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(CNN)Western leaders are grappling with how far to escalate their military aid to Ukraine as the Russian invasion seems headed for a brutal new turn, a decision that may rest on whether the West's goal is to push for a total defeat of President Vladimir Putin.

Heroic resistance from Ukrainian troops, with the help of Western anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, has already claimed a famous victory -- the saving of Kyiv and the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky.
But now, Russia has named a new general to lead what has been a chaotic war effort and is grouping its forces in eastern Ukraine for a fearsome, concentrated assault that could stretch Ukraine's outnumbered forces as never before.The shift of strategy is forcing Western leaders to consider their own willingness to provide more offensive armaments to Kyiv ahead of what is shaping up to be a vicious battle that could dictate how much of Ukraine survives as a nation-state.
    Pressure on the West to do more is being exacerbated by the fact that Russia's new approach augurs yet more carnage for the civilians that it has been deliberately targeting with a vicious war plan.
      As Washington evaluates how to respond to Russia's latest maneuvers, there were sighs of relief in the US capital as French President Emmanuel Macron prevailed in the first round of the presidential election. But the survival in office of a key member of the Western leadership coalition will only be assured if he can beat the runner-up, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen -- a long-time Putin sympathizer -- in the tight campaign that will play out ahead of the second round in two weeks.Read MoreNew questions for the West about how best to bolster Ukraine's resistance follow a skittishness in Washington earlier in the war about antagonizing Putin with, for example, the transfer of Soviet-era jets from NATO states like Poland to Ukraine. More recently, the US has signaled it is willing to help its partners to get Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine. And Britain promised a robust package of arms following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's dramatic visit to Kyiv on Saturday.Decisions on exactly what kind of weapons to provide could depend on the end game the West sees in the country, especially after Zelensky's increasingly caustic appeals for more offensive weaponry following the discovery of atrocities against Ukrainian civilians when Russian forces pulled back from Kyiv.
        President Joe Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan gave the impression on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that Washington's policy would follow Kyiv's lead. But he also implied that broader US assistance and unprecedented sanctions on Russia's economy were also designed to better position Ukraine for any future ceasefire talks -- despite the failure of such efforts so far, given that there is little sign Putin is serious about a de-escalation."This is not a story of anyone standing by," Sullivan told CNN's Jake Tapper. "We are taking aggressive action in an effort to both help the Ukrainians succeed on the battlefield and help the Ukrainians have the best possible position at the negotiating table."But Republican Rep. Liz Cheney gave voice to a faction in Washington that says the US should be doing far more, though the Wyoming congresswoman is not advocating the dispatch of US troops to Ukraine. Western leaders have been concerned about igniting direct conflict with Russia amid fears of a nuclear escalation."We should not be talking about, as Jake Sullivan did just now, improving Zelensky's position at the negotiating table," Cheney said, also on CNN's "State of the Union." "This is about defeating Russian forces in Ukraine. It's about much more than Ukraine," Cheney said, calling for shipments of tanks, artillery and armored equipment to be sent to the country. "We need to be doing much more, more quickly." Russia digs in for escalation in eastern Ukraine CNN reported over the weekend that Putin has, for the first time, put a single military officer in charge of the Ukraine invasion, which has so far been plagued by poor strategy, supply issues, indiscipline and low morale among the troops.The appointment of Army Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, the commander of Russia's Southern Military District, has raised alarm in Washington.White House press secretary Jen Psaki warned that Dvornikov was responsible for "atrocities we saw in Syria" and pledged that the US will continue to work to ensure Ukraine has the weapons it needs.Washington has been walking a line between providing Ukraine with hardware that would allow it to repel the Russian invasion and inflict a heavy cost on Putin's troops and being seen to take steps that would turn the war into a direct clash between the United States and Russia, which could cause a dangerous escalation.But there are clear signs now that the West is reevaluating where those red lines are as the war enters a new stage. The process comes as the world reels with revulsion from atrocities against civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and from an attack on a train station in the eastern city of in Kramatorsk that refugees were using to flee the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Cheney said on CNN that the attack "clearly is genocide." US and Western officials have stopped short of using that designation, citing the need for a legal process on a term that is typically used with specificity, but have frequently accused Putin and his troops of committing war crimes.Both Psaki and Sullivan mentioned a two-hour call that took place between senior US military and administration appointees with top Ukrainian officials last week. During that call, the Ukrainians went down a list, item by item, of hardware and armaments that they've requested. Psaki said that the administration was working to ensure that if the US couldn't provide the requested material, its allies could.
          Johnson, for instance, laid out a package of equipment that the UK was willing to provide, including 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems. It was not clear what limits that Washington might place on the criteria of weaponry that might be available to the Ukrainians.

          News Source: CNN

          Tags: military aid to ukraine the russian invasion help the ukrainians atrocities against in eastern ukraine state of the union that washington western leaders more offensive russian forces jake sullivan ukraine in washington president cheney said the country with russia

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          ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Has an Absolutely Absurd Big Twist

          There’s a lot of juicy drama existing outside of Don’t Worry Darling, from on-set romances, custody papers, PR gaffes, to even a rumored hawked loogie. It’s been one of the more chaotically enjoyable hype cycles in recent memory—one that’s only amped up anticipation for the movie itself.

