Daily: 20/11/2021

Українські прикордонники отримали два нових французьких гелікоптери Н-125 – МВС

«Відео з камер можна відразу передавати в наземний командний пункт. Це потужне посилення ДПСУ»

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Лукашенко: «Цілком можливо», що Білорусь допомагала мігрантам переходити в ЄС

Однак Лукашенко заперечив, що Мінськ спеціально запросив мігрантів, щоб спровокувати прикордонну кризу

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Europe’s COVID Crisis Pits Vaccinated Against Unvaccinated

This was supposed to be the Christmas in Europe where family and friends could once again embrace holiday festivities and one another. Instead, the continent is the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic as cases soar to record levels in many countries.

With infections spiking again despite nearly two years of restrictions, the health crisis increasingly is pitting citizen against citizen — the vaccinated against the unvaccinated.

Governments desperate to shield overburdened health care systems are imposing rules that limit choices for the unvaccinated in the hope that doing so will drive up rates of vaccinations.

Austria on Friday went a step further, making vaccinations mandatory as of Feb. 1.

“For a long time, maybe too long, I and others thought that it must be possible to convince people in Austria, to convince them to get vaccinated voluntarily,” Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said.

He called the move “our only way to break out of this vicious cycle of viral waves and lockdown discussions for good.”

While Austria so far stands alone in the European Union in making vaccinations mandatory, more and more governments are clamping down.

Starting Monday, Slovakia is banning people who haven’t been vaccinated from all nonessential stores and shopping malls. They also will not be allowed to attend any public event or gathering and will be required to test twice a week just to go to work.

“A merry Christmas does not mean a Christmas without COVID-19,” warned Prime Minister Eduard Heger. “For that to happen, Slovakia would need to have a completely different vaccination rate.”

 

He called the measures “a lockdown for the unvaccinated.”

Slovakia, where just 45.3% of the 5.5 million population is fully vaccinated, reported a record 8,342 new virus cases Tuesday.

It is not only nations of central and eastern Europe that are suffering anew. Wealthy nations in the west also are being hit hard and imposing restrictions on their populations once again.

“It is really, absolutely, time to take action,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday. With a vaccination rate of 67.5%, her nation is now considering mandatory vaccinations for many health professionals.

Greece, too, is targeting the unvaccinated. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a battery of new restrictions late Thursday for the unvaccinated, keeping them out of venues including bars, restaurants, cinemas, theaters, museums and gyms, even if they have tested negative.

“It is an immediate act of protection and, of course, an indirect urge to be vaccinated,” Mitsotakis said.

The restrictions enrage Clare Daly, an Irish EU legislator who is a member of the European parliament’s civil liberties and justice committee. She argues that nations are trampling individual rights.

“In a whole number of cases, member states are excluding people from their ability to go to work,” Daly said, calling Austria’s restrictions on the unvaccinated that preceded its decision Friday to impose a full lockdown “a frightening scenario.”

Even in Ireland, where 75.9% of the population is fully vaccinated, she feels a backlash against holdouts.

“There’s almost a sort of hate speech being whipped up against the unvaccinated,” she said.

 

The world has had a history of mandatory vaccines in many nations for diseases such as smallpox and polio. Yet despite a global COVID-19 death toll exceeding 5 million, despite overwhelming medical evidence that vaccines highly protect against death or serious illness from COVID-19 and slow the pandemic’s spread, opposition to vaccinations remains stubbornly strong among parts of the population.

Some 10,000 people, chanting “freedom, freedom,” gathered in Prague this week to protest Czech government restrictions imposed on the unvaccinated.

“No single individual freedom is absolute,” countered professor Paul De Grauwe of the London School of Economics. “The freedom not to be vaccinated needs to be limited to guarantee the freedom of others to enjoy good health,” he wrote for the liberal think tank Liberales.

That principle is now turning friends away from each other and splitting families across European nations.

Birgitte Schoenmakers, a general practitioner and professor at Leuven University, sees it on an almost daily basis.

