Category: Aktualności

Portugal Powers Into Last Eight With 6-1 Demolition of Switzerland

Goncalo Ramos scored a stunning hat trick as a slick Portugal thrashed Switzerland, 6-1, on Tuesday to storm into the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time since 2006. 

Portugal coach Fernando Santos made the brave call to bench Cristiano Ronaldo and was rewarded with an artful display from his side as they set up a last-eight clash with Morocco, who stunned Spain in a penalty shootout earlier on Tuesday. 

Ramos, making his first start at the World Cup, gave Portugal the lead in the 17th minute after latching onto Joao Felix’s pass and smashing the ball past Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer at his near post from an acute angle. 

The 21-year-old Benfica striker scored his second, and Portugal’s third, six minutes after the break by getting onto the end of Diogo Dalot’s low cross and he completed his hat trick in the 67th with a delicate dinked finish. 

Pepe had doubled Portugal’s lead with a powerful header from a Bruno Fernandes corner after 33 minutes and Raphael Guerreiro rifled in their fourth in the 55th before Rafael Leao completed the rout in added time with a curled finish. 

Manuel Akanji scored a consolation goal for the Swiss from a corner just before the hour. 

Morocco 3, Spain 0 

Achraf Hakimi calmly converted a penalty to send Morocco through to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time with a 3-0 shootout win over former champions Spain after a cagey last-16 clash ended goalless on Tuesday. 

Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou saved spot-kicks from Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets after Pablo Sarabia had hit the post and Spanish-born Hakimi held his nerve to earn his team a quarter-final against either Portugal or Switzerland. 

Morocco became only the fourth African nation to reach the last eight of the tournaments, 12 years after Ghana did so in South Africa. 

After a scrappy match finished deadlocked at 0-0 after extra time with few shots on target, Morocco fed off the raucous support of their red-clad supporters in the shootout as Spain crumbled. 

Spain enjoyed more than 75% of possession and completed almost 800 passes but Morocco caused problems for them on the counterattack and goalkeeper Unai Simon made some good saves. 

It was the fourth time Spain have been knocked out of the World Cup on penalties and the second in a row. 

Brussels Approves Groundbreaking Import Ban on Goods Linked to Deforestation

Companies exporting products like chocolate, timber and palm oil will soon face tough new European Union regulations to ensure these goods aren’t linked to deforestation. The measures are a first for Europe and the world — and may set a global precedent.

Environmentalists are hailing the groundbreaking legislation endorsed by the European Union early Tuesday. It will, however, need to be formally passed by the EU’s parliament and member states, a move likely to occur early next year. 

European Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz called the measure a crucial step forward in protecting the environment and Europe’s green commitments. 

The draft law targets imports of goods like coffee, cocoa, meat, palm oil and soy, which are linked to deforestation. Companies will need to show where and when these items were produced, and verify they weren’t grown on land deforested after 2020. 

“I think it can’t be understated how groundbreaking this law is,” Jahnz said. “It’s really the first of its kind in the world.”

“There’ll be a direct impact from it,” said John Hyland, a Brussels-based spokesman for the European Unit of Greenpeace. “It will stop some chainsaws and bulldozers clearing forests and it will stop companies profiting from deforestation in Europe.”

But Hyland also said the legislation has drawbacks. Environmentalists consider its definition of forest degradation to be weak, allowing logging industries, for example, to continue cutting down trees in many places. Green groups say they hope the restrictions will be widened to include other crucial ecosystems like wetlands and savannas. 

Greenpeace said it believes the measure may prompt other countries and companies to adopt similar due-diligence standards. 

“All these companies that want to sell in Europe — which is a huge market — they’ll be forced to collect this information,” said Hyland. “And once they’re collecting this information, other countries — it’s much easier for them to ask for this information too. And companies will want to have their competitors brought up to the same standard they are as well.” 

Deforestation is a massive and alarming problem worldwide — especially in the Amazon and Congo basin where the forests are crucial for fighting climate change.

The United Nations estimates the world has lost 420 million hectares of forest over the past three decades.

Officers Who Defended Capitol from Trump Supporters Honored

Law enforcement officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 were honored Tuesday with Congressional Gold Medals nearly two years after they fought supporters of then-President Donald Trump in a brutal and bloody attack.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the “heroes” as she opened the ceremony in the the stately Capitol Rotunda, which was overrun that day when Trump supporters roamed the halls trying to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election.

In bestowing Congress’ highest honor, Pelosi praised the heroes for “courageously answering the call to defend our democracy in one of the nation’s darkest hours.”

To recognize the hundreds of officers who were at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the medals will be placed in four locations — at U.S. Capitol Police headquarters, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Capitol and the Smithsonian Institution. President Joe Biden said when he signed the legislation last year that a medal will be placed at the Smithsonian museum “so all visitors can understand what happened that day.”

The ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda comes as Democrats, just weeks away from losing their House majority, race to finish a nearly 18-month investigation of the insurrection. Democrats and two Republicans conducting the probe have vowed to uncover the details of the attack, which came as Trump tried to overturn his election defeat and encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell” in a rally just before the congressional certification.

Awarding the medals is among Pelosi’s last ceremonial acts as she prepares to step down from leadership. When the bill passed the House more than a year ago, she said the law enforcement officers from across the city defended the Capitol because they were “the type of Americans who heard the call to serve and answered it, putting country above self.”

