All The News

on 2023.05.31 at 19:33:18 in London

AI 'godfather' Yoshua Bengio feels 'lost' over life's work
US debt ceiling deal clears first hurdle despite hard-line conservative revolt
Auschwitz Museum condemns Polish ruling party video
Woman who accused Biden of sexual assault seeks Russian citizenship
Sackler family can be shielded from opioid lawsuits, court rules
Air New Zealand weighing passengers before flying
Yugoslav war: UN increases sentence on two Serbian war criminals
Gollum: Game mocked as developers Daedalic Entertainment issue apology
Shetland castle for sale for £30,000 but needs £12m upgrade
Manhattanhenge: How to see it this year
She bought an abandoned US lighthouse. Now you can too
Al Pacino: The Godfather star expecting fourth child aged 83
Ukraine war: The mothers going to get their children back from Russia
Myanmar coup: The soldiers refusing to fight
Kosovo-Serbia row leaves Nato peacekeepers under attack
What's in US debt ceiling deal and who won?
Elizabeth Holmes has gone to prison. Will she ever pay victims too?
Using pig fat as green jet fuel will hurt planet, experts warn
After a Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, can a community heal?

War in Ukraine
Moscow drone attack: Putin says Ukraine trying to frighten Russians
Ukraine war: Russian air strikes target Kyiv for third night running
Lindsey Graham: Russia issues arrest warrant for top Republican
Ukraine war: Gen Kyrylo Budanov promises revenge after latest Kyiv attack
Ukraine war: Russian Ambassador Andrei Kelin issues warning of escalation in Ukraine
Oleksiy Danilov interview: Ukraine counter-offensive 'ready to begin'
Belgorod: Russia's Shoigu vows 'harsh response' after incursion into Russia
Ukraine war: Satellite images reveal Russian defences before major assault
Jets to Ukraine: Crucial questions over supplying F-16s to Kyiv
Ukraine war: Taking steps to tackle the mental scars of conflict
Ukraine war: Nato watches Russian 'Zombies' in Estonia
F-16 fighter jets: Biden to let allies supply warplanes in major boost for Kyiv

UN begins salvage operation to stop catastrophic oil spill off Yemen
James Webb telescope: Icy moon Enceladus spews massive water plume
Ama Ata Aidoo: Ghana's famous author and feminist dies
US penalises Kosovo after violent unrest
What do we know about drone attacks in Russia?
Navigating the two sides of Somalia's capital Mogadishu

US & Canada
Jam Master Jay: Third man charged over death of Run-DMC star
Tree of Life synagogue: Gunman driven by 'malice and hate'
Elon Musk: Tesla boss on first China trip in over three years
Former US first lady Rosalynn Carter has dementia
Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes begins 11-year prison sentence
Timed Teaser: Why did Sam Smith stop singing?
US debt ceiling - what it is and why there is one
Who is Linda Yaccarino, Twitter's 'superwoman'?

Amazon staff protest climate record and office return
CBI president in early exit as lobby giant fights to survive
Nvidia briefly worth $1 trillion thanks to AI boom
Coffee and chocolate help drive supermarket prices higher
Foxconn: iPhone maker hikes pay ahead of new model launch
Nvidia: The chip maker that became an AI superpower
How prosperity fuels dowry demand in India
South Africa load-shedding: The roots of Eskom's power problem

Music streaming royalties to be discussed by government
Artificial intelligence could lead to extinction, experts warn
Amazon to offer parents term-time-only working
FTX: Singapore state fund Temasek cuts pay after failed investment
Twitter pulls out of voluntary EU disinformation code
Neuralink: Elon Musk's brain chip firm wins US approval for human study
The 'exploding' demand for giant heat pumps
Neuralink: Why is Elon Musk’s brain chip firm in the news?
ChatGPT: Can China overtake the US in the AI marathon?

Peas that don't taste like peas could help the planet
Man prises crocodile's jaws off his head at Australian resort
Precious cheetah cubs die in India national park
Can ‘enhanced rock weathering’ help combat climate change?
Virgin Galactic: Sir Richard Branson's rocket plane returns to spaceflight
Amazon's Jeff Bezos to help Nasa return to Moon

AI 'godfather' Yoshua Bengio feels 'lost' over life's work, today

One of the so-called "godfathers" of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has said he would have prioritised safety over usefulness had he realised the pace at which it would evolve.

Prof Yoshua Bengio told the BBC felt "lost" over his life's work.

The computer scientist's comments come after experts in AI said it could lead to the extinction of humanity.

Prof Bengio, who has joined calls for AI regulation, said he did not think militaries should be granted AI powers.

He is the second of the so-called three "godfathers" of AI, known for their pioneering work in the field, to voice concerns about the direction and the speed at which it is developing.

In an interview with the BBC, Prof Bengio said his life's work, which had given him direction and a sense of identity, was no longer clear to him.

"It is challenging, emotionally speaking, for people who are inside [the AI sector]," he said.

"You could say I feel lost. But you have to keep going and you have to engage, discuss, encourage others to think with you."

The Canadian has signed two recent statements urging caution about the future risks of AI. Some academics and industry experts have warned that the pace of development could result in malicious AI being deployed by bad actors to actively cause harm - or choosing to inflict harm by itself.

Twitter and Tesla owner Elon Musk has also voiced his concerns.

"I don't think AI will try to destroy humanity but it might put us under strict controls," he said recently at an event hosted by the Wall Street Journal.

"There's a small likelihood of it annihilating humanity. Close to zero but not impossible."

Fellow "godfather" Dr Geoffrey Hinton has also signed the same warnings as Prof Bengio, and retired from Google recently saying he regretted his work.

Prof Bengio told the BBC all companies building powerful AI products needed to be registered.

"Governments need to track what they're doing, they need to be able to audit them, and that's just the minimum thing we do for any other sector like building aeroplanes or cars or pharmaceuticals," he said.

"We also need the people who are close to these systems to have a kind of certification... we need ethical training here. Computer scientists don't usually get that, by the way."

But not everybody in the field believes AI will be the downfall of humans.

The third "godfather", Prof Yann LeCun, who along with Prof Bengio and Dr Hinton won a prestigious Turing Award for their pioneering work, has said apocalyptic warnings are overblown.

Others argue that there are more imminent problems which need addressing.

Dr Sasha Luccioni, research scientist at the AI firm Huggingface, said society should focus on issues like AI bias, predictive policing, and the spread of misinformation by chatbots which she said were "very concrete harms".

"We should focus on that rather than the hypothetical risk that AI will destroy humanity," she added.

There are already many examples of AI bringing benefits to society. Last week an AI tool discovered a new antibiotic, and a paralysed man was able to walk again just by thinking about it, thanks to a microchip developed using AI.

But this is juxtaposed with fears about the far-reaching impact of AI on countries' economies. Firms are already replacing human staff with AI tools, and it is a factor in the current strike under way by scriptwriters in Hollywood.

"It's never too late to improve," says Prof Bengio of AI's current state. "It's exactly like climate change.

"We've put a lot of carbon in the atmosphere. And it would be better if we hadn't, but let's see what we can do now."

Follow Zoe Kleinman on Twitter @zsk

US debt ceiling deal clears first hurdle despite hard-line conservative revolt, today

A hard-line Republican revolt could not prevent legislation to raise the US debt ceiling from clearing its first procedural hurdle in the House of Representatives on Tuesday evening. Here's how the drama is playing out on Capitol Hill and a guide to what comes next.

The two parties finally reached a deal after a showdown lasting months, then weeks of painstaking negotiations.

Now the two leaders - Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy - must sell their weekend agreement to their members of Congress. They believe that even with some defections on the left and right, they have the votes to pass a bill before the deadline.

The Treasury has moved the day the US would hit its borrowing limit to Monday 5 June.

For the moment financial markets appear to have calmed as the prospect recedes of the global economic chaos that would result from the world's biggest economy defaulting on its $31.4 trillion (£25tn) debt.

That could quickly change, however, if the multi-step process for approving the debt-limit agreement is derailed or otherwise blocked in the days ahead.

The deal introduces new federal spending limits and restrictions on low-income aid programmes in exchange for a debt-limit increase.

It became clear on Tuesday that this is not a deal that satisfies conservative hard-liners in the House. The question is whether there are enough of them in the right spots to have their way. The answer, for the moment, looks like they do not.

At a press conference held on the steps of the US Capitol earlier on Tuesday, 11 members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus railed against what they viewed as insufficient spending cuts and budget limitations in the compromise legislation.

"This deal fails completely," said congressman Scott Perry, the leader of the group. He said those who stood with him "will be absolutely opposed to the deal and will do everything in our power to stop it".

They also dodged when asked whether they would call for Mr McCarthy's removal - a step that would escalate the rift forming among Republicans in the House.

"No matter what happens, there's going to be a reckoning for what just occurred unless we stop this bill by tomorrow," congressman Chip Roy of Texas, another Freedom Caucus member, warned.

The best chance for firebrand conservatives to smother the compromise bill in its infancy may have been on Tuesday evening, when the powerful House Rules Committee considered the terms by which the legislation would be debated and voted on by the full House.

With two Freedom Caucus members on the 13-seat committee, the hard-liners could have sided with Democrats and one more Republican to force Mr Biden and Mr McCarthy back to the drawing board with the debt clock ticking down.

Instead, the committee Republican who has most often sided with the Freedom Caucus, Thomas Massie, joined six other Republicans to send the 99-page bill to the floor of the House on Wednesday evening by a 7-6 vote.

Mr Roy and Ralph Norman of South Carolina joined the four Democrats in voting against.

"I don't like this process that led to this bill, I'm not going to lie," the Kentucky Republican said, before adding that there was enough in the deal to win his support.

Despite the victory for Mr McCarthy and backers of the deal, such a spilt among the majority party on the Rules Committee is exceedingly rare and underlines the frayed relations among House Republicans, who are currently the majority party in that chamber.

"The Republican conference right now has been torn asunder," Mr Roy said of his party on Tuesday afternoon.

With this first hurdle surmounted, these are the remaining steps necessary to end the debt-default crisis:

* The House of Representatives will hold an up-or-down vote on the bill requiring a simple majority for approval, as early as Wednesday night

* The Senate would then take up consideration of the bill. Approval there would require 60 votes out of the 100-member chamber. The process could move quickly, although individual senators could delay the proceedings if they choose

* If an identical version of the debt agreement is approved by both the House and the Senate, the bill then is transmitted to Mr Biden for his signature

At the moment, rank-and-file members in both the House and Senate appear willing to fall in line.

There may be some defections from left-wing Democrats, who have complained about how the proposed budget cuts fall exclusively on social programmes and objected to the new work requirements on some recipients of low-income aid.

The Democratic hard-liners, however, have been less organised - and less vocal in their objections - than their conservative counterparts.

Auschwitz Museum condemns Polish ruling party video, today

The museum at Auschwitz concentration camp has denounced Poland's governing party for using an image of the camp in a political campaign.

The ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) posted the video on social media aiming to stop people from attending an opposition march on Sunday.

It was in response to an opposition-supporting journalist who tweeted that the president belonged in a "chamber".

The journalist, Tomasz Lis, insists that he meant a prison cell.

But the ruling party claimed Mr Lis was saying PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, should be sent to a gas chamber.

The video features a background image of the Auschwitz camp's notorious "Arbeit macht frei" (Work sets you free) front gate and one of Mr Lis's tweet, before asking: "Do you really want to march under this slogan?"

The Auschwitz Museum has condemned the video.

"The instrumentalization of the tragedy of people who suffered and died in the German Nazi Auschwitz camp - on either side of the political dispute - is an insult to the memory of the victims," it wrote on Twitter.

"It is a sad, painful and unacceptable manifestation of the moral and intellectual corruption of the public debate."

PiS's decision to use Auschwitz in the video has also been criticised by some of the party's supporters.

And President Duda tweeted that the victims of the Holocaust cannot be used in political campaigning.

"The memory of the victims of German crimes in Auschwitz is scared and inviolable. The tragedy of the millions of victims cannot be used in political struggle. This is an unworthy activity and there is no excuse for it," Mr Duda wrote.

The Nazis murdered over 6 million Jewish people across Europe during the Second World War. 1.4 million of those - including a million Jewish people - died at the Auschwitz camp in occupied Poland.

Woman who accused Biden of sexual assault seeks Russian citizenship, today

An American woman who accused US President Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her has flown to Moscow and is seeking Russian citizenship.

Speaking to a state-run Russian news outlet, Tara Reade, 59, said she felt safe in the country and wanted to stay.

Ms Reade alleged Mr Biden assaulted her while she was working in his congressional office in 1993.

He strongly denied her allegation. "Unequivocally it never, never happened," he said.

Ms Reade worked as an assistant to Mr Biden when he was a senator for Delaware. She made headlines in 2020 as his presidential campaign was getting under way, when she claimed that he assaulted her in a Capitol Hill corridor when she was 29.

She accused him of forcing her against a wall and putting his hands under her shirt and skirt.

"When I got off the plane in Moscow, for the first time in a very long time I felt safe, and I felt heard and felt respected," The Guardian newspaper quotes Ms Reade as saying during an interview with Sputnik.

She said she left the US after a Republican politician told her she was in physical danger.

"[I'd] like to apply for citizenship in Russia, from the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin... I do promise to be a good citizen," Ms Reade said, adding that she hoped to keep her US citizenship.

Ms Reade was one of several women who came forward in 2019 and 2020 to accuse Mr Biden of inappropriate touching, hugging or kissing. She said she had filed a complaint, although no record of this has been found and it is unclear if her claim was formally investigated.

A spokesperson for Mr Biden said he believed women "have a right to be heard" but that the alleged incident "absolutely did not happen".

Sackler family can be shielded from opioid lawsuits, court rules, today

The billionaire owners of Purdue Pharma will be protected from lawsuits linked to the US opioid crisis in exchange for a $6bn (£4.85bn) settlement.

Purdue, which filed for bankruptcy in 2019 amid thousands of lawsuits, made drugs like OxyContin and is blamed for fuelling the crisis.

On Tuesday, an appeals court ruled that its owners, the Sackler family, would receive full immunity from civil suits.

In exchange, they will pay $6bn to help address opioid addiction.

The family have long demanded civil immunity, and the court's ruling removes a key barrier to the money being paid out. It will go to local and state governments, as well as individuals who sued the company, and is expected to fund rehabilitation programmes and other addiction treatments.

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued the ruling. The details of the settlement have been contested in the courts for several years.

Judge Eunice Lee said the claims filed against Purdue Pharma were inextricably linked to the Sackler family. She ruled that if lawsuits were permitted to continue targeting them, Purdue Pharma would not be able to reach a bankruptcy deal.

The ruling paves the way for the settlement which must now receive final approval from a court. While it protects the family from any future civil cases, it does not protect them from potential criminal charges.

As a part of the settlement the Sackler family will give up ownership of the company, which will be rebranded as Knoa, and send its profits to a fund to help treat addiction.

The family has been made to listen to stories of those impacted by the drug as part of the deal. Many of the complainants were state and local governments who alleged OxyContin triggered an opioid epidemic.

The family will also allow their name to be removed from buildings and scholarships.

In 2021, there were more than 100,000 overdose deaths in the US, with opioids involved in 75% of those according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Purdue Pharma promoted opioids as non-addictive painkillers, and the company has previously pleaded guilty to charges relating to its opioid marketing. The Sackler family has denied wrongdoing.

The families of now-deceased Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, the two founders of Purdue Pharma, welcomed Tuesday's decision.

"The Sackler families believe the long-awaited implementation of this resolution is critical to providing substantial resources for people and communities in need," they said in a statement.

Purdue Pharma said they would focus on investing money into "victim compensation, opioid crisis abatement and overdose rescue medicines" going forward.

Air New Zealand weighing passengers before flying, today

Air New Zealand is weighing passengers before they board international flights, as part of a survey to determine average passenger weight.

The weight will be anonymously recorded in a database but not be visible to airline staff or other passengers, the firm said.

Air New Zealand said knowing average passenger weight would improve fuel efficiency in the future.

Participation in the survey is voluntary, the airline added.

The airline previously weighed domestic passengers in New Zealand in 2021.

"Now that international travel is back up and running, it's time for international flyers to weigh in," the airline said in a press statement.

Before the pandemic, the airline flew more than 17 million passengers every year, with 3,400 flights per week.

Knowing the weight of everything that goes on its aircraft is a "regulatory requirement", airline spokesman Alastair James explained in a video.

"We know stepping on the scales can be daunting. We want to reassure our customers there is no visible display anywhere," Mr James said. "By weighing in, you'll be helping us fly safely and efficiently every time."

Air New Zealand will be asking more than 10,000 customers travelling on its international network to take part in the survey.

Passengers will be weighed at the gates of certain flights departing from Auckland International Airport between 29 May and 2 July.

The airline said that everything that goes on its aircraft - from cargo and onboard meals to luggage in the hold - is weighed, and that for customers, crew and cabin bags it used average weights based on survey data.

Air New Zealand is the national carrier of the country and has 104 operating aircraft.

Yugoslav war: UN increases sentence on two Serbian war criminals, today

The UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague has increased prison sentences on two top former Serbian security officials.

Jovica Stanišic and Franko Simatovic were convicted of training death squads accused of ethnic cleansing during the break-up of Yugoslavia.

They will serve 15 years instead of the 12 they were originally given in 2021.

The court's final verdict on the former Yugoslavia is also the first to prove a direct link between the Serbian state and a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Mr Stanisic, a former head of Serbia's State Security Service, and his deputy, Franko Simatovic, a senior intelligence operative, were key allies of Serbia's late ex-President Slobodan Milosevic.

The court found the spymasters guilty of establishing training camps and deploying infamous death squads, the paramilitary units called the Red Berets.

They were also held responsible for involvement in crimes across Bosnia and in one town in Croatia as members of a joint criminal plan to eliminate non-Serbs from swathes of land during the Balkan wars.

Following the judgment, Kada Hotic, a former seamstress in Srebrenica whose husband's body was found in a mass grave, spoke to the BBC sitting near a fountain outside the tribunal and reflected on her decades long quest to find the truth.

"I'm looking at this beautiful blue sky and this building of the ICTY which managed to bring us partial justice. I lost my sons, my two children, my brothers, I cannot live in my Srebrenica, I just live to fight for justice. I want people to live in a country and not kill each other, we are all just humans," she said.

[Kada Hotic]

Ms Hotic - who also lost her son and two brothers in the genocide - was born in 1945 and never met her father, who died fighting the Nazis in the World War Two.

She told the BBC she that she regretted that her mother never fought for justice for her father, and that she hopes this ruling will inspire others.

But as Dr Iva Vukuvic, assistant professor in international history at Utrecht University explains, the length of the legal process which spanned two decades, underscores the complexity of proving war crimes in international courts, and highlights some of the challenges for those investigating Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

"It sends a message, it's worth working on this, it's worth documenting, it's worth investigating, there is hope in that regard, and not all is lost," he told the BBC.

The evidence gathered during these trials provides a historical narrative of what happened during the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

Many hope it will help to heal the scars of the past and bring divided communities together to build a peaceful, unified future.

"It's the missing piece of the puzzle," Nenad Golcevski, from the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience said,

"Now there can't be more denying of the role of Serbia, as a final judgment it completes the legacy, now it's up to us, the people in the Balkans, to take that legacy forward, to use it, to find lessons from it, so that something like this is never repeated again."

Gollum: Game mocked as developers Daedalic Entertainment issue apology, today

The developers of the latest Lord of the Rings game, Gollum, have apologised after a major backlash from players.

The action-adventure allows gamers to play as Gollum in a series of missions and locations.

But reviews have generally been negative and players have mocked it online, with technical aspects and the game's stability being criticised.

Daedalic Entertainment have said they "deeply regret" that the game did not meet expectations.

The release of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum comes six years after Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the last multi-platform, open-world Lord of The Rings game.

But players have been taking to social media platforms such as Twitter and TikTok to mock Gollum's technical bugs and glitches, whilst also pointing out how expensive the game is to purchase.

[Promotional still from Gollum]

The game was created by Daedalic Entertainment, a developer more commonly known for point-and-click adventure games, where the player typically controls their character through a point and click interface using a computer mouse.

The creation of a large-scale game such as Gollum presents a very different challenge and a large international audience; something the developers have acknowledged.

They said they consider creating a game set in Middle-earth as "the greatest honour" and the "biggest challenge we have faced so far".

In a statement posted on Twitter, the developers said "We would like to sincerely apologise for the underwhelming experience many of you have had with The Lord of the Rings: Gollum upon its release".

"We acknowledge and deeply regret that the game did not meet the expectations we set for ourselves or for our dedicated community."

[Promotional still from Gollum]

This isn't the first time this year that game developers have apologised for the poor performances of new releases on latest generation consoles.

In April 2023, Respawn, the developers of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, posted an apology on Twitter for the poor launch performance of the game on PC.

In 2020, CD Projekt Red issued an apology after their game Cyberpunk 2077 suffered major performance problems on the PS4 and Xbox One.

Paying for quality

The continuous release of imperfect videogames has lead to a growing debate over whether players are getting a fair exchange for their money.

The UK retail price of the Gollum game at initial release was £49.99.

In a 2023 interview, the Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma indicated that Nintendo decided to delay The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom in March 2022 - to an unspecified 2023 date - solely to clean the game up to the finest condition.

Aonuma told The Washington Post he had to announce its delay, "to make sure that everything in the game was 100% to our standards".

The resulting game, Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, sold faster than any Nintendo game in history.

[Promotional still from Zelda]

However, despite poor reviews and negative coverage online, the sales for Gollum are still high, with the game coming sixth in the UK Sales Charts on its release week.

Daedalic have said they will continue to work on the game to "address the bugs and technical issues many of you experienced".

"We are committed to providing you with patches that will allow you to enjoy the game to its full potential," the statement continued.

"We understand that a game's success relies on the enjoyment and satisfaction of its players.

"We genuinely value your feedback and have been actively listening to your voices, reading your comments, and analysing the constructive criticism and suggestions you have provided."

Shetland castle for sale for £30,000 but needs £12m upgrade, today

A castle in Shetland is on the market for just £30,000 - but any potential buyer will also need a spare £12m.

House-hunters could snap up Brough Lodge on the island of Fetlar for less than the price of a flat in Glasgow.

The 200-year-old property is set in 40 acres of land, with folly towers, a courtyard and walled gardens.

But investors have been warned that they will need deep pockets to cover the cost of the renovations it requires.

The Brough Lodge Trust has appealed for a "philanthropic entrepreneur" to take on plans to transform the site into a world-class retreat.

Their proposals would preserve the existing building, which dates back to 1820, as well as creating 24 bedrooms and a restaurant.

[Aerial view of Brough Lodge]

Brough Lodge is category A listed building of national significance and is situated on the north-west end of Fetlar.

It was built by a merchant called Arthur Nicholson and it was based on architecture he had seen while travelling in France, Switzerland and Italy.

A unique structure on the island of just 61 people, it has lain empty since the 1980s when the last Lady Nicholson moved out.

The last heir of the Nicholson family, Olive Borland, transferred ownership of the estate to the Brough Lodge Trust in 2007 and now sits on its board of trustees.

Since taking over the estate, the trust has spent more than £500,000 of donations to make the property watertight and add a new roof.

Its sale price of £30,000 is substantially less than the average price of a house in Scotland - in August last year that was calculated at £195,391 by HM Land Registry.

But the trust estimate that it will cost the buyer £12m to complete the development.

[Projected interior of the restaurant that could be built at Brough Lodge]

"The vision is simple but effective," the trust explains on its website.

"Under the plans we have developed, the building's historic character would be fully respected."

As well as enjoying sweeping views of the North Sea, guests at Brough Lodge would have the opportunity to do yoga and textile classes, and experience Shetland traditions of knitting and weaving.

The proceeds of the sale of the lodge would go towards tuition in hand knitting for children, keeping alive a key element of the islands' artistic heritage, Brough Lodge Trust says.

As well as bringing tourism to the island, the trust said the proposed works would bring economic benefits to the island with the creation of 14 jobs.

[Folly tower at Brough Lodge overlooking the sea]

Manhattanhenge: How to see it this year, today

New Yorkers are gathering for the biannual spectacle of Manhattanhenge on Tuesday evening.

The city's famous grid system will frame the setting sun, casting a warm glow over the concrete jungle.

The phenomenon typically draws thousands of onlookers, tourists and locals alike, who vie to capture the perfect image.

The first night of Manhattanhenge happened on Monday, with only half the setting sun on view.

The full sun will be glimpsed between the skyscrapers at sunset on Tuesday.

What is Manhattanhenge?

This is when the sunset aligns perfectly with Manhattan's skyscrapers, which were built on the city's street grid layout.

Similar "henge" phenomena also occur in other cities with large amounts of skyscrapers and long straight streets - such as Chicago, Montreal and Toronto.


As far as sunset goes, the event happens in May and July, and for two nights each. There's also a sunrise version that occurs in the winter.

It happens about three weeks before and three weeks after the summer solstice.

Who coined the term?

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson first used the term Manhattanhenge in 1997, inspired by its likeness to Stonehenge, where the sun aligns with concentric circles of vertical stones on each of the solstices.


"As a kid, I visited Stonehenge in the Salisbury Plain of England and did research on other stone monuments across the British Isles. It was deep within me," says deGrasse Tyson.

"So I was, in a way, imprinted by the emotional power that terrestrial alignments with the Sun can have on a culture or civilisation."

How do you see it?

Viewers above 14th Street and below 155th Street can catch the spectacle.


The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation recommends these streets for a great view: 57th Street, 42nd Street, 34th Street, 23rd Street and 14th Street.

While 42nd Street is a popular viewing spot, any east-west street will offer a generally good view - just be sure to head as far east as possible.

It will happen on Tuesday at 20:12 local time and again on 12 July at 20:20 and on 13 July at 20:21 local time.

She bought an abandoned US lighthouse. Now you can too, yesterday

Sheila Consaul, a Washington, DC-based communications executive, was in the market for a summer home when she came across a rare find.

A historic, white and red, lakefront property located just off the shores of Lake Erie and surrounded by glittering water on all sides. Its name? The Fairport Harbor West lighthouse.

In 2011, Ms Consaul won the light station in a government auction with a bid of about $71,000 (£57,494).

Now the US government hopes yet more people will follow in her footsteps to purchase and restore these once-mighty sentinels before they slowly deteriorate into the coast.

For centuries, lighthouses have been a fixture of America's coastline, their beacons guiding mariners to safer shores. But modern day advances in GPS technology and navigation have reduced many watchtowers to historic attractions, while others have been neglected or abandoned.

In 2000, Congress passed the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act which provided a way to transfer ownership of decommissioned historic light stations to new keepers, like Ms Consaul.

More than 150 lighthouses have found new keepers since the programme began, the agency said.

"Lighthouse Season" begins in June and this year the US General Services Administration said a record number of lighthouses will be available to the public through an online bidding process and auction.

The government said it will offer to transfer ownership of six lighthouses to state and local government agencies, non-profits and community groups at no cost if they are willing to preserve the historic buildings.

But if no organisation comes forward to purchase the properties, they will be auctioned off online to the public.

Four lighthouses will go up for public auction, the agency said, including the Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead light which famously freezes to resemble an ice castle during Ohio's frigid winters.

After the US Coast Guard decommissioned the Fairport Harbor West watchtower in the 1940s, the structure sat empty for more than 70 years until Ms Consaul purchased it.

"It took three years of an auction process to finally secure," she says. "It is amazingly calm and serene and pretty much in the middle of the lake with 360 degree views of the water. At night you can see stars everywhere."

But she cautioned, as with any renovation project, buying the near-century-old lighthouse was just the beginning.

"I've been renovating it pretty much ever since," she says, adding she's lost track of how much she's spent on restoring the two-storey lighthouse, which spans 3,000 sq ft (278 sq m), over the years.

[Lighthouse before and after]

The Fairport Harbor West lighthouse is located on Lake Erie about 20 miles east of Cleveland, Ohio at the mouth of the Grand River. Ms Consaul said she's kept the original spiral iron staircase and re-purposed a massive foghorn into a table, but other upgrades have taken years to get right.

The lighthouse was off grid and had no toilets, running water, electricity. It also does not have its own dock, so Ms Consaul said she often has to carry supplies - including her groceries - down the narrow pathway in a backpack.

Literature has long idolised the lifestyle of the solitary lighthouse keeper, but Ms Consaul said she wanted the Fairport Harbor West lighthouse to also be a beacon for the community once again.

"When the Coast Guard owned it, for all that time they never had people come in," she says. "I have offered tours from the beginning and I hold an open house every year around the lighthouse's birthday."

With the next celebration just weeks away, Ms Consaul says she's looking forward to sharing her own piece of America's historic maritime history with her community and friends.

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Al Pacino: The Godfather star expecting fourth child aged 83, today

Actor Al Pacino is expecting his fourth child at the age of 83, his representatives have confirmed.

The Godfather star has announced his 29-year-old girlfriend Noor Alfallah is eight months pregnant.

According to US media reports, Pacino and Alfallah have been together since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pacino already has three children - two with Beverly D'Angelo and one with Jan Tarrant.

In a career spanning more than five decades, Pacino has appeared in The Irishman, The Godfather, Scarface and Scent of a Woman, winning an Oscar for best actor for the latter.

Alfallah works in the film industry and has produced films such as Billy Knight, Little Death and Brosa Nostra.

She previously dated musician Mick Jagger in 2017.

Pacino's co-star from The Godfather Part II, Robert de Niro, recently announced he had welcomed his seventh child at the age of 79.

