Biden and Putin to Discuss Ukraine in Rare Video Call

U.S. President Joe Biden will speak Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin via video call, amid what appears to be a Russian troop buildup along the Ukrainian border, raising fears of a Russian invasion. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from the White House.

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US, Russian Presidents to Hold Virtual Summit Tuesday Amid Rising Tensions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden will hold a high-stakes virtual summit with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Tuesday amid a massive buildup of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border. 

President Biden is expected to make a series of diplomatic overtures to President Putin in an effort to de-escalate the situation, along with clear warnings of likely sanctions if Russian troops invade its smaller neighbor and former Soviet republic. 

WATCH: US and Russia leaders to meet 

Administration officials say Moscow has launched a massive cyberspace disinformation campaign against Ukraine’s government that echoes Russia’s 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea. The U.S. intelligence community released a document last week that concluded that Putin is planning to deploy as many 175,000 troops along the Ukrainian border as soon as January as part of a multifront invasion.

Putin is expected to issue an oft-repeated demand that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO, the seven decade-old military alliance between the United States and the nations of Western Europe, which Biden will likely reject. For his part, Biden is expected to threaten to cut Russia off from SWIFT, the international financial payments system. 

The U.S. has provided a vast array of military support to Ukraine, but administration officials say the U.S. will not deploy combat troops to Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion.

Biden hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the White House in September, and  assured him that the U.S. was “firmly committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression.” 

On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited troops in the eastern Donetsk region and said his forces were capable of fending off a Russian offensive.  

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Gambia Police Disperse Protesters Contesting President’s Re-election

Gambian police fired tear gas on Monday to disperse supporters of losing presidential candidate Ousainou Darboe as they took to the streets outside the capital Banjul to contest the re-election of President Adama Barrow. 

Hundreds of protesters had gathered in the community of Serekunda, 12 kilometers (7 miles) from Banjul, the day after Darboe and two other candidates said they would not accept Barrow’s resounding win in Saturday’s peaceful voting. 

Police intervened with tear gas when the crowd started scuffling with supporters of Barrow, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene. 

Later on, Monday, police broke up another protest of Darboe supporters near his house in Serekunda using tear gas. A witness saw some police beating protesters, before the crowd dispersed. 

The office of the Inspector General of Police said it was concerned about gatherings turning violent. 

“Without restraint, any form of post-electoral violence will jeopardize our legacy for tolerance, maturity and peacefulness. This Office therefore, strongly urges all Gambians to remain calm,” a police statement said. 

The election is a test of stability and democratic progress in the tiny West African country of 2.5 million people. They hope it will help draw a line under the oppressive 22-year rule of former president Yahya Jammeh, who lost to Barrow in 2016 and was forced into exile. 

Earlier on Monday, Essa Mbye Faal accepted defeat, backtracking from his earlier announcement that he would reject the results because of alleged problems at polling stations and other issues. 

“I have called Adama Barrow for his electoral victory,” he said, without explaining his change of heart. “I told my supporters that we have lost the elections and we should accept the will of God.” 

The two remaining hold-out candidates have not said how they will proceed. They have cited allegations of problems at polling stations and other issues and said on Sunday that “all actions are on the table.” 

Election observers from the African Union said the election was conducted in line with international standards, while EU observers praised the transparency of the voting and counting process. 

However, in its statement, the EU observer mission criticized the Independent Electoral Commission, saying its pre-election candidate acceptance process was overly opaque. 

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Nigeria Criticizes British Travel Ban Imposed Due to Omicron

The British government suspended visa applications from Nigeria on Monday in a move sparked by the omicron variant of the coronavirus. 

London’s travel ban on Nigeria took effect at 4 a.m. Monday, according to a statement from the UK’s Nigeria country office. UK authorities said the ban was deemed essential after 21 cases of the new variant were reported in travelers from Nigeria. 

UK citizens and residents traveling from Nigeria will be allowed re-entry but must isolate in a government-managed facility, the statement said. 

