INDEPENDENT 2024-03-02 22:36:55


What does Donald Trump’s luckiest day ever mean for the US election?

There is a phrase I suspect every parent has used when trying to talk a child down from some overblown high, or to pick them up from a catastrophised low: things are never as good as they seem – nor are they as bad.

But on Wednesday in Washington, Donald Trump had a day every bit as good as it seemed. It was marvellous, unalloyed joy. And it came in two shapes – and within a couple of hundred yards of each other geographically.

The first was from the Supreme Court. The nine justices decided after much deliberation that they would rule on whether Donald Trump does or does not have immunity from prosecution following the attempted insurrection of 6 January 2021, and the role he played in it. Did he, as the special counsel Jack Smith has charged him with, conspire to defraud the United States by obstructing the electoral process? Can he be tried for it?

Lone killer whale kills and eviscerates great white shark in 2 minutes

Scientists have published dramatic footage of the moment a lone killer whale hunted and ate a great white shark off the coast of South Africa, in the first documented incident of its kind.

Researchers said the “unprecedented” display of predatory prowess unfolded in a matter of just two minutes, from the moment the orca struck the shark on its pectoral fin to the extraction of the fish’s nutrient-rich liver.

The attack occurred off the coast of Mossel Bay in South Africa on 18 June 2023 and involved a killer whale who has previously been observed by scientists, nicknamed Starboard, attacking a juvenile great white shark.

“The astonishing predation, off the coast of Mossel Bay, South Africa, represents unprecedented behavior underscoring the exceptional proficiency of the killer whale,” said Dr Alison Towner from Rhodes University, who led an international research team on the discovery.

While it is not uncommon for orcas to hunt down large animals individually, and there are documented cases of killer whales predating great whites as a group, the Mossel Bay incident is the first time an orca has been recorded killing a great white shark on its own.

It offers insights into the predatory behavior of orcas, suggesting that their hunting strategy of plundering great whites for their livers could be driving sharks away from certain areas along the coast around Cape Town.

The video of Starboard single-handedly hunting down an 8.2ft juvenile great white shark was captured by a tourist boat passing closely at 2pm and the sequence of events was journaled and studied in the African Journal of Marine Science.

Almost an hour after arriving, Starboard appeared near the surface and at around 3pm the researchers and tourists witnessed the male orca grip the left pectoral fin of a shark and “thrust forward with the shark several times before eventually eviscerating it” within less than two minutes, it said.

A few moments later, it again emerged: this time with “a bloody piece of peach-coloured liver in its mouth”.

Starboard’s other male companion, Port, was around 329 feet away from the site of the attack and did not get involved.

“Killer whales, or orcas, usually team up when they hunt, although they can hunt solitarily,” Dr Towne said. “The unusual aspect was witnessing Starboard, the killer whale, hunting a white shark alone and in a remarkably rapid timeframe.”

The duo has been under scientists’ watch since they were seen in drone footage in 2022 working together to hunt down white sharks. Traveling vast distances along South Africa’s eastern coastline, reaching as far as Namibia, researchers believe they began targeting great whites as early as 2015. It wasn’t until 2022 that aerial footage documented the orcas killing a great white shark, according to Towner.

“This sighting revealed evidence of solitary hunting by at least one killer whale, challenging conventional cooperative hunting behaviors known in the region,” said Dr Towner.

“These are groundbreaking insights into the predatory behavior of this species,” she said. “The presence of these shark-hunting killer whales possibly ties into broader ecosystem dynamics. Rapid developments in this phenomenon make it challenging for science to keep pace.”

One of the scientists who witnessed the attack, Dr Primo Micarelli, a co-author of the new study from the Shark Studies Centre and Siena University, said: “Seeing Starboard carry a white shark’s liver past our vessel is unforgettable.

“Despite my awe for these predators, I’m increasingly concerned about the coastal marine ecology balance,” Mr Micarelli said.

The livers of great whites are massive organs, comprising about a third of their body mass, and rich in lipids. The orcas discard the remainder of the carcass, exhibiting selective feeding behavior observed in other carnivores like harbor seals, brown bears, and wolves.

How powerful will Red Queen Angela Rayner be in a Labour government?

