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Disillusioned Russian Troops Killing Ukrainians for Their Cellphones: Official
This photograph taken on March 4, 2022 shows a school building damaged by shelling in the city of Chernihiv.(DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES) Russian President Vladimir Putin’s information-starved fighting force in Ukraine employs new forms of violence as bloody conflict grinds on, according to an official on the ground. Russian troops fighting in Ukraine are seizing local civilians’ cellphones en masse – and in some cases killing them if they refuse – in what several officials describe as a systematic attempt to gain access to outside information and exact brutal punishments against Ukrainians. A Ukrainian army officer overseeing operations in the northern city of Chernihiv detailed to U.S. News the violent encounters he and his troops have witnessed perpetrated by the Russian invaders. That force loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be composed almost entirely of young men pressed into service as conscripts and starved of any information outside what they receive from their commanders. The violence on the ground and shelling from the air remains high even as Moscow begins retreating from that city and others, including Kyiv, after more than a month of grinding combat. “The Russian military is trying in every way to seize the mobile phones of Ukrainian citizens,” Ukrainian army Lt. Col. Eduard Rodionov says, “resorting to physical violence and sometimes murder.” Though the accusations could not be independently confirmed, several current and former officials in the U.S. and in Europe speaking on the condition of anonymity affirm that these actions match how Moscow manages its fighting forces as well as the tactics they employ against their perceived enemies. Both Ukraine and Russia had previously enacted strict bans on their troops having access to cellphones while in the field, though Kyiv relaxed this policy for its troops in some cases following the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine and the forced annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Moscow, however, has maintained particularly tight control on the sources of information it allows its troops to access, officials and analysts say, leaving many of them confused and angry about the realities that confront them on the ground in Ukraine. “Russia’s heavy-handed restrictions on information access for conscripts is likely intended to prevent demoralization and morale problems by insulating them from information,” says Mason Clark, lead Russia analyst with the Institute for the Study of War, which has fastidiously documented the movements and tactics of Russian forces operating in and around Ukraine. “But it has made the problem worse,” he adds, “particularly in the early days of the war when Russian forces apparently had little knowledge of the overall Russian plan.” The Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The use of cellphones in the month-long conflict in Ukraine has taken on particular significance this week. Both sides have warned their forces against using them in battle for fear of accidentally revealing their positions through embedded GPS software, through connections to a local network tower or even through sensitive information divulged by a careless social media post.
Eddie Hearn: 'I can't say I don't enjoy the limelight'
Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn is one of the sport’s most colourful characters and his big-money fights have become world events. But there’s one battle he’ll never win – trying to outsmart his father Barry ‘The only way you can achieve greatness is to be a perfectionist in everything you do’: Eddie Hearn. Photograph: Dean Chalkley/The Observer The boxing promoter Eddie Hearn is telling the world what it wants to hear, live on national television. It is early on a Monday morning. Hearn is in the Hearn family offices, a converted pile outside Brentwood, rural Essex, that was once the Hearn family home, pre-conversion. “Look,” he says. He is talking directly to camera, speaking live to a news anchor down the line. “Everybody knows this is a monstrous fight. It makes perfect sense. How could it not make perfect sense?” It is 24 hours after Tyson Fury boxed Deontay Wilder in a big-money Las Vegas brawl. Fury won, convincingly. Now the news channels are asking about the heavyweight division’s other premium fighter, Anthony Joshua, who happens to be Hearn’s marquee client. Will Joshua fight Fury now? Can Hearn make it happen? “Let’s have it right,” Hearn says. Here he is, a salesman in his element, a heavyweight chatterbox dangling a deal. “We have an opportunity to make an event,” he says. “Not just the biggest event in British boxing history, but one of the biggest sporting events” – pause – “of all time.” Hearn is not a man to tone down the hyperbole. Nor does he turn down the opportunity to talk. “I’ll do every interview in the line,” he says, of his commitment to promotion, “and I’ll get to the end and it’s some geezer from… ‘Frank’s Boxing Hour’?” He doesn’t have it in him to turn requests down, he says, even when the requests come from amateur YouTubers. But, you know, all publicity is good publicity. After big fights, news channels clamour for Hearn’s take, not just because he is a grade-A gabber – which he is, a truly exceptional gabber – but because his interviews get traction, particularly