BBC 2024-07-10 00:07:04


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 Ukraine’s biggest children’s hospital in the capital, Kyiv, on Monday.

Ukraine published photos on Tuesday of what it said were recovered fragments of a Russian cruise missile that hit the Ohmatdyt hospital.

Russia claimed the blast was caused by a misfiring Ukrainian air defence missile, but the UN said it was highly likely Moscow was behind the attack – a conclusion shared by analysts who spoke to BBC Verify.

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

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

Leaders from the 32 Nato member states, their partner countries and the EU are gathering to mark the 75th anniversary of the bloc. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is also expected to attend.

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

Ukraine is not a Nato member, but it has asked to be admitted as soon as possible after its war with Russia ends. Nato’s outgoing secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has said it is “inevitable” that Ukraine will eventually become a member, but not until after the war.

Russia fiercely opposes Ukraine joining the bloc, fearing it would bring the alliance’s forces too close to its own territory.

“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 Zelensky to make clear our support for Ukraine is unshakeable.”

  • What is Nato and when might Ukraine join?

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, Vitaliy Klitschko, declared 9 July as a day of mourning following the deadly attacks on the capital.

UN blames Russia for deadly hospital blast

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 was completed on Tuesday morning.

Ukraine’s SBU security service published photos of what it said were fragments – including an engine part – of a KH-101 cruise missile fired by Russia.

In a statement, the SBU said its experts’ “conclusions are unequivocal – it was a targeted attack” by Russia.

The Kremlin denied carrying out the attack and foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed the blast was caused by a misfiring NASAMS air defence missile.

But the UN’s human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine said there was a high likelihood that Russia carried out the attack on the children’s hospital.

Officials said video footage and a site assessment indicated the building was directly hit by a Russian missile.

BBC Verify has analysed two videos showing a missile striking the hospital, and have geolocated each to confirm the strike location.

Six munitions experts who saw the footage unanimously agreed that the missile was not an air defence missile.

They all said they cannot be definitive about the type of munition used, but formed a consensus it was likely to be an air-launched Russian missile. Four of the six specifically mentioned a Russian Kh-101 missile as a possibility, in line with the claim by the SBU.

Speaking to the BBC, one expert expressly noted the presence of a small turbofan engine at the rear of the missile, which they observed was consistent to the Kh-101.

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

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.

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

His 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 such surface-to-air batteries scattered across the Nato alliance.

  • Ukraine mourns after day of Russian air strikes

The UK’s new Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, also 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 on the sidelines of the Nato summit.

Mr Peskov told the BBC that the Kremlin would be following the gathering “extremely closely”.

“It is an alliance which has repeatedly and openly declared that its aim is to deliver Russia a strategic defeat on the battlefield,” Mr Peskov.

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 said four people were killed and 20 injured in attacks by Ukraine over the past day.

Modi’s balancing act as he meets Putin in Moscow

By Anbarasan EthirajanBBC News, Delhi
India PM Modi meets Russian President Putin

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being keenly watched by his Western allies as he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on his first foreign trip since he returned to office for a third term in June.

Mr Modi landed on Monday, just hours after Russian bombing killed at least 41 people in Ukraine, including at a children’s hospital in Kyiv, sparking a global outcry.

Photos from Moscow showed a beaming Mr Modi hugging the Russian president. A video of a smiling Mr Putin calling Mr Modi “my dearest friend” and telling him that he was “delighted to see him” has gone viral in India.

Mr Modi’s two-day visit – his first to the Kremlin since 2019 – coincides with a Nato summit in Washington, where the 2022 invasion will be a major theme.

India, a key global economy, has close ties with both Russia and the US and its partners and officials in Delhi are playing down questions over the timing of Mr Modi’s trip. They say the annual summit is part of a long-standing strategic partnership and its scheduling has nothing to do with the Nato summit.

But a sour note has been struck with the US expressing concern. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller urged Mr Modi to emphasise Ukraine’s territorial integrity during his talks in Moscow.

Mr Miller also said the US had raised concerns with India regarding its relationship with Russia.

“We would urge India, as we do any country when it engages with Russia, to make clear that any resolution to the conflict in Ukraine needs to be one that respects the UN charter, that respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Ukraine’s sovereignty,” he said at a press briefing on Monday.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky went further – and did not mince his words.

“It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day,” he posted on X (formerly Twitter) late on Monday.

Mr Modi told President Putin that India was ready to offer any assistance in establishing peace in Ukraine. Russian state TV quoted him saying that war was “not a solution”.

He also said the death of children was painful and terrifying, a day after the deadly attack on the Kyiv children’s hospital.

“Whether it is war, conflict or a terrorist attack, any person who believes in humanity, is pained when there is loss of lives,” Mr Modi said.

“But even in that, when innocent children are killed, the heart bleeds and that pain is very terrifying.”

The Nato summit in Washington, which begins on Tuesday, is being held to mark the 75th anniversary of the Western defence grouping which was mainly formed as a bulwark against the then Soviet Union after World War Two.

Nato countries have been vehemently opposed to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, while India and Mr Modi have refrained from any explicit criticism of President Putin except calling for dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the conflict.

As Western nations try to isolate Moscow by imposing sanctions, President Putin has been having summit-level meetings with leaders of key nations like China, India, Turkey and others.

Some are now asking whether Mr Modi’s presence in Moscow could be to Mr Putin’s advantage. Is the message India is sending out playing into the hands of Russia?

“The bilateral visit this time is just a scheduling priority that we have undertaken. And that’s what it is,” Vinay Kwatra, permanent secretary to the Indian foreign ministry, told the BBC ahead of Mr Modi’s visit, rejecting any connection between the two events.

India and Russia share close defence and strategic relations from Cold War days and Moscow remains a key supplier of weapons. India, which maintains one of the largest militaries in the world, has long-standing border disputes with its neighbours Pakistan and China.

Experts say Mr Modi giving importance to Moscow is not a surprise and the relationship goes beyond defence procurement.

“If you look at the historical trend, it [Moscow] has been one of the constants in Indian foreign policy,” Pankaj Saran, former Indian ambassador to Moscow, told the BBC.

“The main pillars of the relationship include defence co-operation, energy and science technology.”

Over the years, Russia has provided technical assistance to build several nuclear power plants in India.

Since the Ukraine war began, Delhi has also been buying billions of dollars of discounted oil from Moscow after Western nations imposed sanctions on Russia to limit what it could sell or charge for the product.

Driven by a surge in the purchase of oil, bilateral trade between India and Russia in the last few years has soared to $65bn (£50.76bn). India’s exports to Russia stand at just $4bn.

Indian officials say a key priority for Mr Modi will be to address this trade imbalance and encourage Russian investment in India as well as moving some defence production to India.

For the past 20 years, the West, particularly the US, has cultivated closer ties with India in what many see as a bulwark against the threat posed by an increasingly assertive China.

India also became a member of the Quad – a strategic forum with the US, Australia and Japan – which is seen as a grouping aimed at countering Chinese influence in the Asia Pacific.

But faced with increasing Western hostility, President Putin has developed closer strategic and economic ties with Beijing. The development has not gone unnoticed in India, China’s long-time rival.

A deadly brawl on the disputed border in Ladakh region in June 2020 killed 20 Indian and at least four Chinese soldiers and escalated tensions.

There are apprehensions in India that it may be left out of the Moscow-Beijing equation.

“One option currently being exercised by Delhi is to keep the Russia channel open to maintain the friendship and avoid taking any measures which may further aggravate Russia’s drift into Chinese arms that is being caused by US and Western policies,” says Mr Saran.

Though Delhi has diversified its weapons inventory in recent decades by buying American, French and Israeli arms systems, it still relies heavily on Moscow and there have been concerns the war in Ukraine has had an impact on its defence exports.

“There are reports of delays in the supplies of some spare parts and the delivery of the remaining S-400 anti-missile defence system. So, there will definitely be some discussion on this during the visit,” says Anil Trigunayat, a former ambassador and now a Distinguished Fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation in Delhi.

Delhi and Moscow are not without their own differences. There have been several reported cases of Indian nationals who were lured with false promises of lucrative job offers and ended up fighting for the Russian army in Ukraine. Four Indians have died so far in the fighting.

  • The Indian men traumatised by fighting for Russia

Indian officials insist that during this visit, Mr Modi will press his Russian counterparts for an early discharge of Indians – thought to number in the dozens – still fighting in the war.

India is aware that it needs both the United States and Russia to counter its rival China. Hence, it feels the need to strike a balance not to offend either of the two.

“India follows a policy of strategic autonomy and multi-alignments. We have strategic relationships with both the US and Russia. These are mutually exclusive partnerships,” says Mr Trigunayat.

