INDEPENDENT 2024-02-13 18:03:49


King returns to London with Queen by his side to continue cancer treatment

King Charles has been pictured smiling with the Queen by his side as he returned to London to continue his cancer treatment.

The King and Queen Camilla flew by helicopter to Buckingham Palace from their private Sandringham home, and were driven the short distance to nearby Clarence House.

Last week the monarch revealed the diagnosis to the public after treatment for a benign enlarged prostate led to the shock discovery.

The Monarch returned from a week in Sandringham, Norfolk to continue his treatment after a brief visit from his son Prince Harry at Clarence House on Tuesday who flew in from California.

On Saturday, the King spoke about his diagnosis for the first time as he thanked people for their “many messages of support and good wishes”. He added in his statement that it was “equally heartening” to hear how sharing his diagnosis has helped to promote public understanding of cancer.

The King was seen smiling and waving on Sunday as he made his first public outing since his cancer diagnosis.

Charles has postponed all public-facing duties, but is continuing with behind-the-scenes work on his red boxes of state papers.

Pro-Palestine protesters found guilty over paraglider images

Three people have been found guilty of a terror offence after displaying images of paragliders at a pro-Palestine march in London, in the wake of Hamas’s cross-border attack in Israel.

Heba Alhayek, 29, and Pauline Ankunda, 26, taped images of paragliders to their backs, while Noimutu Olayinka Taiwo, 27, stuck one to the handle of a placard – seven days after militants from Hamas used paragliders to enter Israel from Gaza on 7 October.

They were charged under the Terrorism Act with carrying or displaying an article to arouse reasonable suspicion that they are supporters of the banned organisation Hamas, which they denied.

A lawyer representing two of the defendants had said police were “mistaken” about what they saw that day, and that the images were in fact of cartoon parachutes, “a well-known nationalist symbol of peace”.

But following a two-day trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, the trio were found guilty on Tuesday after prosecutors argued it was “no coincidence” the defendants were displaying the images so soon after the attack.

Giving his verdict, Judge Tan Ikram said: “Seven days earlier, Hamas went into Israel with what was described by the media as paragliders. A reasonable person would have seen and read that.

“I do not find a reasonable person would interpret the image merely as a symbol of freedom. I want to be clear, there’s no evidence that any of these defendants are supporters of Hamas, or were seeking to show support for them.”

Judge Ikram said he had “decided not to punish” the defendants, and handed the trio each a 12-month conditional discharge.

“You crossed the line, but it would have been fair to say that emotions ran very high on this issue,” he added. “Your lesson has been well learned.

“I do not find you were seeking to show any support for Hamas.”

After the Metropolitan Police launched a social media appeal to find them, Alhayek and Ankunda handed themselves in to Croydon Police Station, the court heard.

While the pair initially claimed someone at the demonstration “who was not known to them” had stuck the images to their backs, they later admitted attaching the images themselves, the court was told.

When arrested and interviewed under caution, Taiwo claimed to have been handed the placard and not paid proper attention to the “blurry image” it displayed, the court heard.

Giving evidence on Monday, journalist Victoria Brittain, who is a patron of the group Palestine Solidarity, said a parachute was a “typical Palestinian symbol of flight and escaping prison”.

Ms Brittain, who was present at October’s demonstration, said balloons and kites had also been used with the same meaning. But when questioned by the prosecution, she said she had not seen any images of parachutes at the march.

Following the verdict, Nick Price of the Crown Prosecution Service said: “All three women knowingly displayed the images of paragliders in central London and therefore showed their support for Hamas – a proscribed terrorist organisation.

“The fact that these images were being displayed in the context of a protest opposing the Israeli response to the Hamas attacks demonstrates a glorification of the actions taken by the group.

“Displaying these images could be viewed as celebrating the use of paragliders as a tactic to breach the Gaza-Israel border, and creates a risk of encouraging others to support Hamas.”

Additional reporting by PA

Kanye West’s weak efforts on Vultures won’t help him recover from the past few years

Much has been made of Kanye West’s “cancellation” in recent years, as the controversial rapper continues to spark one backlash after another. Between his antisemitic outbursts – claiming he was going “deathcon3 on Jewish people” and declaring that he “liked” Hitler – or his misogynist lyrics about Taylor Swift, there have been several occasions that have, supposedly, been enough to cause the music industry (and the rest of the world) to turn their backs on this fallen genius.

But cancelled West is not. Yes, his antics have left him without a major record deal. Yes, they’ve resulted in his billionaire status being wiped due to a severed Adidas deal. And perhaps yes, there may even be a modicum of truth in his since-deleted claims that he can’t book a tour because he’s been blacklisted by music venues. But how can West be cancelled when he’s still attracting some of rap’s biggest names, from Travis Scott to Playboi Carti, to collaborate with him on his latest album, Vultures? How can someone who still generates millions of streams per song in a matter of days and boasts 66 million monthly listeners on Spotify be quote-unquote cancelled?

