certified that he was not using drugs.

In the end, a unanimous jury agreed. This guilty verdict means the president’s son – the only surviving child from his first wife, who was killed along with his infant daughter in a car accident half a century ago – may face years in prison.

Hunter Biden now awaits sentencing for his conviction, but even after the judge decides his punishment his legal travails will not be over. He is also facing a September trial on charges of failing to pay $1.4m in federal income taxes.

That trial, coming less than two months before the election, may not contain the raw emotion on display in the Delaware courtroom, but it could prove more politically damaging for the president. Hunter’s foreign business dealings and his financial ties to the president have been a source of continued scrutiny by Mr Biden’s Republican critics.

Drug addiction and the consequences of it have touched many American lives. Allegations of financial impropriety and tax fraud, however, may generate less sympathy from the voting public.

More on Hunter Biden

Netanyahu walks tightrope as US urges Gaza ceasefire deal

By Jeremy Bowen@BowenBBCInternational Editor, BBC News

If diplomats have groundhog days, when they are condemned to reliving the same 24 hours, perhaps Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, felt a certain weariness as his jet approached the Middle East on his latest trip.

It is his eighth diplomatic tour of the region in the eight months since the Hamas attacks on Israel on 7 October last year.

The politics of trying to negotiate an end to the war in Gaza and an exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners were already complicated.

They are more tangled than ever now that the Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz has resigned from the war cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with his political ally Gadi Eisenkot. Both men are retired generals who led the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as chiefs of staff.

Without Benny Gantz, the Americans have lost their favourite contact in the cabinet. Now he’s back in opposition, Mr Gantz wants new elections – he is the pollsters’ favourite to be the next prime minister – but Mr Netanyahu is safe as long as he can preserve the coalition that gives him 64 votes in the 120-member Israeli parliament.

That depends on keeping the support of the leaders of two ultranationalist factions. They are Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister, and Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister.

That is the point at which Secretary of State Blinken’s mission collides with Israeli politics. President Joe Biden believes that the time has come to end the war in Gaza.

Mr Blinken’s job is to try to make that happen. But Messrs Ben-Gvir and Smotrich have threatened to bring down the Netanyahu government if he agrees to any ceasefire until they are satisfied that Hamas has been eliminated.

They are extreme Jewish nationalists, who want the war to continue until no trace of Hamas remains.

They believe that Gaza, like all the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan, is Jewish land that should be settled by Jews. Palestinians, they argue, could be encouraged to leave Gaza “voluntarily”.

Antony Blinken is in the Middle East to try to stop the latest ceasefire plan from going the way of all the others. Three ceasefire resolutions in the UN Security Council were vetoed by the US, but now Joe Biden is ready for a deal.

On 31 May, the president made a speech urging Hamas to accept what he said was a new Israeli proposal to end the war in Gaza.

It was a three-part deal – which has now been backed by a UN resolution – starting with a six-week ceasefire, a “surge” of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and the exchange of some Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

The deal would progress to the release of all the hostages, a permanent “cessation of hostilities” and ultimately the huge job of rebuilding Gaza. Israelis should no longer fear Hamas, he said, because it was no longer able to repeat 7 October.

President Biden and his advisers knew there was trouble ahead. Hamas insists it will only agree to a ceasefire that guarantees an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and an end to the war.

The destruction and civilian death inflicted by Israel in Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza during the raid to free four hostages last week can only have strengthened that resolve. The Hamas-run health authorities in Gaza say that 274 Palestinians were killed during the raid. The IDF says the number was less than 100.

Mr Biden also recognised that some powerful forces in Israel would object.

“I’ve urged the leadership in Israel to stand behind this deal,” he said in the speech. “Regardless of whatever pressure comes.”

The pressure came quickly, from Messrs Ben Gvir and Smotrich. They are senior government ministers, viscerally opposed to the deal that Joe Biden presented. It made no difference to them that the deal was approved by the war cabinet, as they are not members.

As expected, they threatened to topple the Netanyahu coalition if he agreed to the deal.

Neither Hamas nor Israel have publicly committed to the deal that President Biden laid out.

He accepted that the language of parts of it needed to be finalised. The ambiguity in parts of the proposal might in other conflicts, between other belligerents, allow room for diplomatic manoeuvre. But that would require a shared realisation that the time had come to make a deal, that more war would not bring any benefit.

There is no sign that the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, is at that point. He seems determined to stick the course he has followed since 7 October.

Some reports out of Gaza said that Palestinians in the ruins of Nuseirat camp were swearing at Hamas as well as Israel for disregarding their lives.

The BBC cannot confirm that, as like other international news organisations it is not allowed by Israel and Egypt to enter Gaza, except under rare and highly supervised trips with the Israeli military.

It seems clear though, that vast numbers of Palestinian dead have strengthened, not weakened the resilience of Hamas. For them, survival of their group and its leaders equals victory.

They will focus on the fact that the killing of more than 37,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians – according to the health ministry in Gaza – have brought Israel into deep disrepute.

It faces a case alleging genocide at the International Court of Justice, and applications at the International Criminal Court for arrest warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.

On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Netanyahu has lost two members of the war cabinet, Messrs Gantz and Eisenkot, who wanted a pause in the war to allow negotiations to free hostages. He is more exposed, without the political insulation they provided, to the hardliners, Messrs Ben-Gvir and Smotrich.

Perhaps Antony Blinken will urge him to call their bluff, to make the deal and satisfy millions of Israelis who want the hostages back before more of them are killed.

Mr Netanyahu might then have no choice other than to risk his government by gambling on an election.

Defeat will bring forward commissions of enquiry that will examine whether he bears responsibility for the political, intelligence and military failures that allowed Hamas to break into Israel eight months ago.

Or Benjamin Netanyahu might default to the techniques of procrastination and propaganda that he has perfected over all his years as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

If in doubt, play for time, and push arguments harder than ever.

On 24 July, he will return to one of his favourite pulpits, when he addresses a joint session of the US Congress in Washington DC.

Something better, for him, might emerge.

Five ways Michael Mosley made us healthier

By Philippa RoxbyHealth reporter

TV and podcast presenter Michael Mosley was best known for offering tips on simple ways to improve our health and wellbeing, backed up by science – everything from when to exercise and what to eat to how to get more sleep.

He was often the guinea pig – willing to try out anything before recommending it to others (swallowing tapeworms and trying psychedelic drugs, for example).

“Michael wanted to look at whatever would help people live better, healthier lives,” says his former co-presenter on Trust me I’m a Doctor, Dr Saleyha Ahsan.

“Something that wasn’t a fad, that they could keep going at and which they didn’t feel guilty about.”

We pick out his top five health hacks:

Eat less on two days a week

He popularised the idea of intermittent fasting – eating normally on five days a week and much less than usual on the other two, in order to lose weight and boost your health.

It’s called the 5:2 diet, and it sparked huge interest when his Horizon TV programme Eat, Fast and Live Longer was broadcast more than 10 years ago.

Wanting to reverse his type 2 diabetes, he stuck to the diet for five weeks, eating fewer than 600 calories on fasting days, with a light breakfast and dinner and plenty of water and herbal tea in between. During that time, he lost nearly a stone and his blood markers, including glucose and cholesterol, improved.

The notion of fasting to cut calories got the nation talking and spawned fasting recipes, calorie-restricted menus and even a book.

To make it even easier, he challenged people to simply try staying away from food for 12 hours a day, between 8pm and 8am, for example – something called time-restricted eating.

Take short bursts of exercise

Doing the recommended amount of exercise each week is a challenge for many. “When do I find the time?” is the frequent complaint.

Dr Mosley’s Just One Thing podcast researched the concept of “exercise snacking” – doing a few minutes of physical activity whenever possible, rather than scheduling one long gym session that might not happen.

For those with busy lives, he suggested shunning the lift and running up the stairs instead, and going for brisk walks, particularly first thing in the morning.

“We live at the top of a steep hill – I always cycle down to the town for the shopping and push myself hard on the way back,” he said on the podcast, illustrating how to make exercise an integral part of his daily routine.

He also investigated the more controversial concept of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT – short bursts of intense exercise with periods of recovery in between – as a way of maximising workout time.

