BBC 2024-07-10 16:06:54


Biden pledges air defences for Ukraine as Nato summit begins

By Kayla EpsteinBBC News

US President Joe Biden has pledged to provide Ukraine with five new strategic air defence systems to counter relentless Russian attacks, in a forceful speech welcoming Nato leaders to Washington DC.

In brief but strongly delivered remarks at the opening of the summit, the president declared the military alliance “more powerful than ever” as it faced a “pivotal moment” in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Mr Biden said the US would partner with Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Romania to donate Patriot missile batteries and other systems to aid Ukraine, amid growing civilian casualties in the conflict.

The announcement comes just two days after a Russian missile levelled a children’s hospital in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv – an attack the city’s mayor said was among the worst since the beginning of the war.

Some 43 people were killed by blasts across the country in Monday’s attack, with over a hundred more injured, officials said. Russia denied responsibility for the attack, but the UN – and analysts who spoke to BBC Verify – pinned the blame on Moscow.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has spent months pleading with his Western allies to step up supplies of air defences.

In total, Nato plans to donate five strategic air defence systems and dozens of smaller, strategic anti-air batteries over the coming year.

“The war will end with Ukraine remaining a free and independent country,” Mr Biden said on Tuesday afternoon. “Russia will not prevail. Ukraine will prevail.”

President Biden spoke for about 13 minutes in a clear voice, a marked difference from his fumbling tone during last month’s presidential debate with Trump.

In a speech which seemed pitched to reassure allies overseas and closer to home that he can fight off an election challenge from Donald Trump, the president warned that “autocrats” had overturned global order.

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats met privately to debate Mr Biden’s leadership of the party and the mood was “sad”, lawmakers told the Associated Press news agency.

Later on Tuesday, a seventh House of Representatives Democrat – Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey – publicly called on Mr Biden not to run for re-election, saying the stakes were “too high”.

Visiting diplomats also expressed scepticism about Mr Biden’s future, according to reports.

“We don’t see how he can come back after the debate,” one unnamed European envoy told Reuters news agency. “I can’t imagine him being at helm of the US and Nato for four more years.”

Mr Biden’s team has responded by trying to show that the 81-year-old remains vigorous enough to handle the demands of the presidency.

The White House has credited Mr Biden’s leadership for the expansion of Nato since Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago, with Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.

Leaders from the 32 member countries are converging on the US capital for the summit.

Joining them is the UK’s new Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer. Before leaving for Washington, he said he was pleased to “confirm and reaffirm Labour’s strong support, unshakeable support for Nato”.

Asked by reporters travelling with him to the summit for his message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sir Keir said the gathering “should be seen as a clear and united resolve by Nato allies… to stand with Ukraine and stand up to Russian aggression”.

He said a deadly attack on a children’s hospital in Kyiv earlier this week “strengthens the resolve and that is a very important if tragic backdrop to this summit”.

Sir Keir added the package of support for Ukraine the UK was seeking to advance at the summit “goes beyond the support that’s been put in before”.

Sir Keir is due to meet Mr Biden on Wednesday, as well as Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress.

Tuesday’s event was steeped in the alliance’s history.

It was held in the very venue where the original treaty was signed decades ago, which Mr Biden invoked in his speech.

Near the conclusion of his speech, Mr Biden called Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on to the stage to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour.

Biden awards Nato chief Stoltenberg Presidential Medal of Freedom

On Tuesday evening, Trump, 78, criticised Nato allies during a campaign rally at his golf club in Doral, Florida.

The event was attended by all three of his sons, including his youngest, Barron, who was at his first ever Trump rally, according to his father, and received more applause from the audience than his brothers, Eric and Don.

Trump has repeatedly lambasted Nato member states for failing to meet an agreed goal of spending at least 2% of gross domestic product on defence. Many more Nato countries now meet that benchmark since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Trump told supporters that these countries were contributing “hundreds of billions of dollars” more because when he was president he had warned them “No, I will not protect you from Russia” unless they paid more to the alliance.

When Trump made similar remarks at a rally in February this year, Mr Stoltenberg said such talk “undermines all of our security”.

But the Nato chief remained tight-lipped on the Republican candidate as the summit began on Tuesday.

Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky said at an event held elsewhere in Washington DC that the whole world was “waiting for November”, when the US general election takes place, and he urged American voters to stand by Ukraine.

Mr Zelensky is due to meet Mr Biden on Thursday.

Israeli air strike kills 29 people at Gaza camp for displaced people

By David GrittenBBC News

At least 29 Palestinians have been killed and dozens wounded in an Israeli air strike on a camp for displaced people outside a school in southern Gaza, hospital officials say.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said the strike had hit next to the gate of al-Awda school in the town of Abasan al-Kabira, east of the city of Khan Younis.

The Israeli military said it had used “precise munition” to target a “terrorist from Hamas’ military wing” who, it said, had taken part in the 7 October attack on Israel.

It said it was “looking into the reports that civilians were harmed” adjacent to al-Awda school, which houses displaced people from the eastern villages of Khan Younis.

The incident comes a week after the Israeli military ordered civilians to evacuate Abasan al-Kabira and other areas of eastern Khan Younis, prompting tens of thousands to flee.

The BBC has spoken to witnesses who said the area was teeming with displaced people at the time, and who recounted the bloody aftermath in graphic detail.

The attack resulted in widespread destruction and the deaths of women and children, according to the witnesses.

Body parts were scattered across the site and many people staying in tents outside the school were also injured.

Ayman Al-Dahma, 21, told the BBC there had been as many as 3,000 people packed into the area at the time, which he said housed a market and residential buildings.

Describing the number of casualties as “unimaginable”, he said he had seen people whose limbs had been severed by the blast.

He continued: “They said it was a safe place – that there were water and food, there were schools and everything… Suddenly a rocket comes down on you and all the people around you.”

Mohamed Awadeh Anzeh told the BBC the area had been busy with people and market traders “going about their normal lives” when the strike hit.

He continued: “Suddenly, while we were sitting, there was a sound. It went dark… I was feeding my little child.

“I don’t know what happened. Suddenly, I took him and started running… and while I was running, I saw blood coming down from my leg.”

He described a “terrifying” scene and said he had witnessed body parts strewn across the street.

Iqram Sallout said there had been no prior warning a strike could be imminent in the area, which he told the BBC had been filled with people forced from their homes by the conflict.

“There are many displaced people – you couldn’t even walk in the streets, there were many tents and people, including young people”.

He added: “The injuries we saw were severe, even among young children.”

One video showed more than a dozen dead and seriously wounded people, including several children, on the floor of a local hospital.

One source at the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, where the injured from Abasan al-Kabira were taken, said they expected the number of dead to increase.

This is the fourth attack on or near to schools sheltering displaced people in the past four days.

The Israeli military said it had carried out the first three strikes because Hamas politicians, police officers and fighters were using them as bases:

  • On Saturday, 16 people were killed in a strike on a UN-run school in the urban Nuseirat refugee camp, in central Gaza, which was home to about 2,000 displaced people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry
  • On Sunday, a strike on a church-run school in Gaza City killed a senior Hamas government official and three other people, local sources said
  • On Monday night, several people were reportedly wounded in a strike on another UN-run school in Nuseirat.

The Israeli military launched a campaign in Gaza to destroy the Hamas group 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 38,240 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Gautam Gambhir’s journey from feisty batter to tactical coach

By Ayaz MemonCricket writer

At 42, Gautam Gambhir, is the youngest head coach in the history of the Indian cricket team.

He succeeds Rahul Dravid whose tenure finished with the recently concluded T20 World Cup.

Dravid declined an extension to spend more time with his family. VVS Laxman, his former batting partner, was initially favoured but opted to stay at the National Cricket Academy. This cleared the path for a new face, resulting in an uncontested selection.

Some unexpected developments in the past six-seven months had fast-tracked Gambhir’s candidature.

Last November, he unexpectedly resigned as mentor of IPL franchise Lucknow Super Giants after guiding them to the knockout stages in two previous seasons. Instead, he reunited with his former IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), where he had previously led them to titles in 2012 and 2014 as a captain.

In March, Gambhir, who joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after retiring from cricket in 2018 and was elected MP for East Delhi in the 2019 general election, informed the BJP leadership of his decision to leave politics to fully dedicate himself to cricket once again.

However, his credentials to be head coach of the national team received tepid attention until KKR hit a purple patch winning several matches on the trot and turned the focus on him.

The process of selecting a chief coach is complex.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announces a call for applications through the media, inviting candidates from India or abroad who meet specific eligibility criteria (like played 30 Tests or 50 ODIs, under 60 years old).

Applications are reviewed by the Board’s Advisory Committee (CAC). Shortlisted candidates are then invited for one-on-one interviews to present their vision for advancing Indian cricket.

The candidate who puts forward the most impressive strategies and processes is picked for the job.

In Gambhir’s case, the absence of any rival made the task of the CAC a no-brainer.

After the BCCI’s notice seeking applications for the post, stories about some overseas coaches being approached informally (likely self-instigated) began swirling around, but died a quick death.

Unlike in the past, when an overseas coach was sought to counter factionalism, favouritism, and parochialism in Indian cricket, today’s preference is for an Indian coach who better understands the country’s ethos, culture, and psychology.

Former India opener W Raman, who has coached the Indian women’s team, did express interest in taking up the assignment. His CV was impressive, but at 59, he perhaps sensed he didn’t have time on his side to build up a three-year game-plan that would get a buy-in from the BCCI and held back.

Gambhir’s successful mentorship of KKR to an IPL triumph made him the frontrunner. With Dravid’s firm stance during the T20 World Cup that he wouldn’t continue, Gambhir’s appointment became inevitable.

His appointment isn’t without merit though. Beyond his IPL success, he has impressive credentials as an India player. A stylish left-handed batsman, he debuted in 2003 and is one of India’s most accomplished openers with stellar performances across all formats.

For instance, in 2009, against New Zealand in the second Test at Napier, Gambhir batted 436 balls to score an epic 137 that helped India save the match after being forced to follow on. This knock helped India win the series.

Two years earlier, in the final of the inaugural T20 World Cup final against Pakistan, Gambhir was the top scorer with 75. Similarly, in the 2011 ODI World Cup final against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium, he top-scored with 97.

In 2012, after India had lost 0-4 to Australia in a Test series, Gambhir was projected to succeed M S Dhoni as captain, but missed out after Board President vetoed the selectors. Feisty and blunt, Gambhir’s intense, unsmiling demeanour has often led critics to see him as unapproachable.

On his part, Gambhir claims he decries the focus on stars rather than star performances in Indian cricket. He believes the brand value of a few players shouldn’t overshadow the intrinsic betterment of Indian cricket.

The head coach of India is among the most coveted jobs in the sport, guaranteeing, apart from enormous prestige and power, a lip-smacking pay package in excess of $1m per year plus bonuses. But in a cricket-crazy country, this does not come without great burden of responsibility and humongous pressure of expectation, , more so now after the huge successful tenures of his predecessors Rahul Dravid, and before him, Ravi Shastri.

For the next three years, India has a busy calendar – it will participate in the Champions Trophy this year, the World Test Championship next year, the T20 World Cup in 2026 and the ODI World Cup in 2027, along with bilateral assignments.

Gambhir must manage dressing room superstars, oversee generational transitions, and implement changes in mindset, strategies, and skills to maintain and enhance India’s position in cricket.

Being head coach is a prestigious role, but Gambhir has a formidable task ahead.

Russia promises release of Indians fighting in its army

By Meryl SebastianBBC News, Kochi

Russia has promised an early release of all Indian citizens fighting in its army, India’s foreign ministry has said.

The announcement came at the end of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Moscow, during which he raised the issue with President Vladimir Putin.

Delhi has been seeking the release of Indians, who say they were lured to Russia on the promise of non-combat jobs in the army, but were later forced into active combat in Ukraine.

At least four Indians have been killed in the fighting.

On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said at a press briefing that Mr Modi had “strongly raised the issue of early discharge” of Indians who had been “misled into the service of the Russian army”.

“The Russian side promised early discharge of all Indian nationals from the service of the Russian army,” he added.

Mr Kwatra said there were about 35-50 Indians in the Russian forces, of whom 10 had already been brought home. The two countries would now work to bring back the remaining men, he added.

Indians stuck in Russia said they were duped by agents with the lure of money and a Russian passport.

Most of these men were from poor families who were promised jobs, sometimes as “helpers” in the Russian army.

  • The Indian men traumatised by fighting for Russia
  • India busts network trafficking people to Russia

Families of the men had appealed to the Indian government for help in bringing them back home.

India’s foreign ministry had called this a “matter of deep concern” and said it was “pressing very hard with the Russian authorities” to bring back its citizens.

Earlier this year, the ministry urged “all Indian nationals to exercise due caution and stay away from this conflict”.

In March, Indian authorities said they busted a network of agents sending people to fight for Russia under the pretext of giving them jobs.

Mr Modi took up the issue with Mr Putin on Tuesday during his two-day visit to Russia, his first since 2019.

A joint release by India and Russia after their talks said the two sides had set out nine key areas for closer co-operation, including nuclear energy and medicine.

The leaders also said they would aim to boost bilateral trade by more than half to hit $100bn (about £78bn) by 2030.

‘Dad tried to kill us’: The fire that devastated Australia

By Hannah RitchieBBC News, Sydney

The night comes back in fragments: the sound of exploding glass, the frantic call made to police, the tiny shivering bodies emerging from the flames.

Eve’s hand shakes as she pieces it together. She is sitting in her living room in Western Sydney, the burnt-out blackened shell of her neighbour’s house – now a crime scene splashed across Australia’s national news – visible through the blinds.

What happened on this quiet street in the early hours of Sunday morning is hard to reconcile.

A fire that would leave three children dead – including a 5-month-old baby girl – and four more hospitalised alongside their mother.

And a stunning allegation: that this horror – so evident in the wreckage left behind and on the faces of those who witnessed it – was inflicted on these children by their father, who then blocked their attempts to flee.

New South Wales Police are treating the Lalor Park house fire as a domestic violence-related multiple homicide, and the state’s premiere has said the 28-year-old father of seven could face “the most serious charges on offer”.

The case, which has sparked mass outrage, comes while Australia is already in the grips of a self-declared “national crisis” of domestic and family violence – a child is dying at the hands of a parent almost once a fortnight, according to research.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has offered a flurry of reforms and funding to stop the scourge.

But he conceded on Tuesday – in response to a string of alleged killings this week – that the country “has a long way to go” to turn the tide: “Again, we have seen lives stolen, futures torn away. Every death is its own universe of devastation.”

A ‘deep wound’

Eve – who has asked to have her name changed due to safety concerns – still can’t come to terms with what happened.

“We feel ashamed, we didn’t know there was a baby inside”, she told the BBC, erupting in tears as she begins offering a timeline of the fire.

Somehow, she “blames herself” for the deaths of the children across the road because she didn’t notice the inferno sooner, didn’t call emergency services fast enough.

And yet, her actions were both brave and consequential.

She and her husband were alerted to the violence unfolding by another neighbour, Jarrod Hawkins, who came to their home looking for reinforcements.

