• Dramatic Video Shows Escape, Shooting of N. Korean DefectorDramatic Video Shows Escape, Shooting of N. Korean Defector

    A North Korean soldier made a desperate dash to freedom in a jeep and then on foot, being shot at least five times as he limped across the border and was rescued by South Korean soldiers, according to dramatic video released by the U.S.-led U.N. Command Wednesday. Colonel Chad G. Carroll, a spokesman for the U.N. Command, told reporters in a live TV briefing that the North violated the armistice agreement ending the Korean War by firing across and physically crossing the border in pursuit of the soldier. North Korean soldiers fired about 40 rounds at the defector, who remained hospitalized after two rounds of surgery. The video shows the soldier speeding down a tree-lined road, past dun-colored fields and shocked North Korean soldiers, who begin to run after him. He crashes the jeep near the line that divides North and South, near the Joint Security Area (JSA) where North and South Korean soldiers are just meters away from one another. Soldiers from the North sprint to the area, firing their weapons at the defector; one hurries across the dividing line before running back to the northern side. South Korean soldiers then crawl up to the defector, who has fallen injured in a mass of leaves against a small wall. They drag him to safety as North Korean troops begin to gather on their side of the line. Surprisingly, North and South Korean soldiers didn't exchange fire during the shooting, which was the first in the area in more than three decades. Carroll said the North violated the armistice by "one, firing weapons across the MDL, and two, by actually crossing the MDL temporarily,'' referring to the military demarcation line that bisects the Koreas. Meeting requested A U.N. Command statement said officials notified the North's military of these violations and requested a meeting to discuss the investigation results and measures to prevent future violations. North Korea did not immediately respond, and its official media haven't reported on the case. The North has previously accused South Korea of kidnapping or enticing North Koreans to defect. About 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea, mostly via China, since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. South Korea's military said North Korean soldiers used handguns and assault rifles to fire about 40 rounds at their former comrade. A U.N. Command helicopter later transported him to the Ajou University Medical Center near Seoul. The JSA, jointly overseen by the American-led U.N. Command and by North Korea, is inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2½-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone, which has been the de facto border between the Koreas since the war. While treating the wounds, surgeons removed dozens of parasites from the soldier's ruptured small intestine, including presumed roundworms that were as long as 27 centimeters (10.6 inches), which may reflect poor nutrition and health in North Korea's military. The soldier is 1.7 meters (5 feet 7 inches) tall but weighs just 60 kilograms (132 pounds).

    Voice of America / 36 min. ago more
  • Teen Idol David Cassidy, 'Partridge Family' Star, Dies at 67Teen Idol David Cassidy, 'Partridge Family' Star, Dies at 67

    David Cassidy, the teen and pre-teen idol who starred in the 1970s sitcom "The Partridge Family'' and sold millions of records as the musical group's lead singer, died Tuesday at age 67. Cassidy, who announced earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with dementia, died surrounded by his family, a family statement released by publicist JoAnn Geffen said. No further details were immediately available, but Geffen said on Saturday that Cassidy was in a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, hospital suffering from organ failure. "David died surrounded by those he loved, with joy in his heart and free from the pain that had gripped him for so long,'' the statement said. Thank you for the abundance and support you have shown him these many years.'' "The Partridge Family'' aired from 1970-74 and was a fictional variation of the `60s performers the Cowsills, intended at first as a vehicle for Shirley Jones, the Oscar winning actress and Cassidy's stepmother. Jones played Shirley Partridge, a widow with five children with whom she forms a popular act that travels on a psychedelic bus. The cast also featured Cassidy as eldest son and family heartthrob Keith Partridge; Susan Dey, later of "L.A. Law'' fame, as sibling Laurie Partridge and Danny Bonaduce as sibling Danny Partridge. It was an era for singing families - the Osmonds, the Jacksons. "The Partridge Family'' never cracked the top 10 in TV ratings, but the recordings under their name, mostly featuring Cassidy, Jones and session players, produced real-life musical hits and made Cassidy a real-life musical superstar. The Partridges' best known song, "I Think I Love You,'' spent three weeks on top of the Billboard chart at a time when other hit singles included James Taylor's "Fire and Rain'' and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "The Tears of a Clown.'' The group also reached the top 10 with "I'll Meet You Halfway'' and "Doesn't Somebody Want to be Wanted'' and Cassidy had a solo hit with "Cherish.'' "In two years, David Cassidy has swept hurricane-like into the pre-pubescent lives of millions of American girls,'' Rolling Stone magazine noted in 1972. "Leaving: six and a half million long-playing albums and singles; 44 television programs; David Cassidy lunch boxes; David Cassidy bubble gum; David Cassidy coloring books and David Cassidy pens; not to mention several millions of teen magazines, wall stickers, love beads, posters and photo albums.'' Cassidy's appeal faded after the show went off the air, although he continued to tour, record and act over the next 40 years, his albums including "Romance'' and the awkwardly titled "Didn't You Used To Be?'' He had a hit with "I Write the Songs'' before Barry Manilow's chart-topping version and success overseas with "The Last Kiss,'' featuring backing vocals from Cassidy admirer George Michael. He made occasional stage and television appearances, including an Emmy-nominated performance on "Police Story.'' Meanwhile, "The Partridge Family'' remained popular in re-runs and Cassidy, who kept his dark bangs and boyish appearance well into middle age, frequently turned up for reunions and spoke often about his early success. "So many people come up to me and talk to me about the impact it (the show) had,'' he told Arsenio Hall in 1990.

    Voice of America / 53 min. ago more
  • Olympic Champion Gabby Douglas Says Team Doctor Abused HerOlympic Champion Gabby Douglas Says Team Doctor Abused Her

    Olympic champion gymnast Gabby Douglas says she is among the group of athletes sexually abused by a former team doctor. Douglas, the 2012 Olympic all-around champion and a three-time gold medalist, wrote in an Instagram post Tuesday night that she waited so long to reveal the abuse by Larry Nassar because she was part of a group "conditioned to stay silent.'' The 21-year-old Douglas is the latest high-profile gymnast to come forward against Nassar, who spent nearly two decades as the national team doctor for USA Gymnastics before being fired in 2015. Two-time Olympic teammate Aly Raisman detailed her abuse by Nassar in her autobiography "Fierce'' released earlier this month. Two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney disclosed abuse by Nassar in October. Nassar, 54, is accused of molesting several girls while working for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. He's facing similar charges in a neighboring county and lawsuits filed by more than 125 women and girls.

    Voice of America / 1 h. 32 min. ago more
  • Uber CEO Says Company Failed to Disclose Massive Breach in 2016 Uber CEO Says Company Failed to Disclose Massive Breach in 2016

    Uber Technologies Inc failed to disclose a massive breach last year that exposed the data of some 57 million users of the ride-sharing service, the company's new chief executive officer said on Tuesday. Discovery of the company's handling of the incident led to the departure of two employees who led Uber's response to the incident, said Dara Khosrowshahi, who was named CEO in August following the departure of founder Travis Kalanick. Khosrowshahi said he had only recently learned of the matter himself. The company’s admission that it failed to disclose the breach comes as Uber seeks to recover from a series of crises that culminated in the Kalanick’s ouster in June. “None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Khosrowshahi said in a blog post. According to the company’s account, two individuals downloaded data from a web-based server at another company that provided Uber with cloud-computing services. The data contained names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers of some 57 million Uber users around the world. The hackers also downloaded names and driver’s license numbers of some 600,000 of the company's U.S. drivers, Khosrowshahi said in a blog post. Bloomberg News reported that Uber’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan and a deputy had been ousted from the company this week because of their role in the handling of the incident. The company paid hackers $100,000 to delete the stolen data, according to Bloomberg. Though such payoffs are rarely discussed in public, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation officials and private security companies have told Reuters in the past year that an increasing number of companies have made payments to criminal hackers who have turned to extortion. None have previously come to light that aimed to suppress breaches that would have required public disclosure, such as those involving protected personal information. Sullivan did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Sullivan, formerly the top security official at Facebook Inc, is a former federal prosecutor and one of the most admired security executives in Silicon Valley. Kalanick learned of the breach a month after it took place, in November 2016, as the company was in negotiations with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over the handling of consumer data, according to Bloomberg. Uber representatives did not respond when asked to comment on the Bloomberg report. Khosrowshahi said he had hired Matt Olsen, former general counsel of the U.S. National Security Agency, to help him figure out how to best guide and structure the company's security teams and processes. “While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes,” he said. “We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers.”  

    Voice of America / 2 h. 29 min. ago more
  • Suspected New York Bike Path Attacker ChargedSuspected New York Bike Path Attacker Charged

    A federal grand jury has returned a 22-count indictment against Sayfullo Saipov in the death of eight people killed during a truck attack on a bike path in New York City. The Justice Department said Saipov was indicted Tuesday in a Manhattan federal court. He is charged with eight counts of murder, 12 counts of attempted murder, providing and attempting to provide material support to Islamic State, and violence and destruction of motor vehicles resulting in death. Saipov, an Uzbek immigrant, was hospitalized after he was shot by a police officer. He was arrested after several people were run over by a vehicle Oct. 31 in a midday attack on a popular bike path. "Consumed by hate and a twisted ideology, Sayfullo Saipov allegedly barreled down a pedestrian walkway and bicycle path on a sunny afternoon on the West Side of Manhattan, killing eight innocent people and injuring at least a dozen others," said Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim for the Southern District of New York. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the truck attack, which was the deadliest assault on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.

    Voice of America / 2 h. 42 min. ago more
  • Mexico Suffers Deadliest Month on RecordMexico Suffers Deadliest Month on Record

    There were more killings in October in Mexico than in any other month in at least 20 years, according to official data. It's the latest grim milestone in 2017, a year on course to register the highest homicide tally since modern records began. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's failure to tackle growing drug violence is seen as a major weakness ahead of next July's presidential election, where he faces an uphill battle to keep his centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in power. The data, published by Mexico's Interior Ministry on Monday, showed there were 2,371 homicide investigations opened in October. With 20,878 slayings nationwide in the first 10 months of 2017, this year is on track to overtake 2011 as the most violent since the government began publishing such data in 1997. There were an average of 69 killings a day so far this year, putting Mexico on track to overtake the 2011 homicide tally before the end of November. In 2011, there were an average of 63 slayings per day, according to Reuters' calculations. In a speech this month, Pena Nieto acknowledged that crime and violence had been rising. "It has to be said, we're still not satisfied, and we still have lots more to achieve," he said. "Security needs to remain an utmost priority for the government." However, he also added that certain sectors of society are engaged in "bullying" Mexico's institutions, belittling the work of the police and military. Those comments were ridiculed online, where many criticized the rising violence and graft that have stained his administration. In further bad news for Pena Nieto's unpopular government, Silvestre de la Toba, the head of the Baja California Sur state human rights commission, was shot dead on Monday. His killing drew criticism from U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson, who tweeted that his death should be fully investigated. Baja California Sur, which includes the popular resort of Los Cabos, is one of the states that have seen the sharpest rise in killings. There were 409 in the first 10 months of 2017, up 178 percent from the same period last year.

    Voice of America / 2 h. 45 min. ago more
  • Trump Indicates Support for Moore in Alabama Senate RaceTrump Indicates Support for Moore in Alabama Senate Race

    U.S. President Donald Trump all but endorsed embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore on Tuesday, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago. "I can tell you one thing for sure: We don't need a liberal person in there, a Democrat," Trump told reporters at the White House. Moore's opponent in the Senate race, Democrat Doug Jones, has a record that is "terrible on crime, it's terrible on the border, it's terrible on the military," Trump said. Trump said he would announce next week whether he will campaign on the Republican candidate's behalf. Moore's campaign has been in turmoil since The Washington Post published a story detailing the accounts of three women who claimed he pursued them while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Three more women have since spoken out with allegations of their own. Moore has adamantly rejected accusations of sexual abuse, but prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and two former presidential candidates, Senator John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, have called for him to end his candidacy. Trump, himself the subject of sexual abuse allegations during his 2016 presidential campaign, which he said were false, had said little about the accusations against Moore until Tuesday. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that Trump thought it was "up to the people of Alabama who their next senator will be." But earlier, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway described Jones as a "doctrinaire liberal" who would vote against tax cuts the Trump administration is pushing Congress to adopt. Asked whether the White House was asking people to vote for Moore, Conway deflected the question, but said, "I'm telling you we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through." One of Moore's accusers, Leigh Corfman, told NBC on Monday that it took her decades before she regained her sense of trust and confidence in herself after the 1979 encounter she alleges she had with him. Now 53, Corfman said she was "a 14-year-old child trying to play in an adult's world" but that she "didn't deserve to have a 32-year-old man prey upon" her. "I was expecting candlelight and roses; what I got was very different," she said. "I felt guilty. I felt like I was the one to blame. "I met him around the corner from my house — my mother did not know — and he took me to his home," Corfman said. "After arriving at his home on the second occasion that I went with him, he basically laid out some blankets on the floor of his living room and proceeded to … seduce me, I guess you would say." Corfman's accusations against Moore first appeared in the Post more than a week ago. She told the newspaper that Moore took off her "shirt and pants and removed his clothes," touched her over her bra and underpants and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear before she ended the encounter. She asked him to take her home, and he did. Moore leads an expanding list of lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct. On Monday, the website BuzzFeed alleged that longtime U.S. Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, paid $27,000 to a woman who alleged that he'd fired her from his Washington staff after she rebuffed his sexual overtures. Conyers, 88, at first denied the report, then on Tuesday he acknowledged the settlement, which he said he made to avoid protracted litigation. But he continued to deny he had sexually harassed the woman. Ryan, the leader of the majority Republicans in the chamber, called the allegation "extremely troubling. People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination." Leaders of the House Ethics Committee said they were opening an investigation into the allegations, including whether Conyers had used official resources for impermissible personal purposes. Conyers said he would fully cooperate.

    Voice of America / 3 h. 19 min. ago more
  • US Senator: Myanmar Crisis Bears ‘All the Hallmarks’ of Ethnic CleansingUS Senator: Myanmar Crisis Bears ‘All the Hallmarks’ of Ethnic Cleansing

    A United States Senate delegation to Myanmar said Tuesday that the crisis in the Rakhine state "has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing." "Many refugees have suffered direct attacks including loved ones, children and husbands being killed in front of them, wives and daughters being raped, burns and other horrific injuries. This has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing," Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, told a press conference at the U.S. embassy in Yangon. Merkley told reporters that the U.S. Congressional delegation has urged Myanmar’s government to implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Advisory Commission, and to allow the UN and other NGOs access to the troubled region to provide humanitarian assistance. Tillerson has concerns In Washington, the U.S. State Department is considering whether to officially designate the conflict as ethnic cleansing. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Myanmar last week and expressed concern over "credible reports of widespread atrocities committed by security forces and vigilantes." Pope set to visit The Pope is slated to visit Myanmar from Nov. 27-30, where he is expected to meet with the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Merkley is joined on the delegation by four Democrats: U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois and U.S. Representatives Betty McCollum of Minnesota, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and David Cicilline of Rhode Island. The Senators and Representatives met with government officials and affected populations in the region, and highlighted the ongoing humanitarian crisis and urgent need for international action to bring an end to the violence. VOA Burmese and Thet Su Naing contributed to this report

    Voice of America / 3 h. 27 min. ago more
  • CBS Fires Journalist Rose After Sex Abuse Allegations Surface CBS Fires Journalist Rose After Sex Abuse Allegations Surface

    The CBS television network fired veteran newsman Charlie Rose on Tuesday, a day after an explosive Washington Post report recounted stories from eight women who said he had sexually abused them with lewd comments, groping and walking around naked in their presence. Rose, 75, was co-host of the network's CBS This Morning news and talk show, and he occasionally appeared on its 60 Minutes investigative news show. But Rose is perhaps better known for his acclaimed Charlie Rose interview show he has conducted since 1991, in which he has interviewed newsmakers from the worlds of politics, the media and entertainment. PBS and Bloomberg Television, which distributed his self-produced interview show, suspended him Monday after the newspaper account, and they both also ended their contracts with Rose on Tuesday. Co-hosts critical Rose's firing at CBS came hours after his co-hosts on the morning news show sharply condemned him, expressing shock at allegations that he had sexually abused young women who worked with him on the interview show or sought employment from the late 1990s to 2011. "What do you say when someone that you deeply care about has done something so horrible?" anchor Gayle King said at the opening of CBS This Morning, which she has hosted alongside Rose and Norah O'Donnell. "How do you wrap your brain around that? I'm really grappling with that. That said, Charlie does not get a pass here. He doesn't get a pass from anyone in this room." King said that while the Post's story did not represent a Rose she knew, "I'm also clearly on the side of the women who have been very hurt and damaged by this." O'Donnell said, "This has to end. This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and, more generally, the safety of women. Let me be very clear: There is no excuse for this alleged behavior." The eight women alleged that Rose had unexpectedly sexually abused them when they were alone with him in work-related settings or on lewd telephone calls. They said he had walked around naked in their presence and had groped their breasts, buttocks or genital areas. Other allegations Rose is the latest prominent U.S. man to be the subject of allegations of long-running sexual abuse, a list that includes President Donald Trump, actor Bill Cosby, film producer Harvey Weinstein, journalists, corporate executives and other politicians, including former President Bill Clinton when he was in office in the 1990s. Rose said in a tweet after the Post published its story, "I deeply apologize for my inappropriate behavior. I am greatly embarrassed." He admitted behaving insensitively, but wrote that he did not "believe that all of these allegations are accurate."

