South Africans Bid Farewell to Tutu on Eve of His Funeral 

South Africans took their last opportunity to pay their respects to Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Friday, the eve of the revered anti-apartheid fighter’s funeral.

Since Thursday, nearly 3,000 mourners have filed through Cape Town’s St. George’s Cathedral before the simple pine casket containing Tutu’s remains. 

Members of Tutu’s family hugged and consoled each other as the coffin returned for the second and final day to lie in state while a band, which included a preschooler trumpeter, played in his honor. 

The archbishop’s successor, Thabo Makgoba, waved a chalice of burning incense over the coffin before pallbearers, Anglican vicars, took the coffin from a silver Mercedes SUV hearse. 

They slowly walked up the stairs into the cathedral where Tutu had preached for a decade. 

The body will spend the night in the cathedral until the funeral, which will be presided over by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Tutu died peacefully Sunday at age 90. 

The funeral 

Tutu had carefully set down details for his funeral, insisting that his coffin be “the cheapest” available, and that it be adorned by a simple bunch of carnations. 

Mourners are being asked to donate money to his charitable foundations instead of sending flowers, and even the disposal of his remains is being conducted in an eco-friendly way. 

The dean of the cathedral, Michael Weeder, told AFP that Tutu had asked for “aquamation,” a process that supporters say releases one-tenth of climate-altering carbon dioxide gases compared with traditional cremation. 

In aquamation, bodies are dissolved in a heated solution of water and alkali in a stainless steel vessel, leaving behind the bones, which are then turned to ash by cremation. 

The ashes are to be interred at the cathedral. 

The burial “might be Sunday,” Weeder said in a text message, adding the “family will decide whether it will be private or open to others.” 

‘Moral compass’ 

Libane Serenji, an artist from Johannesburg, came to pay respects. He painted portraits of Tutu on a canvas and attached them to a tree outside the cathedral.

He said it was fitting “to come all the way and paint … because he played also a significant role in my life like everyone from Africa.”

Another mourner, Antonia Appels, had come from the capital, Pretoria, to stand in line. 

Tutu was a “moral compass” who had helped haul country out of the darkness of the apartheid era, she said. 

South Africa is marking a week of mourning for Tutu, with the country’s multicolored flag flying at half-staff nationwide and ceremonies taking place every day. 

The cathedral’s bells have been pealing in his memory for 10 minutes at midday. 

Tutu was for years the emblem of the struggle to end white-minority rule as Nelson Mandela and other leaders languished behind bars. 

After apartheid was dismantled and South Africa ushered in its first free elections in 1994, Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which exposed the horrors of the past in terrible detail. 

He would later speak out fearlessly against the ruling African National Congress (ANC) for corruption, incompetence and failures to tackle the country’s AIDS epidemic. 

Weakened by advanced age and prostate cancer, Tutu had retired from public life in recent years. 

He is survived by his wife, Leah; four children; and several grand and great-grandchildren.

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UK Honors COVID Scientists and Medics, Bond Actor Daniel Craig 

Britain recognized the scientists and medical chiefs at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 in Queen Elizabeth’s annual New Year’s honors list, while James Bond actor Daniel Craig was given the same award as his famous onscreen character. 

Craig, who bowed out from playing the fictional British spy after five outings following the release of “No Time to Die” this year, was made a Companion in The Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film. 

Bond was also a CMG, so the honor means Craig has now matched all his titles, having been made an honorary Commander in the Royal Navy in September. 

There were also major honors for the high-profile officials and others involved in tackling the coronavirus pandemic. 

The chief medical officers for England, Scotland and Wales – Chris Whitty, Gregor Smith and Frank Atherton – were given knighthoods. There were also honors for the deputy medical officers for England, with Jonathan Van-Tam knighted and Jenny Harries made a dame. 

The government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, who had previously been knighted, was made a Knight Commander of The Order of The Bath. 

There were also awards for those involved in producing vaccines including Pfizer Chief Development Officer Rod MacKenzie, Sean Marett, the chief business and commercial officer at BioNTech, and Melanie Ivarsson, the chief development officer at Moderna. 

