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Biden, Putin square off as tension grows on Ukraine border

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Biden, Putin square off as tension grows on Ukraine border

By AAMER MADHANI and DASHA LITVINOVA

WASHINGTON (AP) — Face to face for over two hours, President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin squared off in a secure video call Tuesday as the U.S. president put Moscow on notice that an invasion of Ukraine would bring sanctions and enormous harm to the Russian economy.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the Ukraine border, the highly anticipated call between the two leaders came amid growing worries by the U.S. and Western allies about Russia’s threat to its neighbor.

Putin, for his part, came into the meeting seeking guarantees from Biden that the NATO military alliance will never expand to include Ukraine, which has long sought membership. The Americans and their NATO allies said that request was a non-starter.

There appeared to be no immediate breakthroughs to ease tensions on the Ukraine question, as the U.S. emphasized a need for diplomacy and de-escalation, and issued stern threats to Russia on the consequences of an invasion.

Biden “told President Putin directly that if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and our European allies would respond with strong economic measures,” U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said after the call.

He added that Biden said the U.S. would also “provide additional defensive materiel to the Ukrainians … and we would fortify our NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities in response to such an escalation.”

That could include additional deployments of U.S. troops to eastern European NATO allies, the adviser said.

A top U.S. envoy, Victoria Nuland, said a Russian invasion of Ukraine also would jeopardize a controversial pipeline between Russia and Germany. She told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday that if Russia invaded, “our expectation is that the pipeline will be suspended.”

Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov dismissed the sanctions threat during a conference call with reporters.

“While the U.S. president talked about possible sanctions, our president emphasized what Russia needs,” Ushakov said. “Sanctions aren’t something new, they have been in place for a long time and will not have any effect.”

He described the presidents’ video conference as “candid and businesslike,” adding that they also exchanged occasional jokes.

In a brief snippet broadcast by Russia state television, the two leaders offered friendly greetings to each other.

“I welcome you, Mr. President,” Putin said, speaking with a Russian flag behind him and a video monitor showing Biden in front of him. “Good to see you again!” Biden replied with a chuckle. He noted Putin’s absence from the recent Group of 20 summit in Rome – Putin took park by video link because of concerns about COVID-19 – and said, “I hope next time we meet to do it in person.”

At the White House, Sullivan said, “It was a useful meeting,” allowing Biden to lay out in candid terms where the US stands.

As the U.S. and Russian presidents conferred, Ukraine grew only more anxious about the tens of thousands of Russia troops that have been deployed near its border. Ukrainian officials charged Russia had further escalated the smoldering crisis by sending tanks and snipers to war-torn eastern Ukraine to “provoke return fire” and lay a pretext for a potential invasion.

U.S. intelligence officials have not been able to independently verify that accusation, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter. But the official said that the White House has directly raised concerns with the Russians about “resorting to their old playbook” by trying to provoke the Ukrainians.

The Kremlin, in a post-call readout, said, “Putin emphasized that it’s wrong to put the responsibility on Russia, since it is NATO that has been making dangerous attempts to expand its presence on the Ukrainian territory and has been expanding its military potential near Russian borders.”

The Russian leader also proposed to lift all mutual restrictions on diplomatic missions and help normalize other aspects of bilateral relations, the Kremlin said. Sullivan said the leaders would direct their staffs to continue negotiations on that.

The leader-to-leader conversation — Biden speaking from the White House Situation Room, Putin from his residence in Sochi —was one of the most important of Biden’s presidency and came at a perilous time. U.S. intelligence officials have determined that Russia has massed 70,000 troops near the Ukraine border and has made preparations for a possible invasion early next year.

Sullivan said the U.S. believes that Putin has not yet made a final decision to invade.

Biden was vice president in 2014 when Russian troops marched into the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and annexed the territory from Ukraine. Aides say the Crimea episode — one of the darker moments for President Barack Obama on the international stage — looms large as Biden looks at the smoldering current crisis.

Politically in Washington, Republicans are framing this moment as a key test of Biden’s leadership on the global stage. Biden vowed as a candidate to reassert American leadership after President Donald Trump’s emphasis on an “America first” foreign policy. But Republicans say he’s been ineffective in slowing Iran’s march toward becoming a nuclear power and has done too little to counter autocratic leaders including China’s Xi Jinping and Putin.

“Fellow authoritarians in Beijing and Tehran will be watching how the free world responds,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said from the Senate floor before the Biden-Putin meeting.

Sullivan said Biden and Putin had a “good discussion on the Iran issue” and called it an area where the two countries could cooperate.

“The more Iran demonstrates a lack of seriousness at the negotiating table,” the more there will be a sense of unity among the U.S. and the parties to the 2015 nuclear accord including Russia and the European Union, he said.

Trump, who showed unusual deference to Putin during his presidency, said in a statement that “Vladimir Putin looks at our pathetic surrender in Afghanistan, leaving behind dead Soldiers, American citizens, and $85 billion worth of Military equipment. He then looks at Biden. He is not worried!”