Chinese man arrested after Japanese shrine vandalised

By Yvette TanBBC News

A Chinese man accused of buying spray paint which was used to write the word “toilet” on a controversial Japanese shrine has been arrested, local media reports.

The incident at the Yasukuni shrine – which honours the country’s war dead, including some convicted of war crimes – sparked outrage in Japan.

One Tokyo businessman even offered a cash reward in order to catch those behind the stunt, which included urinating on a pillar, and was shared on Chinese social media.

Police arrested the first of three suspects on Tuesday, issuing warrants for two more men.

According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, he is accused of buying the paint used in the video.

The other two men are reported to have left the country the day after they allegedly took part in the stunt – causing damage amounting to 4.2 million yen ($26,000; £20,000).

In the video, the alleged perpetrator, who identified himself as Iron Head, says he is fed up with Japan’s decision to release treated waste water, presumably a reference to water released from the earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant – a decision that outraged many in China.

The shrine has over the years been a source of friction between Japan and its neighbours, China and South Korea.

It is common for Japanese officials to visit the Yasukuni shrine during certain festivals and during the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War Two.

In 2014, when then prime minister Shinzo Abe visited the shrine, China said the visit reflected “the erroneous attitude towards history adopted by Japan’s incumbent cabinet”.

South Korea similarly denounced the visit, saying it “romanticised Japanese colonialism and its war of aggression”.

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.

This Nato summit could save or sink Biden’s candidacy

By Anthony ZurcherNorth America correspondent
White House grilled by reporters on Biden’s health

It is a week of reckoning for Joe Biden.

Twelve days after a halting debate performance that may go down as one of the most damaging in modern American history, the president is fighting for his political survival under intense domestic and global scrutiny.

This week’s Nato summit in Washington DC may be his path to at least a temporary reprieve – or this president’s last stand.

In the past few days, Mr Biden has railed against his critics, claimed the mandate of Democratic primary voters and challenged opponents to step forward and try to unseat him.

He has promised repeatedly that he is moving ahead with his campaign and that the time for second-guessing and hand-wringing is over. That pressing ahead will start at the Nato summit.

Mr Biden will host alliance leaders for three days of meetings and public events culminating in a solo press conference on Thursday afternoon.

  • What is Nato and when might Ukraine join?

It is a stage on which Mr Biden, a man well versed in foreign relations, should be comfortable. But it also raises the already high stakes for his presidency, given that a poor showing will have international as well as domestic ramifications.

A mistake could start a political stampede among Democrats that extinguishes his hopes of even making it to the November general election, let alone winning it.

It could also sharpen concerns from European allies who are concerned about the increasing likelihood of a Donald Trump presidency and the dramatic foreign policy shifts that would come with it.

  • Project 2025 – a wishlist for a Trump presidency
  • Who will Trump pick as vice-president?

“Biden is entering this week diminished,” said Kristine Berzina, managing director of the German Marshall Fund Geostrategy North.

“We don’t know how he’s going to exit it.”

Foreign leaders concerned

It is understood that many European leaders are anxious about Trump and his foreign policy strategy. The former president has disparaged multilateral international alliances.

Ms Berzina said that in the past two weeks, however, these leaders have been experiencing something new – Biden anxiety.

After his halting debate performance, she says, American allies have begun doubting whether the president is up to the task.

Heading into the Nato summit, they are hoping to see some evidence that his performance that night was an aberration and not reflective of a new normal.

“It is worrisome to have a close ally, your most meaningful ally, falter,” said Ms Berzina.

“So I think there is tremendous hope that Biden passes the test. But if he isn’t able to deliver, it creates more questions about the US’s reliability.”

  • ‘A reality show’ – how world saw Biden debate

Eyes will be on the US president as he attends summit sessions, hosts foreign leaders at the White House and engages in bilateral meetings with key leaders, including newly elected British Prime Minister Keir Starmer.

Even behind closed doors of the Nato meetings, word of Mr Biden’s performance – good or bad – is sure to leak out.

A Democratic Party panic attack

Mr Biden faces an even taller task this week domestically.

The president has pointed to buttressing and expanding Nato in the face of Russian aggression as one of his key accomplishments.

This is something that differentiates his leadership from Trump’s – as well as any Democrats who could potentially replace him on the ballot – and the summit will be his chance to put that on display for the American public.

“Who’s going to be able to keep Nato together like me?” the president said in his interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Friday. He added that the Nato summit would be a good way to judge his abilities.

“Come listen,” he said. “See what they say.”

But simply clearing low expectations at the Nato summit and the Thursday press conference may not be enough for many of the politicians, pundits and party activists who are already calling for him to step aside.

“Just having some good appearances is not going to stop the questions,” said Bill Scher, a liberal pundit and editor of Washington Monthly who recently penned a column calling for Mr Biden to step aside for Vice-President Kamala Harris.

“Time was really of the essence to nip all the speculation in the bud, and they wasted a week. There is no clear path out of this situation.”

  • Could Biden be replaced as nominee?
  • The Democratic names being talked about

Mr Scher – a longtime supporter of Mr Biden – says the president’s attempts to push back now with media interviews, letters and calls to Democratic politicians come after public sentiment has solidified against him.

And once that sentiment is fully cemented in the polls – which could take several weeks – it will probably be too late to cleanly replace him.

“I understand how difficult it has to be when you’re nearing the end of your life and you’re not performing as well as you used to,” Mr Scher said. “Having to come to terms with that in public has to be excruciating.”

But the data that shows Mr Biden losing support and facing defeat in November is becoming increasingly clear.

Polls indicate nearly three-quarters of Americans – and even a majority of Democrats – think the president should stand down. A half-dozen Democratic members of Congress have called for him to abandon his bid, and many others have offered only equivocal support.

Democratic voters chime in on Biden’s ability to run for office

The president continues to say he will press ahead with his campaign, however, and he has the national convention delegates to ensure that he is the Democratic nominee. The decision lies firmly in his hands, and if he can make it through the week without a major misstep, he may, in fact, survive the immediate storm.

The story of this week, however, has been set. It isn’t one of Nato celebrating its 75th year of existence and focusing on the challenges to come.

Instead, it is a narrative that could decide whether Mr Biden can politically live to fight another day.

More on the US election

  • POLICIES: Where Biden and Trump stand
  • GLOBAL: What Moscow and Beijing think of rematch
  • ANALYSIS: Could US economy be doing too well?
  • EXPLAINER: RFK Jr and others running for president
  • VOTERS: US workers in debt to buy groceries

US blocks British court from British territory

By Alice CuddyBBC News

The US government has blocked a British court hearing from taking place on a British territory, citing security concerns, according to court documents.

The supreme court of British Indian Ocean Territory (Biot) was due to hold a hearing this week, attended by the BBC, on whether a group of migrants was being unlawfully detained on the island of Diego Garcia.

The island hosts a secretive UK-US military base and access is heavily restricted.

The US last week said it was “withdrawing its consent” for lawyers representing the migrants and “members of the press” – the BBC – to access the island, according to court documents.

It said it would not allow participants of the hearing to board US military flights to Diego Garcia, and would not provide transport, accommodation or food on the island until its “security and operational concerns are adequately addressed”, a witness statement from Biot’s deputy commissioner, Nishi Dholakia, says.

The US said it would be “willing to reconsider” the requests if the visit could be “conducted in a manner” that addresses its concerns, the statement adds.

Dozens of migrants arrived on the island in October 2021, saying they had been fleeing persecution and trying to sail to Canada to claim asylum when their boat ran into trouble near Diego Garcia.

Late last Thursday night – hours before the judge, UK government lawyers and those representing the migrants, and the BBC were due to board flights for the first leg of the journey – the court shared an order cancelling the hearing.

The US security concerns relate to a site visit that had been scheduled to take place on the island as part of the hearing, which was to include the migrant camp and several other areas of Diego Garcia.

In communications on 3 July, entitled “United States Notification to the United Kingdom of denial of the 6-12 July 2024 visit by of the BIOT Supreme Court to Diego Garcia”, US authorities said the site visit “presents risks to the security and effective operation” of the base.

Court documents filed on behalf of Biot’s commissioner state that the assessment of the US military commander on the island was “confidential and based on the US’s assessment of its own national security needs”.

Tom Short, a lawyer from the UK firm Leigh Day which is representing some of the migrants, said the cancellation of this week’s hearing had been “a devastating blow to our vulnerable clients”, and called for it to be rearranged as soon as possible.

A virtual court hearing on Tuesday attended by lawyers in London and the migrants in Diego Garcia, sought to determine the next steps in the case as discussions between the UK and US governments continue.

