The Telegraph 2024-04-08 10:00:38

Cameron warns US over blocked Ukraine aid

Lord Cameron will warn that the US is risking the West’s security by holding up a new package of aid for Ukraine when he visits Washington DC next week…

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Pictured: Man hunted by police after mother pushing pram is stabbed to death

A manhunt is under way after police named a man they suspect stabbed a mother to death as she pushed her baby in a pram on a street in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

Detectives are appealing for members of the public to report any sightings of Habibur Masum, who is 25 and from the Oldham area of Greater Manchester.

He is wanted in connection with the fatal stabbing, which happened in the Westgate area of Bradford on Saturday afternoon, West Yorkshire Police said.

Police were called to Westgate at the junction with Drewton Road at 3.21pm on Saturday after reports of a woman being stabbed by a man, who then fled. The woman later died in hospital. 

She has yet to be formally identified but is understood to have been 27 years old, the force said.

Masum, believed to have been known to the woman, is described as an Asian man of slim build. He was pictured on CCTV wearing a duffle coat with three large horizontal lines of grey, white and black, light blue or grey tracksuit bottoms with a small black emblem on the left pocket, and maroon trainers.

A witness also reported seeing him wearing a grey hoodie with the hood up. He is believed to have links to the Burnley and Chester areas.

Detective Chief Inspector Stacey Atkinson, of West Yorkshire Police’s homicide and enquiry team, said: “We have had significant resources following up a number of lines of enquiry to locate Habibur Masum, but at this time his whereabouts are unknown.

“A knife was recovered from the scene of the murder, but we cannot say if Habibur Masum is armed and I would urge anyone who does see him not to approach him but to call 999 immediately. If anyone has any information about his movements or whereabouts since 3.20pm on Saturday, please contact police as a matter of urgency.

“We understand that the murder of a young woman in such shocking circumstances has caused considerable concern in the local community. Residents can expect to continue to see a significant police presence in Bradford as we make further enquiries and conduct reassurance patrols in the area.”

According to eyewitnesses, the woman was stabbed “four to five times” in the neck while shopping with a friend.

Geo Khan, 69, who runs a nearby grocery shop, tried to resuscitate the woman, who was one of his customers. He said: “I was working on Saturday and I heard screams and ran out of my shop.

“I saw that the lady was lying face down on the pavement next to a pushchair with her five-month-old baby inside. I turned her over. There was a lot of blood and I checked for a pulse, but couldn’t find one. I could see the knife wounds to her neck, and I tried to do CPR. Her friend was screaming.”

On Sunday, forensics officers continued to gather evidence from the scene, and a large police cordon remained in place.

Aneela Ahmed, Nazam Azam and Shakeela Lal, councillors for Bradford City ward, said in a joint statement: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by yesterday’s incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the deceased.

“We would urge anyone who has any information relating to the incident to contact the police on the information provided.”

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Watch: Mount Etna puffs giant smoke rings in ‘extraordinary’ phenomenon

Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano, is delighting tourists and locals by blowing almost perfect circles of smoke into the blue skies over Sicily.

The smoke circles, known as volcanic vortex rings, are actually made of condensed gases and water vapour. They form when gases rise up from deep below the earth and escape inside the crater of a volcano.

Mount Etna is one of a handful of volcanoes around the world that produces the rings, and does so prolifically, but the latest emissions are exceptional, scientists say.

“No volcano on earth produces so many rings of steam as Etna. We have known this for quite some time. But now it is beating all previous records,” said Boris Behncke, a volcanologist at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology of Catania. He has been studying the volcano and living close to it for the past 25 years.

He said that on late Tuesday a small vent opened on the north-east edge of the south-east crater, which had emitted puffs of incandescent gas.

The following morning, it became clear that these puffs were creating “an impressive quantity” of vortex rings, he said.

The volcano has emitted hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the spectacular rings since then, added Mr Behncke, who can see the volcano from his house in Tremestieri Etneo, near Catania.

Locals have dubbed the volcano Lady of the Rings due to the circles of vapour it has been emitting.

