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France Records More Than 50,000 Daily COVID-19Cases

France on Saturday said more than 50,000 people had tested positive for coronavirus in the past 24 hours, as COVID-19 cases rocketed despite millions receiving a vaccine booster shot.

The country recorded 51,624 new daily cases of Covid, health authorities said. France’s record daily cases number was nearly 118,000 in mid-April, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

France has recorded an average of almost 41,000 new cases a day over the past week, compared with less than 28,000 a week ago.

Some 694 people had been admitted to hospitals in the past 24 hours, including 119 who were critically ill.

The coronavirus killed 113 people over the same period.

Cases have shot up as France heads into winter.

Health Minister Olivier Veran has for the moment ruled out a lockdown but urged all adults in the country of 67 million to sign up for a third COVID-19 vaccine shot by mid-January.

“Ten million French people have gotten a booster jab to maintain their protection against Covid,” he wrote on Twitter.

After January 15, residents aged 18 to 64 will have to show proof of a booster vaccine no more than seven months after the second dose to maintain a valid COVID-19 pass, which is required to enter restaurants, bars, gyms and other public venues.

In total, 119,457 people have died of COVID-19 in France since the start of the pandemic.

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Explainer: How Unusual to Charge Parents in School Shooting?

Guns used in U.S. school shootings have often come from the homes of young perpetrators, but parents are rarely charged for the violence that occurs, experts say.

That’s what makes the case against Ethan Crumbley’s parents uncommon, following the fatal shooting of four students at Oxford High School in southeastern Michigan. Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said Jennifer and James Crumbley ignored opportunities to intervene, just a few hours before the bloodshed.

Jennifer and James Crumbley are charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, while their son, Ethan Crumbley, 15, is charged as an adult with murder, terrorism and other crimes. 

The Crumbley parents, who were taken into custody early Saturday, and their lawyers haven’t commented on the shooting or the charges.

Here’s a look at the issues facing the parents:

What do we know about the gun?

The semi-automatic handgun used in the shooting Tuesday was purchased by James Crumbley on November 26 while his son stood by at the shop, according to investigators.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Jennifer Crumbley referred to it on social media as a “Christmas present” for her son, and Ethan posted a picture of it on social media, calling it his “new beauty,” McDonald said.

With some very limited exceptions, minors in Michigan aren’t allowed to possess guns. But there is no Michigan law that requires owners to keep guns locked away from kids.

“So many states do. There’s 23 states plus Washington, D.C., that have some form of a secure storage law,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

Will involuntary manslaughter be tough to prove?

“It’s an unusual charge to bring,” said Eve Brensike Primus, who teaches criminal procedure at University of Michigan law school.

Police said Ethan Crumbley emerged from a bathroom and started shooting other students in the hallway at Oxford High. A few hours earlier, he and his parents had met with school officials. A teacher had found a drawing on his desk with a gun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me,” according to the prosecutor.

Ethan Crumbley, who had no disciplinary record, was told to get counseling but was allowed to stay in school. His backpack was not checked for a weapon, McDonald said.

Primus said authorities must show gross negligence by the parents and causation, or the act of causing something. 

“The prosecutor is going to need facts to support the argument that these parents really knew there was a risk that their son would take a gun and shoot people dead,” she said. “Not just that their son was troubled in some way. This is a homicide charge that carries years in prison. This is not a small charge.”

In 2000, a Flint-area man pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter after a 6-year-old boy who was living with him found a gun in a shoebox and killed a classmate.

Why aren’t parents charged more often?

A 2019 assessment by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found that guns came from the home of a parent or close relative in 76% of school attacks where firearms were used. In about half, the firearms were easily accessible. 

But laws aimed at restricting gun access are not always enforced and vary in strength, experts say. 

“Our laws haven’t really adapted to the reality of school shootings, and the closest we have are these child access prevention laws,” said Kris Brown, president of the Brady gun control advocacy group. 

In 2020, the mother of an Indiana teen was placed on probation for failing to remove guns from her home after her mentally ill son threatened to kill students. He fired shots inside his school in 2018. No one was injured but the boy killed himself. 

In Washington state, the father of a boy who killed four students at a high school in 2014 was convicted of illegally possessing firearms.  He was not charged for the shooting, although one of his guns was used.

