BBC 2024-07-09 16:07:18


Biden condemns ‘Russian brutality’ after deadly Ukraine strikes

By Emily McGarveyBBC News

US President Joe Biden has condemned a wave of Russian missile strikes that killed at least 38 people in Ukraine as a “horrific reminder of Russia’s brutality”, as he vowed to strengthen Kyiv’s air defences.

At least 190 were injured across the country, including some at a children’s hospital in the capital Kyiv on Monday.

It comes as Mr Biden prepares to host a Nato summit in Washington on Tuesday.

The US president said further boosts to Ukraine’s air defences would be announced at the meeting.

Leaders from the 32 Nato members states, their partner countries and the EU are gathering to mark the 75th anniversary of the bloc.

Mr Biden said he will be welcoming Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Nato leaders.

The summit will focus on defence and deterrence in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We will be announcing new measures to strengthen Ukraine’s air defences to help protect their cities and civilians from Russian strikes,” Mr Biden said.

“I will be meeting with President Zelenskyy to make clear our support for Ukraine is unshakeable.”

The UN Security Council is also meeting on Tuesday at Ukraine’s request.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres joined Western officials in condemning Russia’s missile attack on Ukraine.

Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, declared 9 July as a day of mourning following the deadly attacks on the capital.

Two people died when a missile flattened part of the Ohmatdyt Children’s Hospital – Ukraine’s biggest paediatrics facility – and a search for survivors beneath the rubble continued into the early hours of Tuesday.

President Zelensky has been urging Western allies to step up deliveries of air defences for months, amid increased Russian attacks. UN officials said May was the deadliest month for civilian casualties in almost a year.

The government in Kyiv says it desperately needs new US-made Patriot air defence systems. But Western officials have been reluctant to surrender any more of the limited number of surface-to-air batteries scattered across the Nato alliance.

Meanwhile, Russian officials said a fire had broken out at a power substation in the Rostov region, bordering Ukraine, after overnight drone attacks.

The regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said four people were killed and 20 injured in attacks by Ukraine over the past day.

On Monday, Russia denied targeting the Kyiv hospital, saying it had been hit by fragments of a Ukrainian air defence missile, while Ukraine said it had found remnants of a Russian cruise missile.

  • Ukraine mourns after day of Russian air strikes

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the attack “brutal” and described his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as a “bloody criminal”.

Mr Zelensky said that Russia had launched more than 40 missiles on Monday, damaging almost 100 buildings in Kyiv, Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

Pictures from the scene of the blast at the Kyiv hospital – which specialises in cancer treatment and organ transplants – showed children hooked up to IV drips sitting outside the damaged facility awaiting evacuation.

The UK’s new Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, condemned the attack, calling it “the most depraved of actions”.

Britain has been one of Ukraine’s key Western allies, and Sir Keir has vowed that his new administration will maintain support for Kyiv. He is set to meet President Biden at the White House on Wednesday.

Democrats look to Kamala Harris – but could she beat Trump?

By Courtney SubramanianReporting from New Orleans and Washington DC

On Saturday afternoon, US Vice-President Kamala Harris sat on stage at a black cultural festival in New Orleans, talking about her life story and what she felt she had achieved in the White House.

It was the kind of event that the first female, black and South Asian American vice-president has regularly attended throughout her three-and-a-half years as Joe Biden’s deputy, usually trailed by a small press pack dwarfed by that which follows the president himself.

But as panicked Democrats a thousand miles away in Washington weighed replacing 81-year-old Joe Biden as the party’s candidate for November’s election following his woeful and sometimes incomprehensible debate performance against Donald Trump, the number of reporters trailing Ms Harris had swelled to dozens.

On stage and through her travels this weekend, the vice-president did not address swirling questions about Mr Biden’s fitness for office and whether he should withdraw and hand the baton to her.

But in discussing ambition and how to forge your own path with her audience in New Orleans, she encouraged the crowd not to listen to naysayers.

“People in your life will tell you, though, it’s not your time. It’s not your turn. Nobody like you has done it before,” she said. “Don’t you ever listen to that.”

Since the disastrous CNN debate on 27 June, she has repeatedly defended her boss, arguing that his record as president shouldn’t be outweighed by 90 minutes on a debate stage. Mr Biden himself has struck a defiant tone and fiercely insisted that he will remain the nominee.

Yet as calls grow louder for the president to step aside, some high-profile Democrats are unifying behind 59-year-old Ms Harris as the natural candidate to replace him.

On Sunday, congressman Adam Schiff of California told NBC’s Meet The Press that either Mr Biden had to be able to “win overwhelmingly or he has to pass the torch to someone who can”. Kamala Harris, he added, could “very well win overwhelmingly” against Trump.

That’s a proposition that has raised eyebrows among some Democrats, including Biden allies, who see in Ms Harris a vice-president who failed in her bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination before the first ballot was even cast and who has struggled with an uneven record and low approval ratings throughout her time in the White House.

Against that, senior Democratic lawmakers like Mr Schiff and South Carolina congressman Jim Clyburn have been floating Ms Harris as the obvious successor should Mr Biden ultimately bow to party pressure.

Supporters point to a handful of polls that suggest she would perform better than the president in a hypothetical match-up against Donald Trump, and they argue she has the national profile, campaign infrastructure and appeal to younger voters that could make the transition seamless four months before election day.

An elevation to the top of the ticket would be a remarkable turnaround for a woman not long ago seen as a political weakness by senior figures in the Biden White House. Even Mr Biden himself reportedly described her as a “work in progress” during their first months in office.

But Jamal Simmons, a longtime Democratic strategist and Harris’s former communications director, said she had long been underestimated.

“Whether she’s a partner to the president or she has to lead the ticket, she is somebody who Republicans and the Trump campaign need to take seriously,” Mr Simmons told the BBC.

Since the debate and its fall-out, Ms Harris has altered her schedule to stick close to the president. She appeared at a heavily-scrutinised meeting last Wednesday where Mr Biden sought to reassure powerful Democratic governors about his fitness for office.

And a day later, on the Fourth of July – America’s Independence Day – she abandoned her usual tradition of grilling hotdogs for firefighters and Secret Service agents at her Los Angeles home to be by Mr Biden’s side at the White House celebrations.

The former top prosecutor has focused on criticising Trump in public appearances since the debate, pressing the case as to why voters should believe he is a threat to democracy and women’s rights. At the same time, she has offered nothing but steadfast support for Mr Biden.

Vice-presidents always need to strike a delicate balancing act between ambition and loyalty, but Ms Harris knows that this is not a moment where she can show any daylight between her and the president.

Kamala Harris is, however, far from the only alternative to Mr Biden being discussed. The list of potential Biden replacements ranges from a cadre of popular governors – Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Gavin Newsom of California, Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro and Illinois’ JB Pritzker – to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and California congressman Ro Khanna.

Ms Harris and her staff have refused to engage in public speculation. But her team is keenly aware of the behind-the-scenes conversations taking place as some party members coalesce behind her.

A memo circulated online, purportedly written by Democratic operatives, laid out a detailed argument to promote Ms Harris despite her “real political weaknesses”.

Trying to choose anyone other than her would thrown the campaign into disarray and keep “Democratic bickering” in the media spotlight for months, it argues.

If Mr Biden were to give up the nomination, the idea of the Democrats passing over Ms Harris in favour of another candidate appalls many on the left of the party and in its powerful black caucus.

In that situation, “this party should not in any way do anything to work around Ms Harris”, Mr Clyburn, one of the most prominent black lawmakers in Congress, told MSNBC last week.

Republicans, too, have acknowledged Ms Harris would be the frontrunner to replace Mr Biden.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned on Sunday that Republicans must be ready for a “dramatically different race” should Ms Harris – whom he described as a “vigorous” candidate – become the nominee.

Mr Graham emphasised her progressive California brand, suggesting she was closer in policy terms to left-wing firebrand Bernie Sanders than Joe Biden, in what appeared to be a glimpse of a Republican attack line should she become the candidate.

For his part, Donald Trump has called her “pathetic” in the days since the debate.

But ultimately the only question that matters for many Democrats – including deep-pocketed donors – is if she has a better chance of beating Trump than Joe Biden does. And that is deeply uncertain.

Harris backers point to a recent CNN poll suggesting she would fare better than the president against Trump in November. In a head-to-head contest, Ms Harris trailed the Republican by only two points, while Mr Biden lagged six points behind him. The poll also suggested Ms Harris performed better than Mr Biden with independent voters and women.

But many polling experts dismiss such hypothetical surveys, noting voter sentiment would change if Mr Biden actually decided to step aside and the Democrats entertained other potential candidates.

One Democratic pollster close to the Biden campaign acknowledged that Ms Harris may have more potential to expand the party’s voter base than the president, but was sceptical about how much of a difference she would make. Surveys pitting her against Trump at this stage “don’t mean anything”, said the person, who requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Ms Harris, the child of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, performs better in surveys than Mr Biden with black, Latino and young voters – critical constituencies that allies say she could energise as the nominee.

But whether she would actually boost turnout among younger voters of colour is another uncertain question. “This is just a wait and see moment,” the pollster said.

Some in the party are also asking whether Ms Harris’ progressive reputation risks losing the union and blue-collar voters in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that Mr Biden narrowly won in 2020 and which both parties need to secure a win in November.

Should she take over the ticket, some Democrats have suggested that Governor Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania or Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina could be picked as running mate to capture centrist voters in Midwestern states.

Given the ages of Joe Biden and Donald Trump, voters are paying far more attention to the VP candidate of both parties in this election cycle, said Celinda Lake, a veteran Democratic pollster who worked for the 2020 Biden campaign.

On the Republican side, Trump has yet to announce his running mate, although many speculate he’ll pick North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum or Ohio Senator JD Vance.

Deep concerns among some Democrats about Harris’s strength as a presidential candidate date back to her unsuccesful 2020 bid for the party’s nomination, in which she landed blows on Mr Biden in an early debate but then crashed out before the first caucuses in Iowa.

Critics said she struggled to define herself as a candidate, a sentiment that has lingered throughout her tenure as vice-president. She had a shaky start in the White House, marked by high-profile interview slip-ups, low approval ratings and staff turnover.

She was also tasked with overseeing the administration’s strategy to reduce migration over the US southern border, which increased to record levels over the last three years and remains a major vulnerability for the campaign.

Those early stumbles led Ms Harris to be more cautious about her public appearances but many voters perceive her as ineffective and absent. “People need to know more about her, what economic issues she is strong on and they need to be reminded of the role she’s played,” Ms Lake said.

Over the last year, Ms Harris has found stable footing as the administration’s leading voice on abortion rights, an issue that proved successful for Democrats during the 2022 midterm elections and one the party hopes will win back more voters in November.

As a former prosecutor who handled sexual violence cases, she has invoked personal stories of working with women who miscarried in the bathroom or were turned away at hospitals as she’s tried to mobilise voters around the issue.

On the campaign trail, she has also sought to capitalise on other issues that resonate with young voters, including student debt forgiveness, climate change and gun violence. The White House, too, has made a concerted effort to promote her more forcefully.

Still, she faces an uphill battle to change longstanding voter scepticism – her approval ratings hover around 37% in polling averages compiled by FiveThirtyEight – a level similar to both Mr Biden and Trump.

And unless Mr Biden himself caves to the mounting party pressure to step down, grassroots Democratic supporters themselves seem resigned to supporting the current ticket.

At the Essence festival in New Orleans, Iam Christian Tucker, a 41-year-old small business owner from New Orleans, said she didn’t care, ultimately, who the nominee was.

She said she liked Kamala Harris, but she wasn’t sure if a black female president could win election.

“I’m voting against Donald Trump more than anything,” she told the BBC.

Greg Hovel, 67, who attended a rally for President Biden in Madison, Wisconsin, last week, said he supported Ms Harris in the 2020 primary and “has always been a fan,” though he cautioned there is “a lot of anti-woman sentiment in this country.”

“I think she would make an excellent president,” Mr Hovel said. “But I still think Biden can win.”

China Tesla rival BYD signs $1bn Turkey plant deal

By Peter HoskinsBusiness reporter

China’s biggest electric car maker BYD has agreed a $1bn (£780m) deal to set up a manufacturing plant in Turkey, as it continues to expand outside its home country.

The new plant will be able to produce up to 150,000 vehicles a year, according to Turkish state news agency Anadolu.

The facility is expected to create around 5,000 jobs and start production by the end of 2026.

The deal was signed at an event in Istanbul attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and BYD’s chief executive Wang Chuanfu.

BYD did not immediately respond to a BBC request for further details on the deal.

The announcement comes as Chinese EV makers face increasing pressure in the European Union and the US.

Last week, the EU took action to protect the bloc’s motor industry by raising tariffs on Chinese EVs.

The decision saw BYD hit with an extra tariff of 17.4% on the vehicles it ships from China to the EU, which was on top of a 10% import duty.

Turkey is part of the EU’s Customs Union, which means vehicles made in the country and exported to the bloc can avoid the additional tariff.

The Turkish government has also taken action to support the country’s car makers by putting an extra 40% tariff on imports of Chinese vehicles.

In May, US President Joe Biden ramped up tariffs on Chinese-made electric cars, solar panels, steel and other goods.

The White House said the measures, which include a 100% border tax on electric cars from China, were a response to unfair policies and intended to protect US jobs.

BYD, which is backed by veteran US investor Warren Buffett, is the world’s second-largest EV company after Elon Musk’s Tesla.

The company has been rapidly expanding its production facilities outside China.

At the end of last year, BYD announced that it would build a manufacturing plant in EU member state Hungary.

It will be the firm’s first passenger car factory in Europe and is expected to create thousands of jobs.

On Thursday, BYD opened an EV plant in Thailand – its first factory in South East Asia.

BYD said the plant will have an annual capacity of 150,000 vehicles and is projected to generate 10,000 jobs.

The company has also said it is planning to build a manufacturing plant in Mexico.

Justin Bieber performs at India’s mega wedding

By Flora DruryBBC News

Justin Bieber has become the latest in a string of international stars to perform for the son of India’s richest man and his wife-to-be as they celebrate their upcoming wedding.

The Canadian singer flew in to perform for Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant – along with their guests – in Mumbai at the weekend.

He had a lot to live up to. The couple’s first pre-wedding party featured Rihanna, while the second – a cruise around the Mediterranean – had performances from 90s teen heartthrobs The Backstreet Boys, singer Katy Perry and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.

So it is with bated breath that Ambani wedding-watchers – of whom there are now legions around the globe – await news of who will perform at the actual wedding itself this weekend.

Rumours swirling on the internet suggest it could be Adele, but the family are remaining tight-lipped.

No expense is being spared on the wedding of Mukesh Ambani’s youngest son, putting it in a different league from even the most extravagant of Indian weddings. It outshines even his daughter’s nuptials, which featured a headline-grabbing performance by Beyoncé.

Last weekend Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant celebrated their sangeet ceremony – a night of music and dance ahead of the wedding ceremony. In typical style, the Ambanis went above and beyond what would usually be expected by guests.

It saw Mukesh Ambani, the head of Reliance Industries, with an estimated net worth of $115bn, according to Forbes, and the rest of the family take to the stage in their own choreographed dance to Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s hit song, Deewangi Deewangi.

It was also another chance for wedding-watchers to pore over the outfits worn by the guests – which included some of India’s most glamorous stars wearing dresses by the country’s top fashion designers.

It seems as much as the pre-wedding events have been concerts, they have also become catwalks, with stars sharing professional shots on their social media accounts ahead of the parties.

The cost of the three parties to date is not known. It was rumoured Rihanna had been paid $7m (£5.5m) for her performance, while the figure suggested for Justin Bieber is said to be $10m.

Exactly what the weekend’s three-day event holds remains to be seen. For some in India, it will come as a relief that the wedding and its extravagance is over, while those in Mumbai will be hoping it does not make the city’s famously bad traffic any worse.

Radhika was keeping her cards close to her chest when she told Vogue US last month that planning was “going great”, adding: “I’m very excited to be married.”

Australia appoints special envoy to tackle antisemitism

By Tiffanie TurnbullBBC News, Sydney

Australia has appointed a special envoy to combat antisemitism and preserve “social cohesion”, amid rising community tension over the Israel-Gaza war.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced lawyer and businesswoman Jillian Segal would consult with community leaders and discrimination experts to advise the government.

It follows in the footsteps of countries like the US, Canada, Greece and the UK, which have all had similar positions for years.

A special envoy for addressing Islamophobia will also be appointed soon, Mr Albanese added.

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East has become a volatile political issue in Australia. It has resulted in protests from both Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as a sharp uptick in Islamophobia and antisemitism.

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

More than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza as a result of Israel’s offensive, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

“Australians are deeply concerned about this conflict, and many are hurting. In times like this, Australians must come together, not be torn apart,” Mr Albanese said on Tuesday.

The appointment of Ms Segal – who has headed several key bodies representing the Jewish community and served in leadership roles in the education and banking sectors – is a “critical step” in easing friction, he said.

Ms Segal said combatting the “age-old hatred” of antisemitism has never been more important, pointing to a 700% rise in incidences since the war began in October.

“Jewish Australians want to feel free to live their day-to-day lives, and also want to feel safe to practice and express their religion without fear,” she added.

The announcement has been welcomed by the national peak body for the Australian Jewish community – a group Ms Segal led until last year – who say she will “will bring deep knowledge of the issues and immense energy to the role”.

However other groups – including The Jewish Council of Australia, which has been critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza, and The Australian Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) – say they fear it will worsen division.

“It also risks further entrenching the concerning pattern of antisemitism being conflated with criticism of the state of Israel or with support for Palestine,” APAN said.

The Australian government supports a two-state solution, and in the wake of the 7 October attacks loudly supported Israel’s right to defend itself.

However in recent months it has increasingly voiced concerns about the country’s military campaign in Gaza – including after an Australian aid worker was killed alongside six others in an Israeli air strike.

Australia’s governing Labor party has also experienced growing tensions, with one senator last week quitting its ranks over its stance on the war.

Fatima Payman said she had been “exiled” after breaking party rules to vote against the government in support of a motion calling for the recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Five Indian soldiers killed in Kashmir ambush

By Meryl SebastianBBC News, Kochi

Five soldiers have been killed in an ambush by suspected militants in the Kathua district of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, officials say.

The soldiers in military vehicles came under fire from militants hiding in a nearby hill, according to initial reports.

Reinforcements arrived quickly and a search operation was launched to track down the attackers, officials said.

Kashmir has seen an armed insurgency against Indian rule since 1989, but violence has waned in recent years.

Monday afternoon’s attack in Jammu marks a month of increasing violence in the region.

Last month, nine people died and 33 were injured after suspected militants fired on a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims in the area.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said he was “deeply anguished” at the lives lost in the latest attack.

“My deepest condolences to the bereaved families, the nation stands firm with them in this difficult time,” Mr Singh wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“The counter-terrorist operations are underway, and our soldiers are determined to usher in peace and order in the region,” he said.

Reports say the militants – their exact number unknown – launched an attack in an area flanked by a hill on one side and a steep slope on the other. They descended from the hillside, targeting primarily one truck.

