The Guardian 2024-07-11 08:13:32


Stoltenberg said that Ukraine’s membership to Nato is not a “question of if, but when.”

“As Ukraine continues its vital reforms, we will continue to support them on the irreversible path to Nato membership. The work we are doing together now will ensure that when the time is right, Ukraine can join without delay. It is not a question of if, but when,” he said.

“In this dangerous world, friends and partners are more important than ever,” he added.

First F-16 jets heading to Ukraine after months of training and negotiations

Dutch and Danish leaders say Ukraine will be ‘flying operational F-16s this summer’ as Kyiv seeks battlefield wins

  • Nato summit – live updates

The first F-16 fighter jets are on their way to Ukraine and will be flying sorties this summer, according to a statement from the Dutch and Danish governments that was released by the White House at the Nato summit.

Dick Schoof, the prime minister of the Netherlands, and Mette Frederiksen, his counterpart from Denmark, said the “transfer process” of F-16s to Kyiv was under way after months of pilot training and political negotiations.

The two leaders said that “Ukraine will be flying operational F-16s this summer” – the first of about 85 of the combat aircraft that have been committed to Kyiv to turn around its fortunes on the battlefield, and Ukraine signalled more may be to come.

The long-awaited supply of F-16s is part of what Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said would be “a substantial package” of support for Ukraine, which includes the donation of four Patriot air defence systems, Nato-led training for Ukraine’s troops – and a commitment that Kyiv’s eventual path to Nato membership is “irreversible”.

Allies also criticised China, with stronger language than used before, for assisting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling it a “decisive enabler” of the war by supporting Moscow in its “no limits” partnership, and supplying components for military equipment and chemicals for explosives. “This increases the threat Russia poses to its neighbours and to Euro-Atlantic security,” they declared in the summit communique.

An announcement on F-16s had been expected at the same time as the summit, and the hope is that the fighters will be able to stifle Russian glide bomb attacks launched from warplanes operating up to 43 miles (70km) away that have been devastating frontline positions.

But it remains unclear how far Ukraine will be able to use F-16s to attack targets in Russian territory or airspace. The US had previously been concerned about the potential for escalation but partially relaxed its position to allow the bombing of targets inside Russia by long-range artillery.

Keir Starmer, the UK’s prime minister, said he was happy to see Ukraine use Storm Shadow missiles to attack targets inside Russia as long as they were used to defend itself, reconfirming existing UK policy. “It is for defensive purposes, but it is for Ukraine to decide how to deploy it for those defensive purposes,” he said.

It ends a lengthy wait for Ukraine, whose president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has been lobbying for at least 18 months for western jets to complement its small and ageing Soviet standard air force, which is no match for Russia’s.

Zelenskiy said he was grateful to Denmark, the Netherlands and the US for taking what he described as practical steps of assistance – and indicated that he was hopeful of more donations to boost numbers to a target of 130.

“F-16s will also be used to bolster Ukraine’s air defence. I am confident that they will assist us in better protecting Ukrainians from brutal Russian attacks, such as this week’s strike on the Okhmatdyt children’s hospital in Kyiv,” the president said.

Norway and Belgium have also committed to supplying F-16s in the future, but Zelenskiy went further and said: “I anticipate that our air force capability coalition will be strengthened even further through the joining of new participants.”

It remains unclear how effective the F-16s, a combat jet designed in the 1970s, will be in the war against Russia. Particularly important will be how they are concealed and protected when on the ground, at a time when Ukraine’s air defences have been stretched.

This month, Russia said it had destroyed five Ukrainian Su-27 jets in an Iskander missile attack on an airbase in Myrhorod. Ukraine acknowledged some losses amid criticism that the planes were lined up on the tarmac in daylight within range of Russian missiles.

On Tuesday night, Joe Biden, the US president, announced that Nato members would supply four Patriot anti-missile batteries, while Italy would supply a similar Samp-t, which could be used to protect airbases from Russian attacks.

Confirming the development, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said: “As we speak, the transfer of F-16 jets is under way, coming from Denmark, coming from the Netherlands”.” It should, he added, “concentrate Vladimir Putin’s mind on the fact that he will not outlast Ukraine”.

Ukraine is not expected to become a member of Nato until the end of its war with Russia, as several countries, led by the US, believe that immediate membership would in effect lead to a war between Moscow and the military alliance.

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UK will give Ukraine £3bn a year ‘for as long as it takes’, says Starmer

Prime minister holds first official bilateral talks with Volodymyr Zelenskiy at Nato summit in Washington

The new government will stick with plans to spend at least £3bn every year on military support for Ukraine for “as long as is it takes” in its conflict with Russia, Keir Starmer has said.

After his first official bilateral talks with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, at the Nato summit in Washington, the prime minister confirmed the military aid would continue until at least 2030-31.

The UK has to date promised almost £12bn in support to Ukraine since February 2022, of which £7.1bn is for military assistance. The rest is for humanitarian and economic support.

In his talks with Zelenskiy, Starmer underscored that Ukraine was on an “irreversible” path to Nato membership. However, diplomats at the Nato summit say that setting out any firm timetable would be a gift to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

On Thursday, the prime minister will tell his fellow leaders: “Nato was founded by the generation who defeated fascism. They understood not just the value of our strength, but the strength of our values.

“Those values are under attack once again. Putin needs to hear a clear message ringing out from this summit – a message of unity and determination, that we will support Ukraine with whatever it takes, for as long as it takes to uphold our shared values and our shared security.”

British officials have said that while the potential return to the White House of Donald Trump – whose commitment to Nato and Ukraine is unclear – is at the back of their minds, their focus is on getting the alliance into the best possible shape, whoever wins the US election.

Starmer has called on Nato allies to increase defence spending in response to rising global threats, including from Russia, as he launches a review setting out UK plans to spend tens of billions of pounds extra on the military.

He will tell the other 31 Nato countries that the frontline defence of the Euro-Atlantic region is the Ukrainian trenches, and that the international community cannot waver in the face of relentless Russian aggression.

One of Kyiv’s most pressing asks of Nato states has been multi-year funding, which allows it to plan its defence against Russian forces. The UK will deliver a new package of artillery and 90 Brimstone missiles in the coming weeks.

The government will launch its strategic defence review next week, but this is likely to take up to a year to complete, meaning Starmer has come under growing pressure to confirm a timetable for the UK to boost defence spending to its target of 2.5% of GDP.

However, Luke Pollard, the armed forces minister, said on Wednesday that the government would not increase spending on the military unless it was also able to grow the economy.

“The way we deliver increased public spending on defence, on schools, hospitals or prisons, is by growing our economy,” he told the BBC.

“If we don’t grow our economy, there won’t be the money to support those public services and the ambitions that we have – and that includes defence.”

A senior No 10 source suggested that the 2.5% commitment would stand, irrespective of whether the new government hit its growth targets, and even though that would raise difficult questions over how it would be funded.

“Yes of course,” they said. “The commitment to defence is absolute. But we are also confident that we will get growth in the economy so I don’t accept that we have to wait for one, for the other.”

Downing Street was unable to confirm whether the strategic defence review would be published before the comprehensive spending review, expected this autumn, but suggested it would not take the full year.

Starmer met Joe Biden for the first time at the Nato summit’s welcome event. The pair shared a few private words as they shook hands before the cameras. Later, Starmer held his first bilateral talks with the US president at the White House.

The prime minister, a passionate football fan, gave the president an Arsenal football shirt with the name “Biden” and the number 46 on the back – a reference to his status as the 46th US president. “It’s [Starmer’s] team and [he] thought it would make a personal gift,” a senior No 10 official said.

He has previously given Emmanuel Macron, the French president, an Arsenal top as a gift. He also gave Biden a framed copy of the original Atlantic charter that led to the formation of Nato, with then Labour prime minister Clement Attlee’s amendments.

