Dutch woman, 29, granted euthanasia approval on grounds of mental suffering | Assisted dying

A 29-year-old Dutch woman who has been granted her request for assisted dying on the grounds of unbearable mental suffering is expected to end her life in the coming weeks, fuelling a debate across Europe over the issue.

Zoraya ter Beek received the final approval last week for assisted dying after a three and a half year process under a law passed in the Netherlands in 2002.

Her case has caused controversy as assisted dying for people with psychiatric illnesses in the Netherlands remains unusual, although the numbers are increasing. In 2010, there were two cases involving psychiatric suffering; in 2023, there were 138: 1.5% of the 9,068 euthanasia deaths.

An article about her case, published in April, was picked up by international media, prompting an outcry that caused Ter Beek huge distress.

She said it was understandable that cases such as hers – and the broader issue of whether assisted dying should be legal – were controversial. “People think that when you’re mentally ill, you can’t think straight, which is insulting,” she told the Guardian. “I understand the fears that some disabled people have about assisted dying, and worries about people being under pressure to die.

“But in the Netherlands, we’ve had this law for more than 20 years. There are really strict rules, and it’s really safe.”

Under Dutch law, to be eligible for an assisted death, a person must be experiencing “unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement”. They must be fully informed and competent to take such a decision.

Ter Beek’s chronic mental health conditions have affected her since childhood. Photograph: Ilvy Njiokiktjien

Ter Beek’s difficulties began in early childhood. She has chronic depression, anxiety, trauma and unspecified personality disorder. She has also been diagnosed with autism. When she met her partner, she thought the safe environment he offered would heal her. “But I continued to self-harm and feel suicidal.”

She embarked on intensive treatments, including talking therapies, medication and more than 30 sessions of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). “In therapy, I learned a lot about myself and coping mechanisms, but it didn’t fix the main issues. At the beginning of treatment, you start out hopeful. I thought I’d get better. But the longer the treatment goes on, you start losing hope.”

After 10 years, there was “nothing left” in terms of treatment. “I knew I couldn’t cope with the way I live now.” She had thought about taking her own life but the violent death by suicide of a schoolfriend and its impact on the girl’s family deterred her.

“I finished ECT in August 2020, and after a period of accepting there was no more treatment, I applied for assisted dying in December that year. It’s a long and complicated process. It’s not like you ask for assisted dying on a Monday and you’re dead by Friday.

“I was on a waiting list for assessment for a long time, because there are so few doctors willing to be involved in assisted dying for people with mental suffering. Then you have to be assessed by a team, have a second opinion about your eligibility, and their decision has to be reviewed by another independent doctor.

“In the three and a half years this has taken, I’ve never hesitated about my decision. I have felt guilt – I have a partner, family, friends and I’m not blind to their pain. And I’ve felt scared. But I’m absolutely determined to go through with it.

“Every doctor at every stage says: ‘Are you sure? You can stop at any point.’ My partner has been in the room for most conversations in order to support me, but several times he has been asked to leave so the doctors can be sure I’m speaking freely.”

When the article about her case – which Ter Beek said had many inaccuracies and misrepresentations – was published in April, her inbox “exploded”. Most of the comments came from outside the Netherlands, many from the US. She swiftly deleted all her social media accounts.

“People were saying: ‘Don’t do it, your life is precious.’ I know that. Others said they had a cure, like a special diet or drugs. Some told me to find Jesus or Allah, or told me I’d burn in hell. It was a total shitstorm. I couldn’t handle all the negativity.”

Ter Beek will die at the home she shares with her partner. Photograph: Ilvy Njiokiktjien

After meeting her medical team, Ter Beek expects her death will be in the next few weeks. “I feel relief. It’s been such a long fight.”

On the appointed day, the medical team will come to Ter Beek’s house. “They’ll start by giving me a sedative, and won’t give me the drugs that stop my heart until I’m in a coma. For me, it will be like falling asleep. My partner will be there, but I’ve told him it’s OK if he needs to leave the room before the moment of death,” she said.

“Now the point has come, we’re ready for it and we’re finding a certain peace. I feel guilty too. But sometimes when you love someone, you have to let them go.”

Additional reporting by Senay Boztas in Amsterdam

In the UK, the charity Mind is available on 0300 123 3393 and Childline on 0800 1111. In the UK and Ireland, you can call Samaritans on freephone 116 123, or email [email protected] or [email protected]. In the US, call or text Mental Health America at 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. In Australia, support is available at Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14, and at MensLine on 1300 789 978. Other international helplines can be found at befrienders.org

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‘An incredible phallic landmark!’ The grain silo gallery, a gift from the trillion dollar man | Architecture

If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to be as insignificant as a kernel of corn, you can now get a good idea in Kristiansand, a city in southern Norway. Standing on the fourth floor of its new Kunstsilo art museum, carved out of an old 1930s grain silo, you can peer down a vertiginous concrete tube that plunges towards huddles of ant-like people below. Or you can look up, through more concrete shafts, towards tiny circles of sky. You can mimic the journey of a grain by climbing a spiral staircase inside one of the cylinders, or test your nerves by walking on a glass-floored terrace suspended over another shaft, floating above a tubular abyss. It’s a dramatic spatial spectacle – and we haven’t even got to the art yet.

Once home to 15,000 tonnes of grain, this mighty concrete mountain is now a repository of the most important collection of Nordic modern art in the world. It is a 5,500-strong haul spanning paintings, drawings, ceramics, sculpture and full-size architectural installations, telling the story of the past century of abstraction, surrealism and expressionism across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark – inside one of the ultimate symbols of modernity itself.

