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UN will declare that both Hamas and Israel are violating children's rights in armed conflict

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The U.N. secretary-general will tell the Security Council next week that both Israel and Hamas are violating children’s rights and leaving them exposed to danger in their war to eliminate each other.

The secretary-general annually makes a global list of states and militias that are menacing children and threatening them. Parties on the list have ranged from the Kachin Independence Army in Myanmar to — last year — Russia during its war with Ukraine.

UN REVISES GAZA DEATH TOLL, ALMOST 50% LESS WOMEN AND CHILDREN KILLED THAN PREVIOUSLY REPORTED

Now Israel is set to join them.

António Guterres sends the list to the Security Council and the council can then decide whether to take action. The United States is one of five veto-wielding permanent council members and has been reluctant to act against Israel, its longtime ally.

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United Nation’s Secretary General António Guterres speaks during a Security Council meeting at the United Nations headquarters, April 18, 2024. Guterres will tell the Security Council next week that both Israel and Hamas are violating children’s rights and leaving them exposed to danger in their war to eliminate each other. The head of Guterres’ office called Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Gilad Erdan, on Friday, June 7, 2024, to inform him that Israel would be in the report. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Another permanent member is Russia and when the United Nations put Russian forces on its blacklist last year for killing boys and girls and attacking schools and hospitals in Ukraine, the council took no action.

The inclusion of Israel this month will likely just put more of a global spotlight on the country’s conduct of the war in Gaza and increase already high tensions in its relationship with the global body.

The preface of last year’s U.N. report says it lists parties engaged in “the killing and maiming of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against children, attacks on schools, hospitals and protected persons.”

The head of Guterres’ office called Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Gilad Erdan, on Friday to inform him that Israel would be in the report when it is sent to the council next week, U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told reporters.

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The militant Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad groups will also be listed.

Israel reacted with outrage, sending news organizations a video of Erdan berating the head of Guterres’ office — who was supposedly on the other end of a phone call — and posting it on X.

“Hamas will continue even more to use schools and hospitals because this shameful decision of the secretary-general will only give Hamas hope to survive and extend the war and extend the suffering,” Erdan wrote in a statement. “Shame on him!”

The Palestinian U.N. ambassador said that adding Israel to the “‘list of shame,’ will not bring back tens of thousands of our children who were killed by Israel over decades.”

“But it is an important step in the right direction,” Riyad Mansour wrote in a statement.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “the U.N. put itself on the black list of history today” as the move heightened the long-running feud between Israel and the U.N. and even the routine mechanics of Israel’s dealings with the world body are now fraught with tensions.

The normally equanimous secretary-general’s spokesman broke from the good-natured tone of his noon briefing when asked to discuss the latest development.

“The call was a courtesy afforded to countries that are newly listed on the annex of the report,” Dujarric said. “The partial release of that recording on Twitter is shocking and unacceptable and frankly, something I’ve never seen in my 24 years serving this organization.”

Condemnation of the secretary-general’s decision appeared to bring together Israel’s increasingly fractious leadership — from the right-wing Netanyahu and Erdan to the popular centrist member of the War Cabinet, Benny Gantz.

Gantz cited Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, as saying “it matter not what say the goyim (non-Jews), what is important is what do the Jews.”

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For month Israel has faced heavy international criticism over civilian casualties in Gaza and questions about whether it has done enough to prevent them in the eight-month-old war. Two recent airstrikes in Gaza killed dozens of civilians.

U.N. agencies warned Wednesday that over 1 million Palestinians in Gaza could experience the highest level of starvation by the middle of next month if hostilities continue.

The World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said in a joint report that hunger is worsening because of heavy restrictions on humanitarian access and the collapse of the local food system in the eight-month Israel-Hamas war.

The proportion of Palestinian women and children being killed in the Israel-Hamas war appears to have declined sharply, an Associated Press analysis of Gaza Health Ministry data has found, a trend that both coincides with Israel’s changing battlefield tactics and contradicts the ministry’s own public statements.

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The trend is significant because the death rate for women and children is the best available proxy for civilian casualties in one of the 21st century’s most destructive conflicts. In October, when the war began, it was above 60%. For the month of April, it was below 40%.

