Category: Новини

Stoltenberg: Record number of NATO allies hitting defense spending targets during war in Ukraine

Washington — A record more than 20 NATO member nations are hitting the Western military alliance’s defense spending target this year, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday, as Russia’s war in Ukraine has raised the threat of expanding conflict in Europe.

The estimated figure is a nearly fourfold increase from 2021 in the number of the 32 NATO members meeting the alliance’s defense spending guideline. Only six nations were meeting the goal that year, before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“Europeans are doing more for their collective security than just a few years ago,” Stoltenberg said in a speech at the Wilson Center research group before meeting with President Joe Biden later Monday at the White House.

NATO members agreed last year to spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense. The surge in spending reflects the worries about the war in Ukraine.

Some countries also are concerned about the possible reelection of former President Donald Trump, who has characterized many NATO allies as freeloading on U.S. military spending and said on the campaign trail that he would not defend NATO members that don’t meet defense spending targets.

Stoltenberg’s visit is laying the groundwork for what’s expected to be a pivotal summit of NATO leaders in Washington next month. The mutual-defense alliance has grown in strength and size since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago, with both Sweden and Finland joining.

Defense spending by many European countries fell after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union seemed to neutralize what was then the prime security threat to the West.

But after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, NATO members unanimously agreed to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense within a decade. The full-scale invasion that Putin launched in 2022 spurred European countries newly on the front line of a war in the heart of Europe to put more resources into meeting that target.

Much of the focus of the summit is expected to address what NATO and NATO member governments can do for Ukraine as it faces unrelenting air and ground attacks from its more powerful neighbor. They so far have resisted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s appeals to take his country into the bloc as long as the war is still on.

Stoltenberg pointed to efforts to bolster Ukraine in the meantime. That includes NATO streamlining the eventual membership process for Ukraine, and individual NATO nations providing updated arms and training to Ukraine’s military, including the U.S. giving it F-16s and bringing Ukrainian pilots to the U.S. for training on the advanced aircraft.

“The idea is to move them so close to membership that when the time comes, when there is consensus, they can become a member straight away,” Stoltenberg said.

However Russia’s offensive concludes, only taking Ukraine into the alliance will dissuade Putin from trying again in the future to conquer Ukraine, the NATO chief said.

“When the fighting ends, NATO membership” for Ukraine “assures that the war really ends,” he said.

The prospect of Ukraine joining NATO has long been anathema to Putin, and it was one of his stated motivations for seizing Crimea. He offered last week to order an immediate cease-fire if Ukraine renounced plans to join the alliance, an offer that was dismissed by Ukraine.

A weekend conference held in Switzerland was billed as a first step toward peace and ended with pledges to work toward a resolution but had few concrete deliverables. It was attended largely by Western nations and Russia was not invited. China sat it out and then India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Mexico did not sign the meeting’s final document Sunday.

Kyiv’s outgunned and outnumbered forces are battling to hold back the bigger Russian army, which has taken over chunks of territory after pollical squabbles led to delays in delivering U.S. and European military aid. Ukraine has been short of troops, ammunition and air defenses in recent months as the Kremlin’s forces try to cripple the national power supply and punch through the front line in eastern parts of the country.

Putin dismisses deputy defense ministers, replaces one with ‘close relative’

Supreme Court decision keeps guns at center of US presidential race 

The U.S. Supreme Court last week struck down a ban on a gun accessory that allows many semiautomatic weapons to fire like machine guns. The decision keeps guns and gun owners at the center of this U.S. presidential campaign. VOA correspondent Scott Stearns has our story.

EU countries approve landmark nature law after delays

BRUSSELS — European Union countries approved a flagship policy to restore damaged nature on Monday, after months of delay, making it the first green law to pass since European Parliament elections this month. 

The nature restoration law is among the EU’s biggest environmental policies, requiring member states to introduce measures restoring nature on a fifth of their land and sea by 2030. 

EU countries’ environment ministers backed the policy at a meeting in Luxembourg, meaning it can now pass into law. 

The vote was held after Austria’s environment minister, Leonore Gewessler of the Greens, defied her conservative coalition partners by pledging to back the policy — giving it just enough support to pass. 

“I know I will face opposition in Austria on this, but I am convinced that this is the time to adopt this law,” Gewessler told reporters. 

The policy aims to reverse the decline of Europe’s natural habitats — 81% of which are classed as being in poor health — and includes specific targets, for example to restore peat lands so they can absorb CO2 emissions. 

The move by Austria’s minister angered Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s conservative People’s Party, which opposes the law. The OVP minister for EU affairs, Karoline Edtstadler, said Gewessler’s vote in favor would be unconstitutional. 

