Women must be offered smear tests and mammograms on lunch breaks, report demands

A report on plummeting cancer screening rates recommends introducing more convenient test times for women.

Patients must be able to attend cancer screenings during evenings and weekends, and in locations close to their home or work, the Government-ordered review said.

Professor Sir Mike Richards said women need to be given more choice over where they go for tests, including for cervical or breast cancer.

The former national cancer tsar believes the changes could halt the worrying decline in the number of people attending screenings.

His study looked in detail at the NHS screening programmes for abdominal aortic aneurysm, bowel cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer and diabetic eye screening.

It said outdated IT systems used for screening must be overhauled as they are currently too fragmented and lead to errors, risking patient safety.

Furthermore, delays in introducing new types of screening – such as a delay of over a decade in bringing in the new bowel cancer test – end up costing lives.

The study found people would be more likely to accept invitations for screening if appointments were available either near their home or workplace – at convenient times.

Some women also prefer to be screened at sexual health clinics, it said.

The document noted GPs must be "incentivised" to provide convenient appointments and ensure people take up screening.

Text message reminders could also be sent to increase uptake of appointments, although current IT systems hinder access to mobile phone numbers.

More should also be made of social media campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of screening, the report said.

The study also said trans people and gender diverse populations are "currently poorly served by screening services" and this must be improved.

It said: "Transmen may have a cervix and thus be at risk of cervical cancer.

"However, their gender may be recorded as male and thus they would not be routinely called for cervical screening.

"Transwomen are at an increased risk of breast cancer compared to cisgender men if using hormones, but are only invited for screening if registered as female."

The report welcomed the Government's new funding to replace MRI machines, CT scanners and breast screening equipment, saying some equipment was hugely outdated.

It noted that some mobile vans for breast screening were "at least 17 years old" with "leaking roofs".

And while most patients get the results of their screening on time, just 23.2% of women received their cervical screening results within the recommended two weeks in April 2019 due to a changeover to a new system.

The report said the current screening service saves over 10,000 lives a year but there is a sense "that we are now slipping" and each screening service could "do better".

It was also unclear who is accountable for the screening service – with Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England both having key roles – and the report said responsibility must be transferred to NHS England.

"The current system lacks clear leadership and accountability," the report said.

"The rationale for dividing responsibilities across PHE and NHSE is often unclear and creates confusion, delays and risks to patient safety."

On IT, the study said the current systems used for screening "are woefully out of date and long due for replacement", leading "to inefficiencies and errors".

It added: "Some of the systems – particularly those for breast and cervical screening – are old and liable to fail."

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UPS driver makes hilarious attempt to hide package

Fox News Flash top headlines for Oct. 15

Fox News Flash top headlines for Oct. 15 are here. Check out what’s clicking on Foxnews.com

Well, that didn’t work.

A delivery driver hilariously followed instructions while delivering a package, though the directions made little sense, given what was being delivered. The resulting picture revealed one of the funniest ways for someone to find a package by their front door.

Ebony Freeman recently received a new doormat from a friend that reads, “Please hide packages from husband,” Fox 13 reports. The Texas native apparently liked the mat and placed it outside the front door to her house.

A few days later, she reportedly received a package and the delivery driver followed the mat’s instructions. Unfortunately, the package was a long, elongated packaged that was not hidden by the mat in any way at all.

Freeman shared a photo of the package on Facebook and captioned it: “Oh my god look! The UPS guy actually hid it under the rug!”


The post quickly went viral, garnering over 7,000 reactions, 10,000 comments and 48,000 shares.

This isn’t the first time that delivery drivers have been the source of great photographs.


In 2017, a trend spread online of UPS drivers posing with dogs along their delivery routes. An online group called UPS Dogs was formed by one of the company’s drivers. Sean McCarren of West Virginia created the group after he noticed that his phone was full of pictures of puppies he'd met while on the job.