Angela Rayner protests that Michael Ashcroft, the Conservative former peer, takes an “unhealthy” interest in her private life. By which she means that extracts of his biography of her, Red Queen?, have prompted awkward questions about whether she has paid the tax due on the sale of one or other of her houses.

Lord Ashcroft has caused trouble for a lot of politicians. William Hague, who put him in the House of Lords, had to answer awkward questions about his tax status. He fell out with David Cameron and resigned from the House of Lords in 2015. He paid for a lot of opinion polls, some of which were unhelpful to the Conservative Party, but which provided a public service.

And he has written a lot of books, including Call Me Dave, an unauthorised biography of the prime minister at the time, co-authored with Isabel Oakeshott; Red Knight, an unauthorised biography of Keir Starmer; First Lady, about Carrie Johnson; two editions of a biography of Rishi Sunak; and now Red Queen? None of them has been comfortable reading for their subjects.

I am reminded of one of the rare occasions on which I engaged Theresa May in small talk. Rosa Prince’s biography of her, The Enigmatic Prime Minister, had just come out and I asked her if she had read it. “No.” So I asked her what it was like having a book written about you. “Strange.”

For Rayner, however, the experience has moved from “strange” to “dangerous”, because Ashcroft did some basic research, or had some basic research done, into the deputy Labour leader’s history as a citizen of the property-owning democracy. He revealed that she had bought her council house at a 25 per cent discount and later sold it.

The initial line taken by the Tory press was that this was “hypocrisy”, because Rayner wants to restrict the right to buy. She dealt with that briskly, saying she is against deep discounts of up to 60 per cent, and that she wants the proceeds to be reinvested in social housing. Score: one point to Rayner.

It took a little while for a more complicated charge to be assembled against her, which was to ask whether she should have paid capital gains tax on either her house or her former husband’s house when they were sold, because as a married couple they were entitled to nominate only one of them as their tax-free principal residence.

Even Dan Neidle, the tax lawyer who made his name dissecting Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs and who is a member of Labour’s national constitutional committee, thought she had questions to answer. Labour sources say that she has taken advice, which confirms that she doesn’t owe any tax, but at some point further details are going to have to be set out.

Journalists’ interest in her tax affairs is not “unhealthy”; as an elected representative, she has to account for the probity of her finances. But it seems unlikely that the issue will end her career: the law is complex; the amounts involved are relatively small; and complete disclosure should put an end to the story.

There is, however, a more substantial potential obstacle in Rayner’s way – and one in which many voters have a more direct interest. I wrote a month ago that she is likely to be a powerful minister in a Labour government. She is a formidable politician, and she is responsible for policy on employment rights – one of the few areas in which a cash-strapped new government will be able to make a significant difference to people’s lives.

In recent weeks, though, business leaders have started to express doubts about Rayner’s policy, to Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, and to the leader’s office, and mostly in private. The most controversial policy is the promise of full employment rights from day one in a job.

This was watered down last year in Labour’s national policy forum (NPF), which put together the building blocks from which the party’s manifesto will be constructed. The NPF accepted that employers would still be allowed to require new hires to serve a probationary period. But probationary periods are usually six months, compared with the two years currently needed for protection from unfair dismissal.

What is more, there is no mention of probationary periods in Rayner’s “A New Deal for Working People”, published in January. The document also dropped the word “exploitative” from the party’s promise to abolish zero-hours contracts.

When Starmer and Reeves met business leaders at last month’s Labour business conference, they were lobbied behind the scenes by employers worried about a Labour government gumming up the flexible labour market that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did so much to promote in the New Labour years.

Some of my sources suggest that this could be the next big U-turn after the dumping of the “£28bn” green investment plan. There is nervousness and tension in the Labour Party, but the Tories haven’t launched an onslaught and employers’ groups are keeping a low profile in the hope that quiet persuasion will be more effective than confrontation.

We can expect Rayner to fight her corner, but she is also a pragmatist. She might be persuaded that, say, reducing the qualifying period for protection from unfair dismissal from two years to one strikes the right balance between individual rights and a job-creating labour market. It was, after all, one year for most of the New Labour period, since 1999, and was only extended to two years by the coalition in 2012.

