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The ultimate Premier League football team… according to ChatGPT

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AI bot ChatGPT has named its ultimate Premier League line-up – but many fans may be surprised by some controversial omissions. 

MailOnline asked the tool, ‘Can you give me your ultimate Premier League football team?’ and it gave 11 Premier League winners in a 4-3-3 formation. 

But some big names are missing from the lineup, including Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Bale. It even omitted Ryan Giggs – who has more Premier League winners’ medals than any other player. 

Also missing are modern greats including Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland, who now holds the record for most goals in a single Premier League season. 

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Chelsea fans may be incensed as the chatbot has only included one Blues star in its line-up – although Manchester City fans may be even more annoyed.  

Do you agree? ChatGPT named its ultimate Premier League line-up - and made some controversial omissions. The hugely popular AI tool ChatGPT has been trained on a massive amount of text so it can generate human-like answers to questions

Do you agree? ChatGPT named its ultimate Premier League line-up - and made some controversial omissions. The hugely popular AI tool ChatGPT has been trained on a massive amount of text so it can generate human-like answers to questions

Do you agree? ChatGPT named its ultimate Premier League line-up – and made some controversial omissions. The hugely popular AI tool ChatGPT has been trained on a massive amount of text so it can generate human-like answers to questions

Despite City winning the title six times, not a single Premier League winner with the northern club has been included in the selection. 

What is ChatGPT? 

ChatGPT is a large language model that has been trained on a massive amount of text data, allowing it to generate eerily human-like text in response to a given prompt 

OpenAI says its ChatGPT model has been trained using a machine learning technique called Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF).

This can simulate dialogue, answer follow-up questions, admit mistakes, challenge incorrect premises and reject inappropriate requests.

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It responds to text prompts from users and can be asked to write essays, lyrics for songs, stories, marketing pitches, scripts, complaint letters and even poetry. 

ChatGPT – which was released by US firm OpenAI in November – was built using large language models (LLMs), deep learning algorithms that can recognise and generate text based on knowledge gained from massive datasets. 

It said its decision was ‘based on my analysis of the players’ skills and performances in the league’ – and it denied being a Manchester United fan. 

Here’s a look at ChatGPT’s ultimate Premier League line-up and its reasoning for each selection.  

GOALKEEPER – PETER SCHMEICHEL 

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Denmark’s Peter Schmeichel played eight seasons at Manchester United and won five league titles, three FA Cups and one League Cup.  

He also captained the side during their famous Champions League glory in Barcelona in May 1999, which capped a remarkable treble that season. 

That Champions League final, in which he wore the captain’s armband in Roy Keane’s absence, proved to be Schmeichel’s last game for United as he moved to Sporting Lisbon that summer.

ChatGPT said: ‘Schmeichel was an integral part of the Manchester United team that won five Premier League titles in seven years. 

‘He was an excellent shot-stopper and commanding presence in the penalty area.’ 

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Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel, pictured prior to a UEFA Champions League match against Bayern Munich in September 1998, was described as 'excellent shot-stopper'

Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel, pictured prior to a UEFA Champions League match against Bayern Munich in September 1998, was described as 'excellent shot-stopper'

Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel, pictured prior to a UEFA Champions League match against Bayern Munich in September 1998, was described as ‘excellent shot-stopper’

ChatGPT is a large language model that has been trained on a massive amount of text data, allowing it to generate eerily human-like text in response to a given prompt

ChatGPT is a large language model that has been trained on a massive amount of text data, allowing it to generate eerily human-like text in response to a given prompt

ChatGPT is a large language model that has been trained on a massive amount of text data, allowing it to generate eerily human-like text in response to a given prompt

RIGHT BACK – GARY NEVILLE

Another Manchester United ace of the 1990s, Gary Neville was described as his manager Alex Ferguson as ‘the best English right-back of his generation’. 

The one-club player was a member of ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ along with David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and his brother Phil. 

Neville won 20 trophies at United, making him one of the most decorated English footballers of all time. 

ChatGPT said: ‘Neville spent his entire career at Manchester United, winning eight Premier League titles and establishing himself as one of the best right-backs in the league’s history.’ 

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CENTRE BACK – VIRGIL VAN DIJK

Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk is the only player in ChatGPT’s ultimate line-up that is currently playing in the Premier League.

The Dutch star signed from Southampton in January 2018 and quickly gained a reputation as a strong and formidable barrier for even the best strikers. 

He’s since won every top competition there is to be won for a player in England, including the Premier League in 2020 and the Champions League in 2019. 

ChatGPT said: ‘Van Dijk has been a dominant force at the heart of Liverpool’s defence since joining the club.

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‘He played a key role in their Premier League title-winning season in 2019-20 and has been widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the world.’ 

Gary Neville (pictured in April 1999) won 20 trophies at United, including eight Premier Leagues

Gary Neville (pictured in April 1999) won 20 trophies at United, including eight Premier Leagues

Gary Neville (pictured in April 1999) won 20 trophies at United, including eight Premier Leagues

ChatGPT called Dutch captain Virgil Van Dijk 'a dominant force at the heart of Liverpool's defence'

ChatGPT called Dutch captain Virgil Van Dijk 'a dominant force at the heart of Liverpool's defence'

ChatGPT called Dutch captain Virgil Van Dijk ‘a dominant force at the heart of Liverpool’s defence’ 

CENTRE BACK – RIO FERDINAND

Rio Ferdinand, who made his senior debut at West Ham in May 1996, won 18 trophies during his time at Manchester United.

The club forked out £30 million on Ferdinand in July 2002 to make him the most expensive British footballer in history at the time of his move from rivals Leeds United.

ChatGPT said: ‘Ferdinand was a rock in Manchester United’s defence for over a decade, winning six Premier League titles and forming a formidable partnership with Nemanja Vidic.’ 

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Although ChatGPT’s selection was heavy with Manchester United players, the bot denied being a fan of the club when asked.

It said: ‘As an AI language model, I don’t have personal preferences or feelings like humans do, so I don’t have a favourite football team. 

‘I provide information and insights based on data and analysis, regardless of the teams or players involved. 

‘I strive to remain neutral and objective in my responses to provide the most helpful and accurate information possible.’ 

LEFT BACK – ASHLEY COLE 

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Ashley Cole left Arsenal fans devastated when he moved to London rivals Chelsea in the summer of 2006.

ChatGPT said Cole had won three Premier League titles with Arsenal and two titles with Chelsea – although this is actually incorrect. 

Ashley Cole (right) celebrates with Frank Lampard during a Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on May 10, 2009

Ashley Cole (right) celebrates with Frank Lampard during a Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on May 10, 2009

Ashley Cole (right) celebrates with Frank Lampard during a Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on May 10, 2009 

Rio Ferdinand is pictured during a Premier League match between Manchester United and his former club Leeds United at Old Trafford in March 2003

Rio Ferdinand is pictured during a Premier League match between Manchester United and his former club Leeds United at Old Trafford in March 2003

Rio Ferdinand is pictured during a Premier League match between Manchester United and his former club Leeds United at Old Trafford in March 2003

Cole’s sole league glory with Chelsea was in the 2009-10 season, and he was only in the Arsenal academy when the club won the first of its three Premier League titles in 1998.

OpenAI has already admitted that ‘ChatGPT sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers’.

