BBC 2024-07-03 06:06:48


Trump sentencing in hush-money case delayed until September

By Kayla EpsteinBBC News

A New York judge has delayed Donald Trump’s sentencing until September as his lawyers seek to challenge his conviction after a Supreme Court ruling.

Trump was initially scheduled to be sentenced on 11 July.

His legal team asked for his conviction in a hush-money case to be overturned after the nation’s highest court ruled Monday that former presidents had partial immunity for “official” acts during their presidency.

Justice Juan Merchan said on Tuesday that he would issue a decision on the motions by 6 September.

If sentencing is necessary, the judge wrote, it will take place on 18 September.

In May, a New York jury found Trump guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, making him the first former president ever convicted of a felony.

Prosecutors said Trump had reimbursed his fixer, Michael Cohen, for hush money paid to an adult film star, who claimed she had an affair with Trump. The money, paid on the eve of the 2016 election, was covered up by falsely labeling it as a legal expenses.

It is the first of Trump’s four criminal cases to go to trial.

In a post on Truth Social shortly after Justice Merchan’s ruling, Trump wrote that the delay constituted “TOTAL EXONERATION!” and that it “ends” “witch hunts against me.”

However, the decision only pauses the proceedings until the judge makes his determination.

On Monday, the Supreme Court released a bombshell ruling that found Trump – and other former presidents – had immunity from prosecution for “official acts”.

The challenge arose from a federal criminal case against Trump accusing him of trying to overturn results of the 2020 election, but it could have ripple effects in his other legal battles.

Seeking to leverage the Supreme Court decision, Trump’s lawyers in the New York case quickly sought to overturn the May conviction.

They said the Supreme Court ruling is relevant here, because some of the events and evidence at the heart of the case took place while Trump was in the White House.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted Trump, responded that Trump’s argument was “without merit” but asked for a deadline of 24 July to file a response.

However, legal experts said that the challenge could be an uphill battle for Trump.

“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,” said Mark Zauderer, an appellate attorney in New York.

“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.”

Prosecutors proved that Cohen, acting at Trump’s behest, paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 for her silence about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump. The payment took place when Trump was still a candidate for president.

Trump then reimbursed Cohen in multiple installments starting in early 2017, and falsely recorded them as legal expenses.

It could be difficult to convice a court that this behaviour constitutes “official” presidential acts, said Philip Bobbitt, a constitutional law scholar.

“I just dont see it,” he told the BBC.

Texas Democrat openly calls on Biden to leave presidential race

By Kayla EpsteinSenior Journalist

A Texas congressman is the first sitting Democratic lawmaker to call for Joe Biden to step aside as the party’s presidential nominee, after his disastrous debate performance last week.

“I am hopeful that he will make the painful and difficult to decision to withdraw,” Rep Lloyd Doggett said in a statement.

President Biden appeared to struggle through some responses during a debate with former President Donald Trump last Thursday.

But despite intra-party panic over his mental fitness, Mr Biden has vowed to stay in the race.

His age has been a long-simmering issue this election, with voters in multiple polls saying they think he is too old to be effective.

But President Biden appears determined, and has not indicated that he will step down. He is currently the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for the White House.

In his statement, Mr Doggett, 77, said the debate solidified his decision to urge Mr Biden to step aside.

“Instead of reassuring voters, the President failed to effectively defend his many accomplishments and expose Trump’s many lies,” said Mr Doggett, who was sworn in in 1995 and is running for reelection.

He said too much is at stake to risk Mr Biden losing to Trump over fears about his age.

“While much of his work has been transformational, he pledged to be transitional,” the congressman said of Mr Biden.

“He has the opportunity to encourage a new generation of leaders from whom a nominee can be chosen to unite our country through an open, Democratic process.”

“My decision to make these strong reservations public is not done lightly nor does it in any way diminish my respect for all that President Biden has achieved,” Mr Doggett said.

Watch what Biden and Trump said after their high-stakes debate

Mr Biden will give a primetime interview to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Friday, his first since the debate.

Some prominent Democratic lawmakers voiced their concerns about Mr Biden’s age and stamina this week, but none has called for him to step down as a candidate. Mr Doggett is the first sitting Democrat lawmaker to publicly call for Mr Biden to move aside.

Other top Democrats have acknowledged fears about Mr Biden’s ability to win, but emphasised that the choice to leave the race is the president’s alone.

Several have flocked to liberal-leaning network MSNBC to defend him.

“It’s going to be up to Joe Biden” to do what he thinks is best, former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC on Tuesday.

One of President Biden’s most important backers, Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, said he would support Vice President Kamala Harris as the party’s nominee if Mr Biden stepped down.

But he told the network, “I want this ticket to continue to be Biden-Harris.”

Congressman Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, told MSNBC this weekend that the debate created a”difficult situation”.

He acknowledged that there were “very honest and serious and rigorous conversations taking place at every level of our party.”

But he added, “Regardless of what President Biden decides, our party is going to be unified and our party also needs him at the very centre of our deliberations in our campaign.”

The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

‘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 three people dead as a result of the storm, two 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 two 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”.

Hurricane Beryl strengthens as it barrels towards Jamaica

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.

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”.

More than 100 killed in crush at India religious event

By Sharanya HrishikeshBBC News
Dozens killed in India crowd crush

At least 116 people have been killed in a crush at a religious gathering in northern India, police inspector Gen Shalabh Mathur has said.

The incident took place at a satsang (a Hindu religious event) in Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh state.

The victims, including a large number of women and some children, are still being identified.

Survivors have described how the disaster unfolded as they tried to leave the event in Mughalgarhi village.

It is not yet clear what led to the crush. Witnesses said the exit was too narrow and when people were leaving, a fierce dust storm led to confusion and panic, causing many people to become trampled.

An eyewitness, who asked to remain anonymous, told the BBC everything was “going fine”, until “all of a sudden I heard screams and before I knew it, people were falling on each other”.

“Many were crushed and I couldn’t do much. I am just lucky to have survived.”

“When the sermon finished, everyone started running out,” a woman named only as Shakuntala told the Press Trust of India news agency.

“People fell in a drain by the road. They started falling one on top of the other and got crushed to death.”

Umesh Kumar Tripathi, chief medical officer from the neighbouring district of Etah, told reporters the “stampede” had left at least three children dead.

A spokesperson for a senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh told the BBC it would “take hours to release the final tally”.

Distressing images from the site are being circulated online. Some videos showed the injured being taken to hospitals in pick-up trucks, tuk tuks and even motorbikes.

A clip seen by the BBC showed several bodies left at the entrance of a local hospital as relatives screamed for help.

“Such a huge accident has happened but not a single senior officer is present here,” a relative in another video said. “Where is the administration?”

Mr Kumar said the venue had been overcrowded, adding that a high-level committee had been formed to investigate the incident.

“The primary focus of the administration is to provide all possible help to the injured and kin of the deceased,” he said.

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

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

In Hathras, the screams of distraught family members can be heard in the local hospital.

Many people are trying to find their loved ones, many bodies are unclaimed.

There is a shortage of ambulances – each one is bringing two to three bodies. Hathras is filled with despair and pain.

Accidents are routinely reported at religious events in India, as huge crowds gather in tight spaces with little adherence to safety measures.

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

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

Talks with the Taliban – no women allowed

By Caroline Davies

Two days of talks between the international community and the Afghan Taliban have been productive, diplomats say.

The meetings in Doha were the first to include the Taliban – whose government no country recognises – since they seized power three years ago.

At the Taliban government’s insistence, no civil society representatives were in the room with the Taliban officials, meaning no women from Afghanistan were included, prompting criticism from rights groups and activists.

UN officials met Afghan civil society groups separately on Tuesday.

  • Five key moments in the crushing of Afghan women’s rights

As the diplomats and media vacate the vast air-conditioned ballrooms of the Qatari capital, has anything changed for Afghanistan in the last few days?

There were no grand announcements, no massive breakthroughs, no solutions – but then none were expected – from the organisers or participants. Instead, the Taliban officials and diplomats seemed quietly and tentatively positive.

The tone was “respectful”, “engaged”, “frank”, according to different diplomats the BBC spoke to. The most repeated phrase was “this is a process”.

There were no concessions gained, nor pledges won from the Taliban delegation, led by spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid. I asked him what the Taliban government would be willing to offer.

“When we go ahead we will see what they [the international community] want and what we can do based on Sharia law,” he told us. “ Whatever is against Sharia law we will not discuss it. Whatever is in the framework of Sharia we will solve it. It is a process and it will continue; we will see where it will take us and how much we will improve.”

The topics on the agenda were counter-narcotics and the private sector, easier topics to cover than issues like human rights or the role of women.

On the latter, the Taliban remained immovable on their view that this is an internal matter.

“We don’t want to discuss these sorts of issues between other countries. We will find a solution for it back home,” said Zabihullah Mujahid.

When the BBC pointed out to him there had been no solutions for nearly three years, and asked why that was, he said: “We are not ignoring it, we are working on it. We are finding a solution for it based on Sharia law.”

The UN itself referred to the situation in Afghanistan as “gender apartheid” where women and girls are not able to attend secondary school, visit parks or gyms and hold certain jobs among an increasing list of restrictions.

“It is not just an internal issue and we have made that clear to them,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN’s lead in these talks.

She cited the different treaties signed by Afghanistan prior to the Taliban authorities’ takeover in August 2021 that agree to human rights.

“It doesn’t matter if the government changes, they are still party to those.”

“I think they are ready to talk about some of these things [women’s rights], but they are not ready to move,” Tomas Niklasson, special envoy of the European Union for Afghanistan, told the BBC.

“I am hopeful that things will change on women’s rights, but I’m not sure about the time perspective.”

What made him hopeful?

“I’m surprised to see the way in which Afghans still manage through resilience to push back,” he said, adding after a pause. “Hope is not always a rational thing.”

The UN did arrange for a separate meeting to take place on Tuesday with civil society activists, although several chose to boycott it and none of those who attended wanted to speak to the media.

According to the list of attendees provided by the UN, several countries including China and Russia chose not to attend the session. The UN told us that several delegations not in attendance had travel arrangements.

There is no set date for the next meeting of this kind, although many of the countries that attended already meet the Taliban bilaterally and told the BBC that that would continue. All officials we spoke to thought that the few days had laid groundwork for more engagement and conversation.

After nearly three years of the Taliban authorities in control, the general mindset of the diplomats we met was that little would improve in Afghanistan if there was not an attempt to engage, at least on the areas of some overlap.

“We felt we had to start somewhere,” Ms DiCarlo said in Tuesday’s closing press conference.

