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In Athens, rare snow blankets Acropolis, halts vaccinations

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In Athens, rare snow blankets Acropolis, halts vaccinations

ATHENS, Greece — Heavy snowfall blanketed the Acropolis and other ancient monuments in Athens, caused power cuts and halted COVID-19 vaccinations in the Greek capital on Tuesday as the weather brought many services across the country to a standstill.

Greek media reported that three deaths in separate parts of the country were linked with the bad weather. State ERT TV said two elderly men with breathing problems died after their mechanical respiratory aids stopped working due to power cuts, and a farmer on the island of Crete was found dead in a snow-covered area near his sheepfold.

While western Europe got some respite from winter weather, temperatures plunged in the southeast of the continent and storms also battered Turkey.

The snow, an unusual sight in the Greek capital of more than 3 million residents, also stopped most public transport services. Hundreds of toppled trees downed power cables, causing blackouts in several suburbs, while one area on the city’s northern fringes was declared in a state of emergency for the next month. Some of the affected suburbs were also left without water.

Snow is common in Greece’s mountains and in the north of the country, but much rarer in the capital. Some Athenians emerged cautiously outside, snapping photos on balconies and in the streets.

The snow arrived as Athens and several other parts of Greece remain in lockdown to curb coronavirus infections. Schools and most stores are closed, and residents must stay indoors during a nightly curfew.

Some children skipped online classes Tuesday to play in the snow. Adults also went out to play, with some digging out skis to use on the capital’s hilly slopes. One man skied along Pnyx hill in central Athens, near the Acropolis.

Norwegian Ambassador Frode Overland Andersen tweeted a video of himself skiing down a hill in the suburb of Filothei with his teenage daughter.

“Challenge accepted,” he wrote, after a friend in Oslo challenged him to prove it really was possible to ski in Athens.

“It was the best day at my home office during the lockdown so far,” the ambassador told The Associated Press. “Sadly, my skis took a rather hard beating, so I will be waxing and prepping for next season.”

Outside the parliament building, orange snowplows cleared streets of ice and snow, while presidential guards, dressed in traditional pleated kilts and pompom-tipped shoes, were given heavy woolen overcoats.

The cold snap, which has already caused snowstorms around much of Europe, kept temperatures hovering around freezing in Athens on Tuesday but was expected to lift abruptly with highs of 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit) expected on Thursday.

In neighboring Turkey, heavy snow and blizzards forced the closure of a highway in northwest Turkey. Around 600 vehicles were stranded on a nine-kilometer (six-mile) stretch of the snow-covered road, and another 800 other vehicles were stranded elsewhere, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Sections of Greece’s main north-south highway were also closed until early Wednesday, leaving about 300 lorry drivers stranded at a highway access point outside Thessaloniki, in northern Greece. Most ferry services to the islands were canceled, while flights from regional airports to Athens were disrupted.

Greek Fire Service spokesman Vassilis Vathrakoyiannis said the service had received hundreds of calls for assistance in greater Athens.

“The calls mainly concerned downed trees and transporting people stuck in their vehicles to a safe place, but also to transport kidney dialysis patients to receive treatment,” he told state TV.

“Vaccinations have been postponed, but we have helped transport doctors and medical staff where they are needed, and we helped power technicians get to damaged electricity pylons in areas where access was difficult,” Vathrakoyiannis said.

Power and water cuts were also reported in central Greece. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with emergency response leaders to assist residents in blacked-out areas and villages cut off by the snow.

“We obviously recommend great care be taken in all movement, all unnecessary movement should be avoided,” Mitsotakis said after the meeting, adding that authorities were doing everything they could to keep the roads open and to restore power to areas without electricity.

“I think we will all show patience as we deal with a phenomenon that is truly unprecedented,” he added.

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IKEA Juneteenth menu of watermelon, fried chicken sparks outrage

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IKEA Juneteenth menu of watermelon, fried chicken sparks outrage

An attempt to honor Juneteenth has backfired spectacularly for one Georgia Ikea.

An Atlanta branch of the Scandinavian furniture chain has sparked outrage with what employees are calling an intensely problematic menu curated to celebrate the holiday, which marks the emancipation of the very last enslaved Americans. 

“To honor the perseverance of Black Americans and acknowledge the progress yet to be made, we observe Juneteenth on Saturday, June 19, 2021,” begins an email acquired by TMZ, which was sent to employees at the branch last week. “Look out for a special menu on Saturday which will include: fried chicken, watermelon, mac n cheese, potato salad, collard greens, candied yams.” 

The selection, including items that have historically been used to demean African-Americans through stereotyping, resulted in multiple employees calling out of work in protest, according to a local news channel.

“You cannot say serving watermelon on Juneteenth is a soul food menu when you don’t even know the history. They used to feed slaves watermelon,” an anonymous employee told Atlanta’s CBS 46. “It caused a lot of people to be upset. People actually wanted to quit. People weren’t coming back to work.” 

As many as 33 workers didn’t show up in response, CBS reported, causing the store’s manager to apologize via internal email. 

“She said, ‘I truly apologize. The menu came off [offensive],’” the employee recalled.

But this wasn’t sufficient for forgiveness, and the worker said the controversy could have been easily avoided if only people of color had been included in the team that chose the menu. “None of the co-workers who sat down to create the menu, no one was black,” they added. 