READ MORE: Could ChatGPT replace Google? Experts weigh in  

Since the turn of the millennium, the job of finding internet users information has been primarily reserved for Google, the world's most popular search engine - but this could soon change

Since the turn of the millennium, the job of finding internet users information has been primarily reserved for Google, the world's most popular search engine - but this could soon change

Since the turn of the millennium, the job of finding internet users information has been primarily reserved for Google, the world’s most popular search engine – but this could soon change 

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Nevertheless, the bot was full of praise for Cole, calling him ‘one of the best left-backs in the league’s history with his defensive abilities and attacking prowess’. 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER – PATRICK VIEIRA 

One of two Frenchmen in ChatGPT’s line-up is midfielder Patrick Vieira, a former Arsenal captain and surely one of the most beloved midfielders among Gunners fans. 

In nine seasons with the North London club, Vieira lifted four FA Cups and three league titles before departing for Italy in 2005. 

ChatGPT said: ‘Vieira was a key figure in Arsenal’s dominant teams of the early 2000s, winning three Premier League titles and providing a physical and technical presence in midfield.’ 

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CENTRAL MIDFIELDER – STEVEN GERRARD 

Considered by many as Liverpool’s greatest player, Steven Gerrard spent his entire career at Liverpool.

He won the Champions League, FA Cup, and League Cup – but never the Premier League, despite coming very close in 2014. 

ChatGPT said: ‘He was a dynamic and versatile midfielder who could score goals and create chances.’ 

Gerrard also holds the most appearances in the PFA Team of the Year in the Premier League era with eight. 

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Considered by many as Liverpool's greatest player, Gerrard spent his entire career at Liverpool. Pictured is Gerrard after scoring at Anfield in a legends charity match on March 25, 2023

Considered by many as Liverpool's greatest player, Gerrard spent his entire career at Liverpool. Pictured is Gerrard after scoring at Anfield in a legends charity match on March 25, 2023

Considered by many as Liverpool’s greatest player, Gerrard spent his entire career at Liverpool. Pictured is Gerrard after scoring at Anfield in a legends charity match on March 25, 2023 

Patrick Vieira celebrates his goal during the FA Cup semi final against rivals Tottenham Hotspur in April 2001

Patrick Vieira celebrates his goal during the FA Cup semi final against rivals Tottenham Hotspur in April 2001

Patrick Vieira celebrates his goal during the FA Cup semi final against rivals Tottenham Hotspur in April 2001

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER – PAUL SCHOLES 

Paul Scholes, another one of Fergie’s Fledglings, spent his entire career at Manchester United, where he won 11 Premier League titles. 

He retired in 2011 at the age of 36 but made a surprise return to the club for another season and a half the following year. 

ChatGPT said Scholes was ‘renowned for his passing ability and long-range shooting’.

Along with Gerrard, Scholes can ‘dictate the play and create chances for the front three’ in this ultimate line-up, it added. 

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Paul Scholes (pictured here in August 2000) was one of manager Alex Ferguson's most reliable players during their time together at Manchester United

Paul Scholes (pictured here in August 2000) was one of manager Alex Ferguson's most reliable players during their time together at Manchester United

Paul Scholes (pictured here in August 2000) was one of manager Alex Ferguson’s most reliable players during their time together at Manchester United 

RIGHT WINGER – CRISTIANO RONALDO

As Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is considered one of the game’s greatest ever players, his inclusion comes as no surprise. 

Ronaldo spent six seasons at Manchester United, winning three Premier League titles, a Champions League title and more.

He established himself ‘as one of the best players in the world’ while at Manchester United with his pace, skill, and goalscoring ability, ChatGPT said. 

He joined the club for a second spell in summer 2021 – but this all ended in acrimony last year following a bombshell interview with Piers Morgan. 

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Now 38, he plays for Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr following a deal ‘believed to be worth more than 200 million euros’. 

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring with teammates during his second stint at Manchester United

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring with teammates during his second stint at Manchester United

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring with teammates during his second stint at Manchester United 

LEFT WINGER – THIERRY HENRY 

Frenchman Thierry Henry won two Premier League titles with Arsenal and was the league’s top scorer four times. 

Along with Vieira, Henry had international success with France, winning the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2000. 

ChatGPT called Henry ‘a technically gifted striker’ who could score goals ‘from anywhere on the pitch’. 

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Henry and Ronaldo were ‘two of the most gifted and prolific goalscorers in Premier League history’, it added. 

STRIKER – ALAN SHEARER 

No chatbot worth its salt could possibly overlook the greatest Premier League goal machine of all time. 

Alan Shearer is the Premier League’s all-time top scorer with 260 goals, although Tottenham’s Harry Kane is closing in on this record fast.

Alan Shearer pictured with the Premier League trophy after winning the title at Liverpool, May 14, 1995

Alan Shearer pictured with the Premier League trophy after winning the title at Liverpool, May 14, 1995

Alan Shearer pictured with the Premier League trophy after winning the title at Liverpool, May 14, 1995

Thierry Henry of Arsenal runs with the ball during the FA Cup fifth round match against Chelsea at Highbury, February 2001

Thierry Henry of Arsenal runs with the ball during the FA Cup fifth round match against Chelsea at Highbury, February 2001

Thierry Henry of Arsenal runs with the ball during the FA Cup fifth round match against Chelsea at Highbury, February 2001 

Shearer won the league title with Blackburn Rovers in 1995 before moving to Newcastle United, with whom he reached the FA Cup final twice.

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ChatGPT called Shearer ‘a prolific and physical striker who could score all types of goals’ with ‘physicality and finishing ability make him a perfect target man’. 

The bot decided to play Shearer at the tip of the 4-3-3 formation, which overall would provide ‘a good balance of defensive solidity, midfield creativity and attacking firepower’. 

MANAGER – SIR ALEX FERGUSON

Every title-winning squad needs a great manager, although MailOnline had no doubt which one ChatGPT would opt for. 

Sir Alex Ferguson won an incredible 13 Premier League titles with Manchester United – a feat that even the great Pep Guardiola is far from equalling. 

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The legendary Scot also won Manchester United two Champions League titles as well as five FA Cups, three League Cups and one Club World Cup. 

Sir Alex Ferguson (left) and first team Coach Rene Meulensteen of Manchester United pose with the Premier League trophy during Manchester United's parade on May 30, 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson (left) and first team Coach Rene Meulensteen of Manchester United pose with the Premier League trophy during Manchester United's parade on May 30, 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson (left) and first team Coach Rene Meulensteen of Manchester United pose with the Premier League trophy during Manchester United’s parade on May 30, 2011

ChatGPT said: ‘For the ultimate manager of this team, I would have to go with Sir Alex Ferguson. 

‘He was a master at man-management and was able to build and rebuild successful teams throughout his career. 

‘His ability to motivate players and make shrewd tactical decisions was unmatched, and he was able to consistently get the best out of his players. 

‘With his track record of success and his ability to manage and develop some of the best players in the league’s history, I think he would be the perfect fit to lead this ultimate Premier League team.’ 

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ChatGPT stressed that its ultimate Premier League team is subjective and that ‘others may have a different opinion’. 