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Holiday Road in Leesburg, VA, Marks Start of Christmas Season

Millions of lights, a whole Christmas tree forest and a sparkling holiday field. All of these things – and many more – can be found on Holiday Road in Leesburg, Virginia. Lesia Bakalets has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.

Posted by Ukrap on

Заява Білорусі про порушення повітряного простору з боку України не відповідає дійсності – Держприкордонслужба

«Державна прикордонна служба України неодноразово наголошувала на тому, що в рамках посилення кордону та проведення прикордонної операції «Полісся» для моніторингу кордону активно використовуватиметься як авіація, так і безпілотні літальні комплекси. Авіація використовувалася і сьогодні»

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Резніков: «Велика війна в Україні може занурити у кризу всю Європу»

«Ми повинні переконати Москву, що ціна нового наступу буде надто високою»

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Клімкін прокоментував слова Зеленського щодо нього і Харківських угод

Президент України Володимир Зеленський, коментуючи причетність заступника секретаря РНБО Руслана Демченка до Харківських угод, озвучив ім’я Павла Клімкіна

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Age-Old Feud Between Allies Poses Challenge to Biden’s Asia Policy

In its attempts to revitalize trilateral cooperation with Japan and South Korea, the Biden administration is facing a decadeslong dispute between the allies that is jeopardizing Washington’s goals of curbing Beijing’s growing aggression and Pyongyang’s threats, according to experts.

Senior Biden administration officials have been holding multiple meetings with key allies in East Asia to forge trilateral cooperation aimed at achieving its goals for the region and the Indo-Pacific.

The Pentagon said Washington’s plans for the region include directing “cooperation with allies and partners” so that it could “deter Chinese military aggression and threats from North Korea,” according to its global posture review released Monday.

Reemergence of dispute

The latest Washington-Tokyo-Seoul trilateral effort met with a setback, however, when a long-standing strain in Seoul-Tokyo relations surfaced during recent trilateral talks, derailing a joint press conference on November 17.

Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Mori Takeo objected to having a scheduled joint press conference alongside South Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun because of a long-running territorial dispute over the Liancourt Rocks — known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan — a set of islets in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea.

Seoul and Tokyo’s deep historical animosity also stems from the Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Speaking alone at the press conference, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said, “There are some bilateral differences between Japan and the Republic of Korea that are continuing to be resolved.” The Republic of Korea (ROK) is the official name of South Korea.

After Sherman spoke, Masashi Mizobuchi, a spokesperson at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, said Japanese officials withdrew from the press conference to protest a November 16 visit to the disputed islands by the chief of the South Korean police, according to Reuters. 

South Korean senior officials and lawmakers visit the islets occasionally to reassert South Korea’s territorial claim.

At the time, Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, said his government felt holding a joint press conference with South Korea was inappropriate while the countries were embroiled in a dispute over the islet.

South Korea’s Choi said he decided not to take part in the briefing out of concern the dispute would overshadow other issues, according to Bloomberg. “If we held a joint press conference, Japanese media would have asked questions related to the visit, and the two sides would have to rebut one another’s position on Dokdo. We were worried about that,” Choi told reporters in Washington.

Emerging challenge

“The weak state of Japan-ROK relations is one of the Biden administration’s greatest vulnerabilities in Asia today,” said Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia and the Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“It allows North Korea to drive wedges and China to resist pressure to abide by international norms,” he added.

According to Daniel Sneider, a Japan-Korea relations expert at Stanford University, a possible consequence of failing to coordinate trilateral ties puts Washington’s objective of countering China at risk.

“If I were Japanese, and as an American, I would worry a lot more about the Chinese efforts to exercise control and domination over the entire Korean Peninsula,” Sneider said. “They already do that over North Korea, more effectively than I would say about Taiwan.”

It is “very important to focus on common security and diplomatic objectives” rather than trying to “broker disagreements about the past,” Green said, adding that the Biden administration has been “making some modest progress” despite some setbacks.

A State Department spokesperson, who preferred to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the subject, on Wednesday told VOA’s Korean Service that the Biden administration was “committed to strengthening” the trilateral relationship, which is “critical for our shared security and common interest in defending freedom and democracy.”