Five soldiers were also injured in the attack, officials said.

  • India’s crackdown on Kashmir press
  • Article 370: What happened with Kashmir and why it matters

Since June, there have been seven attacks reported in the relatively peaceful Jammu region.

The latest attack marks the second major incident in Kathua district in a month and the second assault on the army in Jammu within two days.

On 11 June, a soldier and two suspected militants died in a shootout in Kathua. On Sunday, another soldier was injured in an attack on an army camp in Rajouri district in Jammu.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for decades.

Since 1947, the nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two wars over the Muslim-majority territory, which both claim in full but control in part.

Since 1989, an armed insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir against Delhi’s rule has claimed thousands of lives.

Delhi accuses Islamabad of harbouring militants and disrupting peace in the region, a charge Pakistan denies.

Indian wrestlers eye Olympics after sex harassment scandal

By Divya AryaBBC Hindi

Over a year after protests against sexual harassment allegations shook Indian wrestling, female athletes are gearing up for major events, including the 2024 Paris Olympics. The BBC spoke to young wrestlers about their journey.

Reetika Hooda almost didn’t make it.

The 23-year-old is among the five Indian women wrestlers to qualify for the Olympics this year.

It’s a hard-won opportunity, following a year of setbacks that shook her confidence. She knew she needed more training and competitions to improve her game.

A year ago, all wrestling came to a halt in India after its federation chief Brij Bhushan Singh was accused of sexual misconduct. He denies the allegations.

India’s sports ministry did not sack Singh but it disbanded the federation after finding several lapses, including the non-compliance of sexual harassment laws, and set up a temporary team to run things.

It was an unprecedented time. Hooda remembers watching the country’s most accomplished wrestlers, including her inspiration Sakshi Malik – the only Indian woman to win an Olympic medal in wrestling – camp on the roads of Delhi, demanding Singh’s resignation.

The protest made headlines globally, especially after the police detained the wrestlers when they tried to march to India’s new parliament building. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) condemned the way the wrestlers were treated and called for an impartial inquiry into their complaints.

“It was sad – not only because of what was happening but also what wasn’t,” Hooda told me.

Each year, the International Olympic Committee designates certain tournaments as qualification events for the games. To compete, wrestlers must earn ranking points in trials, win national competitions, and secure the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) approval.

But instead of competing, Hooda stared at an empty sporting calendar for weeks.

“We trained but there were no trials, which meant we could not compete and know our shortcomings. There was a constant fear that we won’t be prepared [for the Olympics],” she said.

For a country that’s won only 24 medals at individual events in Olympics, with over a quarter in wrestling, this was worrying.

Fresh elections to the WFI were finally held in December 2023, nearly a year after the protests began.

The wrestlers had asked India’s sports minister to prevent people associated with Singh from participating in the election.

Singh did not contest as he had already served the maximum of three terms. But his close aide Sanjay Singh was elected the chief after a landslide victory.

This sparked outrage among women wrestlers. On the same day, Olympic medallist Malik quit the sport in protest.

“Even now I get emotional when I think of that moment,” Malik said. “Wrestling took me to such heights, got me love and respect, and I had to give it up.”

Young wrestlers were stunned by Malik’s decision – but soon, they were back on the mat.

“Sakshi Malik was the reason I took up wrestling,” said Tanu Malik, a 20-year-old wrestler in Haryana state.

“So when I saw her crying, I thought to myself, she fought for us, we can’t give up now.”

From that day, Tanu Malik decided to work harder.

Her training at the state’s all-women Yudhvir Wrestling Academy starts at 04:30.

The day starts with a rigorous five-hour fitness session, lifting large truck tyres and practicing wrestling techniques. After a break for food and rest, the women resume training for another five hours in the afternoon.

Girls as young as 12 years sweat it out on the mat. In their free time, they talk about diets and share recipes that would help them stay fit.

None of them want to talk about the alleged sexual harassment at academies or the accusations against the former wrestling chief. However, they are determined not to give up.

Seema Kharab, a coach, says that contrary to expectations, the number of girls at the academy has not dropped since the protests.

“The protests have assured young wrestlers that it is possible to raise their voice, that positive action may be taken and they can get support within the system,” she says.

In June, the police charged Brij Bhushan Singh with stalking, harassment, intimidation, and making “sexually coloured remarks”, but a court granted him bail

Meanwhile, the new federation chief, Sanjay Singh, has taken on the mantle.

He acknowledged his 30-year relationship with the former chief but dismissed allegations of Brij Bhushan Singh’s interference, claiming wrestlers had accepted him as the new head.

He said this was evident from the “massive turnout” at national wrestling competitions this year.

“No-one will be favoured or discriminated against and each wrestler is dear to me. I am also the father of two daughters and I understand what daughters need,” he added.

However, for young women like Tanu Malik, fear has become an inescapable part of being in the profession.

“It’s not easy – my parents are constantly worried about sending me to training alone,” she says. “But they have to trust us, otherwise how would things work? It’s like accepting defeat without even fighting.”

Others feel deflated and say the protests have come at a huge personal cost for them.

Shiksha Kharab, a gold medallist at the Asian Championship, says it caused disruptions in training because of which young wrestlers have lost a crucial year.

But Sakshi Malik has no regrets.

“The most important thing is to fight,” she said. “I don’t think anybody in any sporting federation would dare to do anything, they now know that harassment can have repercussions.”

Hooda says she’s nervous about competing with some of the world’s biggest wrestling giants at the Games, but also looking forward to it.

“Sakshi Malik used to say victory and loss are not important – just trust your hard work. That’s what I will do,” she adds.

As she gets ready for training, a picture of Sakshi posing with her Olympic medal, beams down at her.

“My only focus now is to win a medal” she says. “Who knows, maybe one day I will have my picture next to hers.”

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How Canada became a car theft capital of the world

By Nadine YousifBBC News, Toronto
How car thieves in Canada targeted the same owner twice

Logan LaFarniere woke up one October morning in 2022 to an empty driveway.

His brand new Ram Rebel truck was missing.

His security camera captured two hooded men breaking into the pickup in the dead of night outside of his Milton, Ontario home, and driving it away with ease.

A few months later, that very same truck appeared on a website of vehicles for sale in Ghana, an ocean and some 8,500km away.

“The dead giveaway was the laptop holder that we had installed in the back of the driver’s seat for my son, and in it was garbage that he had put in there,” Mr LaFerniere told the BBC.

That same clutter was visible in photos of the car listing, he said.

“There was no doubt in my mind that it was my vehicle.”

Mr LaFarniere’s story is hardly unique. In 2022, more than 105,000 cars were stolen in Canada – about one car every five minutes. Among the victims was Canada’s very own federal justice minister, whose government-issued Toyota Highlander XLE was taken twice by thieves.

Early this summer, Interpol listed Canada among the top 10 worst countries for car thefts out of 137 in its database – a “remarkable” feat, said a spokesperson, considering the country only began integrating their data with the international police organisation in February.

Authorities say once these cars are stolen, they are either used to carry out other violent crimes, sold domestically to other unsuspecting Canadians, or shipped overseas to be resold.

Interpol says it has detected more than 1,500 cars around the world that have been stolen from Canada since February, and around 200 more continue to be identified each week, usually at ports in other countries.

Car theft is such an epidemic that it was declared a “national crisis” by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, which says insurers have had to pay out more than C$1.5bn ($1bn; £860m) in vehicle theft claims last year.

The problem has forced police jurisdictions across the country to issue public bulletins on how to protect vehicles from theft.

Meanwhile, some Canadians have taken matters into their own hands, doing everything from installing trackers on their cars to hiring private neighbourhood security.

Some who can afford it have even installed retractable bollards in their driveways – similar to those seen at banks and embassies – to try and deter thieves.

Nauman Khan, who lives in Mississauga, a city just outside Toronto, started a bollard-installation business after he and his brother were both victims of car thefts.

In one attempt, Mr Khan said the thieves broke into his home while his wife and young children were sleeping. They were looking for the keys to his Mercedes GLE parked out front, he said, but ran after he confronted them.

After that “traumatic” experience, they sold their cars except for two “humble” family vehicles.

Through his business, Mr Khan said he now hears similar stories from people throughout the region of Toronto.

“It’s been very busy,” he said. “We had one client whose street had so many home invasions that he’d hired a security guard every night outside his house because he just didn’t feel safe.”

The pervasiveness of car thefts in Canada is surprising given how small the country’s population is compared to the US and the UK – other countries with high rates of such crime, says Alexis Piquero, Director of the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.

“(Canada) also doesn’t have as many port cities as the US does,” said Mr Piquero.

While the US, Canada and the UK have all experienced a spike in car thefts since the Covid-19 pandemic, Canada’s rate of thefts (262.5 per 100,000 people) is higher than that of England and Wales (220 per 100,000 people), according to the latest available data from each country.

It is also fairly close to that of the US, which sits at around 300 vehicle thefts per 100,000 people, based on 2022 data.

The rise in recent years is partly due to a pandemic-driven global car shortage that has increased demand for both used and new vehicles.

There is also a growing market for certain car models internationally, making auto theft a top revenue generator for organised crime groups, said Elliott Silverstein, director of government relations at the Canadian Automobile Association.

But Mr Silverstein said the way that Canada’s ports operate make them more vulnerable to this type of theft than other countries.

“In the port system, there’s a greater focus on what is coming into the country than what is exiting the country,” he said, adding that once the vehicles are packed up in shipping containers at a port it becomes harder to get to them.

Police have managed to recover some stolen cars.

In October, the Toronto Police Service announced an 11-month investigation that recovered 1,080 vehicles worth around C$60m. More than 550 charges were laid as a result.

And between mid-December and the end of March, border and police officers found nearly 600 stolen vehicles at the Port of Montreal after inspecting 400 shipping containers.

These types of operations, however, can be difficult to carry out given the volume of merchandise that moves through that port, experts have said. Around 1.7 million containers moved through the Port of Montreal in 2023 alone.

Port staff also do not have the authority to inspect containers in most cases, and in customs-controlled areas only border officers can open a container without a warrant.

At the same time, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has been grappling with chronic understaffing, according to a report submitted by its union to the government in April.

Outdated technology is also an issue.

Patrick Brown, the mayor of Brampton – another Ontario city hard-hit by car thefts – recently paid a visit to the Port Newark Container Terminal in New Jersey to compare inspection tactics between the US and Canada.

He told the National Post newspaper that US authorities have “got scanners. They measure density. They work closely with local law enforcement”.

“These are things that we don’t do in Canada,” he said.

In May, the Canadian government said it would invest millions to bolster the CBSA’s ability to search shipping containers. Police will also get additional money to combat auto theft in their communities.

But Mr Silverstein said he believes a missing puzzle piece is auto manufacturers themselves.

“Everyone is talking about trying to recover vehicles, and a lot of my focus has been on why we are not making the vehicles tougher to steal in the first place,” he said.

In the meantime, car owners like Mr LaFarniere are still grappling with what to do to keep their vehicles safe.

After his Ram Rebel truck was stolen, he replaced it with a Toyota Tundra – a vehicle that Mr LaFarniere described as his “dream truck”.

This time, he installed an engine immobiliser on it to prevent thieves from being able to easily start the car. He also equipped it with a tag tracker in case it did get stolen, and added a club on the steering wheel for good measure.

Thieves were undeterred. A pair came to Mr LaFarniere’s driveway, this time to steal the Tundra. They had a harder time, however, and resorted to shattering the back window to get inside.

The commotion woke Mr LaFarniere and he called 911. But the thieves managed to run away in the four minutes it took for police to arrive.

He paid to repair his brand new truck and then sold it.

The whole ordeal, he said, was nothing short of “disheartening”.

Who are the left-wing alliance that won France’s election?

By Laura GozziBBC News

A left-wing coalition that was formed less than a month ago has won a shock victory at the second round of France’s snap parliamentary election.

The New Popular Front (NPF) is a broad church of centre-left and left-wing parties ranging from the Socialists to the Greens, the Communists and the radical left France Unbowed (LFI).

Although these parties have criticised one another in the past and have some key differences in their ideology and approach, they decided to form a bloc to keep the far right out of government when President Emmanuel Macron called an election on 9 June.

The tactic worked. Against every expectation, on Sunday the New Popular Front (NFP) won a total of 182 seats, ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Ensemble alliance.

The far-right National Rally, which had come out top in round one a week ago, fell to third place.

The NFP managed such a remarkable comeback thanks to a concerted effort by left wing and centrist parties, which saw candidates withdraw from three-way races in order to concentrate the anti-RN vote. This occurred in around 200 constituencies and changed the outcome of the election.

What happens to the NFP now?

The NFP only arose out of genuine fear by leftist parties that the RN was about to seize power.

Now that scenario has been avoided, the members of the NFP need to find ways to work together in the National Assembly – and rallying together to stop the far right from winning a majority may turn out to have been the easy part.

Cracks began to show shortly after the exit polls were published on Sunday night.

Although NFP party leaders acknowledged the outcome was the result of a joint effort, they each celebrated the result on their own, and some crucial differences in how to approach the post-election phase are already starting to emerge.

Because the NFP did not win an outright majority, some on the left are saying their bloc will have to find support from other parties, like President Macron’s Ensemble alliance.

Raphaël Glucksmann, a centre-left politician who is a rising star within the Socialist Party, has already said opponents will have to come together and make deals, as they do elsewhere in Europe.

Francois Hollande, the former Socialist president of France who has now been elected as an MP, has said the NFP would have to “try, if possible” to form alliances with other groups – although he acknowledged this would be very difficult.

But Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the radical left firebrand leader of France Unbowed (LFI), has ruled out working with President Macron’s camp and has instead called for the NFP to be given the chance to name its own prime minister and to govern on its own.

What does the NFP want?

Shortly after they formed a coalition, the NFP put out a programme that included a promise to scrap the pension and immigration reforms passed by the current government, to set up a rescue agency for undocumented migrants and to facilitate visa applications.

The NFP also promised caps on basic goods to combat the cost of living crisis, boost housing subsidies and raise the monthly minimum wage to €1,600 (£1,350).

The alliance said it would finance its increase in social spending through a reform of the tax system, the restoration of the wealth tax and a windfall tax on corporations.

The total cost of the NFP’s economic programme has been estimated at €150bn (£126bn) a year.

Some economists have warned the programme is much too expensive given the current state of France’s finances. It could also set it on a collision course with Brussels. Only last month, the European Commission opened an excessive deficit procedure against France.

What just happened in France’s shock election?

By Paul KirbyBBC News in Paris
Jubilation and stunned silence: France reacts to exit polls

Nobody expected this. High drama, for sure, but this was a shock.

When the graphics flashed up on all the big French channels, it was not the far right of Marine Le Pen and her young prime minister-in-waiting Jordan Bardella who were on course for victory.

It was the left who had clinched it, and Emmanuel Macron’s centrists – the Ensemble alliance – had staged an unexpected comeback, pushing the far-right National Rally (RN) into third.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the veteran left-wing firebrand seen by his critics as an extremist, wasted no time in proclaiming victory.

“The president must call on the New Popular Front to govern,” he told supporters in Stalingrad square, insisting Mr Macron had to recognise that he and his coalition had lost.

His alliance, drawn up in a hurry for President Macron’s surprise election, includes his own radical France Unbowed, along with Greens, Socialists and Communists and even Trotskyists. But their victory is nowhere big enough to govern.

France is going to have a hung parliament. None of the three blocs can form an outright majority by themselves of 289 seats in the 577-seat parliament.

  • Live: France faces hung parliament deadlock after left alliance wins most seats

As soon as he had spoken, Mr Mélenchon went off to a much bigger square, Place de la République, to celebrate his success with a crowd of 8,000 people, according to police numbers.

For National Rally’s supporters the champagne was fast turning flat at their celebration-gone-wrong in the Bois de Vincennes forest to the south-east of Paris.

Only a week ago all the talk had been of a possible absolute majority, and Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella were still talking up their chances a couple of days before the vote.

Marine Le Pen put a brave face on it. “Two years ago we had just seven MPs. Tonight RN is the first party in France in terms of MP numbers.”

In the last parliament they had 88 MPs and now more than 140, so she was right. And no other party has more than 100 MPs, because the Macronists and the Popular Front are both coalitions.

Jordan Bardella complained that his party had been foiled by unnatural “alliances of dishonour”, forged by a “single party” made up of the Macron camp and the left. He wasn’t wrong about the unnatural alliance, but it is only a temporary one of convenience.

More than 200 candidates who saw themselves as part of a “republican front”, pulled out of the second round so that a better-placed rival could stop RN winning.

Not even Marine Le Pen’s younger sister, Marie-Caroline, was able to offer a glimmer of good news from her own election battle around Le Mans.

Her bid to get into parliament failed by just 225 votes, defeated by Mr Mélenchon’s candidate, Elise Leboucher, after the Macron candidate dropped out.

Turnout, at 66.63%, was the highest in a parliamentary second round since 1997. Even if RN’s vote held up, this time it was having to contend with non-RN votes often being used tactically to create a “barrage” or block against them.

All over France, RN was losing run-offs it needed to win.

Some of their candidates were less than appealing.

There was the woman who promised to stop making racist jokes if she was elected in Puy-de-Dôme; and then there was the ill-equipped young man in Haute-Savoie in the south-east who took part in a TV debate with his centrist rival and made barely any sense on anything.

They both lost, but they reflected RN’s big advance in rural areas.

RN scored 32% of the vote – 37% with their right-wing allies – and for more than 10 million voters a taboo has been broken.

In Meaux, east of Paris, RN won but not by much.

After casting her vote, Claudine said people she knew tended not to admit to voting RN, unless they were with close friends.

Before the projected result at 8pm, there was fevered speculation about whether President Macron would come out and speak. Word spread that he had gone into a meeting 90 minutes earlier.

Gabriel Attal, his beleaguered prime minister, eventually appeared to give the government’s response.

Four weeks ago, he had sat stony-faced and arms folded opposite the president as Mr Macron revealed his election plan.

Now he announced he would be handing his boss his resignation in the morning, but he would stay on as long as duty called.

Mr Attal is supposed to fly off on Tuesday evening to a Nato meeting in Washington. It’s hard to imagine him being replaced just yet.

France has entered a period of political instability with no obvious way out. There had been talk of unrest on the streets, but only a handful of incidents were reported in Paris and cities including Nantes and Lyon,

All eyes are now on the president, who will have to navigate a way out of this deadlock.

The new National Assembly is due to convene in 10 days’ time, but the Paris Olympics starts on 26 July and France could do with a period of calm.

Left-leaning newspaper Libération summed up the whole night with the headline .

A relief for them that voters brought RN’s bid for power to a halt. But it also means in colloquial French: “It’s crazy.”

‘Victims of a dishonest alliance’: French far right disappointed but defiant

By Mark LowenBBC News

The champagne was on ice, the jazz was on low: the scene was set at the pavilion in Paris’s Bois de Vincennes forest where the National Rally (RN) was staging what it hoped would be its victory rally.

Hundreds of journalists had come from across the world, the sniffer dogs in place to protect a party that was, we all thought, at the gates of power; the first time the far right would enter government in France since World War Two.