Ukraine war: The mothers going to get their children back from Russia, today

When 15-year-old Sasha Kraynyuk studied the photograph handed to him by Ukrainian investigators, he recognised the boy dressed in Russian military uniform immediately.

The teenager sitting at a school desk has the Z-mark of Russia's war emblazoned on his right sleeve, coloured in the red, white and blue of the Russian flag.

But the boy's name is Artem, and he's Ukrainian.

Sasha and Artem were among 13 children taken from their own school in Kupyansk, north-eastern Ukraine last September by armed Russian soldiers in balaclavas. Ushered onto a bus with shouts of "Quickly!", they then disappeared for weeks without trace.

When the children, who all have special educational needs, were finally allowed to call home, it was from much deeper inside Russian-occupied territory.

To get them back, their relatives were forced to make gruelling journeys across thousands of miles into the country that has declared war on them. Only eight of the children have been returned from Perevalsk so far and Artem was one of the last, collected by his mother just this spring.

When I reached the school's director by phone, she saw no problem with dressing Ukrainian children in the uniform of an invading army.

"So what?" Tatyana Semyonova retorted. "What can I do? What's it to do with me?"

I countered that the Z symbolised the war against the children's own country. "So what?" the director demanded again. "What kind of a question is that? No-one is forcing them."

Scrolling through the website of Perevalsk Special School, I found the photograph of Artem on public display. It was taken in February 2023, a year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in a class to mark Defenders of the Fatherland Day.

The lesson was dedicated to learning "gratitude and respect" for Russian soldiers.

I tried to question the director some more, but the phone line abruptly cut out.

The wanted war criminal

[Ukrainian children wearing Russia military uniforms]

For Ukraine, the story of Kupyansk Special School is part of a growing body of evidence against Vladimir Putin as a suspected war criminal.

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russia's president in March, accusing him and his children's ombudswoman, Maria Lvova-Belova, of the unlawful deportation of Ukrainian children.

Russia insists that its motives are purely humanitarian, evacuating children to protect them from danger. Senior officials scorn the ICC indictment, even threatening retaliatory arrests against its representatives.

The ICC hasn't made the details of its case public and nor has Ukraine, but officials in Kyiv maintain that more than 19,000 children have been taken from occupied areas since the full-scale invasion. We understand that many have come from care homes and residential schools.

We investigated several cases, including another Special School in Oleshki, southern Ukraine, and found that each time Russian officials made minimal or zero effort to locate any relatives. Ukrainian children were frequently told there was nothing in their country to return to and were subjected, to varying degrees, to a "patriotic" Russian education.

The details and the nuance vary, as there is chaos in war as well as ill intention.

But there is also a clear, overriding ideology: Russia, led by Vladimir Putin, openly proclaims everything in occupied areas of Ukraine as its own, including the children.

Sasha's Story

Kupyansk, north-eastern Ukraine

[Sarah Rainsford speaking to Sasha]

Sasha is a tall, shy boy with a long fringe that he likes to smooth into place like any self-conscious teenager.

Forced separation from family would be upsetting for any child. For someone vulnerable, like Sasha, it was deeply unsettling. His mother, Tetyana Kraynyuk, tells me he's still withdrawn, months after they were reunited. The 15-year-old even has grey hairs from all the stress.

They're now living in the western German town of Dinklage as refugees where, after school, Sasha mainly lies on his bed playing on his phone. But he remembers very clearly the moment when Russian soldiers took him away.

"If I'm honest, it was scary," Sasha admits in his quiet voice, rubbing his hands back and forth on his thighs. "I didn't know where they would take us."

When I ask about missing his mum he pauses for a long time, says it's too distressing for him to remember and asks if he can change the subject.

Before the war, Sasha went to Kupyansk Special School in north-eastern Ukraine. He would board during the week, returning home at weekends, but when Russia invaded in February 2022, much of the Kharkiv region was overrun immediately and Tetyana kept her son home for safety.

As September approached, the occupying administration began insisting that all children return to school, now with the Russian curriculum. There was the same push in all occupied areas, often using teachers from Russia to replace those locals who refused to collaborate.

Tetyana was reluctant to send Sasha back, but the teenager was bored stiff after seven months in their village, so on 3 September she dropped him off in Kupyansk.

Days later, Ukrainian forces launched their lightning operation to re-take the region.

"We heard the noise from miles away. The booms. Then the helicopters and the firing. It was a terrible din. Then I saw the tanks and the Ukrainian flag," Tetyana remembers of the counter-offensive.

Unable to contact her son, she was frantic.

"When we reached the school only the caretaker was left. He said the kids had been taken and no-one knew where," Tetyana says.

[Tetyana Kraynyuk]

A teacher saw what happened that day, when as many as 10 heavily armed Russian soldiers "swooped into" the school.

"They didn't care about taking any documents or contacting parents," Mykola Sezonov told me, when we met in Kyiv. "They just shoved the kids in a bus with some refugees and left."

I put to him Russia's defence in such cases: that it was removing children from danger.

"I lived under Russian occupation, and I know the difference between what they say and what I see for myself through the window," was the teacher's response.

For six weeks, there was no word of the children.

"I cried every day, called the hotline and told them I'd lost my son and wrote to the police. We tried to find him through volunteers," Tetyana says.

It was a full month before a friend spotted a video on social media, dated early September 2022. It reported that 13 children from Kupyansk Special School had been moved east to a similar facility in Svatove, still under Russian control.

Another fortnight after that, Tetyana's phone beeped with a message: Sasha was at a Special School in Perevalsk, she read, and his mum could call to talk to him.

"He was happy to hear me, of course. But he really cried," Tetyana recalls of the moment they spoke. "They'd told him his home was destroyed and he'd been afraid we were gone too."

Communication with areas of heavy fighting is not easy, but the Kupyansk children passed through three institutions before anyone tried to reach any relatives.

"There was nothing. Only from Perevalsk, and even then not immediately. I think they did it on purpose," says Tetyana.

Her struggles weren't over.

She would have to return Sasha home in person, but the direct route crossed the frontline. Instead, Tetyana travelled from Ukraine through Poland and the Baltics before crossing on foot into Russia, where the FSB Security Service then interrogated her about Ukrainian troop movements.

She had nothing to tell.

"It was pitch dark, there were checkpoints, men in balaclavas with guns. I was so scared I took pills to calm me," Tetyana remembers of the rest of the trip into occupied eastern Ukraine.

She had another reason to be frightened. By then, Russia was openly taking children from care homes in occupied areas and placing them with Russian families.

[Ukrainian children wearing Russia military uniforms]

The Telegram channel of the children's ombudswoman is full of videos showing her escorting groups of Ukrainian children across the border, where bewildered youngsters are greeted by Russian foster parents with gifts and hugs as the cameras roll.

We sent two requests for an interview with Maria Lvova-Belova and got no reply. But the message from all her posts is clear: Russia is the good guy in what it still refuses to call a war. Russia claims it's saving Ukrainian children.

By the time Sasha disappeared from Kupyansk, Vladimir Putin had already amended the law to make it easier for Ukrainian children to get Russian citizenship and be adopted. In late September he announced the annexation of four regions of Ukraine, including Luhansk where Sasha was then located.

In public and online, Maria Lvova-Belova referred repeatedly to children in those regions as "ours". She adopted a teenager from Mariupol herself, posting pictures with his new Russian passport.

"I was afraid that if they took Sasha into Russia, I would never find him. I was afraid he'd be put in a foster family, just like that," Tetyana tells me.

"What have our children got to do with anything? Why did they do this to us? Maybe it's just to cause us pain, like with everything else."

So when she finally reached Perevalsk, after an exhausting five days on the road, Tetyana hugged her son to her tightly. Sasha didn't say a word. He was crying from happiness.

Danylo's Story

Kherson, southern Ukraine

[Alla Yatsenyuk]

For six months, Alla Yatsenyuk felt like part of herself was missing.

When she packed her 13-year-old son off to camp in Crimea, she thought Danylo was heading for two weeks by the sea. It was meant to be a break from the stress of war: other kids from Kherson had been to camp and come back, so Alla wasn't worried.

Besides, their city had been occupied since the very start of the invasion and by October 2022, she'd begun to think Russia would control Kherson for good, though she didn't want that.

But days after Alla waved Danylo off, the officials responsible for him announced that the children would not return. The Russians had begun retreating from Kherson. If the children's parents wanted them back, they were told they should come for them.

Alla pleaded with the regional administration but was told they would only return the children "when Kherson is Russian again." She called the Prosecutor's Office in Crimea, but they insisted she had to get Danylo herself.

And so for weeks, Alla reassured her son that she was coming for him even as she tried to work out how.

The distance from Kherson to Yevpatoria is short but the direct route was closed by the Russian military and a far longer route through Zaporizhzhia was too dangerous. "There was a less than 5% chance of getting there and back safely," Alla was told.

She would also need around $1,500 (£1,200) for a driver, as well as her first ever passport and all the paperwork the Russians were demanding to prove her link to her son.

Alla was already starting to despair when Danylo said officials at his camp were threatening to place the children in care if their parents didn't hurry.

"The kids have been calling us in panic, saying that they don't want to end up in homes," Alla fretted. "And Russia is huge! Where would we look for them then?"

We met as she finally set off in a train carriage full of other mums and grandmothers on the most anxious journey of their lives.

The women were being helped by a group called Save Ukraine, which stepped in when it emerged that hundreds of Ukrainian children might be stranded. Some were from broken homes or less well-off families, struggling with the logistics and funding for the trip. Other parents had been hesitant about returning their children to cities under heavy Russian fire.

But Alla couldn't wait any longer.

"I still have this gnawing worry something will go wrong. It will be there until I have my son next to me. Then I can breathe again."

Over a week later, Alla was one of the last to cross the border back from Belarus, dragging a big suitcase into Ukraine past concrete boulders and anti-tank defences. Danylo, with his dimpled grin, was finally safe beside her.


There had been moments when she thought she wouldn't make it.

Save Ukraine had instructed the women to turn off their phones when they entered Russia, so the details of their traumatic journey only began spilling out between welcome hugs.

"They kept us like cattle, separate from anyone else. Fourteen hours with no water, no food, nothing," Alla described being held by Russia's FSB security service at a Moscow airport. "They kept asking us what military equipment we had seen, they checked our phones a million times and asked about all our relatives."

The women continued the 24-hour drive south to Crimea. As they drew close, they stopped for a break and 64-year-old Olha Kutova took a couple of steps, collapsed, and died by the side of the road. After days cramped-up in a minibus, in a state of stress, her heart had given out. Now Save Ukraine is trying to return Olha's ashes, as well as her granddaughter.

Eventually, Alla made it to the camp.

"The moment I saw my child running towards me in tears, it made up for everything we'd been through," Alla described her reunion, at last, with Danylo.

Her son tells me it was "just brilliant!"

Save Ukraine returned 31 children that day and several confirmed that camp staff had threatened to place them in care, which had scared them.

They talked of being taken on excursions at the start, and being reasonably fed and clothed. But on Russian-controlled territory they were treated and taught as Russians. When inspectors visited from Moscow, the Ukrainians had to line up beside the Russian flag and sing the Russian anthem.

In October, the occupying administration of Kherson posted a video on Telegram of such a moment. Russia's anthem booms through loudspeakers and the tricolour flag is unfurled. But look a little closer and it's clear that none of the children's lips are moving.

The camera operator suddenly realises that one girl has her hands over her ears to block out the sound. Too late, they zoom away from her.

Going home

A few weeks after her return, I call Alla in Kherson.

"Everything was finally over, once we made it here," she tells me cheerfully down the line.

[Danylo and his mother Alla]

She admits there was some bad feeling towards the summer-camp mums at the start, seen as "collaborators" for sending their children to Russian-run facilities in the first place. But Alla feels that has faded.

In her own family, Danylo is back to bickering with his younger brother and studying online, in Ukrainian. But with no internet at home, she has to dash into the city centre to hunt for wi-fi to download his schoolwork, and that's risky.

Since the Russians were forced into retreat, abandoning Kherson, they've been taking their revenge on the city from across the river.

"They're shelling from morning to night," Alla confirms, though she says their house is relatively far from Russian positions. They have no plans to leave.

Danylo is still in a group chat with the other children from camp and most who remained have now been collected. But he says five were transferred to a care home somewhere in Russia.

Alla forwards me a photograph of their room with rows of single beds, a cheap rug and a spider plant. Where the left-behind children go from there isn't clear.

The missing children

In rural Germany, Sasha has had time to settle into life and another new school, but Tetyana is finding the adjustment a little harder.

In their flat, over a pile of sprat sandwiches, she explains that her eldest son is still in Ukraine expecting to be called up to fight any day. Tetyana wants nothing more than to go home to her husband, too, but Kupyansk is under heavy fire again.

In late April, Russian missiles destroyed the local history museum, killing two women. Before that, Sasha's old school in the city was badly damaged when missiles landed nearby.

Eight months after he and the other children were taken from there, five still remain in Russian-controlled territory. The director of the school where they ended up, Tatyana Semyonova, confirmed that when I called.

[Sarah Rainsford speaking on the phone to Tatyana Semyonova]

I was surprised she agreed to talk at all, but the Russian number I used must have confused her. So did my questions.

The director claimed no-one had been in touch about the five, which we know isn't true, and insisted she would hand them "straight back" as soon as their legal guardians come to collect them.

But that's unlikely: various sources tell me the children are treated as "social orphans", whose parents are alive but who are not allowed or able to care for them.

When I asked why Russia could take children without permission from Ukraine, but demanded a pile of paperwork to return them, Tatyana Semyonova was short.

"What's that got to do with me? I didn't bring them here."

On the website of her school in Perevalsk, I see a large picture of the director staring out, bleached hair sitting on a strip of dark brown like she's wearing a helmet. The photographs of Artem, Sasha's classmate, with a Z mark, are publicly displayed on the same site.

Sasha has identified two more of the missing children from Kupyansk among the school pictures: 12-year-olds Sofiya and Mikita are dressed up and standing in line to celebrate the Russian military.

I ask Sasha's mother what she makes of the arrest warrant issued for Russia's president.

"Not only Putin, but all his main people - all the commanders - should be on trial for what they did to the kids," Tetyana Kraynyuk answers, without hesitating.

"What right did they have [to take the children]? How were we supposed to get them back? They just didn't care."

Production by Mariana Matveichuk

Photos by Matt Goddard and Sarah Rainsford

Myanmar coup: The soldiers refusing to fight, today

The Myanmar military is suffering defections from its forces and is finding it hard to recruit. In exclusive interviews, newly-defected soldiers tell the BBC that the junta, who seized power in a coup two years ago, is struggling to suppress the armed pro-democracy uprising.

"No-one wants to join the military. People hate their cruelty and unjust practices," says Nay Aung. The first time he tried to leave his base he was badly beaten with a rifle butt and called a "traitor".

He managed to escape the second time and flee across the border to Thailand with the support of opposition groups.

"One of my friends is in the resistance," he says. "I called him and he told people here in Thailand about me. I arrived here with their help."

He's now living in a safehouse along with 100 other newly-defected soldiers and their families. These men, who refused to fight their own people, are now in hiding so we are not using their real names. They're being housed and protected by the very resistance movement they were ordered to fight.

[A defected soldier lights a cigarette]

Since the military seized power in a coup in February 2021, more than 13,000 soldiers and policemen have defected, according to the exiled National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG). They are offering cash incentives and support to try and get more soldiers and police officers to switch sides.

At 19, Maung Sein is the youngest in the safehouse. He joined the military when he was just 15 years old.

"I admired the military," Maung Sein says, and he wanted to make his family proud. But the military's violent crackdown on the nationwide uprising demanding democracy has dramatically changed people's view of men in uniform.

"We saw online people calling us 'military dogs'," he says - the animal term is one of the biggest insults in Myanmar. "That made me sorry and sad."

Maung Sein says foot soldiers like him couldn't disobey "orders from above" to "kill civilians and burn villages".

But he also left because he thinks the military is in a weak position.

Ethnic armed organisations in the border regions alongside a network of civilian militia groups, called the People's Defence Forces (PDF), are proving to be a much stronger force than many expected and the Myanmar military has lost control of large parts of the country.

In Magway Division and Sagaing Division, places that previously provided the military with many recruits, young people are instead joining the civilian militia.

[Members of ethnic rebel group Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) take part in a training exercise at their base camp in the forest in Myanmar's northern Shan State]

Before managing to defect, Maung Sein's unit was ordered to "attack and destroy" a PDF training camp.

The operation didn't go well. Seven of his fellow soldiers were killed before they were ordered to retreat. "They [the PDF] have a better strategy," he says, "which makes them stronger."

The PDF enjoys widespread public support and villagers provide intelligence about the military's movements and shelter the young militia fighters.

[Capt Zay Thu Aung]

Capt Zay Thu Aung spent 18 years in the air force. He defected a year after the coup in February 2022.

"They are under attack across the country," he says, reflecting on the state of Myanmar's army, "and they don't have enough men to fight back."

This is why, he says, the military is increasingly using the air force.

In recent months the military has carried out devastating air strikes across the country. Since January there have been more than 200 reports of air attacks. The deadliest airstrike hit the Pa Zi Gyi village in Sagaing region in April, killing more than 170 people, including many women and children.

"Without the air force, it's very likely that the military will fall," Capt Aung predicts.

Like the other defectors, everyone in his family was proud of him when he was chosen as an air force cadet. In those times, he says, it was an honour to be part of Myanmar's military. The coup, he says, "pulled us down the abyss".

"Most of the people I lived with in the air force were not bad people. But since the coup, they've been acting like monsters."

He's the only one in his unit who has defected, though. Most of his friends have "kept fighting against my people", he says.

[Women holding banners, emergency flare sticks and fire sticks as they march during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon in July 2021]

Despite the Myanmar military's critical role in the country's affairs, its exact size is unknown. Most observers estimate at the time of the coup it was around 300,000 but now is much lower.

The resistance has used new technologies like video games alongside traditional crowdfunding mechanisms to raise money, much of it individual donations from the diaspora.

They have managed to raise significant sums this way but they lack access to military grade weapons or fighter jets.

The National Unity Government has offered to pay $500,000 (£405,000) to regime pilots or sailors who defect with a military aeroplane or navy vessel, but so far no-one has done this.

[BBC iPlayer]

Myanmar's War in the Air

With the Myanmar military strategy turning increasingly to the air, with devastating consequences, the BBC follows those fighting back.

Watch on iPlayer (UK only)

And on BBC News on Sat 3 Jun at 04:30, 23:30 and Sunday 4 Jun 02:30 BST

Or listen to Assignment on BBC World Service

[BBC iPlayer]

Capt Aung says it's not easy to leave after being "indoctrinated for years" and that he, too, feared being seen as a traitor.

"There is a saying in the Myanmar military that you leave when you're dead."

Russia's role

Before defecting, Capt Aung worked on a major upgrade of the capital Naypyidaw's airport to prepare for the arrival of advanced fighter jets from Russia, the Sukhoi Su-30M.

Capt Aung takes us through the satellite imagery of the airport. He shows us where he used to live and where he helped build three open sheds to house the six Sukhoi Su-30M's ordered.

[Satellite image of the sheds build for the Su-30 M's]

These fighter jets represent "the most advanced aircraft in the arsenal of the Myanmar military," says Leone Hadavi from Myanmar Witness, who has been monitoring the aircrafts the military is using.

He says the Sukhoi Su-30M is an advanced multi-role fighter jet that has both air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities in the version that was exported to Myanmar.

It has a greater capacity to carry weapons than the Russian-made Yak-130s that have been regularly sighted in recent airstrikes.

Capt Aung says as part of the agreement two test pilots from Russia and a repair crew of 10 people would stay for "one year during the entire warranty period". He was involved in building their accommodation.

Others from the Myanmar air force were sent to Russia. "Altogether more than 50 people were sent to be trained to operate these planes," he tells us.

Two of the six fighter jets have arrived in Myanmar and been put on display at military parades. They have not yet been sighted in the conflict.

In the face of international sanctions and condemnation from its neighbours, the Myanmar military has become increasingly isolated. The latest round of UK sanctions in March attempted to target the military's access to fuel.

But Russia - who has long-running ties with the Myanmar military - has stepped up to become their strongest foreign backer.

[Russian President Vladimir Putin met Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing on the side lines of the 2022 Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in 2022]

The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, Tom Andrews, says Moscow is by far Myanmar's largest arms dealer. According to his report released in May, Russia has shipped over 400 million dollars' worth of arms to Myanmar since the coup.

These come from 28 Russian entities, including state-owned ones. The report says 16 of those suppliers have been sanctioned by some countries for their role in Russia's war in Ukraine. And that these weapons have been used to "commit probable war crimes and crimes against humanity" in Myanmar.

In the air, the people's resistance is trying to fight back with drones.

Khin Sein, 25, leads a team of female drone pilots who adapt civilian drones to drop home-made bombs on military targets.

She was a university student and took part in the mass protests sparked by the coup before taking up arms.

"We don't have the resources like the military but we don't dwell on this," she says from her jungle camp.

"Compared with a plane, our drone is like a sesame seed. It can go far when you have many sesame seeds," she says.

"If we fly high, like 300 metres above, they don't even know that we are coming. So we can attack them effectively and they are scared of drones."

[Capt Aung in front of a laptop]

From his hideout across the border in Thailand, Capt Aung now shares his air force intelligence with those like her, fighting for democracy.

"By listening to the sound at night, can we distinguish between a fighter jet and a civilian plane?" comes the crackled voice over Zoom in the back room of his house.

"We share our knowledge in the best way we can", Capt Aung says after the meeting.

It is complex for him, "on a personal level, my brothers, friends and teachers whom I lived with, I have no hatred for them," he tells us.

But this cause is bigger. "It's not about individuals, we are fighting an institution."

And he's happy, he says because "I'm working for my country. I'll support the revolution in whatever way I can until it's over."

Kosovo-Serbia row leaves Nato peacekeepers under attack, yesterday

Aleksandar Vucic and Albin Kurti have never got on. And now Serbia's president and Kosovo's prime minister are using the violent scenes in majority-Serb north Kosovo to trade accusations.

In a televised address to the nation, Mr Vucic said "Albin Kurti alone is responsible" for the disturbances in the town of Zvecan. These saw dozens of people injured, including about 30 members of Nato's KFOR peacekeeping force - prompting the alliance to deploy additional peacekeeping forces.

Mr Vucic urged people to refrain from violence which might fulfil the Kosovo leader's "desire to bring about a conflict between the Serbs and Nato".

In return, Mr Kurti claimed the protesters in Zvecan were "a bunch of extremists under the direction of official Belgrade".

Just for good measure, Kosovo's president blamed the violence on "criminal gangs… who carry out Vucic's orders to destabilise the north of Kosovo".

Somewhere in the middle, you can hear diplomats from the European Union and the United States gnashing their teeth.

They have spent much of the past year trying to push Belgrade and Pristina towards a normalisation agreement.

As it stands, things only look normal if one takes a particularly cynical stance on Serbia-Kosovo relations.

Monday's ugly scenes have at least focused international attention on the unresolved issues between Kosovo's ethnic Serb minority and the majority Albanian government in Pristina.

Ethnic Serbs and ethnic Serb parties refused to take part in last month's mayoral elections in four municipalities in north Kosovo. That depressed turnout to just 3.5% - and facilitated the election of ethnic Albanian mayors in towns where the vast majority of people are Serbs.

[Map showing areas of Kosovo where Serbs are the majority]

Despite the boycott, Kosovo's international allies had supported the elections. But they changed their tune when it became clear that the new mayors had no mandate to speak of.

Behind the scenes, they urged Kosovo's authorities to tread carefully, to avoid stoking tensions in the north.

Their advice fell on deaf ears. Last Friday, armed special police forced their way into municipal buildings in three of the towns, so the new mayors could take office in person. They also removed Serbian flags and replaced them with Kosovo's gold-and-blue standard.

It prompted a furious response from Kosovo's staunchest supporters.

The EU and Nato urged Mr Kurti to step back from a clearly provocative position. But the sternest statement of all came from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

He said the US "strongly condemns the actions by the government of Kosovo", which had "sharply and unnecessarily escalated tensions, undermining our efforts to help normalise relations between Kosovo and Serbia". He warned there would be "consequences for our bilateral relations with Kosovo".

But this rebuke had little impact on Mr Kurti, who ignored the calls to de-escalate and blithely stated that Kosovo still enjoyed international support as tensions simmered over the weekend.

Meanwhile, in Serbia, Mr Vucic was ordering troops to the border with Kosovo. It was little more than sabre-rattling, as Serbia has no appetite for interfacing with the 4,000 Nato troops who guarantee the peace in Kosovo.

[Novak Djokovic of Serbia writes in Serbian on the camera lens a political statement, 'Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence']

The same sentiment does not, apparently, apply to the people who were filmed attacking Italian and Hungarian peacekeepers in Zvecan.

Locals insist they were sitting on the ground in a peaceful protest. So that raises questions about who the muscular, baton-wielding men setting about KFOR and Kosovo Police personnel were representing.

Tensions have now eased somewhat, as the mayors have agreed not to go back to their offices for the time being.

But emotions are still running high, illustrated by Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic's response to the situation at the French Open tennis championships.

After winning his first-round match, he wrote a message on the glass in front of a courtside camera. "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia," it read. "Stop the violence."

But until Kosovo and Serbia can reach focus on co-operation rather than recriminations, tensions are unlikely to be far from the surface.

What's in US debt ceiling deal and who won?, yesterday

President Joe Biden has urged Congress to pass a deal to raise the government's borrowing limit and prevent a potentially catastrophic default on US debt repayments. So what is in the deal and which party is happier with it?

Negotiators from Democratic and Republican parties finalised an agreement on Sunday.

If approved, it would allow the federal government to borrow money until well after the next presidential election due in November 2024.

Voting on the bill, the text of which was posted to a congressional website, is set to start on Wednesday in the House, to be followed by the Senate.

Here are the highlights from the package of measures, with analysis by BBC North America correspondent Nomia Iqbal.

Debt ceiling suspended until 2025

Every so often, US Congress must vote to raise or suspend the ceiling, so it can borrow more to pay its bills. Currently it is $31.4tn (£25tn).

This includes paying for federal employees, the military, Social Security and Medicare, as well as interest on the national debt and tax refunds.

But in recent years, this has become increasingly difficult, because the two sides cannot agree on the terms.

In the deal reached on Sunday, they have not raised the limit to a certain level, but suspended it entirely until 2025.

This allows them to pay their bills until that date and know that the next fight over raising the ceiling will not interfere with the presidential election.

And the rest of the world can breathe a sigh of relief if the deal is signed because a US default would have a global impact.

Caps on spending, but not defence

Republicans wanted a freeze on overall spending for 10 years, with a rise in defence spending and cuts to other budgets.

The agreement keeps non-defence spending flat next year, with a 1% rise in 2025. The implications of this belt tightening is as yet unclear.

Defence spending would increase to $886bn, which amounts to a 3% rise on this year.

There are no budget caps after 2025.

The White House estimates government spending would be reduced by at least $1tn, says AP News, but official calculations have not yet been released.

Full funding for the medical care of military veterans would also increase, in line with what President Biden had sought.

Nomia: Both sides claim victory here. The White House says these cuts are not significant. The defence spending rise is what President Biden wanted but it's below the rate of inflation and doesn't meet the demands of the more hawkish Republicans.

Unspent Covid funds returned

With the public health emergency officially ended in May, Republicans had argued for the relief funds that were not spent to be returned.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated this will amount to about $30bn.

Nomia: A win for Republicans. Many Democrats were concerned public health initiatives would be impacted by this, but it was easier for Biden to give up than other Republican priorities like Medicaid work requirements.

Welfare tinkered with, but no overhaul

A central demand of Republicans was to toughen up the distribution of welfare benefits by attaching strings that would mean able-bodied recipients having to work to get food and healthcare help.

Democrats were adamant this should not be on the table.

The welfare being looked at by Republicans included Medicaid (health coverage for poor Americans), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Medicaid remains untouched in the deal, but the age at which work requirements are included for those on SNAP was raised from 50 to 54.

Nomia: The White House will be happy it gained exceptions to the food stamp requirements for veterans and people who are homeless but stricter work requirements overall are a win for Republicans. It will be a hard sell for progressive Democratic lawmakers.

Funds to enforce tax rules on wealthy Americans

A win for Democrats was securing $80bn for a decade to help the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to enforce the tax code in last year's Inflation Reduction Act on the richest.

Nomia: The Republicans wanted to dump the £80bn in IRS funding, claiming it would be used to hire an army of agents to audit Americans - the agency said it would also be used to modernise the system. Instead - in showcasing his deal-making skills - Biden agreed to cut $20bn but divert that cash to other non-defence spending.

Easier to get energy project permits

New rules will make it easier for both fossil fuel and renewable energy projects to get licences.

This has long been advocated by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

It will basically streamline the environmental review process and potentially get projects off the ground in a faster time.

Nomia: A win and a loss for the White House. Both parties agree it takes far too long for new energy infrastructure to be built but disagree on what projects should be prioritised. Republicans want more gas pipelines and fossil fuel projects; Democrats want more clean energy. This could be another red line for progressive Democrats.

Things not in the deal

Student loan relief

Republicans had wanted the Biden plan to forgive student debt to be rescinded but it survived.

Nomia: The Biden administration's student debt case will be ultimately decided by the Supreme Court. But the bill does require the Biden administration to follow through with a plan to end the current pause - which has been in effect since the start of the pandemic - on student loan repayments by the end of summer.

Tax hikes

Democrats had targeted wealthy Americans for new tax hikes but there are no new taxes here.

Nomia: House Democrats will be fuming about this. They were already critical that the White House did not make taxes on the rich and powerful the centrepiece of their talks.

