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Kentucky Floods Kill at Least 35; More Storms Forecast

Floods unleashed by torrential rains in eastern Kentucky have killed at least 35 people, including four children, Gov. Andy Beshear said on Monday while warning that more dangerous weather is approaching the region.

Beshear, who has said he expects the death toll will rise further, verified five additional fatalities in an afternoon update after announcing a total of 30 confirmed deaths in the morning.

Authorities continued to work to rescue residents and provide food and shelter for thousands who have been displaced.

“It is really tough,” Beshear said of the weather forecast in a video posted to social media. “Isolated flash flooding and damaging wind are both possible.”

The National Weather Service forecasted several rounds of continuing showers and storms through Tuesday. The additional rainfall could also hamper rescue and recovery efforts.

Beshear, who declared a state emergency last week, said over the weekend that authorities would likely “be finding bodies for weeks” as teams fan out to more remote areas.

Days of heavy rainfall — described by Beshear as some of the worst in the state’s history — caused some homes in the hardest-hit areas to be swept away. Video clips posted online showed rescue teams guiding motorboats through residential and commercial areas searching for victims.

The Wolfe County Search and Rescue Team on Sunday published footage on Facebook of a helicopter airlifting an 83-year-old woman from a home to safety. Five people in total were trapped in an attic and rescued from the roof of the home, which was nearly submerged in water, the crew said.

At least 16 deaths were reported in Knott County, including at least four children.

One of those deaths was Eva Nicole “Nikki” Slone, a 50-year-old who ventured out in the storm on Thursday to check on an elderly friend, according to her daughter, the Lexington Herald Leader reported. Slone’s body was recovered the next day near home.

“My mom was a very caring woman,” Misty Franklin told the newspaper.

The floods were the second major disaster to strike Kentucky in seven months, following tornadoes that claimed nearly 80 lives in the western part of the state in December.

President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Kentucky on Friday, allowing federal funding to be allocated to the state.

Power lines were widely damaged, with more than 15,000 reports of outages on Monday morning, according to PowerOutage.US.

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At UN, Review of Nuclear Controls in Tense World Underway

The U.N. secretary-general warned Monday at the start of a nuclear non-proliferation conference that the risks of more nuclear weapons is growing as guardrails to prevent escalation are weakening.

“Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” Antonio Guterres told the opening of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference.

He warned that there are crises with nuclear undertones from the Middle East to the Korean Peninsula, as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He said there are nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled around the world.

“States are seeking false security in stockpiling and spending hundreds of billions of dollars on doomsday weapons that have no place on our planet,” he said. Noting that people are in danger of forgetting the lessons of World War II.

Guterres said he would travel to Japan to attend commemorations on August 6 at Hiroshima, where the United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb 77 years ago in an effort to end that war.

Since it entered into force in 1970, the NPT has been a cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Under it, parties are called on to prevent the spread of nuclear arms, promote disarmament as well as international cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear power.

Guterres also urged nations to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear technology to advance development, such clean energy and medical breakthroughs.

“When used for peaceful purposes, this technology can be a great benefit to humanity,” he said.

Russian nuclear saber rattling

Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine was condemned at the meeting by leaders, as well as several regional groups, including those from the Pacific region and Nordic countries.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that in January the five nuclear powers – Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S.—all affirmed that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.

“The very next month, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” Blinken said. “And it has engaged in reckless, dangerous nuclear saber rattling, with its president [Putin] warning that those supporting Ukraine’s self-defense “risk consequences such as you have never seen in your entire history.”

Blinken pointed to Russia’s seizure of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Zaporizhzhia, saying they are now using it as a military base because they know the Ukrainians cannot fire back at their positions because they could hit a nuclear reactor.

“There is no place in our world—no place in our world—for nuclear deterrence based on coercion, intimidation or blackmail,” Blinken said. “We have to stand together in rejecting this.”

Japan’s prime minister echoed international concerns about Russia’s actions.

“The recent attacks on nuclear facilities by Russia must not be tolerated,” said Fumio Kishida.

“In attacking a country that gave up nuclear weapons, Russia is brutally violating the assurances it gave in the Budapest Memorandum,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said, referring to the 1994 agreement in which Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons left on its territory after the USSR’s collapse in exchange for security guarantees.

The head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at the start of Russia’s invasion, he laid out seven pillars of nuclear safety that must not be violated during the conflict, including on the safety and security of facilities and the personnel that work at them.