The following day, the store manager told CBS a new, revised menu was released. The updated version included collard greens, cornbread, mashed potatoes and meatloaf. And Sunday’s menu? “Fried chicken, mac ’n’ cheese, collard greens,” the employee said.

Ikea did not return The Post’s request for comment. 

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Serbian Roma girl band sings for women’s empowerment

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Zlata Ristic, 27, center, Elma Dalipi, 14, left, Silvia Sinani, 24, 2nd left, Dijana Ferhatovic, 18, 3rd left, Zivka Ferhatovic, 20, 2nd right, and Selma Dalipi, 14, members of the Pretty Loud band, practice at a music studio in Belgrade, Serbia, Wednesday, June 16, 2021.

BELGRADE, Serbia — Their songs are about “women chained” in abuse witnessed by generations, or teenage brides being forced into marriage by their fathers. And they tell women to seek love, fight back and stand up for their right to be equal with men.

A female Roma band in Serbia is using music to preach women’s empowerment within their community, challenging some deeply rooted traditions and centuries-old male domination.

Formed in 2014, “Pretty Loud” symbolically seeks to give a louder voice to Roma girls, encourage education and steer them away from the widespread custom of early marriage. The band has gained popularity and international attention, performing last year at the Women of the Year Festival in London.

“We want to stop the early marriages … we want the girls themselves and not their parents, to decide whether they want to marry or not,” said Silvia Sinani, one of the band members. “We want every woman to have the right to be heard, to have her dreams and to be able to fulfil them, to be equal,”

Sinani, 24, said the idea for an all-female band was born at education and artistic workshops run for Roma, or Gypsies, by a private foundation, Gypsy Roma Urban Balkan Beats. The girls initially danced in GRUBB’s boys’ band and then decided they wanted one of their own, she said.

“They (GRUBB) named us ‘Pretty Loud’ because they knew that women in Roma tradition are not really loud,” she said.

The band’s music, a combination of rap and traditional Roma folk beat, mainly targets a younger generation of girls who are yet to make their life choices — the band itself includes 14-year-old twin sisters. The songs tackle women’s position in their community and seek to boost their self-awareness.

The quest is essential in a community where early marriages are widespread — a UNICEF study published last year showed that over one-third of girls in Roma settlements in Serbia aged 15-19 are already married. Of them, 16 percent were married before they were 15.

Alarmed, Serbian authorities, too, have formed a state commission to try to reverse the trend.

“I am an example of early marriage,” said band member Zlata Ristic, 27, who gave birth to a baby boy at 16. “Nobody forced me into it but I have realized I should not have done it.”

Now a single mother, Ristic said she wants other women in similar situations to know that their lives are not over once they have children and that they can still pursue their dreams.

“My biggest reward is when 14-year-old girls write to me and say they want to become one of us, that they now attend school thanks to us, that they have improved their grades,” she said.

Among the most underprivileged ethnic communities in Serbia and Europe, the Roma largely live in segregated settlements on society’s fringes, facing poverty, joblessness and prejudice.

Activists have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has further fueled the social isolation of marginalized groups and increased their poverty. Disruptions of regular schooling due to the virus lockdowns have made it even harder for Roma children to stay in the system.

At the GRUBB center in Belgrade’s Zemun district, several children could be seen working with young instructors in an improvised classroom. The girls from “Pretty Loud” teach at music and dance workshops run by GRUBB, which was established in Serbia in 2006.

Diana Ferhatovic, 18, first came to the center four years ago, initially seeking help with school lessons before joining the music program and finding her way into “Pretty Loud.” Their performance in London last March — just as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting — was unforgettable, she said.

“I had a kind of positive jitters, we all did at first, the whole group,” Ferhatovic said. “Then we blew them off their feet.”

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Screen all kids for heart problems, pediatricians say

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Screen all kids for heart problems, pediatricians say

All children, regardless of their athletic status, should be screened for risk of cardiac arrest, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a policy statement Monday. The group included four questions to incorporate into the screenings, including two pertaining to family history of heart issues. 

“The unexpected death of a seemingly healthy child is a tragedy not only for the family but for the family community as well,” the AAP said in a statement regarding the policy, which will be published in the July issue of Pediatrics. “Multiple studies have looked at sudden deaths in young people either as a whole or by individual disease processes. However, most of these studies are published in cardiology journals. The goal of the AAP-PACES policy is to present expanded information to pediatricians and other primary care providers.” 

The guidelines suggest screening for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and sudden cardiac death (SCD) should be performed during the preparticipation physical evaluation or at least every three years or on entry into middle/junior high school and high school. In addition to family history, the group recommends physicians inquire about fainting, passing out, or unexplained seizures without warning, especially during exercise, or in response to loud noises such as doorbells, alarm clocks and telephones, or if a patient has ever had exercise-related chest pain or shortness of breath. 

“Realizing that primary prevention methods are less than perfect, the policy soldiers secondary prevention, including the creation of a cardiac emergency response plan for schools and the role of the primary care provider as an advocate for CPR and automated external defibrillator training. It also provides information on the family evaluation following a cardiac arrest/death, including addressing bereavement, autopsies and genetic testing. Lastly, there is a section for survivors of cardiac arrest on returning to activity after recovery.” 

The group also advises that an ECG be the first test ordered when there is concern for SCA risk. 

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