Frans Hals £13m Dutch masterpiece Two Laughing Boys stolen for third time

A £13 million seminal Dutch painting has been stolen from a museum for the third time.

Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer by Frans Hals was stolen from a small museum in the Dutch town of Leerdam.

Police said thieves broke open the back door at around 3.30am on Wednesday and had made off by the time officers arrived.

The work, painted in 1626, was first stolen in 1988 along with a Jacob van Ruisdael’s Forest View with Flowering Elderberry. Both paintings were recovered three years later.

The same paintings were taken again from the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden museum in 2011 but retrieved after six months.

The thieves forced open the back door of the museum (ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

Since that theft, the museum’s most valuable works have been kept away from the public under staff supervision, Dutch media reports. Two Laughing Boys has an estimated value of €15m (£13.4m).

It is the second theft of a painting from a Dutch museum closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic, after the 1884 Van Gogh painting Spring Garden was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum in March.

It has not been recovered.

“Criminals know that major museums have sufficient security” but smaller regional museums less so, art expert Arthur Brand told the Dutch broadcaster RTL Nieuws.

“They probably concluded it’s worth a lot of money, and it’s relatively easy to steal.”

Frans Hals, who died in 1666, has been described as one of the great Old Masters of the Dutch bourgeoisie of the Golden Age.

Police said the investigation to recover the painting would call on forensic specialists and art-theft experts. Officers are also checking CCTV images and have appealed for information from the public.

A spokesman for the museum referred all questions to the police.

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Gymshark: Ex-pizza delivery boy’s fitness wear brand valued at over £1bn | UK News

A 28-year-old former pizza delivery boy has become of the UK’s wealthiest young entrepreneurs after agreeing a deal which valued his business at over £1bn.

Ben Francis was a 19-year-old student when he founded Gymshark, a fitness clothing brand, from his parent’s garage in 2011.

Mr Francis rapidly expanded the company after gaining traction on social media.

He confirmed on Friday that the company has sealed an investment deal which will value the company, which is based in Solihull in the West Midlands, at more than £1bn.

It has gained the mammoth valuation after the US-based private equity firm General Atlantic sealed an investment in the company to take a 21% stake.

The deal will value Mr Francis’ stake, of around 70% of the company, at more than £700m.

The retail business currently employs around 500 staff and raked in revenues of over £250m in its last fiscal year.

Mr Francis said: “It has been an incredible ride over the last eight years to get to this point, but today signals the next chapter in the Gymshark story.

“We are nothing without our community, so we will use this new investment partnership to get even closer to them on a truly global scale.

“I’m incredibly proud of what Gymshark has achieved to date from our roots in Birmingham, but it’s all about looking forward.

“I firmly believe Gymshark has the potential to be to the UK what Nike is to the US and Adidas is to Germany, and today is a significant step to realising that.”

Gabriel Caillaux, co-president, managing director and head of General Atlantic’s European business, said: “We believe Gymshark is an authentic, disruptive and differentiated brand.

“Against a backdrop of rising social media usage, rapid growth of e-commerce and increasing focus on health and wellness, Gymshark is positioned to seize the opportunity of further growth.”

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Canberra school boys caught driving dangerously on endangered grasslands identified as possible sacred site

Four teenagers caught drifting and doing circlework on a possible sacred Aboriginal site near the Australian War Memorial in Canberra have been fined and had their cars impounded.

The boys, three from Daramalan College and another from Dickson College, were caught by police on Friday as they attempted to leave the site.

Locals said they had called police at least a dozen times in the past year warning that P-platers were using the grasslands near the for dangerous driving, damaging an endangered habitat and risking their own safety.

The land is under assessment by the federal Environment Department for its significance as a sacred Ngambri site.

On Friday, a resident told the ABC that he saw several boys were once again at the site, drinking and swapping cars as they took turns skidding across the wet grass.

He said he became concerned when a car scraped a tree.

