NEW YORK — Jon Hamm and Ray Romano are among the Hollywood heavyweights bringing star power to this year’s Tribeca Festival with new films set to make their world premieres. Organizers of the annual New York City festival on Tuesday announced the lineup of feature-length and short films that will play during the 12-day event this June, with the highlights including the satirical “Corner Office” starring Hamm as “a straight-laced employee who retreats to a blissfully empty corner office to get away from his lackluster colleagues.” Romano makes his directorial debut with “Somewhere in Queens,” a...
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Thousands of police carried out a series of raids across much of Germany on Wednesday against suspected far-right extremists who allegedly sought to overthrow the state in an armed coup.
Federal prosecutors said some 3,000 officers conducted searches at 130 sites in 11 of Germany's 16 states against adherents of the so-called Reich Citizens movement. Some members of the grouping reject Germany's postwar constitution and have called for the overthrow of the government.
Justice Minister Marco Buschmann described the raids as an “anti-terrorism operation,” adding that the suspects may have planned an armed attack on institutions of the state.
Prosecutors said 22 German citizens were detained on suspicion of "membership in a terrorist organization." Three other people, including a Russian citizen, are suspected of supporting the organization, they said.
Weekly Der Spiegel reported that locations searched include the barracks of Germany's special forces unit KSK in the southwestern town of Calw. The unit has in the past been scrutinized over alleged far-right involvement by some soldiers.
Federal prosecutors declined to confirm or deny that the barracks was searched.
Along with detentions in Germany, prosecutors said that one person was detained in the Austrian town of Kitzbuehel and another in the Italian city of Perugia.
Prosecutors said those detained are alleged to last year have formed a “terrorist organization with the goal of overturning the existing state order in Germany and replace it with their own form of state, which was already in the course of being founded.”
The suspects were aware that their aim could only be achieved by military means and with force, prosecutors said.
They are alleged to have believed in a “conglomerate of conspiracy theories consisting of narratives from the so-called Reich Citizens as well as QAnon ideology,” according to a statement by prosecutors. They added that members of the group also believe Germany is ruled by a so-called ‘deep state;’ similar baseless claims about the United States were made by former President Donald Trump.
Prosecutors identified the suspected ringleaders as Heinrich XIII P. R. and Ruediger v. P., in line with German privacy rules. Der Spiegel reported that the former was a well-known 71-year-old member of a minor German noble family, while the latter was a 69-year-old former paratrooper.
Federal prosecutors said Heinrich XIII P. R., whom the group planned to install as Germany's new leader, had contacted Russian officials with the aim of negotiating a new order in the country once the German government was overthrown. He was allegedly assisted in this by a Russian woman, Vitalia B.
“According to current investigations there is no indication however that the persons contacted responded positively to his request,” prosecutors said.
A further person detained by police Wednesday was identified by prosecutors as Birgit M.-W. Der Spiegel reported that the woman is a judge and former lawmaker with the far-right Alternative for Germany party.
The party, known by its German acronym AfD, has increasingly come under scrutiny by German security services due to its ties with extremists.
Environmental activists hurled paint at the entrance of Milan's prestigious La Scala opera house on Wednesday, part of a series of recent protests across Europe to focus attention on climate change.
The early morning protest came ahead of the gala opening of the new season on Wednesday night, with a scheduled performance of "Boris Godunov".
Five climate activists from the Last Generation group threw buckets of paint onto the facade of the building and inside the portico shortly after 7:30 am (0630 GMT), according to an AFP photographer at the scene.
Two people unfurled banners reading "Last Generation - No Gas and No Carbon".
"We decided to stain La Scala with paint to ask the politicians who will attend the performance tonight to pull their heads out of the sand and intervene to save the population," wrote Last Generation in a statement.
Police quickly arrived on the scene -- where bright pink, electric blue and turquoise paint had splattered onto the sidewalk -- and the activists were detained and taken away in police cars.
A team of cleaners from La Scala then began hosing off the building and the non-permanent paint appeared to have been entirely removed.
Last Generation called on Italy to invest more in renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions.
"In order to avert the misery of its own people and safeguard people, homes and businesses, which are at risk from increasingly frequent floods and heat waves, the government must act now," it said, referring to last month's landslide caused by torrential rains on the island of Ischia that killed 12 people.
Most recently, climate activists have targeted artworks inside museums throughout Europe in protests they say are designed not to damage the works but to focus attention on environmental disaster.
They have targeted masterpieces such as the "Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Johannes Vermeer at The Hague's Mauritshuis museum, Klimt's "Death and Life" in Vienna's Leopold Museum or Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" at London's National Gallery, hurling soup or other food at the paintings behind glass.
