INDEPENDENT 2024-04-16 10:04:30

Iconic spire of Copenhagen’s stock exchange collapses in huge inferno

The iconic spire of one of Copenhagen’s oldest buildings has collapsed in a huge inferno.

The roof of the 17th-century old Stock Exchange, or Boersen, that was once Denmark’s financial centre, was engulfed in flames before collapsing on Tuesday.

The building, which is situated next to the Christiansborg Palace where the parliament sits, is a popular tourist attraction.

Its distinctive spire, in the shape of the tails of four dragons entwined together, reached a height of 56 metres (184 feet).

Huge billows of smoke rose over downtown Copenhagen and people were seen rushing inside the building to save paintings. Danish media reported that an annex of the parliament was being evacuated.

Police and firefighters were at work outside the building, which was encased in scaffolding. Ambulances were at the scene but there were no reports of casualties.

Danish culture minister Jakon Engel-Schmidt said it was “touching” to see how passers-by helped emergency services “to save art treasures and iconic images from the burning building”.

The Danish Chamber of Commerce has its headquarters in the building, which was built in 1615. The chamber’s head, Brian Mikkelsen, was among those helping to carry paintings out of the building.

“Horrible pictures from the Bourse. So sad. An iconic building that means a lot to all of us … Our own Notre-Dame moment,” Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen wrote on X.

The cause of the fire first reported at 7.30am was not immediately known.

“The extinguishing work is very difficult,” said firefighters’ spokesman Jakob Vedsted Andersen, adding that there are parts of the building that the firefighters cannot enter because it is too dangerous.

Meghan Markle gifts 50 jars of jam to plug new lifestyle brand

Meghan Markle has officially launched her new lifestyle brand by sending jars of strawberry jam to influencers across the US.

The former senior royal, 42, gifted the limited-edition jars to promote her new venture American Riviera Orchard, which was announced online last month.

This was done via a vintage-style teaser video that saw the former actress pruning flowers and cooking while Nancy Wilson’s “I Wish You Love” played in the background.

The jam jars were sent to influencers including fashion designer Tracy Robbins, who plugged the jam on her Instagram stories.

The jam featured the new company’s label and handwritten numbers that showed it was jar 17 of 50.

Robbins wrote: “@AmericanRivieraOrchard breakfast, lunch and dinner just got a little sweeter.”

She followed this up with a picture of the jam in a basket of lemons, where she added: “Thank you for the delicious basket! I absolutely love this jam so not sure I’m sharing with anyone. @AmericanRivieraOrchard Thank you, M! #MontecitoGoodness #AmericanRivieraOrchard.”

Other influencers gifted the jam also promoted it on their social media, including Argentine influencer socialite Delfina Balquier.

She was gifted jar 10 of 50 and showcased what the spread looks like on a buttered piece of bread.

Balquier wrote: “Strawberry jam makes me happy. And I love your jam, @AmericanRivieraOrchard.”

News of the jam was met with much enthusiasm by fans of the Duchess, who took to social media to share their excitement.

While it’s not yet known exactly what the new brand’s offerings will be, The United States Patent and Trademark Office website reports that the company is registered to sell downloadable and printed recipe books, table wear, textiles, as well as foods like jam and marmalade.

Taking to Twitter (X), one fan praised the luxury label on the jam.

They wrote: “It’s all in the details, the ARO logo embroidery on the jam covering is exquisite.”

A second added: “I don’t eat jam that much but for you Meg I’m buying some. In fact hubby and kids will eat them on my behalf.” [sic]

A third remarked: “Smart people know that when life gives you lemons, don’t just make lemonade, make jam, marmalade & make money doing so; I’m here for this.” [sic]

However, not everyone was so impressed by the impending launch.

A critic slammed: “Anybody notice the label on the promo jams Meghan Markle is sending to ‘friends’ is literally peeling off? Not a good start for someone who has, and I quote, ‘a keen eye and freakish attention to detail.’”

News of the jam comes after it was confirmed that the couple are working on respective new projects with Netflix as part of their £80 million deal with the platform.

Meghan will be working on lifestyle-related content there too – namely, a new series that explores “the joys of cooking, gardening, entertaining, and friendship”.

Prince Harry, meanwhile, is working on a series of his own about polo, a sport that has been close to the prince’s heart for many years.

Israel faces a Shakespearean dilemma: To retaliate or not to retaliate

Israel’s current Iran policy conundrum can be concisely summed up by paraphrasing Prince Hamlet: “To retaliate or not to retaliate, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.”

Two significant paradigm shifts occurred in the last two weeks in the semi-belligerent Israeli-Iranian relationship. The first was Israel’s 1 April strike against Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps generals in an annexe of the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria, killing four. It was an expression of “strategic proportionality”, meaning that Israel hit Iran directly, rather than its proxies throughout the Middle East, as it has done before. Israel has operated against Iran inside Iranian territory before – but that was part of a decades-long covert war. That war had rules of the game and rules of engagement. That mould was broken in Damascus.

