BBC 2024-03-10 10:01:36

Princess of Wales: First official picture of Kate since surgery released

The first official photo of the Princess of Wales since her abdominal surgery in January has been released by Kensington Palace.

The image, taken by Prince William earlier this week, shows the princess with her three children.

The photo is accompanied by a Mother’s Day message along with a “thank you” from the princess for the public’s “continued support”.

She is not expected to return to public duties before Easter.

In a message shared on social media, Catherine said: “Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months.

“Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day.”

The photo shows the princess sitting down, surrounded by Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis and Prince George, wrapping his arms around her.

Catherine, 42, spent 13 nights at the London Clinic, near Regent’s Park in central London, following the surgery.

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Prince William visited his wife during her stay and she was visited by the King before he had his own treatment there.

The Palace has shared few details about her condition, which has garnered significant social media speculation, but has said it is not cancer-related.

It said when it announced her surgery that the the princess wanted her personal medical information to remain private.

It continued: “She hopes that the public will understand her desire to maintain as much normality for her children as possible.”

It said it would only provide updates on her recovery when there was significant new information to share.

US military ship heading to Gaza to build port

A US military ship is sailing towards the Middle East, carrying equipment to build a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza, the army says.

The support ship, General Frank S Besson, set sail from a military base in the state of Virginia on Saturday.

It comes after President Joe Biden said the US would build the floating harbour to help get aid into Gaza by sea.

The UN has warned that famine in the Gaza Strip is “almost inevitable” and children are starving to death.

Aid deliveries by land and air have proved difficult and dangerous.

The World Food Programme had to pause land deliveries after its convoys came under gunfire and looting. And on Friday, there were reports that five people had been killed by a falling aid package, when its parachute failed to open properly.

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The US ship departed “less than 36 hours” after Mr Biden made his announcement, US Central Command wrote on X.

It is “carrying the first equipment to establish a temporary pier to deliver vital humanitarian supplies” to Gaza, the statement continued.

The Pentagon has said it could take up to 60 days to build the pier with the help of 1,000 troops – none of whom would go ashore.

Charities have said those suffering in Gaza cannot wait that long.

Meanwhile, an aid ship laden with some 200 tonnes of food was still waiting for clearance to set sail from a port in Cyprus on Sunday morning.

It is hoped the vessel, Open Arms, will be able to depart before Monday, following an EU announcement that a new sea route would be opened over the weekend to allow aid to sail directly from Cyprus – the closest EU country to Gaza.

The ship belongs to the Spanish charity of the same name, Open Arms, and the food on board has been provided by US charity World Central Kitchen.

It is unclear how any aid delivered by sea would get safely to shore before the US pier is built. Gaza has no functioning port and its surrounding waters are too shallow for large vessels.

However Oscar Camps, the founder of Open Arms, told the Associated Press that at the destination point – which remains a secret – a team from the World Central Kitchen has been building a pier to receive the aid.

Israel has welcomed the ocean initiative, and said aid would be delivered after security checks were carried out in Cyprus “in accordance with Israeli standards”.

Israel’s military launched an air and ground campaign in the Gaza Strip after Hamas’s attacks on Israel on 7 October, in which about 1,200 people were killed and 253 others were taken hostage.

More than 30,900 people have been killed in Gaza since then, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.

The conflict has created a growing humanitarian crisis, and the UN has warned that at least 576,000 people across the Gaza Strip – one quarter of the population – are facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity.

Western countries have pressed Israel to expand land deliveries by facilitating more routes and opening additional crossings.

Lorries have been entering the south of Gaza through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing and the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing. But the north, which was the focus of the first phase of the Israeli ground offensive, has been largely cut off from assistance in recent months.

An estimated 300,000 Palestinians are living there with little food or clean water.

Israel has been accused of hampering aid efforts, and an independent UN expert last week accused it of mounting “a starvation campaign against the Palestinian people in Gaza”.

Yeela Cytrin, a legal adviser at the Israeli mission to the UN, responded that “Israel utterly rejects allegations that it is using starvation as a tool of war”, before walking out in protest.

IDF completes road across width of Gaza, satellite images show

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has finished building a new road which runs across northern Gaza from east to west, according to satellite images verified by the BBC.

