INDEPENDENT 2024-04-12 01:07:05


JK Rowling says Harry Potter cast can ‘save their apologies’

JK Rowling has told Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson to “save their apologies” as their relationships continue to sour over their positions on trans rights.

The author, who once had a close relationship with the pair when they starred in the film adaptations of her wizarding world novels, criticised the stars in the wake of a landmark review into gender treatment in the UK.

Rowling, who first faced a backlash from several key cast members when she shared controversial remarks about the trans community in 2020, has seen her relationship with stars deteriorate amid increasingly toxic debate.

Radcliffe, who played lead character Harry Potter, previously wrote an essay for The Trevor Project as a way of showing support for the trans community, and apologised “for the pain” Rowling’s comments have caused the Harry Potter fandom.

Meanwhile, Watson wrote: “I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are,” and appeared to make a dig at Rowling at the Baftas in 2022.

However, following the release of the Cass report this week, Rowling took aim at Radcliffe and Watson, telling them to “save their apologies” for “traumatised detransitioners”.

The row reignited when, one X/Twitter commenter, whose account name include the phrase “FarRightHooligan”, wrote to Rowling: “Just waiting for Dan and Emma to give you a very public apology … safe in the knowledge that you will forgive them.”

Rowling responded: “Not safe, I’m afraid. Celebs who cosied up to a movement intent on eroding women’s hard-won rights and who used their platforms to cheer on the transitioning of minors can save their apologies for traumatised detransitioners and vulnerable women reliant on single sex spaces.”

Her comment comes after it was reported the author could be investigated by police for misgendering trans people under Scotland’s new hate crime law.

The SNP party’s community safety minister, Siobhian Brown, had previously claimed that misgendering – for example, using the pronoun “he” when talking about a trans woman – would not count as a hate crime, but she has now said it would be a police decision.

However, Rowling, who has frequently argued online that trans women are not women, vowed to continue “calling a man a man” despite what she called the “ludicrous law”, and said she would not delete social media posts that could breach hate crime laws.

The author has long been a fierce critic of the Scottish Government’s gender reform plans, arguing the proposals infringe on women’s safety.

She has previously stated that she would rather go to jail than refer to a trans person by their preferred pronouns.

Ultimately, police said that Rowling’s comments about new hate crime laws “are not assessed to be criminal” and confirmed no further action would be taken.

Vietnamese billionaire sentenced to death in $27bn fraud case

A property tycoon has been sentenced to death by a court in Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam in the country’s largest financial fraud case.

Truong My Lan, 67, chair of real estate company Van Thinh Phat (VTP), was accused of fraud amounting to $12.5bn (£10bn).

Prosecutors alleged Lan illegally controlled the Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank (SCB) between 2012 and 2022 to siphon off these funds through thousands of ghost companies and by paying bribes to government officials.

Prosecutors said that more than 2,500 loans were allowed from the bank, resulting in losses of $27bn. It is a figure equivalent to 6 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2023. Police identified around 42,000 victims of the scandal.

From early 2018 through October 2022, when the state bailed out SCB after a run on its deposits, Lan appropriated large sums by arranging unlawful loans to shell companies, investigators alleged. Former central bank official Do Thi Nhan was also sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for accepting $5.2m in bribes.

Under Vietnamese law, individuals are prohibited from holding more than five per cent of the shares in any bank. Through Lan’s shell companies, as well as people acting as her proxies, it is believed she actually owned more than 90 per cent of SCB. Her loans made up 93 per cent of all the bank’s lending.

“I am so angry that I was stupid enough to get involved in this very fierce business environment – the banking sector – which I have little knowledge of,” Lan is reported to have said during final remarks to the court last week, according to state media. Prosecutors were also quoted as saying she pleaded not guilty.

Lan’s arrest in October 2022 was among the most high-profile in an ongoing anti-corruption drive in Vietnam that has intensified in the last two years.

