Angelina Jolie’s Breadwinner spotlights Afghan girls’ plight

Breadwinner Image copyright Studio Canal
Image caption Parvana’s father is wrongly arrested

First, Angelina Jolie directed a film about the effect of war on a young girl in Cambodia, First They Killed my Father. Now, she has produced a film set in Afghanistan, saying at the premiere: “There are few countries in the world where it’s harder to be a young girl.”

The Breadwinner, made by Irish film-maker Nora Twomey, is an animation written, produced and directed by women, and adapted from the Canadian bestseller by author Deborah Ellis.

It features the voice of teenage Canadian actor Saara Chaudry as Parvana, an 11-year-old growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.

When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana disguises herself as a boy to save her mother and sisters from starvation, as women are unable to leave their house without a male relative.

Although it’s a story for children, it doesn’t disguise the details of life under the Taliban – including what happens when a woman is caught in the street without a burka.

Image copyright Studio Canal
Image caption Parvana dresses as a boy to try to get food for her family

After its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, the movie was nominated for Best Animation at this year’s Oscars, with Jolie, its executive producer, urging a younger generation attending the festival to promote tolerance by “getting to know people in your neighbourhood who have different backgrounds”.

“Diversity is the most wonderful part of our world,” she said.

Twomey had already been nominated twice for Oscars, for her work on Irish animations Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells, when she was approached to direct The Breadwinner.

“The idea of Parvana started to rise within me,” she says.

“You don’t get many stories like this for the screen, particularly with animations, and Deborah Ellis has a way of writing for a young adult which is very unique – she doesn’t talk down to children, she writes in a very matter-of-fact way, and her stories are based upon her experiences in refugee camps in Pakistan during the Taliban era.”

Image copyright Studio Canal
Image caption Director Nora Twomey didn’t want the film to come across as didactic

The other great help, according to Twomey, was Jolie, who came in very early on when the writer, Anita Doron, was working on a draft of the script.

“She had more than a decade of experience with Afghanistan. She supports the education of girls there. She also encouraged me to employ as many Afghan voice actors as possible. And she helped me understand the way in which the world has changed since 2001 and how we in the West view these parts of the globe,” says Twomey.

The film-makers also employed Afghan artists and musicians. And the film has been translated into Dari and Pashto, the languages of Afghanistan. The film was screened in Kabul before the Oscars.

“But I don’t want young people to be hit over the head with a ‘message’ film about what girls face in some societies. In many ways I hope the character of Parvana transcends gender,” says Twomey.

Image copyright Studio Canal
Image caption The story had a big impact on the young voice actress who played Parvana

“She’s looking at a very serious situation in a very childlike way that I think both girls and boys can relate to. It’s a universal film like that – even as an Irish woman, the conflict in Northern Ireland when I was growing up gave me an outlook on the complexity of war and the vulnerability of peace, and how we should cherish it where we have it.”

Saara Chaudry, who was not much older than the character of Parvana when she played her, says The Breadwinner “opened my eyes to my privileges”.

“I have food, water, education and healthcare that I take for granted and yet other girls around the world don’t have access. I was nine years old when I first read the books and I loved Parvana for her determination and her optimism, I just wanted to have her spirit.

“Since playing her, I have been passionate about trying to help other young girls around the world even if it’s just by donating online to charities or spreading awareness, in whatever small way girls my age can help. It’s just hard to hear of other girls facing problems I could never dream of.”

But Twomey says: “I don’t think The Breadwinner offers any easy answers to the situation of women in Afghanistan, and nor should it.

Image copyright Studio Canal
Image caption The director says Parvana’s story is one of hope

“The story is a symptom of a situation which has become ingrained in that society. And it’s from generations of hurt. You can’t just come in and impose what you think, you have to empower those young women to transform their own society.

“Right now, standing up to those societal restrictions, you are asking a great deal of women and families and fathers who love their daughters, who wouldn’t want them to lose their lives over a principle. Standing up would have an impact on you, your family and your community.

“These are things we don’t take lightly. We just provide a character in the film who is an embodiment of hope. And hope is what we need to hang on to.”

The Breadwinner is released in the UK on Friday, 25 May.



Poor white schools ‘destroyed’ by rankings

Pupil in school Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Head teachers say that league tables are skewed against schools in deprived, white areas

The way secondary school league tables in England are now devised is unfairly stigmatising schools in white working class areas, head teachers say.

They say the format is “toxic” for schools with a combination of high levels of deprivation and few pupils speaking English as a second language.

