INDEPENDENT 2024-02-22 16:34:20


White supremacist brothers who killed their parents resentenced

Two Pennsylvania brothers sentenced to life in the murder of their parents and younger brother almost three decades ago have been resentenced to terms that may offer them a chance at parole.

A Lehigh County judge sentenced 46-year-old Bryan Freeman and 45-year-old David Freeman to terms of 60 years to life.

Both have served just under three decades in prison for their murder convictions and would be in their 70s before they would be eligible for parole.

Bryan Freeman wept as he expressed remorse and took responsibility for what he called “a terrible crime,” The (Allentown) Morning Call reported. “Everyone deserves to live a safe, happy life free of violence and pain and I took that away from my family and my community. … I would give anything to have my family back and take away all the trauma,” he said.

He also said his religious faith gave him the belief that he would “be able to see my family again and apologize to them and beg their forgiveness.”

David Freeman’s attorney, Matthew Rapa, argued that his client was acting under his brother’s orders.

Bryan and David were 17 and 16, respectively, and authorities said they were affiliated with a white supremacist skinhead movement at the time of the February 1995 slayings of Dennis and Brenda Freeman and 11-year-old Erik Freeman in Salisbury Township. They and an accomplice fled to Michigan, where they were captured three days later.

Both brothers have Nazi slogans tattooed on their foreheads.

A recent US Supreme Court ruling barring life without parole terms for juveniles has resulted in resentencing hearings in such cases.

The Morning Call reported that a defense psychiatrist testified about troubling circumstances during their upbringing that she said helped lead to drinking and drug problems. Another psychiatrist called by prosecutors, however, said some of the language used by the brothers during their assessments seemed designed to minimize their culpability.

Mapped: Hotspots for rare contagious cancer that can spread between species

Seaports are hotspots for the global spread of a rare contagious cancer type affecting mussels and transmitted like parasites between individuals of the species, a new study finds.

Most often, cancer arises from mutations in DNA leading to uncontrolled cell growth in organisms and does not usually spread from one organism to another.

However, researchers have found rare infectious cancer types in some animals, including facial tumours in Tasmanian devils, some cancer in dogs, as well as leukemia-like infections in bivalve species such as mussels, clams, and cockles.

These infectious cancers may spread to more new species and pose a potential threat to ecology, scientists say.

While these cancer types usually spread between individuals of the same species, previous studies have also documented a few cases of these infections spreading among the bivalves.

Scientists suspected that human intervention may be responsible for introducing these cancers into new susceptible populations and species.

One such contagious cancer type called MtrBTN2 is known to affect mussels, especially among those living in the same sea bed, ports, and maritime transport.

Shipping traffic was thought to be the most likely explanation for the global distribution of this cancer.

Now, after studying 76 mussel populations along the coast of southern Brittany and the Vendée, researchers have found a much greater incidence of the contagious cancer in ports.

“Our results showed that ports had a higher prevalence of MtrBTN2, with a hotspot observed at a shuttle landing dock,” scientists wrote.

They suspect biofouling, whereby mussels attach themselves to ship hulls, could be behind the greater spread of the disease in seaports.

Researchers say ports may also be providing favourable conditions for the transmission of MtrBTN2, “such as high mussel density, confined sheltered shores, or buffered temperatures”.

“Our results suggest ports may serve as epidemiological hubs, with maritime routes providing artificial gateways for MtrBTN2 propagation,” they added.

The findings highlight the need for better policies to mitigate biofouling to stem the spread of the disease and preserve coastal ecosystems.

Families pay tribute to best friends stabbed to death in Bristol

Heartfelt tributes have been paid by the families of two teenage boys stabbed to death in Bristol almost a month after their tragic deaths.

Known as two best friends, Mason Rist, 15, and Max Dixon, 16, suffered fatal injuries in the attack in Ilminster Avenue in Knowle West on Saturday 27 January.

Local residents rushed to their aid and provided immediate support, while emergency services were on the scene within minutes, but they could not be saved.

Their deaths shocked the local city community with dozens attending an emotional street vigil on the night after the boys died.

In statements released through Avon and Somerset Police, the two families have now paid tribute to the boys, while also sharing a collection of pictures of them while growing up.

Describing him as a “kind, gentle soul”, Mason’s family said they took some comfort that he had died alongside his best friend.

