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La manie “Indy” s’empare de Cannes pour le dernier coup de fouet d’Harrison Ford

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Un an après avoir célébré le retour de “Top Gun” de Tom Cruise, le Festival de Cannes a rendu hommage à une autre icône bien-aimée des années 1980 avec la première mondiale de “Indiana Jones et le cadran du destin”, renvoyant Harrison Ford sur la Côte d’Azur pour le plus grand plaisir. de fans d’Indy portant des fedoras bordant la Croisette.

Enfilant le fedora, la veste en cuir, la chemise safari et le pantalon kaki emblématiques du Dr Jones, l’Italien Marco Vendramini, âgé de 39 ans, avait tout pour plaire alors qu’il se tenait devant le Palais des Festivals de Cannes tôt jeudi, attendant patiemment que son héros d’enfance se présenter sur le tapis rouge plus tard dans la journée.

Avocat de profession et fan d’Indy dans l’âme, Vendramini est arrivé à Cannes à 3 heures du matin après six heures de route depuis sa ville natale de Padoue. Il a fait la sieste pendant quelques heures dans un parking à proximité avant de se rendre sur la Croisette dans sa tenue Indy, rejoignant d’autres lève-tôt dans une file d’attente croissante de fans de l’archéologue le plus connu au monde.

Ce n’est pas la première fois que ce passionné d’Indy fait tout son possible pour apercevoir sa star de cinéma préférée. En octobre 2021, il s’est envolé pour la Sicile après avoir découvert que l’équipe tournait des scènes du film dans la ville pittoresque de Cefalu. Le pari a réussi, comme en témoigne une photographie de lui posant avec Ford et d’autres sosies d’Indy.

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Les premiers arrivés ont attendu jusqu'à 12 heures pour avoir la chance de voir Harrison Ford de près sur le tapis rouge.
Les premiers arrivés ont attendu jusqu’à 12 heures pour avoir la chance de voir Harrison Ford de près sur le tapis rouge. © Benjamin Dodman, FRANCE 24

“Si je peux obtenir un autographe sur cette photo, cela fera ma journée”, a-t-il déclaré en brandissant une grande copie de la photo de Cefalù. “S’il m’emmène à l’intérieur pour la projection, ce sera encore mieux.”

Dans le sillage de Maverick

Première sur le tapis rouge du festival cette année, « Dial of Destiny » de James Mangold a reçu le traitement « Top Gun : Maverick » avec une projection de gala spéciale hors compétition au Grand Théâtre Lumière.

Disney, qui détient désormais les droits de la franchise “Indiana Jones”, espère que le festival du film le plus fastueux au monde servira de tremplin pour son dernier opus – tout comme il a préparé le terrain pour le succès retentissant de la suite “Top Gun”.

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Au tout début de la file d’attente à l’extérieur du Palais, à l’endroit exact où elle se tenait l’an dernier, la figure cannoise Martine a déclaré que la première de “Top Gun” – qui a vu l’armée de l’air française honorer Tom Cruise avec un survol spectaculaire – classée parmi les moments forts de son histoire d’amour de plusieurs décennies avec le festival.

La blonde énergique de 79 ans, surnommée “Sharon Stone” par ses amis, s’est également souvenue de la dernière fois que Ford s’est présenté à Cannes, il y a près d’une décennie pour une projection de “The Expendables”, conduisant un char de l’ère soviétique. avec Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger et d’autres héros d’action arthritiques qui avaient sûrement connu des jours meilleurs.

“C’était un spectacle extraordinaire, le spectacle hollywoodien à son meilleur”, a-t-elle haleté avec une étincelle dans les yeux. “Stallone a insisté pour saluer chacun de nous avant d’entrer – j’espère que Ford fera de même aujourd’hui.”

Palme d’honneur

Tout comme Cruise l’année dernière, Ford a été accueilli par une ovation debout lors de la première du gala de jeudi et honoré d’une Palme d’Or spéciale pour une longue et distinguée carrière qui l’a vu jouer certains des rôles les plus emblématiques des 50 dernières années, de Han Solo dans la “franchise Star Wars” à Rick Deckard de “Blade Runner”.

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Harrison Ford pose sur le tapis rouge à Cannes avant la première du gala de jeudi.
Harrison Ford pose sur le tapis rouge à Cannes avant la première du gala de jeudi. © Joel C Ryan, AP

« Je suis très touché. Je suis très ému par cela », a-t-il déclaré au public, visiblement ému en regardant autour de lui le vaste théâtre. « On dit que quand tu es sur le point de mourir, toi, tu vois ta vie défiler devant tes yeux. Je viens de voir ma vie devant mes yeux.

À 80 ans, il a décrit le cinquième volet de la franchise “Indiana Jones” comme son dernier

“Dial of Destiny” voit le Dr Jones sortir de sa retraite pour aider sa filleule à retrouver un trésor antique, alors même que des nazis purs et durs – inévitablement – se mettent en travers du chemin. Le film utilise des technologies de vieillissement pour raser plusieurs décennies de Ford dans des scènes de flashback se déroulant pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge joue la filleule, rejoignant un casting étoilé qui comprend Mads Mikkelsen, Antonio Banderas, Boyd Holbrook, John Rhys-Davies, Shaunette Renee Wilson et Toby Jones, pour n’en nommer que quelques-uns.

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Le cinquième volet de la franchise est le premier à être réalisé par quelqu’un d’autre que Steven Spielberg, bien que le réalisateur vétéran soit toujours impliqué en tant que producteur exécutif, aux côtés de George Lucas. John Williams, qui a marqué chaque film “Indiana Jones” depuis l’original “Les aventuriers de l’arche perdue”, est également revenu pour composer la musique du film.


Sorti en 1981, “Les aventuriers de l’arche perdue” a été un triomphe au box-office et a remporté quatre Oscars. Ses deux suites – « Indiana Jones et le temple maudit » (1984) et « Indiana Jones et la dernière croisade » (1989) – ont construit une légende qui a inspiré les parcs à thème, les jeux vidéo et une série télévisée dérivée sur Indyc’est jeunesse.

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Bien que largement critiqué par les critiques et les fans, un quatrième épisode sorti près de deux décennies plus tard – “Indiana Jones et le royaume du crâne de cristal” – s’est avéré être un autre succès commercial, portant les recettes combinées au box-office à près de deux milliards de dollars.

“Indy finira avec Ford”

Dans la foulée de la saga “Star Wars”, le succès fulgurant d’Indy a cimenté la position de Ford en tant que star de cinéma la plus rentable de la fin du XXe siècle, couronnant un revirement extraordinaire pour un homme dont la longue carrière de bégaiement en tant qu’acteur l’a forcé à prendre un travail de jour en tant que charpentier – jusqu’à ce qu’une rencontre fortuite avec Lucas lui permette de décrocher le rôle de Han Solo.

Ford aurait également pu facilement manquer la part d’Indy, Lucas ayant initialement choisi de confier le rôle à Tom Selleck – jusqu’à ce que la série télévisée “Magnum PI” se mette en travers du chemin. C’est ainsi que l’archéologue aventurier s’est retrouvé avec la cicatrice emblématique du menton et le sourire espiègle de Ford, plutôt qu’une moustache emblématique.

Imaginer un autre acteur endossant le rôle, à la manière de la franchise James Bond, serait absurde, estime Vendramini, de retour sur la Croisette. “Indiana Jones est intimement – et exclusivement – liée à Ford”, a-t-il expliqué. “Le personnage finira donc avec Ford.”

Ce jour n’est sûrement pas loin. Mais pour l’instant, Cannes et le monde du cinéma au sens large s’accrochent avec impatience aux personnages les plus emblématiques et les plus bancables de l’industrie.

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Comme l’a observé un critique de cinéma après la première de “Top Gun” l’année dernière, pour une industrie cinématographique battue par la pandémie de Covid et rongée par le doute de soi, le retour triomphal de Maverick était “aussi réconfortant qu’une vieille veste en cuir”. Il en va de même pour le dernier coup de fouet d’Indy.

festival du film de Cannes
festival du film de Cannes © Studio graphique France Médias Monde
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International

Scientists crack mystery of how baleen whales sing underwater

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Whales sing loud enough that their songs travel through the ocean, but knowing the mechanics behind that has been a mystery. Scientists now think they have an idea, and it’s something not seen in other animals: a specialized voice box.  