Ahead of the Putin call, Biden on Monday spoke with leaders of the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy to coordinate messaging and potential sanctions. He also to spoke with them again following his call to brief them out the outcome. Biden is also expected to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday.

Putin apparently sees the current situation as a moment to readjust the power dynamic of the U.S.-Russia relationship, analysts agree.

Beyond Ukraine, there are plenty of other thorny issues on the table, including cyberattacks and human rights. Before the call, Kremlin spokesman Peskov said U.S.-Russian relations are overall in “a rather dire state.”

“Russia has never planned to attack anyone,” Peskov said. He characterized the Biden-Putin call as a “working conversation during a very difficult period,” when “escalation of tensions in Europe is off the scale, extraordinary.”

___

Litvinova reported from Moscow. Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Robert Burns, Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

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DIA sets new record for the number of guns seized at airport security

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DIA sets new record for the number of guns seized at airport security

Denver International Airport ranked sixth nationally in 2021 for the number of firearms seized by TSA agents at security checkpoints, the Transportation Security Administration announced Tuesday.

In 2021, agents found 141 firearms in travelers carry-on luggage, more than any year since 2018, according to TSA data. Nationally, 5,972 guns were seized at airport security checkpoints. The 141 guns seized set a new record at the Denver airport, the TSA said in a news release.

“As the data suggests, travelers bringing firearms in carry-on luggage is not new and we have now reached an unacceptable level of carelessness by gun owners. Simply stated, one gun in carry-on luggage is one too many,” TSA Federal Security Director for Colorado Larry Nau said in a news release.

Still, the percentage of passengers trying to bring guns onto airplanes is small.

Security agents at DIA screened approximately 18.3 million departing passengers and crew in 2021, making it the sixth busiest airport for TSA security checkpoint screening operations. That is a 72% increase in passenger traffic over 2020, a year where air travel was marred by the coronavirus pandemic.

The airports with the most firearms seized at security in 2021 are:

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport , 507
  • Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, 317
  • Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, 245
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, 196
  • Nashville International Airport, 163.

Travelers caught with firearms at an airport security checkpoint face criminal and civil penalties. Even those with concealed carry permits must check their unloaded weapons in a hard-sided case.

For more information on carrying firearms on an airplane, visit https://www.tsa.gov/travel/transporting-firearms-and-ammunition.

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Opinion: Colorado must address workforce age discrimination

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Opinion: Colorado must address workforce age discrimination

We have a paradox going on in Colorado: employers are desperately looking for talent, and older adults are desperately looking for work. But workforce age discrimination makes it difficult for older Coloradans to fully contribute to the labor market.

For years, older workers from every corner of the state have told me their frustrating and often heartbreaking stories of age discrimination that prevented them from landing needed jobs, that they faced once in the workplace, and that they felt as they were forced out.

Stories like these: a man who was a colleague of mine, a fundraising pro with decades of success who couldn’t get callbacks for development jobs; a former corporate marketing VP who was told that she lost out to a younger applicant because the hiring manager assumed she would not be social media savvy; a group of women in their 60s forced to live on small social security checks — this despite help-wanted signs in almost every store window in their Western Slope town.

Such age discrimination is common: studies from AARP and others show that 78% of workers over 45 have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace and over one-half of long-time, employees age 50 and over are forced to leave positions before they would voluntarily choose to do so. Once this happens, only 10% of them ever regain their previous economic status.

Nationwide, the country lost $850 billion in GDP due to age discrimination and that could grow to $3.9 trillion by 2050, reports the AARP.

Discrimination based upon age has especially harmful consequences for already economically vulnerable groups like women, people of color, and those with low incomes.

There are many reasons to work toward ending workforce age discrimination. There are ways to do it, and there’s no time to waste.

First off, ending age discrimination is good for business. Older adults provide numerous benefits in the workplace. Intergenerational teams create mentoring opportunities, improve team problem-solving, and increase creativity born from combining different perspectives and histories.

Keeping older workers on the job strengthens economies from Main Street to Wall Street. Ongoing paychecks mean more disposable income spent and more taxes paid, while tax-supported benefits can be delayed.

Older adults also need to continue working: the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 48% of households headed by a person aged 55 or older lack retirement savings. The median 401(k) balance for those between 55 and 64 is less than $15,000. For older adults who lack adequate savings, continuing to work past the traditional retirement age is an economic necessity.

Last, but not least, older adults want to continue working, and continued workforce participation may be connected to better physical and mental health for older adults.

When the legislature reconvenes in January, we can change our workforce discrimination laws so that our economy benefits from the experience and wisdom of older workers.

We must end requirements that job applicants write their high school graduation dates or other age-identifiers on application forms. Right now, it is illegal to ask someone their age, but not their high school graduation date.

And also, ensure that the penalties for age discrimination are commensurate with those for other forms of discrimination. Currently in Colorado, compensatory and punitive damages are allowed in race and gender discrimination cases, but not for age.