“Disenfranchised” communities will be even more disillusioned if their schools are unfairly blamed, say heads.

The Department for Education says the revised rankings have become “fairer”.

Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, said the league-table changes had been welcomed as an improvement but the patterns emerging meant it was “definitely time to look at it again” and talks with the Department for Education were expected.

‘Isolated and disenfranchised’

Hundreds of thousands of teenagers are currently taking their GCSEs – and the results will be used in the next round of school league tables.

But there are complaints from heads in the North West that the measure for comparing schools, known as Progress 8, is skewed against schools serving deprived white communities.

Image caption James Eldon, principal and academy trust chief executive, says some schools are being set up to fail by the ranking system

“If this was any other ethnic group at the bottom, people would be unsettled,” says James Eldon, principal of the Manchester Enterprise Academy, where 90% of the GCSE year are eligible for free school meals.

“But because it’s the white working-class, it’s somehow less controversial,” says Mr Eldon, who chairs the secondary head teachers group in Manchester and is chief executive of an academy trust.

He warns of the “disillusionment” for communities already feeling “socially isolated and disenfranchised”.

White working-class boys have one of the lowest rates of entry to university of any group.

Winners and losers

Mr Eldon says the new league table measurements were brought in with good intentions, but are having unintended consequences.

Progress 8 was meant to move beyond comparing only final results – and instead measures the progress that pupils make between primary school and GCSEs.

Image caption Heads have analysed the link between deprivation and scores in schools with few EAL pupils

It was introduced to be fairer, so that pupils who began secondary school from a low base would be measured on how much progress they had made.

Ian Butterfield, head of Hindley High School, in Wigan, says the flaw in the system is not taking deprivation into account.

Pupils in schools with a more deprived intake make less progress through secondary school – and will therefore be given a negative score in the league tables, he says.

Image copyright Getty Images

Another factor is that “English as an additional language” (EAL) pupils, sometimes starting from a lower base, are likely to score higher on the measure of progress.

There are also cultural factors – with EAL pupils often migrants from families with strong support for their children’s education.

The “winners” in this system are more affluent schools, where pupils on average make better progress, and those with more EAL pupils, Mr Butterfield says, with London the most successful example.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption League tables are based on progress rather than final results

But for white working-class schools, such as in parts of the North West and North East, with a very poor intake and few EAL pupils, Mr Butterfield says, it is “almost impossible” for them not to have a negative score.

He says the league tables are not measuring the achievements of schools in adversity but describing the demographics of their intake.

‘Not special pleading’

Jon Andrews, deputy head of research at the Educational Policy Institute, defends the new way of drawing up league tables as fairer.

But he says there do seem to be “systematic differences between different groups of pupils”.

Disadvantaged white British pupils are particularly likely to do badly when measured on progress, and their schools are more likely to have negative results.

In contrast, EAL pupils might begin with lower results at primary school, held back by a lack of language skills, but then make up more ground in secondary school and show greater progress.

Image copyright UK Parliament
Image caption Mike Kane, shadow schools minister, has asked whether the rankings will be amended

The head teachers’ concerns have been backed by Dr Terry Wrigley, of the University of Northumbria, who has written a report for the National Education Union about why so many schools in the North East are appearing to do so badly.

Almost twice as many are below the minimum “floor” standard, compared with the national average.

“This is not special pleading or complacency,” says Dr Wrigley. “Poorer areas are being unfairly penalised.”

As pupils go through secondary school the impact of deprivation grows, with less well educated parents not able to help as much with homework and higher risks of disaffection. The gap in vocabulary can also widen and poorer youngsters are less likely to have families making sure they are on course for university.

Dr Wrigley says that Progress 8 seems to mirror levels of affluence and poverty and is “an unreliable identifier of school ineffectiveness”.

Recruiting staff

Head teacher Mr Butterfield says there are serious consequences for schools – with Ofsted likely to intervene and schools leaders at risk of losing their jobs.

He warns it is becoming a serious disincentive when trying to recruit staff.

Image caption Ian Butterfield says rankings need to take into account levels of deprivation

“Start labelling all these schools as failing and you begin to destroy local communities and the confidence of those dedicated to improving the lives of these youngsters,” says Mr Butterfield.

Mr Eldon says teachers in such areas have worked hard to turn around attitudes where it was “soaked into the bones” that local schools were bad.

Labour’s shadow schools minister and MP for Wythenshawe, Mike Kane, has asked the government whether it will amend the league tables in the light of the impact on schools serving white working-class pupils.

