BBC 2024-07-02 20:01:51


Palestinians flee Khan Younis as Israeli forces strike south Gaza

By Sebastian UsherBBC News

Palestinians have been fleeing districts to the east of Gaza’s second city of Khan Younis after Israel issued evacuation orders.

Overnight and into the morning, witnesses reported multiple Israeli strikes in and around Khan Younis. A medical source and the Palestinian Red Crescent said eight people had been killed and more than 30 wounded.

Patients and medical staff have also been leaving the European Gaza hospital in the area, as the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza told them to evacuate.

The Israeli military has not itself issued an evacuation order for the hospital.

The Red Cross is reported to have helped patients in the process of transferring to another hospital.

Louise Wateridge, an official with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa) in Gaza, asked where people could go as they were forced to leave their homes once again.

“In this area, people were already forced to survive in severely damaged, destroyed, structurally unsafe buildings after the Rafah military operation,” she said.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a statement on its latest operation in Gaza, saying it was responding to some 20 projectiles that were launched from the area of Khan Yunis towards Israel on Monday.

“Overnight, the IDF struck terror targets in the area from which the projectiles were fired, including a weapons storage facility, operational centres and additional terrorist infrastructure sites,” it continued.

The IDF said Hamas was continuing to “systematically violate international law while using civilian infrastructure and the civilian population as human shields”.

The armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad said it had carried out the attack on Monday, the biggest barrage launched into Israel from Gaza for months.

Much of Khan Younis was destroyed in a sustained Israeli offensive against Hamas earlier this year.

The city to which some of its residents subsequently returned is almost unrecognizable. Nevertheless, many moved back to take refuge from Israel’s offensive in Rafah.

Now, once again, many are on the move, fearing a major new assault.

Mother of rescued Israeli hostage Noa Argamani dies

By Raffi BergBBC News

The mother of rescued Israeli hostage Noa Argamani has died, three weeks after her daughter was freed in a dramatic raid after being held for eight months by Hamas in Gaza.

Liora Argamani, who was born in China, had suffered from brain cancer. She was 61.

Liora released a video in December, pleading with Hamas to release her daughter, saying: “I don’t know how long I have left. I wish for the chance to see my Noa at home.”

Noa was rescued on 8 June, when Israeli commandos raided an apartment where she was being held in Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza. Three other hostages were rescued from a nearby apartment at the same time.

An image of Noa being dragged away in terror on the back of a motorcycle by Hamas gunmen became one of the most widely recognised pictures of Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October 2023.

Some 251 people – Israelis and foreign nationals – were taken hostage when Hamas burst through the border in the unprecedented attack in which about 1,200 people were killed.

The attack triggered the war between Israel and Hamas. At least 37,900 people have been killed by Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum – a collective of relatives and friends of people taken hostage on 7 October – said it “bows its head” at the news of Liora’s passing.

Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said he and his wife “grieve from the bottom of our hearts for the passing of Liora Argamani and share in the family’s grief”.

On Saturday night, a video message from Noa, in which she spoke publicly for the first time since her rescue, was played at a protest in Tel Aviv calling for the release of the remaining hostages.

“As an only child to my parents, and a mother suffering from a terminal illness, my biggest concern in captivity was for my parents,” she said.

“It’s a great privilege to be here after 246 days in Hamas captivity, to be beside my mother after eight months of uncertainty.”

Hamas and allied armed groups are still believed to be holding 116 hostages, including Noa’s boyfriend Avinatan Or, who were taken on 7 October. At least 42 are presumed by Israeli authorities to be dead.

The others have been released, rescued or their bodies recovered.

Four other Israelis have been held hostage since 2014 and 2015, two of whom are presumed dead.

Indian state battling floods braces for more rain

The flood-hit Indian state of Assam is on high alert as it braces for more rains in the coming days.

The north-eastern state has been inundated by flood waters for several days, affecting more than 600,000 people and killing at least 34.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said the next few days could be “critical” as India’s weather department has predicted more rainfall in some districts.

Assam experiences large-scale destruction to life and property every monsoon due to flooding in its vast network of rivers.

In 2022, floods displaced more than four million people and killed at least 45.

The flood waters left behind a trail of destruction in Assam, as well as parts of neighbouring Bangladesh – submerging villages, destroying crops and wrecking homes.

On Monday, the Assam Disaster Management Authority reported that all the rivers flowing through the state had crossed the danger mark at several places and that at least 19 of the state’s 35 districts had been affected by the floods.

Thousands of people are sheltering in relief camps across the state.

The same day, Mr Sarma said the state was experiencing a “second wave of flooding” due to heavy rainfall in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh state and some districts in Assam.

He added that the coming three-four days could be critical, depending on the rains.

Mr Sarma said flood waters had inundated several areas of Kaziranga National Park – a world heritage site famous for the Great Indian one-horned rhinoceros – causing animals to migrate from forested areas to nearby hills.

He added that the state and national disaster relief teams were on standby to help people.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured the state of the federal government’s help in case of a crisis.

The Indian Meteorological Department has predicted very heavy rainfall in Assam and the neighbouring state of Meghalaya until Friday.

Pakistan will continue attacks in Afghanistan – minister

By Farhat JavedBBC Urdu

Pakistan will continue to launch attacks against Afghanistan as part of a new military operation aimed at countering terrorism, the country’s defence minister has told the BBC.

Khawaja Asif said the aerial strikes were targeting groups which Pakistan accuses of targeting security forces and civilians.

Previously, senior officials in Pakistan had only admitted to one such strike on the neighbouring country, in March of this year.

The Taliban government in Afghanistan describes the strikes as violations of its sovereignty.

“It’s correct that we have been carrying out operations in Afghanistan, and we will continue to do so. We won’t serve them with cake and pastries. If attacked, we’ll attack back,” Mr Asif told BBC Urdu.

He also dismissed fears over the legality of the strikes, saying Pakistan does not inform the Taliban of impending attacks.

He said: “This would eliminate the element of surprise. Why should we tell them, ‘get ready, we are coming’?”

The Taliban said the statement was “irresponsible”, warning Pakistan that cross-border attacks would have “consequences”.

Tensions have been rising between Pakistan and Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country in 2021. Pakistan alleges that a faction of the Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban or TTP, has sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan has been reluctant to take action against the TTP, despite our requests to let them not use Afghan soil to attack Pakistan,” Mr Asif said.

Pakistan has recently announced a renewed military operation, Resolve for Stability” in English, aimed at curbing escalating violence and terrorist attacks. It will mainly focus on groups acting within Pakistan.

Critics, and even some sources within the government, have suggested the new operation was launched following pressure from Beijing, concerned about the safety of its 29,000 citizens in Pakistan, 2,500 of whom are working on China Pakistan Economic Corridor projects, part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Five Chinese engineers were killed when a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers working on a hydropower project in northwest Pakistan in March 2024.

Pakistan’s military previously alleged the attack was planned in neighbouring Afghanistan, and that the bomber was also an Afghan national.

Mr Asif denied that the most recent military operations had been due to pressure from China. But he said the operations would address security threats to Chinese projects and nationals in Pakistan.

Biden says court verdict on Trump undermines rule of law

By Peter BowesBBC North America correspondent • Jaroslav LukivBBC News
Biden on Trump ruling: ‘There are no Kings in America’

Joe Biden has described as a “dangerous precedent” a Supreme Court ruling giving former President Donald Trump partial immunity from criminal prosecution.

The current US president said the judgement undermined the “rule of law” and was “a terrible disservice” to Americans.

Earlier, Trump hailed the court’s decision as a “big win” for democracy.

The justices found on Monday that a president had immunity for “official acts” but was not immune for “unofficial acts”, and referred the matter back to a trial judge.

The judgement will further delay the criminal case against Trump for allegedly trying to subvert the 2020 election result that gave victory to Mr Biden.

The trial judge must now determine which actions were carried out in Trump’s capacity as president, which could take months. Any trial is unlikely to start before November’s presidential election.

In a televised statement late on Monday, President Biden said: “This nation was founded on the principle that there are no kings in America. Each of us is equal before the law. No one, no one is above the law. Not even the president of the United States.

“Today’s [court] decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits on what a president may do.

“The man who sent that mob to the US Capitol is facing potential criminal conviction for what happened that day. The American people deserve to have an answer in the courts before the upcoming election.”

Mr Biden was referring to Trump being on trial for his alleged role in stirring up the riot.

“Now, because of today’s [court] decision, that is highly, highly unlikely,” Mr Biden said.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the trial judge must now determine which actions were carried out in Trump’s capacity as president, which could take months. Any trial is unlikely to start before the 5 November election.

This is a huge boost for Donald Trump – a “big win” as he put it on his social media platform Truth Social.

The Supreme Court ruled that all former presidents have partial immunity from criminal prosecution – total immunity applies to acts carried out as part of the president’s official duties, but “unofficial acts,” in a private capacity, are not covered.

A lower court judge will now have to decide which aspects of the president’s behaviour are relevant to the criminal prosecution where he is accused of trying to overthrow the result of the 2020 election.

The majority opinion by the Supreme Court deemed his interactions with the Department of Justice (DoJ) immune from prosecution.

Trump is accused in his indictment of pressuring DoJ officials to launch investigations into voter fraud despite a lack of evidence.

The three liberal justices on the Supreme Court strongly dissented from Monday’s decision. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said: “The president is now a king above the law.”

Democratic Congresswomen Judy Chu said the fallout from the court’s decision would be far-reaching.

“If a president says in any official capacity that they want to do something that we would consider to be improper and criminal, he could be immune from the actions that he takes,” she said.

The court’s six-three ruling will significantly delay any trial – if it is ever to go ahead – until well after the November election.

The ruling will also apply to the other outstanding criminal prosecutions facing Donald Trump, relating to the top secret documents found at his home in Florida, and the case in Georgia where he is accused of conspiring to overturn his narrow election defeat in the state.

According to BBC’s news partner CBS, Trump’s legal team is seeking to overturn his conviction in New York, where he was found guilty in May of 34 counts of falsifying business records related to concealing an alleged sexual encounter with former adult-film star Stormy Daniels.

Trump’s legal team have sent the judge in the case a letter related to this effort and cited the Supreme Court’s opinion, CBS reported, citing a source familiar with the matter. The letter in the case has not yet been made public.

The New York Times first reported these details.

The case is one of four Trump is facing.

What the Supreme Court immunity ruling means for Trump… in 60 seconds

Dozens killed in stampede at India religious event

At least 27 people, mostly women, have been killed in northern India in a stampede at a religious gathering, officials have said.

The incident took place at a satsang (a Hindu religious event) in Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh state, a senior police official said.

The victims include 23 women and three children, he said, adding that the bodies were yet to be identified.

It’s not clear yet what led to the stampede.

The crowd had gathered for an event to celebrate the Hindu deity Shiva in Mughalgarhi village.

A video shared by news agency PTI showed the wounded being brought to a hospital for treatment.

“Procedure of post-mortem is underway and the matter is being investigated,” official Satya Prakash in the neighbouring district of Etah said.

Accidents are routinely reported at religious events in India, as huge crowds gather in tight spaces.

In 2018, around 60 people were killed after a train rammed into a crowd watching celebrations for Dusshera, a Hindu festival.

In 2013, a stampede at a Hindu festival in the central state of Madhya Pradesh had killed 115 people.

Cambodia jails green activists for ‘anti-state plot’

By Kelly NgBBC News

Cambodia has jailed 10 environmental activists who had sounded the alarm on river pollution for plotting against the government – a case critics have decried as politically motivated.

Members of the group Mother Nature were charged in 2021 after they documented waste run-off into Phnom Penh’s Tonle Sap river, near the royal palace.

Three of them, including Spanish co-founder Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, who were also convicted of insulting the king, were sentenced to eight years’ jail and fined $2,500 (£1,980). The seven others were handed six-year terms.

Prosecutors have never explained how the activists had violated the law against insulting the king or conspiring against the government.

Since its founding in 2013, Mother Nature has campaigned against environmentally destructive projects and raised questions on how natural resources are managed in the South East Asian country.

They document their findings in playful and informative videos that they post on Facebook, where they have 457,000 followers.

Environmental groups have long accused Cambodia’s leaders of profiting from the country’s natural resources. The government denies this and says Mother Nature is encouraging social unrest.

Gonzalez-Davidson, who was earlier banned from entering Cambodia, called the verdict a “disastrous decision by the Hun family regime”.

“No one benefits from [it], let alone the government. As we have seen with previous cases like this, this tends to send people into shock for a while, but ultimately backfires because it inspires many others to take [the jailed activists’] place,” he told the BBC.

The Mekong is slowly dying

Cambodia’s law against insulting the king is relatively new and took effect only in 2018. Critics say it is being used to crack down on dissent.

Opposition political parties were dismantled, independent media outlets were shut and dozens of activists were jailed under the decades-long rule of former prime minister Hun Sen, who stepped down last year to pave the way for his son, Hun Manet, to assume leadership.

Under Hun Manet, Mother Nature activists have continued to criticise what they describe as an unequal enforcement of laws in favour of companies and the wealthy elite.

Four of the convicted activists attended the hearings and were immediately arrested following the verdict.

Representatives of local NGO the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (Licadho) who were present outside the Phnom Penh court said the arrests were violent, with “at least two of [them] dragged by their necks”.

Arrest warrants have been issued for the six others, including Gonzalez-Davidson.

Earlier in the day, dozens of Mother Nature supporters marched towards the court where the activists were due to receive the verdict.

Dressed in white – the traditional colour of mourning in the country – some of the supporters held up hand-written posters that read “We need freedom” and “We need rights”. Others held white flowers.

Rights groups have denounced the verdict as a blow to Cambodia’s diminishing civil society and environmental movement.

The verdict “sends an appalling message to Cambodia’s youth that the government will side with special interests over the environment every chance it gets,” said Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director Bryony Lau.

“It is astounding to criminalise activities of youths who are advocating for clean water in Phnom Penh, protecting mangrove forests in Koh Kong and warning against the privatisation of land in protected areas and characterising it as an attack against the state,” said Licadho’s outreach director Naly Pilorge.

However, he is hopeful that the activists’ efforts “will still inspire other human rights defenders to join the front lines and continue to push for a more democratic Cambodia”.

Several of those convicted today had already served jail terms in the past. One of them, Long Kunthea, told BBC in an interview last year that she is willing to take on the risks of her activism to “for positive change”.

Kunthea was previously jailed for more than a year for organising protests to protect the Mekong river from further pollution.

“This problem on the Mekong is a problem for all of us… I don’t want to see this continue to happen to Cambodia, to Cambodian people, and to our next generation ever again,” she told the BBC.

One of Mother Nature’s successful campaigns, which Mr Pilorge made reference to, resulted in officials ending the export of sand from the coastal estuaries of southwestern Koh Kong province, which was destroying the local ecosystem and fishing grounds.

They also successfully halted the plan to build a hydro-dam in the Cardamom Mountains. The China-led construction project would have threatened the livelihoods of indigenous communities in the area, the group had said.

Last September, the group received the Sweden-headquartered Right Livelihood Award for its “fearless activism”. “[Mother Nature] has emerged as a beacon of hope for future generations, fighting for the preservation of nature and human rights in Cambodia,” the jury of the annual award said at the time.

Tear gas fired at anti-government protesters in Kenya

By Basillioh RukangaBBC News, Nairobi

Kenyan police have fired tear gas in the capital, Nairobi, to disperse anti-government protests.

In the city centre many businesses have remained closed. Demonstrators have also taken to the streets of other cities including Mombasa and Kisumu.

Human rights groups say since the protests against a controversial finance bill began two weeks ago 39 people have been killed by security forces.

President William Ruto has since dropped the proposed tax increases – but the demonstrations have morphed into calls for him to resign and anger over police brutality.

Cars can be seen burning amid chaotic scenes in Mombasa as protesters clash with police.

The clashes in Nairobi have forced magistrates to put off hearings at a court in the city, the Daily Nation newspaper reports.

