Body of former US President Bush returns to Houston for funeral

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The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush is carried by a military honor guard past former President George W. Bush and wife Laura Bush, President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, former President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Jimmy Carter during a State Funeral at the National Cathedral on Dec. 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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The remains of President George H.W. Bush arrive at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, on Dec. 5, 2018 after lying in state in Washington D. C. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 06 December 2018

Body of former US President Bush returns to Houston for funeral

  • Both Republican and Democratic politicians honored a president who called for a “kinder, gentler” nation
  • Trump shook hands with his predecessor, Barack Obama, but ignored two former Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter

WASHINGTON: Former US President George H.W. Bush was hailed at his state funeral on Wednesday as a warrior-statesman of uncommon personal kindness who went from being a hero of American conflicts to representing a bygone era of civility in politics.
Amid an unusual bipartisan spirit at the service at Washington’s National Cathedral, both Republican and Democratic politicians honored a president who called for a “kinder, gentler” nation.
Later on Wednesday, a plane carrying the body of Bush, who died last week in Texas aged 94, landed in Houston where there will be a funeral service on Thursday at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. Afterward, he will be laid to rest at his presidential library in College Station, Texas.
There will be a public viewing on Wednesday night at the Houston church where Bush and his late wife, Barbara Bush, were longtime worshippers.
Bush, the 41st US president, occupied the White House from 1989 to 1993, navigating the collapse of the Soviet Union and expelling former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s forces from oil-rich Kuwait.
“George H.W. Bush was America’s last great soldier-statesman,” Jon Meacham, a presidential biographer, said in a eulogy. “He stood in the breach in the Cold War against totalitarianism. He stood in the breach in Washington against unthinking partisanship,” he said.
At a ceremony full of pomp but also peppered with laughter, the capital’s current political feuds were briefly set aside in honor of the late president, a naval aviator who survived being shot down by Japanese forces over the Pacific Ocean in World War Two, and a former head of the CIA during the Cold War.
Still, there were reminders of lingering tensions.
President Donald Trump shook hands with his predecessor, Barack Obama, and former first lady Michelle Obama. But he did not greet the other two former Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, sharing the front pew, or their spouses, including Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 election opponent.
A patrician figure, Bush was voted out of office in part for failing to connect with ordinary Americans during an economic recession.
But he has been remembered as representing an earlier era of civility in American politics, an image burnished in recent years by the divisiveness and anger in the United States that accompanied the rise of Trump.
Former President George W. Bush said his father “valued character over pedigree, and he was no cynic. He’d look for the good in each person, and he usually found it.”
“The best father a son or daughter could ever have,” the former president said in his eulogy, his voice cracking with emotion as he spoke near his father’s flag-draped coffin.

Clinton wipes away tears
Trump, like Bush a Republican, infuriated the late president by attacking his sons, George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, a rival in the 2016 Republican primary campaign. Trump sat mostly motionless next to first lady Melania Trump throughout much of the service.
He had tweeted earlier that he was “Looking forward to being with the Bush family. This is not a funeral, this is a day of celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life. He will be missed!“
Bush did not endorse Trump in the 2016 presidential election but sent him a letter in January 2017 saying he would not be able to attend his inauguration because of health concerns, but wishing him the best.
All surviving former US presidents were at the cathedral. During one of the eulogies, Bill Clinton wiped away tears and Michelle Obama leaned over to pat him on the arm.
Canadian former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney lauded Bush’s role in handling the end of the Cold War and helping the delicate reunification of Germany.
Bush put together a US-led international coalition that ousted invading Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991 and was president when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
“When George Bush was president of the United States of America, every single head of government in the world knew that they were dealing with a gentleman, a genuine leader, one who was distinguished, resolute and brave,” Mulroney said.
The guest list included Britain’s Prince Charles and leaders from Germany, Jordan, Australia and Poland, along with a host of former world leaders, such as former British Prime Minister John Major, who was in office during Bush’s term.
Trump closed the federal government on Wednesday to mark a day of mourning for Bush, and several US financial exchanges were closed.
During his presidency, Bush was dogged by domestic problems, including a sluggish economy, and he faced criticism for not doing enough to stem the tens of thousands of deaths from the AIDS virus ravaging America.
When he ran for re-election in 1992, he was pilloried by Democrats and many Republicans for violating a famous 1988 campaign promise: “Read my lips, no new taxes.” His opponent Bill Clinton coasted to victory.
Before Wednesday’s service, his body lay in state since Monday evening in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington.
Thousands of people filed past to pay their respects, some getting a chance to see Sully, a service dog who was Bush’s friendly companion. Sully became an Internet sensation after being photographed lying next to his late master’s coffin.


