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NieR: Automata Ver 1.1a – What We Know So Far

2B with a blindfold

“NieR: Automata’s” famed secret room is cool enough, but its finely crafted, layered story that evolves with each playthrough is what truly sets the game apart. The complex battle between alien machines and human-made battle robots has been getting rave reviews (via Metacritic) since it came out in 2017, and carved its name in the annals of gaming. The game combines awesome action with one of the more captivating storylines out there, so in this age of video game-inspired shows like Netflix’s “The Witcher” and HBO’s upcoming “The Last of Us” adaptation, it was perhaps just a matter of time before “NieR: Automata” would receive an anime adaptation.

The first hints of a “NieR: Automata” anime have been in the air since February 23, when a YouTube teaser announced a “NieR: Automata TV animation project.” Fortunately, the “NieR: Automata” faithful now have far more information about the upcoming anime adaptation by A-1 Pictures, which will be called “NieR: Automata Ver 1.1a.” Let’s take a look at what we know about the project so far.

WHAT THESE VIDEO GAME CHARACTERS LOOK LIKE IN REAL LIFE

If you’re someone who watches TV shows or movies on the regular, you likely have a favorite actor or actress. They’re responsible for bringing your favorite characters to life, and helping you become even more immersed in the universe that character resides in. And when they show up in something, you can’t miss it — because you know they’re going to knock it out of the park.

Video game actors and actresses can have that same effect.

What’s unfortunate, though, is that a lot of the people who voice — and even provide the motion work for — your favorite game characters aren’t as well known. They’re just as good at drawing you in and making you feel something for a character comprised of polygons and textures, but they don’t always find the spotlight the same way.

That ends today. For every Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep in Hollywood, there’s a Nolan North or Ashly Burch in video games working tirelessly to tell incredible stories. And it’s time you meet them.

These are some of gaming’s most well-known characters — and what the people who play them look like.

What it’s like to circumnavigate Lesotho on foot — in 16 days

There wasn’t a hint of exhaustion on Ryan Sandes’ face during a recent CNN interview with the decorated ultra-athlete in his Cape Town home. You’d never guess he had recently returned from an epic 16-day run along the mostly uncharted mountains of Lesotho’s borders — until he took off his shoes.

For runners, blisters and cracked feet are par for the course; they’re practically a source of pride for Sandes and his running partner Ryno Griesel, who together created and subsequently completed Navigate Lesotho on April 27. They covered 1,100 kilometers (684 miles) with over 33,000 meters of elevation gain in 16 days, 16 hours and 56 minutes — all under extreme weather conditions.
Ryan Sandes (left) and Ryno Griesel (right) during a leg of their Navigate Lesotho run.

“In some ways it was our toughest challenge, but because of what we’ve learned in the past, I think our maturity and just the bond we have, made it a lot easier,” Sandes told CNN.
The South African duo are no strangers to extreme adventures. Together, they hold the record for fastest known time (FKT) on one of the toughest routes in the world — the Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal, where they covered 1,504 kilometers (934.5 miles) in 25 says. They also kizik shoes hold the FKT on their home country’s renowned Drakensberg Grand Traverse, breaking the previous record by 18 hours.
Even during Covid-19 lockdowns in South Africa, Sandes managed to get in an unofficial 100-mile ultramarathon — around his house — which he finished in 26 hours.
“He had done about 140 kilometers (87 miles) and he was like, ‘I cannot go any further, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,'” Sandes’ wife Vanessa Haywood recounts of the one-man race.
But circumnavigating Africa’s “Mountain Kingdom” would prove to be even more grueling.
South African endurance athletes Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel are no strangers to running across challenging terrain. The duo recently ran the entire border of Lesotho (pictured) in 16 days. <strong>Look through the gallery to see more of the world's most extreme foot races.</strong>
The expedition required two years of planning, or what Griesel likens to “building a puzzle.” The pre-production involved plotting unmapped territory, getting sponsors on board, building relationships with locals and scoping out areas of the route they’d later run.
“People often say the hardest part is getting to the starting point and honestly (it) is, and then the rest of the hardest part starts,” he said.
They ran about a marathon and a half each day, trudging through extremely cold, snowy, windy and muddy conditions according to Sandes. In total, Sandes and Griesel crossed 187 rivers.
Temperatures ranged from -5 degrees to 30 degrees Celsius throughout the trip.
Sandes fording a river during the 16-day run around Lesotho. He says he went through a pair of socks every day.

Some nights they slept, sometimes they didn’t, depending on conditions and keeping on pace with their targeted 17-day finish.
The running duo had to deviate from Plan A quite a few times, and Sandes said they backtracked a few mountains and rivers and took alternate routes due to poor conditions.

A mental marathon

Navigating Lesotho proved to be mentally tough as well, but the oncloud shoes pair decided early on that giving up was not an option.
“When you’ve been shivering for two to three days, you can’t even think clearly because you haven’t slept, you’re super hungry, ran out of food two days ago … there’s always 1,000 good reasons to quit,” Griesel said, “but once you take that off the table, then you’re forced to keep moving towards the goal.”
Griesel and Sandes making a big push up one of Lesotho's many mountains during a particularly rainy day.

