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Biden Accelerates Deadline for Opening COVID-19 Vaccinations

Every adult in the United States will be eligible within two weeks to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday, moving up by two weeks the previous May 1 deadline for open season for inoculations. “No more confusing rules. No more confusing restrictions,” said Biden, at the White House, announcing that by May 19 everyone “18 or older will be eligible to be vaccinated.”  The president’s announcement comes amid a fourth surge of COVID-19 cases in the country with an increase in infections among young adults.  “We aren’t at the finish line,” Biden cautioned. “We still have a lot of work to do. We’re still in a life and death race against this virus.” With progress against the coronavirus stalling in the United States, the president earlier Tuesday afternoon visited a pop-up inoculation site, 12 kilometers south of the White House, where he highlighted the push for intensified vaccinations.  U.S. President Joe Biden puts his hand on a man’s shoulder during a visit to a coronavirus disease vaccination site at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, April 6, 2021.”When you go home, get all your friends, tell them get a shot when they can,” Biden said to those inside a chapel of the Virginia Theological Seminary waiting to be vaccinated.   Over the past week, new coronavirus cases are up 7% compared to the previous seven-day period. Hospitalizations have increased 3%, while deaths from the coronavirus are reported to be down slightly to about 800 fatalities per day.  The rise in infections is blamed on the loosening of mask wearing mandates, higher attendance at public events, increased domestic travel and the emergence of more contagious variants of the virus.   “They are more virulent,” Biden said at the inoculation site of the new COVID-19 strains. “They are more dangerous, but the vaccines work on all of them.”  The White House and health officials are struggling to keep prominent the message of continued vigilance after a tiring 13 months of life restrained by and fear of the coronavirus. “It is very difficult for people to keep two notions in their minds at the same time. The vaccinations are good, they’re protecting a lot of people, but I still have to be wearing my mask and being very careful — social distancing,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “We need to ask people to do that for a few more months.”  As with nearly all states, Virginia had previously announced that everyone, age 16 and older, would become eligible for shots by about the middle of this month, ahead of the previous deadline set by the White House. But in the northern part of the state, an affluent region that is home to many federal government workers, the supply of COVID-19 vaccinations has been outstripped by demand.  “In order to succeed and be able to meet the governor’s goal, we’re going to need dramatically more doses coming to Northern Virginia,” said Jeff McKay, the chairman of the county board in Fairfax County, the state’s most populous jurisdiction. Meanwhile, in Virginia, a tier of essential workers labeled 1c — a diverse group including restaurant workers, garbage haulers, hair stylists, lawyers and accountants — has been eligible for vaccinations in rural districts, but not yet in the most populated area in the north.Throughout the Washington region, many doses have been reserved for hard-to-reach and vulnerable patients while others who were willing to get inoculated immediately found themselves unable to get vaccinated.  A person receives a dose of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Chinatown, in Chicago, Illinois, April 6, 2021.Having enough vaccine for all American adults eligible within weeks for inoculations is one achievement — getting those reluctant to have the shot put into their arms is another hurdle, a problem known as vaccine hesitancy.  “All of us as individuals need to reach out to people who are hesitant in any way that we can, and then listen to what those person’s concerns are, respond to them to try and make them comfortable and reassure that vaccination is safe,” Schaffner, a past president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told VOA.  More than 150 million shots have been administered in the United States, according to the White House, which states that “nearly a third of the total U.S. population and about 40% of the adult population has received at least one dose, and nearly one-fifth of the total population is fully vaccinated” with one of the three vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.   The new eligibility date in two weeks will give all adults a chance then to schedule appointments for their shots at community health centers, pharmacies, drive-through vaccination sites in parking lots and elsewhere.  The coronavirus has killed more than 555,000 people in the United States and sickened nearly 30.8 million, the highest reported number by any country.  “This has been a long and difficult journey for the American public,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier Tuesday, cautioning against mass public gatherings. “We need to hang together. We need to remain vigilant.”  The United States “pretty soon” will have enough doses to share with the rest of the world, Biden said to inoculators during his visit the Virginia vaccination site.  “We need to solve it around the world,” explained the president. “You can’t build a wall or a fence high enough to keep out the virus.”   Other countries have appealed for help from Washington for doses of the vaccine, but the Biden administration has repeatedly stated its initial priority is making sure Americans get inoculated.  VOA’s Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.
 

