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Let there be light! The top 25 aurora photographs of 2023, from spellbinding pink pillars in WALES to an astonishing display in the USA’s Death Valley
The Northern and Southern Lights put on quite a show this year – and some of the world’s most talented photographers were on hand to capture them in all their dazzling glory.
As we reveal.
Here we present the best aurora pictures taken around the world in 2023, as carefully chosen by the travel and photography blog Capture the Atlas. The images feature in the blog’s Northern Lights Photographer of the Year collection, which it presents each year to ‘inspire and share the beauty of this natural phenomenon’.
This year’s impressive selection was captured by 25 photographers from across the globe, with images snapped by 13 different nationalities.
Dan Zafra, editor of Capture the Atlas, curates these photos throughout the year. He looks not only for images taken by some of the most renowned photographers, but also for new talent, and for new locations where incredible aurora images are rare.
Capture the Atlas said: ‘We are seeing Northern Lights displays at lower latitudes and aurora images in unique places where they haven’t been photographed before. In this edition, we have aurora images [taken] in Wales, Germany, Italy’s Dolomites, mainland Australia, and even Death Valley National Park.’ And here they are in all their natural glory, scroll down to see the full collection…
Alex Wides captured this captivating display on Norway’s Senja Island, just as the sun was setting. He said: ‘You anticipate witnessing incredible sights, but this trip surpassed all my expectations. Arriving at Senja Island, we encountered the most powerful Northern Lights of the year, painting the sky in vibrant shades of green, purple, and red’
LEFT: This magical place in the forests of Finnish Lapland provided the perfect backdrop for Frøydis Dalheim’s image. ‘Even though it was freezing cold, at almost -30 Celsius, I enjoyed being embraced by the peace and harmony of this beautiful night,’ Frøydis remarked. RIGHT: There was a strong and rare magnetic storm taking place as this photo was captured in Italy’s Dolomites. ‘I was in the right place at the right time,’ said photographer William Preite
LEFT: Lukas Moesch waited several hours in Tromso, Norway, for this impressive shot. ‘After waiting for a few hours, I began to witness a very faint glow. What happened after that was mind-blowing as the sky turned green, purple and red,’ he said. RIGHT: Iceland’s sky played host to arcs of neon green during Marc Marco Ripoll’s second night in the country. ‘Timid auroras emerged on the horizon behind the popular Mt.Kirkjufell,’ he shared
LEFT: Elena Ermolina snapped this incredible scene while on the Kola Peninsula, Russia. The photographer mused: ‘The sky was painted green by the Northern Lights and their ethereal dance. The camera revealed even more colours than my eyes could see.’ RIGHT: Luis Cajete witnessed this breathtaking Northern Lights display over the stunning Haifoss waterfall in Iceland. He described the moment as a ‘dream come true’
LEFT: Richard Zheng snapped this eye-catching shot on New Zealand’s Dunedin Peninsula. RIGHT: The Aurora Australis from Camp Saddle in Canterbury, New Zealand. ‘After a challenging hike with 30kg of equipment, I was delighted when the aurora made an appearance,’ said photographer Paul Wilson. ‘Large and Small Magellanic clouds can also be seen – these are galaxies visible only from the Southern Hemisphere’
Nickolas Warner shot the above image in Alaska, approximately 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle. In the middle of the image is Sukakpak Mountain, which Nickolas describes as ‘one of the most beautiful peaks in the Brooks Mountain Range’
This image is a rarity, as it shows the Northern Lights in South Wales forming a spectacular backdrop to Paxton’s Tower, a 200-year-old hilltop folly in the picturesque Carmarthenshire countryside. The photographer, Mathew Browne, said: ‘For a brief yet magical moment, the sky came alive with impressive pink pillars, visible to the naked eye’
LEFT: On March 23, 2023, Earth experienced the strongest geomagnetic storm in six years – and Virgil Reglioni was out in Otertinden, Norway, executing this unique shot. RIGHT: This dazzling photo was taken in the Lofoten archipelago in Norway by Filip Hrebenda
LEFT: Stefano Pellegrini spent a week in Iceland chasing the Northern Lights. Opting for total freedom of movement to track clear skies each night, he lived in a car, planning the itinerary day by day instead of booking hotels in advance, but the strategy paid off. ‘I captured the aurora on four out of seven nights and this photo is from the first night,’ he said. RIGHT: Kristine Rose took this incredible image in Nova Scotia, Canada. She described it as the best show she’d ever seen there
Way to glow: Justin Miller took this heavenly snap in his home state of Michigan
‘I never expected to capture an incredible aurora like this just a 15-minute drive from my door,’ said photographer Kat Lawman of this image. She lives in Wales, and added: ‘Huge green and pink light pillars shot out of the sky – completely mesmerising!’
LEFT: ‘This is the moment we live for,’ said Vincent Beudez of this image, which he took in northern Norway. He added: ‘[It was] the most colourful Northern Lights I’ve ever witnessed.’ RIGHT: Photographer Kenneth LeRose took this image at the lowest altitude in the U.S – Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park. It sits 282ft (86m) below sea level. Kenneth said: ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes. This was my favorite shot taken from [a] memorable night’
LEFT: Josh Beames shot this mesmerising image at Bakers Oven in Australia just after he noticed that the sun had emitted a massive solar flare, which looked to be heading in Earth’s direction. He kept an eye on the charts and was excited to see that it would be a direct hit, granting a great opportunity to capture the elusive Southern Lights. RIGHT: This stunning shot by Jason Perry was taken in Tasmania, with Jason revealing that ‘the celestial show commenced right after dark, coinciding with the emergence of the Milky Way core’
Laura Oppelt took this stunning shot in Wadden Sea National Parks, Germany, and found it hard to believe that she witnessed such a strong aurora show so far south from the Polar circle. She said: ‘At a certain point, everything in the sky seemed to explode, and I couldn’t help but scream out loudly on the beach in pure excitement and disbelief’
Photographer Jordan McInally took this hypnotic image at Moke Lake, New Zealand, having arrived there, he revealed, just as light beams started to dance across the horizon and the sunlight was fading. He added: ‘I spent around five hours up here and had this whole ridge to myself, shooting over 300 frames of all manner of beams and colours as the show was constantly changing’
This awe-inspiring image was snapped in an ice cave in Alaska by photographer MaryBeth Kiczenski, who revealed why the picture is extra-special: ‘This ice cave collapsed over the summer. Knowing its days were numbered, I prioritised a visit in March of this year. Consequently, this image holds extra significance for me, serving as a reminder not to take things for granted’
This spectacular ‘double arc’ panorama was captured by photographer Giulio Cobianchi in the Lofoten Islands, Norway. Revealing the conditions that need to align to create such a dazzling image of both the Northern Lights and the Milky Way, he said: ‘The aurora needs to be visible only to the north, it has to be a moonless night, and clear skies are essential. This ephemeral moment may last only seconds or minutes’
Ultra-processed food manufacturers are just as bad as ‘Big Tobacco’, claims renowned expert who slams industry giants for selling ‘addictive’ items with same techniques
Processed food manufacturers pose as big a risk to public health as cigarette firms, a leading food expert has warned.
Dr Chris van Tulleken, associate professor at University College London, said the mass-produced food industry was acting in a similar way to ‘Big Tobacco’ companies by selling addictive products which could be harmful.
He claimed major food producers were putting the pursuit of profits above public health, especially when marketing snacks and processed foods to children.
‘These companies are using the same techniques as tobacco firms to create and then market addictive food, especially to children,’ he said.
‘Poor diet has overtaken tobacco as the leading cause of death globally – and poor diet means an ultra-processed diet.’
