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Near Lake Shasta, California, an air tanker releases fire retardant in an effort to extinguish the growing wildfire next to the northbound I-5 freeway. The U.S. Forest Service has ordered evacuations in the area.
Near Lake Shasta, California, an air tanker releases fire retardant in an effort to extinguish the growing wildfire next to the northbound I-5 freeway. The U.S. Forest Service has ordered evacuations in the area.

Welcome to Thursday, where Bill Cosby is freed, a new study finds that COVID-19 is common in pets and China's Communist Party celebrates its 100th anniversary. Le Monde also takes us in the kitchens where African-American soul food has become a thing in the capital of haute cuisine.

• The Chinese Communist Party celebrates its 100th anniversary: Speeches and celebrations with military jet fly-pasts and patriotic songs continue through the day as China marks the official July 1, 1921 establishment of the CCP. The Communist Party, which first came to power in 1949 under the rule of Mao Zedong after a long civil war, today wields virtually absolute rule over China, which now counts 1.4 billion people and international superpower status, in both economic and military terms.

• Another 182 unmarked graves found at a Canadian school: The latest First Nation discovery found human remains at a former residential school in British Columbia, a third such finding in recent weeks. Ground penetrating radar technology had revealed the graves and discovered that some of the remains were buried in shallow graves of only three and four feet deep.

• Bill Cosby released from prison after verdict overturned: Legendary U.S. comedian Bill Cosby has been released from prison after the highest court of Pennsylvania overturned his sexual assault conviction, ruling that Cosby's due process rights were violated. Cosby was sentenced in 2018 to three to 10 years in a state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home in 2004, after dozens of women had come forward with similar accusations.

• Donald Rumsfeld dies: Former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who served four presidents and led the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, died yesterday at the age of 88. He was the youngest, at 43, (under President Gerald Ford) and the oldest, at 74 (under President George W. Bush) to run the Pentagon.

• Serbian ex-spy chiefs jailed for Balkans war crimes: Jovica Stanišić, a former chief of Serbia's state security service, and Franko Simatovic, Stanišić"s deputy, have each been given 12 years for training the Serbian forces that carried out murder and ethnic cleansing in the 1990s Balkan War. The court ruled that they aided and abetted crimes against humanity.

• COVID update: After a final trial, the German COVID-19 vaccine CureVac proved to be 48% effective. The German biotech firm said that efficacy was slightly better (53%) when excluding trial patients older than 60 from the trial. A top African Union special envoy has criticized Europe for failing to deliver on crucial vaccine doses that were promised. Meanwhile, a study has shown that COVID is common in pet dogs and cats whose owners have the disease. According to the researcher, the concern is not the animals' health but the potential risk that they could act as a virus reservoir.

• Britney Spears' bid for freedom denied: A judge has denied the American singer's request to remove her father, James Spears, from his role overseeing her conservatorship. The decision comes a week after Spears delivered a dramatic testimony calling the conservatorship, which she was put under in 2008, "abusive."

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AL JAZEERA
Al Jazeera is a state-funded broadcaster in Doha, Qatar, owned by the Al Jazeera Media Network. Initially launched as an Arabic news and current-affairs satellite TV channel, Al Jazeera has since expanded into a network with several outlets, including the Internet and specialty television channels in multiple languages.
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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kharkiv. Villages that were occupied for two months are free once more — but utterly destroyed. And thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.

Kharkiv and the surrounding villages faced weeks of constant Russian shelling.

Alfred Hackensberger

TSYKRUNY — Andriy Kluchikov uses a walking stick, but is otherwise fairly sprightly for a 94-year-old. Under his black wool hat, Kluchikov seems fearless as he surveys his hometown in northeastern Ukraine. “The missiles don't scare me,” he says with a smile. “I have slept in my own bed every night and never went down into the basement.”

As for the two-meter-wide bomb crater that has appeared in his garden, between the vegetable patch and the greenhouse with its shattered plastic roof, Kluchikov almost seems proud. “No one can intimidate me,” he says. “Not even the Russians.”

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In the early days of the war, in February, Russian artillery almost completely destroyed this village of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. Only a few houses, including his own, were left undamaged. Shortly afterwards, Russian troops marched into the village and occupied it for 72 days. It was not until early this week that the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Tsyrkuny and many other areas to the north of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

It is the Ukrainians’ most successful counter-offensive so far. They are thought to have pushed the invading troops back almost to the Russian border. “The offensive is gaining momentum,” according to the independent American thinktank Institute for the Study of War. “It has forced Russian troops on the defensive and has successfully alleviated artillery pressure on Kharkiv City.”

In the modern city of Kharkiv, home to around 1.5 million residents, the relief has been palpable over the last few days. Restaurants and cafes have reopened. People are walking and riding bikes in the parks, and couples are strolling hand in hand, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. You can still hear the artillery, but it is now many miles away.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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