INDEPENDENT 2024-05-06 10:04:02


‘Falklands still British’ Argentina’s president says

Argentina’s President Javier Milei has admitted that the Falkland Islands remain in the hands of the British as he boasted of his admiration for the “brilliant” Margaret Thatcher.

The right-wing populist, described as South America’s Donald Trump, went against previous leaders who historically insisted the Malvinas remained Argentine – but vowed to get the islands back through a “framework of peace”.

Mrs Thatcher was prime minister when Argentina invaded the islands in 1982, triggering a two-month war that killed 649 Argentine troops, 255 British servicemen and three islanders.

President Milei was asked if he still admired Thatcher despite her infamous decision to sink the Belgrano killing 323 people, President Milei said: “Criticising someone because of their nationality or race is very intellectually precarious.

He spoke to the BBC alongside Margaret Thatcher memorabilia on a display table and a bust sculpture of himself.

He added: “I have heard lots of speeches by Margaret Thatcher. She was brilliant. So what’s the problem?”

The interview came after Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron, visited the islands and said their sovereignty was not up for discussion and islanders were a “valued part of the British family”.

But President Milei said: “If that territory is now in the hands of the UK, he has a right to do that. I don’t see that as a provocation.”

The leader, who has been nicknamed “El Loco” or the madman, said he wanted the islands to become Argentine “within the framework of peace”.

“We are not going to relinquish our sovereignty, nor are we going to seek conflict with the United Kingdom,” he said.

He said relinquishing the Falklands from Britain would “take time” and would involve a “long-term negotiation”.

He added: “They might not want to negotiate today. At some later point they might want to. Many positions have changed over time.”

Argentina has long claimed sovereignty over the islands, which lie about 300 miles (480 kilometers) from South America and 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) from Britain.

Argentina argues that the islands were illegally taken from it in 1833. Britain, which says its territorial claim dates to 1765, sent a warship to the islands in 1833 to expel Argentine forces who had sought to establish sovereignty over the territory.

Argentina invaded the islands in 1982, triggering a two-month war, won by Britain, that killed 649 Argentine troops, 255 British servicemen and three islanders.

Islanders voted overwhelmingly in a 2013 referendum to remain a British Overseas Territory.

Lord of the Rings castmates pay tribute to Bernard Hill

The Lord of the Rings cast have paid tribute to co-star Bernard Hill who died on Sunday morning aged 79.

Actors Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, and Sean Astin, who played hobbits Frodo Baggins, Peregrin ‘Pippin’ Took, Meriadoc ‘Merry’ Brandybuck, and Samwise Gamgee respectively, honoured him on stage at a Comic Con event in Liverpool.

Hill played King Theoden in the Oscar-winning fantasy franchise directed by Peter Jackson.

The actor, also known for his roles in Titanic, Boys From The Blackstuff, and Wolf Hall, died in the early hours of Sunday, his agent told the PA news agency.

The cast said they had lost a “family member” and said goodbye to their “irascible” and “beautiful” friend.

“So, we lost a member of our family this morning. Bernard Hill passed. King Théoden,” Astin said.

“And so we just want to take a moment, before we walk off this stage, to honour him. He was supposed to be here. He was supposed to be here today and yesterday.”

Hill was scheduled to appear at the event but had pulled out.

“We love him. He was intrepid, he was funny, he was gruff, he was irascible, he was beautiful,” Astin said.

Boyd added: “I don’t think anyone spoke Tolkien’s words as great as Bernard did. The way he grounded those words in a realism.”

“He would break my heart. He was a wonderful man and he’ll be sorely missed.”

Elijah Wood posted a message on X, saying: “We will never forget you.”

Dominic Monaghan posted  a message on Instagram, saying Hill had “passed to the grey havens”.

Hill joined the Lord Of The Rings cast for the second film in the trilogy, The Two Towers, which was released in 2002 and won Academy Awards for best sound editing and best visual effects.

He returned forThe Return Of The King in 2003 which picked up 11 Oscars, including best picture and best director for Jackson.

Richard Armitage, who played Thorin II Oakenshield in the film adaptation of The Hobbit, also posted a tribute, calling Hill’s death “a terrible loss”.

