World Leaders In Oman Pay Respects After Sultan’s Death

A handout picture published on the Tunisian Presidency official Facebook page on January 12, 2020, shows Tunisian President Kais Saied (L) meeting with Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq in the Omani capital Muscat.  AFP

 

Britain’s Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson joined regional leaders in Oman on Sunday to offer their condolences to the royal family after the death of long-reigning Sultan Qaboos.

A ceremony at Muscat’s Alam Palace drew figures from across political divides in the Middle East, including Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was among those who met the new sultan, along with Tunisian President Kais Saied, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, and Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy was also in attendance at the ceremony, which took place a day after the new royal ruler Haitham bin Tariq was selected and sworn in.

READ ALSO: Oman’s Longest-Reigning Sultan Qaboos dies At 79

Haitham is a cousin of Qaboos, who never married and died Friday at the age of 79 without an heir apparent.

It was Sultan Qaboos’ policy of neutrality and non-interference that elevated Oman’s standing as a “Switzerland of the Middle East” and won it respect in the region and beyond.

It maintains healthy relations with the United States as well as with regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia, in what many diplomatic observers see as a model of balance.

Sultan Qaboos, who ruled for half a century, came to power in 1970 when he overthrew his father in a coup with British support.

As a young man, he attended Britain’s elite Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, after which he joined a British infantry battalion in Germany.

British premier Johnson is to meet with the new sultan and senior Omani officials during his visit, his office said in a statement.

“The UK and Oman have a broad and long-standing bilateral relationship that goes back over 200 years,” it said. “Our countries have deep economic ties and shared defence and security interests.”

As ruler, Qaboos modernised his country but also forged a broader role as a go-between in regional and international crises.

Under his reign, Oman refrained from taking sides in the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar as well as a military intervention in Yemen led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The sultan’s death comes amid increased tensions between Tehran and Washington, following the US killing of a top Iranian commander in Iraq that raised fears the region was sliding into war.

The late sultan’s standing has been recognised with warm tributes from across the world, including from US President Donald Trump who said Qaboos was a “true partner and friend to the United States”.

AFP

Funerals Begin As Town Mourns Victims Of Pakistan Train Fire

Residents offer a funeral prayer for a train fire victim in Mirpurkhas on November 1, 2019, a day after a passenger train caught on fire in Rahim Yar Khan. Funerals began at dawn in Pakistan on November 1 after a devastating fire ripped through a crowded train carrying religious pilgrims, killing at least 74, with many of the victims residents of one southern town. PHOTO: Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP INSET: Scene of the train accident.

 

Distraught relatives gathered Friday for the first funerals of some of the 74 people killed when a fire ripped through a crowded train in Pakistan, with many of the victims’ residents of a single town.

Sobbing family members crowded a government building in Mirpurkhas overnight as the first bodies covered in white cloth began arriving by ambulance from the scene of the disaster.

READ ALSO: Over 65 Persons Killed After Gas Cylinder Explodes On Train

After morning prayers, with women watching from nearby rooftops, more than a hundred men attended the first funeral — of a car mechanic named Mohammad Saleem, who was in his late 40s.

It was held at the Bismillah Mosque, from which at least 42 pilgrims had left to board the train one day earlier, bound for a religious festival near Lahore.

A relative cries during the funeral of a train fire victim in Mirpurkhas on November 1, 2019, a day after a passenger train caught on fire in Rahim Yar Khan. Funerals began at dawn in Pakistan on November 1 after a devastating fire ripped through a crowded train carrying religious pilgrims, killing at least 74, with many of the victims resident of one southern town.
PHOTO: Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP

 

Officials say as some of the train’s passengers cooked breakfast around dawn Thursday, two of their gas cylinders exploded, sending flames racing through three carriages as the train passed near Rahim Yar Khan, in Punjab province.

At least 74 people died, some after jumping through windows on the still-moving train to escape the blaze.

Rescue officials found bodies and some injured passengers along a two-kilometre stretch of track, Dawn newspaper reported.

