Байден зустрінеться з лідером Катару на тлі енергетичних побоювань у Європі

Катар є одним з основних світових виробників скрапленого природного газу і входить до країн, які, як сподіваються США, можуть допомогти Європі у разі повномасштабного вторгення Росії в Україну

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У США почалися випробування вакцини від варіанту коронавірусу «омікрон»

Тим часом чиновники зі сфери охорони здоров’я заявляють про виявлення підваріанту «омікрону», відомого як BA.2, принаймні в 40 країнах

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У Росії оголосили в розшук брата Навального

25 січня стало відомо, що кримінально-виправна інспекція вимагає замінити Олегу Навальному умовний термін на реальний у так званій «санітарній справі»

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Energy Contingency Plan in Motion Amid Russia-Ukraine Crisis 

The Biden administration has been working with European countries and energy producers around the world on ways to supply fuel to Western European countries should Russian President Vladimir Putin slash oil and gas exports in retaliation for sanctions imposed for an invasion of Ukraine. 

“We’ve been working to identify additional volumes of non-Russian natural gas from various areas of the world from North Africa and the Middle East to Asia and the United States,” a senior administration official said in a briefing with reporters on Tuesday. 

The contingency plan is aimed to reassure European allies concerned about the impact of Russia weaponizing its energy supply. Moscow provides approximately 40% of Europe’s natural gas, and European energy stockpiles have been significantly lower in the past few months because of reduced Russian supplies. 

A second senior administration official underscored that oil and gas exports make up about half of Russia’s federal budget revenues, which means that Moscow is just as dependent on its energy revenue as Europe is on its supply. 

“If Russia decides to weaponize its supply of natural gas or crude oil, it wouldn’t be without consequences to the Russian economy,” the official said. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to confirm reporting that Qatar is one of the countries that the U.S. and European allies are turning to.

“Our approach is not about any one country or any individual entity,” she said while briefing reporters Tuesday, adding that the administration is engaging with major buyers and suppliers of liquefied natural gas to ensure flexibility in existing contracts to enable diversion to Europe if needed. 

President Joe Biden is set to meet with Amir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar at the White House on January 31. According to the White House, ensuring the stability of global energy supplies will be one of the topics discussed by the leaders. 

While having a contingency plan is important, analysts say it won’t be easy to substitute for existing infrastructure, particularly under the current global supply chain crisis. 

“Think of a gas pipeline as a faucet. … It’s super-efficient,” said Kristine Berzina, a senior fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States. Berzina told VOA that a contingency plan would be “more of a bucket than it is a faucet.” 

US-Europe unity 

On Monday, Biden said there was total unity among Western powers on the issue of Russia’s pressure on Ukraine. 

“I had a very, very, very good meeting — total unanimity with all the European leaders,” Biden told reporters shortly after a videoconference with European leaders on the escalating Russia-Ukraine conflict. 

Some analysts, however, say Biden maybe overplaying talk of unity. 

“In Europe, people are not as gung-ho and trigger-happy as they are here in the United States,” said Nina Khrushcheva, a professor of international affairs at The New School, in New York. 

For months, the U.S. and European allies have warned of swift and severe economic consequences if Putin invades Ukraine. But some European allies have been nervous about the impact on their economies, including on the supply of Russian natural gas — particularly during the winter months. 

Germany is especially reliant on Russian energy. Berlin has remained ambiguous about whether in the event of war it is prepared to shut down the just-completed Nord Stream 2 undersea pipeline, which will pump natural gas from Russia to Germany. 

“Despite all this conversation of the united West over Russia, it’s not as united,” Khrushcheva said. “And Putin knows that.” 

On Tuesday, Biden reiterated his position. “I made it clear to Putin early on if he went into Ukraine there would be consequences,” he said.

But analysts say that in moving forward with his harsh rhetoric on Russian sanctions, Biden needs to be mindful of the political calculation for European leaders. 

“The Western European population isn’t necessarily willing to suffer for Ukraine,” Berzina said. 

On Monday, the U.S. put 8,500 troops on heightened alert for possible deployment to Eastern Europe, amid escalating tensions in the crisis along the Russia-Ukraine border, where Putin has deployed 127,000 troops, according to U.S. and Ukrainian estimates. 

The Russian troop deployment is similar to Moscow’s move ahead of its 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, which triggered a series of international sanctions against Moscow but ultimately failed to deter Putin’s land grab. 

“They have not only shown no signs of de-escalating — they are in fact adding more force capability,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said about the Russian military buildup during a press briefing on Monday. 

