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Blinken Reassures Ukrainians Amid Threat of Russian Invasion

20
Jan,2022

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On a visit to Kyiv, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reassured the people of Ukraine that the United States stands with them in the face of a potentially imminent Russian invasion. After meeting with Ukraine’s foreign minister Wednesday, Blinken spoke with VOA in Kyiv about the U.S. diplomatic effort to calm the situation. VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports.

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Blinken Reassures Ukrainians Amid Russian Invasion Threat

20
Jan,2022

0

On a visit to Kyiv, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reassured the people of Ukraine that the United States stands with them in the face of a potentially imminent Russian invasion. After meeting with Ukraine’s foreign minister Wednesday, Blinken spoke with VOA in Kyiv about the U.S. diplomatic effort to calm the situation. VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports.

Producer: Rob Raffaele.

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Teen Pilot One Stop from Finishing Round-the-world Solo Flight

19
Jan,2022

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A 19-year-old British-Belgian pilot landed her plane on Wednesday at an airstrip near Frankfurt, Germany, one stop away from becoming the youngest woman to fly around the world solo.

Zara Rutherford told reporters she wanted to “sleep for a week” after she climbed out of the single-seat Shark ultralight aircraft at Egelsbach airfield a few kilometers from Frankfurt. If all goes as planned, Rutherford will land Thursday in Kortrijk, Belgium, where her journey began August 18. 

The nearly 51,500-kilometer journey took her across the Atlantic Ocean, over Iceland and Greenland, and into New York City. Down the U.S. East Coast and the Caribbean to Columbia then back up through Central America and up the U.S. West Coast to Alaska and across the Bering Strait to Russia, south to South Korea, Indonesia, India, the Mideast and back to Europe.

The trip was all the more challenging as she flew without the aid of flight instruments or a pressurized cabin. 

Weather, minor equipment issues and visa problems in Asia set her back from her schedule by several days. But at this point, Rutherford told reporters she is glad to be almost done.

She said her big goal is to use her experience to encourage other young women to go into flying or study science, technology and mathematics “and other fields they might not have thought about.” 

Rutherford plans to go to college next September in either Britain or the United States to study engineering.

If she lands in Belgium as planned Thursday, Rutherford will have broken a record set by American aviator Shaesta Waiz, who was 30 when she set the existing record for the youngest woman to circumnavigate the world solo in 2017. 

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters. 

 

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Ukraine: What We Know 

19
Jan,2022

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Russia’s buildup of an estimated 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, along with military exercises in Belarus, has raised concern that Russia could be planning an invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s positions include troops, tanks and artillery to Ukraine’s north, south and east.

Until 1991, Ukraine was part of the Russia-led Soviet Union. Current tensions with Russia date to 2014, when Russia invaded and seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, a move not recognized by the European Union or United States. Russia has also backed separatists who control a swath of territory bordering Russia in eastern Ukraine. 

Recent meetings with Russia involving the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe yielded little tangible result as Ukraine’s allies called for Russia to de-escalate the situation. 

Russia has dismissed allegations of a planned invasion and has sought certain security guarantees, including that NATO will not expand further along its border such as by admitting Ukraine to the Western military alliance. The U.S. and NATO have rejected such requests, saying NATO has an open-door policy and Ukraine is free to make its own decisions about joining alliance. 

Western allies of Ukraine have pledged to punish Russia with harsh economic sanctions if it does make an assault on Ukrainian territory. 

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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На міжбанку зупинився обвал гривні

19
Jan,2022

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Six Dead, 17 Injured in Spain Nursing Home Fire

19
Jan,2022

0

Fire officials in Spain say six nursing home residents died and at least 17 were injured in a fire at a retirement home in a suburb of Valencia early Wednesday.

The Valencia regional fire department said the fire started late Tuesday at a publicly-owned senior residence in the town of Moncada, about 12 kilometers north of Valencia. The fire department said on Twitter it took two hours to bring the fire under control. Several area fire departments responded.

Valencia fire chief Jose Bassett told Spanish media flames and smoke affected an entire wing of the residence, He said officials believe the fire has started in a room on the first floor, where two residents were found dead.

Fire fighters say about 25 of the at least 70 residents of the facility had to be rescued. Regional health officials say five the victims died at the scene and a sixth died at the hospital. They say at last 17 residents were hospitalized with injuries, two of them in serious condition.