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Experts say the discovery, while based on a study that is too tiny to be definitive, will direct future research into how whales communicate. 

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In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature, Coen Elemans of the University of Southern Denmark and colleagues studied the voice boxes, or larynxes, from three dead, stranded whales — a humpback, minke and sei, which are all types of baleen whales. 

In the laboratory, the scientists blew air through the voice boxes under controlled conditions to see what tissues might vibrate. Researchers also created computer models of the sei whale’s vocalizations and matched them to recordings of similar whales taken in the wild.

Whales’ ancestors were land-dwellers about 50 million years ago before moving into water. Elemans said the animals adapted their voice boxes over tens of millions of years to make sounds underwater. 

Unlike humans and other mammals, baleen whales don’t have teeth or vocal chords. Instead, in their voice boxes, they have a U-shaped tissue that allows them to breathe in massive amounts of air and a large “cushion” of fat and muscle not seen in other animal species. Whales sing by pushing the tissue against the fat and muscle cushion, Elemans said.

“This is the most comprehensive and significant study to date on how baleen whales vocalize, a long-standing mystery in the field,” said Jeremy Goldbogen, an associate professor of oceans at Stanford University, who was not involved in the new research. 

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He noted there is more to be studied “given the extraordinarily diverse acoustic repertoires” of whales. Humpbacks, for example, are known to compose elaborate songs that travel across oceans and whale pods.

As loud as whales’ songs are, modelling suggests that humpbacks and related species can’t produce sounds louder than the shipping industry, Elemans said.

“They’re really affected by (shipping noise) and it significantly reduces their ability to communicate,” he said. “There’s just no way for them to get louder.”

Because some whales sing as a mating call, the shipping industry’s interruption of those songs is potentially worrying, said Michael Noad, director of the Centre for Marine Science at the University of Queensland in Australia. He was not part of the Nature study.

“For whale populations that are really dispersed, like the Antarctic blue whales, they might not be able to find mates in a noisy ocean environment,” he said, noting that whale species like humpbacks that gather in big numbers are more likely to shrug off such noise pollution.

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The whale voice boxes tested were from juveniles, not adult males, who do the singing. Because of that, whale expert Joy Reidenberg said, further experiments on adult males are needed to confirm the study’s findings. 

But Reidenberg, who works for the Center for Anatomy and Functional Morphology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, noted that lab research is probably as close as we can get to replicating how whales sing.

“Right now, our technology involves sticking a scope into a whale to see what exactly is vibrating,” she said. “Since you’re never going to be able to do that in a wild animal, these experiments are the next best thing.”

(AP)

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Talk about high society! New luxury space BALLOON will take passengers 20miles above Earth where they will sip champagne and look down on world from plush observatory – for $125,000 per head

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The world’s largest capsule built for space travel has opened its doors to the public, revealing a luxurious experience for up to eight people who pay $125,00 per seat.

Florida-based Space Perspective showcased the final version of its Spaceship Neptune – Excelsior that features a bar, plush seating and ‘proper restroom.’

Unlike other space tourist companies that use rockets, this spherical pod is strapped to a giant balloon that will soar 20 miles above the surface and hang in the final frontier for two hours.

The capsule is two times the volume of Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Two and Blue Origin’s New Shepard, and about four times that of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.

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With the balloon completed and its launch vessel outfitted, the company is now mapping out test flights – with the first human trial set for later this year.

However, Virgin takes paying customers 50 miles above the surface and Blue Origin soars 65 miles – but for double the price of Space Perspective.

‘With the largest windows ever flown to space and a spherical design that allows for the roomiest interior of any human spaceflight capsule ever made, our spaceship offers the most incredible panoramic views of Earth,’ the company shared in the announcement.

‘With its first SpaceBalloon finished and its launch vessel, Marine Spaceport Voyager, in its final stage of preparation, Space Perspective is beginning to eye its test flights window.’

The test capsule is named Excelsior in honor of late balloon space-jump pioneer Joe Kittinger, who held the world record for the highest skydive at 102,800 feet.

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Neptune is 16 feet in diameter, providing a pressurized volume of more than 2,000 cubic feet.

Inside the capsule, Explorers, as they are dubbed, will enjoy the comforts of the world’s first Space Lounge, complete with Wi-Fi, fine dining, plush seating and luxury amenities.

They will also benefit from panoramic views through the largest windows ever flown to space – and even enjoy ‘a proper restroom’ the company calls the Space Spa.

The company said the capsule has a proper restroom, complete with handwashing station

The company said the capsule has a proper restroom, complete with handwashing station

The company said the capsule has a proper restroom, complete with handwashing station

The bathroom also features a flushable toilet. The company said 1,700 seats have been reserved

The bathroom also features a flushable toilet. The company said 1,700 seats have been reserved

The bathroom also features a flushable toilet. The company said 1,700 seats have been reserved

Taber MacCallum, Space Perspective co-founder, said: ‘We are on the cusp of a staggering shift – not only in the way we humans experience space but also what we conjure in our minds when we think of the spaceship that gets us there.

‘We are redefining the category and paving the way for accessible space travel for years to come.’

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The capsule’s interior fits up to eight space tourists who can experience deep seats that recline and ‘mood lighting, as they take in the views of space from giant windows that line the walls.

Florida-based Space Perspective showcased the final version of its Spaceship Neptune - Excelsior that features a bar, plush seating (pictured) and 'proper restroom

Florida-based Space Perspective showcased the final version of its Spaceship Neptune - Excelsior that features a bar, plush seating (pictured) and 'proper restroom

Florida-based Space Perspective showcased the final version of its Spaceship Neptune – Excelsior that features a bar, plush seating (pictured) and ‘proper restroom

Passengers will sip champagne as they enjoy their ‘relaxing’ six-hour trip to see the curvature of the Earth before returning home.

The company said 1,700 seats have been reserved.

Space Perspective’s balloon is fueled by hydrogen and the company notes that this makes for a safe experience because the air itself isn’t mixing with hydrogen.

The balloon will be 18 million cubic feet in volume when fully expanded – big enough to contain a football stadium.

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As the gas is lighter than the surrounding air, the balloon will gently lift up and up through Earth’s atmosphere, with the capsule below it.

It will eventually come to equilibrium above 99 percent of Earth’s atmosphere where it will float, ‘like an ice cube floating on water’, the firm shared.

During the ascent, passengers will be able to see as far as 450 miles in every direction, and at peak altitude, they’ll see the total blackness of space and the curvature of Earth.

Throughout the flight, travelers will be given breakfast, can order drinks and sit back in their plush reclining seats while soaking up the exclusive views.

The capsule is two times the volume of Virgin Galactic 's Spaceship Two and Blue Origin 's New Shepard, and about four times that of SpaceX 's Crew Dragon

The capsule is two times the volume of Virgin Galactic 's Spaceship Two and Blue Origin 's New Shepard, and about four times that of SpaceX 's Crew Dragon

The capsule is two times the volume of Virgin Galactic ‘s Spaceship Two and Blue Origin ‘s New Shepard, and about four times that of SpaceX ‘s Crew Dragon

Unlike other space tourist companies that use rockets, this spherical pod is strapped to a giant balloon that will soar 20 miles above the surface and hang in the final frontier for two hours

Unlike other space tourist companies that use rockets, this spherical pod is strapped to a giant balloon that will soar 20 miles above the surface and hang in the final frontier for two hours

Unlike other space tourist companies that use rockets, this spherical pod is strapped to a giant balloon that will soar 20 miles above the surface and hang in the final frontier for two hours

When it’s time to return to Earth, the balloon will gradually release a small amount of gas that turns into water so it can descend.

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This is why the vehicle has almost zero emissions and is starkly different from conventional launches that burn rocket fuel.

A patent-pending splash cone at its base provides a ‘smooth and gentle water landing’ in the ocean before passengers are taken back to land.

The firm is planning on making multiple Spaceship Neptune capsules, which would launch from ships stationed in the ocean.

Multiple Spaceship Neptune capsules would be able to see each other in space from 20 to 30 miles away, and would also be visible to people on the ground.

Customers have already bought up entire capsules for group events and some even want to have their weddings there, according to the firm, which started selling flights at the end of June 2021.

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Others may celebrate their milestone birthday aboard a capsule or take a corporate event ‘to new heights’, according to the company.