Cyclist Jason Kenny, who achieved his seventh gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games, more than any other Briton has won, was also knighted. His wife, Laura, who is the nation’s most successful female Olympic athlete and became the first to win gold at three successive Games, received a damehood. 

Among the 78 Olympian and Paralympians to be included in the list were gold medal winners swimmer Adam Peaty and diver Tom Daley, who received OBEs. 

Emma Raducanu, who stunned the tennis world by becoming the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title with victory in the U.S. Open, was another sporting figure to be honored with an MBE. 

Songwriter Bernie Taupin, best known for his collaborations with Elton John including his 1997 reworking of “Candle in the Wind” that John sang at the funeral of Princess Diana, was awarded a CBE. 

There were also damehoods for veteran actresses Joanna Lumley and Vanessa Redgrave for their services to drama, entertainment and charity. 

The New Year’s honors have been awarded since Queen Victoria’s reign in the 19th century and aim to recognize not just well-known figures but people who have contributed to national life through often unsung work over many years. 

“These recipients have inspired and entertained us and given so much to their communities in the UK or in many cases around the world,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

 

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Towns’ Residents Slowly Trickle Back in Colorado Wildfires’ Wake

The day after fast-moving wildfires devastated two Colorado communities, some residents were hopeful, as winds calmed and fire-snuffing snow fell on the region, yet worried as some waited to find out whether their homes had been destroyed in the unseasonal blaze.

The wildfires that forced the communities of Louisville, population 21,000, and Superior, 13,000, to evacuate Thursday were no longer considered a danger late Friday morning. 

The fires, which erupted in an area about 32 kilometers northwest of Denver, had consumed about 580 homes, a shopping center and a hotel.

Because some roads were closed Friday, some residents trekked back to the ruins of their homes on foot to gather belongings such as clothes and medicine, which they stuffed in backpacks or pulled in suitcases or wagons. Some came simply to see if their homes were still standing. ​

In the blazes’ wake 

Cathy Glaab, a resident of Superior, said she found the home she shared with her husband reduced to a “charred and twisted pile of debris,” with only the mailbox standing, according to The Associated Press.

“Just hard. So many memories,” she said as she surveyed the scene. Glaab’s home was one of seven houses in a row that burned to the ground. She said that despite the devastation, she and her husband planned to rebuild their home, which once had a view of the mountains.

Sophia Verucchi and her partner, Tony Victor, were able to return to their apartment in Broomfield, on the edge of Superior, and found that it was not damaged. The previous afternoon, they fled with only Victor’s guitar, bedding and their cat, Senor Gato Blanco, according to The Associated Press.

“We left thinking it was a joke. We just felt like we were going to come back. At 5 o’clock, we thought, maybe we’re not coming back,” Verucchi said.

They received an email in the morning, however, saying they could return home.

“Seeing the news and seeing all the houses burnt, we just feel very lucky,” Verucchi said.

State of emergency 

At least seven injuries have been reported, but there have been no reports of any deaths or missing people, according to Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle.

“It’s unbelievable when you look at the devastation that we don’t have a list of 100 missing persons,” he said. 

Pelle said that some communities have been reduced to “smoking holes in the ground” and urged residents to wait until an all-clear has been issued before returning to their homes. 

During a press briefing, Colorado Governor Jared Polis was grateful that no deaths had yet been reported, especially considering that people had just minutes to evacuate.

“We might have our very own New Year’s miracle on our hands, if it holds up that there was no loss of life,” he said. 

Polis also said he had spoken to U.S. President Joe Biden, who verbally approved a major disaster declaration to quickly distribute financial aid to people following the fire. 

Gusty winds of up to 170 kilometers per hour stoked the fires Thursday afternoon and evening, enabling their rapid spread over 24 square kilometers (9.4 square miles). By late Friday morning, the fires appeared to be contained, Pelle said. 

Last year, Colorado endured three of the largest fires in its history. Those fires were in mostly mountainous areas, not suburban subdivisions.

