INDEPENDENT 2024-03-22 10:04:18


Apple has illegally made the iPhone worse, US says in huge lawsuit

The US is suing Apple over its control of the iPhone.

The Department of Justice accused the company of using its control over the device to unfairly control the market for smartphones, and take money from its users.

The lawsuit accused Apple of making the iPhone worse in various ways – including reducing privacy protections and restricting features – in order to keep its monopoly over the smartphone market.

The company’s behaviour has “smothered an entire industry” by reducing the ability of developers and other to innovate and bring out new tech products, officials said.

Apple joins a list of major tech companies sued by U.S. regulators, including Alphabet’s Google, Meta Platforms and Amazon.com across the administrations of both former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.

“Consumers should not have to pay higher prices because companies violate the antitrust laws,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “If left unchallenged, Apple will only continue to strengthen its smartphone monopoly.”

The Justice Department alleges that Apple uses its market power to get more money from consumers, developers, content creators, artists, publishers, small businesses and merchants.

The civil lawsuit accuses Apple of an illegal monopoly on smartphones maintained by imposing contractual restrictions on, and withholding critical access from, developers.

In a statement, Apple said the lawsuit “threatens who we are” and that it would “vigorously defend against it”.

“At Apple, we innovate every day to make technology people love—designing products that work seamlessly together, protect people’s privacy and security, and create a magical experience for our users,” Apple said. “This lawsuit threatens who we are and the principles that set Apple products apart in fiercely competitive markets.

“If successful, it would hinder our ability to create the kind of technology people expect from Apple—where hardware, software, and services intersect. It would also set a dangerous precedent, empowering government to take a heavy hand in designing people’s technology.

“We believe this lawsuit is wrong on the facts and the law, and we will vigorously defend against it.”

Apple has already been subject to antitrust probes and orders in Europe, Japan and Korea, as well as lawsuits from corporate rivals such as Epic Games.

One of Apple‘s most lucrative businesses – its App Store, which charges developers commissions of up to 30% – has already survived a lengthy legal challenge under US law by Epic. While the lawsuit found that Apple did not violate antitrust laws, a federal judge ordered Apple to allow links and buttons to pay for apps without using Apple‘s in-app payment commission.

In Europe, Apple‘s App Store business model has been dismantled by a new law called the Digital Markets Act that went into effect earlier this month. Apple plans to let developers offer their own app stores – and, importantly, pay no commissions – but rivals such as Spotify and Epic argue Apple is still making it too hard to offer alternative app stores.

The rulings on Apple‘s App Store forced the Justice Department to look at Apple‘s other practices for the basis of a complaint, such as how Apple allows outside firms to access the chips and sensors in the iPhone.

Consumer hardware firms, such as smart-tracker maker Tile Inc, have long complained that Apple has restricted the ways in which they can work with the iPhone’s sensors while developing competing products that have greater access.

Apple began selling AirTags – which can be attached to items like car keys to help users find them when they are lost – several years after Tile had been selling a similar product.

Similarly, Apple has restricted access to a chip in the iPhone that allows for contactless payments. Credit cards can only be added to the iPhone by using Apple‘s own Apple Pay service.

And Apple has also faced criticism over its iMessage service, which only works on Apple devices.

Apple has long argued that it restricts access to some user data and some of the iPhone’s hardware by third-party developers for privacy and security reasons.

Additional reporting by agencies

Stephen Fry latest criticises Ozempic after dramatic weight loss

Stephen Fry is the latest celebrity to criticise weight-loss drug Ozempic, after the medication made him violently sick.

The Blackadder star was left vomiting up to five times a day after taking the medication in a last-ditch attempt to prevent weight gain.

As an “early adopter” of the diabetes drug, which has swept Hollywood and been promoted by the likes of Sharon Osbourne and Amy Schumer, the 66-year-old shared that at first he thought the results were “astonishing”.

“The first week or so, I was thinking, ‘This is astonishing. Not only do I not want to eat, I don’t want any alcohol of any kind. This is going to be brilliant,’” he said during a recent appearance on the River Café Table 4 podcast.