They carried an impressive load in their packs: clothes, food, water, extra socks, GPS trackers, water purification straws, headlamps, hiking poles, sunscreen and more.
And for fuel? Each runner carried a mixture of whole foods and carb-heavy electrolyte mixes, plus one dehydrated meal per day. They estimate they burned 120,000 calories throughout the journey.
Griesel said his favorites foods that got him through Lesotho were hot cross buns and chocolate. “I’ve always been really bad with diet if you had to look at it from a traditional point of view, but I do believe that the best food[s] on these long projects are what you’re looking forward to eating,” he added.
A crew on horseback support Sandes and Griesel during a leg of their Lesotho circumnavigation run.

They weren’t completely alone in their expedition; a support crew on horseback, motorbikes and four-by-fours helped resupply their basic needs and give them cooked food at various pre-planned locations.

Two peas in a pod

Sandes (40) and Griesel (42) met in 2012 at the ultra-trail race Salomon SkyRun South Africa, where Sandes placed first and Griesel third. Two years later, they would run the Drakensberg Grand Traverse together — and break the FKT record.
Sandes and Griesel celebrate completing a difficult stretch of their Lesotho journey.

“That was definitely where our friendship started,” Sandes said, adding “Ryno and I are very different people, but I think we really complement each other.”
Sandes joked that Griesel’s race gear will be labeled and in order, while his own is in a disorganized pile.
“Even if I look at what we bring to the table, I come from more of a running background and competing on the international circuit, whereas Ryno is more into adventure racing and his mountain skills and navigating [are] next level,” he said.
Sandes is the physical powerhouse and Griesel is the nimble navigator.
“It’s all good and well to go fast — it’s ideal to go fast in the right direction and I think that’s where we really fit together,” Griesel said.
The ultra runners said it took about two years to map out their Lesotho route.

The humble runners balance each other out in more ways than their skillsets. Griesel said Sandes is good at keeping morale going by celebrating the “mini milestones,” which helped him push through during their Lesotho run.
“We’ll get to the top of [a summit] and I’ll be like, ‘I still need 10 days to finish this,’ and he would be reminding me of where we’ve come from,” Griesel said.

Staying close to home

While these two will likely continue going for FKTs, Sandes said the pandemic has created space for him to slow down and appreciate what his home continent has to offer.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky enough to run on all seven continents and experience a lot of the world, but I feel like I haven’t experienced enough of Africa,” he said. “And I think being forced to do more locally has made me really grow to love home even more.”
Sandes and Griesel look forward to spending more time on their home continent. Here they're pictured trekking up a steep incline during their Navigate Lesotho run.

The pair are also focused on bringing up the next generation of South African runners through programs like LIV2Run which aims to help uplift people from disadvantaged communities.
“In life we all kind of need that connection to the outdoors,” Sandes said. “I think we’re so connected to technology, [we need to] break that and to feel free and natural and whole again.”

What’s coming up today

Soldiers on parade during The Colonel's Review at Horse Guards Parade on May 28 in London. The Colonel's Review is the final evaluation of the Trooping the Colour parade before the event which will take place on Thursday, June 2, in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee.
Soldiers on parade during The Colonel’s Review at Horse Guards Parade on May 28 in London. The Colonel’s Review is the final evaluation of the Trooping the Colour parade before the event which will take place on Thursday, June 2, in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. (Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

Britain’s four-day celebration of this unprecedented historic event kicks off on Thursday at 10 a.m. BST (5 a.m. ET) with the Queen’s birthday parade, known as Trooping the Colour. The annual ceremony is returning to central London after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an impressive display of military pageantry, more than 1,200 officers from the Queen’s personal troops, the Household Division, will be joined by several hundred Army musicians and 240 horses.

The “colour” — or regimental flag — will be trooped by the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards. The procession will start at Buckingham Palace and move down The Mall to Horse Guard’s Parade, joined by members of the royal family on horseback and in carriages.

Upon returning from the parade ground, the Queen and members of the royal family will make their customary balcony appearance at Buckingham Palace. The event will close with a fly-past over the palace.

Later, 1,500 beacons will be set alight across the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and in UK Overseas Territories. The principal beacon will be lit in a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace. The lighting of beacons is a long running royal tradition used to mark jubilees, weddings and coronations. Beacons will also be lit in the capital cities of Commonwealth countries.

What else is happening over the Jubilee weekend?

People walk along the Mall in London on June 1.
People walk along the Mall in London on June 1. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Buckingham Palace is pulling out all the stops to celebrate the Queen’s incredible reign. Here’s a rundown of the rest of the long weekend:

Friday, June 3

A thanksgiving service paying tribute to the Queen’s seven decades of service will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral, central London, with family members in attendance.

Saturday, June 4

Several royal family members are expected to head to Epsom Downs racecourse, in Surrey, southern England, in the afternoon for the 243rd edition of its famous horse race, the Derby. The Queen — a keen horse breeder — has been a regular spectator at the event and has even presented the famous trophy.

In the evening, a two-and-a-half hour “Platinum Party At The Palace” concert will see a star-studded line up perform in front of Buckingham Palace and around the famous Queen Victoria Memorial. Queen + Adam Lambert, Alicia Keys and Diana Ross are among the artists set to appear at the show, which will be broadcast live by the BBC.

Sunday, June 5

To cap off the celebrations people are being encouraged to organize street parties as part of the “Big Jubilee Lunch” initiative on Sunday. Community gatherings are set to take place across Britain, including flagship events in London and at Cornwall’s Eden Project. “Big Jubilee Lunches” have also been planned around the world.

The weekend’s finale is the Platinum Jubilee Pageant, in which artistic performers, dancers, musicians, military personnel, key workers and volunteers will unite to bring iconic moments from the Queen’s reign to life.

