Germany kickstart Euro 2024 in style and pile on the pain for 10-man Scotland | Euro 2024

Let’s rock! Germany’s players were clearly paying close and diligent attention to Julian Nagelsmann’s signoff at his pre-tournament press conference.

At the Munich Football Arena the hosts kicked off Euro 2024 with a kind of pomp-metal power surge, a first-half display that brought three goals, a red card for Ryan Porteous and evidence of how well Nagelsmann has rebalanced this talented German team.

The night ended in a 5-1 defeat for a persevering Scotland, but it was pretty much packed away in those 10 first-half minutes, with goals from Florian Wirtz and the impressive Jamal Musiala, plus a series of lovely supple passing moves fed through the ageing rhythm section Toni Kroos.

Scotland did at least win the pre- match, occupying Munich for the last two days, wallpapering the Aldstadt with wool-mix plaid. They almost had the last laugh too, pulling one back via an own goal from Antonio Rüdiger. But Emre Can added a fifth in stoppage time. At the end the home players took time to commune with the crowd, take in the ripples of the flag and parp of the horns. It was a near-perfect opening night.

The Munich Football Arena is a giant lighted doughnut dumped down on the wooded fringes of Munich. Hours before kick-off its ­concourses were blocked with heaving human flesh for a game that seems to have acted as a kind of bat-signal for the global Scottish diaspora.

Germany has been a little cool ahead of these Euros. As ever this kind of occasion trails its own fog of mild confusion over flags and emblems and optics. Exactly how German do we want to be here? And is that OK? In the event this turned out to be a gloriously full-throated occasion.

Before kick-off the pitch was concealed beneath miraculous white Uefa vinyl flooring, while joyful gnome-like figures of no discernible nationality gambolled and pranced to give a sense of inoffensive pageantry. The anthems were intense. This felt real, authentic, one of those occasions where memories of early tournament goals, the first eruption of the crowd, are minted and never quite forgotten.

Steve Clarke left Billy Gilmour on the bench, bringing in Callum McGregor. Germany were as expected. Nagelsmann only recently switched to the 4-2-3-1 that has seen this team begin to thrum up through the gears. And they were in with 55 seconds gone, Angus Gunn blocking Wirtz’s close-range shot. He was ­offside. But it felt like a moment. Wirtz’s direct, creative energy is key to how Germany hope to play.

Florian Wirtz profile

Clarke has done an excellent job of organising this Scotland team, radiating both gloom and quiet optimism in just the right measures. But he will be frustrated by the way his players let Kroos have his own portable pocket of space here.

It was Kroos who made the pass that made the opener on 10 minutes. This was a lovely Germany move and a really poor defensive moment for Scotland, who offered no resistance, lulled by the flight of the ball as Kroos pinged his second howling dipping diagonal out to Joshua Kimmich on the right.

Kimmich was free to lay an easy pass across the empty channel of green at the edge of the Scottish area. Wirtz had time to essay a lovely running first-time shot that Gunn got a hand to, but could not keep out. It felt like a training ground goal, with cones for defenders, lovely geometry, the ball travelling in a perfect zigzag into the Scottish net.

At that point Kroos was running the game at a leisurely pace, like a man in a hammock idly completing a word search.

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It was 2-0 on 19 minutes, made by another quick-slow passing move. Kroos slipped the ball to Ilkay Gündogan, who whipped around then threaded the perfect pass to Wirtz. He laid it back to Musiala, who chopped past McGregor and didn’t just shoot, but smashed the ball into the top corner, free to choose exactly how to decorate the moment, and drawing a delayed boom of celebration, the sense of a crowd completely inside the game, reading the goal before it happened.

Ryan Porteous fouls Germany’s Ilkay Gündogan resulting in a red card and a penalty. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

It got harder for Scotland. Germany had a penalty moments later, awarded by Clément Turpin, then disallowed by VAR. But they got a real one on 43 minutes, this time for a two-footed ankle-lunge by Porteous on Gündogan, for which he was correctly shown a red card. Kai Havertz took the kick, sending Gunn the wrong way. A man down, 3-0 down, Scotland trudged to the break in a kind of daze.

Robert Andrich was off at half-time and Ché Adams replaced by Grant Hanley. The question at that point seemed to be: how cruel did Germany want to be?

