Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

US President Joe Biden walks off stage after addressing media representatives during a press conference at the NATO summit, IFEMA Convention Center, Madrid, June 30, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 30 June 2022

Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

  • Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: ‘Switzerland, my goodness. I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,’ he joked, before adding for the record: ‘Sweden’
  • Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century

MADRID: NATO’s latest expansion momentarily got really interesting with even Switzerland about to join — at least for a second in a Joe Biden verbal slip Thursday.
At a press conference marking the end of the NATO summit in Madrid, the US president recounted the behind-the-scenes talks putting militarily non-aligned Finland and Sweden on track to join the Western alliance in a major rebuff to Russia.
Except he misspoke, saying there was a plan to call the leader of famously neutral Switzerland about joining.
Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: “Switzerland, my goodness.”
“I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,” he joked, before adding for the record: “Sweden.”
Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century.


1968 plane wreckage found on Swiss glacier

Updated 05 August 2022

1968 plane wreckage found on Swiss glacier

  • The pieces emerged on the Aletsch Glacier in the southwestern Wallis canton
  • Wallis police said the wreckage was discovered on Thursday

GENEVA: Wreckage from a plane that crashed in the Swiss Alps in 1968 has been discovered on a glacier more than 54 years on, police said Friday.
The pieces emerged on the Aletsch Glacier in the southwestern Wallis canton, near the Jungfrau and Monch mountain peaks.
Wallis police said the wreckage was discovered on Thursday.
“Investigations have determined that the parts were from the wreckage of a Piper Cherokee, registration HB-OYL, which crashed at this location on June 30, 1968. Recovery work will be undertaken as soon as possible,” police said.
The 24 Heures regional newspaper said that on board were a teacher, a chief medical officer and his son, who were all from Zurich.
They had a fatal accident 500 meters south of the Jungfraujoch saddle between the two peaks. The bodies were recovered at the time, but the wreckage was not.
“At the time of the accident, more than 50 years ago, the technical means to recover aircraft wreckage in difficult terrain were limited,” the police said.
“Due to the melting of the glaciers, particularly in summer, it is therefore possible that other pieces or pieces of wreckage may be released from the ice.
“In case of discovery, these elements must not be handled in order to avoid any risk of injury. They must be marked and immediately reported to the police.”
24 Heures reported that a mountain guide discovered the wreckage during an expedition in the area.
Due to climate change and the glacier melting, the route has changed and now passes where the plane pieces were found.


Hindu nationalists push boycott of Bollywood ‘Forrest Gump’ remake

Updated 05 August 2022

Hindu nationalists push boycott of Bollywood ‘Forrest Gump’ remake

  • Example of how Bollywood actors, particularly minority Muslims like Aamir Khan, are feeling increased pressure under Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi

NEW DELHI: According to Forrest Gump, life is like a box of chocolates because “you never know what you’re going to get.” Now, an Indian remake of the movie has been hit by boycott calls over years-old comments by its Muslim star Aamir Khan.
It is the latest example of how Bollywood actors, particularly minority Muslims like Khan, are feeling increased pressure under Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Modi.
“Laal Singh Chaddha,” an Indian spin on the 1994 Hollywood hit with Tom Hanks, is expected to be one of India’s biggest films of 2022.
This is due in large part to its main star, 57-year-old Khan, one of the Indian industry’s most bankable actors with past blockbusters like “3 Idiots” (2009) and “Dangal” (2016).
But ahead of the August 11 release, the Internet is awash with clips from a 2015 interview when Khan expressed a growing “sense of fear” and that he and his then-wife discussed leaving India.
“She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day,” he said.
More than 200,000 tweets, many from supporters of Modi’s BJP party, have been shared since last month calling for people to spurn the movie with the hashtag #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha.
“Aamir Khan married two Hindu Women, yet named his kids Junaid, Azad & Ira. (Hindu co-star) Kareena (Kapoor) married a Muslim & promptly named her kids Taimur & Jehangir,” said one tweet, referring to the children’s typical Muslim names.
“That’s enough reasons to boycott Lal Singh Chaddha, basically a production from Bollywood’s Love Jihad club. #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha,” it added, using a derogatory term coined by Hindu nationalists who accuse Muslim men of marrying Hindu women and forcing them to convert.
Nicknamed “Mr Perfectionist,” Khan has been credited with pushing films beyond Bollywood’s traditional fare of song and dance into social and cultural issues.
He also hosted a TV chat show — “Satyamev Jayate” — that discussed touchy themes like rape, domestic violence and corruption.
The furor over his new film — which adapts Hanks’ famous line to say that “life is like a golgappa,” an Indian snack — is such that this week Khan stressed his patriotism, a key tenet of the Modi government.
“I feel sad that some of the people... believe that I am someone who doesn’t like India,” he told local media.
“That’s not the case. Please don’t boycott my film. Please watch my film.”
Films have long sparked controversy — as well as violence — in the movie-mad country of 1.4 billion people.
But the heat being felt by Khan, one of a clutch of Muslim megastars in the industry along with Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, mirrors growing intolerance, marginalization and vilification of the minority, commentators say.
“There is no doubt that Aamir is being targeted by those spreading hatred toward Muslims,” one commentator, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of becoming a target himself, said.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) owes its origins to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militaristic group espousing “Hindutva,” or making India an exclusively Hindu state.
Lynchings of Muslims by Hindu mobs over so-called cow protection — a sacred animal for many Hindus — and other hate crimes have sown fear in the 200- million-strong Muslim population.
Social media is full of misinformation claiming that Muslims will soon outnumber Hindus — due to inter-religious marriages — or that the minority is a treasonous fifth column backed by Pakistan.
Critics say that the world’s most prolific film industry and its stars have been gradually changing their output to fit the government narrative since Modi came to power in 2014.
In 2019, the hagiographic “PM Narendra Modi” was too much even for the Election Commission, which delayed its release until after a vote that year.
There has been a recent string of military-themed movies that have been nationalistic, all-guns-blazing stories of heroics by soldiers and police — usually Hindus — against enemies outside and within India.
This year’s “The Kashmir Files,” about the fleeing of Hindus from Muslim-majority Kashmir in 1989-90, saw incidents of people in cinemas calling for revenge killings of Muslims.
Film critic and author Anna MM Vetticad said the methods to “subordinate India’s Muslims and Christians to the majority community... include demonizing these minorities, and constantly demanding proof of their patriotism.”
But little is expected to change.
“India’s tragedy is that a majority in Bollywood... are apathetic, opportunistic or afraid,” Vetticad said.


What We Are Playing Today: Stray

Updated 05 August 2022

What We Are Playing Today: Stray

RIYADH: For many people, what goes on inside a cat’s mind is an intriguing mystery, but this video game allows you to become a cat so you can meow, purr and scratch.

It’s not a silly exercise; it’s dark and full of clues that you need to solve.

The adventure video game Stray was created in 2022 by BlueTwelve Studio and released by Annapurna Interactive.

The plot centers on a stray cat who accidentally enters a walled city full of robots, machines, and viruses. With the aid of a drone companion named B-12, the cat attempts to escape and return to the surface.

The game can be played on PS4 and PS5, as well as Microsoft Windows software.

It has amazing graphics with many details for surfaces and a rotating view. You can move the camera angles around and explore the environment.

The story is simple to understand, and some of the locations are so beautifully constructed that you will actually stop and admire them.

However, there are several shortcomings: It is quite short, sometimes the screen is too dark to see all the details, and they should consider having a second player to allow for teamwork.

Whether exploring one of its more open town areas where you can gather items, interact with amiable robots, and perform tasks for them, or run through fairly linear levels full of amusing platforming challenges and a little light puzzle solving, the game is very amusing and great to play with friends and family who will help you find clues and gather information.

Stray is a delightful adventure in a dark but endearingly hopeful cyberpunk world.

You will experience and appreciate a new world inside the game, and you will gain a general understanding of a cat’s viewpoint.


