David Beckham hands over Instagram account to Kharkiv doctor

Beckham told his 71.6 million Instagram followers to look at his profile to see the work of Irina, a child anaesthesiologist, and her team amid the conflict. (LBC)
Beckham told his 71.6 million Instagram followers to look at his profile to see the work of Irina, a child anaesthesiologist, and her team amid the conflict. (LBC)
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Updated 22 March 2022

David Beckham hands over Instagram account to Kharkiv doctor

Beckham told his 71.6 million Instagram followers to look at his profile to see the work of Irina, a child anaesthesiologist, and her team amid the conflict. (LBC)

LONDON: Former England soccer captain David Beckham handed over his Instagram account on Sunday to a doctor helping women give birth in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
Beckham, the 46-year-old former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder and current co-owner of American Major League Soccer team Inter Miami, told his 71.6 million Instagram followers to look at his profile to see the work of Irina, a child anaesthesiologist, and her team amid the conflict.
Beckham, a goodwill ambassador for United Nations children's agency UNICEF, posted a video message and called on his followers to support the organisation's work in Ukraine.
Kharkiv has been hit by a barrage of Russian strikes that have destroyed many buildings since Moscow launched what it calls a “special operation” in Ukraine last month.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says the operation is aimed at disarming Ukraine and rooting out dangerous nationalists. Western nations call it an aggressive war of choice and have imposed punishing sanctions aimed at crippling Russia's economy.
Irina, head of the Regional Perinatal Centre, posted videos of a basement where she said pregnant women and mothers were evacuated on the first day of Russia's invasion. She also shared images of newborn babies dependent on oxygen generators, which were donated by UNICEF.
“The first days were the most difficult. We had to learn how to work with bombings and strikes,” she said.
“We are probably risking our lives, but we don't think about it at all. We love our work.”
One of Irina's videos showed a woman called Yana cradling her baby son Mykhailo, who was born on the second day of the war with breathing problems. Irina said Mykhailo was now better but the family's home had been destroyed.
“Doctors and nurses here, we worry, we cry, but none of us will give up,” Irina said.


Turkiye detains four over quake social media posts

Turkiye detains four over quake social media posts
Updated 33 sec ago

Turkiye detains four over quake social media posts

Turkiye detains four over quake social media posts
ISTANBUL: Turkish police on Tuesday said they had detained four people over “provocative” social media posts following a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake in southern Turkiye.
The quake struck the region early on Monday, killing more than 4,800 people in Turkiye and Syria, injuring thousands and leaving many more without shelter in the bitter cold.
The four individuals were detained after officers found accounts that shared “provocative posts aiming to create fear and panic,” the police said.
It added that a wider investigation into social media accounts was ongoing but offered no information on the content of the posts.
Turkish social media have been filled with posts by people who complain about a lack of search and rescue efforts in their area, particularly in Hatay.
The police appeared to address such claims on Tuesday.
“The address and location information of citizens who seek help is immediately ascertained and coordination is established,” they said.
Turkish authorities have in the last few years cracked down on social media posts, especially those considered to support “terror,” but this has led to accusations that freedom of expression has been curtailed.

Disney+ in Hong Kong drops ‘Simpsons’ episode with ‘forced labor’ mention

Disney+ in Hong Kong drops ‘Simpsons’ episode with ‘forced labor’ mention
Updated 23 min 48 sec ago