The IDF told the BBC they were attempting to gain an “operational foothold”, and facilitate the movement of troops and equipment.

But some experts fear it will used as a barrier, preventing Palestinians from returning to their homes in the north.

Others said it appeared to be part of an Israeli plan to remain in Gaza beyond the end of current hostilities.

In February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled a post-war vision in which Israel would control security in Gaza indefinitely.

International leaders have previously warned Israel against permanently displacing Palestinians or reducing the size of Gaza.

What do we know about the road?

It runs across north Gaza, with central and southern areas lying below it. It starts at Gaza’s border fence with Israel near the Nahal Oz kibbutz and finishes near the coast.

It also intersects with the Salah al-Din and al-Rashid roads, the two major arteries running through the territory.

Although there is a network of roads which connect east and west, the new IDF route is the only one which runs uninterrupted across Gaza.

Satellite imagery analysis by the BBC reveals that the IDF has built over 5km (3 miles) of new road sections to join up previously unconnected roads.

The initial section of the road in eastern Gaza near the Israeli border was established between late last October and early November. But most of the new sections were built during February and in early March.

The new route is wider than a typical road in Gaza, excluding Salah al-Din.

Imagery analysis also shows that buildings along the route, which appear to be warehouses, were demolished from the end of December until late January. This includes one building several stories high.

The road spans an area which previously had fewer buildings and was less densely populated than other parts of Gaza.

It also sits below a makeshift and winding route which the IDF had been using to move from east to west.

An Israeli TV channel reported on the route in February, saying it was code named “Highway 749”. A reporter from Channel 14 travelled along parts of the route with the Israeli military.

In the video, road construction vehicles and diggers were seen preparing for the construction of new sections of the route.

How ‘Highway 749’ could be used

Analysts at Janes, a defence intelligence company, said the type of unpaved road surface seen in the Channel 14 footage, was suitable for tracked armoured vehicles.

The IDF did not go into this type of detail in its statement. “As part of the ground operation, the IDF uses an operational route of passage,” it said.

Retired Brig Gen Jacob Nagel, former head of Israel’s National Security Council and a former security adviser to Mr Netanyahu, told BBC Arabic that the objective of the new route was to provide fast access for security forces when dealing with fresh threats.

“It will help Israel go in and out… because Israel is going to have total defence, security and responsibility for Gaza,” he told BBC Arabic.

He described it as “a road that divides the northern part from the southern part”.

“We don’t want to wait until a threat is emerging,” he added.

Maj Gen Yaakov Amidror, formerly of the IDF, had a similar view. The primary purpose of the new road was to “facilitate logistical and military control in the region”, he said.

Justin Crump, a former British Army officer who runs Sibylline, a risk intelligence company, said the new route was significant.

“It certainly looks like it’s part of a longer-term strategy to have at least some form of security intervention and control in the Gaza Strip,” said Mr Crump.

“This area cuts off Gaza City from the south of the strip, making it an effective control line to monitor or limit movement, and has relatively open fields of fire.”

Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the US-based Middle East Institute, also thinks the road is a long-term project.

“It appears that the Israeli military will remain in Gaza indefinitely,” he told the BBC.

“By dividing Gaza in half, Israel will control not only what goes in and out of Gaza, but also movement within Gaza,” said the analyst.

“This includes quite possibly preventing the 1.5 million displaced Palestinians in the south from returning to their homes in the north.”

Additional reporting by Paul Cusiac, Alex Murray & Erwan Rivault

Oscars 2024: Who will win – and who should?

Oppenheimer is the favourite for several awards – but there are bound to be a few surprises. BBC Culture’s film critics give their predictions for the big categories.

