Серед підсанкційних осіб – російськими окупантами так званий «голова Херсонської області» Сальдо та його заступник Стремоусов
U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to “do all you can” to bring home her and other Americans detained in Russia.
Griner’s representatives shared parts of the letter Monday.
“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” Griner wrote.
Griner was arrested in February on charges of possessing cannabis oil. Her trial began last week and is set to resume Thursday.
U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Monday that Griner is being wrongfully detained and that the Biden administration “continues to work aggressively — using every available means — to bring her home.”
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.
Police in the midwestern U.S. state of Illinois have captured a man they have labeled a “person of interest” in Monday’s deadly shooting attack on an Independence Day parade.
Twenty-two-year old Robert E. Crimo III (the Third) was taken into custody hours after a brief car chase just outside of Highland Park, a wealthy suburb of Chicago, where six people were killed and more than 30 others wounded when a gunman opened fire on parade goers from the rooftop of a building along the route.
Police said five people died at the scene, while another person died at a nearby hospital. The Mexican Foreign Ministry says one of those killed was a Mexican national.
A doctor at a Highland Park hospital says they received 26 wounded people from the parade between eight and 85 years of age.
Cellphone video captured scores of people running from the scene in panic as the sound of rapid gunfire echoed loudly off nearby buildings. Lawn chairs, baby strollers, portable food containers and other objects were scattered along the parade route, abandoned by people who ran for cover.
U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement saying he and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, were “shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.”
The Highland Park shooting occurred more than a week after President Biden signed the first major federal gun violence bill passed by Congress in decades. The bipartisan compromise bill was passed after two mass shootings in May, including a racist attack that left 10 people dead at a grocery store in a black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, and a rampage at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 schoolchildren and two teachers dead.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.
The U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet is starting to offer rewards for information that could help sailors intercept weapons, drugs and other illicit shipments across the region amid tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and Tehran’s arming of Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
While avoiding directly mentioning Iran, the 5th Fleet’s decision to offer cash and other goods for actionable intelligence in the Persian Gulf and other strategic waterways may increase pressure on the flow of weapons to the Houthis as a shaky cease-fire still holds in Yemen.
Already, the Houthis have threatened a new allied task force organized by the 5th Fleet in the Red Sea, though there’s been no attack by the Iranian-backed forces on the Navy in the time since.
Meanwhile, the 5th Fleet says it and its partners seized $500 million in drugs alone in 2021 — more than the four prior years combined. The 5th Fleet also intercepted 9,000 weapons in the same period, three times the number seized in 2020.
“Any destabilizing activity has our attention,” Commander Timothy Hawkins, a 5th Fleet spokesman, told The Associated Press. “Definitely we have seen in the last year skyrocketing success in seizing both illegal narcotics and illicit weapons. This represents another step in our effort to enhance regional maritime security.”
The 5th Fleet’s new initiative launches on Tuesday through the Department of Defense Rewards Program, which saw troops offer cash and goods for tips on the battlefields in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere after al-Qaida launched the September 11, 2001, attacks. Since ground fighting has largely halted across the region, the 5th Fleet decided to use the program as it patrols the waterways of the Middle East.
Hawkins said operators fluent in Arabic, English and Farsi would man a hotline, while the Navy also would take tips additionally online, in Dari and Pashto. Payouts can be as high as $100,000 or the equivalent in vehicles, boats or food for tips that also include information on planned attacks targeting Americans, Hawkins said.
It’s unclear whether the 5th Fleet’s uptick in seizures represents a return to shipping after the coronavirus pandemic or an increase overall in the number of illicit shipments in the region. Traffickers typically use stateless dhows, traditional wooden sailing craft common in the Mideast, to transport drugs and weapons.
One destination for weapons appears to be Yemen. The Houthis seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in September 2014 and forced the internationally recognized government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition armed with U.S. weaponry and intelligence entered the war on the side of Yemen’s exiled government in March 2015. Years of inconclusive fighting has pushed the Arab world’s poorest nation to the brink of famine. A truce that began around the holy Muslim month of Ramadan appears for now to still be holding.
Despite a United Nations Security Council arms embargo on Yemen, Iran long has been transferring rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, missiles and other weaponry to the Houthis. Though Iran denies arming the Houthis, independent experts, Western nations and U.N. experts have traced components back to Iran.