“It has turned into a battle between the people,” she said.

She sees political conflicts whipped up by people willfully spreading conspiracy theories, but also intensely human stories. One of her patients has been locked out of the home of her parents because she dreads being vaccinated.

Schoemakers said that while authorities had long baulked at the idea of mandatory vaccinations, the highly infectious delta variant is changing minds.

“To make a U-turn on this is incredibly difficult,” she said.

Spiking infections and measures to rein them in are combining to usher in a second straight grim holiday season in Europe.

Leuven has already canceled its Christmas market, while in nearby Brussels a 60-foot Christmas tree was placed in the center of the city’s stunning Grand Place on Thursday but a decision on whether the Belgian capital’s festive market can go ahead will depend on the development of the virus surge.

Paul Vierendeels, who donated the tree, hopes for a return to a semblance of a traditional Christmas.

“We are glad to see they are making the effort to put up the tree, decorate it. It is a start,” he said. “After almost two difficult years, I think it is a good thing that some things, more normal in life, are taking place again.” 

 

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У Відні протестували проти нових COVID-обмежень

Про запровадження в Австрії повного локдауну з 22 листопада і обов’язкову вакцинацію від COVID-19 з 1 лютого 2022 року напередодні повідомив канцлер Александер Шалленберґ

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«Дія» сформує відповідну платіжну картку – Шмигаль розповів, як отримати і скористатися тисячею за вакцинацію

«Програмою зможуть скористатися через додаток або портал «Дія» ті, хто має відповідні ковідні сертифікати з двома дозами»

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Жбурляли каміння, застосували сльозогінний газ і петарди. Поліція Польщі заявляє про чергову спробу мігрантів прорватися через кордон

Загалом у п’ятницю прикордонники зафіксували 195 спроб перетину кордону за межами пунктів пропуску

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«Без проблем, звертайтеся до правоохоронців» – Шмигаль про інформацію щодо «завищених цін» на «Великому будівництві»

«Це найважливіший проєкт, який насправді дав нам змогу м’якше економічно пройти ось цей період коронакризи минулого року»

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Spain’s Ancient Practice of Resin Harvesting May Hold Key to Energy Future

Guillermo Arránz spends his days in a forest hacking into pine trees to extract what is to him, liquid gold.

Some might see it as lonely and backbreaking work, but to Arránz it brings great satisfaction. He is his own boss and spends his days enjoying nature.

Arranz is one of Spain’s resineros, or resin extractors, whose centuries-old practice involves bleeding trees of their milky sap.

This simple practice has taken on fresh importance as Spain struggles to cope without any natural source of energy. Energy analysts say pine resin might be the new petroleum.

Resin can be used to create plastics, varnishes, glues, tires, rubber, turpentine and food additives – much like petroleum.

With an estimated 18 million hectares of woodland, Spain has the largest amount of forested area in Europe after Sweden and Finland. Along with Portugal, it is the world’s third biggest producer of pine resin after China and Brazil.

Spain has been scrambling to explore alternative energy sources especially after Algeria – Spain’s main gas supplier – shut off natural gas deliveries last month through one of two undersea pipelines because of Algeria’s escalating dispute with Morocco.

The Maghreb-Europe pipeline passes through Morocco on its way to Spain. Flows through a second pipeline, the Medgaz pipeline that travels directly from Algeria to Spain, remained uninterrupted. Spanish officials, however, worried they were insufficient to stave off an energy shortage at a time when Spain is already struggling with skyrocketing fuel costs.

To find other sources of energy for the future, Spain’s government has made promoting renewable energies like solar and wind power a pillar of its policy as the world moves away from fossil fuels.

As part of this scheme, Madrid launched a plan in March to restore the economic potential of its forests.

“We must encourage forests to be well cared for and managed because they are a source of job creation and the livelihoods of millions of people around the the world depends on them,” Teresa Ribera, the third vice-president and Environment minister, said recently.

