Leeds: Boy, 11, beats Hawking’s Mensa score

An 11-year-old boy from Leeds has scored the highest possible Mensa test score for under 18s. Yusuf achieved 162 on the test, which is more than the late physicist and author Prof Stephen Hawking, who is believed to have achieved 160. He said he had taken the quiz after friends at school had commented on how “smart” he was. Yusuf celebrated with a meal out with his family, saying: “It feels special to have a certificate.” “Everyone at school thinks I am very smart and I have always wanted to know if I was in the top 2% of the people who take the test.” He said he hoped to go on to eventually study mathematics at Cambridge or Oxford. When not studying he enjoys Sudoku and solving Rubik’s cubes.

His mum Sana said the family were very proud of him. “He is the first person to take the Mensa test in the family,” she said. “I was actually a little concerned too – he has always gone into a hall full of kids to take tests. “We thought he might be intimidated by the adults at the centre, but he did brilliantly.” She said the family took it light-heartedly and she warned her son his father was “still smarter”.

Yusuf’s father Irfan said it had been a difficult test for his son to prepare for. “We just did what we were already doing – nothing specific for the IQ test,” he said. Yusuf’s success could be a family affair as his eight-year-old brother also hopes to take the Mensa test when he is older.


Tower Hamlets: Children stop play space from being dismantled

Children in east London rushed out of their homes to stop a “safer streets” blockade being ripped out by the council. Parents gathering outside Chisenhale Primary School in Bow say they were given little notice of the “pop-up playground” being removed. The standoff resulted in a temporary victory for the families who want the zone to stay in place.

Armed with umbrellas and wearing wellies, Chisenhale schoolchildren defended their play space. The play space is part of the safer streets scheme which allows only parents of schoolchildren, immediate residents and blue badge holders to drive in the area at school drop-off times.

Parents were first told of plans to remove the area on 21 October, just before half term. Last week, Tower Hamlets Council contractors arrived on Thursday morning to find children climbing on top of the barricades in protest and the space was left intact.

The contractors returned to finish the job on Wednesday night, with children running out in their pyjamas and raincoats to fend them off. To the cheer of protesters, one child lay down on a skateboard before the workers gave up trying to dismantle the planters – a key feature of the safety zone – said parent and campaigner Sarah Gibbons. “It happened so fast – we were shocked to see them come out to take it away in the cover of darkness. Everyone rushed out to try and stop them,” she said. “It was led by the kids; they are very aware not only of safety issues but also how bad the pollution is in this area.”

As well as being a play space, the brightly coloured oasis is used for community events. The space was cordoned off and decorated as a place for children to play in. Year three pupil at Chisenhale, Charlotte, said: “We enjoy playing there before, during and after school.”


The four-year-old boy with incredible maths skills

A toddler from West Dunbartonshire has stunned family and friends with his extraordinary maths and language skills. Four-year-old Jamie Mohr, from Old Kilpatrick, can count in six languages and knows 17 times tables.

Jamie was born 12 weeks premature and spent 11 weeks in intensive care. Doctors said his survival was unlikely. His mother Lorraine is tipping him to win a Nobel Prize following his “miraculous” development.

Jamie can count in English, German, Spanish, French, Japanese and Mandarin. He has a handle on addition, subtraction, percentages and fractions, as well as being able to read seven-digit numbers Lorraine said his abilities were apparent at an early age.

Around his second birthday we noticed that he could count to 10 and recite the alphabet, which was quite advanced,” she said. “Just a couple of weeks later he was then counting past 50. And just a little while after that it was over 100 and that was the point I said right, I think something special is going on here.” Lorraine said his progress is even more astounding given his start in life. “Just getting him here – him being born at 28 weeks, 1lb 8oz – was absolutely miraculous,” she said, “Getting him home from hospital after 11 weeks in intensive care, and then finding out that he’s a gifted learner, it’s sort of triple whammy. It’s unbelievable.” She added: “I can’t wait to see if Jamie ends up winning a Nobel Prize one day. “It’s a possibility – he surprises me that much every day with his abilities.”