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EU Leaders Warn Erdogan on Human Rights Amid Progress in Talks 

European Council President Charles Michel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday for talks on a reset in relations. After meeting Erdogan in Ankara, Michel spoke to reporters about the EU’s deep concern over human rights in Turkey.“The rule of law and respect of fundamental rights are core values of the European Union, and we shared with President Erdogan our deep worries on the latest developments in Turkey in this respect, in particular on the freedom of speech and the targeting of political parties and media,” Michel said. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a joint news conference with EU Council President Charles Michel after talks with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Ankara, Turkey, April 6, 2021.State prosecutors last month opened a closure case against Turkey’s second-largest opposition party. While Ankara withdrew in April from the Istanbul Convention, a European treaty that legally protects women.  Emma Sinclair of the New York based Human Rights Watch has been calling for a tougher stance by the EU. “The EU has to start believing in its own capacity to speak out on what is going on and to look at the crisis to actually condemn what’s going on in much stronger terms,” Sinclair said. But Michel and von der Leyen did welcome Turkey’s talks with EU member Greece to resolve territorial disputes over the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, which are believed to have vast energy reserves. The EU officials said talks with Turkey would start on modernizing a customs union agreement, a key Ankara demand.  FILE – Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis sails in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 12, 2018.Sinan Ulgen of the Istanbul-based Edam research institute says the custom union talks will give the EU new leverage, which is important as Turkey’s EU membership bid is all but dead. “The accession track has remained stalled, dormant and dysfunctional in the last few years and the EU has very little leverage given that there are very few avenues of positive engagement,” Ulgen said. The EU officials also said they expect Turkey to fully honor its commitment to a migration deal, including accepting migrants and refugees back from Greece. Ankara is pressing for more EU funds to help accommodate nearly four million Syrian refugees, a demand that von der Leyen said the European Union was ready to consider. 
 
 

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Following Their Passion, Women Go Far to Play Flag Football