Cillian Murphy and Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan (Credit: Universal)

1. Best picture

You can never be quite sure which film will win the top prize at the Oscars: in recent years, both The Power of the Dog and La La Land seemed to have it in the bag, but both of them were beaten. All the same, it would be a major upset if Oppenheimer wasn’t named best picture this year. It’s a film with a heavyweight subject and a stellar cast, but it’s also technically dazzling: Christopher Nolan’s biopic of J Robert Oppenheimer is far more intricate than the average Hollywood “based on a true story” drama. There are also the little matters of how phenomenally successful it’s been at the global box office, how thoroughly it has dominated awards season, and how commandingly it leads the field in terms of Oscar nominations – 13 in total. I can’t honestly say that Oppenheimer is my own favourite of the best picture contenders, but it would (and will) be a worthy winner. (Nicholas Barber)

When the best picture category expanded from five to 10 nominated films in 2009, the change was spurred by backlash to the way Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster The Dark Knight was snubbed the previous year. Now it’s full-circle time. Nolan’s explosive yet character-driven epic Oppenheimer, with a perfect balance of art and commerce, is poised to win best picture. Killers of the Flower Moon and Poor Things are also great in their different ways, but Oppenheimer’s ambition and invention make it, deservedly, this year’s best. (Caryn James)

Best director nominee Christopher Nolan (Credit: Universal)

2. Best director

Every film Christopher Nolan has made has deserved to put him in a best director race. OK, maybe not Insomnia or Interstellar, but almost every one, from Memento to Inception and this year’s likely best picture winner Oppenheimer, which he also wrote. He has never won, but this is his year, and not only because he should win. He recently picked up the Directors Guild Award, usually a good predictor of how the Oscar will go. More than any other film this year, Oppenheimer is shaped by a singular director’s vision. (CJ)

Christopher Nolan will win for directing Oppenheimer, of course. He directed Memento, The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar, Dunkirk, and a Batman trilogy, and yet he’s never won an Oscar, so it’s undoubtedly his turn to take home a golden statuette or three. (He could also take home one for writing the film, and another for producing it.) Besides, you don’t have to know much about directing to recognise that overseeing an enterprise as complicated as Oppenheimer is a colossal achievement. It gives you the sense that Nolan took every lesson he learnt from his other films and applied them to this, his most ambitious project to date. Mind you, all of the other best director nominees did terrific jobs, too. It wouldn’t be unjust if Jonathan Glazer, Yorgos Lanthimos, Martin Scorsese or Justine Triet was handed the Oscar. But this is Nolan’s moment. (NB)

Best actor nominee Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer (Credit: Universal)

3. Best actor

This category isn’t done and dusted. Cillian Murphy has to be the favourite for his riveting performance in Oppenheimer, because he’s just won the lead actor prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. But voters might prefer not to give every single Oscar to Oppenheimer, especially as there are a couple of well-loved American actors in contention. Neither Paul Giamatti nor Jeffrey Wright has ever won an Academy Award, as illustrious as their careers have been, so either one of them could be rewarded for their rich, humane characterisations in The Holdovers and American Fiction, respectively. Murphy would be my choice for a role that required him to cover so many different moods in so many different time periods, but I wouldn’t be too upset if Giamatti won instead. (NB)

Cillian Murphy is likely to win this award, as he should. His restrained yet stirring performance makes his character the tortured soul of Oppenheimer. There’s still an outside chance Paul Giamatti might win for his wry, touching performance in The Holdovers. After all, Giamatti’s role as a cranky teacher is flashier, the kind Oscar voters often go for over more nuanced performances. But Murphy’s recent win over Giamatti at the Screen Actors Guild Awards – with actors the largest block of Oscar voters – gives him the edge. (CJ)

Best actress nominee Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon (Credit: Apple Studios)

4. Best actress

This was always a race between Lily Gladstone and Emma Stone, two extraordinary and extraordinarily different performances, but it seems that Gladstone has pulled ahead, winning the SAG award. She deserves to win for her beautiful, subtle performance as Molly Burkhart, the heart of Killers of the Flower Moon. As with the best actor race, this isn’t entirely a sure thing, because Stone’s flamboyant turn as the Frankensteinian feminist Bella Baxter is more conspicuous “Acting”. But Stone has won before, for La La Land, and Gladstone’s win would be historic, making her the first Native American to win best actress, so the Oscar should go her way. (CJ)

Lily Gladstone for Killers of the Flower Moon and Emma Stone for Poor Things are neck and neck. To me, Gladstone is in more of a supporting role than a lead role, and the campaign to position her as the film’s heroine has been slightly dishonest. (If the story of Killers of the Flower Moon had indeed been told from her character’s perspective, it would have been a better film.) But Gladstone has spoken eloquently about the importance of seeing Native Americans on screen, and Stone has already won an Oscar, so voters might well feel that picking Gladstone would be the right thing to do. My own choice would be Carey Mulligan, who was magnificent as Leonard Bernstein’s wife in Maestro, but Bradley Cooper’s film doesn’t seem to be turning its nominations into wins this awards season. (NB)

