Former US first lady and humanitarian Rosalynn Carter dead at 96

Former US first lady and humanitarian Rosalynn Carter dead at 96
Former first lady Rosalynn Carter speaks during a news conference at The Carter Center, Nov. 5, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP)
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Updated 20 November 2023
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Former US first lady and humanitarian Rosalynn Carter dead at 96

Former US first lady and humanitarian Rosalynn Carter dead at 96
  • “Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” Jimmy Carter said in the statement

WASHINGTON: Former US first lady Rosalynn Carter, the wife of former president Jimmy Carter, died Sunday at 96 at the couple’s home in the southern state of Georgia, their nonprofit organization announced.
Carter was best known for her work post-White House, as she and her husband championed human rights, democracy and health issues around the world — all while maintaining a notably humble public image.
She had joined her husband in at-home hospice care on Friday after being diagnosed with dementia in May.
“Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, a passionate champion of mental health, caregiving and women’s rights, passed away Sunday... at her home in Plains, Georgia, at the age of 96,” the Carter Center said in a statement.
“She died peacefully, with family by her side.”
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” Jimmy Carter said in the statement.
“She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me,” the former Democratic president said.
Throughout Jimmy Carter’s long political career, his wife was at the heart of his campaigns. Once in the White House — from 1977 to 1981 — Rosalynn Carter stood out as a first lady intent on being involved in policy.
“She attended Cabinet meetings and major briefings, frequently represented the Chief Executive at ceremonial occasions and served as the president’s personal emissary to Latin American countries,” according to the White House website.
Other White House occupants shared tributes to the former first lady Sunday.
“Through rigors of campaigns, through the darkness of deep and profound loss — we always felt the hope, warmth, and optimism of Rosalynn Carter,” President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden said in a statement, pointing to the Carters’ “deep love” as the “definition of partnership.”
And fellow Democrats former president Bill Clinton and former first lady Hillary Clinton said they were “deeply grateful” for Carter’s service, calling her “a compassionate and committed champion of human dignity.”
Rosalynn Carter was born in the small town of Plains on August 18, 1927, as the first of four children. At 13 her father died and she worked alongside her mother, who became a dressmaker to make ends meet.
She met Jimmy Carter in 1945 while she was in college and he was on leave from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.
They married in 1946, and hold several longevity records in US politics: the longest-wed presidential couple and, for 99-year-old Jimmy Carter, the oldest living US president.
Former first ladies Michelle Obama and Melania Trump paid tribute to Carter’s legacy.
“When our family was in the White House, every so often, Rosalynn would join me for lunch, offering a few words of advice and always — always — a helping hand,” Obama said.
“We will always remember her servant’s heart and devotion to her husband, family, and country,” Trump said.
According to the Carter Center, the former first lady is survived by her four children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, after losing a grandson in 2015.
“Besides being a loving mother and extraordinary first lady, my mother was a great humanitarian in her own right,” the Carters’ son Chip Carter said in the Center’s statement.
“She will be sorely missed not only by our family but by the many people who have better mental health care and access to resources for caregiving today.”
The family announced in February this year that Jimmy Carter had entered hospice care in Plains — at the same modest house he and Rosalynn have lived in since the 1960s.
The one-term Democratic president has since surprised many by welcoming visitors, receiving news about the Carter Center’s humanitarian work and frequently enjoying ice cream, according to his family.


Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer killed in Gaza strike

Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer killed in Gaza strike
Updated 08 December 2023
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Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer killed in Gaza strike

Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer killed in Gaza strike
  • Alareer had refused to leave northern Gaza, the epicenter of the fighting at the time