Although the Queen is not due to travel in it, the pageant will be led by the Gold State Carriage. Starting at 2:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. ET), the pageant will involve a “River of Hope” section that will comprise 200 silk flags parading down The Mall like a river and a who’s who of Britain’s most famous faces.

Here’s what we know about the 40-mile-long Russian convoy outside Ukraine’s capital

For days, residents of Kyiv had been bracing themselves for a 40-mile-long convoy of Russian tanks, armored vehicles, and towed artillery to arrive for an assault on the Ukrainian capital.

Days later, they’re still waiting.
On Thursday, US intelligence suggested that the convoy was still stalled some distance from Kyiv, backing claims made by both the Ukrainian government and UK’s defense ministry.
“We still assess that the convoy that everybody’s been red wing shoes focused on is stalled. We have no reason to doubt Ukrainian claims that they have, that they have contributed to it being stalled by attacking it,” a senior US official told reporters.
Earlier in the day, the UK’s defense ministry said the convoy appears to have stalled some 30 kilometers (19 miles) outside Kyiv and had made “little discernible progress” over the past three days, citing intelligence.
“The main body of the large Russian column advancing on Kyiv remains over 30 km from the center of the city, having been delayed by staunch Ukrainian resistance, mechanical breakdown and congestion. The column has made little discernible progress in over three days,” the UK statement said.
One million refugees flee Ukraine as Russia escalates bombardment of key cities
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday night that while the convoy and Russia’s broader push towards Kyiv “remains stalled,” there was a significant concern “that maybe the window is closing to be able to get aid into cities that may become under siege.”
A senior US defense official told reporters on that although the convoy is suffering shortages of fuel and food, the US has assessed that the Russians “will again learn thorogood boots from these missteps and these stumbles and will try to overcome them.”
The convoy’s stalled progress could create multiple strategic problems for Russia.
First, as the key Russian supply line for any major assault on Kyiv, it is a very large sitting target for Ukrainian forces fighting back against the invasion.
Second, sitting in a 40-mile-long traffic jam for days at a time could take its toll on the morale and discipline of Russian soldiers ahead of a major military operation.
Martti Kari, who previously served as Finland’s assistant chief of defense intelligence, told CNN that being stranded like this is bad for morale for two reasons. “First, the Ukrainians have drones and aircraft that could attack the convoy. Second, when you sit around in the same place rumors circulate that affect your mindset. So you become nervous and tired, which is not a good combination.”
Satellite images from Maxar Technologies show the convoy on February 28.
The convoy is believed to have entered Ukraine via Belarus, a key ally of Putin where Russia had moved huge numbers of troops in recent weeks to carry out what they called joint exercises. When the exercises ended, the troops didn’t leave and satellite images actually showed that Russia increased their military presence in the country.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed on Wednesday night that the fierce Ukrainian resistance had dented Russian morale.
“More and more occupiers are fleeing back to Russia, from us, from you … we are a nation that broke the enemy’s plans in a week — plans those have been built for years,” he said in a Facebook post.
Key city of Mariupol under siege as Russia tightens grip on Ukraine's south
The latest assessments on the convoy comes after the Russian military issued its first casualty figures from the war, saying 498 of its troops had died and another 1,597 had been injured. The UK statement on Thursday said “the actual number of those killed and wounded will almost certainly be considerably higher and continue to rise.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov expressed “great sorrow” over Russian military casualties on Thursday morning.
But Russia appeared to be meeting less resistance in southern Ukraine, where the mayor of the strategically important city of Kherson on the Black Sea indicated that Russian forces had seized control, though claims remain disputed.
And the crucial southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol came under siege from Russian forces Thursday, as Moscow seeks to tighten its grip on the south of the country.

Another testy Supreme Court battle is the last thing America needs — but it’s probably what lies ahead

The last thing an internally estranged America needs is an alienating Supreme Court confirmation battle. But that’s almost certainly what lies ahead following Justice Stephen Breyer’s decision to retire.

