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Nick Kyrgios to appear in court over common assault allegation

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Wimbledon quarter-finalist Nick Kyrgios is set to appear in court in Australia next month in relation to an allegation of common assault. Police said it follows an incident in December last year which Kyrgios’ barrister says was “in the context of a domestic relationship”.Kyrgios is now scheduled to appear at the Australia Capital Territory Magistrates’ Court on 2 August.He will play Chile’s Cristian Garin in the Wimbledon last eight on Wednesday. Kyrgios’ barrister Jason Moffett, speaking to The Canberra Times in Australia, said: “The nature of the allegation is serious, and Mr Kyrgios takes the allegation very seriously.”Given the matter is before the court, he doesn’t have a comment at this stage, but in the fullness of time we’ll issue a media release.”A police statement said: “ACT Policing can confirm a 27-year-old Watson man is scheduled to face the ACT Magistrates’ Court on 2 August in relation to one charge of common assault following an incident in December 2021.”The player’s legal team said: “At the present time, the allegations are not considered as fact by the court, and Mr Kyrgios is not considered charged with an offence until the first appearance.”Kyrgios was on site practising at SW19 on Tuesday but moved to a court out of the view of reporters and photographers and did not answer any questions. In a statement, the Association of Tennis Professionals said: “The ATP is aware of the Australian case involving Nick Kyrgios but as legal proceedings are ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Sydney floods aftermath: 'Everybody is traumatised'

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Published1 hour agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesIn the town of Windsor, north-west of Sydney, some roads have turned into small rivers. And the only way to get around is by boat. Mathew Benson has been rowing up and down one of the streets in a neighbourhood in the suburb of Australia’s largest city. “I’m bringing food and water to people over there,” he tells me, pointing to the other side. “We’re just watching and waiting.” While some cars are barely visible, others are completely submerged. Many residents in the area have had to leave their homes and others are stranded as roads have been cut off. Thousands have been left without power.Another local, Sam, points to her house just across the submerged road. “We don’t know about the second floor. But the first floor is definitely flooded,” she tells me in tears. This is the second time this has happened to her this year. Her house was damaged in the floods back in March. This time, she has had to move in with her mother who now also has to evacuate. It’s all been too exhausting and emotional and she breaks down. “We just got back on our feet. We’d just cleaned up our house and fixed it up. And now this…” she said.Windsor is a close-knit community. Most of those I have spoken to have grown up in the area or have been here for at least two decades. Despite the fact that this is their third extreme flooding event in 18 months, many told me they wouldn’t want to move. But you can sense that everyone is exhausted. Not just from dealing with the current crisis, but from having to deal with one disastrous weather event after another. How Australia is becoming more unliveableAustralia’s epic floods spur new warning systems”Everybody is in shock. Everybody is traumatised,” Linda Strickland tells me. She is the co-founder of local charity Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands and has been helping people here for years, especially during natural disasters. I meet her on one of the streets in South Windsor where people have been stranded. Swathes of farmland now are completely covered in water.”The community is still recovering from the last flood and the one before. Some people are still recovering from the fires,” she said.”Everyone is in disaster mode now. The most important thing is to make sure people are safe and have something to eat and know that someone cares.” Ms Strickland adds that while rebuilding will take a long time, her worry going forward is the mental and psychological toll this will take on the community.”There needs to be someone counselling at every evacuation centre,” she said. “I’ve never seen a flood like this in the 20 years I’ve lived here.” The wet weather has been relentless, with parts of Sydney getting eight months’ worth of rain in four days. The newly-built Windsor bridge, which was supposed to be flood resistant, is hardly visible as the water continues to rise.Image source, Getty ImagesStuart Reed, 55, has lived in Windsor all his life and said this is unprecedented. “It just seems to be happening a lot more often,” he said. “Apart from the trauma that this causes it’s financially crippling as well. I just walked through town here and half the shops are shut.”The New South Wales state Premier Dominic Perrottet has said it is time to let go of the idea that floods like this happen “once in a century” after some regions experienced their fourth deluge in less than two years. Sydney’s main dam has been over-spilling through the night and the authorities have warned of more flood risks. “It’s crazy being told you have to leave your home and just grab what you can,” Chloe Neich said. This is the first time she’s had to evacuate. “A lot of stuff has been left behind and we don’t really know what we’re going back to. We’re just hoping that our house is safe. And that we can get back to normal.” I ask what normal is for her? “Not flooding,” she smiles. “Kids out in the sun and park. Not worrying about whether they have a house.” This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Have you been told to evacuate your home? Only if it is safe to do so, please share your experiences by emailing [email protected] include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also get in touch in the following ways:WhatsApp: +44 7756 165803Tweet: @BBC_HaveYourSayUpload pictures or videoPlease read our terms & conditions and privacy policy