That critics still believe West’s work is worth any attention at all is testament to his earlier track record of excellence, whether on his third album, 2011’s Graduation, or on his debut College Dropout, which marked its 20th anniversary just a few days ago.

In a retrospective for The Independent, music writer Nadine White mourned the “kid with a daydream” West once was: a hustler whose creative vision set him apart from his peers. “For all the braggadocious gymnastics and attention-seeking, Kanye readily presented himself as an imperfect protagonist, frenetically mediating between his id and his superego,” White wrote.

“The early Kanye could drop knowledge on a level on par with the most perceptive ‘conscious’ rappers, like Common and Talib Kweli, who appear on the raucous stoner anthem ‘Get ’Em High’, but instead of scolding from on high, he generally indicted himself along with the system – a sinner seeking forgiveness rather than the outright preacher he would later become.”

Indeed, those who reviewed Vultures found little merit in his new songs. Writing forThe Guardian, Alexis Petridis was contemptuous of West’s “hopelessly weak” verses on “Hoodrat”, and the generally sub-par standard of his lyrics when compared to guest rapper Freddie Gibbs.

West’s work as a producer, too, no longer seems to inspire the rave reviews he received on early records such as Late Registration. Indeed, none of his albums have been feted with that kind of unanimous acclaim since his 2010 opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The Times’ critic Will Hodgkinson complained that West, once one of the most innovative producers around, now resorts to “the same old Auto-Tune, tinny, processed beats and overweening grandiosity without much in the way of charm or humour, musically or lyrically”.

It’s true: Vultures is far from great. It’s not as bad as Donda, mind you, West’s 2021 album that stumbled between everything from trap to drill, gospel to boom-bap, while wrestling with his (ultimately performative) new religious mission statement. Nor is it worse than 2019’s Jesus is King, the gospel record that failed to gather his views on faith in any meaningful, cohesive way. Vultures at least has a few decent hooks – namely on the summery “Burn” in which he hits out at being burnt by those who “cashed a check” off his name, and on “Do It”, which samples the synth-strings on Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up”.

West’s recent efforts have generated buzz less for their quality than their lyrical content. On 2016’s The Life of Pablo, it was his misogynist outburst against Taylor Swift on lead single “Famous” that provoked a storm of publicity around their reignited feud. His latest projects have also suffered from frequent delays; the Vultures release date was pushed back at least three times before it finally dropped on Sunday 11 February. And when his records eventually do drop, the reaction feels even more deflated.

In White’s retrospective on The College Dropout, she cited rapper GLC who once said to Complex: “Whenever you heard a new Kanye record, it came from frustration because no one was paying him attention. That’s why it was so good.”

Now, West seems less inclined to put in the work, apparently under the impression that cheap shots at his enemies and quickfire, chaotic stunts will generate the attention he craves far quicker. But, as Petredis noted in his two-star review, Vultures unequivocally lacks the kind of world-dominating, money-spinning hit that might just tempt the music industry to welcome him back into the fold. Surely, anyone can see West is more trouble than he’s worth.

Shipwreck hunters stunned by discovery at bottom of world’s largest freshwater lake

Shipwreck hunters were stunned to find a ship that sank in Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake, that dated back to 1940.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society and shipwreck researcher Dan Fountain announced on Monday the discovery of the 244ft (74-metre) bulk carrier Arlington in about 650ft (200 metres) of water some 35 miles north of Michigan’s Keweenaw peninsula.

The Arlington left Port Arthur, Ontario, on 30 April 1940, fully loaded with wheat and headed to Owen Sound, Ontario, under the command of Captain Frederick “Tatey Bug” Burke, a veteran of the Great Lakes.

But as the Arlington and a larger freighter, the Collingwood, made their way across Lake Superior, they encountered dense fog and then a storm after nightfall that battered both ships. The Arlington began to take on water.

The ship’s first mate ordered the Arlington onto a course to hug the Canadian north shore, which would have provided some cover from wind and waves, but Burke countermanded and ordered his ship back onto a course across the open lake, the discoverers said.

Early on 1 May 1940, the Arlington began to sink and the ship’s chief engineer sounded the alarm. The crew, “out of fear for their lives, and without orders from Captain Burke”, began to abandon ship, the society said in a statement.

All crew made it safely onto the Collingwood except for Burke, who went down with the Arlington. Reports indicate he was last seen near its pilothouse, waving at the Collingwood, minutes before his ship vanished into the lake.

The shipwreck society said in the statement that “no one will ever know the answer” as to why Burke acted as he did before his ship was lost.

