BBC 2024-07-05 00:07:03


Biden says he ‘screwed up’ debate but vows to stay in election

By Gareth Evans, Courtney Subramanian and Kayla EpsteinBBC News, Washington & New York
Joe Biden admits poor performance in debate

US President Joe Biden has admitted he “screwed up” in last week’s debate against Donald Trump, but has vowed to fight on in the election race and moved to reassure key allies.

He told a Wisconsin radio station he made a “mistake” with his stumbling performance, but urged voters to instead judge him on his time in the White House.

On Wednesday, as reports suggested he was weighing his future, he worked to calm senior Democrats including state governors and campaign staff.

“I’m the nominee of the Democratic Party. No one’s pushing me out. I’m not leaving,” he said in a call to the broader campaign, a source told BBC News.

Mr Biden was joined on the call by Vice-President Kamala Harris, who reiterated her support.

Speculation has mounted over whether she could replace the president as the party’s candidate ahead of the November election.

A fundraising email sent after the call by the Biden-Harris campaign was also bullish. “Let me say this as clearly and simply as I can: I’m running,” Mr Biden said.

  • Can Biden be replaced as nominee? It’s not easy
  • The names in the frame if Biden quits

Questions have been swirling around whether the 81-year-old will continue with his campaign following a debate marked by verbal blanks and a weak voice.

It sparked concern in Democratic circles around his fitness for office and his ability to win the election.

Pressure on Mr Biden to drop out has only grown as more polls suggest his Republican rival’s lead has widened.

A New York Times poll conducted after the debate, which was published on Wednesday, suggested Trump was now holding his biggest lead yet at six points.

And a separate poll published by the BBC’s US partner CBS News suggested Trump has a three-point lead over Mr Biden in the crucial battleground states.

Name-calling and insults – key moments from Biden and Trump’s debate

The damaging polling for Mr Biden has been compounded by some Democratic donors and lawmakers publicly calling on the president to stand aside.

Among them are Ramesh Kapur, an Indian-American industrialist based in Massachusetts, who has organised fundraisers for Democrats since 1988.

“I think it’s time for him to pass the torch,” Mr Kapur told the BBC. “I know he has the drive, but you can’t fight Mother Nature.”

And two Democrats in Congress also called for a change at the top of the party’s ticket. The second, Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona, told the New York Times it was time for Democrats to “look elsewhere”.

Despite this, the White House and the Biden campaign have vehemently denied reports he is actively weighing his future and say he is committed to defeating Trump for a second time on 5 November.

The New York Times and CNN reported on Wednesday that Mr Biden had told an unnamed ally he was aware his re-election bid was in danger.

His forthcoming appearances – including an ABC News interview and a Friday rally in Wisconsin – were hugely important to his campaign, he reportedly said.

More on the election

  • Where Biden and Trump stand on key issues
  • What’s in Trump’s second term wish list, Project 2025
  • What Moscow, Delhi and Beijing make of rematch
  • Who will be Trump’s vice-president?

A spokesperson rejected the reports as “absolutely false”, shortly before White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said reports that he may drop out were untrue.

Among the senior Democrats Mr Biden met on Wednesday was a group of 20 state governors from around the country, including California’s Gavin Newsom and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer. Both have been tipped as potential replacements if Mr Biden were to stand aside.

“The president has always had our backs, we’re going to have his back as well,” Maryland Governor Wes Moore told reporters after the meeting.

But Ms Harris is still considered the most likely replacement. The 59-year-old has been hampered by poor approval ratings, but her support has increased among Democrats since the Biden-Trump debate.

Amid the speculation, comments made by Trump indicated he could be switching his attention to attacking Ms Harris.

In footage obtained by the Daily Beast – and shared online by Trump himself – he can be seen in a golf cart pouring scorn on Mr Biden, whom he describes as “broken down”. He suggests that Ms Harris would be “better”, though still “pathetic”.

The vice-president gave an immediate interview on CNN after the debate, projecting calm as she expressed full support for the president.

“She has always been mindful to be a good partner to the president,” her former communications director Jamal Simmons told BBC News.

“The people who ultimately will make the decision about who the nominee should be mostly are people who are pledged to him. Her best role is to be a partner to him.”

A source close to Ms Harris said nothing had changed and she would continue to campaign for the president.

Members of the Democratic National Committee are charged with voting to officially make President Biden the party’s nominee at the August convention, putting him on the ballot nationwide.

One member, who has spoken to other delegates and requested anonymity to speak frankly about sensitive discussions, told the BBC that the nomination should go to Vice-President Harris if Mr Biden opted not to run.

“If we open up the convention, it will cause pure chaos that will hurt us in November,” they said.

A report by the Washington Post, meanwhile, said Mr Biden and his team recognised that he must demonstrate his fitness for office in the coming days.

He has planned trips to Wisconsin and Philadelphia later in the week, and is due to appear on ABC News on Friday for his first televised interview since the debate.

His full interview with Wisconsin’s Civic Media is also due to be published on Thursday.

While acknowledging that he had “screwed up” with his performance, he told the station: “That’s 90 minutes on stage. Look at what I’ve done in 3.5 years.”

India preacher denies blame for crush deaths

By Anbarasan EthirajanBBC News, Hathras • Toby LuckhurstBBC News, London

The preacher who led an overcrowded gathering in India where more than 120 people were crushed to death on Tuesday has denied blame, and pledged to co-operate with the police investigation.

A lawyer for the self-styled guru known as Bhole Baba told the BBC the crush occurred “due to some anti-social elements”, and blamed a “criminal conspiracy hatched against” his client.

On Thursday, police said they had arrested six people who were part of a committee that organised the event.

Nearly all those killed were women and children, who were attending the satsang – a Hindu religious festival – in Hathras district.

The case has sparked outrage in India and questions about a lack of security measures.

Bhole Baba – whose real name is Narayan Sakar Vishwa Hari – will fully co-operate with the investigation, his lawyer AP Singh said.

Mr Singh also denied reports that security guards at the festival triggered panic by pushing away people who tried to get Bhole Baba’s blessing.

“Totally false allegation,” Mr Singh told the BBC. “Security staff always provide help to the followers.”

Watch: Survivors recount the horror of India religious event crush

This is one of the worst crushes to happen in India for years.

Shocking images from the aftermath of the disaster have circulated online, of people driving the wounded to hospital in pick-up trucks, tuk tuks and even on motorbikes.

What happened?

The crush took place in Pulrai village, where Bhole Baba was holding a religious gathering.

An initial police report said that officials had given permission for 80,000 people to gather, but some 250,000 people turned up to the event.

The report says the chaos began as the preacher drove off. Eyewitnesses said people lost their footing and started falling on top of each other as hundreds rushed towards the preacher as he was leaving the venue.

As people ran after his vehicle, survivors said a number of those sitting and squatting on the ground got crushed.

One of the first on the scene, local resident Yogesh Yadav, told the BBC that hundreds of women ran after Bhole Baba’s car as he was leaving.

“Some crossed the highway to get a better glimpse of his car. In the melee, many women fell in the drain adjacent to the highway. People started falling on top of each other,” Mr Yadav said.

The police document added that some people tried to cross the road to a patch of mud-soaked fields, but were forcibly stopped by the organisers and were crushed.

Bhole Baba was originally named Suraj Pal, but he reportedly re-christened himself as Narayan Sakar Vishwa Hari.

One senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh told BBC Hindi that the preacher had been a police constable, but was suspended from service after a criminal case was lodged against him.

He was reinstated in the force after a court cleared him but left his job in 2002, the senior officer said.

The preacher has amassed hundreds of thousands of followers in Hathras and neighbouring districts.

Bhole Baba is known to have an ashram in Mainpuri, about 100km (62 miles) from Pulrai village.

His lawyer told the BBC his client is now at his ashram. The preacher has not been named in the initial police complaint.

An iconic wildlife park has banned koala cuddles. Will others follow?

By Tiffanie TurnbullBBC News, Sydney

For what seems like time immemorial, giving a fluffy little koala a cuddle has been an Australian rite of passage for visiting celebrities, tourists and locals alike.

And for many of them, a wildlife park in a leafy pocket of Queensland has been the place making dreams come true.

The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has entertained everyone from pop giant Taylor Swift to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But as of this month, the small zoo – a Brisbane icon which bills itself as the world’s first koala sanctuary – has decided it will no longer offer “koala hold experiences”.

Lone Pine said the move is in response to increasingly strong visitor feedback.

“We love that there is a shift among both local and international guests to experience Australian wildlife up close, but not necessarily personal, just doing what they do best – eating, sleeping and relaxing within their own space,” said General Manager Lyndon Discombe.

Animal rights groups say they hope this is a sign that the practice – which they argue is “cruel” – will be phased out nation-wide.

They quote studies which have found that such encounters stress koalas out – especially given that the creatures are solitary, mostly nocturnal animals who sleep most of the day.

To have or to hold?

Koalas are a much beloved national icon – priceless in biodiversity terms, but also a golden goose for the tourism industry, with one study from 2014 estimating they’re worth A$3.2bn ($2.14bn; £1.68bn) each year and support up to 30,000 jobs.

However the once-thriving marsupial is in dramatic decline, having been ravaged by land clearing, bushfires, drought, disease and other threats.

Estimates vary greatly, but some groups say as few as 50,000 of the animals are left in the wild and the species is officially listed as endangered along much of the east coast. There are now fears the animals will be extinct in some states within a generation.

And so protecting koalas, both in the wild and in captivity, is an emotional and complex topic in Australia.

All states have strict environmental protections for the species, and many of them have already outlawed koala “holding”.

For example, New South Wales – Australia’s most populous state – banned it in 1997. There, the rules state that a koala cannot be “placed directly on… or [be] directly held by any visitor for any purpose”.

But in Queensland – and a select few places in South Australia and Western Australia – the practice continues.

For those willing to fork out, they can snap a picture cuddling a koala, for example at Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld for A$29.95 and the internationally renowned Australia Zoo for A$124.

Steve Irwin even went on the record to argue that these experiences help conservation efforts.

“When people touch an animal, the animal touches their heart. And instantly, we’ve won them over to the conservation of that species,” the late conservationist once said.

And the Queensland government say there are clear rules around this. For starters, the koalas cannot be used for photography for more than three days in a row before they’re required to have a day off.

They can only be on duty for 30 minutes a day, and a total of 180 minutes each week. And females with joeys must not be handled by the public.

“I used to joke, as the environment minister, that our koalas have the best union around,” said Queensland Premier Steven Miles.

Right groups have welcomed Lone Pine’s decision – but some have called for such attractions to eventually be removed altogether.

“The future of wildlife tourism is seeing wild animals in the wild where they belong,” said Suzanne Milthorpe of the World Animal Protection (WAP).

Wild koalas avoid interactions with humans, but at these attractions have no choice but to be exposed to unfamiliar visitors, sights and noises, says WAP – a London-based group which campaigns to end the use of captive wild animals in entertainment venues.

“Tourists are increasingly moving away from outdated, stressful selfie encounters.”

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Australia also says that “in the ideal world, koalas would never have contact with humans”, adding that they would like to see this approach “adopted across the board”.

“As cute as they are, koalas are still wild animals in captivity and are extremely susceptible to stress,” Oceania director Rebecca Keeble told the BBC.

“Their welfare is paramount and as they are an endangered species we need to do all we can to protect them.”

But the hope that Lone Pine’s move would add momentum towards a state-wide ban appears to have been scuppered.

A government spokesperson told the BBC there is no intention of changing the law – and Lone Pine itself has also clarified that it supports the laws as is.

However WAP says it will keep piling pressure on other venues to leave the koalas on their trees.

“Ultimately, we need the Queensland Government to consign this cruel practice to the history books.”

Australian Senator resigns after Gaza vote backlash

By Hannah RitchieBBC News, Sydney

Senator Fatima Payman has resigned from Australia’s ruling Labor Party, days after voting against it to support a motion on Palestinian statehood.

Labor has strict penalties for those who undermine its policy positions, and Ms Payman was already “indefinitely suspended” from the party’s caucus after vowing to do it again.

“This is a matter I cannot compromise on,” the 29-year-old said on Thursday, adding that she was “deeply torn” over the decision.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Ms Payman had thanked him for his leadership and denied allegations she had been intimidated into quitting.

Ms Payman will now join the crossbench as an independent senator.

The 29-year-old Muslim lawmaker, whose family fled Afghanistan after it fell to the Taliban in 1996, is Australia’s first and only hijab-wearing federal politician.

“Unlike my colleagues, I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of injustice. My family did not flee a war-torn country to come here as refugees for me to remain silent when I see atrocities inflicted on innocent people,” she said during a press conference on her resignation.

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

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

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 28 over the past 24 hours, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Ms Payman said that since crossing the Senate floor to vote with the Greens party last Tuesday she had received “immense support” from some colleagues, and “pressure… to toe the party line” from others. She also reported receiving “death threats and emails that were quite confronting” from members of the public.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who handed down the indefinite suspension on Sunday, had repeatedly said Ms Payman could rejoin the caucus – where MPs discuss the government’s agenda – if she was willing to participate “as a team player”.

But in a statement earlier this week, Ms Payman said she had been “exiled” by Labor – explaining that she had been removed from meetings, group chats and all committees.

Hamas faces growing public dissent as Gaza war erodes support

By Lucy Williamson & Rushdi AboualoufBBC Middle East correspondent & Gaza correspondent

The man in the video is beside himself, a mask of anguish radiating through his bloodied face.

“I am an academic doctor,” he says, “I had a good life, but we have a filthy [Hamas] leadership. They got used to our bloodshed, may God curse them! They are scum!”

The video – unthinkable before the Gaza war – was filmed outside a hospital, inundated with hundreds of Palestinian casualties after an Israeli operation to free hostages from central Gaza last month.

Seconds before the video ends, he turns to the crowd.

“I’m one of you,” he says, “but you are a cowardly people. We could have avoided this attack!”

The video went viral. And it’s not the only one.

Open criticism of Hamas has been growing in Gaza, both on the streets and online.

Some have publicly criticised Hamas for hiding the hostages in apartments near a busy marketplace, or for firing rockets from civilian areas.

Residents have told the BBC that swearing and cursing against the Hamas leadership is now common in the markets, and that some drivers of donkey carts have even nicknamed their animals after the Hamas leader in Gaza – Yahya Sinwar – urging the donkeys forward with shouts of “Yallah, Sinwar!”

“People say things like, ‘Hamas has destroyed us’ or even call on God to take their lives,” one man said.

“They ask what the 7 October attacks were for – some say they were a gift to Israel.”

Some are even urging their leaders to agree a ceasefire with Israel.

There are still those in Gaza fiercely loyal to Hamas and after years of repressive control, it’s difficult to know how far the group is losing support, or how far existing opponents feel more able to speak their mind.

But a senior Hamas official privately acknowledged to the BBC, months ago, that they were losing support as a result of the war.

And even some on the group’s own payroll are wavering.

One senior Hamas government employee told the BBC that the Hamas attacks were “a crazy, uncalculated leap”.

He asked that we concealed his identity.

“I know from my work with the Hamas government that it prepared well for the attack militarily, but it neglected the home front,” he said.

“They did not build any safe shelters for people, they did not reserve enough food, fuel and medical supplies. If my family and I survive this war, I will leave Gaza, the first chance I get.”

There was opposition to Hamas long before the war, though much of it remained hidden for fear of reprisals.

The last time Palestinian elections were held, in 2006, in the party list vote Gazans voted for Hamas in 15 out of 24 seats in the territory – in the other nine districts, voters chose a different party.

A year later, Hamas violently ejected Palestinian Authority forces from Gaza causing a bitter rift with the rival Fatah movement, and took over the running of the whole Gaza Strip.

Ameen Abed, a political activist, said he had been arrested many times for speaking out against Hamas before the war, but said – nine months on – dissent was becoming more common there.

“In Gaza, most people criticise what Hamas has done,” he said.

“They see children living in tents, and insulting their leaders has become routine. But it has a lot of support among those outside Gaza’s border, who are sitting under air conditioners in their comfortable homes, who have not lost a child, a home, a future, a leg.”

Desperation and war are eroding social structures in Gaza, and Hamas control is not what it was.

Four-fifths of Gaza’s population is displaced, often moving between temporary shelters.

And law and order has broken down in places, partly as a result of Israel’s policy of targeting Gaza’s security forces – not just the official Hamas internal security service, but also the community police responsible for street crime.

As control has waned, criminal gangs have thrived, looting neighbourhoods and aid convoys; and private security companies – some run by powerful local families – have emerged.

One staff member from an aid organisation operating in Gaza described “absolute chaos at street level” and “a state of anarchy”, saying that civilian order had completely broken down as a result of the Israeli policy.

Israel’s prime minister has repeatedly vowed to continue the war until Hamas’s military and governing capabilities are destroyed.

But some aid agencies – in both northern and south areas of Gaza – have also reported regular checks on their activities by local Hamas officials, and videos are frequently circulated of unofficial Hamas security forces shooting and beating those caught looting.

One well-placed source told the BBC that dozens of people had been killed by Hamas in bloody score-settling with other local groups, after Israeli troops withdrew from one area.

Fear of criticising Gaza’s leaders might have lessened, but it hasn’t gone, so it is still hard to accurately gauge, beyond individual testimony, how far support for the group is shifting.

Some, like 26-year-old Jihad Talab, still strongly support Hamas.

