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Syria ‘massacre’ goes on as UN urges ceasefire vote

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The deadly bombardment of eastern Ghouta in Syria is said to have killed at least 13 more civilians early on Thursday, ahead of a potential UN vote on a 30-day ceasefire.

“The rocket fire hasn’t stopped this morning. Around 200 ground-to-ground rockets struck Douma alone,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the UK-based group The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The UN said on Wednesday that at least 346 people had been killed and hundreds more wounded since President Assad’s forces stepped up their offensive at the start of the month.

At least 92 people died in just one 13-hour period on Monday, the UN added, with Secretary General Antonio Guterres calling it “hell on Earth” and urging an immediate suspension of “all war activities”.

A child waits to be treated at a make-shift hospital in Kafr Batna in eastern Ghouta
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A child waits to be treated at a make-shift hospital in Kafr Batna in eastern Ghouta

On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel added to the international outcry, calling the situation a “massacre”.

She said the Syrian regime was “fighting not against terrorists, but against its own people, the killing of children, the destruction of hospitals, all this is a massacre which needs to be condemned”.

Around 400,000 people are living under siege in eastern Ghouta, near the capital Damascus, with shellfire, rockets, airstrikes and barrel bombs pounding the area and crippling food shortages.

:: 10,538 Syrian refugees have relocated to the UK


A smoke plume rises following an airstrike in Ghouta



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Bombardment ‘like doomsday’ – Gouta resident

Terrified residents have been seeking refuge in basements, but many have not been able to escape and footage has shown adults and children pulled out of rubble after attacks.

The Syrian government insists that it is fighting terrorists who are also attacking Damascus – and that it does not intentionally attack civilians.

A UN vote on a 30-day ceasefire in the whole of Syria could take place on Thursday, after Sweden and Kuwait tabled a proposed resolution.

It would allow food, aid and medical evacuations from eastern Ghouta and other areas.

UN Syrian envoy Staffan de Mistura said he hoped the resolution would be passed but admitted it was an “uphill” struggle.


Eastern Ghouta has been under heavy bombardment for several days by Assad and his allies, causing hundreds of deaths and injuries.



Video:
White Helmets save Ghouta’s children

However, the resolution would not exempt attacks on extremists from IS, the Nusra Front or al Qaeda – groups the Syrian regime says it is fighting.

Russia – Syria’s key military ally in the civil war – has said it is not directly involved in Ghouta attacks and called the ceasefire proposal unrealistic.

It could yet veto the proposal and its ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, has instead called for a Security Council meeting.

“That’s a long and complex process to achieve. Cessations cannot be established by putting a word in the resolution,” said Mr Nebenzia.




Video:
Syrian airstrike hits rebel-held suburb

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has also said the “terrorists are responsible” for the bloodshed in eastern Ghouta.

The bomardment has drawn parallels with attacks on eastern Aleppo, which claimed thousands of civilian lives as the regime’s relentless attacks ground down rebel resistance.

Syria’s complex seven-year civil war has claimed more than 340,000 lives, forced millions to flee their homes and left cities in ruins.

Figures show the UK has taken in more than 10,000 Syrian refugees from countries around the conflict zone since 2014.

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Manuel Neuer: Footballer who wore rainbow armband during Euro 2020 games won’t face disciplinary action | World News

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German footballer Manuel Neuer will not face disciplinary action for wearing a rainbow armband during his Euro 2020 games.

UEFA has said there is no case to answer, adding that the Bayern Munich goalkeeper was “promoting a good cause”.

Neuer, 35, has worn the armband for games against France and Portugal, to show his support for the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month.

But the sport’s European governing body has been investigating whether his actions could be seen as a political statement, which is not allowed.

A spokesperson said: “UEFA looked into the armband worn by the player in question and, considering that it was promoting a good cause, ie diversity, the team will not face disciplinary proceedings.”

The German Football Association said on Twitter that it had also received a letter from UEFA confirming the matter was closed.

They wrote: “UEFA have today shared with the DFB that they have stopped the review of the rainbow captain’s armband worn by Manuel Neuer.

“In a letter, the armband has been assessed as a team symbol for diversity and thus for a ‘good cause’.”

The association has previously said Neuer wears the rainbow-armband as a symbol of “the whole team’s clear commitment to diversity, openness, tolerance and against hatred and exclusion”.

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Tony Dell: The Australian cricketer who fought in Vietnam – and struggled for decades with the horrors of war | US News

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Tony Dell was in his mid-60s, estranged from his wife and children and living in his mother’s garage when he realised his life had reached rock bottom.

For a man who had played Test cricket for his country and created a successful advertising business, it represented a dizzying and dramatic decline.

It took a chance meeting to lead Dell to a moment of discovery, and a remarkable journey on the path to helping himself and others.

Tony Dell is the only Test cricketer to have fought in the Vietnam war. Pic: Tony Dell
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Dell pictured during his military service in Vietnam. Pic: Tony Dell

His story is one rooted in sport and conflict but also the issue of mental health that continues to challenge society to this day.

Tony Dell is the only surviving Test cricketer to have seen action in a major theatre of war. He is also the only Test cricketer to have fought in the Vietnam war.

That he served Australia in combat and in cricket is even more peculiar because Tony Dell was officially still a “Pom” at the time, born and raised in Hampshire.