Bassett said officials believe a faulty electrical mechanism with an oxygen tank may have started the fire, but the exact cause is under investigation.

Moncada city officials called for a moment of silence and three days of mourning for those who died in the fire.  

Spanish President Pedro Sanchez tweeted he heard news of the fire and expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased and his concern for the injured.

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press and Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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Blinken Visits Ukraine as He Urges Russia to De-escalate Border Tensions

19
Jan,2022

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Kyiv for talks Wednesday with Ukrainian leaders as part of what he called a “diplomatic effort to de-escalate tensions surrounding unprovoked Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders.” 

The stop in Kyiv includes meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as well as visiting with personnel at the U.S. Embassy. 

“We are now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine,” a senior State Department official told reporters during a call briefing on Tuesday, adding that the United States continues to “prepare for a different outcome” if Moscow does decide to pursue further military aggression against Ukraine.  

Russia has continued its troop buildup and its harsh rhetoric against Ukraine, moving Russian forces into Belarus over the weekend.  

“Diplomacy is not dead,” the senior State Department official said, adding that “the U.S. side believes the only way to solve this conflict successfully is through diplomacy.”

Wednesday’s visit to Ukraine is the first leg of a quickly arranged trip that will take Blinken to Berlin on Thursday to meet with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock “to discuss recent diplomatic engagements with Russia and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine,” the State Department said. 

Blinken is then set to urge Russia to “take immediate steps to de-escalate” tensions along the border as he meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday. 

Blinken spoke with Lavrov on Tuesday to stress “the importance of continuing a diplomatic path to de-escalate tensions surrounding the deeply troubling Russian military buildup in and near Ukraine,” the State Department said in a statement about the conversation.    

“The secretary reiterated the unshakable U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and underscored that any discussion of European security must include NATO Allies and European partners, including Ukraine,” the statement added.       

The buildup of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops along Ukraine’s eastern border has raised fears that Moscow is planning military action against its neighbor, which was once part of the Russian-led Soviet Union.  Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.      

Blinken’s trip follows talks in Geneva last week between Russian and U.S. officials aimed at settling differences over Ukraine and other security issues. No progress was reported. 

Russia has demanded guarantees that Ukraine will never join NATO.      

Last week, the Biden administration accused Moscow of preparing a “false flag operation” for use as a ploy for intervention in Ukraine, a charge Russia has angrily denied.       

A U.S. delegation visited Kyiv on Monday to show support for Ukraine amid the standoff with Russia.      

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, told VOA’s Ukrainian Service, “We have Democrats and Republicans of very different political views here to say we stand with Ukraine. And if Vladimir Putin chooses to take this treacherous anti-democratic path of invading this country, there will be severe and swift sanctions.”          

U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer, a Republican, told VOA, “The United States won’t just sit idly by and be a bystander if something happens. What we would like to do is prevent it from happening. We want to be a deterrent. We want to be part of the solution before fighting commences.”    

Chris Hannas contributed to this report. Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press. 

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Нафта подорожчала до максимуму за 7 років

19
Jan,2022

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Felony Charges Are a First in Fatal Crash Involving Autopilot

19
Jan,2022

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California prosecutors have filed two counts of vehicular manslaughter against the driver of a Tesla on Autopilot who ran a red light, slammed into another car and killed two people in 2019.

The defendant appears to be the first person to be charged with a felony in the United States for a fatal crash involving a motorist who was using a partially automated driving system. Los Angeles County prosecutors filed the charges in October, but they came to light only last week. 

The driver, Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, has pleaded not guilty. Riad, a limousine service driver, is free on bail while the case is pending. 

The misuse of Autopilot, which can control steering, speed and braking, has occurred on numerous occasions and is the subject of investigations by two federal agencies. The filing of charges in the California crash could serve notice to drivers who use systems like Autopilot that they cannot rely on them to control vehicles.

The criminal charges aren’t the first involving an automated driving system, but they are the first to involve a widely used driver technology. Authorities in Arizona filed a charge of negligent homicide in 2020 against a driver Uber had hired to take part in the testing of a fully autonomous vehicle on public roads. The Uber vehicle, an SUV with the human backup driver on board, struck and killed a pedestrian. 

