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Biden Urges Congress to ‘Do Something Big’ to Spur Economy

President Joe Biden on Friday urged Congress to quickly pass his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, saying there are more signs the U.S. economy needs help to counter the effects of the ongoing pandemic. “We are going to be in a situation where it will take a long time” for the economy to fully recover, said Biden during a meeting with House Democratic leaders. “People are really feeling [in] the hole. They don’t know how to get out. You’ve given them a lot of hope. … We have the chance to do something big here.” Biden’s proposal includes new $1,400 stimulus checks for many Americans, as well as additional funding for food and nutrition and an extension on unemployment benefits. The Senate passed a budget resolution early Friday, marking a key step that will allow Democrats to pass a relief package without the threat of a filibuster from opposing Republicans, who say Biden’s relief plan is too expensive. The House passed the resolution later in the day Friday. In this image from Senate TV, Vice President Kamala Harris sits in the chair on the Senate floor to cast the tie-breaking vote, her first, at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 5, 2021.Passage came after a marathon session dubbed “Vote-a-Rama,” in which more than 800 amendments were proposed. Despite the amendments, Biden’s plan remains largely intact. “We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, in a floor speech before voting Thursday. Many Democrats feel the government did not provide enough stimulus during the 2008 recession. The resolution then went to the House of Representatives, where it passed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she hoped the House would send the final package to the Senate in two weeks. Jobs report The U.S. Department of Labor released its monthly jobs report Friday morning, which could bolster the case for the aid package. The report showed the U.S. economy added 49,000 jobs in January, but also revised the number of jobs lost in December to 227,000, up from the 140,000 losses reported in the early January report. The U.S. unemployment rate fell from 6.7% to 6.3% in January. 
 

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Секретар РНБО обіцяє санкції проти низки депутатів Верховної Ради

Найближчим часом санкції продовжуватимуть вводитися проти певних категорій осіб, як фізичних, так і юридичних – Данілов

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У Лівії сторони-суперники домовилися про спільний тимчасовий уряд і майбутні вибори

У Лівії головні сторони громадянської війни, яка точиться в цій країні, домовилися про спільний тимчасовий уряд єдності, який має замінити нинішні адміністрації-суперниці і провести в усій країні парламентські вибори, заплановані на кінець нинішнього року.

74 делегати від обох головних сторін наприкінці п’ятиденних переговорів, що відбулися за посередництва ООН у Женеві, обрали президентську раду, що складається з трьох членів, і прем’єр-міністра, який має протягом трьох тижнів запропонувати на затвердження представниками сторін склад свого уряду. Після його затвердження нинішні паралельні органи влади мають припинити діяльність.

Президентську раду очолив представник сходу країни, дипломат Мухаммад Юнес Менфі. Тимчасовим прем’єром став Абдель-Хамід Мухаммад Дбейба, підприємець, якого підтримують на заході Лівії.

Як заявила спеціальна представниця ООН у справах Лівії Стефані Вільямз, тимчасовий уряд має повністю підтримати домовленість про припинення бойових дій, досягнену минулого року, дотриматися дати виборів, що мають відбутися 24 грудня, і започаткувати «всеохопний процес національного примирення».

Домовленість привітали, зокрема, в Росії й Туреччині, які підтримують протилежні сторони конфлікту в Лівії.

У Лівії ще з часу скинення 2011 року влади диктатора Муаммара аль-Каддафі внаслідок народного повстання, підтриманого країнами НАТО, з різною інтенсивністю точаться громадянські війни.

Головними діячами нинішньої війни є, з одного боку, міжнародно визнаний Уряд національної згоди, підтримуваний ООН, який контролює лише частину заходу країни – столицю Тріполі й сусідні території – за підтримки місцевих, переважно ісламістських угруповань, а з іншого – законно обраний і міжнародно визнаний парламент, на боці якого діє Лівійська національна армія – більша частина колись єдиних збройних сил країни на чолі з головнокомандувачем, якого призначив парламент, фельдмаршалом Халіфою Хафтаром; вони контролюють більшу східну частину країни і не визнають Уряду національної згоди.