    Voice of America / 4 h. 50 min. ago more
  • Turkey Named 'Drumstick' Is Given Presidential Pardon   Turkey Named 'Drumstick' Is Given Presidential Pardon

    President Donald Trump, just prior to beginning his Thanksgiving vacation on Tuesday, carried out a final pre-holiday executive action — pardoning a turkey. "Drumstick, you are hereby pardoned," the president declared in the White House Rose Garden, with his wife, Melania, and their 11-year-old son, Barron, alongside. The turkey, with a 152-centimeter (60-inch) wingspan and weighing 21 kilograms (46 pounds), gobbled when a small child cried, but otherwise remained impassive. Drumstick bested another bird, Wishbone, in a public pool to determine which turkey would receive executive dispensation. Drumstick captured about 60 percent of the more than 40,000 votes in a Twitter poll conducted by the White House. Both birds arrived from the state of Minnesota and received V-I-P — or rather V-I-T — treatment in the nation's capital, posing in their luxury hotel suite and appearing at a news conference hosted by the National Turkey Federation. For more than a century, turkeys have been ceremoniously delivered to the White House prior to Thanksgiving — although most years they were intended as the main course for the holiday feast. But John F. Kennedy in 1963 uttered, "We'll just let this one grow," when presented with a big bird that had a sign around its neck reading "Good Eating Mr. President." Subsequently, there were sporadic turkey pardons until President George H.W. Bush made it an annual event in 1989. Barack Obama, in his final Thanksgiving pardon, last year spared two birds — Tater and Tot — as his successor noted at Tuesday's ceremony. "As many of you know, I have been very active in overturning a number of executive actions by my predecessor," said Trump. "However, I have been informed by the White House counsel's office that Tater and Tot's pardons cannot under any circumstances be revoked. So, we're not going to revoke them. So, Tater and Tot, you can rest easy." While Drumstick received the presidential pardon, fans of Wishbone should fear not. The other bird will also live out its days at Gobbler's Rest at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, the home of previously pardoned turkeys.

    Voice of America / 4 h. 52 min. ago more
  • Miami Faces Future of Rising SeasMiami Faces Future of Rising Seas

    Sue Brogan's street is barely above sea level on a good day. During autumn's "king tides," when the sun and moon align to create the highest tides of the year, Biscayne Bay backs up through storm drains and flows into Brogan's street, in Miami's low-lying Shorecrest neighborhood. Roads flood. The salt water rusts cars and kills greenery. For now, it's mostly a nuisance several days a year. But Brogan knows it's only going to get worse. "It's more of a warning situation. Where is it going to go from this?" she asks. Climate change is expected to raise sea levels a minimum of three-quarters of a meter by the end of the century, according to the estimates that regional planners use. That puts most of Shorecrest underwater year-round, along with other low-lying waterfront neighborhoods. And higher seas mean increased risk of tidal flooding and storm surges across this hurricane-prone city. The planners' high-end estimate is two meters of sea level rise. That would submerge most of the glitzy city of Miami Beach, across the bay. And scientists say three to three-and-a-half meters is extreme but plausible. In that scenario, Miami Beach is gone and Miami is an archipelago. Planning for this future is difficult, expensive and often controversial. But the Miami region has little choice. "Sea level rise is an existential threat," said City of Miami Chief Resilience Officer Jane Gilbert. "But it is not an imminent existential threat ... We have time to plan." Miami Beach leads way As a barrier island with some of the most expensive real estate in the region, Miami Beach is quite literally on the front lines of climate change. The city has the motivation, and the resources, to take some of the most aggressive action in the region. Residents are paying for roughly half a billion dollars' worth of seawalls, raised streets, sewer pumps and more. "Thankfully, our residents — the folks that are footing the bill for this work — realize that the cost of doing nothing is much greater," said Public Works Director Eric Carpenter. There have been some hiccups. Raising roads put adjacent properties below street level. At least one flood-damage insurance claim has been denied as a result, and residents and businesses are worried there will be more. Miami Beach is working to resolve the dispute. "I think there are inherent risks with being first," Carpenter said. But the city gets credit for moving forward despite the challenges. "It's not working perfectly. But they're at least doing the experimentation," said Zelalem Adefris with the advocacy group Catalyst Miami. Redesigning Shorecrest Across the bay, she added, the City of Miami has been slower to act. But there are signs of progress. Just this November, city voters approved a $400 million "Miami Forever" bond issue, half of which is earmarked for sea-level rise adaptation. Shorecrest will likely see some of that money to upgrade sewers and raise roads. More controversial proposals are on the table, too, like buying up some of the most flood-prone homes and turning the land into a flood-absorbing park. Residents could move to higher-density housing to be built on higher ground. Brogan's building would be demolished. But she doesn't mind. "With climate change, with rising water, we're going to have to abandon certain property," she admitted. But like many in the mixed-income neighborhood, Brogan rents her apartment. Others are skeptical of the idea. "I don't think the homeowners are going to be very happy about that," said Daisy Torres, president of the Shorecrest homeowners' association. Objections come not only from residents whose houses would be torn down. Some people living near the areas where the city proposes building that higher-density housing don't like the idea, either, she added. Jane Gilbert stresses that there are no immediate plans to rearrange Shorecrest. "They have a good amount of time to still be in that area," she said. "It's really much more long-term." "We feel the more we are having those conversations now, the easier it is for everyone to adapt over time," she added. High and (not) dry in Highland Village Meanwhile, in another flood-prone low-lying community just a short drive north, those conversations are further behind. Frank Burrola lives in a trailer in Highland Village, a mostly low-income neighborhood of homes and trailers on small plots in the city of North Miami Beach. Fall high-tide flooding is a virtual certainty on his street. And a storm several years ago left his yard with knee-high water. "Right now, we've got a real serious problem," Burrola said. "I don't know if we're still going to be around in five years if this keeps up." While the cities of Miami and Miami Beach are beginning to prepare, "there are other areas that really don't have the funding, and they're the ones that are really suffering," said climate analyst Keren Bolter with the South Florida Regional Planning Council. North Miami Beach is considering putting homes on stilts, and replacing trailers that flood with "tiny" homes that meet building codes, according to community development director Richard Lorber. But he doesn't know where the funding will come from. "My little city can't stop king tide," Lorber said, using the term for the fall high tides. North Miami Beach officials say Miami-Dade County will have to take the lead. The county says the city is in charge. Neither has immediate plans for Highland Village. It may take a disaster before major changes happen. "It's ironic, but in our way of doing emergency management, it's tough to get the money before the storm. And after the storm there's a lot of money," said Miami-Dade County Chief Resilience Officer Jim Murley. Barring a disaster, Murley said, "it's easier to find the money" if a community comes to a collective decision on what it wants to do. However, "most of the time, you just sort-of continue getting by," he added. "And people make a decision on their own accord if they want to stay or leave." Engineering or retreat? In the long run, the fate of Miami and many of the world's coastal cities depend largely on how much, and how fast, the oceans rise. Scientists still have a lot to learn before they can make accurate predictions. But, they warn, the pace of sea level rise is increasing. For many, retreat from the coast is inevitable. "We're going to have to leave sooner or later," said Caroline Lewis, founder of the climate advocacy group the CLEO Institute. "But if we can have a planned retreat, and we could implement some of our ideas about keeping people as safe as possible for as long as possible, then we would have accomplished a great deal that the whole world could learn from." But in a city that carved itself out of a swampy wilderness, optimists abound. "There's an engineering solution to every problem," Carpenter said. "It just comes down to, is there the political will to go through whatever pain may be associated with that solution, and the will to try and fund it."

    Voice of America / 4 h. 55 min. ago more
  • Venezuela Arrests Top Citgo Executives    Venezuela Arrests Top Citgo Executives

    Venezuelan authorities arrested the acting president of Citgo, the U.S. subsidiary of state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), along with five other senior executives Tuesday for alleged corruption. Attorney General Tarek William Saab told a press conference that interim president Jose Pereira and other managers allegedly arranged contracts that put Citgo at a disadvantage. The company operates refineries in Illinois, Texas and Louisiana with a capacity of 749,000 barrels per day. "They did it with total discretion, without even coordinating with the competent authorities," Saab said. “This is corruption, corruption of the most rotten kind." The six were accused of misappropriation of public funds, association to commit crimes and legitimation of capital, among other crimes. The other five detainees were identified as Tomeu Vadell, vice president of Refining Operations; Alirio Zambrano, vice president and general manager of the Corpus Christi Refinery; Jorge Toledo, Vice President of Supply and Marketing; Gustavo Cardenas, Vice President of Strategic Relations with Shareholders and Government, and Jose Luis Zambrano; Vice President of Shared Services. Last month, a senior executive of PDVSA and a dozen officials were arrested for alleged embezzlement. But members of the Venezuelan opposition argue that recent investigations do not demonstrate a genuine intention of the government to eradicate corruption, but only reflect internal struggles of PDVSA. VOA Latin America contributed to this report.

    Voice of America / 5 h. 1 min. ago more
  • Philanthropist: 'I Cannot Eat Three Bowls of Rice at One Time'Philanthropist: 'I Cannot Eat Three Bowls of Rice at One Time'

    Vietnamese-American entrepreneur donates $10 million to help Harvey and California flooding victims rebuild. Elizabeth Lee talks with philanthropist Kieu Hoang.

    Voice of America / 5 h. 56 min. ago
  • UN Tribunal to Decide Fate of 'Butcher of Bosnia' MladicUN Tribunal to Decide Fate of 'Butcher of Bosnia' Mladic

    United Nations judges in The Hague will decide within hours on a verdict in the trial of former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, who is accused of war crimes stemming from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. Mladic, known as the "Butcher of Bosnia," is the last former military leader to face war crimes charges in the court, which was set up to deal with the aftermath of the Bosnian war that raged from 1992 through 1995. Mladic, who has been on trial since 2012, has been charged with 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in leading sniper campaigns in Sarajevo and the 1995 killings of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica — the worst massacre in Europe since World War II. Prosecutors have asked the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to sentence Mladic to life in prison. Last year, attorney Alan Tieger said anything less than a life sentence would be “an insult to the victims, living and dead, and an affront to justice.” Mladic’s defense lawyer, Dragan Ivetic, has accused prosecutors of seeking to make the former general a “symbolic sacrificial lamb for the perceived guilt” of all Serbs during the war. He called for Mladic, 75, to be acquitted on all charges. At the end of the war in 1995, Mladic went into hiding and lived in obscurity in Serbia, protected by family and elements of the security forces. Mladic was indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity but evaded justice for 16 years. He was eventually tracked down and arrested at a cousin's house in rural northern Serbia in 2011. The Bosnian Serbs' political leader, Radovan Karadzic, was found guilty of war crimes in March 2016 and sentenced to 40 years in prison. The U.N. tribunal is scheduled to initiate proceedings to deliver the verdict Wednesday. Some information for this report was provided by AP.  

    Europe - VOA / 7 h. 9 min. ago more
  • Report: Weinstein Paid $1M to Accuser After 2015 Case DiedReport: Weinstein Paid $1M to Accuser After 2015 Case Died

    Harvey Weinstein paid $1 million to silence an Italian model who accused him of groping her in 2015 after prosecutors decided not to charge him, and in the 1990s, his brother paid other accusers from his personal bank account, a magazine reported Tuesday. Ambra Battilana Gutierrez told The New Yorker she signed a nondisclosure agreement before knowing the media mogul had a pattern of sexually harassing and abusing women. But she felt at the time pressured to sign the agreement. "I didn't even understand almost what I was doing with all those papers," she told the magazine. "I was really disoriented. My English was very bad. All of the words in that agreement were super difficult to understand. I guess even now I can't really comprehend everything." She recalled that, across the table, Weinstein's attorney was trembling visibly as she picked up the pen. Instant regret "I saw him shaking and I realized how big this was. But then I thought I needed to support my mom and brother and how my life was being destroyed, and I did it," she told me. "The moment I did it, I really felt it was wrong." Weinstein attorneys Blair Berk and Ben Brafman said in a statement to the magazine that because of pending investigations it would be inappropriate to respond to each of the details in the article. "Suffice it to say, Mr. Weinstein strongly objects to any suggestion that his conduct at any time has ever been contrary to law," according to the statement published in the magazine. "Be assured that we will respond in any appropriate legal forum, where necessary, and fully expect that Mr. Weinstein will prevail against any claim of legal wrongdoing." Gutierrez had told police the movie magnate touched her thigh, grabbed her breasts and asked, "Are these real?" during a meeting in his Manhattan office on March 27, 2015. Investigators conducted a sting, listening to a call between the two and getting the model to record an in-person encounter in which Weinstein alternated between trying to persuade her to come into his hotel room and apologizing for his conduct at his office. No charges were brought, because the district attorney concluded they were not supported. 'We had so much proof' Gutierrez told the magazine the decision shocked her. "We had so much proof of everything," she said. "Everyone was telling me, 'Congratulations, we stopped a monster.' " After the recent flood of allegations against Weinstein brought new scrutiny of that decision, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance's top assistant prosecutor said that police had arranged the 2015 sting without prosecutors' knowledge and that there were other "proof issues." The NYPD pushed back, saying it had used established investigative techniques to present prosecutors with a recording that corroborated Gutierrez's complaint, plus other statements and information. Weinstein also once asked his brother and business partner to settle claims made by two women, and Bob Weinstein sent them 250,000 British pounds, the magazine reported. Bob Weinstein told The New Yorker that he had no knowledge of what the payments were for. His publicist didn't immediately return a message from the AP. The New York Times published an expose of sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, leading to his firing from the company he co-founded and his expulsion from the organization that bestows the Academy Awards. Since then, more than 100 women have come forward to tell similar tales of harassment or assault. The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they speak publicly, as Gutierrez has done.

