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Catalonia to pardon up to 1,000 people accused of witchcraft

The Catalan parliament has passed a resolution to pardon up to 1,000 people – the majority of them women – condemned for the crime of witchcraft 400 years ago.

The move follows similar gestures in Scotland, Switzerland and Norway after more than 100 European historians signed a manifesto titled: They weren’t witches, they were women.

The resolution, which follows a campaign in the local history journal Sapiens, was supported by the left-wing and nationalist parties in the parliament.

Commenting on a TV3 documentary entitled Witches, the Big Lie, Catalan president Pere Aragonès described the witch-hunts as “institutionalised femicide”.

It is estimated that between 1580 and 1630 about 50,000 people were condemned to death for witchcraft across Europe, of whom about 80 per cent were women.

While witch-hunts raged across northern Europe, in Spain the Inquisition had its hands full rooting out heresy among Jews and Muslims who had been forcibly converted to Christianity. The Inquisition was sceptical about allegations of witchcraft.

Catalonia was the exception, however, and witch-hunts persisted well into the 18th century there. What is thought to be the first European law against witchcraft was passed in Lleida in 1424.

According to Pau Castell, a professor of modern history at the University of Barcelona, witch-hunts were more common in Catalonia because rural areas came under the absolute power of feudal lords, and confession alone was sufficient proof of guilt.

He added that, paradoxically, in cases where the Inquisition was called in, the accused were often set free for lack of evidence.

Witches were frequently blamed for the sudden death of children or for natural catastrophes and poor harvests, Mr Castell said.

According to the historian Nuria Morello, suspects were often practitioners of traditional medicine or women of independent means, who were regarded with suspicion.

Unlike the rest of Europe, witches in Catalonia were hanged, not burned at the stake. Mr Castell said this may have been because it was cheaper and didn’t waste valuable firewood.


Some Catalan villages hired their own witch-finders. One such was Joan Cazabrujas (John the witch-hunter) in the village of Sallent, whose accusations led to the hanging of 33 women. When the Inquisition later discovered that most of the women were innocent, it had Cazabrujas burned at the stake.

Ivet Eroles, the author of a book on witchcraft in Catalonia, cites the feminist slogan “we are the granddaughters of the witches they couldn’t burn” but says that “more to the point, we are the descendants of those who murdered them; we are the oppressors’ heirs”.

Spain’s most notorious trial for witchcraft centred on the village of Zugarramurdi in Navarra, where it was claimed that men and women, including priests, practised witchcraft in a large cave.

Before the trial began in nearby Logrono in 1609, altogether 7,000 people were investigated – an astonishing number given that, even today, Zugarramurdi has a population of 225.

Two thousand suspects confessed, nearly three-quarters of them children, but nearly all later retracted. In the end, 11 were condemned, of whom five had already died in prison. The remaining six – four women and two men – were burned at the stake.

Children, one as young as five, were also prominent among the 200 accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, between 1692 and 1693. The witch-hunt was partly sparked by an influx of refugees resulting from Britain’s war with the French over Canadian territory, which fuelled local faction fighting.

Fourteen women and five men were hanged, while another man was pressed to death with heavy weights. The colony later accepted the victims’ innocence and paid compensation to the families.

Four children’s playgrounds in the Catalan village of Palau-solità i Plegamans have been named in honour of condemned witches and there are plans to name Catalan streets and squares as a form of memorial. – Guardian

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Footage shows aftermath of devastating house fire that ripped through family’s £1.3million country mansion – as police launch probe into blaze

Dramatic drone footage shows the aftermath of a fire that ripped through a £1.3million country mansion leaving the owners devastated after their home of 35 years went up in flames. 

Fire ripped through the roof of a large house in Curdridge, near Southampton, Hampshire. 

The owners managed to escape unscathed as more than 60 firefighters battled the blaze, managing to get it under control. 

However, photos now show the extent of the destruction with an investigation underway to try to uncover the cause of the fire.

Hampshire Fire Service told MailOnline this morning the blaze is not thought be suspicious, but ‘at this stage it remains undetermined’. 