Yet the shift went unnoticed for months by the U.N. and much of the media, and the Hamas-linked Health Ministry has made no effort to set the record straight.

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Pittsburg, PA

Affordable-ish Housing in Pittsburgh: Grandma cottages and tunnel monsters edition

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Affordable-ish Housing in Pittsburgh: Grandma cottages and tunnel monsters edition


click to enlarge

Photo: Courtesy of Zillow

2046 Jacob St.

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Lots of people say they want affordable housing … just not their own home. That should only be affordable precisely once, when they buy it. After that, those prices should skyrocket as much as possible.

Seems like a problem!

Yes, there is a constituency that doesn’t really want housing to be affordable. Or at least, it’s in their interests that housing prices keep going up, no matter what they actually say.

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Am I one of those people? Ugh, maybe! As a longtime homeowner in the city of Pittsburgh, I certainly want my home’s value to go up, not down (the only two options; there’s no secret third thing). And there are a lot of us; the U.S. homeownership rate is 65.7%. Americans probably have too much of their wealth wrapped up in their homes, but it’s a little late to change that.

Okay, so homebuyers and homeowners want different things. One wants low prices so they can afford a house; the other wants them high. Is there any common ground here?

I have no idea. Maybe someday conditions will be right where we can build enough housing where it is needed most, and entrenched homeowners (like me, I guess) won’t try to thwart it just because scarcity benefits us.

In the meantime, Pittsburgh still has some affordable houses, if you’re willing to look past the usual places.

BROOKLINE
For sale: 2046 Jacob St., $190,000
This weird little Pittsburgh grandma cottage — with its mismatched red-and-tan bricks, semi-subterranean garage, and nebby little porch perch — is close to a masterpiece of its kind. On the inside, though, it’s up-to-date in a good way, with a bright, spacious kitchen, well-kept hardwood floors and a bright-white palette that’s easy on the eyes instead of oppressively institutional. It does not come with a real, authentic Pittsburgh grandma sautéing butter and onions for pierogies, but there are probably a few nearby you can ask.

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click to enlarge Affordable-ish Housing in Pittsburgh: Grandma cottages and tunnel monsters edition

Photo: Courtesy of Zillow

2409 Glenarm Ave.

For rent: 2409 Glenarm Ave., $1,375/month
Every time I think that we’ve found the last affordable house for sale in a great neighborhood in Pittsburgh — and that’s it, there will be no more — I remember Brookline exists. Brookline is one of Pittsburgh’s biggest, most populated neighborhoods, but gets only a fraction of the attention. Maybe that’s good; maybe being quiet and inexpensive is enough — though the small shops and cafes on Brookline Boulevard could probably use the business from at least some outside interlopers (I recommend Oak Hill Post for breakfast). Until someone figures out how to build market-rate starter homes en masse again, existing ones like this are best thing available. And the only thing you have to worry about in Brookline is the Tunnel Monster that lives in the Liberty Tubes (sorry, forgot to mention that).

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Affordable-ish Housing in Pittsburgh: Grandma cottages and tunnel monsters edition

Photo: Courtesy of Zillow

602 Crane Ave.

BANKSVILLE
For sale: 602 Crane Ave., $189,000
Banksville sounds like some kind of verdant, sun-dappled enclave of the robber barons and their descendants (well, it has “bank” in the name). It’s not, though; it’s a city neighborhood disguised in some of the trappings of the suburbs — tired strip malls, hostile to pedestrians — and few of the advantages. Still, there are some very inexpensive houses to be found like this 1955 special with a garage, two bedrooms, and an abundance of updated neutral-grey interiors. You’ll need a car for everything except the walk to school, but at least there are sidewalks.

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click to enlarge Affordable-ish Housing in Pittsburgh: Grandma cottages and tunnel monsters edition

Photo: Courtesy of Apartments.com

Crane Village Apartments, 651 Oaklynn Ct.