    USA - VOA / 7 h. 41 min. ago more
  • US Charges Iranian National With Hacking HBO Computer Systems US Charges Iranian National With Hacking HBO Computer Systems

    U.S. prosecutors charged an Iranian with hacking into computer systems of the cable TV channel HBO earlier this year, stealing information about the hit program "Game of Thrones" and attempting to extort millions of dollars from the company. In an indictment Tuesday, prosecutors said 29-year-old Behzad Mesri has had ties to Iran's military and is a member of an Iran-based hacking group known as the Turk Black Hat security team.   Mesril's stolen material included video of unaired episodes of several original HBO shows, scripts and plot summaries of upcoming episodes of "Game of Thrones," and confidential cast and crew contact information, according to the indictment. Mesri claims to have stolen 1.5 terabytes of data from HBO. Demanded $6 million in Bitcoin In late July, Mesri emailed HBO executives on several occasions, threatening to release the material unless the entertainment company paid him $5.5 million worth of Bitcoin digital currency, a ransom amount he later increased to $6 million.   "Hi to all losers! Yes, it's true.  HBO is hacked! Beware of heart attack!!!" he allegedly wrote in one anonymous email.  In another he bragged that "HBO was one of our difficult targets to deal with but we succeeded."   After HBO refused to make a payment, Mesri allegedly posted portions of the stolen videos and five scripts from Game of Throne episodes on websites he controlled. Mesri has not been arrested, and faces multiple charges, including wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and one count of computer hacking, which could be punished with up to five years in prison. More indictments expects  The indictment is one of several cases involving Iranian suspects prosecutors plan to announce in the coming month, the Washington Post reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter. In July, the Justice Department indicted two Iranian nationals with hacking a Vermont-based software company.   "Mesri now stands charged with federal crimes, and although not arrested today, he will forever have to look over his shoulder until he is made to face justice," said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim. Prosecutors allege that Mesri "had previously worked on behalf of the Iranian military to conduct computer network attacks that targeted military systems, nuclear software systems, and Israeli infrastructure." As a member of the Turk Black Hat, Mesri is alleged to have conducted hundreds of website defacements in the United States and elsewhere using the online pseudonym Skote Vahshat,  according to the indictment.   In a note to journalists, HBO said it had been "working with law enforcement from the early stages of the cyber incident."  

    USA - VOA / 7 h. 55 min. ago more
  • Zimbabwe Reacts to Mugabe ResignationZimbabwe Reacts to Mugabe Resignation

    People in Zimbabwe react to news of Robert Mugabe's resignation after 37 years in power, Nov. 21, 2017.

    Africa - VOA / 8 h. 8 min. ago
  • With Christmas Tree Delivered, White House to Unveil Holiday Decor MondayWith Christmas Tree Delivered, White House to Unveil Holiday Decor Monday

    Melania Trump and son Barron joined in a time-honored tradition of receiving the official White House Christmas tree, which will become the showstopper for a president who has vowed to put Christmas back at the center of the winter holidays. A military quartet played holiday tunes Monday as a horse-drawn wagon carried the 19 1/2-foot (5.9-meter) Balsam fir from Wisconsin up the White House driveway. The first lady, wearing a red turtleneck and a coat draped over her shoulders, and 11-year-old Barron, in a dark suit coat, white shirt and dark slacks, circled the tree and then visited with growers Jim and Diane Chapman. The Chapmans own a Wisconsin Christmas tree farm and won an annual contest sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association. "This is a beautiful tree. Thank you so much. We will decorate it very nicely," the first lady told the Chapmans and other family members. "I hope you can come and visit with us." The White House grounds superintendent and the chief usher, who oversees the residence, picked out the tree during a September scouting trip. After Mrs. Trump and Barron gave their symbolic approval, the tree was carefully carted off to the Blue Room where, after a slight trim and the removal of a monstrous chandelier, it will take center stage. President Donald Trump has been eagerly waiting to celebrate a Trump Christmas at the White House. During last year's presidential campaign, he railed against the habit of saying "Happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," characterizing it as a "chipping away at Christianity." "And we're not going to let that happen anymore, folks. I'll tell you," the then-candidate said at a March 2016 news conference in Florida. "A lot of times I'll say at the rallies around Christmastime we're going to start saying 'Merry Christmas' again. You know, they don't say it anymore. The department stores don't put it up. We're going to start saying it again." Invitations to dozens of holiday parties hosted by the Trumps are going out. The subject line of one emailed invite references a White House "Christmas reception" while the language of the invitation itself refers to a "holiday reception." The tree for the Blue Room usually arrives the day after Thanksgiving, but it was delivered early this year to accommodate the Trumps, who are spending the holiday at their Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. While the Trumps are away, a small army of volunteer decorators and florists from around the country will descend on the White House on Friday and spend the holiday weekend transforming the 132-room mansion for Christmas, complete with a tree in every public room. The White House kitchens will go into overdrive preparing all the food and cakes, cookies and pies that are typically served at the parties, along with the gingerbread White House — which, for health reasons, is never eaten. In recent years, cookies in the image of former President Barack Obama's dogs Bo and Sunny were always among the first items to be slipped into purses for the trip home. Trump does not have a pet. The White House plans to unveil the holiday decor Monday, and the first lady will also welcome children and students from Joint Base Andrews for a holiday arts and crafts event. The president plans to light the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse on Thursday.

    USA - VOA / 8 h. 18 min. ago more
  • Delhi's Homeless Most Affected by Severe Air PollutionDelhi's Homeless Most Affected by Severe Air Pollution

    In the Indian capital, New Delhi, winter was once a season of cool, crisp winds, bracing walks and picnics under a blue sky. But as the city remained enveloped in gray smog this month, authorities rolled out a series of emergency measures to combat deadly levels of air pollution. As Anjana Pasricha reports, the toxic air has improved slightly, but it is still hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.

    Asia - VOA / 8 h. 19 min. ago more
  • US Launches New Airstrikes Against Islamic State in LibyaUS Launches New Airstrikes Against Islamic State in Libya

    The U.S. military has launched new airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Libya, officials tell VOA. U.S. Africa Command spokesperson Robyn Mack said the strikes occurred on November 17 and 19 near Fuqaha “in coordination with the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA).”      Another military official confirmed that several Islamic State militants were killed. “We are committed to maintaining pressure on the terror network and preventing them from establishing safe haven,” Mack said. In September, 17 militants were killed during six precision strikes nearly 250 kilometers southeast of Sirte, a coastal city where the U.S. and Libyan government have driven out Islamic State fighters who had tried to establish a hub there in the north African country. The military carried out about 500 airstrikes last year against the Islamic State fighters in Sirte. And in January, armed drones and B-2 bombers attacked IS training camps in Libya, killing more than 80 militants.   The increase in strikes in Libya and Somalia have led some to suggest the Pentagon may be ramping up pressure on terror groups in Africa, a claim the Pentagon has rejected. “I do not believe necessarily there's a ramp-up. It's the density of targets is such that now there's some opportunities to do those strikes,” Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie told reporters last week. “As [the targets] become available and as we're able to process them and vet them, we strike them,” he added.

    USA - VOA / 8 h. 23 min. ago more
  • FCC Chairman Sets Out to Repeal 'Net Neutrality' RulesFCC Chairman Sets Out to Repeal 'Net Neutrality' Rules

    Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday followed through on his pledge to repeal 2015 regulations designed to ensure that internet service providers treat all online content and apps equally, setting up a showdown with consumer groups and internet companies who fear the move will stifle competition and innovation. The current rules, known as net neutrality, impose utility-style regulation on ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to prevent them from favoring their own digital services over those of their rivals. Pai said that he believes the net neutrality rules adopted during the Obama administration discourage the ISPs from making investments in their network that would provide even better and faster online access. "Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet," Pai said in a statement. Pai distributed his alternative plan to other FCC commissioners Tuesday in preparation for a Dec. 14 vote on the proposal. He promised to release his entire proposal Wednesday. The attempt to repeal net neutrality has triggered protests from consumer groups and internet companies. More than 22 million comments have been filed with the FCC about whether net neutrality should be rolled back. The Internet Association, a group whose members include major internet companies such as Google and Amazon, vowed to continue to fight to keep the current net neutrality rules intact. "Consumers have little choice in their ISP, and service providers should not be allowed to use this gatekeeper position at the point of connection to discriminate against websites and apps," the group's CEO Michael Beckerman said in a Tuesday statement. Consumers Union predicted a repeal of net neutrality would allow ISPs to raise their prices and give preferential treatment to certain sites and apps. "Strong net neutrality rules are vital to consumers' everyday lives and essential to preserving the internet as we know it today _ an open marketplace where websites large and small compete on equal terms and where information and ideas move freely," said Jonathan Schwantes, the advocacy group's senior policy counsel. Two of the FCC's five voting commissioners signaled they will oppose Pai's plan. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel derided Pai's plan as "ridiculous and offensive to the millions of Americans who use the internet every day." Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn skewered Pai's proposals as "a giveaway to the nation's largest communications companies, at the expense of consumers and innovation." Rosenworcel and Clyburn are the lone Democrats on the FCC. Pai's proposal on net neutrality comes after the Republican-dominated commission voted 3-2 last week to weaken rules meant to support independent local media, undoing a ban on companies owning newspapers and broadcast stations in a single market.

    Science - VOA / 8 h. 32 min. ago more
  • US Military: Drone Strike Kills More Than 100 Al-Shabab in SomaliaUS Military: Drone Strike Kills More Than 100 Al-Shabab in Somalia

    A U.S. military drone strike has killed more than 100 al-Shabab militants in Somalia, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said. Military officials told VOA that Tuesday’s strike hit an al-Shabab training camp in the country’s Bay region, about 200 kilometers northwest of the capital, Mogadishu. “It’s obvious from what we were seeing that these were militants,” AFRICOM spokesman Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo told VOA. The U.S. military said the strike was conducted in coordination with the Somali government to help Somalia address threats within its territory while targeting the al-Qaida affiliate’s safe havens, which could be used to plan terror attacks across the globe. The United States has carried out roughly 30 strikes against al-Shabab this year. Earlier this month, U.S. forces killed several militants in a drone strike in the Lower Shabelle region, about 30 kilometers north of Mogadishu.      

    Africa - VOA / 8 h. 51 min. ago more
  • US Seeks 'Genuine Transition' in ZimbabweUS Seeks 'Genuine Transition' in Zimbabwe

    The United States is urging Zimbabwean leaders to move the country towards a “genuine transition” and allow political space for the country's opposition and its people to determine their future.     During a small roundtable with State Department reporters late Monday, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto said the implementation of “real, genuine, economic [and] political reforms" is key to meeting the needs of Zimbabweans. The message came hours before Zimbabwe's parliament speaker announced President Robert Mugabe had resigned Tuesday.   Yamamoto said the international community “wants to lift sanctions” against Zimbabwe, and wants to see the country play a positive political role in the stability of its neighbors. The way for Washington to lift sanctions is for Harare to carry out the due process, to respect human rights, and to give the opposition a genuine opportunity to form a government, said Yamamoto.   “What we don’t want is a manipulation by the government or by the ruling ZANU-PF party - holding rush elections, not taking into consideration a lot of the reform issues that the opposition wants to implement; also, not giving political space for Zimbabwe people for them to express what they want to see in a new government," he said. U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Harry Thomas has been meeting with officials from ZANU-PF party and the opposition party behind the scenes to try and help push the political process forward. US urging peaceful democratic evolution For years, the United States has taken a leading role in condemning the Zimbabwean government's increasing assault on human rights and the rule of law, calling on the government to embrace a peaceful democratic evolution. U.S. steps against Mugabe's rule included financial sanctions against selected individuals and entities, travel sanctions against selected individuals, a ban on transfers of defense items and services, and a suspension of non-humanitarian government-to-government assistance. Despite strained political relations, the U.S. is the largest provider of development and humanitarian assistance to the people of Zimbabwe.   “We have about $220 million in foreign assistance to Zimbabwe, but none of that goes through the government,” said Yamamoto, adding the U.S. aid goes through NGOs, community leaders, and is focused on health care as well as economic community development.     Yamamoto indicated the U.S. foresaw last week's military’s intervention.   “You can predict, given [our] assessment in Zimbabwe,” he said, when asked by VOA if the U.S. was informed of the military intervention in advance, amid reports that China and South Africa were given a heads-up.     “The [Zimbabwean] military had made indications [of] what’s acceptable to them [in terms of Mugabe's actions, and] what’s not acceptable.”  

    Africa - VOA / 9 h. 4 min. ago more
  • More Remains of US Army Soldier Killed in Niger are FoundMore Remains of US Army Soldier Killed in Niger are Found

    Additional remains of U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson were found in Niger on November 12, an unnamed U.S. official said Tuesday. Johnson and three other U.S. soldiers were killed on October 4 when their convoy was ambushed as it left the village of Tongo Tongo. The official said medical examiners had verified Johnson's remains, which were found at the site where his body was recovered. Members of the U.S. Africa Command and the Niger military, who are investigating the ambush, visited the site on November 12 and are expected to complete the probe in January. Johnson, a 25-year-old from Florida, was separated from his military unit and his body was not recovered until two days after the ambush. The attack has come under intense scrutiny in the U.S., where the Pentagon’s initial account of the attack has been questioned. Lawmakers have complained that they received insufficient or conflicting information on the the incident. The U.S. military is helping Niger deal with threats by members of Islamic State and al-Qaida, but deaths of U.S. servicemen in Niger are rare. Johnson’s fellow soldiers killed in the attack were Bryan Black, 35; Jeremiah Johnson, 39; and Dustin Wright, age 29.

    Africa - VOA / 10 h. 7 min. ago more
  • Shaka: Extra TimeShaka: Extra Time

    We are live. In Extra Time Shaka answers your questions about politics in Africa.

    Africa - VOA / 10 h. 11 min. ago
  • Trump, Putin Agree to Support UN in Syrian Peace ProcessTrump, Putin Agree to Support UN in Syrian Peace Process

    U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Tuesday to support the U.N. effort to "peacefully resolve" the nearly seven-year-long Syrian civil war. The White House said the two leaders talked for more than an hour and stressed the importance of ending the humanitarian crisis in which millions of Syrians have been displaced from their homes. Trump and Putin said the displaced Syrians should be allowed to return and "the stability of a unified Syria free of malign intervention and terrorist safe havens" should be ensured. Trump talked by phone with Putin a day after the Russian leader held discussions in Russia with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad about a political resolution to the civil war, which has killed 400,000 people. The White House said Trump and Putin "affirmed the importance of fighting terrorism together throughout the Middle East and Central Asia and agreed to explore ways to further cooperate in the fight against ISIS, al-Qaida, the Taliban and other terrorist organizations." In addition, they discussed ways "to implement a lasting peace in Ukraine," where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting troops loyal to Kyiv, and how to keep international pressure on North Korea to end its nuclear weapon and missile development programs. The Kremlin said Tuesday that it had called Assad to the Black Sea resort of Sochi for talks with Putin about Russia's peace proposals for Syria, ahead of Putin's summit Wednesday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Russia has bolstered Assad's rule with airstrikes since late 2015 against groups trying to overthrow his regime, with Iranian fighters also supporting Damascus, and Turkey backing the Syrian opposition. His power ensured, Asssad said he expressed his gratitude to Putin "for all of the efforts that Russia made to save our country." Putin, according to the Kremlin, told Assad that Russia's "military operation is coming to an end. Thanks to the Russian army, Syria has been saved as a state. Much has been done to stabilize the situation in Syria." He praised Assad, predicting terrorism would suffer an "inevitable" defeat in Syria. The Kremlin quoted Assad as saying, "It is in our interest to advance the political process. ... We don't want to look back. And we are ready for dialogue with all those who want to come up with a political settlement." U.N.-led peace talks about Syria are scheduled for November 28 in Geneva.

