A US veteran died at a nursing home, abandoned. Hundreds of strangers came to say goodbye

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US Marine Gerry Brooks is laid to rest Thursday, June 20, 2024 at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta, Maine. (AP)
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Former U.S. Marine Gerry Brooks is laid to rest Thursday, June 20, 2024 at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta. (AP)
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Updated 22 June 2024
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A US veteran died at a nursing home, abandoned. Hundreds of strangers came to say goodbye

  • Hundreds of people who knew nothing about the 86-year-old beyond his name showed up on a sweltering afternoon and gave Brooks a final salute with full military honors Thursday at the Maine Veterans' Memorial Cemetery in Augusta

AUGUSTA, Maine: Former US Marine Gerry Brooks died alone at a nursing home in Maine, abandoned and all but forgotten. Then the funeral home posted a notice asking if anyone would serve as a pallbearer or simply attend his burial.

Within minutes, it was turning away volunteers to carry his casket.

A bagpiper came forward to play at the service. A pilot offered to perform a flyover. Military groups across the state pledged a proper sendoff.

Hundreds of people who knew nothing about the 86-year-old beyond his name showed up on a sweltering afternoon and gave Brooks a final salute with full military honors Thursday at the Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Augusta.

Patriot Guard Riders on motorcycles escorted his hearse on the 40-mile route from the funeral home in Belfast, Maine, to the cemetery. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars paid tribute with a 21-gun salute. Volunteers held American flags next to the casket while a crane hoisted a huge flag above the cemetery entrance.

Some saluted while filing by. Others sang The Marines’ Hymn.

“It’s an honor for us to be able to do this,” said Jim Roberts, commander of the VFW post in Belfast. “There’s so much negativity in the world. This is something people can feel good about and rally around. It’s just absolutely wonderful.” He said Brooks’ son, granddaughter and son-in-law came to the funeral but did not speak during the service.

Roberts said the VFW is called a couple times a year about a deceased veteran with no family or with one that isn’t willing to handle the funeral arrangements. But “we will always be there.” Like other veterans helping out Thursday, he hadn’t known Brooks.

So many groups volunteered to take part in paying tribute that there wasn’t enough space to fit them into the 20-minute burial service, said Katie Riposta, the funeral director who put out the call for help last week.

“It renews your faith in humanity,” she said.

More than 8 million of the US veterans living are 65 or older, almost half the veteran population. They are overwhelmingly men. That’s according to a US Census Bureau report last year. As this generation dies, it said, their collective memory of wartime experiences “will pass into history.”

Much about Brooks’ life is unknown.

He was widowed and lived in Augusta. He died on May 18, less than a week after entering a nursing home, Riposta said. A cause of death was not released.

The funeral home and authorities reached his next of kin, but no one was willing to come forward or take responsibility for his body, she said.

“It sounds like he was a good person, but I know nothing about his life,” Riposta said, noting that after Brooks’ death, a woman contacted the funeral home to say he had once taken her in when she had no other place to go, with no details.

“It doesn’t matter if he served one day or made the military his career,” she said. “He still deserves to be respected and not alone.”

The crowd on Thursday wasn’t all strangers — and it turned out Brooks hadn’t been one, either.

Victoria Abbott, executive director of the Bread of Life shelter in Augusta, said he had come every day to eat at their soup kitchen, always ready to crack “dad jokes” and make the staff smile. He had a favorite table.

“Your quintessential 80-year-old, dad jokes every day,” Abbott said. “He was really great to have around. He was part of the soup kitchen family.”

But most people there Thursday met him too late. The memorial book posted online by Direct Cremation of Maine, which helped to arrange the burial, had a few strangers’ good wishes.

“Sir,” one began, and ended with “Semper Fi.”

The two others, a couple, thanked Brooks for his service. “We all deserve the love kindness and respect when we are called home. I hope that you lived a full beautiful life of Love, Kindness, Dreams and Hope,” they wrote.

They added: “Thank you to all those who will make this gentleman’s service a proper, well deserved goodbye.”

