Biden Announces Cabinet Picks

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announced his picks for top diplomatic and national security posts in his forthcoming administration. Biden is pressing ahead with the transition process even though President Donald Trump has yet to formally concede. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has the latest.Produced by: Bakhtiyar Zamanov 

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Report: Syria Claims Israeli Attack on Post South of Capital

Syria’s military said suspected Israeli warplanes struck locations south of the capital, Damascus, late Tuesday, causing only material damage, state-run media reported.  The report, which quotes an unidentified military official, said the warplanes struck shortly before midnight south of Damascus, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The statement didn’t elaborate on the target or the damage.  Earlier, the state Syrian Arab News Agency SANA said Syria’s air defenses responded to incoming missiles. Later reports on SANA and Syrian Al-Ekhbariya TV said Israeli warplanes struck in a village in Quneitra province on the edge of the Golan Heights and in southwest of the capital Damascus. They offered no details.  Israel last week acknowledged attacking Iran-linked targets in Syria along the Golan Heights after spotting a squad planting roadside bombs near one of its positions.  Israel has launched hundreds of strikes on Iran-linked military targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges such operations. Last week’s operation appeared to be sending a public message to Iran and Syria after discovering the anti-personnel mines near its troops.  There was no immediate Israeli comment late Tuesday.  Last month, an overnight attack on a location in Quneitra was reported by Syrian media, which also said Israeli warplanes were behind it. A war monitor said three people were killed in that attack on a post used by Iran-allied militias.  Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 war and later annexed it in a move that is not internationally recognized. It says it targets mostly sites of Iranian units and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in Syria, seeking to curb Tehran’s influence near its borders. Such attacks have increased in recent months. 

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NASA Apollo Program Helped Boost US Food Safety

Americans are less likely to get food poisoning this Thanksgiving thanks to NASA. Yes, NASA. The space agency’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system created decades ago for the lunar landing initiative is credited to this day with reducing foodborne illnesses.Originally developed for astronaut food in the early days of the Apollo program, the HACCP system has been adopted by major players in the food industry.Sixty years ago, at what is now Johnson Space Center in Houston, a nutritionist and a Pillsbury microbiologist partnered with NASA to provide uncontaminated food for the astronauts on the Gemini and Apollo missions.Instead of testing end products, Paul Lachance and Howard Bauman came up with a method that identified and controlled potential points of failure in the food production process.To make astronaut food safe, the duo introduced hazards in the production line, observed the hazard and determined how it could be prevented.In 1971, the deaths of two people from botulism, a severe foodborne illness caused by bacteria, prompted the National Canners Association to adopt stricter standards. The Food and Drug Administration and the canners association implemented the HACCP regulations for low-acid canned food.In 1993, an outbreak of food poisoning at a fast-food chain prompted meat and poultry manufacturers to adopt to the HACCP regulations as part of an effort to restore public confidence in the industry. A decade after that, the FDA and the Department of Agriculture made HACCP regulations universal for meat, poultry, seafood and juice producers.Standardization was further strengthened in 2011 when the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act came into existence. While HACCP applies to all U.S. food producers, all applications are unique to particular foodstuffs.Take a look at the typical American Thanksgiving meal now.First, all the foods on the Thanksgiving table have been subjected to HACCP regulations. Cranberry sauce, for instance. The critical control points for cranberry sauce include the washing area where berries are first received, filtration and metal detection points where any foreign materials are removed, a heat treatment pasteurization area, and acidity checks, among others, according to Katy Latimer, vice president of research and development for Ocean Spray, known for its cranberry products.Rigorous controls also exist for turkey production at Butterball Turkey LLC, which says the regulations are “ingrained” in how they produce food.While giving thanks for a nourishing Thanksgiving meal, Americans might spare a few words for NASA’s pioneering program that has prevented stomach aches, and much worse, for decades.

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Russian Influence Peddlers Carving Out New Audiences on Fringes

After four years of warnings and preparations, the 2020 presidential election did not see a repeat of 2016, when intelligence officials concluded Russia meddled using a combination of cyberattacks and influence operations.  
 
But according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials, as well as analysts, the good news ends there.   
 
The Russians, they warn, have been busy laying the foundation for future success.
 
Instead of relying on troll farms and fake social media accounts to try to sway the thoughts and opinions of American voters, they warn the Kremlin’s influence peddlers have instead gained a new foothold, establishing themselves as part of the United States’s news and social media ecosystem, ingratiating themselves to U.S. audiences on the far right and the far left.
 