A blue sedan skids along wet grass and pavement, as several cockatoos take flight
One witness reported a Subaru lost control while drifting and hit a tree.(Supplied)

“It came out off Quick Street … it spun around on there and went onto the footpath,” he said.

Police officers caught the cars as they were leaving, and fined four of the boys for driving on a nature strip, not displaying P-plates, failing to stop at a stop sign, and improper control of a vehicle.

“Police interviewed all the occupants of the vehicles, and after receiving assistance from the occupants, four of the drivers were issued with Traffic Infringement Notices,” a spokesman for ACT Policing said.

“Further investigations into similar activity identified another driver who has been responsible for similar behaviour in the same area between November 2019 to August 2020.”

Two boys in school uniforms run towards a car drifting on grassland.
The high school boys were seen running between cars as they drifted, reportedly taking turns to drive.(Supplied)

Police said none of the identified drivers returned positive alcohol breath tests.

The resident, who had made multiple complaints to police in the past 12 months — including the previous Friday when a separate car was seen drifting — said government inaction had led to more teenagers abusing the site.

“When one of them, the white four-wheel drive, starts to show it off, the others say ‘well okay, that’s where you can do this kind of thing’, because the ACT Government does nothing, basically.”

A red sedan drives along grasslands.
A red Audi was reported a week before the four teenagers were caught at the site, seen driving dangerously on the grasslands.(Supplied)

ACT Policing said it was investigating other reports into similar behaviour at the site.

“The area is identified as an area of significance to the traditional owners,” the spokesman said.

“Police are urging members of the public with any information regarding dangerous driving of vehicles in this area to contact Crime Stoppers.”

‘Deep-seated frustration’ at destruction of claimed Aboriginal site

The site has been identified by the ACT Government as an important habitat for several endangered flora and fauna, but the grasslands have been significantly damaged by vandalism.

Earlier this year, the ABC reported that claims the land was also a sacred Ngambri site, used for men’s business, had been ignored.

Ngambri man Shane Mortimer, who raised the claim to the site’s Aboriginal significance, said he felt the land had been disregarded.

“It’s a deep-seated frustration, it’s an intergenerational frustration. The land really does need to be cared for,” Mr Mortimer said.

A man wearing stands in a clearing surrounded by rocky outcrops, with Parliament House visible in the distance.
Ngambri man Shane Mortimer said the grasslands had been ‘obliterated’ by P-platers vandalising the site.(ABC News: Jake Evans)

Daramalan College said it could not comment on issues concerning individual students.

However Mr Mortimer said the school had agreed to organise for its Year 12 students to visit the site and learn about its significance.

“We really have to look now for that opportunity out of adversity,” Mr Mortimer said.

The ACT Education Directorate told the ABC that because the incident was outside of school hours and off school grounds, it had not been involved.

Minister agrees to investigate installing bollards

Residents said they had been calling for the ACT Government to do more to protect the site for some time.

A white ute drives along dust and paths.
The same white ute recently photographed at the site has been spotted drifting there before, including here in 2019.(Supplied)

In June, ACT Greens leader and Justice Minister Shane Rattenbury wrote to the City Services Minister Chris Steel asking for them to be installed urgently.

“Last week, I became aware that there has been regular illegal driving on a piece of ACT land adjacent to the CSIRO site in Campbell,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“The area is natural temperate grassland with significant geological features onsite. It is an important ecosystem incorporating significant Aboriginal heritage [and] susceptible species such as the Canberra spider orchid, sunray daisy, golden sun moth and button wrinklewort.

“I write to request that you consider asking City Services to erect a series of bollards on Quick St in Ainslie, where vehicles are gaining access to this site in order to protect the significant ecology and cultural significance as a matter of urgency.”

A spokesman for the ACT Government said it would undertake an assessment of vehicle access through the section, and work with the owners of the adjacent land, now Doma Group, on options to limit access for vehicles.

Mr Rattenbury said it was disappointing to hear the site had been damaged again since he first raised the issue.