Belgium, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency and chairs meetings of ministers, said the Austrian government dispute would not affect the legality of the EU ministers’ vote. 

EU countries and the European Parliament negotiated a deal on the law last year but it has come under fire from some governments in recent months amid protests by farmers angry at costly EU regulations. 

Finland, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden voted against the law on Monday. Belgium abstained. 

EU countries had planned to approve the policy in March but called off the vote after Hungary unexpectedly withdrew its support, wiping out the slim majority in favor. 

Countries including the Netherlands had raised concerns the policy would slow the expansion of wind farms and other economic activities, while Poland on Monday said the policy lacked a plan for how nature protection would be funded.

Historic ocean liner SS United States ordered out of its berth in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA — The SS United States, a historic ship that still holds the transatlantic speed record it set more than 70 years ago, must leave its berth on the Delaware River in Philadelphia by September 12, a federal judge says.

The decision issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody culminated a years-old rent dispute between the conservancy that oversees the 1,000-foot ocean liner and its landlord, Penn Warehousing. It stemmed from an August 2021 decision by Penn Warehousing to double the ship’s daily dockage to $1,700, an increase the conservancy refused to accept.

When the conservancy continued to pay its previous rate, set in 2011, Penn Warehousing terminated the lease in March 2022. After much legal wrangling, Brody held a bench trial in January but also encouraged the two sides to reach a settlement instead of leaving it up to her.

The judge ultimately ruled that the conservancy’s failure to pay the new rate did not amount to a contract breach or entitle Penn Warehousing to damages. But she also ruled that under Pennsylvania contract law, the berthing agreement is terminable at will with reasonable notice, which Penn Warehousing had issued in March 2022.

“The judge’s decision gives us a very limited window to find a new home for the SS United States and raise the resources necessary to move the ship and keep her safe,” Susan Gibbs, conservancy president and granddaughter of the ship’s designer, told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Besides finding a new home, the conservancy also must obtain funds for insurance, tugs, surveys and dock preparations for a move.

“The best hope of everyone involved was that the conservancy could successfully repurpose the ship,” said Craig Mills, an attorney for Penn Warehousing. “But after decades of decay and delay, it is time to acknowledge the unavoidable and return Pier 82 to productive commercial service.”

Christened in 1952, the SS United States was once considered a beacon of American engineering, doubling as a military vessel that could carry thousands of troops. On its maiden voyage in 1952, it shattered the transatlantic speed record in both directions, when it reached an average speed of 36 knots, or just over 41 mph (66 kph), The Associated Press reported from aboard the ship.

On that voyage, the ship crossed the Atlantic in three days, 10 hours and 40 minutes, besting the RMS Queen Mary’s time by 10 hours. To this day, the SS United States holds the transatlantic speed record for an ocean liner.

It became a reserve ship in 1969 and later bounced to various private owners who hoped to redevelop it but eventually found their plans to be too expensive or poorly timed.

It has loomed for years on south Philadelphia’s Delaware waterfront.

Homesick refugees risk return to Ukraine despite war

Nearly 6.5 million – that is the number of Ukrainian refugees the United Nations counts in the third year of Russia’s full-scale invasion. According to the world body’s latest report, most of them hope to return home one day. Lesia Bakalets talked to Ukrainians who have already done so. VOA footage by Vladyslav Smilianets.

Ukraine peace summit ends with call for a ‘just peace’

Nearly 80 of the countries represented at the Ukraine peace summit agreed that territorial integrity and the principles of international law and the U.N. charter should be the basis for peace talks to end Russia’s war on Ukraine. Eastern Europe bureau chief Myroslava Gongadze has the story from Switzerland. VOA footage and editing by Daniil Batushchak.

University of Michigan didn’t assess if Israel-Hamas war protests made environment hostile, feds say 

Washington — The University of Michigan failed to assess whether protests and other incidents on campus in response to the Israel-Hamas war created a hostile environment for students, staff and faculty, according to the results of an investigation by the U.S. Education Department announced Monday.

The department’s Office of Civil Rights investigated 75 instances of alleged discrimination and harassment based on shared Jewish ancestry and shared Palestinian or Muslim ancestry. The investigation found that the university’s responses did not meet its Title VI requirements to remedy the hostile environment.

In one instance, when a Jewish student reported being called out for viewing a graduate student instructor’s social media post about pro-Palestinian topics, the university told the student that “formal conflict resolution is not a path forward at this time,” because the incident occurred on social media.

