INDEPENDENT 2024-02-24 10:34:13


King Charles pictured laughing as he opens card from well-wisher

The King has been overwhelmed by messages of support from around 7,000 well-wishers worldwide since his cancer diagnosis, Buckingham Palace says.

Many people have written to tell him of their own experiences of the disease or offering advice. One person told him: “Chin up, chest out, remain positive and don’t let it get you down. Trust me, it works, but the main thing is family.”

A child wrote: “Never give up. Be brave. Don’t push your limits. Get well soon.”

Charles was particularly taken by a card showing a dog feeling sorry for itself after medical treatment, with the message: “At least you don’t have to wear a cone!”.

The collar, which stops animals aggravating a wound or stitches after an operation, is sometimes called the “cone of shame” by pet owners, or an “Elizabethan” or “E-collar”.

The King laughed when he came across the card, Buckingham Palace’s correspondence team said.

Well-wishers who have included an address will receive a thank you, the team said.

On Wednesday, the King carried out his first face-to-face official duties – an audience with prime minister Rishi Sunak and a privy council meeting – since his condition was made public.

Footage showed Mr Sunak saying, “Wonderful to see you looking so well,” and the King replied: “It’s all done with mirrors.”

The 75-year-old said he had been reduced to tears by the messages and cards of support he had received. The prime minister told him the “country is behind you”.

Since the diagnosis, Charles has postponed all public duties, but is continuing to work on his red boxes of state papers.

Prince Harry made a whirlwind visit to see his father in London, after the King gave him the news of his diagnosis.

The Duke of Sussex spent almost as much time in the air as he did in England, on his first visit to his homeland since September.

The journey from the US took Harry more than 10 hours, but his meeting with King Charles at Clarence House in London reportedly lasted less than an hour.

Harry later said his father’s condition could “reunify” the royal family, fuelling speculation the prince could be allowed back into the fold. He said he was grateful to be able to spend time with his father, and reportedly suggested he would be willing to temporarily return to duties while the King is ill.

The King has been seen smiling and waving while attending church services at his Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

The type of cancer he has has not been revealed; nor is it known how many rounds of treatment are planned, but so far he has had at least two.

Before his appointment with the prime minister, he held a meeting at Buckingham Palace of the privy council, whose attendees included the lord president of the council Penny Mordaunt.

At monthly council gatherings, the King gives his formal approval to orders that ministers have already approved.

Furious row erupts after St Ives ‘newcomer’ paints shop ‘hideous blue’

A row has broken out after a “newcomer” to an idyllic seaside town painted a new shopfront dark blue.

Residents in St Ives in Cornwall are furious at what has been dubbed “the Smurf blue” former camera shop on one of its main shopping streets – and are demanding urgent action is taken.

They say it is totally out of keeping for a town made famous for its white-painted houses and shops that give the area a unique charm, beauty and light.

Some said the new owner should have stuck to magnolia instead of painting the facade a bright cobalt blue – and felt the much loved tourist destination was ‘starting to look like Benidorm.

Local councillors are now calling on St Ives Town Council to take immediate action.

The council confirmed it was in discussions with the property owner Mr Blueberry, who is said to be new to town and had reportedly wanted to put his “own creative stamp on things” with a view to open a business.

The local authority also said he did not have the required planning permission to change the colour of buildings in the conservation area.

Speaking on Friday, Nicholas Pearce, 48, who runs local surf shop wind and sea close to the building, said the strength of feeling among locals was strong.

He said: “It is a terribly dark blue and the way it is painted overnight without permission is wrong – and people in St Ives are angry about it.

“It has made the actual area darker itself. It used to be white and that gave a lot of light.

“All we know is basically been leased and taken over and not many people know what is going on – we heard a rumour it was going to be a clothes shop but don’t know for sure.

“Some locals have taken it very angrily as they just did it without permission overnight.

“The next day opening up I had to double look as it is a really loud blue.

