Coinciding with unrelenting cyberattacks against Ukraine, state-backed Russian hackers have engaged in "strategic espionage" against governments, think tanks, businesses and aid groups in 42 countries supporting Kyiv, Microsoft said in a report Wednesday. "Since the start of the war, the Russian targeting [of Ukraine's allies] has been successful 29 percent of the time," Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote, with data stolen in at least one-quarter of the successful network intrusions. "As a coalition of countries has come together to defend Ukraine, Russian intelligence agencies have stepped up network penetration and espionage activities targeting allied governments outside Ukraine," Smith said. Nearly two-thirds of the cyberespionage targets involved NATO members. The United States was the prime target and Poland, the main conduit for military assistance flowing to Ukraine, was No. 2. In the past two months, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Turkey have seen stepped-up targeting. A striking exception is Estonia, where Microsoft said it has detected no Russian cyber intrusions since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The company credited Estonia's adoption of cloud computing, where it's easier to detect intruders. "Significant collective defensive weaknesses remain" among some other European governments, Microsoft said, without identifying them. Half of the 128 organizations targeted are government agencies and 12% are nongovernmental agencies, typically think tanks or humanitarian groups, according to the 28-page report. Other targets include telecommunications, energy and defense companies. Microsoft said Ukraine's cyber defenses "have proven stronger" overall than Russia's capabilities in "waves of destructive cyberattacks against 48 distinct Ukrainian agencies and enterprises." Moscow's military hackers have been cautious not to unleash destructive data-destroying worms that could spread outside Ukraine, as the NotPetya virus did in 2017, the report noted. "During the past month, as the Russian military moved to concentrate its attacks in the Donbas region, the number of destructive attacks has fallen," according to the report, "Defending Ukraine: Early Lessons from the Cyber War." The Redmond, Washington, company has unique insight in the domain due to the ubiquity of its software and threat detection teams. Microsoft said Ukraine has also set an example in data safeguarding. Ukraine went from storing its data locally on servers in government buildings a week before the Russian invasion — making them vulnerable to aerial attack — to dispersing that data in the cloud, hosted in data centers across Europe. The report also assessed Russian disinformation and propaganda aimed at "undermining Western unity and deflecting criticism of Russian military war crimes" and wooing people in nonaligned countries. Using artificial intelligence tools, Microsoft said, it estimated "Russian cyber influence operations successfully increased the spread of Russian propaganda after the war began by 216 percent in Ukraine and 82 percent in the United States."
The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is providing logistical support to import the equivalent of about 16 million 8-ounce baby formula bottles from Mexico starting this weekend, as part of its efforts to ease nationwide supply shortages caused by the closure of the largest U.S. manufacturing plant. The Department of Health and Human Services is expediting the travel of trucks that will drive about 1 million pounds of Gerber Good Start Gentle infant formula from a Nestlé plant to U.S. retailers, the White House said, nearly doubling the amount imported to the U.S. to date. Cargo flights from Europe and Australia already have brought baby formula into the U.S., including two new rounds of air shipments that begin this weekend. The White House has been working to make supply more available as it has faced pressure from parents over supply issues after regulators in February shuttered a Michigan plant run by Abbott that is the largest domestic manufacturer of baby formula over safety concerns. The plant reopened on June 4 after the company committed to additional sanitizing and safety protocols, but shuttered again more than a week ago after severe weather caused damage to the plant. The company said it needs time to assess damage and re-sanitize the factory after severe thunderstorms and heavy rains swept through southwestern Michigan on June 13. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration moved to ease federal import regulations to allow baby formula to be shipped to the U.S., and Biden authorized the use of the Defense Production Act to provide federal support to move formula from overseas into the U.S. Wednesday's announcement also includes air shipments of 1.65 million 8-ounce bottle equivalents of Nestlé NAN Supremepro 2 infant formula from Germany to Texas this weekend, and 5.5 million 8-ounce bottle equivalents of Bubs infant formula in two shipments on June 26 and July 5. The White House says that by June 26, its efforts, dubbed "Operation Fly Formula," will have brought 32 flights and almost 19 million 8-ounce bottle equivalents of infant formula into the U.S.