The train was a daily express service that runs between the southern port city of Karachi and Rawalpindi, adjacent to Islamabad.

Trains on that route can reportedly hit speeds of up to 110 kilometres (68 miles) per hour. Local media said that the speed may have helped fan the flames.

Journalists were allowed inside the interior of the carriages early Friday. The fire appeared to have burned them entirely, with virtually no space visible that was not blackened and charred.

One of them — Wagon No.12 — was carrying mainly people from Mirpurkhas, the town’s deputy commissioner, Attaullah Shah, told AFP.

“There was never such a tragic incident to happen to Mirpurkhas,” he said.

Eight of the bodies had been confirmed as being residents of the town so far, he said.

Twenty-four Mirpurkhas residents were among the injured.

But at least another 40 are still missing, he said.

Officials in Rahim Yar Khan have said many of the bodies are charred beyond recognition and will have to be identified through DNA testing — a process that could take up to one month.

Shah said the government was arranging to send families of the missing from Mirpurkhas to the hospital in Rahim Yar Khan where the bodies have been taken.

– ‘Mistake’ –

Mirpurkhas, a town of some half a million people surrounded by farms and mango orchards, was largely shut down Friday as businesses closed in mourning.

“These were such people that we can not ever forget them,” Mohammad Anwar, the 57-year-old headmaster of a government school, told AFP at the Bismillah Mosque.

He said that among the missing was his nephew, as well as the mosque’s imam. Most of those who left from the mosque had known one another or lived nearby.

Yawar Hussain came to the deputy commissioner’s office overnight in hopes of finding his brother Mohsin, 20.

Clutching a photograph of his brother wearing a starched beige shalwar kameez and sunglasses, the 23-year-old described rushing home after hearing of the accident.

“I consoled my father, and my mother and sisters were crying,” he said.

Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where the railways have seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment.

Gas cylinders are supposedly banned on trains. Pakistan’s railways minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said Thursday that it had been a “mistake” to allow the cylinders on board, and Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered an inquiry.

Some witnesses told local media the fire had not been started by the cylinders at all, but by some kind of fault on the train.

The train had been diverted Thursday to carry pilgrims to the annual Tablighi Ijtema, one of Pakistan’s biggest religious gatherings, which sees up to 400,000 people descend on a tented village outside Lahore for several days to sleep, pray and eat together.

AFP

Fans, Relatives Gather For Funeral Of Belgian Cyclist Lambrecht

Relatives arrive to attend the funeral service for Belgian cyclist Bjorg Lambrecht, on August 13, 2019 in Knesselare. Lotto Soudal rider Bjorg Lambrecht died on August 5, 2019 after a fatal crash during the Tour of Poland.

 

Relatives, teammates and hundreds of cycling fans gathered at the church of Saint Willibrordus in Knesselare on Tuesday for the funeral of young Belgian cyclist Bjorg Lambrecht who died during last week’s Tour of Poland.

The 22-year-old crashed on the third stage of the race after losing control of his bike and colliding with a concrete bridge over a ditch. He died as a result of his injuries.

The cycling world was led at the funeral by Lambrecht’s Lotto-Soudal teammates and team manager Marc Sergeant. German sprinter Andre Greipel was also present.

READ ALSO: Costa To Pay 1.7 Million Euros To Settle Spain Tax Fraud Case

A giant screen on the wall of the church showed black and white photos of Lambrecht and a Lotto cycling jersey was placed on the coffin.

Lambrecht was one of Belgium’s great cycling hopes. He won the Under 23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege and finished second in the Tour de l’Avenir in 2017 behind this year’s Tour de France winner Egan Bernal before turning professional last year with Lotto-Soudal.

This year he placed 12th at the Criterium du Dauphine, winning the best young rider category, fourth in La Fleche Wallonne and sixth at the Amstel Gold Race.