“I thought I had hallucinations. I had never seen anything so spectacular and beautiful,” said Angela Intruglio, from Mascali, a town at the foot of Mount Etna that had to be rebuilt after it was destroyed completely in an eruption in 1928.

Experts say the unusual rings are harmless and aren’t necessarily a prelude to an imminent eruption.

“It’s only an open conduit, of a circular shape, through which the gas is shot in a pulsing way,” said Mr Behncke. “It’s really something extraordinary and completely innocuous.”

The previous time it happened at Mount Etna was last December, said Giuseppe Barbagallo, a guide at the South Etna Alpine Guides Group. Other major emissions of rings occurred in 2000 and 2023.

At 11,000 feet, Mount Etna is the tallest volcano in Europe. Eruptions have been ongoing for half a million years, according to Mr Behncke’s institute, but the volcano only acquired its characteristic conical shape in the last 100,000 years.

Magma climbs up Mount Etna through a central open conduit which constantly releases gas, meaning smoke is almost always emanating from its top.

The last major eruption was in May 2023, which forced airport authorities to halt all flights at the nearby airport of Catania, which is a popular tourist destination.

At the time, the eruption of lava from its southeast crater produced a cloud of black volcanic ash that fell on the city, causing disruption not only to air traffic but also vehicles on the ground.

The same happened because of the eruptions of 2001 and the following two years, when a layer of lapilli and ashes formed on streets and motorways endangering car circulation. The same applied when they fell on the airport runway.

The Institute also said that thin volcanic dust can irritate people’s eyes, skin and throats, while crops can suffer irreversible damage due to the ashes and lapilli transported by the wind, in case of eruptions.

Many major eruptions have occurred over the last 100 years. In 1971, several villages were threatened by lava flows, which destroyed some orchards and vineyards. Over the following decade, the volcano’s activity was almost continuous. In 1983, authorities set off dynamite in an attempt to divert lava flows, following an eruption which lasted four months.

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‘Hardest Geezer’ completes momentous run along length of Africa

British athlete Russ Cook has completed his momentous run along the entire length of Africa covering over 10,100 miles (16,300km) in 352 days…

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Watch: Paula Vennells refuses to answer questions about Post Office scandal

Paula Vennells, the former Post Office boss, refused to answer questions about the Horizon scandal after being seen in public for the first time since the airing of the TV drama that highlighted it.

Ms Vennells, who was seen cycling on Sunday morning, was asked whether she had knowingly lied to MPs amid mounting evidence of a cover-up.

Leaked recordings have suggested she knew about a “covert operations team” that could remotely access the Horizon system, used by sub-postmasters, that ultimately resulted in more than 900 wrongful convictions.

Channel 4 News filmed Ms Vennells as she left a church on Sunday morning and asked her whether she had anything to say, whether she had “lied to MPs” and whether “there had been a cover-up”.

“There is a lot of evidence that there has been a cover-up – have you anything to say?” Alex Thomson, from Channel 4 News, asked as she cycled away.

It was the first time she had been seen in public since the ITV series Mr Bates vs The Post Office aired earlier this year, in which she was portrayed by Lia Williams. 

The drama put the retailer and its bosses in the public spotlight as it revealed the scale of the financial and emotional damage done to hundreds of sub-postmasters for more than a decade.

Last month Patrick Spence, the show’s producer, suggested Ms Vennells was “in hiding” ahead of an appearance at the official inquiry into the Post Office scandal.  The inquiry is set to restart next week, and she is expected to appear during its next phase.

Remote access to sub-postmasters accounts by the Fujitsu Horizon system has been central to the inquiry into the scandal and allegations of a cover-up.

In 2015, the former Post Office chief executive denied to Parliament in correspondence that remote access was possible.

In written evidence to the business, innovation and skills committee inquiry, the Post Office said: “There is no functionality in Horizon for either a branch, Post Office or Fujitsu to edit, manipulate or remove transaction data once it has been recorded in a branch’s accounts.”