  • Kenya to borrow more after new taxes withdrawn – president
  • Was there a massacre after Kenya’s anti-tax protests?
  • Protesters set fire to Kenya’s parliament – but also saved two MPs

The state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) says most protesters were killed last Tuesday when MPs voted to pass the bill.

Seventeen people had died in Nairobi and 22 others killed in other parts of the country, it said in a statement on Monday evening.

There had also been 361 injuries, 32 cases of “enforced or involuntary disappearances” and 627 arrests, it said.

Amnesty International says 24 protesters died in the protests. Earlier, the police put the death toll at 19.

KNCHR condemned “in the strongest terms possible the unwarranted violence and force that was inflicted on protesters, medical personnel, lawyers, journalists and on safe spaces such as churches medical emergency centres and ambulances”.

It said the force used against the protesters “was excessive and disproportionate”.

President Ruto said the police had “done their best they could” while speaking at a roundtable interview with journalists on Sunday.

He added that “if there were any excesses” they would be addressed through “existing mechanisms”.

You may also be interested in:

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‘Potentially catastrophic’ Hurricane Beryl moves towards Jamaica

By Vanessa BuschschlüterBBC News

A deadly hurricane which has been tearing through the Caribbean is intensifying as it moves towards Jamaica.

Hurricane Beryl is now a category five storm, meaning its winds and storm surges could prove catastrophic.

The storm made landfall on Monday on Carriacou, an island which is part of Grenada.

So far, there are reports of two people dead as a result of the storm, one in Grenada and one in St Vincent.

Beryl hit land on Monday as a category four hurricane, with sustained winds of 150mph (240km/h).

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Carriacou had taken a direct hit from Hurricane Beryl’s “extremely dangerous eyewall” – a ring of thunderstorms which produces heavy rain and particularly strong winds.

Communications with Carriacou and the nearby island of Petite Martinique are still disrupted.

The Prime Minister of Grenada, Dickon Mitchell, warned that there could be more fatalities than the one reported in Grenada so far.

Mr Mitchell said the true extent of the damage would not be known until officials were able to reach the islands.

Mikey Hutchinson, a journalist in Grenada, told the BBC’s Newsday programme that at the height of the storm the situation had been “really, really bad”.

“It was extensive in terms of the strength of the wind and the intensity of the rain. We had a lot of reports of damage to homes, houses, a few government buildings,” he said.

Watch: Flying in the eye of Hurricane Beryl

St Vincent and the Grenadines, to the north-east of Grenada, was also devastated by Hurricane Beryl.

Its Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, said that at least one person had been killed by the storm.

He said that Storm Beryl had “left in its wake immense destruction”.

According to the prime minister, the situation on Union Island – a small island with around 3,000 inhabitants – was particularly dire.

“The reports that I have received indicate that 90% of the houses have been severely damaged or destroyed,” he said.

Mr Gonsalves also warned that “there may well be more fatalities, we are not yet sure”.

Thousands of people are still without power and many are in temporary shelters in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and St Lucia.

Footage shared on social media showed homes with their roofs blown off and residents picking through rubble to salvage their possessions.

Barbados, which had issued a hurricane warning as Storm Beryl approached, seems to have been spared major damage.

A government official said that while the country had “dodged a bullet”, people should not let down their guard as “gusts are still coming, the storm-force winds are still coming”.

Predicted path of Hurricane Beryl

Meteorologists from the National Hurricane Center say Beryl continues to strengthen as it moves through the south-eastern Caribbean.

The NHC warns Beryl is expected bring “life-threatening winds and storm surge to Jamaica later this week”, most likely on Wednesday afternoon local time.

The Jamaican government has issued a hurricane warning and people living in low-lying and flood-prone areas have been urged to seek shelter.

A waiter in Kingston told Reuters news agency that the atmosphere in the Jamaican capital was calm.

“Jamaicans wait until the last minute. The night before or in the morning, the panic sets in. It’s because we’re used to this,” he said.

But the mayor of the resort town of Montego Bay warned residents not to take a “wait and see” attitude and urged them to be “prepared for anything”.

Before reaching Jamaica, Hurricane Beryl could also cause damage in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola.

Haiti, which has in the past been devastated by earthquakes and whose interim government is trying to wrest control of the capital from powerful gangs, is particularly poorly prepared for the devastation Beryl could cause.

Guy Vital-Herne from the charity World Vision told the BBC that “as of right now, Haiti is definitely not ready for something like that”.

“In the past, we’ve seen rains causing roads to flood, diminishing logistical capacities and even collapsing bridges. So it would be very catastrophic for Haiti to be highly impacted by Beryl right now.”

The NHC said that Hurricane Beryl was the earliest category five storm in the Atlantic they had ever recorded, forming much earlier in the hurricane season than usual.

Meteorologists have also remarked on how quickly Beryl developed.

The storm strengthened from a tropical depression into a major hurricane – category three or above – in only 42 hours, hurricane expert Sam Lillo told Associated Press news agency.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has warned that the North Atlantic could get as many as seven major hurricanes this year – up from an average of three in a season.

Trump asks for hush-money conviction to be overturned

By Jaroslav LukivBBC News

Donald Trump’s lawyers have asked for the former president’s conviction in his hush-money criminal case to be overturned and his sentencing this month delayed, US media report.

A letter sent by Trump’s lawyers to the New York judge presiding over the trial reportedly cites Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that granted the former president immunity from prosecution for official actions he took while in office.

In May, Trump was convicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records. He will be sentenced on 11 July.

What the Supreme Court immunity ruling means for Trump… in 60 seconds

His team points out that he signed off the records while president in 2017, but one lawyer suggested this was unlikely to be considered an official act.

Last year, Trump’s lawyers similarly argued that the allegations in the case involved that were within the scope of his official presidential duties.

However, a federal judge wrote that Trump had failed to show that his conduct was “for or relating to any act performed by or for the President under [scope] of the official acts of a president”.

Monday’s ruling by the Supreme Court was hailed by Trump as a “big win” for democracy.

The justices found that a president had immunity for “official acts” but was not immune for “unofficial acts”.

The verdict related to a separate case against Trump: he is suspected of trying to illegally overturn the 2020 presidential election result that gave victory to Joe Biden.

Reacting to the Supreme Court ruling, President Biden described it as a “dangerous precedent” that undermined the “rule of law” in America.

Trump’s lawyers sent the letter to New York Judge Juan Merchan on Monday, according to the BBC’s US partner CBS News and other media.

The lawyers argue that the Supreme Court’s latest decision confirmed the defence position in the New York case that some prosecution evidence should not have been allowed because this constituted official presidential acts.

The letter is yet to be made public, and Judge Merchan has not commented on the issue.

In May, a panel of 12 Manhattan jurors unanimously convicted Trump on all counts of falsifying business records.

During the trial, the court heard from a number of witnesses, including former adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose alleged sexual encounter with the former president was at the centre of the case.

The former president was accused of having concealed a payment to buy the silence of Ms Daniels in the final days of his 2016 election campaign.

Prosecutors had argued that, by approving a scheme to disguise the money as legal expenses, Trump broke election law.

Trump called the verdict in the New York case a “disgrace”.

But the Supreme Court decision is unlikely to affect Trump’s conviction, said Mark Zauderer, prominent appellate attorney in New York.

“The allegations in the New York fraud case in which Trump was convicted seem clearly to relate to unofficial conduct by Trump, none of which would seem to involve his official duties,” he told the BBC.

“While Trump will be able to litigate his immunity defence in some of his cases, he will have a most difficult time succeeding with this argument in the New York case.”

Israel conscription rule stokes ultra-Orthodox fury

By Yolande KnellBBC Middle East correspondent

When Israel’s ultra-Orthodox or Haredi Jewish community gathers in force you realise just how large it is.

Thousands of men and boys dressed in black and white are crammed into the streets of Mea Shearim – which is the heart of the ultra-Orthodox community – in Jerusalem for an angry protest against the military draft.

It is the latest demonstration since the Supreme Court’s historic ruling that young Haredi men must be conscripted into the Israeli military and are no longer eligible for significant government benefits.

Young men who are full-time students in Jewish seminaries, or yeshivas, tell me that their religious lifestyle is in jeopardy. They believe that their prayers and spiritual learning are what protects Israel and the Jewish people.

“For 2,000 years we’ve been persecuted, and we’ve survived because we’re learning Torah and now the Supreme Court wants to remove this from us, and it will cause our destruction,” says Joseph.

“Going to the army will make a frum – religious Jew – not religious anymore.”

“The draft does not help militarily. They don’t want us Haredim, us orthodox Jews, they don’t need us,” another student tells me, withholding his name as he does not have his rabbi’s permission to give an interview.

“They’re just gonna give us some dirty job there. They’re there to make us not Orthodox no longer.”

For decades, there has been controversy over the role of the ultra-Orthodox in Israeli society. From a small minority, the community is now a million-strong, making up 12.9% of the population.

Ultra-Orthodox parties have often acted as kingmakers in Israeli politics, giving support to successive governments headed by Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in return for continuing the draft exemption and hundreds of millions of dollars for their institutions.

This has been a long-standing cause of friction with secular Jewish Israelis who mostly do compulsory military service and pay the largest share of taxes. But the issue has now come to a head at the most sensitive time as the army faces unprecedented strain following its longest ever war in Gaza, and a possible second war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“My son has already been in the reserves for 200 days! How many years do you want him to do? How are you not ashamed?” demanded Mor Shamgar as she berated Israel’s national security adviser at a recent conference in Herzliya.

Her exasperated rant about her son – serving as a tank commander in southern Israel – was widely shared on social media.

With army leaders complaining about a shortage of military manpower, Ms Shamgar – who says she has previously voted for the prime minister’s party – believes that the government has “handled the situation very poorly,” putting its own political survival ahead of national interests on the draft issue.

“Netanyahu and his gang made a major judgement mistake on thinking they can dodge it,” she tells me. “Because once you enforce on half the population that you have to go to the army, you cannot enforce that the other half will not go to the army. It’s not even secular versus religion. I see it as an equality issue. You can’t make laws that make half a population, second grade citizens.”

Earlier this year, a survey by the Israel Democracy Institute indicated that 70% of Israeli Jews wanted to end the blanket exemptions from military service for the ultra-Orthodox.

Despite earlier threats, so far ultra-Orthodox parties have not left the governing coalition over army conscription. Attempts continue to push forward an older bill – once rejected by Haredi leaders – that would lead to partial enlistment of their community.

At an ultra-Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem, men of different ages are draped in their prayer shawls gathering for the morning service. Their conservative way of life is based on a strict interpretation of Jewish law and customs.

So far, just one Israeli army battalion, Netzah Yehuda, was set up specifically to accommodate ultra-Orthodox demands for gender segregation with special requirements for kosher food, and time set aside for prayers and daily rites.

But an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who works on issues of integration and is on the board of an NGO that supports the battalion, believes more compromises are possible and that a new Haredi brigade should be formed.

“It’s up to the Haredim to come to the table and say, we’re ready for real concessions, we’re ready to step out of our traditional comfort zone and do something proactive in finding the right framework that will allow more Haredi to serve,” says Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer.

He suggests thousands of young ultra-Orthodox men who do not currently do full-time Torah study – finding themselves unsuited to academic rigours – should be encouraged to join the army like other Jewish Israelis their age.

For the Israeli military to live up to its reputation as “the People’s Army,” Rabbi Pfeffer also calls on it to do more to build trust and improve its relationship with his community. “There are a lot of accommodations needed, but they’re not rocket science,” he comments.

So far, the process of implementing the ultra-Orthodox draft appears gradual.

More than 60,000 ultra-Orthodox men are registered as yeshiva students and have been receiving an exemption from military service. But since last week’s Supreme Court ruling, the army has only been told to draft an additional 3,000 from the community, in addition to about 1,500 who already serve. It has also been told to devise plans to recruit larger numbers in coming years.

Back in Mea Shearim, after nightfall there are some protesters who take an extreme position, throwing stones at the police and spreading out in Jerusalem to attack the cars of two ultra-Orthodox politicians who they feel have let them down on military conscription.

Historically, this is an insulated section of society that resists change but now amid rising public pressure in Israel and the possibility of widening war, change appears unavoidable.

SAS war crimes inquiry obtains huge cache of new evidence, BBC reveals

By Joel Gunter, Hannah O’Grady, Rory TinmanBBC Panorama

The public inquiry into alleged SAS war crimes in Afghanistan has obtained a previously deleted cache of data that could hold crucial evidence, the BBC can reveal.

The files were permanently erased from a server by a UK Special Forces contractor in 2016, during a murder investigation into the SAS.

But the public inquiry team has now secured backups of the server – part of a Special Forces communications system codenamed “Sonata” – believed to have been created before the files were erased.

The backups are likely to contain information about SAS operations on which members of the elite regiment were suspected of unlawfully killing unarmed Afghan detainees and civilians.

A spokesperson for the inquiry confirmed to the BBC that they had obtained the backups, adding: “We now hold the relevant material and are exploring a technical solution to retrieve and review the data to determine its relevance to the investigation.”

The spokesperson said the inquiry team was approached during several days of hearings about computer evidence last December by someone offering them access to the backups, but the inquiry declined to comment on the source of the offer.

This is the first time backups of Sonata have been obtained by investigators outside UK Special Forces, which blocked previous efforts by the Royal Military Police (RMP) to copy the server.

To the dismay of the RMP investigators, a contractor hired by UK Special Forces (UKSF) during the murder investigation ran a program on the server in 2016 designed to permanently erase previously deleted files.

This process, known as “zeroing”, flew in the face of explicit instructions the RMP had given to UKSF that no data should be tampered with before the server could be copied.

Battle to obtain Sonata

The RMP quickly identified Sonata as a potential source of key evidence during the force’s investigation into the SAS, but according to the internal logbook of lead investigator Maj Jason Wright, the RMP’s efforts to obtain or copy the server encountered resistance and delays from UKSF from the outset.

According to the logbook, Maj Wright – who was then a captain – also met resistance from within the RMP. He wanted to use the force’s legal powers to seize the server, but his senior officer, Gold Commander John Harvey, directed Maj Wright not to use them.

After months of stalemate, UKSF informed the RMP that it planned to migrate the contents of the server over to a new system, and that if the RMP investigators would wait for this process to be completed it could then take physical possession of the old server and all the data on it.

According to RMP Warrant Officer James Priddin, who led the technical effort to obtain the server, this plan was agreed at a high level following a “gentleman’s agreement” between then-Director, Special Forces, Gen James Chiswell and then-head of the RMP, Brig David Neal that the RMP would not seize the server using police powers.

Ministry of Defence documents disclosed during a court case several years later showed that shortly before this agreement was made, Brig Neal had been accused by a RMP fellow officer of trying to improperly close down a separate SAS murder investigation.

The RMP agreed to the delay, but set the condition that no data stored on Sonata could be in any way modified or deleted during the migration process. The stipulation was issued in writing to the office of the director of Special Forces, and a staff officer replied in writing to agree.

But, following further delays, the RMP was informed by UKSF that a program had been run across the server called SDelete, which is specifically designed to permanently erase previously deleted files.

The reason given by the contractor for the use of SDelete was that it sped up the migration process by first permanently erasing deleted data, rather than migrating it unnecessarily.

The news shocked WO Priddin, who had personally received the written assurance from UKSF that no data would be modified or deleted during the migration.

“The deleted data had been permanently erased from the hard drives,” he would later write. “There is no way of understanding what the data was afterwards. It was a clean, forensic delete.”

Maj Wright wrote in his logbook that the deletions were “either unintentional and caused by error/communication breakdown within [UKSF headquarters] or an intentional act to prevent RMP from accessing that data”.

Throughout the process, the backups of the server were never made available to the RMP by UKSF. The RMP’s investigation was wound down in 2019, and the backups sat unexamined until the public inquiry held a week of hearings about the deletions last December, prompting someone to come forward.

In a memo summarising the Sonata case, Maj Wright would note that this was not the first time data had been deleted by UKSF.

In 2010, during a previous investigation into an alleged extrajudicial killing by the SAS, UKSF headquarters staff had “forensically wiped a laptop client machine the day before RMP had the opportunity to recover it”, Maj Wright wrote.

