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Inside the media frenzy around the Queen’s funeral

NEW YORK (AP) — When word came that Queen Elizabeth II was close to her death, media organizations around the world sprang to life, dispatching reporters to a royal castle in Scotland and breaking out coverage plans decades in the making.

At age 96, the queen’s passing was hardly a surprise. Still, the British royal succession is a media event on steroids that will culminate in Monday’s live coverage of funeral services from Westminster Abbey.

“It’s something I’ve always sort of dreaded and anticipated and worried about,” said Deb Thompson, assistant London bureau chief for CBS News in the United States, recalling nights spent obsessing over the details.

So far, it’s all gone smoothly and she pronounces herself awed by the spectacle.

Woe to those who didn’t plan ahead, however.

The director of U.K.’s Foreign Press Association said the organization has been inundated with requests for accreditation from television and radio broadcasters all over the world. The association tries to help them navigate government and royal protocols.

“You’d have thought the royal weddings reached the maximum level of interest, but no,” said director Deborah Bonetti. “It’s a tsunami of people who have no idea what to do in order to broadcast these proceedings from London.”

Even accredited journalists are fighting for positions, “so if you’re just flying in … you’re unlikely to get one,” she said.

Within Britain, the well-rehearsed coverage of remembrances and ceremonial events has been deferential to a fault, said Steven Barnett, communications professor at the University of Westminster. Critical reflection on the queen’s life or the monarchy’s role in modern society — of which there has been coverage around the world — has almost entirely been banished to social media, he said.

In a circling of the wagons, The New York Times was criticized in Britain for an article that talked about the “hefty” price tag of a royal funeral being paid for by state funds at a time many Britons are hurting financially.

“There are no depths to which the @nytimes won’t stoop to in its anti-British propaganda,” journalist Andrew Neil, a former editor at the Sunday Times in London said on Twitter.

In the United States, the coverage has mostly focused on the passing of an era, and the solemn services, said Marlene Koenig, who manages the Royal Musings blog from her Virginia home.

“It has been respectful,” she said. “I won’t use the term reverential. We have to remember the British monarch is very much a part of our history and heritage.”

Mourners who sought to pay their last respects to the queen as her coffin was lying in state this week were met with a crowd of reporters, microphones and video cameras as they waited to enter Westminster Hall and again as they left.

Why did they come? What did the moment mean to them? How did it feel to see the coffin? Reporters asked to check the wristbands of people in line to get a sense of how many were waiting.

On Thursday, the media’s desire to show as much as it could of mourners passing by the monarch’s coffin conflicted with the control-conscious palace’s desire for dignity and decorum.

The palace issued a list of rules for video coverage that included, for example, no depiction of the royal family “showing visible signs of distress” or “any inappropriate conduct” by members of the public or otherwise.

When one of the ceremonial guards beside the queen’s coffin fainted, the BBC cut off its live feed, and the use of video that showed what happened was restricted, even though still pictures showed up on newspaper websites.

Many news organizations had long-term agreements on where their journalists would be placed for the signature events. NBC News, for example, is using the same location it used to cover King Charles III’s wedding to Diana and Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton.

“The Brits do pomp and circumstance like no others,” said Tom Mazzarelli, executive producer of NBC’s “Today” show in the U.S.

American broadcasters have been all-in on queen coverage, too. Television networks are sending their biggest news stars to anchor Monday’s funeral coverage: Robin Roberts and David Muir of ABC News; Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt and Hoda Kotb of NBC; Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell of CBS.

Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997 was watched by a huge audience: 33 million in the United States alone on a Saturday morning.

Even without royalty, funerals of major figures symbolize an era’s end and are often big television draws. Former President Ronald Reagan’s prime-time burial in 2004 had 35 million viewers, the Nielsen company said.

The queen’s death received major coverage elsewhere in the world, often dictated or complicated by Britain’s relationships with the countries where it was shown.

In Hong Kong, a former British colony turned over to China in 1997, most local news outlets ran reports on the British ceremonies. But some television channels have been careful reporting on the city’s own tributes to the queen.

The Now TV network edited a Facebook post and news report that showed Hong Kong residents leaving flowers at the British consulate to remove an interview with one resident who said a long line of people waiting to pay respects to the queen “shows what people want.”

Local media reported the pro-Beijing head of news at Now TV ordered the changes. The network did not give an explanation.

Heavy coverage of the queen’s death in India, once Britain’s largest colony, quickly faded. For older residents, the British royal family represents a painful part of history, but to most Indians they’re just another celebrity family.

In Syria, where President Bashar Assad considers Britain part of a coalition funding insurgents in the country’s 11-year conflict, state TV gave little attention to the news.

Co-hosts of the major morning TV shows in Australia, a constitutional monarchy where the queen was sovereign, traveled to London to cover the events. Regular guests of the programs were required to dress in dark clothing.