“It is a hideous colour. Apparently they have agreed to change it – which they need to – to tone it down a bit but at the moment it is still there.

“A lot of locals in St Ives do get angry about things that happen in the town. They are very protective of preserving things. There was uproar about the Premier Inn that was planned at the top of town as the architecture was all wrong.

“I do understand that. Personally, I am all for change and I do like modernisation but I feel that colour done overnight without permission is wrong. I can see why a lot of locals are annoyed.”

The topic was also discussed on the Real Love St Ives Facebook group with local resident Jamie Law said: “What the hell have they done to the old camera shop? How on earth did this pass planning?”

Sara Jane Tomlinson added: “It’s disgusting. It sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s getting to look like Benidorm.”

Mandy Jones added: “It is hurting our eyes! And if it was done without permission it is other people’s business.”

But other residents said they had no issue with the paint job.

One said: “Honestly? First world problems. So much hate and negativity about the colour of a building. People need to realise there are much bigger issues to worry about than this. Get a grip people.”

Louise Dwelly, clerk of St Ives Town Council said discussions had taken place this week with the owner.

She added: “In terms of the colour, the general public will always have preferences, but it is very difficult for policy makers to take a view on an individual colour because it’s a very subjective matter.

“The shop is within a conservation area which has additional restrictions and means that planning permission would be required which the owner hasn’t done. The conservation area is about celebrating and protecting the distinctive characteristics of the historic town centre.

“Traditionally this would have been muted tones, white lime wash, blue slates etc.

“A planning application is a chance for a debate about whether a painted house has a detrimental impact on this. Set against this of course is precedent and the fact that there are other strong colours already.”

Murder kit, skinned pet and bizarre kinks: Inside twisted mind of Don’t F*** With Cats-inspired killer

For the vast majority of Netflix viewers, the bizarre and grizzly killing of kittens carried out by Canadian murderer Luka Magnotta will have prompted pure revulsion.

Using a plastic bag and a vacuum cleaner, he livestreamed this act of animal cruelty before going on to kill a young Chinese student.

Yet for Scarlet Blake, the three-part documentary Don’t F*** with Cats only inspired her fascination with violence, gore and death. Shortly afterwards, she would use food and a crate to capture a cat and bring it home, before similarly subjecting the animal to unspeakable violence.

With the same New Order song “True Faith” playing in the background as Magnotta used, she put a scalpel blade and handle into the cat’s eyes, before removing its fur and skin and placing its body in a blender.

In the livestream, the 26-year-old could be heard taunting: “Here we go my little friend. Oh boy, you smell like s***. I can’t wait to put you through the blender.”

Just four months later, her grotesque desire to cause harm to others dramatically escalated. After a chance encounter with Blake while walking home from a night out in Oxford, Jorge Martin Carreno ended up dead in the River Cherwell.

After six hours of deliberating, a jury at Oxford Crown Court found Blake, who remained emotionless throughout, guilty of murder.

Just hours previously, the 30-year-old BMW worker had been smiling and joking with colleagues at the Cow & Creek pub. According to one friend, he had spoken of his desire to settle down and start a family, having moved to the UK from Spain in 2019.

Yet to his misfortune, he was approached by Blake while she was out at night, wearing a heavy-duty coat and facemask and searching for a victim. After becoming lost, CCTV showed Mr Carreno sitting down in Radcliffe Square before his killer finds him and offers him her bottle of vodka.

She then later led him to the secluded Parsons Pleasure area, where she is believed to have hit him to the back of his head, strangled him and drowned him in the river, where he was found lying face down the following day.

A pathologist later stated their belief that he had been strangled with a ligature or neck hold until losing consciousness, before being held under the water.

His body was found the following morning by an amateur wildlife photographer, who had been out looking for kingfishers in the university parks when he spotted the soles of Mr Carreno’s shoes.

While his family and friends were left distraught by the news, police began to investigate the circumstances around his death, with investigators ruling out the possibility that it was accidental.

