Lions angered by ex-Ireland international Francis’ ‘offensive’ Smith comment

Marcus Smith
Smith was part of the Harlequins side that won the Premiership title earlier this year

The British and Irish Lions and Harlequins have both criticised former Ireland international Neil Francis’ “offensive” description of fly-half Marcus Smith.

Francis, 57, made a comment about Smith’s skin colour in an episode of the Irish Independent’s Left Wing podcast, which was published on 14 July but drew attention on social media this week.

“We find the remarks relating to Marcus Smith offensive and have written to the Independent to express our deep dissatisfaction,” said the Lions.

Harlequins, who have also written to the newspaper, said they were “disgusted” by the “racist” comments made by Francis.

Francis said:external-link “I would never intentionally or wilfully make a comment to disparage somebody on the basis of the colour of anyone’s skin. Never! The comments have been interpreted differently from what I intended and I apologise sincerely for that.

“I fully apologise for any offence taken by the player and his family. I intend to apologise directly to him shortly if he is agreeable. I also apologise to anyone who also took offence to what I said.”

Former Quins player Ugo Monye, the ex-Lions and England wing, added on Twitter: “The fact Neil Francis said what he did is appalling, but to publish it and no-one challenge him is as equally appalling.”

Publisher Mediahuis Ireland said: “We acknowledge that Mr Francis says his comments were inadvertent but we have decided to end our relationship with him and he will no longer write columns or contribute to our podcasts.”

Smith, 22, was born in the Philippines to a British father and a Filipina mother, and moved to England when he was 13.

He made his debut for England earlier this month, before being called out to South Africa by the Lions as fly-half cover.

He made an impressive first appearance for the touring side in their 49-3 win over the Stormers but has not been included in the matchday 23 for the first Test against the Springboks on Saturday.


The Hundred – Birmingham Phoenix v London Spirit: Andrew Milne removes Ravi Bopara caught & bowled

Birmingham Phoenix bowler Andrew Milne shows stunning reactions to remove London Spirit’s Ravi Bopara caught and bowled for 17 in The Hundred at Edgbaston.

FOLLOW LIVE: Men’s Hundred – Birmingham Phoenix v London Spirit

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British GP crash ‘to cost Red Bull at least £1.3m’

Christian Horner and Max Verstappen
Christian Horner says Red Bull and Max Verstappen are determined to try to recover from the damage to their championship bid the crash at Silverstone has caused

Max Verstappen’s crash with Lewis Hamilton at the British Grand Prix cost Red Bull at least $1.8m (£1.3m), team principal Christian Horner says.

The figure is more than one percent of the team’s total budget this season, following the introduction of Formula 1’s budget cap at $145m this year.

Horner said the loss “has massive ramifications” for this season.

The cost could impact on Red Bull’s ability to bring performance upgrades to their car, among other expenses.

The figure is a best early estimate for repairs the car, and could yet go up – Red Bull are still looking into whether the monocoque can be repaired or will have to be replaced with a new one.

The top teams such as Red Bull are already struggling to meet the budget cap – the limit is in the region of half the previous annual spend for teams such as Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari. Any extra expense such as this makes it even more of a challenge to do so.

Engine partner Honda has sent the power unit back to its base in Sakura, Japan to investigate the extent of the damage.

If it cannot be saved, Verstappen will need a new one and will almost certainly exceed the permitted number of engine parts for the season, in which case he will receive a grid penalty at a race later in the season.

However, Honda’s initial inspection suggested it was not as badly damaged as feared. A spokesman said that, while a full diagnosis had not been completed, “there may be a possibility that we might be able to bring it back to Hungary [for the next race]”.

He added, however, that if it was taken to Hungary it would likely only be used in Friday practice and that it will “still take a long time” to establish whether the engine can be used in a race again.

Drivers are allowed only three engines per season, so each has to complete in the region of seven races if he is not to receive a grid penalty.

Horner’s revelation came in a column published by Red Bullexternal-link dealing with the incident and its aftermath.