Displaced from the Zeitoun area of Gaza City with his wife, daughter and mother, and now sheltering in Deir al Balah, he said the group was not responsible for their suffering.

“We must support [Hamas] because it’s the one working on the ground, the one who understands the battle – not you or I,” he said. “Empty accusations only serve the Occupation [Israel]. We’ll support it until our last breath.”

A regular poll carried out by a West Bank-based think tank, the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, claims that most people in Gaza still blame Israel and its allies for the war, rather than Hamas.

The latest survey in June said that almost two-thirds of Gazan respondents were satisfied with Hamas – a rise of 12 points from December – and suggested that just around half would still prefer Hamas to run Gaza after the war ends, over any other option.

Glimpses through chinks in the media blockade around Gaza can never give a full assessment of the situation. International journalists are barred by Israel and Egypt from reporting on the situation there first-hand.

What is clear is that Hamas remains very sensitive to public opinion.

Strikingly similar messages regularly appear on certain social media platforms to justify its actions, often apparently in response to criticism at home.

A source familiar with Hamas told the BBC there was an organised international network to co-ordinate social media messaging for the group.

After Israeli families released a video showing the moment female soldiers were kidnapped by Hamas units on 7 October, some in Gaza questioned whether targeting women during war was in line with Islamic teaching.

In response, several pro-Hamas social media accounts put out similar messages insisting that soldiers – male or female – were justified military targets, and saying the unit had been involved in shooting Gazan protestors during demonstrations six years ago.

Criticism of Hamas is growing sharper, and long-buried divisions over Hamas rule in Gaza are becoming clear.

Out of the destruction left by Israel’s battle with Hamas, a new war is emerging: a battle for control of public opinion within Gaza itself.

EU hits Chinese electric cars with new tariffs

By João da SilvaBusiness reporter

The European Union has raised tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, as Brussels takes action to protect the bloc’s motor industry.

The new tariffs on individual manufactures range from 17.4% to 37.6%, which is on top of a 10% duty that was already in place for all electric cars imported from China.

This could raise the price of EVs across the EU, making them less affordable for European consumers.

The move is also a major blow for Beijing, which is already in a trade war with Washington. The EU is the largest overseas market for China’s EV industry and the country is counting on high-tech products to help revive its flagging economy.

EU officials say this rise in imports was boosted by “unfair subsidisation”, which allowed China-made EVs to be sold at much lower prices than ones produced in the bloc.

China has denied this repeated allegation from the US and the EU: Beijing is subsidising excess production to flood western markets with cheap imports.

The new charges come into effect on Friday but are currently provisional while the investigation into Chinese state support for the country’s EV makers continues. They are not likely to be imposed until later this year.

So who are the potential winners and losers in this trade dispute?

It is not just Chinese brands that are affected by the move. Western firms that make cars in China have also come under scrutiny by Brussels.

By imposing tariffs, Brussels says it is attempting to correct what it sees as a distorted market. The EU’s decision may seem tame compared to a recent US move to raise its total tariffs to 100%, but it could be far more consequential. Chinese EVs are a relatively rare sight on US roads but much more common in the EU.

The number of EVs sold by Chinese brands across the EU rose from just 0.4% of the total EV market in 2019 to almost 8% last year, according to figures from the influential Brussels-based green group Transport and Environment (T&E).

Patryk Krupcala, an architect from Poland, who expects to take delivery of a brand new China-made MG4 in two weeks told the BBC: “I have chosen an MG4 because it is quite cheap. It is a really fast car and it’s a rear-wheel drive like my previous car which was BMW E46.”

T&E projects firms like BYD and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), the Chinese owner of the formerly British brand MG, could reach a market share of 20% by 2027.

But not all Chinese-made EVs will be hit equally by the new tariffs.

Winners and losers

They were calculated based on estimates of how much state aid each firm received, while companies that cooperated with the probe saw the duties they were hit with cut. Based on these criteria, the European Commission has set individual duties on three Chinese EV brands – SAIC, BYD and Geely.

SAIC has been hit with the highest new tariff of 37.6%. State-owned SAIC is the Chinese partner of Volkswagen and General Motors. It also owns MG, which produces one of the top-selling EVs in Europe, the MG4.

“The price for not cooperating is a severe blow to SAIC, which gets 15.4% of its global revenues from EV sales in Europe,” says Rhodium Group, an independent research firm.

For Mr Krupcala, who bought his MG4 before the tariffs hit, the EU’s move does not matter much: “I don’t really care about the tariffs. I have a nice car with a seven-year warranty.”

For China’s largest EV maker, BYD, it is a different story, as it faces an extra duty of 17.4% on the vehicles it ships from China to the EU.

That is the lowest increase and one that, according to research by Dutch bank ING will “give the automaker an advantage in the European market”.

Luís Filipe Costa, an insurance industry executive from Portugal, who has just bought a BYD Seal, says price was one of the deciding factors when he chose his new car.

But, he added that even if the European Commission’s new tariffs had already been in place he would still have gone with BYD because “other brands would also be affected”.

Geely, which owns Sweden’s Volvo, will see an additional tariff of 19.9%.

According to Spanish bank BBVA, the company will “still export to the EU profitably” but “its profits will be significantly reduced.”

Other firms, including European car makers operating factories in China or through joint ventures, will also have to pay more to bring electric cars into the EU.

Those deemed to have cooperated with the probe will face an extra duty of 20.8%, while those EU investigators see as non-cooperative will pay the higher tariff of 37.6%.

US-based Tesla, which is the biggest exporter of electric vehicles from China to Europe, has asked for an individually calculated rate which EU officials have said will be determined at the end of the investigation.

Still, the firm has posted a notice on some of its European websites, that prices for its Shanghai-made Model 3 could increase due to the new tariffs.

Last year, businessman Lars Koopmann, who lives in the motor industry powerhouse that is Germany, bought a China-made Tesla Model Y.

Mr Koopmann says he particularly enjoyed the car’s high-tech features, such as the large touch screen.

“Price was also a big factor that set it apart from premium German brands,” Mr Koopmann says.

“If the tariffs had been in place, they would have always affected my decision.”

Localising production

While some China-based exporters will be better off than others, it is clear from the European Commission’s plans that all of them will be facing higher costs when shipping to Europe.

The hardest hit “will be SAIC brands like MG… as well as joint ventures between foreign and Chinese firms in China, which often have narrower profit margins on the cars they export to Europe,” Rhodium says.

“The biggest beneficiaries of the duties are European-based producers with limited China exposure, such as Renault.”

In other words, the duties are likely to do as the EU hopes they would – cut the number of Chinese-made EVs coming into the region, easing pressure on local manufacturers.

There is also another result of the move – some big Chinese EV firms are planning to build production capacity in the EU, which could help shield them from the new duties.

Work on BYD’s first European factory is well under way in Hungary and production is expected to begin there by the end of next year.

Chinese car maker, Chery, has recently signed a joint-venture deal with a Spanish firm that will see the two companies making EVs and other types of cars in Barcelona.

And, SAIC is looking to secure a site for its first factory in Europe.

“It’s a well architected plan to encourage companies to shift their investments to the EU, instead of relying on exporting from China,” said Bill Russo, from Shanghai-based consulting group Automobility.

“The fact that some companies are taxed higher than others is a signal that they will make the penalty higher or lower based on the degree the company is committed to investing in the EU.”

The Chinese government placed its bet on EVs early on.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, between 2009 and 2023 more than $230bn (£181bn) of state support was pumped into the industry.

As a result its EV industry has become world leading.

The International Energy Agency says China accounted for more than 60% of the world’s new electric car sales last year.

While the vast majority of EVs produced in China are sold domestically, overseas markets, and particularly Europe, have become increasingly important.

“Exports are the profitable segment,” said Rhodium’s senior analyst, Gregor Sebastian.

“The EU tariffs will hurt China’s EV industry because these exports help recover losses from China’s domestic price war.”

Meanwhile, the world’s second largest economy is struggling to shake off an economic slowdown in the wake of the pandemic and an ongoing property crisis.

Faced with lower domestic consumption and investment levels, China is trying to “export its way out” of the slump, says Alicia Garcia-Herrero, chief economist for the Asia Pacific region at investment bank Natixis.

And Beijing is placing yet another large bet on EVs by making the industry one of its “New Three” growth drivers – a government blueprint for reviving the economy that also relies on exports of batteries and renewable energy.

However, with major markets like the US, the EU and others imposing tariffs and other barriers, it looks like China’s latest gamble could deepen trade tensions with some of its largest trading partners.

Japan declares victory in ‘war’ on floppy disks

By Kelly NgBBC News

It’s taken until 2024, but Japan has finally said goodbye to floppy disks.

Up until last month, people were still asked to submit documents to the government using the outdated storage devices, with more than 1,000 regulations requiring their use.

But these rules have now finally been scrapped, said Digital Minister Taro Kono.

In 2021, Mr Kono had “declared war” on floppy disks. On Wednesday, almost three years later, he announced: “We have won the war on floppy disks!”

Mr Kono has made it his goal to eliminate old technology since he was appointed to the job. He had earlier also said he would “get rid of the fax machine”.

Once seen as a tech powerhouse, Japan has in recent years lagged in the global wave of digital transformation because of a deep resistance to change.

For instance, workplaces have continued to favour fax machines over emails – earlier plans to remove these machines from government offices were scrapped because of pushback.

The announcement was widely-discussed on Japanese social media, with one user on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling floppy disks a “symbol of an anachronistic administration”.

“The government still uses floppy disks? That’s so outdated… I guess they’re just full of old people,” read another comment on X.

Others comments were more nostalgic. “I wonder if floppy disks will start appearing on auction sites,” one user wrote.

Created in the 1960s, the square-shaped devices fell out of fashion in the 1990s as more efficient storage solutions were invented.

A three-and-a-half inch floppy disk could accommodate up to just 1.44MB of data. More than 22,000 such disks would be needed to replicate a memory stick storing 32GB of information.

Sony, the last manufacturer of the disks, ended its production in 2011.

As part of its belated campaign to digitise its bureaucracy, Japan launched a Digital Agency in September 2021, which Mr Kono leads.

But Japan’s efforts to digitise may be easier said than done.

Many Japan businesses still require official documents to be endorsed using carved personal stamps called hanko, despite the government’s efforts to phase them out.

People are moving away from those stamps at a “glacial pace”, said local newspaper The Japan Times.

And it was not until 2019 that the country’s last pager provider closed its service, with the final private subscriber explaining that it was the preferred method of communication for his elderly mother.

Body found in search for child missing in croc attack

By Katy WatsonBBC Australia Correspondent

Australian police have found human remains while searching for a 12-year-old they believe was the victim of a crocodile attack.

The child was last seen on Tuesday, swimming with family near the remote Aboriginal town of Nganmarriyanga – about a seven-hour drive southwest of Darwin in the Northern Territory (NT).

“This is devastating news for the family, the community and everyone involved in the search,” said Senior Sgt Erica Gibson, adding that police would provide support to everyone impacted.

Earlier Sgt Gibson had told ABC News that a black crocodile had been seen in the immediate area.

As many as 40 members of the community helped police officers in their search for the child, which started shortly after the 12-year-old was reported missing.

They scoured the area by foot, by boat and with the use of helicopters, covering challenging terrain with thick vegetation and a narrow, winding waterway.

No details were given on whether the crocodile suspected to have attacked the child had been found.

Earlier on Wednesday NT Police Minister Brent Potter said wildlife officers had been authorised to “remove” the crocodile from the area once it was located and reiterated the government’s safety message.

“We live in a place where crocodiles occupy our water places… it’s just a reminder to stay out of the water as best we can.”

Found all around the northern edges of Australia – from Broome in Western Australia to Gladstone in Queensland – saltwater crocodiles were hunted to near extinction but numbers have bounced back since the practice was banned in the 1970s.

The NT is now home to an estimated 100,000 saltwater crocodiles, more than anywhere else in the world. Attacks though are uncommon.

There have been at least two other crocodile attacks in the NT in the past year – a nine-year-old boy was injured in January while swimming in Kakadu National Park, and a farmer escaped a beast’s jaws by biting it back in October – but there has not been a fatal attack there since 2018.

Queensland, however, has had a series of deadly attacks in recent years, including a 16-year-old boy who was killed in the Torres Strait in April.

India’s X alternative Koo to shut down services

By Zoya MateenBBC News, Delhi

Millions of social media users in India are stranded after homegrown microblogging platform Koo, which had branded itself as an alternative to X, announced it was shutting services.

The platform’s founders said a shortage of funding along with high costs for technology had led to the decision.

Launched in 2020, Koo offered messaging in more than 10 Indian languages.

It gained prominence in 2021 after several ministers endorsed it amid a row between the Indian government and X, which was then known as Twitter.

The spat began after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government asked the US-based platform to block a list of accounts it claimed were spreading fake news. The list included journalists, news organisations and opposition politicians.

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X complied initially but then restored the accounts, citing “insufficient justification”.

The face-off continued as the government threatened legal action against the company’s employees in India.

Amid the row, a flurry of supporters, cabinet ministers and officials from Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) migrated to Koo overnight. Many of them shared hashtags calling for X to be banned in India.

By the end of 2021, the app had touched 20 million downloads in the country.

However, the platform has struggled to get funding in the last few years.

On Wednesday, founders Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka said that Koo was “just months away” from beating X in India in 2022, but a “prolonged funder winter” had forced them to tone down their ambitions.

“We explored partnerships with multiple larger internet companies, conglomerates and media houses but these talks didn’t yield the outcome we wanted,” they wrote on LinkedIn.

“Most of them didn’t want to deal with user-generated content and the wild nature of a social media company. A couple of them changed priority almost close to signing.”

In February, Indian news websites had reported that Koo was in talks to be acquired by news aggregator Dailyhunt. But the talks did not succeed.

In April 2023, Koo fired 30% of its 260-member workforce as the company faced severe losses and a lack of funding.

The founders said they would have liked to keep the app running – but the cost of technology services for that was high and so, they “had to take this tough decision”.

How does the UK general election work?

By James FitzGeraldBBC News, London

Millions of people are expected to cast their ballots in Thursday’s UK general election that will decide who runs the country.

The poll is voters’ first chance since December 2019 to decide who should represent them as their local Member of Parliament, or MP, in Westminster.

Most will choose their preferred candidate in person at polling stations across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Others have already done the same job using postal votes.

Here are some of the key things to know.

When is the UK general election? Who decided that?

Polling stations across the UK opened at 07:00 BST (02:00 EST), closing at 22:00.

The 4 July date was set by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a televised address on 22 May that marked the start of a six-week campaign.

He had to declare a vote by 17 December, according to rules that required him to do so before the fifth anniversary of the day that the previous Parliament first sat.

Who can vote?

Anyone on the UK electoral register who is 18 or over on polling day can vote – as long as they are a UK citizen, a qualifying citizen of a country in the Commonwealth, or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland who has an address in the UK.

And UK citizens living abroad can vote in areas where they were previously on the electoral roll.

People who cannot vote in general elections include prisoners serving a sentence in jail, and members of the UK’s upper chamber, the House of Lords.

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What’s at stake?

All 650 MP seats in the lower chamber, the House of Commons, are up for grabs. Each member voted into the House solely represents a single voting area, or constituency.

Under the first-past-the-post system, the candidate who wins the most votes in any given constituency becomes the MP.

They simply need to beat all the other candidates to emerge victorious; they do not need to get the majority of all the votes cast in their area.

Losing candidates get nothing.

What is at stake for the parties? A chance to lead the country as the next government.

What happens after results are announced?

Results from across the UK will arrive overnight and into Friday morning.

After the votes have been counted, the King asks the leader of the party with the most MPs to form a government.

If no party ends up with a majority of at least 326 seats – meaning it faces being unable to pass new laws without the help of others – the result is known as a hung parliament.

At this point, the largest party might decide to form a coalition government with another party or operate as a minority government, relying on votes from other parties to pass any laws.

How is the prime minister chosen?

The leader of the party with the most MPs becomes prime minister – an action that is also confirmed by an official conversation with the King.

That person leads the UK government and takes responsibility for deciding its direction and priorities, as well as other tasks like representing the country abroad.

Meanwhile, the leader of the party with the second highest number of MPs becomes the leader of the opposition.

Sitting opposite government MPs in the House of Commons, they lead their MPs in challenging or scrutinising decisions made by the governing party.

How does the BBC report on the vote?

Like other UK broadcasters, the BBC is not allowed to report details of campaigns or election issues while polls are open on the day of the general election.

During that time, it is in fact a criminal offence to publish information about how people say they have voted in the election.

That is why coverage until the close of polls is restricted to uncontroversial factual accounts, such as the appearance of politicians at polling stations, or the weather.

However, online sites do not have to remove archived reports. And the lists of candidates and their pledges stay available online.

Why am I seeing photos of dogs at polling stations?

This has become a British election-day tradition, with social media users sharing snaps of their pet pooches under the hashtag #dogsatpollingstations.

It is not uncommon for people to take along other pets, too. A snake and a chicken have both been spotted this time round.

The rules state that animals are not usually allowed inside the stations themselves – other than assistance dogs – though they can be left outside while their owner votes.

Lucy Letby: Courtroom drama, a failed appeal, and battles over the truth

By Judith Moritz and Jonathan CoffeyBBC News

When former nurse Lucy Letby was convicted of murdering babies last year, news channels rolled on the story, and her mugshot was splashed across front pages and websites around the world.