Spatial drama … Kunstsilo’s atrium. Photograph: Oliver Wainwright

“The magnificent first fruits of the new age,” is how modernist maestro Le Corbusier described grain silos, to which he dedicated an entire chapter in his 1923 manifesto, Toward a New Architecture. For modernists, silos were the perfect expression of form following function, monuments of storage and symbols of global trade, stripped of surplus ornament. For Bauhaus boss Walter Gropius, they were “almost as impressive in their monumental power as the buildings of ancient Egypt”. They still hold an irresistible allure, standing as industrial cathedrals of pure geometric forms. But what should be done with these redundant hulks now?

“It was a real headache,” says Mathias Bernander, mayor of Kristiansand, where the 40m tall cluster of silos had stood vacant since 2008, occupying a prime waterfront spot. “The building was protected, but useless.” Designed by one of Norway’s leading functionalist architects, Arne Korsmo, the 30 concrete cylinders had been listed in 2010, but there was no idea what to do with them. Plans to turn the building into a hotel had proved impossible. “It was worth nothing,” says Bernander. “It actually had a minus value, because it was more of a problem than an asset.”

In 2012, a concert hall was built to one side of the silo, in the form of an extravagantly undulating shed. A few years later, a development of expensive waterfront flats started to appear on the other side. But the silo remained, a stubborn relic blocking the waterfront regeneration. Then, as if in a Nordic fairytale, along came one of the city’s former children, who had since become one of the country’s wealthiest men. And he was looking for an eye-catching place to house his sprawling collection of art.

“We walked around town thinking, ‘Where would be nice to have our museum?’” says Nicolai Tangen. “Then there it was – this incredible phallic landmark!” Tangen is no stranger to hunting for meaty opportunities. The 57-year-old made his fortune as a hedge fund manager in London, and now heads the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, the largest of its kind in the world – lending him the nickname Norway’s “trillion-dollar man”.

He began collecting art in the 1990s, and became so enamoured he took a sabbatical to study for an MA at London’s Courtauld Institute in 2003. Amassing a museum-quality horde of Nordic modern art became an obsession, but realising his dream of a place to display it in his home town was no easy ride.

“It was all hunky dory and positive at first,” says Tangen. “And then, bang!” That was the sound of the citizens of Kristiansand learning that they were on the hook for co-funding the project. The building wasn’t to be just a private museum, but a joint home for the city’s existing art collection – a controversial deal that cost the then-mayor his job. Of the £52m total cost, Tangen’s foundation has contributed about £15.5m (half of the total cost came from public sources, the rest from private grants and a bank loan).

The industrial cadaver is the star of the show … a vertiginous concrete tube. Photograph: Tor Erik Schrøder/EPA

“I could have paid for the whole museum,” Tangen says, “but then it would not have been a gift. For something to be taken care of, people need to participate in the initial investment. If you get a kitten for free, you will look after it less than if you have to pay £10.”

Judging by the crowds at the opening event, most local residents seem thrilled with their new kitten, the controversies a distant memory. People flooded into the ground floor atrium, where the silos have been hollowed out to create a 21-metre high void, and windows look down into the space from landings above.

One silo holds the staircase, beautifully crafted in oak, its curved white steel balustrade bulging into the atrium, while another hugs a curved semicircular sofa on each floor. Evidence of the substantial surgical procedures has been left exposed, with the silos’ concrete edges sawn and ground, revealing chunky aggregate and rusted steel reinforcement bars.

“We wanted to make a contrast between the rugged silo and the new, precise elements,” says Magnus Wåge of Barcelona-based Mestres Wåge Arquitectes, who won the project in an open international competition, with Mendoza Partida and BAX studio. Their first idea was to turn the silos themselves into labyrinthine exhibition spaces, but they found it would have been almost impossible to display paintings. “So we decided it was better to make the silo into a kind of sculpture at the centre, opening it up into a basilica-like space.”

A bit lifeless … the gallery spaces of Kunstsilo. Photograph: Alan Williams

The galleries are arranged on either side of the momentous void, 3,000 sq metres of conventional white cube space across three levels, housed in a new block on one side, and a rebuilt former storehouse on the other. Mostly windowless, with relatively low ceilings, and separated from the atrium by two sets of sliding glass doors for environmental reasons, they feel a bit lifeless, creating a monotonous sequence relieved only by returning back into the gaping atrium.

It is a similar experience to visiting Thomas Heatherwick’s Zeitz Mocaa museum in Cape Town, also housed in a former grain silo, where the fiendish acrobatic feat of carving an ovoid volume out of the concrete tubes clearly trumped creating the best possible spaces for the display of art. In both buildings, the hollowed-out industrial cadaver is the real star of the show.

For all their claims of “adaptive reuse”, both projects are also heavily rebuilt. It turns out that ageing concrete silos are not actually capable of being sawn and sliced quite as much as architects might hope. As in Cape Town, the Kristiansand structure had to have a 250mm-thick sleeve of concrete cast around the existing 150mm-thick cylinders, as well as an additional lattice of concrete beams threaded through the tubes to stabilise the structure.

A frisson of sea breeze … the view from the top of the Kunstsilo. Photograph: Oliver Wainwright

The freshly entombed silos were then insulated and finished with a white plaster render to restore the look of the original structure, only a bit chubbier. No embodied carbon assessment has been carried out, but the environmental argument of “reusing” the building in this way, when such a substantial amount of new concrete had to be poured, is questionable – especially when the spatial drama of the silos in both cases is confined to the atrium.