when they’re chopped up and shared across social media. Almost a million people follow Hearn on Twitter, where he delivers lines with the charm and swagger of a star performer. Some 350,000 people follow an Eddie Hearn fan account that reduces his soundbites to memes. Thanks in part to his social media persona – performative, nearly always delighted at something, game for a laugh – but also to the recent resurgence of the heavyweight division as a popular spectacle, Hearn has shot comet-like over the threshold of boxing and into the public consciousness, and established himself as one of the loudest voices in sports. These days, he turns up, almost miraculously, everywhere: on the news, at weigh-ins, on a talkshow, at press conferences, on your partner’s Instagram feed (telling jokes, from quarantine). He can come across as a combination of businessman and comedian – a mostly serious man with a side-hustle in laughs. His company, Matchroom Boxing, promotes more than 90 boxers, including several world champions. But of late it has seemed as though Hearn has become more famous than most of his clients. Hearn refers to himself as “a travelling salesman” – his schedule, these days, is not carbon efficient – though really he’d like to be remembered for being an outstanding man of business. Some people see him like that. Others think of him as a kind of Essex wide boy, a chancer, ready to pull the wool over your eyes. The latter take is simplistic. Hearn has sold out events at Wembley and Madison Square Garden. He was the first promoter to make a $1bn streaming deal, with the on-demand service DAZN, and the only boxing promoter to have organised a big-money event in the Middle East (still controversial). He excels at twisting negotiations to benefit the boxers he promotes, particularly their wallets, and subsequently his own, and he is expert at conjuring stories to pitch fights to audiences, especially to those who are only casually interested in boxing. “I love to sell,” he says. “I love to make money. But it’s not just about that. It’s about the achievement of making a breakthrough.”
Apple to Cut App Store Fees as Legal Scrutiny Intensifies
Apple will cut its app store commissions in half for most developers beginning next year amid an intensifying debate about whether the iPhone maker has been using the fees to unfairly fatten its profits and stifle rivals competing against its own music, video, and other subscription services. FILE - In this June 16, 2020, file photo, the sun is reflected on Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York. Apple will cut its app store fee in half from 30% to 15% for most developers beginning Jan. 1, the biggest change in its commission rate since the app store began in 2008. The fee reduction will apply to developers who made up to $1 million from the app store in 2020, which is the “vast majority” of developers in the store, Apple said. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Apple will cut its app store commissions in half for most developers beginning next year amid an intensifying debate about whether the iPhone maker has been using the fees to unfairly fatten its profits and stifle rivals competing against its own music, video, and other subscription services. The concession announced Wednesday will lower Apple's commissions for in-app subscriptions and other purchases from the 30% rate that has been in place since 2008 to 15%, effective Jan. 1. But the discount will only apply to developers with app store revenue up to $1 million annually — a threshold that excludes the makers of some of the most popular apps downloaded on iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices. That group includes two of Apple's fiercest critics, music streaming service Spotify, and Epic, the maker of the popular Fortnite video game. Both those companies have helped spur increasing scrutiny of Apple's app store practices among lawmakers and regulators in the U.S. and Europe. Apple sells music streaming and video services that have been helping to offset a slowdown in iPhone revenue in recent years. The app store commissions feed Apple's services division, which saw its revenue climb 16% to nearly $54 billion during the company's last fiscal year ending in September. Only iPhone sales generate more revenue for Apple than services. Apple is framing its fee reduction as a way to help most of the companies that make the roughly 1.8 million apps in its store during the tough economic times brought on by the pandemic. About 98% of the app developers generate less than $1 million in revenue annually, according to the mobile analytics firm SensorTower. But the reduced commission probably won't leave much of a dent in Apple's revenue. That's because the small developers in line to qualify for the cut only contribute about 5% of Apple's app store revenue, based on SensorTower's estimates. That's probably one reason investors seemed unfazed by Apple's forthcoming fee cut. The company's shares were up slightly during early afternoon trading. Spotify scoffed at Apple's lower commissions as “window dressing" designed to discourage regulators from cracking down on its practices. “This latest move further demonstrates that their app store policies are arbitrary and capricious," Spotify said in a statement. Epic is continuing to pursue a lawsuit it filed against Apple earlier this year in an effort to win the right to sell products within its apps without having to pay Apple's fees.