He was 15 when his family emigrated down under and he was dispatched to Vietnam after his number came up in Australia’s National Service lottery.

When he returned from a year-long tour of duty, he picked up where he had left off as a promising cricketer.

Tony Dell is the only Test cricketer to have fought in the Vietnam war. Pic: Tony Dell
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Dell joined Australia’s National Service. Pic: Tony Dell

After a handful of first-class games, he was picked for an Ashes Test in February 1971 against the country of his birth.

“I felt like I had arrived,” Dell said.

Instead of the being the start of something though, it marked the beginning of the end.

His cricket and private life began to fail, a harrowing journey for him and especially his family.

Tony Dell was born and raised in Hampshire but played international cricket for Australia. Pic: Tony Dell
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Dell was born and raised in Hampshire but played international cricket for Australia. Pic: Tony Dell

It was that fluke meeting in his 60s, 40 years after coming home from Vietnam, that led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Suddenly all the pain and suffering, the anxiety and dysfunction, started to make sense.

He realised he had never confronted the horrors he had witnessed on the battlefield and, like so many before and since, had lived in silence with the awful consequences.

Tony Dell is the only Test cricketer to have fought in the Vietnam war. Pic: Tony Dell
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Dell was diagnosed with PTSD 40 years after coming home from Vietnam. Pic: Tony Dell

Dell has revealed to me the full traumatic story of his battle for a new book, And Bring The Darkness Home, published this week.

His resolve to do something for those who suffered like him led him on a journey.

His non-profit organisation Stand Tall for PTS has become a movement for greater awareness and support for military veterans, first responders and other victims.

Proceeds from sales of the book will support the charity’s work. Dell is hopeful of one day seeing a Test match designated as an event to raising awareness of mental health and PTSD.

Like so many veterans, Dell said, he had avoided talking about his time in combat. Even teammates such as the Australian cricket legend Greg Chappell had no idea he had ever been in Vietnam.

Tony Dell played alongside former Australia captain Greg Chappell for Queensland in the mid-1970s. Pic: Tony Dell
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Dell played alongside former Australia captain Greg Chappell for Queensland in the mid-1970s. Pic: Tony Dell

The cost to society is statistics like this: every day in the US, 22 military veterans take their own lives.

It is the overwhelming need for help that drives Dell on.

“The more I talk about it, the more that people see its not just them going through it, the more it can encourage them to talk, then I have done something worthwhile,” he says.

“It is my therapy. Let’s see what we can do to help others.”

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Alabama: Nine children killed in pile-up, including six from a home for abused and neglected young people | US News

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Nine children are among 10 people who have been killed in a multi-vehicle crash in Alabama.

The pile-up happened on a road that had been soaked with rain because of a tropical depression.

Eight of the children who died were travelling in a van that was heading to a home for abused and neglected young people.

Candice Gulley, the ranch director, was the van’s only survivor. She is in a serious but stable condition in hospital.

Two of the children killed in the van were Ms Gulley’s own children, aged four and 16.

They were returning to the ranch from a nearby beach, and the van caught fire after the crash.

The Alabama Sheriff's Girls Ranch CEO Michael Smith talks to CNN Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Camp Hill, Ala. Smith was discussing the loss of eight children in a vehicle crash. Pic: AP
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Michael Smith, chief executive of the ranch, said words could not explain what he had seen at the site. Pic: AP

Michael Smith, the ranch’s chief executive, visited the scene of the crash on Saturday and said: “This is the worst tragedy I’ve been a part of in my life.

“Words cannot explain what I saw. We love these girls like they’re our own children.”

Cody Fox, 29, and his nine-month-old daughter, were in another vehicle and were also killed.

Mr Fox worked at his county’s emergency management agency and also ran a hot tub business with his father.

Colleague Aaron Sanders said: “He was a great guy and we’re really going to miss him. He just loved (his daughter) to death and that was his life.”

The crash happened on Saturday about 35 miles south of Montgomery on the Interstate 65, with authorities saying the vehicles most likely hydroplaned on the wet roads.

A number of people were also injured and photos showed at least four burned vehicles, including two large trucks.

Sheriff Danny Bond wrote on Facebook: “Butler County has had one of the most terrible traffic accidents. I believe it is the worst ever in our county.”

The National Transportation Safety Board said it had sent 10 investigators to the area and the local school, which was attended by most of the ranch residents, will have counsellors available to students.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the ranch cover the cost of funerals, medical bills, and counselling for those affected.

Also, in Tuscaloosa, about 60 miles southwest of Birmingham, a 24-year-old man and three-year-old boy were killed on Saturday when a tree fell on their house.

A flooded neighborhood is seen after Tropical Storm Claudette passed through in Slidell, La., Saturday, June 19, 2021. The National Hurricane Center declared Claudette organized enough to qualify as a named storm early Saturday, well after the storm's center of circulation had come ashore southwest of New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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Claudette passed through Slidell in Louisiana on Saturday when it was categorised as a storm

Tropical Depression Claudette had been categorised as a storm when it arrived over the southeastern part of the US in the early hours of Saturday.

It was downgraded to a tropical depression a few hours later but still had enough power to prompt flood and storm warnings for parts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Heavy rain also lashed Mississippi and Louisiana on Saturday.

Forecasters have said it will strengthen back to tropical storm status on Monday over eastern North Carolina before moving into the Atlantic Ocean.

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