The question still is where might these talks lead.

Hungary’s Orban urges ceasefire on Kyiv visit

By Gordon Corera@gordoncoreraSecurity correspondent

Viktor Orban arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday for an unannounced visit having just taken over as rotating president of the European Union.

While in Kyiv, the Hungarian prime minister said a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine could speed up negotiations to end the war that has followed Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022.

Mr Orban has been a critic of Western support for Ukraine and is seen as the European leader closest to Russian President Vladimir Putin. This was his first visit to Ukraine in 12 years, although he has met Mr Putin repeatedly during that time.

During his joint appearance with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky the body language between them was not warm and neither took questions from the media after they gave their statements.

Mr Orban has previously slowed agreement on a €50bn ($54bn; £42bn) EU aid package designed to support Ukraine in its defence against Russia.

But for the next six months his position as head of the European Council means he has an influential role as a figurehead for Europe. He came to Ukraine on his second day in that role for discussions, saying there was a need to solve previous disagreements and focus on the future.

In his statement following their meeting, Mr Zelensky said it was “very important to have Europe’s support for Ukraine maintained at sufficient level… it’s important for cooperation between all the neighbours in Europe to become more meaningful and mutually beneficial”.

In his own statement, Mr Orban stressed the need to work together but also said he had raised the idea of a ceasefire to hasten negotiations with Russia.

“I explored this possibility with the president and I am grateful for his honest answers and negotiation,” he said.

President Zelensky did not respond to those comments.

However, many Ukrainians believe such a ceasefire would simply cement Russia’s hold over territory it has taken from Ukraine and, if negotiations were to take place, they would prefer them to be conducted from a position of strength rather than on the back foot.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country was open to “work with everyone and solve problems”.

“This work is difficult and time-consuming, but it eventually yields tangible results,” he told the BBC.

“During the visit, President Zelensky had a candid but constructive discussion with Prime Minister Orban about ways to achieve a just peace, not simply a ceasefire or peace talks.”

The two leaders also discussed bilateral issues including the 100,000 ethnic Hungarians who reside in Ukraine.

The EU opened membership talks for Ukraine the week before Hungary assumed the EU Council Presidency.

Doctors dismissed these women as ‘hysterical’. Now they’re fighting back

By Hannah RitchieBBC News, Sydney

There’s a memory, or more specifically a moment, that came to define Heidi Metcalf’s second birth.

It wasn’t saying goodbye to her husband and newborn before being wheeled into an operating theatre, or the heart attack she thought she was having as she lay there on the table.

It was when a male obstetrician “ripped the placenta” out of her body, without word or warning.

A nurse, Ms Metcalf knows the intervention – while immensely painful – was necessary. She couldn’t push it out naturally, which was causing potentially fatal bleeding.

But she hadn’t “seen or met this man before”, and she can’t get past the fact that her consent, during one of the most traumatic experiences of her life, “meant so little”.

“It felt like a violation – I needed to feel involved in what was happening to my body, and not just like a bystander.”

Ms Metcalf is one of thousands of Australian women who have come forward to tell their stories, after the federal government assembled a team of experts to tackle what it calls “medical misogyny”.

So far, they have uncovered that a staggering two-thirds of females nationwide have encountered gender bias or discrimination in healthcare.

And many say it is taking place when they’re at their most vulnerable, such as during intimate examinations, or like Ms Metcalf, while in labour. Others report having their pain dismissed or dangerously misdiagnosed.

The BBC spoke to six women for this piece. They shared experiences of being called “anxious”, “pushy” or even “hysterical” while seeking treatment for a range of debilitating symptoms.

They also said they felt that the men in their lives seemed to consistently have their pain taken more seriously.

‘I just don’t feel safe’

Nadiah Akbar was once told by a doctor in Singapore that the extreme fatigue she was experiencing was due to the “stress” of being a busy mother. Tests would later show it was thyroid cancer.

Years later, in remission and having migrated to Australia, staff at a Melbourne hospital failed to diagnose a cartilage tear in her hip socket and a slip disk in her back.

Instead, they suggested the crippling pain could be linked to “depression” or being “overtired”. It led to Ms Akbar paying for two costly MRI scans out of pocket to be taken seriously.

“‘Oh, it’s nothing.’ I’ve heard that statement so many times… It’s really disheartening as a human being to keep hearing that,” she says.

“It takes a lot of energy for you to keep advocating for yourself, and that’s the part that’s worrying – a lot of people just stop.”

Laura – who asked to have her name changed – is close to that point, after years of having symtoms of what would eventually be confirmed as a traumatic brain injury dismissed.

“I don’t get healthcare without my partner with me, that’s a blanket rule,” she says, explaining that she feels her concerns are taken “more seriously” when voiced by a man.

“I just don’t feel safe, engaging with the system, because when you’re young and you’re told over and over that something is all in your head, it’s easy to believe it.”

Like so many others across the country, both women say they’re coming forward to share their experiences to seize on this moment of promised change.

Assistant health minister Ged Kearney – who chairs the national council tasked with examining these issues – says that their stories, along with those of countless others facing additional disadvantage in First Nations, LGBTQ+, and migrant communities will guide its work.

Her team’s remit is vast and broad areas of focus have already emerged.

But untangling gender inequity in medicine is no small task, and Australia’s attempts could have far-reaching implications as other nations eye reforms.

‘A one-size-fits-all approach’

The problem is not that “all healthcare professionals have some set agenda against women”, Ms Kearny says.

Rather it’s that bias is woven into the fabric of modern medicine because for centuries it was “delivered by and designed for” men.

Women’s health – by contrast – was often rooted in myth and pernicious gender stereotypes.

“Hysteria”, a now-defunct medical term, was a catch-all diagnosis for females presenting with an array of symptoms, meaning their pain was attributed to emotional causes, rather than biological ones.

But today, some women say they continue to feel gaslit – disbelieved and patronised – in medical settings.

And a lack of diversity in medical research compounds the issue.

More than 70% of participants in early-stage clinical trials globally are still white men, while male cells and animals are used as standard in the lab, according to Professor Robyn Norton, a public health expert.

The results are then applied to women, intersex, trans and gender-diverse people, causing issues when it comes to their treatment, diagnosis and how their symptoms are understood, Prof Norton says.

She describes it as a “one-size-fits-all, male-centric” approach to healthcare that has created huge knowledge gaps.

One analysis carried out in 2019 by the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research – which used data from the entire Danish population – found that, across 770 diseases they studied, women were diagnosed later than men, with an average lag time of four years.

In Australia, research from the University of Sydney in 2018 found that females admitted to hospital for serious heart attack were half as likely as men to get proper treatment and that they died at twice the rate six months after discharge.

Scientists have warned that another roadblock is the chronic underinvestment in women-specific health issues.

Endometriosis is pointed to as a key example. Despite impacting roughly 10% of reproductive-age women and girls globally, there is no cure, and it takes seven years on average for patients to be diagnosed.

One recent study found that 89% of Australian women were still being advised by health professionals that pregnancy would fix their symptoms – despite growing evidence it’s a medical fallacy.

Such disparities are being recognised and investigated globally, experts say – with countries comparing notes on what might be the best approach.

The UK, for one, recently announced measures aimed at closing the “gender health gap” in its system. And in the US, the federal government has launched an initiative to improve funding and research into women’s health, led by First Lady Jill Biden.

Ms Kearny says Australia is already making inroads.

In the past 12 months, her government has opened 22 endometriosis and pelvic pain clinics aimed at improving care and diagnosis.

The nation’s drug regulator has removed restrictions on prescribing and dispensing medical abortion pills to increase universal access to reproductive healthcare.

And researchers will soon be able to examine how key diseases are experienced in female, intersex and gender diverse populations at a new centre Prof Norton is leading.

She’s optimistic her team’s work could “catalyse the kind of change in Australia that could see it become a leader in this space”.

There’s also been some investment in women’s health in the latest national budget. Almost A$100m ($66m; £52m) has been set aside for things like reducing the out-of-pocket costs associated with gynaecological conditions, as well as studies into menopause, pregnancy loss and fertility. All are issues which have been historically under-funded.

But while advocates like Bonney Corbin – the chair of Australia’s Women’s Health Alliance who also sits on the council – have welcomed the cash injection, they say it doesn’t go far enough and that state governments should step up too.

“A gender lens on healthcare is more than funding things related to breasts and uteruses. We need to look at women’s bodies on the whole,” she explains.

In the coming months, Ms Kearney’s advisory body will release its first set of major reform recommendations.

She says it has no intention of putting forward “tick-box” measures that tinker around the edges.

Instead, she says the long-term goal is to create a blueprint to “build a healthcare system that actually works for everyone”.

Whether the advice will lead to lasting change remains an open question despite the assistant health minister’s participation at this point, Ms Corbin says.

If it doesn’t though, she hints that there could be public backlash.

“We’ve mobilised a whole lot of women in this process – now we need action.”

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.

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, she 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.

Palestinians flee Khan Younis as Israeli forces strike south Gaza

By Sebastian UsherBBC News

The UN says 250,000 Palestinians in southern Gaza have been affected by evacuation orders from the Israeli military.

Many people have been fleeing areas in and around the second city of Khan Younis on foot and by car.

The Red Cross said a major hospital in the area was unable to continue functioning because so many medical staff had left along with patients, although the military said they were not subject to an evacuation order.

Gazan health officials say eight Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded during overnight Israeli strikes.

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.

Once again on the move – huddled on carts, motorbikes and pickup trucks – thousands of Palestinians have been fleeing towns and villages to the east of Khan Younis.

After issuing evacuation orders on Monday evening, the Israeli military mounted strikes overnight on the area from which it says around 20 projectiles were fired into Israel on Monday morning – the biggest such barrage for months.

The military said it hit targets including a weapons storage facility and operational centres of Palestinian armed groups.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said that eight people were killed and more than 30 wounded.

The armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad said it carried out the rocket attack on Monday, but the military again accused Hamas of continuing to “systematically violate international law while using civilian infrastructure and the civilian population as human shields”.

Among those fleeing a possible Israeli ground assault were patients and medical staff at the city’s European Gaza hospital, which is now all but deserted. The military said it did not issue an evacuation order for the hospital.

The head of the emergency department at the hospital, Dr Abdullah Hamdan, said it was the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry that said they should evacuate patients and equipment.

He said that there were around 230 patients in various departments. Many were taken to another facility in western Khan Younis, Nasser hospital, he added.

One patient being treated for cancer told the BBC that he was transferred by ambulance to Nasser hospital, but that he had not been able to get in and was now on the street.

