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Wednesday morning news - January 26, 2022

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WORLD Radio - Wednesday morning news - January 26, 2022

More aid headed to Ukraine, Russia labels Navalny a terrorist, SAT goes online, Pfizer conducts an omicron trial, and the Taliban talks in Oslo


Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press Photo

For WORLD Radio, I'm Kent Covington. 

Ukraine tries to calm citizens as Western leaders warn against Russian invasion » Ukraine's leaders are trying to keep citizens calm, reassuring them that a Russian invasion is not imminent, though they acknowledge the threat is very real.

Western leaders, meantime, continued to voice their concerns. On the floor of the British House of Commons Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said while the Ukrainian army would be heavily outgunned against Russia, it would fight fiercely.

JOHNSON: And the bloodshed comparable to the first war in Chechnya or Bosnia, Mr. Speaker. No one would gain from such a catastrophe.

MACRON: [Speaking in French]

Speaking in Germany, French President Emmanuel Macron said—quote—“We both call very strongly for a de-escalation of tensions and I want to say here how much Germany and France are united on this.”

And in Washington, President Biden said a Russian invasion would have consequences for the entire world.

BIDEN: This would be the largest—if he were to move in with all those forces, it would be the largest invasion since World War II. It would change the world.

Russia has parked an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border.

Biden again warned of severe consequences if the Kremlin gives the order to invade.

Russia adds Navalny, allies to list of “terrorists and extremists” » Russian authorities have added opposition leader Alexei Navalny and some of his top allies to the country's registry of terrorists and extremists. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin reports.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The government added Navalny and eight others to an extremist registry with Russia's Federal Financial Monitoring Service. That means their bank accounts are now frozen.

It was the latest move in an ongoing crackdown on opposition supporters, independent media, and human rights activists.

Navalny is an anti-corruption activist and President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critic. He’s currently behind bars in Russia, serving 2 1/2 years for supposedly violating the terms of a suspended sentence.

A Russian court initially convicted him on fraud charges that the U.S. State Department says were trumped up.

Authorities arrested Navalny a year ago when he returned to his home country after receiving medical treatment in Germany. He was flown there after being poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent.

His arrest triggered a wave of the biggest mass protests across the country in years.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

SAT to get student-friendly makeover » Students prepping for their SATs will soon be able to put away their pencil sharpeners. The standardized test will soon transition to an online format.

The digital version will be available to international students next year and to U.S. high schoolers in 2024.

Priscilla Rodriguez is vice president of College Readiness Assessments with the College Board. She said students have already largely traded pencils for laptops.

RODRIGUEZ: This is us in some ways catching up to where there are and getting rid of the No.2 pencils and the bubble sheets and the shipping and the packing, and really trying to make this at its core, a less stressful, less onerous experience …

Students will take the tests at monitoring sites using tablets.

And shortened reading and math sections will bring the total test time down from three hours to two.

Many colleges were considering dropping test scores as an admissions standard even before the pandemic. When COVID-19 shuttered testing centers, it accelerated the process.

Nearly 80 percent of bachelor’s degree–granting institutions will reportedly not require test scores from students applying for fall 2022.

Pfizer to conduct omicron-specific vaccine trial » Pfizer is enrolling nearly 1,500 healthy adults to test a COVID-19 vaccine that it has reformulated to target the omicron variant. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has more. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has that story.

ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: The study will look at three groups. Some who received two Pfizer doses three to six months ago will get one or two of the new shots as boosters. The next group, which has received three Pfizer shots, will be given one additional booster of either the current formula or the new one.

And unvaccinated volunteers will get three doses of the omicron version.

It is still unclear whether an omicron-specific vaccine will be needed, but Pfizer says it wants to be ready in case health regulators call for a separate shot.

Omicron cases are already waning. But it’s possible that Pfizer’s new omicron shot could match up better against future variants, if others emerge.

The omicron strain infects fully vaccinated individuals at a far higher rate than other strains though health officials say vaccinated people generally have much milder symptoms.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.

Talks between Taliban, Western officials conclude in Oslo » Taliban officials wrapped up three days of talks with Western diplomats and others in Norway on Tuesday.

Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said the discussions—quote—“went very well,” adding that “Such trips will bring us closer to the world.”

But it’s unclear what concrete progress came out of the talks.

The two sides met in the snow-capped mountains above Oslo. Western officials aired their concerns over the state of women’s rights and human rights in the country.

Jan Egeland is the Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. He told reporters Tuesday…

EGELAND: The Taliban has not followed up on their promise that there would also be secondary education for girls. This is a red line for us. They have to understand that we respect their traditions. But they have to understand that we also have traditions.

He said “We represent a civilization in which equality is fundamental.”

The Taliban is demanding the release of about $10 billion in cash from Afghanistan’s central bank that Western governments froze after the group seized control of the country.

The talks came at a critical time for Afghanistan. Freezing temperatures are compounding a humanitarian crisis. Aid groups estimate that about 23 million people face severe hunger or starvation.

I’m Kent Covington. For more news, features, and analysis, visit us at wng.org. 


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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