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Thursday, January 9, 2014

In a Rare Video, Fidel Castro Surfaces

Fidel Castro, the former president of Cuba, made his first public appearance in nine months on Wednesday night at the opening of a nonprofit art studio in the Romerillo neighborhood of Havana.

The former president showed up for the opening of the Kcho Romerillo Art Studio, Laboratory for Art on the 55th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. In video broadcast on Cuban state television that is in Spanish, Mr. Castro was greeted by the director of the studio, Alexis Leyva, also known as simply Kcho, and other artists.

Mr. Castro, 87, led Cuba for 48 years before handing the reins to his brother, Raúl Castro.

The last time Fidel Castro was seen publicly was in April 2013, when he attended the opening of a Havana school.

French Court Upholds Ban on Comedian Who Mocks Holocaust Commemoration

A French appeals court decided late Thursday to uphold a ban on performances by the stand-up comedian known as Dieudonné, who invented an obscene salute popular with anti-Semites and frequently sprinkles his act with diatribes against Holocaust remembrance.

The ruling reversed a decision by a lower court earlier in the day in the city of Nantes, where the performer was preparing to entertain 6,000 fans at the start of a 22-city tour that France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, has called a threat to public order.

The court order stopping the performance was hailed online by critics of the comedian, including Boruch Szlezinger, a Holocaust survivor, and Yann Galut, a socialist member of Parliament. Mr. Szlezinger, whose grandson helped him share his experiences at Buchenwald with younger generations on Twitter, wrote, “Today, the French government said no to hate.”

Mr. Galut said the ruling showed that “there is no place for anti-Semitism in our Republic.”

Outside the theater in Nantes, as fans of the comedian and riot police officers faced off, Dieudonné dispatched his sidekick Jacky to address the crowd and called for calm on his Facebook page.

In another update, the comedian advised his supporters that the authorities “are looking for physical confrontation, so go home singing the Marseillaise,” the French national anthem. Citing a Wikipedia entry, Dieudonné also claimed that the judge who upheld the ban, Bernard Stirn, was a great-nephew of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jewish army officer falsely accused and convicted of spying for Germany in 1894. According to the comedian, the judge’s background alone was enough to explain “why the show was forbidden.”

Although the comedian insists that the stiff-arm salute he calls a “quenelle” was not inspired by the Nazis, but is a gesture of obscene disdain for the French establishment, anti-Semites who read his anti-Zionist rhetoric as a kind of code to skirt French laws against inciting racial hatred now frequently do it at Holocaust memorials and other Jewish sites.

Earlier this week, BFMTV reported that the interior minister was heckled by Dieudonné supporters, some flashing the quenelle, as he arrived at a train station in Rennes, about an hour from Nantes.

BFMTV video of Interior Minister Manuel Valls being heckled by fans of the comedian Dieudonné.

Live Updates on Bridge Scandal Surrounding Chris Christie

Gov. Chris Christie.Tim Larsen/Office of the Governor, via Associated Press Gov. Chris Christie.

The Lede will be live blogging events this morning related to the scandal surrounding the traffic jam ordered by aides to Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey in retaliation for a mayor not endorsing the governor’s re-election.

As my colleague, Kate Zernike reported, the mysterious closing of toll lanes on the George Washington Bridge last year has exploded into a full-bore political scandal for Gov. Chris Christie. Today, the Lede will be live blogging updates from Trenton, where Mr. Christie will hold an 11 a.m. press conference in response to the release of emails and texts revealing top aides requested the closings to punish a local mayor for failing to endorse the governor’s re-election bid. Also, a judge is expected to rule on a request to block legislative testimony scheduled today from a former Port Authority employee and longtime political operative and friend of Mr. Christie about the bridge.

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