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You Can Make Sparkly Unicorn Jell-O Shots Now

I have never really been a Jell-O shot kind of person, largely because I’m not a gelatin person in the first place — but I might make an exception for these fun-looking treats: You can get unicorn gelatin shot kits at retailers like Walmart and Amazon now. Made by Crafty Cooking Kits, they’re ostensibly for kids (and therefore alcohol-free in their natural state)… but, I mean, let’s be honest: There is no reason an adult can’t also seize the opportunity to make unicorn gelatin shots. Whether you choose to leave them as-is or add a boozy kick to them, they’re still fun, even if your childhood is long behind you.

According to the product listing, the Magical Unicorn Gelatin Cups Kit comes with berry-flavored gelatin mix, red and blue colored powders, rainbow sprinkles, and unicorn decorations, along with six plastic cups in which to mix up your creations. You’ll need to supply two cups of boiling water, a muffin pan, and aluminum foil yourself; you can also add your favorite boozy beverage to the mix if you want to make your unicorn gelatin shots… uh… let’s call it extra magical.

It’s not immediately clear what the instructions require when it comes to actually making the treats; the item description on the side of the box tells us only that it involves “pink and blue berry-flavored gelatin [blending] magically together to leave both kids and adults mystified.” Does it work like the long-discontinued dessert Jell-O 1-2-3, which divided itself into three different layers during the refrigeration process? Do you just, y’know, make two different colored gelatins and pile them on top of each other? Who knows!

Either way, though, you get to top each little up off with rainbow sprinkles and unicorn heads at the end, so, hey, that’s fun. If you’re feeling especially extra, you might also think about adding a dollop of Cool Whip or some actual whipped cream to the cup before you go to town with the sprinkles.

I’ll admit to being a little disappointed that the unicorn heads are not edible; they’re just little paper decorations you stick in the top of the finished gelatin cups. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point the fact that the kit isn’t terribly highly reviewed — on both Walmart and Amazon, a number of reviewers commented on the excessive firmness of the gelatin, as well as its relative lack of flavor. (To be perfectly honest, gelatin has never tasted like much of anything to me, so this particular criticism seems kind of like yelling at water for being wet, but maybe that’s just me.)

Either way, though, they’re not terribly expensive — between $4 and $6 a kit, depending on where you shop — so if you’re looking for an affordable way to keep either your favorite kids or just, y’know, yourself entertained on a rainy day, they might be worth a shot. Have fun!

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Jennifer Aniston Literally Broke Instagram With Her Profile Debut

Were you one of the people who woke up, opened your Instagram app and saw the news that our favorite Friends star had finally joined the photo-sharing platform but were met with issues when trying to follow her?

That’s because Jennifer Aniston quite literally broke Instagram this morning with her profile debut. 

Instagram told E! News in a statement they were “aware that some people are having issues following Jen’s profile — the volume of interest is incredible! We are actively working on a solution and hope to have it up and running smoothly again shortly.”

After years of staying away from social media, the 50-year-old has finally caved.

On Tuesday morning, she surprised us all by making her debut on Instagram, sharing a selfie with her Friends co-stars Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer

“And now we’re Instagram FRIENDS too,” Aniston captioned the post. “HI INSTAGRAM.” 

She also wrote in her Instagram bio, “My friends call me Jen.”  


As of right now, the actress is only following 99 accounts on the social media platform and she has amassed nearly 2m followers.

And guess who also left a comment on the Murder Mystery actress’ first post ever? 

Justin Theroux left a sweet comment on his ex-wife’s Instagram post, writing, “Woot-woot [raised hand emoji] [heart emoji].” 

We can’t wait to see what Jen starts sharing with us on Instagram!

Here’s to more Friends reunion selfies. 

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Live+7 Ratings for Week of Sept. 30: ‘Evil,’ ‘Stumptown,’ and ‘Emergence’ All Double

Three new fall shows have doubled their ratings after seven days of delayed viewing.

The dark Fox show “Evil” went from a 0.6 rating to a 1.2, while ABC dramas “Stumptown” and “Emergence” jumped up to a 1.5 and a 1.3 from a 0.7 and a 0.6 in Live+Same Day respectively. “Prodigal Son” on Fox remains the best performer after Live+7, with its second episode hopping 70% to a 1.7 rating.

