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Baltimore bridge survivor describes horror of collapse

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Baltimore bridge survivor describes horror of collapse

The sole survivor of the Baltimore bridge disaster has told how he watched friends and relatives fall from the structure and die as he fought for his own life.

“I relive it all the time, the minutes before the fall and when I’m falling,” Julio Cervantes Suarez told NBC News in his first interview since the 100,000-ton cargo ship, the Dali, crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge on 26 March.

Mr Cervantes Suarez, 37, was one of seven maintenance workers fixing potholes at the time of impact. The force threw the van he was in off the structure and into the the Patapsco river around 180ft (50m) below.

He said he prepared for death.

“I thanked God for the family he gave me. I asked him to take care of my wife and kids. And I asked for forgiveness,” he said in an interview in Spanish.

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He struggled in vain to open the doors as water rose to his neck, then managed to force a window open – squeezing out just before the vehicle sank.

Unable to swim, he clung to a piece of wreckage and waited for rescue.

“That’s when I realised what happened. I looked at the bridge and it was no longer there,” he said.

Mr Cervantes Suarez said he saw co-workers – some of whom were family – as “the water covered them”.

“I started to call out to each by name,” he said. “But no one answered me.”

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The first to fall was his nephew, Carlos Daniel Hernández, who was in a car when the Dali smashed into the bridge.

Mr Cervantes Suarez said he had told the 24-year-old, whom he considered a son, to take a break in the vehicle.

“If I had told him to come with me, maybe it would have been different,” he said. “Maybe he would be here with us.”

The other victims were:

  • José Mynor López, 37
  • Maynor Suazo Sandoval, 38
  • Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26
  • José Lopez, 35
  • Alejandro Hernández Fuentes, 35.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed after the Dali lost power, veered off course and smashed into the structure.

Rescuers searched the waters for days to recover the bodies of all the victims.

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

A lawyer for Mr Cervantes Saurez and other victims told NBC that he was considering legal action against the Dali’s Singapore-based owner, Grace Ocean.

Mr Cervantes Saurez said he wanted those responsible to “pay” for the damage, but said he knew that it would not bring back his loved ones and co-workers.

“I know that money is not going to buy a hug from a father or a son,” he said.

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Deadline looms for Warner Bros Discovery with NBA broadcasts on the line

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Deadline looms for Warner Bros Discovery with NBA broadcasts on the line

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Warner Brothers Discovery has until Monday to match proposals for purchasing the next round of broadcast rights to the US National Basketball Association, which are set to more than double in value to roughly $75bn over 11 years.

The negotiation between the league and media company, whose TNT network has aired NBA games since the 1980s, has become a referendum on the future of live sports rights. For WBD the stakes are high: it is at risk of losing its cornerstone live sports programming amid changes in the broader media landscape.

Last week NBA team owners approved proposals from Disney, Amazon Prime Video and Comcast’s NBC for broadcast rights beginning with the 2025-26 season. WBD’s current contract gives it a chance to match any third-party offers — in this case, those from Amazon and NBC. It has until Monday evening to furnish its own proposal. 

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People familiar with the discussions, which are ongoing and subject to change, told the Financial Times the definition of what terms constitute a “matching offer” is complex in the current landscape, as traditional cable and linear companies compete directly with tech platforms.

In this case, WBD is more likely to target the proposal by Amazon, the people said, in part because the $1.8bn average annual value for its proposed rights is closer to the $1.2bn per year WBD pays now. The proposal from NBC is worth roughly $2.5bn per year.

It is unclear what could happen next, depending on WBD’s response. One person familiar with the process stressed that WBD would match one of the offers or not, but “this is not a bidding war”.

A spokesperson for TNT Sports said the company had received the proposals from the NBA and was “preparing a response in view of our matching rights”. The NBA, NBC and Amazon all declined to comment.

People familiar with the league and WBD agreed that dollar figures would not be the only criterion evaluated for determining who will prevail. Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, said last week the league’s goals in negotiating the next round of media rights were partly economic and partly fan services, including offering a mix of broadcast and streaming options as well as international capabilities.

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“That’s something that we’ve been very focused on in these deals, not just reach in the United States but reach globally as well,” Silver said, adding that details needed to be worked through “with existing partners” before the contracts could be finalised.

One point the stakeholders are quibbling over is the size and reach of streaming platforms. Amazon Prime Video has more than 200mn monthly viewers as of last year, while WBD’s direct-to-consumer streaming has reached nearly 100mn subscribers through the first quarter of 2024. That includes Max, where US viewers were able to watch simulcasts of NBA games on TNT this season.

