INDEPENDENT 2024-06-12 00:12:19


King Charles’ new portrait covered in graffiti by activists

The first official portrait of King Charles III since his coronation has been covered in posters by activists at a London gallery.

Animal Rising campaigners plastered Wallace and Gromit-themed posters onto the new painting of the monarch, which is currently on public display at the Philip Mould Gallery in London, at around midday on Tuesday.

The group shared a video of two of its supporters pasting the face of the animated character Wallace over Charles’s on the red-hued painting by Jonathan Yeo. They also stuck on a speech bubble, which read in capitals: “No cheese, Gromit. Look at all this cruelty on RSPCA farms!”

The demonstration was aimed at highlighting Animal Rising’s “damning investigation” into 45 RSPCA “assured” farms, the group said.

It added that the protest was a “comic redecoration” and said the posters were affixed using water sprayed on to the back, so they could be easily removed.

It is understood the painting is behind Perspex and so no damage has occurred.

The group said the “light-hearted action played on the King’s love of Wallace and Gromit”.

The Queen once revealed that inventor Wallace and his dog Gromit – the stop-motion animation stars of hit Aardman films including The Wrong Trousers and A Grand Day Out – were her husband’s “favourite people in the world”.

The King is royal patron of the RSPCA, and Animal Rising called on the monarch to suspend his support for the charity.

The RSPCA said it is shocked at the “vandalism” of the portrait. It said it launched an “immediate, urgent” investigation and is taking the concerns over animal welfare at the farms “extremely seriously”. However, the charity said it remains confident its scheme is the best way to currently help farmed animals.

Daniel Juniper, a former early years practitioner and one of those involved, said: “With King Charles being such a big fan of Wallace and Gromit, we couldn’t think of a better way to draw his attention to the horrific scenes on RSPCA Assured farms.

“Even though we hope this is amusing to His Majesty, we also call on him to seriously reconsider if he wants to be associated with the awful suffering across farms being endorsed by the RSPCA.

“Charles has made it clear he is sensitive to the suffering of animals in UK farms; now is the perfect time for him to step up and call on the RSPCA to drop the Assured Scheme and tell the truth about animal farming.”

The report, released by Animal Rising on Sunday, contains findings from investigations on 45 farms across the UK featuring chickens, pigs, salmon, and trout.

It alleges 280 legal breaches and 94 breaches of Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) regulations, with Animal Rising calling on the RSPCA to drop the scheme.

Animal Rising describes itself as a non-violent, people-powered organisation working towards a sustainable future where humanity shares a positive relationship with animals and nature.

Gallery owner Philip Mould said: “We had anticipated that there might be these type of responses. [The painting] is safely secured in its frame with protective layers. One always lives with that thought these days. I wasn’t hugely surprised.

“The attack on the picture was not actually of a serious nature. The perpetrators put water on the surface very quickly in a swift manoeuvre and then they added stickers to that. No damage was done. The stickers only remained up for about 10 or 15 seconds, and then were taken down by my gallery staff. I asked the individuals to leave and they did.”

He added that a police report had been filed and security was being reviewed at the site.

Animal Rising spokeswoman Orla Coghlan, a former children’s nurse, said: “Just as Feathers McGraw fooled Wallace into a bank heist, the RSPCA has been fooling the British public into thinking their factory farms are – in any way – an acceptable place for animals to live.

“It’s clear from the scenes across 45 RSPCA Assured farms that there’s no kind way to farm animals.”

An RSPCA spokesperson said: “We are shocked by this vandalism of His Majesty (the) King, our patron’s, portrait. We welcome scrutiny of our work, but we cannot condone illegal activity of any kind.

“Our staff and volunteers work extremely hard rescuing, caring for, and speaking up for animals. Animal Rising’s sustained activity is distracting from our focus on the work that really matters – helping thousands of animals every day.

“We remain confident that our RSPCA Assured scheme is the best way to help farmed animals right now, while campaigning to change their lives in the future.”

The spokesperson added that any concerns about welfare on RSPCA Assured certified farms were taken extremely seriously and an investigation had already been launched.