The second was Iran’s audacious retaliation last weekend. In the small hours of Sunday morning, Iran launched almost 200 armed drones, 36 cruise missiles and approximately 110 surface-to-surface missiles. Although it was a retaliation that Tehran pledged would be coming, the massive attack represented a potential game-changer in that it struck Israeli territory directly. The fact that the vast majority of the missiles and drones were intercepted and destroyed in mid-air by Israel, the US, Britain, France and, most notably, Jordan, and the fact that the damage was minimal, the scale and scope of the attack, again, broke the mould.

Muslim student loses bid to overturn prayer ban at London school

A Muslim student at Michaela Community School in London, once dubbed Britain’s strictest, has lost a High Court challenge against its ban on “prayer rituals”.

The pupil, who cannot be named, took legal action against Michaela Community School in Brent, claiming the policy that forbids her from praying for around five minutes at lunch time, on dates when faith rules required it, but not during lessons, is discriminatory and “uniquely” affects her faith due to its ritualised nature.

She alleged that the school’s stance on prayer – one of the five pillars of Islam – was “the kind of discrimination which makes religious minorities feel alienated from society”, a judge was told.

The case against the free school was heard at the High Court in London in January.

The pupil’s lawyers previously said the “prayer ban” unlawfully breached her right to religious freedom, adding that it made her feel “like somebody saying they don’t feel like I properly belong here”. The court was told the pupil, referred to only as TTT, is making only a “modest” request to be allowed to pray at lunchtime.

The student also challenged allegedly unfair decisions to temporarily suspend her from school.

The school’s lawyers claimed its prayer policy was “justified” and “proportionate” after it faced death and bomb threats linked to religious observance on site.

They added that the governors and headteacher at the school of some 700 pupils, about half of whom are Muslim, had “a margin of latitude, discretion or judgement” over its policies.

During a two-day hearing, the school’s founder and headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh said on social media that it was defending its “culture and ethos” along with decisions to “maintain a successful and stable learning environment where children of all races and religions can thrive”.

Posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, she said the school decided “to stop prayer rituals when some pupils started them, against a backdrop of events including violence, intimidation and appalling racial harassment of our teachers”.

The court was told that Ms Birbalsingh, a former government social mobility tsar, first introduced the policy in March last year, with it being backed by the governing body in May – allegedly “on the basis of misinformation and errors”.

In March 2023, up to 30 students began praying in the school’s yard, using blazers to kneel on.

Lawyers for the school said students seen praying outside contributed to a “concerted campaign” on social media over the school’s approach to religion, with there also being a since-removed online petition attracting thousands of signatures.

The court heard the school was targeted with death threats, abuse, “false” allegations of Islamophobia, and a “bomb hoax”.

Reversing the school’s “emergency” ban would again expose it to “an unacceptable risk of threats”, its lawyers said, adding that it avoided “the logistical disruption and detriments to other school activities”.

The court was told “Muslim children were observed to be applying peer pressure to other Muslim children to act in certain ways”, with the school claiming that allowing prayer rituals risked “undermining inclusion and social cohesion between pupils”.

Following the hearing, Ms Birbalsingh told The Sunday Times the legal process was “taking a massive toll” and argued the school should “be allowed to be secular”.

She told the paper the school will “definitely appeal if we lose”, adding: “I will not divide children according to race and religion; it will not happen under my watch.”

Courtney Love delivers withering take on Taylor Swift

Rock singer Courtney Love has delivered her contemptuous verdict of Taylor Swift, claiming the pop titan is “not important” or “interesting” as an artist.

The notoriously vocal musician, who rose to fame with her rock band Hole, has just launched a new BBC series, Courtney Love’s Women, on BBC Sounds.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Evening Standard, Love offered her take on some of the world’s biggest female stars, including Swift, whom she has previously hailed as an “aspirational huge role model for many young women”.

“Taylor is not important,” the 59-year-old said. “She might be a safe space for girls, and she’s probably the Madonna of now, but she’s not interesting as an artist.”

In 2021, Love shared a Facebook post wishing Swift a “happy birthday” and praising her for her influence on young women. She also posted a photo of her with Swift, her “occasional hair twin/neighbour”.

Love went one further and also hit out at Lana Del Rey, whom she called a “musical genius” around a year ago.

“I haven’t liked Lana since she covered a John Denver song, and I think she should really take seven years off,” she said.

Turning her attention to Beyoncé, she remarked: “I like the idea of Beyoncé doing a country record because it’s about Black women going into spaces where previously only white women have been allowed, not that I like it much. As a concept, I love it. I just don’t like her music.”

The “Celebrity Skin” singer did, however, reserve praise for artists including Patti Smith, Nina Simon, Julie London, Joni Mitchell and PJ Harvey (“the first four albums, then I’m done”).

In the same interview, Love acknowledged that she had “always wanted to be known as a bitch”.

“Being liked was never my thing,” she said. “Kurt [Cobain] wanted to be liked but not me… I had a bitch capacity and I was cool with not being liked. I saw Bob Dylan in Don’t Look Back and he didn’t want to be liked and I thought, yeah, I want to be like that.”

Beyoncé, Swift and Del Rey have all had particularly prolific years. Beyoncé recently became the first Black woman to top the country charts in the US with her album Cowboy Carter, as well as the first Black artist in history to achieve a UK No 1 with a country music album.