If you are reading this page and can’t see the form you will need to visit the mobile version of the BBC website to submit your question or comment or you can email us at [email protected] Please include your name, age and location with any submission. More on this storyAustralia floods put 50,000 on evacuation alert14 hours agoAustralia’s epic floods spur new warning systems18 hours agoHow Australia is becoming more unliveable19 May

Xiao Jianhua: Canadian officials barred from tycoon's China trial

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Published3 hours agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, CUHKCanadian officials say they have been barred from the trial of billionaire Xiao Jianhua by Chinese authorities.The Chinese-Canadian tycoon’s trial was said to have started on Monday, five years after he disappeared from a luxury Hong Kong hotel.His case remains shrouded in secrecy, and the authorities have not specified what charges he faces.Chinese officials have yet to comment publicly on the trial, or say where it is taking place.On Tuesday Canada’s embassy in China said their consular officials had made “several requests” to attend the trial proceedings, in a statement to the BBC. “Our attendance was denied by Chinese authorities.”The statement added embassy officials were “monitoring this case closely”, and would “continue to press for consular access”.The trial was due to begin on Monday, the embassy said earlier.Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday he had “reached out to relevant departments” when asked about the trial during a daily press briefing, but said he was still “waiting for their response.”Mystery of a Chinese tycoon’s disappearanceWhat happened to Xiao Jianhua?In 2017, Mr Xiao was whisked away from the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong, where he was understood to have been living at the time. His family filed a missing person’s report with Hong Kong authorities after he disappeared, but withdrew it a day later, saying they had “regained contact” with Mr Xiao.Hong Kong police said surveillance footage at the scene showed Mr Xiao did not leave the hotel under duress, but refused to release the footage.Mr Xiao later issued a statement that was run on the front page of a popular newspaper saying he was receiving medical treatment abroad. He also praised the “rule of law” in China and said that he had not been kidnapped and taken to the Chinese mainland.His company also released statements on his behalf saying he was fine, though these were later removed.The incident sent shockwaves through Hong Kong at the time. It raised many questions about Beijing’s reach and deepened fears that residents could be forcibly taken by Chinese agents to face trial on the mainland. Those fears would later spark some of the largest protests Hong Kong had ever seen in 2019, after authorities attempted to introduce a bill that would allow these extraditions to take place. His disappearance took place at a time when China was cracking down on conglomerates. Since then regulators have seized nine enterprises linked to Mr Xiao’s investment firm Tomorrow Holdings, which had arms in the finance, insurance, real estate and coal industries. Mr Xiao had also owned non-controlling stakes in banking and insurance companies, and was known to have built strong connections with families of Communist leaders after he sided with the party against student protests in Beijing in 1989. By 2016, his net worth had grown to an estimated $6bn (£4.7bn) according to Hurun Report, a ranking of China’s wealthiest people. You may also be interested in: This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.More on this storyMystery of a Chinese tycoon’s disappearance1 February 2017China’s history of extraordinary rendition16 June 2019Huge march against Hong Kong extradition law9 June 2019

Twelve religious group members arrested over Australian girl's death

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Published3 hours agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Jayde StruhsTwelve members of a religious group have been arrested over the death of an eight-year-old girl in Australia.Elizabeth Struhs died on 7 January at a home south of Brisbane, after the type one diabetic was allegedly denied insulin for almost a week.Earlier this year, her parents were charged with murder, torture and failing to provide necessities of life.Police now say they will charge another 12 people – aged between 19 and 64 – over the girl’s death.The group had been aware of Elizabeth’s deteriorating medical condition, but did not seek help, Queensland Police said in a statement.Her parents – Jason and Kerrie Struhs – are members of a small, tight-knit religious group in the city of Toowoomba that is not associated with any mainstream church, according to local media.Police allege the pair and others prayed for Elizabeth’s recovery as she became gravely ill, the news outlets said.Authorities weren’t called until a day after the child died.Detective Acting Superintendent Garry Watts said police had been surprised by what they found, calling the investigation unprecedented.”In my 40 years of policing, I’ve never faced a matter like this,” he said.”And I’m not aware of a similar event in Queensland, let alone Australia.”In a fundraiser set up to support Elizabeth’s siblings, her oldest sister Jayde Struhs said her extended family had been left “completely shattered and heartbroken”.”We have faced the brutal reality that the people who should have protected her did not, and we may never know the full extent of what took place,” she wrote.She said her estranged parents were part of a “fear-driven and controlling” cult that took religion to its extremes.The 12 people arrested on Tuesday are expected to appear in court on Wednesday. Jason and Kerrie Struhs will return to court later in July.

