Putin accuses US, allies of ignoring Russian security needs
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday accused the U.S. and its allies of ignoring Russia’s top security demands but said Moscow is willing to talk more to ease tensions over Ukraine.
The comments were his first on the standoff in more than a month and suggested a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine may not be imminent and that at least one more round of diplomacy is likely.
Yet the two sides remain unyielding in their main positions, and there was little apparent hope for concessions. Russia is expected to respond soon to a U.S. proposal for negotiations on lesser Russian demands after which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak.
Lavrov and Blinken spoke Tuesday and reiterated positions put forward by Putin and President Joe Biden. The White House said Biden and Putin could also speak once the U.S. receives Russia’s response.
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In remarks to reporters at a Moscow news conference with the visiting leader of NATO ally Hungary, Putin said the Kremlin is still studying the U.S. and NATO’s response to the Russian security demands received last week. But he said it was clear that the West has ignored Russian demands that NATO not expand to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations, refrain from deploying offensive weapons near Russia and roll back its deployments to Eastern Europe.
Pfizer asks FDA to allow COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 5
WASHINGTON (AP) — Pfizer on Tuesday asked the U.S. to authorize extra-low doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5, potentially opening the way for the very youngest Americans to start receiving shots as early as March.
In an extraordinary move, the Food and Drug Administration had urged Pfizer and its partner BioNTech to apply earlier than the companies had planned — and before it’s settled if the youngsters will need two shots or three.
The nation’s 19 million children under 5 are the only group not yet eligible for vaccination against the coronavirus. Many parents have been pushing for an expansion of shots to toddlers and preschoolers, especially as the omicron variant sent record numbers of youngsters to the hospital.
“I would say the parents in my office are desperate” to get young kids vaccinated, said Dr. Dyan Hes, who runs a pediatrics practice in New York City, where vaccination rates are high. For many, “that’s the first thing they ask when they walk through the door: ‘When do you think the shot is going to come out?’”
Pfizer aims to give children as young as 6 months shots that contain one-tenth of the dose given to adults. The company said it had started submitting its data to the FDA and expects to complete the process in a few days.
Fired Miami Dolphins coach sues NFL, alleging racist hiring
NEW YORK (AP) — Fired Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores sued the NFL and three teams on Tuesday over alleged racist hiring practices for coaches and general managers, saying the league remains “rife with racism” even as it publicly condemns it.
The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, said the hypocrisy was on display with the chilly treatment Flores received from the Dolphins after he refused to accept a $100,000-a-game offer from the club his first season to “tank” so it could secure the top draft pick.
The lawsuit sought class-action status and unspecified damages from the league, the Dolphins, the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants, along with unidentified individuals.
Flores, 40, was fired last month by Miami after leading the Dolphins to a 24-25 record over three years. They went 9-8 in their second straight winning season, but failed to make the playoffs during his tenure.
In a statement released by the lawyers representing him, Flores said: “God has gifted me with a special talent to coach the game of football, but the need for change is bigger than my personal goals.”
Biden stretches for GOP support for Supreme Court nominee
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden stretched out for Republican support for his Supreme Court nominee Tuesday, inviting the GOP’s top Judiciary Committee senator to the White House along with the panel’s Democratic chairman and phoning Republican leader Mitch McConnell for a one-on-one discussion.
Biden and fellow Democrats are working for significant Republican backing for the still-to-be-named nominee to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer — a steep challenge in a Senate that has been sharply and bitterly divided over the past three confirmations.
At the White House, former longtime Sen. Biden called Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin of Illinois and the ranking Republican, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, “two good friends” and noted that they had worked on many Supreme Court nominations together in their decades on the panel.
He noted that the Constitution calls for Senate “advice and consent,” on a nominee, and he said, ”I’m serious when I say I want the advice of the Senate as well as the consent.”
As Biden mulls a replacement for Breyer — a Black woman, he has promised — Durbin has been proposing a ceasefire of sorts after wrenching partisan fights over former President Donald Trump’s three nominees. The Democratic Illinois senator has been vigorously reaching out to GOP colleagues since Breyer announced last week that he will step down this summer.
Trump attacks spur Congress to bolster electoral count law
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s relentless, false claims about the 2020 presidential election have sparked fresh urgency in Congress — and in both parties — for changing the Electoral Count Act to ensure no one can undo a future presidential election.
Lawmakers are working furiously to update the 135-year-old law that was put in place in the aftermath of the Civil War and came perilously close to unraveling on Jan. 6, 2021. At that time, the defeated president urged his followers to “fight like hell” over the election and pressured Vice President Mike Pence to ditch his ceremonial role presiding over the session and reject the results.
While Pence ignored the president’s demands that day, Trump continues to insist the vice president “could have overturned the election” — a deeply troubling development as the former president considers another White House run.
“President Trump’s comments underscored the need for us to revise the Electoral Count Act, because they demonstrated the confusion in the law and the fact that it is ambiguous,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters at the Capitol.