If there is a pragmatic retreat on employment rights, expect it to be a bit more orderly than the embarrassing “£28bn” green U-turn.

Bob Mortimer shares irreparable damage caused by ‘very unhealthy year’

Bob Mortimer has shared the extent of his medical issues after telling his fans he’s “not very healthy right now”.

The comedian, who had major heart surgery in 2015, first opened up about his ongoing medical issues in September 2022, revealing that he ended up in hospital after filming Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing.

Mortimer’s health issues meant he had to be replaced for an episode of the lifestyle series. The TV star chose his friend Lee Mack to join Whitehouse – a decision that divided viewers who complained about the lack of chemistry between the pair.

At the time Mortimer revealed his health issues, he also said he had recently discovered that his rheumatoid arthritis had returned after 29 years.

However, it was an illness that Mortimer got in 2023 that led to him having what he described as “a very, very, very unhealthy year for me”.

In fact, the comedian went so far as to tell his co-star Paul Whitehouse in a new interview: “You know what? It was worse than my heart period.”

Last year, Mortimer got shingles, a skin infection that causes a painful rash and is caused by the varicella-zoster virus – the same virus that causes chickenpox.

He revealed in a new article featured in Metro on Friday (1 March) that he’s lost the usage of several muscles, which has left him with a “terrible feeling” that he might no longer be able to exercise by going for runs.

He said: “The muscles I’ve lost, I’ve lost… But other ones can compensate for it, you know what I mean?”

Mortimer said that, while he “can make the other muscles stronger”, he has “a terrible feeling I’m never going to be able to run again”, adding: “You know that I used to like to run, Paul.”

In 2015, the TV star had a triple heart bypass operation after he was diagnosed with coronary heart disease.

Gone Fishing was born when Whitehouse, who Mortimer had known for 30 years, invited his longtime friend fishing to get him out of the house after the surgery.

UK ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels sinks in the Red Sea

A ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels has sunk in the Red Sea after days of taking on water, officials said Saturday. It was the first vessel to be fully destroyed as part of the Houthis’ campaign in response to Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The sinking of the Rubymar comes as shipping through the crucial waterway for cargo and energy shipments moving from Asia and the Middle East to Europe continues to be affected by the Houthi attacks. Many ships have turned away from the route.

The sinking could mean further detours and higher insurance rates put on vessels plying the Red Sea route – potentially driving up global inflation and affecting aid shipments to the region.

The Belize-flagged Rubymar had been drifting northward after being struck by a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile on 18 February in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which links the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government, as well as a regional military official, confirmed the ship had sunk. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as no authorisation was given to speak to journalists about the incident. The Rubymar’s Beirut-based manager could not immediately be reached for comment.

Yemen’s exiled government, which has been backed by a Saudi-led coalition since 2015, said the Rubymar sank late on Friday as stormy weather took hold over the Red Sea. The vessel had been abandoned for 12 days after the attack, though plans had been made to try and tow the ship to a safe port.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who had falsely claimed the ship sank almost instantly after the attack, did not immediately acknowledge its sinking.

The US military’s Central Command previously warned the vessel’s cargo of fertiliser, as well as fuel leaking from the ship, could cause ecological damage to the Red Sea.

Satellite pictures analysed by the Associated Press from Planet Labs PBC showed smaller boats alongside the Rubymar on Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear whose vessels these were.

Private security firm Ambrey said on Friday a mysterious incident involving the Rubymar had taken place, saying “a number of Yemenis were reportedly harmed during a security incident”.

It did not elaborate on what that incident involved and no party involved in Yemen’s war claimed any new attack on the vessel. Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over the Israel-Hamas war.

Those vessels have included at least one with cargo bound for Iran, the Houthis’ main benefactor, and an aid ship later bound for Houthi-controlled territory. Despite over a month of US-led airstrikes, Houthi rebels remain capable of launching significant attacks.

That includes the attack on the Rubymar and the downing of an American drone worth tens of millions of dollars.

The Houthis insist their attacks will continue until Israel stops its combat operations in the Gaza Strip, which have enraged the wider Arab world and seen the Houthis gain international recognition. However, there has been a slowdown in attacks in recent days. The reason for that remains unclear.