The so-called Blazing Furnace campaign, led by the Communist Party general secretary, Nguyen Phu Trong, has touched the highest echelons of Vietnamese politics, with former president Vo Van Thuong resigning in March after being implicated in the campaign. Another president and two deputy prime ministers have also been forced to resign, while hundreds of officials have been disciplined or jailed.

But it is the scale of Lan’s trial that has shocked the nation, with VTP among Vietnam’s richest real estate firms, working on projects including luxury residential buildings, offices, hotels and shopping centres.

The prosecution alleged that more than $4bn of the loans were withdrawn by her driver, over a period of three years from February 2019, and stored in her basement. That amount of cash, even if it was all in Vietnam’s largest denomination banknotes, would weigh at least two tonnes.

The habitually secretive communist authorities, led by Mr Trong, were uncharacteristically open with this case as they continued their crackdown on corruption.

They said 2,700 people were summoned to testify, while 10 state prosecutors and around 200 lawyers were involved. The evidence, meanwhile, contained in 104 boxes, weighed a staggering six tonnes. Eighty-five defendants were tried alongside Lan.

Marten’s parents deny investigators were trailing her when on the run

Constance Marten’s parents told police that no private investigators were trailing their daughter when she went on the run with Mark Gordon.

In agreed facts read to the jury on Monday, the court heard that Marten’s mother and father had made statements to the police about their use of private investigators.

The court heard that Marten’s mother employed a private investigator for two weeks in October 2016 because she was worried about her daughter.

Meanwhile her father told police he had hired investigators to find her in 2017 and 2021.

However both deny any private investigator was instructed to find her in 2022 or in 2023 – when she went on the run with Gordon and their newborn baby Victoria.

It comes after Marten told the court she had broken ties with her family several years earlier amid fears she and Gordon were being “trailed by private investigators very heavily”.

When police searched the couple’s burnt out car in January 2023 – which they abandoned after it caught fire on the M61 near Bolton – officers found 34 burner phones which Marten told the jury she was using because she was worried her phones and emails were being “hacked”.

Marten, 36, and Gordon, 49, both deny gross negligence manslaughter of their newborn daughter who died after they fled to stop the baby being taken into care like their four other children.

She previously told the court how she fell asleep with the infant, named Victoria, zipped inside her jacket as they camped off-grid in the South Downs last January but awoke to find her dead.

The prosecution alleges the couple’s “reckless and utterly selfish” behaviour led to the “entirely avoidable” death of the newborn as they camped in wintry conditions.

Professor Peter Fleming, an expert called by the defence on infant health, previously told the jury it was “exceedingly unlikely” baby Victoria died from the cold.

However, under cross examination on Thursday, he admitted he has never carried out a post-mortem examination on an infant.

Challenged by prosecutor Tom Little KC, he said he is paediatrician and not a pathologist but insisted he had observed around 200 post-mortems.

He also insisted co-sleeping was not “inherently dangerous”, adding: “It’s normal in our species.”

However, challenged about the conditions inside Marten and Gordon’s tent, he admitted they were “not optimal”.

“Are you saying that a baby being on their chest under a coat on a mother who is lying on the ground next to a tent surface on one side, somebody else on another side and a number of sleeping bags and pillows – are you saying that’s safe sleeping are you?” Mr Little said.

He replied: “No I am not. I am saying it’s not optimal.”

The parents were arrested in Brighton on 27 February after 53 days on the run. Victoria’s remains were found in a disused shed two days later in a Lidl carrier bag covered rubbish “as if she was refuse”, the court heard.

The couple both deny gross negligence manslaughter of their daughter Victoria between 4 January and 27 February last year.

They also deny charges of perverting the course of justice by concealing the body, along with concealing the birth of a child, child cruelty, and allowing the death of a child.

The Old Bailey trial continues.

Investigation to find out why Brianna’s sadistic killer was put in vulnerable teenager’s class

A “sadistic” killer’s placement in a classroom alongside vulnerable trans teenager Brianna Ghey will be investigated at the inquest into her death, a court has heard.

Brianna, 16, was lured to a park by schoolmate Scarlett Jenkinson and her friend Eddie Ratcliffe, both 15 at the time, where she was stabbed 28 times with a hunting knife on February 11 last year.