“RSPCA Assured is acting swiftly to look into these allegations. After receiving the footage on Sunday, RSPCA Assured has launched an immediate, urgent investigation. We have responded openly and transparently to Animal Rising’s challenges to our farming work,” the RSPCA spokesperson said.

Disgraced rock star Gary Glitter ordered to pay £508,800 damages to victim

A woman who was abused by paedophile glam rock star Gary Glitter has been awarded £508,800 in damages from the disgraced musician.

A judge ruled the ‘I’m the leader of the gang (I am)’ singer, whose real name is Paul Gadd, must pay one of his victims the substantial sum following his 2015 conviction for historic sexual abuse.

She previously secured a “default judgment” in her claim – a ruling in her favour over Glitter’s liability – after she and two other schoolgirls were targeted by the rocker between 1975 and 1980.

The judge said in a 13-page ruling on Tuesday: “There is no doubt that the claimant was subject to sexual abuse of the most serious kind by the defendant when she was only 12 years old and that has had very significant adverse impact on the rest of her life.”

Mrs Justice Tipples said the six-figure-sum includes £381,000 in lost earnings and £7,800 for future therapy and treatment.

The judge said the woman should also be paid interest on the damages of around £84,000.

At a hearing in March the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, revealed she has been unable to work for several decades as a result of the abuse.

Her bid included a claim for £20,000 per year for 40 years, covering the time she has been unable to work.

Jonathan Metzer, representing the victim, said Glitter’s abuse had a “dramatic and terrible impact” on her education, work and personal relationships.

He told the High Court in London: “One can only begin to imagine the profound pain felt by someone who has experienced such shocking abuse… then suffered from feelings of shame and worthlessness.”

The barrister said his client was “plagued by thoughts of self-blame”, adding that her mother was a fan of Glitter’s music.

Mr Metzer said: “You may have concluded that his status as a rock star created a substantial imbalance of power that he exploited.

“There was an abuse of trust… her mother was beguiled by the defendant.”

Glitter did not attend the hearing, nor was he represented by a lawyer, with the court told he had not so far engaged with the civil case.

Richard Scorer, head of abuse law at Slater & Gordon who acts for the woman in this case, said after the judgment: “In making this award, the court has properly acknowledged the appalling abuse suffered by my client.

“Whilst no amount of money can make up for horrific sexual abuse, the award at least goes some way to recognising the devastation inflicted on my client throughout her childhood and adult life.

“Gadd’s refusal to engage with the process merely proves his utter lack of remorse, something we will be reminding the parole board about if he makes another application for early release.

“We will be pursuing Gadd for payment and will continue to support our client through this process.”

Asked if the judgment could pave the way for other victims to bring compensation claims, Mr Scorer added: “Gadd has caused irreparable harm to many children over decades – I hope that all those he has harmed will pursue justice whether through the criminal or civil courts or both.”

Glitter was jailed for 16 years in 2015 for sexually abusing three schoolgirls for offences which came to light as part of Operation Yewtree, the Metropolitan Police investigation launched in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal. His sentence expires in February 2031.

He was automatically released from HMP The Verne, a low-security prison in Portland, Dorset, in February last year after serving half of his fixed-term determinate sentence.

However, Glitter was put back behind bars less than six weeks after walking free when police monitoring showed he had breached his licence conditions by reportedly trying to access the dark web.

The court heard Glitter is now back at HMP The Verne, after being housed at HMP Risley during his recent failed parole bid. He was denied parole in February after a panel concluded it would not be safe for the public.

Mr Scorer said it was the “right decision” to keep him behind bars, adding: “Everything we know about Gadd/Glitter indicates that he remains a risk to children and has never shown any remorse.”

The rock star was first convicted in 1999 after a technician discovered child pornography on a laptop he had taken to be repaired at a high street retailer.

After his release he left Britain, eventually settling in Vietnam where he was later jailed in 2006 for three years for obscene acts with three girls. He was deported back to Britain on his release.

Elon Musk says he will ban Apple devices

Elon Musk says he will ban Apple devices at his companies.