My favourite game: Argentina v Cameroon, 1990 World Cup
Arguably the greatest upset in World Cup history and one that made me well and truly fall in love with football Argentina’s Néstor Sensini (left), Juan Simón and Néstor Lorenzo (right) look on in disbelief as François Omam-Biyik heads home for Cameroon. Photograph: AFP via Getty Images Life is filled with memorable summers and among my first was that of 1990. I was nine at the time and for the past year or so a Liverpool supporter. But that was as far as my love of football went – they were the only team I cared about, the only team I wanted to watch, and games that did not involve men in red shirts with Candy across the middle didn’t interest me much. That, however, was about to change. On Friday 8 June 1990 to be precise, when I sat down in front of the living-room television to watch Argentina versus Cameroon in the opening fixture of the World Cup. Diego Maradona was key to my decision to do so. I had heard of him, how he was the best player of his generation and probably of all time, and here he was – on show at the start of a global tournament taking place across an entire month. I was intrigued by what lay ahead and there was to be no disappointment, thanks in large part not to Maradona but rather to the team with lions on their chests and stardust in their boots. Cameroon’s World Cup campaign was magnificent and no more so than on day one when in beating Argentina 1-0 at San Siro they pulled off arguably the greatest upset in World Cup history and one that put African football on the map. Before then teams from the continent had been dismissed and derided, with Zaire’s farcical display at the 1974 tournament, particularly at free-kicks, doing much to shape opinions. Cameroon were not expected to change that given they arrived in Italy as a squad largely made up of journeymen from France’s lower divisions who were in poor form and riven by division. There was no doubt – they were going to be blown away, and especially so by the reigning champions. But on a warm Milan evening, Cameroon torched the odds. It was not a great game but it was a memorable one because of two moments: François Omam-Biyik’s goal on 67 minutes – a towering but weak header that somehow squirmed through the grasp of Nery Pumpido – and then, two minutes from time, Benjamin Massing’s foul on Claudio Caniggia. Caniggia had evaded two Cameroon tackles as he went on a counterattacking surge but stood no chance of evading Massing’s given it was less a tackle and more an assault, waist-high and so strong that it sent Massing’s right boot flying in the air. The referee, Michel Vautrot, had no option but to dismiss Massing, having already sent off his teammate André Kana-Biyik for a far less heinous offence. Massing’s foul on Caniggia is one of those things that lives with you and ever since it is what has come to mind whenever I’ve thought about wildly brutal attacks. Roy Keane on Alf-Inge Haaland – Benjamin Massing. Ben Thatcher on Pedro Mendes – Benjamin Massing. The 2003 invasion of Iraq – Benjamin Massing. To an extent it characterised Cameroon’s approach to this game, yet it would be wrong to suggest Valeri Nepomniachi’s men only beat Argentina because they kicked them off the pitch. Cameroon were rugged and uncompromising (so much so that they kept Maradona quiet throughout) but they also performed with skill and ambition. As David Lacey put it in the Guardian: “The better team won”. That they did so with nine men only added to the scale of the achievement. Cameroon would go on to reach the quarter-finals, where they were beaten by England, and returned home as heroes, no one more so than Roger Milla, their 38-year-old, snake-hipped striker who epitomised the wonder of that side. And for nine-year-old me what they did against Argentina was the hook – now I wanted as much football as I could get. And that summer I got plenty; Matthäus’s piledriver, O’Leary’s penalty, Schillaci’s eyes … Gazza’s tears. It was a feast. Italia 90 may ultimately have been a poor World Cup but it changed my life, personally as well as professionally. And it began with a quite glorious shock
‘We’re hurt, but we’re not broken’: Buffalo’s Black community vows to emerge stronger
