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Diplomats Sherman, Kennedy to Visit Solomons Where US Vies With China

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and U.S. Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy plan next month to visit the Solomon Islands, where their fathers fought in World War Two and the United States is now in a modern-day battle for influence with strategic rival China.

Sherman and her delegation will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal during her Aug. 6-8 visit, and meet with senior officials “to highlight the enduring relationship between the United States and Solomon Islands” and the opening of a U.S. embassy in the capital Honiara, a senior State Department official told Reuters on Sunday.

Sherman will be just the latest senior U.S. official to visit the Pacific region as Washington steps up efforts to push back against Chinese diplomatic inroads.

As well as Kennedy – whose father, assassinated U.S. President John F. Kennedy, took part in the Solomon Islands campaign as a patrol boat captain in World War II – Sherman’s delegation will include Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Stephen Sklenka, deputy commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and Marine Corps commander for the Pacific, Lt. Gen. Stephen Rudder.

The State Department official said the visit would also be of personal interest to Sherman, whose father, Mal Sherman, was a Marine wounded at the Battle of Guadalcanal, which began between U.S. and allied and Japanese forces in August 1942.

The six-month battle marked the start of U.S.-led offensive operations in the Pacific, showing the strategic importance of the Solomons that endures today.

In Honiara, Sherman will deliver remarks at a U.S.-organized ceremony on Skyline Ridge, site of the U.S. Guadalcanal Memorial, as well as at a Solomon Islands-hosted memorial at Bloody Ridge. She also will attend additional memorial events organized by Solomon Islands and Japan, now a close U.S. ally.

“These events will recognize the service and sacrifice of those who fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal, including U.S. and Allied forces, the people of Solomon Islands, and the people of Japan,” the official said.

China has been seeking to boost economic, military and police links with Pacific island nations hungry for foreign investment. Washington has stressed its historical ties to the Pacific, especially shared sacrifices during World War Two, and vowed to commit more resources.

Beijing’s growing influence was highlighted by its security pact with the Solomon Islands this year, a move that fanned concerns in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

In February, Antony Blinken became the first U.S secretary of state to visit Fiji in 40 years. While there, he announced a plan to open an embassy in the Solomon Islands and called the Pacific “the region for the future.”

At a four-day summit this month, Pacific island nations put the two superpowers courting them on notice, telling what are also the world’s biggest carbon emitters to take more action on climate change, while pledging unity in the face of a growing geopolitical contest.

Leaders at the Fiji summit also bristled at a Chinese attempt to split some of the nations off into a trade and security agreement, while Washington pledged more financial and diplomatic engagement.

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Канада підтвердила загибель свого громадянина на Донбасі

За даними ЗМІ, військовослужбовці Інтернаціонального легіону загинули у боях за місто Сіверськ.

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Десантники з «Ігли» збили російський штурмовик – Генштаб ЗСУ

За даними Генштабу, станом на 24 липня Росія у війні проти України втратила 221 літак. 

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Explainer – What Is Behind Heat Waves Affecting United States? 

Virtually all the contiguous United States experienced above normal temperatures in the past week, with more dangerously hot weather forecast. 

The U.S. heat wave followed record heat that killed hundreds if not thousands of people and sparked wildfires in Europe.

Following is an explanation of what is causing the heat waves, according to scientists.

What is a heat wave?

A heat wave has no single scientific definition. Depending on the climate of a region, it can be determined by a certain number of days above a specific temperature or percentile of the norm.

Arctic warming and jet stream migration

The Arctic is warming three to four times faster than the globe as a whole, meaning there is ever less difference between northern temperatures and those closer to the equator.

That is resulting in swings in the North Atlantic jet stream, which in turn leads to extreme weather events like heat waves and floods, according to Jennifer Francis, senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center.

Heat domes

Warmer oceans contribute to heat domes, which trap heat over large geographical areas. This weekend the heat dome is stretching from the southern plains of the Oklahoma/Arkansas area all the way to the eastern seaboard, according to the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.

Scientists have found the main cause of heat domes is a strong change in ocean temperatures from west to east in the tropical Pacific Ocean during the preceding winter.