Hill first made a name for himself as Yosser Hughes in Alan Bleasdale’s BBC drama series Boys From The Blackstuff about five unemployed men which aired in 1982.

The role earned him a Bafta TV nomination in 1983, the same year the show picked up the Bafta for best drama series.

He went on to play Captain Edward Smith in the Oscar-winning 1997 epic romance Titanic, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

In the 2015 BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall, about the court of Henry VIII, he played the Duke of Norfolk, uncle to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.

He also starred in the second series of BBC drama The Responder starring Martin Freeman.

Lindsay Salt, director of BBC Drama, said: “Bernard Hill blazed a trail across the screen, and his long-lasting career filled with iconic and remarkable roles is a testament to his incredible talent.”

“From Boys From The Blackstuff, to Wolf Hall, The Responder, and many more, we feel truly honoured to have worked with Bernard at the BBC,” Salt added. “Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this sad time.”

Hill appeared in Clint Eastwood’s True Crime, the 1989 rom-com Shirley Valentine, the 1999 film adaptation of Great Expectations, and the 2002 fantasyThe Scorpion King starring Dwayne Johnson.

Actress and singer Barbara Dickson, who starred with Hill in a musical based on the Beatles, was among those paying tribute, describing him as a “marvellous actor”.

Missing American and Australian surfers found shot in head in Mexico

The American and Australian tourists who vanished while on a trip in Mexico were believed to have been killed in a robbery-turned-shooting, authorities say.

Australian brothers Jake and Callum Robinson and their friend Carter Rhoad, from the United States, were reported missing after failing to show up to their accommodation in Baja California on Saturday 27 April. Their car was later found burnt out, and three tents abandoned.

The deaths have put a spotlight on the widespread violence fuelled by turf wars between local drug gangs in Baja California, one of Mexico’s most violent states.

On Sunday, the Baja California prosecutor said that the men were shot in the head.

Police said the tourists were believed to have been targeted by thieves who wanted to steal their white pick-up truck for its tyres and were shot when they resisted. The bodies were then disposed of in the well some 6km away from the site where they were killed.

“When they tried to get the vehicles, the victims opposed the robbery. The robbers were armed with a firearm and then apparently shot the victims,” said Baja California Attorney General Maria Elena Andrade Ramirez.

She described what likely would have been moments of terror that ended the trip of the three men whose bodies were found at a “site that is extremely hard to get to” a “rugged area” in the southern part of the municipality of Ensenada.

Their bodies were found covered in the well with boards. “It was literally almost impossible to find it,” Ms Andrade Ramirez said, adding that it took two hours to winch the bodies out of the well.

The relatives of the three tourists have now viewed the corpses, recovered in an advanced state of decomposition from a remote well about 50ft (15 metres) deep, and confirmed their identities, Baja California state prosecutors said.

“All three bodies meet the characteristics to assume with a high degree of probability” that they belong to the tourists, the attorney general said on Saturday.

Laboratory tests are underway to determine the identity of the recovered bodies, 7News reported.

Investigators also found a fourth body in the well, believed to be the property owner, and is not believed to be linked to the case, police said.

Investigators announced on Friday that three Mexican citizens had been charged with a crime equivalent to kidnapping in connection to the tourists’ disappearance. They don’t appear to have been charged with murder.

The prosecutor also named Jesús Gerardo “N”, aka “El Kekas”, as one of the people arrested in connection to the trio’s deaths at a Sunday press conference.

The swift investigation of the case has led to questions over the lack of similar action in cases involving the disappearance of locals.

On Sunday, dozens of mourners, surfers and demonstrators gathered in a main plaza in Ensenada, the nearest city, to voice their anger and sadness at the deaths and similar killings over the years.

“Ensenada is a mass grave,” read one placard carried by protesters.

Gabriela Acosta, a surfer who attended the protest, said she came “to show love, solidarity and respect for the three lives that were lost.” Ms Acosta said that surfers in Baja are aware of the dangers.

“We are women and we would sometimes like to surf alone,” Ms Acosta said. “But we never do that, because of the situation. We always have to go accompanied.”

A woman held up a sign that read: “They only wanted to surf — we demand safe beaches.”

Surfers later led a “paddle-out” ceremony where they formed a circle on their boards in the ocean to pay their respects to the dead.

