INDEPENDENT 2024-05-19 10:03:53


Water firm branded ‘contemptible’ as anger grows over parasite outbreak

An MP has branded a water company “contemptible and incompetent” as the number of people infected with a waterborne parasite in Devon continues to rise.

South West Water (SWW) has been blamed amid fears drinking contaminated tap water is what has led to more than 100 residents falling ill in the area of Brixham, which the company supplies with water.

Anthony Mangnall, the MP for Totnes and South Devon, said on Saturday that the firm’s response to the crisis has “put a lot of people’s health at risk”.

Chief executive of SWW, Susan Davy, was forced to apologise on Friday over the outbreak, saying she was “truly sorry”.

It comes as SWW said 14,500 households can now drink their tap water safely – however, 2,500 properties in Hillhead, upper parts of Brixham, and Kingswear have been advised to continue to boil their water beforehand.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Friday that 46 cases of parasite cryptosporidium had been confirmed in Brixham, up from 22 cases on Thursday, while more than 100 people reported symptoms, including diarrhoea, stomach pains and dehydration.

Dr Lincoln Sargeant, Torbay’s director of public health, has warned the number of infections may continue to increase for “up to two weeks” due to delays in symptoms developing.

Latest as title race goes to wire on final day of Premier League season

Manchester City will win a fourth successive Premier League title if they beat West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium today.

City come into the final day two points clear of Arsenal after seeing off Tottenham in midweek, and now have one last hurdle to overcome. “One game left, destiny in our hands, we need to win one game to be champions,” Pep Guardiola said this week. “Everyone would love to be in our position. But it won’t be easy.”

However, West Ham have been widely doubted this week and even their manager, David Moyes, holds little hope in his last game in charge. “It would be difficult to stop their Under-14s winning the title,” said Moyes, in a sign that West Ham may not put up the stiffest fight on behalf of their London rivals.

Arsenal meanwhile take on Everton at the Emirates as they look to finish off their season with a win that would snatch the title if City slip up. Follow the latest scores and all the action from the Premier League’s final day below.

Boy, 14, dies after going into River Tyne

A 14-year-old boy has died and a 13-year-old boy is in a critical condition after getting into difficulty in the River Tyne at Ovingham.

A huge search operation had been underway for the two teenagers after they went missing on Saturday afternoon.

Northumbria Police said it was alerted to the youngsters going into the water near Ovingham Bridge, Northumberland, at around 3.30pm.

Emergency services rescued a 13-year-old boy from the water and rushed him to hospital, where he currently remains in a critical condition.

Ambulance, police, and fire and rescue crews continued to search the area for a 14-year-old boy. His body was later found in the water and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The parents of both boys are being supported by specially-trained officers.

Chief Superintendent Helena Barron, of Northumbria Police, said: “This is an absolutely tragic incident, and our thoughts are with the families of both boys at this difficult time as we continue to support them.

“A number of agencies were involved in the incident and their support was hugely appreciated.

“It is with great sadness that we could not provide a more positive update.”

Israeli war cabinet member vows to quit if Netanyahu fails to make postwar Gaza plan

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under mounting pressure from his own War Cabinet and his country’s closest ally over postwar plans for Gaza, even as the war with Hamas shows no sign of ending.

On Saturday, Benny Gantz, a member of the war cabinet and Mr Netanyahu’s main political rival, said he would leave the government on June 8 if it did not formulate a new war plan including an international, Arab and Palestinian administration to handle civilian affairs in Gaza.

Defense minister Yoav Gallant, the third member of the cabinet, has also called for a plan for Palestinian administration, and said in a speech this week that he wouldn’t agree to Israel governing Gaza itself.

The US has meanwhile called for a revitalized Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza with assistance from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states ahead of eventual statehood. National security advisor Jake Sullivan is expected to push those plans when he visits Israel on Sunday.

So far, Mr Netanyahu has brushed them all off. But Mr Gantz’ ultimatum could reduce his margin for manoeuvre.