“They enabled us to return to the Capitol,” and certify Biden’s presidency, she said then, “to that podium that night to show the world that our democracy had prevailed and that it had succeeded because of them.”

Dozens of the officers who fought off the rioters sustained serious injuries. As the mob of Trump’s supporters pushed past them and into the Capitol, police were beaten with American flags and their own guns, dragged down stairs, sprayed with chemicals and trampled and crushed by the crowd. Officers suffered physical wounds, including brain injuries and other lifelong effects, and many struggled to work afterward because they were so traumatized.

Four officers who testified at a House hearing last year spoke openly about the lasting mental and physical scars, and some detailed near-death experiences.

Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges described foaming at the mouth, bleeding and screaming as the rioters tried to gouge out his eye and crush him between two heavy doors. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who rushed to the scene, said he was “grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country.” Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said a large group of people shouted the N-word at him as he was trying to keep them from breaching the House chamber.

At least nine people who were at the Capitol that day died during and after the rioting, including a woman who was shot and killed by police as she tried to break into the House chamber and three other Trump supporters who suffered medical emergencies. Two police officers died by suicide in the days that immediately followed, and a third officer, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed and later died after one of the rioters sprayed him with a chemical. A medical examiner determined he died of natural causes.

Several months after the attack, in August 2021, the Metropolitan Police announced that two more of their officers who had responded to the insurrection had died by suicide. The circumstances that led to their deaths were unknown.

The June 2021 House vote to award the medals won widespread support from both parties. But 21 House Republicans voted against it — lawmakers who had downplayed the violence and stayed loyal to Trump. The Senate passed the legislation by voice vote, with no Republican objections.

Pelosi, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell attended the ceremony and awarded medals. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee also attended.

The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow, has been handed out by the legislative branch since 1776. Previous recipients include George Washington, Sir Winston Churchill, Bob Hope and Robert Frost. In recent years, Congress has awarded the medals to former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who became a leading advocate for people struggling with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and biker Greg LeMond.

Signing the bill at the White House last year, Biden said the officers’ heroism cannot be forgotten.

The insurrection was a “violent attempt to overturn the will of the American people,” and Americans have to understand what happened, he said. “The honest and unvarnished truth. We have to face it.”

 

Unsubstantiated Price Hikes Upped US Drug Spending $805 Million in 2021

Price increases among seven out of 10 drugs in 2021 are behind an $805 million increase in U.S. spending from the year before and were not supported by clinical evidence, an influential U.S. pricing research firm said on Tuesday. 

The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) said the spending increase in 2021 was less than the $1.67 billion rise in the previous year. This is the third year the group has looked at the top 250 drugs by spending and assessed if those driving U.S. spending increases were justified.

“Last year, a huge part of the (increase in) spending was all one drug … this year, we saw the increase was more spread out across different drugs,” ICER’s Chief Medical Officer David Rind told Reuters. 

In 2020, Abbvie’s rheumatoid arthritis therapy Humira led to an almost $1.4 billion increase in U.S. drug spending, accounting for more than 80% of the total increase. 

Rind said Humira dropped off the list of the 10 costliest prescription drugs because its net price hike was lower in 2021. Since there was no single drug that drove the increase in spending this year, the rise is also relatively smaller compared with 2020, he added. 

Bausch Health’s Xifaxan, an antibiotic drug for traveler’s diarrhea, led to an increase of nearly $175 million in spending, among the highest this year. 

Johnson & Johnson’s schizophrenia therapy Invega Sustenna and Amgen’s osteoporosis drug Prolia followed closely with spending increases of $170 million and $124 million, respectively. 

The three drugmakers did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. 

President Joe Biden’s signature Inflation Reduction Act will allow the government to choose 10 drugs to negotiate the prices of from among the 50 costliest drugs for Medicare, the government health care program for people age 65 and older or disabled, starting in 2026. 

Al Jazeera Takes Slain Journalist’s Case to ICC

TV network Al Jazeera submitted the case of slain journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to the International Criminal Court on Tuesday, saying she was killed by Israeli forces.

The Qatar-based channel said it had “unearthed new evidence” on the death of the Palestinian-American, shot while covering an Israel army raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank on May 11.

Any person or group can file a complaint to the ICC prosecutor for investigation, but The Hague-based court is under no obligation to take on such cases.

Al Jazeera said its submission highlighted “new witness evidence and video footage (that) clearly show that Shireen and her colleagues were directly fired at by the Israeli Occupation Forces.”

“The claim by the Israeli authorities that Shireen was killed by mistake in an exchange of fire is completely unfounded,” the channel said.

An AFP journalist saw a lawyer representing Al Jazeera’s case entering the ICC’s headquarters to hand over their submission.

The ICC last year launched a probe into war crimes in the Palestinian territories, but Israel is not an ICC member and disputes the court’s jurisdiction.

The Israeli army conceded on September 5 that one of its soldiers had likely shot Abu Akleh after mistaking her for a militant. Israel said it would not cooperate with any external probe into Abu Akleh’s death.

“No one will investigate IDF (Israeli military) soldiers, and no one will preach to us about morals in warfare, certainly not Al Jazeera,” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement.

‘Complete cover-up’

The veteran reporter, who was a Christian, was wearing a bulletproof vest marked “Press” and a helmet when she was shot in the head in the Jenin refugee camp, a historic flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Her niece, Lina Abu Akleh, urged the ICC to investigate the journalist’s death.