The Euros demand a show, an absence of dead air. Musiala went through his scales on the left. Wirtz came off to a huge ovation, part of it reserved for his replacement as Germany went full Füllkrug.

On 68 minutes Niclas Füllkrug made it 4-0, taking a loose touch from Hanley and spanking the ball with thrilling power into the top corner. Scotland’s players tracked gamely to the end. Switzerland are five days away. They will require a full mental and physical reset before then.

This was a reminder of Germany’s talent, of Nagelsmann’s status as the most state-of-the-art coach here. And a reminder too for Scotland of the brutality of tournament football, to go with its many glories.

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Italy denies removing LGBTQ and abortion references from G7 declaration | G7

Italy’s far-right government has denied that it removed references to abortion and LGBTQ rights in the final declaration of the G7 summit in Puglia.

In the declaration, published late on Friday, a reference to the protection of the “gender identity and sexual orientation” of the LGBTQ community did not appear, although reference had been included in the final declaration of the G7 in Japan last year.

The word “abortion” was also left out of a broader commitment to “universal access to adequate, affordable, and quality health services for women, including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights for all”.

In last year’s communique, G7 leaders had explicitly committed to addressing “access to safe and legal abortion”.

Bloomberg, which first reported on the removed LGBTQ passage, linked the removal to the involvement in the summit of Pope Francis, with whom the Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, has bonded over LGBTQ and abortion issues. It is the first time a pontiff has addressed a G7 meeting.

“The news published by Bloomberg, according to which any reference to the rights of LGBT people could be removed from the final G7 communique, is devoid of any foundation,” Meloni’s office said. “The Italian presidency [of the G7] categorically denies this reconstruction.”

The allegation followed a clash between Meloni and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, after Italy was accused of diluting a reference to guaranteeing access to “safe and legal” abortions in the G7’s final text. The clause had also been agreed by the G7 members in Japan.

Sources in Meloni’s office denied that the reference had been removed, saying on Thursday that the declaration was still being negotiated and that “everything that will be included in the final document will be final points resulting from the negotiations”.

Macron told reporters on the sidelines of the event that he “regretted” the removal of the reference.

“You don’t have the same sensibilities in your country,” Macron said to an Italian journalist. “France has a vision of equality between women and men, but it’s not a vision shared by all the political spectrum.”

Meloni hit back by accusing Macron, who called a snap election after a surge by France’s far right in the European elections, of using the G7 for “electioneering”, according to reports in the Italian press.

Since taking power in October 2021, Meloni’s government has introduced policies against the LGBTQ community, such as a crackdown on same-sex parenting, and in April approved a law allowing anti-abortion activists to enter abortion clinics.

In early May, Meloni vehemently defended the Italian families minister, Eugenia Roccella, after she was heckled by student protesters over the government’s stance on abortion during a conference on how to reverse Italy’s declining birthrate.

Roccella initially tried to confront the protesters but decided to abandon her planned speech and left the stage. Meloni called the protest “disgraceful”, posting on social media: “It is time to say enough is enough.”

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Princess of Wales to make first public appearance since cancer announcement | Catherine, Princess of Wales

The Princess of Wales has said she is making “good progress” but is “not out of the woods yet” as she announced she intends to attend trooping the colour on Saturday, which would be the first time she has been seen in public since her cancer diagnosis was announced.

Sharing that she has “good days and bad days”, she also revealed her treatment would continue for “a few more months”.

In a personal written message, released on the couple’s social media accounts, along with a new photograph of her taken in Windsor this week, she said she and the Prince of Wales were “blown away” by kind messages of support.

She said: “I am making good progress, but as anyone going through chemotherapy will know, there are good days and bad days. On those bad days you feel weak, tired and you have to give in to your body resting. But on the good days, when you feel stronger, you want to make the most of feeling well.

“My treatment is ongoing and will be for a few more months. On the days I feel well enough, it is a joy to engage with school life, spend personal time on the things that give me energy and positivity, as well as starting to do a little work from home.”

The princess added: “I’m looking forward to attending the king’s birthday parade this weekend with my family and hope to join a few public engagements over the summer, but equally knowing I am not out of the woods yet.

“I am learning how to be patient, especially with uncertainty. Taking each day as it comes, listening to my body, and allowing myself to take this much-needed time to heal. Thank you so much for your continued understanding, and to all of you who have so bravely shared your stories with me.”

