INDEPENDENT 2024-04-08 10:04:05


US is about to go dark in the ‘Great North American Eclipse’ – live

A total eclipse of the sun is set to plunge a stretch of North America into darkness on Monday, will millions of spectators across the US, Mexico and Canada hoping to catch a glimpse of the celestial phenomenon.

It promises to be North America’s biggest eclipse crowd ever, thanks to the lure of up to four minutes of midday darkness in Texas and other spots.

Almost everyone in North America is guaranteed at least a partial eclipse, weather permitting.

The best weather is expected at the tail end of the eclipse in Vermont and Maine, as well as New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

“Cloud cover is one of the trickier things to forecast,” National Weather Service meteorologist Alexa Maines explained at Cleveland’s Great Lakes Science Centre on Sunday. “At the very least, it won’t snow.”

Shopkeeper tells of battle to save woman’s life after brutal stabbing

A shopkeeper has described how passers-by desperately tried to save a mother’s life after she was knifed to death in Bradford while pushing her baby in a pram.

The 27-year-old woman, who is yet to be named by police, was repeatedly stabbed in a horror daylight attack on Saturday and died a short while later in hospital. The woman’s baby, said to be a boy aged around five months, was unharmed.

West Yorkshire Police have launched a manhunt and released an image of the suspect, who they identified as 25-year-old Habibur Masum. The public have been warned not to approach him.

Speaking to The Sun, greengrocer Geo Khan, 69, recalled hearing blood-curdling screams on Drewton Road, in the Westgate area of the city, just before 3.30pm.

“I was working on Saturday and I heard screams and ran out of my shop,” he said.

“I saw that lady was lying face down on the pavement next to a pushchair with her five-month old baby boy inside.

“I turned her over. There was a lot of blood and I checked for a pulse, but couldn’t find one.”

He claimed the woman’s neck was covered in knife wounds and that he attempted to carry out CPR while her friend ran into a nearby food store and was “screaming”.

“A doctor was passing in a car and stopped to help. He picked up a pulse and I got a sheet to put over her until the ambulance came,” he added.

Other locals recalled seeing the pram with a baby inside, while police officers swarmed the area and launched a manhunt to detain her suspected killer. A knife was also recovered from the scene, with officers stating that the victim and her alleged attacker had been known to one another.

Masum is described as an Asian man, of slim build.

He was pictured on CCTV wearing a duffle coat with three large horizontal lines of grey, white and black, light blue or grey tracksuit bottoms with a small black emblem on the left pocket and maroon trainers. A witness also reported seeing him wearing a grey hoodie with the hood up.

He is believed to have links to the Burnley and Chester areas. Police say he was known to the suspect and it was not a random attack.

Detective chief inspector Stacey Atkinson, of West Yorkshire Police’s homicide and enquiry team, said: “We have had significant resources following up a number of lines of enquiry to locate Habibur Masum but at this time his whereabouts are unknown.

“A knife was recovered from the scene of the murder, but we cannot say if Habibur Masum is armed, and I would urge anyone who does see him not to approach him but to call 999 immediately.

“If anyone has any information about his movements or whereabouts since 3.20pm on Saturday please contact police as a matter of urgency.

“We understand that the murder of a young woman in such shocking circumstances has caused considerable concern in the local community. Residents can expect to continue to see a significant police presence in Bradford as we make further enquiries and conduct reassurance patrols in the area.”

Any current sightings of Masum should be reported to West Yorkshire Police via 999. Any other information that could assist the investigation should be reported via Live Chat online or by calling 101, quoting log 1071 of April 6.

Plane passenger caught urinating in a cup

A passenger has been fined for urinating in a cup during a delay in deplaning.

The incident happened after landing at Sydney Airport after a three-hour Air New Zealand flight from Auckland.

It happened last December and a Sydney court fined the 53-year-old man 600 Australian dollars ($395) for offensive behavior in February, officials said on Friday.

The incident only came to public attention on Friday, when New Zealand news website Stuff reported that a passenger in the same row, identified only as Holly, said she had reported the behavior to the air crew.