Hamilton won the British Grand Prix despite being given a 10-second penalty for being judged by race stewards to be “predominantly to blame” for the incident.

Combined with Verstappen’s retirement, this meant the Mercedes driver cut Verstappen’s championship lead from 32 points before the race to eight.

Horner said the team “felt at the time, and still feel now, that Hamilton was given a light penalty for this type of incident”.

He added that Red Bull were still considering whether to try to take the matter further in an attempt to increase Hamilton’s penalty.

“Given the severity of the incident and the lenient penalty, we are reviewing all data and have the right to request a review,” Horner said. “We are therefore still looking at the evidence and considering all of our sporting options.”

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen battled wheel-to-wheel from the start of the race
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen battled wheel-to-wheel from the start of the race

Horner said Verstappen and the team were determined to try to recover the damage to their championship bid at the next race in Hungary on 1 August.

“We will all be fully motivated to retain our championship lead,” Horner said.

“Max won’t dwell on anything from Silverstone and wants to do his talking on track. He is determined to put this incident behind him and use it as added motivation for the rest of the season, as are we.”

He added: “I would like to respond to some comments I have seen from Toto [Wolff, the Mercedes F1 boss], who is quoted as saying our comments regarding Hamilton having caused the accident were ‘so personal’.

“I would like to make it clear – this was an on-track incident between two of the best drivers in the world.

“At the point in time when you have a driver in hospital and the extent of any injuries have not yet been made clear, your car has been written off and the stewards have penalised the driver seen to be responsible, it is natural that emotion comes into play, for all involved, whether you feel wronged or victorious.

“I also felt the narrative that Max was being ‘overly aggressive’ at that stage was unjustified.

“You only have to look at the fact Max has zero penalty points on his licence and has not been found guilty of any on-track misjudgements in recent years.

“The aggressive 17-year-old F1 rookie Max Verstappen that Hamilton is referring to is not the Max Verstappen of today, just as Hamilton is not the same driver he was when he entered the sport.

“Both drivers are of course uncompromising in their driving style, but they are both highly skilled with a great deal of experience.

“The reality is that Hamilton has met his match in a car that is now competitive, and I agree that both drivers need to show each other respect, but Hamilton was the aggressor on Sunday.”

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Spirit stutter to win over Phoenix in women’s Hundred

Birmingham Phoenix 128-6 (100 balls): E Jones 47, A Jones 33; Dottin 2-28
London Spirit 132-7 (96 balls): Dattani 34; Burns 2-15
London Spirit win by three wickets with four balls remaining

London Spirit survived a big scare to beat Birmingham Phoenix and begin their women’s Hundred campaign with a three-wicket win at Edgbaston.

Spirit, captained by England skipper Heather Knight, were cruising at 108-3 – needing 21 from 23 balls in their chase of 129.

But in a frenetic few minutes they lost three wickets in four balls without scoring a run, as Emily Arlott dismissed Chloe Tryon and Susie Rowe and Deepti Sharma carelessly holed out for 28.

Spirit needed Amara Carr to edge them to victory with 11 not out before Danielle Gibson hit the only two balls she faced for four to seal the win with four balls to spare.

Despite defeat Phoenix’s Eve Jones was given the Match Hero award for her 47 in her side’s 128-6.

The match was the first doubler-header of The Hundred with the same two men’s teams playing from 18:30 BST.

Davies impresses after big Verma wicket

The most important wicket in the women’s Hundred may well be that of Birmingham opener Shafali Verma – the 17-year-old India superstar who can win matches on her own.

She had just started to show her dynamic attacking skills with back-to-back fours when she was dismissed by Freya Davies for 13.

Davies, a tall fast bowler, deceived her with a looped slower ball that knocked over leg stump. It was the key moment in an impressive display from the 25-year-old.

Davies has played 17 times for England and has been tipped to break up the current Katherine Brunt-Anya Shrubsole opening bowling partnership in the not too distant future.

On this occasion she continued mix things up with slower balls, conceding only 19 runs in her 20 deliveries in addition to the scalp of Verma.

