AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

Ukrainian leaders: Stay calm, Russian invasion not imminent

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine’s leaders sought Tuesday to reassure the nation that an invasion from neighboring Russia was not imminent, even as they acknowledged the threat is real and received a shipment of U.S.military equipment to shore up their defenses.

Moscow has denied it is planning an assault, but it has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine in recent weeks and is holding military drills at multiple locations in Russia. That has led the United States and its NATO allies to rush to prepare for a possible war.

U.S.President Joe Biden told reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin “continues to build forces along Ukraine´s border,” and an attack “would be the largest invasion since World War II. It would change the world.”

Several rounds of high stakes diplomacy have failed to yield any breakthroughs, and tensions escalated further this week.NATO said it was bolstering its deterrence in the Baltic Sea region, and the U.S. ordered 8,500 troops on higher alert for potential deployment to Europe as part of an alliance “response force” if necessary. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said he is prepared to send troops to protect NATO allies in Europe.

“We have no intention of putting American forces or NATO forces in Ukraine,” Biden said, adding that there would be serious economic consequences for Putin, including personal sanctions, in the event of an invasion.

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Biden’s big test: Proving he can rally allies against Putin

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden´s effort to rally support, both at home and abroad, ahead of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine is just the latest big test of his ability to bridge ideological gaps and balance competing interests to build effective coalitions.

His record so far as president suggests it´s no sure thing.Biden is trying to pull off the kind of alliance on the international front that has eluded him on his domestic agenda as he faces defeats on voting rights and his signature $2.2 trillion domestic and climate spending bill.

Now, he faces a complicated and globally more dangerous task: keeping the West unified as it faces what White House officials say is an increasingly likely further invasion of Ukrainian territory ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The pileup of difficult moments is providing a major test of the twin pillars of Biden´s 2020 candidacy: that he could get things done competently at home and restore America´s standing in the world after Donald Trump´s volatile four years in the White House.

“Starting with the messy end of the war in Afghanistan in the late summer, the upsurge in COVID cases into the fall, overlaid by economic concerns of inflation and labor shortages and his issues with his legislative agenda, Biden’s found himself with a weary American public who are seeing a number of unfulfilled promises,” said Christopher Borick, director of the Institute of Public Opinion at Muhlenberg College.”The situation in Ukraine presents another test of his competency.”

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COVID-19 vaccine booster drive is faltering in the US

NEW YORK (AP) – The COVID-19 booster drive in the U.S. is losing steam, worrying health experts who have pleaded with Americans to get an extra shot to shore up their protection against the highly contagious omicron variant.

Just 40% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the average number of booster shots dispensed per day in the U.S.has plummeted from a peak of 1 million in early December to about 490,000 as of last week.

Also, a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that Americans are more likely to see the initial vaccinations – rather than a booster – as essential.

“It´s clear that the booster effort is falling short,” said Jason Schwartz, a vaccine policy expert at Yale University.

Overall, the U.S.vaccination campaign has been sluggish. More than 13 months after it began, just 63% of Americans, or 210 million people, are fully vaccinated with the initial rounds of shots. Mandates that could raise those numbers have been hobbled by legal challenges.

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China 2008 vs 2022: Richer, stronger, more confrontational

BEIJING (AP) – China has undergone history-making change since the last time it was an Olympic host in 2008: It is richer, more heavily armed and openly confrontational.

As President Xi Jinping´s government prepares for February´s Winter Olympics, it has greater leverage to exert influence abroad and resist complaints from the United States and other governments over trade, terbaik sumatera technology theft and its treatment of Taiwan, Hong Kong and China´s Muslim minorities.

The economy is three times larger today.The ruling Communist Party is using that wealth to try to become a “technology power” and is spending more on its military than any country other than the United States.

“2008 was a turning point,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, an expert on Chinese politics at Hong Kong Baptist University.”That was the beginning of China´s assertiveness.”

As fireworks exploded over Beijing in August 2008, China was about to overtake Japan as the No. 2 global economy. The ruling party celebrated with the most expensive Summer Games to date.

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GOP map ties ‘woke’ Kansas enclave to Trump-loving areas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – The Republicans who control the Kansas Legislature are close to passing a congressional redistricting plan that marries an eastern Kansas community proud of its “woke” politics to Trump-loving small towns and farms five hours west by car on the expansive and stark plains.

Democratic legislators and some local officials see the worst kind of gerrymandering in the GOP’s intentions for Lawrence, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Kansas City.The northeast Kansas city of almost 95,000 residents is home to the main University of Kansas campus.

A city that has a penchant for irritating conservatives with liberal politics – it’s trying to move to entirely renewable energy, for example – would be moved into the sprawling 1st Congressional District of western and central Kansas where former President Donald Trump received almost 70% of the vote in 2020.