Lego: Disabled Sussex girl says new toys are amazing

A disabled girl who wrote to Lego asking for better representation in their toys said a new figure with a limb difference was “amazing”. Eight-year-old Sofia from Sussex was born without a left hand, and said she felt unrepresented by the toys. The firm is releasing a new range of toys featuring diverse characters, and surprised Sofia with an announcement on BBC Breakfast. A Lego designer said the new toys were made “to represent the real world”.

Before she found out about the new toys, Sofia told BBC Breakfast: “You don’t feel like you’re represented and there’s no-one like you in these toys.” Fenella Charity, design director at Lego Friends, said the firm had spent two years planning the new range. Ms Charity said her team was “inspired” by Sofia’s letter, as well those from other children across the world. “It makes what we’re doing real,” she said. “In the design team, when we see these letters that have been crafted so carefully by the children that write them, it’s really inspiring to us, and definitely makes us inspired to make a difference.”

The updated range features characters with new skin tones, cultures, physical and non-visible disabilities and neurodiversity.


The Bradford wrestling church mixing sermons with suplexes

Sandwiched between the glass-fronted Science and Media Museum and the Alhambra Theatre, you’d be forgiven for missing Fountains Church among Bradford’s better-known landmarks. But on Thursday nights, the Church of England venue fills Glydegate Square with the sounds of spandex-clad wrestlers being slammed onto canvas and cheers of delight from those assembled in the most unlikely of venues for a grapple. The venue has been combining baptisms and body slams for 12 months, with GT Ministries aiming to provide direction and purpose for young people in the city – whatever their beliefs – who may have lost their way for a variety of reasons. The BBC’s We Are England film-makers went to meet them.

Dressed in a “Pray Eat Wrestle Repeat” T-shirt, Gareth “Angel” Thompson says he opened his wrestling ministry to help those who may have been forced to navigate difficult childhoods and volatile family situations. “You look at the word ‘wrestling’ – they are wrestling with their demons, insecurities, their past, their circumstances,” says the 35-year-old, who describes himself as a Christian, father, husband and pro wrestler. The father-of-two hopes the sport and its setting can help to save young people, much like they saved him as a child.

“The two things that helped me get my life back on track are wrestling and the church,” he says. “The driving force behind the training school is sharing my story and using my past to help others – maybe someone who comes in the door hears something, that’s the start of their journey.”

The low-cost training nights attract about 15 people per session, with a fundraiser successfully hitting a £3,000 target for the church to buy a wrestling ring.

Church leader Linda Maslen, who helped to carry out six adult baptisms during a recent wrestling event at the venue, says: “I met Gareth three years ago, he said ‘this may sound crazy but I’m a pro wrestler, I think we could use this’. “That ultimately led to us buying a wrestling ring and we thought there actually could be an emerging worshipping community coming out of this.”

According to the Church of England, around 7,000 adult baptisms take place a year. Gareth says: “This idea of doing a wrestling church is not beyond reality, church can be whatever you need it to be to fit the audience.

“Jesus didn’t set out a model saying church needs to be X, Y, Z.”


Award for Elton John after White House performance

Sir Elton John performed at the White House for the first time since 1998, and was given an award from US President Joe Biden for his contribution to music.

The veteran star wowed more than 2,000 guests, including teachers, nurses and LGBTQ advocates, with his performance, which was put together to celebrate “everyday history makers”. At the end of the show, President Biden surprised Sir Elton with the National Humanities Medal. The 75-year-old singer is currently on a farewell tour after a career spanning more than 50 years.