During a television interview on Sunday, Nigeria’s health minister Osagie Ehanire criticized the travel ban. 

He noted that the move contradicted the World Health Organization’s position that countries must collaborate and not shut their borders as a result of the new variant. 

“The rationale for being so hasty in putting countries on a red list is not something that is very helpful,” Ehanire said. “It’s going to disrupt commerce, family reunions, goods and services, particularly at this time of the year towards the Christmas festivities.” 

Nigeria announced three cases of the omicron variant last Wednesday, but the UK’s discovery of more cases in Nigerian travelers raised concerns about the possibility of undetected transmission in the country. 

However, Ehanire says that does not warrant a travel ban just yet. 

“We regularly get travelers coming in from the UK who are covid positive,” he said. “In fact, within the last two weeks, the COVID-positive arrivals that we had were 50 percent from the UK. There’s genetic sequencing going on, we shall have the result soon. We don’t know how many of them are necessarily omicron variant.” 

The omicron variant has spread to nearly 50 countries, and experts say the variant spreads more than twice as quickly as the delta variant. But scientists are not sure of omicron’s impact, and whether it causes the same numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.

Nigerian Justin Chukwemeka, who was scheduled to fly to the UK this week to reunite with his family, says the new travel ban is devastating.

“This whole development is new and it’s actually going to cause a lot of discomfort in different areas, financially, mentally and all that. I’m just hoping and believing that this doesn’t last long,” he said.

UK authorities say the ban will stay in place for three weeks before they review whether the measures are necessary.

 

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Thousands Protest Sudan’s October Coup

Thousands of Sudanese demonstrators rallied in the capital, Khartoum, and other parts of the country Monday to protest the country’s October military coup. 

Demonstrators said police fired tear gas to disperse protesters marching near the presidential palace. 

The Associated Press reported that protests also took place Monday in cities outside the capital, including Kassala, Sennar and Port Sudan. 

Sudan’s military took power on October 25, arresting dozens of officials in the country’s transitional government. It was the second coup in the country since a popular uprising in April 2019 forced the removal of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir. 

Sudan’s top general, Abdel Fattah Burhan, initially detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok but was forced to reinstate him in November following mass protests and international condemnation of the coup. 

Sudan’s pro-democracy movement has rejected the deal that put Hamdok back in the prime minister seat, saying a fully civilian government should be in power. 

Protest organizers said Monday they were demonstrating with the slogan “No negotiations, no compromise, no power-sharing” with the military. 

In other developments Monday, the Sudan Doctors Committee said the death toll from fighting over the weekend in Sudan’s western Darfur region climbed to 48. The tribal violence took place in the Kreinik area. Darfur has seen decades of instability and rebellion. 

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse. 

 

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Emmett Till Investigation Closed by Feds; No New Charges

The U.S. Justice Department said Monday it is ending its investigation into the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, the Black teenager from Chicago who was abducted, tortured and killed after witnesses said he whistled at a white woman in Mississippi. 

The announcement came after the head of the department’s civil rights division and other officials met with several of Till’s relatives. 

Till’s family members said they were disappointed there will continue to be no accountability for the infamous killing, with no charges being filed against Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman accused of lying about whether Till ever touched her. 

“Today is a day we will never forget,” Till’s cousin, the Rev. Wheeler Parker, said during a news conference in Chicago. “For 66 years we have suffered pain. … I suffered tremendously.” 

The killing galvanized the civil rights movement after Till’s mother insisted on an open casket, and Jet magazine published photos of his brutalized body. 

The Justice Department reopened the investigation after a 2017 book quoted Donham as saying she lied when she claimed that 14-year-old Till grabbed her, whistled and made sexual advances while she was working in a store in the small community of Money. Relatives have publicly denied that Donham, who is in her 80s, recanted her allegations about Till. 

