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Burial sites found at 53 Native American boarding schools, U.S. government says

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland speaks during the National Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, U.S., December 2, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Brad Brooks

(Reuters) -A U.S. government investigation into the dark history of Native American boarding schools has found “marked or unmarked burial sites” at 53 of them, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said on Wednesday.

Haaland, the first Native American cabinet member, announced the investigation last year. In releasing preliminary findings during a press conference in Washington, she spoke through tears and in a choked-up voice.

“The federal policies that attempted to wipe out Native identity, language and culture continue to manifest in the pain tribal communities face today,” Haaland said. “We must shed light on the unspoken traumas of the past.”

Until Wednesday, the U.S. government had yet to provide any true accounting of the legacy of the schools, which used education to change culture so tribal land could be taken. Families were forced to send their children to the schools.

To compile Haaland’s report, researchers located records on 408 schools that received federal funding from 1819 to 1969, and another 89 schools that did not receive money from the government. About half the schools were run for the government by or supported by churches of various denominations. Many children were abused at the schools, and tens of thousands were never heard from again, activists and researchers say.

The report noted that “rampant physical, sexual, and emotional abuse” took place at the schools and is well documented, and that so far the investigation had found over 500 children who died while in school custody. Investigators said they expect to uncover many more deaths.

Haaland said she’s beginning a year-long “road to healing” tour to listen to survivors of the boarding school system. The next goals of the investigation are to estimate the number of kids who attended the schools, finding more burial sites and identifying how much federal monies went to churches that took part in the school system, among other issues.

She said Congress had provided $7 million to keep the research going this year, which she said was fundamental to helping Native Americans heal.

Experts said the first report on the investigation had barely scratched the surface of what needs to be examined. The Interior Department has identified more than 98 million pages of documents that may relate to the boarding school system within the American Indian Records Repository that still need to be evaluated. Tens of millions more pages housed regional branches of the National Archives and Records Administration also must be examined.

A former congresswoman from New Mexico, Haaland in 2020 introduced legislation calling for a Truth and Healing Commission into conditions at former Native American boarding schools. That legislation is still pending, and hearings on the most recent version of the bill are scheduled for Thursday before a U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States.

Deborah Parker, head of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition that’s assisting the Interior Department in its investigation, said the report just scratched the surface of the trauma.

“Our children had names. Our children had families. Our children have their own languages,” she said at the press conference. “Our children had their own regalia, prayers and religion before Indian boarding schools violently took them away.”

‘IDENTITY ALTERATION’

Researchers examined government records and spoke to Native Americans to prepare the report. The results detail a history dating to at least 1801, when the first such schools opened, and one in which education was used as a weapon.

Native American affairs, including education, were a War Department responsibility until 1849 and the military remained involved even after civilians took over, the report noted.

The schools were described as resembling military academies in their regimentation and strictness and emphasizing vocational skills. Police were called on to force families to send their children to the schools. Food was denied to families as another way to force them to surrender their children.

“These conditions included militarized and identity alteration methodologies – on kids!” said Bryan Newland, the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the Interior Department, who heads the investigation.

Conditions at former Indian boarding schools gained global attention last year when tribal leaders in Canada announced the discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops residential school for indigenous children, as such institutions are known in Canada.

Unlike the United States, Canada carried out a full investigation into its schools via a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The U.S. government has never acknowledged how many children attended such schools, how many children died or went missing from them or even how many schools existed.

The report released on Wednesday included recommendations for funding programs to preserve the Native American languages the schools tried to stamp out, and establishing a federal memorial.

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More work to resume in Shanghai’s zero-COVID areas from June

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© Reuters. Women carry boxes of food on a street during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China, May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) -The COVID-19-hit financial hub of Shanghai will start to allow more businesses in zero-COVID areas to resume normal operations from the beginning of June, a deputy mayor said on Thursday as the city looks forward to the end of lockdown.

Shanghai, fighting China’s biggest ever coronavirus outbreak, has been steadily allowing more businesses to reopen and letting larger numbers of residents leave their homes for the first time in nearly seven weeks.

The city was “striving to achieve a full resumption of work and production as soon as possible”, deputy mayor Zhang Wei told a media briefing.

“The rhythm of work resumption” would be based on the epidemic prevention situation, he said, adding that for the rest of May, many workers would remain in “closed loops”, which often involves staff living at their work places.

