World – Muscat Daily An Apex Media Publication Wed, 07 Jun 2023 14:31:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 World – Muscat Daily 32 32 Francoise Gilot, the woman who dumped Picasso, dies aged 101 Wed, 07 Jun 2023 14:31:33 +0000 Paris, France – France’s Francoise Gilot, who died on Tuesday aged 101, survived what she called the ‘hell’ of being Spanish artist Pablo Picasso’s mistress and muse to become a renowned artist in her own right.

The Picasso Museum in Paris confirmed her death to AFP, after the New York Times reported Gilot had passed away following recent heart and lung ailments.

While two of the other women in Picasso’s life died by suicide, and two others had mental breakdowns, Gilot stood up to the giant of modern art, and was the only woman to leave him of her own accord.

“Pablo was the greatest love of my life, but you had to take steps to protect yourself. I did, I left before I was destroyed,” she confided in Janet Hawley’s 2021 book Artists and Conversation.

“The others didn’t, they clung on to the mighty Minotaur and paid a heavy price,” she said, referring to Picasso’s first wife, dancer Olga Khokhlova, who lapsed into depression after he left her; his former teen lover, Marie-Therese Walter, who hanged herself; his second wife Jacqueline Roque, who shot herself; and his best-known muse, artist Dora Maar, who had a nervous breakdown.

The painter of Guernica was, she said, ‘astonishingly creative, a magician, so intelligent and seductive… But he was also very cruel, sadistic and merciless to others, as well as to himself’.

Bowl of cherries

Gilot was 21 and a budding painter when she first met Picasso, who was 40 years her senior and married to Russian dancer Khokhlova, in occupied France during World War II. At the time of the meeting he was also the lover of French photographer, painter and poet Maar.

The meeting took place in a Paris restaurant in the spring of 1943 when he brought a bowl of cherries to her table and an invitation to visit his studio.

Lovers for 10 years, they never married but had two children, a son, Claude, born in 1947, and a daughter, Paloma, in 1949.

He often painted her, portraying her as the radiant and haughty Woman-Flower in 1946. In Femme assise (1949), which sold for £8.5mn (US$9.6mn) at auction in London in 2012, he depicted her while heavily pregnant with Paloma.

In 1948, photographer Robert Capa captured the couple on a beach, with Picasso playing in the sand with his son, dutifully carrying a shade over Gilot’s head.

When she decided to walk out on him in 1953 and resume painting he took it badly.

He told her she was headed ‘straight for the desert’. From then on his entourage snubbed her and her work.

“In France things had got rather difficult for me… leaving Picasso was seen as a big crime and I was no longer welcome,” she was quoted as saying by Sotheby’s in 2021.

The diminutive and slender brunette became a US citizen and did not go to his funeral in 1973.


Born on November 26, 1921, at Neuilly-sur-Seine to the west of Paris to a well-to-do family, she followed in her mother’s footsteps starting out as a watercolour artist, before moving on to drawing and painting.

Her parents wanted her to become a lawyer, but she abandoned her studies at the age of 19. By 21 she was already one of the most respected artists of the emerging School of Paris, which grouped French and emigre artists in the capital during the first half of the 20th century.

As she developed, she increasingly produced minimalist, colourful works and over her career signed at least 1,600 canvasses and 3,600 works on paper.

In her 1964 book Life with Picasso she portrayed him as a tyrant. Picasso failed in a legal bid to get the book banned, and retaliated by refusing to see her and their children.

She also wrote a book in 1991 on Picasso’s complicated love-hate relationship with the other giant of modern art, Matisse, with whom she was friends.

The two other men in her life were painter Luc Simon, with whom she had a daughter Aurelia, and American virologist Jonas Salk, inventor of the first polio vaccine, whom she married in 1970 and lived with in California until his death in 1995.

Gilot spent the last years of her life in New York, where she continued painting into her nineties.

In 2021 her painting Paloma a la Guitare, a 1965 portrait of her daughter, sold for US$1.3mn at Sotheby’s in London.

