BBC 2024-03-11 01:01:57


Oscars 2024 live updates: Poor Things and Anatomy of a Fall scoop early awards

Yasmin Rufo

Culture reporter

Jon Batiste has received a standing ovation for his new love ballad, It Never Went Away.

The song was written for a biographical documentary called American Symphony about Batiste’s life as a musician and his wife’s struggling with cancer.

It is nominated for best original song.

Oscars red carpet fashion: Stars turn on the style

The fashion is as important as the films at the Oscars, and the stars turned on the style as they walked the red carpet ahead of Sunday’s film awards in Hollywood.

Emma Stone (above) was among the best-dressed in a custom Louis Vuitton pale mint peplum gown. She is one of the favourites to be named best actress, for Poor Things.

Margot Robbie was controversially not nominated for her role in Barbie, but she was one of the fashion winners in a black sequined Versace gown.

Co-star Ryan Gosling brought some ‘Kenergy’ a classic black outfit with sparkly silver trim.

In a nod to the preppy style of 1995 film Clueless, Billie Eilish’s outfit included a Chanel tweed blazer, tall socks and heeled Mary Jane shoes. The singer is tipped to win best song for her Barbie theme What Was I Made For?

America Ferrera wore a shimmering pink gown in a tribute to Barbie. Ferrera has a best supporting actress nomination for her role in the film.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph continued her ability to bring dramatic looks red carpets to this awards season, wearing a shimmering periwinkle dress with pom-pom sleeves and a long train. She went on to win best supporting actress.

Bradley Cooper, nominated for Maestro, wore a black suit without a tie but with turquoise buttons to add a modern twist. His mother Gloria was his date.

Cooper’s Maestro co-star Carey Mulligan oozed elegance in a black-and-white mermaid dress.

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Jennifer Lawrence brought polka dots to the red carpet with a gorgeous Dior gown.

Dune star Zendaya chose a single-strapped striking rose Armani Privé dress with a metallic palm tree pattern.

Emily Blunt and husband John Krasinski had a matching cream look, with best supporting actress nominee Blunt in a structured Schiaparelli gown with Superman-style underwear detailing.

Paul Giamatti, who walked the carpet with actress and girlfriend Clara Wong, is among the favourites in the best actor category for his role in The Holdovers.

Cillian Murphy, who is also up for best actor for Oppenheimer, looked dapper in traditional suit and bow tie.

Last year’s best actor winner Brendan Fraser returned with his partner Jeanne Moore.

Lupita Nyong’o arrived with Stranger Things actor Joseph Quinn – her co-star in the forthcoming A Quiet Place prequel, Day One.

Anya Taylor Joy, who is one of the night’s presenters, wore a strapless sequined Dior Haute Couture ball gown.

Jamie Lee Curtis won best supporting actress last year, and the 65-year-old will be among the presenters this time.

Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson sported a silk slate three-piece suit and a burgundy silk scarf.

Singer Ariana Grande channelled Glinda the Good Witch, her character in the new Wicked films, in a custom Giambattista Valli Haute Couture creation.

Pitch Perfect star Brittany Snow co-ordinated with the Oscars statuettes in a dazzling gold dress.

Snow stars in Oscar-nominated short film Red, White and Blue, which was made by British director Nazrin Choudhury.

Eugene Lee Yang made a dramatic entrance in a voluminous burgundy statement skirt and matching jacket. He voices a heroic knight in Netflix’s animated sci-fi comedy Nimona, which was nominated for best animated feature.

English actress Andrea Riseborough, who was nominated for best actress last year, adapted a Scottish tartan pattern in her polo neck dress.

Former High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens – who co-hosted the official pre-show coverage – revealed her pregnancy with a full-length black gown that showed off her baby bump. The actress is married to baseball player Cole Tucker.

Julianne Hough, co-host of the official red carpet show alongside Hudgens, wore billowing white trousers with shimmery detailing around the bust.

Actress and host Liza Koshy took a tumble on the red carpet, but she managed to style it out.

Grace Linn is probably the oldest person to attend this year’s ceremony at 101. She inspired and appears in The ABCs of Book Banning, which is up for best documentary short, and her outfit is a testament to her love of books.

