INDEPENDENT 2024-04-06 10:11:13


Charles Leclerc fumes at Ferrari mishap in Japan: ‘What are we doing?’

Charles Leclerc was in a state of bemusement prior to qualifying in Japan on Saturday, questioning his Ferrari team’s run-plan at the end of the final practice session.

Leclerc is four points off championship leader Max Verstappen heading into this weekend in Suzuka, following two podiums in the first three races.

Yet on early evidence, Ferrari cannot match the pace of Red Bull this weekend in Japan, with Leclerc unhappy at the Scuderia’s strategy at the end of the third practice session.

Leclerc failed to get a second “push lap” in at the end and was angry that his team kept him in the garage for too long at the end of the one-hour session.

“Honestly, I don’t get it,” Leclerc said over the team radio. “What are we doing to stay in the garage? Oh my god!

“It’s FP3, we have two laps. Two laps. Let’s be on it, come on!”

Things didn’t improve for the Monegasque driver in qualifying, struggling for performance throughout the session, and he will start Sunday’s race only eighth on the grid – four spots behind team-mate Carlos Sainz.

Leclerc has often been frustrated at his team in the past, most memorably at his home race in Monaco in 2022 when a botched pit stop ruined his chances of victory.

“It’s one of those sessions which you get once in a season, it’s not a good feeling,” he said after qualifying.

“We can always improve like every qualifying. If I rely on the feeling at the end of the lap, it’s a good lap but then you look at the [leader]board.

“I’ve tried many different things today but it didn’t work, I don’t have the answer. On a track like this, qualifying position is extremely important. We didn’t do a good job. From Q1 to Q3, it wasn’t a strong session. We’ve got to look into it.

“Race-pace looks strong, I hope we have the opportunity to overtake [on Sunday]. It’s going to be difficult to overtake, I’ll do my best and see.”

Leclerc is wearing a special helmet this weekend in memory of his godfather Jules Bianchi, the former F1 driver who died in 2015 as a result of injuries sustained at the Japanese Grand Prix 10 years ago.

Max Verstappen took his fourth pole position out of four races this season, with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez in second and McLaren’s Lando Norris lining up third on the grid.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher divorce after 13 years

Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher have announced their divorce after 13 years of marriage.

In statements shared on their Instagram Stories on 5 April, the longtime couple announced they decided to call it quits in 2023, and stressed that they intend to prioritise their family throughout the difficult transition.

“After a long tennis match lasting over 20 years, we are finally putting our racquets down,” the couple revealed in a joint statement. “In 2023 we jointly filed to end our marriage.”

“We have always prioritised our privacy, and have been quietly working through this change,” they continued. “We forever share in our devotion and love for our children. We sincerely appreciate your respecting our family’s wish for privacy.”

Romance first sparked between the couple when they met at a party in Sydney, Australia, in 2001. Baron Cohen reflected on the encounter in an interview with theNew York Times, noting that he knew “instantly” that she was going to mean something to him.

“She was hilarious,” the 52-year-old comedian said at the time. “We were at a very pretentious party, and me and her bonded over taking the mick out of the other people in the party. I knew instantly. I don’t know if she did.”

The couple were engaged in 2004 and Fischer converted to Baron Cohen’s religion, Judaism, in early 2007 before they eventually wed. In 2009, Fisher explained to Metro: “I love Judaism, the fact that there’s such a huge emphasis on family and, to me, family’s everything. We’re quite observant, we keep Shabbat and do Friday night dinner and celebrate the holidays. I really enjoy being part of that Jewish community.”

In July 2007, Fisher revealed to reporters that she was pregnant at the premiere of her movie Hot Rod, noting that she was “so happy“ and “very excited” to become a mother. She added that she planned on enjoying motherhood and taking a step back from acting: “I plan on just colouring in books. I’ll focus on that for the next few years.”

Later that year in October, they welcomed their first daughter, Olive. After a six-year engagement, the couple tied the knot on 15 March 2010 and went on to welcome two more children together – daughter Elula and son Montgomery.

In her June 2021 cover story for Marie Claire Australia, the 48-year-old Wedding Crashers actor spoke about how she and Baron Cohen were intent on giving their three children a “normal childhood”.

“Motherhood is actually my favorite topic, but I keep it private,” she said at the time. “I think all parents are trying to protect their kids, especially in the social media age. I want our children to have a normal childhood, being able to play outside without pressure or scrutiny.”

She added: “All kids have the right to just be kids and I would never sell a film or magazine by speaking about [mine].”