A Department for Education spokesman defended the league tables as making sure that schools focused on the results of all pupils, including low performers.

“Far from being unfair, our Progress 8 measure means that schools are now recognised for the progress made by all pupils, as every grade from every pupil contributes to the school’s performance – taking into account their ability when they started school,” said the spokesman.

“The measure has been broadly welcomed by the sector as it is a fairer way to assess overall school effectiveness as it doesn’t focus on the attainment at a particular grade threshold.”



Met Police ‘use force more often’ against black people

Metropolitan Police officers set up a stop and search operation Image copyright PA
Image caption The use of force was equivalent to once for every 50 black people in Greater London and once for every 200 of the white population

Metropolitan Police officers are four times more likely to use force against black people compared with the white population, new figures suggest.

The Met used force 62,000 times in 2017-18 with more than a third of incidents involving black people.

Techniques such as verbal instructions and using firearms were recorded.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the “disproportionate use of force is discriminatory”. The Met has been approached for comment.

Police forces in Britain have been required keep a detailed record of each time an officer used force since 1 April 2017.

According to the data, a black person in London is four times more likely than a white person to have force used against them by a Met Police officer, as a proportion of the population.

‘Demonised, penalised, criminalised’

Image caption Dijon Joseph (l) was handcuffed and forcibly searched after police saw him fist bump his brother Liam (r)

Dijon Joseph, 28, was arrested after he bumped fists with his brother outside a shop in Deptford.

“Before I knew it a large van of police officers came out. It all happened quite abruptly” said Mr Joseph’s 27-year-old brother Liam.

Police accused the pair of exchanging drugs and officers said Dijon, who filmed the encounter, was being aggressive, and handcuffed him.

One officer restrained Liam, while a second rifled his pockets. Finding nothing illegal, the officer took his keys and searched his car.

Dijon said: “It just seemed like a typical case of profiling.

“I felt demonised, I felt penalised, I felt criminalised. It’s not just our own perceptions, it’s the perception of our community.”

The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating.

London’s black population at the last census was 1,088,447. In 2017-18 the Met used force 22,989 times against black people.

Based on population figures, the use of force was equivalent to once for every 50 black people in Greater London and once for every 200 of the white population.

This is higher than in other police forces covering large urban areas such as Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

Ms Abbott said: “These figures are truly shocking. The disproportionate use of force is clearly discriminatory.

“This is not a recipe for good police-community relations

“The government should step in and demand that all forces publish this data. But, then it quickly needs an action plan to end it.”

Liam Joseph said: “Before you can create solution it’s first best to isolate and highlight the problem.

“Then we can all work together to do something to change it.”

The Home Office said government reforms in 2017 meant police across England and Wales now recorded the reason force was used and details about the person involved.

A spokesman added: “Data on officers’ use of force will provide unprecedented transparency and accountability and, in the longer term, will also provide an evidence base to support the development of tactics, training and equipment to enhance the safety of all.”

Use of force figures at a glance

  • The Met Police recorded 62,153 use of force figures in 2017-18
  • Two thirds of incidents resulted in an arrest
  • White people were nearly twice as likely to be hospitalised than black people
  • Under 5% of all use of force incidents led to an injury, the second lowest of all police forces
  • Met officers were injured 3,315 times while carrying out use of force techniques, including 50 severe injuries



Tax rises needed ‘to prevent NHS misery’

Nurses giving out medications Image copyright Getty Images

Taxes are going to have to rise to pay for the NHS if the UK is to avoid “a decade of misery” in which the old, sick and vulnerable are let down, say experts.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies and Health Foundation said the NHS would need an extra 4% a year for the next 15 years – or £2,000 per UK household.

It said the only realistic way this could be paid for was by tax rises.

It comes as ministers are arguing behind the scenes about NHS funding.

The prime minister has promised a long-term funding plan for the NHS.

This is expected to cover the next decade and could be announced as soon as next month, in time for the 70th anniversary of the creation of the NHS.

The Treasury is believed to want to keep average rises at about 2% a year, but other ministers, including Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, are arguing for more, the BBC understands.

If you can’t see the NHS Tracker, click or tap here.

As those discussions continue, the IFS and Health Foundation have revealed the findings of their review, commissioned by the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS trusts.

It warned the ageing population and rising number of people with long-term conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, meant the health service needed more than it had been getting in the past decade.

In recent years the annual rises once inflation is taken into account have been limited to just over 2%.