Widespread coverage in Japan often drew parallels to the increasingly controversial state funeral plans later this month for the assassinated former leader Shinzo Abe.

British ceremonial events are “catnip for television networks,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, a veteran American network executive now dean of Hofstra University’s School of Communication.

But after more than a week, they have their limits, said Barnett, the British professor.

“It’s gotten to the point where a lot of people are thinking, ‘we’ve kind of had enough now,’” he said.

___

Sylvia Hui, Samya Kullab and Jill Lawless from London; Bassem Mroue from Beirut, Lebanon; Mari Yamaguchi from Tokyo, Japan; Zen Soo from Hong Kong; Krutika Pathi from New Delhi, India; and Rod McGuirk from Canberra, Australia contributed to this report.

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Elon Musk’s ‘peace’ plan for Russia and Ukraine met with backlash

Elon Musk took a break from his day job of leading carmaker Tesla and space cargo company SpaceX to post a “peace” plan for ending the war in Ukraine. But his proposal was quickly met with backlash—including from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On Monday, Musk posted a poll on Twitter with four suggestions to ending the war. The first: Enlist the United Nations to supervise a redo of the recent sham elections by Russia of four Ukrainian regions that it formally annexed last week. Next, he called for Crimea—invaded by Russia in 2014 and currently occupied by it—to formally become part of Russia. Then, he said Crimea’s water supply should be assured. And lastly, he argued, Ukraine should remain neutral rather than joining NATO. 

“This is highly likely to be the outcome in the end – just a question of how many die before then,” Musk wrote, as a follow up. “Also worth noting that a possible, albeit unlikely, outcome from this conflict is nuclear war.” 

Less than three hours after his first tweet, Zelensky responded to Musk with his own poll, mocking Musk’s plan. 

“Which @elonmusk do you like more?” Zelensky asked. The two choices? One who supports Ukraine, and one who supports Russia. 

Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, also piled on Musk in atypical fashion for a diplomat. “Fuck off is my very diplomatic reply to you,” he wrote. Melnyk later added that no Ukrainian would ever buy a Tesla, telling Musk “good luck.”

Musk, however, persisted. 

“Let’s try this then: the will of the people who live in the Donbas & Crimea should decide whether they’re part of Russia or Ukraine,” he wrote—asking his Twitter followers to answer either “yes” or “no.”

Financial Times correspondent Christopher Miller replied to Musk’s tweet, referring to the Ukrainian Independence Referendum, when Ukrainians were asked to vote on the country’s independence.

“Let’s not try that, @elonmusk,” he wrote. “The people of Donbas & Crimea made their decision in 1991, when Ukrainians from those areas & all others voted freely & unanimously to be in Ukraine.” 

Donbas, a region in Eastern Ukraine, is now nearly fully occupied by Russia. But Ukraine has vowed to liberate it. 

In suggesting Crimea—a peninsula that’s been at the center of Russia and Ukraine’s conflicts—should formally become part of Russia, Musk made clear his belief that the region belongs to Russia, adding that Crimea’s being transferred to Ukraine from Russia by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was a “mistake.” 

A top advisor to Zelensky responded sarcastically to Musk’s Twitter diplomacy  by saying there was a “better peace plan”—including Ukraine liberating its territories, Russia demilitarizing and denuclearizing so it can no longer threaten others, and war criminals be put on trial. 

It’s not just Ukrainian officials who pushed back against Musk. Many of his Twitter followers sounded off in the comments, calling him a “disappointment” and asking that he refrain from weighing in on a topic so outside of his expertise.  

Despite the often hostile response, Musk gave his peace plan one more push on Twitter. 

“Russia is doing partial mobilization. They go to full war mobilization if Crimea is at risk. Death on both sides will be devastating,” the tweet said. “Russia has >3 times population of Ukraine, so victory for Ukraine is unlikely in total war. If you care about the people of Ukraine, seek peace.”

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Global recession could happen because of wealthy nations raising interest rates, United Nations says

Governments around the world are determined to bring down inflation whatever the cost, but a growing chorus of voices is pointing out that aggressive monetary policies could have some serious and long-lasting consequences on the world economy.

Central banks in the U.S., Europe, and the U.K. have pursued relentless monetary tightening policies this year to reduce domestic inflation, but transnational institutions including the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund have warned that this approach could push the world into a long period of low economic growth and persistently high prices, according to a Monday report.

“The world is headed towards a global recession and prolonged stagnation unless we quickly change the current policy course of monetary and fiscal tightening in advanced economies,” the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) cautioned in an annual global trade forecast report released on Monday.

The report predicted that current monetary policies in wealthy nations could spark an economic downturn worldwide, with growth slipping from 2.5% in 2022 to 2.2% next year. The UN says that such a slowdown would leave global GDP well below its pre-pandemic norm, and cost the world economy around $17 trillion, or 20% of the world’s income. And developing nations will be the most negatively impacted, according to the report, and many might be facing a recession worse than any financial crisis in the past 20 years.

