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Verstappen beats Hamilton to pole in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix decider

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen landed a big blow in his winner-takes-all title battle with Lewis Hamilton by seizing pole position for Formula One’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday.

Mercedes’ seven times world champion Hamilton will line up alongside on the front row, with Verstappen on the quicker soft tires for the start and the Briton going for the more durable mediums.

The pair are level on points in the standings, with Verstappen ahead 9-8 on race wins — meaning he will be champion regardless of where he finishes if Hamilton fails to score for any reason.

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“I didn’t expect that, but amazing job guys,” said the Dutch 24-year-old over the team radio after being told he had secured pole under the Yas Marina floodlights for the second successive season.

“That was a fantastic lap from him,” said Hamilton. “We’re in a good position with our tires for tomorrow and I hope we can have a good race.”

The pole was Verstappen’s 10th of the 22-race season, more than anyone else, and he was helped with a vital slipstream ‘tow’ down the straights behind his ever-helpful Mexican teammate Sergio Perez, who qualified fourth.

“It was a great teamwork,” said Perez. “Very pleased for Max that I managed to support him there.”

Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas qualified only sixth in his last race for Mercedes.

Relaxed Verstappen

Team boss Christian Horner said Verstappen’s lap of one minute 22.109 seconds was one of his best of the year and the Dutch driver sounded remarkably relaxed given the amount of pressure on him.

“It’s very important to have a good start and from there onwards we just try to do our race to the very best, then we’ll see where we end up,” said the 2020 race winner.

Hamilton had been fastest in practice and the first phase of qualifying but Verstappen was top in the second phase after he ‘flat-spotted’ his set of medium tires and switched to the soft Pirellis.

“The lockup wasn’t ideal so it kind of forced our hand,” said Horner.

Hamilton had lapped nearly half a second faster than Verstappen to top the first session ahead of Bottas, with both doing a run more than the Red Bull driver, but ended up with a best effort of 1:22.480.

The first phase was briefly halted for a loose bollard to be removed after it was hit by Haas driver Mick Schumacher and then run over by McLaren’s Lando Norris.

George Russell, 17th, was outqualified by Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi in the Briton’s final session before replacing Bottas next season.

Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion with Ferrari, will start his 349th and final race before retirement in 18th place.

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Lindsay Lohan celebrates birthday as married woman to Dubai resident Bader Shammas

Actress Lindsay Lohan is celebrating her 36th birthday on Saturday as a married woman.

The “Freaky Friday” star said she was the “luckiest woman in the world” in an Instagram post Friday that pictured her with financier Bader Shammas, who had been her fiance.

“I am stunned that you are my husband,” Lohan said in the post, adding that “every woman should feel like this everyday.”

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The couple had announced their engagement last November. People magazine and Entertainment Tonight confirmed there had been a wedding, but no details were offered.

While still single a few years ago, Lohan told Entertainment Tonight that she was looking for “a smart businessman” and someone who doesn’t like the spotlight. Shammas’ Instagram account is private.

The “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” actress and sometimes singer has worked through some sobriety issues in recent years, and has recently filmed a romantic comedy that is due to be released on Netflix later this year.

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Dutch university gets cyber ransom money back with interest

A Dutch university that fell victim to a massive ransomware attack has partly received back its stolen money, which in the meantime more than doubled in value, a news report said on Saturday.

The southern Maastricht University in 2019 was hit by a large cyberattack in which criminals used ransomware, a type of malicious software that locks valuable data and can only be accessed once the victim pays a ransom amount.

“The criminals had encrypted hundreds of Windows servers and backup systems, preventing 25,000 students and employees from accessing scientific data, library and mail,” the daily De Volkskrant said.

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The hackers demanded 200,000 euros ($208,000) in bitcoins.

“After a week the university decide to accede to the criminal gang’s demand,” the paper said.

“This was partly because personal data was in danger of being lost and students were unable to take an exam or work on their theses,” it said.

Dutch police traced part of the ransom paid to an account belonging to a money launderer in Ukraine.

Prosecutors in 2020 seized this man’s account, which contained a number of different crypto currencies including part of the ransom money paid by Maastricht.

“When, now after more than two years, it was finally possible to get that money to the Netherlands, the value had increased from 40,000 euros to half-a-million euros,” the paper said.

Maastricht University will now get the 500,000 euros ($521,000) back.

“This money will not go to a general fund, but into a fund to help financially strapped students,” Maastricht University ICT director Michiel Borgers said.

The investigation into the hackers responsible for the attack on the university is still ongoing, De Volkskrant added.

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Singer R. Kelly sues Brooklyn jail for putting him on suicide watch

R. Kelly on Friday sued the Brooklyn jail that has housed him since his racketeering and sex crimes conviction, saying it wrongly put him on suicide watch after he received a 30-year prison sentence despite knowing he was not suicidal.

In a complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court, the 55-year-old multiplatinum R&B singer said officials at the Metropolitan Detention Center ordered the watch after his June 29 sentencing “solely for punitive purposes” and because he was a “high-profile” inmate.

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Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean quoted a prosecutor as saying the jail’s legal counsel had told her that “per the psychology department, is on a psych alert for various reasons, such as age, crime, publicity and sentencing.” No timetable was provided.

Bonjean wasn’t satisfied with the explanation. “Simply put, MDC Brooklyn is run like a gulag,” she wrote.

Kelly said the “harsh conditions” he faced led to “severe mental distress,” and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment that violated the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment.

He is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, though the docket suggests Kelly is seeking $100 million.

The jail did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Known for the 1996 Grammy-winning hit “I Believe I Can Fly,” Kelly was convicted last September on one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which bars transporting people across state lines for prostitution.

Prosecutors said Kelly exploited his stardom and wealth over two decades to lure women and underage girls into his orbit for sex, with the help of his entourage.

Kelly said he was also put on suicide watch after his conviction.

Ghislaine Maxwell, another inmate at the Brooklyn jail, was placed on suicide watch on June 24, four days before being sentenced to 20 years in prison for aiding financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of underage girls.

Maxwell’s lawyer said the British socialite had been given a “suicide smock” and deprived of clothing, toothpaste and soap though she too was not suicidal.

Friday’s filings did not say what specific conditions Kelly faced.

Kelly still faces an August trial in Chicago federal court on child pornography and obstruction charges, and various state charges in Illinois and Minnesota.

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