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CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Forget the tribute act, this Top Gear trio deserve their own show 

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christopher stevens forget the tribute act this top gear trio deserve their own show

Top Gear

Rating: rating showbiz 4

25 Siblings & Me

Rating: rating showbiz 3

For the best rock tribute acts, one thing matters most. It isn’t enough just to play the songs of their idols note for note. What really counts is a great name.

Fake That is a good one. So is Iron Maidens, for the all-female clones of the heavy metal icons. And if you’re going to rock out to an all-girl group, don’t miss New York’s Lez Zeppelin.

Abbatoir play Swedish pop at a volume to make your ears bleed. But the outright champions of pun rock are Proxy Music . . . with a name as witty as Bryan Ferry’s convoluted lyrics.

Paddy McGuinness, Chris Harris and Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff need a better name, because they can’t keep calling their tribute act Top Gear (BBC1). People might mistake it for the real thing.

Paddy McGuinness, Chris Harris and Andrew ¿Freddie¿ Flintoff need a better name, because they can¿t keep calling their tribute act Top Gear (BBC1)

Paddy McGuinness, Chris Harris and Andrew ¿Freddie¿ Flintoff need a better name, because they can¿t keep calling their tribute act Top Gear (BBC1)

Paddy McGuinness, Chris Harris and Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff need a better name, because they can’t keep calling their tribute act Top Gear (BBC1)

Calling it Flop Gear or Flat Tyre wouldn’t be completely fair, because this show is starting to mesh again after years in the pits. The three stars actually make each other laugh — not the fake hilarity of the Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc series, but genuine giggles.

Still, they are very obviously using someone else’s format. A producer set them a series of challenges as they motored round Paddy’s home town, Bolton, in a trio of test cars.

Then Chris gave the new Ferrari a spin before handing it over to their silent, white-clad racing driver, the Stig.

They’re doing exactly what Jeremy Clarkson and co invented, 20 years ago, the TV equivalent of cover versions, and passing all this off as their own.

It’s as though the girls of Lez Zep played Stairway To Heaven and claimed it as ‘a little number we just wrote’.

The Beeb must believe in them, though, because this is Top Gear’s first ever season on BBC1.

Lonely 21-year-old Oli Benjamin was searching for the confidence to go his own way, in the dispiriting documentary 25 Siblings & Me (BBC2)

Lonely 21-year-old Oli Benjamin was searching for the confidence to go his own way, in the dispiriting documentary 25 Siblings & Me (BBC2)

Lonely 21-year-old Oli Benjamin was searching for the confidence to go his own way, in the dispiriting documentary 25 Siblings & Me (BBC2)

The boys are best when they’re being themselves, not following scripts written for other people.

It’s easy to believe that Fred’s favourite feature on his Tesla saloon really was the dashboard karaoke machine.

A crowd always gathers when Top Gear films, and stand-up comedian Paddy gathered them round for a blast of the party perennial, Sweet Caroline.

Dull reactions of the weekend: 

In its heyday, Spitting Image (BritBox) prided itself on jokes as topical as the headlines. This time round, most of the gags about Trump, Prince Andrew and Dominic Cummings could have been written months ago.

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If they have the confidence to go their own way, instead of mimicking past triumphs, the show can live again. Let’s call it Back On Track.

Lonely 21-year-old Oli Benjamin was searching for the confidence to go his own way, in the dispiriting documentary 25 Siblings & Me (BBC2).

Oli, who has Asperger’s syndrome — a type of autism that affects his social skills — was conceived with sperm from a donor. DNA testing revealed that he has more than two dozen half-brothers and half-sisters in America, so he set off to meet them with high hopes of forging close bonds.

Seeing those hopes slashed to shreds was quite pitiful.

The Americans couldn’t fathom Oli’s sense of humour, his earnestness or his eccentricity. One told him that his autism meant he should never think of having children, with no apparent disagreement from the other 24. Oli was better off not knowing them.

He’s a bright, likeable, bravely defiant young man, and it’s no wonder his mother Jody is so fiercely proud of him.

Exactly why the siblings were so hostile to the British boy was hard to gauge. The film made no attempt to get to know them.

It also failed to find out basic facts about Oli. Is he a student? What does he want to do with his life? Why does he wear lipstick and eyeliner — didn’t he want to talk about that?