Britain took control of the Chagos Islands, of which Diego Garcia is part, from its then colony, Mauritius, in 1965. It went on to evict its population of more than 1,000 people to make way for the military base.

Agreements signed in 1966 allowed for an initial 50-year period of US use of the territory, plus a further 20 years. The agreement was then “rolled over” in 2016, and is now set to expire in 2036, according to the Biot website.

Biot is administered from London but is described as being “constitutionally distinct” from the UK.

Mauritius, which won independence from the UK in 1968, maintains that the islands are its own and the United Nations’ highest court has ruled that the UK’s administration of the territory is “unlawful” and must end.

Most personnel and resources on Diego Garcia are under the control of the US, including the majority of the accommodation and transport on the island as well as restaurants and shops.

The US military commander can refuse access to areas operated or controlled by the US military for security reasons.

Biot’s official website states that access is only permitted to “those with connections either to the military facility or to the Territory’s Administration”.

Diego Garcia has been described as an important strategic base for the US. Earlier this year, two B-52 bombers were sent there for training exercises.

In recent decades, US planes have been sent from the base to bomb Afghanistan and Iraq.

The UK government has confirmed that rendition flights landed on the territory in 2002 to refuel there, though former CIA director Mike Hayden has denied reports that it has ever been used to house and interrogate terror suspects.

Dozens of Sri Lankan Tamils landed on the island in October 2021, becoming the first people to file asylum claims on Biot. Around 60 people, including at least 16 children, remain there as complex legal battles are fought over their fate.

They are housed in tents in a fenced camp, guarded by private security company G4S.

There have been multiple suicide attempts on the island, and reports of sexual harassment and assaults allegedly committed by migrants within the camp.

Some migrants have been flown to Rwanda for medical treatment following self-harm and suicide attempts, and those with successful claims are waiting for a “safe third country” to be identified to resettle them in.

United Nations representatives visited the camp late last year and reported that conditions there amounted to arbitrary detention.

In interviews with the BBC, migrants have described conditions on the island as hellish.

“We are the parrots, we are in a cage,” one said last year of the lack of freedom.

During Tuesday’s virtual hearing, one of the migrants on the island appeared to collapse.

The Foreign Office has previously told the BBC that the island is not suitable for migrants to live on and that it is “working tirelessly to process the migrants’ claims for protection and to find a suitable third country for those whose claims are upheld”.

“At all times, the welfare and safety of migrants on Biot has been our top priority,” it said earlier this year.

The secret hospitals offering criminals new faces

By Kelly NgBBC News

Clandestine hospitals in the Philippines have been offering plastic surgery services to fugitives and scam centre workers to help them evade arrest, authorities say.

Two such illegal hospitals could be shut down “in the coming weeks” after police raided the first one in Manila’s southern suburbs in May, a police spokesman told the BBC.

Hair transplant tools, dental implants and skin whitening IV drips were seized from the hospital in Pasay City two months ago.

“You can create an entirely new person out of those,” said Winston John Casio, a spokesman for the Presidential Anti-Organised Crime Commission (PAOCC).

The two illegal hospitals under surveillance are believed to be four times larger than the one in Pasay, authorities said.

Their clients allegedly include those from online casinos, who are working in the Philippines illegally, Mr Casio said.

The online casinos or Pogos (Philippine Online Gaming Operations) cater to players in mainland China, where gambling is illegal.

But police say Pogos have been used as cover for criminal activities such as telephone scams and human trafficking.

Three doctors – two from Vietnam and one from China – a Chinese pharmacist, and a Vietnamese nurse were arrested in the Pasay raid, none of whom were licensed to work in the Philippines.

Authorities also found a hemodialysis machine, suggesting that the facility, which was about 400 sqm, offered various medical treatments in addition to plastic surgery.

“They look like regular clinics on the outside, but once you enter, you’ll be shocked by the type of technology they have,” Mr Casio said.

“These Pogo hospitals don’t ask for the proper identification cards… You could be a fugitive, or you could be an illegal alien in the Philippines,” he said.

Authorities were tipped off on the existence of the illegal hospital in Pasay City.

Pogos flourished under former president Rodrigo Duterte, who sought friendly ties with China during his six-year term that ended in 2022.

However, his successor Ferdinand Marcos Jr has mounted a crackdown on Pogos, citing their criminal links.

“The president does not want the Philippines to be painted as a ‘scam hub’ and has given us a directive to go after scam farms because of how they have been targeting large numbers of people from all over the world,” Mr Casio said.

In December 2022, immigration officials arrested a suspected Chinese mafia member who allegedly underwent plastic surgery to evade detection. Such cases may be linked to the underground hospitals, Mr Casio said.

The mayor of a sleepy town north of the capital, Alice Guo, recently came under fire after a Pogo scam centre was busted near her office.

She has also been accused of being a spy for China after authorities questioned her birth records.

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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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.”

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 LaFreniere 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 LaFreniere 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 LaFreniere’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 LaFreniere 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 LaFreniere 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 LaFreniere’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 LaFreniere 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”.

Prosecutors probe Marine Le Pen campaign funding

By Laura GozziBBC News

An investigation has been opened into the financing of French far right National Rally (RN) leader Marine Le Pen’s 2022 presidential campaign.

Prosecutors in Paris said they will look into allegations of embezzlement, forgery and fraud, and that a candidate on an electoral campaign accepted a loan.

The investigation was opened a week ago following a 2023 report by the National Commission on Campaign Accounts and Political Financing (CNCCFP).

The commission’s role is to scrutinise candidates’ election expenses and funding and to flag any issues that arise.

No more details have been given on the reasons for the inquiry, nor has Ms Le Pen’s camp commented.

The RN has previously received loans from Russian and Hungarian banks. The Russian loan worth €9.4m (£7.9m), however, was all paid back last year.

In 2017, the RN was charged with giving party members suspected fake jobs as assistants at the European Parliament.

About €5m (£4m) allegedly went to RN assistants who were not working for MEPs, but doing party work in France.

The RN denied the charges and said it would prove it did not embezzle cash.

A court will judge Ms Le Pen and 24 other members of her party over the alleged misuse of EU funds in September.

A veteran of French politics, Ms Le Pen ran for president in 2012, 2017 and 2022.

She was re-elected to parliament during the first round of France’s snap parliamentary election last month.

Her party unexpectedly came third, despite having achieved a decisive victory in the European Parliament elections just weeks before.

‘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.

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 throw 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.”

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.

  • Published

Kimia Yousofi will represent “the stolen dreams and aspirations” of Afghanistan’s women after being named in the nation’s six-person team for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

The 100m sprinter was Afghanistan’s flag-bearer at the Tokyo Games three years ago, but fled her home country to neighbouring Iran to escape persecution when the Taliban returned to power in August 2021.

The 28-year-old was one of five athletes and administrators, plus families, with ties to the Olympic movement who received safe passage into Australia a year later.

“It’s an honour to represent the girls of my homeland once again – girls and women who have been deprived of basic rights, including education, which is the most important one,” she said.

“I represent the stolen dreams and aspirations of these women. Those who don’t have the authority to make decisions as free human beings.”

Yousofi will make her third appearance at the Olympics and it will be the first time Afghanistan has three female athletes at the Games.

“I’m deeply grateful to all those who have stood by me on this journey and made this possible,” she added.

The International Olympic Committee said in June, external that Afghanistan would field a gender-equal team of three men and three women “because of the demonstration that it gives to the world, at home in Afghanistan and also to the rest of the world”.

The IOC added that no Taliban official would be allowed and they recognise that both the head of Afghanistan’s national Olympic committee and its secretary general are currently in exile.

Since gaining power in 2021, the Taliban – who say they respect women’s rights in line with their interpretation of Islamic law and local customs – have closed girls’ high schools, placed travel restrictions on women without a male guardian and restricted access to parks and gyms.

The Taliban told AFP on Monday that they do not recognise Yousofi nor her female team-mates.

“Only three athletes are representing Afghanistan,” said Atal Mashwani, the spokesman of the Taliban government’s sports directorate.

“Currently, in Afghanistan girls’ sports have been stopped. When girls’ sport isn’t practised, how can they go on the national team?”

The female athletes will compete in athletics and cycling while their male counterparts will feature in athletics, swimming and judo, with Yusofi’s Australian coach John Quinn acting as the team’s head coach.

All of them, except the judoka, are based outside Afghanistan with the team competing under the black, red and green flag and anthem of the Western-backed former republic, which was ousted by the Taliban.

Modi’s balancing act as he meets Putin in Moscow

By Anbarasan EthirajanBBC News, Delhi
India PM Modi meets Russian President Putin

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being keenly watched by his Western allies as he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on his first foreign trip since he returned to office for a third term in June.