Catherine is due to watch the parade from the major general’s office with her family and is expected to appear on the Buckingham Palace balcony, though plans may be amended at short notice depending on how she feels. Downing Street and the Cabinet Office have been informed of her decision to attend.

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said on Friday: “His Majesty is delighted that the princess is able to attend tomorrow’s events, and is much looking forward to all elements of the day.”

The princess announced in March that she was undergoing a course of preventive chemotherapy, which she is still undergoing, and her attendance at trooping is said not to represent a return to a full schedule of public engagements. She will not attend the Order of the Garter or Royal Ascot next week.

She may decide to attend some events over the course of the summer, as and when she feels able to, with the support and guidance of her medical team, but is said to be prioritising her recovery. No decisions have been made on specific engagements over the coming months.

Catherine is said to have started working a little from home and both she and her medical team have made it clear that going about her normal life and doing some of the things she enjoys will be an integral part of her recovery, it is understood.

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In addition to briefings from her team at Kensington Palace, the Royal Foundation and the Centre for Early Childhood, she is said to have started to undertake some meetings relating to her work and projects.

A Kensington Palace spokesperson said of her attendance at this weekend’s event: “As she has said, she is making good progress and is looking forward to joining the family.”

Of her treatment, the spokesperson said: “As she said in her message, and as anyone receiving chemotherapy will know, she has good days and bad days.”

Of Prince William, the spokesperson added: “The prince is pleased to see the princess starting to engage with the work and projects that are important to her. He will continue to focus his time on supporting his wife and children, while continuing to undertake his public duties.”

Aides are not putting a timeframe on when she will be able to resume full public duties, stressing it is important she is allowed time to heal and build her strength. Speculation over her condition has been extremely unhelpful and put extra pressure on her and her family, it is said.

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Not suitable for trains: how Bridgerton’s longest ever sex scene set commuters’ pulses racing | Bridgerton

This week I have seen more than one tweet from mortified people who thought it would be OK to watch the new batch of Bridgerton episodes on the train on their way to work. The reason they were mortified was the first new episode, in which a sex scene goes on and on. And on. And on.

According to people who know these things, the sex scene – between Nicola Coughlan’s Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton’s Colin Bridgerton – was the longest in the show’s history, clocking in at almost six minutes. It was so long, in fact, that Coughlan and Newton managed to break the furniture they were filming on.

Even more inexplicably, it’s a good sex scene, in that it’s absolutely vital to the storyline. It’s a key moment in the evolution of the characters, and an important part of the story. It’s romantic and tender, and also sexy enough to embarrass anyone who made the mistake of trying to watch it on public transport.

But is it the longest sex scene ever to be shown on television? The answer is no, not quite. Before I proceed, I’d like to point out that I was asked to do this and I really should have charged double for the irreparable damage this research has done to my internet search history, but on we go anyway.

Technically the longest sex scene ever shown on British television comes during episode four of Billie Piper and Lucy Prebble’s brilliant series I Hate Suzie. At the time of broadcast, many headlines declared that this was not only a wildly long sex scene, but a wildly long solo sex scene, lasting a full seven minutes and four seconds. Whether or not it counts is another matter entirely, since the masturbation is used as a framing device allowing Piper’s character to think about her entire life up until that point. Most of it is flashbacks. It’s very cleverly done – and, again, important to the story – but you suspect all the tabloid readers who watched because of a few lurid headlines probably left quite disappointed.

Skin in the game … Spartacus: Blood and Sand featured plentiful sex. Photograph: Cinematic/Alamy

Netflix’s Sense8 – a show still mourned by a devoted few – never shied away from sex. There were rumours that the orgy in the sixth episode was one of the longest ever shot, but again that isn’t quite what it delivered. Although the scene is all meat, so to speak – with three guys and a girl going at it in a variety of positions and locations – it’s let down slightly by its length. Yes, by most standards it’s long, but at four minutes it’s hardly a record breaker. Worse, the whole thing is soundtracked by a Macy Gray song, so that’s something you’ll have to learn to cope with.

Also, it might be worth pointing out that length of individual sex scenes is not the only way to quantify a show’s sexiness. If you want to know which show has the most sex in total, the winner is likely to be Starz’s still-preposterous Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which notched up 79 minutes of sex in its 13-episode duration. Then again, in 2020 a company called UberKinky claimed that 19.25% of David Duchovny series Californication was made up of sex scenes. That seems high but, hey, who am I to argue with UberKinky?

