In call with Blinken, father of killed aid worker urges tougher US stance on Israel in Gaza

In call with Blinken, father of killed aid worker urges tougher US stance on Israel in Gaza
This photo provided by John Flickinger, Friday, April 5, 2024, shows his son Jacob Flickinger, left, and Sandy Leclerc, right, with their son Jasper. (AP)
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Updated 07 April 2024
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In call with Blinken, father of killed aid worker urges tougher US stance on Israel in Gaza

In call with Blinken, father of killed aid worker urges tougher US stance on Israel in Gaza
  • Flickinger told Blinken on Saturday that the US must use its power to pressure Israel to end killings in Gaza

WEST PALM BEACH: When America's top diplomat called to offer condolences over the killing of his son in the Israeli airstrikes that hit a World Central Kitchen convoy delivering aid in Gaza, John Flickinger knew what he wanted to say.
The grieving father told Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the killings by Israel in the Hamas-run territory must end, and that the United States needs to use its power and leverage over its closest Mideast ally to make that happen.
Flickinger's 33-year-old son, Jacob Flickinger, a dual U.S. and Canadian citizen, was among the seven humanitarian workers killed in the April 1 drone strikes.
“If the United States threatened to suspend aid to Israel, maybe my son would be alive today,” John Flickinger told The Associated Press in describing his 30-minute conversation Saturday with Blinken.
Flickinger said Blinken did not pledge any new policy actions but said the Biden administration had sent a strong message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the relationship between the United States and Israel may change if the Israeli Defense Forces do not show more care for the fate of Gaza's civilians.
“I'm hopeful that this is the last straw, that the United States will suspend aid and will take meaningful action to leverage change in the way Israel is conducting this war,” John Flickinger said.
Flickinger said Blinken also spoke with his son's partner, Sandy Leclerc, who is left to care for their 1-year-old son, Jasper.
In addition to Jacob Flickinger, three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national and a Palestinian were killed in the strikes.
John Flickinger described his son as “larger than life,” a “loving son, a devoted dad and new father and a very loving companion to his life partner.”
Jacob Flickinger was remembered as a lover of the outdoors who ran survival training retreats and was involved in mountaineering, rock climbing and other adventure activities. He spent about 11 years serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, including eight months in Afghanistan.
The elder Flickinger said his son knew going to Gaza was risky, but he discussed it with family members and volunteered in hopes of helping Palestinians in Gaza that aide groups say face imminent famine.
“He died doing what he loved, which was serving and helping others,” said Flickinger, whose own nonprofit, Breakthrough Miami, exposes underrepresented students to academic opportunities and prepares them for college.
World Central Kitchen representatives have said they informed the Israeli military of their movements and the presence of their convoy.
Israeli officials have called the drone strikes a mistake, and on Friday the military said it dismissed two officers and reprimanded three others for their roles. The officers mishandled critical information and violated rules of engagement, the military said.
But John Flickinger said that in his view the strike “was a deliberate attempt to intimidate aid workers and to stop the flow of humanitarian aid.”
World Central Kitchen has since ceased food deliveries in Gaza, Flickinger noted, and he said it looks like Israel is “using food as a weapon.”
The Canadian government has been communicating with the family and is offering financial support to move Leclerc and Jasper from Costa Rica, where the family lives, back to Quebec province to be closer to family, Flickinger said.
Flickinger said his son's remains are in Cairo pending the issuance of a death certificate by Palestinian authorities. Once that happens, the family has made arrangements for them to be transported to Quebec.


Death toll from Ethiopia landslide rises to 146: local official

Death toll from Ethiopia landslide rises to 146: local official
Updated 6 sec ago
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Death toll from Ethiopia landslide rises to 146: local official

Death toll from Ethiopia landslide rises to 146: local official

ADDIS ABABA: The death toll from a landslide in southern Ethiopia has risen to at least 146, a local official said Tuesday, warning the number could rise.
“The number of dead from the sudden landslide that happened in Geze-Gofa district of Gofa zone has passed 146,” a statement from the Gofa zone Communications Affairs Department said, quoting local official Habtamu Fetena, who warned “the number of dead could increase.”


