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World Leaders Offer Tributes to Britain’s Prince Philip

Tributes have been offered from around the world to Prince Philip, the husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who died Friday at the age of 99. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

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Зеленський ввів у дію санкції проти Януковича і ще понад 25 діячів тих часів, ухвалені 19 березня

Ідеться про санкції щодо колишнього президента Віктора Януковича і ще 26 діячів тих часів

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В ОБСЄ повідомили про новий випадок глушіння її безпілотників на Донбасі

Останнім часом на окупованій частині Донбасу з’явилася нова російська техніка радіоелектронної боротьби

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Lockdown Protests Snowball as Europe’s Libertarians Fret About Freedom

On the streets of Rome, frustrations with pandemic curbs boiled over this week as desperate protesters, many of them restaurant owners and small-business owners, complained that restrictions and repeated lockdowns aimed at suppressing the transmission of the coronavirus are ruining them. “We can no longer go on like this,” 51-year-old pizzeria owner Ermes Ferrari told reporters. “I just want to work.”Outside the parliament in the Italian capital, protesters Tuesday called for an immediate end to Italy’s grinding lockdown. At one point they clashed with riot police. The protesters chanted repeatedly, “Libertà, Libertà.”  Many of the protesters, who emphasized they are not COVID-19 deniers, are members of the burgeoning “I’m Opening” movement of bar and restaurant owners, who defy curbs, break rules and incur hefty fines for doing so.”I had to spend €10,000 to adapt the pizzeria so that it was in accord with virus safety precautions, then the government made us close down. It’s shameful. I have no more money left. My employees don’t have money to eat,” Ferrari told the Corriere della Sera newspaper. FILE – People take part in a protest against coronavirus vaccination and restrictions in Belgrade, Serbia, April 3, 2021.Italians aren’t the only Europeans expressing frustration with financially ruinous and freedom-restricting curbs — nor are they alone in demanding to be unshackled, despite rising infections. In recent weeks, protests have snowballed with pandemic demonstrations mounted in Austria, Britain, Finland, Romania, Switzerland, Poland, France, Bulgaria, Serbia, the Netherlands and Romania.  German police last month resorted to using water cannons, pepper spray and batons on protesters railing against the coronavirus lockdown in the town of Kassel in central Germany, where demonstrators numbered around 20,000.  FILE – Demonstrators attend a protest against the government’s coronavirus restrictions in Kassel, Germany, March 20, 2021.In many countries, anti-lockdown anger has merged with other grievances — in Britain with rage over the abduction and death of a 33-year-old woman allegedly at the hands of a serving police officer, who has been charged with her murder. In several countries, demonstrators inveighed against governments suspending the right to protest because of the public health crisis. A bungled vaccine rollout across most of Europe has added to the groundswell of impatience and exasperation. Economic hardship and anxiety are fueling anger. In Italy, families say they worry about whether they will have jobs soon. Some economists are predicting more than a million Italian workers could find themselves jobless when the government finally ends subsidized furloughs. Far-right and far-left groups have been quick to seize on public frustration, say politicians and analysts. A protest in Bucharest last month, where a mask-less crowd honked horns and waved national flags and demanded “Freedom,” was backed by Romania’s far-right AUR party.  FILE – People protesting the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions march in downtown Bucharest, Romania, March 29, 2021.But while majorities in European countries have supported tough pandemic restrictions, according to opinion polls, sizable minorities across the political spectrum are expressing rising alarm about the prolonging of severe measures. And protests, like the demonstration this week in Rome, have drawn support from ordinary people unaffiliated with fringe political groups, note analysts. Some protesters in recent weeks have said they aren’t only worried about the “now,” but also about reclaiming basic freedoms once the immediate public health crisis subsides. They fear governments may be less willing to relinquish powers they have accrued to themselves during the pandemic.  It is a worry libertarians and rights activists are increasingly highlighting, citing how post-9/11 anti-terrorism laws and more intrusive state surveillance has become a permanent feature in many states long after the terror threat diminished.  They fear the balance of power between the state and individuals has been upended and bewail governments navigating the pandemic with what they argue has been heavy-handed state coercion. They underscore the pandemic may have taught governments that in order to feel safe, the majority of people in European countries are willing to put up with greater sacrifices of liberty than previously thought. “Those of us who value liberty more highly and who have a higher appetite for public risk need to appreciate the precedent that has been set,” says Daniel Finkelstein, a former Downing Street adviser and now a columnist for The Times of London.  “Ensuring that the powers the government has granted itself are abolished rather than kept for a future occasion is going to be hard political work. As is ensuring that we set the bar very high for renewing such powers in the future,” he wrote recently. FILE – Members of the public receive a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine at a coronavirus vaccination center at the Fazl Mosque in southwest London, March 23, 2021.In Britain, which is much further along than other European countries with mass vaccinations, and next week starts easing a lockdown, the debate over civil liberties is becoming especially heated and is focusing on the possibility of vaccine passports being introduced for both domestic activities and foreign travel.  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a rebellion within his party over the issue of vaccine passports with more than 60 members of the ruling Conservative party saying they are opposed and have warned that they will rebel and vote against a soon-to-be-introduced measure extending until September emergency COVID-19 legislation.   Senior Conservative lawmaker Steven Baker said he plans to vote against an extension of emergency powers and emphasizes the vote “will present a rare opportunity for members of parliament to say no to a new way of life in a checkpoint society, under extreme police powers, that we would not have recognized at the beginning of last year.” 
 