Unlike last week, “This Is Us” overtook “The Masked Singer” to be the top rated program other than football in L+7, posting a 3.1 to the Fox singing show’s 3.0.

In terms of total viewership, “NCIS” continues to be way above all the competition, while this time around “All Rise” rose up to be the most watched new show in delayed with just over 8 million total viewers.

Read the full week’s rankings below.

Live+7 Adults 18-49

Live+7 Total Viewers

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Listen: How ‘Jagged Little Pill’ Will Rock Broadway

“Jagged Little Pill” wasn’t originally written with Broadway in mind — but the songs on Alanis Morissette’s smash-hit 1995 album do exactly what good musical theater songs should do, according to the upcoming show’s creators and producers.

Listen to this week’s podcast below:

The team explained why on Variety‘s theater podcast, “Stagecraft,” in an episode recorded live at Variety‘s second annual Business of Broadway breakfast. Book writer Diablo Cody, director Diane Paulus, and producers Eva Price and Vivek J. Tiwary were all on hand to offer a glimpse of the show’s journey toward the Broadway run that begins previews on Nov. 3.

“It struck me how theatrical these songs were,” Tiwary (“American Idiot”) said of Morissette’s tunes. “The songs are recorded to have a feel that is very epic in scope and sound … but the message is small. The message is like: ‘Here’s what happened to me one summer. Here’s what’s going on with me and my parents. Here’s what happened with me in a relationship that just ended.’ That, to me, is the definition of a great musical theater song. It plays to the back of the room, but makes you feel like you’re right inside one person’s head.”

Meanwhile, Paulus (“Waitress,” “Hair”) described being struck by the theatrical potential she sensed in the album. “Everybody knows [album anthem] ‘You Oughta Know,’ but then you listen to every song and you think, ‘Oh my God, it’s a range of emotion,’” Paulus said. “Alanis is not just an angry rocker chick.”

These tunes from the 1990s are also remarkably relevant to today’s world, according to Price. “I believe in the stories that this prescient woman wrote 25 years ago, because they’re speaking to today in a way that nothing else has,” she said.

“Jagged Little Pill” is the first theater project for Cody, the screenwriter (“Juno”) who penned the musical’s original book. She’s loving the change in medium. “As a writer, the opportunity to do things over and over and over again is a thrill. I love it,” she said.

She added, though, that she doesn’t love watching her own work onstage: Back during the show’s premiere run in Boston, she said, “I would just walk around in the back [of the auditorium], and if I couldn’t handle it, I would just put my head down and pace. The actors are like, ‘You look f—in’ weird back there!’ But you know, you gotta do what you gotta do to survive the process!”

Hear the whole discussion, moderated by City National Bank’s Erik Piecuch, on the latest episode of Stagecraft.

New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

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The ‘Christmas Prince 3’ Synopsis Is Taking The Trilogy To A New Level Of Bonkers

First came the coronation, then a Christmas wedding, and now, the Royal family of Aldovia is about to welcome a new addition — and possibly, a new curse. As part of Netflix’s newly announced holiday lineup, the streaming site also revealed that A Christmas Prince 3 will include an ancient curse. That’s right, Queen Amber (Rose McIver) and King Richard (Ben Lamb) may have to fend off a fantastical threat before welcoming their first child ahead of Christmas morning.

According to Netflix’s official synopsis, the third installment of the fan-favorite romantic comedy series, A Christmas Prince 3: The Royal Baby, will once again pick up with the Aldovian royals at the holidays, as the king and queen — who married at Christmas during A Christmas Prince 2 — are preparing to welcome their first child. They’re also gearing up for an official visit from the king and queen of the fictional nation Penglia to renew a "600-year-old sacred truce." However, "when the priceless treaty goes missing, peace is jeopardized and an ancient curse looms," leaving a pregnant Amber to put her journalism skills to work in order to figure out who the thief is before the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve.