“A lot of these campaigns are getting engagement in the millions,” Evanna Hu, chief executive officer of Omelas, told VOA. “They are pretty good at inducing the type of sentiment, a negative sentiment or a positive sentiment in the audience, from their posts.”
 
Omelas, a Washington-based firm that tracks online extremism for defense contractors, has been studying Russian content across 11 social media platforms and hundreds of RSS feeds in multiple languages, collecting 1.2 million posts in a 90-day period surrounding the November 3 election.
 
It found the most prolific Russian outlets included state-backed media outlets like RT, Sputnik, TASS and Izvestia TV.FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on the screen of a camera viewfinder in a studio of Russia’s RT television channel in Moscow, Russia, June 11, 2013.“We only look at active engagements, so you have to physically click on something or retweet it,” said Hu, admitting that the estimate for the millions of engagements is still “pretty rough.”
 
Also, Omelas determined that only about 20% of the posts pumped out by Russia’s propaganda and influence machine are in English. Forty percent of the content is in Russian, with the rest going out in Spanish, Arabic, Turkish and a handful of other languages.
 Russian-backed media
 
U.S. officials have been reluctant to speak publicly about the impact these efforts have had on American citizens, in part because there is no easy way to measure the effect.   
 
After the 2016 election, for example, intelligence officials repeatedly said while they were able to conclude Russian efforts expressed a preference for then-candidate Donald Trump, they could not say whether any Americans voted differently as a result.
 
Still, multiple officials speaking to VOA on the condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the subject said it was unlikely that Russia would continue to spend money on these media ventures if the influence operations were not producing results.
 
An August 2020 report by the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, while not sharing a figure, concluded Moscow “invests massively in its propaganda channels, its intelligence services and its proxies.”
 
U.S. election security officials have likewise repeatedly voiced concerns about Russia’s efforts to stake out space in the news and social media ecosystem.
 
“I’m telling you right now, if it comes from something tied back to the Kremlin, like RT or Sputnik or Ruptly, question the intent,” Christopher Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told a cybersecurity summit in September. “What are they trying to get you to do? Odds are, it’s not a good thing.”FILE – The main newsroom of Russia’s Sputnik news is seen in Moscow, April 27, 2018.Senior CISA officials again called out Russian-backed media while briefing reporters on Election Day (November 3), begging Americans to treat any information coming from Russian-linked sources with a “hefty, hefty, hefty dose of skepticism.”  
 Disinformation payoff
 
To some extent, the repeated warnings about Russian-supported outlets like RT and Sputnik have paid off, at least when it comes to this month’s presidential election.
 
“They (RT and Sputnik) aren’t prominent domains in any of the analyses that we’ve done on false narratives of voter fraud,” Kate Starbird, a University of Washington professor and lead researcher with the Election Integrity Partnership, told VOA via email.
 
“They do sometimes amplify disinformation that is already spreading,” she added. “But they typically come in late and rarely change the trajectory of that disinformation.”
 
Some intelligence officials and researchers warn, though, that for now, that could very well be enough.
 
“You still see people sharing their (Russian) content in America,” said Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent who has been studying Russian disinformation efforts for years. “The reach of Russian news inside the U.S. … is exponentially higher than in other countries. So, they can see a return on it.”
 Redfish red herring
 
To help grow that return even more, and to avoid labels that identify the content as Russian, outlets like RT and Sputnik have also begun pushing content through the social media accounts of some of their most popular hosts, added Watts, currently a non-resident fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy. Then there is the Redfish channel on Instagram, which Watts said has allowed Russia to gain “significant traction.”“They put up a heavy rotation on George Floyd protests, and that is now where you see Americans sharing it routinely, millions and millions of shares,” Watts told VOA. “They dramatically raised their profile, particularly with the political left in the United States and African Americans, who I’m convinced have no idea that Redfish is a Russian outfit.”
 Far-right appeal
 
Russia is also finding ways to resonate with the far right.
 
According to the August report by the Global Engagement Center, Russian proxy websites like Canada’s Global Research website or the Russian-run Strategic Culture Foundation amplify conspiracy theories about subjects like the coronavirus.
 
Researchers like Watts say that propaganda then sometimes finds its way onto far-right websites such as ZeroHedge or The Duran, where it gets amplified again.
 
