Christchurch mosque attacks: Gunman pleads guilty to murder, attempted murder and terrorism | Stuff.co.nz

The man accused of the Christchurch mosque attacks has entered shock guilty pleas, bringing relief to survivors and victims’ families.

Amid extraordinary coronavirus lockdown restrictions, Brenton Tarrant, 29, appeared via video-link in the High Court at Christchurch on Thursday morning and admitted 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a charge of engaging in a terrorist act.

He’d previously pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was scheduled to stand trial on June 2.

GEORGE HEARD/STUFF
Fifty-one people died as a result of the March 15, 2019 attack.

Tarrant, who wore a grey prisoner sweater, was largely silent and emotionless throughout the hearing. He sat alone in a white room with a grey door at Auckland Prison, Paremoremo, where he’s held in maximum security.

The terrorist’s lawyers, Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson, appeared via video-link from another court room.

Brenton Tarrant pleads guilty to murder, attempted murder and terrorism via AVL in the Christchurch High Court.

The names of all 51 people killed were read to Tarrant, before he was asked how he pleaded to the murder charges.

He replied: “Yes, guilty.”

The same process was followed for the attempted murder charges.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/STUFF
Terrorist Brenton Tarrant pictured at his first court appearance, the day after the mosque shootings.

Justice Cameron Mander remanded Tarrant in custody, but has not yet set a date for sentencing, when the summary of facts would be made public.

Few people knew of the special hearing, which was only scheduled late Wednesday, on the eve of an unprecedented nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Six New Zealand journalists attended. Also in court were the imams from both targeted mosques. An-nur (Al Noor) imam Gamal Fouda was visibly upset as the guilty pleas were entered.

JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF
Mustafa Boztas still has a fragment of a bullet inside him.

The hearing concluded at 10.30am, but the judge suppressed the outcome for an hour to allow victims, who were unaware of the hearing, to be notified.

The decision to hold the hearing amid the national state of emergency was not made lightly.

Earlier in the week Tarrant indicated to counsel that he might change his pleas. A formal request was made on Wednesday that the matter be brought before the court.

DAVID WALKER/STUFF
Omar Abdel-Ghany, whose father Ahmed Gamal Eldin Abdel-Ghany was killed at Masjid An-Nur.

Mander said both the Crown and defence asked to have the hearing expedited, despite the severe health restrictions.

The courts were considered an essential public service that was able to deal with “priority proceedings without compromising people’s health”.

The judge said he felt the court had the capacity to safely hear the matter by limiting the number of people in court. In total, 17 people were present.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reflects on the last year following the Christchurch mosque shootings.

It was regrettable the Covid-19 restrictions prevented victims from attending, he said, but the imams had been asked to be present to bear witness to the proceedings.

“It was my assessment that taking the defendant’s pleas at this time was the appropriate course in the circumstances,” Mander said.

“The entry of guilty pleas represents a very significant step towards bringing finality to this criminal proceeding, and I considered the need to take the opportunity to progress the matter was particularly acute coming as it has at a time when the risk of further delay as a result of Covid-19 was looming as realistic possibility.”

Mander said the defendant would not be sentenced before the court returned to normal operations.

The defendant had been remanded to a nominal date of May 1. It was hoped a sentencing date would be confirmed in the interim.

“It is fully anticipated that all who wish to attend court for the sentencing hearing will be able to do so in person.”  

On March 15 last year, Tarrant drove from his Dunedin home to Christchurch with an arsenal of guns and ammunition he’d amassed since moving from Australia to New Zealand in 2017.

The white supremacist entered Masjid An-nur (also known as the Al Noor Mosque) on Deans Ave as Friday prayers were beginning, about 1.40pm, and opened fire – killing and wounding dozens of people.

He then drove across town to the Linwood Mosque where he continued his shooting spree.

Tarrant was arrested a short time later after his car, a gold Subaru Outback, was rammed off the road by two police officers on Brougham St as he tried to make his way to a third target, though to be a mosque in Ashburton, where he planned to carry out another attack.

When police searched the vehicle they found several guns and petrol bombs.

NZ’S WORST MASS SHOOTING

In total, 51 people were killed in the terrorist attack, the worst mass shooting by an individual in New Zealand history.

Tarrant was the first person to be charged under NZ’s Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

Omar Abdel-Ghany, whose father Ahmed Gamal Eldin Abdel-Ghany was killed at Masjid An-Nur, said he could not understand what caused Tarrant to change his plea.

“I’m both shocked and relieved. Shocked at the sudden change in plea, relieved that my family and I, along with other victims won’t have to relive it all through the courts.”

Muslim Association of Canterbury spokesman Tony Green said his immediate reaction was one of enormous relief and great gratitude.

“I think the victims will feel a huge weight has been lifted from their shoulders. Our position has always been to let justice take its course, but a trial would have put a lot of pressure on our families. If you look at the anguish caused by the trial of Grace Millane’s killer you can see how bad it would be for 51 families.”

Mustafa Boztas, who lay on the ground inside the Masjid An-nur with a bullet in his leg, pretending to be dead, said from Turkey he always knew Tarrant would be found guilty. 

“I feel he basically played with our minds and emotionally upset us more for no reason.”

Boztas said he would have stayed in the country instead of going overseas if he’d known Tarrant was going to plead guilty. 

“While it can’t undo the damage it has brought upon our community and country, it gives me hope that this help bring not only justice but some closure to those touched by this event.