Apple announced earlier on Monday that it would integrate OpenAI’s technology into its iPhones. When users are speaking to Siri, it will be able to hand off some queries to ChatGPT, OpenAI’s large language model.

Mr Musk said that such an update would be an “unacceptable security violation”.

“If Apple integrates OpenAI at the OS level, then Apple devices will be banned at my companies. That is an unacceptable security violation,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, the platform he owns.

“And visitors will have to check their Apple devices at the door, where they will be stored in a Faraday cage.” A Faraday cage is a closed box that stops wireless signals coming in or going out.

Mr Musk’s ban would presumably affect SpaceX and Tesla, in addition to X.

Apple had said earlier that the feature would be released later this year. OpenAI confirmed that its technology would be broadly integrated into the operating system.

Both OpenAI and Apple stressed that it would include privacy protections. “Requests are not stored by OpenAI, and users’ IP addresses are obscured,” OpenAI said in its announcement.

The integration will mean that Siri requests can also be sent to ChatGPT. It will be able to handoff questions – as well as documents and photos – for help.

It will also be available within a new Apple system called “Writing Tools”. That allows users to generate content for their writing, or have their documents re-written in fewer words or in different styles.

And Apple will also integrate OpenAI’s image generation technologies so that they can create illustrations to sit alongside their documents.

All of the features are part of a suite of features called “Apple Intelligence”. While that mostly relies on Apple’s own technologies, it also integrates those from OpenAI.

OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman was present at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, where the new features were released, through he did not appear during the presentation.

Mr Musk and OpenAI have a long and complicated history. He was one of the founders of the company when it launched at the end of 2015 – but has become gradually more hostile towards it, criticising it for failing to live up to its founding principles.

He has since sued the company and Mr Altman, accusing them of prioritising profits and failing to live up to its original mission. In response, OpenAI said that it rejected all of Mr Musk’s claims.

Mr Musk has also had an occasionally contentious relationship with Apple.

In 2022, he publicly attacked Apple and its chief executive Tim Cook over the cut it takes from payments made on the iPhone. Soon after, Mr Musk met with Mr Cook at Apple’s headquarters.

Kate Middleton gives comeback update as King Charles ramps up return

Kate Middleton has hinted at a possible return to public life this weekend as King Charles ramps up his return to work with the announcement of a major event.

According to reports, the Princess of Wales may be “considering” a surprise appearance at the King’s annual birthday parade on Saturday, 15 June.

This comes after she apologised in a heartfelt letter for missing the final Trooping the Colour rehearsal, known as the Colonel’s Review, last weekend.

The Princess of Wales, who is the honorary Colonel of the Irish Guards, wrote: “Please pass my apologies to the whole Regiment, however, I do hope that I am able to represent you all once again very soon.”

Meanwhile, Buckingham Palace has announced that King Charles will be attending the Order of the Garter service at Windsor Castle next week.

The Order of the Garter is the oldest and most senior Order of Chivalry in Britain and they will undertake a procession including the King in the castle grounds.

Plane suffers severe damage flying through hailstorm

An Austrian Airlines flight on its way to Vienna suffered significant damage from an unexpected hailstorm on Sunday.

The aircraft, which was carrying 173 passengers and six crew, was on its way from Palma de Mallorca in Spain when it sustained damage to its nose, front cockpit windows and panelling.

“I think we were about 20 minutes from landing when we got into a cloud of hail and thunderstorm, and the turbulence started,” Emmeley Oakley, a passenger on the flight, told ABC News.

Those onboard could “feel the hail coming down on the plane and it was quite loud and [of course] super rocky for a minute,” she told the outlet via text message.

The pilot of the Airbus A320, managed to land safely, despite the severe damage to the aircraft that included heavily cracked front windows.

Praising the pilots and cabin crew for their efforts in calming distressed passengers, Ms Oakley said: “The pilots really did an excellent job keeping things as smooth and safe as they could.”

The airline confirmed that no passenger was injured in the incident.

“Airbus A320 aircraft was damaged by hail on yesterday’s flight OS434 from Palma de Mallorca to Vienna,” Austrian Airlines said in a statement to CNN Monday.