Still, it’s easy to forget about all this when you’re up on the roof. While Heatherwick’s building is crowned with an exorbitant boutique hotel, the Kunstsilo summit houses a restaurant with a spectacular roof deck open to all. Here, visitors can sit behind rows of glass fins, arranged to allow a frisson of sea breeze to flow through the gaps, and enjoy views across to the container port the other side of the harbour. You can also gawp at the colossal cruise ships, disgorging thousands of passengers a day into the town – their landing zone eventually to be connected to the museum’s waterfront promenade by a footbridge.

Until now, the chief lure of Norway’s sunniest city has been a zoo and amusement park, themed around the popular pirate character Captain Sabertooth, which attracts 1.2 million visitors a year. Its former director, Reidar Fuglestad, was poached to head up Kunstsilo, in the hope he might make it an equally popular attraction.

“It think this project takes Kristiansand from a small town to a big town,” says Tangen. “I don’t think it is turning into Bilbao straight away. But I love the idea of having an irritating little museum here putting on the best shows, so that these well-resourced museums in Oslo say, ‘Geez, what’s going on down there?’”

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The search for the perfect wetsuit: is there one that doesn’t harm the planet? | Surfing

I have been hesitating for months. The wetsuit I swim in every week to keep me toasty warm in the winter and safe from jellyfish stings in the summer is riddled with holes. Yet I can’t bring myself to buy a new one because I’ve learned that comfortable, flexible and insulating neoprene is manufactured using some of the most toxic chemicals on the planet.

Neoprene, a synthetic foamed rubber, is made from the petrochemical compound chloroprene. Exposure to chloroprene emissions, produced during the manufacturing process, may increase the risk of cancer, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

For the past three years, the film-makers Chris Nelson and Lewis Arnold have been investigating surfing’s links to the human health impacts of chloroprene manufacturing. Their documentary about the world’s toxic addiction to neoprene, The Big Sea, is due to be screened at film festivals worldwide from June.

“As surfers, we’ve been consuming neoprene for five decades, but Lewis and I both felt that we hadn’t been told the truth about where [our wetsuits] came from and what they were made of,” Nelson says.

As part of the film they travelled to the heavily polluted US region known as Cancer Alley, an area of Louisiana along the Mississippi River where smoke stacks fill the skyline.

Sandy Kerr, a professional surfer from north-east England, in the film The Big Sea. Photograph: Lewis Arnold/The Big Sea

The air is so toxic here that the cancer risk is 50 times higher than the national average, according to the EPA.

The nearby plant run by the Japanese chemical company Denka makes multiple forms of chloroprene, but is not breaking any state laws.

While editing the film, Nelson says he received “a spectrum of responses” from wetsuit companies. A few are actively phasing out neoprene, he says, but some have not engaged with the issue at all.

The Surf Industry Members Association (SIMA), which represents the surf industry, did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment but Vipe Desai, its director , disputed the film’s claims in an interview with Wavelength magazine last year.

Desai said no brands that the SIMA knew of sourced neoprene from the Louisiana factory.

The Denka chemical plant on Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley’, where the cancer risk is 50 times higher than the US average. Photograph: Lewis Arnold/The Big Sea

“Some limestone chloroprene rubber chips are indeed sourced via a Denka-owned facility, but in Japan,” he said. “These Japanese chips are not petroleum-based and research shows those facilities are not associated with elevated health risks.”

He also said the surf industry had “played a major role in moving away from materials causing harm and will continue to do so”.

Denka did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment but in March it told the publication Chemistry World that it strongly disagreed with the EPA’s assessment of the risks that chloroprene emissions posed to the local community and that this was based on “outdated and erroneous science that the agency released over 12 years ago”.

So what alternatives are there?

Surf wetsuit companies are increasingly pushing back against neoprene and offering plant-based alternatives.

In 2016, Patagonia went neoprene-free and Finisterre followed suit in 2021. The Dutch brand Wallien is using Yulex, a plant-based rubber, or other natural variants for all future production, and Buell in California is doing the same.

Last September, Xcel committed to using 100% natural rubber by 2026, the first of the traditional big brands to do so. Meanwhile, Billabong and Decathlon have added single lines of plant-based neoprene wetsuits.

The Donegal surfer Easkey Britton in The Big Sea documentary. As well as being an Irish and British champion, she is a published social scientist. Photograph: Lewis Arnold/The Big Sea

Xcel does not label its current neoprene wetsuits – which are made using calcium carbonate mined from limestone rocks, rather than from petrochemicals – as “eco” because the process is still energy-intensive.

“That’s a stop on the bridge between neoprene and natural materials,” says Ian Stewart, of Xcel. “We’re moving off limestone as fast as we can.”

Meanwhile, surfers are fast becoming more conscious of the environmental and health impacts of their sport.

Giles Bristow, chief executive of the ocean charity Surfers Against Sewage, says: “With increasing awareness about where our materials come from, everything from our wetsuits to our boards, I think there will be a market transformation.”

Reuse and recycle

Last summer, Finisterre launched the world’s first rental service for natural-rubber wetsuits. For £30, customers can rent a £300 Yulex wetsuit for four days. As the company founder, Tom Kay, says, “not owning a product is a better form of consumption”.

Of course, there’s still no such thing as a biodegradable wetsuit – even natural-rubber wetsuits often have synthetic outer and inner linings – so Kay’s biggest challenge is working out how to prevent wetsuits ending up in landfills. Thermo-set neoprene, which has been irreversibly hardened by heat, is difficult to recycle as it cannot be melted easily.