Mr Hawkins said he had been woken by a “loud pop” shortly before 01:00 local time (15:00 GMT). Worried his car might be being broken into, he went outside, and immediately saw the flames.

He says he ran across the road without pausing to think and tried to beat the door down.

In the moments that followed Mr Hawkins would crawl into the house repeatedly to pull out three children – two young boys aged four and seven, and a girl aged nine.

An 11-year-old would eventually be rescued by police, along with two boys aged two and six found in a critical condition, who died a short time later in hospital.

Mr Hawkins then woke up Eve and her family who phoned the authorities.

Soon, Eve’s husband was on their neighbour’s lawn, trying to put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher. Eve helped usher some of the children from the scene – doing her best to calm them and keep them warm as they adjusted to the freezing air outside.

She remembers one of the boys saying blankly at one point: “He tried to kill me”.

Another rescuer would later tell a local paper they heard a similar remark from several of the tiny survivors: “Dad tried to kill us”.

But it was an innocent exchange Eve shared with the four-year-old who escaped, as he looked back at the charred remains of his home, that stays with her.

“He just kept asking whether his toys would be safe inside.”

As emergency services started to take control of the scene, Eve took her cue to leave.

One of the final things she witnessed was “police carrying the Dad out, who was in his underwear”. She would soon learn that the 5-month-old girl had died before rescuers could attempt to revive her.

Speaking to media later Sunday morning, Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty alleged the children’s father had tried to stop “police, responders and neighbours” from entering the burning house, “with the intention of keeping the kids inside”.

“At this stage it does appear the 28-year-old is responsible for multiple deaths of young lives that have been tragically taken away,” Det Supt Doherty added.

Now, a makeshift memorial lies on Freeman Street. The colourful flowers and cards offering messages of support stand in stark contrast to the police tape and forensics tent.

Members of the community have described the children as “lively”, “outgoing” and “polite”.

“They were known to a lot of people – those kids were unreal, great manners… full of energy, just typical kids,” Mr Hawkins had earlier told ABC News.

“They were happy,” another neighbour says simply. As masked investigators sift through their house, an elderly resident watches on. Choked by tears, he literally can’t speak about his memories of the family.

Premier Chris Minns has called the tragedy a “deep wound” that will be widely felt.

“These children deserved a loving home with safety and security – instead, they’re gone,” he added, promising that those who remain would get the support they needed.

‘Determined to end this violence’

It is hard to say where Australia sits internationally on the issue, but filicide – when a parent intentionally kills their child – is the second most common form of domestic homicide in the country.

In most cases, the families have a history of child abuse, intimate partner violence, or both, says a recent study by the national research organisation for women’s safety.

State and federal governments have begun investing in prevention – which means examining the social drivers of violence – early intervention, bolstering crisis response networks, and supporting families as they recover. And Australia’s latest budget set aside A$1 bn (£526m; $673m) to assist with those aims.

“My government is determined to end this violence. Together, we can make this change. We must,” Mr Albanese said on Tuesday, flagging a previous commitment to build 720 emergency safe houses by 2027 to accommodate women and children fleeing abuse.

Critics though, have described the measure as a “drop in a very large ocean of need” – saying the money being spent doesn’t match the scale of the crisis.

“[This] will accommodate at most a mere 3% of women and children seeking housing. Moreover, waiting three years for these facilities to be built is cold comfort to women and children being killed by family and domestic violence now,” Larissa Waters, the Senate leader for the Australian Greens said.

The four children and their mother who survived the unimaginable events at Lalor Park are in a stable condition, while their father remains in an induced coma, under police guard.

On Tuesday, authorities closed off the street so that the 29-year-old woman could be given a few quiet moments to grieve in private – as she took in the sight of her now unrecognisable home.

Dressed in black, with a hospital band visible on her wrist, she picked up cards and floral tributes, as loved ones held her close.

South Korea politician blames women for rising male suicides

By Jean MackenzieSeoul correspondent

A politician in South Korea is being criticised for making dangerous and unsubstantiated comments after linking a rise in male suicides to the increasingly “dominant” role of women in society.

In a report, Seoul City councillor Kim Ki-duck argued women’s increased participation in the workforce over the years had made it harder for men to get jobs and to find women who wanted to marry them.

He said the country had recently “begun to change into a female-dominant society” and that this might “partly be responsible for an increase in male suicide attempts”.

South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates among the world’s rich countries but also has one of the worst records on gender equality.

Councillor Kim’s comments have been criticised as the latest in a series of out-of-touch remarks made by male politicians.

Councillor Kim, from the Democratic Party, arrived at his assessment when analysing data on the number of suicide attempts made at bridges along Seoul’s Han river.

The report, published on the city council’s official website, showed that the number of suicide attempts along the river had risen from 430 in 2018 to 1,035 in 2023, and of those trying to take their lives the proportion who were men had climbed from 67% to 77%.

Suicide prevention experts have expressed concern over Mr Kim’s report.

“It is dangerous and unwise to make claims like this without sufficient evidence,” Song In Han, a mental health professor at Seoul’s Yonsei University, told the BBC.

He pointed out that globally more men took their lives than women. In many countries, including the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.

Even so, Prof Song said the reasons behind the sharp rise in men attempting suicide in Seoul needed to be scientifically studied, adding it was “very regrettable” that the councillor had made it about gender conflict.

In South Korea there is a substantial gulf between the number of men and women in full-time employment, with women disproportionately working temporary or part-time jobs. The gender pay gap is slowly narrowing, but still women are paid on average 29% less than men.

In recent years an anti-feminist movement has surged, led by disillusioned young men, who argue they have been disadvantaged by attempts to improve women’s lives.

Appearing to echo such views, Councillor Kim’s report concluded that the way to overcome “the female-domination phenomenon” was to improve people’s awareness of gender equality so that “men and women can enjoy equal opportunities”.

Koreans took to the social media platform X to denounce the councillor’s remarks as “unsubstantiated” and “misogynistic”, with one user questioning whether they were living in a parallel universe.

The Justice Party accused the councillor of “easily shifting the blame to women in Korean society who are struggling to escape gender discrimination”. It has called on him to retract his remarks and instead “properly analyse” the causes of the problem.

When approached for comment by the BBC, Councillor Kim said he had “not intended to be critical of the female-dominated society”, and was merely giving his personal view about some of its consequences.

However, his comments follow a number of unscientific and sometimes bizarre political proposals aimed at tackling some of South Korea’s most pressing social issues, including mental illness, gender violence and the lowest birth rate in the world.

Last month, another Seoul councillor in his 60s published a series of articles on the authority’s website encouraging young women to take up gymnastics and practise pelvic floor exercises in order to raise the birth rate.

At the same time, a government think tank recommended that girls start school earlier than boys, so that classmates would be more attracted to each other by the time they were ready to marry.

“Such comments encapsulate just how pervasive misogyny is in South Korea,” said Yuri Kim, director of the Korean Women’s Trade Union. She accused politicians and policymakers of not even trying to understand the challenges women faced, preferring to scapegoat them instead.

“Blaming women for entering the workforce will only prolong the imbalances in our society,” she told the BBC.

Currently women account for 20% of South Korea’s members of parliament, and 29% of all local councillors.

Seoul City Council told the BBC there was no process in place to vet what politicians published on its official website unless the content was illegal. It said individuals were solely responsible for their content and would face any consequences at the next election.

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Trial begins for religious sect accused of killing child

By Simon AtkinsonBBC News, Brisbane

Members of an Australian religious group have gone on trial accused of killing an eight-year-old diabetic girl by denying her medical care.

Elizabeth Struhs was found dead at a home in Toowoomba – about 125km (78 miles) west of Brisbane – in January 2022, after she had allegedly gone without insulin for almost a week.

Prosecutors say members of a sect, known as The Saints, prayed that God would cure the child, rather than seeking help as her health deteriorated.

The girl’s parents are among 14 defendants, all of whom have elected to represent themselves in the highly publicised and highly unusual case.

Two men – Elizabeth’s father Jason Struhs, 52, and the religious group’s leader Brendan Stevens, 62 – have been charged with murder, with prosecutors saying they encouraged or instructed the other members of the group.

The girl’s mother, Kerrie Struhs, 49, brother Zachary Struhs, 21, and ten others – aged 22 to 67 – are accused of manslaughter.

As the trial began at the Brisbane Supreme Court on Wednesday, the group filed in one by one, to take their allocated positions in a courtroom specifically modified to fit them all.

The dock, where defendants usually sit in a criminal trial, was too small. So the men, dressed in prison khakis, and the women, in blue uniforms, sat at two long tables.

The group have refused lawyers, and all have refused to enter pleas on the charges. Formally, the court considers that a plea of not guilty.

Due to the complexity and notoriety of the case, the trial will be heard by a judge only – no jury – and is expected to last for around three months.

When opening her case, prosecutor Caroline Marco said Elizabeth had been an “intelligent, spiritual child”.

“But [she was] too young to understand the dire consequences of her parents’ decision to withdraw insulin for her… which she ultimately paid for with her own life.”

Blackpink’s Jennie ‘regrets’ vaping indoors

By Fan WangBBC News, Singapore

Blackpink star Jennie has apologised after a video that showed her vaping indoors sparked a huge outcry in South Korea.

The K-pop star exhaled a puff of smoke – and triggered a barrage of criticism because it blew into the face of her make-up artist.

“Do you need to be educated for all the basic manners?” a popular comment on YouTube reads.

Her label OA Entertainment has apologised to “everyone who felt uncomfortable with Jennie’s actions”, and to her “disappointed” fans. The star has also apologised to staff “who may have been affected”, the label said.

“Jennie acknowledges and deeply regrets her mistake of vaping indoors and causing inconvenience to the staff,” it added.

South Korean celebrities are no strangers to the intense scrutiny. The country holds them to rigid moral and behavioural standards and no misstep goes unnoticed.

The now-deleted moment was part of a video posted on Jennie’s official YouTube channel. It quickly spread through the 10 million-plus subscribers and beyond.

“It’s not about smoking. Blowing smoke in the face of the staff indoors – it’s just rude,” a top YouTube comment on a media outlet’s channel reads.

Another one says: “Even smokers know that you don’t puff on your friends’ face. You only do it when you really don’t care about the people around you.”

Smoking and vaping indoors is banned in South Korea and is punishable by a fine of up to ₩100,000 ($72; £56).

In this case, however, Jennie – whose full name is Jennie Kim – might not have been vaping in South Korea. Some accounts suggest the video was filmed in Italy, which bans vaping in enclosed public spaces. But Jennie’s agency has not clarified where she was at the time.

And yet, one furious South Korean has demanded an investigation from their country’s embassy in Italy and Seoul’s ministry of foreign affairs.

Jennie is not the first South Korean celebrity to face a backlash over smoking.

Doh Kyung-soo, vocalist for the popular K-pop boy band EXO and Haechan, a singer in the band NCT, drew a lot of flak when they were caught smoking indoors. They were fined and they apologised to the public.

Jennie’s international fans have been more forgiving: “Please don’t listen [to] anyone. You are queen and we will support you forever,” a top comment under her most recent Instagram post reads.

“I still love you. We learn from the mistakes we make,” another fan wrote.

Blackpink, formed in 2016, is the world’s biggest K-pop girl group. The four members – Jisoo, Lisa, Jennie and Rosé – have each become celebrities in their own right.

Tech giant Samsung workers to strike indefinitely

By João da SilvaBusiness reporter

A union representing workers at South Korean technology giant Samsung Electronics has called on its roughly 30,000 members to go on strike indefinitely, as part of its campaign for better pay and benefits.

The announcement came on the last day of a three-day general strike being held by the National Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU).

The union said it had made the decision after management showed no intention of holding talks over its demands.

The NSEU, which represents nearly a quarter of Samsung Electronics’ workers in South Korea, said its actions had disrupted production. Samsung has disputed these claims.

“Samsung Electronics will ensure no disruptions occur in the production lines. The company remains committed to engaging in good faith negotiations with the union,” the firm told BBC News.

However, the union said: “The company has no intention to engage in a dialogue even after the first general strike, thus we declare a second general strike starting from July 10th, lasting indefinitely.”

The NSEU said about 6,500 workers have been taking part in the strike so far and called on more of its members to join the industrial action.

A spokesperson for Samsung Electronics declined to comment on how many workers had joined the walkout.

A protest on Monday was attended by around 3,000 people.

“In our view, there will be no production disruption,” Jung In Yun, from Fibonacci Asset Management Global told BBC News.

Last month, the union staged the first walkout at the company since it was founded five and a half decades ago.

Samsung Electronics is the world’s largest maker of memory chips, smartphones and televisions.

It is the flagship unit of South Korean conglomerate Samsung Group.

The firm is also the biggest of the family-controlled businesses that dominate Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

Samsung Group was known for not allowing unions to represent its workers until 2020, when the company came under intense public scrutiny after its chairman was prosecuted for market manipulation and bribery.

After the NSEU announcement, the company’s shares were trading flat to slightly lower on the Korea Stock Exchange.

Last week, Samsung Electronics said it expects its profits for the three months to June 2024 to jump 15-fold compared to the same period last year.

A boom in artificial intelligence (AI) technology has lifted the prices of advanced chips, driving up the firm’s forecast for the second quarter.

‘Beginning of two legends’: Photos of Messi and baby Lamine Yamal resurface

By George WrightBBC News

In 2007, a young Lionel Messi posed for photos with a baby in the dressing room of the Camp Nou in Barcelona for a charity calendar photoshoot.

Messi, who was 20, was already making a name for himself and would go on the become arguably the greatest of all time.

But little did the photographer know that the baby would also make waves in international football less than 17 years later.

Messi was bathing Lamine Yamal – the 16-year-old who is taking the European Championships by storm.

His goal against France in the semi-final on Tuesday is one that will be talked about for decades.

At 16 years and 362 days, the strike also made him the youngest man to score in the tournament’s history.

The long-forgotten photo of Messi and Yamal resurfaced after Yamal’s father posted it on Instagram last week with the text: “The beginning of two legends.”

The photos were taken by Joan Monfort, who works as a freelance photographer for the Associated Press.

The shoot came about after Unicef did a raffle in the town of Mataró where Lamine’s family lived, he said.

“They signed up for the raffle to have their picture taken at the Camp Nou with a Barça player. And they won the raffle,” Mr Monfort told the Associated Press.

The assignment wasn’t a straightforward one, the photographer said.

“Messi is a pretty introverted guy, he’s shy,” he said.

“He was coming out of the locker room and suddenly he finds himself in another locker room with a plastic tub full of water and a baby in it. It was complicated. He didn’t even know how to hold him at first.”

Like Messi, Yamal went on to play for Barcelona, where he became the club’s youngest ever starter and goalscorer, as well as the youngest scorer in the Spanish league.

Mr Monfort said it was only when the photo started going viral online last week that he realised that the baby was Yamal.

“It’s very exciting to be associated with something that has caused such a sensation,” he said.

“To tell you the truth it’s a very nice feeling.”