Clean energy

Republicans had wanted to repeal key provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act's clean energy and climate provisions but it was unscathed.

Nomia: A win for both - certainly as far as environmentalists are concerned. The US renewable energy industry group the American Clean Power Association said it "applauds President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy for prioritising national interests over partisan politics".

Elizabeth Holmes has gone to prison. Will she ever pay victims too?, yesterday

After several failed attempts to delay her time behind bars, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes has reported to federal prison.

The disgraced entrepreneur was sentenced to over 11 years in prison and ordered to pay $452m (£365m) with her former business partner Sunny Balwani to dozens of high-profile investors they defrauded through a blood-testing start-up.

It's a sizeable bill for the former billionaire, who has claimed she does not even have enough money to pay her lawyers.

In US federal court, convicted offenders are sometimes ordered to pay restitution.

This is a reimbursement to victims for lost income, property damage, medical expenses or other financial costs related to the crime.

In Holmes' case, she has been ordered to pay back some of the wealthiest families in America.

After dropping out of Stanford University, she recruited several famous figures to raise money for Theranos, valued at $9bn at its peak.

Donors included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Walton family, known for founding American supermarket chain Walmart.

But after it was revealed her blood-testing technology did not work, many lost a fortune.

Former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos reportedly gave Holmes $100m while the Theranos founder has been ordered to pay back media mogul Rupert Murdoch $125m, according to court documents.

She will not be able to just declare bankruptcy and shed her debts that way, experts tell the BBC. But victims of her crimes should not get their hopes up about recouping their cash.

They say restitution in the US has become largely symbolic, meaning Holmes' investors - and many less wealthy victims of fraud - are unlikely to get most of the money they are owed.

"There are very few people - the Bernie Madoffs of the world and everyone else - that can pay the full amount of criminal restitution," says Ryan O'Neill, a former federal prosecutor. "It's sort of a fake number."

Holmes will still be expected to try to pay these people and others she defrauded, she adds. Prosecutors have probably already begun to seize her assets, including money in the bank and properties. They will compare their own accounts of how much money she has to what she claims she possesses, which could lead to disputes, Ms O'Neill said.

The Theranos founder's debts won't pause when she sets foot behind bars.

A judge has recommended Holmes report to Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texas, where all inmates are obligated to work and make between 12 cents and $1.15 an hour.

Half of the small sum she earns - usually around $25 every four months - will go to her victims, said Randy Zelin, a professor at Cornell Law School.

Once her time in prison is finished, she will still not be able to purchase any large assets, including a home, without intervention from the federal government. The government can't, however, seize assets owned solely by her husband, hotel heir William Evans.

Holmes has acknowledged her dismal financial fate, telling the New York Times this month she will "have to work for the rest of my life" just to pay millions of dollars in legal fees.

But there are a number of reasons why her victims and many others are unlikely to get the money back.

Criminal defendants don't have an incentive to "make it rich" again, said Ms O'Neill. "They know where the money is going to go."

Others may attempt to hide assets. University of Michigan Law School professor John Pottow says some try to put money in trusts to avoid asset seizures. "The richer you get, the easier it is to construct legal devices that hide your wealth."

Experts pointed to the case of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has been ordered to pay nearly $1.5bn to families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting for spreading lies about the massacre, which they said has led to harassment.

[Alex Jones]

Mr Jones - who has declared both personal and business bankruptcy - has been accused of funnelling money to friends and family in an attempt to hide his assets.

Ms O'Neill said that although prosecutors will be tracking Mr Jones' moves, the Sandy Hook families - who are not as wealthy as the victims of Holmes - are unlikely to receive much money from the right-wing InfoWars host, whom she said will be paying most of his funds to his lawyers.

In lower profile cases, the US government does not have the resources or the time to investigate every defendant's assets, sometimes putting the onus on victims to track their financial moves, Mr Zelin said.

But the headline-making nature of Holmes' fraud - as well as her recent financial choices, including living in a $13,000 a month Silicon Valley estate - means former Theranos investors are more likely to keep watch over her and push prosecutors to get them their money back, experts said.

"They're not going to stop looking," Ms O'Neill said. "She's not going to be able to put a dollar in her bank account… without the government seizing it."

Using pig fat as green jet fuel will hurt planet, experts warn, today

The fat of dead pigs, cattle and chickens is being used to make greener jet fuel, but a new study warns it will end up being worse for the planet.

Animal fats are considered waste, so aviation fuel made from the material has a much lower carbon footprint.

Demand for fuel made from animal by-products is expected to triple by 2030, with airlines leading the charge.

But experts fear scarcity will force other industries to use more palm oil - a huge generator of carbon emissions.

Airlines are under pressure to rein in their huge carbon emissions, which mainly come from burning fossil-based kerosene in aircraft engines.

But the study by Brussels-based Transport & Environment, a clean transport campaign group, points out there are simply not enough animals slaughtered each year to meet airlines' growing demand for animal fats.

"There's not a never ending supply of animals, or animal fat," said Matt Finch from Transport & Environment.

"So if you put on a massive extra demand source from anywhere from aviation, in this case, the industries where fat is currently being used, will have to look for alternatives. And that alternative is palm oil. So aviation indirectly, will be responsible for increasing the amount of palm oil being pulled through the European systems."

The increased use of palm oil is linked to rising emissions as older forests which store vast amounts of carbon are cleared for new plantations.

[Palm oil]

The fact that animal fats are used as fuel will come as a surprise to many.

For centuries tallow and lard have been used to make candles, soaps and cosmetics.

However, over the last 20 years or so, biodiesel made from these animal wastes or from used cooking oils, has steadily grown in use in the UK and further afield.

Across Europe, fuel made from dead animals has grown fortyfold since 2006, according to the new research.

Much of this material is used in cars and trucks as biodiesel, which is classed as a sustainable fuel, and as such it has a much lower carbon footprint under the rules.

But UK and EU governments are now very keen to increase the use of these types of waste to make aviation greener.

To that end they are putting in place challenging mandates that will require airlines to use a bigger proportion of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in their tanks.

For the UK it's going to be 10% by 2030, for the EU 6% - but according to observers these plans could put pressure on the current market for animal waste.

There are significant differences in approach between the UK and EU. The UK is likely to limit the use of better quality tallow in fuel - while in Europe the use of this type of material will be incentivised as the greenhouse gas reduction achieved with this fat is higher.

With rising demand, prices will rise and this will likely encourage exports from the UK, which will have consequences.

How many dead pigs do you need to fuel an airplane?

According to Transport & Environment, a flight from Paris to New York would need fat from 8,800 dead pigs if all the fuel came from animal sources.

With the UK likely to restrict the use of animal products and used cooking oils, flights that refuel across Britain will be likely to have only small amounts of animal-derived material in their engines.

In the EU, airlines will have a 6% sustainable aviation fuel target for 2030 of which 1.2% must come from e-kerosene. Assuming the remaining 4.8% is derived entirely by animal fat, that would require around 400 pigs per transatlantic flight.

Among those industries who might have to source different ingredients if aviation consumes a greater share of animal fat are pet food manufacturers.

They currently utilise a significant amount of the better quality animal by-products to help feed the UK's 38 million pets.

"These are really valuable ingredients for us and they are hard to replace, and they're put to good use already in a very sustainable way," said Nicole Paley, deputy chief executive of UK Pet Food, the manufacturers' trade association.

[pet food]

"So actually diverting these ingredients to biofuels is actually creating another problem. It would put us in competition with the aviation industry. And when it comes to the purse strings of the aviation sector, the pet food industry would find it really difficult to compete."

While the EU is further down this road, the UK is currently consulting on limiting the type of animal fats that go into jet fuel. The government is mulling a ban or a strict limit on both animal fats and used cooking oil in the aviation sector, worried about the unintended consequences.

Many in the biofuel industry are concerned that the proposed changes might also see animal fats diverted from one form of transport to another.

"If you make a big incentive for use of these lipids, animal fats, and used cooking oils, in aviation, it will inevitably take it away from other things," said Dickon Posnett from Argent Energy, a waste-based biodiesel producer in the UK and Europe.

"So if you want to increase aviation sustainability, at the expense of truck sustainability, then crack on. But that's a decision for the government to make."

After a Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, can a community heal?, today

The trial for the alleged perpetrator of the deadliest antisemitic attack in US history has begun. But can the community heal while hate is still on the rise?

At Temple Sinai, in the Squirrel Hill neighbourhood of Pittsburgh, four teenagers are being confirmed into the Jewish faith.

In front of their families, friends and other members of the congregation they talk about what the Ten Commandments mean to their lives. The joyful service is lifted with prayers and singing - all under the watchful gaze of the armed security guard who sits at the entrance to the building.

"Our security budget is ridiculously high," says Rabbi Daniel Fellman from Temple Sinai, who praised the guards for keeping people safe. "It's a sad reality in modern American life that we need to do this."

"I've asked my priest friends what would it feel like for you guys to have armed security at Christmas Eve services or Easter services and they look at me like I have three noses."

But such is the way of life in one of the oldest established Jewish communities in the country, ever since October 2018, when a heavy-set, middle-aged white man entered the nearby Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and, according to the prosecution, murdered eleven worshipers, injuring two others. The youngest victim was 54, the eldest, Rose Mallinger, was 97.

[Caskets are carried from Rodef Shalom Temple after funeral services for brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal,]

Reports from survivors say the alleged perpetrator, 50-year-old Robert Bowers, shouted anti-Semitic, hate-filled slogans as he fired an AR-15 assault rifle and three semi-automatic handguns for almost fifteen minutes, working his way from room to room in the building, which was a place of worship for three different congregations.

It was, put simply, the deadliest antisemitic attack in US history.

Over four years on, Mr Bowers is set to appear in court Tuesday for the start of what is expected to be a lengthy and gruelling trial, where he faces 63 charges, including eleven counts of hate crimes resulting in death.

He faces the death penalty, and has pleaded not guilty.

Meanwhile, the Squirrel Hill Jewish community has had to live on edge since the attack, as antisemitic incidents continue to rise across the country.

This new reality is not just confined to Pittsburgh. Figures collated by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) show that in 2022 there were around 3,700 antisemitic incidents in the United States - the highest number recorded in forty years of collecting such data, says Oren Segal of the ADL.

"This was the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in American history," Mr Segal said. "And yet, here we are about five years later… Jewish communities reaching out to us every day, concerned about whether they should wear their yarmulke or attend their services."

Just a few days before the trial, the White House launched what it described as the first ever national antisemitism strategy, fronted by Doug Emhoff, the husband of the vice-president, who is himself Jewish. It calls for greater awareness, improved safety and security for Jewish communities, and for others to show solidarity with those facing antisemitic activity and discrimination.

It was welcomed by several of the families affected by the Pittsburgh attack.

"Our family has been touched by antisemitism in a very profound way, and if the federal government can create programmes to help reduce this proliferation then we offer support wherever and however we can," said Andrea Wedner, who was badly injured in the attack and whose 97-year-old mother, Rose Mallinger, was killed that day.

Concerns about rising antisemitism had begun before the attack, and had intensified since a violent white-supremacist rally had taken place in Charlottesville, Virginia, just a year before.

Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who was on duty the day of the shooting, made one of the first emergency calls because he had taken to carrying his mobile phone on the Sabbath as a precaution, even though making phone calls on the holy day is against his religion.

"I am proud that our leaders understand the urgency and importance of countering anti-Semitism in a comprehensive way, but grieve the levels of anti-Semitism in the country that required the need for a plan in the first place," he said in a statement after the White House announcement.

'You never move past it'

Brian Schreiber, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, said some would be re-traumatised by the trial. Located just five minutes from the scene of the attack, the centre was where the FBI set up its first response, and where the families came to wait for news.

"People thought they'd feel better by now," he said. "What I've learned is that you move with it, you never move past it."

Melvin Wax, Daniel Stein and Richard Gottfried - described by community members as the "backbone of the synagogue" - were praying when they were killed in the attack. Such was their dedication to their faith that their families designed a monument in the shape of a Torah scroll to honour their loved ones. It sits in the New Light congregation's cemetery in a suburb of Pittsburgh.

Inscribed on the monument is 'our holy martyrs'. The phrase was chosen because they died for their faith says Stephen Cohen, co-president of the New Light congregation.

"I think for most of the last 60 years there has been an acceptance and integration of the American Jewish population into America. We are one and the same," he said. "I think what happened in October of 2018 shattered that security."

As the trial begins, the community will have counsellors and religious figures on hand for anyone to talk to, something that's been happening ever since the day of the attack. Much of it organised by the 10.27 Healing Partnership, named to mark the date the Tree of Life, Dor Hadash and New Light congregations were attacked.

[A graphic with pictures and names of all the victims:]

Lawyers for Bowers had sought previously to arrange a guilty plea in return for having the death penalty taken off the table, but prosecutors rejected that offer.

The families of those who died take differing perspectives on whether he should be put to death - some are firmly against it, but the majority published an open letter in favour of a capital sentence.

"There are multiple views on the death penalty," says Rabbi Fellman of Temple Sinai. While Jewish teaching does allow for a death penalty, he says some in the community don't believe it should be enacted in this case.

"If there is a set of statutes on the books that carry a capital sentence for these crimes, it's hard to argue that this man wouldn't be a candidate for that," says David Harris, a law professor at Pittsburgh University, who has been helping the families understand how the trial process is likely to unfold.

"This is the most horrific antisemitic act that's ever happened in the United States. It's a mass murderer. There were people who were who were killed who were especially vulnerable, and it was all done in a house of worship."

'This too shall pass'

There is a calm and resigned understanding in Squirrel Hill that nothing can really prepare people for the coming weeks when the events of the day will be revisited and the pain of the loss, once again, laid bare.

"This too shall pass. And the jury will make a decision as to his guilt as to what the appropriate punishment should be," said Mr Cohen, the co-president of the New Light congregation.

The site of the attack is to be rebuilt and will be home to a sanctuary, memorial and centre for fighting antisemitism.

Relatives have been into schools to speak to children about the problem; ecumenical partnerships have been forged, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has a full-time security consultant in place to advise the community.

"But meanwhile, this [trial] brings back that day and every moment of that day," Mr Cohen said.

Moscow drone attack: Putin says Ukraine trying to frighten Russians, yesterday

Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded to Tuesday's drone attacks on the capital Moscow, accusing Ukraine of trying to frighten Russians.

He said civilians were targeted, but air defences dealt satisfactorily with the threat.

The defence ministry said at least eight drones caused minor damage, but Kyiv has denied responsibility.

This is the first time the city has been targeted by multiple drones since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said no-one was seriously injured. Several drones fell on an exclusive western suburb where senior officials live.

Speaking on Russian TV, Mr Putin said the attack had been a response to what he described as a Russian attack on Ukraine's military intelligence HQ in recent days. The BBC is unable to independently verify whether any such attack took place.

"In response to this, the Kyiv regime chose a different path - the path of attempts to intimidate Russia, to intimidate Russia's citizens, and of air strikes against residential buildings," he said.

"This is obviously a sign of terrorist activity."

"They are provoking us into responding in kind," he added.

Russia's foreign ministry said Western support for Kyiv was "pushing the Ukrainian leadership towards ever more reckless criminal deeds including acts of terrorism".

But the US state department repeated Washington's position that it did not support attacks inside Russia, adding that it was still gathering information on the drone strikes.

The strikes on Moscow followed an overnight drone attack on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv in which at least one person was reported killed.

Ukrainian officials said falling debris set buildings on fire as Ukraine's air defences intercepted more than 20 drones.

Meanwhile, Russia's defence ministry said all eight drones targeting Moscow had been intercepted.

"Three of them were suppressed by electronic warfare, lost control and deviated from their intended targets. Another five drones were shot down by the Pantsir-S surface-to-air missile system in the Moscow region," the ministry said.

The aerial assaults struck some of Moscow's most prominent neighbourhoods. Areas hit include Leninsky Prospekt, a grand boulevard created under Josef Stalin.

A suburb of western Moscow where Mr Putin has a residence, along with other members of the Russian elite, was also hit.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that Kyiv was not directly involved, but that Ukraine had enjoyed watching events unfold and predicted an increase in such incidents.

Mr Putin said that while Moscow's air defences had responded successfully they still needed "bit of work" and had to be made "more dense".

One former military officer said the attacks came as a complete surprise to Muscovites.

There were no warning signals alerting that an aerial attack would happen, said Viktor Sobolev, talking to Federal Press.

Russia's radar was unable to detect the drones and trigger the air raid alarm because they were flying very low, he explained. He added that Russia should create systems that can see drones at very low altitudes.

An elite community in the forest

Three of the drones shot down were taken out over Moscow's exclusive Rublyovka suburb, according to a member of Russia's parliament.

A patchwork of exclusive gated communities situated in the forests west of the capital, the area is home to many of Russia's business, political and cultural luminaries.

One zone is a 10-minute drive from Novo-Ogaryovo, the suburban residence of the Russian president and thought to be Mr Putin's main abode.

Other purported residents include former president Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin has frequently lambasted inhabitants of the neighbourhood as an out-of-touch elite lacking commitment to Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

The mercenary chief blamed Tuesday's drone attacks on military officials living in the suburb.

In an expletive-laden post on the messaging app Telegram, he asked why Russia was allowing drones to fly to Moscow.

"Let your houses burn," he concluded defiantly.

[Map showing locations of verified drone attacks in Moscow]

Dr Jack Watling, an expert on land warfare from the Royal United Services Institute, told the BBC that Ukraine had struck airfields in Russia before, but not the capital.

An alleged drone attack on the Kremlin took place in early May.

At the time, unverified footage circulated online showing smoke rising above the the complex, while a second video showed a small explosion above the Senate Palace, used as offices for the presidential administration.

Russian authorities claimed it was an attack ordered by Kyiv, while Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky denied his country was involved in the incident.

Ukraine war: Russian air strikes target Kyiv for third night running, yesterday

Blasts were heard in Kyiv and several buildings were set ablaze after Russia targeted Ukraine's capital for the third night running.

Officials say falling debris caused the blazes, as Ukraine's air defences intercepted more than 20 drones. At least one person is reported killed.

In Moscow, a drone attack later caused minor damage to several buildings, the mayor of the Russian capital said.

Sergei Sobyanin said "all the city's emergency services" were at the scene.

He added that "so far, no-one has been seriously injured".

The attacks on Moscow came after another night of drone strikes on the Ukrainian capital.

Citing preliminary information, Kyiv's military administration said more than 20 kamikaze drones had been destroyed in the latest attack.

It said one person was killed and three injured as a fire started in a multi-storey building in the southern Holosiivskyi district,

"Two upper floors are destroyed, and there may be people under the rubble," the administration said in a statement.

Two private buildings were ablaze and several cars damaged in the Darnytskyi district - just across the Dnipro river.

Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko described the latest attack as "massive", urging residents "not to leave shelters".

The air raid alert was lifted after three hours, meaning that the Russian air assault was over for the time being.

It was the 17th attack on the capital since the beginning of May, including a rare daytime attack on Monday.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has praised US-made Patriot air defences supplied to Ukraine.

In his video address late on Monday, he said they ensured "100% downing of any Russian missiles".

"Russia wants to follow the path of evil to the end, that is, to its defeat, because evil cannot have any other end but defeat. The world must see that terror is losing," Mr Zelensky added.

Meanwhile, Gen Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine's military intelligence, warned of a swift response to the Russian strikes.

Russia's military have managed to hit some targets - including an apparent air base - were hit in other regions of Ukraine.

On Monday, the authorities in the western Khmelnytskyi region said five aircraft had been damaged at a military location. The runway there was now being repaired, the authorities added, without providing any further details.

Russia's military has said that all intended targets were hit during its recent attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.

The claims by the warring sides have not been independently verified.

Russia - which launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022 - has been using kamikaze drones as well as a range of cruise and ballistic missiles.

Analysts say Moscow is seeking to deplete and damage Ukraine's air defences ahead of its long-expected counter-offensive.

Ukraine has been planning a counter-offensive for months. But it has wanted as much time as possible to train troops and to receive military equipment from Western allies.

[Destroyed cars in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: 30 May 2023]

[Kyiv residents embrace each other after a Russian air attack. Photo: 30 May 2023]

[Kyiv residents wrapped in blankets react after a Russian air attack. Photo: 30 May 2023]

Lindsey Graham: Russia issues arrest warrant for top Republican, yesterday

Russia has issued an arrest warrant for US Senator Lindsey Graham, after an edited video appeared to show him celebrating Russian troops' deaths.

The footage, which spliced together two separate moments, was posted by President Volodymyr Zelensky's office after the pair met in Kyiv on Friday.

In it Senator Graham called aid to Kyiv as "the best money we've ever spent", noting Russian troops were "dying".

The senior Republican said he would wear the warrant as a "Badge of Honor".

"To know that my commitment to Ukraine has drawn the ire of Putin's regime brings me immense joy," Senator Graham wrote in a Twitter post on Monday. "I will continue to stand with and for Ukraine's freedom until every Russian soldier is expelled from Ukrainian territory."

"Finally, here's an offer to my Russian 'friends' who want to arrest and try me for calling out the Putin regime as being war criminals: I will submit to jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court if you do," he added.

After Moscow criticised Senator Graham's comments last week - with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov telling reporters "it's hard to imagine a greater shame for the country than having such senators" - Ukraine uploaded the full, unedited clip to social media on Sunday.

The footage showed that Senator Graham made the comments during two separate parts of the meeting, subsequently edited by President Zelensky's office to appear immediately after each other.

In the first clip he acknowledged the success of US military aid to Ukraine in helping to hold off Russia's advance, hailing it as "the best money we've ever spent".

Later, in a separate, unlinked clip he recalled that many initially believed Ukraine would survive just three days of Moscow's onslaught, noting that instead "the Russians are dying".

But Russia's foreign ministry accused Kyiv of trying to shield Senator Graham from criticism, and challenged him to publicly state if his words had been taken out of context.

Russia's interior ministry - which put Senator Graham on the wanted list - did not say what crimes he had committed.

But last week Moscow's Investigative Committee - a federal law enforcement agency equivalent to the US FBI - said it had initiated an inquiry into "the American senator's rhetoric regarding the killing of Russians".

Senator Graham is considered one of the Republican Party's most hawkish members on foreign policy issues. The South Carolina lawmaker has been a keen supporter of aid to Ukraine and has previously accused Moscow of committing "crimes against humanity" during the conflict.

Last year he sparked anger in Moscow after calling for the assassination of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Writing on Twitter, he claimed that the only way Russia's invasion of Ukraine ends is "for somebody in Russia to take this guy out".

But the 67-year-old is also a close ally of former US President Donald Trump, whose own rhetoric on aid to Ukraine has been unclear.

The frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president in 2024, Mr Trump has consistently claimed he will end the war in 24 hours if re-elected, but has refused to be drawn on whether he wants Ukraine to prevail.

Ukraine war: Gen Kyrylo Budanov promises revenge after latest Kyiv attack, 2 days ago

The head of Ukraine's military intelligence has warned of a swift response to a series of Russian missile strikes on Kyiv.

Gen Kyrylo Budanov said Monday's attacks failed to intimidate people in the capital who just got on with life.

All the missiles were shot down, officials said, and there were no reports of casualties.

However flaming debris from the intercepted missiles landed in residential areas in central Kyiv.

Monday's attack followed two nights of heavy drone strikes, the latest in some 16 air attacks on the Ukrainian capital this month.

The latest was unusual because it came during the day and seemed targeted at the city centre, whereas other strikes on Kyiv in May have been at night and directed at key infrastructure or air defences on the outskirts.

Gen Budanov said he wanted to "upset" Russia's supporters by letting them know people in Kyiv were undeterred by the attack and had continued working after it.

"All those who tried to intimidate us, dreaming that it would have some effect, you will regret it very soon," he added in a statement published by Ukraine's intelligence ministry. "Our answer will not be long."

According to reports, only one person was injured and all missiles were destroyed by Ukrainian air defences. Russian authorities claimed all their targets had been hit.

Air raid sirens reportedly also rang out across several other Ukrainian regions.

Local military commanders in Kyiv accused Russia of changing its tactics and deliberately targeting the civilian population. It certainly appears that Moscow wants to step up its pressure on Ukraine even further ahead of any counter-offensive.

[Kyiv residents take shelter in a metro station]

Oleksandr Scherba, ambassador-at-large at Ukraine's ministry of foreign affairs, told the BBC that the last few days had been very difficult for Kyiv residents.

"Almost every night, the skies look and sound like another Star Wars episode, but we don't feel much of Russian rockets hitting their targets here within the city area. And this is all thanks to the decent countries, decent people of the world who gave us this air defence," he said.

Living in the capital was anything but normal at the moment, Mr Scherba said, adding that the drone attacks and sleepless nights had become "part of our routine".

On Sunday, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky praised his country's air defence forces after Kyiv sustained the largest drone attack since the war began.

"You are heroes," said Mr Zelensky, after military commanders said most of the drones launched by Russia were brought down.

In its recent attacks, Russia - which launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022 - has been using kamikaze drones as well as a range of cruise and ballistic missiles.

Analysts say Moscow is seeking to deplete and damage Ukraine's air defences ahead of its long-expected counter-offensive.

Ukraine has been planning a counter-offensive for months. But it has wanted as much time as possible to train troops and to receive military equipment from Western allies.

On Monday, in Russian region of Belgorod, the governor said that several frontier settlements were being shelled simultaneously by Ukrainian forces.

In the meantime, Russian forces have been preparing their defences in the seized regions of south-eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine war: Russian Ambassador Andrei Kelin issues warning of escalation in Ukraine, 4 days ago

Russia has warned Western supplies of weapons to Ukraine risk escalating the war to levels not seen so far.

Andrei Kelin, Russia's ambassador to the UK, told the BBC his country had "enormous resources" and it was yet to "act very seriously".

His remarks come despite more than a year of fighting and widespread evidence of Russian war crimes.

In the interview with Laura Kuenssberg, he suggested he was offended when challenged about Russia's conduct.

Speaking exclusively to the BBC, Mr Kelin warned of a "new dimension" in the war.

Insisting Russia "hasn't just started yet to act very seriously", the ambassador said "Russia is 16 times bigger than Ukraine. We have enormous resources."

The length of the conflict, he said, "depends on the efforts in escalation of war that is being undertaken by Nato countries, especially by the UK".

He added: "Sooner or later, of course, this escalation may get a new dimension which we do not need and we do not want. We can make peace tomorrow."

The ambassador's comments came as one of Ukraine's most senior security officials, Oleksiy Danilov, told the BBC the country is ready to launch its long expected counter-offensive against Russian forces.

But Mr Kelin's claim that Russia has "enormous resources" available to fight clashes with multiple reports on the ground of its forces being poorly equipped and without proper training.

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* On this week's show are Health Secretary Steve Barclay, shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth

* Follows latest updates in text and video on the BBC News website from 08:00

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Those warnings have even come from the head of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been heavily involved in the conflict.

He has been one of Vladimir Putin's staunchest supporters, but has been increasingly vocal and critical of the regime, suggesting in the last few days "we could lose Russia" if the war carried on without extra resources being provided.

Earlier this month he publicly scolded Putin's ministers in a post on social media, surrounded by dead bodies of his fighters. "Where is the... ammunition?", he said. "They came here as volunteers and die for you to fatten yourselves in your mahogany offices."

The denial of the situation on the ground by Mr Kelin was accompanied by his repetition of baseless claims about Russia's invasion, which he still insisted on calling a "special military operation".

Mr Kelin was speaking in his residence, underneath a chandelier, where the chairs are gilt and coffee served by staff with white gloves.

He tried to blame Ukraine for provoking the conflict. It's a familiar and untrue claim that has been used by Russian leaders for more than a year to try to justify its illegal invasion of Ukraine in the first place.

Like his ambassador, President Putin continues to claim a neo-Nazi regime was set up in Ukraine in 2014 and that it was even seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, which meant Russia had no choice but to invade.

And the ambassador denies reality when it comes to the behaviour of Russian troops on the ground during the conflict, too.

Confronted with evidence from an official United Nations report of widespread crimes, torture, rape and the forced deportation of children, he replied by claiming Ukrainian forces had committed crimes against civilians too.

There is evidence of a small number of human rights violations by Ukrainian forces. But the scale of Russian abuses is widespread, well-documented and beyond doubt.

When pressed that Russia was simply lying about what has happened, and the clear patterns of appalling abuse, the ambassador claimed in our interview to be offended.

And he had no other response to the latest missile attack in Dnipro other than to say "the problem is that the shooting is going on for nine years, and every day shooting is going on Luhansk, Donetsk and all of that", claiming that the western media was ignoring acts being carried out by Ukrainian forces.

The ambassador's comments that the war is not yet "serious" contradicts the experience of so many Ukrainians whose lives have been turned upside down by the war, and many Russians who are suffering.

But as Ukraine plans its counter-offensive, and Russia shows no sign of retreat, the war may indeed get more serious still.

You can watch our interview with Ambassador Kelin on the show tomorrow morning at 09:00, where we talk about what is going on in the conflict and also about how President Putin deals with criticism, how he can justify war crimes, and when the conflict could end.

And, after a big week or the NHS, when both Labour and the Conservatives set out their plans, we'll be joined by the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay.

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Oleksiy Danilov interview: Ukraine counter-offensive 'ready to begin', 5 days ago

Ukraine is ready to launch its long-expected counter-offensive against Russian forces, one of the country's most senior security officials has told the BBC.

Oleksiy Danilov would not name a date but said an assault to retake territory from President Vladimir Putin's occupying forces could begin "tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in a week".

He warned that Ukraine's government had "no right to make a mistake" on the decision because this was an "historic opportunity" that "we cannot lose".

As secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, Mr Danilov is at the heart of President Volodymyr Zelensky's de facto war cabinet.

His rare interview with the BBC was interrupted by a phone message from President Zelensky summoning him to a meeting to discuss the counter-offensive.

During the interview, he also confirmed that some Wagner mercenary forces were withdrawing from the city of Bakhmut, the site of the bloodiest battle of the war so far - but he added they were "regrouping to another three locations" and "it doesn't mean that they will stop fighting with us".

Mr Danilov also said he was "absolutely calm" about Russia beginning to deploy nuclear weapons to Belarus, saying: "To us, it's not some kind of news."

Ukraine has been planning a counter-offensive for months. But it has wanted as much time as possible to train troops and to receive military equipment from Western allies.

In the meantime, Russian forces have been preparing their defences.

Much is at stake because the government in Kyiv needs to show the people of Ukraine - and Western allies - that it can break through Russian lines, end the effective military deadlock and recapture some of its sovereign territory.

Mr Danilov said the armed forces would begin the assault when commanders calculated "we can have the best result at that point of the war".

Asked if Ukrainian armed forces were ready for the offensive, he replied: "We are always ready. The same as we were ready to defend our country at any time. And it is not a question of time.

"We have to understand that that historic opportunity that is given to us - by God - to our country we cannot lose, so we can truly become an independent, big European country."

He added: "It could happen tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in a week.

"It would be weird if I were to name dates of the start of that or those events. That cannot be done…. We have a very responsible task before our country. And we understand that we have no right to make a mistake."

[Ukrainian troops have spent months training on Western equipment ahead of the expected attack]

Mr Danilov dismissed suggestions the counter-offensive had already begun, saying that "demolishing Russian control centres and Russian military equipment" had been the task of Ukrainian armed forces since 24 February last year - the date Russia launched the invasion.

"We have no days off during this war," he said.

He defended the decision by Ukraine's army to fight in Bakhmut for so many months, a battle that has cost the lives of many of its soldiers.

"Bakhmut is our land, our territory, and we must defend it," he said. "If we start leaving every settlement, that could get us to our western border as Putin wanted from the first days of the war."

He said that "we control only a small part of the city, and we admit to that. But you have to keep in mind that Bakhmut has played a big role in this war."

Asked if Wagner mercenaries were leaving, he replied: "Yes, that is happening. But it doesn't mean that they will stop fighting with us. They are going to concentrate more on other fronts… they are regrouping to other three locations."

Belgorod: Russia's Shoigu vows 'harsh response' after incursion into Russia, 7 days ago

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has promised a "harsh response" to cross-border incursions from Ukraine.

His comments came after Moscow said it had defeated an attack in the Belgorod region.

However, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said there had been a "large number" of drone attacks overnight.

Ukraine denies involvement in the raid - and two Russian paramilitary groups opposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin say they were behind it.

Attackers entered Russian territory from Ukraine on Monday.

Reporting to defence ministry officials on the incursion, Mr Shoigu said "more than 70 Ukrainian nationalists" had been killed and the rest pushed back into Ukraine.

"We will continue to respond to such actions by Ukrainian militants promptly and extremely harshly," he said.

The two Russian paramilitary groups - the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) and Liberty of Russia Legion (LSR) denied that they had sustained any casualties, and said a Russian motorised rifle company had been destroyed.

The casualty claims by the warring sides have not been independently verified.

Russia also says that Western military vehicles were used in the incursion.

It posted pictures of destroyed US vehicles apparently at the scene of the fighting but some Ukrainian military experts and bloggers have suggested they could have been staged.

The US said it was sceptical that reports of US-supplied weapons being used in the incursion were true and did not "encourage or enable strikes inside of Russia".

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the vehicles were evidence of growing Western military involvement in Ukraine.

"It is no secret for us that more and more equipment is being delivered to Ukraine's armed forces. It is no secret that this equipment is being used against our own military," he said.

"We are drawing the appropriate conclusions."

[Two damaged US-made Humvee vehicles in Russia's Belgorod region]

Meanwhile attacks in the region appear to be continuing.

Mr Gladkov said overnight attacks by drones were mostly dealt with by air defences, but some damage was caused to cars, private houses and administrative buildings in and around Belgorod city, as well as in the border district of Borisovka.

No-one was injured in the attacks, he added.

A "small fire" began after a gas pipeline was damaged in Grayvoron district.

Low-level attacks in Russian border regions such as Belgorod and Bryansk have become frequent in recent weeks.

Mr Gladkov said that agricultural workers were going out into the fields wearing helmets and bulletproof vests because of the threat of attacks.

Villages in Belgorod near the border were evacuated on Monday after coming under fire.

Monday's raid led Moscow to declare a counter-terrorism operation, giving the authorities special powers to clamp down on communications and people's movements.

The measures were only lifted the following afternoon, and even then, one of the paramilitary groups was claiming it still controlled a small piece of Russian territory.


Ukraine war: Satellite images reveal Russian defences before major assault, 10 days ago

A beach resort bristling with fortifications. A major road lined with anti-tank ditches. Satellite analysis by BBC Verify has uncovered some of the extensive defences built by Russia as it prepares for a major Ukrainian counter-attack.

After months of stalemate, the expected assault is likely to be a crucial test for Ukraine as it seeks to prove it can achieve significant battlefield gains with the weapons it has received from the West.

By examining hundreds of satellite images, the BBC has identified some key points in the significant build-up of trenches and other fortifications in southern Ukraine since October.

These four locations offer an insight into what Russia expects from the counter-offensive, and what defences Ukrainian forces might encounter.

1. Crimea's west coast

Seized by Russia in 2014, Crimea was formerly known for its beach resorts.

Now, instead of sun loungers and parasols, the coastline stretching for 15 miles (25km) is littered with defence structures installed by Russian troops.

The image below shows the only open sandy beach on the west coast without natural defences such as cliffs or hills.

[Satellite image with overlays showing a network of treches, "dragon's teeth" defences and a bunker]

Firstly, there are "dragon's teeth" along the shore: pyramid-shaped blocks of concrete, designed to block the path of tanks and other military vehicles.

Behind them is a line of trenches, providing cover from incoming attacks. Several bunkers can also be spotted along the trenches.

Stacks of wood, digging machines and stores of dragon's teeth along the coast suggest building work was still in progress when the image was taken in March.

Some military experts suggest the defences are likely to be a precaution, rather than a sign that Russia expects to defend a seaborne assault, since Ukraine has little naval capacity.

Intelligence analyst Layla Guest says: "The fortifications are likely in place to deter any bold Ukrainian operation to attack Crimea via the sea rather than on land."

The beach fortification is just one example of a vast network of trenches, as shown by the black dots in the map below, based on work by open-source analyst Brady Africk.

[Map showing Russian-controlled areas in Ukraine, with a dense network of trenches marked across the front line and deep into southern Ukraine.]

BBC Verify has been able to identify other key fortification sites by pinpointing individual trench locations from videos on social media.

Once an exact location was discovered it was then possible to trace an entire trench network using satellite images.

2. Tokmak

The small city of Tokmak lies on a key route in the south-east of the country that Ukrainian forces may want to use to cut off Crimea from other Russian-held territories.

There have been reports that Ukrainian civilians have been moved out in order to turn the city into a military fortress. This would provide soldiers with access to supplies and a base to retreat to.

[Satellite image of Tokmak with overlays highlighting two lines of trenches and a ring of further defences around the city]

The satellite image above shows that a network of trenches in two lines has been dug north of Tokmak - the direction Ukraine would have to attack from.

Behind these trenches is a further ring of fortifications around the city, with three layers of defences that can be seen distinctly in this close-up satellite image.

[Satellite image showing an anti-tank ditch, followed by a row of "dragon's teeth" 250m away, and a trench network 300m further on. Artillery positions are marked behind the trenches.]

The top of the satellite image shows an anti-tank ditch. These are usually at least 2.5m deep and designed to trap any enemy tanks that attempt to cross.

Behind the ditch are several rows of dragon's teeth and another trench network.

[Illustration showing the construction of an anti-tank ditch and the placement of dragon's teeth]

But Ukrainian forces are likely to face further traps.

It's highly likely that mines have also been hidden between Tokmak's three defence lines, says Mark Cancian from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Minefields are a standard part of every defence, and the Russians have used them extensively throughout the war.

"Here they will be large and better concealed, slowing down Ukrainian attacks so that other combat elements, like artillery and infantry, can strike the attacking forces."

BBC Verify has also discovered three other towns near Tokmak have been similarly fortified.

3. E105 highway

A line of anti-tank ditches and trenches now runs alongside a 22-mile (35km) stretch of the E105 main highway, west of Tokmak.

[Satellite image showing the E105 highway, with overlays showing anti-tank ditches and a network of trenches]

The E105 is strategically important, connecting Russian-held Melitopol in the south with the northern city of Kharkiv, held by Ukraine. The road also runs through the Zaporizhzhia region, which could be the target of a Ukrainian counter-offensive.

The side that controls the E105 can easily move troops around the region.

If Ukrainian forces attempt to use this road, Russia will likely target it with heavy artillery from behind their defences. Russia's position is also in range of another nearby road - the T401 - which could also be targeted.

"The Russians are worried about the recently built Ukrainian armour units. If these units can get on a main highway, they can move very quickly," says Mr Cancian.

"The Russian defences aim to push them off the roads and therefore slow them down."

4. Rivnopil, north of Mariupol

The port of Mariupol has a strategic position between the Russian-occupied territories in the east and Crimea in the south. It also became a symbol of resistance to invasion when a hard-core of fighters held out for months as the city was besieged.

Given Russia expects Ukraine to try to retake it, BBC Verify decided to look at the territory surrounding the city - leading to the discovery of a collection of circular trenches.

Located near the small village of Rivnopil about 34 miles (55km) north of Mariupol, each circular trench has a mound of soil in the middle, possibly either to protect artillery or to keep guns stable.

[Satellite image of land outside Rivnopil, with earthworks for 8 artillery positions highlighted]

Meanwhile, the circular trenches allow soldiers to take cover and to move the artillery so it can aim in any direction.

It shows that Russia is preparing to defend areas of open ground (without natural protection from hills and rivers) alongside their wider trench network.

But some analysts note that Ukrainian forces can use similar satellite images and drone surveillance to identify and bypass many of these defences.

Alexander Lord from strategic advisory firm Sibylline Ltd says: "The Russians will therefore likely attempt to funnel Ukrainian forces down certain routes which are heavily mined and pre-targeted by Russian artillery."

Satellite images show obvious defences - but that might all be part of Russia's plan.

Additional reporting by Tom Spencer

[BBC Verify logo]

Read more about BBC Verify: Explaining the 'how' - the launch of BBC Verify

[BBC Verify logo]

Jets to Ukraine: Crucial questions over supplying F-16s to Kyiv, 11 days ago

The US will support the delivery of advanced fighter jets to Ukraine by allowing Western allies to supply American-made F-16s, and by training Ukrainian pilots to use the jets.

It would certainly be a military boost for Kyiv - but the devil is in the detail.

The crucial questions are: how many, how quickly, and what weapons will the jets come supplied with?

No-one doubts the ability of the F-16, which has more than proved itself in conflicts around the world.

They will be a step up from Ukraine's Soviet era Mig-29s and Su-27s, which fly comparable missions.

The F-16 radar can see further, allowing hostile aircraft to be engaged at longer ranges.

They typically come with missiles that do not require the aircraft to maintain a radar lock to hit their target - a capability that Russia currently has, but Ukraine does not.

F-16s can also launch precision bombs guided by laser, GPS, and advanced targeting systems, and are better at targeting and destroying enemy ground-based radars than Ukraine's current fighter jets.

But it is not yet clear which of these capabilities would be made available to Ukraine if the delivery of the jets goes ahead.

Training and delivery will also be a challenge for Ukraine. The computer systems on board - such as the avionics - operate in a very different way to Soviet aircraft.

In combat, pilots need to instinctively select multiple, correct modes in complex scenarios where they are at risk of being overwhelmed by rapidly developing events - a situation known as task-saturation.

Imagine as a car driver switching from a Renault to a Mercedes, and having to instantly know the position of the headlight switches, the wipers and the fog lights - all on a hugely more complicated level. It takes time and practice.

Ukrainian pilots will receive training on bespoke simulators. But it is also highly likely they would have been practising on commercially available software, which delivers a very close representation of the workflow required to operate an F-16.

Numbers are also key. It is little use sending half a dozen jets which on their own might be vulnerable to the mighty Su-35s operated by Russia.

Combat aircraft are most effective in packages where jets are grouped together for certain roles - all to carry out one specific mission.

For example, if the mission is to neutralise an enemy radar installation, you might want a "four-ship" comprising four jets to carry the missiles or the bombs to destroy that structure.

That role is called a Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) strike. But you do not want that critical flight itself to be vulnerable to attack.

So you might have another four aircraft flying ahead in a "SEAD escort" role, armed with air-to-air weapons, to protect the SEAD strike from enemy planes.

The point is all this requires many aircraft, and they need to be supported by other assets.

That would include surveillance planes to warn about enemy fighters in the area, ground maintenance crews to ensure the upkeep of the jets and having, of course, the necessary infrastructure to take off and land safely.

So the US decision to give the OK to other nations to supply F-16s marks the start of a complicated process and much work will be required to get to delivery.

Ukraine war: Taking steps to tackle the mental scars of conflict, 13 days ago

"When you go to bed you see it; the comrades I lost, how I pulled them out with no limbs, how they died in my arms.

"This will stay with us for the rest of our lives."

There is a darkness etched across Dmytro's eyes - the eyes of a soldier recently returned from the front line.

After 15 months of fighting in the Donetsk region, Dmytro tightly holds his wife Tetiana's hand in a recovery centre in north-eastern Ukraine.

She travelled 600 miles (966km) to this innocuous collection of buildings in the Kharkiv region after Dmytro was granted a week off.

Last year, around 2,000 troops came here for counselling and physiotherapy. Organisers admit this is just respite, not rehabilitation. Most head back to the front.

Staff at the centre say Ukraine is trying to keep its soldiers well enough to "stand until the end".

"We'll suffer the consequences for the rest of our lives," says Dmytro as his eyes moisten.

[Dmytro on the frontlines]

Dmytro has promised to not shave his beard until the war is over. Its length reflects the 400-plus days since Russia's full-scale invasion.

Tetiana thinks her husband is different beyond his appearance, too.

"He has changed a lot," she says. "He has proved he's capable of many things; protecting us and standing up for Ukraine. He's shown he can do a lot."

We chat to Pavlo, who is taking a break from being a drone pilot, in the leafy gardens. He struggles to sleep.

"Sometimes, you don't know what to talk about with old friends because old interests change," he says. "I don't want to share all that I've seen with them.

"I am no longer interested in things we used to have in common. Something has changed, even snapped."

Pavlo's role means he is a target, and exposed to horrors most don't have to witness.

It's left him in a psychological no man's land.

"Every day that I'm on the front line, I want to go home," he says. "But when I come home, I get this strange feeling of wanting to go back to my comrades.

"It's a very strange feeling, of being out of place."

Managers at this recovery centre believe it will take up to 20 years to mentally rehabilitate Ukraine's population after this war.

Yana Ukrayinska, from the country's health ministry, is trying to get ahead of such forecasts by planning to provide mental health support for "every one in two citizens".

"We're preparing our system to provide quality psychological aid for about 15 million people," she tells us. "We hope it will not be needed, but we're convinced we should be ready."

This is, after all, a Russian invasion which affects every Ukrainian. Millions have been forced from their homes and separated from loved ones, suffering violence and losing all their belongings.

Experts say the most common mental illnesses are stress or anxiety disorders, but it's thought post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will take a real hold in the coming years.

Ukraine's First Lady Olena Zelenska recently launched a nationwide mental health programme, but there is still a shortage of therapists. It's why the government's emphasis is on self-care.

For a class of six in Kharkiv, that means body therapy. They take part in a session where they sit and share feelings, before exploring touch and movement with each other.

[Body therapy in Kharkiv]

Inna comes here to take care of her own mental health, so she can help others as a therapist.

"It's really important for me to stay in shape to have a resource that I can give to people," she says.

Inna can also see how people have changed in her city since the start of the war.

"Nowadays, people live more in the present, they don't postpone life for the future, and these are good changes, in my opinion.

"But there are also a lot of traumatic experiences, PTSD, and depression, which require the help of psychiatrists."

A reminder of how the weight of this conflict isn't contained to the trenches. People are connected to the war in countless ways, regardless of their location.

Additional reporting by Hanna Chornous, Rachael Thorn, Siobhan Leahy and Daria Sipigina

Ukraine war: Nato watches Russian 'Zombies' in Estonia, 9 days ago

In a cramped crew room, in a building just next to the runway of the Amari airbase in Estonia, the television is showing old episodes of Friends.

Feet up on the table, coffee mugs in hand, a bit of casual banter crisscrosses the room. On the TV screen, Rachel is just back from the hairdressers, Ross is upset about something. Then an airman pops his head around the doorway and announces calmly: "Zombie heading north out of Kaliningrad."

Instantly people are on their feet and moving next door to the Operations Room, where screens and digital maps marked "Nato Secret" flicker with streams of incoming data.

This is the Quick Reaction Force for Operation Azotize, Nato's Baltic Air Policing mission that guards the alliance's north-east borders where Russian aircraft regularly probe the boundaries of Nato territory.

Since April, the RAF's IX Squadron of Typhoon fighter jets has taken over the mission lead from Germany's historically-named Richthofen Squadron.

Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine has forced the Nato military alliance to focus its efforts on securing its eastern borders. The aim is simple: to deter Russia from invading anywhere else, specifically a Nato country like one of the three Baltic states or Poland.

[A Russian fighter jet photographed from a Nato Typhoon]

"Zombie" is code for a Russian aircraft acting suspiciously.

"That can usually be any one of three things," explains Wing Cdr Scott Maccoll from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland. "Either it won't have filed a flight plan, or they're not squawking [communicating] or they're simply not responding to Air Traffic Control. Sometimes it's all three."

In this case it turns out to be a false alarm as the Zombie turns north and away from Nato's borders.

Estonia's Amari airbase, where the Typhoons are based, used to be a Cold War Soviet Airforce site, and in the nearby forest there is still a cemetery where Soviet pilots are buried along with the tailplanes of their old MiG-15s and MiG-17s.

Today the mission for these Nato pilots is both complicated and relentless. With Finland now joining Nato, the Baltic Sea is bordered by seven members of the Western alliance, soon to be eight when the way is cleared for Sweden to join.

[Map showing the Amari airbase in Estonia, alongside other Baltic states and the border with Russia]

But Russia still has two strategic footholds in the Baltic: its second city of St Petersburg to the east and its exclave of Kaliningrad, the former Prussian city of Konigsberg and its hinterland, a place now bristling with missiles and other military hardware.

Russian Su-27 Flanker fighters, Airborne Command and Control aircraft and cargo planes all fly continually up and down the Baltic between those two bases and beyond, keeping Nato's air forces constantly on their toes.

"So we could be sat there, feet up on the table, having a cup of coffee, and then the next minute the alarm sounds," says one of the younger Typhoon pilots, who asks not to be named.

"We respond to any alarm as if it's the real deal. So we run to the aircraft, don our kit, get the engines going, strapped in, speak to the [Control] Tower, speak to Operations on the radios, get our clearance and we then we taxi out and get airborne as quick as we can."

Inside the hangars another pilot approaches one of the Typhoons. They're armed and "on state", ready to scramble if needed.

[Cockpit footage of the RAF pilots in flight]

Wing Cdr Rich Leask points to a long, sleek missile fixed to the side of the fuselage. "This is the Meteor," he says. "It's been in service operationally since 2018. At the front end it's got its own radar seeker head, at the rear it's got its own propulsion with a Ramjet."

Other, smaller missiles designed for short-range dogfights in the air sit menacingly on the wingtips.

So what actually happens when pilots get up close with these Russian Zombies? Presumably nobody wants to start loosing off missiles and set off World War Three?

"Our role here is to protect Nato airspace," replies Wing Cdr Maccoll, adding cryptically "our Rules of Engagement are classified".

Another pilot is slightly more forthcoming. "We don't know what aircraft we're going to go and intercept. So we pull up alongside, we identify the aircraft and then we get further words, further mission sets from the Ops Centre and we respond to what they tell us to do."

What I do know is that these RAF pilots take a lot of photographs of the Zombies, good ones too, as they come up alongside and escort them past Nato airspace.

"We have conducted eight interception missions," says Wing Cdr Maccoll. "All of those have been against Russian aircraft… We've been doing Baltic air policing for a number of years but there's no doubt that Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine last year has changed the dynamic here."

Things have changed on the ground, too, where there is a new urgency to put in place enough land forces to deter any future Russian incursion.

[Soviet Air Force cemetery at Amari airbase, Estonia]

Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who grew up as a child in the Soviet Union, tells me she has no doubt that if President Putin's invasion of Ukraine were to eventually succeed then it would only be a matter of time before he turned his attention to the Baltic states.

As part of Nato's policy of "enhanced forward presence" in those Baltic states and Poland, there is a British-led multinational Battle Group based at Tapa in northern Estonia. Challenger 2 main battle tanks, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, Wildcat and Apache helicopters and even a Company of French Foreign Legionnaires are all intended to act as a deterrent to any moves by Moscow.

"Nato's challenge here in the Baltics," says Brig Giles Harris, who commands Operation Cabrit, Britain's contribution in Estonia, "is to deter Russia without escalating."

The numbers, though, are tiny compared to the vast forces that Russia can muster across the border in normal times. There has been a reluctant admission that Nato's deterrent force in Estonia would essentially act as a "tripwire", triggering rapid reinforcement while Russian forces advanced westwards.

Does Nato have enough forces in place?

"The Battle Groups [in the Baltics] should be enough of a deterrent," says Brig Harris. "If that fails then we're done.

"If Russia invades, then we go east and fight them."

F-16 fighter jets: Biden to let allies supply warplanes in major boost for Kyiv, 11 days ago

The US says it will allow its Western allies to supply Ukraine with advanced fighter jets, including American-made F-16s, in a major boost for Kyiv.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said President Joe Biden "informed his G7 counterparts" of the decision at the bloc's summit in Japan on Friday.

US troops will also train Kyiv's pilots to use the jets, Mr Sullivan said.

Russia said countries would run "enormous risks" if they supplied F-16s to Ukraine, state media reported.

Deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko told state-owned news agency Tass that Western countries were "sticking to the scenario of escalation".

"This will be taken into account in all our plans, and we have all the necessary means to achieve our goals," he said.

Ukraine has long sought advanced jets and President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the move as a "historic decision".

Countries can only resell or re-export American military hardware if the US approves it, so this decision clears the way for other nations to send their existing stocks of F-16s to Ukraine.

Although it seems increasingly likely that Ukraine will eventually receive the advanced jets it so desperately wants, no government has so far confirmed it will send them to Kyiv.

The US and allies had so far "focussed on providing Ukraine with the systems weapon and training it needs to conduct offensive operations this spring and summer", Mr Sullivan told reporters in Hiroshima, saying the moves were part of Washington's "long-term commitment to Ukraine's self-defence".

"As the training unfolds in the coming months, we will work with our allies to determine when planes will be delivered, who will be delivering them, and how many."

Ukraine has repeatedly lobbied its Western allies to provide jets to help in its fight against Russia.

Ahead of Saturday's official announcement, President Zelensky said the jets would "greatly enhance our army in the sky".

He said he looked forward to "discussing the practical implementation" of the plan at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, where he arrived on Saturday.

The US had been sceptical about providing Ukraine with modern fighter jets - at least in the near term. Its focus has instead been on providing military support on land.

Some Nato member countries have expressed worries that handing jets to Ukraine would be viewed as escalating the war, risking a direct confrontation with Russia.

Senior US military officials were previously sceptical about the ability of Western-supplied fighter jets to dramatically alter the conflict - there are lots of air defence systems on the ground, and Russia's large air force has struggled to gain air superiority.

In February, President Biden told reporters that he was "ruling out for now" sending advanced fighters to Ukraine.

But Mr Sullivan told reporters that the US had provided weapons to Kyiv as they were needed on the battlefield, and the decision to pave the way for fighter jets indicated the conflict had entered a new phase.

"Now we have delivered everything we said we were going to deliver, so we put the Ukrainians in a position to make progress on the battlefield through the counteroffensive. We've reached a moment where it is time to look down the road, and say what is Ukraine going to need as part of a future force to defend against Russian aggression," he said.

Mr Sullivan also indicated any jets Ukraine received would only be used for defence purposes, and that the US would neither enable nor support attacks on Russian territory.

"The Ukrainians have consistently indicated that they are prepared to follow through on that," he said.

While the change in US policy is significant, training pilots to fly F-16 jets will take time.

Ukraine has more trained fighter pilots than aircraft at present, but even training experienced fighter pilots on a new plane could take up to four months.

Nations will also need to agree to supply the jets.

The F-16 is widely used by a number of European and Middle East nations as well as the US, which still manufactures the aircraft.

The UK, Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark also welcomed the US move.

[G7 l;eaders]

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted: "The UK will work together with the USA and the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark to get Ukraine the combat air capability it needs."

The UK does not have any F-16s in its air force itself.

Denmark has announced it too will now be able to support the training of pilots, but did not confirm whether it would send any jets to Ukraine. Denmark's air force has 40 F-16s, around 30 of which are operational.

Earlier this week, Mr Sunak and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said they would build an "international coalition" to provide fighter jet support for Ukraine.

Mr Sunak said the UK would set up a flight school to train Ukrainian pilots. French leader Emmanuel Macron said his country was willing to do the same but would not provide jets.

Some of the opposition to sending the jets has centred around maintenance issues, with former Nato official Dr Jamie Shea saying they require extensive maintenance after almost every fight.

At the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, Ukraine was believed to have around 120 combat capable aircraft - mainly consisting of aging Soviet-era MiG-29s and Su-27s.

But officials say they need up to 200 jets to match Moscow's air-power - which is thought to be five or six times greater than Kyiv's.

Mr Zelensky has primarily been asking its allies for F-16s. First built in the 1970s, the jet can travel at twice the speed of sound and can engage targets in the air or on the ground.

While now eclipsed by the more modern F-35, it remains widely in use. Experts say modern fighters like the F-16 would help Ukraine strike behind Russian lines.

Earlier this year some Eastern European countries sent Soviet-era Mig fighter jets to Ukraine.

UN begins salvage operation to stop catastrophic oil spill off Yemen, today

The United Nations has started a operation to remove 1.1 million barrels of oil from a decaying supertanker moored off Yemen's Red Sea coast.

A salvage vessel with a crew of experts reached the FSO Safer on Tuesday.

They will undertake work to make it secure for oil to be transferred to another tanker, Nautica, which is due to sail from Djibouti next month.

There is an imminent risk that the Safer could explode or break apart, causing an environmental catastrophe.

The UN has so far raised $114m (£92m) to pay for the unprecedented project through donations from dozens of member states, private companies and even the general public through a crowdfunding campaign.

But it says another $29m is urgently required, including to safely moor the Nautica to an anchored loading buoy and tow the Safer to a recycling yard.

UN Development Programme Administrator Achim Steiner described the arrival at the site of the salvage support vessel Ndeavor, operated by Dutch company SMIT, as a "critical step" and a "proud moment".

He added that it was a "a prime example of the importance of prevention".

"Aside from a possible humanitarian and environmental catastrophe, funds spent now will prevent a disaster that could cost billions in the future."

The Safer was constructed as a supertanker in 1976 and converted later into a floating storage and offloading facility for oil. It is anchored near the Ras Isa oil terminal, which is controlled by Yemen's rebel Houthi movement.

Its structural integrity has deteriorated significantly since maintenance operations were suspended in 2015, when the Houthis seized large parts of Yemen and a Saudi-led coalition intervened in support of the Yemeni government. The ensuing war has reportedly killed more than 150,000 people and left 21 million others in need of aid.

The Safer holds four times the amount of oil spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

The UN says a major spill in the Red Sea would destroy coral reefs, mangroves and other sea life, expose millions of people to highly polluted air, devastate fishing communities, force nearby ports to close and disrupt shipping through the Suez Canal.

It estimates that the cost of clean-up alone would be $20bn.

James Webb telescope: Icy moon Enceladus spews massive water plume, today

Astronomers have detected a huge plume of water vapour spurting out into space from Enceladus, an icy moon of Saturn.

The 504km-wide (313 miles) moon is well known for its geysers, but this is a particularly big one.

The water stream spans some 9,600km - a distance equivalent to that of flying from the UK to Japan.

Scientists are fascinated by Enceladus because its sub-surface salty ocean - the source of the water - could hold the basic conditions to support life.

Nasa's Cassini mission (2004-2017) gathered tantalising evidence of the necessary chemistry by regularly flying through the geysers and sampling the water with its instruments - although it made no direct detection of biology.

The new super-plume was spied by the James Webb Space Telescope. Previous observations had tracked vapour emissions extending for hundreds of kilometres, but this geyser is on a different scale.


The European Space Agency (Esa) calculated the rate at which the water was gushing out at about 300 litres per second. This would be sufficient to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in just a few hours, Esa said.

Webb was able to map the plume's properties using its extremely sensitive Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec). instrument.

The instrument showed how much of the ejected vapour (about 30%) feeds a fuzzy torus of water co-located with one of Saturn's famous rings - its so-called E-ring.

"The temperature on the surface of Enceladus is minus 200 degrees Celsius. It's freezing cold," commented Prof Catherine Heymans, Astronomer Royal for Scotland.

