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204 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for May 2022
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5-24-22 Southern Baptist Convention vilified sex abuse survivors - report
Leaders of the world's largest Baptist denomination covered up sex abuse by clergy for years and vilified survivors, an internal report says. The seven-month investigation found that survivors had come forward over two decades about abusers within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). But their pleas for intervention were met with "resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility" by officials. With 13 million members, SBC is the largest Protestant body in the US. The investigation - carried out for the SBC by an outside firm - was launched in the wake of 2019 report by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News that exposed hundreds of alleged cases of sex abuse within the church. Amid internal divisions over how to handle the scandal, thousands of delegates at the SBC's annual gathering last year voted in favour of a third-party review of the church's actions. The 288-page report issued on Sunday names a few senior leaders on the church's executive committee as having control over its response to the reports of abuse and of being "singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC". These officials reportedly "protected or even supported alleged abusers", the report says. Calls and emails from survivors or other concerned Southern Baptists would be "ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action" because of how the church functions, the report states. The document also discloses for the first time that the executive committee maintained a list of its ministers who were facing abuse allegations but - in spite of calls for a public database - kept its findings secret. It makes a series of recommendations, including creating an independent commission that would oversee reforms in the handling of sexual misconduct, and restricting the use of non-disclosure agreements and civil settlements by the accused.

5-24-22 U.S., 19 other nations sending Ukraine newer, more high-tech weapons, Pentagon says
Defense officials from 47 countries met virtually on Monday to discuss supporting Ukraine with military aid, and 20 of those countries pledged to provide Kyiv newer, more high-tech weapons or other military assistance, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a press conference. He said the U.S. is "especially grateful to Denmark" for committing to send Ukraine U.S.-made Harpoon anti-ship cruse missiles and a launcher and to the Czech Republic for "a recent donation of attack helicopters, tanks, and rocket systems." "And today, several countries announced new donations of critically needed artillery systems and ammunition, including Italy, Greece, Norway, and Poland," Austin said. "The nature of the fight" in Ukraine "is really shaped by artillery in this phase, and we've seen serious exchanges of artillery fires over the last several weeks." The "most powerful and destructive" weapon the West has provided Ukraine so far is artillery, the U.S.-made M777 howitzer, and due largely to training bottlenecks, only about a dozen of the 90 M777s sent to Ukraine are being used on the front lines, The New York Times reports from eastern Ukraine. "They fire three miles farther than the most common artillery system used by the Russian army in the Ukraine war, the Msta-S self-propelled howitzer — and 10 miles farther if shooting a precision, GPS-guided projectile." Ukraine had fired 1,876 rounds as of Sunday, "This weapon brings us closer to victory," Col. Roman Kachur, commander of Ukraine's 55th Artillery Brigade, told the Times. "With every modern weapon, every precise weapon, we get closer to victory." A dozen howitzers can only do so much, though, says Michael Kofman, an expert on Russia's military. "Artillery is very much the business of quantity," he told the Times, and "the Russians are one of the largest artillery armies you can face." More artillery and other weapons systems are on the way, Austin said. "Everyone here understands the stakes of this war, and they stretch far beyond Europe. Russia's aggression is an affront to the rules-based international order and a challenge to free people everywhere."

5-24-22 Russia is seeing 'localized successes' in eastern Ukraine, growing criticism at home of its huge losses
"Russia has increased the intensity of its operations in the Donbas as it seeks to encircle Severodonetsk, Lyschansk, and Rubizhne" in eastern Ukraine, and it has "achieved some localized successes" over "strong Ukrainian resistance," Britain's Ministry of Defense said early Tuesday. "Russia's capture of the Severodonetsk pocket would see the whole of Luhansk Oblast placed under Russian occupation," and trap the Ukrainian troops defending the strategic city. Russian forces have been making "incremental progress" in encircling Severodonetsk, and it's likely they will succeed, a Western official tells BBC News. But the Ukrainian defenders are "performing a vital function" because "they are degrading the Russian forces" and "creating time" for the remainder of Ukraine's forces in the Donbas to prepare and strengthen defenses elsewhere. The Institute for the Study of War agreed Russia is making "marginal gains to encircle" Severodonetsk, but said at home, "more Russians supportive of the Kremlin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine are beginning to criticize the Kremlin openly," including military bloggers and an assembly of military veterans, and the loss of an entire battalion in a bungled river crossing especially "shocked Russian military observers and prompted them to question Russian competence." Ukraine has been suffering heavy casualties in the Donbas — President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that 50 to 100 Ukrainians could be dying every day "defending our country and our independence" in eastern Ukraine. But "Russia has likely suffered a similar death toll to that experienced by the Soviet Union during its nine year war in Afghanistan," or about 15,000 slain troops, Britain's Defense Ministry said Sunday. "The Russian public has, in the past, proven sensitive to casualties suffered during wars of choice," and as the body count rises, "public dissatisfaction with the war and a willingness to voice it may grow." "The Russian president and military high command will continue to demand advances, but at some point in the next month or two, any capacity of the Russians to do so will be at an end," thanks to mounting losses, dropping morale, increasingly insurgency in occupied Ukraine, and Ukraine's growing arsenal of Western-supplied weapons, Australian military analyst Mick Ryan writes, "The recent Ukrainian decision to cease its defense of the Mariupol steelworks provided a small yet pyrrhic victory for the Russians. But it is unlikely that there will be more of such minor successes for the Russian Army."

5-24-22 Ukraine war: World faces 'dark hour', Biden tells Quad Summit
The world is "navigating a dark hour in our shared history" with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, US President Joe Biden told key Asian allies. The war has now become a "global issue" underscoring the importance of defending international order, he said. Japanese PM Fumio Kishida echoed his comments, saying that a similar invasion should not happen in Asia. Mr Biden is meeting the leaders of Japan, Australia and India in Tokyo in his first visit to Asia as president. The four countries known collectively as the Quad are discussing security and economic concerns including China's growing influence in the region - and differences over the Russian invasion. Mr Biden's comments come a day after he warned China that it was "flirting with danger" over Taiwan, and vowed to protect Taiwan militarily if China attacked, appearing to contradict a long-standing US policy on the issue. It was later reported that Russian and Chinese warplanes had approached Japanese airspace as part of a joint military patrol, prompting Tokyo to announce it had scrambled jets in response. Russian officials said the flight over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea was part of an annual military exercise. Mr Kishida told a news conference that planning the exercise to coincide with today's summit was "provocative." In his opening remarks at Tuesday's summit, Mr Biden said their meeting was about "democracies versus autocracies, and we have to make sure that we deliver". The Ukraine war, he said, "is going to affect all parts of the world" as Russia's blockade of Ukraine grain exports aggravates a global food crisis. Mr Biden promised the US would work with allies to lead the global response, reiterating their commitment to defend international order and sovereignty "regardless of where they were violated in the world" and remaining a "strong and enduring partner" in the Indo-Pacific region.

5-24-22 Putin weaponising Ukraine’s crops, says Polish PM
Vladimir Putin is "weaponising Ukraine's crops" as "a blackmail tool" for the rest of the world, Poland's prime minister said at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Mateusz Morawiecki told the BBC it was like what "Stalin did in 1933". In a wide-ranging interview, he also warned that "only Putin" would be "happy" with a UK-EU trade war over the Brexit deal for Northern Ireland. Ukraine's inability to export its grain has led to global food prices soaring. It has also raised the prospect of famines in the countries which depend on its exports. Mr Morawiecki said that this was "part of [Mr Putin's] strategy" in order to "create ripple effects in Northern Africa and huge migration waves". e said he expected an agreed EU oil embargo on Russia within days or weeks, with some carve outs for the Czechs, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria. And he called for the Nordstream One gas pipeline from Russia to Germany to be shut down this year. Mr Morawiecki said that "Russia is under real pressure" from existing sanctions but this would have its impact over the medium and long term. He suggested the Russian president was relying on rising energy and food prices draining support in the West for Ukraine, and politicians needed to explain and mitigate the impact on prices. "We have to explain to the public opinion what are the consequences of the war," he said. "Putin's main tool is intimidation, fear, illusions and propaganda." On the possibility of a trade war between the UK and EU, Mr Morawiecki said it would be "lose-lose". "Only Putin and our enemies will be happy with yet another disagreement between such close partner partners as the United Kingdom and the European Union," he said. He said there was room for compromise between Brussels and London and he was trying "to calm down the situation between France and the United Kingdom as much as possible".

5-24-22 Covid-19 news: England and Wales omicron death toll similar to flu
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. During the recent surge of the milder omicron variant in England and Wales, covid-19 caused a similar number of deaths as flu and pneumonia in the years before the pandemic emerged. Covid-19 caused a similar number of deaths in England and Wales over the past winter as flu and pneumonia in previous years, according to an analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In January 2022, for instance, covid-19 was the underlying cause of 4100 deaths, while flu and pneumonia caused an average of 4328 deaths every January from 2016 to 2020, before the pandemic took hold. “In the latest winter, the number of deaths with covid-19 as the underlying cause has fallen more in line with those due to flu and pneumonia in pre-coronavirus pandemic years,” says the ONS report. Flu and pneumonia deaths are generally classed together as flu often causes lung damage that leads to bacterial pneumonia. In the past two years, flu and pneumonia caused far fewer deaths than normal, probably because of lockdowns and less social mixing between lockdowns, says the ONS. Flu is less easily passed on than the coronavirus, so social distancing reduced flu transmission even while covid-19 was spreading fast. Being vaccinated against covid-19 does reduce the severity of infection in people with cancer or a past cancer diagnosis, despite their immune systems being weakened from their disease or treatments, an analysis has found. People with cancer do experience a faster waning of immunity within 3 to 6 months, however, showing how important it is for them to get booster jabs, say the researchers, who looked at a cancer registry from England. More than half of people admitted to hospital with covid-19 have probable heart inflammation, known medically as myocarditis, two months after being discharged, a study has found.

5-24-22 Coronavirus: Argentine President Fernández pays 'fine' over lockdown party
Argentine President Alberto Fernández has made a large donation as part of a deal to end an investigation into a lockdown party he and his wife hosted. The couple came under investigation after photos emerged showing them having a birthday dinner attended by about a dozen people while lockdown measures were in force. At the time, public gatherings, including funerals, were banned. The photos caused outrage and caused the president's popularity to plummet. A judge agreed to the offer by the president and First Lady Fabiola Yáñez to donate three million pesos ($25,000; £20,000) in exchange for the case against them to be dropped. Prosecutors had stipulated that the amount donated should be the equivalent of a respiratory machine and a stay in intensive care in hospital. The money will go to a vaccine research institute. The scandal dubbed "Olivosgate" in reference to the president's official residence in Buenos Aires, where the dinner took place, broke in August 2021. Photos leaked to the press showed a smiling president and his wife with about 10 guests standing around a long table celebrating the First Lady's birthday. No one is wearing masks and the remnants of the dinner, including a cake, can still be seen on the table. It soon transpired that the photo had been taken in July 2020, when mandatory lockdown measures were in full force in the capital, Buenos Aires. Under the lockdown decree which the president himself had signed, group gatherings, including church services, were banned. Residents were told to leave their homes only "for essential reasons" and to keep at least 1.5m apart. Only those whose work was deemed essential were allowed to travel to their places of work and public transport was restricted. The leaked photo triggered an investigation into whether the president and his wife had breached health protocols.

5-24-22 Legalised cannabis in Canada and US hasn’t killed illegal market
Even when cannabis is legalised, some users still prefer to stick with their usual illegal sources, which can be cheaper and easier to access. Some cannabis users continue to buy the drug from illegal sources for years after it is possible to purchase it from regulated, legal shops, because the illegal sources can be cheaper or easier to access, a survey in Canada and the US has found. The findings suggest that policy-makers who want to wipe out the cannabis black market need to make sure that new legal sources are competitively priced and widely available. Cannabis has recently become legal for recreational use in several countries including Canada, Mexico and South Africa as well as in 18 US states. Advocates of legalisation say it is less risky for users to buy cannabis from regulated shops because their cannabis products are safer than those from illegal dealers, with better dose labelling and quality-control measures, and the shops are less likely to sell to minors. But not all users choose to buy from the regulated shops. Canada, for instance, legalised cannabis in 2018, but by 2020, about half of all cannabis used in the country was still being obtained illegally. The new survey, of nearly 12,000 cannabis users in Canada and the US, found that price was the most common reason for buying illegal weed, cited by about 35 per cent of users in Canada and 27 per cent in the US. Convenience was the second commonest factor, cited by 17 to 20 per cent of respondents across both countries. The survey was carried out in 2019 and 2020. In 2020, the average price of legal cannabis in Canada was $8.04 a gram, compared with $6.45 for illegal weed, but the price gap has been narrowing since 2018 and the prices in 2021 were $6.63 and $5.52, respectively, according to a separate study.

5-24-22 UK visa for top talent excludes graduates of African universities
The High Potential Individual visa is intended to attract graduates from around the world to work in the UK, but its criteria excludes anyone who studied at a university in Africa. A new UK visa aimed at attracting the best graduates from across the world risks excluding talent from African countries, scientists and policy-makers have warned. The High Potential Individual visa, due to be launched by the UK Home Office on 30 May, is aimed at people who have graduated in the past five years from one of what are often regarded as the world’s top universities. People with a recent undergraduate degree or PhD from one of these universities will be able to move to the UK for up to three years without needing to have a job lined up beforehand. Typical UK visas for foreign researchers require a pre-existing job offer, a fellowship, certain research grants or that the individual is a notable prize-winner. The Home Office has produced a list of foreign universities it considers to be the best in the world by compiling institutions that appear in the top 50 at least twice across three specified global university league tables. The resulting list includes no universities in African nations, effectively excluding anyone who has studied in Africa from the scheme. “These ratings are based on criteria that favour universities which have been around for hundreds of years and have access to a lot of funding,” says Amina Ahmed El-Imam at the University of Ilorin in Nigeria. “As someone from Nigeria who did their PhD in Britain, it’s heartbreaking to see that there are still processes being put in place that inadvertently exclude Africans,” she says. “Does this visa mean that there are no individual graduates from African universities with high potential?”

5-24-22 Would the U.S. really defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion?
Why the U.S. policy of 'strategic ambiguity' might not be that ambiguous. President Biden has created controversy on his trip to Asia. On Sunday, he told a news conference that he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan from an attack by China. "That's the commitment we made," Biden told reporters. Taiwan's foreign ministry thanked Biden for his public comments, while Beijing responded angrily: "No one should underestimate the strong determination, firm will, and strong ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and do not stand against the 1.4 billion Chinese people." Why did Biden's remarks create such a fuss? The two are governed as separate countries, under different regimes, but China considers Taiwan a renegade province: Chang Kai-shek and his army fled to the island after Mao Zedong and the Communist Party won control of mainland China in 1949. The two have been at odds ever since. "Taiwan has been governed independently of China since 1949, but Beijing views the island as part of its territory," Lindsay Maizland writes for the Council on Foreign Relations. "Beijing has vowed to eventually 'unify' Taiwan with the mainland, using force if necessary." There has occasionally been talk of peaceful reunification, particularly during the 1980s. "China put forward a formula, known as 'one country, two systems', under which Taiwan would be given significant autonomy if it accepted Chinese reunification," the BBC says in its explainer. But after Taiwan elected a president who talked about "independence" for the island, China in 2004 "passed a so-called anti-secession law, stating China's right to use 'non-peaceful means' against Taiwan if it tried to 'secede' from China." The relationship between the two remains troubled. An invasion of Taiwan "has been considered by Chinese military planners for decades," says Alex Gatopoulos at Al Jazeera, "but only under President Xi Jinping have observers worried this might be increasingly likely." In recent months "aggressive patrolling and overflights of Taiwanese airspace by aircraft from the Chinese air force have added a sense of urgency that this could very well happen in the near future." American officials don't expect that to happen soon, however. National Intelligence Director Avril Haines recently told a Senate committee that "China isn't yet prepared to successfully invade Taiwan and probably won't try it soon in the belief that the U.S. is 'distracted' by the Ukraine war," John A. Tirpak writes for Air Force Magazine. Instead U.S. officials believe 2027 "is the point at which the U.S. thinks China believes it could prevail" in an invasion. Officially, we don't know. The United States has pursued a policy of "strategic ambiguity" on Taiwan — trying not to tip its hand on whether or not it would help defend the island from a Chinese invasion. American law "states that the United States will maintain the capacity to defend Taiwan but does not state whether or not the United States would actually militarily intervene," David Gitter says at The Diplomat. The idea is to preserve the status quo without starting a war: Being vague allows the U.S. "to protect its normalized relations with China … while still threatening to quash a Chinese cross-strait attack" and it also helps "prevent Taiwan's more independence-leaning leaders from assuming they had a blank check from Washington to declare de jure independence." (Webmasters Comment: The US would LOSE! The Chinese have weapons we cannot match!)

5-23-22 Pfizer says 3rd dose of its vaccine is effective in kids under 5
A three-dose regimen of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine produces a strong immune response in kids under five, the company says. Pfizer on Monday said a trial examining a third dose of its vaccine in young kids found the vaccine's efficacy to be 80.3 percent in children between six months and under five years old. Children in the trial received a third shot, a smaller dose than adults receive, two months after the second dose. There were over 1,600 participants in the trial. "These topline safety, immunogenicity and efficacy data are encouraging, and we look forward to soon completing our submissions to regulators globally with the hope of making this vaccine available to younger children as quickly as possible, subject to regulatory authorization," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said. BioNTech founder Ugur Sahin also said the trial suggests the vaccine "provides young children with a high level of protection against the recent COVID-19 strains," and the companies plan to finish submitting data to the Food and Drug Administration this week. The FDA is expected to evaluate whether to authorize a vaccine for kids under five in June.

5-23-22 Jeff Merkley of Oregon becomes the 32nd senator to test positive for COVID
With the announcement Monday that Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) has tested positive for COVID-19, nearly one-third of U.S. Senators have now contracted the virus, according to Bloomberg. The vaxxed and boosted Merkley said his symptoms are "mild" and urged "all Oregonians and Americans to take advantage of available vaccines and boosters to stay safe." According to GovTrack, 31 other senators — including 16 Republicans and 14 Democrats — have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Several others quarantined after being exposed to the virus. Republican Sens. Shelly Capito (W.Va.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), John Hoeven (N.D.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), Mike Lee (Utah), Kelly Loeffler (Ga.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), Rick Scott (Fla.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), and Roger Wicker (Miss.) have all had confirmed cases of COVID. Among Democrats, Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Bob Casey (Penn.), Chris Coons (Dela.), John Hickenlooper (Colo.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Alex Padilla (Calif.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Warner (Va.), Raphael Warnock (Ga.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.) have tested positive for the virus or its antibodies. Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine) has also tested positive for COVID. Merkley's diagnosis brings the total to 32 — which makes 16 from each party if you count King as a Democrat. However, the number of current senators who've had the virus is 31, since Loeffler is no longer a senator.

5-23-22 Russian diplomat resigns over war in Ukraine: 'So ashamed'
Boris Bondarev, a Russian diplomat at the United Nations office in Geneva, resigned from his post on Monday in protest of the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine. "For 20 years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on Feb. 24 of this year," Bondarev wrote in his resignation message, which was also shared on LinkedIn. "The aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine and in fact against the entire Western world is not only a crime against the Ukrainian people but also, perhaps, the most serious crime against the people of Russia, with a bold letter Z crossing out all hopes and prospects for a prosperous free society in our country," Bondarev continued. The statement is one of the most powerful Kremlin critiques to come from a Russian diplomat or official since the war began, The Washington Post notes. Those at the helm of the invasion just want to "remain in power forever," Bondarev added, before criticizing Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who he said went from a respected individual to "a person who constantly broadcasts conflicting statements and threatens the world." "The Ministry has become my home and family," the now ex-diplomat concluded. "But I simply cannot any longer share in this bloody, witless and absolutely needless ignominy. Job offers are welcome …"

5-23-22 Southern Baptist leaders covered up sexual abuse for decades, re-traumatizing victims, report finds
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention released a landmark 288-page report Sunday that outlined two decades of "resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility" toward people who came forward with allegations of sexual abuse in the largest U.S. Protestant denomination. The report was compiled by Guidepost Solutions, an independent organization contracted by the SBC's executive committee. The seven-month investigation that a few executive committee leaders and the SBC's law firm "largely controlled the EC's response to these reports of abuse," Guidepost said in its reports. "Almost always the internal focus was on protecting the SBC from legal liability and not on caring for survivors or creating any plan to prevent sexual abuse within SBC churches." This stonewalling re-traumatized people sexually abused by pastors and other church leaders, the report found. The report singled out a handful of Southern Baptist leaders, notably August "Augie" Boto, a top member of the executive committee who kept a list of hundreds of abusers at Southern Baptist churches, including some active ministers, even while the executive committee told Southern Baptists a database of accused clergy would violate SBC policy. In one of the report's most shocking revelations, Georgia pastor Johnny Hunt is credibly accused of sexually assaulting the wife of a fellow pastor during a 2010 Florida beach vacation, just a month after he finished his two-year term as SBC president. Hunt denied assaulting the woman to investigators and on Twitter, but the investigators deemed him not credible; he resigned from the SBC's North American Mission Board on May 13. The Southern Baptists have wrestled with how to handle sexual abuse allegations in its churches for years before the Houston Chronicle documented hundreds of such cases in 2019. "The depths of wickedness and inhumanity in this report are breathtaking," said Russell Moore, a top theologian who left the SBC over its mishandling of sexual abuse. "As dark a view as I had of the SBC executive committee, the investigation uncovers a reality far more evil and systemic than I imagined it could be." Executive committee board chairman Rolland Slade and interim CEO Willie McLaurin called the report "the beginning of a season of listening, lamenting, and learning how to address sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention," adding that "there are no shortcuts" to fixing the problem. The report will be addressed at an executive committee meeting Tuesday and the annual SBC convention next month.

5-23-22 Ukraine war: Russian assault on key Donbas city intensifies
Russian forces in eastern Ukraine are intensifying attacks on a key city as they seek to seize the Donbas region. Severodonetsk, the largest city under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province, has come under intense artillery and missile fire from Moscow's forces. On Sunday, local officials said Russian troops were repelled after trying to enter the city from four directions. It comes as Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky urged world leaders to end all trade with Russia. Speaking via video link at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Zelensky called for "maximum sanctions" to be imposed on Moscow, saying frozen Russian funds should be used to rebuild Ukrainian cities destroyed by the war. "There has to be a precedent for punishing the aggressor," Mr Zelensky said. "If the aggressor loses everything then it definitely deprives him of any motivation to start a war." Meanwhile, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai accused Moscow of adopting a "scorched-earth approach" in its efforts to capture the city of Severodonetsk. "Every day they are trying to break the line of defence," Mr Gaidai said. "They are simply systematically destroying the city. Everywhere is being shelled constantly." The city of 100,000 people sits on a strategic position on the Donets River, with UK defence officials saying it has likely become one of Russia's "immediate tactical priorities". Mr Gaidai warned that Russian forces have destroyed all but one bridge across the Donets river and said that the city is at risk of being cut off. He also accused Russian tanks of firing on residential buildings during fighting in the city and of seeking to erase Severodonetsk "from the face of the earth". Ukraine's human right's ombudsman, Lyudmyla Denisova, said the city risks suffering the same fate as Mariupol - being surrounded and pounded into submission. "The enemy threw all his forces to storm Severodonetsk, on the outskirts of which there are constant battles," Ms Denisova wrote on Telegram.

5-23-22 Biden vows to defend Taiwan in apparent US policy shift
US President Joe Biden has warned China is "flirting with danger" over Taiwan, and vowed to intervene militarily to protect the island if it is attacked. Speaking in Japan, he appeared to contradict long-standing US policy in the region, although the White House insisted there had been no departure. Mr Biden drew a parallel between Taiwan and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, prompting an angry rebuke from Beijing. He is on his first tour of Asia as US president, visiting regional allies. Mr Biden prefaced his remarks saying US policy toward Taiwan "has not changed". But his comments in Tokyo are the second time in recent months he has unequivocally stated the US would defend Taiwan if China attacked, in what has been seen as a change in tone. The US has previously been vague on what it would do in such a situation. China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be re-unified with the mainland. Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin insisted: "Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory... there's no room for compromise or concession. "The Taiwan question and the Ukraine issue are fundamentally different. To compare those two is absurd. We once again urge the US to abide by the One China principle." The US has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but sells arms to it as part of its Taiwan Relations Act, which states that the US must provide the island with the means to defend itself. At the same time, it maintains formal ties with China and also diplomatically acknowledges China's position that there is only one Chinese government. Mr Biden was answering questions in Tokyo during a press conference with Japanese PM Fumio Kishida, when a journalist asked them about the defence of Taiwan. The US president began by directly linking the China-Taiwan situation to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. If there was a rapprochement eventually between Ukraine and Russia, and sanctions were not sustained, "then what does this signal to China about the cost of attempting to take Taiwan by force?" he asked. "They are already flirting with danger right now by flying so close and all the manoeuvres that they are undertaking," Mr Biden said, referring to increasing reports of Chinese warplane incursions into Taiwan's self-declared air defence zone.

5-22-22 Analyst: Russian forces are 'bludgeoning their way through' Severodonetsk
The eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk is under near-constant shelling by Russia, as ground forces attempt to take over a key area in the Donbas region. Severodonetsk is in the Luhansk province, and military officials say if Russia can capture the city, they will have control of Luhansk. Matthew Schmidt, associate professor of national security and political science at the University of New Haven, told The Washington Post that Russian forces are "bludgeoning their way through" Severodonetsk, and "just pounding Ukrainians with artillery." Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, about 100,000 people lived in Severodonetsk. Regional police are urging civilians still in the city to leave, warning that it isn't safe to be in the area. On Saturday, Russian troops destroyed a bridge that connected Severodonetsk with the city of Lysychansk, making it harder for people to escape. "If they destroy one more bridge, then the city will be fully cut off, unfortunately," Serhiy Haidai, head of the Ukrainian military administration in Luhansk, said Sunday.

5-22-22 Ukraine rules out giving Russia land in ceasefire deal
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford, Lyse Doucet and James Waterhouse in Kyiv, Laura Bicker and Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood in Lviv, Caroline Davies in Odesa, and Steve Rosenberg in Moscow. The Ukrainian government says Kyiv would not agree a ceasefire deal with Moscow that involved giving away any territory. Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, said making concessions would result in Moscow starting an even larger, more bloody offensive in the longer term. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has told the Ukrainian parliament that only Ukraine has the right to determine its own future during a visit to Kyiv. Russian forces have continued their attacks on the eastern Donbas region following their capture of Mariupol. They are said to have made limited advances towards Severodonetsk – where it is thought they are planning a new siege. Russia has likely deployed 'terminator' tank support vehicles to the area as part of their offensive in the Donbas, according to the UK’s Ministry of Defence.

5-21-22 Russia claims to have captured Mariupol
Russia on Saturday claimed to have taken complete control of the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, potentially notching a huge victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin's ongoing offensive, The Associated Press reports. There was no immediate confirmation of the news from Ukraine. Russia's Defense Ministry said that a final 532 Ukrainian soldiers had been evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant and taken to Russian-controlled territory, per The Wall Street Journal. Overall, the weeks-long attack left thousands dead. At this point, Russia's presumed capture of the city is mostly symbolic, considering Moscow was already effectively in control of the area, military analysts said, per AP. Meanwhile, Russia has "intensified an offensive in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine," — Luhansk, specifically, Reuters reports. Russian-backed separatists already control much of the region, "but Moscow wants to seize the last remaining Ukrainian-held territory." Capturing both Luhansk and Donetsk would also allow Putin to declare victory, given the Kremlin's recent shift in objective, the Journal notes.

5-21-22 Biden plan to end US migrant expulsion policy blocked
A US judge has blocked plans by Joe Biden's administration to lift a policy allowing migrants to be swiftly expelled at the Mexico border over concerns about spreading Covid. District Judge Robert Summerhays granted an injunction to Republican state attorneys challenging the halting of checks known as Title 42. The policy, introduced by Donald Trump in 2020, was due to expire on 23 May. The US Department of Justice said it would appeal. Aimed at stopping virus spread in migrant holding facilities, Title 42 was twice extended by President Biden. More than 1.7 million people have been expelled under the policy. On Friday, Judge Summerhays in Lafayette, Louisiana, ruled that the policy would stay in place while a lawsuit by more than 20 states played out in court. He backed the states' argument that the Biden administration had failed to follow procedures requiring notification and time to gather public comment on the plans to end the policy. And the judge also said that states had made the case that they would suffer harm if the restrictions ended. The White House said it would comply with the ruling, but would also launch an appeal. "The authority to set public health policy nationally should rest with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), not with a single district court," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. Mr Biden had been under pressure from his Democratic Party to end the controversial order, with critics arguing that its public health benefits failed to outweigh harm to the rights of migrants. Title 42 allows US authorities to expel migrants seeking asylum without being given the chance to put forward their case. Children and some families are exempt. Though Mr Biden had pledged to reverse Trump-era immigration policies while in office, the CDC under his administration extended Title 42 in August 2021, and again in January, due to the spread of the Delta and Omicron variants, respectively.

5-21-22 Spain eases Covid entry rules for UK travellers
UK citizens who have not had a coronavirus jab can now travel to Spain by showing a negative PCR or antigen test on arrival. The Spanish government confirmed that non-vaccinated travellers from outside the EU can enter the country from Saturday. Fully vaccinated passengers will still need to show proof of vaccination. The UK removed all its remaining international Covid travel restrictions for entry on 18 March. This included passenger locator forms and tests for passengers who do not qualify as vaccinated. Other European countries followed suit, with Austria, Greece, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania, Sweden, Serbia, Slovenia and Slovakia no longer having any Covid travel restrictions for visitors. Previously, heightened restrictions meant UK travellers were only allowed to enter Spain with vaccine certification or proof of recovery from the virus. As the latest wave of that strain dissipated, countries across the world loosened their Covid travel restrictions to welcome visitors again. And on Saturday, Spanish tourism minister Reyes Maroto said the "new phase of the pandemic" meant the country was able to relax the rules by equating non-EU travellers with those of the EU and Schengen-associated countries. "This is excellent news, much awaited by the tourism sector," said Ms Maroto, adding: "Spain is becoming one of the most desired destinations in the world." From 21 May, all visitors entering Spain at air or sea borders, wherever they are travelling from, must provide one of the following three certificates, Vaccination certificate meeting the government's requirements, Certificate of recovery at least 11 days after testing positive. Spain accepts the UK's proof of Covid-19 vaccination record, either digitally, or as a printed download. PCR tests must be carried out in the 72 hours prior to departure to Spain or an antigen test in the 24 hours prior to departure. Proof of recovery certificates will be valid for 180 days from the date of the positive test. Children under the age of 12 are exempt from submitting any type of certificate.

5-21-22 Covid in North Korea: No response to US vaccine offer
President Joe Biden says North Korea has not responded to a US offer of Covid vaccines, as the country battles its first acknowledged outbreak. Nearly 2.5 million people have been sickened by "fever" in North Korea and it is under a nationwide lockdown, according to the country's state media. It is thought to be particularly vulnerable because it has little testing or vaccine supply. Mr Biden announced the offer at a press conference in South Korea. "We've offered vaccines, not only to North Korea but to China as well, and we're prepared to do that immediately," Mr Biden said in a joint appearance with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol. "We've got no response," he added. The isolated regime of North Korea has previously turned down offers of vaccines from Covax, the global vaccine-sharing scheme, and from South Korea, as well as reportedly declining other offers. Instead it claimed to have successfully kept Covid out of the country by sealing its borders, although experts believe the virus has been present there for some time. State media has recommended remedies such as herbal tea, gargling salt-water and taking painkillers such as ibuprofen, while the country's leader, Kim Jong-un, has accused officials of bungling the distribution of national medicine reserves. China is also struggling to control a wave of infections from the highly transmissible Omicron variant, with tens of millions of people under some form of lockdown. At the news conference in the South Korean capital, Seoul, President Biden said he was willing to meet Mr Kim under the right circumstances. "It would depend on whether he was sincere and whether he was serious," Mr Biden said. His predecessor, Donald Trump, held a historic summit with Mr Kim in Singapore in 2018 and became the first US president to set foot in North Korea the following year. But two years ago, Mr Kim questioned whether there was any need to continue "holding hands" with the US.

5-21-22 Mariupol: Russia declares complete victory at Azovstal plant
Russia has declared victory in its months-long battle to conquer the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. The last fighters defending the city's Azovstal steel plant have now surrendered, Moscow officials said. For months the troops had been holed up in the huge complex, preventing Russia from establishing complete control over the city. Friday's evacuation marks the end of the most destructive siege of the war, with Mariupol now in complete ruins. The city and its steel plant are now "completely liberated" after 531 Ukrainian troops left the site, the Russian defence ministry said. "The underground facilities of the enterprise, where the militants were hiding, came under the full control of the Russian armed forces," it added in a statement. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the site's last remaining defenders had been given permission to leave. "Today the boys received a clear signal from the military command that they can get out and save their lives," he told a Ukrainian television channel earlier on Friday. For weeks the Azovstal site had been completely encircled. Russian forces blocked all humanitarian aid from entering, bombarded the site from the air and demanded its remaining defenders put down their weapons. Many of those trapped inside were civilians, including women, children and elderly people. Earlier this month they were completely evacuated following painstaking negotiations coordinated by the UN and Red Cross that lasted for weeks. But the continued refusal of the site's Ukrainian defenders to surrender meant Russia was unable to command complete control over the strategic port city. For many Ukrainians, it also turned the Azovstal defenders into national heroes who symbolised the country's stubborn resistance. The hundreds of soldiers holed up inside included marines, the National Guard (including the Azov regiment), border guards, police and territorial defence units. Camped out with diminishing food supplies and no water, they lived for weeks in underground bunkers and tunnels without seeing daylight.

5-20-22 Wells Fargo under fire after reportedly staging job interviews for 'diverse' candidates
Wells Fargo, the nation's largest mortgage lender, is under fire after staging job interviews for minority candidates, The New York Times reports. Former Wells Fargo executive Joe Bruno said he was fired after complaining about "fake interviews," which would be held with "diverse" candidates for positions that were already promised to someone else. Bruno and six other current and former employees say they were told to set up interviews for "diverse" candidates, although management had no intentions of actually hiring the individuals. "The sham interviews were instead designed to make the bank appear as if it were striving to diversify its workforce so that it wouldn't land in hot water with government regulators," the New York Post writes. A spokesperson for the bank said all employees were required to follow their hiring procedures, and "do not tolerate" the behavior described. The new report could be another blow to Wells Fargo's reputation after the bank suffered a significant hit when it was fined in 2020 for creating fraudulent accounts.

5-20-22 Group of 7 pledges almost $20B in aid for Ukraine
The Group of 7 economic powers on Friday agreed to a $19.8 billion economic aid package for Ukraine, which is continuing to defend itself against a ruthless Russian-led invasion, The New York Times reports. The group's financial backing will come in a mix of grants and loans, per the Times. The International Monetary Fund has said Ukraine needs about $5 billion per month to maintain basic government services. "We will continue to stand by Ukraine throughout this war and beyond and are prepared to do more as needed," read a statement from the G7's finance ministers, who also vowed Friday to keep markets open, monitor inflation, and tackle rising global food and energy costs. The $19.8 billion is notably meant to keep the Ukraine government functioning, and able to provide basic services for its citizens. The money is "separate from efforts to provide the country with weapons and humanitarian aid," notes The Associated Press. On Thursday, the U.S. Senate easily passed a different $40 billion Ukraine aid package; a portion of that funding is included in the G7 aid, per AP.