Russia and Iran finish preparing comprehensive cooperation agreement, TASS reports

Russia and Iran finish preparing comprehensive cooperation agreement, TASS reports
Updated 35 min 6 sec ago
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Russia and Iran finish preparing comprehensive cooperation agreement, TASS reports

Russia and Iran finish preparing comprehensive cooperation agreement, TASS reports

MOSCOW: Russia and Iran have completed the preparation of a comprehensive cooperation agreement, the state-run TASS news agency reported on Tuesday, citing the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The agreement will be signed soon, TASS said.


Macron’s political gamble casts shadow over Paris Olympics

Macron’s political gamble casts shadow over Paris Olympics
Updated 23 July 2024
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Macron’s political gamble casts shadow over Paris Olympics

Macron’s political gamble casts shadow over Paris Olympics
  • As he prepares to welcome more than 100 heads of state and tens of thousands of spectators for Friday’s opening ceremony along the Seine, Macron is a fragile force

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron hoped the Paris Olympics would cement his legacy. But a failed bet on a snap legislative election has left him politically stunted, casting a lingering shadow over Macron’s moment on the international stage.
As he prepares to welcome more than 100 heads of state and tens of thousands of spectators for Friday’s opening ceremony along the Seine, Macron is a fragile force — an unpopular president presiding over a caretaker government as it hosts the world’s largest sporting event amid heightened security fears.
“Macron expected to welcome the Games like an emperor,” said French historian Patrick Weil. “But now he’s a lame duck.”
Walking around the Olympic Village on Monday, Macron defended his decision to dissolve parliament and denied the ensuing political instability would overshadow the Games.
“It was me who decided,” he said, referring to his determination to call the election ahead of the Games.
“There is no bitter taste. On the contrary, we did the things that needed to be done before (the Olympics). Now we can fully focus on the Games.”
And in a bid to keep the crisis at bay for a few weeks, he appeared to suggest he was unlikely to name a prime minister until the Games were over.
“There is a sort of truce,” he said.
Macron called the legislative vote after a thumping by the far-right National Rally (RN) in last month’s EU election, saying he wanted the poll to provide clarity.
Instead, French voters delivered a hung parliament and no bloc has so far been able to form a government, leaving Macron’s previous cabinet to manage day-to-day affairs in a caretaker capacity.
“The Olympics are a great break, an extraordinary moment, a brilliant showcase for our country,” said far-right lawmaker Julien Odoul. “But the difficulties of our compatriots continue despite the Olympic Games. And this National Assembly is currently not in a position to provide a response.”
Macron aides, Olympics officials, lawmakers and public figures stressed to Reuters that the show would go on, with years of security and logistics planning unaffected by the politics. But some acknowledged the fallout from the political crisis would hang over the Games.
Socialist lawmaker Christine Pires-Beaune said Macron’s expedited vote had left many French bewildered and angry.
“We have never been in such a thick fog,” she said.
It was not supposed to be this way.
In his New Year’s Eve address to the nation last December, Macron spoke with pride and optimism about the year ahead.
“Only once in a century does one host the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” he said. “2024 will be a year of determination, of choices and of regeneration.”
But more than six months later, Macron’s hopes of regenerating his mandate have evaporated, while the political crisis provoked by his quickfire election has also contributed to weaker-than-expected tourist appetite for the Games.
Flight and hotel bookings to Paris during the Olympics have come in lower than expected, Reuters reported earlier this month, with experts pointing the finger at high travel and accommodation costs, security fears — and political tumult.
The ceaseless drama of the US election — which has so far included an assassination attempt against Republican candidate Donald Trump and President Joe Biden dropping out of the race — has also lured eyeballs away from Macron’s flagship event.
At the Olympic Village on Monday, Macron shook hands with volunteers, wearing a confident smile.
“We are ready,” the president told police officers before thanking Olympic Village staff for their work.
French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera acknowledged that the last few weeks had been “difficult politically.”
But she rejected the idea that the political crisis had stained the Games. She said France could breathe a sigh of relief that the far-right had not won enough seats to form a government, as some polls had projected.
“I think that the Games will allow the country to come together more than ever this summer,” she told Reuters.
Arielle Dombasle, a US-born French singer and actor, recently set social media alight with her performance of a stomping, operatic Olympic number at Paris City Hall, in which she was dressed in a white, hooped, floor-length skirt and peroxide wig.
“There is a terrible bashing among the French of the Olympics, which are nevertheless an astonishing international gathering of the most extraordinary human specimens: the man who jumps the highest, the woman who swims the fastest,” she said.
“There is an atmosphere of anxiety. The world is in disorder, to say the least. But these Games are the occasion for the greatest celebrations.”