From a distance, it looks like college kids in sweat clothes tossing a football around on a campus green space. Draw closer, and it’s apparent this is no sandlot game.  A coach is explaining routes he wants receivers to run on a play he calls “Bingo.” Then he tells his quarterbacks to make quicker decisions. Next, he demonstrates how a receiver in motion sets up as a blocker next to the center and the running back takes a handoff and heads for a hole that should open on the left side. The women Jaison Jones is coaching listen intently and ask lots of questions. More than half showed up at Midland University from faraway places to continue playing the growing sport of flag football at the 1,600-student school in a town of 26,000 nestled in the farmland of eastern Nebraska. Ottawa University women’s flag football team cheers before an NAIA flag football game against Midland University in Ottawa, Kan., March 26, 2021.Allison Maulfair and Spencer Mauk were teammates at their high school in Bradenton, Florida, a state where a nation-high 7,700 girls at 278 schools play varsity flag football. Jones recruited them at summer showcase, and after Maulfair and Mauk made the 1,500-mile drive to Fremont for a visit, they decided it was where they wanted to be. “I’m just really passionate about this sport,” Maulfair said. “I fell in love with it my freshman year of high school and haven’t stopped loving it. It doesn’t matter where I’m at. It just matters playing the game with great people, really.” E’leseana Patterson figured she was done with flag football after she quarterbacked her Las Vegas high school team to a state championship in 2019. Her plan was to stay home, help her mom and take classes at UNLV. On a lark, she went to a showcase in Vegas and ended up impressing Jones. She took a virtual campus tour and knew she wanted to be part of what was happening at Midland, as did four other players she competed against in high school. “Once my mom saw someone wanted me to play the sport I love, she was like, ‘Go,’ ” Patterson said. “I took the chance and came out here. I’d never heard of Midland University. I heard of Nebraska, I heard of Omaha. Not Fremont.”  Ottawa quarterback Madysen Carrera passes to a teammate while pressured by a Midland defender during an NAIA flag football game in Ottawa, Kan., March 26, 2021.Women’s flag football is in its first year of competition in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. The NAIA entered a partnership with the NFL and Reigning Champs Experiences, which operates flag football programs across the country. It’s classified as an emerging sport, meaning there’s no NAIA-sponsored championship. Championship status is achieved once there are 40 programs, a threshold flag football could reach in two or three years. The National Junior College Athletic Association recently announced a similar partnership with the NFL and Reigning Champs and intend to start games in spring 2022. The sport is played seven on seven on a field 80 yards long and 40 yards wide. There are four 12-minute quarters. It’s 20 yards instead of 10 for a first down. All players are eligible receivers. Players are “tackled” when a defender pulls one of the three flags attached to the ball carrier’s belt. Midland and 12 other small schools received $15,000 in seed money from the NFL. That’s about half of what it costs per year to operate a program, according to the NAIA, but doesn’t include cost of scholarships. Midland offers 33 sports and more than 70% of its students are athletes. The Warriors have 14 flag football players, and all pay more in tuition than they receive in scholarship aid. Athletic director Dave Gillespie said he expects a strong return on investment. “You’re talking about kids who love playing the sport and probably didn’t think they would have the opportunity to combine it with getting a college degree,” Gillespie said. “I think that’s a strong pull.” The 40-year-old Jones, the Midland coach, played small-college football in Kansas and is defensive coordinator for an Omaha women’s semipro tackle football team in the summer. His day job is general manager for a pest control company. Ottawa quarterback Madysen Carrera (21) is tackled by Midland defender Casey Thompson, left, during an NAIA flag football game in Ottawa, Kan., March 26, 2021.”The sport is going to flourish more than what people think,” Jones said. “I was in Tampa for a showcase about a month ago and there were about 1,500 girls there. You come back to the Midwest and people question you, like, ‘Girls play flag football in college? Is that a thing?’ ” In addition to Florida and Nevada, Jones recruited two players from Alaska. Four Nebraskans also are on the team. “There’s still work to be done, a lot of work getting girls to come in,” Jones said. “It’s a continuous grind to get the program where I want it to be and to have a winning program.” Florida has by far the most girls playing flag football, followed by Nevada (1,900) and California (660), according to the most recent participation numbers provided to the National Federation of State High School Associations. From 2013-18, high school participation increased 27%, to more than 11,000. Midland is 4-7 after a 34-13 home loss to Ottawa University of Kansas last Friday, a better showing than the 39-0 loss to the Braves a week earlier. Ottawa is 7-1 and among the best of the new programs. Only one of the Braves’ 21 players is from Kansas, and their coaches are former San Francisco 49ers assistant Katy Sowers and her sister, head coach Liz Sowers. The competitiveness of games varies. Ottawa beat Milligan (Tennessee) 84-0 but lost 26-25 to Keiser (Florida). Midland has won 88-0 and lost 52-0. Midland receiver-linebacker Casey Thompson, who grew up 30 miles away in Omaha, played basketball two years at Midland before she decided to try football for the first time this spring. “You have some players who are high-level players,” she said, “and then there’s the other ones who aren’t quite up there.” Thompson said she couldn’t imagine doing what many of her teammates did — move across the country to attend a small college, sight unseen in most cases, and play flag football. Maulfair, the receiver and cornerback from Florida, said the pull of the sport was too strong. Her parents and siblings weren’t going to hold her back. “They didn’t know where I was going to go,” Maulfair said, “but once they found out I was going to commit, they were stoked.” 
 