This year’s winter has been extremely dry in the state. Its Front Range, where most of its population resides, had a very dry and mild fall.

Scientists say that climate change is making weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press. 

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Hall of Famer Sam Jones, Winner of 10 NBA Titles, Dies at 88

Basketball Hall of Famer Sam Jones, the Boston Celtics’ “Mr. Clutch” whose sharp shooting fueled the league’s longest dynasty and earned him 10 NBA titles — second only to teammate Bill Russell — has died, the team said. He was 88. 

Jones died Thursday night in Florida, where he had been hospitalized in failing health, Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss said.

“Sam Jones was one of the most talented, versatile and clutch shooters for the most successful and dominant teams in NBA history,” the team said in a statement.

“His scoring ability was so prolific, and his form so pure, that he earned the simple nickname, ‘The Shooter,’ ” the Celtics said. “The Jones family is in our thoughts as we mourn his loss and fondly remember the life and career of one of the greatest champions in American sports.” 

The Celtics paused for a moment of silence before Friday afternoon’s game against the Phoenix Suns, showing a video tribute on the screen hanging among the championship banners above the parquet floor at the TD Garden. His No. 24, which was retired by the Celtics in 1969 while he was a still an active player, also was displayed on the monitor in the hushed arena before a still photo of him in a suit and the words “Sam Jones 1933-2021.” 

“Another one of my dear friends lost,” Celtics broadcaster Cedric Maxwell wrote on Twitter. “Well, the banks are open in heaven this #NYE.”

Reliable scorer 

Often providing the offense while Russell locked things down at the other end, Jones averaged 17.7 points per game over 12 seasons. The number went up in the postseason, when he averaged 18.9 points and was usually the No. 1 option for the game’s final shot for the teams that won 10 titles from 1959 to 1969. 

“We never flew first class in my 12 years of playing basketball,” Jones told The Associated Press this fall in an interview for the league’s 75th anniversary. “But we always won NBA championships.” 

In 1964, Jones was a member of the NBA’s first starting lineup to include five Black players, joining Russell, Tom “Satch” Sanders, K.C. Jones and Willie Naulls. Although coach Red Auerbach maintained he was thinking only of his best chance to win, the lineup broke with an unwritten rule that pressured teams to have at least one white player on the floor.

Jones, a North Carolina native who served two years in the Army before returning to college, told the AP that the NBA of the 1960s was little different than the segregated South where he grew up and went to school. 

“I’m fighting for the freedom of everybody here in the United States. And when I come back, I still got to fight for my freedom,” Jones said. “Something is wrong with that and has always been and is happening even today.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Jones will be remembered as “one of the most prolific champions in all of professional sports.” 

“His selfless style, clutch performances and signature bank shot were hallmarks of an incredible career,” Silver said. “Sam was a beloved teammate and respected competitor who played the game with dignity and class. We mourn the passing of a basketball giant and send our deepest condolences to Sam’s family and the Celtics organization.” 

Born in Wilmington, Jones attended North Carolina Central, a Division II, historically Black university in Durham. Auerbach first heard of Jones when he went to North Carolina to scout the national champion Tar Heels and was told that the best player in the state was at Central playing for Hall of Fame coach John McLendon.

Selected sight unseen

Auerbach selected Jones in the first round of the 1957 draft, eighth overall, despite never seeing him play. 

“Russell and I are the most successful players in winning championships in the NBA. Yet he never saw us play a game because they had no scouts,” Jones told the AP. “The coaches called other coaches to see how other players were playing. They took their word for it.”

Jones led the Celtics in scoring five times — including the 1963 champions, when he was one of eight future Hall of Famers on the roster. When he retired in 1969 at age 36, Jones held 11 Celtics records and was the only player in franchise history to score more than 50 points in a game. 

“You look at the championships and what he did, it’s obviously a big loss for the community here,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said before Friday’s game. 