Mr Modi landed on Monday, just hours after Russian bombing killed at least 41 people in Ukraine, including at a children’s hospital in Kyiv, sparking a global outcry.

Photos from Moscow showed a beaming Mr Modi hugging the Russian president. A video of a smiling Mr Putin calling Mr Modi “my dearest friend” and telling him that he was “delighted to see him” has gone viral in India.

Mr Modi’s two-day visit – his first to the Kremlin since 2019 – coincides with a Nato summit in Washington, where the 2022 invasion will be a major theme.

India, a key global economy, has close ties with both Russia and the US and its partners and officials in Delhi are playing down questions over the timing of Mr Modi’s trip. They say the annual summit is part of a long-standing strategic partnership and its scheduling has nothing to do with the Nato summit.

But a sour note has been struck with the US expressing concern. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller urged Mr Modi to emphasise Ukraine’s territorial integrity during his talks in Moscow.

Mr Miller also said the US had raised concerns with India regarding its relationship with Russia.

“We would urge India, as we do any country when it engages with Russia, to make clear that any resolution to the conflict in Ukraine needs to be one that respects the UN charter, that respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Ukraine’s sovereignty,” he said at a press briefing on Monday.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky went further – and did not mince his words.

“It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day,” he posted on X (formerly Twitter) late on Monday.

Mr Modi told President Putin that India was ready to offer any assistance in establishing peace in Ukraine. Russian state TV quoted him saying that war was “not a solution”.

He also said the death of children was painful and terrifying, a day after the deadly attack on the Kyiv children’s hospital.

“Whether it is war, conflict or a terrorist attack, any person who believes in humanity, is pained when there is loss of lives,” Mr Modi said.

“But even in that, when innocent children are killed, the heart bleeds and that pain is very terrifying.”

The Nato summit in Washington, which begins on Tuesday, is being held to mark the 75th anniversary of the Western defence grouping which was mainly formed as a bulwark against the then Soviet Union after World War Two.

Nato countries have been vehemently opposed to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, while India and Mr Modi have refrained from any explicit criticism of President Putin except calling for dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the conflict.

As Western nations try to isolate Moscow by imposing sanctions, President Putin has been having summit-level meetings with leaders of key nations like China, India, Turkey and others.

Some are now asking whether Mr Modi’s presence in Moscow could be to Mr Putin’s advantage. Is the message India is sending out playing into the hands of Russia?

“The bilateral visit this time is just a scheduling priority that we have undertaken. And that’s what it is,” Vinay Kwatra, permanent secretary to the Indian foreign ministry, told the BBC ahead of Mr Modi’s visit, rejecting any connection between the two events.

India and Russia share close defence and strategic relations from Cold War days and Moscow remains a key supplier of weapons. India, which maintains one of the largest militaries in the world, has long-standing border disputes with its neighbours Pakistan and China.

Experts say Mr Modi giving importance to Moscow is not a surprise and the relationship goes beyond defence procurement.

“If you look at the historical trend, it [Moscow] has been one of the constants in Indian foreign policy,” Pankaj Saran, former Indian ambassador to Moscow, told the BBC.

“The main pillars of the relationship include defence co-operation, energy and science technology.”

Over the years, Russia has provided technical assistance to build several nuclear power plants in India.

Since the Ukraine war began, Delhi has also been buying billions of dollars of discounted oil from Moscow after Western nations imposed sanctions on Russia to limit what it could sell or charge for the product.

Driven by a surge in the purchase of oil, bilateral trade between India and Russia in the last few years has soared to $65bn (£50.76bn). India’s exports to Russia stand at just $4bn.

Indian officials say a key priority for Mr Modi will be to address this trade imbalance and encourage Russian investment in India as well as moving some defence production to India.

For the past 20 years, the West, particularly the US, has cultivated closer ties with India in what many see as a bulwark against the threat posed by an increasingly assertive China.

India also became a member of the Quad – a strategic forum with the US, Australia and Japan – which is seen as a grouping aimed at countering Chinese influence in the Asia Pacific.

But faced with increasing Western hostility, President Putin has developed closer strategic and economic ties with Beijing. The development has not gone unnoticed in India, China’s long-time rival.

A deadly brawl on the disputed border in Ladakh region in June 2020 killed 20 Indian and at least four Chinese soldiers and escalated tensions.

There are apprehensions in India that it may be left out of the Moscow-Beijing equation.

“One option currently being exercised by Delhi is to keep the Russia channel open to maintain the friendship and avoid taking any measures which may further aggravate Russia’s drift into Chinese arms that is being caused by US and Western policies,” says Mr Saran.

Though Delhi has diversified its weapons inventory in recent decades by buying American, French and Israeli arms systems, it still relies heavily on Moscow and there have been concerns the war in Ukraine has had an impact on its defence exports.

“There are reports of delays in the supplies of some spare parts and the delivery of the remaining S-400 anti-missile defence system. So, there will definitely be some discussion on this during the visit,” says Anil Trigunayat, a former ambassador and now a Distinguished Fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation in Delhi.

Delhi and Moscow are not without their own differences. There have been several reported cases of Indian nationals who were lured with false promises of lucrative job offers and ended up fighting for the Russian army in Ukraine. Four Indians have died so far in the fighting.

  • The Indian men traumatised by fighting for Russia

Indian officials insist that during this visit, Mr Modi will press his Russian counterparts for an early discharge of Indians – thought to number in the dozens – still fighting in the war.

India is aware that it needs both the United States and Russia to counter its rival China. Hence, it feels the need to strike a balance not to offend either of the two.

“India follows a policy of strategic autonomy and multi-alignments. We have strategic relationships with both the US and Russia. These are mutually exclusive partnerships,” says Mr Trigunayat.

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

Camila Cabello: I need to treat myself with kindness

By Pete AllisonManish PandeyBBC Newsbeat

“I have a very naïve attitude before I put music out,” says Camila Cabello.

“I think because I love it so much and I think it’s good, everybody’s going to love it.”

Camila’s just released her fourth studio album C,XOXO.

As someone who’s been in the public eye since she was 15, it’s not exactly a first for her.

But she tells BBC Newsbeat that the more experimental sound of her latest meant she felt “a little bit more nervous” than usual.

Camila started out as a member of girl group Fifth Harmony before going solo and finding success with a Latin-influenced pop sound.

Her best-known tracks, Havana and Señorita, have had billions of plays on Spotify.

So C,XOXO was a potentially risky departure for the 27-year-old, but it’s one that’s led to collabs with rappers Drake, Lil Nas X and Playboi Carti.

“It’s a testament to ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’,” says Camila. “And I had that energy throughout this album.”

‘The immigrant hustle’

Camila’s also been braver recently when it comes to speaking about her mental health and living with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

She says it’s a “complicated” subject she can be “hesitant to talk about”, especially around taking medication and the stigma that can come with it.

Camila says she feels privileged to have had access to “things that have made my life a lot easier”, such as tools, therapy, and medication.

But at times, particularly in her early 20s, Camila says she’s felt guilty for not feeling great despite being a globally famous pop singer.

“One of my favourite things about getting older and experiencing life is this persistent sense of irony,” she says.

“Where what you see a lot of time is not the reality.”

“I think it just goes to show you how complex we are and how complicated we are as humans that it’s not really black and white.”

Camila says she still has bad days but practising “self-compassion” has helped her.

“I think it’s really treating yourself with kindness and love,” she says.

“The more empathy, less judgement and the more compassion you have for yourself, and for your own difficult emotions, the more that you’ll have that empathy and space for other people.”

Camila was born in Havana to a Cuban mum and Mexican dad, and moved between both countries until she was six, when the family settled in Miami, Florida.

She says talking openly about how she was feeling didn’t always come naturally.

“Latin families – or immigrant families – don’t a lot of the time have the bandwidth for realising what their mental health is,” she says.

“They’re so focused on survival and it’s just not on their radar.

“That was a big part, probably in the beginning for me, the confusion of my own guilt and shame of ‘I should be great’.”

Family is an important pillar in Camila’s life.

Her previous album, Familia, written during the Covid pandemic, explored her Latin roots and how her family inspired her work ethic.

She says that’s filtered into making C,XOXO.

“My mum is the definition of so hard-working,” says Camila.

“If I’m working, she’s like she says.

She says her mum, like lots of “immigrant parents”, is constantly “trying to improve and create”.

“They just have that kind of hustle mentality. And I really had to have that for this album.”

Camila says she and her team spent 10 days in the Bahamas recording the album, and “barely saw the sunlight because we were in the studio the whole time”.

“Anytime you are trying to make something great, it’s insanely hard,” she says.

“I remember just being so frustrated and was exhausted.”

But some things came a bit easier.

Getting Drake involved simply “started with a DM”, and wasn’t actually a request to “do a song” at first.

