INDEPENDENT 2024-05-12 16:04:27


Trump brands Biden a moron at Jersey Shore rally

Jersey Shore was swamped with MAGA supporters as Donald Trump hit the stage in Wildwood for a sunset rally on the beach.

The former president arrived around an hour and a half late on Saturday at about 6.30pm for the event which was attended by 80,000 supporters, according to his campaign.

Thousands of fans gathered on the beach and along the boardwalk throughout the day wearing Trump masks and American flag-themed outfits.

They pitched giant Trump 2024 flags as conditions remained on the cooler side after several days of rain. Long lines formed and bars and restaurants were busy in the town at a typically sleepy time in the off-season.

Kicking off his speech Mr Trump vowed to win the long-time Democrat-held state of New Jersey.

“We love Wildwood. We’ve been here many times we love this place and is nowhere else I’d rather be this beautiful evening. It is a nice one right?” he said, to cheers from supporters.

“As you can see, today, we’re expanding the electoral map because we are going to officially play in the state of New Jersey. We’re going to win the state of New Jersey.”

His speech was filled with jibes including for President Joe Biden who he dubbed a “total moron”.

“You could take the 10 worst presidents in the history of our country, and add them up… and they haven’t done the damage to our country that this total moron has done,” Mr Trump said.

He got even nastier when he turned his attention to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor overseeing his hush money case in New York, and trial judge Juan Merchan. He slammed Mr Bragg as “Fat Alvin, corrupt guy” and called the judge “highly conflicted”.

Mark Bellini, 63, of Brick, New Jersey, told the Daily Mail that he had been holding on to his 12th place in line since 5pm on Thursday.

“It was cold, it was raining. Yeah, it was wet. I used a plastic bag over my head in order to keep my spot,” he said.

Jodi Derstine, a 62-year-old nurse from Morristown, New Jersey, also told The Mail that she had arrived at 5am on Friday, and said that Mr Trump was “gonna save America”.

The former president has been packing his weekends with campaign events as he has spent much of the past four weeks inside a Manhattan courthouse where he is on criminal trial over alleged hush money payments to porn star, Stormy Daniels.

He is facing ongoing criminal and civil cases, some related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Mr Trump, the presumed Republican presidential candidate, is expected to face off against President Joe Biden in this November’s election.

Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said that the “tens of thousands” expected attendees would be a notable contrast to the number that typically show up for President Joe Biden’s political events, which he described as “eight circles, two of which are empty.”

The former president last appeared in New Jersey in January 2020, according to AP, when he attended an event with congressman Jefferson Van Drew, a former Democrat who switched to the GOP as a rebuke for Mr Trump’s first impeachment.

Man behind viral dress that broke internet admits he strangled wife

The man behind the white/gold-blue/black dress that “broke the internet” has pleaded guilty to endangering his wife’s life, and admitted to strangling her.

Keir Johnston 38, appeared at the High Court in Glasgow on Thursday, where he pleaded guilty to a “terrifying” attack on his wife, Grace Johnston, that left her “fearing for her life,” but alive, according toThe Daily Record.

Johnston, from the Isle of Colonsay, off the west coast of Scotland, was remanded in custody until his sentence next month, scheduled for June 6.

Johnston received global attention for “#TheDress” after an image of his mother-in-law’s dress during his wedding in 2015 was shared online by a guest at the event.

The debate over the dress’s true colors – black and blue or white and gold – “broke the internet”, headlines said at the time, and drew thousands of comments including from celebrities. Reality star Kim Kardashian posted that she had argued about it with her then-huband Kanye West.

Ellen DeGeneres invited the Johnstons on to her talk show, where they were given $10,000 and a trip to Grenada.

This week, the Scottish court heard that behind closed doors Johnston left his wife fearing for her life, and had a history of domestic abuse towards her.

Chris MacIntosh, prosecutor for the Crown, told Lady Drummond and the court how Grace lived in fear of her abusive husband, The Record reported. “There is no permanent police presence on the island, and she was in a situation where she felt trapped,” he said.