“This area should be protected, and the solution here isn’t complicated. Bollards along the border of the site could have prevented this unnecessary damage from taking place,” he said.

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Menslink’s mentoring program guiding Canberra boys on a positive path to manhood

In primary school, Thomas Icely was angry a lot of the time and his frustration often turned into violence against his peers.

“School was very hard,” he said.

“I wouldn’t concentrate, I wouldn’t do anything.

“Whenever someone annoyed me, I would just hit them.”

His father has a medical condition that keeps him at home, so Thomas did not get out much and spent most of his time playing video games.

After having “a lot of problems” and doing “a lot of bad things” at school, he found his way to Canberra charity Menslink.

It was there that he met David Parkes as part of the mentoring program, which links adult male mentors with boys and teens aged 10 to 18.

The pair meet up weekly to share a meal and chat and attend organised monthly activities.

“It’s been helping a lot having a mentor, and I’ve changed a lot since then,” said 13-year-old Thomas.

“I’m friends with nearly everyone now.

“I’ve learnt to be patient with people, don’t just go straight at it. Just ignore them for a while.”

Mr Parkes has also seen big changes in how Thomas interacts with others.

“He’s really matured and grown through the program.”

Positive male role model ‘critical’

Menslink’s free volunteer mentoring program has helped more than 600 young men like Thomas over the past 20 years.

There are currently 87 boys and teens in the program, most of whom come from single-mother families.

Mentoring program coordinator Ben Triglone said without a positive male role model in their life, young men were more prone to do damage to themselves and the community.

“Young guys really learn from observing.

“It’s not about teaching young guys anything, but it’s just about seeing how adult men interact with the world and cracking that adult code in the process.”

Thomas Icely and David Parkes
Thomas credits his relationship with his mentor David with helping him learn patience.(ABC News: Georgia Stynes)

The volunteer male mentors come from all walks of life, and range in age from 23 to 63.

The mentors are not parent figures or counsellors but rather a friend who the young person can call upon to listen to their concerns without judgement.

Mr Parkes joined as a mentor two years ago, after going through “troubled times” when he was in an “abusive and manipulative relationship.”

It was the support Mr Parkes received during that difficult time that prompted him to help others.

“One of the biggest things that changed me was having a friend that didn’t stand in front of me telling me to fix my problems, didn’t stand behind me pushing me to fix my problems, just stood next to me,” he said.

“There’s a lot of young guys that don’t have that.

“So, when I heard about Menslink [at a fundraising event] I went home and signed up that night as a mentor.”

Two men walking
Each mentee chooses his mentor and then they meet up regularly to build a friendship.(Supplied: Menslink)

Mr Parkes said honesty, openness and simply “being real” were the keys to being a good mentor.

And he said the relationship was rewarding for both parties.

“The person I’ve become because of Menslink as a mentor has been phenomenal,” he said.

“The young fellas have helped me grow and change because of the strength, and bravery they show at such a young age. The adversity they may be facing really inspires me.”

Mentoring program offers long-lasting benefits

The mentoring program, along with Menslink’s counselling service — that helps around 700 young men each year — have proven to have significant long-lasting benefits.

A study by the University of Canberra’s Centre for Applied Psychology found that not only did young men’s lives and relationships improve while they received support from Menslink, but they also continued to improve in the years afterwards.

“The change in their attitude, their positivity, their acceptance of themselves, the acceptance of people around them is a really big thing,” Mr Parkes said.

“The way they interact socially changes a lot because they see positive interactions with each other which makes them want to engage socially.”

For Thomas, that social engagement and positive sense of self is just what he needs to pursue his dream of becoming a photographer.

“I’ve always wanted to be a photographer. And I would come back here and be a mentor,” he said.

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Three teenage boys in hospital after shooting in Haringey | UK News

Three teenage boys are in hospital, including one in a critical condition, after they were shot in north London.

Police found them with gunshot wounds near a car park in Haringey, shortly after midnight.