The ancient curse is a new addition to the Christmas Prince trilogy, as the conflict of the first two films centered primarily around issues of diplomacy and political intrigue. However, since Count Simon (Theo Devaney) — who attempted to steal the crown in the first film — redeemed himself and was welcomed back into King Richard’s court in A Christmas Prince 2, it’s no surprise that the royals would need to face a threat.

The curse hints that the trilogy, which up until now has drawn most of its inspiration from the relationship between Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is moving away from reality and towards the supernatural. Unless there’s a royal curse currently at work that’s being kept from us commoners.

The Christmas Prince films are actually inspired by real experiences with the Royal Family. In October 2018, screenwriter Karen Schaler told Entertainment Tonight the films were inspired by her time working as a reporter covering the Royal Family, which is where she got the idea to have Amber start out as a journalist writing about Richard’s coronation. "[It’s] loosely inspired by trying to get scoops when I was an investigative reporter and they were always sending me to get the worst story," Schaler explained.

Despite being a former journalist, Schaler told ET at the time that she isn’t bothered by all of the jokes and memes about Amber’s questionable reporting skills. "I love all the feedback," she explained. "Even the people who thought it was corny and ridiculous seemed to enjoy it and watch it." Considering that the plot of A Christmas Prince 3 seems to hinge on Amber’s ability to investigate the theft of the treaty — and maybe her ability to outsmart an ancient curse — it seems like the franchise is ready for fans to analyze Amber’s journalistic integrity once more. However, viewers will have to wait until A Christmas Prince 3: The Royal Baby premieres on Dec. 5 to find out if those infamous note-taking skills really do save the day.

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Elizabeth Warren’s Fundraising Approach Worries Some Donors

Elizabeth Warren raised nearly $25 million last quarter, and she did it without ever once setting foot in a fancy living room in Bel Air or Brentwood.

Last week, she announced that if she is the Democratic nominee, she will continue to avoid high-dollar fundraisers in the general election. And on Tuesday, she went further, announcing that she would take no more than $200 from executives at tech companies, hedge funds and private equity firms.

Warren’s approach would rewrite the traditional rules of politics, which have long compelled candidates to spend much of their time schmoozing trial lawyers and financiers in the nation’s ritziest ZIP codes. But her latest announcements — accompanied by her surge in the polls — have raised alarms among some veteran Democratic donors, who worry she is setting the party up for failure in 2020.

“On the question of electability, there is huge and justifiable concern,” said Ken Solomon, the CEO of Tennis Channel and a top bundler for President Barack Obama. “She can say, ‘I’m not afraid,’ but we need to be.”

Democrats expect to be significantly outspent against President Donald Trump, who raised $125 million for his campaign and the Republican National Committee last quarter. Rufus Gifford, a former Obama finance director, worries that Warren’s approach will put the party in an even deeper hole.

“No one has ever run a presidential campaign doing something like this,” Gifford told Variety. “I think it’s far too great a risk when the stakes are this high. Money in politics is a threat. We need aggressive campaign finance reform. But a bigger threat is Donald Trump. This is not the time for a moral purity test.”

Mathew Littman, a Democratic strategist and former speechwriter for ex-Vice President Joe Biden, noted that Warren has a proven ability to raise small-dollar money. But in the general election, he said she would have to do what is necessary to compete.

“You can’t unilaterally disarm, especially considering the war chest that Donald Trump is going to have. You can’t go in as Grenada against the United States,” Gifford said. “Elizabeth Warren has to figure out what is the best way to defeat Donald Trump, if she’s the nominee. If the best way is to get on the phone with somebody because you need that commercial time in Ohio, then that’s what you do.”

As of now, there is no “Stop Warren” movement among the Democratic donor class. And she has many admirers in Hollywood, a bastion of true-blue progressive politics. Even so, some are a little irked at the tenor of her rhetoric on political fundraising, which many see as a necessary evil at worst.

“It makes it sound like there’s something going on in these fundraisers that is somehow secret, or a window into some cabal. That’s not my experience,” said producer Michael Lombardo, who hosted a fundraiser for Biden last week. “The truth of the matter is the entertainment community happens to have a lot of people who happen to care passionately about our government and are generous in their support.”

