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Day: 13 June 2022

BBC News – Technology RSS Feed – World News

Amazon to begin drone deliveries in Lockeford, California this year

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, AmazonAmazon says it will begin delivering parcels to shoppers by drone for the first time later this year, pending final regulatory approval.Users in the Californian town of Lockeford will be able to sign up to have thousands of goods delivered by air to their homes, it said.The shopping giant has promised drone delivery for years but has faced delays and reported setbacks. But it said it planned to roll out the service more widely after Lockeford."The promise of drone delivery has often felt like science fiction," it said in a blog post. "[But] later this year, Amazon customers living in Lockeford, California, will become among the first to receive Prime Air deliveries."Their feedback about Prime Air will help us create a service that will safely scale to meet the needs of customers everywhere."Amazon to deliver by drone 'within months'Amazon makes first drone deliveryAmazon said the drones will be programmed to drop parcels in the backyards of customers in Lockeford, which has a population of about 4,000 people.They will be able to fly "beyond-line-of-sight", meaning they don't have to be controlled by a visual observer and instead use sensors to avoid other aircraft, people, pets and obstacles.The aim is to get packages to customers safely in less than an hour, the retailer said. 'Within months'In the past, Amazon has been accused of using the promise of drone delivery as a headline-grabber to push its publicity around its Prime membership service. In 2013, former boss and founder Jeff Bezos pledged to fill the skies with a fleet of delivery drones within five years. And in 2019, Amazon said it would be delivering by drone to customers "within months". In April, a report by news site Bloomberg alleged safety concerns over its drones - although the retailer said it "rigorously" tested its flights in compliance with "all applicable regulations".In December 2016, the company ran an apparently successful trial in Cambridge, UK. A package was delivered, by drone, in 13 minutes.Explaining how Prime Air deliveries would work, Amazon said: "Once onboarded, customers in Lockeford will see Prime Air-eligible items on Amazon. They will place an order as they normally would and receive an estimated arrival time with a status tracker for their order. "For these deliveries, the drone will fly to the designated delivery location, descend to the customer's backyard, and hover at a safe height. It will then safely release the package and rise back up to altitude."More on this storyAmazon to deliver by drone 'within months'Amazon makes first drone delivery

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Could flat tyres soon be a thing of the past?

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesThe sight of a car limping along on a near-flat tyre, or a roadside wheel change are still common.So is the expense of replacing tyres that have worn out prematurely, perhaps because the driver may not have been checking the pressure as regularly as they should.Sometimes it's difficult not to feel tyres are a car's weak link. But is this about to change?Is it the end of the black rubber air-filled doughnut first used on vehicles in the 1890s - a product designed to be indestructible, and therefore not easy to recycle?On a test track in Luxembourg, a Tesla Model 3 is twisting through tight corners, accelerating rapidly, and doing emergency stops. Standard stuff. What's remarkable, though, is the car is sitting on four airless tyres - made by Goodyear, the US manufacturer.Special plastic spokes, support a thin, reinforced rubber tread. The spokes flex and contort as the car goes through its paces. Image source, Getty ImagesMichael Rachita, Goodyear's senior program manager for non-pneumatic tyres (NPTs), is upfront about the limitations: "There will be noise, and some vibration. We're still learning how to soften the ride. But we think you'll be surprised at the performance." He wasn't wrong. Electric cars and autonomous mobility are changing tyre needs. Delivery firms and shuttle services want products that are low-maintenance, puncture-proof, recyclable, and have sensors that map road conditions.Car sharing and ride hailing, rather than ownership, are rising in cities. A car with a flat tyre, is a car not making money.Mr Rachita says: "While air-filled tyres will always have their place, a mixture of solutions is needed. As we move into a world where autonomous vehicles are becoming more common and many cities are offering transport-as-a-service strategies, having a maintenance-free tyre is hugely important." At Goodyear's labs, the tyres are tested for 24 hours at a time, under different loads and speeds. That's thousands of miles non-stop. Some spokes deform, some break, but the structures continue to perform safely, Mr Rachita says. "It's test-learn, test-learn," he says. "But we're at a stage that's given us a huge amount of confidence. This is the real deal."Image source, MichelinGoodyear rival, Michelin, has been working with General Motors (GM) on airless tyres since 2019. In February there were media reports that Michelin's Unique Puncture-proof Tire System (Uptis) could debut on a new Chevrolet Bolt electric car being planned by GM, possibly as early as 2024. Uptis tyres are made of high-strength resin embedded with fiberglass and composite rubber (for which Michelin has filed 50 patents) to create a mesh structure that surrounds an aluminium wheel. Cyrille Roget, a scientific and innovation expert at the French tyre maker, won't confirm the Bolt reports, but tells the BBC Michelin will have more to say later this year. Michelin has been a market leader in airless wheels. Its Tweel (tyre-wheel) has been around since 2005 and is used on slow-moving vehicles, such as farm equipment. Optimising the technology for road vehicles is, however, a totally different challenge, Mr Roget says: "We have 130 years of experience and knowledge in perfecting inflatable structures like pneumatic tyres. Airless technology is very recent." Uptis, though, is just a step to something bigger. The company that gave us the pumped-up Michelin Man logo, has a multi-year plan, to create a tyre that is airless, connected, 3D-printed and made entirely of materials that can be melted down and re-used.Apart from occasional re-treads, it would be zero-maintenance, according to Michelin.Image source, Getty ImagesHeavy battery weight means airless structures are particularly suited to electric vehicles. "You can carry more load with a more compliant feel than in an air tyre," Mr Rachita says.On the other hand, airless tyres have a greater contact patch with the road, increasing the drag. This rolling resistance uses more energy to drive the tyres forward - with implications for battery life and range. And then there's noise - the hum of rubber-on-road. "With engine sound removed on an electric car, tyres become the dominant source of noise," says Matt Ross, editor-in-chief of Tire Technology International. In addition, the rigidity of plastic spokes transmits more vibration through the suspension. Drivers long used to the response and performance of air tyres could take some convincing, he feels. Image source, HankookMore important than consumer perception, however, is what regulators decide. Governments will demand rigorous safety tests and a standardisation of rules. And tyre makers will need to invest heavily in new manufacturing facilities and develop supply chains. It will take years.Tyre makers hope early adopters in niche areas will help drive the technology forward. "Non-pneumatic tyres (NPTs) are of particular interest to sectors like the military, disaster response, security vehicles, and specialist machinery," Klaus Kraus, head of European research and development at Hankook, tells BBC News.The South Korean company unveiled the latest version of its i-Flex NPT in January. Smaller than a conventional tyre, a honeycomb of interlocking polyurethane spokes is a breakthrough in coping with lateral and horizontal stresses, the company says.More technology of business:How artificial intelligence 'blew up' tennisSoaring fertiliser prices force farmers to rethinkCan contact lenses be the ultimate computer screen??Will swappable electric car batteries catch on?Why the volatile price of aluminium mattersBridgestone, the world's largest tyre maker, is interested in industrial applications in farming, mining and construction, where demand could be high from customers that see a costly loss of productivity when tyres fail. Airless tyres will, initially at least, carry a premium price. But the ability for regular re-treading and 3D printing could be a game changer. Maybe, some experts speculate, consumers won't even need to buy tyres outright. Instead, they'll get them free and pay-per-mile, with sensors monitoring usage. Image source, GoodyearIt's an illustration of where the technology is taking the tyre of the future, says Sosia Causeret Josten, an analyst at Goodyear's Sightline Tyre Intelligence division. As the only contact between the road and the vehicle, tyres offer huge potential. Perhaps, thanks to cloud computing and algorithms, connected vehicles could deliver information about where government authorities need to make road repairs or lay grit during freezing weather. Take another example, automatic braking systems. "If the anti-lock braking system (ABS) can tell that the vehicle is driving on half-worn summer tyres, it can react quicker. This advantage can play an important role in an autonomous future, where the vehicle has to react itself," she says.Not all this tech need be exclusive to airless tyres, or course. And not all manufacturers are convinced NPTs are the future. "To this day, we believe that pneumatic tyres are the best choice for most vehicles," says Denise Sperl, a director of car tyre research and development at Germany's Continental.Tyres will always need "to simultaneously meet multiple requirements for safety, comfort, performance and sustainability" and air-filled rubber remains the best compromise, she says. Continental is developing a self-inflating system where pumps and sensors in the wheel keep the pressure at optimum levels. Like all manufactures, the company is looking into "greener" products. Polyester from recycled plastic bottles will soon be used in its premium tyres, and both Continental and Goodyear are researching a dandelion flower that produces latex similar to rubber trees. But sustainable alternatives to conventional materials are available only "to a limited extent," Ms Sperl adds. Air tyres have been around so long for a reason - they do the best job. "We remain convinced of this," she says.

