India beats US at cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup

WESTBURY, New York — There was no upset this time for the United States as the home team was easily beaten by cricket heavyweight India at the Twenty20 World Cup on Wednesday.

Suryakumar Yadav’s half-century powered India to a seven-wicket win over the U.S., which had shocked Pakistan last week.

With the win, India reached the Super 8 round. The U.S. can advance by beating Ireland on Friday.

In a later match at Brian Lara Stadium in Trinidad, Sherfane Rutherford scored an unbeaten 68 from 39 deliveries to help the West Indies in their great escape — the co-hosts beat New Zealand by 13 runs.

The Caribbean lineup, 149-9 in its 20 overs, was 76-7 before its Rutherford-led recovery. Alzarri Joseph snared four New Zealand wickets and Gudakesh Motie took three — including New Zealand captain Kane Williamson for 1 — to restrict the Black Caps to 136-9 in reply.

On Long Island, Yadvav’s 50 runs came off 49 balls and included two boundaries and two sixes. He put on 72 runs off 65 balls in an unbeaten fourth-wicket stand with Shivam Dube, who scored 31 not out as India finished with 111-3 in 18.2 overs in reply to 110-8 by the United States.

Left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh returned figures of 4-9 — including two wickets in the first over — to restrict the co-hosts after India had won the toss and opted to field at the Nassau County International Stadium.

India was in early trouble in its chase as Indian-born medium pacer Saurabh Netravalkar continued his golden run for the Americans.

After bowling the co-hosts to the upset over Pakistan, he celebrated the wickets of Indian superstars Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli.

Kohli was caught behind for a golden duck — dismissed off the first delivery he faced — in what surely will become a career highlight for Netravalkar. Sharma (3) fell to a slower delivery as Netravalkar finished with 2-18 in four overs.

Rishabh Pant scored 18 off 20 balls batting at No. 3 before he was bowled by Ali Khan delivery. With India struggling at 39-3 in 7.3 overs, the U.S. team momentarily raised visions of an even bigger shock.

West Indies advanceLeft-hander Rutherford turned the home team’s fortunes around, going to the crease with the West Indies reeling at 22-4 after 5.4 overs. Rutherford scored 18 off the last over that culminated with a six and a boundary.

The loss left New Zealand with a strong possibility it will not make the second round. If Afghanistan beats Papua New Guinea on Thursday, three-time runner-up New Zealand will be out of contention.

For most of the first half of the game, the Black Caps were on top.

But Rutherford went on the attack as the West Indies added 58-2 in the last five overs of their innings.

He was 15 off 14 deliveries when star allrounder Andre Russell was out for 14 in the 13th over, and he accelerated with the lower-order in a counter-attacking, 72-minute innings containing six sixes and two boundaries.

“It’s a good feeling, to help my team. That is what we live for and work hard for,” man-of-the-match Rutherford said during the innings break. “It was a very tough surface to start on. I think 149 is a brilliant score on this wicket.”

After the match, Rutherford had a more optimistic tone: “It is only the start of something big to come and hopefully we can keep winning and momentum going.”

New Zealand started well after winning the toss and fielding, with Trent Boult (3-16) bowling opener Johnson Charles to end the first over.

Tim Southee (2-21), recalled after missing New Zealand’s opening loss to Afghanistan, dismissed dangerman Nicholas Pooran for 12 in the fourth over, trigging a run of three wickets for three runs.

Lockie Ferguson deceived Roston Chase with a slower ball to make it 21-3 and skipper Rovman Powell (1) was caught behind off Southee five balls later.

Russell went on the attack but his dismissal — caught in the deep of Boult’s bowling — appeared to be an insurmountable setback until Rutherford took up the challenge.

“The quality of Sherfane’s innings was high,” New Zealand skipper Williamson said. “The batting depth in their side was beneficial for sure. We cannot make excuses and have to find ways.”

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Finland’s Lenin Museum closing as Russia relations chill

Finland’s Lenin Museum, the “most hated” in the country according to its director, is to close its doors at the end of the year for rebranding, as Finland’s historically good relations with Russia sour. Henry Wilkins visited the museum in the Finnish city of Tampere and has that story.