Both killers were jailed for life earlier this year with trial judge Mrs Justice Yip ruling the “frenzied” and “brutal” murder had elements of sadism, with a secondary motive being the victim’s trans identity.

Brianna had been a pupil at Birchwood High School, Warrington, where she was befriended by Jenkinson after she had transferred from Culcheth High School following an incident where pupils were given cannabis-laced sweets.

Following her “managed transfer” from Culcheth, where Ratcliffe was a pupil, within weeks Jenkinson became obsessed by Brianna and began plotting her murder with Ratcliffe.

From age 14, Jenkinson had enjoyed watching videos of real killing and torture on the dark web, fantasised about murder and developed an interest in serial killers, her murder trial heard.

At a pre-inquest hearing at Warrington Coroner’s Court on Thursday, Jacqueline Devonish, senior coroner for Cheshire, outlined the scope of the inquest later this year, before lawyers representing both schools and children’s services at Warrington Borough Council. Brianna’s mother, Esther Ghey, also attended the hearing.

Ms Devonish said: “I think essentially, matters around safeguarding that we are going to be concerned with.

“How it is Brianna was brought into contact with Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe.

“In my view, that’s the starting point, and we know that the schools will have information around that, and that’s where we are going with this investigation.

“Whether it could reasonably have been foreseen that Brianna might have been placed at risk in the inclusion room with Scarlett Jenkinson.

“Whether Birchwood High School was appropriately placed to manage Brianna and Scarlett Jenkinson together in light of their histories and safeguarding considerations.”

Ms Devonish said the inquest will examine the “appropriateness or thoroughness” of the decision around the school transfer, along with Brianna’s behaviour and mental health.

The coroner also said she will also examine whether Brianna was appropriately supported by relevant agencies involved with supporting people with issues of gender, eating disorders and mental health.

Agencies named at the hearing included the Gender GP counselling service and the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS).

A further pre-inquest review will be held on August 9, before a full three-day inquest starting later this year on October 23.

Paul McCartney shares ‘embarrassing’ Beatles blunder that made him want to quit

Sir Paul McCartney has said he suffered an “embarrassing” onstage blunder early on with The Beatles, which shaped the course of his career.

The 81-year-old served as the band’s lead vocalist alongside John Lennon, while also playing the bass guitar and writing some of their biggest hits including “Love Me Do” and “Yesterday”.

However, when The Beatles first started playing together, McCartney was most interested in being the lead guitarist – and tried his hand at it during their early performances.

In the latest episode of the podcast McCartney: A Life In Lyrics, the Liverpool-born musician recalled playing his first lead guitar solo during a gig when he froze up mid-performance and began to question his career path.

“We had this gig and it was the first thing I ever played, and I was lead guitar player,” he continued. “John [Lennon] was rhythm. I had a solo and I totally froze. Could not move my fingers.”

“It was just so embarrassing. My lead guitar playing career melted at that moment and I said, ‘Well, I’m not doing this again. I’m not cut out for this. I’m no good.’”

The Beatles, also made up of Ringo Starr and George Harrison, were originally formed in 1960, and with McCartney eventually as lead vocalist and bass guitarist, they went on to make generational classics including “Hey Jude” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.

Last week, McCartney expressed his joy at Beyoncé’s moving cover of “Blackbird”, the civil rights-inspired song he released with The Beatles in 1968, which features on her new album Cowboy Carter.

The American popstar sings her version of the track with Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy and Reyna Roberts, championing the four emerging female country singers.

“I am so happy with Beyoncé’s version of my song ‘Blackbird’,” McCartney, 81, said in an Instagram post.

“I think she does a magnificent job of it and it reinforces the civil rights message that inspired me to write the song in the first place.

“I think Beyoncé has done a fab version and would urge anyone who has not heard it yet to check it out. You are going to love it!”

McCartney revealed that he spoke with Beyoncé on FaceTime, where she thanked him for writing the song: “I told her the pleasure was all mine and I thought she had done a killer version of the song.”