Macron spearheads pressure on Bolsonaro over Amazon fires

Updated 18 min 55 sec ago

Macron spearheads pressure on Bolsonaro over Amazon fires

  • With global leaders gearing up for the G7 summit in the western French resort of Biarritz, Macron drew Bolsonaro’s ire by saying the wildfires would be high on the agenda
  • Bolsonaro had earlier blasted Macron for a colonialist mentality, prompting the French president hit back, accusing his Brazilian counterpart of lying in pledges to fight global warming

PARIS: France’s Emmanuel Macron led a growing wave of international pressure on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest Friday, telling him Paris would block efforts to seal a major trade deal.
With global leaders gearing up for the G7 summit, which opens Saturday in the western French resort of Biarritz, Macron drew Bolsonaro’s ire by saying the wildfires would be high on the agenda and pledging that delegates would hammer out “concrete measures” to tackle them.
Bolsonaro had earlier blasted Macron for a “colonialist mentality,” prompting the French president hit back, accusing his Brazilian counterpart of lying in pledges to fight global warming.
“Given the attitude of Brazil over the last weeks, the president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Osaka (G20) summit” in June, a French presidential official said.
As a result, France would oppose a trade deal between the EU and South America’s Mercosur nations, effectively killing any chance of it being ratified, he said.
Moves to prioritize the Amazon wildfires on the G7 agenda won backing from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeting that the fires were “heartbreaking” and offering help to put them out.
But in a sign of EU disagreement, Germany said Macron’s proposal to block the Mercosur deal was “not the right response.”
“Failing to conclude the Mercosur agreement would not contribute to reducing the clearing of the rainforest in Brazil,” a German government spokesman told AFP.
So far this year, there have been 76,720 forest fires in Brazil — the highest number since 2013, official figures show, with more than half in the Amazon rainforest.
“The Amazon rainforest — the lungs which produce 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire,” Macron tweeted late on Thursday, suggesting it be high on the summit agenda.
But Bolsonaro blasted the move to make it a G7 item without any participation by Brazil, saying it reflected a “colonialist mentality.”
The leaders of France, the US, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy and Japan already face a litany of issues in Biarritz, which is on a security lockdown for the summit.
Macron met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier Friday for last-minute talks trying to soothe tensions between Tehran and Washington.
A nuclear deal between Western powers and Iran all but collapsed after Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew US support in May 2018, reimposing economic sanctions on Tehran.
“We’re at a critical moment,” Macron warned on Wednesday, acknowledging that Iran is “laying out a strategy” for exiting the 2015 deal.
“President Macron made some suggestions last week to President (Hassan) Rouhani and we believe they are moving in the right direction, although we are not definitely there yet,” Zarif told AFP in an interview.
He said he had a “good discussion” with the French leader, who would now hold talks with other European leaders to seek a way forward.
Macron’s diplomacy is a delicate task, with France seeking to roll back some of the US measures imposed as part of Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran, which insists its nuclear program is peaceful.
French diplomats have raised the idea of US waivers on sanctions affecting Iranian oil exports to India and China, or a new credit line for Tehran that could help the struggling economy.
That prompted Trump to accuse Macron of sending Tehran “mixed signals” in his attempt to broker fresh talks between the longtime adversaries.
But Trump appears to be the outlier among America’s G7 partners on Iran, despite speculation that Johnson, who claims a close personal rapport with the US leader, might be more amenable to endorsing his stance.
On Friday, a British diplomatic source said the UK would continue to back the 2015 nuclear deal, which it helped broker, as the “best way” of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Iran is just one of a host of issues over which G7 members are at loggerheads, upending a formerly cosy club of rich nations.
Trump will arrive in the glitzy beachside resort on Saturday already riled by a new French law increasing taxes on US Internet giants such as Google and Facebook. He is also threatening tariffs on the European automobile sector.
Just before the summit, China fired the latest salvo in its trade war the US, announcing new tariffs on $75 billion of American imports.
But in a sign of the summit’s lowered ambitions, French officials have scrapped the idea of a joint declaration at the end, breaking a longstanding G7 tradition.