West Side Story star Rita Moreno – who won an Oscar 62 years ago – is 92 years young.

Sean Wang made as short film about moving in with his grandmothers during Covid – and they are all at the Oscars after Nai Nai & Wài Pó was nominated for best documentary short.

British influencer Amelia Dimoldenberg, best known for her Chicken Shop Dates series, is fronting the Oscars’ official social media campaign. She also plumped for a classic full-length dress, this time in pink.

Members of the Native American Osage Nation brought some of their traditional finery to the red carpet. Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, which is up for best picture, tells the story of the persecution of the Osage Nation in the 1920s.

By Ian Youngs, Scarlett Harris, Yasmin Rufo, Helen Bushby & George Burke.

Read more about the Oscar-nominated films:

  • Poor Things: Emma Stone: Sex scenes in Poor Things are ‘honest’
  • The Holdovers: The Holdovers: Could it be a new Christmas classic?
  • Barbie: Billie Eilish dedicates award to people struggling
  • Oppenheimer: Barbenheimer was wonderful for cinema, Murphy says
  • American Fiction: White audiences ‘too comfortable with black clichés’
  • Rustin: The gay civil rights activist history forgot
  • The Color Purple: Stars want to make Oprah proud
  • Nyad: Netflix film follows woman who braved sharks and jellyfish
  • Past Lives: The film on lost love that crosses continents
  • Killers of the Flower Moon: Lily Gladstone could make Oscars history
  • Saltburn: Director discusses ‘revolting’ bathtub scene
  • May December: Film explores ‘disquieting moral ambiguity’
  • The Zone of Interest: Auschwitz film was ‘like Big Brother’ in house next to camp
  • Society of the Snow: Society of the Snow film explores cannibalism and survival
  • All of us Strangers: Andrew Scott film an ‘unforgettable’ look at trauma
  • Maestro: Why the Bradley Cooper nose row is complicated

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China touts openness while tightening control

The National People’s Congress is usually capped off by the premier’s press conference. But this year, and for the rest of the term, the tradition has been mysteriously nixed.

Officials have said there was no need for it given there were other opportunities for journalists to ask questions. But many observers saw it as another sign of consolidation and control, in what became a running theme for the congress, even as top officials preached openness.

The cancellation of the press conference also effectively diminishes Premier Li Qiang’s profile. Though the event was scripted, it was a rare chance for foreign journalists to ask questions and gave the country’s second-in-command some room to flex his muscles.

In years past, it even yielded some unexpected moments. In 2020 then-premier Li Keqiang disclosed figures that stoked debate over a government claim that they had eradicated poverty.

The dimming of the spotlight on the premier, along with a shorter congress this year, are all signs of ongoing structural change within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) where President Xi Jinping is increasingly accumulating power at the expense of other individuals and institutions, noted Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore who studies Chinese governance.

But to the outside world, the party is keen on projecting a different kind of image as it battles dwindling foreign investor confidence and a general malaise in its economy.

Addressing international journalists last week, foreign minister Wang Yi insisted China was still an attractive place to invest in and do business.

“China remains strong as an engine for growth. The ‘next China’ is still China,” he said, before citing ways in which “China is opening its door wider”.

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This year’s economic blueprint, delivered by Mr Li at the start of the session, laid out plans to open up more areas to foreign investment and reducing market access restrictions in sectors such as manufacturing and services.

These moves come after foreign investors were spooked by recent anti-espionage and data protection laws, as well as several sudden high-profile detentions of Chinese and foreign businessmen. Foreign direct investment in China recently fell to a 30-year low.

“There are fewer political checks and balances, there is no transparency. This is the bigger concern for investors… you cannot predict what’s going to happen, so you avoid the risk,” said Dr Wu.

But last week Mr Wang dismissed such concerns. “Spreading pessimistic views on China will end up harming oneself. Misjudging China will result in missed opportunities,” he said, as he focused on talking up China’s prospects.

Both Mr Wang and Mr Li repeatedly used buzzwords like “high quality development” and “new productive forces” to signal a new stage in China’s development, though neither fully explained what they meant. China is aiming to hit an ambitious goal of around 5% GDP growth this year.

“Beijing is changing how it opens to the world,” said Neil Thomas, a fellow in Chinese politics at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

He said it is now focused on attracting high-end foreign technology and advanced manufacturing operations to help Chinese companies in key future industries.