But continuing in this vein would lead to a continued deterioration in performance, the report warned.

Instead, it said, 5% extra was needed in the next five years, and then just under 4% for the following decade if it was going to improve.

That would work out at an average of 4% a year over the period, while 3.3% would simply maintain services.

On top of that, extra money would also be needed to fund council-run social care for the elderly.

That would mean spending as a proportion of national income rising from 8.4% currently to 11.4%.

Ministers still wrestling with long-term cash needs

By Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor

Image copyright PA
Image caption Theresa May is grappling with ministers over NHS funding

There’s no coincidence at all that the independent number crunchers, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Health Foundation, have come forward with calls for significantly more cash for the NHS England today.

It matters right now because behind closed doors in Whitehall, the Department of Health, Downing Street and the Treasury are grappling to agree, not just how much the NHS really needs, but also what the government can really afford.

Any eventual long term settlement involves extra billions of taxpayers’ money – but if the government falls short, there’s a heavy potential cost.

What to do next is an intensely political choice.

Read more of Laura’s blog here.

The report said it was “hard to imagine” raising that sort of money without increases in taxes.

To increase spending by that amount, it would require rises of 3p in the pound on each of income tax, VAT and National Insurance by 2033.

Although the report said other options, including taxes on property and businesses, could be explored too.

NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson urged ministers not to rush into a quick fix, but warned any attempts to limit rises to 2% would backfire and lead to a “decade of misery”.

“It is now undeniable that the current system and funding levels are not sustainable,” he said.

The Department of Health and Social Care said plans were being put in place to agree a multi-year settlement.

Meanwhile, a report from the Care Quality Commission on A&E performance warned that some patients received care that was “wholly unsatisfactory”.

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Brooke Kinsella: Why I helped EastEnders on knife crime story

Keegan played by Zack Morris and Shakil played by Shaheen Jafargholi

It’s becoming depressingly familiar – a teenager gets stabbed to death and their friends and family are left devastated.

But once the media coverage goes away, what happens to those loved ones?

EastEnders is currently exploring the horrific effects of knife crime and the impact it can have.

For authenticity, the soap writers were helped by the show’s former star, Brooke Kinsella, whose brother Ben was stabbed to death in London in 2008.

The 16-year-old was on a night out celebrating the end of his GCSEs.

“It was really hard reliving it and I try really hard not to do that, but if it can help in any way, it makes it worth while,” Brooke says.

Image copyright Ben Kinsella Trust
Image caption Sisters Jade, Georgia, Ben and Brooke Kinsella

The plot’s certainly timely with more than half of the 60 murders in London this year being stabbings.

And, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), knife crime rose by 22% in England and Wales in 2017.

After her brother died, Brooke set up the Ben Kinsella Trust.

She says it’s heartbreaking that ten years on, so many people are still being killed by knife crime.

“We’ve worked so hard to try to make a difference and every day I am picking up the newspaper and reading somebody else has lost a brother or a son and it can make you want to give up.”

This week viewers saw two of the characters, Keegan and Shakil, attacked by a gang.

Spoiler alert – this article reveals plot details.

Newsbeat spent time on the Albert Square set talking to the actors involved about how they prepared for the storyline.

Shakil and Keegan were attacked after Keegan stole a bike from a well-known gang.

He tries to smooth things over by giving it back, but he gets stabbed and dies from his injuries.

Image caption Shakil shows Keegan the gang he stole the bike from knows it was him

In the soap Shakil is 17 and Keegan is 16.

Shaheen Jafargholi, who plays Shakil, told Newsbeat he felt under pressure to get the storyline right and to show what people in that age group are going through.

“It’s been intense, to make sure the story is accurate and it’s delivered in a way that is close to the bone,” he says.

As part of his research, he spoke to a surgeon who deals with stab victims.

“He told me about what happens to your body after you get stabbed and how you would react.”

Key to the story is showing the effects the crime has on all those connected to the victim.

Shakil’s mum, Carmel, played by Bonnie Langford, spoke to Brooke to help her prepare for the scenes.

Brooke says: “In all honestly I don’t want you to see what me and my family goes through and experience that pain.

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Media captionEastEnders stabbing: Stars on knife crime storyline

“But it is sadly the reality for us and so many others – maybe seeing that side of things people can understand it can happen to anyone.”

Bonnie believes EastEnders hasn’t shied away from showing that reality.

“When we see things on the news, about tragedies you see the families and they’re always at a press call or on TV.