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Indian farmers pause protest after govt disperses march, offers new talks

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Indian farmers demanding higher prices for their produce paused their protest on Wednesday after the government made a new offer to resume talks, hours after police fired tear gas and used water cannons to scatter thousands staging a march to Delhi. 

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The farmers, mostly from the northern state of Punjab, have been demanding higher prices backed by law for their crops. They form an influential bloc of voters Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot afford to anger ahead of general elections due by May.

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Farmers’ leader Sarwan Singh Pandher told reporters they would pause their protest for two days and deliberate their next course of action until Friday after the government offered anew to resume talks on farmers’ demand for guaranteed crop prices.

“The government is ready to discuss all the issues,” Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda posted on social network X.

“I again invite the farmer leaders for discussion. It is important for us to maintain peace.”

Earlier on Wednesday, protesters – some wearing medical masks- ran into fields near their gathering-point on a highway about 200 km (125 miles) north of New Delhi after police fired tear gas.

Pandher claimed that one protester was killed and three injured at another protest site 100 km away, but police in Haryana state denied it.

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Video clips on local media showed police using water cannons and farmers aiming a hose pipe of water at the site.

On Monday, the farmers’ groups rejected the government’s previous proposal for five-year contracts and guaranteed support prices for produce such as corn, cotton and pulses.

Highways blocked

The farmers, accompanied by cranes and excavators, began marching at 0530 GMT from a spot on a key highway where authorities had erected barricades on the border of Punjab state with Haryana.

“It is not right that such massive barricades have been placed to stop us,” said one of the farmers’ leaders, Jagjit Singh Dallewal. “We want to march to Delhi peacefully. If not, they should accede to our demands.”

Police in riot gear lined the highway as the farmers waved colourful flags emblazoned with symbols of their unions.

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Late on Tuesday, Haryana’s police chief ordered the immediate seizure of heavy equipment brought by the farmers, to keep protesters from using them to destroy barricades.

About 10,000 people had gathered on Wednesday, along with 1,200 tractors and wagons at Shambhu on the state border, police in Haryana posted on X.

Security was stepped up at entry points to New Delhi, ensnarling traffic to the city of more than 20 million. Two key entry points north of the city have been shut for days and traffic diverted.

An earlier government proposal of minimum support prices to farmers who diversify their crops to grow cotton, pigeon peas, black matpe, red lentils and corn was rejected by the protesters, who wanted additional food grains covered.

Similar protests two years ago, when farmers camped for months at the border of New Delhi, forced Modi’s government to repeal a set of farm laws.

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(Reuters)

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International

BUSINESS LIVE: Bumper January budget surplus; HSBC profits hit $30.3bn; BAE Systems earnings jump

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The FTSE 100 closed down 56.70 points at 7662.51. Among the companies with reports and trading updates today are HSBC, BAE Systems, Rio Tinto, Heathrow, and Tate & Lyle. Read the Wednesday 21 February Business Live blog below.

> If you are using our app or a third-party site click here to read Business Live

FTSE 100 closes down 56.70 points at 7662.51

Bereaved families stump up £6.3bn in inheritance tax since April 2023

The Treasury raked in £6.3billion from inheritance tax receipts in the period from April 2023 to January 2024, new data from HM Revenue & Customs shows.

The inheritance tax take for the period was £400million higher than by the same point a year earlier.

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The Footsie closes soon

Just before close, the FTSE 100 was 0.73% down at 7,662.79.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 250 was 0.04% higher at 19,116.89.

‘Nvidia is the only stock that matters for many investors at the moment’

Dan Coatsworth, investment analyst at AJ Bell, comments on Nvidia:

Nvidia is the only stock that matters for many investors at the moment. It drove last year’s strong market gains in the US and became the go-to name for anyone wanting to play the AI theme.

Investors have a habit of fixating on a single stock and Nvidia was passed the baton from Tesla which for several years enjoyed its moment in the sun amid the early stages of the electric vehicle boom. It is natural to see a pullback after the initial euphoria and so Nvidia’s results tonight could be the catalyst either for another rally in growth stocks or a market correction.

Sentiment is widely hinged to Nvidia so if its shares fall by a lot in a short period, investors could temporarily lose interest in the market and we could see contagion across the mega cap tech space.

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But if it provides enough evidence that AI is supercharging its profits and there are still plenty more opportunities, then we could see investors load up for more, and that positivity could extend to other parts of the market.

Octopus says EV drivers can charge for FREE with new energy tariff

Electric vehicle owners could charge their motors up for free with a new energy deal from Octopus Energy – but it only currently applies to three car models.

The Power Pack deal could save drivers more than £850 a year compared to charging cars on a variable-rate electricity tariff which is subject to the Ofgem price cap, Octopus said.

Housebuilder Vistry defends hiking boss’s pay amid shareholder opposition

(PA) – Housebuilder Vistry has defended the decision to hike the pay package of its boss despite shareholders revolting against the deal.

Vistry said it recognised the concerns people have but was standing by the pay policy.

The company came under pressure in August when new proposals were narrowly approved by shareholders.

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Some 45% of votes were cast against the policy which more than doubles the annual bonus that the company’s chief executive can receive, and adds 50% to potential long-term incentives.

It means boss Greg Fitzgerald’s maximum pay package will grow from £3.4million to £5.4million, provided he meets all his targets.

Mr Fitzgerald was paid £2.5million in 2022.

In an update to shareholders on Wednesday, Vistry said the remuneration committee, which is in charge of setting pay levels, “understands that the reasons for the number of votes cast against was primarily concerned with the step up in maximum opportunity for the CEO (chief executive officer) which was in excess of usual levels within the FTSE 250”.

It said the committee “acknowledges these concerns”, but maintains the view that the new policy is aligned with a “highly performance oriented” framework, with pay levels that incentivise bosses to create value for shareholders.

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Sir Jim Ratcliffe labels Man United’s organisation ‘not good’

Sir Jim Ratcliffe believes Manchester United’s culture isn’t geared up to achieve success in a damning assessment following his £1.3billion investment.

The Ineos billionaire saw his purchase of a 27.7 per cent stake in the Old Trafford club confirmed on Tuesday but gave a withering assessment of the set-up he will aim to transform.

Petrol has shot up by 3p a litre in just three weeks – here’s why

The price of fuel has shot up by more than 3p-a-litre in just three weeks, new analysis shows.

The RAC said the average price of a litre of petrol increased by 3.3p from 140p on 29 January to 143.3p at the beginning of this week.

Aldi to create 5,500 new UK jobs this year

(PA) – Aldi is to create 5,500 new jobs this year as the supermarket chain continues its expansion across the UK.

The UK’s fourth largest supermarket group said it is hiring for roles including store assistants, manager and cleaners across new shops.

Aldi UK is also recruiting across its 11 regional distribution centres and for head office positions.

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The retailer said store and warehouse assistant will receive a starting salary of £12 an hour, rising to £12.95 nationally, with those within the M25 receiving £13.55, rising to £13.85.

It currently has more than 1,000 stores and employs more than 45,000 workers.

The business has said it plans to grow to 1,500 stores in the coming years, after previously setting a goal of 1,200 shops by the end of 2025.

Giles Hurley, chief executive officer at Aldi UK, said: “Our colleagues work incredibly hard and are without a doubt a huge part of our success at Aldi.

“We continue to welcome more and more customers to Aldi stores every week, not just because of our unbeatable prices and British sourcing, but also our amazing colleagues.

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“We are looking forward to welcoming even more colleagues up and down the country to Team Aldi during 2024 as we progress towards our goal of making affordable, quality food accessible to everyone.”

Close Brothers Group shares top FTSE 350 fallers

Top 15 falling FTSE 350 firms 21022024

Top FTSE 350 risers at lunchtime are…

Top 15 rising FTSE 350 firms 21022024

Stocks to watch: Getting off the Magnificent Seven tech bandwagon

If you weren’t invested in the Magnificent Seven tech stocks, investing in equities in 2023 was a bit like treading water in treacle. Heavy going.

Rio Tinto and Glencore profits slump on lower commodity prices

Two of Britain’s largest mining groups reported lower earnings for 2023, following a slump in commodity prices.

Glencore saw its net income plunge by three-quarters to $4.3billion last year, while Rio Tinto revealed post-tax profits tumbled by 19 per cent to $10billion.