President Joe Biden’s first high court pick will create a moment of promise for a struggling administration, offers Senate Democrats a badly needed shot at unity and could shatter another glass ceiling since Biden plans to nominate a Black woman.
And despite the narrowness of their Senate majority, it should be reasonably simple for Democrats to confirm a new justice swiftly, without any Republican votes, before they risk losing the chamber in the midterm elections.
A drama-free Supreme Court process could enhance the tattered image of Congress, help a President whose approval ratings are tumbling and do some good to the tarnished reputation of a court increasingly tangled in politics. And since replacing Breyer, a liberal, will not shift the court’s 6-3 conservative balance, it might seem that the stakes are lower this time.
Inside Biden's calculated silence on Breyer's retirement
But such hopes ignore the corrosive impact of recent nomination fights — which ended with Democrats accusing the GOP of stealing seats and conservatives claiming nominees endured character assassination. Then there are legacy scars of Supreme Court battles deeper in the past, some involving the President himself, which may have some conservatives plotting revenge.
Political fury that has raged through the fight against Covid-19 has meanwhile brewed a fetid political mood hardly conducive to magnanimous hearings. And the midterm elections in November mean that senators have every incentive to play to the most fervent activist voters in each party before the television cameras.
An ideological docket breeds political discord
Another reason why a smooth confirmation process is unlikely is the growing prominence of the court itself in American political life. The idea that the Supreme Court is above politics has always been something of a myth. But hoka shoes dominating the high court has been a fundamental goal of the conservative movement for several decades.
So it’s not surprising that the successful campaign has hurt justices’ reputations for impartiality. And the new majority is being used in nakedly partisan ways, with Republican attorneys general seeking to fast-track cases to its marbled chamber on the most polarizing issues, including on abortion, the government’s powers to fight the pandemic and gun control. Former President Donald Trump tried to drag the court into his delusional claims of election fraud and the investigation into the January 6 insurrection — both subjects that have left it exposed to bitter winds of partisanship.
Here's how long it's taken to confirm past Supreme Court justices
All of this will inject an even more politicized tone into the next justice’s confirmation hearings. It could lead grandstanding senators from both sides to seek politically motivated assurances that could further the impression that the court is now populated by partisans.
Supreme Court nominees these days are highly prepared — and by their nature are adept at dodging leading questions. But still, Republicans are likely to seek answers on issues like firearms laws that the nominee will be wise to avoid. And progressive senators might ask a nominee in a hearing for their positions on abortion with Roe v. Wade, the landmark case affirming a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, under siege at the Supreme Court. While such exchanges are unlikely to thwart a nomination, they will inevitably drag Biden’s pick onto treacherous ground.
Democrats get a do-over
The coming weeks will test the competence of Democrats to get things done while in control in Washington.
Despite some early wins, a White House that ran on fixing problems and congressional Democrats have developed a propensity for shooting themselves in the foot. There is growing criticism of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s political tactics following the stalling of Biden’s Build Back Better climate and social spending plan and sweeping Democratic voting rights bills. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who were roadblocks on those bills, have never voted against a Biden judicial nominee so it would be a surprise if the Democratic coalition splits. But party leaders have learned the perilous nature of a 50-50 Senate majority. And an ill-timed death or serious illness among the Senate’s aged band of Democrats could seriously delay or even jeopardize the confirmation process.
Joe Biden's 2022 just got a lot better
Biden does have one highly effective weapon in his arsenal as he begins his selection process — his chief of staff Ron Klain, who masterminded Supreme Court nominations in the Clinton and Obama administrations. Klain has faced criticism during Biden’s administration, as the White House has stumbled, including on the pandemic and during the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. So the nomination is an opportunity for him to revive his standing in Washington and to deliver the President a much needed win that could reenergize Democrats as tough midterm elections loom in November.
Republicans can still cause headaches
No Supreme Court nomination struggle would be complete without the looming shadow of Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Since he’s in the minority, McConnell seems to lack the power to derail Biden’s first pick. But mangling Democratic Supreme Court hopes is his vocation and he used all kinds of procedural chicanery to seat a generational conservative majority on the top bench — indisputably the top achievement of Trump’s presidency.
The wily Kentuckian and the conservative legal establishment that built the current court do have the power to make seating a new justice a painful olukai shoes ordeal. In the first taste of the partisan combat to come, Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, had this first reaction to Wednesday’s Washington bombshell: “The Left bullied Justice Breyer into retirement and now it will demand a justice who rubber stamps its liberal political agenda.”
“And that’s what the Democrats will give them, because they’re beholden to the dark money supporters who helped elect them,” Severino added.
Biden’s past could come back to haunt him
The current Supreme Court nomination process is unusual in that the nominee will be chosen by a President who has been embroiled in controversial Supreme Court nomination battles.
Biden, as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was instrumental in the blocking of President Ronald Reagan’s nominee, Judge Robert Bork, to the court in 1987. Democrats faulted the ultra-conservative for what they saw as prejudiced views toward the rights of Black Americans and women. But conservatives have long reviled Biden for his defeat of the nomination and many of them date the hyper-politicized trend in nomination battles to that moment. Conservatives with long memories, therefore, have every motive to give Biden’s first nominee a hard time in confrontations that will draw right-wing media attention and claims of double standards if liberals complain.
Biden said he'd put a Black woman on the Supreme Court. Here's who he may pick to replace Breyer
That’s the case even if Biden was heavily criticized from the left a few years after the Bork showdown over his treatment of Anita Hill, a law professor who alleged sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas, who has since gone on to be a conservative hero on the court.
Some Republicans may also seek retribution on a Democratic Supreme Court nominee for the treatment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who endured the most searing confirmation fight in decades. Kavanaugh faced allegations of sexual misconduct dating from the 1980s, which he forcibly denied in emotional, angry hearings before the Trump administration and McConnell secured his confirmation.
The refusal of Trump to leave the political scene is also likely to raise political temperatures around the hearings, since the former President is a master at seizing on events that fuel his culture war narratives.
It is a sad commentary on the bitterness of the current era that the nomination of a Black woman, in what promises to be a moving historic moment, could also spark racist and sexist debate. It would not be surprising to hear accusations of tokenism against Biden from the more radical sectors of the conservative media ecosystem as he seeks to make history with his high court appointment. Former President Barack Obama’s first hey dude court pick, Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic woman to reach the top bench, attracted such prejudice despite her distinguished public and legal career. Any Supreme Court nominee in the modern era must expect extraordinary scrutiny of their personal, financial and professional lives. But the cross-examinations of the first Black woman Supreme Court nominee are likely to underscore some of America’s enduring prejudices.
The justice that the new nominee, whoever she is, will replace, is renowned for temperance, moderation, courtliness and a willingness to seek common ground with his ideological opposites.
Breyer is an anachronism in modern Washington, where such qualities are now all but extinct. That is why it’s questionable whether Biden, Congress, the court and America itself will emerge with reputations enhanced from a process that in the end may only worsen the national funk.

