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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Image copyright PA
Image caption Simon Cowell, his partner and their son were in the house when it was broken into

A serial burglar has been convicted of stealing jewellery worth almost 1m from Simon Cowell’s west London home.

Darren February, 33, of no fixed address, had denied breaking into the Holland Park house while the music mogul and his family slept.

He took jewellery and two passports from an open safe while a security guard was in the toilet in December 2015, Isleworth Crown Court heard.

February had previously been convicted of 37 burglaries, the prosecution said.

He is currently serving an eight-and-a-half year jail sentence for causing death by dangerous driving after hitting a motorcyclist near Mr Cowell’s home just 10 days after the burglary. He was convicted last year.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Darren February had previously been convicted of 37 burglaries

He was first convicted aged 12 and has committed 58 offences spanning two decades.

The jury took less than an hour to find him guilty following a four-day trial.

The court heard February’s DNA was found on gloves dropped during his escape and on a handprint left on a wall at the property. A security worker also spotted him as he fled.

Diamond bracelet

In a statement read out in court, Mr Cowell said he and his partner Lauren Silverman had been “very concerned” for their son Eric after learning about the burglary.

He explained the safe had been left open as Ms Silverman was catching a flight in the morning and wanted to “quietly get her jewellery” when she left.

Among the items taken were a ring estimated to be worth 500,000 as well as earrings, watches and a diamond bracelet.

February will be sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court on Wednesday.

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A stupid mistake undermined the academys response to the #OscarsSoWhite campaign but the dream factory has at last extended its repertoire of dreams

The biggest mistakes at the Oscars are usually said to be made by women with their fashion fails. I wont bore you with the details, but last year Kate Winslet apparently looked rubbish in a glossy bin liner, another woman should have been arrested because she looked too casual, the great costume designer Sandy Powell with her wonderful Bowie-esque look was deemed to have made a terrible mistake. This year though, the annual fest of tit tape, weepy self-congratulation and sheer star power will be remembered for more than a frock faux pas: there was a serious cock-up. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced that La La Land had won best picture when actually it was Moonlight. It seems that Beatty was given the wrong envelope, looked confused and passed the buck to Dunaway, who read out La La Land.

Once the La La Land people were on stage, everyone started to realise a mistake had been made and it was up to two of the producers, Jordan Horowitz and Mark Platt to tell the audience: This is not a joke. Moonlight has won best picture. Horowitz was immediately gracious: Im going to be really proud to hand this to my friends at Moonlight. By now the cameras were on the jubilant Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, while presumably several minions who work for PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accountant which oversees the academys ballot-counting, were taken out for ritual slaughter.

The wrong was righted. Beatty tried to explain himself. Twitter was immediately full of wits asking if in fact Hillary had won the election.

Jenkins began to celebrate: Even in my dreams this could not be true. But to hell with it, Im done with dreams because this is true. Moonlight truly won, and it should have done.

The politics of the Oscars were not about the expected Trump-bashing, which we knew would happen, there are no surprises about what Hollywood thinks of the US president. The politics of all this reside in which dreams are realised in this huge culture factory and who those dreams belong to.

La La Land, even if you love it, undeniably rests on the appropriation of black culture. Its very escapism depends on a quest for authenticity for those who can afford to choose their own soundtrack. Moonlight, symphonic, stylised, complex draws on those marginalised by the film industry. Moonlight is about emotional deprivation but it overflows with humanity. Obviously these are two very different movies but they are freighted with what they do and dont say about race.

This is why this mix-up mattered more than a bit of onstage awkwardness. What some people saw in this mistake was again a cultural bias against black art, unconscious though it may be. Some saw a conspiracy. Some saw the biggest award of the night undermined. This is hardly a paranoid reading when we keep seeing award ceremonies where black artists lose Adele winning best album over Beyonc at the Grammys, or the debacle of the Brits which has grime artists perform as though domesticated pets but will not reward them.

I was as delighted to see Moonlight win as I was to see Ryan Gosling sniggering at the side of the stage. My delight is not to do with worthiness but aesthetics, this is a profound and stunning piece of cinema. The fake news was that this was not the best film. The fake news was corrected in front of a huge audience.

Mistakes however when we slip up or misspeak often reveal what is going on unconsciously. The awkwardness around all this is partly because the Oscar factory has faced much criticism over being too white. Now theyre woke. Or at least trying. Mahershala Ali deservedly won best support actor. Viola Davies won best supporting actress for the performance of a lifetime. No one can say this is tokenism. Asghar Farhadi won best foreign film but was not there as a protest against Trumps ban on Iranians.