Asked about whether new seizures could increase tensions with Iran, Hawkins listed the weapons and drugs the Navy hoped to intercept under the program.
“That’s what we’re after,” the commander said. “That’s not in the interest of regional stability and security.”
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Navy and Iran continue to have tense encounters in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all oil traded passes.
The rewards program marks the latest initiative under 5th Fleet Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, who also launched a drone task force last year amid tensions with Iran.
Cooper’s other effort, the Red Sea task force, has drawn criticism from the Houthis in the past. The rebel group, which has repeatedly denied being armed by Iran, did not respond to a request for comment on the new Navy program.
However, Ali al-Qahom, a Houthi official, tweeted last week that the rebels are monitoring increased U.S. activity in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf waters.
“Because of this, defense and confrontation options are open,” he said. “They and their diabolical projects have no place” in the region.
Frankfurter-munching phenom Joey “Jaws” Chestnut put a protester in a chokehold while gobbling his way to a 15th win Monday at the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, powering down 63 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes at the annual exhibition of excess.
In a decisive chow-down comeback, women’s record-holder Miki Sudo downed 40 wieners and buns to win the women’s title after skipping last year’s frank fest because she was pregnant.
A spectator wearing a Darth Vader mask rushed the stage, momentarily disrupting the competition. Chestnut put the protester in a brief chokehold before contest officials hurried over and escorted the intruder away.
Another protester in a white storm trooper mask sneaked behind the competitors and hoisted a sign saying, “Expose Smithfield’s Deathstar.” Smithfield manufactures Nathan’s hot dogs.
After the altercation, Chestnut went back to the task at hand: devouring more hot dogs.
Monday marked the contest’s return to its traditional location outside Nathan’s flagship shop in Brooklyn’s Coney Island neighborhood. The event was relocated in 2020 and last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s beautiful to be back here,” Chestnut told ESPN and a throng of spectators after his feat, which the 38-year-old managed while wearing a surgical boot because of a leg injury.
“It hurts, but I was in the zone for a little bit. I was ignoring it,” said Chestnut, but the pain eventually slowed his pace in the 10-minute competition.
Last year, the Westfield, Indiana, resident topped his own record by consuming 76 franks and buns.
Sudo, of Tampa, Florida, set the women’s record at 48 1/2 wieners and buns in 2020, before taking last year off while expecting. She and Nick Wehry — a fellow competitive eater whom she met through the Nathan’s contest in 2018 — welcomed son Max on July 8, 2021.
From dad’s arms, the baby watched his 36-year-old mother notch her eighth Nathan’s win. She told ESPN afterward that she hoped he would someday take a message away from it.
“I want to set an example,” she said, “to do things that you love and push yourself to your absolute limits and, when things get difficult, to still give it a try. And, you know, you might actually just come out victorious.”
Sudo then took over parenting duties while Wehry tried for the men’s title.
In conjunction with the spectacle, Nathan’s donates 100,000 franks to the Food Bank for New York City.
U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden celebrated July Fourth on Monday, offering a message of optimism and unity at a time when polls suggest most Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction and political polarization is a top concern.
“America is always becoming, always on the move, always a work in progress,” Biden said alongside the first lady in remarks during an Independence Day BBQ celebration with military families at the White House. “Progress. Forward motion. The creation of possibilities, the fulfillment of promises,” he added.
Biden suggested that better days lay ahead even as he acknowledged the struggles Americans are going through under the country’s high inflation.
“Our economy is growing but not without pain,” he said.
Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the economy. In an AP-NORC poll released Wednesday, 79% described the economy as poor, including 90% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats.
Overall, the poll showed 85% of American adults say that the country is headed in the wrong direction, including 92% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats — the highest number among Democrats since Biden took office.
“After doing the hard work of laying the foundation for a better future, the worst of our past has reached out and pulled us back on occasion,” Biden said, alluding to the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the federal constitutional right for women to have abortions.
“That freedom has been reduced, that rights we assumed we’re protected are no longer,” he said, calling it a reminder of the “ongoing battle for the soul of America.”
While the ruling does away with nearly half a century of Supreme Court precedent, conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the long-standing principle of adherence to precedent is “not a straitjacket” and that Roe was “egregiously wrong and deeply damaging.”