“All these seven principles have been trampled upon or violated since this tragic episode started,” Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told the meeting.

Russia is expected to speak later in the debate.

Trouble spots

Parties to the agreement—there are 191, including the five recognized nuclear weapon states (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States)—are attending the conference, which runs until August 26 and will review implementation and ways to strengthen it.

Ahead of the conference, President Joe Biden said in a statement that the United States is committed to the NPT, its obligations as a nuclear state, and working towards a nuclear-free world. He said his administration is ready to negotiate a new arms control framework with Moscow to replace New START when it expires in 2026.

“But negotiation requires a willing partner operating in good faith,” Biden said. “And Russia’s brutal and unprovoked aggression in Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe and constitutes an attack on fundamental tenets of international order.” He said Moscow should demonstrate that it is ready to resume work on nuclear arms control with the U.S.

At the conference, Secretary Blinken said the United States keeps its nuclear arsenal—which has shrunk 90% since the end of the Cold War—as a deterrence and would use it only in “extreme circumstances” to defend its own vital interests or those of its allies and partners.

More than 133 governments and nuclear organizations will speak at the debate that started Monday and continues through Thursday.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Reza Najafi is also due to speak this week. World powers have been trying to get Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.

Britain and France, which are a part of the agreement, along with the United States, which withdrew under former U.S. President Donald Trump but is seeking a mutual return with Iran, said in a statement that Iran must never develop a nuclear weapon.

“We regret that, despite intense diplomatic efforts, Iran has yet to seize the opportunity to restore full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” they said urging Iran to return to the deal.

There was also concern about advances in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Secretary Blinken said Pyongyang is planning its seventh illicit nuclear test.

IAEA chief Rossi said he hopes his agency’s inspectors can return to North Korea after being expelled in 2009. “Without that, there will be no trust and there will be no confidence,” Rossie said.

Absentees at the review conference include Israel, India and Pakistan. All are believed to have nuclear weapons but are not NPT signatories.

Some countries also expressed unease about China’s growing nuclear arsenal.

“China’s arsenal is growing,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said on behalf of Nordic countries. “We call on China to actively engage in processes on arms control as a responsible nuclear weapons state.”

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Зеленський: не може бути ілюзії, що Росія просто утримається від спроб зірвати український експорт

«Росія послідовно провокувала голод в країнах Африки та Азії, які традиційно імпортували значні обсяги українського продовольства»

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В ООН підтвердили загибель 5327 цивільних людей в Україні через масштабну війну Росії

За липень в організації зафіксували 1455 випадків загибелі або поранення цивільних: 355 загиблих і 1100 поранених

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У Білому домі оголосили про нову військову допомогу Україні на 55 млн доларів

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Spanish Government’s Body Positivity Campaign Goes Awry

The Spanish government maybe had a good idea, but the execution of the body positivity campaign has gone horribly wrong. 

The idea was to encourage women to come out and enjoy the beaches – without any worries about how they looked in their swimsuits.

But three of the five women whose photographs were used in the campaign said they had not given permission for the images to be used. 

Arte Mapache the campaign’s creator, has apologized for failing to obtain permission to use the images.  

“Given the – justified – controversy over the image rights in the illustration, I have decided that the best way to make amends for the damages that may have resulted from my actions is to share out the money I received for the work and give equal parts to the people in the poster,” the artist said.

Two of the women in the campaign’s artwork are professional models.  One has a prosthetic leg that was airbrushed out of the campaign artwork. 

Sian Green-Lord told The Guardian, “It’s one thing using my image without my permission, but it’s another thing editing my body, my body with my prosthetic leg … I don’t even know what to say but it’s beyond wrong.”

Juliet FitzPatrick, a cancer survivor, told the BBC that the face of a woman who had a mastectomy may be based on a photograph of her.  However, while the woman in the Spanish government photo has had a single mastectomy, FitzPatrick had a double mastectomy. 

She told the BBC that using her likeness without her permission “seems to be totally against” the theme of the campaign.  “For me it is about how my body has been used and represented without my permission.”

British photographer Ami Barwell who had taken photos of Fitzpatrick told the BBC that she believes Fitzpatrick’s photo was a composite of photos that she had taken of Fitzpatrick and another woman.  

Barwell told the BBC, “I think that the person who created the art has gone through my gallery and pieced them together.” 

Another model, Nyome Nicholas-Williams, who wears a gold bikini in the photo, said her image was taken from her Instagram account without her permission. 