The house sits on rural Curdridge Lane, where recent house sales have ranged between £600,000 and £1.3m. 

The home – Curdridge Court – is understood to be owned by an elderly couple in their 80s. It burned down just days before the husband’s 82nd birthday.

The aftermath of the house fire in Curdridge - the roof is completely destroyed

The aftermath of the house fire in Curdridge – the roof is completely destroyed 

Fire ripped through the roof of the large house in Curdridge, near Southampton

Fire ripped through the roof of the large house in Curdridge, near Southampton

More than 60 firefighters worked into the night to stop the fire on February 11

More than 60 firefighters worked into the night to stop the fire on February 11

The owners managed to escape unscathed as more than 60 firefighters battled the blaze

The owners managed to escape unscathed as more than 60 firefighters battled the blaze

An investigation is now under way to try to uncover the cause of the fire

An investigation is now under way to try to uncover the cause of the fire

More than 60 firefighters worked into the night to stop the fire on February 11. 

Fortunately there were no casualties, with all occupants having safely evacuated.

After the fire, neighbour Phil Sommereux, a retired dentist, 64, who lives opposite, said: ‘We were watching a film when my wife stood up and said she could see flames and we realised it was a house on fire. 

Dramatic images show the fire on the night it tore through the mansion

Dramatic images show the fire on the night it tore through the mansion

‘I went over there to see if I could help. We didn’t know if anyone was trapped. I called the fire brigade on my way over. Luckily everybody was out and the fire brigade was there.

‘It was pretty dramatic. It’s certainly very upsetting for the owners who have been there for about 35 years.

‘The fire had ripped through the roof. It was completely unexpected. We obviously feel very sorry for the owners.

‘It was quite spectacular. I expect there will be a lot of support for them.’

A statement by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘Fourteen fire engines were in attendance at the height of incident, along with the aerial ladder, specialist water carrier and environmental protection vehicles.

‘Crews from Botley, Bishop’s Waltham, Hightown, Fareham, Eastleigh, Wickham, St Mary’s, Droxford, Cosham and Hamble were involved in the initial stages of the blaze.

‘The electric and gas supplies to the property were isolated by engineers, as firefighters used hose reels and jets to extinguish the flames.

This is the aftermath of the devastating fire . Luckily the occupants managed to escape

This is the aftermath of the devastating fire . Luckily the occupants managed to escape 

‘USAR officers provided advice due to the property’s unstable structure following fire damage.

‘The fire was surrounded shortly after midnight, when relief crews from Basingstoke, Alton, Hayling Island, Grayshott, Gosport, Rushmoor, Lymington and Horndean took over from the firefighters who were first on the scene.

‘It was confirmed the roof had been destroyed and the ground-floor had suffered significant water damage following the stop message, which came in shortly after 9am.

‘Teams from Overton, Fordingbridge, New Milton, Redbridge, Liphook, Hardley and Winchester attended the following morning to continue damping down hotspots.’

The footage emerged as this morning a three-story pub in Fareham was destroyed in a separate incident after a fire ripped through the historic Victorian building.

Roughly 50 firefighters have worked through the morning to tackle the blaze at The Osborne View on Hill Head Road after an alarm was raised just before 2.30am.

No guests were staying in the hotel and all staff have now been evacuated from the establishment. Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service said 10 fire engines and two water carriers were at work to put out the fire.

The Osborne View pub is engulfed in flames earlier this morning after a fire broke out

The Osborne View pub is engulfed in flames earlier this morning after a fire broke out

The managing director of the pub said 'thankfully all team onsite were evacuated before coming to any harm'

The managing director of the pub said ‘thankfully all team onsite were evacuated before coming to any harm’

Matt Kearsey, Managing Director at Hall & Woodhouse, which runs the pub, said: ‘A serious fire broke out at the Osborne View Hotel in Fareham in the early hours of this morning (Thursday February 22).

‘Thankfully, all team onsite evacuated before coming to any harm. The wellbeing of all those affected is our primary concern and we will be providing support and reassurance to all those who require it.

‘Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service were quickly in attendance and are helping to bring the fire under control. I would like to pass on my deepest gratitude to the emergency crews for their swift action and bravery.

