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    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the reconstruction of his country will become the “common task of the entire democratic world” after the war with Russia ends. The video comments came at a “Ukraine Recovery Conference" in Switzerland on Monday. Ukraine's prime minister Denys Shmyhal laid out a $750 billion, three-phase recovery plan that focuses on immediate needs, “fast recovery," then long-term reconstruction. He said up to $500 billion in frozen funds belonging to Russian oligarchs and others should help pay for it. A Swiss NGO says event host Switzerland should do more to help stop Russia's financing of the war.

      More than halfway through a tumultuous primary season, voters have rendered verdicts in a number of contests, many of which featured candidates arguing they best represented a continuation of policies favored by former President Donald Trump. While not on the ballot himself, Trump has played a role in several races, with candidates bearing his endorsement meeting a variety of electoral outcomes. There have also been tumbles by several incumbents, some taken out by Trump-backed challengers and others bested by fellow representatives in faceoffs forced by redistricting. So far, eight U.S. House incumbents have lost their seats after primary elections.

        Organizers of a medical marijuana legalization campaign in Nebraska say they're in danger of missing their signature goal to qualify for the November general election ballot. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana says it still needs to gather thousands of signatures ahead of Thursday’s submission deadline set by the state. The campaign suffered a major blow when one of its top donors died, forcing organizers to rely primarily on volunteers. The campaign needs valid signatures from 7% of Nebraska’s registered voters, roughly 87,000 voters, to appear on the ballot. Voters would decide in November whether to legalize the drug for medical uses. Some prominent elected officials, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, remain firmly opposed to legalization and have actively fought the measure.

          Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday declared victory in the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, one day after Ukrainian forces withdrew from their last remaining bulwark of resistance in the province. Putin's declaration came as Russian forces were trying to press their offensive deeper into eastern Ukraine after capturing the Luhansk stronghold of Lysychansk on Sunday. The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian forces are now focusing their efforts on pushing toward the line of Siversk, Fedorivka and Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, one of the two regions that make up the country’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas. About half of Donetsk is controlled by Russia.

            Pope Francis has dismissed rumors he plans to resign anytime soon and says that he hopes to visit Moscow and Kyiv after travelling to Canada later this month.  Francis also told Reuters in an interview published Monday that the idea “never entered my mind” to announce a planned retirement at the end of the summer, though he repeated he might step down some day as Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI did in 2013.He revealed that his knee trouble, which has caused him to use a wheelchair for over a month, was caused by a “small fracture” that occurred when he misstepped while the knee ligament was inflamed.

              Massachusetts police chiefs should no longer deny or impose restrictions on licenses to carry a gun just because the applicant doesn’t have a “good reason” to carry, the state’s attorney general says. Attorney General Maura Healey released guidance Friday for police chiefs in the wake of the decision overturning a gun-permitting law in New York. Under that law, New York residents needed to show proper cause, or an actual need, to carry a concealed handgun in public for self-defense. Healey's guidance says police can still ask applicants their reasons for applying for a license to carry, but can no longer deny or restrict licenses because they believe the person doesn’t have a “good reason.”

                German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has gathered top employer and labor union representatives at his Berlin office to seek ways of addressing the impact of rising prices while preventing a spiral of inflation in Europe’s biggest economy. The government billed Monday’s meeting as the first in a series aimed at finding a broad alliance for solutions as Germany’s annual inflation rate stands at 7.6% — close to a half-century high. Scholz’s spokesman said that “we will have to have results in the fall,” but didn’t specify when exactly. In Germany, wage deals are typically hammered out in negotiations between employers’ organizations and unions that cover a whole industrial sector.

                Voters have started casting ballots in Papua New Guinea’s general elections to decide the coalition government that will rule one of the South Pacific’s most populous and diverse nations for the next five years. The leading contenders to lead the new government are current Prime Minister James Marape and his predecessor who resigned in 2019, Peter O’Neill. Polling takes weeks and the composition of the government among more than 50 parties contesting 118 seats will not be known until Parliament next sits in August. Since Papua New Guinea’s independence from Australia in 1975, elections in the nation of 9 million have been marred by violence, fraud and bribery.

                Cities burned to the ground and colleagues with severed limbs. Bombardments so relentless the only option is to lie in a trench, wait and pray. Ukrainian soldiers returning from the front lines in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region – where Russia is waging a fierce offensive - describe life during what has turned into a grueling war of attrition as apocalyptic. In interviews with The Associated Press, some complained of chaotic organization, desertions and mental health problems caused by relentless shelling. Others spoke of high morale, their colleagues’ heroism, and a commitment to keep fighting, even as the better-equipped Russians control more of the combat zone.

                A French TV documentary offers a unique behind-the-scene look before and after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, from the point of view of France’s diplomatic efforts around the war. It shows French President Emmanuel Macron’s activism, following him from Moscow to Kyiv, but also his top aides in action. The film notably reveals nine minutes of a phone call between Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin four days before the war, in a rare public recording of a discussion between two world leaders. Macron tries to convince the Russian president to “calm things down” in the region. But all his suggestions reach a dead end on Putin’s side.

