Chants of ‘shame on you’ greet guests at White House correspondents’ dinner shadowed by war in Gaza

Chants of ‘shame on you’ greet guests at White House correspondents’ dinner shadowed by war in Gaza
A protester kneels near vests representing bulletproof press vests, symbolic of journalists who were killed while covering Israel' war on Gaza near the annual White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) Dinner in Washington, US, April 27, 2024. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 28 April 2024
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Chants of ‘shame on you’ greet guests at White House correspondents’ dinner shadowed by war in Gaza

Chants of ‘shame on you’ greet guests at White House correspondents’ dinner shadowed by war in Gaza
  • “Western media we see you, and all the horrors that you hide,” crowds chanted at one point

WASHINGTON: The war in Gaza spurred large protests outside a glitzy roast with President Joe Biden, journalists, politicians and celebrities Saturday but went all but unmentioned by participants inside, with Biden instead using the annual White House correspondents’ dinner to make both jokes and grim warnings about Republican rival Donald Trump’s fight to reclaim the U.S. presidency.
An evening normally devoted to presidents, journalists and comedians taking outrageous pokes at political scandals and each other often seemed this year to illustrate the difficulty of putting aside the coming presidential election and the troubles in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Biden opened his roast with a direct but joking focus on Trump, calling him “sleepy Don,” in reference to a nickname Trump had given the president previously.
Despite being similar in age, Biden said, the two presidential hopefuls have little else in common. “My vice president actually endorses me,” Biden said. Former Trump Vice President Mike Pence has refused to endorse Trump’s reelection bid.
But the president quickly segued to a grim speech about what he believes is at stake this election, saying that another Trump administration would be even more harmful to America than his first term.
“We have to take this serious — eight years ago we could have written it off as ‘Trump talk’ but not after January 6,” Biden told the audience, referring to the supporters of Trump who stormed the Capitol after Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 election.
Trump did not attend Saturday's dinner and never attended the annual banquet as president. In 2011, he sat in the audience, and glowered through a roasting by then-President Barack Obama of Trump's reality-television celebrity status. Obama's sarcasm then was so scalding that many political watchers linked it to Trump's subsequent decision to run for president in 2016.
Biden’s speech, which lasted around 10 minutes, made no mention of the ongoing war or the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
One of the few mentions came from Kelly O’Donnell, president of the correspondents’ association, who briefly noted some 100 journalists killed in Israel's 6-month-old war against Hamas in Gaza. In an evening dedicated in large part to journalism, O’Donnell cited journalists who have been detained across the world, including Americans Evan Gershkovich in Russia and Austin Tice, who is believed to be held in Syria. Families of both men were in attendance as they have been at previous dinners.
To get inside Saturday's dinner, some guests had to hurry through hundreds of protesters outraged over the mounting humanitarian disaster for Palestinian civilians in Gaza. They condemned Biden for his support of Israel's military campaign and Western news outlets for what they said was undercoverage and misrepresentation of the conflict.
“Shame on you!” protesters draped in the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh cloth shouted, running after men in tuxedos and suits and women in long dresses holding clutch purses as guests hurried inside for the dinner.
“Western media we see you, and all the horrors that you hide,” crowds chanted at one point.
Other protesters lay sprawled motionless on the pavement, next to mock-ups of flak vests with “press” insignia.
Ralliers cried “Free, free Palestine." They cheered when at one point someone inside the Washington Hilton — where the dinner has been held for decades — unfurled a Palestinian flag from a top-floor hotel window.
Criticism of the Biden administration's support for Israel's military offensive in Gaza has spread through American college campuses, with students pitching encampments and withstanding police sweeps in an effort to force their universities to divest from Israel. Counterprotests back Israel's offensive and complain of antisemitism.
Biden’s motorcade Saturday took an alternate route from the White House to the Washington Hilton than in previous years, largely avoiding the crowds of demonstrators.
Saturday's event drew nearly 3,000 people. Celebrities included Academy Award winner Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Scarlett Johansson, Jon Hamm and Chris Pine.
Both the president and comedian Colin Jost, who spoke after Biden, made jabs at the age of both the candidates for president. “I’m not saying both candidates are old. But you know Jimmy Carter is out there thinking, ‘maybe I can win this thing,’” Jost said. “He’s only 99.”
Law enforcement, including the Secret Service, instituted extra street closures and other measures to ensure what Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said would be the “highest levels of safety and security for attendees.”
Protest organizers said they aimed to bring attention to the high numbers of Palestinian and other Arab journalists killed by Israel's military since the war began in October.
More than two dozen journalists in Gaza wrote a letter last week calling on their colleagues in Washington to boycott the dinner altogether.
“The toll exacted on us for merely fulfilling our journalistic duties is staggering," the letter stated. “We are subjected to detentions, interrogations, and torture by the Israeli military, all for the ‘crime’ of journalistic integrity.”
One organizer complained that the White House Correspondents' Association — which represents the hundreds of journalists who cover the president — largely has been silent since the first weeks of the war about the killings of Palestinian journalists. WHCA did not respond to a request for comment.
According to a preliminary investigation released Friday by the Committee to Protect Journalists, nearly 100 journalists have been killed covering the war in Gaza. Israel has defended its actions, saying it has been targeting militants.
“Since the Israel-Gaza war began, journalists have been paying the highest price — their lives — to defend our right to the truth. Each time a journalist dies or is injured, we lose a fragment of that truth,” CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna said in a statement.
Sandra Tamari, executive director of Adalah Justice Project, a U.S.-based Palestinian advocacy group that helped organize the letter from journalists in Gaza, said “it is shameful for the media to dine and laugh with President Biden while he enables the Israeli devastation and starvation of Palestinians in Gaza."
In addition, Adalah Justice Project started an email campaign targeting 12 media executives at various news outlets — including The Associated Press — expected to attend the dinner who previously signed onto a letter calling for the protection of journalists in Gaza.
“How can you still go when your colleagues in Gaza asked you not to?" a demonstrator asked guests heading in. "You are complicit.”
___ Associated Press writers Mike Balsamo, Aamer Madhani, Fatima Hussein and Tom Strong contributed to this report.