But as time ticked towards the exit poll at 8pm, the mood began to turn. Party apparatchiks talked in hushed tones of indications they had fallen short. Nervous glances were exchanged, the glasses looked more half-empty than half-full.

And then the screens told the story: of the National Rally beaten into third place by the left and by President Macron’s centrists. There was stunned silence – and then a smattering of applause by party supporters to try to keep spirits up.

“We are sad, disappointed, struck down by this result,” said Rosa Gave, as she clutched a French flag.

“We are victims of a dishonest alliance led by Macron to block us from power.”

That “alliance” was more of a pact, struck in the last week by opponents of the National Rally – that in many of the three-way races where the RN was in the lead, the third candidate would withdraw, urging voters to rally behind the figure best-placed to stop the far-right. And it worked. It’s a common electoral tactic here – but has still drawn the ire of the RN.

As Jordan Bardella, the party’s 28-year-old president – and the man who had hoped to become France’s prime minister – arrived, there were cheers from the dwindling crowd inside.

“Depriving millions of French people of the possibility of seeing their ideas brought to power will never be a viable destiny for France”, he said.

He denounced President Emmanuel Macron for, in his words, pushing France towards instability – and into the arms of what he called the “extreme left”: a reference to France Unbowed, the party leading the victorious left-wing coalition.

And then came Marine Le Pen, the National Rally’s leader, whose dream of national power has once again been thwarted at the eleventh hour. She was thronged by journalists, as her supporters chanted “Marine, Présidente!” A couple of reporters were pushed over in the melee.

“The tide is rising – our victory has only been delayed,” she said, calling President Macron’s position “untenable”.

  • Live: France faces hung parliament deadlock after left alliance wins most seats

The president who came to power promising to revive the centre ground, to bridge right and left, has done anything but – pushing the French to the extremes. And while many in the National Rally will feel bitterly disappointed that their victory in the first round of this election did not lead them to power after the second, they will be cheering a significant increase in the number of their MPs since the last parliamentary election, confident that one day their time will come.

“France has chosen the coalition of the worst,” said Matteo Giammaresi, a National Rally supporter, holding his champagne glass on a rapidly emptying dancefloor.

“What we say now is giving France hope for the future.”

The party will now wait this government out, believing that division and disunity will play into Marine Le Pen’s hands. And then, at the 2027 presidential election, she would be able to say – this is what happens when we are blocked from power.

What government now emerges is still deeply unclear.

A hung parliament awaits – and potential paralysis. France has been plunged into the political unknown – just not in the way pollsters predicted.

French people reject the far right – again

By Hugh SchofieldBBC News

The French have said it again: they do not want the far right in power.

They gave them a big win in the European elections; they gave them a big win in the first round of this parliamentary election.

But when it came to a vote that really counted, just as in the presidentials, they drew back from the brink.

This surprise upset which has reduced the National Rally (RN) to third place – with perhaps 150 seats compared with predictions a week ago of nearly 300 – is due entirely to voters turning out in large numbers to stop them.

Bardella: ‘Dishonourable alliance deprived’ France of RN victory

The RN will argue – with some justice – that this was only possible because the other parties came together to play the system.

They note that the disparate parties of the left all suddenly forgot their differences to form a new anti-RN coalition; and then that the Macronites and the left forgot their differences too.

They note that nothing unites these politicians (from Edouard Philippe on the centre right to Philippe Poutou of the Trotskyist left) except their opposition to the RN. And that this lack of agreement bodes ill for the future.

Nonetheless, the fact remains. Most people do not want the far right – either because they oppose its ideas, or because they fear the unrest that would inevitably attend its coming to power.

So if Jordan Bardella will not be the country’s next prime minister, who will be?

That is the great unknown. And contrary to convention following previous French parliamentary elections, it may be weeks before we have an answer.

Because something has happened these past tense weeks to change the very nature of the French political system.

  • Live: France faces hung parliament deadlock after left alliance wins most seats
Left alliance supporters burst into cheers in Paris’s Stalingrad Square

As Alain Duhamel — veteran of every election since Charles de Gaulle – put it: “Today there is no longer any dominant party. Since Macron came to power seven years ago, we have been in a period of deconstruction of our political forces.

“Perhaps now we are beginning a period of reconstruction.”

What he means is that there is now a multitude of political forces: three major blocs (left, far-right and centre); plus the centre-right. And within these there are competing tendencies and parties.

With no party able to call the shots in the Assembly, a long period of haggling is now inevitable aimed at forming a new coalition from the centre-right through to the left.

It is far from obvious how it will be formed – given the mutual loathing that the different potential components have expressed till now.

But we can bet that President Macron will now call for a period of apaisement – conciliation – after the tensions of the last weeks.

Conveniently this period will last through the Olympics and the summer holidays, allowing the French to recover their spirits.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal says he will hand in his resignation

In the meantime, he will designate somebody to lead the talks and reach out to the different parties. Will it be someone from the left? Will it be someone from the centre? Will it be a political outsider? We do not know.

What seems certain though is that France is about to enter a more parliamentary system.

Power will drain from President Macron, and towards whoever heads the new government.

Even if he manages to place a centrist in the prime ministership (far from easy, given the strength of the left) that person will exercise power in his or her own right, and on the basis of parliamentary support.

Macron – with no prospect of running again in 2027 – will be a diminished figure.

So has the president lost his bet? Is he regretting his haste in calling the elections? Is he ready to take a backward step?

We can be sure that is not the way Macron sees it. He will be saying that he called the vote because the situation was untenable; that he has clarified politics, offered the RN a fairer share of Assembly seats, given their widespread support; and that his gamble that the French would never put the far-right in power was correct.

And in the meantime, he has not exactly gone away. Macron’s power may be on the wane. But he is still there at the Elysée, consulting with his team, prodding politicians, still master of the political clock.

‘You’re not welcome here’: Australia’s treatment of disabled migrants

By Katy WatsonAustralia correspondent

When Luca was born in a Perth hospital two years ago, it flipped his parents’ world in ways they never expected.

With the joy came a shocking diagnosis: Luca had cystic fibrosis. Then Australia – Laura Currie and her husband Dante’s home for eight years – said they couldn’t stay permanently. Luca, his parents were told, could be a financial burden on the country.

“I think I cried for like a week – I just feel really, really sorry for Luca,” Ms Currie says. “He’s just a defenceless two-and-a-half-year-old and doesn’t deserve to be discriminated against in that way.”

With a third of its population born abroad, Australia has long seen itself as a “migration nation” – a multicultural home for immigrants that promises them a fair go and a fresh start. The idea is baked into its identity. But the reality is often different, especially for those who have a disability or a serious medical condition.

It is one of few countries that routinely rejects immigrants’ visas on the basis of their medical needs – specifically if the cost of care exceeds A$86,000 ($57,000; £45,000) over a maximum of 10 years. New Zealand has a similar policy but Australia’s is much stricter.

The government defends the law as necessary to curb government spending and protect citizens’ access to healthcare. It says these visas aren’t technically rejected. But neither are they granted. Some can apply for a waiver, although not all visas allow it. They could also appeal the decision but the process is lengthy and expensive.

Campaigners see this as discriminatory and out of step with modern attitudes towards disability. And after years of fighting for it, they are hoping for change in the coming weeks, with an official review of the health requirements under way.

Laura Currie and Dante Vendittelli had moved from Scotland for jobs that Australia desperately needs. She is a nursery teacher and he is a painter-decorator. They had started their application for permanent residency before Luca was born. But now they feel like the life they built here and the taxes they paid meant little.

“It’s like, we’re here for you [Australia] when you need us, but when the roles are reversed and we need you, it’s like, nope, sorry, you cost too much money, you go back to your own country.”

BBC
We still treat people with disability in the same way as we did in 1901.”

Australia has form when it comes to its strict immigration policies. It had its own version of “stop the boats”, which sent people arriving by boat to offshore detention centres in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Island of Nauru and made controversial headlines in recent years. It was only in the 1970s that it entirely rid itself of the “White Australia” policy that started in 1901 with the Immigration Restriction Act, which limited the number of non-white immigrants.

The disability and health discriminations, which also date back to 1901, are still in place, says Jan Gothard, an immigration lawyer: “We still treat people with disability in the same way as we did in 1901 and we think they’re not people who are welcome in Australia.”

She is part of Welcoming Disability, an umbrella group that’s been pressuring the government to overhaul the law. Surprisingly, Australia’s Migration Act is exempt from its own Disability Discrimination Act.

Put simply, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived in Australia, if you were born in Australia, if you have private health insurance or even if you can pay for the support yourself – if you are deemed too much of a financial burden, you will fail the health requirement.

The government says that 99% of visa applicants meet the health requirement – 1,779 of them did not meet the bar between 2021 and 2022, according to official figures.

Immigration minister Andrew Giles, who declined to be interviewed, recently said that “any child born in Australia and adversely affected by the migration health rules can apply for ministerial intervention”, and that he himself had “positively intervened” in cases.

But families say that the process is gruelling at an already difficult time.

The price to stay

“There’s so much in your life going on when a child is sick, so much struggle and you’re struggling and begging and asking for petitions, asking people to help you,” says Mehwish Qasim, who knows the challenge first-hand. She and her husband Qasim fought to stay in Australia in a case that drew global attention.

Their son Shaffan was born in 2014 with a rare genetic condition and a damaged spinal cord. He needs around-the-clock care. The couple, originally from Pakistan, intended to return eventually, but Shaffan’s birth changed everything. Now, getting on a plane would risk his life.

Finally, in 2022 they were told they could stay. For those eight years, Qasim, a trained accountant, was unable to work in his chosen profession. Instead, he found jobs in cafes, in supermarkets and taxi apps to make ends meet.

“They should realise that’s a very difficult situation – you shouldn’t put people in the limelight,” Ms Qasim says.

Ms Currie and her husband aren’t giving up either – Australia is home now for Luca and they are filling jobs that the country needs. They’re hoping that is enough to win them their appeal. If they lose, they will have 28 days to leave the country.

For Luca, the sticking point is a pricey drug, Trikafta. He is not on it and may not even be compatible with it. But it’s the basis of Australian estimates of his treatment – around A$1.8m That puts his medical costs over the permissible limit – A$86,000 over 10 years, also known as the Significant Cost Threshold.

While campaigners have welcomed the recent rise of the threshold – from A$51,000 to A$86,000 – they still don’t think it reflects average costs.

The government’s own data shows it spends at least $17,610 per year on the average citizen – the most recent figures from 2021-2022 showing $9,365 per head on health goods and services and a further A$8,245 per person on welfare costs. Over a 10-year period – the maximum period assessed for a visa – that would amount to more than A$170,000. So campaigners have questioned how the government comes up with the threshold, which is half of that amount.

They also want the cost of educational support to be removed from the calculations. This impacts families whose children have been diagnosed with conditions such as Down Syndrome, ADHD and autism.

It’s a snag that has hit Claire Day’s plans for her and her family to follow her brother, who moved to Australia a few years ago.

Her younger daughter Darcy, who is nearly 10, has Down Syndrome. She’s been told by migration experts that because of that, she has little chance of being granted a visa.

On an overcast afternoon in Kent, she talks wistfully of the life she is looking forward to Down Under. Sunshine is no small attraction, but also “the lifestyle – [I want] a better environment for the children to grow up in,” she says.

An officer with London’s Metropolitan Police force for 21 years, she wants to take advantage of a major recruitment drive by Australian police forces. Their social media feeds are full of promotional videos fronted by former British police officers, showing them living the Australian dream, patrolling the beach in sand buggies and relaxing in the surf. They make up just some of the 30,000 British people who moved to Australia last year, according to government statistics.

Ms Day has not one, but two job offers – from Queensland’s police force and from South Australia. As part of the job, she’s also entitled to a permanent visa. Now, she is not so sure.

“I had hoped that it wouldn’t be an issue because Darcy doesn’t have any medical problems. She’s fit and she’s healthy, she goes to school and she participates in clubs and all of that sort of stuff.”

Stories like this have convinced campaigners that, at its heart, the policy is ableist.

“If we say to people with disability, ‘you’re not welcome here, we’re saying directly to people living with disability in this country, ‘you’re not welcome here either,” Dr Gothard says.

“[We’re saying] you know, given the opportunity, we would rather not have you.”

Social worker Shizleen Aishath says she was “gobsmacked” to find out about the health requirement – and she discovered it the hard way.

A former UN employee, she came to Australia for a further degree with every intention of returning to the Maldives. But she had an emergency C-section when her son Kayban was born in 2016. Forceps were used during the delivery. Kayban had undiagnosed haemophilia and suffered a serious brain bleed. He now needs round-the-clock care and the family chose to stay in Australia.

But Kayban was refused a temporary visa because he was deemed too much of a burden – although the family have private health insurance and don’t use state resources. The rest of the family were granted their visas.

“Disability is the only thing that stops you from migrating, there is nothing else,” Ms Aishath says.

After a lengthy appeal, Kayban was allowed to remain. His family is now preparing for their next fight – to stay in Australia indefinitely.

What to expect from Iran’s new president

By Kayvan HosseiniBBC Persian

Iran’s president-elect Masoud Pezeshkian stood as a wildcard candidate, and defied expectations to win the presidency against hardline rival Saeed Jalili.

Mr Pezeshkian is notable because he is “a reformist”. But not the liberal-minded, democracy-loving kind of reformist, in the universal sense.

In Iran, “the reformists” are one ideological faction of the Islamic Republic’s ruling elite.

They are Islamists, like their conservative rivals, but believe a more moderate version of the regime’s ideology could better serve both the ruling clergy and Iranian society.

Reformists led the administration from 1997 until 2005 and were part of a de facto coalition when Hassan Rouhani, a conservative who became a centrist, was president between 2013 and 2021.

They have often called for a freer and more democratic society.

But in the 2024 election, unlike the previous reformist administration in the late 1990s, promises for a freer and more democratic society were not part of their campaign.

Since the 1990s, Iran has experienced multiple waves of dissent and oppression. Even reformists themselves have faced severe political crackdowns, with many high-profile figures spending time in jail over the last two decades.

Though members of the establishment, It is widely acknowledged that they lack influence over crucial centres of power, such as the Supreme Leader’s Office, the Guardian Council, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and the Supreme National Security Council.

When hardline former president Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash in May and Mr Pezeshkian prepared his presidential campaign, he chose a strategy very similar to Hassan Rouhani’s in 2013: focusing on the economic hardship the country has been facing for years due to Western sanctions – and blaming their conservative rivals for causing this situation with their “radical” anti-West stances.

As part of his campaign, Mr Pezeshkian recruited Mohammad Javad Zarif, the country’s former foreign minister who helped strike the nuclear deal in 2015. Although Mr Zarif is not a reformist per se, he campaigned heavily for Mr Pezeshkian.

In his manifesto, Mr Pezeshkian declared that his foreign policy would be “not anti-West, nor anti-East.” He criticised former president Raisi’s policies of moving the country closer to Russia and China and insisted that the only way to resolve the economic crisis is through negotiations with the West to end the nuclear standoff and ease the sanctions.

However, during the campaign, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, criticised these ideas. Mr Khamenei called those who believe in achieving prosperity through friendlier relations with the US “deluded,” – pointing to the fact that it was the US, not Iran, that withdrew from the nuclear deal.

According to the Iranian constitution, Mr Khamenei is the main decision-maker; an 85-year-old Shia cleric who was a revolutionary in 1979 and climbed the power ladder to become the head of state in 1989. He is known for his ideological animosity towards Israel and the United States, his deep distrust of the West, and in the last two decades, his active support for a doctrine called “look to the East,” which means ending the old non-aligned policy and leaning towards China and Russia on the global stage.

One of the most important aspects of Iran’s policies in the region is what the Quds Force (the external arm of the IRGC) does. The president does not have any direct control over them, and only the Supreme Leader can decide their actions.

Mr Khamenei repeatedly – including just three days before the first round of this election – stated that what the Quds Force does is essential for the country’s security doctrine.

So when Mr Pezeshkian talks about a different foreign policy with a friendlier approach to the West, the chance of changes in Iran’s activities in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen are slim.

Nevertheless, the president is the highest-ranking Iranian diplomat, and the foreign ministry can still help shape and implement policy.

They have the opportunity to push for their vision through behind-the-door political lobbying, as happened in 2015 when then-centrist President Hassan Rouhani convinced the hardliners, including Mr Khamenei himself, to accept the deal.

Moreover, the administration could significantly impact public discourse and promote policies that might not fully align with Mr Khamenei’s stance. Such nuances are the reformists’ only hope to do what they promised and bring down what Mr Pezeshkian called the “walls that have been built around the country by the hardliners.”

More on this story

Masoud Pezeshkian: The reformist former heart surgeon now Iran’s president-elect

By Tom Bennett & BBC PersianBBC News

Wildcard candidate Masoud Pezeshkian will become Iran’s first reformist president in almost two decades, after he defeated hardliner Saeed Jalili in a run-off election on Friday.

The 69-year-old former heart surgeon and health minister campaigned on promises to moderate Iran’s conservative outlook and improve relations with the West. He criticised the country’s notorious morality police and called for negotiations over a renewal of the faltering 2015 nuclear deal.

But analysts remain sceptical about his ability to enact meaningful change within an establishment dominated by ultraconservatives.

When Mr Pezeshkian’s name was confirmed on the ballot four weeks ago, following the death of hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash, even his most loyal supporters were shocked that he had made it past the Guardian Council.

The powerful body of clerics and jurists which vets candidates’ religious and revolutionary credentials had barred many prominent reformists and moderates from standing in recent elections, including Mr Pezeshkian himself for the last presidential poll in 2021.

But once his candidacy was approved this time, Mr Pezeshkian carefully balanced promises of change with declarations of loyalty to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate authority in the country.

In a celebratory speech, he praised the “guidance” of Ayatollah Khamenei, saying he would not have been able to succeed without him.

With Iran facing a struggling economy, a shadow-war with Israel that burst into the open earlier this year, and continuing discontent over the violent crackdown on the women-led protests that erupted in 2022, the fact that Mr Pezeshkian was even allowed to stand could be a sign that the Supreme Leader wishes to soften the government’s stance on certain issues.

Masoud Pezeshkian was born in 1954 in the city of Mahabad, in the north-western province of West Azerbaijan.

He is of mixed Azeri-Kurdish ancestry and grew up speaking both languages, giving him broad appeal among the ethnic minority groups which make up more than a third of Iran’s population of 89 million.

He studied medicine in the years before the 1979 Islamic revolution – and as a fresh-faced doctor he organised medical assistance for wounded soldiers during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. He specialized in cardiac surgery after the conflict.

In 1994, Mr Pezeshkian faced personal tragedy when his wife and son were killed in a car crash. He chose not to remarry, raising his daughter and two remaining sons alone – a story he told along the campaign trail, promising supporters: “As I was loyal to my family, I will be loyal to you.”

He rose up the political ranks in the early 2000s, serving as health minister during the second term of reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s government between 2001 and 2005.

He has represented the north-western city of Tabriz in parliament since 2008 and was a deputy speaker from 2016 to 2020.