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Analysis

European leaders use Nato summit to sell military alliance to US voters

Andrew Roth and Julian Borger in Washington

Issue of burden-sharing threatens to become major stumbling block should second Trump administration come into power

  • Nato summit live: latest updates

European leaders at the Nato summit in Washington are focused on explaining to ordinary American taxpayers that the military alliance is worth the money, as the issue of burden-sharing has become a political football for both parties in the US – and threatens to become a serious stumbling block for the alliance should a second Trump administration come to power.

“There is a debate in the United States that the US are doing a lot to support Ukraine and Europe is not doing enough. If you look at figures, it’s actually a different picture. Europe is doing more than the United States: the financial support, military support we all have provided so far has been enormous … We are taking the security and defense seriously,” said Edgars Rinkēvičs, the president of Latvia, during a speech on Tuesday alongside the former CIA director Leon Panetta and the Estonian defense minister, Hanno Pevkur. “It’s also very important to explain to the American public.”

In background briefings, European officials have said they have been concerned with political turmoil in the US and Europe. The US was among countries that pushed back against a multi-year financial pledge for military aid to Ukraine – in part because of the bitter fight in Congress over the Ukraine supplemental bill.

“We think that this is essential to signal that Europeans are taking a greater burden of their own security,” said another European official ahead of the summit. “And it’s an important message to Ukraine, to Russia – but also for domestic audience. Here in DC, we are aware of the sensitivity of that topic, and I think you can expect a lot of strategic communication on that next week.”

European officials are balancing concerns over the growing Russian threat in Ukraine and the political sensitivities that could further divide the alliance.

“We also understand that the ordinary people, in Latvia or the United States or somewhere else, sometimes do care more about economy, social issues, internal security, and we should take those concerns seriously and address them in the same manner that we are addressing the high geopolitical issues,” said Rinkēvičs.

Polling has shown that views on Nato are subject to a partisan divide in the US, and that the alliance has become steadily less popular among Republicans in the past year. According to the Pew Research Centre, just 43% of Republicans have a positive view of the alliance, down from 49% who said the same in 2023.

European leaders have taken different tacks, with some talking points seemingly tailored toward the Republican candidate as well. “Nato is a club, and when you have a club rules, then you respect the rules, and you expect that everybody will also respect the rules,” Pefkur, the Estonian defense minister, said on Tuesday. “So Trump is a golfer, so when you pay your fee, in the golf club, you can play. Doesn’t matter how big is your wallet. So when you pay that fee, you can go to the golf course and play.”

In a speech at the Hudson Institute on Tuesday, the Republican House speaker, Mike Johnson, said that he supported Nato but that he would press European leaders on fulfilling a pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defense. He also tied national security to US border security, once again reinforcing how Nato policies have become subsumed to domestic US politics.

“Nato needs to be doing more,” he said. “Not all Nato members have reached their current commitment. It may even need to be closer at a level during the cold war. But if we’re all going to enjoy a future of peace and prosperity, we all need to have skin in the game.”

Critics have said that the US is going through a period of isolationism. “On a tectonic level, our allies should understand that there is a usually isolationist instinct in this country,” said Representative Jim Himes, a senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee. “And it emerges from time to time, when economic conditions here are not good,” or after moments of disenchantment like the Iraq war. “We are in that isolationist moment and it’s not just Donald Trump.”

Others describe it as restraint. Trump is not the only one calling for the US to withdraw forces and resources from Europe, leaving Europeans to take on the burden of defending themselves. Several liberal foreign policy analysts have been calling for years for a switch to American restraint when it comes to US military projection, especially in Europe.

“It is in the interest of a transatlantic alliance to shift the burden toward Europe and transition over, a decent period, maybe about a decade, toward European leadership of European defense with the United States moving to a supporting role,” Stephen Wertheim a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a leading advocate for restraint.

Wertheim was one of dozens of foreign policy experts who wrote an open letter published in the Guardian urging Nato leaders not to invite Ukraine to become a member.

“It could also be counterproductive insofar as Russia believes that Ukraine is advancing down this bridge to Nato membership, Russia gains an incentive to prolong the war so that that moment never arrives, so that Ukraine never crosses that bridge on the other side.”

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Tributes paid to three women killed in ‘devastating’ Bushey crossbow attack

Neighbours of Carol Hunt and her daughters express shock as racing community sends John Hunt sympathy

  • Suspect found with injuries after triple crossbow killings in Bushey

Tributes have been paid to three women killed in an “utterly devastating” crossbow attack.

Carol Hunt and her two daughters, beautician Hannah Hunt, 28, and dog groomer Louise Hunt, 25, were found injured at a home in Bushey, Hertfordshire on Tuesday and died shortly after at the scene.

It emerged on Wednesday that they were the family of John Hunt, the BBC racing commentator.

Glyn Nicholas, 77, retired, who has lived on the same road as the victims for 50 years, said: “They were a private family, all very nice, a private family. They all did their own things. Louise started a business a couple of years ago, and it was a thriving business – we all took our dogs there to be groomed.”

He added: “A very close-knit family and they used to love the street.”

Su Kehinde, 60, who lives nearby, spoke after laying some flowers at a makeshift tribute at the end of the police cordon.

Kehinde said: “They were the loveliest, gentlest family. They were the meekest human beings. They did not deserve this. They were beautiful souls.”

Her daughter April, 32, said that Hannah “always had a smile”.

She added: “She was hard-working, a hard grafter and really gentle.”

As tearful residents around the scene in Ashlyn Close started to lay flowers, Hunt’s colleagues offered their love and thoughts.

A note sent to staff at BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday said the organisation would provide the commentator with “all the support we can”.

It read: “The news today about John Hunt’s family is utterly devastating. Our thoughts are with John and his family at this incredibly difficult time and we will provide him with all the support we can.”

The BBC racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght said: “There are no words. Like everyone else I feel numb and sick on John’s behalf at such incomprehensible evil.

“Everyone who knows John knows he is the absolute archetypal family man, so proud of them, so it’s impossible to know what he can be going through.

“But I know I’m speaking for the whole racing community and the whole wider sports media community as well, both of which he’s been part of for so long, when I say everyone is sending sympathy, love and support to him. It’s just awful.”

The ITV and Sky Sports racing commentator Matt Chapman said: “News like this is shocking enough but on a personal level even more so when it involves a friend and colleague you totally respect.

“There are no words here. Just the wish to let John know we love him and racing loves him. There are loads of us who he can talk to should he need or want to.

“John is an outstanding commentator and broadcaster – but he’s also just a lovely bloke.”

A statement from Sky Sports Racing read: “Everyone at Sky Sports Racing is deeply saddened by the tragic deaths in Hertfordshire and our thoughts are with our colleague John Hunt, his family and friends at this awful time.”

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Suspect found with injuries after triple crossbow killings in Bushey

Kyle Clifford, a British Army veteran, found in north London and taken to major trauma centre following manhunt

A British army veteran wanted in connection with the death of three women in a suspected crossbow attack has been captured after being found with injuries, police have said.

Kyle Clifford, 26, who is understood to have served in the British army for about a year, was named as a suspect by Hertfordshire police after the deaths of Carol Hunt, 61, and two of her daughters, Hannah, 28, and Louise, 25, at a property in Bushey.

Ch Supt Jon Simpson from Hertfordshire police told reporters earlier on Wednesday the suspected murders were believed to be targeted.

Later on Wednesday, a statement from Hertfordshire police said Clifford had been found in north London and received medical treatment for injuries. Police emphasised no shots were fired.

London ambulance service confirmed a man was treated at Lavender Hill Cemetery before being transported to a “major trauma centre”, which could be one of four hospitals in the capital.

On Wednesday afternoon, there was a significant number of police officers at the cemetery, 16 miles from the crime scene and near a property that was searched earlier in the day as part of the manhunt.

Paramedics and ambulances were also at the location. Footage captured from a helicopter showed a man being stretchered out of the cemetery.

Police believe the suspect was known to the victims and no one else is being sought in connection with the investigation.

Sources said that Carol Hunt was found in the hallway of the house with a crossbow bolt in her chest, while evidence of ligatures were found near the victims. One of the victims is understood to have texted her partner, urging them to call the police.