Mystery sonic boom rattles Mediterranean resorts

Mystery sonic boom rattles Mediterranean resorts
Updated 4 sec ago
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Mystery sonic boom rattles Mediterranean resorts

Mystery sonic boom rattles Mediterranean resorts
  • The Corriere della Sera daily quoted an unnamed person from Italy’s civil protection agency saying “the impact would have been registered by seismographs

ROME: A sonic boom heard in Tuscany and on the French island of Corsica, initially mistaken by holidaymakers, locals and officials for an earthquake, may have been a meteorite, experts said Thursday.
The town of Campo nell’Elba, on the Italian tourist island of Elba, said on its Facebook page that a nearby tracking station had “captured a seismic, acoustic event felt by everyone” at 4:30pm (1430gmt).
Corsican media reports said it was also felt on the island.
Tuscany regional government president Eugenio Giani initially said it was an earthquake, before backtracking after Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) ruled one out.
The Italian Air Force told Giani it had nothing to do with the sonic boom.
“The type of event which caused the tremor, felt by many as an earthquake over the entire coast of Tuscany and in some inland areas, is currently unconfirmed,” Giani wrote on social media.
The region’s Geophysics Institute and the University of Florence said in a joint statement that whatever caused the boom was traveling at 400 miles per second.
“A meteorite entering the atmosphere seems the most likely and in line with the data registered.”
The Corriere della Sera daily quoted an unnamed person from Italy’s civil protection agency saying “the impact would have been registered by seismographs. The most likely hypothesis is still an airplane.”
It is not the first time mysterious sonic booms have been registered on Elba, the Corriere della Sera said. Similar events in 2012, 2016 and 2023 have yet to be explained, it said.