At 90 minutes, this documentary was far too lengthy to get away with dodging so many questions. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Man, 19, found in upturned car had been stabbed to death

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man 19 found in upturned car had been stabbed to death

Two men have denied murdering a 19-year-old who was found with stab wounds to his chest in an overturned car.

Benjamin Eyles, 19, and Nathan Braim, 20, are accused of killing Joshua Harling in a quiet street in the picturesque market town of Thame, Oxfordshire, on July 22.

Mr Harling, described by his family as a ‘charismatic, selfless and a lovable lad,’ was discovered with stab wounds in an overturned vehicle by paramedics who believed they were arriving to treat a crash victim.

Police were later called to the scene to inspect the suspicious injuries and a postmortem found that Mr Harling had been stabbed to death.  

Joshua Harling, from Headington, was described by his family as a 'charismatic, selfless and a lovable lad'

Joshua Harling, from Headington, was described by his family as a 'charismatic, selfless and a lovable lad'

Joshua Harling, from Headington, was described by his family as a ‘charismatic, selfless and a lovable lad’

Mr Harling, who lived in Headington, had been working as an accountant at the time of his death. 

Eyles and Braim were arrested by Major Crime detectives from Thames Valley Police and charged with murder and conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm.

Neither defendant entered a plea to conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm, as lawyers representing them were applying to dismiss the charge at a hearing on November 5.

Braim, of Broadwaters Avenue, Thame, was remanded in custody, while Eyles, from Monks Hollow, Marlow Bottom, Buckinghamshire, was released on bail, which had been granted to him at an earlier hearing.

Judge Ian Pringle QC, sitting at Oxford Crown Court for the plea hearing, told both defendants the murder trial, expected to last three weeks, would go ahead on January 4. 

A 16-year-old boy, also arrested in connection with the incident, had previously been bailed as police detectives appealed to witnesses to hand over mobile phone footage of the incident and not to circulate it online.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Conman pretended to be bank manager to steal £4,000 from girlfriend

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conman pretended to be bank manager to steal 4000 from girlfriend

A serial criminal once dubbed ‘one of the most dangerous sexual predators in Britain’ conned his girlfriend out of £4,000 before dumping her in the pub. 

Infamous conman and sex fiend John Cronin, 49, took the money by pretending to be a bank manager, flashing his victim a fake business card and claiming he worked for Allied Irish Bank.

He even offered to buy her a house before pocketing the cash she withdrew to buy a car.

The victim was oblivious to the fact Cronin, of Solihull, was a notorious crook who has wreaked havoc throughout the Midlands for decades.

In 1992 he was jailed for life for sexually assaulting a Conservative Party activist in Scotland whilst posing as a priest. He served four years after an appeal.

John Cronin, 49, took the money by pretending to be a bank manager, flashing his victim a fake business card and claiming he worked for Allied Irish Bank

John Cronin, 49, took the money by pretending to be a bank manager, flashing his victim a fake business card and claiming he worked for Allied Irish Bank

John Cronin, 49, took the money by pretending to be a bank manager, flashing his victim a fake business card and claiming he worked for Allied Irish Bank

Since then Cronin has also been convicted of multiple counts of fraud and theft.

Birmingham Crown Court heard he was ‘terrified’ at the prospect of returning to prison, but after admitting his latest charge of theft he was jailed for 28 months.

Cronin met his latest victim in June 2019.

Prosecutor Sally Cairns said: ‘The defendant was in a short relationship with the victim. They met in a pub in Coventry. He gave her a business card.

‘She wasn’t overly interested but over the next few days they exchanged text messages and by the end of July they met again.

‘They then started a relationship. The defendant told her he was a bank manager at Allied Irish.

‘In August they went to look at houses and he told her he would buy a house for her and she could use her savings to invest in other things.

‘She decided to buy a car. The defendant told her his friend in Birmingham had two cars for sale.

‘He told her to withdraw the money in cash to buy the car and went with her to the bank where she withdrew £4,000.

‘On August 26 they went to Birmingham together to look at a car.

‘The defendant told her he would look after the cash then he put her £4,000 in his pocket.

‘They travelled to Birmingham and went to a pub in the city centre.

‘Whilst there the defendant told her to stay while he went to get something from his office.

‘Ten minutes later she received a call from him saying he was on his way back, but he never returned to her.’