Moderna on Wednesday said its new COVID booster candidate, which it is hoping to get approved this fall, performed well against Omicron's latest subvariants. The U.S. biotech company announced earlier this month that the so-called "bivalent" vaccine, which targets the original COVID strain and original Omicron BA.1, performed better against both compared to its original COVOD vaccine called Spikevax. In new results from a clinical study, the company said that the booster also did well against BA.4 and BA.5, Omicron's latest subvariants that are becoming dominant thanks to their increased ability to evade prior immunity, and enhanced transmissibility. The bivalent booster elicited high levels of infection-blocking antibodies against BA.4 and BA.5 both in people who were previously infected and those not previously infected. However even those high levels were still one third the levels achieved against the original Omicron strain, BA.1. "We will submit these data to regulators urgently and are preparing to supply our next generation bivalent booster starting in August, ahead of a potential rise in SARS-CoV-2 infections due to Omicron subvariants in the early fall," said Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel in a statement. The BA.4 and BA.5 variants hammered South Africa, where they were first discovered, in April and May — despite high population immunity conferred by prior waves and vaccinations. Like other Omicron variants they tend to have a milder disease course as they settle less in the lungs and more in the upper nasal passages, causing symptoms like fever, tiredness and loss of smell.
Ethiopia is refuting reports of a fuel shortage in the embattled Tigray region. A European Union official visited Tigray this week, and on Tuesday said a lack of fuel is preventing delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid. However, a spokeswoman for Ethiopia's prime minister told VOA that the idea of a fuel shortage in Tigray is a myth. European Union Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said Tigrayans have suffered enough due to a continuous aid blockade. He said at a news conference in Addis Ababa on Tuesday that the number of trucks bringing food to the regional capital, Mekelle, has almost reached the level necessary to cover the basic humanitarian needs of the people of Tigray. However, he said the aid effort needs more fuel so that humanitarian workers can deliver assistance to all in need. "There's need to lift restrictions, especially on the provision of fuel. More fuel is needed because without it, even this food assistance that comes to Mekelle cannot reach rural areas where the needs are highest," Lenarcic said. "So now we have a situation, where humanitarian houses in Mekelle are full, but the people out there in the countryside are still hungry." The conflict that began in November 2020 between the Ethiopian federal government and the rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front has forced thousands to the brink of famine and left millions more in need of food aid. Lenarcic also urged Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy's government to lift financial restrictions he said are hampering the provision of basic services, such as payment of salaries to humanitarian workers and hospital employees who have gone without pay for one year. "I fail to see the military rationale being the blockade of electricity, banking services," Lenarcic said. "On the contrary, we believe that these services should be restored without delay, because they are primarily destined to the civilian use, and the lack of these services aggravates the humanitarian situation in that region." However, the Ethiopia federal government denies any blockades, especially on fuel. A spokeswoman for Abiy, Billene Seyoum, said data available indicates that last week alone, three fuel tankers carrying over 137,500 liters of fuel arrived in Mekelle. Seyoum said that, in total, more than 920,000 liters of fuel have been sent to the region since April. "So, the myth of fuel shortage is a TPLF hidden agenda to enhance mobility of its army in preparation for another round of conflict. Hence, there are no fuel sanctions and such claims need to be reviewed with clarity on the reality," Seyoum said. On its Twitter account, the Tigray External Affairs Office insists the level of aid being allowed into Tigray does not meet the region's needs. It says between April and early June, just over 770,000 liters of fuel have been allowed into Tigray. In a text message to VOA, TPLF spokesperson Getachaw Reda accused the Abiy government of misrepresenting facts. He said the fuel shortage in Tigray is as vicious as creating unnecessary checkpoints or other obstacles aimed at hindering humanitarian access.
DOD Addresses Supply Chain Resiliency With Lone Star State Industry > U.S. Department of Defense > Defense Department Newsby C. Todd Lopez, about 2 months ago
Even before COVID-19, the Defense Department had identified supply chain vulnerabilities for things like microelectronics. But the pandemic also highlighted other critical shortages in the U.S., some of which affect national security.
Losing a beloved family member is never easy, but a new study suggests the death of a grandmother might trigger depression in adolescent boys.