“The aircraft was caught in a thunderstorm cell on approach to Vienna, which according to the cockpit crew was not visible on the weather radar.”

“According to current information, the two front cockpit windows of the aircraft, the nose of the aircraft [the “radome”] and some paneling were damaged by the hail.”

The incident comes weeks after a Singapore Airlines flight carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew from London to Singapore ran into sudden turbulence leading to the death of a passenger, while dozens were left injured.

The Boeing 777 jet ran into sudden turbulence over the Irrawaddy basin on 20 May, hurling people and items around the cabin. The plane diverted to Thailand.

A 73-year-old British man died of a suspected heart attack and dozens were hospitalised including those with spinal, brain and bone or organ injuries. Nineteen people remained hospitalised in Bangkok.

Singapore Airlines said on Tuesday it has offered $10,000 in compensation for passengers with minor injuries.

“For those who sustained more serious injuries from the incident, we have invited them to discuss a compensation offer to meet each of their specific circumstances when they feel well and ready to do so,” it said in a statement.

Nature-spotting and island hopping in the wonderful Dubrovnik Riviera

When summer comes, sometimes all you want to do is escape city life and immerse yourself in nature. So for secluded golden beaches, stretches of shaded forest and peaceful national parks, look no further than the Dubrovnik Riviera.

Of course, Dubrovnik itself boasts myriad charms: a UNESCO heritage town with ancient fortified walls, beautiful Baroque architecture, and a spectacular main street, the Stradun. But the Riviera region beyond also has a huge amount to offer, particularly if you’re looking for that getting-away-from-it-all feeling and a slower pace of life. It falls under the domain of Dubrovnik-Neretva, Croatia’s southernmost county, and with only 127,000 residents scattered across an area of nearly 700 square miles, there’s a true sense of space, freedom, and utter relaxation.

The Riviera’s natural beauty will captivate you, and its handful of islands have this in spades. Start with the stunning landscapes of Korčula, reached by a two-hour catamaran journey from Dubrovnik. You can also catch a ferry here from Orebić in Pelješac, which takes just 20 minutes, or alternatively from Split. This idyllic spot got its name when the Ancient Greeks saw its dense oak and pine forests and called it Korkyra Melaina, meaning ‘Black Corfu’. The mediaeval main town offers picturesque cobbled streets and a 15th century Gothic Renaissance cathedral, but away from its quiet charm you’ll find unspoiled beaches and coves, and acres of vineyards and olive groves which produce the island’s excellent local olive oil and wine.

Don’t miss the archaeological site of Vela Spila, on the west coast, a large, domed cavern which housed prehistoric communities over 18,000 years ago. Korčula has an archipelago of its own, called Škoji: hop on a water taxi from the old town’s marina to explore the idyllic isles of Badija, home to a 15th century Franciscan monastery and a flock of fallow deer, the busier Stupe which has a beach club with a restaurant and bar, and small, delightful Vrink, with a pebbled beach perfect for paddling and sunbathing.

Another pretty island is Mljet, located just off the Pelsejac peninsula, which boasts Mediterranean vegetation, crystal-clear seas, and soft, sandy shorelines. At its western end you’ll find 13,000 acres of tranquil National Park, criss-crossed with sheltered walking and cycling tracks, a ruggedly beautiful coastline, ancient ruins and two saltwater lakes.

One of the most popular hikes is the trail that leads to the summit of Montokuc, the highest point of the island, which will reward you with a stunning panorama, but if you prefer to explore on two wheels, there are several bike trails which take you through forests, along the lakeshore, and past beautiful viewpoints.

If you enjoy swimming and snorkelling, dive right into the calm, crystal clear waters of Veliko Jezero (Big Lake) and Malo Jezero (Small Lake). Alternatively, you can explore them by kayak, taking in the scenic forest and cliff views at your own pace; look out for the small islet of St Mary’s in the middle, home to an ancient Benedictine monastery.