Both the Japanese and the South Korean foreign ministries also told VOA’s Korean Service that they recognized the importance of trilateral cooperation.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesperson who also preferred anonymity because of the subject matter said Thursday that “the collaboration among Japan, the United States and the ROK [is] important for regional peace and stability beyond issues related to North Korea.”

Masashi Mizobuchi, a spokesperson at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, emphasized Wednesday that it was “vital to maintain the unity” among Japan, South Korea and the U.S.

“These three countries continue to exchange views” on “future response regarding North Korea,” ways to cooperate on “realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific, China’s actions in the East and South China seas,” and other global issues, Mizobuchi said.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson, while also stressing the importance of the three-way cooperation, said on Wednesday that “the three countries continue to engage in active communication and exchange at various levels, including among the foreign ministers, the vice foreign ministers and special representatives for Korean Peninsula affairs.” The South Korean spokesperson also preferred to remain anonymous because of the subject matter.

Enhancing diplomacy

Sneider said the Biden administration should intervene through high-level diplomacy committed to trilateral cooperation, given the long-standing historical differences between the two allies.

“What is absent is anything at the leadership level” that would show political will of strengthening the trilateral ties, Sneider said. “If you’re a midlevel or a senior-level ministry official in either country, you’re only going to go so far if you don’t have the signal from the top.”

Patricia Kim, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies, said, “The continued efforts by the Biden administration to emphasize the importance of trilateral cooperation and to create space for the U.S., Japan and ROK to discuss common concerns and coordinate actions is the right approach.”​

Jiha Ham contributed to this report. 

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Thousands Block Roads Across Serbia in anti-Government Protest

Thousands of people blocked roads across Serbia in an anti-government demonstration targeting two new laws that environmentalists say will let foreign companies exploit local resources.

Serbia’s government has offered mining rights to two companies, China’s Zijin copper miner and Rio Tinto. Green activists say the projects will pollute land and water in the Balkan nation.

The protest is a headache for the ruling Peoples’ Progressive Party led by the President Aleksandar Vucic ahead of parliamentary and presidential election next year.

Thousands gathered on the main bridge in the capital, Belgrade, chanting “Rio Tinto go away from the Drina River.”

They held banners reading: “Stop investors, save the nature, We are not giving away the nature in Serbia,” and “For the land, the water and the air.”

Roadblocks have been set up all over Serbia including the second largest city of Novi Sad in western Serbia, in Sabac, Uzice, and Nis in the south and in Zajecar in the East.

“The reason (for the protest) is to protect our land, water and air. We do not want it to be sold cheaply,” said Stefan, a student protesting in Belgrade.

Rio Tinto has promised to adhere to all domestic and EU environmental standards, but environmentalists say its planned $2.4 million lithium mine would irreversibly pollute drinking water in the area.

The protesters are angry about a referendum law passed last month which will make it harder for people to protest polluting projects, as well as a new expropriation law, which makes it easier for the state to acquire private land.

President Vucic, on his Instagram profile, published a picture of the village of Gornje Nedeljice, where Rio Tinto has already started buying land for its future lithium project.

Vucic said once the environmental study on the project is complete, he would call a referendum to allow people to decide whether the project should go through.

“Everything we build today we are leaving to our children,” Vucic wrote on Instagram.

Posted by Ukrap on

Біатлон: чоловіча збірна України фінішувала в чільній пʼятірці в першій естафеті сезону

Вище за українців опинилися збірні Норвегії, Франції, Росії та Німеччини

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У Запоріжжі вдруге відбувся «Бал героїв» для ветеранів війни на Донбасі та волонтерів

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Pope Francis Warns Political Populists Threaten Democracy in Europe and Elsewhere

Pope Francis warned Saturday that democracy in Europe and elsewhere is being threatened by populist politicians, who appeal to disgruntled citizens with easy solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

The pope’s remarks were made during a visit to Athens, Greece, widely viewed as the birthplace of democracy, the second and last stop on a Mediterranean trip aimed at calling attention to the plight of migrants and refugees.

“We cannot avoid noting with concern how today, and not only in Europe, we are witnessing a retreat from democracy,” Francis said in a speech at the presidential palace.

Francis did not name countries or world leaders, but he cautioned people to be wary of politicians with “an obsessive quest for popularity, in a thirst for visibility, in a flurry of unrealistic promises.”