What was ChatGPT’s worst omission? Tell us in the comments below 

Is THIS the ultimate Eurovision song? MailOnline asks ChatGPT to write the lyrics for a winning tune – so do you think it would stand a chance this year? 

For its millions of fans, the Eurovision Song Contest is a showcase of the best pop tracks to come out of Europe and beyond.

But while each act can seem to provide a more outrageous costume, set and musical performance than the last, there are certainly some repeating elements. 

These include lyrics which centre on love and relationships, as well as a rousing hook designed to be sung along to, both of which are features of the UK’s entry this year. 

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To see whether simply amalgamating these common features is actually effective, MailOnline asked AI chatbot ChatGPT to write a Eurovision winning hit. 

Read more 

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New sci-fi movie replaces The Shawshank Redemption as IMDb’s highest-rated film of all time

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A new sci-fit movie has overtaken The Shawshank Redemption as the number one highest-rated film on IMDB – and it hasn’t even been released.

The Shawshank Redemption has held the number one best film spot on IMDB since 2008 when it knocked The Godfather out of its long-standing ranking of nearly 20 years.

The 1994 flick has lost its crown Dune: Part Two, which has been deemed ‘visually thrilling’ and ‘narratively epic’ by critics days before its official release on March 1.

The Warner Bros movie has a 9.4 rating on IMDB from viewers who went to an early screening of the Sci-Fi epic on Sunday, along with a 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Dune: Part Two overtook The Shawshank Redemption's number one spot on IMDB days before it's release

Dune: Part Two overtook The Shawshank Redemption's number one spot on IMDB days before it's release

Dune: Part Two overtook The Shawshank Redemption’s number one spot on IMDB days before it’s release

Dune: Part Two is the second park in the film adaptation of Frank Herbert's first book of the same name

Dune: Part Two is the second park in the film adaptation of Frank Herbert's first book of the same name

Dune: Part Two is the second park in the film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s first book of the same name

Dune: Part Two’s sudden rise in popularity is in direct contrast to The Shawshank Redemption, which was a slow burn for viewers after it tanked at the box office.

The cult classic didn’t reach the heart of viewers until it was released on VHS a year later but it still took another 12 years before it reached IMDB’s top 250 list.

Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi vision, Dune: Part Two, has seemed to have no such issue, with viewers calling it the movie Hollywood needed and the ‘Sci-Fi/Fantasy epic of our Generation,’ while some compared it to The Lord of The Rings trilogy’s success in the early 2000s.

The majority of reviewers gave Dune: Part Two a 10-star rating with only five reviews ranking it below five stars, with many complimenting its blend of ‘visual splendor and narrative depth.’

The film’s IMDB rating has beaten out the top highest-grossing films of all time including Marvel’s Avengers: End Game and James Cameron’s Avatar and The Titanic which have all garnered roughly 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Rotten Tomatoes is considered to be a more accurate depiction of a film’s success because it focuses on critics reviews.

Dune: Part Two beat out The Shawshank Redemption's top spot on IMDB nearly 20 years after the film took The Godfather's place on the site

Dune: Part Two beat out The Shawshank Redemption's top spot on IMDB nearly 20 years after the film took The Godfather's place on the site

Dune: Part Two beat out The Shawshank Redemption’s top spot on IMDB nearly 20 years after the film took The Godfather’s place on the site

Dune: Part Two cost $190 million to make and will need to gross $470 million in the box office to make a profit

Dune: Part Two cost $190 million to make and will need to gross $470 million in the box office to make a profit

Dune: Part Two cost $190 million to make and will need to gross $470 million in the box office to make a profit

Filmmakers hope to make $70 to $80 million in Dune: Part Two's opening weekend

Filmmakers hope to make $70 to $80 million in Dune: Part Two's opening weekend

Filmmakers hope to make $70 to $80 million in Dune: Part Two’s opening weekend

Dune: Part Two hosts an all-star cast including Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Austin Butler and Christopher Walken

Dune: Part Two hosts an all-star cast including Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Austin Butler and Christopher Walken

Dune: Part Two hosts an all-star cast including Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Austin Butler and Christopher Walken

Yet its surge in popularity is giving other viewers pause, with one asking: ‘It hasn’t been released yet and it’s already the highest-rated film of all-time on IMDb. How is that even possible?’

Another person wrote that people are judging the film too early.

Critics are likewise jumping on the Dune bandwagon, reporting that the second installment of the film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s book of the same name did not disappoint.

Part one handled ‘the world-building and … expositional heavy lifting,’ according to film critic Austin Goslin, as it followed Paul and the Atreides family’s acquisition of controlling the universe’s one planet, Arakis, that produced a valuable resource called spice.

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Viewers raved about the film after seeing an early screening, calling it the movie Hollywood needed

Viewers raved about the film after seeing an early screening, calling it the movie Hollywood needed

Viewers raved about the film after seeing an early screening, calling it the movie Hollywood needed

'It's a fantastic piece of filmmaking, rarely seen in modern-day cinema,' one viewer said

'It's a fantastic piece of filmmaking, rarely seen in modern-day cinema,' one viewer said

‘It’s a fantastic piece of filmmaking, rarely seen in modern-day cinema,’ one viewer said

When the Harkonnens family overruns House Atreides and kills their patriarch, Duke Leto Atreides to take back the sand-ridden planet, Paul (played by Timothée Chalamet) and his mother Jessica (played by Rebecca Ferguson) were among the few who survived the assault, escaping to the desert after their family was nearly obliterated.

The second adaptation reportedly wastes no time on a recap, but instead jumps into Paul and Jessica’s attempts to avenge their family.

The film had a much higher budget than the first, with filmmakers spending $190 million, up from $165 million spent to create its predecessor.

To break even, the film will need to reel in $380 million and $475 million to make a profit, but Villeneuve is reportedly hoping to bring in $70 to $80 million in box office sales in the opening weekend, Variety reported.

Dune: Part Two boasts an all-star cast including Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, and Christopher Walken that brings the story to life. 

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Austin Butler – known for his debut role as Elvis in the cinematic adaptation of the rock-and-roll star’s life – ‘steals the show as Feyd-Rautha,’ according to one viewer who watched the film’s early release in Imax.

‘Overall, Dune: Part Two is an inspiring, visually stunning sci-fi spectacle and an incredible collision of myth, adventure, and destiny on a galactic scale,’ the viewer wrote. 

They added: ‘It’s a fantastic piece of filmmaking, rarely seen in modern-day cinema.’

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New sci-fi movie replaces The Shawshank Redemption as IMDb’s highest-rated film of all time

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on

A new sci-fit movie has overtaken The Shawshank Redemption as the number one highest-rated film on IMDB – and it hasn’t even been released.

The Shawshank Redemption has held the number one best film spot on IMDB since 2008 when it knocked The Godfather out of its long-standing ranking of nearly 20 years.

The 1994 flick has lost its crown Dune: Part Two, which has been deemed ‘visually thrilling’ and ‘narratively epic’ by critics days before its official release on March 1.