The hilarious former couple has publicly supported each other at multiple red carpet events over the years, from award show ceremonies to premieres for their latest films.

Netflix’s Scoop manages to buck TV’s worst trend

Right now, TV is in thrall to five little words: “Based on a true story”. Events that have barely had time to, well, happen are immediately snapped up by production companies and turned into shows that are forgotten almost as quickly. Scammers, court cases, celebrity scandals: they’re all fodder for the content mill (and a great excuse for beautiful actors to experiment with dodgy prosthetics). We’ve had a drama based on the Wagatha Christie trial, Kenneth Branagh in horrifying Boris Johnson cosplay for Michael Winterbottom’s Sky series This England and a whole spate of shows about start-ups gone very, very wrong (see Apple’s WeCrashed and FX’s The Dropout). And that’s just a tiny, tiny cross-section.

It has all got so out of hand that whenever anything remotely newsworthy happens, everyone on social media makes the same joke: that ITV is on the verge of casting Sheridan Smith in a three-part ripped-from-the-headlines drama (aptly, it’s a gag that was quite engaging the first three times, but now just feels a bit derivative). So forgive me for rolling my eyes when Netflix commissioned one-off drama Scoop, depicting the events leading up to Emily Maitlis’ notorious Newsnight showdown with Prince Andrew in November 2019. It is based on a memoir by Sam McAlister, the Newsnight booker who secured that fateful interview, who’s played by Billie Piper, alongside Gillian Anderson as Maitlis and Rufus Sewell as the prince. And it’s ended up proving my preconceptions wrong, showing that, when they’re done well, true-story dramas can bring nuance and new perspectives.

Initially, I’d wondered: did we really need a TV reconstruction of… a TV interview? Wouldn’t it be a bit “inside baseball”? Hasn’t every possible meme about Woking Pizza Express been made? The fact that Amazon then announced their own drama called A Very Royal Scandal, with Michael Sheen and Ruth Wilson in the palace hot seats, just seemed to further prove the industry’s mania for true-story IP (and lack of fresh ideas). This rival project, a three-part series, is being produced by Maitlis, so will inevitably be geared towards her personal experience.

But once you get past the eye-catching wigs, the fake jowls (apparently Sewell spent about four hours in the makeup chair to transform into Andrew) and the fact that, several years post-Crown, Anderson’s voice still has an uncanny touch of the Thatchers about it, Scoop is actually much greater than the sum of its parts. The film bucks this trend of turning recent events into bland streaming fodder, by re-framing an incident we think we know inside out: it takes out much of the sensation and sniggering from a story that, thanks to all those jokes about that branch of Pizza Express and the prince’s miraculous inability to sweat, has become a bit of a punchline.

In that infamous interview, Andrew was being questioned over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier and convicted sex offender, as well as allegations that he sexually assaulted Virginia Guiffre on three occasions, when she was aged 17 (the prince has always denied the allegations, and the case was settled out of court in 2022)From the start, Scoop gestures towards Epstein’s victims. We see paparazzi photos of young girls leaving his New York home, which act as a reminder of the human cost and, as they re-appear throughout the film, of the urgency behind McAlister’s quest for an exclusive.

In the feverish aftermath of the Newsnight interview, especially the online scramble to have the hottest take or to make the best joke about Andrew’s bizarre pronouncements, the victims often seemed to become an afterthought. It was as if, collectively, we all conveniently forgot that this was a story about alleged abuse, not “straightforward shooting weekends” and excesses of adrenaline. Scoop goes some way to re-address that. Perhaps it helps that a good few years have elapsed since the interview, allowing the writer and producers to wade through the hysteria and see things in a different, clearer light.

And although Sewell’s Andrew has plenty of screen time (did we really need that shot of him in the bath?), the story has been re-framed to focus on the women who made the interview happen. We see the sacrifices that McAlister has to make in service of a job that exhausts and exhilarates her, and there are gestures towards the inscrutable Maitlis’ motivations, too: screenwriter Peter Moffat imagines that her failure to grill Bill Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky during a past interview might have galvanised the presenter to push Andrew for answers. Keeley Hawes is especially strong in the tricky role of Amanda Thirsk, the prince’s private secretary who became McAlister’s contact at the palace. In different hands, it might’ve been easy to play up the “what was she thinking?” angle or present her as a caricatured simpering courtier. But instead, Hawes plays her as someone who has perhaps over-invested in her job and become blinkered to reality.