5-20-22 Cyber security: Global food supply chain at risk from malicious hackers
Modern "smart" farm machinery is vulnerable to malicious hackers, leaving global supply chains exposed to risk, experts are warning. It is feared hackers could exploit flaws in agricultural hardware used to plant and harvest crops. Agricultural manufacturing giant John Deere says it is now working to fix any weak spots in its software. A recent University of Cambridge report said automatic crop sprayers, drones and robotic harvesters could be hacked. The UK government and the FBI have warned that the threat of cyber-attacks is growing. John Deere said protecting customers, their machines and their data was a "top priority". Smart technology is increasingly being used to make farms more efficient and productive - for example, until now the labour-intensive harvesting of delicate food crops such as asparagus has been beyond the reach of machines. The latest generation of agricultural robots use artificial intelligence, minimising human involvement. They may help to plug a labour shortage or increase yield, but fear of the inherent security risk is growing, adding to concern over food-supply chains already threatened by the war in Ukraine and Covid. Chris Chavasse, the co-founder of Muddy Machines, which is trialling an autonomous asparagus-harvesting robot called Sprout, said: "There is a real risk that people anywhere in the world could try and take control of these machines," he said. "to get them to do whatever those people want, or just prevent them from operating." He said potentially someone could drive Sprout into a hedge or a ditch, or prevent it from working at all, so they are working with security researchers to address any vulnerabilities. Asparagus farming is unlikely to be a prime target, but Mr Chavasse believes malicious hackers could threaten "mission critical" agricultural infrastructure. Even the largest companies aren't safe from cyber gangs. Some use ransomware: malicious code that can encrypt data and lock systems.

5-20-22 Ukraine says giant Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant can't supply Russia
Ukraine has dismissed as "wishful thinking" Russia's plan to connect a giant Ukrainian nuclear power station to the Russian electricity grid. Russian troops are occupying the sprawling Zaporizhzhia plant by the Dnieper River in southern Ukraine. It is Europe's biggest nuclear plant. The Ukrainian staff are still operating it, but Russia has sent its own nuclear experts to monitor their work. Russia's deputy prime minister has vowed to sell power from it to Ukraine. Marat Khusnullin said Russia would integrate the Zaporizhzhia plant with Russia's energy system if Kyiv refused to pay for the plant's electricity. Visiting Russian-occupied southern Ukraine on Wednesday he said "if the Ukrainian energy system is ready to receive [electricity] and pay for it, then we'll work, but if not - then the plant will work for Russia". However a spokesman for Ukraine's state nuclear agency Energoatom said it would take years to link the plant to Russia. "The plant only works in Ukraine's energy grid," Leonid Oliynyk told the BBC. "The Russians can build a power line theoretically, but it will take a long time, like their Crimean bridge - several years," he said, referring to the bridge connecting Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, to Russian territory. "Now the power station is working at a minimum level, but Kyiv remains in charge, all the power lines are controlled by Ukraine. The Russian statement is wishful thinking," Mr Oliynyk added. Normally the plant generates more than half of Ukraine's nuclear power and 20% of the country's total electricity supply. But now just two of its six reactors are operating. Ukrainian forces still control the city of Zaporizhzhia, on the opposite bank of the Dnieper. The nuclear power plant is in Enerhodar, a town of nearly 53,000 built in Soviet times to house the nuclear workers.

5-20-22 Ukraine war: US fully backs Sweden and Finland Nato bids, Biden says
Sweden and Finland have the "full, total and complete backing" of the US in their decision to apply for Nato membership, President Joe Biden says. Both countries submitted their applications to be part of the Western defence alliance this week, marking a major shift in European geopolitics. To join the alliance, the two nations need the support of all 30 Nato member states. But the move by the Nordic nations has been opposed by Turkey. Speaking alongside Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the White House on Thursday, Mr Biden called Sweden and Finland's applications "a watershed moment in European security". "New members joining Nato is not a threat to any nation," he said. The president added that having two new members in the "high north" would "enhance the security of our allies and deepen our security co-operation across the board". Russia has repeatedly said it sees Nato as a threat and has warned of "consequences" if the block proceeds with its expansion plans. Turkey has accused both Sweden and Finland of hosting suspected militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a group it views as a terrorist organisation. However, both Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and British Defence Minister Ben Wallace have expressed confidence that these concerns will eventually be addressed. Mr Biden's comments came as the US Senate voted to approve a new $40bn (£32bn) bill to provide military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. It is the biggest emergency aid package so far for Ukraine. The bill - which was passed by the House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support on 10 May - was expected to be passed earlier this week, but was blocked by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul over a dispute about spending oversight. But the Republican's Senate leader Mitch McConnell dismissed these concerns and told reporters that Congress had a "moral responsibility" to support "a sovereign democracy's self-defence".

5-20-22 Russia troops advancing in Luhansk as east Ukraine under fire
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford, Lyse Doucet and James Waterhouse in Kyiv, Laura Bicker and Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood in Lviv, Caroline Davies in Odesa, and Steve Rosenberg in Moscow. Ukraine's military says Russia's army is advancing in the areas of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, in the eastern region of Luhansk. It says Russia has intensified its bombardment of the wider Donbas area, using heavy firepower to damage defences around the city of Donetsk. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russian forces have "completely destroyed" Donbas, saying: "It is hell there". Thirteen civilians have died in Russian shelling in the Luhansk region in recent days, the governor there says. Meanwhile, US senators have approved nearly $40bn (£32bn) in aid for Ukraine - the largest package of support since Russia invaded. President Joe Biden says Finland and Sweden have his "complete backing" in their bids for Nato membership. UK PM Boris Johnson has accused Russia of a "craven" blockade of Ukrainian grain exports.

5-20-22 Covid-19 news: UK set to offer autumn boosters to the most vulnerable
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. The UK vaccine advisory group has recommended that over-65s, people in care homes, frontline health and social care workers, and clinically vulnerable people aged 16 to 64 be offered a booster jab this autumn. “Last year’s autumn booster vaccination programme provided excellent protection against severe covid-19, including against the omicron variant,” Wei Shen Lim at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said in a statement, adding the recommendation will allow the NHS and care homes to “start the necessary operational planning” to deliver the jabs. Across the UK, a spring booster is already available to over-75s, care home residents and people aged 12 and over with suppressed immune systems. The Scottish, English and Welsh governments have confirmed they will follow this advice, while Northern Ireland is yet to announce its plans, according to a BBC report. Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in England in April, accounting for 6.1 per cent of all fatalities, according to the Office for National Statistics. One month earlier, covid-19 was the sixth leading cause of death. As of 19 May, North Korea had reported 2.24 million cases of “fever” since late April. Officials have not specified this is due to covid-19, however, fever is a key symptom of the infection. The country imposed a national lockdown earlier this month after reporting its first covid-19 case on 12 May. Covid-19 testing is limited and there is no official record of any of North Korea’s 25-million-strong-population being vaccinated.

5-20-22 North Korea: Fighting Covid with traditional medicine
North Korea is grappling with the spread of Covid in an unvaccinated population, without access to effective anti-viral drugs. In early 2020, the country sealed its borders to try to insulate itself from the pandemic. Its leadership has so far rejected outside medical support. We've been monitoring state media, which is recommending various traditional treatments to deal with what is referred to as "fever". For those not seriously ill, ruling-party newspaper Rodong Sinmun recommended remedies including ginger or honeysuckle tea and a willow-leaf drink. Hot drinks might soothe some Covid symptoms, such as a sore throat or cough, and help hydration when patients are losing more fluid than normal. Ginger and willow leaf may also relieve inflammation and reduce pain. But they are not a treatment for the virus itself. State media recently interviewed a couple who recommended gargling with salt water morning and night. A "thousand of tonnes of salt" had been sent to Pyongyang to make an "antiseptic solution", the state news agency reported. Some studies suggest gargling and nasal rinses with salt water combat viruses that cause the common cold. But there is little evidence they slow the spread of Covid. Mouthwash could kill the virus in the lab, a study found. But it has not convincingly been shown to help in humans. Covid is mainly caught by inhaling tiny droplets in the air via the nose as well as the mouth, so gargling attacks only one point of entry. And once the virus has entered, it replicates and spreads deep into the organs, where no amount of gargling can reach. State television has advised patients to use painkillers such as ibuprofen as well as amoxicillin and other antibiotics. Ibuprofen (and paracetamol) can bring down a temperature and ease symptoms such as headache or sore throat. But they will not clear the virus or prevent it developing. Antibiotics, meant for bacterial infections not viruses, are not recommended. And using antibiotics unnecessarily risks developing resistant bugs. Laboratory research suggests some may slow the spread of some viruses, including Covid.

5-20-22 Canada to ban China's Huawei and ZTE from its 5G networks
Canada says it will ban two of China's biggest telecoms equipment makers from working on its 5G phone networks. The restrictions against Huawei and ZTE were announced by the country's industry minister on Thursday. Francois-Philippe Champagne says the move will improve Canada's mobile internet services and "protect the safety and security of Canadians". But Huawei Canada said it was "disappointed" by the decision, which it said was "political". "This is an unfortunate political decision that has nothing to do with cyber security or any of the technologies in question," a statement said. Several nations - including the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand - have already put restrictions on the firms. The four countries, along with Canada, make up an intelligence-sharing arrangement named "Five Eyes". It evolved during the Cold War as a mechanism for monitoring the Soviet Union and sharing classified information. Canada's announcement was widely expected, as its allies had already barred Huawei and ZTE from their own high-speed networks. Speaking to reporters in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, Mr Champagne said the decision came after "a full review by our security agencies and consultation with our closest allies". "Let me be very clear: We will always protect the safety and security of Canadians and will take any actions necessary to safeguard our telecommunication infrastructure," he added. "In a 5G world, at a time where we rely more and more in our daily lives [on] our network, this is the right decision." A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Ottawa told the Reuters news agency that Beijing sees the security concerns raised by Canada as a "pretext for political manipulation". The spokesperson for China also accused Canada of working with the US to suppress Chinese companies.

5-20-22 Argentina found guilty of massacre of Qom and Moqoit people
A landmark criminal trial in Argentina has found the state guilty of the massacre of more than 400 indigenous people nearly a century ago. The Qom and Moqoit communities had been protesting inhumane living and working conditions on a cotton plantation when authorities shot them dead in 1924. Until now, no responsibility had ever been officially acknowledged. A judge has now ordered historical reparations to be awarded to the communities. The Qom and Moqoit peoples in Argentina's northern Chaco region were living partly-enslaved on a plantation settled by immigrant farmers from Europe. They were underfed, paid with vouchers, taxed for the cotton they harvested and were mostly denied the freedom of movement, the Buenos Aires Times reports, citing court documents. According to survivor accounts, many children and elderly people died in the massacre, AFP reports. And those who were wounded and could not escape were killed "in the cruellest form possible with mutilations and burials in common graves," Judge Zunilda Niremperger said. A federal judge had previously ruled the mass killings a crime against humanity, but no criminal trial had ever been held because the defendants had already died. But on Thursday, after a month of hearings, a guilty verdict was delivered. "The massacre provoked grave consequences, [those people] suffered the trauma of terror and were uprooted with the loss of their language and their culture," Judge Niremperger is quoted as saying in the Buenos Aires Times. The reparations ordered by the judge include the massacre being added to Argentina's school syllabus and continuing forensic efforts to find the victims' remains. No financial reparations were sought. Reacting to the ruling, Raquel Esquivel, a descendant of the Qom community, told AFP it was high time that "indigenous voices are heard" and that "the truth be told". The BBC's South America correspondent Katy Watson said this is the first trial of its kind in Latin America, and could pave the way for more cases which recognise crimes committed against indigenous communities across the region.

5-19-22 Senate passes $40 billion Ukraine aid package
The U.S. Senate has easily passed a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine. The Senate passed the package on Thursday in a 86-11 vote after it was previously approved in the House of Representatives. It now heads to President Biden's desk, and he's set to sign it. The president originally asked for $33 billion in Ukraine aid, and he recently urged Congress to pass the bill "immediately, and get it to my desk in the next few days." The legislation includes $9 billion to restock U.S. equipment being sent to the country amid its war with Russia, according to CNN. Passage of the package was delayed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who unsuccessfully pushed for it to include language creating an inspector general position that would oversee the Ukraine spending, NBC News reports. Eleven Republican senators voted against passing the bill, including Paul and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). "Help is on the way, really significant help," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) said, per the AP. "Help that could make sure that the Ukrainians are victorious."

5-18-22 CDC: With COVID-19 infections rising, a third of U.S. should consider indoor masks
COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are on the rise in the United States, and about a third of the population is living in spots that are considered at higher risk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday. The higher risk areas are primarily in the Northeastern U.S. and Midwest, and people there should consider wearing masks indoors and making sure they get their boosters, officials said. The number of COVID-19 cases has gone up in the past five weeks, with a 26 percent increase nationally in the last week, and hospitalizations were up 19 percent in the last week. This is fueled by the Omicron subvariant. During a news briefing at the White House, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters people who don't live in these higher risk places should still stay informed about case levels. "Prior increases of infections, in different waves of infection, have demonstrated that this travels across the country," she said. White House COVID-19 coordinator Ashish Jha told The Associated Press last week that the U.S. will run out of COVID-19 treatments in the winter unless Congress quickly approves new funding to buy more. A lack of access to vaccines and treatments would lead to "unnecessary loss of life," Jha said, adding that the U.S. is already behind other countries in getting supplies of the next-generation of COVID-19 vaccines.

5-19-22 Why do mass shootings like the Buffalo massacre keep happening?
The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web. Investigators believe the 18-year-old arrested for the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, became radicalized as a white supremacist after he got bored during the pandemic and immersed himself in online chatrooms full of memes and infographics saying the white race was being pushed aside by minorities. The suspect, Payton Gendron, allegedly posted a 180-page manifesto prior to his killing spree that refers to "Great Replacement Theory," the idea that white people are being supplanted by Jews and people of color. Police say Gendron, armed with a legally obtained AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle, killed 10 people and wounded three others — almost all of them Black — in the Tops Friendly Market. He drove 200 miles from home to case the market in March, looking for a location where he could kill as many Black people as possible. The attacker livestreamed the shooting spree to Twitch, a platform popular among young gamers, but otherwise appeared to have had no contact with anyone about the attack, making him the latest in a long line of so-called lone-wolf domestic terrorists targeting racial or religious minorities. If these attackers really act alone, why do follow such a familiar script? Payton Gendron doesn't appear to be part of an organized white-supremacist group, says Juliette Kayyem at The Atlantic, but he definitely "wasn't alone." "His mission was effective because he was supported by an apparatus that provided the ideology and means for the hunt." He livestreamed his killing spree to an online community that had fed his "hate and radicalization." His racist manifesto showed that he "had his people. They were there for him." As police investigate his life and motives, they are likely to find that this "lone wolf" isn't "that special. He's just part of a pack." This guy's "repugnant views are not confined to an obscure corner of the internet," says Max Boot in The Washington Post. "They have become mainstream within the Republican Party." Tucker Carlson, among others at conservative Fox News, has flat-out said the Democratic Party wants open borders because it "is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World." Many GOP politicians have "openly espoused the 'great replacement' theory too." Ideas have consequences. Nobody's denying there's a "racist subculture" in America that is spreading hate through social media, says The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. But that's not the "most significant common denominator" in this country's mass shootings. Mental illness is. Gendron had spoken at his high school of "wanting to go on a shooting spree," and "fits the profile of other young men who become mass shooters at an age when mental illness often strikes." Shame on the left for trying to exploit this tragedy, and this killer's mental illness, to make a partisan smear on the right. Politicians and pundits are morally obligated to denounce "white replacement theory." But it would be nice if, for once, the left would look at the problem instead of trying to demonize Republicans when there's a mass shooting.

5-19-22 Buffalo shooting: NY probes 'bone-chilling' social media role
New York state's top prosecutor has launched an investigation into the role social media companies played in Saturday's mass shooting in Buffalo. The inquiry will look at the extent that social platforms were "used to stream, promote, or plan the event", the attorney general's office said. The state's governor has argued tech firms share some blame for the attack. Critics say the companies were too slow to remove the alleged gunman's violent posts. Announcing the investigation on Wednesday, Attorney General Letitia James said: "The terror attack in Buffalo has once again revealed the depths and danger of the online forums that spread and promote hate." The suspect, who is white, allegedly posted a manifesto on Google and livestreamed the fatal shooting of 10 people at a supermarket in a predominantly black neighbourhood on Twitch, a company owned by Amazon. "The fact that an individual can post detailed plans to commit such an act of hate without consequence, and then stream it for the world to see is bone-chilling and unfathomable," Ms James said. The stream was taken down less than two minutes after the violence began, Twitch said, but was duplicated on other streaming sites despite the removal. Facebook did not remove a link to the copied video for more than 10 hours, by which time it had been shared more than 46,000 times on the platform. A copy uploaded elsewhere was viewed more than three million times before being taken down. Ms James said the investigation would also target online forums 4chan, 8chan, and Discord where the gunman reportedly posted about his plans. The inquiry was ordered by Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul, who also directed the New York State Police to create a unit dedicated to monitoring social media for extremist threats. She is also asking the state legislature to pass tougher gun control measures. Her Republican critics in the state assembly have condemned her for not doing more to prevent mass shootings ahead of the attack. The US Department of Justice is investigating the attack as a hate crime.

5-19-22 Prominent Russian military analyst slams Ukraine invasion on state TV, backpedals 2 days later
Viewers of Russian state TV's flagship 60 Minutes program were treated Monday to an unusual spectacle: a prominent Russian military analyst, former Col. Mikhail Khodarenok, sharply criticizing Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. "In many ways, it's a case of 'I told you so' from Mr. Khodarenok," who wrote in February that despite what the "enthusiastic hawks and hasty cuckoos" claim, "an armed conflict with Ukraine is not in Russia's national interests," BBC News reports. Khodarenok was right, then and now, retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling told CNN on Tuesday. "Criticism in print is one thing," BBC News notes. "But on TV — to an audience of millions — that is another level completely. The Kremlin has gone out of its way to control the informational landscape," and "it is rare to hear such realistic analysis of events on Russian TV." On Wednesday, 60 Minutes had Khodarenok on again, and he sounded very different. "When people talk about Ukraine acquiring the ability to counterattack, well it's a big exaggeration," Khodarenok said Wednesday afternoon. "And as concerns the actions of our supreme command, there is every reason to believe that the implementation of these plans will in the very near future give Ukraine an unpleasant surprise." "On Monday, many found themselves wondering whether Khodarenok had been allowed to pierce the bubble of state TV's alternative reality in order to manage expectations in the 'special military operation,'" BBC News reports. "But narratives are tightly controlled by the Kremlin, and to backpedal so soon surely suggests that the colonel has been reined back in." Khodarenok "seems to have changed his tune since yesterday," Hertling agreed, but when he talks about "how Russian artillery is hitting Ukraine's new M777 [howitzers]," Khodarenok is "full of BS," and he "should go back to stating how bad Russia is doing in this war, and not propagandizing the poor effects of Russian artillery against Ukraine." The U.S. has delivered all 90 of its promised M777 howitzers and 79 of them "are actually forward deployed with the Ukrainians, providing indirect fire capability. They're actually in combat," a senior defense official said Wednesday. "We've had no indications that the Russians have actually hit any storage of shipments coming from Western nations," the official added. "We think they are certainly trying to disrupt that flow but we have no indications that they've been successful with that and the flow continues."

5-19-22 EU reveals its plans to stop using Russian gas
The European Commission has given more details on how it plans to end Europe's dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Russia supplies 40% of the EU's natural gas and 27% of its imported oil. The EU sends the country roughly €400 billion a year in return. Now the EU plans to speed up its shift to green energy but says it must also invest in pipelines in other countries. It has been accused of helping fund the war in Ukraine through its use of Russian energy. The REPowerEU strategy was first announced in March with the stated aim of reducing Russian gas imports by two thirds in 2022. Rising energy costs have also put financial pressure on consumers and businesses in Europe now facing higher bills. The updated proposals outline not just how the EU plans to negotiate both the immediate gas crisis, but also deliver on promises to completely wean itself off Russian energy by 2030. The strategy focuses on three key topic areas. Improving energy efficiency, expanding the use of renewable energy and securing non-Russian suppliers of oil and gas. "We are taking our ambition to yet another level," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said as she presented the update at a briefing in Brussels, Belgium. The REPowerEU plan is estimated to cost €210 billion (£178 billion) over the next five years. The Commission report highlights energy saving as the "cheapest, safest and cleanest" way to reduce dependence on Russian fuel. It wants to improve how buildings of insulated, as well as encourage consumers to be more aware of energy use. It also plans to speed up the transition from fossil fuel burning boilers to electric heat pumps (a device that absorbs heat from the air, ground or water around a building) Plans to reduce energy consumption in the EU have also made more ambitious, from the original plan of a 9% cut to 13% cut by 2030.

5-19-22 Global stock markets fall as growth fears rattle investors
Fears about rising prices and slowing economies have spread to UK and European stock markets following sharp falls in the US and Asia. The FTSE 100 index of leading companies sank 2.1% on Thursday while the main stock markets in France and Germany saw similar declines. On Wednesday, US shares recorded their biggest one-day drop since the early days of the Covid pandemic in 2020. Markets were spooked by gloomy forecasts from major US retailers. Countries are also grappling with steep rises in inflation - the UK's reached a 40-year high of 9% in April - and there are concerns that some economies are heading for a slowdown as interest rates are increased in an attempt to counter price rises. "A red wall of worry has built up across financial markets with investors increasingly nervous that economies are set to career into recession," said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. The downbeat news from US retailers hit shares in UK companies reliant on consumer spending. The UK's biggest retailer, Tesco, fell 5%, while shares in consumer goods giant Unilever dropped 4.4%. However, the biggest faller on the UK market was Royal Mail, which sank more than 12% after reporting disappointing results and warning it was facing "significant headwinds" from rising costs. The FTSE 100 stood 152 points lower at 7,286, while France's Cac-40 index and Germany's Dax dropped by 1.8% and 1.6% respectively. In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei index closed down 1.9%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 2.5%. That came after the S&P 500 index in the US, which tracks shares of a wide swathe of America's biggest companies, plunged more than 4% on Wednesday and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 3.5%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 4.7%. The falls added to weeks of declines on US financial markets.

5-19-22 Baby formula shortage: Experts urge parents not to make homebrews
Brandy Sloan was close to tears. The 43-year-old mother of two had reached a breaking point in her desperate search for baby formula when the fifth grocery store she rushed into contained the same as the previous four: empty shelves. "You feel so defeated because you're supposed to be able to feed your children and you can't because there's nothing there," she told the BBC. Brandy, who has a 15-month-old daughter and a recently adopted two-month-old son, is among the millions of American families struggling to feed their children amid a nationwide shortage of formula. Some are so desperate that they are attempting to make their own infant formula substitutes. Google searches for how to make formula at home have increased by 2400% in the last 30 days, according to Google Trends. Brandy is sceptical - and for good reason - but it's understandable why some parents feel compelled to ask the question. Supply chains have been strained throughout the pandemic, but an industry-wide infant formula shortage began to intensify in February when Abbott, a large manufacturer of powdered infant formulas, closed a facility and issued a voluntary recall after finding contamination. The company has since reached an agreement with US regulators to work to re-open, but cautioned it could take up to two months for products to hit the shelves. On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden - who is under mounting pressure to solve the crisis - invoked the Defense Production Act, a war-time measure, to boost domestic production of baby formula. He also ordered the Pentagon to fly in shipments from overseas. A bill to alleviate the shortage was also overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives. An analysis by the retail research firm Datasembly found that 43% of formula products were unavailable nationwide in the first week of May, and soared even higher in states like Tennessee, Texas and Iowa. In San Antonio, where Brandy lives, the shortage was 57% in late April, according to Datasembly.

5-19-22 Three-week-old Biden disinformation task force 'paused'
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has "paused" a controversial task force on disinformation. Critics pilloried the Disinformation Governance Board when it launched three weeks ago, warning it would be used to censor free speech. On Wednesday, its director Nina Jankowicz resigned citing "vile personal attacks and physical threats". In a statement, Ms Jankowicz said the board's future was "uncertain". The task force has sparked a massive outcry - largely from the right, but also from civil society - ever since its creation on 27 April. DHS officials said the board was intended to coordinate and standardise its disinformation-related work, ensuring it "protects free speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy". But civil liberties and human rights groups such as Protect Democracy and the Electronic Frontier Foundation objected to a lack of clarity over the group's mission, warning last month that DHS has a "poor track record" on issues of privacy and free speech rights. Republicans, both moderate and further right, have also expressed concern that the board's work, which is taking place under a Democratic administration, could be weaponised against conservatives. Critics have derided the board as "the Ministry of Truth", from George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984. Ms Jankowicz, 33, whom the Biden administration touted as a well-known expert in the field, has been a particular focus of abuse and mockery online. Social media users have attacked her left-leaning politics and lampooned a song she posted on TikTok about disinformation. Drawing fire from many corners, the homeland security department's leadership was forced to repeatedly defend the board's work. In testimony before the US Senate earlier this month, DHS chief Alejandro Mayorkas assured lawmakers the group was "not the truth police", but acknowledged its roll-out had been "sub-optimal" and caused confusion.

5-19-22 Trump urges 'Dr Oz' to declare victory in cliffhanger Senate vote
Former President Donald Trump has urged celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz to declare victory in Tuesday's too-close-to-call Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary, even as votes show his lead narrowing. With over 95% of votes counted, Dr Oz leads with 31.2% of the vote, compared to 31.1% for challenger Dave McCormick. State law says a recount must be held if a candidate's margin of victory is under 0.5%. Thousands of mail-in ballots must still be counted. On Wednesday, Mr Trump took to Truth Social - his new social media platform - to cast doubt on the election and claim that Dr Oz, a surgeon best known for his appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, had won. He compared the state's counting of mail-in ballots to the 2020 election, which he continues to insist he won. "Here we go again," Mr Trump said of the primary. "In Pennsylvania, they are unable to count the mail-in ballots. It is a big mess." In another post, he urged Mr Oz, whom he has endorsed, to "declare victory". "It just makes it harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they 'just happened to find'," he wrote, providing no evidence to back up his claims. In Lancaster County, a ballot print error meant that thousands of mail-in ballots had to be reprocessed. The race between Mr Oz and Mr McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO, will determine who will run as the next Republican senator for Pennsylvania in the forthcoming mid-term elections. Midterms, which take place two years into a president's term, decide who controls the Senate and House of Representatives, the two legislative chambers that collectively make up Congress. The winner of the primary will face off against John Fetterman, the state's lieutenant governor who overwhelmingly won the Democratic nomination despite suffering a stroke just days ago. Pennsylvania is considered a key battleground state in the upcoming midterms. The Senate seat is currently held by a Republican, Patrick Toomey, who is retiring.

5-19-22 Covid-19 news: World as vulnerable to pandemics as pre-coronavirus
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. An economic downturn and lack of reforms has left the world in no better position to fight a new pandemic than before covid-19 emerged, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The world’s pandemic preparedness is the same or worse than it was before covid-19, according to a WHO report. The report, led by former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberia president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, accepted that some progress had been made, like moves to create a global health security fund inside the WHO and increased WHO funding. But progress on reforms such as international health regulations are moving too slowly, it added. “We have right now the very same tools and the same system that existed in December 2019 to respond to a pandemic threat,” Clark said at a press conference. “And those tools just weren’t good enough.” The report also suggests some measures that should be taken as soon as possible, including an independent health threats council led by heads of state, a worldwide pandemic treaty and an international agreement to improve pandemic preparedness. The WHO’s annual World Health Assembly will meet in Geneva next week to address issues raised in the report. Unvaccinated people who recover from the omicron variant may not have immunity against other covid-19 variants, such as delta, according to mouse models and a small human study. Researchers at Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, US, collected blood serum from mice seven days after they were infected with different covid-19 variants. In laboratory experiments, the serum collected after overcoming omicron only protected against the omicron variant. By contrast, the serum collected after infection with delta effectively protected against the alpha, beta and delta variants, as well as offering some protection against omicron. These findings were then supported in a study of 10 unvaccinated people who had recovered from omicron. By contrast, vaccinated people who catch omicron develop some level of immunity against all covid-19 variants of concern, the researchers found in a separate experiment. North Korea has suggested people use traditional medicines, such as gargling salt water or drinking herbal tea, to reduce the fever and pain that can come with covid-19. A state news agency said the unverified treatments are “effective in prevention and cure of the malicious disease,” a claim that is not supported by scientific research.

5-18-22 CDC: With COVID-19 infections rising, a third of U.S. should consider indoor masks
COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are on the rise in the United States, and about a third of the population is living in spots that are considered at higher risk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday. The higher risk areas are primarily in the Northeastern U.S. and Midwest, and people there should consider wearing masks indoors and making sure they get their boosters, officials said. The number of COVID-19 cases has gone up in the past five weeks, with a 26 percent increase nationally in the last week, and hospitalizations were up 19 percent in the last week. This is fueled by the Omicron subvariant. During a news briefing at the White House, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters people who don't live in these higher risk places should still stay informed about case levels. "Prior increases of infections, in different waves of infection, have demonstrated that this travels across the country," she said. White House COVID-19 coordinator Ashish Jha told The Associated Press last week that the U.S. will run out of COVID-19 treatments in the winter unless Congress quickly approves new funding to buy more. A lack of access to vaccines and treatments would lead to "unnecessary loss of life," Jha said, adding that the U.S. is already behind other countries in getting supplies of the next-generation of COVID-19 vaccines.

5-18-22 Watchdog report blames Trump and Biden administrations for collapse of Afghan troops
A new report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, says former President Donald Trump and President Biden's decisions to withdraw U.S. forces and contractor support from Afghanistan were the "single most important factor" in the Afghan military's swift collapse in August of 2021, Politico reports. The SIGAR document, released Wednesday, is the first government report discussing how and why Afghan forces crumbled. "We built that army to run on contractor support. Without it, it can't function. Game over," a former U.S. commander told the watchdog's office. "When the contractors pulled out, it was like we pulled all the sticks out of the Jenga pile and expected it to stay up." "There was a red light blinking on Afghanistan for years saying 'watch out,'" watchdog John Sopko told Politico. "Once the morale collapsed, that was it." While the document does serve to confirm certain previous reporting, it also sheds "new light on the intrigue and suspicion that consumed the Afghan leadership in its final days," writes The Washington Post. For example, the report reveals how former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was paranoid Afghan forces would turn against him, and thought the U.S. was working behind the scenes to remove him from power, per the Post. It also concludes that Trump's agreement with the Taliban and the subsequent decision to withdraw U.S. forces by May 2021 had a dire effect on the Afghan's military morale, Politico notes.

5-18-22 UFOs 'are real' and 'need to be investigated,' House committee chair says
The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday conducted its first hearing on UFOs since 1966, CNN reports. "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena are a potential national security threat. And they need to be treated that way," said Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and Counterproliferation. The hearings revealed that there have been 11 near misses between unknown objects and U.S. military assets but that no direct evidence has been found that would indicate "either extraterrestrial life or a major technological advancement by a foreign adversary," per CNN. In 2020, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence created the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force to "destigmatize" reporting UAPs and to "standardize the collection and reporting of UAPs across the intelligence community at the unclassified level." Witnesses said Tuesday that sightings are "frequent and continuing," with a database that tracks UAPs having grown to around 400 incidents. "Today, we know better. UAPs are unexplained, it's true. But they are real. They need to be investigated. And any threats they pose need to be mitigated," Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray told the panel.

5-18-22 Is the U.S. losing the hypersonic missile race?
Proponents say these new weapons are a game changer on the battlefield. The Air Force announced this week that it has successfully tested a hypersonic weapon built by Lockheed Martin — a development that comes after several years of American fretting that rival countries like Russia and China have a head start on building the advanced missiles. This wasn't the first hypersonic test by the United States: Officials announced last month that a different system was tested in mid-March. "In recent months, top Pentagon officials have been pushing to speed up development of the fast-flying weapons," Marcus Weisgerber reports at Defense One. "Former government and industry officials say old U.S. testing ranges and infrastructure are slowing development." Why are hypersonic weapons a burning issue for defense officials, and how will they change the future of armed conflict? "Essentially, all missiles are hypersonic – which means they travel at least five times the speed of sound," Brad Lendon writes at CNN. What makes the new generation of weapons different from older missiles is that they're maneuverable, able to "fly at hypersonic speed while adjusting course and altitude to fly under radar detection and around missile defenses." "The new generation of hypersonic missiles fly very fast, but not as fast as" intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads during the Cold War, adds Iain Boyd at The Conversation. "They are launched on smaller rockets that keep them within the upper reaches of the atmosphere." They're extremely difficult to defend against. "Capable of traveling at more than 15 times the speed of sound, hypersonic missiles arrive at their targets in a blinding, destructive flash, before any sonic booms or other meaningful warning," R. Jeffrey Smith wrote in a 2019 overview for the New York Times. "So far, there are no surefire defenses. Fast, effective, precise and unstoppable — these are rare but highly desired characteristics on the modern battlefield." Aircraft carriers, one of the preeminent symbols of American military might, are thought to be particularly vulnerable, which "might eventually render the floating behemoths obsolete." But hypersonic weapons might be overhyped. "Our studies indicate that hypersonic weapons may have advantages in certain scenarios, but by no means do they constitute a revolution," David Wright and Cameron Tracy wrote last year in Scientific American. The problem? Science. The speed and maneuverability of hypersonics are constrained by factors — like atmospheric drag — that affect all missiles and airplanes. The laws of physics still exist. "When missiles fly beyond Mach 5, materials melt, airflow turns turbulent, and budgets enter the stratosphere," Philip Ross writes for IEEE Spectrum. More dangerous than the weapons themselves is the arms race they might inspire. Wright and Tracy say the mania around hypersonics "has driven big increases in spending on these systems and heightened fear, distrust and the risk of conflict among the U.S., Russia, and China." Not the United States. Russia and China already "have a number of hypersonic weapons programs and have likely fielded operational hypersonic glide vehicles—potentially armed with nuclear warheads," the Congressional Research Service reports. U.S. hypersonic weapons are still in the design stage, but they aren't being designed to carry nukes. That actually makes the challenge more difficult: "As a result, U.S. hypersonic weapons will likely require greater accuracy and will be more technically challenging to develop than nuclear-armed Chinese and Russian systems."