The scale of Letby’s crimes, the extreme vulnerability of her victims, and unanswered questions about the nurse all combined to stoke interest in the case.

But this was a saga that was still unfolding. Hospital consultants who’d suspected Letby spoke of the struggles they’d had to be heard. Public outcry quickly led to the announcement of a public inquiry.

Meanwhile, police said they were reviewing the cases of 4,000 admissions of babies into neonatal units at hospitals where Letby worked or trained, and were launching an investigation to establish whether the Countess of Chester Hospital should face criminal charges.

There was blanket coverage. Then the news cycle moved on, and Lucy Letby fell out of the headlines.

But that wasn’t the only reason things went quiet. We can now explain why coverage of Letby’s story has been restricted over the last 10 months – and what we haven’t been able to report, until now.

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A month after Britain’s most notorious nurse was sentenced to spend the rest of her life in prison, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced it was seeking a fresh trial.

Letby had been convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder another six at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neo-natal unit between June 2015 and June 2016. She was acquitted of two counts of attempted murder.

But there were six further charges on which jurors couldn’t decide. Now the CPS said it was intending to run a retrial to put one of those undecided charges before a new jury. The judge quickly imposed a court order prohibiting the reporting of anything that could prejudice the upcoming trial. The result was a virtual news blackout, at least temporarily.

In the background, Letby’s defence team applied for permission to appeal against her convictions. There was no public hearing, and journalists weren’t told about Letby’s grounds for appeal – or the judge’s reasons when they decided to deny her request.

But that wasn’t an end to it – Letby could make one final appeal request, in front of three judges at the Court of Appeal in London – and this time the hearing would take place in public.

Barristers, solicitors, police officers and journalists who’d been involved in the original trial traipsed down to the Royal Courts of Justice. Letby attended remotely, via a video link from a non-descript room in HMP Bronzefield, where she is currently an inmate.

It was the first time we’d seen her since she’d refused to turn up to her sentencing hearing. Her hair had grown, but it was still difficult to read anything from her expression – she maintained the same impassivity as she had during the trial.

What unfolded in court was fascinating, but had to stay in our notebooks.

Letby’s lawyers claimed her convictions were unsafe, calling into question the science behind the prosecution case, laying into the prosecution’s expert witness, and arguing part of the judge’s directions to the jury had been wrong.

It was the first time since the end of her trial eight months earlier that anyone had heard her team set out its stall – but much of it was familiar to those of us who’d been following the case.

The same attacks on the prosecution’s experts had been made during the course of the trial, and Letby’s lawyers had also previously argued against the judge’s legal directions.

But Letby’s lead barrister, Ben Myers KC, a seasoned courtroom performer, had a couple of cards up his sleeve. The first was a saga involving a fight in a cafe, the theft of a mobile phone, and an email to the court from someone alleging they’d overheard a juror claim the jury had already made up their minds from the start of the trial.

Although the judge had spoken to the juror and allowed him to carry on serving, Letby’s barrister argued this wasn’t enough. The judge, Mr Myers argued, should have questioned the person who’d made the allegation too.

None of this had anything to do with whether or not Letby had murdered babies – but it was thrown into the mix as one of the grounds for appeal.

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There was also a new witness – neonatologist Shoo Lee, from Toronto, the co-author of a 1989 medical research paper about air embolism in neonatal babies. An air embolism occurs when one or more air bubbles enter a vein or artery, causing a block in circulation. The consequences can be fatal.

Letby was found guilty of injecting air into the bloodstreams of some of the infants, causing air embolism. Prosecution experts had based some of their evidence on Dr Lee’s paper, although he hadn’t been called to give evidence.

Now he was appearing on behalf of the defence.

During the trial, much was made of changes in skin colour observed on some of the babies, which it was suggested were symptomatic of air embolism. The prosecution cited Dr Lee’s paper in support of this, and paediatric consultant Dr Ravi Jayaram told the court a “chill went down (his) spine” in June 2016 when he read the research and believed it fitted with what he’d seen on babies in Chester.

But nobody had checked with Dr Lee. The point he now made, via webcam from 3,500 miles away, was that only one, very specific skin discolouration was diagnostic of air embolism, and none of the babies in the case had displayed this exactly.

For Letby’s defence, it was a basis for appeal. The prosecution disagreed. They argued that all of the instances of skin discoloration in the Letby case were consistent with air embolism, and some of these could be proven using Dr Lee’s own diagnostic method.

They said Dr Lee hadn’t been shown any of the eyewitness testimony from the trial, or any of the babies’ records – and so was not qualified to weigh in now.

Sitting on the uncomfortable wooden benches of court 4, one couldn’t help but wonder why this development hadn’t been aired at the trial. Letby’s lawyers were arguing the science was too weak to support as many as nine of her 14 convictions.

But on 24 May, Court of Appeal judges again rejected Letby’s request for permission to appeal against her convictions.

During Letby’s trial, online forums and communities sprang up, where users analysed the evidence as the case unfolded. There were views on everything from the science, to the barristers’ performance, and endless speculation about Letby herself.

Very few of those posting opinions were at Manchester Crown Court to watch the trial in person. The majority were following media reports, tweets, and a live blog on the Chester Standard newspaper’s website.

The online commentary was voluminous – and often in breach of legal restrictions. The trial judge directed jurors not to go online, or conduct their own extra-curricular research, and the hearings continued without anyone being prosecuted for contempt of court.

After the verdicts finally came through last August, newspaper headlines screamed “Monster” and “Angel of Death”. But the view on the internet wasn’t always as condemnatory.

Sceptics appeared, including Richard Gill, a statistician in the Netherlands, who argued the data presented at the trial was flawed and used improperly. Sarrita Adams, a California-based biotech consultant, launched a campaign aimed at critiquing the science in Letby’s case. Her website invites donations and describes itself as “the first organisation dedicated to fighting for a new trial for Lucy Letby”.

They weren’t the only ones. There are podcasts, blogs, websites and videos dedicated to the same topic. Some delve into the arguments presented by the defence about air embolism, and the expertise in the case. Others stray into different territory – statistics, or questions about other areas of science which Letby’s team have steered clear of.

It was notable how the sceptics’ arguments weren’t incorporated in the defence submissions at the Court of Appeal. We understand some of those campaigning for Letby’s freedom have made repeated attempts to contact her, her inner circle, and her lawyers.

But why the mismatch between the arguments raging online and those in the courtroom? It may be that Letby’s team has looked into the sceptics’ arguments and decided they don’t check out and wouldn’t stand up in a court of law.

But that’s not the only possibility.

Letby and her legal team didn’t have carte blanche to make any arguments they wanted in support of her request for permission to appeal.

Criminal appeals are not “a second bite of the cherry”, as lawyers sometimes put it. The only way Letby would be allowed to appeal against her conviction was if she could show the judge in her original trial had made a legal mistake, or there was new evidence that, had it been available at the time, might have led the jury to different verdicts.

That meant the range of arguments Letby’s legal team could present was limited. Cherry-picking the best of the online arguments was never an option.

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It’s also important to remember the one person in control of the defence case was Letby herself. Her lawyers advised her, but they were required to act according to her instructions. Letby has used the same local Chester solicitor since her arrest in 2018, and has been represented by the same barristers throughout both trials and the appeal. Whether she’s aware of the community campaigning in her name or not, she hasn’t signalled she’s unhappy with her lawyers’ strategy.

Those who’ve continued to maintain the nurse’s innocence are undeterred. They seem to be increasingly vocal and at the first hearing of the Thirlwall Inquiry, which will examine the way the hospital dealt with Letby, barristers representing the parents of the babies spoke of the anguish these campaigns have caused.

“The modern age has brought a proliferation of conspiracy theories which sprout, spread and fester on social media blogs and on websites,” Peter Skelton KC said. “Lucy Letby’s crimes, in particular, continue to be the subject of such conspiracies, some of which are grossly offensive and distressing for the families of her victims.”

The families’ lawyers argued, unsuccessfully, for the public inquiry to be live streamed when it gets under way in Liverpool in the autumn.

“It is well known that the case has generated considerable public interest and that conspiracy theories have grown around it,” Richard Baker KC said. “They are toxic, they are often ill-informed, and they ultimately grow in the shadows. The more light that we put on this Inquiry, the less space there is for speculation and conspiracy.”

It probably hasn’t helped that much of the reporting of the Letby case over the past year has been restricted by court orders, to protect the retrial. It has left an information vacuum – one the internet has happily filled.

On 10 June, 10 months after she was first convicted of murdering and attempting to murder babies, Letby was back in court for her retrial on one count of attempted murder.

Although there was a feeling of déjà vu – the same courtroom, the same lawyers, the same judge – there was something palpably different about the atmosphere.

During the first trial, which had lasted for nearly a year, only five or six members of the public turned up with any regularity. They sat quietly in an annexe alongside police officers and experts who couldn’t fit into the main room.

At the retrial, up to 30 people crowded around the courtroom door each morning, jostling to be allowed in. Court ushers did their best to maintain order, asking them to move aside to allow the baby’s family, police officers and journalists in, but then they were allowed to take their places in the public gallery.

Katie, Leah and Richard were in court throughout the first trial and came back for the second. They’ve asked for their names to be changed because they say they’ve felt intimidated by some of the people who’ve turned up this time around.

“People come literally from all over, we’ve had people come from the USA and Brazil,” Katie says.

“They’re not interested in listening to the arguments – they just want to be in that court,” Leah adds. “Then halfway through they’re trying to get up and leave because they realise it’s quite dry, it’s quite tedious.”

They maintain it’s important for members of the public to be allowed to observe trials. Richard, who had never been to one before, says he committed his time to following the Letby trial because of its complexity.

“To really understand the case, I think you have to be there to listen to it and absorb as much of it as you can.”

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Not everyone was there to listen carefully. A man handing out flyers about judicial corruption was asked to leave. Court ushers had to remind someone else not to record the hearing. And there was shouting and tears when competing views were aired outside in the corridor. But if the lack of decorum inside the courthouse felt new, it was as nothing compared with the invective raging online.

Reporters and even witnesses found themselves being trolled and accused of bias and dishonesty. There were two battles – the traditional courtroom duel of prosecution v defence; and the information war going on in parallel.

Where will this all end up?

“I’m not guilty of what I’ve been found guilty of,” Letby said at her retrial. But having been denied permission to appeal, she’d have to come up with startling new evidence or arguments to have a chance of overturning her convictions. That won’t stop the debate though.

There could be further criminal prosecutions – Cheshire Police is still investigating Letby’s career. And the public inquiry, which starts in September, will examine the wider fallout, interrogating hospital managers about the way they handled doctors’ concerns.

We watched Letby as closely during her retrial as we had throughout the 10 months of the first prosecution. She was readier to catch our eye – looking up at the public gallery, and glancing across to where the baby’s family was sitting. She often blinked rapidly and clutched a furry stress-toy under the desk of the witness box. When she gave evidence, she spoke in the same neutral, clipped tone as before, betraying little emotion.

These were intriguing little details, but they seemed to conceal more than they revealed. Even after two trials, questions about the nurse’s character, motive and psychology are still unanswered.

Lucy Letby remains an enigma.

BBC Action Line

‘I’m as happy as I’ve been in my life,’ says aid worker Simon Boas as he faces death

Simon Boas explains how cancer diagnosis helped him enjoy life more

In September 2023, Simon Boas was diagnosed with throat cancer. Aged just 46, he was told the disease was terminal, and that it would ultimately take his life.

Over the following year, he knitted together his reflections on life into a book – A Beginner’s Guide to Dying. The book is set to hit the shelves in October. It will be a posthumous publication.

In what he expects to be one of his final interviews, Simon spoke to Emma Barnett on the Today Programme, offering his reflections on life and death as he moved into hospice care.

My pain is under control and I’m terribly happy – it sounds weird to say, but I’m as happy as I’ve ever been in my life.

I used to think I’d rather be hit by the proverbial bus, but having a couple of months knowing this is coming has really helped me both do the boring ‘death-min’, but also get my thoughts and prepare myself, and feel so accepting of what’s to come.

It’s been such a great bonus, actually.

The book is called A Beginner’s Guide to Dying, but really what I’m trying to convey is how enjoying life to the full kind of prepares you for this.

In some ways I was lucky that my life and my career have taken me to quite a lot of places where death is more a part of life than it is for us in the West.

I spent my life as an aid worker – quite a lot with the UN – and I’ve lived in places where death is something that not just exists in the background, but is imminently possible.

I spent three years running a UN office in the Gaza Strip. I spent a lot of time in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and I’ve been working in Ukraine. Seeing people there for whom death is such a part of life – they lose children, they don’t know where the next meal is coming from – has really helped me.

I’ve also been a Samaritan for the past four years. In some cases you are on the line while people end their lives, so I think death has been more a part of my life than for many people.

It does us all good to think about it.

That’s not in a gloomy way… by kind of realising it’s inevitable and it’s a part of life, it actually throws life into perspective and helps you to enjoy it more and prioritise the important things.

My family are about to go through the most difficult thing in their lives. My lovely wife, Aurelie, and my parents… are well surrounded, and I hope that my cheerfulness in the leaving of life might perhaps help them in the next few years…

All our lives are little books – but they’re not someone else’s complete book. You’re a chapter or a page or a footnote in someone else’s life and they are going to keep writing beautiful chapters when you are gone.

And those green shoots can grow around grief and put it in perspective. I hope people will think, “I’m glad I read that – Simon’s story”. And just because it’s over, doesn’t mean it’s gone.

You don’t need to have been a politician or a mover and shaker or an aid worker or anything in life. All of us make a huge difference.

I love this quote from George Eliot’s Middlemarch:

“The effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistorical acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

All of us make a huge difference in life. I love the idea that most films about time travel revolve around changing one tiny thing in the past, and of course they come back to the present and everything is different.

If you project that forward, you can change huge amounts of things into the future.

All our tombs will be unvisited in a few years – all our actions will mostly be unremembered – but the smile you gave the checkout lady or the kind words you gave to a stranger in the street could still be rippling forward.

We all have that opportunity and it’s a huge power. And I want everyone to realise how special and precious they are.

I love melted cheese. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to eat since Christmas. The chemotherapy killed my taste buds and the radiotherapy killed my salivary glands.

So, sadly, melted cheese and all the things I loved are off the menu.

However, I’ve been given full permission by my oncologist and my hospice team to enjoy as much Muscadet and as many cheeky rollups as I want – and I shall certainly be indulging in those and spending time with my family.

I’m sort of – not looking forward to my final day – of course that’s the wrong way to see it. But I’m kind of curious about it, and I’m happy and I’m ready.

As Julian of Norwich said: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

More on this story

In Marseille, pétanque masks political divides ahead of Sunday’s vote

By Andrew Harding@BBCAndrewHParis correspondent

First came the sharp clack of metal on metal, then the scuffing of shoes on gravel, and finally a chorus of polite applause.

On a bright, blustery morning this week, thousands of people gathered in a park in the southern port city of Marseille, taking their minds off France’s seething political divisions and focusing instead on the beloved local sport of pétanque.

And this was no casual game, but rather a quarter finals match at the World Pétanque Championships – an annual televised event held on France’s Mediterranean coast, and overlapping this year with the nation’s unexpected parliamentary elections.

“The show must go on. Pétanque must go on. Smiling must go on,” said Laurence Astier, head of communications for the championships.

“France is the best nation in the world, of course, at this sport. But the other ones are Thailand and Benin. It’s an international sport,” Astier enthused.

Around her, in the dappled shade of the park’s leafy avenues, the crowds moved between matches, beer in hand, necks craned for a glimpse of the action.

“I lost yesterday,” said George Gonzalez-Gomez, 68, a retired civil servant, with a cheerful shrug.

But even here, the discordant clamour of France’s polarised politics sometimes broke through.

“Fachos,” – fascists – said a man near the entrance, waving a copy of La Marsaillaise, the proudly communist newspaper that was sponsoring the championship. He was referring to supporters of the far-right National Rally, which looks likely to win the most seats in France’s parliament.

“I support the National Rally. We need to fix the country,” countered Gonzalez-Gomez, blaming immigrants for Marseille’s high crime rate.

“It’s like the way you had Brexit. Things were calmer after that. Now there is delinquency, crime, and [Islamist] radicalisation. As for [President] Macron – he is finished,” he said, arguing that France should take back control of its borders from the European Union.

In Marseille, candidates for the National Rally (RN) – the far-right, staunchly anti-immigration party that won 33% of the vote in the first round of France’s parliamentary elections last week – have steered clear of media interviews since their electoral success. Local press are referring to them as “phantom candidates”.

But their members are actively trying to rally support for their party online.

“We’re the last bastion against chaos,” candidate Olivier Fayssat wrote on X.

“Less immigration means fewer homeless people and more money for the people of Marseilles,” Gisèle Lelouis, another RN candidate, posted on the site.

With its luxury yachts, ancient architecture, and crowded, impoverished , Marseille has always been a chaotic melting pot of a city, due to its position on the Mediterranean coast and its history as a gateway to France and beyond.

In recent years National Rally has built up a powerful support base across the south, but has always been strongly challenged by parties from the left and the centre. This election has changed that balance, with President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist candidates already losing their seats in the city in the first round.