Another researcher warned that Russian efforts are also resonating with far-right conspiracy theorists, some of whom will pick up propaganda from proxy sites, or more mainstream sources like RT.
 
“All of these Q(Anon)-driven accounts — they love the Russian stuff,” the researcher told VOA on the condition of anonymity, given the sensitivity of the work.
 Into the mainstream
 
Not all Russian propaganda efforts circulate on the fringes of American politics. Some of the narratives hang around and are repeated often enough that they become difficult to ignore.
 
“So then, they can get somebody else from the American far right or far left to pick up on that story and then eventually snowball that so mainstream picks up on it … coopting the American media in a sense,” said Omelas’s CEO, Hu.  
 
Other times, Russia’s influence peddlers have found their contributors thrust into the spotlight.
 
For example, on November 20, U.S. President Trump repeatedly retweeted Wayne Dupree, who regularly writes opinion pieces for RT.We have great support on the Election Hoax! https://t.co/ChpkuZvc4s— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2020 
Just days earlier in a RT opinion piece, Dupree slammed what he described as “the fraudulent and brazen behavior of these Democrats to destroy the election’s integrity.”“They are all going to fall hard, along with the major news networks that have sought to brainwash the American people,” Dupree added. “The entire system is coming down, folks. Get ready.”
 
A number of researchers and U.S. counterintelligence officials say the incident falls into what has become an all-too familiar pattern.It’s actually quite a bit worse than that, the whole convergence of Kremlin media and conservative media…. https://t.co/dlJsUeeZOo— Clint Watts (@selectedwisdom) November 20, 2020In June, U.S. officials and lawmakers warned that RT purposefully courted outspoken, local U.S. police officers and union officials, attempting to use their reactions to protests sweeping across the country to further inflame tensions.
 
“They know they no longer need to do their own work,” National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina told Hearst Television in October.  
 
“They’re now taking U.S. citizens’ information, and they are taking it and amplifying it,” he said. “Whether it be conspiracy theorists or legitimate folks who have wrong information, they get amplified consistently.” 

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Biden Transition to US Power Formally Starts

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s transition to power in Washington has formally started after a government agency declared him the apparent winner of the 2020 presidential election, even as President Donald Trump continues his long-shot attempt to upend Biden’s victory at the polls.Biden’s team of advisers immediately started reaching out Monday night to Trump officials throughout the government to learn about possible national security threats the country faces, and other immediate issues Biden will face when he is inaugurated January 20.Pentagon officials said Biden transition team members contacted the Defense Department soon after Emily Murphy, the administrator of the General Services Administration, determined that Biden is the “apparent” election winner and that the transition can begin. Murphy’s action allows Biden to tap public funds for the transition, to receive security briefings and his transition officials to gain access to federal agencies.What Resources Does the Biden Transition Get? Federal law provides for certain activities to ensure a smooth transition of power It was not immediately clear when Biden would receive his first classified national security briefing as president-elect. Biden has discussed security issues with his team of intelligence and military advisers but has yet to be handed the President’s Daily Brief, the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of worldwide threats.Of immediate concern for Biden is the fight to control the surging number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. Biden officials want information on the Trump administration’s timetable to approve three vaccines against the virus in the next few weeks and plans for widespread inoculations of Americans starting before the end of the year and extending well into 2021.Health officials say approval of the vaccines by the Food and Drug Administration could prove to be more uneventful than the difficult task of distributing the vaccines throughout the country and scheduling millions of people to get the shots. Polls show about four in 10 Americans are wary about getting vaccinated or have already decided against it, potentially making it more difficult to control the pandemic.Other Biden transition teams are contacting officials at numerous agencies throughout the government to verse themselves on pending policy issues as well as to learn the extent to which the Trump administration removed staff members over the last four years to get rid of what the president deemed to be an entrenched “Deep State” at odds with his view of a limited government.Meanwhile, at his transition base in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, Biden introduced some of the top appointees he named Monday, including Antony Blinken as secretary of State, Avril Haines as director of national intelligence and Alejandro Mayorkas as Homeland Security chief.Trump reluctantly eased the path for the orderly Biden transition to power to start by acquiescing in Murphy’s declaration that Biden was the apparent winner of the contentious, months-long campaign.Trump said the transition was “in the best interest of our country.”But the president vowed to continue his fight against the election outcome, saying, “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good … fight, and I believe we will prevail!”Trump offered no concession to Biden and has not called him with congratulations, even as numerous world leaders have offered good wishes to the prospective 46th U.S. president.Trump’s defeat makes him the fifth U.S. president in the country’s 244-year history to lose re-election after a single four-year term in the White House.Trump has lost more than 30 legal challenges alleging vote and vote-counting irregularities in key battleground states but did not acknowledge defeat in allowing the Biden transition to power to move forward. Trump is continuing several lawsuits or appeals of cases he has lost to try to overturn Biden’s victory. 
On Tuesday morning, Trump said on Twitter, “Remember, the GSA has been terrific, and Emily Murphy has done a great job, but the GSA does not determine who the next President of the United States will be.” 