Kali poster: India police lodge complaint against Leena Manimekalai

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Published5 hours agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Leena ManimekalaiA film poster that depicts a woman dressed as Hindu goddess Kali smoking a cigarette has sparked anger in India.Director Leena Manimekalai had tweeted the poster of her new film Kaali on Saturday.On Tuesday, police in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh registered a complaint against the director for the “disrespectful depiction” of Hindu gods.Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction, is worshipped by millions of people.Ms Manimekalai’s tweet had generated thousands of responses from angry Hindus, who accused her of offending their religious sentiments.On Monday night, the Indian High Commission in Canada said it had asked the organisers of the event where Ms Manimekalai’s film was to be screened to withdraw the “provocative” poster.It added that it had also conveyed “complaints from leaders of the Hindu community in Canada” to the organisers.Earlier in the day, Ms Manimekalai’s name had trended on social media in India as many called for her arrest.Super thrilled to share the launch of my recent film – today at @AgaKhanMuseum as part of its “Rhythms of Canada”Link: https://t.co/RAQimMt7LnI made this performance doc as a cohort of https://t.co/[email protected] @TorontoMet @YorkUFGS Feeling pumped with my CREW❤️ pic.twitter.com/L8LDDnctC9— Leena Manimekalai (@LeenaManimekali) July 2, 2022
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on TwitterThe filmmaker, who is currently studying in Canada, told the BBC that the goddess she depicts in her film “champions humanity and embraces diversity”.”As a poet and filmmaker, I embody Kali in my own independent vision,” she said. The depiction of religious figures on screen is a sensitive issue in India. In 2015, the country’s censor board demanded several cuts in the Bollywood film Angry Indian Goddesses, which showed images of Hindu goddesses. Many other filmmakers and actors have faced protests for portraying religious themes or references in their movie. India has also recently seen major protests from Muslims over comments made by a politician about the Prophet Muhammad. Last week, police in Rajasthan state arrested two Muslim men who have been accused of killing a Hindu man – in a video, they said the act was in retaliation for his support for the remarks.Several Twitter users said the depiction of the goddess on the poster was an insult to Hinduism and called for legal action against the filmmaker. Others asked for all religious sentiments to be respected.Image source, Getty ImagesVinit Goenka, a spokesperson for the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, said the projection of the goddess hurt “the sentiments of Indians across the world” and asked the Indian government to ensure the tweet was taken down.A lawyer in the capital, Delhi, tweeted that he had filed a police complaint against Ms Manimekalai.The director, who is from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, is a film student in Toronto. She was among 18 graduate students chosen under a programme managed by the Toronto Metropolitan University to make works on multiculturalism. The film, Ms Manimekalai says, is a “candid shoot” of herself dressed up as a goddess walking the streets of Toronto.”In my film, Kali chooses me as a spirit, holds a Pride flag and a camera in her hands and meets the First Nations (indigenous people), the People of African, Asian, Persian descent, the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims and the mini-universe that one can capture across any cross-section of Canada,” she says.Deities are a recurring theme in Ms Manimekalai’s filmography. Her 2007 documentary Goddesses was screened at the Mumbai and Munich film festivals. Her 2019 film, Maadathy – An Unfairy Tale, told the fictional story of how a young girl from a marginalised caste group is immortalised as a deity. Ms Manimekalai says that the scene in the poster depicts the goddess showing love as she “kindly accepts the cigarette from the working-class street-dwellers at the park around the Kensington Market”.She also adds that in village festivals in southern India, people often dress up as Kali, drink country liquor and dance.”We artists cannot be choked by the climate of fear. We need to be louder and stronger,” she said. More on this storyAmazon Prime drama sparks controversy in India20 January 2021Why a Bollywood epic has sparked protests25 January 2018