    Middle East - VOA / 10 h. 20 min. ago more
  • Pakistan Welcomes US Offer to Prevent Militant Raids from AfghanistanPakistan Welcomes US Offer to Prevent Militant Raids from Afghanistan

    Pakistan is welcoming a U.S. military offer to take action against militants involved in cross-border raids against Pakistan from Afghan soil. Pakistani officials say the move "augurs well" for regional counterterrorism cooperation. General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul on Monday his offer was meant to discourage Pakistan's army from shooting at civilians across the Afghan border while responding to border raids by militants. “We have also offered if they [Pakistan] have a concern about anything on this side of the Durand Line [the border] to let us know and we will act against it so that it is not necessary for cross-border shelling to occur,” said the U.S. general. Pakistani forces last week allegedly fired hundreds of rounds of mortar shells for several days into the Afghan border province of Kunar, forcing Afghan villagers to flee their homes in harsh winter weather, according to Afghan officials. The cross-border firing was provoked by repeated militant raids that claimed the lives of several border security personnel and wounded many more, according to Pakistani officials. The chief spokesman for Pakistan's army, Major General Asif Ghafoor, while responding to Nicholson's remarks, told VOA his country has always offered and sought cooperation to strengthen border security. “Unilaterally Pakistan, having cleared all areas on Pakistan side, has restored writ if [the] state, including steps like enhancing [troop] presence along the border [with Afghanistan], establishing new forts and posts and has also started to fence the border to deny freedom of movement to illegal crossers and terrorists.” Ghafoor explained. General Nicholson also emphasized the need for improving border coordination to address mutual concerns. "I think the concern now is that we improve the mechanisms for control along the Durand Line so that we may have mechanisms to consult before people start shooting and not after innocent people have been displaced," the general observed. Mushahid Hussain, who heads the defense affairs committee of the Pakistani Senate, said Nicholson’s remarks are an acknowledgment of Islamabad’s “valid and justifiable” concerns regarding security management of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. “The U.S. promise, at long last, to address these core concerns augurs well not just for Pakistan-Afghanistan border management but also for Pakistan-U.S. counter-terror cooperation,” said Hussain. Pakistani forces previously have also been accused of hitting civilian areas on the Afghan side, provoking street and official protests in Kabul. Officials in Pakistan maintain anti-state fugitive militants linked to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban are using sanctuaries in Afghan border areas for plotting cross-border terrorist attacks, taking advantage of the nearly 2,600 kilometer, largely porous border between the two countries. The Afghan government has for years alleged leaders of the Taliban are sheltering and using havens on Pakistani soil to sustain and expand insurgent activities in Afghanistan. U.S. officials back those allegations. Islamabad denies the accusations, saying its counterterrorism operations have uprooted all terrorist infrastructures in the country, allowing Pakistani forces to strengthen border security.

    Asia - VOA / 10 h. 21 min. ago more
  • Bomb Kills at Least 20 in IraqBomb Kills at Least 20 in Iraq

    At least 20 people were killed Tuesday when an attacker blew up a vehicle in an Iraqi town south of Kirkuk. Dozens more were wounded in the explosion, which hit a crowded market in the town of Tuz Khurmatu. The death toll is expected to rise, according to police and medical sources. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Tuz Khurmatu, home to a mixed Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen population, was the site of violent clashes last month that left 11 people dead, according to Amnesty International figures, as Iraqi forces retook the Kurdish-held land after a controversial independence referendum.

    Middle East - VOA / 10 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Somaliland Ruling Party Candidate Bihi Wins ElectionSomaliland Ruling Party Candidate Bihi Wins Election

    Ruling party candidate Muse Bihi Abdi has been declared the winner of the presidential election in the breakaway republic of Somaliland. The electoral commission said Bihi won 55 percent of the vote compared to 40 percent for Abdurahman Mohamud Abdullahi, the opposition Wadani party candidate. Faisal Ali Waraabe, of the For Justice and Development party (UCID), finished third with about 4 percent of the vote. Electoral Commission Chairman Abdikadir Iman Warsame, who announced the results in Hargeisa Tuesday, said the election was "peaceful, free and fair" The announcement came eight days after hundreds of thousands of voters cast ballots at more than 1,600 polling stations. Bihi would replace outgoing President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud, who chose not to seek another term. He is Somaliland's fifth president since the region broke away from the rest of Somalia in 1991. Who is Bihi? Bihi was born in a rural part of Hargeisa in 1948. In 1985, as an air force military colonel, he joined the Somali National Movement, (SNM), a rebel group that fought for secession from Somalia.In 1993, after the collapse of the former Somali military government, he became Somaliland's interior minister. In 2002, he became a member of the executive committee of the ruling Kulmiye party, where he was named deputy chairman in 2008 and chairman in 2015. President-elect Bihi will serve a five-year term with an option for a second term. His central agenda is how to win international recognition for Somaliland. Somalia wants Somaliland to be part of a single Somali state. But Somaliland, which used to be a British colony and broke away from the rest of Somalia in 1991, wants to be a separate country. Since its formation it has been more stable than Somalia and democratic elections have been commonplace. Post-election tension Political tension mounted in Somaliland following the election, after the Wadani party candidate Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi said he would not accept what he termed the "massively rigged and corrupted exercise." Abdullahi questioned the transparency of the election and accused the current government of arresting his representatives at polling stations to steal votes and commit fraud. "The election was not [a] free and fair election because members of our party representatives and supporters were arrested on the Election Day and after," said Abdullahi. "And then we found out that the election was massively corrupted and rigged." Wadani party members withdrew from the counting process, saying they had evidence of fake ballots smuggled out of the polling stations in at least three Somaliland regions. The allegations were later denied by Electoral Commission Chairman Warsame, who said there was no ballot stuffing or other irregularities. On Thursday, at least two people were killed in protests that followed the opposition party's claims of alleged election fraud. Abdullahi then called on his supporters to show calm and asked the leaders of the current government to release party members from jails. The head of a British-funded team of 60 international observers, who monitored the vote, said last week they saw some minor infringements of voting rules, but agreed the overall voting process met international standards. "We determined from our observations that there were not [irregularities] of sufficient scale to undermine the integrity of the electoral processes," said Michael Walls, a senior lecturer in the Development Planning Unit at University College London.

    Africa - VOA / 10 h. 33 min. ago more
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  • Mugabe’s Presumptive Successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is Called ‘the Crocodile’Mugabe’s Presumptive Successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is Called ‘the Crocodile’

    For 37 years, Emmerson Mnangagwa was Robert Mugabe’s right-hand man and one of his staunchest defenders. “Zanu-PF is a sacred party,” he told a crowd at a ZANU-PF rally earlier this year in central Zimbabwe. “It will rule and rule. Those barking will continue doing that while Zanu-PF remains in power. Forward with Mr Mugabe. Forward with Zanu-PF.” What a difference a few months make. This month, deposed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa — nicknamed “the Crocodile” for his cunning guerrilla tactics in Zimbabwe’s independence war — led the effort to oust the longtime president and is expected to be sworn in as president Wednesday or Thursday following Mugabe's resignation.                                  “I told the President that the current political and constitutional crisis in the country is not a matter between him and myself but between the people of Zimbabwe and President Mugabe,” he said in a statement sent to journalists Tuesday. “The people of Zimbabwe have clearly spoken on this matter. To me the voice of the people is the voice of God and their lack of trust and confidence in the leadership of President Mugabe has been expressed.”                     Last week, the military put Mugabe under house arrest, demanding Mnangagwa’s reinstatement and Mugabe’s resignation. The catalyst for that drastic move came earlier in the move, when Mugabe fired Mnangagwa — who is well-liked by the military — accusing him of treachery. The move was widely seen as an chance for Mugabe to fill the position with his unpopular, 52-year-old wife. But Mnangagwa is no young buck. Since 1980, he’s served in a handful of cabinet positions, including as intelligence chief, and was made vice president in 2014 after Mugabe fell out with his predecessor, Joice Mujuru, now also a bitter Mugabe critic. Mnangagwa’s investiture, in fact, would settle a bitter generational power struggle within the ruling party. One faction, of liberation-era fighters turned politicians, is led by Mnangagwa, who earned his nickname in 1965, the year Grace Mugabe was born. The other, the G40 faction, of younger Zimbabweans, was led by Grace and enjoyed privileged access to Mugabe. Chris Mutsvangwa, head of the influential war veterans’ association, said they are supporting Mnangagwa. He blamed the nation’s spiraling economy on the poor leadership of the younger faction.  “They have no idea of how to run a modern state, so they’ve run a scorched-earth policy on the economy,” he said. “...But what we have done with my leadership of the war veterans … is to give back the people of Zimbabwe their conscience, because they look to  the people who fought and liberated them for guidance. And when we then said there’s something wrong with this man and his wife, the team, the cabal called the G40.” But is Mnangagwa a breath of fresh air? Zimbabwe scholars are quick to note he is widely credited with being the architect of Gukurahundi, a series of army-led massacres of political and ethnic rivals in the 1980s.                         “In many ways he’s worse,” said David Moore of the University of Johannesburg, who noted that Mnangagwa’s actions were viewed internationally through the cynical lens of the Cold War, when the Communist-aligned African National Congress was flexing its muscle in Southern Africa and forging alliances with Mugabe’s rivals. “Look, he planned, he did, a lot of Gukurahundi,” he told VOA. “And why was he allowed, why did he get away with, Gukurahundi? Because the British and everybody else was really, really worried about the ANC getting a foothold in Zimbabwe, and the ANC was aligned with ZAPU. And Margaret Thatcher and her friends of course thought the ANC was run by the SACP and Russia. So it was a good thing to crush ZAPU, for the West. … He was flavor of the month for a long while, and he might still well be.” Mnangagwa has maintained a low profile since his firing. But his statement Tuesday, he criticizes the regime’s “corruption, incompetency, dereliction of duty and laziness, social and cultural decadency.”                 But why only now? Perhaps Mnangagwa let his cards show in an interview two years ago with local media, in which he spoke proudly of his nickname, “the crocodile.” “It never goes in the villages or in the bush looking for food,” he said. “It strikes at the appropriate time.” Sebastian Mhofu in Harare contributed to this report.

    Africa - VOA / 10 h. 36 min. ago more
  • Celebrations in Harare After Mugabe ResignsCelebrations in Harare After Mugabe Resigns

    The streets of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, erupted in celebration Tuesday after President Robert Mugabe resigned, ending 37 years in power. His former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, will be sworn in as president on Wednesday or Thursday, according to top officials in the ruling ZANU-PF party. Mnangagwa, who fled the country after he was abruptly fired on November 6, "is not far from here,''  ruling party official Lovemore Matuke said. Car horns blared as people danced, cheered and waved to celebrate the news of Mugabe's departure, which he announced in a letter read out by the speaker of parliament. One man told VOA's Zimbabwe Service: "This is a breakthrough...We are super excited as Zimbabweans and we want to thank God.  Our prayers have been answered. We have suffered a lot for 37 years." WATCH: Reaction in Zimbabwe Speaker Jacob Mudenda read out the resignation letter soon after lawmakers began proceedings to impeach Mugabe. The letter said in part, "I, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, in terms of Section 96 of the constitution of Zimbabwe, hereby formally tender my resignation...with immediate effect." There has been no confirmation of the letter from the president or his office -- but no denial, either. The 93-year-old Mugabe had ruled Zimbabwe since the country won independence from Britain in 1980. History of rights violations The president was often criticized for human rights abuses that included the beatings, torture and killings of his political opponents.  Western countries imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his allies after his supporters began seizing white-owned farmland in 2000.  Zimbabwe's farm output and economy plummeted when the land was given to blacks with little experience in large-scale farming. Criticism intensified in 2008, after inflation reached 231 million percent and Zimbabwe was forced to abandon its dollar. The country experienced new economic problems in recent years, as corruption and Mugabe's heavy-handed economic policies scared away investors. The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe called Tuesday a historic moment for Zimbabwe and said the country must move toward free elections in which Zimbabweans choose their own leaders. The U.S. State Department echoed the sentiment. "The resignation of Robert Mugabe is a historic opportunity and historic moment for the people of Zimbabwe. The people of Zimbabwe have firmly voiced their desire for a new era to bring an end to Zimbabwe's isolation and allow the country to rejoin the international community," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. British Prime Minister Theresa May released a statement that said Mugabe's resignation gives Zimbabwe the opportunity to pursue a path free of oppression. Rights group Amnesty International said the next generation of leaders in Zimbabwe must abide by the constitution and treat the population with respect.  Mugabe had faced growing pressure to resign since last week, when the military took over state institutions and put him and his wife Grace under house arrest. The military took action after the president fired the vice president, Mnangagwa, a hero of Zimbabwe's liberation war, and hinted he would replace Mnangagwa with Grace Mugabe. The first lady and former vice president were locked in a political battle over who would succeed the aging president, and led competing factions in the ruling party. Until Tuesday, Mugabe showed no sign of stepping aside. He even called a Cabinet meeting for Tuesday morning. According to the Reuters news agency, only a handful of the 17 ministers showed up. Mugabe was planning to run for another term as president in next year's elections, when he would have been 94. In Photos: Robert Mugabe

    Africa - VOA / 11 h. 5 min. ago more
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    Africa - VOA / 11 h. 11 min. ago
  • Cities Adapt to Changing Terror ThreatsCities Adapt to Changing Terror Threats

    On November 5, more than 50,000 runners and two million spectators turned out for the New York Marathon. The event took place just a few days after a lone attacker drove a van into cyclists and pedestrians beside a busy Manhattan highway, killing eight people. Security was beefed up for the marathon: sand-filled sanitation trucks were deployed at key intersections to block vehicles, while hundreds of extra police backed by sniffer dogs and snipers were positioned along the 21-kilometer route. The precautions underline the changing nature of the terror threat, 16 years after the 9/11 al-Qaida attacks on the same city. “They are moving towards the lower technology attacks, using knives, using vehicles, and using weapons that they can perhaps purchase on the black market but not have to make themselves,” said leading counter-terror analyst Brooke Rogers of Kings College, London. He said, beyond short-term, enhanced security, an urban environment can adapt. "For example, by having blast-proof glass installed in these grand glass structures. Or having different security measures, physical security measures – some of that could be scanning technology, some of it could be CCTV (closed circuit television) based, but also human measures, in terms of the staff not only walking around the perimeter, walking around inside with highly visible uniforms, but also staff who are less visible,” said Rogers. In France, thousands of extra security personnel including soldiers have been deployed since the 2015 Paris attacks. But Rogers notes they have themselves become targets for terrorists. London has installed physical barriers to separate vehicles and pedestrians in the wake of this year’s vehicle attacks in Westminster and on London Bridge. Permanent protection has been built around government buildings, with some of it adapted into street furniture like benches. But sectioning off every walkway is simply not practical. “The amount of engineering that goes into those can cost millions of dollars. But we have to be careful because everything that we secure means that we are then turning the attention of these terrorist groups to softer targets,” said Rogers. As a result, more attention is being given to educating the public. Since 2010 the U.S. Department for Homeland Security has been running an awareness campaign titled, "If you see something, say something". In London, the mantra is similar: "See It, Say It, Sorted." British authorities have also issued a campaign on what to do if you’re caught in a terror attack – summarized as "Run, Hide, Tell." Rogers says such campaigns aren’t pushed hard enough by authorities. “They’re very anxious that if they start making people think about that type of attack in the public places, that they’re going to frighten them and maybe scare them away. We have a lot of evidence that suggests that that is not the case. It doesn’t have a significant impact in terms of the perceived threat at all and in fact it builds higher levels of trust.” Increasingly, security services see public awareness as a key line of defense against the changing terror threat.  