“What we can do is show what happens when the doors close and the ripple effect it has on all those people from a private perspective, it’s so raw.”

Image caption Bonnie says she had to delve into dark places to play a mum who has lost her son.

“They haven’t been frightened to show the uncomfortable side and the harsh side and the nasty side,” says Bonnie.

She says when people are grieving, “things are said that aren’t nice, but that’s what happens, it’s real”.

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Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 every weekday on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra – if you miss us you can listen back here.



North Korea calls US Vice-President Pence’s comments ‘stupid’

Vice-President Mike Pence in Washington, DC. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mike Pence – a ‘political dummy’ says North Korea

A senior North Korean official has dismissed remarks by US Vice-President Mike Pence as “stupid”, casting further uncertainty about a planned meeting between the two countries’ leaders.

Choe Son-hui said Pyongyang would not “beg” for dialogue and warned of a “nuclear showdown” if diplomacy failed.

In recent days, both sides have said that the 12 June Trump-Kim summit could be delayed or even called off.

Pyongyang has insisted it would not give up nuclear weapons unilaterally.

  • Pence warns N Korea not to ‘play’ Trump
  • North Korea crisis in 300 words

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that it was the North that had to meet the conditions for the talks to go ahead.

Pence a ‘political dummy’

Choe Son-hui has been involved in several diplomatic interactions with the US over the past decade.

In an article carried by state news agency KCNA, she said Mr Pence had made “unbridled and impudent remarks” in the media in recent days, including his comments that North Korea “may end like Libya”.

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Media captionViewpoint: Is Trump playing into Kim Jong-un’s hands?

She called him a “political dummy” for comparing North Korea “a nuclear weapon state, to Libya that had simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them”.

  • Only deal with US will save Kim – Trump
  • Could defectors affect North Korea talks?

“As a person involved in US affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing from the mouth of the US vice-president,” she said.

Ms Choe said Pyongyang was “not begging for talks” and warned: “Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behaviour of the United States.”

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Media captionWhy North Korea is angry at this man

US National Security Adviser John Bolton also angered North Korea last week by saying it could follow a “Libya model” of verifiable denuclearisation.

That led to North Korea’s vice-foreign minister threatening to pull out of the Trump-Kim summit.

‘Careful diplomacy requires careful messaging’

Analysis from Laura Bicker, BBC News, Seoul

So we are back to name calling and threats of nuclear war – just weeks before the planned summit.

The messenger is a powerful figure in North Korean politics. She’s one of Kim Jong-un’s top aides, so this statement will have been sanctioned by the chairman himself.

Some may say this is a typical Pyongyang power play. But it was also so avoidable.

North Korea had made it clear last week that mentioning the Libyan model of denuclearisation touched a nerve. Firstly because the Gaddafi regime collapsed and he was killed, but also because the North believe its weapons programme is far more advanced than Libya’s ever was.

So to even mention the two countries in the same context will be a grave insult and Pyongyang may feel that Washington is not showing it the respect it deserves.

The US had been warned, and yet Mr Pence decided to repeat the comparison anyway. Careful diplomacy requires careful messaging and careful language, and North Korea clearly feels the Trump administration has shown a lack of discipline in this regard.

It is interesting that Pyongyang decided not to target Donald Trump who also made similar remarks. Aiming the insults at those around the president rather than Mr Trump himself may suggest North Korea is not ready to throw away the prospect of a summit quite yet.

  • ‘Dotard’ Trump? The story of ‘rocket man’ Kim’s insult

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How Trump and Kim have changed their tone



Trump-Kim summit: Words that could anger North Korea

Kim Jong-un Image copyright Getty Images

When US President Donald Trump was trading insults with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un just a few months ago, many wondered whether it was fuelling the prospect of all-out war.

But despite barbs ranging from “little rocket man” to “mentally deranged US dotard”, the pair agreed to hold talks in Singapore on 12 June. Some recent angry words have highlighted how precarious the situation is, and Mr Trump now says the talks may not happen on time.

Assuming they do go ahead, how can Mr Trump avoid riling Mr Kim and resurrecting the insults of the past? These are some of the subjects where he should tread carefully.

John Bolton

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Media captionWhy North Korea is angry at this man

It’s fair to say the moustachioed US national security adviser isn’t in Mr Kim’s good books, having previously said it would be “perfectly legitimate” to carry out a pre-emptive strike on North Korea.

He has further angered Pyongyang with his recent comments about nuclear disarmament.

