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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Key Officials Die in Helicopter Crash

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Iranian President

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, along with the country’s foreign minister and several other officials, were found dead on Monday following a helicopter crash in a foggy, mountainous region in northwest Iran, state media reported. Raisi was 63 years old.

The crash occurred amidst ongoing regional tensions fueled by the Israel-Hamas conflict, during which Raisi, under the guidance of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had recently ordered an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel. Raisi’s tenure saw Iran enrich uranium to near weapons-grade levels, escalating tensions with Western nations, while also supplying drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine and arming regional militia groups.

Domestically, Iran has been grappling with years of mass protests against its Shiite theocracy, driven by economic hardships and demands for women’s rights, making this incident particularly sensitive for Tehran.

State television did not immediately provide a cause for the crash, which took place in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. Among the deceased was Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, aged 60, as well as the governor of East Azerbaijan province, other officials, and bodyguards, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Early Monday morning, Turkish authorities released drone footage showing a fire in the wilderness, suspected to be the helicopter wreckage. The footage’s coordinates indicated the fire was located about 20 kilometers south of the Azerbaijan-Iranian border on a steep mountain.

Footage from IRNA showed the crash site across a steep valley in a green mountain range, with soldiers speaking in the local Azeri language confirming the wreckage’s location.

Supreme Leader Khamenei had urged the public to pray for Raisi and the other officials’ safe return on Sunday night, expressing hope for their well-being.

“We hope that God the Almighty returns the dear president and his colleagues in full health to the arms of the nation,” Khamenei said, receiving an “amen” from the worshipers he addressed. However, he assured that Iran’s government would continue its operations. Under the Iranian constitution, the vice president assumes the presidency with Khamenei’s approval, and a new presidential election would be held within 50 days if the president dies.

First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber had already begun receiving calls from officials and foreign governments in Raisi’s absence. An emergency cabinet meeting was held, and a statement was issued, pledging to follow Raisi’s path and ensure the country’s management continues smoothly.

Raisi, a hard-liner and former head of the judiciary, was considered a protégé of Khamenei. Analysts had speculated that he might succeed the 85-year-old supreme leader after Khamenei’s death or resignation.

With Raisi’s passing, Mojtaba Khamenei, the 55-year-old son of the supreme leader, is the only other suggested successor. However, there are concerns about the position becoming hereditary, particularly given the Islamic Revolution’s overthrow of the Pahlavi monarchy in 1979.

Raisi won the 2021 presidential election, which had the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history. He was sanctioned by the U.S. for his role in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

Under Raisi, Iran enriched uranium to near weapons-grade levels and impeded international inspections. The country also armed Russia in its war against Ukraine and launched a large-scale drone-and-missile attack on Israel during its conflict with Hamas. Iran continued to support proxy groups in the Middle East, including Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Mass protests have persisted in Iran, most notably following the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, who was detained for allegedly not wearing a hijab properly. The subsequent crackdown on protests resulted in over 500 deaths and more than 22,000 detentions.

In March, a United Nations panel found Iran responsible for the “physical violence” leading to Amini’s death.

Raisi is the second Iranian president to die in office; President Mohammad Ali Rajai was killed in a bomb blast in 1981 during the turbulent post-revolution period.

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Tesla shareholders voting yes for Musk’s $56 bln pay package, CEO says on X

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Tesla shareholders are voting to approve a $56 billion pay package for Elon Musk and to move the electric vehicle maker’s legal home to Texas, Musk said on social media platform X on Wednesday, adding that passage was by wide margins.

Shareholders of the electric-car maker are voting on a proposal to ratify CEO Musk’s 2018 incentive package, valued at up to $56 billion at the time and the largest in US corporate history, after a Delaware judge voided the plan approved by its board “beholden” to Musk.

The result will be announced at a meeting on Thursday.

A person familiar with the preliminary tally confirmed Musk’s post, and said that a combination of big institutional investors and retail investor got the ‘yes’ result over the line.

Shareholders, however, are allowed to change their vote up to the start of the annual meeting.

