- When Roman Polanski won the best director award at the French Césars on Friday, several people walked out of the room in protest.
- Polanski has been called into further attention in the #MeToo era, as he plead guilty to having sex with a minor in the 1970s. He has evaded justice proceedings in the U.S. and has since faced more sexual assault allegations.
- Protesters gathered outside the award ceremony outraged by the director’s award nominations and victories.
Tensions heightened on Friday at the César Awards, France’s equivalent to the Oscars, when director Roman Polanski won high honors for his latest film.
Polanski, 86, has been a controversial figure for decades. In 1977, the movie mogul pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl in the United States. While awaiting sentencing, he fled the country and has been evading extradition since. Polanski has also faced several other sexual assault accusations since the 1970s incident, including a rape allegation from Valentine Monnier who came forward as recently as November. The director has denied these allegations.
Polanski’s recent movie “J’Accuse,” or “An Officer and a Spy” in English, took home several awards at the Césars last weekend. When his name was announced as the winner for best director, “very few” people applauded, according to the French newspaper Le Monde.
Adèle Haenel, a French actress who recently said she was sexually abused as a child by a director in the country’s film industry, walked out of the room upon Polanski’s director victory. She was waving her arms and mouthing the French word for shame, and was followed by several others, including “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” director Céline Sciamma in which Haenel starred.
Haenel had previously condemned Polanski’s César nominations when they were announced in an interview with The New York Times.
“Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims,” Haenel told the newspaper in February. “It means raping women isn’t that bad.”
Polanski was not at the Friday ceremony. The day prior, he issued a statement in which he announced he would not be attending for fear of a “public lynching” from feminists activists.
These activists were indeed present regardless of Polanski’s no-show. Protesters gathered outside the event with signs bearing messages like “Shame on an industry that protects rapists.” Police clashed with the mass of people protesting Polanski and fired tear gas.
The disappointment in Polanski’s formal recognition was widespread. Several prominent figures including Jessica Chastain, Rose McGowan, and Thandie Newton shared their support for those who walked out of the venue.
Florence Foresti, the actress and comedian who hosted the award ceremony, took shots at Polanski throughout the evening. At the beginning of the night, she welcomed the “predators” in the audience.
“There are 12 moments when we’re going to have an issue,” she said, referring to the 12 nominations for Polanski’s “J’Accuse.”
Foresti did not return to the stage after Polanski was named best director. Shortly after, she posted an Instagram story with the French word for disgusted.
Hours before the Césars started, French Cultural Minister Franck Riester said in an interview that it would be a “bad symbol” if Polanski won the best director award given the “necessary awareness that we must all have in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence.”
However, Riester added that he didn’t think “J’Accuse” as a whole should not be chosen for best film just because of Polanski’s actions. The best film award ended up going to “Les Misérables.”
The entire board of the César Academy, which distributes the awards, resigned mid-February amid backlash for nominating Polanski’s film for 12 awards.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (BBC) (CNN)
U.K. Court Rules Julian Assange Can Be Extradited to U.S.
The judgment overrules a lower court decision that blocked the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition on the grounds that his mental health was not stable enough to weather harsh conditions in the American prison system if convicted.
New Developments in Assange Extradition Battle
A British court ruled Friday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to face charges of violating the Espionage Act that could land him in prison for decades.
Prosecutors in the U.S. have accused Assange of conspiring with former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to hack into a Department of Defense computer network and access thousands of military and diplomatic records on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The information obtained in the hack was later published by WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011, a move U.S. authorities allege put lives in danger.
In addition to a charge of computer misuse, Assange has also been indicted on 17 espionage charges. Collectively, the charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 175 years.
The Friday decision from the High Court overturns a lower court ruling in January, which found that Assange’s mental health was too fragile for the harsh environment he could face in the U.S. prison system if convicted.
Notably, the January ruling did not determine whether or not Assange was guilty. In fact, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser explicitly rejected the defense’s arguments that the charges against him were politically motivated and that he should be protected under freedom of press.
However, she agreed that the defense had provided compelling evidence that Assange suffers from severe depression and that the conditions he could face in the U.S. prison system were “such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.”
The U.S. appealed the ruling, arguing that Assange’s mental health should not be a barrier to extradition and that the psychiatrist who examined him had been biased.
In October, the Biden administration vowed that if Assange were to be convicted, he would not be placed in the highest-security U.S. prison or immediately sent to solitary confinement. Officials also said that the native Australian would be eligible to serve his sentence in his home country.