He added: “The deletion of evidence immediately prior to recovery by RMP is coincidental at best; at worst, this may be deemed suspicious.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said: “The MoD is fully committed to supporting the Independent Inquiry relating to Afghanistan as it continues its work and so it is appropriate we await the outcome of its work before commenting further.”

The RMP and Gen Chiswell also said that they fully support the work of the Independent Inquiry relating to Afghanistan and that it would not be appropriate to comment while the inquiry was ongoing.

Brig Neal and Lt Col Harvey did not respond to a request for comment.

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Almost 1.8m people owe £50,000 or more in student debt

By Harrison JonesBBC News

Almost 1.8 million people are now in at least £50,000 of UK student debt, data obtained by BBC News reveals.

More than 61,000 have balances of above £100,000, figures from the Student Loans Company (SLC) also show, while another 50 people each owe upwards of £200,000.

The statistics were released after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the number of loan holders with above average debts who are eligible to start repayments.

The SLC previously said the average balance for loan holders in England when they start making repayments was less than £45,000. New government data shows that amount has now risen to £48,470.

Balances can be significantly higher for those who study multiple or lengthy courses and often rise rapidly with interest.

In 2023/24, some 2.8 million people in England made a student loan repayment, according to government figures released after the FOI response.

That means only a small fraction of those repaying their balances are in more than £100,000 of debt – but the majority do owe more than £50,000.

It comes after the BBC revealed earlier this year that the highest UK student debt was more than £231,000. Around three months later, that figure has now hit £252,000.

Tom Allingham, from website Save The Student, said such balances were “alarming” but were “in no way indicative of the norm”.

Personal finance expert Martin Lewis told the BBC the debts should be seen more like a “limited form of graduate tax”.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, he explained: “Student finance for the vast majority of students is not about what you owe, but what you earn – you repay 9% of everything above a threshold.”

For example, those on “Plan 2 loans” would pay 9% of everything earned over £27,295.

The National Union of Students (NUS) branded it “ridiculous” that none of the main parties are offering “reform” of student finance in the election campaign.

Debts are written off at the end of loan terms, regardless of how much is owed by that point. The terms are often 30 or 40 years, but depend on your course and start date.

Heavily-indebted graduates have also spoken to BBC News about their concerns with the current system.

Titi, a senior electrical engineer from Croydon who asked for his full name not to be used, saw his student debt – which stands at more than £128,200 – rise by £788.11 between 6 April and 6 June this year.

“No matter how much I pay it is always increasing,” he said, referencing the near 8% interest rate on accounts like his, which is driven by high inflation.

The father-of-one, 43, told the BBC he feels it is impossible to pay back the balance in full following his four-year course at London South Bank University and two years studying for a Higher National Diploma.

“It seems like a money-making avenue when you look at the (interest) rates applied to the loans,” he said.

Titi said he fears some people may be discouraged from higher education “when they do the calculations” and consider what they could earn without a degree.

It is more than 10 years since tuition fees were tripled in England. From 2017, fees have cost a maximum of £9,250 per year across all UK nations, though in Scotland, Scottish students are charged a maximum of £1,820.

Many people who borrowed “exceptional amounts” on so-called “Plan 2” loans – which were introduced when fees were tripled – are unlikely to pay the full amount back, according to Ben Waltmann, from the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

But Claire Callender, a professor of higher education policy and deputy director of the Centre for Global Higher Education, told the BBC that owing such high amounts is “likely to have a negative impact on graduates’ lives”.

It is not clear whether the largest debt now known to the SLC – of £252,000 – is on the same loan as the one revealed to be the highest in March, at £231,000.

Nick Hillman, the director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, told the BBC he was “most shocked” by the number of people in more than £200,000 of student debt.

He pointed out that the data suggests that fewer than 50 people owe at least £10m between them.

“Clearly, at that level, the student loan system is not working well because these people will not pay it all back”, Mr Hillman said.

‘People will not pay it all back’

In its response to the FOI request, the SLC said people with higher than average balances “may be in receipt of several student loan products”, including an Advanced Learner Loan for further education courses and funding for undergraduate courses, postgraduate Master’s courses and postgraduate Doctoral courses.

It said other factors behind high student debts could also include loan holders studying multiple or lengthier courses or holding more than one loan plan type. The company added that some students receive additional funding due to “compelling personal reasons”.

Despite being in more than £101,500 of debt, foundation year 2 doctor Abbie Tutt is pleased the system does not impact credit scores.

But Dr Tutt – who posted a video on social media “celebrating” her balance passing £100,000 – is unhappy about how long she will be paying it off for.

The 27-year-old says the debt is saddening when she compares it to that of older colleagues who paid their loans off when terms were more favourable.

She characterises her debt as a tax. Dr Tutt told the BBC: “If you’re going to uni because it’s your passion and you are going to get a good job and be happy then you could justify it.

“But I am not comfortable with people being in that much debt and not getting a job.”

‘Ridiculous’

Chloe Field, the NUS’ vice president for higher education, said means testing of maintenance loans often leads to people from working class backgrounds ending up in the most debt, as they can claim more funding.

“They also generally pay back their loans slower, and therefore end up paying more in interest”, she told the BBC.

Save The Student‘s Mr Allingham added: “The prior revelation that one graduate had student loan debt of over £231,000 was a watershed moment, which makes it even more shocking that dozens of others also owe in excess of £200,000.”

The Conservatives say that while in government the party has frozen tuition fees and ensured no one pays back more than they borrowed in real terms.

However, like Labour, the Tories are not making any concrete new proposals on tuition fees or student debt.

Labour’s manifesto says the current higher education funding settlement “does not work” and promises that the party “will act to create a secure future for higher education”.

The Liberal Democrats want to reinstate maintenance grants for disadvantaged students immediately and review higher education finance. The Green Party proposes abolishing tuition fees, while Reform promises to scrap interest on student loans.

The Department for Education declined to comment due to pre-election period restrictions.

More on this story

Why parents are locking themselves in cells at Korean ‘happiness factory’

By Hyojung KimBBC Korean

The only thing connecting each tiny room at the Happiness Factory to the outside world is a feeding hole in the door.

No phones or laptops are allowed inside these cells, which are no bigger than a store cupboard, and their inhabitants have only bare walls for company.

Residents may wear blue prison uniforms but they are not inmates – they have come to the centre in South Korea for a “confinement experience”.

Most people here have a child who has fully withdrawn from society, and have come to learn for themselves how it feels to be cut off from the world.

Solitary-confinement cell

Reclusive young people like these residents’ children are referred to as hikikomori, a term coined in Japan in the 1990s to describe severe social withdrawal among adolescents and young adults.

Last year, a South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare survey of 15,000 19- to 34-year-olds found more than 5% of respondents were isolating themselves.

If this is representative of the wider population of South Korea, it would mean about 540,000 people were in the same situation.

Since April, parents have been participating in a 13-week parental education programme funded and run by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) the Korea Youth Foundation and the Blue Whale Recovery Centre.

The aim of the scheme is to teach people how to communicate better with their children.

The programme includes three days in a facility in Hongcheon-gun, Gangwon Province, where participants spend time in a room that replicates a solitary-confinement cell.

The hope is isolation will offer parents a deeper understanding of their children.

‘Emotional prison’

Jin Young-hae’s son has been isolating himself in his bedroom for three years now.

But since spending time in confinement herself, Ms Jin (not her real name) understands her 24-year-old’s “emotional prison” a little better.

“I’ve been wondering what I did wrong… it’s painful to think about,” the 50-year-old says.

“But as I started reflecting, I gained some clarity.”

Reluctance to talk

Her son has always been talented, Ms Jin says, and she and his father had high expectations of him.

But he was often ill, struggled to maintain friendships and eventually developed an eating disorder, making going to school difficult.

When her son began attending university, he seemed to be doing well for a term – but one day, he totally withdrew.

Seeing him locked in his room, neglecting personal hygiene and meals, broke her heart.

But although anxiety, difficulties in relationships with family and friends, and disappointment at not having been accepted into a top university may have affected her son, he is reluctant to talk to her about what is truly wrong.

When Ms Jin came to the Happiness Factory, she read notes written by other isolated young people.

“Reading those notes made me realise, ‘Ah, he’s protecting himself with silence because no-one understands him’,” she says.

Park Han-sil (not her real name) came here for her 26-year-old son, who cut off all communication with the outside world seven years ago.

After running away from home a few times, he now rarely leaves his room.

Ms Park took him to a counsellor and to see doctors – but her son refused to take the mental-health medication he was prescribed and became obsessed with playing video games.

Interpersonal relationships

While Ms Park still struggles to reach her son, she has started to better understand his feelings through the isolation programme.

“I’ve realised that it’s important to accept my child’s life without forcing him into a specific mould,” she says.

Research by the South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare suggests there are a variety of factors driving young people to cut themselves off.

According to the ministry’s survey of 19- to 34-year-olds, the most common reasons are:

  • difficulties finding a job (24.1%)
  • issues with interpersonal relationships (23.5%)
  • family problems (12.4%)
  • health issues (12.4%)

South Korea has some of the highest suicide rates in the world and last year, its government unveiled a five-year plan aiming to address this.

Ministers announced there would be state-funded mental health check-ups for people aged 20-34 every two years.

In Japan, the first wave of young people isolating themselves, in the 1990s, has led to a demographic of middle-aged people dependent on their elderly parents.

And trying to support their adult children on just a pension has caused some older people to fall into poverty and depression.

Prof Jeong Go-woon, from Kyung Hee University sociology department, says Korean society’s expectation that big life milestones should be reached at set times amplifies young people’s anxiety – especially in times of economic stagnation and low employment.

The view that a child’s achievements are a parental success contributes to entire families sinking into the quagmire of isolation.

And many parents perceive their child’s struggles as a failure in upbringing, leading to a sense of guilt.

“In Korea, parents often express their love and feelings through practical actions and roles rather than verbal expressions,” Prof Jeong says.

“Parents financing their children’s tuition fees through hard work is a typical example of a Confucian culture that emphasises responsibility.”

This cultural emphasis on hard work may reflect South Korea’s rapid economic growth in the second half of the 21st century, when it became one of the world’s major economies.

However, according to the World Inequality Database, the country’s wealth inequality has worsened over the last three decades.

Blue Whale Recovery Centre director Kim Ok-ran says the view that self-isolating young people are a “family problem” means many parents also end up cutting off those around them.

And some are so afraid of being judged they cannot even talk to close family members about their situation.

“They can’t bring the issue out into the open, leading to the parents themselves becoming isolated as well,” Ms Kim says.

“Often, they stop attending family gatherings during holidays.”

‘Watching over’

The parents who have come to the Happiness Factory for help are still eagerly awaiting the day their children can resume a normal life.

Asked what she would say to her son if he came out of isolation, Ms Jin’s eyes fill with tears.

“You’ve been through so much,” she says, voice trembling.

“It was hard, wasn’t it?

“I’ll be watching over you.”

Justice’s dissent: ‘The president is now a king above the law’

By Mike WendlingBBC News

Three justices have issued a blistering dissent to the US Supreme Court opinion granting Donald Trump partial immunity from prosecution, warning that it will allow presidential power to be used “for evil ends”.

The 6-3 historic decision effectively strips out key parts of an indictment against the former president for allegedly conspiring to overturn his 2020 election defeat.

Six conservative-leaning justices signed the majority opinion, but the three liberals dissented, expressing “fear for our democracy”.

President Joe Biden similarly warned of a “dangerous precedent”, while one legal expert said this was not simply a case of “fear-mongering”.

Leading the liberals, Justice Sonia Sotomayor outlined hypothetical situations where the concept of immunity could apply.

“Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival?” she wrote. “Immune.”

“Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.”

“Even if these nightmare scenarios never play out, and I pray they never do, the damage has been done,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.”

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Justice Sotomayor was joined in her dissent by the court’s two other liberal justices, Ketanji Brown Jackson and Elena Kagan.

Justice Jackson wrote in a separate dissent that the majority’s ruling “breaks new and dangerous ground” by “discarding” the nation’s long-held principle that no-one is above the law.

“That core principle has long prevented our Nation from devolving into despotism,” she said.

Justice Sotomayor argued that the majority had invented a notion of absolute immunity for a president performing “official acts”, even though it has at times been assumed that presidents could be prosecuted for things they did while in office.

She was visibly emotional as she spent more than 20 minutes reading out parts of her opinion on Monday.

She cited Richard Nixon getting pardoned by the president who succeeded him, Gerald Ford, for using his official powers to obstruct an investigation into the Watergate burglary – the scandal that eventually led to Mr Nixon’s resignation.

Those involved in the case were under the presumption that Mr Nixon did not have immunity and could be prosecuted after leaving office, Justice Sotomayor wrote.

Her opinion went much further back in history as well. She quoted US Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who wrote that former presidents would be “liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law”.

But the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, argued that the dissenters “strike a tone of chilling doom that is wholly disproportionate to what the Court actually does today”.

He wrote that the liberal justices were “fear mongering on the basis of extreme hypotheticals” and dismissed their legal reasoning as weak.

Normally, court dissents include the word “respectfully” but Ms Sotomayor signed off hers by writing: “With fear for our democracy, I dissent.”

And Ms Sotomayor’s dissent was echoed by President Biden’s campaign manager, Quentin Fulks, in a call with reporters.

“Immune, immune, immune. They just handed Donald Trump keys to a dictatorship,” Mr Fulks said.

Legal experts indicated that the scenarios laid out by the justices, as stark as they might seem, are open to further interpretation, particularly by lower courts.

Jeffrey Cohen, an associate professor at Boston College Law School, told the BBC that the opinion lacks clarity as to what counts as an official act.

“There’s language in there that suggests that official acts could bleed into unofficial acts really easily and render things presumptively immune,” he said. “It’s a problem that the court has left us all with this sinking feeling that they’re presuming almost everything is immune.”

Leah Litman, a law professor at the University of Michigan, said that on significant government procedure cases such as this one, the Supreme Court has usually come to a unanimous verdict, but failed to do so this time.

The decision, she said, “strongly places the thumb on the scale in favour of immunity.”

“I don’t think the dissent is being fear-mongering. At the minimum, it is unclear how a prosecution could proceed on several of the theories laid out in the majority opinion.”

Julie Novkov, the dean of Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany, said she was surprised at the broad definition of official acts.

But she noted that the decision raises complicated factual questions.

“I could imagine scenarios were we would have to get into this really careful analysis,” she added.

The contentious exam deciding the fate of India’s doctors

By Umang PoddarBBC Hindi, Delhi • Saradha VBBC Tamil, Chennai

When India’s Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan took oath in the new session of parliament, many opposition MPs chanted “NEET” and “shame”.

The MPs were protesting against a recent controversy that has engulfed a key national exam overseen by Mr Pradhan’s ministry.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of aspiring doctors write the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (Undergraduate), or NEET-UG, whose score decides who gets admitted to medical colleges.

The exam has seen fierce opposition and protests since its inception, but snowballed into a particularly huge scandal this year after thousands of students got abnormally high marks when results were declared – making it hard for even high scorers to get seats in good colleges.

Since then, a host of problems have been raised with the way the exam was held, and allegations of paper leaks and large-scale cheating have left many students dejected.

One of them is Komal, an 18-year-old from the northern state of Haryana, who had taken a gap year to study for NEET and got what would normally be considered a “decent” score. But worried that she won’t get a seat, she has joined a BSc degree course as a back-up option.

“I have decided to take the exam next year again, but I’m scared that this controversy can repeat,” she says.

Protesters have demanded a retest and two states – Tamil Nadu and West Bengal – have asked that the exam be scrapped and the old system of states conducting their own tests be brought back.

The legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu – which has seen the biggest protests – has also passed a resolution saying that the exam has negatively impacted the state’s health system as it favours students from urban and affluent backgrounds, leading to fewer doctors who want to work in poorer, rural areas.

As the opposition – including leader in parliament Rahul Gandhi – continues to protest, demanding a discussion on NEET, the issue shows no sign of dying down.