Later on Tuesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said so many staff members had evacuated the European hospital that it was unable to continue functioning effectively.

The ICRC said it was moving its team and patients to a field hospital near Rafah and that the staff would return to the European hospital once conditions allowed.

“As evacuations continue to affect so many people, it is critical that safe transport for those who are disabled, the elderly, and the sick is provided,” it added.

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 was almost unrecognizable. Nevertheless, thousands of people moved back to take refuge from Israel’s offensive in Rafah.

Many have been displaced five or six times during the war.

One man told the BBC: “We no longer know where we should go next? We have no other choice now but to die in our homes because there is no place left that we have not been displaced to.”

A young boy echoed this: “We were sitting in safety and suddenly we heard the army order to evacuate the area… I want to know where we should go next? I burst into tears when I heard the news of the evacuation.”

The Israeli military has told residents to move to the west of Khan Younis to the overcrowded area of al-Mawasi – which Israel designated as a “humanitarian area” from early on in the conflict.

In recent days, Israeli leaders have said the intense phase of the war to eradicate Hamas is coming to an end, but that may be premature as Palestinian fighters continue to re-emerge in areas the army had previously cleared.

On Tuesday afternoon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed a New York Times report, citing unnamed current and former security officials, that said Israel’s top generals “want to begin a ceasefire in Gaza even if it keeps Hamas in power for the time being”.

“I do not know who these anonymous sources are, but I am here to make it unequivocally clear: this will not happen. The war will end once Israel achieves all of its objectives, including the destruction of Hamas and the release of all of our hostages,” Mr Netanyahu said.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Hamas was the “one exception” to international support for a ceasefire proposal outlined by President Biden at the end of May.

“We’ve been in an intense effort with the Egyptians, with the Qataris to see if we could close the gaps that Hamas created in not saying yes to a proposal that everyone, including the Israelis, had said yes to,” he said at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington DC.

How the Supreme Court became a political battlefield

By Bernd Debusmann JrBBC News, Washington

With decisions on everything from civil rights and the environment to guns and religious freedoms, the US Supreme Court has always played a powerful role in American life.

But that role has been changing in some ways, with the court’s nine justices – unelected and able to serve for life – now looming larger in the country’s politics.

As the grand finale of its 2023-2024 term, the court issued a decision to settle what Chief Justice John Roberts wrote was a “question of lasting significance”, by ruling that Donald Trump and other ex-presidents have a wide (but not absolute) immunity from criminal prosecution for their actions in office.

While Trump hailed the decision as a “big win” for democracy, President Joe Biden said it undermined the “rule of law” and was a “terrible disservice” to Americans.

Let’s take a look at the Supreme Court and how the staid and historically respected body has become a political battlefield.

What does the court do?

Put simply, the Supreme Court is the keeper of US laws.

The justices decide whether laws and government actions follow the US constitution. They also interpret laws passed by congress to decide if they are being correctly carried out.

Lower courts have to follow the precedent set by the Supreme Court, under a legal principle known as “stare decisis” – Latin for “to stand by a decision”. That gives its decisions national and long-term importance.

Most cases reach the Supreme Court by climbing up a ladder of appeals through lower federal courts or the state courts. Even though the Supreme Court receives more than 7,000 petitions a year, it only hears about 100 or so cases each term. The justices follow the “Rule of Four”, where they review a case if four of them believe it has merit.

By design, the court is supposed to be insulated from political change and the justices from political pressure in making their decisions.

Americans do not vote for who can serve on the court. Justices are appointed by the president and then approved by the Senate.

They serve for life or until they voluntarily retire, and they can only be removed by impeachment. Congress has only attempted an impeachment once, more than 200 years ago, and it failed.

Who is on it?

In practice, the court structure means that one of the most consequential decisions a president can make is picking a justice.

Currently, conservatives hold a strong majority with six justices on the bench.

Three of them – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – were appointed by Trump.

Republican Presidents George W Bush and George HW Bush appointed John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas.

Two of the three liberal judges – Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – were nominated by Barack Obama. Ketanji Brown Jackson was picked by Mr Biden.

Politics have played a role in appointments “since the very beginning of this country”, said Jonathan Entin, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio who researches the Supreme Court. But the fractiousness of current politics has changed the dynamics on and around the court.

“Democrat presidents tended to appoint Democrats and Republican presidents tended to appoint Republicans,” he said. “What’s changed is that the parties themselves have become more polarised.”

“People in both parties have paid particular attention to judicial ideology going forward,” Mr Entin added. “So it’s much more contentious than it used to be.”

Two years of monumental decisions

The court has only had its current make-up, with conservatives dominating the bench, since 2022. But in that short stretch, it has created a massive shift in the country, starting with ending the constitutional right to abortion in June of that year.

In just the last few weeks, along with presidential immunity, it ruled that federal prosecutors overreached when they used an obstruction law against 6 January rioters, struck down a ban on federal “bump stock” devices for guns, and rejected an effort to restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone.

It also slashed and weakened the powers of agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency by overturning a previous ruling that judges should defer to federal agencies in interpreting ambiguous parts of laws. That decision, along with other recent rulings related to regulations, will move many powers from federal agencies to the court system.

Last year, the justices also struck down US President Joe Biden’s proposal to wipe out billions in student debt and that race-based university admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina could no longer be used, upending decades-old US policies on so-called affirmative action.

What happens behind the scenes?

The Supreme Court goes to enormous lengths to protect its internal deliberations, with almost all its work – such as reading briefs or writing and circulating – taking place behind closed doors.

Because its process seems almost impenetrable, the country was shocked when the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v Wade was leaked to the press.

Face-to-face deliberations, similarly, take place in secrecy, with no staff present.

Justices sit around a large table in order of seniority, each armed with a book and notebook.

In an interview with the BBC earlier this year, former Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer said they then “have a real discussion” about cases.

Beginning with the chief justice, they each give their legal opinions on a case and why they are – or are not – persuaded by various arguments.

“No one speaks twice until everyone has spoken once,” he said. “If you try to make a point saying that ‘my argument is better than yours’…that’ll get you nowhere.”

“But if you listen to what other people are saying, and then at the end of the first round you pay attention and say that ‘you have a point there, but I think it would be better if we did this’…then you have a real discussion about it,” he added.

Calls for change

As the court has taken on momentous decisions, and overturned decades-old rulings, it has faced growing accusations of politicisation and partisanship.

In September, 58% of Americans disapproved of the way the court was handling its job, the highest level in more than 20 years, according to Gallup.

Outcries over judicial ethics have recently grown stronger, after journalists investigated Justice Thomas for not reporting gifts and Justice Alito’s family flying flags at his home that are considered symbols of the Capitol rioters.

Last year, for the first time in its history, the court released a code of conduct. But the code does not have any enforcement mechanism and advocates, including top lawmakers, are calling for stronger and farther-reaching reforms.

They have suggested a binding code of ethics, expanding the number of judges in lower courts, creating an independent ethics office and – importantly – imposing term limits.

Some have floated adding more justices, although polls suggest that is broadly unpopular among Americans.

Maggie Jo Buchanan, the managing director of reform advocacy organisation Demand Justice, told the BBC that staggered 18-year term limits could, for example, “depoliticise” the court and make it more balanced and representative of the US populace.

“In that way, every president would have the same number of appointees,” she said. “That would ensure that the Supreme Court better reflects the will of the people.”

“Right now, the Supreme Court’s appointments are happenstance politically, whether from time of retirement or an unexpected death,” Ms Buchanan added. “In a Supreme Court that has such power over our rules, a one-term president shouldn’t have more appointments to the bench than a two-term president.”

Other experts have cautioned that structural changes, many of which would require a constitutional amendment, are unlikely to be possible or popular.

“There is a lot to be said for stability,” said Clark Neily, senior vice president of legal studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington DC-based libertarian-leaning think tank that advocates for “small government.

“There’s a lot to be said for not changing the way that a particular institution works, even if there are problems with it,” he added.

Mr Neily – a former litigator who was co-counsel in a 2008 Supreme Court case where a Washington DC gun law was ruled unconstitutional – said that an institution that “has the last word” on the constitution will likely always generate controversy.

“There’s no avoiding that,” he said. “And I don’t think that anybody has really presented a proposal that seems clearly likely to do better than what we have now.”

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.

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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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.”

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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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.”

  • Biden says ruling on Trump undermines rule of law
  • Anthony Zurcher: Top court deals blow to January 6 case

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.

  • 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.

Iconic Parisian drag club Chez Michou closes

By André Rhoden-PaulBBC News

A celebrated French drag cabaret has given its final performance, bringing an end to the Parisian fixture that inspired a Hollywood film.

Chez Michou said on social media that Sunday’s performance would be its last due to financial reasons.

The trailblazing cabaret in the capital’s Montmartre district brought drag entertainment to France in the mid-1950s.

The venue’s managers said that a liquidator would be appointed later this month, with hopes that a buyer can be found for the club.

Despite being in a tiny venue, Chez Michou decorated with gilt framed mirrors attracted visitors from across France and around the world.

In its heyday, they included French President Jacques Chirac and Hollywood star Liza Minnelli.

The servers who kept the champagne flowing were called Michettes, and doubled as performers in the lively club.

Chez Michou was founded by flamboyant cabaret artist Michel Catty – known simply as Michou.

The larger-than-life character was known for his all-blue outfits – including chunky blue glasses.

He is credited with inspiring the 1983 Oscar-nominated French film La Cage aux Folles – a comedy about a gay couple operating a drag nightclub in a French resort town.

An American version was made in 1996 – The Birdcage – starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.

Michou ran the club right up until his death in 2020, at the age of 88.

There was an outpouring of grief, with the Élysée Palace issuing a statement saying: “The sky above Montmartre will be a little less blue from now on.”

His niece, Catherine Catty-Jacquart, took over running the club, and told AFP news agency that it had seen a lack of bookings despite the Olympics, and blamed its financial woes on protests, strikes, parking and the impact of Covid.

“We’re living from day to day,” she said on Saturday, before it was announced that the club had closed its doors – at least for now.

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.”

US stingray who became pregnant without mate dies

By Ana FaguyBBC News, Washington

A stingray who miraculously became pregnant earlier this year, despite not sharing her tank with a male stingray, died over the weekend.

Charlotte, a rust-coloured round stingray, died after suffering from a rare reproductive disease, according to Aquarium & Shark Lab by Team ECCO, the North Carolina aquarium where she lived.

In February, Charlotte was said to be carrying as many as four young.

Her pregnancy was likely due to parthenogenesis, a form of asexual reproduction where a female egg is fertilized without the sperm from a male.