A person familiar with WBD noted the disparities between the two companies’ streaming subscriber bases but said any assessment of the NBA rights in question — for domestic US distribution — should be limited to domestic comparisons.

The discussions come at a critical time for WBD, whose executives have weighed a potential break-up of the company as it contends with a $39bn net debt load. Its market capitalisation has fallen by a third to $20.8bn over the past year. 

Those circumstances, particularly the market capitalisation, are a consideration for the league, one of the people said. 

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People on all sides of the negotiations stressed “unknowns remain unknown”, as one person put it — meaning the final rights contracts will not be determined until WBD submits its counterproposal. When all is said and done, however, the overall value of the rights package is set to double, in a reflection of how important live sports are to keeping cable and streaming subscribers.

Analysts at MoffettNathanson wrote this spring that “having the NBA has been a significant source of leverage in driving [affiliate] rates for TNT and across WBD’s broader linear portfolio”.

Some of TNT’s A-list talent have also been outspoken about wanting to keep NBA games on the network, including Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, a co-host of the company’s flagship basketball programme, Inside the NBA. In interviews in recent months, he has criticised WBD chief executive David Zaslav for publicly equivocating over the decision to keep the rights.

“When we merged [with Discovery in 2022], that’s the first thing our boss said, ‘we don’t need the NBA’,” Barkley said on The Dan Patrick Show in May. “Well, he don’t need it, but the rest of the people [on TNT], we need it.”

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The FDA misses its deadline again to propose a ban on formaldehyde in hair products

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The FDA misses its deadline again to propose a ban on formaldehyde in hair products

A hairdresser straightens a woman’s hair by applying a hair product. A delayed proposal by the Food and Drug Administration would ban the use of formaldehyde as an ingredient in hair relaxers and hair straighteners.

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The Food and Drug Administration’s proposal to ban the use of formaldehyde as an ingredient in hair relaxers and hair straighteners on the market in the U.S. has been pushed back yet again. The deadline for the agency’s proposal, at this time, still remains unclear.

The FDA’s proposed rule takes a large step in shedding light on the potential harm that formaldehyde — a highly toxic, colorless gas — can cause to the many Black women and other women of color who typically use straightening products.

In October, NPR reported that the federal agency proposed the ban and scheduled its implementation for April 2024. The first deadline for the scheduled ban implementation was missed and pushed back to July 2024. Most recently, the agency moved the target date to September 2024.

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On April 3, the FDA told NPR in an email that the action date for the proposed ban was set for April 2024 and that officials were “still developing the proposed rule.”

At that time, a spokesperson declined to comment further about the timing or the ban’s detailed content.

But when pressed about the status of the ban to the federal agency in May and, most recently, this month, an FDA spokesperson told NPR that the proposed rule “continues to be a high priority.” They declined again to comment further about its timing or content.

When asked Friday for clarification about why there have been numerous delays in implementing the proposed ban, a spokesperson told NPR that the process for implementing proposed rules “takes time.”

“Before a proposed rule can be published in the Federal Register for public comment, it must be reviewed and approved within FDA and other parts of the Federal government,” the FDA spokesperson said in a statement.

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Allison Stevenson, an attorney who represents product manufacturers and retailers, says that while we should expect to see a ban on formaldehyde, it’s no surprise that the FDA has delayed the proposed ban several times.

“There are a lot of moving parts … this all falls under legislation that is still relatively new, in almost all respects. And so it’s not uncommon to see things get delayed for one reason or the other,” she said.

Stevenson predicts that the ban will likely not occur until 2025. She says the proposed ban is necessary to protect the health and safety of communities of color.

“The regulation is necessary to protect the health and safety of communities of color, Stevenson said. “I certainly don’t believe that the delay should be indicative to anyone that the FDA is not making this issue a priority,” she added.

What are the health risks associated with formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a toxic, colorless and strong-smelling gas that presents health hazards when breathed into the lungs or when it comes into contact with the eyes or skin, according to the FDA.

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In 2022, researchers at the National Institutes of Health released a study that showed an increased risk of hormone-related cancer in women who have used the chemicals in their hair. The findings in the report were especially concerning for Black women, who are far more likely to report using such products, including many kinds of chemical relaxers, Brazilian blowouts and keratin treatments.

“We estimated that 1.64% of women who never used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70; but for frequent users, that risk goes up to 4.05%,” lead author Alexandra White, the head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group, told NPR in 2022.

