Gilbert Gottfried, actor and comic’s comic, dies at 67

Gilbert Gottfried, the actor and legendary standup comic known for his raw, scorched voice and crude jokes, has died. He was 67.

Gottfried died from a rare genetic muscle disease that can trigger a dangerously abnormal heartbeat, his publicist and longtime friend Glenn Schwartz said in a statement.

“In addition to being the most iconic voice in comedy, Gilbert was a wonderful husband, brother, friend, and father to his two young children. Although today is a sad day for all of us, please keep laughing as loud as possible in Gilbert’s honor,” his family said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Gottfried was a fiercely independent and intentionally bizarre comedian’s comedian, as likely to clear a room with anti-comedy as he was to kill it with his jokes.

“The first comedian I saw who would go on and all the other comics would go in the room to watch,” standup comic Colin Quinn said on Twitter.

He first came to national attention with frequent appearances on MTV in its early days and with a brief stint on the cast of Saturday Night Live in the 1980s.

Gottfried also did frequent voice work for children’s television and movies, most famously playing the parrot Iago in Disney’s Aladdin.

“Look at me, I’m so ticked off that I’m molting,” a scratchy-voiced Gottfried said early in the film as his character shed feathers.

To a younger generation, he’s known as the voice of Digit the bird on PBS Kids’ Cyberchase.

Gottfried was particularly fond of doing obscure and dated impressions for as long as he could milk them, including Groucho Marx, Bela Lugosi and Andrew “Dice” Clay. He would often do those voices as a guest on the Howard Stern show, prompting listeners by the dozens to call in and beg Stern to throw him off.

In his early days at the club the Comedy Store in Hollywood, the managers would have him do his impression of then-little-known Jerry Seinfeld at the end of the night to get rid of lingering patrons.

Gottfried was especially beloved by his fellow comedians and performers.

Jon Stewart said that getting to open for Gottfried was one of the great thrills of his early standup career.

“He could leave you gasping for breath,” Stewart tweeted, “just indescribably unusually hilarious.”

“I am so sad to read about the passing of Gilbert Gottfried,” actor Marlee Matlin said on Twitter. “Funny, politically incorrect but a softie on the inside. We met many times — he even pranked me on a plane, replacing my interpreter.” (Gottfried bore a close resemblance to Matlin’s American Sign Language interpreter Jack Jason.)

Gottfried was interviewed by The Associated Press last month following Will Smith’s Oscar night slap of Chris Rock. While he took the attack seriously, saying it might imperil other comedians, he couldn’t resist wisecracks.

He said that before on stage, he “just had to worry about wearing a mask. Now I have to worry about wearing a football helmet.” He later added, “If Will Smith is reading this, dear God, please don’t come to my shows.”

The year has already seen the loss of several beloved comedians, including Louie Anderson and Bob Saget.

In January Gottfried tweeted a picture of the three men together with the text, “This photo is very sad now. RIP Bob Saget and RIP Louie Anderson. Both good friends that will be missed.”

Gottfried was born in Brooklyn, the son of a hardware store owner and a stay-at-home mom. He began doing amateur standup at age 15.

He thought he was getting his big break when he landed a spot on Saturday Night Live alongside Eddie Murphy in 1980. But he was given little to do on the show.

He later said a low point was playing the body in a sketch about a funeral. He would last only 12 episodes.

But he would find his own way, doing bits on MTV and as both beloved and hated guest on talk shows.

He had roles in Beverly Hills Cop II and the Problem Child films and presented bad movies as host of USA Up All Night from 1989 to 1998.

And he had recurring voice roles on Ren and Stimpy, The Fairly OddParents, and several spin-offs of Aladdin.

Gottfried’s schtick wasn’t always popular. In 2011, Aflac Inc. fired him as the voice of the duck in its commercials over a tasteless tweet the comic sent about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Less than a month after the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, at the Friars Club Roast of Hugh Hefner, Gottfried made jokes about planes making stops at skyscrapers and was met with boos and shouts of “Too soon!” He responded with an especially foul version of the comedians’ inside joke “The Aristocrats,” which many in the audience took as a message that he believed it was the comic’s job to remain crude at all costs.

“To me, funny is funny,” he told the AP last month. “I’ll regret a bit I do that just doesn’t get a laugh, because it’s not funny or an ad lib that doesn’t work. But if it gets a laugh, I feel like, I’m the comedian and that’s my job.”