Clifford is believed to have served in the British army for a year, sources have said. The Ministry of Defence has been contacted for comment.

The women are understood to be the family of the BBC’s racing radio commentator, John Hunt. As part of a note sent to BBC Radio 5 Live staff on Wednesday, the organisation described the incident as “utterly devastating”.

The Hunts have another daughter, Amy, who is thought to live in Birmingham.

Police said a crossbow or other weapons may have been used in the attacks, and they are investigating what relationship any of the victims may have had to Clifford.

The home secretary, Yvette Cooper, is urgently considering the findings of a Home Office review launched in 2021 to see if tougher crossbow laws need to be introduced.

A source said the victims were not gagged and bound when found, but there were ligature marks around their wrists and face, suggesting they had been and that these were removed. The source added that all of the victims had injuries to their knees.

The Guardian understands that one of the victims called 999 and alerted the police to the incident before the perpetrator fled.

Detectives have appealed for information or video footage and asked the public to report anything suspicious they saw in Ashlyn Close from midday on Tuesday, about seven hours before they found the women.

One source said the women may have been held hostage for hours before police were called.

On Wednesday morning armed police raided a property not far from the cemetery in Rendlesham Road, Enfield, which is understood to have been linked to Clifford’s brother, Bradley, who was jailed for life in 2018 for murder.

Schools in Enfield were placed in lockdown.

DI Justine Jenkins from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire major crime unit said: “This continues to be an incredibly difficult time for the victims’ family and we would ask that their privacy is respected as they come to terms with what has happened.

“This investigation is moving at pace and formal identification of the victims is yet to take place.”

She added: “Following extensive inquiries, the suspect has been located and nobody else is being sought in connection with the investigation at this time.

“We have had an overwhelming number of calls and would like to express our gratitude to the members of the public who have contacted us.”

Cooper, said she was being kept fully updated on the inquiry into the “truly shocking” deaths.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We keep legislation under constant review and a call for evidence was launched earlier this year to look at whether further controls on crossbows should be introduced.

“The home secretary will swiftly consider the findings to see if laws need to be tightened further.”

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Ollie Watkins’ bolt from blue stuns Netherlands and sends England to final

Is it time for a rethink about Gareth Southgate’s substitutions? As the tension rose at the BVB Stadion and extra time beckoned, it was England who found an extra burst when two players who had not been on the pitch long combined to send them through to a first final on foreign soil.

They were all off the bench when Ollie Watkins collected Cole Palmer’s pass, swivelled away from Stefan de Vrij and arrowed a stunning shot into the Netherlands net. Having trailed to a spectacular early goal from Xavi Simons, England had rallied through Harry Kane’s penalty, but they had run out of steam during the second half. When Southgate took Kane off for Watkins, nobody could have imagined the impact the striker would make.

After a day of sweltering temperatures, a torrential downpour that left supporters running for cover not long before kick-off was never going to douse the sense of occasion. With the famous Yellow Wall turned a brilliant shade of orange for the evening, there was no holding back from the Dutch during a blistering opening period.

Structural frailties were evident in England straight away. Seven minutes in, they were slow to react when Marc Guéhi, restored at left centre-back after a one-match ban, headed away a long ball. Declan Rice gathered possession, but he did not sort out his feet and was swiftly dispossessed by Simons.

In a tournament of great goals by wonderkids, here was another one. Simons advanced with one thought in his mind, any doubt banished by John Stones backing off. A few yards outside the area, the midfielder laced a right-footed effort towards the far corner and pretty much stunned Jordan Pickford, who was beaten by the power of the shot despite getting a hand to the ball.

England were behind for the third successive game. Over on the left, Kieran Trippier called for calm. There was no need to panic. England, again arranged in a 3-4-2-1, had looked bright. Jude Bellingham was purposeful and Bukayo Saka was lively on the right again. Phil Foden and Kobbie Mainoo were in the mood for some fun.

As for Kane, he had a point to prove. There was more zip to the captain’s movement, more energy. England sensed a way back when Kane, having pulled away from Virgil van Dijk, tested Bart Verbruggen from 25 yards.

Saka was next to drive forward, wriggling away from Nathan Aké, who was having a torrid time. Desperation taking over, the Dutch defence panicked as the ball reached Kane, who shot over a split second before being caught by a high foot from Denzel Dumfries.

It was a clear foul, albeit one that needed a VAR review, and Kane stepped up to take his first penalty in a tournament since his miss against France. Would he blink again? No chance. Verbruggen guessed correctly, diving to his right, but Kane’s shot was too hard and England celebrated a deserved equaliser.

Now they poured forward, Trippier pushing up the left and Kyle Walker supporting Saka with a stream of overlapping runs. Foden, always in space, was having a splendid game. He almost Lamine Yamal’d in a left-footed shot from 25 yards and was also denied by a goalline clearance from Dumfries.

The Netherlands right-back was having quite the half. There was a warning for England when Dumfries headed a corner against the bar. But the Dutch were hanging on. Mainoo, who took the breath away with one delightful mid-air turn, was running midfield.

Ronald Koeman responded, replacing the hamstrung Memphis Depay and stiffening his midfield with Joey Veerman. A turning point? Southgate has been attacked for his in-game management. Koeman would also change the complexion of his attack at half-time, Donyell Malen making way for big Wout Weghorst, whose first contribution was to clobber Stones.

Southgate had also made a move, the arrival of Luke Shaw for Trippier giving England more balance on the left. Yet there was less urgency at the start of the second half. England had the ball but they were finding it harder to break through the lines, the Dutch more compact with Veerman providing the defence with an extra shield.

It became edgy as the spectacle descended into long spells of sideways passing from England. The ball was no longer finding its way to Saka in space. Bellingham and Foden were probing without success. From a poorly defended free-kick, Pickford made a smart stop from Aké.

England were fading, their bluntness captured by Jerdy Schouten halting Bellingham’s burst down the left. Bellingham, desperate to make an impact, was booked for a clumsy foul. Moments later he failed to gather a huge throw from Pickford.

The sight of Tijjani Reijnders, Schouten and Veerman dictating the tempo felt all too familiar. England needed fresh legs and Southgate reacted after Saka had a goal disallowed for a tight offside against Walker, Foden and a tiring Kane making way for Palmer and Watkins. But still the Dutch pressed and it needed a vital challenge from Guéhi to deny Weghorst.

Cody Gakpo had finally come alive on the left, worrying Walker with his dangerous dribbling. At the other end, a rare England attack ended with Shaw’s cross reaching Palmer. With glory beckoning, he sliced a shot wide.

But Palmer kept his head up. As the 90th minute arrived, he slipped a lovely pass to Watkins. His turn and shot ended the argument. England were on their way to Berlin to face Spain in Sunday’s final. They will not be favourites. But they have depths of resilience that should not be underestimated. After Bellingham’s overhead kick against Slovakia and the penalty heroics against Switzerland, here was the latest act of defiance.

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‘So good, so good’: England fans in Germany revel in special night

Fans from Westfalenstadion to Keir Starmer in Washington celebrate hard-won but worthy semi-final win over Netherlands

Phil Foden is finally on fire – and England are heading to Berlin for their first major tournament final outside Wembley.

A 2-1 win against the Netherlands, and a performance that in large parts of the game finally lived up to the nation’s inflated expectations, will mean England play Spain in what will be back-to-back European Championship finals for Gareth Southgate and his team.

The prime minister, Keir Starmer, led the tributes from England fans. “What a game England and what a winner,” he wrote on X, as he attended the Nato summit in Washington DC.

“Berlin here we come!” he added. No 10 confirmed Starmer and the culture secretary, Lisa Nandy, will be in attendance on Sunday.

The Killers, playing at the O2 Arena in London, paused their gig to show the end of the match on a big screen and let off confetti at the final whistle, as music and football fans celebrated wildly.

To date, there had perhaps been an ironic edge to England supporters’ own musical tribute to Foden in their rehashed version of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark (“Can’t start a fire, can’t start a fire without a spark, Phil Foden is on fire”).