That phenomenon occurs in species including reptiles, insects and some fish.

When it was originally announced she was pregnant some believed she was impregnated by one of two “very young male sharks” who also lived in her tank.

Initially, the aquarium had predicted Charlotte would give birth in late February but she never delivered her offspring.

In May, the aquarium announced she had a disease that had “negatively impacted her reproductive system”.

“The findings are truly a sad and unexpected medical development,” the aquarium said at the time.

By June the aquarium said she was no longer pregnant but was in stable condition.

“Charlotte continues to be in her normal routine and content,” the aquarium said.

Following her death Sunday, the aquarium closed on Monday.

Her pregnancy was followed by many across the US and was included in a Saturday Night Live sketch in March.

The aquarium said it would continue to work with her medical care team and researcher.

It added that it “appreciates your continued love and support while we navigate this great loss”.

TV star Simmons sorry for gun-shaped purse

By Ian YoungsCulture reporter

Reality TV star and baking businesswoman Angela Simmons has apologised for taking a purse shaped like a gun to an award ceremony.

Simmons, the daughter of Run-DMC star Rev Run, posed with the green gun-shaped sequinned clutch at the BET Awards on Sunday.

“When I chose the purse, I believed it was cute and unique, and made a poor decision in using it as an accessory to amplify my beauty,” she wrote to her eight million Instagram followers.

“I deeply regret that this item, which symbolizes a gun, was inappropriate and insensitive, especially given my personal and community experiences with gun violence.”

Simmons, known for the TV shows Run’s House and Growing Up Hip Hop, went on to say that her partner died as a result of gun violence, calling it “a disease that has taken too many lives”.

Sutton Tennyson, Simmons’ ex-fiancé and the father of her son, was shot dead in 2018.

“By carrying this purse, I did not intend to promote gun violence in any way,” she wrote.

“It was a mistake that does not define who I am or my commitment to ending gun violence. To anyone who was hurt or offended by my actions, l offer my deepest apologies.”

At the Black Entertainment Awards in Los Angeles, she posed with the purse, which matched her green jewelled dress, and pointed it at photographers on the red carpet.

Simmons is also the chief executive of Angela’s Cakes, which sells baking products.

Biker mum who stopped thief ‘let down’ by police

By Louise ParryBBC News, Bedfordshire
Woman uses taekwondo to fight off Luton bike thief

A mum who used taekwondo moves to stop a thief stealing her motorbike said she felt “let down” by police.

Xristina, 31, wrestled the robber, claiming to be a 12-year-old boy, to the ground at Hatters Way retail park in Luton, but gave up and released him after 10 minutes.

She said a police car had passed the scene earlier and only returned after the thief had escaped.

Bedfordshire Police said it had carried out several lines of inquiry and an investigation was ongoing.

Xristina had gone to buy a drink from Chaiiwala on Monday, 24 June.

She said it was “just a normal, casual working day, everybody was having a lunch break”.

Then, out of the blue, two mopeds pulled up carrying three passengers. One of them grabbed her motorbike.

“I felt like I was being attacked and I had to protect myself, and what’s mine,” she said.

“I’ve been trained in martial arts and at that moment, my whole instinct kicked in.”

CCTV footage shows her sprinting out of the cafe and pulling the thief from the moving bike, while the other two mopeds swerved around her and drove away.

‘Emotional warfare’

“One of the other riders kicked me. After, I was thinking, ‘What if they had had a knife?’ But even if they had, I would know how to react.”

She then put the thief into a headlock and wrestled him to the ground, with help from a member of the public.

Xristina said they subjected her to “emotional warfare”, crying and claiming to be forced into the robbery.

“He said he was only 12 years old, although they looked like older teenagers to me.

“I was fighting him for about 10 minutes. Eventually I let him go. I felt like I was doing something wrong – he made me feel bad for something that he did.”

Although a “supportive” police officer arrived shortly afterwards, Xristina felt frustrated.

“If only the police could have turned around and helped me when I needed them most,” she said.

“Something needs to be changed with the law and the police force. It’s like an epidemic. Everybody is being targeted by these moped thieves.

“I feel like the system is failing.”

She said her bike, which was fairly new, suffered about £2,000 worth of damage.

Bedfordshire Police said it was called to reports of an attempted theft at 12:50 BST on 24 June.

It said it had carried out several lines of inquiry, including CCTV reviews, and an investigation was ongoing.

The force said it had “recently undertaken proactive and intelligence-led operations to target those who have been involved in the theft of motor vehicles”.

It added that in the last month, five people had been arrested in connection with similar offences.

Xristina said she was proud of her actions and credits training in taekwondo since the age of seven.

“They probably they saw me parking up, thought, ‘It’s a woman on the bike, that’s going to be an easy target.’

“I believe it happened at the perfect time and to the perfect person. At that moment, I said, ‘You cannot take that away from me.'”

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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.”

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.

Texas Democrat openly calls on Biden to leave presidential race

By Kayla EpsteinSenior Journalist

A Texas congressman is the first sitting Democratic lawmaker to call for Joe Biden to step aside as the party’s presidential nominee, after his disastrous debate performance last week.

“I am hopeful that he will make the painful and difficult to decision to withdraw,” Rep Lloyd Doggett said in a statement.

President Biden appeared to struggle through some responses during a debate with former President Donald Trump last Thursday.

But despite intra-party panic over his mental fitness, Mr Biden has vowed to stay in the race.

His age has been a long-simmering issue this election, with voters in multiple polls saying they think he is too old to be effective.

But President Biden appears determined, and has not indicated that he will step down. He is currently the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for the White House.

In his statement, Mr Doggett, 77, said the debate solidified his decision to urge Mr Biden to step aside.

“Instead of reassuring voters, the President failed to effectively defend his many accomplishments and expose Trump’s many lies,” said Mr Doggett, who was sworn in in 1995 and is running for reelection.

He said too much is at stake to risk Mr Biden losing to Trump over fears about his age.

“While much of his work has been transformational, he pledged to be transitional,” the congressman said of Mr Biden.

“He has the opportunity to encourage a new generation of leaders from whom a nominee can be chosen to unite our country through an open, Democratic process.”

“My decision to make these strong reservations public is not done lightly nor does it in any way diminish my respect for all that President Biden has achieved,” Mr Doggett said.

Watch what Biden and Trump said after their high-stakes debate

Mr Biden will give a primetime interview to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Friday, his first since the debate.

Some prominent Democratic lawmakers voiced their concerns about Mr Biden’s age and stamina this week, but none has called for him to step down as a candidate. Mr Doggett is the first sitting Democrat lawmaker to publicly call for Mr Biden to move aside.

Other top Democrats have acknowledged fears about Mr Biden’s ability to win, but emphasised that the choice to leave the race is the president’s alone.

Several have flocked to liberal-leaning network MSNBC to defend him.

“It’s going to be up to Joe Biden” to do what he thinks is best, former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC on Tuesday.

One of President Biden’s most important backers, Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, said he would support Vice President Kamala Harris as the party’s nominee if Mr Biden stepped down.

But he told the network, “I want this ticket to continue to be Biden-Harris.”

Congressman Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, told MSNBC this weekend that the debate created a”difficult situation”.

He acknowledged that there were “very honest and serious and rigorous conversations taking place at every level of our party.”

But he added, “Regardless of what President Biden decides, our party is going to be unified and our party also needs him at the very centre of our deliberations in our campaign.”

The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump sentencing in hush-money case delayed until September

By Kayla EpsteinBBC News

A New York judge has delayed Donald Trump’s sentencing until September as his lawyers seek to challenge his conviction after a Supreme Court ruling.

Trump was initially scheduled to be sentenced on 11 July.

His legal team asked for his conviction in a hush-money case to be overturned after the nation’s highest court ruled Monday that former presidents had partial immunity for “official” acts during their presidency.

Justice Juan Merchan said on Tuesday that he would issue a decision on the motions by 6 September.

If sentencing is necessary, the judge wrote, it will take place on 18 September.

In May, a New York jury found Trump guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, making him the first former president ever convicted of a felony.

Prosecutors said Trump had reimbursed his fixer, Michael Cohen, for hush money paid to an adult film star, who claimed she had an affair with Trump. The money, paid on the eve of the 2016 election, was covered up by falsely labeling it as a legal expenses.

It is the first of Trump’s four criminal cases to go to trial.

In a post on Truth Social shortly after Justice Merchan’s ruling, Trump wrote that the delay constituted “TOTAL EXONERATION!” and that it “ends” “witch hunts against me.”

However, the decision only pauses the proceedings until the judge makes his determination.

On Monday, the Supreme Court released a bombshell ruling that found Trump – and other former presidents – had immunity from prosecution for “official acts”.

The challenge arose from a federal criminal case against Trump accusing him of trying to overturn results of the 2020 election, but it could have ripple effects in his other legal battles.

Seeking to leverage the Supreme Court decision, Trump’s lawyers in the New York case quickly sought to overturn the May conviction.

They said the Supreme Court ruling is relevant here, because some of the events and evidence at the heart of the case took place while Trump was in the White House.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted Trump, responded that Trump’s argument was “without merit” but asked for a deadline of 24 July to file a response.

However, legal experts said that the challenge could be an uphill battle for Trump.

“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,” said Mark Zauderer, an appellate attorney in New York.

“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.”

Prosecutors proved that Cohen, acting at Trump’s behest, paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 for her silence about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump. The payment took place when Trump was still a candidate for president.

Trump then reimbursed Cohen in multiple installments starting in early 2017, and falsely recorded them as legal expenses.

It could be difficult to convice a court that this behaviour constitutes “official” presidential acts, said Philip Bobbitt, a constitutional law scholar.

“I just dont see it,” he told the BBC.

More than 100 killed in crush at India religious event

By Sharanya HrishikeshBBC News
Dozens killed in India crowd crush

At least 116 people have been killed in a crush at a religious gathering in northern India, police inspector Gen Shalabh Mathur has said.

The incident took place at a satsang (a Hindu religious event) in Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh state.

The victims, including a large number of women and some children, are still being identified.

Survivors have described how the disaster unfolded as they tried to leave the event in Mughalgarhi village.

It is not yet clear what led to the crush. Witnesses said the exit was too narrow and when people were leaving, a fierce dust storm led to confusion and panic, causing many people to become trampled.

An eyewitness, who asked to remain anonymous, told the BBC everything was “going fine”, until “all of a sudden I heard screams and before I knew it, people were falling on each other”.

“Many were crushed and I couldn’t do much. I am just lucky to have survived.”