"But at the core of the moon, we think it's hot enough to heat up this water. And that's what's causing these plumes to come out.

"We know deep in our own ocean on planet Earth, in these sort of conditions, life can survive. So that's why we're excited to to see these big plumes at Enceladus. They will help us understand a bit more about what's going on, and how likely it is that life could exist, but it's not going to be life like you and me - it would be deep-sea bacteria."


Scientists have proposed a Nasa mission called the Enceladus Orbilander that would try to resolve the open question about life.

As the name suggests, this mission would both orbit the moon to sample the geysers like Cassini did - but with more advanced technology - and then land to sample materials on the surface.

If ever approved, the Orbilander would not fly for several decades because of other priorities.

In the meantime, Nasa and Esa have probes heading to the ice-covered moons of Jupiter. These bodies also contain oceans of water at depth and could actually be better candidates in the search for extra-terrestrial life because they're much larger in size.

It's not known, for example, how long little Enceladus has held water in the all important liquid state to support biology; the moon may have been frozen solid for a substantial portion of the history of the Solar System, denting its life credentials.

In contrast, Jupiter's bulkier moons, such as Europa (3,121km in diameter) and Ganymede (5,268km) have probably had the heat energy to maintain water in the liquid state over a much greater period of time.

[James Webb]

Ama Ata Aidoo: Ghana's famous author and feminist dies, today

One of Africa's most-celebrated authors and playwrights, Ghanaian Ama Ata Aidoo, has died aged 81.

A renowned feminist, she depicted and celebrated the condition of African women in works such as The Dilemma of a Ghost, Our Sister Killjoy and Changes.

She opposed what she described as a "Western perception that the African female is a downtrodden wretch".

She also served as education minister in the early 1980s but resigned when she could not make education free.

In a statement, her family said "our beloved relative and writer" passed away after a short illness, requesting privacy to allow them to grieve.

A university professor, Ata Aidoo won many literary awards including the 1992 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Changes, a love story about a statistician who divorces her first husband and enters into a polygamist marriage.

Her work, including plays like Anowa, have been read in schools across West Africa, along with works of other greats like Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe.

US penalises Kosovo after violent unrest, today

The US has announced measures against Kosovo for ignoring its advice to avoid raising tensions in majority-Serb northern areas.

It has criticised Kosovo's decision to install ethnic Albanian mayors in northern Kosovo "by forcible means".

Kosovo has been expelled from participating in an ongoing American-led military exercise in Europe.

Police and Nato troops clashed with Serb protesters in Zvecan, north Kosovo, on Monday.

Protesters had tried to invade a government building amid unrest over the installation of ethnic Albanian mayors in areas where Serbs make up the majority of the population.

Nato is to deploy an additional 700 troops to Kosovo after saying 30 of its peacekeepers and 52 protesters were hurt in the clashes in Zvecan.

The crisis dates back to April, when ethnic Serbs boycotted local elections in north Kosovo - allowing ethnic Albanians to take control of local councils with a turnout of less than 4%.

Like the US, the European Union has accused the Kosovan authorities of destabilising the situation in north Kosovo, and warned against any actions that could inflame ethnic tensions there.

Meanwhile Serbia's ally Russia called for the rights of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo to be respected.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, quoted by AFP, said Moscow supported Serbia and Serbs "without question".

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, after years of strained relations between its Serb and mainly Albanian inhabitants.

It has been recognised by the US and major EU countries. But Serbia, backed by its powerful ally Russia, refuses to do so - as do most ethnic Serbs inside Kosovo.

While ethnic Albanians make up more than 90% of the population in Kosovo as a whole, Serbs form the majority of the population in the northern region.

[Map showing areas of Kosovo where Serbs are the majority, including in the north]

The American ambassador in Pristina, Jeffrey Hovenier, said that the US "foresaw the consequences" of the decision to forcibly install ethnic-Albanian mayors in four majority-Serb municipalities.

The US - a strong ally of Kosovo - said it had "strongly advised" Prime Minister Albin Kurti to change his course of action, but the advice was ignored.

As a result, Kosovo's participation in a Nato exercise, Defender Europe 23, has been cancelled.

Mr Hovenier said the US was considering other measures and currently "has no enthusiasm" to assist Kosovo in its efforts to gain wider international recognition or progress towards membership of the EU and Nato.

Serbia and Kosovo's leaders have traded accusations over the violent scenes.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Kosovan PM Albin Kurti "alone is responsible" for the disturbances.

In return, Mr Kurti claimed the protesters in Zvecan were "a bunch of extremists under the direction of official Belgrade".

The alliance's chief Jens Stoltenberg said the violence "must stop".

He strongly condemned "the unprovoked attacks against Kfor troops" - referring to Nato's peacekeeping force in Kosovo.

But ethnic Serbs in north Kosovo have criticised Kfor for failing to prevent armed Kosovo police from forcing their way into municipal buildings and removing Serbian flags.

Tuesday's announcement from Nato provides a significant boost to Kfor's numbers. The 700 additional troops will join the 3,800 who are already on duty in Kosovo.

An additional reserve battalion has been placed on standby and will be ready to deploy within seven days, if required.

Kfor's mission is to guarantee the safety and freedom of movement of everyone in Kosovo, regardless of their ethnicity.

So the new troops will face considerable expectations from both sides after this week's disturbances.

Former Nato chief Lord Robertson has accused Serbia of stoking tension in Kosovo.

"The idea that we would withdraw completely from Kosovo can't happen until Serbia begins to acknowledge reality," he told BBC Radio 4's World Tonight programme after returning from a visit to Kosovo.

Noting the "salutary warning" from the Americans to the Kosovan authorities, he said a "degree of common sense and a degree of cool diplomacy should've been the order of the day".

"I think the Kosovan authorities should've handled it much better," he said. "The fact that their close friends, like the Americans, are giving them very pointed warnings should make them rethink what they are doing."

He chided both Kosovo and Serbia, saying both had to "sit down carefully and think through what future they want for the people of both countries".

What do we know about drone attacks in Russia?, today

Russia says Ukraine has launched a series of drone strikes on its territory in recent months, including an attack on Moscow this week.

It has also accused Ukraine of trying to kill President Vladimir Putin in an alleged attack on his residence in the Kremlin on 3 May.

Ukraine denies carrying out the attacks.

[Damaged building in Moscow]

BBC Verify has confirmed the location of three reported drone attacks in south-west Moscow on 30 May.

On 31 May, an oil refinery was set ablaze in Krasnodar Territory in southern Russia, about 200km (124 miles) from the Crimean border. The regional governor said it was probably caused by a drone.

Another oil refinery in Krasnodar Territory, first struck earlier in May, was hit again by a drone, but no damage was caused according to Russian officials.

A suspected drone attack injured at least 10 Russian soldiers at a military training ground in the Voronezh Region on 10 May, according to local media reports.


In February, a drone crashed about 100 km (62 miles) from Moscow, in what the local governor said was an attempt to target civilian infrastructure.

A picture of the wreckage appeared to be consistent with a UJ-22 - a type of drone manufactured by Ukraine.

It has a range of 800km (497 miles) in autonomous flight. Its range under directly-controlled flight is much shorter.

In December last year, a drone attack hit an airbase 600km (372 miles) north-east of the Ukrainian border, leaving three people dead, according to the Russian military.

Tracking reported drone attacks

According to Russian media reports monitored by the BBC, there have been more than 60 suspected drone attacks this year in Russia and Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.

[Drone strikes map]

These have mostly been in the Bryansk and Belgorod regions in Russia near the north-eastern border with Ukraine, as well as in Russian-annexed Crimea.

Oil facilities, airfields and energy infrastructure have all been targeted.

We have identified nine reported drone attacks on oil depots. One of these was in Sevastopol, a major city in Crimea, which was hit on 29 April, destroying several of its oil tanks.

[A side-by-side comparison using two satellite images of an oil storage facility under Russian control in Crimea, which came under attack on 29 April, allegedly by Ukrainian drones. The before image from 10 March 2023, shows all the oil storage tanks intact, while the image taken on 3 May 2023, shows at least seven storage tanks destroyed or severely damaged]

Layla Guest, an analyst at Sibylline security consultancy, says: "Ukrainian forces will highly likely prioritise targeting oil refineries, as well as railway infrastructure and wider Russian logistics, to cause maximum disruption as part of their strategy ahead of the impending counter-offensive."

How far can Ukraine's drones fly?

Drones have been deployed by both sides in the conflict, with Russia using Iranian-made drones on targets in Ukraine.

Ukraine says it is rapidly increasing its production of drones as demand grows on the front line.

In terms of range, experts say drones launched from Ukraine could reach deep into Russian territory, and as far as Moscow, which is about 450km (280 miles) from the border.

"Although Ukraine has not confirmed that its armed forces carried out the attacks [on Moscow], I think that the pre-emptive raids we have seen last year prove that Ukraine has the capability to launch long range attacks of that kind from within Ukrainian territory," says David Cenciotti, editor of the Aviationist blog.

Drone specialist Steve Wright also said it was possible that a drone could hit the Kremlin having been launched from within Ukraine.

But he added: "My guess is that the drone was launched from far closer in than that, as this would avoid it having to run the gauntlet of much of Moscow's defences."

Ukraine's Minister for Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov recently boasted of a Ukrainian drone called the R18 that "can fly from Kyiv to Moscow and back".

But he denied that he was calling for drone strikes on Moscow.

Mr Cenciotti says: "Ukraine has made extensive use of several drones, with the Bayraktar TB2 drone emerging as the real star of the air war for Ukraine, inflicting heavy losses on Russian forces, some of those caught on tape and circulated online."

Turkey has sold Bayraktar TB2 armed drones to Ukraine in recent months, while the Turkish manufacturer of the drones has donated some to crowd-funding operations in support of Ukraine.

[Graphic showing characteristics of the Bayraktar TB2 drone. The Bayraktar TB2 is a low-cost alternative to US-made drones and can be used to directly attack or coordinate attacks with other systems on targets.]

Additional reporting by Tural Ahmedzade, Joshua Cheetham, Thomas Spencer, Shayan Sardarizadeh, Paul Brown and Adam Robinson

[BBC Verify logo]

Read more about BBC Verify: Explaining the 'how' - the launch of BBC Verify

[BBC Verify logo]

Navigating the two sides of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, today

In our series of letters from African journalists, Soraya Ali tries to reconcile between the idyllic image of Somalia that she grew up with and its reputation as a hostile place.

Until a few weeks ago I'd never been home.

A country where I speak the language, and look like everyone else but had never stepped foot in.

That place is Somalia.

But this month, I followed in the footsteps of countless diaspora children and booked a one-way-ticket to the motherland.

I was born and raised in London, some 6,000 miles (9,700km) from my family's roots.

Growing up, I always felt torn between the idea of what sounded like two very different cities.

I'd hear about Mogadishu on the news. A capital filled with death and destruction, touted as "the most dangerous place in the world".

But then my parents would speak so fondly of "Xamar", as the locals call it. They described a beautiful city, situated on Africa's longest coastline, known to many as "the pearl of the Indian Ocean".

I've come to realise that both versions hold some truth.

[Beach scene in the evening]

Many diaspora Africans, like myself, have returned to their original or ancestral homeland.

On arrival there is often of a deep sense of belonging, but at the same time, a melancholy about the differences that being in the diaspora has created.

My parents were born in Mogadishu in the late 1950s and, like many older Somalis, they have their rose-tinted memories of the country.

"We used to zoom around in our convertibles and wear whatever we wanted," my mum often reminisces, recalling her wild adventures and even wilder hairstyles. Nowadays women are expected to dress more conservatively.

"All you had were goats," my siblings tease, to her dismay.

The Somalia we grew up seeing on our screens showed Western journalists in displaced people's camps talking to those on the brink of famine. Back in the 1990s, it was because of the war.

But the same images are being shown, in 2023, as a result of ongoing instability and climate change.

Unexpectedly, the most accurate picture of Somalia I got was through TikTok.

#SomaliTikTok is huge and the hashtag has amassed some 77 billion views.

Through social media I got a glimpse into daily life in Mogadishu, through the lenses of both locals and people like myself. This pushed me to go and see it with my own eyes and even consider relocating here.

[Woman in headscarf in profile]

Of course Mogadishu is still a dangerous place, the al-Qaeda-affiliated group al-Shabab remains an active threat. An attack in October killed more than 100 people.

But there's another side to the city that is rarely shown - the fear of instability means that most Westerners do not travel freely.

The only white face I have seen is in the confines of the high-security airport village.

But the true essence of Mogadishu can only be experienced through its restaurants, markets, beaches and people.

The city comes to life at night and is best explored on a bajaja - a Somali rickshaw.

"There's six bajaja's for every person," one driver joked.

The familiar foods and flavours remind me of my mum's cooking.

African staples like meat and rice are always served with fresh bananas, alongside dishes like spicy spaghetti Bolognese, from the country's Italian colonial past.

Local fishermen carry giant rare tuna across their shoulders, worth tens of thousands of dollars in Japan.

Sadly, a lack of infrastructure and investment in the country's once-budding fishing industry means they rarely reap the rewards.

But as President Hassan Sheik Mohamud passes a year in office, there's a growing sense that the country is on the path to rebuilding.

[Scene from inside a motorised rickshaw]

"You see the construction everywhere, we're improving slowly, God willing," my 24-year-old bajaja driver points out.

Like many, he is yet to experience a stable Somalia. The war broke out in 1991 and around 75% of the country's population is under 30.

He remains optimistic but our conversation highlights the blaring inequality.

Like many diaspora, I have the privilege of choosing to return.

While other Somalis, especially those outside the capital are seeking a way out.

In 2022, Somalia accounted for the eighth highest number of refugees globally, according to the United Nations.

Somalia is one of the world's most climate-vulnerable countries and extreme weather events have forced hundreds of thousands from their homes, with the worst drought in 40 years now giving way to flash floods.

As we drive further into the city, I notice the buildings, both new and old, and admire the Islamic Afro-Italian architecture.

They are fortified behind concrete barriers and stacks of sandbags. And on almost every corner of the city is a young officer armed with an AK-47 rifle.

Calls to prayer are blasted through speakers and interspersed with the sound of distant gunshots.

Despite this, I feel a deep sense of hope. And I'm not alone.

The city is filled with other diaspora, often from Minnesota or Toronto, as well as local Somalis determined to cultivate stability.

"I believe in my country," a young businesswoman tells me.

She says she never wants to leave.

"We can bring back the Somalia our parents told us about," she adds.

More Letters from Africa:

Follow us on Twitter @BBCAfrica, on Facebook at BBC Africa or on Instagram at bbcafrica

[A composite image showing the BBC Africa logo and a man reading on his smartphone.]

Jam Master Jay: Third man charged over death of Run-DMC star, today

A third man has been charged over the murder of Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay, prosecutors in New York have confirmed.

Jay Bryant, 49, from Queens, who was in custody already on unrelated federal drug charges, denies the charges.

In 2020, two other men, Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr, were charged with his murder. They previously pleaded not guilty and are due to face trial in January 2024.

Jam Master Jay was shot in the head in his studio by a masked man in 2002.

The death of the hip-hop trailblazer, whose real name was Jason Mizell, had remained an unsolved case for almost two decades.

The influential act he formed with Joseph "Run" Simmons and Darryl "DMC" McDaniel - famous for tracks such as It's Tricky, It's Like That and Aerosmith collaboration Walk This Way - disbanded after his death.

[Jam Master Jay with other members of Run DMC]

A court previously heard that the musician had been killed "in cold blood" after a big-money cocaine deal ended badly.

Mr Bryant's attorney, César de Castro, said on Tuesday his client would plead not guilty to the charges.

"Securing an indictment in a secret grand jury, applying an extremely low burden of proof, is one thing," he said. "Proving it at trial is another matter."

The charges against him include murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking and other drug-trafficking counts.

In a letter filed to the court, prosecutors said Mr Bryant, along with the two other men, had been seen entering and later fleeing the building after the shooting, and that his DNA had been recovered at the scene.

Tree of Life synagogue: Gunman driven by 'malice and hate', today

A gunman who killed 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the deadliest antisemitic attack in US history acted with "malice and hatred", a court has heard.

Prosecutors described how the attacker barged into the synagogue and shot every worshipper he could find.

His "malice and hate can only be proven in the broken bodies" of the victims, said the lead prosecutor.

If convicted, Robert Bowers, 50, could get the death penalty.

Eight men and three women - ranging in age from 54 to 97 - died in the attack inside the Tree of Life synagogue on 27 October 2018.

The gunman, who has pleaded not guilty, is on trial for more than 60 federal charges including obstruction of free exercise of religion resulting in death and hate crimes resulting in death.

The defendant's lawyers had offered to plead guilty on all counts, in exchange for a sentence of life in prison instead of the death penalty, but federal prosecutors rejected such a deal.

Most families of those killed have voiced support for the death penalty.

"The defendant had moved methodically through the synagogue to find the Jews he hated and kill them," Soo Song, the lead prosecutor, said in her opening statement on Tuesday.

The court heard audio of the 911 call one of the victims made to emergency dispatcher Shannon Basa-Sabol, who was the first witness in the trial.

She received Bernice Simon's desperate call from inside the Tree of Life synagogue.

"Tree of Life, we're being attacked… We're being attacked!" Ms Simon said on the phone.

"My husband's shot, oh dear God, my husband's bleeding, he's shot in the back."

Ms Simon and her husband, Sylvan, were both killed.

Some survivors cried in court.

Tree of Life rabbi and attack survivor Jeffrey Myers testified how he prayed while on the line with a police dispatcher as the attack unfolded.

"I thought about the history of my people, how we've been persecuted and hunted and slaughtered for centuries, and how all of them must have felt the moments before their death, and what did they do," Mr Myers told the court.

Judy Clarke, the defence lawyer, acknowledged to jurors on Tuesday that there was no disputing her client carried out the attack, but she questioned whether he had acted out of hatred.

She argued that the death penalty sentencing option was unconstitutional because she said the former truck driver suffers from serious mental illnesses, including schizophrenia.

She also said he was "a socially awkward man who didn't have many friends" and that he had "misguided intent" and "irrational thoughts".

The 12 jurors were told that the defendant frequently posted antisemitic slurs online, on sites like Gab, and prosecutors said he shouted "all Jews must die" during the attack.

Investigators said he was carrying multiple weapons on him, including a semi-automatic rifle.

Police shot the gunman three times before subduing him. Five of the injured included police officers who responded to the scene.

The trial in the US District Court in Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania is expected to last several weeks.

Elon Musk: Tesla boss on first China trip in over three years, today

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk is in China, as he makes his first trip to the world's second largest economy in over three years.

He arrived in Beijing on Tuesday and is also expected to visit Tesla's huge manufacturing plant in Shanghai.

The multi-billionaire met China's foreign minister Qin Gang within hours of arriving in the country.

Mr Musk has not yet publicly commented on the trip, which comes amid tensions between the US and China.

He also declined to make any comments about his plans for the trip when asked by reporters as he left a hotel in Beijing on Wednesday.

Later on Wednesday, Mr Musk met China's industry minister Jin Zhuanglong and discussed the development of electric vehicles.

In a statement on Tuesday, China's foreign ministry said that Mr Musk was willing to expand the car maker's business in the country, which is Tesla's biggest market after the US.

The ministry added that during the meeting Mr Musk had described the economies of the US and China as "conjoined twins".

Tesla did not immediately respond to a BBC request for comment.

Mr Musk has also been uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter, which he owns and where he has more than 141 million followers.

He is known for tweeting many times a day but as of midday on Wednesday had not posted anything since arriving in the country on Tuesday afternoon.

The social media platform is banned in China but it can be accessed through VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks.

Mr Musk is the latest high-profile US executive to make a trip to China. Apple boss Tim Cook visited in March, while JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon was in the country this week.

However, as tensions rise between Washington and Beijing Tesla finds itself in a difficult position, Dan Ives from investment firm Wedbush Securities said.

"Playing nice in the sandbox in Beijing is something Wall Street is laser focused on, to make sure there are no disruptions to Tesla's expansion within China for the coming years," Mr Ives added.

[Tesla chief executive Elon Musk's private jet is seen at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China.]

In January 2019, Tesla started building its so-called gigafactory in Shanghai, which was the firm's first manufacturing plant outside the US.

Later that year, it delivered its first Chinese-made cars, marking a major milestone for the American company.

However, Covid lockdowns across the country, including in the financial, manufacturing and shipping hub of Shanghai, made it increasingly difficult for manufacturers to operate.

Last year, Mr Musk said the coronavirus lockdown of Shanghai was "very, very difficult" for Tesla, which reportedly halted most of its production at its gigafactory for several weeks.

Operations have since resumed at the plant, which produced its millionth car in August, according to Mr Musk. This accounted for a third of Tesla's global production.

Last month, the company said it planned to build a new factory in China to make its large-scale "Megapack" batteries.

China has also become the largest market for Tesla's Model Y mass-market electric vehicle, according to market research firm JATO.

More than 94,000 Model Y vehicles were sold in China in the first three months of this year, putting it ahead of the US and Europe, JATO data shows.

In recent years, Tesla's lead in electric vehicle market has been challenged by increased competition from car making giants, including Ford and General Motors, as well as newer entrants into the market like China's BYD and Nio.

Mr Musk - who bought Twitter last year for $44bn (£35.5bn) - has been under pressure to find someone else to lead the company and refocus his attention on his other businesses, including Tesla and rocket firm SpaceX.

Earlier this month, he named Linda Yaccarino, the former head of advertising at NBCUniversal as the platform's new chief executive.

Ms Yaccarino will face the challenge of running a business that has struggled to be profitable, while facing intense scrutiny over how it handles misinformation and hate speech.

Twitter is now worth around a third of what Mr Musk paid for it, according investment firm Fidelity, which helped to finance his takeover of the company.

Former US first lady Rosalynn Carter has dementia, yesterday

Former US first lady Rosalynn Carter has been diagnosed with dementia, according to a statement from her family.

The announcement comes as her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, receives hospice care at their home in Georgia.

"She continues to live happily at home with her husband," the statement said.

Former President Carter, 98, was placed on hospice care in February. He is the nation's longest-living president.

Mrs Carter, 95, was said to be "enjoying spring... and visits with loved ones" despite her diagnosis.

Since leaving the White House, Mr Carter and his wife have remained active, carrying out humanitarian work through his Carter Center.

[Former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter attend at the game between the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks at State Farm Arena]

Mrs Carter is a long-time advocate for mental health care and has worked to reduce the stigma against mental illness. As First Lady, she was the honorary chair of the President's Commission on Mental Health and helped pass a bill to increase spending on mental health services for disadvantaged communities.

Dementia is a general diagnosis for a loss of cognitive functions, including memory, language, problem-solving that are severe enough to interfere with daily life, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Nearly one in three American seniors dies with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, the association said.

Ms Carter has also founded the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, which offers support, research and funding to Americans who care for ageing family and loved ones.

"The universality of caregiving is clear in our family, and we are experiencing the joy and the challenges of this journey," the family said in its statement. "We hope sharing our family's news will increase important conversations at kitchen tables and in doctor's offices around the country.

President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, served one term in office from 1977-81.

Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes begins 11-year prison sentence, today

Disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes has reported to the federal prison where she will serve an 11-year sentence.

Holmes, 39, was convicted early last year on four counts of fraud linked to her failed blood testing start-up.

In mid-May, a court rejected her request to remain free on bail while a challenge to the original conviction was considered.

She will serve her term in a minimum-security prison in Texas.

Holmes reported to the federal facility in Bryan, Texas, which holds between 500 and 700 inmates at any given time, on Tuesday.

It is about 100 miles (160km) north of Houston, her hometown. Her arrival at the facility was confirmed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which declined to give any more details about her confinement, citing privacy concerns.

There, the woman once billed as the world's youngest self-made billionaire might work alongside other inmates for between 12 cents (10p) and $1.15 (93p) an hour - much of which will go towards her court-mandated restitution payments.

Earlier this month a US judge ordered Holmes and her former romantic and business partner, ex-Theranos boss Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, to pay $452m to victims.

Balwani is already serving a 13-year prison sentence in California for his role in the scheme.

[Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes arrives to begin serving her prison sentence for defrauding investors in the failed blood-testing startup, at the Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texa]

Together, the pair are accused of duping some of the world's richest and most prominent investors - including media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and former US Treasury Secretary George Shultz - into backing Theranos.

The firm, once valued at $9bn, promised it had technology that could detect conditions such as diabetes with just a few drops of blood. The tech, however, never worked. The company finally collapsed in 2018.

The Texas prison camp where Holmes will serve time is a sprawling 37-acre facility. Most inmates there have been convicted of non-violent crimes, low-level drug dealing or white-collar offences.

According to the facility's handbook, life largely revolves around work and extracurricular activities that include foreign language, computer literacy or business courses.

Holmes had fought to stay out of prison while her legal appeal works its way through the courts. She argued a delay would allow her to raise "substantial questions" about the case that could warrant a new trial.

Her defence team also argued that she should remain free to care for her children, one who is nearly two and the other three months old.

The Wall Street Journal reported the prison has facilities where inmates can host gatherings and where children can play.

Holmes and other mothers are allowed to hold their children in their lap and breastfeed their infants, according to official Bureau of Prison guidelines.

The image of Holmes walking into a federal prison on Tuesday stands as a dire warning to other bosses in Silicon Valley, where observers have long warned of a "fake it until you make it" culture.

Still, it is rare to see tech bosses go to prison on fraud charges.

The US government hopes that Holmes's plight will deter executives from making outlandish claims about what their technology can do while hunting for financial backing.

Eileen Lepera, who lost part of her savings investing in Theranos, told the BBC this week that she is "glad she [Ms Holmes] got 11 years".

"Her hubris is beyond belief," she added. "I don't believe she's still taking any responsibility for what has happened."

In tearful remarks ahead of her sentencing in November, Holmes said she regrets her failings at Theranos "with every cell in my body" but did not admit any criminal wrongdoing.

Timed Teaser: Why did Sam Smith stop singing?, yesterday

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US debt ceiling - what it is and why there is one, 2 days ago

Days before the US government could start to run out of money, a tentative deal has been reached on raising the borrowing limit and saving the country from catastrophic default.

US President Joe Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced the news after weeks of high-stakes budget negotiations.

There are dire predictions of global financial chaos if US Congress can't agree on a deal to raise what is known as the debt ceiling.

This is how we got here and what it means.

So what is the debt ceiling?

Also known as the debt limit, this is a law that limits the total amount of money the government can borrow to pay its bills.

This includes paying for federal employees, the military, Social Security and Medicare, as well as interest on the national debt and tax refunds.

Every so often, US Congress votes to raise or suspend the ceiling so it can borrow more.

The cap currently stands at roughly $31.4tn (£25.2tn). That limit was breached in January, but the Treasury Department used "extraordinary measures" to provide the government with more cash while it figured out what to do.

Historically, it's a formality for Congress to raise the limit as needed, but in recent years, as the parties have become more polarised, they can't seem to agree on the terms.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that without more borrowing, the US will not have enough money to meet all of its financial obligations as soon as 5 June.

What's in the deal now proposed?

Last month, Republicans put forward a deal to keep spending for key agencies at 2022 levels during the next financial year - and limit growth to 1% annually over the next decade.

The proposal would have repealed key priorities of the Biden administration, such as student loan forgiveness and tax incentives for electric vehicles. They also wanted more work requirements for those receiving healthcare and food welfare.

They did not get all they wanted, but neither did Joe Biden's Democrats.

The deal means a freeze on non-defence budgets for 2024, followed by a 1% rise the following year and no budget caps after 2025.

What does Congress do now?

There will be a vote in the House and the Senate this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

Members of both political parties have expressed disquiet at the agreement.

On the right, some Republicans think it does not go far enough in curbing spending.

And on the other side, some Democrats are unhappy at the extra work requirements on some benefit recipients.

So it is not a guarantee that the bill will pass through Congress without a hitch.

What happens if the US defaults on its debt?

This has never happened before, so it is not entirely clear, but it would cause major economic damage.

The government would no longer be able to pay the salaries of federal and military employees, while Social Security cheques - payments that millions of pensioners in the US rely on - would stop. Companies and charities that count on government funds would be in peril.

If the government stops making interest payments on its debt, that would also put the country into default.

The US briefly entered default in 1979, which the Treasury blamed on an accidental cheque processing issue, but an intentional default would shock the financial system, where more than $500bn in US debt gets traded every day.

Moody's Analytics predicts that in a prolonged stand-off, stock prices would fall by almost a fifth and the economy would contract more than 4%, leading to the loss of more than seven million jobs.

[Graphic shows rising US debt]

Over the long term, if investors start to see US debt as risky, they will charge the US more to borrow money. And since government borrowing helps determine interest rates more widely, the impact would trickle out to the rest of the economy, making borrowing money for a home or a car more expensive for everyone.

There are debates about whether the government could prioritise interest payments to avoid a debt default. But honouring commitments to the owners of US debt, which include financial firms, pension funds and foreign investors, while retirees and others go unpaid, is seen as a difficult one to sell politically.

Why is the debt limit so divisive?

The debt limit debate highlights one of the fundamental ideological differences between the two major US political parties.

The Republicans view government spending sceptically. To them, rising national debt is evidence of out-of-control government.

[President Joe Biden shakes hands with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy]

While debt-limit brinkmanship is a relatively new strategy for the party, many Republicans believe it is necessary because the nation's current course will ultimately lead to economic and social ruin.

Democrats, on the whole, view national government power as a force for good - a means to improve American lives and right historical wrongs.

They see raising the debt limit when necessary as housekeeping needed to maintain the operation of the government.

The national debt, in their view, is simply a means to fund legislative programmes that have already been discussed and approved.