European Union leaders hold a key summit Thursday and Friday with a top item on their agenda — okaying Ukraine’s bid to be a candidate for the bloc — appearing to be on track. The meeting comes amid heightened tensions between Europe and Moscow as the war drags on in Ukraine. Hours before the European Union summit, France — which currently holds the presidency of the Council of the EU — offered a confident assessment of Kyiv’s candidacy application. France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune said there is a "total consensus" in favor, following discussions among EU country representatives. Now, he said, it's up to their leaders to formally vote on the candidate status Thursday, along with those of Moldova and Georgia. Kyiv has been pushing hard to join the 27-member bloc as soon as possible. Some EU countries like Portugal and Denmark earlier expressed reservations. But last week, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen offered a strong endorsement. “Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us the European dream,” der Leyen said. But it seems unlikely EU leaders will agree to Ukraine’s call for fast-tracking its application. Being admitted into the bloc can take years, or decades. ‘I think if there were a fast track [for Ukraine], then it would provoke some uproar from the western Balkan countries, who have been in the anti-chamber of this candidate status for a while now,” said Tara Varma who heads the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations policy institute. “I think the Europeans need to be quite careful about how they deal with this," Varma said. "Honestly, granting candidate status in such a short period would already be quite a revolution.” France is pushing for an intermediary association for Ukraine and other non-EU members in the meantime. This week’s summit follows a visit to Ukraine by leaders of France, Germany and Italy — the EU’s three most powerful members — along with Romania. Beyond the symbolism, they promised to deliver more weapons — a source of tension with Ukraine, among other issues. But while EU leaders have displayed remarkable unity in agreeing to ever-stronger sanctions against Russia over the war, European citizens are feeling its economic backlash. “Europeans will also have to think about how they deal with the situation at home as well. Because we’re seeing an increasing sense of worry from the European population side and also the beginning of a war fatigue," said Varma. Also up for discussion this summit will be the bloc’s deteriorating relationship with Moscow. Over the past week, Russia has cut off natural gas exports to more EU countries, notably heavyweights France and Germany. It’s also threatened EU and NATO member Lithuania over its rail transit blockade of some goods to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has called Russia’s own blockade of Ukraine’s grain exports — which are critical for some of the world’s poorest countries — a war crime.
Adam Hyde’s alter ego Keli Holiday is one half of multi-ARIA award-winning, 10X platinum-selling Australian eclectic electronic duo Peking Duk. Keli has released his debut album “Keli” earlier this year.
Sri Lanka's debt-laden economy has "collapsed" after months of shortages of food, fuel and electricity, its prime minister told lawmakers Wednesday, in comments underscoring the country's dire situation as it seeks help from international lenders. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament the South Asian country is "facing a far more serious situation beyond the mere shortages of fuel, gas, electricity and food. Our economy has completely collapsed." While Sri Lanka's crisis is considered its worst in recent memory, Wickremesinghe's assertion that the economy has collapsed did not cite any specific new developments. It appeared intended to emphasize to his critics and opposition lawmakers that he has inherited a difficult task that can't be fixed quickly, as the economy founders under the weight of heavy debts, lost tourism revenue and other impacts from the pandemic, as well as surging costs for commodities. Lawmakers of the country's two main opposition parties are boycotting Parliament this week to protest against Wickremesinghe, who became prime minister just over a month ago and is also finance minister, for not having delivered on his pledges to turn the economy around. Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka is unable to purchase imported fuel, even for cash, due to heavy debt owed by its petroleum corporation. "Currently, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation is $700 million in debt," he told lawmakers. "As a result, no country or organization in the world is willing to provide fuel to us. They are even reluctant to provide fuel for cash." Wickremesinghe took office after days of violent protests over the country's economic crisis forced his predecessor to step down. In his comments Wednesday, he blamed the previous government for failing to act in time as Sri Lanka's foreign reserves dwindled. The foreign currency crisis has crimped imports, creating severe shortages of food, fuel, electricity and other essentials such as medicines, forcing people to stand in long lines to obtain basic needs. "If steps had at least been taken to slow down the collapse of the economy at the beginning, we would not be facing this difficult situation today. But we lost out on this opportunity. We are now seeing signs of a possible fall to rock bottom," he said. So far, Sri Lanka has been muddling through, mainly supported by $4 billion in credit lines from neighboring India. But Wickremesinghe said India would not be able to keep Sri Lanka afloat for long. It also has received pledges of $300 million-$600 million from the World Bank to buy medicine and other essential items. Sri Lanka has already announced that it is suspending repayment of $7 billion in foreign debt due this year, pending the outcome of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on a rescue package. It must pay $5 billion on average annually until 2026. Wickremesinghe said IMF assistance seems to be the country's only option now. Officials from the agency are visiting Sri Lanka to discuss a rescue package. A staff-level agreement is likely to be reached by the end of July. "We have concluded the initial discussions and we have exchanged ideas on various sectors such as public finance, finance, debt sustainability, stability of the banking sector and the social security network," Wickremesighe said. Representatives of financial and legal advisers to the government on debt restructuring, Lazard and Clifford Chance, are also visiting the island and a team from the U.S. Treasury will arrive next week, he said.