Of course, some of the clichés of the based-on-a-true-story industrial complex are still present and correct. Personally, I could’ve done without the self-congratulatory scene towards the end, when the Newsnight editor played by Romola Garai rallies the troops to deliver a speech about how the programme tells “stories that need to be told” while Anderson and Piper nod approvingly. I’m yet to work in or hear of a newsroom where this sort of Hollywood set-piece moment actually happens (we’re all too busy refreshing Twitter and thinking about what to have for lunch).

But for the most part, it’s refreshing to be reminded that the true story drama doesn’t have to be a case of flat re-enactments and diminishing returns – it can make us re-interrogate the stories we think we know. And when Prince Andrew seems to be cropping up at royal events despite his apparent retirement from public life, that interrogation feels particularly important. Now the pressure will be on for Amazon’s drama to top it: Sheen and Wilson, the ball’s in your court.

Roald Dahl spin-off facing ‘ableism’ backlash over Mrs Twit’s glass eye

Greg James has issued an apology after he and Chris Smith made an “ableist” comment about Mrs Twit’s glass eye in a promotional video for their new Roald Dahl spin-off book.

The pair have written The Twits Next Door as part of a new book series commissioned by the Roald Dahl Story Company inspired by the late author’s original works.

Radio 1 DJ James and ex-BBC newsreader Smith also co-write the Kid Normal book series.

In a now-deleted promotional video shared by Puffin Books on Twitter/X, the duo suggest ways of making The Twits more disgusting. Illustrator Emily Jones suggests a glass eye, to which Smith replies: “That’s it. What a disgusting pair of Twits!”

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIBP) was among those to criticise the video, responding on X: “When there’s positive representation of disabilities in children’s books, children with disabilities feel seen and heard, and their friends and classmates treat everyone the same. There is nothing at all revolting about prosthetic eyes, we think they’re brilliant.”

Charity Scope posted on X: “Positive disability representation in kid’s books help improve attitudes and inclusion. So what can we expect of negative representation like this?”

They also posted a video saying: “Greg and Chris, we know you can do better. The disabled community wants to help you get there.”

Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson, who is also a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, posted: “Thanks. Thanks very much. #sarcasm. I’d hoped the world had moved on.”

The backlash prompted a statement from James on Friday (5 April) afternoon. The DJ shared on X: “Hello! Regarding our new Twits story announcement video from this morning: We are so sorry to have caused offence with the launch video. It was absolutely not our intention.

“And we apologise unreservedly. It’s now gone. We understand that words matter and we pride ourselves on championing and welcoming everyone into the magical world of children’s books. We would never dream of deliberately setting out to exclude anyone.

“With the glass eye comment, we were attempting to pay homage to one of the Twit’s most famous pranks involving a glass of beer in order to remind people of Dahl’s infamous terrible two. It’s in no way a suggestion that this forms any part of the plot of the new story nor was it our intention to suggest that it was in any way disgusting.”

James added: “It’s unfortunate that the word disgusting appears to be a direct comment on that. That’s an error on our part. We are devastated that it’s come across like this but completely understand why there is anger. And we appreciate everyone rightly calling it out.

“We hear that fully, we’re so upset that we made a mistake but we’re still incredibly proud of this book and we’re excited to get out there and share it with young readers all over the world x”

The Twits Next Door will see The Twits attempting to drive away their “horribly nice” new neighbours: the Lovelies. It will be published in August.

TV presenter Konnie Huq, The Last Leg comedian Adam Hills and author Adam Kay are also set to contribute to a short story collection, Charlie and the Christmas Factory.

The spin-off series comes after Netflix purchased the rights to the complete works of Dahl in 2021.

Last year, Puffin was the subject of controversy after an investigation by The Telegraph found that Dahl’s children’s books were being rewritten to remove language considered offensive.

The word “fat”, for example, was removed from every book.

The decision faced criticism from authors including Salman Rushdie, who called it “absurd”, while Sir Philip Pullman suggested it would be better to let the books go out of print.

BBC defends Kate coverage as Harry has ‘no choice’ but to see William on visit

The BBC has been forced to defend its coverage of the Princess of Wales’s cancer diagnosis after receiving complaints from people who believed it was “excessive and insensitive”.

Kate revealed she was undergoing treatment for the disease in an emotional video message released on 22 March.

The broadcaster, which had aired the full video, said in a statement released on Friday in response to the complaints that it was “mindful” of its reporting approach and did not speculate on details that had not been made public.

It comes as royal author Tom Quinn claimed Prince Harry will have to meet with his father King Charles and his brother Prince William if the Duke of Sussex makes a trip to the UK next month for a celebration of 10 years of the Invictus Games.