Beluga whale spotted in France’s Seine river

Updated 04 August 2022

Beluga whale spotted in France’s Seine river

  • The whale was first spotted Tuesday in the waterway that flows through the French capital to the English Channel
  • It is currently near Vernon, about halfway between Paris and the port city of Le Havre

RENNES, France: A beluga whale, a protected species usually found in cold Arctic waters, has swum into France’s Seine river and reached a lock some 70 kilometers (44 miles) from Paris, officials said Thursday.
The whale was first spotted Tuesday in the waterway that flows through the French capital to the English Channel, and follows the rare appearance of a killer whale in the Seine just over two months ago.
It is currently near Vernon, about halfway between Paris and the port city of Le Havre, with authorities in Normandy’s Eure department urging people to keep their distance to avoid distressing the animal.
“In order to carry out the necessary observations... an operation to keep it in place at the lock will be carried out this afternoon,” the regional authorities said.
They did not specify the size, but an adult beluga can reach up to four meters (13 feet) in length.
While they migrate away from the Arctic in the autumn to feed as ice forms, they rarely venture so far south.
“Studies of its health are underway to determine the best measures to take to ensure its chances of survival,” the Eure authorities said late Wednesday.
In late May, a killer whale — also known as an orca, but technically part of the dolphin family — was found dead in the Seine between Le Havre and Rouen.
The animal found itself stranded in the river and was unable to make its way back to the ocean despite attempts by officials to guide it.
The Eure authorities said lone belugas do sometimes swim further south than usual, and are able to temporarily survive in fresh water.


Tuneless Bangladeshi social media star grilled by police

Updated 05 August 2022

Tuneless Bangladeshi social media star grilled by police

  • ‘Hero’ Alom has amassed millions of Facebook and YouTube followers
  • One of his numbers, ‘Arabian Song’, has garnered 17 million views

DHAKA: An out-of-tune Bangladeshi singer with a huge Internet following was hauled in by police at dawn and told to cease his painful renditions of classical songs, sparking a furor on social media.
“Hero” Alom, as he styles himself, has amassed nearly two million Facebook followers and almost 1.5 million on YouTube with his unique crooning style and arresting, raunchy videos.
One of his numbers, “Arabian Song,” in which he appears in traditional Arab clothing on a sand dune with camels superimposed in the background, has garnered 17 million views.
But he has also drawn critics’ scorn, particularly for versions of classic songs of two beloved national treasures — Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and Bangladesh’s national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam.
On Wednesday Alom said that he was “mentally tortured” last week by police who told him to stop performing classical songs, that he was too ugly to be a singer, and to sign an “apology” bond.
“The police picked me up at 6 a.m. and kept me there for eight hours. They asked me why I sing Rabindra and Nazrul songs,” he said.
Dhaka’s chief detective Harun ur Rashid told reporters that Alom had apologized for singing the cherished songs and for wearing police uniforms without permission in his videos.
“We received many complaints against him,” Harun said.
“(He) totally changed the (traditional) style (of singing)... He assured us that he won’t repeat this,” Harun added.
Farook Hossain, deputy police commissioner of Dhaka, rejected claims by Alom, 37, that he had also been pressed to change his name.
“He is making these comments just to go viral in social media,” he said.
Following his ordeal, Alam released a new video depicting himself behind bars in a prison outfit, warbling mournfully that he is about to be hanged.
Alom’s treatment triggered outrage on social media, with commentators and activists calling it an attack on individual rights — even if his singing grates.
“I am not a fan of your songs or your acting. But if there is an attempt to muzzle your voice, I stand up against it,” journalist Aditya Arafat posted.
“Don’t be broken. You are a hero. No matter what others say, you are a real hero,” Sanjida Khatun Rakhi wrote on Alom’s Facebook page.
Alom says he has acted in several films and also participated in Bangladesh’s parliamentary election in 2018 as an independent candidate — garnering 638 votes.
He said at his Dhaka studio that he started using the moniker “Hero” after becoming popular in his home district of Bogra, 150 kilometers north of Dhaka.
“I felt like I am a hero. So I took the name Hero Alom. I won’t drop this name no matter what,” he said.
“At present, it seems you can’t even sing with freedom in Bangladesh.”

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