Once the gas is present in the air at levels exceeding 0.1 parts per million, those in contact with it can experience harmful side effects such as watery eyes, burning in the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, wheezing, nausea, and skin irritation. (Essentially, the more exposure one has to products containing formaldehyde — in terms of time and concentration — the higher the health risk.)

The long-term effects associated with the use of formaldehyde

The use of formaldehyde can have several long-term effects associated with it, which can include an increased number of headaches, asthma, contact dermatitis and possibly cancer.

Hair relaxers and hair straightening products have also been linked to risks associated with uterine cancer, breast cancer and even ovarian cancer — especially for Black women.

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According to the New York State Department of Health, more than 150 hair-straightening products on store shelves contain formaldehyde. Investigators discovered that products that claimed to be “formaldehyde-free,” “organic,” or even “natural” actually contained the highly toxic chemical when tested.

Aside from hair straighteners and smoothers, formaldehyde is used in glues, resins, dyes, textiles, disinfectants, building materials, automobile parts, embalming, and laboratories, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The retro charm of ‘getting your colours done’

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The retro charm of ‘getting your colours done’

“Oh, we left the four seasons behind somewhere towards the end of the last century,” Cliff Bashforth, managing director of the colour and image consultancy company Colour Me Beautiful, tells me. “Now, we have a palette of 24 tones, and it’s all about are you light or deep, warm or cool, clear or soft. We don’t tell people what colours to wear any more, we show them how to wear colour.”

“Getting your colours done” — common shorthand for the colour analysis service that famously assigned everyone a season — is as synonymous with the 1980s as leg warmers and leotards. It was transformational for a generation of women. I remember how excited my mother was to have been anointed “spring”, embracing a wardrobe of apricot and peach for the next three decades; my half-sister had hers “done” in the early 1990s, and has been happily wedded to her winter palette ever since, favouring silver over gold jewellery and not being afraid of lilac. “My aunt had it done,” a friend told me. “And she still only wears turquoise.”

I had presumed that the phenomenon of having your colours done died out along with leg warmers. But recently, after hearing that it has been trending on TikTok (#coloranalysis has been tagged more than 278,000 times), where various filters allow you to DIY your own colours, I discovered that it’s also having a moment IRL. On a weekend away with a close friend, I couldn’t put my finger on why she was looking quite so good. “I’ve had my colours done,” she admitted sheepishly, adding, “I know, I know,” before I could say anything about time-travelling to 1984. “I didn’t know you still could!” I replied. 

Carole Jackson’s ‘Colour Me Beautiful’ bestseller came out in 1980 . . .
Rebecca and Angi are seen in a desk mirror, with coloured swatches on Rebecca’s shoulder
. . . and many stick for life with the colours chosen in their consultation © Greg Funnell

She confided that she had visited a woman in north London who had been a colour consultant for many years and prescribed my friend warm autumnal shades, which she instantly espoused, all but doing away with any clothes that were not rust, olive, burnt orange or mustard. Along with a pop of her “wow” colour — a soft red for lipstick and earrings — it all hung together so nicely that I lost no time in signing up for a consultation myself. This is, of course, just how it took off over 40 years ago — as a word-of-mouth hit. 

Colour Me Beautiful, or Color Me Beautiful as it began, has been going strong ever since American founder Carole Jackson’s bestseller of the same name came out in 1980 and remained on the New York Times top 500 list for many years. It took off predominantly with women of a certain age in the US, leading many of them to train to become a “colour consultant” themselves — a popular late career option for women in possession of a garage or spare room, as well as a good dose of get up and go. 

“It was in a time when women were looking for a part-time job that had some glamour attached to it that they could also do from home,” says Mary Spillane, the image and communications consultant who brought Color Me Beautiful — the book and the business — to the UK in 1983, shortly after moving here. 

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“No one knew me in this country, so I thought I’d give it a go. It became a runaway success. I set it up in 35 countries.” A host of rival colour consultancy companies sprang up — some of which still adhere to the original “four seasons” doctrine today. 

Spillane is tickled to see how younger generations are embracing it as a retro trend. “I’ve seen it on TikTok and Instagram and it has really cracked me up,” she says. Her take is that eco-conscious Gen Z-ers spurning fast fashion are wanting to shop wisely and invest in pieces that suit them and will last. TikTokers are either videoing professional colour consultations, engendering long comment threads — “I def like the cool WAY better”; “I vote warm 100% 😬😬😬” — or attempting to work it out for themselves using special rainbow filters.