Donham told the FBI she had never recanted her accusations and there is “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she lied to the FBI,” the Justice Department said in a news release Monday. Officials also said that historian Timothy B. Tyson, the author of 2017’s “The Blood of Emmett Till,” was unable to produce any recordings or transcripts in which Donham allegedly admitted to lying about her encounter with the teen. 

“In closing this matter without prosecution, the government does not take the position that the state court testimony the woman gave in 1955 was truthful or accurate,” the Justice Department release said. “There remains considerable doubt as to the credibility of her version of events, which is contradicted by others who were with Till at the time, including the account of a living witness.” 

Tyson did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment Monday. 

Thelma Wright Edwards, one of Till’s cousins, said she was heartbroken but not surprised that no new charges are being brought. 

“I have no hate in my heart, but I had hoped that we could get an apology, but that didn’t happen,” Edwards said Monday in Chicago. “Nothing was settled. The case is closed, and we have to go on from here.” 

Days after Till was killed, his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, where it had been tossed after being weighted down with a cotton gin fan. 

Two white men, Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam, were tried on murder charges about a month after Till was killed, but an all-white Mississippi jury acquitted them. Months later, they confessed in a paid interview with Look magazine. Bryant was married to Donham in 1955.

The Justice Department in 2004 opened an investigation of Till’s killing after it received inquiries about whether charges could be brought against anyone still living. The department said the statute of limitations had run out on any potential federal crime, but the FBI worked with state investigators to determine if state charges could be brought. In February 2007, a Mississippi grand jury declined to indict anyone, and the Justice Department announced it wasclosing the case. 

Bryant and Milam were not brought to trial again, and they are now both dead. Donham has been living in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

The FBI in 2006 began a cold case initiative to investigate racially motivated killings from decades earlier. A federal law named after Till allows a review of killings that had not been solved or prosecuted to the point of a conviction. 

The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act requires the Justice Department to make an annual report to Congress. No report was filed in 2020, but a report filed in June of this year indicated that the department was still investigating the abduction and killing of Till.

The FBI investigation included a talk with Parker, who previously told the AP in an interview that he heard his cousin whistle at the woman in a store in Money, Mississippi, but that the teen did nothing to warrant being killed. 

 

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Nobel Prizes Awarded in Pandemic-Curtailed Local Ceremonies

Three 2021 Nobel Prize laureates said Monday that climate change is the biggest threat facing the world — yet they remain optimistic — as this year’s winners began receiving their awards at scaled-down local ceremonies adapted for pandemic times. 

For a second year, COVID-19 has scuttled the traditional formal banquet in Stockholm attended by winners of the prizes in chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and economics, which were announced in October. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded separately in Oslo, Norway. 

Literature laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah was first to get his prize in a lunchtime ceremony Monday at the Swedish ambassador’s grand Georgian residence in central London.

Ambassador Mikaela Kumlin Granit said the U.K.-based Tanzanian author had been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.” 

“Customarily you would receive the prize from the hands of His Majesty, the king of Sweden,” she told Gurnah at the ceremony attended by friends, family and colleagues. “However, this year you will be celebrated with a distance forced upon us because of the pandemic.” 

Gurnah, who grew up on the island of Zanzibar and arrived in England as an 18-year-old refugee in the 1960s, has drawn on his experiences for 10 novels, including “Memory of Departure,” “Pilgrims Way,” “Afterlives” and “Paradise.” He has said migration is “not just my story — it’s a phenomenon of our times.” 

Italian physics laureate Giorgio Parisi was receiving his prize at a ceremony in Rome. U.S.-based physics laureate Syukuro Manabe, chemistry laureate David W.C. MacMillan and economic sciences laureate Joshua D. Angrist will be given their medals and diplomas in Washington. 

MacMillan, German physics prize winner Klaus Hasselmann and economics prize winner Guido Imbens, who is Dutch but lives in the United States, had a joint virtual news conference Monday where they were asked what they consider the biggest problem facing humanity and what they worry about most. All three answered climate change, with Imbens calling it the world’s “overarching problem.” 

