Disney, Built on Fairy Tales and Fantasy, Confronts the Real World

Since its founding in 1923, Disney has stood alone in Hollywood in one fundamental way: Its family-friendly movies, television shows and theme park rides, at least in theory, have always been aimed at everybody, with potential political and cultural pitfalls zealously avoided.

The Disney brand is about wishing on stars and finding true love and living happily ever after. In case the fairy tale castles are too subtle, Disney theme parks outright promise an escape from reality with welcome signs that read, “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.”

Lately, however, real world ugliness has been creeping into the Magic Kingdom. In this hyperpartisan moment, both sides of the political divide have been pounding on Disney, endangering one of the world’s best-known brands — one that, for many, symbolizes America itself — as it tries to navigate a rapidly changing entertainment industry.

In some cases, Disney has willingly waded into cultural issues. Last summer, to applause from progressives and snarls from the far right, Disney decided to make loudspeaker announcements at its theme parks gender neutral, removing “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls” in favor of “dreamers of all ages.” But the entertainment giant has also found itself dragged into the fray, as with the recent imbroglio over a new Florida law that among many things restricts classroom instruction through third grade on sexual orientation and gender identity and has been labeled by opponents as “Don’t Say Gay.”

Disney then aggressively denounced the bill — only to find itself in the cross hairs of Fox News hosts and Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, who sent a fund-raising email to supporters saying that “Woke Disney” had “lost any moral authority to tell you what to do.” Florida lawmakers began threatening to revoke a 55-year-old law that enables Walt Disney World to essentially function as its own municipal government. (Disney had already been at odds with the governor on pandemic issues like a vaccine mandate for employees.)

In trying to offend no one, Disney had seemingly lost everyone.

Candlelight Processional events, Bible verses and all.

It took the company until 2009 to introduce a Black princess.

But in recent years, there has been a noticeable change. Robert A. Iger, who served as chief executive from 2005 to 2020, pushed the world’s largest entertainment company to emphasize diverse casting and storytelling. As he said at Disney’s 2017 shareholder meeting, referring to inclusion and equality: “We can take those values, which we deem important societally, and actually change people’s behavior — get people to be more accepting of the multiple differences and cultures and races and all other facets of our lives and our people.”

powerful Afrocentric story line. Under his tenure, Disney refocused the “Star Wars” franchise around female characters. A parade of animated movies (“Moana,” “Coco,” “Raya and the Last Dragon,” “Soul,” “Encanto”) showcased a wide variety of races, cultures and ethnicities.

The result, for the most part, has been one hit after another. But a swath of Disney’s audience has pushed back.

review bombed” in the fall because it depicted a gay superhero kissing his husband, with online trolls flooding the Internet Movie Database with hundreds of homophobic one-star reviews. In January, Disney was accused by the actor Peter Dinklage and others of trafficking in stereotypes by moving forward with a live-action “Snow White” movie — until it was revealed that the company planned to replace the seven dwarfs with digitally created “magical creatures,” which, in turn, prompted complaints by others about the “erasure” of people with dwarfism.

Disney executives tend to dismiss such incidents as tempests in teapots: trending today, replaced by a new complaint tomorrow. But even moderate online storms can be a distraction inside the company. Meetings are held about how and whether to respond; fretful talent partners must be reassured.

As Disney prepared to introduce its streaming service in 2019, it began an extensive review of its film library. As part of the initiative, called Stories Matter, Disney added disclaimers to content that the company determined included “negative depictions or mistreatment of people or cultures.” Examples included episodes of “The Muppet Show” from the 1970s and the 1941 version of “Dumbo.”

“These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now,” the disclaimers read.

The Stories Matter team privately flagged other characters as potentially problematic, with the findings distributed to senior Disney leaders, according to two current Disney executives, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information. Ursula, the villainous sea witch from “The Little Mermaid” (1989), was one. Her dark color palette (lavender skin, black legs) could be viewed through a racial lens, the Stories Matter team cautioned; she is also a “queer coded” character, with mannerisms inspired in part by those of a real-life drag queen.

changing of the guard, with Mr. Iger stepping down as executive chairman in December.