Make clear that Colorado’s age discrimination laws apply to hiring, and that the burden of providing age discrimination is not higher than for other forms of discrimination.

Some problems seem overwhelming and too big to solve, but this is one we can address. Certainly, we can’t legislate away ageism, but we can give older workers the same protections afforded to other groups — and we can help businesses get and keep the workers they need.

Janine Vanderburg directs Changing the Narrative, a Colorado-based campaign to change the way people think, talk and act about aging and ageism. The end game? To end ageism. You can read more about what they are doing to reduce workplace ageism.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.

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Dolphins Q&A: An early look at possible selections with late first-round draft pick

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Dolphins Q&A: An early look at possible selections with late first-round draft pick

Here’s the latest installment of our Miami Dolphins Q&A, where South Florida Sun Sentinel writers David Furones and Omar Kelly answer questions from readers.

Q: With the 25th pick of Round 1 … u select whom…? — Bob Witmer on Twitter

A: First, let’s clarify that the Dolphins’ place in the first round isn’t set in stone yet. With the Dolphins owning the San Francisco 49ers’ selection, Miami will select, at best, No. 25, but it could more likely be 26th or fall even further back.

If you go chalk in the divisional round, with the 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals losing at the respective top-seeded Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans, it’s 26. If San Francisco loses and Cincinnati wins, it’s 25. If the 49ers advance to the NFC Championship Game, it will be drop into the final four selections of the opening round.

Essentially, we’re looking at what the Dolphins’ top possibilities will be late in the first round. Miami also now seems more likely to keep this pick with the team essentially ruling out a move for another starting quarterback this offseason and sticking with Tua Tagovailoa heading into his third NFL season.

Picking late in the first round, there are a few offensive tackles that are getting projected to go in that range. I would like to see the Dolphins add at least two offensive linemen this offseason that could serve as an immediate upgrade over what they currently have starting and at least one a veteran free agent. To throw out a couple of names, New Orleans Saints left tackle Terron Armstead or New England Patriots right tackle Trent Brown.

If Miami wants to go the route of getting another lineman with the late-first-round choice, general manager Chris Grier may be leaning on the next head coach’s expertise after the combination of he and ex-coach Brian Flores expended a first (Austin Jackson), two seconds (Liam Eichenberg, Robert Hunt), a third (Michael Deiter), a fourth (Solomon Kindley, a sixth (Isaiah Prince) and a seventh (Larnel Coleman) on linemen over the past three drafts with only one sure-fire NFL-caliber starter to show for it in Hunt at right guard.

A few names to look out for where the Dolphins will be selecting are Ohio State’s Nicholas Petit-Frere, Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann and Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning.

Petit-Frere (6 feet 5, 315 pounds) stood out at left tackle for the Buckeyes and opted out of playing in the Rose Bowl with his draft status already secured. He has experience at right tackle, as well, starting there in 2020, and could slide over if needed to protect the left-handed Tagovailoa’s blind side.

Raimann (6-7, 305) is considered a fast riser by Pro Football Focus for his overall blocking grades in 2021, making a significant leap from the previous year. The Austrian foreign exchange student in high school started his college career as a project tight end before growing into a left tackle, where he started playing in 2020.

Penning (6-7, 322) has experience at both tackle spots and guard while possessing the prototypical height, weight and length and being light on his feet at that size. Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard and UCLA’s Sean Rhyan are also some that could be considered.

You also want to see the Dolphins add a starting running back and a receiving weapon in the offseason. Unless a running back emerges between the Senior Bowl and scouting combine, none appear to be going in the first round. Maybe Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker remains available when Miami’s middle-of-the-second pick comes around. He possesses an exceptional ability to break tackles, as seen when he played at Hard Rock Stadium against the Hurricanes last September.

The Dolphins can also do their homework on several receivers, eyeing which one drops that they like between USC’s Drake London, Ohio State’s Chris Olave or Garrett Wilson, Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks or Penn State’s Jahan Dotson.

The free agent moves made in March will bring greater clarity on needs remaining going into the draft from April 28 to April 30, but it’s unlikely the offensive line is entirely fixed on free agency alone. So, it’s a good bet, especially given how many viable prospects are expected to go in this area of the draft, that the Dolphins go with a lineman there.

Have a question?

Email David Furones, or tag @OmarKelly or @DavidFurones_ on Twitter.

Previously answered:

Can Dolphins hire offensive coach, keep defensive assistants?

Does Zach Thomas get into Hall of Fame this year?

Why not throw downfield to Waddle more?

What do Dolphins think of practice squad rookie RB Gerrid Doaks?

What free agent receiver could Dolphins pair with Waddle?

What is with Jason Sanders’ misses?

What changes could come to receiving corps in offseason?

What offensive linemen should Dolphins target in free agency?

Can Tua still be a top-10 quarterback?

Does Austin Jackson’s move to left guard bring hope?

Did franchise botch Fitzpatrick, Tunsil, Tannehill trades?

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