He continued: “When I saw the footage on the television in the early Sixties of the Black girls being turned away from school, I found it shocking and I can’t believe that still in these days there are places where this kind of thing is happening right now.

“Anything my song and Beyoncé’s fabulous version can do to ease racial tension would be a great thing and makes me very proud.”

McCartney has previously said he wrote the song after he “heard about the civil rights troubles” that were happening in America during the 1960s, predominantly in the deep south in states like Alabama and Mississippi.

The latest episodes of Paul McCartney: A Life in Lyrics are available on all major streaming platforms.

The best beach breaks in Italy: from idyllic islands to chic rivieras

Italy is renowned for la dolce vita, or living ‘the sweet life’ and you’ll find no better place to do that than basking on one of the country’s gorgeous beaches. With a whopping 4,723 miles of coastline, dotted with some of the most beautiful seaside towns and stretches of sand in the world, you can swim in clear, azure waters, then sip cocktails under a stylish striped parasol. Whether you head for one of Italy’s beautiful lakes or one of its stunning islands, you’re guaranteed the perfect escape.

To help you find that perfect beach holiday this summer, travel experts Jet2holidays offer great-value breaks in more than 50 amazing destinations, including six in Italy. Hotspots and hidden gems, all boards and budgets, flexible stays and fab flight times – there’s something for everyone. With just a £60pp deposit*, 22kg baggage included and flexible monthly payments** to help spread the cost of your well-deserved holiday, it’s never been easier to get that dreamy Italian getaway booked.

What’s more, with the Jet2holidays sale now on, you can enjoy even better value on your break with up to £240 off† all holidays. Simply sign up for a myJet2 account, visit your independent travel agent or call the Jet2holidays contact centre. Book now and let the countdown to sunshine begin.

Here’s our pick of some of the best beach destinations Italy has to offer….

Italy’s largest island sits in the Mediterranean to the west of the mainland and offers rugged nature and crystal-clear seas all the way from Sardinia’s glitzy resorts of the Costa Smeralda in the north to the unspoilt southern coast.

A stay at the Grand Hotel Smeraldo Beach, close to the glamorous resort of Porto Cervo, gives you access to a private beach as well as four swimming pools, while nearby Club Hotel Baja Sardinia (main picture, above) is set back from the picturesque, rocky Cala Battistoni beach where it has its own reserved section for guests. Not far from either hotel is Spiaggia Rena Bianca, a swathe of pale sand and clear, shallow waters, often labelled as one of the island’s best beaches.

Further down the northeastern coast, check into the elegant Hotel Calacuncheddi, just a stone’s throw from the striking Li Cuncheddi beach where the clear waters are perfect for snorkelling. Not far is Cala Brandinchi, nicknamed ‘Little Tahiti’ for its thin arc of soft, talc-like sand lapped by crystalline turquoise waters and surrounded by pine trees.

Floating just off the toe of Italy’s boot, Sicily is a true sunshine paradise. Base yourself at the luxurious Delta Hotels by Marriott Giardini Naxos, a relaxing retreat on the island’s northeast coast with its own private beach. Just a 20-minute drive away is the picture-perfect hilltop town of Taormina, which you might recognise from series two of The White Lotus.

Head to Spiaggia di Isola Bella, a semicircular pebble beach reached by cable car, and swim in the translucent waters of the surrounding marine park. Head north west to the coastal village of Scopello, where you’ll view striking rock formations from the breathtaking beach. Nearby, overlooked by the craggy Monte Monaco mountain, is San Vito Io Capo; think turquoise waters and golden sands fringed by palm trees.

Italy is peppered with hundreds of lakes, with the largest being Lake Garda. Check into the elegant, 19th century Grand Hotel Gardone Riviera, which sits on the lake’s western side and boasts a private bathing platform so you can slip right into the water. For a more traditional-style beach, head to the pebbly shores of Torbole at the northern tip of Garda, where you can enjoy stunning views across the crystalline waters and majestic mountains in the distance.