Lombardo said he’s backing Biden because he’s “the only candidate who I see a path to victory next year.” But he said he and his husband, architect Sonny Ward, will support the Democratic nominee no matter who it is. He described himself as a fan of Warren, but said he wasn’t sure whether her stance on fundraisers would accomplish much.

“It makes a statement. It embraces a kind of populist notion,” he said. “At the same time, I’m not sure as a practical matter that it does what they’re pretending it does. … It’s the soft dollars. Money flowing into the national committee will continue to happen.”

Warren is borrowing her strategy from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who also raised $25 million in the third quarter without holding high-dollar fundraisers. Warren has gained steadily in the polls in recent weeks, and some polls show her in a virtual tie with Biden.

Much like Iowa caucus voters, Hollywood donors are used to being able to see presidential candidates up close, ask them questions and get a feel for them as people.

“Because Warren has not done those events, people don’t really know her as much as they would normally at this stage of the game,” said Donna Bojarsky, a Democratic consultant.

Warren has been to Los Angeles a few times this year. She held a rally for several thousand people at the Shrine Auditorium on Aug. 21. On Oct. 4, she appeared at an SEIU summit in downtown Los Angeles, where she addressed a large crowd of service workers. At a press conference, she was asked about her refusal to hold traditional fundraisers.

“Democracy is not a thing that can go by itself,” Warren said. “It can’t just be left to the wealthy and the corporate executives to make the pieces run, because the problem is they keep running all those pieces for themselves.”

Should she be the nominee, she has said that she will continue to hold fundraising events for the Democratic National Committee. Some are advising their friends that she will be flexible, allowing her to pivot to softer stances in the general election.

“I have been told by people that know her that she’s very smart, very savvy and also a committed capitalist,” Bojarsky said.

But Solomon worries that Warren’s views on economic issues will embolden wavering Trump supporters — who may not like him, but see his presidency as in their financial interests — to go out and raise money for him.

“The socialist thing is going to be a huge spark,” Solomon said. “They are going to rise up against her in mass outrage.”

Some Warren supporters argue that her uncompromising approach will create a sharp contrast in the general election. Alex Blagg, a writer and producer on the Comedy Central show “@midnight,” said Warren’s populist appeal would give Democrats a better shot against Trump than they had in 2016.

“There’s a rage across the left and right of the spectrum against people that are perceived as powerful and elite,” he said. “That is a very powerful mood and feeling to tap into. The more pure of a lightning rod that you can be to harness that, the better.”

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Turkey steps up Syria offensive against Kurds in spite of Trump’s warnings

Updated Oct 15, 2019 7:51 AM EDT

Dohuk, Iraq — Dismissing warnings from President Donald Trump and the imposition of economic sanctions, Turkey’s leader has defended his attack on America’s former Kurdish allies in northern Syria and insisted he will push on with the offensive until his government’s “objectives have been achieved.” Turkey considers the Kurdish militias who helped the U.S. defeat ISIS in Syria to be terrorists, and for years Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has wanted to push them back from his southern border, deeper into Syrian territory.

As CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reported on Tuesday, it may be hard to hear Mr. Trump’s demands for a ceasefire over the deafening explosions on the battlefields of northern Syria.

Despite growing international pressure to bring an end to the violence, Erdogan’s forces have, if anything, stepped up their military campaign to grab land before advancing Syrian regime forces arrive to retake key Kurdish cities.

  • Why is Turkey attacking the Kurds in Syria?

On Mr. Trump’s orders, the roughly 1,000 American forces who had operated for years in northern Syria, effectively shielding the Kurds from a Turkish offensive, have been ordered out, leaving the U.S. military largely out of the picture. 

Retreating U.S. troops have been seen on the move, fearful of being caught between the advancing Turkish army and its allies pushing south, and the forces of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad as they push north. U.S. officials have told CBS News they intend to get all the U.S. troops out of northern Syria within a month.