In Spillane’s view, there is no substitute for an in-person consultation. “None of us are objective and women tend to be more negative and have hang-ups . . . we have all these stupid things that we have closed off to ourselves. It’s great to have someone look at you fresh, and say ‘Come on, give it a go.’”

Two hands hold swatches with various colours
A range of swatches help to fins the right shades © Greg Funnell

In response to this surprise uptick, Colour Me Beautiful last year launched an “Express Colour” service lasting about 40 minutes (costing from £40) instead of 90 minutes (from £160), for “attention-shy young people”, says Bashforth. He trained as a consultant in 1988 and has worked for the company ever since, buying it out in 2016. Thousands have been trained over the decades, with a current stronghold of 800-plus consultants across the world. It is a particular hit in South Africa, Sweden and Switzerland — but the French, apparently, aren’t so keen. The demographic has evolved and it is no longer the preserve of that gloriously ’80s cohort “ladies who lunch”, but a potentially lucrative part-time option for those with children at home, or who are simply wanting to diversify. Is it still mainly women who sign up for training, I ask Bashforth. “Ninety-nine to one. I am the exception,” he laughs. 

It costs £2,000 (plus VAT) for 24 hour hours’ online training over six days, but, once you’ve bought your swatches of colour, “you can literally start the next day”. Some have stuck at it for 35 years, but others, such as Spillane, “ran out of puff”. The average tenure is — impressively — somewhere around the 15-year mark, according to Bashforth. 

Angi Jones, who operates out of her bright ground-floor flat in London’s Muswell Hill, has been with Colour Me Beautiful for nearly 20 years. Her living room is set up with a table piled high with neatly pressed samples of assorted coloured fabrics, and a chair placed in front of a mirror. Jones is stylish and smiley with blonde hair, wearing neutrals and a splash of apple green — “as bright as I go”, she tells me, “given my colouring”. She eyes my white T-shirt and pale pink cardigan, but refrains from comment.

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I sit down in the chair and Jones covers my shoulders with a sequence of “pelmets” that are divided into colourful segments like Trivial Pursuit wedges. As I look in the mirror, guided by Jones, the pelmets immediately reveal whether I am warm or cool, light or deep, clear or soft (muted is the term preferred by men, apparently). It is clear by how washed-out I look against certain pale tones that I am warm, deep and clear. Jones, now totally in her stride, begins to drape the swatches from the various piles of colour across me. “My mother told me I must never wear beige,” I venture, when she holds up the next set — neutrals. “Raincoats, handbags, basics,” replies Jones, “that’s what they are for.” I’m surprised that charcoal is in my remit, and disappointed that bright white is definitely out — though soft white is allowed. FT bisque is in, but my cardigan is a no.

Jones has strong views about the meaning and power of colour. “Red excites people — children like it,” she tells me. “Purple is a learned colour — people think you are more intelligent if you wear purple.” I admit that purple is the one colour I really don’t get on with. “That’s fine!” she says breezily, putting it to one side and pulling out a deep teal. “Ah! Look at that! That really brings out the contrast between your skin and your eyes and hair, which is what we want.” The teal goes into a shortlist pile of possible “wow” colours. 

People tend to smile when they find a colour that really works for them, she says. I grin like mad when she lays a daffodil yellow swatch across my shoulders — mainly because it is one of my favourite colours, and I’m happy I’m allowed to wear it. 

Then we go into colour combinations — the more striking the better, apparently, for my colouring. Mahogany and primrose: Dalai Lama gravitas. Chocolate brown and lapis — “The French do that, it’s very clever” — is smart, pulled together, like posh luggage. Chocolate and periwinkle is more air stewardess, however.  

At the end of the session, Jones assembles my wallet of personalised miniature swatches — small enough to slip into my beige handbag for a shopping trip to town. I feel myself itching to rashly bin my staple white T-shirts and pale jeans in favour of French navy and ivory. Perhaps with a splash of teal. 

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Not everyone responds well to being told what they should and shouldn’t wear: one FT journalist recounted how horrified she had been when her husband bought her a colour analysis consultation for her birthday. Others like to rebel, sporting colours they know aren’t in their wallet.

Having rushed out after my consultation and spent a small fortune on a coral jumpsuit and coffee-coloured trousers, a week later I found myself slipping back into my off-duty uniform. In flaunting Angi’s advice, I felt a pang of guilt, but also an illicit thrill.  

Rebecca Rose is the editor of FT Globetrotter

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