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Posted by Worldkrap on

Pentagon Chief Issues COVID Vaccination Order for National Guard

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered all National Guard and Reserve service members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face the loss of pay and other consequences, according to a memo released Tuesday.

The order comes amid a dispute between the Pentagon and the National Guard in the central U.S. state of Oklahoma over the Defense Department coronavirus vaccine mandate.

The memo, sent from Austin to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military service secretaries, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said federal funds may not be used to pay for any duties carried out by unvaccinated troops who have not received a Department of Defense waiver.

The National Guard answers to both state governors and the president but are paid with federal funding for training and other activities necessary to maintain their Guard status.

Austin’s memo adds that National Guard service members who remain unvaccinated by the Army and Air Force vaccination deadlines cannot drill or train and will be penalized with unexcused absences, which will affect the days they accumulate for retirement.

“In some ways, the memo relieves stress for Oklahoma Guard members (because) it provides clear guidance and removes the question of which authority they should listen to,” Katherine Kuzminski, the director of the military, veterans, and society program at the Center for a New American Security, told VOA Wednesday.

The U.S. defense secretary required all service members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 earlier this year and left deadlines for vaccination compliance to the service branches.

But on November 2, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt asked Austin to rescind that requirement for the Oklahoma National Guard. He then appointed a new commander of Oklahoma’s National Guard, Brigadier General Thomas Mancino, who issued an updated COVID-19 vaccine policy last month saying guard members under his command would not have to be vaccinated.

Austin on Monday rejected Stitt’s request.

Air Force Guard and Reserve members have until Thursday to get vaccinated. Navy Reserve forces have a December 28 vaccination deadline, and Army Guard and Reserve forces have a June 30, 2022, vaccination deadline.

The vaccination deadlines for active-duty forces, depending on their military service branch, have either passed or are later this month.

Active duty troop data provided to VOA from the military service branches Wednesday showed 97% of the Air Force and Space Force, 97% of the Navy, 96% of the Army, and 95% of the Marine Corps are fully or partially vaccinated.

The Navy had previously said 99% of active-duty sailors were vaccinated, but Navy spokesperson Lt. Commander Andrew DeGarmo told VOA on Wednesday that “a recent review of the vaccination reporting and tracking system revealed discrepancies in the data that were appropriately corrected. Discrepancies included total force numbers and redundant entries.”

Navy sailors and Marines who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 will be separated from the force and could lose some of their veterans’ benefits, according to policy issued last month.

When the Air Force deadline passed on November 2, about 10,000 active-duty members and Space Force guardians remained unvaccinated for COVID-19. The Air Force is still reviewing the thousands of religious exemption requests.

The Army’s vaccination deadline for active-duty troops is December 15.

Posted by Ukrap on

Україна працює з партнерами над пакетом стримування Росії – Кулеба за підсумками саміту НАТО

На думку голови МЗС, «необхідно показати силу, аби уникнути необхідності потім її доводити»

Posted by Ukrap on

У Сполучених Штатах виявили перший випадок варіанту «омікрон» – хворий повністю вакцинований

Хворий, за даними CDC, перебуває на самоізоляції і має легкі симптоми

Posted by Ukrap on

США: помер ще один поранений під час стрілянини в школі в Мічигані

Кількість загиблих зросла до чотирьох, ще кілька людей отримали поранення

Posted by Ukrap on

Менеджер Медведчука-Козака став власником компанії в Криму, яку контролював міністр оборони часів Януковича

Йдеться про компанію «Центр-ТЭР», зареєстровану в окупованому Криму за російським законодавством

Posted by Ukrap on

«Антивакцинатора» Остапа Стахіва звільнили з-під варти під заставу майже мільйон гривень

Стахіва підозрюють у діях, «спрямованих на насильницьку зміну чи повалення конституційного ладу або на захоплення державної влади»

Posted by Worldkrap on

Josephine Baker Gets France’s Highest Honor

The late American entertainer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker has become the first Black woman to be inducted into the Pantheon in Paris, the highest honor that France bestows.