Dr Chris van Tulleken (pictured in June), associate professor at University College London , said the mass-produced food industry was acting in a similar way to ‘Big Tobacco’ companies by selling addictive products which could be harmful. He claimed major food producers were putting the pursuit of profits above public health, especially when marketing snacks and processed foods to children
Tobacco use in the UK generates £10billion for the taxpayer but is estimated cost to society £17billion. Smoking rates have declined to just 12.9 per cent in recent years while obesity has soared to 65.5 per cent. Government estimates put the cost of obesity at £27billion per year, thought other estimates have put the figure much higher
Ultra-processed foods go through multiple processes during manufacturing, are often high in salt and sugar, and contain additives, emulsifiers and preservatives.
They are typically lacking in fibre and nutrients but are high in calories.
Most junk food is ultra-processed, including ready meals, frozen pizzas, shop-bought cakes and potato-based snacks.
But many foods which have traditionally been considered ‘healthy’ are also ultra-processed, including supermarket sliced bread and ‘diet’ foods and drinks.
WHAT ARE ULTRA-PROCESSED FOODS?
Ultra-processed foods are high in added fat, sugar and salt, low in protein and fibre and contain artificial colourings, sweeteners and preservatives.
The term covers food that contains ingredients that a person wouldn’t add when cooking at home — such as chemicals, colourings and preservatives.
Ready meals, ice cream, sausages, deep-fried chicken and ketchup are some of the best-loved examples.
They are different to processed foods, which are processed to make them last longer or enhance their taste, such as cured meat, cheese and fresh bread.
Ultra-processed foods, such as sausages, cereals, biscuits and fizzy drinks, are formulations made mostly or entirely from substances derived from foods and additives.
They contain little or no unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as fruit, vegetables, seeds and eggs.
The foods are usually packed with sugars, oils, fats and salt, as well as additives, such as preservatives, antioxidants and stabilisers.
Ultra-processed foods are often presented as ready-to-consume, taste good and are cheap.
Source: Open Food Facts
The UK is one of the world’s biggest consumers of ultra-processed foods, which account for more than half of the calories eaten by the average British adult and two-thirds of the average energy intake of children under five years old.
Speaking at the Unicef UK Baby-Friendly Initiative Conference in Harrogate last month, Dr van Tulleken said: ‘We have a real crisis of industrialised, processed foods being marketing to children… We are sure that these foods have addictive properties for both children and adults.’
Research has shown foods which are ultra-processed, including children’s snacks, can be more addictive than Class A drugs.
Up to one in seven adults and one in eight children are believed to be hooked on these foods, according to an analysis of 281 studies published in the BMJ.
Previous studies have linked eating high levels of ultra-processed foods with a range of health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
An analysis of deaths in 195 countries, published in The Lancet in 2019, found poor diet is now responsible for more deaths worldwide than tobacco.
The study, led by the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, found poor diet was responsible for 10.9million deaths globally in 2017, compared with eight million for tobacco. Tobacco companies have a long history of interest in mass-produced foods.
American cigarette makers Philip Morris and R. J. Reynolds owned some of the world’s biggest food manufacturers, including General Foods, Kraft and Nabisco, from the 1980s to the mid-2000s, during which time there was a surge in worldwide consumption of ultra-processed foods.
The companies — now merged as Kraft Heinz — continue to sell Heinz baby food and snacks, as well as popular brands like Heinz beans, Philadelphia cheese spread and Capri-Sun drinks.
The Nova system, developed by scientists in Brazil more than a decade ago, splits food into four groups based on the amount of processing it has gone through. Unprocessed foods include fruit, vegetables, nuts, eggs and meat. Processed culinary ingredients — which are usually not eaten alone — include oils, butter, sugar and salt
‘It’s not just that these [food manufacturers] are comparable to tobacco companies, they were the tobacco companies,’ Dr van Tulleken added.
‘The tobacco industry used its knowledge about flavour and marketing to create and market addictive food, especially to children.’
A spokesman for The Food and Drink Federation, which represents the food industry, said: ‘Over a number of years, we have invested a great deal in changing the recipes of our products to remove fat, sugar and salt and to add more fibre, fruit and vegetables.
‘We’ve also reduced portion sizes and launched new, healthier products.’
The Department for Health and Social Care said it had introduced calorie labelling in restaurants and required pre-packaged foods to carry ‘a variety of information to aid shoppers — including a list of ingredients and nutritional data’.
A government spokesman said: ‘We are taking strong action to encourage healthier food choices and to tackle obesity — recognising that it is the second biggest cause of cancer and costs the NHS around £6.5billion a year — while respecting the importance of individual choice.’
LSU’s Jayden Daniels wins Davey O’Brien Award as top college quarterback ahead of Saturday’s Heisman ceremony… where he’s favorited over Nix, Penix and Harrison
- Daniels was named The Associated Press player of the year earlier this week
- He’s currently the favorite to win the Heisman on Saturday in New York
- READ MORE: Daniels downplays Heisman hopes ahead of Saturday’s ceremony
In what could be a prelude to his Saturday night in New York, LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels collected the Davey O’Brien Award as college football’s top quarterback on Friday.
Already The Associated Press player of the year, Daniels is one of four Heisman finalists heading into Saturday’s presentation.
Daniels, a San Bernardino, California, native who transferred to LSU from Arizona State in 2022, led the nation’s best offense this season as the Tigers gained 4,946 yards in 12 games (412.2 per game). He passed for 3,812 yards, third nationally, and his 40 TDs passing were tied for first with Oregon QB Bo Nix, who played in one more game than Daniels.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Daniels also rushed for 1,134 yards and 10 TDs. His 50 touchdowns rushing and passing combined, along with a 2-point conversion on a passing play, made him responsible for a nation-high 302 points.
Other Heisman finalists include Nix and Washington QB Michael Penix Jr., as well as Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. Currently Daniels is the overwhelming betting favorite followed by Penix Jr., Nix, and Harrison Jr.
Heisman Trophy finalist LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels poses with the famed statue
Heisman Trophy finalists, from left, Daniels, Harrison Jr., Nix and Penix Jr.
Daniels wasn’t alone in receiving hardware on Friday: Payton Wilson of North Carolina State won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the top defensive player.
Wilson was involved in 138 tackles for the Wolfpack with six sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions.
Earlier this offseason, Notre Dame’s Xavier Watts won the Bronko Nagurski Award as the top defender in college football.
The 89th Heisman will be handed out Saturday night in midtown Manhattan.
The four spent Friday in New York City, sightseeing, talking to reporters, posing for photos with the trophy and, for the three quarterbacks, making an appearance at a fast-food chicken joint on Times Square. They all have endorsement deals with the national chain.
Ryan O’Neal dies at 82: The Paper Moon and Love Story actor who was with Farrah Fawcett for decades looked frail in a wheelchair in final images taken one month before his shock passing
Iconic Hollywood star Ryan O’Neal who was both a matinee idol and an award-winning actor has died at the age of 82.
His son Patrick shared the sad news on social media on Friday afternoon. ‘So this is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to say but here we go,’ he began.
‘My dad passed away peacefully today, with his loving team by his side supporting him and loving him as he would us.’
O’Neal was last seen being aided into his vehicle from a wheelchair by a helper in Brentwood, California on November 6, 2023. Ryan was wheeled down the sidewalk and had two caretakers got him into the front seat of his car, lifting him from under his arm.
O’Neal was best known for his movies in the 1970s, which included Paper Moon that co-starred his daughter Tatum O’Neal.
He also worked with some of the top female stars of his day such as Barbra Streisand on What’s Up, Doc, and also The Main Event, and Marisa Berenson on Barry Lyndon.
Ryan was nominated in 1970 for a Best Actor Oscar for his blockbuster film Love Story with Ali MacGraw.