Mr Bolton suggested that North Korea could emulate Libya, which gave up its weapons programmes in the early 2000s in a deal with the US and UK.

But the North didn’t take to the suggestion and threatened to pull out of the summit altogether.

“We do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards [Bolton],” the country’s vice-foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan said in a statement.

Mr Trump then rowed back on the comparison and said the US was not pursuing the “Libya model”.

“If we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy,” he said.

So why did Mr Bolton’s comments provoke such anger from North Korea? It all comes down to what happened to Libya’s leader…


The deal that saw Libya give up its weapons was struck in exchange for economic aid and better relations with the US.

But it’s what happened next that makes the comparison particularly worrying for the North.

During the 2011 uprising against Colonel Gaddafi’s Libyan regime, Western powers intervened in favour of the rebels and Gaddafi was captured and killed.

“It is essentially a manifestation of awfully sinister moves to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya,” Kim Kye-gwan said in his statement.

It is worth noting that Kim Kye-gwan is highly respected in North Korea and so his clear anger at Mr Bolton’s comments is likely to be shared by the country’s leadership.

This led Mr Trump to publicly state that the US is not pursuing the “Libya model” for the denuclearisation of the North.

But Mr Kim won’t have been entirely reassured by the president, who hinted that the North Korean leader could be deposed if he refused to make a deal.


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Media captionThe nuclear word Trump and Kim can’t agree on

Questionable comparisons aside, the reality of what North Korea will do with its nuclear weapons could well be a flashpoint in the summit.

This is because denuclearisation means something very different to both countries. Reaching an agreed definition and bridging this linguistic gap could prove difficult.

On the one hand, the North views the term as covering the whole of the Korean Peninsula.

This means any efforts they make to reduce their weapons stock would need to be met with a similar response in South Korea. This could mean reducing the number of US troops in the country.

But the US definition of denuclearisation is more one-sided.

It wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons over the next few years in exchange for economic rewards. It has demanded “comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible” nuclear disarmament.

The North has a history of breaking agreements like this, so whether it will actually comply with US demands is far from certain.

Max Thunder

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Joint military exercises between the US and South Korea have long angered the North

This is the name of the latest joint military drills between the US and South Korea, a point of constant tension for Pyongyang.

The exercises happen on South Korean soil and have long angered the North, which views them as a provocation and preparation for a future invasion.

But the US and South Korea have always insisted the drills are purely for defence purposes, and are necessary to strengthen their readiness in case of an external attack.

In mid-May the North cancelled high-level talks with South Korea, citing its anger over the Max Thunder drills. It even fired a warning shot at the US by questioning whether the Singapore meeting would still go ahead.

All of this means the exercises are likely to be a sensitive subject when it comes to next month’s summit.


One issue that may be raised is the Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

While South Koreans have also been abducted, Japan has been vocal recently in calling for its citizens to be freed.

The country’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has urged the US to help bring about their release and Mr Trump has assured him that the US will try to bring the abductees home.

North Korea has admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens to help train its spies in Japanese language and customs but the real figure could be much higher.

Pyongyang’s reluctance to discuss the issue is clear. State news agency KCNA said the issue had been “resolved” and accused Japan of “hyping” the issue in order to harm the denuclearisation process.


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Media captionHow to talk to North Korea – advice from three North Korean experts

North Korea is often riled by international criticism, including anything it views as a slight on how the country is perceived to be run.

Its official KCNA news agency frequently quotes officials who accuse critics of “insulting the dignity of the DPRK”.

This means any discussions will need to tread carefully on subjects like its human rights record and repressive society if they are going to be fruitful.

The language used by the US will also be an important factor in ensuring the summit goes smoothly.

“It’s good to refer to the country as the DPRK not North Korea,” says travel expert James Finnerty. “Their point of view is that their government is the rightful controller of the entire peninsula.”

Kim Jong-nam

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Kim Jong-nam (pictured in 2001) was late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s oldest son

Kim Jong-un’s half-brother died last year at Kuala Lumpur airport after highly toxic VX nerve agent was rubbed on his face.

He had been largely estranged from his family and had spoken out in the past against his family’s dynastic control of North Korea.

Pyongyang has denied any involvement in the killing, but four men – believed to be North Koreans who fled Malaysia on the day of the murder – are among those charged.

The subject is likely to be a sensitive one because the US believes Kim Jong-nam was assassinated by the North.

“We cannot afford to tolerate a North Korean WMD [weapons of mass destruction] program of any kind,” the state department said of his death.