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US Issues Fresh Iran Sanctions, Targets Chinese, UAE Firms

The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on Chinese and other companies it said were used by one of Iran’s largest petrochemical brokers to sell tens of millions of dollars’ worth of Iranian products to East Asia, as Washington continues to crack down on Iranian oil sales to the region.

The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement accused the designated companies of being used by Iran’s Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Co. to facilitate the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products from Iran to East Asia.

The United States imposed sanctions four companies from Hong Kong, one from the United Arab Emirates, and one from Singapore on Monday, according to the Treasury website, the latest salvo in its stepped-up effort to enforce U.S. sanctions designed to slash Iran’s revenues from oil and petrochemicals.

The action freezes any U.S.-based assets and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. Those that engage in certain transactions with the firms also risk being hit by sanctions.

Since taking office in January 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden has been reluctant to sanction Chinese entities engaged in the oil and petrochemical trade with Iran due to hopes of securing an agreement to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Efforts to resurrect the deal – under which Iran had curbed its nuclear program in exchange for relief from U.S. and other sanctions – have so far failed, leading the U.S. administration to look for other ways to increase pressure on Iran.

“The United States continues to pursue the path of diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” the Treasury’s Under Secretary of for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in the statement, referring to the 2015 deal by its formal name.

“Until such time as Iran is ready to return to full implementation of its commitments, we will continue to enforce sanctions on the illicit sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemicals.”

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Annual Classic, Antique Car Show Back in Gear After Pandemic Hiatus

Following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, an annual classic, antique and unique car show is back. Veronica Villafañe shares a glimpse of car history that attracts thousands of enthusiasts to the city of Glendale, California.

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«Укрпошта» зупинила роботу на окупованих територіях – Смілянський

«Від сьогодні, вперше з 24 лютого, «Укрпошта» працює лише на території, підконтрольній Україні»

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Прикордонники: відновлено рух легкових автомобілів через пункт пропуску «Краковець»

«Для перетину кордону легковими авто тут встановлено шість павільйонів прикордонно-митного контролю й облаштовано накриття для комфортного перетину кордону громадянами»,

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Російські військові розмістили у Сакському районі Криму ракетні комплекси – представництво президента в АРК

За даними української розвідки, Росія перекинула до Криму групу десантників

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Pelosi Visits Singapore Amid Speculation on Taiwan Stop  

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived Monday in Singapore for a two-day visit, leading a congressional delegation to Asia amid speculation the trip could include a stop in Taiwan.

Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said Pelosi would meet with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other officials.

In a statement Sunday, Pelosi said she is leading a group of five other Democratic Party lawmakers to Asia “to reaffirm America’s strong and unshakeable commitment to our allies and friends in the region.”

She did not mention whether she will defy China by making a stop in Taiwan on the trip that has Malaysia, South Korea and Japan among the U.S. delegation’s scheduled visits.

U.S. media reports Friday suggested Pelosi was tentatively planning to stop in Taiwan. Pelosi herself has indirectly spoken about such a possibility, even though her office has not confirmed it, citing security protocols.

It would be the highest-level U.S. visit to Taiwan since 1997, when former House Speaker Newt Gingrich led a congressional delegation there.

China had repeatedly warned Pelosi’s trip would be an unacceptable violation of what it sees as its sovereignty over the self-ruled island.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war, with the defeated nationalist forces fleeing to Taiwan and setting up a government that later grew into a vibrant democracy.

Since then, China’s Communist Party has vowed to take Taiwan, using force if necessary, even though the island has never been led by the Communist Party.

Chinese leaders strongly object to U.S. shows of support for Taiwan’s government, which they see as illegitimate.

In a Thursday phone call with U.S. President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a blunt warning over Taiwan, saying “those who play with fire will perish by it,” according to a Chinese government readout.

China’s foreign ministry has also vowed Beijing would “act strongly” and “take countermeasures” in response to a Pelosi visit.

White House officials said Friday they saw no evidence China’s military was preparing major action against Taiwan.

China announced Saturday it was holding “live-fire” military exercises off its coast facing Taiwan. The drills, which were set to last from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. local time, occurred near the Pingtan islands off Fujian province, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency. The report did not specify what type of weapons were used in the exercises.

On Sunday, a spokesman for China’s air force said Beijing has the “firm will” and “sufficient capability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The spokesman, who was quoted in state media, also said China had various fighter jets that can circle “the precious island of our motherland.”