But the Manchester City midfielder’s conducting of his team’s talents on a humid night in Dortmund, at least in the first half, offered reason for glorious extra gusto from England’s travelling support in the Westfalenstadion.

Rather than sit back, as has been the complaint about Southgate’s team, England piled on the pressure.

“This is more like it,” said Ryan Shaw, 32, a roofer from Macclesfield who had come to Dortmund for the game without a ticket.

Southgate, perhaps uncharacteristically, made a bold change, deciding to substitute Kane and Foden 10 minutes before full-time. It was a night on which everything seemed to be paying off.

It was Kane’s replacement, Ollie Watkins, with his back to goal and Stefan De Vrij right behind him, who turned on a penny to rifle a stunning low shot into the far corner.

“Unbelievable, I’ve been waiting for that moment for weeks,” said Watkins. “It’s taken a lot of hard work to get where I am today. I swear on my kids’ lives that I told Cole [Palmer]: ‘We are going to come on today, and you are going to set me up.’ We are in the final and that is all that matters. We are ready for Spain.”

England now have the potential to lift a trophy for the first time since 1966, with fresh evidence that they can play the sort of football that will make Spain notice.

There had certainly been plenty of doubters after a series of poor performances in the group stage, and a near-death experience against Slovakia in the round of 16 followed by a win on penalties against Switzerland.

But as the victorious England players joined the crowd in a raucous rendition of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, and about 25 million people at home cheered the final whistle, there was belief in the air.

Jude Bellingham, a former Borussia Dortmund player, admitted that England had tired over the 90 minutes but that he was pleased the team had put on the sort of performance the fans had hoped for.

“To be back here at the club that has helped me turn into the man and player I am is special,” he said. “The most important thing is we have come out with the win. I am really grateful to Ollie because I am not sure I had another half an hour in me.”

The Dutch fans left the Westfalenstadion with little to be ashamed about. Their good-natured support had lit up the west German city, with more than 75,000 turning Dortmund orange.

There were some scuffles between supporters earlier in they day. Five England supporters were said to have sustained minor injuries after being attacked by rival Dutch fans during an altercation over a Saint George’s flag.

The UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) had also indicated that some groups of supporters who had travelled from the Netherlands were known to the authorities but there was no major incident reported.

England fans can enjoy a few wondrous days contemplating whether they will see modern-day equivalents of Geoff Hurst, Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore lift a trophy on Sunday evening.

“So good, so good, so good,” chorused the fans in the bars of Dortmund as they offered yet up another rendition of Sweet Caroline. It would be difficult to argue.

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11 min Diaz chops back inside neatly on the edge of the area and crosses towards Cordoba. It’s slightly too deep and drifts behind. Colombia have started well though, with around 67 per cent possession and the only attempt at goal to date.

George Clooney implores Biden to step aside in opinion article

The actor says he talked to Biden at LA fundraiser and concluded: ‘We are not going to win with this president’

The Hollywood actor George Clooney, one of the Democratic party’s biggest fundraisers, has called on Joe Biden to step aside to save democracy from Donald Trump.

In an opinion article in the New York Times, Clooney expressed deep affection for the US president but said that personal interaction with him at a recent fundraising event in Los Angeles – the Democratic party’s most successful ever, raising more than $30m – suggested that the stumbling performance in last month’s debate in Atlanta was not an aberration.

“It’s devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fund-raiser was not the Joe ‘big F-ing deal’ Biden of 2010,” the actor and longtime Democratic party member and fundraiser wrote.

“He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate.

“Was he tired? Yes. A cold? Maybe. But our party leaders need to stop telling us that 51 million people didn’t see what we just saw,” he said, referring to explanations from the White House and Biden himself for his bad debate performance.

More bluntly, he said explicitly that Biden could not prevail in an electoral rematch with Trump: “We are not going to win with this president.”

Stressing that his call was made reluctantly, Clooney paid tribute to the political battles that Biden had won throughout his career but said his age represented an insurmountable adversary.

“But the one battle he cannot win is the fight against time. None of us can,” he wrote.

Clooney’s plea came as Biden continues to insist on staying in the race while senior Democrats agonise about how to apply pressure on him to change his mind, and serious questions continue over Biden’s health and viability for re-election.

The actor called on leading party figures to come off the fence and make the case to Biden, while dismissing as “disingenuous” the president’s argument – stated in a letter to Democrats in Congress this week – that the party’s membership had already chosen the nominee in the primaries.

‘Most of our members of Congress are opting to wait and see if the dam breaks,” he wrote in remarks clearly critical of continuing inaction. “But the dam has broken. We can put our heads in the sand and pray for a miracle in November, or we can speak the truth.”

He concluded: “Joe Biden is a hero; he saved democracy in 2020. We need him to do it again in 2024.”

Clooney’s intervention comes weeks after a disagreement with the White House over Biden’s criticism of the international criminal court’s move to issue an arrest warrant for Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, over allegations of war crimes in Gaza.

The actor’s wife, Amal Alamuddin Clooney, worked on the case. Clooney called Steve Ricchetti, the president’s counsel, to complain about Biden’s labeling the warrant as “outrageous”.

Warrants were being sought for the arrest of Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister, and three leaders of Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Shortly afterwards, however, Clooney appeared at a huge fundraising event in Los Angeles for the campaign, which headlined with Biden and Barack Obama.

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George Clooney implores Biden to step aside in opinion article

The actor says he talked to Biden at LA fundraiser and concluded: ‘We are not going to win with this president’

The Hollywood actor George Clooney, one of the Democratic party’s biggest fundraisers, has called on Joe Biden to step aside to save democracy from Donald Trump.

In an opinion article in the New York Times, Clooney expressed deep affection for the US president but said that personal interaction with him at a recent fundraising event in Los Angeles – the Democratic party’s most successful ever, raising more than $30m – suggested that the stumbling performance in last month’s debate in Atlanta was not an aberration.

“It’s devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fund-raiser was not the Joe ‘big F-ing deal’ Biden of 2010,” the actor and longtime Democratic party member and fundraiser wrote.

“He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate.

“Was he tired? Yes. A cold? Maybe. But our party leaders need to stop telling us that 51 million people didn’t see what we just saw,” he said, referring to explanations from the White House and Biden himself for his bad debate performance.

More bluntly, he said explicitly that Biden could not prevail in an electoral rematch with Trump: “We are not going to win with this president.”

Stressing that his call was made reluctantly, Clooney paid tribute to the political battles that Biden had won throughout his career but said his age represented an insurmountable adversary.

“But the one battle he cannot win is the fight against time. None of us can,” he wrote.

Clooney’s plea came as Biden continues to insist on staying in the race while senior Democrats agonise about how to apply pressure on him to change his mind, and serious questions continue over Biden’s health and viability for re-election.

The actor called on leading party figures to come off the fence and make the case to Biden, while dismissing as “disingenuous” the president’s argument – stated in a letter to Democrats in Congress this week – that the party’s membership had already chosen the nominee in the primaries.

‘Most of our members of Congress are opting to wait and see if the dam breaks,” he wrote in remarks clearly critical of continuing inaction. “But the dam has broken. We can put our heads in the sand and pray for a miracle in November, or we can speak the truth.”

He concluded: “Joe Biden is a hero; he saved democracy in 2020. We need him to do it again in 2024.”

Clooney’s intervention comes weeks after a disagreement with the White House over Biden’s criticism of the international criminal court’s move to issue an arrest warrant for Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, over allegations of war crimes in Gaza.

The actor’s wife, Amal Alamuddin Clooney, worked on the case. Clooney called Steve Ricchetti, the president’s counsel, to complain about Biden’s labeling the warrant as “outrageous”.

Warrants were being sought for the arrest of Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister, and three leaders of Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Shortly afterwards, however, Clooney appeared at a huge fundraising event in Los Angeles for the campaign, which headlined with Biden and Barack Obama.