Her work graced the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

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Australian mother thanks ‘science’ for child murder pardon Tue, 06 Jun 2023 15:50:59 +0000 Sydney, Australia – An Australian mother convicted of killing her children claimed a ‘victory for science’ on Tuesday after an unexpected research breakthrough helped win her freedom after 20 years in prison.

Kathleen Folbigg was jailed in 2003 after she was convicted of killing her four infant children, who died separately without explanation between 1989 and 1999.

She was found guilty despite a lack of forensic evidence linking her to the deaths and steadfastly maintained her innocence during her 20-year incarceration.

Scientific breakthroughs in recent years have uncovered genetic mutations that helped explain why some of the children died, paving the way for Folbigg to be released from prison on Monday.

“I’m extremely humbled and extremely grateful for being pardoned and released from prison,” Folbigg said in her first public statement since being released.

“Today is a victory for science and especially truth.”

The 55-year-old also said in a short video message she would grieve for her children ‘forever’, and ‘missed them and loved them terribly’.

Folbigg was pardoned by New South Wales Governor Margaret Beazley after a long-running inquiry concluded there was ‘reasonable doubt’ she had killed her children.

Although she has won her freedom, Folbigg must now go through a separate legal process to have her convictions officially overturned.

Folbigg’s lawyer Rhanee Rego said Australia’s court system had ‘failed her at every step’, and it had taken authorities far too long to reopen the case.

“If Australia really wants to make some good from a tragic story, they’ll seriously consider reviewing the system of post-conviction review,” she told reporters.

“Instead of trying to understand why her children died, potentially through an inquest… we threw her in jail, locked her up, called her Australia’s worst female serial killer.”

Rego said Folbigg’s legal team would fight to clear her name and make sure ‘right is done by her’.


The Australian Academy of Science, which played a crucial role in the Folbigg inquiry, described the convictions as ‘Australia’s greatest miscarriage of justice’.

“What this case has absolutely shown is there’s an absence of a mechanism for the justice system to consider new information, particularly scientific information,” chief executive Anna-Maria Arabia told national broadcaster ABC.

Folbigg was released on Monday from a prison in Grafton, in the north of New South Wales state, where she had been serving a sentence of at least 25 years.

Long-time friend Tracy Chapman said Folbigg was slowly getting her head around the wonders of modern technology, such as smartphones and on-demand television.

“She slept for the first time in a real bed, had a cup of tea in a real crockery cup, real spoons to stir with,” Chapman told reporters.

“That sounds basic to you all, but she’s grateful.

“The phones have bamboozled her a bit. Even the television she was going, ‘Oh my god, it’s got so many capabilities’.”

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At least 288 dead, hundreds hurt in India triple train crash Sat, 03 Jun 2023 16:18:20 +0000 Balasore, India – At least 288 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a horrific three-train collision in India, officials said on Saturday, the country’s deadliest rail accident in more than 20 years.

Wreckage debris was piled high at the crash site near Balasore, in the eastern state of Odisha, where some carriages had been tossed far from the tracks and others flipped over entirely.

Smashed train compartments were torn open in the impact late on Friday, leaving blood-stained holes in their sides.

Researcher Anubhav Das was in the last carriage of one of the trains when he heard ‘screeching, horrifying sounds coming from a distance’.

His coach stayed upright and he jumped out unhurt after it ground to a halt.

“I saw bloodied scenes, mangled bodies and one man with a severed arm being desperately helped by his injured son,” the 27-year-old told AFP.

“I lost count of the bodies before leaving the site. Now I feel almost guilty.”

The disaster began when an express train running north from India’s tech hub Bengaluru to Kolkata derailed, falling onto the adjacent southbound track.

Minutes later, the Coromandal Express heading from Kolkata to Chennai smashed into the wreckage, some of its coaches also colliding with a goods train parked alongside.

Residents nearby rushed to help the victims even before emergency services arrived.

“There were severed arms, legs, and even some partially severed heads – while the unluckier ones died in pain, too much pain,” said Hiranmay Rath.