Hollywood actor Ryan O’Neal has died at the age of 82. His son Patrick shared the sad news on social media on Friday afternoon; seen in 2000
His son Patrick shared the sad news on social media on Friday afternoon. ‘So this is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to say but here we go,’ he began. ‘My dad passed away peacefully today, with his loving team by his side supporting him and loving him as he would us’
O’Neal was last seen being aided into his vehicle from a wheelchair by helper in Brentwood, California on November 6, 2023
Ryan was wheeled down the sidewalk and had two caretakers that aided him into the front seat of his car, lifting him from under his arm
The star looked slender as he wore sunglasses and a green T-shirt
O’Neal appeared to be considerably more frail than he was years earlier in 2017. He was seen in September of that year as he took a walk in Malibu with the aid of a cane while accompanied by his son Redmond
Streisand shared a tribute to the late star on X, formerly known as Twitter, upon hearing the heartbreaking news of Ryan’s passing and shared a black and white image of the pair taken in the past.
The actress also typed, ‘So sad to hear the news of Ryan O’Neal’s passing. We made two films together, What’s Up, Doc? and The Main Event. He was funny and charming, and he will be remembered.’
Mia Farrow also uploaded a tribute by sharing various throwback images and penned, ‘Rest in peace dear Ryan.’
The two notably costarred in the series, Peyton Place.
Sharon Stone also paid tribute with a black-and-white photo of O’Neal from his later years.
‘It’s w deep sadness I post this. RIP Ryan O’Neal,’ she wrote, adding a heart emoji.
Ryan was known for his high-profile relationship to Charlie’s Angels actress Farrah Fawcett which lasted decades; they never wed.
The two were partners from 1979 to 1997 after he stole the bubbly blonde beauty away from her husband, Lee Majors of The Six Million Dollar Man fame.
Together they had a son named Redmond, 38, who had trouble with the law, even serving time in jail.
O’Neal was jailed in 2009 after he was found in possession of heroin during a routine security check at the Pitchess Detention Center, California. He was behind bars when his mother died from cancer in June, 2009.
Redmond has acted in the films Love Don’t Cost a Thing (2003), The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (1998) and Johnny Bravo (1997), but is not often seen these days.
Ryan also romanced Ursula Andress, Bianca Jagger, Jacqueline Bisset, Streisand, Joan Collins and Diana Ross.
Ryan is survived by four children: Tatum O’Neal and Griffin O’Neal with Joanna Moore, Patrick O’Neal with Leigh Taylor-Young, and Redmond James Fawcett O’Neal with Fawcett.
And the star has five grandchildren.
His son posted a lengthy note with the photo a beach at sunset.
Streisand shared a tribute to the late star on X, formerly known as Twitter, upon hearing the heartbreaking news of Ryan’s passing and shared a black and white image of the pair taken in the past
Mia Farrow also uploaded a tribute by sharing various throwback images and penned, ‘Rest in peace dear Ryan’
Sharon Stone also paid tribute with a black-and-white photo of O’Neal from his later years. ‘It’s w deep sadness I post this. RIP Ryan O’Neal,’ she wrote, adding a heart emoji
Ryan was nominated in 1970 for a Best Actor Oscar for his blockbuster film Love Story with Ali MacGraw
The film was a massive hit thanks to the chemistry between Ryan and Ali
He also worked with some of the top female stars of the day like Barbra Streisand on What’s Up, Doc (seen here in 1972)
Streisand and O’Neal also starred in the 1979 film The Main Event
‘This is very difficult for my wife Summer and I, but I will share some feelings to give you an idea of how great a man he is,’ he wrote.
‘My father Ryan O’Neal has always been my hero. I looked up to him and he was always bigger than life. When I was born in 1967 my dad was already a TV star on Peyton Place.
‘That’s where he met my mom Leigh Taylor-Young, and about 9 months later (give or take a date night or two) I was born,’ he added.
‘My dad became an international movie star with Love Story at the beginning of the 1970’s, a decade he absolutely crushed by starring in movies like What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon, Barry Lyndon, A Bridge Too Far, The Main Event, and The Driver.
‘He is a Hollywood legend. Full stop. The growth spurt of the first name Ryan can be traced back to my dad. That’s a fact.
‘He was Rodney Harrington on Peyton Place 3 days a week (he starred in 500 shows over 5 years) and then of course the name Ryan peaked after Love Story (the film that saved Paramount Studios and earned my dad a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame).’
Ryan was also known for his high-profile relationship to Charlie’s Angels actress Farrah Fawcett which lasted decades; they never wed. The two were partners from 1979 to 1997. Seen in 2004
They were the power couple of their day; seen in NYC in 1983
Together they had a son named Redmond, 38, who had trouble with the law, even serving time in jail. O’Neal was jailed in 2009 after he was found in possession of heroin during a routine security check at the Pitchess Detention Center, California. He was behind bars when his mother died from cancer in June, 2009
O’Neal attends the Farrah Fawcett 5th Anniversary Reception at the Farrah Fawcett Foundation on June 25, 2014 in Beverly Hills
Ryan was born in Los Angeles and began acting in the 1960s.
He did guest roles on TV shows such as Bachelor Father, My Three Sons and Leave It To Beaver.
He then landed his big breakthrough role on the soapy night time TV series Peyton Place as he played small town hot stuff Rodney Harrington alongside Mia Farrow.
Soon after Hollywood snapped him up for film roles, as he had the looks and charisma to carry the silver screen.
In 1970, he played an Olympic athlete in The Games.
He was then recommended for the lead in the romantic drama Love Story (1970), which not many had faith in as it was a slow and tear-jerking story.
But his chemistry with Ali was so strong that fans went wild for the sob story about two Harvard students in love: a spoiled rich kid who hates his father and his smart, scrappy girlfriend who comes from a working-class family.
‘I hope the young people like it,’ O’Neal said before the film came out. ‘I don’t want to go back to TV.’
O’Neal played Rodney Harrington on the 1964 series Peyton Place
Seen in the pilot for Peyton Place with Mia Farrow
One of his early films was the western Wild Rovers, directed by Blake Edwards, in 1971
He had 70s hunk status in spades; O’Neal photographed in California in October 1974
In 1989 he was in the hit film Chances Are with Cybill Shepherd; seen at the premiere
He was next in the TV movie Love Hate Love (1971), then the Western Wild Rovers (1971) with William Holden.
His next hit was the comedy What’s Up, Doc? (1972) opposite Streisand. He played the stiff, uptight man to her wacky, outspoken drifter. They had a romance in real life too.
Later O’Neal played a jewel thief in The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1972) opposite Jacqueline Bisset and Warren Oates.
Then he was reunited with Bogdanovich for Paper Moon (1973) in which he starred opposite his daughter Tatum O’Neal.
His performance in the film earned him a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and he was voted by exhibitors as the second-most-popular star of 1973 in the country.
O’Neal spent over a year making Barry Lyndon (1975) for Kubrick but the costume drama was not well received.
Next was the comedy Nickelodeon (1976) with Burt Reynolds and Tatum O’Neal. It was a bomb.
In the 1973 film Paper Moon Ryan co-starred with his daughter Tatum O’Neal
When they promoted the film together, she seemed to steal the spotlight; seen in 1973
O’Neal followed this with the big ensemble movie A Bridge Too Far (1977), playing General James Gavin. It was another dud for the box-office king.
An action film was next, The Driver (1978), but it didn’t have wheels.
His reputation as a massive film star who could sell movie tickets was starting to strain.
More flops followed, however, like Green Ice in 1981 and Circle Of Two, which he would later say he did for the money.
In 1989 he had a mild hit with Chances Are with Cybill Shepherd.
He turned to TV with Farrah as they costarred in Good Sports in 1991. Fans were hoping for chemistry and sizzle, but it was DOA.
They worked hard to mend their relationship; seen in 2011 in Palm Springs
With girlfriend Jacqueline Bisset in The Thief Who Came To Dinner
Next came a string of bad movies like Malibu’s Most Wanted (2003) and the Alicia Silverstone TV series Miss Match, also in 2003.
His next highlight was in 2016, when reunited with Love Story co-star MacGraw in a staging of A.R. Gurney’s play Love Letters.