The court heard that Ms Johnston had once refused her husband’s demands not to attend a job interview on the mainland. Days later he told her he was leaving her before the pair got into an altercation where Johnston grabbed his wife and threw her to the ground.

“Johnston woke up and said that he was going to leave her. She went outside the property to stop him leaving. He followed her and pinned her to the ground,” Mr Macintosh said, according to The Record.

“He placed both knees on her arms, so she was unable to move. He then began strangling her with both his hands.

“She was initially able to scream and feared for her life and believed Johnston intended to kill her as he was very forceful.” Mr Macintosh said that despite suffering severe bruising, Ms Johnston did not require medical treatment.

Lawyers for Johnston said he had accepted responsibility for the assault.

Per The Record, Lady Drummond denied Johnston bail and placed him in custody, telling him: “I have no need to tell you that this is a serious and violent offence.

“You repeatedly strangled her, injured her and put her life in danger in what must have been absolutely terrifying circumstances for her. “I am afraid, Mr. Johnston, that your status has now changed, you have been convicted of a very serious crime and you will be remanded meantime.”

It is unclear whether the Johnstons have separated following the incident.

Meghan says Nigeria is ‘my country’ as she and Harry continue tour

Meghan Markle described Nigeria as “my country” as she and Harry toured the African country to promote the Invictus Games.

The Duchess of Sussex said it had been “humbling” to learn more about her heritage after the couple visited the Nigerian capital Abuja.

“Never in a million years would I understand it as much as I do now,” she told an audience at a United Nations Woman in Leadership event on Saturday evening.

“And what has been echoed so much in the past day is, ‘Oh, we are not so surprised when we found out you are Nigerian’.

“It is a compliment to you because what they define as a Nigerian woman is brave, resilient, courageous, beautiful.”

Elsewhere, King Charles reportedly agreed to a request from Harry to stay at a royal residence during his trip to the UK last week but the prince decided to stay at a hotel instead.

“The idea that he (the King) refused to find space in his diary … well, let’s say recollections may vary once again.”

The racism I experience as a doctor puts the NHS to shame

I find it hard to see myself as a victim of any kind, as I am acutely aware of the privilege I hold in comparison to vast swathes of the world’s population.

Nevertheless, research shows that as a minority ethnic doctor, I am more likely to face discrimination, the scale and complexity of which we are only just beginning to comprehend. Not only do we have a higher chance of being reported to the General Medical Council, but people like me are underrepresented in leadership positions, have poorer career-related outcomes, and experience more psychological distress.

I haven’t even told you that I am a woman yet, so we will need to factor sexism, including unequal pay, into this toxic mess. Things are not looking good for me, and sadly it appears that the odds have always been stacked against me.

Why British women are the saddest in Europe

How are you feeling? If you happen to be a woman from the UK, there’s a reasonable chance that your honest answer is something along the lines of: “Not that great, actually.” According to the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index, an annual survey that explores female wellbeing around the world, UK women are sadder and more stressed out than their counterparts in the EU. Sigh.

The statistics make for pretty depressing reading – but they might not be all that surprising to women (they may even tally with your own anecdotal experience). Thirty-two per cent of the survey’s British participants revealed that they had felt sad on the previous day, compared to 21 per cent three years earlier; just 26 per cent of the EU women surveyed reported the same feelings in the recent study. Thirty-nine per cent of UK women had experienced stress the day before, while the European average was 34 per cent.

What’s even more concerning is that worry, stress, anger and sadness levels among British women have all increased since the study was launched in 2020 – yet they’ve dropped across the rest of Europe. Put simply, we’re continuing our own downward spiral while things are apparently looking up elsewhere. Overall, the UK ended up ranking 22nd out of 31 European countries when it came to women’s emotional wellbeing, beaten by countries like Ireland, Poland, Lithuania, Germany and (perhaps unsurprisingly, given how often they score highly in various quality of life league tables) the Scandinavian nations.

All of this paints a worrying picture – so why might British women be feeling so despairing? Let me count the ways. The cost of living crisis disproportionately affects women, who tend to be paid less and face greater job insecurity. In many ways, the problems seem to have been more pronounced here than in Europe. The inflation rate climbed higher, as did energy prices, which also took longer to fall than they did on the mainland. Previous research from the charity Mind found that 74 per cent of women in England and Wales feel that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the rising cost of living.