    Europe - VOA / 11 h. 13 min. ago more
  • Vatican, China Swap art in bid to Mend Strained TiesVatican, China Swap art in bid to Mend Strained Ties

    The Vatican and China will exchange paintings, vases and sculptures in a bid to mend often strained ties through “the diplomacy of art”, officials said on Tuesday. Forty works from the Vatican will go on show in Beijing’s Forbidden City and 40 from China in the Vatican Museums in unprecedented simultaneous exhibitions in March, art chiefs from both countries told a news conference. “It will be an event that overcomes borders and time and that unites different cultures and civilizations,” Zhu Jiancheng, the head of the government-backed China Culture Investment Fund, said. “It will strengthen the friendship between China and the Vatican and it will favor the normalization of diplomatic relations,” he said of the project, in which each side will loan art works to the other. Relations between the Vatican and Beijing have been strained for decades. Chinese Catholics are divided between those loyal to the pope - the so-called “underground Church” - and those who belong to state-backed Church known as The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. The main dispute blocking diplomatic ties is the Vatican’s insistence that the pope - and not the government - be responsible for appointing bishops. Pope Francis and his predecessors Benedict and John Paul have tried to improve relations with Beijing, whose communist party severed relations in 1951. But efforts at agreement have often stalled. “With no fear and no barriers, beauty and art are truly a vehicle of dialogue,” said Barbara Jatta, the director of the Vatican Museums. “This is the key of the success that we, at the Vatican Museums, love to call the ‘diplomacy of art’,” said Jatta, the first woman to head the museums, which receive about six million visitors a year. The simultaneous shows reminiscent of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of the early 1970s, when China and the United States each hosted national teams of the sport as a prelude to President Richard Nixon’s historic trip to Beijing in 1972. Jatta told Reuters that for the Beijing exhibition, experts would select 39 works of art that originated in China and are now in the Vatican’s Anima Mundi (Soul of the World) ethnological collection, which numbers 80,000 pieces, 20,000 of them Chinese. “In a sense, 39 of them will be going back home,” she said. The 40th piece would be an object of Western European Christian art, a painting which has not yet been selected. The Chinese art works displayed in the Vatican will be 10 paintings by contemporary Chinese artist Zhang Yan and 30 works of art from China’s state collections representing various periods of Chinese history.  

    Asia - VOA / 11 h. 46 min. ago more
  • Iraq Relocates Hundreds of Foreign Wives, Children of Suspected Militants to BaghdadIraq Relocates Hundreds of Foreign Wives, Children of Suspected Militants to Baghdad

    Iraqi authorities have moved hundreds of foreign wives and children of suspected Islamic State militants from a detention center in northern Iraq to Baghdad, citing security concerns and the difficulties of keeping them in a remote location. Local officials, security and aid agency sources said more than 800 women and children - mostly from Turkey, Europe and former Soviet republics - had been moved to a secure detention facility in Baghdad. Around 700 more are still being held at the facility in the northern town of Tal Keif, said Mohammed al-Bayati, the head of Mosul's provincial council security and defense committee. Most of the women and children have been in detention since August 30, when more than 1,300 surrendered to Kurdish Peshmerga after government forces expelled the jihadist group from Tal Afar, one of its last remaining strongholds in Iraq. Their numbers have swelled as more foreign nationals have surrendered or been captured, said Sara al-Zawqari, the spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Iraq. Security forces have continued operations to rout the militants from their last remaining pockets of control in Western Anbar. Iraqi authorities began moving the families several days ago, Bayati said, adding that the government intends to move all the foreign detainees to Baghdad within the next few days. The move to the capital coincides with a push by Iraqi officials to begin legal proceedings to determine the fate of these women and children and end their prolonged detention, local officials and aid agency sources said. "The government should find a way of deciding their future and what to do with them," said Abdul Rahman al-Wagga, a local councilor in Mosul where many of the women and children lived under the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate. "These foreign women and children have the right to a fair trial," said Zawqari, whose ICRC was the only aid group granted consistent access to the families in Tal Keif and has provided them with humanitarian services. "If they need to be repatriated, all parties involved should also ensure they have these rights and are treated with respect and dignity." In September, aid agencies said they were "gravely concerned" about the fate of the families, after the initial 1,300 were relocated without warning to Tal Keif from the transit site south of Mosul where they had initially been kept.  

    Middle East - VOA / 11 h. 51 min. ago more
  • Defense Minister - Denmark to Ramp up Cybersecurity Efforts Defense Minister - Denmark to Ramp up Cybersecurity Efforts

    Denmark intends to invest to boost efforts to prevent cyber attacks in a strategy to be presented early next year, its defense minister said on Tuesday. "We are going to spend more money in this area," Claus Hjort Frederiksen told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Copenhagen, though he declined to disclose a figure. Cybersecurity is "very high on the agenda" for the right-leaning government, but also for the broad selection of Danish political parties negotiating a new defense strategy for the coming six years, he said. The government would like to expand an early warning system with sensors that detects when Danish companies or authorities are under attack from, for example, malware. "To some degree we do have a system today, but we would like to expand it to the strategic infrastructure and to private companies," he told Reuters. The government also wants to increase the preventive capacity at the Danish center for cybersecurity to increase its ability to better catch and inform about imminent cyber threats, he said. World's no.1 container shipper and one of Denmark's largest companies Maersk was hit by major cyber attack in June, one of the biggest-ever disruptions to hit global shipping. The government also works for a deeper cooperation between authorities and private companies in battling cyber attacks, Frederiksen said. He said he believed companies were sometimes reluctant to inform they had been hit by cyber attacks, because they were afraid to scare off customers or investors. Frederiksen said he saw the overall cyber threat as "one of the greatest threats of our time." "If you can undermine our democratic nations by hacking the energy systems or the communication systems or the financial systems it will undermine our own people's belief in our societies' ability to protect them," he said. Russia hacked the Danish defense network and gained access to employees' emails in 2015 and 2016, Frederiksen said in April. Danish troops will get training in how to deal with Russian misinformation before being sent to join a NATO military build-up in Estonia in January, Frederiksen said in July.  

    Europe - VOA / 11 h. 54 min. ago more
  • Diplomatic Maneuvering Aims to Defuse Lebanon CrisisDiplomatic Maneuvering Aims to Defuse Lebanon Crisis

    France and Egypt are trying to shape a regional accommodation between Iran and Saudi Arabia in a bid to prevent Lebanon from being destabilized. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was to meet Tuesday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo before heading back Wednesday to Beirut — the first time he will have set foot in Lebanon since his abrupt resignation on November 4 while on a visit to Saudi Arabia. In a pre-recorded television announcement in Riyadh, Hariri cited Iran’s meddling in the region as the key reason for his resignation.    Hariri is widely believed to have been compelled to resign by his Saudi patrons, who appear determined to curtail the power of the radical Shi’ite movement Hezbollah, Iran’s ally, in Lebanon. Hariri is expected to resign formally on arriving in Beirut, forcing the country’s reluctant president, Michel Aoun, to accept it this time, plunging Lebanon deeper into a political crisis and increasing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The frenetic diplomatic maneuvering around Hariri’s mysterious resignation just weeks after he formed a coalition government with Hezbollah features a cast of powerful characters and countries with competing agendas. On Monday, a senior Israeli minister, Yuval Steinitz, acknowledged publicly that joint enmity for Iran has pushed Israel and Saudi Arabia closer and that the two states, which do not enjoy formal diplomatic relations, had established “partly secret” ties to counter Iran’s influence in the region. At the center of the crisis are two young untested national leaders - Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who appears set on pushing back against Iran’s rising power in the region, and French President Emmanuel Macron, who has grabbed the mantle of Middle East mediator. The French leader is being credited by his officials with having persuaded the Saudi crown prince to allow Hariri to leave the Gulf kingdom and visit Paris last week. There are conflicting stories about whether Hariri was being held unwillingly in Saudi Arabia. French officials say Macron is trying to defuse Lebanon's political crisis and rein in Saudi Arabia and Iran by leveraging France's trade relations in the region, as well as its historical ties to Lebanon, a former French protectorate. And they say there has already been some success in Macron’s efforts, pointing to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah announcing Monday that the militant group will pull out of Iraq once the Islamic State terror group has been defeated. “If there is no need for them in Iraq anymore, we will withdraw them and send them to areas where they are needed,” Nasrallah said. The complexity of clashing agendas around the locked-in feud between Saudi Arabia and Iran could well defeat Macron’s efforts, say analysts, especially if the 32-year-old Saudi crown prince is determined to use Lebanon as another front in efforts to curb Iran’s growing regional influence. “It remains to be seen whether a regional accommodation can be found to enable the formation of a new Lebanese government and enable Lebanon to avoid a further escalation of the crisis,” says Paul Salem, an analyst at the Middle East Institute, a Washington-based policy research group. Taking on Iran in Lebanon is a risky gambit by the crown prince, which could backfire, according to other analysts. They question whether there is a good, realistic endgame when it comes to confronting Hezbollah in Lebanon and say Mohammed bin Salman is over-reaching and could well end up weakening Saudi Arabia’s influence in Lebanon. “Pressuring Saad Hariri to resign and confront Hezbollah marks a landmark shift in Saudi policy” in Lebanon, according to Joe Macaron, a policy analyst at the Arab Center, a U.S.-based research group. Historically, Riyadh’s policy in Lebanon has been restricted to one of mediating between rivals and the Saudis have been most effective in Lebanese politics when acting as a junior partner to the United States or Lebanon’s neighbor Syria, rather than in the forefront, he said in an article for the website Al Monitor. Saudi influence in Lebanon has been based more on economic power rather than political clout, he adds. There are signs that this may belatedly be understood now by the Saudis. Hariri’s trips to Paris and Cairo may be an indication of Riyadh’s readiness to negotiate an accommodation, most likely one built around Iran reducing its support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, where the Saudis have found themselves increasingly caught in a military quagmire, say analysts. In a November 12 interview with a Lebanese TV affiliate of his political party, Hariri at one point suggested he might rescind his resignation, if Hezbollah committed to halting involvement in conflicts in the region, citing specifically the war in Yemen. Whether French and Egyptian diplomacy is working will become apparent quickly. Saudi officials have talked of ramping up pressure on Hezbollah by withdrawing Saudi deposits from Lebanese banks and expelling more than a quarter of a million Lebanese nationals who work in the Gulf kingdom and send remittances back home. If they hold off from doing so, that would indicate an accommodation may be taking shape.  

    Middle East - VOA / 11 h. 55 min. ago more
  • Argentina: Flares Seen Are Unlikely to Be from SubmarineArgentina: Flares Seen Are Unlikely to Be from Submarine

    Argentina's navy says that a U.S. aircraft searching for a missing submarine with 44 crew members aboard has spotted a white flare, but it's unlikely to be from the sub. Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said Tuesday that the ARA San Juan carries red and green flares, but authorities will still try to identify the origin of the signals.   Balbi also said that a life raft that doesn't belong to the submarine was found in the search area.   The sub went missing Wednesday as it journeyed from the extreme southern port of Ushuaia to the coastal city of Mar del Plata. International vessels and aircraft have joined the search.   The submarine only has enough oxygen to last seven days if submerged.

    Americas - VOA / 12 h. 1 min. ago more
  • German Police Retrieve 100 Stolen John Lennon ItemsGerman Police Retrieve 100 Stolen John Lennon Items

    A cigarette case, a handwritten musical score, three diaries and two pairs of John Lennon's signature metal-rimmed glasses were among stolen goods belonging to the Beatles' star that have been recovered in Germany. Berlin police spokesman Winfrid Wenzel on Tuesday called the recovery of the trove of about 100 John Lennon items a "great success" for the music world and also for Lennon's widow Yoko Ono. The German authorities first became aware of the items, stolen from Ono in 2006, when a bankruptcy administrator for a Berlin auction house contacted them in July. They confiscated the items from the auctioneers two weeks later, and on Monday they arrested a suspect and raided his Berlin home and cars. They said a second suspect living in Turkey is currently "not available."

    Europe - VOA / 12 h. 21 min. ago more
  • Syria a Smoldering Ruin But Assad Still in His SeatSyria a Smoldering Ruin But Assad Still in His Seat

    His nation is a smoldering ruin, much of it held by rival armed factions, domestic or foreign. Half the population is displaced, hundreds of thousands have died and much of the West regards him as a tyrant and human rights abuser. But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to have survived the war and is likely to hold on to power for the foreseeable future.   The sides in Syria's civil war are preparing for what will be the eighth round of U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva intended to forge a path forward for a political transition to end the conflict. But barring any surprises, no negotiated resolution is likely to lead to Assad's ouster.   One reason is military. Assad's forces have had the momentum on the ground the past year, backed by an overwhelming Russian air campaign and fighters from Iran and Hezbollah. Assad's government now controls more than 50 percent of Syria.   Holding half the country normally wouldn't be an optimistic sign, but that's up from 19 percent earlier this year. His troops control Syria's four largest cities, 10 of Syria's 14 provincial capitals and its Mediterranean coast. Also, no force on the ground is capable of driving Assad out at this stage. Immediate removal off the table On the diplomatic front, the top supporters of the opposition, the United States and its allies, long ago backed off demands that any deal involve Assad's immediate removal. Now they are pushing for a plan for elections that could bring a new leader. But Assad's ally Russia now dominates the negotiating process, meaning there is little pressure on him to accept real elections. A political solution under his terms would be to incorporate opposition members into a national unity government under his leadership.   Assad's opposition is in disarray. The top opposition negotiator, Riyad Hijab, resigned on Monday, complaining that foreign powers were carving up Syria and brokering side deals to “prolong the life of Bashar Assad's regime.” He leaves his post just two days before the opposition was to meet in Saudi Arabia to come up with a unified delegation and negotiating stance. Saudi Arabia has already signaled to the opposition it has to come to terms with Assad's survival.   Assad looks increasingly confident. On Monday, he traveled to Sochi for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Assad has only ventured outside his war-ravaged nation twice since the conflict began - both times to Russia. This week's visit to meet Putin is his second since the crisis began in March 2011.   Earlier this month, Assad's office posted on social media a photo of the president and the first lady, Asma, strolling through their Damascus palace courtyard, smiling at each other. The picture is part of a propaganda campaign to project business as usual and confidence in the future. The presidency's Instagram account produces daily images of the first couple visiting with students, families of slain fighters, orphanages and bakeries.  U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in late October repeated Washington's call for Assad to surrender control, insisting that “the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end.”   But turning that call into reality takes leverage that Washington doesn't appear ready to use. In a joint statement released earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. They made vague comments about Assad's ``recent commitment to the Geneva process and constitutional reform and elections'' as called for under a United Nations Security Council resolution.   Limited options There are few scenarios that could bring about Assad's fall. One would be if the U.S. struck a deal that convinced Russia to force Assad to accept a political transition that ensures his departure from the presidency. But it is hard to imagine what incentive the U.S. could give Moscow to dump its ally. Another scenario would be if the U.S. or other opposition backers reversed course and launched an all-out military drive against Assad. “That requires massive escalation, restarting the war from scratch to roll back Assad's gains and creating an opposition that is both able to govern and acceptable to the international community,” said Aron Lund, a fellow with the New York-based think tank The Century Foundation.   “Looking at the conflict right now and how the opposition's allies are all backing away - it's just not going to happen,” he said.   Trump ended a CIA-backed program training rebel forces trying to oust Assad. The United States has been more focused on fighting the Islamic State group in Syria, supporting Kurdish-led forces that have successfully rolled back the militants and took control of nearly a quarter of the country.   Turkey, another top supporter of the opposition, is more concerned with thwarting the ambitions of the Kurds in Syria than with ousting Assad. It backs a force of opposition factions holding an enclave of territory in northern Syria and skirmishing with the Kurds.   The main rebel-held area focused on fighting Assad is in the northwestern province of Idlib, but it is dominated by al-Qaida-allied factions.   Still holding levers of power Russia, meanwhile, helped mediate a series of local cease-fires between Assad's forces and rebels on most fronts around the country. That has allowed Assad and his allies - troops from Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and Iraqi Shi’ite militiamen - to focus on battling the Islamic State group in the east. On Sunday, state-run media announced that Assad's forces have recaptured the town of Boukamal, the Islamic State group's last significant stronghold in Syria, leaving the militants to defend just strips of desert territory in the country and a besieged pocket outside the capital, Damascus.   “To be sure there will be flare-ups of violence and bombings and unrest,” Lund said. “But he [Assad] holds the center, he holds most of the population, he's got the economy and the institutions and the U.N. seat.... He has all the stuff he needs to continue to rule.”   When Syria's conflict began with mass protests in March 2011, many expected Assad to be quickly toppled like other Arab leaders. Regional and international supporters of the opposition poured in money and weapons and then U.S. president Barack Obama and other Western leaders declared the Assad dynasty finished.   Assad's determination never wavered throughout the conflict, aided by the opposition's fragmentation and Russia and Iran's interventions.   Nikolaos Van Dam, author of the book “Destroying a Nation: The Civil War in Syria,” said Western countries created false expectations by calling on Assad to step down while only offering half-hearted support for the opposition and underestimating the cohesion of Assad's leadership.