“Macron… is not popular here at all,” said Gilles Rof, the local correspondent for Le Monde newspaper, explaining that residents have not yet felt the impact of the president’s multi-billion euro infrastructure project for Marseille, and are, more generally, in a mood to shake things up.

Rof argued that racism lay at the root of much of the anti-immigrant sentiment in parts of the city, and that RN was playing on people’s legitimate concerns about crime.

“The basis of this vote [for RN] is clearly racism. [Their supporters say] there are too many immigrants and too many Arabic people. You can hear that all the time. It’s out in the open,” he said.

Much of the crime is linked to Marseille’s powerful drug gangs, which operate – often quite openly – in some of the poorer suburbs north of the city.

In a windswept neighbourhood one afternoon this week, a small crowd gathered to offer support for their parliamentary candidate, a 20-year-old man of Algerian heritage.

“Front Populaire! Front Populaire! Amine Kessaci! Amine Kessaci!” people chanted, naming France’s new left-wing coalition and its young would-be deputy.

Mr Kessaci’s social activism – focused on tackling crime and on local empowerment – was influenced by the death of his brother in a drug-gang-related murder in 2020.

He said migrants were being scapegoated by the far right for political gain, and that poverty and unemployment needed to be addressed as a priority.

“This election… is a rendezvous with history. The extremists are at the gates of power. [If RN wins] it will be chaos, like what you had in Germany in the 1930s,” he said.

“We need to stop them waging a war against the poor, a war against foreigners. We need to tackle the drug traffickers and help the marginalised.

“The far right have no plan, they just have anger. My parents chose this country and I’m a Frenchman,” the young candidate said, before racing off to meet the deadline to submit his application to run in the second-round vote.

‘Something needs to happen’ – Democratic voters on replacing Biden

By Ana FaguyBBC News, Washington

In the days since President Joe Biden’s widely-criticised debate performance against former president Donald Trump, Democrats across the country have begun questioning whether Mr Biden is the best candidate for the party.

Most voters think Democrats have a better chance of keeping the White House if Biden isn’t the nominee, a CNN poll found this week.

The BBC spoke to Democratic voters who reflected that concern but who also worried about the logistics of switching candidates this far into the campaign.

As the party confronts this thorny question, we asked voters what they want to see Democrats do next and who they think could replace Mr Biden. Familiar names include Vice-President Kamala Harris, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, California Governor Gavin Newsom and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro.

We start with a voter who feels the Democratic party is not listening to its constituents and wants a fresh face atop the ticket in place of Mr Biden.

They give us these text messages “Are you going to support President Biden for re-election?” and I said “no”. I don’t want someone who doesn’t have the ability to continue in office for a very long time.

I’m just tired.

They push who they think is going to get elected without listening to our voices.

We want someone younger, we want someone who has new ideas, has new ways to engage the whole country. But at the same time, what do I do now?

He should step aside.

I’m hoping we get someone fresh, but I don’t know who.

Other candidates don’t get the air time, so I have to do my own research.

I want someone new. I wish he would step down. I wish he would recognize as president, you’re the president of the people. Listen to the people, listen to us.

I definitely have been watching the governor of Michigan [Whitmer]. I think we need a woman as president and that’s who I would like on a ticket.

I think there has to be a serious discussion about Biden stepping down…

In the end, it’s up to Joe Biden, but I think at very least, there should be some other candidates floated to be able to to articulate what our our game plan is going forward…

I think the more the party tries to tell the public to not believe what we saw during that debate, it’s going to take me from believing we should maybe just deal with Biden to we need a change.

A lot of Democratic voters feel gas lit.

We’re being asked to not believe what we saw, and being told that this is a one off, and we know that this is not a one-off.

There’s been a lot that’s been accomplished, but if we can’t articulate those messages, we can’t win, which means that vision ceases to continue. The president – they affect down ballot races, and those down ballot races could mean catastrophe with what’s at stake in this election.

Gretchen Whitmer would be an excellent example of someone who could replace Biden, or Pete Buttigieg, but I think at this stage, it’s difficult to say.

But I think a Whitmer-Buttigieg ticket could win.

We need people and Democratic candidates who are from Midwestern states or other states who know how to communicate a little bit better with people in their constituencies.

On the one hand, I personally wouldn’t mind him stepping down, but that does lead me to a lot of scepticism that whoever replaces him as the nominee would have the capabilities and momentum to beat Trump.

It is a tough question of who could replace Biden.

Realistically, I don’t think my policy positions totally align with VP [Kamala] Harris, but I do think that, honestly, she’d probably be the best choice for president in terms of logistics, in terms of name recognition.

If he were to step down, she’s the clear successor. She’s already part of the ticket.

That said, I think if we could go back in time and rerun the primary system and actually have a proper voting primary with a field of candidates, I’d probably be more likely to lean towards someone who has a bit more support in the midwest and rust belt states. Someone like Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer or Illinois Governor JB Pritzker.

Something needs to happen.

The Democrats need to have a moment of, “hey, this is what we did wrong”. Let’s have a conversation about if Biden is truly viable or not.

Is he the best to beat Trump now?

I don’t think anyone can confidently say he is.

Possibly Gavin Newsom is. He’s primed himself as the best alternative, knowing that this opportunity would come up.

If he runs, he’s just a name that people can get behind. He has a face that people like. He has a great family.

I just don’t know another name in the Democratic Party who, at this stage of the race, could catch up.

Gavin Newsom, who has primed himself to be in that position, or [Pennsylvania Governor] Josh Shapiro, who is an underdog that can really get there.

I’m conflicted.

Personally, yes, I think Biden should step down, but realistically and logistically, no – the primary is done.

He has won the Democratic nomination, even though participation in the primaries for an incumbent president is more of a formality. You have other candidates, like Newsom, Whitmer, Pritzker, Harris, who could technically be good candidates to replace him, but the plan should have been put in place years ago, if not a year ago, in my opinion.

Yeah, I would personally like to see Biden replaced, but I don’t see how that would logistically happen.

I would like to see Pritzker on the ticket.

It seems to me that Newsom is the heir apparent, but I would say Pritzker and maybe Harris, or Harris-Pritzker.

Pritzker has a more progressive policy that he’s enacted in Illinois that could expand as a vision for the rest of the country.

Biden’s done a good job as president, and I think his legacy as a decent one-term caretaker president is at risk by trying to hold on to power.

His legacy is absolutely in the gutter if he loses to Trump, in a landslide, which seems to be a possibility.

It’s too late. We’re too close to the election to have a switch.

If there was a single person that everyone could immediately get behind, maybe. But I don’t think that person exists right now.

I think if Kamala Harris came in, there’d be all these people complaining about her. Or if Pete Buttigieg came in, people complaining about him. So I think right now, where we are right now, I think it’s too late to switch.

If Biden were to drop out, I like Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg.

Kamala Harris has the most name recognition, so I like her quite a lot, but I know that she also turns a lot of people off. I would worry that she would cause people not to show up to vote, but I guess I would support her.

I want to see him replaced. I feel guilty or bad saying that or thinking that. If Joe Biden stays in the race, I’ll be voting for Joe Biden.

But I don’t see how he can come back from that debate performance.

There are a lot of people who folks would be genuinely excited to vote for and I think now it’s really a feeling of dread.

Gretchen Whitmer is a name that has been thrown around who I think would be great. Josh Shapiro is wonderful.

Those are two that come to mind who I think people would be excited about.

I’d be excited to vote for Josh Shapiro, I’d be excited to vote for Gretchen Whitmer, I’d be excited to vote for Gavin Newsom.

I don’t even know a ton about Gavin Newsom, but from what I do know, I think there would be a level of excitement just knowing we have somebody other than Joe Biden who is qualified and capable and dynamic and decades younger.

What we know about the India crush that killed 121

By Cherylann MollanBBC News, Mumbai • Dilnawaz PashaBBC Hindi, Hathras
Watch: Survivors recount the horror of India religious event crush

The number of people killed in a crush at a religious gathering in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has risen to 121, making it one of the deadliest such disasters in more than a decade.

The incident took place during a satsang (a Hindu religious festival) in Hathras district on Tuesday.

Police said the number of people present at the venue was three times the permitted limit and most of those who died or were injured were women.

A case has been registered against the event’s organisers.

The tragedy has sparked outrage in India, and has led to questions about lapses in safety measures.

What happened?

The crush took place in Pulrai village, where a self-styled godman called Bhole Baba was holding a religious gathering.

Officials said the event was massively overcrowded.

Authorities had given permission for 80,000 people to gather but around 250,000 people attended the event, according to the first information report (FIR) lodged by the police.

Chaos broke out at the end of the event as the preacher was about to leave in his car.

The police report said thousands of devotees ran towards his vehicle and began collecting dust from the path in an act of devotion.

As crowds swelled, several of those sitting and squatting on the ground got crushed.

The document added that some people tried running to a patch of mud-filled fields across the road, but were forcibly stopped by the organisers and were crushed.

Police have registered a case against a man who they say was the event’s main organiser and a few others on several charges, including culpable homicide.

On Tuesday, distressing images from the site were circulated online.

Some videos showed the injured being taken to hospitals in pick-up trucks, tuk tuks and even motorbikes.

Other clips showed distraught family members screaming outside a local hospital as they tried to find their loved ones among rows of bodies left at the entrance.

Bunty, who uses only one name and comes from the state’s Aligarh district, said he was devastated at the loss of his mother.

He saw her body lying outside a hospital on a news channel on Tuesday evening.

“But when I went there, I could not find my mother and have since been trying to locate her body,” he told BBC Hindi.

Others expressed anger over the incident.

Ritesh Kumar, whose 28-year-old wife was among those killed, said his life had been upended.

“My family has been destroyed. The government should see to it that we get justice,” he said.

Who is Bhole Baba?

The self-styled godman’s original name is Suraj Pal but he reportedly re-christened himself Narayan Sakar Vishwa Hari. His devotees call him Bhole Baba.

He hails from Bahadurpur village in Kasganj district, which is about 65km (40 miles) from Hathras.

Sanjay Kumar, a senior police officer in the state, told BBC Hindi that he was a constable in the police but was suspended from service after a criminal case was lodged against him.

He was reinstated in the force after a court cleared him but left his job in 2002, Mr Kumar added.

Details about his life are sketchy, but Mr Kumar says that after leaving the force, he began to call himself Bhole Baba.

He does not have much social media presence, but has hundreds of thousands of followers in Hathras and neighbouring districts.

Huge crowds attend his sermons where he is mostly seen in white clothes.

Since the tragedy, the preacher is believed to be hiding in his ashram in Mainpuri, about 100km (62 miles) from Pulrai village.

Shalabh Mathur, a senior official in Aligarh police, said a search was underway to find him and question him.

Police say he runs an organisation called the Ram Kutir Charitable Trust, which was also the main organiser of Tuesday’s event.

Satsangs are events where people gather to pray, sing devotional songs or listen to a preacher and they are often attended by a large number of women.

Gomti Devi, who was present at the event, said she had a lot of faith in the Bhole Baba.

She said she wears a locket with his photo because he “cures diseases, ends domestic troubles, and provides employment”.

How record-breaking Hurricane Beryl is a sign of a warming world

By Mark PoyntingClimate reporter

Hurricane Beryl is wreaking havoc in parts of the Caribbean – and putting the role of climate change under the spotlight.

With maximum sustained wind speeds of more than 160mph (257km/h), it became the earliest category five Atlantic hurricane in records going back around 100 years.

In fact, there has only been one previous recorded case of a category five Atlantic hurricane in July – Hurricane Emily, on 16 July 2005.

The causes of individual storms are complex, making it difficult to fully attribute specific cases to climate change.

But exceptionally high sea surface temperatures are seen as a key reason why Hurricane Beryl has been so powerful.

Usually, such strong storms only develop later in the season, after the seas have heated up through the summer.

Hurricanes generally need the sea surface to be at least 27C in order to have a chance of developing. As the map below shows, waters along Hurricane Beryl’s path have been much warmer than this.

All else being equal, warmer seas mean more powerful hurricanes, because the storms can pick up more energy, enabling higher wind speeds.

“We know that as we warm the planet, we’re warming our sea surface temperatures as well,” explains Andra Garner, an assistant professor at Rowan University in the US.

“And we know that those warm ocean waters are a critical fuel source for hurricanes.”

In the main Atlantic hurricane development region, the ocean heat content – the energy stored throughout the water column – is at levels not usually seen until September.

That is when the Atlantic hurricane season is usually at its most active, as the sea surface is typically at its warmest at the end of summer.

This is illustrated by the chart below, where a dot represents a major hurricane between 1940 and 2024. As you can see, most major hurricanes happen in late August and September, and earlier ones are very rare.

While a category five hurricane is unheard of this early in the season, its strength fits into the broader picture of how these storms are changing in a warming world.

The number of hurricanes has not been increasing, but a higher proportion of them are expected to reach the highest categories globally as temperatures rise.

“Although it is uncertain to what extent climate change contributed to the early formation of Hurricane Beryl, our climate models suggest that the mean intensity of hurricanes will increase in the future due to enhanced global warming,” explains Hiroyuki Murakami, research scientist at Noaa’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Another factor to consider this year is regional weather patterns.

In the eastern Pacific, El Niño conditions have recently come to an end.

El Niño inhibits the formation of strong hurricanes in the Atlantic, because of the way it affects winds in the atmosphere. The opposite phase, known as La Niña, favours Atlantic hurricane development.

Currently, there are “neutral” conditions – neither El Niño nor La Nina. But La Niña conditions are expected later this year.

This likely transition – as well as rising sea temperatures through July and August – has led to concerns that even more powerful hurricanes could form later in the season.

“Hurricane Beryl sets a precedent for what we fear is going to be a very, very active, very dangerous hurricane season, which will impact the entire Atlantic basin,” says Ko Barrett, Deputy Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization.

In May, the US weather agency Noaa warned an “extraordinary” Atlantic hurricane season could be in store, forecasting between four and seven major hurricanes – category three (111mph) or above – between June and November. On average, the Atlantic is hit by three major hurricanes a year.

Watch: Union Island resident explains impact of Hurricane Beryl

Rapid intensification

Meteorologists and climate scientists have also remarked about how quickly Hurricane Beryl strengthened.

It took just 42 hours to go from a tropical depression – with maximum sustained wind speeds of 38mph or less – to a major hurricane (meaning above 111mph).

“What makes Beryl particularly notable is that it […] intensified the fastest from a tropical depression to a hurricane [of any Atlantic hurricane in June or early July],” explains Shuyi Chen, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington.

Hurricane Beryl is an example of “rapid intensification” – where maximum wind speeds increase very quickly. It can be especially dangerous, because communities have less time to prepare.

The frequency and magnitude of these rapid intensification events in the Atlantic appears to have increased in recent decades.

“Unprecedented as Beryl is, it actually very much aligns with the kinds of extremes we expect in a warmer climate,” Dr Garner says.

“As we’re warming the planet, we’re essentially “stacking the deck” of extreme events against ourselves, making events like Hurricane Beryl not only possible, but more likely.”

“It’s up to us to reduce our emissions to change that story.”

More on Hurricane Beryl

Japan declares victory in ‘war’ on floppy disks

By Kelly NgBBC News

It’s taken until 2024, but Japan has finally said goodbye to floppy disks.

Up until last month, people were still asked to submit documents to the government using the outdated storage devices, with more than 1,000 regulations requiring their use.

But these rules have now finally been scrapped, said Digital Minister Taro Kono.

In 2021, Mr Kono had “declared war” on floppy disks. On Wednesday, almost three years later, he announced: “We have won the war on floppy disks!”

Mr Kono has made it his goal to eliminate old technology since he was appointed to the job. He had earlier also said he would “get rid of the fax machine”.

Once seen as a tech powerhouse, Japan has in recent years lagged in the global wave of digital transformation because of a deep resistance to change.

For instance, workplaces have continued to favour fax machines over emails – earlier plans to remove these machines from government offices were scrapped because of pushback.

The announcement was widely-discussed on Japanese social media, with one user on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling floppy disks a “symbol of an anachronistic administration”.

“The government still uses floppy disks? That’s so outdated… I guess they’re just full of old people,” read another comment on X.

Others comments were more nostalgic. “I wonder if floppy disks will start appearing on auction sites,” one user wrote.

Created in the 1960s, the square-shaped devices fell out of fashion in the 1990s as more efficient storage solutions were invented.

A three-and-a-half inch floppy disk could accommodate up to just 1.44MB of data. More than 22,000 such disks would be needed to replicate a memory stick storing 32GB of information.

Sony, the last manufacturer of the disks, ended its production in 2011.

As part of its belated campaign to digitise its bureaucracy, Japan launched a Digital Agency in September 2021, which Mr Kono leads.

But Japan’s efforts to digitise may be easier said than done.

Many Japan businesses still require official documents to be endorsed using carved personal stamps called hanko, despite the government’s efforts to phase them out.

People are moving away from those stamps at a “glacial pace”, said local newspaper The Japan Times.

And it was not until 2019 that the country’s last pager provider closed its service, with the final private subscriber explaining that it was the preferred method of communication for his elderly mother.

Jeff Bezos to sell another $5bn of Amazon shares

By João da SilvaBusiness reporter

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says he will sell another 25 million shares in the technology giant, worth nearly $5bn (£3.9bn).

It comes after the company’s stock market value hit a record high on Wednesday.