The Warner Bros movie has a 9.4 rating on IMDB from viewers who went to an early screening of the Sci-Fi epic on Sunday, along with a 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Dune: Part Two overtook The Shawshank Redemption's number one spot on IMDB days before it's release

Dune: Part Two overtook The Shawshank Redemption's number one spot on IMDB days before it's release

Dune: Part Two overtook The Shawshank Redemption’s number one spot on IMDB days before it’s release

Dune: Part Two is the second park in the film adaptation of Frank Herbert's first book of the same name

Dune: Part Two is the second park in the film adaptation of Frank Herbert's first book of the same name

Dune: Part Two is the second park in the film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s first book of the same name

Dune: Part Two’s sudden rise in popularity is in direct contrast to The Shawshank Redemption, which was a slow burn for viewers after it tanked at the box office.

The cult classic didn’t reach the heart of viewers until it was released on VHS a year later but it still took another 12 years before it reached IMDB’s top 250 list.

Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi vision, Dune: Part Two, has seemed to have no such issue, with viewers calling it the movie Hollywood needed and the ‘Sci-Fi/Fantasy epic of our Generation,’ while some compared it to The Lord of The Rings trilogy’s success in the early 2000s.

The majority of reviewers gave Dune: Part Two a 10-star rating with only five reviews ranking it below five stars, with many complimenting its blend of ‘visual splendor and narrative depth.’

The film’s IMDB rating has beaten out the top highest-grossing films of all time including Marvel’s Avengers: End Game and James Cameron’s Avatar and The Titanic which have all garnered roughly 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Advertisement

Rotten Tomatoes is considered to be a more accurate depiction of a film’s success because it focuses on critics reviews.

Dune: Part Two beat out The Shawshank Redemption's top spot on IMDB nearly 20 years after the film took The Godfather's place on the site

Dune: Part Two beat out The Shawshank Redemption's top spot on IMDB nearly 20 years after the film took The Godfather's place on the site

Dune: Part Two beat out The Shawshank Redemption’s top spot on IMDB nearly 20 years after the film took The Godfather’s place on the site

Dune: Part Two cost $190 million to make and will need to gross $470 million in the box office to make a profit

Dune: Part Two cost $190 million to make and will need to gross $470 million in the box office to make a profit

Dune: Part Two cost $190 million to make and will need to gross $470 million in the box office to make a profit

Filmmakers hope to make $70 to $80 million in Dune: Part Two's opening weekend

Filmmakers hope to make $70 to $80 million in Dune: Part Two's opening weekend

Filmmakers hope to make $70 to $80 million in Dune: Part Two’s opening weekend

Dune: Part Two hosts an all-star cast including Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Austin Butler and Christopher Walken

Dune: Part Two hosts an all-star cast including Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Austin Butler and Christopher Walken

Dune: Part Two hosts an all-star cast including Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Austin Butler and Christopher Walken

Yet its surge in popularity is giving other viewers pause, with one asking: ‘It hasn’t been released yet and it’s already the highest-rated film of all-time on IMDb. How is that even possible?’

Another person wrote that people are judging the film too early.

Critics are likewise jumping on the Dune bandwagon, reporting that the second installment of the film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s book of the same name did not disappoint.

Part one handled ‘the world-building and … expositional heavy lifting,’ according to film critic Austin Goslin, as it followed Paul and the Atreides family’s acquisition of controlling the universe’s one planet, Arakis, that produced a valuable resource called spice.

Advertisement
Viewers raved about the film after seeing an early screening, calling it the movie Hollywood needed

Viewers raved about the film after seeing an early screening, calling it the movie Hollywood needed

Viewers raved about the film after seeing an early screening, calling it the movie Hollywood needed

'It's a fantastic piece of filmmaking, rarely seen in modern-day cinema,' one viewer said

'It's a fantastic piece of filmmaking, rarely seen in modern-day cinema,' one viewer said

‘It’s a fantastic piece of filmmaking, rarely seen in modern-day cinema,’ one viewer said

When the Harkonnens family overruns House Atreides and kills their patriarch, Duke Leto Atreides to take back the sand-ridden planet, Paul (played by Timothée Chalamet) and his mother Jessica (played by Rebecca Ferguson) were among the few who survived the assault, escaping to the desert after their family was nearly obliterated.

The second adaptation reportedly wastes no time on a recap, but instead jumps into Paul and Jessica’s attempts to avenge their family.

The film had a much higher budget than the first, with filmmakers spending $190 million, up from $165 million spent to create its predecessor.

To break even, the film will need to reel in $380 million and $475 million to make a profit, but Villeneuve is reportedly hoping to bring in $70 to $80 million in box office sales in the opening weekend, Variety reported.

Dune: Part Two boasts an all-star cast including Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, and Christopher Walken that brings the story to life. 

Advertisement

Austin Butler – known for his debut role as Elvis in the cinematic adaptation of the rock-and-roll star’s life – ‘steals the show as Feyd-Rautha,’ according to one viewer who watched the film’s early release in Imax.

‘Overall, Dune: Part Two is an inspiring, visually stunning sci-fi spectacle and an incredible collision of myth, adventure, and destiny on a galactic scale,’ the viewer wrote. 

They added: ‘It’s a fantastic piece of filmmaking, rarely seen in modern-day cinema.’

Continue Reading

International

Police arrest more than 60 at farmers’ protest on the Champs-Élysées in Paris

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French police said Friday they had arrested 66 people at a farmers’ protest on the Champs-Elysees in central Paris that blocked traffic during the morning rush hour.

Issued on: Modified:

1 min

Using tractors and bales of hay, farmers briefly brought traffic to a halt on the famed avenue near the Arc de Triomphe monument, only a short distance from President Emmanuel Macron’s office, the Elysee.

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The protesters, who held up banners on the avenue, said their action was aimed “at saving French agriculture”.

Farmers across Europe have been protesting for weeks over what they say are excessively restrictive environmental rules, competition from cheap imports from outside the European Union and low incomes.

Farmer Axel Masson said about 100 of his peers had gathered at the arterial roundabout from 3:00 am (0200 GMT) “in a peaceful and law-abiding manner”. 

Some of the protesters handed out bags of potatoes to motorists stuck in crawling traffic around the Arc de Triomphe, AFP reporters at the scene said.

Several were seen chatting with police officers before the arrests.

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“The Rural Coordination takes over the Arc de Triomphe symbolically and peacefully,” the farmers’ union said earlier in a statement on social media platform X, adding that it was a cry to “save” agriculture in France.

It said it “wants quick action to save 45 percent of our farms which are in financial distress”.

Masson said the farmers laid a wreath in memory of their colleagues who had been driven to suicide by financial woes, adding: “The state has never heard us”.

French farmers have continued to block roads, set fire to tyres and lay siege to supermarkets, saying they need more measures, even after the government promised reforms. 

(AFP) 

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House prices rose in February, says Nationwide: Annual growth up for first time in 13 months

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Property prices rose in February due to lower mortgage rates, according to the latest Nationwide house price index.

Britain’s biggest building society recorded a 0.7 per cent increase in the average house price after taking account of seasonal effects.

It means house prices are up 1.2 per cent since this time last year, the first time Nationwide has recorded a positive annual reading since January 2023.

But prices are still around 3 per cent below the all-time highs recorded in the summer of 2022.

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Yearly rise: Nationwide recorded a year-on-year house price rise for the first time in 13 months

Yearly rise: Nationwide recorded a year-on-year house price rise for the first time in 13 months

Yearly rise: Nationwide recorded a year-on-year house price rise for the first time in 13 months

Average house prices hit a high of £273,751 in August 2022, according to Nationwide. They are currently at £260,420 as of February. 