Dominic Raab lands job at private equity mining investor

Dominic Raab has been hired as a ‘senior strategic adviser’ at a Pall Mall-based private equity firm focused on mining sector investments.

Appian Capital Advisory has appointed the former deputy prime minister and foreign secretary as a senior strategic advisor on global affairs.

Pawnbroker H&T Group acquires pledge book from Maxcroft

Pawnbroker and retailer of pre-owned jewellery H&T Group has acquired a selection of assets from Essex-based Maxcroft Securities for £11.3million in cash.

H&T shares rose 2.7 per cent or 10.00p to 380.00p on Wednesday, having fallen over 14 per cent in the last year.

Interpol partners with AI-focused Windward amid maritime crime clampdown

BAE Systems sales top £25.3bn amid global surge in defence spending

BAE Systems profits surpassed expectations last year as governments continued ramping up military spending to counter heightened geopolitical threats.

Europe’s largest defence contractor’s sales rose by 9 per cent at constant currency levels to £25.3billion in 2023, £2billion ahead of guidance, thanks to increasing trade across all sectors.

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Currys backer Redwheel warns of UK market decline

Currys’ biggest shareholder has warned that the stock market is not fit for purpose.

Redwheel, which owns 14.6 per cent of the London-listed firm, backed the decision by the electrical retailer’s board to reject a £700million takeover offer by US hedge fund Elliott Partners.

Heathrow returns to profit for the first time since the pandemic

Heathrow Airport posted its first adjusted profit in four years on Wednesday, buoyed by strong travel demand in the final quarter of 2023.

The airport, one of the busiest hubs in the world, said adjusted pre-tax profit came in at £38million for the year ending 31 December, against a £684million loss a year earlier.

No dividends were paid in 2023 and none are forecast for this year, but Heathrow said shareholder payouts could be on the cards in 2024, subject to financial performance.

National Express crashes 25% after results delay

The company behind National Express lost as much as a quarter of its value after it delayed its annual results.

The bus, coach and rail operator, which has changed its name to Mobico Group, had planned to publish its figures for 2023 on Thursday next week.

But the company will now do so ‘before the end of March’, it says, after its auditor Deloitte warned that it needed more time to complete its work on the German arm of the business.

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HSBC posts record $30.3bn profit despite ‘messy’ final quarter

Market open: FTSE 100 down 0.5%; FTSE 250 flat

The FTSE 100 is in the red this morning on the back of disappointing earnings updates from HSBC Holdings and Glencore , while investors await US Federal Reserve’s last meeting minutes for clues on its policy outlook.

HSBC has lost 6.6 per cent to hit the bottom of FTSE 100, after the lender missed market estimates for annual profit.

Glencore has shed 3.8 per cent as the miner said lower commodity prices had halved its earnings last year, and slashed its payout to investors, as the company saves to fund the acquisition of a 77 per cent stake in Teck Resources’ metallurgical coal business.

Financials and base metal miners have dropped 3.6 and 1.6 per cent, respectively, to lead declines among sectors.

Superdry soars 17% on reports US investor is in talks to buy the troubled fashion chain

Shares in Superdry surged more than 17 per cent after reports that a US investor is in talks about a deal to buy the troubled fashion chain.

New York investment management firm Davidson Kempner is in discussions with Superdry co-founder and chief Julian Dunkerton over potentially backing a deal to take the brand private, according to Sky News.

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Heathrow posts first profit in four years

Heathrow Airport has posted its first adjusted profit in four years, buoyed by firm travel demand in the last quarter of 2023.

The airport, one of the busiest hubs in the world, saw adjusted profit before tax come in at £38million for the 12 months to 31 December, compared with a £684million loss a year earlier.

Heathrow added that no dividends were paid in 2023 and forecast none for this year, but said that it was a possibility.

January borrowing and tax figures ‘mixed news for Jeremy Hunt’

Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets, Hargreaves Lansdown:

‘January’s public finance figures were mixed news for Jeremy Hunt, who had a boost to his coffers, but not one that’s big enough for a Budget bonanza. January tends to be a positive month for tax receipts, so a surplus was always on the cards. In the end, the month delivered £16.7 billion – the biggest January figure since records began 31 years ago – but behind the OBR forecast of £18.2 billion.

‘It offers a few inches of headroom for Hunt, but not enough for a Budget of dramatic tax cuts. However, he does have the opportunity to wiggle into some moves for particular groups, and make changes to ISAs that help support specific groups. .

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‘ISAs are part of the furniture – in a good way. They’ve been around for 25 years and are well-established and well loved. Of course, like anything we’ve been wedded to for 25 years, we can always think of ways they could improve. But while small changes would be welcome, the government needs to beware of major reforms that would end up over-complicating things.’

New report confirms UK debanking fears: Customers being dumped because of opinions or lifestyles

HSBC results ‘marred’ by ‘ugly quarter’

Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor:

‘HSBC has again flexed its financial muscles with a leap in profits, despite an ugly final quarter which was marred by a large impairment relating to its Chinese operations.

‘Despite the overall strength of the numbers, the share price reaction overnight highlighted some of the concerns which the group is likely to be facing in the coming months. The likely reduction of interest rates globally could remove a plank from a core growth area of late, while the rather messy performance in the fourth quarter could potentially lead to some rather more negative momentum.

‘Indeed, in the group’s own outlook, HSBC is forecasting slow growth for the first half of the year, followed by a gradual recovery, while inevitably the parlous state of the Chinese economy in general and the real estate sector in particular are ominous headwinds.

‘Even so, HSBC is managing to shield itself from economic attack through its sheer size, while also remaining mindful on the importance of continuing to grow the business, especially in areas where it has particular strength. Among the bank’s immediate strategic objectives are to grow its international businesses while also diversifying its revenues, especially in the likes of its wealth businesses in Asia.

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‘Apart from the longer term potential for the key Chinese market, the group has also identified areas such as India and Vietnam as being some of the fastest growing economies at present, while the building economic connections between Asia and the Middle East, notwithstanding any geopolitical conflicts, are also emerging opportunities for HSBC with its sprawling footprint.

‘HSBC’s sheer scale and power not only provide an economic shield, but also enable investment in further growth, shareholder returns and fresh areas of fee income such as within its various wealth management businesses. The shares have mirrored the Asian experience overnight and have opened sharply lower in early trade, recognising a disappointing final quarter which took much of the sheen from what was otherwise a strong set of results.’

Rio Tinto lifts dividend despite profit slip

Rio Tinto suffered a 12 per cent profit slump last year, in line with forecasts, but the miner has paid a better-than-expected final dividend on the back of easing cost pressures.

The FTSE 100 firm underlying earnings came in at $11.8 billion for 2023, down from $13.4 billion a year earlier, mostly due to lower prices for aluminium and its minerals division. That was largely in line with the LSEG consensus estimate of $11.7 billion.

Rio declared a final dividend of 258 cents per share, up from 225 cents per share in 2022 and ahead of the LSEG estimate of 247 cents per share.

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The £135m man: That’s how much Pascal Soriot has been paid in 12 years at AstraZeneca… with more to come

‘BAE Systems continues to move from strength to strength’

Aarin Chiekrie, equity analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown:

‘BAE Systems continues to move from strength to strength, with both its full-year revenue and underlying operating profits coming in ahead of its prior guidance. The group manufactures heavy-duty military equipment like fighter jets, aircraft and submarines, and recent global events are keeping demand for its products strong.

‘Despite being a UK-based company, a whopping 42% of its sales came from the US last year, making it the largest single contributor. On an absolute basis, US military spending trumps any other country in the world, so having a large exposure here is proving very beneficial and has helped the group bring in a record £37.7bn worth of orders in 2023.

‘But BAE Systems isn’t stopping there. The UK’s largest defence contractor sealed the deal on its £4.4bn acquisition of US-based Ball Aerospace last week, which should further increase its footprint on the other side of the pond. Ball has unique positions in critical space and nuclear deterrence technologies, and the deal looks like a good strategic fit.

‘The new business should enhance top-line growth and margins, contributing positively to the group’s expectations for sales and profits to rise at double-digit rates this year. Against a backdrop of elevated global tensions and rising military budgets, the sky’s looking bright for this jet-maker.’

BAE Systems hikes dividend as earnings jump

BAE Systems has hiked its dividend after the British defence group’s earnings soared 14 per cent last year, as the Ukraine war continues to drive government military spending.