Irish woman charged with attempting suicide in UAE

By Matt FoxBBC News NI

An Irish woman is facing criminal charges – including attempted suicide and the abuse of alcohol – in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in what the taoiseach (Irish prime minister) has called “the most appalling circumstances”

Simon Harris said he was ready to intervene in the case in response to a question from Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald in the Dáil (Irish lower house of parliament) on Tuesday.

Ms McDonald told TDs (MPs) that Tori Towey from County Roscommon had had her passport destroyed.

The BBC has approached the UAE government for comment on the case.

Mr Harris thanked Sinn Féin for raising it with him and the minister for foreign affairs and said he would work to see how Ms Towey could be helped.

‘Most gross domestic violence’

It is understood 28-year-old Ms Towey has been working as an air hostess and is based in Dubai – the largest city in the UAE.

Addressing the Dáil, Ms McDonald said she had spoken to Ms Towey on Tuesday.

She said Ms Towey’s mother had travelled to Dubai to be with her and that she “wants to come home”.

“She has been the victim of the most gross domestic violence,” Ms McDonald said.

“Her passport has been destroyed. There was a travel ban imposed on her.”

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The Irish government should make it “absolutely plain to the authorities of Dubai that no woman should be treated in this way”, Ms McDonald told the Dáil, and that “an Irish citizen, an Irish woman, will not be treated in this way”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of the case and was providing consular assistance.

‘Government is rightly behind us’

Ms Towey is receiving assistance from human rights advocate and lawyer Radha Stirling, who runs the Detained in Dubai group.

“Tori is facing court next week. She has been charged with consumption of alcohol and also attempting suicide, both of which have been historically illegal in the country,” Ms Stirling told BBC News NI.

She explained Ms Towey was subject to a travel ban and could not leave the UAE.

“The Irish government is rightly behind us in having the UAE police drop the case against her,” Ms Stirling said.

She said Ms Towey was unable to afford a lawyer, “so it’s even more difficult and confusing for her”.

Even if found not guilty, the legal process could take “months and months”, she explained, but the family were feeling optimistic that international pressure would help.

“If the Irish government backs her case and does everything that they can diplomatically… it’s highly likely that she will be home in Ireland next week,” she added.

“With all of the support [Tori and her mother] are just over the moon and very, very positive that things will go well next week.”

First peek of room behind Buckingham Palace’s famous balcony

By Sean CoughlanRoyal correspondent

Instead of that famous view looking up at the Buckingham Palace balcony, visitors for the first time will be able to look down from the inside.

After five years of renovations, the east wing of the palace has been carefully restored and on a trial basis is open to paying customers from next week.

But they won’t be able to step out on to the balcony itself – and when you visit you can see why.

It’s surprisingly narrow and the railings are below waist height, in a way that would send any health and safety officers into a royal panic.

But looking through the windows – and what royal author Robert Hardman has called “the most famous net curtains in the world” – you can see the view from the perspective of the King and Queen, Prince William and Catherine.

What’s surprising from this vantage point is how clearly you can see the crowds of tourists below, you can really see people’s faces.

There’s also the curiosity of the change of perspective – looking out across the pink gravel of the courtyard and towards the Mall, rather than the usual view from outside the gates looking in.

To get to the balcony the royals go through the Centre Room, elaborately decorated in a Chinese style, and now open to the public for the first time since this wing was built 175 years ago.

A huge lamp fitting hangs down, decorated in the style of a lily, and the walls are covered in Chinese-themed art.

The royal world loves its acronyms. So Buckingham Palace is “BP” and Kensington Palace is “KP” – but this enthusiasm for Chinese and oriental art is connected to another BP.

That’s the Brighton Pavilion, because building the east wing of Buckingham Palace was funded by Queen Victoria selling off the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

That seaside retreat was a fusion of Asian styles and racy regency fashions and, always keen on recycling, the 19th Century royals removed the Chinese and Japanese-themed furniture and art and put it into Buckingham Palace.

That included the fixtures and fittings, such as doors, gilded curtain poles and a fireplace, as well as ornamental porcelain pagodas.

The introduction of tours to this previously private section of the palace is part of a broader ambition to make royal residences more open to the public.

The east wing, getting its first tourists, is the main facade of the palace, where tourists gather outside to watch Changing of the Guard – it’s the view you see on the postcards.

It’s not cheap to look round, costing £75, but has already completely sold out for this year. And this summer’s inaugural visitors will be in guided groups of 20, separate to the existing more general tour of the palace’s state rooms.

In this more intimate version of the tour, none of the items on show are roped off from visitors. The furniture doesn’t have ‘keep off’ signs.

It makes it feel more like a living building rather than a museum, but there’s no escaping the gradual gift-shopification of the palace.

It’s a mix of an historic setting for grand events, an office block and a tourist attraction, but at the moment it still seems a way off from being where any of the royals are likely to live.

Visiting royals don’t stay here either any more. During their recent state visit the Emperor and Empress of Japan stayed in Claridge’s Hotel.

There is an ongoing £369m project to renovate the palace complex, not just the gilded surfaces, but the basics of the plumbing and wiring on what is a huge set of ageing buildings. Once you step away from the glitzy state rooms you never seem far from scaffolding and repair works.

Renovating the east wing alone meant removing and conserving 3,500 separate items, including historic furniture and works of art. And the tour only includes only a relatively small part of that wing.

But the sell-out tours show the public demand and while there will be art lovers among the visitors, people will also be coming to see for themselves something they might have watched on television or imagined through the Crown.

They can stand in the elegant Yellow Drawing room, used for many audiences and the setting of a Christmas broadcast by the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Or visitors can look out the window at the quadrangle below, where Sir Keir Starmer pulled up last week when he went to meet the King after winning the general election.

There’s plenty of royal bling on show in the long corridors, but it’s the sense of seeing behind the scenes in the palace that will draw people.

And when they look out through the long balcony windows, they might resist the temptation to give a little wave.

More on this story

Sleep could be boosted by saving small amounts

By Kevin PeacheyCost of living correspondent

Saving money regularly can help improve sleep, a new report suggests.

Putting a monthly amount aside, however small the sum, also helped people to relax and be more optimistic about the future, the study by academics at Bristol University found.

Regular savers on low incomes have similar life satisfaction levels as richer non-savers, they said.

A quarter of UK adults have savings of less than £100, surveys have suggested.

Saving money has been tough in recent years, owing to sharply rising bills and food prices – even though the interest paid by banks and building societies has improved.

An estimated six in 10 people have a savings habit, and charities argue that setting money aside – even when on a small income – improves financial resilience.

Now the report by Bristol University’s Personal Finance Research Centre has suggested regular saving leads to improved life satisfaction, even if only a small amount is set aside.

The report suggested this was the result of being less anxious about money, less likely to experience problem debt, or being better able to cope with unexpected events.

The picture is relatively complex, with other factors at play including whether savings had already been built up, and changing circumstances for different age groups.

Researchers considered various studies, including one tracking the savings of thousands of people over a 10-year period.

They suggested an improvement in life satisfaction from saving, but also a detriment when not saving.

However, other life events had a bigger impact. For example, moving home or getting married improved mental wellbeing to a greater extent. Losing a job or having children created a relatively larger mental wellbeing deficit.

Returns expected to fall

Interest rates paid by savings providers have improved during a period of higher interest rates.

At present, the average easy-access account pays interest of 3.12%, according to the financial information service Moneyfacts. Locking money away for a year carries an average return of 4.65%.

However, returns are expected to become less generous when the Bank of England reduces benchmark interest rates. A first drop could come in August.

Andrew Gall, head of savings at the Building Societies Association, which funded the research, said: “While we appreciate that some people simply won’t be in a position to save right now, these report findings show why everyone should be encouraged to save a little, if they can, when they can.”

The report said providers should make savings accounts simple, flexible and use incentives to get customers to save.

What are my savings options?

  • As a saver, you can shop around for the best account for you
  • Loyalty often doesn’t pay, because old savings accounts have among the worst interest rates
  • Savings products are offered by a range of providers, not just the big banks. The best deal is not the same for everyone – it depends on your circumstances
  • Higher interest rates are offered if you lock your money away for longer, but that will not suit everyone’s lifestyle
  • Charities say it is important to try to keep some savings, however tight your budget, to help cover any unexpected costs

There is a guide to different savings accounts, and what to think about on the government-backed, independent MoneyHelper website.

  • What are interest rates? A quick guide

Can we change how our brains age? These scientists think it’s possible

By Lara Lewington@laralewingtonPresenter, BBC Click

It’s long been known that our lifestyles can help to keep us healthier for longer. Now scientists are asking whether new technology can also help slow down the ageing process of our brains by keeping track of what happens to them as we get older.

One sunny morning, 76-year-old Dutch-born Marijke and her husband Tom welcomed me in for breakfast at their home in Loma Linda, an hour east of Los Angeles.

Oatmeal, chai seeds, berries, but no processed sugary cereal or coffee were served – a breakfast as pure as Loma Linda’s mission.

Loma Linda has been identified as one of the world’s so-called Blue Zones, places where people have lengthier-than-average lifespans. In this case, it is the city’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church community who are living longer.

They generally don’t drink alcohol or caffeine, stick to a vegetarian or even vegan diet and consider it a duty of their religion to look after their bodies as best they can.

This is their “health message”, as they call it, and it has put them on the map – the city has been the subject of decades of research into why its residents live better for longer.

Dr Gary Fraser from the University of Loma Linda told me members of the Seventh-Day Adventist community there can expect not only a longer lifespan, but an increased “healthspan” – that is, time spent in good health – of four to five years extra for women and seven years extra for men.

Marijke and Tom had moved to the city later in life, but both were now firmly embedded in the community.

There’s no great secret to Loma Linda. Its citizens are simply living a really healthy life, keeping mentally stimulated and valuing the community a religion can often provide.

There are regular lectures on healthy living, musical get-togethers and exercise classes.

I chatted to Judy, who lives with 112 others at an assisted living facility where there was always the “ability to have heart-opening, brain-opening conversations”, she told me.

“What I didn’t realise was how important socialisation is to your brain… without it, it seems to shrink and go away,” Judy said.

Science has long recognised the benefits of social interactions and avoiding loneliness.

But now it’s also possible to identify whose brains are ageing faster than they should, so they can be tracked and in future potentially be treated better preventatively.

As we move towards more personalised, predictive, preventative healthcare models, early diagnosis will be crucial in all areas of health – powered by the incredible possibilities of AI and big data.

Click: Mind over matter

Lara Lewington travels to California to meet the scientists and experts researching our brain health and investigating whether we can change how our brains age.

Watch on BBC iPlayer (UK only)

Computer models that assess how our brains age and predict their decline were shown to me by Andrei Irimia, associate professor of gerontology and computational biology at the University of Southern California.

He had created them using MRI scans, data from 15,000 brains and the power of artificial intelligence to understand the trajectory of both brains that are ageing healthily and those in which there is a disease process, such as dementia.

“It’s a very sophisticated way to look at patterns that we don’t necessarily know about as humans, but the AI algorithm is able to pick up on them,” he said.

Prof Irimia did, of course, take a look inside my head.

I’d had a functional MRI scan ahead of my visit and, after analysing its results, Prof Irimia told me I had a brain age eight months older than my chronological age (although apparently the bit that controls talking wasn’t ageing so much. I could have told him that). However, Prof Irimia suggested that the results fall within a two-year error margin.

Private companies are starting to commercialise this technology, too. One firm, Brainkey, is offering the service in a variety of clinics around the world. Its founder Owen Philips told me that in future, getting an MRI should become easier.

“It’s becoming much more accessible for people to get an MRI scan, and the images coming off them are getting even better and better,” he said.

“I don’t mean to nerd out there. But the technology is just getting to a point where we are able to see things much earlier than we could in the past. And that means we can understand exactly what’s happening in an individual patient’s brain. With AI, we can support that.”

In contrast to what Prof Irimia’s analysis of my MRI scan had told me, Brainkey’s estimate knocked a year off my brain’s biological age. I was also presented with a 3D-printed model of it, which appeared substantial and, I was assured, was life-sized.

The aim here is not just a more precise approach to treatment, but also to be able to quantify how well any interventions are working.

Dramatic increases in life expectancy over the past 200 years have given rise to a host of age-related diseases. I did wonder whether, if we all lived long enough, dementia might come knocking at all our doors.

Prof Irimia said this was a theory many have investigated albeit not proven, adding that the aim was to find a way to keep on pushing dementia back, hopefully beyond our life expectancies.

And all of this takes us back to the same point. Every scientist and doctor, as well as those Blue Zoners, say lifestyle is key. Good diet, keeping active, mentally stimulated and happy are crucial to how our brains age.

There’s another important factor too, according to Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of the best-selling book Why We Sleep.

“Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do every day to reset your brain and body health,” he evangelised. “There is no operation of your mind that is not wonderfully enhanced when you get sleep, or demonstrably impaired when you don’t get enough.”

He spoke of our brains’ cleansing system, which functions during our slumber by washing away the beta-amyloid and tau proteins – these are “two of the main culprits underlying Alzheimer’s”.

Changes in sleep patterns are also associated with dementia. Prof Walker described how we don’t just see this in our 60s or 70s – it can begin during our 30s. So, identifying those changes through sleep tracking could potentially become a “model of midlife prevention”.

Fauna Bio, a biotech company on the outskirts of San Francisco, is collecting data on ground squirrels during and after hibernation. In this state of torpor, as it is known, the squirrels’ body temperature drops and their metabolic rate is reduced to just 1% of normal.

During this time, they appear to be able to regrow neurons and remake the connections their brains had lost. The company’s aim is to try and create drugs to replicate this process in humans, without them needing to spend half the year underground. Even if some may long for that.

Untreated depression has also been shown to raise our risk of dementia. Professor Leanne Williams of Stanford University has identified a method of “visualising” some forms of depression on the brain using an MRI scan, and thus seeing if treatment has worked.

This may be able to help scientists understand more abotu the root causes of mental health conditions such as depression, as well as providing a way to quantify how treatment is going for a patient.

Few have put more faith in science to achieve longevity than Bryan Johnson – the tech entrepreneur spending millions in an effort to reverse his biological age.

Dozens of supplements, 19 hours a day of fasting, workouts that make him look as though he’s going to burst and an array of (sometimes controversial) treatments are what he hopes will turn back the clock.

  • The tech entrepreneur betting he can get younger

But as 103-year-old Mildred, who I visited in Loma Linda said forcefully, “You absolutely need to be very careful with your diet, it’s true, but I’m not down for, ‘You’ve got to do this, and this, and this, and ‘”. She thinks it’s more important we live a little, and let’s face it, she should know.

A photographer’s 11-day trek to flee war-torn Sudan

By Barbara Plett UsherBBC Africa correspondent

On the eve of his perilous escape from his home country last month, Sudanese photojournalist Mohamed Zakaria left his camera equipment with a friend, not sure if he would ever see it again.

He was fleeing el-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, which is in the grip of a punishing battle between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Mohamed had been covering this hot spot of Sudan’s 15-month long civil war for the BBC. But with the situation growing increasingly desperate, he decided it was time to escape.

The RSF escalated a siege of el-Fasher in May, targeting the last army foothold in Darfur.