China has flown an increasing number of warplanes through Taiwan’s self-declared air defense identification zone in recent years, greatly raising tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

In recent weeks, Chinese state media editorials have warned Chinese fighter jets could follow and intercept Pelosi’s plane.

Hu Xijin, a fiercely nationalistic commentator for the Communist Party’s Global Times, even suggested in a tweet that the Chinese military has the right to “forcibly dispel” any U.S. aircraft traveling or escorting Pelosi to Taiwan.

“If ineffective, then shoot them down,” Hu said in the tweet, which was later removed because it violated Twitter guidelines.

Despite China’s warnings, a large, bipartisan chorus of lawmakers had urged Pelosi to not back down, saying China should not be allowed to dictate where U.S. officials visit.

“It would make it look like America can be shoved around,” former House Speaker Gingrich told VOA’s Mandarin Service earlier this week. Gingrich said he supports Pelosi’s trip, which will likely only amount to “an irritation” to U.S.-China ties.

“I think this is at one level a lot of noise about nothing,” Gingrich said. “I think if she holds her ground, and if the Biden administration doesn’t act timidly and almost cowardly, I think everything will be fine.”

Taiwan is one of the most dangerous points of tension in an increasingly fraught U.S.-China relationship.

The United States formally cut official relations with Taiwan in 1979 when it switched diplomatic recognition to China. However, the United States has continued to supply Taiwan with defensive weapons as mandated by the U.S. Congress.

U.S. presidents have long used a policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan — essentially leaving their options open in the case of a Chinese invasion of the island.

However, Biden’s recent comments have raised doubts about that approach. Since taking office, Biden on three occasions has said the U.S. is committed to defending Taiwan.

Biden has been cautious, though, on the prospect of a Pelosi visit. Earlier this month, Biden said the U.S. military does not think a visit would be a good idea.

Pelosi’s possible visit comes at a sensitive moment for Xi, who is expected to use a Communist Party Congress later this year to secure a controversial third term as China’s top leader.

Observers have said Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, may want to send a tough message on Taiwan ahead of the meeting. But he may also want to preserve stability around a sensitive political moment.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Friday there is “no reason” for increased tension with China because U.S. policy has not changed.

Kirby reiterated that Pelosi “does not need nor do we offer approval or disapproval” for travel. He added: “The speaker is entitled to travel aboard a military aircraft.”

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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Pat Carroll, Emmy Winner and Voice of Ursula, Dies at 95

Pat Carroll, a comedic television mainstay for decades, an Emmy-winner for “Caesar’s Hour” and the voice Ursula in “The Little Mermaid,” has died. She was 95. 

Her daughter Kerry Karsian, a casting agent, said Carroll died at her home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on Saturday. Her other daughter Tara Karsian wrote on Instagram that they want everyone to “honor her by having a raucous laugh at absolutely anything today (and everyday forward) because besides her brilliant talent and love, she leaves my sister Kerry and I with the greatest gift of all, imbuing us with humor and the ability to laugh…even in the saddest of times.” 

Carroll was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1927. Her family relocated to Los Angeles when she was 5 years old. Her first film role came in 1948 in “Hometown Girl,” but she found her stride in television.

She won an Emmy for her work on the sketch comedy series “Caesar’s Hour” in 1956, was a regular on “Make Room for Daddy” with Danny Thomas, a guest star on “The DuPont Show with June Allyson” and a variety show regular stopping by “The Danny Kaye Show,” “The Red Skelton Show” and “The Carol Burnett Show.” 

Carroll also played one of the wicked stepsisters in the 1965 television production of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” with Lesley Ann Warren. 

In addition, she also played one of the wicked stepsisters in the 1965 television production of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” with Lesley Ann Warren. Plus, she won a Grammy in 1980 for the recording of her one-woman show “Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein.” 

A new generation would come to know and love Carroll’s voice thanks to Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” which came out in 1989. She was not the first choice of directors Ron Clements and John Musker or the musical team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who reportedly wanted Joan Collins or Bea Arthur to voice the sea witch. Elaine Stritch was even cast originally before Carroll got to audition. And her throaty rendition of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” would make her one of Disney’s most memorable villains. 

Carroll would often say that Ursula was one of her favorite roles. She said she saw her as an “Ex-Shakespearean actress who now sold cars.” 