Tesla shareholders also cast ballots on other proposals including the move of Tesla’s legal headquarters from Delaware to Texas, as well as the re-election of two board members: Musk’s brother Kimbal Musk and James Murdoch.

Musk referred to the resolutions on his pay package and the move in his tweet, thanking shareholders for their support.

Some investors viewed the vote on Musk’s pay as a test of confidence in his leadership. While he is undoubtedly Tesla’s driving force, and is credited with much of its success, the company has recently seen slowing sales and profits.

The board said the world’s richest person deserves the package, because he hit all the ambitious targets on market value, revenue and profitability.

The pay package is also needed to keep Musk devoted to Tesla, the board said, even though the Delaware judge said the 2018 pay plan failed to make sure that Musk committed a substantial amount of time to Tesla.

Musk has threatened to build AI and robotics products outside Tesla, if he fails to gain enough voting control, which requires the 2018 pay package to be approved.

Some large shareholders including Norway’s sovereign wealth fund and California’s two largest pension funds have said they will vote against the compensation, saying the pay is excessive.

Tesla has been drumming up support for Musk’s pay package, especially from retail investors, who make up an unusually high percentage of its ownership base but who often do not vote.

Company executives have posted messages on X, saying Musk is critical to Tesla’s success. Tesla has run social media ads, and Musk has promised a personal tour of Tesla’s factory in Texas to some shareholders who cast votes.

COURT BATTLE

The same package was previously rejected by a Delaware judge who invalidated it as an “unfathomable sum” granted by a conflicted board with close personal and financial ties to its top executive.

The board held the shareholder vote as a way to bolster its appeal of the ruling, in which the judge cited the board’s failure to fully inform shareholders before approving the pay package in 2018.

Musk has to wait months or years to get his pay package restored as appeals wind their way up to Delaware’s Supreme Court.

Tesla could also face more litigation from some shareholders. One of them this month filed a lawsuit challenging the upcoming shareholder vote on Musk’s pay package and the change of domicile.

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Fire in Mangaf Workers’ Accommodation Claims 41 Lives

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mangaf kuwait fire

A devastating fire broke out early Wednesday in a building housing workers in Mangaf, southern Kuwait, resulting in the deaths of at least 41 people, according to Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Fahad Yusuf Saud Al-Sabah.

During his visit to the site, Sheikh Fahad, who also oversees the interior and defense ministries, criticized real estate owners for their violations and greed, attributing these factors to the tragic incident.

“Unfortunately, the greed of real estate owners is what leads to these matters,” Sheikh Fahad stated.

The blaze was reported to authorities at 6:00 a.m. local time (0300 GMT), according to Major General Eid Rashed Hamad.

“The building was used to house a large number of workers. Dozens were rescued, but sadly, many succumbed to smoke inhalation,” a senior police commander informed state television.

He further emphasized the longstanding warnings against overcrowding in worker accommodations, though he did not specify the workers’ occupations or nationalities.

The fire has been contained, and authorities are currently investigating its cause, officials said.

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Baltimore shipping lane fully reopens after bridge collapse

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The Baltimore shipping lane blocked for more than two months after a cargo ship collided with a major bridge in
March, sending it crashing into the water, fully reopened on Monday, authorities said.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, along with Navy salvage divers, restored the channel to its original dimensions by removing about 50,000 tons of debris from the Patapsco River, a statement from the Key Bridge Response Unified Command said.

The riverbed was certified as safe for transit on Monday.

“We are proud of the unified efforts that fully reopened the Federal Channel to port operations,” said Lieutenant General Scott Spellmon, commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The partnerships that endured through this response made this pivotal mission successful.”

On March 26, the Singapore-flagged M/V Dali lost power and plowed into a support column of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse and killing six road workers who had been filling potholes overnight.

The 106,000-ton ship had been headed for Sri Lanka at the time of the accident.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the incident along with the FBI, has said the ship had two electricity blackouts in the moments before the disaster.

The Dali was refloated last month and towed back into port.

The port of Baltimore is one of America’s busiest ports and a key hub for the auto industry, handling almost 850,000 autos and light trucks last year — more than any other US port, according to state figures.

The full reopening of the shipping channel will allow for two-way traffic, Monday’s statement said.

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