Shortly afterward Mohamed’s house was hit by a shell, another struck as he was trying to get wounded neighbours to hospital. Five people were killed and 19 injured – Mohamed still has pieces of shrapnel in his body, while his brother lost an eye.

Two weeks later Mohamed watched his mother and three brothers depart for the safety of Chad, the neighbouring country to the west. He stayed behind to continue working to support them, he says.

But as the RSF fighters continued to close in, civilians were trapped in a war zone of indiscriminate shelling and army airstrikes, with food supplies cut off.

“I couldn’t move, I couldn’t work,” he says. “All you do now in el-Fasher is just stay in your home and wait for death… some residents had to dig trenches in their homes.”

It was dangerous to stay, but also dangerous to flee. In the end he decided to head for South Sudan and eventually on to Uganda.

He thought this journey would be safer for him than trying to join his family in Chad, and would allow him to work once he got to his destination.

From el-Fasher to South Sudan, Mohamed passed through 22 checkpoints, five manned by the army and 17 by the RSF.

He was searched and sometimes interrogated, but managed to conceal his identity as a cameraman who had documented the war. Except for once.

The first stop, on 10 June, was Zamzam refugee camp on the outskirts of el-Fasher.

Mohamed and his traveling companion, his cousin Muzamil, spent the night with a friend. Here he hid his camera and other tools of the trade.

But he took with him a precious record of his photographs and videos – stored on memory cards and in two external hard drives – as well as his laptop and phone.

“The biggest problem I faced on the road was how I could hide them,” he said.

“Because these are dangerous things. If the RSF or any soldier sees them, you can’t explain.”

For the first major leg of the trek, Mohamed stashed them in a hole under the foot pedals of the pickup, without telling the driver.

He and Muzamil were held up at one checkpoint by Sudanese soldiers suspicious they were heading into RSF territory to join the enemy. But otherwise, they reached Dar es Salaam, the town that marked the end of army control, without incident.

Here they joined other travellers – a convoy of six vehicles en route to the village of Khazan Jadid.

“We paid the RSF soldiers to go with us,” says Mohamed. “If you want to arrive safely you need to pay the RSF.”

The drivers collected money from the passengers and handed it over at the first checkpoint, where one of the RSF fighters got into each car.

At this point Mohammed hid his memory cards in a piece of paper that he put with other documents.

At the bus station in Khazan Jadid, Mohammed found only three vehicles.

“The road was very dangerous,” he says, “and all the cars had stopped traveling.”

But they managed to get one going to the city of el-Daein, the capital of East Darfur and they reached there in the early afternoon of 12 June.

At a checkpoint in the middle of town, those coming from el-Fasher were put to one side, says Mohamed, under suspicion that they had worked with the army.

Here’s where he ran into trouble.

He had deleted all the messages, photographs and apps on his mobile phone.

But the RSF officer found a Facebook account he had forgotten to remove, complete with posts he had shared about the bombing of el-Fasher and the suffering of civilians.

There followed an hours-long interrogation where Mohamed was separated from Muzamil and accused of being a spy.

“I was threatened with torture and death unless I disclosed the information I had,” he says.

“I felt lost. It was a very bad situation. If he wanted to kill you, he could do it and no-one would know. He can kill you, he can beat you, he can he can do anything to you.”

Mohamed was finally released at 19:00 after negotiating the payment of a large sum of money.

“This was the worst moment,” he says, reflecting on the experience, “not only in the journey but I think the worst moment in my whole life… because I didn’t see any hope. I can’t believe I’m here.”

Mohamed suspected his interrogator would alert another checkpoint down the road to arrest him again.

He and Muzamil raced to the station to get out of town as fast as they could. There was only one vehicle, a pickup truck that was crammed full, but they managed to squeeze into a small space on the roof.

They made it as far as the village of Abu Matariq, where the engine broke down and took two days to fix.

  • AFRICA DAILY PODCAST: Listen to Mohamed describe his journey
  • A simple guide to the Sudan war
  • I recognised my sister in video of refugees captured in Sudan war

Having survived arrest Mohamed was anxious to get to South Sudan as quickly as possible. Instead, he faced a lengthy delay.

The travellers finally left Abu Matariq on 14 June heading to el-Raqabat, the last town in East Darfur before the border. The way led through the forest of el-Deim, a flat expanse of grass and sand sprinkled with acacia trees.

Heavy rains slowed and then stopped their progress, as the pickup got stuck in the mud. They were stranded.

“It was a severe ordeal,” says Mohamed.

“We spent nearly six days without drinkable water and food. We mostly relied on rainwater and dates.”

In a stroke of luck, they were able to buy two sheep from passing shepherds.

During the course of the journey, says Mohamed, he did not have trouble getting food. The RSF-controlled areas through which they passed had seen battles early in the war, but had stabilised somewhat since then.

Markets and small restaurants were operating. Food was expensive, but not “super expensive” like in el-Fasher, where many people were forced to ration themselves to one meal a day.

In the forest, the men slept in the open, sometimes in the rain, while the two women and two children in the party stayed inside the vehicle. They had to pick thorns out of their feet from walking without shoes in the mud.

Eventually they pushed the pickup back onto solid ground. But the engine worked only sporadically because of a weak battery. And then it ran out of fuel.

At this point two of the men set off to find the nearest village. It turned out to be a nine-hour walk. To everyone’s relief they returned late in the day with extra fuel and another vehicle.

Arriving in el-Raqabat, Mohamed and Muzamil were just a 15-minute drive from South Sudan and safety.

But the next morning before the travellers could start out, they were picked up and taken to the main RSF office and interrogated for three hours.

Someone had reported that members of the Zaghawa ethnic group had entered the town. That included Mohamed, as well as the family sharing the car with him.

The Zaghawa make up one of the armed groups fighting alongside the army in el-Fasher, and the RSF view them as enemies.

Mohamed stashed his memory cards, hard drives and laptop with one of the women and told the RSF officer that he was a computer engineer.

Once again it came down to a pay-off: 30,000 Sudanese pounds ($50; £39) from everyone. Mohamed and a few other members of the group paid extra to release another man who had been found with a photo of an army soldier on his phone.

Then Mohamed and Muzamil clambered into a motorised rickshaw and headed for the border.

Crossing into South Sudan on 20 June was an “unbelievable” moment for Mohamed.

“When I saw the South Sudanese men, I thanked God and prayed,” he says. “I felt I’m alive. I really didn’t believe that I am alive, that I am here. I reached South Sudan with all my data and my laptop, even though I had many encounters with the RSF.”

He called his mother as soon as he was able to buy a local SIM card. “She didn’t believe that I was alive,” he says.

Mohamed had been out of internet range for 11 days, and his family had no idea where he was or what was happening to him during that time.

“They were very very worried,” he says. “Most of them had told me you must not try this road, don’t go, you can’t make it.”

But he had made it.

He stopped in the South Sudanese city of Aweil for a few days, where the Zaghawa family he had been traveling with hosted him in their home.

He then moved on to the capital, Juba.

Muzamil decided to stay there, but Mohamed travelled to Uganda and registered as a refugee at a camp near the border because his passport had expired.

Twenty-three days after leaving el-Fasher, Mohamed arrived in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, on 3 July. He is staying with his uncle.

“I honestly have no idea where life will take me from this point,” he says.

His immediate priority is to look after his family and try to reunite them. Besides his mother and three brothers in Chad, he has a brother in Turkey and a sister in the United Arab Emirates.

His dream for the future is to return to Sudan in more peaceful times and set up a university in Darfur to teach filmmaking, photography and media studies.

“My work did not end after leaving el-Fasher,” he says. “I believe that was just a phase and now I have really begun arranging the second phase by working to convey the truth of the situation there.

“I hope that my effort, even if just a little, will help shorten the duration of the war and save the people in el-Fasher.”

More about Sudan’s civil war from the BBC:

  • The children living between starvation and death in Darfur
  • Famine looms in Sudan as civil war survivors tell of killings and rapes
  • ‘I saw bodies dumped in Darfur mass grave’

BBC Africa podcasts

Indian wrestlers eye Olympics after sex harassment scandal

By Divya AryaBBC Hindi

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

Reetika Hooda almost didn’t make it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From that day, Tanu Malik decided to work harder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Sakshi Malik has no regrets.

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

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

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

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

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

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How Canada became a car theft capital of the world

By Nadine YousifBBC News, Toronto

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.

How car thieves in Canada targeted the same owner twice

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”.

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.

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.

Shackleton’s Endurance ship gets extra protection

By Jonathan Amos@BBCAmosScience correspondent

A protection perimeter drawn around Endurance, one of the world’s greatest shipwrecks, is being widened from a radius of 500m to 1,500m.

The extended zone will further limit activities close to the vessel, which sank in 1915 during an ill-fated Antarctic expedition led by celebrated polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.

The measure is part of a newly published conservation management plan (CMP).

Already, no-one should retrieve or even touch objects in the protected zone.

Everything must be left in situ.

The perimeter update is a recognition that debris from Endurance – including crew belongings – may be strewn across a larger area of ocean floor than previously thought. The ship lies 3,000m down in the Weddell Sea.

“Endurance is very well protected where it is now, given its remoteness, depth and a near-permanent cover of sea-ice,” explained Camilla Nichol, the chief executive of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, which drew up the CMP in partnership with Historic England.

“There are however considerable potential risks and it requires an international effort to make sure this wreck is not interfered with so that it can be sustained long into the future,” she told BBC News.

Endurance is one of the standout symbols of the so-called Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration.

Its story has captivated the world for decades.

The ship was lost to the deep when it became trapped and holed by thick Antarctic sea-ice. How Shackleton then managed to get all his men to safety is the stuff of legend.

The discovery of Endurance on the ocean bottom in March 2022 was nothing short of a sensation.

It had been regarded as perhaps the single most difficult wreck to find anywhere on the globe.

Very few people have the expertise to visit Endurance today, but this is unlikely always to be the case.

And as the world warms and the frozen floes in the polar south continue to retreat, opportunities to access the wreck will increase.

Deep-diving technologies are certain to become more capable, which raises the worrying prospect of looting, or of crash-damage resulting from careless submersible operations. Fishing is sure to become more commonplace in the Weddell Sea and the risk of trawlers’ discarded gear getting tangled in the wreck is an additional concern.

  • December 1914: Endurance departs South Georgia
  • February 1915: Ship is thoroughly ice-locked
  • October 1915: Vessel’s timbers start breaking
  • November 1915: Endurance disappears under the ice
  • April 1916: Escaping crew reaches Elephant Island
  • May 1916: Shackleton goes to South Georgia for help
  • August 1916: A relief ship arrives at Elephant Island

The CMP, which was unanimously approved at a recent meeting of nations that are party to the Antarctic Treaty System, looks forward to how these threats can be mitigated.

An initial step is the agreement from cruise ship owners not to go anywhere near the Endurance zone.

A further step would be to boost the wreck’s protection rating.

It’s currently designated a Historic Site and Monument (HSM). This gives it “do not touch” status, but doesn’t of itself stop anyone from approaching the vessel.

If Endurance could become an Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA), plans for any visit would then be subject to a rigorous review by heritage and technical experts, and require a specific permit.

Antarctic Treaty nations discussed ASPA designation at their recent meeting and a formal application will be pursued in 2025.

“It would be unique. There’s never been an ASPA of this sort before,” said Camilla Nichol.

“And, of course, there are many other wrecks in the Antarctic which are far more accessible than Endurance, so it could become a precedent.”

When Shackleton’s ship was finally located on the seafloor, it was seen to be in astonishingly good condition. Its timbers were pristine and its basic structure was intact.

The wreck was covered in a fascinating array of filter-feeding animals – sponges, sea anemones, sea lilies and starfish.

Marine biologists will demand to study this ecosystem further. It is, in effect, an artificial reef.

The CMP sets out guidance for future research, with the insistence that all data be made public.

The management plan identifies the huge potential to maintain and broaden interest in the Endurance story through digital technologies.

A film about the wreck’s discovery is due to be released by National Geographic later this year. It should be accompanied by a 3D scan of the vessel.

“There’s enormous interest in Endurance and our management plan seeks to make sure that any activity at the wreck site is in the best interests of the ship,” said Hefin Meara, a marine archaeologist with Historic England.

“By putting this plan together and presenting it to the treaty parties, what we get is a way for everybody to work to a common framework with a common understanding. What we can’t have at this stage is people having different views and doing completely different things.”

Europe’s Ariane-6 rocket blasts off on maiden flight

By Jonathan Amos@BBCAmosScience correspondent
Moment Ariane-6 takes off for first mission

Europe’s big new rocket, Ariane-6, has blasted off on its maiden flight.

The vehicle set off from a launchpad in French Guiana at 16:00 local time (19:00 GMT) on a demonstration mission to put a clutch of satellites in orbit.

Crews on the ground in Kourou applauded as the rocket – developed at a cost of €4bn (£3.4bn) – soared into the sky.

But after climbing smoothly to the desired altitude, and correctly releasing a number of small satellites, the upper-stage of the rocket experienced an anomaly right at the end of the flight.

Computers onboard took the decision to prematurely shut down the auxiliary power unit (APU) that pressurises the propulsion system.

This left Ariane’s upper-stage unable to initiate the burn that was supposed to bring it out of orbit and also set up the final task of the mission – to jettison two re-entry capsules.

Controllers were unable to remedy the situation, but the flight was nonetheless still declared a success.

“We’re relieved; we’re excited,” said Josef Aschbacher, the director general of the European Space Agency.

“This is a historic moment. The inaugural launch of a new heavy-lift rocket doesn’t happen every year; it happens only every 20 years or maybe 30 years. And today we have launched Ariane-6 successfully,” he told reporters.

Ariane-6 is intended to be a workhorse rocket that gives European governments and companies access to space independently from the rest of the world. It already has a backlog of launch contracts, but there are worries its design could limit future prospects.

Like its predecessor, Ariane-5, the new model is expendable – a new rocket is needed for every mission, whereas the latest American vehicles are being built to be wholly or partially reusable.

Even so, European space officials believe Ariane-6 can carve out a niche for itself.

On the surface, the 6 looks very similar to the old 5, but under the skin it harnesses state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques (3D printing, friction stir welding, augmented reality design, etc) that should result in faster and cheaper production.

Ariane-6 will operate in two configurations:

  • The “62” will incorporate two solid-fuel side boosters for lifting medium-sized payloads
  • The “64” will have four strap-on boosters to lift the heaviest satellites on the market

The core stage is supplemented with a second, or upper, stage that will place the payloads in their precise orbits high above the Earth.

This stage has the new capability to be stopped and restarted multiple times, which is useful when launching large batches of satellites into a constellation, or network.

Re-ignition should also enable the stage to pull itself back down to Earth, so it won’t become a piece of lingering space junk.

The fact that the inaugural flight was unable to demonstrate this will be a disappointment to engineers, but shouldn’t hold up the Ariane-6 programme.

“A lot of missions do not need to be restarted in microgravity. This is a flexibility we could use or not, and we will adapt the flight profile depending on what we find in the data,” said Martin Sion, the chief executive of rocket manufacturer ArianeGroup.