“As prevailing winds move the hot air east, the northern shifts of the jet stream trap the air and move it toward land, where it sinks, resulting in heat waves,” the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says on its website.

El Niño and La Niña

Every few years, the climate patterns known as El Niño and, less frequently, La Niña occur. El Niño brings warm water from the equatorial Pacific Ocean up to the western coast of North America, and La Niña brings colder water.

At present, La Niña is in effect. Because summer temperatures trend lower during La Niña, climate scientists are concerned about what a serious heat wave would look like during the next El Niño, when even hotter summer weather could be expected. 

Human-influenced climate change

Climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels is a global phenomenon that is certainly playing a role in what the United States is experiencing, scientists say. 

“Climate change is making extreme and unprecedented heat events both more intense and more common, pretty much universally throughout the world,” said Daniel Swain, climate scientist at UCLA.

“Heat waves are probably the most underestimated type of potential disaster because they routinely kill a lot of people. And we just don’t hear about it because it doesn’t kill them in, to put it bluntly, sufficiently dramatic ways. There aren’t bodies on the street.”

Francis, of the Woodwell Center, said with climate change the world is seeing changing wind patterns and weather systems “in ways that make these heat waves, like we’re seeing right now, more intense, more persistent, and cover areas that just aren’t used to having heat waves.”

Alex Ruane, researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said as the world warms, “it takes less of a natural anomaly to push us into the extreme heat categories. Because we’re closer to those thresholds, it’s more likely that you’ll get more than one heat wave at the same time. We’re seeing this in the United States.”

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Britain’s PM Hopefuls Promise to Get Tough on Illegal Migration

Britain’s two contenders to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister promised on Sunday to tackle illegal immigration as a priority, with both backing the government’s policy of sending migrants to Rwanda.

Former finance minister Rishi Sunak and foreign secretary Liz Truss are battling to become Britain’s next prime minister after a revolt over Johnson’s scandal-ridden administration forced the prime minister to say he would stand down.

The two candidates have so far clashed over the timing of any tax cuts at a time when Britain is facing rising inflation, stalling growth and an increasing number of strikes.

Sunak on Saturday described himself as “the underdog” after Truss topped opinion polls among the Conservative Party members who will appoint their next leader, and Britain’s prime minister, with the result due on Sept. 5.

On Sunday both candidates set out their plans to press ahead with the government’s policy of sending illegal migrants to Rwanda, though the first deportation flight was blocked last month by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Truss, who is tipped as favorite to win the leadership contest, said she would look to pursue more “third country processing partnerships like Rwanda,” would increase the border force by 20% and strengthen Britain’s Bill of Rights.

“As prime minister, I am determined to see the Rwanda policy through to full implementation as well as exploring other countries where we can work on similar partnerships,” Truss said in a statement.

“I’ll make sure we have the right levels of force and protection at our borders. I will not cower to the ECHR and its continued efforts to try and control immigration policy.”

Sunak, who won the backing of most Conservative lawmakers in earlier leadership votes, said he would treat illegal immigration as “one of five major emergency responses” he will tackle in his first 100 days as prime minister.

“I’ll take a hard-headed targets approach, with incentives for people who meet them and penalties for those who don’t,” he wrote in The Sun newspaper.

“If a country won’t cooperate on taking back illegal migrants, I won’t think twice about our relationship with them when it comes to foreign aid, trade and visas.” 

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Mediterranean Ships Find 5 Dead, Rescue Over 1,100 Migrants 

Italian vessels have recovered five bodies and rescued 674 people packed on a fishing boat adrift in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast, the Italian Coast Guard said Sunday, while European charities reported saving more than 500 more.

Some of the survivors had to be plucked from the sea in the Italian operation Saturday that was carried out 120 miles (190 kilometers) off the coast of Calabria by a Navy mercantile ship, three Coast Guard patrol boats and a financial police boat. All of those rescued were brought to ports in Calabria and Sicily.

The causes of death for the five dead were not immediately known.

