Oscars 2024: ‘Oppenheimer’ sweeps 7 awards

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Monday, 11th March 2024

‘Oppenheimer’ is the big winner of the 96th Oscars after scooping seven awards including best picture and best actor for Cillian Murphy. The film, which had 13 nominations, also wins best supporting actor for Robert Downey Jr, as well as best director for Christopher Nolan, plus film editing, cinematography and original score.

Emma Stone is awarded best actress for her role in ‘Poor Things’, which also won best production design, make-up and costume design.

The best supporting actress award goes to ‘The Holdovers’ star Da’Vine Joy Randolph.

‘Barbie’ – last year’s highest grossing film – receives just one award for best original song written by Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas. Ryan Gosling didn’t have to win a trophy to be crowned the true king of the night, though. His performance of “I’m Just Ken,” from Barbie, stole the show.

‘Anatomy of a Fall’ wins best original screenplay, while ‘American Fiction’ scoops the adapted screenplay gong.

It’s a historic night for some, as Ukraine wins its first ever Oscar with best documentary ‘20 Days in Mariupol’. Accepting the Oscar, director Mstyslav Chernov said, “I wish Russia had never attacked Ukraine, never occupied its cities and killed tens of thousands of Ukrainians. I cannot change history, but all of us, all together we can make sure that the facts are recognised and that the truth prevails,” he said. Chernov, an Associated Press journalist, was stuck with colleagues on the front line in Mariupol when the Russian attack began.

The UK wins best international film for ‘The Zone of Interest’.And with the award ceremony cane the first political comment of the evening: Jonathan Glazer, the director of The Zone of Interest set during the Holocaust outside the walls of Auschwitz, condemned the “victims of dehumanisation” both in Israel and in Gaza: “How can we resist?”, he said after receiving the award for best international film. “We stand here as men who refuse to have their Jewishness and the Holocaust hijacked, who refuse an occupation that has led to war for so many innocent people, whether they are the victims of October 7th or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all the victims, this dehumanisation, how can we resist?”, said the director. The award to Glazer is the first for a British film in the category of best international film even though The Zone of Interest is not performed in English but in German and Polish.

As guests exit the theater, “ceasefire Now” was being chanted behind a large hedge barrier as everyone waits for their car-service pick ups.

Portugal swings to the right in far-right surge

Portugal’s opposition centre-right party won yesterday’s general election while support for populist far-right Chega surged making it a kingmaker in the new parliament, an exit poll indicated. With 99 per cent of the votes counted, the results were: the centre-right Democratic Alliance, a grouping led by the Social Democratic Party, is on 28.67 per cent; the centre-left Socialist Party is in second place with 28.66 per cent and the far-right, Chega (Enough) party is third with 18.05 per cent. The Democratic Alliance (AD) is expected to win between 83 and 91 seats in the 230-seat parliament, the poll for public television RTP showed. That compares to the 69 to 77 seats for the Socialists who have ruled since 2015. Chega is on track to win 40 to 46 seats, up from just 12, making it a kingmaker in the new parliament. The new business-friendly Liberal Initiative party got seven to 10 seats, giving the right a clear majority in parliament.

The Democratic Alliance’s party’s leader, 51-year-old lawyer Luis Montenegro, told a packed final rally at Lisbon’s bullring on Friday night: “We really must turn the page,” While he has steadfastly ruled out any post-election agreement with Chega, other top party officials have been more ambivalent. Chega has said it would insist on being part of a rightist coalition government in exchange for parliamentary support, and analysts say a deal with the anti-establishment party may prove the only way for the AD to govern. “We want to give Portugal a stable government,” Chega party leader Andre Ventura said after the exit poll was released. “We are available to build a government in Portugal.” He described the projected results for his party as “absolutely historical”. Like other populist far-right parties in Europe, Chega has tapped into concerns about crime and rising immigration.

The election was called after Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa, 62, unexpectedly resigned in November following an influence-peddling probe that involved a search of his official residence and the arrest of his chief of staff. Though Costa himself was not accused of any crime, he decided not to run again.