5-18-22 Finland and Sweden formally apply to join NATO
Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO on Wednesday, delivering letters of intent to the Western military alliance's headquarters in Brussels. The application begins a months-long process of accession, with both Nordic countries expected to win membership in a matter of months, bringing the number of member states to 32. "We are leaving one era and beginning another," Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Monday. Sweden and Finland have been militarily non-aligned for decades or, in Sweden's case, centuries. But they are both members of the European Union and they already participate in military exercises with NATO. Still, "their official accession would fill the largest remaining gap in NATO's map of Europe, and do so in an increasingly volatile part of the continent," The Walls Street Journal reports. "With Arctic ice melting and shipping increasing near the North Pole, air and naval activity in the region has increased over recent years. The Baltic Sea — Russian vessels' shortest route to the Atlantic Ocean — would become overwhelmingly controlled by NATO allies." Andersson and Finnish President Saudi Niinisto are scheduled to discuss NATO membership and pre-accession security when President Biden hosts them at the White House on Thursday. The U.S. and most other NATO members have enthusiastically welcomed the two countries into the alliance, though Turkey has expressed reservations and laid out demands before it ratifies the addition of Sweden and Finland. Andersson and Niinisto said in a joint press conference they were surprised by Turkey's opposition and optimistic Ankara's concerns can be addressed. There was little public or political support in Sweden or Finland for joining NATO before Russia invaded Ukraine. On Tuesday, Finland's parliament approved joining the alliance 188-8. "This is an extraordinary development given where we were in February," Anna Wieslander, director for Northern Europe at the Atlantic Council, tells The Washington Post. "Russia wanted to turn back time, to go back to the Cold War, to fragment and weaken the West," but "now, in May, we are here."

5-18-22 Sweden and Finland formally submit Nato applications
Sweden and Finland have formally submitted their applications to join Nato. The alliance's secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said it was "a historic moment, which we must seize", adding that the Nordic countries' membership would increase shared security. The two nations signalled their intention to apply for membership of the defence alliance in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

5-18-22 Nearly 1,000 fighters have left Mariupol steelworks - Russia
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford, Lyse Doucet and James Waterhouse in Kyiv, Laura Bicker and Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, Caroline Davies in Odesa, and Steve Rosenberg in Moscow. A Russian soldier accused of shooting dead a civilian has pleaded guilty in Ukraine's first war crimes trial. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, admitted killing the unarmed 62-year-old in the Sumy region days after Russia began its invasion. Russia's defence ministry says that 959 Ukrainian fighters from the Mariupol steelworks have been taken to Russian-controlled territory since Monday. Ukraine is calling for a prisoner swap for the evacuated defenders, but their fate is currently uncertain. Ukraine has not said how many people it believes have left the complex. Russia says the fighters will be treated according to international norms, but a senior Russian politician said "Nazi criminals" should not be exchanged. The battle for Mariupol appears to be over after a devastating siege that lasted nearly three months.

5-18-22 Russian soldier pleads guilty in first war crimes trial of Ukraine conflict
A 21-year-old Russian soldier has pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed civilian, in the first war crimes trial in Ukraine since the war started. Vadim Shishimarin admitted shooting a 62-year-old man a few days after the invasion began. He faces life in jail. The prisoner was brought into the tiny Kyiv courtroom in handcuffs, flanked by heavily armed guards. He looked nervous, and kept his head bowed. Just a couple of metres from him, the widow of the man killed was sitting. She wiped tears from her eyes as the soldier entered court, then sat with hands clasped as the prosecutor set out his case, describing the moment Kateryna's husband was shot in the head. "Do you accept your guilt?" the judge asked. "Yes," Shishimarin replied. "Totally?" "Ye s," he replied quietly from behind the glass of his grey metal-and-glass cage. Prosecutors say Shishimarin was commanding a unit in a tank division when his convoy came under attack. He and four other soldiers stole a car, and as they travelled near Chupakhivka, they encountered the 62-year-old on a bicycle, they said. According to prosecutors, Shishimarin was ordered to kill the civilian and used a Kalashnikov assault rifle to do so. The Kremlin said earlier it was not informed about the case. Shishimarin's trial was adjourned shortly after the civilian's widow heard for the first time the Russian soldier admit to the murder. This high profile hearing will restart on Thursday in a larger courtroom. "By this first trial, we are sending a clear signal that every perpetrator, every person who ordered or assisted in the commission of crimes in Ukraine shall not avoid responsibility," Ukraine's chief prosecutor Iryna Venediktova tweeted. Venediktova previously said her office was readying war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers. Moscow has denied its troops have targeted civilians. Shishimarin's trial is being watched closely because investigators have been collecting evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

5-18-22 Dallas salon shooting investigated as hate crime
Police say a man accused of shooting three women at a salon in Dallas, Texas, harboured "delusions" about Asian people. The FBI has opened a hate crime probe into Jeremy Theron Smith, 36, who was arrested on Monday for the attack. Authorities say they believe the suspect may have been behind two other attacks on Asian businesses in the past month. Anti-Asian violence has risen sharply in recent years in the US. Dallas authorities say a man armed with a .22 rifle fired 13 shots inside the salon last Wednesday in the city's Koreatown neighbourhood. Three women - the salon owner, a stylist and a customer, all of Korean descent - were treated for gunshot wounds and discharged from hospital. Four other people who were in the salon at the time were unscathed. Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia told reporters on Tuesday that the suspect "has had panic attacks and delusions when he is around anyone of Asian descent" since he had a car accident involving an Asian male two years ago. Chief Garcia said that Mr Smith has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and is being held at the Dallas County jail. Federal officials have opened a hate crime investigation. Chief Garcia said that state prosecutors may add hate crime charges at a later date. "I can tell you that I know our community sees it as a hate crime," Chief Garcia said. "I see it as a hate crime, and so do our men and women." A police affidavit obtained by the Dallas Morning News says that police learned of Mr Smith's alleged anti-Asian delusions after interviewing his girlfriend. "He begins having delusions that the Asian mob is after him or attempting to harm him," she told detectives, adding that he had been "admitted to several mental health facilities" because of the delusions. He had also been fired from his job for "verbally attacking" his Asian boss. Police say they have managed to tie the suspect to two other recent shootings at Asian businesses. In all three attacks, a red minivan was seen outside the crime scene.

5-17-22 US midterm elections- a simple guide
Two years after Joe Biden was elected US president, voters return to the polls on 8 November. The midterm elections - so called because they fall halfway through a president's term - take place every four years. Americans are represented in government by 535 lawmakers, known as members of Congress. Congress is made up of two chambers - the Senate and the House of Representatives. The two work together to make laws. The Senate is the 100-strong upper chamber. Each US state - regardless of size - sends two representatives. These senators are elected for six-year terms. Every two years a third of the Senate faces re-election. The House of Representatives (often referred to as "the House") has 435 members. Each one represents a particular district in their state and serves a two year term. All seats are up for election. Currently, all members of Congress align with the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. The Democrats control both chambers, but by very slim majorities. So far, this has made it easier for President Biden, a Democrat, to get things done. But if the Republican Party gains control of either or both chambers, it will have the power to thwart the president's plans. Republicans need to win five extra seats to take back the majority in the House this November. It is even closer in the Senate, where the seats are evenly split between both parties at present. At present, the Democrats have control because Vice President Kamala Harris has the casting vote in any tie. The Republicans only need to win one extra seat to gain control in November. Primary elections to determine who will contest the general election for each party will take place around the country between May and September. Historically, the party that holds the White House has tended to suffer losses in the midterms. Signs point to this being a so-called "wave election" in which the Republicans make major seat gains. President Biden also happens to be unpopular right now, with an approval rating stuck at less than 50% since last August. That is likely to undermine support for Democratic candidates.

5-17-22 'Great Replacement Theory,' explained
How a racist conspiracy theory inspired the Buffalo shooter. Buffalo is reeling from the nation's latest gun massacre — 10 people were killed Saturday at a Tops grocery store in one of the city's predominantly Black neighborhoods, by a white 18-year-old gunman who had a racial slur written on his rifle, and who days earlier had posted a white supremacist manifesto in which he decried "the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people" by minorities. The slaughter has drawn attention to the "Great Replacement Theory," an idea once confined to racist fringe movements, but which has gone more broadly mainstream in recent years. "Certainly, there was no mistaking the racist intent of the shooter," writes David Bauder at The Associated Press. "Simply put, the conspiracy theory says there's a plot to diminish the influence of white people." How did the theory inspire the gunman — and how widespread is it among American conservatives? "The idea is simply that many different kinds of social change are connected to a plot by a cabal of elites to eradicate the white race, which people in this movement believe is their nation," said Kathleen Belew, an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago, in an interview with the New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner. But it can take different forms: "Sometimes it's about the United Nations as the elites trying to wage this war on the white birth rate. Sometimes it's about global outsiders. But there is a heavy current of antisemitism that links the idea of the manipulative elite with Jewish conspirators." "The theory often uses martial and violent rhetoric of a migrant 'invasion' that must be stopped before it 'conquers' 'white America,'" the National Immigration Forum adds. It's an apocalyptic vision that fills its adherents with fear. "Regardless of which version is referenced, proponents of the 'great replacement' theory almost always paint a life-or-death scenario concerning the fate of 'white America.' The theory contends that nonwhite immigration must be stopped, or else the country is on … a 'suicidal' path." "'The Great Replacement' theory has its roots in early 20th century French nationalism," but "it was French writer and critic Renaud Camus who popularized the phrase for today's audiences when he published an essay titled 'Le Grand Remplacement,' or 'the great replacement,' in 2011," ADL says in its briefing on the topic. "Camus believes that native white Europeans are being replaced in their countries by non-white immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, and the end result will be the extinction of the white race."

5-17-22 Buffalo shooting: How far-right killers are radicalised online
The racially motivated attack that left 10 people dead at a New York state supermarket is just the latest example of violence inspired by online extremism. The shooting spree in Buffalo followed the exact blueprint of similar attacks around the US and the world. It's also happened in Pittsburgh, Christchurch, Poway, El Paso and Halle - internet-radicalised racist white men deliberately targeting members of a specific community, leaving extensive trails chronicling their extreme views online. How did the perpetrators get immersed in extremist online subcultures? And what can be done to tackle the violence that springs from these groups? Like others before him, Payton Gendron, 18, the main suspect behind the Buffalo attack, posted a lengthy so-called "manifesto" explaining his motives and beliefs. Some of the text is copied and pasted from similar racist manifestos written by 2019 Christchurch mass murderer Brenton Tarrant and other violent assailants. Gendron cites Tarrant as his main inspiration and gateway into the world of online extremism and white supremacy. All of the recent far-right assailants cite the internet as the starting place for their journeys towards radicalisation. Their manifestos and writings show they were well-versed in the online subcultures, conspiracy theories and memes, and used those to deliberately "troll" or misinform. Notably, all of them are committed anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers, and cite a wide range of conspiracy theories. Nearly all of them reference "white genocide" and "white replacement" conspiracy theories, as well as their resentment of immigrants and minority groups, as the bedrock of their belief system and the main motivation for their violence. "The idea of a 'white genocide' creates a sense of urgency and of the need for immediate action," says Rajan Basra, a researcher from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King's College London. "For white nationalists this can be a powerful motivator, and time and time again they have violently acted on it."

5-17-22 Buffalo shooting: Gunman sought to 'continue his rampage'
A gunman who killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, planned further attacks after the mass shooting on Saturday, police have said. The suspect, 18, drove more than 320km (200 miles) to carry out what is believed to be a racially-motivated crime. He planned to keep driving and "shoot more black people," Buffalo's police chief told US media. A pensioner, a former policeman and a grandmother were among the victims. Mayor Byron Brown said the suspect arrived in Buffalo intending to take "as many black lives as possible". A 180-page document seemingly authored by the alleged attacker Payton Gendron has emerged, in which he describes himself as a fascist and a white supremacist. Questions are being asked about how he was able to carry out the shooting when concerns had already been raised. "I want to know what people knew and when they knew it," New York Governor Kathy Hochul told ABC News. FBI officials have confirmed that the gunman spent a day and a half in hospital undergoing a mental health evaluation last year after he wrote that he wanted to commit a murder/suicide in a high school project. No criminal charges resulted from the incident, and Buffalo police chief Joseph Gramaglia told reporters the gunman had only made "generalised threats". He does not appear to have remained under watch by authorities. Mr Gramaglia told US media that there was evidence to suggest he wanted to targeted a second store on Saturday if he had not been stopped. On Monday, police said he had visited Buffalo in March and then again one day before the deadly mass shooting. Meanwhile, the gun store owner who sold the semi-automatic used in the attack told several US outlets that no alert came up when he ran the suspect's name through a government background check system. New York's Attorney General Letitia James said her office would focus on extremist material online. "This event was committed by a sick, demented individual who was fuelled [by a] daily diet of hate," she said.

5-17-22 Buffalo shooting: Black Americans describe grief and fear
The rainy, grey weather in Buffalo certainly suited the mood on the ground on Monday. The black community is grieving and they are scared after 10 people - now named by officials - were gunned down in a racially-motivated attack in a New York supermarket. The victims, aged between 32 and 86, were shot dead by the suspected gunman on Saturday afternoon. Three others were injured. Among those killed were a former police officer, a woman who helped feed the poor and a man who drove shoppers to and from the market. Eleven out of the 13 people killed or injured at Tops Friendly Market were black, and Buffalo's police chief has described the attack as a "racist hate crime". The neighbourhood where the attack was carried out is predominantly black. Lakisha Chambers lives a few blocks away from the Tops grocery store - one of the few markets available to residents in the area - and walked over to the scene for the first time since the shooting on Monday. There is still a police presence, the area is taped off and memorials with balloons and candles dot the area. Seeing it in person makes it more real, she tells BBC. "We all could've been in here". Black Americans can't shop, can't go to church, can't just live in this country without fear of being killed, she says. What struck her, as well, was the age of the gunman, who is just 18 years old. To her, it suggests that the US must do better to stop racism once by addressing the underlying causes leading to attacks like this. The youngest victim, store worker Zaire Goodman, 20, was released from hospital after being shot in the neck. Jennifer Warrington, 50, has also been treated and released, while Christopher Braden, 55, is in a stable condition. The Buffalo Urban League is also on site, working in the community to help provide counselling services.

5-17-22 Turkey threatens to block Finland and Sweden Nato bids
Turkey's president has restated his opposition to Finland and Sweden joining Nato - just hours after they said they would seek membership. Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the two Nordic nations should not bother sending delegations to convince Turkey, a key Nato member, of their bids. He is angered by what he sees as their willingness to host Kurdish militants. Without the support of all Nato members, Sweden and Finland cannot join the military alliance. On Monday, Sweden said Europe was living in a dangerous new reality, referring to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the move by Finland and Sweden to join the 30-member military alliance did not threaten Moscow directly - but stressed that any expansion of military infrastructure would trigger a response from the Kremlin. At a news conference on Monday, Mr Erdogan said Turkey opposed the Finnish and the Swedish bids to join Nato, describing Sweden as a "hatchery" for terrorist organisations. "Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organisation. How can we trust them?" the Turkish president said. Turkey accuses the two Nordic nations of harbouring members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a group it views as a terrorist organisation, and followers of Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt. All member states must agree that a new country can join Nato, therefore Sweden and Finland require Turkey's support in their bid to join the military alliance. Mr Erdogan said Swedish and Finnish delegations should not bother going to Ankara, Turkey's capital, to convince it to approve their Nato bid. His government has also pledged to block applications from countries that have imposed sanctions on it. In 2019, both Nordic nations slapped an arms embargo on Ankara after its incursion into Syria.

5-17-22 Mariupol: Hundreds of besieged Ukrainian soldiers evacuated
Ukraine has confirmed that hundreds of its fighters trapped for more than two months in Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks have been evacuated. Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said 53 badly wounded soldiers were taken to the town of Novoazovsk, held by Russian-backed rebels. She said another 211 were evacuated using a humanitarian corridor to Olenivka - also a rebel-held town. Russia earlier said a deal had been reached to evacuate the injured troops. About a dozen buses carrying Ukrainian fighters who were holed up beneath the besieged plant were seen leaving the huge industrial site in the southern port city on Monday evening, Reuters news agency reported. Russian state-run media outlets also posted footage of what they say were injured Ukrainian soldiers being evacuated from Azovstal. In his video address after midnight local time on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukrainian military, intelligence and negotiating teams, as well as the Red Cross and the UN were involved in the evacuation operation. "Ukraine needs its heroes alive," he said. However, he cautioned that the Ukrainian troops may not be freed immediately and warned that negotiations over their release will require "delicacy and time". Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko told the BBC it is essential that the deal struck with Russia, with the help of the Red Cross and the UN, goes through and the soldiers are exchanged. Otherwise, she said, "the fate of these very brave men will be absolutely unknown and will be in Russian hands, which is far far from an ideal situation". On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the steel plant will be treated "in line with the relevant international laws". Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers - Marines, the National Guard - including the Azov regiment - border guards, police and territorial defence units - as well as a number of civilians with young children have been holed up at the site since advancing Russian troops encircled the southern city in early March.

5-17-22 Drugs tunnel connecting US and Mexico found
A huge drugs tunnel has been found running from Tijuana in Mexico to a warehouse in San Diego in the US. With a length of 1,744ft (531m), the passage had a rail track, electricity and a ventilation system. US authorities had been carrying out surveillance at a property previously used as a stash house for smuggling cocaine when they made the discovery. They seized cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. Six people are being held on drug-trafficking charges. The US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California said the tunnel was 61ft (18m) deep and 4ft (1m) in diameter. Prosecutors say that before the discovery, officers saw several vehicles come and go from the property in Tijuana and the warehouse on Friday 13 May. They were then stopped and searched, the drugs were seized and arrests were made. When officers entered the warehouse, the cross-border tunnel exit point was found carved out of the floor. The attorney's office said 1,762lb (799kg) of cocaine, 164lb (74kg) of methamphetamine and 3.5lb (1.5kg) of heroin had been seized. The suspects, aged between 31 and 55, could face a life sentence in prison and a $1m fine if found guilty. "There is no more light at the end of this narco-tunnel," said US Attorney Randy Grossman. "We will take down every subterranean smuggling route we find to keep illicit drugs from reaching our streets and destroying our families and communities." The last tunnel found in California was in 2020. That one is also the longest to date, measuring 4,309ft (1,313m) in length. Since 1993, 90 of these types of secret passage have been discovered.

5-17-22 US Congress holds first public UFO hearing in over 50 years
The first public congressional hearing into UFO sightings in the US in over 50 years is being held on Tuesday. The highly-anticipated testimony from two top military officials tasked with probing the sightings will be closely watched after decades of secrecy. The Pentagon brass are expected to say that it has been a struggle to unearth witness accounts from government workers concerned about job security. The hearing is being held in the House Intelligence Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee. The two officials testifying are Ronald Moultrie - the Pentagon's top intelligence official - and Scott Bray, the deputy director of naval intelligence. The officials will describe US efforts to investigate Unexplained Aerial Phenomena (UAPs) - the government's term for UFOs - in a public hearing. "The American people expect and deserve their leaders in government and intelligence to seriously evaluate and respond to any potential national security risks — especially those we do not fully understand," Representative André Carson said in a statement. Following the public hearing, the committee will close its doors for a private classified session with lawmakers. Ahead of the hearing, scientists and experts have written draft questions that they hope lawmakers will ask the witnesses. Christopher Mellon, a former top Pentagon intelligence official and critic of the government's handling of UAP evidence, said that the most important question to ask is whether any have been observed outside Earth's atmosphere. "If members can confirm UAP in space, they'll make history and help to eliminate an entire category of potential explanations having to do with atmospheric phenomenon, Chinese lanterns, civilian drones, etc," he wrote on his blog. Public fascination with flying saucers, glowing lights and otherworldly aircrafts has been ongoing for generations. The last public hearings into the issue began in 1966, when Republican congressman - and future president - Gerald Ford convened a pair of hearings to discuss a UFO sightings following one in Michigan that was observed by over 40 people, including a dozen policemen. (Webmasters Comment: Absolutely Nuts!)

5-16-22 FDA and Abbott reach agreement to reopen baby formula plant
The Food and Drug Administration reached an agreement with Abbott Laboratories on Monday to restart production of baby formula at the company's plant in Sturgis, Michigan. This is Abbott's largest domestic factory, and it closed in February after bacterial infections were reported in four babies who consumed formula made at the plant; two of the babies died. As part of the agreement — which still needs to be reviewed by a federal judge — outside experts will work with Abbott to upgrade standards and reduce bacterial contamination at the plant, The Associated Press reports. The FDA will let Abbott know once it can reopen the factory, and the company said it will take about eight to ten weeks before formula starts hitting shelves. There are four companies that make about 90 percent of U.S. formula, and to alleviate the national shortage, the FDA will soon announce steps being taken to get more foreign imports into the country. Baby formulas produced in Canada and Europe are very similar to those made in the U.S., pediatricians say, and FDA Commissioner Robert Califf told ABC News it's important to ensure the formula comes with instructions people in the U.S. can understand.

5-16-22 Biden reverses some Trump restrictions on Cuba
The Biden administration is lifting some Trump-era restrictions on Cuba, with State Department spokesman Ned Price saying on Monday the measures "will make it easier for families to visit their relatives in Cuba and for authorized U.S. travelers to engage with the Cuban people, attend meetings, and conduct research." Last summer, protests were held in Cuba against the government and ruling Communist Party. Such demonstrations are rare in Cuba, and this prompted President Biden to order a review of the U.S. policies toward the country, CNN reports. The new measures include reinstating the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program and lifting the family remittance cap of $1,000 every three months. Senior administration officials told CNN that while Americans won't be allowed to travel to Cuba for educational purposes or as tourists, there will be additional commercial and charter flights to the country, letting more Americans visit through authorized "people-to-people" trips. The moves are "practical steps" that "address the humanitarian situation and ... respond to the needs of the Cuban people," one U.S. official said. Read more at CNN.

5-16-22 Ukraine says 264 'heroes' evacuated from Azovstal steel works as Mariupol 'combat mission' ends
About a dozen buses transported 264 Ukrainian fighters from Mariupol's massive Azovstal steel plant to areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists as part of a deal worked out with Russia and outside groups for a future troop exchange, Ukraine said Monday night. "Fifty-three seriously injured people were evacuated from Azovstal to a medical facility in Novoazovsk for medical care," said Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar. "Another 211 people were taken to Olenivka through the humanitarian corridor." "Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, thanking the Ukrainian military and negotiators, the United Nations, and the Red Cross for facilitating the evacuation. "The work to bring the guys home continues, and it requires delicacy and time." Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters are believed to remain inside the Azovstal plant, and Ukraine is working to rescue them, too, Maliar said. "Mariupol's defenders have fully accomplished all missions assigned by the command." Ukrainian forces have completed their "combat mission" in Mariupol and have been ordered "to save the lives of their personnel," Ukraine's military command said Monday. Thanks to their weeks of holding on in Mariupol among heavy shelling and worsening conditions, "we got the critically needed time to build reserves, regroup forces, and get help from partners," while Russia was unable to deploy "up to 17 battalion tactical groups to other directions," the military chiefs said. "Mariupol defenders are heroes of our time."

5-16-22 Buffalo shooting: Gunman deliberately sought black victims - mayor.
The man suspected of shooting dead 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, deliberately sought a site with a high black population, authorities say. The suspect, Payton Gendron, 18, drove more than 320km (200 miles) to carry out the attack, police say. The attack is being investigated as an act of racially motivated violent extremism. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the suspect arrived intending to take "as many black lives as possible". A 180-page document seemingly authored by Mr Gendron has emerged, in which he describes himself as a fascist and a white supremacist. Questions are being asked about how he was able to carry out the attack when concerns had already been raised. "I want to know what people knew and when they knew it," New York Governor Kathy Hochul told ABC News. Joseph Gramaglia, Buffalo's chief of police, told reporters Mr Gendron had made "generalised threats" while still at high school. He spent a day and a half in hospital undergoing a mental health evaluation, but was then released. Police believe that the gunman planned to "continue his rampage" following the attack had he not been stopped, Mr Gramaglia told CNN, with evidence suggesting that he had plans to target a second store. He does not appear to have remained under watch by authorities. FBI Special Agent Steven Belongia told the New York Times neither state police nor the FBI had any intelligence on Mr Gendron. Meanwhile, the gun store owner who sold him a semi-automatic weapon told several US outlets that no alert came up when his name was run through a government background check system. Meanwhile New York's Attorney General Letitia James said her office would focus on extremist material online. "This event was committed by a sick, demented individual who was fuelled [by a] daily diet of hate," she said. The shooting has stunned the local community. One of those attending a vigil on Sunday told Reuters: "It just hurts, why somebody would do that." Of the 13 people shot, police said 11 were black. Among those reported killed were a man buying cupcakes for his son's birthday and a woman who had gone shopping after visiting her husband at a nursing home.

5-16-22 Buffalo shooting: Joe Biden says US must address hate
US President Joe Biden has spoken about a racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo where ten people have died. Biden told the crowd that he and his wife, Dr Jill Biden, were praying for the victims, and that "hate remains a stain on the soul of America". The gunman began shooting at people in a supermarket in a predominantly black neighbourhood in Buffalo before he was arrested. The suspected gunman has been identified in court documents as Payton Gendron, of Conklin, New York. (Webmasters Comment: White Supremacists are pure evil!)

5-16-22 Russia's thwarted Ukraine river crossing was so bloody, pro-Russia war bloggers are publicly griping
Russia's thwarted attempt to cross the Siverskyi Donets River in northeastern Ukraine last week "is emerging as among the deadliest engagements of the war, with estimates based on publicly available evidence now suggesting that well over 400 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded," The New York Times reports. "And as the scale of what happened comes into sharper focus, the disaster appears to be breaking through the Kremlin's tightly controlled information bubble." Russia reportedly committed about 550 troops to its highly risky May 11 effort to cross the Donets River at Bilohorivka, to encircle Ukrainian forces near Rubizhne. Ukraine destroyed the pontoon bridges and also, according to Britain's Ministry of Defense, "significant armored maneuver elements of at least one Battalion Tactical Group." Most strikingly, pro-Russia war bloggers are publicly criticizing Russia's military effort, the Times reports. "The last straw that overwhelmed my patience was the events around Bilohorivka, where due to stupidity — I emphasize, because of the stupidity of the Russian command — at least one battalion tactical group was burned, possibly two," war blogger Yuri Podolyaka told his 2.1 million followers. Another popular blogger, who goes by Starshe Eddy, blamed the exposure of so many Russian troops on "not idiocy, but direct sabotage," by commanders. "The commentary by these widely read milbloggers may fuel burgeoning doubts in Russia about Russia's prospects in this war and the competence of Russia's military leaders," the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think take wrote over the weekend. Britain's Ministry of Defense said Sunday that "Russia has now likely suffered losses of one-third of the ground combat force it committed in February." This dire assessment of Russia's fortunes "is in stark contrast to briefings coming from the Kremlin, which still paint the invasion as making steady progress," BBC News reports. "The failed Russian attempts to cross the Siverskyi Donets River" has likely curtailed the Kremlin's ambitions to seize Donetsk Oblast and encircle Ukrainian troops on a wide scale, ISW assessed Sunday. "Even with its setbacks, Russia continues to inflict death and destruction across Ukraine," The Associated Press reports. But Ukraine is drawing morale boosts from its victory at Bilohorivka and successful counteroffensive north and east of Kharkiv. One Ukrainian battalion even pushed all the way to the Russia border, then posted a celebratory video addressed to Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky.

5-16-22 McDonald's to leave Russia for good after 30 years
McDonald's has said it will permanently leave Russia after more than 30 years and has started to sell its restaurants. The move comes after it temporarily closed its 850 outlets in March. The fast food giant said it made the decision because of the "humanitarian crisis" and "unpredictable operating environment" caused by the Ukraine war. The opening of McDonald's first restaurant in Moscow in 1990 came to symbolise a thaw in Cold War tensions. A year later, the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia opened up its economy to companies from the West. More than three decades later, however, it is one of a growing number of corporations pulling out. "This is a complicated issue that's without precedent and with profound consequences," said McDonald's chief executive Chris Kempczinski in a message to staff and suppliers. "Some might argue that providing access to food and continuing to employ tens of thousands of ordinary citizens, is surely the right thing to do," he added. "But it is impossible to ignore the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. And it is impossible to imagine the Golden Arches representing the same hope and promise that led us to enter the Russian market 32 years ago." The BBC's Russia editor Steve Rosenberg said there was a "sense of excitement" when McDonald's opened its first restaurant in Moscow's Pushkin Square in 1990, with people queuing for hours to get a taste of American burgers and fries. "It was a symbol of freedom, it was a symbol of communism embracing capitalism, the Soviet Union embracing the West," he said. While McDonald's had initially only closed its restaurants temporarily, he said the chain's decision to sell them showed "it recognises that things will not return to normal" and was a symbol of "Russia and the West going in two very different directions". "So I think we're going to see a lot more international companies, global brands, deciding to officially pull out of the Russian market now," he added.

5-16-22 North Korea: More than a million Covid cases feared
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un has lambasted health officials and ordered the army to help distribute medicine, as a wave of Covid cases sweeps through the country. More than a million people have now been sickened by what Pyongyang is calling a "fever", state media said. Some 50 people have died, but it's unclear how many of those suspected cases tested positive for Covid. North Korea has only limited testing capacity, so few cases are confirmed. North Koreans are likely to be especially vulnerable to the virus due to lack of vaccinations and a poor healthcare system. A nationwide lockdown is in place in the reclusive country. State media said Mr Kim led an emergency politburo meeting at the weekend where he accused officials of bungling the distribution of the national medicine reserves. He ordered that the "powerful forces" of the army's medical corps step in to "immediately stabilise the supply of medicines in Pyongyang City". The country announced its first confirmed Covid cases last week - although experts believe the virus has likely been circulating for some time. Mr Kim has imposed "maximum emergency" virus controls, including lockdowns and gathering restrictions in workplaces. The international community offered to supply North Korea with millions of AstraZeneca and Chinese-made jabs last year, but Pyongyang claimed it had controlled Covid by sealing its borders early in January 2020. Professor Hazel Smith of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London says those strict quarantines have been a key strategy for North Korea in its bid to control epidemics in the past - such as for Sars or Ebola. Now that the borders have been breached, the country lacked organisational infrastructure and was struggling with basic necessities like "enough disinfectant and electricity and running water", she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "Once an epidemic has started, they've got difficulties in controlling and treating people who are ill," Prof Smith added.

5-16-22 Emphysema missed among Black men in US due to race-adjusted lung tests
Poorly supported assumptions about typical levels of lung function among Black men in the US are leading medics to miss cases of emphysema. Black men in the US who are in their fifties may be more than six times more likely than white men of the same age to have emphysema when lung function tests deem them to have better-than-normal lung function. The findings highlight the need to remove calculations that account for race in medical tests in order to tackle health inequalities. “It was surprising to see these considerable rates of emphysema in Black men who we would consider to have above normal lung function,” said Gabrielle Liu at Northwestern University in Chicago. “It does make a big difference whether or not somebody is actually diagnosed with having [poor] lung function versus being told they have normal or above normal lung function, because it impacts what the clinician recommends.” Emphysema is an irreversible condition in which tiny air sacs – called alveoli – in the lungs are damaged by toxic chemicals from smoking and air pollution, causing shortness of breath. Diagnosis involves tests that assess a person’s ability to inhale and exhale, and current treatments provide symptom-relief through drugs that expand the airways. However, the standard lung function tests used by doctors to assess someone’s lung health are calibrated according to a person’s race based on unfounded ideas that there are inherent biological differences between people from differing ethnic groups. Liu and her colleagues analysed medical data from a total of 2674 Black and white people in the US in their fifties who had taken part in a separate study into cardiovascular disease. By looking at pictures of the participants’ lungs, which were taken in 2010, and the results of race-adjusted breathing tests the participants took in 2015, the team established how well the lung function tests flagged up emphysema in all participants. They found that 12.2 per cent of Black men who were classed as having above normal lung function in 2015 actually had emphysema, which showed up clearly in the lung images taken in 2010. In contrast, just 2 per cent of white men who were classed as having above normal lung function in 2015 actually had emphysema.

5-16-22 Covid-19 news: Just 7 per cent of 5 to 11-year-olds in England jabbed
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. Six weeks into the vaccine roll-out for this age group, fewer than one in 10 children aged 5 to 11 have received their first dose. The 7 per cent figure compares with the 24 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds in England who received a first dose in the six weeks after they became eligible for the vaccine in September 2021. Children rarely become seriously ill with SARS-CoV-2 virus, however, testing positive can disrupt their schooling or put them at risk of long covid. Speaking of 5 to 11 year olds, Russell Viner at University College London told The Guardian: “It’s a vaccination that probably isn’t particularly beneficial for this age group. “However, it has a very, very good safety profile. And given that we remain in a pandemic, there’s an argument that for individual parents, the balance of risks would appear to be towards vaccination.” Across England, Oxfordshire has the highest vaccine take-up among 5 to 11-year-olds at 12 per cent, while Knowsley in Merseyside has the lowest uptake at 3 per cent, according to the latest NHS statistics up to 8 May. Two covid-19 vaccines are being offered to children from 5 years old across the UK. On 15 March 2022, Wales became the first UK nation to offer 5 to 11-year-olds a covid-19 vaccine, with 9.5 per cent of children in this age group receiving their first dose by 4 May. In Scotland, 17 per cent of 5 to 11 year olds had received their first dose as of 3 May. In Northern Ireland, just 2 per cent of children in this age group had received their first vaccine dose as of 5 May, according to National World. “Getting vaccinated is a personal choice between families and their children, and we have now sent invites to everyone eligible, providing parents with information to allow them to make an informed decision, while they can also talk to their doctor or a local healthcare professional if they have questions,” an NHS spokesperson said. Shanghai will aim to return to normal life from 1 June after being in lockdown for more than seven weeks. “From June 1 to mid- and late June, as long as risks of a rebound in infections are controlled, we will fully implement epidemic prevention and control, normalise management and fully restore normal production and life in the city,” said its deputy mayor Zong Ming. More than 1 million people in North Korea are suffering from what its state media is calling a “fever”, a key covid-19 symptom. This comes less than one week after North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un confirmed the country’s first covid-19 cases and deaths. Of the 1 million fever cases, at least 187,000 people have been isolated and treated. It is unclear whether these cases have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus. North Korea, which is in lockdown, is thought to have limited capacity for covid-19 testing. There is also no official record of any of its 25-million-strong-population being vaccinated. Kim instead prioritised keeping covid-19 out of the country via strict border controls.

5-15-22 1 dead, 5 critically wounded in shooting at Southern California church
One person was killed and five others critically injured on Sunday afternoon during a shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California. The victims are all adults, police said. A suspect is in custody, and authorities said they collected a weapon that may have been used in the shooting. A law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times police believe the suspect is a 68-year-old Asian man originally from Las Vegas, and the motive is unknown. The shooting took place at 1:26 p.m. while a Taiwanese congregation was meeting in the church, officials said. More than 30 people were in the building at the time, and they are being interviewed by law enforcement. Laguna Woods is a quiet Orange County suburb with an older population, and several people who live near the church told the Times when they heard sirens, they thought it was due to a wildfire, not a deadly shooting. "Things are just breaking down in society right now," resident Patricia Wallace said. "It's just so sad."

