American Football Legend Bart Starr Dies at 85

Former U.S. football superstar Bart Starr, who led his Green Bay Packers to victory in the first two Super Bowls, has died at 85.

The Packers gave no cause of death, but Starr had not fully recovered from two strokes and a heart attack five years ago.

Starr arrived in Green Bay in 1956 after playing college football for the University of Alabama.

He was a solid but unremarkable player until legendary coach Vince Lombardi took over the Packers in 1959.

Starr’s name became synonymous with football greatness in the 1960s.

Starr and Lombardi led Green Bay to five NFL championships, including wins in Super Bowls I and II.

The 1967 Super Bowl will be forever known as the Ice Bowl, with wind chills as low as minus 56 degrees Celsius at one point.

Despite the miserable conditions and with just minutes to go, Starr completed five consecutive passes and ran the ball into the end zone himself, to come from behind and beat the Dallas Cowboys, 21-17.

Starr retired from playing in 1971 and later coached the Packers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

Starr co-founded a ranch for troubled boys and the NFL’s annual Bart Starr Award goes to the player who shows outstanding charitable traits.



New European Parliament Projected to Have More Far-Right Lawmakers

European leaders have joined voters in casting their ballots to elect a new 751-member European Union parliament. The polling began Thursday but 21 of the 28 member nations held elections on Sunday. About 400 million people were eligible to vote. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports the voter turnout was the highest in 20 years.


Smaller Pro-EU Parties Surge in European Elections; Centrists Lose Seats

Smaller European parties saw a surge of support in continent-wide elections for the European Parliament in what politicians and analysts agree will likely be seen as the most consequential since 1979, when European Union voters first began casting ballots for the bloc’s legislature.

Early results Sunday suggested the 751-seat parliament will be more fragmented than ever before. Smaller parties, both euroskeptic and pro-EU ones, fared well at the expense of their more established and bigger center-right and center-left rivals.

Pro-EU Liberals and Greens will hold the balance of power in the new parliament, which will sit for five years. Philippe Lamberts, leader of the Greens group, said: “To make a stable majority in this parliament, the Greens are now indispensable.”

The rise of new parties appears to have smashed the duopoly of control of the parliament traditionally enjoyed by the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

National populist parties

As the results came in, nationalist populists were on course to win just under a quarter of the seats in the parliament, but they had set their sights on snatching a third of them. In France, President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche was defeated, coming in second to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally. Le Pen welcomed the win, saying it had delivered a serious blow to the authority of the French president.

In Italy, too, nationalist populists led by Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister, made important gains. And eurosceptic hard-right parties topped the polls in Britain, Poland and Hungary.

But the bigger takeaway from the election was how well pro-EU Greens and Liberals did. In several countries Green parties saw their support jump from five years ago. In Germany, the Greens made major gains at the expense of country’s left-wing Social Democrats, making a historic breakthrough by securing more than 20% of the vote.

Carsten Schneider, a German Social Democrats lawmaker, acknowledged it was a “bitter result, a defeat for us.”

“I think the main issue was climate change and we didn’t succeed in putting that front and center, alongside the big social issues,” he added.

In Ireland, too, Greens were celebrating, clinching three of Ireland’s 13 seats. The sudden crest in support for the Greens comes amid rising anxiety across Europe over the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Eric Varadkar tweeted: “I want to congratulate the Greens on a very good election. It’s a very clear message from the public that they want us to do more on climate action — and we’ve got that message.”

Voters in 21 countries went to the polls Sunday. In seven other nations, including Britain, voters cast their ballots last week with the results being held back until all countries had completed the balloting.

Bloc gaining power

The European Parliament has become more powerful in recent years — for much of its existence it was just a talking shop (an unproductive bureaucratic agency). Now it helps pick the president of the European Commission and contributes to the shaping of trade and digital regulations. Seats are allocated under a form of proportional representation.

For years, the center-right EPP and the center-left S&D, both pro-EU parties, have together commanded an absolute majority in the parliament and its leaders have more often than not been able to settle disagreements in behind-the-scenes meetings.