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BBC News – Technology RSS Feed – World News

Could flat tyres soon be a thing of the past?

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesThe sight of a car limping along on a near-flat tyre, or a roadside wheel change are still common.So is the expense of replacing tyres that have worn out prematurely, perhaps because the driver may not have been checking the pressure as regularly as they should.Sometimes it's difficult not to feel tyres are a car's weak link. But is this about to change?Is it the end of the black rubber air-filled doughnut first used on vehicles in the 1890s - a product designed to be indestructible, and therefore not easy to recycle?On a test track in Luxembourg, a Tesla Model 3 is twisting through tight corners, accelerating rapidly, and doing emergency stops. Standard stuff. What's remarkable, though, is the car is sitting on four airless tyres - made by Goodyear, the US manufacturer.Special plastic spokes, support a thin, reinforced rubber tread. The spokes flex and contort as the car goes through its paces. Image source, Getty ImagesMichael Rachita, Goodyear's senior program manager for non-pneumatic tyres (NPTs), is upfront about the limitations: "There will be noise, and some vibration. We're still learning how to soften the ride. But we think you'll be surprised at the performance." He wasn't wrong. Electric cars and autonomous mobility are changing tyre needs. Delivery firms and shuttle services want products that are low-maintenance, puncture-proof, recyclable, and have sensors that map road conditions.Car sharing and ride hailing, rather than ownership, are rising in cities. A car with a flat tyre, is a car not making money.Mr Rachita says: "While air-filled tyres will always have their place, a mixture of solutions is needed. As we move into a world where autonomous vehicles are becoming more common and many cities are offering transport-as-a-service strategies, having a maintenance-free tyre is hugely important." At Goodyear's labs, the tyres are tested for 24 hours at a time, under different loads and speeds. That's thousands of miles non-stop. Some spokes deform, some break, but the structures continue to perform safely, Mr Rachita says. "It's test-learn, test-learn," he says. "But we're at a stage that's given us a huge amount of confidence. This is the real deal."Image source, MichelinGoodyear rival, Michelin, has been working with General Motors (GM) on airless tyres since 2019. In February there were media reports that Michelin's Unique Puncture-proof Tire System (Uptis) could debut on a new Chevrolet Bolt electric car being planned by GM, possibly as early as 2024. Uptis tyres are made of high-strength resin embedded with fiberglass and composite rubber (for which Michelin has filed 50 patents) to create a mesh structure that surrounds an aluminium wheel. Cyrille Roget, a scientific and innovation expert at the French tyre maker, won't confirm the Bolt reports, but tells the BBC Michelin will have more to say later this year. Michelin has been a market leader in airless wheels. Its Tweel (tyre-wheel) has been around since 2005 and is used on slow-moving vehicles, such as farm equipment. Optimising the technology for road vehicles is, however, a totally different challenge, Mr Roget says: "We have 130 years of experience and knowledge in perfecting inflatable structures like pneumatic tyres. Airless technology is very recent." Uptis, though, is just a step to something bigger. The company that gave us the pumped-up Michelin Man logo, has a multi-year plan, to create a tyre that is airless, connected, 3D-printed and made entirely of materials that can be melted down and re-used.Apart from occasional re-treads, it would be zero-maintenance, according to Michelin.Image source, Getty ImagesHeavy battery weight means airless structures are particularly suited to electric vehicles. "You can carry more load with a more compliant feel than in an air tyre," Mr Rachita says.On the other hand, airless tyres have a greater contact patch with the road, increasing the drag. This rolling resistance uses more energy to drive the tyres forward - with implications for battery life and range. And then there's noise - the hum of rubber-on-road. "With engine sound removed on an electric car, tyres become the dominant source of noise," says Matt Ross, editor-in-chief of Tire Technology International. In addition, the rigidity of plastic spokes transmits more vibration through the suspension. Drivers long used to the response and performance of air tyres could take some convincing, he feels. Image source, HankookMore important than consumer perception, however, is what regulators decide. Governments will demand rigorous safety tests and a standardisation of rules. And tyre makers will need to invest heavily in new manufacturing facilities and develop supply chains. It will take years.Tyre makers hope early adopters in niche areas will help drive the technology forward. "Non-pneumatic tyres (NPTs) are of particular interest to sectors like the military, disaster response, security vehicles, and specialist machinery," Klaus Kraus, head of European research and development at Hankook, tells BBC News.The South Korean company unveiled the latest version of its i-Flex NPT in January. Smaller than a conventional tyre, a honeycomb of interlocking polyurethane spokes is a breakthrough in coping with lateral and horizontal stresses, the company says.More technology of business:How artificial intelligence 'blew up' tennisSoaring fertiliser prices force farmers to rethinkCan contact lenses be the ultimate computer screen??Will swappable electric car batteries catch on?Why the volatile price of aluminium mattersBridgestone, the world's largest tyre maker, is interested in industrial applications in farming, mining and construction, where demand could be high from customers that see a costly loss of productivity when tyres fail. Airless tyres will, initially at least, carry a premium price. But the ability for regular re-treading and 3D printing could be a game changer. Maybe, some experts speculate, consumers won't even need to buy tyres outright. Instead, they'll get them free and pay-per-mile, with sensors monitoring usage. Image source, GoodyearIt's an illustration of where the technology is taking the tyre of the future, says Sosia Causeret Josten, an analyst at Goodyear's Sightline Tyre Intelligence division. As the only contact between the road and the vehicle, tyres offer huge potential. Perhaps, thanks to cloud computing and algorithms, connected vehicles could deliver information about where government authorities need to make road repairs or lay grit during freezing weather. Take another example, automatic braking systems. "If the anti-lock braking system (ABS) can tell that the vehicle is driving on half-worn summer tyres, it can react quicker. This advantage can play an important role in an autonomous future, where the vehicle has to react itself," she says.Not all this tech need be exclusive to airless tyres, or course. And not all manufacturers are convinced NPTs are the future. "To this day, we believe that pneumatic tyres are the best choice for most vehicles," says Denise Sperl, a director of car tyre research and development at Germany's Continental.Tyres will always need "to simultaneously meet multiple requirements for safety, comfort, performance and sustainability" and air-filled rubber remains the best compromise, she says. Continental is developing a self-inflating system where pumps and sensors in the wheel keep the pressure at optimum levels. Like all manufactures, the company is looking into "greener" products. Polyester from recycled plastic bottles will soon be used in its premium tyres, and both Continental and Goodyear are researching a dandelion flower that produces latex similar to rubber trees. But sustainable alternatives to conventional materials are available only "to a limited extent," Ms Sperl adds. Air tyres have been around so long for a reason - they do the best job. "We remain convinced of this," she says.