Blooming with hot pink bougainvillea and windswept pine trees is pretty Spiaggia Fonte Torrente San Giovanni in Limone sul Garda, on the lake’s western side. If you’re looking for more tropical vibes, head to Jamaica beach at the charming southern town of Sirmione, and don’t miss the alluring Parco Baia delle Sirene; located on the lake’s eastern shore, it offers calm, quiet waters and magical scenery.

You might not associate Venice with beaches, but the archipelago city is close to a region of pretty towns set along a picturesque bay known as the Venetian Riviera. As well as scenic harbours and historic architecture, youll find a handful of attractive stretches of sand. Lido di Jesolo is a traditional seaside town located just across the lagoon from Venice, featuring ten miles of golden Blue Flag beach.

Stay at the luxurious Almar Jesolo Resort and Spa, or the stylish Falkensteiner Hotel and Spa, both of which have their own private section on sweeping Jesolo beach. Further down the coast is busy Capannina Beach, where traders bearing trolleys of cold drinks and ice creams come straight to your sunlounger, while nearby, quieter Cavallino is the place to hire boats or pedalos for family fun.

Jet2holidays, the UK’s number one tour operator, offers package holidays you can trust where everything’s included. With you every step of the way, Jet2holidays has an incredible range of great-value, expert-rated getaways for all types of holidaymakers, across more than 50 stunning destinations. From the five-star luxury of Indulgent Escapes by Jet2holidays® to the compelling cities of Jet2CityBreaksVIBE by Jet2holidays for Insta-worthy stays that suit your style to family-friendly Jet2Villas, the boxes are ticked for every age, budget and interest. What’s more, with holidays secured for just £60pp deposit* and flexible payment options**, plus a host of perks like 22kg baggage and return transfers included††, it’s easy from start to finish. It’s all ABTA and ATOL-protected too, so you can enjoy sunshine with peace of mind. To find out more and book with the best, head here.

*On bookings made ten weeks or more before departure. **Terms and conditions apply. Please visit www.jet2holidays.com/part-payment for details. †Based on 4 people. On all holiday departures until 31 October 2025. T&Cs apply. See http://Jet2holidays.com/promotions#60OFFMYJET2SALE ††Transfers are not included as standard on Jet2CityBreaks. Jet2Villas packages include car hire instead of transfers.

The NHS needs a health secretary who will be radical about reform

Like being the water purity press officer for Thames Water or compliance manager for GB News, a Conservative health secretary is very usually on a hiding to nothing – or to turn to another, still more obvious cliche, invariably presented with a compulsory “hospital pass” with no exemption clause.

Victoria Atkins is only the latest to be wheeled out to defend the indefensible, and it is fair to say that she is proving worse at the task than most of her predecessors. Although, had Therese Coffey, Liz Truss’s eccentric pick for the high-profile role, lasted for more than a few weeks she’d probably have mined the very nadirs of public respect even more determinedly than Ms Atkins.

Try as she might, on the morning media round Ms Atkins somehow managed to turn what should have been a mildly encouraging piece of news for the government, which is that National Health Service waiting lists are edging down again, into a bit of a debacle.

What would it take to reform the NHS – and is it even possible?

Even after recent marginal improvements, NHS waiting lists remain high and government performance targets are being missed. Public satisfaction levels are at their lowest since Labour left office in 2010, and cancer survival rates are poor. Ambulances take about twice as long to turn up as they are supposed to.

There are around 100,000 staff vacancies within the health service, and the pay and conditions offered to its current staff are prompting skilled medics to leave. Industrial relations are notoriously poor. Yet the NHS is also the sixth-largest employer on the planet, only outnumbered by the Indian Ministry of Defence, the US Department of Defense, the People’s Liberation Army of China, Walmart, and Amazon.

The NHS spends around £230bn per annum. That sum should put into perspective the £2bn package promised by Rachel Reeves, and the £2.5bn funding boost plus £3.4bn in capital funding over five years announced by Jeremy Hunt in the last Budget. Both main parties talk about “reform”, but never about moving away from the present model…