She said she and her 15-year-old daughter were sitting in the aisle and middle seats when the man in the window seat, whose name has not been released, was urinating in a cup.

Holly said the plane had been on the tarmac for about 20 minutes, waiting for a terminal gate to be allocated, when she heard the unmistakable sound of the passenger urinating in a cup, Stuff reported.

She said the man was “obviously quite drunk” and spilled urine on a flight attendant as he left the plane, it reported.

But the mishap with the attendant wasn’t his crime. Australian Federal Police said in a statement that officers removed him from the plane because he had “urinated into a cup while in his seat.”

Air New Zealand said it does not comment on individual incidents. It said it bans between five and 10 customers each month for disruptive behavior, including intoxication.

Last year, a passenger was filmed urinating on the floor of a plane cabin in footage shared online.

The woman, who can be seen squatting in a corner with her trousers down, claimed that flight attendants would not let her use the toilets onboard for a number of hours.

A few months before that, a LOT Polish Airlines passenger removed his pants and urinated on the plane door during a New York-Warsaw.

The man was allegedly drunk when the incident occurred, half an hour before the aircraft was due to land at Chopin Airport.

He has since been banned from flying with LOT for life.

Three killed by drones in Zaporizhzhia region – Ukraine Russia war

Three people have been killed in drone strikes on Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region as the nuclear power plant in the area was hit directly three times, sparking fears of a “major nuclear disaster”.

Local governor Ivan Federov reported that three people had been killed and three more injured “as a result of enemy shelling in the Pologivskyi district”.

He added that Russia struck eight areas in the region a total of 357 times yesterday.

It comes as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) described the attack on the power plant, some 100 miles west of Pologivskyi, as “reckless” after an explosion was seen near the reactor building and a hit on the dome of the plant’s sixth power unit was reported. This is the first such attack on Zaporizhzhia power plant since November 2022 in military action.

“This is a major escalation of the nuclear safety and security dangers facing the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Such reckless attacks significantly increase the risk of a major nuclear accident and must cease immediately,” IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

At least one casualty is also suspected as blood stains were found by an IAEA team outside a laboratory next to a damaged military logistics vehicle.

Your 5-step money audit: effective ways to boost financial fitness

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.

It can be easy not to think too much past your next pay cheque when you’re young – but the sooner you start getting smart about money, the more you’ll be able to enjoy life not just now, but in the future, too. So, when it comes to your financial health, are you in peak condition and on top of all your vitals? Or slightly sluggish and not quite sure why?

If you’re more in the latter camp, the good news is that it’s never too late to get on top of your finances and implement simple, effective ways to get them in shape.

“When it comes to money, the sooner you start engaging with it, taking control and becoming more confident about your finances, the better,” says Ellie-Austin Williams, founder of financial wellbeing community ‘This Girl Talks Money’ and author of Money Talks: A Lifestyle Guide for Financial Wellbeing.

“Sometimes, when we don’t have a lot of money, feel like we don’t understand it or have a grip on it, it can be easy to stick our heads in the sand. But tackling your finances needn’t be scary, difficult or time-consuming. Even just sitting down for an hour or two and crunching some simple numbers around incomings and outgoings will put you in a better position. And once you’ve got some simple foundations in place, you’ll feel more engaged and on top of things. It sets you up to succeed financially, and be in the best place to navigate any changes in circumstances.”

Here, Ellie shares her top five tips for fixing your finances in 2024, from budgeting to saving and spending…

Understanding your own relationship with money and the emotional drivers behind it is the first step to getting to grips with your finances. “Money is fundamentally a tool that is there to facilitate other things in your life,” says Ellie. “It shouldn’t be the end goal, so being excessive at either end of the scale – either as an extreme spender or an extreme saver – can suggest some deeper rooted issues within your relationship with money.”

Ultimately it’s all about balance. Spending in an out of control fashion or beyond your means isn’t good – but neither is holding onto money for the sake of it or feeling guilty any time you buy something for yourself.