The debate dimmed when Donald Trump, a Republican, was in the White House and Congress raised the limit three times without major debate. It reignited when Joe Biden became president.

Who is Linda Yaccarino, Twitter's 'superwoman'?, 3 days ago

Ad sales executive Linda Yaccarino commands widespread respect in the industry. Will that be enough at Twitter?

Why would someone want to leave a plum post as head of advertising at one of America's biggest media companies to take a chance leading Twitter, a social media platform with a spotty business record and an infamously mercurial owner?

Marketing veteran Lou Paskalis, who has known Linda Yaccarino for more than two decades, has a theory.

"She's someone who really likes to be superwoman," he says, describing her as fierce, shrewd and ambitious. She would jump at the chance, he says, "to step in... and say, 'I can fix this'".

Which begs the question: can she?

Even before billionaire Elon Musk took over Twitter last year, the social network had problems.

It has been fiercely criticised, by the left and right, for how it polices misinformation and hate speech, and the business has struggled to break even - making an annual profit just twice since its launch in 2006.

Growth, whether measured by users or the money it brings in, has been bumpy.

Since Mr Musk took over the platform last year, the issues have only gotten worse.

He has cut 75% of its former staff, including teams charged with tracking abuse; changed how the company verifies authentic accounts; and sparked debate with his own tweets spreading conspiracy theories.

Advertisers have left in large numbers and users also appear sceptical. A recent poll by Pew found that six in 10 adults in the US, Twitter's largest base, were taking a break and a quarter said they did not expect to be using the app in a year.

Even Mr Musk has seemed daunted by the challenges, going through with his $44bn purchase last year only under threat of a lawsuit. He has joked that only someone "foolish" would want the chief executive title from him.

Enter Ms Yaccarino, a 60-year-old New York native with a degree in telecommunications from Penn State.

Raised in an Italian-American family, the daughter of a police officer has risen through the ranks of some of the biggest media companies in the US, forging a reputation as a high-heeled and hard-charging executive, who has helped steer entertainment giant NBCUniversal through the upheaval wrought by the growth of the tech giants.

[linda Yaccarino and actor Terry Crews]

At NBCU, home to brands such as NBC News, Focus Features and Bravo, Ms Yaccarino overhauled the ad sales business, pushed the 2020 launch of its ad-supported streaming platform Peacock, and drove industry-wide debates about data gaps as audiences migrated online.

The mother-of-two, who met her husband Claude Madrazo on a blind date and became a grandmother last year, was known to want some kind of promotion after a decade at NBCU where she was chairman of global advertising and partnerships.

There was widespread speculation about her interest in Twitter, especially after she defended Mr Musk at a conference last year, urging critical advertisers to "give the guy a minute".

"I've long been inspired by your vision to create a brighter future," she tweeted after her new post was announced. "I'm excited to help bring this vision to Twitter and transform this business together!"

By hiring Ms Yaccarino, Mr Musk has "purchased trust" from advertisers, says Mr Paskalis, chief executive of AJL Advisory.

Indeed, industry giant GroupM, who represents brands such as Coca-Cola and Nestle, has already said it sees the platform as less risky.

But repairing Twitter's business will be no small task.

Though big ad buyers are eager to have choices beyond the tech giants, the platform remains too small to be a must-buy, says long-time media analyst Brian Wieser, now principal at consultancy Madison and Wall.

Beyond advertising, she will also face a host of pressing issues: regulatory scrutiny of Twitter's hate speech and privacy controls; lawsuits from landlords, vendors and former staff over unpaid bills; not to mention user complaints and basic tech glitches, like the malfunctions that plagued the high-profile interview with Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis hosted on the platform.

The biggest wild card of all, of course, is Mr Musk, who has said he intends to remain involved at the site, overseeing products and technology.

"Anybody taking this job has been set up to fail - it's not specific to her," Mr Wieser says. "The question is whether or not the odds are more likely to be in her favour than any alternative. And yeah, actually the odds are more favourable."

Friends and former colleagues say they expect Ms Yaccarino to use her background in television to improve the platform's ad business and expand the use of video across the site.

She has called Mr Musk's vision of Twitter as a starting point for an "the everything app", offering messages, payments and other functions a "great opportunity" for advertisers.

"[She has] the guts and the courage to take big swings," says Jacqueline Corbelli, founder and chief executive of Brightline, a tech company focused on streaming adverts, which has partnered with NBCU.

"If Twitter gives her the space to do it, she will bring the ability to integrate what's been successful in the past and blend that with what advertisers are going to be looking for to regain trust in Twitter."

Whether Ms Yaccarino will have room to run remains a big if.

Some commentators have already suggested she is poised to encounter the "glass cliff" - a phenomenon in which women reach positions of power only at the riskiest moments.

"As someone used to wearing 4 inch heels, let's be crystal clear: I don't teeter," Ms Yaccarino shot back on Twitter recently, in response to such analysis.

At an industry conference before her appointment, Ms Yaccarino, whose politics have been described as conservative but not ideological, pressed Mr Musk to explain what Twitter's "freedom of speech, not freedom of reach" meant and how it differed from rules at other companies.

She also asked Mr Musk if he would curb his own tweeting, although she got little firm commitment, at least publicly, in response.

"I'll say what I want even if it costs me money," he told CNBC recently.

Friends say Ms Yaccarino, who has described her strategy for dealing with difficult colleagues as "patience and wine", is entering her new role clear-eyed about the risks.

"Linda is not afraid," says Shelley Zallis, chief executive of the Female Quotient, which works to advance women in the workplace, and whom Ms Yaccarino has described as a "soul sister".

"Linda is fierce and fearless and Linda looks for the solution.... She really is a person that will bring the industry together and push forward progress."

Amazon staff protest climate record and office return, today

About 2,000 US staff at Amazon are planning to take part in a one-hour walkout in protest over the internet giant's climate record and its push to bring office staff back to offices.

The action is being organised by staff advocacy groups, including Amazon Employees for Climate Justice.

Organisers said morale at the company was at an "all-time low" due to a "short-sighted decisions" by leaders.

Amazon said it respected workers' rights to express opinions.

About 900 people have committed to participate in the protest at the company's headquarters in Seattle, while others will take part remotely, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice and Amazon's Remote Advocacy group said.

"Our goal is to change Amazon's cost/benefit analysis on making harmful, unilateral decisions that are having an outsized impact on people of colour, women, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable people," they said.

The protest comes as Amazon has been on a cost-cutting drive, responding in part to economic uncertainty that has slowed sales in many parts of the company, including e-commerce and its cloud-computing division.

It has announced 27,000 layoffs since January and reduced investments in many areas, including pausing construction in a high-profile corporate campus near Washington, DC.

The company has ordered office staff to work in the office at least three times per week, starting in May, saying it would improve the firm's communication and culture.

Organisers said leaders were exhibiting "day 2 decision-making and taking us in the wrong direction" - a reference to a company catchphrase developed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who called for "day 1" thinking focused on innovation and long-term goals.

They said they wanted more flexibility in how they work and for the company to put the climate at the forefront of its decision making.

They also accused the company of under-counting its carbon footprint, pointing to a report that said Amazon considered only Amazon-brand products in its calculations.

Company spokesman Brad Glasser said the firm was "always listening and would continue to do so but we're happy with how the first month of having more people back in the office has been".

He said Amazon remained committed to meeting its 2019 commitment to be carbon neutral by 2040 and was in course to rely entirely on renewable energy sources by 2025.

The firm has been electrifying its fleet of delivery vehicles, among other steps.

"We will continue investing substantially, inventing and collaborating both internally and externally to reach our goal," he said.

CBI president in early exit as lobby giant fights to survive, today

The president of the CBI is to step down earlier than planned as part of an overhaul of the leadership of the embattled business lobby group.

Brian McBride is to start the search for his successor, with the handover due to take place in the new year.

The lobby group is fighting for survival following allegations of rape and sexual assault against staff.

Members will begin voting today on the group's "programme of change" which is designed to restore trust in the body.

The CBI's new director general, Rain Newton-Smith, said the group had "listened" and was "taking accountability".

The group has suspended its day-to-day operations due to the allegations and will only resume them if members back its plans for change at an extraordinary general meeting on 6 June.

A number of major firms, including John Lewis and BMW, have quit the CBI over the claims. Others such as Tesco and Sainsbury's have suspended engagement with the group, which claims to represent 190,000 firms.

The government has also paused engagement, with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt saying there was "no point" working with the CBI when its own members had deserted it.

When the first allegations of harassment and sexual assault emerged in early April, the lobby group asked the law firm Fox Williams to investigate.

Following the release of the Fox Williams report, Mr McBride began an examination of the CBI's governance.

As a result of this work, the group will begin an accelerated search for Mr McBride's successor, the CBI said on Wednesday.

Other moves include a refresh of the CBI board, and the creation of a new committee to focus on people and human resources matters at the CBI.

What is the CBI?

The CBI - the Confederation of British Industry - speaks to the government on behalf of around 190,000 businesses. These firms employ millions of people.

It is one of the UK's most prominent lobby groups and, according to its former president Paul Drechsler, was instrumental in protecting millions of jobs during the Covid pandemic by helping the rapid roll-out of the furlough scheme.

The CBI campaigned against Brexit. Once the UK voted to leave the European Union, it lobbied the government to secure a trade and co-operation agreement.

It also aims to promote and share best practice among its members. Founded in 1965, today it employs around 300 people.

Mr McBride said the group was making "significant and fundamental changes" to improve the organisation.

"We remain determined to restore the confidence of our members, and that of our many stakeholders, in the CBI," he added.

The CBI said it has been directly engaging with more than 1,000 business leaders over April and May as part of its "programme of change".

Ms Newton-Smith said: "We need a strong voice of business, backed by a depth of economic analysis and insights from across the whole economy and entire country.

"A renewed CBI can once again have a voice on the serious economic challenges the UK faces, with a general election approaching at pace."

She added: "We shall learn the lessons and emerge from this as a stronger organisation."

The allegations at the CBI include claims of harassment and sexual assault including two allegations of rape, one at a summer party held by the group in 2019, another at one of its overseas offices.

The City of London Police is currently investigating the rape allegations.

The director general of the CBI, Tony Danker, has already been dismissed. He was the subject of separate complaints of workplace misconduct, unrelated to the sexual assault and rape claims, for which he has apologised.

Nvidia briefly worth $1 trillion thanks to AI boom, today

The elite club of US companies worth more than $1 trillion got a new member on Tuesday - at least for few hours.

Chip maker Nvidia briefly joined the ranks, as its share price shot up more than 5% before retreating.

Shares had already jumped more than 25% last week after the company forecast "surging demand" due to advances in artificial intelligence (AI).

Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft are the other publicly traded US firms worth more than $1tn (£800bn).

Founded in 1993, Nvidia was originally known for making the type of computer chips that process graphics, particularly for computer games.

The firm's affable co-founder Jensen Huang took a punt by investing in added functionality for Nvidia chips long before the AI revolution - a long game that appears to have paid off.

Its hardware underpins most AI applications today, with one report suggesting it has cornered 95% of the market for machine learning.

ChatGPT, the chatbot that sparked AI fervour with its launch last year, was trained using 10,000 of Nvidia's graphics processing units (GPUs) clustered together in a supercomputer belonging to Microsoft.

Over the past 12 months, Nvidia's share price has more than doubled, as investors bet the company will profit as AI ushers in the next wave of tech advances.

The California-based firm ended trading in New York on Tuesday worth more than $990bn, after shares closed at about $401 apiece, or up nearly 3%.

"We view Nvidia at the core hearts and lungs of the AI revolution," Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives wrote last week, after the firm told investors it expected to bring in $11bn in sales in the three months to August - almost 50% more than analysts had predicted.

Living up to the promise of its lofty valuation could prove difficult, however.

Though Nvidia boomed during the pandemic, its overall revenue growth was flat last year, while profits were cut in half.

There are questions about whether Nvidia can keep up with demand, especially as rivals AMD and Intel race to develop their own offerings, and start-ups emerge.

The firm also faces ethical issues, such as whether it should vet the AI products for which it produces chips, amid swirling concerns about the impact of AI on society.

At current prices, Nvidia boasts a market value more than eight times higher than that of Intel. That's despite Intel reporting more than $63bn in revenue last year, compared with Nvidia's $27bn.

Geir Lode, head of global equities at Federated Hermes, said the magnitude of the recent leap in Nvidia's share price was "an astonishing surprise even to techno-optimists".

[Nvidia share price]

"Artificial intelligence is the next super charged growth area, and we expect this is just the beginning," Mr Lode said. "We know growth will be there, but valuations can be hard to justify."

Investor Cathie Wood, chief executive of Ark Invest, who is known as a tech booster, sold her stake in Nvidia in January, missing the gains made since then.

She recently tweeted that the firm's shares were "priced ahead of the curve". She said markets were making a mistake to think the company was "the only AI play".

In the past, investors have not hesitated to sour on former favourites.

Facebook-owner Meta, which joined the $1tn club in 2021, was booted out just a few months later, as its shares lost roughly three quarters of their value. It is valued at about $670bn today.

Communications giant Cisco was also seen as a likely trillion dollar club member during the dotcom tech bubble of the late 1990s. But that bubble burst and the firm is valued at about $200bn today.

Coffee and chocolate help drive supermarket prices higher, yesterday

The rate of price rises at UK supermarkets hit a new high in the year to May due to coffee, chocolate and non-food goods.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and NielsenIQ said that the overall rate of inflation at grocers reached 9%.

While prices for fresh food have fallen marginally, the cost of commodities such as coffee and cocoa has jumped.

The government is in talks about asking supermarkets to cap prices on food items to help with the cost of living.

An agreement, which would be voluntary, would limit the cost of basic foods such as bread and milk.

But the BRC has dismissed caps, stating the government should focus on cutting red tape so resources could be "directed to keeping prices as low as possible", as opposed to "recreating 1970s-style price controls".

On Monday, Sainsbury's cut the cost of more than 40 of its own-brand products including cheese, yoghurt and cream.

"Whenever we are paying less for the products we buy from our suppliers, we will pass those savings on to customers," said Rhian Bartlett, its food commercial director.

The BRC and NielsenIQ figures, covering the week between 1 and 6 May, show that overall food inflation ticked lower from 15.7% in the year to April to 15.4%.

Despite the fall, the figure is the second highest rate of food inflation on record.

A decline in the rate of price rises does not mean food costs have fallen, it simply means they are going up at a slower pace.

Meanwhile, the pace of price rises for non-food goods grew from 5.5% in the year to April to 5.8% in May.

This is despite supermarkets making "heavy discounts" on goods such as footwear, books and home entertainment, according to Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC.

Fresh produce showed a slowdown in price rises, from 17.8% to 17.2% in May.

In April, supermarkets cut the price of milk by 5p, taking cost of a pint to 90p. However, that is still almost double pre-Covid prices in March 2020.

Price growth for ambient foods - which are goods that can be stored at room temperature - rose in the year to May from 12.9% to 13.1%. It is the fastest increase on ambient foods prices on record, said the BRC and NielsenIQ.

Ms Dickinson said: "The price of chocolate and coffee rose off the back of the ongoing high global costs for these commodities."

Last week, official figures showed that the overall headline rate of inflation had fallen sharply to 8.7% in April - the first time it fell under 10% since August.

However, the drop was less than economists and investors had expected after grocery price rises remained close to the highest rate in 45 years.

It is also still more than four times the Bank of England's 2% target rate of inflation. The Bank has lifted interest rates 12 times in a row to 4.5% in an attempt to calm price rises.

But following the higher-than-expected figure for April, some analysts speculated that interest rates could reach 5.5% by the end of the year.

Food production costs have risen due to a number of factors including the cost of energy which rose following the end of Covid lockdowns, which pushed up demand, as well as Russia's attack on Ukraine.

Russia, which is a major oil and gas producer, was hit with sanctions.

Ukraine - known as the breadbasket of Europe - is one of the biggest exporters of grain in the world and has seen shipments severely disrupted because of the war.

Adverse weather conditions in some parts of Europe and Africa also impacted some fresh vegetables earlier this year, leading to supermarkets introducing customer limits on sales of peppers, tomatoes and cucumber.

Wholesale gas prices have started to drop but retailers claim that falling production costs take time to filter through to supermarket shelves due to the long-term contracts they typically sign with food producers.

Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight at NielsenIQ, said: "Food retailing in particular is competitive, so hopefully the recent price cuts in fresh foods is a sign that inflation has now peaked, albeit ambient inflation may take a little while longer to slow."

Foxconn: iPhone maker hikes pay ahead of new model launch, yesterday

Apple supplier Foxconn is ramping up efforts to recruit more workers for the world's largest iPhone factory, ahead of the launch of a new model.

Foxconn says new workers at its plant in Zhengzhou, China will get bonuses of up to 3,000 yuan ($424; £343) if they stay in the job for at least 90 days.

Current employees who successfully refer a friend or family member will also qualify for an award, it says.

The iPhone 15 is expected to be launched in September.

Foxconn employees who refer a new recruit will now receive 500 yuan if the person stays at the company for a month, a post seen by the BBC on the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat said.

It marks the latest move by the Taiwan-based manufacturer to improve benefits for its workers at the huge plant - known as iPhone City.

A Foxconn spokesperson declined to comment when approached by the BBC.

Last year, hundreds of workers protested at the Zhengzhou plant over Covid restrictions and claims of overdue pay.

Videos, which were shared online in October, also showed people jumping a fence outside the Foxconn factory after it was locked down due to a coronavirus outbreak.

In November, Apple warned that shipments of the iPhone 14 would be delayed after Chinese officials locked down a district of Zhengzhou, where iPhone City is located.

The iPhone maker then recruited new workers with promises of higher bonuses.

However, one worker told the BBC that the contracts were changed so they "could not get the subsidy promised", adding that they had been quarantined without food.

Foxconn said in response that "a technical error occurred during the onboarding process", adding that the pay of new recruits was "the same as agreed (in the) official recruitment posters".

The Zhengzhou plant employs more than 200,000 people, making Apple devices including the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.

Nvidia: The chip maker that became an AI superpower, yesterday

Shares in computer chip designer Nvidia have soared over the past week, taking the company's valuation above the one trillion dollar mark.

It means it joins tech giants Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft in the elite club of $1tn US companies.

The surge was sparked by its latest quarterly results which were released late on Wednesday. The company said it was raising production of chips to meet "surging demand".

Nvidia has come to dominate the market for chips used in artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

Interest in that sector reached frenzied levels after ChatGPT went public last November, which sent a jolt well beyond the technology industry.

From helping with speeches, to computer coding and cooking, ChatGPT has proved to be a wildly popular application of AI.

But all that would not be possible without powerful computer hardware - in particular computer chips from California-based Nvidia.

Originally known for making the type of computer chips that process graphics, particularly for computer games, Nvidia hardware underpins most AI applications today.

"It is the leading technology player enabling this new thing called artificial intelligence," says Alan Priestley, a semiconductor industry analyst at Gartner.

"What Nvidia is to AI is almost like what Intel was to PCs," adds Dan Hutcheson, an analyst at TechInsights.

ChatGPT was trained using 10,000 of Nvidia's graphics processing units (GPUs) clustered together in a supercomputer belonging to Microsoft.

[Nvidia A100 GPU]

"It is one of many supercomputers - some known publicly, some not - that have been built with Nvidia GPUs for a variety of scientific as well as AI use cases," says Ian Buck, general manager and vice president of accelerated computing at Nvidia.

Nvidia has about 95% of the GPU market for machine learning, noted a recent report from CB Insights.

Its AI chips, which it also sells in systems designed for data centres, cost roughly $10,000 (£8,000) each, though its latest and most powerful version sells for far more.

So how did Nvidia become such a central player in the AI revolution?

In short, a bold bet on its own technology plus some good timing.

[Jensen Huang, now the chief executive of Nvidia, was one of its founders back in 1993.]

Jensen Huang, now the chief executive of Nvidia, was one of its founders back in 1993. Then, Nvidia was focused on making graphics better for gaming and other applications.

In 1999 it developed GPUs to enhance image display for computers.

GPUs excel at processing many small tasks simultaneously (for example handling millions of pixels on a screen) - a procedure known as parallel processing.

In 2006, researchers at Stanford University discovered GPUs had another use - they could accelerate maths operations, in a way that regular processing chips could not.

It was at that moment that Mr Huang took a decision crucial to the development of AI as we know it.

He invested Nvidia's resources in creating a tool to make GPUs programmable, thereby opening up their parallel processing capabilities for uses beyond graphics.

That tool was added to Nvida's computer chips. For computer games players it was a capability they didn't need, and probably weren't even aware of, but for researchers it was a new way of doing high performance computing on consumer hardware.

It was that capability that helped sparked early breakthroughs in modern AI.

In 2012 Alexnet was unveiled - an AI that could classify images. Alexnet was trained using just two of Nvidia's programmable GPUs.

The training process took only a few days, rather than the months it could have taken on a much larger number of regular processing chips.

The discovery - that GPUs could massively accelerate neural network processing - began to spread among computer scientists, who started buying them to run this new type of workload.

"AI found us," says Mr Buck.

Nvidia pressed its advantage by investing in developing new kinds of GPUs more suited to AI, as well as more software to make it easy to use the technology.

A decade, and billions of dollars later, ChatGPT emerged - an AI that can give eerily human responses to questions.

[DeepTom from Metaphysic]

AI start-up Metaphysic creates photorealistic videos of celebrities and others using AI techniques. Its Tom Cruise deep fakes created a stir in 2021.

To both train and then run its models it uses hundreds of Nvidia GPUs, some purchased from Nvidia and others accessed through a cloud computing service.

"There are no alternatives to Nvidia for doing what we do," says Tom Graham, its co-founder and chief executive. "It is so far ahead of the curve."

Yet while Nvidia's dominance looks assured for now, the longer term is harder to predict. "Nvidia is the one with the target on its back that everybody is trying to take down," notes Kevin Krewell, another industry analyst at TIRIAS Research.

Other big semiconductor companies provide some competition. AMD and Intel are both better known for making central processing units (CPUs), but they also make dedicated GPUs for AI applications (Intel only recently joined the fray).

Google has its tensor processing units (TPUs), used not only for search results but also for certain machine-learning tasks, while Amazon has a custom-built chip for training AI models.

Microsoft is also reportedly developing an AI chip, and Meta has its own AI chip project.

More technology of business:

In addition, for the first time in decades, there are also computer chip start-ups emerging, including Cerebras, SambaNova Systems and Habana (bought by Intel). They are intent on making better alternatives to GPUs for AI by starting from a clean slate.

UK-based Graphcore makes general purpose AI chips it calls intelligence processing units (IPUs), which it says have more computational power and are cheaper than GPUs.

Founded in 2016, Graphcore has received almost $700m (£560m) in funding.

Its customers include four US Department of Energy national labs and it has been pressing the UK government to use its chips in a new supercomputer project.

"[Graphcore] has built a processor to do AI as it exists today and as it will evolve over time," says Nigel Toon, the company's co-founder and chief executive.

He acknowledges going up against a giant like Nvidia is challenging. While Graphcore too has software to make its technology accessible, it is hard to orchestrate a switch when the world has built its AI products to run on Nvidia GPUs.

Mr Toon hopes that over time, as AI moves away from cutting-edge experimentation to commercial deployment, cost-efficient computation will start to become more important.

Back at Nvidia, Ian Buck is not overly concerned about the competition.

"Everyone has the need for AI now," he says. "It is up to others to work out where they are going to make a contribution."

How prosperity fuels dowry demand in India, 3 days ago

As education and job opportunities for men in India have improved over the decades, the prevalence of dowry has increased, a new study has found.

Paying and accepting dowry is a centuries-old tradition in South Asia where the bride's parents gift cash, clothes and jewellery to the groom's family. Even though the practice has been illegal in India since 1961, it continues to thrive and leaves women vulnerable to domestic violence and even death.

Jeffrey Weaver of University of Southern California and Gaurav Chiplunkar of University of Virginia examined more than 74,000 marriages in India between 1930 and 1999 to examine the evolution of dowry over time.

They calculated "net dowry" as the difference between the value of cash and gifts given by the bride's family to the groom or his family and those given by the groom's family to the bride's family. The researchers relied on data from India's Rural Economic and Demographic Survey, a panel survey of households across 17 of India's most populous states.

Most Indian marriages are still arranged, and nearly all women marry by their late twenties. Some 90% of the marriages studied until 1999 involved dowry. Dowry payments between 1950 and 1999 amounted to nearly a quarter of trillion dollars.

The study found that economic growth perpetuated and boosted the practice of dowry payments, especially from the 1940s to the 1980s, Mr Weaver told me. "Over this period, more men were getting educated and getting better quality jobs, which led to rise in dowry," he says.

[ndian bride and groom holding hands during wedding ceremony]

Marriage in India

* Nearly all marriages in India are monogamous

* Less than 1% end in divorce

* Parents play an important role in choosing the bride/groom - in more than 90% of marriages between 1960 and 2005, parents chose the spouse

* Over 90% of couples live with the husband's family after marriage

* More than 85% of women marry someone from outside their own village

* 78.3% of marriages are within the same district

Source: India Human Development Survey, 2005; National Family Health Survey 2006; REDS, 1999

According to the study, the emergence and evolution of dowry can be most effectively understood by considering the changing distribution of groom quality, which correlates with advancements in their education and earnings. (The low participation of women in India's workforce means the presence of more and better jobs for men.)

In other words, 'higher quality grooms' - well-educated and having better quality jobs - command higher dowries. As the number of educated grooms in a marriage market increases, there's a decrease in the "dowry premium" that more educated grooms receive, the study found.

"Strong economic factors perpetuate dowry. On the bride side, families who refuse to pay dowry for their daughters are left with 'lower quality' grooms. Grooms have a strong economic incentive to accept dowry, particularly if their family has to pay dowry for its own female children or wants to recoup investments in groom's education," write Mr Weaver and Mr Chiplunkar.

[Paintings on a wall along the roadside promoting the rights of women and girls in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, on May 05, 2022. Here the words say 'dowry is an insult to womankind']

Is this possibly unique to India? A separate paper by Siwan Anderson of University of British Columbia argues that unlike India, dowry payments showed a decline with increasing wealth in many societies, including Europe. Ms Anderson says that increases in wealth in caste‐based societies like India also led to increases in dowry payments.

Mr Weaver and Mr Chiplunkar say that their research finds little evidence for the conventional explanations about the rise of the practice of dowry.

One theory is that dowry was practised among upper caste households and spread as lower castes emulated these practices to improve their social mobility. The new study says this is not clear because the practice of dowry began around the same time for both the high and low caste groups.

Also, some experts believe that the desire among lower caste women to marry higher caste men drove changes in dowry. Mr Weaver says this view is "incorrect" since there is "so-little cross-caste marriage" - 94% of the marriages studied were of Hindus who married within their broad caste group.

So what happens to dowry payments as more women get educated?

[India dowry]

Over the past two to three decades, there has been a notable surge in women's education, which is outpacing that of men in India. This could potentially lead to a decline in dowry practices, but there is no supporting data, says Mr Weaver.

But the study did find evidence that the "size of dowry payment decreases" as more women got educated in an area.

However, the impact of increasing average female education by one year is significantly smaller compared with increasing average male education by the same duration, the study found. This is probably because women were less likely to work and thus "get economic returns from their education in the labour market".

Clearly, promoting women's education and increasing their participation in the workforce can help tackle the scourge of dowry.

BBC News India is now on YouTube. Click here to subscribe and watch our documentaries, explainers and features.

Read more by Soutik Biswas

South Africa load-shedding: The roots of Eskom's power problem, 8 days ago

South Africa is heading into the southern hemisphere winter with the prospect of the country's worst-ever power cuts - up to 16 hours a day. The roots of the problem lie in poor management, corruption and sabotage.

Late one Thursday afternoon, last November, a maintenance contractor reached his hand under a huge rotating shaft at an ageing power station in South Africa.

It took the man just a few seconds to unscrew a steel plug, smaller than a coffee mug.

As he moved away from the scene, precious lubrication oil quickly began seeping from the innards of the shaft. The steel bearings inside overheated and before long the coal mill, and with it one of the station's eight turbines, ground to a sudden, and expensive, halt.

If you are looking to understand South Africa's current struggles - its soaring crime and unemployment rates, its stubborn inequality and stagnant economy, its relentless corruption and crippling power cuts, and its broader drift towards what some fear could become "gangster state" or even "failed state" territory - then this one act of industrial sabotage, at a coal-fired power station on the high plains east of Johannesburg, is a good place to start.

The alleged saboteur, Simon Shongwe, 43, was working as a sub-contractor at Camden - a plant that was built back in the 1960s, bombed by anti-apartheid activists in the 1980s, mothballed in the 1990s, and more recently brought out of retirement to help a country now battling to keep the lights on.

There are several theories about the alleged sabotage.

It could have been designed to break the coal mill in order to enable a corrupt repair company to come and fix it at an inflated cost.

It might have been done as a way of threatening Camden's management in to accepting some other corrupt contract.

Or it may have been part of a broader political conspiracy to damage South Africa's energy infrastructure and undermine an ANC government increasingly seen as floundering after nearly three decades in power.

What is certain is that the sabotage at Unit 4 was not an isolated event.

Instead, it was one relatively small act in a vast, ongoing, and highly successful criminal enterprise that involves murders, poisoning, fires, cable theft, ruthless cartels and powerful politicians.

It is an enterprise that risks derailing international attempts to nudge South Africa away from its dependence on coal and towards renewable energy sources.

Over the past decade it has brought South Africa's once-world-class public power utility, Eskom, to the brink of collapse and left most homes around the country in darkness for many hours each day.