His love life made headlines for decades as he had a penchant for pretty ladies with their own fame.
O’Neal married his first wife, actress Joanna Moore, in 1963.
They had two children before separating in 1966.
Moore lost custody of their children to O’Neal as a result of her alcoholism and drug addiction.
The cover boy also romanced the Bond girl Ursula Andress; seen in 1977
O’Neal (C) poses with his son Patrick O’Neal (L), Los Angeles Angels television play-by-play announcer, and actor director Hart Bochner prior to the start of a baseball game between Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 21, 2022 in Anaheim
His second marriage was to actress Leigh Taylor-Young, with whom he had a son and divorced in 1974.
Then came beauty Fawcett, which was the scandal of its day as fans loved her with Majors.
Eventually, he cheated and they fought, however, and they became tabloid news.
Fawcett broke up with him after she found O’Neal in bed with actress Leslie Stefanson. But they got back together 2001 and spent time together before her death in 2009.
He also dated Anjelica Huston. She would accuse him of abusing her in her tell-all book.
According to his daughter Tatum, he also had an affair with Melanie Griffith.
O’Neal has four children: Tatum O’Neal and Griffin O’Neal with Moore, Patrick O’Neal with Taylor-Young, and Redmond James Fawcett O’Neal with Fawcett.
Along with his 2009 prison sentence, Redmond has faced multiple run-ins with the law. In 2015, he was sentenced to three years in jail due to violating his probation after being in possession of a firearm.
At the time of Redmond’s 2015 arrest, Tatum told People that his substance abuse and addiction was ‘so bad that it breaks my heart’; Ryan and Tatum seen in 2010
He was released the following year in 2016. His half-sister, Tatum, has battled with addiction as well in the past.
At the time of his 2015 arrest, she told People that his substance abuse and addiction was ‘so bad that it breaks my heart.’
‘I love him, but I have never seen a more scary side of addiction. Nobody knows what to do with Redmond. From what I’ve seen, there is no way he’s going to survive.’
In 2018, he was arrested once again on charges of attempted murder as well as robbery and possession of illegal drugs – including meth and heroin.
O’Neal has four children: Tatum O’Neal and Griffin O’Neal with Moore, Patrick O’Neal with Taylor-Young, and Redmond James Fawcett O’Neal with Fawcett
Shortly after the arrest, Redmond opened up to RadarOnline in May 2018 from jail and stated that it wasn’t ‘dugs that have been a problem’ and claimed ‘it’s the psychological trauma of my entire life – my whole life experiences have affected me the most.’
He put blame on his parents, stating that ‘being kicked out and living on the streets’ only added to his issues, such as ‘going to jail, being put in a psychiatric ward, being embarrassed all the time because of who my parents are.’
‘The pressure that came with that set off a time-bomb in my head. I never asked for any of this, I never wanted any attention…’
The publication later reported earlier this year in February that Redmond has been serving time in a state psychiatric hospital for a little over three years after it was ruled that he was unfit to stand trial on attempted murder and robbery charges in 2018.
Leading biologist explains why you can so often sense when someone is looking at you even if your back is turned
Have you ever felt you were being watched? Almost everybody has. It’s a scientific phenomenon that is universal.
More than 80 per cent of women, and nearly three-quarters of men, questioned in Britain, the U. S. and Scandinavia, say they have experienced it — turning around to find someone staring at them, or looking at someone from behind who turned and looked back.
Numerous studies have proved that the sensation can be reproduced under rigorous laboratory conditions. Those who watch people for a living, such as private detectives and celebrity photographers, have no doubt it’s real. Professionals who use long-range lenses, including paparazzi and snipers, know the moment when the target senses their gaze and looks straight at them.
It’s well documented in literature. Here is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, describing it: ‘At breakfast this morning I suddenly had that vague feeling of uneasiness which overcomes some people when closely stared at, and, quickly looking up, I met his eyes bent upon me with an intensity which amounted to ferocity.’
I have even interviewed people who believe they owe their life to it. William Carter, leading a patrol of Gurkhas on an anti-terrorist operation in Malaya in 1951, said: ‘I had an uncanny feeling that someone was watching me … the sensation of something almost gripping me at the back of the neck.
More than 80 per cent of women, and nearly three-quarters of men, questioned in Britain, the U. S. and Scandinavia, say they have experienced it — turning around to find someone staring at them
‘I turned around and there, about 20 yards away, was a chap in uniform with a red star on his cap, gazing hard at me. He was bringing his rifle up and I knew one of us was going to be killed. I shot him before he shot me.’
The ability can improve with practice. Some teachers of martial arts train their students to become more sensitive to looks from behind and to discern their direction.
Many scientists, unable to explain what’s going on, dismiss such evidence as superstitious or magical thinking. It is bundled under the term ‘paranormal’ and ignored or ridiculed.
I am a biologist. And I am convinced that this phenomenon is not only worthy of serious study, but that it might help us to unlock remarkable basic secrets about the way our brains work.
I’m far from being the only researcher investigating this. Since the late 1980s, numerous experiments have been carried out in ‘direct looking’. This usually involves people working in pairs, one blindfolded and sitting with their back to the other.
The subjects have to guess quickly, in less than 10 seconds, whether they are being looked at or not. The sequence of ‘looking’ and ‘not-looking’ trials is randomised, and a session involves 20 trials, over about 10 minutes.
It’s an ideal experiment for schools and it has been popularised by reports in New Scientist magazine, on the BBC and the Discovery channel. The results have also been published in scientific journals.
A pattern has emerged, over tens of thousands of trials. People are right about 55 per cent of the time — significantly better than chance guesswork. One experiment at an Amsterdam science centre has involved about 40,000 participants.
Numerous studies have proved that the sensation can be reproduced under rigorous laboratory conditions. Pictured: Dr Rupert Sheldrake
Children are particularly good subjects: in one German school, where tests were carried out repeatedly, some eight and nine-year-olds scored a 90 per cent success rate.
The big question is: how? How do we know when we are being watched, what sense alerts us? Science cannot give an answer with certainty but, after more than 20 years of experiments and case studies, I believe I have identified one aspect of it that might help to solve the mystery.
What no one has pointed out before now is that the sense of being watched is ‘directional’. That is, when you feel someone looking at you, you also have a strong intuition of where they are — behind you, to one side, or above. That’s obvious, once it’s stated, but it has not been spelled out before. This implies that a stare is rather like a sound: once you’re aware of it, you’re also aware of where it’s coming from.
We know sound travels in waves through the air and is perceived by our brains through our ears. So what part of our body picks up the sensation of being watched?
The first and most obvious idea is that our skin is the sensor. We talk about the hairs standing up on the back of our necks, and I have interviewed artists’ models who say they can feel which parts of their body are being scrutinised, even by the students sitting behind them.
But most of us are fully clothed in public and many people have hair that completely covers the back of the neck. In any case, it seems to make no difference whether you are wearing a scarf or have your collar turned up, whether your arms are uncovered or you’re bundled up in a coat and gloves.
Whatever the means of detection, it isn’t dependent on patches of bare skin. This leads to my chief hypothesis — that it’s something to do with the weak electromagnetic field around our bodies.
Our bodies, especially our brains, generate electricity. That’s how an ECG scan or electro-encephalograph works: electrodes on the skull pick up the electric field set up by activity in the brain. My best theory, and this is still speculative, is that our own electromagnetic field registers a disturbance when people look at us. We’re not actively aware of it — the phenomenon occurs at a sub-conscious or unconscious level, but the ‘biofield’ picks it up.
And that raises another question: what is it, exactly, that the body is sensing?
The conventional theory of sight is that it’s something passive and dealt with internally. Light bounces off an object and into the pupil of the eyes, onto the retinas.
This signal is translated by the brain, which generates a picture that is actually locked inside our skulls, though we perceive it as being outside us and all around.