All-action Wong expensive

It’s hard to miss Birmingham fast bowler Issy Wong in any match she plays.

The 19-year-old, who is regarded as a star of the future because of her pure pace, buzzes around with her bleached blonde hair and appears to relish the limelight.

She screamed with delight and passionately punched the air after dismissing the dangerous Deandra Dottin lbw for nine – the first Spirit wicket to fall after 14 balls.

Following that, however, Wong was wayward, with her 20 balls costing 31 runs – the most of any bowler on either side.

With Spirit needing 16 from 15 balls soon after their collapse, Wong was handed the ball.

Her first delivery of the spell was brilliantly scooped over the wicketkeeper for four by Carr – a boundary that eased the tension for the visitors in a match which went to the wire.

Jones double act in vain

The best batting effort in the match came from Eve Jones in a losing cause.

After the loss of Verma, Phoenix continued to slide and were 37-3 after 36 balls but Jones played an impressive attacking innings – hitting a number of dazzling shots back past the bowler.

She combined with her skipper, Amy Jones, in a key, well-paced partnership of 64 from 41 balls.

Amy Jones is an England international, who learned the game at Walmley Cricket Club just 10 miles from Edgbaston, but here she was outshone by her namesake.

Jones run map


Cold case cracked with smallest ever amount of DNA

image copyrightPolice handout

image captionStephanie Isaacson’s case had been cold for 32 years

The 1989 murder of a 14-year-old girl in Las Vegas has been solved by using what experts say is the smallest-ever amount of human DNA to crack a case.

Stephanie Isaacson’s murder case had gone cold until new technology made it possible to test what little remained of the suspect’s DNA: the equivalent of just 15 human cells.

Police on Wednesday said they had identified the suspect by using genome sequencing and public genealogy data.

Her alleged killer died in 1995.

“I’m glad they found who murdered my daughter,” Stephanie’s mother wrote in a statement that was read to reporters at Wednesday’s news conference.

“I never believed the case would be solved.”

Thirty-two years ago, Stephanie’s body was found near the route she normally walked to school in Las Vegas, Nevada. She had been assaulted and strangled.

This year, police were able to pick up the case again after a donation from a local resident. They turned over the DNA samples left to Othram, a Texas-based genome-sequencing lab that specialises in cold cases.

Typical consumer DNA testing kits collect about 750 to 1,000 nanograms of DNA in a sample. These samples are uploaded to public websites specialising in ancestry or health.

But crime scenes may only contain tens to hundreds of nanograms of DNA. And in this case, only 0.12 nanograms – or about 15 cells’ worth – were available for testing.

Using ancestry databases the researchers were able to identify the suspect’s cousin. Eventually they matched the DNA to Darren Roy Marchand.

Marchand’s DNA from a previous 1986 murder case was still on record, and was used to confirm the match.

He was never convicted and died by suicide in 1995.

The genomic technology used to solve the case is the same that was used to catch the notorious Golden State Killer in 2018.

“This was a huge milestone,” Othram chief executive David Mittelman told the BBC.

“When you can access information from such a small amount of DNA, it really opens up the opportunity to so many other cases that have been historically considered cold and unsolvable.”

The company is currently working on cases dating back as far as 1881.


‘Protest a fundamental human right’ – Asher-Smith

Dates: 23 July-8 August Time in Tokyo: BST +8
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button and online; Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live, Sports Extra and Sounds; live text and video clips on BBC Sport website and app.

Dina Asher-Smith has backed the relaxation of rules around athlete protests at the Tokyo Olympics, calling protest “a fundamental human right”.

In early July the International Olympic Committee changed its rules to allow protests before and after events, but a ban on protests at ceremonies, including on the podium, remains.

A letter signed by athletes has called for a complete lifting of sanctions.

And the 25-year-old British sprinter, who is among the favourites for 100m gold, said any punishment would be unworkable.

“If you were to penalise someone for standing up against racial inequality, how on earth would that go, how on earth are you going to enforce that?” she said.

“Would you revoke someone’s medal for saying racism is wrong?