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Jin, oldest member of K-pop’s BTS, finishes army service in South Korea

Seoul — Jin, the oldest member of K-pop phenomenon BTS, was discharged from South Korea’s army on Wednesday after 18 months of duty, the first member of the group to wrap up the mandatory national service that put their music careers on hold.

Jin, 31, wearing uniform and a black beret, appeared emotional as he hugged his colleagues at a military base in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi province, television footage showed.

“I cried during the ceremony,” Jin said later during a livestream which racked up over 3 million views on the Weverse fandom platform.

“But it was so fun for the last year and six months. It’s such a relief I met so many amazing people,” he added, sending regards to his colleagues at the military base.

Shares of HYBE, the label which houses BTS, jumped 1.01% in early trade while the benchmark KOSPI index rose 0.35%.

South Korean media reported several other members of the septet who are currently serving in the military applied for leave to celebrate the occasion.

Among them was rapper RM, who greeted Jin with a saxophone to play the group’s hit single “Dynamite.”

Jin became the first member of the group to enlist in the military in December 2022. The final four members of the group began their service in December 2023, with the band expected to reunite in 2025 after they all complete their duty.

Jin plans to celebrate his discharge with an event in Seoul on Thursday where he will greet fans and stage a performance.

The group debuted on June 13, 2013, and has since become the face of K-pop, one of South Korea’s largest cultural exports.

South Korea requires all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 28 to serve between 18 to 21 months in the military or social service, but it revised the law in 2020 to let globally recognized K-pop stars delay signing up until age 30.

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LogOn: Washington state tests drones to remove hard-to-reach graffiti

A drone equipped with a painting hose is being deployed against stubborn graffiti in hard-to-reach areas. Natasha Mozgovaya has more in this week’s episode of LogOn.

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Netflix’s recipe for success includes ‘secret sauce’ spiced with tech savvy

LOS GATOS, California — Although its video streaming service sparkles with a Hollywood sheen, Netflix still taps its roots in Silicon Valley to stay a step ahead of traditional TV and movie studios.

The Los Gatos, California, company, based more than 300 miles away from Hollywood, frequently reaches into its technological toolbox without viewers even realizing it. It often just uses a few subtle twists on the knobs of viewer recommendations to help keep its 270 million worldwide subscribers satisfied at a time when most of its streaming rivals are seeing waves of cancelations from inflation-weary subscribers.

Even when hit TV series like “The Crown” or “Bridgerton” have wide appeal, Netflix still tries to cater to the divergent tastes of its vast audience. One part of that recipe includes tailoring summaries and trailers about its smorgasbord of shows to fit the personal interests of each viewer.

So, someone who likes romance might see a plot summary or video trailer for “The Crown” highlighting the relationship between Princess Diana and Charles, while another viewer more into political intrigue may be shown a clip of Queen Elizabeth in a meeting with Margaret Thatcher.

For an Oscar-nominated film like “Nyad,” a lover of action might see a trailer of the title character immersed in water during one of her epic swims, while a comedy fan might see a lighthearted scene featuring some amusing banter between the two stars, Annette Bening and Jodie Foster.

Netflix is able to pull off these variations through the deep understanding of viewing habits it gleans from crunching the data from subscribers’ histories with its service — including those of customers who signed up in the late 1990s when the company launched with a DVD-by-mail service that continued to operate until last September.

“It is a secret sauce for us, no doubt,” Eunice Kim, Netflix’s chief product officer, said while discussing the nuances of the ways Netflix tries to reel different viewers into watching different shows. “The North Star we have every day is keep people engaged, but also make sure they are incredibly satisfied with their viewing experiences.”

As part of that effort, Netflix is rolling out a redesign of the home page that greets subscribers when they are watching the streaming service on a TV screen. The changes are meant to package all the information that might appeal to a subscriber’s tastes in a more concise format to reduce the “gymnastics with their eyes,” said Patrick Flemming, Netflix’s senior director of member product.

What Netflix is doing with its previews may seem like a small thing, but it can make a huge difference, especially as people looking to save money start to limit the number of streaming services they have.

Last year, video streaming services collectively suffered about 140 million account cancelations, a 35% increase from 2022 and nearly triple the volume in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic created a boom in demand for entertainment from people corralled at home, according to numbers compiled by the research firm Antenna.