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Путін перед візитом Зеленського до Туреччини розповів Ердоганові про «внутрішньоукраїнську кризу»

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Amazon Appears to Have Defeated Unionization Push in Alabama

An unofficial vote tally shows a push to unionize an Amazon.com Inc. facility in the U.S. state of Alabama losing by more than a 2-to-1 margin. While Friday’s reported results haven’t been finalized and could be challenged, they dealt a bitter blow to the U.S. labor movement’s efforts to reverse decades of sharp declines in the private sector. At issue was whether 5,800 Amazon workers would join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Voting was done by mail in February and March. The outcome is seen as having far-reaching implications, not just for workers at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Bessemer, Alabama, but also for the company as a whole and the growing U.S. e-commerce sector that has fended off most labor organizing. FILE – An employee collects items ordered by Amazon.com customers in a warehouse in San Francisco, Calif., Dec. 20, 2017.Sharp divisions over whether to unionizeOpinion among Amazon workers was far from uniform. While some decried working conditions, others said they are satisfied with the status quo. “I’m not against unions,” explained J.C. Thompson, who has worked at the Amazon facility in Bessemer since April last year, less than a week after it opened. “I’ve been in unions, and I think they can do good things. I just don’t think we need it here.” While acknowledging that everyone’s experience is different, he said he is treated fairly at Amazon and is impressed with the package of benefits the company provides him. He also values the direct communication he said workers have with Amazon managers. “My dad used to tell me, ‘You’ve either got a seat at the table, or you’re being eaten for dinner,’” Thompson said, “And I feel like I’ve got a seat at the table here. Not that I’m some superstar worker or anything, but when I message a manager, I always get a response back. Every time.” Thompson said he worried that if a union came in, he’d lose his ability to advocate for himself and to reach out to management without having to go through the union first. “Everything they say they want from a union, we’ve already got by working directly with Amazon,” he said. FILE – A worker gathers items for delivery from the warehouse floor at Amazon’s distribution center in Phoenix, Arizona, Nov. 22, 2013.Amazon provided essential supportAnother Amazon worker, Carla Johnson, agreed. She was diagnosed with cancer shortly after beginning her job at the Bessemer facility and said Amazon has provided her with essential support throughout the process. “They’ve been so wonderful, I just don’t see what some of those voting for unionization are seeing,” she said. “I guess if you’re going to the bathroom or talking so much you don’t get your work done, then you’ll get fired, but that’s the case at any workplace.” “I work hard here, and I think I’ll be rewarded for that,” she added. “I don’t want a union to get in the way if they’re prioritizing people with seniority.” ‘They don’t care about us’ While Amazon touts higher wages and more generous benefit packages than those offered by many other service industry employers, worker Dale Richardson told VOA last month he voted to unionize. “They treat us like we’re just a number — like we’re nobodies,” he said. “I’ve been there for almost a year now, doing the best work I can do, and nobody — no manager — asks me about my goals. They don’t care about us.” Richardson pointed to Amazon ending worker hazard pay in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he has seen coworkers reprimanded for talking during their shift and fired for taking too long for bathroom breaks. “They give us two 30-minute breaks over a 10 or 11-hour shift, but it can sometimes take 10 minutes of that break to walk across the facility,” he said, noting the massive fulfillment center is the size of 16 football fields. “It’s not uncommon to walk all the way to the bathroom on your floor to find that it’s not working, or that it’s closed for cleaning. Now you have to walk to another floor’s bathroom, most of your break is used up and you might get fired if you don’t get back in time. It’s a lot of stress.” Also, last-minute shift changes are not uncommon, according to Richardson, who hoped joining RWDSU would improve conditions for workers. “If they can help us get a little more job security, so they can’t fire us whenever they want,” he said, “and help organize us and represent us to advocate for equal opportunities for promotions and pay increases — that’s why I’m voting to unionize.” Direct dialogue is essentialAmazon didn’t address Richardson’s specific complaints, but spokesperson Owen Torres emphasized communication between managers and their employees.Direct dialogue is