“I know it can be exhausting and unsettling,” Biden said. “But tonight, I want you to know that we’re going to get through all of this.”
A poll by Reuters/Ipsos released Wednesday showed that Americans from Biden’s own party, Democrats, are increasingly dissatisfied following the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, with 62% of Democrats saying the country is heading in the wrong direction, up from 49% the week before. The level of Republican dissatisfaction went down to 86%, down slightly from 94% a week earlier.
As polarization ranked third across a list of 20 issues that are of top concerns of Americans, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, Biden sought to rally Americans to unite.
“We’ve been tested before, just as we’re being tested today,” he said. “But we’ve never failed because we have never walked away from the core beliefs and promises that define this nation.”
The first couple later watched fireworks displays from their residence balcony, while below them hundreds of military family members and administration staff enjoyed the show from blankets and picnic tables on the White House lawn.
Another mass shooting
Independence Day celebrations in the United States were marred by a shooting Monday at a parade in the Midwestern city of Highland Park in the state of Illinois that left at least six people dead.
Biden did not directly address the shooting in his remarks.
“Y’all heard what happened today,” he said. “But each day we’re reminded there’s nothing guaranteed about our democracy. Nothing guaranteed about our way of life. We have to fight for it.”
Later in the evening, the president led a brief moment of silence in honor of the victims.
Authorities said a 22-year-old man named as a person of interest in the shooting was taken into police custody Monday evening after an hours-long manhunt.
Gunfire broke out just 10 minutes after the parade began about 10 a.m. Monday in the city of 30,000, about 40 kilometers north of Chicago. Police said 30 other people were hospitalized after the shooting.
Last week marked the seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that legalized same-sex marriage across America, overriding bans in more than a dozen states and granting gay and lesbian wedded couples the same rights and legal protections that married heterosexuals enjoy.
The months and years leading up to the high court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges saw an impassioned outcry from LGBTQ rights opponents, who argued same-sex marriage would destroy the traditional family and the institution of marriage itself.
In the years since, evidence to support such dire predictions has been hard to find. U.S. marriage rates were declining long before same-sex couples gained the right to wed. To the extent the trend has continued since 2015, researchers point to a slew of economic and sociological factors other than same-sex unions.
Meanwhile, an ever-growing number gay and lesbian people have embraced wedlock. The U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent data, from 2020, showed more than 570,000 households belonged to married same-sex couples, equating to more than 1.1 million people.
“We finally have the same rights as other couples who love each other,” said Jill Spragio, an administrator at a New Orleans, Louisiana-based information technology company, speaking with VOA. Spragio and her partner married the year before the Obergefell ruling, in Illinois, where same-sex marriage was already legal.
“But we weren’t recognized as married in Louisiana until the Supreme Court’s decision in 2015,” she said. “We just wanted to be treated the same as our heterosexual married friends. Now, if one of us gets sick, the hospital can’t throw us out of the room, and we can make decisions for each other as spouses. We can be entitled to our partner’s Social Security if we survive them. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is.”
Opponents of the decision, however, insist allowing gay marriage has done harm.
“My concern is that it’s damaged the institution of marriage and families, of course,” Mathew Staver, Chairperson of the Liberty Counsel, told VOA, “but it’s also damaged our Constitution. It’s a decision with no legal foundation, and a house built on sand will eventually fall.”
Marriage as stability
Molly Bourg, who works in the food and beverage industry in New Orleans, was a senior in college at the time of Obergefell v. Hodges. Bourg, who prefers non-gender specific pronouns, said the ruling changed their thoughts about what was possible in their life.
“I didn’t even come out as gay until after the decision,” Bourg told VOA. “Once something is legal it feels more socially acceptable. Before that, though, I felt like, ‘Why put myself out there just to be rejected by the community I grew up in?'”
Bourg remembers, for example, watching their siblings lean on their family for support during high school and college breakups.
“Meanwhile when I had my first heartbreak, I remember having to struggle through it alone because I was too scared to tell anybody,” they said, noting it’s just one of the many ways life was more difficult for someone in the LGBTQ community.
Today, however, with same-sex marriage legal across the country, things feel more normal, said Bourg.