Embrace the cold

Dr Mosley was fascinated by how cold temperatures could be harnessed to help our health and wellbeing.

He investigated the benefits of everything from taking cold showers to exercising in the cold and sleeping in a cool bedroom.

In interviews, he revealed how he liked to turn the heating down at home.

“I live in an old house which is expensive to heat – so we pile on layers of clothes and keep the thermostat at about 15 degrees,” he said, adding that his wife was less keen on the arrangement.

He discovered that turning the thermostat down by just a few degrees could improve fat and blood-sugar metabolism, boost your mood, and might even protect against type 2 diabetes.

When he went for a jog on a chilly day, he found out how exercising in colder weather can allow you to go further than on a hot day, enabling you to work harder, for longer, with less effort.

And he was also a fan of taking cold showers (like motivational speaker and extreme athlete Wim Hoff), admitting he started every morning in a warm shower and turned it to cold for around 30-to-40 seconds.

The body’s reaction to being immersed in cold water – the cold shock response – forces up the heart rate and makes you breathe more quickly, which is thought to be beneficial in short bursts.

Do squats and planks

“It’s the best simple exercise you can do,” said Dr Mosley in a recent interview.

What was he talking about? Squats, press-ups and planks.

These are resistance exercises, working some of the biggest muscles in the body.

When muscles are tensed and held still, as these exercises demand, research suggests there is a sudden rush of blood when you relax, which can reduce blood pressure.

As they are potentially better than doing crunches or sit-ups for the core muscles, he would do squats every morning – before his cold shower, of course.

Make good food choices

Most of us know what we should be doing to eat healthily – eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and cutting back on fatty and sugar-laden foods being the primary objectives.

But are there hidden health benefits in some foods?

Thanks to Dr Mosley, we learned it’s potentially better to cook tomatoes than eat them raw. Tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant, called lycopine, which helps the body fight off damaging chemicals, and cooking the red fruit lets the good stuff out and into the body.

And when it comes to beetroot, he concluded it was best to buy it raw and bake it, or drink the juice to enjoy this nitrate-rich purple veg.

Mosley looked at the merits of fermented foods, such as yoghurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut, and found they helped introduce live microbes into the gut and could improve the body’s immune system and reduce inflammation.

But he wasn’t against eating the odd bit of chocolate, particularly when it was dark – much healthier than the milky version, according to studies.

One unexpected discovery he made was that eating pasta cold is healthier than eating it hot.

When cold, it was found to act more like fibre and less like a starchy carbohydrate. In a small trial in hungry people, eating cold pasta led to a smaller spike in blood glucose and insulin than eating freshly boiled pasta.

Some of his health drives didn’t catch on, however – including consuming blood because of its nutritious properties and eating parasites to reduce appetite.

Wildfires threaten unique Brazil ecosystem

By Vanessa BuschschlüterBBC News

Firefighters are battling wildfires in Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland.

The Pantanal is home to jaguars, giant anteaters and giant river otters.

Close to 32,000 hectares have already been destroyed by the fires in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, local media report.

Climate experts say this year’s wildfire season has started earlier and is more intense than in previous years.

Firefighters said their efforts to extinguish the flames were being hampered by high winds over the weekend.

The region has also seen less rain than in other years, which has made it easier for the fires to spread.

The number of fires from the start of the year up to 9 June has been 935% higher than in the same period last year, according to figures from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

The rise is particularly worrying as the high season for wildfires is not due to start until July.

Mato Grosso do Sul state authorities declared an environmental state of emergency in April, saying low levels of rainfall were creating ideal conditions for wildfires.

The number of fires so far in 2024 is the highest since 2020, which was the worst year on record in terms of Pantanal fires.

In that year, about 30% of the Pantanal was consumed by fire.

The difference in the number of fire outbreaks so far this year compared to last year is already staggering.

Between 1 January and 9 June 2023, 127 fires had been reported. In the same period this year, that number was 1,315.

Vinicius Silgueiro from local NGO Instituto Centro da Vida told Reuters news agency that “what is most worrying is that even in the rainy season, we had this increase in fires”.

Mr Silgueiro warned that the situation would probably deteriorate further at the peak of the dry season in August and September.

Last week, Brazil’s federal government announced it would work together with the state governments of Mato Grosso do Sul as well as those in the Amazon region to combat wildfires.

Environment Minister Marina Silva said it was key to respond to fires more quickly while also doing more to prevent them from breaking out in the first place.

US civil rights hero James Lawson dies at 95

By Max MatzaBBC News

James Lawson, the black civil rights activist who travelled to India to study non-violent protest and served as chief strategist to Dr Martin Luther King Jr, has died at the age of 95.

Lawson, a Methodist minister, learned Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of civil disobedience and taught them to protesters opposing racial segregation in the US.

Through his workshops, he instructed countless activists on how to passively resist horrific violence and threats from the police and angry white mobs in order to expose the immorality of racism.

King repeatedly praised his methods, calling him in a speech the day before his assassination one of the great “noble men” of the black struggle in America.

King, who met Lawson when they were both 28-year-olds, also called his ally “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world”.

Lawson died in Los Angeles, where he lived, his family said on Monday.

The son and grandson of ministers, he was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in 1928.

Lawson said he was motivated to study non-violence when he was eight-years-old after he slapped a child who had called him a racial slur.

His mother, who was a passivist, asked him “what good” had become of his response. He vowed to never again use violence to resolve a dispute.

His non-violent beliefs were tested early on, when as a university student he refused to be drafted into the US Army to serve in the Korean War.

Lawson served 13 months in prison for draft dodging. After finishing his education, he travelled to Nagpur, India, to work as a missionary and study the resistance tactics developed by Gandhi.

After three years in India, he returned to the US, where he met King, a fellow Methodist minister, at Oberlin College in Ohio.

His belief in non-violence came at a time when opinion in black communities was divided over how to resist institutional racism and segregation.

King convinced Lawson to move to Nashville and begin studying at Vanderbilt University while also teaching non-violent protest techniques.

Several of his students went on to play prominent roles in the civil rights movement, such as future congressman John Lewis and future Washington DC mayor Marion Barry.

After King was assassinated in 1968, Lawson met and eventually befriended the man convicted of killing him.

“Martin King would have gone to visit him. I knew this,” he said of James Earl Ray, King’s killer.

Lawson went on to officiate Ray’s marriage in prison, and came to believe that he was not solely responsible for King’s death.

He was also a founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which played a key role in the racial equality protests of the 1960s.

In a 2020 speech during the funeral of John Lewis, Lawson said “many of us had no choice to do what we tried to do, primarily because at an early age we recognized the wrong under which we were forced to live”.

“And we swore to God that by God’s grace, we would do whatever God called us to do in order to put on the table of the nation’s agenda.

“This must end. Black lives matter.”

Thousands head to Wales for Pink world tour

By Rosie MercerBBC News

Superstar US singer Pink will kick off the European leg of her Summer Carnival Tour on Tuesday as she’ll get the party started in front of a sell-out crowd in Wales.

Tens of thousands of fans are arriving in Cardiff ahead of Tuesday’s gig, with authorities warning of travel disruption on the M4 motorway, while one railway line out of the city is shut.

The singer will return to Cardiff’s Principality Stadium for the first time in five years, with a full city centre road closure from mid-afternoon.

She will begin her European leg in the Welsh capital, then head to London, Dublin, Liverpool and Glasgow before nine gigs on mainland Europe.

Daughter and mum Sinead, 34, and Justine, 52, travelled from Swindon to see Pink.

They have seen her several times live and have set up camp all afternoon outside the stadium with deckchairs and a picnic, hoping to be among the first in.

Ten years ago Sinead left a Pink concert with a special memento – a drumstick from the set.

She said: “I’m hoping this year I get the second one!”

Catherine Williams, her daughter Ellie, and Kelly Walters are particularly looking forward to seeing the singer, having failed to get tickets the last time Pink played in Cardiff in 2019.

“I do love her older songs like Just Like a Pill, So What – but we love them all,” Catherine said.

“I’ve never been to watch Pink so I can’t wait, really excited,” said Kelly.

Summer, 14, Emily, 18, Briony 17, Tori 22, and Rachel, 36, have travelled from Birmingham to watch Pink in Cardiff.