MPs questioned whether the £1 billion system was reliable, but under Vennells’ leadership the Post Office continued to prosecute sub-postmasters despite evidence that the computer system was at fault. The Post Office brought in an investigation firm, only for it to be “sacked” before it finished its work.

In 2015, Ms Vennells told the Commons business select committee that “we have no evidence” of miscarriages of justice but by the time she left the Post Office in 2019, after earning nearly £5 million, it was on the brink of losing a High Court battle.

On Friday, Nadhim Zahawi, the former Chancellor, told ITV News he believed Ms Vennells did not tell the truth when questioned by MPs, including himself, in 2015.

Mr Zahawi called on the Post Office to be investigated for corporate manslaughter following the deaths of Horizon victims who took their own lives. At least four sub-postmasters are known to have done so.

It comes after Channel 4 News obtained a recording from 2013 in which Susan Crichton, the Post Office’s chief lawyer, confirmed twice that Ms Vennells had been briefed about a “covert operations team” that could remotely access the Horizon system and adjust branches’ accounts.

The secret recordings suggest Ms Vennells was aware of the allegations that remote access to branch accounts was possible two years before prosecutions were halted against sub-postmasters.

Ms Vennells forfeited her CBE in February. She had been awarded it for “services to the Post Office and to charity” but faced pressure to return it after more than one million people signed a petition to have her stripped of the title.

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NHS loophole allows puberty blockers for children

An NHS loophole allows puberty blockers to be prescribed to children who want to change gender despite the drugs being banned following a landmark review…

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China sending Russia ‘rifle scopes, tank parts and rocket fuel’

China has ramped up support for the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine by sending rifle scopes, tank components, rocket fuel and satellite images to Russia, US officials have said.

Their warning came on the eve of a two-day mission to China by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss the Ukraine war.

US officials told Bloomberg on condition of anonymity that Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, briefed European allies this week on China’s increased support for Russia.

They also said that China was sending microelectronics, propellants used in missile production and turbojet engines to Russia, sidestepping Western sanctions.

Vladimir Putin has courted China heavily since his invasion but Beijing has appeared reluctant to be seen propping up his military. Now, with Russia taking ground in eastern Ukraine, that appears to have changed.

Russia is outgunning Ukrainian forces across the front lines because the West has struggled to supply promised ammunition. By contrast, the Kremlin has switched consumer-based factories to arms manufacturing and signed deals with Iran and North Korea for supplies of drones and artillery shells.

Analysts said China may have moved to a policy of quietly supporting the Kremlin’s war machine because it now views Russia as having the upper hand.

“Beijing doesn’t give arms because it fears US secondary sanctions and wants to develop EU relations, but still silently supplies machinery that’s important for Russia to sustain its arms production,” said Carl Bildt, co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank and a former Swedish prime minister.

The Kremlin has previously said that Putin plans to visit China in May. On a trip to Moscow last year, Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping declared a “no limits” partnership.

US-led sanctions on Russia have hit the Kremlin’s industrial base but they have also been more leaky than planners had hoped.

One of the main gateways for products into Russia is through former Soviet states in Central Asia and the South Caucasus, which buy products from the West and then sell them on to Russia, but Hong Kong has also become an important route for vital microchips.

The US has already slapped secondary sanctions on several Chinese companies and Janet Yellen, US treasury secretary, has warned China of the “significant consequences” of backing Putin.

“We’ve been clear with China that we see Russia as gaining support from goods that China, Chinese firms are supplying to Russia,” she said during a trip to Guangzhou.

But Jessica Berlin, a non-resident fellow at the Centre for European Policy Analysis think tank, said that China may have heard this warning too many times and decided that it’s hollow.

“They’ve observed the US response to smaller, discrete support for Russia for two years and conclude that they have little to no consequences to fear,” she said.

Since Europe cut ties with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Kremlin has increasingly looked to China as its main economic partner.

China is Russia’s largest gas client and the Russian Central Bank now keeps most of its international reserves in yuan. It said that last year the yuan became the most traded currency in Russia, whereas before the war it had barely been used. It has also encouraged currency swaps with China to outmanoeuvre Western financial sanctions.

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