After a crackdown on the unrest that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election, Mr Pezeshkian drew attention for his criticism of the government’s treatment of protesters, which spurred a backlash from Iran’s hard-line politicians.

Balancing change with loyalty

Mr Pezeshkian’s candidacy in this year’s presidential election was backed by major reformist groups and endorsed by Mr Khatami, as well as the moderate former president Hassan Rouhani.

He finished narrowly ahead of Saeed Jalili in the election’s first round, for which turnout was a record low of 40% amid calls for a boycott from opponents of the clerical establishment.

Turnout was almost 10 percentage points higher for the run-off, in which Mr Pezeshkian received 53.7% of the votes cast.

In a post on X following his victory, Mr Pezeshkian told Iranians that it marked the beginning of a “partnership”.

“The difficult path ahead cannot be smoothed without your co-operation, sympathy and trust. I extend my hand to you and swear by my honour I will not leave you alone in this course. Do not leave me alone,” he wrote.

Although Mr Pezeshkian is considered to be a reformist, he often emphasises his devotion to the Supreme Leader.

He has described himself as a “reformist principlist” and said: “I am a principlist, and it is for these principles that we seek reform.”

In the context of Iranian politics, “principlist” refers to conservative supporters of the Supreme Leader who advocate for protecting the ideological principles of the 1979 revolution’s early days.

Observers believe that it will be Mr Pezeshkian’s ability to straddle reformist and principlist agendas that will be crucial to his success.

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Accused of witchcraft then murdered for land

By Njeri Mwangi in Kilifi county & Tamasin Ford in LondonBBC Africa Eye

BBC Africa Eye investigates a shocking spate of elderly people accused of witchcraft then murdered along Kenya’s Kilifi coast, and discovers the true motives behind the killings.

Seventy-four-year-old Tambala Jefwa stares vacantly out of his one remaining eye as his wife, Sidi, gently removes his shirt.

“They stabbed him with a knife like this and pulled,” she says pointing to the long scar stretching down from his collar bone.

She takes his head in her hands showing what happened in another attack. “They had to pull the scalp back and sew it together.”

Mr Jefwa was accused of being a witch and has been attacked twice in his home, 80km (50 miles) inland from the coastal town of Malindi. The first left him without an eye. The second nearly killed him.

The couple own more than 30 acres of land where they grow maize and raise a few chickens. There has been a dispute with family members over boundaries. They believe this was the real reason Mr Jefwa was almost killed, not that people genuinely believed he was a witch.

“I was left for dead. I lost so much blood. I don’t know why they attacked me, but it can only be the land,” says Mr Jefwa.

Belief in witchcraft and superstition is common in many countries.

But in parts of Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa, it can be used to justify killing elderly people to take their land.

A report called, The Aged, on Edge, by Kenyan human rights organisation Haki Yetu says one elderly person is murdered along the Kilifi coast every week in the name of witchcraft. Its programme officer, Julius Wanyama, says many families believe it is one of their own who orders the killing.

“They use the word witchcraft as a justification because they will get public sympathy. And people will say: ‘If he was a witch, it is good you have killed him.’”

Few people in this region have title deeds for their land. Without a will, they rely on passing it down customarily through the family. Mr Wanyama says seven out of 10 of the killings are elderly men because land ownership and inheritance lie with them.

“Historically people here in Kilifi do not have [land] documentation. The only document they have is the narrative from these elderly people. That is why mostly men are being killed, because once you kill them, then you have removed the obstacle,” says Mr Wanyama.

About an hour’s drive from the Jefwa family land is a rescue centre for the elderly run by the charity, Malindi District Association.

It is home to around 30 elderly people who have been attacked and are unable to go back to their own land.

Sixty-three-year-old Katana Chara, who looks much older than his years, has been here for around 12 months.

He had to move to the centre after he was attacked with a machete in his bedroom in April 2023. One hand was cut off at the wrist, the other just above the elbow. He can no longer work and needs help for the most basic tasks, from feeding and washing to dressing himself.

“I know the person who cut my hands, but we have never met face to face since,” he says.

Mr Chara was accused of being a witch over the death of another man’s child, but believes the real reason he was attacked was because of his six acres of land.

“I don’t have anything to do with witchcraft. I have one piece of land and it is at the seafront. It is a big piece of land.”

Many of Mr Chara’s family members were questioned over the attack but no-one was ever prosecuted. Activist Mr Wanyama has been trying to get justice for him.

“Very few people have been charged on the allegations of killings of elderly. And that’s why I think even the key people who are involved in killing, they feel they are free.”

After months of investigating, BBC Africa Eye managed to track down an ex-hitman who claims to have killed around 20 people. He says the minimum he got paid for each murder was 50,000 Kenyan shillings – around $400 (£310).

“If someone kills an old person, know that their family paid for it. It must be their family,” he tells BBC Africa Eye.

Pushed on how and why he thought it was his right to take someone’s life, he responds: “I may have done something bad because I was given the job and it is me that killed, but according to laws, according to God, the person who sent me is the guilty one.”

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights presented a document to the United Nations in February 2023 stating: “Witch burning, killings, and physical attacks are rife in regions such as Kisii in western Kenya and Kilifi county in coastal Kenya.”

It went on to say that younger family members seeking to acquire family land is a key motivating factor behind the killings. It said the attacks and killings increased during periods of drought and famine when sources of income become scarce.

Mr Wanyama says killings which use accusations of witchcraft to justify land grabs have become a “national disaster”

“It started as a regional issue, but now it has escalated… If we don’t address it, then we are losing our archives of the elderly. Those are the only live archives we can believe.”

In traditional African culture, the elderly are revered for their wisdom and knowledge.

In Kilifi, it is the reverse. Old people are so fearful of becoming a target, many dye their hair in an attempt to look younger.

It is rare for someone in this region to survive after being accused of witchcraft.

While Mr Chara is safe now he lives at the rescue centre for the elderly, for men like Mr Jefwa there is real fear that whoever tried to murder him will come back.

Watch the documentary Cry Witch: Take My Land, Take My Life on the BBC Africa YouTube channel or listen to the podcast on Assignment on the BBC World Service

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After France’s election shock comes the real power struggle

By Andrew HardingParis correspondent

The drama and vitriol of France’s sudden summer election is over. Now comes the drama and vitriol of stage two – and what could be a much longer and equally agitated struggle to build a functional coalition out of the inconclusive results of Saturday’s vote.

“A lot of things are unclear. We know who lost but we don’t know who won. Can we learn the art of compromise which is so unusual for us? Nobody knows – the signs are not necessarily good,” Sylvie Kauffmann, a newspaper columnist for Le Monde, told me.

The risks of deadlock – for France itself, for its constitutional order, for European stability, and even for Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression – are serious.

Guillotines at dawn?

But it’s worth remembering that this country is no stranger to coping with political upheavals. Revolutions aside, there was the chaos and revolts that followed World War Two and eventually upended France’s constitutional order, leading to the current system of government, known as the Fifth Republic.

And more recently there were the challenges of “cohabitation”, when presidents and prime ministers from rival parties were obliged to share power.

As politicians now sidle away for their summer holidays, or refocus their attention on the imminent Paris Olympics, it seems more than likely that the political temperature in France will subside by a degree or two, at least briefly.

But the cohabitation battles of the 1980s and 1990s look like gentlemanly squabbles over a wine menu compared with the furious, guillotines-at-dawn brawls that many observers expect to preoccupy France’s National Assembly for weeks, or even months, to come.

Some wonder if the French electorate – by saddling parliament with three minority blocks of almost equal size – has rendered the country “ungovernable,” or whether it is simply faced with the sort of deal-making challenge that so many other European nations wrestle with almost as a matter of course.

Who will be the next prime minister?

Having emerged, to almost universal surprise, with the most seats at this parliamentary election, France’s left-wing coalition, the New Popular Front (NPF) has now earned the right to pick – or try to pick – the next prime minister and to implement its agenda.

But with no working majority, any viable candidate will need to win support from other, more centrist parties. Who could possibly fit that bill?

The NPF was quick to unite around a common platform ahead of the elections. But it contains deep political rifts – stretching as it does from anti-capitalists and communists to mainstream social democrats. The coalition is also home to some divisive figures, like the far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, who could quickly trigger the coalition’s collapse over the factionalism that has often marked the left of French politics.

Some wonder if the Green Party leader, Marine Tondelier, might be a good fit. Her relatively low profile could be an asset in a political landscape scarred by years of deeply personal, and sometimes vitriolic, feuding.

‘Macronism is dead’

In the midst of this, President Emmanuel Macron remains on his throne, scarred by self-inflicted political wounds, but arguably a little stronger than he was a few days ago.

His centrist grouping lost almost a third of its seats in the National Assembly as a result of his entirely unnecessary electoral gamble to dissolve parliament and call elections. But a disciplined frenzy of deal-making with the NPF helped it cling onto many more seats in the second round than the pollsters predicted.

Could deadlock in parliament enable Mr Macron to float above the chaos and strengthen his position? Even his allies seem sceptical, convinced he is now trapped in a “stranglehold” between the extremes he once promised to banish from French political life.

“Today, the President of the Republic will maintain a small margin of manoeuvre to act. But he will no longer be the political programmatic driving force in the country. From this point of view, after seven years, Macronism is dead,” Gilles Legendre, a disillusioned former MP who used to lead Macron’s party in the Assembly, told the BBC.

What next for National Rally?

As for the far-right National Rally (RN), it will no doubt recover quickly from the shock of Sunday night’s results, which prompted sombre silence at the party’s headquarters – a jarring contrast with the euphoric street celebrations by left-wing voters which swept through parts of Paris that same evening.

The RN has already sought to reframe its third-place disappointment as the result of cynical deal-making by a “dishonest alliance” of its rivals, rather than evidence of its own shallow pool of credible candidates and its failure to convince enough French voters of the sincerity of its move away from the extreme right.

The RN will surely try to promote its own agenda – including a clampdown on immigration and reforms of schools and policing. Its commitment to supporting Ukraine remains unclear, given the party’s recent support for the Kremlin and its occupation of Crimea. The RN must now be hoping that the Assembly is either deadlocked or dominated by an economically profligate far-left agenda that could further threaten France’s already strained budget.

Months, or even years, of turmoil could then give the party a chance to portray itself as a stable and modernising force, thwarted by left-wing extremists and old elites.

That in turn could, potentially, give the RN a good chance of increasing its vote share in any subsequent snap parliamentary election, or – and this is the real prize – sweeping its leader Marine Le Pen into the Presidency in 2027.

French far right voters say ‘dirty tricks’ won election

By Ido VockBBC News

“Victory was stolen from them using dirty tricks,” Corrine said as her children played in a playground in Eysines, a suburb of Bordeaux in France.

She couldn’t hide her disappointment that the party she backs, the far right Rassemblement National, came just third in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

“We were hoping for change and an RN government,” her friend Sylvie added. “Now we will have to put up with whatever comes next.”

Until Sunday, this constituency was held by the RN’s Grégoire de Fournas. He became one of the previous parliament’s most infamous members after shouting “they should go back to Africa” as a black colleague talked about a migrant rescue boat in 2022.

But Mr de Fournas was narrowly defeated by Pascale Got, a candidate of the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP), as part of a shock wave of successes for the alliance.

An emotional Mrs Got responded to the results by saying that the new parliament needed to “listen to what the French people want” and offer “progress and social justice”.

Though the RN made gains nationally, it came in third behind the NFP and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Ensemble alliance, largely because of tactical withdrawals to concentrate the anti-far right vote.

RN president Jordan Bardella, who had hoped to be prime minister if his party won the election, claimed that the far right only lost because almost every other party in French politics, ranging from Marxists to right-wing economic liberals, united against it.

Shortly after polls closed, he condemned what he called an “alliance of dishonour” between the NFP and Ensemble, which both withdrew candidates in some contests to defeat the far right.

“An unnatural alliance prevented the French people from freely choosing a different type of politics,” he added.

Luna Aimé, an RN activist, said: “Nine parties had to join together to beat one, which still increased its number of MPs.”

The sense that the RN was prevented from winning by trickery resonated among its voters.

“I had a feeling that the RN would be blocked from winning. But I didn’t expect this many losses,” Sylvie said.

Corrine said the party had suffered a “huge defeat,” even though it increased its number of MPs from 89 to 143, its best result in history. It is now only slightly smaller than the other two blocs.

Her statement reflected the high expectations – played up by the RN before the vote – that it would be in a position to appoint a prime minister and govern France for the first time in the party’s history.

With the results nonetheless showing a big advance for the RN across France, party leader Marine Le Pen said victory for her party had been “merely deferred”.

Mr de Fournas thanked the 49% of voters in his constituency who had backed him and said: “Fixing the country will take a little longer than expected but it is certain that we will come to power one day.”

But many in the constituency were relieved that Mr de Fournas and the RN more broadly had been held off, at least for the time being.

Outside a cafe, Soufiane said France had always been and should remain a country where cultures mixed together.

He said: “De Fournas is a racist. When you tell a person of colour to go back to Africa, that says everything.

“I’m very happy that he lost.”

Indian wrestlers eye Olympics after sex harassment scandal

By Divya AryaBBC Hindi

Over a year after protests against sexual harassment allegations shook Indian wrestling, female athletes are gearing up for major events, including the 2024 Paris Olympics. The BBC spoke to young wrestlers about their journey.

Reetika Hooda almost didn’t make it.

The 23-year-old is among the five Indian women wrestlers to qualify for the Olympics this year.

It’s a hard-won opportunity, following a year of setbacks that shook her confidence. She knew she needed more training and competitions to improve her game.

A year ago, all wrestling came to a halt in India after its federation chief Brij Bhushan Singh was accused of sexual misconduct. He denies the allegations.

India’s sports ministry did not sack Singh but it disbanded the federation after finding several lapses, including the non-compliance of sexual harassment laws, and set up a temporary team to run things.

It was an unprecedented time. Hooda remembers watching the country’s most accomplished wrestlers, including her inspiration Sakshi Malik – the only Indian woman to win an Olympic medal in wrestling – camp on the roads of Delhi, demanding Singh’s resignation.

The protest made headlines globally, especially after the police detained the wrestlers when they tried to march to India’s new parliament building. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) condemned the way the wrestlers were treated and called for an impartial inquiry into their complaints.

“It was sad – not only because of what was happening but also what wasn’t,” Hooda told me.

Each year, the International Olympic Committee designates certain tournaments as qualification events for the games. To compete, wrestlers must earn ranking points in trials, win national competitions, and secure the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) approval.

But instead of competing, Hooda stared at an empty sporting calendar for weeks.

“We trained but there were no trials, which meant we could not compete and know our shortcomings. There was a constant fear that we won’t be prepared [for the Olympics],” she said.

For a country that’s won only 24 medals at individual events in Olympics, with over a quarter in wrestling, this was worrying.

Fresh elections to the WFI were finally held in December 2023, nearly a year after the protests began.

The wrestlers had asked India’s sports minister to prevent people associated with Singh from participating in the election.

Singh did not contest as he had already served the maximum of three terms. But his close aide Sanjay Singh was elected the chief after a landslide victory.

This sparked outrage among women wrestlers. On the same day, Olympic medallist Malik quit the sport in protest.

“Even now I get emotional when I think of that moment,” Malik said. “Wrestling took me to such heights, got me love and respect, and I had to give it up.”

Young wrestlers were stunned by Malik’s decision – but soon, they were back on the mat.

“Sakshi Malik was the reason I took up wrestling,” said Tanu Malik, a 20-year-old wrestler in Haryana state.

“So when I saw her crying, I thought to myself, she fought for us, we can’t give up now.”

From that day, Tanu Malik decided to work harder.

Her training at the state’s all-women Yudhvir Wrestling Academy starts at 04:30.

The day starts with a rigorous five-hour fitness session, lifting large truck tyres and practicing wrestling techniques. After a break for food and rest, the women resume training for another five hours in the afternoon.

Girls as young as 12 years sweat it out on the mat. In their free time, they talk about diets and share recipes that would help them stay fit.

None of them want to talk about the alleged sexual harassment at academies or the accusations against the former wrestling chief. However, they are determined not to give up.

Seema Kharab, a coach, says that contrary to expectations, the number of girls at the academy has not dropped since the protests.

“The protests have assured young wrestlers that it is possible to raise their voice, that positive action may be taken and they can get support within the system,” she says.

In June, the police charged Brij Bhushan Singh with stalking, harassment, intimidation, and making “sexually coloured remarks”, but a court granted him bail

Meanwhile, the new federation chief, Sanjay Singh, has taken on the mantle.

He acknowledged his 30-year relationship with the former chief but dismissed allegations of Brij Bhushan Singh’s interference, claiming wrestlers had accepted him as the new head.

He said this was evident from the “massive turnout” at national wrestling competitions this year.

“No-one will be favoured or discriminated against and each wrestler is dear to me. I am also the father of two daughters and I understand what daughters need,” he added.

However, for young women like Tanu Malik, fear has become an inescapable part of being in the profession.

“It’s not easy – my parents are constantly worried about sending me to training alone,” she says. “But they have to trust us, otherwise how would things work? It’s like accepting defeat without even fighting.”

Others feel deflated and say the protests have come at a huge personal cost for them.

Shiksha Kharab, a gold medallist at the Asian Championship, says it caused disruptions in training because of which young wrestlers have lost a crucial year.

But Sakshi Malik has no regrets.

“The most important thing is to fight,” she said. “I don’t think anybody in any sporting federation would dare to do anything, they now know that harassment can have repercussions.”

Hooda says she’s nervous about competing with some of the world’s biggest wrestling giants at the Games, but also looking forward to it.

“Sakshi Malik used to say victory and loss are not important – just trust your hard work. That’s what I will do,” she adds.

As she gets ready for training, a picture of Sakshi posing with her Olympic medal, beams down at her.

“My only focus now is to win a medal” she says. “Who knows, maybe one day I will have my picture next to hers.”

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Liberian president cuts his salary by 40%

By Moses Garzeawu & Wedaeli ChibelushiBBC News, Monrovia & London

Liberia’s President Joseph Boakai has announced that he will slash his salary by 40%.

His office said he hoped to set a precedent for “responsible governance” and demonstrate “solidarity” with Liberians.

Government salaries have been under intense scrutiny recently as Liberians complain about the rising cost of living. Around one in five people live on less than $2 (£1.70) a day in the West African state.

Mr Boakai revealed in February that his annual salary was $13,400. The cut will bring it down to $8,000.

Mr Boakai’s move echoes that of his predecessor, George Weah, who took a 25% cut in his salary.

Some in the West African nation have hailed Mr Boakai’s decision, but others wonder whether it is truly a sacrifice given that he also receives benefits like a daily allowance and medical cover.

The presidential office’s budget is almost $3m this year.

  • Who is Liberian President Joseph Boakai?
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Anderson D Miamen, from non-profit organisation the Centre of Transparency and Accountability in Liberia, said the president’s pay cut is “welcoming”.

“We just hope that the public will clearly see where the deductions will go and how they will be used to positively impact the lives of the people,” he told the BBC.