5-15-22 Sweden joins Finland in signaling imminent NATO bid, ending 200 years of non-alignment
Sweden's ruling Social Democrats on Sunday said they now support joining NATO, hours after Finland's leaders affirmed their intention to get parliamentary approval for membership as early as Monday. "For us Social Democrats, it is clear that the military non-alignment has served Sweden well, but our conclusion is that it won't serve us as well in the future," Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said. "We're now facing a fundamentally changed security environment in Europe." Public opinion in Sweden and Finland swung sharply toward NATO membership after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Andersson said Sweden would be left in a "vulnerable position" if it were the only country in the Baltic region that was not part of the military alliance. She also said the Social Democrats oppose Sweden hosting NATO bases or nuclear weapons. Sweden has steered clear of military alliances for 200 years, since the Napoleonic Wars, and Finland has remained neutral since battling Soviet Russia — and losing 10 percent of its territory — in World War II. "This is a historic day," Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said Sunday. "A new era begins." NATO foreign ministers, meeting in Berlin, reiterated that both Nordic countries would be welcomed if they apply and suggested security guarantees could be provided for the period between application and accession. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Sweden and Finland's applications would be fast-tracked, but it could still take up to a year. Every NATO member state would have to ratify the memberships, and only Turkey so far has voiced reservations. But in Berlin, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu said the issue is not NATO expansion but rather what he called Sweden and Finland's support for Kurdish rebels in the PKK, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization, and also "unacceptable" restrictions both countries have placed on weapons sales to Ankara. Turkey is not issuing any threats or seeking leverage, he added. "Turkey has made it clear that their intention is not to block membership," Stoltenberg said.

5-15-22 Buffalo shooting: Ten dead in racially motivated attack at New York state store
An 18-year-old white man has shot dead 10 people in a black neighbourhood of New York state in what authorities are calling a racially motivated attack. The man, named as Payton Gendron in court papers, was arrested after a stand-off at the scene - a supermarket in the city of Buffalo. He began firing in the store's car park before entering and continuing his rampage, streaming the attack online. US President Joe Biden condemned what he described as an "abhorrent" act. "We are investigating this incident as both a hate crime and a case of racially-motivated violent extremism," said Stephen Belongia, from the FBI's Buffalo office, adding there was evidence of "racial animosity." CBS news reported that the attacker shouted racial slurs during the shooting and suggested that he had a racial slur written on his weapon. He also apparently posted a manifesto online which included racist language and ideas. The suspect is believed to have driven for some 200 miles to reach the predominantly black area of the city. Thirteen people were shot in total and the majority of the victims were black. "He exited his vehicle. He was very heavily armed. He had tactical gear. He had a tactical helmet on. He had a camera that he was live-streaming what he was doing," , Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told reporters. He said the suspect surrendered his weapon after a tense stand-off and was taken into custody. He later appeared in court charged with first degree murder. The three wounded victims - who all worked at the supermarket - have not sustained life-threatening injuries. A retired police officer who was working as a security guard tried to shoot the suspect but was among those killed, police said. "This is the worst nightmare that any community can face and we are hurting, we are seething right now," Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told reporters. "We cannot let this hateful person divide our community or our country," he added.

5-15-22 Buffalo shooting: 'Bodies were everywhere'
Witnesses to a racially-motivated attack at a New York state supermarket have been describing the horrific moment an 18-year-old white man pulled out a gun and began a shooting spree that left 10 people dead. The attacker, dressed in military gear, drove into the car park at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo at about 2.30pm (19:30 BST) and began livestreaming his rampage via a camera on his helmet. "When I first saw him shooting he shot a woman, he shot a deacon, he shot another woman... and then he went in the store and he started shooting again," eyewitness Grady Lewis told reporters. Katherine Crofton, a retired firefighter and doctor, told the local paper she had been playing with her dog and smoking a cigarette when she heard a shot from her front porch. "I didn't see him at first, I turned around and I saw him shoot this woman," she said. "She was just going into the store. And then he shot another woman. She was putting groceries into her car. I got down because I did not know if he was going to shoot me." The suspected gunman has been identified in court documents as Payton Gendron, of Conklin, New York. Of the 13 victims shot, police said 11 of them were black. The authorities say it was a racially motivated attack in what is a predominantly black neighbourhood. Inside the "packed" supermarket, operations manager Shonell Harris told Buffalo News she was putting out groceries when the shooting happened. "I heard a noise, and then it got louder and closer, and everybody started running", she said. Hearing the gunshots, Ms Harris said she made for the back exit, and ran around to the front of the store to look for her daughter, who was also working inside the supermarket. At the front of the store, she said she saw the gunman, clothed "like he was dressed for the army", shoot another person. (Webmasters Comment: A quick trial then hang him with a short rope!)

5-15-22 Ukraine 'appears to have won the Battle of Kharkiv,' think tank says
A Ukrainian counteroffensive seems to have driven Russian forces back from Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, The Washington Post reports. A senior U.S. defense official told reporters on Friday that Ukraine had reclaimed towns and villages in the vicinity of Kharkiv, forcing Russian troops back toward Ukraine's northern border. The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) likewise assessed that Ukraine "appears to have won the Battle of Kharkiv" and that Russian high command has "likely decided to withdraw fully" due to Ukrainian counterattacks and the "limited availability of reinforcements." The counteroffensive, which began earlier this month, drove Russian forces out of artillery range of Kharkiv for the first time since the early days of the war and could threaten the supply lines sustaining Russia's main campaign in the Donbas. BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville described the battles around Kharkiv as "a game of hawk and mouse" in which both sides deployed drones to identify targets for artillery. The Institute for the Study of War suggested Friday that, as decisive victory over Ukraine slips out of reach, "Russian President Vladimir Putin likely intends to annex occupied southern and eastern Ukraine directly into the Russian Federation in the coming months." The ISW also predicted that Putin will "state, directly or obliquely, that Russian doctrine permitting the use of nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory applies to those newly annexed territories."

5-15-22 Russia has lost a third of its invasion force, U.K. intelligence says
United Kingdom military intelligence said Sunday that Russia has lost around one-third of the ground combat forces it deployed when the invasion began in February, Reuters and Al Jazeera report. U.K. intelligence also concluded that Russia's offensive in the Donbas had "lost momentum and fallen significantly behind schedule" and that units engaged in the offensive were suffering from "low morale and reduced combat effectiveness." Russian forces, the assessment concluded, are "unlikely to dramatically accelerate [their] rate of advance over the next 30 days." While Ukrainian forces held the line and even launched a new counteroffensive near Russian-held Izium, the international community continued to close ranks against Russia. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin formally announced on Sunday that Finland is seeking to join NATO. Parliament will vote to ratify the membership proposal on Monday and could submit a formal application the following day. Sweden's governing Social Democrats are likely to drop their longstanding opposition to joining NATO at a meeting onSunday, with an application to follow soon after.

5-15-22 Ukraine war: Finland confirms Nato bid despite Putin warning
Finland has confirmed that it will apply for Nato membership, despite warnings from Russia's President Vladimir Putin that abandoning neutrality would be a "mistake". President Sauli Niinisto called it a "historic day". He says the shift in policy is in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Nato foreign ministers say they want a rapid accession process for Finland. Sweden could also announce its intention to join as soon as Monday. Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border with Russia. Until now, it has stayed out of Nato to avoid antagonising its eastern neighbour. On Saturday Mr Niinisto called Mr Putin to tell him of the Finnish decision and later said the call had been "direct and straight-forward" and "conducted without aggravations". "Avoiding tensions was considered important," he said. Announcing the decision in Helsinki on Sunday, he said he had wanted to "say it straight" to Mr Putin. "I, or Finland, are not known to sneak around and quietly disappear behind a corner," he said.Finland's parliament must now ratify the decision but Prime Minister Sanna Marin said she was confident MPs would debate the matter "with determination and responsibility". Foreign ministers of Nato countries, who are meeting in Berlin, have pledged to provide security guarantees for both Finland and Sweden while their bids to join Nato are being ratified by all member states - a process that can take up to a year. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said there could not be a "transition period, a grey zone, where their status is unclear". Mr Putin has not made a specific threat over Finland's move, but the Russian foreign ministry has indicated there will be retaliation. Russia's decision to suspended electricity supplies to Finland is being seen as an sign of what may come. Finland says Russia provided about 10% of its electricity and it can replace this from alternative sources.

5-15-22 Finland formally confirms Nato membership bid
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford and James Waterhouse in Kyiv, Laura Bicker in Donbas, Lyse Doucet and Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, Caroline Davies in Odesa, and Steve Rosenberg in Moscow. Finland's president has confirmed his country will formally apply for Nato membership - a move Vladimir Putin has described as a mistake. We're waiting to hear if Sweden will also seek to join the military alliance, as foreign ministers from the bloc continue talks in Berlin. Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg says the doors are open for both countries to join, describing the potential change as "historic". On the ground, Russia's offensive in Donbas, in the east, has lost momentum, according to UK military assessment. That UK report also says Russia may have lost a third of the ground combat forces it committed at the start of the invasion. Meanwhile, Ukraine has won the 66th Eurovision song contest - in a symbolic show of public support following the country's invasion.

5-14-22 Russian forces withdraw far from Kharkiv – mayor
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford and James Waterhouse in Kyiv, Laura Bicker in Donbas, Lyse Doucet and Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, Caroline Davies in Odesa, and Steve Rosenberg in Moscow. Kharkiv's mayor tells the BBC that Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian troops "far out" from Ukraine's second city. "Now it is calm and people are gradually coming back to the city," Mayor Ihor Terekhov says. The comments came after a respected military think tank said Ukraine has "likely won the battle" for Kharkiv. Ukraine's president has said "very difficult" negotiations are under way over the evacuation of wounded fighters from Mariupol in the south. Foreign ministers from Nato countries will gather in Berlin later as Sweden and Finland move closer to joining the Western military alliance. The Finnish president called his Russian counterpart to tell him about the move - which Vladimir Putin described as a mistake.

5-14-22 Ukraine war: Putin warns Finland joining Nato would be 'mistake'
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned his Finnish counterpart that joining Nato and abandoning Finland's neutral status would be a "mistake". He told Sauli Niinistö there was no threat to Finland's security. The exchange came during a phone call made by the Finnish president, ahead of a formal request which Finland is expected to announce very soon. Sweden has also indicated its intention to join the Western alliance, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border with Russia. Until now, it has stayed out of Nato to avoid antagonising its eastern neighbour. Mr Putin did not make a specific threat of retaliation over Finland's move, but the Russian foreign ministry has indicated there will be retaliation. Russia's decision to suspended electricity supplies to Finland is being seen as an early sign, however. In its statement, Russian energy supplier RAO Nordic mentioned problems with payments. Finland national grid executive Reima Paivinen told the BBC the Russian suspension had not caused any problems. He said Russian imports accounted for around 10% of national supply, adding that they could be replaced from alternative sources. Following the phone call between Mr Niinistö and Mr Putin on Saturday, the Kremlin said the Russian leader had stressed the "end of the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake since there is no threat to Finland's security". It added: "Such a change in the country's political orientation can have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations developed over years in a spirit of good neighbourliness and co-operation between partners." Mr Niinistö said he had told Mr Putin how recent moves by Russia, along with the invasion of Ukraine, "have altered the security environment of Finland"."The conversation was direct and straight-forward and it was conducted without aggravations. Avoiding tensions was considered important," he said..

5-14-22 Worry and fear as US faces baby formula shortage
Parents are travelling far and wide to find baby formula as a shortage that began earlier this year worsens. The shortage is linked to supply chain challenges and the closure of a major factory in February after a recall linked to bacteria. Experts say this is the worst formula shortage in decades.

5-13-22 Erdogan: Turkey does not support Finland, Sweden joining NATO
The government of Turkey does not support Finland and Sweden joining NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday. "We are following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we are not of a favorable opinion," Erdogan said in Instanbul, per The Associated Press. "Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organizations," he added, per Reuters. "They are even members of the parliament in some countries. It is not possible for us to be in favor." Erdogan's comments throw a potentially huge wrench in both Finland and Sweden's possible membership, considering all 30 NATO allies must approve a candidate country's application. Sweden has not yet made final its intention to apply, though a decision is expected soon. Finland announced its plans to move forward with accession on Thursday. The remarks are also at odds with those made by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who previously said Finland and Sweden would be welcomed to the military alliance with open arms. Turkey's opposition pertains to its issues with "Sweden and other Scandinavian countries' alleged support for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers to be terrorists," AP writes. Erdogan also said he did not want to repeat a "mistake" similar to when Turkey agreed to readmit Greece to NATO's military wing in 1980, allowing Greece to "to take an attitude against Turkey." Erdogan did not, however, explicity state his intention to outright block an accession attempt from either country, AP notes.

5-13-22 Texas court unanimously rules child abuse investigations into parents of trans kids can resume
The Texas Supreme Court unanimously ruled Friday that child abuse investigations into the parents of transgender children can continue, The New York Times reports. The ruling came after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state's Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate the family of a 16-year-old transgender girl identified as "Mary Doe." Abbott had called on state officials to consider medically accepted treatments for transgender youth, such as hormones and puberty suppressants, as abuse. Mary Doe's family filed a lawsuit when investigators began requesting medical records related to their daughter's treatment. All investigations were temporarily halted in March after District Judge Amy Clark Meachum found Abbott's orders to have been "improperly adopted and violated the State Constitution." The appeals court believed officials shouldn't proceed with the inquiry as it would cause "irreparable harm" to the family who initiated the lawsuit. The Friday ruling allows for Texas families to once again be investigated, but it does so while also permitting "the injunction to remain in place for one family who launched a lawsuit," Pink News writes, noting that "DFPS confirmed in March that it had opened nine 'child abuse' investigations into the supportive families of trans youth in the state." NPR called Friday's decision "a blow to Texas families with transgender children, some of whom are departing the state or considering moves." The Associated Press, however, reports that Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a counsel and health care strategist for Lambda Legal, suggested "the state would be foolish to do so now because those families could also seek an injunction." Microplastics permeate the globe from the oceans' depths to the highest mountaintop — and our bodies. Here's everything you need to know:

5-13-22 Covid-19 news: US records over 1 million coronavirus deaths
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientiwsp_rte_replace_marker about the covid-19 pandemic. The US has officially passed the ‘tragic milestone’, however, many more deaths are expected to have occurred than have been recorded. The US has officially recorded more than 1 million covid-19 deaths, President Joe Biden said on 12 May, calling the fatalities a “tragic milestone”. “One million covid deaths, one million empty chairs around the family dinner table, each irreplaceable losses,” said Biden. “We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible, as we have with more testing, vaccines, and treatments than ever before.” The scale of the death toll is far larger than originally anticipated, with Anthony Fauci at the US National Institutes of Health saying in March 2020 that between 100,000 and 200,000 people could die from covid-19. The US has a higher official covid-19 death toll than anywhere else in the world, but many fatalities are expected to go unrecorded in some countries. A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report looked at “excess deaths”, defined as the number of fatalities from any cause in 2020 and 2021 compared with previous years. This included covid-19 deaths that were not recorded as such, as well as people who died from other causes because hospitals were full amid the pandemic. The report found that India had the highest number of overall excess deaths, while Peru and Russia had the highest number of excess deaths for their population size. Separately, 2 million covid-19 deaths have been recorded across the European region, which includes the UK, the WHO said on 12 May. Six covid-19 deaths have been officially reported in North Korea, where the pandemic is spreading “explosively”, according to the country’s state media. North Korea imposed a national lockdown on 12 May, after acknowledging its first covid-19 cases. Since late April, 350,000 people in North Korea have been treated for fever, but the country is thought to have little capacity for covid-19 testing. It has not reported carrying out any covid-19 vaccinations. Shanghai has said it is aiming to achieve zero cases of covid-19 outside of tightly regulated quarantine zones by mid-May. Cases outside the quarantine zones are an indicator of whether the outbreak is spreading. This comes after the WHO called China’s zero-covid policy unsustainable, because the omicron variant is so transmissible.

5-13-22 North Korea announces first death from Covid-19
North Korea has confirmed its first death from Covid-19, with state media adding that tens of thousands more are experiencing fever symptoms. Six people died after suffering a fever with one testing positive for Omicron, state media reported on Friday. It said 187,000 people with a fever were being "isolated and treated". While experts believe the virus has been present in the country for some time, the authorities only announced the first cases on Thursday. They said there had been an outbreak of the Omicron variant in the capital, Pyongyang, and announced lockdown measures. They did not give precise case numbers. But in an update on Friday, the official KCNA news agency reported that the outbreak extended beyond the capital. "A fever whose cause couldn't be identified spread explosively nationwide from late April," it said. Around 350,000 people had shown signs of that fever, it added, without specifying how many had tested positive for Covid. Analysts suggest the latest figures from state media, including the acknowledgement that the unspecified fever had spread nationwide, may indicate the country is experiencing an outbreak unlike any it has seen so far. Its population of 25 million is vulnerable due to the lack of a vaccination programme and poor healthcare, experts say. North Korea rejected offers from the international community to supply millions of AstraZeneca and Chinese-made jabs last year. Instead, it claimed it had controlled Covid by sealing its borders early in January 2020. The country shares land borders with South Korea and China, which have both battled outbreaks. China is now struggling to contain an Omicron wave with lockdowns in its biggest cities. On Friday, KCNA reported that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had visited a healthcare centre and "learned about the nationwide spread of Covid-19". It described the situation as an "immediate public health crisis".

5-13-22 Elon Musk puts Twitter deal on hold over fake account details
Elon Musk has said his $44bn (£35bn) deal to buy Twitter is on hold after he queried the number of fake or spam accounts on the social media platform. He said he was waiting for information "supporting [the] calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users". Mr Musk has been vocal on cleaning up spam accounts. However, analysts speculated he could be seeking to renegotiate the price or even walk away from the takeover. Mr Musk added later that he was "still committed to acquisition", but the disclosures fuelled Wall Street doubts, sending Twitter's share price plunging. Shares were down 10% in morning trade in New York. Even before Mr Musk's comments, the stock had been selling for less than the $54.40 he had offered, a sign that the markets were not convinced he would complete the buyout. Under the terms of the deal, if either Twitter or Mr Musk walk away they must pay the other side a termination fee of $1bn. Twitter reported more than two weeks ago that fake accounts accounted for fewer than 5% of its daily active users during the first three months of this year. However, the company said in determining the amount of spam accounts, "it applied significant judgment, so our estimation of false or spam accounts may not accurately represent the actual number of such accounts". "The actual number of false or spam accounts could be higher than we have estimated. We are continually seeking to improve our ability to estimate the total number of spam accounts," it said. Mr Musk, who is the richest person in the world according to Forbes magazine, is now examining that figure. Twitter has long had an issue with automated, fake accounts being used to relentlessly post content. Mr Musk has called for "defeating the spam bots" on Twitter as well as several other changes, including bringing back some banned accounts such as that of former US President Donald Trump.

5-13-22 Russian battalion wiped out in failed river crossing - UK
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford and James Waterhouse in Kyiv, Laura Bicker in Donbas, Lyse Doucet and Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, Caroline Davies in Odesa, and Steve Rosenberg in Moscow. A Russian battalion lost almost all of its armoured vehicles in a failed attempt to cross a river near Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, the UK says. Images from the scene show dozens of burnt-out tanks after Ukrainian forces shelled temporary bridges across the Siversky Donets in Luhansk region. The UK's Ministry of Defence says the incident reveals the pressure Russian commanders are under to make progress. It isn't clear how many soldiers were killed in the battle, but Moscow's forces appear to be making gains elsewhere in the area. A Russian soldier accused of killing an unarmed Ukrainian civilian has appeared in court - the first alleged war crime case since the war began. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, faces possible life imprisonment on charges of war crimes and premeditated murder.

5-12-22 UNICEF: Nearly 100 children were killed in Ukraine in April
In April, close to 100 children were killed in Ukraine, UNICEF said on Thursday, but an agency official told the United Nations Security Council he believes "the actual figures to be considerably higher." UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi said that since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, many children have "been injured and faced grave violations of their rights," with "millions more" displaced. "The war in Ukraine, like all wars, is a child protection and child rights crisis," he added. Education is under attack as well, Abdi said, explaining that as of last week, at least 15 of 89 UNICEF-supported schools in eastern Ukraine "have been damaged or destroyed since the start of the war. Hundreds of schools across the country are reported to have been hit by heavy artillery, airstrikes, and other explosive weapons in populated areas." Schools are lifelines for children during the best of times, Abdi stated, and are especially vital during conflict. "Schools are a safe space, with routines providing protection from harm and a semblance of normalcy," he added. "Schools are also critical conduits for information about the risks of deadly explosive ordnance. And they are a connector to essential health and psychosocial services."

5-12-22 Ukraine's 'hawk and mouse' Kharkiv counteroffensive is nearing Russia's border, threatening supply lines
A Ukrainian counteroffensive north and east of Kharkiv has pushed Russian forces mostly out of shelling range of Ukraine's second-largest city, under near-constant attack since Moscow tried to surround it at the beginning of its invasion. Ukraine's armed forces now regularly report recapturing towns and villages from retreating Russian troops. The war in the Kharkiv region, costly to both sides, is "now a game of hawk and mouse, where each side's drones circle constantly, trying to pinpoint the enemy's tanks and guns, for targeting by artillery," BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville reports from one newly recaptured village. The fight has mostly involved the two sides "lobbing artillery shells at one another, sometimes from dozens of miles away," New York Times correspondent Michael Schwirtz reports from the Kharkiv front lines. "But at some points along the zigzagging eastern front, the combat becomes a vicious and intimate dance, granting enemy forces fleeting glimpses of one another as they jockey for command of hills and makeshift redoubts in towns and villages blasted apart by shells." "Ukrainian gains, modest for now, could have strategic implications for Russia's war in the Donbas to the southeast," the BBC's Sommerville reports. Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian lines within a handful of miles from Russia's borders in some places — Ukrainian shelling killed a Russian civilian in a village six miles into Russia, the governor of Belgorod region said — threatening to cut off the main ground supply routes for Russia's eastern offensive. "Russia's prioritization of operations in the Donbas has left elements deployed in the Kharkiv Oblast vulnerable to the mobile, and highly motivated, Ukrainian counter-attacking force," Britain's Ministry of Defense said in an early Thursday intelligence update. Russia "has reportedly withdrawn units from the region to reorganize and replenish its forces following heavy losses," and "once reconstituted," they will likely deploy to "protect the western flank of Russia's main force concentration and main supply routes for operations in the vicinity of Izium." As residents return to the recaptured villages, "many have been shocked by the scale of destruction," the Times reports. "Cars have been blown to pieces. Homes have been shattered by heavy artillery. ... Bodies are scattered around the once peaceful town." And as soon as the Russians leave, forensic investigators come in to document Russian war crimes, The Washington Post reports. "Imagine an episode of CSI — and there's a war going on, too."

5-12-22 'Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,' Finnish president and prime minister advise
Finland is a big step closer to joining NATO after President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin threw their support behind membership Thursday morning. "NATO membership would strengthen Finland's security," they said in a statement. "As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days." Before Russia invaded Ukraine, public support for joining NATO was consistently below 30 percent. Now it is at 76 percent, according to the latest opinion poll. Before Finland applies for membership, NATO accession needs a majority vote in parliament. One member of Finland's parliament, Johannes Koskinen, told CNN he expects the measure to pass easily as early as next week. "Maybe around 180 out of 200 [MPs] are in favor of membership," he said. NATO would then formally invite Finland to join. Barring any surprises, "Finland will soon be a NATO territory — doubling the length of the NATO-Russia border," BBC News notes. "It means that NATO will only be a two- to three-hour drive to St Petersburg — the home city of Vladimir Putin. The very thing that Putin has sought for years to prevent — NATO expansion — is the very thing he has now brought about." Sweden's leaders are expected to announce their stance on joining NATO this weekend. The countries have said they would likely apply at the same time. NATO said it would welcome both Finland and Sweden into the alliance quickly and take interim steps to protect them from Russian retaliation.

5-12-22 Trump under investigation for the handling of classified material
Federal prosecutors are launching a grand jury investigation into the role former President Donald Trump and other White House officials took in the mishandling of classified documents, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing "two people briefed on the matter." The investigation began after the National Archives discovered that 15 boxes containing government documents were removed from the White House and taken to Trump's Florida home, Mar-a-Lago, in January 2021. Federal authorities were only in the preliminary stages of investigating in April; however, authorities have now reportedly decided to take action. "In recent days … prosecutors [have] issued a subpoena to the National Archives and Records Administration to obtain the boxes of classified documents," writes the Times. There have also been requests to interview other White House workers. Discovering the truth of what happened with the classified documents might be challenging. Authorities would have to show that Trump and other White House officials "knowingly and intentionally broke the law" by proving the people involved understood that taking the materials out of the White House was illegal. In the past 15 months since Trump left office, the former president has faced many legal problems. "The decision to move forward with an investigation into the classified documents could draw the [Justice Department] even deeper into the country's political tensions," writes the Times. Read more at The New York Times.

5-12-22 United States passes one million Covid deaths
The US has passed more than one million Covid-related deaths, says the White House. President Joe Biden said the country was marking "a tragic milestone" and each death was "an irreplaceable loss". It's the highest official total in the world - although the World Health Organization believes the true death toll may be much higher elsewhere. The US has also recorded more than 80 million Covid cases, out of a 330 million population. The first confirmed case was reported on 20 January 2020, when a man flew home to Seattle from Wuhan in China. The 35-year-old survived, after 10 days of pneumonia, coughs, fever, nausea and vomiting. But deaths began to be reported just a few weeks later. In the two years since, death rates have ebbed and flowed as waves of the virus swept across the country - reaching highs of more than 4,000 a day in early 2021. Public health experts give several reasons for the high US death toll - including high rates of obesity and hypertension, overworked hospital systems, some vaccine hesitancy and a large older population. Each US state may have a slightly different way to define a Covid death, and such deaths are often not solely because of the virus. "One million Covid deaths, one million empty chairs around the family dinner table, each irreplaceable losses," said President Biden in a televised statement on Thursday morning. "Our heart goes out to all those who are struggling, asking themselves, how do we go on without him, how do we go on without her?" The president ordered the White House flags to be lowered to half mast to mark the milestone. The US has seen the number of daily reported deaths spike on several occasions, often coming as new variants spread across the country. The first wave - the initial pandemic - saw highs of more than 2,500 daily reported deaths in April 2020, about eight months before the first vaccines were rolled out in December.

5-12-22 Ukraine's 'hawk and mouse' Kharkiv counteroffensive is nearing Russia's border, threatening supply lines
A Ukrainian counteroffensive north and east of Kharkiv has pushed Russian forces mostly out of shelling range of Ukraine's second-largest city, under near-constant attack since Moscow tried to surround it at the beginning of its invasion. Ukraine's armed forces now regularly report recapturing towns and villages from retreating Russian troops. The war in the Kharkiv region, costly to both sides, is "now a game of hawk and mouse, where each side's drones circle constantly, trying to pinpoint the enemy's tanks and guns, for targeting by artillery," BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville reports from one newly recaptured village. The fight has mostly involved the two sides "lobbing artillery shells at one another, sometimes from dozens of miles away," New York Times correspondent Michael Schwirtz reports from the Kharkiv front lines. "But at some points along the zigzagging eastern front, the combat becomes a vicious and intimate dance, granting enemy forces fleeting glimpses of one another as they jockey for command of hills and makeshift redoubts in towns and villages blasted apart by shells." "Ukrainian gains, modest for now, could have strategic implications for Russia's war in the Donbas to the southeast," the BBC's Sommerville reports. Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian lines within a handful of miles from Russia's borders in some places — Ukrainian shelling killed a Russian civilian in a village six miles into Russia, the governor of Belgorod region said — threatening to cut off the main ground supply routes for Russia's eastern offensive. "Russia's prioritization of operations in the Donbas has left elements deployed in the Kharkiv Oblast vulnerable to the mobile, and highly motivated, Ukrainian counter-attacking force," Britain's Ministry of Defense said in an early Thursday intelligence update. Russia "has reportedly withdrawn units from the region to reorganize and replenish its forces following heavy losses," and "once reconstituted," they will likely deploy to "protect the western flank of Russia's main force concentration and main supply routes for operations in the vicinity of Izium." As residents return to the recaptured villages, "many have been shocked by the scale of destruction," the Times reports. "Cars have been blown to pieces. Homes have been shattered by heavy artillery. ... Bodies are scattered around the once peaceful town." And as soon as the Russians leave, forensic investigators come in to document Russian war crimes, The Washington Post reports. "Imagine an episode of CSI — and there's a war going on, too."

5-12-22 'Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,' Finnish president and prime minister advise
Finland is a big step closer to joining NATO after President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin threw their support behind membership Thursday morning. "NATO membership would strengthen Finland's security," they said in a statement. "As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days." Before Russia invaded Ukraine, public support for joining NATO was consistently below 30 percent. Now it is at 76 percent, according to the latest opinion poll. Before Finland applies for membership, NATO accession needs a majority vote in parliament. One member of Finland's parliament, Johannes Koskinen, told CNN he expects the measure to pass easily as early as next week. "Maybe around 180 out of 200 [MPs] are in favor of membership," he said. NATO would then formally invite Finland to join. Barring any surprises, "Finland will soon be a NATO territory — doubling the length of the NATO-Russia border," BBC News notes. "It means that NATO will only be a two- to three-hour drive to St Petersburg — the home city of Vladimir Putin. The very thing that Putin has sought for years to prevent — NATO expansion — is the very thing he has now brought about." Sweden's leaders are expected to announce their stance on joining NATO this weekend. The countries have said they would likely apply at the same time. NATO said it would welcome both Finland and Sweden into the alliance quickly and take interim steps to protect them from Russian retaliation.

5-12-22 Finland Nato: Russia threatens to retaliate over membership move
Russia has said it will be forced to take "retaliatory steps" over its neighbour Finland's move to join Nato. A foreign ministry statement said the move would seriously damage bilateral relations, as well as security and stability in northern Europe. Earlier, Finland's president and PM called for the country to apply for Nato membership "without delay". It comes amid a surge in public support for Nato membership following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border with Russia. Until now, it has stayed out of Nato to avoid antagonising its eastern neighbour. Finland will formally announce its decision on Sunday after it has been considered by parliament and other senior political figures. Sweden has said it will announce a similar decision on the same day.Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said he expects the process of giving Sweden and Finland membership to happen "quite quickly". The Russian statement (in Russian) described Finland's move as "a radical change in the country's foreign policy". "Finland's accession to Nato will cause serious damage to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations and the maintaining of stability and security in the Northern European region," it said. "Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to neutralise the threats to its national security that arise from this." However, Moscow has not specified what steps it plans to take. "Everything will depend on how this expansion process plays out, the extent to which military infrastructure moves closer to our borders," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier told reporters. Russian officials were responding to a joint statement by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin, which said the two leaders expected a decision on Nato membership in the next few days. "Nato membership would strengthen Finland's security," it said. "As a member of Nato, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance. Finland must apply for Nato membership without delay."

5-12-22 Ukraine invasion changed our minds on Nato - Finland
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford and James Waterhouse in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Donbas, Lyse Doucet, Laura Bicker and Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, Caroline Davies in Odesa, and Jenny Hill and Steve Rosenberg in Moscow. Finland's leaders have announced their intention to join the Nato defence alliance "without delay". Russia's invasion was a turning point and upended decades of public support for military non-alignment, the country's foreign minister tells the BBC. Given Finland's 800-mile border with Russia, it is a matter of having protection, Pekka Haavisto says. Application for membership is expected next week after parliament approves it. Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg says Finland would be "warmly welcomed" into the alliance, where members pledge to defend each other. Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the "unfriendly steps" taken by Finland were a cause for regret for Russia. And Ukrainian forces have been pushing Russia's army further back around the second city of Kharkiv.

5-12-22 Ukraine conflict: Russian soldiers seen shooting dead unarmed civilians
When Leonid Pliats and his boss were shot in the back by Russian soldiers, the killing was captured on CCTV cameras in clear and terrible detail. The footage, which was obtained by the BBC, is now being investigated by Ukrainian prosecutors as a suspected war crime. It was the height of the fighting around Kyiv and the main roads into the capital were a battlefield, including around the bicycle shop where Leonid worked as a security guard. But this was no firefight: the video clearly shows heavily armed Russian soldiers shooting the two unarmed Ukrainians and then looting the business. We have pieced together the full sequence of events, matching what was recorded on multiple CCTV cameras around the site with the testimony of people Leonid phoned that day, as well as the Ukrainian volunteer fighters who tried to rescue him. The Russians arrive in a stolen van daubed with the V sign used by Russian forces and the words Tank Spetsnaz in black paint. They wear Russian military uniform and approach with their guns up, fingers on the triggers. Leonid walks towards the soldiers with his hands up to show he's unarmed and no threat. The Russians initially talk to him and his boss through the fence. There is no audio on the footage but the men seem calm, they even smoke. Then the Ukrainians turn away and the soldiers start to leave. Suddenly they turn back, crouch then shoot the two men multiple times in their backs. One is killed outright but somehow Leonid manages to stagger to his feet. He even ties his belt around his thigh to slow the blood, then stumbles to his cabin where he begins to call for help. Vasyl Podlevskyi spoke to his friend twice that day, as he sat bleeding heavily. Leonid told him the soldiers claimed they don't kill civilians, then they shot him. "I said can you at least bandage yourself up? And he told me, Vasya, I barely crawled here. Everything hurts so much. I feel really bad," Vasyl remembers the call. "So I told him to hang in there and started phoning the territorial defence." The men he called used to sell air conditioning before the war.

5-12-22 California's under-21 gun ban struck down by court
A federal appeals court in California has ruled that the state's ban on the sale of semiautomatic firearms to Americans under 21 is unconstitutional. In a 2-1 vote, the judges' panel said the law was an "an almost total ban on semiautomatic" rifles for youths. They found that it violates the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees the right to private gun ownership. The law came in response to failures from Congress to pass gun control. It took effect in 2019, raising the minimum requirement for rifle and shotgun sales from 18 years to 21. The court ruling brings the minimum age back to 18. The minimum legal age in California for tobacco, alcohol or cannabis sales is 21. "America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army," Judge Ryan Nelson wrote in the 100-page ruling from the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, overturning the law. "Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms." The outcome was not an unqualified victory for gun rights. The ruling upheld the state's requirement that adults under 21 who are not in the military or law enforcement need a hunting licence to buy rifles or shotguns. The Firearms Policy Coalition, which brought the case, told the Associated Press that it hopes the quashing of the under-21 gun ban will spur an unravelling of other age-based gun restrictions. California Attorney General Rob Bonta has yet to issue a response to the ruling. Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last month shows that guns overtook car crashes to become the leading cause of deaths for US children and teenagers in 2020. Over 4,300 young people died of firearms-related injuries that year, the data shows. More than 390m guns are owned by US civilians.

