A yearning for close connection, for something meaningful amid a seismic, terrifying event that won’t end, is what brought two dozen people to a recent“cuddle” party.

Cuddle parties started before the war, but the people who came two Sundays ago — a mix of men and women from their early 20s to mid-60s — said they really needed them now.

The cuddlers gathered in a large, tent-like structure near the river, and as new age music played, they lied on floor cushions in a big warm heap. Some stroked their neighbor’s hair. Others clutched each other tightly, eyes closed, like it was the last embrace they’d ever share with anyone. After about 15 to 20 minutes, the heap stirred awake.

The cuddlers opened their eyes, untangled themselves, stood up and smoothed out their pants. The whole idea is to seek bodily comfort from curling up with a stranger. They found new cuddling partners and new positions.

The instructor was clear that none of this was supposed to be sexual or romantic. But still, it looked like a G-rated orgy.

This cuddling is another dimension of Kyiv’s party scene at the moment: Many social gatherings are specifically engineered to provide solace.

Maksym Yasnyi, a graphic designer, just held a 24-hour yoga party, which he said was “really cool” but it wasn’t like going out before the war.

“Before the war, Kyiv nightlife was sparkling with different colors,” he said. “You could spend the whole night going from party to party. If I allow myself to think about this, I’ll make myself really upset.”

Now, when it hits 10, Kyiv radiates a nervous energy. People drinking on the street, or out by the river, check their watches. They cap the clear plastic bottles of cider they were swigging, get up and walk quickly.

Cars move faster. More run yellow lights. The clock is ticking.

Uber prices triple, if you can find one.

Some young people, seeing the impossibility of hailing a ride, say bye to their friends and duck their heads and start running home, desperate to beat curfew.

At the stroke of 11, Kyiv stops. Nothing moves. The sidewalks lie empty.

All that energy that was building, building, building, suddenly plunges into a stunning, citywide hush.

Oleksandra Mykolyshyn contributed reporting.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

3-D Printing Grows Beyond Its Novelty Roots

DEVENS, Mass. — The machines stand 20 feet high, weigh 60,000 pounds and represent the technological frontier of 3-D printing.

Each machine deploys 150 laser beams, projected from a gantry and moving quickly back and forth, making high-tech parts for corporate customers in fields including aerospace, semiconductors, defense and medical implants.

The parts of titanium and other materials are created layer by layer, each about as thin as a human hair, up to 20,000 layers, depending on a part’s design. The machines are hermetically sealed. Inside, the atmosphere is mainly argon, the least reactive of gases, reducing the chance of impurities that cause defects in a part.

“The Mainstreaming of Additive Manufacturing.”

a report by Hubs, a marketplace for manufacturing services.

The Biden administration is looking to 3-D printing to help lead a resurgence of American manufacturing. Additive technology will be one of “the foundations of modern manufacturing in the 21st century,” along with robotics and artificial intelligence, said Elisabeth Reynolds, special assistant to the president for manufacturing and economic development.

Additive Manufacturing Forward, an initiative coordinated by the White House in collaboration with major manufacturers. The five initial corporate members — GE Aviation, Honeywell, Siemens Energy, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin — are increasing their use of additive manufacturing and pledged to help their small and medium-size American suppliers adopt the technology.

VulcanForms was founded in 2015 by Dr. Hart and one of his graduate students, Martin Feldmann. They pursued a fresh approach for 3-D printing that uses an array of many more laser beams than existing systems. It would require innovations in laser optics, sensors and software to choreograph the intricate dance of laser beams.

By 2017, they had made enough progress to think they could build a machine, but would need money to do it. The pair, joined by Anupam Ghildyal, a serial start-up veteran who had become part of the VulcanForms team, went to Silicon Valley. They secured a seed round of $2 million from Eclipse Ventures.

The VulcanForms technology, recalled Greg Reichow, a partner at Eclipse, was trying to address the three shortcomings of 3-D printing: too slow, too expensive and too ridden with defects.

Arwood Machine this year.

Arwood is a modern machine shop that mostly does work for the Pentagon, making parts for fighter jets, underwater drones and missiles. Under VulcanForms, the plan over the next few years is for Arwood to triple its investment and work force, currently 90 people.

VulcanForms, a private company, does not disclose its revenue. But it said sales were climbing rapidly, while orders were rising tenfold quarter by quarter.

Cerebras, which makes specialized semiconductor systems for artificial intelligence applications. Cerebras sought out VulcanForms last year for help making a complex part for water-cooling its powerful computer processors.