“At that time, I really genuinely was looking for friendship and connections with other artists in the music industry, because I had been such a hermit for so long,” Camila says.

“I just felt like kind of antisocial.

“This album, I kind of spread my wings a little bit more.”

When Camila speaks to Newsbeat it’s just after her Glastonbury appearance, and she’s just woken up from a nap with her mum.

She says she’s “still recovering” from her Other Stage set “and pretty sure I’m getting sick”.

But once she’s feeling better, Camila says she wants to spread those wings even further, and “just wants to have shows in the UK”.

“They were so loud and everyone was so kind. I felt welcomed,” she says.

“I love the Brits and the Brits love me.”

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

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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.

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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.

You may also be interested in:

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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.

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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‘Protectionism eroding global business’ – world trade chief

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

Rewards for tourists who litter pick in Copenhagen

By Anna LamcheBBC News

Tourists will be rewarded with free food and activities if they participate in environmentally friendly tasks while visiting Copenhagen, the city’s tourist board has announced.

The trial scheme, which begins on 15 July, will see tourist attractions in the Danish capital offer rewards for activities such as litter-picking, travelling by public transport or biking around the city.

Under the initiative, visitors can claim free lunches, coffees, glasses of wine and kayak rental in return for their work.

The “CopenPay” scheme is designed to offset the “environmental burden” of tourism, according to the Copenhagen tourist board.

“When you travel abroad – if you fly to other places or you travel by car – you pollute,” says the tourist board’s communications chief Rikke Holm Petersen.

“One of the things we can change is getting people to act more sustainably at the destination.”

The plan is only a “little step towards the green transition”, Ms Petersen admits.

The project is “trust-based”, meaning attractions are unlikely to ask for proof that the green activity has been completed. “In some attractions you might have to show a picture of you riding a bike, or of your public transportation ticket,” she says.

The government is not reimbursing the companies behind the attractions – including museums, rooftop bars and kayaking charities – for participating in the scheme. So far 24 organisations have signed up to the pilot.

Last year, Copenhagen recorded over 12 million overnight stays, according to government statistics.

Ms Petersen anticipates a “small percentage” of visitors to the city will participate in the trial, which runs until 11 August.

Othy Jasper, a 25-year-old Londoner who will be travelling to Copenhagen for work in August, said he is “conscious” of his air miles when he travels. “It can really rack up – you have to think is it essential, is it worthwhile? Of everything one can do, catching flights is possibly the worst for pollution.”

Speaking on the scheme, he says “it’s cool they’re doing something for the climate” but it would be unlikely he would spend time collecting litter in return for a reward.

“In terms of an incentive, it feels like a bit of an effort to do.”

If the scheme is judged to be a success it will be rolled out across the rest of the year.

“Imagine if we could have people taking a greener mindset back with them – if that was the souvenir they got – that would be amazing,” Ms Petersen says.

Nobel laureate Alice Munro’s daughter reveals family secret of abuse

By Holly HonderichBBC News

The youngest daughter of acclaimed Canadian Nobel laureate Alice Munro has said that her step-father sexually assaulted her as a child, and that her mother stayed with him even after learning of the abuse.

In an essay published in the Toronto Star on Sunday, Andrea Robin Skinner described how her step-father began assaulting her in the summer of 1976 when she was nine years old and he was in his 50s.

One evening, when Munro was away, he “climbed into the bed where I was sleeping and sexually assaulted me”, Ms Skinner said.

Munro, who learned of the abuse years later, remained with him until his death in 2013.

The author, who died in May at the age of 92, is one of the most celebrated short-story writers in Canadian history.

Her collections often focused on life in small-town Ontario where she was raised, earning praise for their nuanced portrayals of women and girls.

In the weekend essay, Ms Skinner and her siblings said they believed this dark family story must also be part of Munro’s legacy.

“I never wanted to see another interview, biography or event that didn’t wrestle with the reality of what had happened to me, and with the fact that my mother, confronted with the truth of what had happened, chose to stay with, and protect, my abuser,” she said.

In her piece, Ms Skinner said she was first assaulted during a summer visit to her mother and step-father, Gerald Fremlin, in their home in Clinton, Ontario.

She later told her step-mother, who then told her father, Jim Munro, who decided not to confront Alice Munro at the time.

Ms Skinner returned to her mother’s home the next year.

The step-mother, Carole Sabiston, is quoted by The Star in a separate news story as saying: “I told her she didn’t have to go. But she wanted to spend time with her mother.”

Ms Sabiston confirmed the events as described by Ms Skinner to the BBC.

Ms Skinner was initially relieved her father kept the family secret, she said, because of fears over how her mother would react.

“She had told me that Fremlin liked me better than her, and I thought she would blame me if she ever found out,” she wrote.

Over the next several years, during visits, the abuse continued.

Fremlin exposed himself to her during car rides, propositioned her for sex, and “told me about the little girls in the neighbourhood he liked”.

He lost interest when she became a teenager, Ms Skinner told The Star.

She said kept quiet about the abuse but in early adulthood found herself struggling at university and with her physical and mental health.

A few years later, in 1992, she revealed the abuse in a letter to her mother. She says Munro reacted as she had feared – “as if she had learned of an infidelity”.

Fremlin, meanwhile, wrote his own letters at the time to the family – excerpts of which were published by The Star – in which he admitted the abuse but blamed Ms Skinner.

“Andrea invaded my bedroom for sexual adventure,” Fremlin wrote.

“If the worst comes to worst I intend to go public. I will make available for publication a number of photographs, notably some taken at my cabin near Ottawa which are extremely eloquent … one of Andrea in my underwear shorts,” he said.

Amid the fallout, Alice Munro left Fremlin, staying at a flat she owned in British Columbia. But she returned to her husband after a few months and stayed with him for the rest of his life.

She said “that our misogynistic culture was to blame if I expected her to deny her own needs, sacrifice for her children, and make up for the failings of men”, Ms Skinner wrote.

In 2005, Ms Skinner reported the abuse to Ontario police, presenting the letters written by Fremlin.

Police charged him with indecent assault. He pleaded guilty, but “the silence continued”, Ms Skinner wrote, because of Munro’s fame.

In a statement, Munro Books, founded by Alice and Jim Munro and now independently owned, said that it “unequivocally supports” Ms Skinner’s decision to tell her story publicly.

In a separate statement released by the Canadian bookstore, the Munro siblings said that the store’s decision to acknowledge “Andrea’s truth, and being very clear about their wish to end the legacy of silence, the current store owners have become part of our family’s healing”.

US blocks British court from British territory

By Alice CuddyBBC News

The US government has blocked a British court hearing from taking place on a British territory, citing security concerns, according to court documents.

The supreme court of British Indian Ocean Territory (Biot) was due to hold a hearing this week, attended by the BBC, on whether a group of migrants was being unlawfully detained on the island of Diego Garcia.

The island hosts a secretive UK-US military base and access is heavily restricted.

The US last week said it was “withdrawing its consent” for lawyers representing the migrants and “members of the press” – the BBC – to access the island, according to court documents.

It said it would not allow participants of the hearing to board US military flights to Diego Garcia, and would not provide transport, accommodation or food on the island until its “security and operational concerns are adequately addressed”, a witness statement from Biot’s deputy commissioner, Nishi Dholakia, says.

The US said it would be “willing to reconsider” the requests if the visit could be “conducted in a manner” that addresses its concerns, the statement adds.

Dozens of migrants arrived on the island in October 2021, saying they had been fleeing persecution and trying to sail to Canada to claim asylum when their boat ran into trouble near Diego Garcia.

Late last Thursday night – hours before the judge, UK government lawyers and those representing the migrants, and the BBC were due to board flights for the first leg of the journey – the court shared an order cancelling the hearing.

The US security concerns relate to a site visit that had been scheduled to take place on the island as part of the hearing, which was to include the migrant camp and several other areas of Diego Garcia.

In communications on 3 July, entitled “United States Notification to the United Kingdom of denial of the 6-12 July 2024 visit by of the BIOT Supreme Court to Diego Garcia”, US authorities said the site visit “presents risks to the security and effective operation” of the base.

Court documents filed on behalf of Biot’s commissioner state that the assessment of the US military commander on the island was “confidential and based on the US’s assessment of its own national security needs”.

Tom Short, a lawyer from the UK firm Leigh Day which is representing some of the migrants, said the cancellation of this week’s hearing had been “a devastating blow to our vulnerable clients”, and called for it to be rearranged as soon as possible.

A virtual court hearing on Tuesday attended by lawyers in London and the migrants in Diego Garcia, sought to determine the next steps in the case as discussions between the UK and US governments continue.

