Diversion of Ryanair Flight to Belarus and Arrest of Journalist

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

The United States strongly condemns the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states and the subsequent removal and arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich in Minsk. We demand his immediate release. This shocking act perpetrated by the Lukashenka regime endangered the lives of more than 120 passengers, including U.S. citizens. Initial reports suggesting the involvement of the Belarusian security services and the use of Belarusian military aircraft to escort the plane are deeply concerning and require full investigation.

We are closely coordinating our response with our partners, including the EU and Lithuanian and Greek officials. Given indications the forced landing was based on false pretenses, we support the earliest possible meeting of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization to review these events.

Independent media are an essential pillar supporting the rule of law and a vital component of a democratic society. The United States once again condemns the Lukashenka regime’s ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists. We stand with the Belarusian people in their aspirations for a free, democratic, and prosperous future and support their call for the regime to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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    This is the French language highlights associated with GAO-21-359. Constats du GAO Au 31 mars 2020, l’Agence des États-Unis pour le développement international (USAID) et les Centres des États-Unis pour le contrôle et la prévention des maladies (CDC) ensemble avaient alloué un total de plus de 1,2 milliard de dollars et avaient décaissé environ 1 milliard pour financer des activités de sécurité sanitaire mondiale (global health security - GHS), sur des fonds affectés durant les années fiscales 2015 à 2019. L’USAID et les CDC ont soutenu des activités de renforcement des capacités des pays dans 11 domaines techniques en rapport avec la lutte contre les maladies infectieuses. Les fonds engagés ont soutenu des activités de GHS dans pas moins de 34 pays, dont 25 étaient partenaires du Programme d’action pour la sécurité sanitaire mondiale (Global Health Security Agenda - GHSA). Activités soutenues par les États-Unis en Éthiopie pour renforcer la sécurité sanitaire mondiale Les évaluations de responsables officiels des États-Unis portant sur les capacités de 17 pays partenaires du GHSA à faire face aux menaces des maladies infectieuses révèlent qu’à la fin de l’année fiscale 2019, la plupart de ces pays avaient des capacités dans chacun des 11 domaines techniques retenus mais connaissaient diverses difficultés. Les équipes-pays interinstitutionnelles américaines réalisent des évaluations de capacités bisannuelles dont le personnel du siège de l’USAID et des CDC se sert pour assurer un suivi des progrès des pays. Selon les évaluations de l’année fiscale 2019, 14 pays avaient développé ou démontré des capacités dans la plupart des domaines techniques. Les rapports ont démontré par ailleurs que la plupart des capacités de ces pays étaient restées stables ou avaient augmenté par rapport à 2016 et 2017. C’est dans le domaine technique de la résistance aux antimicrobiens qu’ont été enregistrées les plus fortes augmentations de capacités, par exemple dans la mise en place de systèmes de surveillance. Dans son analyse des rapports, le GAO a constaté que les difficultés les plus fréquentes en matière de renforcement des capacités de GHS étaient les faiblesses des institutions de l’État et le manque de ressources et de capital humain. Selon des responsables officiels, certaines de ces difficultés peuvent être résolues par plus de financement, d’assistance technique ou d’efforts diplomatiques des États-Unis, mais beaucoup d’autres restent en dehors du control du gouvernement des États-Unis. Ceci est une version publique d’un rapport confidentiel émis par le GAO en février 2021; les informations jugées sensibles par l’USAID et les CDC en ont été omises. Pourquoi cette étude du GAO La survenue de la maladie à coronavirus (COVID-19) en décembre 2019 a démontré que les maladies infectieuses peuvent causer des pertes de vie catastrophiques et infliger des dommages durables à l’économie mondiale. L’USAID et les CDC dirigent les efforts déployés par les États-Unis pour renforcer la sécurité sanitaire mondiale, à savoir la capacité mondiale à se préparer à lutter contre les maladies infectieuses, à les détecter et à y riposter, ainsi qu’à réduire ou à prévenir leur propagation sur le plan international. Ces efforts comprennent des activités liées au GHSA, qui vise à accélérer l’obtention de progrès en matière de respect des règlements et autres accords mondiaux relatifs à la santé. Le rapport 114-693 de la Chambre des représentants prévoyait un examen, par le Government Accountability Office (GAO), de l’emploi des fonds de GHS. Dans ce rapport, le GAO examine, pour les 5 années fiscales précédant le début de la pandémie de COVID-19 : 1) l’état des financements et des activités de l’USAID et des CDC relatifs à la GHS et 2) des évaluations d’organismes des États -Unis, réalisées à la fin de l’année fiscale 2019, portant sur les capacités des pays partenaires du GHSA à faire face aux menaces des maladies infectieuses et sur les difficultés que ces pays ont dû relever pour renforcer leurs capacités. Le GAO a analysé des documents d’organismes des États-Unis et d’organismes internationaux. Le GAO a aussi interviewé des responsables officiels à Washington et à Atlanta (Géorgie) ainsi qu’en Ethiopie, en Indonésie, au Sénégal et au Viet Nam. Le GAO a choisi ces pays sur la base de critères tels que la présence de personnel de multiples organismes des États-Unis. Le GAO a également analysé des évaluations interinstitutionnelles des capacités des pays à faire face aux menaces des maladies infectieuses durant l’année fiscale 2019 et les a comparées aux données de référence de 2016 et 2017. Pour plus d’informations, s’adresser à David Gootnick au (202) 512-3149 ou à gootnickd@gao.gov.