“She’s a mean old thing! I think people are fascinated by mean characters,” Carroll said in an interview. “There’s a fatal kind of distraction about the horrible mean characters of the world because we don’t meet too many of them in real life. So when we have a chance, theatrically, to see one and this one, she’s a biggie, it’s kind of fascinating for us.” 

She got the chance to reprise the role in several “Little Mermaid” sequels, spinoffs and even theme park rides. 

Carroll was also the voice of Granny in the English-language dub of Hayao Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro.”

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У Києві наземний транспорт зупинятиметься на час повітряної тривоги – КМДА

Наземний транспорт, зокрема і приватні перевізники, під час повітряної тривоги зупинятиме рух у безпечному місці, пасажири мають пройти до найближчих укриттів

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Через обстріли військ РФ за добу постраждали 16 населених пунктів на Донеччині – поліція

За даними ОВА, через російські обстріли 31 липня на Донеччині загинули 3 мирних жителів, ще 16 людей отримали поранення.

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«Два – це початкова цифра». Пристайко про передачу Британією протимінних кораблів Україні

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Ukrainian Grain Shipments Resume from Odesa

Grain shipments from Ukraine’s port of Odesa resumed Monday.

The Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni was the first to leave port, carrying corn bound for Lebanon. In a statement, Turkey’s defense ministry said other unspecified ships also would depart Ukraine.

Turkey and the United Nations brokered an agreement with Russia and Ukraine in late July to get grain exports going again amid a global food crisis that the U.N. says has been worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The deal calls for safe passage of cargo ships traveling from ports in southern Ukraine through waters in the Black Sea that Russia has controlled since starting the war in late February.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed the resumption of exports from Odesa.

“The day of relief for the world, especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, as the first Ukrainian grain leaves Odesa after months of Russian blockade,” Kuleba tweeted. “Ukraine has always been a reliable partner and will remain one should Russia respect its part of the deal.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday the departure of the first ship is “very positive.”

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said ensuring grain can reach global markets “is a humanitarian imperative.”

“The Secretary-General hopes that this will be the first of many commercial ships moving in accordance with the Initiative signed, and that this will bring much-needed stability and relief to global food security especially in the most fragile humanitarian contexts,” Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

Dujarric added that the World Food Program plans to purchase 30,000 metric tons of wheat to load and ship out of Ukraine on a U.N.-chartered vessel.

British say Russians make ‘slow progress’

Also Monday, Britain’s defense ministry said Russian forces had made only slow progress during the previous four days as they tried tactical assaults in the area northeast of Donetsk.

The British ministry said Russia is also likely shifting “a significant number of its forces” from the northern part of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine to southern Ukraine.

For several months, Russia has focused its efforts on the Donbas, which includes Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, after facing resistance on its approach to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. A reallocation of resources to the east helped Russia claim control of Luhansk in early July.

Russia’s Black Sea fleet headquarters struck

In southern Ukraine, a small explosive device carried by a makeshift drone hit the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea fleet on the Crimean Peninsula on Sunday, wounding six people, local authorities said, while Ukraine said a Russian missile attack killed one of its richest people, a grain merchant.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the drone attack in the port city of Sevastopol, which forced cancellation of ceremonies for Russia’s Navy Day holiday. But the seemingly improvised, small-scale nature of the attack raised the possibility it was the work of Ukrainian insurgents in the territory seized by Russia in 2014, The Associated Press reported.

The drone appeared to be homemade and the explosive device low powered, the Black Sea Fleet’s press service said. Sevastopol is about 170 kilometers from the Ukrainian mainland, but it is unclear where the drone began its flight.

‘Not an accident’

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the mayor of the major port city of Mykolaiv, Vitaliy Kim, said a Russian attack killed one of Ukraine’s wealthiest men, Oleksiy Vadatursky, and his wife, Raisa. Vadatursky headed a grain production and export business.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Mykhailo Podolyak, said Vadatursky was specifically targeted.

It “was not an accident, but a well-thought-out and organized premeditated murder,” Podolyak said. “Vadatursky was one of the largest farmers in the country, a key person in the region and a major employer. That the exact hit of a rocket was not just in a house, but in a specific wing, the bedroom, leaves no doubt about aiming and adjusting the strike.”

Vadatursky’s agribusiness, Nibulon, includes a fleet of ships for sending grain abroad.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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Kosovo Delays License Plate Plan After Border Tensions

The Kosovo government postponed implementation of a decision that would oblige Serbs in the north of the country to apply for car license plates issued by Pristina institutions after tensions rose between police and local communities that set roadblocks.

