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In honor of Independence Day, Waco Tribune-Herald is providing unlimited access to all of our content from June 28th-July 4th! Presented by RV Station

    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.

      A member of the House Jan. 6 committee says more witnesses are coming forward with new details on the Capitol insurrection following former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s devastating testimony last week against former President Donald Trump. Illinois Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger says “there will be way more information" in two public hearings this month and to “stay tuned,” because people are emerging “every day.” Hutchinson testified that Trump wanted to join an angry mob of his supporters who marched to the Capitol, where they rioted. Hutchinson also said then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone was concerned Trump would face criminal charges if the Republican then-president joined them.

        Independence Day arrives at a time when the United States is roiled by hearings over the Jan. 6 insurrection, awash in turmoil over abortion and guns and struggling to maintain the common bonds that keep it together. Yet many also see cause for celebration: The pandemic continues to be on the wane and, despite its faults, America’s democracy survives. July 4 marks the nation's 246th birthday and anniversary of independence from English rule. It’s a day when people of all stripes flock to parades, devour hot dogs at backyard barbecues and gather under a canopy of stars and exploding fireworks.

          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.

              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.

                Pro-Russia separatists occupied the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk for months in 2014. Now, its people are preparing to defend the city again. Slovyansk could become the next major target in Moscow’s campaign to take Ukraine's predominantly Russian-speaking Donbas region. The loyalties of residents are split in the city, with some antagonistic toward Kyiv or nostalgic for Ukraine's Soviet past. But many fear what the Russians might do if they return to the city in Donetsk province. A 23-year-old accountant-turned-soldier says Ukrainian forces do not have the weapons to fight off the superior arsenal of the approaching army. “We know what’s coming,” he said recently as artillery explosions sounded a few kilometers away.

                President Joe Biden is set to mark his second Fourth of July since taking office, and he's finding a far different political atmosphere today than a year ago. At this time last year, the United States had been making steady progress against the pandemic, and Biden said the country was “closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.” But in the past year, two variants proved the coronavirus remained a threat, and Biden's presidency has become bogged down in other challenges, some of them outside of his control. His approval rating has fallen 20 percentage points between his first and second Independence Days, according to polls from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

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                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.

                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.

                State legislatures will be in the spotlight as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling giving the power to regulate abortion to the states. While overturning Roe v. Wade, the high court's majority said it was time to “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” But some question whether gerrymandering has diminished the ability of state legislatures to truly represent the people's will. Analyses of election data show that some state legislatures are skewed to the right or left because of the way districts have been drawn to favor Republicans or Democrats.

                “All men are created equal.” Few words in American history are invoked as often as the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, published nearly 250 years ago. And are few more difficult to define. The music, and the economy, of “all men are created equal” make it both universal and elusive — and adaptable to viewpoints otherwise with little or no common ground. How we use them often depends less on how we came into this world than on what kind world we want to live in. It’s as if “All men are created equal” leads Americans to ask: “And then what?”

                The president of Uzbekistan has backed off proposed constitutional changes that would have prevented a region from holding a referendum on splitting away from the country. A large protest against the proposed changes broke out in the Karakalpakstan region's capital on Friday. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev later met regional lawmakers and announced that a proposed new constitution would retain the region’s right to seek secession. He also imposed a nighttime curfew for the region lasting until Aug. 2. Karakalpakstan is a sprawling, mostly desert region in northwest Uzbekistan. Russian news agency Tass on Sunday quoted a National Guard spokesperson as saying no unrest took place during the first night of the curfew.

                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 has 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.

                China’s top diplomat has arrived on his first visit to Myanmar since the military seized power last year to attend a regional meeting. The government says it's a recognition of its legitimacy while opponents protested it as a violation of peace efforts. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will join counterparts from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in a meeting of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation group in the central city of Bagan. The grouping is a Chinese-led initiative that includes the countries of the Mekong Delta, a potential source of regional tensions due to an increasing number of hydroelectric projects that are altering the flow and raising concerns of ecological damage. China has built 10 dams along the upper stretch of the Mekong.

                California voters will weigh in on seven ballot measures this fall. It's the fewest number to appear on a statewide general election ballot since 2014. Thursday was the deadline to qualify measures for the November ballot. One question was placed on the ballot by the state Legislature and six are initiatives that gathered enough verified signatures to go before voters. Voters will be asked to weigh in on issues including whether to enshrine the right to an abortion in the California Constitution, whether to expand sports betting and whether to set aside public school funding for arts and music.

                North Korea has slammed the U.S., South Korea and Japan for pushing to boost their trilateral military cooperation targeting the North, warning that the move is prompting urgent calls for the country to reinforce its military capability. Sunday’s statement comes as North Korea’s neighbors say the country is ready for its first nuclear test in five years as part of its provocative run of weapons tests this year. The Foreign Ministry statement took issue with a recent trilateral meeting among the U.S., South Korean and Japanese leaders, during which they underscored the need to strengthen their cooperation to deal with North Korean nuclear threats.

                Clinics are shutting down abortion services in Texas after the Supreme Court in the nation's second-largest state blocked an order that briefly allowed the procedure to resume in some cases. It's the latest development in legal scrambles taking place across the country following the reversal of reversal of Roe v. Wade. The Friday night ruling stopped a three-day-old order allowing abortions to resume up to six weeks into pregnancy. On Saturday, the American Civil Liberties Union said it doubted that any abortions were now being provided in the state. One provider, Whole Woman’s Health, says the ruling forced it to stop offering the procedure in its four Texas clinics.

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