They said: “Our dearest Mason, loved by many, a precious son, brother, grandson, nephew, uncle, cousin and friend to many.

“There are not enough words to describe the pain we are feeling as a family. A kind, gentle soul who loved his PlayStation and Liverpool Football Club.

“He had his whole life ahead of him, with plans to start college later in the year with his place secured, something which was cruelly taken from him.

“We have found some comfort in the knowledge that you left this world with your best friend, Max. You will now be together forever. Also back with your dad.

“We will all miss you forever, until we meet again. We all love you so much.”

Max’s mother Leanne Ekland, sisters Jade, Kayleigh and Jasmine Dixon, and Ms Ekland’s partner Trevor Silk, described him as a “mummy’s boy” who had been a loving friend, grandchild, nephew and brother to his family.

They said: “My beautiful brown eyed boy, you were my surprise baby, surprise boy, you were nameless for a week as I thought you were going to be a girl but Max you were so loved, you brought so much happiness to our lives.

“You were respectful, fun, cheeky, you were a mummy’s boy!

“You were a loyal friend, kind grandchild, loving nephew, annoying brother to your sisters and a loving son. The world is worse off not having you in it.

“Thanking everyone for the support for Max and Mason, it’s been overwhelming. Everyone will miss that cheeky grin of yours.”

Seven people have been charged in connection with their deaths including four teenage boys and one 44-year-old man who are charged with murder.

All seven defendants will next due to appear for a plea and trial preparation hearing on April 26 while a provisional trial date of October 7 has been fixed.

UK’s cod and haddock under threat as Putin pulls out of fishing deal

Russia is pulling out from a landmark fishing deal struck with Britain in 1956 as a response to further sanctions imposed by the UK.

The deal allowed British vessels into the rich fishing grounds of the Barents Sea, the coast of the Kola Peninsula and along the coast of Kolguyev Island.

The agreement was made in London by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in May 1956 at a turning point in the Cold War.

In the same year, he denounced Joseph Stalin, proposed peaceful coexistence with the West and even visited Britain in April.

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma lower house of parliament, said in a statement: “When Nikita Khrushchev accepted this deal in 1956, it is difficult to say what guided him but it was definitely not national interest.

“The British need to study some proverbs: ‘Russians harness the horse slowly, but ride it fast.’”

It comes as Britain on Wednesday imposed sanctions on six individuals in charge of the Arctic penal colony where Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died last week.

Since the invasion began, Britain has repeatedly placed sanctions on Russia with increasing severity. The sanctions were declared as economic war by the State Duma, despite the country’s economy growing by 3.6 per cent last year.

“When people ask if we can respond to sanctions, the answer is: we can,” Mr Volodin said, adding that British vessels caught thousands of tonnes of cod and haddock in Russian waters.

The close Putin ally repeated the current orthodoxy of the Kremlin which views the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union as a tragedy and Mikhail Gorbachev as a failure who was tricked by a deceitful West intent on humiliating Russia.

“With Gorbachev, we lost our country, and with Putin we got it back,” he said.

Second Post Office IT scandal victims to receive compensation, says minister

Victims of a second Post Office IT scandal are set to receive compensation, a government minister has said.

The claims stem from alleged wrongful prosecutions of sub-postmasters in the 1990s, prior to the Horizon scandal that captured the attention of the nation in recent weeks.

Former post office staff have spoken out after the accounting software used, called Capture, was prone to errors and regularly left them with shortfalls when they balanced their books.

Mr Hollinrake, Post Office minister, said victims of the Capture scandal should be provided with compensation “where detriment has occurred”.

It came as he was questioned by Labour MP Kevan Jones on the issue who said: “If we are going to overturn convictions, it can’t just be about the Horizon system.

“Evidence I’ve put into the public inquiry, which I sent to him yesterday, clearly indicates that the scandal predates Horizon in terms of Capture.

“They need to be included in both the compensation scheme and also in overturning convictions.”

Mr Hollinrake replied: “In terms of Capture, he’s regularly brought this up and it’s something we’re keen to engage with him on to make sure those are included within any compensation where detriment has occurred.”

More follows on this breaking story…

How to help create a smokefree generation

“Some people can just stop and then never smoke again, but for most it’s hard,” says Tim Eves a 45-year-old father of three from West Sussex.