Legendary entertainer Josephine Baker famously sang that she had two loves — “J’ai Deux Amours” — my country and Paris.    

She was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, but having come to Paris to perform, she reveled in life here, free of the institutionalized racism and segregation at home.    

Baker quickly became the darling of Parisian society, as people flocked to see her perform in her trademark banana skirt, or in shimmering sequins at the city’s nightspots.     

She made France her home, dividing her time between Paris and a fairytale castle she bought in southwest of the country.    

Baker became French by marriage — and as soon as World War II began, she joined the French Resistance, famously saying “I want to give myself to France, do what you want with me.” 

Her fame served her well —she was able to pass coded messages in her music scores without being stopped.    

She hid Resistance fighters and fleeing Jews in her castle.    

She also fought against racism in the U.S., becoming active in the civil rights movement.  

Her family said it saddened her that she had to leave home to be treated as an equal. 

On Tuesday, she became, the first Black woman, the first American and the first professional entertainer to enter the Pantheon, reserved as the final resting place for just dozens of France’s greatest, including Victor Hugo, Voltaire, and Marie Curie.    

The moving ceremony was led by French president Emmanuel Macron, who called Baker an “exceptional figure” who embodies the French spirit.

 

He noted that she fought for the freedom and equality of all. 

Outside, her music played to the crowds who had come to watch this historic moment.  

At the request of her surviving children, Baker’s remains will stay in Monaco where she was buried. 

Instead, a plaque was placed on a cenotaph containing soil from the four places dearest to her heart: St Louis, Paris, her castle and Monaco. 

Posted by Ukrap on

Кримський політв’язень Іван Яцкін оголосив голодування – Полозов

За даними адвоката, Яцкіна перевезли до «сумнозвісної через тортури ув’язнених Саратівської області»

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Belarus Exiles Find Themselves at the Heart of Poland’s Migrant Crisis

The border between Belarus and Poland drew global media attention after thousands of migrants tried to enter the EU encouraged by the government of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. The root of this crisis is the dispute between Warsaw and Minsk, over Poland’s practice of providing refuge to Belarusian political exiles. Elizabeth Cherneff narrates this report by Ricardo Marquina in Warsaw.

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NATO Shows Unity Against Russian Aggression Toward Ukraine

After NATO foreign ministers expressed solidarity against any Russian aggression toward Ukraine, the United States on Wednesday confirmed plans for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to hold separate meetings with his counterparts from both countries.

A State Department official said the meetings with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take place Thursday in Stockholm, Sweden on the sidelines of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ministerial gathering.

Kuleba on Wednesday urged NATO to pursue a three-prong strategy to deter Russia that includes preparing economic sanctions and boosting military support to Ukraine.

Both Russia and Ukraine in recent days have accused the other side of massing troops in the area along their shared border. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and has backed separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told members of parliament Wednesday that the only way to resolve the conflict with pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas region is through direct negotiations with the Russian government.

“We must tell the truth that we will not be able to stop the war without direct negotiations with Russia,” Zelenskiy said.

Blinken on Tuesday warned Russia that “any renewed aggression would trigger serious consequences,” while in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his military may be forced to respond if NATO’s expansion of Ukraine’s military infrastructure crosses “red lines.”

 

Karen Donfried, the top U.S. diplomat for European Affairs, told reporters in a telephone briefing Friday that Blinken would also use the OSCE talks to raise the issue of Russian occupation of Ukrainian and Georgian territories, as well as the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

On Tuesday in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his military may be forced to respond to the Western-led expansion of Ukraine’s military infrastructure if “red lines” were crossed by NATO.

“If some kind of strike systems appear on the territory of Ukraine, the flight time to Moscow will be 7-10 minutes, and five minutes in the case of a hypersonic weapon being deployed. Just imagine,” said Putin.