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Man who drove van into dozens of people on busy Toronto street – killing 11 people – is jailed for life

A man who drove a rented van into dozens of people on a busy street in Toronto has been sentenced to life in prison.Alek Minassian was found guilty last year of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder in relation to the attack on 23 April 2018. Eight women and two men died when Minassian, then 25, drove into them - angered by women who would not have sex with him, and radicalised by hateful websites.An 11th woman died more than three years later from injuries she had suffered that day, although she had still been alive when Minassian was convicted, meaning her case was among the counts of attempted murder.Justice Anne Molloy, sitting in Toronto's Superior Court, said that Minassian would be eligible to apply for parole after 25 years and that the "number and enormity" of his crimes would be taken into account at that point. Advertisement Before she sentenced him, the judge heard emotional testimony from survivors and relatives of those who died in the attack. Some of the survivors and bystanders told the court they had given first aid to the victims. More from World They spoke about feeling guilty because they survived, and because they had failed to save more people.'I can never understand this horrific, cowardly act'Tanya Kouzos also tried to save victims and said: "I live with the thought: 'Was there more I could have done to help?'"It's guilt and remorse I still feel, even though [the attack was] caused by another person's evil choices."Other survivors spoke of the physical and psychological damage, while relatives of the dead described the pain of losing loved ones.Janice Kirby's mother Geraldine Brady was among those killed and she said: "My heart hurts every day."I can never understand this horrific, cowardly act."'She was always hopeful that she would get better'Amaresh Tesfamariam, a nurse and refugee from Eritrea, was the victim who spent more than three years in hospital before she died of her injuries.Her niece told the court that the attack had left Ms Tesfamariam a quadriplegic, adding: "She would always, always ask about the other victims and ask about their families."She was always hopeful that she would get better."According to comments reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the judge told them: "You've reached into my heart, and touched me in a very profound way."Minassian spent much of the hearing staring at the floor and refused to speak when the judge gave him the opportunity.

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Team who escaped Taliban fight for their football future

