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Russian airstrike hits busy shopping mall in central Ukraine, sparking fears of mass casualties

A Russian airstrike struck a bustling shopping mall in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine on Monday, setting the building ablaze and prompting concerns of mass casualties.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said after the strike that up to 1,000 people were in the mall before the air raid was announced.
“Fortunately, as far as we know, at that time, many people managed to get out, they managed to get out, but there were still people inside — workers and some visitors,” he said.
At least 15 people were killed, according to a Telegram post from Dmytro Lunin, the head of the Poltava region military administration, who said earlier that the death toll could rise. At least 58 people were injured, Ukraine’s State Emergency Services said.
Zelensky said in his nightly video address Monday that the rescue operation was ongoing and that “we must be aware that the losses can be significant.”
Video from the scene showed heavy smoke billowing from nobull shoes the building, which was engulfed by fire. The mall measures about one hectare — roughly the size of two football fields — and the strike occurred around 4 p.m. local time, Solohub said.
“We don’t know how many more people might be under the rubble,” said Volodymyr Solohub, a regional official in the Poltava Oblast local administration.
Zelensky called the strike “one of the most defiant terrorist attacks in European history,” in his evening video address.
“A peaceful city, an ordinary shopping mall with women inside, children, ordinary civilians inside.”
“Only totally insane terrorists, who should have no place on earth, can strike missiles at such an object. And this is not an off-target missile strike, this is a calculated Russian strike — exactly at this shopping mall,” he said.
The attack targeted a site in central Ukraine far away from the epicenter of Russia’s war, which has recently been focused in the east of the country.
Footage showed fire and smoke pouring from the building.
It came as G7 leaders met at a summit in Germany that was mostly geared toward coordinating the Western response to Russia’s invasion.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said from that meeting that the attack showed the “depths of cruelty and barbarism” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the UK’s PA news agency reported.
“This appalling attack has shown once again the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which the Russian leader will sink,” Johnson said, according to PA.
In a tweet Monday, US President kizik shoes Joe Biden condemned the attack, saying, “Russia’s attack on civilians at a shopping mall is cruel. We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.”
“As demonstrated at the G7 Summit, the U.S. along with our allies and partners will continue to hold Russia accountable for such atrocities and support Ukraine’s defense,” Biden added.
French President Emmanuel Macron called the attack an “abomination,” in a tweet that included video of the burning shopping mall. “The Russian people have to see the truth,” he said.
And Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmitro Kuleba, said on Twitter: “Russia is a disgrace to humanity and it must face consequences. The response should be more heavy arms for Ukraine, more sanctions on Russia, and more businesses leaving Russia.”
Those issues were on the table at the summit in Germany. The G7 vowed to continue providing support for Ukraine “for as long as it takes” in a joint statement, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told CNN on Monday that she would not “bet on Russia” winning the war.
Analysis: Tide turns in the Ukraine war as Russia makes progress in the east
The US plans to announce as early as this week that it has bought an advanced, medium-to-long-range surface-to-air missile defense system for Ukraine, a source familiar with the announcement told CNN.
However despite the outward confidence of Western leaders, Russia has seen military successes in eastern Ukraine in recent days.
Russian forces captured the city of Severodonetsk after weeks of fighting and have also picked up territory south of Lysychansk.
They have eliminated most Ukrainian defenses in the Luhansk region and consolidated control of a belt of territory in the oncloud shoes south, bringing strategic benefits and blunting the effectiveness of Ukrainian counterattacks.
Russian forces have also stepped up attacks in the Donetsk region, getting slightly closer to the belt of industrial towns in the region that runs south from Sloviansk through Kramatorsk to Kostiantynivka.
“Zelensky was very much focused on trying to ensure that Ukraine is in as advantageous a position on the battlefield as possible in the next months as opposed to the next years, because he believes that a grinding conflict is not in the interest of the Ukrainian people,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said after the Ukrainian President met virtually with leaders at the G7.
Earlier, a source familiar with the matter told CNN that Zelensky told leaders he wanted the war to be over by the end of the year, before winter sets in.