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В ОП не відповіли на прохання сприяти звільненню арештованого у Криму Єсипенка – дружина

«Було звернення на фейсбуці оприлюднене мною, і також я відправила «Укрпоштою» листа на Банкову. Зі мною ніхто не зв’язувався», – сказала Катерина Єсипенко

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US Won’t Commit to NATO Membership for Ukraine

The United States reaffirmed its commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity Tuesday but stopped short of publicly backing Kyiv’s call for a quicker path to membership in NATO. “We’ve long been discussing that aspiration with Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters when asked about Ukraine’s latest push to join the Western military alliance. “We are strong supporters of them,” she added. “But that is a decision for NATO to make.” FILE – Flags of NATO member countries are seen at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Nov. 26, 2019.Ukraine, along with the U.S. and other Western allies, has been expressing growing concern about Russian troop movements in recent days along the Ukrainian border that some see as an attempt to intimidate Kyiv. In calls earlier Tuesday with both NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the alliance to send Moscow a message by allowing Ukraine to finally join. FILE – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a news briefing in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 12, 2020.”Reforms alone will not stop Russia,” Zelenskiy tweeted following the call with Stoltenberg. “@NATO is the only way to end the war in #Donbas,” he said, referring to the region in eastern Ukraine, parts of which are held by Russian-backed separatists. “Ukraine’s MAP (Membership Action Plan) will be a real signal for Russia,” FILE – Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks to reporters Feb. 17, 2021.”We call on Russia to make their intentions more clear as to what they’re doing with this array of forces along the border,” Kirby said.  “We continue to call for the cease-fires that were called for by the Minsk Agreement … and to bring the temperature down,” he said. Ukraine says shelling by pro-Russian forces in Donbas has killed 24 soldiers this year and eight in just the past two weeks. Russia has denied that its military movements pose a threat to Ukraine. During a visit to India Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described recent statements by Kyiv as worrisome and said Russia had reached out to other European countries. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also accused Kyiv of seeking to further destabilize the situation. “So far we’re not seeing an intention by the Ukrainian side to somehow calm down and move away from belligerent topics,” Peskov said. The separatists in Donbas have been fighting with Ukrainian forces since Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. The U.S. and other Western countries accuse Russia of arming the separatists and of sending Russian troops to aid their efforts. Information from Reuters was used in this report. 

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СММ ОБСЄ повідомила про подробиці загибелі 5-річної дитини на Донбасі

Моніторингова місія ОБСЄ поспілкувалась телефоном із бабусею хлопчика, що загинув у селі Олександрівське

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Росія почала перевіряти боєготовність військ

За даними Міноборони Росії, протягом квітня проведуть понад чотири тисячі військових навчань різного масштабу

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France to Open Archive for Period Covering Rwandan Genocide