Neuroscientists can’t fully explain how our nerve cells cause this to happen, though the basic theory is widely accepted in science. It states that each one of us carries a constantly changing image of the world inside our heads, though this vanishes, of course, as soon as we close our eyes.
This is the theory of ‘intromission’, the inward movement of light followed by the creation of ‘representations’, like virtual reality displays inside our heads.
Not only is the process incompletely understood, but it is counter-intuitive. The way our perception works is so vivid and concrete, it really does feel as though we’re experiencing the actual world around us, instead of reconstructing the visual reality in our brains.
If you’ve never thought about this before, I suspect you’re saying to yourself: ‘What? It’s all in my head? I’m going to have to read that bit again . . .’
You’re not alone. The majority of university students struggle with the idea, too.
A team of psychologists at Ohio State university, led by Professor Gerald Winer, were so intrigued by their students’ reaction, when they explained intromission, that they carried out assessments. First, the accepted scientific theory was explained, as fully as possible. Then the students were assured that other explanations represented ‘fundamental misunderstandings’ of how vision works.
A few months later, the students were re-assessed. Many of them had slipped back into the ‘fundamental misunderstanding’. They intuitively felt that, somehow, what we see is projected all around us. It feels as though sight happens outside us as well as in the brain.
The theory that we project out images, called ‘extramission’, feels instinctively true, and when we look at things in mirrors what we see are our projections, which go straight through the mirror forming ‘virtual images’ behind it.
If this really is how vision works, then it becomes much easier to explain how we can sense when we’re being observed. We feel the visual projections of the person looking at us.
Extramission used to be the standard scientific explanation for how sight works, and goes right back to the ancient Greeks. The great geometer Euclid in about 300 BC was the first to propose how we form virtual images in mirrors through the outward projection of visual rays.
In a series of ingenious experiments, the psychologist Arvid Guterstam and his colleagues at Princeton University found that people have a deep-seated belief that wherever they direct their gaze, they create ‘a flow moving invisibly through space’. That’s extramission — though there’s no indication of how far extramission extends from the eye.
Children are taught not to stare. It’s regarded as rude, because it makes people uncomfortable. Most adults feel the truth of this and will avoid gazing at someone, for fear they will sense it. To be caught staring at a stranger is embarrassing, a social blunder in just about every culture.
That brings us back to the fundamental question: how do we know when we’re being looked at? And now the two theories, the biofield and the extramission theory of vision, begin to complement each other. We have the beginnings of an explanation.
Fittingly, the word for the sensation of being watched is based on two ancient Greek words: scopaesthesia, from ‘scop’, meaning ‘see’ (as in ‘microscope’); and ‘aesthesia’, meaning ‘feeling’ (as in ‘anaesthesia’).
And the scientific evidence for scopaesthesia is growing all the time, in animals as well as people. In 1996, I carried out an experiment with students at a park in Rome — on geese. Five experimenters hid in bushes with binoculars, from where they could observe the birds resting on the edge of a lake.
They repeatedly stared at the geese, and on ten occasions the birds woke up. Over a similar timespan, they ignored the geese — which woke up only three times.
Pet owners have told me of carrying out similar experiments, informally, to see if a dog or a cat wakes up or looks around when they stare at it. In many cases, that’s exactly what happens.
I am keen to do more work on the directional effects of staring, because they are so striking, especially when the watchers are observing from above. It’s rare for people to look up for no reason, yet many will when they sense they are being looked at. A German woman in Stuttgart told us, ‘In my area, apartment blocks are five to six storeys high.
‘When I walked along the street, I sometimes happened to look up and met the eyes of a person looking at me from one of the upper floors. This happened so often that I was surprised, since this cannot be explained by seeing something in the corners of my vision.’
And a young man, looking down from the garden rooftop of a four-storey building into a courtyard, said: ‘When I looked at a woman I recognised and liked, she immediately looked up in my direction.’
This is intriguing, because it raises two possible explanations for why this ability has evolved. One is self-defence — if something is watching us from above, it might be a predator, or we might be walking into an ambush.
The other is sexual — it is an advantage to know when a potential mate is watching, because that might signal attraction.
Wild animals are often sensitive to being looked at, as many photographers know from experience. Some have noticed that they themselves can feel when animals are watching.
A photographer who had been walking along a valley in Scotland told us: ‘Something made me look up to my left. On the skyline, there were three or four deer looking at me. It wasn’t that I was scanning the skyline and noticed them. It was a case of looking up straight at them.’
One fascinating question is whether the same effect occurs with CCTV. Can we sense when a camera is watching us — and does it make a difference if there’s a human monitoring the image?
The security manager at one major London store told me how, more than once, he has watched shoplifters through CCTV taking shoes from a shelf and slipping them into a bag. He has called a colleague over, to point out the suspects, and at that moment, the thieves appeared to sense the watchers — glanced up, stared straight into the camera, then replaced the shoes on the shelf.
This has important implications. With so many CCTV cameras watching our every move, might this partly explain why so many people report increased anxiety today?
Until we have a better understanding of how people and animals know when they are being watched, the mystery will continue.
n Dr Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author of more than 100 technical papers in scientific journals and nine books. For more information, go to sheldrake.org.
To share your own stories of being stared at, email Dr Sheldrake at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is particularly interested to hear about directional responses to being watched through CCTV or through mirrors.
UK watchdog Competition and Markets Authority and Microsoft in OpenAI row
- CMA examining relationship and whether it could be considered a merger
- It is the first authority to question the tie-up
- But other regulators around the world are expected to follow the UK’s lead
The competition watchdog is taking on Microsoft again – this time over its partnership with the maker of ChatGP.
In a shock move, the Competition Markets Authority (CMA) said yesterday it is examining the tech giant’s multi billion-pound relationship with OpenAI and whether it could be considered a merger.
The CMA is the first authority to question the tie-up but other regulators around the world are expected to follow the UK’s lead.
Unconfirmed reports last night said The US Federal Trade Commission is also looking into Microsoft’s investment in the company.
It is the second time CMA head Sarah Cardell has challenged Microsoft in recent months following a blistering public row over its £53billion takeover of Call Of Duty maker Activision Blizzard.
Head-to-head: CMA boss Sarah Cardell is challenging Microsoft – run by chief executive Satya Nadella – again
Cardell has been on a mission to crack down on the powers of big tech companies and their ability to stifle British business.
OpenAI was founded in 2015 and Microsoft – run by chief executive Satya Nadella – holds a 49 per cent stake in the business after £10.3billion in investment.
But the UK regulator is questioning whether a tie-up has taken place by stealth and if the two businesses are not distinct in terms of who controls them. The watchdog said it had started an ‘information gathering process’ ahead of an investigation that would look at the impact this would have on Britain’s Artificial Intelligence market.
OpenAI, meanwhile, continues to reel from a boardroom drama last month, which saw founder Sam Altmann ousted and reinstalled in a matter of days.
Altmann initially said he would defect to Microsoft, heading up their ‘advanced AI research’ unit but it was quickly agreed he would return to OpenAI.
The saga has raised eyebrows at the watchdog, which is examining whether Microsoft has ‘de facto’ authority over OpenAI.
A spokesman for the regulator said: ‘The CMA is now determining whether the Microsoft and OpenAI partnership has resulted in a merger situation and, if so, the potential impact on competition.’
The spokesman added that this was a pivotal moment for the much-hyped technology, whose expansion and impact ‘is unrivalled in economic history’. Microsoft president Brad Smith immediately shot back, denying that it had acquired OpenAI.
He said: ‘Since 2019, we’ve forged a partnership with OpenAI that has fostered more AI innovation and competition, while preserving independence for both companies. The only thing that has changed is that Microsoft will now have a non-voting observer on OpenAI’s Board, which is very different from an acquisition such as Google’s purchase of DeepMind in the UK.’