Mr. Iger occasionally spoke out on hot-button political issues during his time as chief executive. His successor, Bob Chapek, decided (with backing from the Disney board) to avoid weighing in on state political battles. Disney lobbyists would continue to work behind the scenes, however, as they did with the Florida legislation.

gently explored gender identity. Gonzo donned a gown, defying a directive from Miss Piggy “that the girls come as princesses and the boys come as knights.” Out magazine wrote that the episode “just sent a powerful message of love and acceptance to gender-variant kids everywhere!” And a far-right pundit blasted Disney for “pushing the trans agenda” on children, starting an online brush fire.

Around the same time, some L.G.B.T.Q. advocates were criticizing Disney over “Loki,” a Disney+ superhero show. In the third episode of “Loki,” the title character briefly acknowledged for the first time onscreen what comic fans had long known: He is bisexual. But the blink-and-you-missed-it handling of the information angered some prominent members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. “It’s, like, one word,” Russell T. Davies, a British screenwriter (“Queer as Folk”), said during a panel discussion at the time. “It’s a ridiculous, craven, feeble gesture.”

The fighting will undoubtedly continue: The Disney-Pixar film “Lightyear,” set for release in June, depicts a loving lesbian couple, while “Thor: Love and Thunder,” arriving in July, will showcase a major L.G.B.T.Q. character.

Last month, when Disney held its most recent shareholder meeting, Mr. Chapek was put on the spot by shareholders from the political left and right.

One person called Disney to task for contributions to legislators who have championed bills that restrict voting and reproductive rights. Mr. Chapek said that Disney gave money to “both sides of the aisle” and that it was reassessing its donation policies. (He subsequently paused all contributions in Florida.) Another representative for a shareholder advocacy group then took the microphone and noted that “Disney from its very inception has always represented a safe haven for children,” before veering into homophobic and transphobic comments and asking Mr. Chapek to “ditch the politicization and gender ideology.”

In response, Mr. Chapek noted the contrasting shareholder concerns. “I think all the participants on today’s call can see how difficult it is to try to thread the needle between the extreme polarization of political viewpoints,” he said.

“What we want Disney to be is a place where people can come together,” he continued. “My opinion is that, when someone walks down Main Street and comes in the gates of our parks, they put their differences aside and look at what they have as a shared belief — a shared belief of Disney magic, hopes, dreams and imagination.”

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Live Updates: Putin Draws Line on U.S. Arms for Ukraine

Stung by war losses and massing troops for a new battle in eastern Ukraine, Russia has warned the Biden administration to stop supplying advanced weapons to Ukrainian forces or face “unpredictable consequences,” American officials said Friday.

The Russian message — one of a series of warnings punctuated by a formal protest note, delivered on Tuesday — suggested rising concerns in Moscow that the weapons were seriously hindering Russia’s combat capabilities.

The existence of the message was disclosed as the Kremlin was funneling armaments, including attack helicopters, to Russia’s border with eastern Ukraine for the next phase of its two-month-old invasion of the country.

Over the course of the war, the U.S. administration has provided increasingly heavier weapons to the Ukrainians — including 155-mm howitzers — as the conflict has ramped up, and it announced a new $800 million arms package this week.

Back in February, as the war began, the administration worried such weaponry could unnecessarily provoke Russia. But after coming under pressure from President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and members of Congress from both parties, the administration has decided to provide some of the kinds of heavy weapons it says Ukraine will require in the next phase of the war.

The Russian warnings have come as the invasion has met unexpectedly stiff Ukrainian resistance and has exposed weaknesses in Russia’s conventional armed forces.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has installed a new command to oversee the Ukraine war and this past week publicly suggested for the first time that Russia’s goals were limited to securing the Donbas, the section of eastern Ukraine bordering Russia where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting for eight years.

Russia’s goals when its military invaded on Feb. 24 appeared far more ambitious, with plans to besiege and capture the capital, Kyiv, in the north, cutting off Mr. Zelensky’s government from the rest of the former Soviet republic, which Mr. Putin has said he does not even consider a country.