“When the sermon finished, everyone started running out,” a woman named only as Shakuntala told the Press Trust of India news agency.

“People fell in a drain by the road. They started falling one on top of the other and got crushed to death.”

Umesh Kumar Tripathi, chief medical officer from the neighbouring district of Etah, told reporters the “stampede” had left at least three children dead.

A spokesperson for a senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh told the BBC it would “take hours to release the final tally”.

Distressing images from the site are being circulated online. Some videos showed the injured being taken to hospitals in pick-up trucks, tuk tuks and even motorbikes.

A clip seen by the BBC showed several bodies left at the entrance of a local hospital as relatives screamed for help.

“Such a huge accident has happened but not a single senior officer is present here,” a relative in another video said. “Where is the administration?”

Mr Kumar said the venue had been overcrowded, adding that a high-level committee had been formed to investigate the incident.

“The primary focus of the administration is to provide all possible help to the injured and kin of the deceased,” he said.

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

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

In Hathras, the screams of distraught family members can be heard in the local hospital.

Many people are trying to find their loved ones, many bodies are unclaimed.

There is a shortage of ambulances – each one is bringing two to three bodies. Hathras is filled with despair and pain.

Accidents are routinely reported at religious events in India, as huge crowds gather in tight spaces with little adherence to safety measures.

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

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

Talks with the Taliban – no women allowed

By Caroline Davies

Two days of talks between the international community and the Afghan Taliban have been productive, diplomats say.

The meetings in Doha were the first to include the Taliban – whose government no country recognises – since they seized power three years ago.

At the Taliban government’s insistence, no civil society representatives were in the room with the Taliban officials, meaning no women from Afghanistan were included, prompting criticism from rights groups and activists.

UN officials met Afghan civil society groups separately on Tuesday.

  • Five key moments in the crushing of Afghan women’s rights

As the diplomats and media vacate the vast air-conditioned ballrooms of the Qatari capital, has anything changed for Afghanistan in the last few days?

There were no grand announcements, no massive breakthroughs, no solutions – but then none were expected – from the organisers or participants. Instead, the Taliban officials and diplomats seemed quietly and tentatively positive.

The tone was “respectful”, “engaged”, “frank”, according to different diplomats the BBC spoke to. The most repeated phrase was “this is a process”.

There were no concessions gained, nor pledges won from the Taliban delegation, led by spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid. I asked him what the Taliban government would be willing to offer.

“When we go ahead we will see what they [the international community] want and what we can do based on Sharia law,” he told us. “ Whatever is against Sharia law we will not discuss it. Whatever is in the framework of Sharia we will solve it. It is a process and it will continue; we will see where it will take us and how much we will improve.”

The topics on the agenda were counter-narcotics and the private sector, easier topics to cover than issues like human rights or the role of women.

On the latter, the Taliban remained immovable on their view that this is an internal matter.

“We don’t want to discuss these sorts of issues between other countries. We will find a solution for it back home,” said Zabihullah Mujahid.

When the BBC pointed out to him there had been no solutions for nearly three years, and asked why that was, he said: “We are not ignoring it, we are working on it. We are finding a solution for it based on Sharia law.”

The UN itself referred to the situation in Afghanistan as “gender apartheid” where women and girls are not able to attend secondary school, visit parks or gyms and hold certain jobs among an increasing list of restrictions.

“It is not just an internal issue and we have made that clear to them,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN’s lead in these talks.

She cited the different treaties signed by Afghanistan prior to the Taliban authorities’ takeover in August 2021 that agree to human rights.

“It doesn’t matter if the government changes, they are still party to those.”

“I think they are ready to talk about some of these things [women’s rights], but they are not ready to move,” Tomas Niklasson, special envoy of the European Union for Afghanistan, told the BBC.

“I am hopeful that things will change on women’s rights, but I’m not sure about the time perspective.”

What made him hopeful?

“I’m surprised to see the way in which Afghans still manage through resilience to push back,” he said, adding after a pause. “Hope is not always a rational thing.”

The UN did arrange for a separate meeting to take place on Tuesday with civil society activists, although several chose to boycott it and none of those who attended wanted to speak to the media.

According to the list of attendees provided by the UN, several countries including China and Russia chose not to attend the session. The UN told us that several delegations not in attendance had travel arrangements.

There is no set date for the next meeting of this kind, although many of the countries that attended already meet the Taliban bilaterally and told the BBC that that would continue. All officials we spoke to thought that the few days had laid groundwork for more engagement and conversation.

After nearly three years of the Taliban authorities in control, the general mindset of the diplomats we met was that little would improve in Afghanistan if there was not an attempt to engage, at least on the areas of some overlap.

“We felt we had to start somewhere,” Ms DiCarlo said in Tuesday’s closing press conference.

The question still is where might these talks lead.

Doctors dismissed these women as ‘hysterical’. Now they’re fighting back

By Hannah RitchieBBC News, Sydney

There’s a memory, or more specifically a moment, that came to define Heidi Metcalf’s second birth.

It wasn’t saying goodbye to her husband and newborn before being wheeled into an operating theatre, or the heart attack she thought she was having as she lay there on the table.

It was when a male obstetrician “ripped the placenta” out of her body, without word or warning.

A nurse, Ms Metcalf knows the intervention – while immensely painful – was necessary. She couldn’t push it out naturally, which was causing potentially fatal bleeding.

But she hadn’t “seen or met this man before”, and she can’t get past the fact that her consent, during one of the most traumatic experiences of her life, “meant so little”.

“It felt like a violation – I needed to feel involved in what was happening to my body, and not just like a bystander.”

Ms Metcalf is one of thousands of Australian women who have come forward to tell their stories, after the federal government assembled a team of experts to tackle what it calls “medical misogyny”.

So far, they have uncovered that a staggering two-thirds of females nationwide have encountered gender bias or discrimination in healthcare.

And many say it is taking place when they’re at their most vulnerable, such as during intimate examinations, or like Ms Metcalf, while in labour. Others report having their pain dismissed or dangerously misdiagnosed.

The BBC spoke to six women for this piece. They shared experiences of being called “anxious”, “pushy” or even “hysterical” while seeking treatment for a range of debilitating symptoms.

They also said they felt that the men in their lives seemed to consistently have their pain taken more seriously.

‘I just don’t feel safe’

Nadiah Akbar was once told by a doctor in Singapore that the extreme fatigue she was experiencing was due to the “stress” of being a busy mother. Tests would later show it was thyroid cancer.

Years later, in remission and having migrated to Australia, staff at a Melbourne hospital failed to diagnose a cartilage tear in her hip socket and a slip disk in her back.

Instead, they suggested the crippling pain could be linked to “depression” or being “overtired”. It led to Ms Akbar paying for two costly MRI scans out of pocket to be taken seriously.

“‘Oh, it’s nothing.’ I’ve heard that statement so many times… It’s really disheartening as a human being to keep hearing that,” she says.

“It takes a lot of energy for you to keep advocating for yourself, and that’s the part that’s worrying – a lot of people just stop.”

Laura – who asked to have her name changed – is close to that point, after years of having symtoms of what would eventually be confirmed as a traumatic brain injury dismissed.

“I don’t get healthcare without my partner with me, that’s a blanket rule,” she says, explaining that she feels her concerns are taken “more seriously” when voiced by a man.

“I just don’t feel safe, engaging with the system, because when you’re young and you’re told over and over that something is all in your head, it’s easy to believe it.”

Like so many others across the country, both women say they’re coming forward to share their experiences to seize on this moment of promised change.

Assistant health minister Ged Kearney – who chairs the national council tasked with examining these issues – says that their stories, along with those of countless others facing additional disadvantage in First Nations, LGBTQ+, and migrant communities will guide its work.

Her team’s remit is vast and broad areas of focus have already emerged.

But untangling gender inequity in medicine is no small task, and Australia’s attempts could have far-reaching implications as other nations eye reforms.

‘A one-size-fits-all approach’

The problem is not that “all healthcare professionals have some set agenda against women”, Ms Kearny says.

Rather it’s that bias is woven into the fabric of modern medicine because for centuries it was “delivered by and designed for” men.

Women’s health – by contrast – was often rooted in myth and pernicious gender stereotypes.

“Hysteria”, a now-defunct medical term, was a catch-all diagnosis for females presenting with an array of symptoms, meaning their pain was attributed to emotional causes, rather than biological ones.

But today, some women say they continue to feel gaslit – disbelieved and patronised – in medical settings.

And a lack of diversity in medical research compounds the issue.

More than 70% of participants in early-stage clinical trials globally are still white men, while male cells and animals are used as standard in the lab, according to Professor Robyn Norton, a public health expert.

The results are then applied to women, intersex, trans and gender-diverse people, causing issues when it comes to their treatment, diagnosis and how their symptoms are understood, Prof Norton says.

She describes it as a “one-size-fits-all, male-centric” approach to healthcare that has created huge knowledge gaps.

One analysis carried out in 2019 by the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research – which used data from the entire Danish population – found that, across 770 diseases they studied, women were diagnosed later than men, with an average lag time of four years.

In Australia, research from the University of Sydney in 2018 found that females admitted to hospital for serious heart attack were half as likely as men to get proper treatment and that they died at twice the rate six months after discharge.

Scientists have warned that another roadblock is the chronic underinvestment in women-specific health issues.

Endometriosis is pointed to as a key example. Despite impacting roughly 10% of reproductive-age women and girls globally, there is no cure, and it takes seven years on average for patients to be diagnosed.

One recent study found that 89% of Australian women were still being advised by health professionals that pregnancy would fix their symptoms – despite growing evidence it’s a medical fallacy.

Such disparities are being recognised and investigated globally, experts say – with countries comparing notes on what might be the best approach.

The UK, for one, recently announced measures aimed at closing the “gender health gap” in its system. And in the US, the federal government has launched an initiative to improve funding and research into women’s health, led by First Lady Jill Biden.

Ms Kearny says Australia is already making inroads.

In the past 12 months, her government has opened 22 endometriosis and pelvic pain clinics aimed at improving care and diagnosis.

The nation’s drug regulator has removed restrictions on prescribing and dispensing medical abortion pills to increase universal access to reproductive healthcare.

And researchers will soon be able to examine how key diseases are experienced in female, intersex and gender diverse populations at a new centre Prof Norton is leading.

She’s optimistic her team’s work could “catalyse the kind of change in Australia that could see it become a leader in this space”.

There’s also been some investment in women’s health in the latest national budget. Almost A$100m ($66m; £52m) has been set aside for things like reducing the out-of-pocket costs associated with gynaecological conditions, as well as studies into menopause, pregnancy loss and fertility. All are issues which have been historically under-funded.