Over the next few hours the 20-year-old saw ‘more death and grief’ than he could have ‘ever imagined’, he told AFP.

The rescue effort was declared over on Saturday evening after emergency personnel had combed the mangled wreckage for survivors and laid scores of bodies out under white sheets beside the tracks.

“All the dead bodies and injured passengers have been removed from the accident site,” said an official from the Balasore emergency control room.

Sudhanshu Sarangi, director general of Odisha Fire Services, said the death toll stood at 288 but was expected to go higher, potentially approaching 380.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the crash site and injured passengers being treated in hospital and said ‘no one responsible’ for the train crash would be spared.

“It’s a sad moment,” he told state broadcaster Doordarshan. “I pray that we get out of this sad moment as soon as possible.”

Third worst ever

India has one of the world’s largest rail networks and has seen several disasters over the years, the worst of them in 1981 when a train derailed while crossing a bridge in Bihar and plunged into the river below, killing between 800 and 1,000 people.

Friday’s crash ranks as its third-worst, and the deadliest since 1995, when two express trains collided in Firozabad, near Agra, killing more than 300 people.

Odisha state’s chief secretary Pradeep Jena confirmed that about 900 injured people had been hospitalised.

Rescue teams including from the National Disaster Response Force and the military were deployed, while the railways ministry announced an investigation.

Authorities said every hospital between the crash site and the state capital Bhubaneswar around 200km (125 miles) away was receiving victims, with 200 ambulances – and even buses – deployed to transport them.

At Bhadrak District Hospital, bloodied and shocked survivors were receiving treatment in crowded wards.

The disaster comes despite new investments and upgrades in technology that have significantly improved railway safety in recent years.

Condolences came in from around the world.

Pope Francis said he was ‘deeply saddened’ by the ‘immense loss of life’ and offered prayers for the ‘many injured’.

French President Emmanuel Macron sent his condolences to India’s president and prime minister, saying in a tweet that his ‘thoughts are with the families of the victims’.

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Royal fever sweeps Jordan ahead of crown prince’s wedding Wed, 31 May 2023 14:07:23 +0000 Amman, Jordan – Jordan is gearing up for Crown Prince Hussein’s wedding on Thursday, an event already greeted with fireworks, concerts and social media frenzy in the usually quiet desert kingdom.

The eldest son of King Abdullah II will marry Saudi fiancee Rajwa Al Saif at the grand royal wedding with regional monarchs, US First Lady Jill Biden and the king of the Netherlands among the guests.

On the big day for the Hashemite kingdom, a key Western ally, the royal red motorcade, reserved for special occasions, will cross the capital Amman to celebrate the bride and groom who are both 28 years old.

In the lead-up to the wedding of the next in line to Jordan’s throne, the country has been gripped by royal fever.

Photos of Saif’s henna bridal party took the internet by storm last week as she donned a white gown with an Arabic poetry verse embroidered in gold: “When I see you, life becomes sweet”.

The Royal Hashemite Court published a YouTube video of Prince Hussein’s mother Queen Rania and his sisters, Princesses Salma and Iman, singing and dancing with guests at the party.

“Like any mother, I have long dreamt of his wedding day,” the queen said in a speech, telling her subjects that “Hussein is your son, and you are his family, and this is your wedding”.

After the party, drones hovering over Amman formed the shape of a crown in the sky.

‘Like a family party’

Such highly public displays may be common for Western royals, but they are a rarity in the Arab world where conservative monarchies seldom share any details of their private lives.

“Everyone took pictures and posted them on social media – this perhaps wouldn’t be possible with other royal families,” said one bridal party attendee, Lara al-Laty, a 35-year-old travel agency employee.

She shared pictures of the party on her Facebook page, with guests seen wearing traditional abayas embroidered with Arabic inscriptions.

“The atmosphere, the decor, the ululations all had a humble Jordanian character that made you feel like you were at a family party,” she said.