‘We will be supporting the emergency services fully in any forthcoming investigation into the cause of the fire.’

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‘Mrs. Doubtfire’: The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness

The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness

The Voice Of EU | One of the most versatile comedian and actor Robin Williams left an indelible mark on an entire generation throughout the 1990s, evoking both laughter and tears. His portrayal of a strict yet endearing housekeeper in the hit film “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993) resonated deeply with audiences worldwide, propelling it to resounding success across global boundaries.

Señora Doubtfire Robin Williams
Robin Williams in a scene from ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ (1993). Archive Photos (20th Century-Fox / Getty Images)

Williams played the role, despite the adversities and addictions that plagued his life at the time, by putting aside the devised script and becoming a master of improvisation during the filming of the movie, which brought in more than €400 million.

In the year of its release it was only outdone by Jurassic Park (€1 billion). This is what its director, also an avowed admirer of the American actor, explained on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Mrs. Doubtfire’s debut on the big screen: “It took me three months to rewrite the script. I sent it to Robin and he said he loved it.” After Williams’ suicide in 2014, in an interview for Business Insider magazine, Chris Columbus unveils details that were buried 30 years ago.

“Four and a half hours, maybe five,” is the time in which, according to the director, Robin Williams was able to play Mrs. Doubtfire, a characterization for which the film earned the Oscar for Best Makeup. The actor was not comfortable in portraying his role: a father who disguises himself as a housekeeper in order to spend more time with his children after a bitter divorce. For him, it presented a challenge. “We never could shoot two consecutive days of Robin as Mrs. Doubtfire. It was a punishing day for him, so always the next day, we would shoot him as Daniel (the father),” the director of the film reveals three decades after its release.

Comedy is acting out optimism.” — Robin Williams

In between the laughs and moments that are etched in the minds of many, Columbus describes the challenge of keeping actors such as Pierce Brosnan and Sally Field, who played leading roles in the film, from breaking away from the script of their characters while Williams was at his most unrestrainedly creative.

Indeed, according to the director, his boundless energy even created situations where the script supervisor could not keep up, resulting in unrepeatable and spontaneous takes. “None of us knew what he was going to say when he got going and so I wanted a camera on the other actors to get their reactions.” Most of the sequences in the film, and specifically all of those featuring Williams, were the result of an incredible amount of improvisation from the American comedian. “If it were today, we would never end. But back then, we were shooting film so once we were out of film in the camera, we would say to Robin, ‘We’re out of film.’ That happened on several occasions,” recalls Columbus.

“Hey boss, the way I like to work, if you’re up for it, is I’ll give you three or four scripted takes, and then let’s play.” This was the actor’s first warning to the director of Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin Williams was a significant figure in Chris Columbus’ life, and he still is to this day. Not only because he was responsible for his move to San Francisco, the actor didn’t want to shoot anywhere else, but due to his ability to make people laugh and cry at the same time. “Williams wanted the film to be shot there because he was living in San Francisco with his wife, Marsha, and their children. Thanks to him I fell in love with the city that has become my home,” he explains.

“You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” — Robin Williams

The director also reminisced about some memorable scenes that contributed to the film’s status as a cinematic masterpiece, as perceived by many. However, what stood out the most was his innate ability to improvise: “The entire restaurant sequence was remarkable. When Robin, portraying Mrs. Doubtfire, accidentally loses his teeth in his drink, you can see the joy on Robin’s face; he’s almost smirking to himself for coming up with that.” Following the success of the Mrs. Doubtfire premiere, the production team is currently exploring ways to honor Williams and his portrayal in the film, although no definitive plans have been made yet. “There are approximately 972 boxes of footage stored in a warehouse somewhere in California. There’s something truly special and enchanting about his performances, and I believe it would be exciting to delve deeper into it.”