    Middle East - VOA / 12 h. 26 min. ago more
  • Cities Adapt to Changing Terror ThreatCities Adapt to Changing Terror Threat

    The October terror attack in New York replicated the methods used in several recent incidents in Europe – a so-called ‘lone wolf’ using a vehicle against a soft target, in this case cyclists and pedestrians. The latest attack underlines the changing nature of the terror threat across the globe. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to a leading counter-terror expert about how security services are adapting.

    Europe - VOA / 12 h. 47 min. ago more
  • What is Temporary Protected StatusWhat is Temporary Protected Status

    Americas - VOA / 13 h. 14 min. ago
  • FIFA Bans 3 Soccer Officials for Life for Taking BribesFIFA Bans 3 Soccer Officials for Life for Taking Bribes

    Three soccer officials who pleaded guilty in American courts to accepting bribes were banned for life by the FIFA ethics committee on Tuesday.   They include former FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai of Guam, who testified in federal court that the source of his bribe money was Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait.   “His guilty plea related, amongst others, to schemes in which he received bribes in exchange for his support in relation to the FIFA presidential elections and to gain control and influence within the AFC [Asian Football Confederation] and FIFA,” the soccer body said Tuesday in a statement.   Sheikh Ahmad referred his own case to the ethics committees of FIFA and the International Olympic Committee in April after Lai's guilty plea was revealed. The Kuwaiti royal also withdrew from an election to retain his seat representing Asia on the FIFA Council.   Two former soccer federation presidents, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, were also banned for life Tuesday. They were arrested in Zurich in May 2015 in early morning raids on luxury hotels and later extradited to the United States.   “FIFA said its ethics judges imposed appropriate fines in relation to the amounts of the bribes that they have admitted having taken.”   Lai has agreed to pay “more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in April.   In court, the American citizen pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking about $1 million in bribes, including at least $850,000 from Kuwaiti officials.   Esquivel agreed to forfeit $16 million a year ago when he pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy linked to the awarding of contracts for the media and marketing rights.   Esquivel's name was cited Monday in Brooklyn during testimony in the trial of three other South American soccer officials who deny corruption charges.   One witness who formerly worked for a marketing agency in Argentina said he kept a ledger of payments to officials, including a $750,000 payment to Esquivel for “Q2022.” Prosecutors did not specify if the payment was linked to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.   Rocha was a FIFA staffer and was working for its development department when he was arrested in 2015. He agreed to forfeit nearly $300,000 after admitting to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges last December.

    Europe - VOA / 13 h. 25 min. ago more
  • Rapper Nelly's Planned Saudi Gig Sparks Social Media StirRapper Nelly's Planned Saudi Gig Sparks Social Media Stir

    Rapper Nelly is to perform in Saudi Arabia next month, but his planned concert in the ultraconservative kingdom is not being welcomed by everyone. Some Saudis on social media are pointing to the American rapper's 2015 guilty plea for possession of marijuana. Smuggling drugs is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia and possession of drugs is also a crime. Others say it's disgraceful that Saudi Arabia's new Entertainment Authority is officially sponsoring the male-only concert on Dec. 14 in light of a rape accusation against the rapper. The Grammy-winning rapper was briefly arrested last month after a woman said he raped her on his tour bus. A week later, the woman dropped her pursuit of criminal charges. Nelly was never charged with a crime.

    Middle East - VOA / 13 h. 30 min. ago more
  • Libya's Parliament Votes in Favor of UN Road mapLibya's Parliament Votes in Favor of UN Road map

    The barely functioning Libyan parliament voted on Tuesday in favor of a new United Nations action plan, which is aimed at giving new life to stalled political talks and healing the country's deep divisions. Abdullah Ablahig, spokesman for the Libyan House of Representatives - which is based in the eastern city of Tobrouk - told The Associated Press that parliament convened Tuesday and voted in favor of the new U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame's road map. The new plan is designed to pave the way for future parliamentary and presidential elections and a vote on a new constitution. Under the new plan, Libya will have a smaller presidential council that carries out the functions of head of state with nearly the same powers as the previous council, while a new government will be formed before a national conference is held. The presidential council will be composed of three members - a president and two deputies - instead of nine and the parliament along with another Tripoli-based consultative body known as the State Council will elect council members. The presidential council names a prime minister a week after its formation while the prime minister forms a government two weeks after his appointment. As for the longtime divisive article number 8, which states that the council commands the armed forces, the parliament has voted in favor of it, according to Ablahig. The parliament has been enjoying such power and has derailed the previous U.N. plan to keep it. Giving up command on the army could underline divisions between the parliament and its onetime ally Khalifa Hifter, the commander of the Libyan National Army which answers to parliament. Hifter has used his influence in the past to prevent a parliament vote in favor of giving the presidential council the upper hand over the army. The presidential council and the government will remain in power until new elections. Libya sank into lawlessness years after the ouster and killing of Moammar Gadhafi. Since 2014, the country has been split into rival governments with one based in eastern Libya and the second based in western Libya. In 2015, a new political agreement brokered by the U.N. gave birth to the presidential council. The council chaired by Fayez Serraj needed the parliament's vote of confidence on a new government, which never happened, stalling the political process.

    Middle East - VOA / 13 h. 52 min. ago more
  • Israeli Parliament Marks 40 Years Since Historic Sadat SpeechIsraeli Parliament Marks 40 Years Since Historic Sadat Speech

    Israel's parliament is holding a special session to mark 40 years since the historic visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.   Sadat's 1977 address to the Knesset is credited with paving a path for peace between the countries. Two years later Israel and Egypt signed a formal peace accord and Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula it had captured in the 1967 war. They have maintained quiet but close security ties since. Israel later made peace with Jordan too.   Sadat's visit came just four years after Israel and Egypt fought a bitter war that claimed thousands of casualties.   Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein opened the event, which was attended by Egyptian ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat. He called the Sadat address “groundbreaking.”   Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to address the plenum later.

    Middle East - VOA / 14 h. 8 min. ago more
  • China Sentences Rights Lawyer to 2 Years in Prison China Sentences Rights Lawyer to 2 Years in Prison

    A court in China's southern Hunan province has sentenced prominent rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong to two years in prison on the charge of inciting state subversion.   Jiang is the twelfth lawyer to be sentenced since China began a sweeping crackdown more than two years ago that has seen more than 300 lawyers targeted. Two of those lawyers have filed an appeal. Kill chicken, frighten monkey   Jiang's wife and rights activists denounced the sentence, calling it "unlawful." They said Chinese authorities are trying to use the ruling to send a warning to rights defenders and portray western democratic values as subversive.   “As the Chinese saying goes, kill the chicken to frighten the monkey. [Authorities] are using Jiang’s case to tell other rights lawyers to behave themselves, or face the same consequences Jiang is facing. I think it sends a warning,” said Jiang’s wife Jin Bianling, who has lived in the United States with her daughter since 2013 to avoid Chinese government harassment. Jin insists her husband is innocent, arguing he has done nothing but his job, practicing law and defending the socially-disadvantaged.   Prior to his arrest in November last year, 46-year-old Jiang had taken on numerous high-profile cases, including those of Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan protesters and victims of the 2008 contaminated milk power scandal before being disbarred for his activism in 2009.   Jiang was critical of Chinese authorities' crackdown on dissent, which began in July of 2015 — a crackdown that critics argue has made a mockery of China's pledges to improve rule of law. Since his arrest, Jiang has been unlawfully deprived of legal representation, Jin said, as the lawyers hired by her to defend Jiang were denied access to their client. Two court-appointed lawyers have refused to talk to her since authorities held a so-called “open” trial for Jiang in August — publishing details on social media. Forced confession? She further speculated that Jiang was either tortured or under pressure to have pleaded guilty three months ago. A 14-minute video clip of what the court called another “open” hearing to announce Jiang’s verdict was posted on its official Weibo account on Tuesday for public viewing. According to the presiding judge, Liu Zheng, the court has concluded that Jiang is guilty of state subversion, but awarded a lenient jail term of two years after having taken into consideration his earlier public confession to his alleged crimes. Jiang would also be deprived of political rights for three years, Liu said.   “With an aim to subvert state power and topple the socialist regime, Jiang, the accused has posted articles on the Internet, accepted interviews by foreign media and hyped up sensitive issues to smear the government, attack the [political] system enshrined in the Constitution, incite subversion of state power and [attempt to] topple the socialist regime,” the judge said.   “His behavior has constituted subversion of state power,” he concluded.   In response, Jiang told the court that he will not file an appeal. Infiltration of foreign forces?   During his trial, Jiang and his court-appointed lawyers raised no objection to all of the accusations that were leveled against him, including one in which he allegedly instigated the wife of another rights lawyer, Xie Yang, to falsify Xie’s torture allegations while in police custody. Tuesday’s court hearing also asserted that Jiang was under the long-term influence of the infiltration of anti-China forces because he had participated in overseas training and sought financial support from foreign backers to attempt to overthrow the incumbent regime. The point was highlighted heavily in a report on the trial by the state run Global Times. The focus on anti-China forces and overseas funding is not a good sign, said Kit Chan, who is with the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group. “That would be kind of an intimidation and warning to the other lawyers or civil society activists of participating any more in exchanging with any external partners, etc…,” Chan said. “It’s a sign of China trying to close itself in again.” Chan agreed that Jiang was given a lighter-than-expected sentence, compared to other rights lawyers. But a two-year jail term is still too much for anyone who is as innocent as Jiang, she added. She also accused Chinese authorities of using Jiang as a scapegoat to distort Xie’s alleged torture, which she urged the United Nations to launch an investigation and hold the perpetrators accountable. Open trial? While the court declared Tuesday’s session to be an open hearing, Jiang’s supporters were prevented from gathering near the court and attending the trial. “I made it to Changsha, but was taken back by the police. I’m now back in Zhuzhou and under the watch of state police,” Ou Biaofeng, a rights activist from Hunan province, told VOA. “I hope that Jiang, his peer rights lawyers, arrested during the [2015] July 9 crackdown, and other rights activists can be set free soon,” he added. Wang Qiaoling, wife of rights lawyer Li Heping, and Li Wenzu, wife of imprisoned lawyer Wang Quanzhang, also tweeted that they were first kept out of the court’s vicinity and later taken away by the police to a nearby government building, a training center for civil servants.    

    Asia - VOA / 14 h. 24 min. ago more
  • Russia Confirms Spike in Radioactivity in UralsRussia Confirms Spike in Radioactivity in Urals

    Russian authorities on Tuesday confirmed reports of a spike in radioactivity in the air over the Ural Mountains while the suspected culprit, a nuclear fuel processing plant, denied it was the source of contamination.   The Russian Meteorological Service said in a statement Tuesday that it recorded the release of Ruthenium-106 in the southern Urals in late September and classified it as “extremely high contamination.”   France's nuclear safety agency earlier this month said that it recorded radioactivity in the area between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains from a suspected accident involving nuclear fuel or the production of radioactive material. It said the release of the isotope Ruthenium-106 posed no health or environmental risks to European countries.   At the time, Russia's state-controlled Rosatom corporation said in a statement that there had been no radiation leak from its facilities.   The Russian meteorological office's report, however, noted high levels of radiation in residential areas adjacent to Rosatom's Mayak plant for spent nuclear fuel. Air samples in the town of Argayash in late September-early October, for example, showed levels nearly 1,000 times higher than those recorded in the previous months.   The Russian Natural Resources Ministry which oversees the meteorological office in a statement later on Tuesday sought to reassure the public, claiming that the radiation levels there still were lower than those deemed to be dangerous.   Mayak in a statement on Tuesday denied being the source of contamination. The plant said it has not conducted any work on extracting Ruthenium-106 from spent nuclear fuel “for several years.”   Mayak, in the Chelyabinsk region, has been responsible for at least two of Russia's biggest radioactive accidents. In 2004 it was confirmed that waste was being dumped in the local Techa River. Nuclear regulators say that no longer happens, but anti-nuclear activists say it's impossible to tell given the level of state secrecy.   In 2016, Associated Press reporters visited a village downstream from Mayak where doctors have for years recorded rates of chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects and cancers vastly higher than the Russian average. A Geiger counter at the riverbank in the village of Muslyumovo showed measurements 80 to 100 times the level of naturally occurring background radiation.   A decades-long Radiation Research Society study of people living near the Techa River, conducted jointly by Russian and American scientists, has linked radiation particularly to higher rates of cancer of the uterus and esophagus.   The Nuclear Safety Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, which oversees safety standards for the country's nuclear industry, has insisted, however, that Mayak's nuclear waste processing system presents no danger to the surrounding population.   Environmental pressure group Greenpeace said in a statement on Tuesday that it would petition the Russian Prosecutor General's office to investigate “a possible concealment of a radiation accident” and check whether public health was sufficiently protected.

    Europe - VOA / 14 h. 27 min. ago more
  • Flooding in Western Saudi Arabia Forces Schools to ShutFlooding in Western Saudi Arabia Forces Schools to Shut

    Saudi authorities have closed schools and universities after flooding in the kingdom's second-largest city, Jiddah, and the country's Red Sea coastal regions.   Videos shared on Twitter and other social media sites on Tuesday show people stranded in tunnels and on roads with cars engulfed by floodwater.   Schools have also been closed in the areas of Mecca and Taif. Saudi Civil Defense warns that heavy rainfall is expected to last until at least Wednesday morning.   Flooding happens almost every year in Jiddah and other western cities in Saudi Arabia. The most devastating flood in recent years was in 2009, when more than 100 people died.   An anti-corruption committee led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says a purge that began earlier this month is partly related to the 2009 Jiddah flooding.    