The semiconductor company sent VulcanForms a computer-design drawing of the concept, an intricate web of tiny titanium tubes. Within 48 hours VulcanForms had come back with a part, recalled Andrew Feldman, chief executive of Cerebras. Engineers for both companies worked on further refinements, and the cooling system is now in use.

Accelerating the pace of experimentation and innovation is one promise of additive manufacturing. But modern 3-D printing, Mr. Feldman said, also allows engineers to make new, complex designs that improve performance. “We couldn’t have made that water-cooling part any other way,” Mr. Feldman said.

“Additive manufacturing lets us rethink how we build things,” he said. “That’s where we are now, and that’s a big change.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Jeffrey Epstein, a Rare Cello and an Enduring Mystery

At first Mr. DeRosa didn’t take Mr. Epstein’s command seriously. But Mr. Epstein kept calling, as did members of his staff, asking if he’d made any progress. Mr. DeRosa got to work tracking down a cello.

Like many professional musicians, Mr. DeRosa was wired into the small world of rare string instruments, a few of which command prices as high as $20 million. His own cello, made by the Italian master Domenico Montagnana in 1739, is considered one of the world’s finest and is likely worth millions of dollars. Mr. DeRosa assured Mr. Epstein he wouldn’t have to spend that much.

Soon after, Mr. DeRosa was visiting his mother in Los Angeles when he learned of a cello being sold there by a musician who recorded soundtracks for Hollywood studios. (Before that, the cello had been played by a member of the Indianapolis symphony orchestra.)

While not a Stradivarius or a Montagnana, this cello had a distinguished pedigree, and was manufactured by Ettore Soffritti, who worked in the string instrument center of Ferrara, Italy, from the late 1800s until his death in 1928. Benning Violins, the Los Angeles dealer, described the cello’s sound as “rich and powerful” and said the instrument was “suitable for the finest of cellists.”

Mr. DeRosa tried the cello. He was smitten. He said he considered it “one of the greatest modern cellos in existence.” (By “modern” he meant any produced after the Italian Renaissance.) With an asking price of $185,000, he also considered it a bargain.

Mr. Epstein seemed pleased when Mr. DeRosa told him he’d found something. He said the cello’s intended recipient — a young Israeli man named Yoed Nir — had to test the instrument first. Mr. DeRosa knew nearly every up-and-coming cellist, but he had never heard of Mr. Nir.

Mr. DeRosa had the cello on a trial basis, and Mr. Nir tested the instrument on a visit to Mr. DeRosa’s mother’s house in Los Angeles. Mr. Nir, who was about 30 years old and had dark, shoulder-length hair, which he tossed theatrically while playing, played some of Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites. He had clearly had musical training (he was a graduate of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance), but Mr. DeRosa considered his playing unexceptional by his exacting standards. He could think of many young cellists more deserving of such an instrument. “I thought it incredibly odd that Jeffrey had chosen this guy,” Mr. DeRosa recalled.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

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.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Analysis: China’s balancing act over Ukraine offers Washington a subtle ‘win’, article with image

WASHINGTON/UNITED NATIONS, April 7 (Reuters) – China’s abstentions on U.N. votes to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are a “win”, said the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, underscoring how Beijing’s balancing act between its partner Russia and the West may be the best outcome for Washington.

Beijing has refused to call Russia’s actions in Ukraine an invasion and has repeatedly criticized what it says are illegal Western sanctions to punish Moscow.

But U.S.-led pressure on China, including the specter of secondary sanctions should it provide material support for Russia’s war, appears to be helping keep Beijing on the fence over the conflict.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

China abstained from two non-binding U.N. General Assembly votes last month that criticized Russia for the ongoing war and its humanitarian costs.

“That is a win when China abstains. We’d love them to vote yes, but an abstention is better than them voting no,” U.N. ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told Reuters.

“I’m not sure they expected that Russia would go this far. They continue to support Russia publicly, but I do get a sense of discomfort,” she said.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun, responding to Thomas-Greenfield’s remarks, said: “The whole world is not comfortable. Do you think that anyone should be comfortable with this crisis?”

China and Russia declared a “no-limits” strategic partnership several weeks before the Feb. 24 invasion and have been forging closer energy and security ties in recent years to push back on the United States and the West.