Netflix doesn’t disclose its cancelation, or churn rate, but last year its streaming service gained 30 million subscribers — marking its second-biggest annual increase behind its own growth spurt during the 2020 pandemic lockdowns.

Part of last year’s subscription growth flowed from a crackdown on viewers who had been freeloading off Netflix subscribers who shared their account passwords. But the company is also benefiting from the technological know-how that helps it to keep funneling shows to customers who like them and make them think the service is worth the money, according to J. Christopher Hamilton, an assistant professor of television, radio and film at Syracuse University.

“What they have been doing is pretty ingenious and very, very strategic,” Hamilton said. “They are definitely ahead of the legacy media companies who are trying to do some of the same things but just don’t have the level of sophistication, experience nor the history of the data in their archives.”

Netflix’s nerdy heritage once was mocked by an entertainment industry that looked down at the company’s geekdom.

Not long after that put-down, Netflix began mining its viewing data to figure out how to produce a slate of original programming that would attract more subscribers — an ambitious expansion that forced Time Warner (now rolled into Warner Bros. Discovery) and other long-established entertainment companies such as Walt Disney Co. into a mad scramble to build their own streaming services.

Although those expansions initially attracted hordes of subscribers, they also resulted in massive losses that have resulted in management shakeups and drastic cutbacks, including the abrupt closure of a CNN streaming service. 

What Netflix is doing with technology to retain subscribers to boost its fortunes — the company’s profit rose 20% to $5.4 billion last year — now is widening the divide with rival services still trying to stanch their losses.

Disney’s 4-year-old streaming service recently became profitable after an overhaul engineered by CEO Bob Iger, but he thinks more work will be required to catch up with Netflix.

Netflix isn’t going to help its rivals by divulging its secrets, but the slicing and dicing generally starts with getting a grasp on which viewers tend to gravitate to certain genres — the broad categories include action, adventure, anime, fantasy, drama, horror, comedy, romance and documentary — and then diving deeper from there.

In some instances, Netflix’s technology will even try to divine a viewer’s mood at any given time by analyzing what titles are being browsed or clicked on. In other instances, it’s relatively easy for the technology to figure out how to make a film or TV series as appealing as possible to specific viewers.

If Netflix’s data shows a subscriber has watched a lot of Hindi productions, it would be almost a no-brainer to feature clips of Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt in a role she played in the U.S. film, “Heart of Stone” instead of the movie’s lead actress, Gal Gadot.

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South Africa holds off Bangladesh, remains unbeaten in cricket’s T20 World Cup  

WESTBURY, New York — Spinner Keshav Maharaj bowled a six-run, two-wicket final over and South Africa held off Bangladesh by four runs to stay unbeaten in cricket’s T20 World Cup on Monday.

Bangladesh needed 11 from the last six deliveries to register a famous win, then needed a six off the last ball. Taskin Ahmed came to the crease after Bangladesh’s seventh wicket, and faced the last ball, a full toss by Maharaj. Ahmed swung and managed only one run.

On a typically tough batting pitch at Nassau County Stadium, South Africa successfully defended its lowly total of 113-6 and restricted Bangladesh to 109-7.

It was the lowest target — 114 — ever defended in a T20 World Cup, trumping India’s defense of 120 runs just the day before.

“That was not nice on the heart, but feels good that we got over the line,” said top-scorer Heinrich Klaasen, the player of the match. “This wicket is not great for stroke play. We got some information from the last game and applied it today. I think we got a decent total on the board. 

“We have had three pressure games now and I think we are through [to the next round].” 

Maharaj finished with 3-27 in four overs, while Kagiso Rabada (2-19) and Anrich Nortje (2-17) also bowled well.

South Africa firmed the top spot in Group D with three from three and was in pole position to secure a Super Eight spot. Bangladesh’s first loss in two matches kept it in second place.

South Africa chased down Sri Lanka and the Netherlands in its previous two matches at the ground and was made to bat first this time.

But it still fumbled another start. Pace bowler Tanzim Sakib trapped opener Reeza Hendricks for a golden duck and had Tristan Stubbs caught for a five-ball duck. 

Aiden Markram was bowled for 4. In between, Sakib bowled Quinton de Kock for 18 as the Proteas slumped to 23-4 in 4.2 overs.