AFP

Ethiopia Holds Funeral Service For Murdered Army Chief

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed/ AFP

 

Ethiopia on Tuesday held a funeral service for its army chief who was assassinated by his bodyguard over the weekend, an incident believed linked to an alleged coup bid in northern Amhara state.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wept and mourners wailed as the coffin of Seare Mekonnen, draped in the Ethiopian flag, was carried to the front of a room filled with soldiers in military fatigues, in footage carried by state media.

Ethiopia has been left reeling after this weekend’s violence, a massive blow to Abiy who has embarked on an ambitious project of economic and political reforms in the nation.

READ ALSO: Ethiopia Mourns After Bloody Coup Attempt

However, his efforts have unleashed ethnic violence and turmoil as different groups jockey for resources and power.

On Saturday, what the government described as a “hit squad” entered a meeting of top Amhara officials and opened fire, killing regional president Ambachew Mekonnen, his top adviser and the state’s attorney general.

A few hours later in Addis Ababa, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) away, army chief Seare was shot dead by his bodyguard. A retired general visiting him was also killed.

The government said he was coordinating the response to the “attempted coup” at the time.

Abiy’s office also said it appeared to be a “coordinated attack” without giving more details.

Ethiopian authorities have pinned the blame on Amhara’s security chief Asaminew Tsige, who was gunned down by police while on the run on Monday.

Asaminew was only released last year from almost a decade in prison over a 2009 coup plot, under a mass prisoner amnesty that began under former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn and continued under his reformist successor Abiy.

Analysts describe him as a hardline Amhara nationalist who was likely facing removal from his job over efforts to form a militia and rhetoric pushing for territory in neighbouring Tigray to be reclaimed.

The motives of Seare’s assassin meanwhile, are completely unknown.

Internet services were down Tuesday across Ethiopia for a fourth consecutive day.

Sala’s Funeral Takes Place In Argentina

A picture shows flowers put in front of the entrance of the training center La Joneliere in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre on January 25, 2019. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

The funeral of Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala took place in his home village in Argentina on Saturday three weeks after he was killed in a plane crash.

A public vigil was held in a gymnasium in Progreso, the modest village in the province of Santa Fe which Sala left as a teenager to forge a career in Europe.

The 28-year-old died last month just two days after completing a Cardiff club-record £15 million ($19.3 million, 17.1 million euros) move from French club Nantes.

The single-engine private plane carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson crashed in the English Channel near Alderney on January 21. Sala had returned to Nantes to say goodbye to his former teammates before flying back to Wales.

READ ALSO: Sala’s Body Arrives In Argentina

The player’s body was recovered from the submerged wreckage on February 7 but Ibbotson remains missing, with funds being raised to continue the search for the 59-year-old.

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock and the club’s chief executive Neil Warnock and chief executive Ken Choo both travelled to Argentina to attend the ceremony.

Sala, a lanky striker, began his career at San Martin de Progreso, and the local club was at the centre of Saturday’s ceremony.

“People will be able to pass by the coffin, leave a letter, a drawing or flowers,” the club’s president, Daniel Ribero, told AFP.

“He represented a lot for us. We’re a small village and Emi was a celebrity, the only player to turn professional.”

Nantes, for whom Sala scored 42 goals in 120 league appearances, will be represented by the defender Nicolas Pallois and general secretary Loic Morin.

AFP

Bush To Be Buried After Four-Day Tribute

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are seated next to former president Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, former US president Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, and former president Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter during the funeral service for former US president George H. W. Bush at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC on December 5, 2018.
Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP

 

George H.W. Bush was to be laid to rest Thursday, concluding a four-day tribute to the 41st president that saw America briefly set aside its political divisions.

After a state funeral, Wednesday in Washington that was attended by the country’s five living presidents and foreign dignitaries, Bush’s flag-draped coffin was flown to Houston.

He will lie in repose at St Martin’s Episcopal Church, where the Bushes worshipped for decades until he is buried.

Bush will be interred at his presidential library in College Station next to his wife Barbara, who died in April, and their daughter Robin who died of leukaemia at age three.