That strategy backfired and Russian forces retreated last month. They also have failed to completely seize the strategic southeast port of Mariupol despite relentless bombardments that have turned that once bustling city of 450,000 into a wasteland of death and war’s destructive horrors.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the Donetsk region of Eastern Ukraine, told CNN on Friday that Ukrainian troops were still in control of Mariupol, but that the city had been “wiped off the face of the earth by the Russian Federation, by those who will never be able to restore it.”

Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

In what appeared to be another military embarrassment for Russia that it has sought to cover up, a senior U.S. defense official said Friday that Russia’s Black Sea flagship Moskva, a missile cruiser that sank Thursday, had been struck by two Ukrainian Neptune missiles, and not crippled by an accidental fire and explosion during a storm, as the Kremlin has asserted.

It was the first American corroboration of Ukraine’s claims that its Neptune missiles — a newly deployed weapon with a 190-mile range — had hit the ship, which was struck 65 miles south of the port of Odesa.

The loss of the Moskva was more than just a humiliation, as it could now seriously impair any Kremlin plans for an amphibious assault on Ukraine’s southern coast. The loss also raised questions about Russian dominance of Ukraine’s airspace and the apparent inability of the Moskva, a sophisticated warship, to evade or intercept the Neptunes with its own defense systems.

The U.S. official said that American intelligence assessments had indicated an unspecified number of casualties, contradicting Russian claims that all crew members had been safely evacuated.

Detail

area

Russian-controlled

areas

Russia’s warship, the Moskva, was hit by missiles

about 65 nautical miles south of Odesa,

according to a Defense official.

CRIMEA

Seized in 2014

Snake

Island

April 12

A ship with similar dimensions

and features was seen about

75 nautical miles from Odesa.

April 10

Seen offshore

near port

April 7

Seen in port

in Sevastopol

20 nautical miles

Detail

area

Russian-controlled areas

Russia’s warship, the Moskva, was hit

by missiles about 65 nautical miles

south of Odesa, according to a Defense official.

CRIMEA

Seized in 2014

April 10

Seen offshore

near port

Snake

Island

April 12

A ship with similar

dimensions and

features was seen

about 75 nautical

miles from Odesa.

April 7

Seen in port

in Sevastopol

20 nautical miles

The Russian diplomatic protest note, called a démarche, was sent through normal channels, two administration officials said, and was not signed by Mr. Putin or other senior Russian officials. But it was an indicator, one administration official said, that the weapons sent by the United States were having an effect.

American officials said the tone of the note was consistent with a series of public Russian threats, including to target deliveries of weapons as they moved across Ukrainian territory.

Officials said the note did not prompt any special concern inside the White House. But it has touched off a broader discussion inside the Pentagon and intelligence agencies about whether the “unpredictable consequences” could include trying to target or sabotage some of the weapons shipments while still in NATO territory, before they are transferred to Ukrainians for the final journey into the hands of Ukrainian troops. The delivery of the protest note was first reported by The Washington Post.

The weapons President Biden authorized this week for transfer to the Ukrainians include long-range artillery that is suited for what American officials believe will be a different style of battle in the open areas of the Donbas, where Russian forces appear to be massing for an attack in coming days.

Pentagon officials were insistent in the run-up to the war that the United States provide only defensive weaponry that would avoid escalation.

Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, described in an interview at the Washington Economic Club on Thursday how he and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had reviewed weapons requests. They went over each item with their Ukrainian counterparts, talking about what the United States had in its stocks and what it could deliver quickly.

Reports by pro-Kremlin media have highlighted antitank systems and other Western weapons used by Ukrainian forces, promoting the idea that Russia is not at war with Ukraine but with an American-led alliance seeking to destroy Russia. Mr. Biden and his aides have denied that, saying that they wished to avoid direct conflict with Russia and had no interest in American-engineered regime change.

In Moscow, commentators have been increasingly calling on Russia to strike Ukrainian roads and railroads to inhibit the weapons transfers. While Russia has targeted many of Ukraine’s airports, the country’s ground transportation network remains largely intact.