In February, he announced that he would sell Amazon shares worth around $8.5bn.

That marked the first time since 2021 that Mr Bezos had sold Amazon shares.

The company’s shares have risen by more than 30% this year on expectations that growing demand for artificial intelligence (AI) technology will boost earnings at its cloud computing business.

Last month, Amazon’s stock market valuation topped the $2tn for the first time.

However, that is still behind other major technology firms Nvidia, Apple and Microsoft, all of which have crossed the $3tn mark.

Amazon reported robust quarterly earnings at the end of the April, that showed the company’s bet on AI was paying off.

Mr Bezos stepped down as the company’s chief executive in 2021 and is currently its executive chair and remains its largest shareholder.

He founded Amazon in 1994 in a garage in Bellevue, Washington, when the internet was still in its infancy.

The company started out as an online bookseller, touting the world’s largest collection of ebooks.

Since then Amazon has become one of the world’s leading online retail and cloud computing companies.

He also founded the rocket company Blue Origin, which in May sent six customers to the edge of space.

Mr Bezos is the world’s second richest person, according to the Forbes Billionaires list, with an estimated net worth of around $214bn.

Ellen DeGeneres cancels four comedy stand-up dates

By Helen BushbyCulture reporter

US broadcaster and comic Ellen DeGeneres has cancelled four dates on her stand-up comedy tour.

“Unfortunately, the event organiser has had to cancel your event,” said a note on Ticketmaster’s website, listing shows in Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago as the ones affected.

It is unclear why the dates have been dropped as other dates in those cities are still going ahead. The tour is currently scheduled to run until 17 August.

It marks her return to the spotlight two years after the cancellation of the Ellen DeGeneres talk show, after employees accused executive producers over “toxic workplace” claims.

Three producers were fired amid allegations of misconduct and sexual harassment and DeGeneres apologised on air, but in May 2021 she announced the show would end the following year, after 19 seasons.

‘I got kicked out of showbusiness’

In April, she opened the first night of Ellen’s Last Stand… Up Tour by saying: “I didn’t care what other people thought of me, and I realised… I said that at the height of my popularity”.

DeGeneres told the Los Angeles crowd she had been doing lots of gardening since the show ended and collecting chickens as pets – adding that as a former talk show host she appreciated the pressure of having to lay an egg each day.

“What else can I tell you?” she added.

“Oh yeah, I got kicked out of show business. There’s no mean people in show business.”

The stand-up show will be released on Netflix, which broadcast her previous stand-up gig, Relatable, in 2018.

DeGeneres’ TV career began with her popular sitcom Ellen in 1994, in which she played the owner of a book shop.

In her opening gig, she referenced her talk show being cancelled after she came out as gay.

“For those of you keeping score, this is the second time I’ve been kicked out of show business… Eventually they’re going to kick me out for a third time because I’m mean, old, and gay,” she said.

She also said that having been in the public for so long, the takedown she experienced has “been such a toll on my ego and my-self esteem”.

“There’s such extremes in this business, people either love you and idolise you or they hate you, and those people somehow are louder,” she added.

Her talk show began in 2003 and grew in popularity; in 2016 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

The BBC has contacted DeGeneres’ representatives for comment.

Australian state orders sperm bank purge over mix-ups

By Hannah RitchieBBC News, Sydney

A purge of frozen sperm has been ordered in the Australian state of Queensland, after an audit by its health watchdog found almost half of fertility samples were at risk of misidentification.

Such mix-ups can rob parents and donor children of key genetic information and medical records, and advocates say creates a danger of accidental incest.

Queensland is home to one of the country’s largest IVF industries, however it is self-regulated and has come under scrutiny as some of its biggest providers face claims of malpractice.

The clean out compounds a national shortage of donated sperm which has been driven by high demand, tightening regulations, and pandemic-related disruptions.

One in six Australian couples face difficulty trying to start a family, government data shows, with many increasingly relying on donors to conceive.

An inquiry into the multi-million-dollar sector in Queensland by the state’s health ombudsman this week found “systemic issues” concerning “quality and safety” and “safeguards for consumers, donors and donor-conceived children”.

The report detailed how 42% of sperm donations, egg samples and embryos in Queensland had “ identification and traceability” issues – meaning clinics had lost track of or incorrectly labelled samples, or allowed them to deteriorate below laboratory standards.

It also aired allegations from patients who accused IVF providers of failing to disclose the medical conditions of donors, misidentifying eggs and embryos, and mixing up sperm – which one family said had resulted in them parenting children from different biological fathers.

The body recommended that all fertility providers destroy stored donor material that does not meet current identification standards.

“The impact on consumers and the donor-conceived children… cannot be underestimated,” the report concluded, adding that “appropriate counselling should be offered” by fertility providers.

It is unclear how many sperm samples could be destroyed, but the ombudsman deemed “thousands” frozen before 2020 as “high risk” because they “did not comply with double witnessing” – a practice in which two IVF professionals check a patient’s material has been labelled correctly.

Anastasia Gunn – a mother suing one of Queensland’s fertility providers for allegedly providing her with the wrong sperm in 2014 – told the Guardian Australia she was “horrified [but] not surprised” by the ombudsman’s findings.

“It is scary to think how many patients may have unknowingly conceived with the wrong sperm.

“Why were the clinics not double-checking when they were making humans? The effects of these errors last for generations,” she added.

Major safety incident linked to Kevin Campbell death

By Rumeana Jahangir and PA MediaBBC News

Serious concerns over the hospital care of former Arsenal and Everton footballer Kevin Campbell have been flagged up by a health trust, an inquest has heard.

Mr Campbell, 54, died at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) on 15 June after being admitted a month earlier.

Coroner Zak Golombek said Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which manages the hospital, had declared a Level 5 patient safety incident – the most serious category – about aspects of his care.

He said the provisional cause of death given for Mr Campbell was multi-organ failure due to a heart infection.

No family members were present at Manchester Coroner’s Court as Mr Golombek outlined background details during Thursday’s inquest opening.

He said that Mr Campbell had been admitted to MRI on 15 May.

“He had been reported to have been fit and well until around January 2024, when he had a number of admissions to hospital before this final admission,” the coroner said.

Mr Golombek said the health trust declared a Level 5 incident related to a delay in aspects of Mr Campbell’s care and diagnosis, and concerns over decision-making processes about palliative care.

Mr Golombek said the trust was conducting internal investigations and there would be extra evidence including the investigation report, witness statements from clinicians and a statement from Mr Campbell’s next of kin.

He said: “I have also received notification from the trust that a medical cause of death can be offered and, therefore, I will consider evidence from the clinicians involved in Mr Campbell’s care as to the cause of his death.

“The provisional cause of death, as it stands, refers to Mr Campbell dying from multi-organ failure as a result of infective endocarditis.”

Infective endocarditis is a rare infection of the inner lining or valves of the heart.

It can be very serious and sometimes fatal.

It is most commonly caused by bacteria entering the bloodstream from elsewhere in the body and sticking to heart valves.

Mr Golombek said final determinations on the medical cause of death and the care received by Mr Campbell “will be made as part of the inquest process”.

Proceedings have been adjourned for a hearing at a later date.

‘Life and soul of every party’

Mr Campbell’s 24-year-old son Tyrese, who plays for Stoke City, tweeted at the time of his father’s death that “the pain of this is indescribable and as a son you look at your dad as invincible”.

“He was the life and soul of every party and room he blessed, a one-in-a-million person that was loved by everyone.”

Kevin Campbell scored 148 goals in 542 appearances in a career involving eight clubs.

He won four major trophies with Arsenal and also played for Everton, Leyton Orient, Leicester, Nottingham Forest, Trabzonspor, Cardiff and West Bromwich Albion.

More on this story

Chess star, 9, to become youngest England player

By Will VernonBBC News

A nine-year-old chess prodigy is set to make history as the youngest person ever to represent England internationally in any sport.

Bodhana Sivanandan, from Harrow, north-west London, will join the England Women’s Team at the Chess Olympiad in Hungary later this year.

She is almost 15 years younger than the next-youngest teammate, 23-year-old Lan Yao.

“I found out yesterday after I came back from school, when my dad told me,” Bodhana told the BBC. “I was happy. I hope I’ll do well, and I’ll get another title.”

Malcolm Pein, manager of the England chess team, says the schoolgirl is the most remarkable prodigy British Chess has ever seen.

“It’s exciting – she’s on course to be one of the best British players ever,” he said.

However the nine-year-old’s father, Siva, says he is mystified as to where his daughter got her talent from.

“I’m an engineering graduate, as is my wife, but I’m not good at chess,” he told the BBC. “I tried a couple of league games, but I was very poor.”

Bodhana first picked up a pawn during the pandemic.

“When one of my dad’s friends was going back to India, he gave us a few bags [of possessions],” Bodhana said. “There was a chess board, and I was interested in the pieces so I started playing.”

She says chess makes her feel “good” and helps her with “lots of other things like maths, how to calculate”.

Two years ago, Bodhana won all three chess world championships for the under eight age group – in the classical game, where a match lasts several hours, the rapid game, which lasts up to an hour, and the blitz game, which can be as short as three minutes.

As for preparation for Hungary, Bodhana is taking it very seriously.

“On school days I practice for around one hour every day,” she said. “On the weekends, I usually play tournaments, but when I don’t I practice for more than an hour.”

While some of her teammates are old enough to be her grandparents, Bodhana is not the only upcoming young talent.

The game is seeing a surge of interest among young people, according to Mr Pein, which he attributes to two factors – the legacy of the lockdowns and the impact of smash-hit Netflix drama The Queen’s Gambit, which is about a gifted female chess player.

Mr Pein says he feels “very confident” that his prodigy will achieve her ultimate goal and become a grandmaster, the highest title in international chess.

Abhimanyu Mishra, from the US, holds the record for the youngest person to reach grandmaster in 2021, when he was just 12.

But Bodhana says she intends to clinch the title at the tender age of 10. One year, she is keen to point out, before she finishes primary school.

Scotland’s skies aglow with rare clouds

Noctilucent clouds have been spotted from Scotland over the past few weeks.

The Met Office says the clouds are extremely rare and form in summer high up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Latin name means “night shining” and the clouds usually appear bluish or silvery in colour.

They have been seen from the Western Isles, north-east Scotland and the Scottish Borders.

Related internet links

Biden says he ‘screwed up’ debate but vows to stay in election

By Gareth Evans, Courtney Subramanian and Kayla EpsteinBBC News, Washington & New York
Joe Biden admits poor performance in debate

US President Joe Biden has admitted he “screwed up” in last week’s debate against Donald Trump, but has vowed to fight on in the election race and moved to reassure key allies.

He told a Wisconsin radio station he made a “mistake” with his stumbling performance, but urged voters to instead judge him on his time in the White House.

On Wednesday, as reports suggested he was weighing his future, he worked to calm senior Democrats including state governors and campaign staff.

“I’m the nominee of the Democratic Party. No one’s pushing me out. I’m not leaving,” he said in a call to the broader campaign, a source told BBC News.

Mr Biden was joined on the call by Vice-President Kamala Harris, who reiterated her support.

Speculation has mounted over whether she could replace the president as the party’s candidate ahead of the November election.

A fundraising email sent after the call by the Biden-Harris campaign was also bullish. “Let me say this as clearly and simply as I can: I’m running,” Mr Biden said.

  • Can Biden be replaced as nominee? It’s not easy
  • The names in the frame if Biden quits

Questions have been swirling around whether the 81-year-old will continue with his campaign following a debate marked by verbal blanks and a weak voice.

It sparked concern in Democratic circles around his fitness for office and his ability to win the election.

Pressure on Mr Biden to drop out has only grown as more polls suggest his Republican rival’s lead has widened.

A New York Times poll conducted after the debate, which was published on Wednesday, suggested Trump was now holding his biggest lead yet at six points.

And a separate poll published by the BBC’s US partner CBS News suggested Trump has a three-point lead over Mr Biden in the crucial battleground states.

Name-calling and insults – key moments from Biden and Trump’s debate

The damaging polling for Mr Biden has been compounded by some Democratic donors and lawmakers publicly calling on the president to stand aside.

Among them are Ramesh Kapur, an Indian-American industrialist based in Massachusetts, who has organised fundraisers for Democrats since 1988.

“I think it’s time for him to pass the torch,” Mr Kapur told the BBC. “I know he has the drive, but you can’t fight Mother Nature.”

And two Democrats in Congress also called for a change at the top of the party’s ticket. The second, Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona, told the New York Times it was time for Democrats to “look elsewhere”.

Despite this, the White House and the Biden campaign have vehemently denied reports he is actively weighing his future and say he is committed to defeating Trump for a second time on 5 November.

The New York Times and CNN reported on Wednesday that Mr Biden had told an unnamed ally he was aware his re-election bid was in danger.

His forthcoming appearances – including an ABC News interview and a Friday rally in Wisconsin – were hugely important to his campaign, he reportedly said.

More on the election

  • Where Biden and Trump stand on key issues
  • What’s in Trump’s second term wish list, Project 2025
  • What Moscow, Delhi and Beijing make of rematch
  • Who will be Trump’s vice-president?

A spokesperson rejected the reports as “absolutely false”, shortly before White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said reports that he may drop out were untrue.

Among the senior Democrats Mr Biden met on Wednesday was a group of 20 state governors from around the country, including California’s Gavin Newsom and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer. Both have been tipped as potential replacements if Mr Biden were to stand aside.

“The president has always had our backs, we’re going to have his back as well,” Maryland Governor Wes Moore told reporters after the meeting.

But Ms Harris is still considered the most likely replacement. The 59-year-old has been hampered by poor approval ratings, but her support has increased among Democrats since the Biden-Trump debate.

Amid the speculation, comments made by Trump indicated he could be switching his attention to attacking Ms Harris.

In footage obtained by the Daily Beast – and shared online by Trump himself – he can be seen in a golf cart pouring scorn on Mr Biden, whom he describes as “broken down”. He suggests that Ms Harris would be “better”, though still “pathetic”.

The vice-president gave an immediate interview on CNN after the debate, projecting calm as she expressed full support for the president.

“She has always been mindful to be a good partner to the president,” her former communications director Jamal Simmons told BBC News.

“The people who ultimately will make the decision about who the nominee should be mostly are people who are pledged to him. Her best role is to be a partner to him.”

A source close to Ms Harris said nothing had changed and she would continue to campaign for the president.

Members of the Democratic National Committee are charged with voting to officially make President Biden the party’s nominee at the August convention, putting him on the ballot nationwide.

One member, who has spoken to other delegates and requested anonymity to speak frankly about sensitive discussions, told the BBC that the nomination should go to Vice-President Harris if Mr Biden opted not to run.

“If we open up the convention, it will cause pure chaos that will hurt us in November,” they said.

A report by the Washington Post, meanwhile, said Mr Biden and his team recognised that he must demonstrate his fitness for office in the coming days.

He has planned trips to Wisconsin and Philadelphia later in the week, and is due to appear on ABC News on Friday for his first televised interview since the debate.

His full interview with Wisconsin’s Civic Media is also due to be published on Thursday.

While acknowledging that he had “screwed up” with his performance, he told the station: “That’s 90 minutes on stage. Look at what I’ve done in 3.5 years.”

Hamas faces growing public dissent as Gaza war erodes support

By Lucy Williamson & Rushdi AboualoufBBC Middle East correspondent & Gaza correspondent

The man in the video is beside himself, a mask of anguish radiating through his bloodied face.

“I am an academic doctor,” he says, “I had a good life, but we have a filthy [Hamas] leadership. They got used to our bloodshed, may God curse them! They are scum!”

The video – unthinkable before the Gaza war – was filmed outside a hospital, inundated with hundreds of Palestinian casualties after an Israeli operation to free hostages from central Gaza last month.

Seconds before the video ends, he turns to the crowd.

“I’m one of you,” he says, “but you are a cowardly people. We could have avoided this attack!”

The video went viral. And it’s not the only one.

Open criticism of Hamas has been growing in Gaza, both on the streets and online.

Some have publicly criticised Hamas for hiding the hostages in apartments near a busy marketplace, or for firing rockets from civilian areas.

Residents have told the BBC that swearing and cursing against the Hamas leadership is now common in the markets, and that some drivers of donkey carts have even nicknamed their animals after the Hamas leader in Gaza – Yahya Sinwar – urging the donkeys forward with shouts of “Yallah, Sinwar!”

“People say things like, ‘Hamas has destroyed us’ or even call on God to take their lives,” one man said.

“They ask what the 7 October attacks were for – some say they were a gift to Israel.”

Some are even urging their leaders to agree a ceasefire with Israel.

There are still those in Gaza fiercely loyal to Hamas and after years of repressive control, it’s difficult to know how far the group is losing support, or how far existing opponents feel more able to speak their mind.

But a senior Hamas official privately acknowledged to the BBC, months ago, that they were losing support as a result of the war.

And even some on the group’s own payroll are wavering.

One senior Hamas government employee told the BBC that the Hamas attacks were “a crazy, uncalculated leap”.

He asked that we concealed his identity.

“I know from my work with the Hamas government that it prepared well for the attack militarily, but it neglected the home front,” he said.

“They did not build any safe shelters for people, they did not reserve enough food, fuel and medical supplies. If my family and I survive this war, I will leave Gaza, the first chance I get.”

There was opposition to Hamas long before the war, though much of it remained hidden for fear of reprisals.

