Israeli communications minister orders return of seized camera equipment to AP

In this image from video, Israeli officials seize AP video equipment from an apartment block in Sderot, Southern Israel, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP)
In this image from video, Israeli officials seize AP video equipment from an apartment block in Sderot, Southern Israel, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 22 May 2024
Follow

Israeli communications minister orders return of seized camera equipment to AP

In this image from video, Israeli officials seize AP video equipment from an apartment block in Sderot, Southern Israel, Tuesday
  • Israeli officials seized the equipment after accusing the news organization of violating a new media law by providing images to Al Jazeera
  • The Biden administration, journalism organizations and an Israeli opposition leader put pressure on Netanyahu

JERUSALEM: Israel’s communications minister ordered the government to return seized camera equipment to The Associated Press after blocking its live video of Gaza earlier Tuesday.
Israeli officials seized the equipment after accusing the news organization of violating a new media law by providing images to Al Jazeera.
Israeli officials used the new law on May 5 to close down the offices of Qatar-based Al Jazeera, confiscating its equipment, banning its broadcasts and blocking its websites.
The Biden administration, journalism organizations and an Israeli opposition leader put pressure on the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after officials seizing the AP equipment.
Al Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, is one of thousands of AP customers, and it receives live video from AP and other news organizations.
“The Associated Press decries in the strongest terms the actions of the Israeli government to shut down our longstanding live feed showing a view into Gaza and seize AP equipment,” said Lauren Easton, vice president of corporate communications at the news organization. “The shutdown was not based on the content of the feed but rather an abusive use by the Israeli government of the country’s new foreign broadcaster law.”
Officials from the Communications Ministry arrived at the AP location in the southern town of Sderot on Tuesday afternoon and seized the equipment. They handed the AP a piece of paper, signed by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, alleging it was violating the country’s foreign broadcaster law.
Karhi is the minister who later ordered the equipment to be returned.
Shortly before its equipment was seized on Tuesday, AP was broadcasting a general view of northern Gaza. The AP complies with Israel’s military censorship rules, which prohibit broadcasts of details like troop movements that could endanger soldiers. The live video has generally shown smoke rising over the territory.
The AP had been ordered verbally last Thursday to cease the live transmission, which it refused to do.
Israel’s opposition leader Yair Lapid called the move against AP “an act of madness.”
“This is not Al Jazeera. This is an American news outlet,” he said. “This government acts as if it has decided to make sure at any cost that Israel will be shunned all over the world.”
Karhi responded to Lapid that the law passed unanimously by the government states that any device used to deliver Al Jazeera content could be seized.
“We will continue to act decisively against anyone who tries to harm our soldiers and the security of the state, even if you don’t like it,” he wrote to Lapid on X.
When Israel closed down Al Jazeera’s offices earlier this month, media groups warned of the serious implications for press freedom in the country. The law gives Karhi, part of the hard-right flank of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, wide leeway to enforce it against other media.
“Israel’s move today is a slippery slope,” the Foreign Press Association said in a statement, warning that the law “could allow Israel to block media coverage of virtually any news event on vague security grounds.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the US was “looking into” what happened and that it was “essential” for journalists to be allowed to do their jobs.
Israel has long had a rocky relationship with Al Jazeera, accusing it of bias against the country, and Netanyahu has called it a “terror channel” that spreads incitement.
Al Jazeera is one of the few international news outlets that has remained in Gaza throughout the war, broadcasting scenes of airstrikes and overcrowded hospitals and accusing Israel of massacres. AP is also in Gaza.
During the previous Israel-Hamas war in 2021, the army destroyed the building housing AP’s Gaza office, claiming Hamas had used the building for military purposes. The AP denied any knowledge of a Hamas presence, and the army never provided any evidence to back up its claim.
The war in Gaza began with a Hamas attack in Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw 250 others taken hostage. More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed since then, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count.