Tori has been before, and said the show was “insane”, while Emily cannot wait to see Pink live for the first time.

Friends Julie Jones, 58, from Carmarthen and Theresa Owen, 62, from St Clears will be watching Pink in concert for the first time.

Julie is looking forward to the acrobatics, and Theresa agrees.

“We’ve watched some clips of it already and it looks fantastic. We can’t wait to see her,” Julie said.

Lauren, 25, from Carmarthenshire, said: “I’m definitely looking forward to the swinging from the ceiling,” of the acrobatics in the show.

Another highlight, she added, will be to see The Script perform as one of the warm-up acts.

Triple Grammy Award winner Pink, 44, said she was excited to be back in Wales during the month that the Principality Stadium celebrates its quarter-century.

“It’s been way too long since I’ve been in Wales,” added Pink, whose hits include Get The Party Started, Just Give Me a Reason and So What.

The Summer Carnival tour is in support of the singer’s ninth studio album, Trustfall, which was released last year, and her first gig since her show in Queensland, Australia, in March.

Who are Pink’s supporting acts?

Irish rock band The Script, American singer songwriter Gayle, and the DJ KidCutUp are listed as the special guests.

They will be warming fans up for Pink, whose Summer Carnival tour dates last year saw her singing beside a giant rainbow beach ball while dancers bounced on trampolines.

What time does the show start?

The stadium gates open at 17:15 BST.

KidCutUp is due to perform at 17:30, followed by Gayle at 18:15, The Script at 19:05, and Pink at 20:25.

Pink’s set is scheduled to last for just over two hours.

Will the stadium roof be open?

No. According to the Principality Stadium, the roof will be closed for the duration of the show.

Are tickets still available?

The show is officially sold out, but Ticketmaster has a number of resale tickets available on its website, ranging from £115 to £372 each.

All tickets are being issued digitally.

The stadium has advised fans who have bought tickets that they must have access to a smartphone to download the relevant ticketing app before they arrive.

Are there any road closures?

Scott Road and Park Street will be closed from 07:00.

A full city centre road closure will then be enforced from 15:00 until midnight.

The roads included in this are:

  • Duke Street
  • Castle St
  • High Street
  • St Mary Street
  • Caroline Street
  • Wood Street
  • Central Square
  • Westgate Street
  • Quay Street
  • Guildhall Place
  • Golate
  • Havelock Street
  • Kingsway from its junction with North Road to its junction with Duke Street
  • Cowbridge Road East from its junction with Cathedral Road to its junction with Westgate Street
  • Tudor Street from its junction with Clare Road to its junction with Wood Street
  • Plantagenet Street and Beauchamp Street from their junctions with Despenser Place to their junctions with Tudor Street
  • Station Terrace and Guildford Street from the junction with Newport Road to the junction with Churchill Way will be access for buses only
  • Penarth Road will be closed 30 minutes before the concert finishes and up to one hour after the concert ends

Trains, buses, parking, park and ride

Fans with tickets are being advised to walk, cycle or use public transport wherever possible.

The M4 motorway is likely to be very busy and drivers are urged to check the Traffic Wales website before setting off.

Event parking is available at Sophia Gardens and the civic centre for a fee.

A park and ride service is being operated by Cardiff council from the Cardiff City Stadium in Leckwith. The first bus leaves at 09:00 and fans will be dropped off and picked up from Fitzhammon Embankment, opposite the stadium.

Transport for Wales will be providing extra capacity on trains in and out of Cardiff wherever possible, but said rail services would be very busy.

The Vale of Glamorgan line between Cardiff Airport and Bridgend will be shut while there will be engineering works between Gloucester and Severn Tunnel Junction.

Buses will be diverted due to the road closures. Full details of Cardiff Bus diversions can be found here.

Can I take my bag into the show?

Small bags and handbags no larger than a sheet of A4 paper are allowed in, but the stadium has said waiting times for fans with bags will be longer.

In addition, there are a number of things that you cannot take into the stadium – including professional cameras or audio/video recording devices, selfie sticks, lasers or flash lights, pyrotechnics, glass and flags.

A full list of what can and cannot be taken into the stadium can be found on the Principality Stadium’s website.

Where is Pink playing in the UK in 2024?

Pink’s Cardiff date is the first of her 18 shows in Europe, with nine in the UK and Ireland, before she returns to the United States in August.

So other than Cardiff, where else and when is Pink playing in UK and Ireland in 2024?

  • 15 and 16 June, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
  • 20 and 21 June, Aviva Stadium, Dublin
  • 24 and 25 June, Anfield, Liverpool
  • 28 and 29 June, Hampden Park, Glasgow

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”.

Trump has interview with New York probation officer

By Max MatzaMadeline HalpertBBC News

Donald Trump has had a probation interview as part of the sentencing process for his criminal conviction in the New York hush-money case.

The former US president did the interview virtually from his Florida home, Mar-a-Lago, with a probation officer at the Manhattan court.

Trump was accompanied by his lawyer Todd Blanche, a source told CBS News, the BBC’s news partner.

The probation officer will use the routine interview, which lasted less than 30 minutes, to compile a pre-sentencing report for Justice Juan Merchan.

Trump was convicted last month of 34 counts of falsifying business records and is due to be sentenced on 11 July.

A spokesperson with the New York City mayor’s office said defendants are given the option of an in-person interview, or one via video link.

Further exceptions were probably made for Trump due to the high-profile nature of his case, an expert told the BBC.

It would be too disruptive for the former president to come to the probation office in New York City, said former New York Supreme Court Judge Diane Kiesel.

“The press would be all over the building and the Secret Service would have to be there, too,” she said. “It makes more sense to do it this way.”

Convicts in the New York Court system do not usually have their lawyers present for probation interviews, Ms Kiesel added.

However, Justice Merchan allowed Mr Blanche to appear alongside his client on Monday.

Pre-sentencing reports include information about nearly every aspect of a convict’s life, including where and when they were born, their marriages, criminal history, financial means, health and overall living arrangements.

The probation officer probably asked Trump to talk about the crime he was convicted of, Ms Kiesel said.

She said most defendants will simply say they intend to appeal against the verdict – as Trump has said he will do – or decline to comment.

The reports are used by the judge to inform what punishment should be given.

The interview is often an opportunity for a convict to argue for leniency in the sentence.

The reports of the interview are confidential and will only be made available to the judge, the defendant and the lawyers in the case, Ms Kiesel said.

Jurors found Trump guilty of falsifying business records to conceal hush-money payments made to former porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

Most legal commentators believe that Trump is unlikely to face any jail time, given his lack of criminal history and age.

Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

SA rapper mourns daughter, 9, killed in car crash

By Danai Nesta KupembaBBC News

South African rapper Shebeshxt is mourning the death of his nine-year-old daughter after she died in a car crash.

“My life will never be the same without your presence,” the rapper said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday.

The musician was travelling with three passengers to perform at the African National Congress (ANC) Siyanqoba Rally celebration concert in the northern Limpopo province on Saturday when the car collided with a heavy motor vehicle and overturned.

In addition to losing his daughter, the rapper, whose real name is Lehlogonolo Katlego Chauke, also shared that he had lost his foot in the crash.

“My heart is so so broken.. I’m trying to adjust the accident that left me in trauma and so many tears. Loosing [sic] my f##t was enough, not too loose [sic] my daughter,” he wrote on X.

Condolences and prayers from fans and the music community have been pouring in.

Limpopo Artists Movement (LAM) said in a statement on Monday: “We cannot imagine the pain and grief they must be experiencing, but we want them to know that they are not alone.

“The entire artistic community stands in solidarity with them, offering comfort and support. Shebe is not only a talented artist but also a valued member of our creative fraternity.”

Videos of the crash have been circulating online. In one clip, Shebeshxt is seen lying on the ground while paramedics attend to him.

Tidimalo Chuene, the spokesperson for the transport department in Limpopo, told local media the cause of the crash was under investigation.

This is Shebeshxt’s second car accident this year.

In January he was involved in a crash which left him unharmed but his car was written off.

Shebeshxt’s popularity grew after his song Ke Di Shxt Malume became hugely popular on TikTok and has been on a steady rise in the music industry in South Africa, but he has become a controversial figure.