“To the families, I hope this brings you peace, and a sense that love can conquer hate. While this closes the criminal proceedings for the shootings, please know there is still a long way to go in recovery for some of us, so thank you for your continued support.”

Yasir Amin, whose father 67-year-old Muhammad Amin Nasir was shot in the back by the gunman shooting from his car, said the guilty pleas were good news.

“It’s good to avoid a trial because we would be reminded of everything, every day of the six week trial. We’ve avoided that mental torture and we’re not in a situation where the outcome is not 100 per cent sure.”

Nasir was to undergo another operation on Monday but the operation was postponed due to Covid-19 measures. He had spent two months in hospital after the shootings and had another 20-day stay in December.

“He is now doing well. He goes for walks and eats well.”

Just about every organ in his father’s body except his heart had been damaged by the shotgun pellets, Amin said.

Nasir was shot about 200 metres from the mosque on Deans Ave. The gunman drove past Amin and his father, who were walking to the mosque along the footpath, when he aimed a shotgun at them from his car. Both ran for their lives but Nasir was shot. Their plight was captured by a motel CCTV camera. 

‘HE’S GOT TO PAY THE TIME’

Tarrant’s grandmother, Marie Fitzgerald, had no idea about the plea until called by Stuff.

“I feel sorry he did the crime, but he’s got to pay the time now.”

She declined to comment further.

Victim Support chief executive Kevin Tso said support was ongoing for hundreds of victims who still need help coping with the trauma of the event and rebuilding their lives.

“We’re pleased victims no longer have to face the trauma of the trial.”

The victims had shown remarkable courage and resilience in the face of a heart-breaking, shocking and senseless tragedy, Tso said.

“They have our utmost respect and promise that we will be here for them for as long as they need us.”

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the pleas were a “significant milestone in respect of one of our darkest days”.

“I want to acknowledge the victims, their families and the community of Christchurch – the many lives that were changed forever. They have inspired all of us to be a kind and more tolerant community.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would provide some relief to the many people whose lives were “shattered” on March 15.

“These guilty pleas and conviction bring accountability for what happened and also save the families who lost loved ones, those who were injured, and other witnesses, the ordeal of a trial,” she said.

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#KitaJagaKita: Singaporeans Are Helping Stranded Malaysians With a Place to Stay

#KitaJagaKita: Singaporeans Are Helping Stranded Malaysians With a Place to Stay

You can define humanity in a lot of ways and as cases of Covid-19 continue to surge, a little bit of kindness is what we all need. Just check out the hashtag #KitaJagaKita on your social media platforms and you’ll be surprised with the amount of Malaysians that are going out of their way to help each other at times like this.

This sentiment has spread across the crossway to Singapore too! Netizens down in SG are opening their homes to Malaysian workers who are stranded without accommodation after the Restrictive Movement Order (RMO), last Wednesday.

According to The Star, in response to a report about 20 Malaysians spending the night outside Kranji MRT station, many Singaporeans offered to house the workers in their own homes or to provide them with food and blankets.

A generous citizen, Eriyani Bakeri, offered one of her family’s spare rooms for free. Although she was not well-off, the housewife said she was saddened by the plight of the Malaysian workers in the aftermath of RMO and was more than happy to cook more food for her guests.

Charity organisation – Homeless Hearts of Singapore is doing their part by linking up Singaporeans who have rooms to offer to the Malaysians.

Ummar Hasim, on the other hand, called on fellow Singaporeans – through the Couchsurfing SG Facebook page to open up their homes to the workers. The group, of which he is a member, lets Singaporeans host travellers during their stay there.

Another SG citizen, Levin Foo, ordered 40 sleeping bags, 40 blankets, as well as some hand sanitisers and masks to distribute to workers still searching for a place to stay. The self-employed 36-year-old said the items cost about S$700 (RM2,130) in all and were sponsored by a friend.

“They have to leave their families to come to Singapore to work. Some Singaporeans don’t understand this,” he said.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth – Grace Fu, urged members of the public to contact the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) if they knew of any Malaysians who needed temporary accommodation. Fu said various Singapore government agencies were helping house Malaysian workers at the Jurong East Sports Hall, which has been converted to a temporary relief centre.

The workers are given a ‘ready pack’, which includes items such as toiletries, towel, toilet paper and a sleeping bag. They can even shower and wash up before leaving for work in the morning.

At times like this, we need to think about the less fortunate but most importantly, we need to act too. Do as much as you can while moving as little as possible. Whether it’s donating money to a charity, helping your neighbours to get some groceries, or even tipping your food-delivery rider.. let’s help each other as much as we can!

For more news, click here. 

“Oh, nothing! Just an e-girl reading an e-book”

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Japanese Nazi-inspired care home killer sentenced to death for murdering 19 disabled people | The Independent

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A man has been sentenced to death in Japan for killing 19 disabled people and injuring dozens of others during a knife-wielding rampage at a care home.

During his trial, Satoshi Uematsu repeatedly said he had not regrets for carrying out the deadliest mass attack in the country’s post-war history, and that he targeted the care home’s residents because their mental illnesses made it harder for them to defend themselves.

The 30-year-old was himself a former care worker at the Tsukui Yamayuri-en care home in Sagamihara, near Tokyo, where he launched the attack lasting several hours in July 2016.

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As well as the 19 residents killed, Uematsu injured 24 others and two care workers. Most of the victims were stabbed while they slept.

The trial focused on Uematsu’s mental state at the time of the attack, with defence lawyers arguing that he could not be held criminally responsible because he had been mentally incompetent by long-term cannabis use. 