In a tilt toward Moscow, China’s leader Xi Jinping has discussed the conflict in Ukraine during calls with leaders of many major countries, but has yet to offer such diplomatic validation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

While Beijing has given some humanitarian aid to Ukraine – about $2.37 million worth of items such as blankets and baby formula – those contributions are outmatched by much smaller donors.

Analysts say they have yet to see any major indication that China is violating strict Western sanctions on Russia, but there are strong signs that China is hedging its bets, particularly on the economic front.

China’s state oil refiners are avoiding new oil contracts with Russia despite steep discounts, sources told Reuters. read more

State-run Sinopec, Asia’s biggest oil refiner, also suspended talks for a major petrochemical investment and a gas marketing venture in Russia. read more

Sanctions on Russia should give China a “good understanding” of the consequences it could face if it provides material support to Moscow, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman warned on Wednesday. read more

China appears unlikely to back away from its tacit diplomatic support for Russia – even in light of graphic images showing widespread civilian killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, north of the capital Kyiv. Moscow rejects Western charges of war crimes.

Zhang said China did not want to be dragged into the crisis.

“The focus is really for the parties concerned to find a solution as quick as possible, instead of trying to look at some indirect party, and to drag those indirect parties into this crisis,” Zhang told Reuters.

‘PLAY BOTH SIDES’

China, which itself has been accused by Washington of committing genocide towards its Uyghur population, voted no on Thursday on a resolution that suspended Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council. read more

Before the vote, Zhang called it a “hasty move” that forced countries to choose sides.

U.S. officials appear to be expecting that China’s support for Russia won’t violate major red lines set by the United States and the European Union, which together represent a quarter of China’s global trade, compared to just 2.4% for Russia, according to the EU. read more

“We are likely to continue to see some amount of Chinese support for the Russian economy, but a dance that Beijing tries to do to keep up its economic ties to the European Union in particular, but also to the United States,” Mira Rapp-Hooper, director for the Indo-Pacific at the White House National Security Council, said in March. read more

U.S. President Joe Biden has leaned heavily on allies to help make the case – as he did in a call with Xi last month – that there would be consequences for supporting Russia.

Following a virtual summit between EU and Chinese leaders last week, China’s foreign ministry said it was not deliberately circumventing sanctions. read more

It has also denied being asked for, or supplying, any military support for Russia.

Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told a recent online forum there was little indication that Chinese banks were supporting sanctioned Russian financial institutions, and that some Chinese firms were selling less to Russia, from cell phones to car parts.

Experts say the United States’ ability to monitor and track small-scale Chinese sanctions violations is limited, as shipments could be driven over land borders where U.S. monitoring does not occur. They say preventing Chinese firms from large sanctioned trade with Russia should be the goal.

“The realists are going to win this one and understand that the Chinese are going to play both sides toward the middle and they’ll take what few victories they can get,” said Donald Pearce, a former export control attaché at the U.S. embassy in Moscow who works with Torres Trade Advisory.

“If you’ve got at least a tacit admission that China respects the idea that the U.S. could start imposing secondary sanctions, that may be enough,” Pearce said.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Michael Martina in Washington and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Mary Milliken and Michael Perry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

More Than a Million Afghans Flee as Economy Collapses

ZARANJ, Afghanistan — From their hide-out in the desert ravine, the migrants could just make out the white lights of the Iranian border glaring over the horizon.

The air was cold and their breath heavy. Many had spent the last of their savings on food weeks before and cobbled together cash from relatives, hoping to escape Afghanistan’s economic collapse. Now, looking at the border they saw a lifeline: work, money, food to eat.

“There is no other option for me, I cannot go back,” said Najaf Akhlaqi, 26, staring at the smugglers scouring the moonlit landscape for Taliban patrols. Then he jolted to his feet as the smugglers barked at the group to run.

Since the United States withdrew troops and the Taliban seized power, Afghanistan has plunged into an economic crisis that has pushed millions already living hand-to-mouth over the edge. Incomes have vanished, life-threatening hunger has become widespread and badly needed aid has been stymied by Western sanctions against Taliban officials.

Aid organizations estimate that around 4,000 to 5,000 people are crossing into Iran each day.

European Union last fall pledged over $1 billion in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and neighboring countries hosting Afghans who have fled.

“We need new agreements and commitments in place to be able to assist and help an extremely vulnerable civil population,” Jonas Gahr Store, the Norwegian prime minister, said in a statement at the U.N. Security Council’s meeting on Afghanistan last month. “We must do what we can to avoid another migration crisis and another source of instability in the region and beyond.”