But Microsoft’s backing has been crucial to the company’s growth – with their bosses seen at events together. OpenAI has been at the forefront of AI technology, emerging onto the scene with ChatGPT, a chatbot that can churn out human-like content based on prompts.
‘There is no OpenAI without Microsoft leaning in, in a deep way, to partner with the company and its mission,’ Microsoft boss Nadella has previously said.
The latest advance by the CMA comes shortly after it resolved its bust up with Microsoft over video game maker Activision Blizzard. The CMA had initially blocked the deal in April over concerns about competition in the gaming market, sparking fury from Microsoft.
At the time, Smith slammed the move as ‘bad for Britain’ and declared that ‘the European Union is a more attractive place to start a business’.
Cardell, meanwhile, blasted the tech company for its ‘corporate lobbying’ tactics but the CMA eventually gave the deal the green light in October.
Microsoft, OpenAI and other interested parties will have until January 3 to provide comments to the regulator.
Revealed: The majority of travellers would rather sit next to a PET than a child on a plane
The majority of people would rather sit next to a pet on a plane than a child, according to a survey.
Travel site Upgraded Points surveyed over 1,000 pet owners and non-pet owners to discover what people really think of pet travel.
One-third (34 per cent) of non-pet owners polled are not comfortable sharing cabin space with other people’s pets, while substantially more non-pet owners – 57 per cent – would prefer to spend their journey next to a pet than a child.
And over one in four pet owners (26 per cent ) would rather travel with their pet than their own child.
While this preference indicates a welcoming environment for people travelling with pets, other results from the survey suggest it’s not without complications. The U.S study reveals that 85 per cent of pet owners have encountered challenges or restrictions while travelling with their pets at some point.
The majority of people would rather sit next to a pet on a plane than a child, according to a survey
So much so, that as many as 70 per cent of people would rather bring their pet along on an eight-hour road trip than a two-hour flight.
But this doesn’t stop travellers from wanting to bring their furry friends along, as almost two-thirds (66 per cent) of pet owners would bring their pet every time they travelled if it were possible.
The survey discovered that many pet owners are willing to go the extra mile when travelling – with 83 per cent of pet owners admitting to altering their plans to better accommodate their pet’s needs.
The U.S study reveals that 85 per cent of pet owners have encountered challenges or restrictions while travelling with their pets at some point
The poll found 75 per cent of pet owners would pay more for a pet-friendly hotel, with 64 per cent of pet owners saying they would splurge an extra $50 (£39) a night for pet-friendly accommodation.
Surprisingly, one-third (33 per cent) would give up their dream destination for a standard holiday if it meant their pets could come with them.
Alex Miller, founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, said: ‘Travelling with pets comes with a unique set of challenges and rewards.
‘Our latest study offers insight into the balance Americans strike when travelling with their pets, and what non-pet owning travellers think about it all, too.’
To see the original survey, visit upgradedpoints.com.
FDA approves world-first gene editing treatment: Sickle cell therapy gives hope to 100,000 Americans with incurable disease – but it’ll cost millions of dollars per DOSE
In a ground-breaking decision, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first gene therapies to treat people with sickle cell disease – a crippling condition that leaves sufferers in life-altering pain.
On Friday, the administration gave the green light to Casgevy and Lyfgenia for the treatment of sickle cell disease in patients 12 years and older.
Casgevy is the first FDA-approved treatment to use a type of novel gene editing technology called CRISPR. Lyfgenia uses conventional gene therapy – not gene editing – to treat the condition.
Sickle cell disease is the umbrella term for a group of inherited conditions that severely impact the shape and function of red blood cells. It affects 100,000 Americans, most of whom are Black.
These newly approved therapies could bring hope to Americans with the condition, which was only approved to be treated by a bone marrow transplant, an invasive procedure most patients do not qualify for.
Dr Reshma Kewalramani, CEO and president of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, one of the companies behind Casgevy, said: ‘CASGEVY’s approval by the FDA is momentous: it is the first CRISPR-based gene-editing therapy to be approved in the US.’
However, while the news brings hope to sickle cell patients, there are concerns in the medical community that the therapies will be hard to access because of the anticipated high cost and limited hospitals able to administer them.
Sickle cell disease patients, of which there are around 100,000 in the US, do not make hemoglobin properly — a substance in red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. As a result, their red blood cells become rigid and shaped like a crescent (pictured) instead of a disc, which can cause them to die and become stuck in blood vessels
Casgevy, made by Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (pictured) and Crispr Therapeutics in Switzerland, works by editing the faulty gene behind sickle cell disease in a patient’s bone marrow stem cells so the body produces functioning hemoglobin
More than 30 FDA-approved gene therapies are used to treat several different cancers and the blood disorder hemophilia. However, many are largely inaccessible due to their expensive prices.
Casgevy’s genome editing technology has been approved to treat sickle cell patients with recurrent vaso-occlusive crises – a complication of the condition that occurs when sickled red blood cells block blood flow so severely tissues become deprived of oxygen.
Approximately 16,000 patients experience this sickle cell ‘flare-up.’
However, because of the advanced technology of Casgevy, Vertex said it ‘requires specialized experience in stem cell transplantation’ and only a handful of hospitals have been authorized to administer the treatment.
The company has partnered with hospitals in Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas and San Antonio, Texas, Columbus, Ohio, Chicago, Nashville and Washington, DC, and it plans to engage with more facilities in the coming weeks.
Another hurdle to accessing the treatment: its expected multi-million dollar price tag.
Casgevy, co-developed with Switzerland-based Crispr Therapeutics, was recently approved in the UK to treat sickle cell, but it is expected to cost the UK government approximately £1million ($1.25million) per patient.
Nevertheless, the FDA’s approval of Casgevy means for the first time, patients could have access to a one-time therapy that offers the potential to cure their condition, Dr Kewalramani said.
The gene therapy uses the innovative gene-editing tool CRISPR, which is the process known as ‘genetic scissors’ that enables scientists to make precise changes to DNA.
Its inventors were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2020.
The therapy works by editing the faulty HBB gene, which causes sickle cell disease, so the body can produce properly functioning hemoglobin.
To do this, stem cells are taken out of a patient’s bone marrow and edited in a lab using the ‘scissors,’ which precisely disable the faulty gene.
Stem cells are then infused back into the patient, who may need to spend a month or longer in the hospital while the treated cells start to make healthy red blood cells.
Scientists believe the results have the potential to be lifelong.
An ongoing trial of the drug so far shows 97 percent of sickle cell patients were free from severe pain for at least one year after treatment.
Dr Samarth Kulkarni, chairman and CEO of CRISPR Therapeutics, called Casgevy ‘transformative.’
The CEO added: ‘This approval of the first-ever medicine using CRISPR gene editing is breathtaking.’
Unlike Casgevy, Lyfgenia, developed by Bluebird Bio, uses solely gene therapy. It has been approved to treat patients 12 years and older with sickle cell disease and a history of vaso-occlusive events.
How does Casgevy work?
Casgevy, made by Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Crispr Therapeutics in Switzerland, works by editing the faulty HBB gene behind both conditions in a patient’s bone marrow stem cells so that the body produces functioning hemoglobin.
To do this, stem cells are taken out of a patient’s bone marrow and edited in a laboratory using molecular ‘scissors’, which precisely disable the faulty gene.
Stem cells are then infused back into the patient, who may need to spend a month or longer in the hospital while the treated cells start to make healthy red blood cells.
The results have the potential to be life-long.
An ongoing trial of the drug so far shows that 97 percent of sickle cell patients were free from severe pain for at least one year after treatment.
In a separate study for β-thalassaemia, 93 percent of participants did not need a blood transfusion for at least one year. Among those who did, their need for transfusions fell by 70 percent.
Side effects included nausea, fatigue, fever and increased risk of infection.
