INDEPENDENT 2024-03-14 10:03:36


Pope appears to backtrack on Ukraine ‘white flag’ remarks

Moscow has been accused of breaking laws in a separatist region of Moldova ahead of this week’s presidential election.

A senior official in ex-Soviet Moldova said Russia was illegally printing ballot papers in the breakaway region of Transdniestria.

Moldova’s pro-European authorities have already summoned the Russian ambassador to complain about a decision to open six polling stations in the pro-Russian enclave, instead of a single polling station at the Russian embassy in Chisinau.

The ambassador rejected the complaint as unfounded, telling reporters Russia was simply enabling some 250,000 Russian nationals in Moldova to vote, many of them in the separatist region.

Elsewhere, Ukraine struck Russian oil refineries in a second day of heavy drone attacks on Wednesday, causing a fire at Rosneft’s biggest refinery in one of the most serious attacks against Russia’s energy sector in recent months.

Oil prices rose two per cent partly due to concerns about supply disruption following the attacks which President Vladimir Putin said were an attempt to disrupt his country’s presidential election this week.

Trump and Biden deadlocked in first major poll since rematch set

The stage has now been set for a 2020 presidential election rematch this November after Donald Trump and Joe Biden secured their party nominations.

The former president won primaries in Georgia, Mississippi and Washington and the caucus in Hawaii on Tuesday night, taking him over the threshold of 1,215 delegates needed to secure the Republican party nomination.

Mr Biden also secured the Democratic nomination for president after winning the primaries in Mississippi, Washington and Georgia.

As the nation readies for a 2020 rematch, the two candidates appear to be neck-and-neck among voters in the first major national poll released since they secured the nominations.

The USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll, carried out between 8 and 11 March after the State of the Union and just one day before Mr Trump and Mr Biden officially secured the required delegates, was released on Wednesday.

It found that 40 per cent supported Mr Trump and 38 per cent Mr Biden when presented with the two candidates.

The poll found that the economy (29 per cent) is the most important issue on voters’ minds, followed by immigration (24 per cent), threats to democracy (23 per cent) then abortion (10 per cent).

Glastonbury headliners revealed as Shania Twain confirmed for legends slot

Dua Lipa, SZA and Shania Twain will take centre stage at Glastonbury Festival this June in a female-heavy line-up following last year’s criticism of its all-male headline acts.

Coldplay will also continue their long-running Worthy Farm love affair with the band set to headline again – making it their fifth time appearing on the Pyramid stage in 22 years.

Fresh from the announcement of her new album, Dua Lipa will take to the stage on Friday, followed by Coldplay and SZA, with Shania Twain playing the coveted Legends slot on the Sunday.

The line-up poster also reveals which acts will be playing on what stage, with LCD Soundsystem, Little Simz, Cyndi Lauper and Janelle Monae all set to play the Pyramid.

Burna Boy, PJ Harvey, Michael Kiwanuka and Paloma Faith will also be playing on the main stage.

Heading up the Other stage will be IDLES, Disclosure and The National, with The Streets, Two Door Cinema Club, Avril Lavigne and breakout stars The Last Dinner Party also set to play on the festival’s second-biggest platform.

Joining these will be Camila Cabello, Bombay Bicycle Club, Bloc Party and Confidence Man.

West Holts will see performances from Jungle, Jessie Ware, Justice, Black Pumas and Sugababes, while the recently renamed Woodsies will boast acts including Jamie XX, Gossip, James Black, Sampha and Arlo Parks.

Meanwhile, on the Park stage, Fontaines DC, King Krule and Mount Kimbie will all be playing.

On Twitter/X, the official Glastonbury account promised “many more acts and attractions” will be announced as the festival date approaches.

Speaking about her appointment, Twain wrote: “The legends slot at GLASTONBURY 2024 – Another jewel in my crown!! I feel so honoured and so excited about this one! Thinking about what to wear already and tell me, what should we sing together?! Let’s make history with this ultimate dream performance!!”

Many will notice the absence of several names who were hotly rumoured to be playing the festival, including Madonna, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen.

Co-organiser Emily Eavis herself intensified these rumours when she revealed the festival had been offered a “really big American artist” for the 2024 festival.

“I thought it was kind of taking shape, and then last week I just got a call, and this is what happens if you wait a little longer, because quite often we’ll be booked up from July,” she said during an episode of Annie Macmanus and Nick Grimshaw’s podcast Sidetracked last year, adding: “But this year we’re holding out for a little bit longer.”

Eavis continued: “And then last week I got a call from [a representative of] a really big American artist saying, ‘This person’s around next year’, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is incredible. Thank God we held the slot.’”