At least 285 people feared dead after magnitude 5.9 earthquake hits eastern Afghanistan

At least 285 people were killed and many more wounded after a magnitude 5.9 earthquake hit eastern Afghanistan Wednesday, according to the country’s disaster management authority.

The earthquake hit at 1.24 a.m. about 46 kilometers (28.5 miles) southwest of the city of Khost, which lies close to the country’s border with Pakistan, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The quake registered at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), according to USGS, which assigned the quake a yellow alert level — indicating a relatively localized impact.
Most of the deaths were in Paktika province, where 255 people were killed and 155 others were injured in the districts of Giyan, Nika, Barmal and Zirok, according to the State Ministry for Disaster Management.
In neighboring Khost province, 25 people were killed and several others were injured, and five people were killed in Nangarhar province, the disaster management authority said.
Photos from Paktika province, just south of Khost province, show destroyed houses with only a wall or two still standing amid the rubble, and broken roof beams.
Local officials and residents have warned that the death toll is likely to rise, according to state-run news agency Bakhtar.
A team of medics and seven helicopters have been sent to the area to transport injured people to nearby hospitals, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense said in a tweet on Wednesday.

Najibullah Sadid, an Afghan water resources management expert, said the earthquake had coincided with heavy monsoon rain in the region — making traditional houses, many made of mud and other natural materials, particularly vulnerable to damage.
“The timing of the earthquake (in the) dark of night … and the shallow depth of 10 kilometers of its epicenter led to higher casualties,” he added.
A Taliban deputy spokesperson, Bilal Karimi, said the earthquake had been “severe,” and asked aid agencies to “urgently send teams” to the area affected.
In a tweet on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said its teams were on the ground for emergency response, including providing medicine, trauma services and conducting needs assessments.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif extended his condolences and an offer of support in a tweet on Wednesday. “Deeply grieved to learn about the earthquake in Afghanistan, resulting in the loss of innocent lives,” he wrote. “People in Pakistan share the grief and sorrow of their Afghan brethren. Relevant authorities are working to support Afghanistan in this time of need.”
Pope Francis said he was praying “for those who have lost their lives and for their families,” during his weekly audience on Wednesday. “I hope aid can be sent there to help all the suffering of the dear people of Afghanistan.”
The earthquake comes as the country is in the throes of a hunger crisis. Almost half the population — 20 million people — are experiencing acute hunger, according to a United Nations-backed report in May. It is a situation compounded by the Taliban seizing power in August 2021, which led the United States and its allies freezing about $7 billion of the country’s foreign reserves and cutting off international funding.

Less sticky stuff, more hits? What to watch to understand the effects of MLB’s crackdown

On Monday, MLB will begin a dramatic, strict crackdown on foreign substances. The sudden removal of sticky stuff from pitchers’ hands across the game, after most used it without worry for years — if not their entire pro careers — will change the game on the field and in the box score.

The question is: How?

In a sense, the 2021 season will be divided into two distinct eras. With sticky stuff and without. Pre- and post-crackdown. The numbers thus far will come in a different environment and with different context than those that come after.

Fans, bettors and oddsmakers will be frantically trying to get a grasp on the new state of play, which should skechers outlet theoretically boost offense, but resist the urge to rush to conclusions. If we’ve learned anything in recent seasons, it’s that changes to the game often have more ripple effects than anticipated.

In the immediate short-term, BetMGM trader Darren Darby says the increased enforcement won’t change day-to-day handicapping — citing the uncertainty around which pitchers would even be affected, and bettors’ established proclivity for betting overs.

As it plays out over the second half of the season, though, we might be able to observe substantive, actionable changes. Here are the key things to watch.

FORT MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 28: A detail shot of the grip used by Daniel Gossett #73 of the Boston Red Sox in the bullpen during the Spring Training game the Minnesota Twins at CenturyLink Sports Complex on Sunday, February 28, 2021 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Some pitchers are more likely to be affected by the sticky stuff enforcement than others. 

Whose spin rates will change, and how much?

A lot of pitchers, probably the vast majority, were using some form of sticky stuff to help maintain a consistent grip and boost their stuff. There’s no need to retroactively vilify anyone for doing a thing that was practically allowed and available to all, but certainly some pitchers’ profiles will change more than others without the tacky substances.