Mr Netanyahu has ruled out any role for the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, saying he plans to hand civil responsibilities over to local Palestinians unaffiliated with it or Hamas. But he has also said that it’s impossible to make any such plans until Hamas is defeated because it has threatened anyone who cooperates with Israel.

Mr Netanyahu’s government is also deeply opposed to Palestinian statehood.

In a statement issued after the ultimatum, Mr Netanyahu said Mr Gantz’s conditions would amount to “defeat for Israel, abandoning most of the hostages, leaving Hamas intact and establishing a Palestinian state”.

Mr Netanyahu added, however, that he still thought the emergency government was important for prosecuting the war, and that he “expects Gantz to clarify his positions to the public”.

Mr Gantz’s departure would leave Mr Netanyahu even more beholden to his far-right coalition allies, including national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, who could more easily bring down the government if he doesn’t meet their demands.

They have called for Israel to reoccupy Gaza, encourage the “voluntary emigration” of Palestinians from the territory and reestablish Jewish settlements that were removed in 2005.

Critics of Mr Netanyahu, including thousands who have joined weekly protests in recent months, accuse him of prolonging the war for his own political survival. Mr Gantz, who brought his centrist party into the government days after the 7 Oct attack that triggered the war, warned Mr Netanyahu not to “choose the path of fanatics and lead the entire nation to the abyss.”

Mr Netanyahu denies such accusations, saying he is focused on defeating Hamas and that elections would distract from the war effort.

Polls indicate Mr Netanyahu would be driven from office if new elections were held, with Mr Gantz most likely to replace him. That would probably mark the end of Mr Netanyahu’s long political career and expose him to prosecution over longstanding corruption charges.

Israeli media have reported growing discontent within the country’s security establishment over the course of the war, with officials warning that the lack of any such planning was turning tactical victories into strategic defeat.

With no one else to govern Gaza, Hamas has repeatedly regrouped, even in the hardest-hit areas that Israel previously said it had cleared. Heavy fighting has erupted in recent days in the built-up Jabaliya refugee camp in the north and the Zeitoun neighborhood on the outskirts of Gaza City.

Israeli troops are meanwhile pushing into parts of the southern city of Rafah in what they say is a limited operation. The fighting there has displaced some 800,000 people, many who had already fled from other areas, and severely hindered the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Indirect talks mediated by the US, Qatar and Egypt aimed at a cease-fire and the release of scores of hostages held by Hamas meanwhile appear at a standstill, with many of the hostages’ families and their supporters blaming the Israeli government.

“Something has gone wrong,” Mr Gantz said in his address. “Essential decisions were not taken. Acts of leadership required to ensure victory were not carried out. A small minority has taken over the command bridge of the Israeli ship and is leading it toward a wall of rocks.”

Fran Lebowitz: ‘Trans rights affects no one except those involved’

It’s rare that Fran Lebowitz is stuck for an answer. “It’s really pleasurable knowing everything,” the author, speaker and New York iconoclast said in Public Speaking, a 2010 documentary exploring her life and work directed by her close friend, Martin Scorsese. “Now, I’m sure that people think, she doesn’t know everything. But they’re wrong. I do.” Spend any amount of time listening to her speak, or reading her most replayed observations – “polite conversation is rarely either”, or “there is no such thing as inner peace, there is only nervousness and death” – and you’ll likely be convinced, too. So it comes as a surprise to find that, five minutes into our chat, we’ve stumbled across a phenomenon that has Lebowitz stumped.

“I have never, ever understood,” she begins. “Why do you – and I don’t mean you personally, but you as a member of your country – why do you keep voting the Tories in?”