"To be targeted like this, it speaks to a lot of bigger issues around guns and race in the country," said one Buffalo native. "Something has to change." Charles Gilbert was only a few blocks away from the Buffalo, New York, supermarket when a white 18-year-old allegedly opened fire and spread terror among the local Black community, killing 10 and injuring three on Saturday. Like countless other Black Buffalo residents, Gilbert, a podcaster, said he is mired in pain, devastation and anger, but he and many in east Buffalo say they are also resolute to come together and forge a stronger community. Pleazant Davis, 22, is comforted by Tasha Dixon, 35, at a memorial across the street from the store in Buffalo where Saturday's shooting occurred.Libby March “We’re hurt, but we’re not broken,” Gilbert said. “We, as a people and a community, will get past this. It will take some time. The spotlight is on us for the wrong reason, unfortunately. But we will show everyone that the community will come together.” The alleged assailant, Payton Gendron, drove more than three hours in his parents’ car from Broome County, specifically to the Black neighborhood of Jefferson Avenue, to carry out a racist plot that is now the largest mass killing in the city’s history. Eleven of the 13 people shot were Black. But through the tears and agony, many insist a stronger Jefferson Avenue community will emerge. Gilbert’s cousin, Buffalo native Adrianne Murchison, a journalist in Atlanta, said she felt the heartache of the shootings hundreds of miles away, but the depths of the community connections will be a factor in the neighborhood’s recovery. “That’s the way the Black culture is,” she said. “There’s a lot of resiliency in general and in Buffalo in particular. Being so small, people are very connected. There are generations of families in Buffalo that are connected, and so the community is very much together. It still hurts. It really hurts. Who would think that something like that would happen? In the end, that community will manage it and come back strong. It’s what we, as Black people, do.” In 2018, the Partnership for the Public Good, a community-based think tank, published a report that called the Buffalo-Niagara region “one of the most racially segregated metropolitan regions in the nation.” It added that “of all people who identify as Black within the city of Buffalo, roughly 85 percent live east of Main Street,” which is the area where the store is located. Officials have classified the mass shooting as a racially motivated hate crime. The N-word was scrawled on the rifle used by the gunman. A lengthy manifesto Gendron posted two days before his attack talked of "the great replacement theory," which is a false ideology that there is a covert faction that is moving to replace white Americans with nonwhites through violence, interracial marriage and immigration. Gendron was arraigned Saturday evening on first-degree murder charges after being arrested at the scene without incident. He pleaded not guilty. As one of the community leaders who also worked in the mayor’s office, Jamil Crews watched the unedited video of the killings recorded by the alleged shooter with a camera on his helmet. “I wish I could erase what I saw,” Crews said. “It literally just broke me to my core. I’m getting emotional now just thinking about it. Those innocent people. These are people’s grandmothers and grandfathers and aunts and uncles and, and young people working in the store. This was very deliberate and what we need to see happen now is for people who consider themselves allies to step up. We don’t want to see this happening anymore in our communities. It’s senseless. Completely senseless.”
Iran nuclear talks rocked by Russian demand for sanctions exemption
Russia seeks guarantees regarding trade with Iran that would undermine west’s sanctions over Ukraine invasion The revived deal would lift US sanctions in return for Tehran complying with with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Photograph: Majid Asgaripour/AP Russia has been accused of trying to take the Iran nuclear deal hostage as part of its wider battle with the west over Ukraine, after it threw a last-minute spanner into plans for an agreement to lift a swathe of US economic sanctions on Tehran.
After months of negotiations in Vienna, a revised deal was expected to be reached within days, under which US sanctions would be lifted in return for Tehran returning to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear non-proliferation deal.
But diplomatic efforts have been sent into a tailspin by Russia’s unexpected demand for written guarantees that its economic trade with Iran will be exempted from US sanctions imposed on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, at the weekend cited the “avalanche of aggressive sanctions [on Russia] that the west has started spewing out”, and said: “This meant Moscow had to ask the US for guarantees first, requiring a clear answer that the new sanctions will not affect its rights under the nuclear deal.