    Middle East - VOA / 14 h. 30 min. ago more
  • Bleak Outlook for Indonesia’s Long-Persecuted AhmadiyyaBleak Outlook for Indonesia’s Long-Persecuted Ahmadiyya

    Many of Indonesia’s religious minorities celebrated last week when the government allowed citizens to list faiths outside the six state-sanctioned religions on their national ID cards. But the ruling changed little for Muslim Indonesians who identify with minority strains of Islam, like Ahmadiyya, and still face discrimination in the world’s largest Muslim country. The Ahmadiyya movement was founded in 19th century India and came to Indonesia in 1925. Today it counts about 400,000 adherents. Ahmadiyya has many distinctive teachings, including that Muhammad is not necessarily the last prophet of God, that Jesus was crucified and resurrected (which most Muslims reject), and that religious history progresses in 7,000-year cycles. It has courted controversy since its earliest years in Indonesia. Back in 1929, when the nation was still under Dutch rule, the modernist, conservative Indonesian Sunni movement called Muhamaddiyah issued an indirect fatwa against Ahmadis, nominally targeting those who don’t believe Muhammad is the final prophet of God. In 1980, the Indonesian Ulama (religious scholar) Council, the country’s highest Muslim body, declared Ahmadiyya a “deviant sect.” But intolerance rose significantly in the new millennium. In recent years, Ahmadis have been assaulted, murdered and forced to convert. They've also had their mosques burned, been the target of violent demonstrations, and been refused state ID cards. Although anti-Ahmadi sentiment was particularly strong in 2011 and 2012, just last March, an Ahmadi mosque was shut down in Depok, a Jakarta suburb. Over 30 Ahmadiyya families have been internally displaced to a shelter in Lombok Island since 2006, after they were evacuated from their village by hardline Islamists. Many roots of intolerance One reason for rising intolerance against minority strains of Islam is the growing influence of Salafism, a fundamentalist Sunni ideology originating in 18th century Saudi Arabia that narrowly defines the limits of what constitutes Islam. Sidney Jones of the Institute for Policy Analysis and Conflict said in 2016 that she believes “money from private Saudi donors and foundations was behind campaigns in Indonesia against Shiite and Ahmadi Islam, considered heretical by Wahhabi teaching.” But that’s not the only source. Anti-Ahmadiyya discourse comes from the ostensibly moderate mainstream of Indonesian Islam as well, through huge Sunni organizations like Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah. The National Ulama Council has printed and circulated pamphlets against the Ahmadiyya and Shia Muslims in the past. “The intolerance of Ahmadiyya deeply entrenched across the Indonesian Muslim religious establishment,” said Noorhaidi Hasan, a professor at the State Islamic University of Yogyakarta. “There is far worse internal tolerance, in a sense towards fellow religions, than external tolerance, i.e. to those of different faiths,” said Bonar Naipospos of the Setara Institute, a religion think tank. “This explains why intolerance towards Ahmadiyah continues. The majority of Muslims in Indonesia, including moderate groups such as NU and Muhammadiyah, hold the view that the Ahmadis are deviating from Islam.” Poor outlook Anti-Ahmadi sentiment took on the sheen of state approval in 2008 when former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued a decree preventing Ahmadis from proselytizing or engaging in “Ahmadiyya activities’ outside their own communities. The vague wording has been subject to abuse. The low point was likely the public murder of three Ahmadis by an Islamist mob in Cikeusik, West Java in 2011. The Setara Institute think tank recorded 342 cases of assault against the Ahmadiyya community between 2007 and 2011. Current President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has been largely silent on the issue. “It takes efforts to educate Muslims to differentiate between their faith and their citizenship,” said Andreas Harsono, a researcher with Human Rights Watch Indonesia. “They could hate the Ahmadiyah but they could not harm these poor Ahmadis. That's religious tolerance. There're many things that people could disagree with in this world, but using violence and state discrimination are obviously wrong. It will hamper human development.” As a potential first step to support the Ahmadiyya, the government could move the needle on the issue of the moment: ID cards. Ahmadiyya followers have long been asked to "convert to Islam" in order to get state ID cards. Politicians in West Java — admittedly a conservative province — have maintained in recent months that Ahmadiyya followers must leave the religion column on their ID cards blank, despite instructions to the contrary  from the Home Affairs Ministry. The cards are necessary for many social services and rites. If this month’s ID card ruling results in a more coherent national policy toward administering them, that could offer major benefits for Indonesia’s Ahmadiyya community.

    Asia - VOA / 17 h. 21 min. ago more
  • Suicide Bomber Kills At Least 50 in NigeriaSuicide Bomber Kills At Least 50 in Nigeria

    A suicide bombing early Tuesday at a mosque in northeastern Nigeria killed at least 50 people. The attack, which President Muhammadu Buhari condemned as "cruel and dastardly," happened as people arrived for morning prayers at the mosque in the town of Mubi, located in Adamawa state. In a statement, the president's office said the government would do "everything required to secure the state from the deadly menace of Boko Haram," the Islamist militant group suspected of being behind the attack. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the bombing resembled numerous prior suicide attacks carried out by Boko Haram. The militant group has killed more than 20,000 people during its eight-year insurgency against the government in a bid to create a strict Islamic state in the majority Muslim north. The government has repeatedly assured Nigerians the insurgency is drawing to a close, only to see new attacks.

    Africa - VOA / 17 h. 32 min. ago more
  • Suu Kyi Hopes for Rohingya Agreement With BangladeshSuu Kyi Hopes for Rohingya Agreement With Bangladesh

    Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi expressed hope Tuesday for reaching an agreement with Bangladesh on the return of Rohingya Muslims who have fled to Bangladesh in the past three months. More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have left Myanmar’s Rakhine State since August 25, after insurgents attacked security forces and prompted a brutal military crackdown that has been described as ethnic cleansing. Aung San Suu Kyi said the neighboring countries are working on a memorandum of understanding for the "safe and voluntary return" for those who fled. "Nothing can be done overnight, but we believe that we will be able to make steady progress," she said. Also Tuesday, rights group Amnesty International issued a new report saying the government in Myanmar discriminates and segregates Rohingya and other Muslims communities. "In the case of the Rohingya this is so severe that it amounts to a widespread and systemic attack on a civilian population, which is clearly linked to their ethnic (or racial) identity, and therefore legally constitutes apartheid, a crime against humanity under international law," Amnesty said. The group called on Myanmar to institute an action plan to combat discrimination, to reform discriminatory laws and policies and to make sure that those responsible for crimes against humanity are held accountable. "We're calling for an arms embargo and targeted sanctions against officials responsible for this system, but we're also insisting that any development aid provided by the international community must be conditioned on the principle of non-discrimination, because otherwise it risks perpetuating this already atrocious situation," said Amnesty International Senior Director of Research Anna Neistat. Myanmar’s government has repeatedly rejected claims that atrocities, including rape and extrajudicial killings, are occurring in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence that the United Nations has qualified as "textbook ethnic cleansing." Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya and denies them citizenship, referring to them as “Bengali” to imply origins in Bangladesh.

    Asia - VOA / 18 h. 3 min. ago more
  • Fired Zimbabwean VP Says Mugabe Should Resign ImmediatelyFired Zimbabwean VP Says Mugabe Should Resign Immediately

    Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe should acknowledge the nation's "insatiable desire'' for a leadership change and resign immediately, the recently fired vice president and likely successor to the 93-year-old leader said Tuesday. Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was dismissed earlier this month, also said in a statement that he will not return to Zimbabwe until "satisfied of my personal security,'' alleging that there had been plans to kill him. "The people of Zimbabwe have spoken with one voice and it is my appeal to President Mugabe that he should take heed of this clarion call and resign forthwith so that the country can move forward and preserve his legacy,'' Mnangagwa said. He confirmed that Mugabe has invited him to return "for a discussion'' on the recent events. But "given the events that followed my dismissal I cannot trust my life in President Mugabe's hands.'' The ruling ZANU-PF party is demanding that Mugabe resign and wants Mnangagwa, a former longtime ally of the president, to replace him. The ruling party was poised to begin impeachment proceedings against Mugabe on Tuesday as Parliament resumed, and it instructed government ministers to boycott a Cabinet meeting Mugabe called for Tuesday morning at State House, the president's official residence. Ruling party chief whip Lovemore Matuke said ministers were told to instead attend a meeting at party headquarters to work on the impeachment. Mnangagwa's statement said he was aware of the impeachment proceedings and "I will not stand in the way of the people and my party.'' While there is a widespread consensus that the world's oldest head of state should step down after nearly four decades in power, the increasingly isolated Mugabe has refused. The country has known no other leader since independence from white minority rule in 1980. The military was widely hailed as a savior after effectively stripping Mugabe of his authority last week, but it is under scrutiny after its generals flanked him during a televised address Sunday night in which he asserted that he remained the "commander in chief'' and referred to "our well-cherished constitutional order.'' Zimbabwe's association of liberation war veterans, which is close to the military, said the generals are in an awkward position because their formal role requires them to protect Mugabe from civilian protesters such as the tens of thousands who poured into Harare's streets over the weekend.

    Africa - VOA / 18 h. 56 min. ago more
  • Russia, Syria Say Presidents Discuss Syrian Political ResolutionRussia, Syria Say Presidents Discuss Syrian Political Resolution

    Syria and Russia disclosed Tuesday a meeting between President Bashar al-Assad and President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, saying the leaders discussed the need to focus on a political resolution for the Syrian conflict. Reports from the Kremlin and Syria's SANA news agency said Putin described military operations in Syria as nearing an end and congratulated Assad on a successful fight against terrorists. Assad, who according to Russian media was in Sochi for about four hours Monday, said he believes the state of the war allows leaders to expect progress on the political front. The Syrian leader was last in Russia two years ago just as Russian forces launched military operations in Syria that helped prop up his forces. The Kremlin said Putin planned to further discuss the issues with U.S. President Donald Trump and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Putin is also set to host Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for a summit Wednesday in Sochi that will also focus on the Syrian peace process. Those three countries have cooperated in several rounds of talks in Astana, Kazakhstan that produced agreements to set up four "de-escalation zones" within Syria. Separate U.N.-led peace talks are scheduled for November 28 in Geneva.  

    Middle East - VOA / 19 h. 57 min. ago more
  • Trump Administration Puts Big-Game Trophy Hunting Decision on HoldTrump Administration Puts Big-Game Trophy Hunting Decision on Hold

    The Trump administration is considering whether or not to allow imports of some African elephant hunting trophies into the United States. Initial reports that the administration might lift an existing ban on these imports sparked widespread outrage, with the President tweeting on Friday that a decision would be put on hold until officials could assess the most recent conservation data. VOA’s Elizabeth Cherneff has more.

    Africa - VOA / 21 h. 20 min. ago more
  • US Re-designates North Korea As State Sponsor of TerrorismUS Re-designates North Korea As State Sponsor of Terrorism

    The Trump administration has announced "the maximum pressure campaign" on North Korea to get the regime of Kim Jong Un to end its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile development and cease all support for international terrorism. U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday that in addition to tougher economic sanctions, North Korea will be redesignated as state sponsor of terrorism.VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.

    Asia - VOA / 21 h. 20 min. ago more
  • Cambodia's Major Food Source is Slowly DyingCambodia's Major Food Source is Slowly Dying

    Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake, which lies in the center of the country, is home to hundreds of species of fish that provide the Southeast Asian nation with up to 60 percent of its protein. But the lake's rich fishery is at risk because of overfishing, pollution and hydroelectric dams. VOA's Kevin Enochs reports.

    Asia - VOA / 21 h. 20 min. ago
  • Virtual Reality As a Mental Health ToolVirtual Reality As a Mental Health Tool

    It is a simple, but startling, statistic: one in four people around the world will have a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. But dealing with mental health issues is so much easier if they are caught early. VOA's Kevin Enochs reports that is the thinking behind a new method using virtual reality to gauge mental health.

    Science - VOA / 21 h. 21 min. ago more
  • Trump: US to Redesignate North Korea as State Sponsor of TerrorTrump: US to Redesignate North Korea as State Sponsor of Terror

    South Korea and Japan have welcomed a move by the United States to redesignate North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism in order to put additional financial and diplomatic pressure on the totalitarian government. South Korea's foreign ministry said Tuesday it sees the decision "as part of the international community's joint efforts to take North Korea to the path of denuclearization." "It should have happened years ago," President Donald Trump said Monday from the White House, calling the Pyongyang government a "murderous regime." WATCH: Trump on Pyongyang regime The move, which will be formally announced by the State Department on Tuesday, returns North Korea to the department's State Sponsors of Terrorism list. Currently, the only countries on the list are Iran, Syria and Sudan. Speaking on background, a State Department official said the Trump administration determined Pyongyang "has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism," including assassinations on foreign soil. "These acts are in keeping with the DPRK's wider range of dangerous and malicious behavior," the official said, using the abbreviation for Pyongyang's official name. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said sanctions already in place against North Korea are having an effect and that there is still hope for diplomacy. The United States put North Korea on the terror sponsor list in 1988, after North Korean agents blew up a South Korean civilian airliner, killing 115 people. But Pyongyang was removed in 2008 after they met benchmarks related to a nuclear disarmament deal. WATCH: US stance on North Korea terrorism The six-party disarmament talks collapsed a short time later, and North Korea declared the nuclear deal void. It has since conducted five more nuclear tests and steadily accelerated its ballistic missile program, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. "We took them off that list for some specific issues we were seeking - mainly the destruction of the cooling tower and some disabling steps," says former Ambassador Christopher Hill, who led the U.S. delegation to the six-party nuclear talks. "In the meantime, by all accounts they seem to have the graphite-moderated reactor back in service. So they should be put back on the list." Tufts University assistant professor of Korean Studies Sung-Yoon Lee told VOA that North Korea never should have been taken off the list, and that Trump's decision could prompt a response this week. It gives North Korea the excuse to conduct another major weapons test and then to deflect blame onto the United States," Lee said. "North Korea will say this is a provocation, it’s unacceptable. But the question is, does this act have beyond symbolic opprobrium, does it have real practical financial costs? And I would say decidedly yes.” Statutory requirements Under U.S. law, a government must have "repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism" in order to be included on the Sponsors of Terrorism list. While North Korea is widely regarded as one of the most oppressive governments in the world with respect to its own people, its involvement with international terrorism is less prominent. But the label is accurate, insists Bruce Klingner, a North Korea specialist at the Heritage Foundation. Specifically, Klingner cites recent cyberattacks against U.S. and South Korean targets, including the 2014 attack against Sony Pictures for producing a film critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He also mentions multiple North Korean assassinations and assassination plots, including the killing of Kim Jong Nam, Kim's half-brother, who was poisoned earlier this year at a Malaysian airport. "While global attention has been on nuclear weapons and missiles, we must not lose sight of North Korea’s terrorist acts and gross violations of human rights," Klingner says. Efforts intensified The effort to reinstate North Korea to the terror list intensified after American college student Otto Warmbier died in June, shortly after being released from North Korean custody. Warmbier had been sentenced to 15 years hard labor for the alleged theft of a propaganda poster from his North Korean hotel. At the request of Warmbier's family, six Democratic and six Republican senators later urged the State Department to consider reinstating North Korea to the list. Although tragic, the Warmbier case does not seem to meet the statutory criteria for international terrorism, says Daniel Pinkston, who specializes in Northeast Asian security issues at Troy University in Seoul. There is also a question about whether such a designation, especially at a time of heightened tension, could further complicate efforts to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear and weapons program. But "those odds are basically at zero anyway," Pinkston says. Impact of move Returning North Korea to the terror list would mean it is subject to greater restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance, defense exports and sales, and other financial transactions. While Klingner argues the move would have a "tangible impact on regime finances," Hill says the strategic value of the move is "purely symbolic." "If you're on the list, the U.S. cannot vote for you on a World Bank loan, for example, and cannot sell you military equipment. Well, we're not going to do that in either case," Hill says. In the end, though, he says he "wouldn't lose any sleep" if Pyongyang were re-added to the list. "I don't know the legal justification for putting them back on, but if it's just being an overall terrible pain in the neck, they more than qualify," Hill says. Reporter William Gallo and State Department Correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report

    Asia - VOA / 21 h. 44 min. ago more
  • Zimbabwe MPs Begin Impeachment Process Against MugabeZimbabwe MPs Begin Impeachment Process Against Mugabe

    Lawmakers in Zimbabwe have begun impeachment proceedings against longtime President Robert Mugabe after he ignored a Monday deadline to resign. Speaker Jacob Mudenda opened debate Tuesday on the impeachment motion as thousands of protesters rallied outside parliament in Harare, demanding that Mugabe quit.   The president refuses to step down despite a takeover of state institutions by the military and calls for his resignation from members of his ZANU-PF party. The motion includes charges that Mugabe abused his authority to position his wife, Grace Mugabe, as his successor. Mugabe hinted he would appoint her as vice president after he fired popular military hero Emmerson Mnangagwa earlier this month. In a statement Tuesday, Mnangagwa said the people of Zimbabwe have spoken. He appealed to Mugabe to leave office "so that the country can move forward." Mnangagwa added that he will not return to the country until he can be assured of his safety. The 93-year-old president has shown no sign of willingly leaving the office he has held for four decades, and planned to hold a Cabinet meeting Tuesday. Mugabe has been under house arrest since last week when the military seized key state institutions. The country's top military official said Monday that Mugabe was in touch with Mnangagwa, who was expected to return to Zimbabwe soon. ZANU-PF set the deadline for Mugabe at a meeting Sunday where it also fired him as party chief and chose Mnangagwa as its new leader. In Washington, a State Department official said “the future of Zimbabwe must be determined and established by the people of Zimbabwe” and that the United States supports the country's transition to democracy.  The official told VOA on Monday “whatever short-term arrangements the [Zimbabwe] government may establish, the path forward must lead to free and fair elections, in which the people of Zimbabwe, free to assemble without interference and to voice their opinions without fear, choose their own leaders. “ On Saturday, thousands of exuberant Zimbabwean demonstrators flooded the streets of Harare, some of whom marched toward the official residence of Mugabe amid nationwide protests calling for his resignation. “The people of Zimbabwe took peacefully to the streets and firmly voiced their desire for a new era that will bring an end to Zimbabwe’s isolation and allow the country to rejoin the international community,” said the State Department official. Shaderick Guto, a professor emeritus of the University of South Africa, told VOA that Mugabe is "trying to play games" because he knows the army fears being ostracized by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union if it stages a coup. Neither organization condones the unconstitutional removal of an elected government. Zimbabwe has been in serious economic and political turmoil since the late 1990s. Mugabe is the world's oldest head of state. He took power, first as prime minister then as president, in 1980 when Zimbabwe won independence from Britain and ended white minority rule. Although he initially brought some benefits to the black majority and the poor, Mugabe's authoritarian rule has destroyed Zimbabwe's economy, discouraged foreign investment and stifled any political challenges through violence, intimidation and what the opposition says have been rigged elections. VOA's James Butty in Washington, D.C., and State Department Correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report.

