An annual rich list says Paul McCartney is Britain’s first billionaire musician

Paul McCartney is a billionaire Beatle. The former member of the Fab Four is the first British musician to be worth $1.27 billion, according to figures released on May 17, 2024. (AP/File)
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Updated 17 May 2024
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An annual rich list says Paul McCartney is Britain’s first billionaire musician

  • The annual Sunday Times Rich List calculated that the wealth of the 81-year-old musician and his wife, Nancy Shevell, had grown by 50 million pounds since last year
  • McCartney ranked 165th overall on the newspaper’s respected and widely perused list of the UK’s 350 richest people

LONDON: According to figures released Friday, the former member of the Fab Four is the first British musician to be worth 1 billion pounds ($1.27 billion).
The annual Sunday Times Rich List calculated that the wealth of the 81-year-old musician and his wife, Nancy Shevell, had grown by 50 million pounds since last year thanks to McCartney’s 2023 Got Back tour, the rising value of his back catalogue and Beyonce’s cover of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” on her “Cowboy Carter” album.
A “final” Beatles song, “Now and Then,” was also released in November and topped music charts in the US, the UK and other countries. Surviving Beatles McCartney and Ringo Starr completed a demo track recorded in 1977 by the late John Lennon, adding in guitar by George Harrison, who died in 2001.
The newspaper estimated 50 million pounds of the couple’s wealth is due to Shevell, daughter of the late US trucking tycoon Mike Shevell.
McCartney ranked 165th overall on the newspaper’s respected and widely perused list of the UK’s 350 richest people. Top spot went to Gopi Hinduja and his family, who own the banking, media and entertainment conglomerate Hinduja Group and are worth an estimated 37 billion pounds.
Other entertainment figures on the list include “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, whose fortune is estimated at 945 million pounds, and singer Elton John, estimated to be worth 470 million pounds.
King Charles III ranked 258th with an estimated wealth of 610 million pounds. The king’s fortune includes the large inherited private estates of Sandringham in England and Balmoral in Scotland. The total does not include items that are held in trust by the monarch for the nation, such as the Crown Jewels.


A US veteran died at a nursing home, abandoned. Hundreds of strangers came to say goodbye

US Marine Gerry Brooks is laid to rest Thursday, June 20, 2024 at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta, Maine. (AP)
Updated 21 June 2024
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A US veteran died at a nursing home, abandoned. Hundreds of strangers came to say goodbye

  • Hundreds of people who knew nothing about the 86-year-old beyond his name showed up on a sweltering afternoon and gave Brooks a final salute with full military honors Thursday at the Maine Veterans' Memorial Cemetery in Augusta