A 19-year-old is in a critical condition, while a 15-year-old has possibly life-changing injuries, police said.

Another boy, also 15, has injuries that are not thought to be life-changing or threatening.

Officers believe the gunman arrived in a car, carried out the shootings, then drove off.

No arrests have been made yet.

Police are appealing for anyone with information to come forward and have called for witnesses who may have seen a car driven “erratically” from the scene.

“Young men have been shot, one is critically injured and another has injuries that may mean his life has changed forever,” said Detective Inspector Gemma Alger.

“We want to stop these acts of violence and we can only do this by people telling us what they know.”

She added: “Even if you don’t think you saw anything suspicious, if you were around and have any dashcam footage we want to hear from you.”

Crime scenes have been put in place and specialist police officers are investigating.

Commander Paul Brogden said investigators would “leave no stone unturned” to find the suspect.

“This was another appalling crime, where three young black males have become victims in our capital city, two of whom are actually children,” he said.

:: Any witnesses or anyone with any information is asked to call police on 101 or contact via Twitter @MetCC, quoting CAD 297/23JUL.

To give information anonymously contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online at

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Facebook Removed Fake Accounts Connected To Roger Stone, Proud Boys, And PR Firms

Facebook announced it removed hundreds of fake accounts attributed to four different information operations on Wednesday. Two of the operations were tied to professional PR or advertising firms, and one of them was connected to former Trump adviser Roger Stone. According to the company, the four operations spent over $3.5 million on advertising.

The network associated with Stone consisted of 50 Facebook pages, 54 accounts, and four Instagram pages. It was also associated with the Proud Boys, a far-right men’s rights group that the social media company banned in 2018 for breaking “policies against hate organizations and figures.”

According to the release, people in the network posed as Florida residents and made “their own content to make it appear more popular than it is.” It spent about $308,000 on ads and purchased fake followers from Pakistan and Egypt.

Stone’s own account was suspended, but he denied involvement with the network in a statement to the New York Times.

“This extraordinary active censorship for which Facebook and Instagram give entirely fabricated reasons,” he told the paper, “is part of a larger effort to censor supporters of the president, Republicans and conservatives on social media platforms.”

Although Facebook doesn’t provide data on all content promoted by the Stone-affiliated fake accounts and pages, the provided screenshots from 2016 show that the network posted articles from Infowars, Stone’s personal website, and left-leaning watchdog Media Matters.

“The Page admins and account owners posted about local politics in Florida, Roger Stone and his Pages, websites, books, and media appearances, a Florida land and water resources bill, the hacked materials released by Wikileaks ahead of the US 2016 election, candidates in the 2016 primaries and general election, and the Roger Stone trial,” the release said.

The takedown reached around the world, affecting three separate networks that were centered in Ecuador and Canada, Ukraine, and Brazil.

Two other networks that were removed were affiliated with professional firms, continuing a trend of professionalization of disinformation. One, a PR firm connected to Canada and Ecuador called Estraterra, spent about $1.38 million on ads on the platform. Another firm, an advertising agency in Ukraine that “was particularly active during the 2019 presidential and parliamentary election,” spent about $1.93 million.

The Ukraine network previously faced takedowns for hate speech and impersonation. It was run by Postmen DA, an ad agency that describes itself as “the most effective digital agency.”

Roberto Wohlgemuth, Estraterra’s founder and CEO, told BuzzFeed News that Facebook did not notify him of the takedowns, which the social network said involved “41 Facebook accounts, 77 Pages, and 56 Instagram accounts.”

“The rise of social media provided this incredible opportunity to center diverse voices — those that have been historically marginalized from public debates and conversations. Unfortunately, this announcement from Facebook simply reiterates its own capture by the same elite powers,” Wohlgemuth said in an emailed statement to BuzzFeed News. “Estraterra will continue to advocate for not only our freedom of expression but also our freedom from being silenced.”

