CONFLANS-SAINTE-HONORINE, France — The middle school teacher knifed to death on the street of a Paris suburb on Friday showed his teenage students a cartoon lampooning the Prophet Mohammad as part of a class on freedom of expression earlier this month, parents said.
Nordine Chaouadi told Reuters he was the father of a 13-year-old pupil who attended the civics class given by the teacher, whom parents gathered outside the college referred to as Mr. Paty.
French media have identified him as Samuel Paty.
The teacher had asked pupils who were Muslim to raise their hands and invited them to leave, advising them he would be showing a caricature of Mohammad that might cause offence, said Chaouadi.
For Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.
Chaouadi said his son, a Muslim, interpreted the teacher’s actions as done out of kindness and respect for their faith.
“He did it to protect the children, not to shock them,” said Chaouadi.
Some parents took offence, however. Two or three days later, they held a meeting at the school with the teacher, school principal, and an official from the education authority.
“It went well. There was no shouting or talking over each other. My wife took part in it. She said it was a man who made a mistake, it happens to everyone,” Chaouadi added.
One man who said his daughter was in the class gave a similar account of the lesson in a video recorded around the time of the meeting.
However, he branded the history teacher a thug, and posted the video on social media.
The post was shared by a Paris mosque, among others.
Reuters was not immediately able to authenticate the video.
In the video, the man says: “If you want to join forces and say ‘stop, don’t touch our children, then send me a message.’
“This thug should not remain in the national education system, should no longer teach our children. He should go educate himself,” he continues in the recording.
The school, the College du Bois d’Aulne in the middle-class suburb of Conflans-Saint-Honorine, could not immediately be reached for comment.
It was unclear whether the attacker, who was shot dead by police and has not been named, had seen the video.
Lawmakers and teachers’ unions hailed the slain teacher’s courage for confronting challenging taboos in French society. Freedom of expression was a core tenet of democracy, they said.
Jean-Remi Girard, president of the National Union of School Teachers, told BFM TV that children needed to understand that blasphemy can shock, but is legal.
Blood has been spilled before in France over satire targeting Islam. Islamist militants killed 12 in a gun rampage in the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015 after it published a series of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
Giacometti sculpture in sealed bid auction – starting price $90mn
A sculpture by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti is being auctioned by Sotheby’s with a reserve price of $90 million but the winning offer on Tuesday could remain secret as it is being sold by sealed bid.
If “Grande femme I” sells for more than $100 million, Giacometti will equal Pablo Picasso as only the second artist with four works beyond that threshold.
The nearly nine-foot (2.68 meter) bronze of a spindly female figure, cast in 1960, is part of a series of large outdoor sculptures originally intended for Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York but never installed.
Under the rules of the hybrid auction, interested buyers can make only one secret bid of at least $90 million.
The auction closes at 1600 GMT Tuesday and the work will go to the highest bid, if it is at least five percent higher than the second highest, otherwise a second round will take place.
Unlike a traditional auction, Sotheby’s will not reveal the purchase price, although the buyer can if they wish.
Since 2010, three works by the Swiss artist, known for his elongated, emaciated figures, have already sold for more than $100 million, the only sculptures to have reached this level.
“L’homme au doigt” (Man Pointing), a 1947 bronze, sold for $141.3 million at Christie’s in New York in 2015, the most expensive sculpture sold at auction.
“Grande femme I” is “the culminating example” of Giacometti’s work, said Brooke Lampley, vice chairman of Sotheby’s global fine art division.
“This work is really the apotheosis of his exploration of the female standing figure over the course of his lifetime,” she said.
“It’s mesmerizing. It places us in the artwork. How you encounter it and how it makes you feel is so much part of the work and his intention.”
Throughout his career, the sculptor gradually enlarged the size of his works up to the monumental “Grande femme I” towards the end of his life.
“The Grande femme is intended to be vast, enormous and dwarfing to a regular human,” said Lampley, to stimulate “reflection and an introspection about your place in the world.”