“My partner and I can talk about life and marriage plans that are two or three years down the line just like everyone else,” they said. “It feels safe and domestic, and I like having that security. I imagine anyone would.”
Increasingly vocal minority
Polls show Americans increasingly back same-sex marriage. According to Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted in May, 71% of Americans say they support the right of gay and lesbian people to wed. This is a record high, up from 70% the year before.
When the poll was first conducted by Gallup in 1996, only 27% of the country supported same-sex marriage, indicating a steady shift in the public’s perception of such unions —even among Republican voters.
“I hope they have all the rights of a traditional family,” said Jillian Dani, a Republican voter from Merritt Island, Florida, who added she believes the U.S. Constitution leaves it to the states to decide such matters.
The Gallup poll revealed one group that still opposes gay marriage: Americans who say they attend church weekly. Only 40% of regular churchgoers say they are in favor of same-sex unions.
“I don’t think Obergefell had any effect on the institution of marriage and it had no effect on me,” said Judi Thompson, a self-proclaimed supporter of former President Donald Trump from Garland, Texas. “I just think the decision was disgusting, to be honest. According to God’s law, marriage is between a man and a woman, and I’d like to see the Supreme Court correct its earlier decision.”
Preparing for battle
The Supreme Court recently hinted that Thompson could get her wish.
In last month’s contentious decision on abortion, the high court’s energized conservative majority overturned nearly 50 years of precedent and ruled that individual states can decide whether to allow or ban the procedure.
Many LGBTQ people and their allies worry the Supreme Court won’t stop with abortion. They fear the same reasoning used to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortions nationwide, will be used to overturn decisions that expanded rights for other groups, as well.
Justice Clarence Thomas bolstered this theory in his concurring opinion last month overturning Roe.
“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this court’s substantive due process precedents,” he wrote, “including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”
The Supreme Court’s 1965 ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut set forth the right of married couples to use contraceptives. In 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, the high court struck down state laws across America that penalized sodomy.
“I think it’s a matter of when — not if — they start coming for us, one case at a time,” said James Knoblach, a member of the LGBTQ community and vice president for a public relations and digital marketing firm in New York City. “You saw it in Thomas’ opinion, and I wouldn’t put it past this illegitimate court to go as far as criminalizing homosexuality in their bid to turn our democracy into a theocracy.”
Bourg from New Orleans agreed.
“Thomas didn’t just mention Obergefell,” they said. “He mentioned Lawrence v. Texas, as well. They’re not just looking to deny us marriage, they’re looking to criminalize what goes on in the bedroom, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has publicly said he’d defend an anti-sodomy law if it was brought to him.”
The LGBTQ community’s fears are well founded, said Staver from the Liberty Counsel.
“Reversing Obergefell is inevitable,” he said.
It will fall, Staver believes, because of what he calls a “baseless decision from Justices who imposed their own ideology untethered from the Constitution,” but also because of the harm he feels it does to the families in America.
“There is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage, and, because of that, Obergefell is doomed,” he said. “And that’s a good thing because same-sex marriage permanently deprives children of a mother or father, and it casts a negative view on the absent gender.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, however, “no legitimate research has demonstrated that same-sex couples are any more or any less harmful than heterosexual couples.”
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry affirmed in a 2013 study that “current research shows that children with gay and lesbian parents do not differ from children with heterosexual parents in their emotional development or in their relationships with peers and adults.”
Still, many in the LGBTQ community are preparing for the worst.
“You could feel it in last month’s Pride Parade,” explained Knoblach of New York City, referring to the LGBTQ celebrations held annually throughout the month of June. “There was a defiance in the crowd you don’t usually feel — a sense there is a fight coming and we’re not going to back down.”
Outside of parades, individuals like Bourg and their partner are also preparing.
“We’ve already discussed general options if Obergefell and other decisions are overturned,” Bourg said. “I have no doubt if that’s the case, then my home state of Louisiana will be outlawing same-sex marriage.”
This would set up a very difficult decision for Bourg and many LGBTQ people like them.
“Louisiana is my home. My family is here. And if the Supreme Court stays in this direction, I will have to choose between my family and my home, or having a chance to marry the person I love. That’s … heartbreaking.”
At least six people died and 24 were wounded in a shooting at a July Fourth parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, and officers are searching for a suspect who likely fired on the festivities from a rooftop, police said Monday.