The recent uptick in prices is being put down to lower mortgage rates. Although rates went up last month, this came after five consecutive months in which mortgage rates fell.

The average two-year fix has fallen from a high of 6.86 per cent to 5.75 per cent, according to Moneyfacts, while the average five-year fix has fallen from a high of 6.37 per cent to 5.33 per cent.

For home buyers with the biggest deposits, it is now possible to secure a five year fix at 4.09 per cent and a two-year fix at 4.39 per cent.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist said: ‘The decline in borrowing costs around the turn of the year appears to have prompted an uptick in the housing market. 

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‘Indeed, industry data sources point to a noticeable increase in mortgage applications at the start of the year, while surveyors also reported a rise in new buyer enquiries.’

More affordable? Mortgage rates have fallen from the highs recorded in summer 2023

More affordable? Mortgage rates have fallen from the highs recorded in summer 2023

More affordable? Mortgage rates have fallen from the highs recorded in summer 2023

Yesterday, Zoopla’s house price index reported an uptick in the number of buyers and sellers in the market which resulted in more sales during the start of 2024.

Many across the property sector have welcomed Nationwide’s figures as evidence that the property market is rallying.

Nicky Stevenson, managing director at national estate agent group Fine & Country said: ‘Positive signs for the property market are turning from a trickle to a flood this year, with annual house price change increasing for the first time in 13 months.

‘Demand is building as lower mortgage rates have encouraged buyers to restart their property search, and plunging inflation suggests better news is to come.

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‘We’re heading into one of the prime seasons for home sales, and sellers should look at this as a great time to get their home on the market.’

Warming up? Zoopla reported that buyer demand is 11% higher than a year ago, while the number of agreed sales is up 15% year-on-year

Warming up? Zoopla reported that buyer demand is 11% higher than a year ago, while the number of agreed sales is up 15% year-on-year

Warming up? Zoopla reported that buyer demand is 11% higher than a year ago, while the number of agreed sales is up 15% year-on-year

Jonathan Hopper, chief executive of Garrington Property Finders, added: ‘It’s a bounce back, not a blip. Nationwide’s data shows house prices have risen in four out of the past five months, and the upward momentum is now so strong that prices are up on this time last year.

‘Crucially the market has also become more free-flowing. For sale signs are starting to sprout from homes across the country, and estate agents report a steady uptick in interest from both buyers and sellers.

‘Increasing numbers of buyers who sat on their hands last year are deciding that now is the time to strike, before prices start to accelerate upwards.’

Rising: But Nationwide says house prices remain around 3% below the all time highs recorded in the summer of 2022

Rising: But Nationwide says house prices remain around 3% below the all time highs recorded in the summer of 2022

Rising: But Nationwide says house prices remain around 3% below the all time highs recorded in the summer of 2022

Further rises ‘will depend on mortgage rates’ 

Nationwide’s chief economist had a word of caution over future interest rates.

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‘Near-term prospects remain highly uncertain in part due to ongoing uncertainty about the future path of interest rates. 

‘Borrowing costs remain well below the highs recorded last summer but, if the recent upward trend is sustained, it threatens to restrain the pace of any housing market recovery.’

While house price indexes show the general trend across the country, the picture varies depending on where you live in the UK.  

Nationwide’s house price index relates to its own approved mortgage applications and therefore doesn’t include cash buyers or mortgage data from other lenders. 

Another lender which also tracks house prices based on its own mortgage applications is Halifax. It said that average prices rose by 2.5 per cent in the 12 months to January.

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The house price figures from the ONS are widely viewed as the most comprehensive and accurate index. This is because the report by the UK’s official statisticians uses Land Registry data and is based on average sold prices. 

However, property transactions often take months to complete, meaning the ONS figures don’t necessarily reflect what is happening in the housing market right now. 

Earlier this month, the ONS revealed the average UK house price slipped 1.4 per cent in the year to December 2023.

Another monthly index comes from Rightmove. This tracks newly listed asking prices each month, which can give a more immediate picture of what is happening in the market, but doesn’t measure what houses are ultimately selling for.

Rightmove reported average asking prices rose by 0.9 per cent in February to £362,839, according to the latest data from the firm, following a 1.3 per cent rise in January.

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International

In-flight theft: Is it on the rise, how can you avoid having your valuables pilfered mid-flight, and what should you do if you get robbed on a plane?

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Is airline theft on the rise? The simplest answer is we don’t know.

Airlines don’t divulge their statistics on in-flight theft. However, recent events have bought the issue into the headlines.

In December 2023 a man was charged with stealing USD $23,000 (£18,200) cash from three fellow passengers on a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore, while in October police arrested a man en route from Taipei to Tokyo suspected of serial in-flight thefts.

Do these high-profile cases correlate to an overall increase in light-fingered passengers in-flight?

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Not necessarily, according to Jonathan Frankham, General Manager UK at World Nomads Travel Insurance. However, they do provide a reminder to be careful with your belongings on a flight.

While there are no concrete statistics for in-flight theft to indicate whether or not they are on the rise, several high-profile cases recently have brought the issue into the headlines

While there are no concrete statistics for in-flight theft to indicate whether or not they are on the rise, several high-profile cases recently have brought the issue into the headlines

While there are no concrete statistics for in-flight theft to indicate whether or not they are on the rise, several high-profile cases recently have brought the issue into the headlines

Jonathan said: ‘While we’ve observed no discernible trend in claims submitted to suggest in-flight luggage theft is historically prevalent or on the rise in recent years, it’s still crucial to be vigilant and take steps to ensure the security of possessions and important documents.’

Most people have multiple high-value items on them when flying. In addition to a wallet and phone, it’s not unusual to be carrying a passport, laptop, cash, and maybe a camera or other valuables. This, Jonathan warns, can provide easy pickings for thieves.

He said: ‘It’s a calculated gamble on the part [of the thieves], exploiting travellers’ sense of security once snugly seated on board. Yet, it’s during these moments – the buzz of mealtimes, the dimming of lights, or those quick dashes to the loo – that thieves might try their luck.’

In the case of the Tokyo arrest, reports said the 51-year-old suspect would pretend to be checking his own luggage in the overhead compartment, but instead stealing US dollars, Euros, and Yen from fellow travellers’ bags. The cash was swapped with lower-value small denomination Cambodian riel or Indonesian rupiah, to maintain the wallets’ weights and sizes.

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It’s not just cash or valuables that can be targeted. Passports continue to fetch a sizeable price on the black market.

So, how do you ensure you don’t become a target for plane-based pilfering?

Pack smartly and keep your valuables on you

Avoid leaving high-value items such as passports, cash, or phones unattended

Avoid leaving high-value items such as passports, cash, or phones unattended

Avoid leaving high-value items such as passports, cash, or phones unattended 

This is your first line of defence. Jonathan said: ‘Packing smartly is crucial. Opt for a sturdy backpack, preferably one that can be securely locked and marked with colourful zip ties for easy identification. [If] the zip tie is missing or tampered with, it’s important to alert a staff member immediately.

‘Store larger bags in overhead lockers to keep them safe. If the space is available, it can be useful to place them across the aisle so you can easily see if anyone is foraging through them who shouldn’t be.’