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Biden under renewed pressure to step aside as top Democrats make agonized appeals

Senator Michael Bennet said Trump may win ‘by a landslide’ while two more senators echoed his concerns

Joe Biden came under renewed moral pressure on Wednesday to abandon his presidential candidacy amid agonised appeals by a succession of senior Democrats for him to consider the broader picture.

Those calls came as the US president dug in his heels to make it hard to supplant him as the nominee.

With the backlash over his 27 June TV debate fiasco refusing to abate, the former House of Representatives’ speaker, Nancy Pelosi, became the most senior party yet to subtly float the possibility of Biden stepping down while stopping short of explicitly telling him to do so.

Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, gleefully sought to further tighten the screw by summoning three White House aides to testify about Biden’s mental fitness.

The summons came in the form of a subpoena from James Comer, the GOP chair of the House oversight committee, who demanded testimony from Anthony Bernal, the top aide to the first lady Jill Biden, deputy chief of staff Annie Tomasini, and senior adviser Ashley Williams, Axios reported.

Pelosi, 84, who was speaker until the Republicans regained control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections, told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that “it’s up to the president to decide if he is going to run”, adding: “We’re all encouraging him to make that decision. Because time is running short.”

That remark came as the president seemed intent on running down the clock until next month’s Democratic national convention in Chicago, to make it practically impossible to replace him.

Pelosi later qualified her comments, claiming they had been subject to “misrepresentations”, while adding “the president is great”.

But they prefaced further critical interventions from Senate Democrats, who followed the lead of Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado in voicing doubts over whether Biden could beat Donald Trump in November.

In the most outspoken comment of any senator to date, Bennet told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Tuesday evening that Trump was likely to win November’s poll in a landslide because of the widespread concerns over Biden’s age and mental acuity.

“This race is on a trajectory that is very worrisome if you care about the future of this country,” he said in an impassioned interview. “Donald Trump is on track, I think, to win this election and maybe win it by a landslide, and take with him the Senate and the House. It’s not a question about politics, it’s a moral question about the future of our country.”

He added: “I have not seen anything remotely approaching the kind of plan we need to see out of the White House that can demonstrate that he can actually beat Donald Trump, which is not going to be about the accomplishments that we all had, you know, three and four years ago. This is something for the president to consider.”

Bennet’s comments stopped short of a full-blown appeal for Biden’s withdrawal, in contrast to Democrats in the House – where seven members have explicitly made such calls in the wake of the debate, where the president repeatedly appeared confused, mangled his words and allowed Trump to lie voluptuously without effective contradiction.

Two more senators, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Peter Welch of Vermont, echoed Bennet’s concerns on Wednesday, while again refraining from calling for Biden to end his campaign.

“I am deeply concerned about Joe Biden winning this November,” Blumenthal told reporters, adding that the party “had to reach a conclusion as soon as possible” and that Biden still retained his support.

Welch said he hoped “the concerns being expressed were being heard, even if they are not being acknowledged”.

A similarly circumspect call to reconsider came from Katie Hobbs, the Democratic governor of Arizona, a battleground state that was one of six moved by the Cook Political Report – a non-partisan election forecaster – in Trump’s direction following the president’s post-debate poll slide.

“I want the president to look at the evidence and make a hard decision,” Hobbs told reporters, adding that Biden had “a lot to do to assure Americans and Arizonans”.

Further pressure came from the Hollywood actor George Clooney, one of the Democrats’ biggest fundraisers, who – unrestrained by party discipline – bluntly told Biden to drop out. In an opinion article for the New York Times, he expressed concern about the showing of the president – who he called “a friend” – at a recent fundraiser in Los Angeles, where he “wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate.”

Wednesday evening, Representative Earl Blumenauer, the longest-serving Democrat in Oregon’s House delegation, put it bluntly: “President Biden should not be the Democratic presidential nominee.”

“The question before the country is whether the president should continue his candidacy for re-election. This is not just about extending his presidency but protecting democracy,” he said in an emailed statement.

“It is a painful and difficult conclusion but there is no question in my mind that we will all be better served if the president steps aside as the Democratic nominee and manages a transition under his terms.”

There were even signs of slippage within the staunchly loyal Congressional Black caucus, which had pledged its support on Monday night. On Wednesday one of its members, Marc Veasey of Texas, became the first to break ranks by telling CNN that Democrats running in tight races should “distance themselves” from Biden in an effort to “do whatever it is they need to do” to win.

The public agonising illustrated how Biden’s debate failure has plunged the Democrats into paralysis as the campaign approaches a key phase.

Yet there seemed little imminent sign of Biden – who has already written to the party’s congressional group en masse telling doubters to challenge him at the convention – yielding to pressure to bow out.

He retains the support – at least in public – of key party figures such as Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic minority leader in the House, and Gavin Newsom, the California governor who has been touted as a potential replacement candidate but who has acted as a loyal surrogate.

Far from retreating, plans were announced for a second prime time television interview – this time with NBC’s Lester Holt next Monday in the symbolic setting of the LBJ library in Austin, Texas – to follow last Friday’s with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

The latest interview, coming on the heels of Biden’s hosting of Nato’s 75th anniversary summit in Washington this week – where he has been meeting a succession of world leaders – appeared designed to reinforce the message that he intends to stay the course.

On Wednesday, the president visited the Washington headquarters of the main US trade union body, the AFL-CIO, an important Democrat constituency.

The trade union visit followed a virtual meeting from the White House on Tuesday evening with about 200 Democratic mayors in which he restated his determination to remain and reportedly won their support.

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Macron calls on parties to ‘rise to the occasion’ and form coalition

French president appears to exclude far-right RN and radical left LFI in call for alliance of ‘republican forces’

Emmanuel Macron has called on political parties to “rise to the occasion and work together” to build a mainstream coalition with a solid majority after voters in a snap election returned a hung parliament with no obvious route to a government.

The French president, who has not spoken publicly since Sunday’s second round vote, said in a letter to the country that nobody had won the election, in which a left-green alliance come top but fell far short of an absolute majority.

“No political force has a sufficient majority, and the blocs that have emerged are all minorities,” Macron said on Wednesday.

He called on all parties “that identify with republican institutions, rule of law, parliamentarianism, a pro-European stance and French independence to have a sincere, loyal dialogue to build a solid – necessarily plural – majority for the country.”

His wording appeared designed to exclude Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN), but also implicitly the radical left France Unbowed (LFI) of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, which is the largest party in the New Popular Front (NFP) alliance that emerged as the surprise election winner.

NFP, which also includes the centre-left socialist, green and communist parties, won 182 of the assembly’s 577 seats and can count on the support of another 10 or so left-leaning MPs, while Macron’s centrist coalition returned 168 MPs. The pre-vote frontrunner, the far-rightRN, was third with 143.

The NFP has since said that, as the largest bloc in the new assembly, it must be allowed to field the next prime minister and implement “our programme, all of our programme, and nothing but our programme”.

Many in Macron’s centrist camp, however, echoed by MPs from the centre-right Les Républicains (LR), have said they would not support an NFP-led government and would back a no-confidence motion against a cabinet featuring members from LFI.

Macron said in his letter, published in Le Parisien, that voters had not wanted the RN to govern. Only “republican forces” represented a majority, he said, and a “clear demand for change and power sharing” required them to build a broad alliance.

“Ideas and programmes before positions and personalities: this alliance must be built around a few major principles for the country,” he said, which takes “into account the concerns [voters] expressed at the time of the elections”.

It would take time for parties to negotiate the compromises that were expected of them, Macron said, so the outgoing government of Gabriel Attal would continue to “exercise its responsibilities and be in charge of day-to-day affairs, as is the republican tradition”.

Macron’s statement came as his centrists appeared divided, with some wanting to link up only with conservatives and others seeking a broader alliance that could include the centre left – entailing the break-up of the NFP – and the centre right.

Aurore Bergé, the minister for gender equality in the outgoing government who was re-elected as an MP for Macron’s Renaissance party on Sunday, said her group wanted to ally with the conservative LR and other members of parliament nearer the centre.