Anna Turns, at North Sands beach, wearing a Nieuwland 2e Yulex wetsuit rented from Finisterre. Photograph: Jonny Weeks/The Guardian

At its factory in Bulgaria, a wetsuit recycling initiative, Circular Flow, breaks down neoprene waste from thousands of old wetsuits and factory offcuts into a crumb that is remoulded into yoga mats and bags.

Currently, wetsuits that Finisterre collects are transformed into changing mats, but Kay’s team are experimenting to see if microbes could break down natural rubber. “We’d like to make more wetsuits from wetsuits – that’s the dream,” he says.

Rip Curl has a “recycle your wetsuit” scheme, in association with the US-based recycling company TerraCycle, which has collected more than 20,000 old wetsuits from across the US, Australia, France, Portugal and Spain. Once zips, elastic and metal tags have been removed, the neoprene is processed to make construction materials such as flooring or soft-fall matting used in playgrounds.

Paul McCutchion, manager of the Centre for Alternative Materials and Remanufacturing at Exeter University, and his team are testing different wetsuit rubber materials for tensile strength, durability, stretch and thermal insulation.

When purchasing his next wetsuit, he says he will opt for brands that take back old wetsuits for some form of recycling, and choose natural rubber or limestone neoprene made from crushed oyster shells. That is because these are a waste product from the food industry, rather than from mined limestone.

“With no material having the perfect end-of-life solution,” he says, “the option with the least environmental impact is one that is derived from bio-based materials.” He expects brands to be using water-based glues, instead of solvents, and recycled liner materials at the very least.

So, back to my own dilemma. Faced with numerous not-quite-there-yet wetsuit possibilities, I consulted Sophie Hellyer, surfer, cold-water swimmer and environmental activist.

A damaged neoprene wetsuit. Repairs and good care can give many wetsuits a longer lease of life. Photograph: Jonny Weeks/The Guardian

“The reality is that most surfers buy a new wetsuit at least every other winter,” she says. But she encourages everyone to look after their current wetsuit instead of rushing to buy a new one.

“Rinse it well, dry it out of direct sunlight, get it repaired or stitch it up with Black Witch neoprene adhesive when necessary, and then send to a recycle scheme when it’s no longer fit for purpose.”

Perhaps, after all, the most sustainable wetsuit is the one I already own. So for now I’m going to make do, mend and just keep swimming.

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BTK serial killer investigation: new clue unlocks missing 16-year-old girl’s name | Oklahoma

A newly re-examined word puzzle sent to a Kansas City TV station in 2004 could strengthen leads in a cold-case investigation into the disappearance of a 16-year-old girl in Oklahoma and link it to the convicted serial killer Dennis Rader, nicknamed BTK for “bind, torture, kill”.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Osage county sheriff Eddie Virden said he had received a package from a woman in April containing a crossword puzzle Rader allegedly used to taunt investigators.

The words Rader used identified places, names or fantasies connected to his work as a serial killer who murdered at least 10 people in Wichita and Park City, Kansas, between 1974 and 1991.

Rader was arrested in 2005, 13 years after the murders ceased, when he sent another clue – a floppy disk – to a TV station that contained data investigators used to uncover him as the killer.

The words Rader used in the crossword included “Wichita”, “prowl”, “fantasies”, “ruse”, “spot victim”. But a new examination of the document reveals “Cindy”, “Kinney”, but also “Kihekah”, the name of the street where 16-year-old Cynthia Kinney disappeared from the Osage Laundry in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, in June 1976.

Investigators were unable to pin Kinney’s disappearance on Rader. He admitted to killing 10 victims but has never confessed to any involvement in the disappearance of the 16-year-old cheerleader.

Sheriff Virden, however, said he believes he may have come close to conclusively tying Rader to Kinney. One piece of the puzzle, he told Oklahoma’s KFOR, was that generally Rader acted mid-morning, at about the same time that Kinney disappeared.

A second clue is the name of victim and the street the laundromat was on. A letter that came with the crossword puzzle Virden received last month advised: “Don’t view it as a puzzle. View the puzzle as a map that Rader created to plot his victims.”

“There’s hints all the way through that can’t be overlooked,” Virden told KFOR.

“It’s up to us to figure out everything he gave us and put those together, connect the dots, and then get the answers we’re looking for,” he added.

“We’re still in the process of trying to evaluate that and sending them out, trying to get some expert opinions on it to see what we can get. But it’s pretty hard to get around the fact that Cindy Kinney’s name is in there.”

Virden said there were a total of eight markings on the map-puzzle that referenced Oklahoma. Criminal psychologists have reasoned that Rader wanted his murders to be cataloged by authorities.

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“We know [BTK] refers to his murders as ‘factor X’ … that in some of his journals and other stuff he marked murders with Xs. In this particular case, everything is marked with a X. The clues go on and on,” Virden said.

“We have searched many locations. We’ve found items that we believe are evidence, and we’ve found carvings, markings in barns, things that we believe are 100% proof that he’s operated within our area.”

Last month, the Osage and Pawnee county district attorney Mike Fisher addressed mounting speculation that authorities were coming close to linking Rader to Kinney’s disappearance.

Fisher said there was still insufficient evidence to file charges against Rader but said he had directed the Oklahoma state bureau of investigation to open a formal investigation into Kinney’s disappearance.

But he added the things he had seen conducted by the Osage county sheriff’s office had given him “pause and concern”, and that it was not appropriate for the sheriff to conduct a dig at Rader’s previous residence before using proper investigative techniques.

One of Sheriff Virden’s digs at a Kansas property in Park City had apparently found “items of interest” including tangled pantyhose. Rader’s daughter Kerri Rawson has said she believes her father may have taken more lives.

