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"A Fantasy": Russian Official On Italian Peace Plan For Ukraine

05/25/22 7:16 PM

Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Wednesday that an Italian peace plan for Ukraine was a "fantasy".

"An Epidemic We Can Control": Actor Matthew Mcconaughey On Texas Shooting

05/25/22 7:19 PM

Hollywood star Matthew McConaughey, a native of Uvalde, Texas, has shared a social media message addressing the mass shooting that occurred at Robb Elementary School which is in his hometown.

"Grateful It Didn't Result In...": Gun Found In Desk Of Class 2 Student

05/25/22 3:55 PM

The incident at Texas school was the eighth mass shooting this year, according to news agency AFP, and came 10 days after incident in New York.

"Just One Of the Boys In School:" Years That Shaped Prince Charles

05/25/22 5:52 PM

British heir to the throne Prince Charles was "just one of the boys" when he was a pupil at a remote boarding school in Scotland, going about his day-to-day life and developing a later passion for the...

"Unless She Agrees, Things Don't Happen": Sue Gray's Journey To The Top

05/25/22 5:20 PM

Sue Gray, the top UK civil servant who led an internal probe into lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street, is a former pub landlady once described as the person who really "runs" Britain.

'Everything Russian must go': Ukraine's Kharkiv renames streets

05/24/22 5:45 PM

Before the war, it was called "Moscow Avenue". But now this wide boulevard which runs through Ukraine's second city has been renamed "Heroes of Kharkiv" in honor of those fighting against invading Russian forces."Here in Kharkiv, there is no place for an avenue named after the capital of the occupier that is killing our people," explains arts student Evgen Deviatka on the newly named street running through the heart of the northeastern city.Kharkiv has already renamed three of its streets and toppled a statue of Alexander Nevsky, a medieval Russian hero celebrated for his military victories.In time, more than 200 streets or squares could be renamed or come under scrutiny.Lying some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Russian border, Kharkiv came under attack at the start of the February 24 invasion, enduring long weeks of deadly bombardment before Ukrainian forces were able to push the Russians back.But the city, which counted 1.4 million residents before the war began, remains under threat."Names are associated with a certain nation or country. What is being done by this country, we can all see. So everything Russian must go," declared 59-year-old engineer Laryssa Vassylchenko.Soldier Mykyta Gavrylenko is standing in front of what remains of the pedestal where Alexander Nevsky's statue stood until it was pulled down by a truck a few days ago, smashing the paving stones as it fell."These are people who oppose Ukrainians and try to attack us, they kill our citizens, they hurt us, they just humiliate us," he muses.'No Russian names on Kharkiv map'For Yury Sidorenko, spokesman for Kharkiv's city hall, "the time has come" for such change."Russian toponyms, names for squares, streets and towns, we must be clear: they won't be on any map of Kharkiv," he told AFP.But city officials don't want to rush into it, he says."There are many names at stake, I can't say how many because that's a question which must be decided by city authorities together with the public," said Sidorenko.And it's not as simple as it seems.If changing the name of Moscow Square or Belgorod Avenue seems obvious -- Belgorod being the city over the border from which Russia launched part of its initial attack -- other changes are less straightforward.What of those places named after historical Russian writers or artists who have nothing to do with the country's modern history?"It's about imperialist culture. The Russians imposed their culture, their writers, everything," says a passerby on Pushkin Street who does not want to give his name.Although he says he has nothing against the 19th-century Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, the street was clearly named after him "because he is Russian".Here the walls now feature artwork and graffiti by Ukrainian street artist Gamlet, who has written "British Street" underneath several of the name plaques, in a nod to the United Kingdom's staunch support for Kyiv since the war began.'It's complicated'On the road formerly known as Moscow Avenue, local residents preempted city hall by covering the name plaques with makeshift signs reading: "Grigory Skovoroda Avenue" after an 18th-century Ukrainian philosopher.But "Heroes of Kharkiv" is the name of choice, with the new moniker even showing up on Google Maps."It's a good name, better than Moscow Avenue," chuckles Yulia Butenko, a local craftswoman. "I said ages ago that these names should be changed," she added, while acknowledging the complications.Take the celebrated 19th-century Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, who is revered in both countries. "He wrote about Ukraine but in Russian," she said.And the same was true of Kyiv-born Russian author and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940). "So it's complicated."As for Tchaikovsky, Russia's most famous composer, "he didn't do anything bad to Ukraine, but it's also Russian culture".And then there's the case of writer and satirist Ostap Vyshnia (1889-1956)."He's Ukrainian, but he wrote a lot about the Soviets in a positive way!" she says, exasperated.Such questions even intrude on mundane day-to-day life."I didn't buy (a certain yellow) cheese today because it's still called 'Russian' cheese," she sighed."It's all very ambiguous. I'm worried about 'Pushkin Street' because I like Pushkin but I'll accept it if it's renamed."© 2022 AFP