In Britain, in an election that wasn’t meant to have been — the country was due to have left the EU by now — the newly formed Brexit Party of Nigel Farage trounced both of Britain’s two main established parties, the Conservatives and Labour, signaling it will likely be a threat to the pair in a general election, which many observers think will have to be called this year.

Both the Conservatives and Labour had been braced for a backlash from voters over Brexit, with the Brexit Party and pro-EU Liberal Democrats expected to do well. The predictions turned out to be right, with the ruling Conservatives recording their worst election performance in their history. The turnout in Britain was higher than previous European polls — as it was across all of the bloc where it averaged 50%, the highest rate since 1994.

British Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan blamed British Prime Minister Theresa May’s reluctance to resign from office for the defeat. On Twitter, he said: “Had the PM announced her resignation even 24 hours earlier, something might have been salvaged.”

Still a strong pro-EU majority

The reduction in the power of establishment parties could potentially make it more difficult for the bloc to agree on collective action when it comes to economic, trade and foreign policies, but EU officials were breathing a sigh of relief Sunday night when it became clear there would still be a strong pro-EU majority in the parliament.

The center-right EPP will likely hold on to 173 seats in the EU parliament, down from 221 in 2014, while the Socialist group will fall from 191 to 147 seats. The Liberals were expected to rise from 67 seats to more than 100; the Greens increased from 50 to 71.

Socialists looked set to top the poll in Spain. And traditional left parties fared better than had been predicted in Italy and the Netherlands.



Impeachment Questions Still Swirling in Washington

President Donald Trump and U.S. lawmakers are away from Washington, but questions about possible impeachment of the president continue to swirl as the White House thwarts multiple investigations led by House Democrats after the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. While the House could impeach, Trump is virtually assured of remaining in office as there is almost zero chance the Republican-led Senate would convict him.

Democrats are using their House majority to investigate Trump and his administration on everything from the treatment of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border to the president’s foreign business dealings and tax returns. Democrats also want the Justice Department to release the full, unredacted Mueller report. The White House is blocking them at almost every turn, causing tempers to boil over.

“The Trump administration has taken obstruction of Congress to new heights,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

His words were echoed by Judiciary Committee member Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, also a Democrat.

“We have to surmise that this is an absolute lawless behavior by this administration,” she said.

The House is taking steps to hold key administration officials in contempt of Congress, but the body has a more potent – and explosive – option: formally leveling charges against Trump, or impeachment.

“What we need to do is at least be on that track and at least be in the process of impeachment,” said. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat.

Republicans see Democrats as desperately clinging to a narrative of presidential wrongdoing after special counsel Mueller found no collusion between Trump’s inner circle and Russia.

“The Democrats have no plans, no purpose, and no viable legislative agenda beyond attacking this administration,” said Rep. Doug Collins, a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee.

And powerful Democratic leaders, among them House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are wary of launching impeachment proceedings, at least for now.

“Impeachment is a very divisive place to go in our country. And we can get the facts to the American people, through our investigation. It may take us to a place where it is unavoidable, in terms of impeachment.”

Meanwhile, President Trump, sticking to his guns, called on Democrats to “get these phony investigations over with.”

Last week, Trump halted consultations with Democrats on a major initiative to modernize U.S. infrastructure until congressional probes are complete.

“You (Democrats) can go down the investigation track and you can go down the investment track – or the track of let’s get things done for the American people,” Trump said.

Two U.S. presidents have been impeached, most recently Bill Clinton. The impeachment vote sullied Clinton’s record but did not lead to his removal from office. The same likely would be true for Trump. Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination all want to oust Trump, but at the ballot box.

“It seems like every day or two, there is another affront to the rule of law … The best thing I can do to get us a new president is to win the nomination and defeat the president who’s there,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential candidate, one of more than twenty running to unseat Trump, speaking on ABC’s ‘This Week’ program.

Polls do not show the American people clamoring for Trump’s impeachment. Bill Clinton’s approval numbers actually rose after House Republicans launched impeachment proceedings against him in 1998.