A United Nations study finds 222 million children and adolescents worldwide have had their education disrupted by multiple crises. Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, produced the study. When the organization was created in 2016, the number of crisis-affected children whose education had been disrupted stood at around 75 million. ECW Director Yasmine Sherif says multiple crises over the past six years have boosted the number to 222 million among more than 40 countries. "Conflicts are raging around the world — we know that, but they also are more and more protracted. But the growing record high number of refugees and internally displaced, as a result of conflicts and climate-induced disasters, have also contributed to this number, as have, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic," Sherif said. The study finds 78.2 million children worldwide have dropped out of school entirely. Education experts say those children are unlikely to resume their education, resulting in a detrimental impact on their prospects and earning capacity. Sherif says she has visited countries where most children currently are out of school, and she has seen what happens to children in crisis-ridden countries such as Mali, Chad, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. "When you do not go to school, you are very exposed to being — if you are a boy — forcibly recruited into armed groups, terrorist groups, militia, government groups," she said. "And, if you are a girl, you are exposed to becoming part of a gender-based violence at homes, sexual violence, trafficking, early marriages, and early childbirth." Sherif says the new data must be a wake-up call for all leaders and policymakers as more children are being left behind due to crises. She says the international community must do more to support their educational needs, or there will be far-reaching negative impacts for human and economic development.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned Iran’s increasing use of executions and the death penalty — including among children - in violation of international law. The secretary-general has submitted a report on the human rights situation in Iran to the U.N. human rights council. The secretary-general has deplored Tehran’s increasing use of executions and the death penalty, saying they are based on charges that do not amount to the “most serious crimes” and are incompatible with fair trial standards. U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif, who presented the report, said at least 570 people were executed in the past two years, many on drug-related charges. Those executed, she said, included at least 14 women and more than 100 people belonging to minority groups. Al-Nashif decried the execution of at least two child offenders between August 2021 and March 2022, in violation of international law. She said more than 85 child offenders remain on death row. “Patterns of arbitrary deprivation of life due to excessive force used by the authorities against border couriers, peaceful protestors, and those in detention, continued with impunity," Al-Nashif said. "The scale of deaths in detention, both as a result of violence and ill-treatment by officials and due to the lack of timely access to medical care is of serious concern.” The report accuses the Iranian government of keeping a tight grip on its population through increasingly repressive measures. It says the government maintains total control through restrictive legislation, the use of violence, and widespread violations of peoples’ human rights. Al-Nashif cited a series of legislative measures with detrimental consequences for peoples’ reproductive rights and uncensored access to the Internet. However, the laws she said fail to criminalize violence against women and they undermine minority rights, particularly the Baha’i religious minority. “Civic and democratic space continue to be restricted with human rights defenders and civil society actors operating within a coercive environment where violations are committed with impunity," Al-Nashif said. "In April and May of 2022, at least 55 individuals, teachers, lawyers, labor rights defenders, artists, and academics were arrested during protests.” Iran’s deputy permanent representative in Geneva, Mehdi Ali Abadi denounced the report as an appalling and disgraceful political tool used by the United States and Canada against his country. He said the report was biased and based on false allegations. He said Iran was fully committed to the protection and promotion of human rights and respected its international obligations.
An international coalition of journalists, editors and publishers demanded Wednesday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange be immediately released from a UK jail and that all charges against him be dropped. Fifteen representatives of journalist and publishers' unions and organizations from six countries gathered in Geneva for the ‘call to free Julian Assange in the name of press freedom’ The petitioners also called on Swiss authorities, who have said they have worked to protect Assange, to facilitate his release by offering him a safe haven from further prosecution in Switzerland. The call came after the British government last week approved Assange's extradition to the United States, to the dismay of his supporters and free press campaigners. Assange, 50, has said he will appeal against the decision. He is wanted to face trial for violating the US Espionage Act by publishing military and diplomatic files in 2010, and could face up to 175 years in jail if found guilty. The Assange case has become a cause celebre for media freedom and his supporters accuse Washington of trying to muzzle reporting of legitimate security concerns. Wednesday's event slammed the British decision as a "flagrant violation of human rights and a showing of total contempt for freedom of the press". Pierre Ruetschi, the head of the Swiss Press Club hosting the event, warned that "democracy is being taken hostage". "This attempt at criminalizing journalism is a serious threat." Tim Dawson, of the National Union of Journalists of Britain and Ireland, agreed. "If Julian Assange can be threatened with prosecution as a spy, what might that mean for other journalists?" he said. Assange has been held on remand at a top-security jail in southeast London since 2019 for jumping bail in a previous case accusing him of sexual assault in Sweden. Before that he spent seven years at Ecuador's embassy in London to avoid being removed to Sweden. The Australian was arrested when the government changed in Quito and his diplomatic protection was removed.