Mr Quinn told the Mirror: “If he decides not to come, it will take some explaining because everyone will assume it’s because he doesn’t want the awkwardness of having to meet his brother or having to choose not to meet him.

”Not coming would be worse than finding some sort of compromise where Harry sees William for 10 minutes or comes up with some reason why he doesn’t have time to see his brother and his father and has to get back to the States quickly to be with his children. But no one is going to be fooled by these excuses.”

Savvy spending guide: 5 ways to shop more mindfully and save money

The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. This information is from an independent third party, these are their own views and do not necessarily constitute the views of American Express.

Whether you’re trying to be more sustainable, save money or a bit of both, there’s no doubt that adopting a more mindful approach to shopping has real benefits for us and the planet we live in. So, whether you’re splashing out on a new wardrobe item or the latest piece of tech, how can you ensure you shop savvily, and don’t end up disappointed or having to throw good money after bad?

According to finance coach Ellie-Austin Williams, the founder of financial wellbeing community ‘This Girl Talks Money’ and author of Money Talks: A Lifestyle Guide for Financial Wellbeing, it’s all about having a strategy when it comes to spending.

“A lot of it is just about taking your time to make the decision and being confident that you have explored all the options,” she explains. “Work out what you actually need or want as well as why, do your research, and then buy smartly.” Here Ellie shares her advice for savvy spending, so you’ll never regret a splurge again…

Whether it’s a new tech item for work or one of your hobbies, a vital piece of homeware or a new pair of shoes – investment buying is about adopting a more thoughtful, mindful approach to spending, which will pay off in the long run.

“For me, investment purchases are where you have to spend a little bit more money up front but in the long term, you’ll save money because you’re buying something that will stand the test of time, that’s going to be better quality and is going to meet your needs for a longer period,” says Ellie.

When it comes to things that you use or wear everyday – whether a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or a new sofa – it’s worth making sure you’re buying something that will last. “Sometimes paying a bit more for higher quality materials will mean that something lasts several times longer as something that’s half the price so overall you end up spending less,” says Ellie.

It’s not about spending more money for the sake of it – the best buy won’t always be the priciest one. But when you are looking to drop some cash on something more significant than your small, everyday purchases, it can pay off to spend more upfront.

There’s nothing better than the feeling of buying the right thing, at the right time, for the right price. But too often we can end up feeling like we’ve made a mistake with our purchases. So how should you approach an investment buy?

“I think the key question to ask yourself is, why am I buying this?” says Ellie. “Is this something that I need or want? If it’s something that you want, that’s fine, but know why you want it. Is it something that actually is going to elevate or enhance your life in a valuable way or is it just part of a trend or fad?”

Be realistic with what you can afford, too. When it comes to any non-essential buys, Ellie always recommends prioritising essentials and long-term finances first. “So, figure out how much you want to put into your savings and then look at what’s leftover as disposable income.”

Work out your budget before you start browsing. “There will nearly always be higher end options, as well as cheaper ones, but be focused in your research and look for the best option within that budget,” says Ellie. “If you’re buying a washing machine and your budget is £600, don’t spend time looking at the £1000 machines that have great reviews but you can’t afford.”

Don’t rush it, either. One good strategy for buying bigger or more expensive items is to go home and think about it, or put it in your virtual basket and leave it there for a few days. “It’s good to sit on investment purchases for a little bit,” says Ellie. “A day or two – maybe longer if it’s a bigger purchase. Just to see if you feel the same about it once the initial buzz of the idea has worn off.”

An easy mistake to make with investment buying is assuming you should always go for the more expensive item where possible. The latest phone release might be getting all the headlines – but do you really need everything it offers, or would a lower range or slightly older model suit you just as well?

It’s all about working out what product best suits your needs, says Ellie. “For example, I don’t do a lot of heavy video editing or gaming so I don’t need a super high processing speed laptop and have saved money on that,” she says. “But I do a lot of filming on my phone for my social channels and the lowest level model doesn’t have the best quality camera. So it’s all going to be individual to your specific needs and usage.”

Especially when you’re buying out of your comfort zone, speaking to an online sales advisor or – even better – going into a store can be helpful in pinning down which specific product is going to be right for you. “If you’ve got the time to actually talk to someone with some expertise, that can be really helpful in finding an item that really suits your needs rather than just buying something that’s new and shiny and might require spending more money than you need to. You’ll get the chance to try it out, talk through the product and functions, and look at alternatives.”