The Coast Guard said it was just one in a series of rescues in recent days in the Italian search and rescue area of the central Mediterranean, as desperate people fleeing poverty or oppression seek a better life in Europe. In one case, a helicopter was called to evacuate a woman in need of medical treatment from a migrant boat in a precarious condition, the Coast Guard said.

In separate operations, the German charity Sea-Watch said it rescued 444 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean on overcrowded, rickety smugglers’ boats. The Sea-Watch 3 vessel carried out the five operations over 24 hours, and said the rescued included a pregnant woman and a man who had suffered severe burns.

The charity is asking for permission to bring the rescued people to a safe port, as the rescue ship is unable to accommodate so many people.

In addition, the European charity SOS Mediterannee said its rescue ship Ocean Viking have saved 87 people, including 57 unaccompanied minors, from an overcrowded rubber boat off the Libyan coast. None had life jackets, the charity said.

Migrant arrivals in Italy are up by nearly one-quarter from 2021, with 34,013 recorded through Friday.

While still notably fewer than the 2015 peak year, the crossings remain deadly, with 1,234 people recorded dead or missing at sea by the U.N. refugee agency this year, 823 of those in the perilous central Mediterranean.

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Над Хмельниччиною збили три російські ракети – ОВА

Уламки впали в полі Кам’янець-Подільського району, також ракета впала у лісі поблизу одного з сіл Хмельницького району

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«Практично вщент» знищена ще одна школа в Миколаєві – мер про наслідки вчорашнього російського обстрілу

Станом на 8 липня через російські атаки у Миколаєві частково пошкоджені або повністю зруйновані 48 закладів освіти.

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Same-Sex Marriage Bill Advances in US Congress

The U.S. Congress may be on the cusp of passing legislation that would codify recognition of same-sex marriages under federal law, solidifying the right of LGBTQ couples to wed seven years after the Supreme Court ruled that such unions must be given legal recognition across the United States.

The House of Representatives, on July 19, passed the Respect for Marriage Act, 267-157, with 47 Republicans adding their support to the unanimous House Democrats. The bill is now before the Senate, which could vote on it as soon as next week.

The bill would need backing from at least 10 Republicans to pass, in addition to all of the body’s Democrats. So far, five GOP senators have said they will support the bill, and several others have said they are open to doing so.

Sen. John Thune of North Dakota, the third-ranking member of the Senate’s Republican leadership, told CNN, “As you saw there was pretty good bipartisan support in the House … and I expect there’d probably be the same thing you’d see in the Senate.”

If it passes, it would go to President Joe Biden, who has signaled that he would sign it into law.

The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the 26-year-old Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which explicitly denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages. It would require that all states recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, and it would create additional federal protections for such unions.

Supreme Court’s role

DOMA, which became law in 1996, defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, and made it legal for individual states to refuse to recognize the validity of same-sex marriages performed in other states. It also codified non-recognition of same-sex marriages at the federal level, meaning that same-sex couples were not eligible for many of the benefits available to heterosexual couples, including Social Security survivor’s benefits, joint filing of tax returns, and more.

The law was effectively nullified by the Supreme Court in two decisions, United States v. Windsor in 2013, and Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. However, changes to the composition of the court, giving conservatives a strong majority in recent years, have sparked concern in the LGBTQ community about the permanence of those rulings.

Those concerns were sharpened last month when the court ruled in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. The case overturned the court’s own ruling in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that found women had a right to an abortion.

In his opinion concurring with the decision, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas described the Obergefell decision as “demonstrably erroneous” and said that the court should revisit it, along with several other of the court’s precedents.

Ruling created urgency

LGBTQ rights organizations told VOA that the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs case set off immediate alarm bells, creating concern that their right to marry might be in danger.

“It signaled to the LGBTQ community that marriage equality could be next to see a rollback in rights, and I think you’re seeing a reflection of that urgency,” Rich Ferraro, chief communications officer for GLAAD, told VOA. Formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, GLAAD is a media monitoring organization that defends LGBTQ rights.

“We’ve only had marriage equality for a few years, and the entire community was up in arms reading [Thomas’s ruling],” Ferraro said. “We know what it’s like to be discriminated against. It was in the very immediate past that we didn’t have marriage.”

