Scott Neuman

Updated January 21, 2022 at 10:05 AM ET

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Switzerland Friday to meet with his Kremlin counterpart in hopes of heading off a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. But neither side was sounding optimistic on the immediate outcome.

The tense weeks-long impasse seems unlikely to be resolved during face-to-face talks between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Nineteen-year-old pilot Zara Rutherford touched down at an airfield in western Belgium on Thursday, becoming the youngest woman to fly solo around the world, as she closed the loop five months after taking off on her record-breaking journey.

Amid a flurry of diplomatic efforts aimed at preventing a feared Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia's embassy in Washington tweeted out a call to "end the hysteria," reiterating that Moscow planned no such military move.

"We stress once again: [Russia] is not going to attack anyone," the embassy said in a tweet Tuesday night.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is weathering ever-louder calls to step down — coming even from within his own party — amid a scandal over events he hosted while the rest of the U.K. was on COVID-19 lockdown.

Johnson at first said that no rules were broken by the parties held at the prime minister's London residence in 2020 and 2021, some of which were advertised as "bring your own booze" and called "work events."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top White House medical adviser, says that the coronavirus pandemic won't end with the elimination of the virus. Instead, he says that a less dangerous and disruptive strain of the virus will likely take hold and become endemic.

Speaking Monday at the World Economic Forum's Davos Agenda, Fauci said scientists don't know how exactly the pandemic will finally play out and that it's important "to be openly honest about that."

The U.S., Russia and China all have them. And now, North Korea claims to as well: hypersonic weapons.

These aerial vehicles go a step further than the kind of ballistic missiles that Pyongyang has periodically tested over the years. They can fly fast and maneuver in ways that make them extremely difficult to detect and destroy.

It's a developmental leap that North Korea appears to have quickly bridged. If fully realized, the new capability could present a significant challenge to U.S.- and South Korean-based missile defense systems.

Dozens of Ukrainian government sites have been hit by an ominous cyberattack, with hackers warning people to "be afraid and expect the worst."

The attack took over websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cabinet of ministers and security and defense council, posting a message on screens in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish that read: "Ukrainian! All your personal data was uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore it."

Wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and a winter storm and cold wave were among 20 weather and climate disasters in the U.S. last year that cost $1 billion or more, totaling $145 billion and killing 688 people, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In an overview of an annual report released on Monday by NOAA, scientists also said that 2021 ranked as the fourth-warmest year on record in the United States, with December 2021 being the warmest December ever recorded. The full report is due out Thursday.

The new year has gotten off to a very bad start in Kazakhstan. On Jan. 1, the government lifted a price cap on fuel, setting off a sudden and steep increase in the cost of liquefied petroleum gas, which most people in the Central Asian nation use to run their vehicles. That move sparked widespread protests that turned violent as security forces cracked down.

French President Emmanuel Macron is being condemned by political opponents following an interview this week in which he employed a vulgarity to say he wants to aggravate people who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

"The unvaccinated, I really want to piss them off," Macron told Le Parisien. "And so, we're going to continue doing so until the end. That's the strategy."

While not exact, the translation of the slang phrase was widely picked up by French media publishing in English.

Updated January 4, 2022 at 9:25 PM ET

Drivers along a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 95 in Virginia, south of the nation's capital, are no longer trapped in freezing temperatures after heavy snowfall contributed to spinouts and crashes.

Richard Leakey, the world-renowned paleoanthropologist-turned-conservationist, has died at 77.

Leakey was a native Kenyan. His death was announced late Sunday by the country's president, Uhuru Kenyatta.

A cause of death was not given.

Leakey, whose famous parents, Louis and Mary Leakey, made profound contributions to the understanding of human evolution through key fossil finds of early hominids, also made important discoveries of his own in the field.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has tested positive for COVID-19.

"I tested positive this morning for COVID-19. I requested the test today after exhibiting symptoms while at home on leave," Austin said in a statement late Sunday. "My symptoms are mild, and I am following my physician's directions."

The James Webb Space Telescope, on a long and winding journey to its job site a million miles from Earth, has begun the key task of unfurling a giant umbrella-like shield to protect its delicate instruments from the intense radiation of the sun.

Winter storms sweeping parts of the Western U.S. and the Pacific Northwest have brought heavy snow and record low temperatures in some areas — and there's more to come.

A winter storm warning continues into Wednesday for parts of the border area of Northern California and Nevada.