At the memorial service, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania shared a front row pew in the National Cathedral with past presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and their wives as an honour guard brought Bush’s casket into the prayer hall.

Former president George W. Bush tapped the casket twice when he walked up to deliver a rousing eulogy, fighting through tears as he sang the praises of his father and predecessor as commander-in-chief, who died Friday at age 94.

“He showed me what it means to be a president who serves with integrity, leads with courage, and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country,” Bush said.

“He was born with just two settings — full throttle, then sleep,” he said. “To us, his was the brightest of a thousand points of light,” he said in a reference to his father’s signature call to volunteerism.

Wednesday’s funeral capped a national homage that saw Bush lie in state in the US Capitol rotunda, where thousands paid respects to a statesman who steered the nation through turbulent times including the end of the Cold War — and in a style dramatically different to the current president.

 An uneasy truce 

Since Bush’s death, Trump has traded his usual provocative posture for one of solemnity, tweeting before the service about “a day of celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life.”

“He will be missed!” Trump wrote.

At the funeral, Trump and his Democratic predecessors appeared locked in an uneasy truce.

Trump arrived and shook hands with Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama.

But his greetings stopped there, and the body language turned cold as he failed to acknowledge Hillary Clinton, his defeated Democratic rival in 2016.

Clinton stared straight ahead and the two made no eye contact.

It was a marked contrast when Bush Jr. arrived minutes later and shook hands with the current and past presidents and their wives — and handed Michelle Obama a piece of candy, as he did during the memorial service for Senator John McCain in the same cathedral in September.

Bells tolled while the casket was carried down the aisle, as dignitaries including Britain’s Prince Charles, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former Polish president Lech Walesa, and former US vice presidents and cabinet officials looked on.

Bush was a decorated World War II aviator who nearly died when he was shot down on a bombing mission.

He served as a congressman, envoy to China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and vice president to Ronald Reagan before winning the White House.

Trump’s ascendancy to the head of the Republican Party saw him exchange vitriolic attacks with the Bushes, notably slamming the presidential son’s 2003 invasion of Iraq and mocking candidate Jeb Bush during the Republican primaries.

Bush Sr meanwhile branded Trump a “blowhard,” and revealed he did not vote for him.

AFP

Trump Meets Bush Family Ahead Of Funeral

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive to pay their respects to former US President George H. W. Bush as he lies in state in the US Capitol’s rotunda December 3, 2018 in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

President Donald Trump was to greet the Bush family Tuesday in his latest show of peacemaking with the political clan he once fought bitterly.

Trump, whose ascendancy to the head of the Republican Party saw him exchange vitriolic attacks with the Bushes, has taken pains to demonstrate unity since the death Friday of former president George H.W. Bush, aged 94.

Ahead of Wednesday’s state funeral — where Trump will reportedly sit in the front row, but not deliver a eulogy –,  the president tweeted he would visit the “wonderful Bush family” at the presidential guest residence Blair House across from the White House.

Also, Laura Bush, wife of former president George W. Bush, was coming over “to the White House this morning to be given a tour of the Christmas decorations by (First Lady) Melania,” Trump said.

Trump’s relations with the Republican establishment have been rocky since his insurgent campaign took him to the party’s nomination and then a shock election win in 2016.

He did not attend the funeral this year of George H.W. Bush’s former wife Barbara Bush, even though former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were there.

Melania Trump represented the current White House.

Trump also did not attend the funeral in August of another Republican giant, former senator John McCain.

The Bush family has assured Trump that eulogies at Wednesday’s funeral will avoid any criticism of him, The Washington Post reported.

George H.W. Bush’s body continued to lie in state Tuesday at the US Capitol, where officials said that 13,600 people so far had come to pay their respects.

AFP

Thais Mourn Child Boxer As Funeral Held

A relative pays his respects before the coffin of of thirteen-year-old Muay Thai boxer Anucha Tasako during his funeral at a Buddhist temple in Samut Prakan province on November 14, 2018.
Romeo GACAD / AFP

 

A child boxer who died after being hit repeatedly in the head during a Muay Thai bout was mourned Wednesday, alongside wreaths and his fighting shorts, as calls mount for a ban on children entering the ring.