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For high-value items like passports, cash, and phones, Jonathan advised: ‘The best practice is to use a secure waist pouch or carry them in your pocket. Avoid leaving them unattended altogether and always keep them in sight. This not only minimises the risk of theft but also ensures that insurance claims are not negatively impacted due to negligence.’

What should travellers do if they fall victim to inflight thefts?

Report the incident to the airline as soon as you realise something is missing, in accordance with the Montreal Convention’s guidelines.

Jonathan explained: ‘This international treaty requires airlines to offer compensation for lost or damaged luggage on international flights. Although the treaty’s stance on stolen luggage is less explicit, it’s crucial to notify the airline as soon as possible.

‘Secondly, travellers should obtain all necessary documentation to support their case. This includes requesting a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) from the airline. Additionally, it’s vital to keep all related documents such as tickets, luggage tags, and receipts for any emergency purchases, as these form an essential part of any subsequent insurance claims.

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‘It’s important to also involve the local police. Reporting the theft to the police and securing a police report is a critical step, as it provides official documentation of the theft, which is often necessary for insurance claims.’

What should travellers do if they need to make an insurance claim?

Mealtimes, sleeping, or trips to the toilet offer opportunistic thieves the perfect time to strike

Mealtimes, sleeping, or trips to the toilet offer opportunistic thieves the perfect time to strike

Mealtimes, sleeping, or trips to the toilet offer opportunistic thieves the perfect time to strike 

Once you’ve advised the airline and the police Jonathan says it’s vital to thoroughly review your travel insurance policy. ‘Even though it typically covers such incidents, it’s essential to understand the policy’s limits and exclusions, and additional premiums may be required for high-value items,’ he added. 

‘Next, gather all necessary evidence, including proof of ownership, age, and value of the stolen items, which are crucial for the claim process.

‘It’s also important for travellers to assess their responsibility in the situation. Ensuring that valuables were secured, and that luggage was not left unattended is key, as negligence can impact the viability of a claim.

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‘If there are any doubts or questions, travellers should not hesitate to contact their insurance provider.’

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Navalny’s family to hold Moscow funeral for the late Russian opposition leader

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Relatives and supporters of Alexei Navalny are bidding farewell to the opposition leader at a funeral Friday in southeastern Moscow, following a battle with authorities over the release of his body after his still-unexplained death in an Arctic penal colony.

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His supporters say several churches in Moscow refused to hold the service before Navalny’s team got permission from one in the capital’s Maryino district, where he once lived before his 2020 poisoning, treatment in Germany and subsequent arrest on his return to Russia.

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The Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Soothe My Sorrows, which agreed to hold the service, did not mention it on its social media page. Police on Thursday were seen putting crowd-control barriers at the church.

Burial was to follow in the nearby Borisovskoye Cemetery, where police also were seen Thursday.

His mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, spent eight days trying to get authorities to release the body following his Feb. 16 death at Penal Colony No. 3 in the town of Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenets region about 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow.

Authorities originally said they couldn’t turn over the body because they needed to conduct post-mortem tests. Navalnaya, 69, made a video appeal to President Vladimir Putin to release the body so she could bury her son with dignity.

Once it was released, at least one funeral director said he had been “forbidden” to work with Navalny’s supporters, the spokeswoman for Navalny’s team, Kira Yarmysh, said on social media. They also were unable to find a hearse for the funeral.

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“Unknown people are calling up people and threatening them not to take Alexei’s body anywhere,” Yarmysh said Thursday.

Russian authorities haven’t announced the cause of death for Navalny, 47, who crusaded against official corruption and organized big protests as Putin’s fiercest political foe. Many Western leaders blamed the death on the Russian leader, which the Kremlin rejected.

It was not immediately clear who among Navalny’s family or allies would attend the funeral, with many of his associates in exile abroad due to fear of prosecution in Russia. Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and his regional offices were designated as “extremist organizations” by the Russian government in 2021.

The politician’s team said the funeral would be streamed live on Navalny’s YouTube channel.

His widow, Yulia Navalnaya, accused Putin and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin of trying to block a public funeral.

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“We don’t want any special treatment — just to give people the opportunity to say farewell to Alexei in a normal way,” Yulia Navalnaya wrote on X. In a speech to European lawmakers Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, she also expressed fears that police might interfere with the gathering or would “arrest those who have come to say goodbye to my husband.”

Moscow authorities refused permission for a separate memorial event for Navalny and slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on Friday, citing COVID-19 restrictions, politician Yekaterina Duntsova said Thursday. Nemtsov, a 55-year-old former deputy prime minister, was shot to death as he walked on a bridge adjacent to the Kremlin on the night of Feb. 27, 2015.

Yarmysh also urged Navalny’s supporters around the world to lay flowers in his honor Friday.

“Everyone who knew Alexei says what a cheerful, courageous and honest person he was,” Yarmysh said Thursday. “But the greater truth is that even if you never met Alexei, you knew what he was like, too. You shared his investigations, you went to rallies with him, you read his posts from prison. His example showed many people what to do when even when things were scary and difficult.”

Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said that his funeral had initially been planned for Thursday — the day of Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation address — but no venue agreed to hold it then.

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In an interview with the independent Russian news site Meduza, Zhdanov said authorities had pressured Navalny’s relatives to “have a quiet family funeral.”

(AP) 

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International

Health service initiative offers patients a chance to see a GP on the same day – but they only have a one in 15 chance of actually seeing a doctor

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  • North Londoners will have their access to NHS professionals boosted
  • But they will only be given this if they have a small chance of seeing a doctor
  • The new service will be boosted with AI to prioritise pressing cases 

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A health service initiative promises ‘same-day access’ to GPs – even though patients have only a one in 15 chance of actually seeing a doctor.

Health officials said the plans, which affect around 2.8million residents in north London, will boost access to medical professionals and improve care.

Patients who select ‘same-day’ when phoning their GP practice will be directed to a new ‘hub’, with artificial intelligence helping to prioritise the most pressing cases.

However, documents produced by North West London Integrated Care Board suggest that each hub could be staffed by just one GP, with most of the work done by less qualified members of the team. The briefing pack, seen by Pulse magazine, suggests that of the 146 appointments every day, just ten would be staffed by GPs.

The remainder will be carried out by pharmacists, advanced nurse practitioners – and controversial physician associates who have just two years of medical training.

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Health officials said the plans, which affect around 2.8million residents in north London, will boost access to medical professionals and improve care (Stock Image)

Health officials said the plans, which affect around 2.8million residents in north London, will boost access to medical professionals and improve care (Stock Image)

Health officials said the plans, which affect around 2.8million residents in north London, will boost access to medical professionals and improve care (Stock Image)

Officials said patients seeking same-day care may need to travel further to be seen or accept a remote appointment over the phone or video (Stock Image)

Officials said patients seeking same-day care may need to travel further to be seen or accept a remote appointment over the phone or video (Stock Image)

Officials said patients seeking same-day care may need to travel further to be seen or accept a remote appointment over the phone or video (Stock Image)

Officials said patients seeking same-day care may need to travel further to be seen or accept a remote appointment over the phone or video.

A letter from medical committees across London, which represent the capital’s GPs, raises concerns about patient safety associated with the hub scheme.