Even if you intend to buy online eventually – if you have a specific online or app deal or discount code for example – it’s worth looking at things in person first.

While getting the advice of salespeople is useful, do your own research, too. When it’s a big purchase, make sure you look at independent consumer review websites like Which?, even if you have to pay a small fee to access them.

“Sometimes paying for a subscription to a site like this is worth it if you’re going to spend a lot of money on an item, to get a well-rounded assessment, see the pros and cons in one place and to see it compared to similar products,” says Ellie.

Search online for write-ups in national news titles or specialist magazines, and check out customer reviews on the big retailers’ sites. “I look at the negative reviews just to see if there are any specific complaints that consistently pop up,” says Ellie.

Seek advice closer to home, too. “Getting recommendations from friends and family is a great way to cut through the noise and overwhelm.” Social media can be a great place to ask for opinions and recommendations, including in any relevant social media groups you’re a member of, such as on Facebook or Reddit.

Once you’ve figured out what it is that you need (or want!), make sure that you’re shopping around and buying in the most cost-effective way.

“Google Shopping is a good starting point to compare prices, as it searches a wide range of retailers, including Amazon, Currys, John Lewis and Tesco, as well as less traditional sites such as eBay, Etsy and daily deals site Groupon,” says Ellie. “But use the filters to select retailers that you know and trust. If a price looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Look into price-tracking sites – these have browser extensions that scour the internet for coupons and promo deals and automatically apply them at online checkouts. There are also specific sites that track Amazon prices and show the pricing history so you can see if you’re buying at a good time.

Money Saving Expert have created a special tool to help you find bargain buys in Amazon Warehouse (where you can buy customer returned or slightly damaged products for low prices). Also explore fashion and sale aggregate sites – many of these have discount alert functions, allow you to create watchlists of items from different online retailers, and set target sales prices, so you can maximise your discounts.

“A lot of retailers offer discounts of 10 per cent on your first purchase if you sign up to mailing lists, so that can be worth doing, and you can always unsubscribe later,” says Ellie. If you’re already signed up with a retailer, it’s worth leaving something in your online basket without buying it – sometimes they’ll email you with an offer to tempt you to complete the purchase.

Be clever about when you buy, and hold out for seasonal discounts. “If you don’t need something urgently then it can be worth waiting for one of those calendar moments to see if you can get a discount. The obvious ones are Black Friday and after Christmas, but there can be deals throughout the year.”

And don’t rule out buying pre-loved options via sites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace. “It’s a great way to get things that are high quality but that are usually out of your price range,” says Ellie, “and many items are sold unworn with tags.”

By making purchases on your credit card, you can take advantage of cashback offers and exclusive retail discounts, making your buy even savvier. “Also make sure that you’re checking the big cashback websites like TopCashback and Quidco before you make any purchases,” says Ellie. “Some retailers are on certain sites but not others so check them all. These are all little things that you can do to help you to save a bit extra.”

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Biden must do more to stop the war, and the imminent invasion of Rafah

The explanations thus far offered by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for the fatal drone attack that killed seven international aid workers are, to say the least, unsatisfactory. Absent the possibility that the aid workers were targeted simply because they were providing aid – which would be unthinkable, even for the wilder elements of the Israeli military – of course the incident was “a grave mistake” and a case of “mistaken identity”.

The IDF thought, apparently, that the occupants of the three vehicles were Hamas terrorists – but we are still none the wiser as to why such an assumption was made about travellers in a deconflicted zone.

Nor does that account for how, precisely, it came to happen – or who, exactly, was responsible. Thus far, two officers have been dismissed over the strikes, for alleged mishandling of critical information and violations of the army’s rules of engagement, though it is unclear at this time whether that will be the extent of their punishment. Perhaps this will become known in due course, as part of the “transparent” process.

What the history of ‘honeytraps’ tells us about MPs’ security

The Conservative MP William Wragg has said that he surrendered the personal telephone numbers of fellow MPs to someone he met on a dating app because he was “scared” that the man had “compromising things on me”. Wragg has apologised for betraying their confidence, and he’s been widely praised for his openness as a victim of a nasty crime.

At least 12 men in political circles have received unsolicited WhatsApp messages: some were sent explicit images, and two MPs were apparently sent images of themselves. The recipients are reported to include a government minister, political advisers, and journalists at Westminster. The incident has heightened concerns about cybersecurity – particularly the phenomenon of “spear phishing”, which can lure people into situations in which they are vulnerable to blackmail…