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Chauvin Guilty Verdict Reverberates in Britain

Closely followed in Britain, especially among the nation’s black population. And many are celebrating now that the former police offer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of killing George Floyd.Amy Jordon is a London high school teacher who says she feels relieved by the verdict. She was one of the tens of thousands of people who took part in the British Black Lives Matter protests last summer.Jordon hopes this verdict will make the world see black people as equal.”The children that I teach, it shows them that their lives do matter and the police can’t just do whatever they want to them, with no consequences. I think it really will change the world and it will change how we see the police and what they can and can’t get away with it,” she said.Several British television news stations were offering live coverage of the verdict, while newspapers are headlining the verdict on their websites or front pages.The killing of George Floyd not only highlighted the issue of racism in the United States, but also in Britain where images of the toppling of a slave trader statue in the British city of Bristol went viral during a Black Lives Matter protest last June.Sofia Akel is a race equity specialist at the London Metropolitan University. She said that while the murder of George Floyd happened in the United States, it turned the lens of racial inequality on Britain.”In the UK, since 1990, over 100 black people have died during or following police contact. But zero police officers have been prosecuted for murder or manslaughter. And that’s despite several rulings of unlawful killing. And these are stats and real life stories of people that are known very well to the black communities in the UK,” she said.A general view of the exhibition ‘Never Forget Stephen Lawrence’, comprised of 29 flags installed in Brixton Village ahead of National Stephen Lawrence Day, in London, April 21, 2021.The British government set up a Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities after the Black Lives Matter protests. The Commission published its controversial report last month, concluding there is no institutional racism problem in the country.The report was rebuffed this week by a United Nations working group of human right experts, saying the document attempts to “normalize white supremacy.” Community activist Darrel Blake organizes black history tours in London. He said the Chauvin verdict alone doesn’t change the racism and discrimination black people experience.“I feel like true justice will come when black people are not seen as villains from the maternity ward, all the way down to the deathbed. That’s when we will get true justice,” he said.Britain just commemorated the 40th anniversary of the 1981 Brixton uprisings – long known to some as the Brixton riots – when people, most of them black, protested the racial inequality they faced at the time.Today, British black women are four times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than their non-black counterparts, according to recent studies in Britain. Black people are fifty percent more likely to be imprisoned than non-blacks, and the pandemic has left young black people in Britain unemployed in disproportionate numbers. 

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How Biden Plans to Boost Electric Bus Production

This week the Biden administration is promoting a plan to boost electric bus production, proposing $45 billion spending to reduce American-made bus emissions to zero by 2030. White House correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has this report.

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EU Targets Cutting Emissions 55% by 2030

The European Union announced Wednesday a provisional agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the 27-member bloc by 55% by 2030. The 2030 target is part of a larger goal of getting the EU to be carbon-neutral by 2050. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the agreement puts the EU “on a green path for a generation.” “It is our binding pledge to our children and grandchildren,” she added. EU member states must approve the deal before it becomes official. Wednesday’s agreement comes ahead of the start of a two-day virtual summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden for world leaders to discuss ways to combat climate change. 

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Biden Pushes Plan to Boost Electric Bus Production

This week the Biden administration is promoting a plan to boost electric bus production, proposing $45 billion spending to reduce American-made bus emissions to zero by 2030. White House correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has this report.

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US Trying to Insulate Electrical Grid From Cyberattacks  

