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New York Pushes to Get Fired Workers Vaccinated, Rehired 

New York City is making a push to give city workers fired earlier this year for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine a chance to get their old jobs back — if they get fully vaccinated.

In February, Mayor Eric Adams fired more than 1,400 workers who failed to comply with the vaccine mandate put in place by his predecessor, Bill de Blasio.

Just short of 600 unvaccinated non-Department of Education workers are receiving a letter with details, and DOE employees are expected to receive a letter later in the summer, a city spokesperson said, adding that 97% of workers are vaccinated and that the goal has always been “vaccination rather than termination.”

The development was first reported by the New York Post.

It wasn’t clear how many workers would be affected and a timeline for returning to work was not disclosed.

The mandate required vaccinations as a workplace safety rule. In March, Adams was the target of criticism for exempting athletes and performers not based in New York City from the city’s vaccine mandate, while keeping the rule in place for private and public workers. 

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Swimming—FINA Votes to Restrict Transgender Participation in Elite Women’s Competition 

Swimming’s world governing body FINA on Sunday voted to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women’s competitions and create a working group to establish an “open” category for them in some events as part of its new policy.

Transgender rights has become a major talking point as sports seek to balance inclusivity while ensuring there is no unfair advantage.

The decision, the strictest by any Olympic sports body, was made during FINA’s extraordinary general congress after members heard a report from a transgender task force comprising leading medical, legal and sports figures.

The new eligibility policy for FINA competitions states that male-to-female transgender athletes are eligible to compete only if “they can establish to FINA’s comfortable satisfaction that they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 (of puberty) or before age 12, whichever is later.”

The policy was passed with a roughly 71% majority after it was put to the members of 152 national federations with voting rights who had gathered for the congress at the Puskas Arena.

“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” said FINA President Husain Al-Musallam.

“FINA will always welcome every athlete. The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level. This has not been done before, so FINA will need to lead the way. I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process.”

The issue of transgender inclusion in sport is highly divisive, particularly in the United States where it has become a weapon in a so-called “culture war” between conservatives and progressives.

The new FINA policy also opens up eligibility to those who have “complete androgen insensitivity and therefore could not experience male puberty.”

Swimmers who have had “male puberty suppressed beginning at Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later, and they have since continuously maintained their testosterone levels in serum (or plasma) below 2.5 nmol/L.” are also allowed to compete in women’s races.

Female-to-male transgender athletes (transgender men) are fully eligible to compete in men’s swimming competitions.

Advocates for transgender inclusion argue that not enough studies have yet been done on the impact of transition on physical performance, and that elite athletes are often physical outliers in any case.

The debate intensified after University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle earlier this year.

That followed New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard becoming the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year.

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American Actor Helps Ukraine, Gets In Touch With His Heritage 

American actor and director Liev Schreiber says events in Ukraine didn’t impact him much before the Russian invasion. Due to the war, he became deeply involved in charity work and rediscovered the Ukrainian part of his heritage. VOA’s Tatiana Vorozhko reports.

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Despite Ongoing Military Action, Ukrainians Continue to Get Married

Despite the ongoing war in Ukraine, couples there continue to get married. For many, the war itself prompted them to officially tie the knot – especially military couples. At least one jewelry store provides military couples with free wedding bands; wedding ceremonies are often held online, at times, literally from the front lines. Anna Kosstutschenko has the story.

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Bill Cosby Civil Trial Jury Must Start Deliberations Over

After two days of deliberations in which they reached verdicts on nearly all of the questions put before them, jurors in a civil trial who were deciding on sexual abuse allegations against Bill Cosby will have to start from scratch on Monday.

By the end of the court day Friday, the Los Angeles County jury had come to agreement on whether Cosby had sexually assaulted plaintiff Judy Huth at the Playboy Mansion when she was 16 in 1975, and whether Huth deserved any damages. In all they had answered eight of nine questions on their verdict form, all but one that asked whether Cosby acted in a way that should require punitive damages.

Judge Craig Karlan, who had promised one juror when she agreed to serve that she could leave after Friday for a prior commitment, decided over the objections of Cosby’s attorneys to accept and read the verdict on the questions the jury had answered. But he had to change course when deputies at the Santa Monica Courthouse appeared and required him to clear the courtroom. The courthouse has a required closure time of 4:30 p.m. because of no budget for deputies’ overtime.

Karlan refused to require the departing juror, who had been chosen as foreperson, to return on Monday, so jurors will have to begin again with an alternate in her place.

“I won’t go back on my word,” Karlan said.

It was a bizarre ending to a strange day of jury deliberations. It began with a note to the judge about what he called a “personality issue” between two of the jurors that was making their work difficult.

After calling them to the courtroom and getting them to agree that every juror would be heard in discussions, the jurors resumed, but had a steady flurry of questions on issues with their verdict form that the judge and attorneys had to discuss and answer. One question was on how to calculate damages.

After the lunch break, Cosby lawyer Jennifer Bonjean moved for a mistrial because of a photo taken by a member of Cosby’s team that showed a juror standing in close proximity to a Cosby accuser who had been sitting in the audience and watching the trial.

Karlan said the photo didn’t indicate any conversation had happened, and quickly dismissed the mistrial motion, getting assurances from the juror in question, then the entire jury, that no one had discussed the case with them.

The accuser, Los Angeles artist Lily Bernard, who has filed her own lawsuit against Cosby in New Jersey, denied speaking to any jurors.