essential to our work environment in which we encourage associates to bring their comments, questions, and concerns directly to their management team with the goal of quickly improving the work environment and challenging leadership assumptions,” he said.A unique moment For months, Bessemer has been ground zero for one of the most closely watched unionization efforts in decades. During the voting period, RWDSU and Amazon jockeyed to persuade undecided workers. Amazon insists it does right by its workers in Alabama – and everywhere else. “We opened this site in March and since that time have created more than 6,000 full-time jobs in Bessemer, with starting pay of $15.30 per hour, including full health care, vision and dental insurance, 50% 401(k) match [for retirement savings] from the first day on the job,” the company said in a statement provided to VOA. Amazon said it provides “safe, innovative, inclusive environments, with training, continuing education, and long-term career growth.” Such statements don’t impress RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. Nor does Amazon’s backing for a national $15 hourly minimum wage, up from $7.25 currently. “Society is celebrating essential workers like the ones who work at Amazon,” Appelbaum told VOA. “But then we’re also going to cut their hazard pay? That doesn’t make sense, and I think Americans understand we need to celebrate them by rewarding and supporting them.” Appelbaum added, “We’re in a unique moment in history, and I think that’s why people across the country and around the world are watching how we do.” Without specifically mentioning Amazon, in late February President Joe Biden urged “workers in Alabama” to exercise their right to organize and “make your voice heard.” “Unions lift up workers, both union and non-union, but especially Black and brown workers,” Biden said in a video posted to Twitter. Casting labor unions as a promoter of racial justice resonated with Jennifer Bates, one of many people of color working at the Bessemer fulfillment center. “You have a workplace where 85% of the employees are Black, and you literally see policemen in the parking lot with their lights on when you arrive,” she said. “What kind of message does that send? It feels like a prison. We’re working for the richest man in the world [Amazon founder Jeff Bezos]. You can’t give us hazard pay? You can’t provide more opportunities for raises so we can afford to live in safer housing?” 2014 vote failed This wasn’t the first push for collective bargaining at Amazon. In 2014, machinists at a warehouse in Delaware voted more than 3-to-1 against unionization.The Bessemer effort now had bipartisan backing in Washington, a rarity for union efforts. Writing in USA Today recently, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said, “Amazon has waged a war against working class values” and that “workers are right to suspect that its management doesn’t have their best interests in mind.” “Unions haven’t seen this kind of support in many decades,” said Natasha Zaretsky, professor of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She said America’s unions were at their strongest in the 1940s and ’50s, when 33% of workers were unionized, many in the steel and automobile factories of the time. Today, that number has dropped to 12% as jobs have shifted from manufacturing to the service industry. It’s no accident that Bessemer stood at the precipice of what labor organizers hoped would be a watershed moment for unionizing in America, according to Zaretsky. “African American workers have a rich history of unionizing here that goes all the way back to Reconstruction [after the U.S. Civil War] in the 19th century,” she said.FILE – People hold a banner at the Amazon facility as members of a congressional delegation arrive to show their support for workers who will vote on whether to unionize, in Bessemer, Alabama, March 5, 2021.Dispute on tactics During the voting period, Applebaum said Amazon resorted to strong-arm tactics to influence workers. “They put anti-union materials in the bathrooms, and they hold mandatory meetings where they tell workers why unions are bad for them and how it could cause Amazon facilities to close,” he said. “We set up outside the facility to talk to employees when they leave work, but then Amazon asked the county to change the cadence of the traffic lights so they wouldn’t be stopped there anymore. This isn’t normal.” For its part, Amazon said workers had to know what is at stake. “If the union vote passes, it will impact everyone at the site and it’s important all associates understand what that means for them and their day-to-day life working at Amazon,” the company said in a statement. “We don’t believe the RWDSU represents the majority of our employees’ views. Our employees choose to work at Amazon because we offer some of the best jobs available everywhere we hire.”An earlier version of this article appeared on March 14, 2021.