“It’s exciting to solve just one more of Lake Superior’s many mysteries, finding Arlington so far out in the lake,” Mr Fountain said in a statement. “I hope this final chapter in her story can provide some measure of closure to the family of Captain Burke.”

The Arlington was discovered thanks to Mr Fountain, a resident of Negaunee, Michigan, who has been conducting remote sensing in Lake Superior in search of shipwrecks for about a decade, said Bruce Lynn, executive director of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society.

Mr Fountain approached the group with “a potential target” near the northern tip of the Keweenaw peninsula, and the Arlington was discovered last year, Mr Lynn said.

“These targets don’t always amount to anything … but this time it absolutely was a shipwreck. A wreck with an interesting, and perhaps mysterious story,” he said in the statement. “Had Dan not reached out to us, we might never have located the Arlington.”

The Body Shop goes into administration putting 2,000 jobs at risk

The Body Shop has hired administrators, putting thousands of people with jobs at the cosmetics chain at risk.

The retailer, which runs more than 200 shops across the UK, has appointed insolvency experts from FRP Advisory to oversee the process.

FRP said the administrators will “consider all options to find a way forward for the business” after years of financial struggles and amid a challenging backdrop for shoppers.

The chain will continue to trade through stores and online during the administration process.

Administrators stressed that the process will only affect its UK business, with international franchises not impacted.

FRP said: “The Body Shop remains guided by its ambition to be a modern, dynamic beauty brand, relevant to customers and able to compete for the long term.

“Creating a more nimble and financially stable UK business is an important step in achieving this.

“The Body Shop has faced an extended period of financial challenges under past owners, coinciding with a difficult trading environment for the wider retail sector.”

The retailer was founded in 1976 by Anita Roddick and her husband Gordon as one of the first companies to promote so-called ethical consumerism, focusing on ethically produced cosmetics and skincare products.

It comes only weeks after new owners, European private equity firm Aurelius, took control of the business.

Aurelius, which specialises in buying and turning around troubled firms, secured a £207m deal in November to buy The Body Shop from Brazilian cosmetics giant Natura &Co.

It only took control of operations officially on 1 January.

The business employed around 10,000 people worldwide at the time of the takeover.

Aurelius agreed a deal late last month to sell the company’s operations in most of mainland Europe and in parts of Asia to an international family office in a “decisive step towards delivering a strong turnaround strategy” at The Body Shop.

In November last year the private equity buyer, Aurelius, said that it would have an opportunity to “re-energise” the retailer.

“We are delighted to be undertaking this acquisition of an iconic British brand, which pioneered the cruelty-free and natural ingredient movement in the health and beauty market,” said Aurelius partner Tristan Nagler at the time.

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Time’s up, Mr Netanyahu – the war in Gaza cannot go on like this

According to NBC News, the president of the United States is running out of patience with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Citing no fewer than “five people directly familiar with his comments”, Joe Biden is said to have called his counterpart an “a**hole”.

It is entirely believable, given the president’s salty way with words, and understandable, given Mr Netanyahu’s refusal to listen to Israel’s most loyal and powerful allies. Mr Biden has reportedly had enough of his “inability to persuade Israel to change its military tactics in Gaza”. He is not alone.

The question now is: what can the world do to make Mr Netanyahu think again, and to do so before a certainly horrific assault on Rafah? When it comes, it promises to be even more devastating than the levelling of Gaza City. Perhaps it will prove the most deadly of all the many tragedies in this merciless conflict.

What is happening in the Rochdale by-election?

The already heated battle for Rochdale (the parliamentary by-election to be held on Thursday 29 February) has been thrown into disarray by sensational allegations made against the Labour candidate, Azhar Ali, when remarks he made some months ago came to light at the weekend. Ali told a private Labour meeting after the attacks that the Israeli government had removed its border security to enable the Hamas atrocities: “The Egyptians are saying that they warned Israel 10 days earlier… Americans warned them a day before [that] there’s something happening… They deliberately took the security off, they allowed… that massacre that gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want.” He also attacked Keir Starmer: “A lot of the MPs I’ve spoken to, non-Muslim MPs, feel that on this issue, he’s lost the confidence of the parliamentary party.” Ali has since apologised and retracted his remarks, indicating he fell for an internet conspiracy theory. But despite his apology, the Labour Party has withdrawn its support for Ali.

A parallel controversy has enveloped the Green Party candidate, as their candidate has stood down on account of Islamaphobic tweets from a few years ago. The energetic and divisive presence of George Galloway has only added to the chaos, with the controversial politician running an anti-Labour protest campaign as a candidate for the Workers Party of Britain. The irony is that, distressing as it may be, it may have little impact on electoral politics…