“And to be 100% clear, we are prepared to make a second launch this year and six next year,” added Stéphane Israël from Arianespace, the company that markets the new rocket.

Ariane 6 vs Falcon 9

Inaugural flights are always occasions of high jeopardy. It’s not uncommon for a new rocket design to have some sort of anomaly or outright failure.

Ariane-5 famously blew itself apart 37 seconds after leaving the ground on its debut in 1996. The loss was put down to an error in control software.

But a revised rocket then came back to dominate the commercial launch market for the world’s biggest satellites.

That dominance was only broken in the 2010s by US entrepreneur Elon Musk and his reusable Falcon-9 rockets.

Falcon flight rates and prices undercut the competitiveness of Ariane-5.

Europe is moving towards reusability, but the necessary technologies will not be in service until the 2030s. And in the meantime, Mr Musk is introducing even bigger rockets that promise to reduce launch costs still further.

Ariane-6 enters a very challenging environment, therefore.

“We can all have our own opinions. What I can just reaffirm is that we have an order book that is full,” said Lucia Linares, who heads space transportation strategy at Esa.

“I guess the word goes here to the customers: they have said Ariane-6 is an answer to their needs.”

There are launch contracts to take the rocket through its first three years of operations. These include 18 launches for another US billionaire, Jeff Bezos, who wants to establish a constellation of internet satellites he calls Kuiper.

European officials aim to have Ariane-6 flying roughly once a month.

If this flight rate can be achieved, then the rocket should be able to establish itself, commented Pierre Lionnet from space consultancy ASD Eurospace.

“First, we need to ensure that there is sufficient demand from European customers – the European institutional ones. Then Ariane needs to win just a few commercial customers beyond Kuiper. This would give it a market,” he told BBC News.

“But it’s a matter of pricing. If Falcon-9 is systematically undercutting the price offer of Ariane-6, there will be an issue.”

Ariane-6 is a project of 13 member states of Esa, led by France (56%) and Germany (21%). The 13 partners have promised subsidy payments of up to €340m (£295m) a year to support the early phase of Ariane-6 exploitation.

The UK was a leading player right at the beginning of Europe’s launcher programme and remains an Esa member state, but its direct involvement in Ariane ended when the Ariane-4 model was retired, in 2003.

A few UK companies continue to supply components on a commercial basis, and some spacecraft built in Britain will undoubtedly continue to fly on Ariane.

Gladiator II: Paul Mescal battles a rhino in upcoming film

By Helen BushbyCulture reporter

The trailer for Ridley Scott’s sequel to Gladiator has dropped, showcasing several epic scenes, including a water battle in Rome’s Colosseum and Paul Mescal being rammed by a rhino.

All Of Us Strangers star Mescal plays Lucius, fighting for his life as a gladiator, despite his high status as nephew of corrupt former Emperor Commodus.

Sir Ridley’s first film in 2000, which starred Russell Crowe as soldier-turned-gladiator Maximus, won five Oscars including best actor.

The trailer opens as Lucius recalls his childhood memory, when ex-Roman commander Maximus battled his uncle in the arena.

“I remember that day. I never forgot it, that a slave could take revenge against an emperor,” Lucius says, before we see him in a flashback from the first film, being dragged to safety by his mother.

Here’s a quick recap of the first Gladiator film: the plot revolves around upstanding Roman general, Maximus Decimus Meridius, who was asked to inherit the role of emperor from ailing Marcus Aurelius.

But Commodus murdered the emperor and took the title, before killing Maximus’ family and leaving him a slave. Maximus rose up to become a gladiator, returning to Rome in order to exact his revenge.

World History Encyclopedia describes gladiatorial contests as “bloody entertainment… an opportunity for emperors to display their wealth”, where up to 50,000 spectators enjoyed “contests which were literally a matter of life and death”.

Some battles included wild animals – Gladiator featured tigers in the arena, while an angry-looking rhino with a bloodied horn charges at Mescal in the sequel.

It’s fair to say the first film caused a flurry of excitement among admirers of Crowe’s powerful portrayal of Maximus.

Given Mescal enjoyed a huge surge in his fanbase after he starred in BBC drama Normal People, it’s possible his role in Gladiator II may have a similar impact.

Lucius is undoubtedly reminiscent of the honourable Maximus, battling from below while having a much higher purpose.

In the sequel, Lucius has been captured from his home far from Rome, and brought there as a prisoner.

He becomes a gladiator, working for Macrinus, played by Denzel Washington, who sponsors fighters much like Oliver Reed’s Proximo did in the first film.

Lucius protects his birthright, saying he doesn’t know where he was born, adding: “I never knew a mother and or father.”

“You will be my instrument,” Macrinus responds.

It appears that the twin emperors now in place – played by Joseph Quinn and Fred Hechinger – are also corrupt. We see them laugh demonically while gladiators die in their mock water battle (which did happen in real life).

Lucius’s mother, Lucilla, played by Connie Nielsen in the original film as well, watches with horror while her son fights beneath her, although we don’t know if she recognises him.

However we see her take him full circle, back to Maximus, by giving him a ring which belonged to the Roman general before he died.

Like the original, the film appears to be about the corruption of power, with worthy, embattled individuals taking on the might of Rome’s rulers.

Lucius favours “strength and honour”, while another Roman general, Marcus Acacius, played by The Last of Us star Pedro Pascal, says: “I will not waste another generation of young men for their vanity,” alongside footage of the emperors.

We don’t yet know enough about Pascal’s character to know where his morals fully lie.

The trailer ends with Mescal and Pascal battling in the arena, with the gladiator looking like he has the advantage, as he holds two swords crossed over the army general’s neck.

Initial responses on X were a mixture of both positive and negative, with some people excited for the sequel, while others said it wouldn’t be as good as the original.

Some fans spotted what looked like sharks in the water battle, with filmmaker Kyle Prohaska saying: “I’m all in on Gladiator II. I’ll go just for some of those insane sequences. Sharks in the arena? A rhino? Denzel? Come on. This is definitely one of those sequels nobody asked for, but this one looks better than most.”

Another post, from a user called @FilmmakerJeff, called the trailer “underwhelming”.

“I hate to report that I’m not a fan of the Gladiator II trailer,” he said.

“Terrible music choice, nothing from it gave me reassurance that it could be even close to as good as the original, and honestly, it looks like it could be pretty good at best. My hype meter dropped a notch.”

There was also disagreement on social media over the soundtrack, which was No Church in the Wild, by Jay-Z and Kanye West.

One user wrote: “In what world does the sequel to Ridley Scott’s Gladiator need Jay-Z and Kanye West? Stop shoehorning songs into trailers.”

Another in favour though, wrote: “That pounding hip-hop really works on the Gladiator 2 trailer. Fits so well to the era.”

Sir Ridley, who made 2023’s epic Oscar and Bafta-nominated film Napoleon, told Deadline last year that he made Gladiator II because “economically, it makes sense…

“I thought the [first] film was, as it were, completely satisfactory, creatively complete, so why muck with it, right?

“But these cycles keep going on and on and on, they repeat globally for the last 20 years. It started to spell itself out as an obvious thing to do, and that’s how it evolved.”

Gladiator II is released in UK cinemas in November.

Gautam Gambhir’s journey from feisty batter to tactical coach

By Ayaz MemonCricket writer

At 42, Gautam Gambhir, is the youngest head coach in the history of the Indian cricket team.

He succeeds Rahul Dravid whose tenure finished with the recently concluded T20 World Cup.

Dravid declined an extension to spend more time with his family. VVS Laxman, his former batting partner, was initially favoured but opted to stay at the National Cricket Academy. This cleared the path for a new face, resulting in an uncontested selection.

Some unexpected developments in the past six-seven months had fast-tracked Gambhir’s candidature.

Last November, he unexpectedly resigned as mentor of IPL franchise Lucknow Super Giants after guiding them to the knockout stages in two previous seasons. Instead, he reunited with his former IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), where he had previously led them to titles in 2012 and 2014 as a captain.

In March, Gambhir, who joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after retiring from cricket in 2018 and was elected MP for East Delhi in the 2019 general election, informed the BJP leadership of his decision to leave politics to fully dedicate himself to cricket once again.

However, his credentials to be head coach of the national team received tepid attention until KKR hit a purple patch winning several matches on the trot and turned the focus on him.

The process of selecting a chief coach is complex.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announces a call for applications through the media, inviting candidates from India or abroad who meet specific eligibility criteria (like played 30 Tests or 50 ODIs, under 60 years old).

Applications are reviewed by the Board’s Advisory Committee (CAC). Shortlisted candidates are then invited for one-on-one interviews to present their vision for advancing Indian cricket.

The candidate who puts forward the most impressive strategies and processes is picked for the job.

In Gambhir’s case, the absence of any rival made the task of the CAC a no-brainer.

After the BCCI’s notice seeking applications for the post, stories about some overseas coaches being approached informally (likely self-instigated) began swirling around, but died a quick death.

Unlike in the past, when an overseas coach was sought to counter factionalism, favouritism, and parochialism in Indian cricket, today’s preference is for an Indian coach who better understands the country’s ethos, culture, and psychology.

Former India opener W Raman, who has coached the Indian women’s team, did express interest in taking up the assignment. His CV was impressive, but at 59, he perhaps sensed he didn’t have time on his side to build up a three-year game-plan that would get a buy-in from the BCCI and held back.

Gambhir’s successful mentorship of KKR to an IPL triumph made him the frontrunner. With Dravid’s firm stance during the T20 World Cup that he wouldn’t continue, Gambhir’s appointment became inevitable.

His appointment isn’t without merit though. Beyond his IPL success, he has impressive credentials as an India player. A stylish left-handed batsman, he debuted in 2003 and is one of India’s most accomplished openers with stellar performances across all formats.

For instance, in 2009, against New Zealand in the second Test at Napier, Gambhir batted 436 balls to score an epic 137 that helped India save the match after being forced to follow on. This knock helped India win the series.

Two years earlier, in the final of the inaugural T20 World Cup final against Pakistan, Gambhir was the top scorer with 75. Similarly, in the 2011 ODI World Cup final against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium, he top-scored with 97.

In 2012, after India had lost 0-4 to Australia in a Test series, Gambhir was projected to succeed M S Dhoni as captain, but missed out after Board President vetoed the selectors. Feisty and blunt, Gambhir’s intense, unsmiling demeanour has often led critics to see him as unapproachable.

On his part, Gambhir claims he decries the focus on stars rather than star performances in Indian cricket. He believes the brand value of a few players shouldn’t overshadow the intrinsic betterment of Indian cricket.

The head coach of India is among the most coveted jobs in the sport, guaranteeing, apart from enormous prestige and power, a lip-smacking pay package in excess of $1m per year plus bonuses. But in a cricket-crazy country, this does not come without great burden of responsibility and humongous pressure of expectation, , more so now after the huge successful tenures of his predecessors Rahul Dravid, and before him, Ravi Shastri.

For the next three years, India has a busy calendar – it will participate in the Champions Trophy this year, the World Test Championship next year, the T20 World Cup in 2026 and the ODI World Cup in 2027, along with bilateral assignments.

Gambhir must manage dressing room superstars, oversee generational transitions, and implement changes in mindset, strategies, and skills to maintain and enhance India’s position in cricket.

Being head coach is a prestigious role, but Gambhir has a formidable task ahead.

Cypress Hill make 28-year-old Simpsons joke come true

By Colin PatersonEntertainment correspondent

It was back in 1996 when an episode of The Simpsons featured a joke where Cypress Hill believed they had mistakenly booked the London Symphony Orchestra, whilst under the influence.

On Wednesday night, that joke becomes a reality at the Royal Albert Hall.

After years of fan pressure, the American hip-hop group reached out to the LSO over social media and a deal was struck.

The one-night only performance in London is based around their acclaimed Black Sunday album. It sold more than three million copies in the US and spent a whole year on the UK charts.

The LSO will perform unique orchestral arrangements of the band’s most iconic songs including Insane in the Brain and I Wanna Get High.

Cypress Hill have sold more than 20 million albums worldwide and are one of hip-hop’s biggest acts.

Insane in the brain

I went to meet the band at their rehearsals in central London.

“It’s been something that we’ve talked about for many years since the Simpsons episode first aired,” B-Real (real name Louis Mario Freese) told the BBC.

“So it’s very special for us. And it’s coming off the heels of our 30th anniversary for our Black Sunday album.”

They called the ability to play on London’s most famous stage “one of those checklist moments”.

“We’ve played a lot of historical venues throughout our career and stuff like that, but nothing as prestigious as this.”

In The Simpsons episode, Homerpalooza, Homer is shocked while on a school run that his music tastes are not considered cool.

He then tries to impress the kids by going to the Hullabalooza music festival – a play on the Lollapalooza music festival held in Chicago – and hanging out with rap and rock stars including Cypress Hill and The Smashing Pumpkins.

The British connection goes beyond the LSO. In the episode, it was actually Peter Frampton, best known for his 1976 album Frampton Comes Alive, who was the guy trying to book the orchestra.

Cypress Hill laughed when I asked if he was on the guestlist.

“Yes, actually, we’ve been trying to invite him,” B-Real said.

“We’ve never met him before, but we thought it would be a kick to invite the legendary Peter Frampton.”

They’re still waiting for a reply.

LSO first violin and board vice-chair Maxine Kwok said “people are beyond excited at the idea of these diverse musicians mixing on the stage”.

“Being a child of the nineties I remember the episode well,” she told the BBC, sharing that it was a cultural reference and “running joke” for years each time the episode was repeated.

At rehearsals there have been cultural differences, leading to misunderstandings.

When the word “glock” was used, the LSO took it to mean the percussion instrument the glockenspeil. To Cypress Hill, glock will always be a gun.

The Simpsons predictions

This isn’t the first time an event in The Simpsons has accurately predicted what has happened in reality many years in the future.

  • In a March 2000 episode, Bart is shown a vision of the future in which his sister Lisa becomes US president and declares: “We’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump.” This was a full 16 years before Donald Trump became president.
  • Springfield had their own equivalent of the Las Vegas magicians Siegfried and Roy, a duo called Gunter and Ernst. Their first appearance in 1993 saw them being attacked by their own white tiger, which was part of their act. Exactly a decade later, during a show at the Mirage casino, Roy Horn survived an attack by one of their white tigers.
  • Winter Olympics Curling was the subject of a 2010 storyline, with Homer and Marge being selected for the US team. They triumphed over Sweden in the final. Eight years later, in South Korea, the US would win their first ever Winter Olympic Curling gold, beating none other than Sweden in the final.

Whether the show writers can predict the future or not….

For Cypress Hill, at least, they feel tonight’s show has been their destiny.

Later in their career, the act said they became more experimental “combining hip-hop with rock or metal or punk or reggae or electronic” and that their new orchestral collaboration is part of who they are as “out-of-the-box artists”.

“We salute The Simpsons because if they had not written that episode, we probably wouldn’t be doing this.”

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John McEnroe praised Novak Djokovic for criticising the Wimbledon crowd, saying the Serb had been disrespected in his career at least 100 times.