“We requested that our US colleagues … give us written guarantees at the minimum level of the secretary of state that the current [sanctions] process launched by the US will not in any way harm our right to free, fully fledged trade and economic and investment cooperation and military-technical cooperation with Iran.”
In a sign of how sanctions will bite, Aeroflot flights from Moscow to Iran were cancelled on Sunday.
If Lavrov’s demand is to require the US to exempt Russian-Iranian trade from sanctions, the west is almost certain to reject the demand since it would open a huge loophole in the sanctions regime. It would then be up to Moscow whether to veto the nuclear deal altogether.
US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, dismissed Russia’s demands as “irrelevant”, saying that sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine “have nothing to do with the Iran nuclear deal.”
They “just are not in any way linked together, so I think that’s irrelevant,” Blinken told CBS.
The Vienna talks have for months been an oasis of diplomatic cooperation between Russia and the west as they painstakingly crafted a compromise acceptable to both Iran and the US. The Russian ambassador to the Vienna talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, has been an indefatigable intermediary, but now risks seeing his work being undone by Moscow’s confrontation with the west over Ukraine.
Iranian officials criticised Russia’s intervention, saying “the Russians put this demand on the table at the Vienna talks two days ago. There is an understanding that by changing its position in [the] Vienna talks, Russia wants to secure its interests in other places. This move is not constructive for [the] Vienna nuclear talks”.
Russia also has a short-term strategic interest in scuppering or postponing the deal. Iran produces more than 2m barrels of oil a day, and if these supplies were able to reach the markets, the upward surge in prices would be slowed.
Russia, a large-scale oil producer, wants to drive the oil price up both to turn the screw on western economies, but also to boost its own budget revenues.
Israel, a fierce opponent of a revived nuclear deal, will be the only major country privately welcoming Russia’s actions.
The parties to the deal are Iran, the E3 (France, Germany and the UK), Russia and China. The US is present in Vienna, but Iran will not directly negotiate with the US delegation.
Separately, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, was in Tehran this weekend trying to secure a deal on the future inspection regime. Grossi was hoping to resolve disagreements over the IAEA’s demand for access to four sites where suspicious nuclear activities were alleged to have taken place.
Iran wants the IAEA to close down these investigations, claiming they are based on false Israeli intelligence. Mohammad Eslami, the head of the Iranian atomic energy association, has also sought assurances that what Iran regards as Israeli intelligence will not form the basis of future IAEA investigations into Iran.
The two sides agreed to exchange documents by June, the likely date for the Iran deal to come back into force, but seemed to have left issues about the inspection regime unresolved.
Meanwhile, the IAEA will continue with an inspection regime in which its surveillance cameras remain in place, and the memory cards of the cameras kept under joint seal.
Commerce Department Goes Against Trump, Rules TikTok Can Continue to Operate
The Commerce Department’s decision defies an executive order by the president in his effort to crackdown on Chinese social media companies. The department’s decision on Thursday delayed a previous order that would have prohibited companies from providing TikTok with internet-hosting or content-delivery services.(AARONP/BAUER-GRIFFIN/GC IMAGES) THE VIDEO SHARING social media platform TikTok will not be forced to shut down, the Commerce Department said, announcing it would not enforce its previous order that would have forced the Chinese-owned app to shut down. The department's decision on Thursday delayed a previous order that would have prohibited companies from providing TikTok with internet-hosting or content-delivery services, actions that would make the platform inoperable in the U.S. President Donald Trump issued the order earlier this year in his effort to crackdown on Chinese social media companies, claiming it was a matter of national security. However, in the formal government notice announcing the decision, the Commerce Department cited a judicial ruling in a lawsuit in Philadelphia brought by three TikTok users. The judge in the case said the government's action threatens the exchange of information and exceeds its authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the law the Trump administration had cited to take action against TikTok. The platform also directly sued Trump in federal court in September in Washington, D.C., arguing that his ban was unconstitutional. D.C. followed Philadelphia and ruled in favor of TikTok, a decision the government appealed. While the Commerce Department's notice orders that Trump's executive order "WILL NOT GO INTO EFFECT," the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is set to hear oral arguments in TikTok v. Trump on Dec. 14.