Chinese property developers accept farm produce for homes

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Published6 hours agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesSeveral Chinese property developers have said they would accept food as payment for homes in recent months, as they attempt to attract buyers.The companies advertised deals to let people use produce – including peaches, water melons and garlic – as down payments on new homes.However, some of these unusual offers have now reportedly been pulled.Home sales in China have fallen for 11 months in a row, while this week a major developer defaulted on its debts.Last week, a property company in the eastern city of Wuxi said it would allow peaches be used to offset as much as 188,888 Chinese yuan ($28,218; £23,289) in down payments for homes.China spending and employment hit amid lockdownsDebt-laden Evergrande suspends shares in Hong KongHow China is trying to limit the Evergrande crisisAnother developer in nearby Nanjing said it would accept as much as 5,000kg of watermelon from farmers. It valued the produce at 100,000 Chinese yuan – several times what it would cost at local markets.However, the promotion that was meant to run until next Friday has been suspended, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported.”We were told to delete all promotional posters on the social media platforms,” the paper quoted a representative of the company as saying, without giving further details.In May, property firm Central China Management ran a 16-day campaign in which it accepted garlic as down payments for homes in China’s Qi county, a major garlic-producing region.Image source, Central China Management”We are helping farmers with love, and making it easier for them to buy homes,” the firm said in a WeChat post.Under the deal, one catty of garlic, which is equivalent to around 600g, was valued at five Chinese yuan, which is around three times its market price.The company said it had accepted 860,000 catties of garlic in deals involving 30 homes.However, it has since removed an advert for a similar a deal involving wheat, which was launched on WeChat last month. The company did not immediately respond to a BBC request for comment.Experts have said the deals are a way for developers to get around local authority rules that limit the size of discounts they are allowed to offer.Official figures for May show that sales of residential properties in China fell by 41.7% from a year earlier, the 11th consecutive month of declines.On Sunday, major Chinese developer Shimao Group said it had missed interest and principal payments on $1bn (£825m) of offshore bonds due that same day.In a filing to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, the company said it had seen a “noticeable decline” in sales with “significant changes to the macro environment of the property sector in China since the second half of 2021 and the impact of Covid-19”.Meanwhile, embattled Chinese real estate giant Evergrande is in the process of restructuring its business after defaulting on its debts late last year.You may also be interested in:This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.More on this storyChina spending and employment hit amid lockdowns18 AprilDebt-laden Evergrande suspends shares in Hong Kong3 JanuaryEvergrande misses debt deadline as crisis worsens9 December 2021How China is trying to limit the Evergrande crisis20 December 2021

Service charge: India bans service charge at hotels and restaurants

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Published7 hours agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesIndia’s consumer protection authority has banned hotels and restaurants from levying a service charge on bills.The order came after authorities said there had been an increase in complaints by customers being forced to pay the charge.Restaurants often add a 5% to 15% tip to a customer’s bill under a “service charge” category.But new rules say restaurants can no longer “add service charge by default or automatically” to the bill.The new guidelines also bar restaurants from collecting tips from customers “under any other name” or “deny service or entry to customers who refuse to pay a tip”.An unsavoury row over tipping at restaurants has been brewing in the country for a few years, with customers complaining that they weren’t informed about this extra charge.In 2017, the government’s consumer affairs department issued a set of guidelines saying that customers only had to pay the prices displayed on the menu card along with government taxes.The department said that people could use their “discretion” on whether or not to leave a tip and that extra charges without the customer’s consent amounted “to unfair trade practice”.The government had instead encouraged restaurants to pay fair wages to its employees and increase product prices to meet the cost.Restaurants have, however, continued to add the tip to the bill, leaving it up to patrons to contest the extra charge.Last month, the government called a meeting with the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), saying it had received an increasing number of complaints from consumers that they were still being “forced to pay service charges, often fixed at arbitrarily high rates” and that “they are harassed if they request to remove it from the bill”. The NRAI, which represents more than half a million restaurants, had defended the practice, saying it was a “matter of individual policy” and levying such a charge was not “illegal”.They also argued that the service charge brought additional revenue to the government too since restaurants paid a tax on what they charged customers.The new guidelines say that consumers can lodge their complains online or through the National Consumer Helpline. You may also be interested in:This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.More on this storyThe unsavoury row over ‘forced’ tips in India2 JuneIndians hail ‘optional’ restaurant tip3 January 2017