Meanwhile, Blake gloated to her partner in the US, Ashlynn Bell, that she had used a homemade garrotte to strangle her victim, after targeting him while he was drunk.

“Blake did tell Bell that she had made a garrotte and ordered piano wire to make it but she never saw it,” jurors were told by defence lawyer Richard Sutton KC. “Blake also made comments about there was not much of a fight and she expected him to fight back more.”

In one of her messages, she joked: “Last time I found someone this drunk they died lol.”

Blake would later tell a jury she had seen news reports of the body being found and created a fictitious story.

“I told Ashlynn that I killed that person, I made up the details in a dramatic way,” she said. “I told her I used a garotte that I made to try and remove the person’s head but it was more difficult than I would have imagined and then I dumped the body in the river which is what they are now pulling out.”

Blake also sought to blame Bell for making her kill the cat, saying: “There was a building up and her conditioning me to obey what she tells me to do. She would make me do things on video call like cutting myself or setting up a noose from the ceiling and putting my head through it.”

Blake, who pleaded guilty to criminal damage relating to killing the cat, described her own enjoyment taking apart “inanimate objects” and “seeing how they are put together”, adding: “I guess I was just pretending the cat isn’t real or sentient.”

“The whole thing is a suspension from reality,” Blake said. “For her, I am sure it would have been sexually arousing. For me it is a reciprocation for her pleasure.”

Jurors also heard that Blake had a fragmented personality, including being a cat. This would see her meow at friends “in greeting”, and did an impression of this in the courtroom to show the jury.

“It is quite strange it is very prominent when I am expressing certain emotions,” she said. “For example, the cat has a pretty strong association with joy, and I suppose the innate goodness. It is a kind of childhood innocence.”

Over the course of their investigation, police found a number of videos in Blake’s possession which showed her and her partner engaging in consensual strangulation with ligatures.

One shows her partner sat on a bed pulling the cord from the leopard print dressing gown tight around her neck until she appears to collapse and then breathe heavily as she recovers.

The second clip shows Blake pulling a white cord tight around partner’s neck from behind with her again collapsing then recovering.

Also harbouring an obsession with the dressing gown, the twisted killer posed for a selfie with it just an hour before murdering Mr Carreno.

“It was an interest that went beyond mere fantasy,” jurors heard from prosecutor Alison Morgan KC. “She described herself to others as being someone who derived sexual gratification from the thought of violence and the thought of death.

“Videos of her with one of her partners engaging in acts of strangulation, consensually, in a sexualised context. She spoke to others about what it would be like to kill someone.”

Despite denying murder, she was found guilty of murder and is due to return for sentencing on Monday morning, where she is expected to receive a mandatory life sentence.

Piers Morgan and Oprah ‘deepfaked’ in online adverts

Piers Morgan expressed concern about a deepfake advertisement featuring his and Oprah Winfrey‘s manipulated video footage to give an impression that the celebrities endorsed a controversial self-help course by an American influencer.

The advertisement, now taken down by YouTube, promoted a “manifestation” course sold by Wesley Virgin, a US influencer who describes himself as a motivational coach, the BBC reported.

In the advert, Morgan appeared to promote Genie Script’s Manifestation – a programme that claims to help a person accelerate their journey towards getting control of their life by achieving their deepest desire.

The advert seemed like a section of the journalist’s show Uncensored TV, with the video digitally manipulated so that Morgan is appearing to say “a lost old scripture that has been used by kings to attract vast riches, miraculous healing and unparalleled love”, reported BBC.

In another advertisement on Facebook and Instagram, Winfrey’s genuine footage was manipulated using deepfake to promote the course saying, “I want to give you a 20-word script… think of it like installing a new operating system into your mind that’s programmed to make you rich”.

Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson was also seen chatting about her recipes and work in one such fake advert.

“I went on vacation and met this man at a very exclusive party. His name was Wesley and he handed me this hidden Bible page that was locked away in somebody’s room,” her AI generated fake voice is heard saying.