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Controversial from the start

Before NEET was introduced, there was a national exam which decided who got into premier government colleges such as the All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (Aiims). Many states also conducted their own exams, while some relied on the results of a key school-leaving test.

K Sujatha Rao, who was federal health secretary in 2010 when NEET was formally notified by a Congress-led government, says there were three objectives behind a common medical exam: to standardise the educational competence of students, many of whom turned out to be weak in basic subjects; to reduce the number of entrance exams students had to write; and eliminate the so-called capitation fee – extra payment – charged by private colleges.

Many states opposed NEET, saying it took away their autonomy in college admissions.

In 2013, India’s Supreme Court agreed with this argument when it struck down the exam (by then, one round of NEET had already been held). It also said that a single test affected the “level playing field” because of the educational disparity between urban and rural areas. The court said that just “academic brilliance” was not enough in medicine but that the country needed “barefoot doctors” who would be ready to serve in remote areas.

But three years later, a constitution bench of the court recalled the order. The court’s opinion, just four pages long, did not provide any substantive reasons, only saying that the 2013 bench did not follow “some binding precedents” and that “there was no discussion” among the judges before the order was pronounced.

So from 2016, NEET replaced all other medical entrance tests and has been conducted every year.

Opposition in Tamil Nadu

In 2017, the suicide of a student in Tamil Nadu sparked outrage and let to huge protests against the exam. The daughter of a daily wage labourer, the 17-year-old had scored 98% in her school-leaving exam – which should have got her admitted to a good medical college – but her NEET score wasn’t good enough. She was part of a petition in the Supreme Court which argued that the exam hurt students from poorer, rural backgrounds, but the court ruled that admissions should go ahead based on NEET scores.

Tamil Nadu has the highest number of medical colleges in any state in India and has protested against the exam from the start. The state’s governing party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has been vocal against NEET and claims that 26 students in the state have died from suicide since it was introduced.

In 2021, a high-level committee, tasked with studying the impact of NEET in Tamil Nadu, recommended abolishing the exam. It said it found that NEET disproportionately favoured students who studied in private English-medium schools, belonged to affluent and urban backgrounds, and could afford extra coaching classes.

This would “very badly affect” the medical system in the state, leading to a shortage of doctors in government hospitals and rural areas, it said.

Sathriyan, 23, says he is among those who suffered because he couldn’t afford private coaching. He wrote NEET five times, starting in 2019, but never passed despite scoring well in school exams.

“I studied on my own and I could not crack the exam,” he says, adding that he has now given up on his dream of becoming a doctor and works as a postman in his village.

One exam over all others

In principle, says Ms Rao, the former health secretary, one exam across the country is “not a bad idea”.

But the current disparity in education “puts rural students at a disadvantage, worsening our rural and primary health centres”, she says.

“An elite-school student who clears the exam would ideally want to go abroad or work in private hospitals. They will not be interested in working in remote districts.”

So, she thinks that in the short run, Tamil Nadu’s demand that results of a school-leaving exam be used as the criteria for admission to medical colleges “is not a bad option at all”.

“[Tamil Nadu] had one of the best health systems in the country before NEET as well,” she adds.

But others say that the exam has its advantages.

“NEET has absolved students from preparing for various state exams, and I think it should continue,” says Dr Aviral Mathur, president of Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association.

Dr Lakshya Mittal, national president of the United Doctors’ Front Association, says “one exam is a better alternative” also because it means aspirants don’t have to apply to more than one exam and travel to various states to write them.

But both agree that NEET’s implementation has to improve.

“The exam needs to be organised better and the government has to stop paper leaks,” Dr Mittal says.

A few weeks prior to a previous Tour de France, amid the maelstrom of planning involved with eight riders and more than a dozen support vehicles navigating the country, EF Education-EasyPost head performance chef Owen Blandy received notice of an issue at one of the hotels.

For reasons unexplained, Blandy was told he would not be allowed to use the hotel kitchen, nor even cook in his own food truck on site.

If he desired, he might be able to supervise the hotel’s own chef in their preparations, but would not be permitted to do so from inside the kitchen.

For a man tasked with fuelling a professional cycling team throughout the most important race on the sport’s calendar, it was not ideal news. But he was entirely unflustered.

“It was fine,” shrugs Blandy. “I just had a challenging few days before settling into my own kitchen.”

Personal experience gleaned from a cumulative total of more than a year on the road at major races has taught Blandy to roll with the punches.

“There are never perfect working conditions in cycling so you always have to adapt and be flexible,” he says.

If a hotel bans the team chef from cooking food, then so be it.

Not so long ago, the professional cycling world’s approach to fuelling was remarkably basic.

Options for riders barely extended beyond a monotonous menu of pasta, rice or whatever fare that night’s hotel kitchen decided to serve up.

These days, it is an entirely different prospect, with vast sums spent on custom-built food trucks, personalised nutrition apps and meticulously-planned meal regimes all in the name of performance enhancement.

For the nutritionists and chefs tasked with providing sustenance to power their team’s riders over 2,170 miles in the coming weeks there are principally two dilemmas: what food to prepare and how to do so in an ever-changing environment.

The answers are gleaned from a year-round process that begins in December during pre-season training.

While the riders are honing their bodies, ready for the multitude of races ahead, the number-crunchers eagerly gather data to better understand their nutritional needs.

“We know their individual bodies, their metabolism, how many calories they burn when resting and exactly what they will do in training, the intensity, how long and how many calories they will burn,” says Visma-Lease a Bike head of nutrition Martijn Redegeld.

“Heart rate plays a role. We have that after each training ride. And at certain points in the season we test lactate measurements and breathing measurements in the lab to develop a good profile of each rider.”

As one of three teams – alongside UAE Team Emirates and Ineos Grenadiers – whose budget tends to dwarf all others, Visma-Lease a Bike has strived to place itself at the forefront of nutritional advancement.

Partnerships with universities aim to ensure they are firmly aware of developments within the field “to keep that competitive edge over other teams”, says Redegeld.

With riders burning an average of 6,000 calories per day during the Tour (around three times more than a resting adult), Visma-Lease a Bike have even begun using Artificial Intelligence to help determine precisely how much – and what type of – food each individual cyclist should consume.

Personalisation has become increasingly paramount, with the team developing its own app,, external where various algorithms are used to generate individualised nutrition plans.

When a rider comes back from a day on the bike, they simply open the app and are told exactly how many grams of each nutritional component (carbohydrates, proteins, fats etc) to put on their plate. No brain power is wasted beyond using the ubiquitous buffet table weighing scales.

While the methods used to generate precise nutritional needs vary between teams, all of them work to a broad five-meal daily plan of breakfast, pre-race snack, on-bike fuelling, recovery meal and dinner.

The core feeding principles remain the same across the peloton, although they are tweaked depending on the upcoming day’s requirements and whether the rider in question is a climber or a sprinter, a domestique or a general classification contender.

Carbohydrates – usually in the form of rice or pasta – serve as the petrol, necessitating painfully high consumption levels.

Proteins – predominantly fish or chicken – are always unprocessed and fibre is kept low to minimise gut irritation and aid digestion, with fruit and vegetables often consumed in juice form.

Vegetarians tend to supplement themselves with protein shakes, in addition to plant-based proteins like tofu and seitan.

Riders might be allowed more vegetables and fibrous foods before flatter race days, when the body will be better equipped to break them down, while red meats are saved as a treat the evening before rest days.

On-bike fuelling comes courtesy of roadside soigneurs who load up musette bags with a variety of high-carbohydrate forms that can be selected or discarded based on personal preference.

Energy bars, gels, drinks and gummies provide quick hits on tough days, while more traditional food sources include wet rice cakes, brioches, jam sandwiches, flapjacks, sweet breads and cakes for easier days.

The required quantities are unenviably vast. Each rider consumes close to 1.5kg of rice or pasta every day and in the region of 120g of carbohydrates per hour when on the bike – the equivalent carbohydrate content of five hourly bananas.

One EF rider once went through four tubs of maple syrup during the three-week race.

Blandy’s laptop contains a treasure trove of nutritional information to enable his menu design.

One spreadsheet allows him to compare every food item’s nutrient values to decide whether to cook with aubergines or parsnips, quinoa or couscous, chicken breast or chicken thigh.

Another document comprises the EF Education-EasyPost recipe bible, listing a myriad of soups, salads, carbohydrates, proteins, sides, desserts, post-race snacks and drinks. In a bid to combat flavour fatigue, repetition is kept to an absolute minimum across a three-week race.

“The food I make is all transparent,” says Blandy. “There are no rich sauces, it’s all plain, simple cooking with a light amount of seasoning, light amount of oil, fresh herbs and citrus.

“Instead of putting flavour in with cream, salt and butter we’re adding it with herbs and citrus because they are low calorie and contain antioxidants.”

It does not lend itself to the type of innovative kitchen artistry you might see on television shows or in fancy restaurants.

“When I’m teaching new chefs, I always say the only way they will mess it up is by being too ‘cheffy,'” says Blandy.

“You need to swallow your chef ego and put it into a dessert or play around at the end of a race. Go wild then but don’t mess with the simple stuff: the carbohydrates and proteins. Give the guys what they want and they will be happy.

“I’ve cooked risottos before and they’ve just asked for plain basmati rice. They aren’t there on a holiday. They don’t care about fancy food. They are literally there to fuel.”

Blandy estimates he has stayed – and therefore been tasked with cooking – at more than 300 hotels during his time working for EF Education-EasyPost. The transient nature of the job presents numerous logistical headaches.

A chef’s day at the Tour de France begins around 06:00. They must prepare fresh breakfast items (all packaged food has already been set up the night before) for 08:00 before packing up and driving to the next hotel while the race is ongoing.

As well as cooking the food, they are also responsible for procuring it – a task that varies depending on team and, crucially, sponsor.

Blandy’s experience of European supermarkets means he knows where to find the highest-quality food and shops personally for most of it, in addition to emailing hotels in advance to order some perishable items.

Conversely, Visma-Lease a Bike have been sponsored since 2014 by Dutch supermarket Jumbo, who provide all their food at every race, including the Tour de France.

“During a Grand Tour there are three times that a new delivery comes from the Netherlands to stock up on fresh produce,” says Redegeld. “It’s always the same Dutch food and the guys like that because they know what to expect and we know what products they like, so we can always have that available.

“It makes things a lot easier for the chefs who don’t have to search in local supermarkets for things. For me as a nutritionist, we know the nutritional values of all the products so it makes the calculations a lot easier.”

Upon arriving at a hotel, chefs will begin preparations for dinner and the following day’s breakfast and snacks.

Professional cycling teams tend to adhere to one of two dining styles.

Most travel with customised kitchen trucks – a similar size to supermarket delivery vans – where food is stored and meals cooked. Food is then served up for the riders and wider team members in a private room inside the hotel.

A select few teams – including Ineos Grenadiers – instead choose to travel with a far bigger lorry, which contains a kitchen and dining room.

Camaraderie between chefs on rival teams is high. “Sometimes you’re in a hotel with six teams, so the car parks are rammed,” says Blandy.

“It’s manic. Everyone is sharing water and electricity. So you have to scratch each other’s backs. Chefs come to me and ask for an ingredient and I go to them. We help each other out.”

It is a world away from the three successive weeks of pasta with tomato sauce that riders just a generation ago were accustomed to stomaching throughout their Tour de France endeavours.

Redegeld predicts the nutrition evolution will continue, suggesting that within a decade or so teams will employ DNA analysis to take rider fuelling personalisation to the next level.

But all the analytics are worthless without someone to prepare the food.

Earlier this year, Blandy was all set for a quiet week at home when he received an SOS from the team.

He was given half an hour to pack his bags and jump in a taxi to the airport because a fellow EF Education-EasyPost chef had fallen ill before the Paris-Roubaix race.

“I rolled my knives up and threw them in a suitcase,” he says. “I felt like chef special forces.”

Cooking is serious business in the elite cycling world.

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Osprey chicks relocated to Spain over food concerns

Two osprey chicks are to be rehomed in Spain after concerns over their father’s hunting performance.

Wildlife experts are worried the Loch Arkaig-based chicks are struggling for food following reduced fish catches by dad Louis in recent weeks.

They believe the raptor, who became an online hit through the Woodland Trust Scotland’s wildlife webcam, may be ill or suffering age-related effects.

The six-week-old birds will now be relocated from the forest, near Lochaber, to the Valencian region as part of a reintroduction programme.

Woodland Trust spokesperson, George Anderson, said Louis had been “off his game” in recent weeks, bringing in very few fish to feed the chicks.

Mr Anderson said the bird, who has been the star of the webcam since 2017, would normally be bringing catches of four or five every day.

The Trust said it would never interfere with the ospreys’ daily lives in normal circumstances.

But Mr Anderson said it would be “needless” to let the chicks die from starvation when a relocation option was available.

He said: “Louis has always been a very dependable provider, but he has been off his game lately.

“Bad weather is likely part of the problem and lots of nests appear to have had a poor year, but we think there is something not right about Louis.

“We waited to see if Louis’ performance would pick up but it hasn’t and, while it is our default position not to intervene, we think it would be needlessly dogmatic to let the chicks die when the option to relocate them is available.”

Louis and his 2020 cohort of chicks with previous mate Alia became a huge online hit during Covid lockdown.

They were named Dame Vera, Captain Tom and Doddie in honour of singer, Dame Vera Lynn, charity fundraiser, Captain Sir Tom Moore and rugby star and MND campaigner Doddie Weir following a public ballot.

Alia failed to return from migration in 2021, but Louis found a new mate, named Dorcha.

The pair hatched three chicks earlier this year, two of which survived.

The Trust is now working with the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation as part of the project to introduce the birds to the eastern part of Spain.

The project is based in the Pego-Oliva Marsh Natural Park, near the town of Playa Santa Ana.

It is hoped the scheme, which is in its second of five years, can help restore the species to the region – where they became extinct in the 1980s.

Mr Anderson said: “We have every confidence that while the chicks’ survival is not guaranteed, they will have a vastly better chance.

“It will take the pressure off the adult birds, who will now only need to feed themselves and can hopefully get back in condition before migration and will contribute to an excellent conservation initiative expanding the range of the species to make it more resilient in the future.”

He added: “Scotland has reintroduced species such as beaver, red kite and sea eagle thanks to other nations gifting us their animals.

“I think it is great that Scotland is giving this gift to Spain and we are proud this Arkaig pair are going to be a part of that.”

Pakistan will continue attacks in Afghanistan – minister

By Farhat JavedBBC Urdu

Pakistan will continue to launch attacks against Afghanistan as part of a new military operation aimed at countering terrorism, the country’s defence minister has told the BBC.

Khawaja Asif said the aerial strikes were targeting groups which Pakistan accuses of targeting security forces and civilians.

Previously, senior officials in Pakistan had only admitted to one such strike on the neighbouring country, in March of this year.

The Taliban government in Afghanistan describes the strikes as violations of its sovereignty.

“It’s correct that we have been carrying out operations in Afghanistan, and we will continue to do so. We won’t serve them with cake and pastries. If attacked, we’ll attack back,” Mr Asif told BBC Urdu.

He also dismissed fears over the legality of the strikes, saying Pakistan does not inform the Taliban of impending attacks.

He said: “This would eliminate the element of surprise. Why should we tell them, ‘get ready, we are coming’?”

The Taliban said the statement was “irresponsible”, warning Pakistan that cross-border attacks would have “consequences”.

Tensions have been rising between Pakistan and Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country in 2021. Pakistan alleges that a faction of the Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban or TTP, has sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan has been reluctant to take action against the TTP, despite our requests to let them not use Afghan soil to attack Pakistan,” Mr Asif said.

Pakistan has recently announced a renewed military operation, Resolve for Stability” in English, aimed at curbing escalating violence and terrorist attacks. It will mainly focus on groups acting within Pakistan.

Critics, and even some sources within the government, have suggested the new operation was launched following pressure from Beijing, concerned about the safety of its 29,000 citizens in Pakistan, 2,500 of whom are working on China Pakistan Economic Corridor projects, part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Five Chinese engineers were killed when a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers working on a hydropower project in northwest Pakistan in March 2024.