Australia floods: 50,000 on evacuation alert after deluge hits Sydney

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Published9 hours agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesAbout 50,000 people have been urged to evacuate their homes as floods hit Australia’s largest city for the third time this year.Parts of Sydney have received about eight months of rain in four days.Roads have been cut off, some houses are under water and thousands have been left without power.Widespread flooding across Australia – driven by a La Niña weather pattern – has killed more than 20 people this year, many in New South Wales (NSW). More than 100 evacuation orders have been issued across Greater Sydney for the current emergency.People in another 50 areas have been warned to prepare to leave, as several major rivers flood. Severe weather is also hitting the nearby Hunter and Illawarra regions.Some areas of NSW have seen 800mm of rain in four days, says the Bureau of Meteorology, almost a third more than the average rainfall Greater London receives in a year.The downpour is expected to begin easing in Sydney on Tuesday, but gale-force winds are also forecast, bringing a risk of falling trees and powerlines.”The emergency is far from over,” NSW Emergency Services Minister Stephanie Cooke said.This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Authorities are urging locals to heed evacuation warnings, after rescuers were called to save people who were ordered to leave two days earlier.”Ultimately if you stay you’re putting your life at risk,” said NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.For many locals, it is their third flood this year.How Australia is becoming more unliveableHow is extreme weather connected to climate change?A really simple guide to climate change Speaking after evacuating his partner from their house by kayak, Tyler Cassel said locals were tired of the constant threat to their homes and lives.He moved into his home in the Sydney suburb of Windsor last year, and was told major flood events were supposed to be “one in 25 years, one in 50 years or whatever it was”.”Now it has been three in 2022,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.”We’ve become experts around this area now… you are almost living on the edge.”Experts say the flooding emergency has been worsened by climate change and a La Niña weather phenomenon. A La Niña develops when strong winds blow the warm surface waters of the Pacific away from South America and towards Indonesia. In their place, colder waters come up to the surface.In Australia, a La Niña increases the likelihood of rain, cyclones and cooler daytime temperatures.This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Have you been told to evacuate your home? Only if it is safe to do so, please share your experiences by emailing [email protected] include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also get in touch in the following ways:WhatsApp: +44 7756 165803Tweet: @BBC_HaveYourSayUpload pictures or videoPlease read our terms & conditions and privacy policy

If you are reading this page and can’t see the form you will need to visit the mobile version of the BBC website to submit your question or comment or you can email us at [email protected] Please include your name, age and location with any submission. More on this storyHow Australia is becoming more unliveable19 MayAustralia’s epic floods spur new warning systems13 hours agoRescuers try to save stranded cargo ship near Sydney1 day agoAustralia floods: ‘I’m angry it’s happening again’11 March