GAZA: The Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer, one of the leaders of a young generation of authors in Gaza who chose to write in English to tell their stories, was killed in an Israeli strike, his friends said overnight Thursday.
“My heart is broken, my friend and colleague Refaat Alareer was killed with his family a few minutes ago,” wrote his friend, the Gazan poet Mosab Abu Toha, on Facebook.
“I don’t want to believe this. We both loved to pick strawberries together.”
Israel had conducted further raids on Thursday evening in the north of the Gaza Strip, according to Hamas authorities.
Alareer had said a few days after Israel began its ground offensive in October that he refused to leave northern Gaza, the epicenter of the fighting at the time.
“Refaat’s assassination is tragic, painful and outrageous. It is a huge loss,” his friend Ahmed Alnaouq wrote on X.
The Literary Hub website also paid tribute to him, while author and journalist Ramzy Baroud wrote on X: “Rest in peace Refaat Alareer. We will continue to be guided by your wisdom, today and for eternity.”
Alareer, a professor of English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza, where he taught Shakespeare among other subjects, was also one of the co-founders of the “We are not numbers” project, which pairs authors from Gaza with mentors abroad who help them write stories in English about their experiences.
The project edited the book “Gaza Writes Back,” chronicles of life in Gaza by young Palestinian authors, and published “Gaza Unsilenced.”
Israel launched a vast military operation in Gaza following an attack by Hamas on October 7, in which around 1,200 were killed, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities.
More than 17,100, also mostly civilians, have been killed in Israel’s relentless bombardment that has spread to the entirety of the Palestinian territory, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
In November, Alareer published a poem on X entitled “If I must die” that was shared tens of thousands of times. It concludes with the words: “If I must die, let it bring hope, let it be a tale.”


Greek PM unhappy after UK’s Sunak cancels Parthenon marbles talks

Greek PM unhappy after UK’s Sunak cancels Parthenon marbles talks
Updated 27 November 2023
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Greek PM unhappy after UK’s Sunak cancels Parthenon marbles talks

Greek PM unhappy after UK’s Sunak cancels Parthenon marbles talks
  • Long-running bilateral dispute over the Parthenon friezes would have been aired

ATHENS: Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday expressed his “displeasure” over UK counterpart Rishi Sunak’s decision to cancel a meeting where the long-running bilateral dispute over the Parthenon friezes would have been aired.
“I would like to express my displeasure at the British Prime Minister’s cancelation of our meeting (scheduled for midday on Tuesday in London) just a few hours before it was due to take place,” the Greek leader said in a brief statement. Downing Street declined to comment.


UK charity Penny Appeal announces ‘Beauty and the Balaah’ panto — a Halal twist on the classic tale

UK charity Penny Appeal announces ‘Beauty and the Balaah’ panto — a Halal twist on the classic tale
Updated 24 November 2023
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UK charity Penny Appeal announces ‘Beauty and the Balaah’ panto — a Halal twist on the classic tale

UK charity Penny Appeal announces ‘Beauty and the Balaah’ panto — a Halal twist on the classic tale
  • Proceeds from all the performances will go toward supporting the charity’s ‘Winter Aid’ appeal

LONDON: International humanitarian charity Penny Appeal has announced this year’s “Great Muslim Panto,” promising audiences across Britain “a heartwarming and culturally rich” production.

“’Beauty and the Balaah’ is a captivating Muslim Panto with a unique Halal twist on Disney’s timeless classic, ‘Beauty and the Beast’,” the UK-based organization said in a statement.

“This extraordinary rendition seamlessly weaves South Asian and Muslim references into the beloved story, ensuring it’s inclusive and relatable to a diverse audience while opening doors to the rich tapestry of Muslim culture,” it added.

Set in a picturesque village where tradition and modernity harmoniously coexist, “Beauty and the Balaah” introduces audiences to a spirited young Hijabi girl named Aisha.

“This heartwarming tale beautifully integrates cultural nuances from the Muslim world, creating a one-of-a-kind blend of tradition and progress,” Penny Appeal said.

The storyline follows the journey of a young prince, Balaah, who is transformed into a hideous creature by the benevolent Fairy Noor after falling prey to cruelty and greed under the influence of an evil wizard.

To break the curse and regain his human form, Balaah embarks on a quest to learn the true meaning of love and kindness. When Aisha courageously enters his enchanted castle, she discovers the goodness that lies beneath his monstrous exterior, demonstrating that beauty is more than skin deep.

“The Muslim Panto proudly announces that the lead character, Aisha, will be brought to life by the immensely talented Iman Akhtar, hailing from Glasgow,” the show said.