With America’s electrical infrastructure getting zapped daily by an unprecedented number of cyberattacks, the federal government is taking action to prevent a potentially crippling hack of the grid.  A 100-day plan was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Energy Department to harden security systems for the country’s electrical infrastructure and increase the ability to detect and neutralize cyber threats.  “The United States faces a well-documented and increasing cyber threat from malicious actors seeking to disrupt the electricity Americans rely on to power our homes and businesses,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. “It’s up to both government and industry to prevent possible harms — that’s why we’re working together to take these decisive measures so Americans can rely on a resilient, secure, and clean energy system.”  The electric industry was among those hit by recent cyberattacks and data breaches targeting Solar Winds and Microsoft Exchange software, but officials stress the timing of Tuesday’s announcement is not directly tied to those events.In this Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, photo a Microsoft computer is among items displayed at a Microsoft store in suburban Boston. Microsoft reports financial results on Jan. 29, 2020.The U.S. government has blamed Russia’s spy agency for the Solar Winds attack. Microsoft said vulnerabilities in its mail and calendar software for corporate and government data centers were primarily exploited by the so-called Hafnium group in China.  The North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a non-profit regulatory authority that oversees utilities in the United States and Canada, said about 25 percent of electric utilities on the North American power grid downloaded the SolarWinds backdoor. “Given the sophisticated and constantly changing threats posed by adversaries, America’s electric companies remain focused on securing the industrial control systems that operate the North American energy grid,” said Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, which represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies.  Kuhn said the new initiative is appreciated and indicates “the Biden administration is making cybersecurity for operations a high priority.” Tuesday’s announcement comes after some industry criticism that funding for grid security was not included in the recent infrastructure package announced by President Joe Biden. The 100-day plan includes “aggressive but achievable milestones and will assist owners and operators as they modernize cybersecurity defenses, including enhancing detection, mitigation, and forensic capabilities,” said National Security Council Spokesperson Emily Horne in a statement.  Among the fears—that an enemy of the United States or a cybercriminal group could replicate what happened in Ukraine in 2015 when the information systems of the country’s three energy distribution companies were remotely accessed by Russia, causing 200,000 consumers to lose power. A year later in Ukraine, a power transmission station was knocked offline by Russian hackers who were able to trip circuit breakers after planting malware in the network of the national grid operator.  “The safety and security of the American people depend on the resilience of our nation’s critical infrastructure,” said Brandon Wales, acting director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security. Officials describe this effort to harden the power system against cyberattacks as a pilot project of the Biden administration before such measures are enacted for other vulnerable sectors of the country’s infrastructure.  A Government Accountability Office report issued last month warned that the U.S. grid’s distributions systems “are growing more vulnerable, in part because their industrial control systems increasingly allow remote access and connect to business networks.”  The Biden administration also is lifting a temporary ban on acquiring and installing bulk-power systems that serve critical defense systems, while the Energy Department receives industry input for a new executive order on guidelines for purchasing equipment.  Last May, then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring “the unrestricted foreign supply of bulk-power system electric equipment” an “unusual and extraordinary threat to national security.” The order restricted purchases and use of such foreign equipment.   
The large, interconnected bulk electric system consists of facilities necessary for operating the power transmission network and maintaining a balance of generation and demand from second to second.  
 
Biden, in his first day in office, suspended Trump’s order for 90 days and directed the Energy Department and the Office of Management and Budget to “jointly consider whether to recommend that a replacement order be issued.” 
 

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New Technology Aims to Make Travel Safer During Pandemic

San Francisco’s International Airport and United Airlines have become the first in the U.S. to test technology that enables domestic passengers to check in and board flights with minimal contact between travelers and agents. Those behind the trial say the technology could make traveling safer during the pandemic, as VOA Correspondent Mariama Diallo reports. 

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Czech Republic Urges EU, NATO Allies to Retaliate Against Russia over 2014 Explosion

The Czech Republic is urging European and NATO allies to take joint retaliatory action against Russia. It follows accusations that Russian spies were behind a huge explosion at a Czech arms depot in 2014 – and were part of a special unit that also carried out an attempted assassination in Britain. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.Camera:  Henry Ridgwell  

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Czech Republic Urges EU, NATO Allies to Retaliate Against Russia Over 2014 Explosion