Pakistan’s military previously alleged the attack was planned in neighbouring Afghanistan, and that the bomber was also an Afghan national.

Mr Asif denied that the most recent military operations had been due to pressure from China. But he said the operations would address security threats to Chinese projects and nationals in Pakistan.

Emotional Usher accepts lifetime achievement award

By Yasmin RufoCulture reporter

Usher delivered an emotional speech as he accepted a lifetime achievement prize at the BET Awards on Sunday.

The singer-songwriter told the audience as he accepted the award that “getting here has definitely not been easy, but it has been worth it”.

The 45-year-old is best known for hits including Yeah! and You Make Me Wanna.

Usher also picked up the award for best R&B and hip-hop artist at the ceremony.

He opened his 15-minute-long acceptance speech by saying: “This life achievement award, I don’t know, man, is it too early to receive it? Cause I’m still runnin’ and gunnin’ like I did when I was eight years old.”

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The singer went on to speak about his dad leaving his family when he was a child.

“I was trying to make sense of this name a man gave me that didn’t stick around because he didn’t love me,” he said.

“You have to have a forgiving heart to understand the true pitfalls and hardships of a black man in America and my father, he was a product of that.”

He also reflected on what it means to now be a father himself.

“This is the year of the father. Stand up for your daughters and sons and lead,” he told the audience at the Peacock Theatre in Los Angeles.

“It’s important to understand that fatherhood is so important.

“For all the fathers tonight at home or in the audience I would like for y’all to stand up just for two seconds for me.

As several men in the audience got on their feet, Usher said: “We don’t get a chance to say enough, ‘Dad I did it’, so this one is for all of the men out there being generals to their sons, and motivation for our future black leaders – young men.”

‘Willing to forgive’

Usher also said he was “turning over a new leaf” and addressed the topic of forgiveness.

He said: “We’ve got to be willing to forgive, we’ve got to be willing to be open.

“I’m telling you, you’re standing before a man who had to forgive a man who never showed up ever. And look what I made with it. Look what I was able to ‘usher’ in. But that’s what’s real, that’s what makes us human, that’s what makes us women and men.”

The award was presented to him by producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

After a montage of career highlights, including clips from his teenage years and his recent Super Bowl performance, there was an all-star tribute to the singer.

Childish Gambino, Keke Palmer and Summer Walker were among the artists to each perform one of Usher’s songs.

The recognition for Usher comes just a few months after he played the prestigious half-time show at the Super Bowl.

Other highlights from the event included Will Smith debuting a new single – You Can Make It.

“I don’t know who needs to hear this right now, but whatever’s going on in your life right now, I’m here to tell you, you can make it,” he told the audience ahead of his performance.

The Black Entertainment Television awards have been running since 2001 and celebrate black talent across a variety of industries.

The winners in full

Album of the year – Michael by Killer Mike

Best female R&B/pop artist – SZA

Best male R&B/pop artist – Usher

Best group – Ye and Ty Dolla $ign

Best collaboration – All My Life by Lil Durk Feat. J. Cole

Best female hip-hop artist – Nicki Minaj

Best male hip-hop artist – Kendrick Lamar

Video of the year – On My Mama by Victoria Monét

Video director of the year – Cole Bennett

Best new artist – Tyla

Best gospel/inspirational award – Me & U by Tems

Viewer’s choice award – Texas Hold ‘Em by Beyoncé

Best international act – Tyla (Africa)

Viewers’ choice: best new international act – Makhadzi (Africa)

BET Her award – On My Mama by Victoria Monét

Best movie – Bob Marley: One Love

Best actor – Denzel Washington

Best actress – Regina King

YoungStars award – Blue Ivy Carter

Sportswoman of the year – Angel Reese

Sportsman of the year – Jalen Brunson

Steve Bannon says ‘Maga army’ ready, as he reports to prison

By Sarah SmithNorth America Editor, Washington
‘I’m a political prisoner’ – Bannon reports to prison

Donald Trump’s former top adviser Steve Bannon has told the BBC he does not fear going to prison or watching the former president’s 2024 campaign from behind bars.

After being convicted of contempt of Congress, the man who was seen as the power behind the scenes in the White House at the start of Trump’s presidential term in 2017 reported to a federal prison in Connecticut just before noon on Monday.

He is still appealing against his conviction for refusing to appear in front of the committee of lawmakers investigating the 6 January 2021 attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters. Bannon has claimed that conversations he had with the president that day should be protected under executive privilege.

But last week the Supreme Court ruled he could not delay his sentence until after the appeal was heard, and now Bannon will have to face his four-month sentence.

“I’m proud of going to prison today,” Bannon said outside the low-security prison just before turning himself in. “I have not only no regrets, I’m proud of what I did.”

Asked what he expects from the next several months, Bannon responded, “a Trump victory”.

In an interview with the BBC, he said he was unconcerned about missing a crucial part of Trump’s campaign, as there is a “Maga army” ready to ensure the former president defeats Joe Biden and returns to the White House.

“I’ve served my country now for the last 10 or so years focusing on this,” he said, referring to politics and Trump’s Make America Great Again (Maga) slogan. “If I have to do it in a prison, I do it in a prison – it makes no difference at all.”

A former Goldman Sachs banker turned alt-right media figure, Bannon was seen by Democrats as the brain behind not only Trump’s extraordinary political rise but also some of his most divisive policies.

He shot to national prominence as chief executive of Donald Trump’s successful 2016 presidential campaign and then became one of the most powerful figures in Washington as White House chief strategist early in the Trump administration.

Seven months into his White House posting, however, he was fired and spent some time adrift from Trump’s inner circle.

The challenging aspect of Bannon’s persona is that “most commentators alternate between calling him a mastermind and saying that he’s irrelevant”, said Benjamin Teitelbaum, the author of War for Eternity: Inside Bannon’s Far-Right Circle of Global Power Brokers.

“He’s both extremes at once.”

In the interim, Bannon appears to have worked his way back into the Trump fold, and for the last five years has hosted the War Room – where he has continued to back the former president and his movement.

Inside the ‘war room’

Bannon’s actual “war room” is in the basement of an elegant Capitol Hill town house, just a stone’s throw from the US Supreme Court.

Every surface is piled high with hardback books on politics, finance and conspiracy theories. Stacked on the mantlepiece, among assorted religious iconography, is a printed quote that Bannon – who sees himself as a shepherd of the Maga populist agenda – coined: “There are NO conspiracies but there are NO coincidences.”

The huge handbook of “Project 2025” is positioned in a place of pride in the room. The 900-page tome put together by the Heritage Foundation – a conservative think tank – contains detailed plans for how a second Trump administration will transform the American government and the power of the executive branch.

We were surrounded by the lights, cameras and microphones that Bannon uses to broadcast for four hours every weekday when he told me he and his show have played a major part in empowering and mobilising thousands of Trump-supporting activists, who he called “street fighters”.

Though he will not be able to lead them from prison, he said that this “Maga army” that “can’t and won’t stop until final victory” will easily continue on its mission.

After all, he said, the populist Maga movement is greater than him – and even Donald Trump. According to Bannon, it does not matter who delivers its message.

Bannon continues to make the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump – in reality, courts have thrown out dozens of lawsuits challenging the results and no evidence of widespread fraud has emerged.

On election day, 5 November, Bannon said the “Maga army” would be ready to deploy across the country, at polling stations and election counts to ensure the former president’s victory.

These supporters – including poll watchers and lawyers – would challenge ballots they don’t believe should be awarded to Joe Biden, he said.

Mr Teitelbaum, however, doubted that Bannon’s own audience was “organised enough to be deployable in the way he describes”.

What comes after prison?

Confident that Trump will win in November, Bannon was eager to discuss what the former president’s agenda would be once he returns to government – and the War Room host leaves prison.

He believes the next Trump White House will be influenced by ideas he has promoted on his show.

Immigration remains a top priority, Bannon said. He said he was sure that on “day one” Trump would seal the border to “stop the invasion”, and then start the “mass deportation of 10 to 15 million illegal alien invaders”.

The former president would turn to the economy after that, he said, and retain the tax cuts from his first term that have largely benefited wealthy individuals and corporations. He claimed the Republican would then end the “forever wars” in Ukraine and Gaza, though it was unclear how Trump would do this.

Bannon did not shy away from discussing how a second Trump administration would target its political enemies.

Trump has himself said that if reelected, he may have individuals he feels have wronged him investigated – especially those who have been involved in the various criminal proceedings against him.

Law enforcement agencies and the military would all be “brought to account” under a future Trump administration, Bannon said, and President Joe Biden would also face prosecution.

While he accused the president of “selling out the country”, the Republican-controlled oversight committee in the House of Representatives investigating such allegations has not produced any evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the president, nor moved to impeach him.

But, as of now, it is Bannon who is set to go to prison. And just before his departure, he left an ominous warning about any election result that did not call Trump the victor.

It is “impossible”, he told me, for Joe Biden to win the election in November. And, therefore, there is no way he or his “Maga army” will accept the result if the president is reelected.

As he put it in a recent speech at a conservative political conference, he sees the election as a zero-sum game – and, he told the revved-up crowd of Trump supporters, it will result in “victory or death”.

Outcry over teen athlete’s fatal collapse during match

By Tessa WongBBC News

The death of a Chinese teenage badminton player who collapsed on court has sparked an outcry across Chinese social media.

Zhang Zhijie, 17, was competing in a youth match when he suddenly fell to the floor in convulsions. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Footage of the incident, shared widely online, showed a pause of about 40 seconds before medics rushed to attend to Zhang.

Officials have come under intense criticism and questions on whether his life could have been saved by quicker medical intervention.

Indonesia’s badminton association PBSI later said he had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.

The Badminton Asia Junior Championships match had taken place in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta on Sunday, with Zhang playing against Kazuma Kawano of Japan.

After Zhang collapses, a man is seen running to help him, but he stops in his tracks and appears to look off court for further instruction.

A PBSI spokesman later told reporters that medical teams had to follow a rule where they needed the referee’s permission before entering the court.

“That is in accordance with the regulations and standards of procedure that applies to every international badminton tournament,” he said.

Badminton Asia, the regional arm of the sport’s governing body Badminton World Federation, also said Zhang was taken to an ambulance within two minutes.

PBSI is now planning to ask the federation to re-evaluate this rule so it can be “more situational, for actions to be taken more quickly so that athletes can be saved if there is a similar case in the future”.

Other professional sports bodies, such as the International Football Association Board (IFAB), have a similar rule.

But on Chinese users of social media platform Weibo, there was an outpouring of anger, with many widely condemning the rule.

“Which is more important – the rules or someone’s life?” said a comment which was liked by thousands.

“Did they miss the ‘golden period’ to rescue him?” read another comment under a hashtag on Zhang’s death, which has been a trending topic on Weibo for days.

Others called for the Badminton World Federation to “overhaul” the rules, with one saying: “Why do we need permission when lives are at stake?”

Chinese state media outlet Xinhua published a commentary on Tuesday morning saying the incident “raised critical questions” about emergency response procedures at sports events.

“Regardless of how rules are formulated or how referees officiate, prioritising life should always be the highest rule on the playing field,” it said.

Zhang had been hailed as a rising star in the sport, and his death has prompted several tributes and condolences.

Badminton Asia said they were “immensely saddened” and added that “the world of badminton has lost a talented player”.

Biden’s family urges him to stay in White House race

By Tom GeogheganBBC News
Name-calling and insults – key moments from Biden and Trump’s debate

Democratic President Joe Biden’s family has urged him to ignore calls to step aside following his disastrous debate against Republican Donald Trump.

He spent Sunday with relatives at a presidential retreat where they encouraged him to keep fighting, according to the BBC’s US partner CBS News.

Anxiety has gripped sections of his party following a rambling and at times incoherent performance in Atlanta.

Polls since then suggest concerns about his age – he is 81 – have increased.

A CBS News/YouGov poll released on Sunday indicated that 72% of registered voters believe the president does not have the mental and cognitive health to serve as president. Nearly half of Democratic voters said he should step aside.

But the message from his campaign team and his family is that he remains the party’s best hope to defeat Trump.

The family gathering at Camp David in Maryland had been previously scheduled as a photoshoot by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. Mr Biden’s wife Jill, his children and grandchildren were among those present.

Jill Biden told Vogue magazine in a phone call from Camp David that they “will not let those 90 minutes define the four years he’s been president”.

They would continue fighting, she said, adding that her husband “will always do what’s best for the country”.

The encouragement of the family to stay the course was first reported by the New York Times and later confirmed by CBS News.

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Some relatives have reportedly blamed his poor performance on over-preparation by his aides. A person close to Jill Biden told CBS she was not among those criticising his team.

Concerns about the age of both candidates – Mr Biden is only three years older than Trump who is 78 – were present before Thursday’s debate.

But Mr Biden’s weak voice and muddled answers renewed concerns about his candidacy and left some calling for him to step aside.

The New York Times editorial board said in an opinion piece that the “greatest public service [Biden] can now perform is to announce that he will not continue to run for re-election”.

Trump was also criticised for his performance – he made a number of false assertions including his long-held grievance that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

More on the debate fallout

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On Sunday, top Democrats appeared on the morning shows to defend the president.

“When you get knocked down, you get back up and you fight harder,” said Senator Chris Coons.

Maryland congressman Jamie Raskin did entertain the notion that Mr Biden might not be the candidate come the Democratic convention in August when the presidential nominee will be crowned.

“Whether he’s the candidate or someone else is the candidate, he’s going to be the keynote speaker at our convention. He will be the figure that we rally around to move forward,” said Mr Raskin.

Republicans said the debate showed why Trump was the right choice.

“Joe Biden had a disastrous performance, which is why they’re talking about replacing him,” Republican Senator JD Vance said on Fox News on Sunday.

If Mr Biden did step aside, it is possible that the Democratic Party could launch a search for a new candidate in time for the convention but it is not a straightforward process.

More on the election

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  • Who will Trump pick as vice-president?

Plane diverted to Brazil after turbulence injures 30

By Robert PlummerBBC News

A flight hit by “strong turbulence” has made an emergency landing in Brazil, with 30 people reported injured.

The Air Europa Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner was flying from Madrid to Montevideo when the mid-air incident happened, the airline said.

Flight UX045 was diverted to the airport of Natal in north-eastern Brazil on its way to the Uruguayan capital, the Spanish company said on X, formerly Twitter.

It added that passengers who suffered injuries were “receiving attention”.

The plane, which had 325 passengers on board, ran into turbulence over the Atlantic when it had nearly reached the Brazilian coast, an Air Europa spokesperson said.

The plane landed normally and was met by a fleet of ambulances.

Airport officials said some passengers needed medical assistance and were taken to the nearest hospital.

A local medical team told Brazilian media they attended to at least 30 passengers of various nationalities and that 10 of them were taken to hospital.

The patients had hit their heads during the turbulence and suffered injuries including cranial fractures and cuts to the face, the team added.

The incident comes weeks after a Singapore Airlines flight was subjected to severe turbulence over Myanmar, leading to dozens of injuries and the death of a British man.

Severe turbulence is rare but recent studies have shown that climate change could be increasing the risk.

How a Gaza ‘stunt’ divided Australia’s parliament

By Hannah RitchieBBC News, Sydney

When Fatima Payman crossed the Senate floor to vote against her government she knew it would come with consequences.

The Australian Labor party has strict penalties for those who undermine its collective positions, and acts of defiance can lead to expulsion – a precedent with a 130-year history.

The last time one of its politicians tested the waters while in power was before Ms Payman was born.

But last Tuesday, the 29-year-old did just that – joining the Green party and independent senators to support a motion on Palestinian statehood.

Officially the Australian government supports a two-state solution, but did not back the motion after trying – and failing – to insert a condition that any recognition should be “as part of a peace process”.

Within hours, Ms Payman had been temporarily suspended from her party room, by the end of the week it would become indefinite – after she publicly vowed to cross the floor again if given the opportunity.

“By her own actions and statements, Senator Payman has placed herself outside the privilege that comes with participating in the federal parliamentary Labor Party caucus,” a government spokesperson said.