This year’s production is written and produced by the British-Pakistani actor and writer Abdullah Afzal, known for his contributions to the BBC’s “Citizen Khan” and his previous work on the Muslim Panto, including “Cinder’Aliyah,” which he also wrote as a take on Disney’s “Cinderella.”

“’Beauty and the Balaah’ isn’t just about entertainment; it’s about making a positive impact on the world,” Penny Appeal said.

Proceeds from all the performances will go toward supporting the charity’s “Winter Aid” appeal, a charitable initiative aimed at providing essential support to those in need in areas including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Palestine.

“By attending the Muslim Panto, you’ll be a part of this noble cause, bringing warmth and assistance to vulnerable communities,” Penny Appeal said.

The pantomime will embark on a nationwide tour starting in early December, with up to 60 performances scheduled across the UK through January.

“Following the enormous success of the previous production, “Cinder’Aliyah,” which sold out within 48 hours of ticket sales opening, this new production is poised to captivate audiences with its unique blend of comedy, enchantment, and profound cultural resonance.”


A crane operator has rescued a man from a burning high-rise in England

A crane operator has rescued a man from a burning high-rise in England
Updated 23 November 2023
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A crane operator has rescued a man from a burning high-rise in England

A crane operator has rescued a man from a burning high-rise in England
  • A crowd that had gathered near the building broke out in applause as the man was lifted in the air and then lowered to the ground
  • Crane operator Glen Edwards, 65, described the situation as a “close call” because of windy conditions

LONDON: A crane operator played down tributes paid to him on Thursday after he lifted a man to safety from a burning high-rise building in England.
Video from the scene in the town of Reading in southern England showed a man being rescued by a crane cage from the roof of a building under construction as thick plumes of dark smoke and flames billowed around him.
A crowd that had gathered near the building broke out in applause as the man was lifted in the air and then lowered to the ground.
Crane operator Glen Edwards, 65, described the situation as a “close call” because of windy conditions.
“I was no more than 20 meters up in the air and I looked out my left-hand window and saw a guy standing on the corner of the building,” said Edwards, who had been working at the site before the blaze broke out.
“I’d only just seen him and someone said ‘can you get the cage on,’ so that was it, I got the cage on and got it over to him the best I could,” he added.
He said he tried to position the cage between the man and the flames but he was “hampered by the wind swirling around there.”
“But I got the cage down and I managed to get him in there,” he said.
More than 50 firefighters arrived at the scene to tackle the blaze, officials said, and another man was also lifted from the building by crane. Both men were taken to a hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation. The fire was extinguished later Thursday.


New Yorkers rally in support of halal food vendor after rant by former Obama adviser

New Yorkers rally in support of halal food vendor after rant by former Obama adviser
Updated 23 November 2023
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New Yorkers rally in support of halal food vendor after rant by former Obama adviser

New Yorkers rally in support of halal food vendor after rant by former Obama adviser
  • Fundraiser launched to support employees of the cart who endured verbal abuse from Stuart Seldowitz

LONDON: New Yorkers have rallied in support of a group of Arab food vendors after a video of a former White House adviser to Barack Obama harassing a halal cart worker went viral.
The Adam Halal Food Cart experienced a surge in business the day after the videos surfaced online, with both regulars and first-time customers forming long queues to place their orders.
People gathered around a folding table provided by a local resident, where they shared meals and conversation.
Sam, the cart’s owner, said that most of his customers are Jewish, highlighting the cross-cultural bonds within the community.
He also recounted how a Jewish store owner nearby often brings him a fresh cup of coffee.
Community members launched a fundraiser on Wednesday to support employees of the cart who had endured two weeks of verbal abuse from Stuart Seldowitz, the acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate under Obama.
As of Thursday, the campaign on GoFundMe raised more than $3,500.
In a rant that went viral, Seldowitz insulted the Qur’an, and said that killing 4,000 Palestinian children “wasn’t enough.”
He was arrested on Wednesday on preliminary charges of hate crime and stalking, second-degree aggravated harassment, and stalking causing fear.