'Evita' Peron stars once again on Argentine bills

05/24/22 11:36 AM

Eva Peron is back on Argentina's currency, six years after the mythic former first lady -- who died 70 years ago -- was replaced by an Andean deer.The Central Bank of Argentina on Monday presented its new series of 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 peso notes ($0.80, $1.60, $4 and $8) which, according to a press release, "mark the return of historical heroes and heroines" to the South American country's paper money.Maria Eva Duarte de Peron, "Evita" as many Argentines still affectionately call her, came from a humble background and had married Juan Domingo Peron, before he became president (from 1946 to 1955, then again in 1973-74).Together, they founded and embodied Peronism, an eclectic mass movement, with sometimes opposing political currents but with a pronounced populist social bent.It became the main political force in the country in the second half of the 20th century.Eva Peron died in 1952 at the age of 33 from cancer, a premature death which contributed to her legend of fighting for women's rights during her husband's presidency.Her profile had been incorporated into the 100 peso banknotes in 2012 at the initiative of the then-Peronist president Cristina Kirchner (2007-2015).Then in 2016, under the presidency of the liberal Mauricio Macri, a new series of banknotes was issued that featured endangered local animal species.On the 100 peso notes, Evita had been replaced by the taruca, a species of Andean deer.In an unusual turn of events, Evita is now making a new appearance, this time under a center-left government of which Cristina Kirchner is vice-president.Among the new faces on the 2022 banknote series are also Juana Azurduy, heroine of the Latin American wars of independence, mestizo with Spanish and Indian roots, and Maria Remedios del Valle, fighter for the independence of Argentina, who has European and African origins.© 2022 AFP

'He will not run the country': Putin's inner circle reportedly looking for his replacement

05/24/22 12:45 PM

According to the Daily Beast's Allison Quinn, Vladimir Putin's days as the president of Russia are numbered, with reports claiming members of his inner circle are already looking for his successor.The report states that the Russian strongman is not in danger of a coup as the country reels from the invasion of Ukraine that has not only gone poorly but led to worldwide sanctions that have crippled the Russian economy.Nonetheless, it seems his tenure is coming to a close.According to Quinn, reporting from independent media outlet Meduza indicated, "several sources close to the Russian presidential administration who said officials are increasingly fed up with Putin personally."READ MORE: Trump faces 'embarrassing' defeat as candidate he un-endorsed stages comeback: CNN election analystAs one source put it, "It’s not about them wanting to prepare a plot and overthrow Putin right now. But there is an understanding, or a desire, that in the fairly foreseeable future he will not run the country."Another Kremlin source added, "There are probably almost no [members of the elite] who are satisfied with Putin. [The business community] and many members of the government are unhappy that the president started the war without thinking about the scale of sanctions—it’s impossible to live with such sanctions."Among those under consideration as his successor are Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, former President Dmitry Medvedev and Putin administration first deputy chief of staff Sergei Kirienko.Another source told Meduza that the botched war with Ukraine has become a central concern, stating, "The problems [in Russia due to the war] are already evident, and in the middle of the summer they will just come pouring down from all directions: transportation, medicine, even agriculture. Nobody thought about such a scale [of impacts].”As the Beast's Quinn notes, "... according to Meduza, Putin himself is still willfully blind, insisting that the country’s growing economic problems have nothing to do with the war. And even those officials who have been discussing potential successors in private know the only way for Putin’s departure is if his health—which has been at the center of rampant rumors about terminal illness in recent months—takes a major turn for the worse."You can read more here.NOW WATCH: Herschel Walker argues with reporter Trump 'never said' election was stolen Herschel Walker argues with reporter Trump 'never said' election was stolen