Linda Laweryson, who served in the Marines, said this was the second funeral in little over a year that she has attended for a veteran who died alone. Everyone deserves to die with dignity and be buried with dignity, she said.

Laweryson read a poem during the graveside service written by a combat Marine who reflects on the spot where Marines graduate from boot camp.

“I walked the old parade ground, but I was not alone,” the poem reads. “I walked the old parade ground and knew that I was home.”


Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years

Updated 22 July 2024
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Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years

  • The returned artifacts numbering around 60 were part of a larger haul of 250 antiquities that German authorities had seized from Turkish art dealer Aydin Dikmen in 1997

NICOSIA: Cyprus on Monday put on display artifacts — some of them thousands of years old — that were returned after a Turkish art dealer looted them from the ethnically divided island nation decades ago.
Aydin Dikmen took the artifacts from the country’s breakaway north in the years after Cyprus’ split in 1974, when Turkiye invaded following a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece. The antiquities were kept in Germany after authorities there seized them in 1997, and protracted legal battles secured their repatriation in three batches, the last one this year.
Addressing the unveiling ceremony at Cyprus’ archaeological museum, President Nikos Christodoulides said the destruction of a country’s cultural heritage as evidenced in recent conflicts becomes a “deliberate campaign of cultural and religious cleansing that aims to eliminate identity.”
Among the 60 most recently returned artifacts put on display include jewelry from the Chalcolithic Period between 3500-1500 B.C. and Bronze Age bird-shaped idols.
Antiquities that Dikmen also looted but were returned years ago include 1,500-year-old mosaics of Saints Luke, Mark, Matthew and James. They are among the few examples of early Christian works to survive the Iconoclastic period in the 8th and 9th centuries when most such works were destroyed.
Cyprus’ authorities and the country’s Orthodox Church for decades have been hunting for the island’s looted antiquities and centuries-old relics from as many as 500 churches in open auctions and on the black market.
The museum’s antiquities curator, Eftychia Zachariou, told the ceremony that Cyprus in recent years has benefited from a shift in thinking among authorities in many countries who now opt to repatriate antiquities of dubious provenance.


Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

Updated 22 July 2024
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Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

OUM EL BOUAGHI: Around 300 pink flamingo chicks were rescued by volunteers in eastern Algeria after the salt lake where they hatched dried up following years of high temperatures and drought.
Thousands of flamingos migrate each year to nest in Lake Tinsilt, located around 450 kilometers (about 280 miles) southeast of the capital Algiers.
It is one of the largest wetlands in the country, with an area of more than 20 square kilometers.
“Barely a month ago there was water here,” volunteer Mourad Ajroud told AFP on Friday, pointing to what is now a vast expanse of cracked earth littered with the carcasses of dead birds.
The disappearance of the lake, which locals and Algerian media attribute to high temperatures and a years-long drought, has driven the adult flamingos away.
They left behind their unhatched eggs and defenseless chicks, dozens of which have died from hunger, thirst, poaching and wolf attacks.
A group of volunteers provided their cars and trucks to transfer 283 pink flamingos about 50 kilometers away to Lake Mahidiya, about 50 kilometers away.
The wetland near Ain Mlila remains flush thanks to a steady flow of water from nearby rivers and lakes.
The rescue operation was initiated by local amateur photographer Tarek Kawajlia, who documents the wildlife in his area, and noticed the decrease in the size of the lake and the flight of birds.
The volunteers carry out “morning and evening patrols to follow the chicks until they recover and are able to fly, so that they can return next year to the sabkha (marsh) and life can resume its normal course,” Kawajlia told AFP.
Ajroud, 53, said the group was not able to save all the birds.
“We couldn’t transport them all,” he said sadly, as another volunteer takes an injured bird to a veterinary clinic.
A few hours after the chicks were released at their new habitat, some adult birds joined them.
“The operation was successful and the parents found their little ones in a magnificent scene,” Kawajlia said in a comment on one of his photos posted to Facebook.
Lake Tinsilt is one of the around 50 bodies of water in Algeria declared wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar international environment treaty to protect wetlands.
Last year, about a hundred pink flamingos died at Lake Telamine in western Algeria’s Oran province due to wastewater pollution, according to environmental activists.


Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

Updated 22 July 2024
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Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

  • Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle

LONDON: A Brazilian conceptual artist swapped a historic British coin for a fake in the British Museum to highlight the large number of foreign objects it holds.
Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle.
He asked for an English Civil War-era silver coin because “It is one of the few British things in the British Museum” and then created a diversion while he swapped it for the fake.
Sartuzi told Reuters he deposited the original coin in the museum’s collection box on the way out. The Art Newspaper first reported his act, which he recounted in a video made for his master’s degree at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The British Museum said it would inform police about the incident, which took place in June.
“This is a disappointing and derivative act that abuses a volunteer led service aimed at giving visitors the opportunity to handle real items and engage with history,” a museum spokesperson said when asked for comment.
Sartuzi said institutions such as the British museum and France’s Louvre view themselves as the “holders of the treasures of humanity. The problem is that these institutions are the basis of imperialist cultures that looted a lot of these objects from the global south and world.”
The British Museum has been under scrutiny over the way it acquired some of the artefacts it holds, with some countries asking for pieces to be returned. Examples include the Parthenon Sculptures and Nigeria’s bronzes looted by British troops in 1897. It did not respond to Sartuzi’s allegations.
Sartuzi, who has exhibited in Brazil, Portugal and London, said he had sought advice from an art lawyer before swapping the coin.
The Museum dismissed an employee a year ago and ordered a review of security after it discovered hundreds of items had been stolen from its collection or were missing.


A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP)
Updated 21 July 2024
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A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

  • The recording shows the older child using bedding to suffocate her cousin as the younger girl slept in the top bunk, Gibson District Attorney Frederick Agee’s statement said

HUMBOLDT, Tennessee: A 12-year-old girl in Tennessee has been charged with murder, accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin as the younger girl slept. A relative said they had been arguing over an iPhone.
A security camera recorded the killing, inside the bedroom they shared on July 15 in Humboldt, Tennessee, the county prosecutor said.
The recording shows the older child using bedding to suffocate her cousin as the younger girl slept in the top bunk, Gibson District Attorney Frederick Agee’s statement said. After the child died, “the juvenile cleaned up the victim and repositioned her body,” Agee said.
A relative told WREG-TV in Memphis that the girls had been arguing over an iPhone after coming from out of town to stay with their grandmother.
The girl was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence after authorities obtained the video on Wednesday.
“I consider this to be one of the most disturbing violent acts committed by either an adult or juvenile that my office has prosecuted,” Agee wrote in the statement.
He said he would petition a judge to prosecute the girl, who turns 13 later this month, in adult court, which would allow for “a lengthier sentence, whether that will be through incarceration or supervision with court-ordered conditions.”

 


Watermelon soap from cosmetics firm Lush will support Palestinian children’s mental health

Updated 19 July 2024
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Watermelon soap from cosmetics firm Lush will support Palestinian children’s mental health

  • Soap made from natural ingredients and safe synthetics such as rapeseed, coconut, watermelon, bergamot, rose

LONDON: British cosmetics retailer Lush has launched a watermelon soap, the proceeds of which will fund essential mental health support and trauma counseling for children in Gaza and the West Bank.

Watermelons have emerged as a symbol of solidarity with Palestine, as they contain the colors of the Palestinian flag.

The Lush soap is made from natural ingredients and safe synthetics such as rapeseed, coconut, watermelon, bergamot and rose.

In 2011, the British Medical Journal published a review study that found high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder among Palestinian children. New research by Save the Children has reported that feelings of depression, hyperactivity, a preference for being alone, and aggression are now reported by 95 percent of children in Gaza.

Lush’s support is nothing new. The company sources extra virgin olive oil from Palestine’s Marda Permaculture Farm, which is dedicated to social and environmental regeneration. The farm encourages sustainable agricultural practices and offers economic opportunities to local communities.