The outcome of the bipartisan effort in Congress remains highly fluid, and could easily collapse, especially as Republicans are wary of crossing Trump and Democrats seek broader changes after their own sweeping elections and voting legislation fell apart last month. Any update to the 19th century law would likely face the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold in the Senate, meaning the legislation would need bipartisan support in the evenly split chamber to advance.
WHO: In 10 weeks, omicron surge causes COVID cases to soar
GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization chief said Tuesday that 90 million cases of coronavirus have been reported since the omicron variant was first identified 10 weeks ago — amounting to more than in all of 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With many countries easing their restrictive measures amid public fatigue about them, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyeus cautioned that omicron should not be underestimated even though it has shown to bring less severe illness than earlier variants — and cited “a very worrying increase in deaths in most regions of the world.”
“We are concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries that because of vaccines — and because of omicron’s high transmissibility and lower severity — preventing transmission is no longer possible and no longer necessary,” he told a regular WHO briefing on the pandemic.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Tedros added. “It’s premature for any country either to surrender or to declare victory. This virus is dangerous and it continues to evolve before our very eyes.”
WHO said four of its six regions worldwide are seeing increasing trends in deaths.
AP FACT CHECK: Biden exaggerates $10 a month ‘Obamacare’
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” — has inspired many exaggerated claims through the years, both from fans and foes. Now President Joe Biden is adding his own.
With a few loose words turned into a pithy formula, the president implies that his enhanced version of the ACA is much better than it really is. Biden suggests that considerably more people are getting health insurance for less than $10 a month than what’s actually been the case.
BIDEN: “The American Rescue Plan did more to lower costs and expand access to health care than any action since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. It made quality coverage more affordable than ever — with families saving an average of $2,400 on their annual premiums, and four out of five consumers finding quality coverage for under $10 a month.” — Jan. 27 statement on health insurance enrollment.
THE FACTS: His numbers are off the mark. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, about one in three of HealthCare.gov consumers (32%) is paying less than $10 a month in premiums after tax credits.
That’s not four out of five, as Biden suggests, which would translate to a much bigger share — 80%.
Virus infections for Olympic athletes, coaches rising faster
BEIJING (AP) — Athletes and team officials are testing positive for COVID-19 at much higher rates than other people arriving in China for the Beijing Olympics, organizers said Tuesday.
Figures released by local organizers showed 11 positive tests for COVID-19 among 379 athletes and officials arriving Monday. They have been taken into isolation hotels to limit the spread of the infection and could miss their events.
The positive test rate of 2.9% for athletes and officials compared to 0.66% for Olympic “stakeholders,” a group which includes workers and media, in the same period. There were 1,059 people in that category.
Over a three-day period from Saturday through Monday, the positivity rate for athletes and officials was 40% higher than other Olympic arrivals.
The rates were confirmed in PCR and other follow-up tests for tens of thousands of people at the Beijing Olympics who will live, work and train in closed-off communities separated from the general public. The Chinese government is pursuing a zero-tolerance public health strategy.
Climate change a rising Fed concern as nominees face hearing
WASHINGTON (AP) — How far the Federal Reserve can go to compel banks to consider the consequences of climate change in their lending policies could take center stage at a Senate hearing Thursday on the nominations of Sarah Bloom Raskin and two economists to the Fed’s influential Board of Governors.
The Fed is already moving toward analyzing the risks that banks face from rising temperatures and changing weather patterns. What many in the oil and gas industry fear is something more far-reaching: That the Fed may eventually take steps to discourage banks from lending to energy companies — the first time, they say, that the central bank would be acting to disadvantage a specific industry.
A host of trade associations and business groups have written to the Senate Banking Committee in advance of the hearing, expressing concern about the nomination of Bloom Raskin to be the Fed’s vice chair of supervision, the board member who leads its regulation of banks. Bloom Raskin has been outspoken in her belief that climate change poses risks to the economy and the financial system and that regulators should factor those risks into their oversight.
For now, most of the groups have stopped short of opposing her nomination. The Chamber of Commerce, in a letter to the committee last week, urged the senators to simply “raise several important issues” during the hearing.
Her supporters argue that Bloom Raskin is highly qualified and that her views on climate and the Fed are similar to those expressed by Chair Jerome Powell.
Tom Brady retires after 22 seasons, 7 Super Bowl titles
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady walked away from the NFL on his own terms, still at the top of his game.
Brady, the most successful quarterback in league history and one of the greatest champions in professional sports, has retired after winning seven Super Bowls and setting numerous passing records in an unprecedented 22-year career.
“This is difficult for me to write, but here it goes: I am not going to make that competitive commitment anymore,” Brady wrote in a lengthy post on Instagram. “I have loved my NFL career, and now it is time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention.”
The 44-year-old Brady has long stated his desire to spend more time with his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and three children despite his unique ability to perform exceptionally well at an age when most athletes are way past their prime.
Brady goes out after leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title last season and NFC South championship this season.
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