The Western-educated crown prince, officially became heir apparent at the age of 15, has long grown accustomed to the spotlight.

Hussein has amassed four million followers on his Instagram account where he shares eclectic photographs of hiking trips, military training and royal functions.

On Monday, famous musicians from across the Arab world flocked to the Jordanian capital to perform at a free concert to honour the couple, among them Lebanese star Ragheb Alama and Egyptian singer and actor Tamer Hosny.

Groomed for succession

Among the concertgoers, Suhad al-Idrisi, her sister and her niece all wore T-shirts that read: “We are happy for Hussein”.

“We have not witnessed such moments of joy in a long time in Jordan,” a country plagued by economic woes, said Idrisi, 45, who has prepared candy and roses for the day of celebrations.

The Hashemite family is ‘not like other Arab ruling families’, she said, because they use social media and live broadcasts to share details of the wedding with ‘nothing to hide’.

King Abdullah II, aged 61 and on the throne since 1999, has long groomed his eldest son to succeed him, bringing him along to important visits and meetings, former information minister Samih Maaytah told AFP.

The Jordanian king has wide-ranging political powers in the country of 11mn people, a parliamentary monarchy, and also acts as supreme leader of the armed forces.

Hussein followed in his father’s footsteps by attending Britain’s Sandhurst Military College and then studied history at Washington’s Georgetown University.

His bride-to-be was born and raised in conservative Saudi Arabia but is also Western educated, having studied architecture at Syracuse University in New York.

“The royal wedding crowns an advanced step” in Hussein’s succession to the throne, said analyst Oraib al-Rantawi, head of the Al-Quds Center for Political Studies.

The high-level celebration would bring him closer to his people and allow him to mingle with international royals, he said, adding that ‘this consolidates the prince’s network of relations’.

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North Korea spy satellite crashes into sea, Seoul salvages wreckage Wed, 31 May 2023 12:02:21 +0000 Seoul, South Korea – North Korea attempted to launch a spy satellite on Wednesday but it crashed into the sea after a rocket failure, with the South Korean military retrieving part of the likely wreckage in a potential intelligence bonanza.

North Korea does not have a functioning satellite in space and leader Kim Jong Un has made developing a military spy satellite a top priority for his regime, despite UN resolutions banning its use of such technology.

Pyongyang had said in the build-up to the launch attempt that the satellite would be vital to monitoring the military movements of the United States and its allies.

But the rocket lost thrust and plunged into the sea with its satellite payload, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

It added that authorities would investigate the “serious defects” revealed by the launch and conduct another test as soon as possible.

South Korea’s military said it had managed to locate and salvage a portion of the suspected debris.

It released images showing a large barrel-like metal structure with thin pipes and wires at the bottom, which experts said might be a liquid fuel tank.

“Technical experts will be able to gain tremendous insight into North Korea’s proficiency with large, multi-stage boosters from the recovered debris,” US-based analyst Ankit Panda told AFP.

Panic, confusion

The launch prompted confusion and panic in Seoul, as city authorities sent an early morning emergency evacuation alert to residents and blasted an air raid siren across the downtown area.

This sparked widespread consternation online, before the interior ministry clarified minutes later the alert had been ‘incorrectly issued’.

“I was taking my two young children to a basement parking lot as advised, in shock,” a 37-year-old father who asked to be identified by his surname Yoon, told AFP.

The correction left him ‘speechless and outraged’, he said.

Japan briefly activated its missile alert warning system for the Okinawa region early on Wednesday, lifting it after about 30 minutes.


Seoul, Tokyo and Washington all slammed the launch, which they said violated a raft of UN resolutions barring Pyongyang from any tests using ballistic missile technology.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for North Korea to cease ‘such acts’ and return to the negotiating table.

“Any launch using ballistic missile technology is contrary to the relevant Security Council resolutions,” he said in a statement.

Because long-range missiles and rockets used for space launches share the same technology, analysts say developing the ability to put a satellite in orbit would provide Pyongyang with cover for testing its banned intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

In 2012 and 2016, Pyongyang tested ballistic missiles that it called satellite launches. Both flew over Japan’s southern Okinawa region.