Five James Bond guns stolen from north London property
One of the stolen deactivated firearms was the Walther PPK - the last gun used by Roger Moore in A View to a Kill. One of the five firearms stolen at the Enfield property. Pic: Met Police Police are appealing for information after five deactivated guns used in James Bond movies were stolen from a property in north London. Officers were called to a property in Aldersbrook Avenue in Enfield at around 8pm on Monday to a report of a burglary. The suspects fled the scene before officers arrived after being disturbed by neighbours, who described the intruders as three white males with Eastern European accents. It is believed the suspects forced entry into the rear of the premises and stole five firearms used in James Bond films, estimated to be worth more than £100,000. Beretta "Cheetah" and Beretta "Tomcat" pistols from Die Another Day and the Walther PPK handgun used in A View to a Kill were reported to have been taken. The other stolen weapons are understood to be a Revolver Smith and Wesson 44 Magnum featured in Live and Let Die and a Llama 22 calibre handgun from Die Another Day. The release date for new James Bond film No Time To Die has been pushed back seven months due to coronavirus. The film, which will featureDaniel Craigin his final outing as 007, was set to be released in UK cinemas from 2 April. It will now come out in November. Detective Inspector Paul Ridley, of North Area Crime Investigation Department (CID) said: "The firearms stolen are very distinctive and bespoke to particular James Bond movies. They will almost certainly be recognised by the public and to anyone offered them for sale. "Many of these items are irreplaceable. For example, the Magnum is the only one in the world ever made in which the whole gun is finished in chrome. It has a six and a half inch barrel and wood grips. He added that the Walther PPK was the last gun used by Roger Moore in A View to a Kill. "The owner is very upset that his address has been violated and he truly hopes to be re-united with these highly collectable items," he said. "I would urge any members of the public that may have witnessed the burglars arriving and leaving, or who know where the firearms are, or may have been offered these stolen items for sale, to come forward to my investigation team as a priority."
Greta Thunberg: Girl, 9, on what inspired her to join Bristol climate change protest
Eliza Armstrong, nine, tells Sky News why she is going to the protest and why adults need to listen to Greta Thunberg. Hamish and Eliza Armstrong, seven and nine, are going to the climate change protest in Bristol where Greta Thunberg is speaking. Climate change activist Greta Thunberg is appearing at a protest in Bristol on Friday, where tens of thousands are expected to join her. Nine-year-old Eliza Armstrong, from Bristol, will be attending with her brother Hamish, seven, friends and parents. I'm really excited about going to the climate change protest with Greta Thunberg. I've done some local demonstrations in Bristol before but nothing as fantastic as this - I've been wanting to go for a while and we're making placards to hold up. I'll definitely see Greta but I don't think I'll be able to meet her unfortunately. There's going to be so many other kids there, although I'm kind of anxious to see how many people are aware and see how many have decided to come. It will be amazing to see all the people who have stopped their work to fight against climate change. I hope Greta's going to do quite a convincing speech so lots of people get what she's trying to do and what her aim is. I hope it's really powerful and that everyone's amazed by her. I think adults who look down on her are underestimating her. She's already written lots of books about climate change, but they're still underestimating her and not using what she's done to realise how much she's achieved. Greta's definitely done the right thing by standing up for climate change and she's proving nobody is too small. Quite a few of my year are going to the protest, we've been talking about it all week. It's meant to be raining but the weather isn't going to stop anyone, it would be a bit strange if Greta didn't come because of the weather. Lots of people have been planning to come it would be silly if they didn't just because of the weather, this is why we're fighting for climate change awareness. My year, year four, is probably the most aware of climate change at my school. Maybe because we're the oldest and have an eco-council and we talk a lot about Greta and her actions. With my parents, I think I've had an influence on them, you try to make them understand. I've taught them that maybe you should drive a bit less and I've taught them to not buy so much single-use plastic. When they found out about Greta they stopped using so much plastic and I influenced them to get more recyclable things.