In another instance, when a student who participated in a pro-Palestinian protest was called a “terrorist,” the university said it held “restorative circles” to address the incident but did not take further action.

In its resolution agreement, the University of Michigan agreed to administer a climate assessment, implement additional training and revise its policies as necessary. It also agreed to monitoring by the Office of Civil Rights through the end of the 2026 school year, reporting its responses to future incidents of discrimination to the department.

It’s the first investigation to reach a conclusion among dozens launched by the Education Department since Oct. 7, the day Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel.

Complaints of antisemitism and Islamophobia have led to inquiries at more than 100 universities and school districts, including Harvard and Yale, community colleges and public schools from Los Angeles to suburban Minneapolis.

The complaints vary widely but all accuse schools of violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin. Colleges and schools are required to protect students from discrimination, and when they don’t, the Education Department can invoke penalties up to termination of federal money.

Protests over the Israel-Hamas war upended the final weeks of the school year at many campuses across the country, with some cancelling graduation ceremonies or moving classes online after Pro-Palestinian protesters set up encampments in campus spaces.

The protests have tested schools as they aim to balance free speech rights and the safety of students. The Education Department has issued guidance detailing schools’ responsibilities around Title VI, but the results of the agency’s investigations could provide a clearer line showing where political speech crosses into harassment.

Finding that boundary has been a struggle for colleges as they grapple with rhetoric that has different meaning to different people. Some chants commonly used by pro-Palestinian activists are seen by some as antisemitic.

Some of the federal complaints under investigation argue that those phrases should be barred, including “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “intifada revolution.”

Meanwhile, some complaints say Arab and Muslim students have faced abuses only to be ignored by campus officials. At Harvard, the Education Department is investigating separate complaints, one over alleged antisemitism and the other over alleged Islamophobia.

More investigations are expected to be resolved in the coming weeks, but Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said his agency is struggling to keep up with the influx of cases.

Republicans have rejected requests to increase money for the Office for Civil Rights in recent years, while the average case load increased to 42 per investigator in 2023. Without more money, that figure could increase to more than 70 cases per investigator, Cardona has said.

“We are desperately in need of additional support to make sure we can investigate the cases that we have in front of us,” Cardona told members of the House in May.

On average, cases take about six to eight months to resolve. The vast majority of the agency’s civil rights investigations end with voluntary resolutions. Schools usually promise to resolve any lingering problems and take steps to protect students in the future.

While the Education Department investigates, several colleges and school districts have separately been called before Congress to answer allegations of antisemitism. Republicans have held a series of hearings on the issue, grilling leaders accused of tolerating antisemitism.

The hearings contributed to the resignations of some college leaders, including Liz Magill at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard’s Claudine Gay, who was also embroiled in accusations of plagiarism.

NASA space mission to launch artificial star into space

China launches anti-dumping probe into EU pork imports

BEIJING — China said Monday it had launched an anti-dumping investigation into imports of pork products from the European Union.

The probe is in response to an application submitted on behalf of domestic producers, Beijing said, and comes in the face of mounting trade tensions between China and the EU.

“The Ministry of Commerce has opened an anti-dumping investigation into imports of relevant pork and pig by-products originating from the European Union,” the ministry said in a statement.

China has criticized the bloc’s decision last week to slap additional tariffs of up to 38 percent on Chinese electric car imports from next month after an anti-subsidy probe.

The European Commission pointed to “unfair subsidization” in China, which it said “is causing a threat of economic injury” to EU electric car makers.

Beijing warned the tariffs would “harm Europe’s own interests” and condemned the bloc’s “protectionism”.

Pork is China’s most popular meat and a staple of diets in the world’s second most populous nation.

US soldier tells Russian court he did not threaten to kill his girlfriend

Spending on nuclear weapons hit $91.4 billion in 2023, watchdog finds

GENEVA — The world’s nine nuclear-armed states together spent $91.4 billion last year, or nearly $3,000 per second, as they “continue to modernize, and in some cases expand their arsenals,” according to a report issued Monday by ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

“This money is effectively being wasted given that the nuclear-armed states agree that a nuclear war can never be won and should never be fought,” Alicia Sanders-Zakre, co-author of the report, told journalists in Geneva last week in advance of the report’s publication.

For example, she said, $91.4 billion a year “could pay for wind power for more than 12 million homes to combat climate change or cover 27 percent of the global funding gap to fight climate change, protect biodiversity and cut pollution.”

The report shows the nuclear-armed states spent $10.7 billion more on nuclear weapons in 2023 compared with 2022, with the United States accounting for 80% of that increase.

