INDEPENDENT 2024-03-08 01:04:16


Palace speaks out on Kate health rumours

The palace has spoken out on rumours surrounding Kate Middleton’s health following her temporary absence from the public eye as she recovers from abdominal surgery.

As the Princess of Wales takes time away from her royal duties, rumours and unfounded conspiracy theories have gained traction online.

Referring to her husband Prince William, a royal spokesperson told People magazine: “His focus is on his work and not on social media.”

The remarks come as Kate’s uncle, Gary Goldsmith, was criticised by royal commentator Rupert Bell for “throwing more spotlight on her”.

Addressing the speculation over his niece’s health in the Celebrity Big Brother house, Mr Goldsmith told fellow contestants: “I spoke to her mum, she’s getting the best care in the world.” And when asked if the Princess would be back, he responded: “She’s amazing, she will be back, of course she will.”

On Tuesday, the 58-year-old businessman launched the first of several attacks on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

He first said the Duke of Sussex could not “throw [his] family under the bus” referring to his memoir Spare and “expect to be invited round for Christmas”. Then he said the Duchess of Sussex’s entrance into the royal family had brought an extra dynamic that “puts a stick in the spokes and creates so much drama”.

BBC presenter Nick Sheridan dies aged 32

BBC presenter and children’s author Nick Sheridan has died aged 32 following a short illness.

The news was announced by the broadcaster in a post on X/Twitter on Thursday morning (7 March).

Head of news Gary Smith said Nick had been a “wonderful colleague to those of us who have worked with him since he joined BBC Scotland in 2018”.

He added: “He was a hugely talented journalist, presenter and author – and one of those rare people who light up the lives of everyone around them. Funny, clever, kind. A lovely man.

“Our hearts go out to his parents, who have been with him over the past ten days, to his partner, Lewis, and to all the rest of his family and friends.”

In a tribute, Former First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon called Sheridan “young, talented, vivacious, and full of potential”.

“What a horrible, senseless loss. My thoughts are with his family, colleagues and many friends,” she wrote on X/Twitter.

The presenter’s BBC Scotland colleague Fiona Stalker wrote on the platform: “There are no words. He was so very loved. I am so thankful for every minute with him. The very best.” Stalker shared several pictures with Sheridan, including one of them having tea in the studio and another wearing wetsuits on a beach.

Sheridan, originally from Wexford in Ireland, presented programmes including Reporting Scotland, Drivetime, the Nine and Seven Days since joining BBC Scotland in 2018.

The journalist had worked in broadcast for more than a decade, previously presenting for RTE News2day, a news programme for young people by Ireland’s national broadcaster, before he moved into a role on the foreign affairs desk.

He then joined BBC Scotland as a researcher, before becoming an on-camera journalist, presenter and correspondent.

Sheridan developed a passion for writing children’s books and announced in 2021 that he had signed a four-book deal with the publishing house Simon and Schuster. He released several children’s stories including Breaking News: How to Tell What’s Real From What’s Rubbish, The Case of the Phantom Treasure and The Case of the Runaway Train.

He wrote Breaking News to help children navigate misinformation in the modern media, filled with illustrations and interactive activities.

The Case Of…. books were from Sheridan’s illustrated mystery series, which was described upon release as the “Scooby-Doo for a new generation, perfect for fans of Pamela Butchart and Sam Copeland”.

Mother dies after falling e-scooter and ‘was mistaken for being drunk’

A mother-of-14 has died after falling off an e-scooter and suffering a fatal head injury.

Angeline Bryan, 47, was helping her friend move house in Nottingham when she fell and hit her head, which she initially brushed off and got back up.

But she apparently suffered from a headache for the next two days and was acting bizarrely, leading a friend to call an ambulance on the evening of the third day.

Her eldest daughter Jaymi Andrews, 29, told The Mirror: “They didn’t take my mum to hospital. They left her where she was and they thought she was drunk – it was because of the head injury she didn’t even know she had.”

The following day, her condition declined, prompting her friend to call an ambulance again and paramedics took her to hospital.

“They gave her scans and found out she had four bleeds on the brain, caused by the fall from the scooter,” Jaymi added.

“They performed surgery to try to drain the bleed and put her in a coma and kept scanning her to see what was happening.

“On the fifth day, Angeline suffered a massive stroke. She was put on a life support machine but sadly did not recover.”

The mother’s younger children are now being cared for by their older siblings and relatives in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

The family are now fundraising to give the grandmother of six the send-off she deserves.

They wrote on GoFundMe: “This devastating accident has left us all heartbroken and lost. Mum was our queen. She was there for all of us and her grandchildren.

“Everyone who knew our mum knew she was there for everyone, and would put strangers before herself every single time. Mum made things happen, it didn’t matter what anyone was struggling with she’d figure out a way to help anyone who crossed her path.

“Mum was a funny, kind and beautiful person inside and out, and she will be so missed by so so many people. We so desperately want to give her a nice send-off, and as a family we are asking for donations towards her funeral and wake.”