Google partners with Pakistan to create smart classrooms, digitally transform education system

Google partners with Pakistan to create smart classrooms, digitally transform education system
Updated 40 min 12 sec ago
Follow

Google partners with Pakistan to create smart classrooms, digitally transform education system

Google partners with Pakistan to create smart classrooms, digitally transform education system
  • Search engine giant partners with Pakistan to set up local assembly of over 500,000 Chromebooks by 2026
  • Pakistan has a staggering population of over 26.2 million out-of-school children, second-highest in the world 

ISLAMABAD: Google and Pakistan’s education ministry on Thursday announced they were partnering up to provide access to education for millions of students across the country, digitally transform Pakistan’s education system and build smart schools, state-run media reported. 

Pakistan has a staggering population of 26.2 million out-of-school children, the second highest in the world, according to Unicef Pakistan. 

Last month, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif declared an education emergency in the country, hoping to ensure access to education for these out-of-school children and improve educational opportunities for them. 

On Thursday, PM Sharif met a high-level delegation of Google for Education headed by its Managing Director Kevin Kells in Islamabad. 

“Ultimately, Google’s collaboration with the Ministry of Federal Education aims to drive a large-scale digital transformation of Pakistan’s education system, creating smart classrooms and fostering a healthy learning ecosystem,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. 

The state media said Google, through its Google for Education’s country partner Tech Valley, will work with the Pakistani government to establish a local assembly of over 500,000 Chromebooks by 2026. It would also provide access to digital tools and resources for students and teachers in Pakistan.

Chromebooks are a type of laptop or tablet that runs on Google’s Chrome OS operating system and are more cost-effective than regular laptops. 

“As part of the collaboration, Allied, an Australian manufacturer of Google Chromebooks, will establish an assembly line in Pakistan to locally assemble Google Chromebooks, making them more affordable for educational purposes,” APP said.

It said the goal of such an agreement is to ensure that every student in the country has access to “cutting-edge classroom technology” to enhance their learning experience.

“Under the agreement, the teachers would be trained how to use technology effectively in the classroom, develop and implement innovative learning programs that leverage technology,” it said. 

Pakistan’s Education Minister Dr. Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui praised the development, saying it was an important step in ensuring educational access to children. 

“We believe that technology can play a vital role in improving learning outcomes and preparing our students for the future,” he said. 

Farhan S. Qureshi, Google Pakistan’s country director, said access to digital tools will ensure Pakistani children get acclimatized to the digital economy. 
“Also, creating a local assembly of over 500,000 Chromebooks will help Pakistan’s manufacturing industry grow and attract more investments in technology,” Qureshi said.
 


Lexi Thompson shoots 68 to take 1st-round lead at the Women’s PGA Championship

Lexi Thompson shoots 68 to take 1st-round lead at the Women’s PGA Championship
Updated 12 min 8 sec ago
Follow

Lexi Thompson shoots 68 to take 1st-round lead at the Women’s PGA Championship

Lexi Thompson shoots 68 to take 1st-round lead at the Women’s PGA Championship
  • Thompson made six birdies on her way to a one-shot lead over Nelly Korda and Patty Tavatanakit
  • She won the last of her 11 LPGA Tour titles at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in June 2019

SAMMAMISH: Lexi Thompson knew some form of the question was coming after shooting a 4-under 68 and taking the first-round lead Thursday in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Would a major title change her plans about retiring from playing full-time on the LPGA Tour?

“I’m just taking it one day at a time. I made my announcement. I’m very content with it,” Thompson said. “Golf is a crazy game, so I’m not going to look too far ahead.”

Thompson made six birdies on her way to a one-shot lead over Nelly Korda and Patty Tavatanakit.

Teeing off in the afternoon as temperatures climbed into the 80s and dried out Sahalee Country Club, Thompson started hot with three straight birdies to open her round and built on last week when she lost in a playoff at the Meijer LPGA Classic.

The 29-year-old Thompson, who recently announced her plans to retire after the season, shot a bogey-free 32 on the front nine, capped with a 6-foot birdie on the par-3 ninth. After a bogey at No. 10, Thompson rebounded with birdies at Nos. 12 and 14 before another bogey at the 16th.