By contrast, Autopilot and other driver-assist systems are widely used on roads across the world. An estimated 765,000 Tesla vehicles are equipped with it in the United States alone.

In the Tesla crash, police said a Model S was moving at a high speed when it left a freeway and ran a red light in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena and struck a Honda Civic at an intersection on December 29, 2019. Two people who were in the Civic, Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez, died at the scene. Riad and a woman in the Tesla were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

Criminal charging documents do not mention Autopilot. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which sent investigators to the crash, confirmed last week that Autopilot was in use in the Tesla at the time of the crash.

Riad’s defense attorney did not respond to requests for comment last week, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to discuss the case. Riad’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 23. 

‘Automation complacency’

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been reviewing the widespread misuse of Autopilot by drivers, whose overconfidence and inattention have been blamed for multiple crashes, including fatal ones. In one crash report, the NTSB referred to its misuse as “automation complacency.”

The agency said that in a 2018 crash in Culver City, California, in which a Tesla hit a firetruck, the design of the Autopilot system had “permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task.” No one was hurt in that crash. 

Last May, a California man was arrested after officers noticed his Tesla moving down a freeway with the man in the back seat and no one behind the steering wheel.

Teslas that have had Autopilot in use also have hit a highway barrier or tractor-trailers that were crossing roads. NHTSA has sent investigation teams to 26 crashes involving Autopilot since 2016, involving at least 11 deaths.

Messages have been left seeking comment from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations department. Since the Autopilot crashes began, Tesla has updated the software to try to make it harder for drivers to abuse it. The company also tried to improve Autopilot’s ability to detect emergency vehicles.

Tesla has said that Autopilot and a more sophisticated Full Self-Driving system cannot drive themselves and that drivers must pay attention and be ready to react at any time. Full Self-Driving is being tested by hundreds of Tesla owners on public roads in the U.S. 

Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who studies automated vehicles, said this is the first U.S. case to his knowledge in which serious criminal charges were filed in a fatal crash involving a partially automated driver-assist system. Tesla, he said, could be “criminally, civilly or morally culpable” if it is found to have put a dangerous technology on the road. 

Donald Slavik, a Colorado lawyer who has served as a consultant in automotive technology lawsuits, including many against Tesla, said he, too, is unaware of any previous felony charges being filed against a U.S. driver who was using partially automated driver technology involved in a fatal crash. 

Lawsuits against Tesla, Riad

The families of Lopez and Nieves-Lopez have sued Tesla and Riad in separate lawsuits. They have alleged negligence by Riad and have accused Tesla of selling defective vehicles that can accelerate suddenly and that lack an effective automatic emergency braking system. A joint trial is scheduled for mid-2023. 

Lopez’s family, in court documents, alleges that the car “suddenly and unintentionally accelerated to an excessive, unsafe and uncontrollable speed.” Nieves-Lopez’s family further asserts that Riad was an unsafe driver, with multiple moving infractions on his record, and couldn’t handle the high-performance Tesla. 

Separately, NHTSA is investigating a dozen crashes in which a Tesla on Autopilot ran into several parked emergency vehicles. In the crashes under investigation, at least 17 people were injured, and one person was killed.

Asked about the manslaughter charges against Riad, the agency issued a statement saying there is no vehicle on sale that can drive itself. And whether or not a car is using a partially automated system, the agency said, “every vehicle requires the human driver to be in control at all times.” 

NHTSA added that all state laws hold human drivers responsible for the operation of their vehicles. Though automated systems can help drivers avoid crashes, the agency said, the technology must be used responsibly.

Rafaela Vasquez, the driver in the Uber autonomous test vehicle, was charged in 2020 with negligent homicide after the SUV fatally struck a pedestrian in suburban Phoenix in 2018. Vasquez has pleaded not guilty. Arizona prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against Uber. 

 

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Why Did Russian Troops Go to Kazakhstan?

19
Jan,2022

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Russia Moves More Troops Westward Amid Ukraine Tensions

19
Jan,2022

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Russia is a sending an unspecified number of troops from the country’s far east to Belarus for major war games, officials said Tuesday, a deployment that will further beef up Russian military assets near Ukraine amid Western fears of a planned invasion. 

Amid the soaring tensions, the White House warned that Russia could attack its neighbor at “any point,” while the United Kingdom delivered a batch of anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. 

Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said the joint drills with Belarus would involve practicing a joint response to external threats.

Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine from several directions, including from its ally Belarus.

The United States again stressed its concern Tuesday, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki describing the Russian forces’ move into Belarus as part of an “extremely dangerous situation.” 

“We’re now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine,” she said. 

A series of talks last week between Russia, the U.S. and NATO failed to quell the tensions over Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday in another attempt to defuse the crisis. 

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday it has received a shipment of anti-tank weapons from the U.K., noting that they will help “strengthen our defense capability.”

Russia already has started moving troops for the war games in Belarus. Fomin said it would take through February 9 to fully deploy weapons and personnel for the Allied Resolve 2022 drills, which are expected to take place February 10-20.

Fomin didn’t say how many troops will be involved but mentioned that Russia will deploy a dozen Su-35 fighter jets and several air defense units to Belarus. The deployment would bolster an estimated 100,000 Russian troops with tanks and other heavy weapons who are already amassed near Ukraine. 

WATCH: Why Did Russian Troops Go to Kazakhstan?

Russia has denied an intention to attack its neighbor but demanded guarantees from the West that NATO will not expand to Ukraine or other ex-Soviet nations or place its troops and weapons there. Washington and its allies firmly rejected Moscow’s demands during Russia-U.S. negotiations in Geneva and a related NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels last week. 

Fomin said the drills in Belarus, which involve an unspecified number of troops from Russia’s Eastern Military District, reflect the need to practice concentrating the country’s entire military potential in the west. 

“A situation may arise when forces and means of the regional group of forces will be insufficient to ensure reliable security of the union state, and we must be ready to strengthen it,” Fomin said at a meeting with foreign military attaches. “We have reached an understanding with Belarus that it’s necessary to engage the entire military potential for joint defense.” 

Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, said the joint maneuvers will be conducted on Belarus’ western border and also in the country’s south, where it borders Ukraine. Lukashenko, who has edged increasingly close to Russia amid Western sanctions over his government’s crackdown on domestic protests, has recently offered to host Russian nuclear weapons. 

A senior Biden administration official said the Russian troop deployment to Belarus raises concerns that Moscow may be planning to stage troops there in order to stretch thin Ukraine’s defenses with an attack from the north. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues, noted that the movement may also indicate Belarus’ willingness “to allow both Russian conventional and nuclear forces to be stationed on its territory.” 

Amid the tensions, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday it was speeding up efforts to form reserve battalions that would allow for the rapid deployment of 130,000 recruits to expand the country’s 246,000-strong military.

The United States and its allies have urged Russia to de-escalate the situation by calling back the troops amassed near Ukraine.

“In recent weeks, more than 100,000 Russian troops with tanks and guns have gathered near Ukraine without an understandable reason, and it’s hard not to understand that as a threat,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters Tuesday after talks in Moscow with her Russian counterpart, Lavrov. 

Lavrov responded by restating Moscow’s argument that it’s free to deploy its forces wherever it considers necessary on its territory. 

“We can’t accept demands about our armed forces on our own territory,” Lavrov said. “We aren’t threatening anyone, but we are hearing threats to us.” 

Baerbock emphasized that the West was ready “for a serious dialogue on mutual agreements and steps to bring everyone in Europe more security.” 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Tuesday. He said “the main task now is to make progress on the political way forward” to prevent a military attack against Ukraine. 

“NATO allies are ready to meet with Russia again, and today I have invited Russia and all the NATO allies to attend a series of meetings in the NATO-Russia Council in the near future to address our concerns but also listen to Russia’s concerns,” Stoltenberg said.

He added that NATO “in the near future” will deliver its written proposals in response to Russian demands and “hopefully we can begin meeting after that.”

“We need to see what Russia says, and that will be a kind of pivotal moment,” the NATO chief said.

Lavrov, meanwhile, reaffirmed that Russia wants a quick Western answer to its demand for security guarantees that would preclude NATO’s expansion to Ukraine and limit its presence in Eastern Europe. He repeated that in a phone conversation with Blinken, who will visit Ukraine on Wednesday and meet with Lavrov on Friday. 

Speaking on a visit Tuesday to Ukraine, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly denounced the Russian troop buildup as unacceptable. She noted Canada’s efforts to help train Ukraine’s military, adding that it’s currently considering Ukraine’s demand to provide it with military equipment and will make “a decision in a timely manner.” 

Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 after the ouster of Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly leader and also threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency that took over large sections in eastern Ukraine. More than 14,000 people have been killed in nearly eight years of fighting there. 

 

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US Airlines, Telecom Carriers Feuding Over Rollout of 5G Technology

19
Jan,2022

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Major U.S. air carriers are warning that the country’s “commerce will grind to a halt” if Verizon and AT&T go ahead with plans to deploy their new 5G mobile internet technology on Wednesday.

The airlines say the new technology will interfere with safe flight operations. 

The dispute between two major segments of the U.S. economy has been waged for months in Washington regulatory agencies, with the airline industry contending that the mobile carriers’ technology upgrade could disrupt global passenger service and cargo shipping, while the mobile carriers claim the airlines failed to upgrade equipment on their aircraft to prevent flight problems.

The new high-speed 5G mobile service uses a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to that used by altimeters — devices in cockpits that measure the height of aircraft above the ground. 

AT&T and Verizon argue that their equipment will not interfere with aircraft electronics and that the technology is being safely used in many other countries. 

In a letter Monday to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, chief executives at Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines and seven other passenger and cargo carriers protested the mobile carriers’ plan to roll out their upgraded service on Wednesday. 

While the Federal Aviation Administration previously said it would not object to deployment of the 5G technology because the mobile carriers said they would address safety concerns, the airline executives said aircraft manufacturers have subsequently warned them that the Verizon and AT&T measures were not sufficient to allay safety concerns.

The mobile companies said they would reduce power at 5G transmitters near airports, but the airlines have asked that the 5G technology not be activated within 3.2 kilometers of 50 major airports. 

The airline executives contended that if the 5G technology is used, “Multiple modern safety systems on aircraft will be deemed unusable. Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded.” 

The airline industry executives argued that “immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies.” 

After the airlines’ latest protests, AT&T said Tuesday it would postpone its new wireless service near some airports but did not say at how many or where. Verizon had no immediate comment. 

In a statement Monday, the FAA said it “will continue to keep the traveling public safe as wireless companies deploy 5G” and “continues to work with the aviation industry and wireless companies to try and limit 5G-related flight delays and cancellations.” 

The White House said Tuesday that the Biden administration is continuing discussions with the airline and telecommunications companies about the dispute.

Some material in this report came from The Associated Press. 

 

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US Telecom Carriers to Limit 5G Rollout Near Airports

19
Jan,2022

0

Major U.S. telecommunications companies Verizon and AT&T agreed Tuesday to delay their deployment of new 5G mobile services around key airports after airline executives contended that the technology posed safety threats to airliners.

U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement that the government’s agreement with the telecom companies would “avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery” while allowing them to deploy more than 90% of their wireless towers on Wednesday as they had planned.

“This agreement protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption,” Biden said, “and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans.”

The two telecom firms reached agreement with federal authorities after major U.S. air carriers warned Monday that the country’s commerce would “grind to a halt” if the 5G mobile technology were deployed near major airports. The White House did not say at how many airports the 5G technology is being delayed.

Biden thanked the mobile carriers for the delay and said negotiations would continue.

“My team has been engaging nonstop with the wireless carriers, airlines and aviation equipment manufacturers to chart a path forward for 5G deployment and aviation to safely coexist,” he said. “And, at my direction, they will continue to do so until we close the remaining gap and reach a permanent, workable solution around these key airports.”

The airlines say the new technology will interfere with safe flight operations, while the mobile carriers claim the airlines have known about the problem and failed to upgrade equipment on their aircraft to prevent flight problems.

The new high-speed 5G mobile service uses a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to that used by altimeters — devices in cockpits that measure the height of aircraft above the ground.

AT&T and Verizon argue that their equipment will not interfere with aircraft electronics and that technology is being safely used in many other countries.

In a letter Monday to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, chief executives at Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines and seven other passenger and cargo carriers protested the mobile carriers’ plan to roll out their upgraded service on Wednesday.

While the Federal Aviation Administration previously said it would not object to deployment of the 5G technology because the mobile carriers had pledged to address safety issues, the airline executives said aircraft manufacturers subsequently warned them that the Verizon and AT&T measures were not sufficient to allay those concerns.