“The time has come not to speak, but to attack,” Viktor Baranets, a military columnist for Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia’s biggest tabloid, said on Friday. “Train echelons must be destroyed along with the railways.”

Russia’s concern may partly be over the accuracy Ukraine showed in hitting the Moskva, one of its most sophisticated warships.

Credit…Maxar Technologies

The Russian démarche echoed the public rhetoric of officials in Moscow, who have been warning for weeks that Western arms deliveries to Ukraine would prolong the war and be met with a tough response.

It came as the level of concern among Russian officials over the impact of Western arms has been increasing, said Andrei Kortunov, the director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research organization close to the Kremlin.

“It seems the United States and the West in general are right now testing the limits of Russian tolerance when it comes to weapons deliveries,” Mr. Kortunov said. “It’s clear that these volumes are already so significant that they can affect the course of the hostilities, and this is raising concerns.”

A Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei A. Ryabkov, said on Friday that Russia was “making it clear to the Americans and other Westerners” that attempts to hamper what Russia is calling its “special military operation” in Ukraine and increase Russian losses would be “curbed in a tough manner.”

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

He added that NATO vehicles carrying weapons across Ukrainian territory would be “viewed by us as legitimate military targets.” His comments came in an interview with Tass, the state-run news agency.

NATO hands off weapons to the Ukrainians in ways that seek to avoid having the alliance’s vehicles traverse Ukrainian soil. But Mr. Ryabkov’s comments have heightened concerns about whether Russia would take the risk of striking inside NATO territory.

When Mr. Putin announced his “special military operation” on Feb. 24, he said that those “who may be tempted to interfere” in Ukraine would face consequences as severe “as you have never seen in your entire history.”

Credit…Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik

“No matter how the events unfold, we are ready,” Mr. Putin said at the time. “All the necessary decisions in this regard have been taken.”

But Russia has so far appeared careful not to escalate the conflict in a way that could draw NATO countries more directly — for instance, not striking weapons convoys crossing into Ukraine from Poland.

“There are still fears regarding strikes that may hit the territory of NATO member countries,” Mr. Kortunov said. “One certainly does not want to create a pretext for some further escalation.”

David E. Sanger and Helene Cooper reported from Washington, and Anton Troianovski from Istanbul. Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora from Krakow, Poland; Michael Schwirtz from Lviv, Ukraine; and Julian E. Barnes and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

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Twitter Counters Elon Musk’s Takeover Bid With a Poison Pill

Poison pills have been around for decades. The lawyer Martin Lipton, a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, invented the maneuver, also called a shareholder rights plan, in 1982. It was a way to shore up a company’s defenses against unwanted takeovers by so-called corporate raiders like Carl Icahn and T. Boone Pickens.

They have since become a part of the corporate tool kit in America. Netflix adopted a poison pill in 2012 to stop Mr. Icahn from buying up its shares. Papa John’s used one against the pizza chain’s founder and chairman, John Schnatter, in 2018.

Investors rarely try to get around a poison pill by buying shares beyond the threshold set by the company, according to securities experts. One said it would be “financially ruinous,” even for Mr. Musk.

But Mr. Musk, who is worth more than $250 billion and is the chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, rarely abides by precedent. He announced his intention to acquire Twitter on Thursday, making public an unsolicited bid worth more than $40 billion. In an interview at a TED conference later that day, he took issue with Twitter’s moderation policies, which govern the content shared on the platform.

Twitter is the “de facto town square,” Mr. Musk said, adding that “it’s really important that people have the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.” Twitter currently bans many types of content, including spam, threats of violence, the sharing of private information and coordinated disinformation campaigns.

Mr. Musk argued that taking Twitter private would allow more free speech to flow on the platform. “My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization,” he said during the TED interview. He also insisted that the algorithm Twitter uses to rank its content, deciding what hundreds of millions of users see on the service every day, should be public for users to audit.

Mr. Musk’s concerns are shared by many executives at Twitter, who have also pressed for more transparency about its algorithms. The company has published internal research about bias in its algorithms and funded an effort to create an open, transparent standard for social media services.