It warns that the model will undermine ‘continuity of care’ and suggests that arrangements for one GP to supervise a host of other staff are ‘unsafe’.

Meanwhile, campaign group Save Our NHS Hammersmith And Fulham said the plans ‘would exclude GPs from almost all provision of ‘same day’ GP care for over 2million people’. And Dennis Reed, from Silver Voices, a campaign group for the over-60s, said he was concerned that such a step would end up ‘abandoning the GP system altogether’.

Dr Genevieve Small, Harrow GP and medical director for Primary Care NHS North West London, said: ‘Patients consistently tell us that getting a GP appointment can be difficult. We have developed a plan that will increase same-day access to GPs, community pharmacists and other primary care professionals for those patients who need it.

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‘This approach will be introduced gradually across north-west London from April 2024. It will ensure that GPs have more time to pro-actively care for their patients who most need their expertise, including those with long-term conditions.’

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said family doctors were open to ways of improving access, which could involve new hubs.

But she added: ‘We do have concerns about how this model could impact continuity of care, which research consistently shows is beneficial for both patients and the NHS.’

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Stakes raised in Vegas for Tim Tszyu who will have to surrender his world title belt if he loses to Keith Thurman – even though it’s a non-title bout

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  • Aussie boxer Tim Tszyu is fighting Keith Thurman in Las Vegas
  • If Tszyu loses, will have to relinquish WBO super welterweight title
  • Tszyu, 29, is targeting bout against welterweight king Terence Crawford

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Aussie boxer Tim Tszyu will be stripped of the WBO super welterweight title if he loses to American star Keith Thurman in Las Vegas this month – even though it isn’t an official title bout.

The upside for Tszyu is if he wins, a dream fight against undisputed welterweight king Terence Crawford is likely to follow.

Tszyu (24-0) was awarded the WBO title in 2023 after former champion Jermell Charlo was stripped of the belt – before the Aussie defeated Brian Castano to retain it in October.

Main Event presenter and boxing identity Ben Damon tweeted the development involving Thurman on Friday.

‘The WBO has raised the stakes,’ Damon said. ‘With the decision that Tszyu will be stripped of his world title if he loses the 155 [pound] non-title fight with Thurman.’

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Aussie boxer Tim Tszyu will be stripped of the WBO super welterweight title if he loses to American Keith Thurman in Las Vegas this month - even though it isn't a title bout

Aussie boxer Tim Tszyu will be stripped of the WBO super welterweight title if he loses to American Keith Thurman in Las Vegas this month - even though it isn't a title bout

Aussie boxer Tim Tszyu will be stripped of the WBO super welterweight title if he loses to American Keith Thurman in Las Vegas this month – even though it isn’t a title bout

The upside for Tszyu is he wins against Keith Thurman (pictured left) on March 31, a bout against undisputed welterweight king Terence Crawford is likely to follow

The upside for Tszyu is he wins against Keith Thurman (pictured left) on March 31, a bout against undisputed welterweight king Terence Crawford is likely to follow

The upside for Tszyu is he wins against Keith Thurman (pictured left) on March 31, a bout against undisputed welterweight king Terence Crawford is likely to follow

It is understood WBO president Paco Valcarcel is happy for Tszyu to fight Crawford if he is triumphant on March 31 in Sin City (AEST) – but also knows a potential duel between Thurman and ‘Bud’ Crawford would appeal to many boxing fans.

The bombshell development also makes Tszyu’s Las Vegas debut even bigger as he looks to extend his unbeaten career record that spans over eight years.

In 2023, he won plenty of admirers after getting the better of Tony Harrison, Carlos Ocampo and Mendoza.

Thurman (30-1-1) has fought just once in the past four years – ruling him out of title contention – but his fearsome reputation ensures he still looms as one of the biggest threats to Tszyu’s impressive record. 

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In January, Team Crawford trainer Bernie Davis labelled Tszyu ‘the most attractive’ option for his fighter – an indication the son of Kostya Tszyu is impressing the people that matter in the sport.

Tszyu also recently confirmed talks between his camp and Crawford’s have already commenced.

‘There have been talks between us,’ he told Fox Sports. ‘And I give Crawford all respect. He’ll fight anyone.

‘And that’s why I see him as such a great challenge….but I also see him as being beatable.’

 

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Iran heads to the polls, hardliners poised to tighten grip on power

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Iranians are to vote Friday in elections for parliament and a key clerical body, amid fears of a low turnout and with conservatives expected to tighten their grip on power.

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Since the last elections, Iran has been badly affected by international sanctions that have led to an economic crisis. It has also been rocked by widespread protests and drawn into escalating regional tensions over the Israel-Hamas war.

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More than 61 million people out of Iran’s 85-million population are eligible to vote for members of parliament as well as the clerics of the Assembly of Experts, the body in charge of selecting Iran’s supreme leader.

A low turnout is expected, however, after a state TV poll found more than half of respondents were indifferent about the elections.

The country’s last parliamentary elections in 2020 had a voter turnout of 42.57 percent — the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has appealed for a strong turnout.

“It is important to show the world that the nation is mobilised,” said Khamenei on Wednesday on the last day of campaigning.

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“The enemies of Iran want to see if the people are present,” he said, adding that otherwise “they will threaten your security in one way or another”.

Those watching included the United States “most of the Europeans, evil Zionists, capitalists and big companies”, he said.

Khamenei said the United States and Israel, which “carefully” follow Iran’s issues, “are afraid of the people’s participation in the elections”.

The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hossein Salami, said on Thursday that “every vote is like a missile that is fired into the heart of our strongest enemies”.

“If our people want to participate in a powerful political battle like in the past and overcome the enemies, they should come to the stage and vote.”

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The IRGC, the ideological defenders of the Islamic republic, noted that “strong participation” would discourage “foreign interventions”.

Iran considers the United States, its Western allies and Israel “enemies” of the state and accuses them of seeking to intervene in its internal affairs.

‘Far from free’ 

Candidates for parliament are vetted by the Guardian Council, whose members are either appointed or approved by the supreme leader.

They have approved a total of 15,200 candidates, out of nearly 49,000 applicants, to run for seats in the 290-member parliament.

Conservatives and ultra-conservatives, who hold 232 out 290 seats in the 2020 parliament after reformist and moderate candidates were disqualified from running, are expected by analysts to dominate once again.

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A coalition of parties called the Reform Front said it would not take part in “meaningless, non-competitive and ineffective elections”.

Former Iranian president, the reformist Mohammad Khatami, was quoted in February by the conservative Javan daily as saying that Iran was “very far from free and competitive elections”.

Conservatives are also expected to maintain a firm grip on the Assembly of Experts, an 88-member body exclusively made up of male Islamic scholars.

A total of 144 candidates are running but many hopefuls were disqualified, including former moderate president Hassan Rouhani.

Friday’s elections are the first since Iran was rocked by mass protests triggered by the September 2022 death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

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Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, had been arrested for allegedly violating the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.

Meanwhile, the Israel-Hamas war has sent tensions in the region soaring, with pro-Tehran groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen all involved in clashes with either Israel or its Western allies.

The elections also take place amid crippling international sanctions and mounting economic hardship in Iran, where inflation has hovered around 50 percent and the rial has sharply declined against the dollar.