A journalist who works for Russia’s state-run press posted video on Tuesday allegedly from inside the abandoned U.S. base in Manbij, right on the western edge of the Kurdish territory, saying: “I’m now at the American base. Let’s see how they’re living.” The reporter also posted video of himself operating a steel barrier meant to thwart suicide truck bombs. There were no Russian troops seen at the base with him, nor any of Assad’s forces who they back.

America’s quick exit changed the landscape of northern Syria dramatically and immediately. D’Agata and his team not only had to avoid Syrian regime forces as they headed for the Iraqi border on Monday, but the Turkish military and its allied extremist militias, and an emerging ISIS threat, too.

Tens of thousands of Kurdish civilians have been caught up in the widening chaos in the region. Victims of indiscriminate shelling have packed into over-stretched hospitals and D’Agata saw for himself how under-resourced the facilities are.

One surgeon told CBS News they’re desperate for medicine and equipment, and on the verge of collapse.

The United Nations estimates at least 160,000 people have been displaced by the fighting already, and that figure keeps climbing.

Defending the offensive in an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, Turkey’s Erdogan said his country had “reached its limit,” dealing with the 3.6 million refugees from the Syrian conflict who have sought shelter in his country.

Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish fighters – forces who were once America’s most loyal ally in the fight against ISIS – as terrorists who must be eradicated.

Kurdish commanders told CBS News on Tuesday that some American troops had actually requested their help in Kobani, where the U.S. has its biggest base in the region, to keep the advancing Syrian regime forces out of the area until they’re able withdraw.

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From the NBA to ‘South Park,’ China Refuses to Play Ball With Its Critics

The Oct. 12 game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets in the Chinese city of Shenzhen might have seemed like business as usual, with thousands of basketball fans out in force for the rare opportunity to see their beloved NBA teams compete live.

But below the surface, tensions were high at the second of what have likely been the two most geopolitically controversial preseason exhibition games in NBA history. After a single tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV refused to air the two games, and nearly all of NBA China’s local sponsors have fled.

The angry backlash in the Middle Kingdom has illustrated anew the difficult challenge Western companies face as they do business in a country whose massive
market they crave but whose government espouses values they don’t. In the past week, U.S. firms from Google to Nike to gaming company Activision Blizzard have been caught up in controversy over their dealings with China. So, too, has Hollywood, with “South Park” putting out an episode deeply critical of the Beijing regime and the U.S. — and getting scrubbed from the internet in China as a result.

Due to its new status as a global economic and political powerhouse, China is likely to grow even more assertive in its response to anything it deems counter to its interests, some analysts say.

“I fear that this is the new normal,” says James McGregor, Greater China chairman of public relations firm APCO Worldwide. “Instead of sitting back and accepting criticism, China is now on the offensive to influence, and in some cases control, the global discussion about China and its way of doing things.”

The situation is particularly delicate at the moment because of the ongoing civic protests in Hong Kong, which began in June and have since morphed into a broader pro-democracy, anti-Beijing movement. The mainland’s ruling Communist Party has portrayed the protests as a counterrevolutionary separatist movement spurred on by “foreign forces” including the U.S., with which China is engaged in a grinding trade war.

The country has also just come off its huge 70th anniversary celebrations of the establishment of the People’s Republic, a highly politically sensitive occasion accompanied by heightened censorship.

“At such a moment, an influential foreigner or a noteworthy company making statements that touch on Chinese sovereignty is like taking a match to the powder keg,” says Florian Schneider, a professor at Leiden University who studies China’s digital nationalism and politics in Chinese entertainment.

Hollywood has traditionally tried to keep China on board by steering clear of hot-button topics such as the Communist Party and Tibet, inserting positive images of China into movies such as “The Martian” and “Gravity,” and refraining from making villains Chinese.

“The studios are very aware of what the red lines are and what the points of potential contention are,” says Aynne Kokas, author of “Hollywood Made in China.” “For people who have been paying attention, this is not something that happened suddenly. It’s the next step in a long, iterative process.”

