Cricket World Cup: ‘Only cricket makes Afghanistan smile’

Afghanistan bowler Hamid Hassan says cricket is the “only thing that will bring a smile” to his country.

Hassan, 31, will retire from one-day internationals after the upcoming World Cup, and wants a “special” finale.

Afghanistan were knocked out in the group stage in 2015, but victories over Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in last year’s Asia Cup have shown an improvement.

“It’s a big inspiration for the youngsters,” Hassan told Stumped on the BBC World Service.

“If you target something, then you can achieve it, but you have to work really hard, which is what this team has done over the past 15 years.

“We never looked back and we have always turned the negatives into the positives.

“From nowhere, Afghanistan have become one of the top 10 in the world so it’s a big achievement for the country.”

Like many of his team-mates, Hassan learned the game in a refugee camp in Pakistan after his family fled their war-torn homeland.

Afghanistan lost six matches in their first World Cup four years ago, winning just once against Scotland, but Hassan says there is a “strong belief” for their visit to England.

“You can see the improvements in the past four years with the victories and the contribution of each player,” he said.

“The wickets look like they play in Asia, so they are all 300-run-plus wickets and I want to be economical.”

Hassan is well-known for his cartwheel after dismissing Kumar Sangakkara against Sri Lanka in 2015 and the seam bowler may have more celebrations up his sleeve.

“If I get David Warner or Rohit Sharma, maybe I will try to celebrate with a proper cartwheel, unlike last time when I hurt myself,” he said.

“We love the country. We all support and play for the nation and we play for the Afghanistan people.”

They begin their campaign against Australia in Bristol on 1 June.


Trump-Putin summit: Why is it a big deal?

US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are holding a summit in the Finnish capital, Helsinki. Why is this so hotly anticipated?

The US and Russia have long been adversaries but accusations that Moscow interfered in the US presidential election in 2016 have added an extra, bitter ingredient.

Let’s take a look.

Why are there US-Russia tensions?

It goes back to the so-called Cold War (from 1945 to 1989) and the hostilities between the US and the then Soviet Union.

They never fought each other directly but differences remained even after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consolidation of the US as the world’s sole superpower.

Fast forward to now, and Mr Putin has made no secret of his determination to reassert Russian power after years of perceived humiliation, often putting his country on a collision course with the US.

Difficult at the best of times, bilateral relations have deteriorated significantly since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. That led the US and others to impose a series of economic sanctions on Russia.

Why is a meeting between these men so important?

Their relationship has become one of the most scrutinised in global affairs, because of claims of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, which has been denied by Moscow.

US intelligence agencies believe Russia tried to sway the election in Mr Trump’s favour.

An investigation into what Russia did and whether any of the Trump team helped them is the subject of an investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, dismissed by the president as a “witch hunt”.

Repeatedly he has called it a Democratic conspiracy driven by bitterness at losing the election.

Since taking office in January 2017, President Trump has sought to improve ties, a stance at odds with traditional Republican party policy.

Last month, he supported Russia’s re-admission to the group of industrialised nations – now called G7 – after its suspension following the annexation of Crimea.

What have they said about each other?

Mr Trump has made several comments praising Mr Putin. “Very much of a leader,” he said in 2016, “far more than our president has been a leader,” in reference to Barack Obama.

Last year, he called Mr Putin a “tough cookie”.

Mr Putin has been more guarded in his views about Mr Trump, but has called him a “very bright person, talented” and a “colourful” man in the past.

What will they discuss?

Official statements have lacked details but the talks are likely to include:

  • Arms control: Both leaders have bragged about their nuclear capabilities and experts say this is one of the key points to watch. US and Russia have a deal called New Start, aimed at reducing and limiting the size of their nuclear arsenals, the two largest in the world. It is in effect until 2021 and any progress in extending it will be seen as a good sign. They are also likely to discuss a missiles treaty signed in 1987 amid mutual accusations of breaches
  • US sanctions: Those were imposed on companies and individuals over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its support to separatists in eastern Ukraine, its role in the conflict in Syria and its alleged interference in the 2016 election. Congress needs to approve the easing of restrictions but observers say Mr Trump can indicate that the list of those sanctioned will not be expanded, a move that would be welcomed by Russia
  • Ukraine: The US has given military aid to Ukraine and Mr Putin would be happy to see it scrapped. This, as well as a recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, is unlikely to happen. But both leaders can agree to allow international peacekeepers to patrol eastern Ukraine, where a conflict has killed more than 10,000 people
  • Syria: Israel, a key US ally, wants to see Iran and Iranian-backed forces away from south-west Syria, in the area next to its border. Mr Trump is likely to raise the issue but analysts say it is not clear whether Mr Putin can make any offer that includes limiting Iran’s activities in the country, for example

Why are Trump’s allies worried?