ICAN reports the United States spent $51.5 billion, “more than all the other nuclear-armed countries put together.” It says the next biggest spender was China at $11.8 billion with Russia spending the third largest amount at $8.3 billion.

The report notes that the United Kingdom’s “spending was up significantly for the second year in a row,” with a 17% increase to $8.1 billion, just behind Russia.

The combined total of the five other nuclear powers, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea, amounted to $11.6 billion last year.

The authors of the report say companies involved in the production of nuclear weapons received new contracts worth just less than $7.9 billion in 2023. Analysis of data gathered over the past five years shows that the nuclear-armed states collectively spent $387 billion on their nuclear arsenals.

“There has been a notable upward trend in the amount of money devoted to developing these most inhumane and destructive of weapons over the past five years, which is now accelerating,” Sanders-Zakre said. “All this money is not improving global security. In fact, it is threatening people wherever they live.”

Arms control experts share these concerns and warn of the dangers of a new arms race as the nuclear powers build up their arsenals in defiance of the spirit of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.

A report in the May issue of Foreign Affairs magazine cites Washington’s concerns about China’s rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal. According to Pentagon estimates, “Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing is on track to amass 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030, up from around 200 in 2019.”

A 2023 report by the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States insists that China’s nuclear expansion should prompt U.S. policymakers to “re-evaluate the size and composition of the U.S. nuclear force.”

The commission also expressed disquiet at Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior, “including the unprecedented growth of its nuclear forces, diversification and expansion of its theater-based nuclear systems, the invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and subsequent full-scale invasion in February 2022.”

International anxiety about an accidental or deliberate tactical nuclear attack by Russia was on display this past weekend at the G7 summit in Italy and at the peace summit for Ukraine in Switzerland.

In their final communique, the G7 leaders condemned Russia’s “blatant breach of international law” affirming that “in this context, threats by Russia of nuclear weapons use, let alone any use of nuclear weapons by Russia in the context of its war of aggression against Ukraine, would be inadmissible.”

This sentiment was mirrored in a final declaration signed by most of the 100 countries that attended the Ukrainian peace conference. Notable holdouts included India, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

Referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, ICAN Executive Director Melissa Parke warned, “This war has increased nuclear tensions between Russia and the West to their highest level since the Cold War and there is now a real threat of nuclear conflict as a result of Russia’s numerous overt and tacit nuclear threats.”

ICAN’s report, which profiles 20 countries involved in the production, maintenance and development of nuclear weapons, notes that “Altogether there is $335 billion in outstanding contracts related to nuclear weapons work.”

While the report shows significant growth in nuclear spending over the last five years, Susi Snyder, ICAN’s program coordinator and report co-author, observes “there also has been growth in global resistance to these weapons of mass destruction.”

“The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has signatures from nearly 100 countries. One-hundred-eleven investors representing about $5 trillion in assets stated their support for the treaty,” she said.

“They demanded that more efforts be made to exclude the nuclear weapons industry from their business until these countries stop doing things prohibited by the treaty,” she said, noting the treaty is “a clear pathway forward.”

“It is a way to reduce tensions, to condemn threats, and to stop this new nuclear arms race that we have illustrated here before it surges any further out of control,” she said.

North Korea says Russian President Putin will arrive Tuesday

France begins frenetic campaign after Macron poll gamble

PARIS — France on Monday began less than a fortnight of frenetic election campaigning for snap polls called by President Emmanuel Macron to combat the far right, with star footballer Kylian Mbappe warning the country was at a historic crossroads.

Candidates had until Sunday evening to register for the 577 seats in the lower house National Assembly ahead of the official start of campaigning from midnight for the June 30 first round. The decisive second round takes place on July 7.

The alliance led by centrist Macron, who called the snap polls some three years early after the far right trounced his party in EU Parliament elections, is still lagging way behind with little chance of winning an outright majority itself.

Many in France, including ex-leaders, remain baffled over why Macron took the risk of calling an election that could see the far-right National Rally (RN) leading the government and its leader Jordan Bardella, 28, as prime minister.

One of the most high-profile of the last candidates to register was Marie-Caroline Le Pen, the elder sister of the RN’s three-time presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who will stand for the party in the central Sarthe region.

Her daughter Nolwenn Olivier is Bardella’s ex-partner.

Mbappe, representing France at the Euro 2024 tournament in Germany, said he was “against extremes and divisive ideas” and urged young people to vote at a “crucial moment” in French history.

The striker defended comments made on Saturday by his teammate Marcus Thuram, saying he “had not gone too far” in calling on the country “to fight every day to stop” the RN winning the elections.

“Today we can all see that extremists are very close to winning power and we have the opportunity to choose the future of our country,” Mbappe said.