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Exhausted … Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar Jones in Normal People. Photograph: Enda Bowe/BBC/Element Pictures/Hulu

Clearly, though, there’s only one winner here, and that’s the BBC Three adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People. Even though episodes were only half an hour long, there were two separate occasions in which sex scenes exceeded that of Bridgerton. In episode 11, one stretches on for six and a half minutes. Meanwhile, episode two features a sex scene that lasts for a full 10 minutes. Again, we might have to invoke the I Hate Suzie rule a little here, since a minute and a half of that is flashback. But even if we do, it’s a clear runaway winner. The moral of the story is that you definitely shouldn’t watch Normal People on a train.

Of course, I don’t possess an encyclopaedic knowledge of every sex scene ever filmed for television, so there’s a decent chance that I’m missing some whoppers here. If I am, please be sure to let everyone know. Alternatively, keep it to yourself, pervert. Either way, this is how I spent my morning. I look forward to making eye contact with people today.

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Vladimir Putin issues fresh demands to Ukraine to end war | Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin has demanded that Kyiv cede more land, withdraw troops deeper inside its own country, and drop its Nato bid in order for him to end his war in Ukraine.

Putin’s fresh ceasefire demands were issued as envoys from more than 90 countries, including Ukraine, convene in Switzerland this weekend to discuss a western-led peace plan. Russia is not invited to the conference and the president’s remarks on Friday were likely to have been timed as a spoiler to that summit.

Speaking to diplomats at the Russian foreign ministry, Putin publicly updated his terms for ending the war in Ukraine for the first time since he launched a full-scale invasion in February 2022, when he demanded regime change in Kyiv and the country’s “demilitarisation”.

The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, said Putin was in “no position” to make demands on Ukraine and could end the war he had started “today if he chose to do that.” The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said the offer could not be trusted and Putin would not stop his military offensive even if his ceasefire demands were met.

The new terms appear to be a nonstarter, as Putin staked out a maximalist position that included claims on land that Russia has “annexed” without holding under its military control. Putin demanded that Ukrainian troops leave the entire regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia and that they be declared Russian territory by international agreement, calling the issue “closed” for Russia.

“As soon as Kyiv says it is ready to make this decision, begins the actual pull-out of forces from those regions and formally declares the abandonment of its plans to join Nato, we will instantly, that very second, order a ceasefire and begin negotiations,” Putin said.

Putin also demanded that the west drop all financial sanctions against Russia as a precondition to a ceasefire. The US this week expanded sanctions on the Russian banking sector, currency trading on the largest Russian stock exchange, as well as chips and other technology. US Treasury officials said they were targeting the Russian financial infrastructure and access to third markets as Russia completed its “transition to a full war economy”.

The G7, which comprises the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan, also agreed this week to use Russian sovereign assets frozen in the west as collateral for a $5bn loan package that would help keep Ukraine’s economy afloat in what had become a war of attrition against its Russian neighbour.

Putin on Friday decried the agreement as an attempt to provide “some kind of legal basis” for “theft”.

“Despite all the trickery, this theft will certainly remain a theft,” he told diplomats during the speech. “And it will not go unpunished.”

Ukraine and western countries were highly unlikely to agree to Putin’s terms. Kyiv has demanded that Russian troops leave its territory and that it return control over the 1991 borders, including the Crimean peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014. Ukrainian officials quickly dismissed Putin’s remarks as a “complete sham”.

“Of course, there is no novelty in this, no real peace proposals and no desire to end the war,” wrote Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential administration. “But there is a desire not to pay for this war and to continue it in new formats. It’s all a complete sham. Therefore – once again – get rid of illusions and stop taking seriously the “[Russian proposals]” that are offensive to common sense.”

Podolyak interpreted Putin’s proposals as telling Ukraine to “give us your territories”, “give up your sovereignty and subjectivity”, and to “leave yourselves unprotected” by committing to a non-aligned status outside of Nato.

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The alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, rejected the conditions set out by Putin. “This is a proposal that actually means that Russia should achieve their war aims, by expecting that Ukrainians should give up significantly more land than Russia has been able to occupy so far,” he told reporters.

“This is a proposal of more aggression, more occupation and, and it demonstrates, in a way, that Russia’s aim is to control Ukraine.”