“There are a little more than 160 of us today … and I am hearing of other deputies [MPs] who would be ready to join us, which means we could become more in numbers than the leftwing bloc,” Bergé said on Wednesday.

The former prime minister Édouard Philippe, a Macron ally, has also called for a negotiated deal between the centrists and the conservatives “to move forward and be able to manage the country’s affairs for at least a year”.

The NFP, however, has said it will suggest a candidate for prime minister by the end of the week.

Le Pen said on Wednesday that ultimate victory for her anti-immigration party had “only been postponed”, while her 28-year-old protege, Jordan Bardella, urged his MPs to be “perfectly beyond reproach” in their posts.

After a campaign in which local media unearthed racist, homophobic and antisemitic social media posts by some RN candidates and exposed the ignorance of others about the party’s policies, Bardella said RN’s MPs must “emphasise the credibility of our project”.

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UK should restore diplomatic presence to help Afghan women, says aid chief

Hugh Bayley says NGOs would also benefit as he releases report on impact of UK programme in Afghanistan

The UK should consider restoring its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan to support Afghan women and to help monitor the impact of British aid, a commissioner for the official UK aid watchdog has suggested.

Hugh Bayley, who visited Kabul in May, said he believed Afghan women and NGOs would welcome more western diplomats to represent the opinions of women to the Taliban as he released a report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) on the effectiveness of the UK programme, which is the second largest operated by Britain.

The UK pulled all diplomatic representation out of Afghanistan as the Taliban took over in 2021, and since then Afghan bank assets held overseas have been frozen, and the economy has nosedived. Yet as much as $2.9bn (£2.3bn) of aid has been sent to the country, largely to NGOs rather than to Taliban-directed ministries.

No state recognises the Taliban as the Afghan government, although countries including Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and India have opened diplomatic missions in Kabul.

Bayley said the benefits of a British presence had been put to him by NGOs, on top of the regular visits to Kabul from the UK mission in Doha.

“The UK’s £150m programme in Afghanistan is currently our second biggest bilateral programme anywhere in the world, second after Ukraine, and ICAI’s view is that if you are dispensing that amount of British taxpayer’s money, you need eyes on the ground to see how it has been spent,” he said.

“If western countries don’t have a presence on the ground and don’t engage with both Afghan civil society and the Taliban, then the western aid funded approach will achieve less,” he said, pointing out that although the UK government has a target for 50% of its aid to reach women, “it is impossible in the case of Afghanistan without a presence on the ground to know if the target is being met”.

Bayley added that he had been told the absence of diplomatic missions made it harder for international NGOs because they were identified as the voices of the western world. A senior UN official had told him: “If we do not engage with Afghan citizens including the Taliban we will burn one bridge after another.”

He said although women were genuinely beneficiaries of aid, Afghanistan could be “heading for a catastrophe since gender restrictions imposed by the Taliban means the number of trained midwives is rapidly declining, storing up trouble in the future.

“Multiple power struggles are going on between the Taliban, Afghan citizens and especially women. Women in local NGOs are actively and bravely resisting pushing back against the Taliban in meetings, and it was clear that despite the effort to marginalise women, some are still going to work, including midwives that say to men, “If you want babies to die, stop me from going to work.’”

Bayley also said he heard that many hospital counsellors were reporting deep distress bordering on the suicidal among girls of school age, who the Taliban had removed from education. “I was told these women of secondary school age are in the depths of despair,” he said.

He said he had been told women found it more difficult to access food aid because they cannot use public transport and taxis were expensive.

“You’re bound to have an emotional reaction to the intense cruelty and marginalisation of women and girls,” Bayley said, but at the same time he hailed the “tremendous courage” with which so many were resisting. He also praised the UK for diverting a lot of its reduced Afghan aid budget to NGOs.

More broadly he urged the world not to allow Afghanistan to become a forgotten humanitarian crisis, or for aid to become exclusively humanitarian. “Over the next two to five years we have to transition to development, humanitarian assistance without development is not sustainable,” Bayley said.

The numbers in Afghanistan classified as in humanitarian need had dropped to 23.7 million last year, down from 28.3 million. This was partly due to an improved harvest and the appreciation of the local currency.

But Bayley said UN humanitarian aid appeals for Afghanistan were not being backed. The 2024 UN humanitarian needs overview for the county, released last December, appeals for $3.06bn. Less than a quarter (23%) of this has been funded as of 9 May this year.

The ICAI aid report said Afghanistan’s mean annual temperature had increased by almost twice the global average since 1951. It added that climate-crisis models predicted future temperatures would continue to rise faster than the global average. Annual droughts are predicted to become the norm in many parts of the country by 2030.

“It’s necessary for the international community to move beyond a crisis response to a response that builds capacity and resilience within Afghanistan,” Bayley said. “Unless these problems are addressed, the humanitarian crisis is going to continue for years and decades, and the plight of ordinary Afghan people will get worse and worse.”

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Las Vegas sets record for number of days over 115F amid its ‘most extreme heatwave in history’

City hits all-time high of 120F as officials set up emergency cooling centers at community centers across south Nevada

Las Vegas set a new record on Wednesday as it marked a fifth consecutive day over 115F (46C), amid a lingering hot spell that will continue scorching much of the US into the weekend.

The blazing hot temperatures climbed to 115F shortly after 1pm at Harry Reid international airport, breaking the old mark of four consecutive days above 115F set in July 2005.

The brutal milestone marks yet another record for the Nevada desert city this week: on Sunday, Las Vegas hit an all-time high of 120F (48.8C). Even by desert standards, the prolonged baking the city is experiencing is nearly unprecedented.

“This is the most extreme heatwave in the history of record-keeping in Las Vegas since 1937,” said meteorologist John Adair, a veteran of three decades at the National Weather Service office in southern Nevada.

Keith Bailey and Lee Doss met early Wednesday morning at Las Vegas park to beat the heat and exercise their dogs, Breakie, Ollie and Stanley.

“If I don’t get out by 8.30 in the morning, then it’s not going to happen that day,” Bailey said, wearing a sunhat while the dogs played in the grass.

Alyse Sobosan said this July has been the hottest in the 15 years she has lived in Las Vegas. She said she doesn’t step outside during the day if she can help it, and she waits until 9pm or later to walk her dogs.

“It’s oppressively hot,” she said. “It’s like you can’t really live your life.”

The extended heatwave comes with serious dangers, health officials have emphasized.

“Even people of average age who are seemingly healthy can suffer heat illness when it’s so hot it’s hard for your body to cool down,” said Alexis Brignola, an epidemiologist at the Southern Nevada Health District.

While hotels and casinos kept visitors cool with giant AC units, the scorching heat presented acute danger for homeless residents and others without access to safe environments.

Officials have set up emergency cooling centers at community centers across southern Nevada. Firefighters in Henderson, Nevada, last week became the first in the region to deploy what city spokesperson Madeleine Skains called “polar pods”.

The pods, first deployed in Phoenix, can be filled with water and ice to immerse a medical patient in cold water on the way to a hospital.

The intense heatwave hitting Vegas has been searing much of the US west in recent days, with several places setting heat records and reporting fatalities.

In Oregon, the city of Portland saw record daily temperatures on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and Salem set a new record, hitting 103F on Sunday. The excessive temperatures are suspected to have caused at least eight deaths in the state, the state medical examiner’s office said on Tuesday.

In California, the heat was blamed for a motorcyclist’s death in the Death Valley national park. Death Valley is considered one of the most extreme environments in the world. The hottest temperature ever officially recorded on Earth was 134F in July 1913 in Death Valley, though some experts dispute that measurement and say the real record was 130F, recorded there in July 2021.

On Tuesday, tourists visiting the park queued for photos in front of a giant thermometer that was reading 120F.

Phoenix, Arizona, which has averaged the hottest temperature ever for the first eight days of July in records dating to 1885, tied the daily record on Tuesday of 116F set in 1958. Triple-digit temperatures were also recorded in Idaho.

Reno, Nevada, broke its daily record with 104F on Tuesday, and was suffering through the longest streak ever of days hitting 105F or higher. Before this week, the city – at an elevation of 4,500 ft (1,372 meters) – had never been that hot for more than two consecutive days in records dating to 1888.