US ‘incredibly’ concerned by Putin threat to send N.Korea weapons

US ‘incredibly’ concerned by Putin threat to send N.Korea weapons
Updated 56 min 48 sec ago
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US ‘incredibly’ concerned by Putin threat to send N.Korea weapons

US ‘incredibly’ concerned by Putin threat to send N.Korea weapons
  • The threat “is incredibly concerning,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters

WASHINGTON: The United States expressed deep concern Thursday over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to supply North Korea with weapons, warning such a move would “destabilize” the Korean peninsula.
Putin, during a rare visit to Pyongyang, signed a mutual defense pact on Wednesday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who pledged his country’s “full support” for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking on Thursday in Vietnam, Putin said Moscow would not rule out sending weapons to Pyongyang, calling it repercussions for the West supplying Ukraine.
The threat “is incredibly concerning,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.
“It would destabilize the Korean peninsula, potentially, depending on the type of weapons, and might violate UN Security Council resolutions that Russia itself has supported,” Miller said.
Washington and its allies have previously accused North Korea of supplying Russia with missiles and artillery that it has used to attack Ukraine.
Putin warned Seoul on Thursday not to supply Ukraine with weapons, after South Korea said it was reconsidering its current ban.
Seoul has a longstanding policy that bars it from selling weapons into active conflict zones, which it has stuck to despite calls from Washington and Kyiv to reconsider.
Miller said such a decision was “for every country to make in terms of whether they’re going to supply weapons to Ukraine.”
“We welcome any support for Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression,” he added.
 

 


Death of Indian laborer highlights plight of farm workers in Italy

Young Sikh migrant workers walk on a street in the Agro Pontino area, south of Rome. Picture taken May 19, 2019 (REUTERS)
Young Sikh migrant workers walk on a street in the Agro Pontino area, south of Rome. Picture taken May 19, 2019 (REUTERS)
Updated 57 min 26 sec ago
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Death of Indian laborer highlights plight of farm workers in Italy

Young Sikh migrant workers walk on a street in the Agro Pontino area, south of Rome. Picture taken May 19, 2019 (REUTERS)
  • “These are inhumane acts that do not belong to the Italian people, and I hope that this barbarity will be punished harshly,” Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said, in comments relayed by her office

ROME: The death of an Indian farm laborer in a gruesome accident in which his right arm was severed by machinery has put a spotlight the conditions of migrant agricultural workers in Italy, whom trade unions say are often employed illegally and exploited.
Satnam Singh, 31, died in a hospital in Rome on Wednesday, two days after being injured while working in a melon greenhouse in the Agro Pontino, a rural area south of the capital.
According to media reports, Singh was left outside his home after suffering injuries to his arm and legs, with his severed limb placed in a fruit crate.
“We heard shouting outside, the guy’s wife threw herself at me saying, ‘call an ambulance, call an ambulance’,” a neighbor told RAI public television.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni deplored the tragedy as she chaired a cabinet meeting on Thursday.
“These are inhumane acts that do not belong to the Italian people, and I hope that this barbarity will be punished harshly,” she said, in comments relayed by her office.
The owner of the farm, Renzo Lovato, expressed his sorrow over the accident, but said Singh had been warned not to get close to the machine that injured him.
“The worker did it his own way. It was carelessness, unfortunately,” Lovato told RAI.
An investigation into Lovato’s son, who allegedly left Singh outside his home, has been opened over potential charges of manslaughter and failure to assist a person in danger, the lead prosecutor in the case, Giuseppe De Falco, said in an email.
“He spontaneously went to the judicial police an hour after the events, as any decent person would do,” Lovato’s family lawyer told Reuters. He added that his client was waiting for the charges to be formalized to defend himself.
Responding to the allegation that Singh had been abandoned without calling an ambulance, the lawyer, Valerio Righi, said: “You will see during the proceedings that maybe help was called sooner than people think.”
Some politicians and trade unions said the tragedy highlighted the broader issue of “caporalato,” the illegal gangmaster system of hiring migrant workers common in the Agro Pontino and other parts of Italy.
Righi declined to comment on reports that Singh and his wife were employed illegally. Other details of the conditions in which he worked were unclear.
Maria Grazia Gabrielli, from Italy’s largest trade union Cgil, decried an “event of unprecedented brutality,” linking it to what she said were slave-like conditions endured by many farm hands.
“Exploitation in the fields very often results in starvation wages, unsafe and inhuman working rhythms and conditions, psychological and physical violence,” she said in a statement.
According to 2021 data from national statistics office Istat, about 11 percent of Italian workers were employed illegally, rising to more than 23 percent in agriculture.
The Lazio region, which includes the Agro Pontino, offered to cover Singh’s funeral costs.
Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, responding to the furor over Singh’s death, said the government was “first in line on all fronts to counter any form of exploitation at work.” 