Boris Bondarev, a former Russian diplomat who resigned in 2022 in protest at the war, said Putin had “thrown a bone to a bunch of useful idiots” by giving lip-service to a peace process without fundamentally altering Russia’s negotiating position on the conflict.

Zelenskiy last November issued a 10-point peace plan that included stipulations that Russia leave Ukrainian territory and that a special tribunal be established to investigate war crimes.

Putin on Friday dismissed the forthcoming peace summit in Switzerland, saying it was “just another trick to distract everyone’s attention”.

“Without Russia’s participation, without an honest and responsible dialogue with us, it is impossible to reach a peaceful solution in Ukraine and in general on global and European security,” Putin said.

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Wildlife experts urge action on pesticides as UK insect populations plummet | Insects

The UK’s insect populations are declining at alarming rates and the next government must put in place plans to monitor and reduce the use and toxicity of pesticides before it is too late, wildlife experts say.

In recent years, concerns have been raised over earthworm populations, which have fallen by a third in the past 25 years. A citizen science project that monitors flying insects in the UK, meanwhile, found a 60% decline between 2004 and 2021. The overall trajectory, as government monitoring figures show, has been downwards since the 1970s.

Yet despite the evidence of the harmful effect of pesticides on our insect population, governmental action has been slow, and experts are concerned that the UK is failing to monitor pesticide use correctly.

“There is an almost complete lack of effective monitoring of pesticide use in UK agriculture,” said Nick Mole, the policy officer at Pesticide Action Network UK. “What little we do have is incomplete, out of date and on such a broad scale as to be virtually meaningless.

“The UK urgently needs a publicly accessible record of all pesticides used on farms across the UK, that is presented within six months of application and shown at farm level or, at a minimum, by river catchment. We should also have access to pesticide sales data, information which is currently concealed beneath the cloak of commercial confidentiality. Without accurate data, it is impossible to properly assess the impact of pesticides or to make effective decisions. Right now we are legislating in the dark.”

The Conservative government was due to publish the National Action Plan on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides (NAP) in 2018, which would have laid out targets and plans for pesticide reduction and monitoring. But six years later it has still not materialised.

The Pesticide Collaboration, made up of 81 NGOs, academics and farming groups including the RSPB, Buglife, British Beekeepers Association, Greenpeace and the Nature Friendly Farming Network, has set out its “red lines” for what needs to be in the delayed plan.

It said: “The UK has committed to ‘reducing the overall risk from pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals by at least half’ in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed at Cop15. This should now be reflected in national policy, and domestic pesticide regulation must go further than this and use the words ‘use’ and ‘toxicity’ instead of risk.”

Labour sources have said that they will immediately consult scientists in the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) if and when the team enters the department after the election.

The party has already announced that it will end exemptions for bee-killing pesticides that have been outlawed in the EU but which the UK government has approved for four years in a row.

This year, the Conservative government allowed the use of thiamethoxam, also known as Cruiser SB, on sugar beet crops – against the advice of its scientists, who said it would pose a threat to bees. Prof Dave Goulson, a bee expert at the University of Sussex, has warned that one teaspoon of the chemical is enough to kill 1.25bn honeybees. Even a minuscule trace of this toxin can disrupt a bee’s ability to navigate and reproduce, significantly reducing its chance of survival.

There is also a growing gap in ambition on pesticides between the UK and the EU. The UK has failed to ban 36 pesticides that are prohibited in the EU, even though ministers promised the UK would not water down EU-derived environmental standards after Brexit.

The UK has failed to ban 36 pesticides that are not allowed for use in the EU. Photograph: Loop Images Ltd/Alamy

Campaigners have called for the next government to put in place a proper strategy for pesticide reduction. Vicki Hird, agriculture lead at The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Pollinating insects like bees and moths, and predators of crop pests like ladybird beetles and dragonflies, are the foundation for a productive and sustainable food system. Yet these two groups of bugs have declined by 18% and 34% respectively since 1970. An overreliance on chemicals – combined with habitat loss and climate change – could see these figures plummet even further. This would make a bad situation much worse for UK wildlife and potentially spell disaster for UK food production.

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“Despite outlining some positive intention to reduce pesticide use, the current UK government has failed to give this issue the attention it deserves. Earlier this year, it sent signals to the rest of the world that insects don’t matter by authorising the use of a banned pesticide, thiamethoxam, on sugar beet crop for the fourth year in a row. We want to see an end to these emergency authorisations and a proper plan to dramatically reduce pesticide use over the next few years. This issue – and indeed dangerous chemicals – must not be kicked into the long grass.”