By Mani DjazmiBBC SportLast updated on 13 June 202213 June 2022.From the section Women's FootballThe scene at Kabul airport was one of chaos and desperation. Amid gunfire, people were stampeding in total panic. Thousands were trying to escape the Taliban, and Fati was among them.Fati is a goalkeeper who honed her fluent English by watching TV series and films growing up in another, very different Afghanistan. Her full name and age are withheld to protect the identity of her family.As the Taliban rapidly retook control of her country in August 2021, Fati quickly decided that she and her international team-mates would have to leave their homeland and loved ones behind. For years they had played together, a football team that represented an Afghanistan of greater opportunity and freedom for women. Now thoughts turned to the public executions and stifled liberty that had been hallmarks of the Taliban's previous rule from 1996 to 2001. Fati had considered the Taliban's return impossible. Her disbelief soon turned into a sense of hopelessness and dread. She had to get out."I accepted that Afghanistan was over," she says. "I thought there's no chance for living, no chance for me to go outside again and fight for my rights. No school, no media, no athletes, nothing. We were like dead bodies in our homes. "For two weeks I never slept. I was 24 hours with my phone, trying to reach out to someone, anybody for help. All day and all night, awake, texting and searching social media." Fati and her team-mates did find a way out. They were assisted by an invisible international network of women guiding their steps towards safety. This is the story of their escape. It starts 12,700km away in Houston, Texas, where a 37-year-old former United States marine was planning the evacuation."It was like a little virtual operation centre running out of WhatsApp," says Haley Carter. "Never underestimate the power of women with smartphones."Carter, 37, was a goalkeeper too. After her time in the military, which involved service in Iraq, she played three seasons with NWSL side Houston Dash before moving into coaching. Between 2016 and 2018 she was Afghanistan's assistant coach. The American may have been thousands of miles away but she was sharing intelligence about the rapidly changing situation in Kabul with marines and National Security staff via encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal. The operation was dubbed a 'Digital Dunkirk'."In a normal combat environment, that kind of information wouldn't be shared. But this was an evacuation," Carter says. "I'll be honest with you, I didn't think it would be possible. It was crazy. It was wild, looking back on it."Carter had been enlisted to help by Khalida Popal, a former captain of her national team who had been involved in Afghanistan women's football for years. As a teenager under Taliban rule, Popal and her friends would play matches in total silence so the Taliban wouldn't hear them. She left Afghanistan because of death threats over her involvement in the game and since 2011 had been living in Denmark. Time was of the essence. Popal knew that Fati and her team-mates would be vulnerable to Taliban investigations because of their sporting exploits. She also knew that soldiers were going door to door. Many female athletes in Kabul were in hiding. Many feared for their lives. She told Fati and the other players to delete their social media accounts, burn their kit and bury their trophies."That was hard because it was our achievements," says Fati. "Who wants to burn their jerseys? I thought, if I survive, I will make [the achievements] again."At the same time, Carter was working on the plan to get them on a military plane out of the country at the earliest opportunity. She knew the security situation in the Afghan capital would only become more dangerous. She strongly believed the US and British governments were badly mishandling the situation. And the Taliban were setting up checkpoints. "Khalida texted all of us saying 'girls, be ready to leave for the airport together, just one backpack each'," says Fati."She said: 'We can't tell you that we are even sure that you will go inside the airport. But if you fight, you will survive.'"When the time came, Fati wrote Carter's phone number on her arm in case her mobile was stolen or confiscated. Carter had also told Fati that the players should rotate having their phones switched on to preserve battery life among the group.Fati left home carrying as little as possible, as instructed. She was wearing long robes that also covered her face. The journey to the airport was fraught with hazards, any of which might stop the players in their tracks.Popal's advice had been to pack for three days, just in case. But in addition to a phone charger, clothes and water, Fati couldn't resist taking another item, even though doing so was a big risk."I had one of the national team shorts," she says. "I wore it like underwear and I was scared about that."The situation at the airport was truly desperate. Thousands of people had congregated, some having travelled from the most distant regions of the country."People were squeezing each other and trying to go inside as fast as they could," Fati says. "It was a matter of life and death. Everyone was trying to survive."For the vast majority, the scramble was in vain."If your name was not on a list, or there wasn't somebody inside the airport coming out to get you, you weren't getting in," says Carter."So we had to work extra hard to make sure that marine counterparts at the gates had their information to make sure that they could get in."Carter told Fati that "there will be a guy at the north gate". She added: "You should be there at the exact time and write a password that I'm telling you. He will understand and there will be no questions and you guys will be inside."That password was the name of World War Two marine hero John Basilone, and the date the marine corps was founded - 10 November 1775 - combined with various other symbols."It was communicated to me that that's what the marines on the gate would be looking for," Carter says. "Marines are going to know that another marine told her to write that sign."But at the north gate, Fati and her group were turned back. The message hadn't got through. "I tried to show that code but the soldier was rejecting and saying, what national team? Who are you?" Fati says."He said, if you have a US passport we will let you in but no other options." In Houston, Carter had to recalibrate the plan. "My heart didn't sink at that point because I was in operational mode," she says. "I said OK, that's not a problem, just give me some time so I can recommunicate to the folks on the gate so they know you're coming. "I think she was stressed, and rightly so. I was not stressed, because if I'm stressed, that stress is going to convey to her."Fati and the rest of the players could only wait. "If I guess, it was 48 hours we were outside the airport," she says."The weather was too hot, there was no air. The children around us were crying and screaming, and saying, 'let's go home, we don't want to die'. Whenever they heard the gunfire, they were screaming. "There were so many eyes looking at me to do something, to find a way."Fati decided she and the players would try again, this time at the south gate. There were two Taliban checkpoints in the way. At the first, she was separated from her brother and he was badly beaten. At the second, she was herself kicked and hit by the men with rifles pushing crowds back. With the weight of responsibility on her shoulders, amid the crush of bodies, the heat and the gunfire, she felt it was over. She felt like giving up. Then she remembered the text message Popal had sent her: "If you fight, you will survive."Fati says: "It was a thing that lighted up that darkness. Suddenly, there was something telling me to get back up and I started again in a strong way. That was a lesson I will keep in my whole life; there's always a hope, there's always an open door."The players regrouped. Suddenly, taking advantage of a distraction that absorbed the attention of the Taliban guards, they made a dash for the Australian soldiers just beyond, still at the airport's southern entrance. "There were so many people but we managed to get past the last checkpoint," Fati says. "We saw the Australian soldiers and shouted phrases like, 'national team players', 'Australia' and 'football'. "They looked at our documents and let us through." When Fati, her team-mates and some Afghan Paralympians boarded a C-130 military transport plane bound for Australia, she sent a photo and message to Carter. "I made it. We made it." The C-130 is a no-nonsense transporter of hardware and troops for war zones, and the girls were hosted in the cargo area, trying to get comfortable enough to sleep on each other's shoulders.So there were no dramatic final glances down through the window at the place that had always been home."The plane just took off and there was just noise and the fear that we had. Looking around, there were just scared faces," Fati says. "I was thinking, you will never ever be able to see this beautiful place where you made memories and grew up. It's your last time."In 2010, in their first official match, captained by Popal, Afghanistan's women lost 13-0 to Nepal.Regardless of the scoreline, a momentum was established that could only flourish in the relative freedoms of an Afghanistan without Taliban rule."We were a voice for all of those who were voiceless," says Fati. "It made my parents change their mindset, especially my dad. He had the same mindset of other men who thought that sport is not good for women."Some people were thinking we were just trying to have fun. But they didn't understand that it wasn't just fun. It was about society, it was about rights. "Our national team was about all those women who were hidden." The team never came close to qualifying for a major tournament like the World Cup or Asian Cup, but under American coach Kelly Lindsey and assistant Carter they did reach the brink of the world's top 100, despite it being too dangerous for either of their coaches to set foot on Afghan soil.The most recent official action involving female Afghan footballers came in June 2021 in an under-20 tournament for central Asian nations in Tajikistan. Two months later came the Taliban's return.In Australia, Fati and her team-mates trained together for the first time in February after Melbourne Victory provided facilities and coaches."The feeling was amazing," says Fati."I thought, we have our everything back, and there was a new hope for all my team-mates. "I've locked those smiles in my memory. And I thought, I'm successful. We will not be lost."In April, they passed another milestone. Coached by former Wales international Jeff Hopkins, who is now the Melbourne Victory women's coach, they played their first match since fleeing Kabul, a 0-0 draw against a local non-league team. The Afghan kit bore no names, only numbers on the back of the jerseys - a reminder that while they are safe, their relatives are still at risk of identification and reprisals.The future looks uncertain. In order to compete internationally in official competition they will need the backing of the Afghan Football Association (AFA), and the approval of the Taliban, which nobody expects to be given. In September the team was withdrawn from qualifiers for February's women's Asian Cup, which China won. Fifa describes the situation in Afghanistan as "unstable and very worrying". It says it "remains in contact" with the AFA and "remains committed to growing the game". But it could not say with any clarity whether Fati and her team-mates would once again be able to represent their country. Meanwhile, the men's team have been playing, recently missing out on qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup. The AFA president, Mohammad Kargar, has not responded to an interview request.Fati remains resolute."We are worried about the title of the Afghanistan national team, if we're going to have it officially or not," she says."If the AFA say no national team, it doesn't matter because I have my team-mates. We have each other. We will play together or individually. We are already a family and no-one can change it. "The goals instead will be for us to make the national teams of Australia or the country that we are in. Still we are Afghans and, somehow, we will be the representatives of our nationality."Carter finally met Fati in Australia in April."She's an incredible young woman," the American says."It's not just the resourcefulness but the courage that entire group of young women displayed, Fati being the leader. The resilience and courage that they've shown over the last year is breathtaking. "Those women are my heroes."