“We’re certainly disappointed that Justice Thomas pointed at the Obergefell marriage decision as well as other Supreme Court precedents to … encourage challenges to those laws and potentially overturn them,” David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, told VOA. “The Respect for Marriage Act would help protect marriage equality, and in particular, federal benefits for same sex married couples, no matter what the Supreme Court might do in the future.”

Prospects in Senate

Before it can become law, the Respect for Marriage act must clear the 100-member Senate, which is divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. The Democrats, who control the Senate only by virtue of a tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Kamala Harris, are expected to support the bill unanimously.

However, Republican resistance is expected and GOP senators will likely take advantage of a procedural rule known as the “filibuster,” meaning that Democrats will not be able to advance the legislation without 60 votes.

The Respect for Marriage Act’s strong bipartisan vote in the House has raised hopes among advocates of the bill that a sufficient number of Republican senators will vote to overcome the filibuster. As of Friday, five Republicans had indicated their support, and a number of others have expressed openness to the possibility of voting in favor.

“I think we have a really good chance of seeing bipartisan support for this bill,” Kierra Johnson, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, told VOA. “Public support is high for marriage equality, and to not take the opportunity to codify this right now would fly in the face of where most people in this country are.”

Some resistance

However, a number of Republicans have expressed reservations, and some outright hostility, to the bill.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, referred to the legislation as a “stupid waste of time.” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said that he continues to support the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma, who voted in favor of DOMA in 1996, said that his position has not changed. “My views on marriage have not changed and I would not support codifying same-sex marriage into law,” he told CNN.

Meanwhile, conservative advocacy groups are pressuring Republican senators who expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling in 2015 not to change course and support the Respect for Marriage Act.

“What’s changed? Not the significance of marriage or the Constitution. Not the Republican Party’s platform,” the Washington-based Family Research Council said in a tweet Friday. “Real leaders don’t vote out of fear or political calculus.”

Generational shifts

More broadly, though, attitudes toward same-sex marriage have undergone a tremendous shift in the United States in recent decades. In 1996, when DOMA was passed, the Gallup polling firm found that only 27% of Americans supported same-sex marriage. Last month, Gallup found support had risen to a record-high 71%.

Attitudes among U.S. elected officials, particularly Democrats, have also changed significantly. The explicitly discriminatory DOMA was passed with support from large majorities of both Republicans and Democrats. It was signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Among current House Democrats, there are 24 members who were in office in 1996 and voted in favor of DOMA. On Tuesday, all of them voted to repeal it.

As a senator in 1996, President Biden also voted in favor of DOMA. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president was urging the Senate to pass the bill repealing it, saying, “He is a proud champion of the right for people to marry whom they love and is grateful to see bipartisan support for that right.”

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Zelenskyy Blasts Russia for Striking Odesa Port

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blasted Russia jeopardizing a deal that both Russia and Ukraine signed to allow Ukraine to ship millions of tons of grain out of its Black Sea ports.  The deal was signed by both nations Friday, but on Saturday, Russia launched a missile attack on the port of Odesa.

Zelenskyy said late Saturday in his daily address, “Today’s Russian missile attack on Odesa, on our port, is a cynical one, and it was also a blow to the political positions of Russia itself. If anyone in the world could still say that some kind of dialogue … with Russia, some kind of agreements are needed, see what is happening. Today’s Russian Kalibr missiles have destroyed the very possibility for such statements.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed a similar sentiment in a statement, issued late Saturday.

“This attack casts serious doubt on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s deal and undermines the work of the UN, Turkey, and Ukraine to get critical food to world markets,” the top U.S. diplomat said.  “Russia bears responsibility for deepening the global food crisis and must stop its aggression and fully implement the deal to which it has agreed.”

“For 12 hours we dared to hope for relief of the global hunger crisis from shipments of Ukrainian grain,” David Miliband, CEO and president of the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement, also issued late Saturday.

“We have said it before; the war in Ukraine is a tragedy for Ukraine but also a global disaster for those in greatest need.  This latest twist is as cruel as it is dangerous.”

Turkey said Russia has denied any involvement in missile strikes Saturday on Odesa.