Richard Benwell, the CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: “The UK is signed up to an international pledge to halve the risk from pesticides and hazardous chemicals by 2030. Political parties should offer greater incentives to farmers to reduce or cease pesticide use across their farms, ban the use of pesticides in urban areas, and review the approach to authorisations so that banned chemicals cannot continue to be granted emergency use”.

Under the new post-Brexit farming payments, the environment land management schemes, farmers are rewarded for using fewer pesticides. However, agricultural businesses argue that more support and education is needed so farmers do not fear moving away from the pesticides they have long relied on to grow their crops.

Martin Lines, the CEO of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said: “We’ve been on a journey of change for the last 10 to 15 years. I remember seeing fields being cultivated with very few worms and hardly any birds following the plough, so we changed the way we managed our soil to reduce disturbance and increase the organic matter that feeds the worms. As a result, I’ve seen numbers greatly increase along with improved soil health.

“Having healthier soil is leading to healthier crops, which in turns leads to less disease and less use of fungicides to control them. Gaining knowledge of the role of predatory insects, pollinators, invertebrates and beetles in managing and controlling pests led me to change practices and put more diversity of habitats in our farmed landscape. The flower-rich margins and grass margins we placed in and around our fields are home to the predatory insects and pollinators that now control the majority of our pests. This has allowed me to stop using insecticides altogether.”

Defra has been approached for comment.

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Pigeons on the pill: scientists look to contraceptives to curb pest numbers | Animals

The invention of the contraceptive pill heralded the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and now scientists are looking to revolutionise wildlife control by getting animals in on the action.

Trials are under way in the UK and elsewhere in Europe of how to get contraceptives into pigeons, wild boar and grey squirrels, with scientists also proposingother rodents, invasive parakeets and deer as other target species.

As destruction from invasive and pest species grows, researchers are looking to fill special feeders and bait boxes with hazelnut spreads and grains laced with contraceptives. They believe this could be a more humane and effective way of controlling populations that have previously been poisoned, shot or trapped.

The aim is to find “creative solutions”, says Dr Giovanna Massei from York University. “The main message is that the economic and the environmental impact of wildlife are increasing worldwide, and we are running out of options,” she says. “Traditional methods such as culling are ineffective, can be inhumane, unsustainable, environmentally harmful, and are increasingly opposed by the public.”

Grey squirrels are a particular issue for the UK. These non-native animals were first introduced from the US to England in the 1800s as an ornamental species for stately homes. However, they spread widely, causing local extinctions of the native red squirrels and damaging woodlands by stripping bark. The species is estimated to cost £37m a year in lost timber in England and Wales. Grey squirrels are seen as a bigger threat to broadleaf trees than deer and pathogens, according to a Royal Forestry Society survey.

Trials are under way to deliver oral contraceptives hidden in a hazelnut spread for squirrels in the UK, using specially weighted feeders that only grey squirrels can open (red squirrels are lighter, so the trap will not open for them). Preliminary results suggest the method is working.

Pigeons could be fed a “breakfast” of corn grains containing the contraceptive every morning, said Dr Marco Pellizzari, a veterinary consultant. “They really love to get that … It’s very easy,” he says.

In London, the non-native parakeet could also be a recipient, but it would mean asking residents who routinely feed them in their gardens to give them food with contraceptives in it.

Next week York University will host the first workshop on wildlife fertility control, where experts and researchers involved in the trials will discuss how to deliver contraceptives to pests – animals considered harmful to people, farming or native habitats.

A wild boar in Rome. Continental Europe has seen a rapid increase in the animals, considered pests by Italian farmers. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Across continental Europe and Scandinavia, there has been a rapid increase in wild boars, with the rise in numbers believed to be linked to milder winters. Some consider them pests because they root up cropland, munch through rubbish and cause traffic accidents. Italian farmers’ associations say the wild boar population doubled from 500,000 in 2010 to one million by 2020. In Germany and in France, more than half a million are shot every year, but numbers are increasing, and the number of people who want to hunt them is declining. Massei says culling is “clearly not controlling a number of these animals”.

A pilot programme is under way to look at giving them contraceptives using devices that only boar can lift up, using their burrowing snouts. The feeder works but the oral contraceptive has not yet been developed.