But Western donors are still wrestling with complicated questions over how to meet their humanitarian obligations to ordinary Afghans without propping up the new Taliban government.

As the humanitarian situation worsened, the United States also issued some exemptions to sanctionsand committed $308 million in aid last month — bringing the total U.S. assistance to the country to $782 million since October last year.

But aid can only go so far in a country facing economic collapse, experts say. Unless Western donors move more quickly to release their chokehold on the economy and revive the financial system, Afghans desperate for work will likely continue to look abroad.

Crouching among the migrant group in the desert, Mr. Akhlaqi steeled himself for the desperate dash ahead: A mile-long scramble over churned-earth trenches, a 15-foot-high border wall topped with barbed wire and a vast stretch of scrubland flush with Iranian security forces. Over the past month, he had crossed the border 19 times, he said. Each time, he was arrested and returned over the border.

A police officer under the former government, Mr. Akhlaqi went into hiding in relatives’ homes for fear of Taliban retribution. As the little savings that fed his family ran dry, he moved from city to city looking for a new job. But the work was scarce. So in early November, he linked up with smugglers in Nimruz Province determined to get to Iran.

asylum claims in Europe, after Syria, and one of the world’s largest populations of refugees and asylum seekers — around 3 million people — most of whom live in Iran and Pakistan.

Many fled through Nimruz, a remote corner of southwest Afghanistan wedged between the borders of Iran and Pakistan that has served as a smuggling haven for decades. In its capital, Zaranj, Afghans from around the country crowd into smuggler-run hotels that line the main road and gather around street vendors’ kebab stands, exchanging stories about the grueling journey ahead.

At a parking lot at the center of town known as “The Terminal,” men pile into the backs of pickup trucks bound for Pakistan while young boys hawk goggles and water bottles. On a recent day, their sales pitches — “Who wants water?” — were nearly smothered by the sounds of honking cars and the angry shouts of haggling men exchanging tattered Afghani bank notes for Iranian toman.

Standing in line to climb into the back of a pickup, Abdul, 25, had arrived the day before from Kunduz, a commercial hub in northern Afghanistan that was wracked with fighting last summer during the Taliban’s blitz offensive. As the thuds of mortar fire engulfed the city, his business sputtered to a halt. After the takeover, his shop stood empty as people saved the little money they had for basics like food and medicine.

As the months dragged on, Abdul borrowed money to feed his own family, plunging further and further into debt. Finally, he decided leaving for Iran was his only option.

“I don’t want to leave my country, but I have no other choice,” said Abdul, who asked that The Times use only his first name, fearing that his family could face retaliation. “If the economic situation continues like this, there will be no future here.”

As the economic crisis has worsened, local Taliban officials have sought to profit off the exodus by regulating the lucrative smuggling business. At the Terminal, a Taliban official sitting in a small silver car collects a new tax — 1,000 Afghanis, or about $10 — from each car heading to Pakistan.

At first, Taliban officials also taxed the city’s other main migrant route, a smuggler-escorted journey across the desert and over the border wall directly into Iran. But after accusations in September that a smuggler had raped a girl, the Taliban reversed course, cracking down on this desert route.

Still, such efforts have done little to deter smugglers.

Speeding through a desert road around midnight, one smuggler, S., who preferred to go by only his first initial because of the illegal nature of his work, blasted Arabic pop music from his stereo. A music video with a woman swaying in a tight black dress played on the car’s navigation screen. As he neared his safe house, he cut the back lights to avoid being followed.

Moving people each night requires a delicate dance: First, he strikes a deal with a low-ranking Iranian border guard to allow a certain number of migrants to cross. Then, he tells other smugglers to bring migrants from their hotel to a safe house in the desert and coordinates with his business partner to meet the group on the other side of the border. Once the sun sets, he and others drive for hours, scoping the area for Taliban patrols and — once the route is clear — take the migrants from the safe house to the border.

We don’t have a home, our home is our car, all night driving near to the border — one day my wife will kick me out of home,” S. said, erupting in laughter.

Crossing the border is just the first hurdle that Afghans must overcome. Since the takeover, both Pakistan and Iran have stepped up deportations, warning that their fragile economies cannot handle an influx of migrants and refugees.

In the last five months of 2021, more than 500,000 who entered these countries illegally were either deported or voluntarily returned to Afghanistan, likely fearing deportation, according to the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration.