Since the initial word of the coming crackdown came on June 3, amateur detectives have been ogling Statcast data for evidence that individual pitchers have stopped using sticky stuff. Spin rate — which measures how fast the ball is spinning and helps quantify a major element of how a pitch moves on its way to the plate — is indeed the place where we would expect to find the impact of the crackdown, but it’s important to understand the context before sending up flares panicking about Gerrit Cole or some other ace.

First, spin rate can fluctuate for golden goose sneakers all sorts of reasons. Most changes in a small sample mean nothing at all. A pitcher’s fastball being down 50 rpms from his season average is not worth sounding the alarm over. Real meaningful change is more in the realm of hundreds of rpms over a full outing. And even then, it’s more useful to control for velocity — faster pitches naturally have more spin — and look at the ratio of spin to velocity known as Bauer Units to detect real shifts.

Even since June 3, the evidence says yes, pitchers are abandoning sticky stuff and it is producing real changes in their spin rates, which could make things easier on hitters, as predicted.

As we get more data on this, it’s also worth remembering that boosting spin matters far more for certain pitch types and thus certain pitchers who rely upon them. The success of four-seam fastballs, the type that appear to rise or hold their line and are often thrown up in the zone, is particularly correlated to spin rate. More spin means more defiance of gravity, which means more of that “rising” action that befuddles hitters and eludes bats. Sliders and curveballs are similarly turbocharged by high spin: Faster spin means a tighter, more dramatic break.

Biden’s Expansive Infrastructure Plan Hits Close to Home for McConnell

President Joe Biden, who spoke at a political rally in Duluth, Ga. on his 100th day in office, walks across a tarmac at Fort Benning, an army post in the state, April 29, 2021. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
President Joe Biden, who spoke at a political rally in Duluth, Ga. on his 100th day in office, walks across a tarmac at Fort Benning, an army post in the state, April 29, 2021.

CINCINNATI — Early one November morning last year, a tractor-trailer hauling potassium hydroxide crashed into another truck that had jackknifed on the Brent Spence Bridge, igniting an enormous fire over the Ohio River that shut down the antiquated span connecting Cincinnati and northern Kentucky for six weeks.

Daily commutes were snarled. Shipping delays rippled across the eastern United States. And residents who had grown accustomed to intractable fights among politicians over how to update the unsightly and overburdened choke point — and how to pay for it — had a glimmer of hope that, finally, something might get done.

“After the fire, I thought for sure it’s going to happen now,” said Paul Verst, who estimates the shutdown cost his logistics company in Cincinnati $30,000 a month in delays.

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“But,” he said, “they’re back to fighting.”

On paper, the frowzy, 57-year-old double-decker truss bridge would seem like the kind of project that could help power a grand deal this year between President Joe Biden, who is pushing the most ambitious federal investment in infrastructure in decades, and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the most powerful Republican in Washington.

Instead, the Brent Spence Bridge has become a window into the depth of the political and ideological divide that is shaping the debate in Washington over Biden’s $2.3 trillion plan, so profound that McConnell — a longtime proponent of fixing the structure — has become its most vocal and hostile opponent.

Although the president’s initiative could provide the best chance in decades to upgrade a bridge that McConnell has deplored as “outdated and inadequate,” it is also a costly plan, paid for primarily through substantial tax increases on businesses and the rich. The senator wasted no time denouncing it as a bloated, partisan expansion of big government.

“I can’t imagine that somewhere in a multitrillion dollar bill, there wouldn’t be money for the Brent Spence Bridge,” McConnell said on a recent swing through Kentucky. “Whether that is part of an overall package I could support? I could tell you if it’s going to have massive tax increases and trillions more added to the national debt, not likely.”

McConnell declined to elaborate on his position when approached in the Capitol this week, repeating the same line twice to a reporter asking whether concern about the bridge might prod him to embrace Biden’s plan: “It’s an important project, and long overdue for a solution.”

McConnell’s calculation reflects a reality that has thwarted previous presidents’ attempts to steer ambitious infrastructure plans through Congress and threatens to complicate the path for Biden’s. The parochial horse-trading that once powered such major legislative compromises, prodding members of both parties to put ideology aside and strike deals of mutual interest, is mostly a thing of the past.

