Crimea Marks Anniversary Of Russian Annexation, As Western Sanctions Tighten Grip

This week marks the fifth anniversary of Russia’s forceful annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea. The United States and its allies imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Moscow following the invasion – and analysts say the economic impact is denting approval ratings for Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Henry Ridgwell reports.

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Finland Is World’s Happiest Country

Finland ranked as the world’s happiest country for the second consecutive year, in a new United Nations report. The other Nordic countries, as well as the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand and Austria also made the top 10 in the happiness survey of 156 countries. South Sudan sank to the bottom, and other war-torn countries also ranked low. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke has more.

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Harvard Sued for Profiting From Images of Enslaved Ancestors

An American woman has filed a lawsuit against Harvard University, accusing the prestigious institution of “shamelessly” profiting from photos of her ancestors who were slaves in the 19th century.

Tamara Lanier of Norwich, Connecticut, is suing the Ivy League school for “wrongful seizure, possession and expropriation” of images of her great-great-great grandfather, Renty, and his daughter, Delia.

She wants Harvard to hand the images over to her family and pay an unspecified amount in damages. 

Early type of photography used

The lawsuit says the 1850 daguerreotypes, an early type of photograph, were commissioned by Harvard biologist Louis Agassiz who was seeking racially “pure” slaves born in Africa.

The father and daughter were stripped and photographed from various angles in an effort to “prove” Agassiz’s theory that black people are inferior and to “justify their subjugation, exploitation and segregation.”

“To Agassiz, Renty and Delia were nothing more than research specimens,” the suit says. “The violence of compelling them to participate in a degrading exercise designed to prove their own subhuman status would not have occurred to him, let alone mattered.”

The suit says Harvard has over the years exploited the images, including using an image of Renty to promote a 2017 conference called “Universities and Slavery: Bound by History,” which explored the relationships between universities and slavery, and as a cover of a book that explores the use of photography in anthropology. 

History shared by mother

Lanier said as a child she heard stories about Renty from her mother who made sure to pass down family history.  She alleges that in 2011 she wrote to then-Harvard president Drew Faust, detailing her ties to Renty.

At the time, she wanted to learn more about the images and how they would be used. In another letter sent in 2017, she demanded that Harvard relinquish the photos. In both cases, she said, Harvard did not address her requests.

The suit charges that “by contesting Lanier’s claim of lineage, Harvard is shamelessly capitalizing on the intentional damage done to black Americans’ genealogy by a century’s worth of policies that forcibly separated families, erased slaves’ family names, withheld birth and death records, and criminalized literacy.”

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Labrador Retriever Most Pup-ular US Dog Breed for 28th Year

Labrador retrievers aren’t letting go of their hold on U.S. dog lovers, but German shorthaired pointers are tugging on the top ranks of doggy popularity, according to new American Kennel Club data.

Labs topped the list for the 28th year in a row. Yet there’s been plenty of movement over time on the purebred pup-ularity ladder. 

Here’s a look at the 2018 rankings being released Wednesday. 

Top top 10

After Labs, the top five breeds nationwide are German shepherds, golden retrievers, French bulldogs and bulldogs. Rounding out the top 10 are beagles, poodles, Rottweilers, German shorthaired pointers and Yorkshire terriers.

Labs smashed the record for longest tenure as top dog back in 2013. Fans credit the Lab’s generally amiable nature and aptitude in many canine roles: bomb-sniffer, service dog, hunters’ helper, dog-sport competitor and patient family pet. 

At No. 9, the German shorthaired pointer notched its highest ranking since getting AKC recognition in 1930. These strikingly speckled hunting dogs are also versatile — some work as drug — and bomb-detectors — and active companions. 

“I think people are learning about how fun the breed is,” says AKC spokeswoman Brandi Hunter. 

The suddenly ubiquitous French bulldog remains the fourth most popular breed for a second year, after surging from 83rd a quarter-century ago.

The numbers

The rankings reflect a breed’s prevalence among the 580,900 puppies and other purebred dogs newly registered in 2018 with the AKC, the country’s oldest such registry.  Some 88,175 of these dogs were Labs. 

AKC says registrations, which are voluntary, have been growing for six years.

Estimates of the total number of pet dogs nationwide range from about 70 million to 90 million.

The consistent fave

Beagles, now No. 6, can boast they’re uniquely beloved. No other breed has made the top 10 in every decade since record-keeping began in the 1880s. 

Why? “They’re a good general family dog,” lively, friendly, relatively low-maintenance and comfortable with children, says breeder Kevin Shupenia of Dacula, Georgia. Beagles also work sniffing out contraband meat and plants at airports, detecting bedbugs in homes and doing their traditional job: hunting rabbits. 