One fear is that the NBA and “South Park” imbroglios will encourage Western companies to practice even more self-censorship regarding China.

“What Hollywood and other corpora­­tions want is for these issues not to come up in the first place,” says Isaac Stone Fish, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan
Asia Society. “It’s unfortunate that the business climate for a lot of American corporations right now is such that they’re going to work to make sure that these issues in China are not talked about publicly in the hopes that they won’t get attacked and they won’t be in a position of having to defend Beijing’s response.”

But as the situation in Hong Kong grows more intractable and divisive, that studious avoidance may become harder.

The NBA found itself in a lose-lose situation, unable to publicly reprimand Morey without causing a firestorm back in the U.S., but faced with China’s wrath over the perceived slight to its sovereignty. Likewise for Hollywood, moves seen as accommodating the Chinese government’s effort to control information and stifle dissent can be politically tricky in the U.S., especially among outspoken entertainment industry figures such as George Clooney.

As the studio with the largest operations by far in China, including theme parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong, Disney is particularly vulnerable to getting caught up in the fray. Disney-owned ESPN has come under fire for reports that the sports powerhouse told its on-air personalities not to discuss the China situation. A source close to ESPN countered that the network instructed hosts to avoid “purely political” conversations about the NBA flap. In fact, ESPN carried multiple news reports of the NBA backlash in China last week.

Disney was also in the crosshairs when Crystal Liu Yifei, the star of its $300 million live-action remake of “Mulan,” tweeted in support of the Hong Kong police’s crackdown on protesters in August. Liu is a mainland social media star, with 66 million followers on Weibo. Outraged Hong Kongers quickly called for a boycott of “Mulan,” which is due to be released next year.

Disney has carefully kept quiet about the affair, declining Variety’s requests for comment. Liu also skipped the press line and panel at Disney’s D23 expo in August in the wake of the controversy.

“The companies most at risk are those with conflicting constituencies and high-profile people with access to local platforms,” says Marc Ganis, a leading U.S. sports consultant and a China media investor.

But he cautions against exaggerating how China might respond to perceived offenses. “I can’t imagine that action would be taken against an entire studio in response to the words of an anonymous mid-rank executive,” he says. “Viacom as a whole did not get x-ed out because of ‘South Park.’ Paramount movies have received release dates since then.”

One tactic Western companies have used is to put out different messages to different audiences. U.S. games firm Activision Blizzard drew widespread anger from gamers outside China and from U.S. politicians when it stripped a professional player known as Blitzchung of his winnings and banned him from competition after
he mouthed support for Hong Kong protesters in a post-match interview. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted: “Recognize what’s happening here. … China [is] using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally.”

Blizzard has since restored Blitzchung’s winnings and reduced his competition ban, and said that “our relationships in China had no influence on our [original] decision.” But in a Chinese-language social media posting, the company said it viewed the Blitzchung incident with “righteous indignation” and would “resolutely safeguard [China’s] national dignity.”

The NBA initially described Rockets general manager Morey’s tweet — “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” — as “regrettable.” But the Chinese version of that statement was more strongly worded, saying that the league was “extremely disappointed in the inappropriate comment.”

Although the NBA relies on the Chinese government’s good graces to exploit the country’s populous market, McGregor points out that the huge fan base in China for U.S. professional basketball gives the league “significant soft power, and the government knows that banning NBA games from being broadcast could cause considerable social unrest.”

Hollywood studios also have some soft power, but probably not as much as the NBA. “China’s consumers want their products and services, and that [desire] does
provide some leverage for us,” says former DMG executive Chris Fenton, who co-hosted a U.S. congressional delegation visit to Hong Kong and mainland China last month. But the Chinese government can easily turn off the Hollywood tap.

All of which means that controversies over doing business in China — and what compromises over free speech and other values should be made to facilitate it — are unlikely to end anytime soon.

“Hollywood is an ambassador for the U.S.,” says Leiden University’s Schneider.

“And producers and writers need to ask themselves what it says about wider social values when they self-censor and sanitize their content for financial gain.”

Gene Maddaus contributed to this report.

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