But while advocates like Bonney Corbin – the chair of Australia’s Women’s Health Alliance who also sits on the council – have welcomed the cash injection, they say it doesn’t go far enough and that state governments should step up too.

“A gender lens on healthcare is more than funding things related to breasts and uteruses. We need to look at women’s bodies on the whole,” she explains.

In the coming months, Ms Kearney’s advisory body will release its first set of major reform recommendations.

She says it has no intention of putting forward “tick-box” measures that tinker around the edges.

Instead, she says the long-term goal is to create a blueprint to “build a healthcare system that actually works for everyone”.

Whether the advice will lead to lasting change remains an open question despite the assistant health minister’s participation at this point, Ms Corbin says.

If it doesn’t though, she hints that there could be public backlash.

“We’ve mobilised a whole lot of women in this process – now we need action.”

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”.

How the Supreme Court became a political battlefield

By Bernd Debusmann JrBBC News, Washington

With decisions on everything from civil rights and the environment to guns and religious freedoms, the US Supreme Court has always played a powerful role in American life.

But that role has been changing in some ways, with the court’s nine justices – unelected and able to serve for life – now looming larger in the country’s politics.

As the grand finale of its 2023-2024 term, the court issued a decision to settle what Chief Justice John Roberts wrote was a “question of lasting significance”, by ruling that Donald Trump and other ex-presidents have a wide (but not absolute) immunity from criminal prosecution for their actions in office.

While Trump hailed the decision as a “big win” for democracy, President Joe Biden said it undermined the “rule of law” and was a “terrible disservice” to Americans.

Let’s take a look at the Supreme Court and how the staid and historically respected body has become a political battlefield.

What does the court do?

Put simply, the Supreme Court is the keeper of US laws.

The justices decide whether laws and government actions follow the US constitution. They also interpret laws passed by congress to decide if they are being correctly carried out.

Lower courts have to follow the precedent set by the Supreme Court, under a legal principle known as “stare decisis” – Latin for “to stand by a decision”. That gives its decisions national and long-term importance.

Most cases reach the Supreme Court by climbing up a ladder of appeals through lower federal courts or the state courts. Even though the Supreme Court receives more than 7,000 petitions a year, it only hears about 100 or so cases each term. The justices follow the “Rule of Four”, where they review a case if four of them believe it has merit.

By design, the court is supposed to be insulated from political change and the justices from political pressure in making their decisions.

Americans do not vote for who can serve on the court. Justices are appointed by the president and then approved by the Senate.

They serve for life or until they voluntarily retire, and they can only be removed by impeachment. Congress has only attempted an impeachment once, more than 200 years ago, and it failed.

Who is on it?

In practice, the court structure means that one of the most consequential decisions a president can make is picking a justice.

Currently, conservatives hold a strong majority with six justices on the bench.

Three of them – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – were appointed by Trump.

Republican Presidents George W Bush and George HW Bush appointed John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas.

Two of the three liberal judges – Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – were nominated by Barack Obama. Ketanji Brown Jackson was picked by Mr Biden.

Politics have played a role in appointments “since the very beginning of this country”, said Jonathan Entin, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio who researches the Supreme Court. But the fractiousness of current politics has changed the dynamics on and around the court.

“Democrat presidents tended to appoint Democrats and Republican presidents tended to appoint Republicans,” he said. “What’s changed is that the parties themselves have become more polarised.”

“People in both parties have paid particular attention to judicial ideology going forward,” Mr Entin added. “So it’s much more contentious than it used to be.”

Two years of monumental decisions

The court has only had its current make-up, with conservatives dominating the bench, since 2022. But in that short stretch, it has created a massive shift in the country, starting with ending the constitutional right to abortion in June of that year.

In just the last few weeks, along with presidential immunity, it ruled that federal prosecutors overreached when they used an obstruction law against 6 January rioters, struck down a ban on federal “bump stock” devices for guns, and rejected an effort to restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone.

It also slashed and weakened the powers of agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency by overturning a previous ruling that judges should defer to federal agencies in interpreting ambiguous parts of laws. That decision, along with other recent rulings related to regulations, will move many powers from federal agencies to the court system.

Last year, the justices also struck down US President Joe Biden’s proposal to wipe out billions in student debt and that race-based university admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina could no longer be used, upending decades-old US policies on so-called affirmative action.

What happens behind the scenes?

The Supreme Court goes to enormous lengths to protect its internal deliberations, with almost all its work – such as reading briefs or writing and circulating – taking place behind closed doors.

Because its process seems almost impenetrable, the country was shocked when the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v Wade was leaked to the press.

Face-to-face deliberations, similarly, take place in secrecy, with no staff present.

Justices sit around a large table in order of seniority, each armed with a book and notebook.

In an interview with the BBC earlier this year, former Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer said they then “have a real discussion” about cases.

Beginning with the chief justice, they each give their legal opinions on a case and why they are – or are not – persuaded by various arguments.

“No one speaks twice until everyone has spoken once,” he said. “If you try to make a point saying that ‘my argument is better than yours’…that’ll get you nowhere.”

“But if you listen to what other people are saying, and then at the end of the first round you pay attention and say that ‘you have a point there, but I think it would be better if we did this’…then you have a real discussion about it,” he added.

Calls for change

As the court has taken on momentous decisions, and overturned decades-old rulings, it has faced growing accusations of politicisation and partisanship.

In September, 58% of Americans disapproved of the way the court was handling its job, the highest level in more than 20 years, according to Gallup.

Outcries over judicial ethics have recently grown stronger, after journalists investigated Justice Thomas for not reporting gifts and Justice Alito’s family flying flags at his home that are considered symbols of the Capitol rioters.

Last year, for the first time in its history, the court released a code of conduct. But the code does not have any enforcement mechanism and advocates, including top lawmakers, are calling for stronger and farther-reaching reforms.

They have suggested a binding code of ethics, expanding the number of judges in lower courts, creating an independent ethics office and – importantly – imposing term limits.

Some have floated adding more justices, although polls suggest that is broadly unpopular among Americans.

Maggie Jo Buchanan, the managing director of reform advocacy organisation Demand Justice, told the BBC that staggered 18-year term limits could, for example, “depoliticise” the court and make it more balanced and representative of the US populace.

“In that way, every president would have the same number of appointees,” she said. “That would ensure that the Supreme Court better reflects the will of the people.”

“Right now, the Supreme Court’s appointments are happenstance politically, whether from time of retirement or an unexpected death,” Ms Buchanan added. “In a Supreme Court that has such power over our rules, a one-term president shouldn’t have more appointments to the bench than a two-term president.”

Other experts have cautioned that structural changes, many of which would require a constitutional amendment, are unlikely to be possible or popular.

“There is a lot to be said for stability,” said Clark Neily, senior vice president of legal studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington DC-based libertarian-leaning think tank that advocates for “small government.

“There’s a lot to be said for not changing the way that a particular institution works, even if there are problems with it,” he added.

Mr Neily – a former litigator who was co-counsel in a 2008 Supreme Court case where a Washington DC gun law was ruled unconstitutional – said that an institution that “has the last word” on the constitution will likely always generate controversy.

“There’s no avoiding that,” he said. “And I don’t think that anybody has really presented a proposal that seems clearly likely to do better than what we have now.”

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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Hungary’s Orban urges ceasefire on Kyiv visit

By Gordon Corera@gordoncoreraSecurity correspondent

Viktor Orban arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday for an unannounced visit having just taken over as rotating president of the European Union.

While in Kyiv, the Hungarian prime minister said a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine could speed up negotiations to end the war that has followed Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022.

Mr Orban has been a critic of Western support for Ukraine and is seen as the European leader closest to Russian President Vladimir Putin. This was his first visit to Ukraine in 12 years, although he has met Mr Putin repeatedly during that time.

During his joint appearance with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky the body language between them was not warm and neither took questions from the media after they gave their statements.

Mr Orban has previously slowed agreement on a €50bn ($54bn; £42bn) EU aid package designed to support Ukraine in its defence against Russia.

But for the next six months his position as head of the European Council means he has an influential role as a figurehead for Europe. He came to Ukraine on his second day in that role for discussions, saying there was a need to solve previous disagreements and focus on the future.

In his statement following their meeting, Mr Zelensky said it was “very important to have Europe’s support for Ukraine maintained at sufficient level… it’s important for cooperation between all the neighbours in Europe to become more meaningful and mutually beneficial”.

In his own statement, Mr Orban stressed the need to work together but also said he had raised the idea of a ceasefire to hasten negotiations with Russia.

“I explored this possibility with the president and I am grateful for his honest answers and negotiation,” he said.

President Zelensky did not respond to those comments.

However, many Ukrainians believe such a ceasefire would simply cement Russia’s hold over territory it has taken from Ukraine and, if negotiations were to take place, they would prefer them to be conducted from a position of strength rather than on the back foot.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country was open to “work with everyone and solve problems”.

“This work is difficult and time-consuming, but it eventually yields tangible results,” he told the BBC.

“During the visit, President Zelensky had a candid but constructive discussion with Prime Minister Orban about ways to achieve a just peace, not simply a ceasefire or peace talks.”

The two leaders also discussed bilateral issues including the 100,000 ethnic Hungarians who reside in Ukraine.

The EU opened membership talks for Ukraine the week before Hungary assumed the EU Council Presidency.

French election candidates withdraw in bid to block far right

By Hugh SchofieldParis correspondent

The deadline for declarations in the French elections ended Tuesday, with large numbers of left and centre candidates standing aside in order to try to block the far-right National Rally (RN).

Parties had till 18:00 local time (17:00 GMT) to register contenders for Sunday’s second round of parliamentary elections.

With no official list yet released, French media reported that between 214 and 218 third-placed contenders had pulled out of the race in their constituencies. It means there will now be around 108 three-way races, instead of just over 300.

There rest will be two-way run-offs, apart from in two constituencies where four candidates qualified.

Last Sunday’s first round produced a big victory for the party of Marine Le Pen, which – with allies – won around 33% of the vote.

A broad left-wing alliance came second, and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrists third.

But Ms Le Pen’s chances of winning an outright majority in the 577-seat National Assembly have been dented by the blocking tactics of her party’s enemies.

Where third-placed centre or left candidates pull out, the anti-RN vote is focused on a single candidate, making victory easier over the RN contender.

The leftwing New Popular Front (NPF) – which comprises everyone from centre-left social democrats to far-left anti-capitalists – issued instructions to all of its third-placed candidates to step down and let a centrist reap the anti-RN vote.