Prime Minister and Labor leader Anthony Albanese was more concise: “No individual is bigger than the team.”

On Monday, Ms Payman responded by saying she had been “exiled” – explaining that she had been removed from caucus meetings, group chats and all committees.

The dismissal of the senator, elected in what was billed as Australia’s most diverse parliament to date, has drawn a mixed response and raised questions – mainly, whether it’s practical or fair for politicians to toe the line on issues affecting their communities.

Each step ‘felt like a mile’

Ms Payman stands out in Australia’s parliament.

The first and only hijab-wearing federal politician, she has been described as the embodiment of some of the nation’s most marginalised: a young woman, a migrant, a Muslim.

She recounted crossing the Senate floor as “the most difficult decision” of her political career, adding that each step of her short walk had “felt like a mile”.

However, the 29-year-old said she was “proud” of what she had done, and “bitterly disappointed” others hadn’t followed.

“I walked with my Muslim brothers and sisters who told me they have felt unheard for far too long,” she said.

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

More than 37,900 people have been killed in Gaza since then, including 23 over the past 24 hours, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

This has become a volatile political issue in Australia that all sides have sought to carefully manage.

As has been the case in countless other countries, there have been protests from both Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as a sharp uptick in Islamophobia and antisemitism.

The senator’s move has drawn both praise and criticism.

Anne Aly – who became the first Muslim woman to be elected in Australia’s parliament in 2016 – and has been a fierce advocate for an end to the conflict in Gaza, said she disagreed with Ms Payman’s approach.

“I choose to do things in a way I think will make a material difference on the ground. Fatima chooses to do it her way,” she told news outlet the ABC.

But Josh Burns – a Jewish Labor MP from Melbourne – who has a different world view from Ms Payman when it comes to issues such as Palestinian statehood, has been one of her biggest supporters.

“Parliamentarians come from different communities and backgrounds, and trying to balance all those perspectives isn’t easy, but we must be an example to the Australian community about how to debate difficult issues respectfully.”

The nation’s Islamic bodies have also issued a joint statement describing Ms Payman’s actions as “courageous” and calling on the Labor party to “echo the voices of the people it represents”.

“Political calculations and attempts to walk both sides have devastating consequences in Palestine and will ultimately end in failure,” it read.

But Mr Albanese called the resolution a “stunt”, adding: “We need actually real solutions… this stunt from the Greens was designed to put Fatima Payman in a difficult position. It was designed to do that.”

Mr Albanese’s penalty against Ms Payman has been more lenient than the complete expulsion that party rules require.

And he’s left the door open for her to re-enter the fold if she’s willing to change course: “Fatima Payman is welcome to return to participating in the team if she accepts she’s a member of it,” he said in an interview on Monday.

‘Not a token representative’

Australian politicians have voted against their own beliefs to fall in line with party politics before.

Queer MPs – including current Foreign Minister Penny Wong – felt a similar conflict in the Labor caucus back in the days when it officially opposed gay marriage.

It’s an issue that has opened Ms Wong up to personal attacks, but she’s remained adamant that quiet advocacy from within the party – rather than public criticism – is the preferred route.

And she says it was a decade of doing just that which saw same-sex marriage legalised.

“Even when we disagree, we have those arguments internally, as you saw over many years in the marriage equality debate. That’s what I did, and I think that’s the right way to go about it,” she told the ABC.

But when asked whether she should have followed precedent, Ms Payman said: “It took 10 years to legislate same-sex marriage… These Palestinians do not have 10 years.”

The contrasting approaches represent the changing demands of the Australian public, according to Kos Samaras – one of the nation’s leading pollsters.

He says a growing cohort of young, multicultural voters are increasingly aligning themselves with politicians who aren’t afraid to take a stance on causes their constituents are “passionate about”.

He also argues that migrant communities are no longer willing to accept political messaging that effectively urges them to “keep their head down”.

“Australia has had a terrible history, whether from a societal perspective or political parties – that whenever someone from a diverse background expresses their view, overwhelmingly they’re told to pull their head in.”

“That’s a formula that kind of works when a new group of people migrate to a country and want to keep a low profile as they’re establishing a new life – it’s not going to work with those migrant’s kids. And that’s exactly who we’re talking about.

“These are people who have grown up in a country that has often made them feel like outsiders, and they’re no longer prepared to keep silent,” he adds, noting recent polling from his team which found that many young Australian-Muslim women feel they lack a political voice.

A refugee whose family fled Afghanistan after it fell to the Taliban in 1996, it’s a sentiment that Ms Payman says guides her politics.

“I was not elected as a token representative of diversity,” she said after her temporary suspension last week.

“I was elected to serve the people of Western Australia and uphold the values instilled in me by my late father.”

Ms Payman says that she believes the government is freezing her out to “intimidate” her into resigning.

But Mr Albanese is adamant that his decision is the right one, while emphasising that it is not about Ms Payman’s “policy position” but rather, her decision to “undermine” her party.

For the time being at least, the young lawmaker has vowed to “abstain from voting on Senate matters… unless a matter of conscience arises where I’ll uphold the true values and principles of the Labor Party.”

Outcry over teen athlete’s fatal collapse during match

By Tessa WongBBC News

The death of a Chinese teenage badminton player who collapsed on court has sparked an outcry across Chinese social media.

Zhang Zhijie, 17, was competing in a youth match when he suddenly fell to the floor in convulsions. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Footage of the incident, shared widely online, showed a pause of about 40 seconds before medics rushed to attend to Zhang.

Officials have come under intense criticism and questions on whether his life could have been saved by quicker medical intervention.

Indonesia’s badminton association PBSI later said he had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.

The Badminton Asia Junior Championships match had taken place in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta on Sunday, with Zhang playing against Kazuma Kawano of Japan.

After Zhang collapses, a man is seen running to help him, but he stops in his tracks and appears to look off court for further instruction.

A PBSI spokesman later told reporters that medical teams had to follow a rule where they needed the referee’s permission before entering the court.

“That is in accordance with the regulations and standards of procedure that applies to every international badminton tournament,” he said.

Badminton Asia, the regional arm of the sport’s governing body Badminton World Federation, also said Zhang was taken to an ambulance within two minutes.

PBSI is now planning to ask the federation to re-evaluate this rule so it can be “more situational, for actions to be taken more quickly so that athletes can be saved if there is a similar case in the future”.

Other professional sports bodies, such as the International Football Association Board (IFAB), have a similar rule.

But on Chinese users of social media platform Weibo, there was an outpouring of anger, with many widely condemning the rule.

“Which is more important – the rules or someone’s life?” said a comment which was liked by thousands.

“Did they miss the ‘golden period’ to rescue him?” read another comment under a hashtag on Zhang’s death, which has been a trending topic on Weibo for days.

Others called for the Badminton World Federation to “overhaul” the rules, with one saying: “Why do we need permission when lives are at stake?”

Chinese state media outlet Xinhua published a commentary on Tuesday morning saying the incident “raised critical questions” about emergency response procedures at sports events.

“Regardless of how rules are formulated or how referees officiate, prioritising life should always be the highest rule on the playing field,” it said.

Zhang had been hailed as a rising star in the sport, and his death has prompted several tributes and condolences.

Badminton Asia said they were “immensely saddened” and added that “the world of badminton has lost a talented player”.

Biden says court verdict on Trump undermines rule of law

By Peter BowesBBC North America correspondent • Jaroslav LukivBBC News
Biden on Trump ruling: ‘There are no Kings in America’

Joe Biden has described as a “dangerous precedent” a Supreme Court ruling giving former President Donald Trump partial immunity from criminal prosecution.

The current US president said the judgement undermined the “rule of law” and was “a terrible disservice” to Americans.

Earlier, Trump hailed the court’s decision as a “big win” for democracy.

The justices found on Monday that a president had immunity for “official acts” but was not immune for “unofficial acts”, and referred the matter back to a trial judge.

The judgement will further delay the criminal case against Trump for allegedly trying to subvert the 2020 election result that gave victory to Mr Biden.

The trial judge must now determine which actions were carried out in Trump’s capacity as president, which could take months. Any trial is unlikely to start before November’s presidential election.

In a televised statement late on Monday, President Biden said: “This nation was founded on the principle that there are no kings in America. Each of us is equal before the law. No one, no one is above the law. Not even the president of the United States.

“Today’s [court] decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits on what a president may do.

“The man who sent that mob to the US Capitol is facing potential criminal conviction for what happened that day. The American people deserve to have an answer in the courts before the upcoming election.”

Mr Biden was referring to Trump being on trial for his alleged role in stirring up the riot.

“Now, because of today’s [court] decision, that is highly, highly unlikely,” Mr Biden said.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the trial judge must now determine which actions were carried out in Trump’s capacity as president, which could take months. Any trial is unlikely to start before the 5 November election.

This is a huge boost for Donald Trump – a “big win” as he put it on his social media platform Truth Social.

The Supreme Court ruled that all former presidents have partial immunity from criminal prosecution – total immunity applies to acts carried out as part of the president’s official duties, but “unofficial acts,” in a private capacity, are not covered.

A lower court judge will now have to decide which aspects of the president’s behaviour are relevant to the criminal prosecution where he is accused of trying to overthrow the result of the 2020 election.

The majority opinion by the Supreme Court deemed his interactions with the Department of Justice (DoJ) immune from prosecution.

Trump is accused in his indictment of pressuring DoJ officials to launch investigations into voter fraud despite a lack of evidence.

The three liberal justices on the Supreme Court strongly dissented from Monday’s decision. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said: “The president is now a king above the law.”

Democratic Congresswomen Judy Chu said the fallout from the court’s decision would be far-reaching.

“If a president says in any official capacity that they want to do something that we would consider to be improper and criminal, he could be immune from the actions that he takes,” she said.

The court’s six-three ruling will significantly delay any trial – if it is ever to go ahead – until well after the November election.

The ruling will also apply to the other outstanding criminal prosecutions facing Donald Trump, relating to the top secret documents found at his home in Florida, and the case in Georgia where he is accused of conspiring to overturn his narrow election defeat in the state.

According to BBC’s news partner CBS, Trump’s legal team is seeking to overturn his conviction in New York, where he was found guilty in May of 34 counts of falsifying business records related to concealing an alleged sexual encounter with former adult-film star Stormy Daniels.

Trump’s legal team have sent the judge in the case a letter related to this effort and cited the Supreme Court’s opinion, CBS reported, citing a source familiar with the matter. The letter in the case has not yet been made public.

The New York Times first reported these details.

The case is one of four Trump is facing.

What the Supreme Court immunity ruling means for Trump… in 60 seconds

Charge over alleged inmate and officer sex video

A woman has been charged over a social media video allegedly showing a member of prison staff having sex with an inmate in a jail cell.

The Metropolitan Police said Linda De Sousa Abreu, 30, from Fulham in west London, was charged on Saturday with misconduct in public office.

The Met added it began its investigation on Friday “after officers were made aware of a video allegedly filmed inside HMP Wandsworth”.

Ms De Sousa Abreu is due to appear in custody at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

In May, an “urgent notification” about conditions at HMP Wandsworth was issued by chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor.

It came after inspectors found Wandsworth was stricken with severe overcrowding, vermin and rising violence among inmates.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons declined to comment due to the pre-election period.

Ministry of Justice figures from June 2023, quoted by the House of Commons Library, showed HMP Wandsworth was operating at 163% of Certified Normal Accommodation – the standard that the Prison Service aspires to provide all prisoners.

There are more than 1,500 inmates at the jail in south-west London, which was built in 1851.

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Palestinians flee Khan Younis as Israeli forces strike south Gaza

By Sebastian UsherBBC News

Palestinians have been fleeing districts to the east of Gaza’s second city of Khan Younis after Israel issued evacuation orders.

Overnight and into the morning, witnesses reported multiple Israeli strikes in and around Khan Younis. A medical source and the Palestinian Red Crescent said eight people had been killed and more than 30 wounded.

Patients and medical staff have also been leaving the European Gaza hospital in the area, as the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza told them to evacuate.

The Israeli military has not itself issued an evacuation order for the hospital.

The Red Cross is reported to have helped patients in the process of transferring to another hospital.

Louise Wateridge, an official with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa) in Gaza, asked where people could go as they were forced to leave their homes once again.

“In this area, people were already forced to survive in severely damaged, destroyed, structurally unsafe buildings after the Rafah military operation,” she said.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a statement on its latest operation in Gaza, saying it was responding to some 20 projectiles that were launched from the area of Khan Yunis towards Israel on Monday.

“Overnight, the IDF struck terror targets in the area from which the projectiles were fired, including a weapons storage facility, operational centres and additional terrorist infrastructure sites,” it continued.

The IDF said Hamas was continuing to “systematically violate international law while using civilian infrastructure and the civilian population as human shields”.

The armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad said it had carried out the attack on Monday, the biggest barrage launched into Israel from Gaza for months.

Much of Khan Younis was destroyed in a sustained Israeli offensive against Hamas earlier this year.

The city to which some of its residents subsequently returned is almost unrecognizable. Nevertheless, many moved back to take refuge from Israel’s offensive in Rafah.

Now, once again, many are on the move, fearing a major new assault.

Mother of rescued Israeli hostage Noa Argamani dies

By Raffi BergBBC News

The mother of rescued Israeli hostage Noa Argamani has died, three weeks after her daughter was freed in a dramatic raid after being held for eight months by Hamas in Gaza.

Liora Argamani, who was born in China, had suffered from brain cancer. She was 61.

Liora released a video in December, pleading with Hamas to release her daughter, saying: “I don’t know how long I have left. I wish for the chance to see my Noa at home.”

Noa was rescued on 8 June, when Israeli commandos raided an apartment where she was being held in Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza. Three other hostages were rescued from a nearby apartment at the same time.

An image of Noa being dragged away in terror on the back of a motorcycle by Hamas gunmen became one of the most widely recognised pictures of Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October 2023.

Some 251 people – Israelis and foreign nationals – were taken hostage when Hamas burst through the border in the unprecedented attack in which about 1,200 people were killed.

The attack triggered the war between Israel and Hamas. At least 37,900 people have been killed by Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum – a collective of relatives and friends of people taken hostage on 7 October – said it “bows its head” at the news of Liora’s passing.

Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said he and his wife “grieve from the bottom of our hearts for the passing of Liora Argamani and share in the family’s grief”.

On Saturday night, a video message from Noa, in which she spoke publicly for the first time since her rescue, was played at a protest in Tel Aviv calling for the release of the remaining hostages.

“As an only child to my parents, and a mother suffering from a terminal illness, my biggest concern in captivity was for my parents,” she said.

“It’s a great privilege to be here after 246 days in Hamas captivity, to be beside my mother after eight months of uncertainty.”

Hamas and allied armed groups are still believed to be holding 116 hostages, including Noa’s boyfriend Avinatan Or, who were taken on 7 October. At least 42 are presumed by Israeli authorities to be dead.

The others have been released, rescued or their bodies recovered.

Four other Israelis have been held hostage since 2014 and 2015, two of whom are presumed dead.

Trump asks for hush-money conviction to be overturned

By Jaroslav LukivBBC News

Donald Trump’s lawyers have asked for the former president’s conviction in his hush-money criminal case to be overturned and his sentencing this month delayed, US media report.

A letter sent by Trump’s lawyers to the New York judge presiding over the trial reportedly cites Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that granted the former president immunity from prosecution for official actions he took while in office.

In May, Trump was convicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records. He will be sentenced on 11 July.

What the Supreme Court immunity ruling means for Trump… in 60 seconds

His team points out that he signed off the records while president in 2017, but one lawyer suggested this was unlikely to be considered an official act.

Last year, Trump’s lawyers similarly argued that the allegations in the case involved that were within the scope of his official presidential duties.

However, a federal judge wrote that Trump had failed to show that his conduct was “for or relating to any act performed by or for the President under [scope] of the official acts of a president”.

Monday’s ruling by the Supreme Court was hailed by Trump as a “big win” for democracy.

The justices found that a president had immunity for “official acts” but was not immune for “unofficial acts”.