David Miller came up with another rescue job after his half-century against the Netherlands. He scored 29 off 38 balls and put on 79 runs for the fifth wicket with Klaasen.

Klaasen top-scored with 46 off 44, including two fours and three sixes. The duo pushed South Africa past 100 before falling in the space of six deliveries.

The late strikes left South Africa hanging at just about a par total.

Bangladesh’s chase faltered at the start, too. It was down to 37-3 and then 50-4 at the halfway stage.

Nortje dismissed skipper Nazmul Shanto for 14, and sent back Shakib Al Hasan for just 3, picking up his eighth wicket in three games.

Litton Das was out caught off Maharaj, while Rabada had Tanzid Hasan caught behind for 9.

Towhid Hridoy and Mahmudullah put on 44 off 45 balls to bring Bangladesh back on track.

At 94-4 in the 18th over, Bangladesh was in the driver’s seat, then lost wickets rapidly to spiral out of control. It went from 94-4 to 108-7 in the space of 17 deliveries. 

Rabada returned to trap Hridoy but Maharaj’s left-arm spin turned the game in the final over.

South Africa completes the group stage against Nepal on Friday. Bangladesh has the Netherlands on Thursday. 

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Salt Lake City Olympic bid projects $4 billion in total costs to stage 2034 Winter Games

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Thousands turn out for LA Pride Parade, events

LOS ANGELES — Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of Hollywood on Sunday for the L.A. Pride Parade, one of the biggest events during a month of celebrations honoring the LGBTQ+ community in and around Los Angeles. 

Rainbow flags ruled the day as revelers cheered the lively procession that featured “Star Trek” star and activist George Takei as the Icon Grand Marshal. 

“As someone who has witnessed the struggles and triumphs of our community over the years, I am filled with gratitude for the progress we have made and inspired to continue the fight for full acceptance and equality for all,” Takei said in a statement. 

The parade’s Community Grand Marshal was L.A. Fire Department Chief Kristin Crowley. The department’s first openly gay chief said she was “overjoyed” by the honor. 

Following the parade, the L.A. Pride Block Party offered DJs, live performances, food trucks and a beer garden. 

On Saturday night, Latin pop superstar Ricky Martin headlined a concert dubbed Pride in the Park at Los Angeles State Historic Park. 

Other events scheduled for Pride Month include celebrations at Dodger Stadium and Universal Studios Hollywood. 

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‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ boosts Will Smith’s comeback with $56M opening

New York — “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” the fourth installment in the Will Smith-Martin Lawrence action-comedy series, opened with an estimated $56 million in theaters over the weekend, handing Hollywood a much-needed summer hit and Smith his biggest success since he slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards.

Expectations were all over the map for “Ride or Die” given the dismal moviegoing market thus far this summer and Smith’s less certain box-office clout. In the end, though, the Sony Pictures release came in very close to, or slightly above, its tracking forecast.

“Ride or Die,” produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, is Smith’s first theatrical test since his 2022 slap of Rock earned him a 10-year Oscar ban. The “Bad Boys” film was in development at the time and was momentarily put on hold, but ultimately went forward with about a $100 million production budget.

Smith starred in the Apple release “Emancipation,” but that film — released in late 2022 — was shot before the slap and received only a modest theatrical release before streaming.

This time around, Smith largely avoided soul-searching interviews looking back on the Oscars and instead went on a whistle-stop publicity tour of red carpets from Mexico to Saudi Arabia, where he attended what was billed as the country’s first Hollywood premiere. The 55-year-old Smith, who for years was one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, appeared on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” the YouTube series “Hot Ones” and Friday, made a surprise appearance at a Los Angeles movie theater.

Given that “Bad Boys” trailed May disappointments like “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” and “The Fall Guy” – both of which struggled to pop with ticket buyers despite very good reviews – the “Ride or Die” opening counts as a critical weekend win for the movie business.

“The fact that a movie overperformed is the best possible news,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. “It seems like all we’ve been doing over the past few weeks and almost since the beginning of the year, with a couple of exceptions, is try to figure out why seemingly well-marketed, well-reviewed movies have underperformed. This ignites the spark that the industry has been waiting for.”

“Ride or Die” still didn’t quite manage to match the opening of the previous “Bad Boys” film: 2020’s “Bad Boys for Life.” That movie, released in January 2020, debuted with $62.5 million. After the pandemic shut down theaters, it was the highest grossing North American release of that year, with $204 million domestically.