“We will have to then create something similar in relation to those who threaten us in that way. And we can do that now,” Putin added.

The Russian leader noted his military had just successfully tested a new sea-based hypersonic missile that would be in service at the beginning of next year.

 

Donfried also said while in Stockholm Blinken would also be discussing the situation in Belarus.

The European Union accuses Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of enticing thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, to travel to Belarus and try to cross into Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in order to destabilize those countries. The EU says Lukashenko is retaliating for sanctions it imposed against his government.

Blinken said Tuesday the U.S., in coordination with the EU, is preparing additional sanctions against Belarus for what he called “its ongoing attacks on democracy, on human rights, on international norms.”

In response to a question from VOA, Blinken said he and Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics focused “on the actions unfortunately Belarus has been taking both in terms of repressing its own people and their democratic aspirations as well as using migration as a weapon to try to sow division and destabilization in Europe.”

“We are in close coordination with the European Union preparing all U.N. sanctions,” Blinken told reporters.

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Blinken Warns Russia as NATO Deliberates Response on Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has again warned Russia of “serious consequences” for any escalatory actions toward Ukraine, as he meets with NATO allies during a trip to Latvia and Sweden. VOA’s senior diplomatic correspondent Cindy Saine reports.

Posted by Ukrap on

«Ми не зможемо зупинити війну без прямих перемовин з Росією» – Зеленський

Питання про можливу зустріч президентів Росії і України почало обговорюватися ще навесні 2021 року, тоді Зеленський заявив про готовність зустрітися з Путіним «у будь-якій точці українського Донбасу»

Posted by Ukrap on

Київ закликає НАТО підготувати «пакет стримування» Москви на тлі концентрації російських військ

Україна, яка прагне стати членом НАТО, стверджує, що Росія утримує понад 100 тисяч військових і важкої техніки поблизу кордону.

Posted by Ukrap on

Президент у посланні до ВР згадав про системну боротьбу з олігархами і 20% ВВП у руках «одного громадянина»

Володимир Зеленський під час послання до Верховної Ради висловив упевненість, що Україна покінчить з олігархатом

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Author Alice Sebold Apologizes to Man Cleared in 1981 Rape

Author Alice Sebold apologized Tuesday to the man who was exonerated last week in the 1981 rape that was the basis for her memoir “Lucky” and said she was struggling with the role she played “within a system that sent an innocent man to jail.” 

Anthony Broadwater, 61, was convicted in 1982 of raping Sebold when she was a student at Syracuse University. He served 16 years in prison. His conviction was overturned on November 22 after prosecutors reexamined the case and determined there were serious flaws in his arrest and trial. 

In a statement released to The Associated Press and later posted on Medium, Sebold, the author of the novels “The Lovely Bones” and “The Almost Moon,” said that as a “traumatized 18-year-old rape victim,” she chose to put her faith in the American legal system. 

“My goal in 1982 was justice — not to perpetuate injustice,” Sebold said. “And certainly not to forever, and irreparably, alter a young man’s life by the very crime that had altered mine.” 

Melissa Swartz, an attorney for Broadwater, said he had no comment on Sebold’s statement. 

Sebold wrote in 1999’s “Lucky” of being raped and then spotting a Black man in the street several months later who she believed was her attacker. 

Sebold, who is white, went to police. An officer said the man in the street must have been Broadwater, who had supposedly been seen in the area. 

After Broadwater was arrested, Sebold failed to identify him in a police lineup, picking a different man as her attacker because she was frightened of “the expression in his eyes.” 

But prosecutors put Broadwater on trial anyway. He was convicted based largely on Sebold identifying him as her rapist on the witness stand and testimony that microscopic hair analysis had tied him to the crime. That type of analysis has since been deemed junk science by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Broadwater, who was released from prison in 1998, told AP last week he was crying “tears of joy and relief” after his conviction was overturned by a judge in Syracuse. 