The tennis legend said Djokovic’s ability to deal with the “worst heat” is why he has become the greatest player of all time.

Djokovic spoke out against fans after his Wimbledon fourth-round win, claiming they used the bellowing of his opponent Holger Rune’s surname as “an excuse to boo”.

The 24-time Grand Slam champion insisted the noise – fans elongating the first vowel in Rune’s surname – was designed to wind him up.

McEnroe, who won seven singles majors, agreed with the 37-year-old Serb.

Asked by presenter Clare Balding on BBC TV about what he would say to Djokovic, the 65-year-old American said it would be: “Well done.”

McEnroe added: “Don’t you think there’s been at least 100 matches over the course of the last 10-15 years that Djokovic has been disrespected because of how good he is?

“What has he done that’s so bad? Name something. What is it, he wants it? He competes as hard as anyone who’s ever competed? Is it the look, where he’s from?

“He’s like the Darth Vader compared to two of the classiest acts we’ve seen play tennis – Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

“Who can compare to them in terms of what they brought to the table? Nobody – and then this guy Djokovic spoils the party.

“So then how about respecting him after all this?

“He’s by far the guy who’s taken the worst heat and that’s why I would say he’s the greatest that’s ever played.”

Djokovic wore a mask of the Darth Vader character, a villain from the Star Wars sci-fi films, for his walk-on to a match in 2012, recalling in 2022 how “that was myself in the crazy, young days”.

‘Djokovic thrives off the energy of confrontation’

For anyone intending to make Djokovic angry, there can be consequences. In fact, he might very well want you to do that.

Winding up the seven-time Wimbledon champion, as some Centre Court fans did by accident or design on Monday, seems to further fuel his insatiable desire for success.

“If there were people in the crowd trying to antagonise him and wanted Rune to win – that’s the worst thing you can do,” former Wimbledon semi-finalist Tim Henman told BBC Sport.

“He loves the confrontation. He thrives off that energy. And he plays better.

“He destroyed Rune.

“If you want to try and upset Djokovic’s performance you should just sit quietly.”

On Wednesday, Djokovic returns to the same evening slot on Centre Court for his quarter-final against Australia’s Alex de Minaur.

Henman thinks the crowd’s reaction towards Djokovic will be “great” and believes Monday night’s drama will not have any bearing on the atmosphere.

“At 37 years of age, and with what Djokovic has achieved, I love that passion and hunger and desire to win. It’s brilliant,” said the former British number one.

Over the years, we have often seen Djokovic feeding off negative energy to produce some of his finest tennis.

Being a rebel with a cause is how many believe he likes it.

“I think he wants to hear the boos – that makes him play better,” said former Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis.

“If I were to play him I would just give him compliments at the change of ends. I wouldn’t want to annoy that guy, that’s for sure.”

Nenad Zimonjic, who has been described by Djokovic as an “older brother”, presented a slightly different view.

Former Wimbledon doubles champion Zimonjic spent time as a Davis Cup team-mate of Djokovic and was also part of his coaching team earlier this year.

“I think he prefers when the crowd is for him,” the 48-year-old Serb told BBC Sport.

“But he finds a way to use it the other way round as well.”

Why doesn’t Djokovic always feel the love?

Despite being the second most successful man in the Open era at the All England Club, Djokovic’s relationship with the British crowd has blown hot and cold.

That is largely because of the popularity of the player he is trying to match on eight titles: Federer.

In the epic 2019 final when Djokovic beat Federer, the Serb had the majority of the crowd against him in an atmosphere which felt almost tribal.

Afterwards, Djokovic’s former coach Boris Becker said there should have been more respect shown by the partisan crowd.

Two years ago, Djokovic was booed on Centre Court after he blew a kiss to fans following his semi-final win over Briton Cameron Norrie.

“The reality is, in Djokovic’s world, the comparison is Federer,” added Henman.

“Federer is one of the most popular athletes in the whole of sport and I think Djokovic has always craved that same level of attention.

“You can debate whether that will ever happen – it probably won’t.”

Djokovic has often tried going on the charm offensive.

The gesture of triumphantly throwing his heart to all corners of the court was designed to help Djokovic draw out the crowd’s love.

Post-match interviews featuring witty, charismatic and respectful answers demonstrate the engaging side of his personality.

Occasionally, as we saw on Monday, he is still tipped over the edge by what he says is disrespect.

“I think for somebody who has been as successful as he is, he’s still very confused as to why he doesn’t get the love of the people the way that Federer and Nadal did,” added former British number one Annabel Croft on BBC Radio 5 Live.

Kyiv hospital boss describes ‘real hell’ of missile attack

By Jaroslav LukivBBC News

The director of Ukraine’s largest children’s hospital, hit on Monday by a deadly missile strike blamed on Russia, has said the attack was “real hell”.

“Children and adults screamed in fear, wounded from pain” in Kyiv’s Ohmadyt hospital, Volodymyr Zhovnir told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

He said more than 1,200 patients and personnel were in the hospital at the time and three heart surgeries were being carried out. Two adults were killed and more than 300 people injured, including children, he added.

On Tuesday, Ukraine published photos of what it said were recovered fragments of a Russian cruise missile that hit the hospital in the capital.

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.

The attack was globally condemned, with US President Joe Biden saying it was a “horrific reminder of Russia’s brutality”.

Mr Biden, who is hosting a Nato summit in Washington on Tuesday, also vowed to strengthen Kyiv’s air defences.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is attending the summit, said: “We are fighting for more air defence systems for Ukraine… We are fighting for more planes.”

At least 46 people – including 33 in Kyiv – were killed across Ukraine in a wave of Russian missile and drone strikes on Monday, local officials said.

Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko declared 9 July as a day of mourning in the city.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Ukraine children’s hospital: BBC Verify looks at evidence linking Russia to strike

‘Beginning of two legends’: Photos of Messi and baby Lamine Yamal resurface

By George WrightBBC News

In 2007, a young Lionel Messi posed for photos with a baby in the dressing room of the Camp Nou in Barcelona for a charity calendar photoshoot.

Messi, who was 20, was already making a name for himself and would go on the become arguably the greatest of all time.

But little did the photographer know that the baby would also make waves in international football less than 17 years later.

Messi was bathing Lamine Yamal – the 16-year-old who is taking the European Championships by storm.

His goal against France in the semi-final on Tuesday is one that will be talked about for decades.

At 16 years and 362 days, the strike also made him the youngest man to score in the tournament’s history.

The long-forgotten photo of Messi and Yamal resurfaced after Yamal’s father posted it on Instagram last week with the text: “The beginning of two legends.”

The photos were taken by Joan Monfort, who works as a freelance photographer for the Associated Press.

The shoot came about after Unicef did a raffle in the town of Mataró where Lamine’s family lived, he said.

“They signed up for the raffle to have their picture taken at the Camp Nou with a Barça player. And they won the raffle,” Mr Monfort told the Associated Press.

The assignment wasn’t a straightforward one, the photographer said.

“Messi is a pretty introverted guy, he’s shy,” he said.

“He was coming out of the locker room and suddenly he finds himself in another locker room with a plastic tub full of water and a baby in it. It was complicated. He didn’t even know how to hold him at first.”

Like Messi, Yamal went on to play for Barcelona, where he became the club’s youngest ever starter and goalscorer, as well as the youngest scorer in the Spanish league.

Mr Monfort said it was only when the photo started going viral online last week that he realised that the baby was Yamal.

“It’s very exciting to be associated with something that has caused such a sensation,” he said.

“To tell you the truth it’s a very nice feeling.”

‘Dad tried to kill us’: The fire that devastated Australia

By Hannah RitchieBBC News, Sydney

The night comes back in fragments: the sound of exploding glass, the frantic call made to police, the tiny shivering bodies emerging from the flames.

Eve’s hand shakes as she pieces it together. She is sitting in her living room in Western Sydney, the burnt-out blackened shell of her neighbour’s house – now a crime scene splashed across Australia’s national news – visible through the blinds.

What happened on this quiet street in the early hours of Sunday morning is hard to reconcile.

A fire that would leave three children dead – including a 5-month-old baby girl – and four more hospitalised alongside their mother.

And a stunning allegation: that this horror – so evident in the wreckage left behind and on the faces of those who witnessed it – was inflicted on these children by their father, who then blocked their attempts to flee.

New South Wales Police are treating the Lalor Park house fire as a domestic violence-related multiple homicide, and the state’s premiere has said the 28-year-old father of seven could face “the most serious charges on offer”.

The case, which has sparked mass outrage, comes while Australia is already in the grips of a self-declared “national crisis” of domestic and family violence – a child is dying at the hands of a parent almost once a fortnight, according to research.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has offered a flurry of reforms and funding to stop the scourge.

But he conceded on Tuesday – in response to a string of alleged killings this week – that the country “has a long way to go” to turn the tide: “Again, we have seen lives stolen, futures torn away. Every death is its own universe of devastation.”

A ‘deep wound’

Eve – who has asked to have her name changed due to safety concerns – still can’t come to terms with what happened.

“We feel ashamed, we didn’t know there was a baby inside”, she told the BBC, erupting in tears as she begins offering a timeline of the fire.

Somehow, she “blames herself” for the deaths of the children across the road because she didn’t notice the inferno sooner, didn’t call emergency services fast enough.

And yet, her actions were both brave and consequential.

She and her husband were alerted to the violence unfolding by another neighbour, Jarrod Hawkins, who came to their home looking for reinforcements.

Mr Hawkins said he had been woken by a “loud pop” shortly before 01:00 local time (15:00 GMT). Worried his car might be being broken into, he went outside, and immediately saw the flames.

He says he ran across the road without pausing to think and tried to beat the door down.

In the moments that followed Mr Hawkins would crawl into the house repeatedly to pull out three children – two young boys aged four and seven, and a girl aged nine.

An 11-year-old would eventually be rescued by police, along with two boys aged two and six found in a critical condition, who died a short time later in hospital.

Mr Hawkins then woke up Eve and her family who phoned the authorities.

Soon, Eve’s husband was on their neighbour’s lawn, trying to put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher. Eve helped usher some of the children from the scene – doing her best to calm them and keep them warm as they adjusted to the freezing air outside.

She remembers one of the boys saying blankly at one point: “He tried to kill me”.

Another rescuer would later tell a local paper they heard a similar remark from several of the tiny survivors: “Dad tried to kill us”.

But it was an innocent exchange Eve shared with the four-year-old who escaped, as he looked back at the charred remains of his home, that stays with her.

“He just kept asking whether his toys would be safe inside.”

As emergency services started to take control of the scene, Eve took her cue to leave.

One of the final things she witnessed was “police carrying the Dad out, who was in his underwear”. She would soon learn that the 5-month-old girl had died before rescuers could attempt to revive her.

Speaking to media later Sunday morning, Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty alleged the children’s father had tried to stop “police, responders and neighbours” from entering the burning house, “with the intention of keeping the kids inside”.

“At this stage it does appear the 28-year-old is responsible for multiple deaths of young lives that have been tragically taken away,” Det Supt Doherty added.

Now, a makeshift memorial lies on Freeman Street. The colourful flowers and cards offering messages of support stand in stark contrast to the police tape and forensics tent.

Members of the community have described the children as “lively”, “outgoing” and “polite”.

“They were known to a lot of people – those kids were unreal, great manners… full of energy, just typical kids,” Mr Hawkins had earlier told ABC News.

“They were happy,” another neighbour says simply. As masked investigators sift through their house, an elderly resident watches on. Choked by tears, he literally can’t speak about his memories of the family.

Premier Chris Minns has called the tragedy a “deep wound” that will be widely felt.

“These children deserved a loving home with safety and security – instead, they’re gone,” he added, promising that those who remain would get the support they needed.

‘Determined to end this violence’

It is hard to say where Australia sits internationally on the issue, but filicide – when a parent intentionally kills their child – is the second most common form of domestic homicide in the country.

In most cases, the families have a history of child abuse, intimate partner violence, or both, says a recent study by the national research organisation for women’s safety.

State and federal governments have begun investing in prevention – which means examining the social drivers of violence – early intervention, bolstering crisis response networks, and supporting families as they recover. And Australia’s latest budget set aside A$1 bn (£526m; $673m) to assist with those aims.

“My government is determined to end this violence. Together, we can make this change. We must,” Mr Albanese said on Tuesday, flagging a previous commitment to build 720 emergency safe houses by 2027 to accommodate women and children fleeing abuse.

Critics though, have described the measure as a “drop in a very large ocean of need” – saying the money being spent doesn’t match the scale of the crisis.

“[This] will accommodate at most a mere 3% of women and children seeking housing. Moreover, waiting three years for these facilities to be built is cold comfort to women and children being killed by family and domestic violence now,” Larissa Waters, the Senate leader for the Australian Greens said.

The four children and their mother who survived the unimaginable events at Lalor Park are in a stable condition, while their father remains in an induced coma, under police guard.

On Tuesday, authorities closed off the street so that the 29-year-old woman could be given a few quiet moments to grieve in private – as she took in the sight of her now unrecognisable home.

Dressed in black, with a hospital band visible on her wrist, she picked up cards and floral tributes, as loved ones held her close.

Russia promises release of Indians fighting in its army

By Meryl SebastianBBC News, Kochi

Russia has promised an early release of all Indian citizens fighting in its army, India’s foreign ministry has said.

The announcement came at the end of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Moscow, during which he raised the issue with President Vladimir Putin.

Delhi has been seeking the release of Indians, who say they were lured to Russia on the promise of non-combat jobs in the army, but were later forced into active combat in Ukraine.

At least four Indians have been killed in the fighting.

On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said at a press briefing that Mr Modi had “strongly raised the issue of early discharge” of Indians who had been “misled into the service of the Russian army”.

“The Russian side promised early discharge of all Indian nationals from the service of the Russian army,” he added.

Mr Kwatra said there were about 35-50 Indians in the Russian forces, of whom 10 had already been brought home. The two countries would now work to bring back the remaining men, he added.

Indians stuck in Russia said they were duped by agents with the lure of money and a Russian passport.

Most of these men were from poor families who were promised jobs, sometimes as “helpers” in the Russian army.

  • The Indian men traumatised by fighting for Russia
  • India busts network trafficking people to Russia

Families of the men had appealed to the Indian government for help in bringing them back home.

India’s foreign ministry had called this a “matter of deep concern” and said it was “pressing very hard with the Russian authorities” to bring back its citizens.

Earlier this year, the ministry urged “all Indian nationals to exercise due caution and stay away from this conflict”.

In March, Indian authorities said they busted a network of agents sending people to fight for Russia under the pretext of giving them jobs.

Mr Modi took up the issue with Mr Putin on Tuesday during his two-day visit to Russia, his first since 2019.

A joint release by India and Russia after their talks said the two sides had set out nine key areas for closer co-operation, including nuclear energy and medicine.

The leaders also said they would aim to boost bilateral trade by more than half to hit $100bn (about £78bn) by 2030.

South Korea politician blames women for rising male suicides

By Jean MackenzieSeoul correspondent

A politician in South Korea is being criticised for making dangerous and unsubstantiated comments after linking a rise in male suicides to the increasingly “dominant” role of women in society.