The pope said the birth of democracy thousands of years ago evolved into a “great house of democratic peoples” in the European Union, “and the dream of peace and fraternity that it represents for so many peoples.”

He said the dream is being further jeopardized by financial and other hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic, potentially fueling nationalist sentiments and making authoritarianism seem “compelling and populism’s easy answers appear attractive.” 

“The remedy is not to be found in an obsessive quest for popularity, in a thirst for visibility, in a flurry of unrealistic promises…but in good politics,” Francis declared.

The pope said only multilateralism can effectively tackle poverty, the environment and other crises that confront the global community. 

“Politics needs this, in order to put common needs ahead of private interests,” he said.

Some information in this report also came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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В Афінах папа Римський Франциск виступив за координацію зусиль з питань міграції

Візит 84-річного понтифіка до грецької столиці є першим візитом папи з часів Івана Павла II у 2001 році

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France’s Macron Defends Saudi Visit After Khashoggi Murder

French President Emmanuel Macron insisted Friday he hadn’t forgotten the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as he defended his decision to visit Saudi Arabia during his Gulf tour.

On Saturday, Macron will become one of the first Western leaders to meet the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, since Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Khashoggi’s murder sparked international outrage that continues to reverberate. But Macron said it was impossible to engage with the region while ignoring the powerful Saudis.

“Who can think for one second that we can help Lebanon and preserve peace and stability in the Middle East if we say: ‘We’re not going to speak to Saudi Arabia, the most populated and most powerful country in the Gulf?'” he told media in Dubai, the first stop of his tour.

“It doesn’t mean that I endorse anything, that I’ve forgotten, that we’re not demanding partners,” he said, adding that he was acting “for our country and in the interests of the region.”

Macron will fly to the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah on Saturday after an overnight stay in Qatar, another resource-rich Gulf country where France will defend their World Cup football title next year.

On Oct. 2, 2018, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to file paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée. According to U.S. and Turkish officials, a waiting Saudi hit squad strangled him and dismembered his body, which has never been retrieved. 

 

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ВООЗ: штам «омікрон» не спричинив ще жодної смерті

Попередні дані свідчать, що дуже заразний варіант, який вперше був виявлений у Південній Африці минулого місяця, може викликати більш легкі симптоми, ніж його попередники, включно з «дельтою», яка зараз є домінуючим глобальним штамом

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Fugitive Parents of US Teen Accused in Deadly School Shooting Arrested

Police in the Midwestern U.S. state of Michigan say they have arrested the parents of a teenager charged with four counts of first-degree murder in a shooting Tuesday at his high school.

Jennifer and James Crumbley were arrested early Saturday in Detroit, according to police.

A prosecutor had filed involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents in connection with the deaths.

The parents, however, failed to appear in court Friday, causing police to issue a fugitive warrant for the couple who were charged with four counts of manslaughter for ignoring warning signs ahead of the school shooting and giving their son access to a gun.

The couple’s lawyer, Shannon Smith, told authorities they left town earlier in the week for their own safety, according to the Associated Press.

U.S. marshals had issued wanted posters for the parents, offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the couple’s arrest.

The Crumbleys were charged three days after their 15-year-old son, Ethan, allegedly opened fire at Oxford High School in the town of Oxford, Michigan, killing four students and wounding seven other people.

Karen McDonald, the chief prosecutor in Oakland County, Michigan, said in an interview with WJR-AM radio in Detroit, Michigan that the Crumbleys’ actions prior to the killings went “far beyond negligence.”

Prosecutors said Ethan Crumbley had displayed several warning signs before the school shooting, including drawing a picture of a handgun and a bleeding figure with the words “Blood everywhere” and “The thoughts won’t stop — help me” written on the sheet.

They also said a teacher had seen the teenager searching online for ammunition on his phone and alerted school officials.

James and Jennifer Crumbley were summoned to the school a few hours before the shooting but “resisted” the idea of taking their son home from school, according to McDonald.

 

Parents in the U.S. are seldom charged in school shootings involving their children, experts say. If convicted, the Crumbleys could face up to 15 years in prison.

Ethan Crumbley has been charged as an adult with two dozen crimes, including first-degree murder and terrorism, for allegedly killing the students with a semiautomatic gun that investigators said Crumbley’s father had bought legally last week.