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The group said it expect further growth in 2024 as government orders for defence equipment surge due to rising geopolitical tensions.

Underlying earnings per share at the country’s biggest defence contractor came in at 63.2p, compared with a consensus forecast of 62.5p, and its guidance of a 10 to 12 per cent rise.

The company, whose biggest customers are the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Australia, recorded sales of £25.3billion last year, up 9 per cent on 2022.

For this year, BAE, which makes submarines and Typhoon fighter jets in Britain, said it expected earnings per share to grow by 6 to 8 per cent on sales which are forecast to rise 10 to 12 per cent.

‘Our performance, combined with our global footprint and record order intake, means we’re well-positioned for sustained growth in the coming years,’ said CEO Charles Woodburn.

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HSBC profits hit $30.3bn

HSBC has posted a record pre-tax profit for 2023 at $30.3billion, missing market forecasts after gains from higher interest rates were offset by a hefty $3 billion charge from its stake in a Chinese bank.

The lender’s profits were up 78 per cent from a year earlier but worse than a $34.1billion broker estimate.

But HSBC has rewarded investors with a fresh $2 billion share buyback, and said it would consider a special dividend of $0.21 per share in the first half of 2024 once its Canada disposal is complete.

However, the record-high annual profit was marred by a $3 billion impairment on the bank’s stake in China’s Bank of Communications.

Monzo’s £4bn valuation woe: Digital bank not worth much more than it was three years ago

Monzo is eyeing a valuation of £4billion in its latest funding round – not much more than it was worth three years ago.

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The online bank is set to finalise a deal in the next two weeks to raise as much as £350million from old and new investors, according to reports.

Tax under the microscope ahead of Spring Budget

Rachael Griffin, tax and financial planning expert at Quilter:

‘With the government’s spring budget now just two weeks away, the impact of its current tax policy has been laid bare this morning as new HMRC figures reveal PAYE income tax and NIC1 receipts for April 2023 to January 2024 were £336.2 billion, which is £22.7 billion higher than the same period last year.

‘This soaring increase in tax take has persisted despite the fact that these figures include the first month of the government’s 2% cut to National Insurance from 12% to 10% for the main rate of Class 1 employee NICs. Though time will tell whether the cut to NI will cause a slowdown in the rate at which this increase in tax take grows, the fiscal drag effect caused by the frozen income tax thresholds coupled with inflation driven wage growth will likely keep the number ticking up.

‘The cut to NI allows basic rate taxpayers to save a maximum of £754 a year. However, this saving is already being eaten into as households face increased costs elsewhere, such as the increase to council tax which will hit from April. The changes mean the average Band D household will now face an annual bill of £2,168, a rise of £103 compared to the current financial year.

‘Given the pressures on households, rumours suggest the government is considering a further cut to either income tax or NI during the budget. Polls suggest the Conservatives are struggling, so we can expect they will pull out all the stops at the budget in an attempt to sway voters as we near the election. Should a further cut materialise as part of this, we could see tax revenues fall considerably.

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‘Inheritance tax had been hitting the headlines as an area for potential change, including suggestions of total abolition, but those rumours have since gone quiet. Given inheritance tax receipts for April 2023 to January 2024 were £6.3 billion, £0.4 billion higher than the same period last year and on track for another record breaking year, the government is likely to leave it well alone. Though higher house prices and frozen thresholds have seen more people caught by the IHT net in recent years, ultimately, it impacts relatively few families but brings in a tidy sum to boost government coffers which it will be unwilling to relinquish – particularly if other tax cuts are on the table.’

UK records biggest budget surplus since 1993

Britain recorded its biggest monthly budget surplus since 1993 in January at £16.7billion as tax receipts soared to £111.4 billion for the month, fresh data from the Office for National Statistics shows.

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‘Death ship’: Vessel carrying 19,000 cattle causes stench in Cape Town

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The Al Kuwait ship docked in Cape Town harbour on February 20, 2024.

The Al Kuwait ship docked in Cape Town harbour on February 20, 2024. © Reuters

A ship carrying 19,000 cattle that docked in Cape Town on February 18 has been blamed for causing an “unimaginable” stench across the South African city and prompted protesters to call for a ban on live animal exports. Members of the NSPCA who were called in to inspect the ship after residents complained about the smell described finding “abhorrent” scenes, with animals living in ”dams of their own excrement”.

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The best beaches in the world for 2024 ranked by Tripadvisor – with Portugal home to the winner, Australia and Florida making the top 10 and a Dorset beach No.1 in the UK

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Sea-ze the day and enjoy sun-soaked fun at one of Tripadvisor’s top-ranked stretches of sand for 2024.

The number one beach to add to your bucket and spade list is Praia da Falesia in Portugal’s Algarve, according to the travel site, which awarded it first place in its 2024 Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best Awards for Beaches.

It knocks six-time champion Baia do Sancho in Brazil off the top spot in the ranking, which is drawn from the quality and quantity of reviews and ratings from Tripadvisor travellers for beaches worldwide, gathered from October 2022 to September 2023.

Italy’s Spiaggia dei Conigli on Lampedusa island in Sicily wins the silver medal, the bronze goes to La Concha Beach in San Sebastian, Spain and Kaanapali Beach in Hawaii is the top-ranking beach in the U.S, landing fourth in the 25-strong global charts.

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Weymouth Beach on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast wins the title as the UK’s top-ranking beach and comes 19th on the European list, which features 25 beaches.

The number one beach to add to your bucket list is Praia da Falesia in Portugal's Algarve, according to Tripadvisor, which awarded it first place in its 2024 Travellers' Choice Best of the Best Awards for Beaches

The number one beach to add to your bucket list is Praia da Falesia in Portugal's Algarve, according to Tripadvisor, which awarded it first place in its 2024 Travellers' Choice Best of the Best Awards for Beaches

The number one beach to add to your bucket list is Praia da Falesia in Portugal’s Algarve, according to Tripadvisor, which awarded it first place in its 2024 Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best Awards for Beaches

Italy's Spiaggia dei Conigli on Lampedusa island in Sicily wins the silver medal in the global list. Visitors praised its 'clean environment' and unforgettable 'great views' in reviews on Tripadvisor

Italy's Spiaggia dei Conigli on Lampedusa island in Sicily wins the silver medal in the global list. Visitors praised its 'clean environment' and unforgettable 'great views' in reviews on Tripadvisor

Italy’s Spiaggia dei Conigli on Lampedusa island in Sicily wins the silver medal in the global list. Visitors praised its ‘clean environment’ and unforgettable ‘great views’ in reviews on Tripadvisor

Praia da Falesia, which came sixth last year, has racked up 5,900 reviews to date – 68 per cent of which award a coveted ‘five-bubble’ rating. 

Tripadvisor said the world winning beach is ‘known for its dramatic red, sandy cliffs and can be reached by a wooden staircase’, adding: ‘It is beloved by Tripadvisor reviewers for its soft, powdery sand, perfect for sunbathing and strolls.’

Writing on the site, reviewer ‘tinkle_24’ described it as a ‘gorgeous stretch of uninterrupted fine sandy beach’ that’s ‘not to be missed’, while ‘K17elly’ said the cliffs ‘are stunning’ and ‘DrDance57’ noted it’s ‘the best beach I have been on’.

Spiaggia dei Conigli, meanwhile, was praised by ‘omar p’ for its ‘clean environment’ and unforgettable ‘great views’ and third-place La Concha Beach, in the Basque Country, was hailed by one visitor as ‘beautiful’ and ‘accessible’. Another visitor, ‘Antonia-Maria Stoian’, wrote: ‘The beach has a phenomenal promenade! At any hour of any day, it is gorgeous.’

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Fourth-place Kaanapali Beach is described by ‘bil2cg’ as ‘pure heaven’ with ‘fabulous views and delicious waters with unreal sunsets’.

Tripadvisor describes it as a ‘stunning three-mile stretch of sand… regarded as one of North America’s best beaches’ with ‘crystal-clear waters perfect for snorkelling and surfing, against a backdrop of lush mountains’.