For rent: Crane Village Apartments, 651 Oaklynn Ct., $1,050-1,660/month
Crane Village is about as friendly to bikes and pedestrians as outer space. But if that’s not a big deal to you — and having a diverse, low-cost community on a wooded hilltop that’s convenient to a lot of job centers (by car) is — then Crane Village isn’t a bad place to spend some time. Banksville Park nearby is an underrated gem, with basketball courts, dek hockey, swimming, and often a cricket match going on, usually at the same time.

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click to enlarge Affordable-ish Housing in Pittsburgh: Grandma cottages and tunnel monsters edition

Photo: Courtesy of Zillow

6434 Rosemoor St.

SQUIRREL HILL
For sale: 6434 Rosemoor St., $250,000
It’s good and right to be a little suspicious when a house for this price appears in Squirrel Hill. And the eyeball test (online at least) is definitely a mixed bag, with vast amounts of attractive deck above the garage, weird carpet everywhere, creepy basement, oddly shaped yard, et cetera. But hey, I lived on this street once — and it was indeed a mixed bag. The street was great, but the absentee landlord fell considerably short of the standards expected from Mister Rogers’ (actual) neighborhood.

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Affordable-ish Housing in Pittsburgh: Grandma cottages and tunnel monsters edition

Photo: Courtesy of Zillow

6533 Rosemoor St.

For rent: 6533 Rosemoor St., $1,525/month
Though it looks a little like a 3rd grader’s drawing of a house — that’s probably too many triangles — this three-bedroom rental home looks fairly well-kept inside and out. It’s a short walk to a dozens of great places to eat on Murray and Forbes Avenues, a five-minute drive to the Waterfront, and if you can merge onto 376 East from a dead stop, then you truly have nothing left to fear in this world.

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Connecticut

How will ranked-choice voting work in Connecticut?

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How will ranked-choice voting work in Connecticut?


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A new working group convened by Gov. Ned Lamont will craft a proposal for the state legislature to introduce ranked-choice voting in some Connecticut elections.

Currently, 29 states allow for ranked-choice voting, mostly in party primaries and municipal elections.

The most common type of ranked-choice voting is a system known as instant-runoff ranked-choice voting. In an election utilizing instant-runoff ranked-choice voting, voters are able to rank each candidate in order of preference. Voters are not required to rank all of the candidates if they do not want to. If no candidate receives a majority of first choice votes, the candidate with the lowest number of first choice votes is eliminated. Voters who listed the eliminated candidate as their first choice then have their second choice counted as part of a second round of vote counting. This process repeats until one candidate has a majority.

For advocates of ranked-choice voting, the process represents something of a remedy for political polarization that they attribute largely to the current system of primary elections.

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“The current system rewards factions and it rewards the fringes of a party,” said Monte Frank, an attorney and the vice chair of the working group. “So, the more polarizing you are, the better you do in a partisan, winner-take-all primary.”

Frank sees ranked-choice voting as a way to encourage candidates to court a wider base of support on the theory that being a voter’s second, third or even fourth choice gives them a better chance to win if multiple rounds of vote counting are required.

Frank is the former running mate of the late Oz Greibel, the third-party candidate for governor who captured just under 4% of the vote in the 2018 gubernatorial contest that pitted Republican Bob Stefanowski against Lamont.

“It not only drives voter participation, increases voter choice, but it produces a better candidate, a more consensus-driven candidate, and that improves our democracy,” Frank said.

The governor’s working group includes representation from both political parties and is co-chaired by one state senator from each side of the aisle. Any potential recommendation to the legislature would apply only to the use of ranked-choice voting in primaries, certain municipal elections, caucuses and conventions. Political parties and municipalities would have the choice of whether to adopt ranked-choice voting.

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“My hope is that this working group will collect the information necessary to make specific recommendations and hopefully improve voter turnout in Connecticut,” Sen. Cathy Osten (D-District 19) said in a statement announcing the working group.

Osten, who also chairs the legislature’s influential appropriations committee, is sharing leadership of the ranked-choice voting working group with Republican Sen. Tony Hwang (District 28).

“We hope to learn how ranked-choice voting can give the voters of Connecticut a stronger and more representative voice in their local elections,” Hwang said in a statement.