“Foreign investment and trade are less important for China’s economy than they once were, but Beijing still wants to avoid a rush to the exits that could further shake its growth prospects.”

At the same time, officials were keen to emphasise the government’s ultimate goal.

“Stability is of overall importance, as it is the basis for everything we do,” said Mr Li. Elsewhere in his report, he made it clear that while China pursues growth, it would also prioritise greater national security.

Some may question how successfully China can achieve a thriving open economy while increasing control.

But “from Beijing’s perspective, there is no contradiction between high-quality development, especially with foreign investment, and greater security needs,” said Jacob Gunter, lead analyst with Merics specialising in China’s economy.

For instance, when it comes to critical technologies where Chinese firms have yet to catch up, it would want to ensure as much of it as possible is produced within its borders, pointed out Mr Gunter. This reduces the risk of rivals – such as the US and its allies – stealing the technology or blocking their exports to China.

Beijing also signalled it would continue to clamp down on problematic areas in its economy, such as the floundering real estate sector and ballooning local government debts.

Mr Li promised more measures to defuse financial risks and improve supervision, and pledged to crack down on illegal financial activities.

While these problems have existed for several years, “the debt levels and size of the property bubble have gotten big enough that they have to solve it now and can’t back off”, said Mr Gunter.

“The economy is performing really poorly right now. The fact that they haven’t gone back to kicking this can down the road signals this is a longer term priority and not something they will back off on.”

As China’s annual parliamentary sitting comes to a close after a hectic week of meetings, a glaring void looms on Monday’s final agenda.

Palace faces questions over Kate image

Three photo agencies have retracted a picture of the Princess of Wales over concerns it has been “manipulated”.

The image, taken by Prince William and issued by Kensington Palace for Mother’s Day, showed Catherine with their three children.

But Associated Press was the first to pull the image as it “did not meet” the agency’s photo standards. The agency noted an “inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand”.

Kensington Palace declined to comment.

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

It was the first official photo of the Princess of Wales since her abdominal surgery two months ago. Since then she has stayed out of the public eye.

The image was posted on the Prince and Princess of Wales’s social media accounts with a message from Catherine which said: “Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months.

“Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day.”

It has become a regular routine for the royal couple to release their own photos of special family occasions. More often than not, the photos are taken by Catherine and are issued to the media with instructions on how they can be used.

The Mother’s Day image was included on the front pages of several national newspapers and websites, including BBC News, and used on TV news bulletins – again including the BBC.

But, late on Sunday, the Associated Press, one of many international agencies that distributed the photo, issued a “kill notification” – an industry term used to make a retraction.

It said: “At closer inspection it appears that the source has manipulated the image. No replacement photo will be sent.”

A second photo agency, Reuters, said it too had withdrawn the image “following a post-publication review”. This was followed by a third agency, AFP, which also issued a “mandatory kill notice”.

PA Media, the UK’s biggest news agency – through which the Royal Family regularly releases its official information, including to the BBC – said it had not killed the picture on its service.

But, a spokesman said the agency was seeking urgent clarification from Kensington Palace over the concerns raised about manipulation.

Most news organisations follow their own strict guidelines on the use of manipulated photographs, only using them when accompanied by an explanation that the image has been changed from the original.

News agencies, such as AP, therefore make a commitment to their clients that their photos are accurate and not digitally manipulated.

AP’s rules only allow “minor adjustments” in certain circumstances including the removal of dust on camera sensors.

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

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.

The team supporting the princess as she recovers is small and limited to those closest to her.

At the time of her stay, the Palace said the princess wanted her personal medical information to remain private, adding that she wanted to “maintain as much normality for her children as possible”.

At the time of her stay, the Palace said the princess wanted her personal medical information to remain private, adding that she wanted to “maintain as much normality for her children as possible”.

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

It was thought on Sunday morning the photo would quell some of the more extreme theories around the princess’s absence from the public stage. But within hours social media was abuzz with zoomed-in images of Princess Charlotte’s left cuff and Prince Louis’ fingers.