Deepfakes are doctored audio-visual material created using artificial intelligence and they mostly involve the production of a fake “face” that is merged with an authentic video to create footage of an event that did not take place.

AI-generated videos can look very convincing and deceive viewers easily.

Expressing his concerns about the AI, Morgan told the British broadcaster that the advertisement was “another example of a very worrying trend of public figures being misused by deepfake AI manipulators for financial gain”.

“The real victims will be members of the public who unwittingly buy these products believing the celebrity endorsements are genuine,” he said. Oprah, meanwhile, confirmed not endorsing the product.

Several prominent figures across the world have expressed concern over the use of deepfakes. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi last year called the misuse of deepfake technology “worrying”, citing an example of a fake video of him performing the traditional Gujarati dance of garba.

“Due to Artificial Intelligence and especially because of deepfake (technology), a new crisis has emerged. A significant section of Bharat (India) is such that it does not have the means necessary for verification or to authenticate,” Mr Modi said at a special Diwali programme held at the BJP headquarters.

“I just watched a video in which I was doing garba; even I was impressed at how well it has been made but it has been made using Artificial Intelligence,” he said.

In March 2022, Facebook removed a deepfake video on its platform that claimed to show Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky urging his country’s troops to surrender to the invading Russian forces.

Pornographic deepfake images of Taylor Swift were widely circulated on Twitter/X despite the platform’s rules against such media.

The nonconsensual images, which appear to have been made using AI, showed the pop star in sexually suggestive and explicit positions.

US media reports that some posts sharing the images amassed more than 27 million views and 260,000 likes in 19 hours, before the account that posted the images was suspended.

The Independent has reached out to Morgan for comment.

Thousands evacuated as army to move bomb through Plymouth and detonate it at sea

A military convoy transported a Second World War bomb through the streets of Plymouth on Friday after hundreds of homes were evacuated for the risky operation.

Soldiers moved the unexploded device through the city to take where it was detonated at sea last night.

A major incident was declared on Wednesday after the bomb was found buried in a back garden in St Michael Avenue by a man helping to build an extension at his daughter’s home.

Plymouth Council told an estimated 3,250 residents to leave their properties in what was officially described as one of the largest evacuations in the country since the war.

The 500kg bomb was taken to the sea near Torpoint Ferry slipway.

A “severe” government alert was sent to residents’ phones, warning them to stay away from the route of the disposal convoy between 2pm and 5pm on Friday.

According to the Ministry of Defence, the ordanance was an SC500 transverse-fused airdrop weapon.

Ian Regan, who received a government alert on his phone urging him to leave his home which was 10m away from the convoy route, told Sky News: “It was scary. We put the cats in the boxes and got to my father’s spare bedroom. It is very stressful. The greatest fear is that it could go off any time.”

He added that residents were let back into homes to move furniture and valuables out before the bomb was moved.

The Luftwaffe Resource Centre describes the SC 500 as a “general demolition bomb” 203 centimetres (80 inches) in length in total, weighing in at 500kg with 220kg filling. The filling is described as “40/60 or 50/50 Amatol TNT, trialene”.

A local mechanic told Sky News “It’s been a very scary moment for myself, my wife and three children.

“[The reaction’s] unbelievable and very scary as we live yards from the scene.”

By late afternoon on Friday, after the removal operation was over, evacuated residents were allowed to return to their homes.

The council said: “We have been notified by the military that operation has been a success and the bomb has been removed.

“We can now start removing the cordon so people who have been evacuated can return to their homes.”

Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth Moor View, thanked emergency responders.

He wrote on social media: “A huge thank you and massive respect to all the Police, coastguard, military, mountain rescue, Plymouth City Council staff and multiple volunteers who have worked around the clock to deal with this bomb in Keyham.

“I expect all 10,000 evacuated residents to return this evening.”

The man who discovered the bomb told Plymouth Live he was helping prepare the groundwork in the back garden of his daughter’s property for an extension when he found it.