Cancer-killing virus shows promise in patients

A new type of cancer therapy that uses a common virus to infect and destroy harmful cells is showing big promise in early human trials, say UK scientists. One patient’s cancer vanished, while others saw their tumours shrink. The drug is a weakened form of the cold sore virus – herpes simplex – that has been modified to kill tumours. Larger and longer studies will be needed, but experts say the injection might ultimately offer a lifeline to more people with advanced cancers.

Krzysztof Wojkowski, a 39-year-old builder from west London, is one of the patients who took part in the ongoing phase one safety trial, run by the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. He was diagnosed in 2017 with cancer of the salivary glands, near the mouth. Despite surgery and other treatments at the time, his cancer continued to grow. “I was told there was no options left for me and I was receiving end-of-life care. It was devastating, so it was incredible to be given the chance to join the trial.”

A short course of the virus therapy – which is a specially modified version of the herpes virus which normally causes cold sores – appears to have cleared his cancer. “I had injections every two weeks for five weeks which completely eradicated my cancer. I’ve been cancer-free for two years now.” The injections, given directly into the tumour, attacks cancer in two ways – by invading the cancerous cells and making them burst, and by activating the immune system.

About 40 patients have tried the treatment as part of the trial. Some were given the virus injection, called RP2, on its own. Others also received another cancer drug – called nivolumab – as well.

The findings, presented at a medical conference in Paris, France, show:

• Three out of nine patients given RP2 only, which included Krzysztof, saw their tumours shrink

• Seven out of 30 who had combined treatment also appeared to benefit

• Side effects, such as tiredness, were generally mild

Lead researcher Prof Kevin Harrington told the BBC the treatment responses seen were “truly impressive” across a range of advanced cancers, including cancer of the gullet (oesophagus) and a rare type of eye cancer. “It is rare to see such good response rates in early stage clinical trials, as their primary aim is to test treatment safety, and they involve patients with very advanced cancers for whom current treatments have stopped working,” he said. “I am keen to see if we continue to see benefits as we treat increased numbers of patients.”

It is not the first time scientists have used a virus to fight cancer. The NHS approved a cold-virus-based therapy, called T-Vec, for advanced skin cancer a few years ago.

Prof Harrington calls RP2 a souped-up version of T-Vec. “It’s had other modifications to the virus so that when it gets into cancer cells it effectively signs their death warrant.”


Boy’s stag photo scoops Wildlife Photographer of the Year accolade

An eight-year-old boy who snapped a stunning shot of a deer in the snow in a London park has scooped a top photography award. Joshua Cox was just six years old when he captured the majestic animal in Richmond Park last January with a camera he had received for Christmas. “He almost looked like he was having a snow shower,” Joshua said. It has been highly commended in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

Joshua started using a toy camera as a toddler and progressed to a compact camera not long after taking the photo while in lockdown. It had just started to snow when the youngster and his father Julian Cox, who is also a wildlife photographer, arrived in the park. Describing the moment they came across the red deer stag, Joshua, from west London, said: “We were in a blizzard and I saw some snow stags going into the woods and we followed them. “We got quite close but were a good distance away. Luckily we were not disturbing them much.”

His dad Julian said his son was the only UK young photographer in this year’s competition His father added: “Joshua has been interested in wildlife from a very young age, from three, and it’s really about going on wildlife adventures together and sharing with him what beautiful nature we have here in the British isles. If that inspires him to take photographs that’s great. “Joshua only takes photographs when he wants to, when the inspiration takes him and usually when it does he ends up taking better pictures than his dad. “I’m very proud of Josh and very happy for him.”