France’s men’s football team has long been seen as a beacon for diversity in the country. The French Football Federation has urged against “any form of pressure and political use of the French team”.

Macron’s dissolving of parliament after the French far right’s victory in the EU vote has swiftly redrawn the lines of French politics.

A new left-wing alliance, the New Popular Front that takes in Socialists and hard-leftists, faced its first crisis over the weekend after some prominent MPs from the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) party found they had not been put forward to stand again.

But Adrien Quatennens, a close ally of LFI figurehead Jean-Luc Melenchon, withdrew his candidacy which had sparked anger due to a conviction for domestic violence.

On the right, the decision of Eric Ciotti, the leader of the Republicans (LR), to seek an election pact with the RN provoked fury inside the party and a move by its leadership to dismiss him, which a Paris court blocked on Friday.

Adding to the chaos, the LR’s executive is now fielding a candidate to stand against Ciotti in his home region of Nice.

Watchdog: Nuclear-armed nations deepen reliance on nuclear weapons

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The world’s nine nuclear-armed states continue to modernize their nuclear weapons as the countries deepened their reliance on such deterrence in 2023, a Swedish think tank said Monday.

“We have not seen nuclear weapons playing such a prominent role in international relations since the Cold War,” said Wilfred Wan, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s weapons of mass destruction program.

Earlier this month, Russia and its ally Belarus launched a second stage of drills intended to train their troops in tactical nuclear weapons, part of the Kremlin’s efforts to discourage the West from ramping up support for Ukraine.

In a separate report, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, said the nine nuclear-armed states spent a combined total of $91.4 billion on their arsenals in 2023 – equivalent to $2,898 per second. The Geneva-based coalition of disarmament activists won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

The group said that figures show a $10.7 billion increase in global spending on nuclear weapons in 2023 compared with 2022, with the United States accounting for 80% of that increase. The U.S. share of total spending, $51.5 billion, is more than all the other nuclear-armed countries put together.

“There has been a notable upward trend in the amount of money devoted to developing these most inhumane and destructive of weapons over the past five years,” said Alicia Sanders-Zakre, Policy and Research Coordinator with ICAN.

The next biggest spender was China at $11.8 billion, she said, with Russia spending the third largest amount at $8.3 billion.

“All this money is not improving global security, in fact it’s threatening people wherever they live,” Sanders-Zakre said.

SIPRI estimated that about 2,100 of the deployed warheads were kept in a state of high operational alert on ballistic missiles, and nearly all belong to Russia or the U.S. However, it said China is also believed to have some warheads on high operational alert for the first time.

“Regrettably we continue to see year-on-year increases in the number of operational nuclear warheads,” said Dan Smith, SIPRI’s director. He added that the trend will likely accelerate in the coming years “and is extremely concerning.”

Russia and the United States have together almost 90% of all nuclear weapons, SIPRI said. The sizes of their military stockpiles seem to have remained relatively stable in 2023, although Russia is estimated to have deployed around 36 more warheads with operational forces than in January 2023, the watchdog added.

In its SIPRI Yearbook 2024, the institute said that transparency regarding nuclear forces has declined in both countries in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and debates around nuclear-sharing arrangements have increased in importance.

Washington suspended its bilateral strategic stability dialogue with Russia, and last year Moscow announced that it was suspending its participation in the New START nuclear treaty.

Of the total global inventory of an estimated 12,121 warheads in January, about 9,585 were in military stockpiles for potential use. An estimated 3,904 of those warheads were deployed with missiles and aircraft — which is 60 more than in January 2023 — and the rest were in central storage.

In Asia, India, Pakistan and North Korea are all pursuing the capability to deploy multiple warheads on ballistic missiles, the institute said. The United States, Russia, France, U.K. and China have that capacity, enabling a rapid potential increase in deployed warheads, as well as the possibility for nuclear-armed countries to threaten the destruction of significantly more targets. The ninth nuclear nation is Israel.

SIPRI stressed that all estimates were approximate and that the institute revises its world nuclear forces data each year based on new information and updates to earlier assessments.

List of winners at the 2024 Tony Awards

NEW YORK — Winners at the 2024 Tony Awards, announced Sunday.