Prior to Wednesday’s launch, Pyongyang had launched five satellites since 1998, three of which failed immediately and two of which appeared to have been put into orbit.

Signals from those launches have never been independently detected, indicating they may have malfunctioned.

North Korea said on Tuesday its new spy satellite would be ‘indispensable to tracking, monitoring… and coping with in advance in real time the dangerous military acts of the US and its vassal forces’.

South Korea this month launched its own homegrown Nuri satellite and put a working satellite into orbit for the first time, with this success likely prompting the North to conduct a rapid launch of their own satellite, Seoul’s spy agency told lawmakers.

“They shortened the launch period from the normal 20 days to just a few days,” MP Yoo Sang-bum told reporters after a National Intelligence Service parliamentary briefing on Wednesday.

Since diplomatic efforts collapsed in 2019, North Korea has doubled down on military development, conducting a string of banned weapons tests, including test-firing multiple ICBMs.

Kim last year declared his country an ‘irreversible’ nuclear power and called for an ‘exponential’ increase in weapons production, including tactical nukes.

Wednesday’s failure should be only regarded as a temporary setback for Kim, who will continue to develop his nuclear and satellite programmes, according to experts.

“We know that Kim’s determination does not end with this recent activity,” Soo Kim, policy practice area lead at LMI Consulting and a former CIA analyst, told AFP.

She said that the launch could be a ‘foreshadowing of greater provocations, including the nuclear test’.

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Still hope of finding kids missing for weeks in Colombian Amazon Tue, 30 May 2023 14:04:15 +0000 Bogotá, Colombia – Four Indigenous children lost in the Colombian Amazon since a plane crash almost a month ago are believed to still be alive, the military said as the search continued on Monday in treacherous terrain.

The children – who were aged 13, 9, 4 and 11 months when they went missing – have wandered in the jungle since a light aircraft crash in Colombia’s southeast on May 1 claimed the lives of the three adults on board: their mother Magdalena Mucutui Valencia, the pilot, and an Indigenous leader.

Of the kids, there was no sign.

Satellite images have since revealed a path the kids took from the plane wreck, and rescuers have come across some of their belongings, a makeshift shelter and a half-eaten fruit.

Last week, they found a pair of shoes and a diaper.

“Based on the evidence, we concluded that the children are alive,” rescue team leader General Pedro Sanchez told W Radio on Monday.

“If they were dead, it would be easy to find them because they would be still” and the sniffer dogs would find them, he added.

On the morning of May 1, a Cessna 206 airplane left a jungle area known as Araracuara heading for the town of San Jose del Guaviare in the Colombian Amazon.

Minutes after starting the 350km (217-mile) journey, the pilot reported problems with the engine and the plane disappeared from radars.

Between May 15 and 16, soldiers found the bodies of the three adults and the debris of the plane stuck vertically in the thick vegetation, its nose destroyed.

But the children – Lesly (13), Soleiny (9), Tien Noriel (4) and baby Cristin were missing.

Some 200 soldiers and Indigenous people with knowledge of the terrain were combing a dense jungle area of some 320sqkm (124 square miles) –  about double the size of Washington, DC.

The air force had dumped 10,000 flyers into the forest with instructions in Spanish and the children’s own Indigenous Huitoto language, telling them to stay put.

The leaflets also included survival tips, and the military has dropped food parcels and bottled water for the children.

Jaguars, pumas, snakes

On Sunday, the army placed powerful searchlights with a range of up to three kilometers in the area ‘so that the minors can approach us’, search team member Colonel Fausto Avellaneda told the Noticias Caracol TV show.

Rescuers have also been broadcasting a message recorded by the children’s grandmother, urging them to stay put so the soldiers can find them.

The general said the search team believed it had come to within 100 metres (328 feet) of the children, but storms, thick vegetation and marshy terrain prevented them from reaching the kids.