Gamescom: The Ukrainian video game makers who kept working in a war zone

Like many colleagues in the video game industry, Iryna Bilous and Nika Avayan recently arrived at the world’s largest gaming conference, Gamescom in Germany, to show off their latest title to fans. But for these two Ukrainians, the road to the trade fair has been anything but a normal journey. After Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, Ms Avayan, chief operating officer of the Frogwares studio, decided to leave her small village near the city of Bucha. She and seven family members, including her 76-year-old mother, bundled themselves into a car, driving for six days through queues of traffic and across country borders to make it to Germany.
With roughly 80 employees, Frogwares wouldn’t be considered by most in the industry to be a very large studio compared with the likes of video game giants Electronic Arts or Ubisoft. But supporting their staff during the war has still been a huge task for everyone. “In the morning company meeting, we have a Google doc where everyone comes in and writes that they’re OK or says if they’ve changed their location,” says Ms Avayan. “Some of our employees still live in Kherson, [which is] occupied by Russians, and the communication is very bad. Sometimes they don’t have internet and we do not know… are they safe or has something happened?”

Somehow, despite it all, office morale at Frogwares hasn’t appeared to decline – except for, perhaps, in the initial period after the invasion. “The first two weeks were like hell – I couldn’t work because of the stress,” says Ms Bilous. But she adds that, as more team members have returned, there have been office reunions and even the reappearance of the usual office banter. “We make a lot of memes,” she laughs. “It’s like, the only way to laugh now is to create memes and to joke.”

On 4 August, Frogwares announced a fundraiser for the game it has been making during the invasion. Renowned for its series of adventure games based around fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, the studio’s latest title isn’t too far from what it knows best. Sherlock Holmes The Awakened will be a remastered version of a previous game the studio made, and is described as “a Lovecraftian adventure into the heart of the Cthulhu Mythos” – a reference to horror writer HP Lovecraft and the world he created. In just six hours, the fundraiser met its goal of €70,000 (£59,000). It has now raised more than €200,000 (£169,000), with over a week before it closes. “Maybe the news annoys the public because there’s a lot of news about Ukraine,” says Ms Bilous, sitting in a booth passed every second by throngs of chattering Gamescom visitors. “But we want to tell people what it’s like to be there, in the news. So that’s why we came here.” Ms Avayan agrees: “We don’t want the rest of the industry to forget about us.”


Hold Me Closer: Britney Spears releases first new music since 2016

Britney Spears has released her first new music since being released from a conservatorship that controlled almost every aspect of her life. Hold Me Closer – a duet with Sir Elton John – hit streaming sites on Friday, marking Spears’ return to music after a six-year hiatus. “It’s pretty damn cool that I’m singing with one of the most classic men of our time,” she said ahead of the release. “I’m kinda overwhelmed… it’s a big deal to me!”

The song incorporates three of Sir Elton’s classic hits – Tiny Dancer, The One and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – over a summer-fresh club beat. Spears and Sir Elton sing in unison throughout the track with their voices drenched in echo, making it hard to assess how Spears’ voice has changed since we last heard from her. However, she lets loose with a few ad libs – including a trademark “baby” halfway through the track – that suggests her vocals have matured and deepened over the last six years. (An unsubstantiated fan theory contends this is Britney’s natural register, and that she was forced to sing in a “fake baby voice” by her former managers). Sonically, Hold Me Closer is cut from the same cloth as Cold Heart, the Dua Lipa duet that gave Sir Elton John a global number one hit last year. That formula proved irresistible to multiple radio formats and streaming playlists, and helped introduce Sir Elton’s hits to a younger generation. It’s no surprise that he’s trying to recreate the magic on this follow-up, which also melds two eras of pop, with the two stars singing nostalgic melodies over an airbrushed disco groove.

According to a press release, the song started life as a solo track, before inspiration struck. “After hearing the first cut of the single earlier this summer, Elton John knew that Britney’s instantly recognisable vocals were the perfect touch to bring the song to life,” it said. “Reaching out to her directly, Britney immediately said yes, and the result holds promise to be the song of the summer.”

Sir Elton previewed the song to diners at a French beach restaurant earlier this week, singing along as a DJ played the track. “I am absolutely thrilled to have had the chance to work with Britney Spears,” the star said. “She truly is an icon, one of the all-time great pop stars and she sounds amazing on this record. I love her dearly and am delighted with what we’ve created together.”