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Team who escaped Taliban fight for their football future

By Mani DjazmiBBC SportLast updated on 13 June 202213 June 2022.From the section Women's FootballThe scene at Kabul airport was one of chaos and desperation. Amid gunfire, people were stampeding in total panic. Thousands were trying to escape the Taliban, and Fati was among them.Fati is a goalkeeper who honed her fluent English by watching TV series and films growing up in another, very different Afghanistan. Her full name and age are withheld to protect the identity of her family.As the Taliban rapidly retook control of her country in August 2021, Fati quickly decided that she and her international team-mates would have to leave their homeland and loved ones behind. For years they had played together, a football team that represented an Afghanistan of greater opportunity and freedom for women. Now thoughts turned to the public executions and stifled liberty that had been hallmarks of the Taliban's previous rule from 1996 to 2001. Fati had considered the Taliban's return impossible. Her disbelief soon turned into a sense of hopelessness and dread. She had to get out."I accepted that Afghanistan was over," she says. "I thought there's no chance for living, no chance for me to go outside again and fight for my rights. No school, no media, no athletes, nothing. We were like dead bodies in our homes. "For two weeks I never slept. I was 24 hours with my phone, trying to reach out to someone, anybody for help. All day and all night, awake, texting and searching social media." Fati and her team-mates did find a way out. They were assisted by an invisible international network of women guiding their steps towards safety. This is the story of their escape. It starts 12,700km away in Houston, Texas, where a 37-year-old former United States marine was planning the evacuation."It was like a little virtual operation centre running out of WhatsApp," says Haley Carter. "Never underestimate the power of women with smartphones."Carter, 37, was a goalkeeper too. After her time in the military, which involved service in Iraq, she played three seasons with NWSL side Houston Dash before moving into coaching. Between 2016 and 2018 she was Afghanistan's assistant coach. The American may have been thousands of miles away but she was sharing intelligence about the rapidly changing situation in Kabul with marines and National Security staff via encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal. The operation was dubbed a 'Digital Dunkirk'."In a normal combat environment, that kind of information wouldn't be shared. But this was an evacuation," Carter says. "I'll be honest with you, I didn't think it would be possible. It was crazy. It was wild, looking back on it."Carter had been enlisted to help by Khalida Popal, a former captain of her national team who had been involved in Afghanistan women's football for years. As a teenager under Taliban rule, Popal and her friends would play matches in total silence so the Taliban wouldn't hear them. She left Afghanistan because of death threats over her involvement in the game and since 2011 had been living in Denmark. Time was of the essence. Popal knew that Fati and her team-mates would be vulnerable to Taliban investigations because of their sporting exploits. She also knew that soldiers were going door to door. Many female athletes in Kabul were in hiding. Many feared for their lives. She told Fati and the other players to delete their social media accounts, burn their kit and bury their trophies."That was hard because it was our achievements," says Fati. "Who wants to burn their jerseys? I thought, if I survive, I will make [the achievements] again."At the same time, Carter was working on the plan to get them on a military plane out of the country at the earliest opportunity. She knew the security situation in the Afghan capital would only become more dangerous. She strongly believed the US and British governments were badly mishandling the situation. And the Taliban were setting up checkpoints. "Khalida texted all of us saying 'girls, be ready to leave for the airport together, just one backpack each'," says Fati."She said: 'We can't tell you that we are even sure that you will go inside the airport. But if you fight, you will survive.'"When the time came, Fati wrote Carter's phone number on her arm in case her mobile was stolen or confiscated. Carter had also told Fati that the players should rotate having their phones switched on to preserve battery life among the group.Fati left home carrying as little as possible, as instructed. She was wearing long robes that also covered her face. The journey to the airport was fraught with hazards, any of which might stop the players in their tracks.Popal's advice had been to pack for three days, just in case. But in addition to a phone charger, clothes and water, Fati couldn't resist taking another item, even though doing so was a big risk."I had one of the national team shorts," she says. "I wore it like underwear and I was scared about that."The situation at the airport was truly desperate. Thousands of people had congregated, some having travelled from the most distant regions of the country."People were squeezing each other and trying to go inside as fast as they could," Fati says. "It was a matter of life and death. Everyone was trying to survive."For the vast majority, the scramble was in vain."If your name was not on a list, or there wasn't somebody inside the airport coming out to get you, you weren't getting in," says Carter."So we had to work extra hard to make sure that marine counterparts at the gates had their information to make sure that they could get in."Carter told Fati that "there will be a guy at the north gate". She added: "You should be there at the exact time and write a password that I'm telling you. He will understand and there will be no questions and you guys will be inside."That password was the name of World War Two marine hero John Basilone, and the date the marine corps was founded - 10 November 1775 - combined with various other symbols."It was communicated to me that that's what the marines on the gate would be looking for," Carter says. "Marines are going to know that another marine told her to write that sign."But at the north gate, Fati and her group were turned back. The message hadn't got through. "I tried to show that code but the soldier was rejecting and