Fry, however, was forced to stop taking Ozempic after he began feeling “sicker and sicker”.

“I started feeling sick, and I started getting sicker and sicker and sicker,” he said. “I was literally throwing up four, five times a day and I thought, ‘I can’t do this.’ So that’s it.

“The new variant, Tirzepatide Mounjaro it’s called makes it even worse apparently.”

The comedian said he was in America at the time when he read about the medication, many years ago.

“I’m an early adopter of these things. I happened to be in America, and I’d read about it, and I asked my doctor in America, my physician as they like to call them, and he said, ‘I think I can get you some.’ He tried me on it,’” Fry said.

According to The Mirror, Fry weighed over 290 pounds in April 2019. By August that same year, he had lost five-and-a-half stone due to Ozempic.

Many celebrities have commented on the use of Ozempic, with Celebrity Big Brother star Sharon Osbourne, 71, reporting she had “no regrets” about taking the drug although she feels she is now “too gaunt” and cannot put weight. Her daughter, Kelly Osbourne, incited fury after she said any critics of the drug simply “couldn’t afford it”.

Oscar-winning actor Kate Winslet is one of several celebrities to speak out against Ozempic, condemning the weight-loss medication as “terrible”.

Oprah Winfrey recently made headlines after she spoke about her own recent weight-loss journey in which she used a drug that she stopped short of mentioning by name. The talk show host did admit to using similar medication to Ozempic including Mounjaro injections.

Russian strike hits Ukraine’s largest dam – latest

Russian missile strikes hit Ukraine’s largest dam in Zaporizhzhia this morning and caused partial blackouts in Kharkiv.

“There is currently a fire at the station. Emergency services and energy workers are working on the spot,” Ukraine’s state hydropower company said, adding that there was no risk of a breach.

Missile strikes earlier in the day targeted the power supply in Kharkiv, with at least 15 blasts reported for the northeastern city. Blasts were also reported from Vinnytsia, where an undisclosed number of locals sustained injuries.

Russia fired more than 60 Shahed drones and nearly 90 missiles in a vast overnight attack at Ukraine, president Volodymyr Zelensky said on the Telegram messaging app.

The fresh attack comes a day after a child and 12 others suffered injuries as Russian forces launched one of the biggest airstrikes on the Ukrainian capital in weeks.

Schools, residential buildings and industrial facilities were also damaged, Ukrainian officials said.

Meanwhile, a leading war think tank has said several indicators point to Russia preparing for a large-scale conflict with Nato.

Modi accused of ‘dirty politics’ as opposition leader arrested weeks before election

Chief minister of Delhi and a key opposition leader, Arvind Kejriwal, was arrested by the federal anti-money laundering agency just weeks before the country heads into the national elections, in a move condemned by the opposition as the “murder of democracy”.

Mr Kejriwal, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), was arrested by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) on Thursday night in connection with corruption allegations relating to the city’s liquor policy.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case on Monday. The AAP’s legal team approached the apex court requesting a late-night hearing but the court said it would take up the matter in the morning.

The AAP has called for countrywide protests with the top leaders of the party descending in the capital on Friday.

The party has accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by prime minister Narendra Modi of playing “dirty politics” and said it was the “murder of democracy” in the country.

“His arrest is a conspiracy by the prime minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. If there is any leader that the prime minister is scared of it is Kejriwal,” said Atishi, Delhi‘s finance minister.

“His arrest after the announcement of elections is a political conspiracy,” she said, adding “If necessary he will run the government from jail. There is no law that prohibits this. There has been conviction against him. We will continue to fight this.”

Spokesperson of AAP, Raghav Chadha, said: “India is under an undeclared Emergency. Our democracy stands critically endangered today. This is an act of cowardice, and a vicious plot to silence the strongest opposition voices.”

Mr Chadha was comparing the situation to when prime minister Indira Gandhi suspended India’s constitution during a crisis in 1975.

The arrest has come as the latest setback to the AAP party in Delhi after the main leaders, including deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and lawmaker Sanjay Singh, were arrested in the same case.