5-12-22 Here’s the latest good and bad news about COVID-19 drugs
After vaccines, antivirals and a monoclonal antibody are the next line of defense. Maybe you’ve heard that the pandemic is over in the United States. (It’s not.) Masks are no longer required in most places and large gatherings are becoming commonplace again. Most of the country is in the green, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracking site, which monitors COVID-19 transmission and hospitalization rates. Many people have been relying on vaccines to control outbreaks, and there is renewed attention on getting newly available treatments to sick people. But coronavirus cases are on the rise again with more than a quarter of counties reporting high levels of transmission. And those are official numbers. No one really knows how many at-home tests come back positive and are never reported (SN: 4/22/22). Those cases are driving hospitalization rates up, with pockets of yellow and orange popping up on the CDC’s map, indicating that hospitals are entering the danger zone for being overwhelmed. Deaths have remained fairly low. That could change if another wave of infection sweeps the country. “Maybe we think we’re on the edge of the woods, but we’re not out of it yet,” says Mark Denison, a coronavirus researcher at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Preventing hospitalizations and deaths is what vaccines were designed to do, but even the very good COVID-19 vaccines aren’t perfect. And with new immune-evasive variants of the coronavirus, even vaccinated people and those who previously had COVID-19 — particularly the elderly or people with weakened immune systems or other health concerns — can wind up in the hospital. The next line of defense against that bad outcome are three antiviral drugs and a monoclonal antibody that may keep people newly diagnosed with COVID-19 from becoming severely ill and dying.

5-12-22 Covid-19 news: North Korea reports its first cases of the pandemic
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. North Korea has introduced a national lockdown after reporting its first covid-19 outbreak in the capital Pyongyang. The country had never reported a covid-19 case before 12 May 2022. But many expect infections would have arisen in early 2020, before North Korea closed its borders, given its travel and trade relationships with China. According to the North Korean news outlet KCNA, people with fevers in Pyongyang recently tested positive for the omicron sublineage BA.2, but state media has not confirmed the number of cases or where the infections may have originated. There is no official record of any of North Korea’s 25-million-strong-population being vaccinated. According to KCNA, state authorities, including North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, recognise that a “most serious emergency case” has occurred, and Jong-un hopes to “quickly cure the infections in order to eradicate the source of the virus”. More than half of people who were hospitalised with covid-19 have at least one symptom two years later, according to a study that followed 1192 people living in Wuhan, China, after they were infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus in early 2020. The findings provide the longest known follow-up of covid-19 symptoms so far, with previous studies spanning around one year. The participants – who had an average age of 57 – were assessed via a six-minute walking test, questionnaires and lung tests at six months, 12 months and two years post-discharge. More than two thirds (68 per cent) reported at least one long covid symptom six months after leaving hospital, decreasing to 55 per cent after two years. The most commonly reported symptom was fatigue or muscle weakness. “Our findings indicate that for a certain proportion of hospitalised covid-19 survivors, while they may have cleared the initial infection, more than two years is needed to recover fully from covid-19,” Bin Cao at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in China said in a statement. The number of reported covid-19 deaths that occurred in the African region between 2 and 8 March was up 84 per cent on the previous week, according to the World Health Organization. The African region also saw cases rise 12 per cent week-on-week. Globally, the number of reported covid-19 cases and deaths have been declining since the end of March.

5-11-22 North Korea enters lockdown after 1st official COVID-19 outbreak
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered a strict national lockdown after a COVID-19 outbreak was confirmed in Pyongyang, the capital, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Thursday. This is the first cases of COVID-19 acknowledged by North Korea during the two-year pandemic, though most outside experts doubted that the isolated nation had evaded the virus completely. Kim called an emergency meeting of the Politburo to discuss the outbreak, and ordered cities and counties to be locked down and workplaces to be isolated by unit to prevent spread of the coronavirus, KCNA said, The news agency did not say how big the outbreak is or how serious. Few of North Korea's 26 million residents are believed to be vaccinated since Kim rejected vaccine offers from China and the United Nations–backed COVAX distribution program. "For Pyongyang to publicly admit omicron cases, the public health situation must be serious," said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at South Korea's Ewha Womans University. "This does not mean North Korea is suddenly going to be open to humanitarian assistance and take a more conciliatory line toward Washington and Seoul. But the Kim regime's domestic audience may be less interested in nuclear or missile tests when the urgent threat involves coronavirus rather than a foreign military." North Korea avoided large outbreaks earlier in the pandemic by sealing its border, though it began cross-border railroad freight trade with China in January. China halted trade again in April after COVID-19 broke out in Liaoning province, on North Korea's border. With North Korea's acknowledged outbreak, very few countries are left that have reported no COVID-19 cases, The Associated Press reports, including Turkmenistan, though its claim of being COVID-free is also widely doubted, and a handful of Pacific Island nations, mainly Tuvalu, population 12,000.

5-11-22 U.S. overdose deaths hit new record in 2021
Deaths from overdoses increased 15 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year, according to provisional data released on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reported that approximately 108,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2021. The newly reported uptick comes after 2020 recorded a shocking 30 percent increase in overdose deaths. "Drug overdoses, which long ago surged above the country's peak deaths from AIDS, car crashes and guns, killed about a quarter as many Americans last year as COVID-19," The New York Times reports. A growing proportion of drug deaths involved synthetic opioids and fentanyl, which can be mixed with other drugs and may prove deadly even if the drug user is unaware. "Previously, prescription drug misuse and heroin use were the primary drivers of overdose deaths," director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, told CNN. "However, as fentanyl and other synthetic opioids began to infiltrate the drug market… we started to see how expanding exposure of a profitable, easy-to-make, and incredibly dangerous drug dramatically increased risk and vulnerability to drug overdose deaths." Some experts believe the COVID-19 pandemic may have also worsened the situation due to social isolation. The data provided by the CDC may change as the government reviews more death records.

5-11-22 Inflation moderates slightly, but prices remain high
Annual inflation fell slightly to 8.3 percent in April — down from an 8.5 percent annual rate in March — though upward price pressures continue, The Wall Street Journal reports Wednesday, per the U.S. Labor Department. On a monthly basis, the consumer price index rose 0.3 percent from March to April. But the core-price index, which excludes volatile food and energy categories, "increased 0.6 percent on the month, a sharp pickup from March's 0.3 percent gain, providing a sign of broad-based inflationary pressure," the Journal writes. "While it is heartening to see that annual inflation moderated in April, the fact remains that inflation is unacceptably high," President Biden wrote in a statement on Wednesday. "Inflation is a challenge for families across the country and bringing it down is my top economic priority," he continued, echoing the speech he gave Tuesday. In a bid at taming rampant inflation, the Federal Reserve meanwhile raised interest rates last week by half a percent. Wednesday's report also serves to underscore the challenges ahead of the central bank in their efforts, The Associated Press notes. It's unclear when exactly the situation might improve, but economists predict inflation will remain high into 2023 — even if pressure cools slightly in the meantime.

5-11-22 Ukraine announces first war crime trial since the invasion began
Ukraine will put a Russian soldier on trial for war crimes for the first time since the invasion began, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova announced Wednesday. According to The Washington Post, the soldier — 21-year-old Vadim Shishimarin — allegedly fired several rounds from a car with his Kalashnikov rifle, killing a 62-year-old Ukrainian man who was pushing his bike by the side of the road. The prosecutor's office found Shishimarin to be "in violation of the laws and customs of war combined with premeditated murder." He faces 10 to 15 years in prison. Last month, Ukrainian prosecutors filed charges against 10 members of the Russian military in connection with the atrocities committed in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, but none of the individuals charged are in Ukrainian custody. War crimes expert Robert Goldman told the Post that it is unusual to put captured enemy soldiers on trial for war crimes, especially in the middle of a war. Ukraine's justice system does have the authority under international law to prosecute enemy soldiers who commit war crimes, but prisoners cannot be prosecuted simply for participating in the invasion.

5-11-22 Britain signs mutual security pacts with Sweden and Finland ahead of NATO decision
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled to Sweden and Finland on Wednesday to sign mutual security agreements with the two non-aligned countries, both close to deciding whether to join NATO. Under the agreements, signed separately with Swedish Prime Minster Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, the countries would provide military and other assistance to the other signatory upon request, tailored to the specific request. Johnson said the agreements are "not a short-term stop gap" while Finland and Sweden debate NATO membership, but rather "enduring assurance between two nations." Still, the agreement could ease concerns about aggression from Russia in the period between the two countries applying for NATO membership and being accepted and sheltered under the alliance's more robust Article 5 mutual security arrangement. Russia is vehemently opposed to NATO expansion, especially close to its territory; Finland and Russia share an 800-mile border. Johnson's "agreements with Sweden and Finland are not a legal or automatic security guarantee but a political declaration that the U.K. would come to their aid, if requested," BBC News reports. Andersson and Niinistö both attributed the mutual security pacts and possible NATO membership to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Niinistö is expected to reveal his opinion on Finland joining NATO this week, and if Finland applies, Sweden is expect to do so at the same time. Johnson, after meeting with Andersson at her country residence and posing for a photo in a rowboat, said the agreement "enshrines the values" held by both Britain and Sweden. "As you put it so well, Magdalena, when we were out on the lake," Johnson added: "We are now literally and metaphorically in the same boat."

5-11-22 Gas prices reach an all-time high
Average gas prices hit a record high on Tuesday; skyrocketing to the highest price AAA has recorded since it started keeping track in 2000, The Washington Post reports. The nationwide average cost per gallon of gas has increased to $4.37, beating early March's previous record of around $4.30. Gas prices can be difficult to predict, notes the Post, but experts say drivers can expect gas prices to continue rising throughout the summer, especially if Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, which is one factor affecting global oil prices. "We're also entering the spring and summer driving season, when gas prices typically increase because of higher demand," said Devin Gladden, spokesman for auto club AAA and an adviser at the Energy Department during the Obama administration, "So we are expecting that this is going to be an expensive summer at the pump for consumers." GasBuddy's head of petroleum analysis, Patrick De Haan, similarly told the Post that he predicts that the national average could reach $4.50 per gallon.

5-11-22 Elon Musk would reverse Donald Trump's Twitter ban
Elon Musk says if his bid to buy Twitter is successful he will reverse Donald Trump's ban from the platform. The richest man in the world agreed a $44bn (£34.5bn) takeover bid with the Twitter board last month. two to three months. Twitter's decision to ban the former US president was "morally wrong and flat-out stupid", Mr Musk told the Financial Times Future of the Car summit. In January 2021, Twitter said Mr Trump's account was "permanently suspended... due to the risk of further incitement of violence" following the storming of the Capitol. But the Tesla owner said: "I would reverse the permanent ban but I don't own Twitter yet so this is not a thing that will definitely happen." He said the ban had not silenced Mr Trump, but by making him move onto his own Truth Social site, it had amplified his voice among the far right. He pointed out that Mr Trump had previously said he would not return to Twitter even if his account was reinstated. Mr Musk said he had spoken to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey on the subject of locking users out of their social media accounts in response to offensive tweets. "He and I are of the same mind that permanent bans should be extremely rare and reserved for accounts that are bots or scam accounts," he said. Mr Musk said if someone tweeted something "illegal or otherwise destructive to the world" there should be temporary suspension or the post should be made invisible. He said Twitter needed to build more trust by sharing its algorithm and asking people to make suggestions on how to improve it. He said the company had a strong left bias because of its origins in the San Francisco tech community and needed to be "more even-handed". "Victory would be the far right 10% and the far left 10% are equally upset," he said. "Removing Donald Trump from Twitter actually decreased the amount of polarisation," she said. "It removed a platform for him to stoke animosity and division between people within the platform."

5-11-22 Putin ready for a 'prolonged' Ukraine war, expects U.S. 'resolve to weaken,' U.S. intelligence chief says
Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be preparing for "a prolonged conflict" in Ukraine will likely become "more unpredictable and escalatory" in coming months, largely because "Putin faces a mismatch between his ambitions and Russia's current conventional military capabilities," U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told a Senate committee on Tuesday. Putin aims "to achieve goals beyond the Donbas," up to carving a land bridge along Ukraine's Black Sea coast to the Russian-aligned breakaway Transnistria region of Moldova, Haines said. Putin is highly unlikely to achieve that last goal, which would damage Ukraine's economy immensely, without a full mobilization inside Russia, a step he hasn't taken. The 75-day conflict has turned into a war of attrition, and "as both Russia and Ukraine believe they can continue to make progress militarily, we do not see a viable negotiating path forward, at least in the short term," Haines said. For his part, Putin "is probably counting on U.S. and E.U. resolve to weaken as food shortages, inflation, and energy shortages get worse." The House, hours after her testimony, voted 368-57 to approve nearly $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid to help Ukraine fend off Russia plus other measures to ease the fallout. The Senate will likely pass the bill this week. Haines said that as the war grinds on, Putin may turn to "more drastic means" but he's unlikely to use nuclear weapons unless he sees an "existential threat" to Russia or his rule. Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, agreed about the low risk of nuclear warfare and told the Senate that eight to 10 Russian generals have been killed while fighting in Ukraine, an extraordinary high number of senior officers in a very short amount of time.

5-10-22 Biden worried that Putin 'doesn't have a way out' of Ukraine
President Biden said Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin "doesn't have a way out" of the war in Ukraine and that he's "trying to figure out what we do about that," according to USA Today. Speaking at a political fundraiser near Washington, D.C., Biden said Putin launched the invasion believing Russian troops would achieve a swift victory that would fracture NATO and the European Union, Reuters reported. Instead, Russian forces were driven back from Ukraine's capital and suffered heavy losses. Even in eastern Ukraine, Russia's limited territorial gains have been dearly bought. Last month, Bloomberg reported that Kremlin insiders had begun surreptitiously expressing concerns about the possibility of Putin ordering a nuclear strike against Ukraine to achieve his war goals. Russia has a large stockpile of relatively small-yield tactical nuclear weapons and a military doctrine that justifies using them if its conventional forces come up short. Writing for Global Security Review, Joshua Ball explained that "if Russia were subjected to a major non-nuclear assault that exceeded its capacity for conventional defense, it would 'de-escalate' the conflict by launching a limited — or tactical — nuclear strike." It might go something like this, per Ball: after a few more months of quagmire, Putin orders a tactical nuclear barrage to blast holes in Ukraine's battlelines. At the same time, he sends a message to NATO: "Look, neither of us wants a strategic nuclear exchange. Withdraw your support for Ukraine, and this can all be over. Your move, Biden."

5-11-22 Ukraine keeps hitting exposed Russian forces on symbolically important Snake Island, U.S. and U.K. confirm
Eleven weeks after Russia captured Snake Island (Zmiinyi Island), a strategically and symbolically important Ukrainian rock in the Black Sea, fighting continues, "with Russia repeatedly trying to reinforce its exposed garrison located there," Britain's Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update early Wednesday. "Ukraine has successfully struck Russian air defenses and resupply vessels with Bayraktar drones," the Defense Ministry added. "Russia's resupply vessels have minimum protection in the western Black Sea, following the Russian Navy's retreat to Crimea after the loss of the Moskva," Russia's sunken Black Sea flagship Ukrainian forces told to "go f--k yourself" before Russia took the island. Ukraine has been posting footage purporting to be its drones and fighter jets blowing up various Russian targets on Snake Island, with various soundtracks. "I think you all saw video footage and Ukrainian comments about Snake Island and some strikes that they conducted there," a senior Pentagon official told reporters on Monday. "We think there was at least three targets hit from airstrikes on Snake Island, but as for overarching effect, I think we're still trying to figure figure all that out." The official said Tuesday that Russia is now "flying combat air patrols near Snake Island," likely "an outgrowth of the attacks that the Ukrainians conducted there in the last few days." "Russia's current efforts to augment its forces on Zmiinyi Island offer Ukraine more opportunities to engage Russian troops and attrit materiel," Britain's Defense Ministry said. "If Russia consolidates its position on Zmiinyi Island with strategic air defense and coastal defense cruise missiles, they could dominate the north-western Black Sea."

5-11-22 Ukraine war: Russia pushed back in north-east - report from front line
Ukraine says its forces have recaptured villages from Russian troops north and north-east of Kharkiv, pushing them back towards the border. The ongoing offensive could signal a shift in the war's momentum and jeopardise Russia's main advance further south. BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville, and cameraman Darren Conway, have been with Ukrainian forces as they advance. The village of Ruska Lozova stands at the centre of the turn in Ukraine's response to Russian aggression. It was recently liberated in a co-ordinated effort led by senior military commanders. Ukrainian troops from territorial defence, the national guard, and the regular army are seeking to push the Russians back along a 32-km (20-mile) front line. In the Russian city of Belgorod, just across the border, troops have amassed for a likely counter-offensive. We drove north from the city of Kharkhiv with Ukrainian forces. Russian shells continued to hit the village. With no power or water, little food, and neither phone or internet, its residents had been isolated from Ukraine's second-largest city - just 8km (5 miles) south. From the woods and hills nearby, Russian mortars and artillery shelled Kharkiv relentlessly. At an army aid station, we met Raisa Opanasivna who has lived in Ruska Lozova for 30 years. The 66-year-old approached the Ukrainian soldiers, weighed down by history, and two large plastic shopping bags. Under a knitted grey beanie, her gaunt face was weather-beaten, her slim frame stooped. She hadn't seen this many people for months. Since the beginning of the war, her village had been under Russian occupation. The Russians had come house to house. "They were checking homes, asking if we have rifles. But I have nothing. I'm alone," Raisa said. Ruska Lozova has been torn apart, but more than that, Raisa's whole world had been upended by Russia's invasion. In the east, the war is bringing not just a re-examination of people's relationship to Russia - barely 30km north - but a more personal reassessment of what it means to be a Russian-speaking Ukrainian. A month ago, the Russians were literally at the gates to Kharkiv. The shelling was constant - and buildings in the street we were staying in were being hit. It became so bad that it was easier to count the hours of silence than the hours of explosions. It felt like being on the edge of an abyss, where one more concerted Russian attack could rupture the city.

5-11-22 Johnson pledges UK support if Sweden were to be attacked
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford and James Waterhouse in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Donbas, Lyse Doucet, Laura Bicker and Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, Caroline Davies in Odesa, and Jenny Hill and Steve Rosenberg in Moscow, UK PM Boris Johnson has signed a security declaration with Sweden, pledging UK support should its military come under attack. He is expected to make the same commitment to Finland later; the PM is visiting both countries as they consider joining the Nato defence alliance. Russia has warned there will be consequences if they join Nato, whose members see an attack on one as an attack on all. But both Sweden and Finland - which have a long history of wartime neutrality - have seen public support for joining Nato grow since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, pro-Russian authorities in Kherson, in southern Ukraine, will ask President Putin for the region to become part of Russia, state news agencies report. And Ukraine says it will redirect the flow of natural gas to avoid a key eastern transit point from Russia to Europe.

5-11-22 Grenada: Confronting my family’s slave-owning past
Nearly 200 years after her ancestors were given a large payout from the British government when slavery was abolished, our correspondent travels to Grenada to find out how this grim legacy continues to reverberate today. High up in the hills of the Caribbean island of Grenada, in the grounds of a former slave plantation, a cast iron bell hangs from a tree. The ringing of the bell signified the start of another working day for West African slaves, harvesting sugar cane. Today, the Belmont estate is a popular destination for tourists. It's a place to enjoy the local cuisine and visit the gift shop, where you can buy artisanal chocolate bars embossed with the image of the slave bell. It was here that I came face to face with the brutality of the past - and the role played by families like mine. "This is the sound of slavery," said DC Campbell, a Grenadian novelist and descendent of slaves. He picked up a pair of shackles made for a child, turning them over in his hands. The artefact, usually housed in the island's national museum, would have been used on a slave ship on the infamous middle passage from West Africa to the Caribbean. We looked in silence at the shackles for adults and children, the neck brace which could be tightened until a slave could no longer breathe, and the leather whip which was even used on pregnant women. So sinister in the bright sunlight. "These were instruments of control and torture," said Nicole Phillip-Dowe of the University of the West Indies, matter-of-factly. "There was an entire system of control to ensure that you get the labour you want, to get the profits that you want." For BBC producer Koralie Barrau, an American who's a descendant of slaves on Haiti, staring at these artefacts produced a visceral response. "It's sickening. I look at these neckbraces, these handcuffs for children, these whips. And it could have been me. Five or six generations back. This is what my ancestors had to endure and it's very chilling." Ms Phillip-Dowe explained that "disobedient" slaves were punished in public, to terrify the other slaves into submission.

5-11-22 Sedition law: India's Supreme Court puts controversial law on hold
India's Supreme Court has put a controversial colonial-era sedition law on hold that critics say is used to stifle dissent. The judges asked the government to refrain from registering any new cases which invoke sedition until it finishes hearing petitions challenging it. The court also asked the authorities to pause all existing sedition trials. The government has been accused of using the law against critics, such as politicians, journalists and activists. On Tuesday, the government said that they would review the law after earlier defending it. While pausing the court hearing on Wednesday, the judges said that those already charged under the law, and in jail, could seek bail from trial courts. Kapil Sibal, senior leader of India's opposition Congress party and lawyer for the petitioners, told the Supreme Court that there were over 800 cases of sedition pending across India and as many as 13,000 people were in jail. A majority of sedition cases filed against 405 Indians for criticising politicians and governments over the last decade were registered after 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power, according to data compiled by the website Article14. The Supreme Court's decision to pause the sedition law is a significant development. For decades, successive governments have used the colonial-era law - the dreaded section 124a of the antiquated Indian Penal Code - against students, journalists, intellectuals, social activists, and those critical of the government to essentially suppress dissent and free speech. A law which was mainly used against Indian political leaders seeking independence from British rule in the 19th and early 20th centuries has now been weaponised as a tool of suppression by successive democratically elected governments. That is, many say, is India's shame. But it would be too early to celebrate. It remains to be seen how Narendra Modi's government "re-examines and reconsiders" the draconian law. Will it be defanged and modified? Or will it be scrapped? Most Indians will be happy to see the law, which they say has no place in a modern democracy, to be given a quick burial.

5-11-22 Shanghai moves to impose tightest restrictions yet
Shanghai officials will over the next few days further restrict access to food and hospitals in some parts of the city, the most severe phase of its extended lockdown yet. Commercial food deliveries are not allowed and access to hospitals for all but emergencies must first be approved. Neighbours of Covid-19 cases and others living close by are also being forced into government quarantine facilities. Shanghai is now in its seventh week of city-wide restrictions. Confirmed cases have fallen significantly from their peak, but authorities have not yet been able to hit the target of what they call "societal zero", where no cases are reported outside of quarantine facilities. Despite the tougher measures, Shanghai officials insist that people living in half the city's districts are now free to leave their homes and walk around. State media has shown propaganda videos of departing medical workers visiting city landmarks together and taking photographs. Official notices from local committees of the ruling Communist Party, seen by the BBC, detail several restrictions imposed under what officials call "silent periods" for the next three days. These include only permitting government food deliveries, not allowing residents to "step out" of their front doors and requiring approval from the committee for anyone other than emergency cases to access hospitals. The BBC is already aware of some cases where residents have had difficulties in getting emergency ambulances to come quickly, with some patients forced to use private cars to get to a hospital. Authorities have also stepped up measures aimed at people who live close to positive cases, even if these close contacts test negative. They are now sweeping up large groups of people in apartment buildings who live on the same floor or even just in the same building as those who've tested positive.

5-11-22 Covid-19 news: Easing zero-covid may cause 1.5 million deaths in China
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. Lifting China’s zero-covid policy could trigger a large omicron wave, but the World Health Organization (WHO) says maintaining the strategy is “unsustainable”. Scrapping China’s zero-covid policy could lead to 1.55 million deaths and increase intensive care numbers by a factor of 15, according to a modelling study from Fudan University in China. China introduced the strategy, which aims to quickly cut off transmission to end outbreaks, in August 2021 in response to the faster-spreading delta variant. Officials are now said to be evaluating the sustainability of their policy. Fudan’s mathematical model, based on a fully vaccinated population with no mass testing or movement restrictions in place, predicts that lifting the zero-covid strategy could lead to as many as 5.1 million hospitalisations, 2.7 million intensive care unit admissions and 1.55 million deaths by September 2022. People over 60 who are unvaccinated would make up 74 per cent of these deaths, the model predicts. But the WHO doubts whether keeping zero-covid policies in place is sustainable, as the highly-transmissible omicron variant continues to drive cases in China. “When we talk about the zero-covid strategy, we don’t think that it’s sustainable, considering the behaviour of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future,” WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference. “We have discussed about this issue with Chinese experts and we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable. “Transiting into another strategy will be very important.” Pregnant people who are vaccinated against covid-19 are 15 per cent less likely to have a stillbirth than their unvaccinated counterparts, according to a meta-analysis of 23 studies covering more than 117,000 vaccinated pregnant people. Vaccination in pregnancy is also 90 per cent effective at preventing covid-19 infection, with no evidence of an increased risk of complications, such as a lower birthweight or postpartum haemorrhage, the study found. New Zealand has recorded more than 1 million covid-19 cases, according to its ministry of health. Over 986,000 of these cases occurred in early 2022, with the government loosening its zero-covid strategy in March. More than 20 per cent of New Zealand’s 5-million-strong population is therefore known to have been infected, however, modelling suggests the true number could be three times larger.

5-10-22 Biden signs Ukraine lend-lease act, urges Congress to pass $40 billion aid package this week
President Biden on Monday signed the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022, easing requirements for sending U.S. military aide to Ukraine as it fends off Russia's invasion. "The cost of the fight is not cheap," Biden said. "But caving to aggression is even more costly." After signing the law, which harkens back to the 1941 lend-lease law the U.S. used to arm Britain against Nazi Germany, Biden handed the pen to Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress. Biden on Monday also urged Congress to pass a $40 billion supplemental spending bill to aid Ukraine "immediately, and get it to my desk in the next few days." House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the House will consider the bill on Tuesday. Biden had requested $33 billion for military and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine, plus other spending to counter Russia's invasion, but Congress added billions more for food aid and military assistance, CNN reports. To expedite the bipartisan legislation's passage, Biden asked Congress to decouple it from a $10 billion bill to continue the fight against COVID-19 and prepare for increased cases and future pandemics. Congress has already authorized $3.5 billion this year to send U.S. weapons to Ukraine, but "as of today, only $100 million remains in authority we can use for drawdown," Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Congress on Monday. "We expect to exhaust that authority no later than May 19," so "we will need additional appropriations by that date — including authorizations for additional drawdowns —if we are to continue our security assistance at the current pace."

5-10-22 Mariupol official says civilians still in steelworks
Updates from BBC correspondents: Jenny Hill and Steve Rosenberg in Moscow, Sarah Rainsford and James Waterhouse in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Donbas, Laura Bicker in Zaporizhzhia, Lyse Doucet and Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, and Caroline Davies in Odesa. The Ukrainian port of Odesa has been hit by missile strikes. One person was killed and five injured when a shopping centre and a depot were hit, Ukraine's armed forces say. President Zelensky warns Russia's blockade of his country's Black Sea ports threatens global food supplies. European Council President Charles Michel, who was forced to take shelter as he visited Odesa, warns that badly needed supplies are stuck. Thousands more civilians have died in Ukraine during the war than previously estimated, the UN human rights monitoring mission in the country says. Meanwhile, Russian forces backed by tanks are conducting "storming operations" at Mariupol's Azovstal plant, according to Ukraine's defence ministry. There are more than 1,000 troops trapped in the plant, including hundreds who are injured, the Ukrainian deputy PM says.

5-10-22 'That's the one, that's where we were locked up'
An excerpt from Nury Turkel's 'No Escape: The True Story of China's Genocide of the Uyghurs'. I've always been my mother's favorite. Our family used to joke that I was an only child, as if I didn't have three younger broth­ers. It's me that Mom turns to when she gets sad or stressed and needs to talk. She always used to say, as she got older and her health became more fragile, that her one dream was to live long enough to see me marry. I guess that's the bond you forge when you were born in a Communist re-education camp during China's Cultural Revolution. And that is why China still uses my mother to torture me, even though I have lived in Washington, D.C., as a free Uyghur for more than 20 years. I have not seen her since 2004. I have been able to spend only 11 months — six months in California and five in Washington, D.C. — with my parents since I left China 27 years ago. Mom was first arrested when she was about five months pregnant. She was just 19 years old at the time. Her crime: She had opened the door to some of her father's guests when they used to visit our home in the late 1960s. While the '60s were a decade of cultural upheaval in the West, in China they were an era of extreme repression, when Chairman Mao and his Red Guards were attempting what his late Russian counterpart Joseph Stalin had once described as the "engineering of human souls." My mom's name is Ayshe. She came from an influential fam­ily. Her father had once been a fairly important official in the ministry of culture in the Second East Turkistan Republic, a short-lived and now mostly forgotten country that flourished briefly in the 1940s. It had been backed by the Soviet Union but then ceded by Stalin in post-war horse-trading to China's newly victorious Communists in 1949. The Chinese reverted its name back to Xinjiang in 1954, which in Chinese means "New Frontier," a colonial name that dates back to the mid-18th century, when generals of the Chinese Qing dynasty conquered the region to their far west, a vast area of desert oases, moun­tains and glacier-fed lakes. It is a beautiful, haunting landscape: In places, it looks like the mountainous forests of California or the sculpted deserts of Arizona. In its farthest western reaches, the grasslands of Central Asia spread out as far as the eye can see, still peopled by Tajik and Kazakh herders in yurts, living the same lifestyle that Turkic tribesmen lived since before the days when the Ottoman and Seljuk Turks moved out to conquer the Middle East. Its ancient cities had been key bazaars lining the Silk Road, a crosscurrent of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Chinese cultures, where Buddhist fiefdoms slowly ceded to the eastward advance of Islam a thousand years ago. But its capital, Ürümchi, is one of the largest and most modern cities in Central Asia. My grandfather, a jeweler by trade, used to keep up with his old contacts from those heady days of independence, and they would pay social visits to his house. This obviously marked him in the Communist Party's eyes as a highly suspect person. So he was carted off to a camp and his daughter was sent for "re-edu­cation," accused of being "intoxicated with separatist ideology." Guilty by association.

5-10-22 Covid-19 news: Fourth vaccine may offer ‘substantial’ antibody boost
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. Study suggests a fourth dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine generally provides increased protection from covid-19. A fourth dose of an mRNA covid-19 vaccine could provide a “substantial boost in antibody levels and cellular immunity”, according to a study conducted as part of the University of Southampton’s Cov-Boost vaccine trial and published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. A fourth vaccine has been rolled out across the UK for people aged 75 and over, and those who are immunocompromised. Off the back of the Cov-Boost study, a larger group of people in the UK may be offered a second booster jab later this year. In the trial, 166 participants who had received a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, following two initial Pfizer/BioNTech or University of Oxford/AstraZeneca doses in June 2021, were either given a full dose of Pfizer/BioNTech or a half dose of Moderna as a fourth jab, about seven months after their third vaccination. Results reveal the fourth jab generally offered higher antibody levels than a third dose and provided particularly strong protection for those aged 70 and over. Lockdowns and social distancing caused by the pandemic led to a “small but significant increase” in loneliness worldwide, according to a meta-analysis of 34 studies, covering 200,000 participants across four continents. Speaking to The Independent, Mareike Ernst, of Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz in Germany, said: “Given the small effect sizes, dire warnings about a ‘loneliness pandemic’ may be overblown. However, as loneliness constitutes a risk for premature mortality and mental and physical health, it should be closely monitored.” Just 51 per cent of people who have tested positive for covid-19 are following isolation guidelines in England, according to figures for 28 March to 2 April 2022 issued by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The legal requirement to self-isolate after testing positive for covid-19 was removed in England at the end of February 2022. In April, new isolation guidance was issued for those who tested positive, urging them to avoid contact with other people until they no longer had symptoms or felt unwell. Similar guidance is in place in the rest of the UK. “Only half of those who tested positive for covid-19 adhered fully to self-isolation guidance,” Tim Gibb at ONS said in a statement. “While this is a similar proportion to what we reported in mid-March 2022, it however represents a significant decrease to levels of adherence seen earlier this year.”

5-9-22 he Dow has dropped more than 4,000 points since the beginning of 2022
The stock market continued to plunge on Monday as inflation concerns and the prospect of more interest rate hikes drove up the value of U.S. Treasury notes, Reuters reports. The Wall Street Journal described a "broad selloff" that left "investors with few places to shelter from the market's tumult." Tech, industry, energy, and even cryptocurrency were all caught in the downward spiral. Bitcoin is down more than 50 percent from its peak of around $69,000 in November. Fortune reports that as professional investors have entered the cryptocurrency market, "prices of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have increasingly begun to move in tandem with the market." As of Monday afternoon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 400 points since the opening bell and more than 4,000 points since the beginning of 2022. "Markets are continuing to re-price inflation risks as it becomes more evident that inflation is likely to be with us for longer than some people had hoped," Chris Zaccarelli, the chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina, told Reuters.

5-9-22 U.S. suspends tariffs on Ukrainian steel for 1 year
The Biden administration will lift tariffs on Ukrainian steel for one year, it announced Monday, per The New York Times. The decision halts a measure implemented by former President Donald Trump in 2018, and comes as the White House looks to assist Ukraine in the ongoing Russian invasion, the Times notes. Though Ukraine ranks 12th among America's foreign steel suppliers, "the sector is a significant source of economic growth and employment for Ukraine, and steel mills have continued to provide paychecks, food and shelter for their workers through the war," the Times reports. During a visit to Washington last month, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal asked officials the suspend the tariffs, which were implemented three years ago for reasons of national security, the Times writes. Ukraine ranks 13th among global steel producers. Notably, a steel mill in Mariupol, Ukraine was for weeks sheltering thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians while simultaneously under attack from Russian forces. On Saturday, both Russian and Ukrainian officials said all women, children, and elderly individuals had been evacuated from the plant.

5-9-22 Almost 6,000 Ukrainians approved for temporary resettlement in U.S.
The Department of Homeland Security has approved nearly 6,000 Ukrainians to enter the United States as part of the Uniting for Ukraine program. The Uniting for Ukraine online portal was launched on April 25 as part of the Biden administration's plan to get up to 100,000 Ukrainians temporarily settled in the U.S. amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Before the program began, many Ukrainians were traveling to Mexico on tourist visas and then crossing the southern border into the United States. To be approved, a Ukrainian migrant must be sponsored by someone who legally lives in the U.S. and agrees to financially support them. All parties are vetted before approval, with the Ukrainian migrant going through biographic and biometric screening. In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said the vetting process is able to identify and screen out individuals "who may pose a threat to the American public," protects against "exploitation and abuse," and ensures that "supporters are able to financially provide for the individuals they have agreed to help." More than 19,000 applications have been submitted from sponsors looking to help Ukrainians, with some signing up to help entire families, the Department of Homeland Security said.

5-9-22 Putin says Russia fighting for motherland in Ukraine in Victory Day speech
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russian forces in Ukraine were fighting for the future of their motherland, in his annual address marking victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two. Despite rumours he would make a major announcement his speech stuck largely to defending Russia's invasion. He tied the war in Ukraine to victory in 1945, blaming the West and Nato for rejecting security demands. Almost 10 weeks into the invasion, civilian casualties continue to mount. Some 60 civilians are feared dead in the eastern town of Bilohorivka, after a Russian attack on a school where people were trying to escape bombardment. Flanked by military top brass, Russia's leader spoke of Ukrainians as fascists, repeating his false claim that the democratic government in Kyiv was run by neo-Nazis. Defending the motherland had always been sacred, he said, referring to the eastern region which is now the main focus of Russia's assault: "Today you are fighting for our people in Donbas, for the security of Russia, our homeland." He also made unfounded allegations against Nato and Ukraine and described the invasion as a pre-emptive rebuff: "They were preparing a punishing operation in Donbas to intrude on our historic lands. In Kyiv they were saying they might get nuclear weapons and Nato started exploring the lands close to us, and that became an obvious threat to us and our borders." Ukrainian presidential official Mykhailo Podoliak later responded, tweeting that there were no rational grounds for the war: "Nato countries were not going to attack Russia. Ukraine did not plan to attack Crimea." There had been speculation that Russia's president may be considering a change of military strategy, either a full declaration of war, rather than the current so-called special military operation, or a mobilisation of Russian men to boost the armed forces. Instead he said he was signing a decree for families of the dead and wounded in Ukraine to receive special support.