The verdict related to a separate case against Trump: he is suspected of trying to illegally overturn the 2020 presidential election result that gave victory to Joe Biden.

Reacting to the Supreme Court ruling, President Biden described it as a “dangerous precedent” that undermined the “rule of law” in America.

Trump’s lawyers sent the letter to New York Judge Juan Merchan on Monday, according to the BBC’s US partner CBS News and other media.

The lawyers argue that the Supreme Court’s latest decision confirmed the defence position in the New York case that some prosecution evidence should not have been allowed because this constituted official presidential acts.

The letter is yet to be made public, and Judge Merchan has not commented on the issue.

In May, a panel of 12 Manhattan jurors unanimously convicted Trump on all counts of falsifying business records.

During the trial, the court heard from a number of witnesses, including former adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose alleged sexual encounter with the former president was at the centre of the case.

The former president was accused of having concealed a payment to buy the silence of Ms Daniels in the final days of his 2016 election campaign.

Prosecutors had argued that, by approving a scheme to disguise the money as legal expenses, Trump broke election law.

Trump called the verdict in the New York case a “disgrace”.

But the Supreme Court decision is unlikely to affect Trump’s conviction, said Mark Zauderer, prominent appellate attorney in New York.

“The allegations in the New York fraud case in which Trump was convicted seem clearly to relate to unofficial conduct by Trump, none of which would seem to involve his official duties,” he told the BBC.

“While Trump will be able to litigate his immunity defence in some of his cases, he will have a most difficult time succeeding with this argument in the New York case.”

Pakistan will continue attacks in Afghanistan – minister

By Farhat JavedBBC Urdu

Pakistan will continue to launch attacks against Afghanistan as part of a new military operation aimed at countering terrorism, the country’s defence minister has told the BBC.

Khawaja Asif said the aerial strikes were targeting groups which Pakistan accuses of targeting security forces and civilians.

Previously, senior officials in Pakistan had only admitted to one such strike on the neighbouring country, in March of this year.

The Taliban government in Afghanistan describes the strikes as violations of its sovereignty.

“It’s correct that we have been carrying out operations in Afghanistan, and we will continue to do so. We won’t serve them with cake and pastries. If attacked, we’ll attack back,” Mr Asif told BBC Urdu.

He also dismissed fears over the legality of the strikes, saying Pakistan does not inform the Taliban of impending attacks.

He said: “This would eliminate the element of surprise. Why should we tell them, ‘get ready, we are coming’?”

The Taliban said the statement was “irresponsible”, warning Pakistan that cross-border attacks would have “consequences”.

Tensions have been rising between Pakistan and Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country in 2021. Pakistan alleges that a faction of the Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban or TTP, has sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan has been reluctant to take action against the TTP, despite our requests to let them not use Afghan soil to attack Pakistan,” Mr Asif said.

Pakistan has recently announced a renewed military operation, Resolve for Stability” in English, aimed at curbing escalating violence and terrorist attacks. It will mainly focus on groups acting within Pakistan.

Critics, and even some sources within the government, have suggested the new operation was launched following pressure from Beijing, concerned about the safety of its 29,000 citizens in Pakistan, 2,500 of whom are working on China Pakistan Economic Corridor projects, part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Five Chinese engineers were killed when a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers working on a hydropower project in northwest Pakistan in March 2024.

Pakistan’s military previously alleged the attack was planned in neighbouring Afghanistan, and that the bomber was also an Afghan national.

Mr Asif denied that the most recent military operations had been due to pressure from China. But he said the operations would address security threats to Chinese projects and nationals in Pakistan.

Israel conscription rule stokes ultra-Orthodox fury

By Yolande KnellBBC Middle East correspondent

When Israel’s ultra-Orthodox or Haredi Jewish community gathers in force you realise just how large it is.

Thousands of men and boys dressed in black and white are crammed into the streets of Mea Shearim – which is the heart of the ultra-Orthodox community – in Jerusalem for an angry protest against the military draft.

It is the latest demonstration since the Supreme Court’s historic ruling that young Haredi men must be conscripted into the Israeli military and are no longer eligible for significant government benefits.

Young men who are full-time students in Jewish seminaries, or yeshivas, tell me that their religious lifestyle is in jeopardy. They believe that their prayers and spiritual learning are what protects Israel and the Jewish people.

“For 2,000 years we’ve been persecuted, and we’ve survived because we’re learning Torah and now the Supreme Court wants to remove this from us, and it will cause our destruction,” says Joseph.

“Going to the army will make a frum – religious Jew – not religious anymore.”

“The draft does not help militarily. They don’t want us Haredim, us orthodox Jews, they don’t need us,” another student tells me, withholding his name as he does not have his rabbi’s permission to give an interview.

“They’re just gonna give us some dirty job there. They’re there to make us not Orthodox no longer.”

For decades, there has been controversy over the role of the ultra-Orthodox in Israeli society. From a small minority, the community is now a million-strong, making up 12.9% of the population.

Ultra-Orthodox parties have often acted as kingmakers in Israeli politics, giving support to successive governments headed by Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in return for continuing the draft exemption and hundreds of millions of dollars for their institutions.

This has been a long-standing cause of friction with secular Jewish Israelis who mostly do compulsory military service and pay the largest share of taxes. But the issue has now come to a head at the most sensitive time as the army faces unprecedented strain following its longest ever war in Gaza, and a possible second war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“My son has already been in the reserves for 200 days! How many years do you want him to do? How are you not ashamed?” demanded Mor Shamgar as she berated Israel’s national security adviser at a recent conference in Herzliya.

Her exasperated rant about her son – serving as a tank commander in southern Israel – was widely shared on social media.

With army leaders complaining about a shortage of military manpower, Ms Shamgar – who says she has previously voted for the prime minister’s party – believes that the government has “handled the situation very poorly,” putting its own political survival ahead of national interests on the draft issue.

“Netanyahu and his gang made a major judgement mistake on thinking they can dodge it,” she tells me. “Because once you enforce on half the population that you have to go to the army, you cannot enforce that the other half will not go to the army. It’s not even secular versus religion. I see it as an equality issue. You can’t make laws that make half a population, second grade citizens.”

Earlier this year, a survey by the Israel Democracy Institute indicated that 70% of Israeli Jews wanted to end the blanket exemptions from military service for the ultra-Orthodox.

Despite earlier threats, so far ultra-Orthodox parties have not left the governing coalition over army conscription. Attempts continue to push forward an older bill – once rejected by Haredi leaders – that would lead to partial enlistment of their community.

At an ultra-Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem, men of different ages are draped in their prayer shawls gathering for the morning service. Their conservative way of life is based on a strict interpretation of Jewish law and customs.

So far, just one Israeli army battalion, Netzah Yehuda, was set up specifically to accommodate ultra-Orthodox demands for gender segregation with special requirements for kosher food, and time set aside for prayers and daily rites.

But an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who works on issues of integration and is on the board of an NGO that supports the battalion, believes more compromises are possible and that a new Haredi brigade should be formed.

“It’s up to the Haredim to come to the table and say, we’re ready for real concessions, we’re ready to step out of our traditional comfort zone and do something proactive in finding the right framework that will allow more Haredi to serve,” says Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer.

He suggests thousands of young ultra-Orthodox men who do not currently do full-time Torah study – finding themselves unsuited to academic rigours – should be encouraged to join the army like other Jewish Israelis their age.

For the Israeli military to live up to its reputation as “the People’s Army,” Rabbi Pfeffer also calls on it to do more to build trust and improve its relationship with his community. “There are a lot of accommodations needed, but they’re not rocket science,” he comments.

So far, the process of implementing the ultra-Orthodox draft appears gradual.

More than 60,000 ultra-Orthodox men are registered as yeshiva students and have been receiving an exemption from military service. But since last week’s Supreme Court ruling, the army has only been told to draft an additional 3,000 from the community, in addition to about 1,500 who already serve. It has also been told to devise plans to recruit larger numbers in coming years.

Back in Mea Shearim, after nightfall there are some protesters who take an extreme position, throwing stones at the police and spreading out in Jerusalem to attack the cars of two ultra-Orthodox politicians who they feel have let them down on military conscription.

Historically, this is an insulated section of society that resists change but now amid rising public pressure in Israel and the possibility of widening war, change appears unavoidable.

The contentious exam deciding the fate of India’s doctors

By Umang PoddarBBC Hindi, Delhi • Saradha VBBC Tamil, Chennai

When India’s Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan took oath in the new session of parliament, many opposition MPs chanted “NEET” and “shame”.

The MPs were protesting against a recent controversy that has engulfed a key national exam overseen by Mr Pradhan’s ministry.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of aspiring doctors write the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (Undergraduate), or NEET-UG, whose score decides who gets admitted to medical colleges.

The exam has seen fierce opposition and protests since its inception, but snowballed into a particularly huge scandal this year after thousands of students got abnormally high marks when results were declared – making it hard for even high scorers to get seats in good colleges.

Since then, a host of problems have been raised with the way the exam was held, and allegations of paper leaks and large-scale cheating have left many students dejected.

One of them is Komal, an 18-year-old from the northern state of Haryana, who had taken a gap year to study for NEET and got what would normally be considered a “decent” score. But worried that she won’t get a seat, she has joined a BSc degree course as a back-up option.

“I have decided to take the exam next year again, but I’m scared that this controversy can repeat,” she says.

Protesters have demanded a retest and two states – Tamil Nadu and West Bengal – have asked that the exam be scrapped and the old system of states conducting their own tests be brought back.

The legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu – which has seen the biggest protests – has also passed a resolution saying that the exam has negatively impacted the state’s health system as it favours students from urban and affluent backgrounds, leading to fewer doctors who want to work in poorer, rural areas.

As the opposition – including leader in parliament Rahul Gandhi – continues to protest, demanding a discussion on NEET, the issue shows no sign of dying down.

  • Why an exam has sparked national outrage in India
  • How exam scandals threaten the future of India’s young people

Controversial from the start

Before NEET was introduced, there was a national exam which decided who got into premier government colleges such as the All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (Aiims). Many states also conducted their own exams, while some relied on the results of a key school-leaving test.

K Sujatha Rao, who was federal health secretary in 2010 when NEET was formally notified by a Congress-led government, says there were three objectives behind a common medical exam: to standardise the educational competence of students, many of whom turned out to be weak in basic subjects; to reduce the number of entrance exams students had to write; and eliminate the so-called capitation fee – extra payment – charged by private colleges.

Many states opposed NEET, saying it took away their autonomy in college admissions.

In 2013, India’s Supreme Court agreed with this argument when it struck down the exam (by then, one round of NEET had already been held). It also said that a single test affected the “level playing field” because of the educational disparity between urban and rural areas. The court said that just “academic brilliance” was not enough in medicine but that the country needed “barefoot doctors” who would be ready to serve in remote areas.

But three years later, a constitution bench of the court recalled the order. The court’s opinion, just four pages long, did not provide any substantive reasons, only saying that the 2013 bench did not follow “some binding precedents” and that “there was no discussion” among the judges before the order was pronounced.

So from 2016, NEET replaced all other medical entrance tests and has been conducted every year.

Opposition in Tamil Nadu

In 2017, the suicide of a student in Tamil Nadu sparked outrage and let to huge protests against the exam. The daughter of a daily wage labourer, the 17-year-old had scored 98% in her school-leaving exam – which should have got her admitted to a good medical college – but her NEET score wasn’t good enough. She was part of a petition in the Supreme Court which argued that the exam hurt students from poorer, rural backgrounds, but the court ruled that admissions should go ahead based on NEET scores.

Tamil Nadu has the highest number of medical colleges in any state in India and has protested against the exam from the start. The state’s governing party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has been vocal against NEET and claims that 26 students in the state have died from suicide since it was introduced.

In 2021, a high-level committee, tasked with studying the impact of NEET in Tamil Nadu, recommended abolishing the exam. It said it found that NEET disproportionately favoured students who studied in private English-medium schools, belonged to affluent and urban backgrounds, and could afford extra coaching classes.

This would “very badly affect” the medical system in the state, leading to a shortage of doctors in government hospitals and rural areas, it said.

Sathriyan, 23, says he is among those who suffered because he couldn’t afford private coaching. He wrote NEET five times, starting in 2019, but never passed despite scoring well in school exams.

“I studied on my own and I could not crack the exam,” he says, adding that he has now given up on his dream of becoming a doctor and works as a postman in his village.

One exam over all others

In principle, says Ms Rao, the former health secretary, one exam across the country is “not a bad idea”.

But the current disparity in education “puts rural students at a disadvantage, worsening our rural and primary health centres”, she says.

“An elite-school student who clears the exam would ideally want to go abroad or work in private hospitals. They will not be interested in working in remote districts.”

So, she thinks that in the short run, Tamil Nadu’s demand that results of a school-leaving exam be used as the criteria for admission to medical colleges “is not a bad option at all”.

“[Tamil Nadu] had one of the best health systems in the country before NEET as well,” she adds.

But others say that the exam has its advantages.

“NEET has absolved students from preparing for various state exams, and I think it should continue,” says Dr Aviral Mathur, president of Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association.

Dr Lakshya Mittal, national president of the United Doctors’ Front Association, says “one exam is a better alternative” also because it means aspirants don’t have to apply to more than one exam and travel to various states to write them.

But both agree that NEET’s implementation has to improve.

“The exam needs to be organised better and the government has to stop paper leaks,” Dr Mittal says.

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Andy Murray has decided not to play in the Wimbledon singles, instead making his farewell to the All England Club in the doubles alongside older brother Jamie.

Murray, who is planning to retire later this year, had surgery 10 days ago on a back issue.

The 37-year-old, who won Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016, was due to play Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic on Centre Court on Tuesday.

Former world number one Murray had a cyst close to his spinal cord removed on Saturday because it was causing nerve pain in his right leg.

“Unfortunately, despite working incredibly hard on his recovery since his operation just over a week ago, Andy has taken the very difficult decision not to play the singles this year,” Murray’s team said in a statement.

“As you can imagine, he is extremely disappointed but has confirmed that he will be playing in the doubles with Jamie and looks forward to competing at Wimbledon for the last time.”

The Murray brothers, who have never teamed up at the Championships, will play later this week. The first round of the men’s doubles is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, but Wimbledon chief executive Sally Bolton said the pair could even play on Friday.’

Wimbledon organisers said they were “sorry to hear” Murray was not playing in the singles.

“We are so looking forward to seeing you compete in the doubles and celebrating all the memories you have given us,” a statement added.

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How Murray’s latest fitness issue unfolded

Murray has been giving himself as long as possible to be ready for what will be an emotional goodbye at the scene of some of his greatest triumphs, having also won Olympic gold on Centre Court at London 2012.

The Scot’s plans have been disrupted by the back issue which flared up earlier this summer and forced him to retire from his match at Queen’s against Australia’s Jordan Thompson on 19 June after only five games.

But he has fought to be fit because he wants a bit of “closure” at the All England Club before stopping playing professionally.

On Sunday, Murray said the area where he had the operation was not sore, but added he still did not have 100% feeling in his leg.

He trained with former British number one Kyle Edmund for more than an hour on Monday, leading 6-3 2-0 in a practice match before they stopped.

Afterwards, Murray said he would make a decision later that evening and announced on Tuesday morning – several hours before he was due to face Machac – that he would focus on the doubles.

Andy and 38-year-old Jamie represented Great Britain in doubles at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the All England Club, when they lost in the first round.

They also played together at Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016, while memorably teaming up in Britain’s victorious 2015 Davis Cup campaign.

What next for Murray?

Having initially feared he would have to retire in 2019 because of hip surgery, Murray returned to the tour later that year after having a metal cap inserted into the joint.

But the injury issues have continued and the three-time major champion said earlier this year that he did not plan to “play much past the summer”.

Murray, who also won gold at the Rio 2016 Games, said last month that retiring at Wimbledon or the Olympics would be “fitting”, given his success in both events.

He has been selected to play for Great Britain in the Paris Games next month.

The tennis event starts on 27 July on the clay courts at Roland Garros.

Murray could play in the singles, as well as the doubles alongside Dan Evans, but the next few weeks will determine whether he is fit to play.