Sitting on the ragged blue carpet of one hotel was Negar, 35, who goes by only one name. She had climbed over the border wall into Iran with her six children two nights before desperate to start a new life in Iran. For months, she had stretched out her family’s meager savings, buying little more than bread and firewood to survive. When that cash ran out, she sold her only goat to make the journey here.

But once she touched Iranian soil, a pack of border guards descended on the group of migrants and fired shots into the pre-dawn darkness. Lying on the ground, Negar called out to her children and had a horrifying realization: Her two youngest sons were missing.

After two agonizing days, smugglers in Iran found her sons and sent them back to her in Zaranj. But shaken by losing them, she was at a loss over whether to attempt to cross again.

“I’m worried,” she said. “What if I can never make it to Iran?”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

A Ban on 19 Singers in Egypt Tests the Old Guard’s Power

CAIRO — The song starts out like standard fare for Egyptian pop music: A secret infatuation between two young neighbors who, unable to marry, sneak flirtatious glances at each other and commit their hearts in a bittersweet dance of longing and waiting.

But then the lyrics take a radical turn.

“If you leave me,” blasts/explodes/shouts the singer, Hassan Shakosh, “I’ll be lost and gone, drinking alcohol and smoking hash.”

The song, “The Neighbors’ Daughter,” has become a giant hit, garnering more than a half- billion views of its video on YouTube alone and catapulting Mr. Shakosh to stardom. But the explicit reference to drugs and booze, culturally prohibited substances in Egypt, has made the song, released in 2019, a lightning rod in a culture war over what is an acceptable face and subject matter for popular music and who gets to decide.

The battle, which pits Egypt’s cultural establishment against a renegade musical genre embraced by millions of young Egyptians, has heated up recently after the organization that licenses musicians barred at least 19 young artists from singing and performing in Egypt.

arrested teenage girls who posted videos of themselves dancing, which is a crime there. And in 2020, Northwestern University in Qatar called off a concert by a Lebanese indie rock band whose lead singer is openly gay.

But online streaming and social media platforms have poked giant holes in that effort, allowing artists to bypass state-sanctioned media, like television and record companies, and reach a generation of new fans hungry for what they see as more authentic and relevant content.

Iran’s draconian restrictions on unacceptable music have produced a flourishing underground rock and hip-hop scene. The question facing Egypt is who now has the power to regulate matters of taste — the 12 men and one woman who run the syndicate, or the millions of fans who have been streaming and downloading mahraganat.

Mahraganat first rose out of the dense, rowdy working-class neighborhoods of Cairo more than a decade ago and is still generally made in low-tech home studios, often with no more equipment than a cheap microphone and pirated software.

DJ Saso, the 27-year-old producer of Mr. Shakosh’s blockbuster hit.

Many lawyers and experts say the syndicate has no legal right to ban artists, insisting that Egypt’s Constitution explicitly protects creative liberty. But these arguments seem academic in the authoritarian state of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, which has stifled freedom of speech, tightened control on the media and passed laws to help monitor and criminalize immoral behavior on the internet.

The syndicate’s executive members have adamantly defended their move, arguing that a key part of their job is to safeguard the profession against inferior work that they say is made by uncultured impostors who tarnish the image of the country.

YouTube.

He is one of the Arab world’s leading performers. Since he was barred, he has performed in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iraq, and “The Neighbors’ Daughter” has become one of the biggest Arabic hits to date.

“It’s not the same old love songs,” said Yasmine el-Assal, a 41-year-old bank executive, after attending one of Mr. Shakosh’s concerts before the ban. “His stage presence, the music, the vibe, it’s fresh and it’s all about having fun.”

Mr. Shakosh would not agree to be interviewed, preferring to keep a low profile, his manager said, rather than to appear to publicly challenge the authorities. The ban has been harder on other artists, many of whom do not have the wherewithal or the international profile to tour abroad.

They have mostly kept quiet, refusing to make statements that they fear could ruffle more feathers.

Despite the squeeze, however, many are confident that their music falls beyond the grip of any single authority or government.

Kareem Gaber, a 23-year-old experimental music producer known by the stage name El Waili, is still burning tracks, sitting in his bedroom with a twin mattress on the floor, bare walls and his instrument, a personal computer with $100 MIDI keyboard.

“Mahraganat taught us that you can do something new,” he said, “and it will be heard.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

The New Weddings in India’s South: ‘Expect Some Magic’

A small group of friends and family gathered under a yellow canopy by a small pool, but the main audience was really the cameras: This was content for the wedding highlight video.