 


Russia fires deputy defense minister jailed on bribery charges and extends his arrest

Russia fires deputy defense minister jailed on bribery charges and extends his arrest
Updated 20 June 2024
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Russia fires deputy defense minister jailed on bribery charges and extends his arrest

Russia fires deputy defense minister jailed on bribery charges and extends his arrest
  • Timur Ivanov, 48, is one of several senior military officers arrested on corruption charges in recent months
  • Ivanov, arrested in April, was charged with taking an especially large bribe

MOSCOW: Russian authorities have formally dismissed a deputy defense minister jailed on bribery charges and accused by Kremlin critics of living a lavish lifestyle, Russian media reported Thursday. A court ordered that his pre-trial detention be extended for three more months.
Timur Ivanov, 48, is one of several senior military officers arrested on corruption charges in recent months. He was a close associate of Sergei Shoigu, whom President Vladimir Putin replaced as defense minister last month.
Ivanov, arrested in April, was charged with taking an especially large bribe. His lawyers said he maintains his innocence. The Basmanny District Court in Moscow on Thursday extended his detention pending investigation and trial until at least Sept. 23. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
Russian media, citing an online registry of government officials, said Thursday that Ivanov was dismissed from his post. His lawyer Denis Baluyev confirmed the dismissal in comments to Russian business news site RBK. It wasn’t immediately clear from the reports when exactly Ivanov was fired.
Other top military officials arrested in recent months include deputy chief of the Russian military general staff Lt. Gen. Vadim Shamarin; Gen. Ivan Popov, a former top commander in Russia’s offensive in Ukraine; and Lt. Gen. Yury Kuznetsov, head of the Defense Ministry’s personnel directorate. All three have been accused of bribery.
According to the Defense Ministry’s website, Ivanov was appointed in 2016 by a presidential decree. He oversaw property management, housing and medical support for the military, as well as construction projects.
Ivanov’s arrest came nearly a month after Putin called on the Federal Security Service to “keep up a systemic anti-corruption effort” and pay special attention to state defense procurement.
Russian media reported that Ivanov oversaw some of the construction in Mariupol — a Ukrainian port city that was devastated by bombardment and occupied by Russian forces early in the war. Ivanov has been sanctioned by both the United States and European Union.
Zvezda, the official TV channel of the Russian military, reported in summer 2022 that the ministry was building an entire residential block in Mariupol and showed Ivanov inspecting construction sites and newly erected residential buildings.
That same year, the team of the late Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner, alleged Ivanov and his family had been enjoying luxurious trips abroad, lavish parties and owning elite real estate.
The activists also alleged that Ivanov’s wife, Svetlana, divorced him in 2022 to avoid sanctions and continued living a lavish lifestyle.


Italian coast guard recovers 12 more bodies of shipwreck victims in the Ionian Sea

Italian coast guard recovers 12 more bodies of shipwreck victims in the Ionian Sea
Updated 20 June 2024
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Italian coast guard recovers 12 more bodies of shipwreck victims in the Ionian Sea

Italian coast guard recovers 12 more bodies of shipwreck victims in the Ionian Sea
  • The deaths bring to more than 800 people who have died or went missing and are presumed dead crossing the central Mediterranean so far this year

MILAN: The Italian coast guard on Thursday recovered 12 more bodies from a weekend shipwreck in the Ionian Sea off the southern Italian coastline, bringing to 20 the number of known victims from the sinking. Dozens more are missing and presumed dead.
The bodies, including women and children, were being transferred to a port in Calabria. Two more coast guard ships were on their way to join the air-and-sea search, some 190 kilometers (120 miles) from shore.
Survivors reported that the boat motor had caught fire, causing it to capsize off the Italian coast overnight Sunday about eight days after departing from Turkiye with about 75 people from Iran, Syria and Iraq on board, according to the UN refugee agency and other UN organizations. Eleven survivors were being treated on shore.
The deaths bring to more than 800 people who have died or went missing and are presumed dead crossing the central Mediterranean so far this year, an average of five dead a day, the UN agencies said.
Humanitarian groups have decried the deaths as evidence of the failure of European migration policy.