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    In Crime News
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    In Crime News
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  • Federal Research: Agencies Need to Enhance Policies to Address Foreign Influence
    In U.S GAO News
    U.S. research may be subject to undue foreign influence in cases where a researcher has a foreign conflict of interest (COI). Federal grant-making agencies can address this threat by implementing COI policies and requiring the disclosure of information that may indicate potential conflicts. GAO reviewed five agencies—which together accounted for almost 90 percent of all federal research and development expenditures at universities in fiscal year 2018—and found that three have agency-wide COI policies, while two do not (see figure). The three agencies with existing policies focus on financial interests but do not specifically address or define non-financial interests, such as multiple professional appointments. In the absence of agency-wide COI policies and definitions on non-financial interests, researchers may not fully understand what they need to report on their grant proposals, leaving agencies with incomplete information to assess the risk of foreign influence. GAO found that, regardless of whether an agency has a conflict of interest policy, all five agencies require researchers to disclose information—such as foreign support for their research—as part of the grant proposal that could be used to determine if certain conflicts exist. Elements of Conflict of Interest (COI) Policies at Agencies with the Most Federal Research Expenditures at Universities Based on a review of university documents, GAO found that all 11 of the universities in its sample have publicly available financial and non-financial COI policies for federally funded research. These policies often align with the financial COI policies or requirements of the grant-making agencies. All five agencies have mechanisms to monitor and enforce their policies and disclosure requirements when there is an alleged failure to disclose required information. All agencies rely on universities to monitor financial COI, and most agencies collect non-financial information such as foreign collaborations, that can help determine if conflicts exist. Agencies have also taken actions in cases where they identified researchers who failed to disclose financial or non-financial information. However, three agencies lack written procedures for handling allegations of failure to disclose required information. Written procedures for addressing alleged failure to disclose required information help agencies manage these allegations and consistently apply enforcement actions. In interviews, stakeholders identified opportunities to improve responses to foreign threats to research, such as harmonizing grant application requirements. Agencies have begun to address such issues. The federal government reportedly expended about $42 billion on science and engineering research at universities in fiscal year 2018. Safeguarding the U.S. research enterprise from threats of foreign influence is of critical importance. Recent reports by GAO and others have noted challenges faced by the research community to combat undue foreign influence, while maintaining an open research environment that fosters collaboration, transparency, and the free exchange of ideas. GAO was asked to review federal agency and university COI policies and disclosure requirements. In this report, GAO examines (1) COI policies and disclosure requirements at selected agencies and universities that address potential foreign threats, (2) mechanisms to monitor and enforce policies and requirements, and (3) the views of selected stakeholders on how to better address foreign threats to federally funded research. GAO reviewed laws, regulations, federal guidance, and agency and university COI policies and requirements. GAO also interviewed agency officials, university officials, and researchers. GAO is making nine recommendations to six agencies, including that grant-making agencies address non-financial conflicts of interest in their COI policies and develop written procedures for addressing cases of failure to disclose required information. Five agencies agreed with GAO's recommendations. The National Science Foundation neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO's recommendation, but identified actions it plans to take in response. For more information, contact Candice N. Wright at (202) 512-6888 or wrightc@gao.gov.