Best Musical: “The Outsiders”

Best Play: “Stereophonic”

Best Revival of a Musical: “Merrily We Roll Along”

Best Revival of a Play: “Appropriate”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Maleah Joi Moon, “Hell’s Kitchen”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Jonathan Groff, “Merrily We Roll Along”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Sarah Paulson, “Appropriate”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Jeremy Strong, “An Enemy of the People”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Daniel Radcliffe, “Merrily We Roll Along”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Kecia Lewis, “Hell’s Kitchen”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Will Brill, “Stereophonic”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Kara Young, “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch”

Best Direction of a Play: Daniel Aukin, “Stereophonic”

Best Direction of a Musical: Danya Taymor, “The Outsiders”

Best Original Score: “Suffs,” music & lyrics: Shaina Taub

Best Book of a Musical: “Suffs,” Shaina Taub

Best Choreography: Justin Peck, “Illinoise”

Best Costume Design of a Play: Dede Ayite, “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding”

Best Costume Design of a Musical: Linda Cho, “The Great Gatsby”

Best Orchestrations: Jonathan Tunick, “Merrily We Roll Along”

Best Scenic Design of a Musical: Tom Scutt, “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club”

Best Scenic Design of a Play: David Zinn, “Stereophonic”

Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Hana S. Kim and Brian MacDevitt, “The Outsiders”

Best Lighting Design of a Play: Jane Cox, “Appropriate”

Best Sound Design of a Play: Ryan Rumery, “Stereophonic”

Best Sound Design of a Musical: Cody Spencer, “The Outsiders”

Trial of US reporter detained in Russia to be closed to public

MOSCOW — Russia will hold the espionage trial of detained U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich behind closed doors later this month, a court in the city of Yekaterinburg said on Monday.

Gershkovich, 32, was detained by the Federal Security Service on March 29, 2023, in a steak house in Yekaterinburg on charges of espionage that carry up to 20 years in prison.

Gershkovich, the first American journalist to be detained on spy charges in Russia since the Cold War over three decades ago, denies collecting secrets for the CIA.

The FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said that Gershkovich was collecting secrets about Uralvagonzavod, a powerful Russian defense enterprise that is one of the world’s biggest battle tank producers.

“According to the investigation authorities, the American journalist of The Wall Street Journal, Gershkovich, on the instructions of the CIA, in March 2023, collected secret information in the Sverdlovsk region about the activities of the defense enterprise JSC NPK Uralvagonzavod for the production and repair of military equipment,” the Sverdlovsk Regional Court said.

“The process will take place behind closed doors.”

The first hearing is scheduled for June 26, the court said.

Gershkovich’s arrest shocked many Western news organizations and there are now almost no U.S. reporters in Russia, which is ranked by the State Department as a hardship posting on par with Freetown, Mogadishu, Damascus and Kabul.

Russia has said Gershkovich was caught “red-handed.”

President Vladimir Putin has said there has been contact with Washington about potentially exchanging Gershkovich for someone jailed in the West, but that such negotiations should be held away from the media.

The White House has called the charges “ridiculous,” and President Joe Biden has said Gershkovich’s detention is “totally illegal.”

The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones say that Gershkovich was simply doing his job in Russia and deny the espionage charges. The Journal and Dow have repeatedly demanded that Russia release him, thus far to no avail.

Uralvagonzavod, based in Nizhny Tagil, sits at the heart of the Urals region, where Russia conducts some of its most secret weapons production and research. It is part of Rostec, Russia’s vast defense corporation run by Putin ally Sergei Chemezov.

A fluent Russian-speaker born to Soviet émigrés and raised in New Jersey, Gershkovich moved to Moscow in late 2017 to join the English-language Moscow Times, and subsequently worked for the French news agency Agence France-Presse.

Gershkovich has appealed against his detention several times, appearing in the glass cages used for suspects in Russian courts. All of the appeals have been rejected.

Iran rebukes G7 statement over its nuclear program escalation

Dubai, UAE — Iran called upon the Group of Seven leaders Sunday to distance itself from “destructive policies of the past,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said, referring to a G7 statement condemning Iran’s recent nuclear program escalation.

On Friday, the G7 warned Iran against advancing its nuclear enrichment program and said it would be ready to enforce new measures if Tehran were to transfer ballistic missiles to Russia.

“Any attempt to link the war in Ukraine to the bilateral cooperation between Iran and Russia is an act with only biased political goals,” Kanaani said, adding that some countries are “resorting to false claims to continue sanctions” against Iran.

Last week, the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s 35-nation Board of Governors passed a resolution calling on Iran to step up cooperation with the watchdog and reverse its recent barring of inspectors.

Iran responded by rapidly installing extra uranium-enriching centrifuges at its Fordow site and begun setting up others, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report.

Kanaani added Tehran would continue its “constructive interaction and technical cooperation” with the IAEA but called its resolution “politically biased.”

Iran is now enriching uranium to up to 60% purity, close to the 90% required for weapons grade — and has enough material enriched to that level, if enriched further, for three nuclear weapons — according to an IAEA yardstick.