‘A radiant expectant mother’: Rihanna and the rise of the power bump
ihanna said she was ‘pushing into the idea of sexy’. Photograph: Scott Garfitt/Rex/Shutterstock Pop star challenges perceptions of pregnancy by wearing black negligee to Dior show at Paris fashion week It was a moment of pure joy at a Paris fashion week sobered by the shadow of war. Rihanna sailed into the Dior show like a galleon in full sail, pregnancy bump lightly veiled in a sheer black negligee of lace-trimmed dotted Swiss tulle. The veteran fashion critic Tim Blanks, who quizzed the pop star backstage as to whether she was expecting a boy or a girl – she wasn’t telling – described her as “the most radiant expectant mother … a real ray of light on a dark day.”
In the month since the unofficial new “Queen of Barbados” announced her pregnancy by posing for the paparazzi photographer Miles Diggs on a snowy New York street with a vintage Chanel pink coat unbuttoned to reveal a naked bump crowned with a cascade of gold and gemstone jewellery, Rihanna has done more than push the boundaries of maternity wear. In characteristic form, she is challenging expectations of how women in the public eye should look and behave.
Rihanna, who wore a fluffy lavender coat over a black latex crop top at Gucci and a peach leather mini dress for the Off-White show, has not been the only expectant mother in the spotlight at this month of fashion shows. At the young designer Nensi Dojaka’s London fashion week show, the tissue-thin sequined slip worn by the model Maggie Maurer celebrated her four-month pregnant shape. “I think it’s quite shocking – in a good way,” Maurer told Vogue. “Women’s bodies are like superpowers.”
In the age of optics, announcing a pregnancy via the medium of fashion has established itself as a power move. A timeline shift toward ever more daring takes on bump-dressing can be tracked via the maternity fashion of a thought leader in this field, Beyoncé. When Beyoncé revealed her first pregnancy in 2011 at the MTV Video Music Awards during her performance of Love on Top – by unbuttoning her sequined blazer and turning to give the audience a profile view – the bump was demurely covered-up in a white shirt and high-waisted trousers. By the time Beyoncé was pregnant with twins in 2017, the rules of engagement had altered. This time around, Beyoncé made the reveal wearing only a bra and satin knickers, cradling her bump in front of a flower arbour with a veil falling over her shoulders as softly as the hair of Botticelli’s Venus, in an image that set a new record for Instagram likes. Last year, Cardi B leaned into the performative, bespoke-outfitted pregnancy reveal while on stage at the BET awards, in a black bodysuit which was barnacled all over with rhinestones, except for a porthole-shaped window of sheer black mesh which framed her swelling tummy.
Rihanna is highly strategic about which elements of her private life she shares – she lived in London for a full year without alerting the paparazzi to the fact until an eagle-eyed fan spotted a Sainsbury’s Bag for Life in the background of one of her social media posts – and the high-visibility wardrobing of her pregnancy is deliberate. “I’m really pushing into the idea of sexy,” she told the Refinery29 website. “When you get pregnant, society tends to make it feel like you hide […] you’re sexy and that you’re not sexy right now [but] you’ll get back there and I don’t believe in that shit.”
The new hot take on maternity wear is a refreshing inversion of popular culture’s obsession with narrow female bodies. Glorifying a woman’s body during the months when it is gets bigger broadens the Overton window around which female bodies are considered aspirational and worthy of celebration. Wearing sheer lingerie and black patent spike heels while pregnant bumps up against ingrained expectations not just about what women wear, but about how they should behave. Traditionally, maternity wear has regressed the wardrobe of grown women into childlike pastels and twee Peter Pan collars, as if to suggest that expectant mothers should be seen and not heard. When a heckler berated Rihanna for holding up Dior’s show this week, repeatedly shouting “You’re late” as the star was ushered to her front row seat, an unhurried Rihanna shot an unsmiling glance over her shoulder and deadpanned: “No shit.”