This year will mark the first time Dua Lipa and SZA – real name Solána Imani Rowe – have headlined the festival.

In recent years, singer-songwriter Dua Lipa has won seven Brit Awards and three Grammys, with her second album, Future Nostalgia, becoming a critical and commercial hit in 2020.

SZA released her debut studio album, Ctrl , in 2017, with her second record, SOS, breaking the record for the largest streaming week for an R&B album ever in the US.

Glastonbury Festival will take place from 26 to 30 June. Last year’s event was headlined by Arctic Monkeys, Guns N’ Roses and Elton John.

Pictured: Family that froze to death in Swiss Alps skiing tour tragedy

A family who “lost their bearings” and froze to death during an icy storm on an Alps ski tour have been named.

The cross-country skiers, five of them members of the same family from Valais canton, went missing near the 3,710 metre-high Tête Blanche mountain on Saturday on the Zermatt-Arolla path.

Brothers Jean-Vincent Moix, 30, David Moix, 27, and Laurent Moix, 21 were found dead on the mountain alongside their cousin Marc Moix, 44, and uncle Joel Moix, 58.

A search is still ongoing for David’s girlfriend, Emilie Deschenaux, 28, whose bag and skis were found next to the bodies.

The parents of Jean-Vincent, David and Laurent said their beloved sons “fell asleep together” while doing something they were passionate about.

They added: “Emilie, David’s love, is still on the mountain” as her family asked for prayers on social media.

Air Zermatt chief Anjan Truffer, the lead rescuer, said his team previously saved people who had been missing for days, giving workers a glimmer of hope that Emilie may still be alive.

“We have already found missing people several days later, miracles always happen,” he said.

“The area is full of crevices – [she] may have fallen near the other members of the group. But this is just speculation,” Truffer said.

Police Captain Marc Moix’s death notice by his family reads: “After a last hike in the mountains to share his light, he has become our new star, which will now be our guide.”

His loved ones also thanked people for risking their lives to search the mountain in treacherous conditions.

They added: “Through their professionalism, their availability, their listening, their empathy, they brought everyone a little light and comfort in these difficult moments of waiting.”

Colleagues of Jean-Vincent paid tribute to him including the mayor of Vex – a small village in the Swiss canton of Valais where the deceased had only recently been elected as a councillor.

The former University of Westminster student was a keen mountaineer and had decided to switch careers from being a private banker.

Mayor Sebastien Menoud said: “It is such a huge tragedy to lose a colleague on the local council. Our thoughts are with him, his family and those around him and we express our deepest condolences to them. One knows that it is an immeasurable pain that his family is now confronted with.”

Mountain guide Anjan Truffer told Swiss broadcaster SRF that two of the bodies had to be dug out from beneath the snow.

“The end result was clear, the people froze to death. They got caught in a storm, probably lost their bearings and didn’t know what to do.”

He said that rescuers advised them to dig a snow cave after one of them sounded the alarm.

He added: “You could see that they tried, but unfortunately they were very poorly equipped and with those little shovels in the hard snow, there wasn’t much they could do.”

Local police also said two other bodies, separate from the family, were found after people went missing in the same storm.

On Friday evening, a 62-year-old Swiss woman was reported missing following a walk in the Bois de Finges region.

After an intensive search, she was found lifeless on Saturday.

A 47-year-old Swiss man was reported missing in the town of Saint-Léonard. The man, who had not returned home after a bike ride, was found dead on Saturday, near the “Bisse du Sillonin”.

Scientists warning as they call for more research into Wim Hof method

The Wim Hof Method of breathing exercises and ice baths may help the body’s immune system but more research is needed to understand whether it can boost exercise performance and overall health, according to scientists.

A review of nine papers involving eight trials has shown the method’s two main “pillars” – controlled breathing and cold therapy – may reduce chronic inflammation.

The team also warned that the results indicate further research is needed to understand whether the method provides all the benefits that its founder – the Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof – claims.

Inflammation, which occurs when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive, is associated with many health problems including heart diseases, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, Alzheimer’s and chronic kidney disease.

But there are currently mixed findings on the effect of the Wim Hof Method on a person’s athletic abilities, the researchers from the University of Warwick said.

Dr Omar Almahayni, from Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, said: “Our systematic review underscores the need for further investigation into the Wim Hof Method’s effects on stress, inflammation, and overall health, offering valuable insights into its potential as a complementary approach to wellness.”

He added that the trials reviews had small sample sizes with “high risks of bias found in most of them”.