Pictured: John Cronin in 1999

Pictured: John Cronin in 1999

Pictured: John Cronin in 1999

Ms Cairns told the court the victim became increasingly worried that ‘harm had come to the defendant’ and flagged down a police officer.

Enquiries ultimately led to Cronin being arrested in November last year.

Warren Ridley, defending, conceded his client had a ‘horrendous record’ but in more recent times had trod the ‘path of rehabilitation’ with support from the probation service.

He explained at the time of this latest offence Cronin was having difficulties with his current partner and dealing with his mother’s deteriorating health.

The barrister also argued that when he returned to Birmingham former criminal associates sought him out and ‘put pressure on him’ for money.

Calling for a suspended sentence Mr Ridley said Cronin was effectively a carer for his current partner, was studying a college course and ‘for the first time has a prospect of some paid work’.

He added: ‘He is absolutely terrified of the prospect of going back to custody. He feels he has let himself down and his family. He does feel remorse for the victim.’

But Judge Peter Carr, passing sentence on Friday, October 23, stated ‘only immediate custody is the appropriate sentence’.

He said: ‘You are what a man in the street would describe as a conman, you have been a conman for many years.

‘You began a relationship with her and persuaded her to part with £4,000 she believed was for a car she was hoping to buy.

‘Of course there wasn’t a car, there never was and you disappeared with her money.

‘I have read a victim impact statement which quite clearly outlines the distress this has caused her.

‘She had sold her home and had funds available to buy a car, now she feels she is no longer independent when dealing with finances.’

Cronin was also ordered to pay £2,000 in compensation to the victim.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Poland tightens abortion laws: Protestors and riot police clash

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poland tightens abortion laws protestors and riot police clash

Thousands of Poles took to the streets on Friday night on a second day of demonstrations against a near-total ban on abortion.

Catholic Poland’s constitutional court ruled on Thursday that existing legislation which allows for the abortion of malformed foetuses was ‘incompatible’ with the protection of life.

Furious protesters rallied in several cities in a country which already has some of Europe’s tightest restriction on abortions.

Police vans and units in riot gear were dispatched to guard the Warsaw house of the leader of Poland’s right-wing ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. An angry crowd of mostly young people confronted the cordon with chants of ‘This is war’ and vulgar calls for the ruling team to step down. 

A demonstrator walks in front of police officers blocking a street near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday night

A demonstrator walks in front of police officers blocking a street near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday night

A demonstrator walks in front of police officers blocking a street near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday night

People protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday night

People protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday night

People protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday night

A protester wearing a rainbow mask faces off with riot police in Warsaw on Friday night after the constitutional court's decision the day before

A protester wearing a rainbow mask faces off with riot police in Warsaw on Friday night after the constitutional court's decision the day before

A protester wearing a rainbow mask faces off with riot police in Warsaw on Friday night after the constitutional court’s decision the day before

Demonstrators scuffle with police officers during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, in Wroclaw, Poland October 23, 2020

Demonstrators scuffle with police officers during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, in Wroclaw, Poland October 23, 2020

Demonstrators scuffle with police officers during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, in Wroclaw, Poland October 23, 2020

Polish riot police officers cordon off the participants of 'The Silent Women's March' during their protest against the tightening of the abortion law in front of the Catholic Church curia headquarters in Poznan, west-central Poland

Polish riot police officers cordon off the participants of 'The Silent Women's March' during their protest against the tightening of the abortion law in front of the Catholic Church curia headquarters in Poznan, west-central Poland

Polish riot police officers cordon off the participants of ‘The Silent Women’s March’ during their protest against the tightening of the abortion law in front of the Catholic Church curia headquarters in Poznan, west-central Poland

Polish riot police officers cordon off the participants of 'The Silent Women's March' during their protest against the tightening of the abortion law in front of the Catholic Church curia headquarters in Poznan

Polish riot police officers cordon off the participants of 'The Silent Women's March' during their protest against the tightening of the abortion law in front of the Catholic Church curia headquarters in Poznan

Polish riot police officers cordon off the participants of ‘The Silent Women’s March’ during their protest against the tightening of the abortion law in front of the Catholic Church curia headquarters in Poznan

Riot police guard the entrance to a Catholic church in the city of Poznan on Thursday night

Riot police guard the entrance to a Catholic church in the city of Poznan on Thursday night

Riot police guard the entrance to a Catholic church in the city of Poznan on Thursday night

A woman holds a placard during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, in Gdansk, Poland

A woman holds a placard during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, in Gdansk, Poland

A woman holds a placard during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, in Gdansk, Poland

Poland’s abortion laws

Abortion is banned except:

When a woman’s life or health is endangered by the continuation of the pregnancy.