The bronze goes to La Concha Beach in San Sebastian, Spain. Writing on Tripadvisor, 'Antonia-Maria Stoian' said: 'The beach has a phenomenal promenade. At any hour of any day, it is gorgeous'

The bronze goes to La Concha Beach in San Sebastian, Spain. Writing on Tripadvisor, 'Antonia-Maria Stoian' said: 'The beach has a phenomenal promenade. At any hour of any day, it is gorgeous'

The bronze goes to La Concha Beach in San Sebastian, Spain. Writing on Tripadvisor, ‘Antonia-Maria Stoian’ said: ‘The beach has a phenomenal promenade. At any hour of any day, it is gorgeous’

Kaanapali Beach in Hawaii is the top-ranking beach in the U.S, landing fourth in the 25-strong global charts

Kaanapali Beach in Hawaii is the top-ranking beach in the U.S, landing fourth in the 25-strong global charts

Kaanapali Beach in Hawaii is the top-ranking beach in the U.S, landing fourth in the 25-strong global charts 

Landing in fifth place in the worldwide ranking is Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos

Landing in fifth place in the worldwide ranking is Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos

Landing in fifth place in the worldwide ranking is Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos

Manly Beach in Sydney is the top-ranking Australian strip of sand and No.7 worldwide

Manly Beach in Sydney is the top-ranking Australian strip of sand and No.7 worldwide

Manly Beach in Sydney is the top-ranking Australian strip of sand and No.7 worldwide

Weymouth Beach on Dorset's Jurassic Coast wins the title as the UK's top-ranking beach and comes 19th on the European list, which features 25 beaches

Weymouth Beach on Dorset's Jurassic Coast wins the title as the UK's top-ranking beach and comes 19th on the European list, which features 25 beaches

Weymouth Beach on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast wins the title as the UK’s top-ranking beach and comes 19th on the European list, which features 25 beaches

The UK's Bournemouth Beach comes 20th in the European ranking, described by visitors as 'a wonderful sandy beach' with 'lovely golden sands and great walks along the seafront'

The UK's Bournemouth Beach comes 20th in the European ranking, described by visitors as 'a wonderful sandy beach' with 'lovely golden sands and great walks along the seafront'

The UK’s Bournemouth Beach comes 20th in the European ranking, described by visitors as ‘a wonderful sandy beach’ with ‘lovely golden sands and great walks along the seafront’

The remainder of the worldwide top 10 list comprises Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos (fifth); Anse Lazio in the Seychelles (sixth); Manly Beach, Sydney, Australia (seventh); Eagle Beach, Aruba (eighth); Siesta Beach in Florida, U.S (ninth) and Varadero Beach, Cuba (tenth).

Another U.S beach to make the worldwide ranking is Hawaii’s Poipu Beach Park, in 14th position (and second in America).

In the Europe ranking, first-place Praia da Falesia, second-place Spiaggia dei Conigli and third-place La Concha Beach are followed by the ‘stunning’ Reynisfjara Beach in Vik, Iceland, in fourth place.

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It’s one of two Icelandic shorelines to make it into the European top 10 – Vik’s Black Sand Beach – a new entry for 2024 – ranks tenth.

The rest of the European top 10 comprises Playa de las Canteras in Gran Canaria, Spain (fifth); the ‘incredible’ Falassarna Beach in Crete, Greece (sixth); the ‘must-visit’ Nissi Beach in Ayia Napa, Cyprus (seventh); Myrtos Beach in Kefalonia, Greece (eighth); and Playa de Maspalomas in Gran Canaria (ninth).

Playa de las Canteras in Gran Canaria, Spain, comes fifth in the European ranking

Playa de las Canteras in Gran Canaria, Spain, comes fifth in the European ranking

Playa de las Canteras in Gran Canaria, Spain, comes fifth in the European ranking

In the Europe ranking, the 'stunning' Reynisfjara Beach (pictured) in Vik, Iceland, comes in fourth place. It's one of two Icelandic shorelines to make it into the European top 10 - Vik's Black Sand Beach, a new entry for 2024, ranks tenth

In the Europe ranking, the 'stunning' Reynisfjara Beach (pictured) in Vik, Iceland, comes in fourth place. It's one of two Icelandic shorelines to make it into the European top 10 - Vik's Black Sand Beach, a new entry for 2024, ranks tenth

In the Europe ranking, the ‘stunning’ Reynisfjara Beach (pictured) in Vik, Iceland, comes in fourth place. It’s one of two Icelandic shorelines to make it into the European top 10 – Vik’s Black Sand Beach, a new entry for 2024, ranks tenth

TRIPADVISOR’S BEST BEACHES OF 2024 – GLOBAL, EUROPE AND USA

TOP BEACHES IN THE WORLD

1.  Praia da Falésia, Portugal

2. Spiaggia dei Conigli, Italy

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3.  La Concha Beach, Spain

4.  Ka’anapali Beach, Hawaii

5.  Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos

6.  Anse Lazio, Seychelles

7.  Manly Beach, Australia

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8. Eagle Beach, Aruba 

9. Siesta Beach, Florida

10. Varadero Beach, Cuba

11. Playa Pilar, Cuba

12. Balandra Beach, Mexico

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13. Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland

14.  Poipu Beach Park, Hawaii

15. Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands 

16. Playa de Las Canteras, Spain 

17.  Ipanema Beach, Brazil

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18.  Playa Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica 

19. Falassarna Beach, Greece 

20. Nungwi Beach, Tanzania

21. Kelingking Beach, Indonesia

22. Nissi Beach, Cyprus 

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23. Myrtos Beach, Greece 

24. Playa Norte, Mexico 

25. Muro Alto Beach, Brazil 

TOP BEACHES IN EUROPE 

1. Praia da Falésia, Portugal

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2. Spiaggia dei Conigli, Italy

3. La Concha Beach, Spain

4. Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland 

5. Playa de Las Canteras, Spain

6.  Falassarna Beach, Greece

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7. Nissi Beach, Cyrpus

8. Myrtos Beach, Greece

9. Playa de Maspalomas, Spain

 10. Black Sand Beach, Iceland

11. Playa de Muro Beach, Spain

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12. Anthony Quinn Bay, Greece

13. Plage de Palombaggia, France

14. Matala Beach, Greece

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15. Fig Tree Bay, Cyprus

16. Iztuzu Beach, Türkiye

17.  Cala Mariolu, Italy

18. Makronissos Beach, Cyprus 

19. Weymouth Beach, UK

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20. Bournemouth Beach, UK

21. Konyaalti Beach, Türkiye

22. Praia da Nazare, Portugal

23.  Lido Marakaibbo, Italy

24. Praia dos Três Irmãos, Portugal

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25. Mellieha Beach, Malta

TOP BEACHES IN THE U.S

1. Ka’anapali Beach, Hawaii

2. Siesta Beach, Florida 

3. Poipu Beach Park, Hawaii

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4.  Hollywood Beach, Florida

5.  La Jolla Cove, California

6.  Cannon Beach, Oregon

7. Santa Monica State Beach, California

8. Driftwood Beach, Georgia

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9. Coligny Beach, South Carolina

10. Ocean City Beach, Maryland

11. Waikiki Beach, Hawaii 

12. Clearwater Beach, Florida 

13. Panama City Beach, Florida

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14.  Napili Beach, Hawaii

15. Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida

16.  Ho’okipa Beach Park, Hawaii

17. St. Augustine Beach, Florida

18. Hanalei Bay, Hawaii

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19. Henderson Beach State Park, Florida

20. Hanalei Beach, Hawaii

21. Tunnels Beach, Hawaii

22. Ogunquit Beach, Maine

23. Bahia Honda State Park, Florida

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24.  Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hawaii

25. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, Hawaii 

Source: Tripadvisor 

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UK No.1 Weymouth Beach is described on Tripadvisor by ‘Julie B‘ as an ‘absolutely beautiful beach with lots to do’ while ‘CathyD1978‘ called it a ‘great beach’ with ‘lots of amenities to hand’ and ‘shallow water for quite a distance, so great for kids’.

Another UK beach to make the European ranking is Bournemouth Beach (20th), described by visitors as ‘a wonderful sandy beach’ with ‘lovely golden sands and great walks along the seafront’.

This year’s awards sees the launch of a new sub-category – World’s Best Sustainable Beaches – and the UK comes out top with Sandbanks Beach in Poole, Dorset named No.1 and Saundersfoot Beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales, coming in at No.3, following Radhanagar Beach on India’s Havelock Island at No.2.