5-9-22 Putin defends Ukraine invasion at 'low key' Victory Day parade. Zelensky pledges 'we will win.'
Russian President Vladimir Putin did not, as some analysts had expected, use his Victory Day speech in Moscow on Monday to declare a new phase in his invasion of Ukraine. Instead, speaking before 11,000 service members to mark the victory over Nazi Germany, Putin justified the invasion as "necessary, timely, and the only right solution," and a "preemptive rebuff to aggression" from NATO. The West, Putin claimed without evidence, was preparing for the "invasion of our land, including Crimea," the peninsula Russia invaded and annexed from Ukraine in 2014. "You are fighting for the motherland, for its future, so that lessons of World War II are not forgotten," he told told the assembled Russian troops and the pro-Moscow Ukrainians fighting in eastern Ukraine. "There is no place in history for the punitive divisions of Nazis" German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called Putin's comparison of "his barbaric war of aggression to that battle against the Nazis" a "falsification of history" that Germany is obligated to repudiate "in no uncertain terms." British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace called Putin's various allegations about NATO "fairytale claims." Putin "is believing what he wants to believe — a slight shine of desperation," Wallace said. "But let me put on the record categorically: Nato, Britain, eastern Europe is not planning to invade Russia and never has done." Russia's May 9 parade this year was smaller than 2021's, with fewer pieces of military equipment and no aerial flyover. The plan to have fighter jets fly over Red Square in a Z formation was canceled due to purported bad weather, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. The entire May 9 celebration was "very low key," British defense analyst Nicholas Drummond told CNN. "Putin may have derived some satisfaction from all the fevered Western speculation surrounding this year's Victory Day speech," BBC diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams speculated. But "is Putin happy to keep everyone guessing, or does the lack of detail reflect Russia's setbacks on the battlefield?" Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy recorded his Victory Day speech, delivered while walking alone past fortifications in Kyiv, the capital. The Ukrainians battling the Nazis in World War II "fought for freedom for us and won," and "we are fighting for freedom for our children," Zelenksy said, predicting "two Victory Days in Ukraine" soon. "We won then. We will win now, too."

5-9-22 Last Ukrainian civilians from Mariupol's Azovstal steel mill reach safety as remaining troops vow final fight
The last Ukrainian civilians extricated from Mariupol's massive Azovstal steel mill arrived in the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia on Sunday night, the United Nations and International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) announced. The 174 Ukrainians who arrived in Zaporizhzhia from the Mariupol area Sunday night included more than 30 of the 51 final non-combatants evacuated from the Azovstal complex. "I thank all those involved in this complex operation, including the leaders in Kyiv and Moscow for ensuring the necessary humanitarian pauses," U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said in a statement. "I applaud the determination and courage of the U.N. and ICRC teams on the ground." He said more than 600 civilians have been evacuated from the Azovstal plant. About 100 Ukrainian marines and hundreds of fighters with the Azov Regiment remain in the plant, the only part of Mariupol not controlled by Russia. Ukraine and Russia say no more non-combatants remain in the Azovstal complex, but the leaders of the Azov Regiment said they could not be sure that's true. For the remaining fighters, "we can't just leave, we can only be evacuated," Azov Regiment Lt. Ilia Samoilenkot said in a two-hour news conference on Sunday streamed from on of Azovstal . "We are basically dead men. Most of us know this." "We will always fight, as long as we are alive, for justice," said Azov's deputy commander, Capt. Sviatoslav "Kalina" Palamar. The civilians who had spent two months sheltering underground at the plant, in its vast network of tunnels and bunkers, told The Associated Press that the ordeal was a terrifying fight for survival, with constant Russian shelling making the bunkers shake, dwindling food stocks cooked over fires fueled by hand sanitizer, and mold on the walls from dripping water. Without help from the Ukrainian fighters, "we wouldn't have survived until today," one evacuee told AP.

5-9-22 Ukraine war: 'When the shelling stops, the traitors will be punished'
A clash of loyalties is dividing opinion among residents in Bakhmut - a town on the front line in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region. Sometimes it slips out as a whisper. More often, it is hidden behind euphemisms and shrugs - and carefully ambivalent replies. And then, once in a while, a fiercely pro-Russian sentiment is simply blurted out, like the crack of a gunshot, here in the rolling green hills of the Donbas. "This is Russian territory. Ukraine is the occupier here," said a man in overalls, standing with a group of council workers. They had been clearing weeds in Bakhmut - a Ukrainian town currently within easy earshot of Russian artillery. And the man was not alone in his apparent contempt for Ukraine's territorial integrity. Beside him, 65-year-old Yelena merely couched her views in more ambiguous terms. "I don't know Putin personally, so I can't tell you what I think of him. But I don't see Russia as the enemy. We all lived together in the Soviet Union. So, let's see what happens [if Russia occupies the town]," she said. The notion that Ukraine stands resolutely united in opposition to Russia's invasion may hold true for much for the country. But here in the Donbas, there is a large ethnic-Russian minority, a painful history of eight years of separatist conflict with Russian-backed militias and - particularly for an older generation - a powerful nostalgia for the USSR. The result is an increasingly fraught clash of loyalties, with at least some residents of Bakhmut - a key hub for people fleeing from the Luhansk region further east - unashamedly supportive of the latest Russian invasion. "Putin is a clever guy, a clever KGB man," said an 80-year-old retired engineer, as she sat in the kitchen of a local cafeteria peeling potatoes. If Russians seized the town, it would "make no difference to me," she whispered, before falling quiet when a colleague came into the room.

5-9-22 Ukraine war: First ladies meet as US announces new sanctions
US First Lady Jill Biden has met her Ukrainian counterpart Olena Zelenska in Ukraine as Washington announced further sanctions on Moscow. The two first ladies met at a school in the border town of Uzhhorod. It was Mrs Zelenska's first appearance in public since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February. The US imposed new sanctions - including visa curbs on 2,600 Russian and Belarusian individuals - in response to the Russian invasion. Three Russian TV stations and executives from Gazprombank were also sanctioned by Washington. Meanwhile, G7 leaders said they were committed to phasing out or banning Russian oil. The meeting between the two first ladies took place at a school which is currently being used as a temporary shelter for displaced people. Mrs Biden said she wanted "to show that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine", adding that the war - now in its third month - had been "brutal" and had to stop. Mrs Zelenska said it had been a "courageous act" to visit Ukraine while it was at war. She added that the visit, on Mother's Day in Ukraine and in the US, was very symbolic. "We feel your love and support during such an important day." The two women later sat down and played with some of the dozens of children who are currently housed at the school, making tissue paper bears - the symbol of the local province. The announcement of new sanctions came after G7 leaders held a video call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. A senior US official said the new US sanctions would hit 27 Gazprombank executives. However, the measures do not freeze the firm's assets or outlaw transactions with it. It is unclear who is on the list of 2,600 Russian and Belarusian individuals to be hit with visa restrictions. The US announcement came at the end of a day of diplomatic events, which included visits to Ukraine by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the speaker of the German Bundestag and Mrs Biden. Mr Trudeau announced that Canada was sending new weapons and equipment for Ukraine's army, as well as imposing its own range of new sanctions on Russian individuals and companies.

5-8-22 Jill Biden makes surprise visit to western Ukraine
First lady Jill Biden traveled to Ukraine on Sunday, spending two hours at a school near the Slovakian border that is now housing displaced families. Biden met with Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska, and told reporters she thought it was important to come on Mother's Day to "show the Ukrainian people that this war has to stop, and this war has been brutal, and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine." This was Zelenska's first public appearance since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24. She called Biden "courageous" for making the trip, saying the Ukrainian people "understand what it takes for the U.S. first lady to come here during a war, where the military actions are taking place every day, where the air sirens are happening every day, even today." Biden made the unannounced stop in Ukraine as part of a four-day tour of Eastern Europe, her spokesman, Michael LaRosa, said, adding that Ukrainian officials contacted Biden's office and suggested she meet with Zelenska. Biden is the latest high-profile American to visit Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) traveling there in recent weeks. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Ukraine on Sunday as well, meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. It is rare for a first lady to visit a war zone; the last to do so was Laura Bush, who went to Afghanistan in 2008, The New York Times reports.

5-8-22 Prosecuting war crimes
History shows that it’s difficult to hold war criminals accountable. Will Vladimir Putin and his army ever face justice? History shows that it's difficult to hold war criminals accountable. Will Vladimir Putin and his army ever face justice? Here's everything you need to know: War crimes are serious violations of the international laws of war against either combatants or civilians — and there's no question Russia has committed them in Ukraine. The Russian military has launched missiles at apartment buildings, bombed a maternity hospital and children's shelter in Mariupol, and slaughtered hundreds of civilians in Bucha and other towns and cities they've occupied, leading President Biden to say Putin is "a war criminal" who "should be held accountable." Biden later escalated his condemnation, saying he believes Russia is committing "genocide" — the attempt to systematically destroy, in whole or in part, an ethnic or racial group or a national identity. But war crimes prosecutors have never pursued a target quite as big as Vladimir Putin. It's the first time in decades a major power has flagrantly broken humanitarian laws "on a massive scale," said Oona Hathaway, director of the Center for Global Legal Challenges at Yale Law School. "The international legal order is really under stress." Early international treaties such as the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 established some laws of war, but "there really was no settled conception of what a war crime was," said Michael Bryant, author of A World History of War Crimes. After World War II, the landmark Nuremberg trials set lasting precedents by prosecuting Nazi leaders for crimes against humanity. "This is really where the modern definition of war crimes comes into being," Bryant said. The Geneva Conventions, ratified in 1949, established humanitarian war standards that hoped to relegate the mass carnage of World War II to the past. These new laws of war forbade not only the atrocities of Nazi Germany but also the deliberate targeting of civilians, such as the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the mass bombing of cities by both Allied and Axis forces that killed millions of civilians. In ensuing decades, deadly conflicts in Cambodia, Vietnam, Chile, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and elsewhere took millions of lives and heightened cries for enforcement. In the late 1990s, international courts began prosecuting heads of state for atrocities committed during war. To a limited degree. Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was tried for war crimes at a U.N. tribunal in The Hague, but he died of a heart attack less than two months before the verdict was due. The Rome Statute, which took effect in 2002, established the International Criminal Court, a tribunal tasked with prosecuting war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide when domestic courts will not hold political or military leaders accountable. But the ICC can only prosecute leaders when it gets its hands on them, and it has mostly gone after African despots who have been overthrown and turned over by their home countries. Russia, Ukraine, and the United States are not signatories to the Rome Statute.

5-8-22 Up to 60 feared dead after Russian bomb hits Ukrainian school, local governor says
As many as 60 people may have been killed when Russian forces bombed a Ukrainian school, the local governor said Sunday, according to Reuters. The school, located in Bilohorivka in the Luhansk Oblast, was reportedly bombed on Saturday afternoon as around 90 people took shelter inside. "The fire was extinguished after nearly four hours, then the rubble was cleared, and, unfortunately, the bodies of two people were found," Governor Serhiy Gaidai wrote on Telegram. As of Sunday morning, 30 people had been rescued, but the full death toll remained unclear. Last week, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that the confirmed civilian death toll for the war in Ukraine had topped 3,000, including over 200 children. The OHCHR also said that many civilian deaths — most of which have been caused by "explosive weapons with a wide impact area," including artillery and air strikes — remain unconfirmed.

5-8-22 Dozens feared dead after Russian bomb hits school
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Donbas, Laura Bicker in Zaporizhzhia, Lyse Doucet and Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, and Caroline Davies in Odesa. More than 60 people are now feared dead after a Russian bomb hit a school in eastern Ukraine on Saturday, the local governor says. Some 90 local residents had been sheltering in the school in the village of Bilohorivka, near the frontline in the Donbas region. Diplomatic efforts are continuing to try to rescue wounded soldiers from the besieged Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol. All remaining women, children and elderly were evacuated from the steelworks on Saturday, Ukraine says. Russia has besieged the plant for weeks, demanding the surrender of its defenders from the Azov battalion. Ukraine's president is set to hold talks with G7 leaders - including US President Joe Biden and the UK's Boris Johnson - via video conference. EU ambassadors will also meet in Brussels on Sunday to discuss the sixth round of economic sanctions against Moscow. Ukraine is continuing a counter-offensive near the city of Kharkiv, and says it has recaptured five villages. Russia launched several missile strikes at the southern port city of Odesa on Saturday.

5-8-22 'We tried not to watch' - escapees recount terror of Russian-occupied Izyum
"We thought those were our last minutes. It was extremely scary but we were lucky." Elena is recalling the moment Russian troops started shelling, after she and a group of escapees passed through one of their checkpoints. After two months living in the basement of a kindergarten in the Russian-occupied town of Izyum in Ukraine, Elena spent two nerve-shredding days on the road to safety. She and her daughter were among 20 people in a convoy of vehicles heading away from Russian-controlled territory. They fled last Friday using a route organised by volunteers. "All that time we were praying," said Elena, 52, recounting how they passed through numerous Russian checkpoints. When troops asked them where they were going, the group convinced the soldiers they were headed for Russia. At one checkpoint, Elena said, Russians looked through her daughter's phone, and became angry when they saw messages to her friends about the situation in Izyum. Finally the pair reached safety in Poltava, a city in central Ukraine. But she said she felt as though she'd lost everything and couldn't forget the horror of what she went through in her home city after the start of the war. "Bodies were lying for weeks in the streets. We tried not to watch them in order to save our minds. We couldn't bury dead people because it equalled being killed as well. The shelling was non-stop," she said. Elena and others in the basement had cooked food on a fire and lived off vegetables collected from their gardens. "Everyone brought everything they had. We all shared food," she said. "It helped us not to lose hope." She adds that Russian troops were looting everything, including people's underwear. Soldiers drove around the city in stolen cars with "Z" signs painted on them, she recalled. "They were armed and often very drunk. It was very scary when an armoured personnel carrier was driving on your street and soldiers with machine guns were sitting in it. We tried to hide." Situated south-east of Kharkiv, the city of Izyum is known as the gateway to the Donbas - Ukraine's old coal and steel-producing region, more than a third of which was seized by Moscow-backed separatists in 2014. It is surrounded by forests and rivers, which make it a natural fortress. And within the city boundaries is the Kremenets mountain, which is 218m (715ft) above sea level.

5-8-22 Hong Kong's John Lee: Ex-security chief becomes new leader
John Lee has been named Hong Kong's new leader, after a closed voting process in which he was the sole candidate. His appointment is being widely seen as a move by the Chinese government to tighten its grip on the city. Known as a staunch Beijing supporter, Mr Lee oversaw the sometimes violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protestors in 2019. Mr Lee replaces outgoing chief executive Carrie Lam, who had served since 2017. Hong Kong's leaders are selected by a closed-circle committee of around 1,500 members, who are nearly all pro-Beijing loyalists - although this time there was only one contender for them to elect. Mr Lee, who was the former Chief Secretary and the city's second-highest ranking official, was always tipped to be the favoured replacement for Ms Lam who earlier announced that she would not seek a second term in office. But although Mr Lee has Beijing's backing, he is deeply unpopular for his role in overseeing the crackdown on protestors during demonstrations over a controversial extradition bill in 2019. Mr Lee continued to back the bill despite the unrest, and came under intense criticism for sanctioning the police's use of water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas and occasionally live ammunition to disperse protestors. In 2020, he also backed the imposition of a controversial national security law which criminalised most forms of political protest and dissent, and reduced the city's autonomy. Mr Lee maintained that the law would help restore "stability from chaos". He was elevated to the leadership ranks last year, in a sign, analysts said, of Beijing's intention to focus on security in Hong Kong. His role in the implementation of the law led to US sanctions against him and a dozen other officials, and a YouTube block on his 2022 election campaign. The League of Social Democrats - one of the only remaining pro-democracy groups - held a three-person protest before polls opened, chanting "power to the people, universal suffrage now".

5-7-22 Federal judge dismisses Trump's lawsuit against Twitter
U.S. District Court Judge James Donato dismissed former President Donald Trump's lawsuit against Twitter on Friday, though Trump's lawyers will have a chance to submit an amended complaint by May 27, Fox Business reported. Trump sued Twitter for banning him from the platform after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and sought a court order that would force Twitter to reinstate his account and the accounts of other plaintiffs who were banned from Twitter. The former president said last month that he would not rejoin Twitter even if new owner Elon Musk offered to reinstate his account. The lawsuit alleged that Twitter violated the First Amendment, that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is unconstitutional, and that Twitter engaged in "deceptive and misleading practices." The plaintiffs argued that, although Twitter is a private company, it was operating as a "state actor" under governmental coercion when it banned the plaintiffs' accounts and could therefore be sued for First Amendment violations. The suit presented what plaintiffs described as "examples of Democrat legislators threatening new regulations, antitrust breakup, and removal of Section 230 immunity for Defendants and other social media platforms if Twitter did not censor views and content with which these Members of Congress disagreed." Donato wrote that the plaintiffs fell "short of the mark" in attempting to prove that "the conduct allegedly causing the deprivation of a federal right" was "fairly attributable to the State."

5-7-22 Ukrainian counteroffensive could drive Russians back from Kharkiv
A Ukrainian counteroffensive could drive Russian forces back from Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, according to Mason Clark and George Barros of the Institute for the Study of War. "The Ukrainian counteroffensive north and east of Kharkiv city secured further gains in the last 24 hours and may successfully push Russian forces out of artillery range of Kharkiv in the coming days," the U.S.-based think tank said Friday, adding that the Ukrainian operation "is developing into a successful, broader counteroffensive — as opposed to the more localized counterattacks that Ukrainian forces have conducted throughout the war." Kharkiv, located in northeastern Ukraine, has been under constant threat since the war began, CNBC explains. The New York Times reported Friday that "Russian front lines north of Kharkiv were stagnant for more than a month" but that "over the last several days, Ukrainian forces have advanced outward from the city." The Ukrainian infantry assault is supported by artillery, tanks, and other armored vehicles.

5-6-22 "US job creation beats forecasts despite headwinds
Hiring in the US remained strong in April despite concerns that fast rising prices and other economic disruption could lead to slowdown. Employers added 428,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate held steady at 3.6%, the Labor Department said. The gains were bigger than expected, marking the 16th month of expansion. The growth is likely to bolster views at the US central bank that the economy is well positioned as it starts to raise rates to try to curb inflation. "It keeps them on track," said Kathy Bostjancic, chief US economist at Oxford Economics. The US economy has recovered more quickly than many expected after shutdowns in the early months of the pandemic wiped out 22 million jobs. Across the economy, businesses have struggled to find workers to meet demand, pushing them to raise wages at the fastest pace in years. Average hourly pay was up 5.5% year-on-year in April. Wesley Davis, a 35-year-old project manager in the tech field in Colorado, said it took him just three and a half weeks to find a new job after he started to look earlier this year. More than a hundred messages from recruiters poured in after he updated his professional profile online to signal he was looking for work. And he said companies didn't balk when he presented his salary requirements - and warned he was only interested in jobs offering the ability to work from home. Ultimately, he said, he managed to nearly double his pay. Wesley said the pandemic had shifted conditions for workers, creating more opportunities by expanding remote positions and spurring people to quit jobs at historically high rates in what has become known as the Great Resignation. "Anyone who's experienced, I'm encouraging to look for work because compensation offers for experienced professionals are drastically high compared to where they were," he said.

5-6-22 Ex-officer jailed after rough arrest of woman with dementia
A former Colorado police officer has been sentenced to five years in prison for assaulting a woman with dementia during an arrest in June 2020. Karen Garner, then 73, was left with a broken arm, sprained wrist and a shoulder injury during the arrest by officer Austin Hopp. Footage later showed police officers laughing while viewing footage of the incident. Hopp pleaded guilty to assault charges in March. The former officer avoided a potential sentence of between 10 and 30 years had he been convicted following a trial with that plea. The charges stem from an incident in which Hopp and another officer, Daria Jalali, responded to a shoplifting call at a Walmart in the town of Loveland, about 50 miles (80km) north of Denver.Ms Garner had been suspected of taking about $14 (£11) worth of goods without paying. CCTV from the supermarket shortly beforehand showed members of staff stopping Ms Garner to recover the merchandise, which included cans of fizzy drinks and laundry detergent. As Ms Garner walked home, body camera footage shows the officers approaching her. Footage later emerged of police officers in the booking area of the police station mocking Ms Garner as they review body camera video of the incident, and laughing at the audible "pop" heard when her shoulder is dislocated. No medical attention was provided to Ms Garner for several hours while in detention, despite Hopp, Ms Jalali and other officers acknowledging that she may have been injured during the arrest. In September, Loveland announced that it would pay $3m (£2.43m) in compensation to Ms Garner. Her family says the incident worsened her condition. Both officers resigned following an investigation. Ms Jalali is facing charges of failure to report excessive use of force, failure to intervene in the use of excessive force, and official misconduct. Her case in ongoing, according to local media.

5-6-22 Marjorie Taylor Greene: Trump ally defeats bid to block her re-election
A US judge has denied a bid to block a congresswoman from seeking re-election over claims her rhetoric before last year's US Capitol riot amounted to engaging in insurrection. Marjorie Taylor Greene was tried under a Civil War-era law that bars officials from holding office if they violate their oath to protect the country. The Georgia Republican is a close ally of former President Donald Trump. She reacted to the news on Friday with a one-word tweet: "ACQUITTED." Several Republicans have faced questions over their alleged involvement in the riot that took place in January 2021 as Congress was meeting to formalise Joe Biden's election victory over Mr Trump. Democrats claimed Ms Greene, 47, had played a key role in calling for an "insurrection" in Washington. Their case centred around a provision of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution - the "Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause" - which prohibits elected representatives from seeking office again if they "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof". Prosecutors alleged that Ms Greene had made coded calls to arms on social media and in public appearances. But under oath in a Georgia courtroom, the congresswoman denied the charge and said: "I don't support violence of any kind." She also testified that she "had no knowledge of any attempt" to illegally interfere with vote-counting in Congress that day. On Friday, Judge Charles Beaudrot said the group of voters who sought to disqualify Ms Greene from holding office had not presented enough evidence to prove she "engaged in insurrection". He said the decision over her fitness for office "is rightfully a question for the voters of Georgia's 14th Congressional District". Ms Greene, who is up for re-election this November, welcomed the decision and called the challenge an "unprecedented attack on free speech, on our elections, and on you, the voter"

5-6-22 Taliban to force Afghan women to wear face veil
Afghan women will have to wear the Islamic face veil for the first time in decades under a decree passed by the country's ruling Taliban militants. Any woman who refuses to comply and ignores official warnings to male members of her family could see a male guardian jailed for three days. The Taliban enforced the all-encompassing burka during their first stint in power in the 1990s. But they had not enforced it in Afghan cities since taking over last year. Many women in Afghanistan already wear the burka but some, particularly in urban areas, just wear a simple covering over their hair. The decree was passed by the Taliban's Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue. Taliban officials described the decree as "advice" but laid out a specific set of escalating steps for anyone not complying: In the first instance their home would be visited and their husband, brother or father would be talked to, In the second, their male guardian would be summoned to the ministry, In the third, the male guardian would be taken to court and could be jailed for three days. The Quran, Islam's holy book, tells Muslims - men and women - to dress modestly. Male modesty has been interpreted to be covering the area from the navel to the knee. For women it is generally seen as covering everything except their face, hands and feet when in the presence of men they are not related or married to. However, there has been much debate within Islam as to whether this goes far enough. This has led to a distinction between the hijab (literally "covering up" in Arabic) and the niqab (meaning "full veil"). The hijab is typically a scarf that covers the hair and neck, whereas the niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf or an abaya, a full-length robe, and sometimes with a separate transparent eye veil. The burka covers the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through. Many of the strict rules imposed by the Taliban on daily life are targeted at women.

5-6-22 Ukrainian forces fight back around Kharkiv
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Donbas, Laura Bicker in Zaporizhzhia, Lyse Doucet and Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, and Caroline Davies in Odesa. Ukraine is continuing a counter-offensive near the city of Kharkiv, and says it has recaptured five villages. The US-based Institute for the Study of War says the Ukrainians could soon free Kharkiv from the threat of Russian artillery. In Mariupol, 50 civilians were evacuated from the Azovstal steel works on Friday. Russia has voted with the other 14 members of the UN Security Council to back a declaration supporting efforts to find a peaceful end to the war. US President Joe Biden announced a new $150m package of military aid for Ukraine.

5-6-22 "Trump wanted to 'quietly' bomb Mexico, seriously, ex-Defense Secretary Mark Esper recounts
In the summer of 2020, unhappy about the flow of drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border, then-President Donald Trump asked his defense secretary, Mark Esper, if the U.S. military could "shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs," Esper writes in his forthcoming memoir of working in the Trump administration. Trump made this request at least twice, and after Esper pushed back with several objections, Trump suggested "we could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, quietly," and "no one would know it was us," Esper writes in A Sacred Oath, The New York Times reports. Esper writes "he would have thought it was a joke had he not been staring Mr. Trump in the face," the Times reports. While straining to be fair to Trump and giving him any credit he deserves, "Esper paints a portrait of someone not in control of his emotions or his thought process throughout 2020," especially after his first impeachment trial, the Times reports. He also "singles out officials whom he considered erratic or dangerous influences" on Trump, and adviser Stephen Miller is "near the top of the list." In an interview with CBS News' Norah O'Donnell set to air Sunday night, Esper says he was "flabbergasted" by Miller's suggestion to send 250,000 U.S. troops to the Mexico border. "I think he's joking," Esper recounts. "And then I turn around, and I look at him in these deadpan eyes. It's clear that he is not joking." In his book, Esper writes that he told Miller, "The U.S. armed forces don't have 250,000 troops to send to the border for such nonsense," the Times reports. Esper also recounts how Miller suggested, after U.S. special forces killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, that the U.S. cut of al-Baghdadi's head and dip in in pig's blood as a warning to other Islamist terrorists. Esper told Miller that would be a "war crime," he writes. Miller denied the episode and told the Times that Esper is "a moron." But Esper's main concern is Trump, and he ran his manuscript by more than two dozen four-star generals plus Cabinet ministers and others to make sure his book is accurate and fair. Trump, he tells the Times, "is an unprincipled person who, given his self-interest, should not be in the position of public service."

5-6-22 Karine Jean-Pierre: White House names first black press secretary
President Biden has named Karine Jean-Pierre as his new top spokesperson - the first time a black, or openly gay, person has held the role. Ms Jean-Pierre, 44, has served as the administration's principal deputy press secretary since Mr Biden was elected. She will replace outgoing press secretary Jen Psaki, 43, in the top role at the end of next week. Press secretaries conduct daily news briefings with White House reporters, meaning the role can be high-profile. Ms Psaki is taking up a job at the left-leaning MSNBC cable news outlet. On Twitter, she called her successor a "remarkable woman" with "a moral core". "I can't wait to see her shine as she brings her own style, brilliance and grace to the podium," she said. The White House press secretary is a presidential administration's face to the national media and, by extension, to the country and the world. The individual can become an instantly recognisable figure in times of national crises or political scandal. They often develop cult-like followings among some - and are the butt of jokes for others. For the first time in US history, the face of an administration will be that of a black woman, and of one who is openly gay. The groundbreaking announcement underscores a Biden administration that has placed an emphasis on putting black women - frequently considered an essential, but politically invisible part of the Democratic Party coalition - in positions of power. She joins Vice-President Kamala Harris, incoming Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Domestic Policy Council chair Susan Rice, UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and a handful of other officials and judges in prominent roles. While press secretaries do not set policy, they help shape the public perception of an administration. Jean-Pierre has a challenging high-wire act ahead of her.

5-6-22 Madison Cawthorn: US lawmaker 'won't back down' after naked tape leak
The United States' youngest congressman has said he won't "back down" after a naked video of him in bed was leaked. Madison Cawthorn, 26, said the video showed him "being crass with a friend, trying to be funny". "We were acting foolish, and joking. That's it," he said. "I'm NOT backing down...blackmail won't win." The Republican, who is up for re-election in North Carolina, was first elected aged 25 - the minimum age for US Congress. When he entered the national political arena, he was seen as a rising star in the Republican Party. He beat then-President Donald Trump's endorsed candidate in the Republican primary, and went on to roundly defeat his Democratic rival in the general election in 2020. But Mr Cawthorn, who was partially paralysed in a car accident in 2014, quickly attracted controversy. The former real estate investor and motivational speaker faced backlash from his own party after claiming in a March interview that fellow lawmakers had invited him to orgies, and he had seen them taking cocaine. He was also accused of denying medical and family leave to a former congressional staff member before firing her - which he denied. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the top congressional Republican, recently said Mr Cawthorn had to "turn himself around". "I just told him he's lost my trust, and he's going to have to earn it back," Mr McCarthy said. Mr Cawthorn also faced rebuke after a video surfaced of him calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a "thug" and the Ukrainian government "incredibly evil". And last month, Mr Cawthorn was cited for bringing a loaded handgun through airport security at a North Carolina airport. In this most recent episode, leaked video appears to show Mr Cawthorn naked in bed and making thrusting motions on top of an unidentified person. The video was released by American Muckrackers, a political fundraising group that opposes Mr Cawthorn.

5-6-22 Russia firing during Mariupol evacuation - Ukraine forces
pdates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Donbas, Laura Bicker in Zaporizhzhia, Lyse Doucet and Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, and Caroline Davies in Odesa. Ukrainian forces have accused Russia of firing during the civilian evacuation of the Mariupol steelworks - with a car being hit. There are thought to be about 200 civilians - including at least 20 children - trapped with Ukrainian fighters under the Mariupol plant. Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukraine's president, says almost 500 civilians have been safely moved from the city since a UN-led rescue operation began. Vladimir Putin says Ukraine should order its fighters in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol to surrender. Capturing the whole of the shattered southern city would be symbolic for Moscow ahead of its annual 9 May Victory Day celebration. Meanwhile, there are reports the US provided intel that helped Ukraine sink the Russian warship Moskva. The Pentagon has denied other reports that the US helped Ukraine target and kill Russian generals.

5-6-22 Moskva sinking: US gave intelligence that helped Ukraine sink Russian cruiser - reports
The US provided intelligence that helped Ukraine sink the Moskva, Russia's flagship Black Sea missile cruiser, several US media report. Unnamed officials said Ukraine had asked the US about a ship sailing to the south of Odesa. The US said it was the Moskva and helped confirm its location. Ukraine then struck it with two missiles. The Pentagon has not commented. But a spokesman said the US gave intelligence to help Ukraine defend itself. The unnamed US officials quoted in media reports said they did not know that Ukraine would target the Moskva after helping determine its location. The 510-crew missile cruiser had led Russia's naval assault on Ukraine, and its sinking was a major symbolic and military blow. At the time, the Russian defence ministry said ammunition on board the Moskva exploded in an unexplained fire and the ship tipped over while being towed back to port. The US is yet to directly address the reports about the Moskva. However Pentagon spokesman John Kirby denied earlier media reports that the US was providing information about the locations of senior Russian generals on the battlefield, so that Ukrainian forces could kill them. "We do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military," he said. Mr Kirby said Ukraine combined information that the US and others provided with their own battlefield intelligence. "Then they make their own decisions, and they take their own actions," he said. The White House National Security Council (NSC) also denied the US was helping Ukraine target senior Russian officers. "We do not provide intelligence with the intent to kill Russian generals," NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson said. The Biden administration is ramping up support for Ukraine. President Biden has asked Congress for $33bn (£27bn) in military, economic and humanitarian assistance to support Ukraine, while insisting that the US was not "attacking Russia".

5-5-22 Pentagon: Ukraine picks which Russian generals, warships, and other targets to strike without U.S. input
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Thursday downplayed the role U.S. intelligence is playing in Ukraine's military strikes against Russia, amid new reports that Ukraine has used U.S. information to kill a dozen Russian generals and sink Russia's Black Sea flagship Moskva. "The United States provides battlefield intelligence to help Ukrainians defend their country," but "we do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military," Kirby said at a press briefing. "The Ukrainians have, quite frankly, a lot more information than we do," combining "information that we and other partners provide with the intelligence that they themselves are gathering on the battlefield, and then they make their own decisions and they take their own actions." "We do provide them useful intelligence, timely intelligence, that allows them to make decisions to better defend themselves against this invasion," Kirby added. "And I think the less said about that, honestly, the better." Following a New York Times report Wednesday that Ukraine used U.S. intelligence to target and kill roughly a dozen Russian generals in Ukraine, U.S. officials told NBC News and several other news organizations Thursday that the U.S. also provided Ukraine critical information it used to sink the Moskva with two of its home-grown anti-ship missiles. The U.S. confirmed that the ship Ukraine had spotted was the Russian flagship and provided its coordinates, but the U.S. had "no prior awareness" of how Ukraine would use that information, an official told The Washington Post. Still, "absent the intelligence from the United States, Ukraine would have struggled to target the warship with the confidence necessary to expend two valuable Neptune missiles, which were in short supply," the Post adds, citing U.S. officials. NBC News reported in late April that Ukraine relied on near-real-time U.S. intelligence to repel Russia's first wave of invasion and move its own air defenses and aircraft out Russia's crosshairs. "The Russian military has literally been cratering empty fields where air defenses were once set up," one U.S. official said. But the U.S. has also been careful to not cross certain lines that might ensnare the U.S. in a direct fight with Ukraine's nuclear-armed invader. "I think it's important not to forget this is a war the Russians started, and of course, they can end it tomorrow," Kirby noted Thursday.

5-5-22 US makes biggest interest rate rise in 22 years
The US central bank has announced its biggest interest rate increase in more than two decades as it toughens its fight against fast rising prices. The Federal Reserve said it was lifting its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point, to a range of 0.75% to 1% after a smaller rise in March. With US inflation at a 40-year high, further hikes are expected. The push marks the latest effort to contain spiking costs being felt by households around the world. India's central bank on Wednesday announced a surprise increase to its benchmark rate, while Australia's central bank recently enacted its first interest rate hike in more than a decade. The Bank of England is also widely expected to raise rates on Thursday, which would be the fourth increase since December. "Inflation is much too high and we understand the hardship it is causing," Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said in a press conference in Washington on Wednesday. "We are moving expeditiously to bring it back down." By raising rates, banks will make it more expensive for people, businesses and governments to borrow. They expect that to cool demand for goods and services, helping to ease price inflation. But their actions also risk triggering a sharp economic slowdown, especially as new challenges emerge, such as the war in Ukraine and recent Covid shutdowns in China. "It's a narrow path they have to walk," said economist Donald Kohn, who previously served on the Fed's rate-setting committee. "It's going to be a very difficult task." Inflation in the US hit 8.5% in March, the sharpest annual rate since 1981, driven by accelerating costs for food and energy. That is well above the bank's 2% target and has become a growing political issue for US President Joe Biden. Many economists say the Fed has been slow to respond to the problem, which has been fuelled by a mix of factors, including Covid-related supply shortages, a shock to energy markets from the war in Ukraine, and in the US, massive government spending - including direct cheques to households - to support the economy after the pandemic hit.