Meanwhile, Del Rey is one of the headliners at Coachella Festival 2024, having received multiple Grammy nominations for her 2023 album Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blv.

Swift, 34, is preparing to release her 11th album, The Tortured Poets Department, which is scheduled to land on Friday 19 April.

She is also embarking on the European and UK legs of her record-breaking Eras tour, beginning in Paris on 9 May and concluding with five nights at Wembley Stadium in London.

Treatment can help if gynaecological symptoms affect your daily life

“I’d had very painful, very heavy periods for a number of years and when I was about 20 my GP said, ‘let’s get you checked out’,” says Shazia.

The 40-year-old, who lives in Hertfordshire, was sent to be tested for what her GP believed was polycystic ovary syndrome – however the scan ruled this out.

“It wasn’t until I was 25 when I went back to the GP and said ‘look, something is really not right’ that I had some more tests done, and I had a year’s worth of ‘let’s try this pill, let’s try that pill’,” she says.

Shazia was subsequently diagnosed with endometriosis and has undergone three surgical procedures to treat the condition.

“I ended up with a great female GP who was well-versed in understanding endometriosis. One of the things I loved about her was whenever I’d go in after that first surgery, she was really good at going, ‘if you are concerned, you know your body better than anyone so why don’t we investigate?’ I’m really fortunate.”

Shazia’s advice to other women in a similar position is to ask for help when you feel you need it: “Always say, ‘I know my body well, these are the things that I’m experiencing, I suspect it is endometriosis.’”

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

It can affect women of any age, including teenagers, and can have a significant impact on your life and may sometimes lead to depression.

Some women are badly affected, while others might not have any noticeable symptoms.

Contact your GP practice if you have:

Karen, 56, from London, started to experience brain fog, heart palpitations and insomnia – but she wasn’t aware the symptoms pointed to early menopause.

“Menopause symptoms creep up on you and they can get muddled in with whatever’s going on in your life at the time,” she says.

“I had my second child at 38 and it was hard to untangle what was being exhausted from small kids and what was actually menopause.

“The first real symptom was insomnia, but when my daughter started sleeping it didn’t go away. Then came the mood changes, irritability and heart palpitations, which I now know are down to hormonal changes.

“At the time, I was working in a publishing company and I’d be stressed out and overwhelmed by deadlines. Because I had the Mirena coil for birth control, I wasn’t having periods so I didn’t see any change there.”

She adds: “I didn’t get hot flushes until later, so it didn’t occur to me that brain fog and poor concentration were symptoms of an early menopause. At times, I felt like it was all in my head.

“When I was 43, I was having hot flushes and that’s when I was diagnosed as post-menopausal. The GP asked if I wanted to talk about HRT, but I went off and did everything under the sun to try and manage it myself. I tried herbal supplements, homeopathic remedies and acupuncture – they all helped a little, but I still didn’t feel right.

“But when I was 50 I went back to the GP practice. I took a list of my symptoms and I’d done my research on what was available, so I had an idea of what I wanted. She was really good and I came away with [HRT just like the hormones lost during the menopause]. It felt like the missing piece.

“Now I work as a health and wellness coach helping women understand menopause and what they need to do, including good sleep, nutrition and exercise.

“If you’re feeling these symptoms, don’t despair. It might take a lot of tweaks and patience, but seeing your GP and looking after your lifestyle you can feel well again. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

Period problems, gynaecological conditions and menopause symptoms are common and can significantly impact women and girls’ physical and mental health, and the ability to go about their daily life.

Don’t suffer in silence. Treatment can help if periods, menopause or gynaecological symptoms affect your daily life. Contact your GP practice or visit

To ‘take the win’, Israel must now use its head and its heart

David Cameron made an eloquent case for Israel to show restraint as it considers how to respond to Saturday’s drone and missile attack by Iran. In a round of broadcast interviews, the foreign secretary urged Israel to be “smart as well as tough” by refraining from escalating this dangerous conflict, and to “think with head as well as heart”.

Lord Cameron described the state of play as a “double defeat” for Tehran: the attack was repelled, and the rest of the world could see what a “malign influence” Iran is in the region. He echoed Joe Biden in appealing to Israel to “take the win”.

Even his critics acknowledge that Lord Cameron is a good communicator. The former prime minister can encapsulate in a few words an argument it would take other politicians three sentences to spell out. At Westminster, there is predictable gossip that Lord Cameron is upstaging Rishi Sunak, who looks a lot less comfortable when giving his almost-daily pooled TV interview as the “long campaign” for the general election continues.

Can the government expand the Rwanda scheme to other countries?

Britain has begun talks with several other countries about replicating the government’s controversial scheme to deport migrants to Rwanda. The disclosure raised eyebrows because ministers are still awaiting parliamentary approval for legislation to declare Rwanda a safe country after its two-year-old plan was blocked by the Supreme Court.  After a further round of ping-pong between the Commons and the Lords, the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill should finally become law later this week.

Negotiations are said to be underway with Armenia, Botswana, Costa Rica and Ivory Coast, which are judged most likely to sign such a “third country asylum processing deal”.