Highland Park Police Commander Chris O’Neill, the incident commander on the scene, urged people to shelter in place as authorities search for the suspect, described as a white male wearing a white or blue T-shirt.
Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said at a news conference that the gunman apparently opened fire on parade-goers from a rooftop using a rifle that was recovered at the scene. He didn’t know which building.
Covelli said police believe there was only one shooter and warned that he should still be considered armed and dangerous.
Police have not released any details about the victims or wounded.
The parade began around 10 a.m. but was suddenly halted about 10 minutes later after shots were fired. Hundreds of parade-goers — some visibly bloodied — fled the parade route, leaving behind chairs, baby strollers, plush toys, bicycles and blankets.
Police told people, “Everybody disperse, please. It is not safe to be here.”
Highland Park Police said in a statement early Monday afternoon that five people had been killed and 19 people were taken to hospitals. Those numbers were revised soon after at the news conference.
Video shot by a Chicago Sun-Times journalist after the gunfire rang out shows a band on a float continuing to play as people ran past, screaming.
Gina Troiani and her son were lined up with his day care class ready to walk onto the parade route when she heard a loud sound that she believed was fireworks — until she heard people yell about a shooter.
“We just start running in the opposite direction,” she told The Associated Press.
Her 5-year-old son was riding his bike decorated with red and blue curled ribbons. He and other children in the group held small American flags. The city said on its website that the festivities were to include a children’s bike and pet parade.
Troiani said she pushed her son’s bike, running through the neighborhood to get back to their car.
In a video that Troiani shot on her phone, some of the kids are visibly startled at the loud noise and scramble to the side of the road as a siren wailed nearby.
It was just sort of chaos,” she said. “There were people that got separated from their families, looking for them. Others just dropped their wagons, grabbed their kids and started running.”
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said in a tweet that he is “closely monitoring the situation in Highland Park” and that Illinois State Police are assisting.
Debbie Glickman, a Highland Park resident, said she was on a parade float with co-workers and the group was preparing to turn onto the main route when she saw people running from the area.
“People started saying, ‘There’s a shooter. There’s a shooter. There’s a shooter,'” Glickman told AP. “So, we just ran. We just ran. It’s like mass chaos down there.”
She didn’t hear any noises or see anyone who appeared to be injured.
“I’m so freaked out,” she said. “It’s just so sad.”
Americans are hitting the roads and skies in numbers not seen since before the pandemic to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
The mass of travelers for the holiday, also known as Independence Day, is testing airlines and airports, which have struggled to keep up with demand.
Hundreds of flights were canceled Friday and thousands more were delayed, according to the flight tracking site, FlightAware.
More than 2.4 million travelers got an early start to the weekend, making their way through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints. That surpassed levels from before the pandemic in 2019 and was 13.8% higher than the number of travelers last year, according to TSA data.
Travel by car is also expected to be heavy.
The auto membership group, AAA, predicts 47.9 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home over the holiday weekend. That is slightly less than the number of travelers in 2019 but comes despite near-record high gas prices.
Last year’s Fourth of July holiday was expected to coincide with a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, however new surges of the virus at that time put a damper on the celebrations in some locations.
This year, most places in America have lifted COVID restrictions and federal airline regulations allow for mask-free travel.
The uptick in travel and vacations has left airlines struggling to keep up. Many encouraged their workers to quit or take early retirement in the early days of the pandemic when travel virtually came to a halt. Now they are having difficulty hiring and training new workers and many airlines have cut their summer schedule to try to prevent the chaos of last-minute flight cancelations.
About 3.55 million Americans are expected to fly this holiday weekend, AAA said.
While travel is heavy during the Fourth of July holiday, many more Americans stay home and enjoy backyard barbecues, picnics and neighborhood parades.
The holiday celebrates the country’s independence from Britain on July 4, 1776, when delegates from the 13 U.S. colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, announcing the severing of ties with Britain.
Fireworks are one of the hallmarks of Independence Day celebrations, with thousands of communities across the nation organizing annual displays, including one of the largest displays set off in Washington, the nation’s capital.
Each state has its own laws governing fireworks sales and use, but many also allow individuals to set off fireworks in their own backyards.
Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press and Reuters.