Many countries are now banning the use of rodenticides because of their impact on other animals, including birds of prey, which have died from eating the poisoned carcasses. The chemicals are also considered inhumane, as animals can suffer for several days after eating anticoagulants before they die. Glue traps have been banned in England, Scotland and Wales, and other sorts of live traps will probably be further regulated, according to Prof Steve Belmain, an ecologist from Greenwich University.

Yet rodents pose significant threats to agriculture, as well as transmitting diseases to livestock. “We don’t have many alternatives to lethal control. That’s where fertility control really could be a great opportunity to manage these things,” says Belmain.

Feral horses in the US are already on contraceptives, as well as African elephants outside Kruger national park, who are injected. The only contraceptive registered for use in Europe is nicarbazin, which is only allowed to be used on pigeons in a few countries such as Italy, Spain, Belgium and Austria.

A regular gathering point for pigeons near Oxford Street in London. Photograph: Mike Kemp/In Pictures/Getty

Researchers are also looking into the possibility of giving deer contraception, but so far no orally administered one has been designed for grazing animals. Britain has more deer than at any point in the past 1,000 years, causing extensive damage to woodlands.

There is concern that using products based on synthetic hormones could result in oestrogenic chemicals getting into the environment, which has negative effects such as feminising male fish. It is also not known what the impacts would be on a predatory bird if it ate a rodent that had eaten a contraceptive. “We need to really understand these things as part of that regulatory process,” says Belmain.

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Children near Amsterdam airport use inhalers more, study finds | Air pollution

As the public hearings for London Gatwick airport’s northern runway resume, researchers from the Netherlands have found greater inhaler use in children living near Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

Stand close to a large airport and, if the wind is in the wrong direction, each cubic centimetre of air that you breathe will contain tens of thousands of ultrafine particles (UFP).

Air pollution measurement equipment was installed in three primary schools, each about a kilometre from the airport fence. The researchers took weekly measurements of the lung function of 161 children at the schools and 19 asthmatic children living near the airport. With schools to the north and south of the airport, the children experienced airport UFP at different times.

The children were also taught how to take their own lung measurements at home in the mornings and evening. It was these records that revealed the most significant finding from the study.

Prof Gerard Hoek of Utrecht University, who led the study, said: “On days with high aviation-related UFP, children experienced substantially more respiratory symptoms and used more symptom-relieving medication.” These symptoms included coughing, wheeziness and phlegm. Wind direction alone was not a good predictor of exposure to airport UFP so it is unlikely that parents or children will have known their day-to-day exposure. UFP and soot from traffic was also associated with symptoms and changes in morning lung tests.

In 2021, the Dutch Health Council and the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted the growing evidence that UFP are damaging our health. This included 75 studies, but technical differences between the studies meant that the WHO could not set a standard at that time.

In 2020, a study of four European capitals found aviation UFP in the city centres that came from airports on the outskirts. In the UK, UFP from Heathrow can be measured in central London nearly 20km away and all across the west of the city. UFP has also been measured under the flight paths of airports in the US, including Boston’s Logan international airport, but these measurements do not capture what it feels like to live close to an airport.

During 2018 and 2019, I led a team of researchers that measured UFP around Gatwick including in Horley, a town of 23,000 people next to the airport. We found that UFP 500 metres downwind of the airport was greater than that at the kerb of London’s busiest roads.

Victoria Chester, a Green party local councillor, described living close to Gatwick: “I live very close to where airport expansion will most heavily impact Horley. Living near the airport you become used to the noise and smell but on some days it’s so bad you can taste the pollution in the air and when the wind blows in your direction it really stinks.”

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A Gatwick spokesperson said: “The health impact assessment within the northern runway project environmental statement includes an appropriate assessment of UFP. London Gatwick is committed to participating in national aviation industry body studies of UFP emissions at airports, including those reviewing how monitoring could be undertaken. We have put forward a voluntary contribution to fund work should the government introduce standards.”

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Ukraine war briefing: Sanctions to strike at Putin’s oil ‘shadow fleet’ | Ukraine

  • The UK has announced dozens of new sanctions aimed at constraining Russia’s war in Ukraine, including targeting Moscow’s main stock exchange, a day after Washington announced similar measures. Washington on Wednesday unveiled a raft of sanctions, including on the Moscow exchange and several subsidiaries, that raise the stakes for foreign banks that still deal with Russia. The punishment, set to complicate billions of dollars in transactions, dramatically prompted the Moscow exchange to halt dollar and euro trades on Thursday.