Avabai Wadia: The lawyer who became India’s family planning pioneer

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Published11 hours agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, TopFotoIn 1933, a sari-clad teenager made international headlines. Avabai Wadia, 19, became the first woman from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to pass the bar exam in the United Kingdom. Her success encouraged the Ceylonese government to allow women to study law in the country.This was not the only time Wadia spurred government policies on women’s rights. By the time she died in 2005, she had become a globally respected figure in the family planning movement, combining a lawyer’s acumen with a dedication to socially uplifting women.Wadia was born in 1913 in a progressive Parsi family in Colombo. After qualifying as a lawyer, she worked in both London and Colombo despite omnipresent “masculine prejudice”. Why birth control is a woman’s burden in IndiaShe moved to Bombay (now Mumbai) during World War Two and immersed herself in social work, but found her true calling in family planning. “It seems my life work presented itself to me rather than my consciously searching for it,” she wrote in her autobiography, The Light is Ours. “I did not feel it a waste not to carry on with a legal career, for law was a fortifying element in all that I undertook.”When she began working in the field in the late 1940s, family planning was a taboo topic across much of the world. Aside from stoking opposition from religious conservatives, it also had ugly links with racism and eugenics. “The first time I heard the words ‘birth control’, I was revolted,” Wadia noted. But she was profoundly affected by a female doctor in Bombay who said that Indian women “oscillated between gestation and lactation until death wound up the sorry tale”. Image source, TopFotoDespite the threat of social ostracism, Wadia plunged into the cause. In 1949, she helped establish the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI), an organisation she would head for 34 years. FPAI’s work ranged from promoting contraceptive methods to providing fertility services – the latter gave Wadia “a real sense of satisfaction” since she had suffered miscarriages and had no children. It was in large part due to Wadia’s efforts that the Indian government became the first in the world to officially promote family planning policies in 1951-52.Under Wadia, FPAI adopted a decentralised, community-based approach, working with the urban poor and villagers from some of the most impoverished regions of India. India’s dark history of sterilisationThis meant that, quite often, the FPAI did “anything but family planning” – it undertook projects ranging from reforestation to road-building. Linking family planning with a holistic agenda of education, skill development and health, Wadia and her team employed creative communication techniques such as singing bhajans (devotional songs) with social messaging and organising a family planning exhibition which zipped across the country by train. FPAI’s innovative style of work fostered public confidence and led to marked improvements in development indicators. Image source, Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty For instance, a project which began in the 1970s in Malur in Karnataka, resulted in reduced infant mortality, a significant increase in the average age of marriage, and the doubling of literacy rates. The project evoked such popular support that villagers took over its management after FPAI exited the scene.Perhaps due to her international upbringing, Wadia brought a global perspective to Indian family planning. Inspired by the success of South Korean mothers’ clubs, which bolstered widespread acceptance of family planning in rural areas, she organised close-knit groups where women could discuss pressing social issues ranging from dowry to female under-representation in politics. At the same time, she became a leading figure in the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), spotlighting the unique challenges faced by India in controlling its ballooning demographics.Politics further complicated these challenges. During the Emergency, which was imposed from 1975 to 1977, the Indian government adopted draconian population control measures including forced sterilisation. Wadia condemned this, warning against coercion in family planning programmes and declaring that participation had to be strictly voluntary. Family planning was beginning to show good results but, she lamented, the Emergency “brought the whole programme into disrepute.”In the early 1980s, Wadia faced another formidable challenge as president of the IPPF. She locked horns with the administration of US president Ronald Reagan, which cut funding from the country to any organisation which provided or endorsed abortion services. Although the IPPF did not officially promote abortion, some of its affiliates provided abortion services in countries where it was legal. Image source, Courtesy FPAIThe IPPF refused to cave into US pressure to change this arrangement, resulting in a loss of $17m in funding to its programmes. Wadia ridiculed the Reaganite notion that free market economics would combat population growth. Anyone who believed that, she averred, “has never been anywhere in the developing word – there are too many of the absolute poor, and you just can’t leave it to laissez-faire”.In many ways, Wadia’s career is of pressing relevance to contemporary dilemmas in family planning. In the United States, conservatives have argued that the reversal of abortion rights in Roe v Wade should be followed by reconsideration of rulings on contraceptive access. Wadia – who was involved in conceptualising India’s own abortion law – worried about how abortion could be weaponised in a larger movement against birth control. “Those who try to confuse the public by equating abortion with family planning,” she argued, “are trying to destroy human and individual rights.”Today in India, political debates abound about employing disincentives and coercive elements to restrict the sizes of families. Wadia cautioned against such approaches. “We cannot support disincentives which do not uphold basic human rights,” she said in 2000, when Maharashtra state – in a bid to enforce a two-child norm – considered stripping any third-born child of food rations and free primary education. “In practice, anyway, we have found that disincentives don’t work.”The myth of India’s population explosionThese events have demonstrated that family planning is intrinsically linked to law and politics. Perhaps it was fortuitous, therefore, that India had a pioneering female lawyer as one of the principal architects of its family planning movement.Above all, Wadia’s career is a reminder that family planning cannot be divorced from overall socioeconomic development.A few years before Wadia’s death, MS Swaminathan – the scientist who led India’s Green Revolution, which helped the country achieve food security – paid tribute to this fact. “More than anybody else,” he said, Wadia “knew that if our population policies go wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right”.Parinaz Madan is a lawyer and Dinyar Patel is a historian.More on this storyWhy birth control is a woman’s burden in India27 JuneIndia’s dark history of sterilisation14 November 2014Row over rubber penis in India family planning kit22 MarchWhy do Indian women go to sterilisation camps?11 November 2014

Sri Lanka: 'I can’t afford milk for my babies'