Using a bank shot that was unconventional even then, Jones came to be known as “Mr. Clutch” after a series of game-winners, including a buzzer-beater to clinch the 1962 Eastern Conference finals. He hit an off-balance, wrong-footed jumper to win Game 4 of the ’69 finals; instead of heading to Los Angeles trailing 3-1, the Celtics tied the series against the Lakers at two games apiece and went on to win in seven. 

Jones retired after that title, having won his 10 championships in 12 seasons. A five-time All-Star, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984. 

Jones was named to the NBA’s 25th, 50th and 75th anniversary teams. His death comes a year after teammate Tommy Heinsohn died and 13 months after the death of K.C. Jones. 

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Sudanese Block Streets After Day of Protest Violence 

Sudanese pro-democracy demonstrators blocked streets on Friday in Khartoum, protesting the violence a day earlier that left five people dead and sparked condemnation from the U.S. and others. 

Protesters barricaded roads in the east Khartoum district of Burri as well as in nearby Khartoum North using rocks, tree branches and tires, an AFP journalist said. 

Sudan has been gripped by turmoil since military leader General Abdel-Fattah Burhan launched a coup on October 25 and detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. 

Hamdok was reinstated on November 21, but mass protests have continued as demonstrators distrust Burhan’s promises of seeking to guide the country toward full democracy. 

As the authorities on Thursday cut off communications across the country, security forces clamped down on demonstrations, firing live rounds and tear gas as tens of thousands gathered in Khartoum, Khartoum North and nearby Omdurman. 

Five protesters killed 

Four protesters were fatally shot in the head or chest in Omdurman, according to the pro-democracy Sudan Doctors Committee, while a fifth succumbed to his wounds Friday after he was shot in central Khartoum. 

Protesters charge that the deal to reinstate Hamdok simply aims to give the cloak of legitimacy to the generals, whom they accuse of trying to continue the regime built by former autocratic President Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled in 2019 following mass protests. 

A civilian member recently appointed to the ruling Sovereign Council, Abdel Baqi Abdel Qader, announced Friday his intent to resign. 

He said he had sent a message to Burhan’s office requesting a meeting “to present to him my resignation … over the violence against demonstrators.” 

Journalists released 

Two journalists from Saudi Arabia’s Asharq television channel, Maha al-Talb and Sally Othman, were released after they and their crews were held for several hours, the channel said Friday. 

Police had also stormed the bureau of the Al-Arabiya television network funded by Saudi Arabia, which is seen as a traditional ally of Sudan’s military leaders. 

The violence and attacks on the media drew widespread condemnation. 

“Deeply troubled by reports that Sudanese security forces used lethal force against protesters, blacked out the internet, and attempted to shutdown media outlets,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted after Thursday’s events. 

The Doctors Committee has accused security forces of blocking ambulances and of forcibly removing at least one seriously injured protester from an ambulance. 

Videos have circulated on social media showing men in uniform beating protesters with sticks. 

The Sudanese Communist Party called for “urgent international solidarity to demand an end to the bloody repression in Sudan and the immediate release of all political detainees.” 

Protesters have renewed demands that the military “return to their barracks” as promised in 2019 when Bashir was toppled and the country came under the control of the Sovereign Council, a body composed of civilian and military figures, headed by Burhan. 

Demonstrations ‘waste of time’ 

A police spokesman had said four people died in Thursday’s unrest and 297 people were injured, “including 49 police officers.” 

He also said three police vans were set on fire and accused protest leaders of having sought to “turn a peaceful march into violence and confrontations with the security forces.” 

An adviser to Burhan told the state news agency on Friday that “the demonstrations are a waste of time and energy” and would not lead to a political solution. 

The violent crackdown since the October coup has claimed 53 lives and left hundreds wounded.

 

 

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Biden, Ukraine President to Speak Sunday Amid Tensions with Russia 

President Joe Biden plans to speak Sunday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a White house official said Friday, a day after Biden spoke with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on how to reduce tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border. 

Biden will reaffirm support for Ukraine, discuss Russia’s military build-up on its borders and review preparations for diplomatic efforts to calm the situation in the region, the official said Friday. 

