INDEPENDENT 2024-03-20 10:04:12

XL bully attack witnesses describe horror as dog savaged four people

Eye-witnesses to a bloody XL bully attack that injured multiple people have described the terrifying scene before the animal was shot dead.

Four victims were hurt in the incident in Battersea, south London just after 10pm on Monday. Two people have been arrested on suspicion of being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control.

One woman told The Independent she saw the dog chasing a man who had suffered gruesome injuries down the street.

“It was so fast,” she told the Independent. “It was unbelievable how fast he was. It’s impossible to get away. I was so scared I was just looking through the window.

“The man had massive lacerations on his left arm. You could see his flesh had been stripped off.

“A taxi driver, he was an old guy, got out to see if he could help but the dog attacked him too. He was injured.”

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Locals tried to throw a sheep-skin rug over the dog and hit him with a delivery driver’s helmet and sticks but they said the dog would not let go.

Footage shared on social media showed one person throwing a blanket over the dog while another repeatedly hit it with the helmet by the side of a car.

One first victim hopped on top of a parked car desperately trying to get away but the dog jumped and followed him. Huge claw marks have been left on the car.

“A woman was trying to help pull him off but the dog wasn’t listening,” another witness said, “It could easily kill a child. These things need muzzles. This guy’s hand was left raw his blood is everywhere.”

Neighbours said the dog eventually released one of the victims and sprinted 300m down the high street before being surrounded and shot dead by armed police outside a cafe.

“Everyone was in a frenzy seeing that dog run up the road,” a witness told The Independent. “I heard bang bang bang it was ringing out. I got there and they were trying to revive the thing. They put it under a silver blanket.”

The four men attacked by the animal were taken to hospital for treatment for injuries that were not life-threatening. The Metropolitan Police said a 22-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman had been arrested on suspicion of being the owner/person in charge of a dog dangerously out of control.

From February 1, it became a criminal offence to own the XL bully breed in England and Wales without an exemption certificate.

Anyone who owns one of the dogs must have had the animal neutered, have it microchipped and keep it muzzled and on a lead in public, among other restrictions.

Investigators are examining the dog to confirm its breed.

Local MP Marsha de Cordova said she was “deeply concerned” to hear the news of the attack.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims injured in the attack, and for their full recovery,” she tweeted. “I am in contact with the police and their enquiries are ongoing.

“New laws have come into force that make it illegal to own an American XL Bully dog without an exemption certificate.

“It is vital that there is strong enforcement to make sure owners comply with the legislation.”

Anyone with information can call police on 101 or contact the force via X @MetCC quoting the reference CAD7620/19Mar.

Where did everyone go? The harsh truth about loneliness in middle-age

It’s a strange thing to find yourself lonely in mid-life. It creeps up slowly as the kids leave home, or friends move away. Lives that were once thronged with people, bursting with activities, days that felt like an endless to-do list that never got completed, give way to a phone that doesn’t ring or ping. In place of the busy-ness come echoing evenings, endless weekends.

A friend who lives on her own and whose children are at university came to visit the other day. With a rather sad laugh, she told me she’d become “the woman who is a bit too keen to chat in the post office”.

I gave her a hug. I realised that because she has moved out of London a few years ago, although we chat on the phone and exchange texts, we hadn’t actually seen each other face to face since before the pandemic. And she’s someone I consider a good friend.

HIV cure breakthrough as virus cut out of cells in lab

Researchers have eliminated HIV from cells in a laboratory, raising hopes of a cure.

Using a gene-editing tool known as Crispr-Cas, which won the Nobel Prize in 2020, scientists were able target HIV DNA, removing all traces of the virus from infected cells.

Working essentially as scissors, the technology can cut the DNA at certain points, allowing unwanted genes to be deleted, or new genetic material to be introduced into cells.

The study authors said their aim is to develop a robust and safe Crispr-Cas regimen, “striving for an inclusive ‘HIV cure for all’ that can inactivate diverse HIV strains across various cellular contexts”.

The scientists, led by Dr Elena Herrera-Carrillo and part of her team (Yuanling Bao, Zhenghao Yu and Pascal Kroon) at Amsterdam UMC, Netherlands, said they have developed an efficient attack on the virus in various cells and where it may be hiding.

They added: “These findings represent a pivotal advancement towards designing a cure strategy.”

HIV can infect different types of cells and tissues in the body, and so the researchers are looking for a way to target the virus wherever it appears.

In the new study, presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, the researchers focused on parts of the virus that stay the same across all known HIV strains.

They say the approach aims to provide a broad-spectrum therapy capable of combating multiple HIV variants effectively.