Best supporting actor nominee Robert Downey Jr in Oppenheimer (Credit: Universal)

5. Best supporting actor

This is another category that is beginning to feel like a foregone conclusion. Robert Downey Jr brings all of his usual intensity and charisma to the role of Lewis Strauss in Oppenheimer, but there’s subtlety and depth there, too. Rather than just being a spiteful antagonist, Strauss seethes with fear and insecurity. Besides, when Downey Jr played Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he was one of Hollywood’s most valuable assets: just look at how Marvel has wobbled since he left the team. An Academy Award would be a thank-you for all the billions of dollars he has helped to generate, as well as an acknowledgement that there is more to him than Tony Stark’s fast-talking bravado. Personally, I’d be tempted to give the prize to Ryan Gosling, who is so hilarious in Barbie – although, as I’ve said before, he’s really the film’s co-lead, so by rights he shouldn’t be in this category at all. (NB)

This category is loaded with strong performances, but it’s also one of the easiest to call. Robert Downey Jr, who has been picking up awards all season as Oppenheimer’s antagonist, will win. It’s hard to argue against that when his performance is so unflinching and strong. But Robert De Niro does some of his best work in years in Killers of the Flower Moon, and deserves it just as much. And Ryan Gosling is as funny as they come in Barbie, but comedy has a hard time competing with drama. Gosling will sing I’m Just Ken in the show, though, which is all I’ve really wanted from this year’s Oscars. (CJ)

Best supporting actress nominee Da’Vine Joy Randolph in The Holdovers (Credit: Focus Features)

6. Best supporting actress

This category is the easiest to call. Da’Vine Joy Randolph has won every major award so far – the prestigious Bafta, the less prestigious Golden Globe, the SAG Award. Every. Single. One. And she should win. Her performance in The Holdovers as Mary, a grieving mother who works as a cook at a private school, is heartfelt yet unsentimental, laced with comedy as her character tangles with Paul Giamatti’s. The film wouldn’t be the same without her. It doesn’t hurt her chances that she has given some modest and inspiring acceptance speeches. (CJ)

Emily Blunt, Danielle Brooks, America Ferrara and Jodie Foster can all relax and enjoy their champagne on Oscar night, because they won’t have to worry about making a speech. Throughout awards season, one thing that everyone has agreed on is that the Oscar for best supporting actress belongs to Da’Vine Joy Randolph for her tender performance as the bereaved school cook in The Holdovers. She has already won countless prizes for the role, including a Golden Globe, a Bafta and a Screen Actors Guild award, and she has managed to make a moving and funny speech every time. I wouldn’t be surprised if her name was engraved on the trophy weeks ago. (NB)

Cord Jefferson, writer-director of best adapted screenplay nominee American Fiction (Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc)

7. Best adapted screenplay

The five contenders for best adapted screenplay are Oppenheimer, Barbie, Poor Things, The Zone of Interest and American Fiction – and the least impressive of them all will probably win. American Fiction is an enjoyable, grown-up adaptation of Erasure, a novel by Percival Everett. But the film’s writer-director, Cord Jefferson, made the satire broad and obvious, and he didn’t intertwine that satire with the main character’s various family troubles. Meanwhile, all four of the other screenplays on the shortlist did astoundingly bold and difficult things with their source material, assuming that they used the source material at all: Barbie counts as “adapted” for no other reason than that Barbie and Ken dolls already existed, while Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest took nothing from Martin Amis’s novel except the title. I’d be delighted if Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach won for their bravely bonkers Barbie script, because, despite being last year’s biggest film, it doesn’t look as if it’s going to do too well at the Oscars. (NB)

The Baftas rarely predict the Oscars, but Cord Jefferson’s win for adapted screenplay there, along with his Independent Spirit Award, suggests the kind of momentum that puts him in the lead. Voters obviously like American Fiction, which earned nominations for best Picture, best actor for Jeffrey Wright and an unexpected best supporting actor for Sterling K Brown. It won’t win in those categories, so rewarding Jefferson’s screenplay is a way of recognising the film. Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach also deserve an Oscar for their creative and triumphant take on Barbie, but I’m guessing that the sheer lunacy of the Academy putting that screenplay in the adapted category will work against it. (CJ)