Typhoon prompts cancellation of Taiwan air force drills but naval exercises set to continue

Typhoon prompts cancellation of Taiwan air force drills but naval exercises set to continue
Updated 23 July 2024
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Typhoon prompts cancellation of Taiwan air force drills but naval exercises set to continue

Typhoon prompts cancellation of Taiwan air force drills but naval exercises set to continue
  • The Air Force 5th Tactical Mixed Wing announced the cancellation, citing adverse weather conditions

TAIPEI: The arrival of typhoon Gaemi prompted the cancellation of air force drills off Taiwan’s east coast on Tuesday, although naval and land exercises are set to continue in other parts of the self-governing island democracy, which China threatens to invade.
The Air Force 5th Tactical Mixed Wing announced the cancellation, citing adverse weather conditions.
According to the Central Weather Bureau, Typhoon Kaemi is heading westward toward China after bringing moderate flooding to Taiwan’s east coast. Major cities such as Kaosiung, Tainan, Taichung and the capital Taipei were spared any major damage.
Military spokesperson Sun Li-fang said the annual Han Kuang military exercises are on track to continue with adjustments to ensure the safety of personnel and equipment, although some sea and air exercises would be altered due to the weather.
This year’s drills follow the election of Lai Cheng-te as president, who continues the Democratic Progressive Party near-decade in power. The party rejects Beijing’s demands that it recognize Taiwan as a Chinese territory.
Taiwan’s military has long relied on support from the United States, but has in recent years reinvigorated its domestic arms industry, producing submarines and training aircraft that compliment upgraded weapon systems purchased from abroad.


After protests, Bangladesh government to formally accept ruling on job quotas

After protests, Bangladesh government to formally accept ruling on job quotas
Updated 23 July 2024
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After protests, Bangladesh government to formally accept ruling on job quotas

After protests, Bangladesh government to formally accept ruling on job quotas
  • Protests that erupted last week turned violent, resulting in the killing of almost 150 people
  • Protesters want overturned a high court decision that reinstated quota system for government jobs 

DHAKA: The Bangladesh government is expected to formally accept on Tuesday a court ruling to lower quotas for state jobs, media reported, meeting a key demand of the students who had been protesting for days.

Calm prevailed in Dhaka and most major cities in Bangladesh for a second day amid a curfew and an Internet and telecoms shutdown that the government imposed after the protests that erupted last week turned into one of the worst outbreaks of violence in recent years, killing almost 150 people.

The protesters wanted the government to overturn a high court decision last month that reinstated a quota system putting aside nearly 60 percent of government jobs for certain people, including families of those who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence.

The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had scrapped the quotas in 2018.

On Sunday, the Supreme Court agreed to scrap most of the quotas and Hasina approved the verdict late on Monday.

The government’s acceptance of the court ruling is expected to be published in its formal record on Tuesday, media reports said, in line with one of the demands of the protesters.

Hasina on Monday blamed her political opponents for violence and said the curfew, imposed since Friday, would be lifted “whenever the situation gets better.”

The protesters have given the government 48 hours to meet 8 demands, which include a public apology from Hasina and the reopening of the university campuses that were shut when the violence began.

Malaysia on Tuesday joined the list of countries trying to evacuate its citizens from Bangladesh because of the violence, with the foreign ministry saying the flight was expected to arrive in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday afternoon.

India also said at least 4,500 Indian students had returned home over the last few days from Bangladesh.