When the pregnancy is the result of a crime, such as rape or incest.

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They also had posters reading ‘You Have Blood on Your Hands’ and ‘You are Building Women’s Hell.’

Officers used bullhorns to warn people the gathering was illegal. It was not clear if Kaczynski was home.

Protesters also marched through other big cities, including Krakow, Wroclaw, Szczecin and Katowice.

The constitutional court’s decision drew condemnation from rights groups from across the world.

‘Yesterday’s decision represents a total ban on abortion in Poland as 98 percent of legal terminations in Poland are related to foetal malformations,’ Krystyna Kacpura, head of the Federation for Women and Family Planning, said.

‘It’s a disgrace from the Polish state towards half of the population, women. We’ll never forget it.’

Kacpura said the situation for women with modest means was particularly concerning.

‘They will just be left with various dangerous methods like abortions performed by non-qualified people with methods I don’t even want to discuss,’ she said.

‘We’ve simply been imposed Ceausescu’s era,’ she added, referring to Romania’s late dictator who severely restricted abortions to try and boost fertility rates. 

Thousands of people take part in a protest against the tightening of the abortion law in Krakow, southern Poland, on Friday night

Thousands of people take part in a protest against the tightening of the abortion law in Krakow, southern Poland, on Friday night

Thousands of people take part in a protest against the tightening of the abortion law in Krakow, southern Poland, on Friday night

Demonstrators rally outside a church in Katowice, Poland, on Friday night

Demonstrators rally outside a church in Katowice, Poland, on Friday night

Demonstrators rally outside a church in Katowice, Poland, on Friday night

A demonstrator wearing a mask takes part in protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw

A demonstrator wearing a mask takes part in protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw

A demonstrator wearing a mask takes part in protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw

Protestors attend a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw

Protestors attend a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw

Protestors attend a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw

Police block a street near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, in Warsaw, Polan

Police block a street near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, in Warsaw, Polan

Police block a street near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski during a protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, in Warsaw, Polan

Protestors attend a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw, Poland

Protestors attend a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw, Poland

Protestors attend a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw, Poland

Protestors attend a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw

Protestors attend a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw

Protestors attend a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw

People take part in a protest against the tightening of the abortion law in Krakow, southern Poland, 23 October 2020

People take part in a protest against the tightening of the abortion law in Krakow, southern Poland, 23 October 2020

People take part in a protest against the tightening of the abortion law in Krakow, southern Poland, 23 October 2020

The court verdict drew immediate condemnation from the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organisation, whose Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic called it ‘a sad day for #WomensRights’.

Donald Tusk, a Pole who currently leads the European People’s Party after presiding the European Council, called the timing of the abortion issue ‘political wickedness’.

‘Throwing the topic of abortion and a ruling by a pseudo-court into the middle of a raging pandemic is more than cynical,’ he tweeted.

The verdict is in line with what the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party wanted.

A protestor shows her hand written 'Get the fuck out of here' during a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw, Poland

A protestor shows her hand written 'Get the fuck out of here' during a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw, Poland

A protestor shows her hand written ‘Get the fuck out of here’ during a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw, Poland

A protestor shows a V sign with her finger during a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw, Poland

A protestor shows a V sign with her finger during a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw, Poland

A protestor shows a V sign with her finger during a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw, Poland

Protestors hold a banner reading 'Women's Strike' as they attend a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw

Protestors hold a banner reading 'Women's Strike' as they attend a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw

Protestors hold a banner reading ‘Women’s Strike’ as they attend a demonstration against a decision by the Constitutional Court on abortion law restriction, in Warsaw

People protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw, Poland

People protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw, Poland

People protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law, near the house of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw, Poland

From now on, abortions will only be allowed in instances of rape or incest, or if there is a threat to the mother’s life.

The Polish presidency and Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the head of the Polish Episcopal Conference, welcomed the verdict.

The constitutional court has been reformed by the PiS government, and has since been accused of counting many judges loyal to the party in its ranks.

The country of 38 million people sees fewer than 2,000 legal abortions a year, but women’s groups estimate that up to 200,000 procedures are performed illegally or abroad.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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