All these achievements should not be overshadowed by a stupid mistake, but they have been because mistakes somehow reveal a deeper truth which is that movies like Moonlight dont win Oscars. Until they do. The dream factory extends its repertoire of dreams. A different America can see its own reflection. This was a night that belonged not to those who got the wrong envelope but those who pushed the envelope. A brilliant win, make no mistake.

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In Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Macedonia, signs of ethnic tension are on the rise again

A familiar billboard face looms large over the shabby streets and squares of the Balkan city of North Mitrovica.

The Serbs stood by him all along! says the slogan in English beneath the giant image of Donald Trump staring out passersby.

Many in this Serb-dominated city in Kosovo would agree. Serbs were generally delighted with Trumps election victory, if only because he defeated the wife of their 1990s nemesis Bill Clinton, who led the Nato bombing campaigns against Serb forces in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Now, the Balkans are once again dicing with crisis. Borders are being questioned, ethnic tensions are bubbling up, and land swaps are being mooted as a last resort to prevent a slide back towards violence. Forget China and the Middle East: the former Yugoslavia could yet emerge as Trumps first real foreign policy headache.

Last month, a row over a Serbian train covered in the slogan Kosovo is Serbia in multiple languages sent towards Mitrovica precipitated the worst crisis for years in the region. Most of Kosovo is dominated by ethnic Albanians, who make up 90% of the population.

Though the train was stopped outside Kosovo, Nato members Croatia and Albania have asked the alliance to revise its peacekeeping plan in Kosovo. The Serbian president, Tomislav Nikoli, said that he and his sons would personally take up arms if Serbs in Kosovo were threatened.

I believe that all these tensions are nothing to do with citizens, says Adrijana Hodi, head of the North Mitrovica Administrative Office. In the north of Kosovo, the hope still exists that they will get rid of fear. Im personally sick and tired of Pristina and Belgrade, because weve been victimised by high politicians.

The bridge connecting the Albanian and Serb parts of Mitrovica. Photograph: Pierre Crom/Getty Images

Then there is Bosnia. Split between two federal chunks a Serb part and a Bosnian-Croat part after a three-year war in the 1990s, it has never healed properly. The autonomous Serb Republic regularly threatens a referendum on independence, while some Bosnian Serbs have threatened to boycott central government institutions over Sarajevos move to challenge an international court of justice ruling that cleared Serbia of complicity in genocide in the 1992-95 war.


Separately, there is Montenegro, subject of an extraordinary political convulsion late last year in which the government claimed that Russian institutions had tried to orchestrate a coup.

Finally, Macedonia, the most southerly former Yugoslav republic, is struggling to form a new government following a protracted political crisis in which ethnic Albanians have become increasingly restive. The country fell back into the spotlight when a congressman close to Trump suggested it should be broken up and divided among its neighbours.

Macedonia is not a country. Im sorry, its not a country, Dana Rohrabacher, who chairs the congressional foreign affairs committee and has regularly defended Vladimir Putin, said earlier this month, prompting a furious response from the capital, Skopje.

The situation is catastrophic, says Belgzim Kamberi, an ethnic Albanian human rights campaigner and senior member of Kosovos radical Vetvendosje party. Nearly two decades after war, this isnt peace. The Albanian and Serb question is not closed in the Balkans; its Israel and Palestine in Europe.

Land swaps

As ever, the region suffers not just from its own internal frictions, but from external factors. The EU, hamstrung by its own existential woes, has cooled on expansion into the western Balkans. The Trump administrations approach is still not entirely clear. Russia meanwhile attempts to project power across a region it sees as within its sphere of influence.

Kosovo remains the crucible. It declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Belgrade never recognised this. An EU-brokered deal in 2013 promised Serbia accelerated movement towards membership, and Kosovo steps towards candidacy status. But the EU has other crises on its mind now. And the incongruous dividing lines are as palpable as ever.

In northern Kosovo, streets are lined with Serbian flags, the Serbian dinar is the currency, Serbian government companies provide many utilities, and the language spoken on the streets is generally Serbian. Cars cruise around with no number plates; those with official Kosovo plates remove them on entering the north. By contrast, South Mitrovica on the other side of the Ibar river is almost entirely Albanian, and administered separately.

If you brought someone here to North Mitrovica, they would say this is more Serbia than Kosovo, its something fake, says Hodi. Im not sure its sustainable in the end.