Earlier this year a video of the rapper pulling out a gun while performing was widely shared on social media.

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Ukraine ‘hits missile launch sites in Russia’

By Robert GreenallBBC News

The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has said that the situation there has been “calmer” since Russian missile launchers shelling it were hit by Ukrainian fire.

Ihor Terekhov’s comments came nearly two weeks after the US and other Western nations gave the go-ahead for Ukraine to hit targets inside Russia near Kharkiv.

He was speaking at a conference in Germany attended by President Volodymyr Zelensky which is aimed at encouraging European nations to support and invest in Ukraine.

Russia says it has captured two Ukrainian villages as it continues its offensive begun in May.

The defence ministry said Tymkivka in Kharkiv region and Miasozharivka in Luhansk region had been taken by its forces. Ukraine has not commented.

However, on Monday Mr Zelensky said Ukraine was continuing “counter-strike activities” in Kharkiv region.

He also denied reports by the pro-Russian Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov that his forces had captured a village in Sumy region, which borders Russia to the west of Kharkiv, saying there was no Russian presence in the area.

On Tuesday the Ukrainian president gave his first ever speech to the Bundestag, the German parliament, making emotional references to Germany’s Cold War history of division and calling on future reparations from Russia for the damage it had caused.

“We will finish this war, in the interests of all of us, of all Europe. We will finish this war according to our conditions,” he said.

“You can understand why we are fighting so hard against Russia’s attempts to divide us, to divide Ukraine. Why we are doing absolutely everything to prevent a wall between parts of our country,” he said, in reference to the Berlin Wall.

He also warned of the danger to the European Union of pro-Russian rhetoric, days after far right parties, some of which are pro-Russian, made gains in EU elections.

Mr Zelensky received a standing ovation, but his speech was boycotted by the far-right AfD and the far-left BSW parties – both of which made big gains in Sunday’s European elections. The BSW has campaigned against weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

The AfD characterised the boycott as a protest against Mr Zelensky as a “war president”.

Ukrainian officials have reported five deaths in Russian bombardments in the last 24 hours, four of them in Kharkiv region.

Mr Terekhov said that the shelling of Kharkiv had become more frequent in the last two days, but it had generally been calmer.

“There has been a break in the shelling, which I think is connected with the fact that the equipment that Kharkiv was being shelled with has been successfully hit,” he told Reuters news agency.

“As compared to May, we experienced a more or less calm week until Sunday… Therefore, it’s been a bit calmer, but I can’t say that it’s been completely so.”

Speaking alongside the Ukrainian president on Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany was sending more air defences, including a third Patriot system, and missiles to help Ukraine.

At the end of May, US officials said President Joe Biden had allowed Ukraine to use American-supplied weapons to strike targets in Russia, but only near the Kharkiv region.

The city of Kharkiv is close to the Russian border and therefore vulnerable to attack from within Russia.

Previously Western nations had restricted targeting of weapons they provided to Russian-held areas of Ukraine, because of fears that attacking Russia itself could lead to escalation of the conflict.

Fire at famous Bangkok market kills 1,000 animals

By Kelly Ng & Ryn Jirenuwatin Singapore and Bangkok

Around 1,000 animals were killed in a fire in Bangkok’s famous open-air Chatuchak market early Tuesday, gutting nearly 100 shops.

Birds, dogs, cats and snakes were burnt to death in their cages in the pet zone, which also included rats, pythons and geckos.

The blaze was started by an electrical short circuit, authorities said, adding that no human casualties or injuries have been reported.

The incident prompted renewed calls for authorities to shut the pet zone, which has long been criticised for the animals’ poor living conditions and has reportedly led to high rates of disease and death.

With tens of thousands of shops crowding narrow lanes, Chatuchak is one of South East Asia’s biggest markets.

It’s also the largest and best-known of Thailand’s weekend markets. It claims to draw nearly 200,000 tourists every Saturday and Sunday.

But the portion of the market selling pets is open through the week. This accounts for about four of the 27 sections in Chatuchak market and is arguably its most controversial trade.

This zone of the market is subjected to regular inspections.

“When I got here, everything was gone, all burned down,” says Amporn Wannasut, a shop owner who rushed to the market after being alerted to the fire.

“I couldn’t do anything because it was dark inside as well. I couldn’t help them at all. They were all gone.”

The 42-year-old sold turtles, pythons, and king snakes, among other reptiles, as pets.

“I don’t even know what to do next. I think we have to start all over again but I don’t know how,” she adds. “I froze some of the dead snakes so that we can calculate how much [money] we lost.”

The fire damaged most of the 118 shops in the pet zone, which covers about 1,400 sq metres (15,000 sq feet), according to a preliminary inspection.

When the BBC arrived at the market on Tuesday afternoon, shop owners were standing in line to register their requests for compensation. Some of them looked distraught and several were crying.

There were also people taking selfies in front of the destroyed shops, even as police officers warned them not to go near the affected structures, which could collapse.

Recounting her narrow escape, a shopowner called Meecha told online news outlet Thaiger that she was awakened by the animals’ cries in the loft above her shop.

“Suddenly, thick smoke filled the air, making it impossible to breathe,” said Meecha, who climbed through a window to safety.

Some shop owners do live in the market, but it’s unclear how many were there when the fire broke out.

According to the Chatuchak District Office, the blaze started around 04:10 local time on Tuesday (21:10 GMT on Monday) and was extinguished 30 minutes later.

Pictures online showed extensive sections engulfed in flames and cages charred. Some appear to have been burned out of shape.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) group said the fire “underscores the urgent need for action.”

“Animals are not ours to use for our entertainment… Peta urges the Thai government to ensure that this facility, where captive animals suffer, never reopens,” said the group’s senior vice-president Jason Baker.

The Wildlife Friends Foundation in Thailand described Chatuchak market as a “shame on Bangkok”.

“Many of these poor animals are smuggled into the country, often illegally. It is immoral, cruel, a health and safety hazard, and completely unnecessary,” the foundation’s director Edwin Wiek said.

“The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration needs to act and stop this senseless cruelty to animals,” he said.

Blinken says fate of ceasefire plan down to Hamas

By Tom BatemanUS state department correspondent • Raffi BergBBC News

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “reaffirmed his commitment” to a Gaza ceasefire plan, and that if it does not progress Hamas will be to blame.

Mr Blinken reiterated his call for Hamas to accept the plan as outlined by President Biden 11 days ago. He was speaking a day after holding talks with Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

He said the onus was on “one guy” hiding “ten storeys underground in Gaza” to make the casting vote, referring to Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.

Mr Netanyahu has not publicly endorsed what Mr Biden outlined nor said whether it matches an Israeli ceasefire proposal on which Mr Biden’s statement was based.

Mr Blinken described as a “hopeful sign” Hamas’s response to a resolution passed by the UN Security Council on Monday supporting what Mr Biden had announced.

The resolution noted that Israel had accepted what Mr Biden had presented and called on Hamas to do so as well.

Hamas issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming “what was included” in the resolution.

But Mr Blinken said Hamas’s response was not conclusive, adding that that “what counts” is what is said by the Hamas leadership in Gaza, “and that’s what we don’t have”.

If the proposal did not proceed then it was “on them”, he said.

After months of stuttering ceasefire talks behind closed doors, Mr Biden publicly announced last month what he said was an Israeli “roadmap to an enduring ceasefire and the release of all hostages” which he then went on to outline.

The proposal involves an initial six week ceasefire with Hamas releasing some hostages in exchange for Israel releasing an undefined number of Palestinian prisoners.

A second phase would see the remaining hostages released by Hamas and a total withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza as part of a “permanent” ceasefire, but the latter would still be subject to negotiations.

Mr Blinken’s trip is part of an intense diplomatic effort by the US to try to push the sides into making progress on the proposal, but clinching an agreement faces major obstacles.

Mr Netanyahu has acknowledged his war cabinet has authorised the plan but has not voiced unequivocally support for it. Far right ultranationalist members of his cabinet have threatened to quit his coalition and trigger its collapse if the deal goes forward, seeing it as surrender to Hamas.

Meanwhile, Hamas is likely to seek clear guarantees that the proposal would lead to the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces and a permanent end to the war.