Last month at an exhibit in Milan, they covered a car repainted by Andy Warhol with flour.
La Scala's opening night gala is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, President Sergio Mattarella and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
In light of the war in Ukraine, the choice of "Boris Godunov" -- an opera by Modest Mussorgsky sung in Russian that tells the story of an autocratic ruler and his people -- was controversial.
Ukraine's consul in Milan had protested the choice, calling it a propaganda coup for Russia.
Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov will sing the title role.
© 2022 AFP
From the United States to Brazil and Israel, a barrage of election-related misinformation hammered voters around the world in 2022, but many pushed back against the conspiracy-laden Trumpian tactic of sowing distrust in the democratic process.
A tsunami of falsehoods flooded Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube -- from "deep fake" videos to doctored photos seeking to manipulate voters -- with pro-democracy activists accusing the platforms of doing too little to combat the menace.
Candidates around the world borrowed from Donald Trump's playbook in peddling unfounded allegations of election fraud, but in countries such as the United States and Brazil many voters appeared to reject the narrative.
Defying widespread predictions of a Republican "red wave" in the November midterms, several of Trump's handpicked candidates lost in close-fought races, with observers saying their continued refusal to accept the 2020 election result may have put off voters.
Republican leaders and supporters "seem to be coming to terms with the way that embracing conspiracy theories has led to poor candidate selection, inefficient voter mobilization, voter cynicism, and a host of other ills," Mike Caulfield, a research scientist at the Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington, told AFP.
"Many will try to wean their supporters off election fraud conspiracy theories... It's going to be a very tough problem to solve."
Likewise, the Brazilian election, which led to a tense runoff in late October after an inconclusive first round, was awash in disinformation as far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro echoed Trump's election fraud claims without evidence.
His leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ultimately won the runoff and polls showed the public's confidence in the voting process remained strong.
But analysts caution that many voters still believe Bolsonaro's claim, and the country's fight against disinformation remains far from over.
- 'Misleading' narratives -
Candidates in Israel's November polls also increasingly followed Trump's playbook, with Benjamin Netanyahu's party, Likud, starting a "stop the steal" campaign as soon as the election was announced.
"Likud was pushing (the) conspiracy that the elections are rigged, that the central election committee of Israel is controlled by (the) deep state," said Achiya Schatz, head of disinformation watchdog group FakeReporter.
Netanyahu went on to win, and the veteran right-winger's claims of a corrupt vote faded away as he stood poised to reclaim power after 14 months in opposition.
Trump was also a major presence in Hungarian politics, with the former US president personally endorsing far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban ahead of April elections that were rife with disinformation.
Orban's party Fidesz "took maximum advantage of its media dominance... to spread factually incorrect or otherwise misleading allegations and narratives about its political opponents," according to a study from Hungarian think tank Political Capital.
Just ahead of the vote Orban, who has nurtured close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, alleged that his rivals "made a pact with the Ukrainians" to offer them weapons and support in the event of an opposition victory.
He offered no evidence and Fidesz roared back to power with a parliamentary majority.
- 'Powerful tool' -
Across the world, misinformation and disinformation typically spike around elections, eroding public trust in democratic institutions and sometimes unleashing chaos as nefarious state or non-state actors try to manipulate the results.
In presidential polls in the Philippines in May, the volume of election-related disinformation spiked to "unprecedented" levels, said Rachel Khan, from the fact-checking alliance Tsek.ph.
An increase in fact-checking operations compared with previous elections could not tame the disinformation -- primarily focused on the two frontrunners, Ferdinand Marcos, who went on to win by a landslide, and Leni Robredo.
"We can see that in terms of election results we had very little impact," Khan said, of the alliance's work. "I think the problem really is media literacy. Even those who claim that they can distinguish disinformation actually cannot."
In Kenya, presidential rivals William Ruto and Raila Odinga are both alleged to have hired so-called digital "warriors" tasked with spreading election-related disinformation.
The falsehoods began spreading almost a year before the August vote, with fact-checkers noting an increase in the use of "deep fake" videos with manipulated content.
While Kenya's supreme court upheld Ruto's victory, many Odinga supporters believe the election was rigged.
And as Nigeria gears up for elections early next year, similar tactics are visible online -- deep fakes and photoshopped images to smear political opponents.
In the United States, meanwhile, analysts warn disinformation about election integrity could flare again as the 2024 presidential race picks up steam -- with Trump vying to reclaim the White House.
"Disinformation is a powerful tool," Pamela Smith, president of the nonpartisan nonprofit Verified Voting, told AFP. "And those who only approve of elections that go their way will keep using it."