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Discovery Closes In on Acquisition of WarnerMedia

“I am sure you aren’t surprised that it came with a fair amount of anxiety, disappointment and concern relative to the changes it would trigger,” he wrote. “All considered, I remain confident we have set the right path.”

The creation of Warner Bros. Discovery could prompt changes among existing media companies, forcing smaller companies like Paramount to find a way to get bigger.

“There’s Disney, HBO Max, Netflix, Amazon and Apple — that’s five,” said Michael Nathanson, a media analyst, pointing to the leading streaming services. “You don’t want to be in position six, seven or eight. At some point, they’ll say, ‘We have to find a dance partner.’”

The biggest question will be what happens to HBO Max and Discovery+, the merging companies’ streaming services. Initially, the two could be sold as a bundle, but over time they will be brought together into one giant streaming service, Mr. Zaslav told staff on Friday.

HBO and HBO Max, which consists of new television series and movies, as well as an impressive lineup from the Warner Bros. library, have more than 70 million subscribers; Discovery+ has more than 20 million.

Even brought together, that pales next to Netflix, which has more than 220 million paying subscribers, most of them outside the United States. HBO Max has only recently expanded into foreign territory, though Discovery has built a robust international business.

“A new giant is born when they prove they have international scale,” Mr. Nathanson said of Warner Bros. Discovery. “I don’t think Discovery content on HBO Max in the U.S. is a needle mover. But because international is such uncontested territory, they can have more impact outside the U.S.”

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Live Updates: Reports of Atrocities in Ukraine Spur Outrage

BUCHA, Ukraine — Growing evidence of atrocities against civilians has brought home the horrific toll of the war in Ukraine, prompting world leaders on Sunday to threaten even harsher sanctions, including a lockout of Russia’s vital gas industry, a step some had been loath to take.

In Bucha, a newly liberated suburb northwest of the capital, residents were still finding bodies in yards and roadways days after Russian troops withdrew. A man in a bright blue fleece lay hunched over the steering wheel of a crushed car at an intersection in the center of town. Another man lay on his back beside the road, a large bullet hole in the back of his head and his green bicycle toppled beside him.

But it was the discovery of corpses with their wrists bound, images of which quickly proliferated online, that sparked the most international outrage.

“The Russian authorities will have to answer for these crimes,” said France’s president, Emmanuel Macron. Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, called the actions of the Russian army in Bucha and other towns around Kyiv “acts of genocide.” And António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, expressing “shock” over the images of dead civilians, said: “It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability.”

Even as Moscow’s troops pulled away from Kyiv, Russia continued to batter Ukraine’s southern coastline with airstrikes on infrastructure Sunday. It has described the withdrawal as a tactical move to regroup its forces for a major push in the Donbas region in the east and south.

Missiles struck the Black Sea port cities of Odesa and Mykolaiv, according to Ukrainian officials, and Ukraine’s air defense southern command said it had intercepted two Russian sea-based cruise missiles. Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed the strikes, saying it had destroyed an oil refinery and three oil depots around Odesa that “were used to resupply Ukrainian military units” near Mykolaiv.

Credit…Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But on Sunday, the world’s attention was focused more on where Russian forces had been than where they were now, with Bucha at the forefront.

As Ukrainian forces swept into the suburb, civilians emerged from basement shelters to a landscape dotted with bodies and the husks of destroyed tanks.

The dead were so numerous that local officials resorted to digging a mass grave outside a church, where a coroner, Serhiy Kaplishny, said about 40 bodies had been deposited during the occupation. In an interview, Mr. Kaplishny said his team had collected more than 100 bodies during and after the fighting, including those of more than a dozen men whose hands had been tied and who had been shot in the head.

Journalists from The New York Times, The Associated Press and other international news outlets arriving in Bucha and nearby towns have also filmed and photographed bodies in civilian clothes scattered in the streets and at least nine lying together in a yard. In several cases, hands were bound behind the back.

The bodies of 410 people who appeared to have been civilians have been recovered from the Kyiv region, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said in a Facebook post on Sunday. The Times was not able to independently verify that figure.