The Algarve… but make it luxury. The ultimate indulgent break guide

What does a luxury break look like to you? Chances are, it involves a picture-perfect beach, with miles of golden sands and crystal-clear waters. Perhaps some secret coves, lush lagoons and picturesque villages too. Add in mouth-watering food, incredible local wine, state-of-the-art spas and a spot of designer shopping, and you’ve got all the ingredients for the ultimate, five-star luxury holiday – and you’ll find it all in the Algarve.

Located on Portugal’s southern coastline, the Algarve is one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations – famously loved by families, sun-seekers (it enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year) and golfers. It’s also the ideal location for a luxury break. Between five-star resort settings and Michelin-starred restaurants, world-class leisure facilities and one-of-a-kind natural wonders, you’ll find everything you need for a truly exquisite experience.

To help you settle on your perfect holiday, travel experts Jet2holidays offer retreats in more than 50 amazing destinations in their Indulgent Escapes portfolio, including the Algarve. From beachfront boltholes to rural retreats, each hotel in this outstanding collection boasts a five-star rating and is hand-picked for its superb location and service.

With breaks including return flights, generous 25kg baggage, and return private hotel transfers*, all with a low £60pp deposit**, these stays are tailor-made. Plus, you can enjoy thoughtful extras such as complimentary priority lanes passes at your UK airport, two in-flight drinks✝ and a £10pp onboard voucher✝✝, for the ultimate luxury package holiday. Each one is ABTA and ATOL-protected, while Jet2.com has been voted Best Airline – UK by Tripadvisor and Jet2holidays is Which? Travel Brand of the Year 2023.

Here, we explore the best luxury experiences in the Algarve, from five-star stays and Michelin-starred cuisine to soothing spas and blissful boutiques.

The very best holiday starts with accommodation to match, and the Algarve has a huge array of luxury stays to choose from, including intimate hotels, private villas and wellness retreats.

For complete indulgence, set your sights on the region’s selection of luxury resorts, all designed with total relaxation in mind – whether that involves a round of golf, a spot of fine dining, cocktails by the pool or some nourishment in the spa. Couples and honeymooners can enjoy clifftop hideaways featuring wellness centres, poolside cabanas and buzzy bars. While families might prefer to stay in a lavish apartment complex, complete with on-site children’s entertainment and babysitting facilities. All set against a backdrop of stunning sea views, of course.

The Algarve might be famous for its vast beaches and warm climate – but it also holds a reputation as a must-experience foodie destination. From seafood hotspots with incredible ocean views to award-winning restaurants and hidden-gem tabernas, there are gourmet experiences to suit every taste. Sample freshly netted fish in the picturesque port of Olhão, enjoy a meal with a view in Vilamoura’s glitzy marina, or tempt your taste buds in the many upscale options in Quinta do Lago.

Fans of grand gastronomy will be spoilt for choice, as the region has an impressive eight Michelin-starred restaurants – two of which have a coveted two stars. It’s perhaps not surprising that the chefs here are so inspired – such is the incredible array of fresh and local produce available. Grilled sardines are a speciality (there’s even the annual Sardine Festival in Portimão), while signature local dish Cataplana combines succulent clams with onion, tomatoes, seafood, white wine and sausage.

For a real treat, look out for fresh oysters from the Ria Formosa lagoon and octopus from the village of Santa Luzia – dubbed the ‘octopus capital’ of Portugal. And while it may not be fine-dining per se, you can’t visit the Algarve without trying one of its most famous dishes: peri-peri chicken.

There’s plenty to wash it all down with too, as the Algarve has four distinctive wine areas: Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa and Tavira. Best known for its red wines, you should also be sure to try the famous fruity digestif, Medronho, produced in the Monchique mountains.

Luxury is all about enjoying fabulous things, and you won’t be short on beautiful sights around here – starting with the miles and miles of blissful beaches. From the famous aquamarine waters of Praia da Marinha in the central Algarve to the dramatic golden cliffs of Albufeira’s Praia da Falésia, as well as the soft sands of Vilamoura, it’s easy to secure your slice of paradise.