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Former U.S. Marine Gerry Brooks died alone at a nursing home in Maine, abandoned and all but forgotten. Then the funeral home posted a notice asking if anyone would serve as a pallbearer or simply attend his burial.
Within minutes, it was turning away volunteers to carry his casket.
A bagpiper came forward to play at the service. A pilot offered to perform a flyover. Military groups across the state pledged a proper sendoff.
Hundreds of people who knew nothing about the 86-year-old beyond his name showed up on a sweltering afternoon and gave Brooks a final salute with full military honors Thursday at the Maine Veterans' Memorial Cemetery in Augusta.
Patriot Guard Riders on motorcycles escorted his hearse on the 40-mile route from the funeral home in Belfast, Maine, to the cemetery. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars paid tribute with a 21-gun salute. Volunteers held American flags next to the casket while a crane hoisted a huge flag above the cemetery entrance.
Some saluted while filing by. Others sang The Marines’ Hymn.
“It’s an honor for us to be able to do this,” said Jim Roberts, commander of the VFW post in Belfast. “There’s so much negativity in the world. This is something people can feel good about and rally around. It’s just absolutely wonderful.” He said Brooks’ son, granddaughter and son-in-law came to the funeral but did not speak during the service.
Roberts said the VFW is called a couple times a year about a deceased veteran with no family or with one that isn’t willing to handle the funeral arrangements. But “we will always be there." Like other veterans helping out Thursday, he hadn't known Brooks.
So many groups volunteered to take part in paying tribute that there wasn’t enough space to fit them into the 20-minute burial service, said Katie Riposta, the funeral director who put out the call for help last week.
“It renews your faith in humanity,” she said.
More than 8 million of the U.S. veterans living are 65 or older, almost half the veteran population. They are overwhelmingly men. That's according to a U.S. Census Bureau report last year. As this generation dies, it said, their collective memory of wartime experiences "will pass into history."
Much about Brooks' life is unknown.
He was widowed and lived in Augusta. He died on May 18, less than a week after entering a nursing home, Riposta said. A cause of death was not released.
The funeral home and authorities reached his next of kin, but no one was willing to come forward or take responsibility for his body, she said.
“It sounds like he was a good person, but I know nothing about his life,” Riposta said, noting that after Brooks' death, a woman contacted the funeral home to say he had once taken her in when she had no other place to go, with no details.
“It doesn’t matter if he served one day or made the military his career," she said. "He still deserves to be respected and not alone.”
The crowd on Thursday wasn't all strangers — and it turned out Brooks hadn't been one, either.
Victoria Abbott, executive director of the Bread of Life shelter in Augusta, said he had come every day to eat at their soup kitchen, always ready to crack “dad jokes” and make the staff smile. He had a favorite table.
“Your quintessential 80-year-old, dad jokes every day,” Abbott said. “He was really great to have around. He was part of the soup kitchen family.”
But most people there Thursday met him too late. The memorial book posted online by Direct Cremation of Maine, which helped to arrange the burial, had a few strangers' good wishes.
“Sir,” one began, and ended with “Semper Fi.”
The two others, a couple, thanked Brooks for his service. “We all deserve the love kindness and respect when we are called home. I hope that you lived a full beautiful life of Love, Kindness, Dreams and Hope,” they wrote.
They added: “Thank you to all those who will make this gentleman’s service a proper, well deserved good bye.”
Linda Laweryson, who served in the Marines, said this was the second funeral in little over a year that she has attended for a veteran who died alone. Everyone deserves to die with dignity and be buried with dignity, she said.
Laweryson read a poem during the graveside service written by a combat Marine who reflects on the spot where Marines graduate from boot camp.
“I walked the old parade ground, but I was not alone," the poem reads. "I walked the old parade ground and knew that I was home.”
 

 


After Drake battle, Kendrick Lamar turns victory lap concert into LA unity celebration

Updated 20 June 2024
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After Drake battle, Kendrick Lamar turns victory lap concert into LA unity celebration

  • The audience of 17,000 people at the Forum in Inglewood, California included The Weeknd, LeBron James, Ayo Edebiri and Rick Ross
  • The 37-year-old rapper curated a three-hour livestreamed concert featuring a mix of up-and-coming LA rappers and stars