In a report, Seoul City councillor Kim Ki-duck argued women’s increased participation in the workforce over the years had made it harder for men to get jobs and to find women who wanted to marry them.

He said the country had recently “begun to change into a female-dominant society” and that this might “partly be responsible for an increase in male suicide attempts”.

South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates among the world’s rich countries but also has one of the worst records on gender equality.

Councillor Kim’s comments have been criticised as the latest in a series of out-of-touch remarks made by male politicians.

Councillor Kim, from the Democratic Party, arrived at his assessment when analysing data on the number of suicide attempts made at bridges along Seoul’s Han river.

The report, published on the city council’s official website, showed that the number of suicide attempts along the river had risen from 430 in 2018 to 1,035 in 2023, and of those trying to take their lives the proportion who were men had climbed from 67% to 77%.

Suicide prevention experts have expressed concern over Mr Kim’s report.

“It is dangerous and unwise to make claims like this without sufficient evidence,” Song In Han, a mental health professor at Seoul’s Yonsei University, told the BBC.

He pointed out that globally more men took their lives than women. In many countries, including the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.

Even so, Prof Song said the reasons behind the sharp rise in men attempting suicide in Seoul needed to be scientifically studied, adding it was “very regrettable” that the councillor had made it about gender conflict.

In South Korea there is a substantial gulf between the number of men and women in full-time employment, with women disproportionately working temporary or part-time jobs. The gender pay gap is slowly narrowing, but still women are paid on average 29% less than men.

In recent years an anti-feminist movement has surged, led by disillusioned young men, who argue they have been disadvantaged by attempts to improve women’s lives.

Appearing to echo such views, Councillor Kim’s report concluded that the way to overcome “the female-domination phenomenon” was to improve people’s awareness of gender equality so that “men and women can enjoy equal opportunities”.

Koreans took to the social media platform X to denounce the councillor’s remarks as “unsubstantiated” and “misogynistic”, with one user questioning whether they were living in a parallel universe.

The Justice Party accused the councillor of “easily shifting the blame to women in Korean society who are struggling to escape gender discrimination”. It has called on him to retract his remarks and instead “properly analyse” the causes of the problem.

When approached for comment by the BBC, Councillor Kim said he had “not intended to be critical of the female-dominated society”, and was merely giving his personal view about some of its consequences.

However, his comments follow a number of unscientific and sometimes bizarre political proposals aimed at tackling some of South Korea’s most pressing social issues, including mental illness, gender violence and the lowest birth rate in the world.

Last month, another Seoul councillor in his 60s published a series of articles on the authority’s website encouraging young women to take up gymnastics and practise pelvic floor exercises in order to raise the birth rate.

At the same time, a government think tank recommended that girls start school earlier than boys, so that classmates would be more attracted to each other by the time they were ready to marry.

“Such comments encapsulate just how pervasive misogyny is in South Korea,” said Yuri Kim, director of the Korean Women’s Trade Union. She accused politicians and policymakers of not even trying to understand the challenges women faced, preferring to scapegoat them instead.

“Blaming women for entering the workforce will only prolong the imbalances in our society,” she told the BBC.

Currently women account for 20% of South Korea’s members of parliament, and 29% of all local councillors.

Seoul City Council told the BBC there was no process in place to vet what politicians published on its official website unless the content was illegal. It said individuals were solely responsible for their content and would face any consequences at the next election.

If you, or someone you know, have been affected by issues in this article, the following resources may help:

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First peek of room behind Buckingham Palace’s famous balcony

By Sean CoughlanRoyal correspondent

Instead of that famous view looking up at the Buckingham Palace balcony, visitors for the first time will be able to look down from the inside.

After five years of renovations, the east wing of the palace has been carefully restored and on a trial basis is open to paying customers from next week.

But they won’t be able to step out on to the balcony itself – and when you visit you can see why.

It’s surprisingly narrow and the railings are below waist height, in a way that would send any health and safety officers into a royal panic.

But looking through the windows – and what royal author Robert Hardman has called “the most famous net curtains in the world” – you can see the view from the perspective of the King and Queen, Prince William and Catherine.

What’s surprising from this vantage point is how clearly you can see the crowds of tourists below, you can really see people’s faces.

There’s also the curiosity of the change of perspective – looking out across the pink gravel of the courtyard and towards the Mall, rather than the usual view from outside the gates looking in.

To get to the balcony the royals go through the Centre Room, elaborately decorated in a Chinese style, and now open to the public for the first time since this wing was built 175 years ago.

A huge lamp fitting hangs down, decorated in the style of a lily, and the walls are covered in Chinese-themed art.

The royal world loves its acronyms. So Buckingham Palace is “BP” and Kensington Palace is “KP” – but this enthusiasm for Chinese and oriental art is connected to another BP.

That’s the Brighton Pavilion, because building the east wing of Buckingham Palace was funded by Queen Victoria selling off the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

That seaside retreat was a fusion of Asian styles and racy regency fashions and, always keen on recycling, the 19th Century royals removed the Chinese and Japanese-themed furniture and art and put it into Buckingham Palace.

That included the fixtures and fittings, such as doors, gilded curtain poles and a fireplace, as well as ornamental porcelain pagodas.

The introduction of tours to this previously private section of the palace is part of a broader ambition to make royal residences more open to the public.

The east wing, getting its first tourists, is the main facade of the palace, where tourists gather outside to watch Changing of the Guard – it’s the view you see on the postcards.

It’s not cheap to look round, costing £75, but has already completely sold out for this year. And this summer’s inaugural visitors will be in guided groups of 20, separate to the existing more general tour of the palace’s state rooms.

In this more intimate version of the tour, none of the items on show are roped off from visitors. The furniture doesn’t have ‘keep off’ signs.

It makes it feel more like a living building rather than a museum, but there’s no escaping the gradual gift-shopification of the palace.

It’s a mix of an historic setting for grand events, an office block and a tourist attraction, but at the moment it still seems a way off from being where any of the royals are likely to live.

Visiting royals don’t stay here either any more. During their recent state visit the Emperor and Empress of Japan stayed in Claridge’s Hotel.

There is an ongoing £369m project to renovate the palace complex, not just the gilded surfaces, but the basics of the plumbing and wiring on what is a huge set of ageing buildings. Once you step away from the glitzy state rooms you never seem far from scaffolding and repair works.

Renovating the east wing alone meant removing and conserving 3,500 separate items, including historic furniture and works of art. And the tour only includes only a relatively small part of that wing.

But the sell-out tours show the public demand and while there will be art lovers among the visitors, people will also be coming to see for themselves something they might have watched on television or imagined through the Crown.

They can stand in the elegant Yellow Drawing room, used for many audiences and the setting of a Christmas broadcast by the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Or visitors can look out the window at the quadrangle below, where Sir Keir Starmer pulled up last week when he went to meet the King after winning the general election.

There’s plenty of royal bling on show in the long corridors, but it’s the sense of seeing behind the scenes in the palace that will draw people.

And when they look out through the long balcony windows, they might resist the temptation to give a little wave.

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Blackpink’s Jennie ‘regrets’ vaping indoors

By Fan WangBBC News, Singapore

Blackpink star Jennie has apologised after a video that showed her vaping indoors sparked a huge outcry in South Korea.

The K-pop star exhaled a puff of smoke – and triggered a barrage of criticism because it blew into the face of her make-up artist.

“Do you need to be educated for all the basic manners?” a popular comment on YouTube reads.

Her label OA Entertainment has apologised to “everyone who felt uncomfortable with Jennie’s actions”, and to her “disappointed” fans. The star has also apologised to staff “who may have been affected”, the label said.

“Jennie acknowledges and deeply regrets her mistake of vaping indoors and causing inconvenience to the staff,” it added.

South Korean celebrities are no strangers to the intense scrutiny. The country holds them to rigid moral and behavioural standards and no misstep goes unnoticed.

The now-deleted moment was part of a video posted on Jennie’s official YouTube channel. It quickly spread through the 10 million-plus subscribers and beyond.

“It’s not about smoking. Blowing smoke in the face of the staff indoors – it’s just rude,” a top YouTube comment on a media outlet’s channel reads.

Another one says: “Even smokers know that you don’t puff on your friends’ face. You only do it when you really don’t care about the people around you.”

Smoking and vaping indoors is banned in South Korea and is punishable by a fine of up to ₩100,000 ($72; £56).

In this case, however, Jennie – whose full name is Jennie Kim – might not have been vaping in South Korea. Some accounts suggest the video was filmed in Italy, which bans vaping in enclosed public spaces. But Jennie’s agency has not clarified where she was at the time.

And yet, one furious South Korean has demanded an investigation from their country’s embassy in Italy and Seoul’s ministry of foreign affairs.

Jennie is not the first South Korean celebrity to face a backlash over smoking.

Doh Kyung-soo, vocalist for the popular K-pop boy band EXO and Haechan, a singer in the band NCT, drew a lot of flak when they were caught smoking indoors. They were fined and they apologised to the public.

Jennie’s international fans have been more forgiving: “Please don’t listen [to] anyone. You are queen and we will support you forever,” a top comment under her most recent Instagram post reads.

“I still love you. We learn from the mistakes we make,” another fan wrote.

Blackpink, formed in 2016, is the world’s biggest K-pop girl group. The four members – Jisoo, Lisa, Jennie and Rosé – have each become celebrities in their own right.

Trial begins for religious sect accused of killing child

By Simon AtkinsonBBC News, Brisbane

Members of an Australian religious group have gone on trial accused of killing an eight-year-old diabetic girl by denying her medical care.

Elizabeth Struhs was found dead at a home in Toowoomba – about 125km (78 miles) west of Brisbane – in January 2022, after she had allegedly gone without insulin for almost a week.

Prosecutors say members of a sect, known as The Saints, prayed that God would cure the child, rather than seeking help as her health deteriorated.

The girl’s parents are among 14 defendants, all of whom have elected to represent themselves in the highly publicised and highly unusual case.

Two men – Elizabeth’s father Jason Struhs, 52, and the religious group’s leader Brendan Stevens, 62 – have been charged with murder, with prosecutors saying they encouraged or instructed the other members of the group.

The girl’s mother, Kerrie Struhs, 49, brother Zachary Struhs, 21, and ten others – aged 22 to 67 – are accused of manslaughter.

As the trial began at the Brisbane Supreme Court on Wednesday, the group filed in one by one, to take their allocated positions in a courtroom specifically modified to fit them all.

The dock, where defendants usually sit in a criminal trial, was too small. So the men, dressed in prison khakis, and the women, in blue uniforms, sat at two long tables.

The group have refused lawyers, and all have refused to enter pleas on the charges. Formally, the court considers that a plea of not guilty.

Due to the complexity and notoriety of the case, the trial will be heard by a judge only – no jury – and is expected to last for around three months.

When opening her case, prosecutor Caroline Marco said Elizabeth had been an “intelligent, spiritual child”.

“But [she was] too young to understand the dire consequences of her parents’ decision to withdraw insulin for her… which she ultimately paid for with her own life.”

Sleep could be boosted by saving small amounts

By Kevin PeacheyCost of living correspondent

Saving money regularly can help improve sleep, a new report suggests.

Putting a monthly amount aside, however small the sum, also helped people to relax and be more optimistic about the future, the study by academics at Bristol University found.

Regular savers on low incomes have similar life satisfaction levels as richer non-savers, they said.

A quarter of UK adults have savings of less than £100, surveys have suggested.

Saving money has been tough in recent years, owing to sharply rising bills and food prices – even though the interest paid by banks and building societies has improved.

An estimated six in 10 people have a savings habit, and charities argue that setting money aside – even when on a small income – improves financial resilience.

Now the report by Bristol University’s Personal Finance Research Centre has suggested regular saving leads to improved life satisfaction, even if only a small amount is set aside.

The report suggested this was the result of being less anxious about money, less likely to experience problem debt, or being better able to cope with unexpected events.

The picture is relatively complex, with other factors at play including whether savings had already been built up, and changing circumstances for different age groups.

Researchers considered various studies, including one tracking the savings of thousands of people over a 10-year period.

They suggested an improvement in life satisfaction from saving, but also a detriment when not saving.

However, other life events had a bigger impact. For example, moving home or getting married improved mental wellbeing to a greater extent. Losing a job or having children created a relatively larger mental wellbeing deficit.

Returns expected to fall

Interest rates paid by savings providers have improved during a period of higher interest rates.

At present, the average easy-access account pays interest of 3.12%, according to the financial information service Moneyfacts. Locking money away for a year carries an average return of 4.65%.

However, returns are expected to become less generous when the Bank of England reduces benchmark interest rates. A first drop could come in August.

Andrew Gall, head of savings at the Building Societies Association, which funded the research, said: “While we appreciate that some people simply won’t be in a position to save right now, these report findings show why everyone should be encouraged to save a little, if they can, when they can.”

The report said providers should make savings accounts simple, flexible and use incentives to get customers to save.

What are my savings options?

  • As a saver, you can shop around for the best account for you
  • Loyalty often doesn’t pay, because old savings accounts have among the worst interest rates
  • Savings products are offered by a range of providers, not just the big banks. The best deal is not the same for everyone – it depends on your circumstances
  • Higher interest rates are offered if you lock your money away for longer, but that will not suit everyone’s lifestyle
  • Charities say it is important to try to keep some savings, however tight your budget, to help cover any unexpected costs

There is a guide to different savings accounts, and what to think about on the government-backed, independent MoneyHelper website.

  • What are interest rates? A quick guide
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As he prepares for England’s Euro 2024 semi-final with the Netherlands in Dortmund, manager Gareth Southgate faces the days that will define his legacy.

He has experienced a wide range of emotions in Germany. From hostility and beer thrown at him following their draw with Slovenia in Cologne, to dancing in front of jubilant fans after the quarter-final win on penalties against Switzerland in Dusseldorf.

There is a growing belief Southgate’s eight years in charge will come to an end after Euro 2024, whether that is following Wednesday’s meeting with the Dutch or a final against Spain in Berlin on Sunday.

England’s performances have been indifferent, but a mix of steely resilience and individual brilliance has placed them in the last four with the tantalising prospect of two contrasting conclusions to the tournament, and perhaps to Southgate’s tenure.

If England lift the trophy at the Olympiastadion on Sunday, Southgate will go down in history, after 1966 World Cup winner Sir Alf Ramsey, as only the second manager to lead the men’s team to success at a major tournament.

If his side go out to the Dutch, Southgate will be the manager who consistently led his team into what had been alien territory for so long, namely the latter stages of major tournaments, but could not quite get them over the line for the ultimate triumph.

England victories against the Netherlands and Spain would deliver Southgate’s definitive answer to questions about his tactics and perceived conservative approach, which have shrouded his eight years despite an unprecedented record of leading them to three semi-finals and a final – the Wembley loss on penalties to Italy at Euro 2020.

The caveat to all this is England have failed to clear the final hurdle, which is why so much rests on events at Westfalenstadion on Wednesday.

Southgate has suffered at times in Germany, his voice faltering and hesitant when asked by BBC 5 Live Sport whether he was hurt by the criticism after the Slovenia encounter.