During a summit with Nato countries last week, Mr Trump signed a joint statement condemning “Russian aggression”.

The question many now ask is whether he will raise the concerns of the allies directly with the Russian president.

It has been widely reported that the European partners have not been briefed about what Mr Trump is really trying to achieve in Helsinki.

There is a fear that after a tumultuous trip to Europe he will have some warm words for Mr Putin.

Mr Trump bashed Nato allies over their defence spending, said Germany was “controlled by Russia” because of its gas imports and criticised UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan.

What to expect?

It’s hard to say. Mr Trump’s unorthodox approach to such talks makes any prediction look more like a guessing game, but US advisers have downplayed any chance of major announcements.

Adding an air of mystery is the fact that both will speak in private during their meeting, with only their interpreters expected to be present


World Cup 2018: Harry Kane wins Golden Boot and Luka Modric the Golden Ball

England captain Harry Kane has won the Golden Boot after finishing as the World Cup’s top scorer with Croatia’s Luka Modric winning the Golden Ball for being the player of the tournament.

Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard was the second-best player, with France forward Antoine Griezmann third.

His French team-mate Kylian Mbappe won the Young Player Award.

Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois was awarded the Golden Glove for being the leading goalkeeper.

Modric ‘did the lion share of our play’

Former Tottenham midfielder Modric scored in Croatia’s opening two matches – a 2-0 win over against Nigeria and then the 3-0 victory against Argentina – and also made one assist as he guided his country to their first World Cup final, which they lost 4-2 against France.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said: “He played a terrific tournament which is another commendation for the team which helped to bring about Luka’s success. He did the lion share of our play and he was a deserved winner of the Golden Ball.”

Chelsea’s Hazard got two goals in the 5-2 win over Tunisia and also scored in his side’s 2-0 win versus England in the third-fourth play-off on Saturday.

Atletico Madrid striker Griezmann won the Golden Boot at the 2016 European Championships with six goals and scored four and made a further two at this World Cup.

Paris St-Germain forward Mbappe, 19, enhanced his growing reputation with a series of fine performances that saw him awarded with a silver ball for winning the Young Player Award.

He scored the only goal in France’s 1-0 group win against Peru, netted twice in the 4-3 win over Argentina in the last 16 and grabbed France’s fourth goal in the final.

Chelsea’s Courtois helped Belgium finish third with a number of fine performances in goal to earn the Golden Glove Award. He kept clean sheets in the group win over Panama and the two matches against England and made a number of vital saves in the wins over Japan and Brazil


Rolls Royce develops propulsion system for flying taxi

Engine maker Rolls-Royce has designed a propulsion system for a flying taxi which it says could take to the skies as soon as early next decade.

The British firm said it had drawn up plans for an “electric vertical take-off and landing” (EVTOL) vehicle, which could carry four to five people.

The vehicle could travel at speeds of up to 250 mph (402 km/h) for approximately 500 miles, it said.

Rolls joins a variety of other firms in seeking to develop flying vehicles.

Speaking ahead of this week’s Farnborough Airshow, Rob Watson, head of the company’s electrical team, said: “We are well placed to play a leading role in the emerging world of personal air mobility and will also look to work in collaboration with a range of partners.”

Flying vehicles have long been the stuff of science fiction, but aviation and technology companies are now working to make them a reality.

Airbus, US ride-sharing firm Uber and a range of start-ups including one backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, called Kitty Hawk, have all announced projects.

Rolls said the initial concept for EVTOL used gas turbine technology to generate electricity to power six electric propulsors, specially designed to have a low noise profile.

Its wings would be able to rotate 90 degrees, enabling the vehicle to take off or land vertically. It could also use existing heliports and airports.

“We believe that given the work we are doing today to develop hybrid electric propulsion capabilities, this model could be available by the early to mid 2020s, provided that a viable commercial model for its introduction can be created,” the firm said.

The company, which will disclose more details at Farnborough, said it was looking for an airframe maker and a partner to provide aspects of the electrical system.