Late on Sunday the protesters parked trucks filled with gravel and other heavy machinery on the roads leading to the two border crossings, Jarinje and Bernjak, in a territory where Serbs form a majority. Kosovo police said they had to close the border crossings.

“The overall security situation in the Northern municipalities of Kosovo is tense,” NATO-led mission to Kosovo KFOR said in a statement.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed the heightened tension on what she called “groundless discriminatory rules” imposed by Kosovo authorities

Fourteen years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, some 50,000 Serbs living in the north use license plates and documents issued by Serbian authorities, refusing to recognize institutions under the capital, Pristina. Kosovo has been recognized as an independent state by more than 100 countries but not by Serbia or Russia.

The government of Prime Minister Albin Kurti said it would give Serbs a transitional period of 60 days to get Kosovo license plates, a year after giving up trying to impose them because of similar protests.

The government also decided that as of August 1, all citizens from Serbia visiting Kosovo would have to get an extra document at the border to grant them permission to enter.

A similar rule is applied by Belgrade authorities to Kosovars who visit Serbia.

But following tensions on Sunday evening and consultations with EU and U.S. ambassadors, the government said it would delay its plan for one month and start the implementation on September 1.

Earlier on Sunday, police said there were shots fired “in the direction of police units but fortunately no one was wounded.”

It also said angry protesters beat up several Albanians passing on the roads that had been blocked and that some cars had been attacked.

Air raid sirens were heard for more than three hours in the small town of North Mitrovica inhabited mainly by Serbs.

A year ago, after local Serbs blocked the same roads over license plates, Kosovo’s government deployed special police forces and Belgrade flew fighter jets close to the border.

Tensions between the two countries remain high, and Kosovo’s fragile peace is maintained by a NATO mission that has 3,770 troops on the ground. Italian peacekeepers were visible in and around Mitrovica on Sunday.

The two countries committed in 2013 to a dialog sponsored by the European Union to try to resolve outstanding issues but little progress has been made.

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With Death of Celtics Great and Civil Rights Activist Bill Russell, World ‘Lost A Giant’

Bill Russell, the cornerstone of a Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 NBA titles and a powerful voice for social justice, died Sunday at the age of 88, his family said. 

“Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side,” said a statement posted on Russell’s Twitter page. 

U.S. President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama – who awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 – were among those who paid tribute to Russell’s contributions on and off the court. 

“The promise of America is that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives,” Biden said in a statement. “We’ve never fully lived up to that promise, but Bill Russell made sure we never walked away from it.”

Eight titles in a row 

Russell’s 11 titles with the Celtics included eight in a row from 1959-1966. Today’s NBA Finals MVP award is named for him. 

He averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game for his career, building a famed rivalry with Wilt Chamberlain in the 1960s. 

Russell became the first Black coach in the NBA when he served as player-coach of the Celtics in 1966 and the first Black player inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975. 

His skills revolutionized the NBA game, but Biden noted that throughout his stellar career Russell “faced the hostility and hate of racism embedded in every part of American life. Yet, he never gave up. Throughout his life, he forced us to confront hard truths. And on this day, there are generations of Americans who are reflecting on what he meant to them as someone who played for the essential truth that every person is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.” 

Russell’s family said his “understanding of the struggle is what illuminated his life.” 

“Bill called out injustice with an unforgiving candor that he intended would disrupt the status quo, and with a powerful example that, though never his humble intention, will forever inspire teamwork, selflessness and thoughtful change.” 

Obama said the world had “lost a giant.” 

“As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher – both as a player and as a person,” Obama said in a statement posted on Twitter. 

“Perhaps more than anyone else, Bill knew what it took to win and what it took to lead. On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Off of it, he was a civil rights trailblazer, marching with Dr. King and standing with Muhammad Ali,” said Obama. “For decades, Bill endured insults and vandalism, but never let it stop him from speaking up for what’s right. I learned so much from the way he played, the way he coached, and the way he lived his life.” 

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called Russell “the greatest champion in all of team sports,” but added that his accolades “only begin to tell the story of Bill’s immense impact on our league and broader society. 

“Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league,” Silver said. 

‘Making things better’ 

Those beliefs, more than his prowess on the court, were what inspired Magic Johnson’s love of Russell, the Lakers legend said on Sunday as he joined in an outpouring of tributes. 