Nungwi Beach on the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania ranks 20th among the world's best beaches

Nungwi Beach on the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania ranks 20th among the world's best beaches

Nungwi Beach on the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania ranks 20th among the world’s best beaches

Bali's Kelingking Beach in Indonesia features in 21st position in the world ranking

Bali's Kelingking Beach in Indonesia features in 21st position in the world ranking

Bali’s Kelingking Beach in Indonesia features in 21st position in the world ranking

It comes after Tripadvisor noted that more than half (55 per cent) of its global users say that helping the environment is important to them.

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‘Measured by a combination of inputs from sustainable data partner BeCause (via the Blue Flag program) and Tripadvisor traveller reviews, winners stand out for their commitments to sustainability including sustainable transport options, waste disposal and water quality,’ the site said.

‘Europe comes out top in this list, taking seven of the top ten spots, with India, South Africa and the UAE also making the list.’

Siesta Beach in Florida ranks as the ninth best beach in the world and the second best in the U.S

Siesta Beach in Florida ranks as the ninth best beach in the world and the second best in the U.S

Siesta Beach in Florida ranks as the ninth best beach in the world and the second best in the U.S

Poipu Beach Park, Hawaii, is the 14th best beach in the world and the third best in the U.S, according to the study

Poipu Beach Park, Hawaii, is the 14th best beach in the world and the third best in the U.S, according to the study

Poipu Beach Park, Hawaii, is the 14th best beach in the world and the third best in the U.S, according to the study

Hollywood Beach in Florida appears in fourth position in the U.S ranking

Hollywood Beach in Florida appears in fourth position in the U.S ranking

Hollywood Beach in Florida appears in fourth position in the U.S ranking

Commenting on the 2024 ranking, Sarah Firshein, head of editorial at Tripadvisor, said: ‘Last year, Tripadvisor received millions of reviews for beaches — it’s clear that our community absolutely loves them.

‘But as our Travellers’ Choice lists reveal, there’s no one-size-fits-all “beach day”.

‘Our top 25 winners alone encompass 18 countries across five continents. The top three beaches are all in Europe, ousting the perennially popular Caribbean from those spots – a sign that some travellers are eager to swap typical resort vacations for the coastlines of Portugal, Italy, and beyond.’

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For the complete list of Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best award-winning beaches for 2024, visit: tripadvisor.co.uk/TravellersChoice-Beaches

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Diet that mimics the effect of fasting WITHOUT starving yourself could add years to followers’ lives, trial shows

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A diet that mimics the effect of fasting without starving yourself can extend your life by years, a study suggests.

Researchers found that people who followed the fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) for five days a month reduced their biological age by over two years on average.

Tests also showed they had a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, based on biomarkers in their blood.

The FMD diet involves eating around fewer than 1,000 calories – made up of low-fat foods, soups, energy drinks and supplements.

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It is said to trick the body into thinking it is fasting, releasing enzymes and other chemicals in the body that have been linked to longevity.

Participants ate a FMD made up of plant-based soups, energy bars, energy drinks, chip snacks, and tea portioned out for five days, as well as a supplement providing high levels of minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids

Participants ate a FMD made up of plant-based soups, energy bars, energy drinks, chip snacks, and tea portioned out for five days, as well as a supplement providing high levels of minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids

Participants ate a FMD made up of plant-based soups, energy bars, energy drinks, chip snacks, and tea portioned out for five days, as well as a supplement providing high levels of minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids

Professor Valter Longo, a biologist from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who developed the diet in the new study and is the lead author, said: ‘This is the first study to show that a food-based intervention that does not require chronic dietary or other lifestyle changes can make people biologically younger.’

The diet used in the study involved three cycles of five days on the FMD diet, with a 25 day break in between.

Day one saw the participants eat 1,100 calories, while days two to five saw them consume eat around 720 calories daily.

Their diet during these days also consisted of healthy chip snacks and tea.

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The diet is made up of 34 percent carbohydrates, 10 percent protein and 56 percent fat for the first day, and then seven percent carbohydrates, nine percent protein, and 44 percent fat for the other days.

Participants then got to eat their usual diets for 25 days. 

Both groups contained men and women aged between 18 and 70.

After three months, researchers analyzed blood samples from participants, which showed that patients in the FMD group had lower diabetes risk factors, including less insulin resistance and lower blood sugar levels.

Chronological age is how long you have  been alive, whereas biological age is how old your cells and tissues are. It is a significant metric because it shows how susceptible you may be to disease.

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MRI scans also showed a decreased in abdominal fat and fat in the liver, which are associated with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Previous research has suggested FMD cycles can even lower risk factors for cancer.

The FMD cycles also appeared to increased participants’ lymphoid-to-myeloid ratio, which is an indicator of a more youthful immune system.

Further analyses revealed that FMD participants had lowered their biological age – a measure of how well one’s cells and tissues are functioning, as opposed to chronological age – by 2.5 years on average.

Researchers believe the FMD has ‘rejuvenating effects on the immune system’. In previous studies in mice, the diet caused a ‘rejuvenation of the blood profile.’

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The FMD diet also switches cells throughout the body to a protected ‘anti-aging mode’ — an effect which endures beyond the fast.

The body has what is known as ‘nutrient-sensing’ pathways, which control autophagy – kind of ‘housekeeping’ of the body’s cells.

It is constantly going on in the body and removes unwanted byproducts of cell processes.

 

The more autophagy that happens, the better you feel and the lower the risk of future health problems.

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The FMD diet accelerates autophagy, so more byproducts and ‘bad’ cells in the body are disposed of that cause disease and aging.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

It is supposed to mimic the effects of a water-only fast while still offering essential nutrients.

A water-only fast is where you only drink water for a period of time and ingest no other food or beverages. People water fast for weight loss or to lower blood pressure.

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France launches anti-corruption push ahead of 2024 Paris Olympics

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Ahead of the Paris Olympics in July and August, French prosecutors are working on four enquiries into possible wrongdoing, but are the investigations a sign of problems or of genuine efforts to tackle graft?

Issued on: Modified:

3 min

Andy Spalding, an academic and author who studies corruption in sporting “mega-events” such as the Olympics or the football World Cup, believes French authorities are showing they are serious about delivering a clean Games.

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Three preliminary investigations are into possible favouritism in the awarding of around 20 contracts worth tens of millions of euros, while a fourth — revealed on February 6 by AFP — is scrutinising the pay of chief organiser Tony Estanguet.

In an interview with AFP, Spalding, a professor at the US-based University of Richmond School of Law, explained the troubled history of Olympic corruption and why he believes the Paris Games might spell the start of a “new era” of cleaner international sport.

Question: When did corruption in the Olympics first come to wide public attention?

“The Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 was the first time in which there was hard evidence of corruption that went public. Pre-2002, we know there’s corruption. But we can’t prove it and the world is largely resigned to corruption.

Then in the late 1990s, there’s something sometimes called the “corruption eruption” — a period of time in which all of a sudden the world starts paying a lot of attention to corruption issues.

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There are new international conventions; there’s an explosion of scholarship. There are scandals and resignations, new enforcement initiatives.

What we saw in the ensuing Games was not just incidents of corruption, but systemic corruption. Russia with the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics was probably the most egregious example of this, where billions of dollars are estimated to have been embezzled in the course of the event.”

What has been the effect on the Olympics movement?

“The corruption scandals have damaged the International Olympic Committee brand enormously. That was most obvious in 2015 at the time of the awarding of the 2022 Winter Games, when the only credible candidate, China, was a country that had almost no winter sports tradition.

Other countries just didn’t want them because of the systemic corruption and the cost overruns.

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The IOC needs a sustainable business model, so they adopted reforms, attacking the two different components of corruption: one is the corruption at the IOC level, particularly with the executive committee, meaning they needed to reform the bidding process.

Then the second step was addressing corruption at the host level: the organising committee, the municipality, the National Olympic Committee.”

Part of that approach is a new “anti-corruption clause” in the contract with the Olympics host city. What is this?

“France is the first country to be under an enforceable contractual obligation to adopt anti-corruption compliance programs. Nobody knows what it means yet, but starting with Paris, moving forward to the 2026 Winter Games and Los Angeles in 2028, we will have these contractual obligations each time.

You start with a contractual provision. The next step is to provide some guidance on what that means. Then we need operations and some enforcement for breach of contract. When all of those steps are completed, then the clause will mean something.

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When any convention or statute is adopted, there is a lag before enforcement. The statute that was the catalyst for global anti-corruption enforcement, the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, was on the books for 25 years before we did anything with it.”