But prosecutors said the attacker was motivated by his experiences working at the home and his extremist views, influenced by his interest in Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, that the disabled were  a burden on society.

Uematsu had detailed a plot to kill disabled people in a message he tried to hand to a parliamentary leader months before the massacre. He quit his job at the Yamayuri-en care home when confronted with the contents of the letter and was committed to psychiatric treatment, but officials said he was released within two weeks.

Citing the “extreme maliciousness” of the attack, presiding judge Kiyoshi Aonuma dismissed the defence’s claim of diminished responsibility, saying: “This crime was pre-meditated and there was strong evidence of the desire to kill.”

Dressed in a black suit with his long hair tied back in a ponytail, Uematsu, looked calmly at the judge during the sentencing session in a courtroom filled with family members of the victims. Convicted of homicide among other charges, he was sentenced to death by hanging.

Uematsu had said during his trial that he would not appeal the court’s decision, whatever the verdict, in a case that has drawn focus on the stigma faced by disabled people in Japan today.

Advocacy groups have said that while Uematsu claimed inspiration from the Nazis, his views reflected a persistent prejudice among the mainstream public against people with disabilities.

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February 2020 restaurant inspections in Livingston County

February 2020 restaurant inspections in Livingston County

Jennifer Timar
Livingston Daily
Published 6:30 AM EST Mar 3, 2020

Of the Livingston County restaurants inspected in February 2020, priority and priority foundation violations were found at 29 locations. 

Each month, the Livingston County Health Department inspects some businesses and schools that serve food. 

The Livingston Daily publishes reports on the most serious violations — ones that could lead to contamination of food or increase the risk of transmitting a foodborne illness — as well as corrective measures taken.

Four priority violations were found at:

Hartland Sports Center

2755 Arena Drive, Hartland Township

There were three spray bottles not labeled as to their contents. The person in charge labeled the bottles properly at the time of the inspection. There was no soap at the hand sink. Soap was available upon the inspector’s return. There were no paper towels at the hand sink. A new shelf was not allowing staff to open the dispenser and refill. Upon the inspector’s return, there was a dispenser available and paper towels were stocked in the dispenser. There was no chlorine test kit available. The facility decided to use quaternary sanitizer instead.

Horseshoe Lounge

10100 W. Grand River Ave., Fowlerville

The dish machine was not dispensing the proper amount of sanitizer. It was suspected that the product was expired. A new container of sanitizer was added and proper sanitizer concentrations were restored. The hand sink in the main kitchen was soiled with food residue. Coleslaw and ranch dressing prepared on Feb. 3 were labeled with a discard date of Feb. 20. Foods that are time and temperature controlled for safety cannot be held more than seven days. A proper discard date label was attached at the time of the inspection. No detergent was being dispensed in the dish machine because the container was empty. A new detergent container was added at the time of the inspection.

RELATED: 15 most common restaurant violations in Livingston County

Three priority violations were found at:

440 W. Main Street, Brighton

A pan of cooked chicken wings was holding at 50 degrees in the grill line prep cooler. A container of coleslaw was holding at 46 degrees. Upon further investigation, other items were also holding in the 41-to-50 degree range. All refrigeration equipment was working properly. It was suspected that the food items were left out at room temperature during the prep process. Some of the items are transferred from the basement walk-in unit on rolling carts. Those items may have been sitting on the cart for an extended period of time at room temperature. A tall plastic container of grits was cooling in an ice bath. The product was placed into an ice bath approximately 20 minutes earlier and was still approximately 200 degrees. The grits were transferred to a large shallow metal pan for proper cooling. Short ribs prepared two days prior to the inspection were cooled in a deep pan. No temperature violations were confirmed, but this method will not likely ensure proper cooling. Two refillable spray bottles containing cleaning chemicals were not labeled. The bottles were labeled at the time of inspection.

An infographic shows proper temperatures food should be held at to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.
Livingston County Health Department

Great Lakes Family Restaurant

963 S. Grand Ave., Fowlerville

Home-prepared foods were being stored in the walk-in cooler. The items included several 5-gallon buckets of cut tomatoes in a vinegar solution, which were prepared by a family member. The items were removed at the time of inspection. A pie cooler was holding food at 50 degrees. Cream pies and cheesecake were discarded. The pie cooler has been taken out of service and a new unit was ordered. Cream pies are now stored in another unit. A refillable spray bottle containing a chemical degreasing solution did not have a label. Proper chemical labeling was observed upon the inspector’s return.

Jimmy John’s

1504 Lawson Drive, Howell

An employee touched the computer ordering screen while wearing food handling gloves. They returned to prep food without changing the glove. Several employees did not wash their hands before wearing new food handling gloves. Both hand sinks were blocked by equipment. One hand sink was being used to store a water pitcher for the bread-making equipment. The other hand sink contained a sanitizer bottle.  The items were removed at the time of the inspection.

8515 W. Grand River Ave., Brighton

There were multiple employees improperly washing their hands. One employee washed their hands less than the required time and proceeded to use their pants to dry their hands. Another employee washed their hands less than the required time and did not dry their hands. Multiple employees changed soiled gloves but did not wash their hands properly as there were no paper towels to be found at any of the hand sinks in the kitchen. There was shredded lettuce on the line without time stamps. There were no paper towels at either hand sink in the kitchen. An employee was sent to the store during the inspection.