To get a little more off the beaten track, hire a car (we recommend a sporty little number for the full luxury experience) and drive the spectacular coastal roads. Alternatively, head inland to the jaw-dropping mountain landscapes and whitewashed villages.

You could even charter a boat and explore the hidden treasures of the region’s coastline, coves and sea caves. Meanwhile, Ria Formosa natural park – a maze of canals, islands, marshland and beaches – is one of Portugal’s natural wonders and a protected haven for wildlife. It’s great for hiking, bird-watching and snorkelling. The coastal town of Olhão is the perfect starting point to explore the lagoon.

For total tranquility, take a ferry to Ihla Deserta — which translates as ‘deserted island’ — where there are no homes or cars, just one wooden building that houses a renowned sustainable restaurant.

Feeling energetic? Take a swing at some of the best golf courses in Europe, sign up for a surf school, or work on your serve at one of the many tennis courts.

Looking to pick up some unique souvenirs? Or perhaps to treat yourself to a few designer threads? The Algarve has plenty of opportunities for retail therapy, be that in upscale boutiques and large shopping malls, or historic markets and artisan workshops.

Trendsetters should venture to the designer stores of Quinta do Lago, or browse the fashion and jewellery stores at Vilamoura Marina. Faro, Loulé, Portimão and Albufeira all have shopping centres, and there’s even a large designer outlet, where you can browse well-known brands at discounted prices.

Perusing the Algarve’s vibrant markets is another must. With so many to choose from, you can buy everything from fresh fish, olives and cheese to hand-crafted jewellery, ceramics and antiques.

For another way to unwind, you’re never too far from a spa in the Algarve. The medley of luxury hotels boasts incredible wellness facilities, where you can relax with a massage, get a rejuvenating facial, glam up with a manicure, or soothe your muscles in a hydrotherapy pool, hot tub or sauna. Afterwards, order a sundowner cocktail by the pool, sit back and revel in the sweetness of doing nothing.

To make it even easier for you to enjoy the ultimate break in the Algarve, Indulgent Escapes by Jet2holidays provides the perfect luxury package holiday looking look after you at every stage of your journey through their VIP customer service.

Fly to the Algarve from 11 UK airports: Belfast International, Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool John Lennon, London Stansted, Manchester and Newcastle. To find out more and start planning your trip, visit Jet2holidays

*Unless otherwise stated.

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

Excludes champagne which is payable. One drink per person, per flight. T&Cs apply.

✝✝£10 voucher only available on Jet2shop products, excluding cigarettes and tobacco, non-transferable for cash. One per person above the age of two, per booking. Cannot be used on the in-flight menu.

Rishi Sunak is right to defend free speech and democracy

Rishi Sunak was right to try to set out the boundaries of freedom of expression in his unexpected statement in Downing Street on Friday night. He was right to warn that there are undemocratic elements that are trying to hijack the debate in Britain about the conflict in Gaza.

He was right to argue, as The Independent did yesterday, that it was alarming that the by-election in Rochdale returned a member of parliament who downplays the horror of what happened on 7 October. He was right to warn that “Islamist extremists and the far right”, feeding off each other, are trying to exploit events in Israel-Palestine to try to undermine Britain, “the world’s most successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy”.

He was right to take a stand against intimidation, and he was even-handed in condemning chants and slogans that make Jews feel unsafe on our streets, but also the abuse of visible Muslims for actions of terrorists for whom they are not responsible.

Rwanda plan costs soar to £500m – but will it ever work?

Immigration remains a major concern for voters, particularly those precious members of the electorate who opted to vote Conservative at the 2019 general election. Yet despite successive pledges, a procession of “tough” home secretaries, strong rhetoric, a constant flow of new laws, and the personal intervention of the prime minister, the news flow on the issue has rarely been favourable. The latest developments seem to be no different…

The latest figure squeezed out of the government by the National Audit Office, an independent watchdog doing crucial work, suggests that more than £500m will be spent on the scheme even before a single refugee is deported. The bulk of the money is irrecoverable; some £370m has been pledged to Rwanda under the terms of the Economic Transformation and Integration Fund, with no conditions on individuals being sent over.