She won the last of her 11 LPGA Tour titles at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in June 2019. The 68 is her lowest round in a major since a 67 in the second round of the Women’s PGA two years ago at Congressional.

“My approach shots felt great,” Thompson said. “They felt really good last week, so just trying to simplify things and get in a rhythm with my swing.”

Korda shot 69 in the morning, and Tavatanakit matched it in the afternoon with a bogey-free round.

The top-ranked Korda missed the cuts in the US Women’s Open and the Meijer LPGA Classic in her last two starts after winning six of seven events, a run that started with a record-tying five straight victories.

Korda started on the back nine and made four birdies on her first five holes. But parts of the morning were a scramble for Korda as the Douglass fir, red cedar and hemlock trees of Sahalee played their role in making it a challenge. A double bogey on the par-4 fourth hole dropped her back to 2 under.

“If you try and be aggressive when you’ve hit it off line, it just bites you in the butt,” Korda said. “Overall, I think I played pretty well. I took my chances where I could and I played safe the majority of the round.”

Korda made a 15-foot putt on the par-3 ninth hole — her final hole — to take the early lead.

There was another group of players at 2 under, including Allizen Corpuz, Celine Boutier, Charley Hull and Leona Maguire. Maguire led this tournament after the third round last year at Baltusrol, but shot 74 on the final day and finished four shots back of the winner, Ruoning Yin.

Playing with Korda, Yin rebounded from a rough start and shot 33 on her second nine to shoot 71.

“Luckily hit it pretty straight today. Hit a lot of fairways and greens. But it does feel like a course where once you’re out of position it’s tough to get back on track,” said Corpuz, who has an outside chance of making the Olympics for the United States with a strong finish this week.

The third major of the year on the LPGA Tour returned to Sahalee, which previously hosted in 2016. And the tree-lined course showed its difficulty.

Lilia Vu, who won last week in her return from a back injury, shot 75. Yuka Saso, the US Open winner three weeks ago, made four consecutive bogeys on the back nine and finished at 2-over 74. Brooke Henderson, who won in 2016, shot 73.

Korda got off to a far better start than her last major, when she shot 80 in the opening round of the US Women’s Open three weeks ago.

Korda’s early run of birdies included three straight between Nos. 13-15 and she and went out in 33. She moved to 4 under after a birdie on the third hole — her 12th of the day — but dropped two shots on the fourth.

“This entire golf course is so demanding,” Korda said. “I had to make some pretty good up-and-downs.”


US’s Gaza aid pier effort hit by repeated setbacks

US’s Gaza aid pier effort hit by repeated setbacks
Updated 53 min 38 sec ago
Follow

US’s Gaza aid pier effort hit by repeated setbacks

US’s Gaza aid pier effort hit by repeated setbacks
  • The UN has said it welcomes all efforts to bring in aid, but that land routes are the most important routes for the arrival of assistance