The last time Palestinian elections were held, in 2006, in the party list vote Gazans voted for Hamas in 15 out of 24 seats in the territory – in the other nine districts, voters chose a different party.

A year later, Hamas violently ejected Palestinian Authority forces from Gaza causing a bitter rift with the rival Fatah movement, and took over the running of the whole Gaza Strip.

Ameen Abed, a political activist, said he had been arrested many times for speaking out against Hamas before the war, but said – nine months on – dissent was becoming more common there.

“In Gaza, most people criticise what Hamas has done,” he said.

“They see children living in tents, and insulting their leaders has become routine. But it has a lot of support among those outside Gaza’s border, who are sitting under air conditioners in their comfortable homes, who have not lost a child, a home, a future, a leg.”

Desperation and war are eroding social structures in Gaza, and Hamas control is not what it was.

Four-fifths of Gaza’s population is displaced, often moving between temporary shelters.

And law and order has broken down in places, partly as a result of Israel’s policy of targeting Gaza’s security forces – not just the official Hamas internal security service, but also the community police responsible for street crime.

As control has waned, criminal gangs have thrived, looting neighbourhoods and aid convoys; and private security companies – some run by powerful local families – have emerged.

One staff member from an aid organisation operating in Gaza described “absolute chaos at street level” and “a state of anarchy”, saying that civilian order had completely broken down as a result of the Israeli policy.

Israel’s prime minister has repeatedly vowed to continue the war until Hamas’s military and governing capabilities are destroyed.

But some aid agencies – in both northern and south areas of Gaza – have also reported regular checks on their activities by local Hamas officials, and videos are frequently circulated of unofficial Hamas security forces shooting and beating those caught looting.

One well-placed source told the BBC that dozens of people had been killed by Hamas in bloody score-settling with other local groups, after Israeli troops withdrew from one area.

Fear of criticising Gaza’s leaders might have lessened, but it hasn’t gone, so it is still hard to accurately gauge, beyond individual testimony, how far support for the group is shifting.

Some, like 26-year-old Jihad Talab, still strongly support Hamas.

Displaced from the Zeitoun area of Gaza City with his wife, daughter and mother, and now sheltering in Deir al Balah, he said the group was not responsible for their suffering.

“We must support [Hamas] because it’s the one working on the ground, the one who understands the battle – not you or I,” he said. “Empty accusations only serve the Occupation [Israel]. We’ll support it until our last breath.”

A regular poll carried out by a West Bank-based think tank, the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, claims that most people in Gaza still blame Israel and its allies for the war, rather than Hamas.

The latest survey in June said that almost two-thirds of Gazan respondents were satisfied with Hamas – a rise of 12 points from December – and suggested that just around half would still prefer Hamas to run Gaza after the war ends, over any other option.

Glimpses through chinks in the media blockade around Gaza can never give a full assessment of the situation. International journalists are barred by Israel and Egypt from reporting on the situation there first-hand.

What is clear is that Hamas remains very sensitive to public opinion.

Strikingly similar messages regularly appear on certain social media platforms to justify its actions, often apparently in response to criticism at home.

A source familiar with Hamas told the BBC there was an organised international network to co-ordinate social media messaging for the group.

After Israeli families released a video showing the moment female soldiers were kidnapped by Hamas units on 7 October, some in Gaza questioned whether targeting women during war was in line with Islamic teaching.

In response, several pro-Hamas social media accounts put out similar messages insisting that soldiers – male or female – were justified military targets, and saying the unit had been involved in shooting Gazan protestors during demonstrations six years ago.

Criticism of Hamas is growing sharper, and long-buried divisions over Hamas rule in Gaza are becoming clear.

Out of the destruction left by Israel’s battle with Hamas, a new war is emerging: a battle for control of public opinion within Gaza itself.

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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Ukraine calls them meat assaults: Russia’s brutal plan to take ground

By Gordon CoreraSecurity correspondent, Kyiv

On the frontlines, Ukrainian soldiers use a graphic term to describe the Russian tactics they face daily.

They call them “meat assaults”: waves of Russian soldiers coming at their defensive positions, sometimes nearly a dozen times in a day.

Lt Col Anton Bayev of the Khartia Brigade of Ukraine’s National Guard says wave after wave can arrive in just a few hours at front-line positions north of Kharkiv.

“The Russians use these units in most cases purely to see where our firing equipment is located, and to constantly exhaust our units,” he said.

“Our guys stand in positions and fight, and when four or five waves of the enemy come at you in a day, which you have to destroy without end, it is very difficult – not only physically, but also psychologically.”

This tactic has led to staggering Russian casualties since Moscow launched its latest offensive two months ago. Around 1,200 Russian soldiers were being killed or wounded every day in May and June, the highest rate since the beginning of the war, according to Western officials.

Those attacking are normally quickly spotted by drones above and the Russians leave their dead and wounded on the battlefield, Lt Col Bayev says. “Their main task is simply meat assaults and our total exhaustion.”

The tactic is a sign that Russia is seeking to make the most of its key advantage – numbers.

In Pokrovsk in the Donetsk region, Captain Ivan Sekach from Ukraine’s 110th Brigade compares what he sees to a conveyor belt bringing Russians to be killed, although still allowing them to push forward slowly.

Russia benefits from a significantly larger population than Ukraine. Some of those in the assaults are former prisoners, but Russia is also able to recruit through making one-off payments, sometimes thousands of dollars.

And there have been complaints from the Russian side about “crippled regiments”, in which wounded soldiers are forced back into fighting. One video shows dozens of men, some on crutches, appealing to their commanders because they say they are wounded and require hospital treatment, but instead are being sent back into combat.

All of this, Western officials say, means Moscow can keep throwing soldiers, even if poorly trained, straight on to the front lines at the same rate they are being killed or wounded.

Ukraine could not match the Russian tactics even if it had the numbers, partly due to a different attitude towards casualties. A senior general was removed in recent weeks after complaints he was using what are often called Soviet tactics – throwing people at the front lines.

“There are a lot of criticisms because we have lost a lot of our guys because of Soviet-type mindset and strategy,” says Ivan Stupak, a former Security Service officer. “We are limited with manpower. We have no other options than thinking of our people.”

In the area around Kharkiv, Russian advances have been stopped. But in the east, Russia’s attritional approach is making slow but steady advances.

“Unfortunately there are a lot of Russians. And they are trying to conduct this rolling operation centimetre by centimetre, inch by inch, 100m per day, 200m per day. And unfortunately, it’s successful for them,” says Stupak.

There is frustration in Kyiv about the pace of Western support. One senior official complains they are receiving enough help to ensure they do not lose but not enough to make sure they win.

Western officials acknowledge 2024 has been a tough year for Ukraine, with delays in the arrival of US military aid creating a major strain on defences which has cost territory and lives.

“It seems like a so-called incremental approach,” Oleksandr Merezhko, chair of Ukraine’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told the BBC.

“We receive little by little, and I get the impression that our Western allies give a little bit of weaponry, and they see what happens next, as if they’re afraid of what they refer to as escalation.”

The lifting of restrictions on using US weapons over the border into Russia has made a difference and helped stall Moscow’s assault on Kharkiv.

“If we have to fight with our hands tied behind our back, you know we’ll be only bleeding to death,” says Mr Merezhko. “That’s why it’s crucially important to be allowed to use long range missiles in the territory of Russia, and we already have results.”

But a Ukrainian official said the use of longer range strikes into Russia had only been a palliative and was not fundamentally altering the dynamic of the war.

“We are driving towards stalemate,” former security service officer Ivan Stupak says, acknowledging that this may lead eventually to the “bitter pill” of some form of negotiation.

During a visit to Kyiv this week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban suggested a ceasefire first to hasten negotiations, a position that officials in Kyiv are wary of.

“We [are] not ready to go to the compromise for the very important things and values,” Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukraine’s President Zelensky, told reporters in Washington.

Ukrainians fear without hard security guarantees – such as Nato membership, rather than vague talk of a bridge to such status – Russia may simply regroup and attack again in the future.

Vladimir Putin is counting on wearing down Ukraine on the battlefield and outlasting the West’s resolve to provide support. As well as launching guided aerial bombs against frontline positions and civilians in Kharkiv, Moscow has also targeted energy infrastructure across the country, leading to increasingly frequent power blackouts and concerns over what winter might bring.

November’s US election adds another layer of uncertainty, along with a question mark as to whether the European Union could realistically pick up any slack.

For Lt Col Anton Bayev on the frontline near Kharkiv, the ability to strike into Russia may have been vital, but he now sees his enemy adapting its tactics – and not just with “meat assaults”.

His losses now come from mortars and glide bombs, while his Ukrainian forces remain short of ammunition.

“We need everything, and there is always a lack,” he says.

“The boys are holding on. We’re all hanging on. It’s hard, but everyone knows the price and why it’s all being done.”

Major safety incident linked to Kevin Campbell death

By Rumeana Jahangir and PA MediaBBC News

Serious concerns over the hospital care of former Arsenal and Everton footballer Kevin Campbell have been flagged up by a health trust, an inquest has heard.

Mr Campbell, 54, died at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) on 15 June after being admitted a month earlier.

Coroner Zak Golombek said Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which manages the hospital, had declared a Level 5 patient safety incident – the most serious category – about aspects of his care.

He said the provisional cause of death given for Mr Campbell was multi-organ failure due to a heart infection.

No family members were present at Manchester Coroner’s Court as Mr Golombek outlined background details during Thursday’s inquest opening.

He said that Mr Campbell had been admitted to MRI on 15 May.

“He had been reported to have been fit and well until around January 2024, when he had a number of admissions to hospital before this final admission,” the coroner said.

Mr Golombek said the health trust declared a Level 5 incident related to a delay in aspects of Mr Campbell’s care and diagnosis, and concerns over decision-making processes about palliative care.

Mr Golombek said the trust was conducting internal investigations and there would be extra evidence including the investigation report, witness statements from clinicians and a statement from Mr Campbell’s next of kin.

He said: “I have also received notification from the trust that a medical cause of death can be offered and, therefore, I will consider evidence from the clinicians involved in Mr Campbell’s care as to the cause of his death.

“The provisional cause of death, as it stands, refers to Mr Campbell dying from multi-organ failure as a result of infective endocarditis.”

Infective endocarditis is a rare infection of the inner lining or valves of the heart.

It can be very serious and sometimes fatal.

It is most commonly caused by bacteria entering the bloodstream from elsewhere in the body and sticking to heart valves.

Mr Golombek said final determinations on the medical cause of death and the care received by Mr Campbell “will be made as part of the inquest process”.

Proceedings have been adjourned for a hearing at a later date.

‘Life and soul of every party’

Mr Campbell’s 24-year-old son Tyrese, who plays for Stoke City, tweeted at the time of his father’s death that “the pain of this is indescribable and as a son you look at your dad as invincible”.

“He was the life and soul of every party and room he blessed, a one-in-a-million person that was loved by everyone.”

Kevin Campbell scored 148 goals in 542 appearances in a career involving eight clubs.

He won four major trophies with Arsenal and also played for Everton, Leyton Orient, Leicester, Nottingham Forest, Trabzonspor, Cardiff and West Bromwich Albion.

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India preacher denies blame for crush deaths

By Anbarasan EthirajanBBC News, Hathras • Toby LuckhurstBBC News, London

The preacher who led an overcrowded gathering in India where more than 120 people were crushed to death on Tuesday has denied blame, and pledged to co-operate with the police investigation.

A lawyer for the self-styled guru known as Bhole Baba told the BBC the crush occurred “due to some anti-social elements”, and blamed a “criminal conspiracy hatched against” his client.

On Thursday, police said they had arrested six people who were part of a committee that organised the event.

Nearly all those killed were women and children, who were attending the satsang – a Hindu religious festival – in Hathras district.

The case has sparked outrage in India and questions about a lack of security measures.

Bhole Baba – whose real name is Narayan Sakar Vishwa Hari – will fully co-operate with the investigation, his lawyer AP Singh said.

Mr Singh also denied reports that security guards at the festival triggered panic by pushing away people who tried to get Bhole Baba’s blessing.

“Totally false allegation,” Mr Singh told the BBC. “Security staff always provide help to the followers.”

Watch: Survivors recount the horror of India religious event crush

This is one of the worst crushes to happen in India for years.

Shocking images from the aftermath of the disaster have circulated online, of people driving the wounded to hospital in pick-up trucks, tuk tuks and even on motorbikes.

What happened?

The crush took place in Pulrai village, where Bhole Baba was holding a religious gathering.

An initial police report said that officials had given permission for 80,000 people to gather, but some 250,000 people turned up to the event.

The report says the chaos began as the preacher drove off. Eyewitnesses said people lost their footing and started falling on top of each other as hundreds rushed towards the preacher as he was leaving the venue.

As people ran after his vehicle, survivors said a number of those sitting and squatting on the ground got crushed.

One of the first on the scene, local resident Yogesh Yadav, told the BBC that hundreds of women ran after Bhole Baba’s car as he was leaving.

“Some crossed the highway to get a better glimpse of his car. In the melee, many women fell in the drain adjacent to the highway. People started falling on top of each other,” Mr Yadav said.

The police document added that some people tried to cross the road to a patch of mud-soaked fields, but were forcibly stopped by the organisers and were crushed.

Bhole Baba was originally named Suraj Pal, but he reportedly re-christened himself as Narayan Sakar Vishwa Hari.

One senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh told BBC Hindi that the preacher had been a police constable, but was suspended from service after a criminal case was lodged against him.

He was reinstated in the force after a court cleared him but left his job in 2002, the senior officer said.

The preacher has amassed hundreds of thousands of followers in Hathras and neighbouring districts.

Bhole Baba is known to have an ashram in Mainpuri, about 100km (62 miles) from Pulrai village.

His lawyer told the BBC his client is now at his ashram. The preacher has not been named in the initial police complaint.

Japan declares victory in ‘war’ on floppy disks

By Kelly NgBBC News

It’s taken until 2024, but Japan has finally said goodbye to floppy disks.

Up until last month, people were still asked to submit documents to the government using the outdated storage devices, with more than 1,000 regulations requiring their use.

But these rules have now finally been scrapped, said Digital Minister Taro Kono.

In 2021, Mr Kono had “declared war” on floppy disks. On Wednesday, almost three years later, he announced: “We have won the war on floppy disks!”

Mr Kono has made it his goal to eliminate old technology since he was appointed to the job. He had earlier also said he would “get rid of the fax machine”.

Once seen as a tech powerhouse, Japan has in recent years lagged in the global wave of digital transformation because of a deep resistance to change.

For instance, workplaces have continued to favour fax machines over emails – earlier plans to remove these machines from government offices were scrapped because of pushback.

The announcement was widely-discussed on Japanese social media, with one user on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling floppy disks a “symbol of an anachronistic administration”.

“The government still uses floppy disks? That’s so outdated… I guess they’re just full of old people,” read another comment on X.

Others comments were more nostalgic. “I wonder if floppy disks will start appearing on auction sites,” one user wrote.

Created in the 1960s, the square-shaped devices fell out of fashion in the 1990s as more efficient storage solutions were invented.

A three-and-a-half inch floppy disk could accommodate up to just 1.44MB of data. More than 22,000 such disks would be needed to replicate a memory stick storing 32GB of information.

Sony, the last manufacturer of the disks, ended its production in 2011.

As part of its belated campaign to digitise its bureaucracy, Japan launched a Digital Agency in September 2021, which Mr Kono leads.

But Japan’s efforts to digitise may be easier said than done.

Many Japan businesses still require official documents to be endorsed using carved personal stamps called hanko, despite the government’s efforts to phase them out.

People are moving away from those stamps at a “glacial pace”, said local newspaper The Japan Times.

And it was not until 2019 that the country’s last pager provider closed its service, with the final private subscriber explaining that it was the preferred method of communication for his elderly mother.

EU hits Chinese electric cars with new tariffs

By João da SilvaBusiness reporter

The European Union has raised tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, as Brussels takes action to protect the bloc’s motor industry.

The new tariffs on individual manufactures range from 17.4% to 37.6%, which is on top of a 10% duty that was already in place for all electric cars imported from China.

This could raise the price of EVs across the EU, making them less affordable for European consumers.

The move is also a major blow for Beijing, which is already in a trade war with Washington. The EU is the largest overseas market for China’s EV industry and the country is counting on high-tech products to help revive its flagging economy.

EU officials say this rise in imports was boosted by “unfair subsidisation”, which allowed China-made EVs to be sold at much lower prices than ones produced in the bloc.

China has denied this repeated allegation from the US and the EU: Beijing is subsidising excess production to flood western markets with cheap imports.

The new charges come into effect on Friday but are currently provisional while the investigation into Chinese state support for the country’s EV makers continues. They are not likely to be imposed until later this year.

So who are the potential winners and losers in this trade dispute?

It is not just Chinese brands that are affected by the move. Western firms that make cars in China have also come under scrutiny by Brussels.

By imposing tariffs, Brussels says it is attempting to correct what it sees as a distorted market. The EU’s decision may seem tame compared to a recent US move to raise its total tariffs to 100%, but it could be far more consequential. Chinese EVs are a relatively rare sight on US roads but much more common in the EU.

The number of EVs sold by Chinese brands across the EU rose from just 0.4% of the total EV market in 2019 to almost 8% last year, according to figures from the influential Brussels-based green group Transport and Environment (T&E).