“The evidence is overwhelmingly clear; we expect the ICC to take action,” she told a press conference in The Hague, adding that they had asked for a meeting with prosecutor Karim Khan.

“My family still doesn’t know who fired that deadly bullet and who was in the chain of command that killed my aunt.”

Lawyer Rodney Dixon said there had been a “complete cover-up” by Israel over Abu Akleh’s death.

He alleged that her killing was part of a “systematic and widespread campaign” against Al Jazeera by Israel that included the bombing of a Gaza building housing Al Jazeera’s office last year.

“There’s a clear attempt to shut Al Jazeera down and silence it,” Dixon said at the news conference. “We are hopeful that there will now be justice for Shireen.”

Dixon said they had not yet had a formal meeting with the prosecutor’s office but had handed over evidence, including some on memory sticks, to the ICC’s evidence unit.

After receiving complaints from individuals or groups, the ICC prosecutor decides independently what cases to submit to judges at the court.

Judges decide whether to allow a preliminary investigation by the prosecutor, which can then be followed by a formal investigation, and if warranted, charges.

In the majority of cases such complaints do not lead to investigations, according to the ICC.

Ukrainian Community in Indiana Bands to Help Motherland

According to the U.S. census, there are over a million Americans of Ukrainian descent. They are a diverse group, but Russia’s war on Ukraine has brought many of them together. Iryna Matviichuk visited one small group in Indiana, in this story narrated by Anna Rice.

Colorado Suspect Formally Charged for LGBTQ Club Shooting that Killed Five

The suspect accused of killing five people inside a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub last month before patrons stopped the attack was formally charged on Tuesday with murder, hate crimes and assault. 

The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, appeared for a hearing in El Paso District Court where the charges against the 22-year-old were read. Aldrich has been held without bond since the November 19 rampage at Club Q in Colorado Springs. In addition to the five people killed, 22 others suffered gunshot wounds or other injuries. 

Aldrich, who was clad in body armor, stormed the club armed with a rifle and handgun and opened fire indiscriminately, police and witnesses said. 

Those killed were identified as Kelly Loving, 40; Daniel Aston, 28; Derrick Rump, 38; Ashley Paugh, 34; and Raymond Green Vance, 22. 

Two men with military backgrounds subdued Aldrich until police arrived. A former Army major and decorated Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, Richard Fierro, told reporters that he disarmed Aldrich and pistol-whipped him into submission. 

In his booking photo, Aldrich appeared battered, with face and neck bruises apparently sustained when beaten by the bar’s patrons. 

The other man credited with subduing Aldrich, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas James, said in a written statement that he just wanted “to save the family I found.” 

Although authorities have not publicly identified a motive, the Colorado shooting was reminiscent of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, where a gunman killed 49 people before police shot him dead. 

If convicted of first-degree murder, Aldrich faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. 

Colorado no longer has a death-penalty statute. However, Aldrich could face a death sentence in federal court if prosecutors decide to charge him with crimes under the U.S. code, which still has capital punishment on its books for certain crimes. 

Lawyers assigned to represent Aldrich from the Colorado public defender’s office have said in court filings that their client identifies his gender as nonbinary and prefers “they” and “them” pronouns. 

District Attorney Michael Allen said after Aldrich’s initial court appearance on November 23 that the suspect’s gender identity would have no bearing on how the case would be prosecuted. 

Aldrich was previously arrested in June 2021 in Colorado Springs after the suspect had threatened to detonate a bomb and harm their mother with multiple weapons, according to a news release from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. 

 

Georgia Voters Are Set to Decide the Final Senate Contest in the Country

Georgia voters on Tuesday are set to decide the final Senate contest in the country, choosing between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican football legend Herschel Walker after a four-week runoff blitz that has drawn a flood of outside spending to an increasingly personal fight.

This year’s runoff has lower stakes than the two in 2021, when victories by Warnock and fellow Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff gave Democrats control of the Senate. The outcome of Tuesday’s contest will determine whether Democrats have an outright 51-49 Senate majority or control a 50-50 chamber based on Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote.

The runoff brings to a close a bitter fight between Warnock, the state’s first Black senator and the senior minister of the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached, and Walker, a former University of Georgia football star and political novice who has waged his bid in the mold of former President Donald Trump.

A victory for Warnock would solidify Georgia’s status as a battleground heading into the 2024 presidential election. A win for Walker, however, could be an indication that the Democratic gains in the state might be somewhat limited, especially given that Georgia Republicans swept every other statewide contest last month.

In that election, Warnock led Walker by about 37,000 votes out of almost 4 million cast but fell shy of a majority, triggering the second round of voting. About 1.9 million votes already have been cast by mail and during early voting, an advantage for Democrats whose voters more commonly cast ballots this way. Republicans typically fare better on voting done on Election Day, with the margins determining the winner.

Last month, Walker, 60, ran more than 200,000 votes behind Republican Gov. Brian Kemp after a campaign dogged by intense scrutiny of his past, meandering campaign speeches and a bevy of damaging allegations, including claims that he paid for two former girlfriends’ abortions — accusations that Walker has denied.

Warnock, whose victory in 2021 was in a special election to serve out the remainder of GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term, sounded a confident note Monday during a packed day of campaigning. He predicted that he had convinced enough voters, including independents and moderate Republicans who supported Kemp, that he deserves a full term.