[Power station in the distance]

One month after the incident at Camden, on a secure floor of a large grey office block on the northern outskirts of Johannesburg, a much smaller machine was causing problems.

The coffee dispenser for the executive management team at Eskom was faulty. Or so it seemed.

When the CEO's assistant came over to fill her boss's personalised mug, there was a delay.

She left the mug unattended for a few minutes, and then, once the machine had been serviced, she returned to the CEO's office with his coffee.

"I detected nothing. The foam consistency was a bit different to normal, but I thought nothing of it," Andre de Ruyter reflected later, in an explosive interview he gave to the South African broadcaster, eNCA.

But 15 minutes later, the man in charge of South Africa's power utility suddenly felt off-balance. Before long he was shaking violently, gasping for air, and "extremely nauseous".

His security guards rushed him to a nearby clinic.

His doctors later confirmed that Mr De Ruyter had been poisoned with cyanide, possibly mixed with rat poison in order to mask the presence of the cyanide in any blood tests.

He was lucky to survive.

"So, this is where the executives serve themselves with coffee," said Eskom's head of security, Karen Pillay, showing us around the office one recent afternoon.

"I consider it a dangerous space. I'm still scared for my life, every day. Absolutely."

So why would anyone go to such dramatic lengths to try to kill a man performing what, in most countries, would be considered an important, but hardly controversial job?

"There is a long list of those who want me dead," said Mr De Ruyter, a tall man who recovered from the poisoning, quit his job at Eskom and left the country. He told me, via text, that he was "going to lie low for the moment".

Mr De Ruyter made it clear he believed he had been targeted by powerful criminal cartels who were busy stealing "a billion rand ($52m; £42m) every month" from Eskom and its coal-fired power stations.

In his eNCA interview and in excerpts from a new book, he painted a vivid picture of sophisticated "mafia" gangs with dozens of well-trained "soldiers", who were willing to kill anyone who threatened to clean up the coal industry, or to move towards renewable energy.

It is a picture that is immediately recognisable to many here.

"There's a lot of killing around. They put a gun to my head. They came to my house and threatened my family. The whole system is rotten, corrupted," said a local businessman who told us he had tried to supply parts to Eskom for years, but that the local cartels made it impossible to work honestly.

"These cartels are politically connected. They're above the law, basically," said the man, who asked us not to use his name for fear of being killed, and only agreed to speak to us at a secure location far from his hometown.

That request for anonymity is common in the province of Mpumalanga - the heart of South Africa's coal industry and a province that has earned a reputation for extreme lawlessness.

'Treasonous behaviour'

"Life is cheap here. You can hire a hitman for $400. People are just looting as much as they can," said an investigative journalist working with us and South Africa's Daily Maverick news website, who confirmed the businessman's account.

"This is a brutal province for anyone trying to expose the truth. It's sabotage at almost every stage of the process. And it's not just about criminality. The money… gets passed on to politicians to keep them in power, to keep them running elections, to keep palms greased," said the journalist, who also asked not to be named.

The ANC has been the governing party in Mpumulanga and nationwide since the country's first democratic elections in 1994 after it successfully led the struggle against white-minority rule.

"This is treasonous behaviour. The ANC is involved at every level. The villains are members of the ANC or associates of the ANC. It is involved so deeply that it doesn't know how to extricate itself. They are tipping us over towards that terrible situation of a 'failed state,'" said political commentator Justice Malala, noting there was a direct link between the looting and the near-constant power cuts now crippling South Africa.

"It's very depressing. It's very concerning. Our country is in a serious, dark place," said Paul Pretorius, a lawyer who played a key role at a recent public inquiry into the state corruption that flourished under former President Jacob Zuma.

As an indication of the seriousness of the crisis, soldiers have recently been brought in to guard some power stations, and to accompany convoys of trucks carrying coal, after the railway network was looted and sabotaged so comprehensively that many companies were obliged to switch to using South Africa's roads.

Eskom security chief Ms Pillay said company investigators had recently identified more than 60 "black sites" where quality coal was still being stolen or swapped for rocky, poor-quality coal, by criminals.

[Environmental campaigner looking at the camera]

In some places, the stealing is done in plain sight.

On the edge of the town of Emalahleni - which means "place of coal" - an allegedly illegal coal mine is in operation, around the clock, in a small valley just yards from a residential area. Over the course of one hour, we watched more than a dozen trucks load up with coal.

"At night we hear gunshots," said a local activist who asked us not to use his name but described rival gangs fighting over access to the open-pit mine.

"It's a dangerous business. You don't know whether a mine is illegal or legal," said one of the truck drivers, who said his name was Kamo.

A local community organisation - Vukani Environmental Movement (VEM) - has repeatedly taken South Africa's government to court in a bid to force them to close down mining activity taking place close to residential areas.

"Nothing changes," said Promise Mabilo, 48, a VEM coordinator, before bursting into tears.

"Emalahleni is not a safe place to be. The coal… is killing people. You can smell it and taste it in the air. It's painful," she said.

Crime and blackouts may dominate the headlines in South Africa, but pollution, particularly in Mpumalanga, is an equally dangerous by-product of the country's addiction to coal.

The government has acknowledged pollution "hot spots" in the province but has declined to publish more detailed information and has refused to force old power stations to comply with emissions limits. Environmental groups say data shows the pollution is killing thousands of people every year.

[A mother and her daughter sitting on a bed]

"She struggles to breathe. I have to blame the coal mines. They must cancel the coal because it is killing us," said Mbali Matsebula, 27, as she helped her eight-year-old daughter, Princess, adjust a respirator on her face in the single-room shack they live in close to the illegal mine.

Today, more than 80% of South Africa's electricity is generated by coal-fired power stations - an astonishing figure. As a result, the country is ranked as the world's 14th largest emitter of carbon dioxide, despite having only the 33rd biggest economy.

"Our electricity system is almost entirely based on digging coal out of the ground and burning it," acknowledged Crispian Olver, chair of the Presidential Climate Commission.

But that could be about to change. Perhaps dramatically.

A group of Western nations has agreed to an $8.5bn package of grants and loans known as the Just Energy Transition (JET) partnership, designed to help guide South Africa away from coal and towards renewables.

Under the terms of JET, the country could, in theory, achieve "net zero" carbon emissions by 2050, offering a blueprint for other developing nations looking to go green.

"Our wind and solar resources are amongst the best anywhere in the world," said Mr Olver, enthusiastically.

South Africa has many reasons to embrace a speedy transition.

If it drags its feet, the country could soon find itself locked out of the global trading system, with at least half its exports blocked by new rules in Europe and elsewhere that will seek to ensure that goods are made using only, or mostly, green energy.

"If we don't decarbonise, we're going to be shut out… and we're going to lose massive amounts of jobs," warned Mr Olver.

[Woman looking through some bars]

An even more urgent argument for change can be found in a small, gloomy bar in Alexandra, a poor township in the country's commercial hub, Johannesburg.

"I'm so stressed. Very, very stressed," said the bar owner, Suzeke Mousa, 50, explaining that her business was about to go under after 25 years.

"I don't think we'll survive. All because of Eskom," she frowned, looking out across a dark and empty bar.

South African businesses, already hit by the pandemic, are now being forced to endure power cuts, sometimes for 10 or more hours a day, nationwide.

At major road junctions across the nation, unemployed and homeless men now earn a few rand from drivers in exchange for directing cars when the traffic lights are off.

The image of people in luxury vehicles tossing coins to beggars for helping them navigate the country's failing infrastructure seems like a fitting metaphor for the current struggles facing this deeply unequal society.

"Some people can afford generators, but we can't. We can't function without power," said Thelma Mokoena, working at a money-transfer bureau in Alexandra.

The "load shedding" - as it is known, euphemistically, here - is set to get worse over the winter months. There are warnings that the entire grid might even collapse - a scenario that could mean weeks of unremitting darkness and perhaps social unrest.

It is the inevitable result of the chaos inside Eskom, as its fleet of mostly aging power stations is hit by maintenance problems, sabotage, and corruption.

To many in the private sector here, South Africa's abundant wind and solar potential offers an almost immediate solution for the crisis gripping Eskom. The former CEO, Mr De Ruyter, said it could "solve energy security in the shortest time".

But there are many obstacles facing that transition. For a start, workers and unions here are concerned that there will be significant job losses.

"South Africa is going to lose jobs in the coal sector but not gain them in renewables. We are not going to be dictated to. You [in the West] are wasting your time. We are a country that must do things at our own pace," said William Mabapa, secretary general of the powerful National Union of Mineworkers.

He condemned Western nations as "hypocrites" for pushing his country to embrace JET while still importing vast amounts of South African coal.

Eskom says it is working to address concerns about future job losses in local communities. But opposition to JET does not only come from within the coal industry.

In his eNCA interview, soon after his poisoning, Mr De Ruyter accused the ANC of deliberately blocking the move towards renewables.

He said the ANC used Eskom like "a feeding trough" and that powerful politicians were blocking his attempts to tackle corruption.

Mr De Ruyter cited a private intelligence dossier - shared with the BBC by investigative journalists from the Daily Maverick - that named two senior ANC politicians as the heads of two of Mpumalanga's criminal cartels. And he said the government had brushed aside his concerns.

In an interview, South Africa's Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan acknowledged that Mr De Ruyter had told him about the contents of the dossier.

Mr Gordhan also admitted that Mpumalanga was "a crime scene". But he said Mr De Ruyter himself was no "angel" and criticised him for spreading rumours without producing hard evidence.

"I don't think we're that hopeless," said Mr Gordhan, defensively, arguing that South Africa was moving towards renewable energy but needed to adjust the pace "to the reality of our country". He later accused Mr De Ruyter of having a "messiah complex".

Other ministers have taken an even tougher line.

If you are looking for a politician who embodies the current struggles and contradictions of South Africa's governing ANC - the former liberation movement once led by Nelson Mandela - many people will point you towards Gwede Mantashe.

The irascible 67-year-old is a former miner and trade union official, a formidable labour organiser and former leader of South Africa's Communist Party.

As secretary-general of the ANC, he spent years shielding President Zuma from corruption investigations, before backing the man who ousted him in 2018 - Cyril Ramaphosa.

President Ramaphosa then appointed Mr Mantashe as energy minister, the job he has held on to despite the deepening power-cuts and other controversies.

A few weeks before Mr De Ruyter's poisoning, Mr Mantashe publicly accused Eskom's leadership of treason. He said the utility, by allowing so many power cuts, was "actively agitating for the overthrow of the state".

Sitting in the boardroom of his ministry in Pretoria, Mr Mantashe seemed to revel in his reputation both as a political survivor and the great curmudgeon of South African politics.

"They call me all sorts of things. A coal fundamentalist and a fossil fuel dinosaur. I take those as… a compliment. A prestigious status," he said, with a small chuckle.

Mr Mantashe said the West was using South Africa, unfairly, as "a guinea pig" for radical energy reform without supplying sufficient funding.

He acknowledged a need to "phase down" the country's coal dependency and acknowledged that reports of looting at Eskom "could be true", but he brushed aside Mr De Ruyter's poisoning as mere speculation, and stressed the economic necessity of getting the most out of existing coal power stations.

Some here believe the move towards renewables is now inevitable - that South Africa simply will not be able to access the sort of loans needed to keep its crumbling coal industry alive, and that the move towards solar, in particular, is now being firmly driven by the private sector.

"It's unstoppable. I can confidently say the energy transition in this country is well under way," said Mr Olver, from the Presidential Climate Commission. But progress is painfully slow and the struggle to clean up both Eskom and the broader economic and political climate in South Africa remains very much a work in progress.

On a cold morning, recently, in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, Simon Shongwe shuffled into the dock in a small, crowded courtroom.

It was a brief hearing to mark the transfer of his case to a new jurisdiction.

A full trial, on allegations that he sought to sabotage a turbine at Camden power station, could be months, or even years away. Mr Shongwe declined to speak to us, as did his lawyer. He has not yet entered a plea.

"We do see quite a number of arrests but unfortunately we may not have successful prosecutions," remarked Ms Pillay, Eskom's security chief.

Most of those arrests have targeted minor figures while the alleged kingpins appear to be protected by a culture of impunity and by a prosecution service still struggling to recover from years of politicisation and underfunding.

The two men suspected of poisoning the former Eskom boss's coffee have not yet been found, let alone charged.

Music streaming royalties to be discussed by government, today

The music industry has committed to improving metadata for tracking songs on music streaming platforms, following widespread criticism from artists.

The writers, performers and producers of songs will now be consistently identified.

These creators say they do not receive their fair share of royalties when tracks are played on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music.

It comes as the government launches a group to look into these concerns.

Sir John Whittingdale, minister for the creative industries, said the move would help the UK to "offer viable career opportunities".

"This landmark agreement on streaming metadata is a step towards ensuring UK musicians in the digital age are fairly credited and compensated for their contributions and creativity," he said.

"I'm pleased to be bringing the industry together so we can explore wider issues around music creator remuneration more generally."

Compensation for streaming music

The government has been investigating music streaming since 2019, and in 2021 identified an "imbalance" in royalties. It has launched a working group to specifically look at how artists are compensated.

Dame Caroline Dinenage, who chairs the Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee investigating the industry, said it was a "welcome step towards addressing the frustrations of musicians and songwriters whose pay falls far short of a fair level".

But it should result in concrete change and not be just a "talking shop", she added.

In 2020, the government heard from musicians such as guitarist, producer and songwriter Nile Rodgers, who said record labels retain up to 82% of the royalties they receive from streaming services.

Sophie Jones, chief executive of the British Phonographic Industry, said she was concerned it might discourage investment at a time when there was the prospect of increased competition from artificial intelligence.

"Numerous studies have demonstrated that streaming has benefited consumers and artists alike, with record labels paying more to artists than ever before," she told the Press Association.

'My money, my music'

Will Page, former chief economist at Spotify, said the music business is currently debating the way money is being allocated: "For artists, if you get 1% of all the streams in Britain... you get 1% of all the cash generated in Britain."

This is because artists are not paid a set amount every time a song is played on Spotify.

According to its website: "Royalty payments that artists receive might vary according to differences in how their music is streamed or the agreements they have with labels or distributors."

Mr Page pointed to an alternative model, a user-centric payment system, which some argue may be fairer. He said this would involve "ring-fencing" a person's subscription fee to the music they listen to, making it "my money, my music".

This would result in a person's subscription fee being divided among the artists to whom they listen.

But he also raised concerns about whether this working group would make a difference: "We've had a three-year-long DCMS Select Committee inquiry, which had countless verbal hearings, written submissions, PDF reports - and we're doing it again."

Artificial intelligence could lead to extinction, experts warn, yesterday

Artificial intelligence could lead to the extinction of humanity, experts - including the heads of OpenAI and Google Deepmind - have warned.

Dozens have supported a statement published on the webpage of the Centre for AI Safety.

"Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war" it reads.

But others say the fears are overblown.

Sam Altman, chief executive of ChatGPT-maker OpenAI, Demis Hassabis, chief executive of Google DeepMind and Dario Amodei of Anthropic have all supported the statement.

The Centre for AI Safety website suggests a number of possible disaster scenarios:

* AIs could be weaponised - for example, drug-discovery tools could be used to build chemical weapons

* AI-generated misinformation could destabilise society and "undermine collective decision-making"

* The power of AI could become increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, enabling "regimes to enforce narrow values through pervasive surveillance and oppressive censorship"

* Enfeeblement, where humans become dependent on AI "similar to the scenario portrayed in the film Wall-E"

Dr Geoffrey Hinton, who issued an earlier warning about risks from super-intelligent AI, has also supported the Centre for AI Safety's call.

Yoshua Bengio, professor of computer science at the university of Montreal, also signed.

Dr Hinton, Prof Bengio and NYU Professor Yann LeCun are often described as the "godfathers of AI" for their groundbreaking work in the field - for which they jointly won the 2018 Turing Award, which recognises outstanding contributions in computer science.

But Prof LeCun, who also works at Meta, has said these apocalyptic warnings are overblown tweeting that "the most common reaction by AI researchers to these prophecies of doom is face palming".

'Fracturing reality'

Many other experts similarly believe that fears of AI wiping out humanity are unrealistic, and a distraction from issues such as bias in systems that are already a problem.

Arvind Narayanan, a computer scientist at Princeton University, has previously told the BBC that sci-fi-like disaster scenarios are unrealistic: "Current AI is nowhere near capable enough for these risks to materialise. As a result, it's distracted attention away from the near-term harms of AI".

Oxford's Institute for Ethics in AI senior research associate Elizabeth Renieris told BBC News she worried more about risks closer to the present.

"Advancements in AI will magnify the scale of automated decision-making that is biased, discriminatory, exclusionary or otherwise unfair while also being inscrutable and incontestable," she said. They would "drive an exponential increase in the volume and spread of misinformation, thereby fracturing reality and eroding the public trust, and drive further inequality, particularly for those who remain on the wrong side of the digital divide".

Many AI tools essentially "free ride" on the "whole of human experience to date", Ms Renieris said. Many are trained on human-created content, text, art and music they can then imitate - and their creators "have effectively transferred tremendous wealth and power from the public sphere to a small handful of private entities".

But Centre for AI Safety director Dan Hendrycks told BBC News future risks and present concerns "shouldn't be viewed antagonistically".

"Addressing some of the issues today can be useful for addressing many of the later risks tomorrow," he said.

Superintelligence efforts

Media coverage of the supposed "existential" threat from AI has snowballed since March 2023 when experts, including Tesla boss Elon Musk, signed an open letter urging a halt to the development of the next generation of AI technology.

That letter asked if we should "develop non-human minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us".

In contrast, the new campaign has a very short statement, designed to "open up discussion".

The statement compares the risk to that posed by nuclear war. In a blog post OpenAI recently suggested superintelligence might be regulated in a similar way to nuclear energy: "We are likely to eventually need something like an IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] for superintelligence efforts" the firm wrote.

'Be reassured'

Both Sam Altman and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai are among technology leaders to have discussed AI regulation recently with the prime minister.

Speaking to reporters about the latest warning over AI risk, Rishi Sunak stressed the benefits to the economy and society.

"You've seen that recently it was helping paralysed people to walk, discovering new antibiotics, but we need to make sure this is done in a way that is safe and secure," he said.

"Now that's why I met last week with CEOs of major AI companies to discuss what are the guardrails that we need to put in place, what's the type of regulation that should be put in place to keep us safe.

"People will be concerned by the reports that AI poses existential risks, like pandemics or nuclear wars.

"I want them to be reassured that the government is looking very carefully at this."

He had discussed the issue recently with other leaders, at the G7 summit of leading industrialised nations, Mr Sunak said, and would raise it again in the US soon.

The G7 has recently created a working group on AI.

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Amazon to offer parents term-time-only working, yesterday

Parents and grandparents who work in Amazon warehouses will be able to choose to work in term-time only.

Amazon said the new contract will mean people with children to look after can take six weeks of holiday in summer and two weeks at Easter and at Christmas.

But the GMB union, which is fighting Amazon for recognition, said that while flexible working is welcome, most workers want better wages.

"What they're telling us is they can't live on poverty pay," said the GMB.

Amazon's regional operations director, Neil Travis, said he hopes the flexible working will encourage more people back into the workplace.

"We spent a lot of time listening to our employees and one of the things that we were learning is that they really wanted more flexible opportunities," Mr Travis said.

He added that the contract still entitles people to full-time benefits.

Claire McCartney at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said that only 4% of workers have term-time working.

''With the cost and availability of childcare causing huge challenges for working parents, term-time working is likely to have a positive impact on attraction and retention at a time when organisations are struggling with skills shortages," said Ms McCartney.

Amazon is offering the new contract just as it is trying to fight a bid by the GMB to be the first trade union in Europe to be recognised by the company.

The company employs more than 70,000 people in the UK. Amazon said that it does not believe that union recognition is appropriate.

It said that it prefers to talk directly with its employees rather than go through a union.

Workers at Amazon in Coventry have been on strike for 16 days this year. They are calling for an increase in their hourly wage to £15 an hour.

The GMB's senior organiser, Amanda Gearing, said that more flexible staff contracts are positive but the priority for the workforce is improved pay.

"I don't think this is what they're looking for right now," she said. "They want more money in their pocket, what they're telling us is they can't live on poverty pay."

Amazon said the rates of pay are competitive and that it recently increased wages by 10%.

The GMB said that a majority of workers in the Amazon Coventry warehouse want union representation and it has applied to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) for statutory recognition.

The union said that 800 Coventry employees are now members and that this represents a majority of the workforce.

Mr Travis would not be drawn on whether the company would be prepared to recognise the GMB if they could prove majority support among the Coventry workforce.

"The GMB have made a formal application to CAC and we are working with the CAC as part of that process. We continue to focus on engaging directly with our employees and we continue to offer a really attractive rate of pay and comprehensive benefits," Mr Travis said.

But in its submission to the CAC, Amazon could argue that there are more people working in the warehouse than GMB calculates, and this could lead the CAC to deny the GMB recognition.

The committee could take several weeks to reach a decision.

FTX: Singapore state fund Temasek cuts pay after failed investment, 3 days ago

Singapore state-owned investment fund Temasek Holdings says it has cut the pay of staff responsible for its investment in cryptocurrency exchange FTX, which collapsed last year.

In November, the fund wrote off all of the $275m (£222.8m) it invested in FTX.

Prosecutors have accused FTX's former chief executive Sam Bankman-Fried of orchestrating an "epic" fraud which may cost investors billions of dollars.

Mr Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

"The investment team and senior management, who are ultimately responsible for the investment decisions made, took collective accountability and had their compensation reduced," Temasek said in a statement on Monday.

The sovereign wealth fund also said it was "disappointed with the outcome of our investment, and the negative impact on our reputation."

Temasek did not indicate how much salaries were reduced by.

It had invested $210m and then another $65m in FTX in two funding rounds between October 2021 and January 2022.

Last year, the state-owned fund said that before making those investments it had spent eight months evaluating the cryptocurrency exchange. This included the review of an audited financial statement "which showed it to be profitable."

As of March 2022, Temasek was worth more than S$403bn ($298.1bn; £241.3bn), so the money it had put into the cryptocurrency platform accounted for a small percentage of its investments.

However, Singapore's deputy prime minister Lawrence Wong said in December that Temasek's losses in FTX had caused damage to the fund's reputation.

"The fact that other leading global institutional investors like BlackRock and Sequoia Capital also invested in FTX does not mitigate this," added Mr Wong, who is also the country's finance minister.

Sovereign wealth funds are like a savings account for a country, and they typically invest in shares, currencies, property or other assets.

FTX, which a year ago was valued at $32bn, filed for bankruptcy protection in November. It has been estimated that $8bn of customer's funds was missing.

Mr Bankman-Fried, who co-founded FTX in 2019, was one of the most high-profile figures in the cryptocurrency industry, known for his political ties, celebrity endorsements and bailouts of other struggling firms.

US federal prosecutors have accused Mr Bankman-Fried of stealing billions of dollars from FTX users to pay debts at his other firm, Alameda Research, and to make other investments.

In December, prosecutors announced eight criminal charges against Mr Bankman-Fried, including wire fraud, money laundering and campaign finance violations. Another five charges were levied against him in March. Financial regulators have also brought claims against Mr Bankman-Fried.

FTX co-founder Gary Wang and Caroline Ellison, the former head of Alameda, have also been charged over their alleged roles in the company's collapse.

Mr Bankman-Fried was arrested in December in the Bahamas, where he lived and FTX was based.

In an interview with BBC News just days before his arrest, he said: "I didn't knowingly commit fraud. I don't think I committed fraud. I didn't want any of this to happen. I was certainly not nearly as competent as I thought I was."

Twitter pulls out of voluntary EU disinformation code, 4 days ago

Twitter has pulled out of the European Union's voluntary code to fight disinformation, the EU has said.

Thierry Breton, who is the EU's internal market commissioner, announced the news on Twitter - but warned the firm new laws would force compliance.

"Obligations remain. You can run but you can't hide," he said.

Twitter will be legally required to fight disinformation in the EU from 25 August, he said, adding: "Our teams will be ready for enforcement."

Twitter has not confirmed its stance on the code or responded to a request for comment.

Dozens of tech firms both big and small are signed up to the EU's disinformation code, including Meta - which owns Facebook and Instagram - as well as TikTok, Google, Microsoft and Twitch.

The code was launched in June last year, and aims to prevent profiteering from disinformation and fake news, as well as increasing transparency and curbing the spread of bots and fake accounts.

Firms that sign the code can decide which pledges to make, such as cooperating with fact-checkers or tracking political advertising.

Under Elon Musk's ownership, moderation at Twitter has reportedly been greatly reduced - which critics say has allowed an increase in the spread of disinformation.

The social media giant used to have a dedicated team that worked to combat coordinated disinformation campaigns, but experts and former Twitter employees say the majority of these specialists resigned or were laid off.

Last month, the BBC found hundreds of Russian and Chinese state propaganda accounts were thriving on Twitter.

But Twitter boss Mr Musk claims there is now "less misinformation rather than more" since he took over last October.

Alongside the voluntary code, the EU has also brought in a Digital Services Act - a law which obliges firms to do more to tackle illegal online content.

From 25 August, platforms with more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU - which includes Twitter - will have to comply legally with the rules under the DSA.

The law will mean Twitter will have to have a mechanism for users to flag illegal content, act upon notifications "expeditiously" and put in measures to address the spread of disinformation.

On Friday, AFP news agency quoted a European Commission official as saying: "If (Elon Musk) doesn't take the code seriously, then it's better that he quits."

Neuralink: Elon Musk's brain chip firm wins US approval for human study, 5 days ago

Elon Musk's brain-chip firm says it has received approval from the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to conduct its first tests on humans.

The Neuralink implant company wants to help restore vision and mobility to people by linking brains to computers.

It says it does not have immediate plans to start recruiting participants. Mr Musk's previous ambitions to begin tests came to nothing.

The FDA said it acknowledged Neuralink's announcement.

An earlier bid by Neuralink to win FDA approval was rejected on safety grounds, according to a report in March by the Reuters news agency that cited multiple current and former employees.

Neuralink hopes to use its microchips to treat conditions such as paralysis and blindness, and to help certain disabled people use computers and mobile technology.

The chips - which have been tested in monkeys - are designed to interpret signals produced in the brain and relay information to devices via Bluetooth.

Experts have cautioned that Neuralink's brain implants will require extensive testing to overcome technical and ethical challenges if they are to become widely available.

Mr Musk has also previously suggested that the proposed technology could help ease concerns about humans being displaced by AI.

Announcing Thursday's news on Twitter, Neuralink talked of an "important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people".

The approval was "the result of incredible work by the Neuralink team in close collaboration with the FDA", it said.

The firm promised more information "soon" on plans to sign up trial participants.

Its website promises that "safety, accessibility and reliability" are all priorities during its engineering process.

The company - which was co-founded by Mr Musk in 2016 - has repeatedly overestimated the speed at which it can execute its plans.

Its initial aim was to start planting chips in human brains in 2020, in order to honour a pledge made the year before. It later vowed to get started in 2022.

The business was dealt another setback in December last year, after reportedly coming under investigation for alleged animal welfare violations in its work. It earlier denied similar claims.

Its announcement on FDA approval for human tests follows recent news of a similar breakthrough involving brain implants by Swiss researchers.

A paralysed man from the Netherlands was able to walk simply by thinking about it - thanks to a system of implants which wirelessly transmit his thoughts to his legs and feet.

The 'exploding' demand for giant heat pumps, yesterday

There are 2.5 million litres of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

If for some reason you wanted to bring it from a pleasant 20C to boiling point, German firm MAN Energy Solutions (MAN ES) has a heat pump that could do it. And it would take less time than Kenneth Branagh's film version of Hamlet.

"We can do this in less than four hours," explains Raymond Decorvet, who works in business development at MAN ES. "Or we could freeze the whole thing in about 11 hours."

Theirs is among the largest heat pump units in the world. Heat pumps work by compressing gently warmed refrigerants to raise the temperature of these fluids. That heat can then be passed on to homes or industrial machinery.

Heat pumps require electricity to work but can produce around three or four kilowatts of heat for every kilowatt of power they consume, making them highly efficient. Plus, some designs can provide cooling as well.

Heat pumps are increasingly popular with some home owners but domestic devices are relatively small and tend to have outputs of several kilowatts or so. MAN ES's biggest commercial heat pump is thousands of times more powerful - with a total heating capacity of 48 megawatts (MW).

It can produce temperatures of up to 150C and heat thousands of homes, not just one. The company recently installed two of these machines in the port city of Esbjerg, in Denmark.

In this installation, the heat pumps' CO2 refrigerant will absorb a small amount of heat from seawater. Compressors boost the temperature of the CO2 and the system can then transfer this heat, providing water of up to 90C to a district heating system serving 27,000 households.

[MAN Energy Solutions Esbjerg installation]

"The demand for district heating is exploding," says Mr Decorvet. An urgency to move away from fossil fuels is leading to a rush - particularly in Europe - for bigger and beefier heat pump systems that can power entire towns. But who has the biggest, megawatts-wise?

It might seem like a relatively straightforward question but it is actually quite tricky to answer definitively. Not least because heat pumps don't tend to work at maximum capacity all the time. In Esbjerg, MAN ES's heat pumps will run at about half their potential output, for instance.

And trying to compare the world's largest heat pump systems is difficult because, often, they are made up of multiple smaller heat pumps chained together. Take the district heating system in Stockholm, Sweden, often referred to as the largest heat pump set-up in the world.

This is probably true, it has a maximum capacity of 215MW - but that total is the sum of seven heat pumps, two 40MW and five 27MW devices, a spokesman for energy provider Stockholm Exergi explains.