Ці сторони, користуючись підтримкою зовнішніх сил, зі змінним успіхом воюють одне з одним; улітку 2020 року сили Уряду національної згоди зуміли відбити наступ на Тріполі військ Хафтара, який декларував намір звільнити столицю від «ісламістів», після чого сторони уклали в жовтні 2020 року перемир’я.

На боці уряду в Тріполі виступають, зокрема, Туреччина, Італія й Катар; Палата представників – парламент, який базується в місті Тобруці, – і її сили на чолі з Хафтаром мають підтримку Росії, Єгипту й Об’єднаних Арабських Еміратів, і меншою мірою Саудівської Аравії і Франції.

Крім згаданих двох головних сторін лівійського конфлікту, в країні діє чимало різноманітних місцевих сил і збройних угруповань, які тією чи іншою мірою контролюють відносно невеликі регіони.

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МЗС України висловлює солідарність з висланими з Росії європейськими дипломатами

«Рішення РФ суперечить Віденській конвенції і є черговим прикладом брутального порушення Росією своїх зобов’язань згідно з міжнародним правом»

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Greece Planning to Reopen for Travel by June

The COVID-19 pandemic brought Greece’s most profitable industry, tourism, to its knees.Yet a year since the deadly bug hit this sun-kissed nation of 11 million, causing mass travel cancellations and wreaking financial havoc unseen since Greece’s economy went into freefall over a decade ago, tourism officials say they are now marshaling an industry comeback. They are preparing to reopen the country to world travelers by June 1 with a new “safe travel” plan that lets visitors bypass quarantine regulations with a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of their departure.What’s more, a burst in bookings from the U.K. has industry officials banking on British travelers to spearhead the nation’s travel revival.”Greece has long been a favorite holiday destination for the British,” said Grigoris Tassios, president of the country’s hoteliers federation. “But with the rate of inoculations in the U.K. largely outpacing all others across Europe and beyond, British travelers will be among the safest to travel here by as early as May.”With more than a quarter of Israel’s population of 9 million inoculated in the world’s fastest vaccination drive against COVID-19, Israelis, too, are expected to follow suit, as are Americans.This week, U.S. health officials announced that more Americans had received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine than have tested positive for the virus.”These are all promising signs,” Tassios said. “But we still have a way to go.”FILE – Tourists look at the changing of presidential guards outside the Greek parliament , in Athens, July 31, 2020.Tourism stalledGlobal tourism has been among the industries hit hardest by the public health emergency. The pandemic has affected 75 million people employed in a sector brought to a near standstill by travel bans and closed borders.But for Greece, where tourism accounts for 20 percent of GDP, providing one in five jobs in a country still crawling out of its worst financial crisis in recent times, the stakes are higher.A recent report by the financial risk advisory services group Ernst & Young showed Europe’s weakest economy shrinking an additional 10 percent in 2020 because of an 80 percent drop in tourism revenue. It forecast a 50 percent rise this year — half of the record 30 million travelers that flooded Greece ahead of the health crisis in 2019 — but only if, as experts warn, the conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis delivers on the daunting task of balancing the safety of a nation with the economic boost more visitors would bring to a country in dire need of financial recovery.It is not an easy challenge. After five strict months, three national lockdowns and a surge in infections that has seen COVID-19 cases here rocket from 3,000 in September to 160,000 this week, Mitsotakis and his closest aides are now said to be considering the fiercest national shutdown orders yet in a bid to stunt a third wave of COVID-19 sweeping Greece — and to salvage the nation’s anemic economy.But until then, tourism businesses and hoteliers, who preferred to remain closed last year, are wasting no time positioning themselves for a stake in the estimated $10 billion in revenues that British travelers are set to bring to Greece this year, beginning in June.FILE – A French family poses in front of the ancient Parthenon, at the Acropolis Hill, during a hot day in Athens, July 31, 2020.’The chips are down’As many as 2 million foreign travelers will be redeeming vouchers for vacation packages canceled last summer because of the pandemic, according to industry data. The number of Israelis and Americans following suit remains unclear.”Not opening is not an option this year,” said Alexis Komninos, a leading hotelier on the iconic island of Santorini. “The chips are down, and it’s clearly crunch time.”But while I and others in the industry are doing our part, doling out the cold cash to refurbish, rebuild and slash my prices by 40 percent in flash sales to lure British, German and other customers, the government must do its part in helping subsidize this national reopening.”This isn’t about some sort of business experiment,” said Komninos. “It is a national gambit. And if this season is lost — well, then we’re all in for a really rough ride.”Tourism ministry officials say they have received assurances from the government that it will subsidize salaries in the industry during the summer. Still, it has yet to decide when and whether incentives will be introduced to cover startup and reopening costs and support a hoteliers bill seen by some as key to any comeback in Greek tourism. 