The U.S. and Russian leaders exchanged warnings over Ukraine in Thursday’s call, but their countries voiced some optimism afterwards about planned security talks in January to address Russian military actions that drew the threat of sanctions from Washington and its allies. 

The leaders’ exchange set the stage for lower-level engagement between the countries that includes the U.S.-Russia security meeting on January 9-10, followed by a Russia-NATO session on January 12, and a broader conference including Moscow, Washington and other European countries on January 13. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought to lay the groundwork for the talks Friday in calls with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and others, the State Department said. 

In conversations with the foreign ministers of Canada and Italy, Blinken discussed a united response to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine and their consensus to impose “severe costs” on Moscow for any such actions. 

 

 

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America’s New Problem: Not Enough Truck Drivers

On top of many other difficulties the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the US, problems continue with the supply chain and the shortage of truck drivers. Mariia Prus has more in this story narrated by Anna Rice. Camera: Dmitriy Savchuk

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Sahel Conflict Set to Worsen in 2022: Analysts

Islamist militant attacks increased this past year in the Sahel region, leading to political instability that saw a coup in Mali, an attempted coup in Niger, and calls for Burkina Faso’s president to resign. Burkina Faso experienced the deadliest terrorist attacks since the conflict began, but analysts say the worst could be yet to come. 

2021 marks the ninth year of conflict in Africa’s western Sahel, and in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, violence has only worsened.     

A video recently posted online purports to show an attack on a military base in northern Burkina Faso that killed almost 50 military police in November. Terrorists said to be linked to al-Qaida can be seen firing heavy weapons from the backs of pickup trucks before burning and looting the base. 

Across Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, fatalities from clashes between state forces and armed groups linked to Islamic State, al-Qaida and criminal gangs are up 18% since last year, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.  

The humanitarian impact has been huge, with close to 3.4 million now displaced as a result of the conflict, according to the United Nations refugee agency.  

Amadou Agli, from Burkina Faso, fled the north of the country around three months ago after terrorists attacked nearby villages. He says he has a message for the world.  

Agli says his community is living through very hard times and appeals to any people, NGOs and governments around the world who can help them. He says they are suffering a food crisis, a housing crisis and that the children are unable to attend school.  

The year also saw a shift in the region’s military structure, says Paul Melly, an analyst with London-based Chatham House, a research institution.  

“The start of the process of moving towards a new pattern of French deployment where the Sahel armies in the G5 Sahel military structure are much more, the frontline face if you like, with the French in more of a backup and special forces role, air support, intelligence,” Melly said.  

France, which had 5,000 troops supporting Sahel security forces at the beginning of 2021, has said it will reduce that number to 3,000 by early 2022.

  

Escalating insecurity has also plunged Sahel governments into political turmoil. Mali saw a coup by military leader Assimi Goïta in May after street protests against insecurity. The West African political bloc, ECOWAS, along with France, have put pressure on Goïta to hold democratic elections in 2022.    

Protests against the government’s handling of security in Burkina Faso in November forced the government to reshuffle military leadership and the Cabinet.  

Andrew Lebovich is an analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations.   

“What people are concerned about is the ongoing insecurity and the state of security forces. So, if that doesn’t improve, then no, the change in government certainly will not be enough to appease the opposition,” Lebovich said. 

Lebovich says analysts are also keeping an eye on attacks in Burkina Faso’s border area with coastal West African states including Benin and Ivory Coast. 

“I do think, at a minimum, it’s something to be concerned about and something to watch out for and something to actively work against,” Lebovich said.  

Meanwhile in Niger, the emergence of civilian militia groups to fill the security gap could play a big role in 2022. In other Sahel countries they have been used to assist the military but have also been accused of human rights abuses, says Philippe M. Frowd, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa. 

“We’ve seen this in southwestern Niger recently, kind of community violence spiraling and driven a lot by non-state armed groups. We see this in Burkina Faso as well where we have the state in fact relying on armed groups like this,” Frowd said.  

After a difficult 2021, the Sahel conflict looks set to worsen as the new year begins.   

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