Best original screenplay nominee Anatomy of a Fall (Credit: Neon)

8. Best original screenplay

Anatomy of a Fall is almost certain to win this one easily. As in the adapted category, it has strong voter support – a best picture nomination and best director for Justine Triet – that will trickle down from the categories the film won’t win, and give it a boost here. Celine Song’s delicate Past Lives is also a wonder of a screenplay, and if there’s an upset, that would be it. But between these two gem-like screenplays, without a single extraneous scene, the bracing Anatomy of a Fall will come through. (CJ)

Anatomy of a Fall was the winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last May, and since then it’s won numerous prizes in numerous categories, but its screenplay has been especially well received. No wonder. The film is both a gripping mystery and a searing portrait of an ailing marriage, with dialogue that crackles in the domestic scenes and the courtroom scenes alike. What’s more, it crackles in three different languages. Another frontrunner in this category is David Hemingson’s screenplay for The Holdovers, a highly polished, life-affirming work that glitters with colourful details. Either of them could win – and Celine Song’s spellbinding screenplay for Past Lives is in with a chance – but the warmth of The Holdovers might just give it the edge. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking as I’m so fond of it myself. (NB)

Best international film nominee The Zone of Interest (Credit: A24)

9. Best international film

Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest is an extraordinary work of art that approaches the horrors of the Holocaust from a startlingly original angle. It’s my own film of the year, and I’d be pleased if it somehow won the best picture prize, but I know that’s not very likely. What is likely, though, is that it will win the Oscar for best international film; none of the other contenders has generated the same buzz. The quirk here is that each country chooses which film to enter in this category, and France went for The Taste of Things – a film that, ultimately, didn’t make it on to the Academy’s shortlist. If France had entered Anatomy of a Fall instead, it might well have beaten The Zone of Interest; after all, it has five Oscar nominations, including one for best picture. But as it is, Glazer’s film is sure to triumph. I certainly hope so, anyway. (NB)

By now, the French committee that submitted The Taste of Things instead of Anatomy of a Fall must realise what a mistake that was. The Taste of Things didn’t even get nominated, and Anatomy of a Fall might have won, or at least given The Zone of Interest some real competition. As it is, Jonathan Glazer’s Holocaust drama, which takes us inside the banal evil of a Nazi family, is the sure winner here. If I were a voter, though, I’d choose Matteo Garrone’s Io Capitano, the piercingly beautiful and timely migrant story of a teenager trying desperately to make his way from Senegal to Italy. (CJ)

Best animated feature nominee The Boy and the Heron (Credit: Gkids)

10. Best animated feature

Hayao Miyazaki’s glorious The Boy and the Heron or the popular, creative Spiderman: Across the Spider-Verse? That’s what this race comes down to, and it could go either way. Both are wonderfully inventive and beautifully made. I think Miyazaki should win and probably will, if only to honour his long career and a film that may or may not be his last. (He has been cagey about that.) And there’s always another Spiderman. (CJ)

Elemental wasn’t the greatest of Pixar’s cartoons, and neither Nimona nor Robot Dreams made a deep impression, as wonderful as they both are, so that leaves Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and The Boy and the Heron. My assumption is that Spidey will swing away with the Oscar. And fair enough – the way it crams a wealth of animation styles and techniques into one kinetic pop-art extravaganza is awe-inspiring. But the same could be said of the first film in the series, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and that won the Oscar for best animated feature in 2019. Should the Academy really be honouring a sequel that is doing more of the same? I don’t believe so, but they gave Toy Story 4 an Oscar, so the voters obviously see things differently. I’d prefer if they plumped for Hiyao Miyazaki’s mind-boggling The Boy and the Heron. The 83-year-old Studio Ghibli legend last won an Oscar in this category for Spirited Away back in 2003, so it would be lovely if he won another before he finally retires. (NB)

Best documentary feature nominee 20 Days in Mariupol (Credit: AP Photo)