Both countries stepped up their military preparations Tuesday, with Moscow conducting a series of military exercises and Washington delivering a fresh shipment of weapons to Ukraine. 

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Польща почала будівництво огорожі на кордоні з Білоруссю

Вартість проєкту оцінюється в 353 млн євро. Передбачається, що стіну збудують до червня

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Capsized Boat Found Near Florida; 39 People Missing

The U.S. Coast Guard searched on Tuesday for 39 people missing for several days after a boat believed to be used for human smuggling capsized off Florida’s coast en route from the Bahamas. 

A good Samaritan called the Coast Guard early Tuesday after rescuing a man clinging to the boat 72 kilometers (45 miles) east of Fort Pierce, the maritime security agency reported on Twitter.

The man said he was with a group of 39 others who left the island of Bimini in the Bahamas on Saturday night. He said the boat capsized in severe weather and that no one was wearing life jackets. 

The Coast Guard is calling it a suspected human smuggling case. Officials said on Twitter that they are searching by air and sea over a roughly 218-kilometer (135-mile) area extending from Bimini to the Fort Pierce Inlet.

A cold front late Saturday brought rough weather to the Bimini area. Tommy Sewell, a local bonefishing guide, said there were 32 kph (20 mph) winds and fierce squalls of rain on Sunday into Monday.

Migrants have long used the islands of the Bahamas as a steppingstone to reach Florida and the United States. They typically try to take advantage of breaks in the weather to make the crossing, but the vessels are often dangerously overloaded and prone to capsizing. There have been thousands of deaths over the years. 

The Coast Guard patrols the waters around Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Bahamas.

For the most part, the migrants are from Haiti and Cuba, but the Royal Bahamas Defense Force has reported apprehending migrants from other parts of the world, including from Colombia and Ecuador earlier this month. 

On Friday, the Coast Guard found 88 Haitians in an overloaded sail freighter west of Great Inagua, Bahamas. 

“Navigating the Florida straits, Windward and Mona Passages … is extremely dangerous and can result in loss of life,” the Coast Guard said in a statement last weekend. 

Last July, the Coast Guard rescued 13 people after their boat capsized off Key West as Tropical Storm Elsa approached.

The survivors said they had left Cuba with 22 people aboard. Nine went missing in the water. 

 

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Biden Says He Is Open to Sanctioning Putin Personally if Russia Invades Ukraine

Russia says it is watching “with great concern” a U.S. move to put 8,500 troops on alert for possible deployment to Eastern Europe, amid fears a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent. As VOA’s senior diplomatic correspondent Cindy Saine reports, diplomatic efforts continue as the U.S. and NATO boost their military deterrence.

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US Schools in Desperate Need of Substitute Teachers

Schools in the United States are struggling to reopen and stay open for in-person classes amid coronavirus outbreaks.

Substitute teachers help fill the gaps when teachers are ill or on personal leave. The problem is that there aren’t enough substitutes – who usually work as needed for low pay.

So school districts are using innovative ways to find other subs and have expanded their pool of candidates to include parents, school bus drivers and even members of the military. 

“It’s been tough to hire subs,” said Jean Consolla, principal at Mount Eagle Elementary in Fairfax County, Virginia. 

“I had a teacher about to go on maternity leave, and I’m wondering how to cover the time she is gone.” 

“Then it occurred to me: What about using my son, Julian, who will be on a college break, as a substitute teacher? He has a positive attitude, likes to work with kids, and can make some money.” 

Julian Consolla, 20, is majoring in sports administration. Having completed the required 30 hours of college credits needed to become a sub in Virginia, he thought it would be a good opportunity.

“It was kind of nerve-wracking at first, but after I got used to the routine, it got easier and was fun,” he told VOA.

At another school in Fairfax County, McNair Upper Elementary, Sophie Carter is also a college student and substitute teacher. 

Since her major is elementary education, she considers this an ideal job,  

 

“I’m getting classroom management skills, and hopefully I’m making the environment fun and engaging in the classroom. This has strengthened my love for teaching.”

Principal Melissa Goddin wishes more college students like Carter would apply since substitute teachers are so hard to come by. 

“There are a lot of job opportunities in this area. We’re competing with places that allow people to work from home who want to avoid the possibility of being exposed to the virus at school.” 

The situation is similar in Ohio.

“I think people don’t want to expose themselves to the virus if they don’t have to,” said Dawn Gould, community relations coordinator at Kings Local Schools in Kings Mills, Ohio.