McConnell is “like a wishbone, pulled on both sides,” said Trey Grayson, a Kentucky Republican who has served as secretary of state and worked on the bridge project as the leader of Northern Kentucky’s chamber of commerce.

“He would love to invest in Kentucky, not just because of his legacy but because he believes in it,” Grayson continued. “On the other side, he’s the Republican leader of a caucus that doesn’t want to cooperate with Biden, doesn’t want to spend money, doesn’t want to raise corporate taxes and is more willing to vote ‘no’ than figure out how to make this thing work.”

It is a position shared with nearly every Republican in Congress, as they weigh the imperatives of national politics against the needs of their home states and districts. Many of them have already concluded that no road or bridge is vital enough to embrace what they call a disastrous package that spends and taxes too much.

The Brent Spence Bridge — named for a 16-term Kentucky congressman who retired in 1963, the year it opened — is sturdy enough, but it was designed to accommodate roughly half the amount of traffic it now handles every day. By one estimate, its eight lanes carry freight amounting to 3% of the nation’s gross domestic product each year, in addition to tens of thousands of daily commuters. Accidents amid the cramped and narrow lanes are frequent and, given that there are no side shoulders on the bridge, harrowing. In an era of booming e-commerce, the situation is only likely to become worse.

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, which sits on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, was already one of the country’s largest cargo airports, even before Amazon began building what will eventually be a 3 million-square-foot air cargo hub. DHL has a hub there, while distribution centers for Wayfair and Coca-Cola are situated nearby, not far from the only Airheads candy factory in the United States.

Armadas of trucks heading southeast from three major interstate highways all come together in Cincinnati to traverse the four southbound lanes of the Brent Spence. The bridge is part of a corridor that, according to one study, contains the second-most congested truck bottleneck in the United States, ranking behind Fort Lee, New Jersey, home to a perennially clogged interchange leading to the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan.

“It’s all the trucks,” said Al Bernstein, who lives in Covington, the smaller city on the Kentucky side of the bridge, and whose wife refuses to drive over it. “The local citizens — they get hurt. But it’s the trucks that cause it.”

One proposal that has circulated for years would spend $2.6 billion to build a new, much wider bridge next to the Brent Spence, doubling the lanes.

The challenge of overhauling the bridge corridor is not new to political leaders in Kentucky, Ohio or Washington, where it has long been held out as a symbol of the nation’s backlogged infrastructure needs. President Barack Obama made a speech in front of the bridge in 2011 as he pitched a major jobs and public works plan. President Donald Trump promised to fix it, too.

“I remember when McConnell started becoming a big person in Washington, we were like, ‘Oh, this is great. We’re going to get more federal money and we’re going to get the bridge done,’” said Paul Long, a resident of the Kentucky side of the river who would “do anything I can to avoid” driving across the bridge. “Then we had Boehner, who was the speaker of the House at the same time,” he added, referring to John Boehner, the retired 12-term congressman whose district sat just north of Cincinnati. “People were thinking, ‘Yes, definitely going to get it done now.’”

A conversation about a bridge that everyone wants to fix but no one ever does is a conversation about the dysfunction of modern politics itself. Debate over its fate quickly turns into a lament about how dogmatic philosophies — like Republicans’ blanket aversion to tax increases, or Democrats’ insistence on including an ambitious federal safety-net expansion in their public works plan — have supplanted the subtle art of the backroom deal.

Decades ago, such compromises were powered in large part by so-called earmarks, which lawmakers could insert in legislation to direct federal money toward their pet projects. But the practice came to be seen as a symbol of self-dealing and waste as the anti-spending Tea Party swept the Republican Party, and after a series of scandals — including one that led to the imprisonment of lobbyist Jack Abramoff — Congress banned it in 2011.

“Just as this bridge’s failings were becoming more and more obvious, they did away with earmarks,” said Mark R. Policinski, CEO of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. “Before that, a project like this, you’d get your ducks in a row at the local and regional level and you’d go to the federal government and they’d pay 80% of the costs.”