How to bring wi-fi to the Moon

The Apollo astronauts’ links to Earth were primitive compared to those we enjoy today. The next generation of moonwalkers may have a far more high-resolution way of keeping in touch – both with each other, and with us back on Earth.
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On 20 July 1969 an estimated 600 million people watched a live broadcast that was both out of focus and of extremely poor quality.

The historic nature of the first human walking on the Moon – part of Nasa’s Apollo 11 mission – naturally overshadowed the technicalities. But today’s global audiences take high-definition live streaming for granted and, for the next generation of lunar astronauts, expectations will be much higher.

“No one is going to accept the Apollo video quality,” says Matt Cosby, chief technology officer at the UK’s Goonhilly Earth Station, which communicates with satellites and spacecraft.

Goonhilly broadcast the Moon landing’s television signal around the world and recently received the first signal from Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus craft, confirming the US’s first soft-landing on lunar soil in more than 50 years.

“We will expect 4K resolution from the Moon almost in real time coming from the landing. It’s going to be up to 500 megabits of data coming back so the images are going to be 10 times better,” says Cosby.

“In this day and age, and with social media, grainy black and white photos and videos from the Moon’s surface will be unacceptable and we need to get the higher frequencies to be able to do that. It’s not a huge leap but it needs to be made. It’s all about investment.”

The Lunar Outpost Mobile Autonomous Prospecting Platform (Mapp) rover will be one element bringing the new communications network to the Moon (Credit: Nokia)

That investment is underway globally. Between 2021-23 Nasa’s LunarLites project, at its Glenn Research Centre in Ohio, evaluated how Earth’s 4G and 5G technologies could translate to the lunar environment and now has two new ongoing projects.

The Lunar Surface Propagation (LSP) project is studying how wireless communications systems will perform in the lunar surface environment.

“The Apollo missions all landed near the Moon’s mid-latitudes and mostly around the flat lava plains,” say Michael Zemba, Nasa’s LSP principal investigator. “For the Artemis campaign, however, our interest lies in exploring the poles of the Moon.”

Nasa’s Artemis programme intends to put astronauts in lunar orbit in 2025, with a crewed landing a year later. The South Pole is favoured due to both sustained sunlit areas and frozen water ice in permanently shadowed areas of deep craters – a potential source for water and fuel. But this varied terrain also has drawbacks. One potential landing site, known as Shackleton Crater, is two miles deep and 12 miles wide.

Regolith is more transparent to radio waves than Earth’s terrain – Michael Zemba

Shackleton Crater is deeper than the Grand Canyon,” says Zemba. “Those kinds of extremes at the South Pole present challenges for establishing wireless networks like wi-fi and 5G and that’s why it’s critical to have accurate and reliable models and simulation tools. In principle, it’s the same idea as picking a good spot for your wi-fi router at home, but with craters bigger than Manhattan.”

The fine lunar dust, or regolith, covering the Moon up to several metres deep is also challenging.

“Regolith is more transparent to radio waves than Earth’s terrain,” Zemba says. “Communications systems can therefore see an impact to performance from unseen structures like buried boulders and craters.”

As part of their simulations in 2022 the Nasa’s Desert Research and Technology Studies (Desert Rats) team revisited a desert site in Arizona. Once used to prepare for Apollo missions, these field tests allowed the agency to compare theory with real-world data, albeit here on Earth. But after taking the immediate lunar environment into account, the geometry of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth brings additional complications.

The ambitious lunar exploration projects planned for the coming years will need a much more sophisticated communications network than Apollo (Credit: Nasa)

“From the lunar South Pole, Earth is only visible for roughly two weeks of each month,” says Zemba. “Even when visible, it’s always less than 10 degrees above the horizon. This means a signal directly back to Earth can interfere with itself due to reflections of the radio waves off the terrain – a phenomenon called multipath.”

This potential degradation of performance needs to be accounted for. Meanwhile, alongside Zemba’s LSP project, Nasa’s Lunar Third Generation Partnership (3GPP) is researching how to deploy wireless technologies on the Moon.

“Wireless systems have a number of fundamental challenges to operating on the lunar surface,” says Lunar 3GPP project principal investigator Raymond Wagner.

“Temperature extremes and the radiation environment alone can cause all sorts of problems for commercial-grade electronics. 4G and 5G systems are computationally complex and hardening them for the lunar surface is no small undertaking,” says Wagner. “On top of that, we’ve got a way to go to fully understand the lunar surface radio frequency propagation environment.”