France’s role before and during the 1994 Rwandan genocide was a “monumental failure” that the country must acknowledge, the lead author of a report commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron said, as the country is about to open its archives from this period to the public.The report, published in March, concluded that French authorities remained blind to the preparations for genocide as they supported the “racist” and “violent” government of then-Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and then reacted too slowly in appreciating the extent of the killings. But it cleared them of complicity in the slaughter that left over 800,000 people dead, mainly ethnic Tutsis and the Hutus who tried to protect them.Macron’s decision to commission the report — and open the archives to the public — are part of his efforts to more fully confront the French role in the genocide and to improve relations with Rwanda, including making April 7, the day the massacre began, a day of commemoration. While long overdue, the moves may finally help the two countries reconcile.Historian Vincent Duclert, who led the commission that studied France’s actions in Rwanda between 1990 and 1994, told The Associated Press that “for 30 years, the debate on Rwanda was full of lies, violence, manipulations, threats of trials. That was a suffocating atmosphere.”Duclert said it was important to acknowledge France’s role for what it was: a “monumental failure.””Now we must speak the truth,” he added. “And that truth will allow, we hope, (France) to get a dialogue and a reconciliation with Rwanda and Africa.”Macron said in a statement that the report marks “a major step forward” toward understanding France’s actions in Rwanda.About 8,000 archive documents that the commission examined for two years, including some that were previously classified, will be made accessible to the general public starting Wednesday, the 27th anniversary of the start of the killings.  Duclert said documents — mostly from the French presidency and the prime minister’s office — show how then-President Francois Mitterrand and the small group of diplomats and military officials surrounding him shared views inherited from colonial times, including the desire to maintain influence on a French-speaking country, that led them to keep supporting Habyarimana despite warning signs, including through delivery of weapons and military training in the years prior to the genocide.”Instead of ultimately supporting the democratization and peace in Rwanda, the French authorities in Rwanda supported the ethnicization, the radicalization of (Habyarimana’s) government,” stressed.FILE – Historian and Commission chief on France’s role in 1994’s Rwandan genocide, Vincent Duclert, right, presents a report to French President Emmanuel Macron, at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, March 26, 2021.France was “not complicit in the criminal act of genocide,” he said, but “its action contributed to strengthening (the genocide’s) mechanisms.””And that’s an enormous intellectual responsibility,” he said.  The report also criticized France’s “passive policy” in April and May 1994, at the height of the genocide.  That was a “terrible lost opportunity,” Duclert noted. “In 1994, there was a possibility to stop the genocide … and it did not happen. France and the world bear a considerable guilt.”Eventually they did step in. Operation Turquoise, a French-led military intervention backed by the U.N., started on June 22.Duclert said that France’s “blindness must be questioned and, maybe, brought to trial,” though he insisted it was not the commission’s role to suggest charges.The report was welcomed as an important step by activists who had long hoped France would officially acknowledge its responsibilities in the genocide. On a visit to Rwanda in 2010, then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy admitted that his country had made “errors of judgment” and “political errors” regarding the genocide — but the report may allow Macron to go further.  Dafroza Gauthier, a Rwandan who lost more than 80 members of her family in the mass killing, welcomed it as a “a great document against genocide denial.””For 27 years, or longer, we were in a kind of fog,” said Gauthier, who with her husband, Alain, founded the Collective of Civil Plaintiffs for Rwanda, a French-based group that seeks the prosecution of alleged perpetrators of the genocide. “The report is clearly stating things.”There also may be a shift in the attitude of Rwandan authorities, who welcomed the report in a brief statement but have given no detailed response. They said the conclusions of their own report, to be released soon, “will complement and enrich” it.  That’s different from Rwanda’s firm assertions of French complicity as recently as 2017. Relations between the two countries, strained for years since the genocide, have improved under Macron’s presidency.Félicien Kabuga, a Rwandan long wanted for his alleged role in supplying machetes to the killers, was arrested outside Paris last May.And in July an appeals court in Paris upheld a decision to end a years-long investigation  into the plane crash that killed Habyarimana and set off the genocide. That probe aggravated Rwanda’s government because it targeted several people close to President Paul Kagame for their alleged role, charges they denied.It now appears Rwandan authorities will accept “the olive branch” from Paris, said Dismas Nkunda, head of the watchdog group Atrocities Watch Africa who covered the genocide as a journalist.  “Maybe they’re saying, ‘The past is the past. Let’s move on,'” he said of Rwandan authorities.  The Gauthiers said the report and access to the archives may also help activists in their efforts to bring people involved in the genocide to justice — including potentially French officials who served at the time.There have been three Rwandan nationals convicted of genocide so far in France, they stressed. Four others are expected to go on trial. That’s out of about 30 complaints against Rwandan nationals living in France that their group has filed with authorities.  That’s still “very few” compared to the more than 100 alleged perpetrators who are believed to live on French territory, they said.