“They have a sense of humor, and they’re just characters,” Shupenia says. 

The rarest of them all

The most scant breed was the sloughi (pronounced SLOO’-ghee). The greyhound-like dog has a long history in North Africa but garnered AKC recognition only three years ago. It replaces the Norwegian lundehund in the rarest-breed spot. 

How did doodles do?

Wonder where goldendoodles, puggles, or cockapoos stand? You won’t find these and other popular “designer dogs” among the 193 breeds recognized and ranked by the AKC.

That’s not to say they never will be, if their fanciers so desire. New breeds join the club periodically, after meeting criteria that include having at least 300 dogs nationwide and three generations. 

Meanwhile, designer and just plain mixed-breed dogs can sign up with AKC to compete in such sports as agility, dock diving and obedience. 

The whys, pros and cons of popularity

Many factors can influence a breed’s popularity: ease of care, exposure from TV and movies, and famous owners, to name a few. 

Popularity spurts can expand knowledge about a breed, but many people in dogdom rue slipshod breeding by people trying to cash in on sudden cachet. 

Elaine Albert, a longtime chow chow owner and sometime breeder, is glad the ancient Chinese dog is now 75th in the rankings, after leaping into the top 10 in the 1980s. Albert recalls that she and other chow rescue volunteers were swamped as people gave up dogs with temperament and health problems, which she attributes to careless breeding.

“I certainly wouldn’t want (chows) to be number one, ever,” says Albert, of Hauppauge, New York. “They belong where they are…. They’re not for everybody.”

On the other hand, aficionados of rare breeds sometimes worry about sustaining them.  

The purebred debate 

Some animal-welfare groups feel the pursuit of purebred dogs puts their looks ahead of their health and diverts people from adopting pets. Critics also say the AKC needs to do more to thwart puppy mills.

The club says it encourages responsible breeding of healthy dogs, not as a beauty contest but to preserve traits that have helped dogs do particular jobs. 




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У Раді пропонують створити робочу групу щодо законопроекту про легалізацію канабісу в медицині

Сьогодні у Комітеті Верховної Ради з питань прав людини, національних меншин і міжнаціональних відносин відбулася дискусія щодо ймовірності легалізації в Україні канабісу в медичних цілях. Його скликали, зокрема, щоб розглянути електронну петицію «Законодавчо врегулювати канабіс для науки та медицини – захистити конституційні права громадян», яка набрала 25 тисяч 111 тисяч підписів.

Як йдеться на сторінці комітету у Facebook, депутати-члени комітету вирішили створити робочу групу з депутатів та експертів для розробки відповідного законопроекту і провести круглий стіл чи комітетські слухання.

«Україна готова до відповідних змін. Це питання вже врегульовано в США, Канаді та інших країнах. Це питання доступу до медикаментів. Це право наших громадян, яке наразі не виконується», – заявив під час засідання комітету голова «Української асоціації медичного канабісу» Генадій Шабас.

Представник омбудсмена Андрій Мамалигін наголосив, що питання легалізації канабісу для використання в медичних цілях є актуальним, і його можливо врегулювати законодавчо.

Петицію щодо канабісу в науці та медицині оприлюднили на сайті українського парламенту 30 січня цього року. Автори петиції вимагають врегулювати доступ пацієнтів до препаратів з канабісу при лікуванні хронічного болю, епілепсії, анорексії, посттравматичного синдрому, захворювань імунної системи, артриту та ревматизму, астми, хвороби Альцгеймера, хвороби Паркінсона, хореї Гетінгтона, герпесу, виразок, втрати ваги під час СНІДу, діабетичної нейропатії, різних форм склерозу та багатьох інших важких хвороб.

В.о. міністра охорони здоров’я Уляна Супрун вважає, що використовувати канабіс у медицині «з певними застереженнями» є нормальною світовою практикою.

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Уряд виділив 14 мільйонів гривень на розселення аварійного будинку у Фастові

Уряд 20 березня виділив 14 мільйонів гривень із резервного фонду держбюджету на придбання нового житла мешканцям аварійного будинку у Фастові, які потребують відселення. Про це йдеться на сайті уряду.

«Згідно з ухваленою урядом постановою, Мінфін має здійснити переказ зазначених коштів із Резервного фонду держбюджету Київській облдержадміністрації, яка протягом 2 тижнів має погодити із Мінекономрозвитку, Мінрегіоном та Мінфіном перелік усіх необхідних бюджетних витрат для розселення постраждалих від надзвичайної події громадян», – йдеться в повідомленні.