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German Health Officials Say New Nationwide Lockdown Needed to Control COVID-19

Germany’s top health officials said Friday a nationwide lockdown of two to four weeks is necessary to bring a new wave of COVID-19 infections under control.
Health Minister Jens Spahn and Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for Infectious Disease President Lothar Wieler told reporters in Berlin there were 25,000 new infections reported as of Friday, which Spahn said were too many. He said a nationwide lockdown is needed to get the rate of infection permanently below 100 per 100,000 people.
Spahn said the infection rates are being felt most in the hospitals and intensive care units, which he said are currently treating nearly 4,500 patients across the country. Wieler said RKI hospital surveillance data indicates more and more of these seriously ill patients are young people.
He said that fact adds more stress to hospitals because young patients tend to require respiratory care longer than older ones.
Spahn said that burden on the hospitals is why nationwide action is needed.  “This is why we must break this third wave as quickly as possible. This means reducing contacts and limiting mobility.”
But Germany’s federal government and regional governments are divided on new COVID-19-related restrictions. Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for a tighter lockdown as some regions and cities unilaterally ease restrictions.
Meanwhile, Spahn said vaccinations in Germany were “on a good path, with thousands of ordinary doctor practices this week joining the vaccination campaign.”
Germany now has almost 15 percent of its population vaccinated with one dose and 5.8% have received both shots.

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Rapper-Actor DMX, Known for Gruff Delivery, Dead at 50

DMX, the raspy-voiced hip-hop artist who produced the songs “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Party Up (Up in Here)” and who rapped with a trademark delivery that was often paired with growls, barks and “What!” as an ad-lib, has died, according to a statement from his family. He was 50.
The Grammy-nominated performer died after suffering “catastrophic cardiac arrest,” according to the hospital in White Plains, New York, where he died. He was rushed there from his home April 2.
A statement from relatives said he died “with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days.”
The rapper, whose real name is Earl Simmons, had struggled with drug addiction since his teenage years. His lawyer, Murray Richman, had earlier said he could not confirm reports that DMX overdosed.  
DMX made a splash in rap music in 1998 with his first studio album, “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot,” which debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The multiplatinum-selling album was anchored by several hits including “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” “Get At Me Dog,” “Stop Being Greedy” and “How It’s Goin’ Down.”
DMX followed up with four straight chart-topping albums including “… And Then There Was X,” “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” “The Great Depression” and “Grand Champ.” He released seven albums, earned three Grammy nominations and was named favorite rap/hip-hop artist at the 2000 American Music Awards.
DMX arrived on the rap scene  around the same time as Jay-Z, Ja Rule and others who dominated the charts and emerged as platinum-selling acts. They were all part of rap crews, too: DMX fronted the Ruff Ryders collective, which helped launch the careers of Grammy winners Eve and Swizz Beatz, and relaunch The Lox, formerly signed to Bad Boy Records. Ruff Ryders had success on the charts and on radio with its “Ryde or Die” compilation albums.  
Along with his musical career, DMX paved his way as an actor. He starred in the 1998 film “Belly” and appeared in 2000’s “Romeo Must Die” with Jet Li and Aaliyah. DMX and Aaliyah teamed up for “Come Back in One Piece” on the film’s soundtrack.  
The rapper would later open Aaliyah’s tribute music video, “Miss You,” alongside her other friends and collaborators, including Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim and Queen Latifah, after Aaliyah’s 2001 death in a plane crash at age 22.
The rapper also starred in 2001’s “Exit Wounds” with Steven Seagal and 2003’s “Cradle 2 the Grave” with Li.  
But while DMX made his mark as one of hip-hop’s most recognizable names for his rap artistry and as an actor, the rapper was personally stifled by his legal battles — he was repeatedly arrested and jailed within a decade — and drug addiction. His addiction first took hold at age 14 when smoked a marijuana cigarette that was laced with cocaine.
DMX pleaded guilty in 2004 after he posed as an undercover federal agent a nd crashed his SUV through a security gate at New York’s Kennedy Airport. He was arrested in 2008 on drug and animal cruelty charges following an overnight raid on his house in Phoenix. He tried to barricade himself in his bedroom but emerged when a SWAT team entered his home.  
In 2010, he was sentenced to a year in prison for violating terms of his probation. After he was admitted to rehab numerous times over the next year, he said he had finally beat his drug addiction.
First responders helped bring DMX back to life  after he was found in a hotel parking lot in New York in 2016. The rapper said he suffered from asthma.
A couple years later, DMX was sentenced to a year in prison for tax fraud. Prosecutors said he concocted a multiyear scheme to hide millions of dollars in income from the IRS and get around nearly $2 million in tax liabilities.
After his release, DMX planned a 32-date tour to mark the 20th anniversary of “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot.” But the rapper canceled a series of shows to check himself into a rehab facility in 2019. In an Instagram post, his team said he apologized for the canceled shows and thanked his fans for the continued support.
Besides his legal troubles, DMX took the initiative to help the less fortunate. He gave a group of Philadelphia men advice during a surprise appearance at a homeless support group meeting in 2017, and helped a Maine family with its back-to-school purchases a couple years later.
 
Last year, DMX faced off against Snoop Dogg in a Verzuz battle, which drew more than 500,000 viewers.
He is survived by his 15 children and mother.