Sebold, who has not previously commented on Broadwater’s exoneration, said in her statement, “I am grateful that Mr. Broadwater has finally been vindicated, but the fact remains that 40 years ago, he became another young Black man brutalized by our flawed legal system. I will forever be sorry for what was done to him.” 

Broadwater remained on New York’s sex offender registry after he was released from prison and has worked as a trash hauler and a handyman. 

“It has taken me these past eight days to comprehend how this could have happened,” said Sebold, now 58. “I will continue to struggle with the role that I unwittingly played within a system that sent an innocent man to jail. I will also grapple with the fact that my rapist will, in all likelihood, never be known, may have gone on to rape other women, and certainly will never serve the time in prison that Mr. Broadwater did.” 

 

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Migrant Crisis Front and Center in Pope’s Greece-Cyprus Trip

When Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos in 2016, he was so moved by the stories he heard from families fleeing war in Iraq and Syria that he wept and brought a dozen refugees home with him.

Speaking to reporters on the way home that day, he held up a drawing handed to him by a child from the island’s sprawling refugee camp.

“Look at this one,” he said, revealing a bird neatly decorated in colored pencil, the word “peace” scrolled in English underneath it. “That’s what children want: Peace.”

Francis is returning to Lesbos this week for the first time since that defining day of his papacy, making a repeat visit to the island where hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have passed through on their journey to Europe. 

But he will find attitudes toward migrants here have only hardened in the intervening five years, as they have elsewhere in Europe, with tensions flaring on the border between European Union country Poland and Belarus and more deadly crossings — most recently in the English Channel. 

Francis will first stop in Cyprus, another predominantly Orthodox Christian country in the Mediterranean that is also coping with a rise in refugees so significant that the government is seeking to stop processing asylum claims.

As he did in Lesbos five years ago, Francis has arranged for around 50 would-be refugees in Cyprus to travel to Italy after his visit, Cypriot officials say. And Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni wouldn’t rule out that Lesbos-based migrants might also be transferred after the visit.

“They are our brothers and sisters,” Francis said in a video message to Greek and Cypriot faithful before the trip. “How many have lost their lives at sea! Today our sea, the Mediterranean, is a great cemetery.” 

The pontiff starts his five-day trip on Thursday in Cyprus before heading to Greece on Saturday. He returns home on Monday. 

While Francis’ renewed messages of compassion and welcome for migrants isn’t quite resonating in European capitals, they are a welcome salvo for the migrants themselves.

“His presence here will strengthen us, spiritually, and give us hope, some comfort,” said Christian Tango Muyaka, a 30-year-old asylum-seeker from Congo who is due to participate in a Sunday service with the pope at a new migrant camp on Lesbos.

“It gives us faith, it strengthens our faith,” he said.

Muyaka was separated from his wife and youngest daughter a year ago on the Turkish coast when they scrambled to board a boat bound for Greece. He has had no news of what happened to them since.

The north coast of Lesbos, just 10 kilometers (six miles) from Turkey, served as the main landing point for boats crossing into Europe during the 2015-16 migration crisis.

Piles of discarded orange life vests covered beaches, local fishermen helped daily rescue operations, and island residents took pride in setting up campaigns to provide hundreds of refugees arriving daily with food and clothing.

Fast forward five years, and the welcome mat is gone. 

Migrants reaching the eastern Greek islands are now being held in detention camps, newly built and funded by the EU. Coast guard patrols are instructed to intercept dinghies and boats heading west and send them back to Turkey.

The overcrowded camp on Lesbos that Francis was taken to in 2016 burnt to the ground last year during protests against pandemic restrictions. 

And along Greece’s land border with Turkey, a new steel wall and hi-tech sensor network have been installed to stop illegal crossings. 

Eva Cosse at Human Rights Watch said Francis’ visit will serve as an urgent reminder of the human nature of the crisis.