Dr. Pfizer danced her way to the poolside to a band of live drummers that led the way. She danced more and posed as the Steadicams rushed forward for a special-effect shot, and then stepped back to pan out. There were plenty of close-ups of her hands decorated in henna, which had taken six hours to paint.

When she took her seat under the canopy for friends and family to rub turmeric on her face, she wore aviators and danced in her seat as the D.J. cranked up another hit song from across the pool — this one drawing on London and Big Ben, to praise beauty.

You are like our own Queen Victoria

You are the clock, the Big Ben

When you dance,

The entire London dances with you.

As the guests took their seats in the hall for the evening ceremony, the dance troupe changed costumes repeatedly — a Sufi entrance with the groom, a Punjabi bhangra number that included a cameo by the bride, a mash-up of the latest hits where the dancers displayed their hip-hop moves. Another group, all women, performed a traditional Keralan Muslim dance, oppana, a hip-hop dance in jeans and T-shirts, and a flamenco-inspired routine.

In between, the tall wedding singer, wearing a turtleneck and chic glasses with transparent rims, entertained the crowd. He announced the bride’s first entrance.

The heads turned to the back, where Dr. Pfizer, surrounded by the female troupe of dancers, beamed with excitement in a dazzling ocean-green dress paired with stunning jewelry. Mobile phones came out for pictures. Music blared as the dancers shimmied and snapped their fingers, parting the aisle for the bride.

But before the bride had climbed the stage to take her seat, someone realized that the main camera that films the “wedding highlight” for YouTube and Instagram wasn’t set up yet.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

How the E.U. Allowed Hungary to Become an Illiberal Model

BRUSSELS — After long indulging him, leaders in the European Union now widely consider one of their own, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, an existential threat to a bloc that holds itself up as a model of human rights and the rule of law.

Mr. Orban has spent the past decade steadily building his “illiberal state,” as he proudly calls Hungary, with the help of lavish E.U. funding. Even as his project widened fissures in the bloc, his fellow national leaders mostly looked the other way, committed to staying out of one another’s affairs.

But now Mr. Orban’s defiance and intransigence has had an important, if unintended, effect: serving as a catalyst for an often-sluggish European Union system to act to safeguard the democratic principles that are the foundation of the bloc.

Early this year, the European Court of Justice will issue a landmark decision on whether the union has the authority to make its funds to member states conditional on meeting the bloc’s core values. Doing so would allow Brussels to deny billions of euros to countries that violate those values.

a new media law that curbed press freedom. It overhauled the country’s justice system, removed the head of its Supreme Court and created an office to oversee the courts led by the wife of a prominent member of the governing party, Fidesz. Election laws were changed to favor the party.

External factors strengthened Mr. Orban as well, including in 2015 when a record number of migrants made their way to Europe and when the right-wing Law and Justice party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski came to power in Poland. He suddenly had an ally there, and his tough stance against migrants won him support elsewhere, too.

Mr. Orban quit the conservative alliance when it became clear that it was going to oust his party.

Mr. Weber still regrets the loss of Fidesz. “On one level, it is a relief,” he said. “But Orban leaving is not a victory, but a defeat” in the effort to hold the center-right together as “a broad people’s party.”

It has helped Mr. Orban that the European Union has few and ineffective instruments for punishing a backsliding nation. Even the Lisbon Treaty, which gave enhanced powers to the European Parliament, has essentially one unusable tool: Article 7, which can remove a country’s voting rights, but only if passed by unanimity.

according to studies by R. Daniel Kelemen of Rutgers University and Tommaso Pavone of the University of Oslo, the commission sharply reduced infringement cases after the addition of new member states in 2004. José Manuel Barroso, a former commission president, “bought into this to work more cooperatively with governments and not just sue them,” Mr. Kelemen said. Mr. Barroso declined to comment.

Attitudes have shifted. With taxpayer money at stake, the next seven-year budget in the balance and the disregard for shared values shown by Mr. Orban and Mr. Kaczynski on leaders’ minds, Brussels may have finally found a useful tool to affect domestic politics, with a mix of lawsuits charging infringement of European treaties combined with severe financial consequences.

A marker has finally been laid down, Mr. Reynders said.

The big moment comes this month, when the European Court of Justice issues its ruling.

If Hungary and Poland lose the case, as expected, it is unclear what will happen if both countries simply refuse to comply. The European Union will be thrust deeper into unknown territory.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<