Mimi’s Diner

5589 E. M-36, Pinckney

There was rice in the steam table that had been placed there about an hour and 45 minutes prior. It was at 120 degrees. The steam table should not be used to reheat foods because it takes too long. It was reheated properly to over 165 degrees in the microwave oven and placed back into the steam table. The chlorine sanitizer concentration in the dish machine was too high. It was adjusted. Foods were being improperly cooled in the walk-in cooler. Mashed potatoes and rice were in containers 6-to-8 inches deep with the plastic wrap slightly uncovered on the edge. The rice was already cold, but the potatoes had been placed there an hour and half before and were at 100 degrees. They were moved to uncovered shallow pans. Sausage patties were being cooled in a covered shallow pan and were at 67 degrees. The cover was removed so that the heat was not trapped in. 

Old Hickory Bar

7071 Bennett Lake Road, Fenton

The cooler next to the fryer was holding food at 49 degrees. Deli meat, sliced tomatoes, burger patties and dressing were discarded. Upon the inspector’s return, there were no items in the cooler at time of inspection, but the ambient air read a proper 40 degrees. The in-use knives and utensils were being switched out every shift, which is typically eight hours. The in-use utensils that are in contact with food that is time and temperature controlled for safety need to be washed, rinsed and sanitized at least every four hours. Raw beef was stored in the walk-in cooler above bottled drinks. It was moved away from ready-to-eat food.

MORE: Chiropractic, massage clinic opens on Cleary campus

MORE: Brighton bakery to be featured on Home Shopping Network

Two priority violations were found at:

Jersey Giant Subs

3813 Tractor Drive, Howell

Tomatoes and lettuce had been put out at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively, but were not marked to indicate the time they were removed from the cooler and the time they must be discarded (4 hours later). They were marked during the inspection. The hand sink in the dish-washing area was blocked by buckets and a cart. They were moved.

Jets Pizza

120 W. Highland Road, Suite 800, Howell

A couple a bottles of cleaner were stored on the prep table near food. They were moved to the chemical storage room. Always store chemicals away from food and clean equipment. There were a couple spray bottles of sanitizer missing labels. They were labeled during the inspection.

Mary’s Fabulous Chicken & Fish

2429 E. Grand River Ave., Howell

A cook came into work, took an order, put food handling gloves on and made the food without washing his hands first. He washes his hands. Several onions in a bin in the walk-in cooler had white mold growth. All of the onions were discarded.

Snappers on the Water

6484 Bennett Lake Road, Fenton

There was a container of moldy food dated from December. It was discarded. There were some cans that were leaky and rusted. They were set aside to be returned.

St. John Catholic Church

2099 Hacker Road, Howell

The two-door cooler in the kitchen is holding food at 60 to 65 degrees. Sour cream, yogurt, milk and sauerkraut with sausage were discarded. There was a large pot of tomato sauce that was improperly cooled in a large container in the cooler. The cooler was broken. The sauce was at the same temperature as everything else (60 to 65 degrees). It was discarded.

Tubby’s Sub Shop

9912 E. Grand River Ave., Ste 500, Brighton

A food handler used gloves that touched raw meat to begin to assemble ready-to-eat sandwich ingredients. She was stopped and told that she must wash her hands and put a new pair of gloves on before touching ready-to eat food. She washed her hands and donned a new pair of gloves. The solution used to wipe down the cutting board contained too much chlorine. Water was added.

One priority violation was found at:

3949 W. Grand River Ave., Howell

A dicer in the cleaned dish area contained food particles. It was cleaned.

Brighton Coffeehouse and Theater

306 W. Main Street, Brighton

The automatic dish machine was calibrated for chlorine sanitizer, but the unit contained quaternary sanitizer. It resulted in sanitizer concentrations that were too weak. The quaternary sanitizer was removed and replaced with proper chlorine sanitizer. Proper sanitizer levels were restored.

Buffalo Wild Wings

9745 Village Place Blvd., Brighton

Foods in a prep cooler were holding 50 degrees in the upper compartment and 45 degrees in the lower compartment. Large metal containers of ranch and blue cheese dressings were holding at 50 degrees. The products were stored on ice, but the amount of ice was not adequate. Ranch and blue cheese dressings, cut tomatoes, cut lettuce, salsa and dairy products were discarded. Upon the inspector’s return, the cooler was repaired and a larger, taller ice bath was being used to hold dressings. 

Community Congregational U.C.C.

125 E. Unadilla Street, Pinckney

The dish machine was out of chlorine sanitizer. The container was tipped to the side to make sure that the machine was pulling the sanitizer, which it was. The bleach will be replaced before the next event.

Emagine Theater

10495 Hartland Square Road, Hartland Township

The dish machine was getting stuck in a cycle where it did not activate the hot water sanitizing cycle. It was repaired.

Hungry Howies

2560 E. Grand River Ave., Howell

An open container of grilled cooked chicken and sausage had a use-by date that had passed. It was discarded.

Jimmy John’s

750 W. Grand River Ave., Brighton

The facility uses both chlorine and quaternary sanitizers. However, only quaternary test strips were available. Chlorine test strips were purchased.

Mt. Brighton Resort

4141 Bauer Road, Brighton

No paper towels were available at the hand sink at Bruin’s Bar. Towels were provided at the time of inspection.

6995 W. Grand River Ave., Brighton

Hot dogs in a reach cooler were kept past their use-by date. They were discarded.

Stout Irish Pub

125 E. Grand River Ave., Brighton

Cooked cabbage, cooked pasta noodles and house-made pizza sauce were expired. The items were discarded.