According to the researchers, their work represents proof of concept, and will not become a cure for HIV tomorrow.

They say the next steps involve optimising the delivery route to target the majority of the HIV reservoir cells.

The hope is to devise a strategy to make this system as safe as possible for future clinical applications, and achieve the right balance between efficacy and safety.

“Only then can we consider clinical trials of ‘cure’ in humans to disable the HIV reservoir.

“While these preliminary findings are very encouraging, it is premature to declare that there is a functional HIV cure on the horizon,” the researchers say.

Putin’s spy chief threatens French troops as children evacuated from border region

Volodymyr Zelensky decried Russia‘s “constant” attacks on Ukraine‘s northeastern region of Sumy as he claimed almost 200 bombs have been dropped over the area.

The relentless Russian bombing has prompted civilian evacuations as authorities in Sumy said there had been 30 instances of shelling during the day on Tuesday.

“Since the beginning of the month, Russian aviation has already dropped almost 200 guided bombs on the communities of Sumy region,” Zelensky said. “Villages, cities, civilian infrastructure.”

In the Belgorod region, intensifying border attacks were reported by Russia and Ukraine with evacuations on both sides.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said air defence units had intercepted over a dozen rockets and missiles over the region, including a US-made Patriot, over neighbouring Kursk region.

As the two sides pound each other with shelling, Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said 1,200 children from areas most at risk will be temporarily transported by the end of the week to other Russian regions. He added that some 9,000 people have asked to be evacuated.

Teacher sacked for refusing to use student’s preferred pronouns

A maths teacher was sacked for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns, an employment tribunal has been told.

Kevin Lister was dismissed for gross misconduct in September 2022 by New College Swindon following complaints by two students.

The 60-year-old had refused to refer to a student, aged 17, by their preferred name and he/him pronouns in A-level lessons.

Mr Lister has taken the college to an employment tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal, discrimination or victimisation on grounds of religion or belief, and that he suffered a detriment and/or dismissal due to exercising rights under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

The hearing was told that the socially transitioning male – known only as Student A – had informed the college in September 2021 they wished to be addressed with male pronouns.

Giving evidence, Mr Lister, from Wiltshire, suggested the decision of Student A to use male pronouns had the effect of “compelled speech” – meaning he and fellow students had to follow their wish, irrespective of their own beliefs.

“I took issue with the demand on me to socially transition children who are unable to make an informed decision,” he told the hearing at the Bristol Civil Justice Centre.

“That is the intention of the policy – to encourage children to socially transition and to push them towards transgender lobby groups.

“Why are we not allowed to question why a student is presenting in the opposite sex?

“It is not the role of a maths teacher to confirm the gender transition and social transition of a student.”

Mr Lister said that, as a teacher, he had an “obligation to teach facts” and said college policies went beyond the Equality Act and claimed they were “illegal” as a result.

“I do say this is breaching the Equality Act because you are encouraging the idea that a non-binary person can come into class and say she is a boy and by the afternoon she can say somewhere between the two,” he said.

Referring to the college policy, Mr Lister said: “It doesn’t require gender-critical people to change their beliefs.

“What the policy does require is to be accepting in a way that is contrary to our beliefs.”

Jude Shepherd, the barrister representing the college, suggested the policy did not prevent staff members holding gender-critical beliefs from being “inclusive and treating people with respect”.

Mr Lister told the hearing that, when Student A informed him by email of their wish to be referred to by male pronouns, he immediately raised a safeguarding concern with the college as he was concerned about their academic performance and whether the two were linked.

“She does not have the right to compel teachers and other students who do not share her views,” he said.

“It is the interpretation of the word ‘respect’ which is at issue here.”

The hearing was told that during lessons Mr Lister, instead of using Student A’s preferred pronouns, would point at the pupil.

“I gestured. Some people would say I was pointing. I didn’t want to use her dead name but I didn’t want to assist with her social transitioning,” Mr Lister said.

During one lesson, Student A asked whether they could enter a nationwide maths competition for girls, and Mr Lister replied: “Of course you can enter because you are a girl.”

Ms Shepherd asked: “Do you accept that was an insensitive response?”

Mr Lister replied: “No, that was a factual response. Student A is trying to subject me to compelled speech and the rest of the class to compelled speech.

“It was upsetting for the rest of the class to be subjected to that. The rest of the class didn’t look happy – some of the students rolled their eyes.”

Asked to explain why he had written Student A’s “dead name” on the class whiteboard, Mr Lister replied: “I put her name on the board in the name she would be entered into the competition.

“I don’t accept it was a dead name. I make the point that the name I wrote on the board is the name she would be using to enter her into the girls’ maths competition.”