W Lawrence Yealue II, whose organisation also campaigns for government transparency, described the president’s decision as “very commendable” and said that “leadership has to be provided from the top”.

He added that hoped Mr Boakai’s benefits would be reviewed in the budget for the next financial year.

As well as reducing his salary, Mr Boakai has pledged to “empower” Liberia’s Civil Service Agency to make sure public servants “receive fair compensation for their contributions to the country”.

Last week a group of lawmakers complained they had not received their official cars, which they needed to perform their duties.

As a form of protest, they turned up to parliament in tuk-tuks, known locally as keh keh, a common mode of transport for ordinary Liberians.

Mr Boakai took office in January after defeating Mr Weah in a run-off election.

He vowed to tackle corruption and financial mismanagement.

As well as declaring his assets since taking office, Mr Boakai has ordered an audit of the presidential office. The results have not yet been released.

Mr Boakai has also beefed up the General Auditing Commission and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.

Mr Weah’s government was plagued by allegations of corruption, and lavish spending, which triggered mass protests as the cost of living spiralled for ordinary people.

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Locomotive steams again for first time in 44 years

By Steven McKenzieBBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter

A 74-year-old steam locomotive has been returned to working order following more than two decades of restoration.

The Ivatt Class 2 2-6-0 engine – No. 46464 – was one of five built in Crewe, Cheshire, in 1950.

It spent most of its working life based at Dundee Tay Bridge Steam Shed 62B, operating on services in Angus and Fife.

For the last 24 years a small team of volunteers has been working on getting it running again.

Last month, at Aviemore in the Highlands, it puffed down a railway line for the first time in 44 years.

Iain Smith, one of those involved in its restoration, said: “It was very emotional to see it up and running again.”

During its working life, the locomotive was known as Carmyllie Pilot, and named after a village in Angus.

It was used for passenger and freight services and had stints in Aberdeenshire, including on Fraserburgh’s St Combs line, making visits to Peterhead and Maud.

Carmyllie Pilot was withdrawn from service in August 1966.

It was bought by former LNER railway engineer Ian Fraser, whose family ran an engineering company in Arbroath in Angus, after he became friends with former Carmyllie Pilot driver Sandy Whyte.

Mr Fraser was a keen steam enthusiast and even won a planning wrangle to build a house with an area big enough to house a traction engine.

Carmyllie Pilot had spells on loan to Dundee City Museums and then from 1978 at Aviemore’s Strathspey Railway, where it operated on a heritage railway until a problem put it out of action.

The engine was returned to Mr Fraser’s ownership in 1989.

The volunteer-run Carmyllie Pilot Company Ltd was set up in 2000 to restore it to working order.

Mr Fraser died in 1992, but his family continued to take an interest in and also supported the restoration.

Much of the restoration was done at Bridge of Dun, near Montrose, with many replacement parts being made from scratch – including new cab sides, running plates and smokebox.

Mr Smith said: “It was like a giant Meccano kit at our site at one time.”

Strathspey Railway Company and the Association has helped with the restoration over the last four years.

Carmyllie Pilot was rebuilt and repainted in its original livery at Aviemore where it is now based.

Mr Smith said: “We’ve accomplished what we set out to do 24 years ago.”

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Titanic and Avatar producer Jon Landau dies aged 63

By Kathryn ArmstrongBBC News

Jon Landau – the Oscar-winning producer of some of the world’s highest-grossing movies of all time, including Titanic and Avatar – has died aged 63.

Landau, who was the long-time producing partner of filmmaker James Cameron, reportedly died on Friday after living with cancer for more than a year.

His sister Tina confirmed his death on social media, calling him “the best brother a girl could ever dream of”.

“My heart is broken but also bursting with pride & gratitude for his most extraordinary life, and the love and gifts he gave me – and all who knew him or his films,” she wrote.

Landau was the son of Hollywood producers Ely and Edie Landau and for a time was an executive at the film production company 20th Century Fox, overseeing films including The Last Of The Mohicans and Die Hard 2.

Alongside Cameron, he helped to create the 1997 hit Titanic, which was the first film to make it past the $1bn mark at the global box office.

Later films Avatar and its sequel Avatar: The Way of Water, which were released in 2009 and 2022 respectively, went on to break Titanic’s record.

Landau also co-produced other hit films including Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Dick Tracy, and held a management position in Cameron’s production company Lightstorm Entertainment.

Following news of Landau’s death, Cameron told The Hollywood Reporter that “a great producer and a great human being has left us”.

“Jon Landau believed in the dream of cinema. He believed that film is the ultimate human art form, and to make films you have to first be human yourself,” he said.

“He will be remembered as much for his vast generosity of spirit as for the movies themselves.”

Director Sir Peter Jackson and his screenwriter wife Fran Walsh, whose visual effects company was used for the Avatar films, said in a statement that they were “devastated by the loss of Jon Landau”.

“Jon brought unparalleled passion to the projects he worked on and his influence will continue to inspire for years to come.”

The actor Zoe Saldaña, who starred in the Avatar films, wrote a message to Landau on Instagram, saying that his death was “hitting really hard”.

“Your wisdom and support shaped so many of us in ways we will always be grateful for.”

Napoleon’s pistols sell for €1.69m at auction

By Kathryn ArmstrongBBC News

Two pistols owned by the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, with which he once intended to kill himself, have been sold at auction for €1.69m (£1.4m).

The weapons, which were created by the Paris gunmaker Louis-Marin Gosset, had been expected to fetch between €1.2m and €1.5m.

They were sold at the Osenat auction house on Sunday – next to the Fontainebleau palace where Napoleon tried to take his own life following his abdication in 1814.

The pistols’ sale comes after France’s culture ministry recently classified them as national treasures and banned their export.

This means the French government now has 30 months to make a purchase offer to the new owner, who has not been named. It also means the pistols can only leave France temporarily.

The guns are inlaid with gold and silver, and feature an engraved image of Napoleon himself in profile.

He was said to have wanted to use them to kill himself on the night of 12 April, 1814 after the defeat of his army by foreign forces meant he had to give up power.

However, his grand squire Armand de Caulaincourt removed the powder from the guns and Napoleon instead took poison but survived.

He later gave the pistols to Caulaincourt, who in turn passed them to his descendants.

Also included in the sale were the pistols’ original box and various accessories including a powder horn and various powder tamping rods.

Auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat said that the “image of Napoleon at his lowest point” was being sold alongside the objects.

Napoleon memorabilia is highly sought after. One of the tricorne hats that became a part of his brand sold for €1.9m in November.

The historic leader returned to power in 1815 following his exile to the Mediterranean island of Elba but went on to be defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.

He died in 1821 after his second banishment – this time to the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic.

WTO chief warns against global trade breakdown

By Jonathan JosephsBusiness reporter, BBC News

Global trade “is not having the best of times at the moment”.

That is the admission of the director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. “We are seeing increasing protectionism, some undermining of the WTO rules, and some of this is leading to fragmentation,” she tells the BBC.

“Global trade is really part of the lifeblood for making countries resilient – and also for underpinning growth, so we are concerned about that.”

In recent weeks and months these fragmentations have come to the fore with the EU imposing provisional tariffs of up to 37.4% on imports of Chinese electric vehicles (EVs). It followed after the US in May introduced 100% tariffs on Chinese EVs.

Both Brussels and Washington accuse the Chinese government of unfairly subsidising its EV sector, allowing producers to export cars at unfairly low prices, and threatening jobs in the West.

President Biden has also increased import taxes on a range of other Chinese products that he said formed “the industries of the future”. These include EV batteries and the minerals they contain, the cells needed to make solar panels, and computer chips.

Meanwhile, the US has been pouring billions of dollars of government money into green technology, through its Inflation Reduction Act, which aims to reduce a reliance on Chinese imports.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis tells the BBC that Europe does not want to close the market for EVs. “We welcome imports, we welcome competition, but this competition must be fair,” he says.

Last year, the volume of global trade fell for just the third time in 30 years, according to the WTO. It says the 1.2% decline was linked to higher inflation and interest rates, and is forecasting a recovery this year.

However those factors have their roots in events that are continuing to fundamentally reshape the global economy, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) first deputy managing director Gita Gopinath explained in a recent speech.

“What we’ve seen in the last few years, I would say, especially when it comes to global trade relations, is nothing like we’ve seen since the end of the Cold War.”

“The last few years, you’ve had numerous shocks, including the pandemic. We had Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and following these events, increasingly, countries around the world are guided by economic security, and national security concerns, in determining who they trade with and who they invest in,” she said.

That’s affecting countries as far apart as Peru, Ghana and Vietnam as they increasingly find themselves having to choose between strengthening economic ties with the western powers, or a China-Russia axis.

“We’re also concerned about the emerging fragmentation that we see in the trade data,” says the WTO’s Dr Okonjo-Iweala. “We’re seeing that trade between like-minded blocks is growing faster than trade across such blocks.”

She warns that “it will be costly for the world” to continue down this path. WTO research has estimated that price at 5% of the global economy, whilst the IMF has suggested it could be nearer to 7% or $7.4tn (£5.8tn) of lost output in the long run.

The EU’s introduction of tariffs on Chinese-made EVs follows a surge in their exports to Europe over the last few years. Exports jumped from $1.6bn in value in 2020 to $11.5bn last year, according to one study, which said they now made up 37% of all EV imports into the EU.

BYD, Geely and SAIC are some of the Chinese EV makers said to have benefitted from billions of dollars worth of government help.

After many years of support Chinese EV companies no longer need that help, says Jens Eskelund, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. “They are today simply very competitive on their own terms. I think the introduction of tariffs is a symptom that something is out of balance.”

When it comes to broader relationship, Mr Eskelund says it’s “mind boggling” that since 2017 the volume of goods that the EU has sold to China has fallen about a third, even though China’s economy has been growing steadily.

Citing Chinese restrictions around market access for overseas firms, and tough security regulations, he adds: “I think it’s fair to say that that Europe still remains a significantly more open market to Chinese companies, then the other way around. And that is obviously something that needs to change.”

The chamber’s recent survey showed that members have the lowest confidence on record for investing in China.

It comes as the EU is trying to lower its economic dependence on China. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last year described the need to “de-risk not de-couple” its relations with China.

Brussels’ concerns include Beijing using sensitive technology for military purposes, and its support for Russia as it continues its offensive in Ukraine.

Companies including Ikea, Nike and Apple are also trying to become less reliant on China.

Whilst the EU and China are set to hold talks about the potential EV tariffs, Chinese state media has reported that retaliatory measures are being considered on EU goods including pork, cognac and luxury cars.

However, there are other barriers for global trade to overcome, including in two of the most important arteries for moving goods around the world.

This year Panama Canal officials had to reduce the number of ships allowed to traverse the waterway. This is due to a lack of rainfall to fill the lake that feeds the canal.

Meanwhile, the Suez Canal is effectively cut off because of ongoing attacks on commercial ships by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea. Traffic through the canal is down 90%, according to logistics firm Kuehne+Nagel.

Rolf Habben Jansen, chief executive of the German shipping giant Hapag-Lloyd, says this disruption means that the rates his firm charges are up between 30% and 40%.

Whilst shipping costs are a small part of retail prices, Mr Habben Jansen says “these extra costs in the end get passed on” to consumers. That could end up pushing inflation up just as central banks are showing signs of getting it under control.

That would be “detrimental to consumers,” says the WTO’s Dr Okonjo-Iweala.

Despite all the tensions, she says trade has shown signs of resilience, and she adds that her organization can help countries solve their differences.

Meanwhile, Dr Okonjo-Iweala admits that some WTO rules will need to change to help meet the challenge of climate change. “I strongly believe that some of our [global trade] rules, we do need to look at them,” she says.

“When they were put in place, decades ago, we were not confronting the kind of climate change threats we confront today.”

Regarding the increased use of tariffs, she adds: “We hope we don’t have a repeat of what we saw in the 1930s. We had retaliatory tariffs, and it was downhill from there and everyone lost.

“So I do hope we will not enter into that kind of era again”.

More on global business

Payout for widow of Pakistani journalist killed by Kenyan police

By Natasha Booty and Ruth NesobaBBC News, London & Nairobi

A court in Kenya has awarded 10m shillings ($78,000; £61,000) in compensation to the widow of a prominent Pakistani journalist who was shot dead by police at a roadblock nearly two years ago.

Arshad Sharif was a TV anchor known for his robust criticism of Pakistan’s powerful military leaders and corruption in politics.

The father-of-five received death threats that he flagged to Pakistan’s top judge, before fleeing his home country to seek safety abroad.

Sharif’s killing two months later at the hands of police in the Kenyan town of Kajiado caused outrage, and the slow response by officials prompted UN experts to criticise both Kenya and Pakistan.

Kenya’s police had argued it was a case of mistaken identity but Sharif’s widow, Javeria Siddique, said it was a contract killing carried out on behalf of an unnamed individual in Pakistan.

‘A relief to me and my family’

On Monday, the Kajiado High Court rejected ruled that the Kenyan authorities had acted unlawfully and violated Sharif’s right to life. It duly awarded Ms Siddique compensation plus interest until payment in full.

“Loss of life cannot be compensated in monetary terms nor is the pain and suffering the family must have gone through. But there’s consensus that compensation is appropriate remedy for redress in violation of fundamental rights,” said Justice Stella Mutuku as she delivered the verdict.

The judge also ruled that Kenya’s director of public prosecutions and the independent policing oversight authority had violated Sharif’s rights by failing to prosecute the two police officers involved. The court has ordered both bodies to conclude investigations and charge the officers.

Reacting to the ruling, the lawyer representing Sharif’s widow, Ochiel Dudley, said “this is a win for the family and a win for Kenyans in their quest for police accountability”.

Sharif’s widow, Ms Siddique, expressed her gratitude to the Kenyan judiciary but added that her work was far from done.

“This ruling has come as a relief to me and my family, but I will not relent in getting maximum justice for my husband,” she said.

The BBC has asked the Kenyan authorities for their response to the ruling.

The police had given conflicting police accounts of Sharif’s death.

One account claimed the 49-year-old was travelling in a Toyota Land Cruiser which officers mistook for a similar vehicle that had been reported stolen.

In another version of events, police claimed that one of the car passengers had opened fire and then officers responded by shooting back.

Like her late husband, Ms Siddique is a journalist, and filed the lawsuit alongside the Kenya Union of Journalists and Kenya Correspondents Association last October.

She and her co-petitioners were seeking transparency, an apology, and accountability from the Kenyan authorities for what they called Sharif’s “targeted assassination”.

She told the BBC she was still unable to get justice for her husband in Pakistan, but would continue to campaign for the protection of journalists and would seek the help of the UN and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

You may also be interested in:

  • Why two Indians disappeared on a July night in Kenya
  • Inside the world of Kenya’s ‘killer cop’
  • ‘I was shot by rebels’ – the dangers of reporting

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Democrats look to Kamala Harris – but could she beat Trump?

By Courtney SubramanianReporting from New Orleans and Washington DC

On Saturday afternoon, US Vice-President Kamala Harris sat on stage at a black cultural festival in New Orleans, talking about her life story and what she felt she had achieved in the White House.

It was the kind of event that the first female, black and South Asian American vice-president has regularly attended throughout her three-and-a-half years as Joe Biden’s deputy, usually trailed by a small press pack dwarfed by that which follows the president himself.

But as panicked Democrats a thousand miles away in Washington weighed replacing 81-year-old Joe Biden as the party’s candidate for November’s election following his woeful and sometimes incomprehensible debate performance against Donald Trump, the number of reporters trailing Ms Harris had swelled to dozens.

On stage and through her travels this weekend, the vice-president did not address swirling questions about Mr Biden’s fitness for office and whether he should withdraw and hand the baton to her.

But in discussing ambition and how to forge your own path with her audience in New Orleans, she encouraged the crowd not to listen to naysayers.

“People in your life will tell you, though, it’s not your time. It’s not your turn. Nobody like you has done it before,” she said. “Don’t you ever listen to that.”

Since the disastrous CNN debate on 27 June, she has repeatedly defended her boss, arguing that his record as president shouldn’t be outweighed by 90 minutes on a debate stage. Mr Biden himself has struck a defiant tone and fiercely insisted that he will remain the nominee.

Yet as calls grow louder for the president to step aside, some high-profile Democrats are unifying behind 59-year-old Ms Harris as the natural candidate to replace him.

On Sunday, congressman Adam Schiff of California told NBC’s Meet The Press that either Mr Biden had to be able to “win overwhelmingly or he has to pass the torch to someone who can”. Kamala Harris, he added, could “very well win overwhelmingly” against Trump.

That’s a proposition that has raised eyebrows among some Democrats, including Biden allies, who see in Ms Harris a vice-president who failed in her bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination before the first ballot was even cast and who has struggled with an uneven record and low approval ratings throughout her time in the White House.

Against that, senior Democratic lawmakers like Mr Schiff and South Carolina congressman Jim Clyburn have been floating Ms Harris as the obvious successor should Mr Biden ultimately bow to party pressure.

Supporters point to a handful of polls that suggest she would perform better than the president in a hypothetical match-up against Donald Trump, and they argue she has the national profile, campaign infrastructure and appeal to younger voters that could make the transition seamless four months before election day.

An elevation to the top of the ticket would be a remarkable turnaround for a woman not long ago seen as a political weakness by senior figures in the Biden White House. Even Mr Biden himself reportedly described her as a “work in progress” during their first months in office.

But Jamal Simmons, a longtime Democratic strategist and Harris’s former communications director, said she had long been underestimated.

“Whether she’s a partner to the president or she has to lead the ticket, she is somebody who Republicans and the Trump campaign need to take seriously,” Mr Simmons told the BBC.

Since the debate and its fall-out, Ms Harris has altered her schedule to stick close to the president. She appeared at a heavily-scrutinised meeting last Wednesday where Mr Biden sought to reassure powerful Democratic governors about his fitness for office.

And a day later, on the Fourth of July – America’s Independence Day – she abandoned her usual tradition of grilling hotdogs for firefighters and Secret Service agents at her Los Angeles home to be by Mr Biden’s side at the White House celebrations.

The former top prosecutor has focused on criticising Trump in public appearances since the debate, pressing the case as to why voters should believe he is a threat to democracy and women’s rights. At the same time, she has offered nothing but steadfast support for Mr Biden.

Vice-presidents always need to strike a delicate balancing act between ambition and loyalty, but Ms Harris knows that this is not a moment where she can show any daylight between her and the president.

Kamala Harris is, however, far from the only alternative to Mr Biden being discussed. The list of potential Biden replacements ranges from a cadre of popular governors – Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Gavin Newsom of California, Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro and Illinois’ JB Pritzker – to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and California congressman Ro Khanna.

Ms Harris and her staff have refused to engage in public speculation. But her team is keenly aware of the behind-the-scenes conversations taking place as some party members coalesce behind her.

A memo circulated online, purportedly written by Democratic operatives, laid out a detailed argument to promote Ms Harris despite her “real political weaknesses”.

Trying to choose anyone other than her would thrown the campaign into disarray and keep “Democratic bickering” in the media spotlight for months, it argues.