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    The Justice  Department’s Antitrust Division announced today that it has completed its review of a proposed joint patent licensing pool known as the University Technology Licensing Program (UTLP).  UTLP is a proposal by participating universities to offer licenses to their physical science patents relating to specified emerging technologies.
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    In Crime News
    A California agricultural developer has agreed to pay a civil penalty, preserve streams and wetlands, effect mitigation, and be subject to a prohibitory injunction to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) on property near the Sacramento River located in Tehama County, California, the Justice Department announced today.
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  • Food Safety: CDC Could Further Strengthen Its Efforts to Identify and Respond to Foodborne Illnesses
    In U.S GAO News
    The roles and responsibilities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during a multistate foodborne illness outbreak include analyzing federal foodborne illness surveillance networks to identify outbreaks, leading investigations to determine the food causing the outbreak, and communicating with the public. CDC also works to build and maintain federal, state, territorial, and local capacity to respond to foodborne illness outbreaks by awarding funds to state and local public health agencies and through other initiatives. In identifying and responding to multistate foodborne illness outbreaks, CDC faces challenges related to clinical methods and communication, and it has taken some steps to respond to these challenges. One challenge stems from the increasing clinical use of culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs). CIDTs diagnose foodborne illnesses faster and cheaper than traditional methods, but because they do not create DNA fingerprints that can specify a pathogen, they may reduce CDC's ability to identify an outbreak. A CDC working group recommended in May 2018 that CDC develop a plan to respond to the increasing use of CIDTs. By developing a plan, CDC will have greater assurance of continued access to necessary information. CDC also faces a challenge in balancing the competing needs for timeliness and accuracy in its outbreak communications while maintaining public trust. CDC has an internal framework to guide its communications decisions during outbreaks, and it recognizes that stakeholders would like more transparency about these decisions. By making its framework publicly available, CDC could better foster public trust in its information and guidance during outbreaks. CDC has taken steps to evaluate its performance in identifying and responding to multistate outbreaks. Specifically, CDC has developed general strategic goals (see fig.) and taken initial steps to develop performance measures. However, CDC has not yet established other elements of a performance assessment system—an important component of effective program management. CDC's Use of Elements of Program Performance Assessment Systems In particular, CDC has not set specific performance goals, used performance measures to track progress, or conducted a program evaluation of its multistate foodborne illness outbreak investigation efforts. By implementing all elements of a performance assessment system, CDC could better assess its progress toward meeting its goals, identify potentially underperforming areas, and use that information to improve its performance. CDC has estimated that each year, one in six people in the United States gets a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. CDC data show increases in the number of reported multistate foodborne illness outbreaks—groups of two or more linked cases in multiple states—in recent years. Such outbreaks are responsible for a disproportionate number of hospitalizations and deaths, compared with single-state outbreaks. GAO was asked to review CDC's response to multistate foodborne illness outbreaks. This report examines (1) CDC's roles and responsibilities, (2) challenges that CDC faces and the extent to which it has addressed these challenges, and (3) the extent to which CDC evaluates its performance. GAO reviewed agency documents and data; conducted site visits and case studies; and interviewed federal, state, and local public health officials, as well as representatives of stakeholder groups. GAO is recommending that CDC (1) develop a plan to respond to the increasing use of CIDTs, (2) make publicly available its decision-making framework for communicating about multistate foodborne illness outbreaks, and (3) implement all the elements of a performance assessment system. CDC concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact Steve D. Morris at (202) 512-3841 or morriss@gao.gov.
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