“Ride or Die” added $48.6 million internationally. Though reviews were mixed (64% on Rotten Tomatoes), audiences gave the film a high grade with an “A-” CinemaScore.

Black moviegoers accounted for 44% of ticket buyers, the largest demographic.

In the film, which comes 29 years after the original, Smith and Lawrence reprise their roles as Miami detectives. The plot revolves around uncovering a scheme to frame their late police captain (Joe Pantoliano). In one of the movie’s most notable scenes, Lawrence slaps Smith and calls him a “bad boy.”

Movie theaters will need a lot more than “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” though, to right the ship. Ticket sales are down 26% from last year and more than 40% below pre-pandemic totals, according to Comscore. A big test comes next weekend with the release of Pixar’s “Inside Out 2.” After sending several Pixar releases straight to Disney+, the studio has vowed a lengthy, traditional theatrical rollout this time.

Last weekend’s top film “The Garfield Movie,” slid to second place. Also from Sony, the family animated comedy collected $10 million in ticket sales over its third weekend, bringing its domestic gross to $68.6 million.

The weekend’s other new wide release, “The Watchers,” failed to click with moviegoers. The horror film, directed by Ishana Night Shyamalan, daughter of M. Night Shyamalan, is about a stranded 28-year-old artist in Ireland. Following poor reviews, the Warner Bros. release grossed $7 million in 3,351 theaters.

That allowed “If,” the Ryan Reynolds imaginary friend fantasy, to grab third place in its fourth weekend of release, bringing the Paramount Pictures cumulative domestic total to $93.5 million. Rounding out the top five was “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” which added $5.4 million in its fifth weekend of release. It has grossed $150 million domestically and $360 million worldwide.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

  1. “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” $56 million.

  2. ”The Garfield Movie,” $10 million.

  3. “If,” $8 million.

  4. “The Watchers,” $7 million.

  5. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” $5.4 million.

  6. “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” $4.2 million.

  7. “The Fall Guy,” $2.7 million.

  8. “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” $2.4 million.

  9. “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” $1.9 million.

  10. “The Strangers: Chapter 1,” $1.8 million.

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Some US families opt to raise teens sans social media

WESTPORT, Connecticut — Kate Bulkeley’s pledge to stay off social media in high school worked at first. She watched the benefits pile up: She was getting excellent grades. She read lots of books. The family had lively conversations around the dinner table and gathered for movie nights on weekends.

Then, as sophomore year got under way, the unexpected problems surfaced. She missed a student government meeting arranged on Snapchat. Her Model U.N. team communicates on social media, too, causing her scheduling problems. Even the Bible Study club at her Connecticut high school uses Instagram to communicate with members.

Gabriela Durham, a high school senior in Brooklyn, says navigating high school without social media has made her who she is today. She is a focused, organized, straight-A student. Not having social media has made her an “outsider,” in some ways. That used to hurt; now, she says, it feels like a badge of honor.

With the damaging consequences of social media increasingly well documented, many parents are trying to raise their children with restrictions or blanket bans. Teenagers themselves are aware that too much social media is bad for them, and some are initiating social media “cleanses” because of the toll it takes on mental health and grades.

This is a tale of two families, social media and the ever-present challenge of navigating high school. It’s about what kids do when they can’t extend their Snapstreaks or shut their bedroom doors and scroll through TikToks past midnight. It’s about what families discuss when they’re not having screen-time battles. It’s also about persistent social ramifications.

The journeys of both families show the rewards and pitfalls of trying to avoid social media in a world that is saturated by it.

Concerns about children and phone use are not new. But there is a growing realization among experts that the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the relationship kids have with social media. As youth coped with isolation and spent excessive time online, the pandemic effectively carved out a much larger space for social media in the lives of American children.

Social media is where many kids turn to forge their emerging identities, to seek advice, to unwind and relieve stress. In this era of parental control apps and location tracking, social media is where this generation is finding freedom.

It is also increasingly clear that the more time youth spend online, the higher the risk of mental health problems.

Kids who use social media for more than three hours a day face double the risk of depression and anxiety, according to studies cited by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who issued an extraordinary public warning last spring about the risks of social media to young people.