11. Best documentary feature

Last year’s winner of the Oscar for best documentary was Navalny, a film about the Russian opposition leader who campaigned against the invasion of Ukraine (and who has since died in a Russian prison). The chances are that the Academy will get behind a critique of Vladimir Putin’s regime this year, too. 20 Days in Mariupol, written and directed by the Pulitzer prize-winning Mstyslav Chernov, is a harrowing first-hand account of his experiences in a Ukrainian port city which was besieged by Russian forces in 2022. The film is already a Bafta winner, and will probably be an Oscar winner, too. Rightly so. (NB)

Some documentaries have big artistic goals, and others work primarily because of their subject, like last year’s winner, Navalny, more relevant than ever after Alexei Navalny’s death. This year’s likely and deserving winner, 20 Days in Mariupol, is another political, subject-driven film. Its reporting from a city in Ukraine in the midst of war is visceral, eye-opening and tough, and may also gain votes thanks to wide support for Ukraine in the US and Europe. Kaouther Ben Hania’s Four Daughters is also political and more artful, blending actors with real people in documenting the story of a mother who saw two of her daughters recruited to the Islamic State group. But the unforgettable Mariupol is even more compelling. (CJ)

Best original score nominee Oppenheimer (Credit: Universal)

12. Best original score

I know it’s getting repetitive, but: Oppenheimer. Ludwig Goransson’s eloquent score is spot-on, reflecting the intensity of the main character when it should, and the drama of the bomb at other times. It is elegant orchestral music with an eerie soundscape of effects that deserves its likely win. The late Robbie Robertson, who worked with Martin Scorsese for decades, is nominated for Killers of the Flower Moon, his final score. That may exert some emotional pull, but I suspect Robertson will turn up in the In Memorium segment instead. (CJ)

This is another category that feels like a dead cert. Ludwig Göransson has already won a Bafta and a Golden Globe for his Oppenheimer score, and so it would be amazing if he didn’t nab an Oscar for it, too. It helps that the Swede is now a Hollywood mainstay, having composed the music for Black Panther and The Mandalorian, but even if you put aside his other work, his mighty Oppenheimer score stands out as a masterpiece that conveys the story’s mathematical complexity and spine-tingling, stomach-churning unease. Göransson deserves to win, and he will. That said, there is tough competition from Jerskin Fendrix, an experimental British pop musician who was hired to score Poor Things after he’d made just one album. Every bit as off-kilter and beguiling as the film’s heroine, Fendrix’s music has the air of someone playing around with toy instruments and stumbling on their own unique sound. (NB)

Best cinematography nominee Poor Things (Credit: Searchlight Pictures)

13. Best cinematography

Oppenheimer is a film that revolves around “people talking about science”, in the words of its cinematographer, Hoyte van Hoytema. “You are working with faces and dialogue, [so] on paper it’s not a very obvious cinematic experience.” Nonetheless, von Hoytema made the intimate close-ups seem just as worthy of a vast iMax screen as the film’s desert vistas and atomic blasts. This is only his second Oscar nomination, even though he shot Spectre, Ad Astra and Nope, as well as several of Nolan’s previous films, but he’s bound to be one of the many Oppenheimer craftspeople who will win next Sunday. If he doesn’t, the incredibly versatile Robbie Ryan would deserve the Oscar for helping Poor Things strike its balance between reality and picture-book artifice. (NB)

These nominees comprise an all-star line-up, including the legendary Ed Lachman for his exquisite black and white photography in El Conde and Rodrigo Prieto for the vivid colours and epic scope of Killers of the Flower Moon. But the Oscar can and should go to Hoyte van Hoytema for Oppenheimer, a film that takes us into intimate scenes as well as expansive desert views of the bomb’s test site, and squiggles on screen that represent the physics of it all. In both black and white and colour, van Hoytema’s camera creates a film with a dazzling, coherent mix of views. (CJ)

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Where daylight savings is abolished

The pros and cons of daylight savings spark debate around the world. Here’s why some places have opted out.

Over the last decade, countries and states around the world have abolished the practice of daylight savings time for various reasons, while other locations still cling to the practice despite health experts saying it is damaging.

Seasonal clock shifts involve “springing” the clock forwards one hour in the spring to be on daylight savings time and “falling” backwards one hour in autumn to be on standard time. According to a 2023 analysis by Pew Research Center, half of countries globally previously observed these clock changes. Now, only about one third maintain the custom.

