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U.S. travelers on the road again with Memorial Day holiday still subdued by pandemic

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With half the country at least partially protected against the coronavirus, Americans fled their pandemic doldrums over the three-day holiday weekend that traditionally unleashes the country’s pent-up wanderlust at the doorstep of summer.

But the Memorial Day holiday on Monday is also a solemn occasion for remembering the country’s war dead, and many of this year’s military ceremonies are still being held virtually.

The biggest commemoration, the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington which was presented all online last year as the virus raged, is returning somewhat back to normal this year with a mix of in-person and virtual events, organizers said.

Instead of a traditional parade on Constitution Avenue before 100,000 spectators, the march was filmed on May 3 on the National Mall with no onlookers and will be blended with other taped performers in a special television program.

“We’re fully expecting to be returning to normal next year,” said Kenny Cunningham, a spokesman for the American Veterans Center.

New York City’s Staten Island borough was set to have one of the country’s relatively few live-and-in-person parades on Monday with floats and marching bands.

Also, on Memorial Day, whose origins date back to the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War, which ended in 1865, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took part in a traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Duty, honor, country – they lived for it, they died for it. And we, as a nation, are eternally grateful,” Biden told the crowd, including families gathered at the site to remember loved ones who lost their lives in military service.

TRAVEL EXPECTED UP 60%

A year after Memorial Day weekend travel was depressed by fears of the spreading COVID-19 virus, it is forecast to jump by 60%, with 37 million people expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, AAA Travel said.

The 2021 total, which is still 13% below 2019, includes 34.4 million people traveling by car, the AAA said.

One of them is Patty Doxsey, 63, of Red Hook, New York, who was set to take a 10-hour drive with her husband on Monday for a week-long camping stay at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee in hopes of seeing a synchronous firefly light show.

The couple, both vaccinated, had planned to go last year until the pandemic scotched their trip, she said.

“I am so excited,” said Doxsey, a reporter for the Daily Freeman in Kingston. “It has been a long, long year, and we like to travel.”

By Sunday, 50.5% of Americans had gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Meanwhile, the number of new coronavirus cases has plummeted from a seven-day average of more than 250,000 a day in early January to about 18,900 on Saturday, the lowest number since the ascent of the pandemic in March 2020, the CDC said.

Air travel is also making a comeback as nearly 1.96 million people passed through U.S. airports on Friday, the most since March 7, 2020, according to Transportation Security Administration data.

Top Memorial Day travel destinations this year are Las Vegas and Orlando, AAA said.

The State Department is strongly discouraging foreign travel, including to Mexico and Canada, having issued “Do Not Travel” advisories for more than 150 countries, mostly because of high rates of COVID-19.

(This story refiles to add dropped word in paragraph 8)

 

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Diane Craft and David Gregorio)

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Hundreds more unmarked graves found at erstwhile Saskatchewan residential school

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An indigenous group in Saskatchewan on Thursday said it had found the unmarked graves of an estimated 751 people at a now-defunct Catholic residential school, just weeks after a similar, smaller discovery rocked the country.

The latest discovery, the biggest to date, is a grim reminder of the years of abuse and discrimination indigenous communities have suffered in Canada even as they continue to fight for justice and better living conditions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “terribly saddened” by the discovery at Marieval Indian Residential School about 87 miles (140 km) from the provincial capital Regina. He told indigenous people that “the hurt and the trauma that you feel is Canada’s responsibility to bear.”

It is not clear how many of the remains detected belong to children, Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme told reporters, adding that oral stories mentioned adults being buried at the site.

Delorme later told Reuters some of the graves belong to non-indigenous people who may have belonged to the church. He said the First Nation hopes to find the gravestones that once marked these graves, after which they may involve police.

Delorme said the church that ran the school removed the headstones.

“We didn’t remove the headstones. Removing headstones is a crime in this country. We are treating this like a crime scene,” he said.

The residential school system, which operated between 1831 and 1996, removed about 150,000 indigenous children from their families and brought them to Christian residential schools, mostly Catholic, run on behalf of the federal government.

“Canada will be known as a nation who tried to exterminate the First Nations,” said Bobby Cameron, Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. “This is just the beginning.”

OLD WOUNDS

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which published a report that found the residential school system amounted to cultural genocide, has said a cemetery was left on the Marieval site after the school building was demolished.

The local Catholic archdiocese gave Cowessess First Nation C$70,000 ($56,813) in 2019 to help restore the site and identify unmarked graves, said spokesperson Eric Gurash. He said the archdiocese gave Cowessess all its death records for the period Catholic parties were running the school.

In a letter to Delorme on Thursday, Archbishop Don Bolen reiterated an earlier apology for the “failures and sins of Church leaders and staff” and pledged to help identify the remains.

Heather Bear, who went to Marieval as a day student in the 1970s and is also vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, recalled a small cemetery at the school but not of the size revealed on Thursday.

“You just didn’t want to be walking around alone in (the school),” she recalled. There was a “sadness that moves. And I think every residential school has that sadness looming.”

The Cowessess First Nation began a ground-penetrating radar search on June 2, after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia outraged the country. Radar at Marieval found 751 “hits” as of Wednesday with a 10% margin of error, meaning at least 600 graves on the site.

The Kamloops discovery reopened old wounds in Canada about the lack of information and accountability around the residential school system, which forcibly separated indigenous children from their families and subjected them to malnutrition and physical and sexual abuse.

Pope Francis said in early June that he was pained by the Kamloops revelation and called for respect for the rights and cultures of native peoples. But he stopped short of the direct apology some Canadians had demanded.

Thursday was a difficult day, Delorme told Reuters. But he wants his young children to know “we will get the reconciliation one day with action like today.”

($1 = 1.2321 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto and Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Alistair Bell, Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis)

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Teamsters votes to fund and support Amazon workers

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The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union in the United States and Canada, said on Thursday it has voted to formalize a resolution to support and fund employees of Amazon.com Inc in their unionization efforts.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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Citigroup names new sales head for Treasury and Trade Solutions unit

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Citigroup Inc has named Steve Elms as the new sales head for the bank’s Treasury and Trade Solutions (TTS) unit effective immediately, according to an internal memo shared by a company spokesperson.

Elms, who will oversee the management of the global sales teams, has been involved with the bank’s TTS division for over 10 years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

TTS is a division of the bank’s Institutional Clients group. The segment offers cash management and trade services and finance to multinational corporations, financial institutions and public sector organizations around the world.

(Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru and David Henry in New York; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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