Meanwhile Hologic, the company behind the survey, has suggested that the UK’s relative standstill when it comes to improvements in women’s healthcare is a driving factor, as our country is “being leapfrogged by other[s]”. Senior NHS consultant Geeta Nargund, who is the medical director of abc ivf, seems to agree. “That British women feel sadder and more stressed than their European counterparts unfortunately comes as no surprise in the context of a country with the largest gender health gap in the G20 and the 12th largest globally,” she says.

Delve into the statistics and the scale of this inequality is quite staggering. In 2017, Public Health England found that women can expect to spend a quarter of their lives in ill health, compared to one-fifth for men. Nargund notes that women with a total blockage of the coronary artery are 59 per cent more likely to be misdiagnosed than men, and that it tends to take eight years for women to be diagnosed with endometriosis, which can cause severe pain and fertility difficulties. And that just takes account of the women who carry on pushing to receive a proper verdict from doctors – many give up or put off making an appointment because they worry that their symptoms won’t be taken seriously.

And once you have got your diagnosis? Increased pressure on the NHS means that there are long wait times for women’s health treatments, explains Dr Claire Merrifield, GP and medical director at healthcare testing company Selph. “In 2022, the median wait time for gynaecological services in hospitals doubled from 6.9 to 13.7 weeks, with over 300,000 women waiting longer than a year to see a gynaecologist compared to just under 1,000 in 2019,” she says. “With this pressure on specialist services there is little provision for medical support around fertility and the perimenopause, which can both be significant causes of stress and affect wellbeing.”

Men have typically been treated as the default patient when it comes to medical care and research; less than 2.5 per cent of publicly funded research in the UK explores reproductive health – that’s despite the fact that one in three women can expect to deal with a gynaecological issue in their lifetime. The result is that women find themselves navigating a system that was never really set up to work for them. This can be a deeply frustrating experience – but isn’t it the same all around the world?

Not quite. Other countries are taking steps to close the gap, Nargund says, citing the example of Spain, which has become “the first European country to provide menstrual rights in the workplace, allowing anyone with disabling periods [to take] time off work, fully paid and funded by the welfare system”. Denmark, meanwhile, offers “a full range of reproductive health treatments within their healthcare system, including infertility treatments”, Dr Merrifield adds (the cost of three cycles of IVF for a first child, for example, is covered). In comparison to other countries, she notes, the UK tends to “have a reactive mindset when it comes to women’s health” – we tend to “only seek support when there is an issue”, rather than being checked out for future problems. “Many other countries adopt a more proactive approach with routine check-ups providing the opportunity for education, early support and preventative screening.”

There are other factors at play beyond the healthcare system too. “In the UK, while women arguably have more opportunities than ever before, there are huge pressures on our shoulders,” says Georgina Sturmer, a BACP accredited counsellor. “Our working culture means that we might work longer hours or have less of a work-life balance than our continental counterparts,” she adds (think of Scandinavian countries where work tends to finish at 5pm on the dot, or even the French’s much-parodied insistence on logging off for long summer holidays).

Women feel the impact of this acutely, as they often carry the extra burden of childcare, housework and other caring responsibilities (such as looking after ageing parents). The UK’s childcare system is one of the most expensive in the world, and the high cost means that some new parents are priced out of returning to work. It tends, of course, to be women who put their careers on hold to look after their children (which works for some mums, yet might be frustrating for others). Countries like Denmark have a more balanced parental leave policy, which doesn’t assume that one parent will do the lion’s share of caring from the start.

So what can be done to improve this frankly dire state of affairs? Investing more in women’s healthcare and preventative testing could help, suggests Dr Merrifield, as it would better support around the time of perimenopause (this “can improve mood and reduce the risk of developing health conditions like anxiety and metabolic syndrome”, she says). More affordable childcare and shared parental leave would be positive steps, too. But you’d be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu when you hear those potential solutions – campaigners have been banging the drum about these issues for years, but progress just doesn’t seem to be happening. Perhaps the study will serve as a wake-up call – either way, a flight to Denmark is looking more attractive by the minute.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

Off the beaten track in Costa Dorada

Blessed with swathes of golden sandy beaches between sea and mountains, Costa Dorada has an abundance of landscape to explore.