The Bulkeleys and Gabriela’s mother, Elena Romero, both set strict rules starting when their kids were young and still in elementary school. They delayed giving phones until middle school and declared no social media until 18. They educated the girls, and their younger siblings, on the impact of social media on young brains, on online privacy concerns, on the dangers of posting photos or comments that can come back to haunt you.

At school, on the subway and at dance classes around New York City, Gabriela is surrounded by reminders that social media is everywhere — except on her phone.

Growing up without it has meant missing out on things. Everyone but you gets the same jokes, practices the same TikTok dances, is up on the latest viral trends. When Gabriela was younger, that felt isolating; at times, it still does. But now, she sees not having social media as freeing.

“From my perspective, as an outsider,” she says, “it seems like a lot of kids use social media to promote a facade. And it’s really sad.”

There is also friend drama on social media and a lack of honesty, humility and kindness that she feels lucky to be removed from.

Gabriela is a dance major at the Brooklyn High School of the Arts. Senior year got intense with college and scholarship applications capped by getting to perform at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre in March as part of a city showcase of high school musicals.

“My kids’ schedules will make your head spin,” Romero says. On school days, they’re up at 5:30 a.m. and out the door by 7. Romero drives the girls to their three schools scattered around Brooklyn, then takes the subway into Manhattan, where she teaches mass communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

In New York City, it’s common for kids to get phones early in elementary school, but Romero waited until each daughter reached middle school and started taking public transportation home alone.

In the upscale suburb of Westport, Connecticut, the Bulkeleys have faced questions about bending their rules. But not for the reason they had anticipated.

Kate was perfectly content to not have social media. Her parents figured at some point she might resist their ban because of peer pressure or fear of missing out. But the 15-year-old sees it as a waste of time. She describes herself as academic, introverted and focused on building up extracurricular activities.

That’s why she needed Instagram.

“I needed it to be co-president of my Bible Study Club,” Kate explains.

As Kate’s sophomore year started, she told her parents that she was excited to be leading a variety of clubs but needed social media to do her job. “It was the school that really drove the fact that we had to reconsider our rule about no social media,” says Steph Bulkeley, Kate’s mother.

Schools talk the talk about limiting screen time and the dangers of social media, says her dad, Russ Bulkeley. But technology is rapidly becoming part of the school day. Kate’s high school and their 13-year-old daughter Sutton’s middle school have cell phone bans that aren’t enforced. Teachers will ask them to take out their phones to photograph material during class time.

The Bulkeleys aren’t on board with that but feel powerless to change it.

Ultimately they gave in to Kate’s plea for Instagram because they trust her, and because she’s too busy to devote much time to social media.

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Meloni joins cultural elite celebrating Italian opera’s recognition as a world treasure

VERONA, Italy — Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni joined top political and cultural figures at Verona’s ancient Arena amphitheater Friday night for an open-air celebration of Italian lyric opera’s recognition by UNESCO as a global cultural treasure.

Conductor Riccardo Muti presided over an orchestra of 170 musicians from Italy’s 14 opera houses, joined by over 314 choral singers and a cast of global star opera stars who delivered a greatest hits of Italian opera from Verdi to Puccini, Donizetti to Bellini for an appreciative crowd. La Scala’s two star dancers, Roberto Bolle and Nicoletta Manni, also performed.

“I am here to testify to my enthusiasm and my pride for the fact that Italian lyric opera has received this great recognition,” Muti told the crowd. “Of course, this is an important moment, because recognition is never a point of arrival but a point of departure.”

“The great masterpieces are our heritage, which we Italians have given to the world,” Muti added in a prepared message for the television audience.

While UNESCO included Italian opera on its intangible cultural heritage list in December, the Arena proved a fitting place to celebrate the milestone. The ancient stone amphitheater built by the Romans is home to a popular summer opera festival that for generations has made opera accessible to the uninitiated with lavish productions. More than half of the 400,000 spectators at the Arena each summer are foreigners.

“We have brought together the entire Italian opera system to celebrate, together with the great singers of the world,” said the Arena’s deputy artistic director, Stefano Trespidi. “I am convinced that this evening will bring benefits to the entire music and opera system.”