Hodi says the region might be better off had a land swap been discussed early on in negotiations over Kosovo after the 1999 war. Now, some analysts are floating the idea of a land swap once again giving North Mitrovica to Serbia in return for the Albanian-majority Preevo valley going to Kosovo.

Now we need to choose between many bad options, says Hodi.

A Serbian nationalist wall painting in North Mitrovica. Photograph: Pierre Crom/Getty Images

Despite nationalist symbolism, there is little appetite for conflict among ordinary people in the region. Many express a sense of powerlessness in the face of geopolitical machinations by bigger powers.

The Serb and Albanian people are the last ones to blame. Politicians came between people, says Vukoje Utvic, 74, a retired ambulance driver. We have seen enough wars.

Diplomats in the region also pour cold water on talk of conflict, though they are concerned about politicians ramping up tensions to gain advantage and create distractions amid fraught domestic politics.

Theres only one potential sponsor for border changes, Russia, which isnt actually that keen on the idea, and Im not sure that the new states could actually defend the territory that they would claim, says one western diplomat with long experience of the region. I dont even fear another 2004 [where widespread rioting and attacks on Serbs in Kosovo led to nearly 30 deaths]. Everyone is committed to the Brussels dialogue; changing borders is out of the question. Having said that, people felt that way in Bosnia just before the war, and you wonder perhaps if you have missed something.

Diplomats describe 2017 as a nightmare year for politicking in the region, with elections in Serbia, a growing likelihood of a snap poll in Kosovo, and manoeuvring beginning for Bosnias elections next year. The first indictments are also expected from the new specialist court established in The Hague for trials of alleged crimes committed by the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, which could implicate senior members of the territorys political elite, potentially creating another trigger for instability.

The suggestion of a land swap has also refocused attention on Preevo, a small, impoverished majority-Albanian town in southern Serbia where shepherds graze sheep in the hills that drop down right to the main square. The Preevo valley, which includes the neighbouring municipalities of Bujanovac and Medvea, was the centre of a conflict in 2001 between the Serbian authorities and Albanian insurgents who had taken control of parts of the area in the wake of the 1998-99 Kosovo war. In 2015 in Kumanovo, a city just 20 miles away across the Macedonian border, a shootout between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and local security forces left 18 dead.

But Shqiprim Arifi, an ethnic Albanian moderate elected mayor of Preevo last year, insists there will be no return to the border shifts and wars of the past. Arifi, who was born and brought up in Germany, points out that he defeated a long-term incumbent who had called for Preevo to join Kosovo, and took an antagonistic stance towards the Belgrade government. Arifi is focused on engaging with the Serbian authorities to tackle the municipalitys 70% unemployment and crumbling utilities.

We dont want to change borders, he told the Guardian in his smart office in the municipal building, where he displays a small bust of the Albanian national hero Skenderbeg. Its not in the interests of the region, and its not in the interests of Albanians. If they change one border, its a Pandoras box, a chain reaction Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kurdistan. Our only option is to be together within the EU.

Outside the municipality lies a large wreath commemorating the fighters of 2001, with the words: Laud the national martyrs across the Albanian lands. It stands in place of a large and highly controversial war memorial removed by the Serbian police in 2013 under heavy security.

On the streets of Preevo, support for union with Albania and Kosovo is muted, and more prevalent among the young.

Every person wants to be part of his own nation, to live together, and in the end we will. But it cant happen now without guns if it was possible without war, it would have happened by now, says Drita Murtezi, 24, an unemployed psychology graduate with a degree from the Albanian-language university in Tetovo, Macedonia, as she strolls down Preevos broad main street.

But in a cafe on the square filled with knick-knacks and incongruous pounding house music, Kamberi gesticulates with an unlit cigarette as he advocates a united Albania. If youre afraid of war, you dont progress, he says. We should be peaceful, but not pacifists.

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Bill Paxton, who died Saturday at age 61, is best known to most film fans for his work in hit movies like Titanic, Twister and Aliens. But he holds a special place in the hearts of people who love weird music.

Back in 1980, when Paxton was still a struggling actor, he directed a music video for Fish Heads, a novelty song recorded in 1978 by L.A.-based music duo Barnes & Barnes.

The song, which you can hear above,has this unforgettably bizarre chorus: Fish heads, fish heads/ Roly poly fish heads/ Fish heads, fish heads/ Eat them up, Yum!

The song was a big hit on Dr. Demento, a syndicated radio show dedicated to novelty hits, when Paxton first met the songs composers, Bill Mumy and Robert Haimer.

The composers talked about making a video for their song and Paxton volunteered, he told the online magazine in 2010.