“At a time when people are suffering and their rights are threatened, having the pope standing up for them and expressing these concerns is more important than ever,” she told The Associated Press. “Since the pope’s last visit, Greece continues to host large numbers of asylum-seekers while failing to protect their rights.

“Thousands seeking refuge in Greece are violently pushed back to Turkey. Migrant children face homelessness and a lack of access to health care, education and food. And nongovernmental groups face legislative restrictions and criminal harassment by officials.”

Greek authorities deny allegations of summary deportations. They argue that tougher border policing is necessary to counter hostility by several EU neighbors accused of exploiting the crisis and to limit arrival numbers to manageable levels.

“(Francis’) message is that we are one world, that we don’t have borders, that everybody is a child of God. Look, this is the religious point of view,” said Dimitris Vafeas, the deputy director of Mavrovouni migrant camp on Lesbos where the pope will visit.

“In practical terms, I think Greece has delivered … so I think (Francis) will see calm faces. I don’t dare say happy faces, but calm for sure.”

 

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Wife of Drug Kingpin ‘El Chapo’ Gets 3 Years on US Charges

The wife of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison after pleading guilty to helping her husband run his multibillion-dollar criminal empire.

Emma Coronel Aispuro also helped her husband plan a dramatic escape through a tunnel dug underneath a prison in Mexico in 2015 by smuggling a GPS watch to him disguised as a food item, prosecutors said during a hearing in federal court in Washington. That helped those digging the tunnel pinpoint his location and reach him. The leader of the Sinaloa cartel was recaptured the following year. 

Prosecutors had asked for four years in prison, but U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras imposed a shorter term, saying her role was a small piece of a much larger organization. Her arrest doesn’t seem to have reduced the harm caused by the cartel, he said. “There appears to be no shortage of willing participants,” he said. 

She had faced a minimum of 10 years in prison but was subject to a so-called “safety valve” provision because she had no criminal record, was not considered a leader and was not involved with violence.

Defense attorneys also pointed out she was a 17-year-old from an impoverished family when she met Guzman and married him on her 18th birthday. “This began when she was a very impressionable minor married to a powerful man more than three decades older,” Jeffrey Lichtman said. 

Coronel Aispuro expressed “true regret for any and all harm” as she spoke through a Spanish translator in court. “I am here before you, asking for forgiveness,” she said. She asked for a sentence that would allow her to watch her 9-year-old twin daughters grow up. 

She previously pleaded guilty to three federal offenses as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors. She also surrendered $1.5 million.

The charges include knowingly and willfully conspiring to distribute heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine for several years. She also pleaded guilty to a money-laundering conspiracy charge and to engaging in transactions with a foreign narcotics trafficker. 

She also helped buy land for the tunnel and smuggle Guzman’s messages to his subordinates while he was in prison, which allowed him to stay in control of the Sinaloa cartel while behind bars. 

“He chose her to move those messages to people who worked for him,” said prosecutor Anthony Nardozzi, who called her a “cog in a very large wheel.”

The 32-year-old was arrested in February at Dulles International Airport in Virginia and has been jailed since then. She will also serve four years of supervised release after the prison sentence.

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Polish Parliament Rejects Unlimited Media Access to Belarus Border 

Poland’s president on Tuesday signed into law legislation that would limit the access of aid charities and journalists to its border with Belarus as the country grapples with a simmering migrant crisis. 

The law is a blow to the opposition parties that advocated for unlimited media access, an amendment approved by the upper house of parliament on Friday but rejected by the lower house. 

Under the state of emergency declared in the border region in September and ending at midnight, the media and aid charities were completely banned. The opposition said the ban was intended to cover up rights abuses and had sought unfettered access. 

The government said the restrictions were necessary for security reasons. 

Under the new rules, the interior minister can limit access to the border zone after consulting with the head of the Border Guard. However, journalists and NGOs may be able to enter at the discretion of local Border Guard heads. 

Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said on Tuesday night he would order a temporary ban on entering areas around the border. 