Thirteen-year-old Anucha Tasako collapsed after his opponent, who is about the same age, delivered the blows at a charity fight in Samut Prakan province, near Bangkok, on Saturday.

He died later of a brain haemorrhage, according to police, and relatives were grieving beside his coffin at a temple pavilion Wednesday before his body is cremated.

His portrait was perched in the middle of one of many pink and white wreaths.

Those who knew him were sombre but did not seek to cast blame for his death.

“I’m not mad at the referee or the other boy,” his uncle Aphichati Wannaphakdi, 59, told AFP on the second day of the funeral. “It happens in sports.”

Coach Somsak Deerujijaroen described him as a “clever” boxer with good technique who inspired others.

“Other small boxers look up to him as an idol,” he added.

Thai boxing is hugely popular in the country and many fighters enter the sport at a young age in search of fame and fortune.

But the involvement of Thai youngsters — who sometimes start under 10 years of age in bouts that see kicks and elbows to the head with no protective gear — has stirred frequent criticism.

More so as the young fighters are often family breadwinners from poor families and matches are subject to frenzied ringside gambling.

Smartphone footage shown by local media captured the grim moment Anucha hit the canvas as assistants quickly rushed into the ring to help the motionless boy, who fought under the alias Phetmongkol Sor Wilaithong.

Domestic media said he had been fighting since he was eight and had competed in more than 150 bouts.

His opponent, Nitikron Sonde, took to Facebook to express his sorrow at the death.

“I regret it,” he posted on Tuesday, “but I have to do my duty to win so I can make enough money to sponsor my education.”

Neither fighter was wearing protective headgear.

A bill to prevent minors below the age of 12 from taking part is under consideration and has already received fresh momentum in the aftermath of the death.

The number two in Thailand’s junta, Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, expressed condolences and instructed the sports ministry to “to consider the suitability” of the draft bill, a defence ministry spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday.

Outrage and anger poured in as footage of the young fighter’s death spread online, with some arguing the referee could have stepped in to end it sooner.

“He could barely stand. Why didn’t the referee stop the fight but let him continue to be hit until he was knocked down,” one Thai Facebook user said.

Others defended the practice of starting fighters young.

“I don’t agree with the draft law to totally ban boxers who are under 12 years old because 99 per cent of the famous Thai boxers and Olympic winners began fighting when they were young,” Thai Olympic medalist Tawee Umpornmaha, 59, told AFP, describing the boy’s death as an accident.

“I began at 12 with more than 200 fights. The question is do we have proper safety measures? We must give importance to safety measures including field doctors,” he said.

AFP

Obama, Bush Lead Dignitaries To McCain’s Funeral

Former US Presidents Barack Obama and George Bush speak at Senator McCain’s funeral in Washington DC on Saturday. Credit: AFP

 

Former US Presidents, Barack Obama and George Bush, led dignitaries to bid the late American Senator John McCain farewell.

Both leaders praised McCain for making them “better”  and embodying the virtue of placing country over party, the stunning contrast between the unifying ceremony and an outcast Trump only highlighted the astonishing state of US politics.

President Donald Trump himself was notably absent — fleeing the capital to head to one of his golf courses in Virginia just as eulogies to McCain were being delivered.

Millions of Americans, friends and well-wishers tuned in to the nationally televised memorial attended by almost all of Washington’s past and present powerbrokers.

See photos below:

 

 

Bush, Obama Extol McCain’s Virtues At Washington Funeral

Honor Guards carry the casket of Senator John McCain out of the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP

 

Two ex-presidents from opposing parties united Saturday in homage to late senator and American patriot John McCain, in a momentous farewell ceremony that also rebuked the politics of toxicity and division trafficked by Donald Trump.