Britain took control of the Chagos Islands, of which Diego Garcia is part, from its then colony, Mauritius, in 1965. It went on to evict its population of more than 1,000 people to make way for the military base.

Agreements signed in 1966 allowed for an initial 50-year period of US use of the territory, plus a further 20 years. The agreement was then “rolled over” in 2016, and is now set to expire in 2036, according to the Biot website.

Biot is administered from London but is described as being “constitutionally distinct” from the UK.

Mauritius, which won independence from the UK in 1968, maintains that the islands are its own and the United Nations’ highest court has ruled that the UK’s administration of the territory is “unlawful” and must end.

Most personnel and resources on Diego Garcia are under the control of the US, including the majority of the accommodation and transport on the island as well as restaurants and shops.

The US military commander can refuse access to areas operated or controlled by the US military for security reasons.

Biot’s official website states that access is only permitted to “those with connections either to the military facility or to the Territory’s Administration”.

Diego Garcia has been described as an important strategic base for the US. Earlier this year, two B-52 bombers were sent there for training exercises.

In recent decades, US planes have been sent from the base to bomb Afghanistan and Iraq.

The UK government has confirmed that rendition flights landed on the territory in 2002 to refuel there, though former CIA director Mike Hayden has denied reports that it has ever been used to house and interrogate terror suspects.

Dozens of Sri Lankan Tamils landed on the island in October 2021, becoming the first people to file asylum claims on Biot. Around 60 people, including at least 16 children, remain there as complex legal battles are fought over their fate.

They are housed in tents in a fenced camp, guarded by private security company G4S.

There have been multiple suicide attempts on the island, and reports of sexual harassment and assaults allegedly committed by migrants within the camp.

Some migrants have been flown to Rwanda for medical treatment following self-harm and suicide attempts, and those with successful claims are waiting for a “safe third country” to be identified to resettle them in.

United Nations representatives visited the camp late last year and reported that conditions there amounted to arbitrary detention.

In interviews with the BBC, migrants have described conditions on the island as hellish.

“We are the parrots, we are in a cage,” one said last year of the lack of freedom.

During Tuesday’s virtual hearing, one of the migrants on the island appeared to collapse.

The Foreign Office has previously told the BBC that the island is not suitable for migrants to live on and that it is “working tirelessly to process the migrants’ claims for protection and to find a suitable third country for those whose claims are upheld”.

“At all times, the welfare and safety of migrants on Biot has been our top priority,” it said earlier this year.

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 throw 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.”

Modi’s balancing act as he meets Putin in Moscow

By Anbarasan EthirajanBBC News, Delhi
India PM Modi meets Russian President Putin

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being keenly watched by his Western allies as he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on his first foreign trip since he returned to office for a third term in June.

Mr Modi landed on Monday, just hours after Russian bombing killed at least 41 people in Ukraine, including at a children’s hospital in Kyiv, sparking a global outcry.

Photos from Moscow showed a beaming Mr Modi hugging the Russian president. A video of a smiling Mr Putin calling Mr Modi “my dearest friend” and telling him that he was “delighted to see him” has gone viral in India.

Mr Modi’s two-day visit – his first to the Kremlin since 2019 – coincides with a Nato summit in Washington, where the 2022 invasion will be a major theme.

India, a key global economy, has close ties with both Russia and the US and its partners and officials in Delhi are playing down questions over the timing of Mr Modi’s trip. They say the annual summit is part of a long-standing strategic partnership and its scheduling has nothing to do with the Nato summit.

But a sour note has been struck with the US expressing concern. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller urged Mr Modi to emphasise Ukraine’s territorial integrity during his talks in Moscow.

Mr Miller also said the US had raised concerns with India regarding its relationship with Russia.

“We would urge India, as we do any country when it engages with Russia, to make clear that any resolution to the conflict in Ukraine needs to be one that respects the UN charter, that respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Ukraine’s sovereignty,” he said at a press briefing on Monday.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky went further – and did not mince his words.

“It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day,” he posted on X (formerly Twitter) late on Monday.

Mr Modi told President Putin that India was ready to offer any assistance in establishing peace in Ukraine. Russian state TV quoted him saying that war was “not a solution”.

He also said the death of children was painful and terrifying, a day after the deadly attack on the Kyiv children’s hospital.

“Whether it is war, conflict or a terrorist attack, any person who believes in humanity, is pained when there is loss of lives,” Mr Modi said.

“But even in that, when innocent children are killed, the heart bleeds and that pain is very terrifying.”

The Nato summit in Washington, which begins on Tuesday, is being held to mark the 75th anniversary of the Western defence grouping which was mainly formed as a bulwark against the then Soviet Union after World War Two.

Nato countries have been vehemently opposed to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, while India and Mr Modi have refrained from any explicit criticism of President Putin except calling for dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the conflict.

As Western nations try to isolate Moscow by imposing sanctions, President Putin has been having summit-level meetings with leaders of key nations like China, India, Turkey and others.

Some are now asking whether Mr Modi’s presence in Moscow could be to Mr Putin’s advantage. Is the message India is sending out playing into the hands of Russia?

“The bilateral visit this time is just a scheduling priority that we have undertaken. And that’s what it is,” Vinay Kwatra, permanent secretary to the Indian foreign ministry, told the BBC ahead of Mr Modi’s visit, rejecting any connection between the two events.

India and Russia share close defence and strategic relations from Cold War days and Moscow remains a key supplier of weapons. India, which maintains one of the largest militaries in the world, has long-standing border disputes with its neighbours Pakistan and China.

Experts say Mr Modi giving importance to Moscow is not a surprise and the relationship goes beyond defence procurement.

“If you look at the historical trend, it [Moscow] has been one of the constants in Indian foreign policy,” Pankaj Saran, former Indian ambassador to Moscow, told the BBC.

“The main pillars of the relationship include defence co-operation, energy and science technology.”

Over the years, Russia has provided technical assistance to build several nuclear power plants in India.

Since the Ukraine war began, Delhi has also been buying billions of dollars of discounted oil from Moscow after Western nations imposed sanctions on Russia to limit what it could sell or charge for the product.

Driven by a surge in the purchase of oil, bilateral trade between India and Russia in the last few years has soared to $65bn (£50.76bn). India’s exports to Russia stand at just $4bn.

Indian officials say a key priority for Mr Modi will be to address this trade imbalance and encourage Russian investment in India as well as moving some defence production to India.

For the past 20 years, the West, particularly the US, has cultivated closer ties with India in what many see as a bulwark against the threat posed by an increasingly assertive China.

India also became a member of the Quad – a strategic forum with the US, Australia and Japan – which is seen as a grouping aimed at countering Chinese influence in the Asia Pacific.

But faced with increasing Western hostility, President Putin has developed closer strategic and economic ties with Beijing. The development has not gone unnoticed in India, China’s long-time rival.

A deadly brawl on the disputed border in Ladakh region in June 2020 killed 20 Indian and at least four Chinese soldiers and escalated tensions.

There are apprehensions in India that it may be left out of the Moscow-Beijing equation.

“One option currently being exercised by Delhi is to keep the Russia channel open to maintain the friendship and avoid taking any measures which may further aggravate Russia’s drift into Chinese arms that is being caused by US and Western policies,” says Mr Saran.

Though Delhi has diversified its weapons inventory in recent decades by buying American, French and Israeli arms systems, it still relies heavily on Moscow and there have been concerns the war in Ukraine has had an impact on its defence exports.

“There are reports of delays in the supplies of some spare parts and the delivery of the remaining S-400 anti-missile defence system. So, there will definitely be some discussion on this during the visit,” says Anil Trigunayat, a former ambassador and now a Distinguished Fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation in Delhi.

Delhi and Moscow are not without their own differences. There have been several reported cases of Indian nationals who were lured with false promises of lucrative job offers and ended up fighting for the Russian army in Ukraine. Four Indians have died so far in the fighting.

  • The Indian men traumatised by fighting for Russia

Indian officials insist that during this visit, Mr Modi will press his Russian counterparts for an early discharge of Indians – thought to number in the dozens – still fighting in the war.

India is aware that it needs both the United States and Russia to counter its rival China. Hence, it feels the need to strike a balance not to offend either of the two.

“India follows a policy of strategic autonomy and multi-alignments. We have strategic relationships with both the US and Russia. These are mutually exclusive partnerships,” says Mr Trigunayat.

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 LaFreniere 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 LaFreniere 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 LaFreniere’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 LaFreniere 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 LaFreniere 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 LaFreniere’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 LaFreniere 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”.

This Nato summit could save or sink Biden’s candidacy

By Anthony ZurcherNorth America correspondent
White House grilled by reporters on Biden’s health

It is a week of reckoning for Joe Biden.