If Mr Biden were to give up the nomination, the idea of the Democrats passing over Ms Harris in favour of another candidate appalls many on the left of the party and in its powerful black caucus.

In that situation, “this party should not in any way do anything to work around Ms Harris”, Mr Clyburn, one of the most prominent black lawmakers in Congress, told MSNBC last week.

Republicans, too, have acknowledged Ms Harris would be the frontrunner to replace Mr Biden.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned on Sunday that Republicans must be ready for a “dramatically different race” should Ms Harris – whom he described as a “vigorous” candidate – become the nominee.

Mr Graham emphasised her progressive California brand, suggesting she was closer in policy terms to left-wing firebrand Bernie Sanders than Joe Biden, in what appeared to be a glimpse of a Republican attack line should she become the candidate.

For his part, Donald Trump has called her “pathetic” in the days since the debate.

But ultimately the only question that matters for many Democrats – including deep-pocketed donors – is if she has a better chance of beating Trump than Joe Biden does. And that is deeply uncertain.

Harris backers point to a recent CNN poll suggesting she would fare better than the president against Trump in November. In a head-to-head contest, Ms Harris trailed the Republican by only two points, while Mr Biden lagged six points behind him. The poll also suggested Ms Harris performed better than Mr Biden with independent voters and women.

But many polling experts dismiss such hypothetical surveys, noting voter sentiment would change if Mr Biden actually decided to step aside and the Democrats entertained other potential candidates.

One Democratic pollster close to the Biden campaign acknowledged that Ms Harris may have more potential to expand the party’s voter base than the president, but was sceptical about how much of a difference she would make. Surveys pitting her against Trump at this stage “don’t mean anything”, said the person, who requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Ms Harris, the child of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, performs better in surveys than Mr Biden with black, Latino and young voters – critical constituencies that allies say she could energise as the nominee.

But whether she would actually boost turnout among younger voters of colour is another uncertain question. “This is just a wait and see moment,” the pollster said.

Some in the party are also asking whether Ms Harris’ progressive reputation risks losing the union and blue-collar voters in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that Mr Biden narrowly won in 2020 and which both parties need to secure a win in November.

Should she take over the ticket, some Democrats have suggested that Governor Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania or Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina could be picked as running mate to capture centrist voters in Midwestern states.

Given the ages of Joe Biden and Donald Trump, voters are paying far more attention to the VP candidate of both parties in this election cycle, said Celinda Lake, a veteran Democratic pollster who worked for the 2020 Biden campaign.

On the Republican side, Trump has yet to announce his running mate, although many speculate he’ll pick North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum or Ohio Senator JD Vance.

Deep concerns among some Democrats about Harris’s strength as a presidential candidate date back to her unsuccesful 2020 bid for the party’s nomination, in which she landed blows on Mr Biden in an early debate but then crashed out before the first caucuses in Iowa.

Critics said she struggled to define herself as a candidate, a sentiment that has lingered throughout her tenure as vice-president. She had a shaky start in the White House, marked by high-profile interview slip-ups, low approval ratings and staff turnover.

She was also tasked with overseeing the administration’s strategy to reduce migration over the US southern border, which increased to record levels over the last three years and remains a major vulnerability for the campaign.

Those early stumbles led Ms Harris to be more cautious about her public appearances but many voters perceive her as ineffective and absent. “People need to know more about her, what economic issues she is strong on and they need to be reminded of the role she’s played,” Ms Lake said.

Over the last year, Ms Harris has found stable footing as the administration’s leading voice on abortion rights, an issue that proved successful for Democrats during the 2022 midterm elections and one the party hopes will win back more voters in November.

As a former prosecutor who handled sexual violence cases, she has invoked personal stories of working with women who miscarried in the bathroom or were turned away at hospitals as she’s tried to mobilise voters around the issue.

On the campaign trail, she has also sought to capitalise on other issues that resonate with young voters, including student debt forgiveness, climate change and gun violence. The White House, too, has made a concerted effort to promote her more forcefully.

Still, she faces an uphill battle to change longstanding voter scepticism – her approval ratings hover around 37% in polling averages compiled by FiveThirtyEight – a level similar to both Mr Biden and Trump.

And unless Mr Biden himself caves to the mounting party pressure to step down, grassroots Democratic supporters themselves seem resigned to supporting the current ticket.

At the Essence festival in New Orleans, Iam Christian Tucker, a 41-year-old small business owner from New Orleans, said she didn’t care, ultimately, who the nominee was.

She said she liked Kamala Harris, but she wasn’t sure if a black female president could win election.

“I’m voting against Donald Trump more than anything,” she told the BBC.

Greg Hovel, 67, who attended a rally for President Biden in Madison, Wisconsin, last week, said he supported Ms Harris in the 2020 primary and “has always been a fan,” though he cautioned there is “a lot of anti-woman sentiment in this country.”

“I think she would make an excellent president,” Mr Hovel said. “But I still think Biden can win.”

Justin Bieber performs at India’s mega wedding

By Flora DruryBBC News

Justin Bieber has become the latest in a string of international stars to perform for the son of India’s richest man and his wife-to-be as they celebrate their upcoming wedding.

The Canadian singer flew in to perform for Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant – along with their guests – in Mumbai at the weekend.

He had a lot to live up to. The couple’s first pre-wedding party featured Rihanna, while the second – a cruise around the Mediterranean – had performances from 90s teen heartthrobs The Backstreet Boys, singer Katy Perry and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.

So it is with bated breath that Ambani wedding-watchers – of whom there are now legions around the globe – await news of who will perform at the actual wedding itself this weekend.

Rumours swirling on the internet suggest it could be Adele, but the family are remaining tight-lipped.

No expense is being spared on the wedding of Mukesh Ambani’s youngest son, putting it in a different league from even the most extravagant of Indian weddings. It outshines even his daughter’s nuptials, which featured a headline-grabbing performance by Beyoncé.

Last weekend Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant celebrated their sangeet ceremony – a night of music and dance ahead of the wedding ceremony. In typical style, the Ambanis went above and beyond what would usually be expected by guests.

It saw Mukesh Ambani, the head of Reliance Industries, with an estimated net worth of $115bn, according to Forbes, and the rest of the family take to the stage in their own choreographed dance to Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s hit song, Deewangi Deewangi.

It was also another chance for wedding-watchers to pore over the outfits worn by the guests – which included some of India’s most glamorous stars wearing dresses by the country’s top fashion designers.

It seems as much as the pre-wedding events have been concerts, they have also become catwalks, with stars sharing professional shots on their social media accounts ahead of the parties.

The cost of the three parties to date is not known. It was rumoured Rihanna had been paid $7m (£5.5m) for her performance, while the figure suggested for Justin Bieber is said to be $10m.

Exactly what the weekend’s three-day event holds remains to be seen. For some in India, it will come as a relief that the wedding and its extravagance is over, while those in Mumbai will be hoping it does not make the city’s famously bad traffic any worse.

Radhika was keeping her cards close to her chest when she told Vogue US last month that planning was “going great”, adding: “I’m very excited to be married.”

Biden condemns ‘Russian brutality’ after deadly Ukraine strikes

By Emily McGarveyBBC News

US President Joe Biden has condemned a wave of Russian missile strikes that killed at least 38 people in Ukraine as a “horrific reminder of Russia’s brutality”, as he vowed to strengthen Kyiv’s air defences.

At least 190 were injured across the country, including some at a children’s hospital in the capital Kyiv on Monday.

It comes as Mr Biden prepares to host a Nato summit in Washington on Tuesday.

The US president said further boosts to Ukraine’s air defences would be announced at the meeting.

Leaders from the 32 Nato members states, their partner countries and the EU are gathering to mark the 75th anniversary of the bloc.

Mr Biden said he will be welcoming Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Nato leaders.

The summit will focus on defence and deterrence in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We will be announcing new measures to strengthen Ukraine’s air defences to help protect their cities and civilians from Russian strikes,” Mr Biden said.

“I will be meeting with President Zelenskyy to make clear our support for Ukraine is unshakeable.”

The UN Security Council is also meeting on Tuesday at Ukraine’s request.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres joined Western officials in condemning Russia’s missile attack on Ukraine.

Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, declared 9 July as a day of mourning following the deadly attacks on the capital.

Two people died when a missile flattened part of the Ohmatdyt Children’s Hospital – Ukraine’s biggest paediatrics facility – and a search for survivors beneath the rubble continued into the early hours of Tuesday.

President Zelensky has been urging Western allies to step up deliveries of air defences for months, amid increased Russian attacks. UN officials said May was the deadliest month for civilian casualties in almost a year.

The government in Kyiv says it desperately needs new US-made Patriot air defence systems. But Western officials have been reluctant to surrender any more of the limited number of surface-to-air batteries scattered across the Nato alliance.

Meanwhile, Russian officials said a fire had broken out at a power substation in the Rostov region, bordering Ukraine, after overnight drone attacks.

The regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said four people were killed and 20 injured in attacks by Ukraine over the past day.

On Monday, Russia denied targeting the Kyiv hospital, saying it had been hit by fragments of a Ukrainian air defence missile, while Ukraine said it had found remnants of a Russian cruise missile.

  • Ukraine mourns after day of Russian air strikes

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the attack “brutal” and described his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as a “bloody criminal”.

Mr Zelensky said that Russia had launched more than 40 missiles on Monday, damaging almost 100 buildings in Kyiv, Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

Pictures from the scene of the blast at the Kyiv hospital – which specialises in cancer treatment and organ transplants – showed children hooked up to IV drips sitting outside the damaged facility awaiting evacuation.

The UK’s new Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, condemned the attack, calling it “the most depraved of actions”.

Britain has been one of Ukraine’s key Western allies, and Sir Keir has vowed that his new administration will maintain support for Kyiv. He is set to meet President Biden at the White House on Wednesday.

Five Indian soldiers killed in Kashmir ambush

By Meryl SebastianBBC News, Kochi

Five soldiers have been killed in an ambush by suspected militants in the Kathua district of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, officials say.

The soldiers in military vehicles came under fire from militants hiding in a nearby hill, according to initial reports.

Reinforcements arrived quickly and a search operation was launched to track down the attackers, officials said.

Kashmir has seen an armed insurgency against Indian rule since 1989, but violence has waned in recent years.

Monday afternoon’s attack in Jammu marks a month of increasing violence in the region.

Last month, nine people died and 33 were injured after suspected militants fired on a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims in the area.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said he was “deeply anguished” at the lives lost in the latest attack.

“My deepest condolences to the bereaved families, the nation stands firm with them in this difficult time,” Mr Singh wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“The counter-terrorist operations are underway, and our soldiers are determined to usher in peace and order in the region,” he said.

Reports say the militants – their exact number unknown – launched an attack in an area flanked by a hill on one side and a steep slope on the other. They descended from the hillside, targeting primarily one truck.

Five soldiers were also injured in the attack, officials said.

  • India’s crackdown on Kashmir press
  • Article 370: What happened with Kashmir and why it matters

Since June, there have been seven attacks reported in the relatively peaceful Jammu region.

The latest attack marks the second major incident in Kathua district in a month and the second assault on the army in Jammu within two days.

On 11 June, a soldier and two suspected militants died in a shootout in Kathua. On Sunday, another soldier was injured in an attack on an army camp in Rajouri district in Jammu.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for decades.

Since 1947, the nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two wars over the Muslim-majority territory, which both claim in full but control in part.

Since 1989, an armed insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir against Delhi’s rule has claimed thousands of lives.

Delhi accuses Islamabad of harbouring militants and disrupting peace in the region, a charge Pakistan denies.

How Canada became a car theft capital of the world

By Nadine YousifBBC News, Toronto
How car thieves in Canada targeted the same owner twice

Logan LaFarniere woke up one October morning in 2022 to an empty driveway.

His brand new Ram Rebel truck was missing.

His security camera captured two hooded men breaking into the pickup in the dead of night outside of his Milton, Ontario home, and driving it away with ease.

A few months later, that very same truck appeared on a website of vehicles for sale in Ghana, an ocean and some 8,500km away.

“The dead giveaway was the laptop holder that we had installed in the back of the driver’s seat for my son, and in it was garbage that he had put in there,” Mr LaFerniere told the BBC.

That same clutter was visible in photos of the car listing, he said.

“There was no doubt in my mind that it was my vehicle.”

Mr LaFarniere’s story is hardly unique. In 2022, more than 105,000 cars were stolen in Canada – about one car every five minutes. Among the victims was Canada’s very own federal justice minister, whose government-issued Toyota Highlander XLE was taken twice by thieves.

Early this summer, Interpol listed Canada among the top 10 worst countries for car thefts out of 137 in its database – a “remarkable” feat, said a spokesperson, considering the country only began integrating their data with the international police organisation in February.

Authorities say once these cars are stolen, they are either used to carry out other violent crimes, sold domestically to other unsuspecting Canadians, or shipped overseas to be resold.

Interpol says it has detected more than 1,500 cars around the world that have been stolen from Canada since February, and around 200 more continue to be identified each week, usually at ports in other countries.

Car theft is such an epidemic that it was declared a “national crisis” by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, which says insurers have had to pay out more than C$1.5bn ($1bn; £860m) in vehicle theft claims last year.

The problem has forced police jurisdictions across the country to issue public bulletins on how to protect vehicles from theft.

Meanwhile, some Canadians have taken matters into their own hands, doing everything from installing trackers on their cars to hiring private neighbourhood security.

Some who can afford it have even installed retractable bollards in their driveways – similar to those seen at banks and embassies – to try and deter thieves.

Nauman Khan, who lives in Mississauga, a city just outside Toronto, started a bollard-installation business after he and his brother were both victims of car thefts.

In one attempt, Mr Khan said the thieves broke into his home while his wife and young children were sleeping. They were looking for the keys to his Mercedes GLE parked out front, he said, but ran after he confronted them.

After that “traumatic” experience, they sold their cars except for two “humble” family vehicles.

Through his business, Mr Khan said he now hears similar stories from people throughout the region of Toronto.

“It’s been very busy,” he said. “We had one client whose street had so many home invasions that he’d hired a security guard every night outside his house because he just didn’t feel safe.”

The pervasiveness of car thefts in Canada is surprising given how small the country’s population is compared to the US and the UK – other countries with high rates of such crime, says Alexis Piquero, Director of the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.

“(Canada) also doesn’t have as many port cities as the US does,” said Mr Piquero.

While the US, Canada and the UK have all experienced a spike in car thefts since the Covid-19 pandemic, Canada’s rate of thefts (262.5 per 100,000 people) is higher than that of England and Wales (220 per 100,000 people), according to the latest available data from each country.

It is also fairly close to that of the US, which sits at around 300 vehicle thefts per 100,000 people, based on 2022 data.

The rise in recent years is partly due to a pandemic-driven global car shortage that has increased demand for both used and new vehicles.

There is also a growing market for certain car models internationally, making auto theft a top revenue generator for organised crime groups, said Elliott Silverstein, director of government relations at the Canadian Automobile Association.

But Mr Silverstein said the way that Canada’s ports operate make them more vulnerable to this type of theft than other countries.

“In the port system, there’s a greater focus on what is coming into the country than what is exiting the country,” he said, adding that once the vehicles are packed up in shipping containers at a port it becomes harder to get to them.

Police have managed to recover some stolen cars.

In October, the Toronto Police Service announced an 11-month investigation that recovered 1,080 vehicles worth around C$60m. More than 550 charges were laid as a result.

And between mid-December and the end of March, border and police officers found nearly 600 stolen vehicles at the Port of Montreal after inspecting 400 shipping containers.

These types of operations, however, can be difficult to carry out given the volume of merchandise that moves through that port, experts have said. Around 1.7 million containers moved through the Port of Montreal in 2023 alone.

Port staff also do not have the authority to inspect containers in most cases, and in customs-controlled areas only border officers can open a container without a warrant.

At the same time, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has been grappling with chronic understaffing, according to a report submitted by its union to the government in April.

Outdated technology is also an issue.

Patrick Brown, the mayor of Brampton – another Ontario city hard-hit by car thefts – recently paid a visit to the Port Newark Container Terminal in New Jersey to compare inspection tactics between the US and Canada.

He told the National Post newspaper that US authorities have “got scanners. They measure density. They work closely with local law enforcement”.

“These are things that we don’t do in Canada,” he said.

In May, the Canadian government said it would invest millions to bolster the CBSA’s ability to search shipping containers. Police will also get additional money to combat auto theft in their communities.

But Mr Silverstein said he believes a missing puzzle piece is auto manufacturers themselves.

“Everyone is talking about trying to recover vehicles, and a lot of my focus has been on why we are not making the vehicles tougher to steal in the first place,” he said.

In the meantime, car owners like Mr LaFarniere are still grappling with what to do to keep their vehicles safe.

After his Ram Rebel truck was stolen, he replaced it with a Toyota Tundra – a vehicle that Mr LaFarniere described as his “dream truck”.

This time, he installed an engine immobiliser on it to prevent thieves from being able to easily start the car. He also equipped it with a tag tracker in case it did get stolen, and added a club on the steering wheel for good measure.

Thieves were undeterred. A pair came to Mr LaFarniere’s driveway, this time to steal the Tundra. They had a harder time, however, and resorted to shattering the back window to get inside.

The commotion woke Mr LaFarniere and he called 911. But the thieves managed to run away in the four minutes it took for police to arrive.

He paid to repair his brand new truck and then sold it.

The whole ordeal, he said, was nothing short of “disheartening”.

Russian court jails theatre figures over IS wives play

By Anna LamcheBBC News

A Russian playwright and a theatre director have been found guilty of “justifying terrorism” by a military court in Moscow.

Director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petrichuk were sentenced to six years each for the production of their play The Brave Falcon Finist.

Loosely based on true events, the play tells the story of Russian women who travelled to Syria during the country’s civil war to marry members of the Islamic State group.

The two women’s defence lawyer vowed to appeal against the verdict.

Held partly behind closed doors, the trial heightened alarm about freedom of expression in Russia among members of the country’s artistic community.

In addition to being jailed, both women will be banned from “administering websites” for three years after their release.

In custody since May 2023, they will now be sent to a penal colony to serve their sentences, according to Russian news agency RBC.

The prosecution said the women had formed a positive opinion of IS and prosecutor Yekaterina Denisova argued the play contained “signs of justification of terrorism”, according to RBC.

At the beginning of the trial in late May, Berkovich, 39, and Petrichuk, 44, said they had staged the play because they opposed terrorism.

Berkovich said the performance had been put on to “prevent terrorism”, adding she had “nothing but condemnation and disgust” for terrorists.

“I have absolutely no idea what this selection of words has to do with me… I have never shared any forms of Islam, radical or otherwise,” RBC quoted Berkovich as saying.

Both she and Petriychuk maintained their innocence throughout the trial.

Speaking after the women had been sentenced, defence lawyer Ksenia Karpinskaya described the hearing as “absolutely illegal” and “unfair” and pledged to appeal against it thoughthere was “little hope”.

“I want you to know that these girls are absolutely innocent,” the lawyer added.

Supporters of Berkovich have suggested her prosecution was linked to a series of poems she wrote criticising Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine.