Jet2holidays makes it even easier to land your perfect active trip to Costa Dorada. Flying from 10 UK airports in 2024 and 11 in 2025, they provide package holidays you can trust and look after you every step of the way, with hotel, flights, free return transfers, 22kg baggage and 10kg hand luggage included – giving plenty of space to pack in the hiking boots and water shoes.

Here, we round up some of the best ways to immerse yourself in the region’s grand nature.

With roads being smooth and often car-free, Costa Dorada is an ideal destination for biking. There’s the Serra del Montsant mountain range for pushing those uphill challenges or coastal paths for smooth-sailing along the rugged cliff edges and golden sand beaches. The route from Falset can take in the lush wineries and rolling vineyards the area is known for. Start from this mountainous village and follow the road to the village of Margalef near the mountain edge before heading back to Falset. Or to take in the sea and mountains, start in the coastal resort of Salou before winding up the steep hairpin bends of La Mussara mountain. Make your way back to the sea at the coastal resort of Cambrils – known as the gastronomic hub of this region – for some well-deserved tapas.

There’s an abundance of coastal paths that navigate around the more secluded parts of the shores here. Camino de Ronda in Salou stretches for 6.5 km, curving in a U-shape along rocky coast and over golden sand beaches. The route can be stretched out to around 9km to cover the coastal path of Salou by starting in Vila-seca, La Pineda. The route runs between sea and mountains, with 23 viewpoints dotted along the way. It passes by plenty of places to stop for a spot of lunch with views over the Mediterranean Sea, too. If you want active pit stops along your walk, there are places along the route that offer up water sports.

Take a day trip out to the coastal city of Tarragona to explore its Roman ruins. The city was once a popular destination for Roman emperors, with the Amphitheatre dating back almost 2,000 years. There are other ruins along the coast to explore, with Roman, Spanish, Arabic and Moorish history weaved into the architecture. While in the port city, check out the Roman tombs and walled Medieval Old Town, before strolling along the harbour with its small fishing boats and pastel-hued houses.

Costa Dorada has an impressive total of 26 Blue Flag beaches, recognised for their calm, safe waters, cleanliness and environmental management. They’re particularly family-friendly, with resorts Salou, Cambrils and La Pineda being ‘Certified Family Destinations’ with dedicated facilities for families during the summer. Yet there are still many beaches that remain quiet and more secluded. Playa de la Pineda Platja is the main beach in the coastal resort of Vila-seca, La Pineda, yet remains fairly quiet. It also benefits from being close to Aquopolis Water Park with its giant slides and pools. While not being Blue Flag-accredited, Playa Llarga in Salou is outside of the city centre (but close enough to attractions like PortAventura amusement park), surrounded by a small pine forest that immerses you in nature.

The towering peaks of Montserrat National Park are one of the greatest symbols of Catalonia. The mountainous landscape is peppered with grottos and caves, while birds of prey soar above in the sky. While offering untouched nature, it overlooks one of the best wine regions in the area, with vineyards and wine cellars to visit. Head here for a full day hike or visit one of the four mountain villages in the area for a gentle walk. Elsewhere closer to ground level, Parc Sama Botanical Gardens in the coastal resort of Cambrils has an abundance of forest and foliage, with 1,500 species of flora and fauna. There’s also a lake with a canal and waterfall to stroll around.

Could Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves get lucky with the economy?

Rachel Reeves must be psychic. On Tuesday, she delivered a speech that attracted attention for a single word: she accused Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt of “gaslighting” the British public. It was an attempt to neutralise forthcoming good news about the economy by suggesting that it would be somehow false.

Then on Friday, the independent Office for National Statistics published the GDP figure for the first quarter of the year, up 0.6 per cent from the previous quarter, which means, to use the technical macroeconomics term, the British economy is “motoring”.

Also on Friday, the International Monetary Fund published its forecast that the British economy would grow faster than the other European members of the G7 over the next five years.