Twelve days after a halting debate performance that may go down as one of the most damaging in modern American history, the president is fighting for his political survival under intense domestic and global scrutiny.

This week’s Nato summit in Washington DC may be his path to at least a temporary reprieve – or this president’s last stand.

In the past few days, Mr Biden has railed against his critics, claimed the mandate of Democratic primary voters and challenged opponents to step forward and try to unseat him.

He has promised repeatedly that he is moving ahead with his campaign and that the time for second-guessing and hand-wringing is over. That pressing ahead will start at the Nato summit.

Mr Biden will host alliance leaders for three days of meetings and public events culminating in a solo press conference on Thursday afternoon.

  • What is Nato and when might Ukraine join?

It is a stage on which Mr Biden, a man well versed in foreign relations, should be comfortable. But it also raises the already high stakes for his presidency, given that a poor showing will have international as well as domestic ramifications.

A mistake could start a political stampede among Democrats that extinguishes his hopes of even making it to the November general election, let alone winning it.

It could also sharpen concerns from European allies who are concerned about the increasing likelihood of a Donald Trump presidency and the dramatic foreign policy shifts that would come with it.

  • Project 2025 – a wishlist for a Trump presidency
  • Who will Trump pick as vice-president?

“Biden is entering this week diminished,” said Kristine Berzina, managing director of the German Marshall Fund Geostrategy North.

“We don’t know how he’s going to exit it.”

Foreign leaders concerned

It is understood that many European leaders are anxious about Trump and his foreign policy strategy. The former president has disparaged multilateral international alliances.

Ms Berzina said that in the past two weeks, however, these leaders have been experiencing something new – Biden anxiety.

After his halting debate performance, she says, American allies have begun doubting whether the president is up to the task.

Heading into the Nato summit, they are hoping to see some evidence that his performance that night was an aberration and not reflective of a new normal.

“It is worrisome to have a close ally, your most meaningful ally, falter,” said Ms Berzina.

“So I think there is tremendous hope that Biden passes the test. But if he isn’t able to deliver, it creates more questions about the US’s reliability.”

  • ‘A reality show’ – how world saw Biden debate

Eyes will be on the US president as he attends summit sessions, hosts foreign leaders at the White House and engages in bilateral meetings with key leaders, including newly elected British Prime Minister Keir Starmer.

Even behind closed doors of the Nato meetings, word of Mr Biden’s performance – good or bad – is sure to leak out.

A Democratic Party panic attack

Mr Biden faces an even taller task this week domestically.

The president has pointed to buttressing and expanding Nato in the face of Russian aggression as one of his key accomplishments.

This is something that differentiates his leadership from Trump’s – as well as any Democrats who could potentially replace him on the ballot – and the summit will be his chance to put that on display for the American public.

“Who’s going to be able to keep Nato together like me?” the president said in his interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Friday. He added that the Nato summit would be a good way to judge his abilities.

“Come listen,” he said. “See what they say.”

But simply clearing low expectations at the Nato summit and the Thursday press conference may not be enough for many of the politicians, pundits and party activists who are already calling for him to step aside.

“Just having some good appearances is not going to stop the questions,” said Bill Scher, a liberal pundit and editor of Washington Monthly who recently penned a column calling for Mr Biden to step aside for Vice-President Kamala Harris.

“Time was really of the essence to nip all the speculation in the bud, and they wasted a week. There is no clear path out of this situation.”

  • Could Biden be replaced as nominee?
  • The Democratic names being talked about

Mr Scher – a longtime supporter of Mr Biden – says the president’s attempts to push back now with media interviews, letters and calls to Democratic politicians come after public sentiment has solidified against him.

And once that sentiment is fully cemented in the polls – which could take several weeks – it will probably be too late to cleanly replace him.

“I understand how difficult it has to be when you’re nearing the end of your life and you’re not performing as well as you used to,” Mr Scher said. “Having to come to terms with that in public has to be excruciating.”

But the data that shows Mr Biden losing support and facing defeat in November is becoming increasingly clear.

Polls indicate nearly three-quarters of Americans – and even a majority of Democrats – think the president should stand down. A half-dozen Democratic members of Congress have called for him to abandon his bid, and many others have offered only equivocal support.

Democratic voters chime in on Biden’s ability to run for office

The president continues to say he will press ahead with his campaign, however, and he has the national convention delegates to ensure that he is the Democratic nominee. The decision lies firmly in his hands, and if he can make it through the week without a major misstep, he may, in fact, survive the immediate storm.

The story of this week, however, has been set. It isn’t one of Nato celebrating its 75th year of existence and focusing on the challenges to come.

Instead, it is a narrative that could decide whether Mr Biden can politically live to fight another day.

More on the US election

  • POLICIES: Where Biden and Trump stand
  • GLOBAL: What Moscow and Beijing think of rematch
  • ANALYSIS: Could US economy be doing too well?
  • EXPLAINER: RFK Jr and others running for president
  • VOTERS: US workers in debt to buy groceries

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.”

Chinese man arrested after Japanese shrine vandalised

By Yvette TanBBC News

A Chinese man accused of buying spray paint which was used to write the word “toilet” on a controversial Japanese shrine has been arrested, local media reports.

The incident at the Yasukuni shrine – which honours the country’s war dead, including some convicted of war crimes – sparked outrage in Japan.

One Tokyo businessman even offered a cash reward in order to catch those behind the stunt, which included urinating on a pillar, and was shared on Chinese social media.

Police arrested the first of three suspects on Tuesday, issuing warrants for two more men.

According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, he is accused of buying the paint used in the video.

The other two men are reported to have left the country the day after they allegedly took part in the stunt – causing damage amounting to 4.2 million yen ($26,000; £20,000).

In the video, the alleged perpetrator, who identified himself as Iron Head, says he is fed up with Japan’s decision to release treated waste water, presumably a reference to water released from the earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant – a decision that outraged many in China.

The shrine has over the years been a source of friction between Japan and its neighbours, China and South Korea.

It is common for Japanese officials to visit the Yasukuni shrine during certain festivals and during the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War Two.

In 2014, when then prime minister Shinzo Abe visited the shrine, China said the visit reflected “the erroneous attitude towards history adopted by Japan’s incumbent cabinet”.

South Korea similarly denounced the visit, saying it “romanticised Japanese colonialism and its war of aggression”.

The secret hospitals offering criminals new faces

By Kelly NgBBC News

Clandestine hospitals in the Philippines have been offering plastic surgery services to fugitives and scam centre workers to help them evade arrest, authorities say.

Two such illegal hospitals could be shut down “in the coming weeks” after police raided the first one in Manila’s southern suburbs in May, a police spokesman told the BBC.

Hair transplant tools, dental implants and skin whitening IV drips were seized from the hospital in Pasay City two months ago.

“You can create an entirely new person out of those,” said Winston John Casio, a spokesman for the Presidential Anti-Organised Crime Commission (PAOCC).

The two illegal hospitals under surveillance are believed to be four times larger than the one in Pasay, authorities said.

Their clients allegedly include those from online casinos, who are working in the Philippines illegally, Mr Casio said.

The online casinos or Pogos (Philippine Online Gaming Operations) cater to players in mainland China, where gambling is illegal.

But police say Pogos have been used as cover for criminal activities such as telephone scams and human trafficking.

Three doctors – two from Vietnam and one from China – a Chinese pharmacist, and a Vietnamese nurse were arrested in the Pasay raid, none of whom were licensed to work in the Philippines.

Authorities also found a hemodialysis machine, suggesting that the facility, which was about 400 sqm, offered various medical treatments in addition to plastic surgery.

“They look like regular clinics on the outside, but once you enter, you’ll be shocked by the type of technology they have,” Mr Casio said.

“These Pogo hospitals don’t ask for the proper identification cards… You could be a fugitive, or you could be an illegal alien in the Philippines,” he said.

Authorities were tipped off on the existence of the illegal hospital in Pasay City.

Pogos flourished under former president Rodrigo Duterte, who sought friendly ties with China during his six-year term that ended in 2022.

However, his successor Ferdinand Marcos Jr has mounted a crackdown on Pogos, citing their criminal links.

“The president does not want the Philippines to be painted as a ‘scam hub’ and has given us a directive to go after scam farms because of how they have been targeting large numbers of people from all over the world,” Mr Casio said.

In December 2022, immigration officials arrested a suspected Chinese mafia member who allegedly underwent plastic surgery to evade detection. Such cases may be linked to the underground hospitals, Mr Casio said.

The mayor of a sleepy town north of the capital, Alice Guo, recently came under fire after a Pogo scam centre was busted near her office.

She has also been accused of being a spy for China after authorities questioned her birth records.