“Our substitute fill-in rate was under 50% this week,” she said in an interview with VOA. “We had to close school one day recently because we were having a hard time filling the classrooms.”

A bachelor’s degree is usually required to be a sub in Ohio. But now, during the pandemic, that’s not necessary. 

“We’re hopeful we can get more parents to sub who may not have a degree,” she said. 

Schools in the western United States have also been calling for parents to help volunteer or substitute teach.

In California, the Palo Alto Unified School District is urging parents to volunteer with its “Together, Schools Stay Open” campaign. 

“We haven’t been fully staffed for months with enough teachers or substitute teachers,” said Don Austin, the district superintendent. “About 10% of our teachers are out every day.” 

Parent Jen Wiener answered the call for help. 

Having parents in the classroom “is not a quick fix” to the problem, she said. “But the kids need to be in school, so let’s encourage the parents to help out.”

A school district in Texas says it can get only half of the substitutes it needs.

“People are testing positive or they’ve been in close contact with someone who has symptoms, so they stay home,” said Tim Savoy, chief communications officer for the Hays Consolidated Independent School District, outside Austin.

“We reached out to parents as substitute teachers. Although they would usually need a certain number of college credits, the school principal can waive the requirement.”

The rules have also been relaxed in other states.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill that would temporarily “allow trusted staff members such as secretaries, paraprofessionals, and others to work as substitute teachers until the end of the current school year.”

School bus drivers, cafeteria workers and administrative assistants who have a high school education can also be used, according to R.J. Webber, assistant superintendent for academic services at Novi Community School District.

“Our teachers provide lesson plans for the substitutes, who make sure the kids are looked after and safe,” he said.

But that’s disconcerting to Colin Sharkey, executive director of the Association of American Educators.

“It’s concerning that the standards are being lowered,” he said, “but understandably, districts are just trying to do anything to make sure that there’s some supervision in the classroom.” 

Due to “extreme staffing shortages,” New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is asking members of the National Guard to volunteer as substitute teachers. “Our schools are a critical source of stability for kids. We know they learn better in the classroom,” she said.

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State Department Releases Annual Trafficking in Persons Report

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated human trafficking, the U.S. State Department said in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report released Tuesday. 

“This year’s Trafficking in Persons Report sends a strong message to the world that global crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and enduring discriminatory policies and practices, have a disproportionate effect on individuals already oppressed by other injustices,” U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in the report’s introduction.

“These challenges further compound existing vulnerabilities to exploitation, including human trafficking,” he said. 

In the report, Blinken calls for other countries to join the United States to improve “our collective efforts to comprehensively address human trafficking.” 

He said doing so requires mitigating “harmful practices and policies that cause socioeconomic or political vulnerabilities that traffickers often prey on.” 

The report said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought “unprecedented repercussions for human rights and economic development globally, including in human trafficking.” 

“Governments across the world diverted resources toward the pandemic, often at the expense of anti-trafficking efforts, resulting in decreased protection measures and service provision for victims, reduction of preventative efforts, and hindrances to investigations and prosecutions of traffickers,” the report said. 

The report explained that those involved in anti-trafficking efforts “found ways to adapt and forged new relationships to overcome the challenges.” It added that traffickers were also adept in altering their methods. 

Some specific cases mentioned in the report include examples in India and Nepal in which young poor girls left school to help support their families due to the pandemic’s economic impact. Some, the report said, were forced into marriage for money. 

The report cites incidents in the United States, the United Kingdom and Uruguay in which landlords forced female tenants who were economically hurt by the pandemic to have sex with them when the tenant could not pay rent. 

In Haiti, Niger and Mali, “gangs” working in camps for displaced people used lax security caused by the pandemic to force residents into sex-for-money acts. 

In Myanmar (formerly Burma), which has been roiled by COVID-19 and political unrest, the report said 94% of households saw a decline in income, leaving some members vulnerable to sex trafficking. 

“If there is one thing we have learned in the last year, it is that human trafficking does not stop during a pandemic,” Kari Johnstone, senior official and principal deputy director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said in the report’s introduction.

“The concurrence of the increased number of individuals at risk, traffickers’ ability to capitalize on competing crises, and the diversion of resources to pandemic response efforts has resulted in an ideal environment for human trafficking to flourish and evolve,” Johnstone said. 