Plymouth City Council’s leader Tudor Evans said everyone involved in the response to the bomb’s discovery in Keyham has been extraordinary, saying the incident had brought out the best in Plymouth.

Giles Perritt, assistant chief executive Plymouth City Council, said more than 1,000 staff and officers had been involved in the operation.

He said: “Today is the result of an enormous amount of planning.

“You won’t be surprised to hear that officers and partners have been working around the clock since this incident started to come up with the best and safest solution to deal with this device.”

A culinary tour of the Algarve: from wine and seafood to desserts

The Algarve, on Portugal’s southern coast, is the country’s most popular holiday destination for good reason: it boasts over 100 miles of beautiful beaches, charming villages, and endless culture and activities. But one of the best reasons to visit is the region’s incredible food. As befits its proximity to the sea, fish and seafood are an absolute highlight, but the region’s diverse cuisine boasts dishes to suit every taste and palate.

To help you find your perfect foodventure, travel experts Jet2holidays offer breaks in more than 50 amazing destinations, including the Algarve. All holidays include accommodation, return flights, transfers and 22kg baggage, all wrapped up in an ABTA and ATOL-protected package for a low £60pp deposit*. There are thousands of Free Child Places** available, and infants under two go free✝. Meaning it couldn’t be easier to book your next break with the Which? Travel Brand of the Year 2023 and Tripadvisor’s Best UK Airline.

Here we explore some of the region’s must-try dishes, foodie locales and immersive experiences, so you can start planning your own culinary-infused getaway.

Whether you’re in a bigger, buzzier town such as Lagos, Albufeira or Faro, or enjoying the serenity of a smaller seaside resort like Olhão or Praia da Luz, you’ll find many of the same delicious local specialities on restaurant menus.

Must-eats include conquilhas à algarvia, a mix of plump clams fresh from the Atlantic, cooked with garlic coriander, olive oil, lemon juice and slices of succulent Portuguese sausage. There’s nothing better than tucking into a plateful, using bread to mop up the juices, and savouring a crisp glass of white wine at an al fresco eatery overlooking the ocean. You can’t miss the Algarve’s mouth-watering shrimp bisque either: a rich, creamy soup made with just-caught prawns and thickened with day-old bread. Served with a squeeze of lemon, it’s a beach holiday in a bowl.

Sardines are another Algarve must-sample, often simply grilled and served with potatoes, but in the beach town of Portimão, they’re cooked in a blend of herbs and spices, placed on a thick slice of bread, and served with a fresh tomato, cucumber, red pepper, onion and oregano salad. Locals tuck into the fish first, then enjoy the oil and herb-soaked crust afterwards. You might also spot diners eating their supper straight from a metal pot; this is a cataplana, in which a hearty stew of onions, peppers and tomatoes mixed with fish and shellfish is simmered and served.

Portuguese piri-piri chicken is one of the Algarve’s most popular dishes. Known as frango assado, the chicken is grilled or barbecued with a spicy, piri-piri chilli sauce marinade for a favourite the whole family will love. Wild boar, known as javali, is another crowd pleaser: just like pork, it can be served grilled, oven-baked or in rich stews.

If you’re not in the mood for a full meal, you’ll enjoy the tradition of petiscos, essentially light bites or snacks. Order a few of these small plates to share – perfect washed down with a chilled beer – options include the likes of cod fritters, fried prawns, sliced chorizo, or a selection of cheese and charcuterie.

And as a sweet treat to finish any meal, try the dom rodrigo, a delicious, sticky, pyramid-shaped dessert dating from the 18th century, which combines sugar, egg yolks, ground almonds, cinnamon and fios de ovos (a traditional Portuguese sweet, made by boiling eggs in sugar syrup).

Fancy recreating some of these dishes yourself? Book into a local cookery class, where you can learn how to make the food you’ve enjoyed here when you’re back home. Further immersive experiences can involve meeting and chatting to local producers, or getting a tour of a local market with a chef before cooking with ingredients you’ve bought.