Chicago clashes after US police kill black man

Police in Chicago have clashed with protesters after an officer fatally shot a black man who was suspected of carrying a gun.
A crowd of about 150 people shouted “murderers”, threw objects and jumped on police cars during the confrontation in Chicago’s South Side area.
Officers armed with batons traded punches with the protesters, local media reports said.
Three officers sustained minor injuries and there were four arrests.
A string of police killings of black men, some unarmed, has caused outrage and led to protests in cities across the US.
Police said the demonstrators in Chicago on Saturday were dispersed at about 22:30 local time (03:30 GMT).
The shot man’s identity has not yet been released but he is thought to have been aged in his 30s, local media reported.
A police statement said officers on patrol in the South Shore district at about 17:30 local time saw the man “exhibiting the characteristics of an armed person”.
“An armed confrontation ensued resulting in an officer discharging his weapon and fatally striking the offender,” the statement said, adding that police recovered a gun and two ammunition magazines at the scene.
Chicago police patrol chief Fred Waller told US media that officers saw a bulge in the victim’s trousers that they thought was a gun.
When they approached the man, he “started flailing and swinging away, trying to make an escape” and then “reached for the gun”, Mr Waller said.


Afghanistan conflict: Civilian deaths hit record high, says UN

The number of civilians killed in the long-running war in Afghanistan reached a record high in the first six months of this year, the UN says.
Some 1,692 fatalities were recorded, with militant attacks and suicide bombs said to be the leading causes of death.
The report comes as at at least seven people were killed in an attack on the rural development ministry in Kabul.
Recent attacks claimed by Taliban and Islamic State group militants have killed scores across the country.
The figures for the conflict, which began in 2001, are the highest since the UN started keeping records in 2009.
The report, by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), says the number of recorded deaths rose by 1% compared with the same period last year.
However, the report adds, injuries fell by 5% to 3,430, and the total number of civilian casualties – accounting for deaths and injuries – dropped by 3% to 5,122.
The record high death toll came despite an unprecedented ceasefire by Afghan security forces and the Taliban last month, which was largely respected by both sides, Unama said.
Earlier this month, Nato leaders gathered at a summit in Brussels to discuss the conflict in Afghanistan.
The US has said it is planning a strategic review a year after President Donald Trump agreed to remain involved in the 17-year conflict.
The US-led invasion drove the hardline Taliban from power in 2001, as part of a crackdown on Islamist militants after the 9/11 attacks in the US.


Lift-off for Scotland: Sutherland to host first UK spaceport

The A’Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland has been chosen as the most suitable place from which to launch rockets vertically to put satellites in orbit.

The UK Space Agency is giving Highlands and Islands Enterprise £2.5m towards the development of the facility.

HIE will work closely with operators. The American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin wants to be one of the partners.

The goal would be to have launches as early as possible in the 2020s.

“The decision to support the UK’s first spaceport in Sutherland is tremendous news for our region and for Scotland as a whole,” said HIE’s chief executive Charlotte Wright.

“The international space sector is growing and we want to ensure the region is ready to reap the economic benefits that will be generated from this fantastic opportunity.”

Lockheed has made no secret of its desire to bring the Electron rocket to Scotland. Currently, this vehicle flies out of New Zealand.

A British version of the rocket would have an upper-stage developed and built at LM’s UK HQ in Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

“This is a defining moment for UK Space,” a spokesperson for the company told BBC News. “Lockheed Martin has been working with Britain for over 80 years and we stand ready to support the development of UK launch capability should our extensive experience in developing space infrastructure be called upon.”

The UK government has been mulling the idea of home spaceports for a decade now, and has updated the legislation that would make them possible.

There is a vibrant small satellite manufacturing sector in the UK, and enabling customers to launch their spacecraft locally should give an added boost to the industry.

Business Secretary Greg Clark will announce further details of government support at the biennial Farnborough Air Show on Monday.

He has set aside £50m. £2m of this is to be made available to continue investigations into the siting of a “horizontal launch” spaceport as well.

This would see a modified aeroplane leave a British runway, climb to altitude somewhere out over the ocean and then release a rocket that can put the satellite in orbit. A number of such systems are presently in development.


Trump’s UK visit and protests

On the second day of his visit to the UK, President Trump has met Prime Minister Theresa May at Chequers and the Queen at Windsor Castle. A number of protests against his visit also took place. Here are the day’s events in pictures.

Mr Trump said his relationship with Mrs May was “very, very strong”.

Theresa May and Donald Trump held a joint news conference at Chequers, in which the president insisted the US-UK relationship is “the highest level of special”.

Armed British police officers were seen on the roof of Chequers.

Later in the afternoon Mr Trump flew to Windsor to meet the Queen who awaited his arrival on a dais


News in Pictures




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