“We are being destroyed and exterminated, and this is happening in the Europe of the 21st century,” Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,”

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Sunday rejected all accusations that its troops had committed atrocities in Bucha, saying that “not a single” civilian had been injured while the town was under Russian control. It said pictures and video footage from the area had been “staged by the Ukrainian government.”

But as evidence of the apparent massacre of civilians mounted, leaders across the world said Moscow was to blame for the violence and should be held accountable.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain condemned “Russia’s despicable attacks against innocent civilians in Irpin and Bucha,” and even Yair Lapid, the foreign minister of Israel, which has been wary of antagonizing Moscow, said it was “impossible to remain indifferent in the face of the horrific images from the city of Bucha.”

“Intentionally harming a civilian population is a war crime and I strongly condemn it,” Mr. Lapid said.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, in an interview on CNN, said the killings should not go unpunished. “We’ve said before Russia’s aggression that we thought it was likely that they would commit atrocities,” Mr. Blinken said, adding: “We can’t become numb to this. We can’t normalize this.”

Outrage over the civilian deaths could move the needle for the European Union, which has so far rebuffed mounting calls from Ukraine, and by President Biden, to impose sanctions on Russian oil and gas, citing its dependency on Russian fuels.

In what would mark a significant shift in her country’s position, Germany’s defense minister, Christine Lambrecht, said that in light of the Bucha atrocities, the bloc should consider banning Russian gas imports. Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, said on Twitter that more European Union sanctions against Russia “are on their way.”

On Sunday, a leading human rights group said it had documented “apparent war crimes” against Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces that had occupied Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv. Citing interviews with eyewitnesses, victims and local residents, the group, Human Rights Watch, documented a case of a woman who was repeatedly raped, as well as two summary killings and other episodes of violence against civilians.

The report painted a grueling picture of brutality in Bucha even before the accounts that emerged from there after Russian forces withdrew.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

One eyewitness cited in the report described an execution in early March, in which Russian soldiers forced five men to kneel on a roadside and pull their shirts over their heads before shooting one of them in the head.

“The cases that we documented are corroborated by these recent allegations,” said Yulia Gorbunova, the author of the Human Rights Watch report, referring to the recent reports circulating from Bucha. “What is emerging now, if confirmed, is quite horrendous and gives an indication of the scale of these atrocities,” she said.

War crimes cases can be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but successful prosecution is a steep climb, experts say.

“It would likely be difficult to prove in court,’’ said David Scheffer, an international law expert. “The circumstances are unknown. Who executed them. Who bound their hands. This would require a very difficult and detailed investigation.’’

“This is very different from a military strike on a city,’’ he said.

Accusations can also be brought before the International Court of Justice, but the United Nations Security Council would be responsible for enforcing any ruling against Russia; as one of five permanent members of the Security Council, Russia would have veto power over any decision.

The Russian government has consistently denied claims that its forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, even as reports emerged of mass casualties from the bombing of a maternity ward and theater in Mariupol. In occupied Bucha, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement residents “could freely move around the town” and were allowed to leave.

“This is another provocation,” the ministry said of the new reports of atrocities.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

But the accounts from Ukraine and the grisly images may spur additional military aid to Ukraine, aside from more punishment on Russia.

American lawmakers said the reports from Bucha justified further assistance to Ukraine, with some calling for the provision of more surface-to-air missiles to help Ukrainian forces. “We need to do more to help Ukraine, and we need to do more quickly,” said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio.

In the besieged port city of Mariupol, residents were still awaiting the arrival of an aid convoy that has been trying to reach them since Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Sunday. Late Thursday, Russia announced a cease-fire to allow for evacuations out of Mariupol, but humanitarian efforts to reach the city have stalled repeatedly.

Carlotta Gall and Andrew E. Kramer reported from Bucha, and Natalie Kitroeff from Mexico City. Reporting was contributed by Ivan Nechepurenko from Istanbul; Cora Engelbrecht from Krakow, Poland; Jane Arraffrom Lvivm Ukraine; Cassandra Vinograd from London; Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels; Monika Pronczuk from Przemysl, Poland; and Jesus Jiménez from New York.