“In our contact with Russia, the Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack and that they were examining the issue very closely and in detail,” Defense Minister Hulusai Akar said in a statement. “The fact that such an incident took place right after the agreement we made yesterday really worried us.”

Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying the missiles had not caused significant damage, and a government minister said preparations continued to restart grain exports from the country’s Black Sea ports, according to Reuters. 

The strikes drew strong condemnation.

“Yesterday, all parties made clear commitments on the global stage to ensure the safe movement of Ukrainian grain and related products to global markets,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement delivered by spokesperson Farhan Haq.

“These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and ease the suffering of millions of people in need around the globe. Full implementation by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Turkey is imperative.

U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv Bridget Brink called the strike “outrageous.”

“The Kremlin continues to weaponize food. Russia must be held to account,” she posted on Twitter.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called Russia’s actions “reprehensible.”

“Striking a target crucial for grain export a day after the signature of Istanbul agreements … demonstrates Russia’s total disregard for international law and commitments,” he said.

Zelenskyy said the strike on Odesa demonstrates that Moscow will find ways not to implement the grain deal.

“This proves only one thing: no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it,” Zelenskyy said in a video posted on Telegram.

A Russian Defense Ministry statement Saturday outlining progress in the war made no mention of any strike on Odesa.

However, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova reposted the U.N. condemnation and said, “It is awful that UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres does not ‘unequivocally’ condemn also the Kyiv regime’s killing of children in Donbas.”

Ongoing fighting

Elsewhere in Ukraine, a Russian missile attack on an airfield and a railway facility in central Ukraine on Saturday killed three people and wounded at least 13, according to local officials.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said early Saturday that in the previous 48 hours, heavy fighting had been taking place as Ukrainian forces continued their offensive against Russian forces in Kherson oblast, west of the Dnipro River.

In the statement posted to Twitter, the ministry said, “Russia is likely attempting to slow the Ukrainian attack using artillery fire along the natural barrier of the Ingulets River, a tributary of the Dnipro. Simultaneously, the supply lines of the Russian force west of the Dnipro are increasingly at risk.” 

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США серйозно розглядають питання про оголошення Росії державою-спонсором тероризму – посол Брінк

«Ми продовжимо притягати Росію до відповідальності відповідно до нашого законодавства»

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Russian Official Admits to Missile Strike on Odesa

A spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that Russian missiles destroyed military infrastructure Saturday in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa, a site that is vital for the exportation of Ukrainian grain.

Maria Zakharova posted on her Telegram account “Kalibr missiles destroyed military infrastructure in the port of Odessa, with a high-precision strike.”

Russia earlier had denied any involvement in the Saturday strike that came a day after Russia and Ukraine had signed agreements allowing Ukraine to ship millions of tons of grain out of its Black Sea port.

It was not immediately clear what caused the reversal of facts from a Russian official.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blasted Russia for jeopardizing the deal.

Zelenskyy said late Saturday in his daily address, “Today’s Russian missile attack on Odesa, on our port, is a cynical one, and it was also a blow to the political positions of Russia itself. If anyone in the world could still say that some kind of dialogue … with Russia, some kind of agreements are needed, see what is happening. Today’s Russian Kalibr missiles have destroyed the very possibility for such statements.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed a similar sentiment in a statement, issued late Saturday.

“This attack casts serious doubt on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s deal and undermines the work of the UN, Turkey, and Ukraine to get critical food to world markets,” the top U.S. diplomat said.  “Russia bears responsibility for deepening the global food crisis and must stop its aggression and fully implement the deal to which it has agreed.”

“For 12 hours we dared to hope for relief of the global hunger crisis from shipments of Ukrainian grain,” David Miliband, CEO and president of the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement, also issued late Saturday.

“We have said it before; the war in Ukraine is a tragedy for Ukraine but also a global disaster for those in greatest need.  This latest twist is as cruel as it is dangerous.”

Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying the missiles had not caused significant damage, and a government minister said preparations continued to restart grain exports from the country’s Black Sea ports, according to Reuters. 

The strikes drew strong condemnation.