The mobile companies said they would reduce power at 5G transmitters near airports, but the airlines have asked that the 5G technology not be activated within 3.2 kilometers of 50 major airports. The details of the telecoms’ pullback around airports were not immediately known.

If the 5G technology is used, the airline executives contended, “multiple modern safety systems on aircraft will be deemed unusable. Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded.”

“Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies,” the airline industry executives said.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press.

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‘Power of Siberia 2’ Pipeline Could See Europe, China Compete for Russian Gas

18
Jan,2022

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As winter bites, Europe is facing a gas shortage. A cold snap has coincided with lower volumes of gas exports from Russia, forcing a big spike in prices. Consumers and businesses across the continent are facing a steep increase in their bills, with governments scrambling to cushion the impact. And analysts warn it could soon get worse. 

 

Moscow plans to build a new pipeline to China, which could give Russia the power to sell gas to the highest bidder, pitting Chinese and European consumers against one another.

 

Chinese economy 

 

From the frozen expanses of Siberia, Russia already is sending some natural gas to China. The “Power of Siberia 1” pipeline opened in 2019, tapping the gas fields in Russia’s far east to help fuel the Chinese economy. 

 

Europe remains Russia’s largest customer by far, importing about 200 billion cubic meters of gas every year – about 30% of the continent’s supply. By comparison, China purchases about 38 billion cubic meters annually.

 

“Power of Siberia 1 uses gas that is not connected to the fields that can supply the European market. So, it’s not a question, at the moment at least, of gas from Russia going to China, being the loss of gas that could go to Europe,” explains Tom Marzec-Manser, head of gas analytics at the energy data firm Independent Commodity Intelligence Services (ICIS). 

 

‘Power of Siberia 2’ 

 

That could soon change. Moscow and Beijing are close to agreeing on a second pipeline – the “Power of Siberia 2” – which would double gas exports from Russia to China, crossing through Mongolia and into the power-hungry industrial regions near Beijing. 

 

Crucially, it also would join up Russia’s internal gas network, connecting China with the same gas fields in Russia’s Yamal peninsula that supply Europe. 

 

“It does give Gazprom – as that major exporter – the optionality to direct gas to one market over another,” Marzec-Manser told VOA. 

 

That could give Russia considerable leverage, says Filip Medunic, who leads the Task Force for Strengthening Europe Against Economic Coercion at the European Council on Foreign Relations. 

 

“Technically, it is hard to tell whether the pricing system will be designed in a way that there is going to be the possibility to sell to the highest bidder, but I think that Russia intent is definitely eyeing in this direction, to be able to use it as a leverage – at least rhetorically – in the coming decade,” Medunic told VOA. 

 

Construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which connects Russia directly with Germany, was completed last year. Certification of the pipeline is currently suspended amid tensions between the West and Moscow. 

 

“Will it make a difference? Probably not,” said Marzec-Manser. “The reality is that when Nord Stream 2 starts running commercially – and it’s not running at the moment, it is ready, it’s operable, but not operational – it will just reroute gas that is already flowing through other routes.” 

 

Sanctions 

 

In recent months, Russia has amassed upwards of 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine. The West has threatened crippling sanctions if Russia invades, including targeting its energy sector.

 

There are other incentives for Moscow to find new customers for its gas, says Marzec-Manser. “The trajectory of the European Union in particular in terms of decarbonization is that gas will have a diminishing role over the medium to long term,” he said. 

 

Olympics 

 

But navigating a new Chinese market won’t be easy for Moscow, says Medunic.

“China is well known for using its political, economic, also military posture and weight, and to be a tough negotiating partner. And [it] also is allegedly considering itself rather as the big hegemon here, and Russia as the junior partner,” Medunic said. 

 

There is speculation the deal for the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline could be signed during next month’s Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, offering a diplomatic victory for both sides. Neither Moscow nor Beijing have yet confirmed, however, that the deal will be signed. 

 

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Germany Prepared to Pay ‘High Economic Price’ to Defend Ukraine

18
Jan,2022

0

Germany says it is prepared to pay “a high economic price” in order to defend its values. Tuesday’s remark by Germany’s foreign minister came as Western nations threaten Russia with crippling sanctions if it invades Ukraine. Henry Ridgwell reports.

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Девальвація триває: долар наближається до рівня 28,5 гривні

18
Jan,2022

0