What is SWIFT and why it might be the weapon Russia fears most

As Western governments threaten Russia with a package of unprecedented sanctions aimed at deterring President Vladimir Putin from ordering an invasion of Ukraine, there’s one measure in particular that appears to strike fear at the heart of the Kremlin: cutting the country off from the global banking system.
US lawmakers have suggested in recent weeks that hoka shoes for women Russia could be removed from SWIFT, a high security network that connect thousands of financial institutions around the world.
Senior Russian lawmakers have responded by saying that shipments of oil, gas and metals to Europe would stop if that happened.
“If Russia is disconnected from SWIFT, then we will not receive [foreign] currency, but buyers, European countries in the first place, will not receive our goods — oil, gas, metals and other important components,” Nikolai Zhuravlev, vice speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said Tuesday, according to state media outlet TASS.
What is SWIFT?
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication was founded in 1973 to replace the telex and is now used by over 11,000 financial institutions to send secure messages and payment orders. With no globally accepted alternative, it is essential plumbing for global finance.
US working with allies to shore up energy supplies if Russia invades Ukraine
Removing Russia from SWIFT would make it nearly impossible for financial institutions to send money in or out of the country, delivering a sudden shock to Russian companies and their foreign customers -— especially buyers of oil and gas exports denominated in US dollars.
“The cutoff would terminate all international transactions, trigger currency volatility, and cause massive capital outflows,” Maria Shagina, a visiting fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, wrote in a paper last year for Carnegie Moscow Center. Excluding Russia from SWIFT would cause its economy to shrink by 5%, former finance minister Alexei Kudrin estimated in 2014.
SWIFT is based in Belgium and governed by a board consisting of 25 people, including Eddie Astanin, chairman of the management board at Russia’s Central Counterparty Clearing Centre. SWIFT, which describes itself as a “neutral utility,” is incorporated under Belgian law and must comply with EU regulations.
What happens if Russia is removed?
There is precedent for removing a country from SWIFT.
SWIFT unplugged Iranian banks in 2012 after they were sanctioned by the European Union over the country’s nuclear program. Iran lost almost half of its oil export revenue and 30% of foreign trade following the hoka shoes disconnection, according to Shagina.
“SWIFT is a neutral global cooperative set up and operated for the collective benefit of its community,” the organization said in a statement Wednesday. “Any decision to impose sanctions on countries or individual entities rests solely with the competent government bodies and applicable legislators,” it added.
It’s not clear how much support there is among US allies for taking similar action against Russia. The United States and Germany have the most to lose if Russia is disconnected, because their banks are the most frequent SWIFT users to communicate with Russian banks, according to Shagina.
The European Union is ready to respond to a Russian invasion of Ukraine with “comprehensive sanctions never seen before,” Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod said on Monday. EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell said Tuesday that sanctions would be “the most consequential leverage that the West, or at least the European Union, has.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told lawmakers on Tuesday that his government was discussing the possibility of banning Russia from SWIFT with the United States.
NATO chief: Still a 'diplomatic way out' of Ukraine conflict, as military alliance prepares written proposal for Russia
“There is no doubt that that would be a very potent weapon [against Russia]. I’m afraid it can only really be deployed with the assistance of the United States though. We are in discussions about that,” Johnson said.
Russia’s countermeasures
Russia has taken steps in recent years to blunt the trauma should it be removed from SWIFT.
Moscow established its own payment system, SPFS, after it was hit by Western sanctions in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea early that year. SPFS now has around 400 users, according to Russia’s central bank. Twenty percent of domestic transfers are currently done through SPFS, olukai shoes according to Shagina, but the size of messages are limited and operations are limited to weekday hours.
China’s fledgling Cross-Border Interbank Payment System, or CIPS, may provide another alternative to SWIFT. Moscow could also be forced to resort to using cryptocurrencies.
But these are not appealing alternatives.
“SWIFT is an European company, an association of many participating countries. To make a decision on disconnection, a united decision of all participating countries is needed. The decisions of the United States and Great Britain are definitely not enough,” Zhuravlev said, according to TASS.
“I’m not sure that other countries, especially those whose share of trade with Russia is large in balance, will support the shutdown,” he added.

It won’t be a pandemic forever. Here’s what could be next

Even after Covid-19 cases fall from their current record-high levels, it’s unlikely the United States — let alone the world — will be able to completely eliminate the coronavirus that causes them.

But there will come a day when it’s no longer a pandemic, when cases are no longer out of control and hospitals aren’t at great risk of overflowing with patients.
Many experts predict that the spread of coronavirus will eventually look and feel more like that of seasonal influenza.
The United States may be past the peak of Omicron cases around the end of January, some experts say; 2022 may be when the coronavirus becomes “part of our background and it comes goes,” Dr. Ofer Levy told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota this week.
Covid-19 could eventually be seasonal, scientists say
“I think it’s likely that we’ll see this wave come and go and that the spring and summer will look a lot better than right now looks to us,” said Levy, director of the Precision Vaccines Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “There will be fewer cases, and then again, next fall and winter we’ll see a spike of viral illnesses, coronaviruses, hey dude influenza and others, but that it’ll be more like an endemic cycle.
“It will be a better winter, just like this winter, with all of the challenges, is still better than the winter before.”
But this coronavirus shifts and surprises frequently — and there’s no official benchmark for when the pandemic has ended and a new normal has begun.
“There’s not even a measurement to say that something is an epidemic or pandemic. All of this is in the eye of the beholder — and that’s part of the issue,” Dr. Arnold Monto, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan and acting chair of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, told CNN in November.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Resolutions for making 2022 a better, healthier year
“So, all of this is not based on rules. It’s based typically on what you have to do to control the outbreak,” Monto said. “What is so different here is that our vaccines are much more effective than what we usually see.”
That’s the good news, according to Monto. The bad news comes with the power of the virus to change and evolve.
No one can predict what the future of Covid-19 could look like — and the emergence of coronavirus variants, like Delta and Omicron, has shifted the trajectory.
“With the change in transmission patterns, as the variants have emerged — I call it a parade of variants — we now see much more extensive transmission and much more uniform spread globally. This makes declaring the end of the pandemic more difficult,” Monto said. “Because the whole pattern of spread has changed, and there may still be pockets that really haven’t gone through the kind of waves that the rest of the world has gone through.”