Michigan law does not require gun owners to keep weapons locked away from children.

Tuesday’s attack was the deadliest shooting in a U.S. school this year, according to Education Week. It was also the latest in a series of mass shootings at U.S. schools that span decades.

Information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

 

 

 

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Штаб ООС: за добу на Донбасі – шість порушень режиму тиші

Штаб також інформує, що один військовослужбовець Об’єднаних сил дістав поранення

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Where’s the Snow? US Rockies Winter Starts With a Whimper

Denver’s winter has started with a whimper, and the parched mountains to the west aren’t faring much better.

The Mile High City has already shattered its 87-year-old record for the latest measurable snowfall set on Nov. 21, 1934, and it’s a little more than a week away from breaking an 1887 record of 235 consecutive days without snow.

The scenario is playing out across much of the Rocky Mountains, as far north as Montana and in the broader Western United States, which is experiencing a megadrought that studies link to human-caused climate change. It’s only the second time since 1976 that Salt Lake City has gone snowless through November, and amid the unseasonably warm weather in Montana, a late-season wildfire fueled by strong winds ripped through a tiny central Montana farming town this week.

The warm and dry weather has drawn crowds to restaurant and bar patios in Denver, and the city’s parks and trails have been bustling with people basking in the sunshine in shorts, short sleeves and occasionally flip-flops.

As enjoyable as the weather is, climate scientists and meteorologists are warning that prolonged drought could threaten the region’s water supply and agriculture industry. It also could hurt tourism, which relies heavily on skiers, snowboarders, rafters and anglers.

“Every day that goes by that we don’t see precipitation show up and we see this year-to-year persistence of drought conditions, it just adds to a deficit. And we continue to add to this deficit year after year, particularly in the Colorado River Basin,” said Keith Musselman, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Derek Greenough moved to Denver a few months ago and immediately bought a snowboard with the hope of soon hitting the slopes. But on Wednesday, he was enjoying the warm weather in a city park.

“I’m from central New York so I expected it to be somewhat like there, which they have about 5 feet (1.5 meters) of snow right now,” said Greenough, 27, who was wearing a tank top and exercise shorts. “Today, I figured that on the first day of December it would be snowing, at least something, but here we are. It’s a nice day. … I don’t think I’ll be snowboarding anytime soon.”

Denver’s high Wednesday hit 23 degrees Celsius, tying the record set in 1973. The National Weather Service is predicting similar conditions over the weekend with only a slight chance of snow at the beginning of next week.

Frank Cooper, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Boulder, Colorado, said a La Nina weather pattern is pushing storm tracks farther north into the Pacific Northwest and Canada, allowing highs in the Denver area to reach around 23 degrees Celsius.

“Basically, we haven’t had any systems really able to get into the area to cool us off,” he said, noting that the average high in Denver this time of year is 7 degrees Celsius.

Musselman likens mountain snowpack to a natural reservoir that holds moisture during the winter months and releases it in the spring and summer when demand from trees, plants, animals and humans is greater.

 

“That natural reservoir is being affected by climate change, and warming is reducing the amount of snow that’s occurring in the mountains,” he said.

The lack of snow in northern Utah is a rarity but the record for the latest snowfall — set twice on Christmas Day in 1939 and 1943 — is likely to stand with snow expected sometime late next week, National Weather Service meteorologist David Church said.

The mountains near Salt Lake City that are home to several ski resorts had a good start to the season when a wet October that dropped rain in the valley made snow in the mountains, but that’s slowed in November. Several resorts, including Deer Valley in Park City and Powder Mountain and Snowbasin near Ogden, have delayed opening because of the weather.

With most of Utah stuck in an extreme drought, a wet winter is more important than just making sure skiers have good runs.

“We need a good winter for snowpack out here, so hopefully we can turn the corner as we head into December and January,” Church said.

The lack of snow has also led to a mild inversion in the Salt Lake City area, a phenomenon in Utah’s urban corridor caused by weather and geography when cold, stagnant air settles in the bowl-shaped mountain basins, trapping automotive and other emissions and creating a brown, murky haze. Storms break up those inversions.

In western Wyoming, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort opened on Thanksgiving, using manmade snow on a handful of low-elevation runs and in an area for children and other inexperienced skiers.