Russia’s artistic community has come under increasing pressure from the Kremlin since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Several high-profile Russian artists, writers and journalists have come out in support of the women, including newspaper editor Dmitry Muratov and actress Yulia Peresild.

The play, which remiered in 2020, won two Golden Mask Theatre Awards for best playwright and best costumes.

In recent months, Russia has been subjected to deadly attacks by Islamist militants in both Moscow and Dagestan. The Kremlin has made unsubstantiated suggestions that Ukraine was involved in both incidents.

China Tesla rival BYD signs $1bn Turkey plant deal

By Peter HoskinsBusiness reporter

China’s biggest electric car maker BYD has agreed a $1bn (£780m) deal to set up a manufacturing plant in Turkey, as it continues to expand outside its home country.

The new plant will be able to produce up to 150,000 vehicles a year, according to Turkish state news agency Anadolu.

The facility is expected to create around 5,000 jobs and start production by the end of 2026.

The deal was signed at an event in Istanbul attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and BYD’s chief executive Wang Chuanfu.

BYD did not immediately respond to a BBC request for further details on the deal.

The announcement comes as Chinese EV makers face increasing pressure in the European Union and the US.

Last week, the EU took action to protect the bloc’s motor industry by raising tariffs on Chinese EVs.

The decision saw BYD hit with an extra tariff of 17.4% on the vehicles it ships from China to the EU, which was on top of a 10% import duty.

Turkey is part of the EU’s Customs Union, which means vehicles made in the country and exported to the bloc can avoid the additional tariff.

The Turkish government has also taken action to support the country’s car makers by putting an extra 40% tariff on imports of Chinese vehicles.

In May, US President Joe Biden ramped up tariffs on Chinese-made electric cars, solar panels, steel and other goods.

The White House said the measures, which include a 100% border tax on electric cars from China, were a response to unfair policies and intended to protect US jobs.

BYD, which is backed by veteran US investor Warren Buffett, is the world’s second-largest EV company after Elon Musk’s Tesla.

The company has been rapidly expanding its production facilities outside China.

At the end of last year, BYD announced that it would build a manufacturing plant in EU member state Hungary.

It will be the firm’s first passenger car factory in Europe and is expected to create thousands of jobs.

On Thursday, BYD opened an EV plant in Thailand – its first factory in South East Asia.

BYD said the plant will have an annual capacity of 150,000 vehicles and is projected to generate 10,000 jobs.

The company has also said it is planning to build a manufacturing plant in Mexico.

Indian wrestlers eye Olympics after sex harassment scandal

By Divya AryaBBC Hindi

Over a year after protests against sexual harassment allegations shook Indian wrestling, female athletes are gearing up for major events, including the 2024 Paris Olympics. The BBC spoke to young wrestlers about their journey.

Reetika Hooda almost didn’t make it.

The 23-year-old is among the five Indian women wrestlers to qualify for the Olympics this year.

It’s a hard-won opportunity, following a year of setbacks that shook her confidence. She knew she needed more training and competitions to improve her game.

A year ago, all wrestling came to a halt in India after its federation chief Brij Bhushan Singh was accused of sexual misconduct. He denies the allegations.

India’s sports ministry did not sack Singh but it disbanded the federation after finding several lapses, including the non-compliance of sexual harassment laws, and set up a temporary team to run things.

It was an unprecedented time. Hooda remembers watching the country’s most accomplished wrestlers, including her inspiration Sakshi Malik – the only Indian woman to win an Olympic medal in wrestling – camp on the roads of Delhi, demanding Singh’s resignation.

The protest made headlines globally, especially after the police detained the wrestlers when they tried to march to India’s new parliament building. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) condemned the way the wrestlers were treated and called for an impartial inquiry into their complaints.

“It was sad – not only because of what was happening but also what wasn’t,” Hooda told me.

Each year, the International Olympic Committee designates certain tournaments as qualification events for the games. To compete, wrestlers must earn ranking points in trials, win national competitions, and secure the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) approval.

But instead of competing, Hooda stared at an empty sporting calendar for weeks.

“We trained but there were no trials, which meant we could not compete and know our shortcomings. There was a constant fear that we won’t be prepared [for the Olympics],” she said.

For a country that’s won only 24 medals at individual events in Olympics, with over a quarter in wrestling, this was worrying.

Fresh elections to the WFI were finally held in December 2023, nearly a year after the protests began.

The wrestlers had asked India’s sports minister to prevent people associated with Singh from participating in the election.

Singh did not contest as he had already served the maximum of three terms. But his close aide Sanjay Singh was elected the chief after a landslide victory.

This sparked outrage among women wrestlers. On the same day, Olympic medallist Malik quit the sport in protest.

“Even now I get emotional when I think of that moment,” Malik said. “Wrestling took me to such heights, got me love and respect, and I had to give it up.”

Young wrestlers were stunned by Malik’s decision – but soon, they were back on the mat.

“Sakshi Malik was the reason I took up wrestling,” said Tanu Malik, a 20-year-old wrestler in Haryana state.

“So when I saw her crying, I thought to myself, she fought for us, we can’t give up now.”

From that day, Tanu Malik decided to work harder.

Her training at the state’s all-women Yudhvir Wrestling Academy starts at 04:30.

The day starts with a rigorous five-hour fitness session, lifting large truck tyres and practicing wrestling techniques. After a break for food and rest, the women resume training for another five hours in the afternoon.

Girls as young as 12 years sweat it out on the mat. In their free time, they talk about diets and share recipes that would help them stay fit.

None of them want to talk about the alleged sexual harassment at academies or the accusations against the former wrestling chief. However, they are determined not to give up.

Seema Kharab, a coach, says that contrary to expectations, the number of girls at the academy has not dropped since the protests.

“The protests have assured young wrestlers that it is possible to raise their voice, that positive action may be taken and they can get support within the system,” she says.

In June, the police charged Brij Bhushan Singh with stalking, harassment, intimidation, and making “sexually coloured remarks”, but a court granted him bail

Meanwhile, the new federation chief, Sanjay Singh, has taken on the mantle.

He acknowledged his 30-year relationship with the former chief but dismissed allegations of Brij Bhushan Singh’s interference, claiming wrestlers had accepted him as the new head.

He said this was evident from the “massive turnout” at national wrestling competitions this year.

“No-one will be favoured or discriminated against and each wrestler is dear to me. I am also the father of two daughters and I understand what daughters need,” he added.

However, for young women like Tanu Malik, fear has become an inescapable part of being in the profession.

“It’s not easy – my parents are constantly worried about sending me to training alone,” she says. “But they have to trust us, otherwise how would things work? It’s like accepting defeat without even fighting.”

Others feel deflated and say the protests have come at a huge personal cost for them.

Shiksha Kharab, a gold medallist at the Asian Championship, says it caused disruptions in training because of which young wrestlers have lost a crucial year.

But Sakshi Malik has no regrets.

“The most important thing is to fight,” she said. “I don’t think anybody in any sporting federation would dare to do anything, they now know that harassment can have repercussions.”

Hooda says she’s nervous about competing with some of the world’s biggest wrestling giants at the Games, but also looking forward to it.

“Sakshi Malik used to say victory and loss are not important – just trust your hard work. That’s what I will do,” she adds.

As she gets ready for training, a picture of Sakshi posing with her Olympic medal, beams down at her.

“My only focus now is to win a medal” she says. “Who knows, maybe one day I will have my picture next to hers.”

Read more on this story

White House fights back against doubts on Biden fitness

By Bernd Debusmann Jr, at the White HouseBBC News
Watch: White House defends Biden’s health in fiery press briefing

The White House has pushed back on questions about Joe Biden’s mental fitness, with the US president daring doubters in the party to either challenge him or unite behind his candidacy.

Mr Biden, 81, took the highly unusual step of calling in to a cable news show, saying: “I am not going anywhere.”

In a tense news conference later, the president’s spokeswoman rejected suggestions that he might be suffering from an undisclosed illness.

Questions about his mental acuity have intensified since a poor debate performance against Donald Trump on 27 June.

The scrutiny is unlikely to fade this week as he hosts a summit in Washington for leaders of Nato countries.

In Monday afternoon’s daily press conference, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre rejected speculation that Mr Biden was being treated for Parkinson’s disease, which can cause stiff movement and slurred speech.

“Has the president been treated for Parkinson’s?” she said. “No. Is he being treated for Parkinson’s? No.”

She was responding to a question about a report in the New York Times that an expert on Parkinson’s disease had visited the White House eight times since last year.

A letter released on Monday night from Mr Biden’s doctor said the specialist in question, Dr Kevin Cannard, had been neurology consultant to the White House since 2012 and helps “thousands of active-duty members assigned in support of White House operations”.

Physician to the President Dr Kevin O’Connor also said Mr Biden had not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physical, in which he is checked by specialists from a range of medical fields.

He noted that Mr Biden’s last physical, in February, was “extremely detailed” and contained “no findings which would be consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder”.

On Monday morning, the president called in to MSNBC’s Morning Joe programme, laying down the gauntlet to critics to “challenge me at the convention” next month, or rally behind him against Trump.

It came as he sent an open letter to congressional Democrats, saying he “wouldn’t be running again if I did not absolutely believe” that he could beat the Republican challenger in November’s election.

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Mr Biden’s letter said Democratic voters in the primaries have “spoken clearly and decisively” that he should be the party’s nominee.

“Do we now just say this process didn’t matter?” the letter said. “That the voters don’t have a say… I decline to do that. How can we stand for democracy in our nation if we ignore it in our own party? I cannot do that. I will not do that.”

Mr Biden also phoned Democratic donors on Monday. One source familiar with the call told CBS News, the BBC’s US partner, that the president said his strategy for the second debate against Trump in September will be “attack, attack, attack”.

Several congressional Democrats have called for Mr Biden to drop out, but late on Monday, several others rallied round the embattled president.

Left-wing New York lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told reporters: “The matter is closed. Joe Biden is our nominee.

“He is not leaving this race. He is in this race and I support him.”

Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Maxine Waters of California, and Frank Pallone of New Jersey echoed that support for Mr Biden.

Earlier in the day, Adam Smith of Washington state became the sixth member of Congress to publicly urge Mr Biden to quit.

“We need a stronger messenger,” he told the BBC, as he panned Mr Biden’s debate performance.

“The president was completely incapable of doing something that any sort of relatively novice debater should have been able to do, and it hasn’t gotten better since then,” he added.

On Sunday, the Democratic minority leader in the House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries, held a group call in which several congressmen were explicit in urging Mr Biden to step aside, according to US news outlets.

They reportedly included Jerry Nadler of New York, Mark Takano of California, Joe Morelle of New York and Jim Himes of Connecticut.

Democratic voters chime in on Biden’s ability to run for office

Last week, Lloyd Doggett of Texas became the first Democrat in Congress to urge Mr Biden to step aside.

Trump, 78, has ridiculed Mr Biden over the debate, last week labelling his rival “broken-down”. Biden allies have expressed exasperation about the media criticism he is facing, while his Republican challenger was recently convicted in a New York hush-money case.

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Amid mounting speculation over Mr Biden’s candidacy in November, the thoughts of some Democrats have turned to who could replace him.

Some party members have rallied around Vice-President Kamala Harris, who is Mr Biden’s running mate in November.

Trump has suggested the vice-president would be “better” than Mr Biden, but still “pathetic”.

During a pair of interviews last week, Mr Biden acknowledged that he had “screwed up” the debate, but later vowed that only the “Lord Almighty” could convince him to end his bid to win the White House again.

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Australia appoints special envoy to tackle antisemitism

By Tiffanie TurnbullBBC News, Sydney

Australia has appointed a special envoy to combat antisemitism and preserve “social cohesion”, amid rising community tension over the Israel-Gaza war.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced lawyer and businesswoman Jillian Segal would consult with community leaders and discrimination experts to advise the government.

It follows in the footsteps of countries like the US, Canada, Greece and the UK, which have all had similar positions for years.

A special envoy for addressing Islamophobia will also be appointed soon, Mr Albanese added.

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East has become a volatile political issue in Australia. It has resulted in protests from both Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as a sharp uptick in Islamophobia and antisemitism.

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

More than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza as a result of Israel’s offensive, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

“Australians are deeply concerned about this conflict, and many are hurting. In times like this, Australians must come together, not be torn apart,” Mr Albanese said on Tuesday.

The appointment of Ms Segal – who has headed several key bodies representing the Jewish community and served in leadership roles in the education and banking sectors – is a “critical step” in easing friction, he said.

Ms Segal said combatting the “age-old hatred” of antisemitism has never been more important, pointing to a 700% rise in incidences since the war began in October.

“Jewish Australians want to feel free to live their day-to-day lives, and also want to feel safe to practice and express their religion without fear,” she added.

The announcement has been welcomed by the national peak body for the Australian Jewish community – a group Ms Segal led until last year – who say she will “will bring deep knowledge of the issues and immense energy to the role”.

However other groups – including The Jewish Council of Australia, which has been critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza, and The Australian Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) – say they fear it will worsen division.

“It also risks further entrenching the concerning pattern of antisemitism being conflated with criticism of the state of Israel or with support for Palestine,” APAN said.

The Australian government supports a two-state solution, and in the wake of the 7 October attacks loudly supported Israel’s right to defend itself.

However in recent months it has increasingly voiced concerns about the country’s military campaign in Gaza – including after an Australian aid worker was killed alongside six others in an Israeli air strike.

Australia’s governing Labor party has also experienced growing tensions, with one senator last week quitting its ranks over its stance on the war.

Fatima Payman said she had been “exiled” after breaking party rules to vote against the government in support of a motion calling for the recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Buried deep in Monaco’s archive is black-and-white footage of a teenage Kylian Mbappe, sitting in front of a board as a teacher takes a lesson.

Like much of the early footage of Mbappe, the first thing that catches the eye is his sense of mischief, humour and fun.

In another clip, he jumps on a trampoline, spelling out Monaco letter-by-letter at the top of each bounce, in the style of an American cheerleader.

But with the levity was an underlying seriousness.

Mbappe had an understanding, even as a teenager, of a wider, bigger plan; a programme of parental planning and forethought now widely known as ‘Project Mbappe’.

In the classroom footage, Mbappe is learning languages, most significantly Spanish.

“Maybe in the future it can help me,” he says. “Even when it comes to interviews, to express myself in French or other languages if it’s necessary.”

Next season, that schoolboy Spanish will come in very useful.

Having run down his contract at Paris St-Germain, the 25-year-old has signed a contract to become Real Madrid’s new galactico.

It is the transfer Mbappe has dreamed of ever since he pinned posters of Madrid hero Cristiano Ronaldo on his bedroom wall.

But first he has the small matter of a Euro 2024 semi-final against Spain, the country he is about to call home.

The ‘man in the mask’ – a troublesome necessity after he broke his nose in France’s tournament opener – has struggled to ignite this summer, along with France as a whole.

He has 48 goals in 82 appearances for France and scored an incredible 256 goals in 308 appearances for PSG.

During this tournament he has scored only a solitary penalty, but every France supporter hopes their idol comes to the party on Tuesday and take the penultimate step towards winning a European Championship to go with his World Cup.

Victory in Germany this month would be significant progress in a career that could ultimately make him the most decorated footballer of all time.

“He still has 10 years at the top level and that is quite frightening when you look at what he has already achieved,” says Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal manager who is now Fifa’s chief of global football development.

“This stage of his career, is where you know your job, you are at the prime, the peak of your physical potential.

“He has no limitations.

“He can be at 90% and will still be the best. But how much does he want to push himself? Does he have a clear image of where he wants to go?”

Mbappe and, perhaps more pertinently, his entire family, have always had a definitive direction of travel, zeroing in on the top of the global game.

“Kylian was just school and football,” says childhood friend Rayan Viyanga in a new BBC Sport documentary called Mbappe. “School, football, home.”

Home for Mbappe was the outskirts of Paris. He was born in a banlieue (suburb) called Bondy in 1998, months after France lifted the World Cup for the first time.

The victorious class of ’98 featured a clutch of players from the outskirts of Paris – Lilian Thuram and Thierry Henry for example – and it remains a hotbed of talent. Thirty players at the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar were born in the vicinity of France’s capital.

Bondy was the first place he returned to after lifting the World Cup in 2018.

“It’s the city and place where I grew up, I’m very proud to come back here,” he says, beaming, in footage from the time.

Bondy was also the proving ground where a prodigy was created.

The Mbappe family flat overlooked the AS Bondy football pitches. His father Wilfried was a player turned coach.

As a result, Mbappe – whose mother Fayza Lamari is a former professional handball player – was to be found regularly kicking about with boys twice his size. The mismatches were all part of the plan.

“Kylian was already one step ahead of many other players at AS Bondy,” Viyanga says. “He was advanced for his age group and wanted to play with the best.

“That was a strict rule of his, to play with the best. He never set himself any limits. So he might come up against someone two metres tall. His dad, who was the coach, always put him up against the best defenders in matches.”

Playing against Bondy’s best was no mean feat given the tally of professional footballers among their alumni – which includes Arsenal defender William Saliba – is in double figures.

Project Mbappe didn’t stop there.

While a teenage Mbappe pinned up pictures of Ronaldo and watched old footage of Zinedine Zidane, another Real Madrid superstar, there was a third role model far closer to home – Jires Kembo Ekoko, his adopted brother.

Ekoko was taken in by Mbappe’s parents when he was nine and was selected for the French Federation’s national academy at Clairefontaine before playing professionally for Rennes in Ligue 1.

Ekoko was more than a decade older than Mbappe but had a big impact.

At the age of six, Mbappe had learned the French national anthem, explaining to his teacher that “one day, I’ll play in the World Cup for France”.

It wasn’t only Wilfried and Fayza who believed Mbappe was destined for big things.

Nike came calling with free shoes when he was just 10. A little over six years later, he made his first-team debut for Monaco. But the progress between those two points was not smooth.

Allan Momege was a classmate of Mbappe at Clairefontaine.

“At the time I met him, he wasn’t the player who impressed me the most,” Momege says of Mbappe in the BBC Sport documentary.

“He didn’t stand out for me as a player during the trials. The first time I saw him play, I didn’t think, ‘Wow!’

“There were regional selections and Kylian wasn’t in the best team.”

Matt Spiro, an author and French football expert, echoes Momege.

“Kylian initially found it a bit difficult at Clairefontaine,” he says. “He was there for two years and during the first year, he certainly wasn’t the best in his group. I think even Kylian would admit that.

“Mbappe would play out on the wing and would quite frequently be in a sulky mood. He had a growth spurt, I think towards the end of his first year in Clairefontaine, and by the second year, he was really starting to look the business.

“Then people were thinking, we’ve got a very, very special talent on our hands.”

That talent was picked up by Monaco scouts in July 2013, when he was aged 14.

Moving from the Parisian suburbs to the wealthy, sunny Cote d’Azur at such a young age could have made others go inside themselves.

Not the boy from Bondy.

Soon after his arrival, Mbappe and his new team-mates were set an assignment to design a magazine cover with an image of themselves on the front.

The most logical design would be a sports magazine, or perhaps a national weekly magazine such as Paris Match. Mbappe’s choice?