“They’ve seen that I will work with anybody that helps me to do good work for the people of Georgia,” said the 53-year-old senator. “I think they’re going to get this right. They know this race is about competence and character.”

Walker campaigned Monday with his wife, Julie, greeting supporters and offering thanks rather than his usual campaign speech and full-throated attacks on Warnock.

“I love y’all, and we’re gonna win this election,” he said at a winery in Ellijay, comparing it to championships he won as an athlete. “I love winning championships.”

Warnock’s campaign has spent about $170 million on the campaign, far outpacing Walker’s nearly $60 million, according to their latest federal disclosures. But Democratic and Republican party committees, along with other political action committees, have spent even more.

The senator has paired his push for bipartisanship with an emphasis on his personal values, buoyed by his status as senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. And, beginning with the closing stretch before the November 8 general election, Warnock added withering takedowns of Walker, using the football star’s rocky past to argue that the political newcomer was “not ready” and “not fit” for high office.

Walker, who used his athletics fame to coast to the GOP nomination, has sought to portray Warnock as a yes-man for President Joe Biden. Walker has sometimes made the attack in especially personal terms, complete with accusing Warnock of having his “back bent” and “being on his knees, begging” at the White House — a searing charge for a Black challenger to level against a Black senator about his relationship with a white president.

A multimillionaire businessman, Walker has inflated his philanthropic activities and business achievements, including claiming that his company employed hundreds of people and grossed tens of millions of dollars in sales annually, even though later records indicate he had eight employees and averaged about $1.5 million a year. He has suggested that he’s worked as a law enforcement officer and said he graduated college, though he has done neither.

Walker was also forced to acknowledge during the campaign that he had fathered three children out of wedlock whom he had never before spoken about publicly — in direct conflict with Walker’s yearslong criticism of absentee fathers and his calls for Black men, in particular, to play an active role in their kids’ lives.

His ex-wife has detailed violent acts, saying Walker once held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. Walker has never denied those specifics and wrote of his violent tendencies in a 2008 memoir that attributed the behavior to mental illness.

Warnock has countered with his individual Senate accomplishments, touting a provision he sponsored to cap insulin costs for Medicare patients while reminding voters that Republicans blocked his larger idea to cap those costs for all insulin-dependent patients. He hailed deals on infrastructure and maternal health care forged with Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, mentioning those GOP colleagues more than he did Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer or other Democrats in Washington.

After the general election, Biden, who has struggled with low approval ratings, promised to help Warnock in any way he could, even if it meant staying away from Georgia. Bypassing the president, Warnock decided instead to campaign with former President Barack Obama in the days before the runoff election.

For his part, Walker was endorsed by Trump but avoided campaigning with him until the campaign’s final day: The pair conducted a conference call Monday with supporters, according to a Republican National Committee spokesperson.

Walker’s candidacy is the GOP’s last chance to flip a Senate seat this year. Dr. Mehmet Oz of Pennsylvania, Blake Masters of Arizona, Adam Laxalt of Nevada and Don Bolduc of New Hampshire, all Trump loyalists, already lost competitive Senate races that Republicans once considered part of their path to a majority.

Walker has differentiated himself from Trump in a notable way. Trump has spent two years falsely claiming that his loss in Georgia and nationally was fraudulent, despite the fact that numerous federal and local officials, a long list of courts, top former campaign staffers and even his own attorney general have all said there is no evidence of the fraud he alleges.

At his lone debate against Warnock in October, Walker was asked whether he’d accept the results even if he lost. He replied with one word: “Yes.”

Kirstie Alley, Emmy-Winning ‘Cheers’ Star, Dies at 71

Kirstie Alley, who won an Emmy for her role on “Cheers” and starred in films including “Look Who’s Talking,” died Monday. She was 71. 

Alley died of cancer that was only recently discovered, her children True and Lillie Parker said in a post on Twitter. Alley’s manager Donovan Daughtry confirmed the death in an email to The Associated Press. 

“As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother,” her children’s statement said. 

She starred opposite Ted Danson as Rebecca Howe on “Cheers,” the beloved NBC sitcom about a Boston bar, from 1987 to 1993. She joined the show at the height of its popularity after the departure of original star Shelley Long. 

Alley would win an Emmy for best lead actress in a comedy series for the role in 1991. She would take a second Emmy for best lead actress in a miniseries or television movie in 1993 for playing the title role in the CBS TV movie “David’s Mother.” 

She had her own sitcom on the network, “Veronica’s Closet,” from 1997 to 2000. 

In the 1989 comedy “Look Who’s Talking,” which gave her a major career boost, she played the mother of a baby whose inner thoughts were voiced by Bruce Willis. She would also appear in the 1990 sequel “Look Who’s Talking Too.” 

John Travolta, her co-star in both films, paid her tribute in an Instagram post. 

“Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had,” Travolta said, along with a photo of Alley. “I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again.” 

She would play a fictionalized version of herself in the 2005 Showtime series “Fat Actress,” a show that drew comedy from her public and media treatment over her weight gain and loss. 

And in recent years she appeared on several reality shows, including “Dancing With the Stars.” 

A native of Wichita, Kansas, Alley attended Kansas State University before dropping out and moving to Los Angeles. 

Her first television appearances were as a game show contestant on “The Match Game” in 1979 and Password” in 1980. 

She made her film debut in 1982’s “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.”