Shanghai’s stable energy, water and information infrastructure throughout the outbreak “guarantees that the city’s pulse has the strength to beat after the slowdown, and also supports the continuous recovery of the city’s economy”, he said.

After nearly two months of disruptions, cargo deliveries were gradually returning to normal, Zhang said, with daily container throughput at Shanghai’s ports now at about 90% of levels a year ago.

Pudong Airport cargo throughput had reached 70% of last year’s levels, while freight vehicles entering and leaving the city was back to two thirds.

Yu Fulin, an official with Shanghai’s transportation commission, told the briefing the city would start to restore main cross-district public transport on May 22. The priority would be reopening routes connecting the city’s airports, railway stations and hospitals, he said.

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U.S. Senate confirms Biden nominee to be Ukraine ambassador

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Bridget Brink, nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testifies at her Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate unanimously approved veteran diplomat Bridget Brink on Wednesday to be ambassador to Ukraine, filling a critical post that has been vacant for three years as Washington works to increase support for the government in Kyiv.

Brink was approved by unanimous voice vote.

Both President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats and Republicans had urged Brink’s quick confirmation. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Brink unanimously earlier on Wednesday, after holding her confirmation hearing just two weeks after Biden announced the nomination on April 25.

The quick action underscored the desire from both parties to send an ambassador to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as he faces Russia’s invasion. Brink’s Senate confirmation came on the same day that the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv reopened after a three-month closure due to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

The Senate also is expected later this week to approve nearly $40 billion in military and humanitarian support for Kyiv, funding that has already passed the House of Representatives.

A Michigan native who speaks Russian, Brink is currently U.S. ambassador to Slovakia. A diplomat for 25 years, she has worked in Uzbekistan and Georgia as well as in several senior positions across the State Department and White House National Security Council.

Brink was also confirmed by unanimous voice vote in 2019, when former Republican President Donald Trump nominated her for the position in Bratislava.

There has not been a U.S. ambassador in Kyiv since May 2019, when Trump abruptly recalled then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Yovanovitch later testified as Trump faced impeachment on charges of withholding military aid to put pressure on Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, then seen as Trump’s most likely opponent in the 2020 election.

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N.Korea boosts production of drugs, medical supplies to battle COVID

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© Reuters. Members of the North Korean army supply medicines to residents at a pharmacy, amid growing fears over the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo on May 18, 2022. Kyodo/via REUTERS

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By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korea is ramping up production of drugs and medical supplies including sterilisers and thermometers as it battles an unprecedented coronavirus outbreak, state media KCNA said on Thursday.

The isolated country, which has imposed a nationwide lockdown, is also increasing production of traditional Korean medicines used to reduce fever and pain, KCNA said, calling them “effective in prevention and cure of the malicious disease.”

A sweeping COVID wave, which North Korea first confirmed last week, has fanned concerns over a lack of medical resources and vaccines, with the U.N. human rights agency warning of “devastating” consequences for its 25 million people.

At least 262,270 more people reported fever symptoms, and one additional person died as of Wednesday evening, KCNA said, citing data from the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters. It did not specify how many people had tested positive for the virus.

North Korea has so far reported 1,978,230 people with fever symptoms and 63 deaths, and imposed strict anti-virus measures.

Factories are churning out more injections, medicines, thermometers and other medical supplies in the capital Pyongyang and nearby regions “in a lightning way,” while more isolation wards were installed and disinfection work intensified around the country, KCNA said.

“Thousands of tons of salt were urgently transported to Pyongyang City to produce antiseptic solution,” KCNA said.

The reports came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un criticised ineffective distribution of drugs and slammed officials for their “immature” responses to the epidemic.

Without a national vaccination campaign and COVID treatment, state media have encouraged patients to use painkillers and antibiotics as well as unverified home remedies, such as gargling salt water, or drinking lonicera japonica tea or willow leaf tea.

South Korea and the United States have respectively offered to help North Korea fight the outbreak, including sending aid, but have not received a response, Seoul’s deputy national security advisor said on Wednesday.

However, three aircraft from North Korea’s Air Koryo arrived in China and returned to Pyongyang on Monday carrying medical supplies, a diplomatic source said on condition of anonymity.

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