He made many notorious contributions to televised roasts, his harshness and love of old-timey standup style making him a perfect contributor. He took famously cruel and relentless jabs at roastees including Matlin, George Takei and Roseanne.

“Like most monsters she goes by one name,” he said at the Roseanne roast in his signature style, leaning into the microphone, hands spread apart, shouting himself hoarse. “And that name is Rozilla.”

“I shall miss you, my friend, my sometimes foil, my always pain in my side, usually from the belly laughs,” Takei said on Twitter Tuesday. “The heavens are a great deal louder with you out there now, I’m sure. Keep ’em shaking their heads and smiling, Gilbert.”

Gottfried is survived by his wife Dara, sister Karen, 14-year-old daughter Lily and 12-year-old son Max.

First private mission reaches International Space Station

The first fully private mission reached the International Space Station early on Saturday with a four-member crew from startup company Axiom Space.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has hailed the three-way partnership with Axiom and SpaceX as a key step towards commercializing the region of space known as “Low Earth Orbit,” leaving the agency to focus on more ambitious voyages deeper into the cosmos.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon capsule Endeavor docked at 1229 GMT on Saturday and the crew entered the space station nearly two hours later, after launching from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on Friday.

Commanding the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) is former Nasa astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, a dual citizen of the US and Spain, who flew to space four times over his 20-year-career, and last visited the International Space Station (ISS) in 2007.

He is joined by three paying crewmates: American real estate investor Larry Connor, Canadian investor, and philanthropist Mark Pathy and Israeli former fighter pilot, investor, and philanthropist Eytan Stibbe.

“We’re here to experience this but we understand there’s a responsibility,” Connor said in comments shown on Nasa’s live feed.

As the first civilian crew, he said, they “need to get it right.”

The widely reported price for tickets — which includes eight days on the outpost, before an eventual splashdown in the Atlantic — is $55 million.

While wealthy private citizens have visited the ISS before, Ax-1 is the first mission featuring an all-private crew flying a private spacecraft to the outpost.

Houston-based Axiom pays SpaceX for transportation, and Nasa also charges Axiom for use of the ISS.

Research projects

Onboard the ISS, which orbits 250 miles (400 kilometers) above sea level, the quartet will carry out 25 research projects, including an MIT technology demonstration of smart tiles that form a robotic swarm and self-assemble into space architecture.

Another experiment involves using cancer stem cells to grow mini tumors and then leveraging the accelerated aging environment of microgravity to identify biomarkers for early detection of cancers.

“Our guys aren’t going up there and floating around for eight days taking pictures and looking out of the cupola,” Derek Hassmann, operations director of Axiom Space, told reporters at a pre-launch briefing.

In addition, crewmember Stibbe plans to pay tribute to his late friend Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, who died in the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster when the spaceship disintegrated upon reentry.

Surviving pages from Ramon’s space diary, as well as mementos from his children, will be brought to the station by Stibbe.

The Axiom crew will live and work alongside the station’s regular crew: currently three Americans and a German on the US side, and three Russians on the Russian side.

The company has partnered for a total of four missions with SpaceX, and Nasa has already approved in principle the second, Ax-2.

Axiom sees the voyages as the first steps of a grander goal: to build its own private space station. The first module is due to launch in 2024.

The plan is for the station to initially be attached to the ISS, before eventually flying autonomously when the latter retires and is deorbited sometime after 2030.

Ramiz waits for Shehbaz to decide his fate as PCB chief

LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja has opted not to resign from the post following the election of Shehbaz Sharif as the country’s prime minister following a no-confidence vote against his predecessor Imran Khan.

Ramiz, according to sources, will instead make a decision based on the new premier’s treatment of him as the PCB’s patron, who has the power to virtually appoint a favored person at the helm of the national cricket body.

The former Test skipper was elected as the PCB chief after being nominated for the post by Imran in September last year, but the former PM’s ouster means Ramiz’s position is in danger.

Ramiz replaced former PCB chief Ehsan Mani, the first to take the position after Imran came in power after the 2018 general elections. However, it was Mani’s predecessor Najam Sethi’s resignation that led to his appointment, after the latter realised Imran will not allow him to complete the remaining three years of his term.

Sethi was the helm of the PCB during Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s term as the country’s ruling party and with its president Shehbaz now in power, he is one of the favorites to become the board’s chairman.