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

Dyson to cut nearly one third of UK workforce

By Emma ElgeeBBC News, West of England

About 1,000 UK jobs are at risk at Dyson as part of a global restructure.

The firm, best known for the invention of the bag-less vacuum cleaner, said the decision was made amid fierce competition in global markets.

The move would ensure Dyson is “prepared for the future”, CEO Hanno Kirner said, adding it will be supporting those at risk of redundancy.

Dyson has 3,500 UK employees and offices in Wiltshire, Bristol and London.

Mr Kirner said the company operates in “increasingly fierce and competitive global markets” and it needs to be “entrepreneurial and agile”.

“Decisions which impact close and talented colleagues are always incredibly painful.

“Those whose roles are at risk of redundancy as a result of the proposals will be supported through the process,” Mr Kirner added.

MP ‘very concerned’

Roz Savage, the new Liberal Democrat MP for the South Cotswolds, said she was worried by the announcement.

She said: “It’s huge. Malmesbury is a close-knit community and I’m sure if people are in danger of losing their jobs then their pain is going to be felt by the whole community, by the local businesses and the local economy is going to be affected.

“This is potentially very big news and I’m very concerned.”

Wiltshire Council leader Richard Clewer said the council would do all it could to support those impacted during “an uncertain time”.

Mr Clewer, who is also the councillor responsible for economic development, said he was “extremely sorry to hear” of the announcement, adding that many Dyson workers were based in Wiltshire.

Prof Andrew Graves, a mechanical engineer and political scientist from the University of Bath, said those inside the industry were not surprised by the announcement and “had been warning about this for a long time”.

“Right across the world there is huge competition with the Dyson products and a lot of Dyson products really haven’t been successful of late,” he said.

“They put aside two billion to build an electric car in Hullavington and that was withdrawn fairly quickly when they realised it was too difficult.

“And also some of their latest products haven’t been too great in the market place, they are really fighting on all fronts at the moment.

“This is a huge amount of cost-cutting,” he added.

Prof Graves added if there were large scale redundancies it would be “devastating” for the town of Malmesbury.

Sir James Dyson fifth on rich list

During the coronavirus pandemic, the firm cut 600 jobs in the UK and a further 300 worldwide, saying people were changing how they bought products.

Dyson was founded by inventor Sir James Dyson who is fifth on the Sunday Times Rich list with a personal wealth of £20.8bn.

It is understood the decision to restructure was made before the general election was called.

Previously, the billionaire had accused the government of having a “stupid” and “short-sighted” approach to the economy and business in the UK.

He said growth had “become a dirty word” during Rishi Sunak’s premiership.

Sir James was a firm supporter of Brexit saying it had given the UK its “freedom of spirit” back.

He faced criticism for moving the firm’s global headquarters to Singapore in 2019.

In January he donated £6m to fund a Malmesbury Primary School and had announced plans to invest £100m in a new research and development hub in central Bristol.

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Appearances can be deceptive.

Luis de la Fuente may look more like a civil servant than a top-flight football coach but he has shown enough – both at Euro 2024 and in the past – to suggest that anyone who underestimates his capabilities, and those of his Spain side, do so at their peril.

They may have gone into this tournament as unfancied outsiders but enter Tuesday’s semi-final against France as probably the most in-form team and considered by many as favourites for the title.

Spain haven’t won a major tournament since they defended their European crown in 2012 – sandwiching the 2010 World Cup triumph – and there is real excitement now across the nation.

‘The federation mislaid their boots’

Everything fell in place back in September last year in Georgia during the qualifiers.

Somehow the Spanish football federation managed to mislay the players’ boots which meant they had to spend an evening training in sandals.

It galvanised the group and built a real team spirit that can be seen in abundance now.

Then in the game that followed the two wingers, Dani Olmo and Marco Asensio, were both injured and replaced by Nico Williams and 16-year-old Lamine Yamal before the break.

It was the first time the two youngsters had played together – two totally different wide players from who they were replacing, who enjoy the one-on-ones and can spend the match playing outside.

Both scored, Georgia were turned over 7-1 – and Spain have never looked back.

Williams and Yamal have been the standout stars of the tournament so far, terrorising defenders on either flank.

‘A man devoid of ego’

De la Fuente is the most unlikely type of person to put all this together.

A man almost totally devoid of ego, and someone who believes that it is the team, rather than individuals, that matters most.

As he said in his media conference after the quarter-final win over Germany, the work is done in the selection of players and preparation of the game.

As far as selection he has a group of players, the base of which comes from the U19 and U21 victories in previous European Championships.

Olmo, Fabian Ruiz, Mikel Oyarzabal, Mikel Merino and Unai Simon were all part of those successes. While in his side that finished as silver medallists at the Tokyo Olympics were Marc Cucurella and Pedri.

Like the Spain side from the 2008-2012 glory years, many of these players have known each other for up to ten years and this helps to create a close-knit club atmosphere in a national team environment.

Add to that the new generation in the form of outrageously gifted wingmen Williams and Yamal and you have got a real special blend.

And to the TikTok generation you can add the old man of the group in the shape of 39-year-old Jesus Navas – the last remaining member of the old, great, Spain.

You also have Dani Carvajal, currently the best right-back in the world, Rodri, effectively the team’s coach on the pitch and Alvaro Morata, who is very happy in his role as captain and leader looking after the youngsters in the squad.

‘We want the ball and we are better’

Spain’s loss of midfielder Pedri thanks to an unpunished challenge by Toni Kroos was a hammer blow that could have seriously derailed the team.

Not just because he is a great young player, but because of his overall importance to the gameplan as a whole.

But it was the team ethic that finally saw Spain prevail against Germany in the Battle of Stuttgart, a match with the greatest number of fouls of any so far in this tournament (39), 15 yellow cards and one red.

Just before extra time De la Fuente told his players: “We want the ball and we are better. And above anything else what we have to do is make sure we help out team-mates.”

Spain’s victory against Germany was the first time they have beaten a host nation in a major competition.

And it came about because within the ‘band of brothers’ team mentality, no-one hid from the personal duels they all faced on the pitch. Everyone played their part.

Every game so far has provided a different test for this Spain side and in every case they have risen to the task.

Against Croatia it was about winning the possession battle, while the Italy game once again served as a reminder as to where we are placed in the international pecking order.

Against Albania and then Georgia we showed that we could win the contest against two sides that were always going to defend deep.

Against Germany, Spain may well have ridden their luck but most importantly never lost focus.

In the end they played three games in one, firstly with the threat down the flanks with the young wingers, before a failed attempt to take control of the centre when they were replaced, and then finally with another striker in a 4-2-4 formation in extra time which paid dividends.

This Spanish side earned their luck for having the courage of their convictions, daring to change the script.

By the end of proceedings Nacho could hardly move, Laporte was doubled up with pain in his back, while Rodri, who has played more than 5,000 minutes this season, was out on his feet.

In a performance so team-driven, it seems almost like bad manners to single out one particular player.

But Olmo – on from the seventh minute following Pedri’s injury – shone like a beacon.

He now has five assists in two European Championships – a Spain record – and was the scorer of their first and provider of Merino’s match-winner.

But perhaps his greatest success was remaining unfazed by the pressure put on him by Germany, and acting as chief organiser of the game as he set about putting on a performance for his country that will be talked about for years.

With France up next there is a respectful belief within the Spain camp that they have it in them to take the next step to renewed glory.

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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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Qualifier Lulu Sun’s dream run at Wimbledon was ended in the quarter-finals by Croat Donna Vekic under the Court One roof.

New Zealander Sun, 23, who beat Britain’s Emma Raducanu in the fourth round, was hoping to become the first qualifier to reach the women’s semi-finals since 1999 when American Alexandra Stevenson caused a sensation.

However, the world number 123 was beaten 5-7 6-4 6-1 by Vekic who will face Jasmine Paolini or Emma Navarro in the last four.

World number 37 Vekic, at the age of 28, is into her first Grand Slam semi-final.

She set up four break points across the first set but was unable to beat Sun’s dogged defence, and then dropped serve at 5-5 as the opener tilted in her opponent’s favour.

Vekic broke to go up 5-3 in the second set but briefly lost her confidence, double-faulting three times to hand Sun a break back.

Buoyed by the crowd, Vekic quickly recovered and levelled the match with a sublime drop shot.

She rode her momentum from there, dominating the decider.

Vekic, who has 22-time Grand Slam doubles winner Pam Shriver in her coaching team, is the last unseeded player left in the women’s draw.

As Vekic advances, Sun’s defeat means Wimbledon’s wait for a qualifier to become champion in the Open era continues.

Raducanu is the only qualifier to have won a Grand Slam title in the Open era, doing so when she triumphed at the 2021 US Open.

“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 major 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 EMMAA, 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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