“Yesterday, all parties made clear commitments on the global stage to ensure the safe movement of Ukrainian grain and related products to global markets,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement delivered by spokesperson Farhan Haq.

“These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and ease the suffering of millions of people in need around the globe. Full implementation by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Turkey is imperative.”

U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv Bridget Brink called the strike “outrageous.”

“The Kremlin continues to weaponize food. Russia must be held to account,” she posted on Twitter.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called Russia’s actions “reprehensible.”

“Striking a target crucial for grain export a day after the signature of Istanbul agreements … demonstrates Russia’s total disregard for international law and commitments,” he said.

Zelenskyy said the strike on Odesa demonstrates that Moscow will find ways not to implement the grain deal.

This proves only one thing: no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it,” Zelenskyy said in a video posted on Telegram.

Ongoing fighting

Elsewhere in Ukraine, a Russian missile attack on an airfield and a railway facility in central Ukraine on Saturday killed three people and wounded at least 13, according to local officials.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said early Saturday that in the previous 48 hours, heavy fighting had been taking place as Ukrainian forces continued their offensive against Russian forces in Kherson oblast, west of the Dnipro River.

In the statement posted to Twitter, the ministry said, “Russia is likely attempting to slow the Ukrainian attack using artillery fire along the natural barrier of the Ingulets River, a tributary of the Dnipro. Simultaneously, the supply lines of the Russian force west of the Dnipro are increasingly at risk.”

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«Укрпошта» з 28 липня вводить в обіг нову поштову марку з трактором і танком

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Російські війська продовжують завдавати ракетних ударів по Миколаєву – голова ОВА

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Change in Title With Men Working at Disney Dress-Up Shops

When Disney reopens its Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique shops at resorts in Florida and California next month, the workers who help children dress up as their favorite animated characters will have new, more gender inclusive titles.

That is because men are going to work at the shops for the first time.

The workers will be referred to as Fairy Godmother’s Apprentices instead of Fairy Godmothers-in-Training, as they were called before the shops closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision to allow men to work at the shops was made before the pandemic but hadn’t been implemented before the closures.

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique shops at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California are scheduled to reopen at the end of August after being closed for two years, according to a Disney blog post.

Workers at the shops provide hairstyling, makeup, costumes and accessories to help children between ages 3 and 12 transform into their favorite characters.

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Brexit Blamed as UK Faces Channel Port Logjam

Unions, port officials and the French authorities blamed Brexit on Saturday as thousands of holidaymakers faced long delays trying to reach Europe via the English Channel port of Dover.

But U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss laid the blame squarely on Paris, telling her French counterpart, Catherine Colonna, that “the French authorities have not put enough people on the border.”

The situation has added to the bad blood between London and Paris in the wake of Brexit, scotching hopes of a reset after Boris Johnson said earlier this month he was stepping down as premier.

“We need to see action from them (the French) to resolve the terrible situation which travelers, including families, are facing,” said Truss, who is currently fighting to succeed Johnson as prime minister.

But Paris has rejected claims that the gridlock was caused by under-staffing and Colonna in her tweet took a more sanguine view of their conversation, describing the talks as “good” and welcoming the “cooperation” to reduce the delays.

Colonna also underlined the “need to improve facilities at the Port of Dover.”

Tweeting the front page of Britain’s right-wing Daily Telegraph which had the headline “Truss tells France to fix holiday chaos,” French Transport Minister Clement Beaune said the French authorities were “mobilized” to ease movement.

But in a jab at London, the former Europe minister added: “France is not responsible for Brexit.”

Border checks and extra paperwork for freight traffic were reintroduced when Britain left the European Union last year, ending free movement for people and goods in the bloc.

Bottlenecks of lorries at Dover have been seen since then but this summer is the first with unrestricted travel for the public since the lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions.

French lawmaker Pierre-Henri Dumont, whose constituency includes the French Channel port of Calais, called the travel chaos “an aftermath of Brexit.”

“We have to run more checks than before,” he told BBC television, predicting it would happen again.

Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister initially blamed a lack of French border agency staff for the logjam which saw some holidaymakers wait six hours or longer to catch their ferries.