Mr Lister said Student A stayed behind after class to speak to him about the competition because they were worried they might do badly.

He said he tried to encourage them and offered to organise one-to-one sessions at lunchtime and then called them “an excellent young lady”.

“I wanted her to believe in herself,” he said. “Maybe that was a clumsy thing to say. That was the best thing I could say to a young lady in front of me in floods of tears.”

Ms Shepherd said: “You told them transitioning was irreversible.”

Mr Lister replied: “That’s the whole point of it. That’s a fact.”

The hearing continues.

History, heritage, cuisine and culture in Split, Croatia

Historical buildings, pine forest hills and breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea are just a few things to expect on a fun-filled trip to the old-world coastal city of Split. This ancient sliver of the country is steeped in eclectic history and blessed with abundant natural beauty, a dynamic food scene, and more cultural attractions you can shake a stick at. It’s an all-rounder, ideal to visit no matter the season and even for a quick city break since there are plenty of direct flights from UK cities, including Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Manchester. Here’s our must-see, must-do guide to this stunning city…

Split is Croatia’s sportiest city, often referred to as The City of Sport, thanks to the number of professional athletes that hail from the city. In fact, Split is the city with the highest number of Olympic medal winners per capita. You can see their names proudly presented on Sports Walk of Fame on the city’s west coast, including Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanišević, double world high jump champion Blanka Vlašić, and ex–NBA star Toni Kukoč.

Catch a basketball game featuring the legendary KK Split, one of the most successful clubs in Europe, at the Gripe Sports Hall, or watch a football match with HNK Hajduk Split at the Poljud Stadium to feel the electrifying passion of local fans. If you’d rather participate, take advantage of Split’s drop-dead coastal location by trying windsurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding or sailing; many places offer equipment rental or lessons. Or, to keep it traditional, try your hand at ‘picigin’ – a local ball game from Split that is played at the beach.

For a more cerebral experience, immerse yourself in the city’s rich history, from Roman walls to UNESCO heritage sites and historical Old Towns. Wander through preserved Roman streets lined with Gothic and Renaissance buildings and visit the oldest cathedral building in the world, Diocletian’s Palace, built between 295 and 305 A.D. The beautiful basement halls here (more commonly known as the substructures) are one of the world’s best-preserved complexes from the era of classical antiquity and central to the historical centre of Split being added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979.

Dip your toe into the world of Croatian art at the Ivan Meštrović Gallery, wholly dedicated to the sculptor himself, renowned for his powerful and expressive works. There’s also the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments, which delves deep into the city’s history across more than 20,000 artefacts. Plus, the museum itself is an architectural masterpiece.

If you want to learn all about the city’s history and citizens, the City Museum of Split is a must-visit. It was founded in 1947 at the stunning palace of the Papalić family and is a stunning example of late-Gothic style architecture.

There’s also the Ethnographic Museum of Split, situated inside a former residential complex in the southeastern quarter of Diocletian’s Palace. The museum holds a vast collection of artefacts that showcase the traditional way of life, customs, and cultural practices of the people of the Dalmatia region and beyond. You’ll find everything from household items and religious objects to traditional tools and clothing.

Leave some time in your itinerary to explore the city’s natural wonders and incredible beaches. Ideally situated on the Adriatic coast, Split houses some of Croatia’s finest and most picturesque beaches. Bačvice Beach is one of the most popular in the area, perfect for shallow bathing and basking in the sun; plus, there are many bars and restaurants along the front, and concerts take place throughout the summer months.

There’s also Bene Beach, located on the northeastern part of the leafy Marjan Forest Park, often referred to as the green oasis of Split. It’s usually a little quieter, so it’s perfect for finding a secluded spot, sheltered beautifully by the trees that border the shoreline. Hiking or biking in the forest park Marjan is also a great way to experience the natural landscape of the Dalmatian Coast. You can follow many routes through fragrant pine forests and scenic viewpoints – the Marjan Hill Viewpoint overlooks the entire Old Town. Finish off with a dip in the sea to cool off.

Kašjuni Beach is known for being particularly beautiful, surrounded by lush greenery and rocky cliffs. It tends to be a little quieter and less crowded with calm, crystal-clear water, ideal for snorkelling and swimming. While on the southern side of Marjan, you’ll find Kaštelet Beach, a small but peaceful fine-pebbled beach with shallow banks, perfect for dipping in and out of between basking in the sun.

Follow the scenic coastal promenade from the city centre, and you’ll eventually reach Trstenik, home to a well-equipped, picturesque beach popular amongst water sports enthusiasts. Here, you can enjoy windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and more. The surrounding neighbourhood is chock full of restaurants, shops and places to stay should you want to spend a few nights here.