WASHINGTON: The controversial US effort to boost Gaza aid deliveries by building a temporary pier has faced repeated problems, with bad weather damaging the structure and causing other interruptions to the arrival of desperately needed assistance.
More than 4,100 metric tons (nine million pounds) of aid has been delivered via the $230 million pier project so far, but it has only been operational for limited periods, falling short of President Joe Biden’s pledge that it would enable a “massive increase” in assistance reaching Gaza “every day.”
The coastal territory has been devastated by more than eight months of Israeli operations against Palestinian militant group Hamas, uprooting Gaza’s population and leaving them in dire need of aid.
“The Gaza pier regretfully amounted to an extremely expensive distraction from what is truly needed, and what is also legally required,” said Michelle Strucke, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Humanitarian Agenda.
That is “safe and unimpeded humanitarian access for humanitarian organizations to provide aid for a population in Gaza that is suffering historic levels of deprivation,” she said.
US forces have also dropped aid by air, but that plus deliveries via the pier “were never meant to substitute for scaled, sustainable access to land crossings that provided safe access by humanitarian workers to provide aid,” Strucke said.
“Pursuing them took away decision makers’ time, energy, and more than $200 million US taxpayer dollars.”
Biden announced during his State of the Union address in March that the US military would establish the pier and American troops began constructing it the following month, initially working offshore.
But in a sign of issues to come, high seas and winds required construction to be relocated to the Israeli port of Ashdod.
The pier was completed in early May, but weather conditions meant it was unsafe to immediately move it into place, and it was not attached to the Gaza coast until the middle of the month.
High seas caused four US Army vessels supporting the mission to break free of their moorings on May 25, beaching two of them, and the pier was damaged by bad weather three days later, requiring sections to be repaired and rebuilt at Ashdod.
It was reattached to the coast on June 7, but aid deliveries were soon paused for two days due to bad weather conditions.
The pier then had to be removed from the shore and moved to Ashdod on June 14 to protect it from high seas. It was returned to Gaza this week and aid deliveries have now resumed.
Raphael Cohen, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation research group, said the “pier effort has yet to produce the results that the Biden administration hoped.”
“Aside from the weather issues, it’s been quite expensive and has not fixed the operational challenges of getting aid into Gaza,” he said.
Cohen said that despite the issues with the pier, it does provide another entry point for aid and allows assistance to be brought in even when land crossings are closed — a persistent problem that has worsened the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.
And he said the effort may also help improve future deployments of the military’s temporary pier capability, which was last used operationally more than a decade ago in Haiti.
In addition to weather, the project is facing a major challenge in terms of the distribution of aid that arrives via the pier, which the UN World Food Programme decided to halt while it assesses the security situation — an evaluation that is still ongoing.
That announcement came after Israel conducted a nearby operation earlier this month that freed four hostages but which health officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza said killed more than 270 people.
The UN has said it welcomes all efforts to bring in aid, but that land routes are the most important routes for the arrival of assistance.
Strucke emphasized that “what Gazans need is not the appearance of aid — they need actual aid to reach them.”
Washington “should be very careful not to support actions that may look good on paper to increase routes to provide assistance, but do not result in aid actually reaching Palestinians in need at scale,” she said.


Saudi Arabia reaffirms global humanitarian efforts for needy, refugees and displaced

Saudi Arabia reaffirms global humanitarian efforts for needy, refugees and displaced
Updated 43 min 7 sec ago
Follow

Saudi Arabia reaffirms global humanitarian efforts for needy, refugees and displaced

Saudi Arabia reaffirms global humanitarian efforts for needy, refugees and displaced
  • Support "include all countries of the world without discrimination," says KSrelief
  • Kingdom's total spending on humanitarian aid in past 4 decades is over $115 billion in 90 countries 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Thursday reaffirmed its commitment to continue strengthening its support for refugees and displaced around the world, on the occasion of World Refugee Day.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) said the humanitarian support "include all countries of the world without discrimination." 

Since its founding in May 2015 as an international center specialized in humanitarian aid, KSRelief has so far carried out 2,984 projects in 99 countries as it continues to expand its work for the needy and people affected by wars and calamities.

Support for refugees and displaced people in Syria, Palestine, Myanmar and Yemen alone were carried out through 424 humanitarian projects with a value of over $1.18 billion. The projects include food and agricultural security, protection and health services, shelter, early recovery and education. 

Infographic courtesy of Salam.org

KSrelief also supported those displaced in other countries by implementing 304 multiple projects worth more than $2.19 billion,

Saudi Arabia is also host to a big number of people from countries affected by war. Refugees from Yemen, Syria, and Myanmar alone constitute 5.5 percent of the Kingdom’s population, said the SPA report.

Per the latest census by the Kingdom's General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT), the Kingdom had a total population of 32.175 million. That would place the number of virtual refugees from the Yemen, Syria and Myanmar at over 1.76 million.

As noted by SPA, the Kingdom provides these visitors "with the opportunity for free treatment and education, and is keen on their integration into society."

Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian aid and relief efforts actually goes back decades.