Joining Italian opera stars like Luca Salsi, Francesco Meli and Vittorio Grigolo were international stars including German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, Australian soprano Jessica Pratt and Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez. Russian soprano Anna Netrebko canceled at the last minute due to illness.

Though a previous center-left government prepared the UNESCO bid for Italian lyric opera, the recognition has been embraced by Italy’s far-right-led government. Besides Meloni, also attending the gala were Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano — who has set out to replace foreign opera house directors with Italians — and Senate speaker Ignazio La Russa, both members of her Brothers of Italy Party.

The loudest applause was reserved for Italy’s nonpartisan president, Sergio Mattarella. And Muti seemed to be making a point against Eurosceptics on the far-right when he transitioned from the Italian anthem, with its “Brothers of Italy” refrain echoing the name of Meloni’s party, to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, which is the European Union anthem.

Europeans are voting for European Parliament seats in an election that concludes Sunday and could determine whether far-right parties will have a greater say in the direction of the 27-member bloc.

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Dornoch wins the first Belmont Stakes run at Saratoga Race Course

SARATOGA SPRINGS, New York — When Luis Saez first rode Dornoch at Saratoga Race Course last summer, he told trainer Danny Gargan, “You have the Derby winner.”

While that did not come true, Dornoch made good on that optimism Saturday by winning the first Belmont Stakes at Saratoga, hugging the rail and holding off Mindframe to spring a major upset in the Triple Crown finale at odds of 17-1.

The horse co-owned by World Series champion Jayson Werth won the Belmont five weeks after a troubled trip led to a 10th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. This time, Dornoch sat off leader Seize the Grey, passed the Preakness winner down the stretch and held on for a 1 1/2-length victory.

“I would put it right up there with winning on the biggest stage. Horse racing is the most underrated sport in the world, bar none,” said Werth, who won Major League Baseball’s championship with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008. “It’s the biggest game: You get the Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont. We just won the Belmont. This is as good as it gets in horse racing. It’s as good as it gets in sports.”

It’s the first win in any Triple Crown race for Gargan and the second in the Belmont for Saez, who said he never lost faith in Dornoch.

“He’s one of the top 3-year-olds in the country, and we’ve always thought it,” Gargan said. “We let him run his race, and he won. If he gets to run, he’s always going to be tough to beat.”

It’s the sixth consecutive year a different horse won each of the three Triple Crown races. Sierra Leone, the Derby runner-up who went off as the favorite, was third and Honor Marie fourth.

Dornoch paid $37.40 to win, $17.60 to place and $8.10 to show. Todd Pletcher-trained Mindframe paid $6.80 to place and $4.20 to show and Sierra Leone paid $2.60 to show after a jumbled start and more directional problems.

There were no such issues for Dornoch, who triumphed at the track known as the graveyard of favorites for its penchant for upsets.

“No one believed in this horse,” Gargan said. “It’s speechless. He’s such a talented horse.”

Despite there not being a Triple Crown on the line, it’s a historic Belmont because the race was run at Saratoga for the first time in the venue’s 161-year history. It returns next year while Belmont Park undergoes a massive, $455 million reconstruction with the plan for the Triple Crown race to go back to the New York track in 2026.

Having it at Saratoga necessitated shortening the race to 1 1/4 miles from the usual “test of the champion” 1 1/2-mile distance that has been a hallmark of the Belmont for nearly a century. The temporary change contributed to getting more quality horses into the field who previously ran in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness or both. At 1 1/4-mile distance, Dornoch crossed the wire in a time of 2:01.64. 

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Pope invites comedians such as Chris Rock, Whoopie Goldberg to Vatican

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, who says he regularly prays “Lord, give me a sense of humor,” will welcome comedians from around the world to a cultural event in Italy to “celebrate the beauty of human diversity,” the Vatican said Saturday. 

Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien and Chris Rock will be among more than 100 entertainers at the Vatican on June 14. 

The pope “recognizes the significant impact that the art of comedy has on the world of contemporary culture,” a Vatican statement said. 

British comedian Stephen Merchant — the co-writer of the TV comedy series “The Office” — and Italian comedian Lino Banfi will also be at the event. 

The meeting will take place Friday morning, before the pope travels to Puglia to attend the Group of Seven (G7) leaders’ summit. 