INGLEWOOD: Not content with merely taking a victory lap after winning his battle against fellow rap superstar Drake, Kendrick Lamar turned his Juneteenth “Pop Out” concert at the Forum into a cathartic livestreamed celebration of Los Angeles unity.
Lamar curated a three-hour concert featuring a mix of up-and-coming LA rappers and stars including Tyler, The Creator, Steve Lacy and YG. When it was his turn to take the stage, the 37-year-old rapper powered through a set with Black Hippy collaborators Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock, performed his Drake diss songs “Euphoria” and “6:16 in LA,” then was joined on-stage by Dr. Dre.
The two West Coast titans performed “Still D.R.E.” and “California Love” before Dre quieted the roaring crowd by calling for a moment of silence. It was a misdirect. He then delivered the “Sixth Sense” quote that opens Lamar’s chart-topping “Not Like Us”: “I see dead people.”
A crowd of 17,000 that included The Weeknd, LeBron James, Ayo Edebiri and Rick Ross rapped along to every word of the biting-but-jubilant DJ Mustard production, which Lamar restarted twice after the first verse and performed four times in full.
Shuffling, frolicking, dancing and spinning around him as Lamar strode the stage in a red hoodie: NBA stars Russell Westbrook and DeMar DeRozan, Mustard, rapper Roddy Ricch and even a teenage dance troupe led by the krumping innovator Tommy the Clown.
Lamar reveled in the moment: “Y’all ain’t gon’ let nobody disrespect the West Coast. Y’all ain’t gon’ let nobody imitate our legends, huh,” he said, referring to Drake’s use of an AI tool to mimic 2Pac’s voice on one of his diss records.
But Lamar had more on his mind, calling out to specific men and women to join him on-stage for a group photo.
“Let the world see this,” he said. “For all of us to be on this stage together, unity, from East side ... LA, Crips, Bloods, Piru — this ... is special, man. We put this ... together just for ya’ll.
“This ... ain’t got nothing to do with no song at this point, ain’t got nothing to do with no back and forth records, it’s got everything to do with this moment right here. That’s what this ... was about, to bring all of us together.”
After the final song, Lamar exited, saying “I promise you this won’t be the last of us.” The stabbing horns of the “Not Like Us” instrumental kicked in once again and the crowd rapped the lyrics without Lamar as they filed through hallways out to the parking lot.


Two beluga whales evacuated to Spain from war-torn Ukraine

Updated 19 June 2024
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Two beluga whales evacuated to Spain from war-torn Ukraine

  • The whales, a 15-year-old male named Plombir and a 14-year-old female named Miranda, arrived “in delicate health” at the Oceanagrafic aquarium
  • They were first transported overland from the NEMO Dolphinarium in Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine to the country’s southern port of Odesa

MADRID: Two beluga whales have been evacuated from an aquarium in war-torn Ukraine to Spain by road and plane in a “high-risk” operation, officials at their new home said Wednesday.
The whales, a 15-year-old male named Plombir and a 14-year-old female named Miranda, arrived “in delicate health” at the Oceanagrafic aquarium in Spain’s Mediterranean port of Valencia on Tuesday evening officials there said.
They had completed “a gruelling journey across the war zone,” the aquarium said in a statement.
They were first transported overland from the NEMO Dolphinarium in Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine to the country’s southern port of Odesa, a 12-hour drive.
After health checks, they were taken across the border to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, from where they were flown in a six-seat chartered plane to Valencia.
“The high-risk, complex rescue operation presented numerous challenges and required multi-national collaboration,” the statement said.
Experts with the Georgia Aquarium and SeaWorld in the United States took part in the rescue.
A team of medical and nutritional experts are looking after the belugas in Valencia, and two Ukrainian caregivers will stay with them for several weeks to help with their transition.
“This courageous rescue constitutes a historic milestone worldwide in terms of animal protection,” said the head of the regional government of Valencia, Carlos Mazon.
Russian artillery fire against Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, had intensified in recent weeks, with bombs falling just a few hundred meters from the aquarium where the whales lived.
The director of zoological operations at Valencia’s Oceanografic aquarium, Daniel Garcia-Parraga, said if the whales had stayed on in Kharkiv “their chances of survival would have been very slim.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the NEMO Dolphinarium in Kharkiv has evacuated several seals, sea lions and dolphins, but evacuating the belugas required months of preparations due to their size.


Mouse shakers, power naps: Corporate America fights ‘keyboard fraud’

Updated 19 June 2024
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Mouse shakers, power naps: Corporate America fights ‘keyboard fraud’

  • In one viral Reddit post titled “My manager caught me with a mouse jiggler,” an employee noted that the transgression was the “last straw” after he excused himself from several meetings citing “power outages” and “thunderstorms”