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Ukraine war briefing: 50 countries swing behind peace summit in Switzerland | Ukraine

  • The Ukraine peace summit planned by Switzerland has so far drawn delegations from more than 50 countries, the Swiss president, Viola Amherd, has said. Russia has not been invited, but Switzerland says it might be if Moscow had not repeatedly stated it is not interested. The Ukrainian government has said Russia does not negotiate in good faith anyway.

  • Amherd said she was in discussion about whether Switzerland might step aside from receiving a Patriot missile defence system that is due from the US, so Ukraine can get one sooner.

  • The Ukrainian presidential office has said additional reinforcements were being deployed in the Kharkiv region, including army reserve units. Heavy enemy fire prompted repositioning of some troops in the Kupiansk direction to the east of Kharkiv city, the general staff said on Wednesday. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the president, has postponed all his upcoming foreign trips, underscoring the seriousness of the threat his soldiers are facing. The Ukrainian military said troops fell back from areas in Lukyantsi and Vovchansk near Kharkiv “to save the lives of our servicemen and avoid losses”, Peter Beaumont writes.

  • Vovchansk – 5km (three miles) from the Russian border – has been the focus of much of the recent fighting, and Ukrainian and Russian troops battled in its streets on Wednesday. Oleksii Kharkivskyi, head of the city’s patrol police, said Russian troops were taking up positions there, while the Ukrainian general staff said its forces were trying to flush them out.

  • Russia’s gains in the Kharkiv region must be a “wake up call”, the British defence secretary, Grant Shapps, has said, adding that allies had become “distracted” from the war. “We must back [the Ukrainians] all the time, not just periodically,” Shapps said, adding that a $60bn US military package “took too long to get through Congress”.

  • Visiting Kyiv, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has announced a $2bn arms deal, with most of the money coming from the package approved by Congress last month.

  • Blinken said the US does not encourage Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia with US-supplied weapons but believes it is a decision Kyiv should make for itself. The US was focused on providing Patriot missile systems and other forms of critical air defence, he said.

  • The Russian defence ministry claimed its troops have retaken the village of Robotyne in the southern Zaporizhzhia region. The claim was unconfirmed. Ukrainian forces regained control of the village last August. Elsewhere in Ukraine’s southern regions, an aerial attack on the central district of Kherson wounded 17 civilians, the regional prosecutor’s office said. A Russian missile attack injured six people in Mykolaiv, according to Ukraine’s rescue service.

  • Vladimir Putin arrived in China on Thursday to meet with his counterpart Xi Jinping as he seeks greater support from Beijing for his war effort in Ukraine and his isolated economy. Putin, in an interview published in Xinhua ahead of his visit, hailed Beijing’s “genuine desire” to help resolve the Ukraine crisis. Blinken, who met Xi in Beijing last month, said China’s support for Russia’s “brutal war of aggression” in Ukraine had helped Russia ramp up production of rockets, drones and tanks – while stopping short of direct arms exports.

  • European Union ambassadors agreed in principle on Wednesday to add four Russian media outlets to the EU sanctions list, accusing them of propaganda: Voice of Europe, RIA Novosti, Izvestija and Rossiyskaya Gazeta. The EU also banned Russian funding of EU media, non-governmental organisations and political parties. It has previously imposed sanctions on Russian state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik.

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    Højlund strikes late as Manchester United beat Newcastle to boost Ten Hag | Premier League

    Manchester United are up to 57 points, the same as Newcastle United, who headed back to the north-east pondering precisely how they lost a toe-to-toe contest played at breakneck speed. The win was sealed by a sweet finish by Rasmus Højlund, just on as a replacement, his 18-yard, right-foot shot going through Lewis Hall’s legs and in via a Martin Dubravka palm.

    Despite victory, Erik ten Hag’s team remain eighth, due to a massively inferior goal difference, so may have to beat Manchester City in the FA Cup final to secure European football.

    On the pitch, Ten Hag’s players offered their appreciation to the crowd, a convention at the last home game of the season, and the Dutchman thanked fans for their loyalty, promising them his team would fight for a last three points, at Brighton on Sunday, before the Cup final. For this Ten Hag received a rousing reception, further evidence that the Old Trafford-going supporter, at least, remains behind him despite a troubled campaign.

    Who knows, though, if Sir Jim Ratcliffe will show the same sentiment as he assesses potential replacements before deciding Ten Hag’s future after the final on Saturday week.

    Clearer was the full-tilt nature of the entertainment that had gone before. In the posh seats the hosts’ newly crowned Under-18 Premier League National champions were guests of honour and, first, saw Alexander Isak shoot wildly after Kieran Trippier dispossessed Alejandro Garnacho.

    Casemiro had a minor shocker in Sunday’s 1-0 loss here against ­Arsenal but turned in an impressive 45 minutes that came after initial torpor with the Brazilian spraying a simple pass to the opposition. Newcastle attacked quickly, the excellent Anthony Gordon receiving the ball in the hosts’ area, but Sofyan Amrabat poked out a leg to tackle and save his side.

    Culprit, though, nearly became hero when a Bruno Fernandes free-kick was punched out by Dubravka, Amrabat headed the ball into a crowded danger area, and Casemiro’s bicycle kick went just over.

    A Ten Hag tactic was for quick balls to be lifted from the back, as Casemiro did to Kobbie Mainoo, forcing a corner which Fernandes zipped directly at Diallo, whose volley was blocked. A shot count of six to four inside the opening half-hour illustrated the nature of the spectacle.

