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U.S. offers Ukraine ‘whatever support it needs’ to recover from cyberattack

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The United States and its allies have offered Ukraine their support as the investigation into the nature and impact of a cyberattack that targeted the country continues, a White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson said.

Asked by reporters if the cyberattack was conducted by Russian intelligence services, a senior administration official said later: “We don’t have an attribution at this time.”

The senior administration official said the attack, which defaced a series of Ukrainian government websites, appeared to be limited, with multiple websites back online.

The incident comes amid increased tension between Russia and the United States over Ukraine after a week of diplomacy by Biden’s administration failed to cajole Moscow into drawing down its military buildup on Russia’s border with Ukraine.

“We will provide Ukraine with whatever support it needs to recover,” the NSC spokesperson said.

The cyberattack against Ukraine interrupted access to a series of government websites and left a message: “All your personal data has been uploaded, and data on this computer has been irrecoverably destroyed.”

The message added: “All your information is now public. Be afraid and expect the worst.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg “strongly condemned” the incident, saying allied cyber experts would in the coming days provide Ukraine with a cyber defense information sharing platform.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Joseph Menn and Nandita Bose; Writing by Rami Ayyub and Caitlin Webber; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis)

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Amid Omicron, 700,000 Canadians flew abroad in December – CTV News

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TORONTO —
For many Canadians, the Omicron variant wasn’t going to stop their holiday travel plans.

Despite the federal government’s advisory against travelling outside of Canada amid surging COVID-19 cases taking effect midway through December, last month saw more international travel to and from Canada than any other period since the start of the pandemic.

Data collected by the Canada Border Services Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada shows that 742,400 Canadians flew back into the country through Canadian airports in December. That’s a nearly eight-fold increase from December 2020, which only saw 93,800 Canadian travellers.

The week of Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, right after Christmas, saw the highest volume of travel into Canada. There were 215,665 Canadian citizens who returned to Canada by air that week.

For foreign nationals flying into Canada, Dec. 20 to 26 was the busiest week for travel. The data says 125,526 foreign nationals flew into the country that week and 352,900 for the entire month of December.

Although air travel appears to have rebounded significantly, these numbers are still a far cry from December 2019, which saw over 1.1 million Canadians and 577,800 foreign nationals travel by air.

At the land border, there were 608,900 Canadians returning from the U.S. in December, which is up four times from the previous year. Americans also took 291,600 trips to Canada that month.

In response to rising COVID-19 cases driven by Omicron, the federal government on Dec. 15 issued an advisory urging Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside of the country. The feds also tightened testing requirements at the border on Dec. 21, once again mandating that all travellers entering Canada present a negative molecular test result, regardless of trip length or vaccination status.

Cross-border trips also plummeted after the testing requirement went into effect. In the first 20 days of December, 24,600 Canadians on average returned from the U.S. After Dec. 21, the average fell to 10,600, less than half of what it was earlier in the month.

Travellers returning to Canada by air from any country other than the U.S. may also be randomly selected to undergo a PCR test on arrival. But as provinces struggle with their own PCR testing capacity, airports and airlines say testing arrival testing is not the best use of resources and have called on the federal government to drop the requirement.

On the U.S. side, the Department of Homeland Security now requires Canadians and other foreign travellers entering through its land borders to be fully vaccinated as of Saturday. Foreign travellers flying into the U.S. had already been required to present proof of vaccination.

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Pope confers lay ministries on women, formalising recognition of roles

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Pope Francis on Sunday for the first time conferred the lay Roman Catholic ministries of lector and catechist on women, roles that previously many had carried out without institutional recognition.

He conferred the ministries at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, where, in an apparent reference to resistance to change by some conservative, he criticised those who need to have rigid regulations and “more rules” in order to find God.

Last year, Francis changed Church law on the ministries of lector and acolyte, which mainly had been reserved to seminarians preparing for priesthood, saying he wanted to bring stability and public recognition to women already serving in the roles.

Lectors read from scripture, acolytes serve at Mass, and catechists teach the faith to children and adult converts.

The ministries of lector and acolyte existed before but were officially reserved to men. Francis instituted the ministry of the catechist last year.

At Sunday’s Mass the pope installed six women and two men as lectors and three women and five men as catechists. Francis gave a bible to each lector and a crucifix to each catechist.

The formalisation, including a conferral ceremony, will make it more difficult for conservative bishops to block women in their dioceses from taking on those roles.

The change will be particularly important as a recognition for women in places such as the Amazon, where some are the de facto religious leaders of remote communities hit by a severe shortage of priests.

The Vatican stressed that the roles are not a precursor to women one day being allowed to become priests. The Catholic Church teaches that only men can be priests because Jesus chose only men as his apostles.

Supporters of a female priesthood say Jesus was conforming to the customs of his times and that women played a greater role in the early Church than is commonly recognised.

Francis has appointed a number of women to senior jobs in Vatican departments previously held by men.

 

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Pope calls for world day of “prayer for peace” over Ukraine crisis

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Pope Francis on Sunday called for an international day of “prayer for peace” on January 26 to stop the Ukraine crisis from worsening, saying the tensions were threatening the security of Europe and risking vast repercussions.

Francis announced the prayer day and made the appeal for dialogue to defuse the crisis during his weekly address and blessing to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square.

Top U.S. and Russian diplomats failed https://www.reuters.com/world/top-diplomats-us-russia-meet-geneva-soaring-ukraine-tensions-2022-01-21 on Friday to make a major breakthrough in talks to resolve the crisis over Ukraine, although they agreed to keep talking. On Sunday, Britain accused Russia of seeking to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine.

“I am following with concern the rising tensions that threaten to deliver a new blow to peace in Ukraine and put the security of Europe in doubt, with even more vast repercussions,” he said.

He appealed to “all people of good will” to pray next Wednesday so that all political initiatives “be for the service of human fraternity” rather than partisan interests. The Vatican gave no immediate details on how the pope would mark the day.

“Those who pursue their interests by damaging others are in contempt of his vocation as a man, because we were all created as brothers,” he said, without elaborating.

On Friday U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and warned of a “swift, severe” response if Russia invades Ukraine after massing troops near its border.

(Reporting by Philip PullellaEditing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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