Patryk Krupcala, an architect from Poland, who expects to take delivery of a brand new China-made MG4 in two weeks told the BBC: “I have chosen an MG4 because it is quite cheap. It is a really fast car and it’s a rear-wheel drive like my previous car which was BMW E46.”

T&E projects firms like BYD and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), the Chinese owner of the formerly British brand MG, could reach a market share of 20% by 2027.

But not all Chinese-made EVs will be hit equally by the new tariffs.

Winners and losers

They were calculated based on estimates of how much state aid each firm received, while companies that cooperated with the probe saw the duties they were hit with cut. Based on these criteria, the European Commission has set individual duties on three Chinese EV brands – SAIC, BYD and Geely.

SAIC has been hit with the highest new tariff of 37.6%. State-owned SAIC is the Chinese partner of Volkswagen and General Motors. It also owns MG, which produces one of the top-selling EVs in Europe, the MG4.

“The price for not cooperating is a severe blow to SAIC, which gets 15.4% of its global revenues from EV sales in Europe,” says Rhodium Group, an independent research firm.

For Mr Krupcala, who bought his MG4 before the tariffs hit, the EU’s move does not matter much: “I don’t really care about the tariffs. I have a nice car with a seven-year warranty.”

For China’s largest EV maker, BYD, it is a different story, as it faces an extra duty of 17.4% on the vehicles it ships from China to the EU.

That is the lowest increase and one that, according to research by Dutch bank ING will “give the automaker an advantage in the European market”.

Luís Filipe Costa, an insurance industry executive from Portugal, who has just bought a BYD Seal, says price was one of the deciding factors when he chose his new car.

But, he added that even if the European Commission’s new tariffs had already been in place he would still have gone with BYD because “other brands would also be affected”.

Geely, which owns Sweden’s Volvo, will see an additional tariff of 19.9%.

According to Spanish bank BBVA, the company will “still export to the EU profitably” but “its profits will be significantly reduced.”

Other firms, including European car makers operating factories in China or through joint ventures, will also have to pay more to bring electric cars into the EU.

Those deemed to have cooperated with the probe will face an extra duty of 20.8%, while those EU investigators see as non-cooperative will pay the higher tariff of 37.6%.

US-based Tesla, which is the biggest exporter of electric vehicles from China to Europe, has asked for an individually calculated rate which EU officials have said will be determined at the end of the investigation.

Still, the firm has posted a notice on some of its European websites, that prices for its Shanghai-made Model 3 could increase due to the new tariffs.

Last year, businessman Lars Koopmann, who lives in the motor industry powerhouse that is Germany, bought a China-made Tesla Model Y.

Mr Koopmann says he particularly enjoyed the car’s high-tech features, such as the large touch screen.

“Price was also a big factor that set it apart from premium German brands,” Mr Koopmann says.

“If the tariffs had been in place, they would have always affected my decision.”

Localising production

While some China-based exporters will be better off than others, it is clear from the European Commission’s plans that all of them will be facing higher costs when shipping to Europe.

The hardest hit “will be SAIC brands like MG… as well as joint ventures between foreign and Chinese firms in China, which often have narrower profit margins on the cars they export to Europe,” Rhodium says.

“The biggest beneficiaries of the duties are European-based producers with limited China exposure, such as Renault.”

In other words, the duties are likely to do as the EU hopes they would – cut the number of Chinese-made EVs coming into the region, easing pressure on local manufacturers.

There is also another result of the move – some big Chinese EV firms are planning to build production capacity in the EU, which could help shield them from the new duties.

Work on BYD’s first European factory is well under way in Hungary and production is expected to begin there by the end of next year.

Chinese car maker, Chery, has recently signed a joint-venture deal with a Spanish firm that will see the two companies making EVs and other types of cars in Barcelona.

And, SAIC is looking to secure a site for its first factory in Europe.

“It’s a well architected plan to encourage companies to shift their investments to the EU, instead of relying on exporting from China,” said Bill Russo, from Shanghai-based consulting group Automobility.

“The fact that some companies are taxed higher than others is a signal that they will make the penalty higher or lower based on the degree the company is committed to investing in the EU.”

The Chinese government placed its bet on EVs early on.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, between 2009 and 2023 more than $230bn (£181bn) of state support was pumped into the industry.

As a result its EV industry has become world leading.

The International Energy Agency says China accounted for more than 60% of the world’s new electric car sales last year.

While the vast majority of EVs produced in China are sold domestically, overseas markets, and particularly Europe, have become increasingly important.

“Exports are the profitable segment,” said Rhodium’s senior analyst, Gregor Sebastian.

“The EU tariffs will hurt China’s EV industry because these exports help recover losses from China’s domestic price war.”

Meanwhile, the world’s second largest economy is struggling to shake off an economic slowdown in the wake of the pandemic and an ongoing property crisis.

Faced with lower domestic consumption and investment levels, China is trying to “export its way out” of the slump, says Alicia Garcia-Herrero, chief economist for the Asia Pacific region at investment bank Natixis.

And Beijing is placing yet another large bet on EVs by making the industry one of its “New Three” growth drivers – a government blueprint for reviving the economy that also relies on exports of batteries and renewable energy.

However, with major markets like the US, the EU and others imposing tariffs and other barriers, it looks like China’s latest gamble could deepen trade tensions with some of its largest trading partners.

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Manchester United have triggered a one-year extension in Erik ten Hag’s contract to keep him at the club until 2026.

The Dutchman’s previous deal, which he signed when he was appointed in 2022, was due to expire in 2025.

Ten Hag, who joined United from Ajax, has won two trophies in two years at Old Trafford.

“I am very pleased to have reached agreement with the club to continue working together,” said the 54-year-old.

“Looking back at the past two years, we can reflect with pride on two trophies and many examples of progression from where we were when I joined.”

Ten Hag stressed “we must also be clear that there is still lots of hard work ahead”.

United finished third in the Premier League during Ten Hag’s first season at the club as the Dutchman ended the club’s six-year wait for silverware with victory against Newcastle in the Carabao Cup final.

But the Dutchman’s second season was far more difficult as United finished eighth in the Premier League and were knocked out of the Champions League group stages.

A 2-1 victory against Manchester City in May’s FA Cup final proved vital to Ten Hag keeping his job.

The club, led by co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe following his investment last December, conducted a review of the team’s performance across the season following the victory at Wembley.

The review saw United speak to potential replacements for Ten Hag but it was eventually decided that the Dutchman deserved to keep his job in order to work under a new, improved structure.

Ratcliffe has overhauled the club’s board structure since taking a 27.7% in the club.

Jason Wilcox, Omar Berrada, Sir Dave Brailsford and Dan Ashworth have all joined in senior positions.

“This group of players and staff have already shown they are capable of competing and winning at the top level; now we need to do it more consistently,” said sporting director Ashworth.

“With our strengthened football leadership team now in place, we are looking forward to working hand-in-hand with Erik to achieve our shared ambitions for this football club.”

United are in talks with Ten Hag to restructure his backroom staff.

Former United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who was PSV Eindhoven manager from 2022-23, is expected to return to Old Trafford as part of a revamped coaching set-up alongside Go Ahead Eagles manager Rene Hake.

Former Chelsea technical director Christopher Vivell also joins United as director of global talent on a short-term deal to assist during the current transfer window, with an extended stay not ruled out.

‘There will be no excuses’ – analysis

The announcement over Erik ten Hag’s contract was virtually automatic once it became clear Manchester United had decided to stick with the Dutchman.

His existing deal was due to expire in 2025 and it contained an option for an additional year.

Ten Hag’s terms have not been improved, so all that has happened really is the option has been triggered.

Potentially of more significance is the planned arrival of Rene Hake from Go Ahead Eagles and former striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who has been out of work since quitting as PSV Eindhoven manager in 2023, as part of Ten Hag’s revamped coaching team.

With Dan Ashworth now in place and putting his name to United’s statement in his first public utterances as sporting director, and Omar Berrada taking over as chief executive within a fortnight, the structures will soon be in place that Sir Jim Ratcliffe felt were missing before.

Shortly, there will be no excuses for Ten Hag.

Any semblance of another eighth-placed finish and he won’t even get close to reaching the end of this repackaged new contract.

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John Stones says England’s dramatic last-16 comeback win against Slovakia could prove an “emotional turning point” in their bid for Euro 2024 glory.

The Three Lions emerged 2-1 victors after Jude Bellingham levelled with an injury-time overhead kick, before captain Harry Kane notched the decisive strike in extra time.

Stones, speaking as England prepared for Saturday’s quarter-final against Switzerland (17:00), said the success will “change a lot of things”.

“It shows that unity, and togetherness, as a team,” said the 30-year-old defender.

“When you have done those things, you can believe you can do it better, and when it gets tough you can always recap to these moments.”

Stones felt England were heading for an early exit before their late fightback – and will now use that performance as “fuel” for the rest of the tournament.

“I thought we were going home up to 60 minutes into the game,” he added.

“To change the mindset, and for us all to keep the belief, it has a lot of power behind it – for ourselves and other teams.”

The Manchester City centre-back also said he is “all good” despite appearing in training with heavy strapping around his knee on Wednesday.

Stones will have to find a new centre-back partner with Marc Guehi suspended for Saturday’s quarter-final, which is being shown live on the BBC.

Criticism makes Southgate ‘want to win even more’

Manager Gareth Southgate will take charge of his 100th game at the weekend, but it hasn’t been easy for the England boss at Euro 2024.

His side have faced jeers – and even some cups being thrown by angry supporters – amid underwhelming performances, but they were greeted by a better reaction after beating Slovakia.

Stones said the criticism Southgate has faced will further motivate the Three Lions manager.

He added: “He pushes it aside, I can only comment on how that’ll only affect him in a good way. It will make him want to win even more, do better. It gets brushed aside very quickly.”

As Southgate nears his landmark century, Stones praised the way the 53-year-old has changed the national team’s “culture” as they look to win a first major trophy.

“The great attributes and qualities he has as a manager – he’s simple and clear with what he wants,” added Stones.

“To be here and try to leave a mark in this tournament is important and we have that goal at the end of it, to do something that has not been done before.”

‘Brilliant’ Switzerland still ‘good opportunity to go further’

England are on what looks to be an easier side of the draw, but Stones warned that Switzerland – who knocked out Italy to reach this stage – are “brilliant”.

He highlighted Manchester City defensive team-mate Manuel Akanji as one of their key men.

“How they have played this tournament – and the players they have got -they’ve been brilliant, so it is down to us now,” added Stones.

“Playing against the likes of Manu who is an exceptional player, I am sure he is doing the same for his [international] team-mates. They have some great players and it will be a really good match up for us and a test for us.”

Although Switzerland will be a tough test, Stones said England have a “good opportunity” to go further at Euro 2024 than in previous tournaments.

They were knocked out in the 2022 World Cup quarter-finals by France, beaten by Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final, and also lost to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-final.

“In the World Cup we had a run that we felt we could win and that didn’t happen, we have to use the situations and learning curve to our advantage now,” added Stones.

North London is humid and Rob White is tired.

“We had ridiculous storms here last night,” he says.

“I woke up at 4am and it was like someone switching a neon light on and off in my room.

“Even at the age of 60, that takes me somewhere.”

White is aware of the cliche.

“The clap of thunder, the flash of lightning, it is almost lazy as a plot device isn’t it?” he says.

“You see it in movies, in books, in plays – it goes all the way back to Greek tragedy.”

But for his story, it is undeniable and unavoidable. Every bolt lands in the same place: 21 July 1964.

Sixty years ago, a summer storm erupted over Middlesex and lightning struck a lone golfer.

John White, 27, was found crouched and scorched under a tree, the rings on his fingers fused to the shaft of the club he was clutching.

Tottenham and Scotland had lost one of the finest footballers of his generation – a Double winner, with a European Cup Winners’ Cup medal to his name – at the height of his powers.

Rob, just six months old at the time, had lost a father.

His search has continued ever since.

Rob has spent his life trying to unravel a death and reveal its victim, listening at closed doors and investigating sliding doors.

The day he knows best in his father’s life is the last.

It is one littered with chance encounters and alternate universes, any of which would have led John out of a lightning bolt’s path.

On the fateful morning of 21 July 1964, Tottenham’s players gathered for some team photos and gentle pre-season training at White Hart Lane.

Having finished in the top four in seven of the previous eight seasons, they were an established power, with an attack centred on Jimmy Greaves’ finishing and Cliff Jones’ trickery.

John White’s gifts were more subtle. He had a silken first touch, an astute passing game and an ability to lose his marker that, combined with his slight frame and pale complexion, earned him the nickname ‘the Ghost’.

Bill Nicholson knew John’s value. Having lost Dave Mackay to a broken leg and captain Danny Blanchflower to retirement, the manager had told John that his next Tottenham team would be built around him.

That was all to come, though. This wasn’t the time of year for serious business.

After training, barely blowing, John stripped down to his vest and pants to take on team-mate Terry Medwin in an indoor tennis match, rather than head straight home.

When John returned to the dressing room, he was confused. His trousers were missing. Ten minutes before, a smiling Jones had driven out of White Hart Lane, waving them out of his car window in glee at a well-executed prank.

John eventually found a pair to borrow, finally returned home and, despite the day drawing on, said he was going to play golf.

His young wife Sandra, juggling Rob and his two-year-old sister, suggested he shouldn’t. They argued.

Delay heaped on delay. The sky darkened.

A compromise was found. Sandra dropped John off at Crews Hill golf course. He headed into the club shop and bought a pack of three balls. As he left, he bumped into Tony Marchi, another Tottenham team-mate. Having asked about for a playing partner at training earlier in the day, John asked for a final time. Did Tony fancy playing with him?

“As far as we know, that was the last conversation my father had,” says Rob.

“The last thing that Tony thought as he watched my dad go out was: ‘John is going to get really wet out there this afternoon.'”

Marchi, having played his own round already, opted against joining John. The final sliding door shut. John walked out another and on to the course.

“I know that Tony [who died in 2022] always wished he could have just had another paragraph of conversation with my dad,” says Rob. “Because if he had, my dad wouldn’t have been in that place at that time.”

The landlord emerges from behind a curtain, cigarette in mouth, thinning hair slicked back, and nonchalantly hands out a collection of pistols to the suited young men on the other side of the bar.

Each handles them with awed reverence, spinning the barrels and staring down the sights.

At one point, one of young men, blonde and slight, takes a handkerchief out of his pocket and blows his nose.

And all the time, an unseen Pathe newsreader chatters away over the top.

It is a film from 1962 – a different time when top-flight footballers would be little more than extras in a news report about a gun-collecting publican in north London., external

John White and his team-mates played their parts well, looking on in due awe as their host spun a gun on his finger and slotting it back into his holster.

For Rob, the footage is part of a patchwork he has been stitching together over the past 60 years.

The first pieces came when, aged nine, he sneaked up into the attic of the family home and opened up a cardboard box.

“It was like Tutankhamun’s tomb – it had scrapbooks, newspapers, programmes, boots, medals, a couple of Scotland caps, a shaving kit that smelt of Old Spice,” Rob says.

“As a kid, I would sneak up into the loft and essentially grieve and get really quite sad looking at this stuff.

“It was as if my Dad was one of those wire mannequins that sculptors might use; I knew ‘the Ghost’, that my dad was something, but finding this stuff allowed me to put texture on that outline.”

Just as on the pitch though, tracking down John was not easy.

Rob’s mother Sandra could remember driving up to the course to pick up her husband, seeing the clubhouse surrounded with police cars and then, such was the shock, little else from the next five years of her life.

In the wake of John’s death, the sideboard trophies, celebratory photos and any trace of his existence were tidied away. In their place, a culture of stoicism, silence and secrecy dominated. His father was rarely spoken about – a subject too sore for anyone to know how to handle.

“Most families have a story that as a kid you don’t know the full details of, but you know never to ask about,” says Rob.

“Maybe you are told something once, or a door is half-open and you hear something. You can’t quite piece it together, but, as humans, we create our own narrative, filling in the gaps with information that may, or may not, be right.”

For Rob, there was plenty of information to fill in the gaps.

John’s life was documented in an uncommon depth for his era.

People shared hundreds of photos, thousands of memories and the odd piece of footage.

Usually the film was match action, but occasionally it was something rarer and, in many ways, more precious – an afternoon John spent in a pub with its eccentric landlord and a Pathe film crew for instance.

Too often, though, the character lacked depth: as thin as the page of the comic he seemed to spring from.

“He was this kind of Roy of the Rovers figure and as I got older I got frustrated and almost embarrassed by people having a better knowledge of my dad than I did,” Rob says.

“Part of the joy of having a father is finding our own identity – there is a little blueprint there and if we are lucky we follow the good bits and jettison the bad bits – but I didn’t have that.

“There is still a kid in me that wants to know the simple stuff: what he smelt like and sounded like, a bit more about him, rather than this persona. That is the eternal frustration.”

Rob channelled that frustration into a book – The Ghost of White Hart Lane – interviewing family members, former team-mates, friends and acquaintances, to try and discover the man behind the myth.

And gradually he found him.

Rob heard about the sadness and homesickness that would grip John each winter in London. He heard about the time he drove home dangerously drunk, clipping the White Hart Lane gates in his car. Most revealingly, an uncle told Rob about the child that John had fathered in Scotland and left behind before he travelled south, played for Spurs and met Sandra.