As well as Jaymi, Angeline leaves behind Alisha, 26, Kaya, 25, Atlanta, 23, Luna, 22, Zane, 21, Donnel, 20, Eniola, 19, Pharrell, 18, Donte, 16, Romeo, 14, Lolade, 13, Evelyn, eight and Kal-el, five.

Russian official warns of full-scale war in Europe

A senior Russian officer has warned of a full-scale war in Europe as Sweden have finally joined Nato.

Colonel-General Vladimir Zarudnitsky, head of the Russian army’s Military Academy of the General Staff, made the comments in an article for “Military Thought”, a defence ministry publication, the state RIA news agency reported on Thursday.

“The possibility of an escalation of the conflict in Ukraine – from the expansion of participants in ‘proxy forces’ used for military confrontation with Russia to a large-scale war in Europe – cannot be ruled out,” RIA cited him a saying.

It comes as Sweden officially joins NATO as the 32nd member of the transatlantic military alliance, ending decades of post-World War II neutrality as concerns about Russian aggression in Europe have spiked following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Secretary of State Antony Blinken presided at a ceremony in which Sweden‘s “instrument of accession” to the alliance was officially deposited at the State Department.

“This is a historic moment for Sweden. It’s historic for the alliance. It’s historic for the transatlantic relationship,” Blinken said. “Our NATO alliance is now stronger, larger than it’s ever been.

Rust juror explains why armourer who gave Baldwin gun was found guilty

A member of the jury that found Rust armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed guilty of involuntary manslaughter spoke out, explaining why the panel reached their verdict.

“[She] never did the safety checks, never checked the rounds to pull them out to look at them, shake them,” juror Alberto Sanchez told reporters after the decision. “I mean, if you would’ve done that, this wouldn’t have happened.”

The court was told that while on the set of the movie in 2021, Gutierrez-Reed handed Alec Baldwin a gun that unwittingly contained live ammunition. While rehearsing a scene, the gun went off, accidentally killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

In a Santa Fe, New Mexico courtroom on Wednesday, sGutierrez-Reed was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Ms Hutchins’s death. She had also been charged with evidence tampering but was found not guilty.

During the trial, prosecutors said the armourer exhibited an “astonishing lack of diligence” on set, often cutting corners or completely skipping out on gun safety measures.

These “constant, never-ending safety failures” made the fatal shooting “willful and foreseeable,” prosecutor Kari Morrissey told the jury.

Speaking outside the courthouse after the verdict, Mr Sanchez compared the risks that come with his work as a truck driver to Ms Gutierrez-Reed’s job as an armourer.

“I have to check my vehicle to make sure I’m not going to slam into people or do something like that,” he said. “That was her job, to check those rounds, those firearms.”

Reaching a verdict wasn’t difficult, he said, noting that testimony about the “very unsafe conditions” on set made the decision “obvious.”

“Someone died,” Mr Sanchez said. “You’ve got to take responsibility, especially when you’re handling weapons and you’re in charge of those — that’s your job.”

Ms Gutierrez-Reed faces up to 18 months in prison and is expected to be sentenced in April. She was immediately remanded in custody by the judge following her conviction.

The trial for Mr Baldwin, who also faces involuntary manslaughter charges, is set to begin on 9 July.

The truth about the £100k gender pension gap

It can be easy to bury your head in the sand when it comes to retirement, especially when it seems a long way off. But if you want to live comfortably when the time comes to stop working, planning ahead is vital. It’s even more important for women, who are on track to have significantly less money than men in later life.

Just as there’s a gender pay-gap, there’s also a discrepancy between how much income men and women have in retirement, too – and it’s even bigger. Research from Scottish Widows shows there is a massive 39% gender pension gap*. This gap grows wider over the course of an average woman’s working life – at 22, there is a £100 difference in pension savings between men and women. By 65, this has grown to a shocking £100,000 difference. For the average woman to level this out, she would have to pay an additional £96 every month over her working life.

Scottish Widows latest ‘Women and Retirement’ report shows that a third of women are not on track to achieve even a basic lifestyle in retirement, covering essential needs, with only a small amount left over for anything else. It means many women won’t have the money to live comfortably, let alone do the things they hope to in retirement, such as travel, socialise and pursue hobbies. The average woman is set to receive £12k per year of income in today’s money during retirement, after paying for any expected housing expenses, compared to £19k for the average man. This includes private pension, other long-term savings, inheritance and the state pension or pension credits.

This gender pension gap is largely driven by deep-seated structural issues. The gender pay/wage gap is a factor, as, naturally, when women earn less, they have less to save. Women are also more likely to work part-time and to take career breaks due to caring responsibilities and a lack of affordable childcare. “Childcare is a huge contributing factor for women, often resulting in them giving up work or reducing their working hours to look after their family,” says Jill Henderson, Scottish Widows’ Head of Business Development. “After women have children the gap between their pension and that of a typical man’s starts to widen. This is because women tend to take on the lion’s share of childcare and employment breaks or part time working – all of which are big drivers of the gender pension gap.” Research found 63% of mothers have either reduced the number of days they worked per week when returning from parental leave or have not yet returned, compared to just over 16% of men.