“He was one of the first athletes on the front line fighting for social justice, equity, equality, and civil rights,” Johnson said. “Over the course of our friendship, he always reminded me about making things better in the Black community.” 

Current Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown remembered the franchise legend, the club saying in a statement that “Bill Russell’s DNA is woven through every element of the Celtics organization.” 

Michael Jordan, who for many inherited the mantle of greatest-ever NBA player from Russell, said Russell “paved the way and set an example for every Black player who came into the league after him, including me.”

In a sentiment echoed by former New York Knicks great Patrick Ewing, “the world has lost a legend,” said Jordan.

Posted by Worldkrap on

California Sees Its Largest 2022 Fire as Flames Spread in US West

Crews battling the largest wildfire so far this year in California braced for thunderstorms and hot, windy conditions that created the potential for more fire growth Sunday as they sought to protect remote communities.

The McKinney Fire was burning out of control in Northern California’s Klamath National Forest, with expected thunderstorms a big concern Sunday just south of the Oregon state line, said U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Adrienne Freeman.

“The fuel beds are so dry, and they can just erupt from that lightning,” Freeman said. “These thunder cells come with gusty erratic winds that can blow fire in every direction.”

The blaze exploded in size to more than 207 square kilometers just two days after erupting in a largely unpopulated area of Siskiyou County, according to a Sunday incident report. The cause was under investigation.

The blaze torched trees along California Highway 96, and the scorched remains of a pickup truck sat in a lane of the highway. Thick smoke covered the area and flames burned through hillsides in sight of homes.

A second, smaller fire just to the west that was sparked by dry lightning on Saturday threatened the tiny town of Seiad, Freeman said. About 400 structures were under threat from the two California fires. Authorities have not confirmed the extent of the damage yet, saying assessments would begin when it was safe to reach the area.

A third fire, which was on the southwest end of the McKinney blaze, prompted evacuation orders for around 500 homes Sunday, said Courtney Kreider, a spokesperson with the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office. The office said crews had been on the scene of the fire since late Saturday but that the fire Sunday morning “escaped its containment line.”

Several people in the sheriff’s office have been affected by the evacuation orders “and they’re still showing up to work so, (a) very dedicated crew,” she said. A deputy lost his childhood home to fire on Friday, she said.

As the McKinney fire threatened, some residents chose to stay behind while others heeded orders to leave.

Larry Castle and his wife, Nancy, were among about 2,000 residents of the Yreka area under evacuation orders. They left Saturday with some of their prized possessions, including Larry’s motorcycle, and took their dogs to stay with their daughter near Mount Shasta.

Larry Castle said he wasn’t taking any chances after seeing the explosive growth of major fires in recent years.

“You look back at the Paradise fire and the Santa Rosa fire and you realize this stuff is very, very serious,” he told the Sacramento Bee.

Montana and Idaho

In northwest Montana, a fire sparked in grasslands near the town of Elmo had grown to about 44 square km after advancing into forest. Crews were working along the edges of the fire Sunday, and aircraft were expected to continue to make water and retardant drops to help slow the fire’s advance, said Sara Rouse, a spokesperson with the interagency team assigned to the fire. High temperatures and erratic winds were expected, she said.

A section of Highway 28 between Hot Springs and Elmo that had been closed was reopened with drivers asked to watch for fire and emergency personnel. Visibility in the area was poor, Rouse said.

In Idaho, the Moose Fire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest has burned on more than 196 square km in timber land near the town of Salmon. It was 21% contained by Sunday morning. Pila Malolo, planning operations section chief on the fire, said in a Facebook video update that hot, dry conditions were expected to persist Sunday. Officials said they expected fire to grow in the steep, rugged country on the fire’s south side.

Elsewhere in the West

Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

The Pacific Coast Trail Association urged hikers to get to the nearest town while the U.S. Forest Service closed a 177 km section of the trail from the Etna Summit to the Mt. Ashland Campground in southern Oregon.

In Hawaii, the Maui County Emergency Management Agency said a brush fire was 90% contained but a red flag warning was in effect for much of Sunday.

And in north Texas, firefighters continued to work to contain the 2-week-old, 27-square-kilometer Chalk Mountain Fire. The crews now report 83% containment of the fire that has destroyed 16 homes and damaged five others about 80 kilometers southwest of Fort Worth. No injuries have been reported.