Disney+ in Hong Kong drops ‘Simpsons’ episode with ‘forced labor’ mention

Disney+ in Hong Kong drops ‘Simpsons’ episode with ‘forced labor’ mention

HONG KONG: An episode of “The Simpsons” that refers to “forced labor camps” in China is nowhere to be found on the Disney+ streaming service in Hong Kong amid growing censorship concerns in the city.
Hong Kong once boasted significant artistic and cultural freedoms compared to mainland China, but authorities have clamped down on dissent following democracy protests in 2019, including stepping up film censorship.
Episode 2 of the US animated hit’s 34th season included the line: “Behold the wonders of China. Bitcoin mines, forced labor camps where children make smartphones and romance.”
“One Angry Lisa,” which first aired last October, could not be accessed on Disney+ using a Hong Kong connection but is available elsewhere, AFP confirmed.
It is the second time in three years that the streaming service’s Hong Kong version has dropped a Simpsons episode that satirised China.
The previously affected episode showed the Simpsons visiting Beijing’s Tiananmen Square — the site of a deadly 1989 crackdown on democracy protesters — finding a sign there that read: “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”
The Hong Kong government and Disney did not immediately provide comment.
In 2021, Hong Kong passed censorship laws forbidding broadcasts that might breach a broad national security law that China imposed on the city.
Censors have since ordered directors to make cuts to their films and refused permission for others to be shown.
While those rules do not cover streaming services, authorities have warned that online platforms are still subject to the national security law, which criminalizes the broadly defined crimes of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
In recent years, Hollywood has been accused of bending to China’s censorship regime to tap into its vast consumer base and billion-dollar box office.
A recent United Nations report found allegations of torture and forced labor in the far-western Xinjiang region were credible, accusations Beijing denies.
Rights groups say more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are detained in what the US State Department and others have said amounts to genocide.
In 2020, Disney came under fire for filming the live-action Mulan remake in Xinjiang, with local government agencies thanked in the credits.


Google unveils ChatGPT rival Bard, AI search plans in battle with Microsoft

A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 2019. (AP)
A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 2019. (AP)
Updated 07 February 2023

Google unveils ChatGPT rival Bard, AI search plans in battle with Microsoft

A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 2019. (AP)
  • Currently, Google presents text that exists elsewhere on the Web for questions where the answer is clear

CALIFORNIA: Google owner Alphabet Inc. on Monday said it will launch a chatbot service and more artificial intelligence for its search engine as well as developers, an answer to Microsoft Corp. in their rivalry to lead a new wave of computing.
Microsoft, meanwhile, said it planned its own AI reveal for Tuesday.
The cascade of news reflects how Silicon Valley is anticipating massive change from so-called generative AI, technology that can create prose or other content on command and free up white-collar workers’ time.
The ascent of ChatGPT, a chatbot from Microsoft-backed OpenAI that could disrupt how consumers search for information, has been one of the biggest challenges to Google in recent memory.
In a blog post, Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said his company is opening a conversational AI service called Bard to test users for feedback, followed by a public release in the coming weeks.
He also said Google plans to add AI features to its search engine that synthesize material for complex queries, like whether learning guitar or piano is easier. Currently, Google presents text that exists elsewhere on the Web for questions where the answer is clear.
Google’s update for search, the timing of which it did not disclose, reflects how the company is bolstering its service while Microsoft is doing the same for Bing, embedding OpenAI’s capabilities in it.
Microsoft has said it plans to imbue AI into its all its products and on Tuesday plans to brief news outlets on developments it did not specify, with its CEO Satya Nadella, according to an invitation seen by Reuters. Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, tweeted that he would also attend the event.
How Google aims to differentiate Bard from OpenAI’s ChatGPT was unclear. Pichai said the new service draws on information from the Internet; ChatGPT’s knowledge is up to date as of 2021.
“Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our” AI, Pichai said.
Behind the new chatbot is LaMDA, Google’s AI that generated text with such skill that a company engineer last year called it sentient, a claim the technology giant and scientists widely dismissed.
In a demo of the service, Bard like its rival chatbot invites users to give it a prompt while warning its response may be inappropriate or inaccurate. It then bulleted three answers to a query about a space telescope’s discoveries, the demo showed.
Google is relying on a version of LaMDA that requires less computing power so it can serve more users and improve with their feedback, Pichai said.
ChatGPT at times has turned away users because of explosive growth, with UBS analysts reporting it had 57 million unique visitors in December outpacing potentially TikTok in adoption.
Google also plans to give technology tools, first powered by LaMDA and later by other AI, to creators and enterprises starting next month, Pichai said.

 


Twitter saved from bankruptcy, Musk claims

Twitter saved from bankruptcy, Musk claims
Updated 07 February 2023

Twitter saved from bankruptcy, Musk claims

Twitter saved from bankruptcy, Musk claims
  • Responding to a Wall Street Journal report, Musk said the business is ‘trending to breakeven’ but admitted that it still faces challenges
  • The platform expanded its Twitter Blue paid-for verification service to Saudi Arabia and 5 other territories last week, as it looks for ways to boost revenues

LONDON: Twitter has been saved from bankruptcy and the business is on track to break even, according to CEO Elon Musk.

In a message posted on the social media platform on Sunday, he said recent months had been difficult but the company is now in a stronger financial position, though there are further hurdles to overcome.