He visibly bristled when questioned about whether England had landed in the more favourable half of the draw, labelling it “a classic example of the entitlement we have as a nation that creates drama and annoys our opponents”.

He has not lost his composure publicly, but there has been an edge and angst to Southgate that has not been present at other tournaments. It is clear the criticism has wounded him.

“This is a job where you get ridiculed and your professional capability is questioned beyond belief,” he said. “I don’t think it’s normal to have beer thrown at you either, but my life’s taken me through a lot of resilience and it’s made me more determined. I’m just using it as fuel.”

England did, after all, win Group C almost in spite of themselves. The small number of people hurling beer behaved unacceptably and lacked in the respect Southgate is due.

His delight at flipping the angry reaction on its head with the win against Switzerland was made plain by his impromptu jig in front of fans who had turned on England and the manager during and after their group-game draws against Denmark and Slovenia.

Southgate also complained about the media – purely doing its job to inform and not in attendance at Euro 2024 as cheerleaders – for revealing changes in formation before the Switzerland game, referring “our own media leaking tactical information two hours after we’ve walked off the training pitch”.

This, more than anything, hints at an England camp that had not been as tight as at previous tournaments and appeared, at times, to be flat, in the early part of Euro 2024 at least.

For all that, the Three Lions are in the semi-final with a chance for Southgate and his players to write a glorious new chapter in their sporting history.

He cut a relaxed figure in his media briefing at Westfalenstadion, suggesting there was a different mood and drive around the squad as they have progressed through Euro 2024.

Southgate said: “One of our strengths over the years has been having less fear, showing less inhibition but, at the beginning of the tournament, the expectation weighed heavily and the noise from outside had never been louder. We couldn’t quite get ourselves in the right place.

“Now it’s about what is possible and not what might go wrong. This is now the chance to make history. We are trying to break new ground and that is not easy but the players have been resilient.”

The manager has had praise for his work too, as former England striker Chris Sutton told BBC 5 Live Sport after they reached the last four: “Gareth Southgate has proved a hell of a lot of people wrong at this tournament. I’m delighted for him. Gareth talked about beer being thrown at him in certain games and what have you… that is not the way to treat an England manager.

“You think about his record as England manager. Out of the last four tournaments, three semi-finals and a quarter-final, with a final in there as well. You have people saying he’s not an inventive manager and he’s a poor manager, he’s done it again. Gareth South-great.”

England face an old adversary in Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman, who played in their 3-1 win over Sir Bobby Robson’s side in the 1988 European Championship in Dusseldorf, but was also an infamous figure for his part in a World Cup qualifier between the sides in October 1993.

Koeman dragged David Platt back when he was clean through with the scoreline goalless, escaped with only a yellow card, then scored a free-kick five minutes later as England – needing just a point to qualify for the 1994 finals – went down to a damaging 2-0 defeat. He had finished his international career before England’s stunning 4-1 Wembley win at Euro ’96.

In his second spell in charge, Koeman has led the Netherlands into the semi-final and looking increasingly confident and dangerous, having recovered from a 3-2 loss to Austria in the group stage. They will present a stern examination.

But England and Southgate find themselves two games from history.

And the history books would simply record England’s achievement – not how they played to write that new chapter.

It will either end with Euro 2024 glory or another bitter disappointment of Southgate and his team falling short once more. This much goes on the line in Dortmund.

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The Netherlands have really impressed me with their adaptability at Euro 2024, but the way they attack could give England some new opportunities in Wednesday’s semi-final.

I’ve co-commentated on two of their games so far – the 3-2 defeat by Austria in the group stage, and the 2-1 win over Turkey in the quarter-finals.

The Dutch had good and bad spells in both games, and are far from flawless, but they were able to react each time when things went wrong and that has kind of been the story of their tournament, whoever they have faced.

In terms of how they set up, the first thing I’d say about Ronald Koeman’s side is they are not as high-energy or the kind of high-pressing, front-foot type of team you might expect.

So they will not come after England and try to press them high up the pitch – but when they have got the ball, they will throw numbers forward.

That is not something we have seen very often from the five teams that Gareth Southgate’s side have faced so far in Germany, and it is definitely something England can take advantage of.

Dumfries flies forward down the right

Most of the time, the Dutch are set up a little bit lopsided because their right-back, Denzel Dumfries, pushes so high up the pitch as often as he can.

Steven Bergwijn, who has started on that side in the past couple of games, has been drifting in to get close to Memphis Depay and Xavi Simons, who has really impressed me in the number 10 role.

They will obviously pose a threat with the way they link up but, on the flip side, when Dumfries flies forward it is going to leave some space for England to break into once there is a turnover in possession.

That could leave Stefan de Vrij a little bit isolated and, although he is a very experienced defender, he is not as quick as Virgil van Dijk or Micky van de Ven. There should be some chances to expose him.

Are Dutch duo defensive-minded?

The other area where I think England can get some joy in Dortmund is in central midfield.

England have got a lot of players who like to pop up in the pockets in front of the opposition defence – Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden, for example – no matter which system we use.

The Dutch are without Frenkie de Jong, Teun Koopmeiners and Marten de Roon at these Euros because of injury, so are missing some top quality in those positions.

Jerdy Schouten and Tijjani Reijnders, who play in the middle for the Dutch, are both really elegant technical footballers, but they like to have the ball and I would not describe them as defensive-minded.

They fill in holes and do the job when their team is out of possession but they are not the same type of player as Declan Rice, and it is not their strong point.

In front of them, Simons tends to get forward, so there should be plenty of opportunities to get in and around Schouten and Reijnders, and get at the Dutch defence.

Two unbalanced teams?

There has been a bit of talk that Koeman might change his formation against England and match up to Southgate’s side by playing three at the back.

The way the Dutch have been playing, however, they kind of end up as a three anyway, with Dumfries going so high so early in such an unusual way.

When that happens, Nathan Ake tucks in and then they have got him, Van Dijk and De Vrij as a three, and their system actually ends up looking a lot like the one England used against Switzerland anyway.

Cody Gakpo is a left-winger rather than a left wing-back but he gives them width on that side, like Bukayo Saka did on the right for England against the Swiss because we did not have the same threat on the other side of the pitch.

Both formations are a little unbalanced in that way, with players on each flank asked to do different jobs, and what tends to happen in that scenario is the team which has the better possession highlights the other’s weaknesses more quickly.

I am expecting a similar pattern to unfold this time. One team will take control – probably England if they maintain the same possession levels as in previous matches – and the other will have to adapt to that.

The Dutch will give England different problems

As I said at the start, what I really like about the Netherlands is that when things are not working, Koeman is not afraid to change it.

For example, in the Austria game, he brought Simons on for Joey Veermans after 35 minutes and ended up pushing Lutsharel Geertruida, who was playing at right-back instead of Dumfries, into an inverted midfield role that transformed the momentum of the game, even though they ended losing it late on.

At half-time against Turkey, when the Dutch were trailing 1-0, he basically went from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 formation and put Wout Weghorst up front with Depay. This time, they were the winners.

So, however the Dutch are set up at the start of the game, you can be sure they will give England some different problems depending on what happens during it.

Hopefully England won’t go behind and won’t have to be reactive like that, but there is still likely to be a time in the game when they need to make changes too.

That was definitely the case against Switzerland when, even before the Swiss took the lead, it felt like Southgate needed to freshen things up.

This time, Koeman won’t wait… and neither should he.

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Every so often, a goal is scored at a European Championship that stands the test of time. It is remembered, replayed, and talked about for decades.

Marco van Basten’s angled volley at Euro 1988 is one. Paul Gascoigne’s individual run and finish at Euro 1996 is another, as is Karel Poborsky’s chip at the same tournament.

Lamine Yamal’s history making goal for Spain against France in the semi-finals of Euro 2024 can be added to the list.

With Spain trailing 1-0, Yamal curled a brilliant strike from outside the box into the top corner to send him into the history books.

At 16 years and 362 days he became the youngest man to score in the tournament’s history – and had those watching left in awe.

“A superstar is born,” former England striker Gary Lineker said on BBC One. “It was the moment of the match, possibly the moment of the tournament.”

“Just incredible,” added ex-England striker Alan Shearer. “We’ve been talking about him all tournament and saying what a ridiculously young age it is.

“To do that, it’s just outrageous.”

‘A touch of genius’

The goal, which had fans inside the Allianz Arena and around the world gasping as it was replayed in slow motion, was all the more impressive because of its timing.

This was at 1-0 down in the semi-final of a major tournament. It was a high-pressure moment, but one he handled effortlessly.

At no stage in the build-up to the heavyweight contest did Yamal show signs of nerves.

He was smiling and joking with his team-mates on the pitch in the hours before kick-off, and carried that confidence into his performance.

“We saw a touch of genius,” Spain boss Luis de la Fuente said of Yamal’s goal.

“We all need to take care of him. I would like him to work with the same humility and keep his feet on the ground, to keep learning.

“He looks like a much more experienced player to be honest. I celebrate that he is in our team, that he is Spanish.

“We count on him and hopefully we can enjoy him for years to come.”

Yamal wants to ‘win, win, win and win’ after ‘dream comes true’

Yamal is now making an impact on the international stage, but he had already rewritten the record books in his breakthrough season at Barcelona.

He became the Spanish side’s youngest starter and goalscorer, as well as the youngest scorer in La Liga.

Yamal turns 17 on 13 July – one day before the final of Euro 2024, in which Spain will face either England or the Netherlands.

Giving an insight into his mentality, the teenager said all he wanted to do to celebrate his birthday was “win, win, win and win”.

Whoever Spain face in the final, they would be advised not to provide the youngster with additional motivation, as France perhaps did.

Prior to the game, midfielder Adrien Rabiot said Yamal would need to “show more than he had so far at the tournament”.

At the end of the game, Yamal celebrated by saying to a TV camera: “Speak now, speak now.”

Former England defender Rio Ferdinand said: “It’s almost like Yamal saw Rabiot and his eyes lit up and he said: ‘I’m going to show you.’

“A wonderful finish from a kid so young.”

Yamal emerged for the post-match news conference at 12:15am, when most other 16-year-olds would be fast asleep, and was asked who his comments were directed to.

“The person I am talking about, this person will know who this person is,” he said.

“It is a dream come true to reach a final with the national team.”

Facing the gathered media, Yamal showed the same level of confidence he had on the pitch.

His focus now switches to Sunday’s final in Berlin.

Asked who he would prefer to face, he replied: “I don’t really mind.

“When you reach the final you have to play the best and they are also very equal games.

“We will wait and play whoever it is.”

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John McEnroe praised Novak Djokovic for criticising the Wimbledon crowd, saying the Serb had been disrespected in his career at least 100 times.

The tennis legend said Djokovic’s ability to deal with the “worst heat” is why he has become the greatest player of all time.

Djokovic spoke out against fans after his Wimbledon fourth-round win, claiming they used the bellowing of his opponent Holger Rune’s surname as “an excuse to boo”.

The 24-time Grand Slam champion insisted the noise – fans elongating the first vowel in Rune’s surname – was designed to wind him up.

McEnroe, who won seven singles majors, agreed with the 37-year-old Serb.

Asked by presenter Clare Balding on BBC TV about what he would say to Djokovic, the 65-year-old American said it would be: “Well done.”

McEnroe added: “Don’t you think there’s been at least 100 matches over the course of the last 10-15 years that Djokovic has been disrespected because of how good he is?

“What has he done that’s so bad? Name something. What is it, he wants it? He competes as hard as anyone who’s ever competed? Is it the look, where he’s from?

“He’s like the Darth Vader compared to two of the classiest acts we’ve seen play tennis – Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

“Who can compare to them in terms of what they brought to the table? Nobody – and then this guy Djokovic spoils the party.

“So then how about respecting him after all this?

“He’s by far the guy who’s taken the worst heat and that’s why I would say he’s the greatest that’s ever played.”

Djokovic wore a mask of the Darth Vader character, a villain from the Star Wars sci-fi films, for his walk-on to a match in 2012, recalling in 2022 how “that was myself in the crazy, young days”.

‘Djokovic thrives off the energy of confrontation’

For anyone intending to make Djokovic angry, there can be consequences. In fact, he might very well want you to do that.

Winding up the seven-time Wimbledon champion, as some Centre Court fans did by accident or design on Monday, seems to further fuel his insatiable desire for success.

“If there were people in the crowd trying to antagonise him and wanted Rune to win – that’s the worst thing you can do,” former Wimbledon semi-finalist Tim Henman told BBC Sport.

“He loves the confrontation. He thrives off that energy. And he plays better.

“He destroyed Rune.

“If you want to try and upset Djokovic’s performance you should just sit quietly.”

On Wednesday, Djokovic returns to the same evening slot on Centre Court for his quarter-final against Australia’s Alex de Minaur.

Henman thinks the crowd’s reaction towards Djokovic will be “great” and believes Monday night’s drama will not have any bearing on the atmosphere.

“At 37 years of age, and with what Djokovic has achieved, I love that passion and hunger and desire to win. It’s brilliant,” said the former British number one.

Over the years, we have often seen Djokovic feeding off negative energy to produce some of his finest tennis.

Being a rebel with a cause is how many believe he likes it.

“I think he wants to hear the boos – that makes him play better,” said former Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis.

“If I were to play him I would just give him compliments at the change of ends. I wouldn’t want to annoy that guy, that’s for sure.”

Nenad Zimonjic, who has been described by Djokovic as an “older brother”, presented a slightly different view.

Former Wimbledon doubles champion Zimonjic spent time as a Davis Cup team-mate of Djokovic and was also part of his coaching team earlier this year.

“I think he prefers when the crowd is for him,” the 48-year-old Serb told BBC Sport.

“But he finds a way to use it the other way round as well.”

Why doesn’t Djokovic always feel the love?

Despite being the second most successful man in the Open era at the All England Club, Djokovic’s relationship with the British crowd has blown hot and cold.

That is largely because of the popularity of the player he is trying to match on eight titles: Federer.

In the epic 2019 final when Djokovic beat Federer, the Serb had the majority of the crowd against him in an atmosphere which felt almost tribal.

Afterwards, Djokovic’s former coach Boris Becker said there should have been more respect shown by the partisan crowd.

Two years ago, Djokovic was booed on Centre Court after he blew a kiss to fans following his semi-final win over Briton Cameron Norrie.

“The reality is, in Djokovic’s world, the comparison is Federer,” added Henman.

“Federer is one of the most popular athletes in the whole of sport and I think Djokovic has always craved that same level of attention.

“You can debate whether that will ever happen – it probably won’t.”

Djokovic has often tried going on the charm offensive.

The gesture of triumphantly throwing his heart to all corners of the court was designed to help Djokovic draw out the crowd’s love.

Post-match interviews featuring witty, charismatic and respectful answers demonstrate the engaging side of his personality.

Occasionally, as we saw on Monday, he is still tipped over the edge by what he says is disrespect.

“I think for somebody who has been as successful as he is, he’s still very confused as to why he doesn’t get the love of the people the way that Federer and Nadal did,” added former British number one Annabel Croft on BBC Radio 5 Live.

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