The bulk of the United States, most of Europe, and parts of Canada, Australia, Latin America, Brazil and the Caribbean have remained holdouts and still adjust their clocks. But plenty of places around the world have opted out of it entirely. These include all of Asia, and most of Africa. Over the past ten years, Azerbaijan, Iran, Jordan, Namibia, Russia, Samoa, Syria, Turkey, Uruguay and most of Mexico have all ended the practice, according to the Pew Research Center. In the United States, Hawaii and Arizona skip the practice, as do American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

But why skip daylight savings? Experts cite safety, health, and climate issues as reasons why daylight savings shifts should be abolished.

Jagdish Khubchandani, professor of public health at New Mexico State University, shares that some research has indicated a correlation between clock shifts and health problems ranging from sleep disruptions to heart attacks.

“Other studies and experts have also discussed accidents, mental health, well-being, etc.,” he adds. That said, “one could easily argue that these are short-term effects of transitions and more long-term studies are needed”, he concludes.

Daylight savings shifts disrupt sleep-wake cycles

Time shifts, such as those related to daylight savings, disrupt circadian rhythms, also known as the sleep-wake cycle. Disruption has been shown to increase disease severity.

“The most important synchronizer of our circadian rhythms is the daylight, which helps all our body clocks to stay in sync,” says Tord Wingren, an engineer who studies sleep and light exposure.

Exposure to light in the morning cues one’s circadian-rhythm. Tissues throughout the body have peripheral clocks that sync, based on these cues, to our master body clock in the brain. That master clock, in response to light exposure via the eyes, is responsible for kicking off a cascade of hormonal processes. The hormones affected include those related to stress, blood sugar management, and hunger and satisfaction signalling. 

“Clock shifting can deprive working individuals [and] school-going populations from this boost, as they may have to start their day in darker times,” Khubchandani says.

Exposure to darkness is a good thing at night, when it helps the body produce melatonin, a hormone that prepares the body for sleep. But thanks to clock shifts, “the extra light during evenings may delay our sleeping times [and] routines”, Khubchandani explains.

Researchers from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine wrote a 2020 position statement in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine noting that springing forwards is indeed harmful.

The AASP researchers use “social jet lag” as a term to describe the chronic misalignment between one’s natural sleep-wake cycle and life’s demands from work, school and family, noting that daylight savings directly causes that social jet lag. It can be even worse in the western-most areas of a time zone. Social jet lag is associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and depression.

“It is, therefore, the position of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine that these seasonal time changes should be abolished in favour of a fixed, national, year-round standard time,” the researchers write.

Researchers in Spain found a link between increased deadly car accidents and daylight savings clock shifts (Credit: Getty Images)

Safety concerns with daylight savings

Daylight savings time practices have been linked to increases in deadly traffic accidentsworkplace injuriesmedical errors and overall mortality.

In 2018, researchers in Spain penned a letter that was published in the journal Epidemiology regarding a link between deadly car accidents and daylight savings shifts. After collecting data from capital cities in Spain between 1990 and 2014, the researchers found a 30% increase in fatal traffic accidents on the day clocks sprang forwards. On the day clocks fell backwards, they saw an increase of 16%.

An older study from 2009, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology used data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to see if daylight savings was associated with more workplace injuries. They found a nearly 6% increase in injuries on the Monday after clocks sprang forward. 

In a 2021 observational study, researchers from the Mayo Clinic in the United States looked at whether daylight savings time increased the risk of medical errors. They examined data from voluntarily reported safety-related incidents from facilities in the United States occurring from 2010 to 2017. They then refined the data by looking at instances likely stemming from human error that occurred in the week prior to and the week after daylight savings clock shifts.

Overall, they found an almost 19% increase in safety-related incidents in the seven days after clocks sprang forwards and an almost 5% increase in the seven days after clocks fell back. The study authors attribute the increase to an average of nearly 40 minutes less of sleep for workers.

Health concerns with daylight savings

One of the serious health concerns related to time shifts is acute myocardial infarction, or heart attack. Researchers in Italy wrote a 2018 review published in the journal Internal Emergency Medicine investigating daylight savings’ potential effects on heart health. They reviewed seven existing studies from the United States and Europe looking at more than 80,000 cases of acute myocardial infarction. They found an increase, from 4% to 29%, in heart attacks after clocks sprang forwards.