Вибори до Європарламенту: явка була найвищою за 20 років

Десятки мільйонів виборців в Європейському союзі віддали свої голоси за наступний парламент блоку. Явка виборців по всьому ЄС, за винятком Великої Британії, становила близько 51%, що є найвищим показником за 20 років, йдеться в повідомленні Європарламенту.

Як свідчать прогнози, оприлюднені Європарламентом, проєвропейські партії можуть виграти близько двох третин місць у 751-місному законодавчому органі.

При цьому, як свідчать екзит-поли, популістські, крайньо-праві партії, а також зелені матимуть значні здобутки на цих виборах.

Зокрема, за цими даними, крайньо-права партія Марін Ле Пен перемагає на виборах до Європарламенту у Франції, випередивши партію президента Емманюеля Макрона.

Екзит-поли засвідчили, що партія німецького канцлера Анґели Меркель і її партнера з лівоцентристської коаліції також зазнали втрат у підтримці виборців.

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Ранні прогнози свідчать, що зелені можуть забезпечити собі 71 місце в Європарламенті, порівняно з 52 на виборах 2014 року.

Прогнози свідчать, що проєвропейські партії не отримають більшості у парламенті, і зелені стануть можливими партнерами по коаліції.

26 травня – останній з чотирьох днів голосування за наступний парламент блоку.

Починаючи з 23 травня вже проголосували сім країн-членів ЄС. 26 травня голосувала 21 країна.


Екс-банкір Ґітанас Науседа переміг на виборах президента Литви

Економіст і колишній банкір Ґітанас Науседа, незалежний кандидат і правоцентрист за переконаннями переміг у другому турі президентських виборів у Литві 26 травня. Його суперниця екс-міністр фінансів Інґріда Шимоніте визнала поразку.

Виборча комісія Литви повідомила, що, за підрахунком чверті бюлетенів, 55-річний Науседа здобуває 74% голосів виборців, 44-річна Шимоніте – 26%.

Науседа підтримує нинішній жорсткий курс Литви щодо Росії. Він підтвердив, що не відвідає Москву доти, поки Росія не поверне Україні анексований Крим.

Президент у Литві має відносно мало повноважень, ця країна – парламентська республіка. Головні функції голови держави – визначення зовнішньої політики і представництво країни в зовнішніх відносинах, у першу чергу на самітах Європейського союзу.

Також президент має певні повноваження у призначенні міністрів, суддів, головнокомандувача збройних сил чи голови центрального банку – найчастіше за умови схвалення парламентом чи прем’єр-міністром.

Нинішній президент Литви Даля Ґрібаускайте завершує другий п’ятирічний термін на посаді і не могла балотуватися знову.


У Франції на виборах в Європарламент лідирують крайні праві з партії Ле Пен

Крайні праві з партії Марін Ле Пен «Національне об’єднання» лідирують на виборах в Європарламент у Франції. За оцінкою екзит-полів, вони набирають від 23 до 24,2% голосів. 

За список, підтриманий президентською партією Еммануеля Макрона «Вперед, Республіко», свої голоси віддали від 21,9 до 22,5% французьких виборців. На третьому місці партія зелених (12,5-13%).

Адміністрація Макрона оприлюднила заяву, в якій наголосила, що результати голосування розчаровують, але не є катастрофою. В офісі французького президента зауважили, що загалом на виборах проєвропейські партії здобувають більшість на виборах.

До вечора неділі явка виборців на дільниці для голосування загалом перевищила 50 відсотків.

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Вибори до головного законодавчого органу Євросоюзу почалися 23 травня. За чотири дні виборів у 28 країнах-членах Європейського союзу 427 мільйонів виборців отримають можливість вибрати 751 депутата Європарламенту нового скликання.

26 травня громадяни 21 країни Європейського союзу голосують на виборах до Європарламенту.


Virtual Reality Offers Glimpse of Rome’s Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus Experience, opened in Rome this week and offers visitors the chance to relive the ancient splendors of chariot racing in the Imperial period of Rome through augmented and virtual reality. The innovative project implements interactive display technologies never before used in such a large outdoor area.