With this one-time treatment, a patient’s blood stem cells are genetically modified to produce gene-therapy made hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells responsible for delivering oxygen throughout the body, that functions as the normal hemoglobin in healthy people.
Blood cells containing the healthy hemoglobin have a lower risk of sickling and blocking blood flow.
After modification, the stem cells are then delivered to the sickle cell patient.
Dr Julie Kanter, an investigator working on Lyfgenia, also called the therapy ‘transformative’
And Regina Hartfield, president and CEO of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America Inc., said it could change the lives of people and families affected by sickle cell disease.’
In a person without sickle cell disease, red blood cells – produced by stem cells within bone marrow – are round, concaved discs that can bend and flex easily.
However, in people with the condition, faulty stem cells produce red blood cells that are crescent-shaped. These cells are rigid, unable to squeeze through smaller blood vessels and prone to causing blockages that deprive parts of the body of oxygen, leading to immense pain and organ damage.
Until now, a bone marrow transplant was the only approved treatment for the condition. A transplant is a procedure in which healthy blood-forming stem cells are transplanted from a healthy donor to replace bone marrow in the patient that is not producing enough healthy cells.
Stem cells are the body’s ‘raw materials,’ or cells that are able to develop into many different specialized cell types. They can be used to fix damaged tissues, and researchers believe stem-cell therapies may one day be able to treat conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and paralysis.
In most cases of a bone marrow transplant, the donor is a sibling, but even a sibling only has a one-in-four chance of being a match for the patient. And, often transplants are not performed due to the risks, which include the transplanted cells attacking other cells in the recipient’s body, which can be life-threatening.
Macron visits Notre-Dame Cathedral, marks one-year countdown to reopening
French President Emmanuel Macron promised on Friday that the restoration of Paris’s Notre-Dame Cathedral, badly damaged by fire in 2019, would be completed in time for its planned reopening next December.
Issued on: Modified:
“We will meet the deadline,” Macron told reporters while he inspected the site, exactly one year ahead of the scheduled date.
Macron had initially promised to have Notre-Dame restored within five years, in time for the Paris Olympics next summer.
But after early setbacks in the rebuilding effort, he set a new deadline.
Restoration of the UNESCO-listed building, which had 12 million visitors a year, has hit several snags since people around the world watched aghast as its steeple crashed down in the blaze on April 15, 2019.
Its new spire has now started to emerge against the French capital’s skyline and is expected to be fully completed when the city hosts the Olympics.
Behind the scaffolding, hundreds of workers are racing against the clock to restore the rest of the cathedral in time for it to reopen to the public, exactly one year from now, on December 8, 2024.
Macron said he would invite Pope Francis to attend the reopening ceremony scheduled for the same date. “I hope he can come,” Macron told French television channel France 2. “In any case, we’ll invite him … But it’s not up to me to answer on his behalf,” he added.
The monument’s new spire is identical to the previous one, designed by 19th-century architect Eugene Viollet-Le-Duc.
Its oak structure is to reach its full height of 96 metres (315 feet) by the end of the year.
It will then be covered in lead ornaments before the scaffolding is taken down.
The frames of the nave and the choir of the cathedral, which were also destroyed, are then due to be completed, after which the reconstruction of the roof can begin.
The initial five-year time frame was scrapped when rebuilding was delayed for months by decontamination efforts, after more than 300 tonnes of lead from the roof melted in the fire.
Authorities then had to halt work several times over the first winter due to high winds, before France went into lockdown in early 2020 to fight the spread of coronavirus.
More than five years after the blaze, three investigating judges are still looking into what sparked it.
An initial enquiry pointed to it probably being an accident, with an electrical fault or a cigarette among the theories.
Macron said there would be a competition for the design of six contemporary stained-glass windows for the cathedral – the only “21st-century touch” to the monument, which will otherwise be rebuilt exactly as it was.
Macron also announced the creation of a museum in central Paris dedicated to Notre Dame, its history, its art “and its perpetual reconstruction”.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Brittney Griner’s release, one year later: How WNBA star was freed from Russian penal colony in prisoner exchange for arms dealer Viktor Bout after getting busted for cannabis and becoming Putin’s pawn
Flanked by anonymous suits, wrapped in a red-and-black lumberjack, and sporting newly cropped hair in place of her trademark dreadlocks, Brittney Griner marched across a nondescript airport runway in the UAE.
In the opposite direction strolled the middling middle-aged, Soviet-born arms dealer who was freed in exchange for her release from a Russian penal colony.
‘I wish you good luck,’ Viktor Bout told the 6-foot-9 WNBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist as the two crossed paths on December 8, 2022.
Griner didn’t appear to pay him much attention, and she didn’t need to. For all the fearful uncertainty she faced between her drug arrest at a Moscow airport, 10 months of imprisonment, and the controversial prisoner exchange, her path forward was crystal clear: She was returning to the United States, basketball, her loving wife Cherelle, and whatever lay in store for the man known as the ‘Merchant of Death’ was out of her control.
As it turns out, Bout has made a seamless transition from dealing arms in the war-torn Middle East and Africa into a pseudo-political career, which probably says more about Vladimir Putin’s Russia than it does about the newly freed 56-year-old. In Bout, Putin has a vocal supporter of his largely unpopular invasion of Ukraine, and the fact that this reassurance is coming from a war criminal is largely irrelevant to the Russian President.
And it’s that war that hung like a blood moon over Griner’s trial, conviction and nine-year sentence for a crime that Russia typically punishes with mere weeks in jail. Yes, it was Griner’s medically prescribed hash oil that Moscow airport security discovered in February of 2022. But it was Putin who turned her into a geopolitical pawn until he was able to finalize the prisoner exchange with the Biden Administration one year ago today.
Brittney Griner flies home with negotiator Roger Carstens (right) and others who helped secure her release from Russia
Griner (in red) is seen being exchanged for Bout (carrying the manila envelope and hugging a man) on December 8, 2022
Brittney Griner, negotiator Roger Carstens, and Brittney’s wife Cherelle are seen after the WNBA star’s return
Brittney Griner embraces her wife Cherelle following her release from prison in Russia in December of 2022
Griner gets out of a plane after landing at the JBSA-Kelly Field Annex runway in San Antonio on December 9, 2022
The daughter of a Houston sheriff’s deputy and Vietnam veteran, Griner says she was bullied growing up for everything from her immense size to her sexuality.
But, thanks in part to that size, she also had basketball; and as she developed athletically, she soon gained local and national notoriety. As a high school senior, Griner dunked a reported 52 times in 32 games, and once blocked 25 shots on a single night. YouTube stardom, a meeting with fellow Texan Shaquille O’Neal, and host of scholarship offers soon followed.
By the time Houston mayor Bill White declared May 7, 2009 to be ‘Britney Griner Day’ in the city, she was committed to national powerhouse, Baylor, and her success only continued.
Between 2009 and 2022, Griner won an NCAA title and was named the outstanding player of the Final Four, she was picked first in the WNBA Draft by the Phoenix Mercury, was named to nine All-Star teams, and captured both club and Olympic titles.
She was eventually released in a prisoner exchange on December 8, 2022, and one year on Griner is calling for attention to turn to other Americans ‘wrongly detained’ across the world
Griner was among the first above-the-rim players in women’s basketball, dating back to her days at Houston’s Nimitiz High (left) and her college days in Waco, Texas at national powerhouse, Baylor (right)
Since 2014, Griner had been supplementing income with UMMC Ekaterinburg, a Russian powerhouse at the base of the Urals
But for all of her success, Griner’s personal life was clearly difficult.
An engagement to fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson led to a domestic violence arrest for both players, and although they did eventually marry, they quickly divorced resulting in Griner being forced to pay child support for their twin daughters.
Griner eventually found Cherelle in 2018 and they’d get married by the following year.
But even as her personal life was improving, Griner was beginning to attract public criticism for her social activism.