Biden to Visit Arizona Computer Chip Facility

U.S. President Joe Biden is traveling to Arizona on Tuesday to visit a computer chip facility, underscoring the Grand Canyon state’s position in the emerging U.S. semiconductor ecosystem.

Biden will visit a Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) plant in north Phoenix. He will tour the plant and deliver remarks celebrating his economic plan and the “manufacturing boom” it has caused, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Monday’s briefing.

TSMC is the world’s largest contract manufacturer of semiconductor chips.

In August, Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, legislation aimed at countering China’s massive subsidies to its chip industry. It includes about $52 billion in funding for U.S. companies for the manufacturing of chips, which go into technology like smartphones, electric vehicles, appliances and weapons systems.

 

Arizona is among the states trying to attract federal funding.

The president will be on hand in Phoenix to celebrate the TSMC plant’s “first tool-in,” which is the moment when a building is ready for manufacturing equipment to move in.

Projects in the region are creating thousands of new jobs including the TMSC facility in north Phoenix, the technology firm Intel expanding southeast of the city and suppliers from around the world moving in.

A 3,700-square-meter cleanroom at nearby Arizona State University in Tempe is helping to meet the workforce demands of Arizona’s burgeoning semiconductor sector. There, students, companies and startups work on hardware innovations.

With 30,000 engineering students, Arizona State is home to the country’s largest college of engineering and a driver in meeting next-generation demand.

“Chips and Science Act is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is the moment. This is the moment to build out capabilities, infrastructure, expertise,” Kyle Squires, dean of engineering schools at Arizona State University, told VOA recently. “We’re bringing this capability back into the U.S. You’ve got to have a workforce ready to engage it.”

VOA’s Michelle Quinn contributed to this report.

Belarus Opposition Figure Returned to Prison After Surgery

Maria Kolesnikova, a prominent member of the Belarusian opposition serving an 11-year prison sentence for helping stage anti-government protests, was taken back to prison after undergoing an operation for a perforated ulcer, her father said Monday. 

Alexander Kolesnikov was able to visit his daughter for about 10 minutes and found her weak but “her mood is good and she even tried to smile,” he told The Associated Press. 

Maria Kolesnikova, 40, has been in custody since September 2020 when she tore up her passport at the border to prevent her forced expulsion from Belarus amid massive protests challenging the reelection of the country’s authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko. 

She was convicted in September 2021 on charges of conspiring to seize power, creating an extremist organization and calling for action that threatened the security of the state. 

Belarus was shaken by massive protests after the disputed August 2020 reelection of Lukashenko, which the opposition and the West denounced as a rigged sham. Authorities responded to the demonstrations with a massive crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police. 

Kolesnikova helped coordinate opposition protests and resisted authorities’ attempts to force her to leave the country. When officers of the Belarusian security agency drove her to the border with Ukraine in September 2020 to forcibly expel her, she ripped up her passport and walked back into Belarus to face arrest. 

 

Pakistan: Russia to Sell ‘Discounted’ Petroleum Products to Islamabad

Pakistan said Monday that Russia had decided to export crude oil, gasoline and diesel to the South Asian nation at discounted prices.

Deputy Minister for Petroleum Musadik Malik shared the details at a news conference in Islamabad after visiting Moscow last week where he met with his Russian counterparts.

“An inter-governmental delegation ed by Russian energy minister will visit Pakistan next month and we will try to firm up all the details I have shared with you so we can sign the agreement to buy crude oil, petrol and diesel at a discounted rate,” Malik said.

He did not share specifics such as the discount offered by Moscow or how soon Islamabad would be able to import Russian petroleum products.

“The discounted rate will be the same as the rate being offered to other countries in the world,” Malik asserted.

The minister said his talks “turned out to be more productive than expected” and they were driven by Pakistan’s “national interest” requiring the government to overcome domestic energy shortages from all possible sources.

Malik said Pakistan was also interested in buying liquefied natural gas, or LNG, but that Russian state-owned companies’ supplies of the product are tight at present.

“Russia is in the process of installing new production units and has invited Pakistan to initiate talks on long-term contracts to buy LNG,” he said. Malik added that Russian officials also arranged his delegation’s talks with private companies in Moscow on importing LNG.

There were no immediate comments from Moscow on possible energy deals with Pakistan.

Pakistan has struggled to meet its LNG supply needs as its gas reserves shrink by as much as 10% a year. The county’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves have constrained its ability to purchase fossil fuels from abroad.

Meanwhile, Malik said neighboring Iran had decided to donate nearly a million kilograms of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in “humanitarian aid” to Pakistan this winter. “It will reach the country within the next 10 days,” he said. 

 

Sale Jumpstarts Floating, Offshore Wind Power in US Waters

Tuesday marks the first-ever U.S. auction of leases to develop commercial-scale floating wind farms in the deep waters off the West Coast.

The live, online auction for the five leases — three off California’s central coast and two off its northern coast — has attracted strong interest and 43 companies from around the world are approved to bid. The wind turbines will float roughly 25 miles offshore.

The growth of offshore wind comes as climate change intensifies and the need for clean energy grows. It also is getting cheaper. The cost of developing offshore wind has dropped 60% since 2010 according to a July report by the International Renewable Energy Agency. It declined 13% in 2021 alone.

Offshore wind is well established in the U.K. and some other countries but is just beginning to ramp up off America’s coasts, and this is the nation’s first foray into floating wind turbines. Auctions so far have been for those anchored to the seafloor.