Blanca Rodriguez-Chaves Mimbrero, a law professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid specializing in the protection of natural resources, especially mountains, waters and coasts, believes Spain is well placed to make most of its pine resin which, she says, is of the highest quality in the world.

“Petroleum of the future”

“The world is looking for ways to replace petroleum which will run out probably by the middle of the century. Resin is one way,” she told VOA. “These living forests which consume emissions can provide renewable resources to substitute petroleum products.”

She notes the sticky, fragrant substance is an ingredient in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, glues, varnishes and is also used in construction.

Rodriguez-Chavez also said the pine resin industry, which only provides work for about 1,000 people at present, could help combat rural depopulation, an issue that has taken center stage in Spanish politics.

The work is intrinsically tied to villages in Castilla y Leon in northern Spain and to a lesser extent in Extremadura in the west of the country.

In the past 50 years, Spain’s countryside has lost 28% of its population, according to the National Statistics Office. Only 15% of its inhabitants live in more than half of the Spanish land area.

The Spanish government pledged $11.9 billion in March for measures to improve rural business infrastructure to reverse a trend known as España Vaciada – or “Emptied Spain,” which is also the name of a new political party.

The España Vaciada party, could command 15 seats in the 350-seat lower parliamentary chamber at the next general election in 2023, according to a recent poll for El Español, an online newspaper, possibly making its members kingmakers in a highly divided parliament.

Arránz comes from a family of resineros, who passed the knowledge of how to extract the sap down four generations from his great-grandfather.

“The job is hard work. I work eight hours a day from Monday to Friday. But it gives me a sense of freedom and I can be among nature,” he told VOA.

“The beauty of pine resin is it can be used to make many different things but it is renewable. All these trees will grow back.”

Arránz, who is vice-president of the National Resin Collectors Association, works from February to November, collecting the milky white liquid from the pine trees near his village Navas de Oro in Segovia, north of Madrid.

He collects 20,000 kilograms of resin per year but, realizing he is never going to make his fortune at this job, he supplements his income as a forest engineer.

Each kilogram sells for only $1.14 to the local companies that distill it into material usable for commercial use.

Arránz strips away the outer layer of tree bark, before nailing a plate to the trunk and a collection pot is hooked on it.

He then makes diagonal incisions into the bark and “bleeds” the trees before the resin seeps into the pot.

“It is nice to know that I am kind of farming something which is healthy and can also provide an alternative for the future,” Arránz said.

Some information in this report comes from Reuters.

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Hundreds of Kurdish Migrants Return Home From Belarus

Hundreds of Kurds who had camped along Belarus’ border for weeks were forced to return home Thursday after failing to enter the European Union. At Irbil International Airport, VOA Kurdish stringer Ahmad Zebari interviewed some of the returnees and filed this report narrated by Namo Abdulla.

Producer and camera: Ahmad Zebari.

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Two Wounded During Protest of COVID-19 Restrictions in Netherlands

Crowds of rioters in the port city of Rotterdam torched cars and threw rocks at police, who responded with bullets and water cannons, as protests against COVID-19 measures turned violent Friday night. 

“We fired warning shots and there were also direct shots fired because the situation was life-threatening,” police spokesperson Patricia Wessels told Reuters. 

“We know that at least two people were wounded, probably as a result of the warning shots, but we need to investigate the exact causes further,” she said. 

Some people on social media circulated images of someone they said had been shot by police. Police responded that they had seen the footage but did not yet know how the man was wounded. 

Several hundred people had gathered to voice opposition to government plans to restrict access to indoor venues to people who have “corona passes” showing they have been vaccinated or have recovered from an infection. 

The pass is also available to people who have not been vaccinated but have proof of a negative test. 

Police issued an emergency ordinance in Rotterdam, shutting down public transportation and ordering people to go home. Water cannons were deployed and police on horseback worked to disperse the crowds, police said. 

The authorities also called on bystanders and people who recorded images of the riots to send the footage to police for further investigation. 

The Netherlands reimposed some lockdown measures last weekend for an initial three weeks in an effort to slow a resurgence of coronavirus contagion, but daily infections have remained at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic. 