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How War in Ukraine Roiled Facebook and Instagram

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, took an unusual step last week: It suspended some of the quality controls that ensure that posts from users in Russia, Ukraine and other Eastern European countries meet its rules.

Under the change, Meta temporarily stopped tracking whether its workers who monitor Facebook and Instagram posts from those areas were accurately enforcing its content guidelines, six people with knowledge of the situation said. That’s because the workers could not keep up with shifting rules about what kinds of posts were allowed about the war in Ukraine, they said.

Meta has made more than half a dozen content policy revisions since Russia invaded Ukraine last month. The company has permitted posts about the conflict that it would normally have taken down — including some calling for the death of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and violence against Russian soldiers — before changing its mind or drawing up new guidelines, the people said.

The result has been internal confusion, especially among the content moderators who patrol Facebook and Instagram for text and images with gore, hate speech and incitements to violence. Meta has sometimes shifted its rules on a daily basis, causing whiplash, said the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

contended with pressure from Russian and Ukrainian authorities over the information battle about the conflict. And internally, it has dealt with discontent about its decisions, including from Russian employees concerned for their safety and Ukrainian workers who want the company to be tougher on Kremlin-affiliated organizations online, three people said.

Meta has weathered international strife before — including the genocide of a Muslim minority in Myanmar last decade and skirmishes between India and Pakistan — with varying degrees of success. Now the largest conflict on the European continent since World War II has become a litmus test of whether the company has learned to police its platforms during major global crises — and so far, it appears to remain a work in progress.

“All the ingredients of the Russia-Ukraine conflict have been around for a long time: the calls for violence, the disinformation, the propaganda from state media,” said David Kaye, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and a former special rapporteur to the United Nations. “What I find mystifying was that they didn’t have a game plan to deal with it.”

Dani Lever, a Meta spokeswoman, declined to directly address how the company was handling content decisions and employee concerns during the war.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, Meta said it established a round-the-clock special operations team staffed by employees who are native Russian and Ukrainian speakers. It also updated its products to aid civilians in the war, including features that direct Ukrainians toward reliable, verified information to locate housing and refugee assistance.

Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, and Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer, have been directly involved in the response to the war, said two people with knowledge of the efforts. But as Mr. Zuckerberg focuses on transforming Meta into a company that will lead the digital worlds of the so-called metaverse, many responsibilities around the conflict have fallen — at least publicly — to Nick Clegg, the president for global affairs.

announced that Meta would restrict access within the European Union to the pages of Russia Today and Sputnik, which are Russian state-controlled media, following requests by Ukraine and other European governments. Russia retaliated by cutting off access to Facebook inside the country, claiming the company discriminated against Russian media, and then blocking Instagram.

This month, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine praised Meta for moving quickly to limit Russian war propaganda on its platforms. Meta also acted rapidly to remove an edited “deepfake” video from its platforms that falsely featured Mr. Zelensky yielding to Russian forces.

a group called the Ukrainian Legion to run ads on its platforms this month to recruit “foreigners” for the Ukrainian army, a violation of international laws. It later removed the ads — which were shown to people in the United States, Ireland, Germany and elsewhere — because the group may have misrepresented ties to the Ukrainian government, according to Meta.

Internally, Meta had also started changing its content policies to deal with the fast-moving nature of posts about the war. The company has long forbidden posts that might incite violence. But on Feb. 26, two days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Meta informed its content moderators — who are typically contractors — that it would allow calls for the death of Mr. Putin and “calls for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion,” according to the policy changes, which were reviewed by The New York Times.

Reuters reported on Meta’s shifts with a headline that suggested that posts calling for violence against all Russians would be tolerated. In response, Russian authorities labeled Meta’s activities as “extremist.”

Shortly thereafter, Meta reversed course and said it would not let its users call for the deaths of heads of state.

“Circumstances in Ukraine are fast moving,” Mr. Clegg wrote in an internal memo that was reviewed by The Times and first reported by Bloomberg. “We try to think through all the consequences, and we keep our guidance under constant review because the context is always evolving.”