Split also serves as an ideal hub for day excursions, offering easy access to the stunning Dalmatian islands and hinterland, each brimming with natural and cultural treasures. From the city, you can visit several of Dalmatia’s spectacular islands, including Brac, Hvar, Vis, Solta and many more. Bisevo Island is one of the most popular to visit, where the remains of a 1050 AD Benedictine monastery lay, and the Blue Cave, one of the must-see natural attractions in the country, renowned for its incredible glowy sun rays that shine through cracks in the cave, creating a magical blue glimmer.

Just a half-hour drive from the city centre, you’ll find idyllic hiking trails on mountains such as Mosor, Kozjak, and Biokovo. There’s also the Cetina River, where you can participate in heart-pumping rafting and canyoning adventures.

As a cultural hub, Split boasts a diverse timetable of not-to-be-missed events throughout the year, including Sudamja, Stories of Diocletian, Advent – Winter Joys, Split Summer Festival, the Split Carnival, Month of Gastronomy and the Split Marathon.  In recent years, the city has also emerged as a sought-after filming destination, hosting productions such as Game of Thrones and the Dark Tower movie. So it’s pretty fitting that the city is home to the Mediterranean Film Festival and the International Festival of New Film.

Food-wise, Croatia’s diverse and delicious cuisine varies significantly from region to region, with coastal areas focusing more on seafood dishes like grilled fish, octopus salad, and black risotto. Learn all about Croatian fare at a local cookery class, where you’ll get to sample and make delicious dishes and take recipes back home.

Split’s culinary scene is constantly evolving, with many restaurants opening in the city, especially in the historic centre and its surroundings. Several restaurants have been recognised by the world-famous Michelin Guide, but there are many more worth visiting, with menus brimming with local Mediterranean cuisine, often with a creative twist added by some of Croatia’s best chefs. Most of the local restaurants’ menus are made with regional, fresh produce, including just-caught seafood.

For an authentic Croatian experience and the most local atmosphere, travellers should dine at a traditional tavern-style konoba restaurant, the Dalmatian version of a tavern, where you can enjoy fresh fish and seafood and popular local meat dishes.

The local diet is also rich in seasonal vegetables, which vegetarians can enjoy in many of the city’s restaurants, with plenty of spots specialising in vegetarian and vegan fare.

Wine and olive oil are essential components of Split’s gastronomic makeup, meaning that restaurants are always stocked with exceptional Croatian wines, particularly those produced within Dalmatia. You can enjoy them with dinner or at a local wine tasting.

If you’re looking for local produce, Ribarnica is stocked with fresh seafood plucked out of the neighbouring Adriatic Sea. While Pazar Green Market is the place to go for fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, cheese, cured meat, honey, and sweet treats, for delicious eats you can sample on the spot, or take home for a slice of Split you can reminisce with.

For more Split travel ideas and inspiration, head to Visit Split or check out Instagram or Facebook

Rwanda bill is fatally flawed – it cannot survive in its current form

After suffering some fairly rough treatment in the House of Lords, the government’s Rwanda bill returned for some emergency treatment in the Commons, where all of the Lords amendments – major and minor, destructive and constructive – were rejected.

Thanks to the Conservatives’ still substantial majority there, with most of the dissent coming from those who judge the bill to be not harsh enough, the Rwanda plan is once more in the hands of their lordships. The government hopes that the bill will be passed shortly, receive royal assent, and become law by Easter. That is an optimistic assessment of its chances; in any case, this fundamentally unconstitutional bill does not deserve to survive in anything like its present form.

It remains fatally flawed because it takes the extraordinary step of attempting to dismiss a finding of fact made by the Supreme Court. As Kenneth Clarke has argued with cruel clarity, this sets an extremely dangerous precedent in allowing parliament to override a lawful ruling by the highest court in the land, and thus undermines the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. Parliament may be sovereign, but it cannot act outside the constitution because the UK is not (yet) a totalitarian elective dictatorship.

What can we learn from Rachel Reeves about Labour’s economic policy?

According to the shadow chancellor, Britain faces a 1979 moment, a decisive shift in economic policy reminiscent of the way in which Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government broke with the post-war consensus on full employment and a mixed economy – but in a rather different direction, seeing as Rachel Reeves wants to put economic growth at the centre of “a decade of national renewal”.

Delivering the prestigious Mais lecture, more often given by a serving chancellor or governor of the Bank of England, Reeves has been granted a considerable honour – and has given us some insights into her ambitions, should Labour come to power