Video posted on social media showed burned out police cars and rioters throwing fireworks and rocks at police.

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В одному з найбільших міст Ірану пройшли протести через проблеми з водопостачанням

За оцінками Метеорологічної організації Ірану, 97 відсотків країни тією чи іншою мірою страждають від посухи.

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Голова фракції «Голос» прокоментував звинувачення в розтраті коштів від колишніх однопартійців

«Голос» заявила про припинення фінансування в січні 2021 року і пов’язала це з політичним тиском

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Tracking Tech Turns Theft Victims into Sleuths

Frustrated with slow or no action, some Americans are using Bluetooth trackers to retrieve stolen items themselves. It’s a risky strategy that isn’t endorsed by police and could put users in harm’s way, as VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias reports.

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Austria Imposes COVID Lockdown as Cases Surge

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced Friday the government will begin a nationwide lockdown Monday and mandate vaccinations for all, making it the first European nation to reimpose COVID-19 measures, as cases throughout the region surge.

At a news conference Friday, Schallenberg said Monday’s lockdown will be reevaluated after 10 days, but they will run a maximum of 20 days, ending automatically December 13. He also announced COVID-19 vaccinations will become mandatory beginning February 1.

The lockdown will include an all-day curfew for the entire country, though schools and kindergartens will remain open. People may leave their homes only for work, school and basic needs, which can include physical exercise or if there is a threat to their health or property.

Schallenberg told reporters substantially increasing vaccination rates “is our only way out of this vicious circle of virus waves and lockdown discussions once and for all. We don’t want a fifth wave, we don’t want a sixth and seventh wave.”

The chancellor said he understands that many people in the country are already vaccinated and also will be subject to the lockdown restrictions, which he blamed on “too many among us have shown a lack of solidarity.”

Despite months of persuasion, he said, the government had not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated. The latest figures from Europe’s Centers for Disease control show the 64.1% of Austria’s total population is fully vaccinated.

Schallenberg expressed anger at anti-vaccination campaigns that have spread misinformation about the vaccines or promote sham COVID-19 treatments.

“Personally,” he said, “I think it’s irresponsible by certain political forces to exploit this pandemic to divide society and not to put people’s health in the foreground but to endanger it.”

Other European countries also are tightening restrictions as cases surge across the continent.

The government of Hungary, which borders Austria to the east, announced Thursday it is mandating mask-wearing indoors again beginning Saturday.

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

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German Officials: Current COVID Surge Is ‘National Emergency’

German health officials said Friday the current COVID-19 situation in the country is a national emergency and called for immediate measures to be taken to mitigate the situation — including lockdowns, even for people who have been vaccinated.

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases (RKI) reported 52,970 new COVID-19 cases Friday, the third straight day new infections topped 50,000.  The infection incidence rate remains just more than 340 per 100,000.

At a news conference Friday in Berlin, RKI President Lothar Wieler did not hold back his concern, saying, “All of Germany is one big outbreak. This is a nationwide state of emergency. We need to pull the emergency brake.”

Wieler told reporters they estimate there are more than half a million active COVID cases in Germany, the highest number ever recorded. He said among children aged 5-14, the incidence rate is more 700 per 100,000.

At the same news conference, Health Minister Jens Spahn was asked if Germany would consider returning to lockdowns, as neighboring Austria has done to address its own COVID-19 situation. Spahn said, “We shouldn’t rule anything out.”  

Wieler was more emphatic, saying Germany needs to “massively reduce contact to slow down the spread of the virus. This means, for example, staying at home if possible, canceling large events, reducing the number of people at small events, closing down hotspots such as bars and poorly ventilated clubs.”

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Thursday with the governors of Germany’s 16 states, and they agreed to introduce a new threshold linked to the number of hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients per 100,000 people over a seven-day period.

Some states also are considering mandatory vaccinations for some professional groups, such as medical staff and nursing home employees.

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

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