 

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Макрон 28 січня проведе розмову з Путіним

Переговори стануть частиною «вимогливого діалогу» з Росією і дадуть можливість отримати «роз’яснення» з приводу намірів Москви щодо України, заявив президент Франції

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Білий дім про письмову відповідь Росії: зазвичай такі документи не оприлюднюють

Речниця додала, що поки не може надати ніяких даних про точну дату, коли Вашингтон направить відповідь Москві

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Байден заявляє, що розгляне можливість санкцій проти Путіна в разі нового наступу на Україну

«Так, я це розгляну», – сказав президент США

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Росія: суд розгляне скасування умовного терміну братові Навального

Минулого серпня суд призначив Олегу Навальному рік умовного терміну, його визнали винним у підбурюванні до порушення санітарних норм

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US Warns Russia Economic Sanctions Would Be Sharper Than in 2014

The United States warned Russia Tuesday that it would face faster and far more severe economic consequences if it invades Ukraine than it did when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

“We are prepared to implement sanctions with massive consequences that were not considered in 2014,” a national security official told reporters in Washington. “That means the gradualism of the past is out. And this time, we’ll start at the top of the escalation ladder and stay there.”

The official, speaking anonymously, said the U.S. is “also prepared to impose novel export controls” to hobble the Russian economy.

“You can think of these export controls as trade restrictions in the service of broader U.S. national security interests,” the official said.

“We use them to prohibit the export of products from Russia,” the official said. “And given the reason they work is if you … step back and look at the global dominance of U.S.-origin software technology, the export control options we’re considering alongside our allies and partners would hit (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s strategic ambitions to industrialize his economy quite hard, and it would impair areas that are of importance to him, whether it’s in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, or defense or aerospace or other key sectors.”

The U.S. and its allies imposed less severe economic sanctions against Moscow after its Crimean takeover, but they ultimately proved ineffective, and the peninsula remains under Russian control.

The U.S. is also working with energy producers around the world, another security official said, to supply fuel to Western European countries in the event Putin cuts off Russia’s flow of natural gas to the West.

One of the U.S. security officials echoed President Joe Biden in saying that the U.S. and its Western allies are “unified in our intention to impose massive consequences that would deliver a severe and immediate blow to Russia over time, make its economy even more brittle and undercut Putin’s aspirations to exert influence on the world stage.”

Tuesday’s White House warning came as Russia said it is watching “with great concern” as the U.S. on Monday put 8,500 troops on heightened alert for possible deployment to Eastern Europe. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov repeated to reporters Russian accusations that the United States is escalating tensions in the crisis along the Russia-Ukraine border, where Putin has deployed an estimated 127,000 troops. 

 

Biden met virtually Monday with key European leaders to discuss the ongoing threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.  

“I had a very, very, very good meeting — total unanimity with all the European leaders,” Biden told reporters after hosting a secure video call with allied leaders from Europe, the European Union and NATO.  

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office released a statement that supported Biden’s summation, saying, “The leaders agreed on the importance of international unity in the face of growing Russian hostility.” 

Biden has not decided whether to move U.S. military equipment and personnel closer to Russia. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in advance of the meeting with the European officials that the United States has “always said we’d support allies on the eastern flank” abutting Russia.  

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin placed 8,500 U.S. military personnel on “high alert” of being dispatched to Eastern Europe, where most of them could be activated as part of a NATO response force if Russia invades Ukraine.  

“It’s very clear the Russians have no intention right now of de-escalating,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters. “What this is about, though, is reassurance to our NATO allies.” 

Biden has ruled out sending troops to Ukraine if Russia invades the onetime Soviet republic but vowed to impose quick and severe economic sanctions on Moscow.  

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Джонсон попередив Путіна, що буде, якщо він обере «шлях кровопролиття»

«Якщо Росія піде цим шляхом, багато синів російських матерів не повернуться додому»

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Пєсков повідомив, що розмова Путіна з Макроном про Україну відбудеться до кінця тижня

У середу в столиці Франції відбудуться переговори політичних радників лідерів «нормандського формату» (Франція, Німеччина, Україна, Росія)

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У Центральній Азії сталося масштабне відключення електроенергії

Схожа аварія вже була у січні 2013 року

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COVID Cases Surge Among US Children as Omicron Sweeps America

In mid-January the average number of daily new COVID cases in the U.S. fluctuated between 750,000 and 800,000, according to the CDC COVID Data Tracker. Children under five remain one of the most vulnerable groups since they cannot be vaccinated yet. In the first week of January, over half a million young children were diagnosed with COVID-19, an 80% increase compared to late December 2021. Mariia Prus has the story, narrated by Anna Rice. Video editor – Kim Weeks.

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