“I see protesting and expressing yourself as a fundamental human right.”

She said the ban was “completely unenforceable”, adding: “I think they had no choice but to lift it otherwise they would have been faced with loads of athlete protests at the Games and it would have been very embarrassing for them.”

The IOC’s rule 50 states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

After consultations in the wake of widespread anti-racism protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the IOC announced that athletes can “express their views” before and after they compete, and when speaking to the media, but not during events, opening and closing ceremonies, on podiums or in the Olympic Village.

The athletes’ letter, with signatories including Tommie Smith and Carlos Smith – the black US sprinters whose Black Power Salute saw them expelled from the 1968 Mexico Olympics – said the relaxation does not go far enough.

Describing the present moment as a “turning point” for the global sporting committee, the letter states: “We do not believe the changes made reflect a commitment to freedom of expression as a fundamental human right nor to racial and social justice in global sport.

Asher-Smith described the Smiths’ Black Power Salute as one of the Olympics’ “most iconic moments”.

She added: “That is something people remember the Olympics for, something they’re very proud to see at the Olympic Games.”

Has anything changed since Black Power salute?

Makina: the UK subculture you’ve probably never heard of

Dubbed “the sound of the North East’s council estates”, makina dance music has been crafted over several generations and is a hugely popular subculture in the region.

As England approaches its first weekend of nightlife since Covid restrictions were lifted, makina fans are preparing for gigs, raves and festivals once again.

DJs and MCs have spent lockdown performing online but are now able to stage shows in person, which makina veteran MC Rockeye says will be “something special”.

Video journalist: Adam Clarkson


When predictions become reality

Canada’s heat dome

In late June, western Canada was caught under a “heat dome”, a phenomenon causing scorching temperatures when hot air is trapped by high pressure fronts, and heats up even more as it is pushed back down. The country broke its record high temperature several times, finally capping at 49.6 degrees Celsius (121 degrees Fahrenheit) in the village of Lytton on June 30.  The US states of Washington and Oregon were also affected. The exact human toll is not yet known but amounts to at least several hundred deaths. A study by a group of leading climate scientists found that the weather conditions would have been “virtually impossible” without human-caused climate change.

Deadly deluge in China

As the flood water receded in Europe, catastrophic flooding hit China this month killing at least 51 people. An unprecedented downpour dumped a year’s worth of rain in just three days on the city of Zhengzhou, instantly overwhelming drains and sending torrents of muddy water through streets, road tunnels and the subway system. The troubles are far from over as China yesterday had to evacuate tens of thousands as floods submerged swathes of central China — while an approaching typhoon threatened to dump more rain on the stricken area. In the worst-hit city of Zhengzhou, firefighters yesterday continued to pump muddy water from tunnels, including from a subway where at least a dozen people drowned inside a train earlier in the week as a year’s worth of rainfall fell in just three days.

Deadly floods in Europe

In mid-July western Europe was hit by devastating floods after torrential rains that ravaged entire villages and left at least 209 people dead in Germany and Belgium, as well as dozens missing. The flooding also caused damage in Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Up to two months’ worth of rainfall came down in two days in some parts of the region, waterlogging soil that was already near saturation.

Landslides kill 36 in India

Thirty-six people have been killed in landslides caused by monsoon rains in India, authorities said yesterday. As many as 40 other people were missing after the three separate landslides on Thursday in the Raigad district of the western state of Maharashtra. The Navy and Air Force meanwhile joined rescue efforts after the heavy rains caused floods that left thousands stranded. Rescue efforts were being hampered by landslides blocking roads, including the main highway between Mumbai and Goa. India’s meteorological department has issued red alerts for several regions in the state, indicating that heavy rainfall will continue for the next few days. Climate change is making India’s monsoons stronger, according to a report from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) published in April.