saying, what national team? Who are you?" Fati says."He said, if you have a US passport we will let you in but no other options." In Houston, Carter had to recalibrate the plan. "My heart didn't sink at that point because I was in operational mode," she says. "I said OK, that's not a problem, just give me some time so I can recommunicate to the folks on the gate so they know you're coming. "I think she was stressed, and rightly so. I was not stressed, because if I'm stressed, that stress is going to convey to her."Fati and the rest of the players could only wait. "If I guess, it was 48 hours we were outside the airport," she says."The weather was too hot, there was no air. The children around us were crying and screaming, and saying, 'let's go home, we don't want to die'. Whenever they heard the gunfire, they were screaming. "There were so many eyes looking at me to do something, to find a way."Fati decided she and the players would try again, this time at the south gate. There were two Taliban checkpoints in the way. At the first, she was separated from her brother and he was badly beaten. At the second, she was herself kicked and hit by the men with rifles pushing crowds back. With the weight of responsibility on her shoulders, amid the crush of bodies, the heat and the gunfire, she felt it was over. She felt like giving up. Then she remembered the text message Popal had sent her: "If you fight, you will survive."Fati says: "It was a thing that lighted up that darkness. Suddenly, there was something telling me to get back up and I started again in a strong way. That was a lesson I will keep in my whole life; there's always a hope, there's always an open door."The players regrouped. Suddenly, taking advantage of a distraction that absorbed the attention of the Taliban guards, they made a dash for the Australian soldiers just beyond, still at the airport's southern entrance. "There were so many people but we managed to get past the last checkpoint," Fati says. "We saw the Australian soldiers and shouted phrases like, 'national team players', 'Australia' and 'football'. "They looked at our documents and let us through." When Fati, her team-mates and some Afghan Paralympians boarded a C-130 military transport plane bound for Australia, she sent a photo and message to Carter. "I made it. We made it." The C-130 is a no-nonsense transporter of hardware and troops for war zones, and the girls were hosted in the cargo area, trying to get comfortable enough to sleep on each other's shoulders.So there were no dramatic final glances down through the window at the place that had always been home."The plane just took off and there was just noise and the fear that we had. Looking around, there were just scared faces," Fati says. "I was thinking, you will never ever be able to see this beautiful place where you made memories and grew up. It's your last time."In 2010, in their first official match, captained by Popal, Afghanistan's women lost 13-0 to Nepal.Regardless of the scoreline, a momentum was established that could only flourish in the relative freedoms of an Afghanistan without Taliban rule."We were a voice for all of those who were voiceless," says Fati. "It made my parents change their mindset, especially my dad. He had the same mindset of other men who thought that sport is not good for women."Some people were thinking we were just trying to have fun. But they didn't understand that it wasn't just fun. It was about society, it was about rights. "Our national team was about all those women who were hidden." The team never came close to qualifying for a major tournament like the World Cup or Asian Cup, but under American coach Kelly Lindsey and assistant Carter they did reach the brink of the world's top 100, despite it being too dangerous for either of their coaches to set foot on Afghan soil.The most recent official action involving female Afghan footballers came in June 2021 in an under-20 tournament for central Asian nations in Tajikistan. Two months later came the Taliban's return.In Australia, Fati and her team-mates trained together for the first time in February after Melbourne Victory provided facilities and coaches."The feeling was amazing," says Fati."I thought, we have our everything back, and there was a new hope for all my team-mates. "I've locked those smiles in my memory. And I thought, I'm successful. We will not be lost."In April, they passed another milestone. Coached by former Wales international Jeff Hopkins, who is now the Melbourne Victory women's coach, they played their first match since fleeing Kabul, a 0-0 draw against a local non-league team. The Afghan kit bore no names, only numbers on the back of the jerseys - a reminder that while they are safe, their relatives are still at risk of identification and reprisals.The future looks uncertain. In order to compete internationally in official competition they will need the backing of the Afghan Football Association (AFA), and the approval of the Taliban, which nobody expects to be given. In September the team was withdrawn from qualifiers for February's women's Asian Cup, which China won. Fifa describes the situation in Afghanistan as "unstable and very worrying". It says it "remains in contact" with the AFA and "remains committed to growing the game". But it could not say with any clarity whether Fati and her team-mates would once again be able to represent their country. Meanwhile, the men's team have been playing, recently missing out on qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup. The AFA president, Mohammad Kargar, has not responded to an interview request.Fati remains resolute."We are worried about the title of the Afghanistan national team, if we're going to have it officially or not," she says."If the AFA say no national team, it doesn't matter because I have my team-mates. We have each other. We will play together or individually. We are already a family and no-one can change it. "The goals instead will be for us to make the national teams of Australia or the country that we are in. Still we are Afghans and, somehow, we will be the representatives of our nationality."Carter finally met Fati in Australia in April."She's an incredible young woman," the American says."It's not just the resourcefulness but the courage that entire group of young women displayed, Fati being the leader. The resilience and courage that they've shown over the last year is breathtaking. "Those women are my heroes."