Air force helicopters and satellite images are being used in the search in an area home to jaguars, pumas, snakes and other predators, as well as armed groups that smuggle drugs and terrorize local populations.

With all hands on deck, members of the Indigenous community are holding traditional ceremonies ‘speaking to the jungle’ and asking it to give up the children, according to the government.

The children are from the Indigenous Huitoto community, also spelled Witoto, known for living in harmony with the jungle.

Huitoto children learn hunting, fishing and gathering.

The kids’ grandfather, Fidencio Valencia, has told AFP the children are well aquatinted with the jungle, but he feared ‘dark forces’ were preventing their rescue.

On May 17, President Gustavo Petro said the children had been found alive, only to retract the announcement the following day, and apologise for the false information.

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China prepares to send first civilian into space Mon, 29 May 2023 11:58:35 +0000 Jiuquan, China – China will send its first civilian astronaut into space as part of a crewed mission to the Tiangong space station on Tuesday as it pursues its ambitious plans for a manned lunar landing by 2030.

The world’s second-largest economy has invested billions of dollars in its military-run space programme, trying to catch up with the United States and Russia after years of belatedly matching their milestones.

Until now, all Chinese astronauts sent into space have been part of the People’s Liberation Army.

Gui Haichao is a professor at Beijing’s Beihang University, and will manage scientific experiments on the station during the mission, China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) spokesperson Lin Xiqiang told reporters on Monday.

His mission will ‘carry out large-scale, in-orbit experiments… in the study of novel quantum phenomena, high-precision space time-frequency systems, the verification of general relativity, and the origin of life’, Lin said.

“I’ve always had this dream,” Gui told a press conference on Monday.

His university said he hailed from an ‘ordinary family’ in the southwest province of Yunnan.

He had ‘first felt the attraction of aerospace’ listening to the news of China’s first man in space, Yang Liwei, on campus radio in 2003, the institution said in a post on social media.

Gui’s addition is ‘particularly significant’, independent analyst Chen Lan told AFP, given previous missions only carried astronauts trained as pilots responsible for more technical tasks and not specialist scientists.

“It means that, from this mission on, China will open the door to space for ordinary people,” he said.

Gui is set to take off onboard the Shenzhou-16 spacecraft from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China on Tuesday at 9:31am (0131 GMT), the CMSA said.

The commander is Jing Haipeng – on his fourth mission into space, according to state media – and the third crew member is engineer Zhu Yangzhu.

Jing said he hadn’t gone home for nearly four years because of fears travel could disrupt his training.

“As astronauts going into space… our main responsibility and mission is striving for glory for our country,” he said at a press conference on Monday.

The three will stay in Earth’s orbit for around five months.

‘Space dream’

Under President Xi Jinping, plans for China’s ‘space dream’ have been put into overdrive.

China is planning to build a base on the Moon, and CMSA spokesman Lin on Monday reaffirmed Beijing’s plan to land a manned mission there by 2030.

“The overall goal is to achieve China’s first manned landing on the Moon by 2030 and carry out lunar scientific exploration and related technological experiments,” he said.

The final module of the T-shaped Tiangong – whose name means ‘heavenly palace’ – successfully docked with the core structure last year.

The station carries a number of pieces of cutting-edge scientific equipment, state news agency Xinhua reported, including ‘the world’s first space-based cold atomic clock system’.

The Tiangong is expected to remain in low Earth orbit at between 400 and 450km (250 and 280 miles) above the planet for at least 10 years.

It is constantly crewed by rotating teams of three astronauts.

While China does not plan to use Tiangong for global cooperation on the scale of the International Space Station, Beijing has said it is open to foreign collaboration.

China ‘is looking forward to and welcomes the participation of foreign astronauts in the country’s space station flight missions’, Lin said on Monday.

China has been effectively excluded from the International Space Station since 2011, when the United States banned NASA from engaging with the country.

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Erdogan returns for 3rd term after win in Turkish runoff Sun, 28 May 2023 19:36:33 +0000 Istanbul, Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday returned to power after winning a historic runoff vote that posed the biggest challenge to his 20 years of transformative but divisive rule.