Resort spokesperson Eric Seymour said, “we’re not sounding the alarm yet,” and he is keeping his fingers crossed that snow forecast for this weekend will allow the upper mountain to open.

That has been the attitude at most Rockies ski resorts, which recognize that the season is just getting underway and that all hope is not lost. Even so, one popular Colorado ski town isn’t leaving anything to chance.

With such a dearth of skiable terrain open at resorts across the state, Breckenridge is set to hold an annual festival downtown to honor Ullr, the Norse God of Snow and the Patron Saint of Skiers.

Lauren Swanson, a spokesperson for Breckenridge’s tourism office, described the four-day festival starting Dec. 9 as “a townwide snow dance,” parade and party to thank Ullr for bountiful snow and to ask him to bring more.

“We’re hopeful that our snow dances and all of our celebrations will inspire Ullr to bless us with a big storm soon. That’s what this is all about. If the snow is not here, we’ll bring it with our energy,” she said. “I believe in it. I do think it works.” 

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За добу в Україні – 13 206 нових хворих на COVID-19

Загалом за час пандемії в Україні захворіли понад 3,49 мільйона людей, 88 002 хворих померли

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White House Sparkles With Cheer for Holidays

The White House is lit with holiday cheer for this year’s festive season, with first lady Jill Biden’s Christmas decor theme of “Gifts from the Heart.” VOA’s Anita Powell reports from the White House.

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Belarus Labels RFE/RL’s Telegram, YouTube Channels ‘Extremist’

A Belarusian court has designated the official Telegram channel of RFE/RL’s Belarus Service and some of the broadcaster’s social media accounts as extremist in a continued clampdown on independent media and civil society, 

The decision to label RFE/RL’s accounts “extremist” – including its YouTube channel – was made by the Central District Court on December 3 based on information provided by the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption, known as GUBOPiK. 

In a statement, GUBOPiK said that anyone subscribing to channels or other media designated as “extremist” may face jail time or other penalties, such as fines. 

“RFE/RL adamantly rejects this ridiculous label,” RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said in response to the news. 

“We are committed to continuing to provide objective news and information to the Belarusian people, who are in need of independent media more now than ever. The Lukashenko regime continues to make clear that their disregard for the truth and their efforts to restrict access to independent information know no bounds,” he added. 

Authorities in Belarus have declared hundreds of Telegram channels, blogs and chatrooms “extremist” after the country was engulfed in protests following the August 2020 presidential election, which authoritarian ruler Alexander Lukashenko claimed to have won and that the opposition says was rigged. 

In response, the government has cracked down hard on the pro-democracy movement, arresting thousands of people and pushing most of the top opposition figures out of the country. There have also been credible reports of torture and ill treatment, and several people have died. 

Dozens of news websites have been blocked in Belarus and independent media shuttered as part of a sweeping crackdown on information in the wake of the protests. 

Website blocked last year

The website of RFE/RL’s Belarus Service has been blocked within Belarus since August 21, 2020, while the accreditations of all locally based journalists working for foreign media, including RFE/RL, were annulled by Belarusian authorities in October 2020. 

Lukashenko, who has run the country since 1994, has denied any fraud in the election and refuses to negotiate with the opposition on a political transition and new elections. 

The West has refused to recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate leader of Belarus and has imposed several waves of sanctions against the government and other officials accused of aiding and benefiting from the crackdown. 

On Thursday, the European Union, the United States and other key Western allies further tightened the sanctions in response to a crisis on the bloc’s eastern flank that the West accuses Lukashenko of fomenting by funneling thousands of mainly Middle Eastern migrants to the border region in retaliation against the sanctions. 

Belarusian national carrier Belavia said Friday that it had cut its fleet by about half because of the sanctions. The airline has been accused of flying the migrants to Minsk. 

The Belarus Foreign Ministry said Friday that the “unprecedented pressure” applied on it could prompt Minsk to retaliate. 

“We have repeatedly said that all unfriendly anti-Belarusian steps will be followed by appropriate measures of response. The new round of sanctions is no exception,” the ministry said in a statement. 

The isolation has made the Belarusian strongman more reliant than ever on Russia, which analysts say is using his weakened position to strengthen its hold over its smaller neighbor.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is part of the taxpayer-funded United States Agency for Global Media, which also includes Voice of America.