                Kathy Gannon has reported on Afghanistan for the AP for the past 35 years, during an extraordinary series of events and regime changes that have rocked the world. Through it all, the kindness and resilience of ordinary Afghans have shone through for her – which is also what has made it so painful for her, she says, to watch the slow erosion of their hope. Gannon says she has always been amazed at how Afghans stubbornly hung on to hope against all odds, greeting each of several new regimes with optimism. But by 2018, a Gallup poll showed that the fraction of people in Afghanistan with hope in the future was the lowest ever recorded anywhere. It didn’t have to be this way, Gannon says.

                Cash-strapped Sri Lanka has extended school closures for one week because there isn’t enough fuel for teachers and parents to get children to classrooms. The energy minister has appealed to the country’s expatriates to send money home through banks to finance new oil purchases. A huge foreign debt has left the Indian Ocean island with none of the suppliers willing to sell fuel on credit. The available stocks, sufficient for only several days, will be provided for essential services, including health and port workers, public transport and food distribution. The energy minister said Sunday that finding money is a huge challenge. He says authorities are struggling to find $587 million to pay for fuel because Sri Lanka owed about $800 million to seven fuel suppliers.


                Content by Brand Ave. Studios. The annual Amazon Prime Day is coming July 12 and 13, and per usual will offer discounts on many of your favorite things.

                The last remaining Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, will lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol. The native West Virginian will receive that tribute at a later date. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the honor on Sunday. During a memorial in Charleston, West Virginia, Williams was remembered for his courage, humility and selflessness. President Harry Truman awarded the Medal of Honor to Williams in 1945 for his heroics during one of the Pacific theater's fiercest fights, the battle for Iwo Jima.

                Gov. Gavin Newsom is running for reelection in California, but his latest television ad is airing in Florida. The 30-second spot scheduled to air on Fox News starting Monday takes shots at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his policies, while drawing a contrast with California. Newsom says in the ad that he urges Florida residents to “join us in California.” Newsom has said he has no interest in running for president, but the ad is sure to stoke speculation that the 54-year-old Democrat is eyeing national office.

                West African leaders attending a regional summit have agreed to lift sanctions on two neighbors led by military governments that are now promising a return to democratic rule. The summit of the Economic Community of West African States resolved Sunday to lift all economic and financial sanctions imposed on Mali and Burkina Faso, although those countries will remain suspended from the regional bloc. The head of the ECOWAS Commssion says that Guinea, the third country under sanctions, received no reprieve because it did not submit an acceptable roadmap toward elections. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou adds that the suspension of all three nations from the regional bloc will remain in force until they hold elections.

                The White House says President Joe Biden will present the nation's highest civilian honor to 17 people, including gymnast Simone Biles, actor Denzel Washington and the late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, with whom Biden served in the Senate. Biden will also recognize Sandra Lindsay, the New York nurse who rolled up her sleeve on live television in December 2020 to receive the first COVID-19 vaccination that was administered in the U.S. Other recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom are gun safety advocate Gabrielle Giffords, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and U.S. women's national soccer team player Megan Rapinoe.

                A Missouri legislator has resigned her seat after being convicted of falsely claiming she was giving patients stem cell treatments for COVID-19. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Republican state Rep. Tricia Derges sent her resignation letter to House Speaker Rob Vescovo on Friday. She was convicted in June on 22 counts including wire fraud, illegal distribution of controlled substances and making false statements to investigators. Federal prosecutors have argued she claimed nearly $900,000 in federal funding for COVID-19 treatments that weren't performed or had already been performed. They also allege she promoted amniotic fluid as a COVID-19 treatment and other diseases by falsely claiming it contained stem cells.

                A Russian diplomat says two airplanes have departed Bulgaria with scores of Russian diplomatic staff and their families amid a mass expulsion that has sent relations soaring between the two historically close nations. A top Russian diplomat at the airport in the capital Sofia confirmed he was among the 70 Russian diplomatic staff declared “persona non grata” last week. They were all ordered to leave the country by the end of Sunday. The expulsion decision was announced last week by acting Prime Minister Kiril Petkov who took a strong stance against Russia after it invaded Ukraine on 24. Feb.

                A member of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot says more evidence is emerging that lends support to recent testimony that President Donald Trump wanted to join an angry mob that marched to the Capitol and rioted. Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger says “there will be way more information and stay tuned.” He's not disclosing the new information he's referring to and he's not saying who's provided it. But he says the information hasn't shaken the committee's confidence in the testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. At least two more hearings are scheduled this month. And the committee's vice chair,  Rep. Liz Cheney, is making clear that criminal referrals to the Justice Department, including against Trump, could follow.

                An amateur soccer tournament in France aimed at celebrating ethnic diversity is attracting talent scouts, sponsors and increasing public attention by uniting young players from low-income neighborhoods with high-profile names in the sport. The National Neighborhoods Cup is intended to shine a positive spotlight on working-class areas with large immigrant populations that some politicians and commentators scapegoat as breeding grounds for crime, riots and Islamic extremism. Players with Congolese heritage beat a team with Malian roots 5-4 on Saturday in the one-month tournament’s final match that was held at the home stadium of a third-division French team in the Paris suburb of Creteil. The final was broadcast live on Prime Video.

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