“Part of me has always been trying to live up to this person who was absolutely perfect, who was idolised not just by the family, but by hundreds of thousands of people,” says Rob.

“To find out he had defects and weaknesses, that he struggled with confidence, mental health and seasonal affective disorder, that he had made mistakes – if I had found all that out earlier, it would have made more sense to my life.

“If we know our parents are fallible, it really makes us understand that we can make mistakes. We don’t have to know all the answers.”

John’s absence shaped Rob as surely as his presence would have.

Rob is a still-life photographer – “I have always been looking for those details and clues” – and is also training as a counsellor.

Later this month, Rob will be in the audience at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the first performance of a play, called The Ghost of White Hart Lane, that he commissioned about his father’s life.

The staging is intended to share his father’s story to several generations of fans who remember neither John’s life or death.

“It is something I talk about with my own therapist,” he says. “Having seen life breathed into the story at the play’s read-throughs, it reinforced the reasons I wanted to get involved with the project.

“I think there is something of trying to bring my dad back to life.”

After two nights in Tottenham, the play will then transfer north, taking the opposite journey to the one John took in life, for a stint at the Edinburgh Festival., external

There are some things that remain lost. Rob is still searching for a recording of John’s voice. One of his match-worn Tottenham shirts remains elusive.

But over the decades, he has found much more: an understanding and an empathy for the father he never knew.

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Only eight teams are left in Euro 2024, but who will make it to the final in Berlin on 14 July?

BBC Sport football expert Chris Sutton did pretty well with his predictions for the last 16, with Switzerland’s success against Italy and Turkey’s win over Austria the only results he got wrong.

Turkey caught most of you out too – of more than 95,000 votes, only 12% of you backed them to progress – but you were right about the outcome of the other seven ties.

That is a vast improvement on your record in the group stage and means that, like Sutton, from the 44 games played in Germany, you have been correct about 22 of them.

Will there be any more surprises in the quarter-finals? You can make your predictions below, including England against Switzerland, and France – Sutton’s pick to win the European Championship – versus Portugal.

QUARTER-FINALS

FRIDAY, 5 JULY

Spain v Germany

Spain are the best team in the competition.

Germany were jubilant when Niclas Fullkrug scored their stoppage-time equaliser in their final group game against Switzerland, but they will be gutted that it meant they ended up in this side of the draw. They would rather be playing England, I’m sure.

Germany are not just the hosts, though. They have got a bit about them as well. Antonio Rudiger has arguably been the best central defender at this tournament.

They are a well-balanced team but Spain have stood out and, wherever you look, they have got quality and nous.

Rodri and Fabian Ruiz have been dominant on the ball in midfield and they have the intelligence of Pedri ahead of them. On the wings, they have Lamine Yamal, who is such an exciting talent, and Nico Williams, who is impossible to stop in one-on-one situations.

So Spain are going to be difficult to stop. If there is a criticism of them at these Euros, it is that they have not been ruthless enough, but, in terms of performance levels, they have been head and shoulders above everyone else.

That makes it very difficult to go against them here, even though Germany have got home advantage and have also been playing well.

Sutton’s prediction: 2-1

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Portugal v France

I really don’t understand why Portugal manager Roberto Martinez indulges Cristiano Ronaldo the way he does.

We know what a great player Ronaldo has been in the past, and he can still influence games, but you have got to draw the line when it is clear he is having a negative impact on the team.

Why, for example, is Ronaldo taking free-kick after free-kick when there are much better options? It’s selfish from him, and he has a massive ego, but why is Martinez allowing it to happen? The bigger fault lies with him, and he should be strong enough to do what is best for the team.

I may end up with a large dollop of egg on my face if Portugal win the tournament and Ronaldo bangs in a couple of 35-yard free-kicks on the way, but I don’t see it happening.

In 300 years people will probably still be talking about what a genius Ronaldo was, but he is 39 and I don’t know what Martinez is expecting from him. Football has always been a team game and it feels absolutely ridiculous to rely on him like this when you look at how much quality Portugal have right through their side.

I picked France to win Euro 2024 before a ball was kicked and I am not going to change my mind now. They were not exactly exciting against Belgium in the last 16, but there were signs that they are coming to life, and they look so solid defensively.

France have scored only three goals in their first four games in Germany – and they were two own goals and a penalty. I am expecting them to click here, though.

I am at this game for Radio 5 Live. My other prediction is that Ronaldo will take seven free-kicks – and not one of them will be on target.

Sutton’s prediction: 0-2

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SATURDAY, 6 JULY

England v Switzerland

Switzerland are another well-balanced team. They have belief in the way they play, and they seem to be getting stronger as the tournament goes on, as we saw when they beat Italy in the last 16.

I had hung my hat on Italy, thinking the holders had to get going eventually – a bit like I have been doing with England – but they didn’t play well and a big part of that was down to how dominant the Swiss were.

There are plenty of similarities with this tie, but I don’t think England will be rolled over like Italy. I am not just backing Gareth Southgate’s side blindly, because they deserved to beat Slovakia – just about – and maybe a moment like Jude Bellingham’s equaliser can change the mood of their tournament.

There are still plenty of areas where England need to get better. I hate their lack of balance on the left-hand side. Luke Shaw has not played a minute in this tournament yet, and that was a risk that manager Southgate has got badly wrong.

At the moment, there is not much point dwelling on that. It is all about getting through this game, and England can do it.

I still want to see Cole Palmer start on the right because he offers something different creatively and looks so at ease with himself, but it is pretty obvious that won’t happen.

We will see one change at the back because Marc Guehi is suspended, and Ezri Konsa will probably come in, which is fine, but that will be it.

I am not expecting England to do very much different from what we’ve seen so far.

England are a bits-and-pieces team and are not going to suddenly turn into a side like Spain who play some beautiful football, but they have so much talent that they should still have too much for the Swiss.

Sutton’s prediction: 1-0

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Netherlands v Turkey

What a game Turkey’s last-16 win win over Austria was.

I am at this quarter-final for Radio 5 Live and am looking forward to seeing Turkey and their fans in Berlin – their supporters have brought so much to this tournament.

I loved the way Turkey fought to get over the line against Austria – and they did it without their captain, Hakan Calhanoglu, who was suspended for that game but will be back for this one.

Mert Gunok’s incredible save in stoppage time was something people will talk about for years and I guess he will now be known as the ‘Turkish Gordon Banks’.

There were many reasons why I expected Austria to win that tie, but Turkey were much better organised defensively than I thought they would be, so credit to their manager, Vincenzo Montella. They always carried a threat on the counter too.

The only problem is they all gave so much in that game. Turkey will need to do it all again to get past the Netherlands, and that is such a big ask.

The ‘Oranje Army’ have been amazing too, so the atmosphere at the Olympiastadion is going to be incredible.

I am still not fully convinced by the Netherlands team. They beat Romania easily enough last time out, but we don’t really know how good Romania are.

The Netherlands have to be favourites here, though. With players like Nathan Ake and Virgil van Dijk at the back and Cody Gakpo and Xavi Simons going forward, they have quality all over the pitch.

Memphis Depay misses so many chances that he reminds me of me when I was playing for Chelsea, but his movement is excellent and he does a lot of good work for the team.

This is going to be close but, rather than predicting Turkish delight, it will be a case of a double Dutch strike sending them through.

Sutton’s prediction: 2-1

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New Zealand v England first Test

Date: Saturday, 6 July Kick-off: 08:05 BST Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Coverage: Listen to commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sounds and follow live text commentary on BBC Sport website and app.

When England last toured New Zealand 10 years ago, the All Blacks were on top of the rugby world.

After winning the World Cup in 2011, Steve Hansen’s side were on an extraordinary run that would culminate in back-to-back glory in 2015.

A new crop of future All Blacks stars were coming through, while all-time greats like Richie McCaw and Dan Carter were still in their prime.

Even without the injured Carter, and despite strong English performances in the first two Tests, the All Blacks eventually secured a 3-0 series win to cement their status as the dominant rugby nation on earth.

The landscape is different in 2024. South Africa and France have stolen a march – the Springboks on the pitch and the French off it. The Japanese league has coaxed some great All Blacks into international sabbaticals or international retirements. Covid took its toll.

“It’s been a few tough years, there is no doubt about that,” said New Zealand Rugby Union boss Mark Robinson.

The Henry-Hansen-Ian Foster lineage – which ran the All Blacks for 20 years – has been broken up, with the popular former flanker Scott Robertson, 49, now at the helm after guiding the Crusaders to a remarkable seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.

“He has spent a huge amount of time developing his craft,” said Robinson.

“He’s thought really deeply about the role for a long time. It feels this is the time for him.”

But despite the excitement around the Robertson era, the New Zealand rugby public – often so bullish – is a little nervous.

The All Blacks haven’t played a game since losing the World Cup final last October, while a host of key players including locks Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, scrum-half Aaron Smith and fly-half Richie Mo’unga are no longer available.

With Sam Cane stepping down as captain, second row Scott Barrett will lead the team for the first time, while Damian McKenzie starts at fly-half.

“There is uncertainty about how this team is going to come together,” explained Liam Napier of the New Zealand Herald.

“I look at this New Zealand squad and there are so many unknowns,” agreed former England scrum-half Danny Care.

“They don’t have the players anymore that you fear. They have players you massively respect, but as a team, do you go there literally with fear? I don’t think New Zealand has that at the moment.

“This is a massive opportunity for England to go down there and shock the New Zealand world.”

‘England’s style of play has evolved’

Among the local media, England’s sharp performances at the back end of the Six Nations and the polished display in the win against Japan in Tokyo have not gone unnoticed. Nor has the continuity in Steve Borthwick’s selection or the tweak in playing style since last autumn’s World Cup.

“It’s not traditional England – they have evolved,” said Napier. “Maybe England have a chance to surprise the All Blacks with their style.

“There is cohesion there and they have named largely the same team. But how is this All Blacks team going to come together? No-one is quite sure.”

While Borthwick has had his whole squad in camp for almost four weeks, Robertson has had his together for just 10 days. Leaders like Ardie Savea and Beauden Barrett missed the Super Rugby season while playing in Japan.

“I’m nervous,” World Player of the Year Savea admitted on Thursday. “But nerves bring the best out of us. And it’s a great challenge for myself to step forward and try and own it.”

“You hope England can maybe catch New Zealand a little bit on the hop,” said Care.

“There are a lot of things that put the All Blacks in a different space to where they have been in years gone by,” added former England wing Chris Ashton.

Despite all this, England supporters will be cautious in their optimism.

The All Blacks still boast some world-class players, whether in the form of the magnificent Savea or the talented Jordie Barrett [the third of the brothers in the matchday squad]. TJ Perenara is back at scrum-half after a two-year absence. Robertson can even afford to leave the great Beauden Barrett out of his starting XV.

England’s inexperienced side – the vast majority of whom have never played in New Zealand – will be tested both mentally and physically. It is the All Blacks in New Zealand and it remains – according to Borthwick – the biggest challenge in world rugby.

But it nonetheless feels like England have a once-in-a-generation chance of making history, and becoming only the third English side – after 1973 and 2003 – to win a Test in New Zealand.

Under Robertson, the All Blacks will only improve going forward. Any cobwebs will be blown away, and quickly.

Next week’s second Test is at Eden Park in Auckland, the spiritual home of All Blacks rugby, where their record is incomprehensibly good.

For England, Saturday in Dunedin might be a case of now or never.

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James Anderson will end his record-breaking England career after the first Test against West Indies at Lord’s next week.

In a special episode of the Tailenders podcast, Anderson spoke at length about his cricketing life for the first time since he announced he will retire from internationals.

This is James Anderson, in his own words.

Becoming Jimmy – ‘I broke some bats that winter’

I do remember the time I became able to bowl quicker, but not the specific moment it happened. At 15, I came back to winter nets at a school in Blackburn and it was coming out a lot quicker. I don’t really know why or how that happened, but it did. My best mate David Brown, his dad Peter – I can’t remember what shot he played – but I remember the bat breaking. I broke a couple of bats that winter and I felt horrific. I felt like something different had happened. I can’t put my finger on why.

People were excited. The captain at the time would say: “Just bowl as fast as you can.” Because it was such a change in pace and my body was still developing, I didn’t really know where the ball was going and I bowled the odd beamer. I beamed Australia batter Brad Hodge, who was playing for Ramsbottom. He sort of punched it off his face. I can’t repeat what he said and I was so apologetic.

In the first over of a game at Burnley I bowled four wides in a row and was thinking “oh my god, this is painful” – then the next ball went straight through the batter and bowled him. It was inconsistent and erratic, but fun.

The call-up – ‘Nasser had the biggest influence on me’

I’ve heard Nasser Hussain’s dad had seen me play Championship cricket and said I might be worth a look. I got a phone call and was told England wanted me to join them in Sydney. So many questions go through your head but, in reality, I was thinking: “Am I really going to play?” I didn’t play the first game in Sydney and then we went to the Melbourne Cricket Ground and I got told on the outfield I was playing the next day by Nasser. I was thinking: “I’m just going enjoy this while I’m here, because it might not last. I might never play again.”

Nasser was quite intense as a captain and a lot of people didn’t like the way he went about things. But for me, as a 20-year-old, I needed that firmness and instruction. He would really tell you what was demanded of you.

He probably had the biggest influence on me, just because of the stage of my career I was at when I played under him.

We had most success under Andrew Strauss, but I don’t know whether that was down to his captaincy or just the group of players that we had. Probably more so the group of players.

The action – ‘They thought I could bowl 95mph’

Troy Cooley, the bowling coach at the time, was into biomechanics. We had a net session with dots put on us, cameras filming in order to see what the bones were doing in the bowling action. My spine was like an S shape.

They thought I was going to get injured and I could bowl quicker, even though I was bowling 90mph when I first came into the team. They reckon they could have got me up to 95 if I just changed my action a little bit.

I got injured after changing my action and I didn’t bowl great for 12 months straight after that period. They weren’t trying to damage me, they did it for the best of me and the team.

I was at the point where I didn’t think I would play for England again. My wife Danielle was amazing. She said: “Snap out of it, you are definitely good enough.”

When I got fit again, I went to Mike Watkinson at Lancashire and Kevin Shine, who was the new England bowling coach, and they said I should go back to my old action. The rest is history.

Favourite Test – ‘We charged off like a flock of geese’

It’s the best game I’ve had for England. An Ashes Test, the close nature and I bowled a 13-over spell on the last day trying to bowl them out.

I used all the skills I could possibly think of, everything I had in my armoury. The last wicket, Brad Haddin, was an off-cutter. I didn’t actually hear the nick, but Alastair Cook and Matt Prior behind the stumps heard it and then the umpire gave it not out. We had to review it and I asked Haddin if he hit it and he said he did, so we all knew it was going to be given out, but there’s still that moment when the decision comes up on the big screen and the umpire puts his finger up.

It was just incredible. There’s a great photo of all 11 of us, starting to charge off like a like a flock of geese, running around the ground. It was amazing. The wickets that matter are the ones where you influence games. Contributing to a win like that is the best feeling.

The skills – ‘I wish I’d taken a Test hat-trick’

In Test cricket, when you have to bowl in so many different conditions around the world, you need so many different skills and I’ve tried to develop as many as I can. The biggest one that helped me was being able to bowl an in-swinger to a right-hander and an out-swinger to a left-hander.

My record when I couldn’t bowl that to left-handers is really poor, but I started learning the in-swinger and it took me about four years to feel confident to bowl it in a game. It just gave me a completely different approach to left-handers, in particular bowling round the wicket.

Just for bragging rights in the pub, I wish I had taken a Test hat-trick. Stuart Broad bangs on about his two quite a lot and he’ll always have that on me. I never got a Test hundred either and I was so close at Trent Bridge. I made 81 against India in 2014. I thought I was getting one there, but I didn’t make it.

Building a bowler – ‘I’m going to copy Pat Cummins’

You would pick Glenn McGrath’s accuracy and Dale Steyn’s wrist position. Being a Lancashire fan, I always loved Wasim Akram’s action. He was an insane bowler. He swung it both ways and reversed it really well.

I really like Pat Cummins’ action. There was a Test match in Galle in Sri Lanka where I was feeling really stiff after lunch. Mark Wood was at mid-off and I said: “I’m going to copy Pat Cummins’ action now and try to bowl like him.” I got a wicket in that over and Woody said: “You should bowl like him all the time.”

He’s got an amazing snap. When he gets to the top of his action, everything seems to go really quick. When he bowls the ball, he just snaps through the crease. Because I was feeling stiff and a bit sluggish, I was trying to recreate that speed and it worked.

What’s next – ‘I thought about asking a careers adviser’

I’ve loved doing Tailenders. It definitely made me fall back in love with the game because at some points it has become just a job. There are some days when you turn up, it’s raining and the covers are on and I wasn’t actually that bothered.

I honestly don’t know what will happen next. I love talking about the game. I love talking about bowling and delving into the technical side of it. I’ve done a bit of punditry on TV and on the radio, so I will maybe balance that and a bit of coaching.

It’s a weird feeling when you’ve done something for 20 years and then all of a sudden you’ve got to find something else to do. We went to see a school for my eldest daughter the other day. There was a careers adviser there and I did wonder about asking him some questions.

I’d like a bit of time just to try a few things and see if something sticks.

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