So far, it has yet to formally respond to the plan.

The actual Israeli proposal – reportedly lengthier than the summary presented by Mr Biden – has not been made public and it is unclear whether it varies from what the president conveyed in his statement on 31 May. It was presented to Hamas days prior to Mr Biden’s speech.

The Israeli proposal was agreed upon by Israel’s three-man war cabinet and has not been disclosed to the wider government. Some far-right ministers have already made clear they oppose it.

The Biden administration is trying to leverage popular pressure as part of its campaign to bounce the sides into progress on the proposal.

As Mr Blinken met Israeli officials in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, protesters outside his hotel held American flags calling for an agreement. Many held pictures of hostages and chanted: “SOS, USA”, and “we trust you, Blinken, seal a deal”.

Vicki Cohen, the mother of Nimrod Cohen, 19, an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas on 7 October, held a banner showing his picture.

She told the BBC: “We come here to ask Blinken and the USA government to help us, to save us from our government. Our prime minister doesn’t want to bring our loved ones back, we need their help to pressure our government.”

Mr Blinken later spoke with Ms Cohen and other families of hostages, including Americans, during a brief interaction with them outside the hotel.

“You’re going to be here every day, we’re going to be here every day,” he told them.

The secretary of state continued the whirlwind diplomatic visit, flying by US military plane to the Jordanian capital, Amman, and from there by helicopter to the Dead Sea for a conference of Arab leaders calling for greater aid access into war-ravaged Gaza.

The ride involved five Jordanian air force helicopters carrying Mr Blinken, his officials and the BBC among the travelling press pool. The fleet headed west, flying low, to the town of Swemeh on the shores of the Dead Sea, sitting directly across the water from the occupied West Bank.

“The horror must stop,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the conference. “The speed and scale of the carnage and killing in Gaza is beyond anything in my years as secretary general,” he said.

UN humanitarian coordination chief Martin Griffiths described the Gaza war as a “stain on our humanity” and appealed for $2.5 billion to meet the humanitarian needs of Palestinians in Gaza from April until December.

The war began after Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and taking 251 others back to Gaza as hostages. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 37,000 people have been killed in the Israeli offensive since then.

Farmers to drive length of British coastline in JCB

By Emma PetrieBBC News

A team of 14 farmers will drive a tractor around Britain’s coastline to raise awareness of mental health in the UK farming industry.

The farmers will set off in a JCB Fastrac, one of the fastest tractors on the market, from Cleethorpes seafront at 09:00 BST on Monday 10 June.

The tractor will head north to Inverness in an anticlockwise direction before returning to Lincolnshire.

The trip is expected to take nine days, and will finish at the Lincolnshire Show.

Taron Lee, the owner of the tractor, has organised the event with his friend, James Caswell.

Mr Lee lost his father in 2022. Mr Caswell suggested doing the drive around the coast as a way of shifting his focus on to something positive.

Mr Lee said: “We’re going to raise a lot of money for mental health charities and pass some positive vibes around. I think we all need that in this day and age.”

He said the JCB Fastrac could travel at a speed of 40mph (65kmh) and was more suited to driving on roads. Mr Lee added: “They are a really comfy tractor on the road, so that’s why we chose that vehicle.”

The team will be sharing the driving on the 4,690-mile (7,547km) trip, and will be at the county show on 19 June.

Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Instagramastyorkslincs.news@bbc.co.uk

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Singapore Airlines turbulence victims offered payouts

By João da SilvaBusiness reporter

Singapore Airlines has offered to pay compensation to those who were injured on a London to Singapore flight that encountered severe turbulence.

The airline said it will pay $10,000 (£7,800) to those who sustained minor injuries, in a Facebook post.

For passengers with more serious injuries, the airline is providing “an advance payment of $25,000 to address their immediate needs” and further discussions to meet “their specific circumstances”.

A 73-year-old British passenger died and dozens more were injured when flight SQ 321 encountered turbulence over Myanmar and was diverted to Thailand in May.

Singapore Airlines has not yet responded to a BBC News request for further information on how many people will be entitled to the payments.

More than a hundred people who had been on SQ 321 were treated in Bangkok hospital after the incident.

Early investigations showed that the plane accelerated rapidly up and down, and dropped around 178ft (54m) over 4.6 seconds.

Passengers described how crew and those not wearing seatbelts were sent flying and slammed into the cabin ceiling.

A hospital in Bangkok where passengers are being treated said there were spinal cord, head and muscle injuries.

There were 211 passengers – including many Britons, Australians and Singaporeans – and 18 crew on board the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft at the time of the incident.

The company said it would offer a full fare refund to all passengers on the flight, including those who did not suffer any injuries.

On top of this, Singapore Airlines said passengers will received delay compensation in accordance with European Union or United Kingdom regulations.

The airline also offered S$1,000 ($739; £580) to all passengers to cover immediate expenses and it arranged for loved ones to fly to the Thai capital where requested.

Under international regulations, airlines must offer compensation when passengers are injured or die while on a plane.

The incident brought attention to seatbelt practices, as airlines usually allow passengers to undo their belts during normal cruise conditions.

What son’s conviction means for President Biden

By Anthony Zurcher@awzurcherSenior North America reporter

Hunter Biden’s conviction for lying about his drug use on a handgun licence application will be a devastating personal blow for his father, Joe Biden.

The US president doubles as the patriarch of a tight-knit family that has seen its share of personal tragedy and trauma.

Now his surviving son has been found guilty on all three counts and faces a potential prison sentence.

But the verdict is unlikely to change how Americans vote in November’s election.

His father’s name will be on the ballot, not his. There’s no evidence connecting the president to his son’s offences. And there has been scant polling evidence that the public is following this trial closely.

At the start of the trial, the president released a statement hinting at the dual obligations demanding his attention.

“I am the president, but I am also a dad,” he said.

He added that he supported his son and was proud of the man he is today, but he wouldn’t comment on the proceedings.

Joe Biden may not have wanted to talk about the trial, but his son’s courtroom drama has followed him for weeks, as he conducts his official duties and campaigns for re-election. Hunter’s yet-to-be determined punishment may be similarly distracting as the president prepares later this month for a pivotal presidential debate.

While in France for D-Day commemorations last week, President Biden said that he would not consider using his authority to pardon his son. And he added that he would accept the jury’s verdict – a contrast from Donald Trump’s rejection of his own conviction as rigged and corrupt.

Trump’s trial became a partisan brawl, with Republican officials lining up behind the former president to condemn the proceedings. Hunter’s conviction had a different feel, marking the culmination of a dark period for a Biden family that has known more than its share of turmoil.

Hunter Biden spiralled into drug use around the time that his brother, Beau, died from brain cancer. His battles with addiction and the toll it exacted on his family relationships were presented in painful detail during the trial through excerpts from Hunter’s memoir, his text messages and emails, photographs and testimony from those close to him.

All the while, friends and members of Hunter Biden’s family – including First Lady Jill Biden and his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden – sat behind him, watched and sometimes hugged him or held his hand during breaks in the trial. His half-sister Ashley cried during the defence attorney’s closing arguments.

“Our family has been through a lot together,” Joe Biden’s earlier statement concluded, “and Jill and I are going to continue to be there for Hunter and our family with our love and support.”

The prosecuting attorney during his closing argument said the evidence presented was ugly and personal. He also said that it was overwhelming and it was necessary to show that when Hunter Biden filled out the federal background check application for a handgun, he knowingly lied when he certified that he was not using drugs.

In the end, a unanimous jury agreed. This guilty verdict means the president’s son – the only surviving child from his first wife, who was killed along with his infant daughter in a car accident half a century ago – may face years in prison.

Hunter Biden now awaits sentencing for his conviction, but even after the judge decides his punishment his legal travails will not be over. He is also facing a September trial on charges of failing to pay $1.4m in federal income taxes.

That trial, coming less than two months before the election, may not contain the raw emotion on display in the Delaware courtroom, but it could prove more politically damaging for the president. Hunter’s foreign business dealings and his financial ties to the president have been a source of continued scrutiny by Mr Biden’s Republican critics.

Drug addiction and the consequences of it have touched many American lives. Allegations of financial impropriety and tax fraud, however, may generate less sympathy from the voting public.