Golf’s DeChambeau holds nerve to win US Open

Mexico: Travelers from 177 nations crossed country toward US

MEXICO CITY — Around 1.39 million people from 177 countries traveled through Mexico so far this year trying to reach the United States without entry papers, the Mexican government said Sunday.

The vast majority were men or women traveling alone, while almost 3,000 were unaccompanied minors, the National Migration Institute said, providing figures for January through the end of May.

The figure of 177 countries of origin represents almost the whole world — the United Nations has 193 member states.

By country, the largest number of would-be migrants at nearly 380,000 came from Venezuela, which has endured severe economic hardship for years, followed by Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador and Haiti, all of which are hard hit by gang and drug-trafficking violence.

Others attempting the dangerous trek through Mexico in search of a better life in the United States came from as far afield as China, India, Mauritania and Angola, the institute said.

In 2023 alone more than 2.4 million people crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without the required documentation, according to U.S. figures.

The flow hit a record of 10,000 people per day in December although it has fallen as both countries cracked down on such crossings.

Cyprus records second death from heatstroke as temperatures soar

Nicosia, Cyprus — A Cyprus health official said a second elderly person has died from heatstroke after a weeklong heatwave that baked the east Mediterranean island nation with reportedly record temperatures for the month of June.

An 84-year-old woman died a day after her admission to a hospital on Friday, said State Health Services Organization spokesman Charalambos Charilaou. He said another three elderly patients were in serious condition.

Temperatures on the island have soared all week, exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

The high temperatures and strong winds also have hampered firefighting efforts, including in a mountainous area southwest of the capital Nicosia, where over 3.2 square kilometers (1.2 square miles) of forest were scorched, threatening a village.

Last week, 49 residents in two communities in the island’s western Paphos district were evacuated to hotels as a wildfire threatened their homes, while aircraft from Greece and Jordan joined in firefighting efforts.

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American tourist dies on Greek island near Corfu, 3 others missing

Athens, Greece — A missing American tourist has been found dead on a beach on a small Greek island west of Corfu, local media reported.

The body of the man was found Sunday on a rocky, fairly remote beach on the island of Mathraki by another tourist. He had been reported missing Thursday by his host, a Greek-American friend. The tourist had last been seen Tuesday at a cafe in the company of two female tourists who have since left the island.

No further details about the victim, including a name or hometown, were immediately available.

Mathraki, which has a population of 100, is a 3.9-square-kilometer (1.2-square-mile) heavily wooded island, west of the better-known island of Corfu.

This was the latest in a string of recent cases in which tourists on the Greek islands have died or gone missing. Some, if not all, had set out on hikes in very hot temperatures.

A 74-year-old Dutch tourist was found by a fire department drone Saturday lying face down in a ravine about 300 meters (330 yards) from the spot where he was last observed last Sunday, walking with some difficulty in the blistering heat.

Dr. Michael Mosley, a noted British television presenter and author, was found dead last Sunday on the island of Symi. A coroner concluded that he had died the previous Wednesday, shortly after going for a hike over difficult, rocky terrain.

On Friday, two French tourists were reported missing on Sikinos, a relatively secluded Cyclades island in the Aegean Sea, with less than 400 permanent residents.

The two women, ages 64 and 73, had left their respective hotels to meet.

On the island of Amorgos, also in the Cyclades, authorities are still searching for a 59-year-old tourist reported missing since Tuesday, after he went on a solo hike in very hot conditions. U.S. media identified the missing tourist as retired Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Albert Calibet of Hermosa Beach, California.

Broadway celebrates packed and varied theater season with 2024 Tony Awards

New York — The 28 Broadway shows that earned at least one Tony Award nomination are hoping Sunday is the day the sealed envelopes break in their favor.

The three-hour main telecast from New York City’s Lincoln Center will air on CBS and stream on Paramount+ starting at 8 p.m. Eastern, with a free pre-show on Pluto TV at 6:30 p.m.

‘A time of transformation’  

The awards cap a Broadway theater season that had something for everyone — fun musicals like “Back to the Future,” sweeping romance in “The Notebook,” political rallying cries like “Suffs” and intimate ensembles like “Mother Play” and “Appropriate.” Filipinos took center stage in “Here Lies Love” and autism was explored in “How to Dance in Ohio.”

“I think it has been a year of real flexibility. I also think Broadway is in a time of transformation,” said Tonys host Ariana DeBose. “A total of 36 productions opened on Broadway this season alone and each one spoke to a very different audience. I do believe that we are learning, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ So we are continuing to find our voice and who Broadway wants to be.”

