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A family found centuries-old Japanese art stolen during WWII in their attic

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A family found centuries-old Japanese art stolen during WWII in their attic

The FBI Boston Division recovered 22 artifacts stolen from Japan, including the artwork above. During World War II, various treasures from the Ryukyu Kingdom were stolen.

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The FBI Boston Division recovered 22 artifacts stolen from Japan, including the artwork above. During World War II, various treasures from the Ryukyu Kingdom were stolen.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation

Tucked away in the attic of a Massachusetts home was not one, not two — but 22 pieces of stolen Japanese antiques, including a hand-drawn map, ceramics and portraits of Okinawan kings, some dating back as far as the 1700’s.

The items were found last year inside the residence of a World War II veteran, whose children were sorting through his belongings after he passed away, according to the FBI.

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The family later alerted the authorities. On Friday, the FBI announced that the artifacts made their way to Japan. The family wished to remain anonymous, the FBI said.

The returned artifacts include six portraits, a hand-drawn map of Okinawa, and several ceramic pieces. Most of the pieces date back to the 18th and 19th century.

A bowl recovered by the FBI Boston Division.

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“This is what makes a culture. And without it, you’re taking away their history,” Geoffrey Kelly, a FBI special agent based in Boston who worked on the case, said in a statement.

“So, it’s really important for us as stewards of artifacts and cultural patrimony to make every effort that we can to see that these go back to the civilizations and the cultures in the countries where they belong,” he added.

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Japan plans to hold a formal repatriation ceremony for the artifacts on Friday.

“It is very meaningful that the FBI, along with others in the U.S. Government, have cooperated to realize this return,” the governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Denny Tamaki, said Friday, according to an FBI press release.

A hand-drawn map of Okinawa dating back to the 19th century, which was recovered by the FBI Boston Division.

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The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, D.C., also helped ensure the items were properly packaged to be sent to Japan.

According to the FBI, the objects took the family by surprise, especially because their father had never served in the Pacific Theater.

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So, they did some research and discovered that some of the items in their father’s possession had been entered into the FBI’s National Stolen Art File about 20 years ago.

Another artifact recovered by the FBI Boston Division.

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The National Stolen Art File is a searchable database to help the public and law enforcement determine if an item was ever stolen.

In 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II, a trove of documents and treasures from the Ryukyu Kingdom were taken. The Ryukyu Kingdom reigned in Okinawa from 1429 to 1879.

A crown belonging to the Sho Royal Family of the Ryukyu Kingdom that is still missing, according to the National Stolen Art File.

The National Stolen Art File

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In 2001, Japanese officials registered the missing items with the U.S. National Stolen Art File.

The FBI said inside the Massachusetts home was an unsigned, typewritten letter, stating that the items were collected in Okinawa during the last days of World War II.

Over 20,000 items have been recovered through the FBI Art Crime Program since it launched in 2004.

According to the National Stolen Art File, there are still several Okinawan antiques missing, including portraits and a royal crown.

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Joe Biden tells Volodymyr Zelenskyy US weapons will arrive ‘quickly’

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Joe Biden tells Volodymyr Zelenskyy US weapons will arrive ‘quickly’

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Joe Biden has told Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Washington will rapidly escalate military aid to Ukraine as soon as Congress gives final approval to a $95bn security funding package this week.

The US president made the pledge to Zelenskyy during a call on Monday, according to the White House, two days after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives led by Speaker Mike Johnson voted to approve the assistance after months of delay.

The bill includes $60bn in aid for Ukraine, as well as funding for Israel and the Indo-Pacific, and is expected to pass the Senate on Tuesday or Wednesday and enacted into law by Biden later in the week.

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“President Biden shared that his administration will quickly provide significant new security assistance packages to meet Ukraine’s urgent battlefield and air defence needs as soon as the Senate passes the national security supplemental and he signs it into law,” said the White House account of the call with Zelenskyy.

The new security aid is expected to include long-range ATACMS missiles, as well as ammunition and other weapons systems, though White House and Pentagon officials have not offered precise details of what will be in the next package. Zelenskyy cheered the looming arrival of new military aid in his own account of the call with Biden.

Zelenskyy said: “The president has assured me that the package will be approved quickly and that it will be powerful, strengthening our air defence as well as long-range and artillery capabilities.”

Ukraine’s president also added: “Everything has been decided in the ATACMS negotiations for Ukraine. I am grateful to President Biden, Congress, and the entire United States.”

Biden’s and Zelenskyy’s comments highlight how Washington and Kyiv are trying to make up for lost time in the effort to boost Ukrainian military capabilities, after the delays in US funding caused setbacks on the battlefield against Russian forces.

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Analysts at the Eurasia Group said the breakthrough on Capitol Hill would “substantially improve Ukrainian military prospects for stabilising the situation” in the eastern region of the country where they have suffered most.