The star of the autumn sales at Sotheby’s, the “Grande femme” will be followed on Wednesday by a sale of contemporary art and a second of Impressionist works and modern art.
Oxford COVID-19 vaccine prompts immune response among adults old and young, AstraZeneca says
LONDON – The COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford produces a similar immune response in both older and younger adults, and adverse responses were lower among the elderly, British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc said on Monday.
A vaccine that works is seen as a game-changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.15 million people, hammered the global economy and shuttered normal life across the world.
“It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the COVID-19 disease severity is higher,” an AstraZeneca spokesman told Reuters.
“The results further build the body of evidence for the safety and immunogenicity of AZD1222,” the spokesman said, referring to the technical name of the vaccine.
The news that older people get an immune response from the vaccine is positive because the immune system weakens with age and older people are those most at risk of dying from the virus.
The Financial Times reported earlier that the vaccine, being developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca, triggers protective antibodies and T-cells in older age groups – among those most at risk from the virus.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be one of the first from big pharma to secure regulatory approval, along with Pfizer and BioNTech’s candidate.
If it works, a vaccine would allow the world to return to some measure of normality after the tumult of the pandemic.
Immunogenicity blood tests carried out on a subset of older participants echo data released in July which showed the vaccine generated “robust immune responses” in a group of healthy adults aged between 18 and 55, the Financial Times reported.
Details of the finding are expected to be published shortly in a clinical journal, the FT said. It did not name the publication.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a vaccine was not yet ready though he was preparing logistics for a possible roll out.
“I would expect the bulk of the roll out to be in the first half of next year,” Hancock told the BBC.
Asked if some people could receive a vaccine this year he told the BBC: “I don’t rule that out but that is not my central expectation.”
“We want to be ready in case everything goes perfectly but it’s not my central expectation that we’ll be doing that this year, but the programme is progressing well, we’re not there yet,” Hancock said.
Called AZD1222 or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, the vaccine was developed by Oxford University scientists and licensed to AstraZeneca in April, which took on the task of scaling trials and production.
The vaccine is likely to provide protection for about a year, CEO Pascal Soriot said in June.
The British drugmaker has signed several supply and manufacturing deals with companies and governments around the world as it gets closer to reporting early results of a late-stage clinical trial.
AstraZeneca resumed the U.S. trial of the experimental vaccine after approval by U.S. regulators, the company said on Friday.
Staff at a London hospital trust have been told to be ready to receive the first batches of the vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc, The Sun newspaper reported on Monday.
The Sun said the hospital, which was not identified, was told to prepare for the vaccine from the “week commencing the 2 November”.
More mass testing in China after 137 virus cases in Xinjiang
Chinese officials were racing Sunday to smother a fresh coronavirus outbreak in the country’s far northwest after 137 new infections were discovered.
Mass testing began Saturday evening to cover 4.75 million residents in and around Kashgar, Xinjiang province, after a 17-year-old garment factory worker tested positive for the virus.
China — where the coronavirus first emerged late last year — has largely brought domestic transmission under control through lockdowns, travel restrictions and testing, but sporadic regional outbreaks have emerged.
Beijing has lauded its rapid testing capabilities, with the Communist Party eager to project an image of victory over the virus as much of the world struggles with lockdowns and mass outbreaks.
The new cases — all asymptomatic — were linked to a factory in Shufu county where the girl and her parents worked, the Xinjiang health commission told a press briefing Sunday.
A special team from Beijing’s National Health Commission was sent to investigate the source of the outbreak and assist with preventive measures, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
As of Sunday afternoon more than 2.8 million samples had been collected in the area and the rest would be completed within two days, the city government said in a statement.
All schools in Kashgar have been closed until October 30 and anyone leaving the city needs to show a negative nucleic acid test, the city government said.
State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of hundreds of people lining up to take nucleic acid tests outside hospitals and mobile testing centres set up across the city.
Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, was kept under strict lockdown for weeks after more than 900 cases were reported in mid-July.
After 13 cases were detected earlier this month in the eastern port city of Qingdao, officials tested nearly 11 million residents within a week.
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