The 69-year-old leader overcame Turkey’s biggest economic crisis in generations and the most powerful opposition alliance to ever face his Islamic-rooted party to take an unassailable lead.

Near complete results showed him leading secular opposition rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu by four percentage points.

“We will be ruling the country for the coming five years,” Erdogan told his cheering supporters from atop a bus in his home district in Istanbul. “God willing, we will be deserving of your trust.”

Turkey’s main cities erupted in jubilation as Erdogan spoke.
Traffic on Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square ground to a halt and huge crowds gathered outside his presidential palace in Ankara.

The opposition leader promised to make a statement later.

Turkey’s longest-serving leader was tested like never before in what was widely seen as the country’s most consequential election in its 100-year history as a post-Ottoman republic.

Kilicdaroglu cobbled together a powerful coalition that grouped Erdogan’s disenchanted former allies with secular nationalists and religious conservatives.

He pushed Erdogan into Turkey’s first runoff on May 14 and narrowed the margin further in the second round.

Opposition supporters viewed it as a do-or-die chance to save Turkey from being turned into an autocracy by a man whose consolidation of power rivals that of Ottoman sultans.

“I invite all my citizens to cast their ballot in order to get rid of this authoritarian regime and bring true freedom and democracy to this country,” Kilicdaroglu said after casting his ballot on Sunday.

Opposition gamble

Kilicdaroglu re-emerged a transformed man after the first round.
The former civil servant’s message of social unity and freedoms gave way to desk-thumping speeches about the need to immediately expel migrants and fight terrorism.

His rightwing turn was targeted at nationalists, who emerged as the big winners of the parallel parliamentary elections. The 74-year-old had always adhered to the firm nationalist principles of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – a revered military commander who formed Turkey and Kilicdaroglu’s secular CHP party.

But these had played a secondary role to his promotion of socially liberal values practised by younger voters and big-city residents.
Analysts doubted Kilicdaroglu’s gamble would work.

His informal alliance with a pro-Kurdish party that Erdogan portrays as the political wing of banned militants left him exposed to charges of working with ‘terrorists’.

And Kilicdaroglu’s courtship of Turkey’s hard right was hampered by the endorsement Erdogan received from an ultra-nationalist who finished third two weeks ago.

Some opposition supporters sounded defeated already, after emerging from the polls.

“Today is not like the last time. I was more excited then,” Bayram Ali Yuce said in one of Istanbul’s anti-Erdogan neighbourhoods.

“The outcome seems more obvious now. But I still voted.”

Champion of poor

Erdogan is lionised by poorer and more rural swathes of Turkey’s fractured society because of his promotion of religious freedoms and modernisation of once-dilapidated cities in the Anatolian heartland.

“It was important for me to keep what was gained over the past 20 years in Turkey,” company director Mehmet Emin Ayaz said in Ankara. “Turkey isn’t what it was in the old days. There is a new Turkey today.”

But Erdogan has caused growing consternation across the Western world because of his crackdowns on dissent and pursuit of a muscular foreign policy.

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ISS welcomes its first Saudi astronauts, in private mission Tue, 23 May 2023 13:41:28 +0000 Washington, US – A SpaceX capsule carrying two Saudi astronauts docked with the International Space Station on Monday, as part of a private mission chartered by Axiom Space.

Rayyanah Barnawi, a scientist who became the first Saudi woman to go into space, and Ali Al-Qarni, a trained fighter pilot, are the first two people from their country to fly to the orbital outpost.

“Greetings from outer space, I’m here not only representing myself, but representing the hopes and dreams of everyone back home, everyone in the region,” said Barnawi.

“We really are excited to be here,” added mission commander Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who made the voyage three times in the past.

“It was a great launch, a great ride, we had a lot of fun on the way up and we’re really excited to get a lot of work done up here.”

The fourth crew member is American businessman John Shoffner.