          It’s too bad that the movie is 10,000-percent less fun than any of the mess leading up to it. Don’t Worry Darling is a slog, saved only by Florence “Miss Flo” Pugh’s performance. Her Alice is a woman dealing with simmering (and incredibly believable) rage and distrust for what’s going on around her. She’s what we in the biz call an audience avatar, a character we can relate to. But that relatability only goes so far—because the movie takes Alice, and us, on a painfully absurd ride.

          (Warning: Spoilers ahead for Don’t Worry Darling.)

          Merrick Morton

          Don’t Worry Darling positions itself as a sci fi-tinged 1950s-set thriller. Keyword “sci fi.” If you think that everything is not as it seems, you’re right! This is a movie with a big twist, and that big twist has to do with, yes, avatars. And a podcast. And redpilled Redditors-turned-incel droogs. And Harry Styles’ hair (and, to a lesser degree, accent). Oh, and some incredibly awful ethics and low-key domestic abuse.

          Buckle up—unlike any of the characters in this movie, despite the mad-dash car chase during its big climax. Because Don’t Worry Darling’s end-game reveal is a doozy.

          The set-up: Alice and her husband, Jack (Harry “Can’t Act” Styles), are residents of a quiet suburb outside of the desert, somewhere on the West Coast. It appears to be sometime in the ’50s, based on all the updos, floral prints, pearl necklaces, and record players blasting old standards. All day long, the women do nothing but listen to music, watch TV, clean, gossip, and go to ballet class.

          Jack—just like all the husbands in town—works for some mysterious organization called the Victory Project. Frank (Chris Pine) is the Victory Project’s very handsome, very suspicious leader. Alice is the only one to suspect that Frank’s up to no good, even though he’s the reason that the men disappear every day to go work on the Victory Project’s “progressive materials”—and he’s the one who forbids them to tell their wives what that means.

            Alice’s eyes open after a friend of hers, Margaret (KiKi Layne), calls to warn her that things aren’t right in their quiet town. Alice tries to brush off the call, but not long after that, she sees Margaret kill herself by jumping off her roof. All is truly not well, and Alice knows it. None of the men in charge—it’s obviously all men—can stand for that, so the gaslighting commences.

            The gaslighting gets so bad that Alice is eventually forced to undergo a medical procedure, in order to rid her of paranoia. This comes after she confronts Frank, Jack, and her ignorant neighbors about what’s going on: The Victory Project is up to no good, keeping women in the dark and silencing them if they get close to discovering what’s really going on at their remote headquarters. But Frank actually seems to be truly horny for Alice’s edging toward the truth of what he and the men are doing, taunting her to dig for clues.

            But Alice, and the viewer, doesn’t actually understand what is happening until she is strapped to a table about to have her mind wiped of all she knows in order to suppress her rebellion. And this is where things get incredibly, incredibly nonsensical.

            Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

            We are transported into Alice’s memories before they’re wiped out. It turns out that before they joined the Victory Project, Alice and Jack were a bickering, modern-day married couple. Jack lost his job, which Alice said was fine—she’s a surgeon, and she’s down to take on more 30-hour shifts in the operating room. Jack could take the time he needed to find another job.

            Instead, he sat at home all day on the computer, getting angry with Alice for not coming home for dinner every night. His masculinity under threat, he started spending more time on the internet, listening to a creepy, cultish podcast hosted by none other than Frank.

            Jack was indoctrinated by Frank through his toxic sermons about making the ideal society, one in which men are dominant and women are subservient. Not only did Frank preach these ideas, he practiced them: Somehow, this podcast host had created a highly detailed simulation of his dream world, which men like Jack could sign up to live within.

              Jack obviously signed up for the simulation, which is called the Victory Project. The greasy-haired, bespectacled nerd was promised the chance to become who he really wanted to be: a suave Brit (hm, wonder why?) instead of a dowdy American, whose wife would stay home and let him be the breadwinner for once. All Jack needed to do was not tell Alice about any of this, lest she ruin his fun. Then he could then sedate her and hook her up to the goggle-type device that grants access to the Victory Project.

              There is one catch. Jack has to come out of the simulation for eight hours every day—that’s when the men were going to “work”—to make sure that Alice was still connected to the headset and also, like, alive? Jack would also go do some unseen work in order to keep paying for access to the Victory Project. Alice stays blissfully ignorant of all of this, drinking and gabbing in the sim all day long, every day, forever.

              This, my friends, is why the metaverse is a bad idea.

              Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

              The convoluted explanation for the vague creepiness of Don’t Worry Darling’s first two acts brings more questions than answers. How has no one rescued important surgeon Alice from her imprisonment yet? What kind of work does Jack do to make money? Are the pregnant women in the simulation actually pregnant? Why and how is Frank supporting this very intricately designed cult? Is he still making the podcast while he’s hanging out in the virtual world? Where did that mysterious plane that crashed in the desert, causing Alice to start investigating everything in the first place, come from? Why does the ground violently shake sometimes?

              I could go on and on and on. Before the movie can even begin to contend with these plot holes, Jack and Frank die—Alice beats Jack to death with some glass as he tries to subdue her; Frank’s creepy wife (Gemma Chan) randomly stabs him as he realizes that Alice is blowing up his whole life’s work. And if you die in the simulation, you die in real life.

              These are the big takeaways from Don’t Worry Darling’s mind-numbing twist, in short: Ra ra, feminism. Boo, toxic masculinity. Technology is bad. The end!

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