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Team who escaped Taliban fight for their football future

By Mani DjazmiBBC SportLast updated on 13 June 202213 June 2022.From the section Women's FootballThe scene at Kabul airport was one of chaos and desperation. Amid gunfire, people were stampeding in total panic. Thousands were trying to escape the Taliban, and Fati was among them.Fati is a goalkeeper who honed her fluent English by watching TV series and films growing up in another, very different Afghanistan. Her full name and age are withheld to protect the identity of her family.As the Taliban rapidly retook control of her country in August 2021, Fati quickly decided that she and her international team-mates would have to leave their homeland and loved ones behind. For years they had played together, a football team that represented an Afghanistan of greater opportunity and freedom for women. Now thoughts turned to the public executions and stifled liberty that had been hallmarks of the Taliban's previous rule from 1996 to 2001. Fati had considered the Taliban's return impossible. Her disbelief soon turned into a sense of hopelessness and dread. She had to get out."I accepted that Afghanistan was over," she says. "I thought there's no chance for living, no chance for me to go outside again and fight for my rights. No school, no media, no athletes, nothing. We were like dead bodies in our homes. "For two weeks I never slept. I was 24 hours with my phone, trying to reach out to someone, anybody for help. All day and all night, awake, texting and searching social media." Fati and her team-mates did find a way out. They were assisted by an invisible international network of women guiding their steps towards safety. This is the story of their escape. It starts 12,700km away in Houston, Texas, where a 37-year-old former United States marine was planning the evacuation."It was like a little virtual operation centre running out of WhatsApp," says Haley Carter. "Never underestimate the power of women with smartphones."Carter, 37, was a goalkeeper too. After her time in the military, which involved service in Iraq, she played three seasons with NWSL side Houston Dash before moving into coaching. Between 2016 and 2018 she was Afghanistan's assistant coach. The American may have been thousands of miles away but she was sharing intelligence about the rapidly changing situation in Kabul with marines and National Security staff via encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal. The operation was dubbed a 'Digital Dunkirk'."In a normal combat environment, that kind of information wouldn't be shared. But this was an evacuation," Carter says. "I'll be honest with you, I didn't think it would be possible. It was crazy. It was wild, looking back on it."Carter had been enlisted to help by Khalida Popal, a former captain of her national team who had been involved in Afghanistan women's football for years. As a teenager under Taliban rule, Popal and her friends would play matches in total silence so the Taliban wouldn't hear them. She left Afghanistan because of death threats over her involvement in the game and since 2011 had been living in Denmark. Time was of the essence. Popal knew that Fati and her team-mates would be vulnerable to Taliban investigations because of their sporting exploits. She also knew that soldiers were going door to door. Many female athletes in Kabul were in hiding. Many feared for their lives. She told Fati and the other players to delete their social media accounts, burn their kit and bury their trophies."That was hard because it was our achievements," says Fati. "Who wants to burn their jerseys? I thought, if I survive, I will make [the achievements] again."At the same time, Carter was working on the plan to get them on a military plane out of the country at the earliest opportunity. She knew the security situation in the Afghan capital would only become more dangerous. She strongly believed the US and British governments were badly mishandling the situation. And the Taliban were setting up checkpoints. "Khalida texted all of us saying 'girls, be ready to leave for the airport together, just one backpack each'," says Fati."She said: 'We can't tell you that we are even sure that you will go inside the airport. But if you fight, you will survive.'"When the time came, Fati wrote Carter's phone number on her arm in case her mobile was stolen or confiscated. Carter had also told Fati that the players should rotate having their phones switched on to preserve battery life among the group.Fati left home carrying as little as possible, as instructed. She was wearing long robes that also covered her face. The journey to the airport was fraught with hazards, any of which might stop the players in their tracks.Popal's advice had been to pack for three days, just in case. But in addition to a phone charger, clothes and water, Fati couldn't resist taking another item, even though doing so was a big risk."I had one of the national team shorts," she says. "I wore it like underwear and I was scared about that."The situation at the airport was truly desperate. Thousands of people had congregated, some having travelled from the most distant regions of the country."People were squeezing each other and trying to go inside as fast as they could," Fati says. "It was a matter of life and death. Everyone was trying to survive."For the vast majority, the scramble was in vain."If your name was not on a list, or there wasn't somebody inside the airport coming out to get you, you weren't getting in," says Carter."So we had to work extra hard to make sure that marine counterparts at the gates had their information to make sure that they could get in."Carter told Fati that "there will be a guy at the north gate". She added: "You should be there at the exact time and write a password that I'm telling you. He will understand and there will be no questions and you guys will be inside."That password was the name of World War Two marine hero John Basilone, and the date the marine corps was founded - 10 November 1775 - combined with various other symbols."It was communicated to me that that's what the marines on the gate would be looking for," Carter says. "Marines are going to know that another marine told her to write that sign."But at the north gate, Fati and her group were turned back. The message hadn't got through. "I tried to show that code but the soldier was rejecting and saying, what national team? Who are you?" Fati says."He said, if you have a US passport we will let you in but no other options." In Houston, Carter had to recalibrate the plan. "My heart didn't sink at that point because I was in operational mode," she says. "I said OK, that's not a problem, just give me some time so I can recommunicate to the folks on the gate so they know you're coming. "I think she was stressed, and rightly so. I was not stressed, because if I'm stressed, that stress is going to convey to her."Fati and the rest of the players could only wait. "If I guess, it was 48 hours we were outside the airport," she says."The weather was too hot, there was no air. The children around us were crying and screaming, and saying, 'let's go home, we don't want to die'. Whenever they heard the gunfire, they were screaming. "There were so many eyes looking at me to do something, to find a way."Fati decided she and the players would try again, this time at the south gate. There were two Taliban checkpoints in the way. At the first, she was separated from her brother and he was badly beaten. At the second, she was herself kicked and hit by the men with rifles pushing crowds back. With the weight of responsibility on her shoulders, amid the crush of bodies, the heat and the gunfire, she felt it was over. She felt like giving up. Then she remembered the text message Popal had sent her: "If you fight, you will survive."Fati says: "It was a thing that lighted up that darkness. Suddenly, there was something telling me to get back up and I started again in a strong way. That was a lesson I will keep in my whole life; there's always a hope, there's always an open door."The players regrouped. Suddenly, taking advantage of a distraction that absorbed the attention of the Taliban guards, they made a dash for the Australian soldiers just beyond, still at the airport's southern entrance. "There were so many people but we managed to get past the last checkpoint," Fati says. "We saw the Australian soldiers and shouted phrases like, 'national team players', 'Australia' and 'football'. "They looked at our documents and let us through." When Fati, her team-mates and some Afghan Paralympians boarded a C-130 military transport plane bound for Australia, she sent a photo and message to Carter. "I made it. We made it." The C-130 is a no-nonsense transporter of hardware and troops for war zones, and the girls were hosted in the cargo area, trying to get comfortable enough to sleep on each other's shoulders.So there were no dramatic final glances down through the window at the place that had always been home."The plane just took off and there was just noise and the fear that we had. Looking around, there were just scared faces," Fati says. "I was thinking, you will never ever be able to see this beautiful place where you made memories and grew up. It's your last time."In 2010, in their first official match, captained by Popal, Afghanistan's women lost 13-0 to Nepal.Regardless of the scoreline, a momentum was established that could only flourish in the relative freedoms of an Afghanistan without Taliban rule."We were a voice for all of those who were voiceless," says Fati. "It made my parents change their mindset, especially my dad. He had the same mindset of other men who thought that sport is not good for women."Some people were thinking we were just trying to have fun. But they didn't understand that it wasn't just fun. It was about society, it was about rights. "Our national team was about all those women who were hidden." The team never came close to qualifying for a major tournament like the World Cup or Asian Cup, but under American coach Kelly Lindsey and assistant Carter they did reach the brink of the world's top 100, despite it being too dangerous for either of their coaches to set foot on Afghan soil.The most recent official action involving female Afghan footballers came in June 2021 in an under-20 tournament for central Asian nations in Tajikistan. Two months later came the Taliban's return.In Australia, Fati and her team-mates trained together for the first time in February after Melbourne Victory provided facilities and coaches."The feeling was amazing," says Fati."I thought, we have our everything back, and there was a new hope for all my team-mates. "I've locked those smiles in my memory. And I thought, I'm successful. We will not be lost."In April, they passed another milestone. Coached by former Wales international Jeff Hopkins, who is now the Melbourne Victory women's coach, they played their first match since fleeing Kabul, a 0-0 draw against a local non-league team. The Afghan kit bore no names, only numbers on the back of the jerseys - a reminder that while they are safe, their relatives are still at risk of identification and reprisals.The future looks uncertain. In order to compete internationally in official competition they will need the backing of the Afghan Football Association (AFA), and the approval of the Taliban, which nobody expects to be given. In September the team was withdrawn from qualifiers for February's women's Asian Cup, which China won. Fifa describes the situation in Afghanistan as "unstable and very worrying". It says it "remains in contact" with the AFA and "remains committed to growing the game". But it could not say with any clarity whether Fati and her team-mates would once again be able to represent their country. Meanwhile, the men's team have been playing, recently missing out on qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup. The AFA president, Mohammad Kargar, has not responded to an interview request.Fati remains resolute."We are worried about the title of the Afghanistan national team, if we're going to have it officially or not," she says."If the AFA say no national team, it doesn't matter because I have my team-mates. We have each other. We will play together or individually. We are already a family and no-one can change it. "The goals instead will be for us to make the national teams of Australia or the country that we are in. Still we are Afghans and, somehow, we will be the representatives of our nationality."Carter finally met Fati in Australia in April."She's an incredible young woman," the American says."It's not just the resourcefulness but the courage that entire group of young women displayed, Fati being the leader. The resilience and courage that they've shown over the last year is breathtaking. "Those women are my heroes."