According to the Saudi non-profit organization Salam, the Kingdom’s total spending on humanitarian aid in the past four decades has reached over $115 billion, covering more than 90 countries.

"Saudi Arabia has been providing aid to different countries, solving humanitarian crises, and relieving people suffering after wars or natural disasters. These aids are granted without any bias or prejudice to religion or ethnicity," said Salam in its website salam4cc.org.


Argentina begin Copa title defense with 2-0 win over Canada

Argentina begin Copa title defense with 2-0 win over Canada
Updated 21 June 2024
Follow

Argentina begin Copa title defense with 2-0 win over Canada

Argentina begin Copa title defense with 2-0 win over Canada
  • Messi produced another clinical, defense-splitting pass and this time Lautaro made no mistake, slipping past the advancing Crepeau to make it 2-0

ATLANTA: World champions Argentina opened their bid for back-to-back Copa America titles with a 2-0 win over Canada in front of a crowd of 70,564 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday.
Julian Alvarez put Argentina ahead in the 49th minute but a combination of inspired goalkeeping from Canada’s Max Crepeau and Lionel Messi’s surprising lack of precision in front of goal ensured that the underdogs were in the game until Lautaro Martinez settled the contest in the 88th minute.
Backed by a huge support decked out in light blue and white striped shirts, Argentina fully deserved their victory but Canada, ranked 48th in the world, can take plenty of credit for the way they fought with the 15-time Copa America winners.
Alvarez, preferred to Lautaro as Messi’s strike partners in attack, had the first opportunity when he charged down an attempted clearance from Ismael Kone and broke away.
But the Manchester City striker took a heavy touch as he bore down on Canada keeper Max Crepeau, who was able to smother the ball.
Messi, who became the most capped player in Copa America history, making his 35th appearance in what is his seventh tournament, then went close to an opener himself but his angled shot from the left flashed just wide of the far post.
While the Argentines were exploiting gaps in the Canadian defense, Jesse Marsch’s team were nonetheless competing in midfield and creating some half-chances for themselves.
Alphonso Davies and Liam Millar both had shots blocked inside the box and Tajon Buchanan screwed an effort from a tight angle wide in the 30th minute.
The first true save of the game came in the 40th minute, though, when Alexis Mac Allister’s stooping header from an Angel Di Maria cross was well dealt with by Crepeau.
But Argentina needed their goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez, to be at his very best to ensure they went in on level terms at the interval.
Cyle Larin’s cross from the right wing was met with a powerful header from close-range from Stephen Eustaquio but Martinez’s sharp reaction save kept the game goalless.
But it took less than four minutes of the second half for Argentina to break the deadlock — Messi threaded a pass through to Mac Allister, who was brought down by Crepeau, but before the referee could blow his whistle Alvarez had slotted home the loose ball.
Within moments, there was another chance for Alvarez, but this time denied by the diving Crepeau and Canada could live to fight on.
They did so with more urgency and a little more risk after coach Jesse Marsch introduced winger Jacob Shaffelburg and switched to an attacking 4-3-3 formation.
Suddenly the Argentine defense was under pressure and didn’t look at all comfortable as Canada got men forward and exploited the wide areas.
But they were almost caught out with a classic counter-attack as Martinez launched a quick long ball toward Messi, who broke way goalwards but with the crowd expecting to see the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner on target he made a hash of the chance.
His initial effort was parried by Crepeau and although Messi latched on to the loose ball and sought to go round the keeper, his shot was easily cleared by the covering Derek Cornelius.
Incredibly there was another great opportunity for the former Barcelona star to find the target and again he was unable to convert — cutting in from the right with only Crepeau to beat, Messi opened up his body but slid his shot wide of the post.
Crepeau was at his best again to keep out substitute Lautaro as Argentina struggled to put the game to bed but with two minutes of normal time remaining they did just that.
Messi produced another clinical, defense-splitting pass and this time Lautaro made no mistake, slipping past the advancing Crepeau to make it 2-0.