High Court Ruling
The High Court agreed with the administration’s arguments in its ruling, arguing that the American’s assurances regarding the conditions of Assange’s potential incarceration were “sufficient.”
“There is no reason why this court should not accept the assurances as meaning what they say,” the ruling stated. “There is no basis for assuming that the USA has not given the assurances in good faith.”
Assange’s fiancé, Stella Moris, said in a statement that his legal team would appeal the decision to the British Supreme Court at the “earliest possible moment,” referring to the judgment as a “grave miscarriage of justice.”
The Supreme Court will now decide whether or not to hear the case based on if it believes the matter involves a point of law “of general public importance.” That decision may take weeks or even months.
If the U.K. Supreme Court court objects to hearing Assange’s appeal, he could ask the European Court of Human Rights to stay the extradition — a move that could set in motion another lengthy legal battle in the already drawn-out process.
Assange and his supporters claim he was acting as an investigative journalist when he published the classified military cables. They argue that the possibility of his extradition and prosecution represent serious threats to press freedoms in the U.S.
U.S. prosecutors dispute that Assange acted as a journalist, claiming that he encouraged illegal hacking for personal reasons.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Early Data Indicates Omicron is More Transmissible But Less Severe
The studies come as Pfizer and BioNTech claim that preliminary research shows a third shot of their COVID vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the new variant, but two doses alone may not.
More Information About Omicron
Several preliminary studies published in recent days appear to show that the new omicron COVID-19 variant may be more transmissible but less severe than previous strains.
One recent, un-peer-reviewed study by a Japanese scientist who advises the country’s health ministry found that omicron is four times more transmissible in its initial stage than delta was.
Preliminary information in countries hit hard by omicron also indicates high transmissibility. In South Africa — where the variant was first detected and is already the dominant strain — new COVID cases have more than doubled over the last week.
Health officials in the U.K. said omicron cases are doubling every two or three days, and they expect the strain to become dominant in the country in a matter of weeks.
In a statement Wednesday, World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while early data does seem to show high transmissibility, it also indicates that omicron causes more mild cases than delta.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevent Director Rochelle Walensky echoed that sentiment, telling reporters that of the 40 known omicron cases in the U.S. as of Wednesday, nearly all of them were mild. One person has been hospitalized so far and none have died.
Studies on Vaccine Efficacy
Other recent studies have shown that current COVID vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness and death in omicron patients, and boosters provide at least some added protection.
On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that laboratory tests have shown a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the omicron variant, though two doses may not.
According to the companies, researchers saw a 25-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies for omicron compared to other strains of the virus for people who had just two Pfizer doses.
By contrast, samples from people one month after they had received a Pfizer booster presented neutralizing antibodies against omicron that were comparable to those seen against previous variants after two doses.
Still, Pfizer’s chief executive also told reporters later in the day that omicron could increase the likelihood that people might need a fourth dose earlier than previously expected, which he had initially said was 12 months after the third shot.
Notably, the Pfizer research has not yet been peer-reviewed, and it remains unclear how omicron will operate outside a lab, but other studies have had similar findings.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Bloomberg) (NBC News)
40 Camels Disqualified From Beauty Contest After Breeders Inject Their Faces With Botox
The animals were barred from competing for $66 million in prizes at this year’s King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia.
Camels Booted From Beauty Contest
More than 40 camels were disqualified from a beauty contest in Saudi Arabia this week after judges found artificial enhancements in their faces, marking the biggest crackdown on contestants in the competition to date.
The animals were competing for $66 million in prizes at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, a month-long event that is estimated to include around 33,000 camels.
However, according to The Guardian, they were forced out of the contest when authorities found that breeders had “stretched out the lips and noses of the camels, used hormones to boost the animals’ muscles, injected heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands, and used fillers to relax their faces.”
Those types of alterations are banned since judges look at the contestant’s heads, necks, humps, posture, and other features when evaluating them.
An announcement from the state-linked Saudi Press Agency said officials used “specialized and advanced” technology to detect tampering.
“The club is keen to halt all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels,” the SPA report added before warning that organizers would “impose strict penalties on manipulators.”
While it’s unclear what that actually entails, this isn’t the first time people have tried to cheat in this way.
In 2018, 12 camels were similarly disqualified from the competition for injections in their noses, lips, and jaw.