Elton John to host 'living room' gig featuring Billie Eilish and Mariah Carey
Stars are staying at home during the coronavirus crisis, but thanks to Elton John that doesn't mean you can't see them perform. Mariah Carey and Billie Eilish are among the stars taking part in Elton John's living room gig Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys are among stars taking part in a fund-raising "living room" gig hosted by Sir Elton John to provide entertainment during isolation. The stars, who are staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic, will film themselves performing on their own mobile phone or camera and audio equipment "to ensure the health and safety of all involved", according to a statement. In an hour-long concert, stars will also pay tribute to health workers on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and fans will be able to donate to charities helping victims and key workers. Viewers will be asked to support two of the charitable organisations aiding victims and first responders during the pandemic: Feeding America and First Responders Children's Foundation. The concert will air on Sunday in the broadcasting slot on US network Fox that had originally been reserved for the iHeart Radio Music Awards. The awards show became part of a wave of cancelled events as the virus started to spread. Other musicians set to take part are Backstreet Boys, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and Tim McGraw. Sir Elton, who celebrated his 73rd birthday on Wednesday, shared a video of his lockdown birthday celebrations with his family on his Instagram page. Earlier in March, he posted a photograph of himself holding a poster referencing his husband and sons, saying "#IStayHomeFor David Furnish, Zachary and Elijah". The day after Sir Elton's show, Eilish will be taking part in another streamed show, hosted by James Corden. The British presenter will bring celebrities from around the world together for a Late Late Show special, called Homefest, from his garage on Monday. As well as Eilish, acts set to perform include BTS in South Korea, Dua Lipa in London, and John Legend in LA. Scores of music tours, shows and festivals have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, including Glastonbury in the UK and Coachella in the US. On the big screen, several films have seen release dates pushed back - including the much-anticipated new James Bond film, No Time To Die, for which Eilish has recorded the theme song. Originally due to launch at the beginning of April, Daniel Craig's last outing as 007 is now scheduled for release in November.
Fears grow Russia could use US basketball star Brittney Griner as ‘hostage’
Brittney Griner (42) faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. Photograph: Ralph Freso/AP Olympic champion detained in Russia over drug allegations Texas congresswoman calls for player’s release A Texas congresswoman has called for Russia to release Brittney Griner as fears grow Vladimir Putin could use the US basketball star as a pawn during the war in Ukraine. The two-time Olympic champion has been detained by Russian customs authorities, who claim they discovered vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. The arrest took place last month and the 31-year-old faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of bringing drugs into Russia. The situation comes as the US places sanctions on Russia after Putin ordered his forces to invade Ukraine last month. “We know that there were some issues dealing with vape cartridges and other items but let me be very clear,” said Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents Griner’s hometown of Houston, Texas, in Congress. “Brittney Griner is a United States citizen, she was a guest in Russia … and I will be demanding her release.” Lee said that Russia’s actions in Ukraine undermined their detention of Griner. “I don’t want to disregard a sovereign nation but Putin has disregarded sovereign nations his entire service in this world,” Lee said. “Anyone that is killing and attacking and destroying Ukraine, a neighboring country that is not bothering them, has no right to hold Ms Griner. Period.” Meanwhile, a former Pentagon official told Yahoo Sports she feared Griner could become a “high-profile hostage”. Brittney Griner: American women’s basketball superstar detained in Russia
Read more “If we want her out of jail, Russia is going to have some terms,” said Evelyn Farkas, who served as the US deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia and Ukraine from 2012 to 2015. “It could be a prisoner swap. They also could use it as an implicit threat or blackmail to get us to do something or not do something. Either way, they find it useful.” In a statement to the Guardian, Griner’s agent Lindsay Colas said: “We are aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams, and the WNBA and NBA. “As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not able to comment further on the specifics of her case but can confirm that as we work to get her home, her mental and physical health remain our primary concern.” The WNBA said in a release that Griner has the league’s “full support” and “our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States”. Griner, like many of her fellow WNBA players, also competes in Russia during the league’s offseason. She has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2015, helping the Russian club to three domestic titles and EuroLeague Women championships in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2021. Her annual salary of $1m with Ekaterinburg is far in excess of her earnings in the WNBA, where the maximum salary is $228,000. Griner, a 6ft 9in center, is considered one of the best players in the world. She won gold medals with Team USA at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, the WNBA title with the Phoenix Mercury in 2014 and has been named an WNBA All-Star seven times.