This means that evidence from them claiming the Wim Hof Method works totally should be treated with caution, Dr Almahayni added.

Also known as The Iceman, Mr Hof holds multiple world records for his ability to withstand extremely cold temperatures.

He gained recognition for advocating the benefits of cold exposure and controlled breathing for physical and mental health.

Mr Hof claims practising his method can help improve wellbeing, boost the immune system, increase energy levels, reduce stress, enhance mental clarity and focus, and increase sports performance, among many things.

Celebrities reported to follow the regime include fitness coach Joe Wicks, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, technology guru Jack Dorsey and actors Liam Hemsworth and Orlando Bloom, among many more.

In the review, just over 150 people – 13% of whom were women – were assessed.

The findings indicated that the Wim Hof Method may reduce inflammation in both healthy and non-healthy people, including those with chronic arthritis, the researchers said.

Two studies showed those practising his method had “significantly” lower levels of proteins known as TNF-ɑ, IL-6, and IL-8, which are associated with inflammation, and higher levels of an anti-inflammatory protein, called IL-10.

The researchers said the impact of the Wim Hof Method on exercise performance – measured by respiratory parameters such as breathing frequency – was less clear, with some studies showing a benefit and others finding no significant difference.

The authors wrote: “More evidence needs to be synthesised about the Wim Hof Method before being recommended to the public.”

Island-hopping in the Ionian sea: a guide to Greece’s idyllic islands

Mamma Mia! It’s time to start thinking about a summer holiday, and there’s nowhere more picturesque and dreamy than a Greek island. With an estimated 1,600 isles, although not all are inhabited, there’s plenty to choose from that guarantee sparkling seas, golden sands, rugged nature, delicious food, and a warm welcome.

To help you find your ideal Greek island holiday this summer, travel experts Jet2holidays offer great-value breaks in more than 50 amazing destinations, including 21 in Greece. Hotspots and hidden gems, all boards and budgets, flexible stays and fab flight times – there’s something for everyone. With just a £60pp deposit*, 22kg baggage included and flexible monthly payments** to help spread the cost of your well-deserved holiday, it’s never been easier to get your next Greek getaway booked. 

What’s more, with the Jet2holidays sale now on, you can enjoy even better value on your break with up to £240 off† all holidays. Simply sign up for a myJet2 account, visit your independent travel agent or call the Jet2holidays contact centre. Book now and let the countdown to sunshine begin.

Here’s our pick of some of the best islands Greece has to offer…

Stunning beaches are a given in Greece, and in Corfu, the most beautiful include Agios Georgios, a long, horseshoe-shaped bay with a mix of sand and pebbles fringing calm, clear waters. Down the northwest coast is the pretty village of Palaiokastritsa which boasts six sheltered bays and offers boat trips to the fascinating Blue Caves. For a beach as romantic as its name, head to the Canal d’Amour, where a series of unique rock formations create intimate, narrow channels; legend has it that couples who swim between the sea walls together, stay together!

Explore the cobbled streets of Corfu Old Town, and take in pastel-coloured Venetian architecture while looking out for the new and old Fortresses which loom over the harbour. Base yourself at the swish Olivar Suites on the southeastern coast, a restful haven set in olive groves, away from the bustle.

Lefkas, also known as Lefkada, is an island connected to the Greek mainland by a causeway. Head to the beach at Porto Katsiki, located below a set of huge, looming cliffs which create a unique and dramatic landscape. Another gem is nearby Egremni, a classic, Caribbean-style stretch of white sand, fringing crystal-clear turquoise water, while if you fancy windsurfing, head to Vasiliki. On the east coast, check into the four-star, beachfront Porto Galini Sea Side Resort and Spa; handily, it’s just 15 minutes’ drive from Lefkada Town.

Also formerly under Venetian rule, landmarks including Church of the Pantokrator and the ruins of Agia Mavra Castle are worth a look. Escape to a pretty coastal village, such as Agios Nikitas or Nikiana, where you can take a table at a seafront taverna, and tuck into local speciality Englouvi lentils served with riganada (bread with olive oil, vinegar, and oregano). For a foray into nature, head to the spectacular waterfalls of Dimossari, near Nydri village.

Also known as Zakynthos, Zante is a popular island in the Ionian Sea, with a plethora of alluring beaches. The most famous is Navagio, which is surrounded by dramatic, honey-coloured cliffs and often called ‘Shipwreck Beach’ after the cargo boat which ran aground there in 1980, another must-visit is Agios Nikolaos, a serene pebbly stretch on Zante’s northern shore.