Could this man’s window boxes get him to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show?

This “urban garden” is slightly different from the usual million-pound show garden we see at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

But Rob Dicken from Wolverhampton thought they stood a chance, and so emailed the Royal Horticultural Society asking to be exhibited – and they responded.

We arranged for garden designers Kate Saville and Tamara Bridge to give him some horticultural tips.

Produced by Emily Wolstencroft



Real Madrid v Liverpool: Could James Milner be key to Champions League final?

One of these players is unlikely to be in Ballon d’Or contention – but could be pivotal in the final

The Champions League final will be contested by the highest-scoring teams in this season’s competition, with two of the world’s most potent forwards on display.

Real Madrid are chasing a record 13th title – and their third in a row – while Liverpool can move above Bayern Munich and Barcelona into third (behind AC Milan) in the list of most European Cup/Champions League wins if they are victorious in Kiev.

The fixture has all the makings of a classic, but what can we learn from the stats heading into the match?

Is Milner the unlikely key man in Kiev?

With 91 goals between them in all competitions this season, it is hardly surprising the Champions League final has been billed as a battle between Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.

Both are sure to be in the running for the Ballon d’Or at the end of 2018, but it is a man who is unlikely to receive any individual accolades who could hold the key to success in Kiev.

James Milner made headlines in the semi-final against Roma when he took his tally of assists in this season’s competition to eight, equalling the tournament record set by Neymar in 2016-17.

Most assists in a Champions League season
Player Assists Season
For seasons since 2003-04, when Opta started collecting assists data
James Milner 8 2017-18
Neymar 8 2016-17
Ryan Giggs 7 2006-07
Xavi 7 2008-09
Mesut Ozil 7 2010-11
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 7 2012-13
Roberto Firmino 7 2017-18

That total is three more than Real Madrid’s entire midfield of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Isco, Marco Asensio and Casemiro have managed between them.

Milner’s increased productivity in the final third has been the most notable aspect of his Champions League displays – he has gone from an assist every 588 minutes in the Premier League to one every 99 minutes in Europe.

But there has been more to his superb European form than just creating goals. The former England midfielder, already a strong performer domestically, has raised his game in the Champions League in almost every statistical category.

Where Milner ranks among Liverpool players in PL Where Milner ranks among Liverpool players in CL
Assists 8th 1st
Tackles 3rd 1st
Tackles won 3rd 2nd
Touches 6th 2nd
Passes 5th 3rd
Duels won 7th 4th
Interceptions 9th 5th

And, despite Real Madrid’s proud European record, Milner may never have a better chance to create goals for his team-mates in a final, since the reigning champions are anything but secure defensively…

Who is more vulnerable at the back – Real or Reds?

The opening months of the season were dominated by talk of Liverpool’s defensive vulnerabilities, but the arrival of Virgil van Dijk in January and the improvement from goalkeeper Loris Karius have meant it is no longer considered such a glaring weakness.

For Real, however, it is a different story. They sorely missed the presence of captain Sergio Ramos in the second leg of their dramatic quarter-final tie against Juventus, when an injury-time Ronaldo strike meant a 3-1 defeat on the night but a 4-3 aggregate victory.

That porous display was far from a one-off. Real have kept only three clean sheets in 12 Champions League matches and have conceded 15 goals, following on from a total of 17 in 2016-17. No other team since 2004-05 has let in more than 13 in getting to the final, with the average being 8.3.

Liverpool have their own flaws, of course. They have conceded 13 times themselves in the Champions League proper, including six times against Roma in their semi-final tie. But Jurgen Klopp’s side have kept six clean sheets in the competition this season, a tally matched only by Barcelona. And they did only concede 38 times in the Premier League, six fewer than Real’s tally in La Liga.

One concern for the Reds could be if the match remains in the balance in the closing stages. In the first 75 minutes of their past six matches Liverpool have been 12-3 up overall. But in the final 15 minutes it has been a completely different story, conceding a series of late goals that mean they are 6-1 down in the latter stages.

Of course, there is every chance one of these sides might have run away with it by then…

The most attack-minded Champions League final yet?

Has a major final ever promised so much in an attacking sense?

For years fans have marvelled at the BBC – Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo – all of whom could play on Saturday.

But, despite being one of the great forward lines of the Champions League era, they will not even be the most prolific front three on display in Kiev.