“The prices are extremely high and continue to increase,” Masoumeh, a 40-year-old housewife, told AFP in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar.

“I don’t think that the representatives who will be elected will be able to improve this situation.”

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(AFP)

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International

California $2.5 million mansion owner says he’s ‘checking every hour’ as his home teeters on the edge of falling off cliff into the ocean after being battered by Pineapple express storm

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The occupant of a cliffside home in California is facing the reality that his backyard might fall off a cliff any day now.

Alan Ashavi, 66, says he grows more nervous by the day about his property, which earlier this month, became a victim to the atmospheric rivers raining down on California.

Last year, some of Ashavi’s San Clemente neighbors saw their backyards collapse into the ocean as the land beneath them eroded.

Ashavi avoided that same fate last rainy season, but this year, he was not so lucky.

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San Clemente, California, homeowner Alan Ashavi laments the storms that may ultimately send his cliffside property tumbling into the sea

San Clemente, California, homeowner Alan Ashavi laments the storms that may ultimately send his cliffside property tumbling into the sea

San Clemente, California, homeowner Alan Ashavi laments the storms that may ultimately send his cliffside property tumbling into the sea

Earlier this month, an atmospheric river caused a landslide underneath his million-dollar property that has set his pool teetering on the brink of collapse.

Earlier this month, an atmospheric river caused a landslide underneath his million-dollar property that has set his pool teetering on the brink of collapse.

Earlier this month, an atmospheric river caused a landslide underneath his million-dollar property that has set his pool teetering on the brink of collapse.

An aerial view of a remaining pool at the edge of a hillside landslide brought on by heavy rains, which caused four ocean view apartment buildings to be evacuated and shuttered due to unstable conditions, on March 16, 2023 in San Clemente, California

An aerial view of a remaining pool at the edge of a hillside landslide brought on by heavy rains, which caused four ocean view apartment buildings to be evacuated and shuttered due to unstable conditions, on March 16, 2023 in San Clemente, California

An aerial view of a remaining pool at the edge of a hillside landslide brought on by heavy rains, which caused four ocean view apartment buildings to be evacuated and shuttered due to unstable conditions, on March 16, 2023 in San Clemente, California

Aerial views showing aftermath of cliff collapse after extreme weather in Southern California threatening multimillion dollar homes

Aerial views showing aftermath of cliff collapse after extreme weather in Southern California threatening multimillion dollar homes

Aerial views showing aftermath of cliff collapse after extreme weather in Southern California threatening multimillion dollar homes

Earlier this month, an atmospheric river caused a landslide underneath his million-dollar property that has set his pool teetering on the brink of collapse.

‘You deal with it on a daily basis and you come in here and check every day or every hour sometimes,’ Ashavi told Reuters, calling the ordeal ‘nerve-wracking.’

‘I know this is an El Nino year as far as the rain, so I’ve had it in the back of my mind about being involved with the construction,’ he added.

For the last two months, storms have battered California with heavy rainfall and incredibly strong winds.

The weather system they were a part of was dubbed the Pineapple Express. It ultimately prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in eight counties, impacting more than 20million residents.

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Flash flood warnings were issued at various times for parts of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties – where mudslides have increasingly become a hazard over the last decade.

Luxury homes have been left on the verge of collapse as cliffside homeowners watch their neighbors lose patios that fall into the sea.

A University of California at Irvine professor says the erosion may soon move inland in a meaningful way.

‘We have these atmospheric rivers coming off the oceans, drops the rain here on these hills and then the hills start eroding as well,’ said climate change professor Kathleen Treseder.

‘And so not only do we have this erosion right here from the waves, but we also have erosion up inland caused by the rainfall.

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‘We have many, many multi-million dollar homes all along this coast that will be falling into the ocean,’ she said. 

A University of California at Irvine professor says the erosion may soon move inland in a meaningful way

A University of California at Irvine professor says the erosion may soon move inland in a meaningful way

A University of California at Irvine professor says the erosion may soon move inland in a meaningful way

San Clemente, California - Aerial views showing aftermath of cliff collapse after extreme weather in southern California threatening multimillion dollar homes earlier this month

San Clemente, California - Aerial views showing aftermath of cliff collapse after extreme weather in southern California threatening multimillion dollar homes earlier this month

San Clemente, California – Aerial views showing aftermath of cliff collapse after extreme weather in southern California threatening multimillion dollar homes earlier this month

'We have many, many multi-million dollar homes all along this coast that will be falling into the ocean,' said a UCI professor

'We have many, many multi-million dollar homes all along this coast that will be falling into the ocean,' said a UCI professor

‘We have many, many multi-million dollar homes all along this coast that will be falling into the ocean,’ said a UCI professor

Landslides along oceanfront bluffs in San Clemente have recently prompted closures of the city’s beach trails.

Stairs leading down to the coastal path at Dije Court, El Portal and Lasuens Beach were added to the list of closed access points this month, due to continuing instability of the area.

Engineers continue to assess and reassess the structural integrity of the coastal properties after every storm.

In Dana Point, a wealthy enclave of Orange County, about a 10-minute drive north of San Clemente, three stunning mansions teeter precariously on the edge of a cliff following a landslide earlier this month.

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Each of the mansions – one more stunning and expensive than the last – are now at risk of tumbling into the Pacific.

Residents of the affected properties, which are priced at $12.8million, $13million, and $15.9million respectively, have been advised to remain vigilant, and prepare for the looming possibility of relocation. 

Three multimillion-dollar homes in Southern California teeter precariously on the edge of a cliffside following a landslide in February

Three multimillion-dollar homes in Southern California teeter precariously on the edge of a cliffside following a landslide in February

Three multimillion-dollar homes in Southern California teeter precariously on the edge of a cliffside following a landslide in February

The collapse occurred on Scenic Drive in Dana Point, mud and debris slid hundreds of feet down the cliffside

The collapse occurred on Scenic Drive in Dana Point, mud and debris slid hundreds of feet down the cliffside

The collapse occurred on Scenic Drive in Dana Point, mud and debris slid hundreds of feet down the cliffside

The landslide saw a a huge portion of cliff to fall the foot of the priciest home in the area, a $15.9million, four-bedroom mansion registered to a local radiologist, 82-year-old Lewis Bruggeman

The landslide saw a a huge portion of cliff to fall the foot of the priciest home in the area, a $15.9million, four-bedroom mansion registered to a local radiologist, 82-year-old Lewis Bruggeman

The landslide saw a a huge portion of cliff to fall the foot of the priciest home in the area, a $15.9million, four-bedroom mansion registered to a local radiologist, 82-year-old Lewis Bruggeman

The missing cliff face slipped off right next to a $12.8million home (pictured)

The missing cliff face slipped off right next to a $12.8million home (pictured)

The missing cliff face slipped off right next to a $12.8million home (pictured)

The Dana Point and San Clemente collapses – which are still being surveyed by city officials – are merely the latest in a series of incidents that have plagued SoCal residents in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, part of a cul-de-sac on Avenida Columbo dropped five feet following a mudslide that sent mud and debris tumbling 150 feet down a slope.

The San Clemente area has, in recent years, been affected by unstable soil.

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Residents in both areas have been advised to keep a careful lookout, as they continue to grapple with the consequences of these natural disasters. 

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