Some women bear the brunt more than others. “The inability to save has a devastating impact on women’s income and ability to thrive in later life,” says Henderson. “Those women who are in a relationship fare better, but those who are single, divorced or are single mothers are most vulnerable.”

Two-thirds of single women and 60% of divorced women aren’t on track for a minimum lifestyle in retirement, while for single mothers the figures are even starker, at 75%. Working part time, coupled with other financial pressures, makes it much more difficult for single mothers to save for retirement. To make things even more difficult, gaps in work for raising children can also affect eligibility for the state pension. It means that single mothers are almost twice as likely to live in poverty in retirement than the average UK woman.

The overall picture is worrying, but there is some room for optimism. Auto enrolment – where an employer must automatically enrol eligible employees into their pension programme – has nearly doubled the number of females saving into a workplace pension in the last decade. For most people, the state pension will not provide enough income to live comfortably in retirement, so it’s vital to invest in private pension pots.

Recent legislation is set to make two key changes to auto-enrolment; reducing the age requirement from 22 to 18, and removing the lower earnings limit (currently £6,240) which means helps people qualify for auto enrolment and get employer contributions and tax relief from the first ound they earn. “These changes will be most valuable to the young and lower paid, including those who work part-time, most of whom are women,” says Henderson.

The ideal amount to be putting away is 15% of your salary (a combination of what you and your employer pay in, plus any tax relief), but even if you can’t manage that, every little bit makes a difference, especially if you get started today. “People can only save what they can afford to, but we suggest people check in on their pension regularly especially if their situation changes,” says Henderson. Young women are now more likely to start saving earlier in life than men — and the sooner you start, the better the position you’ll be in when you retire.

When it comes to planning for retirement, knowledge is power. Scottish Widows have created a new Beat The Gap tool (www.BeatTheGap.com) to help simplify how people engage with pensions, and make it easier for women (and men) to understand how things like working pattern, and childcare can affect their pension. By inputting some simple information, including gender, age and salary, it plots the user against the UK average pension across their lifetime. You can then see where the gap is most likely to emerge and get tailored tips on how to boost your pension and close the gap.

It’s part of a range of free educational support to help women plan for their retirement.

There’s a long way to go to close the gender pension gap, with many societal changes that need to happen. Until then, being aware of the factors that can affect their pension can help empower women to take the steps they need to ensure a more comfortable retirement, while they wait for the bigger picture to shift.

Find out more about the gender pension gap, plus expert tips and free tools to help you save for your retirement at Scottishwidows.co.uk/yourfuture

*2023 RR and 2023 W&R reports (based on the National Retirement Forecast)

The Budget is far too little, too late to save the Conservative Party

Well within living memory, a pre-Budget leak would be a resignation matter for a chancellor of the Exchequer – and Treasury ministers were placed in a state of strict pre-Budget “purdah”, during which media appearances were strictly forbidden. Times change, and now they’ve altered to the extent that Jeremy Hunt’s latest package of measures has been so widely and comprehensively floated, briefed and analysed that when he got to his feet he had nothing to add of any substance.

The cuts in national insurance, adjustments to child benefit thresholds, the freeze in fuel duty, and the “full expensing” on leased assets were so well-trailed that the announcements, all significant, were met only with a collective national shrug. Another tradition was broken because the Commons chamber was continuously noisy, and the deputy speaker made only token attempts to impose the sepulchral silence in which Budgets used to be heard, aside from rare moments of gross disorder.

The overall effect was to make the Budget less of an event than the government surely wished for. Indeed the lack of a final rabbit out of the hat – which in reality the press were fully expecting – left Mr Hunt presiding over something of an anti-climax. Rather than the crack of a starting pistol on a frantic period of electioneering, it was a bit boring. It may therefore be just as well that the supposed “early” election (in reality very close to the end of the parliament in any case) seems to have been abandoned. It certainly did not feel like a Budget that might be the game-changer the Tories so desperately need. On balance, Mr Hunt would have been better off keeping schtum.

‘The Kremlin tried to recruit me – then I had to flee for my safety’

When the chief rabbi of Moscow was summoned by Putin’s FSB agents to Sadovnicheskaya Street police station in 2003, they had one goal: to turn him into a Russian agent.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, who had been chief rabbi for the previous decade, was able to resist the Russian state in their efforts to turn him. But when Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago, his time was up.

Having refused to endorse the war, Rabbi Goldschmidt fled, first to Hungary and then Israel, urging other Jewish people to leave Russia while they could. He was designated a “foreign agent” by the Kremlin for his criticism of Putin, whose rise he had witnessed at close quarters.