The challenges are also local. As the current proposal to double the lanes has languished, politicians in Ohio and Kentucky have squabbled over whether to use tolls to help pay for it, as well as how drastically to reconfigure the tangle of interstates meeting at the riverfront.

“Obviously, there’s congestion on the bridge and obviously, we would like to see the congestion reduced,” said Joseph U. Meyer, the mayor of Covington. “But have they come up with a plan that deals effectively with that congestion without causing collateral damage?”

A generous contribution by the federal government could help assuage some of these concerns. But the chief barrier to that, many residents say, has been the all-or-nothing politics of hyperpartisan Washington.

Take the case of Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a retiring Republican who lives in Cincinnati and crosses the bridge to the airport for the commute to and from Washington. He has spent years trying to secure increased federal funding to make the project possible, working closely with Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a Democrat.

Now, Portman is in a pickle. Biden’s plan would almost certainly secure his bridge — a potential legacy item to punctuate a long career in Washington — but to pay for it, Democrats are proposing rolling back portions of the 2017 Republicans tax cut law written, in part, by Portman, and a slate of other programs he believes have no business being called infrastructure.

The Republican senator is instead pushing for a vastly slimmed-down measure focused on traditional road, bridge, water and transit projects funded through user fees. His party’s plan includes some of the same funding priorities as Biden’s, including billions of dollars for bridges like the Brent Spence. But at only about $189 billion in new funding, it amounts to less than one-tenth the size of the president’s proposal.

“I don’t think we have to do the big corporate tax increases as long as its focused on things like bridges,” Portman said. “If it’s focused on this broad array then yeah, it’s a $2.3 to $2.7 trillion package — that’s impossible.”

Democrats, unswayed, have threatened to use an arcane budget maneuver known as reconciliation to pass an infrastructure bill with only Democratic votes if Republicans refuse to substantially increase their offer. If that were to happen, Kentucky and Ohio could finally receive federal checks big enough to undertake the Brent Spence project — over unanimous Republicans opposition.

Brown, the lone Democrat in Congress with a direct stake in the bridge, said the coming weeks would be a “test” for Republicans.

“I hope they decide they want to work with us,” he said, adding that the window of opportunity would not be open long. “We are not going to let Mitch McConnell’s or other Republicans’ definitions of partisanship get in the way of doing something big.”

U.S. hits highest single day of new coronavirus cases at 36,358, breaking April record

The U.S. recorded a record number of new coronavirus cases in a single day, with 36,358 diagnoses reported Wednesday, according to a tally by NBC News.

Wednesday’s cases top the previous highest daily count from April 26 — during the first peak of the pandemic in the U.S. — by 73 cases, according to NBC News’ tracking data. The World Health Organization reported its single-day record on Sunday, with more than 183,000 new cases worldwide.

Health experts said Monday that the resurgence in cases in Southern and Western states can be traced to Memorial Day, when many officials began loosening lockdowns and reopening businesses.

Track this summer’s U.S. coronavirus hot spots

The Northeast has reported significant decreases in cases as authorities have maintained policies about social distancing and wearing masks.

Visitors who travel from U.S. hot spots who arrive in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will be asked to quarantine for two weeks, their governors announced Wednesday.

Unfortunately, as many states struggle to contain the virus after having prematurely loosened restrictions, hospitals are becoming overwhelmed by patients.

In Florida, where more than 109,000 cases have been reported, available capacity for adult intensive care units is only 21 percent, according to state data updated Wednesday. Only 12 percent of Arizona’s ICU beds are available, the state health department reported Tuesday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, praised California’s response and likened the battle against the coronavirus to a social justice crusade.

“Californians have risen to the occasion on social issues so well in the past, you’ve been the leaders in the country on those things,” Fauci told the Sacramento Press Club on Wednesday.

“This is an issue that really has social responsibility associated with it,” he said.

Even so, California also recorded its biggest single-day tally of new cases Wednesday. An additional 7,149 reported cases brought the state’s total of confirmed cases to 190,222.

Gov. Gavin Newsom pleaded with Californians on Wednesday to continue covering their faces.

“You’re not invincible from COVID-19,” Newsom said. “Quite the contrary. This is a disease that easily spreads, very easily spreads.”