The European Union accuses Minsk of engineering the migrant crisis to hit back at sanctions. Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko accuses the EU of deliberately provoking a humanitarian crisis. 

Poland’s Human Rights Ombudsman has criticized the new law, saying it gives the interior minister the right to limit freedom of movement and to limit access to information about what is happening on the border indefinitely. 

While the situation on the border has calmed since mid-November, when Polish security forces fired water cannon at migrants throwing rocks, there are still nightly attempts by groups to force their way through barbed wire fencing on the frontier. 

The Polish Border Guard said there were 134 attempts to cross the Belarus border on Monday. 

 

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Migrant Advocates Accuse EU of Flagrant Breaches of Geneva Convention

The migrant crisis on Poland’s border, which Western powers accuse Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of engineering, caught international attention in November. But asylum seekers on the Poland-Belarus border aren’t alone in being shunted back and forth across Europe’s land and sea borders, say rights organizations and other monitors.

Throughout the year, irregular migration to Europe has been increasing, with more than 160,000 migrants entering the European Union this year, mostly through the Balkans and Italy. That’s a 70% jump from 2020, when pandemic travel restrictions are thought to have impacted the mobility of would-be migrants, and a 45% increase over the previous pre-pandemic year.

And with irregular migration picking up again, rights campaigners say the EU and national governments are increasingly skirting or breaking international humanitarian laws in their determination to prevent war refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from entering or remaining on the continent.

They say European leaders appear determined to avoid a repeat of 2015, when more than a million asylum seekers from the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and central Asia arrived in Europe, roiling the continent’s politics and fueling the rise of anti-migrant political parties.

Reports have multiplied of refugees and migrants being forcibly pushed back over the EU’s external borders. So, too, have reports of refugees being prevented from filing asylum applications. Poland passed a law in August stipulating that migrants who cross the border are to be “taken back to the state border” and “ordered to leave the country immediately,” preventing them from making an asylum application.

Pushbacks breach both European human rights laws and the 1951 Geneva Convention, which outline the rights of refugees as well as the legal obligations of the 146 signatory states to protect them.

Signatory states aren’t allowed to impose penalties on refugees who enter their countries illegally in search of asylum, nor are they allowed to expel refugees (without due process). Under the convention, refugees should not be forcibly returned, technically known as “refoul,” to the home countries they fled. Asylum seekers are meant to be provided with free access to courts, and signatory states are required to offer refugees administrative assistance.

The EU, its border agency, Frontex, and the bloc’s national governments, say they do observe international humanitarian law, but according to several recent investigations by rights organizations, the rules are now being flouted routinely and systematically.

“EU member states have adopted increasingly restrictive and punitive asylum rules and are focusing on reducing migration flows, with devastating consequences,” Amnesty International warned recently.

“We are witnessing tremendous human suffering caused by the EU-Turkey deal and by the EU-Libya cooperation, both of which are leaving men, women and children trapped and exposed to suffering and abuse,” the rights organization says in reference to deals struck with Turkey and Libya to block migrants heading to Europe and readmit them when they are ejected from Europe.

In the case of Libya, migrants are often returned to detention camps run by militias where Amnesty International and others have documented harrowing violations, including sexual violence against men, women and children. In a report published earlier this year, Amnesty noted, “Decade-long violations against refugees and migrants continued unabated in Libyan detention centers during the first six months of 2021 despite repeated promises to address them.”

Lighthouse Reports, a Dutch nonprofit journalism consortium, has documented dozens of instances in which Frontex surveillance aircraft were in the vicinity of migrant boats later intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard. “There is a clear pattern discernible. Boats in distress are spotted, communications take place between European actors and the Libyan Coast Guard,” Lighthouse researchers said in a report this year.