More on Hunter Biden

Warning shots from South as NK soldiers cross border

By Joel GuintoBBC News

South Korean soldiers fired warning shots after North Korean troops crossed the border by mistake, Seoul’s military said on Tuesday.

The incident at the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) on Sunday comes as tensions continue to rise between the two Koreas.

A small group of North Korean soldiers carrying field tools including pickaxes entered South Korea at 12:30 local time (05:30 GMT), Seoul’s military said. They were among 20 who were in the border area at that time.

They retreated immediately after the South Koreans fired the warning shots.

In recent weeks, the North has flown hundreds of rubbish-filled balloons to border towns in the South.

Seoul has responded by broadcasting propaganda and K-pop music to the North using loudspeakers. Activists have also flown propaganda balloons into the North.

There was no notable movement from the North in the DMZ after its troops retreated on Sunday, Seoul’s military said.

“Inside [the border area] the vegetation is overgrown, and the border markers are hidden. There are no paths, and they were wading through the overgrowth,” it said.

On Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, threatened the South with “new counteractions” if it continues loudspeaker broadcasts and does not stop activists from sending balloons.

Last December, Mr Kim ended all efforts at a peaceful unification with the South, accusing Seoul of “hostility” towards the North.

Since then, the North demolished a highly symbolic unification monument in Pyongyang and ended all communication with the South.

Earlier this month, South Korea suspended what remained of its 2018 military agreement with the North, which will allow it to resume drills and propaganda activities such as loudspeaker broadcasts.

South Korea had partially suspended the agreement last November, following the North’s launch of a spy satellite.

In recent months, Seoul detected North Korean soldiers planting landmines along the border and disconnecting railways to the South. North Korean soldiers were also seen installing guard posts within the DMZ.

‘Becoming a totalitarian state’: UK judge on why he quit Hong Kong court

By Frances MaoBBC News

A high-profile British judge who resigned from Hong Kong’s highest court last week has warned the city is “slowly becoming a totalitarian state” and judges are being compromised by an “impossible political environment created by China”.

Lord Sumption’s comments on Monday came as a third senior foreign judge in the past week resigned from the Court of Final Appeal.

“The problem in Hong Kong has been building up over the last four years and I think all the judges on the court feel concerned about this,” Lord Sumption told the BBC’s Today programme.

“I have reached the point eventually where I don’t think that my continuing presence on the court is serving any useful purpose.”

On Monday he wrote in a newspaper op-ed that the city’s rule of law has been “profoundly compromised”.

Hong Kong’s government said it “strongly disapproves” of Lord Sumption’s opinions, calling them a “betrayal against Hong Kong’s judges”.

It highlighted remarks from the other leaving judges who said they still believed in the independence of the courts.

Canadian judge Beverley McLachlin, who resigned on Monday citing her wish to spend more time with family said: “I continue to have confidence in the members of the Court, their independence, and their determination to uphold the rule of law.”

But her departure as well as that of Lords Sumption and Lawrence Collins – another former UK Supreme Court justice- last week means at least six senior foreign judges have stepped down from sitting in Hong Kong since a major national security law (NSL) was imposed by China in 2020.

Lord Sumption has been much more overtly critical than his peers- arguing that the laws, which have been widely criticised as being draconian, have overridden the independent functioning of courts and heaped pressure on the judiciary.

“Intimidated or convinced by the darkening political mood, many judges have lost sight of their traditional role as defenders of the liberty of the subject, even when the law allows it,” he wrote in the Financial Times.

An ‘oppressive’ situation in Hong Kong

Speaking to the BBC on Monday, Lord Sumption said it had become increasingly clear that Hong Kong’s supercharged security laws were being used to “crush peaceful political dissent, not just riots.”

Legal experts have for some time now warned about the city’s degraded rule of law in the wake of laws enacted by Beijing.

China and Hong Kong have defended the NSL laws as crucial to maintaining law and order in the city after major pro-democracy protests and unrest in 2019 and 2020.

But rights groups and Western governments say the law has been used to criminalise acts of free speech and assembly, leading to a near complete silencing of dissent in the global financial hub,.

More recently, the EU and the US heavily criticised as “politically motivated” the conviction of 14 democracy activists on 30 May for “subversion” . The defendants in the landmark Hong Kong 47 case face a minimum of 10 years in prison and could even be jailed for life.

That case “was the last straw”, Lord Sumption said, referencing the court’s assessment that organising a political primary was tantamount to a national security crime.

“The judgement… was a major indication of the lengths to which some judges are prepared to go to ensure that Beijing’s campaign against those who have supported democracy succeeds.”

He also emphasised the other major problem: “If China doesn’t like the court’s decisions it can reverse them.”

Such a precedent was set in 2023, when in the high-profile prosecution of Hong Kong billionaire Jimmy Lai, Beijing overturned the Court of Final Appeal’s ruling to allow the democracy activist his choice of lawyer.

He also spoke of further pressures on judges, describing in his op-ed an “oppressive” environment. He wrote of the government’s “continued calls for judicial ‘patriotism’” and the outrage sparked in the rare instances when a judge acquits or grants bail to an NSL defendant.

“It requires unusual courage for local judges to swim against such a strong political tide. Unlike the overseas judges, they have nowhere else to go,” he wrote.

Why are there foreign judges serving in Hong Kong?

It is a holdover from Hong Kong’s past as a British colony.

After the UK handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the agreement between the countries stipulated that the special territory would continue to operate with its freedoms and systems for 50 years- including its common law legal system which operates in several other jurisdictions worldwide.

Currently there seven foreign judges remaining on the court– three British and four from Australia. Typically they are very experienced senior judges who have retired from their countries’ senior courts.

They operate as overseas non-permanent appointees; a typical appeal bench of five judges at the Court of Final Appeal will see a foreign judge hearing the case along with three other local judges.

Their presence was long seen as a sort of bulwark protection to help uphold the British-style common law legal system which has been key to Hong Kong’s stature as a global financial hub.

As recently as March this year, Hong Kong’s leader praised the foreign judges saying their appointments “help maintain a high degree of confidence in (Hong Kong’s) judicial system”. According to recent media reports, they are paid £40,000 per case.

Lord Sumption had said most of Hong Kong’s judges are “honourable people with all the liberal instincts of the common law.”

“But they have to operate in an impossible political environment created by China.”

Controversial presence

Since Hong Kong’s security laws kicked in, rights groups, critics and even the UK government had questioned the foreign judges’ continued presence on the court.

In 2020, a senior Australian judge was the first to step down from the court. James Spigelman directly cited the impact of the wide-sweeping National Security Law which hadn’t kicked into operation yet.

Two years later, UK Supreme Court justices Robert Reed and Patrick Hodge also stepped down following concerns raised by the British government.

Lord Reed, the chief justice of the top UK court, said he agreed with the government that serving Supreme Court justices could not continue to serve in Hong Kong without appearing to endorse a government that had “departed from values of political freedom, and freedom of expression”.

The remaining judges on the court at the time – which included Lords Collins and Sumption – issued a statement shortly after defending their position.

They said they believed their “continued participation” would be “in the interest of the people of Hong Kong”.

But on Monday, Lord Sumption said he no longer believed this.

He told the BBC he had chosen to stay on the first few years “to see how things develop and to hope that one can make a positive contribution.” He had written he hoped “the presence of overseas judges would help sustain the rule of law.”

“It’s taken a long time to conclude that that is not realistic.”

His sharp criticism and the resignations of the other judges will further fuel concerns about Hong Kong’s status as an international city, particular as the latest resignations come just weeks after the city implemented a second, even more wide-scoping security law known as Article 23.

Legal scholar Eric Lai, told the BBC the two British judges had been “well known” for their support of Hong Kong’s legal system in the past and their commitment to the court in critical cases.

“Their change of mind to resign signals the worsening legal environment in HK,” he said.

But the city’s authorities defend the integrity of their legal system.

The chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal said last week the court would continue to function regardless of the resignations.

Andrew Cheung stressed the court’s independence: “All judges and judicial officers will continue to… administer justice in full accordance with the law, without fear or favour, self-interest or deceit”.