Sethi played an influential role in the introduction of the Pakistan Super League and is said to have taken the initial steps to bring back international cricket to the country. His term as the PCB chief saw the ICC World XI, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe visit Pakistan.

The process of convincing international teams to tour Pakistan gained more pace under Mani and Wasim Khan, who was the PCB’s chief executive during that time. The duo also revamped Pakistan’s domestic cricket structure in 2019, discontinuing the participation of departments and introducing six provincial association sides, a move that resulted in hundreds of cricketers and staff losing employment.

The provincial associations’ officials are also appointed by the PCB with their elections still pending as they depend on club scrutiny and district elections across the country.

While the issue persists, Ramiz’s impact has been positive overall. During his reign as the PCB chief, Pakistan hosted Australia in a full-fledge Test and while-ball tour, that too after New Zealand pulled out of their tour in September on the eve of the first game at Rawalpindi, and England cancelled their scheduled visit soon after. Both teams are scheduled to visit Pakistan in the 2022-23 home season.

Pakistan men’s national team also started looking like a different side since Ramiz took office. Led by Babar Azam, who was said to have been given more power as captain — Pakistan registered their maiden win against archrivals India in a World Cup when they beat them by ten wickets in the T20 showpiece last year. Pakistan reached the semi-finals of the tournament in which they were eliminated by eventual champions Australia.

Clashes rock West Bank as Palestinian attacker killed in Israel

JENIN: Fresh clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants rocked the West Bank city of Jenin on Tuesday as a Palestinian stabbed a police officer in Israel before being shot dead.

Israeli troops launched a fourth day of operations around Jenin after an assailant from the flashpoint district shot and killed three people in a Tel Aviv bar last week in the latest of a spate of attacks that have stunned the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett — who warned in response that there would “not be limits for this war” — overnight visited the Tel Aviv shooting scene and vowed: “We will not let our enemy stop our lives.

“We will continue to live our lives and at the same time we will fight where they are located, in their bases, at their source — and, please God, we will win.” The Palestinian official news agency Wafa said clashes erupted for the fourth day between young Palestinian men and Israeli soldiers who fired live bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas at them.

Islamic Jihad hails Palestinian response to Israel’s military incursions in Jenin, other cities

The Israeli army said its soldiers responded with live ammunition toward suspects who hurled explosive devices at them, as well as toward armed suspects in the area.

“Soldiers and other security forces apprehended 20 wanted terror suspects during the night and early morning.”

In Zeita, near the border with Israel, commandos found “weapons and arrested wanted persons suspected of aiding terrorist activities,” the army said. The latest violence to rock Israel came in the Mediterranean port city of Ashkelon, where police said an officer was checking a Palestinian man in his 40s who then “pulled out a knife and attacked the officer”.

The policeman “fired and neutralized the suspect, whose death was declared on-site,” police said, adding that the officer was hospitalized with light wounds from the attack using a kitchen knife.

Police said the man hailed from Hebron — a powder keg where around 1,000 Jewish settlers live under heavy military protection among 200,000 Palestinians. Ashkelon said it deployed extra police on motorcycles to patrol schools and commercial areas.

Escalating violence

Palestinian youth have also clashed elsewhere with Israeli security forces, including in Ramallah where they threw rocks and were targeted with tear gas on Monday.

The rise in violence comes during the Muslim fasting month of Ramazan and days before the Jewish festival of Passover and Christian Easter.

Last year during Ramazan, tensions in Jerusalem flared into 11 days of war between Israel and the Hamas militant group ruling the Gaza Strip.

Israeli troops and police have stepped up operations over the past three weeks in which four shooting, stabbing, and car-ramming attacks have left 14 people dead.

Over the same period, Israeli forces have killed 15 Palestinians, including assailants, according to an AFP tally.

The Palestinian prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, charged that Israeli actions were fuelling the escalation and accused Israel of a “shoot-to-kill policy”, speaking at a government meeting on Monday.

He argued that the lack of a political horizon and double standards from the international community was “a serious warning that the situation is getting worse,” according to Wafa.

Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad hailed the response to Israel’s military incursions in Jenin and other cities.

“We salute our people who stand like an unyielding barricade in the face of the Zionist enemy’s terrorism, and who frustrate its plans to carry out the assault on the camp and city of Jenin and all the cities of the West Bank.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres followed “with deep concern the escalating violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel”, said his spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

“He is appalled by the increasingly high number of casualties, including women and children,” Dujarric added.