‘Wait and see and hold our breath’

Monto and other public health leaders anticipate that in the future, the world could track the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, in ways similar to how the seasonal flu is monitored.
Life after the 1918 flu has lessons for our post-pandemic world
“We have no idea whether we’re going to see that kind of seasonal pattern with SARS-CoV-2, but it does remind us that most of our respiratory viruses start behaving as seasonal events,” Monto said.
“There is the precedent for a very seasonal pattern for some of the coronaviruses that have been infecting people,” he added. “Whether SARS-CoV-2 starts to behave like that, we don’t know, but at least it gives us one scenario that it might start to behave like that.”
As Monto put it, we have to “wait and see and hold our breath” to unlock what an endemic phase of the coronavirus might look like.
As the government talks about vaccine boosters, it's time to cover the endemic reality of Covid
Endemic means a disease has a constant presence in a population but is not affecting an alarmingly large number of people, as typically seen in a pandemic.
Even in early 2020, as the pandemic was just ramping up, officials at the World Health Organization predicted that the novel coronavirus “may become another endemic virus in our communities” and never go away.
“When you think about pandemics, you’re in the pandemic phase, and then you have a deceleration phase, then you have a control phase, then hopefully you’ll have elimination and maybe eradication,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the US Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor & Pensions at a hearing in November.
“What we hope to get it at is such a low level that even though it isn’t completely eliminated, it doesn’t have a major impact on public health or on the way we run our lives,” Fauci said. “So if we get more people vaccinated globally and more people red wing boots vaccinated now, hopefully within a reasonable period of time, we will get to that point where it might occasionally be up and down in the background, but it won’t dominate us the way it’s doing right now.”
Even as Covid-19 cases surge to new highs, federal health officials have been thinking about how to measure the end of the pandemic and how to continue to track the coronavirus once it becomes endemic.

‘There is still much to be done’

To transition from pandemic to endemic, the nation has to build up immunity to the coronavirus — which means many more people need to get vaccinated, Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician and epidemiologist at Boston College, told CNN in November.
With some Americans still refusing to get their Covid-19 shots and some refusing to wear masks, the transition could take more time.
Covid-19 vaccinations began a year ago. These numbers show how it's going
About 62% of the total US population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Even fewer have received a booster dose.
“We have to get somewhere well north of 80%, possibly even well north of 90% of the population with immunity, either through having had infection or through having had vaccinations,” said Landrigan, who worked at the CDC for 15 years.
To control the spread of the measles virus in the US population, for instance, “we had to get the immunity rate up above 95%, and even then, we’ve had sporadic outbreaks. These outbreaks typically occur when you have a cluster of people in a particular place who are not immunized and all of a sudden the virus gets introduced because a traveler has come in with the virus — and bang, you’ve got 20 cases of measles in some town,” Landrigan said. “But that’s not an epidemic. It’s an outbreak against a background of almost no cases or scattered endemic cases.”
Flu and Covid-19 cases rising in much of the US
Health officials are familiar with the work needed to improve vaccination rates.
The CDC recommends that almost everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. But during the 2019-20 flu season, only about half of those people — 51.8% — did, according to the CDC. The agency estimates that flu has caused about 12,000 to 52,000 deaths each year between 2010 and 2020.
The coronavirus has killed more than 800,000 people in the United States so far. In the future, the battle to corral the virus every year may look very much like the annual fight against the flu.
“We’ve been thinking a lot about what an endemic phase looks like and hoka shoes for women the data that we’re needing to collect during that phase. Certainly right now, we are collecting data on cases, hospitalizations, deaths,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in the Senate committee hearing in November. “The question is: What are going to be our best metrics moving forward? And probably modeling it on flu.”

A more likely picture of the future

The CDC collaborates with health departments, laboratories, hospitals and health care providers to track diagnosed flu cases, determine what influenza viruses are circulating and measure the impact those viruses are having on hospitalizations and deaths.
When hospitals run out of beds, here's how they ration care
One idea is that when the coronavirus becomes endemic, a similar tracking system could be used to monitor the pathogen.
“We could handle the cases just like we do with seasonal flu, where we’re able to say we know we’re going to see a number of cases in the winter season, and we can have the right staffing, we can have the right supplies ready, and we’re ready to handle it, as opposed to the surges that we’ve been dealing with here,” Dr. Stephen Parodi, national infectious disease leader for Kaiser Permanente, told CNN in November.
“I’m still on phone calls talking about, ‘what’s our ICU bed capacity? What’s our supplies chains that we need to provide care to patients? Do we have enough medication?’ ” Parodi said. “We have a lot more work to still do to get to where we want to be, and I think we’re going to see this transition over year 2022. But for some locales, where there’s less immunity, it’s going to be a longer run.”
Even the flu is unpredictable, and doctors have seen a lot of it over the years.
“We know there are going to be cases,” Monto said. “With the flu, we’ve had experience with flu pandemics before. So we know typically the way they behave. This has been an evolving situation with a totally novel pathogen.”