5-5-22 What's happening inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol?
Horrific stories emerge from the wreckage of the factory in the bombarded port city. More than 100 Ukrainian civilians have been evacuated from the sprawling Azovstal iron and steel plant in Russian-occupied Mariupol, and about 200 are still awaiting rescue from the complex, including some 20 children. The evacuations, after weeks encircled by Russian forces and bombarded with Russian shells and missiles, were negotiated with mediation from the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The first evacuees reaching relative safety "carried with them fresh accounts of survival and terror" from beneath the wreckage of the Azovstal steel works and the ruined port city of Mariupol, The New York Times reports. What is happening inside the massive iron and steel plant? The Azovstal Iron and Steel Works opened in 1933, when Joseph Stalin led the Soviet Union, then was rebuilt after World War II into a sprawling plant covering four square miles. Before Russia's invasion earlier this year, it produced 4.3 million tons of steel a year. "It is a labyrinth of rail systems, workshops, blast furnaces, and warehouses, with many of the buildings made of thick concrete and designed to withstand high temperatures," the Times reports. Underground is a network of tunnels and bunkers. "It goes six stories down and it's about the size of Vilnius," Lithuania's capital, military analyst ret. Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said on CNN. "It's a huge underground city with a lot of ability to attack the aggressors." It is where the remaining Ukrainian troops defending Mariupol are making their last stand. There are about 2,000 Ukrainian defenders at the plant, mostly with the 36th Marine Brigade and the controversial Azov Battalion, but also police officers, border guards, and anyone else willing to fight. "Some of them guard the territory, some of them prevent attempted attacks, some of them are responsible for a ceasefire, some of them help to clear the rubble under shelling," explained Svyatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov Battalion. An estimated 500 troops are wounded at the plant, and Russia bombed the field hospital in late April, holed-up troops showed on social media. Russian shelling has reduced most of the above-ground buildings to rubble, the Times demonstrated in juxtaposed video taken before the invasion and in mid-April.

5-5-22 Pentagon says Russia's attempts to hit Western weapons flowing into Ukraine having 'no impact'
Russia is concentrating most of its military efforts in Ukraine on trying to capture territory in the east and south of the country, but it continues to strike cities and towns across Ukraine. And on Tuesday and Wednesday those strikes targeted electrical substations, railroad facilities, and other infrastructure in western and central Ukraine. The Russian Defense Ministry said the attacks on the rail infrastructure are meant to disrupt the delivery of Western weapons — Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu griped that the U.S. and its allies are "stuffing Ukraine with weapons." A senior Pentagon official said Wednesday that despite Russia's efforts, "there's been no impact to our ability to continue flows into Ukraine. We've seen no indications that any of this Western aid has been impeded or even struck." "There's no indication at all that there's a Russian impediment to the flow" of U.S. arms to Ukraine, the Pentagon official said. "Our focus is on getting it to them. Their focus is on getting it into the fight and using it. And that's happening." Ukraine has 81 of 90 promised U.S. howitzers, and "we know that they are using some of those howitzers in the fight," the official said, "but I think I'm just going to demur" on the specific number. The flow of weapons into Ukraine "continues every single day," and they "are getting into Ukrainian hands," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said later Wednesday. "We're not going to talk about the ways in which materials getting inside Ukraine," but "there are lots of ways to do that" and "those ways change over time." Ukraine and Russia both rely on the rail systems to transport military personnel and supplies, the Pentagon official said, but the Russian strikes on critical infrastructure out west have had "no appreciable impact" on Ukraine's ability to replenish its forces. Overall, Russia's "ability to target with precision has been less than advertised throughout this entire war," Kirby added. "They are not good at precision strikes." Russia's strikes on "non-military targets" also show its "willingness to target civilian infrastructure in an attempt to weaken Ukrainian resolve" and damage its economy, Britain's Ministry of Defense said. These missile strikes on our cities "will get proper answers," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed Wednesday night. "Both legal and quite practical — on the battlefield."

5-5-22 Wealthy Russians flee to Dubai to avoid sanctions
Dubai has emerged as a haven for wealthy Russians fleeing the impact of western sanctions over the war in Ukraine. Russian billionaires and entrepreneurs have been arriving in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in unprecedented numbers, business leaders told the BBC. Property purchases in Dubai by Russians surged by 67% in the first three months of 2022, a report said. The UAE has not put sanctions on Russia or criticised its invasion of Ukraine. It is also providing visas to non-sanctioned Russians while many Western countries have restricted them. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people have left Russia over the last two months - although exact figures are not available. One Russian economist said as many as 200,000 Russians had left in the first 10 days after the war began. Virtuzone, which helps companies to set up operations in Dubai, has seen a huge surge of Russian clients. "We are receiving five times more enquiries from Russians since the war began," said chief executive George Hojeige. "They are worried about an economic meltdown that's coming. That is why they are moving here to secure their wealth," he added. The influx of Russian nationals has bolstered demand for luxury villas and apartments across the city. Real estate agents are reporting a surge in property prices, as Russians arriving in Dubai are looking to purchase homes. Dubai-based real estate agency Betterhomes found property purchases by Russians surged by two thirds in the first three months of 2022. And another real estate agency, Modern Living, told the BBC it had hired many Russian-speaking agents to cater to rising demand. Chief executive Thiago Caldas said they were receiving numerous calls from Russian nationals looking to relocate to Dubai immediately. "Russians who are coming down are not buying just for investment, they are looking at Dubai as a second home," he said.

5-5-22 Donbas fighting: Risking capture to evacuate the vulnerable from the front line
About 2,000 civilians are reportedly trapped by fighting in the front line town of Popasna in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region, the main focus of Russia's attempt to gain territory. Local officials say food supplies in Popasna are expected to run out within a week - but all rescue efforts have been halted after three evacuation buses entered the region - but only one returned. Five volunteer drivers and staff are either missing or captured by Russian troops, authorities say. "Every day the Russians advance a little further. The situation is very difficult," said Nikolai Khanatov, the head of Popasna's military-civilian administration. Across the Donbas region, small groups of civilian volunteers in cars and buses are playing a key role in helping to evacuate those - particularly the elderly and infirm - who have struggled to leave towns and villages in the path of the Kremlin's new offensive. "We've been going quite close to the front and evacuating blind people, people with walking frames. I'm quite scared most of the time," said Guy Osborn, a visiting British maths teacher volunteering for a small charity in the area. Last Friday a local history teacher, Mykhail Pankov, set off in a school bus for Popasna, hoping to bring out a few dozen civilians who had been sheltering for weeks in cellars. The town is located between the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk, which have been held by Russia-backed separatists since 2014. His wife Yulia Pinzelik had begged him to stop making the trips as Russian troops had slowly gained control over almost the whole town. "He's a stubborn man. He said he wasn't afraid and that people needed help," she said. A few hours later, another school bus returned safely to the nearby town of Bakhmut with a several elderly civilians onboard. They sat in near silence, visibly traumatised. "It was so scary. We spent two months in our cellars," said one elderly woman, before collapsing into sobs. But Mykhail and his bus did not return. Nor did the driver of a third bus. Reports began trickling in suggesting that at least one of the buses had come under fire.

5-5-22 Russia breaking Mariupol ceasefire promise, say fighters
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Donbas, Laura Bicker in Zaporizhzhia, Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, and Caroline Davies in Odesa. Russian troops are thwarting attempts to evacuate civilians from the Mariupol steelworks, an Azov Battalion commander says. Moscow had pledged to implement a three-day ceasefire - starting this morning - to allow civilians to escape the complex. The Kremlin denies it is storming the Azovstal plant and says humanitarian corridors are functioning. Meanwhile, international donors have pledged $6.5bn to support Ukraine during a conference in Poland. In a video address to delegates, President Zelensky called on world leaders to invest in rebuilding a post-war Ukraine. Ukraine says it's unlikely to launch a counter-offensive against Russia until it receives more weapons from its allies.

5-5-22 India's Covid-19 toll highest in the world - WHO
More than 4.7 million people in India - nearly 10 times higher than official records suggest - are thought to have died because of Covid-19, according to a new World Health Organization (WHO) report. India's government has rejected the figure, saying the methodology is flawed. Will we ever know how many Indians died in the pandemic? n November 2020, researchers at the World Mortality Dataset - a global repository that provides updated data on deaths from all causes - asked authorities in India to provide information. "These are not available," India's main statistical office told the researchers, according to Ariel Karlinsky, a scientist who co-created the dataset and is a member of an advisory group set up by the the WHO for its estimates of excess deaths caused by Covid globally during 2020 and 2021. Excess deaths are a simple measure of how many more people are dying than expected compared with previous years. Although it is difficult to say how many of these deaths were due to Covid, they can be considered a measure of the scale and toll of the pandemic. India has officially recorded more than half a million deaths due to the novel coronavirus until now. It reported 481,000 Covid deaths between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021, but the WHO's estimates put the figure at nearly 10 times as many. They suggest India accounts for almost a third of Covid deaths globally. So India is among the 20 countries - representing approximately 50% of the global population - that account for over 80% of the estimated global excess mortality for this period. Almost half of the deaths that until now had not been counted globally were in India. ts absence from global databases such as the World Mortality Dataset means that the only national numbers the country has are model-based estimates of all-cause excess deaths. (These models have looked at state-level civil registration data, a global burden of disease study, mortality reported by an independent private polling agency, and other Covid-related parameters.)

5-5-22 Covid-19 news: Pandemic has killed nearly 15 million people, says WHO
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. The covid-19 pandemic directly or indirectly caused 14.9 million deaths as of the end of 2021, according to a WHO report. In a major analysis, officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) calculated the number of pandemic-related deaths that occurred globally between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2022. The researchers combined national death data for each country with statistics from scientific studies carried out in the same country. They also used a statistical model to account for deaths that may have been otherwise overlooked. The team then estimated the number of fatalities that would have been expected had the pandemic not occurred, comparing the two figures to give an “excess” of 14.9 million. This excess includes deaths directly caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as those that were indirectly caused by the pandemic, such as people who died prematurely because healthcare systems were overwhelmed. According to John Hopkins University data, just over 6.2 million people have died of covid-19 worldwide, not taking into account the pandemic’s indirect deaths. “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. More than one in 10 people hospitalised with covid-19 could have severe neurological symptoms, a study suggests. Researchers at Boston University studied more than 16,000 people who were hospitalised with covid-19 in 24 countries between March 2020 and March 2021. Nearly 13 per cent of the participants developed a serious neurological condition – like a stroke, seizure or encephalopathy, an umbrella term for disease that alters the brain’s function or structure – at admission or during their hospitalisation. Fighting off SARS-CoV-2 virus may temporarily boost your protection against other coronavirus strains, including those that cause common cold-like symptoms. In a small study, scientists at Scripps Research in the US found serum samples from people who had recently fought off SARS-CoV-2 virus reacted more strongly to the spike proteins of other coronavirus strains than samples taken from people pre-covid-19.

5-5-22 Covid: World’s true pandemic death toll nearly 15 million, says WHO
The Covid pandemic has caused the deaths of nearly 15 million people around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates. That is 13% more deaths than normally expected over two years. The WHO believes many countries undercounted the numbers who died from Covid - only 5.4 million were reported. In India, there were 4.7 million Covid deaths, it says - 10 times the official figures - and almost a third of Covid deaths globally. The Indian government has questioned the estimate, saying it has "concerns" about the methodology, but other studies have come to similar conclusions about the scale of deaths in the country. The measure used by the WHO is called excess deaths - how many more people died than would normally be expected based on mortality in the same area before the pandemic hit. These calculations also take into account deaths which were not directly because of Covid but instead caused by its knock-on effects, like people being unable to access hospitals for the care they needed. It also accounts for poor record-keeping in some regions, and sparse testing at the start of the crisis. But the WHO said the majority of the extra 9.5 million deaths seen above the 5.4 million Covid deaths reported were thought to be direct deaths caused by the virus, rather than indirect deaths. Speaking about the scale of the figures, Dr Samira Asma, from the WHO's data department, said "It's a tragedy. "It's a staggering number and it's important for us to honour the lives that are lost, and we have to hold policymakers accountable," she said. "If we don't count the dead, we will miss the opportunity to be better prepared for the next time." Alongside India, countries with the highest total excess deaths included Russia, Indonesia, USA, Brazil, Mexico and Peru, the WHO figures suggest. The numbers for Russia are three-and-a-half times the country's recorded deaths. The report also looks at the rates of excess deaths relative to each country's population size. The UK's excess mortality rate - like America, Spain and Germany - was above the global average during 2020 and 2021.

5-4-22 Fed raises interest rates by half a percent
The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates by half a percentage point to reduce inflation, The Wall Street Journal reports. The decision came after a two-day policy meeting wrapped up on Wednesday, and after a quarter-percentage-point increase in March. The central bank raised its benchmark federal funds rate to a range of 0.75 percent to 1 percent, to combat the highest inflation in 40 years. The rate increase is the "sharpest since 2000 and the second of seven hikes forecast for this year," The Washington Post reports. The Fed began raising interest rates from near zero this year, expecting that a series of hikes would combat inflation and boost the economy. However, some analysts worry increasing rates again too soon could be problematic. "Policymakers must move slowly with hikes and not too forcefully to raise interest rates too quickly, which could prompt businesses to lay people off or send the country into recession," the Post writes. The rise will make it more expensive to take out a loan, affecting people looking to buy a home or carry a credit card balance. "Inflation is much too high and we understand the hardship it is causing. We're moving expeditiously to bring it back down" said Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell during his press conference. "The economy and the country have been through a lot in the past two years and have proved resilient."

5-5-22 US makes biggest interest rate rise in 22 years
The US central bank has announced its biggest interest rate increase in more than two decades as it toughens its fight against fast rising prices. The Federal Reserve said it was lifting its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point, to a range of 0.75% to 1% after a smaller rise in March. With US inflation at a 40-year high, further hikes are expected. The push marks the latest effort to contain spiking costs being felt by households around the world. India's central bank on Wednesday announced a surprise increase to its benchmark rate, while Australia's central bank recently enacted its first interest rate hike in more than a decade. The Bank of England is also widely expected to raise rates on Thursday, which would be the fourth increase since December. "Inflation is much too high and we understand the hardship it is causing," Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said in a press conference in Washington on Wednesday. "We are moving expeditiously to bring it back down." By raising rates, banks will make it more expensive for people, businesses and governments to borrow. They expect that to cool demand for goods and services, helping to ease price inflation. But their actions also risk triggering a sharp economic slowdown, especially as new challenges emerge, such as the war in Ukraine and recent Covid shutdowns in China. "It's a narrow path they have to walk," said economist Donald Kohn, who previously served on the Fed's rate-setting committee. "It's going to be a very difficult task." Inflation in the US hit 8.5% in March, the sharpest annual rate since 1981, driven by accelerating costs for food and energy. That is well above the bank's 2% target and has become a growing political issue for US President Joe Biden. Many economists say the Fed has been slow to respond to the problem, which has been fuelled by a mix of factors, including Covid-related supply shortages, a shock to energy markets from the war in Ukraine, and in the US, massive government spending - including direct cheques to households - to support the economy after the pandemic hit.

5-5-22 What's happening inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol?
Horrific stories emerge from the wreckage of the factory in the bombarded port city. More than 100 Ukrainian civilians have been evacuated from the sprawling Azovstal iron and steel plant in Russian-occupied Mariupol, and about 200 are still awaiting rescue from the complex, including some 20 children. The evacuations, after weeks encircled by Russian forces and bombarded with Russian shells and missiles, were negotiated with mediation from the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The first evacuees reaching relative safety "carried with them fresh accounts of survival and terror" from beneath the wreckage of the Azovstal steel works and the ruined port city of Mariupol, The New York Times reports. What is happening inside the massive iron and steel plant? The Azovstal Iron and Steel Works opened in 1933, when Joseph Stalin led the Soviet Union, then was rebuilt after World War II into a sprawling plant covering four square miles. Before Russia's invasion earlier this year, it produced 4.3 million tons of steel a year. "It is a labyrinth of rail systems, workshops, blast furnaces, and warehouses, with many of the buildings made of thick concrete and designed to withstand high temperatures," the Times reports. Underground is a network of tunnels and bunkers. "It goes six stories down and it's about the size of Vilnius," Lithuania's capital, military analyst ret. Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said on CNN. "It's a huge underground city with a lot of ability to attack the aggressors." It is where the remaining Ukrainian troops defending Mariupol are making their last stand. There are about 2,000 Ukrainian defenders at the plant, mostly with the 36th Marine Brigade and the controversial Azov Battalion, but also police officers, border guards, and anyone else willing to fight. "Some of them guard the territory, some of them prevent attempted attacks, some of them are responsible for a ceasefire, some of them help to clear the rubble under shelling," explained Svyatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov Battalion. An estimated 500 troops are wounded at the plant, and Russia bombed the field hospital in late April, holed-up troops showed on social media. Russian shelling has reduced most of the above-ground buildings to rubble, the Times demonstrated in juxtaposed video taken before the invasion and in mid-April.

5-5-22 Pentagon says Russia's attempts to hit Western weapons flowing into Ukraine having 'no impact'
Russia is concentrating most of its military efforts in Ukraine on trying to capture territory in the east and south of the country, but it continues to strike cities and towns across Ukraine. And on Tuesday and Wednesday those strikes targeted electrical substations, railroad facilities, and other infrastructure in western and central Ukraine. The Russian Defense Ministry said the attacks on the rail infrastructure are meant to disrupt the delivery of Western weapons — Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu griped that the U.S. and its allies are "stuffing Ukraine with weapons." A senior Pentagon official said Wednesday that despite Russia's efforts, "there's been no impact to our ability to continue flows into Ukraine. We've seen no indications that any of this Western aid has been impeded or even struck." "There's no indication at all that there's a Russian impediment to the flow" of U.S. arms to Ukraine, the Pentagon official said. "Our focus is on getting it to them. Their focus is on getting it into the fight and using it. And that's happening." Ukraine has 81 of 90 promised U.S. howitzers, and "we know that they are using some of those howitzers in the fight," the official said, "but I think I'm just going to demur" on the specific number. The flow of weapons into Ukraine "continues every single day," and they "are getting into Ukrainian hands," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said later Wednesday. "We're not going to talk about the ways in which materials getting inside Ukraine," but "there are lots of ways to do that" and "those ways change over time." Ukraine and Russia both rely on the rail systems to transport military personnel and supplies, the Pentagon official said, but the Russian strikes on critical infrastructure out west have had "no appreciable impact" on Ukraine's ability to replenish its forces. Overall, Russia's "ability to target with precision has been less than advertised throughout this entire war," Kirby added. "They are not good at precision strikes." Russia's strikes on "non-military targets" also show its "willingness to target civilian infrastructure in an attempt to weaken Ukrainian resolve" and damage its economy, Britain's Ministry of Defense said. These missile strikes on our cities "will get proper answers," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed Wednesday night. "Both legal and quite practical — on the battlefield."

5-5-22 Wealthy Russians flee to Dubai to avoid sanctions
Dubai has emerged as a haven for wealthy Russians fleeing the impact of western sanctions over the war in Ukraine. Russian billionaires and entrepreneurs have been arriving in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in unprecedented numbers, business leaders told the BBC. Property purchases in Dubai by Russians surged by 67% in the first three months of 2022, a report said. The UAE has not put sanctions on Russia or criticised its invasion of Ukraine. It is also providing visas to non-sanctioned Russians while many Western countries have restricted them. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people have left Russia over the last two months - although exact figures are not available. One Russian economist said as many as 200,000 Russians had left in the first 10 days after the war began. Virtuzone, which helps companies to set up operations in Dubai, has seen a huge surge of Russian clients. "We are receiving five times more enquiries from Russians since the war began," said chief executive George Hojeige. "They are worried about an economic meltdown that's coming. That is why they are moving here to secure their wealth," he added. The influx of Russian nationals has bolstered demand for luxury villas and apartments across the city. Real estate agents are reporting a surge in property prices, as Russians arriving in Dubai are looking to purchase homes. Dubai-based real estate agency Betterhomes found property purchases by Russians surged by two thirds in the first three months of 2022. And another real estate agency, Modern Living, told the BBC it had hired many Russian-speaking agents to cater to rising demand. Chief executive Thiago Caldas said they were receiving numerous calls from Russian nationals looking to relocate to Dubai immediately. "Russians who are coming down are not buying just for investment, they are looking at Dubai as a second home," he said.

5-5-22 Donbas fighting: Risking capture to evacuate the vulnerable from the front line
About 2,000 civilians are reportedly trapped by fighting in the front line town of Popasna in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region, the main focus of Russia's attempt to gain territory. Local officials say food supplies in Popasna are expected to run out within a week - but all rescue efforts have been halted after three evacuation buses entered the region - but only one returned. Five volunteer drivers and staff are either missing or captured by Russian troops, authorities say. "Every day the Russians advance a little further. The situation is very difficult," said Nikolai Khanatov, the head of Popasna's military-civilian administration. Across the Donbas region, small groups of civilian volunteers in cars and buses are playing a key role in helping to evacuate those - particularly the elderly and infirm - who have struggled to leave towns and villages in the path of the Kremlin's new offensive. "We've been going quite close to the front and evacuating blind people, people with walking frames. I'm quite scared most of the time," said Guy Osborn, a visiting British maths teacher volunteering for a small charity in the area. Last Friday a local history teacher, Mykhail Pankov, set off in a school bus for Popasna, hoping to bring out a few dozen civilians who had been sheltering for weeks in cellars. The town is located between the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk, which have been held by Russia-backed separatists since 2014. His wife Yulia Pinzelik had begged him to stop making the trips as Russian troops had slowly gained control over almost the whole town. "He's a stubborn man. He said he wasn't afraid and that people needed help," she said. A few hours later, another school bus returned safely to the nearby town of Bakhmut with a several elderly civilians onboard. They sat in near silence, visibly traumatised. "It was so scary. We spent two months in our cellars," said one elderly woman, before collapsing into sobs. But Mykhail and his bus did not return. Nor did the driver of a third bus. Reports began trickling in suggesting that at least one of the buses had come under fire.

5-5-22 Russia breaking Mariupol ceasefire promise, say fighters
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Donbas, Laura Bicker in Zaporizhzhia, Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, and Caroline Davies in Odesa. Russian troops are thwarting attempts to evacuate civilians from the Mariupol steelworks, an Azov Battalion commander says. Moscow had pledged to implement a three-day ceasefire - starting this morning - to allow civilians to escape the complex. The Kremlin denies it is storming the Azovstal plant and says humanitarian corridors are functioning. Meanwhile, international donors have pledged $6.5bn to support Ukraine during a conference in Poland. In a video address to delegates, President Zelensky called on world leaders to invest in rebuilding a post-war Ukraine. Ukraine says it's unlikely to launch a counter-offensive against Russia until it receives more weapons from its allies.

5-5-22 India's Covid-19 toll highest in the world - WHO
More than 4.7 million people in India - nearly 10 times higher than official records suggest - are thought to have died because of Covid-19, according to a new World Health Organization (WHO) report. India's government has rejected the figure, saying the methodology is flawed. Will we ever know how many Indians died in the pandemic? n November 2020, researchers at the World Mortality Dataset - a global repository that provides updated data on deaths from all causes - asked authorities in India to provide information. "These are not available," India's main statistical office told the researchers, according to Ariel Karlinsky, a scientist who co-created the dataset and is a member of an advisory group set up by the the WHO for its estimates of excess deaths caused by Covid globally during 2020 and 2021. Excess deaths are a simple measure of how many more people are dying than expected compared with previous years. Although it is difficult to say how many of these deaths were due to Covid, they can be considered a measure of the scale and toll of the pandemic. India has officially recorded more than half a million deaths due to the novel coronavirus until now. It reported 481,000 Covid deaths between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021, but the WHO's estimates put the figure at nearly 10 times as many. They suggest India accounts for almost a third of Covid deaths globally. So India is among the 20 countries - representing approximately 50% of the global population - that account for over 80% of the estimated global excess mortality for this period. Almost half of the deaths that until now had not been counted globally were in India. ts absence from global databases such as the World Mortality Dataset means that the only national numbers the country has are model-based estimates of all-cause excess deaths. (These models have looked at state-level civil registration data, a global burden of disease study, mortality reported by an independent private polling agency, and other Covid-related parameters.)

5-5-22 Covid-19 news: Pandemic has killed nearly 15 million people, says WHO
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. The covid-19 pandemic directly or indirectly caused 14.9 million deaths as of the end of 2021, according to a WHO report. In a major analysis, officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) calculated the number of pandemic-related deaths that occurred globally between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2022. The researchers combined national death data for each country with statistics from scientific studies carried out in the same country. They also used a statistical model to account for deaths that may have been otherwise overlooked. The team then estimated the number of fatalities that would have been expected had the pandemic not occurred, comparing the two figures to give an “excess” of 14.9 million. This excess includes deaths directly caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as those that were indirectly caused by the pandemic, such as people who died prematurely because healthcare systems were overwhelmed. According to John Hopkins University data, just over 6.2 million people have died of covid-19 worldwide, not taking into account the pandemic’s indirect deaths. “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. More than one in 10 people hospitalised with covid-19 could have severe neurological symptoms, a study suggests. Researchers at Boston University studied more than 16,000 people who were hospitalised with covid-19 in 24 countries between March 2020 and March 2021. Nearly 13 per cent of the participants developed a serious neurological condition – like a stroke, seizure or encephalopathy, an umbrella term for disease that alters the brain’s function or structure – at admission or during their hospitalisation. Fighting off SARS-CoV-2 virus may temporarily boost your protection against other coronavirus strains, including those that cause common cold-like symptoms. In a small study, scientists at Scripps Research in the US found serum samples from people who had recently fought off SARS-CoV-2 virus reacted more strongly to the spike proteins of other coronavirus strains than samples taken from people pre-covid-19.

5-5-22 Covid: World’s true pandemic death toll nearly 15 million, says WHO
The Covid pandemic has caused the deaths of nearly 15 million people around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates. That is 13% more deaths than normally expected over two years. The WHO believes many countries undercounted the numbers who died from Covid - only 5.4 million were reported. In India, there were 4.7 million Covid deaths, it says - 10 times the official figures - and almost a third of Covid deaths globally. The Indian government has questioned the estimate, saying it has "concerns" about the methodology, but other studies have come to similar conclusions about the scale of deaths in the country. The measure used by the WHO is called excess deaths - how many more people died than would normally be expected based on mortality in the same area before the pandemic hit. These calculations also take into account deaths which were not directly because of Covid but instead caused by its knock-on effects, like people being unable to access hospitals for the care they needed. It also accounts for poor record-keeping in some regions, and sparse testing at the start of the crisis. But the WHO said the majority of the extra 9.5 million deaths seen above the 5.4 million Covid deaths reported were thought to be direct deaths caused by the virus, rather than indirect deaths. Speaking about the scale of the figures, Dr Samira Asma, from the WHO's data department, said "It's a tragedy. "It's a staggering number and it's important for us to honour the lives that are lost, and we have to hold policymakers accountable," she said. "If we don't count the dead, we will miss the opportunity to be better prepared for the next time." Alongside India, countries with the highest total excess deaths included Russia, Indonesia, USA, Brazil, Mexico and Peru, the WHO figures suggest. The numbers for Russia are three-and-a-half times the country's recorded deaths. The report also looks at the rates of excess deaths relative to each country's population size. The UK's excess mortality rate - like America, Spain and Germany - was above the global average during 2020 and 2021.

5-4-22 Fed raises interest rates by half a percent
The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates by half a percentage point to reduce inflation, The Wall Street Journal reports. The decision came after a two-day policy meeting wrapped up on Wednesday, and after a quarter-percentage-point increase in March. The central bank raised its benchmark federal funds rate to a range of 0.75 percent to 1 percent, to combat the highest inflation in 40 years. The rate increase is the "sharpest since 2000 and the second of seven hikes forecast for this year," The Washington Post reports. The Fed began raising interest rates from near zero this year, expecting that a series of hikes would combat inflation and boost the economy. However, some analysts worry increasing rates again too soon could be problematic. "Policymakers must move slowly with hikes and not too forcefully to raise interest rates too quickly, which could prompt businesses to lay people off or send the country into recession," the Post writes. The rise will make it more expensive to take out a loan, affecting people looking to buy a home or carry a credit card balance. "Inflation is much too high and we understand the hardship it is causing. We're moving expeditiously to bring it back down" said Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell during his press conference. "The economy and the country have been through a lot in the past two years and have proved resilient."

5-4-22 JD Vance: Trump-backed contender clinches Ohio Senate race
A candidate endorsed by Donald Trump has won the Republican Senate nomination for Ohio, in a sign of the former US president's continued influence on his party. Author and venture capitalist JD Vance beat six other candidates in a race that set a record for the most money, $66m (£52m), ever spent on an Ohio election. He trailed his more established political opponents for much of the primary campaign but saw a late surge following Mr Trump's endorsement. Mr Vance is best known for authoring the 2016 book Hillbilly Elegy, which was later made into a feature film. The book was about his upbringing in a small Kentucky town and the plight of poor rural white Americans. It was heralded as a clear-eyed look at the political and cultural environment that helped explain Mr Trump's appeal in rural and struggling industrial states. Mr Vance also benefitted from more than $10m in campaign support from billionaire technology entrepreneur Peter Thiel, one of Mr Trump's deep-pocketed allies. Mr Vance will now face Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, who represents a former factory-dependent district in eastern Ohio, in the mid-term elections in November. It sets up a high-profile battle for the allegiance of blue-collar voters in this Midwestern state. In his victory speech before a small but festive Cincinnati crowd - some adorned in Mr Trump's red "Make American Great Again" hats - Mr Vance thanked the former president for his endorsement and underlined the importance of his victory for Mr Trump's agenda. "They wanted to write the story that this campaign would be the death of Donald Trump's America-first agenda," he said. "It ain't." Mr Vance campaigned with his own spin on the former president's populist rhetoric, repeatedly criticising what he viewed as unfair trade competition from China and the threat undocumented migration posed to the safety and economic livelihood of Americans.

5-4-22 U.S. is letting Ukraine field-test mysterious new Phoenix Ghost drones
Ukraine has been making brutally effective use of drones against Russian invading forces, especially Turkish-made Bayraktar drones and, more recently, smaller and more portable Switchblade "kamikaze" drones. A senior Pentagon official said Monday that the U.S. has delivered to Ukraine a "small proportion" of a promised batch of 121 new Phoenix Ghost drones and just finished training 20 Ukrainian soldiers on how to use the mysterious new aerial weapons. "The Phoenix Ghost has remained a bit shrouded in mystery," Task and Purpose notes."We don't know much about its capabilities — how it can be launched, its range, or its payload." But the Pentagon has provided some clues, and the senior defense official added some new details Monday. "The Phoenix Ghost was in development by the Air Force before the war in Ukraine, and as we began to look across the department at programs that were in various stages of development, we realized that some of the very things that we were developing the Phoenix Ghost to do would be very useful to the Ukrainians," the Pentagon official said. "As we looked at the capabilities of it, it was clear that it could be useful to them in the kind of fighting that they're doing in the Donbas." And yes, "it can be used for anti-armor capabilities," the official said. A Pentagon official previously said the Phoenix Ghost drones "provide the same sort of tactical capability that a Switchblade does," meaning they are lightweight and portable, and "can be described as a loitering munition, both a 'flying scout and an armed weapon,'" Task and Purpose explains. CNN's Tom Foreman ran down some of what we know about the Phoenix Ghost drones Monday night.

5-4-22 Russia plans to annex territory in eastern Ukraine as early as this month, U.S. official says
Russia plans to annex the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern city of Kherson as early as this month, according to "highly credible" intelligence provided by a senior U.S. official. NBC News reports that, despite Russia's failure to make significant territorial gains in eastern Ukraine, the invaders plan to solidify their power over those parts of the country they do control. Russia will likely "stage fraudulent referendums in mid-May in which citizens of Donetsk, Luhansk or Kherson appear to express support for leaving Ukraine and becoming part of Russia," according to The Washington Post. Russia employed a similar strategy in 2014 to annex Crimea. Donetsk and Luhansk, where most of the population of 3.6 million speaks Russian, are largely controlled by Russian-backed separatists. Just days before invading Ukraine, Russia recognized the two regions as independent "people's republics." In Kherson, which fell to Russian forces during the first week of the war, Russia already seems to be settling in for a long stay. Reuters reported Monday that the Russian occupiers had re-routed internet traffic through Russia's own communications infrastructure, enabling tighter control of information.

5-4-22 Ukraine war: Putin tells Macron West should stop sending arms
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the West could help end the war in Ukraine by putting more pressure on President Volodymyr Zelensky and halting arms deliveries to his forces. Mr Putin was speaking in his first telephone talks in more than a month with French President Emmanuel Macron. The French leader again called for a ceasefire and for talks to end the war brought on by Russia's invasion. He asked Mr Putin to allow further evacuations in the city of Mariupol. The city has seen some of the bitterest fighting of the war and hundreds of civilians are believed to remain trapped under the rubble of a steelworks held by Ukrainian forces. Western states have armed Ukraine extensively in its fight against Russia, and on Tuesday the UK announced a further pledge of military equipment worth £300m ($376m) including electronic warfare equipment, a radar system, GPS jammers and night-vision devices. Thousands of people, both combatants and civilians, have been killed or injured since the invasion on 24 February and more than 5.5 million have fled abroad as refugees. Russian forces have pulled back from the region of the capital Kyiv to focus their operations on eastern Ukraine. Calling for a stop to arms supplies, Mr Putin accused Ukrainian forces of committing war crimes by bombarding towns in eastern Ukraine where Moscow-backed separatists control large areas, according to a Kremlin statement. A number of attacks on residential areas have been recorded in separatist-controlled areas since the invasion began but nothing on the scale of the shelling of government-held towns by Russian forces. Ukraine denies shelling residential areas. Russian forces have been accused of carrying out atrocities, including in Bucha, a town outside Kyiv. The Russian leader insisted Russia was open to dialogue with Ukraine.

5-4-22 Ukraine war: EU plans Russian oil ban and war crimes sanctions
The EU has proposed some of its toughest measures yet against Russia, including a total ban on oil imports and sanctions on war crimes suspects. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the package was aimed at maximising pressure on Russia while minimising damage to Europe. Russian crude oil would be phased out within six months, she said. Military officers involved in suspected war crimes in Bucha and Mariupol would also face new sanctions. "This sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin's war: We know who you are, and you will be held accountable," Ms von der Leyen told the European Parliament on Wednesday. The EU has been focusing for weeks on how to wean itself off Russian oil and gas. It has already pledged to reduce gas imports by two-thirds by the end of 2022 and now plans to phase out crude oil over six months and refined products by the end of 2022. "We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion," the Commission president said. The package first has to be approved by EU ambassadors and is set to be signed off in the next few days. Slovakia and Hungary, which currently rely on Russian oil, would be given an extra year to find alternative suppliers. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Budapest could not support the package in its current form, while Slovakia's economy minister said his country wanted a three-year transition period. Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said he would also seek a two-to-three year exemption to tackle problems with pipeline capacity. Last year, Russia supplied the EU with a quarter of its oil imports, and Germany was the biggest buyer. However, Germany has dramatically reduced its reliance on Russian oil imports, down from 35% to 12%. The UK, which is no longer in the EU, is already phasing out Russian oil, which accounts for 8% of its imports. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was working on various options in response to the planned embargo. Sanctions were a double-edged sword for the Europeans and others, as the cost for European citizens would increase every day.