Despite initial reservations about creating a sequel, the notion of a new spin-off gained traction shortly before the actor’s tragic passing on August 11, 2014, at his residence in Paradise Bay, California. “Robin’s only concern was: ‘Boss, do I have to spend as much time in the suit this time around?’ The physical toll of portraying Doubtfire was immense for Robin; it felt like running a marathon every day,” the director recounts. Following a brief meeting at the actor’s home, and a simple handshake, Chris Columbus began outlining the script mere days before the unfortunate event. “During the rewrite, we contemplated reducing the role of Doubtfire. However, Robin’s untimely demise extinguished any hopes of a sequel,” he laments. Although not spearheaded by its creator, Mrs. Doubtfire has found new life as a stage musical. “What set him apart as a performer is that there was no one like Robin Williams before him, and there will never be anyone like him again. He was truly one-of-a-kind,” reflects the actor’s superior.

Mrs. DoubtfireRobin Williams and Matthew Lawrence in a scene from ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ (1993).

In addition to the director, another Mrs. Doubtfire star who later spoke of Robin Williams’ brilliance was Matthew Lawrence, who played Daniel’s son. Lawrence was just a teenager in the film, which also gave a debut to his co-star Mara Wilson, the unforgettable Matilda. One day Lawrence went to Robin’s dressing room and did not expect what he was told: “‘Stay away from drugs, particularly cocaine.’ He was being serious and told me: ‘You know when you come to my trailer and you see me like that?’ He’s like, ‘That’s the reason why. And now I’m fighting for the rest of my life because I spent 10 years doing something very stupid every day. Do not do it.’ I stayed away from it because of him”, Lawrence recalled in an interview with People magazine in March 2022.

The lesser-known chapter of Williams’ life, while unrelated to his demise, shed light on the inner struggles of a comedian committed to bringing joy to others yet grappling with profound personal sorrow. “As charismatic as he appeared on screen, I’d often visit him in his trailer for chats, he was tormented. It was truly agonizing for him. He didn’t conceal it. He confided in me about his battles with addiction,” the actor concluded.

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Congratulations, Privacy Just Took A Great Leap Out the Window!

Your Data Is Being Used Without Your Permission And Knowledge

The Voice Of EU | In the heart of technological innovation, the collision between intellectual property rights and the development of cutting-edge AI technologies has sparked a significant legal battle. The New York Times has taken legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft, filing a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court. This legal maneuver aims to address concerns surrounding the unauthorized use of the Times’ content for the training of AI models, alleging copyright infringements that could potentially result in billions of dollars in damages.


This legal tussle underlines the escalating tension between technological advancements and the protection of intellectual property. The crux of the lawsuit revolves around OpenAI and Microsoft allegedly utilizing the Times’ proprietary content to advance their own AI technology, directly competing with the publication’s services. The lawsuit suggests that this unauthorized utilization threatens the Times’ ability to offer its distinctive service and impacts its AI innovation, creating a competitive landscape that challenges the publication’s proprietary content.

Amidst the growing digital landscape, media organizations like the Times are confronting a myriad of challenges. The migration of readers to online platforms has significantly impacted traditional media, and the advent of artificial intelligence technology has added another layer of complexity. The legal dispute brings to the forefront the contentious practice of AI companies scraping copyrighted information from online sources, including articles from media organizations, to train their generative AI chatbots. This strategy has attracted substantial investments, rapidly transforming the AI landscape.

Exhibit presented by the New York Times’ legal team of ChatGPT replicating a article after being prompted

The lawsuit highlights instances where OpenAI’s technology, specifically GPT-4, replicated significant portions of Times articles, including in-depth investigative reports. These outputs, alleged by the Times to contain verbatim excerpts from their content, raise concerns about the ethical and legal boundaries of using copyrighted material for AI model training without proper authorization or compensation.

The legal action taken by the Times follows attempts to engage in discussions with Microsoft and OpenAI, aiming to address concerns about the use of its intellectual property. Despite these efforts, negotiations failed to reach a resolution that would ensure fair compensation for the use of the Times’ content while promoting responsible AI development that benefits society.

In the midst of this legal battle, the broader questions surrounding the responsible and ethical utilization of copyrighted material in advancing technological innovations come to the forefront.

The dispute between the Times, OpenAI, and Microsoft serves as a significant case study in navigating the intricate intersection of technological progress and safeguarding intellectual property rights in the digital age.

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