An investigation conducted by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) concludes that noted Ukrainian photographer and documentary maker Maks Levin, along with a soldier who was accompanying him for security, was executed by Russian troops near Kyiv in March as they searched for a piece of photographic equipment they had lost. The Paris-based RSF said in a report that investigations it conducted from May 24 to June 3 as well as information and evidence obtained indicate that Levin and Oleksiy Chernyshov were executed by Russian soldiers in a forest around the village of Moshchun near Kyiv on March 13, "possibly after being interrogated and even tortured." The investigation, conducted by Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s investigation desk, and Patrick Chauvel, a French war photo reporter who had worked with Levin in Ukraine, concluded that Levin and Chernyshov were captured by Russian soldiers while trying to locate a drone Levin used for his coverage of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, launched on February 24. RSF said the compiled evidence, including bullets, identity documents, items with DNA traces attesting to the presence of Russian soldiers at the scene, Levin's charred Ford Maverick car, and other items, allowed it to conclude that Levin and his bodyguard were executed. “Analysis of the photos of the crime scene, the observations made on the spot, and the material evidence recovered clearly point to an execution that may have been preceded by interrogation or even acts of torture," Christophe Deloire, RSF secretary-general, said in a statement. "In the context of a war heavily marked by propaganda and Kremlin censorship, Maks Levin and his friend paid with their lives for their fight for reliable information. We owe them the truth. And we will fight to identify and find those who executed them," Deloire added. The 40-year-old Levin is one of eight journalists killed in the course of their work since the start of the war in Ukraine. His body was found in the forest on April 2. A father of four, he had been working with many Ukrainian and international media outlets, including Reuters, the BBC, and Associated Press.
In Kosovo, which has been waiting for visa-free travel to the European Union since 2010, a restaurant owner has erected a large replica of France's famed Eiffel Tower for its diners. "We have built it as a form of consolation for the people who cannot go to Paris," said Blerim Bislimi, owner of Te Anija (At The Boat) restaurant on the edge of the capital Pristina. The joke reflects a wider malaise across the Balkans about the prospects of its six members — Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia — ever joining the EU. A lack of progress on milestones such as visa-free travel along the way has lead to such a sense of disillusion that the leaders of Albania and Serbia briefly considered not attending Thursday's Balkan-EU summit in Brussels. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday they will now go, but Rama expressed his despondency on Twitter: "We'll attend the EU Council meeting. There won't be much to hear about." In Serbia, the largest country in the region, enthusiasm for EU membership has declined so much that now 44% of people are against it and only 35% in favor, with the remainder unsure, according to an Ipsos poll in April. A draft of the summit statement seen by Reuters showed that EU leaders will again give "full and unequivocal commitment to the EU membership perspective of the Western Balkans." But Ukraine's fast-tracked progress to formal candidate status, to be agreed at Thursday's summit, has only served to increase their feeling of being sidelined, Balkan countries say, even if all but Bosnia and Kosovo are already EU candidates. "North Macedonia and Albania have every right to be upset," said Zvezdana Kovac at the European Movement in Serbia, a non-profit organization pushing for Serbian membership of the EU, referring to the stalled negotiation process. EU member Bulgaria in 2020 blocked the start of accession talks with North Macedonia over a dispute relating to history and language. Albania's progress is formally linked by the EU to that of North Macedonia, which already had to agree to settle a decades-long stand-off with Greece over its name to clear its path to EU membership. North Macedonia and Albania earlier had to wait for a green light from France over their track record on democracy and fighting corruption. EU diplomats do not expect a breakthrough at the summit. Too many conditions? Awarding Ukraine its EU candidacy status without any feasible progress for the Balkans is also a "bad message" for the region, Kovac said. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel have all visited the region, reiterating support, but taking no concrete steps. There has been no progress on overcoming Bulgaria's veto or wider momentum to help Serbia and Montenegro in their negotiations, which require politically unpopular reforms. Arton Demhasaj, from the Pristina-based anti-corruption watchdog of Cohu (Wake up), said: "The European Union has no clear enlargement policies towards the Western Balkans." "If countries that aspire to join the EU face delays, they will reorient their policies and then we will have an increase of Russian and Chinese influence in the Western Balkans," he said. In contrast to the success of the EU's eastward enlargement drive that transformed former communist countries such as Poland into thriving market democracies, the EU approach now offers too little reward tied to too many conditions, Balkan officials say. Some EU governments, particularly in France, the Netherlands and Denmark, fear a political backlash in member states over migration from the Balkans and have sought to increase reforms. "Too many EU governments think we can keep handing the Balkans new demands and say: come back when you're done," said a senior EU diplomat involved in the talks. "But it doesn't work like that, at some point they are going to give up."