“There is a real fine line,” says Ellie. “Sometimes people think they’re really great with money because they hardly spend anything, but the accumulation of money is not the end goal in life for the majority of people. For most, money is about reaching a certain level of security, and then using money to facilitate things they enjoy, or that bring happiness to others around them.”

Taking some time to look at where your money is going, identifying what your emotional triggers with money are, and assessing whether you’re too frivolous or too cautious, is an important first step in taking control of your finances.

“It’s important to challenge your own behaviours, and beliefs about those behaviours on either end of that scale,” says Ellie. “Ask yourself where it comes from – were your parents good or bad with money? Did you pick up behaviours from them? And realise that you can change your approach to money. With some simple tweaks, you can have a much happier relationship with it.”

To get a handle on your finances and feel instantly more in control, sussing your monthly incomings and outgoings is crucial. “For some, the idea of a budget can sound restrictive,” says Ellie. “So I would reframe it as having a plan for your money so you can get it to do what you want it to do.”

The traditional ratio for budgeting is 50/30/20 – with 50 per cent of your income going on needs (so bills and living expenses), 30 per cent on wants (your disposable income) and 20 per cent on savings. “Obviously this will differ from person to person, and with the current cost of living, and high rents and mortgages, this isn’t always feasible. It can be a helpful framework to aim towards, but don’t stress if you’re not fitting those numbers perfectly.”

You don’t have to have a budget that is super restrictive, either. “Just knowing how much you’ve got coming in and how much you’ve got going out will give you information that you need to be able to make better spending and saving decisions, and to feel like you are going in the direction that you want to be financially. It doesn’t have to mean sitting at home with a spreadsheet. There are so many great apps now that you can use to easily analyse your spending and create and stick to a budget – Moneyhub and Emma are good ones to try. Finding something that you like using, so you can sustain this, is key.”

Even if you can’t afford to put much away each month right now, the important thing is building the habit. “Ideally you would aim to put a minimum of 10 per cent, and up to 20 per cent, of your post-tax income away into savings, but if that’s not possible please don’t worry about it,” says Ellie. “If you can only save £20 a month at the moment, that’s still a start.”

The easiest way to do it is to treat your savings like a bill that has to be paid each month. “Set up an automatic payment so that when you get paid or when all your bills go out on the first of the month, then your money also goes into savings,” says Ellie. “That way you’re not relying on your willpower.”

Put it somewhere that you can’t see or access it easily. “I always think out of sight, out of mind, so it’s easier to forget that it’s there, which is what you want with your savings,” says Ellie. ”Set up a different account to the one you use every day and look for a high interest rate – it really does add up. Make sure that you’re not just putting it away into an account that you’ve had for years where you’re earning 0.1% interest.”

Ellie recommends working towards having an emergency fund – ideally three to six months worth of expenses – in case you suddenly need it. Once you’ve saved that you can put additional money into fixed accounts with a higher interest rate, where you can lock the money away.

“If you’re saving up for a house deposit, look at a Lifetime ISA, which is a specific type of account for first-time buyers, where the government tops up the amount that you contribute by 25 per cent,” says Ellie. “There are caveats to it, including certain criteria you have to meet and a property price limit of £450,000, but for a lot of people it’s a great scheme.”

Investing can feel like a scary prospect, but it can also be a great way to grow your money further. But where do you even start?

“The first thing I say to people when they’re thinking about investing is, are you paying attention to your pension?” says Ellie. “Because your pension is an investment. It’s a long-term retirement savings account which is invested and the benefit is that, if you’re employed, you’re getting employer contributions, and it’s tax efficient. In that sense, a lot of people are already investing and don’t realise it, which makes the concept a little bit less scary. So making sure your pension is on track is a priority.”

If after that you’d like to try investing elsewhere, a stock and shares ISA is the most tax efficient way to start investing. “But the key really is just getting yourself comfortable with the basics of investing and how it works,” says Ellie. “You don’t have to be an expert, but understanding the risk, the reward, the compound interest, why investing is different to saving, and the opportunity that it can have… This gives you the confidence to get started and understand your own risk appetite.”