Europe has some floating offshore wind — a project in the North Sea has been operating since 2017 — but the potential for the technology is huge in areas of strong wind off America’s coasts, said Josh Kaplowitz, vice president of offshore wind at the American Clean Power Association.

“We know that this works. We know that this can provide a huge slice of our electricity needs, and if we’re going to solve the climate crisis we need to put as many clean electrons online as we can, particularly given increases in load demand with electric vehicles,” he said. “We can reach our greenhouse gas goals only with offshore wind as part of the puzzle.”

Similar auctions are in the works off Oregon’s coast next year and in the Gulf of Maine in 2024. President Joe Biden set a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 using traditional technology that secures wind turbines to the ocean floor, enough to power 10 million homes. Then the administration announced plans in September to develop floating platforms that could vastly expand offshore wind in the United States.

The California sale is designed to promote a domestic supply chain and create union jobs. Bidders can convert part of their bids into credits that benefit those affected by the wind development — local communities, tribes and commercial fishermen.

As envisioned, the turbines — possibly nearly as tall as the Eiffel Tower — will float on giant triangular platforms roughly the size of a small city block or buoyant cylinders with cables anchoring them underwater.

They’ll each have three blades longer than the distance from home plate to the outfield on a baseball diamond, and will need to be assembled onshore and towed, upright, to their open-ocean destination.

Modern tall turbines, whether on or offshore, can produce more than 20 times more electricity than shorter machines, say, from the early 1990s.

As for visibility, “in absolutely perfect conditions, crystal clear on the best days, at the highest point, you might be able to see small dots on the horizon,” said Larry Oetker, executive director of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Conservation and Recreation District, which has been preparing its deep-water port for the projects.

Offshore wind is a good complement to solar energy, which shuts down at night. Winds far out to sea are stronger and more sustained and also pick up in the evening, just when solar is going offline yet demand is high, said Jim Berger, a partner at the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright who specializes in financing renewable energy projects.

California has a 2045 goal of carbon neutrality. But “when the sun goes down, we’re relying more on fossil fuel generation,” Berger said. “These projects are huge so when you add a project or a couple projects, you’re adding significantly to the power generation base in the state,” he said.

The lease areas have the potential to generate 4.5 gigawatts of energy, enough for 1.5 million homes, and could bring big changes to communities in the rural coastal regions nearest the leases.

But some are also wary of the projects, despite favoring a transition to clean energy.

Environmentalists are concerned about the impacts on threatened and endangered whales, which could become entangled in the cables that will anchor the turbines. There are also concerns about birds and bats colliding with the turbine blades and whales being struck by vessels towing components to the site. Federal regulators have set a boating speed limit for the project of less than 12 mph to address that concern, said Kristen Hislop, senior director of the marine program at the Environmental Defense Center.

Tribes in the vast coastal regions also worry about damage to their ancestral lands from turbine assembly plants and transmission infrastructure. They fear that the farms will be visible on clear days from sacred prayer spots high in the mountains.

USS Arizona Survivor: Honor Those Killed at Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona sailor Lou Conter lived through the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor even though his battleship exploded and sank after being pierced by aerial bombs.

That makes the now 101-year-old somewhat of a celebrity, especially on the anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, assault. Many call him and others in the nation’s dwindling pool of Pearl Harbor survivors heroes.

Conter rejects the characterization.

“The 2,403 men that died are the heroes. And we’ve got to honor them ahead of everybody else. And I’ve said that every time, and I think it should be stressed,” Conter said in a recent interview at his Grass Valley, California, home north of Sacramento.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Navy and the National Park Service will host a remembrance ceremony at Pearl Harbor in honor of those killed.

Last year about 30 survivors and some 100 other veterans of the war made the pilgrimage to the annual event. But the U.S. Navy and the National Park Service anticipate one or two survivors will likely attend in person this year. Another 20 to 30 veterans of World War II are also expected to be there.

Conter won’t be among them. He attended for many years, most recently in 2019. But his doctor has told him the five-hour flight, plus hours of waiting at airports, is too strenuous for him now.

“I’m going on 102 now. It’s kind of hard to mess around,” Conter said.

Instead, he plans to watch a video feed of this year’s 81st anniversary observance from home. He’s also recorded a message that will be played for those attending.

Conter’s autobiography “The Lou Conter Story” recounts how one of the Japanese bombs penetrated five steel decks on the Arizona and ignited more than 1 million pounds of gunpowder and thousands of pounds of ammunition.

“The ship was consumed in a giant fireball that looked as if it engulfed everything from the mainmast forward,” he wrote.

He joined other survivors who were tending to the injured, many of whom were blinded and badly burned. The sailors only abandoned ship when their senior surviving officer was sure they had rescued all those still alive.

The Arizona’s 1,177 dead account for nearly half the servicemen killed in the bombing. The battleship today sits where it sank 81 years ago, with more than 900 of its dead still entombed inside.

Conter wasn’t injured at Pearl Harbor, during World War II or the Korean War.

This year’s remembrance ceremony is the first to be open to the public since the 2019 ceremony. The pandemic forced the adoption of strict public health measures for the last two years.

David Kilton, the National Park Service’s chief of interpretation for Pearl Harbor, said he’s not sure how many people will attend but they’re anticipating between 2,000 to 3,000 people.

It will be held at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial visitors center, which overlooks the water and the white structure built to honor those killed on the Arizona.

