INDEPENDENT 2024-02-14 06:04:03


King Charles flies to London for treatment with Queen by side – latest

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

Inflation expected to rise for second month in blow to Sunak – live

Economists are bracing for rises in the cost of living to have accelerated for a second month, as the Office for National Statistics publishes new data on inflation.

While inflation has fallen from a 41-year high of 11.1 per cent in October 2022 to below prime minister Rishi Sunak’s stated goal of 5 per cent by the end of 2023, it remains above the Bank of England’s longstanding target of 2 per cent.

While chancellor Jeremy Hunt celebrated a surprise fall to 3.9 per cent in November, the rate of inflation rose again in December to 4 per cent – and is now expected to have done so again last month.

The fresh figures, due on Wednesday morning, are expected to show that Consumer Prices Index inflation – a measure of the costs that households face – hit 4.2 per cent in January.

Economists will be watching keenly for signs on what impact the figures could have on the Bank of England’s base interest rate, which is causing pain for borrowers and homeowners struggling with higher mortgage rates.

London hospital apologises to 100 women after frozen eggs damaged

A leading hospital in London has reportedly apologised to over 100 women who had their eggs and embryos frozen at the clinic for potential damage to them.

Guy’s Hospital in London revealed that the damage was caused by a faulty freezing solution used at its NHS-operated clinic during September and October 2022.

The hospital has identified a manufacturing issue with the solution that could negatively affect the viability of frozen eggs and embryos upon thawing.

This has impacted women who underwent cancer treatment, potentially affecting their ability to conceive with their own eggs in the future, according to BBC.

The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority [HFEA] has been informed and an investigation is ongoing, with measures being put in place to prevent such incidents in the future.

HFEA reportedly issued a safety notice in February last year to all clinics regarding a faulty freezing solution, despite it being used months earlier at Guy’s Hospital’s Assisted Conception Unit.

A spokesperson for Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust said the manufacturing issue “may adversely impact the chance of frozen egg or embryo survival during thawing”.

The spokesperson added: “We have contacted all of those affected, and apologised for the delay in doing so and any distress this may have caused.

“We are supporting those who may have been impacted, including through our counselling service, and would urge anyone with concerns to speak to us directly via the dedicated phoneline we have set up.”

Rachel Cutting, HFEA’s director of compliance, said: “We appreciate any incident may be concerning to patients.

“We advise patients to contact their own clinic to raise any queries or concerns, as the clinic is best placed to advise individuals on how they may, or may not, have been affected.”

Mushroom sprouting from live frog leaves scientists stunned

Scientists have made a baffling discovery of a frog with a small mushroom sprouting from its leg in the lush foothills of India’s Western Ghats.

The finding marks the first ever time a mushroom has been spotted growing on live animal tissue, researchers affiliated with the World Wildlife Fund say.

Since the frog was not captured to be studied further, images shared online of the amphibian with a mushroom growing near its hind leg sparked intrigue among scientists.

The frog species, named Rao’s intermediate golden-backed frog (Hylarana intermedia), is a creature native to this region – one of the world’s most biodiverse.

Fungus experts identified the mushroom to be a Bonnet Mushroom (Mycena sp.), which is known to occur mostly on rotting wood.

Several microbes, including bacteria and fungi, have been known to grow along with organisms with most of them being symbiotic or at least benign.

There are also however, some that can cause infections under certain circumstances, such as the fungi causing athlete’s foot, yeast infections, or the oral fungal disease candidiasis.

However, a mushroom growing on a live organism has never been previously documented, according to the study, published in the journal Reptiles and Amphibians.

“To the best of our knowledge, never has a mushroom sprouting from the flank of a live frog been documented,” researchers said.

This could be because mushrooms require nutrients that are usually not present adequately on the skin of any animal.

Researchers suspect that in the latest case, the humid, monsoon-fed Western Ghats may have provided an ideal environment for mushroom growth, providing adequate moisture and organic matter.

The exact nature of the mushroom growing on the frog – whether it is infectious or benign, and how deep it had penetrated the skin – remains unclear.

This could be a cause for concern as already frogs and hundreds of other amphibian species across the world are under threat by another parasitic fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis – more commonly known as the chytrid fungus.

Chytrid fungus infections have led to a steady decline of amphibian populations globally as they throw off the balance of water and salt on the skin of these species and eventually cause heart failure.

However recent studies show that this amphibian killer fungus is present in low levels in frog hotspots across India.

Unmissable New York State experiences

Can any good emerge from the wreckage of the Rochdale by-election?

With the highly honourable and notable exception of its last MP, Tony Lloyd, it’s fair to say that Rochdale has in recent decades not been served well by politicians. The failings of the Labour council during the grooming gangs scandal have been well documented, and governments of all parties have allowed the town, like others, to be “left behind”.

“Levelling up” remains, at best, a vague promise. Even Rochdale’s one-time national celebrity MP, the Liberal Cyril Smith, was eventually uncovered as a serial child abuser. Its last-but-one Labour MP, Simon Danczuk, was suspended from the Labour Party in 2015 after it emerged that he had exchanged explicit messages with a 17-year-old girl. He is now standing in the by-election as the candidate for Reform UK.

Now, Labour’s by-election candidate, Azhar Ali, has been disowned by Labour for some appallingly antisemitic remarks. Yet his name will appear on the ballot paper next to the words “Labour Party”, and he could still win. Labour has thus let the people of Rochdale down badly – but it is not the first time, and neither is it the first party to be guilty of this.

How can Keir Starmer control the PR nightmare engulfing Labour?

With his U-turn on the £28bn green prosperity plan and the Labour campaign in the Rochdale by-election cancelled, it’s fair to say the last few days have been difficult for Keir Starmer. The news has been dominated unexpectedly by splits and antisemitism in his own party, and Starmer has found himself out of control of events. 

His oft-repeated claim that the Labour Party has changed under his leadership has been challenged, and his stance on Gaza continues to be a source of resentment among his MPs. Fortunately, Starmer has better prospects to look forward to in the coming days…