“The policy moves that we have seen in advanced economies are affecting economic, social, and climate goals. They are hitting the poorest the hardest,” Unctad director Rebeca Grynspan said in a statement accompanying the report’s release.

“They could inflict worse damage than the financial crisis in 2008,” Grynspan said.

A ‘policy-induced’ recession

The UN agency made clear it will hold central banks around the world responsible for causing the next global recession.

“Excessive monetary tightening and inadequate financial support” in advanced economies could backfire spectacularly, resulting in high levels of public and private debt in the developing world, the report says.

Rising interest rates and fears of a coming recession have sent the value of the U.S. dollar soaring against all other currencies this year. And while this has been great news for American tourists traveling abroad, it’s a fiscal nightmare for developing countries, where import prices are rising fast and servicing dollar-denominated debt is becoming untenably expensive.

Debt levels in emerging markets have been hitting record highs for months, but the strong dollar has exacerbated uneven balances and raised inflation in developing nations as well, according to a separate economic report from the UN published on Monday.

With debt becoming more expensive to service, emerging economies have fewer funds available to invest in health care, climate resilience, and other critical infrastructure, the Unctad report warned, which could lead to a prolonged period of economic stagnation.

“We may be on the edge of a policy-induced global recession,” Grynspan said. 

The report urged advanced economies to consider ways to reduce inflation other than raising interest rates. Grynspan insisted that inflation in every country today is because of a “distributional crisis,” caused by supply-chain bottlenecks unresolved from the pandemic-era, and recommended wealthy nations invest more in developing nations and optimizing supply chains around the world.

Grynspan also called for more debt relief and restructuring packages for emerging economies that are struggling to service their debt.

Unctad joins a growing number of transnational institutions calling on wealthy nations to consider what their efforts to reduce inflation at home is doing to the global economy. Last week, World Bank president David Malpass urged wealthy countries to focus on the supply side of the inflation problem by investing more in production in developing nations and in optimizing supply chains.

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Khloé Kardashian takes a brain scan to prove her emotional trauma

If you have the resources, why not undergo a $3,500 test to prove your brain’s been impacted by cheating, loss, and other forms of emotional trauma. Khloé Kardashian did just that, aiming to prove she’s survived emotional trauma and to counter an online quiz she took that said she lacks resilience. 

In the latest episode of Hulu’s The Kardashians, Khloé underwent a single-photon emission computed tomography, or SPECT scan, after being convinced by sister Kendall Jenner who says it showed her she “100%” has anxiety. The scan is a nuclear imaging tool that uses a gamma camera to examine the brain’s activity, producing a 3D image for a doctor to use to see which areas of the brain are most active. X-rays are helpful to examine the body’s anatomy but have difficulty capturing soft tissue the way a nuclear scan can, which is more helpful at looking at organ function, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

Khloé met with Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist and author of You, Happier: The 7 Neuroscience Secrets of Feeling Good Based on Your Brain Type. He explained that the SPECT scan can show where her brain’s blood is flowing, and measures brain activity. 

“It looks at how your brain works,” he explains to Khloé. Other celebrities, including Bella Hadid, have also take the scan with Amen.

When looking at the imaging results of the “emotional brain” scan, Amen explains how you can assess which parts of the brain are overactive or “way too busy” based on blood flow, a way to show the impact of anxiety. 

“You worry, and you can be anxious, and you’ve had trauma,” says Amen, as he describes Khloé’s scan and shows a “diamond” on the screen. “This often will go with emotional trauma.” 

Amen showed Khloé her physical or outer brain image which was “hurt.” Khloé opened up on the show about being in a car crash when she was 16, something the physical image of the brain scan picked up on. The other image Amen showed was the emotional brain scan. She also noted her dad passing away when she was 19, her emotional stress dealing with a past partner who struggled with drug abuse, as well as finding out she was being cheated on while she was pregnant. A lot of this trauma she learned from social media, she says.

“It surprises me that a scan is able to pick up on things that are emotional and not just physical,” Khloé says in a reflection of her experience on the show. This type of scan is used to identify other mental disorders like ADHD and dementia. 

A study found that traumatic events have an impact on the brain, specifically in the amygdala, which regulates emotions; the hippocampus, which regulates memory; and the prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in decision making. For those with anxiety, for example, brain scans can show overactivity in the amygdala or emotional processing area, although they aren’t the sole way of identifying mental health issues.  

Khloé’s brain scan shows she may have been affected by cheating or loss, but emotional trauma doesn’t have to be permanent. Neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change and create new thought patterns, is a hopeful note that the brain’s emotional trauma is not permanent. 

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