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Published11 hours agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesThe smell hits you first – freshly cooked rice, lentils and spinach, served in ladles from steaming pots. Dozens of families – including mothers with babies – are lined up with plates to get a serving of what will likely be their only meal for the day. “We are here because we are hungry,” says Chandrika Manel, a mother of four. As she kneads a ball of rice with her hands, mixing it with the lentils and spinach before feeding it to one of her children, she explains that even buying bread is a struggle. “There are times I [give them] milk and rice, but we don’t cook any vegetables. They’re too expensive.”Depleted foreign reserves and soaring inflation have devastated Sri Lanka’s economy in recent months. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa – who pushed through tax cuts that shrunk the state’s coffers and borrowed heavily from China to fund ambitious infrastructure projects – has been blamed for the crisis. The pandemic, which hit tourism, and the war in Ukraine, which sent oil prices rocketing, has only made the situation worse. But now Sri Lanka is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has told the BBC. The organisation found that 70% of the country’s families have cut down on food since the start of the year, and stocks of fuel and essential medicines are also fast running out. ‘My children are miserable’This is Ms Manel’s first visit to a community kitchen as she found her options disappearing: “The cost of living is so high, we are taking loans to survive.”The kitchen is a month old – Pastor Moses Akash started it in a church hall in Colombo after meeting a single mother who lived off a jackfruit for three days.”We get people who haven’t had a second plate of rice for the last four months,” Pastor Moses says. By his estimate, the number of people queuing up for food has grown from 50 to well over 250 a day. It’s not surprising given that food prices in Sri Lanka went up by 80% in June alone. “I see a lot of children especially, most of them are malnourished,” he says. ‘Living in my car for two days to buy fuel’What’s behind Sri Lanka’s petrol shortage?No medicine for kids in a collapsing health systemSahna, a pregnant 34-year-old who goes by her first name only, is also in the queue with her three young children. She is due in September and anxious about the future. “My children are miserable. They’re suffering in every possible way. I can’t even afford a packet of biscuits or milk for my babies.”Sahna’s husband, who is a labourer, earns just $10 (£8.20) a week to support the entire family. “Our leaders are living better lives. If their children are living happily, why can’t my children?” she asks. A looming humanitarian crisis By the time Sahna’s child is born, things are expected to get worse. The mayor of Colombo recently said that the capital has enough food only until September.With shortages of fuel and cooking gas, and daily power cuts, families are unable to travel to buy fresh food or prepare hot meals. Image source, Getty Images”Families can’t buy what they used to buy. They are cutting down on meals, they are cutting down on nutritious food. So we are definitely getting into a situation where malnutrition is a major concern,” said Christian Skoog, Unicef’s representative in Sri Lanka. “We’re trying to avoid a humanitarian crisis. We’re not yet at children dying, which is good, but we need to get the support very urgently to avoid that.”Unicef has appealed for urgent financial aid to treat thousands of children with acute malnutrition, and to support a million others with primary healthcare.Acute malnutrition rates could rise from 13% to 20%, with the number of severely malnourished children – currently 35,000 – doubling, says Dr Renuka Jayatissa, president of the Sri Lanka Medical Nutrition Association.The crisis has brought forth a sense of solidarity, with people often relying on the kindness of strangers. But even kindness and hope are becoming precious commodities. Dr Saman Kumara at Colombo’s Castle Street hospital says that if not for the goodwill of donors, his patients – tiny newborns – would have been at great risk. He says his hospital is now “completely dependent on donations” for essential medicines and equipment, and urged more donors to come forward as patients’ lives are in danger.Back at the community kitchen, Chandrika is scooping the last morsel of food into her son’s mouth. “My best days are done. But our children have so much ahead of them,” she says. “I don’t know what will happen as they grow up.”You may also be interested in: This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.More on this storySri Lanka warns petrol stocks about to run dry21 hours agoHow soaring cost of living is hitting Sri Lanka hard12 JanuaryWhat’s behind Sri Lanka’s petrol shortage?1 day agoHow Sri Lanka’s war heroes became villains13 MaySri Lanka profile18 November 2019