Frontex has routinely denied the allegations but lawmakers in the European Parliament accused the agency, after a four-month investigation, of failing to “fulfill its human rights obligations.” In the Balkans, the Border Violence Monitoring Network and other NGOs say they have gathered testimony from hundreds of refugees who allege they have been beaten back into Bosnia-Herzegovina across the Croatian border by baton-wielding men whose uniforms bear no insignia.

Europe’s peripheral countries have also been erecting border fences and building walls with the prospects of more Afghan refugees appearing on their borders acting as a spur. Greece has completed a 40-kilometer wall along its land border with Turkey and installed an automated surveillance system to try to prevent asylum seekers from reaching Europe. Other countries are following suit and have been pushing the EU to help with funding.

Critics say the wall-building now contrasts with the criticism European leaders leveled four years ago against then-U.S. President Donald Trump over his plan to build a wall on America’s southern border with Mexico. “We have a history and a tradition that we celebrate when walls are brought down and bridges are built,” admonished Federica Mogherini, then the EU’s foreign policy chief.

While migrant advocates complain of rights violations, calls are mounting in Europe for changes to be made to both the Geneva Convention and the bloc’s humanitarian laws. Critics of the convention say it was primarily drawn up to cope with population displacement in Europe in the wake of the Second World War. They say it fails to recognize the nature and scale of the much more complex migration patterns of the 21st century, which could see numbers swell because of climate change.

Last week in Budapest, Balázs Orbán, a deputy minister in the Hungarian government, said the current EU migration laws should be replaced. The current legal system is “catalyzing the influx of illegal migrants, and not helping to stop them on the borders,” he said. “This framework was created during the time of the Geneva Convention in 1951, when refugees from the Soviet Union needed to be accommodated for. Now, times have changed,” he added. 

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Fauci: Existing Coronavirus Vaccines Provide ‘Some’ Protection Against Omicron Variant

The top U.S. infectious disease expert said Tuesday that vaccinated Americans have “some degree of protection” against the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, but that scientists will not know for a few weeks how vaccines may need to be altered to best fight it. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser, said at a White House coronavirus news briefing that the omicron “mutation profile is very different from other variants” of the coronavirus. 

While he said the three existing vaccines used in the U.S. could prevent people who have been inoculated from getting seriously ill from the omicron variant, it “remains uncertain … speculative” whether they will fully work against people getting sick. 

“We believe it is too soon to tell about the severity” of the omicron variant, he said. “We should have a much better idea in the next few weeks.” 

To date, he said, 226 cases of the omicron variant have been identified in 20 countries across the globe, but none so far in the United States. Health officials, however, say they assume the variant eventually will spread to the United States. 

“We are actively looking for the omicron variant in the U.S.,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Stephane Bancel, chief executive of Moderna, which produces one of the vaccines used in the U.S., predicted in an interview with the Financial Times that existing vaccines would be much less effective in combating the omicron variant than the previous four variants of the coronavirus. 

“There is no world, I think, where (the effectiveness) is the same level … we had with delta,” Bancel said, referring to the highly contagious variant that is the predominant strain throughout the U.S. and was first detected in India in late 2020. 

His comments sent U.S. stock indexes tumbling, as investors feared the effect of the omicron variant on the world economy, in which many countries are still struggling from the coronavirus onslaught that started in early 2020. 

Bancel said it could take months for pharmaceutical companies to manufacture effective new vaccines to deal with the specific molecular makeup of the omicron variant. 

Dutch officials said Tuesday that they detected the omicron variant in tests almost two weeks ago, days earlier than when two flights from South Africa transported infected passengers to the Netherlands. 

Walensky said 45 million adults are unvaccinated in the U.S., and millions more children, ages 5 to 18, are eligible to get shots, but their parents have yet to get them inoculated. 

In addition, Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said that 100 million vaccinated people in the U.S. are eligible for booster shots but have yet to get them.

He, too, said that vaccinations provide “some protection” against the omicron variant and that “boosters help that.” 

“We want to make sure Americans are doing all they can to protect themselves,” he said.