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Prince Philip: Duke of Edinburgh’s apology to Richard Nixon for ‘lame’ dinner toast revealed in never-before-seen letter | US News

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A handwritten note from Prince Philip in which he apologised to the then US president Richard Nixon for a “lame” toast in which he forgot to propose his host’s health has been made public for the first time.

The Duke of Edinburgh wrote to the 37th American leader that he’d woken “in a cold sweat” when he released his breach of etiquette at a White House dinner held in his honour during a solo visit to the US in 1969.

During such events, the invited guest usually offers a toast to the president’s health and success.

Prince Philip and Richard Nixon in 1959. Pic: AP
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The Duke of Edinburgh and Richard Nixon met on a number of occasions. Pic: AP

The letter was uncovered by archivists at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California.

Writing from Greenland following his trip on 7 November, Philip wrote: “After the brilliance of the other speakers and yourself, I am afraid my contribution was very lame.”

He added: “That night I woke up in a cold sweat when I realised I had forgotten to propose your health!”

Jim Byron, executive vice president of the Nixon Foundation, said: “I think the letter itself shows the character of Prince Philip that so much of the public in the UK and across the Commonwealth, and really across the world, have come to admire.”

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He said the letter was discovered before the coronavirus pandemic – but only made public this week, as a way of marking the duke’s death.

“It expresses some private feelings of a moment in time that the public really doesn’t always get a chance to see,” Mr Byron added.

Watch and follow live coverage of Prince Philip's funeral service on Sky News from 12.30pm on Saturday.

The duke also mentioned travelling to New York, where he was interviewed by Barbara Walters for NBC’s Today show.

Philip wrote: “The weather in New York was horrible but otherwise all went well, and I found Miss Walters particularly charming and intelligent. I hope we did a good piece.”

The all-male guest list for the “stag” dinner included vice president Spiro Agnew, most of the members of Mr Nixon’s cabinet, and non-governmental notables such as business tycoon Ross Perot and British-born comedian Bob Hope.

Mr Byron said Mr Nixon almost certainly replied to Philip’s letter, but, with the library archives remaining closed because of COVID-19, what he might have written is unknown – as are the duke’s remarks, other than failing to wish Mr Nixon good health.

The dinner came a day after Mr Nixon delivered his famous “silent majority” speech in which he urged the US to unite behind the continuing war in Vietnam until his administration could achieve “peace with honour”.

Mr Byron said top aide HR Haldeman, who later went to prison for his involvement in the Watergate scandal, noted in his diary how happy the president had been that night, given that his address had been positively received.

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Philip had met Mr Nixon on a number of occasions prior to the dinner.

As vice president, Mr Nixon and his wife had met the Queen and duke in London.

The Nixons also gave the royal couple a tour of Washington‘s sites when they made a state visit to the US in 1959.

“Philip, by all measures, he was being kind,” Mr Byron said of the letter. “And really expressing so much of his character.”

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Two American friends jailed for life after killing of Italian police officer while teenagers | World News

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A jury in Italy has sentenced two Americans to life in prison for the killing of a police officer.

The jury of two judges and six civilians deliberated for more than 12 hours before convicting Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 20.

There was a gasp in the Rome courtroom as the presiding judge read the verdict: guilty on charges of homicide, attempted extortion, assault, resisting a public official and carrying an attack-style knife without just cause.

US citizen Finnegan Lee Elder was found guilty of murder charges after Italian Carabinieri paramilitary police officer Mario Cerciello Rega was killed in July 2019. Pic: AP
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Finnegan Lee Elder was found guilty of murder. Pic: AP

Elder stabbed Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega 11 times on 26 July, 2019, with a knife he had brought with him from California.

Natale-Hjorth helped him hide the weapon in their hotel room and, under Italian law, an accomplice in a murder can also be charged with murder even if they did not actually kill the victim.

Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, from the US, arrives for a hearing in the trial where he and co-defendant Finnegan Lee Elder are facing murder charges after Italian Carabinieri paramilitary police officer Mario Cerciello Rega. Pic: AP
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Gabriel Natale-Hjorth hid the knife used to stab the police officer. Pic: AP

The death of 35-year-old Carabinieri paramilitary police officer Mr Cerciello Rega shocked Italy and he was mourned as a national hero.

His widow Rosa Maria Esilio had held a photo of him throughout the trial and cried when she heard the verdict, saying afterwards: “His integrity was defended.

“He was everyone’s son, everyone’s Carabinieri.

“He was a marvellous husband, he was a marvellous man, a servant of the state who merited respect and honour.”

Rosa Maria Esilio, right, widow of Italian Carabinieri paramilitary police officer Mario Cerciello Rega, reacts during the trial in Rome, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. Pic: AP
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Rosa Maria Esilio said her husband’s integrity had been defended by the verdict. Pic: AP

Elder’s parents appeared stunned and, as he was being walked out of the court, his father called out: “Finnegan, I love you.”

His lawyer Renato Borzone said the verdict was a “disgrace for Italy”, having earlier told the court that his client had psychiatric problems, including a constant fear of being attacked.

Something had “short-circuited” when Elder was confronted by the officer, he added.

Natale-Hjorth’s lawyer, Fabio Alonzi, said he was speechless by the verdict.

Mr Cerciello Rega was a newlywed when he was sent with colleague Andrea Varriale to investigate a reported extortion attempt.

Cerciello Rega was fatally stabbed after a cuffle broke when he met a drug dealer and two American tourists. Pic: Carabinieri
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Mr Cerciello Rega was fatally stabbed in 2019. Pic: Carabinieri

Prosecutors in Rome said Elder and Natale-Hjorth had concocted a plan involving a stolen bag and mobile phone with the aim of exchanging them for money they had lost in a failed bid to buy a small amount of cocaine.