Incidence of stroke may also increase after a clock shift. For a 2016 study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, researchers in Finland investigated the connection. They analysed more than 3,000 hospitalizations from 2004 to 2013 that occurred in the week following seasonal clock changes. They next compared those cases to a control group of 11,000 expected hospitalizations. The findings showed that hospitalizations for ischaemic stroke, the most common type, increased by 8% in the two days following a daylight savings shift. When looking at the whole week post-shift, the increase was 3%. The association was stronger for people assigned female at birth and those who were older.

“[Daylight savings] can potentially influence one’s cardiovascular health as well as contribute to mood disturbances and disruption of cognitive performance,” says Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, an internist in private practice.

For a 2017 study published in the journal Epidemiology, researchers used records from the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register. They analysed nearly 200,000 hospital contacts for unipolar depression from 1995 to 2012. The findings showed an 11% increase in unipolar depressive episodes after the spring clock shift. The increase dissipated over the 10 weeks following the clock change.

About 66% of Americans, 84% of Europeans, and 93% of Canadians surveyed wish to abolish daylight savings (Credit: Getty Images)

Energy use and daylight savings

Although implementation dates for countries varied, the first discussions on implementation of daylight savings occurred in 1916. However, Benjamin Franklin is credited with the original concept after analysing candle consumption in 1784 and suggesting people alter their overall sleep schedules to save money on lighting costs.

US National Archives attribute Germany as having the earliest experience with daylight savings during World War I. Reasons for implementation involved saving on energy bills, having more daylight in the evening for leisure time, and more.

The research available on whether daylight savings shifts actually do save energy is limited and mixed, however. One older US report shows a potential decrease in energy use of 0.5%, while another older report shows an increase of 4% usage.

The state of Arizona, on the other hand, opted out of daylight savings shifts in order to save energy. It is one of the few US states that does not participate in daylight savings practices. According to Arizona State University, the state implemented daylight savings in 1967 and abolished it that same year (however, the Navajo Nation within Arizona still participates) because Arizonans found that the clock change caused a surge in energy consumption. The desert state is notably hot, and people had to run their air conditioners for longer into the evening, driving energy use and costs. As the globe heats up due to climate change, more states, provinces and countries may follow suit.

The future of daylight savings

In 2018, the European Commission proposed an end to clock shifts. However, the European Council has not agreed on its position. The European Parliament voted in favour of adopting the change. However the Council and Parliament must reach an agreement for the change to occur.

“Unfortunately, it seems Sweden [is] waiting on unity within EU before acting,” says Wingren, who resides in the country. “There was news two to three years ago about that Sweden should stop using DST, but this was never implemented.”

In a different take, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio introduced the Sunshine Protection Act in March 2023. If passed, the bill would make daylight savings time permanent in the United States, but the proposed legislation, after passing in the Senate, has stalled in the House of Representatives. 

If passed in the future, the bill would mean the US would spring clocks forwards a final time and not fall back six months later. However, the delay of sunlight in the morning and the extended sunlight in the evening has health experts, such as Khubchandani, concerned.

“We need natural light to start our days well, with more alertness, and brighter mood (via secretion of hormones and neurotransmitters,” he says.

That’s why the American Academy of Sleep Medicine advocates for the opposite. “Current evidence best supports the adoption of year-round standard time, which aligns best with human circadian biology and provides distinct benefits for public health and safety,” the organisation wrote in response to the bill.

What do global populations want regarding daylight savings?

Another consideration regarding time shifts is what the public thinks about the practice.

“Public health is of the people and for the people,” Khubchandani explains. “So there is a public perception related to preferences. There are not too many polls across the nation that support the practice of DST/shifting clocks.”

In a Monmouth University Poll, researchers found that just about two thirds of people in the United States would prefer to nix the practice of seasonal time shifts.

A governmental survey out of Canada’s British Columbia, found that 93% of respondents want to end the shifts and stay on daylight savings time permanently. The European Commission conducted a survey in 2018, and 84% of respondents were in favour of ending daylight savings time. And a YouGov survey in the UK found that 44% of Britons want to continue with daylight savings.

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