There are countless books, podcasts and Facebook groups aimed at beginner investors that will help you to understand the foundations – but you’ll learn as you go, too. “You don’t need to be an expert before you start. The majority of beginner investors are not picking companies stocks, they’re using automated robo-advisors where it’s all set up and done for you. It costs a little bit more in fees, but it’s a good way to get started. And you don’t have to start off investing with thousands of pounds. You can start with £5 or £10.”

There’s inherent risk in investing, so a cautious approach can get you comfortable with the up-and-down nature of it. “Starting out small can really help to build up your confidence. You can then increase the amount that you’re investing once you feel like you understand how it works and how your money is performing.”

Naturally, one of the best ways to boost financial fitness is by increasing your salary, but it’s something many of us struggle to do.

The easiest place to start, Ellie suggests, is in your current job. “Being proactive about salary negotiation is important at any stage of your career,” says Ellie. “Don’t think you need to wait to be offered a pay rise because you could be waiting a long time. Make sure you’re doing things like keeping track of your achievements, milestones and positive feedback so that when it comes to performance reviews you’ve got everything you need to make a good case for promotion or for a pay rise.”

If you haven’t had a pay review for a long time, speak to your line manager and see if you can get a sit-down in the diary. “Make sure that they know that you are proactively looking to advance.”

There are also options to bring in extra income outside of your job – but taking on a side hustle isn’t for everyone, and can lead to burn-out if you’re not careful. “But if you are in a situation where you want or need some extra money, then think about ways that you can apply the skills that you already have to earning extra income,” says Ellie. “Use the skills you’ve already got in your toolbox because you’ll be more likely to be able to charge a better rate for something you’re already experienced in. Try to find something that’s flexible and you can work around your main job. And ideally that you’ll get some enjoyment out of as well.”

Also look for other easy ways to bag extra cash. “When used well, credit cards can help you to manage your money and allow you to tap into lots of benefits,” says Ellie. “Understanding how to use a credit card is the starting point, especially knowing that it’s important to clear your balance every month to avoid paying interest. Then know how the rewards schemes work and make sure that you’re getting those perks like cash back or travel points.”

Using a credit card in place of a debit for everyday purchases can help maximise these rewards, so long as you use it sensibly. “Choose the amount that you’re going to spend on that credit card each month, so that you know how much you need to have in your current account,” says Ellie. Then set up a direct debit to clear the balance. “That way you’re spending on the card to get the benefits and you know that you’ve got money to pay it off. It’s an easy way to make a credit card work for you.”

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We must find a way to give peace a chance in Gaza

Six months after the atrocities committed by Hamas in southern Israel, it is right and proper to remember the victims of that terrorism. Some 1,139 Israelis and foreign nationals were murdered, and around 250 people were taken hostage. It stands as the worst antisemitic attack since the Holocaust, and as a continuing reminder that Hamas remains committed to the elimination of the state of Israel and the killing of Jews.

There is obviously much context to be added to that, but that ideology is one reason why a lasting peace has proved so elusive in the region. Even in recent weeks, Hamas has not proved wholly cooperative during attempts at peace talks brokered by Egypt, Qatar and the United States.

It is, then, a moment for reflection and equally a moment to memorialise the more than 33,000 Palestinians, many of them children and babies, who have died in this conflict.

Why hasn’t MP Wragg lost the Tory whip over the ‘honeytrap’ scandal?

Westminster has been rocked by the sensational exposé of a honeytrap sexting scam targeting MPs, political journalists and parliamentary staffers. Senior Tory William Wragg revealed he lay at the heart of the scandal, admitting that he shared his colleagues’ phone numbers for fear of intimate images of him being leaked.

Despite the revelation he had put his colleagues at risk, with two MPs going on to share explicit images of themselves to the scammer, Mr Wragg has kept the Tory whip and remains the MP for Hazel Grove in Greater Manchester.

As police forces and parliamentary authorities investigate the scam, first revealed by Politico, The Independent looks at why Mr Wragg remains a Conservative MP.