Wilson leads Jones in World Championship final after black ball drama

Jak Jones missed a golden chance to pile the pressure on his opponent Kyren Wilson as his improbable Crucible comeback came up short at the end of the first day of the World Snooker Championship final.

Jones scraped away at an early 7-1 deficit but lost out in a dramatic black ball climax to the final frame of the day which let 12th seed Wilson off the hook and heading into Monday’s concluding sessions with an 11-6 lead.

Reflecting on his missed chance to move within three frames of his opponent, a visibly deflated Jones told the BBC: “It’s a miracle that I’m still in it, I played shocking. I’m absolutely knackered and I think if I’d had a decent night’s sleep last night I could have done better.”

Jones had experienced a nightmare start and had to wait until the last frame of the first session to get on the scoreboard and avoid becoming the first player since Dennis Taylor in 1985 to lose the first eight frames of the final.

The Welshman, who fought through a gruelling semi-final win over Stuart Bingham on Saturday night, was clearly relieved when he sunk the frame-ball red, but thoughts focused on whether Wilson could go on to become only the fourth man to win the title with a session to spare.

Wilson had been imperious form from the start as he rattled in two centuries, including a break of 129 in the opening frame, and four further half-centuries.

But the 32-year-old Englishman, in his first final since losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2020, was far from perfect, a straight missed blue in the third frame handing his opponent an opportunity that he failed to convert.

It was the story of the session for Jones, only the ninth qualifier to reach a Crucible final, who was ruthlessly punished for spurning further opportunities and began to look increasingly ill at ease in his chair.

The Welshman was criticised by six-times world champion Steve Davis – who inflicted the eight-frame lead on Taylor – for not heading straight for the practice table at the interval.

“He’s been sitting in his chair for four frames,” Davis told the BBC. “Why would you not go to the practice table? I don’t understand why not.

“He’s absolutely not even got out of the blocks, and he’s expecting to pot what could be difficult shots. It’s a no-brainer to me to go to the practice table.”

Besides Taylor’s poor start against Davis, the only other time a player lost the first seven frames of a Crucible final was in 1991, when Jimmy White fell 7-0 behind against John Parrott.

But Jones looked like a revitalised player at the start of the evening session, pouncing with breaks of 75 and 52 in the first two frames to claw back the deficit to 7-3.

Jones also had chances in the next two frames but Wilson pulled them back, and when the 12th seed went into the mid-session interval having restored his seven-frame advantage, it looked like the underdog’s valiant effort had come to nothing.

Wilson responded to Jones pulling another frame back with his fourth century of the day, a flamboyant 122 to go 10-4 in front, but it sparked Jones into fashioning a gutsy turnaround.

The qualifier took the next two frames, then made a superb break of 64 under the utmost pressure that looked set to turn the momentum of the tie in his favour.

But a missed yellow left Wilson with one snooker required, and after Wilson’s failure to clear the colours, it culminated in the black ball decider that has made a huge difference to the pair’s prospects when they resume on Monday afternoon.

Wilson said: “It’s not about the scoreline, it’s about the way the frame was won. I’m proud of the way I held it together. I had in my head that I wanted to get to 11 tonight, so target achieved.”

The Sopranos scene that would have cleared up big Pine Barrens mystery

The Sopranos originally featured a scene that would have cleared up one of the show’s biggest mysteries.

On 10th January 1999, James Gandolfini made his debut as depressed gangster Tony Soprano, a character considered one of the greatest TV roles of all time.

Gandolfini was backed up by an indelible cast of supporting actors, including Edie Falco, who played Tony’s wife Carmela, and Tony Sirico, whose Paulie Walnuts became a fan favourite across the show’s six seasons.

The late Sirico’s Paulie found himself at the centre of many of the show’s funniest moments, with his finest hour arriving 23 years ago – on 6 May 2001 – when the series broadcast the 11th episode of its third season.

That episode was titled “Pine Barrens”, which was the first of four episodes Steve Buscemi would direct.

“Pine Barrens” swiftly became a viewer favourite and, to this day, stands out as the show’s highest-rated episode with an IMDb score of 9.7 – that’s even higher than the dramatic season four finale, “Whitecaps”, the gruelling fifth season episode “Long Term Parking” and the divisive series finale “Made In America”.