UN ‘shocked’ at Israeli hostage rescue’s impact on Gaza civilians

By David GrittenBBC News

The UN human rights office says it is “profoundly shocked” at the impact on civilians of the Israeli operation in central Gaza that rescued four hostages held by Hamas.

Palestinian health officials said hundreds of people were killed and injured in the densely-populated Nuseirat refugee camp on Saturday. Israel’s military said fewer than 100 were killed.

UN spokesman Jeremy Laurence said the action by Israeli forces “seriously calls into question whether the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution… were respected” and could amount to war crimes.

He also said Palestinian armed groups could face war crimes charges for continuing to hold hostages in built-up areas and “putting the lives of Palestinian civilians, as well as the hostages themselves, at added risk”.

Israel’s mission to the UN in Geneva accused the UN human rights office of “slander”.

“The toll of this war on civilians is first and foremost the product of Hamas’s deliberate strategy to maximise civilian harm,” a statement said.

“Those who continue to shield Hamas terrorists, including [the UN human rights office], are complicit in the suffering of Palestinians and Israelis alike.”

The Israeli military has repeatedly said it operates in accordance with international law.

There was no immediate comment by Hamas.

The four hostages freed on Saturday – Noa Argamani, Almog Meir, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv – were held in two apartment buildings about 200m (656ft) apart in Nuseirat – a historic, urban refugee camp which has seen an influx of displaced people since the start of the war.

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the Israeli commandos took Ms Argamani’s Hamas guards by surprise and quickly killed them. But the simultaneous move to free Mr Ziv, Mr Kozlov and Mr Meir from the second building sparked a fierce gun battle with their guards, during which a senior Israeli police officer was fatally wounded.

As the commandos evacuated to the coast, they came under fire from fighters armed with machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades, the IDF said. In response, Israeli aircraft, artillery and naval vessels carried out intense strikes on the area.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 274 Palestinians were killed and 698 others were injured during the operation. Its figures do not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

The Hamas-run Government Media Office reported that 64 children, 57 women and 37 elderly people were among the dead.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said its teams, along with medical staff at al-Aqsa hospital in the nearby town of Deir al-Balah and Nasser hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis, treated hundreds of severely injured patients, many of whom were women and children.

The charity also quoted one of its Palestinian doctors, Dr Hazem Maloh, as saying that dozens of men, women and children were killed, including his neighbours, friends or relatives.

The director of al-Awda hospital in Nuseirat told BBC Arabic’s Gaza Today programme that 142 dead and 250 injured people were brought to the hospital on Saturday, and that almost a quarter of the fatalities were women and children.

A senior official from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa), meanwhile, said its health centre in Nuseirat treated more than 125 injured people.

Mr Laurence noted that the UN human rights office’s ability to verify the casualty reports was limited because of access constraints, but that it still had “reliable” contacts on the ground.

He also said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk welcomed the UN Security Council resolution endorsing a proposed ceasefire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas, which was outlined by the US last month.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israel’s prime minister had “reaffirmed his commitment” to the plan at a meeting on Monday.

Hamas has yet to accept it, but Mr Blinken said a statement from the group welcoming the UN resolution was a “hopeful sign”.

The Israeli military launched a campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to an unprecedented cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 251 others were taken hostage.

More than 37,120 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

A deal agreed in November saw Hamas release 105 of the hostages in return for a week-long ceasefire and some 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Israel says 116 hostages are still being held, 41 of whom are presumed dead.

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Manager Gareth Southgate says Euro 2024 could be his “last chance” to win a trophy with England.

The 53-year-old has been in charge since 2016, taking his side to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, the Euro 2020 final and the 2022 World Cup quarter-finals in Qatar.

His contract is due to expire in December but the Football Association are keen for him to remain as manager for the next World Cup in 2026 in USA, Canada and Mexico.

However, Southgate told German newspaper Bild, external that failure to win a trophy in Germany could see the end of his stay.

“If we don’t win, I probably won’t be here anymore. Then it might be the last chance,” he said.

“If we want to be a big team and I want to be a top coach, then you have to deliver in the big moments.”

Southgate’s side’s preparations for the tournament have been mixed with a 3-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina followed by a disappointing 1-0 defeat by Iceland on Friday.

England start their Euro campaign against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday, 16 June before games against Denmark and Slovenia.

“I think about half of the national coaches leave after a tournament – that’s the nature of international football,” said Southgate, who has been linked to Manchester United if they sack Erik ten Hag.

“I’ve been here for almost eight years now and we’ve come close. So I know that you can’t keep standing in front of the public and saying ‘please do a little more’, because at some point people will lose faith in your message.

Asked why he did not sign a new contract before Euro 2024, Southgate said: “The reason is that there would have been more criticism, which would have put more pressure on the team.

“England did that once before with Fabio Capello and there was a big drama before the tournament. It’s better to check yourself after the tournament.”

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Emma Raducanu defied a late wobble to get her grass-court season off to a winning start with a straight sets victory over Japan’s Ena Shibahara at the Nottingham Open.

Playing her first match since April, having opted to skip the French Open to focus on her fitness, the 21-year-old Briton beat Shibahara 6-1 6-4.

It came 713 days after her last appearance on grass, having had wrist and ankle surgeries in 2023 that ruled her out of Wimbledon.

“It’s been quite a few weeks since I last played a competitive match so I didn’t really know how it would go,” said Raducanu.

“I think my intentions were great from the start.”

Playing at the venue of her very first WTA match in 2021, months before her astounding run to the US Open title, Raducanu showed her intent early on by breaking Shibahara in the opening game at the Nottingham Tennis Centre.

Shibahara, predominantly a doubles player who won the French Open mixed title in 2022, was playing her first singles match on grass at Tour level but simply proved no match for Raducanu in the early stages.

After saving two break points, the British number six went on a run of seven successive games to see out the first set and continue into the second, halted only by a Shibahara hold to love.

But, after going a double break up with a 5-1 lead, cracks started to appear in Raducanu’s performance.

Serving for the match, she conceded a break for the first time, before Shibahara then held to love for a second time.

At the third time of asking, the Japanese player broke again to wipe out Raducanu’s second-set advantage.

But that was where Shibahara’s resurgence ended as Raducanu sealed her place in the second round, converting her first match point on her opponent’s serve.

She will face Daria Snigur next after the Ukrainian defeated compatriot and second seed Marta Kostyuk 6-3 6-3.

“I think I played a really good match,” added Raducanu.

“At the end I think inevitably if you’re 6-1 5-1 up something probably could go wrong. I was trying to not let it get to my head and just preparing and fighting for each point.

“I knew that even though I lost three games in a row I still had a chance to win the match. I’m very pleased with how I dealt with the circumstances today.”

Evans wins after overnight match suspension

In the men’s Challenger tournament at Nottingham, Dan Evans beat Dominic Stricker of Switzerland 6-3 4-6 6-3 to reach the second round.

Their match resumed on Tuesday lunchtime having being suspended after the second set on Monday night due to poor light.

“The break probably came at a decent time for both of us,” said Evans. “It was nice to come back out, slightly warmer than last night.

“I got through, I’m really happy, I know it’s only the first round but honestly I’m delighted to just get through that.”

Evans will next face fellow Briton Henry Searle who, after coming through qualifying, beat American Denis Kudla in straight sets.

There were wins too for Britain’s Jake Fearnley and Charles Broom, though Jan Choinski was beaten in straight sets.

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Golfers need to be better at checking on each other’s wellbeing given “80% of players storm off” unhappy with their rounds, says Wyndham Clark, who will defend his US Open title at Pinehurst this week.

Mental health has become a key focus since 30-year-old Grayson Murray walked off midway through a PGA Tour event last month and took his own life the next day.

“That’s a sad and tragic situation that happened,” said Clark of Murray, who had well-documented issues with alcoholism, anxiety and depression.

“The unfortunate thing for what we do is it is so lonely and it’s very difficult.

“I’ve been in many low spots where you have some negative thoughts which you don’t ever want to have.”

And while he accepts there are “unlimited resources” to help golfers on tour, rather than just saying “how are you playing”, Clark wants players and caddies to be asking of each other: “how are you doing?”

“That’s more maybe on the players to take initiative to do that,” the world number four added.