    Ten Hag left Højlund on the bench, to rest him for Sunday’s trip to Brighton and the Cup final, so Fernandes, back after injury, played as a false 9. During another quick transition, United’s captain rushed towards Newcastle’s penalty box and scooped the ball to Alejandro Garnacho, who swerved and shot, Dubravka repelling again.

    Gordon did the same when running down the left wing and crossing, though the corner he earned was defended easily by those in red.

    Then came a strike of finesse and beauty. Amrabat, from an inside-left channel, tapped to Diallo who relayed to Fernandes, whose contact was slight, at best. The ball travelled on to a lurking, unmarked Mainoo and he beat Dubravka to the goalkeeper’s right, Ten Hag lifting both arms in salute.

    There was no time to celebrate for long, though, as this was basketball on grass. Instantly, Newcastle twice launched forays, and each time Casemiro intervened. First, a precisely timed tackle in the area denied Gordon yet Newcastle had a fair shout for a penalty as Amrabat had raked a boot along the attacker’s ankle as he went to aid Casemiro; Robert Jones, the referee and, more puzzlingly, the VAR did not pick this up. Then Dan Burn’s header was cleared off the line by the makeshift centre-back.

    A chip from Trippier, Newcastle’s one change from Saturday’s draw with Brighton, was headed out by the ubiquitous Casemiro, and Diallo’s slick one-two with Mainoo in Newcastle’s area closed an invigorating half.

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    As the second kicked off, Bruno Guimarães took aim, then Gordon and Elliot Anderson. They all missed but, now, Gordon did not as those in red imploded.

    André Onana, as he did for the Arsenal move that created their winner here on Sunday, misdirected a clearance to Burn who headed it forward. Amrabat miscontrolled, Isak pilfered possession, passed to Jacob Murphy and his cross was steered in by Gordon.

    It was a disaster for the hosts who went close to going behind seconds later. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was to blame, passing straight to Murphy. He fed Gordon who broke fast, squared to Isak, and only Amrabat’s block tackle diverted the ball on to the bar and away.

    Now, somehow, Diallo gave Ten Hag’s men the lead. Fernandes’s corner from the left was flicked on by Murphy and the 21-year-old drove in a fierce volley that sent the home crowd delirious.

    After Miguel Almirón was a boot-polish coat away from turning in a Gordon drive with less than eight minutes left, Marcus Rashford and Lisandro Martínez, plus Højlund, entered. The Dane was to confirm a much-required three points despite Hall’s late consolation.

    Kobbie Mainoo steers home Manchester United’s first goal. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
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    Biden should have pardoned Trump on federal charges, Mitt Romney says | Donald Trump

    Joe Biden should have pardoned Donald Trump on all federal criminal charges the moment they were announced, the Utah senator and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said.

    “Had I been President Biden,” Romney said, “when the justice department brought out indictments, I would have immediately pardoned him. I’d have pardoned President Trump.”

    “Why? Well, because it makes me, President Biden, the big guy and the person I pardoned the little guy. And, number two, it’s not going to get resolved before the election. It’s not going to have an impact before the election. And, frankly, the country doesn’t want to have to go through prosecuting a former president.”

    Romney was speaking to MSNBC, in an interview to be broadcast on The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle on Wednesday night.

    Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee despite facing 88 criminal charges. Forty-four are federal: four regarding election subversion and 40 retention of classified information. Neither case has reached trial.

    Biden could not pardon Trump on his other 44 charges, at the state level. Thirty-four arise from hush-money payments to an adult film star around the 2016 election, an election subversion case now at trial in New York, and 10 concern election subversion in Georgia.

    Trump has also been hit with multibillion-dollar fines in civil suits concerning his business practices and a defamation claim arising from a rape allegation a judge called “substantially true”.

    When Trump was president, Romney was the only Republican to vote to convict in both Trump’s Senate impeachment trials, for seeking political dirt on opponents in Ukraine and for inciting the deadly January 6 attack on Congress.

    Romney told MSNBC: “I think the American people have recognised that President Trump did have an inappropriate affair with someone who was a porn star. I think they realise that.

    “I think they realise he took classified documents he shouldn’t have and didn’t handle them properly. I think they understand that as well.

    “I think they realise he’s been lying about the election [and supposed voter fraud] in 2020. They know those things. [But] these things are not changing the public attitude.”

    Polling has put Trump ahead in battleground states.

    In America’s pre-Trump past, Romney lost the 2012 election to Barack Obama. In 2016, as Trump stormed to the White House, Romney wrote in the name of his wife, Ann, rather than support Hillary Clinton. Romney then flirted with accepting a post in Trump’s cabinet, as secretary of state, but found humiliation instead.

    According to the author Gabriel Debenedetti, Romney urged Biden to run against Trump in 2020. Romney has said he did not vote for Trump that year, reportedly writing in Ann again.

    Romney told MSNBC he liked Biden, who he found “capable” despite widespread claims that at 81 Biden is too old for his job, claims less prevalent regarding Trump, who is 77.

    But when asked who he would vote for, Romney did not say Biden.

    “I’m not announcing that here and now,” he said. “I’m not going to be voting for President Trump. I made that clear. I know, for some people, the character is not the number one issue. It is for me. When someone has been, well, determined by a jury to have committed sexual assault, that’s not someone who I want my kids and grandkids to see as president of the United States.”

    Criticising Biden on the economy and border security – though acknowledging Trump’s role in stopping a bipartisan border measure passing Congress – Romney told MSNBC: “I don’t know if that’s [Trump’s] ambition to bring people together. I’m not sure exactly what it is he hopes to do if he gets a second term.”

