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Global Pulse: A brutal stand-up set at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner scandalised guests 

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Comedian Michelle Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner has sparked a debate on free speech, polarising opinion among journalists and the political establishment. North Korea has agreed to denuclearise, in exchange for the United States not getting involved in the Korean peninsula. Meanwhile, the Australian government will fund the restoration of the Great Barrier Reef, pledging half a billion dollars to the natural wonder.

The Roast of the White House

Michelle Wolf’s stand-up set at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner was met with very loud opinions, with former press secretary Sean Spicer describing it as a “disgrace”. The annual dinner is meant to celebrate the relationship between journalists and the government, with the WHCA hosting the formal event. A speech by a comedian is traditional at the event, and several prominent comedians like Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert and Hasan Minhaj have taken on the establishment in the past. Wolf’s performance, however, seemed to shock guests. Her jokes were brutal, and prominent members of the Trump administration like Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders were in her line of fire.

“Wolf managed Saturday night to scandalize the majority of Washington’s tuxedo-clad intelligentsia with a barrage of bon mots that, in the eyes of much of the press and political establishment, weren’t really so bon at all. The speech, these pundits have argued, wasn’t amusing; it was lewd, and worse than that, it was mean,” writes Molly Roberts in the Washington Post. “Wolf faced particular criticism for (besides all that sex stuff) her satire of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who apparently was a profile in courage for sitting still with pursed lips while someone told jokes about her — “to her face!” These commentators spun the strange narrative that Wolf went after Sanders for her appearance, when in reality Wolf’s barbs centered on the press secretary’s falsehood-filled performance on the White House podium.”

“All the same, countless journalists rallied behind Sanders, the same woman who spends her days lying to them. And that says a lot more about them than it does about Wolf’s routine. Everyone who told Wolf to read the room is missing the point: The room, and the misplaced notion of a “special” night to celebrate the “special” relationship between the press and the presidency that brought everyone to it on Saturday, is precisely the problem.”

“Wolf, according to the commentariat, violated a sacred standard of decency that defines the correspondents’ dinner every year. The comedian should roast people, yes, but she should do it at a suitably low temperature for this town’s all-too-tender egos. Wolf broke protocol by turning on the broiler,” writes Roberts.

“That Wolf’s performance was not “normal” for the correspondents’ dinner is a testament to its timeliness and necessity — nothing is “normal” right now, and pretending otherwise out of a false sense of the fourth estate’s friendship with the executive would have been the real disgrace. Wolf called the Trump administration out for tearing down democracy. Then, the people who are supposed to care most about holding autocrats to account called her out in turn for, essentially, not being chummy enough.”

“Wolf did a better job of defending the First Amendment than those who say that’s our business,” she writes.

A detente, finally?

“After the striking political theater that unfolded Friday at the forbidding border between North and South Korea, it seems almost meanspirited to cast aspersions on Kim Jong-un’s motives or to be apprehensive about talks Mr. Kim is expected to have in a few weeks with President Trump,” editorialises the New York Times. 

Kim Jong-un’s foray into South Korea was “suffused with symbolism.” “The “Panmunjom Declaration” signed by the two leaders was similarly upbeat, promising to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons and to finally negotiate a peace treaty.”

“Yes, Mr. Kim is still a murderous ruler of a brutally isolated state who will do anything to retain absolute control, and most experts suspect that, in the end, nothing will change since he will not surrender a lever his family spent years and millions of dollars developing,” the editorial board writes.

“The denuclearization he has in mind is “progressive and synchronous,” which seems to mean it will move forward in partial steps, in exchange for economic benefits and security guarantees, and that the United States would withdraw its nuclear umbrella from South Korea. Those would be major challenges to deal with in negotiations and not at all what the Trump administration has in mind.”

“The success of that meeting puts pressure on Mr. Trump to continue the momentum toward peace by patiently pursuing serious negotiations with North Korea, not making unilateral demands and issuing threats. It’s a long shot, but even if talks just keep two impetuous and unpredictable men like Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump away from their nuclear buttons, the world is better off.”

Saving the Great Barrier Reef

Australia has pledged A $500 million (which is roughly USD $379 million) to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Over the last few years, the World Heritage listed-site has lost 30 per cent of its coral cover due to global warming.

“The funding will be used to reduce the runoff of agricultural pesticides and improve water quality. Some of the money will be used to help farmers near the reef modify their practices,” the BBC writes. 

The money will also be used to invest in coral restoration, and improve the current underwater monitoring systems. Environmentalists, however, say that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government certainly isn’t doing enough to help prevent the damage. Earlier this month, scientists said that much of the damage to the Reef is irreversible, and the only real solution is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the use of fossil fuels.


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