But he conceded there were now “increased transaction times” post-Brexit. The port was confident of handling the demand at peak periods, he added.

Brexit figurehead Johnson made “taking back control” of U.K. borders a rallying call for his “leave” campaign in the 2016 vote on EU membership.

Since becoming prime minister, he has found that more difficult, with record numbers of migrants crossing from northern France in small boats.

Lucy Moreton, from the ISU union that represents borders, immigration and customs staff, said the tailbacks were a “reasonably predictable” result of Brexit.

“This is the time that it’s chosen to bite,” she told the BBC.

Passengers have to go through both UK and French border checks at Dover before boarding ferries to northern France.

By 12:45 pm (1145 GMT), the Port of Dover said more than 17,000 passengers had already gone through.

Bannister said some 8,500 vehicles had left the port on Friday, with about 10,000 expected Saturday.

Queues for the port snaked through Dover and surrounding roads, stretching kilometers, with lorries backed up the M20 motorway leading to the town.

A traffic management system was rolled out on the M20 to manage the high volume of lorries backed up toward Dover.

That included closing parts of the motorway to non-freight traffic and diverting cars towards the port and the Eurotunnel by other routes.

The prefect of the Hauts-de-France region Georges-Francois Leclerc said France had “done its job” by increasing its border staff in Dover from 120 to 200.

He blamed the traffic jams on an accident on the M20 on Friday for the late arrival of French border agency staff at their posts in Dover.

All French staff were in position at 9:45 a.m. (0845 GMT) instead of 8:30 a.m., the prefect told reporters in Lille.

“Who would have thought that because the French reinforcements were an hour late that it would derail the whole system?” he added.

“Last year there was COVID. We’re finding out about Brexit” and its impact on peak periods. “The world has changed. The U.K. is now a third country to the EU,” which means much more time-consuming checks.

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Top US Delegation Visits Kyiv, Vows to Ensure Continuing Support

A senior U.S. congressional delegation met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Saturday and promised to try to ensure continued support in the war against Russia.

The delegation, which included Representative Adam Smith, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, is the latest in a series of high-profile American visitors to Ukraine.

“The United States, along with allies and partners around the world, have stood with Ukraine by providing economic, military, and humanitarian assistance,” the delegation said in a statement.

“We will continue to seek ways to support President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people as effectively as possible as they continue their brave stand,” they added.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday that Washington would send four more high-mobility artillery rocket systems to Ukraine, bringing the total provided so far to 16.

The statement from the delegation Saturday made no specific reference to weapons transfers.

Separately, Smith was quoted as telling the U.S.-backed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Washington and its allies were ready to hand over more multiple launch rocket systems.

The U.S. Agency for Global Media oversees RFE/RL, as well as Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. 

Posted by Worldkrap on

Pope’s Indigenous Tour Signals a Rethink of Mission Legacy

Pope Francis’ trip to Canada to apologize for the horrors of church-run Indigenous residential schools marks a radical rethink of the Catholic Church’s missionary legacy, spurred on by the first pope from the Americas and the discovery of hundreds of probable graves at the school sites.

Francis has said his weeklong visit, which begins Sunday, is a “penitential pilgrimage” to beg forgiveness on Canadian soil for the “evil” done to Native peoples by Catholic missionaries. It follows his April 1 apology in the Vatican for the generations of trauma Indigenous peoples suffered as a result of a church-enforced policy to eliminate their culture and assimilate them into Canadian, Christian society.

Francis’ tone of personal repentance has signaled a notable shift for the papacy, which has long acknowledged abuses in the residential schools and strongly asserted the rights and dignity of Indigenous peoples. But past popes have also hailed the sacrifice and holiness of the European Catholic missionaries who brought Christianity to the Americas — something Francis, too, has done but isn’t expected to emphasize during this trip.

Cardinal Michael Czerny, a Canadian Jesuit who is a top papal adviser, recalled that early on in his papacy, Francis asserted that no single culture can claim a hold on Christianity, and that the church cannot demand that people on other continents imitate the European way of expressing the faith.