Sunrise Family Diner

2375 E. Grand River Ave., Howell

A line cook cracked eggs, changed food handling gloves and put a new pair of gloves on before touching ready-to-eat food without washing their hands. 

Sushi Zen

114 W. Grand River Ave., Brighton

A staff member touched dirty dishes while loading them into the dish machine. He began to put clean dishes away without washing his hands.

Wendy’s

1022 S. Michigan Ave., Howell

An employee with painted fingernails was performing food-related tasks such as scooping fries without gloves on. 

Whispering Pines Golf Club

2500 Whispering Pines Drive, Pinckney

The interior of the ice machine had some mold growth. During the golf season it is routinely cleaned, but the club had not been open for a while. 

Wong Express House

9912 E. Grand River Ave., Brighton

A slicer had an accumulation of dried food on the back of the blade. It was taken apart to be cleaned. Grease accumulation was found in between and around equipment.

READ MORE LIVINGSTON COUNTY RESTAURANT INSPECTIONS:

Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Timar at 517-548-7148 or at jtimar@livingstondaily.com. Follow her on Facebook @Jennifer.Timar99 and Twitter @JenTimar99.

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So much for saying you want a quiet life, Meghan Markle | Stuff.co.nz

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COMMENT: ​So Meghan Markle is reportedly attending the Met Gala in May. Because where better to celebrate your newfound privacy and “space” than at “the Oscars of the East Coast”, “the Super Bowl of red-carpet events”?

What could be more perfectly suited to anyone fleeing “intense scrutiny” and “commoditisation” than a mega-bash to which anti-commodification activist Kim Kardashian once turned up dressed in a nude-effect wet-look dress? A celebrity Pavlova, where the 225 photographers will take an estimated 50 shots a minute, before blasting millions of images out into the ether? Although why this is more appealing than a royal visit to the Mumbles Lifeboat station in South Wales is anyone’s guess.

Anthony Devlin
Has Meghan Markle lost the sympathy of the public?

According to sources at the weekend, Markle is to leave Prince Harry at home for the night, so “she can establish herself once more in Hollywood”, apparently attending the Met Gala with Vogue’s editor, Edward Enninful. This makes about as much sense as a woman who craves the quiet life asking her LA agent to find her a leading role in a superhero film, “something that pays big” – which is exactly what one Sunday paper claims Markle has done.

As the Sussexes fly back to Britain to complete their final engagements as working members of the Firm – and face the Royal family for the first time since The Statement, the petulant Instagram post from a fortnight ago in which they whined about being made to drop the “SussexRoyal” brand despite there being nothing legal to stop them using it – the pair may have no choice but to brazen it out.

I’m not sure the Sussexes will understand just how colossal a miscalculation that statement was. After all, you have a young man and his wife turning on a 93-year-old grandmother at one of the toughest moments of her life. You have them disregarding the pain and sadness prompted by Prince Philip’s ill health, Prince Andrew’s involvement with a paedophile and her beloved grandsons falling out – all because they have a brand to promote. Is there any way back from that?

Had you asked me a month ago, I would have said yes. Despite the acts of clumsiness and the missteps we’ve witnessed over the past two years, I would still have said yes. So they invited a bunch of A-listers that they’d only met once to their wedding. How many of us would do the same if we knew George and Amal would actually come? Was their dispensing of certain royal traditions really so bad? The insistence on Archie’s christening remaining private and the setting up of their own “breakaway” website?

Harry has always been his own person. At this point, one could still push a convincing narrative that these two were “breathing new life” into an outdated institution.

But the precise moment the couple began to lose the public’s sympathy wasn’t when they chose the hospitality of a billionaire in Vancouver Island over that of the Queen at Christmas, or indeed when they decided to make the desired “break from royal duties” permanent. No – that moment can be charted back to a lament the misty-eyed Duchess of Sussex made in the ITV documentary charting the couple’s African tour last year: “Not many people have asked if I’m OK.”

Because that single sentence managed to eclipse everything the couple were in southern Africa to highlight – from the 1,000 minefields that have yet to be cleared in Angola, to the abject poverty in Malawi and HIV-hit children in Botswana – and make it all about Markle.

Prince Harry Meghan Markle met with crowds when they visited Auckland.

It may be unfair to blame Meghan any more than Harry for these recent missteps. But one thing is certain: neither the words nor the sentiments in The Statement appear to be those of a happy young couple, revelling in the joy of each other and their nine-month-old baby.

And I worry that something is unravelling behind the scenes. Because if their intention were really to enjoy a quiet life, why would they care about a title that can only ever be used for professional profit and status?

Why would the team of LA-based agents, lawyers and publicists be necessary and the showbusiness parties and blockbuster film roles so appealing?

You don’t need those things or grand branding to live a serene and peaceful life. But solid family relationships? They’re essential.

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‘I have no intention to be rewarded’: Grab driver says after giving free ride to passenger whose father died, Singapore News – AsiaOne

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Most Grab drivers take us to our destinations. Some go the extra mile.

One Grab driver is being praised for making a difficult day just a little better for one rider when he waived the fare and even gave her an ang bao after learning that her father had just died.

Nasran Zainal’s good deeds first came to light when the passenger, who remains unnamed, took to Facebook to share their encounter on Feb 28.

She had booked a ride on Feb 26 heading to Singapore General Hospital to visit her father, who had died earlier that day.