The episode starts out just like any other, but slowly turns into a two-hander involving Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) and Paulie Gualtieri (Tony Sirico) after a job gone wrong involving a Russian man named Valery (Vitali Baganov).

They become stranded in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, an expansive rural woodland stretching across more than seven counties after Valery escapes their clutches.

Despite spending the remainder of the episode looking for him, the pair never find him. The mystery surrounding Valery’s whereabouts has led to numerous theories from fans over the past two decades.

It’s the focus of so much debate that writer Terence Winter once said the question he “gets asked more than any other” is: “Where’s the Russian?”

However, there would have been a scene in the show that cleared this up. It was planned to feature in season six as the show neared its conclusion.

Sirico revealed to The New York Times in 2007 that the sequence would have seen Christopher and Paulie happen upon Valery outside a bar, and proceed to shoot him to death. Creator David Chase removed the scene.

“I think David didn’t like it,” Sirico said, adding: “He wanted the audience just to suffer.”

Speaking about Valery in a 2008 interview, Chase said: “OK, this is what happened. Some Boy Scouts found the Russian, who had the telephone number to his boss, Slava, in his pocket. They called Slava, who took him to the hospital where he had brain surgery. Then Slava sent him back to Russia.”

In 2021, Falco revealed that she once reprised her role of Carmela Soprano alongside James Gandolfini, who played Tony, for a short film set after the show’s conclusion that would have cleared up what happened in the divisive final scene.

Ultimate Athens city break: from sightseeing to shopping, must-dos

Whether from school-time lessons about Zeus and Hera, or a more recent dip into Disney’s Hercules, the fascinating world of Ancient Greece is sure to sit somewhere in your mind. But seeing the sights in real life is an experience quite unlike any other. Vast temples perch on top of cliffs, seemingly held suspended against all gravitational odds, columns stretch into the clouds, and carvings are so creative it’s hard to believe there was no 3D printer back in 5 BC. Even better, it’s never been easier to get out here and explore, with my trip seamlessly organised from flights and hotel to sight-packed tours, by Jet2CityBreaks. The UK’s number one tour operator wraps up your flights, hotel and 22kg baggage into an ATOL-protected package, so everything’s taken care of. What’s more, if you’re booking a solo holiday, you’ll be automatically eligible for their solo traveller discount, which takes £30 off* your holiday booking.

While Athens may be known for its rich history, beyond the fascinating sites and artefact-laden museums, there are plenty of modern attractions to enjoy in this dynamic destination. Think bustling bars, a glistening coast and winding streets full of shops to stroll through. In fact, it’s this blend between these two worlds that makes Athens such a fascinating city, with peeks into the ancient world (think statues, ruins, and archaeological remnants) popping up in unexpected places, from gaps in the pavement to my personal favourite, hidden inside a metro station.

So, after a pleasant morning flight from London Stansted, I check into Skylark, a chic hotel, boasting everything from a stylish restaurant, stunning rooftop pool and bar, gym, spa and even an in-house club on-site. Just a short walk from the old town area of Plaka, it’s perfect for soaking up Athens’ fascinating past and buzzy present from the moment I arrive.

For those seeking a trip back in time via dramatic ruins and ancient tales, Athens’ compelling history feels ever-present as you make your way around the city. I wasn’t joking about the metro station moment, as Monastiraki Square houses a small ‘River of Hades’ exhibition, so you can take in a small archaeological site before stepping onto a train. Truly fascinating. Although, if you prefer to see your artefacts in a more structured setting, there are plenty of museums to choose from – the Acropolis Museum, National Archaeological Museum and Benaki Museum are just a few highlights.

No matter where you are in Athens, you can spot the Acropolis standing tall in the centre, and visiting it is a must. Home to the famous Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, to name but a few, this cluster of historical sites on top of the hill will take your breath away. On your way out, be sure to pass through the Acropolis Museum to see more incredible artefacts from the site, before making your way down to Hadrian’s Gate and the Temple of Olympian Zeus where you can get up close to dramatic stone arches and Corinthian columns.