“Climate change is something which is clearly going to have a large impact on society,” MacMillan said. “But at the same time given the science, given the call to arms amongst scientists, I really feel more optimism. And I feel there’s a real moment happening with scientists moving towards trying to solve this problem.” 

“I would bet on that fact that we would solve this problem,” MacMillan said. 

Hasselmann, whose work on climate change won him the prize, said he’s more hopeful because the world’s youth and movements like Fridays for the Future “have picked up the challenge and are getting across the message to the public that we have to act and respond to the problem.”

Hasselmann said he’s more optimistic now about climate change than 20 or 30 years ago. 

Imbens said he also is disturbed that misinformation, especially about COVID-19 and vaccines, is splitting society apart. He recalled growing up in the Netherlands and nearly everyone agreed on the need for the polio vaccine. 

“And yet, here we don’t seem to have found a way of making these decisions that we can all live with,” Imbens said. “And that’s clearly made it much harder to deal with the pandemic.” 

More ceremonies will be held throughout the week in Germany and the United States. On Friday — the anniversary of the death of prize founder Albert Nobel — there will be a celebratory ceremony at Stockholm City Hall for a local audience, including King Carl XVI Gustav and senior Swedish royals. 

A Nobel Prize comes with a diploma, a gold medal and a $1.5 million (10-million krona) cash award, which is shared if there are multiple winners. 

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo because Nobel wanted it that way, for reasons he kept to himself. A ceremony is due to be held there Friday for the winners — journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia. 

The Norwegian news agency NTB said the festivities would be scaled down, with fewer guests and participants required to wear face masks. Norway has seen an uptick in cases of the new omicron variant, and a spokesman for the Norwegian Nobel Committee told NTB it was “in constant contact with the health authorities in Oslo.” 

 

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US Remembers Pearl Harbor on 80th Anniversary of Attack

“December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy,” is how then-U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt described the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the American naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii. 

Tuesday marks the 80th anniversary of the surprise strike on the U.S. Pacific Fleet that killed more than 2,400 service members and civilians, wounded about 1,000 people, and damaged or destroyed almost 20 ships and more than 300 aircraft in less than two hours.

The next day, Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, and the lawmakers approved the move.

Just three days later, Germany and Italy, Japan’s allies, declared war on the U.S. The U.S. reciprocated, entering World War II, which had been raging in Europe for more than two years.

Approximately 150 World War II veterans, including about 40 survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, are attending a ceremony of remembrance Tuesday at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Hawaii. The 80th National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration will include a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the exact time the attack began. 

It will be held in person for the first time since 2019. Last year’s event was virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s event will also be livestreamed. 

Survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack are now in their late 90s or older. 

Many of the veterans arrived in Hawaii on Friday from Dallas, Texas, on a plane chartered for the occasion. The ABC News affiliate in Dallas, WFAA, spoke to the veterans at the airport in the city.

Navy veteran Lieutenant Commander Cass Phillips, a 101-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor, told the outlet, “I was 21 at that time.”

John Pildner said that he was in the Army before he could even vote, from 1944 to 1946. “If I could do it again, I would,” he added. 

Also on Tuesday, the U.S. military is reburying the remains of service personnel killed when the USS Oklahoma was attacked in Pearl Harbor, following a yearslong project to identify their remains. The burials will be in Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

The Pentagon project identified nearly 400 service members from the ship with the help of DNA technology and dental records, leaving the remains of only 33 people from the ship not individually identified, according to a report in The Washington Post. 

The Oklahoma was sunk during the attack, which was carried out by a Japanese force that included 353 aircraft, 35 submarines, two battleships and 11 destroyers, according to a U.S. census report. 

“I encourage all Americans to reflect on the courage shown by our brave warriors that day and remember their sacrifices,” U.S. President Joe Biden said earlier this month in a National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day proclamation. “I ask us all to give sincere thanks and appreciation to the survivors of that unthinkable day.” 

 

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