“Last three months were extremely tough, as had to save Twitter from bankruptcy, while fulfilling essential Tesla (and) SpaceX duties,” he wrote.

“Wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone. Twitter still has challenges, but is now trending to break even if we keep at it. Public support is much appreciated!

“To be extra clear, Twitter is definitely not financially healthy yet but is trending to be so. Lots of work still needed to get there.”

Musk posted his comment in response to a news report in The Wall Street Journal that examined his personal struggles while running several companies simultaneously, and questioned his physical well-being.

Following Musk’s takeover of Twitter in October, the company reported a massive drop in revenues from advertisers. This prompted the South African-born billionaire to say Twitter was like a “plane that is headed towards the ground at high speed with the engines on fire, and the controls don’t work,” and was at risk of going bust. He blamed the revenue decline on activists putting pressure on advertisers not to do business with the company after his takeover.

In his efforts to tackle the financial challenges Twitter faces, Musk has implemented a number of changes to the business and the platform. Shortly after completing his acquisition, he restructured the company and laid off about half of its 7,500 staff.

In an effort to enhance monetization of the platform, in December he revamped its Twitter Blue verification service in some territories and introduced a subscription-based tier that allows any user to obtain a “blue check” badge next to their name for $12 a month. The service expanded to six additional countries last week, including Saudi Arabia, increasing to 12 the total number in which it is available.

Also last week, Twitter announced it would end free access to its application programming interface, or API, which is used by third-party developers, and offer a basic paid tier instead. To further expand its revenue pool, the company was also reportedly considering offering popular usernames for sale at auction. In January, Twitter auctioned memorabilia from the company’s San Francisco headquarters.

Though the business appears to still be in a precarious financial state, the platform announced on Friday it will start sharing advertising revenue with some content creators.


French channel airs three-part Hezbollah documentary investigating Beirut port blast links

French channel airs three-part Hezbollah documentary investigating Beirut port blast links
Updated 06 February 2023

French channel airs three-part Hezbollah documentary investigating Beirut port blast links

French channel airs three-part Hezbollah documentary investigating Beirut port blast links
  • Two-year investigation reveals the militia’s defiance of justice, ties with drug cartels
  • Three part docuseries receives mixed reception in Lebanon

LONDON: French broadcaster France 5 aired night a three-part docuseries on Sunday looking into Iran-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah and its ties to drug cartels and the Beirut port explosion.

The series, titled “Hezbollah, l’enquête interdite” which translates to “Hezbollah, the Forbidden Investigation,” delves into the Lebanese militant group’s history over the past 40 years.

Through a series of testimonials from high-profile officials, it casts a light on the group’s defiance of justice, protected by the Iranian regime.

The three-part film, each episode an hour long, also exposes Hezbollah’s secretive funding methods and seeks to highlight how the international community failed to curb its activities.

Directed by Jerome Fritel and Sofia Amara, it is based on the US Drug Enforcement Agency investigations and indictments and includes interviews with high-ranking Hezbollah leaders, including the number two official, Naim Qassem.

Alternating archive images and exclusive testimonies, Fritel and Amara explore in detail the story of Hezbollah from its creation in hiding during the Lebanese Civil War in 1982, up to the explosion which ravaged the Port of Beirut in 2020.

The two journalists also uncover the ambiguities that surround Hezbollah’s finances, revealing its involvement in Colombian cocaine trafficking.

The docuseries, which is currently only available in France, immediately triggered reactions from Lebanese people and the international community.

Some people welcomed the documentary, saying that although Hezbollah’s facts are well known to the Lebanese people, the report helps to expose the group to international scrutiny.

Hezbollah “is responsible for the explosion of Beirut and the destruction of our beautiful country,” one user said on Twitter.

“We Lebanese knew it but it’s time for the world to know it too!”

 

Following the revelations, some users urged foreign actors to take action against Hezbollah.

“The International Society now knows an important part of the truth … what we really hope is a reaction to the magnitude of our expectations,” commented a Lebanese Twitter user.

 

Sky News Arabia and Arab News columnist Maria Maalouf was among the many users who posted links to download the episodes and urged followers to watch the documentary, which otherwise would not be available in Lebanon.

Some users, however, accused France 5 of propaganda against Hezbollah, and argued that the report is only a tactic to deter people, to “scare” and “alienate” them.

“Leave Lebanon in peace. No need for fake reportage,” one user said.