Organizers have set a theme of “Everlasting Legacy” for this year’s ceremony, highlighting how fewer and fewer survivors remain.

“We honestly have to know and be prepared that eventually we won’t have the ability to connect with their stories and have them with us anymore,” Kilton said. “And it’s hard to come to grips with that reality.”

Conter went to flight school after Pearl Harbor, earning his wings to fly PBY patrol bombers, which the Navy used to look for submarines and bomb enemy targets. He flew 200 combat missions in the Pacific with a “Black Cats” squadron, which conducted dive bombing at night in planes painted black.

One night in 1943, he and his crew had to avoid a dozen or so nearby sharks after they were shot down near New Guinea.

When one sailor expressed doubt that they would survive, Conter responded “baloney.”

“Don’t ever panic in any situation. Survive is the first thing you tell them. Don’t panic or you’re dead,” he said. They were quiet and treaded water until another plane came and dropped them a lifeboat hours later.

In the late 1950s, he was made the Navy’s first SERE officer — which is an acronym for survival, evasion, resistance and escape. He spent the next decade training Navy pilots and crew on how to survive if they’re shot down in the jungle and captured as a prisoner of war. Some of his pupils used his instruction to live through years as POWs in Vietnam.

These days, he spends his time going to his favorite breakfast spot twice a week and going out for Mexican food every Friday night. He enjoys visiting with friends and watching TV.

Conter hasn’t forgotten his shipmates. He said he’d like the military to try to identify 85 Arizona sailors who were buried as unknowns in a Honolulu cemetery after the war.

“They should never give up on that issue. If they’re ever identified, I’m sure their families would want to bury them at home or wherever, but they should never give up on trying to identify them,” he said.

Brussels Reopens Painful Page With Start of Trial Over 2016 Terror Attacks

Belgium reopened a painful chapter in its recent history Monday, as the trial opened for alleged conspirators in the 2016 terror attacks around Brussels that killed 32 people and wounded hundreds more.

Ten men stand accused of involvement in the March 2016 suicide bombings at the Brussels airport and a metro station — attacks authorities blamed on the Islamic State militant group.

Those on trial allegedly directed or aided the attacks, in which two homemade bombs exploded at the airport and another in a packed subway station.

The three suicide bombers died, along with nearly three dozen victims from a raft of different countries.

Five of the defendants also stood trial in Paris over the 2015 attacks in the French capital that killed 130 people. Among them is Salah Abdeslam, now serving life in prison as one of the Paris assailants.

The Paris and Brussels attacks — which investigators believe were authored by the same Belgium-based terrorist cell — count among the deadliest of a spate of Islamist terrorist assaults around Europe a few years ago.

At the trial’s opening Monday, defendant Mohamed Abrini complained of being humiliated by the security measures that he described as state vengeance. He warned the defendants might remain silent during this trial in response.

Valerie Gerard, a lawyer for Life4Brussels victims association, said the trial stirred up painful memories. She said some association members wanted to assist and even testify at the trial; others want nothing to do with it.

Also grueling, she said, were the tangled procedures for the victims to get compensation for the attacks.

The spate of terror attacks in Europe a few years ago has given way to other crises — including COVIC-19 and now the war in Ukraine. The trial’s hearings may take up to eight months, with a jury deciding on the verdict.

FIFA to Probe Conduct of Serbian Team, Fans at World Cup

World soccer’s governing body, FIFA, has announced a probe into alleged misconduct by Serbian players, team officials, and fans during Serbia’s World Cup loss to Switzerland last week.

The investigation, which was announced on Monday, comes after complaints from the Football Association of Kosovo about offensive chants against two Swiss players who have ethnic Albanian roots and family ties to Kosovo. Serbia was eliminated from the tournament in the 3-2 defeat on December 2.

A statement from FIFA said its disciplinary committee has opened proceedings against the Football Association of Serbia “due to potential breaches of articles 12 (misconduct of players and officials), 13 (discrimination) and 16 (order and security at matches) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code” related to incidents during the match.

It is the second time that FIFA has launched disciplinary proceedings against the Serbian team during the 2022 World Cup. The first occurred after a flag showing Kosovo as part of Serbia allegedly was displayed in the Serbian locker room after the match on November 26 with Brazil.

Serbian team manager Dragan Stojkovic, speaking at a news conference Monday after the national team returned from Qatar, said he had no comment on the latest actions by FIFA.

The Football Association of Kosovo had complained to FIFA about the alleged incidents, judging them to be nationalistic.

“It’s good that FIFA dealt with this and that it took it seriously,” Agim Ademi, the president of the Football Association of Kosovo, told RFE/RL.

The Football Association of Serbia and the Serbian Sports Ministry did not respond to RFE/RL’s request for comment about the disciplinary charges.

The Football Association of Kosovo had demanded a reaction from FIFA, due to “severe insults by the coach of Serbia and racist actions of Serbian fans” during the match against Switzerland, which was captained by Granit Xhaka, and in which Xherdan Shaqiri scored the opening goal. Both players have roots in Kosovo.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovar sovereignty more than a decade after the mostly ethnic Albanian province declared independence. Kosovo has been a member of FIFA and UEFA, soccer’s European governing body, since 2016.

FIFA’s announcement said that “racist calls against Albanians were heard during the entire match” and “slogans with political messages” were also heard.

Several Serbian players also encroached onto the field when the referee didn’t use a video review to study a claim for a penalty kick in the second half.