The two young men told the court they thought the officers, both in plainclothes and without service pistols, were thugs or mobsters set on assaulting them on a dark and deserted street.

They said the officers had not showed police badges, although this was disputed by Mr Varriale during the trial.

Mr Varriale suffered a back injury while fighting with Natale-Hjorth, and Elder thrust an 18cm knife into Mr Cerciello Rega, who had bled profusely before dying later in hospital.

Both defendants said they had acted in self defence, with Elder saying Mr Cerciello Rega had been on top of him on the ground and he feared being strangled.

After the stabbing, the offenders had run to their hotel room where Natale-Hjorth said Elder had cleaned the knife and asked him to hide it.

Police found the knife hours later behind a ceiling panel in the room.

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COVID-19: First nationwide data from Israel shows 95% protection from infection after two doses of Pfizer jab | World News

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Two doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine can provide more than 95% protection against infection, severe illness, and death, according to the first nationwide data from Israel.

A single dose of the jab, meanwhile, is associated with 58% protection against infection, 76% against hospital admission, and 77% against death, research published in The Lancet suggests.

The study uses Israeli ministry of health data from between 24 January and 3 April this year, a time when the UK variant was responsible for most of the country’s infections.

By the end of that time period, 72% of people over 16 years and 90% of those over 65 years had received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

For those over 16 years, the vaccine provided 96.5% protection against infection, 98% protection against hospital admissions and 98.1% protection against death, from 14 days after the second dose.

Protection for the elderly was almost as strong, with those over 85 getting 94.1% protection against infection, 96.9% against hospital admission, and 97% against death, a week after receiving their second dose.

Israel’s vaccination programme has been one of the fastest in the world, and the country went from more than 10,000 new virus cases a day in January to just a few hundred in March.

The economy has almost fully reopened and people are going to sporting and cultural events outdoors.

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The multi-million pound booster shot

Lead author Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis, of the Israeli ministry of health, said: “As the country with the highest proportion of its population vaccinated against COVID-19, Israel provides a unique real-world opportunity to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine and to observe wider effects of the vaccination programme on public health.

“Until this point, no country in the world had described the national public health impact of a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

“These insights are hugely important because, while there are still some considerable challenges to overcome, they offer real hope that COVID-19 vaccination will eventually enable us to control the pandemic.”

Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said: “Importantly, the study shows that two doses of the vaccine significantly increase levels of immunity and protection.

“This is why it is important that people get both doses, and if UK vaccine policy changes, to get a third dose if offered in the autumn.”

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Are people worried about travelling abroad?

Prof Ball said that as new coronavirus variants emerge, “topping up your immunity with the vaccine boost will be even more important” as the virus acquires genetic changes that may make it more resistant.

He added: “Therefore, it will be important to continue to monitor the potential impact of virus change and vaccine effectiveness.”

Dr Luis Jodar, Pfizer’s senior vice president and chief medical officer of vaccines, said more data is needed urgently about the effectiveness of the vaccine against severe disease and death, and the levels of protection it provides to elderly people.

“Research examining long-term vaccine effectiveness will ultimately play a vital role in tackling the pandemic.”

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G7 ‘finds its voice again’ with China, Iran and Russia under fire at London meeting | World News

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COVID scares aside, this meeting has delivered diplomatically.

Its British hosts believe the dire times we live in demand the most potent form of diplomacy, and that has to be face to face.

COVID-19 is raging across the developing world, throwing up new worrying variants; climate change poses an ever increasing threat and the whole idea of a world order dominated by likeminded democratic allies is in jeopardy.

While a maverick anti-multilateralist was in the White House, and under cover of the pandemic, the West’s rivals have made hay.

Pic: AP
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The countries issued a 50-page final communique. Pic: AP

The Russians have grown increasingly menacing and meddlesome. Iran continues to hold innocent people hostage in an egregious form of hostage diplomacy. And China, where the virus was spawned, has only grown stronger in its wake, economically but also ideologically.

China offers a nightmare alternative to the free, open democratic world promoted in the West. One of Orwellian totalitarianism.

And it continues to perpetrate the genocide – or something very close to it – of an entire people and their culture in Xinjiang, just as it has smothered and crushed the same in Tibet.

All that justified the risk, say the British, of convening foreign minsters in person at last for a brisk two days of high-density diplomacy that culminated in a meaty 50-page final communique.

The impression it leaves is of a G7 finding its voice again.

It warns Russia against malign activities and cyber threats and urges Myanmar’s military regime to reverse course.

The  gate of what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre is photographed in Dabancheng, in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 4, 2018.
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Uighur ‘education camps’ in China were sharply criticised

It urges Iran to release dual-national prisoners like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, whose family say is increasingly unwell in jail.

And it also pledges to expand COVID-19 vaccine production

But on China it was perhaps most forthright, expressing concern on its human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet, condemning “the targeting of Uighurs, members of other ethnic and religious minority groups, and the existence of a large-scale network of ‘political re-education’ camps, and reports of forced labour systems and forced sterilisation”.

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Foreign Secretary defends G7 meeting

G7 nations say they don’t want to hold China down, but to encourage it “as a major power and economy with advanced technological capability, to participate constructively in the rules-based international system”.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News: “I think it’s more likely to need to – rather than react in anger – it’s more likely to going to need to take a look in the mirror and take into account this growing body of opinion that thinks these basic international rules have got be adhered to.”

Beijing will hate that kind of rhetoric and the criticism in the communique, but may have to brace itself for more as the G7 prepares for its summit in Cornwall with what appears to be renewed sense of diplomatic vigour.

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