  • Among the new UK sanctions are its first on vessels in Putin’s so-called shadow fleet, used by the Kremlin to circumvent western curbs on its oil exports. They also target suppliers of munitions, machine tools, microelectronics, and logistics to Russia’s military. Those suppliers include entities based in China, Israel, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey, along with ships transporting military goods from North Korea to Russia.

  • The Financial Times reports that the UK “shadow fleet” sanctions cover the large Russian insurer Ingosstrakh as well as individual tankers including one called the Canis Power. More details of the sanctions package are included in the government announcement.

  • China said it firmly opposed Britain’s decision to include five Chinese firms in the sanctions, which target China-based Hengshui Yuanchem Trading and Hong Kong-based HK Hengbangwei Electronics for allegedly being or having been involved in “destabilising Ukraine” or “undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine”.

  • Leaders of the G7 western economies have meanwhile outlined an agreement handing $50bn (£39bn) of aid to Ukraine backed by frozen Russian state assets. The loan agreement, hammered out in complex legal talks over the past three months, will see a special fund operating by the end of the year. The interest on the large loan is to be funded not by Ukraine but from the profits derived from the frozen Russian state assets.

  • The US and Ukraine have also signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement, announced as Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskiy met at the G7 summit in Puglia, Italy. Biden said arrangements were being made to provide Ukraine with five Patriot missile defence systems, adding: “Everything we have is going to Ukraine until its needs are met.”

  • Zelenskiy described the deal as the “strongest agreement” struck since his country’s independence in 1991, noting it would last through the war and afterwards, covering intelligence cooperation and the strengthening of Ukrainian defence industries. In addition, Ukraine and Japan signed a 20-year security agreement on the sidelines of the G7, Zelenskiy said, that envisages security and defence assistance, humanitarian aid, technical and financial cooperation.

  • On the frontlines, Ukraine said on Thursday that its forces were fighting fierce battles near Chasiv Yar, a strategic hilltop settlement whose capture would give the Russians a powerful foothold in the eastern Donetsk region. “Two combat engagements continue near Ivanivske,” the Ukrainian military said. “The situation is tense.” Ivanivske is a small town just outside Chasiv Yar.

  • Farther south in the Donetsk region, officials said one civilian was killed near Pokrovsk, another point where Russia has concentrated its firepower. A 40-year-old man was killed by Russian fire in the Kherson region, Ukrainian officials said, while Russian-installed authorities in the region meanwhile said one civilian was killed by Ukrainian forces.

  • Allies will send Ukraine about €350m worth of 152mm artillery shells, the Dutch defence ministry said on Thursday, after a two-day “Ramstein group” meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels. “In previous ammunition deliveries, Ukraine has so far received mainly 155mm shells for howitzers donated by the west. However, the country also has many 152mm guns. With the new delivery, these weapons can also be better utilised,” said the ministry.

  • Returning to the G7, Zelenskiy, at a joint press conference with Biden, said the Chinese president, Xi Jinping had assured him during a phone conversation that “he will not sell any weapon to Russia. We’ll see if he’s [a] respectable person he will not, because he gave me [his] word.” But Biden added: “China is not supplying weapons but the ability to produce those weapons and the technology available to do it, so it is in fact helping Russia.”

  • China, skipping the coming weekend’s summit on a peace plan for Ukraine, has been lobbying governments with its alternative plan, 10 diplomats have told Reuters, with one calling Beijing’s campaign a “subtle boycott” of the global meeting in Switzerland. Reuters cited Beijing-based diplomats, one of whom said China had told developing nations the Swiss meeting would prolong the war, while two diplomats with direct knowledge of the matter said China had been telling western nations that many developing countries shared its views.

  • China’s own proposal calls for an international peace conference “held at a proper time that is recognised by both Russia and Ukraine, with equal participation of all parties as well as fair discussion of all peace plans”. Zelenskiy recently accused China of trying to undermine the Swiss conference but has also encouraged Beijing to take part in find a route to peace.

  • Countries supporting Ukraine must speed up their decision making, the outgoing Dutch PM, Mark Rutte said on Thursday. Rutte, a leading candidate to become Nato’s next secretary general, was speaking at a conference in Finland.

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