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US opens COVID vaccine to little kids, shots begin next week

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. health officials have opened COVID-19 vaccines for infants, toddlers and preschoolers — the last group without the shots. The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the decision Saturday, hours after an advisory panel voted unanimously that coronavirus vaccines should made available to children as young as 6 months. The Biden administration has been gearing up for the start of the shots early next week. Millions of doses have been ordered for distribution to doctors, hospitals and community health clinics around the country.

Biden’s optimism collides with mounting political challenges

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s top political advisers are bracing for big election losses in November. They know the party holding the White House nearly always losses congressional seats in the first midterm election of a new presidency. They also understand that gas prices racing past $5 per gallon on average, inflation exceeding its highest rates in four decades and crime rising in some areas could intensify historic headwinds. So could Biden’s low approval ratings. Some Democrats nonetheless worry the White House hasn’t fully grasped just how bad things may get and so far has been slow to prepare for that possibility.

Bitcoin drops below $20,000 as crypto selloff quickens

NEW YORK (AP) — The price of bitcoin has fallen below $20,000 for the first time since late 2020, in a fresh sign that the selloff in cryptocurrencies is deepening. Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, fell below the psychologically important threshold on Saturday. It dropped by as much as 12% to less than $18,100 by late afternoon East Coast time, according to cryptocurrency news site CoinDesk. The last time bitcoin was at this level was in November 2020, when it was on its way up to an all-time high. Bitcoin has now lost more than 70% of its value since reaching that peak. It’s the latest sign of turmoil in the cryptocurrency industry amid wider turbulence in financial markets.

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In Ukraine, funeral for activist killed and mourned in war

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Hundreds of mourners have gathered in Ukraine’s capital for a well-known Kyiv activist who took up arms against Russia’s invasion and was killed. The 24-year-old Roman Ratushnyi had been a teenage protester during months of demonstrations that toppled Ukraine’s pro-Russian leader in 2014. He was also known as an environmental campaigner in Kyiv who led a fight to preserve a wooded park from development. Poppies, the blood-red flowers that cover the battlefields of Europe’s two world wars, were lain in mourning on his coffin at a memorial service. Mourners then walked in a silent column behind his coffin to a vast plaza in central Kyiv where three months of protests overthrew then-President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.

Jan. 6 witnesses push Trump stalwarts back to rabbit hole

Instead of convincing Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters of his misdeeds, the revelations from the hearings into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol are prompting many of them to reassert their views that he was correct in falsely asserting a claim to victory. They’re concocting new stories to explain why the former president’s own daughter Ivanka told Congress she didn’t accept his claims about a rigged election. They’re also creating new conspiracy theories to explain testimony from Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr, who told investigators that Trump’s claims were “bogus” and that the former president wasn’t interested in the facts.

Floods in India, Bangladesh leave millions homeless, 18 dead

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Army troops have been called in to rescue thousands of people stranded by massive floods that have ravaged northeastern India and Bangladesh, leaving millions of homes underwater and severing transport links. In India’s Assam state, at least nine people were killed in the floods and 2 million saw their homes submerged. Lightning strikes in parts of neighboring Bangladesh have left at least nine dead since Friday. Both countries have asked their militaries for help as more flooding looms with rains expected to continue over the weekend. The Brahmaputra, one of Asia’s largest rivers, breached its mud embankments, inundating 3,000 villages and croplands. Train services were canceled in India and the Sylhet airport in northeastern Bangladesh was closed by rising floodwaters.

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Russia frees captive medic who filmed Mariupol’s horror

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — A celebrated Ukrainian medic whose footage was smuggled out of the besieged city of Mariupol by an Associated Press team was freed by Russian forces. Yuliia Paievska is better known as Taira, and her release comes three months after she was taken captive on the streets of the city. Using a body camera, she recorded 256 gigabytes of her team’s efforts over two weeks to save the wounded, including both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers. She transferred the clips to an Associated Press team, the last international journalists in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, one of whom fled with it embedded in a tampon on March 15. Taira and a colleague were taken prisoner by Russian forces the next day.

EXPLAINER: How did Russia-Ukraine war trigger a food crisis?

LONDON (AP) — Russian hostilities in Ukraine are preventing grain from leaving the “breadbasket of the world.” That is making food more expensive across the globe and threatening to worsen shortages, hunger and political instability in developing countries. World food prices were already climbing, and the war made things worse, preventing some 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain from getting to the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia. Weeks of negotiations on safe corridors to get grain out of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have made little progress, with urgency rising as the summer harvest season arrives.

Yellowstone flooding rebuild could take years, cost billions

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Yellowstone National Park is celebrating its 150th anniversary as it faces its biggest challenge in decades. Floodwaters that tore through the park this week destroyed potentially hundreds of bridges, washed out miles of roads and drove out more than 10,000 visitors. The scope of the damage is still being tallied by Yellowstone officials, but based on other national park disasters, it could take years and cost upwards of $1 billion to rebuild in an environmentally sensitive landscape. Park officials hope to reopen the southern half of the park next week but the northern half likely won’t reopen this year.

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Drag story hour hosts, under attack, dig in their heels

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Rhetoric against LGBTQ people is now targeting drag storytimes with interruptions and other protests around the country during Pride Month. At one recent event outside San Francisco, members of the extremist Proud Boys walked in and began hurling insults at a drag queen as she read to children and their parents. Organizers of the reading programs say that they have faced pushback from the beginning but that the recent vitriol is new. They say opponents who claim they want to protect children are actually just scaring and endangering them. And they say they plan to enhance security but won’t stop their reading programs.

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