“It’s just getting through those initial tough few months. Once you do the benefits hugely outweigh the stress of giving it up.”

Tim was a smoker for around 12 years, but gave up with help from a local support group who introduced him to nicotine patches and gum.

“I won’t pretend it isn’t hard,” he adds. “The first few months, you have it in your head that you’d love to have just one cigarette. But now, if we happen to be in the pub it doesn’t even enter my head.”

Taking the first step to go smokefree may sound daunting, but quitting smoking offers significant health benefits – and can save you money.

Tobacco is the single most important entirely preventable cause of ill health, disability and death in this country, responsible for 80,000 deaths in the UK each year.

It causes around 1-in-4 cancer deaths in the UK and is responsible for just over 70 per cent of all lung cancer cases.

Smoking also substantially increases the risk of many major health conditions throughout people’s lives, such as strokes, diabetes, heart disease, stillbirth, dementia and asthma.

Smoking increases the chance of stillbirth by almost half and makes children twice as likely to be hospitalised for asthma from second-hand smoking.

And a typical addicted smoker spends £2,400 a year.

Jo Howarth, 52, from St Helens, Merseyside, finally kicked her addiction after 20 years of on-and-off smoking.

“I was quite anti-smoking as a young teenager, but I started when I was 16 because I wanted to fit in with the cool crowd,” she says.

“I knew it was bad for me, but it was so hard to give up. I tried cold turkey, hypnotherapy and at one point I had a staple in my ear, but I never lasted more than about six months.

“After I got married, I wanted to conceive so I cut down to one a day but the moment I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I stopped.

“As soon as the reason outweighed the addiction, I found a reason to stop and as a hypnotherapist I know that pinpointing why you’re addicted is the key to stopping.

“I used to think that smoking calmed me down, but now I realise that’s a myth – it was just the deep breaths I was taking while I did it. Without it I’m so much healthier and I’m determined to stay smokefree for my kids.”

Smokers lose an average of 10 years life expectancy – around one year for every four smoking years.

Smokers also need care on average 10 years earlier than they would otherwise have – often while still of working age.

‘’Smoking is based on addiction and most people wish they had never taken it up,” says Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer.

“They try to stop and they cannot. Their choice has been taken away. As a doctor I have seen many people in hospital desperate to stop smoking but they cannot.”

The government is now working on creating a smokefree generation.

The new proposals give citizens more freedom. Smoking is not a choice, it is an addiction, and the large majority of smokers and ex-smokers regret ever starting in the first place.

Creating a smokefree generation will be one of the most significant public health measures in a generation, saving thousands of lives and billions of pounds for our NHS and the economy, and levelling up the UK by tackling one of the most important preventable drivers of inequality in health outcomes.

New laws will protect future generations from ever taking up smoking as well as tackling youth vaping by:

Alongside the Bill, there will be new funding to support current smokers to quit by doubling the funding of local ‘stop smoking services’ (to nearly £140 million) as well as £30m of new funding to crack down on illicit tobacco and underage sale of tobacco and vapes.

Now the war in Gaza is poisoning British politics

According to the motions presented by the political parties on Wednesday, during the latest Commons debate on the war in Gaza, their attitudes may be summarised as follows. The Scottish National Party wants “an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel”. The Labour Party is calling for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire”. The Conservative government’s policy is for “an immediate humanitarian pause”.

Some might wonder how such minor differences in phrase and meaning could eventually result in the Commons collapsing into total chaos. The fiasco over voting was both arcane and tragic.

The speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, broke with tradition and tried to have three votes on each party’s motion, thus allowing all sides to have their different says on a matter of national importance. It also meant, in some cases, members could vote in a way that matched their own view more closely, and protected them personally from outside pressure from constituents about their stance.

Does Britain still possess a credible nuclear deterrent?

The news that one of the UK’s proud arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles fell harmlessly into the Atlantic during testing comes as a further embarrassment to the Ministry of Defence.

In recent weeks, the British public, increasingly alarmed at the behaviour of Vladimir Putin, has learnt that the army stands at its lowest strength since the Napoleonic wars, that both of our otherwise magnificent aircraft carriers have trouble getting seaborne, that one of our warships crashed into another because of “faulty wiring”, and that Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw the US commitment to Nato.

Even the special forces, the finest of their kind in the world, are now being accused of war crimes in Afghanistan. It’s not inspiring confidence…