The Kansas House debated the bill Tuesday for four hours and set a final vote for Wednesday.The Senate approved the plan last week. Democrats don´t have the political strength to prevent its passage and might not be able to sustain a possible veto from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Both parties expect the lines to be settled in court.

Kansas´ new 1st District would not look like its GOP-drawn 1st District cousin in North Carolina, held together over the north-south length of that state by islands off its Atlantic coast, or the snaky Chicago-area districts that favor Democrats in Illinois.But it raises eyebrows even among some Republicans who planned to vote for it by having a finger of land extend far into eastern Kansas and end with Lawrence at a small tip.

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EXPLAINER: What’s known about ‘stealth’ version of omicron?

Scientists and health officials around the world are keeping their eyes on a descendant of the omicron variant that has been found in at least 40 countries, including the United States.

This version of the coronavirus, which scientists call BA.2, is widely considered stealthier than the original version of omicron because particular genetic traits make it somewhat harder to detect.Some scientists worry it could also be more contagious.

But they say there´s a lot they still don´t know about it, including whether it evades vaccines better or causes more severe disease.

WHERE HAS IT SPREAD?

Since mid-November, more than three dozen countries have uploaded nearly 15,000 genetic sequences of BA.2 to GISAID, a global platform for sharing coronavirus data.As of Tuesday morning, 96 of those sequenced cases came from the U.S.

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Pelosi to seek reelection with Democratic majority at risk

LOS ANGELES (AP) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday she will seek reelection, ending speculation that she would retire as Democrats face the threat of losing control of Congress in the 2022 midterms.

“While we have made progress, much more needs to be done to improve people´s lives,” the 81-year-old Pelosi said in an online video.

“This election is crucial. Nothing less is at stake than our democracy,” she added.

By announcing she would seek a 19th term, Pelosi avoids becoming a lame duck in a year when Democrats are clinging to a fragile majority in the House and the party is under pressure to raise vast sums of money to defend control of Congress.

Her decision to remain in the chamber follows announcements by 29 House Democrats that they won’t seek reelection this year, compared to 13 Republicans as the GOP looks toward taking back the House.

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Stock investors’ nerves tested by inflation, omicron, Russia

NEW YORK (AP) – The stock market is losing crucial support from the Federal Reserve.Omicron is causing havoc at businesses around the world. And Russia just might be preparing to invade Ukraine, creating more uncertainty and raising the prospect of even higher oil prices.

No wonder investors are freaking out – and selling stocks.

The S&P 500 has dropped nearly 10% from its record set on the first trading day of the year, the biggest setback for Wall Street since its collapse when the pandemic first struck.And the market´s moves have been fierce amid the mounting uncertainty.

The S&P 500 had four straight drops of 1% through Friday, the longest such streak since late 2018. The streak broke only after the S&P 500 eked out a slight gain on Monday, when a furious 11th-hour rally erased what had been a 4% loss.Tuesday was another volatile, down day for stocks.

For nearly two years, investors had poured money into stocks, confident that the Federal Reserve would help keep share prices upright. The Fed´s super-low interest rates and the rapid U.S. economic recovery from the pandemic recession made stocks a more lucrative bet than safer investments such as low-yielding bonds.

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Capsized boat found near Florida; 39 people missing

MIAMI (AP) – The U.S.Coast Guard searched on Tuesday for 39 people missing for several days after a boat believed to be used for human smuggling capsized off Florida´s coast en route from the Bahamas.

A good Samaritan called the Coast Guard early Tuesday after rescuing a man clinging to the boat 45 miles (72 kilometers) east of Fort Pierce, the maritime security agency reported on Twitter.

The man said he was with a group of 39 others that left the island of Bimini in the Bahamas on Saturday night.He said the boat capsized in severe weather and that no one was wearing life jackets.

The survivor was brought to a hospital for symptoms of dehydration and sun exposure.

The Coast Guard is calling it a suspected human smuggling case. Officials said on Twitter that they are searching by both air and sea over a roughly 135-mile (218-kilometer) area extending from Bimini to the Fort Pierce Inlet.

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Big Papi elected to HOF; Bonds, Clemens, Schilling left out

David Ortiz gazed at his phone, his pursed lips revealing nerves rarely seen from one of the game’s great clutch hitters.

Pedro Martinez’s hand rested on Ortiz’s shoulder, and Martinez grinned when the good news came through.The former teammates embraced, and Martinez welcomed Ortiz into a rare space in baseball history.

Big Papi is bound for Cooperstown – and on the first ballot, too.

Ortiz was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first try Tuesday, while steroid-tainted stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were denied entry in their final year under consideration by the Baseball Writers´ Association of America.

Ortiz, a 10-time All-Star over 20 seasons mostly with the Boston Red Sox, was named on 77.9% of ballots, clearing the 75% threshold needed for enshrinement.He’s the 58th player inducted in his first time up for consideration.

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