I said, God, would you give me a chance to make it? Because I had been making short films, Paxton said. And that summer, I kind of put that whole thing together.

The video cost around $2,000 and featured the budding actor holding a party attended only by fish heads, watering a garden blooming with fish heads and taking a fish head out to see a movie (the lyrics note that he didnt have to pay to get it in).

Paxton was dedicated to the film, even picking out each fish head personally, according to Mumy, who is best known for his work as Will Robinson on the 1960s sci-fi series Lost In Space.

Bill picked em out from the Santa Monica fish market and kept em in his freezer till they literally fell apart and then we bought more, Mumy told The Huffington Post.

Besides making the film and dealing with real fish heads under hot lights, Paxton also went out of his way to get the video on air by traveling to New York to pitch it to Saturday Night Live producers.

As Paxton told

I literally had to wait in the waiting room at Rockefeller Center for two days before anybody would even see me. And then finally they came out to take the -inch tape, one of those big honking fucking things, and I started to get up with them to walk in the back, and they said, Uh, no, you stay here. (Laughs) I was like Rupert Pupkin! And then, God, they must have put it in the machine right away, and obviously they played it, because they came out five minutes later and said, Come on back, we want to put it on next weeks show.

Paxtons video for Fish Heads ran two weeks in a row. In 1993, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it No. 57 on its list of the top 100 music videos of all time.

Mumy remembered Paxton on Sunday with a touching Facebook post:

Paxton remained proud of his work on the video, but admitted to funny how you build your career.

This story has been updated to include a quote from Bill Mumy.

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Unbox Therapy says that “you’ve never seen bananas do this…”. Did you? At least over 800,000 people already did for sure now.

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There’s no denying it any longer.

Selena Gomez and The Weeknd (whose real name is Abel Tesfaye) are a legit couple. How do we know this?

Well, over the weekend, the former Disney darling took to her Instagram story and filmed her TV while the False Alarm singer was on screen performing.

Related: Selena Is Tired Of Being Defined By Who She Dates!

Followers could audibly hear Miz Gomez saying “awww, baby” in the background!

Thankfully, dedicated Selenators captured the footage (below) before it expired on the picture sharing site.


While the love birds haven’t had a problem flaunting their new romance, the twosome’s exes — Bella Hadid and Justin Bieberhave expressed their doubts about the legitimacy of Selly G and Abel’s feelings.

Between the duo’s romantic trip to Italy and their other public displays of love, we’ve always bought them as a couple. Although, awards season is flying by and the pair still haven’t made their red carpet debut… Grrrrr…

We guess we’ll just have to be patient with these A-listers.

[Image via Instagram.]

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Ariana Grande fans will be happy to know her new video for Everyday featuring Future has finally dropped!!

As we previously reported, the songstress tided over her Arianators with the lyric video earlier this month, but it has nothing on THIS!

It’s all PDA!!

Video: Lana Del Rey Is A Lunar Goddess In Her Love Video!

While the 23-year-old didn’t enlist her boyfriend Mac Miller, Ariana dances around while couples around her totally go at it in intense makeout sessions!

Guess she really wants you to get it on to her latest single!!

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Image caption Nicki Owen and her daughter

Hundreds of women have been affected by a rare, under-diagnosed condition that causes heart attacks in otherwise young, healthy people. Here, two of them discuss their experiences.

Nicki Owen gave birth two weeks after suffering a heart attack.

She began having severe chest pains while she was 29 weeks into her second pregnancy.

“I’d been in and out of hospital during my pregnancy,” the 37-year-old music teacher from Hull told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.

“But I knew this was something bad.”

After ringing 999, she underwent an electrocardiogram (ECG) test, which showed something was abnormal with her heart.

However, even then, the paramedics said she was not having a heart attack, telling her she was simply having a panic attack.

“They didn’t rush me in and when I eventually got to hospital I was forced to play an impossible waiting game,” she said.

“They told me it couldn’t be my heart because of my age and that I was pretty healthy. When the pain became unbearable the nurses gave me a paracetamol as they were convinced there wasn’t anything seriously wrong.”

‘Incredibly lucky’

In fact, Nicki had suffered a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD), a rare and often undiagnosed condition, which mainly affects women – frequently during or soon after pregnancy.

It occurs when there is a sudden tear in one of the coronary arteries, blocking the flow of blood to the heart.

One of Nicki’s arteries was found to be 95% blocked.

She was kept in hospital while the doctors decided what to do with her and her baby. However, two weeks later, 31 weeks into her pregnancy, her daughter Erin was born.