    Asked about continued surprisingly strong Republican primary performances by Nikki Haley, who dropped out more than two months ago, Romney rejected the idea a that moderate wing of his party could yet seek to retake control.

    “My wing of the party, it’s like a chicken wing, all right?” the senator said. “It’s a little tiny thing that doesn’t take the bird off the ground.”

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    Israel war cabinet split looms as defence minister demands post-war Gaza plan | Israel

    A long-festering split at the heart of Israel’s war cabinet has burst into the open with the defence minister, Yoav Gallant, challenging the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to come up with plans for the “day after” the war in Gaza, and saying he would not permit any solution where Israeli military or civil governance were in the territory.

    Gallant’s comments, immediately backed by his fellow minister Benny Gantz, plunged Israel’s leadership into a highly public row, in the midst of the Gaza conflict, raising immediate speculation over his future in the Israeli government and of Netanyahu’s fractious coalition.

    In uncompromising remarks, Gallant – whose firing last year by Netanyahu triggered mass protests, a political crisis and an eventual reversal by the PM – publicly demanded that Netanyahu describe plans for a “day-after plan” for Gaza.

    Gallant’s comments provoked an immediate political row, with Netanyahu pushing back rapidly with a videotaped statement and a call from the far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, for Gallant to be replaced.

    Gallant was backed, however, by his fellow senior minister Benny Gantz, a former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, who said Gallant had spoken the “truth”.

    At a press conference on Wednesday evening in Tel Aviv, Gallant said he had asked for an alternative governing body to Hamas to be found, and did not receive a response.

    In his remarks, Gallant criticised the lack of any political planning for the “day after”.

    Gallant’s comments come after months of tension between the two men and recent reports in the Hebrew media that senior IDF officers had become concerned that the lack of an alternative to Hamas was forcing the IDF to return and fight in areas where they claimed Hamas had already been defeated, including northern Gaza, which has seen heavy fighting this week.

    “As early as October 7, the military establishment said that it was necessary to work towards finding an alternative to Hamas,” Gallant said, adding, “the end of the military campaign is a political decision. The day after Hamas will only be achieved by actors who replace Hamas. This is first and foremost an Israeli interest.”

    Gallant said that military planning “was not raised for a discussion, and worse, no alternative was brought in its place. A military-civilian regime in Gaza is a bad and dangerous alternative for the state of Israel.

    “I will not agree to the establishment of a military government in Gaza,” he said, adding a “civilian-military regime in Gaza will become the main effort in there and come at the expense of other arenas. We will pay for it in blood and victims – and it will come at a heavy economic cost.”

    The comments by Gallant appeared to be the culmination of growing frustration with Netanyahu among Israel’s military leadership.

    Gallant added he would not support a controversial plan for compulsory enlistment of ultra-Orthodox Jews, appearing to throw down a direct challenge to Netanyahu to fire him.

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    Replying to Gallant, Netanyahu once again ruled out a Palestinian administration in Gaza while Hamas still exists, adding that Hamas’s destruction must be pursued “without excuses”.

    Netanyahu said: “After the terrible massacre, I ordered the destruction of Hamas. IDF fighters and the security forces are fighting for this. As long as Hamas remains, no other actor will run Gaza – certainly not the Palestinian Authority.”

    Ben-Gvir and the communications minister, Shlomo Karhi, quickly called for Gallant to be fired from his position.

    “Such a defence minister must be replaced in order to achieve the war’s goals,” said Ben-Gvir, adding: “From [Gallant’s] point of view, there is no difference between whether Gaza will be controlled by Israeli soldiers or whether Hamas murderers control it. This is the essence of the defence minister’s conception, which failed on October 7 and continues to fail even now.”

    Netanyahu will be acutely aware of the huge political risks of firing Gallant for a second time after his previous forced climbdown.

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    Stormy Daniels’ husband says they’ll likely leave the US if Trump is acquitted | Stormy Daniels

    The husband of Stormy Daniels said there is a “good chance” that the couple will leave the US if Donald Trump is acquitted in his criminal trial over paying hush-money payments to the adult film star.

    “I think if it’s not guilty, we got to decide what to do. Good chance we’ll probably vacate this country,” Barrett Blade told CNN host Erin Burnett on Tuesday.

    “If he is found guilty, then she’s still got to deal with all the hate. I feel like she’s the reason that he’s guilty from all his followers, so I don’t see it as a win-win situation either way.”

    Blade’s comments come after Daniels appeared in court last week to deliver lurid and powerful testimony on her alleged sexual affair with Trump nearly 20 years ago.

    Among the questions she said Trump asked her was: “What about testing? Do you worry about STDs?”

    Daniels also said Trump compared her to his daughter Ivanka, saying: “You remind me of my daughter. She is smart and blonde and beautiful and people underestimate her as well.”

    She testified that upon returning from using the bathroom in Trump’s hotel room, she found him on the bed, wearing boxer shorts and a T-shirt. Daniels said she tried to leave but Trump stood between her and the door.

    “He said, ‘I thought we were getting somewhere. I thought you were serious about what you wanted,’” Daniels recalled.

    Daniels and Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, are at the center of Trump’s historic criminal case. Prosecutors allege that Cohen allegedly worked alongside tabloid publisher David Pecker to bury unfavorable stories that would potentially affect Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, and that Cohen facilitated a $130,000 hush-money payment to Daniels shortly before the election.

    Trump has since been charged with falsifying business records. Prosecutors allege that the former president falsely listed his repayments to Cohen as legal service fees.

    Trump’s defense team attempted to discredit Daniels, with lawyer Susan Necheles at one point saying: “You have a lot of experience in making phony stories about sex appear to be real.”