“Now you find yourself in front of the Arch of Titus, which was possibly built in the place of a more ancient arch and dedicated in the year 81 After Christ by the Roman Senate and people to Emperor Flavius”.

This is just an example of what modern-day visitors will be listening to in their headsets, while at the same time through special visors see a virtual rendering of the majestic 20-meter Arch of Titus in Rome’s Circus Maximus.

Thanks to a ground-breaking project using interactive display technology never before used in such an extended outdoor area, visitors are able to re-live the life in one of Rome’s undisputed landmarks.

Visitors immerse themselves in history for with overlapping images from the past and those of the reality of today. They are able to visualize architectural and landscape reconstructions of what life was like during all of the historical stages of the Circus Maximus.

They can see the ancient Murcia Valley enriched with buildings and walk around in the Circus among the shops of the time. They can visualize the Circus during Imperial times, the Middle Ages and in a more modern age.

The full itinerary involves eight stops including: the valley and the origins of the Circus, the Circus from Julius Caesar to Trajan, the Circus during the Imperial age, the cavea or tiered seating arena, the Arch of Titus, the tabernae or shops, the Circus during the Middle Ages and modern age, and lastly “A Day at the Circus” for an experience of the exciting chariot race of the quadrigas with the screams of incitement of the public and the overturning of wagons.

Visitors are able to enjoy similar experiences in Rome at the Baths of Caracalla, the Ara Pacis and the Domus Aurea.


Imprisoned PKK Leader Calls For End to Hunger Strikes

Thousands of prisoners in Turkey ended their hunger strikes Sunday that had been mounted to force Turkey to end jailed militant leader Abdullah Ocalan’s isolation at Imrali Island prison.

Earlier Sunday, Ocalan’s lawyers read a statement from their client calling for an end to the strikes.

“I expect the action to come to an end…” Ocalan said in a statement read by one of his lawyers at a press conference in Istanbul.

An estimated two to three thousand detainees throughout Turkey’s prison system had participated in the strikes.

Twice this month, Turkey allowed the 70-year-old imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to meet with his lawyers after an eight-year hiatus.

PKK had been designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

Ocalan’s call for an end to the strikes and the resumption of a lawyers’ visits comes ahead of an election in Istanbul.

Analysts say the moves could foreshadow a new peace process, four years after government talks with Ocalan collapsed.


Israeli President Shocked by German Skullcap Comment

Israel’s president said Sunday he is shocked by a German official’s comment that he wouldn’t advise Jews to wear skullcaps in parts of the country, which is drawing mixed reactions at home.

Felix Klein, the government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, was quoted Saturday as saying: “I cannot recommend to Jews that they wear the skullcap at all times everywhere in Germany.” He didn’t elaborate on what places and times might be risky.

“The statement of the German government’s anti-Semitism commissioner that it would be preferable for Jews not wear a kippa in Germany out of fear for their safety, shocked me deeply,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement.

He added that “we will never submit, will never lower our gaze and will never react to anti-Semitism with defeatism – and expect and demand our allies act in the same way.”

Government statistics released earlier this month showed that the number of anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner incidents rose in Germany last year, despite an overall drop in politically motivated crimes.

Germany’s main Jewish leader, Josef Schuster, told news agency dpa “it has long been a fact that Jews are potentially exposed to danger in some big cities if they can be recognized as Jews.” He added that he pointed that out two years ago, “so it is to be welcomed if this situation gets more attention at the highest political level.”

Others were sharply critical of Klein’s comment. Michel Friedman, a former deputy leader of Germany’s main Jewish group, said it was an admission of failure and that “the state must ensure that Jews can show themselves everywhere without fear.”

Bavaria’s state interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said that wearing a skullcap is part of religious freedom. “Everyone can and should wear his skullcap wherever and whenever he wants,” he said.

Klein himself told dpa that his statement had been “provocative” and he “wanted to initiate a debate about the safety of the Jewish community in our country.”

“Of course I believe that there must not be no-go areas anywhere in Germany for Jews or members of other minorities,” he said.