'Kind of complicated': Growing grapes in the world's driest desert

05/24/22 11:24 AM

In the middle of Chile's Atacama desert, the driest in the world, Hector Espindola has an unexpected job: he runs a vineyard.Nearly 2,500 meters (8,000 feet) above sea level, his small Bosque Viejo farm produces muscat grapes -- and another of a unique "criollo," or local, variety -- in the shadow of quince, pear and fig trees irrigated by a stream fed by melting Andean snow.Espindola, 71, farms in an oasis in the Toconao region in Chile's extreme north -- some 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) from the vineyards at the center of the world's longest country that have made it one of the world's top 10 wine exporters.But growing grapes in the desert is no easy task.Espindola contends with extreme day-night temperature fluctuations and extreme solar radiation on top of wind and frost."You have to be dedicated. I water here at night... at three in the morning, eleven at night," he told AFP while caressing his vines, dry and brown two months after the harvest."You have to be careful because here the heat, the climate is no joke," he said."Sometimes it is windy and production is lost, sometimes the frost comes early. It is kind of complicated."For her sonsEspindola sends his crop to the Ayllu cooperative which since 2017 has received grapes from 18 small vineyards around Toconao.In 2021, the cooperative received 16 tons of grapes for a yield of 12,000 bottles.The harvest was better in 2022 with more than 20 tons of grapes -- enough for 15,000 bottles but still just a drop, at about one percent, of Chile's annual production.Most contributors to the cooperative are members of indigenous communities who were previously individual, small-scale producers.One of them, 67-year-old Cecilia Cruz, grows syrah and pinot noir grapes at an altitude of about 3,600 meters outside the village of Socaire -- Chile's highest vineyard."I feel special... to have this vineyard here and to produce wine at this altitude," she said amid the vines that still sport a few bunches of wrinkled, dried grapes.But she has a bigger goal: "a future" for her three sons.'Taste the Atacama'For Ayllu oenologist Fabian Munoz, 24, the mission is to create a unique wine that captures the characteristics of the volcanic rock in which the grapes grow."When the consumer tastes an Ayllu wine (they should) think: 'Wow! I'm tasting the Atacama desert'," he said.Carolina Vicencio, an expert in wine chemistry, said the altitude, low atmospheric pressure and extreme temperature fluctuations make for a thicker-skinned grape."This generates more tannin molecules in the skin of the grape which gives a certain bitterness in the wine," she said."There is also higher salinity of the soil... which makes for a touch of mineralization in the mouth" that makes the Atacama desert wine one of a kind.© 2022 AFP

'Partygate' report blames senior leadership for illegal parties at Boris Johnson’s office

05/25/22 11:41 AM

Senior leaders at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Downing Street office were to blame for a culture that led to illegal parties being held there during coronavirus lockdowns, a report by a senior civil servant said on Wednesday.The report by senior official Sue Gray was commissioned by Johnson after revelations of alcohol-fueled parties at Downing Street when social mixing was all but banned under stringent laws his government had made to curb the spread of COVID-19."Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen," the report said. "The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture."Gray's interim findings were published in January, but most details were withheld until the end of a separate police inquiry, which concluded last week with 126 fines handed out.Both Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak were among those fined over a party to celebrate the prime minister's 56th birthday on June 2020.Johnson has faced calls from opposition politicians and some in his own party for him to resign after it was revealed both he and officials had broken the rules which meant people could not socialize outside their households or even, in many cases, attend funerals for loved ones."Many will be dismayed that behavior of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of government," Gray's report said. "The public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behavior in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this."Gray did not specifically lay the blame at Johnson's door but gave details and included photographs from more than a dozen Downing Street gatherings, some of which he attended.'He's apologized'The leader of House of Commons said Johnson would later make a statement to parliament on the report.Seeking to play it down, environment minister George Eustice earlier said police had investigated "all of these events" in Downing Street."They've issued a fixed penalty notice to the prime minister in respect of one of those events that he that he attended. He's paid that penalty," he told Times Radio."He's apologized ... So I'm not sure that anything new will come from this report other than further detail, but of course, we will... look at it."For months, evidence of the alcohol-fueled parties has dripped out into the media, forcing Johnson to apologize, change the team at his office and promise a reset to try to restore his authority.He initially denied there had been any parties or rule-breaking at Downing Street, and some lawmakers say his position is untenable if he is found to have lied to parliament, a matter under investigation by parliament's Committee of Privileges.(REUTERS)

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