5-4-22 Putin must pay high price for aggression - EU
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Donbas, Laura Bicker in Zaporizhzhia, Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, and Caroline Davies in Odesa. The EU unveils proposals for new sanctions on Russia including a total ban on Russian oil imports by the end of the year. The plans - which need member states' approval - also include sanctions on individuals, including those suspected of war crimes. The EU also plans to offer additional military support to Moldova, amid fears war could spread to Ukraine's neighbour. Russia says it is considering its options, while its defence minister warns Nato against sending military aid to Ukraine. Russian missiles struck three power stations in Lviv late on Tuesday, causing blackouts in the western city, the mayor said. Ukrainian authorities hope to evacuate hundreds of civilians from the city of Mariupol, which is almost fully under Russian control.

5-4-22 Jamestown: America's first English settlement now endangered
One of the most important historic sites in America has been put on a list of endangered places. Preservation groups warn that Jamestown, Virginia, may not survive another generation because of climate change. In 1607, the small island near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay became the first successful English colony. It is often described as the birthplace of both democracy and slavery in America. But the tides of the James River are becoming higher and more damaging, the water table is rising, and storms are more frequent and severe, causing dangerous floods. "There are multiple challenges and they're all related to climate change," says James Horn, president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation. "Essentially, we can't get rid of the water." The threat from water is nothing new - the James River had already eroded the western part of the island settlement and until digging began in 1994, it was erroneously believed that the original fort was already underwater. Archaeologists have since excavated most of the fort and recovered millions of artefacts. In 2013 they found evidence of cannibalism during the brutal winter of 1609-10, known as the Starving Time. And in 2015 they discovered the skeletal remains of the first settlers. But climate change is accelerating the pace of erosion and flooding, jeopardising the site as well as further research and the potential for future discoveries. "Because of the rate of change, we estimate that a good portion of the fort and surrounding area will be underwater within 35 years," says Mr Horn. "There is basically a five-year window at Jamestown," says Katherine Malone-France, chief preservation officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which compiles the annual list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. "If we do not begin to address these issues within that five-year window, mitigating the impact of climate change becomes exponentially harder. This can't wait another 10 or 15 years. This is about right now."

5-3-22 The CDC reportedly monitored the location data of millions of phones
Documents obtained by Vice News' Motherboard reveal that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention purchased access to the phone data of millions of Americans, and not just for COVID-19 tracking. The CDC reportedly paid "highly controversial data broker" SafeGraph $420,000 last year for access to one year worth of cell phone location data. The documents "show that although the CDC used COVID-19 as a reason to buy access to the data more quickly, it intended to use it for more general CDC purposes," writes Vice. SafeGraph's data allows insight into where people live, work, and where they go. The CDC's initial pandemic tracking usage was "critical for ongoing response efforts, such as hourly monitoring of activity in curfew zones or detailed counts of visits to participating pharmacies for vaccine monitoring," according to the documents. But the documents also reveal 21 other ways the CDC planned to utilize the data, including "tracking patterns of those visiting K-12 schools by the school" and "examination of the effectiveness of public policy on [the] Navajo Nation." While the data purchase was initially marked "URGENT" amid the pandemic, the agreement between the CDC and SafeGraph has been extended as the CDC argues it "has interest in continued access to this mobility data as the country opens back up." Read more at Vice News.

5-3-22 Covid-19 news: Cognitive impairment equivalent to 20 years of ageing
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. People hospitalised with covid-19 may lose 10 IQ points, equivalent to the natural cognitive decline that occurs between 50 and 70 years old. Covid-19 can cause lasting cognitive and mental health issues, including brain fog, fatigue and even post-traumatic stress disorder. To better understand the scale of the problem, researchers at the University of Cambridge analysed 46 people who were hospitalised due to the infection between March and July 2020. The participants underwent cognitive tests on average six months after their initial illness. These results were compared against those of more than 66,000 people from the general population. Those hospitalised with covid-19 scored worse on verbal analogical reasoning tests, which assess an individual’s ability to recognise relationships between ideas and think methodically. They also recorded slower processing speeds. Previous studies suggest glucose is less efficiently used by the part of the brain responsible for attention, complex problem-solving and working memory after covid-19. Scores and reaction speeds improved over time, however, any recovery was gradual at best, according to the researchers. The biological mechanism behind a rare and severe covid-19 response seen in some children may have been uncovered by researchers at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia. Doctors have so far been unable to identify why some children develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) in response to covid-19, which can cause symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain and heart disease. After analysing the blood of 33 children with MIS, the researchers identified 85 proteins specific to the condition, potentially aiding diagnosis and opening the door to new treatments. Covid-19 may worsen asthma in children, according to a study of more than 61,000 people aged two to 17 with the respiratory condition in the US. The 7700 participants who tested positive for covid-19 went on to have more asthma-related hospitalisations, emergency inhaler use and steroid treatments in the six months post-infection, compared with the participants without a confirmed covid-19 infection. How covid-19 affects people with asthma is somewhat muddled. In November 2020, a study found people with asthma may be less likely to develop covid-19 complications, potentially due to their steroid use or reduced exposure via shielding.

5-3-22 Former US police officer charged with murder in death of 12-year-old
A former Philadelphia police officer has been charged with murder for fatally shooting a 12-year-old boy in the back during a chaotic foot chase in early March. Authorities say that Edsaul Mendoza, 26, engaged in a "tactically unsound" pursuit of Thomas "TJ" Siderio and shot him despite knowing he was unarmed. Police believed a friend of his was involved in the theft of a weapon. Mr Mendoza was arrested on Sunday. According to a presentment of facts released by Philadelphia's District Attorney, Mr Mendoza was part of a group of four plainclothes officers who confronted Thomas and a 17-year-old friend - identified in court documents as "NK" - on 1 March. The officers believed that NK was "tangentially connected" to a stolen firearm investigation. When they attempted to stop the boys, "a shot went off" and broke a rear passenger window, the presentment added. When the boys attempted to flee, Mr Mendoza chased Thomas and fired at him three times. The third shot, the document alleges, took place even though Mr Mendoza knew that Thomas' weapon had been discarded some 40ft (12m) away. Thomas had stopped running at the time the final shot was fired. "Thus, when Mendoza fired the third and fatal shot, he knew the 12-year-old, five-foot tall, 111-pound Thomas Siderio no longer had a gun and no ability to harm him," Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner told reporters on Monday. "But he fired a shot through his back nonetheless, killing him." Mr Mendoza was fired by the police force soon after the incident, with the police commissioner saying at the time that the department's use-of-force policies had been violated. According to Mr Krasner, much of the evidence against Mr Mendoza stems from video footage of the shooting, which will not be released until authorised by a judge. He described the video as "disturbing to watch" and said that Thomas was "essentially facedown on the sidewalk" and possibly surrendering.

5-3-22 EU divided over how to step away from Russian energy
European Union countries are split on how soon they wind down dependence on Russian energy supplies. While sanctions have been applied to other areas of business, the EU remains heavily reliant on Russian oil and gas. Germany's economic minister said the country would be able to weather a Russian oil ban by the end of 2022, as he appeared to back tougher sanctions. However, Hungary has said it opposes such a move, stating it would not back measures that could endanger supplies. EU ministers met on Monday to discuss how to manage the situation, under intense pressure to reduce the revenue stream supporting President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine. There are two main challenges faced by members states - how to pay for Russian energy in a way which doesn't breach or undermine EU sanctions, and also how to source and develop alternative supplies to move away from reliance on Russia. At a press conference on Monday, the EU's energy policy chief Kadri Simson said Russia halting gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria had strengthened the bloc's will to become independent of Russian fossil fuels. But according to the Centre of Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), the EU has imported about £37bn worth of fossil fuels since the conflict began. The two largest importers worldwide were Germany followed by Italy. Energy giant Gazprom stopped gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria last week after those countries refused to comply with Russian demands to switch to payment in roubles, and many other member countries are set to face the same issue around mid-May. Poland and Bulgaria had planned to stop using Russian gas this year and say they can cope with the stoppage, but it has raised fears that other EU countries, including Europe's gas-reliant economic powerhouse Germany, could be next. Ms Simson repeated the European Commission's view on Monday that paying for gas in roubles would be a "violation" of sanctions and "cannot be accepted." She said member states were building up gas storage supplies before winter.

5-3-22 Antytila: Ed Sheeran collaboration written on front line
Ukrainian group Antytila have teamed up with Ed Sheeran, releasing a new song partly filmed and recorded while serving in the war against Russia. Antytila are one of the biggest musical acts in Ukraine but stopped working to join the military. Proceeds from the song, released on Monday, will go to help the people of Ukraine. "Ed feels that pain, compassion and sympathy for Ukrainian people," lead singer Taras Topolya told the BBC. He said the lyrics were created while he was serving as a medic on the front line in Borodyanka. Borodyanka, just west of the capital, Kyiv, was occupied by the Russians, who left the town badly damaged. Ukrainian troops have since regained the area. After writing the lyrics, members of the group were also able to film while on the frontline in Kharkiv. "We just stopped in the middle of the road and were singing there in the middle of nowhere," he said. Antytila went viral earlier this year after they posted a video offering to perform via live link at a concert for Ukraine in Birmingham. Organisers of the concert, which featured Ed Sheeran, turned down the offer because of the group's association with the military. Topolya said that because of this, Sheeran's team then proposed a collaboration with the band. The video has since had almost one million views on Youtube. "It has already raised awareness about the situation in Ukraine and this process is continuing," Topolya said. "I am very glad a famous singer supports Ukrainians." He added: "Ed Sheeran, his team and others understand that we need help and support to survive and win. And I am very grateful for this." The group say they have given up music for the time being in order to work on the front line. "When your home is in danger, you have to defend it. You must do something," he said. "Many people are volunteering or do something else to defend our country. We decided to do this."

5-3-22 First Mariupol steelworks refugees arrive to safety - UN
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Donbas, Laura Bicker in Zaporizhzhia, Hugo Bachega in Dnipro, Joe Inwood and Sophie Williams in Lviv, and Caroline Davies in Odesa. Women and children who were evacuated from the Mariupol steelworks at the weekend arrive in Ukrainian-held Zaporizhzhia. Russia says it resumed bombarding the Mariupol site - the last hold-out of Ukrainian defenders - in retaliation for a broken ceasefire. The UN and Red Cross hope to oversee more civilian evacuations from the southern port city. Meanwhile, PM Boris Johnson has acknowledged the UK could have acted faster in processing visas for Ukrainian refugees in an address to Ukraine's parliament. He described Ukraine's resistance as its "finest hour" and gave details of £300m in extra military support from the UK. A senior US official has warned Russia may be preparing to hold votes on independence in occupied territory in eastern Ukraine.

5-3-22 Covid-19 news: Cognitive impairment equivalent to 20 years of ageing
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. People hospitalised with covid-19 may lose 10 IQ points, equivalent to the natural cognitive decline that occurs between 50 and 70 years old. Covid-19 can cause lasting cognitive and mental health issues, including brain fog, fatigue and even post-traumatic stress disorder. To better understand the scale of the problem, researchers at the University of Cambridge analysed 46 people who were hospitalised due to the infection between March and July 2020. The participants underwent cognitive tests on average six months after their initial illness. These results were compared against those of more than 66,000 people from the general population. Those hospitalised with covid-19 scored worse on verbal analogical reasoning tests, which assess an individual’s ability to recognise relationships between ideas and think methodically. They also recorded slower processing speeds. Previous studies suggest glucose is less efficiently used by the part of the brain responsible for attention, complex problem-solving and working memory after covid-19. Scores and reaction speeds improved over time, however, any recovery was gradual at best, according to the researchers. The biological mechanism behind a rare and severe covid-19 response seen in some children may have been uncovered by researchers at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia. Doctors have so far been unable to identify why some children develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) in response to covid-19, which can cause symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain and heart disease. After analysing the blood of 33 children with MIS, the researchers identified 85 proteins specific to the condition, potentially aiding diagnosis and opening the door to new treatments. Covid-19 may worsen asthma in children, according to a study of more than 61,000 people aged two to 17 with the respiratory condition in the US. The 7700 participants who tested positive for covid-19 went on to have more asthma-related hospitalisations, emergency inhaler use and steroid treatments in the six months post-infection, compared with the participants without a confirmed covid-19 infection. How covid-19 affects people with asthma is somewhat muddled. In November 2020, a study found people with asthma may be less likely to develop covid-19 complications, potentially due to their steroid use or reduced exposure via shielding.

5-2-22 Civilian death toll in Ukraine tops 3,000, U.N. says
More than 3,000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights announced Monday. According to Reuters, the OHCHR put the total at 3,153 but "said that the real toll was likely to be considerably higher, citing access difficulties and ongoing corroboration efforts." On Friday, the death toll stood at 2,899 killed — including 210 children — and 3,235 injured for a total of 6,134 civilian casualties. The vast majority of these deaths and injuries occurred in Ukrainian-controlled territory, but the U.N. also notes that 94 civilians have been killed and 370 injured in the Russian-backed separatist republics in eastern Ukraine. "Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes," the OHCHR reported.

5-2-22 New book claims Trump suggested shooting protesters 'in the legs or something'
Ex-Defense Secretary Mark Esper alleges in a memoir out next week that former President Donald Trump suggested shooting Washington, D.C. demonstrators "in the legs" as they protested George Floyd's death in the summer of 2020, Axios reports Monday. "Can't you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something?" Trump reportedly asked, per Esper's A Sacred Oath. The ex-official wrote that the moment "was surreal, sitting in front of the Resolute desk, inside the Oval Office, with this idea weighing heavily in the air, and the president red faced and complaining loudly about the protests under way in Washington, D.C." The memoir was "vetted at the highest levels of the Pentagon," reports Axios' Mike Allen. "I'm told that as part of the clearance process, the book was reviewed in whole or in part by nearly three dozen 4-star generals, senior civilians, and some Cabinet members." Esper's account also seems to confirm what The New York Times' Michael Bender reported last year in his book Frankly, We Did Win This Election, Rolling Stone notes. Per Bender's reporting, Trump said he wanted the military to "beat the f--k" out of the racial justice protesters in D.C. and said "just shoot them" on multiple occasions. Trump fired Esper after the 2020 election.

5-2-22 Retired NYPD officer convicted in Jan. 6 police assault case
Thomas Webster, a retired New York Police Department officer, was found guilty on Monday of assaulting a police officer during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Webster, 56, of Goshen, New York, is the first person tried on charges of assaulting a law enforcement officer during the events of Jan. 6. During the trial, prosecutors showed footage of Webster pushing a metal bike rack barrier into Noah Rathbun, a Washington, D.C., police officer. Rathbun then knocked Webster back, and in response, Webster began swinging an aluminum flagpole before tackling the officer. Webster claimed Rathbun was taunting him, and he acted in self defense. After deliberating for around three hours, a federal jury found Webster guilty on all six counts, including interfering with police in a riot, disorderly conduct, and violent conduct while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon on Capitol grounds. Sentencing is set for September. Webster served as a Marine Corps infantryman from 1985 to 1989, and while an NYPD officer, was on the protective security detail of former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. A married father of three, Webster retired from the NYPD in 2011.

5-2-22 8 in 10 Americans are concerned about Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, per poll
Eighty percent of Americans are concerned about Russia using nuclear weapons in its war in Ukraine, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll has found. The same percentage are concerned U.S. soldiers will get involved in the conflict, while 81 percent are concerned the war will expand into other European countries, the Post reports. A majority of Americans also believe the U.S. is providing either "too little" or the "right amount" of support to Ukraine — 37 percent and 36 percent, respectively, for a combined 73 percent. Just 14 percent believe the U.S. is doing too much. Meanwhile, roughly 7 in 10 Americans oppose the U.S. taking direct military action against Russia. "Even among those who say the United States is doing too little to support Ukraine," the Post writes, "57 percent oppose direct military action." Furthermore, roughly 2 in 3 Americans said they're concerned that sanctions on Russia will raise food and energy prices in the U.S., but a similar percentage — 67 percent — said they support increasing the punishing economic measures. The Washington Post and ABC News surveyed 1,004 adults and 499-505 adults across two separate polls, each from April 24-28, 2022. Results in the polls have a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points and 5 percentage points, respectively. See more results at The Washington Post.

5-2-22 Israel voices outrage after Russian foreign minister claims 'some of the worst antisemites are Jews'
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Monday that his Russian counterpart's claims that Adolf Hitler "had Jewish blood" and that Jews are "some of the worst antisemites" were "unforgivable and outrageous," Fox News reports. During an interview with an Italian news channel on Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was asked how he could reconcile Russia's claim to be waging war to "de-Nazify" Ukraine with the fact that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish. "The fact does not negate the Nazi elements in Ukraine. I believe that Hitler also had Jewish blood," Lavrov said, referring to a widespread theory — dismissed by most historians as mere rumor — that Hitler's paternal grandfather was Jewish. A spokesperson for Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday that the MFA had "summoned the Russian Ambassador to Israel for a clarification meeting." Dani Dayan, who heads Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, also spoke out against Lavrov, calling his remarks "false, delusional and dangerous, and worthy of all condemnation." Yad Vashem previously chided Zelensky for comparing Russia's attack on Ukraine to the Holocaust. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called Lavrov's comments "heinous." Israel has denounced the invasion of Ukraine and voted in favor of a United Nations resolution condemning Russian aggression. Reuters notes, however, that Israel is also "wary of straining relations with Russia, a powerbroker in neighboring Syria," and "has not enforced formal sanctions on Russian oligarchs."

5-2-22 Ukraine says it destroyed Russia's Izyum command center, killing 200 but just missing Russia's top general
Ukrainian officials said an attack on a key Russian command center in the eastern city of Izyum on Saturday evening killed about 200 Russian troops, including Maj. Gen. Andrei Simonov, but just missed hitting the chief of the general staff of the Russian military, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, who had just concluded a secret visit to the army and airborne command center. Earlier, unconfirmed reports suggested Gerasimov was wounded in the strike. Two U.S. officials tell The New York Times that Gerasimov had been in eastern Ukraine for the past couple of days, a rare step for Russia's top uniformed officer, but could not provide any information on the attack on School No. 12, Russia's Izyum command center. A senior Ukrainian official told the Times his country had learned of Gerasimov's visit to the front lines, but that the general was already returning to Russia when the rockets struck School No. 12. "The decision to destroy this object was taken not because of Gerasimov, but because it is an important base of operations," the official said. Gerasimov is one of three key architects of Russia's Ukraine invasion, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Putin sent Gerasimov to the front lines to "change the course" of Russia's underwhelming invasion, the Ukrainian official told the Times. "Our working assumption is that he was there because there's a recognition they haven't worked out all their problems yet," a U.S. official confirmed. If the death of Maj. Gen. Simonov is accurate, he would be at least the 10th Russian general killed during Russia's Ukraine war. It's likely that more than a quarter of the 120 battalion tactical groups Russia committed to its invasion "have now been rendered combat ineffective," Britain's Ministry of Defense said early Monday. "Some of Russia's most elite units, including the VDV Airborne Forces, have suffered the highest levels of attrition. It will probably take years for Russia to reconstitute these forces." In the Izyum strike, preliminary information indicates "there are senior officers among the dead," Oleksiy Arestovych, a military adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, tells The Washington Post. "Their combat readiness has been significantly damaged for the Izyum direction. I can't say that it's been fully destroyed yet."

5-2-22 Ukraine war: Hundreds trapped in Mariupol steelworks despite evacuations
Hundreds of people remain trapped in a steel plant in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, despite a group of evacuees leaving on Sunday. The Azovstal plant, which has become the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the city, has been under intense Russian bombardment for weeks. A commander at the plant, Denys Shlega, said while some civilians had been evacuated hundreds still remained. He also said Russian forces had resumed heavy shelling of the area. As soon as the civilians who had been evacuated left, "shelling from all kinds of weapons began", he told Ukrainian television. He added that "several dozen small children are still in the bunkers underneath the plant". A first group of evacuees from the steelworks are expected to arrive in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia later on Monday. They were evacuated with the support of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross who organised an official convoy. Russia said some evacuees had been taken to a village controlled by Moscow-backed separatists. But state media later reported that they would be free to travel onwards to Ukrainian-held territory if they wanted to. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the news that around 100 people were heading for Zaporizhzhia, which is about 140 miles (230km) north-west of Mariupol. "Grateful to our team! Now they, together with UN, are working on the evacuation of other civilians from the plant," he wrote on Twitter. Some people have spent many weeks sheltering in the Azovstal steelworks, with reports suggesting food, water and medicine supplies are all running low. "The situation has become a sign of a real humanitarian catastrophe," the country's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. One Russian news report estimated the number of civilians still in the plant was more than 500.

5-2-22 Israel outrage at Sergei Lavrov's claim that Hitler was part Jewish
Israel has reacted with fury after Russia's foreign minister claimed that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler "had Jewish blood". Sergei Lavrov made the comments to try to justify Russia's portrayal of Ukraine as "Nazi" despite the fact that its president is Jewish. Israel's foreign ministry summoned Russia's ambassador for "clarification" and demanded an apology. Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews in the Holocaust in World War Two. Mr Lavrov made the remarks in an interview on Italian TV programme Zona Bianca on Sunday, days after Israel marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, one of the most solemn occasions in the Israeli calendar. When asked how Russia can claim that it is fighting to "de-Nazify" Ukraine when President Volodymyr Zelensky is himself Jewish, Mr Lavrov said: "I could be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood. [That Zelensky is Jewish] means absolutely nothing. Wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews." The minister's statement was met with outrage across Israel's political spectrum. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said: "Such lies are meant to blame the Jews themselves for the most terrible crimes in history and thus free the oppressors of the Jews from their responsibility. "No war today is the Holocaust or is like the Holocaust." Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid reacted angrily, calling Mr Lavrov's words "unforgivable". Mr Lavrov was also condemned by the head of Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, Dani Dayan. "Most of his remarks are absurd, delusional, dangerous and deserving of any condemnation," he tweeted. "Lavrov deals with the reversal of the Holocaust: turning the victims into criminals, based on the promotion of a completely unfounded claim that Hitler was of Jewish descent." The BBC's Jon Donnison in Jerusalem says the strength of the reaction reflects just how deeply offensive and unconscionable Mr Lavrov's comments will be to Jews, both in Israel and around the world. Over recent months, Israel, which has a large Russian population, has tried at times to act as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine.

5-2-22 New Zealand reopens to tourists after two-year pandemic lockout
New Zealand has reopened its borders to more international visitors after a pandemic lockout of more than two years. Travellers touched down at Auckland Airport on Monday, many to emotional reunions with family and friends. People from more than 60 countries are now able to enter the country if they're vaccinated and Covid-negative. Citizens have been able to travel in and out since March, while Australians have been let in since April. One US man said he had travelled from Cincinnati to be with his partner. He had been waiting since February 2020 - when he applied for the visa. "I'm finally here today. I've never been within 6,000 miles of this country and my first time here. I'm home. It's the best feeling I've ever had," David Benson told the BBC. British man Garth Halliday, who has been living in New Zealand for the past 30 years, said he and his wife were at the airport to welcome their son, daughter-in-law and 18-month-old grandson. "The older you get, the more family becomes important and I'm getting old. We've got three generations all together now," he said. New Zealand sealed its borders in March 2020 - requiring even returning citizens to complete weeks of quarantine upon entering. The government has credited the nation's low Covid death toll - 713 deaths for a population of five million - to its isolation strategy, as well policies of rapid testing, tracing and lockdown. But some New Zealanders protested over the strict restrictions and lockdowns. There was also anger over the lengthy period that citizens overseas were effectively blocked from entering the country - thanks to limited quarantine slots in the system. But after the community spread of the Delta and then Omicron variants, the government decided to stagger a move from a Covid eradication strategy to living with the virus. When announcing the border re-opening earlier this year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the South Pacific nation was "ready to welcome the world back". New Zealand's economy is heavily reliant on tourism from international visitors, and operators have said they're looking forward to the resumption of activity.

5-1-22 Dozens of Ukrainian civilians evacuated from Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks before Russian shelling resumed
About 100 civilians were evacuated Sunday from Mariupol's besieged Azovstal steel plant, where Ukrainian forces in the city are making a last stand in the facility's bunkers and tunnels, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday. On Monday, "we'll meet them in Zaporizhzhia," controlled by Ukraine, he added. Russia's defense ministry said another 80 civilians have been evacuated from around the steelworks to Bezimenne, a village in Russian-held Ukraine. The United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross are coordinating the "safe passage operation." There are still hundreds of civilians and an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian troops holed up in the Azovstal plant, plus another 100,000 civilians living in deplorable conditions in Russia-occupied Mariupol. "The citizens who left the city say that hell exists and it's in Mariupol," Mayor Vadym Boychenko told BBC News on Saturday. Right after the first 100 civilians were evacuated, Russians began shelling Azovstal again, a Ukrainian National Guard commander told Ukrainian TV Sunday night. The Mariupol City Council said Ukraine will restart civilian evacuations on Monday morning, after the operation was suspended Sunday night for "security reasons." Sviastoslav Palamar, deputy commander of Ukraine's Azov Regiment, told The Associated Press on Sunday that it's hard to even reach some of the wounded civilian and fighters at the plant, given all the rubble, plus mines and unexploded ordnance strewn across the plant. He said he is glad that the civilian evacuations had begun, and he would like the remaining troops to be able to leave also, but the Ukrainian forces will continue fighting until ordered to stop. "If we hadn't done this, the front line would be much bigger," and many more Ukrainians would have died, Palamar told AP. "The front line would be in another area."

5-1-22 Islamic State claims responsibility for string of deadly attacks across Afghanistan
In the last two weeks, the Islamic State's affiliate in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for four major terrorist attacks in the country, raising concerns that this is the beginning of a new, violent battle between ISIS and the Taliban. The attacks included the bombings of a high school in Kabul and mosques in northern Afghanistan, targeting Shiite and Sufi Muslims, with data from hospitals suggesting at least 100 people were killed, The New York Times reports. The affiliate, known as Islamic State Khorasan or ISIS-K, was formed in 2015 by disillusioned Pakistani Taliban fighters. ISIS-K considers Shiite and Sufi Muslims to be heretics, and does not believe the Taliban is strict enough. Prior to the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan last August, most ISIS-K militants were in eastern Afghanistan, and several leaders were killed during U.S. airstrikes and Afghan commando raids. Once the Taliban began emptying prisons in Afghanistan, ISIS-K saw its ranks bolstered, the United Nations Mission to Afghanistan said, with the number of fighters doubling. Today, there are ISIS-K members in almost every one of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, and they carried out dozens of attacks in late 2021 across the country, killing nearly 100 Taliban fighters. The Taliban has claimed ISIS-K poses no threat to the security of Afghanistan, but Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center think tank, told the Times the affiliate is "resilient. It survived years of airstrikes from NATO forces and ground operations from the Taliban during its insurgency. Now after the Taliban takeover and the U.S. departure, ISIS-K has emerged even stronger." Read more at The New York Times.

4-30-22 Sean Hannity warned Mark Meadows about 'fing lunatics' advising Trump, texts show
Fox News host Sean Hannity exchanged more than 80 texts messages with Mark Meadows, then-President Donald Trump's White House chief of staff, between Election Day 2020 and President Biden's inauguration. According to messages released Friday by CNN, Hannity supported Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, telling Meadows it was "mathematically impossible" for Biden to have received as many votes as he had. Hannity, whom CNN described as a "shadow chief of staff" to Trump, also warned Meadows about some of the "fing lunatics" pushing the then-president's stolen election claims. "They are NOT helping [Trump]. I'm fed up with these people," Hannity wrote on Dec. 22, 2020. Hannity did not mention who these "lunatics" were, but he may have been referring to attorney Sidney Powell, who repeatedly made bizarre and false claims that corrupt voting machine companies had switched millions of votes from Trump to Biden. The day before Hannity sent his message, The New York Times reported that Powell had visited the White House "for [the] third time in four days," despite Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's previous attempts to distance the Trump campaign from Powell. Read all the messages between Meadows and Hannity here.

5-1-22 How Ukraine's 'Ghost of Kyiv' legendary pilot was born
Ukraine's fighter pilots are vastly outnumbered by the Russians, and have become legendary - thanks in part to the story of an alleged flying ace called the"Ghost of Kyiv". This hero is said to have downed as many as 40 enemy planes - an incredible feat in an arena where Russia controls the skies. But now the Ukraine Air Force Command has warned on Facebook that the "Ghost of Kyiv is a superhero-legend whose character was created by Ukrainians!". "We ask the Ukrainian community not to neglect the basic rules of information hygiene," the message said, urging people to "check the sources of information, before spreading it". Earlier reports had named the ace as Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29. The authorities confirmed that he was killed in combat on 13 March and honoured with a Hero of Ukraine medal posthumously. Now, the air force stresses that "Tarabalka is not 'Ghost of Kiev', and he did not hit 40 planes". It describes the "Ghost of Kyiv" as "a collective image of pilots of the Air Force's 40th tactical aviation brigade, who defend the sky over the capital", rather than a single man's combat record. For weeks, Ukrainians did not have a name to go with the "Ghost of Kyiv" - but that did not stop the story going viral on social media. It was used as a marketing brand by a Ukrainian model aircraft manufacturer, while Ukrainian Iryna Kostyrenko showed off a military badge inspired by the legend. And the defence ministry tweeted a video celebrating Tarabalka's heroism. Military experts told the BBC they doubted that one pilot could have downed as many as 40 Russian planes. Ukrainian military historian Mikhail Zhirohov described the Ghost of Kyiv story as "propaganda for raising morale". Speaking to the BBC from Chernihiv, he said that early on in the war the Russians dominated Ukrainian airspace, so a Ukrainian pilot "could only shoot down two or three". "It's essential to have this propaganda, because our armed forces are smaller, and many think we can't be equal to them [the Russians]. We need this in wartime," he said. The fact that Ukrainian pilots are still denying Russia total mastery of the skies, flying inferior, older Russian-designed MiG-29s, inspired this modern legend. With all its military might, Russia has had more than two months to knock out Ukraine's air defences - and failed.

5-1-22 Ukraine war: Resistance to Russian rouble in Kherson
The Russian rouble will be used in Kherson from Sunday, according to Russia-backed forces that have taken control of the southern Ukrainian city. However, Kherson's Ukrainian mayor, Ihor Kolykhaiev, who has now been overthrown by Russian authorities, has said that he doesn't believe this will be possible while the only working banking system in the region is Ukrainian, not Russian. Despite being occupied for 60 days, many residents are trying to find small ways to defy the Russian forces - like exchanging any roubles they receive back into Ukraine's currency, the hryvnia. But there are very few ways to safely snub the Russian army when it occupies your streets. Z signs - a Russian pro-war symbol - have appeared around the city. Russian flags hang above Kherson's government buildings. Ukrainian TV has been mostly cut off, changed to Russian news. Russian soldiers drive armoured vehicles through the city centre, between a network of check points. Now, changing the region's currency is yet another bid to erase Ukrainian identity from the city. "I think most people will leave here if the rouble is introduced," Olga, who didn't want to use her real name, told me from inside Kherson. "At the moment there are still currency exchanges operating in the city. If I am paid in roubles, I think I will just go and exchange it for hryvnia, I think others will too. It's just a small act of protest." Olga is not the only one with this plan. Ukrainian news reports have said that some pensions have been handed out in roubles around Kherson, but that people have already exchanged it back into Ukrainian hryvnia. Life in Kherson has become increasingly difficult. Many now feel nervous about even speaking to a journalist. When we reach Olga and ask how she is feeling, she sighs. "I'm alive and I have food," she says. Around 40% of the population have fled in the two months since this key, strategic city was taken by Russia, according to the mayor.

5-1-22 Mariupol civilians leave besieged Azovstal steelworks
A group of about 20 civilians has left the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, the final part of the southern city still in the hands of Ukrainian troops. They are the first group to leave since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the vast industrial area sealed off last week. Talks are ongoing about freeing the reported 1,000 civilians still trapped inside. Russia is meanwhile said to be stepping up its offensive in the east. More than a week ago, after saying Mariupol had been captured, President Putin told his troops: "Block off this industrial area so that a fly cannot not pass through." But Russian media have reported that 25 civilians managed to leave the Azovstal plant on Saturday, including six children under the age of 14 - but did not say where the group had been taken. That was confirmed by soldiers inside the steelworks, who put the number at 20 women and children. The deputy commander of the Azov regiment, Sviatoslav Palamar, said they were "transferred to a suitable place and we hope that they will be evacuated to Zaporizhzhia, on territory controlled by Ukraine." Mariupol's mayor, Vadym Boychenko, told the BBC that people there were "on the borderline between life and death". "[People] are waiting, they are praying for a rescue… It's difficult to say how many days or hours we have to save their lives." Taking Mariupol would aid Moscow's plans to seize the entire south coast of Ukraine, which would unite pro-Russia separatist regions such as Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine with Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. It would also increase access to the pro-Russia Transnistria area across Ukraine's western border in Moldova. On Saturday, three loud explosions were heard in the south-west port city Odesa, which officials said destroyed the runway of the airport rendering it unusable.

5-1-22 White House press dinner returns after two years
US President Joe Biden has resumed the tradition of speaking at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner after a six-year presidential hiatus. He is the first leader to speak at the event, where the president faces friendly mocking in front of an audience of journalists, since 2016. It was cancelled for two years due to the pandemic and was boycotted by Donald Trump when he was in office. Comedian and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah headlined the event. Celebrities joined renowned journalists and high-ranking US officials for the gala - an American press tradition dating back to 1921. Kim Kardashian, Pete Davidson, Drew Barrymore and Chris Tucker were among the celebrity guests. Mr Biden addressed the fact that he is the first president to attend the event since 2016 with a barb aimed at Donald Trump. "This is the first time a president has attended this dinner in six years. It's understandable, we had a horrible plague followed by two years of Covid," he said. When he took to the stage later, Noah added: "It's actually nice to, once again, have a president who is not afraid to come to the White House Correspondents' Dinner and hear jokes about himself." The president also faced his share of roasts. Noah told Mr Biden: "Ever since you've come into office, things are really looking up. Gas is up, rent is up, food is up. Everything." "President Biden's lack of a filter does get him into hot water sometimes," he added. Last month he caused a huge international incident saying that Vladimir Putin should be removed from power. "It was very, very upsetting to Russia. Until someone explained to them that none of the stuff Biden wants actually gets done." Covid-19 cases in Washington have risen in recent weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Organisers have required that guests be tested for the virus, and some top officials, including infectious disease expert Dr Antony Fauci, 81, dropped out. The president skipped the dinner portion of the evening and attended only the speakers program.

5-1-22 Biden mocks Trump at White House press dinner
US President Joe Biden has resumed the tradition of speaking at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner after a six-year presidential hiatus. He is the first leader to speak at the event, where the president faces friendly mocking in front of an audience of journalists, since 2016.


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for May 2022

Atheism News & Humanism Articles for April 2022