In protest over the 2020 police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, Griner joined the chorus of athletes refusing to stand for the national anthem.
‘I honestly feel we should not play the national anthem during our season,’ she told reporters. ‘I think we should take that much of a stand.’
As an outspoken, gay African-American basketball star, Griner was an unlikely candidate to play professionally in Putin’s Russia, which was increasingly identified with racism and homophobia.
But without the eight- and nine-figure contracts of the NBA, Griner and other WNBA stars had traditionally spent their offseason enduring the chilly winters in Eastern Europe in hopes of padding their bottom line.
Griner is seen on security footage going through airport security in Moscow, where she was arrested for cannabis possession
Since 2014, Griner had been supplementing income with UMMC Ekaterinburg, a Russian powerhouse at the base of the Ural Mountains, which is where she was returning in February of 2022 when she was stopped by airport security in Moscow.
Having spent years battling knee and ankle problems, Griner had previously secured a medical marijuana prescription in Arizona to combat the chronic pain, which is why she was in possession of cartridges containing less than a gram of contraband. (She later surmised that she had forgotten to clean out her suitcase thoroughly because she was in a rush to make her flight)
Although the western world didn’t know at the time, Griner was being held in police custody and her entire future was now in jeopardy.
By month’s end, with Putin gearing up for his invasion of Ukraine, several American players had begun returning from Eastern Europe, including another former WNBA MVP, Breanna Stewart, and ex-NBA guard Shabazz Napier.
It wasn’t until the following month that Griner’s situation became known, publicly, by which point Cherelle had begun her frantic efforts to be reunited with her partner.
The problem was, publicizing her situation wasn’t so easy. The US State Department had angered Russia by declaring Griner to be ‘wrongfully detained,’ and there remained concerns that Putin could retaliate against her if he was displeased with the western media coverage.
‘I love my wife wholeheartedly, so this message comes during one of the weakest moments of my life,’ Cherelle posted on Instagram. ‘I understand that many of you have grown to love BG over the years and have concerns and want details. Please honor our privacy as we continue to work on getting my wife home safely.’
With her trial looming, Griner penned a letter to President Joe Biden in a desperate attempt to secure her release.
‘I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,’ she wrote in July of 2022, while referencing other Americans imprisoned in Russia such as accused spy Paul Whelan.
‘I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and … other American detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home.’
Brittney Griner is seen being escorted in a court building in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia on August 4, 2022
Brittney Griner sits inside a defendants’ cage after the court’s verdict during a hearing in Khimki outside Moscow
Griner’s trial played out as expected.
Pictured in a cramped holding cell that could hardly contain her lanky frame, Griner pled guilty in hopes of a reduced sentence, telling the judge that she had never intended to break Russian law.
Unmoved, the judge followed Russian prosecutors’ suggested nine-year sentence, and when Griner’s appeal was denied, Cherelle started to lose hope.
‘I’m sitting there like, ”Do we get her back? Do I ever get to see my wife again?”’ Cherelle told CBS as Griner was being sent to a penal colony. ‘Like, what happens [next]? The fact that everything is so unprecedented and everything is, like, changeable, I think is a really good word. I feel like every day I’m hearing something new, and so it’s just, it’s terrifying.’
IK-2, a female penal colony in Mordovia, is notorious: Slave-like conditions, 16-hour labor shifts, frigid days and colder nights, all while cohabitating with violent criminals from across Russia.
It was there that Griner cut off her dreadlocks, which could easily freeze in the plummeting temperatures.
While she toiled away, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, former Arkansas Governor Bill Richardson and Bring Our Families Home, an advocacy group for political prisoners, continued pushing for Griner and Whelan’s release.
Curiously, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman helped broker the deal just 48 hours after the US dropped a lawsuit blaming him for the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Russia remained uninterested in releasing Whelan, who continues to be imprisoned. (In fact, earlier this week, Putin’s representatives rejected another State Department proposal for Whelan and imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, both of whom are accused of espionage)
Former US Marine Paul Whelan (left) and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich (right) have been imprisoned in Russia on allegations of espionage since 2018 and last March, respectively. Griner has continued to push for their release
Freed arms dealer Viktor Bout is seen sending a telegram to former US President Donald Trump on April 8, 2023
But unlike Whelan, Griner wasn’t accused of spying, and perhaps because of that, Russia was more flexible on her release.
The price, however, was steep: Russia wanted Bout, who had been in US custody since his arrest in Thailand in 2008 for trying to sell weapons to Colombian separatists accused of targeting American military.
[Biden] made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home
David Whelan, brother of imprisoned former US Marine, Paul Whelan
In what former President Donald Trump slammed as a ‘one-sided’ deal, Griner would be returning home without Whelan. Other conservatives soon followed, blasting the Biden Administration for ostensibly prioritizing a basketball player over a former US Marine.
Critics of the deal failed to mention that Trump, too, had failed to secure Whelan’s release following his 2018 arrest in Russia. Nor did they seem to care when Whelan’s own family voiced their support for the swap.
‘As the family member of a Russian hostage, I can literally only imagine the joy she will have, being reunited with her loved ones, and in time for the holidays,’ David Whelan, Paul’s brother, said in a statement in December of 2022. ‘There is no greater success than for a wrongful detainee to be freed and for them to go home.’
The Whelans had been informed about the Griner-Bout swap before it occurred and remained supportive.
‘[Biden] made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen,’ David wrote.
After her conviction, Griner was moved to IK-2 in Yavas, one of several penal colonies in the region, according to Reuters
Griner is seen eating among other Russian prisoners shortly before being released in exchange for Viktor Bout
Visitors unload gear at the entrance of penal colony IK-2 in the town of Yavas in Mordovia, where Griner was imprisoned
Griner is seen filling out paper work at a Russian penal colony moments before her release in a prisoner exchange
Griner has ignored the critics.
Overjoyed to be reunited with Cherelle and the rest of her family, Griner spent the days following the exchange surrounded by loved ones. It wasn’t until more than a week after returning to Texas’ Fort Hood that Griner shared her thoughts, thanking her supporters and pleading for the release of Whelan. (Gershkovich wasn’t arrested until March of 2023)
‘It feels so good to be home!’ Griner wrote on Instagram. ‘The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn. I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help.
‘President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too,’ she continued. ‘I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you. I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole.’
Griner has kept her word, too.
When she returned to court for the Mercury in April, a tearful Griner pleaded for the release of Whelan and Gershkovich.
‘I have that mindset — no man, no woman left behind. So it hurts,’ she said. ‘It hurts, it hurts. Because no one should be in those conditions. Like hands down, no one should be in any of the conditions that I went through or they’re going through.
‘I hope that everyone continues to bring awareness and fight to bring home everyone,’ Griner added.
Ultimately Griner was awarded the WNBA community assist award for her continued advocacy of wrongfully detained Americans.
Biden announces the prisoner exchange as Antony Blinken, Kamala Harris and Cherelle Griner look on from behind
Griner now stands proudly for the anthem: ‘What I went through and everything, it just means a little bit more to me now’
Griner also paused to thank her personal hero, Cherelle.
‘Round of applause for my wife, honestly,’ Griner said. ‘She had the hardest job. Thank you so much, babe, for being there for me. You the one.’
Griner’s 2023 season was a success before she even stepped onto the court, but the Mercury finished a league-worst 9-31 despite a team-high 17.5 points a game from their All-Star center.
But aside from her team’s dismal record and her new, shorter haircut, there was another major change for Griner: She began standing proudly during the national anthem.
She’s not turning her back on social justice or her battles against racism and homophobia, but Griner no longer rejects The Star-Spangled Banner.
‘What I went through and everything, it just means a little bit more to me now, so I want to be able to stand,’ she said in May. ‘I was literally in a cage and could not stand the way I wanted to, and a lot of other different situations. Just being able to hear my national anthem, see my flag, I definitely I want to stand.’
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