https://toronto.citynews.ca/2022/04/11/ap-news-in-brief-at-1204-a-m-edt-772/

Ukrainian defenders dig in as Russia boosts firepower

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — As Ukrainian forces dug in on Sunday, Russia lined up more firepower and tapped a decorated general to take centralized control of the war ahead of a potentially decisive showdown in eastern Ukraine that could start within days.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Sunday in his nightly address to the nation that the coming week would be as crucial as any in the war, saying “Russian troops will move to even larger operations in the east of our state.”

He also accused Russia of trying to evade responsibility for war crimes in Ukraine.

“When people lack the courage to admit their mistakes, apologize, adapt to reality and learn, they turn into monsters. And when the world ignores it, the monsters decide that it is the world that has to adapt to them,” Zelenskyy said.

“The day will come when they will have to admit everything. Accept the truth,” he added.

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In France, it’s Macron vs. Le Pen, again, for presidency

PARIS (AP) — Incumbent Emmanuel Macron will face far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen in a winner-takes-all runoff for the French presidency, after they both advanced Sunday in the first round of voting in the country’s election to set up another head-to-head clash of their sharply opposing visions for France.

But while Macron won t heir last contest in 2017 by a landslide to become France’s youngest-ever president, the same outcome this time is far from guaranteed. Macron, now 44, emerged ahead from Sunday’s first round, but the runoff is essentially a new election and the next two weeks of campaigning to the April 24 second-round vote promise to be bruising and confrontational against his 53-year-old political nemesis.

Savvier and more polished as she makes her third attempt to become France’s first woman president, Le Pen was handsomely rewarded Sunday at the ballot box for her years-long effort to rebrand herself as more pragmatic and less extreme. Macron has accused Le Pen of pushing an extremist manifesto of racist, ruinous policies. Le Pen wants to roll back some rights for Muslims, banning them from wearing headscarves in public, and to drastically reduce immigration from outside Europe.

On Sunday, she racked up her best-ever first-round tally of votes. With most votes counted, Macron had just over 27% and Le Pen had just under 24%. Hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon was third, missing out on the two-candidate runoff, with close to 22%.

Macron also improved on his first-round showing in 2017, despite his presidency being rocked by an almost unrelenting series of both domestic and international crises. They include Russia’s war in Ukraine that overshadowed the election and diverted his focus from the campaign.

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US doubts new Russian war chief can end Moscow’s floundering

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia has tapped a new Ukraine war commander to take centralized control of the next phase of battle after its costly failures in the opening campaign and carnage for Ukrainian civilians. U.S. officials don’t see one man making a difference in Moscow’s prospects.

Russia turned to Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, 60, one of Russia’s most experienced military officers and — according to U.S. officials — a general with a record of brutality against civilians in Syria and other war theaters. Up to now, Russia had no central war commander on the ground.

The general’s appointment was confirmed by a senior U.S. official who was not authorized to be identified and spoke on condition of anonymity.

But the White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said “no appointment of any general can erase the fact that Russia has already faced a strategic failure in Ukraine.”

“This general will just be another author of crimes and brutality against Ukrainian civilians,” Sullivan said. “And the United States, as I said before, is determined to do all that we can to support Ukrainians as they resist him and they resist the forces that he commands.”

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3 churches in Ukraine contemplate faith, hope and charity

BORODYANKA, Ukraine (AP) — It’s almost Easter in Ukraine, where a trio of churches on the far edges of the capital considered faith, hope and charity on Sunday.

In Bucha, shocked into silence by atrocities that left bodies in the streets, about two dozen of the faithful gathered for the service while the exhumation of bodies continued from a mass grave in the churchyard.

In Makarov, a handful of members visited a badly damaged riverside church, at times moved to tears. Small golden crosses for rosaries lay scattered on the floor with the shattered glass.

And in Borodyanka, where Russian attacks ripped a blackened hole in a high-rise apartment building, volunteers and donations filled an almost untouched church a short walk away, while residents lined up at the door for food and other assistance. Many were elderly people who stayed behind while others fled.

On the day when Pope Francis called for an Easter truce in Ukraine to make way for a negotiated peace, church visitors invoked God in recalling their survival.

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Scheffler gets Masters green jacket to go with No. 1 ranking

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Scottie Scheffler looked like a Masters champion even before he slipped into his green jacket, the model of calm as he methodically worked his way around the most stressful course in major championship golf.

Sunday morning was different. That turned out to be the toughest test he had all day.

“I cried like a baby this morning. I was so stressed out. I didn’t know what to do,” Scheffler said after winning his first major. “I was sitting there telling (wife) Meredith, ”I don’t think I’m ready for this … and I just felt overwhelmed.”

And then he capped off his torrid two-month stretch with his grandest feat of all, leading the entire weekend and strolling to a 1-under 71 — with one lapse in concentration at the end when it didn’t matter — for a three-shot victory over Rory McIlroy.

For a guy who had won three of his previous five tournament, who reached No. 1 in the world, why suddenly be overcome with doubt?

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America’s homeless ranks graying as more retire on streets

PHOENIX (AP) — Karla Finocchio’s slide into homelessness began when she split with her partner of 18 years and temporarily moved in with a cousin.