Lastovo is a tiny paradise which is Croatia’s most remote inhabited island. With a population of less than a thousand people, this is where to head when you want absolute quiet and seclusion. Here you’ll find thick forests, craggy coastline, and peaceful walking trails, where the only sounds you’ll hear are the waves rolling in, and occasional birdsong. Together with its surrounding archipelago, it makes up the Lastovsko Otocje, or Lastovo Nature Park, one of the best-preserved marine areas in the Adriatic. Think cliff top views, woodland hikes, and swimming around sea caves and coral reefs, all within a chain of small islands.

For another secluded spot that offers natural beauty, shade and a gorgeous beach then take a trip to Betina Cave, not far from Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Only accessible by sea, you can take a boat trip or even paddle there on a guided kayak trip, then enjoy its sheltered surrounds and crystal-clear waters, perfect for snorkelling and swimming.

Last, but not least, make time for the Elaphite Islands: Šipan, Lopud, and Koločep. Populated with just a handful of people (between them, there are fewer than a thousand residents), they truly offer the chance to switch off and unwind. The islands get their name from the Greek word elafos, meaning deer; and quiet beaches, serene pine forests, and calm, turquoise waters make up their unspoiled landscape.

Lopud is car-free, but you can rent bikes or kayaks to explore your surroundings; there are also a few churches dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as the remains of the Rector’s Palace, and the ruins of a fortress. The smallest of the islands is Kolocep, which provides the ultimate in tranquillity; take a trip to its Blue Cave, so-named because the water within it is a startling shade of azure.

Finally, Sipan has a bit more buzz, mainly because it’s bigger, and also allows cars, but you can still find relaxing beaches and quiet coves. Its two main villages, Sudjuradj, on the southeastern tip of the island, and Sipanska Luka, on the western side, are each centred around a bay, where you’ll find cafes, bars and restaurants, perfect for relaxing and replenishing after a day enjoying the great outdoors.

For more Dubrovnik travel inspiration and information, head to Visit Dubrovnik

Macron’s gamble begs uncomfortable questions about Europe’s future

President Emmanuel Macron has been, since Angela Merkel’s retirement as Germany’s chancellor in 2021, the pre-eminent political personality in Europe. Heading the EU’s only nuclear power, in charge of its second biggest economy and assuming the traditional French posture of political leadership, Mr Macron has shown a sure touch… at least in European affairs.

Lately, he has taken it upon himself to stiffen European resistance to Russian aggression in Ukraine, after an earlier unsuccessful attempt to become the Putin-whisperer. Mr Macron is still a powerful figure, at home as well as abroad. After all, he placed himself at the head of a breakaway centrist vehicle, En Marche!, now renamed Renaissance, and, against the odds, captured the Elysee Palace. In 2022, he secured a second presidential term – again, against the odds. He lost his parliamentary majority soon after, but his grip on his country’s affairs, despite some dismal polling, remained firm.

Has he now lost that grip? At first sight, his surprise decision to hold fresh elections to the French parliament appeared an act of panic in response to disastrous results for Renaissance and its allies in the European elections. The pronounced swing to the hard right, mirroring a similar humiliation of Olaf Scholz in Germany, is certainly a clear repudiation of the president’s record. Faced with such a popular vote of no confidence in his leadership, Mr Macron’s call for another such vote in quick succession looks a little quixotic. Indeed, on the face of it, it seems to have been inspired by a similar decision by the British prime minister, calling an earlier general election than widely assumed – and which is not going well. Surely, observers wondered, Macron can’t have done a Sunak?

What is the Liberal Democrats’ masterplan?

The Liberal Democrats look forward to general elections more than most parties, even in bad times. Their manifesto, a programme for a Lib Dem government that will not be formed this time round, contains lots of ideas, is rather bolder than their main rivals, and is enjoying some publicity.

Thanks to the Representation of the People Act, the party gets much more broadcast coverage at election time, and even the press, still dominated by Tory-supporting interests, gives them some glancing attention.

This time they also seem to be enjoying themselves, with leader Ed Davey’s unprecedented programme of attention-grabbing stunts. Davey says each has a message attached – paddleboarding to highlight water pollution, tennis to promote new national parks, and so on.

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