“If this conviction had been accepted by everyone involved in the centuries after the ‘discovery’ of the Americas, much suffering would have been avoided, great developments would have occurred and the Americas would be all-around better,” he told The Associated Press in an email.

The trip won’t be easy for the 85-year-old Francis or for residential school survivors and their families. Francis can no longer walk without assistance and will be using a wheelchair and cane because of painful strained knee ligaments. Trauma experts are being deployed at all events to provide mental health assistance for school survivors, given the likelihood of triggering memories.

“It is an understatement to say there are mixed emotions,” said Chief Desmond Bull of the Louis Bull Tribe, one of the First Nations that are part of the Maskwacis territory where Francis will deliver his first sweeping apology on Monday near the site of a former residential school.

The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse were rampant in the state-funded, Christian schools that operated from the 19th century to the 1970s. Some 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to attend in an effort to isolate them from the influence of their homes, Native languages and cultures.

The legacy of that abuse and isolation from family has been cited by Indigenous leaders as a root cause of the epidemic rates of alcohol and drug addiction on Canadian reservations.

“For survivors from coast to coast, this is an opportunity — the first and maybe the last — to perhaps find some closure for themselves and their families,” said Chief Randy Ermineskin of the Ermineskin Cree Nation.

“This will be a difficult process but a necessary one,” he said.

Unlike most papal trips, diplomatic protocols are taking a back seat to personal encounters with First Nations, Metis and Inuit survivors. Francis doesn’t formally meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau until midway through, in Quebec City, although Trudeau will greet him on the tarmac upon his arrival Sunday.

Francis is also ending the trip in unusual style, stopping in Iqaluit, Nunavut — the farthest north he’s ever traveled — to bring his apology to the Inuit community before flying back to Rome. 

As recently as 2018, Francis had refused to personally apologize for residential school abuses, even after Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 documented institutional blame and specifically recommended a papal apology delivered on Canadian soil. 

Trudeau traveled to the Vatican in 2017 to appeal to Francis to apologize, but the pontiff felt “he could not personally respond” to the call, Canadian bishops said at the time. 

What changed? The first pope from the Americas, who has long defended the rights of Indigenous peoples, had already apologized in Bolivia in 2015 for colonial-era crimes against Native peoples. 

In 2019, Francis — an Argentine Jesuit — hosted a big Vatican conference on the Amazon highlighting that injustices Native peoples suffered during colonial times were still continuing, with their lands and resources exploited by corporate interests. 

Then in 2021, the remains of around 200 children were found at the site of what was once Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school, in Kamloops, British Columbia. More probable graves followed outside other former residential schools. 

“It was only when our children were beginning to be found in mass graves, garnering international attention, that light was brought to this painful period in our history,” said Bull, the Louis Bull Tribe chief. 

After the discovery, Francis finally agreed to meet with Indigenous delegations last spring and promised to come to their lands to apologize in person. 

“Obviously, there are wounds that remained open and require a response,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said, when asked about the evolution of the papal response. 

One of those wounds concerns the papal influences in the Doctrine of Discovery, the 19th-century international legal concept that is often understood as legitimizing the European colonial seizure of land and resources from Native peoples. 

For decades, Indigenous peoples have demanded the Holy See formally rescind the 15th century papal bulls, or decrees, that gave European kingdoms the religious backing to claim lands that their explorers “discovered” for the sake of spreading the Christian faith. 

Church officials have long rejected those concepts, insisted the decrees merely sought to ensure European expansion would be peaceful, and said they had been surpassed by subsequent church teachings strongly affirming the dignity and rights of Indigenous peoples. 

But the matter is still raw for Michelle Schenandoah, a member of the Oneida Nation Wolf Clan, who was the last person to address the pope when the First Nations delegation met with him on March 31. 

Wearing a cradle board on her back to represent the children whose lives were lost in residential schools, she told him the Doctrine of Discovery had “led to the continual taking of our babies.” 

“It deprived us of our dignity, our freedom, and led to the exploitation of our Mother Earth,” she said. She begged Francis to “release the world from its place of enslavement” caused by the decrees. 

Asked about the calls, Bruni said there was an articulated “reflection” under way in the Holy See but he didn’t think anything would be announced during this trip.