“Low stocks of artillery and air defence ammunition have hurt the Ukrainian military’s ability to defend against Russian advances in Donetsk and drone and missile attacks against cities and power infrastructure nationwide,” they said.

Biden had been pleading for Congress to approve new funding for Ukraine since August of last year, including during an Oval Office address in October. He also opened his State of the Union address in March by speaking about the urgency of helping Kyiv defeat the Russian invasion.

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How hot is too hot? New weather forecasting tool can help figure that out

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How hot is too hot? New weather forecasting tool can help figure that out

People rest at a cooling station in Portland, Oregon during the deadly Northwest heat dome of 2021. Climate change has made heat risks more dangerous across the country. A new heat forecasting tool could help people stay safe.

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People rest at a cooling station in Portland, Oregon during the deadly Northwest heat dome of 2021. Climate change has made heat risks more dangerous across the country. A new heat forecasting tool could help people stay safe.

KATHRYN ELSESSER/AFP via Getty Images

This summer, people across the U.S. will have a new way to keep track of dangerous heat headed their way through a new heat warning system called HeatRisk. The tool, developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will be used by National Weather Service offices across the country to give people an understanding of when heat goes from uncomfortable to dangerous.

HeatRisk incorporates a host of factors that make heat dangerous to human health, beyond just temperature. It considers elements like humidity, which reduces people’s ability to cool by sweating, and whether a 90-degree day comes in April versus July — hot weather is more dangerous early in the season before people’s bodies have adjusted.

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“For the first time, we’ll be able to know how hot is too hot for health, and not just today, but for the coming weeks,” says Dr. Aaron Bernstein, director of the National Center for Environmental Health and a pediatrician.

Hopefully, he says, the new tool will be easy to understand. It uses a color-coded scale from zero (green) to five (magenta). At zero, the heat conditions are likely not risky for most people. At 2, or yellow, risks are growing for those who are sensitive to heat—like children, or people with medical conditions that make them heat-sensitive. Four, or bright magenta, signals the heat could hurt nearly anyone. That threshold can be crossed when temperatures go above historical highs, or when extreme conditions stretch for several days in a row.

The National Weather Service (NWS) will be able to issue HeatRisk warnings a full week ahead of dangerous heat. Climate change, driven primarily by human burning of fossil fuels, has increased the intensity, duration, and danger of heat waves across North America.

That extra planning time “will be a game-changer,” says John Balbus, director of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, an office within the Department of Health and Human Services. It will allow crucial extra time for cities to ramp up their emergency response plans and for individuals to think about how to protect themselves, he says.

Why is a heat warning useful?

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When it gets hot, people end up in the emergency room—or even die. Last summer, the hottest ever recorded in many parts of the U.S., nearly 120,000 people went to the emergency room for heat-related concerns—nearly twice as many as in the previous two decades, on average.

High temperatures are a major factor, but only part of the puzzle, says Ambarish Vaidyanathan, a researcher at the CDC who helped develop HeatRisk. Humidity matters too: when the air is saturated with water, people still sweat—but sweat droplets can’t evaporate, so people can’t cool down.

Unusually high overnight temperatures prevent people from getting relief from the heat. People’s past exposure to heat matters, too. The body can adjust to high heat up to a point, but that acclimatization takes time. So a 100-degree day in April poses more health risks than the same temperature in July because most people haven’t had the time to adjust.

Where people live, and what heat conditions they’re used to, also play a role in their vulnerability to heat. “90 degrees in Miami is not the same as 90 degrees in Portland, Maine,” says Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the CDC.

HeatRisk takes all of these factors into account. A town in Michigan, for example, might get a red, or level-3 warning, when the mercury reads 85 degrees Fahrenheit, but a town in Florida with similar conditions might only get a risk warning of yellow, or 1.

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Paul Charlton is an emergency medicine physician who works with rural communities in New Mexico. He thinks HeatRisk could be useful to his patients, emergency managers, and clinicians.

“A lot of emergency departments would know how to care for one person that came in with heat stroke,” he says. “But a lot of emergency departments would not be as well prepared to take care of ten or 50 or 100 or a thousand people that might be coming in.” That could—and did—happen during really extreme heat, like the 2021 heat dome in the Pacific Northwest. Charlton says having a better risk forecast would give people like him invaluable time to plan and prepare for potentially catastrophic heat.

Where did HeatRisk come from?

Scientists at the National Weather Service and the CDC developed the tool. It was conceptualized a decade ago after some local weather bureaus in the western U.S. realized they needed a better way to warn people about upcoming heat waves.

HeatRisk has been tested and refined over the years across the West since its inception in 2013. Now, school systems in California use it to decide when outdoor activities are safe. Maricopa County, which includes the Phoenix metro, has incorporated its use into its heat management plans.