How else is Paris 2024 different?

“It’s really important to note that France was awarded the Olympics in 2017, the same year that it adopted a new highly innovative anti-corruption law, Sapin II. That created a freestanding requirement that companies adopt anti-corruption compliance programs to prevent things like bribery, favouritism or extortion. In most of the world, anti-corruption compliance is not legally required.

France applied all this to the Olympics. They put the organising committee under the jurisdiction of the new French Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA) whose sole purpose is to help companies build compliance programs.

And in reviewing the organising committee, AFA has uncovered issues that are potential red flags. It sends those red flags to prosecutors, and prosecutors are now investigating.

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What is that evidence of? Systemic corruption or an innovative anti-corruption initiative working really well? It depends on whether anything is verified. And if it’s verified, how serious it is.

I think Paris could mark the beginning of a new era of anti-corruption law enforcement and anti-corruption measures in the Games.”

(AFP)

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International

Crunch time for Messi and MLS: Inter Miami’s season starts tonight after a disastrous world tour… but now David Beckham’s all-star cast NEED success after spending big on Suarez and Co

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The last time we saw Lionel Messi face an MLS side in South Florida, the mood around Inter Miami was noticeably lighter.

The club had arranged a November 10 friendly vs. New York City FC to celebrate Messi’s eighth Ballon d’Or win, dubbing it ‘Noche d’ Or’ and putting a bow on what had been a promising 2023 for the team.

But when the reigning Leagues Cup champions returned to DRV PNK Stadium last week for a final tune-up vs. Newell’s Old Boys, it was hard not to feel as though some of the sheen had worn off, ahead of the club’s MLS opener on Wednesday.

Miami’s preseason was at best choppy, and at worst a disaster.

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Ignoring the results, which included just one win from seven games, there was a calamity of bad press as Miami cashed in with a journey taking them to El Salvador, Dallas, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Japan.

Lionel Messi said he was 'a little tired' and wanted to 'return home' from Miami's lengthy tour

Lionel Messi said he was 'a little tired' and wanted to 'return home' from Miami's lengthy tour

Lionel Messi said he was ‘a little tired’ and wanted to ‘return home’ from Miami’s lengthy tour

He was in happier spirits when he faced off against his old club, Newell's Old Boys, last week

He was in happier spirits when he faced off against his old club, Newell's Old Boys, last week

He was in happier spirits when he faced off against his old club, Newell’s Old Boys, last week

Messi posed with the Ballon d'Or trophy - his eighth - before a Miami friendly in November

Messi posed with the Ballon d'Or trophy - his eighth - before a Miami friendly in November

Messi posed with the Ballon d’Or trophy – his eighth – before a Miami friendly in November

The tour gained unwanted attention in just the second game vs. FC Dallas, as Messi and his teammates took the field in front of a largely-empty Cotton Bowl that was only one-third full.

From there, Messi injured his adductor muscle, angered the Hong Kong government and fans when he sat out of a friendly there, and admitted he was a ‘little tired from this whole tour’ before Miami faced Vissel Kobe.

The No. 10 also played just seven minutes in a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Al-Nassr – who were without Cristiano Ronaldo – while Sergio Busquets was taken off with an injury scare vs. Vissel Kobe. 

This is all to say: the happier days of Messi hoisting the Leagues Cup over the summer feel far away, as does the innocence of his family trip to supermarket chain Publix soon after arriving Stateside.

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Crucially, though, Messi is still Messi, and there are even greater expectations for these star-studded Herons after the addition of Luis Suarez. Any team with those names will at least be in the mix for its league title.

Luis Suarez (right) has teamed up with Messi, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets (L-R) in Miami

Luis Suarez (right) has teamed up with Messi, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets (L-R) in Miami

Luis Suarez (right) has teamed up with Messi, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets (L-R) in Miami

Messi and Inter Miami lifted the Leagues Cup over the summer, beating Nashville SC

Messi and Inter Miami lifted the Leagues Cup over the summer, beating Nashville SC

Messi and Inter Miami lifted the Leagues Cup over the summer, beating Nashville SC

The first full season of Miami’s ‘Big 4’ will commence tonight, at home vs. Real Salt Lake, and Suarez will not be the only new face.

Veteran wide man Julian Gressel joined after winning the league with the Columbus Crew, while Yannick Bright was added in the first round of the draft as well.

Meanwhile, defender Kamal Miller has departed after totaling the fourth-most league minutes on the team last season, while Josef Martinez and his seven goals have left as well.

The club will also be without midfielder Facundo Farias after he tore his ACL in the preseason, while highly-rated 18-year-old Benjamin Cremaschi will miss two to three months with a sports hernia, according to the team.

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So, there will be lots of pieces for manager Tata Martino to mix and match as he aims to get the most out of a squad whose best players are all 34 and older.

The positive news for Martino is his two best – and oldest – attackers are still quite good despite the mileage on them.

Messi, who wasted no time opening his Miami account with a stunning free kick vs. Cruz Azul, scored 11 goals in 14 appearances in all competitions after arriving in July.

Messi and Suarez will hope to channel the connection from their Barcelona days

Messi and Suarez will hope to channel the connection from their Barcelona days

Messi and Suarez will hope to channel the connection from their Barcelona days

Suarez joined Miami after starring for Gremio in the Brazilian league, scoring 17 goals

Suarez joined Miami after starring for Gremio in the Brazilian league, scoring 17 goals

Suarez joined Miami after starring for Gremio in the Brazilian league, scoring 17 goals

And the 37-year-old Suarez, creaky legs and all, still managed 17 goals and 11 assists in the Brazilian league this past season for Gremio.

Alba, too, remains a threat bombing up and down the left while Busquets is surely one of the league’s best passers, even if his severe lack of pace will at times hamstring him.

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The worry for those four, and Miami at large, is not winning a final or coming up with the goods in a big game.

It’s staying healthy and fresh enough to get there.

Miami could flirt with 60 games this season with the team set to play in four different competitions. What will it look like when Messi inevitably rests, as Martino has already planned?

The returns were discouraging in the six MLS games that Messi missed last season after his arrival, as Miami won just once, drew three times and lost twice. And Suarez, who has dealt with repeated knee issues, has not been the most durable of late either.

The Herons were not shut out in any of those six Messi-less games, perhaps surprisingly, though they failed to top more than one goal in half of them. 

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It was their defense that let them down in 5-2 and 4-1 losses to Atlanta United and the Chicago Fire respectively.

Young players like defender Tomas Aviles will hope to make Messi's life easier

Young players like defender Tomas Aviles will hope to make Messi's life easier

Young players like defender Tomas Aviles will hope to make Messi’s life easier

Having a full season of Tomas Aviles, a reported $9million arrival last summer, and newly-signed Pumas loanee Nicolas Freire, should help in that department. A full preseason under Martino should be beneficial as well.

Miami’s aging core is surrounded by some decent young talent, and the team’s brass deserves credit for its reshaping of its roster over the past year. 

Make no mistake about it, though – just as Apple TV’s new MLS Season Pass ad revolves around Messi, so too do Miami’s prospects this season.

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He’s playing alongside his best friends, for a coach he respects, and crucially, with a clean bill of health, according to reports from the eve of the season opener.

Miami and MLS both need Messi to explode, and the 36-year-old will soon show what kind of spark he has left.

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International

Norway’s PM says it is ‘not in Russia’s interest to engage war with a NATO country’

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Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre spoke to FRANCE 24 about the war in Ukraine ahead of the second anniversary this week of Russia’s full-scale invasion. The conflict has prompted senior Scandinavian defence officials to warn about the heightened threat of war with Russia; while Norway is a founding member of NATO, Finland joined the alliance just last year while Sweden is in the process of doing so.

“I don’t think it is in Russia’s interest to engage war with a NATO country,” the Norwegian premier told FRANCE 24.

“But being part of NATO, being part of a collective security, we need to strengthen our capacity,” he conceded.

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Speaking on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Støre admitted that there was a “stalemate on the battleground” in Ukraine but insisted on the importance of supporting Kyiv. The recent fall of Avdiivka to Russian forces “should be a wake-up call to make the Ukrainians fit and able to defend themselves”, he said.

Støre added that Norway would agree a bilateral security deal to help Ukraine. Kyiv has already signed similar agreements with France, Germany and the UK. 

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