As millions tuned in to the nationally televised memorial attended by almost all of Washington’s past and present powerbrokers, Trump himself was notably absent — fleeing the capital to head to one of his golf courses in Virginia just as eulogies to McCain were being delivered.

As Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama praised McCain for making them “better” leaders and embodying the virtue of placing country over party, the stunning contrast between the unifying ceremony and an outcast Trump only highlighted the astonishing state of US politics.

Hailing his friend as “an extraordinary man,” warrior and patriot who embodied what is best in America, Obama said McCain “made us better presidents — just as he made the Senate better, just as he made the country better.”

He was echoing similar sentiments expressed minutes earlier by Bush, who defeated McCain in a “hard fought” Republican primary battle in 2000, only to see that bitter rivalry melt away into a lasting friendship.

While Bush and Obama hail from different parties, their message Saturday was clear: US politics can and should rise to a higher level with the example set by John McCain.

McCain was conservative, to be sure, “but he did understand that some principles transcend politics, and some values transcend party,” Obama said.

“Our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult,” Obama said.

“It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that.”

McCain‘s final public ceremony before his private burial Sunday at the US Naval Academy in nearby Annapolis, Maryland highlighted the warrior politician’s call for healing.

Heavyweights from both parties gathered at the venerated cathedral, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, former vice presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney and former secretaries of state Madeline Albright, John Kerry and Henry Kissinger, who address the gathering and hailed McCain‘s “honor.”

The president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner were also present, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Hollywood icon Warren Beatty.

Withering rebuke 

McCain, who died last Saturday at age 81, has been lionized over the past week of extraordinary and emotional memorials and tributes, including his congressional colleagues bestowing him the rare honor of lying in state in the US Capitol on Friday.

At the funeral, Meghan McCain delivered a tear-filled tribute to her father using the words of Trump’s campaign slogan as a withering rebuke of the president.

“The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great,” she said, to extended applause.

Trump’s name was not mentioned during the ceremony, but Meghan McCain‘s references to him unmistakable.

“We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness — the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly,” she said of her father, criticizing “those who lived lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.”

Earlier Saturday McCain‘s flag-draped casket was taken by honor guard from the US Capitol and placed in a black hearse, which stopped at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to allow his widow Cindy McCain to lay a wreath honoring all of those who died in the conflict.

That the men who vanquished McCain in their presidential battles were asked to speak was seen as a testament to his commitment to looking beyond party and signaling that Americans, regardless of political affiliation, are rowing together in the same boat.

AFP

Trump Arrives At Golf Course As McCain’s Funeral Underway

An armored vehicle arrives with US President Donald Trump at the Trump National Golf Club September 1, 2018 in Sterling, Virginia. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump on Saturday went to one of his golf courses as the final public ceremony honoring late US senator John McCain was underway in Washington.

The president’s motorcade arrived at Trump National Golf Club in Loudoun County, Virginia around 11:16 am (1516 GMT) while eulogies to McCain were being delivered at his funeral at Washington’s National Cathedral.

Earlier, McCain’s daughter Meghan had delivered a tearful address which pointedly took aim at the president’s campaign slogan.

“The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great,” she said to applause from an audience that included Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law.

Trump meanwhile was seen wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap on Saturday morning.

McCain was one of Trump’s sharpest critics and made clear in one of his final wishes as he struggled with brain cancer that he did not want the president to attend his funeral.

Trump waited several days after McCain’s death to praise him directly and belatedly lowered flags to half-staff across the country only after bowing to pressure.

The roots of their feud go back to when Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in June 2015, suggesting that many Mexican immigrants were criminals and “rapists.”

McCain denounced him for using language that “fired up the crazies,” while Trump said McCain was a “dummy” who had barely managed to graduate from the US Naval Academy.

He went on to attack McCain’s service in the military, saying of the onetime prisoner of war: “I like people that weren’t captured.”