Further afield, a one-day tour of Delphi (main image, above) is a must for history buffs. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Delphi was considered by the Ancient Greeks to be the centre of the world, and it’s where you’ll find the famed temple and Oracle of Apollo, where a series of high priestesses, known as Pythia, would share prophecies, advice and counsel with leaders and lawmakers, often forecasting the outcome of projected wars or political actions. Surrounded by the stunning Greek countryside, this well-preserved site makes for a truly memorable trip, taking in the ancient site, ruins and temple, plus an on-site museum housing mosaics and sculptures.

Unsurprisingly, given their famed cuisine, there’s an abundance of eateries in the Greek capital, and a stroll through Plaka reveals countless tempting options. A favourite of mine was the Bookbar, where, as the name suggests, you can sit down with a good read plucked from the shelves around you while you sip your Greek coffee (a stronger, richer form of Espresso).

For gyros, a staple in Greek culture, consisting of fine strips of meat (and sometimes chips) inside a pita bread, Tylixto is the takeaway that is the most popular pick, with no fewer than 20 people in the queue at any given time.

Louis Bistrot offers a more formal food setting, serving Mediterranean food under New Orleans-esque architecture, while Thespis provides a more authentic Athens vibe, nestled under olive trees and twinkling fairy lights on the way up to the Acropolis. Plus, if you’re after a tasty tipple, Fine Wine sits just next door, so you can sample some Greek wines while sitting outside on one of the city’s pretty winding streets.

Another Athens must-see is the changing of the guards that stand in front of the war memorial, the grave of the Unknown Soldier. Head to Syntagma Square at 11am on a Sunday and join the growing crowd to see the elaborate, dance-like display of soldiers in traditional dress.

Fashion fans may be familiar with Athens’ famous sandal man, Stavros Melissinos, who has made leather shoes for The Beatles, Sarah-Jessica Parker, Jill Biden and many more famous faces. To join his star-studded clientele, head over to his store on the edge of the old town. For more souvenir shopping, Adrianou Street is bustling with options, with everything from jewellery (including classic ‘Evil Eye’ bracelets) Greek honey and hand-crafted trinkets in plentiful supply.

Finally, if you fancy taking in some sea air, a metro ride from the city centre to the port of Piraeus will have you watching boats and tucking into fresh fish in a mere half hour. Head straight to Zea Marina and Mikrolimano Harbor for a picturesque place to perch.

To find out more about destinations, hotels, and book your perfect city adventure, visit Jet2CityBreaks

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Did Rishi Sunak deliberately snub Susan Hall by not voting in London?

With the catastrophic local election results suffered by the Tories this weekend, Rishi Sunak’s leadership has again become the focus of attention.

It was bad enough to win fewer council seats than the Lib Dems by losing almost 500 out of the 985 the Tories were defending. And the defeat of West Midlands mayor Andy Street by Labour’s Richard Parker was a stunning blow.

But amid the chaos and recriminations, nothing seems to have symbolised the prime minister’s own deficiencies more than the revelation that he was sitting in London during the elections on Thursday but did not get round to voting for his party’s candidate for London mayor, Susan Hall.

Election results reveal how futile it would be for Sunak to tack right

If constantly lurching to the right were the answer to the Conservatives’ problems, the party would have won every mayoralty in the country, have gained control of multiple councils, and be heading for a historic fifth successive general election win sometime in the next few months. Rishi Sunak would now be making plans to take Britain into the 2030s. It would have been the biggest comeback since Lazarus. Instead, the prime minister faces oblivion in a flood of biblical proportions.

This is, in fact, already the most right-wing government Britain has had in decades. So far from Rishi Sunak being the “socialist” he is accused of being by his own colleagues, absurdly enough, he has adopted steadily more rightist positions over the past few months, but to no avail. He has abandoned interim targets on the decarbonisation of home heating, and postponed the transition to electric vehicles. He has introduced ever more draconian legislation to make the ill-starred Rwanda policy a reality, made legal migration harder, and promised to ignore the European Convention on Human Rights if it suits him.

He’s dished out cuts in national insurance and offered the prospect of abolishing it. He’s announced potentially devastating cuts to disability benefits. He even gave the Conservative conference that infamously asinine soundbite: “A man is a man and a woman is a woman, that’s just common sense.” By background, he is a genuine, longstanding Brexiteer and Thatcherite.