Australia's devastating floods spur new warning systems

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Published13 hours agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, James HarrisOn 27 February, Karl Sprogis and his wife Jill spent most of the night anxiously monitoring flood height data from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.Their town, Lismore, was caught in the catastrophic floods that submerged southern Queensland and northern New South Wales in February and March. Those floods have become the most costly in the nation’s history, according to the Insurance Council of Australia. The latest flooding to hit Australia came at the weekend when Sydney was hit with torrential rain. Thousands were told to evacuate their homes and roads were cut by deep water.Back in February, perched on a hill the Sprogis family home was safe, but the couple were worried about their downtown physiotherapy business. It was purposely located on the second floor but even that was not enough.From the water-height charts they could tell the office was going to be inundated, but it was too late to save anything, the authorities had already issued an evacuation order.Image source, Karl Sprogis”We could have put things up higher at that time, had we known, but we didn’t,” says Mr Sprogis, who had been at his practice the night before.”I even left my new laptop on the office desk, thinking, well, [the water has] never been in here before so it won’t come in.” By the following day, his practice was 1.8m underwater, files, records and equipment all damaged or lost.Image source, Karl SprogisMeanwhile in New South Wales in Gibberagee, children’s book author Candy Lawrence watched as 2,000 copies of her books were sucked into the deluge.Ms Lawrence had been carefully watching government flood warnings and gathering supplies, anticipating that nearby roads would be cut off, as often happened when the area flooded.But, like Mr Sprogis, she was not expecting water to sweep through her property and that of her neighbours, some of whom had to scramble onto their roof to escape the fast-rising floodwaters.”I feel like the world is pretty much ending, so why bother educating children?,” she says, referencing her destroyed book collection and the terrifying new weather patterns.Image source, Candy LawrenceLike thousands of others caught in the disaster, Mr Sprogis and Ms Lawrence would have liked more warning. So why wasn’t there a better system, which could alert them in real-time if their properties were in danger?Juliette Murphy, a water resources engineer specialising in hydrology and flooding asked this question after watching her friend’s house in Brisbane flood over the roof peak in 2011. The question came up again after she moved to Calgary, Canada, and witnessed a similarly devastating flood in 2013.Ms Murphy knew that during the Brisbane and Calgary floods, hydrology forecasts had predicted where rivers would peak at certain bridges, but she realised it wasn’t enough. “If you aren’t a hydraulic engineer [who is able] to translate that flood height into an impact to properties – your personal property, your car – it can be very challenging,” she says. Ms Murphy also notes that static flood maps – including those that chart one-in-100-year floods – are also expensive, and can take days, or weeks, to produce. This makes them more suited to development planning and infrastructure design applications, rather than emergency planning and management.”I was thinking, there has to be something more,” says Ms Murphy. Image source, FloodMappShe began dedicating her evenings and weekends to looking for a solution, which eventually led her to co-found FloodMapp with web developer, Ryan Prosser.With a significant research and development investment, FloodMapp was launched in 2018.FloodMapp’s technology can rapidly forecast water levels to map floods before they happen. It does this by ingesting huge amounts of historical data (including things like rainfall and ground saturation levels) and uses artificial intelligence to accurately model the way water will behave.More technology of business:How flowers are ‘put to sleep’ for long sea voyagesWhat parents need to know about online safetyThe staff shortage slowing down air cargo and bagsCould flat tyres soon be a thing of the past?How artificial intelligence ‘blew up’ tennisThe software also uses information about land features and river systems to work out how a flood will affect different areas. The company claims its models can run 100,000 times faster than traditional techniques.An added benefit is that the resulting models can refresh hourly using real-time river sensor data and rainfall forecasts.The technology is not available to individuals, instead it is being integrated into services offered by government agencies in Australia and the US, to better understand floods before, during and after they happen. Researchers at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Infrastructure Engineering are taking a similar approach, understanding that speed is key for emergency planning.Image source, Getty ImagesLike Ms Murphy, flood modeller turned researcher, Dr Wenyan Wu, is looking at ways to simulate flood levels over time, at speed, using machine learning techniques. Importantly, this is being done Dr Wu says without compromising accuracy and without costing the earth.The availability of accurate real-time data that can be interpreted at a property-specific level is a huge part of the challenge, but being able to disseminate meaningful data to the public is also key. As Dr Wu says, “If people’s collective comprehension [of flood risk] doesn’t improve, you will not actually improve the situation.”Even the concept of a one-in-100-year flood is widely misunderstood. (It means a flood event has a one in 100 chance of happening in any given year, as opposed to there only being one major flood every 100 years.)That’s where companies like the Australian-based Early Warning Network (EWN) come in. EWN sends opt-in SMS (text messages), email, landline and app push alerts to residents and businesses in at-risk areas, typically via insurers, councils and other government agencies who have signed up to their services. Flood alerts are primarily based on data collected and distributed by Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.Image source, Michael BathHowever, as operations manager Michael Bath explains, EWN has a 24/7 team of human severe weather forecasters (all of whom have an understanding of threats from their experience as storm chasers). This team assess the warnings, eliminate duplication, and send geo-targeted alerts, using custom-made software.This ensures people receive clear and localised information.”If you’ve ever had automated warnings from weather agencies before, [you’ll know] they can be very repetitive,” says Mr Bath. “If you automatically send that to residents, they just get really annoyed with it and tune out.” Mr Bath, Dr Wu and Ms Murphy all agree that ultimately governments need to adopt these systems and technologies, and make planning decisions about whether future development should be permitted on floodplains and whether buy-back schemes are warranted in high-risk areas.However, in many cases, moving entire communities or renovating properties at scale using flood-resistant materials is not practical in the immediate future, given these measures require significant funding and political will.”We need something today, right now, because we are living on floodplains, and emergency warnings and alerts fill a critical role to improve safety, to save lives and prevent damage,” says Ms Murphy. “We have to work together to build a safer future.”