The NPF is thus helping two senior pro-Macron MPs – former prime minister Elisabeth Borne and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – to win in their constituencies in Normandy and the north.

Conversely a pro-Macron candidate has stood down in order to help radical leftwinger François Ruffin defeat the RN candidate in the northern city of Amiens.

The RN’s 28 year-old president and hopeful for prime minister Jordan Bardella condemned these arrangements as the fruit of an “alliance of dishonour” between parties that had until now been at each other’s throats.

Instructions to candidates from Macron’s centrist bloc have been more ambiguous than the NPF’s.

Though Macron himself and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal have called for “no vote for the RN”, some in his camp believe its far-left component makes the NPF equally unpalatable.

Senior figures like Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and former prime minister Edouard Philippe – both originally from the centre-right – are refusing to issue instructions to vote systematically against the RN.

RN leaders have said they will not attempt to form a government unless they are given an outright majority in the parliament in Sunday’s vote. They say they do not want to be given the appearance of power, if the reality is they cannot pass laws.

However on Tuesday Marine Le Pen appeared to qualify this, when she said that a lower majority would be good enough – if it does not fall too far short of the 289 member threshold.

Speaking on French radio she said that winning around 270 deputies would allow her party to open talks with individual MPs from other groups in the hope of persuading them into an accord.

“We are going to say to them:’ Are you ready to participate with us in a new majority? Are you ready to vote a confidence motion? Are you ready to vote for the budget?’” she said.

She cited as possible targets independent MPs of right and left, and part of the conservative Republicans party which won 10% of the vote on Sunday.

If the RN wins an absolute majority on Sunday, Bardella would be asked by President Macron to form a government – and there would then begin a tense period of “cohabitation” between two political enemies.

Under the French Fifth Republic constitution, power would flow away from Macron to the prime minister’s office because “the government determines and conducts the policy of the nation”.

However Mr Macron would probably seek to retain powers in the areas of foreign policy and defence, which from precedent – and not from the actual wording of the constitution – have remained the preserve of the Elysée in past cohabitations.

Marine Le Pen also accused the president Tuesday of carrying out an “administrative coup d’état” because she had heard he was preparing a number of key appointments in the police and army just days ahead of the vote.

“When you want to counter the results if an election by nominating your people to jobs, and when that stops [the government] from being able to carry out policies which the French people have asked for …. I call that an administrative coup d’état,” she said.

“I hope it is only rumour,” she added.

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Whether marching through the streets of German cities in their thousands, or turning stadiums and fan zones orange, the Dutch fans have delivered at Euro 2024.

Now it seems their team has too.

A dreadful performance in a 3-2 defeat against Austria in their final group game – where they could not match the pressing and intensity of their opponents – left their fans fearing their European Championship would soon be over.

But, against a spirited and fearless Romania, they produced the sort of performance their supporters had been hoping to see as a 3-0 victory sent them into the quarter-finals.

Two of the goals came late in the game, scored by half-time substitute Donyell Malen, but they should have been comfortably clear well before then, having missed numerous chances after Cody Gakpo’s first-half opener.

But this was more about the performance as a whole as the Netherlands played high tempo, fast-paced attacking football that had their fans dancing and partying into the night in Munich.

“Welcome to the tournament,” said former Premier League goalkeeper Paul Robinson on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Stand up and take notice, everybody. Harsh for Romania, but the Dutch completely outclassed them.”

‘They can actually go and win it’

The performance in Munich, more than the result, will concern the Netherlands’ Euro 2024 rivals.

If they can build on this display, and get through the next round too, they will face a semi-final against England or Switzerland.

“That might just be the performance that gives them confidence that they can actually go on and win it,” former England striker Alan Shearer said on BBC One.

“That could be the performance that gives them that edge.”

Ex-England defender Alex Scott said the Dutch “had a spark and a different energy”, while former Wales captain Ashley Williams was also impressed, saying: “They had the complete performance.

“You can’t call anything in this tournament but I think they will be really confident now.”

‘Important’ Gakpo wants to create new Euros memories

Key to the victory was the first-half goal by Gakpo, making him joint-top scorer in Germany as he continued his excellent form at major international tournaments.

In 10 games at World Cups and European Championships, he has scored six goals.

The Netherlands, in their first Euro quarter-final since 2008, need three more wins to emulate the European champions of 1988.

“It is lots of memories but now we are here with this squad and trying to create memories of our own,” Gakpo said.

Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman, who played in the triumphant 1988 side, looked far happier in the post-match news conference than he did after the Austria loss and was keen to stress the importance of this not being just a one off.

“We are Dutch and in Holland we have to play well, we have to play offensive,” he said.

“The performance was outstanding and that is what we need to have a chance to continue in this tournament.”

The Dutch fans have been a colourful presence at Euro 2024 and clearly don’t want to go home. Based on this showing from their side, they could be around for a while longer yet.

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Marketa Vondrousova’s Wimbledon title defence came to an early end as she fell to a surprise first-round defeat by Spain’s Jessica Bouzas Maneiro.

The Czech became the first unseeded player to win the women’s singles trophy when she triumphed against Ons Jabeur in last year’s final.

But Vondrousova’s game was riddled with unforced errors and double faults as the 25-year-old opened proceedings with a lacklustre performance on Centre Court.

World number 83 Bouzas Maneiro, 21, took advantage on Tuesday to win 6-4 6-2 for her first Grand Slam victory.

It is the first time since 1994, when Steffi Graf lost to Lori McNeil, that the women’s defending champion has lost in the first round at Wimbledon.

“I am really happy, I think this is one of the most important moments in my life, in my career,” said Bouzas Maneiro.

“This is the most beautiful tournament I have played in my life so thank you to everyone who came to watch the match today.”

Vondrousova’s early exit means there will be a different women’s singles champion for a seventh consecutive year and she is the first women’s defending champion in 30 years to lose in the first round.

Serena Williams was the last player to successfully defend the Venus Rosewater Dish, winning back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016.

There was no concern for world number one Iga Swiatek who secured a comfortable 6-3 6-4 victory over 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.

The American had her serve broken in her opening service game by the Polish 23-year-old, who has already won five Grand Slam titles, but never made it beyond the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

In round two, Swiatek will play Petra Martic of Croatia after she got past British wildcard Fran Jones in three sets.

Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki, the 2018 Australian Open champion, dispatched world number 40 Alycia Parks 6-2, 6-0 in just 53 minutes.

The 33-year-old Dane has never got past the fourth round at Wimbledon but looked comfortable against her American opponent.

Last year’s beaten finalist Ons Jabeur also breezed through, winning her match against Japan’s Moyuka Uchijima 6-3 6-1 in 55 minutes.

‘It felt like playing at home’

Vondrousova came into the tournament on the back of an injury scare after a nasty fall forced her to retire early with a hip concern following her second-round match at the Berlin Open.

The sixth seed appeared to be feeling the after-effects of the problem, moving with difficulty.

Bouzas Maneiro capitalised on Vondrousova’s physical struggles, breaking early in each of the first and second sets before firing a sublime backhand winner down the line on her first match point.

“I was just trying to enjoy the moment,” said the Spaniard. “She is one of the best players in the world here, she won last year so I was like, I have no pressure, enjoy the moment, enjoy the tournament.

“I’m surprised with myself, honestly. I was at the beginning a little bit nervous, but since the first game, I don’t know, the atmosphere was so nice, so elegant.

“I was comfortable playing here, it felt like I was playing at home.”

Vondrousova also said she “felt the nervous from the start” and “was a bit scared” following her recent injury.

She added: “Credit to her. She was playing a good match, too. I didn’t feel at my best. I think she didn’t gave me many points for free.”

Bouzas Maneiro will play compatriot Cristina Bucsa in the second round.

Pegula through to second round after 49-minute win

Earlier, world number five Jessica Pegula raced into the second round of Wimbledon with a 49-minute win over fellow American Ashlyn Krueger.

Pegula dismissed her 20-year-old opponent 6-2 6-0, wrapping up the victory before rain halted play on the outdoor courts.

The fifth seed, who won her first WTA Tour grass-court title in Berlin last month, has never gone beyond the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam.

Pegula, 30, will face China’s Wang Xinyu next after she overcame Viktoriya Tomova.

Meanwhile, 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina claimed a commanding 6-3 6-1 victory over Romanian Elena-Gabriela Ruse under the closed roof of Court One.

“Really happy to win my first match here this year,” said fourth seed Rybakina, who has struggled with illness this season. “I didn’t play on grass too much this year because I’ve had some issues.

“I’m just keeping all the emotions inside. Sometimes it’s not easy but I’m looking forward to the next one. I just want to be happy on the court, that’s my goal now.”

American 11th seed Danielle Collins won the first set against Denmark’s Clara Tauson, but their match on court 10 was suspended as light faded and the grass surface became slippery.

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Justin Rose came through qualifying for the Open Championship at Royal Troon but his ex-Ryder Cup team-mate Sergio Garcia fell short for the second successive year.

Rose, 43, tied for top spot at Burnham Burrow in Somerset, playing 36 holes in eight under par to match fellow Englishman Dominic Clemons.

Less than a fortnight ago, Clemons was denied an Open place when he was beaten in the final of the Amateur Championship.

Rose, who finished fourth as an amateur on his 1998 debut and in a tie for second in 2018, has played in every Open since 2007 when fit.

At West Lancashire, Garcia, twice an Open runner-up, finished two strokes adrift of the top four, just as he did 12 months ago.

The Spaniard’s low world ranking after joining LIV Golf means the only major he currently qualifies for is the Masters as a former champion.

The 44-year-old had been hoping to play his 100th major in Ayrshire this month but his three-under-par score was only good enough for a share of sixth place.

Three Englishman were successful, with Dan Brown joining Sam Horsfield and Royal Liverpool amateur Matthew Dodd-Berry, who finished joint top on six under.

At Dundonald Links, just five miles from Troon, Ayrshire’s Jack McDonald came through a play-off involving fellow Scot Daniel Young.

England’s Sam Hutsby led the way on eight under, with Irish amateur Liam Nolan joint second.

Another Englishman, Matthew Southgate, enjoyed the best score at Royal Cinque Ports on six under.

The 152nd Open Championship will take place on 18–21 July.

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Novak Djokovic said he was “extremely glad with the way I felt and the way I played” as he won his first match since knee surgery to reach the second round at Wimbledon.

Djokovic, seeking to equal Roger Federer’s men’s record of eight singles titles at SW19, beat Vit Kopriva 6-1 6-2 6-2 under the roof on Centre Court.