Lebowitz, 73, now spends most of her time sharing her opinions on politics, or on why there’s too much writing in the world (“just because you can write a sentence or an essay, doesn’t mean it’s worth reading,” she tells me), why she loves living in New York, why she hates living in New York or the myriad things that annoy her. Her examinations of the world, delivered in fast-moving choleric comedy since she started out writing humorous columns for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine in 1971, have attracted legions of fans who queue up around the world to hear her speak. Since the 2021 release of Pretend It’s a City, a seven-part Netflix docuseries and sort-of sequel to Public Speaking, also directed by Scorsese, Gen Z have become the latest to idolise her. Still, Lebowitz thinks she’s often misunderstood.

Sun, sea and secret escapes: Why Crete should be your top holiday pick

A rich cultural heritage, glorious white-sand coasts and crystal clear seas – if there’s anywhere that ticks the boxes of a beautiful Grecian paradise, it’s the island of Crete.

Stonewashed waterfront cafes and wine bars line the historic 14th Century harbour, Chania, showcasing the early-day Venetian-influence that is now infused in Cretan life. Fringing the island are vast stretches of white-sand and pebble beaches, providing both lively and quiet pockets of paradise for everyone. History-enthusiasts shouldn’t miss a visit to Knossos Palace – a myth-laden 1600 BC fortress where tales of the minotaur are shared by local guides. While for those aching for the great outdoors, Samariá Gorge’s dramatic limestone trails lead to secluded swimming pools fringed with pretty waterfalls.

Crete is abundant with luxury hotels, offering immersive kids’ clubs, pristine Blue Flag shorelines and world-class restaurants. Book with British Airways Holidays and you can secure your holiday with a low deposit and pay the remaining balance off in as many or as few instalments as you like.*

With the added assurance of full ATOL protection (5985), as well as 23kg luggage allowance per person and a 24-hour holiday helpline all you need to do is sit back and dream of Crete. What’s more, British Airways Executive Club members can use their Avios Points for part payment on holiday packages (see ba.com/holidays for more details). Here we pick three incredible stays for the perfect break…

Located within a 10 minute drive of the old town of Rethymnon, and set on a beautiful, 1000m long sand and pebble “Blue Flag” awarded beach, LUXME White Palace is just one example of the ‘Luxury-Made-Easy’ ethos for which Grecotel is famous.

Stylish Grecian white walls adorn the open-style communal spaces here, providing light-filled interiors that lead out to the main deep blue seawater pool, with additional activity pools for children who wish to enjoy their own space. Even better, guests staying in the LUXME White Palace bungalows can step off the private terrace and directly into the ‘swim-up’ shared pool, while those booked into the Yali Suites can indulge in complete privacy with their own pool.

A wonderful waterfront promenade hosting seven restaurants overlooks the beach. Don’t miss adults-only The White with its degustation-style menu, while a visit to Tavernaki, will introduce you to traditional Cretan cuisine and the delights of meze and ouzo. Relaxed afternoons can be spent at ‘Long’ Beach Bar, sipping on an Athenian spritz or a premium wine from the resort’s two on-site wine cellars, against the enchanting backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea.

Exuding elegance and glamour through traditional Grecian furniture and renaissance-era artwork, this beachfront hotel – situated just 5km from the old town of Rethymnon, set on a prime beachfront location in the heart of the Cretan Riviera – Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort offers quirky decor, eclectically chic accommodation and luxurious facilities.

The central riad-style courtyard, decorated with ferns and palms, is a peaceful place to retire with a book. While the resort’s 69 rooms, 54 suites and 15 villas, shaded with terracotta roofing, contain handcrafted Italian tiles to provide a cool, refreshing feel.

The resort’s centrepiece is, unsurprisingly, the large seawater swimming pool – its inviting hues glistening in the sunlight from dawn to dusk. Around the edges, lily pad-style designer sun lounges provide a heavenly sunbathing spot, while soft mattresses, day beds and even a hydro massage ensure pure relaxation at all times.

Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort offers two dining options: Caramel The Restaurant’s Mediterranean buffet and the Gourmet à la Carte Restaurant. Dishes are mostly created from fresh, seasonal and local produce, much of which is sourced from Agreco Farm, located just 7 minutes from the resort. Fresh salads, delicious hot and cold platters and herbal teas are available in the buffet-style selection – while the Gourmet menu features everything from fruits de mer to succulent lobster spaghetti.

Just 15 minutes’ drive from Heraklion International Airport, and situated on a stunning sandy cove, Amirandes feels as though you’re stepping into an ancient Cretan village; one that encompasses 17 acres of pristine gardens filled with olive and pine trees.

Built to mirror the design of the ancient Minotaur Palace and infused with Minoan and Venetian influences to create an infinitely tranquil setting, Amirandes balances the old with the new. At the centre of the hotel sits an ancient saltwater lagoon – the first glimpse of the natural pools that make up this resort. An Olympic-sized infinity pool surrounded by traditional sandstone, 60 private pools – and, of course, the Mediterranean Sea complete the soothing ambience of the resort.

Book the kids into the complimentary Grecoland Children’s Club, for fun-filled days spent in paddling pools and building sandcastles or playing dress-up and discovering arts and crafts. Teens will be spoilt for choice with mini-golf, a basketball court, five-a-side mini-football pitch and tennis courts.

At the resort’s five restaurants, choose between seafood platters, Asian fusion and hot-off-the-grill steaks – while the central Minotaur restaurant is home to a 30-piece Picasso collection. For those wanting to sample local cuisine, book a table among the olive trees at nearby Logári Taverna – which brings Cretan flavours to life through humble family recipes.

All holidays with British Airways Holidays are ATOL protected and include 23kg baggage allowance per person and a 24-hour holiday helpline. Secure your Crete holiday now with a low deposit* at ba.com/whitepalaceba.com/amirandes and ba.com/caramel

*Based on two sharing. Full balance due four weeks before departure for short haul holidays. Subject to availability. T&Cs apply. See ba.com/deposits

What can be done to address the funding crisis facing universities?

Two independent reports and a letter to the prime minister this week have highlighted the severe challenges facing Britain’s universities – with potentially major political consequences. Earlier this week, in answer to a request from the home secretary James Cleverly, the Migration Advisory Committee said that in fact there is no widespread evidence that a post-study visa awarded to international students is being “abused” (such behaviour is often cited as a reason for cutting the number of visas issued to foreign students and their families, despite the loss of income for the universities affected).

That was followed up by an open letter to the prime minister from the chief executives of Rio Tinto, Siemens and Anglo American, saying that curbs on overseas student numbers threaten investment in the UK. And the Office for Students has now echoed the warnings from some academics that a number of universities will have to cope with substantial cuts to their activities, or mergers, or even “a material risk of closure” over the coming years. Yet, despite the central place in national life that universities now hold, the coming crisis has hardly featured in political debate.

We are paying too high a price for fantasy policies on asylum

Many of this government’s policies on asylum seem to be influenced by fantasy. There was the far-away island fantasy when Priti Patel was home secretary: the idea that asylum seekers could be housed on Ascension Island or St Helena. This was an unworkable plan that eventually evolved into the Rwanda policy, which has still not proved to be any more workable than the original idea, but which has now cost £370m and has secured the – voluntary – relocation, so far, of one person.

There was the prison hulks fantasy, possibly influenced by the prison ships of Great Expectations. This seems to have prompted repeated attempts – including by the last Labour government – to put asylum seekers in cheap accommodation away from population centres. Under the current government, the cost of putting asylum seekers in hotels increased the urgency of the search for alternative accommodation. This is what finally gave us the Bibby Stockholm, an accommodation barge for construction workers that was towed to Portland Port, Dorset, last year.

It has been beset with problems, including a legal dispute about planning permission and the discovery of Legionella bacteria. As The Independent reports today, the barge was last recorded as holding 321 people, when the Home Office had expected it to accommodate 430. Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that 162 migrants have been “dispersed” from the barge, some of them being moved into hotels – in other words, back to square one.