4 women testified at Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial that they were sexually abused. Here’s what they said

The case against Ghislaine Maxwell primarily relies on the testimony of four women who say they were sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein when they were under 18 — and that Maxwell facilitated and sometimes participated in that abuse, too.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to six federal charges: sex trafficking of minors, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transporting a skechers outlet minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three counts of conspiracy.
Prosecutors said in opening statements Maxwell and Epstein created a system of sexual abuse in which they lured underage girls into sexual relationships with Epstein using the ruse of a massage and cash payments. Her defense, though, has argued she is being scapegoated for Epstein’s actions and has attacked the memories and motivations of the women who say they were abused.
Epstein, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges, was indicted on federal sex trafficking charges in July 2019 but died by suicide in prison a month later. Maxwell was arrested a year afterward.
Woman testifies Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein started sexually abusing her when she was 14
CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor Paul Callan says Epstein’s death and the passage of so much time pose a huge challenge for prosecutors in this case. The government alleges the abuse occurred between 1994 and 2004.
“Proving sex abuse and rape cases from decades ago is generally an extraordinarily difficult task,” Callan says. “Proof in cases where children are involved are even more difficult. Memories of children are often unreliable and malleable.”
Maxwell said he expects the defense to call an expert witness to convince the jury that such testimony is inherently unreliable. The defense is expected to start its case on Thursday.
The government on Friday rested its case after prosecutors called 24 witnesses across 10 days of testimony.
“Despite substantial obstacles, prosecutors finished strongly” with Annie Farmer, the fourth and final accuser to take the stand, providing “vivid testimony,” Callan says.
“In the end a prosecution case which started weakly built to a strong conclusion,” Callan says.
Testimony from the victims began on November 30 with “Jane,” who said that Maxwell sometimes joined in on the sexualized massages. “Kate” testified December 6 that Maxwell set up those sexual meetings. Carolyn testified the next day that Maxwell once touched her breasts, hips and butt and told her she “had a great body for Epstein and his friends.” She was 14 at the time, she said.
Finally, Farmer testified Friday that she was 16 years old when Maxwell massaged her naked chest at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch in 1996.
Here’s a closer look at what these women said under oath.

What Jane said

In this sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell, seated left, speaks to her defense attorney on Monday, December 6.

A woman identified in court by the pseudonym “Jane” testified last week she met Maxwell and Epstein in 1994 when she was 14 at a camp where he was a benefactor.
She and her mother met Epstein for tea in Florida and he said he could mentor her. She then started going to Epstein’s home by herself. At first, Maxwell and Epstein made her feel special — spending time with her, asking about her family and interests and taking her to do fun things, she said. For the first few months, Maxwell felt like an older sister, she said.
“It changed when the abuse started happening,” she said.
Jane described in graphic detail incidents of sexual abuse with Epstein that Maxwell would at times join in on, both in Palm Beach, Florida, and Manhattan when she was 14, 15 and 16 years old.
At times, Epstein would masturbate on bluetooth headphones her and molest her, she said. Maxwell would sometimes be involved, touching her and Epstein, she testified. At least once, Maxwell “instructed” her how Epstein liked to be massaged while the three were in Epstein’s massage room, she testified.
“It seemed very casual, like it was very normal, like it was not big deal,” she said. “It made me feel confused because that did not feel normal to me.”
She said it took her years before she was able to tell anyone about what happened, saying she felt “shame and disgust and confusion.”
On cross-examination, defense attorneys combed through her statements to law enforcement since 2019 to try to show inconsistencies with her testimony in court.
In the statements, Jane told law enforcement agents that she wasn’t sure if Maxwell ever touched her and she didn’t remember Maxwell ever being present for any sexual activity between her and Epstein. Jane repeatedly testified she didn’t recall if she’d said that to investigators.
At other times Jane testified that the law enforcement notes from those interviews were inaccurate, inconsistent with her timeline and not an accurate transcript of her statements, which were not recorded.

What Kate said

Prosecutors introduced into evidence this photo of Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein.