Once 4G and 5G are available on the Moon, any astronaut on the surface can communicate reliably with their rovers, instruments and crew members

Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 mission was a key milestone in more ways than one. “That was particularly exciting because their next mission, IM-2 in 2025, is also our first opportunity to demonstrate cellular connectivity on the Moon and collect data,” says Zemba.

“Nasa has funded Nokia Bell Labs to demonstrate a 4G link from the lander to a rover on that mission, which will be the first cellular network on the Moon and a fantastic opportunity for both model validation and technology demonstration.”

Once 4G and 5G are available on the Moon, any astronaut on the surface can communicate reliably with their rovers, instruments and crew members. Any data coming back to Earth can then be sent over one link – an efficient way to communicate when large ground stations are often in high demand.

On the far side of the Moon, there is also the problem of maintaining communications with the Earth when it is no longer within line of sight. The only way to achieve this is via a relay satellite.

Lunar Pathfindercould help prove the concept of lunar satnav with the help of laser rangefinding from Earth (Credit: Esa)

China launched the world’s first Moon relay satellite, Queqiao-1, in 2018 to support its Chang’e 4 mission, the first soft landing on the lunar far side. Queqiao-2 is due for launch within the next few months.

Nasa is launching Moon relay satellites as part of its Lunar Communications Relay and Navigation Systems project, and the European Space Agency (Esa) – a key partner in the Artemis missions – has its Moonlight programme.

Esa is working with industry to create a network of three or four communications and data-relay satellites for the Moon, in the same way we use GPS on Earth.

The first step is the launch of the technology demonstrating Lunar Pathfinder mission in 2025. Built and owned by SSTL in the UK, it will be delivered into orbit by the commercial space transportation company Firefly Aerospace. It will be part of the Blue Ghost 2 mission which will also include a lunar lander for Nasa.

Within the next few years, a new communications infrastructure will therefore unfold for the Moon

Esa is flying a navigation payload on board and has agreed that Nasa can ride-share its instruments and access lunar relay communication services.

“We’re taking a Nasa laser retro reflector,” says Charles Cranstoun, Lunar Pathfinder’s project manager at SSTL. This will help prove the concept of a lunar satnav by firing a laser from a ranging station on Earth to accurately measure the spacecraft’s distance and velocity.

“We’re also taking a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver, which will take the furthest measurements of GNSS from Earth to see if we can do some weak signal detection there to get location measurements,” says Cranstoun. This was developed for Esa by the Swiss company SpacePNT.

Nasa scientists have been plotting how far different signals might extend compared to journey’s made by Apollo astronauts on the Moon (Credit: Nasa/Michael Zemba)

“Finally, when that’s all coupled with our own radio ranging, we’ll have three points of location data to see how the navigation system could potentially be implemented for something like Moonlight,” adds Cranstoun. “So we’re laying the groundwork for a future Moonlight constellation.”

SSTL’s aim is to become a commercial provider of communications for orbiting lunar spacecraft and landers on any part of the Moon’s surface. “Currently, if you want to get data back, you have to use the either Nasa’s Deep Space Network or Esa’s Estrack network,” Cranstoun says, referring to Europe’s global network of spacecraft-tracking ground stations, “which is getting heavily congested at the moment”.

Within the next few years, a new communications infrastructure will therefore unfold for the Moon from government space agencies and commercial companies. Nasa’s proposed system is LunaNet.

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“LunaNet is trying to replicate the terrestrial internet but around the Moon and on the Moon,” says Goonhilly’s Matt Cosby, who works with the UK Space Agency and the international community to help define standards for this new lunar communication.

“The analogy I’ve heard is Netflix on the Moon,” says SSTL’s Cranstoun. “Choose the streaming service of your choice but that’s the level of data throughput that they want to achieve.”

The first opportunity for moonwalkers to test surface communications in person is likely to be Nasa’s Artemis III mission in 2026.

“We have seen truly incredible strides in mobile communications on Earth in just the past 10 to 20 years,” says Zemba. “And if we reliably deploy those same conveniences to the Moon, we’ll be in great shape.”

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