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Lightyear is 'frustratingly slow'

The latest entry in the Toy Story cinematic universe is "thin and repetitive", with a "sloppy screenplay", writes Nicholas Barber.Pixar's latest Toy Story film isn't really a Toy Story film. That is, it's a film about Buzz Lightyear, but it's not about the Buzz Lightyear action figure who was in Toy Story. It's about the Buzz Lightyear character who, in theory, prompted a toy company to manufacture the action figure in the first place – and that's why he is voiced by Chris Evans rather than Buzz's usual actor, Tim Allen. Yes, it's confusing, but a caption at the start of Lightyear makes things reasonably clear: "In 1995, a boy called Andy got a Buzz Lightyear toy for his birthday. It was from his favourite movie. This is that movie." This postmodern premise raises some distracting questions, the first one being: does Lightyear seem like a film that might have come out in 1995? Does it have much in common with Jurassic Park, Men in Black, Independence Day, and the other science-fiction hits of the mid-1990s? The answer is no. The film's clunky machinery and scratched paintwork look as if they come from the 1970s rather than the 1990s, but features progressive attitudes which belong firmly to the 21st Century. More like this: -       Jurassic World Dominion review: 'Exhilarating'-       The film that made Cannes sob-       Turning Red: 'Life-affirming' new Pixar If we shrug all that off, and accept that the director, Angus MacLane, didn't fancy making a pastiche of a 1990s sci-fi movie, we have to move onto the next, more significant question raised by that opening caption: is Lightyear the kind of film which would get Andy begging for a Buzz Lightyear toy for his sixth birthday? Again, the answer is a big fat no.LightyearStarring: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, James Brolin and Uzo AdubaDirector: Angus MacLaneLength: 1 hour 40 minutesRelease date: Released internationally on 17 JuneProduction company: Disney/ PixarIf Lightyear had been a rollicking, Flash Gordon-style yarn about a Space Ranger zooming around the galaxy and zapping evil aliens, you could see why it might be Andy's "favourite movie". But MacLane has made a frustratingly slow, melancholy drama with a gloomy, grey setting, drab, uninspired production design, and a depressing story that's hardly livened up by the forced banter or the predictable pratfalls. Worst of all, its doubt-racked main character is a lot less endearing than the swaggering lunk we know and love from Toy Story. Lightyear doesn't even establish who Buzz is or what he does, but he and his Space Ranger sidekick Alisha (Uzo Aduba) seem to be some sort of security guards who work on some sort of colony ship. They touch down on a planet where they are attacked by the local flora and fauna, but these potentially entertaining giant bugs and tentacle-like tendrils are written out immediately afterwards. Buzz tries to save the colonists by piloting the ship off-planet, but, through no fault of his own, the ship collides with a mountain top and its "hyper-speed crystal" is shattered. Buzz and the colonists are stranded. This leads to lots of scenes in which he feels guilty about making a disastrous "mistake", even though he didn't actually make a mistake. It also leads to lots of scenes in which he tests a succession of replacement crystals in his personal shuttle craft. Again and again, the crystal fails to make the grade, but Space Rangers always finish their missions – as we are told approximately 87 times – so after every failure, Buzz flies off to try out another makeshift crystal.After what seems like hours, he returns from one of his test flights to find that the colonists' ship has been besieged by the robotic stormtroopers of the Darth Vader-like Emperor Zurg (voiced by James Brolin). He meets a tediously zany band of clueless rebel soldiers (voiced by Taika Waititi, Keke Palmer and Dale Soules), and together they plan to fly up to Zurg's hovering mothership. But then Buzz's shuttle craft is damaged, too, and he has to locate another crucial component to fix it. At this point, the viewer will come to the stomach-sinking realisation that Lightyear has two plots – and they're both about the hero getting hold of a spare engine part. To use that mundane plot once, as Star Wars: The Phantom Menace did, may be regarded as a misfortune; to use it twice looks like carelessness. Bear in mind that this is a Pixar film, so of course the animation is hard to fault, and of course it has some ambitious philosophical concepts. But considering how proud the studio is of its engaging characters and machine-tooled storytelling, it's amazing that Lightyear has such an obviously sloppy screenplay. The story is thin, repetitive, and almost entirely dependent on the heroes being clumsy. (The closing credits are excruciatingly slow, a sure sign that the producers wanted the film to appear longer than it is.) And the characterisation is weirdly vague, as if the writers meant to fill in the gaps later, but never got around to it. There is a grand total of three interchangeable, annoyingly unhelpful robots. Zurg is hidden away until the last reel. His faceless minions are, well, faceless minions. And we hardly glimpse the lives of the colonists, so we have no investment in what Buzz and his bumbling friends are hoping to achieve. What we're left with is a few neurotic misfits pottering around a barren desert, making a hash of things. They learn about the value of teamwork over and over again, and then they learn that family life is an adventure in itself, a lesson which was a lot more moving when it was taught in Pixar's Up back in 2009. Is this dreary ordeal really what anyone had in mind when they first heard the phrase "To infinity – and beyond"? Whatever escapades young Andy imagined in 1995 when he was playing with his Space Ranger toy, they were bound to be more fun than this one. ★★☆☆☆ Love film and TV? Join BBC Culture Film and TV Club on Facebook, a community for cinephiles all over the world. If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter. And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called The Essential List. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

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Congo rebels seize eastern border town, 30,000 flee into Uganda

M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo have seized the eastern border town of Bunagana, local activists said on Monday, sending more than 30,000 civilians fleeing into neighboring Uganda. The capture of Bunagana marked a major setback for Congolese forces who said a day earlier they had the insurgents on the run. The United Nations and African Union voiced alarm about the mounting violence in a region where conflicts in the 1990s and 2000s cost millions of lives, mostly from disease and hunger, and spawned dozens of militias that remain active to this day. Bunagana was an M23 stronghold during a 2012 insurrection that briefly overran the major city of Goma before Congolese and U.N. forces chased the rebels into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda the following year. The office of North Kivu's military governor said on Sunday that Congolese forces had "routed" the M23 following early-morning attacks near Bunagana, which is one of the main crossings into Uganda. But Jean-Baptise Twizere, the president of a local civil society group, said the town fell to the rebels on Sunday night. "Congolese soldiers who found themselves encircled by enemies in Bunagana could not do anything and since 11 p.m. they have left the city," he told Reuters on Monday from Bunagana. Edgard Mateso, the vice president of an advocacy group in North Kivu province, confirmed the M23 takeover. General Sylvain Ekenge, the spokesman for North Kivu's military government, said he did not yet have any information. The fighting caused more than 30,000 Congolese asylum seekers and 137 Congolese soldiers to cross into Uganda on Monday, Shaffiq Sekandi, Uganda's resident district commissioner for Kisoro district, told Reuters. "They are all over, the streets are full, others have gone to churches, they are under trees, everywhere. It's a really desperate situation," he said. The United Nations had previously said that 25,000 people fled the violence on Sunday. A spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was concerned about deteriorating security in eastern Congo, including M23 attacks. The region has seen near-constant conflict since Rwanda and Uganda invaded twice in the 1990s. African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for talks between Congo and Rwanda to resolve a growing diplomatic crisis. Congolese authorities on Sunday renewed accusations that Rwanda has been backing the latest offensive by the M23, whose leadership hails from the same Tutsi ethnic group as Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Rwanda has denied providing any support and accused Congo of collaborating with another militia group founded by ethnic Hutus who fled Rwanda after participating in the 1994 genocide. Congo denies this charge. During the 2012-2013 conflict, Congo and U.N. investigators accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the M23, which they denied. On Monday, two senior Congolese security sources, who asked not to be named, also accused the Ugandan military of supporting the M23's offensive. Twizere said he had seen Ugandan troops cross the border to block the Congolese army's access to Bunagana. Uganda's army spokesman Brigadier Felix Kulayigye denied any involvement. "We are only closely watching what's going on from across the border and we have been in that position for months," he said. © Thomson Reuters 2022.

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55 people killed in latest attack in Burkina Faso

Gunmen killed at least 55 people over the weekend in northern Burkina Faso, authorities said Monday, the latest attack in the West African country seeing mounting violence blamed on Islamic extremists. Suspected militants targeted civilians in Seytenga in Seno province, government spokesman Wendkouni Joel Lionel Bilgo said at a news conference. While the government put the official toll at 55, others put the figure far higher. Attacks linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group are soaring in Burkina Faso, particularly in the north. Jihadists killed at least 160 people in an attack in Solhan town last July. In January, mutinous soldiers ousted the democratically elected president promising to secure the nation but violence has only increased. The government is asking people to remain united in the fight against the insurgents. While no group claimed the attack, conflict analysts say it was likely carried out by the Islamic State group. “In recent weeks the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) have been the most aggressive group, notably in Seno and Oudalan provinces. In addition to attacks against security forces, civilians have also been targeted,” said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Moroccan-based organization focused on economics and policy. “This is a major blow to security forces and puts them on the backfoot again, indicating they are far from being able to secure the area and protect civilians,” he said. Nearly 5,000 people have died over the last two years in Burkina Faso because of violence blamed on Islamic extremists. Another 2 million people have fled their homes, deepening the country's humanitarian crisis. © Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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