“I never spoke to any juror, ever,” Bernard told the judge from her seat in the courtroom. “I would never do anything to jeopardize this case. I don’t even look at them.”

Karlan fought to get past the hurdles and have jurors deliberate as long as possible, and kept lawyers, reporters and court staff in the courtroom ready to bolt as soon as a verdict was read, but it was fruitless in the end.

Jurors had begun deliberating Thursday morning after a two-week trial.

Cosby, 84, who was freed from prison when his Pennsylvania criminal conviction was thrown out nearly a year ago, did not attend. He denied any sexual contact with Huth in a clip from a 2015 video deposition shown to jurors. The denial has been repeated throughout the trial by his spokesperson and his attorney.

In contentious closing arguments, Bonjean urged the jurors to look past the public allegations against Cosby and consider only the trial evidence, which she said did not come close to proving Huth’s case.

Huth’s attorney Nathan Goldberg told jurors Cosby had to be held accountable for the harm he had done to his client.

The Associated Press does not normally name people who say they have been sexually abused, unless they come forward publicly, as Huth and Bernard each have. 

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US Opens COVID Vaccine to Little Kids; Shots Begin Next Week

The U.S. on Saturday opened COVID-19 vaccines to infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The shots will become available next week, expanding the nation’s vaccination campaign to children as young as 6 months.

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the vaccines for the littlest children, and the final signoff came hours later from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the agency’s director.

“We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can,” Walensky said in a statement.

While the Food and Drug Administration approves vaccines, it’s the CDC that decides who should get them.

The shots offer young children protection from hospitalization, death and possible long-term complications that are still not clearly understood, the CDC’s advisory panel said.

The government has already been gearing up for the vaccine expansion, with millions of doses ordered for distribution to doctors, hospitals and community health clinics around the country.

Roughly 18 million kids will be eligible, but it remains to be seen how many will get the vaccines. Less than a third of children ages 5-11 have done so since vaccination opened to them last November.

Here are some things to know:

What kinds are available?

Two brands — Pfizer and Moderna — got the green light Friday from the FDA and Saturday from the CDC. The vaccines use the same technology but are being offered at different dose sizes and number of shots for the youngest kids.

Pfizer’s vaccine is for children 6 months to 4 years old. The dose is one-tenth of the adult dose, and three shots are needed. The first two are given three weeks apart, and the last at least two months later.

Moderna’s is two shots, each a quarter of its adult dose, given about four weeks apart for kids 6 months through 5 years old. The FDA also approved a third dose, at least a month after the second shot, for children with immune conditions that make them more vulnerable to serious illness.

How well do they work?

In studies, vaccinated youngsters developed levels of virus-fighting antibodies as strong as young adults, suggesting that the kid-size doses protect against coronavirus infections.

However, exactly how well they work is hard to pin down, especially when it comes to the Pfizer vaccine.

Two doses of Moderna appeared to be only about 40% effective at preventing milder infections at a time when the omicron variant was causing most COVID-19 illnesses. Pfizer presented study information suggesting the company saw 80% with its three shots. But the Pfizer data was so limited — and based on such a small number of cases — experts and federal officials say they don’t feel there is a reliable estimate yet.

Should my little one be vaccinated?

Yes, according to the CDC. While COVID-19 has been the most dangerous for older adults, younger people, including children, can also get very sick.

Hospitalizations surged during the omicron wave. Since the start of the pandemic, about 480 children under age 5 are counted among the nation’s more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths, according to federal data.

“It is worth vaccinating even though the number of deaths are relatively rare, because these deaths are preventable through vaccination,” said Dr. Matthew Daley, a Kaiser Permanente Colorado researcher who sits on the CDC’s advisory committee.

In a statement Saturday, President Joe Biden urged parents to get them for their young children as soon as possible.

Which vaccine should my child get?

Either one, said Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s vaccine chief.

“Whatever vaccine your health care provider, pediatrician has, that’s what I would give my child,’’ Marks said Friday.

The doses haven’t been tested against each other, so experts say there’s no way to tell if one is better.

One consideration: It takes roughly three months to complete the Pfizer three-shot series, but just one month for Moderna’s two shots. So, families eager to get children protected quickly might want Moderna.

Who’s giving the shots?

Pediatricians, other primary care physicians and children’s hospitals are planning to provide the vaccines. Limited drugstores will offer them for at least some of the under-5 group.

U.S. officials expect most shots to take place at pediatricians’ offices. Many parents may be more comfortable getting the vaccine for their kids at their regular doctor, White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said. He predicted the pace of vaccination will be far slower than it was for older populations.

“We’re going see vaccinations ramp up over weeks and even potentially over a couple of months,” Jha said.

Can children get other vaccines at the same time?

It’s common for little kids to get more than one vaccine during a doctor’s visit.

In studies of the Moderna and Pfizer shots in infants and toddlers, other vaccinations were not given at the same time so there is no data on potential side effects when that happens.

But problems have not been identified in older children or adults when COVID-19 shots and other vaccinations were given together, and the CDC is advising that it’s safe for younger children as well.

What if my child recently had COVID-19?

About three-quarters of children of all ages are estimated to have been infected at some point. For older ages, the CDC has recommended vaccination anyway to lower the chances of reinfection.

Experts have noted re-infections among previously infected people and say the highest levels of protection occur in those who were both vaccinated and previously infected.

The CDC has said people may consider waiting about three months after an infection to be vaccinated.

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