Meta amended other policies. This month, it made a temporary exception to its hate speech guidelines so users could post about the “removal of Russians” and “explicit exclusion against Russians” in 12 Eastern European countries, according to internal documents. But within a week, Meta tweaked the rule to note that it should be applied only to users in Ukraine.

The constant adjustments left moderators who oversee users in Central and Eastern European countries confused, the six people with knowledge of the situation said.

The policy changes were onerous because moderators were generally given less than 90 seconds to decide on whether images of dead bodies, videos of limbs being blown off, or outright calls to violence violated Meta’s rules, they said. In some instances, they added, moderators were shown posts about the war in Chechen, Kazakh or Kyrgyz, despite not knowing those languages.

Ms. Lever declined to comment on whether Meta had hired content moderators who specialize in those languages.

take action against Russia Today and Sputnik, said two people who attended. Russian state activity was at the center of Facebook’s failure to protect the 2016 U.S. presidential election, they said, and it didn’t make sense that those outlets had continued to operate on Meta’s platforms.

While Meta has no employees in Russia, the company held a separate meeting this month for workers with Russian connections. Those employees said they were concerned that Moscow’s actions against the company would affect them, according to an internal document.

In discussions on Meta’s internal forums, which were viewed by The Times, some Russian employees said they had erased their place of work from their online profiles. Others wondered what would happen if they worked in the company’s offices in places with extradition treaties to Russia and “what kind of risks will be associated with working at Meta not just for us but our families.”

Ms. Lever said Meta’s “hearts go out to all of our employees who are affected by the war in Ukraine, and our teams are working to make sure they and their families have the support they need.”

At a separate company meeting this month, some employees voiced unhappiness with the changes to the speech policies during the war, according to an internal poll. Some asked if the new rules were necessary, calling the changes “a slippery slope” that were “being used as proof that Westerners hate Russians.”

Others asked about the effect on Meta’s business. “Will Russian ban affect our revenue for the quarter? Future quarters?” read one question. “What’s our recovery strategy?”

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Chris Wallace Says Life at Fox News Became ‘Unsustainable’

“Before, I found it was an environment in which I could do my job and feel good about my involvement at Fox,” Mr. Wallace said of his time at the network. “And since November of 2020, that just became unsustainable, increasingly unsustainable as time went on.”

Still, he acknowledged that some viewers may wonder why he did not leave earlier.

“Some people might have drawn the line earlier, or at a different point,” he said, adding: “I think Fox has changed over the course of the last year and a half. But I can certainly understand where somebody would say, ‘Gee, you were a slow learner, Chris.’”

Fox News declined to comment.

Mr. Wallace said his new CNN+ series, which airs at 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, was inspired by the work of famed interviewers like Larry King and Charlie Rose. (His father, the “60 Minutes” legend Mike Wallace, hosted a versatile interview program of his own in the late 1950s, with guests ranging from Henry Kissinger to the actress Jean Seberg.)

The set of the show is sparse, just Mr. Wallace and a guest sitting on either side of a Plexiglas table — a more brightly lit version of Mr. Rose’s long-running PBS format. Mr. Wallace said he hoped “to have the kind of intimate, thoughtful conversation where we forget we’re on camera in a studio.”

Marketing materials for CNN+ prominently feature Mr. Wallace alongside younger hosts like the former NPR host Audie Cornish, the chef Alison Roman and the actress Eva Longoria. The advanced ages of some of his early guests — Ms. Collins is 82, and Mr. Shatner just turned 91 — also suggest that Mr. Wallace’s program might complement more millennial-focused fare.

The service, which costs $6 a month, debuts on Tuesday, years after the arrival of streaming competitors like Fox Nation and the CBS News Streaming Network. CNN executives view it as a major effort to gain a foothold with viewers who are abandoning cable subscriptions in favor of online alternatives for news.

The stakes are high for CNN, which is undergoing wrenching change. The channel’s parent company, WarnerMedia, is expected to be acquired by Discovery Inc. in the next few weeks. A new president, Chris Licht, is taking over CNN after the network’s longtime leader, Jeff Zucker, resigned in February over an undisclosed relationship with a colleague.

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