The 55-year-old planned to use her $800-a-month disability check to get an apartment after back surgery. But she soon was sleeping in her old pickup protected by her German Shepherd mix Scrappy, unable to afford housing in Phoenix, where median monthly rents soared 33% during the coronavirus pandemic to over $1,220 for a one-bedroom, according to ApartmentList.com.

Finocchio is one face of America’s graying homeless population, a rapidly expanding group of destitute and desperate people 50 and older suddenly without a permanent home after a job loss, divorce, family death or health crisis during a pandemic.

“We’re seeing a huge boom in senior homelessness,” said Kendra Hendry, a caseworker at Arizona’s largest shelter, where older people make up about 30% of those staying there. “These are not necessarily people who have mental illness or substance abuse problems. They are people being pushed into the streets by rising rents.”

Academics project their numbers will nearly triple over the next decade, challenging policy makers from Los Angeles to New York to imagine new ideas for sheltering the last of the baby boomers as they get older, sicker and less able to pay spiraling rents. Advocates say much more housing is needed, especially for extremely low-income people.

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China makes semi-secret delivery of missiles to Serbia

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Russian ally Serbia took the delivery of a sophisticated Chinese anti-aircraft system in a veiled operation this weekend, amid Western concerns that an arms buildup in the Balkans at the time of the war in Ukraine could threaten the fragile peace in the region.

Media and military experts said Sunday that six Chinese Air Force Y-20 transport planes landed at Belgrade’s civilian airport early Saturday, reportedly carrying HQ-22 surface-to-air missile systems for the Serbian military.

The Chinese cargo planes with military markings were pictured at Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla airport. Serbia’s defense ministry did not immediately respond to AP’s request for comment.

The arms delivery over the territory of at least two NATO member states, Turkey and Bulgaria, was seen by experts as a demonstration of China’s growing global reach.

“The Y-20s’ appearance raised eyebrows because they flew en masse as opposed to a series of single-aircraft flights,” wrote The Warzone online magazine. “The Y-20′s presence in Europe in any numbers is also still a fairly new development.”

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2 killed and 10 wounded in Cedar Rapids nightclub shooting

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — A shooting inside a crowded Cedar Rapids nightclub left a man and a woman dead and 10 people wounded early Sunday, authorities said.

Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said investigators believe two men fired more than a dozen shots inside the Taboo Nightclub and Lounge just before 1:30 a.m. Sunday. He said officers who were just outside the club because of an earlier incident rushed inside just as 100-150 people streamed out of the bar and found the victims.

Officers helped treat the people who were wounded and rushed several of the victims to hospitals in squad cars.

The names of the man and woman who died were not released Sunday. Jerman said one of the people who were injured was in critical condition Sunday afternoon while the other injuries, which were all related to the gunfire, ranged from serious to minor.

The gunmen likely escaped as the crowd rushed out of the nightclub. Police were searching for suspects Sunday afternoon and no arrests had been reported.

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AP PHOTOS on Day 46: What survival looks like in Ukraine

Faith and grim determination are reflected in Sunday’s images from a Ukraine at war.

Outside the capital of Kyiv, in suburban towns still emerging from weeks of Russian occupation, elderly people line up for donated food and workers raise bodies from a mass grave, hoping to identify them for proper burials and to document any war crimes. A plastic sheet covers the Bucha churchyard’s unearthed soil, anticipating spring rains after this bitterest winter.

Inside the church, services are held as abominations are uncovered outside. The work must not pause, because this opportunity may not hold: Kyiv’s mayor said Sunday that Russia’s military is sure to return if Ukrainian forces can’t defeat them.

The fighting is already intensifying as Russian forces refocus in the east, where a boy in a wheelchair is among a crowd trying to evacuate from Kramatorsk, the city where a train station platform became a killing field only days earlier. Further north in Kharkhiv, under withering attacks for weeks now, three men await their fate in a basement shelter.

For many, this is what survival looks like: maneuvering around an impact crater, searching through buildings turned inside-out, saying goodbye.

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Biden to nominate new ATF director, release ghost gun rule

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is nominating an Obama-era U.S. attorney to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as his administration unveils its formal rule to rein in ghost guns, privately made firearms without serial numbers that are increasingly cropping up at crime scenes, six people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

Biden is expected to make the announcement nominating Steve Dettlebach, who served as a U.S. attorney in Ohio from 2009 to 2016, at the White House on Monday, the people said. They were not authorized to discuss the nomination publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The administration will also release the finalized version of its ghost gun rule, which comes as the White House and the Justice Department have been under growing pressure to crack down on gun deaths and violent crime in the U.S.

Dettlebach’s confirmation is likely to be an uphill battle for the Biden administration. Biden had to withdraw the nomination of his first ATF nominee, gun-control advocate David Chipman, after the nomination stalled for months because of opposition from Republicans and some Democrats in the Senate.

Both Republican and Democratic administrations have failed to get nominees for the ATF position through the politically fraught process since the director’s position was made confirmable in 2006. Since then, only one nominee, former U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones, has been confirmed. Jones made it through the Senate in 2013 but only after a six-month struggle. Jones was acting director when President Barack Obama nominated him in January 2013.

The Associated Press