But because the shadow chancellor had used the word “gaslighting” beforehand, she was spared the unpleasant duty of having to congratulate the government on turning the corner and ushering in the good times.

“Gaslighting” is on the Banned List. It is an unpleasant term, and a social media cliche, from that 1944 film about the husband who conceals his murderous crimes by persuading his wife she is going mad. Some critics didn’t think Reeves should have used it because it is not widely enough understood. I disagree. I don’t like it, but it attracted my trade’s attention and was widely quoted in headlines.

It meant the speech was a success in that it conveyed a simple message: you can’t trust what the government tells you about the economy; you should trust what you “feel” instead. Given that most voters’ feelings about their living standards, and about the Tories’ economic record, are strongly negative, you can see what Reeves is up to.

It has the unfortunate implication that the ONS and IMF are not to be trusted, but all’s fair in politics and Reeves has an election to win. She doesn’t want an economic recovery to ruin it.

There are more sophisticated ways of trying to play down evidence that prosperity is returning. One quarter’s numbers are provisional and erratic and could easily be contradicted by the next batch. The figures for national income per person don’t look so good because the population has increased – quite dramatically. But they don’t look bad, and a party that set as a “mission” the target of the highest growth rate in the G7 ought to at least acknowledge an IMF forecast for the likely period of the next Labour government that puts the UK third out of seven (behind the US and Canada).

However, politics is a crude business, and Reeves wants to remind people that they feel worse off and to invite them to ignore “lines on a graph” that tell a different story.

But what a story that could be for an incoming Keir Starmer government. This week’s figures open up the possibility that the pessimism about the worst inheritance bequeathed to a new administration has been overdone. The Conservative public spending plans for the years after the election still fail the credibility test, and it remains true that even if the Tories were re-elected they would also probably have to put up taxes further. But it is amazing what a difference a bit of economic growth can make to the public finances.

It is probably too late for good economic news to make a difference to the Tories’ electoral prospects, even if people do start to believe, despite Reeves’s best efforts, that things are getting better.

Chris Mullin, the former Labour MP, recorded the private views of Nick Brown, who had been Gordon Brown’s chief whip, in October 2014, seven months before the 2015 election: “We will probably lose. Our numbers one and two are not credible compared to the incumbents. The economy is picking up.”

We are now no more than seven months away from the 2024 election, and the situation looks different. Starmer and Reeves are credible compared with Sunak and Hunt. And if the economy is picking up, it may be too late to erase the memories of recession, inflation and meltdown in the money markets.

Instead, it may be just in time to save an incoming Labour government. Starmer and Reeves have done an impressive job of lowering expectations, so much so that much of the Labour Party is sunk in a gloomy stupor of believing that a Labour government won’t be very different from the Tory one.

In the past week alone, Labour has adjusted its employment rights policy to try to encourage employers to continue to create jobs – which was the one policy area in which many Labour activists had hoped for early “radical” action that wouldn’t cost the Exchequer.

And Starmer has delivered a speech promising to “stop the chaos”, rather than to stop the boats, which is a task that his party secretly believes is impossible and not worth attempting.

But gloom will turn to boom if the economy picks up. Who cares about employment law and small boats if you can have a Labour government spending more on the NHS, schools and other crumbling public services?

Reeves the clairvoyant could see the good news coming, and was worried that it might come just a few months too early. Thus good news before the election has to be dismissed as “gaslighting”. After the election, on the other hand, it will be a sign that the economy has turned a corner under Labour. If that happens, she and Starmer will hardly be able to believe their luck.

It’s time to take real action against racism in our police force

Is racism still a problem in Britain’s police forces? In particular, does the nation’s biggest service, the Metropolitan Police, still suffer from what has been called “institutional racism”?

The evidence suggests that, whatever label may be attached to it, racism is still indeed an evil that successive police chiefs and ministers have failed to eradicate. It also seems to be that, in some instances, matters are getting worse.

In such circumstances, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that there are cultural, “institutional” factors at work, as successive enquiries have found and as some senior officers now admit. Despite respecting the bravery and dedication of individual officers, this is a cause for deep concern.