“Kate” testified on Monday she first met Maxwell through an older boyfriend when she was 17.
Maxwell invited her for tea at her London townhome and told Kate about Epstein and later invited her again to meet him, she testified.
There, Maxwell told her to give Epstein’s foot a little “squeeze” to show him how strong she was despite her small frame, Kate testified. Epstein approved of the foot massage and also had her massage his shoulders.
A couple of weeks later, Maxwell called Kate to ask whether she would do her “a favor” and come give Epstein a massage, sperry shoes even though she had no massage therapy experience. Maxwell led Kate upstairs in her townhome to a bedroom where Epstein stood in a robe, gave Kate massage oil, and closed the door behind her. Epstein disrobed and initiated a sex act with her, she said.
Maxwell called her back a second for another meeting with Epstein. “She said, ‘I’m so glad you’re here. You did such a good job last time (that) he wanted you to come back,'” Kate said.
This time, Epstein was standing naked when Maxwell brought Kate to the same room and closed the door behind her. “Have a good time,” Maxwell said as she left the room, according to the testimony.
In her testimony, Kate testified she traveled at Epstein’s expense several times to New York; Palm Beach, Florida; and Little St. James in the US Virgin Islands, where Epstein had property. Maxwell invited her to Epstein’s private island to give him massages and would inform Kate of the travel arrangements, she said.
During a visit to the Palm Beach residence when she was about 18, a “school girl” outfit — a pleated skirt, white panties, white socks and a shirt — was left on her bed, according to her testimony. When she asked Maxwell what it was for, Maxwell said, “I thought it would be fun for you to take Jeffrey his tea in this outfit,” Kate testified.
Maxwell spoke of sexual topics often with Kate, asking her if she knew any other girls that could give Epstein oral sex. “She said that he needed to have sex about three times a day,” Kate said.
“You know what he likes — cute, young (and) pretty like you,” Maxwell said, according to the testimony.
Kate said she kept in contact with Epstein until around 2012. She was about 24 when she last traveled with Maxwell and Epstein, but she continued contact with Epstein through her early 30s, she testified.
She described staying in contact with him as a mix of denial and fear.
“I did not want to admit what had happened to me and I felt that by ceasing communication I would have to acknowledge the events that had taken place and I would have to say something,” she said. “I was also fearful of disengaging because I had witnessed how connected they both were and I was fearful.”
Kate is not considered a minor victim in the charges because she was over the age of consent at the time of the alleged abuse, but jurors were still allowed to consider her testimony, Judge Alison Nathan ruled.

What Carolyn said

Prosecutors say Ghislaine Maxwell conspired with Jeffrey Epstein to create a system of sexual abuse of underage girls.

Carolyn, who testified Tuesday using only her first name, said she was 14 years old when she began to go to Epstein’s home in Palm Beach, two or three times per week in the early 2000s.
On one visit, Carolyn was setting up a massage room for him when Maxwell came into the room. Maxwell touched Carolyn’s breasts, hips and butt, and commented that she “had a great body for Epstein and his friends,” according to her testimony.
Carolyn said she went to Epstein’s over a hundred times in all. Each time she visited, $300 in cash was left for her on the bathroom sink, she said.
“Something sexual happened every single time,” Carolyn said.
She said that she remembered bringing three different friends around her age with her over the years. On those occasions she’d receive $600 in cash as an incentive for bringing them, and her friends would receive $300.
Carolyn described a number of sexual encounters with Epstein. She also said Maxwell saw her naked in the massage room “probably three times” over the years.
Maxwell and Epstein separately invited her to go to an island, but she told them she was too young and her mom wouldn’t let her travel out of the country, she testified. She also didn’t have a passport.
Sometimes, Maxwell or another Epstein associate would call her to set up an “appointment” time, Carolyn testified. Other times she would call to ask if she could come over because she wanted the money, she said. She testified that Maxwell and the associate would call her on her mom or her boyfriend’s phone numbers if they couldn’t reach her.
She said she used the money to buy drugs.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca cross-examined Carolyn for more than two hours Tuesday and spent considerable time suggesting Carolyn made inconsistent statements about her timeline, including a 2007 FBI meeting and in a 2009 deposition for lawsuits she pursued against Epstein.
Carolyn sobbed when prosecutor Maurene Comey asked if she was trying to get money for her testimony.
“No, money will not ever fix what that woman has done to me,” Carolyn said. “Because what she did was wrong and she takes vulnerable young girls and traffics them and I’m so petrified that my daughters are going to be trafficked.”

What Annie Farmer said

Frustration grows over heavily redacted Epstein pilot's flight logs
Frustration grows over heavily redacted Epstein pilot’s flight logs 02:40
Annie Farmer, who testified under her full name, has spoken out publicly about Epstein and Maxwell for years. She spoke in open court during both Epstein’s 2019 bail hearing and Maxwell’s bail hearing a year later.
She testified for three hours Friday, the fourth and final accuser to do so. Her older sister worked for Epstein, and Farmer met him during the 1995 holiday season. Epstein paid for her commercial flight to New York and at a movie held hands with her and caressed her foot, she said in court.
She described going to the billionaire’s ranch in New Mexico in 1996 at age 16, salomon boots where she thought she would be joining other peers but she was the only teen there.
There, Maxwell told her to get undressed and gave her a rubdown, telling her she wanted Farmer to experience a professional massage, Farmer testified.
At some point as she lay on her back, Maxwell pulled the sheet down, exposing her naked breasts, and rubbed her chest and upper breast, Farmer testified.
“Once she pulled down the sheet I felt like kind of frozen,” she testified. “It didn’t make sense to me that that would happen. I just wanted so badly to get off the table and have this massage be done.”
On her last day at the ranch Epstein bounded into her guestroom where she still lay in bed telling her he wanted to “cuddle.”
“He climbed into bed with me and kind of laid behind me and reached his arms around me and like pressed his body into me,” she said.
Feeling uncomfortable, she made an excuse to get out of bed and went to the bathroom, closing the door behind her.
Farmer said that while in New Mexico they went to see the movie “Primal Fear,” where Epstein again caressed her in a more “blatant” way, seemingly making no effort to hide it from Maxwell, she recalled. Later that day, Maxwell insisted she teach Farmer how to massage Epstein’s bare feet, Farmer testified.
Under cross-examination, Farmer acknowledged Maxwell was not in the room when Epstein got into her bed. In addition, defense attorney Laura Menninger repeatedly pointed out that Maxwell was not present on Farmer’s trip to New York.
Menninger suggested that Farmer overstated what she alleges happened to her in her public statements and on her Epstein Victim Compensation Program application for personal gain.