За даними уряду, до 20 грудня 2019 року Київська облдержадміністрація має відзвітувати про використання виділених коштів на нове житло для постраждалих.

14 грудня 2018 року у місті Фастів на Київщині у квартирі на 4-му поверсі п’ятиповерхового будинку стався вибух. Жертвами вибуху стали двоє людей, ще одна людина була травмована. За попередніми висновками Державного науково-дослідного інституту будівельних конструкцій, 30 квартир цього будинку нині непридатні для експлуатації, а мешканці потребують відселення.

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EU Fines Google $1.7 Billion for Abusing Online ads Market

European Union regulators have hit Google with a 1.49 billion euro ($1.68 billion) fine for abusing its dominant role in online advertising.

It’s the third time the commission has slapped Google with an antitrust penalty, following multibillion-dollar fines resulting from separate probes into two other parts of the Silicon Valley giant’s business.


The EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, announced the results of the long-running probe of Google’s AdSense advertising business at a news conference in Brussels on Wednesday.


“Today’s decision is about how Google abused its dominance to stop websites using brokers other than the AdSense platform,” Vestager said.


The commission found that Google and its parent company, Alphabet, breached EU antitrust rules by imposing restrictive clauses in contracts with websites that used AdSense, preventing Google rivals from placing their ads on these sites.


Google “prevented its rivals from having a chance to innovate and to compete in the market on their merits,” Vestager said. “Advertisers and website owners, they had less choice and likely faced higher prices that would be passed on to consumers.”


AdSense is an older Google product that lets web publishers such as bloggers place text ads on their websites, with the content of the ads based on results from search functions on their sites. Microsoft filed an EU antitrust complaint about the service in 2009 and the EU Commission formally launched its probe in 2016, although it said at the time that Google had already made some changes to allow affected customers more freedom to show competing ads.


Last year, Vestager hit the company with a record 4.34 billion euro ($5 billion) fine following an investigation into its Android operating system. In 2017, she slapped Google with a 2.42 billion euro fine in a case involving its online shopping search results.


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Tokyo Unveils ‘Cherry Blossom’ Olympic Torch

Organizers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on Wednesday unveiled a cherry-blossom shaped torch for the Games as the city prepares for the famed flower season to begin in coming days.

The top part of the torch is shaped in the traditional emblem of the sakura, or cherry blossom using the same cutting-edge technology as in production of Japan’s bullet trains, the organizers said.

The shiny rose-gold torch, which is 71 centimeters (28 inches) long and weighs 1.2 kilograms (2 pounds 10 ounces), uses aluminum construction waste from temporary housing built for victims of the 2011 quake and tsunami.

“Cherry blossoms drawn by kids in the disaster-hit area (in Fukushima)… inspired me,” designer Tokujin Yoshioka, whose works are known internationally, told reporters.

Fukushima was chosen as the starting point for the Olympic torch relay.

The passing of the flame is scheduled to start on March 26, 2020, and the torch will head south to the sub-tropical island of Okinawa – the starting point for the 1964 Tokyo Games relay – before returning north and arriving in the Japanese capital on July 10.

The designer added the torch is designed to ensure the flame will not go out even during the typhoon season.

The March 2011 tsunami, triggered by a massive undersea quake, killed around 18,000 people and swamped the Fukushima nuclear plant, sending its reactors into meltdown and leading to the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

More than 50,000 people have not returned to their home towns.

Japan has dubbed the 2020 Games the “Reconstruction Olympics” and wants to showcase recovery in regions devastated by the disaster.


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Juncker: EU Unlikely to Decide This Week on Brexit Extension

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday the European Union is not open to further negotiations on Britain’s exit from the bloc and is unlikely to decide this week whether to give Britain an extension on its March 29 deadline.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to send a letter to EU leaders to ask for a delay to give her government and parliament more time to agree on how exactly the divorce should take place.

So far, Britain’s House of Commons has emphatically rejected the terms British and EU negotiators reached after two years of talks, and has also signaled an objection to proceeding with no deal in place.

The BBC reported Wednesday that according to a Downing Street official, May’s request will be for a short delay, not a long one.

Juncker told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio that May needs to show the EU some more clarity about Britain’s plans in order to win an extension, which must be approved by all of the other EU members.

“There will be no renegotiations, no new negotiations and no additional assurances on top of the additional assurances we have already given,” he said.

May sought to have another parliament vote on her proposed terms for leaving the EU, but House of Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled this week that the prime minister cannot keep asking lawmakers to vote on a proposal they have already rejected.

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