Netanyahu rejects Biden’s critique of war policy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday rejected US President Joe Biden’s comment that Israel’s approach to the war in Gaza was “hurting Israel more than helping Israel”. In an interview with Politico, Netanyahu also disputed the death toll issued by the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, saying their figure includes “at least 13,000 terrorist fighters” killed by Israeli forces. If Biden meant “that I’m pursuing private policies against the majority, the wish of the majority of Israelis, and that this is hurting the interests of Israel, then he’s wrong on both counts,” Netanyahu told the publication. His comments came one day after Biden said Netanyahu “must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken” in Gaza. Biden, who has backed Israel during the five-month-old war with Hamas but whose frustration with Netanyahu is growing increasingly visible, aired his criticism in an interview with MSNBC.

Netanyahu told Politico that “the vast majority are united as never before. And they understand what’s good for Israel.” He added that his policies were “supported by the overwhelming majority of the Israelis”, who back “the action that we’re taking to destroy the remaining terrorist battalions of Hamas.”

The war in Gaza began with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel, which killed about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures. Israel’s retaliatory military campaign has killed at least 31,045 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry. But Netanyahu said in the interview that this figure included 13,000 militants. The number of civilian casualties “is not 30,000, it’s not even 20,000. It’s far less than that,” Netanyahu said, according to audio shared by ‘Bild’ newspaper, which like Politico is owned by German publisher Axel Springer. “How do I know that? Because our forces have killed at least 13,000 terrorist fighters,” he said, without elaborating on how that figure was derived. Netanyahu added that Israelis “say that once we destroy the Hamas, the last thing we should do is put in Gaza, in charge of Gaza, the Palestinian Authority that educates its children towards terrorism and pays for terrorism.” Netanyahu has drawn global condemnation and defied the United States, which provides Israel with billions of dollars in military aid, by rejecting calls for a Palestinian state. Netanyahu said Israelis “also support my position that says that we should resoundingly reject the attempt to ram down our throats a Palestinian state.”

‘Enough collective punishment in Gaza’ – Guterres

UN Secretary General Antonio Gurerres has again appealed to Israel to stop “the way the war in Gaza has been waged as it is civilians who are paying the highest price. And this must srop!” Speaking during the ‘Che Tempo Che Fa’ on Italian station ‘Nove TV’, Guterres aid what Hamas did was an unacceptable terrorist attack” and “the hostages must be released immediately”. But Israel has said that it is a war against Hamas and not against the Palestinians, but the truth is that this has turned into a collective punishment against the Palestinians, he said, adding, “Now enough. We are asking for a humanitarian truce and Ramadan could be an excellent opportunity to reach a ceasefire.”

Muslims announce start of Ramadan

The Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan begins today, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East nations announced, against a backdrop of the devastating war in Gaza. Saudi Arabia, which is home to Islam’s holiest sites, said through its official SPA news agency on Sunday that the Supreme Court had announced “Monday, March 11, 2024, the beginning of the blessed month of Ramadan for this year”. Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. After the sighting of the crescent moon, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar also announced a Monday start for Ramadan, through their own official news outlets. Egypt’s Islamic advisory body, the Dar al-Ifta, also confirmed Ramadan would begin on Monday, as it will in the Palestinian territories including Gaza, and in Algeria and Tunisia. Their neighbours Morocco and Libya said Ramadan would start on Tuesday.

During Ramadan, observant Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk, and traditionally gather with family and friends to break their fast in the evening. It is also a time of prayer, when the faithful converge in large numbers at mosques, especially at night. The war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip has cast a long shadow over festivities in the region, with hopes dashed that a ceasefire agreement could be reached before Ramadan began. At a market in Rafah, the southern Gaza city where nearly 1.5 million people have sought refuge, Palestinians on Sunday bemoaned food shortages and wartime uncertainty hanging over the holy month. The United Nations has warned that famine in the Palestinian territory is “almost inevitable” unless something changes in the war, with aid trickling in at levels far below the pre-war norm.

The Palestinias lament almost everything is missing but above all the truce that many hoped for. The atmosphere is not that of the usual Ramadan: in past years the preparations were already in full swing a week before, the houses were lit up with coloured lights, the shops were open all night. People bought dried dates, sweets, drinks and soaps. Today this is not the case: in Rafah people live in shelters or tent camps in very harsh conditions, far from home and without electricity, gas, fuel and normal kitchens. And the pain for the dead family members weighs heavily. There are no decorations, the products in the shops cost 10 times the normal price, there are no sweets because there is no sugar in the market. A week ago, the mobile phone company ‘Oreedoo’, one of the two communications companies working in the Palestinian Territories, decided to take action and decorate dozens of tents in the western area of Rafah to cheer up some families. It distributed lights and coloured decorations for the children: an exception which, however, people were unable to enjoy due to the air raids.