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New US Museum Traces History of Black Music Across Genres 

A new museum two decades in the making is telling the interconnected story of Black musical genres through the lens of American history.The National Museum of African American Music, which opened with a virtual ribbon-cutting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is seated in the heart of Nashville’s musical tourism district, alongside honky-tonks and the famed Ryman Auditorium and blocks from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.Even as Nashville has long celebrated its role in the history of music, the new museum fills a gap by telling an important and often overlooked story about the roots of American popular music, including gospel, blues, jazz, R&B and hip-hop.FILE – Lucille, a guitar owned by blues legend B.B. King, is displayed at the National Museum of African American Music, Jan. 30, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn.”When we think of the history of African American music and the important part it has played in our country, it was long overdue to honor it in this type of way,” said gospel great CeCe Winans, who serves as a national chair for the museum.The idea for the museum came from two Nashville business and civic leaders, Francis Guess and T.B. Boyd, back in 1998, who wanted a museum dedicated to Black arts and culture. And while there are museums around the country that focus on certain aspects of Black music, this museum bills itself as the first of its kind to be all encompassing.”Most music museums deal with a label, a genre or an artist,” said H. Beecher Hicks III, the museum’s president and CEO. “So it’s one thing to say that I’m a hip-hop fan or I’m a blues fan, but why? What was going on in our country and our lived experience and our political environment that made that music so moving, so inspirational, such the soundtrack for that part of our lives?”The museum tells a chronological story of Black music starting in the 1600s through present day and framed around major cultural movements including the music and instruments brought by African slaves, the emergence of blues through the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights movement.FILE – Visitors look at information presented at the National Museum of African American Music, Jan. 30, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn.When Winans recently took a tour of the museum, she saw her own family of gospel singers, The Winans, represented in the museum’s exhibit on spiritual music alongside the artists that influenced her own musical career.”You never start out doing what you’re doing to be a part of history or even be a part of a museum,” said the 12-time Grammy-winning singer.She noted that the museum put gospel music in context with how it inspired social change, especially during the civil rights era.”When you look at all the different movements that have happened down through the years, and Martin Luther King Jr., it was always with the church behind them,” said Winans. “It was the gospel music that inspired us to love one another, to build bridges.”FILE – A trumpet belonging to Louis Armstrong is displayed at the National Museum of African American Music, Jan. 30, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn.The museum has 1,600 artifacts in its collection, including clothes and a Grammy Award belonging to Ella Fitzgerald, a guitar owned by B.B. King and a trumpet played by Louis Armstrong. To make the best use of the space, the exhibits are layered with interactive features, including 25 stations that allow visitors to virtually explore the music.Visitors can learn choreographed dance moves with a virtual instructor, sing “Oh Happy Day” with a choir led by gospel legend Bobby Jones and make their own hip-hop beats. Visitors can take home their recordings to share via a personal RFID wristband.FILE – Armond Carter, left, of Atlanta, and his mother, Latonya Carter, dance together in an exhibit at the National Museum of African American Music, Jan. 30, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn.There will be a changing exhibit gallery, with the first topic to be the Fisk Jubilee Singers, an a cappella group originally formed in 1871 to raise money for Fisk University. The group sang slave spirituals at its concerts. The tradition continues today.After a year of racial reckoning through the movement of Black Lives Matter, Hicks said the timing couldn’t be more perfect to highlight the contributions of Black music to our shared American experience.”[It] is not an accident that we are able to finish and get the museum open in this moment, in this moment where we need to be reminded, perhaps more than others or more than in the recent past, that we are brothers and we share more together than we do our differences,” said Hicks.  