Sadio Mane’s strike in the semi-final second leg in Rome made the Senegal forward, Salah and Roberto Firmino the trio to score the most goals in a single Champions League season, surpassing a record set by their Real counterparts four years ago.

Team Goals Trio
Liverpool 2017-18 29 Salah (10), Firmino (10), Mane (9)
Real Madrid 2013-14 28 Ronaldo (17), Bale (6), Benzema (5)
Barcelona 2014-15 27 Messi (10), Neymar (10), Suarez (7)
Barcelona 1999-2000 23 Rivaldo (10), Kluivert (7), Enrique (6)
Man Utd 2001-02 23 Van Nistelrooy (10), Solskjaer (8), Beckham (5)

Indeed, Liverpool are the top scorers in this season’s competition and their tally of 40 goals is the third highest in Champions League history (behind Barcelona’s 45 in 1999-00 and Real’s 41 in 2013-14).

While Real have scored 10 fewer times, they all but guarantee goals. In fact, they have scored in their past 27 Champions League matches and their past 29 Uefa fixtures, last failing to find the net in a European match against Manchester City in 2015-16.

Mind you, it helps when you have one of the game’s greats in your starting XI…

Ronaldo’s records

A third consecutive Champions League victory would help Cristiano Ronaldo in his quest to win the Ballon d’Or for a third straight year

Barely a game goes by without Ronaldo setting a new landmark. His feats this season have included scoring in 13 consecutive matches (24 goals in total during that run) and becoming the first player to find the net in every group match in a Champions League season.

His tally of 15 in the competition in 2017-18 is five more than closest rivals Firmino and Salah, and he needs two more in the final to match his own record of 17 in a single campaign, set in 2013-14.

But there is another record that is sure to drive on the competition’s record scorer, with this final against Liverpool offering him the opportunity to become the first player to win the trophy five times in the Champions League era. He would join an elite four-man list featuring Real Madrid trio Paco Gento, Alfredo di Stefano and Jose María Zarraga plus AC Milan’s Paolo Maldini as five-time winners of the European Cup.

There are other records, too, that Ronaldo can set in Kiev. He has already scored more Champions League final goals than anyone else (four) and can become the first player to score in consecutive finals.

You would not bet against him, seeing as he is already the only man to score in three different finals (2008, 2014 and 2017).

If he does inspire Real to victory, he will also help his manager create his own piece of history…

From the brink of the sack to 90 minutes from history

Despite his success in the Champions League, Real finished third in La Liga, 17 points behind champions Barcelona

In January Zinedine Zidane’s future was the subject of much discussion, with the Frenchman himself describing the state of affairs at the Bernabeu as a “fiasco” following a shock home Copa del Rey defeat by Leganes.

That, coupled with the fact Real were 19 points adrift of leaders and eventual champions Barcelona, led Zidane to say it was “clear” his future at the club depended on their progress in the Champions League.

And, as has become the norm for Zidane’s Real, it is that competition in which they have dominated, in results if not always in performances.

The 1998 World Cup winner has led Real to the Champions League final in all of his three seasons in charge and is one game away from becoming the first manager in history to win Europe’s premier club competition in three consecutive campaigns.

Were he to lift the trophy in Kiev, he would become only the third coach – after Bob Paisley (Liverpool) and Carlo Ancelotti (Real and twice with AC Milan) – to be a three-time European champion.

Real Madrid experience important, but it’s not everything – Klopp

That knack for winning major finals is something his counterpart Jurgen Klopp has yet to master. The Liverpool boss has lost five of the six major finals he has been involved in, including his two previous European finals.

The first came with Borussia Dortmund, when they lost the 2013 Champions League final to Bayern Munich at Wembley, while the second came when Liverpool were beaten by Sevilla in the 2016 Europa League final.

Were Liverpool to lose, Klopp would become the fourth manager – after Max Allegri (2015 and 2017), Diego Simeone (2014 and 2016) and Hector Cuper (2000 and 2001) – to experience defeat in two Champions League finals.

His team, though, have no such negative experiences. Not one player to have played for Liverpool this season has appeared in a Champions League final, a stark contrast to Real’s squad, eight of whom are in line to win the trophy for a fourth time.



Collapsed carrot? Pathetic potato? Tips to keep food fresh beyond ‘best before’ date

Tesco is removing “best before” labels from many of its fresh produce lines, which it says will help reduce waste.

The supermarket said this week that it will remove the advice from about 70 pre-packaged produce lines to avoid “perfectly edible food” being thrown away.

Here are five tips to help make your perishables last longer.