The Czech Republic is urging European and NATO allies to take joint retaliatory action against Russia following accusations that Russian spies were behind a huge explosion at a Czech arms depot in 2014. They claim the spies were also part of a special unit that tried to assassinate a double agent in Britain.The central European country evicted 18 Russian embassy staffers over the weekend, saying they were identified as intelligence officers. “We succeeded in breaking up both of the big Russian (spy) operation cells, and for the Russian side, it will be very complicated to put them together again,” Acting Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek said Monday.Moscow has denied involvement in the 2014 explosion, which killed two workers at the site. The Kremlin expelled 20 Czech diplomats and other staff in retaliation for this week’s action.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 10 MB480p | 14 MB540p | 17 MB720p | 34 MB1080p | 74 MBOriginal | 255 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioSpeaking at a televised press conference Tuesday, Hamacek said, “We will call for collective action by European Union and NATO countries that will be aimed at a solidarity expulsion of identified members of Russian intelligence service from EU and NATO member states.”The explosion at the arms depot was initially thought to be an accident. Czech investigators, however, recently revealed they had discovered an email that had been sent to “Imex Group,” the company that operated the depot, prior to the blast. The message asked that two men be allowed to visit the site. The email was sent from an address, purporting to be from the National Guard of Tajikistan, which was later shown to be fake.
Subsequent investigations found the two men were traveling under false documents. They have since been identified as the suspects in the 2018 nerve-agent poisoning in Britain of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, who barely survived. A local woman died after being exposed to the nerve agent.Suspects identified 
The investigative website Bellingcat identified them as Anatoly Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin, both officers in Russia’s GRU military intelligence. Their unit, 29155, is believed to focus on sabotage and subversion, says Russia analyst Ian Bond of the London-based Center for European Reform.
“They seem to be extremely active in a number of parts of Europe, and of course apart from them, we have seen the assassination of the Chechen-Georgian exile (Zelimkhan) Khangoshvili in Berlin, for which a Russian is on trial in Germany, and we’ve still got the MH17 trial going ahead in The Hague, and we’ve had other Russian citizens assassinated elsewhere in the EU,” Bond told VOA.
MH17 refers to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17. The aircraft was shot down July 17, 2014, by a Russian-made Buk missile fired from territory in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists. The Russian military has said the missile that downed the aircraft, killing all 298 people on board, came from the arsenals of the Ukrainian army, not from Russia.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, expressed support Monday for the Czech Republic’s expulsion of Russian diplomats. “These diplomats have been identified by the Czech intelligence to be Russian military service agents, and the European Union stands united and in solidarity with the Czech Republic.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the Czech accusations “groundless” and accused the West of “a massive anti-Russian psychosis.”
Tensions between Moscow and the West have deepened in recent weeks, as Russia has deployed military hardware and tens of thousands of troops along the Ukrainian border. The European Union has called for de-escalation.Escalation risk in Ukraine”The Russian military buildup at the Ukrainian border is very concerning. It is more than 150,000 Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian borders and in Crimea. The risk of further escalation is evident. We have to commend Ukraine for its restrained response, and we urge Russia to de-escalate and to defuse tensions,” the EU’s Borrell told reporters Monday.
Russia also has jailed the main opposition leader, Alexey Navalny. Doctors say he is in critical condition in a prison hospital after going on a hunger strike when he was denied urgent medical treatment. Navalny survived a near-fatal poisoning last year and was arrested when he returned to Moscow in January following lifesaving treatment in Germany.The Russian president is trying to whip up support at home, says analyst Bond.”Putin hasn’t had a particularly good 12 months. Russia has one of the highest excess death rates from COVID-19 in the world. The economy is pretty stagnant, and the IMF is forecasting that it will stay pretty stagnant for a while. And the protests about the arrest of Navalny in January were the largest Russia had seen in quite a long time.”The United States imposed new sanctions on Russia this month over alleged cyberattacks and other “malign” acts. U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed a summit with his Russian counterpart.Europe must act fast in imposing its own measures, Bond said. “It’s hard to know what would jog Europe to impose further sanctions if it weren’t an example of state-sponsored terrorism of this kind. I can’t describe it in any other way — arranging the explosion of an ammunition dump which killed two people — it’s hard to see that as anything other than state terrorism.”That also sends a signal to Putin that there isn’t unity yet, even within the EU, about the need to take really firm measures to deter the sorts of activities that he has been authorizing in Europe over the last several years. And I think that will only embolden him unfortunately.”Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in the attacks on European soil and says its troop buildup on the Ukrainian border is in response to what it claims is increased military activity by the United States and NATO forces.   

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Volcano on St. Vincent Still Erupting

The prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines appealed for international help Tuesday as the Caribbean island nation begins to tackle the daunting cleanup from a series of volcanic eruptions that have not stopped. ”The lives and livelihoods of our people have been terribly affected,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told reporters in a video press conference. ”We are in a dire situation, frankly.” About 20,000 people were evacuated from the area nearest to La Soufrière volcano on the north side of St. Vincent after it began erupting on April 9 for the first time in 42 years. The island nation has a population of about 110,000. In some areas, ash is a meter deep, and it has given the normally green and lush island an apocalyptic appearance. No one was killed in the eruptions, which the prime minister said have spewed more than 100 million cubic meters of ash on the island and into the sea, and has been carried as far away as India. But damage has been extensive to agriculture, homes and the island’s tourism industry.”The humanitarian relief for the prolonged period is going to be huge,” Gonsalves said. “The cost is massive, no question about that, before we reach reconstruction.”He estimates that rebuilding will run to the hundreds of millions of dollars.The United Nations launched a humanitarian appeal for $29.2 million on Tuesday to assist the most vulnerable with basic needs, including clean water, food and shelter, as well as to help initiate recovery. Last Thursday, the United Nations released $1 million from its emergency fund to help with urgent needs.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 18 MB480p | 25 MB540p | 33 MB720p | 72 MB1080p | 134 MBOriginal | 778 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioUnited Nations Barbados and Eastern Caribbean visit the volcano Red Zone in St. Vincent. (Video courtesy of United Nations)The world body is also deploying a team of a dozen experts this week to work with the government to assess what is needed to clean up and safely dispose of the massive amounts of ash, as well as to evaluate the ecological impact, Didier Trebucq, U.N. resident coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, said.Trebucq added that there is still a lot of uncertainty as eruptions continue.”We felt a tremor this morning,” he told reporters. “Two days ago, we could see another eruption.”Gonsalves said when La Soufrière last erupted in 1979, it did so over a period of about seven months. Prior to that, in 1902, it went on even longer.But should the volcano cease erupting sooner, the island nation will not be entirely at ease. Hurricane season starts in six weeks, and this year, it is forecast to be very active.

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