FIFA gave no timetable for the disciplinary case. Any punishments could apply when Serbia next plays competitive games in March in a European Championship qualifying group.

The Football Association of Kosovo demanded investigation and sanctions against the Football Association of Serbia “so that once and for all fascist chants disappear from football stadiums and events such as the World Cup.”

The association said in a statement that teams and fans “with behavior and a philosophy of hatred should not have a place at such important sports events as the World Cup in Qatar.”

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press.

EU Slaps Oil Embargo on Russia With Price Cap, Uncertain Impact

A European Union embargo against maritime shipments of crude oil from Russia went into effect Monday, along with a price cap agreed to by the Group of Seven leading industrialized economies and Australia. 

Targeting seaborne deliveries that make up two-thirds of the EU’s crude imports from Russia, the embargo counts among a raft of steadily tougher EU sanctions against Moscow for its war in Ukraine. Some analysts call it Europe’s most significant step to date in reducing its dependency on Russian energy — which is helping fund the war.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced the oil embargo in early May, as the weather was becoming warmer, and chances of an energy crunch seemed far away. 

“This sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin. We know who you are. We will hold you accountable. You’re not getting away with this. Putin must pay a price — a high price — for his brutal aggression,” she said. 

Now, as winter sets in, European governments are warning of possible energy shortages — especially since Moscow has sharply curbed exports of its all-important gas.

Thierry Bros, an energy expert and professor at Sciences Po University in Paris, summed up the challenge facing Europe: “We have to think about how can we hurt Russia in a way that hurts us less than Russia.”

The EU previously enacted a less significant coal embargo against Moscow. Along with this new oil embargo, Western nations set a $60-a-barrel price cap for Russian crude exports, hoping to enforce it by requiring the mostly Western-based shipping insurers and others in the industry to abide by it.

Bros is among those who have voiced skepticism.  

“Because it’s [oil] a fungible commodity like coal, Russia has the ability to reroute this to Asia and provide it as a discount to India and the Chinese. So, the oil embargo is going to be difficult for us as Europeans, and the oil product embargo is going to be even more difficult,” Bros said.

This coming February, Brussels also enforces a ban against refined Russian oil products such as gas, jet fuel and diesel. Some believe it may prove more effective in hurting Russia’s pocketbook. But Bros points to shortfalls. For example, he said, European vehicles still depend on Russian diesel. Finding alternatives may not be so easy.  

Meanwhile, critics suggest there may be wiggle room for cheaters to flout the new crude oil embargo. The $60 cap for Russia’s crude is also controversial for a mix of reasons. Some believe it’s too high.  

“I’m very worried that we democracies are trying to fiddle free markets. … Once you do this, you’re putting a risk on free markets. I think it’s wrong to do this,” Bros said.  

Russian oil exports to the EU have already fallen sharply this year. Moscow, however, has earned more from its overall oil exports than last year, largely because prices have risen since the start of the war in Ukraine.  

 

Arizona Certifies 2022 Election Despite Republican Complaints

Arizona’s top officials certified the midterm election results Monday, formalizing victories for Democrats over Republicans who falsely claimed the 2020 election was rigged.

The certification opens a five-day window for formal election challenges. Republican Kari Lake, who lost the race for governor, is expected to file a lawsuit after weeks of criticizing the administration of the election.

Election results have largely been certified without issue around the country, but Arizona was an exception. Several Republican-controlled counties delayed their certification despite no evidence of problems with the vote count. Cochise County in southeastern Arizona blew past the deadline last week, forcing a judge to intervene on Friday and order the county supervisors to certify the election by the end of the day.

“Arizona had a successful election,” Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said before signing the certification. “But too often throughout the process, powerful voices proliferated misinformation that threatened to disenfranchise voters.”

The statewide certification, known as a canvass, was signed by Hobbs, Republican Governor Doug Ducey, Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, a Ducey appointee.

When the same group certified the 2020 election, Ducey silenced a call from then-President Donald Trump, who was at the time in a frenetic push to persuade Republican allies to go along with his attempts to overturn the election he lost.

“This is a responsibility I do not take lightly,” Ducey said. “It’s one that recognizes the votes cast by the citizens of our great state.”

Republicans have complained for weeks about Hobbs’ role in certifying her own victory over Lake in the race for governor, though it is typical for election officials to maintain their position while running for higher office. Lake and her allies have focused on problems with ballot printers that produced about 17,000 ballots that could not be tabulated on site and had to be counted at the elections department headquarters.

Lines backed up in some polling places, fueling Republican suspicions that some supporters were unable to cast a ballot, though there’s no evidence it affected the outcome. County officials say everyone was able to vote and all legal ballots were counted.

Hobbs planned to immediately petition the Maricopa County Superior Court to begin an automatic statewide recount required by law in three races decided by less than half a percentage point. The race for attorney general was one of the closest contests in state history, with Democrat Kris Mayes leading Republican Abe Hamadeh by just 510 votes out of 2.5 million cast.

The races for superintendent of public instruction and a state legislative seat in the Phoenix suburbs will also be recounted, but the margins are much larger.

Once a Democratic stronghold, Arizona’s top races went resoundingly for Democrats after Republicans nominated a slate of candidates backed by Trump who focused on supporting his false claims about the 2020 election. In addition to Hobbs and Mayes, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly was reelected and Democrat Adrian Fontes won the race for attorney general.

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