California’s raging wildfires

Triggered by an alarming drought, the wildfire season is just starting in the American West where thousands of firefighters are already dealing with 80 large blazes. By the beginning of the week the fires had ravaged more than 4,700 square kilometres (1,800 square miles) of vegetation. The most spectacular blaze is the “Bootleg Fire” in Oregon, which in the space of two weeks has burned the equivalent of the city of Los Angeles in vegetation and forests. In neighbouring California, several villages were evacuated in the face of the advancing “Dixie Fire”, which is suspected to have been caused by a tree falling on power cables.


Most of Dhaka cleaned up promptly after Eid

After Eid-ul-Azha, Dhaka city could be cleaned within three days through the efforts of the two city corporations and city dwellers.

However, animal waste was seen in some places on the third day of Eid yesterday.

Residents were encouraged to maintain proper disposal and clean their surroundings with bleach, which could be seen in many areas. Meanwhile, many also expressed satisfaction over the city corporations’ prompt steps.

“After sacrificing our cattle, we cleaned the area and left the waste roadside, which were collected by the conservancy workers quickly,” said Mohammad Jamil of Eskaton.

Earlier, the two mayors of the city had announced that they would ensure that garbage will be completely cleaned in three days.

Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) has cleaned up 1,240.7 tonnes of animal and cattle market waste in the last three days till yesterday morning, while Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) cleaned up 15,733 tonnes during this time, according to officials.

DSCC Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh on Thursday said their garbage management workers have been working since the night of July 20.

DNCC Mayor Md Atiqul Islam, while visiting different areas on Thursday, said they have cleaned all animal waste on the first day of Eid.

Atiqul said around 11,500 conservancy workers were cleaning DNCC areas. Cleaning the city was possible due to cooperation of city dwellers, he added.

He said they have set up a control room at Gulshan Nagar Bhaban and were using it and their “Shobar Dhaka” app to clean the city.

He said they have distributed 6.5 lakh garbage bags, 50 tonnes of bleaching powder, and five-litre sized 1,500 containers of disinfectant to residents.

Meanwhile, around 9,990 conservancy workers were cleaning DSCC areas, said its officials, adding that they have distributed 30 tonnes of bleaching powder, 1.20 lakh garbage bags and 1,800-litre disinfectant to residents.

Although Dhaka’s two city corporations cleaned up most of the areas, animal waste was seen at some places on the third day of Eid.

During a visit to Old Dhaka’s Dholaikhal, Sutrapur, Distillery Road and North South Road areas, animal waste was seen piled up at some points. Garbage management workers and dump trucks were active to clean the solid waste.

The places were still in a bad condition, as cattle markets were set up on the roads, said locals. Bad smell emanating from the piles spread throughout the areas.

Even after fully cleaning the city, the reality is that residents dump waste again at open spaces that were just cleaned, said Mayor Taposh.

He requested city dwellers to collect garbage bags, fill them with waste and give them to the workers.  


Bangladesh gets another year to fulfil Unesco conditions to save Sundarbans

The Bangladesh government will get another year to fulfil all the conditions placed by the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of Unesco on preparing a long-term plan to save the Sundarbans.

At a World Heritage Committee meeting chaired by China, the delegates talked on the Sundarbans issue this afternoon and decided to discuss whether the mangrove forest will be listed in the endangered world heritage site list in their 45th meeting to be held in July 2022.

Before that, the government will have to submit its progress report about Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and other issues.

The current 44th meeting of the WHC is now going on at the Fuzhou city in China. The meeting started on July 16 and will continue till July 31.

“Our submission was well accepted in the meeting. Everything went well,” said Mohammad Hossain, the Director General of Power Cell, a technical arm of Power Division, Ministry of Power and Energy & Mineral Resources who has been working on the issue with the Unesco.

On the progress of preparing the SEA of southwestern coastal area, he said, it was being delayed due to the pandemic.

After reviewing documents of the World Heritage Committee it was seen that the delegates had requested the government to ensure that Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment for the South West region of Bangladesh be carried out as a prerequisite for development projects within or around a World Heritage site.

The World Heritage Centre, which enlisted the Sundarbans as natural heritage in 1997, has been raising objections about the power plant since the government took the initiative of constructing it at the edge of the forest.