AFP

Aretha Franklin’s Star-Studded Funeral Gets Underway

Singer Aretha Franklin performs during the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse adjacent to the White House in Washington, DC. Aretha Franklin died at the age of 76 on August 16, 2018 at her home in Detroit according to her publicist. Saul LOEB / AFP

 

Aretha Franklin’s star-studded funeral got underway in Detroit on Friday, political dignitaries and music royalty joining family, friends and members of the public to bid goodbye to America’s “Queen of Soul.”

The service, a celebration of the life and legacy of one of the US music icon, is expected to last six hours at the Greater Grace Temple in her Michigan hometown.

The 76-year-old singer, beloved by millions around the world, died of cancer on August 16, closing the curtain on a glittering six-decade career that spanned Gospel, R&B, Jazz, Blues and even classical music.

Former president Bill Clinton and Smokey Robinson are among those due to give eulogies, with music from Stevie Wonder, Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson, who is to portray Franklin in an upcoming biopic.

Huge lines began forming on Thursday after it was announced that 1,000 members of the public would be allowed into the service, which was initially invitation only for friends and family.

Fans queued in funeral finery, vibrant dresses or even tracksuits and Aretha T-shirts, oblivious to the hot sun so determined were they to be a part of history, as neighbours stood outside their homes to watch.

“Aretha is my icon. She’s everything to me, like my mother,” said Ugochi Queen, a 46-year-old Franklin tribute artist dressed in black ruffles from Gary, Indiana.

“She’s just my idol, I love her, I love her music, I love the legacy that she lived,” she said. “I need closure and that’s why I’m here.”

 ‘Queen of our city’ 

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton accompanied her husband to the service. Actress Whoopi Goldberg was also among those invited. Huge blooms of lavender, white and pink roses adorned the church.

Outside, there was a heavy police presence, with roads sealed off, a helicopter circling overhead and officers patrolling on horseback. A screen broadcasting the funeral was erected in a nearby gas station.

Bishop Charles Ellis, the officiating pastor, has promised an upbeat and jubilant service that will be all about Franklin, uplifting her family in their time of grief and celebrating her gospel legacy.

She influenced generations of female singers from the late Whitney Houston to Beyonce, with unforgettable hits including “Respect” (1967), “Natural Woman” (1968) and “I Say a Little Prayer” (1968).

Franklin won 18 Grammy awards and was feted for her civil rights work, raising money for the cause and inspiring activists with her anthems.

She was voted the greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone magazine and for African American women, in particular, was a role model and a benchmark for success, feminism and empowerment.

“She’s the queen of our city,” said retired nurse Pat Bills, another of those who waited in line, dressed in vibrant salmon pink.

“I’m so thankful that they’ve opened this up to the public so we can be a part of it… She’s given us all so much to be proud of.”

Pink Cadillacs — some having been driven across the country — parked en masse outside the church, expected to follow her cortege to the cemetery where she is to be buried alongside her father and siblings.

‘Inspiring’ 

They are a nod to her 1985 hit “Freeway of Love,” an anthem to her Motor City hometown, in which Franklin sang about a pink Cadillac, the car company that was founded in Detroit in 1902.

Franklin is expected to make her final journey in the same ivory 1940 Cadillac LaSalle that transported the body of her father in 1984, and that of civil rights icon Rosa Parks in 2005.

Detroit regards Franklin as royalty. For three days she lay in a golden, open-casket, wearing a different outfit each day — red on Tuesday, blue on Wednesday, rose gold on Thursday and a golden sparkling dress for her funeral on Friday.

Thousands and thousands of members of the public lined up to see her one last time — at her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church, and the Charles H. Wright Museum for African-American History.

On Thursday, more than 40 artists performed for thousands at a free concert, billed “A People’s Tribute to the Queen,” powering through some of her greatest hits, culminating with “Respect.”

“It’s truly inspiring to see how many hearts, how many people my grandma has touched,” said her granddaughter Victoria Franklin.

The daughter of a prominent Baptist preacher and civil rights activist, Franklin sang at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the inaugurations of presidents Clinton and Barack Obama.

She was awarded America’s highest civilian honour by George W. Bush in 2005.

AFP