Clark, who held off Rory McIlroy in Los Angeles to win his first major by one shot in 2023, is determined to not put too much pressure on himself this week.

The 30-year-old American won at Pebble Beach in February and finished runner-up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship in March.

But since then his form has tailed off, with three missed cuts in his past five events, including at both majors – the Masters and US PGA Championship.

“I haven’t been playing my best golf. It’s been kind of a tough stretch these past few weeks,” he said. “It’s challenging, frustrating.

“I’m just trying to gain some momentum. I know that maybe sounds like low expectations but I’d love to just gain some momentum for the rest of the season.”

Clark said “working on his expectations” are key to his own mental wellbeing.

“Too often players, including myself, get tied up so much in score and outcome, and the game of golf is so frustrating and so hard,” he added.

“There are those really lonely times when you miss the cut, you throw your clubs in the car, you drive off, and you’re [angry].

“On TV they typically show the guys playing great, the game seems awesome. In reality I’d say 80% of the field storms off after a lot of the rounds.

“That’s just the nature of our game. That’s why it is such a mental game. I’ve learned that there are so many different skill levels out here, and the difference between the guys that really make it and enjoy the game have a long career, they’re just better mentally than everyone.”

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Longevity is a rare gift in football management, but Didier Deschamps has certainly been afforded that as France coach.

The 55-year-old has been in charge since 2012 and in that time he has led his country to three out of five possible finals and won one World Cup.

That success in 2018 meant he joined a select few who have won a world title both as a manager and a player, and this summer he has the chance to make more history.

Should he lead France to glory in Germany, he will become only the second person to win a European Championship as both a player and a manager, after German Berti Vogts, and the first to have achieved the ‘double double’

Not bad for someone who was once dismissed as a “water carrier”.

From ‘water carrier’ to serial winner

Deschamps’ career both as a player and an international manager stands among the best.

Widely regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders of his generation, the former Marseille, Juventus and Chelsea player won two French league titles, three Serie A championships, and two Champions League trophies.

His unglamorous yet key role was famously described as that of “a water carrier” by his former France team-mate Eric Cantona, who suggested his role was simple – win the ball then give it to more creative team-mates.

“Deschamps gets by because he gives 100%, but he’ll never be anything more than a water carrier,” Cantona said in an interview in 1996.

“You find players like him on every street corner.”

Deschamps could not resist a retort. “How many players can you find on street corners who have won two European Cups?” he replied.

But in the main he did his talking on the pitch.

A natural leader, he became the youngest captain to lift the Champions League with Marseille in 1993 then led his country to World Cup success five years later.

Former France defender Lilian Thuram, who was Deschamps’ team-mate in that 1998 win, told BBC Sport: “Deschamps, the captain, he was the one who led the way. He was a true leader of that team.

“Knowing him then, you can see how he became a manager and won the World Cup, because he had that drive within him.”

Management a natural next step

When Deschamps retired from playing in 2001, moving into management seemed the sensible progression for someone praised throughout his career for his leadership skills.

He had spells in charge of Monaco, Juventus and Marseille before becoming France manager in 2012.

His arrival came two years after a catastrophic World Cup in 2010 for Les Bleus under Raymond Domenech.

The France squad was fractured, with players refusing to train in protest at the French Football Federation’s decision to send home striker Nicolas Anelka after he argued with Domenech.

Unity was something Deschamps emphasised above all else when he took charge and he soon fashioned a cohesive side that once again was a force at major tournaments.

They reached the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup, losing to eventual winners Germany, and made the final of Euro 2016, which they hosted, but were beaten 1-0 by Portugal.

The upward trend continued, though, as France triumphed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

A crucial moment in that success came after they beat Argentina 4-3 in a thrilling last-16 match.

Afterwards, some of the players had gone out and were noisy on their return, waking up those sleeping when defender Adil Rami sprayed a fire extinguisher in the hotel corridor.

Philippe Tournon, France’s press officer at the time, told the BBC documentary ‘How To Win The World Cup’ that Deschamps’ response highlighted his man-management skills.

“My room was next to Didier’s and I thought he was ready to tear them apart,” he said.

“Didier had a word and, with his sixth sense of his relationship with the players and the unity of the group, told me ‘if I lay into them it might break something we’ve been building for five or six weeks’.”

Deschamps, of course, is not flawless and after they were knocked out of Euro 2020 in the last 16 by Switzerland he was criticised for getting his tactics and team selections wrong.

He responded to the critics and doubters by leading France to their second successive World Cup final in Qatar two years later, where they were beaten on penalties by Argentina after a thrilling 3-3 draw.

One last chance for European glory as a coach?

During that World Cup run, Deschamps was again praised by those who played for him.

“Our coach believes in us being a group, being a team,” striker Antoine Griezmann said.

“We’re a group that lives well together. I see it in training, too. Everyone gives 100 per cent and we have the perfect set-up to take us as far as possible.”

The French Football Federation agreed, rewarded Deschamps with a new contract to keep him in charge of France until the 2026 World Cup.

France are among the favourites to triumph in Germany and lift their first European Championship in 24 years.

Should they succeed, the “water carrier” will have earned the right to be considered arguably the greatest international manager of all time.

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Germany midfielder Toni Kroos says his Real Madrid team-mate Jude Bellingham is “the complete package” and can handle the weight of English expectation at Euro 2024.

Kroos played alongside Bellingham, 20, as Real won the Champions League final at Wembley on 1 June and the veteran says the England midfielder carries himself in a way which belies his years.

“I’ve had a year with Jude and had to ask how old he really is. He’s 20 but – and particularly off the field – he feels to be a fair bit more mature than that,” said Kroos, 34.

England are among the pre-tournament favourites and Bellingham trained alongside all 25 of his team-mates at their open training session in Jena on Tuesday.

Bellingham, who became Birmingham City’s youngest ever player in August 2019 at 16 years and 38 days old and made his England debut in November 2020, is expected to play a central role in the Three Lions’ bid for glory in Germany.

“It speaks for him that there is so much hope resting on him in England,” said Kroos. “At Real, in the first few weeks, he was directly decisive for us. I didn’t feel he had any problems as his importance to the team grew.

“He’s a guy who can handle this pressure. This personality at just 20 years of age – it’s no problem for him to withstand the pressure.”

Gareth Southgate’s side begin their campaign against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday.

‘A bit too cheesy but I’ll take it’

Kroos will retire from a glittering career after this summer’s home European Championship, which begins when Germany face Scotland in Munich on Friday.

The 2014 World Cup winner started his senior career at Bayern Munich before moving to Real Madrid and lifted a sixth Champions League title after the Spanish giants beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0 earlier this month.

He stepped away from international football after Germany’s last-16 exit to England at Euro 2020, but says he would not have returned to the national team in February if he did not believe the hosts could win the tournament.

“That ending would be a bit too cheesy, with the Champions League and the European Championship, but I’ll take it,” said Kroos.

“It went hand-in-hand with the decision to come back.

“I still want to be successful and I want to win the tournament this summer. That’s quite clear.

“If I didn’t feel this idea – or this fantasy – was possible, then I wouldn’t have come back, because it’s always about winning any competition I play in.”

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Defending champion Keely Hodgkinson cruised through the fastest-ever women’s 800m semi-final in European Athletics Championships history to secure her spot in Wednesday evening’s final in Rome.

The two-time world and Tokyo Olympic silver medal winner clocked one minute 58.07 seconds to go through as fastest qualifier, but team-mates Erin Wallace and Alex Bell both missed out on places in the final.

“This is way too early for me and less than 24 hours since the last race,” said Hodgkinson, 22.

“I felt good – I think today I wanted to be a bit more where I was comfortable with on the pace.

“A couple of the girls were saying thank you afterwards because they got PBs.”

The British quartet of Asha Philip, Amy Hunt, Dina Asher-Smith and Desiree Henry comfortably advanced to the women’s 4x100m relay final but the men’s team of CJ Ujah, Jona Efoloko, Richard Kilty and individual bronze medallist Romell Glave were eighth and last in their heat and will miss the final.

“It was horrendous, I don’t know what happened. We should never been running that slow,” said Kilty.

“That team on paper is a very very fast team, but something clearly went wrong. It is very disappointing as we wanted to come here and win. We are capable of winning.”