About two hours after docking, the quartet entered the ISS, where they joined the seven astronauts – three Russians, three Americans and an Emirati – already on board.

The SpaceX rocket blasted off from Florida on Sunday, and the trip to the ISS, which orbits around 250 miles (400km) above the Earth, lasted about 16 hours.

This mission, named Ax-2, is the second fully private mission to visit the space station, following a first in April 2022. The members of Ax-2 will stay about 10 days and carry out some 20 experiments.

NASA is trying to seed a commercial space economy in the region of space known as ‘Low Earth Orbit’, allowing it to focus its own energies on missions deeper into the solar system and beyond.

The Axiom Mission 1 launched last April, with the seats for three private astronauts accompanying an Axiom-employed astronaut reported to cost US$55mn each. The cost of seats for Ax-2 has not been disclosed.

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Fire that killed 19 in Guyana school dorm may have been set ‘maliciously’ Tue, 23 May 2023 13:34:28 +0000 Georgetown, Guyana – The fire at a schoolgirls’ dormitory that killed 19 people in Guyana may have been started ‘maliciously’, police said on Monday, as anger grew in the small South American country the day after the blaze.

Sunday’s inferno gutted a building housing girls aged 11-12 and 16-17.

Guyana Police Commissioner Clifton Hicken said during a press conference Monday afternoon that an ‘initial investigation suggests… that (the fire) was maliciously set’.

“Our investigation is continuing,” Hicken told reporters, joined by President Irfaan Ali, who declared three days of national mourning.

No suspects have yet been identified, Hicken added, though he told AFP he expects to have more information in the next 48 hours.

“Fourteen youths died at the scene, while five died at the Mahdia District Hospital,” according to a statement from the fire department.

The government had previously said 20 people died in the blaze at the Mahdia Secondary School in the central part of the country.

Guyana, with a population of 800,000, is South America’s only English-speaking nation. It is a former Dutch and British colony which recently discovered it holds the world’s largest per capita oil reserves.

After the weekend tragedy, more than a dozen children received hospital treatment locally while six serious cases were airlifted to the capital Georgetown.

“Two children remain in critical condition, while four are nursing severe injuries as a result of the incident,” added the fire brigade.

There were 63 pupils inside the building when the fire broke out.

“This is a major disaster. It is horrible, it is painful,” Ali said on Sunday night.

Ali said he had ordered arrangements to be made in Georgetown’s two major hospitals ‘so that every single child who requires attention be given the best possible opportunity to get that attention’.

At Monday’s press conference Hicken said autopsies had already been performed on the bodies of at least six of the victims, and that all of them would undergo DNA testing.

‘Pain, agony, trauma’

Around 50 relatives and friends of the victims demonstrated on Monday in Chenapau, a village close to Mahdia that is home to many of the school’s pupils.

“The sheer pain, the agony, the trauma,” Michael McGarrell, who lost two nieces in the blaze, told AFP by telephone. “Who will be held responsible?”

Protesters held up banners demanding justice and compensation, and criticising the fact that the dormitory had barred windows.

“Why are school children grilled up in death traps? What are we going to tell the parents?” said McGarrell, an activist with the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) that is often at odds with the government over land rights.

“Firefighters did manage to rescue some 20 students by breaking holes in the north-eastern wall of the building,” the fire service said.

Private and military planes have been sent to Mahdia, located about 200km (125 miles) south of Georgetown, as the region is affected by heavy rains.

At least one plane with three evacuees arrived back in Georgetown, according to an AFP journalist.

The government said officials were supporting efforts at Ogle airport in the capital to ‘receive the critical patients and coordinate an emergency plan of action’.

“A full-scale medical emergency action plan has been launched,” it added.

Natasha Singh-Lewis, an opposition MP, called for an investigation into the fire’s cause.

“We need to understand how this most horrific and deadly incident occurred and take all necessary measures to prevent such a tragedy from happening again,” she said.

Among the poorest nations in South America, Guyana hopes the discovery of oil will help spur development. The country also boasts the second-highest percentage of forest cover on earth.

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