Stay at the luxury Domes Aulus Zante Autograph Collection, a laidback beachfront paradise on the south coast, near the quiet resort town of Kalamaki, where you can spot endangered loggerhead turtles. Zante has its own Blue Caves, a set of geological formations turned azure by the reflections of the sea, while its capital, Zakynthos Town, offers architecture influenced by its former Venetian, French and English rulers. Don’t miss the imposing Church of Agios Dionysios with its signature bell tower, and the ruins of the old Venetian Castle.

Sprinkled with Hollywood stardust, scenic Kefalonia was the location for the Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz movie, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin. Key scenes were shot in the harbour town of Sami, the stunning Antisamos beach and in the picturesque fishing village of Fiscardo. Kefalonia’s jagged coastline is made up of limestone cliffs, bays and strips of dazzling white sand, like Myrtos Beach in the north. Other standout beaches include Skala, bordered by thick trees and rocky outcrops, and the unusually named Xi beach, where white cliffs contrast with rare, rust-coloured sand.

Stay at the luxurious, contemporary, adults-only Thalassa Boutique Hotel Kefalonia on the southwest coast, a short drive from capital, Argostoli, where you can explore the Archaeological Museum, Municipal Theatre and historic castles and monasteries. For something more adventurous, explore the vast azure lake inside Melissani cave or hike Mount Ainos, the island’s highest peak, covered in pine forests and home to wild horses. Visit a winery such as Robola or Haritatos for a tasting.

Jet2holidays, the UK’s number one tour operator, offers package holidays you can trust where everything’s included. With you every step of the way, Jet2holidays has an incredible range of great-value, expert-rated getaways for all types of holidaymakers, across more than 50 stunning destinations. From the five-star luxury of Indulgent Escapes by Jet2holidays® to the compelling cities of Jet2CityBreaksVIBE by Jet2holidays for Insta-worthy stays that suit your style to family-friendly Jet2Villas, the boxes are ticked for every age, budget and interest. What’s more, with holidays secured for just £60pp deposit* and flexible payment options**, plus a host of perks like 22kg baggage and return transfers included††, it’s easy from start to finish. It’s all ABTA and ATOL-protected too, so you can enjoy sunshine with peace of mind. To find out more and book with the best, head here.

*On bookings made ten weeks or more before departure. **Terms and conditions apply. Please visit www.jet2holidays.com/part-payment for details. †Based on 4 people. On all holiday departures until 31 October 2025. . T&Cs apply. £60pp discount does not apply to Free Child Places. See http://Jet2holidays.com/promotions#60OFFMYJET2SALE ††Transfers are not included as standard on Jet2CityBreaks. Jet2Villas packages include car hire instead of transfers.

Racist slurs against Diane Abbott are a stain on both main parties

Of all the players in the current political drama, the one we have really been waiting to hear from is the victim of the egregious abuse thrown in her direction by a super-rich Tory donor, Frank Hester. Diane Abbott, Britain’s first Black female MP, now breaks her silence in The Independent, and she has spoken out with a quiet, cold anger about her treatment – in fact, by the leaderships of both main parties.

Suspended from Labour over allegations of antisemitism in a letter she wrote to a newspaper last year, for which she has apologised, she finds that Sir Keir Starmer was initially more interested in scoring points about political funding than in the “textbook” racism and sexism directed at her.

As she puts it: “The position of the current leadership of the Labour Party is disappointing… equally reluctant at the outset to call out either racism or sexism. Instead, the entire focus was on the demand that the Tories give Hester back his money, which is surely not the primary point in this case.”

Could the Tories really replace Sunak before the next election?

It has been a difficult few weeks for Rishi Sunak. The Budget failed to reinvigorate the party’s popularity and his personal ratings remain dismal, stuck down at Liz Truss levels of depression. A string of racism rows and the defection of former deputy chairman Lee Anderson to Reform UK have dealt further blows. His subdued party endured rather than enjoyed this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, and Keir Starmer was able to crack a gag about only needing a hardy lettuce to make it 2022 all over again. The No 10 media team seems unable to get a consistent line out for ministers to take. There is talk of a “flurry of letters” going to the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, calling for Sunak to go; and he’s been warned off calling a May election (assuming he wanted to anyway).

Probably. The public wouldn’t appreciate yet another unelected Tory prime minister; it would be the fourth in four years and the sixth in the last decade. It’s all too difficult and embarrassing; but the mood in the party is getting nihilistic. If they slump even further in the polls and get overtaken by Reform UK, panic might set in. The Tory chaos may get worse, but as long as some kind of stability is achieved in public opinion, Sunak will get through it.