Although Wohlgemuth’s firm is based in Canada, the network didn’t target the country, according to the Facebook release. It instead focused on Ecuador, Venezuela, and Chile. Wohlgemuth’s LinkedIn page says he is a former senior adviser to the Ecuadorian president “on matters of strategic and political communication.”

“British Newspaper Financial Times asks for an end to sanctions against Venezuela,” said one sample Instagram post released by the company. The post got six likes.

“It is false that in every year that ends in 20 of each century there is a new pandemic,” said another Instagram post attributed to the network, which was even less popular with three likes.

Some of the accounts removed were attributed to a network in Brazil, which targeted audiences in that country. In this case, pages pretended to be news outlets while spreading criticism of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s political opposition. According to Facebook, this activity was attributed to some employees of the offices of Bolsonaro, his two sons, and people associated with the right-wing Social Liberal Party.

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Sassy Koala Joey Doesn’t Let ‘Big Boys’ Push Her Around

1 feisty koala joey confirmed her playmates who was manager at a sanctuary in Southern Australia. Footage by Southern Koala Rescue in Adelaide shows feminine joey Itty Bitty schooling her larger male counterparts. “Itty Bitty has constantly been a massive bundle of sass even when she was only a small 380g,” the rescue wrote alongside the footage. She may perhaps be the littlest, they said, but she does not permit “the large boys force her around”. Credit score: Southern Koala Rescue via Storyful

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Townsville Magistrate says brief of evidence on boys’ drownings ‘needs to be fast-tracked’

A magistrate has questioned the time it is taking to prepare a brief of evidence for a mother facing manslaughter charges over the drowning of her two sons in Townsville.

Leeann Eatts, 48, is facing 14 charges, including two counts of manslaughter, over the drowning of her two young sons: three-year-old Jhulio Sariago, and five-year-old Barak Austral, in the Ross River in February 2019.

In previous court hearings, police have made allegations of parental neglect of the boys, who witnesses reported were often unsupervised.

More than a year later, police are still finalising a brief of evidence against Ms Eatts, who had since been released from custody on bail.

Prosecutors asked for an adjournment on the brief at the Townsville Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

They said it would take until mid-September to finalise and had been delayed because officers are analysing intercepted information and recordings.

Previously police had monitored Ms Eatts’s home telephone calls.

Magistrate suggests fast-tracking

Magistrate Ross Mack questioned the delay and suggested the brief be “fast-tracked”.

“It seems to be inconsistent with appropriate and/or prompt investigation that you need to wait 14 months to then decide that you want an intercept transcribed,” he said.

The matter has been adjourned until Friday for police to provide further explanation on why an extension would be necessary.

“We’ve seen the anniversary here that means the report has to be done and I’m the author of that report.”

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‘Porn Stars’ Arrive at Boy’s Door in New Zealand Online Safety Ad

'Porn Stars' Arrive at Boy's Door in New Zealand Online Safety Ad

A pair of fictional porn actors feature in a campaign ad from the New Zealand government urging parents to teach children that pornography doesn’t reflect reality, and to discuss sexual consent and relationships with them. The tongue-in-cheek ad was released on June 5 as part of the government’s Keep It Real Online campaign that aims to protect children online. It depicts a nude man and woman, Sue and Derek, knocking on a family’s door, and explaining to the mother, Sandra, that her son had been watching them online on multiple devices including on his laptop, iPad, PlayStation, and television. “We usually perform for adults, but your son’s just a kid,” Sue tells Sandra. “He might not know how relationships actually work,” she adds. “We don’t even talk about consent, do we?” she asks the man, who shakes his head in agreement, saying, “Yeah, and I’d never act like that in real life.” Sandra then calls her son Matty into the hallway. He freezes in shock seeing the two at the door and drops a bowl of cereal. The ad ends with Sandra turning to her son and saying, “Alright Matty, it sounds like it’s time to talk about the difference between what you see online, and real-life relationships.” Credit: Keep It Real Online via Storyful

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