US, Jordan airdrop more aid to Gaza

Meanwhile, the United States and Jordan carried out a new airdrop of humanitarian aid to Gaza’s Palestinians Sunday, parachuting in more than 11,500 meals. Reuters reports the latest airdrop took place over northern Gaza and included rice, flour, pasta, and canned food. The United States has dropped about 135,000 meals in airdrops this month, according to Pentagon data. US President Joe Biden has also ordered the US military to build a temporary port system to bring aid into Gaza by sea. The Pentagon said on Friday it could take up to 60 days to be up and running, a timeline that aid groups say is too long given the imminent risk of famine.

Hamas chief says he is still open to Gaza truce talks

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said yesterday the group was still open to talks with Israel, after mediators so far failed to secure a Ramadan truce in the Gaza war. “I say clearly that the one who bears responsibility for not reaching an agreement is the occupation (Israel)… However, I say that we are open to continuing negotiations,” Haniyeh said in a televised speech as several Muslim nations announced the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan would begin today, Monday. Mediators had been pushing for a new truce in the war, now in its sixth month, before Ramadan began. However, Haniyeh, who is in self-exile in Qatar, on Sunday said Israel was unwilling to meet Hamas’s conditions for a deal that would have seen hostages exchanged for Palestinian prisoners in Israel. He reiterated that Hamas wanted a durable ceasefire, a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, the return of displaced Gazans to their homes and ramped-up access to humanitarian aid in the besieged territory where famine looms. Israel has rejected a complete withdrawal of its troops, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has vowed to continue his campaign to destroy Hamas, even after any truce deal. An Israeli statement has accused Hamas of “entrenching its positions like someone who is not interested in a deal and is striving to inflame the region during Ramadan.”

Vatican responds to criticism after ‘Ukraine should raise white flag’ comment

The Vatican has responded after politicians and religious leaders reacted with incredulity after Pope Francis indicated during an interview with a Swiss broadcaster that Ukraine should surrender to Russia to end the war. Francis recorded a full interview by Lorenzo Buccella of the Radio Télévision Suisse show “Cliché” in early February that will air on March 20. In a portion of the interview released Saturday, Buccella asked him about calls whether Ukraine should have the courage to wave the “white flag”. “I believe that the stronger one is the one who sees the situation, who thinks of the people, who has the courage of the white flag, to negotiate. And today, negotiations are possible with the help of international powers,” Francis said, noting that Turkey has offered to mediate an end to the war. The Vatican was forced to clarify the Pope’s remarks after backlash started rolling in, with Holy See spokesman Matteo Bruni pointing to the fact that the language of the “white flag” – the universal symbol of surrender used by Francis – had been first used by Buccella. Latvian President Edgars Rinkēvičs was among those who had expressed their criticism of Francis’s language choice. Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church, met with the Ukrainian community in New York City on Saturday where he stressed that “Ukraine is wounded, not conquered.”

In reference to the Pope’s words. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked every Ukrainian chaplain who is in the army, in the Defense Forces. “They are on the front lines, protecting life and humanity, supporting with prayer, dialogue and actions. This is what the Church is: it is together with people, not somewhere, two 2,500 kilometers away, virtually mediating between someone who wants to live and someone who wants to destroy you. The Russian murderers and torturers do not move to Europe just because they are held by Ukrainians with weapons and under the blue and yellow flag.”

News agencies remove photo of Kate after widespread claims of photoshop

The first photo of the Princess of Wales since her abdominal surgeries has been removed by news agencies because of widespread claims it has been photoshopped. The photo of Kate was issued on Sunday after weeks of speculation about her whereabouts. But the photo was later removed by The Associated Press and other news agencies, including AFP and Reuters, because it appeared to be “manipulated”, fueling more conjecture. The photo of Kate in a chair surrounded by her three children was credited to her husband, William, Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, and was said to have been taken earlier in the week in Windsor. “Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months,” Kate said on social media. “Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day.” Kate has been absent from official duties since her procedure in January, giving rise a to a number of conspiracy theories about the royals.

Photo: Reuters

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