“I booked a Grab ride from home to SGH and got a driver who was travelling along PIE (Pan Island Expressway) and three minutes away. I was with my aged mum,” she wrote.

“After a while, I checked the app and suddenly saw that he was along ECP (East Coast Parkway) and the waiting time turned to 11 mins.”

Feeling confused, she messaged Nasran to clarify and explained their reason for heading to the hospital.

Nasran, 34, sent his condolences and explained that he had to make a detour as he had been at an exit along the expressway when he received the booking, but assured them that he would pick them up nonetheless.

At this point, she was “already very appreciative” of Nasran, she said.

But there were more surprises to come.

When they reached the hospital, Nasran handed them an ang bao, saying it was a “small token”.

“I rejected it and said ‘don’t need’ as I felt really paiseh (embarrassed) of him doing that [sic]. After some haggling, I accepted the small token as he was really insistent.”

The second surprise came the next day when she received a refund of the $11 fare.

After enquiring with Grab’s customer service personnel, she found out that the driver had requested the refund as a “goodwill token”.

Addressing Nasran, the passenger wrote: “You are really a shiny gem who went the extra mile. Anyone who knows Mr Zainal, please pass the message to him. Thank you.”

The post quickly attracted over 6,400 shares and some 800 comments singing Nasran’s praises.

One commenter wrote: “We salute you Mr Zainal. You are a very kind and compassionate man. May God bless you and your family.”

Another said: “A great man with a wonderful heart. May you be blessed with good health and happiness. Drive safely and thank you for your kindness.”

Speaking to AsiaOne on Mar 2, Nasran explained:

“Upon hearing that her dad passed away, I really felt sad for the family. In my heart, I said I should do something for the family.

“I have always believed we should do something for the community and help anyone whenever they need, regardless of race or religion.”

In response to his good deed going viral, Nasran was modest and self-effacing, saying that there were others who had “done much more” than him.

“Honestly I really didn’t expect this to be viral as I have no intention to be rewarded for what I have done. I feel blessed and thankful to all the people who have been sharing this news and sending good wishes for myself and my family on social media.”

AsiaOne has reached out to Grab for comment.

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Sudden death of Sandwell ‘gentleman’ devastates family and friends – Birmingham Live

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The sudden death of a ‘wonderful’ councillor has shocked officers and local politicians in Sandwell.

Cllr Bob Lloyd’s passing on Saturday has been described as ‘tragic’ by council leader Yvonne Davies who said he was a wonderful man who had worked tirelessly for his Wednesbury ward.

Saying the news was a bolt of the blue, she added: “I think everybody, including myself is still in shock and it is very difficult to come to terms with.

“He was universally loved. Everyone who met him says what a gentleman he was and he was a peace keeper. He always tried to keep everyone working together positively. He was a joy to work with.

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“He was always positive, he was always able to find the humour in things and was always reaching out to help others.

“He really was a wonderful, wonderful man and I can’t begin to think how his family must be utterly devastated.”

Cllr Lloyd was first elected to the council in 2014 and as the cabinet member for inclusive economic growth had responsibility for job creation.

He was a driving force behind proposals to revitalise town centres in Sandwell and was set to announce development plans for West Bromwich town centre at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.

His passing was marked on social media by friends, colleagues and political rivals.

Cllr Richard Jones, posted on twitter: “I am devastated that my friend Bob Lloyd suddenly passed away this weekend. He was one of the best ones and will be sadly missed but rest assured not forgotten.”

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The Sandwell Conservative Federation adding their condolences to his family, posted: “We are shocked and saddened to hear about the passing of Cllr Bob Lloyd. Bob was a community champion and a decent man and his passing will be a huge loss to the Labour movement in Sandwell.”

A spokesperson for Sandwell council said Cllr Lloyd is survived by two children and a grandchild.

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Mums have their say on the best hospitals to give birth at in the North East – see how yours fared – Chronicle Live

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Two North East hospitals have been voted among the best places in England to give birth as the region once again outperformed the rest of the country in a survey of new mothers.

The annual maternity services poll – which asked 17,151 women about their experiences of pregnancy and birth – found an improvement in the standard of care offered to new mothers on NHS wards nationally.

The poll, from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), showed many women saying positive things about their care during pregnancy and birth, but a poorer experience of care postnatally.

Results published on Tuesday, January 28, showed that a fifth of new mothers were not told how to access help if their mental health were to decline after giving birth and more than one in 10 (12%) were not warned about any changes they might experience to their mental health after having their baby.

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Sunderland Royal Hospital was the best performing nationally with the most positive responses to the survey (88%) when compared to all other trusts and a national average of 78%.

And the Newcastle upon Tyne upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Royal Victoria Infirmary, was the only trust to be rated ‘better than expected’ in all three main categories – labour and birth, staff during labour and birth, and care in hospital after the birth.

Gateshead, Northumbria Healthcare (which covers Northumberland and North Tyneside) and County Durham and Darlington trusts scored ‘about the same’ as other trusts overall.

There was no data available for South Tyneside due to the size of the maternity unit.

The poll was among women who gave birth in February 2019.

Sunderland Royal Hospital

High-scoring categories for City Hospitals Sunderland included 9.8/10 of women saying they were treated with respect and dignity during labour and birth and 9.8/10 who said they were spoken to during labour in a way they could understand.

Newcastle’s highest scoring categories for the Royal Victoria Infirmary were also ‘respect and dignity’ (9.8/10) and partners being involved as much as they wanted (9.8/10).

The Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington, scored 9.7/10 for partners being as involved as they wanted and for clear communication.

QE Gateshead scored 9.9/10 for partner involvement and 9.3/10 for both skin to skin contact after birth, and the cleanliness of the ward.

County Durham and Darlington were rated ‘better’ than other trusts in the country for confidence and trust in staff (9.5/10) and receiving the information and explanations they needed after the birth (8.6/10).

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Stella Wilson, directorate manager for women’s services, at Newcastle Hospitals, said: “We’re delighted to see such wonderful feedback from the National Maternity Survey.

“Patient feedback is one of the best ways for us to measure the quality of our maternity services and in addition to these fantastic results and through our Maternity Voices Partnership, we actively seek the views of all women across Newcastle who have been in our care.”

Sheila Ford, head of midwifery at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “To be rated nationally as the best performing Trust in the whole country is absolutely fantastic news for the team and shows that local mams are receiving the very best maternity care right here in Sunderland.

“This is testament to the hard work of our maternity team and shows the level of care, dedication and compassion that our staff show to all of the families who choose to deliver with us and I am extremely proud to be part of such a wonderful team.

“There are, of course, areas where we must improve further and we will be looking at the results in detail, alongside other sources of feedback to the Trust, to make sure we continue to listen, learn and continue to develop the very best maternity services for local women in our area.”

Lesley Heelbeck head of midwifery at Gateshead Health said: “In Gateshead we have a really enthusiastic and committed team so it’s good to see such positive ratings from the CQC. Mothers and families are central to developing the services here at Gateshead so we’re always looking at ways we can improve.

“We’ve developed our maternity voices partnerships so that we can talk to local people and listen to their views more closely. Because we’re a smaller unit we aim to provide much more personal and individual care to everyone who comes here to give birth.

“We want as many local people as possible to come here and start their family with us and we aim to improve even further in the future.”

A spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Pregnancy, labour and childbirth are one of the most important experiences women have and we’re delighted to have received this excellent feedback from women in the care of our maternity services.

Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, in Cramlington, Northumberland

“In particular, we’re proud that in six categories our score was higher than for most trusts across the country.

“These include the number of women who said they had confidence and trust in those caring for them during labour and birth and the number of women who said their decisions about how they wanted to feed their baby were respected.

“We’re also delighted that we scored above the national average for the number of women reporting that a midwife or health visitor asked them about their mental health.”

Jenna Wall, head of midwifery at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Providing our families with the best possible experience while having a baby with us is one of our top priorities and we welcome the feedback from the national maternity survey.

“We are pleased that during labour and birth women felt they were communicated with in a way they could understand, they were treated with respect and dignity and they had confidence and trust in the staff caring for them.

“It is also great that we have scored highly on facilitating skin to skin contact with the baby shortly after birth, involving partners and enabling them to stay as long as they want at our Northumbria hospital.

“These results are testament to our hard-working teams and I’d like to thank them for the dedication and compassion they show to women and their partners at this special time.

“We will, however, continually strive to do even better for our families and further improve the care during and after the birth of a baby.”

See how your trust scored here and how it compared nationally to other trusts:

City Hospitals Sunderland (South Tyneside & Sunderland)

Labour and birth – 9.2/10 – About the same

Staff – 9.3/10 – Better

Care in hospital after the birth – 9.0/10 – Better

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

Labour and birth – 8.9/10 – About the same

Staff – 8.8/10 – About the same

Care in hospital after the birth – 7.6/10 – About the same

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

Labour and birth – 8.8/10 – About the same

Staff – 8.6/10 – About the same

Care in hospital after the birth – 7.8/10 – About the same

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Labour and birth – 8.9/10 – About the same

Staff – 8.8/10 – About the same

Care in hospital after the birth – 7.8/10 – About the same

The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Labour and birth – 9.4/10 – Better

Staff – 9.3/10 – Better

Care in hospital after the birth – 8.5/10 – Better

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‘Queen of Suspense’ Mary Higgins Clark dies aged 92 | Books | The Guardian

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Mary Higgins Clark, the “Queen of Suspense” who topped charts with each of her 56 novels, has died at the age of 92.

Simon & Schuster president Carolyn Reidy said that Higgins Clark died on 31 January in Naples, Florida, from complications of old age. The author published her first novel, Where Are the Children? in 1975, going on to sell more than 100m copies of her compulsive suspense novels in the US alone. She published her most recent thriller, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry, about a journalist investigating sexual misconduct at a television news network, in November.

Crime author Alafair Burke, who collaborated with Higgins Clark on the Under Suspicion series, said she would “miss my friend and co-author, but consider myself one of the luckiest people around to have had the chance to tell stories with one of my favourite writers, the Queen of Suspense.

“Through it all, I marvelled at Mary’s kindness, loyalty, and utter devotion to the work of being a writer. She could write me under the table, insisting we could get a few more pages in when I felt a snack break coming,” said Burke on Twitter. “When we went to an outdoor book festival in August, I kept sneaking off to the air-conditioned ladies’ room, but Mary stayed at the table and posed in the heat for selfies long after the books had sold out.”

Higgins Clark’s fellow authors spoke of her generosity, especially to new writers. Harlan Coben said he was heartbroken to learn of Higgins Clark’s death, describing her as “a generous mentor, hero, colleague, and friend” who “taught me so much”. Laura Lippman called her a trailblazer, adding that “so many of us owe our careers to her”. Scott Turow said she was “an extraordinarily gracious person, unpretentious and remarkably generous in a hundred ways”.