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    “That’s not how I would put it,” Daniels replied. “The sex in the films is very much real, just like what happened to me in that room.”

    In a more pointed question, Necheles asked, “You were looking to extort money from president Trump, right?”, to which Daniels responded: “False.”

    Blade was asked on CNN about accusations that Daniels made up the affair. “I think she’s a brilliant writer,” Blade said. “So she would have written something way better than what she said about the Trump story.”

    He went on: “She wants to move past this. We just want to do what … normal people would get to do in some aspects, but I don’t know if that ever will be, and it breaks my heart.

    “Everybody has their agenda for her at this point, and I don’t see people fighting back for her.”

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    Don’t despair about the climate. Be part of the social tipping point | Climate crisis

    I must commend the Guardian and Damian Carrington for the excellent reporting on the views of leading climate scientists (‘Hopeless and broken’ Why the world’s top climate scientists are in despair, 8 May). I have experienced climate despair, which has led me to take part in non-violent protests, and I can certainly bear witness to the fact that this kind of collective action goes a long way to offset the despair. However, protest is not for everyone. There are other ways to play our part.

    We can help to accelerate the energy transition. Some 51% of final energy consumption is for heating and cooling, and 32% is for transport, according to the International Energy Agency, so we must ditch the old boiler and invest in a heat pump, and swap our petrol car for an electric model. By fitting solar panels, we can also generate renewable energy to power both transport and heating. Having done these things myself, I have found that the lightening of my carbon footprint brings with it a lightening of climate despair.

    If we support the drive to achieve net zero, we should also join the dots and realise that this means we each have to live net zero lives. Collective acceptance of this may be one of the “social tipping points” that would accelerate the solution. We need to make it socially unacceptable to drive combustion cars and heat our homes with fossil fuels.

    The Guardian is one of a few major newspapers worldwide that is prepared to give the climate crisis the prominence it deserves. Maybe it can be one of the first to help bring about this social tipping point.
    John Coghlan
    Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire

    Your article (World’s top climate scientists expect global heating to blast past 1.5C target, 8 May) and editorial in the same edition (The Guardian view on the climate emergency: we cannot afford to despair, 8 May) highlight the strong emotions felt by the climate science community about where we are in terms of tackling climate change. The words – hopeless, infuriated, scared – stand in contrast to the usual dispassionate language of climate science. Your editorial cautions against despair because it is counterproductive. And yet conversations about climate action continue to be coloured by depictions of a dystopian future.

    Over the past few months, Climate Outreach and More in Common talked to more than 5,000 people across Britain. We’re hearing something a bit different from ordinary people: that government action and investment in tackling climate change makes many people feel positive. The majority want to press ahead with net zero, believing it will be good for the UK. They have hope.

    Climate action happens when people feel a sense of agency – when we believe that we can do something, and that what we do matters. This is the conclusion of a vast amount of social science research – and our own work at Climate Outreach. If we’re to avoid the version of the future that experts fear, we urgently need a new climate conversation.
    Rachael Orr
    CEO, Climate Outreach

    Your editorial is absolutely right that social and political tipping points on climate action are on the horizon, which is why scientists – while their warnings must be urgently heeded, together with the information that every 0.1 degree is important – are not best placed to prophesy our climate fate.

    A business-as-usual society with added technology will not do. Solar panels, electric buses and a circular economy are essential for a livable planet, but without social innovation they will only deliver us to a cleaner disaster.

    Ending financialisation of public services and the crisis of “too much finance”, cutting working hours (with a four-day week without loss of pay for starters) and introducing a universal basic income – to free up human time, energy and talents to be directed well – are the kind of foundational changes that can and must be part of climate action.

    Scientists are not the experts here. Grassroots political activists, campaigners, independent thinkers, indigenous traditions and the people collectively, through participatory democracy, can see and deliver the path to human societies living within the physical limits of this fragile planet while caring for climate and nature.
    Natalie Bennett
    Green party, House of Lords; author of Change Everything: How We Can Rethink, Repair and Rebuild Society

    It doesn’t require a survey to know that the global mean temperature rise will breach 1.5C before 2030. In 2023, Jim Hansen demonstrated that the rate of warming, 0.18C per decade since the early 70s, has increased to 0.27C per decade since 2010. The reasons for the acceleration in warming are not entirely clear, but two important possibilities are the rapid rise in atmospheric methane since 2008, and the loss of aerosol cooling from legislation limiting the sulphur content of fuels used for shipping. The IPCC are therefore deluded if they are claiming that the 1.5C limit is still achievable.
    Dr Robin Russell-Jones
    Founder, Help Rescue the Planet

    Thank you for your explainer article “What are the most powerful climate actions you can take?” (What are the most powerful climate actions you can take? The expert view, the guardian.com, 9 May). The experts you interviewed are quite right in saying that the most powerful action is to vote, but one is quite wrong in saying that “individual action can only amount to a drop in the bucket”. Telling people that they’re just a drop in a bucket is not going to motivate them to act.

    In New York state back in the 70s, Consolidated Edison asked consumers to save electricity because of the fuel crisis. In response, it was said that individual consumers saved so much electricity that the utility applied for a rate hike.

    No one set out to destroy the environment. Survival once meant grabbing everything we could get and doing everything the cheap and easy way. Now we can and must act differently. Voting is fine, but all of us drops in this bucket must also change our consumption habits. Billions of individual decisions put us in this hole; billions of individual decisions will get us out.
    Gregory Johnson
    Bergesserin, Bourgogne, France

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