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Біля Хортиці виявили унікальний артефакт козацьких часів (фото)

Гідроархелоги представили дерев’яний лафет гармати, що датується 17-18 сторіччям

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Майже 70% переселенців потребують житла – омбудсмен

Уповноважена Верховної Ради з прав людини Людмила Денісова повідомила, що, за оцінками міжнародних організацій, забезпечення житлом потребують майже 70% внутрішньо переміщених осіб в Україні.

«За приблизними оцінками, за державної підтримки житло отримали майже 1% внутрішньо переміщених осіб. Водночас, за оцінками міжнародних організацій, забезпечення житлом потребують майже 70% ВПО», – сказала Денісова.

За її словами, на державному рівні досі немає офіційних даних щодо потреб переселенців у житлі. При цьому відсутня інформація про кількість тих, кому житло було надано за підтримки держави або органів місцевого самоврядування.

Денісова наголосила, що щонайменше 27% переселенців із числа тих внутрішньо переміщених осіб, які орендують житло, також говорять про ризики виселення через неможливість оплачувати оренду.

«Близько 60% живуть в орендованому житлі, з них принаймні 27% відзначають ризики виселення у зв’язку з неможливістю платити орендну плату», – додала вона.

Читайте також: Житло для переселенців. Що може зробити держава, а що – самі ВПО

При цьому Денісова зазначила, що близько 65% переселенців, які повернулися жити на тимчасово окуповані території, це люди, яким понад 60 років.

За даними Офісу омбудсмена, півтора мільйона громадян України (близько 3%) були вимушені залишити місця свого проживання і переселитися в інші регіони країни через російську агресію проти України.

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What Resources Does the Biden Transition Get?

The U.S. General Services Administration has determined president-elect Joe Biden is now eligible for certain resources and access as part of a 1964 law enacted to promote an orderly transition of executive power in the United States. Between now and his January 20 inauguration, Biden will be building out his administration, putting in place staff both to begin carrying out his policy vision when his term begins and to be able to immediately handle the national security aspects of the job. The transition team gained access to a government internet domain and email, quickly launching buildbackbetter.gov. Biden will receive information about classified threats to national security, covert military operations and pending decisions the Trump administration may have on possible uses of military force. Members of the transition team and people selected for national security positions can begin to be issued security clearances that will be necessary for doing their jobs.  Key appointees can also take part in orientation sessions to familiarize them with the workings and best practices of a government agency. The Trump administration will conduct emergency preparedness exercises with Biden’s staff. Heads of government agencies can start working with transition officials in order to ensure a smooth handover and uninterrupted execution of the government’s operations.  That includes efforts such as communicating with health experts about the plans to distribute coronavirus vaccines. Biden’s team can use up to $6.3 million in federal funding for its transition operations.  It also gains access to federal office space, including areas where Biden can receive sensitive intelligence briefings. 

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Українка увійшла до переліку 100 жінок року BBC

Українка Анастасія Волкова увійшла до переліку 100 найбільш впливових та надихаючих жінок року жінок року за версією BBC.

Вона є засновницею стартапу Flurosat, який надає технологічні послуги аграрному бізнесу в різних країнах світу.

Сервіс працює за підпискою і допомагає фермерам отримувати різноманітні дані про стан їхнього врожаю.

BBC пише, що Flurosat аналізує супутникові знімки полів, фотографії з дронів, застосовує технології штучного інтелекту і на основі отриманої інформації радить фермерам, як краще поводитися із врожаєм.

Волкова здобула першу вищу освіту в Національному авіаційному університеті у Києві. Згодом отримала магістра в Варшавському технологічному університеті, а у 2015 році переїхала до Австралії, щоб займатися наукою.

У 2018 році вона захистила докторську дисертацію в місцевому Сіднейському університеті, а згодом заснувала Flurosat.

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