“The meeting between Pope Francis and the world’s comedians aims to celebrate the beauty of human diversity and to promote a message of peace, love and solidarity,” the Vatican said. 

The audience has been organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education and Dicastery for Communication. 

Goldberg last month said in an interview that she had offered the pope a cameo in “Sister Act 3,” in which she will reprise her comedy role of a singer who takes refuge in a convent and organizes a choir. 

“He said he would see what his time was like,” Goldberg said joking, when asked if the pope had accepted her offer. 

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US shocks cricket world with win over powerhouse Pakistan

The United States cricket team beat Pakistan — a former world champion — on Thursday, achieving one of the biggest upsets in T20 Cricket World Cup history. This year’s tournament is being hosted by the United States and the West Indies. Saqib Ul Islam has more from the games in Dallas, Texas.

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US lawmakers call for scrutiny of NewsBreak app over Chinese origins

WASHINGTON AND LONDON — Three U.S. lawmakers have called for more scrutiny of NewsBreak, a popular news aggregation app in the United States, after Reuters reported it has Chinese origins and has used artificial intelligence tools to produce erroneous stories.

The Reuters story drew upon previously unreported court documents related to copyright infringement, cease-and-desist emails and a 2022 company memo registering concerns about “AI-generated stories” to identify at least 40 instances in which NewsBreak’s use of AI tools affected the communities it strives to serve.

“The only thing more terrifying than a company that deals in unchecked, artificially generated news, is one with deep ties to an adversarial foreign government,” said Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat who chairs the Intelligence Committee.

“This is yet another example of the serious threat posed by technologies from countries of concern. It’s also a stark reminder that we need a holistic approach to addressing this threat — we simply cannot win the game of whack-a-mole with individual companies,” he said.

The lawmakers expressed concerns about NewsBreak’s current and historical links to Chinese investors, as well as the company’s presence in China, where many of its engineers are based.

In response to a request from Reuters for comment about the lawmakers’ statements, NewsBreak said it was an American company: “NewsBreak is a U.S. company and always has been. Any assertion to the contrary is not true,” a spokesperson said.

NewsBreak launched in the U.S. in 2015 as a subsidiary of Yidian, a Chinese news aggregation app. Both companies were founded by Jeff Zheng, the CEO of NewsBreak, and the companies share a U.S. patent registered in 2015 for an “Interest Engine” algorithm, which recommends news content based on a user’s interests and location, Reuters reported.

Yidian in 2017 received praise from ruling Communist Party officials in China for its efficiency in disseminating government propaganda. Reuters found no evidence that NewsBreak censored or produced news that was favorable to the Chinese government.

“This report brings to light serious questions about NewsBreak, its historical relationship with an entity that assisted the CCP, and to Chinese state-linked media,” said Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, the top Democrat on the House select committee on China, in a reference to Yidian and its former investor, state-linked media outlet Phoenix New Media.

Americans have the right to “full transparency” about any connections to the CCP from news distributors, Krishnamoorthi said, particularly with regard to the use of “opaque algorithms” and artificial intelligence tools to produce news.

Reuters reported the praise Yidian received from the Communist Party in 2017 but was unable to establish that NewsBreak has any current ties with the party.

U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik, a Republican, said IDG Capital’s backing of NewsBreak indicated the app “deserves increased scrutiny.”

“We cannot allow our foreign adversaries access to American citizen’s data to weaponize them against America’s interests,” she said.

NewsBreak is a privately held start-up, whose primary backers are private equity firms San Francisco-based Francisco Partners and Beijing-based IDG Capital, Reuters reported. In February, IDG Capital was added to a list of dozens of Chinese companies the Pentagon said were allegedly working with Beijing’s military.

IDG Capital has previously said it has no association with the Chinese military and does not belong on that list. It declined to comment on the lawmaker’s reaction.

A spokesperson for Francisco Partners, which has previously declined to answer questions from Reuters on their investment in NewsBreak, described the story as “false and misleading” but declined to provide details beyond saying the description of them as a “primary backer” of NewsBreak was incorrect because their investment was less than 10%.

They did not provide documentation to prove the size of the holding. NewsBreak has told Reuters as recently as May 13 that Francisco Partners is NewsBreak’s primary investor. NewsBreak did not respond to two requests late Friday asking for documentation supporting the assertion.

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