Despite bipartisan interest in exploring the use of ranked-choice voting in Connecticut primaries and municipal elections, concerns remain about the wisdom of making major changes to the voting process.

“One of my concerns globally is that we’ve done a lot of changes to our election laws,” Rep. Vincent Candelora (District 86), the House Republican leader.

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Candelora was referencing the introduction of early voting, which Connecticut is implementing for the first time this year. Local elections officials, he said, are challenged by the expanded in-person voting periods and would be further burdened if they had to adapt to the process of tabulating ranked-choice ballots.

Candelora also questioned how many races would actually draw more than two candidates.

“I just think that’s rare when it happens,” he said, “So, you know, to me it’s more of an academic exercise versus something that will really have a practical impact on Connecticut voting.”

The inaugural meeting of the Governor’s Working Group on Ranked-Choice Voting is on June 14.

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Maine

Falling gas prices give Maine drivers a break heading into summer

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Falling gas prices give Maine drivers a break heading into summer


Maddy Michaud, of Windham, gases up Thursday at Citgo in Westbrook, where prices matched the statewide average of $3.42 a gallon. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Gas prices that typically spike in summer as vacationers hit the road are instead falling due to weak demand and strong global supplies. But not so much that motorists notice.

“Not really,” Maddy Michaud said Thursday when asked if she’s seen a drop in prices. The Windham resident, who was putting gas in her SUV – a $75 tab, she said, to fill it completely – said as far as she can tell, the price has hovered from $3 to $3.50 a gallon “for a while now.”

She doesn’t plan long trips this summer, using her vehicle to get to her job in Portland and allowing her to fill up just once a month.

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At the Citgo station on Main Street in Westbrook where Michaud was making her purchase, gas was selling at $3.42 a gallon, which is the average price statewide.

That’s down from $3.52 on Memorial Day and $3.60 a gallon two weeks earlier, according to data from GasBuddy. In the same two-week period last year, gas prices in Portland rose to $3.53 a gallon from $3.44.

The price of gas peaked at $3.65 a gallon on April 30 and has been falling since, with Maine prices remaining close to national averages.

In 2022, three months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rattled global energy markets, gas prices reached $4.77 in Portland on Memorial Day, up from $4.63 two weeks earlier, according to numbers from GasBuddy.

The U.S. price on June 10 was $3.39 a gallon, down from $3.58 May 6, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. U.S. demand slipped to about 9 million barrels a day in early June, about 200,000 gallons less than the same time last year, the EIA said.

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Industry analysts say the drop in prices at the pump is due not only to lackluster demand, but also to strong supply and relatively mild global oil prices.

Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said reduced demand can be traced to a “COVID hangover” in many markets.

“With the reopening of the economy in 2022 everyone hit the road,” he said. “Those who didn’t pushed back to the following year when prices were down.”

Inflation also is a culprit, driving up the cost of restaurants and lodging, and giving vacationers second thoughts about summer driving plans, De Haan said.

Prices also typically rise in the spring because there’s less capacity as refineries are scheduled for maintenance, he said. Capacity is now 95% and prices are “drifting a little bit lower,” De Haan said.

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Another factor helping push down prices is a burgeoning supply. The International Energy Agency reported recently that global oil production is “set to ramp up, easing market strains and pushing spare capacity toward levels unseen outside of the COVID (pandemic).”

Andy Price, president and chief executive officer of Competitive Energy Services, a Portland consulting group, said oil “has been struggling to maintain high prices” and seems to be “locked in” at $80 a barrel, plus or minus.”

“The consensus is the market is well supplied,” he said.

Lower gasoline prices could help President Biden in his bid for a second term. The U.S. Department of Energy has announced it will sell 1 million barrels of gasoline by June 30, ahead of the Independence Day holiday, “strategically timed and structured to maximize its impact on gasoline prices, helping to lower prices at the pump as Americans hit the road this summer.”

Observers say it’s too small to make much of a difference. The U.S. used about 9 million barrels of gasoline a day in 2023, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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“It sends a message he’s doing something,” Price said. “It’s more symbolic than anything, I’m sure.”


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