Elsewhere in Sweden, Gothenburg has a 160MW heat pump system that consists of four units. Two of them are actually bigger than those in Stockholm, with capacities of 50MW each.

They have been in operation since 1986 and probably hold the title of the most powerful individual heat pumps currently in use, though they are clearly rivalled by newer devices such as those made by MAN ES.

Last year, German chemicals firm BASF and MAN ES announced their intention to build a 120MW heat pump that would, reports suggested, be the world's largest.

It would have provided heat for industrial uses at a site in Ludwigshafen. However, it was not to be. "BASF has decided not to proceed with the project," a spokesman told the BBC. The firm is exploring other potential heat sources instead, which it hopes will be more economically attractive.

[Houses in Stockholm]

Size isn't necessarily everything, notes Dave Pearson, group sustainable development director at Star Refrigeration. Efficiency matters and he argues that ammonia - his firm's choice of refrigerant - helps to make heat pumps particularly efficient.

Veronika Wilk at the Austrian Institute of Technology and colleagues have studied the use of heat pumps for industrial applications, to provide heat in pharmaceutical, food or paper factories, for example.

So long as they don't require very high temperatures beyond 200C, companies are increasingly turning to heat pumps, Dr Wilk argues, because it allows them to move away from natural gas, which has become extremely expensive following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

But industrial heat pumps tend to be merely several MW in capacity or so. You are more likely to spot truly giant heat pumps in a district heating system, such as those mentioned above, says Dr Wilk.

"The beauty of district heating is that you can decarbonise a lot of households at once," she adds.

[Dr Veronika Wilk at the Austrian Institute of Technology]

There are many other examples of heat pump-powered district heating systems springing up. In Vienna, a 55MW system using three heat pumps is due to go live this autumn.

The machines will harvest heat, around 6C, from treated wastewater, explains Linda Kirchberger, division manager asset decarbonisation and new technologies at Wien Energie.

The treated water used to go straight into a river. "Now it does a detour and we take it through the heat pump system," she says.

The system will lift temperatures from 6C to 90C and the heat will go on to supply 56,000 households. In 2027, Wien Energie plans to double the system's capacity with three more heat pumps, reaching 110MW in total.

While still impressive, and weighing more than 200 tonnes each, these individual units have a capacity of less than 20MW. The manufacturer, Johnson Controls, confirmed to the BBC that its largest heat pumps have a maximum output of 28MW.

More technology of business:

A similar system, also using heat from wastewater, is planned in Hamburg, according to reports. It will have a capacity of 60MW, though this too will rely on multiple heat pumps linked together, a spokeswoman for Hamburg Wasser, the water company involved in the project, says.

But keep an eye on the future. In the Finnish capital Helsinki, a plan is afoot to construct a gargantuan heat pump system with a total capacity of 500MW.

This will likely be comprised of multiple units, as in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Esbjerg, but Helen, the energy company behind the scheme, has not yet revealed how it will all come together.

MAN ES is one firm bidding for the contract. A spokesman declined to explain exactly what configuration of heat pumps would allow the company to provide 500MW of heat. Mr Decorvet says, simply, "I hope we are going to win."

Neuralink: Why is Elon Musk’s brain chip firm in the news?, 5 days ago

Elon Musk's brain chip firm Neuralink has said that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved its first human clinical trial, a critical milestone after earlier struggles to gain approval.

The FDA nod "represents an important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people," Neuralink said in a tweet.

It did not elaborate on the aims of the study, saying only that it was not recruiting yet, and more details would be available soon.

What is Neuralink's aim?

The firm says it is trying to create a new way to allow computers to communicate directly with the human brain.

The hope is that by doing this, Neuralink would be able to tackle complex neurological conditions which have so far proved beyond the capability of medical intervention. These range from paralysis and blindness to depression and schizophrenia.

How does it work?

The procedure would involve implanting a tiny hermetically sealed chip directly into a patient's brain.

The chip is connected to 1,024 tiny electrodes, no thicker than a human hair and is powered by a battery that can be recharged wirelessly. It would create an interface with an external computer, allowing it to both send and receive signals.

Is it safe?

There are three elements to this: short term physical risks; long term medical concerns; and ethical safety.

Any surgery involving the brain carries inherent danger, both of physical harm and rejection by the host. There has been extensive (and controversial) testing of the chips on animals.

A complaint filed in February to the US Department of Agriculture alleged cruel treatment of macaque monkeys who are being used to test the technology.

The fact that the FDA has approved the start of human testing, however, implies the company has overcome some of the challenges.

Maybe the more serious concerns come around the long-term consequences of having a device like this operating within the human brain, a vastly complex organ we are only beginning to understand.

Understandably there is no data as to what the potential harms may be. That will change with testing on humans and will be key to the development of similar products.

The final element, ethical safety, is more subjective. Technology like this is riven with concerns about data protection, potential uses and the possibility of human enhancement.

This means augmenting or enhancing the capabilities of the human brain beyond what we are currently capable of doing. For example, improving human cognition, sensory perception, or physical abilities. This always stirs strong emotions and raises ethical questions so there will be calls for close regulation of the sector.

[A stylised stock image showing Elon Musk's face and the Neuralink logo]

What are the roots of Elon Musk's involvement?

The firm was founded in California by Elon Musk and a team of seven scientists and engineers in 2016. But of last year, of the eight cofounders, only two remained at the company.

Elon Musk brings an entrepreneurial approach to tackling an issue which many see as fundamentally scientific. He also inevitably brings something else - publicity. He is one of the most recognisable and controversial people on the planet.

When he speaks, generally people listen and react. His involvement in Neuralink is one of the reasons people are talking about it today.

Are other companies trying this?

Yes, quite a few are, with some said to be further on in their research than Neuralink. Black Rock Neuro Tech are working on a similar product, also implanting chips into the human brain.

There's lots of different work being done, however, not all of it so invasive. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, are thought to be working on wearable tech that would allow people to type with their minds.

Last week news emerged of a paralysed man helped to walk again by Swiss scientists. In short, this is a rapidly expanding field with many players.

Elon Musk's involvement guarantees that Neuralink will often win the race for publicity, but that will not ultimately decide which firms succeed.

That will come down to which technology works best and who can prove to regulators and markets that it is safe.

ChatGPT: Can China overtake the US in the AI marathon?, 8 days ago

Artificial intelligence has emerged as enough of a concern that it made it onto what was already a packed agenda at the G7 summit at the weekend.

Concerns about AI's harmful impact coincide with the US' attempts to restrict China's access to crucial technology.

For now, the US seems to be ahead in the AI race. And there is already the possibility that current restrictions on semiconductor exports to China could hamper Beijing's technological progress.

But China could catch up, according to analysts, as AI solutions take years to be perfected. Chinese internet companies "are arguably more advanced than US internet companies, depending on how you're measuring advancement," Kendra Schaefer, head of tech policy research at Trivium China tells the BBC.

However, she says China's "ability to manufacture high-end equipment and components is an estimated 10 to 15 years behind global leaders."

The Silicon Valley factor

The US' biggest advantage is Silicon Valley, arguably the world's supreme entrepreneurial hotspot. It is the birthplace of technology giants such as Google, Apple and Intel that have helped shape modern life.

Innovators in the country have been helped by its unique research culture, says Pascale Fung, director of the Center for Artificial Intelligence Research at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Researchers often spend years working to improve a technology without a product in mind, Ms Fung says.

OpenAI, for example, operated as a non-profit company for years as it researched the Transformers machine learning model, which eventually powered ChatGPT.

"This environment never existed in most Chinese companies. They would build deep learning systems or large language models only after they saw the popularity," she adds. "This is a fundamental challenge to Chinese AI."

US investors have also been supportive of the country's research push. In 2019, Microsoft said it would put $1bn (£810,000) in to OpenAI.

"AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time and has the potential to help solve many of our world's most pressing challenges," Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said.

China's edge

China, meanwhile, benefits from a larger consumer base. It is the world's second-most populous country, home to roughly 1.4 billion people.

It also has a thriving internet sector, says Edith Yeung, a partner at the Race Capital investment firm.

Nearly everyone in the country uses the super app WeChat, for example. It is used for almost everything from sending text messages, to booking doctor's appointments and filing taxes.

As a result, there's a wealth of information that can be used to improve products. "The AI model is going to be only as good as the data that is available for it to learn from," Ms Yeung says.

"For good or bad, China has a lot less rules around privacy, and a lot more data [compared to the US]. There's CCTV facial recognition everywhere, for example," she adds. "Imagine how useful that would be for AI-generated images."

While China's tech community may appear to be lagging behind the US, its developers have an edge, according to Lee Kai-Fu, who makes the argument in his book AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order.

"They live in a world where speed is essential, copying is an accepted practice, and competitors will stop at nothing to win a new market," wrote Mr Lee, a prominent figure in Beijing's internet sector and the former head of Google China.

"This rough-and-tumble environment makes a strong contrast to Silicon Valley, where copying is stigmatised and many companies are allowed to coast on the basis of one original idea or lucky break."

China's copycat era has its problems, including serious issues around intellectual property. Mr Lee writes that it has led to a generation of hardy and nimble entrepreneurs ready to compete.

Since the 1980s, China has been expanding its economy, which used to be based mainly on manufacturing, to one that is technology-based, Ms Fung says.

"In the last decade, we have seen more innovation from Chinese consumer-driven internet companies and high-end Chinese designs," she adds.

Can China catch up?

While Chinese tech companies certainly have unique advantages, the full impact of Beijing's authoritarianism is still unclear.

There are questions, for instance, about whether censorship would affect development of Chinese AI chatbots. Will they be able to answer sensitive questions about President Xi Jinping?

"I don't think anyone in China will ask controversial questions on Baidu or Ernie in the first place. They know it's censored," Ms Yeung says. "Sensitive topics are a very small part of the usage [of chatbots]. They just get more media attention," Ms Fung adds.

The bigger concern is that US attempts to restrict China's access to specialised tech can stymie the latter's AI industry.

High-performing computer chips, or semiconductors, are now the source of much tension between Washington and Beijing. They are used in everyday products including laptops and smartphones, and could have military applications. They are also crucial to the hardware required for AI learning.

US companies like Nvidia currently have the lead in developing AI chips and "few [Chinese] companies can compete against ChatGPT" given export restrictions, Ms Fung says.

While this will hit China's high-tech industries like cutting edge AI, it won't affect the production of consumer technology, such as mobiles and laptops. This is because "the export controls are designed to prevent China from developing advanced AI for military purposes," Ms Schaefer says.

To overcome this, China needs its own Silicon Valley - a research culture that attracts talent from diverse backgrounds, Ms Fung says.

"So far it has relied on both domestic talent and those from overseas with Chinese heritage. There is a limit to homogeneous cultural thinking," she adds.

Beijing has been trying to close the gap through its "Big Fund", which offers massive incentives to chip companies.

But it has also tightened its grip on the sector. In March, Zhao Weiguo became the latest technology tycoon to be accused of corruption by authorities.

Beijing's focus on certain industries can bring financial incentives and loosen red tape, but it may also mean greater scrutiny, and more fear and uncertainty.

"Zhao's arrest is a message for other state-owned firms: don't mess around with state money, particularly in the chip space," Ms Schaefer says. "Now it's time to get on with the job."

How that message will affect the future of China's AI industry remains to be seen.

Peas that don't taste like peas could help the planet, today

Scientists in the UK are developing peas that don't taste like peas.

No, this isn't a crafty plan to get children to eat their veggies.

As more and more people turn to plant-based food, they are hoping to produce a more planet-friendly, home-grown alternative to importing soya beans.

Peas are high in protein, but it is hard to mask their taste when they are used as a meat substitute in large amounts in vegan dishes.

Scientists discovered a gene for pea flavour 30 years ago. The research was stopped as there was no use for it. Now it could be the basis of a new industry.

"The world has changed. People increasingly want plant-based protein in their diets rather than from animals. So flavourless peas have suddenly become flavour of the day," said Prof Claire Domoney of the John Innes Centre (JIC) in Norwich, one of the scientists working on the project.

The UK imports four million tonnes of soya a year for food and animal feed, with half a million tonnes used for vegan and vegetarian foods, according to Innovate UK, the government's innovation agency.

Most of it comes from South America where soya production has been linked to destruction of rainforests.

[Soya plantation surrounds a small pocket of jungle]

The project is part of a government scheme that links up industry with academic researchers to produce new projects with a benefit to society. It is among a number of research programmes announced by the government on Wednesday aimed at boosting food production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It is being led by a Belfast-based plant breeding company, Germinal.

"We have an unsustainable habit for soya and we need to try and break that habit," said the firm's UK managing director, Paul Billings.

Plant-based demand

Demand is growing at 30% a year for meat alternatives, 50% for dairy free milk and 40% for cheese alternatives, according to Innovate UK. Increased pea production by UK farmers could fill that gap.

Peas have great environment-friendly credentials. Crops don't require nitrogen rich fertilisers, which are energy intensive to produce. In fact, they put nitrogen and other nutrients back into the soil, further reducing the need for fertiliser as farmers rotate their crops.

But while many people love them, their flavour can be a turn-off in plant-based products. Even if you are trying to wean yourself off meat, you might not want your vegan burger to taste like peas.

[scientists with pea plants]

Prof Claire Domoney was a young researcher at the John Innes Centre in the 1990s as part of a team that made the initial flavour breakthrough.

The scientists discovered a gene in pea plants that produced a chemical made peas taste less fresh after they were picked, and then Prof Domoney identified a wild pea plant found in India where that gene did not function.

Pea producers were delighted by the possibilities of longer-lasting, fresher-tasting peas and began a breeding programme, but in the mid-2000s, Prof Domoney bumped into one of the breeders by chance and learned it had been scrapped.

"He said 'this isn't going anywhere, because we end up with fresh peas with no flavour whatsoever!'" she explained.

Then last year, Germinal contacted the John Innes Centre to see if they could help develop a UK-grown soya alternative. Prof Domoney's project fitted the bill perfectly. She still works at the JIC and her project was restarted.

''It just goes to show,'' she said with a broadening smile, ''that science is never wasted''.

[Graphic that shows the demand for meat alternatives is growing at 30% a year, and for dairy free milk and cheese alternatives a it is nearly 50% and 40% respectively]

The aim is to produce a commercially viable alternative to soya that also has higher levels of digestible protein and is easier to harvest than current varieties.

This will be done using traditional breeding methods: cross-fertilising the wild Indian plant with other varieties chosen for their yield, high protein content and ease of picking by mechanical harvesters.

Once a suitable variety has been identified it will undergo field trials to see if it really can be grown and make money for farmers under real world conditions. The trials will be carried out by the Processor and Growers Research Organisation. Its CEO, Roger Vickers says that farmers are already starting to grow more peas because it reduces the amount of fertiliser they need.

"If farmers want to control their costs and act in an environmentally responsible manner, growing peas ticks both boxes. If there is an environmental focus on new government regulations then these crops are very well suited to these, and farmers are recognising that."

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Man prises crocodile's jaws off his head at Australian resort, yesterday

An Australian man has escaped with his life after being attacked by a saltwater crocodile while snorkelling at an exclusive Queensland resort.

Marcus McGowan, 51, has detailed how he managed to prise the predator's jaws off his head, suffering lacerations.

He was airlifted to a nearby island hospital, and later flown to Cairns for further treatment.

Crocodile attacks are uncommon in Australia, but there have been several in recent months.

Mr McGowan said he was in the water with a group of people about 28km (17.3 miles) off Haggerstone Island near Cape York when he was bitten from behind.

"I thought it was a shark but when I reached up, I realised it was a crocodile. I was able to lever its jaws open just far enough to get my head out," he said in a statement.

The crocodile - suspected to be a juvenile - came back for another go, he said, but he was able to push it away, suffering a bite to his hand.

Queensland's environment department says it will investigate the incident, but "crocodiles in the open ocean can be difficult to locate as the animals often travel tens of kilometres per day".

Haggerstone Island Resort describes itself as a "family-owned, exclusive luxury resort". The entire island, some 600km north of Cairns, is available for hire at $7,600 (£4,063; $US4,979) a night.

Crocodiles are common in Australia's tropical north, which has seen a series of attacks recently.

In February, rangers shot a 4.2m (13.4ft) crocodile that attacked a man and ate his dog at a remote boat ramp north of Cairns.

And earlier this month, the remains of 65-year-old fisherman Kevin Darmody were found inside a 4.1m crocodile on the nearby Kennedy River - the 13th fatal attack in Queensland since record-keeping began in 1985.

Under Queensland's management programme, "problem crocodiles" are removed from areas where they threaten public safety and, in rare instances, euthanised.

Since crocodile hunting was banned in 1974, the state's crocodile population has rebounded from a low of some 5,000 animals to around 30,000 today.

Precious cheetah cubs die in India national park, 6 days ago

Two cheetah cubs have died and a third is in a critical condition at a national park in India's Madhya Pradesh state.

Another cub died in the national park on Tuesday.

The cubs were the first to be born in India in more than 70 years after the animals were declared officially extinct in the country.

A female cheetah translocated from Namibia to India last year had given birth to them in March.

Following this, the female cheetah and her three cubs were put under observation, authorities at the park said in a press note.

Temperature in the park had hit nearly 47C on Tuesday and the cubs did not seem to be in "normal condition," they said.

The cubs were found to be weak, underweight and extremely dehydrated. Two cubs died on Thursday despite steps taken to save them, the park authorities said.

The last cub of the litter is in critical condition and under treatment, they said.

Cheetahs were officially declared extinct by the Indian government in 1952. They were reintroduced to the country last year as part of an ambitious reintroduction programme to repopulate the species.

Wildlife experts had welcomed the reintroduction of the animal but some also warned of potential risks to them from other predators and not having enough prey.

Eight cheetahs were translocated from Namibia to country in September 2022 while 12 were brought in from South Africa in February 2023.

Of these, three cheetahs have died in the past two months. The death of the three cubs takes the toll to six.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had expressed concerns over the animal deaths and asked the federal government to consider shifting the cats to an alternate location.

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Can ‘enhanced rock weathering’ help combat climate change?, 11 days ago

In a quarry surrounded by the din of heavy machinery Jim Mann crouches down and picks up a handful of tiny black rocks.

"This is my magic dust," he says with a smile, gently rubbing them between his fingers.

He's holding pieces of basalt. It's a hard volcanic rock that is neither rare nor particularly remarkable.

But through a process known as 'enhanced rock weathering' it could help to cool our overheating planet.

UN scientists are now clear that reducing greenhouse gas emissions alone won't be enough to stop dangerous levels of warming. They say there will need to be some carbon dioxide removal - actively taking it out of the atmosphere.

Planting trees is the most natural way of doing this but has its limitations; the CO2 that's captured is released when the wood rots or burns and there are limits to how widely trees can be planted.

Direct Air Capture (DAC), meanwhile, mechanically sucks CO2 out of the atmosphere and stores it underground; it's permanent - but does it make sense to build such an energy intensive process when we're trying to wean ourselves off fossil fuels?

Enhanced rock weathering lies somewhere in between the natural and the man-made. It takes the naturally occurring but very gradual weathering process and turbo-charges it to remove the carbon faster.

[Graphic explaining enhanced rock weathering]

[Drone shot of a quarry]

I've come to a quarry just across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh to see Jim, whose enhanced rock weathering company UNDO has just secured £12m of new investment and is looking to scale up operations.

Around us the black hillside is being steadily eaten away, scraped by enormous diggers to make concrete and asphalt for roads. The vibe is more post-nuclear apocalypse than saving the planet.

But the tiny pieces of basalt rock that are left over are prized by Jim's company. They have a useful property - when they weather in the rain they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

[two men in orange hi-vis talk amongst hills of black rock]

For millennia volcanic rocks and cliffs have been removing carbon slowly while weathering in the rain. Enhanced rock weathering uses tiny pieces to increase the amount of contact between the rain and rock and hence the amount of weathering and carbon removal.

As a cliff, or piled up in the quarry, the basalt weathers very slowly. To maximise the carbon removal it needs to be spread across a greater area.

And that's where local farmers come in, helping the planet while getting free fertilizer in return. As well as locking away carbon, the basalt has been shown in trials to improve both crop yields and the quality of grazing.

Half an hour's drive from the quarry I watch it being scattered on a field.

It requires no specialist equipment. A trailer is loaded with 20 tonnes of basalt before a tractor drags it up and down, a rotating wheel at the back scattering the tiny rocks.

"It's free of charge which is quite important to a farmer," John Logan tells me with a chuckle as the basalt is put on his field. He'd seen UNDO's trials on a neighbouring farm.

"It looks like it's going to make the grass better, so that can only be good for the cattle because they're eating better grass."

[Basalt being scattered in Scotland.]

Some experts worry that carbon removal techniques like this might distract people from the more urgent priority of cutting emissions and even be used as justification to continue living our carbon intensive lives.

"CO2 reduction has to come first," Jim tells me as we watch the tractor move up and down guided by GPS, "but we also need to be developing these technologies that can do removal at scale. And the nice thing about what we're doing with enhanced rock weathering is it's permanent."

The maths, it must be said, are daunting. UNDO's scientists calculate that four tonnes of basalt rocks are needed to capture one tonne of CO2.

With a typical Brit's CO2 emissions estimated at about 7 tonnes a year that means each of us needs about thirty tonnes, or one and half trailer loads of basalt to be scattered annually just to break even.

UNDO has plans to rapidly scale up over the next few years and has attracted some serious supporters. Microsoft has agreed to pay for 25,000 tonnes of basalt to be scattered on UK fields. As part of the deal Microsoft will also help audit the project and verify that it is working as intended.

"The essential chemistry of it makes sense," Dr Steve Smith, an expert in carbon removal from Oxford University, told me.

"Measuring how much CO2 would be taken out and where that ultimately goes, is one of the key challenges, and there's no standardized system at the moment."

Ultimately Dr Smith thinks the idea could end up just a standard part of the way land is farmed.

"It's something that can be folded into the way we use land at the moment and deliver a carbon removal benefit alongside other benefits in terms of the way we use land for food and crops," he says.

There are still many questions about just how scaleable it is. UNDO's projects uses by-product from the local quarry - but if this is massively expanded the energy and emissions it takes both to grind up the basalt and then transport and scatter it will need to be factored in.

"At this point in time, there's no downside, It's a win win for everybody involved." Jim Mann tells me.

This year UNDO is planning to spread 185,000 tonnes of basalt and hopes by 2025 to have removed a million tonnes of CO2. It's still a drop in the ocean compared to emissions. In 2022 its thought the world discharged about 37 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

[Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from the late 1950s to today. In 1960 CO2 levels were around 317 parts per million; in 2022 this was around 419ppm. The rate of increase has been consistent over time. On top of the long term increasing trend, levels dip up and down slightly within each year. [May 2023]]

Virgin Galactic: Sir Richard Branson's rocket plane returns to spaceflight, 6 days ago

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic rocket plane is back in action after a gap of almost two years.

The Unity vehicle, with two pilots and four passengers aboard, climbed high over the New Mexico desert to the edge of space - before gliding back down.

It was billed as the plane's final test outing before entering commercial service in June.

Galactic has sold over 800 tickets to individuals who want to ride more than 80km (260,000ft) above Earth.

The company expects to start working through this passenger list with Unity flights initially occurring at the rate of one a month. New rocket planes are being designed for service in 2026 that should each be capable of increasing the cadence to one a week.

Thursday's mission came just a couple of days after winning bids were announced to buy the assets in Sir Richard's other space firm, Virgin Orbit, which filed papers with a bankruptcy court in April.

This business failed following an unsuccessful attempt to launch satellites to space from the UK in January.

[Jamila Gilbert]

Unity's latest spaceflight saw Mike Masucci take command of the plane with pilot CJ Sturckow alongside him.

The vehicle raced upwards at near three times the speed of sound, to reach a height of 87.2km (54.2 miles/286,000ft).

In the back, in the passenger cabin, were four Galactic employees.

Jamila Gilbert, Chris Huie, Luke May and Beth Moses were there to assess the soon-to-be-rolled-out customer experience. Mrs Moses is the company's chief astronaut instructor.

Sir Richard himself got his chance of spaceflight in July 2021 - Unity's last outing.

The rocket vehicle and the plane that carries it to launch altitude - an aeroplane called Eve - were then stood down for a programme of upgrades.

"The focus was really mostly on the mothership, on Eve, and it was about getting a service life, a flight cadence, that would support more robust and routine commercial spaceflight operations," explained Mike Moses, Galactic's president of spaceline missions and safety.

"An example would be the pylon - the thing in the middle of the mothership that holds the spaceship. It's perfectly strong, but we would have to go and look at it every single flight. And so we switched to something that lets us now inspect every 20 or 30 or 40 flights," he told BBC News.

Flight operations above the New Mexico spaceport have also been revised. On Sir Richard's 2021 mission, Unity briefly stepped outside the airspace reserved for it - a deviation that prompted the Federal Aviation Administration at the time to initiate a "mishap investigation".

This was resolved by widening the reserved airspace, and adjusting the pilots' inputs to their controls that - as Mr Moses put it - "increases our probability of staying down the middle of the flight column".

[Unity at top of climb]

Sir Richard's quest to bring a commercial spaceliner into service has been in play since 2004. Developing the technology has taken far longer - and cost much more - than anyone envisaged.

However, the vast majority of people who got in early to put down deposits for a flight have remained patient. Indeed, the backlog of passengers has steadily grown over time.

Nonetheless, the wait for many will be longer still. Only when the company's new fleet of Delta-class rocket planes start flying in the middle of this decade, will the waiting list begin to shrink significantly.

[Flight profile]

Unity is a sub-orbital vehicle. This means it can't achieve the velocity and altitude necessary to keep it up in space to circle the globe.

The spaceship is designed to give its passengers stunning views at the top of its climb, and allow them a few minutes to experience weightlessness.

Unity is first carried by a much bigger aeroplane to an altitude of about 15km (50,000ft), where it is released. A rocket motor in the back of Unity then ignites to blast the ship skyward.

The maximum height achievable by Unity is roughly 90km (55 miles, or 295,000ft). Passengers are allowed to unbuckle to float to a window. Unity folds its tailbooms on descent to stabilise its fall, before then gliding home.

[Unity feather system]

Virgin Galactic's first commercial mission in June will take aloft three Italian nationals. The men plan to conduct a number of scientific experiments during the flight, and in particular during those few minutes of weightlessness which they'll experience at the top of Unity's climb.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos to help Nasa return to Moon, 12 days ago

The US space agency has enlisted a second billionaire to help it put astronauts back on the Moon.

Nasa is already working with Elon Musk's SpaceX firm on a descent system based on its novel Starship rocket that will touch down as early as 2025.

It has now also awarded founder Jeff Bezos a contract to build a landing craft to take a crew down to the lunar surface later this decade.

His Blue Origin company will produce a more conventional-looking vehicle.

Mr Bezos will have assistance from some well established names in the American aerospace sector, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Draper and Astrobotic.

Blue Origin secured the contract in a competition with Dynetics and Northrop Grumman.

Mr Bezos's company, which is based in Kent in the US State of Washington, will receive just over $3.4bn (£2.7bn) from Nasa as part of the contract. And the firm will be spending "well north of $3.4bn" of its own money on the project.

"We go to the Moon, to learn, to live, to invent, to create all these things to be successful at the Moon, to go to Mars," said agency Administrator Bill Nelson.

"The great adventure of humankind pressing out into the cosmos is here. And this is a part of it."

[Apollo 16 Lunar Module]

It's now more than 50 years since astronauts last set foot on the Moon.

Nasa has laid out a roadmap to achieve a more sustained human presence on Earth's natural satellite the next time around.

The agency's Artemis programme envisions stays of weeks on the lunar surface rather than just days, as was the case in the 1960s and 70s.

SpaceX has been asked to put down two astronauts at the Moon's south pole in late 2025 or 2026, and then again in 2028. These are the Artemis III and Artemis IV missions.

Blue Origin's 16m-tall, 45-tonne vehicle is called "Blue Moon". It would do the job on Artemis V, which is set to occur no earlier than 2029.

"Before the first crew landing occurs, we will be landing an exact copy of that lander prior to that - one year prior. So, we will be testing out full lander systems and the full architecture prior to any astronauts entering the vehicle," explained John Couluris, Blue Origin's vice president for lunar transportation.

The lander could also be configured simply to deliver cargo to the lunar surface - a minimum of 20 tonnes, the executive added.

Blue Origin plans to use its own rocket, known as New Glenn, to get Blue Moon off Earth (although this launcher has yet to make a debut flight). The dimensions of the lander have been determined by the volume and mass parameters of the rocket, which has a 7m-wide payload bay.

[Artwork: SpaceX Moon lander]

Artemis I has already occurred, in November last year: An uncrewed test of the Nasa rocket and capsule that will take astronauts to the vicinity of the Moon. Artemis II is scheduled for next year and will see a crew of four do a simple loop around the Moon.

For all the crewed missions, the idea is for astronauts to transfer to dedicated landing craft that will be waiting for them in lunar orbit. They'd go down to the surface in these vehicles, complete their exploration and then come back up.

Towards the end of the decade, Nasa intends for the transfers to be carried out at a new space station above the Moon called Gateway.

SpaceX was awarded its contract in 2021. It wants to use a variant of its huge, next-generation Starship rocket system, which debuted four weeks ago.

The maiden flight was terminated after four minutes when the vehicle spun out of control. But SpaceX is already talking about a second outing this summer.

Starship's readiness is one of the key factors that will determine whether Nasa can keep its Artemis programme on track. Right now, many commentators consider a first crewed landing on the Moon in late 2025 to be a very ambitious target.