The Serb, 37, had an operation on a torn medial meniscus on 5 June, having aggravated the problem during the French Open.

He will next play British wildcard Jacob Fearnley.

Wearing a knee support on his right leg, Djokovic showed no signs of discomfort against the 27-year-old Czech qualifier, converting his sixth break point in a lengthy fourth game before racing through the rest of the first set.

He broke again early in the second set, stretching his right leg out to stay in a rally and then, in trademark style, converting defence into attack and forcing Kopriva into going long.

Three further breaks of serve hurried him to victory, Djokovic finishing the match with three consecutive aces as he moved to the next round in style.

“I tried to really focus on the game and not think about the knee too much,” the 24-time Grand Slam champion added in his on-court interview.

“Everything that I could do, I have done over the last three weeks, along with my team, to be able to play here for you today. I think if it was for any other tournament I probably would not have risked it, would not have rushed as much but I just love Wimbledon, love coming back here.”

Chalk flew up – Djokovic ‘fan’ of snooker champion O’Sullivan

There was an unlikely meeting of sporting greats after Djokovic’s win as he spoke to seven-time world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The 48-year-old Englishman was a guest in Djokovic’s player box and the Serb later revealed he was a “fan” and watched O’Sullivan play “when I was a kid”.

“I watch snooker just because of him,” said Djokovic. “Honestly, I watched him play many years ago. My father loved watching snooker, I only watched Ronnie. Whenever he would not play, I would not watch. We just had a meet-up, an interaction for the first time. It was great.

“He was one of the sport greats I used to watch when I was a kid. It was really nice to have him around. Hopefully we’re able to play some snooker because I’m really bad at snooker. I’m okay at pool or billiards, but snooker, I tried it twice, and it’s really, really tough.

“He’s a really, really nice person, nice guy, and very funny.”

Sixth seed Rublev upset by Slam debutant

Russian Andrey Rublev became the highest seed to fall in the men’s singles, losing 6-4 5-7 6-2 7-6 (7-5) to Argentine Francisco Comesana.

At one point the sixth seed smashed his racket against his own thigh six times as he was frustrated by his play, and his 23-year-old Grand Slam debutant.

American 20th seed Sebastian Korda was also beaten in the first round, losing 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (8-6) 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 to French lucky loser Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard.

The 20-year-old, who is 6ft 8in tall, fired down 51 aces and saved all 11 break points he faced from Korda in his first appearance at Wimbledon.

French Open runner-up Alexander Zverev had a straightforward success, defeating Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 6-2 6-4 6-2.

Polish seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz saw off Moldovan Radu Albot 5-7 6-4 6-3 6-4, while Alex de Minaur beat fellow Australian James Duckworth in three tie-breaks.

American Ben Shelton, seeded 14th, was two sets to one down overnight against Italian Mattia Bellucci, but fought back when they resumed on Tuesday to win 4-6 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, seeded 11th, defeated Japan’s Taro Daniel 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 7-5, while Danish 15th seed Holger Rune progressed with a 6-1 6-4 6-4 win over Kwon Soon-woo.

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Jack Draper marked his first Wimbledon match as British men’s number one by evoking memories of Andy Murray with a five-set success under the Centre Court lights.

Draper, seeded 28th, started tentatively against Swedish qualifier Elias Ymer – and lost his way in the fourth set – before coming through to win 3-6 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-3 in the first round.

The 22-year-old replaced Murray in the evening slot on the iconic show court, with the former world number one having withdrawn through injury earlier on Tuesday.

Draper provided a timely pick-me-up for the home fans disappointed by Murray’s misfortune.

Making his return to Wimbledon after being injured himself last year, Draper celebrated clinching victory at 21:15 BST by whacking a ball into the jubilant crowd.

“I know you wanted to see Andy out here but you were stuck with me instead,” he joked.

“The crowd helped me massively. I love playing in front of loads of people. There were some nervy moments and I really appreciate the support, it means a lot.”

In round two, he will face Cameron Norrie – the player he deposed as Britain’s leading man last month.

Norrie, who reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2022, sealed a 7-5 7-5 6-3 win over Argentina’s Facundo Diaz Acosta shortly before Draper’s victory.

It ended a run of four successive tour-level defeats for Norrie, who has dropped outside the world’s top 40 after first-round defeats at the French Open, Queen’s and Eastbourne.

He and Draper were among 11 Britons playing on the second day of the 2024 Championships.

British number 13 Jacob Fearnley was the other notable home men’s winner as he set up a second-round encounter with seven-time champion Novak Djokovic.

The 22-year-old from Scotland, playing in his first Grand Slam match, battled to a 7-5 6-4 7-6 (14-12) victory over Spanish qualifier Alejandro Moro Canas.

But there were defeats for last year’s boys’ champion Henry Searle, Billy Harris, Paul Jubb and Jan Choinski.

Dan Evans, who was also a doubt for the tournament with a knee injury, trailed 6-2 3-3 against Chilean 24th seed Alejandro Tabilo when play was stopped because of bad light.

In the women’s singles, Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart both won – and will now play each other – to ensure five British women reached the second round for the first time since 1987.

A symbolic passing of the baton

At the start of his career, Murray emerged to pick up the baton from Tim Henman as Britain’s leading men’s player – and carry the nation’s hopes at Wimbledon.

There is a parallel to be drawn with the Scot and Englishman Draper.

He has long been regarded as the natural heir to Murray in terms of British hopes on the ATP Tour and, having suffered with fitness problems in recent years, has finally started to fulfil expectations.

In the past month he has climbed into the world’s top 30 and claimed his first tour title at Stuttgart.

Being moved to Centre Court to fill the void left by Murray could not have felt any more symbolic of the changing of the guard.

Initially the atmosphere failed to ignite like it would have done if Murray had the chance to play in the singles at the final Wimbledon of his career.

That was down to 28-year-old Ymer. The world number 205 barely missed a beat with his explosive returning from the baseline, hitting 15 winners compared with four unforced errors as he quietened Centre Court.

But the home fans, like Draper, warmed up as the match wore on.

A more aggressive game has been key to Draper’s recent rise and, after a break for the roof to be closed as darkness fell, that came to the fore as he raced through a dominant deciding set.

As he homed in on victory, the crowd willed him over the line with many celebrating each victorious point by jumping from their seats in joy.

Fearnley swaps university for studying Djokovic

Six weeks ago, Fearnley wrapped up a kinesiology degree – the study of human movement – at the Texas Christian University in the United States.

Now he is putting the energy into his tennis career.

Fearnley won the Nottingham Open title last month – his first on the second-tier ATP Challenger – to earn a wildcard for Wimbledon.

Ranked 277 in the world, he said he “froze” when he realised he was one of three names left who could draw Djokovic in the first round.

But, after avoiding the 24-time major champion, he hoped coming through the first round against Moro Canas would provide “more confidence and less nerves” if he made round two.

Fearnley, who said he was watching the score of Djokovic’s match while playing, will find out for sure on Thursday.

Jubb missed out on a first Wimbledon success in agonising fashion, falling in five sets to big-hitting Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild.

The 24-year-old led by two sets to love and had a match point in the third-set tie-break, but he could not take it and Seyboth Wild fought back to win 1-6 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 7-5.

Choinski also went down in five sets, losing 7-5 4-6 2-6 7-5 6-2 to Italian Luciano Darderi.

The late-blooming Harris, making his Grand Slam debut after a fine summer, ended in a 6-4 6-4 3-6 6-3 defeat by Spain’s Jaume Munar.

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Tadej Pogacar regained the leader’s yellow jersey in thrilling fashion as he soloed clear to win stage four of the Tour de France.

On the first big mountain stage of the Tour, Pogacar produced an explosive attack 800 metres from the summit of the iconic Col du Galibier and extended his lead on the 20km descent to the line, putting time into all his general classification rivals.

Remco Evenepoel was second to reach the finish on the 139.6km route from Pinerolo to Valloire, some 35 seconds down, with defending champion Jonas Vingegaard 37 seconds back in fifth.

“It was more or less the plan and we executed it pretty well – I’m super happy. It was like a dream stage and I finished it off so well,” Pogacar said.

“I wanted to hit hard today and I knew this stage very well. I’ve trained here a lot of times and it felt like a home stage. I was confident in the start and I had good legs.”

Slovenia’s Pogacar, 25, now leads Evenepoel by 45 seconds in the GC standings, with Vingegaard five seconds further adrift in third.

Richard Carapaz, who led the race overnight, lost more than five minutes and is now 22nd overall.

Pogacar delivers statement win

With the race taking an early incursion into the Alps as it moved from Italy to France, this was a statement performance from Pogacar and UAE Team Emirates.

Denmark’s Vingegaard and Visma–Lease a Bike (previously Jumbo-Visma) have dominated the past two editions of the Tour.

However, this year will feel like the perfect opportunity to redress the balance, with Vingegaard and Wout van Aert both competing after missing a significant block of training and preparation following serious early-season crashes.

Joao Almeida and Juan Ayuso in particular, superbly raised the pace for Pogacar up the 23km ascent of the Galibier, whittling down the GC group until the Slovenian elected to make his move.

While Vingegaard, who had been left isolated without any team support, was quick to respond, a second acceleration meant Pogacar opened a seven-second gap, which he extended on the twisty descent to the finish.

Stage four results

1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) 3hrs 46mins 48secs

2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel/Soudal-Quick-Step) +35secs

3. Juan Ayuso (Spa/UAE Team Emirates) Same time

4. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Red Bull Bora-Hansgrohe) “

5. Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Visma-Lease a Bike) +37secs

6. Carlos Rodriguez (Spa/Ineos Grenadiers) Same time

7. Mikel Landa (Spa/Soudal-Quick-Step) +53secs

8. Joao Almeida (Por/UAE Team Emirates) Same time

9. Giulio Ciccone (Ita/Lidl-Trek) +2mins 41secs

10. Santiago Buitrago (Col/Bahrain Victorious) Same time

General classification after stage four

1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) 19hrs 06mins 38secs

2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel/Soudal-Quick Step) +45secs

3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Visma-Lease a Bike) +50secs

4. Juan Ayuso (Spa/UAE Team Emirates) +1min 10secs

5. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe) +1mins 14secs

6. Carlos Rodriguez (Spa/Ineos Grenadiers) +1mins 16secs

7. Mikel Landa (Spa/Soudal-Quick Step) +1min 32secs

8. Joao Almeida (Por/UAE Team Emirates) +1min 32secs

9. Giulio Ciccone (Ita/Lidl-Trek) +3mins 20secs

10. Egan Bernal (Col/Ineos Grenadiers) +3mins 21secs

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