In her memoir, Kitchen Privileges, Higgins Clark wrote of “aching, yearning, burning” to write when she was young. It was an achievement made in the face of heavy odds. Her father died when she was 11, and she went to secretarial school after graduating from high school in the Bronx in New York. She went on to work as an air stewardess. After flying for a year, she married Warren Clark, who she had known since she was 16. She sold her first short story in 1956, for $100. After Clark died in 1964, she began writing radio scripts for a living, while also trying her hand as a novelist. She would write from 5am to 7am, before getting her five children ready for school.




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“My mother’s belief in me kept alive my dream to be a writer. My father’s early death left her with three young children to support. A generation later my husband’s early death left me in exactly that position, except that I had five children,” she wrote.

“Mother supported us by renting rooms, allowing our paying guests to have the privilege of preparing light meals in the kitchen. I supported my family by writing radio shows. Very early in the morning I put my typewriter on the kitchen table before I went to work in Manhattan and spent a few privileged and priceless hours working on my first novel.”

She sold Where Are the Children? when she was 47. Telling of a young mother who has fled her original life after the death of her first two children, only for her next two to disappear, it was a huge hit. David Foster Wallace taught it in his college classes, and Coben recalled a letter from the Infinite Jest author, in which he called it “one of the scariest fucking books I’ve ever read”. (“Sorry about the language, Mary!” Coben added.)

She wrote, she told the Guardian in 2015, about “very nice people whose lives are invaded”. In 1988, she struck what the New York Times reported was “the first eight-figure agreement involving a single author”, with a multi-book contract that guaranteed her at least $10.1m. Given the Authors Guild Foundation award for Distinguished Services to the Literary Community in 2018, she was the recipient of numerous awards and 21 honorary doctorates, and saw many of her books adapted for film and television.

“Let others decide whether or not I’m a good writer. I know I’m a good Irish storyteller,” she said, when she was the grand marshal of the St Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan in 2011.

Michael Corda, her editor at Simon & Schuster since 1975, said: “She always set out to end each chapter on a note of suspense, so you just had to keep reading. It was a gift, but also the result of hard work … She was unique. Nobody ever bonded more completely with her readers; she understood them as if they were members of her own family. She was always absolutely sure of what they wanted to read – and, perhaps more important, what they didn’t want to read – and yet she managed to surprise them with every book.”

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‘They saved my life’: Stabbing victim meets bystanders who came to her rescue | Stuff.co.nz

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A young Auckland woman who almost died after being stabbed by her ex-boyfriend more than 20 times has met the bystanders who “saved her life”.

In November 2018, Crystal Tupou was lured to Anzac Ave by ex-boyfriend Micah Santos who used a fake Facebook profile to invite her to lunch.

When she arrived at the meeting spot, Tupou said she came across the “one person I didn’t want to see”.

NZ POLICE
Crystal Tupou said she wanted to share her story to encourage other victims of domestic violence to seek help.

After arguing and threatening to kill her, Santos attacked Tupou, repeatedly stabbing her in the street.

In August 2019, Santos plead guilty to attempted murder and was jailed for six years.

NZ POLICE
Crystal Tupou was stabbed more than 20 times by her ex-boyfriend Micah Santos.

Now, Tupou has met with the three men, Steve Smith, Daniel Coombe and Walker Hunt, who ran to her aid and stopped Santos.

Detective Tim Johnston said Santos told police he only stopped stabbing Tupou after seeing the men.

“I believe if they did not do that, the victim may have got more serious injuries and may not have survived.”

NZ POLICE
Crystal Tupou embraces Steve Smith, the first person to come to her aid during the attack.

Johnston said the men didn’t hesitate to help Tupou and put their own lives at risk.

“Their actions were nothing short of heroic.”

In a video shared by police of Tupou meeting Smith, Coombe and Hunt, she was in tears as she embraced them.

NZ POLICE
Detective Tim Johnston said Crystal Tupou may not have survived the attack had the men not intervened.

Smith, who was the first to reach Tupou, was also in tears.

“It’s very emotional to see something like that,” he said, “breaks my heart”.

Coombe said what Tupou went through was “horrendous” but people aren’t powerless to change the outcome of events.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/STUFF
Police at the scene of the stabbing on Anzac Ave, central Auckland.

Tupou said she was “incredibly grateful” for the men who stepped in that day.

“They saved my life. There’s no way I’d ever be able to repay them but I hope a big thank you would be enough, and not only that but I want everyone to know that they’ve played a big part in getting me here, because if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here and alive today.”

Santos took two knives from the kitchen of his Henderson home in a Louis Vuitton bag and caught the train to meet up with Tupou on the day of the attack.

CATRIN OWEN/STUFF
Micah Santos was jailed for six years after pleading guilty to attempted murder.

After the three men scared Santos off, he ran from the scene, dropping a knife and his bag.

He was arrested at Orakei train station after calling 111 and telling the phone operator what he had done.

By sharing her story, Tupou hoped it may help other women in controlling or abusive victims seek help.

“There were signs but I chose to see the good side of him. People would say bad things about him but I chose to ignore it.

“I knew that one day it would get out of hand, and I let it happen.”

Police encouraged anyone who was in, or knew someone who was in a harmful relationship to ask for help.

WHERE TO GET HELP

Women’s Refuge Centre 0800 773 843

Family Violence Line 0800 456 450

Shine National Helpline 0508 744 633

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