There are also several excellent food markets throughout the towns and villages of the Algarve, and it’s worth spending some time wandering around them and marveling at the glossy, farm-fresh produce on offer.

The most popular market in Algarve is Olhão market. Set in twin bright red-brick buildings facing the Ria Formosa lagoon, Olhão Mercado Municipal comprises two market halls. One sells fresh fish directly from the boats. The other fruits, vegetables, meat, nuts, flowers, dried fruits and Portuguese sweets. On Saturday mornings, visitors can experience a much larger farmers’ market, where local farmers and producers exhibit and sell their products directly on the streets around the market building.

Another must-visit is the monthly market in the small town of Moncarapacho, just beyond Olhão, which sells fruit, vegetables and fish, and boasts a range of food stalls so you can eat as you wander. In Lagos you’ll find a typical farmers’ market, where you can pick up fresh eggs, olives, homemade jams, sweets and home-baked bread, while the lively Loulé Municipal Market is located in a historic building that dates back more than 100 years and offers plenty of tasty produce, including fresh fish and organic food.

Finally, for those seeking a tipple, as well as the tales and terroir behind it, the Algarve boasts a wealth of vineyards where you can sample different varieties and learn about their production. The wine region here consists of four DOCs (a ‘designation of controlled origin’, signifying high quality and authenticity): Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa and Tavira, which benefit from a warm, sunny climate, perfect for growing vines. You’ll find crisp whites such as Arinto, Malvasia Fina and Crato Branco, ideal for summer sipping, but also robust, velvety reds, such as Negra Mole, Castelão and Trincadeira. Saúde! (Portuguese for ‘Cheers!’)

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*On bookings made ten weeks or more before departure. Full payment required by balance due date.

** One free child place per two paying adults. Subject to availability. T&Cs apply, please see www.jet2holidays.com/promotions#fcp for further details.

Applicable for all infants under the age of two years on the date of return. Infants are not entitled to a flight seat (they must be seated with a parent or guardian) or a 22kg baggage allowance.

With the right tools, Ukraine can still finish this job

After two years of merciless destruction that has left cities flattened, millions dead, wounded or displaced, plus an unknown number of children kidnapped and war crimes committed, it takes an effort to recall just how almost casually it started.

A column of unprotected Russian tanks trundled south from the border on the comparatively short, 236-mile journey to the Ukrainian capital, as if they were driving to the shops. Long before they reached Kyiv, they had been stopped and, shortly after, they retreated.

Whatever gains Russia made in the east were purely temporary, and most have been won back by the Ukrainians, particularly in the earlier phases of the war. The Russian invaders were not, as perhaps some in the Kremlin dreamt they might, welcomed with flowers and the traditional gifts of bread and salt as they “liberated” Ukraine from its supposed Nazi masters.

Will Shamima Begum ever be allowed to return to the UK?

Shamima Begum, the “Isis bride”, now 24 years of age, has lost her attempt at the Court of Appeal to overturn the government’s decision to strip her of British citizenship. Begum travelled with friends to Syria at the age of 15 without the knowledge of her parents, school or police, married an Isis fighter (a Dutch national), and became involved herself in supporting Isis as a law enforcer. She claims to have been trafficked and that she is the victim of abuse.

In February 2019, soon after Isis retreated from its “capital” in Syria, she was found in a refugee camp, and her UK citizenship was revoked shortly after. Since then she has conducted a legal and media campaign to have it restored and to return to Britain, where she was born. She has had three children, all now deceased. Thus far she’s enjoyed little success, or indeed sympathy.

Her solicitor Gareth Peirce states: “Shamima Begum is held unlawfully in indefinite arbitrary detention, which is banned by every international treaty. She and others, other women and children, are in what is not a refugee camp but a prison camp, and that is conceded by the United Kingdom, which has stated to the UN that it agrees that Geneva Convention articles apply. Unlawful as that is, there is no exit. There is no way that she can escape from unlawful imprisonment.”