‘Knowing Murray, it may not be a quick goodbye – analysis

That sobering moment has finally arrived, and with it the realisation we will never see Andy Murray in a Centre Court Wimbledon singles match again.

Murray said as recently as Sunday that it was probably more likely he would not be able to compete.

He gave himself one more night to sleep on it, before listening to the rational voice in his head which had no doubt been telling him a competitive five set singles was impractical so soon after spinal surgery.

A doubles farewell was not in his perfect script. But he will have his brother Jamie alongside him, his family in the stands, and BBC cameras creating what could be a national television moment.

And as this is Andy Murray, it may not be a quick goodbye.

“Who says we are going to go out? I think we can win matches,” Murray told BBC Sport at the weekend.

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Tottenham Hotspur have signed midfielder Archie Gray from Leeds United for about £30m, with defender Joe Rodon moving in the opposite direction in a deal worth about £10m.

Gray has signed a contract until 2030 with Spurs, who Leeds said had “met a release clause that was triggered by the club’s failure to get promoted at the first attempt”.

The sale is believed to be enough to make the Elland Road club compliant with profit and sustainability rules, after their defeat in the Championship play-off final by Southampton cost them promotion and forced them to sell players.

Spurs have beaten Brentford to the signing of 18-year-old Gray, who played 52 matches in all competitions – in midfield and at right-back – for Leeds last season.

Gray had begun a medical at Brentford’s training ground, only for the Bees to have their bid of a similar value rejected by Leeds over the payment structure and add-ons on Sunday.

England Under-21 international Gray, who also qualifies for Scotland, is the great-nephew of Leeds legend Eddie Gray and the Yorkshire club said they had agreed to the teenager’s transfer “with a heavy heart”.

They added: “Whilst we understand that supporters will be hugely disappointed to lose such a homegrown talent, and a family name so synonymous with Leeds United, the move improves the club’s chance to compete for automatic promotion next season by increasing our ability to build a competitive squad within the league’s financial control regulations.

“Everyone at Leeds United is heartbroken to see one of our own depart and would like to thank Archie for all his efforts and professionalism.”

Wales international Rodon, who was on loan at Leeds last season, has signed a four-year deal with the club.

A few weeks prior to a previous Tour de France, amid the maelstrom of planning involved with eight riders and more than a dozen support vehicles navigating the country, EF Education-EasyPost head performance chef Owen Blandy received notice of an issue at one of the hotels.

For reasons unexplained, Blandy was told he would not be allowed to use the hotel kitchen, nor even cook in his own food truck on site.

If he desired, he might be able to supervise the hotel’s own chef in their preparations, but would not be permitted to do so from inside the kitchen.

For a man tasked with fuelling a professional cycling team throughout the most important race on the sport’s calendar, it was not ideal news. But he was entirely unflustered.

“It was fine,” shrugs Blandy. “I just had a challenging few days before settling into my own kitchen.”

Personal experience gleaned from a cumulative total of more than a year on the road at major races has taught Blandy to roll with the punches.

“There are never perfect working conditions in cycling so you always have to adapt and be flexible,” he says.

If a hotel bans the team chef from cooking food, then so be it.

Not so long ago, the professional cycling world’s approach to fuelling was remarkably basic.

Options for riders barely extended beyond a monotonous menu of pasta, rice or whatever fare that night’s hotel kitchen decided to serve up.

These days, it is an entirely different prospect, with vast sums spent on custom-built food trucks, personalised nutrition apps and meticulously-planned meal regimes all in the name of performance enhancement.

For the nutritionists and chefs tasked with providing sustenance to power their team’s riders over 2,170 miles in the coming weeks there are principally two dilemmas: what food to prepare and how to do so in an ever-changing environment.

The answers are gleaned from a year-round process that begins in December during pre-season training.

While the riders are honing their bodies, ready for the multitude of races ahead, the number-crunchers eagerly gather data to better understand their nutritional needs.

“We know their individual bodies, their metabolism, how many calories they burn when resting and exactly what they will do in training, the intensity, how long and how many calories they will burn,” says Visma-Lease a Bike head of nutrition Martijn Redegeld.

“Heart rate plays a role. We have that after each training ride. And at certain points in the season we test lactate measurements and breathing measurements in the lab to develop a good profile of each rider.”

As one of three teams – alongside UAE Team Emirates and Ineos Grenadiers – whose budget tends to dwarf all others, Visma-Lease a Bike has strived to place itself at the forefront of nutritional advancement.

Partnerships with universities aim to ensure they are firmly aware of developments within the field “to keep that competitive edge over other teams”, says Redegeld.

With riders burning an average of 6,000 calories per day during the Tour (around three times more than a resting adult), Visma-Lease a Bike have even begun using Artificial Intelligence to help determine precisely how much – and what type of – food each individual cyclist should consume.

Personalisation has become increasingly paramount, with the team developing its own app,, external where various algorithms are used to generate individualised nutrition plans.

When a rider comes back from a day on the bike, they simply open the app and are told exactly how many grams of each nutritional component (carbohydrates, proteins, fats etc) to put on their plate. No brain power is wasted beyond using the ubiquitous buffet table weighing scales.

While the methods used to generate precise nutritional needs vary between teams, all of them work to a broad five-meal daily plan of breakfast, pre-race snack, on-bike fuelling, recovery meal and dinner.

The core feeding principles remain the same across the peloton, although they are tweaked depending on the upcoming day’s requirements and whether the rider in question is a climber or a sprinter, a domestique or a general classification contender.

Carbohydrates – usually in the form of rice or pasta – serve as the petrol, necessitating painfully high consumption levels.

Proteins – predominantly fish or chicken – are always unprocessed and fibre is kept low to minimise gut irritation and aid digestion, with fruit and vegetables often consumed in juice form.

Vegetarians tend to supplement themselves with protein shakes, in addition to plant-based proteins like tofu and seitan.

Riders might be allowed more vegetables and fibrous foods before flatter race days, when the body will be better equipped to break them down, while red meats are saved as a treat the evening before rest days.

On-bike fuelling comes courtesy of roadside soigneurs who load up musette bags with a variety of high-carbohydrate forms that can be selected or discarded based on personal preference.

Energy bars, gels, drinks and gummies provide quick hits on tough days, while more traditional food sources include wet rice cakes, brioches, jam sandwiches, flapjacks, sweet breads and cakes for easier days.

The required quantities are unenviably vast. Each rider consumes close to 1.5kg of rice or pasta every day and in the region of 120g of carbohydrates per hour when on the bike – the equivalent carbohydrate content of five hourly bananas.

One EF rider once went through four tubs of maple syrup during the three-week race.

Blandy’s laptop contains a treasure trove of nutritional information to enable his menu design.

One spreadsheet allows him to compare every food item’s nutrient values to decide whether to cook with aubergines or parsnips, quinoa or couscous, chicken breast or chicken thigh.

Another document comprises the EF Education-EasyPost recipe bible, listing a myriad of soups, salads, carbohydrates, proteins, sides, desserts, post-race snacks and drinks. In a bid to combat flavour fatigue, repetition is kept to an absolute minimum across a three-week race.

“The food I make is all transparent,” says Blandy. “There are no rich sauces, it’s all plain, simple cooking with a light amount of seasoning, light amount of oil, fresh herbs and citrus.

“Instead of putting flavour in with cream, salt and butter we’re adding it with herbs and citrus because they are low calorie and contain antioxidants.”

It does not lend itself to the type of innovative kitchen artistry you might see on television shows or in fancy restaurants.

“When I’m teaching new chefs, I always say the only way they will mess it up is by being too ‘cheffy,'” says Blandy.

“You need to swallow your chef ego and put it into a dessert or play around at the end of a race. Go wild then but don’t mess with the simple stuff: the carbohydrates and proteins. Give the guys what they want and they will be happy.

“I’ve cooked risottos before and they’ve just asked for plain basmati rice. They aren’t there on a holiday. They don’t care about fancy food. They are literally there to fuel.”

Blandy estimates he has stayed – and therefore been tasked with cooking – at more than 300 hotels during his time working for EF Education-EasyPost. The transient nature of the job presents numerous logistical headaches.

A chef’s day at the Tour de France begins around 06:00. They must prepare fresh breakfast items (all packaged food has already been set up the night before) for 08:00 before packing up and driving to the next hotel while the race is ongoing.

As well as cooking the food, they are also responsible for procuring it – a task that varies depending on team and, crucially, sponsor.

Blandy’s experience of European supermarkets means he knows where to find the highest-quality food and shops personally for most of it, in addition to emailing hotels in advance to order some perishable items.

Conversely, Visma-Lease a Bike have been sponsored since 2014 by Dutch supermarket Jumbo, who provide all their food at every race, including the Tour de France.

“During a Grand Tour there are three times that a new delivery comes from the Netherlands to stock up on fresh produce,” says Redegeld. “It’s always the same Dutch food and the guys like that because they know what to expect and we know what products they like, so we can always have that available.

“It makes things a lot easier for the chefs who don’t have to search in local supermarkets for things. For me as a nutritionist, we know the nutritional values of all the products so it makes the calculations a lot easier.”

Upon arriving at a hotel, chefs will begin preparations for dinner and the following day’s breakfast and snacks.

Professional cycling teams tend to adhere to one of two dining styles.

Most travel with customised kitchen trucks – a similar size to supermarket delivery vans – where food is stored and meals cooked. Food is then served up for the riders and wider team members in a private room inside the hotel.

A select few teams – including Ineos Grenadiers – instead choose to travel with a far bigger lorry, which contains a kitchen and dining room.

Camaraderie between chefs on rival teams is high. “Sometimes you’re in a hotel with six teams, so the car parks are rammed,” says Blandy.

“It’s manic. Everyone is sharing water and electricity. So you have to scratch each other’s backs. Chefs come to me and ask for an ingredient and I go to them. We help each other out.”

It is a world away from the three successive weeks of pasta with tomato sauce that riders just a generation ago were accustomed to stomaching throughout their Tour de France endeavours.

Redegeld predicts the nutrition evolution will continue, suggesting that within a decade or so teams will employ DNA analysis to take rider fuelling personalisation to the next level.

But all the analytics are worthless without someone to prepare the food.

Earlier this year, Blandy was all set for a quiet week at home when he received an SOS from the team.

He was given half an hour to pack his bags and jump in a taxi to the airport because a fellow EF Education-EasyPost chef had fallen ill before the Paris-Roubaix race.

“I rolled my knives up and threw them in a suitcase,” he says. “I felt like chef special forces.”

Cooking is serious business in the elite cycling world.

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As Jan Oblak’s hand tipped Cristiano Ronaldo’s extra-time penalty on to the post, the Portuguese legend’s dreams shattered in a moment.

He had “hit rock bottom”.

The 39-year-old, who afterwards told Portuguese media this was his last Euros, bowed his head and burst into tears while team-mates raced to console their captain, with Slovenia threatening one of the Euros’ biggest ever shocks.

A legendary European Championship career seemed set to end in the cruellest of ways.

Ronaldo’s penalty was saved in extra time with the last-16 tie goalless, but just 15 minutes later he stepped up to the same spot to fire in the first of his country’s shootout kicks.

Goalkeeper Diogo Costa then made Euros history with three penalty shootout saves as Portugal survived a humiliating exit, overcoming Slovenia to set-up a quarter-final tie with France.

More tears fell from Ronaldo – this time of pure joy and relief.

“Even the strongest people have their [bad] days. I was at rock bottom when the team needed me the most,” said Ronaldo afterwards, before tearing up again.

“Sadness at the start is joy at the end. That’s what football is. Moments, inexplicable moments. I feel sad and happy at the same time.

“But the important thing is to enjoy it. The team did an extraordinary job. We fought right to the end and I think we deserved it because we had more authority.”

‘He shouldn’t be in tears’

Portugal’s talisman experienced every emotion imaginable in 120 minutes.

He is still yet to score at Euro 2024 and was in the spotlight throughout the match, showing his emotions and frustrations as he missed numerous chances.

His entrance had been greeted with a huge roar from the Portugal fans – the same supporters who chanted his name when his penalty was saved by Oblak.

At the other end, Slovenian supporters jeered, let off flares, banged drums and celebrated each time his efforts missed the target.

Despite 20 shots on goal in the tournament – the most by any player – he is yet to find the net. To make matters worse, he has missed three of his nine penalties at major tournaments.

“We all know that Cristiano is the hardest worker,” said goalkeeper Costa, who was the hero on the night.

“I understand how frustrated he is because he devotes all his time to this. It’s a pleasure and an honour to be on the same team as him.

“We’re a family, I really think this. I focus on making the best of these chances and I wanted to help the team. This is the most important thing.

“This is probably the best game of my life.”

As his frustration grew through the night, Ronaldo fell to his knees, looking at the sky, pleading for luck to come his way.

He roared in frustration and air-punched the ground when crosses flew over his head, as he tried everything to become the oldest goalscorer at a European Championship.

With every free-kick that came and went, he has now scored just one of the 60 direct free-kicks he has attempted at major international tournaments, the desperation grew.

Later, he turned to supporters and waved his arms frantically, asking for more noise and praying for them to not give up.

When his spot-kick was saved, Portugal fans sang “Viva Ronaldo” after his emotional outburst was shown on the big screen in the Frankfurt Arena.

Former Scotland winger Pat Nevin reacted in disbelief on BBC Radio 5 Live: “He missed a penalty kick. He shouldn’t be in tears.”

But when he eventually scored in the shootout, there were no flamboyant celebrations, just a nod to the fans behind the goal and an apology.

“It’s hard enough going up to take a penalty anyway, but taking one in that situation when you’ve just missed a penalty at such a crucial time… unbelievable,” said former England striker Alan Shearer on BBC One.

“This is why they are great players – because they have great mental strength.

“I think there are a couple of occasions where 10 years ago there’s no doubt he would have got on the end of it. It has been a Ronaldo show, though, hasn’t it?”

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown, added: “Psychologically, we saw the tears and we saw the professionalism [to step up and score in the penalty shootout].

“It was remarkable from Costa. They relied upon him. Cristiano Ronaldo… It wasn’t about him tonight. It was about that man [Costa].”

‘We are all very proud of our captain’

Having said this will be his last Euros, Ronaldo’s desire to score a goal and achieve success with Portugal is even greater.

The Portugal skipper has already made history in Germany, by appearing at a record sixth European Championship.

He has also scored the most European Championship goals (14) and made the most appearances (28) at a Euros.

“There’s a side of him where he becomes more of a team player for Portugal than any other club team he’s played for,” said former Scotland striker Nevin.

“The country means a lot to him. I don’t think he won’t care if he doesn’t score, but the priority is on the results.”

Ronaldo became the first player to score a penalty in three penalty shootouts at the Euros.

However, he has received criticism for his goal drought and that is unlikely to diminish after events in Frankfurt.

But Portugal boss Roberto Martinez says he is a “constant example” for all players in his homeland.

“When you see a player, the only player to play in six Euros, with the desire and that belief [like a] young man – those emotions are incredible for someone who has won everything and experienced everything,” said Martinez.

“He doesn’t need to care that much and that is why I thank him for the way he is. For caring for the group. For being someone who after missing a penalty was the first penalty taker [in the shootout].

“I knew for certain he had to be the first penalty taker and show us the way to the victory. We are all very, very proud of our captain.

“The dressing room was delighted and I think he gave us a lesson in having real high standards and never giving up. Life and football give you difficult moments and he is an example that we are really proud of in Portuguese football.”

Ronaldo’s misfortune in stats

  • He has now attempted over twice as many direct free-kicks in Euros competitions than any other player, failing to score, since records began in 1980.

  • Among players without a goal at Euro 2024 so far, Ronaldo has had the most shots (20).

  • It is his longest goalscoring drought in major tournaments. He has scored in every major tournament before this.

  • He has not netted in his last eight Euros or World Cup games.

  • Ronaldo had scored his last 24 penalties in all competitions but his record at the Euros is five scored and two missed – including in penalty shootouts.

  • For the first time in his career, Ronaldo failed to score in the group stage of a major tournament at Euro 2024.

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