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NWS and CDC scientists looked at heat-related deaths around the country and analyzed the weather conditions when people died. That allowed them to find links between people’s risk of dying and heat-related factors like temperature, humidity, and how long heatwaves lasted for hundreds of places across the U.S. They used those relationships to predict how different hot-weather conditions will impact people’s health in different parts of the country, at different times of year.

In Phoenix, a recent analysis showed that about two-thirds of heat-related deaths happened on red or purple HeatRisk days, says Michael Staudenmaier, chief of science for the NWS’s Western Regional Headquarters. But more than 30% of the heat-related deaths occurred in the yellow and orange categories when heat conditions were bad but not anywhere near record-breaking extremes, he says. It shows there is a “wide range of temperatures where heat-related impacts can occur,” even in places well-accustomed to it.

It shows that people can be vulnerable to heat illness or even death at levels much lower than they might think, Staudenmaier says.

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Donald Trump trial opens with allegations he tried to ‘corrupt’ 2016 US election

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Donald Trump trial opens with allegations he tried to ‘corrupt’ 2016 US election

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Donald Trump attempted to “corrupt” the 2016 election when he directed his team to buy the silence of a porn actor who threatened to go public with claims of an extramarital affair, Manhattan prosecutors said during opening arguments in the first criminal trial against a former US president.

A lawyer for Trump, Todd Blanche, countered that his client was “cloaked in innocence” and had merely been trying to “protect his family, his reputation and his brand”. The 77-year-old former president was “not on the hook” for the way the payments were organised or recorded by his employees, with which he “had nothing to do”, Blanche added.

The competing narratives of the events that form the core of the “hush money” case against Trump came during the opening salvos of the first — and possibly only — criminal trial to proceed against the Republican nominee for president before November’s vote.

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As Trump sat feet away at the defence table in a cold Manhattan courtroom on Monday morning, silently glowering, the seven men and five women on the jury heard assistant district attorney Matthew Colangelo outline a “catch and kill” scheme allegedly orchestrated by the former president and his inner circle to buy the silence of porn actor Stormy Daniels.

Daniels had threatened to go to the press with her story of how she had a tryst with the then-reality television star in 2006, Colangelo said, a revelation that would have been all the more damaging to Trump’s campaign following the furore over the publication of an Access Hollywood tape, in which he was heard to be bragging about grabbing women’s genitals.

Trump went on to disguise the transactions behind the $130,000 payment, Colangelo added, because he “wanted to conceal his and others’ criminal conduct”. 

“This was a planned, co-ordinated, long-running conspiracy . . . to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures,” he said. “It was election fraud, pure and simple.”

Blanche said Trump was tackling a “sinister” attempt to embarrass him with false allegations, and had acted entirely lawfully in trying to suppress the story. “You will learn that companies do that all the time,” he told jurors, adding: “There is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election — it is called democracy.”

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The start of the six-week trial comes just over a year after Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg brought the first criminal charges against a former US president, indicting Trump on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Like any criminal defendant, Trump must be in attendance every day, a requirement that he has complained will limit his campaigning ahead of November’s election. The court will break on Wednesdays if the case is proceeding on schedule, Judge Juan Merchan said last week.

Trump railed against the court and prosecutors on social media and once again denounced the case as a witch hunt on his way into the courtroom on Monday morning. “This is done as election interference, everybody knows it,” the presumptive 2024 Republican nominee for the White House told reporters. 

After opening arguments concluded, the court briefly heard from the prosecution’s first witness, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who was allegedly involved in the “catch and kill” scheme by purchasing exclusive rights to anti-Trump stories — and then preventing them from being published.

Merchan adjourned early for the day due to the Passover Jewish holiday and to allow a juror to attend an emergency dental appointment.

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Last week, 12 jurors and six alternates were chosen from a pool of almost 200 New Yorkers from the borough of Manhattan, who were carefully vetted to ensure they did not harbour insurmountable bias towards Trump. All said they could be impartial in deciding the facts of the case, although some expressed distaste for his policies and persona.

The former president still faces criminal charges in three different courts over his alleged attempts to thwart the peaceful transition of power after the 2020 election, and over his retention of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida. It is unclear when the other criminal cases will go to trial.

Trump also faces a number of civil proceedings, and is appealing against a nearly half-billion dollar civil fraud judgment awarded to the New York attorney-general earlier this year. A judge on Monday declined to heed a request by the attorney-general to invalidate the $175mn bond Trump had posted in that case, in a reprieve for the former president.

Another milestone in Trump’s legal travails will be reached later this week, when the US Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether he can claim presidential immunity for acts that he has been charged with that took place while he was in office. The outcome of that challenge has no bearing over the New York case, which has been brought under state rather than federal law.

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