On the other side of the country, the east coast was also facing extreme heat. An excessive heat warning remained in place Wednesday for the Philadelphia area, northern Delaware and nearly all of New Jersey, where temperatures hovered around 90F (32C) for most the region.

The US heatwave comes as the global temperature in June set a record for the 13th straight month and marked the 12th straight month that the world was 1.5C (2.7FF) warmer than pre-industrial times, the European climate service Copernicus said. Most of this heat, trapped by the human-caused climate crisis, is from long-term warming from greenhouse gases emitted by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, scientists say.

Extreme heat is exacerbating the threat of wildfires across the US west, where a longstanding drought has dried out vegetation that fuels the blazes.

A new fire in Oregon, dubbed the Larch Creek fire, quickly grew to more than 5 sq miles (12 sq km) on Tuesday evening as flames tore through grassland in Wasco county. Evacuations were ordered for remote homes about 15 miles (24km) south of the Dalles.

In California, firefighters were battling least 18 wildfires Tuesday, including a 42-sq-mile blaze that prompted evacuation orders for about 200 residences in the mountains of Santa Barbara county.

That blaze, called the Lake fire, was only 16% contained, and forecasters warned of a “volatile combination” of high heat, low humidity and north-west winds developing late in the day.

And north-east of Los Angeles, the 2-sq-mile Vista fire chewed through trees in the San Bernardino national forest and sent up a huge plume of smoke visible across the region.

The National Weather Service said it was extending the excessive heat warnings across most of the south-west US through Saturday morning.

“It’s not over yet,” the service in Reno said.

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Las Vegas sets record for number of days over 115F amid its ‘most extreme heatwave in history’

City hits all-time high of 120F as officials set up emergency cooling centers at community centers across south Nevada

Las Vegas set a new record on Wednesday as it marked a fifth consecutive day over 115F (46C), amid a lingering hot spell that will continue scorching much of the US into the weekend.

The blazing hot temperatures climbed to 115F shortly after 1pm at Harry Reid international airport, breaking the old mark of four consecutive days above 115F set in July 2005.

The brutal milestone marks yet another record for the Nevada desert city this week: on Sunday, Las Vegas hit an all-time high of 120F (48.8C). Even by desert standards, the prolonged baking the city is experiencing is nearly unprecedented.

“This is the most extreme heatwave in the history of record-keeping in Las Vegas since 1937,” said meteorologist John Adair, a veteran of three decades at the National Weather Service office in southern Nevada.

Keith Bailey and Lee Doss met early Wednesday morning at Las Vegas park to beat the heat and exercise their dogs, Breakie, Ollie and Stanley.

“If I don’t get out by 8.30 in the morning, then it’s not going to happen that day,” Bailey said, wearing a sunhat while the dogs played in the grass.

Alyse Sobosan said this July has been the hottest in the 15 years she has lived in Las Vegas. She said she doesn’t step outside during the day if she can help it, and she waits until 9pm or later to walk her dogs.

“It’s oppressively hot,” she said. “It’s like you can’t really live your life.”

The extended heatwave comes with serious dangers, health officials have emphasized.

“Even people of average age who are seemingly healthy can suffer heat illness when it’s so hot it’s hard for your body to cool down,” said Alexis Brignola, an epidemiologist at the Southern Nevada Health District.

While hotels and casinos kept visitors cool with giant AC units, the scorching heat presented acute danger for homeless residents and others without access to safe environments.

Officials have set up emergency cooling centers at community centers across southern Nevada. Firefighters in Henderson, Nevada, last week became the first in the region to deploy what city spokesperson Madeleine Skains called “polar pods”.

The pods, first deployed in Phoenix, can be filled with water and ice to immerse a medical patient in cold water on the way to a hospital.

The intense heatwave hitting Vegas has been searing much of the US west in recent days, with several places setting heat records and reporting fatalities.

In Oregon, the city of Portland saw record daily temperatures on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and Salem set a new record, hitting 103F on Sunday. The excessive temperatures are suspected to have caused at least eight deaths in the state, the state medical examiner’s office said on Tuesday.

In California, the heat was blamed for a motorcyclist’s death in the Death Valley national park. Death Valley is considered one of the most extreme environments in the world. The hottest temperature ever officially recorded on Earth was 134F in July 1913 in Death Valley, though some experts dispute that measurement and say the real record was 130F, recorded there in July 2021.

On Tuesday, tourists visiting the park queued for photos in front of a giant thermometer that was reading 120F.

Phoenix, Arizona, which has averaged the hottest temperature ever for the first eight days of July in records dating to 1885, tied the daily record on Tuesday of 116F set in 1958. Triple-digit temperatures were also recorded in Idaho.

Reno, Nevada, broke its daily record with 104F on Tuesday, and was suffering through the longest streak ever of days hitting 105F or higher. Before this week, the city – at an elevation of 4,500 ft (1,372 meters) – had never been that hot for more than two consecutive days in records dating to 1888.

On the other side of the country, the east coast was also facing extreme heat. An excessive heat warning remained in place Wednesday for the Philadelphia area, northern Delaware and nearly all of New Jersey, where temperatures hovered around 90F (32C) for most the region.

The US heatwave comes as the global temperature in June set a record for the 13th straight month and marked the 12th straight month that the world was 1.5C (2.7FF) warmer than pre-industrial times, the European climate service Copernicus said. Most of this heat, trapped by the human-caused climate crisis, is from long-term warming from greenhouse gases emitted by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, scientists say.

Extreme heat is exacerbating the threat of wildfires across the US west, where a longstanding drought has dried out vegetation that fuels the blazes.

A new fire in Oregon, dubbed the Larch Creek fire, quickly grew to more than 5 sq miles (12 sq km) on Tuesday evening as flames tore through grassland in Wasco county. Evacuations were ordered for remote homes about 15 miles (24km) south of the Dalles.

In California, firefighters were battling least 18 wildfires Tuesday, including a 42-sq-mile blaze that prompted evacuation orders for about 200 residences in the mountains of Santa Barbara county.

That blaze, called the Lake fire, was only 16% contained, and forecasters warned of a “volatile combination” of high heat, low humidity and north-west winds developing late in the day.

And north-east of Los Angeles, the 2-sq-mile Vista fire chewed through trees in the San Bernardino national forest and sent up a huge plume of smoke visible across the region.

The National Weather Service said it was extending the excessive heat warnings across most of the south-west US through Saturday morning.

“It’s not over yet,” the service in Reno said.

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Widow of Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi given death sentence by Iraqi court

Judgement deems one of Baghdadi’s widows complicit in crimes against Yazidi women

An Iraqi court has issued a death sentence against one of the widows of the late Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, alleging that she was complicit in crimes committed against Yazidi women captured by the militant group.

The ruling comes weeks before the 10-year mark since IS launched a series of attacks against the Yazidi religious minority in the northern Iraqi region of Sinjar in early August 2014, killing and capturing thousands – including women and girls who were subjected to human trafficking and sexual abuse. The UN said the campaign against the Yazidis amounted to genocide.

A statement by Iraq’s judicial council said the Karkh criminal court sentenced the woman for “detaining Yazidi women in her home” and facilitating their kidnapping by “the terrorist Isis gangs in Sinjar district”, the state-run Iraqi News Agency reported. It also said the ruling was issued in accordance with Iraq’s anti-terrorism law and its “Yazidi survivors law”.

The statement did not name the defendant, but two court officials
identified her as Asma Mohammed, who was arrested in 2018 in Turkey and
later extradited. A senior Iraqi security official told the Associated
Press that another wife of al-Baghdadi and his daughter, who were also
extradited from Turkey to Iraq, had been sentenced to life in prison.

The sentences were handed down a week ago but were announced by the judicial council on Wednesday, he said.

Survivors of the IS attacks in Iraq have complained of a lack of accountability and have criticised the decision – made at the request of the Iraqi government – to wind down a UN investigation of IS crimes, including the alleged use of chemical weapons.