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Section of Britain’s White Cliffs of Dover Falls Into Sea

A large section of Britain’s iconic White Cliffs of Dover broke off and fell into the English Channel this week and a bystander captured it on video.A local man, David Waterfield, was taking pictures of his dog off the coast of Samphire Hoe, near Dover in Kent, and stopped to speak with a fisherman. The Associated Press reports he heard a sound and aimed his camera just in time to catch an initial rock fall, followed seconds later by a much larger collapse.The section fell after weeks of heavy rain and winds that might have weakened the cliffs.The British National Trust reports the White Cliffs of Dover retreat by about a centimeter every year due to the elements, though occasionally large chunks can break off. The cliffs get their white color due to their chalk composition which makes them more susceptible to erosion.

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US Employers Add Just 49K Jobs as Unemployment Falls to 6.3%

U.S employers added just 49,000 jobs in January, a tepid gain that shows that the viral pandemic retains a tight grip on the economy nearly a year after it triggered a painful recession.
 
Last month’s slight increase followed a sharp decline of 227,000 jobs in December, the first loss since April after the coronavirus erupted in the United States. The unemployment rate for January fell sharply from 6.7% to 6.3%, the Labor Department said Friday. Most of the drop in unemployment occurred because some people out of work found jobs, while others stopped looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed.
 
The January figures from the Labor Department reflect a faltering job market, slowed by a pandemic that is still causing consumers to avoid traveling, shopping, dining out, attending entertainment venues and engaging in other forms of face-to-face contact. In its report Friday, the government also downgraded its estimate of jobs for November and December by a combined 159,000. Nearly 10 million jobs remain lost to the pandemic.
 
Last month, service industries that deal with customers in person again posted the sharpest job losses as millions of consumers hunker down at home. Within the service sector, restaurants, bars and hotels slashed 61,000 jobs. Retailers cut nearly 38,000. Employment in transportation and warehousing fell by 28,000.
 
Women, who have been disproportionately hurt since the job market collapsed in early spring, have been leaving the work force, often to care for children at home attending school online. That pattern continued in January. At the same time, the number of men with jobs rose last month.
 
As hiring has slowed, layoffs have kept mounting. Last week, the number of applications for unemployment benefits, though declining for the past few weeks, remained at an elevated 779,000.
 
The hardships that millions of Americans are suffering trends have fueled President Joe Biden’s push for a $1.9 trillion rescue aid package, which would provide $1,400 checks for most U.S. individuals and a $400 weekly unemployment payment on top of state benefits. The package would also extend two federal jobless aid programs, from mid-March through September.
 
The anemic jobs data could give further political impetus to Biden’s package. Early Friday, the Senate approved a budget measure that would let Democrats muscle Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan through the chamber without Republican support. The budget measure now returns to the House, where it will likely be approved Friday to reflect the changes made by the Senate, before work on the rescue aid package will begin in congressional committees.
 
The damage to the job market since March has widened financial inequality in the United States, especially hurting women and people of color. At the same time, Americans fortunate enough to have kept their jobs have amassed $2.3 trillion in savings — double the pre-pandemic total. That enlarged pool of savings could fuel a rapid rebound in spending as business restrictions are lifted and more Americans become more confident about shopping, dining out and traveling.
 
Economists increasingly suggest that as vaccinations reach a critical mass in the coming months and the government provides further stimulus, the economy and the job market will strengthen much faster than they did after previous recessions. Bank of America estimates that growth could reach 6% this year, which would be the fastest since 1984.
 
Some hopeful signs have emerged recently to suggest that the economy might be picking up a bit. Auto sales rose solidly in January. And a gauge of business growth in the service sector picked up to its highest level in two years. It also showed that services firms added workers last month. A separate measure of manufacturing indicated that factories are also expanding. So is spending on home construction.
 
Some states and localities re-imposed restrictions on businesses in December as cases spiked. Some of those restrictions were loosened in January, though perhaps not in time to affect the jobs report, which measures employment in the middle of each month.