An electronic "tattoo" more accurately monitors blood pressure in times of high stress, while sleeping, or exercising than nearly all current options.
New climate change ecology research links the amount of carbon dioxide taken in by land ecosystems, such as forests, to the availability of water.
"For the wildland firefighter, deploying a shelter is the last thing they want to do—it's the final resort, the last line of defense," says Roger Barker.
Researchers have taken a first step toward using plants to study human psychiatric illness. The work hinges on behavior and mitochondria.
Good surveillance and diagnostics are central to containing monkeypox which is spreading rapidly worldwide.
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U.S. hospitals, clinics and pharmacies began vaccinating the nation's youngest children against COVID-19 on Tuesday, a milestone that was welcomed by parents eager to protect kids from the worst impacts of the virus. Rollout of millions of shots was underway across the country, 18 months after the elderly became the first group eligible for immunization. Children age 6 months through 4 years aren't at as great a risk as adults. But the sheer level of infections has seen more than 45,000 hospitalizations and nearly 500 deaths in the newborn to 4-years-old group in America since the start of the pandemic, outcomes that vaccination could have prevented in many cases. "We're super thrilled," said Amisha Vakil, mother of two 3-year-old boys who wore matching Spider-Man T-shirts as they got their Moderna shots at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. One of the twins had three open heart surgeries within his first five months. "He's super high risk so you know, we've been living in a little bubble," Vakil said. "Now he has little armor that helps a lot." Monumental step The moment was also hailed by President Joe Biden, whose administration made 10 million shots of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines available to states after they were authorized last week. "The United States is now the first country in the world to offer safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6-months-old," said Biden, calling it a "monumental step forward." A handful of other countries and territories including Argentina, Bahrain, Chile, China, Cuba, Hong Kong and Venezuela were previously offering COVID shots for toddlers, but these did not include mRNA vaccines, regarded as the leading technology for the purpose. The European Medicines Agency is reviewing the Moderna vaccine for use in those younger than 6 and could follow the U.S. decision. Born in pandemic Many children being brought in Tuesday were born after the pandemic started and had only known a life of restrictions. Anna Farrow, who came to the same hospital with her husband, Luke, said she saw a new start for their son, George, age 3, and Hope, age 10 months. "This is sort of the beginning of a regular childhood. And we're very excited about that," she said. On the other side of the country in Needham, Massachusetts, Ellen Dietrick, an administrator at Temple Beth Shalom was preparing to welcome 300 children on the first day. Daniel Grieneisen, the father of a 3-year-old girl who got the vaccine, said: "It means that we are now just a couple weeks from being able to take her [to] indoors places, and kind of get back to living our lives, it's pretty exciting." Last week, a panel of experts called by the Food and Drug Administration reviewed data from clinical trials involving thousands of children that were conducted by Pfizer and Moderna and deemed both vaccines safe and effective. However, a survey carried out by the Kaiser Family Foundation in May found only one in five parents of children younger than 5 were eager to get them vaccinated right away. A slightly higher proportion, 38%, said they would wait and see how well the vaccine worked for others. New Yorker Rita Saeed, 29, said she was concerned about side effects and planned to wait a couple of years before deciding whether to vaccinate her 2-year-old son. "Each to their own, I think it should be optional, not mandatory," she said, pushing her son in a stroller through Central Park. Hal Moore, a 32-year-old teacher who lives in New York City, said he was "definitely relieved" that he will be able to vaccinate his 10-month-old daughter Lucy, but "we'll probably wait until her next normal appointment to get it." In a sign of the ongoing politicization surrounding vaccines in America, Florida governor and possible Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis refused to place an order with the federal government for vaccines for the youngest children, leaving private practices and parents to fend for themselves. "These are the people who have zero risk of getting anything," he said at a press conference last week.