At the same time, human rights groups have raised concerns about the lack of due process in trials of alleged IS members in Iraq and have particularly criticised mass executions of those convicted on terrorism charges. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said the convictions are often extracted under torture and urged Iraq to abolish the death penalty.

On 29 June 2014, al-Baghdadi, known as one of the most ruthlessly effective jihadist leaders of modern times, declared the militant group’s caliphate in large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

In 2019, he was killed in a US raid in Syria, dealing a big blow to the militant group which has now lost its hold on all the areas it previously controlled, though some of its cells continue to carry out attacks.

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Elon Musk beats $500m severance suit over mass Twitter layoffs

Judge said court lacked jurisdiction for case, in which workers argued they didn’t receive proper compensation

A US court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit claiming Elon Musk refused to pay at least $500m in severance to thousands of Twitter employees he fired in mass layoffs after buying the social media company now known as X.

US district judge Trina Thompson in San Francisco ruled on Tuesday that the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Erisa) governing benefit plans did not cover the former employees’ claims, and therefore she lacked jurisdiction.

The decision marks a legal victory for Musk, who still faces numerous lawsuits over his business practices at companies including X, Tesla and SpaceX. The cases range from allegations of gender discrimination and defamation to engaging in retaliatory firings.

The case is one of many accusing Musk of reneging on promises to former Twitter employees, including the chief executive Parag Agrawal, and vendors after he bought the company for $44bn in October 2022.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. Musk’s lawyers did not immediately respond to similar requests.

Musk, one of the richest people in the world, was accused of failing to pay Twitter employees appropriate severance after claiming to have fired about 80% of the company in the months after his takeover. Plaintiffs alleged employees received only one month of severance pay with no benefits, instead of the far more generous package they were entitled to as part of a 2019 severance plan.

Thompson said Erisa did not apply to Twitter’s post-buyout plan because there was no “ongoing administrative scheme” in which the company reviewed claims on a case-by-case basis, or offered benefits such as continued health insurance and outplacement services.

“There were only cash payments promised,” she wrote.

The judge said the plaintiffs could try amending their complaint, but only for claims not governed by Erisa.

Musk’s lawyers were also in court this week for the latest legal battle over his contested multibillion-dollar pay package as CEO of Tesla. A judge must rule whether lawyers who successfully argued for the court to invalidate Musk’s payment should be awarded $7bn in legal fees, a sum that would be the largest of its kind in the history of US courts.

Reuters contributed reporting

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Nasa astronauts from Boeing’s Starliner may be stuck in space until August

Engineers working on problems preventing return of Sunita Williams and Butch Wilmore, who are on the ISS

Two Nasa astronauts from Boeing’s troubled Starliner capsule may have to remain in space until the middle of August as engineers continue to work through technical problems that prevented their return in June.

Sunita Williams and Butch Wilmore have been onboard the International Space Station (ISS) since 6 June after the first crewed docking of the next-generation spacecraft. The test mission was scheduled to last about a week, but Starliner’s undocking was delayed several times as faulty thrusters and then a series of small helium leaks raised safety concerns.

On Wednesday, Nasa announced that it was still performing tests to ensure the capsule would perform as expected, and although the space agency was confident the craft would be safe for an emergency evacuation, mission managers were not yet ready to schedule its departure.

“Some of the data suggests optimistically, maybe it’s by the end of July, but we’ll just follow the data each step at a time,” Steve Stich, Nasa’s commercial crew program manager, said at a lunchtime press conference.

“We’re going to work methodically through our processes, including a return flight readiness review with the agency, before we get the go to proceed towards undocking and landing. This is a very standard process.”

He added that a routine ISS crew rotation in mid-August was “kind of a back end” to the mission to avoid overcrowding in orbit.

“Obviously, a few days before that launch opportunity we would need to get Butch and Suni home on Starliner,” he said.

But he noted that the space station, currently occupied by a regular crew of seven in addition to the two Starliner astronauts, had sufficient supplies and resources, and there was no risk to anybody onboard.

That, he said, gave engineers time to perform ground fire evaluations of replica thrusters at Nasa’s White Sands test facility in New Mexico, and close out the helium leak issues he believed could be signed off by the end of this week.

Mark Nappi, vice-president and program manager of Boeing’s commercial crew program, told reporters that he was confident the Starliner program would emerge stronger because of the issues.

“All this information is going to go in a big bucket, and all the engineers are going to review it and try to see if it doesn’t point to root cause or point to some additional testing that we can do in the future to eliminate this problem once and for all,” he said.

Although Boeing’s space operations are separate from its aviation wing, the ongoing problems with Starliner have added to the company’s recent public relations crisis, sparked by the crash of two 737 Max airliners and a number of other safety-related incidents.

Despite being years behind schedule and more than $1.5bn over budget when it launched from Florida on 5 June, Starliner was intended to restore some of the company’s lost lustre and offer Nasa a second private commercial crew alternative for the transportation of astronauts in lower Earth orbit to SpaceX’s Dragon capsule.

If the current test mission concludes successfully, Starliner capsules, known officially as CST-100 (crew space transportation), will operate six further astronaut rotation flights to the space station as part of Nasa’s commercial crew program.

Wilmore, speaking from the ISS earlier on Wednesday, said he and Williams were enjoying their “extra” time in space, and were unconcerned by the technical problems.

“This is the world of test. This is a tough business that we’re in, human spaceflight is not easy in any regime, and there have been multiple issues with every spacecraft that’s ever been designed,” he said.

“We are very close friends with those that are making these decisions, and we trust them. We trust their integrity, we trust their technical acumen, and we trust that the tests that we’re doing are the ones that we need to do to get the right answers to give us the data that we need to come back.”

“I have a real good feeling in my heart that this spacecraft will bring us home, no problem,” Williams said.

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Night owls’ cognitive function ‘superior’ to early risers, study suggests

Research on 26,000 people found those who stay up late scored better on intelligence, reasoning and memory tests

The idea that night owls who don’t go to bed until the early hours struggle to get anything done during the day may have to be revised.

It turns out that staying up late could be good for our brain power as research suggests that people who identify as night owls could be sharper than those who go to bed early.

Researchers led by academics at Imperial College London studied data from the UK Biobank study on more than 26,000 people who had completed intelligence, reasoning, reaction time and memory tests.

They then examined how participants’ sleep duration, quality, and chronotype (which determines what time of day we feel most alert and productive) affected brain performance.

They found that those who stay up late and those classed as “intermediate” had “superior cognitive function”, while morning larks had the lowest scores.

Going to bed late is strongly associated with creative types. Artists, authors and musicians known to be night owls include Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, James Joyce, Kanye West and Lady Gaga.

But while politicians such as Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill and Barack Obama famously seemed to thrive on little sleep, the study found that sleep duration is important for brain function, with those getting between seven and nine hours of shut-eye each night performing best in cognitive tests.

Dr Raha West, lead author and clinical research fellow at the department of surgery and cancer at Imperial College London, said: “While understanding and working with your natural sleep tendencies is essential, it’s equally important to remember to get just enough sleep, not too long or too short. This is crucial for keeping your brain healthy and functioning at its best.”

Prof Daqing Ma, the co-leader of the study who is also from Imperial’s department of surgery and cancer, added: “We found that sleep duration has a direct effect on brain function, and we believe that proactively managing sleep patterns is really important for boosting, and safeguarding, the way our brains work.

“We’d ideally like to see policy interventions to help sleep patterns improve in the general population.”

But some experts urged caution in interpreting the findings. Jacqui Hanley, head of research funding at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Without a detailed picture of what is going on in the brain, we don’t know if being a ‘morning’ or ‘evening’ person affects memory and thinking, or if a decline in cognition is causing changes to sleeping patterns.”

Jessica Chelekis, a senior lecturer in sustainability global value chains and sleep expert at Brunel University London, said there were “important limitations” to the study as the research did not account for education attainment, or include the time of day the cognitive tests were conducted in the results. The main value of the study was challenging stereotypes around sleep, she added.

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