The party leadership was being investigated by the federal agency over the allegations that a liquor policy implemented by the Delhi government in 2022 gave undue advantages to private retailers and received kickbacks from alcohol companies.

The policy ended the ED’s control over the sale of liquor in the capital and was rolled back within months with most of the 849 private alcohol shops shutting their outlets.

The AAP has said no evidence of wrongdoing has emerged in the investigation and Mr Kejriwal previously claimed that if he is corrupt “then there is no one in this world who is honest”.

His arrest came after the ED issued nine summons to him for questioning and Mr Kejriwal did not answer them fearing he would be arrested while seeking protection against his arrest from the courts.

The Modi government has been accused by political opponents of using law enforcement agencies against political rivals to intimidate and weaken them. A number of politicians have faced legal challenges with some arrested and others convicted.

It came shortly after details of the now-scrapped opaque electoral funding system were released. The first release last week sparked political turmoil after Mr Modi’s BJP emerged as the biggest beneficiary of the scheme by a large margin.

Heavy security has been deployed around Mr Kejriwal’s residence and places where Mr Kejriwal will be taken with drones monitoring the movements. Mr Kejriwal is scheduled to undergo a medical checkup before the ED’s proceedings begin.

Several traffic restrictions are in place in anticipation of protests by AAP supporters with roads leading to the BJP headquarters and ED office in central Delhi barricaded.

Opposition leaders from across the political spectrum denounced Mr Kejriwal’s arrest with senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi planning to meet the chief minister’s family to provide them with legal assistance.

Mr Gandhi called Mr Modi a “scared dictator” and doubled down on his criticism as the arrest came on the same day his party claimed that the government allegedly froze its bank accounts ahead of the election.

“A scared dictator wants to create a dead democracy. While capturing all the institutions including the media, breaking up the parties, extorting money from companies, freezing the account of the main opposition party was not enough for the ‘devilish power’, now the arrest of the elected Chief Ministers has also become a common thing,” Mr Gandhi said.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the arrest “exposes the cowardice of those who fear democratic process and calls for collective action to resist abuse of power”.

Tamil Nadu chief minister M K Stalin said the BJP is a fascist regime. “Not a single BJP leader faces scrutiny or arrest, laying bare their abuse of power and the decay of democracy.”

Mr Kejriwal, 55, rose to power as an anti-corruption crusader and founded the AAP, Hindi for “common man’s party”, in 2011. After storming into power in Delhi in 2013, AAP swept state elections in the northern state of Punjab in 2022 and won a few seats in Mr Modi’s home state Gujarat in the same year.

The arrest is also seen as a blow to the “INDIA” block, an alliance of opposition that hopes to challenge the BJP party as it seeks a third term in the elections beginning on 19 April.

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

Waspi women deserve justice over the pensions scandal

Blunders happen in all bureaucracies, and the Department for Work and Pensions, and its previous incarnations, are no exception.

However, the scale of the financial and emotional damage wreaked on the Women Against State Pension Inequality – the so-called Waspi women – effectively robbed of a very large proportion of their state pension, is both wide and grievous. Every woman born between 1950 and 1960 – some 3.6 million individuals – has suffered a toll on their standard of living, and in some cases where their health has been adversely affected, the full costs involved are incalculable.

The report of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), an independent watchdog, is damning and places the responsibility for the fiasco on the state. Unusually, it directly calls for parliament to remedy matters, given the long-term reluctance of successive administrations to make amends.

Could the Lib Dems be on the brink of a new electoral breakthrough?

The Liberal Democrats have had their spring conference and have launched their local election campaign with a typically cheesy photo-op featuring Ed Davey, a giant cardboard egg-timer, and the slogan “Time’s Running Out Rishi!”.

For the first time since the brief outburst of “Cleggmania” during the 2010 campaign, the party has realistic hopes of winning a substantial number of parliamentary seats at a general election, even though it is still languishing in the polls. Davey claims it will be a “once-in-a-generation election”.

On the other hand, a likely Labour landslide means the Lib Dems may have comparatively little influence in the new House of Commons. There remain significant challenges for Davey and his loyal followers…