The internationally recognised Time Magazine.

And the headline he chose? El Maestro. The Master.

Only four years later, having led France to World Cup glory in Russia and joined Pele as only the second teenager to score in a World Cup final, those big dreams became a reality. His face appeared on the front of Time for real.

“Crazy,” he told Time in the accompanying interview., external

“Every kid has ambition. But when that comes true, after only a few years, it’s something crazy.”

Crazy talent means crazy money and another example of the determination of Mbappe to have total control over his journey.

“In the summer of 2017, Real Madrid, who had been chasing Mbappe since he was 11, had a deal with Monaco, external – 180m euros (£161m) for an 18-year-old,” explains French football expert Julien Laurens.

“Monaco said to Kylian: ‘Listen, this is too good for us to turn down, we’ve decided to sell you to Real Madrid.’ And Kylian went: ‘Woah, woah, woah… nobody tells me what to do. I decide my own future. Not you, not him, not her. Me. Me and my family.'”

What they decided was to go home.

Mbappe became the most expensive teenager in the world by joining PSG instead.

Madrid have had to wait another seven years to get their man – with Mbappe reportedly receiving a 150m euro (£128m) signing-on bonus as he joins this summer.

Big, fulfilled dreams, riches beyond belief and unbridled potential still in store.

It is enough to inflate any ego. And it has been suggested that Mbappe’s is as outsized as his talent.

Numerous media stories have portrayed Mbappe as something close to a megalomaniac, accused of wielding influence over PSG’s tactics and transfer decisions.

Often accompanying such negative headlines have been unflattering asides about the influence of the Mbappe family machine at large – particularly his mother and agent Lamari.

Former PSG performance director Martin Buccheit worked directly with Mbappe between 2014 and 2020.

He has since written a book on the subject of ego, and argues Mbappe’s family have intervened on occasions if he showed signs of getting above himself.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Lamari once made Mbappe wear flares to school for a week when she heard he had criticised a classmate’s appearance.

“Ego is a necessary drive for success,” says Buccheit. “But it’s more about having a hand on the dial to control it. Sometime you use it and put the volume up when you really need to stand out or show up.

“But sometimes you have to be able to listen and get back on the humility side.

“Kylian didn’t always have the hand on the on the dial. But for sure the family, the mum and the parents were really behind him. And I could feel that maybe the parents had the volume in their hands.”

Whoever is in control off the pitch, Mbappe’s talents on it have flourished.

By his 25th birthday in December 2023, Mbappe had scored 306 goals for club and country – nearly double the total of 160 managed at the same age by his childhood hero Ronaldo, and also ahead of Lionel Messi (279).

He is third on France’s all-time scoring list. With 48 international goals, he is closing in fast on Thierry Henry (51) and Olivier Giroud (57).

Such is Mbappe’s influence that France boss Didier Deschamps made him captain in 2023.

Was the decision to give him the armband a no-brainer? Is he the complete article?

“Kylian? Yes, of course,” Deschamps says.

“Some people talk about his egoism, but egoism is a big word.

“It applies to all forwards, and certainly all attackers. No, the role suits him. He’s totally up to the job.”

Up to that job, but not quite up to the task of carrying PSG to Champions League glory.

The trophy most desired by the club’s Qatari owners has remained out of reach, despite heavy investment.

Mbappe’s seventh and final Champions League campaign with PSG ended in semi-final defeat by Borussia Dortmund. The closest he has got to lifting European club football’s biggest prize is a final defeat by Bayern Munich in 2020.

That trophy, along with the individual accolades such as the Ballon d’Or and Fifa’s Best award, is still absent from his list of honours. Project Mbappe is not yet complete.

But, he has the time, hunger and, in Real Madrid, the stage to complete the long-stated familial goal – to become the greatest player of his or any other era.

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“I’ve got some proper Halloween scars on this one.”

MMA fighter Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett points to the marks left by three operations on his foot. He’s had another three on his hands.

“My body is falling apart at 29 – but I’ve been fighting since I was 15,” he says.

“I just get on with it.”

The Next Generation Gym is where he gets on with it.

Pimblett and Molly ‘Meatball’ McCann, 34, are the two highest-profile members of a tight-knit MMA fighting community at the renowned Liverpool gym.

It is where both are preparing for fights in Manchester later this month; contests which could be significant to their careers after 18 months of turbulence, headlines and life changes.

They are part of a wider, longer-term project though.

Their training is led by head coaches Paul Rimmer and Ellis Hampson, who joined forces 20 years ago to build an MMA community and a lasting legacy for Liverpool.

In 2001, a 21-year-old Rimmer, inspired by a childhood interest in karate and Japanese wrestling programmes, took out a £6,000 loan and left his office job. He travelled across the Atlantic to the Next Generation Fighting Academy in Irvine, California, 40 miles south east of Los Angeles.

He trained all day, every day, for nine months under the tutelage of Chris ‘The Westside Strangler’ Brennan.

“I slept on bunk beds in the back of the gym and walked to a weights gym to take showers,” he says.

“It was really hard.”

He came back with a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and a brand that he was determined to spread to Liverpool.

“Next Generation in Liverpool has been about putting the stuff in place that we never had here,” he says.

“There was no MMA, fighting heroes or gyms to look up to. This is an alternative to to offices and football to make opportunities for kids in this city.”

The gym is split across two floors in a windowless industrial building in the Fabric District, an area which holds the history of the Liverpool’s rag trade. Metal shutters are peeled back to reveal an expanse of bright blue training mats and interior walls covered in graffiti art.

The gym’s community comes from all walks of life, with under-16s training next to the likes of Pimblett and McCann.

In total, it is home to 15 professionals across the four main MMA promotions – UFC, Bellator, Cage Warriors and Oktagon.

Two coaches are at the centre of it all, Hampson in full body pads while Rimmer sits on the floor watching intently and absorbing every detail.

The atmosphere is one of concentration and camaraderie, rather than tension or testosterone. The attention to detail you might even describe as geeky.

“Most of it is like a dance,” says McCann as we sit on the mats after a training session.

“If you look at combat sports or martial arts, it’s an art form. It’s not plain sailing, it’s so hard, but for me it’s the truest form of expression.”

After back-to-back losses in November 2022 and July 2023, McCann dropped a weight division, worked hard on weaknesses in grappling and committed to “saying less and doing more”.

“I grew up doing karate-type boxing, just all striking really,” she says.

“I’d have a good go at grappling but it didn’t set my heart on fire. And then I lost twice by arm bar and it just slaughtered me.”

The work paid off. McCann made her as a strawweight in February, defeating Diana Belbita by arm bar.

“I also felt like it was my responsibility to give my heart and soul in interviews,” she adds of her previous approach to MMA.

“But people turned on me, so I don’t carry that any more. After my losses I had therapy to deal with trauma from my past and the professional stuff. I felt lighter after.

“So now it’s ‘say less, do more’. I will be better.”

Pimblett and McCann are two of the big draws at the new Co-op Live Arena in Manchester on 27 July. It will be somewhat of a homecoming; it’s the first time the pair have fought on a UFC card in the North West.

McCann’s fight style is more concise, reserved and harnessed, but her confidence is undimmed. She has promised to “destroy” opponent Bruna Brasil.

Cage Warriors fighter Adam Cullen also trains at Next Generation. Like McCann, the 26-year-old has experienced the unforgiving side of the MMA fanbase.

Cullen was on a seven-fight winning streak before suffering a knockout defeat in April 2023. He made a winning return in September but was on the wrong end of a split decision in March this year.

“It’s definitely a mental strain because one minute you’re the next big thing, then you lose one fight and people say you’re nothing,” he says.

“In the gym, you never feel alone or lost. Someone has always been through what you have. The actual fighting is what keeps you going back. You go from terrified to top of the world in seconds.”

Cullen was inspired to train at Next Generation by Pimblett’s early, pre-UFC success in MMA.

He turned up at the gym and soon found himself training alongside Pimblett and McCann.

It’s a defining characteristic of the gym. Despite its global UFC stars, there is no hierarchy. Everybody trains together regardless of external status.

Despite five wins from five fights in the UFC, Pimblett, like McCann and Cullen, has experienced the ups and downs of life in the octagon and outside of it.

In July 2022, he made headlines around the world after a sensational win over American Jordan Leavitt.

In an emotional post-fight interview, he appealed for men to talk about their mental health, revealing a friend had recently died by suicide.

Such is Pimblett’s charisma, warm-heartedness and authenticity, that Liverpool therapy centre James’ Place – a suicide prevention charity focused on men – reported a surge in enquiries following his speech.

“In this city, you hear it all the time about people killing themselves. When my friend took his own life I felt I had to say something. People praised me but I just felt I was doing my part as anyone in my position should be doing – it matters. It’s more important than fighting,” he says.

Fast forward six months though and it wasn’t praise he was hearing.

Pimblett was jeered when he was awarded a controversial decision victory over Jared Gordon in Las Vegas. Soon after, he attracted more criticism, following a dispute with MMA commentator Ariel Helwani.

“Everyone just proper changed on me,” he says. “I get on with it because it’s the sport I’m in. I’m not signed in to any of my social media because I’ll just start commenting back to people again.”

Pimblett will fight Bobby ‘King’ Green in July but had hoped to face the higher-ranked Renato Moicano.

He says training is focused on building up wrestling and sparring technique.

“When I grapple, I always feel confident. It’s my striking I have to improve.

“I feel like over the last fight camp or two, it’s come on leaps and bounds.”

The UFC main card will begin at 3am in Manchester, to tie in with American television.

It means the Next Generation Gym will be busy in the middle of the night for the few weeks before the fight, as Pimblett and McCann acclimatise.

It is also busy at home for Pimblett. In May, he became a father for the first time. He credits his wife Laura for caring for twins Betsy and Margot so he can sleep.

McCann is a board member and head coach at the English Mixed Martial Arts Association (EMMAA), helping to look after the sport’s next generation.

The national governing body, among other things, supports pathways into competitive MMA for ages 12 and up.

At Next Generation, Rimmer’s own son Jack, 16, is set to start an apprenticeship at the gym, learning to coach and lead sessions.

His goal is to turn professional as a fighter and take over from his father one day.

“I’ve trained since I was five,” says Jack. “When my dad used to come home with belts from fights, I just knew I wanted to do it. Paddy was a big inspiration because of the way he built himself up to be a local hero.

“The gym brings everyone together no matter the age – whether you’re unfit or have disabilities, you can still train. And you can just make friends straight away and meet people from all different countries.”

Rimmer sees a city’s pride reflected back in the growth of his sport.

“The big jump will be in younger fighters now,” he says.

“These kids are coming in with a skillset and training from much earlier ages, since they were six.

“The work we’ve put into the legacy of MMA in Liverpool over the years won’t stop with me.”

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Without us realising, sport can shape and define small parts or huge chunks of our lives.

I bet you know where you were on Super Saturday, when Ben Stokes did what he did at Headingley, or when Andy Murray won Wimbledon.

My dad died in 2005. It was awful, though I mainly remember that year for the Ashes, my own cricket club getting promoted and staying up all night to revise for a university exam after Liverpool won the Champions League, and I’m not a Liverpool fan.

Athletes and players become major characters in our existence. Heroes, influencers and comforters. For more than two decades, James Anderson hasn’t just been England’s guardian of the new ball, but a constant presence at the top of British sport and, therefore, our collective being.

Think what you were doing when Anderson made his Test debut in 2003, or a bit longer ago than that if we want to go back to his first match in an England shirt.

Were you even born? If you were doing your GCSEs, you might now be married with children and an eye-watering mortgage. Can you remember a time when Anderson wasn’t playing for England? If you’re younger than 30, there’s a decent chance you can’t.

In those 20-plus years, Anderson has been carving out a career that would make him a face on English cricket’s Mount Rushmore.

While we were growing older, Jimmy was growing up. Haircuts, stress fractures and 700 Test wickets. Deep in the BBC archive is footage of 20-year-old Anderson at home with his mum Catherine, packing his cricket bag for the tour of Australia in 2002. The next summer, when Anderson made his Test bow against Zimbabwe, a PR expert compared his good looks to David Beckham and suggested he should date a member of Atomic Kitten.

When his England career ends this week against West Indies at Lord’s, a few days off his 42nd birthday, Anderson will be playing for his eighth different Test captain and under his eighth different prime minister.

Consider this. Anderson made his debut before Andrew Strauss, who played 100 Tests and retired in 2012. Later that year, Joe Root made his debut and has won 140 caps. To date, Anderson has spanned the international careers of both men combined.

He has seen it all. Steve Harmison’s wide. Andrew Flintoff’s pedalo. The Zimbabwe crisis. Kevin Pietersen v Peter Moores. Fifty one all out in Jamaica and 517-1 in Brisbane. Textgate. Four Ashes wins and four Ashes defeats, two of them whitewashes. Spot-fixing, Covid and Bazball.

Anderson’s is a story of dedication to the hardest discipline in cricket and one of the most unnatural acts in all sport. The human body is not designed to bowl fast, yet Anderson has done it more times than anyone in the history of the international game.

Sometimes Anderson’s shoulder hurts when he brushes his teeth and the day after a long spell his quads are on fire when he has his first sit-down wee.

No bowler of any kind, let alone fast, is close to playing the 116 Tests Anderson has clocked up past the age of 30. Into his fifth decade, Anderson has been tinkering, trying to add speed to his run-up. Who knows how long he would have tried to go on for had he not been told time’s time.

More important than his longevity is Anderson’s evolution into one of the most complete fast bowlers the game has ever seen. From talented tearaway to a Swiss-army knife of a paceman. Reverse-swing, wobble balls and cutters. A rhythmical approach, grooved action and control of educated fingers. The skills and experience to adapt to all conditions and match situations.

Research by brain scientists suggests that humans don’t fully mature into adults until the age of 30. The same can be said for Anderson the bowler, for the period just after his 30th birthday was his peak.

Between June 2014 and February 2019, Anderson was prolific, claiming 232 wickets in 56 Tests at an average of 21 and strike-rate of 51. He sailed past Lord Botham’s previous England Test wickets record of 383, through 400, 500 en route to becoming the most successful fast bowler the game has ever seen.

As time crept by, the rests became more common, but 600 wickets were reached in an empty stadium in Southampton in 2020. Only on the Ashes tour of 2021-22 – Anderson’s fifth trip down under – did his place as undisputed attack leader come into question, and he and old mate Stuart Broad had to battle back from being dropped for the tour of West Indies at the end of Root’s captaincy.

The Stokes era brought one last hurrah, though whereas Broad surged into retirement, Anderson’s returns have dropped. It was a slow crawl to the 700 mark, but Dharamsala, in the foothills of the Himalayas, was a fitting venue for Anderson to finally scale the fast-bowling mountain.

There are other records, too. Anderson hasn’t played a one-day international for England since 2015 and is still their leading wicket-taker on 269. His 113 not-outs in Test cricket is a massive 52 more than anyone else has managed. Has there ever been a more beloved tailender? Shuffling to the middle, thoroughly hacked off the batters have let him down again, crowd singing Jimmy’s name before he has faced a ball.

Even if the time feels right for England to move on, there is still the question of how and to whom. Since Anderson’s retirement was announced, Josh Tongue and Jamie Overton have been ruled out for the long term and Brydon Carse has been banned, once again showing that one of Anderson’s greatest abilities has been his availability.

England’s attack will be formed by the experienced Chris Woakes and Mark Wood (35 and 34 respectively), and promising youngsters like Gus Atkinson, Matthew Potts and Dillon Pennington. There might be a way back for Ollie Robinson and hopefully Jofra Archer can return to Test cricket. In terms of wickets, Stokes is England’s most successful active seamer.

Anderson will stay on with England in a mentoring capacity. For a little while, when the clouds are grey, the air heavy and the ball new, it will be hard not to think that England’s best option is sitting in the dressing room in a tracksuit. Anderson’s 7-35 at Southport last week, in what could be his last match for Lancashire, was a greatest hits spell and maybe a question to England as to whether they really understand what they are about to let go.

The reality is that in a few days Anderson will be England’s past, leaving us with the memories of an unparalleled career.

The yorker to Mohammed Yousuf, the Cardiff rearguard, shushing Mitchell Johnson, taking Brad Haddin’s edge to win an Ashes nipper, bowling Mohammed Shami to go past Glenn McGrath and send great mate Alastair Cook into retirement, a magical over of reverse swing in Chennai and countless others, all of which built Anderson’s legacy and intertwined him with our own lives.

It’s time to say goodbye. Not just to James Anderson, but to part of ourselves.

Oh, Jimmy, Jimmy.

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Novak Djokovic accused some of the Centre Court crowd of using a Holger Rune chant as “an excuse to boo” as his hot-and-cold relationship with Wimbledon took another turn.

Hundreds of fans greeted Rune winners, and Djokovic errors, with elongated cries of ‘Ruuuuuuu-ne’ during the pair’s fourth-round match on Monday.

Djokovic – a convincing 6-3 6-4 6-2 winner – felt the crowd were disrespecting him.

When on-court interviewer Rishi Persad put it to the Serb that they were supporting his opponent, Djokovic said there was more to it.

“I know they were cheering for Rune but that’s an excuse to also boo,” he said.

“I have been on the tour for more than 20 years. I know all the tricks.”

Djokovic is attempting to win a joint record eighth Wimbledon men’s title, and is a nine-time finalist at SW19.

But his relationship with the crowd has not always been serene.

After Djokovic beat Roger Federer in the 2019 final, his former coach Boris Becker said he deserved more respect from a partisan crowd who had mostly sided with his opponent.

And two years ago, Djokovic was booed after he blew a kiss to fans following his semi-final win over Briton Cameron Norrie.

On Monday, Djokovic looked unfazed for much of the match, though after taking the second set he did stare at a pocket of Rune supporters.

He also looked towards chanting fans when standing by the microphone as he waited for his on-court interview.

“I played in much more hostile environments, trust me – you guys can’t touch me,” he said.

“To all the fans that have had respect and stayed here tonight , I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I appreciate it.”

Rune, for his part, thought it was clear what the fans were doing.

“If you don’t know what was happening, probably it sounded like ‘boo’. But if we all know what happened, it was my name,” said the 21-year-old.

“If he didn’t remember, it could probably sound different for him. I don’t think it played a massive part in the match.”

It is, of course, not the first time a sport star’s name has been bellowed with the vowels stretched out; not even at Wimbledon this fortnight.

When Sue Barker entered Centre Court to interview Andy Murray in his emotional farewell on Thursday, she was met with cries of ‘Suuuuuuuuue’.

And when Joe Root was introduced to the crowd earlier in the tournament, he was welcomed with the same shout that greets his boundaries for England: ‘Rooooooooot.’

Djokovic, who faces Australian ninth seed Alex de Minaur in the quarter-finals, appeared to have seen the funny side of things by the end of his interview.

He signed off by saying: “To all those people that have chosen to disrespect the player (in this case me)… have a goooooooood night.”

But, in a later interview with BBC Sport, he stood by what he had said.

“When I feel a crowd is stepping over the line, I react,” he said. “I don’t regret my words or actions on the court.”

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