After the birth, Nicki started suffering further chest pains and was rushed to another hospital for treatment, leaving her newborn daughter behind.

Two years on, she remains reliant on eight pills a day and avoids any strenuous exercise.

“When you look at me I am young and slim and I don’t look like a typical heart attack patient,” she says.

However, she is one of an unknown number of people – overwhelmingly young, healthy women – who have suffered heart attacks.

What is SCAD?

  • Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) is an under-diagnosed heart condition
  • It affects mainly women, occasionally during or soon after pregnancy
  • Menopause, extreme stress and exercise have also been associated with it
  • During an attack, a sudden tear or a bruise develops in one of the coronary arteries blocking the blood follow
  • It can cause death, heart failure, cardiac arrest and require heart bypass surgery

Source: Leicester Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit

Kate Alderton suffered her heart attack at the age of 30, the day after taking part in a 10km run.

A physically fit and keen runner who was averaging about 20 miles on the road every week, she began having intense chest pains while eating breakfast.

The paramedics initially thought she too was having a panic attack. However, she had also suffered a SCAD.

Image caption Kate Alderton suffered her heart attack at the age of 30

“No one was able to tell me whether I would recover and whether I would see my children’s next birthdays,” the mother-of-two said.

“It was the most frightening experience of my life and I was shell-shocked by it all.”

She was eventually seen by an expert cardiologist.

Young, fit, healthy

“I am extremely lucky to have seen a doctor who knew about the condition, as it is not very well known at all.

“As I was so young, fit and also a dietician – so careful with what I eat – no-one would have known that I had actually experienced this.”

Kate has now recovered and is back running. However, she has been advised against having any more children.

Image copyright Thinkstock

Health experts still do not know why SCADs happen, or if they are preventable.

Dr David Adlam, from the Leicester Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit, says they are different to a common heart attack and are therefore much harder to diagnose.

Coronary heart disease – the leading cause of heart attacks – is caused by coronary arteries becoming clogged with cholesterol.

However, a SCAD is caused by a sudden tear to an artery.

Dr Adlam says it is hard to know how many people a year die from SCAD, as it is almost impossible to diagnose after death.

However, he said research suggested nine in 10 cases involved women, while about 10% of cases affected women who were either pregnant or had recently given birth.

Dr Adlam said there were about 450 recovering patients attached to his hospital, including about 400 from the UK.

Quicker diagnosis

He said SCADs usually affected “young, fit people with no history of heart disease”, meaning symptoms were often dismissed as anxiety, panic attacks, indigestion and other conditions.

“It’s important that a diagnosis of SCAD is not delayed, which is why we want to get people talking about the condition. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the better the outcome is likely to be,” he added.

Meanwhile, Nicki says it is time more health professionals knew the symptoms of SCAD.

“There is a survivors’ group I am a member of and the profile of us all is that we are young and slim,” she says.

“I think they need to look past the initial appearance of these women because they need to realise there is something seriously wrong.”

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.

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Her voice is absurdly, moodily sexy: a sound that makes you raise your eyebrows

Let me ask a simple philosophical question: who do you trust? I dont mean your family and friends; Imwondering about something alittle different: art. I was thinking about this a few weeks back, as Ibought an album without having heard asingle note of it. There arent many musicians whose newmusic I will buy without sampling the goods, but such is my trust in this musician. Enter American producer, DJ and singer-songwriter Syd. I think shes utterly electric.

My first introduction to Syd (ne Sydney Bennett), 24, came a few years ago, when she was a DJ in the hip-hop collective Odd Future (she officially departed last year). She seemed like the quiet one in the rambunctious group; her vibe is an appealing, unaffected chill. Then I heard her sing with her band the Internet, and what came out ofher mouth was so unexpected, it made me stumble. Her voice is silky and breathy, reminiscent of Janet Jackson. Its also thoroughly girlish, a fact belied by her uniform of hoodies, straight jeans and that stunning short haircut. Her voice is also absurdly, moodily sexy: asound that makes you raise your eyebrows, especially when coupled with her lyrics (sample: the super-sultry Special Affair, which is steeped in a melange of sex, weed and general good times: I can get you high if you wanna climb).

Syd is an old-school cool kid with the visuals to match. Like all the best pop stars, she just oozes sex appeal. Its a little intense, but in a good way.

But back to my recent purchase: Syds solo debut, Fin. I was right to trust her, because there are no flaws inany of those 12 smooth R&B tracks. Shes a perfect pop star.

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