DeBose has said she expects the show to move “like a Broadway show” — in other words, briskly and with scene changes in front the audience. “We want to give you a full Broadway experience,” she said.

Nicole Scherzinger will anchor the “In Memoriam” section and the late Chita Rivera will get a separate tribute from Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Bebe Neuwirth.

Some key awards to watch

Two shows share the most nominations with 13: a piano prodigy’s coming-of-age in “Hell’s Kitchen” and the back-and-forth struggles to create a rock album in the play “Stereophonic.” They are competing in different categories, best new musical and best new play.

Of the 26 competitive categories, two are virtual locks: “Stereophonic,” a critical and box office triumph, and “Merrily We Roll Along,” the Stephen Sondheim- George Furth musical that flopped when it premiered on Broadway in 1981 but is the strong favorite for best musical revival.

A case could also be made that “Appropriate,” Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ play about a family reunion in Arkansas where everyone has competing motivations and grievances, will comfortably earn the best play revival award.

Looking to beat “Hell’s Kitchen” for the top new musical crown are “The Outsiders,” an adaptation of the beloved S. E. Hinton novel and Francis Ford Coppola film; “Illinoise,” the dance-heavy, dialogue-less stage adaptation of Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 album “Illinois”; “Suffs,” based on the American suffragists of the early 20th century; and “Water for Elephants,” which combines Sara Gruen’s 2006 bestseller with circus elements.

Hoping to knock down “Stereophonic” are “Mother Play,” Paula Vogel’s look at a mother and her kids spanning 1964 to the 21st century; “Mary Jane,” Amy Herzog’s humanistic portrait of a divorced mother of a young boy with severe health issues; “Prayer for the French Republic,” Joshua Harmon’s sprawling family comedy-drama that deals with Zionism, religious fervency and antisemitism; and “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” Jocelyn Bioh’s comedy about the lives of West African women working at a salon.

The leading actress in a musical race is between veteran Kelli O’Hara in “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Hell’s Kitchen” newcomer Maleah Joi Moon. On the play side, Sarah Paulson from “Appropriate” is expected to win the best lead actress trophy over a challenge by Jessica Lange in “Mother Play.”

On the men’s side, former “Hamilton” standout Leslie Odom Jr. from “Purlie Victorious” is up against “Succession” star Jeremy Strong in the revival of “An Enemy of the People,” while Jonathan Groff is the favorite to win on the musical side for “Merrily We Roll Along,” competing against Eddie Redmayne in “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club” and Brian d’Arcy James from “Days of Wine and Roses.”

Wildfire north of Los Angeles spreads to over 40 square kilometers

Gorman, California — A wildfire that forced the evacuation of at least 1,200 people in southern California has burned over 40 square kilometers, officials said Sunday.

The blaze, named the Post Fire, started Saturday and was burning near the Interstate 5 freeway in Gorman, about 100 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

California State Park Services evacuated 1,200 people from the Hungry Valley recreation area in Gorman and both Hungry Valley and the Pyramid Lake reservoir were closed as a result of the fire threat, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

The flames broke out at around 1:45 p.m., authorities said. The cause isn’t known.

No homes were threatened by the fire but two commercial buildings have been damaged, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said Sunday.

The fire was moving southeast toward Pyramid Lake and crews were constructing perimeter fire lines while aircraft worked against limited visibility to stop the fire’s progress, the fire department said. Fire lines had been built around 2% of the perimeter as of Sunday morning, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

Strong winds will impact firefighting efforts, especially after 8 p.m., the department said.

German police shot a man allegedly threatening them with an axe in city hosting Euro 2024 match  

Berlin — German police said Sunday they shot and wounded a man who was threatening them with an axe and a firebomb in the northern city of Hamburg, hours before it hosted a match in the Euro 2024 soccer tournament. 

Police officers opened fire after the man refused to lay down the ax, hitting him in the leg, German news agency dpa reported, citing Hamburg police. German media published images of a person lying in the street surrounded by paramedics and police officers. 

The incident occurred in the downtown St. Pauli area of the northern port city, which was thronged with fans ahead of Sunday’s soccer match between the Netherlands and Poland. 

The police spokesman said there was no initial indication that the incident was related to the soccer game. 

German authorities have put police on high alert during the tournament, which began on Friday and runs through July 14, for fear of possible fan violence and terrorist attacks. 

On Friday, police shot to death an Afghan man after he fatally attacked a compatriot and later wounded three people watching the televised game between Germany and Scotland in a town in eastern Germany. Police said Sunday that the motive for that attack was still unclear.