WASHINGTON: A US banking giant fired more than a dozen employees for “simulating keyboard activity,” highlighting a battle within productivity-obsessed corporate America to tame a culture of faking work with gizmos such as mouse jigglers.
The sackings by Wells Fargo come as employers use sophisticated tools — popularly called “tattleware” or “bossware” — on company-issued devices to monitor productivity in the age of hybrid work that took off after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some workers seek to outsmart them with tools such as mouse movers — which simulate cursor movement, preventing their devices from going into sleep mode and making them appear active when they may actually be getting a power nap or doing laundry.
The cat-and-mouse game — no pun intended — has spurred a wider debate in corporate America about whether screentime and the click-clacking of keyboards are effective yardsticks to measure productivity amid a boom in remote work.
The Well Fargo workers were dismissed last month following a probe of allegations involving “simulation of keyboard activity creating impression of active work,” Bloomberg reported, citing the company’s disclosures to financial regulators.
Wells Fargo “holds employees to the highest standards and does not tolerate unethical behavior,” the company said in a statement, without elaborating.

Multiple US surveys show that demand for employee monitoring software — systems that track activity via desktop monitoring, keystroke tracking and even GPS location — has shot up since the pandemic.
One Florida-based social media marketing company, according to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), installed software on employees’ devices that took screenshots of their desktop every 10 minutes.
Such surveillance has given rise to what human resource professionals call “productivity theater” — in which some employees seek to project that they are busy while doing nothing constructive.
A series of “tutorials” on platforms including TikTok and YouTube even teach how to appear busy on computer screens, which generally go black after a few minutes of inactivity.
Those include fake PowerPoint techniques for “when you need to take your afternoon nap.”
“Just hit ‘slideshow’ and you’re good,” Sho Dewan, an influencer who identifies himself as an “ex-recruiter sharing HR secrets,” said in a TikTok video that garnered millions of views.
The device will stay “active” while the presentation is on, he said flashing a thumbs up before a slide that read: “Really important work meeting.”
Among the hundreds of comments under the video, one viewer quipped: “At one point I taped a mouse to an oscillating fan — why couldn’t I have found (this) sooner?“

Another trick noted in the tutorials involves opening a notes application and placing a lock on any keyboard letter. The worker thereby appears active to tracking devices while the page fills up with row after row of the same letter.
But the most popular trick appears to be the deployment of mouse jigglers, widely available on Amazon for as little as $11.
“Push the button when you’re getting up from your desk and the cursor travels randomly around the screen — for hours, if needed!” reads one product review on Amazon.
But there remains a serious risk of getting caught.
In one viral Reddit post titled “My manager caught me with a mouse jiggler,” an employee noted that the transgression was the “last straw” after he excused himself from several meetings citing “power outages” and “thunderstorms.”
He noted that he had installed a software-based jiggler, prompting some readers to suggest using “non detectable” physical ones.
HR professionals warn of the dangers of surveilling employees and confusing keyboard activity with productivity.
One survey cited by HBR suggested that secretly monitoring employees can “seriously backfire.”
“We found that monitored employees were substantially more likely to take unapproved breaks, disregard instructions, damage workplace property, steal office equipment, and purposefully work at a slow pace,” the HBR report said.
A.J. Mizes, chief executive of the consulting firm Human Reach, said the use of mouse jigglers demonstrated a “work culture driven by metrics rather than meaningful productivity and human connection.”
“There has been a growing troubling trend of excessive surveillance in corporate America,” Mizes told AFP.
“Rather than stirring up innovation and trust, this surveillance approach will only push employees to find additional ways to appear busy.”
 

 


Noam Chomsky discharged from Sao Paolo hospital

Updated 19 June 2024
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Noam Chomsky discharged from Sao Paolo hospital

SAO PAULO: American intellectual, linguist and dissident Noam Chomsky was discharged from a hospital in Sao Paolo Tuesday, the facility said, and would continue an undisclosed treatment at home.
The report came as the 95-year-old’s wife, Valeria Wasserman, dismissed media reports that Chomsky had died, saying in an email to AFP: “It’s false. He is well.”
The newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reported that Chomsky was recently taken to a hospital in the city after a stroke a year ago left him with difficulty to speak and move the right side of his body.
The couple have a home in Sao Paulo.
Chomsky first became known in the 1950s with the revolutionary theory that the ability to form structured language was innate.
He became an outspoken activist on an array of issues from US intervention in Vietnam to labor rights and the environment.