    Africa - VOA / 22 h. 26 min. ago more
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  • EU's Top Court Orders Poland to Stop Logging in Ancient Forest   EU's Top Court Orders Poland to Stop Logging in Ancient Forest

    The European Union's top court Monday ordered Poland to stop logging in the ancient Bialowieza Forest, or pay an $118,000 daily fine. "Poland must immediately cease its active forest management operations in the Bialowieza Forest, except in exceptional cases where they are strictly necessary to ensure public safety," the European Court of Justice wrote. The forest is home to rare plants, birds and mammals and is one of Europe's last remaining primeval habitats. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The court first warned Poland against logging in July. Poland says the trees are weak and damaged by a beetle outbreak. It says cutting them down is necessary to prevent people foraging for mushrooms from getting hurt if the trees fall. The logging argument is another in a series of a war of words between the European Union and the right-wing Polish government, which accuses the EU of infringing on its sovereignty. The EU has said it is worried about the decline of democratic values in Poland.

    Europe - VOA / 1 d. 0 h. 4 min. ago more
  • US Targets Iranian Counterfeit Scheme in YemenUS Targets Iranian Counterfeit Scheme in Yemen

    U.S. officials are spotlighting Iran’s efforts to spread its influence across the Middle East with what they describe as a “large-scale” counterfeiting operation, sophisticated enough to fool some European regulators. Treasury officials in Washington exposed the counterfeiting ring Monday, sanctioning a network of individuals and companies, including two based in Germany, linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its elite Qods Force. The department said Iran used the German-based front companies  ForEnt Technik and Printing Trade Center (PTC)  to trick European regulators in order to acquire watermarked paper, specialty ink and machinery. The export of those items to Iran is currently banned. 'Destabilizing activities' As a result, officials said, Iran may have managed to print hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of Yemeni bank notes, which the IRGC then used to “support its destabilizing activities.” “This scheme exposes the deep levels of deception the IRGC-Qods Force is willing to employ against companies in Europe, governments in the Gulf, and the rest of the world to support its destabilizing activities,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, calling Tehran’s actions “completely unacceptable.” “This counterfeiting scheme exposes the serious risks faced by anyone doing business with Iran,” he added. “The IRGC continues to obscure its involvement in Iran's economy and hide behind the façade of legitimate businesses to perpetrate its nefarious objectives.” 'Knee-deep in counterfeit business' U.S. officials have long accused Iran of supplying arms to rebel Houthi forces battling for control of Yemen. But Monday’s sanctions help highlight the scope of what Western officials commonly describe as the IRGC’s far-reaching and malign activities. “Iran itself, together with its proxy, Lebanese Hezbollah, is knee-deep and has been knee-deep in the counterfeit business for quite some time,” said Matthew Levitt with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Exposing this is kind of a two-for one, both exposing the organization’s terrorist activity and also exposing the nature of the criminal activity that it engages in.” Levitt, a former Treasury Department intelligence official, also said the U.S. announcement could hurt Iran, especially as it tries to get better access to the international financial systems and get off a global blacklist of high-risk countries. The new U.S. sanctions may also send a message to some U.S. allies who want to maintain the Iranian nuclear deal and have been hesitant to follow the lead of the Trump administration, which has advocated taking a much tougher stance with Tehran. “This sends a pretty strong political statement that it is in Europe’s interest to care,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “It's European jurisdiction and European technology.”  

    Middle East - VOA / 1 d. 0 h. 39 min. ago more
  • US Sues to Stop AT&T's Takeover of Time WarnerUS Sues to Stop AT&T's Takeover of Time Warner

    The U.S. Justice Department is suing to stop AT&T's multi-billion dollar bid to take over another communications giant, Time Warner, calling it illegal and likening it to extortion. "The $108 billion acquisition would substantially lessen competition, resulting in higher prices and less innovation for millions of Americans," a Justice Department statement said Monday. "The combined company would use its control over Time Warner's valuable and highly popular networks to hinder its rivals by forcing them to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for the right to distribute those networks." CNN, HBO top Time Warner products Time Warner's products include CNN, HBO, TNT, The Cartoon Network, and Cinemax — these networks broadcast highly popular newscasts, movies, comedy and drama series, and sports. AT&T and its subsidiary DirectTV distribute these programs, as well as others, thorough cable and satellite. The Justice Department decries the possibility of AT&T not just controlling television productions, but also the means of bringing them into people's homes. In its lawsuit, it threw AT&T's words right back at the communications giant, noting that AT&T recognizes that distributors with control over the shows "have the incentive and ability to use ... that control as a weapon to hinder competition." It also cited a DirectTV statement saying distributors can withhold programs from their rivals and "use such threats to demand higher prices and more favorable terms." Assured transaction would be approved AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson told reporters the Justice Department's lawsuit "stretches the reach of anti-trust law to the breaking point." He said the "best legal minds in the country" assured AT&T that the transaction would be approved and said the government is discarding decades of legal precedent. AT&T and Time Warner are not direct competitors, and AT&T says government regulators have routinely approved such mergers. President Donald Trump has made no secret of his contempt for one of Time Warner's crown jewels — CNN, the Cable News Network — because of his perception of CNN being a liberal biased provider of "fake news," including direct attacks against his administration. Trump vowed during last year's presidential campaign to block the merger. Stephenson called the matter "the elephant in the room," saying he said he "frankly does not know" if the White House disdain for CNN is at the heart of the Justice Department lawsuit. But he said a proposal that Time Warner sell-off CNN as part of a settlement with the Trump Justice Department would be a "non-starter."

    Science - VOA / 1 d. 1 h. 12 min. ago more
  • Actress, Singer Della Reese Dies at 86  Actress, Singer Della Reese Dies at 86

    American actress and singer Della Reese, who made broadcasting history as the first black woman to host a national talk show, has died at 86. The Detroit-born Reese began her career as a teenage gospel singer, touring with the legendary Mahalia Jackson. She turned to jazz and pop in the late 1950s, including the million-selling hits "And That Reminds Me" and "Don't You Know." Her 1969 television series Della ran for two years and was the first such talk show to be hosted by an African-American woman. Reese became a familiar face on television comedies, and spent nine years playing a chief angel on the series Touched by an Angel. She spent the last 20 years as an ordained minister, preaching from a Los Angeles church she founded called Understanding Principles for Better Living.

    Entertainment - VOA / 1 d. 1 h. 36 min. ago more
  • US Ending Temporary Permits for Almost 60,000 HaitiansUS Ending Temporary Permits for Almost 60,000 Haitians

    After years of being shielded from deportation from the United States while their country recovers from a devastating 2010 earthquake, tens of thousands of Haitians will lose that security status. "It was assessed overall that the extraordinary but temporary conditions that served as the basis of Haiti's most recent designation has sufficiently improved such that they no longer prevent nationals of Haiti from returning safely," a senior Trump administration official said during a briefing. Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, will be revoked for almost 60,000 Haitians living and working in the U.S. The announcement came in advance of a Thursday deadline for the decision to be made regarding Haiti's TPS benefits. The protection will expire July 22, 2019, giving Haitians living in the U.S. an 18-month window to go back to their homeland or legalize their status in the United States. Haitians with TPS status have a 60-day window to submit an application to renew their status until the 2019 deadline. When that time comes, they will revert to their prior immigration status. Administration officials said Monday evening that Haitians with TPS would not be subject to deportation proceedings until the deadline. In making the announcement, officials said that conditions on the ground in Haiti resulting from the 2010 earthquake that first let to the establishment of TPS "no longer exist." However, advocates argue that Haiti is in no condition to handle the influx, seven years after the 7.0-magnitude quake created billions of dollars in damages, and left 300,000 dead, 1.5 million injured and an equal number internally displaced. The country was also recently hit by Hurricane Matthew, which created $2.8 billion in damages last year, followed by damage from hurricanes Irma and Maria. Haiti also is battling a deadly cholera epidemic. Last week, the Office of Civil Protection confirmed that at least five people had died and 10,000 homes were flooded after days of rain. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican whose South Florida district is home to many Haitians, denounced the decision on Twitter. "I traveled to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and after hurricane Matthew in 2016," she tweeted. "So I can personally attest that Haiti is not prepared to take back nearly 60,000 TPS recipients under these difficult and harsh conditions." Advocates and recipients are also pushing for Congress to provide a permanent solution for Haitians who have lived in the United States for nearly a decade. "My community is tired of living 18 months at a time," Lys Isma, who came to the United States from Haiti with her family when she was nine months old, told reporters Tuesday. "We need a permanent solution." In May, then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly extended TPS for Haitians for six months, not the one-year extension advocated by Haiti's government. Kelly said at the time that the extension "should allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States, and should also provide the Haitian government with the time it needs to prepare for the future repatriation of all current TPS recipients." Haiti's ambassador to the United States, Paul Altidor, told VOA at the time that the Caribbean country, while glad to welcome back "our brothers and sisters," was not ready to absorb tens of thousands of returnees "overnight." Fear of deportation sparked an exodus of at least several thousand Haitian immigrants this summer, who illegally crossed the Canadian border seeking asylum in the French-speaking province of Quebec. According to a recent study by the Center for Migration Studies, most Haitians on TPS have been living in the United States for 13 years and have 27,000 U.S.-citizen children among them. More than 80 percent are employed, while 6,200 have mortgages. Haitian immigrant communities primarily are in South Florida, New York, New Jersey and eastern Massachusetts. TPS was ended for Sudan last month. On January 8, the administration will have to make a decision about more than 130,000 TPS holders from El Salvador. Earlier this month, in terminating the TPS program for thousands of Nicaraguans who fled to the U.S. after Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and deferring a decision on 57,000 similarly affected Hondurans until July, the acting secretary of homeland security, Elaine Duke, acknowledged the "difficulties" families would face and called on Congress to find a permanent solution. VOA Creole Service contributed to this report.

    Americas - VOA / 1 d. 3 h. 6 min. ago more
  • US Arrests Former Officials in Africa Bribery SchemesUS Arrests Former Officials in Africa Bribery Schemes

    The bribery scheme was hatched in the halls of the United Nations in New York and spanned several continents. Chi Ping Patrick Ho, Hong Kong’s former Home Secretary, and Cheikh Gadio, a one-time foreign minister of Senegal, plotted to bribe high-level African officials to secure business rights for a Shanghai-based energy and financial conglomerate. Their targets: Idriss Deby, the long-time president of oil-rich Chad, and Sam Kutesa, a Ugandan foreign minister who served as president of the U.N. General Assembly from 2014 to 2015. According to a criminal complaint unsealed by U.S. prosecutors on Monday, Ho and Gadio engaged in a multi-year scheme to bribe Deby and Kutesa in exchange for "business advantages" for the energy company, a multibillion-dollar Chinese company that operates in the oil-and-gas and financial sectors.   Ho was arrested Saturday afternoon and appeared before a federal magistrate Monday, the Justice Department announced Monday.   Gadio, who served as foreign minister of Senegal from 2002 to 2009, was arrested in New York on Friday afternoon and presented to a federal magistrate Saturday. Both remain in federal custody. The two men are charged with criminal bribery in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and international money laundering. The FCPA bars companies from bribing foreign officials to gain a business advantage. Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco said the scheme "involved bribes at the highest levels of two nations."   "Their bribes and corrupt acts hurt our economy and undermine confidence in the free marketplace," Blanco said in a statement.   According to the complaint, Ho and Gadio began plotting in 2014 when they met at the United Nations in New York. At the time, Gadio ran a consulting firm while Ho headed a non-profit that received funding by the energy company. The criminal complaint does not name the non-profit or the Chinese company behind it. But a small outfit named China Energy Fund Committee fits the NGO's description in the complaint. On its website, CEFC describes itself as an NGO and "high end strategic think tank" and lists Dr. Patrick Chi Ping Ho as its deputy chairman and secretary general. The non-profit says it is registered in Hong Kong and Virginia and is supported by "a special private grant fully sponsored by China Energy Fund Co. Ltd." CEFC China Energy Company Limited is "a private collective enterprise with energy and financial serves as its core business," according to its website.   The Shanghai- based company had revenue of $34 billion (263 billion Chinese yuan) in 2015. On Oct. 19, 2014, Ho met Kutesa at the United Nations. Kutesa had just begun his one-year term as president of the United Nations General Assembly. A month later, Gadio allegedly advised Ho to "reward" the Chadian president with "a nice financial package." Two months later, Ho pledged a $2 million bribe to Deby on behalf of the energy company in exchange for obtaining lucrative oil rights from the Chadian government. In exchange, Deby is alleged to have provided the energy company with "an exclusive" opportunity to obtain particular oil rights in Chad without facing international competition, according to the criminal complaint. Gadio is alleged to have connected Ho with Deby and conveyed the $2 million bribe offer to Deby.   Ho is alleged to have paid Deby $400,000 for his services via wire transfers transmitted through New York. In addition, the criminal complaint alleges, Ho paid a $500,000 bribe to Kutesa, the Ugandan foreign minister, in exchange for obtaining "business advantages" for the energy company, including the potential acquisition of a Ugandan bank.    Chad’s president and Uganda’s foreign minister were also offered gifts and promises of future benefits, including a share of profits generated by joint ventures between the energy company and businesses owned by the families of the foreign minister of Uganda and president of Chad, according to the criminal complaint.   FBI Assistant Director In Charge William Sweeney of the New York Field Office said Ho and Gadio "were allegedly willing to throw money at the leaders of two countries to bypass the normal course of business, but didn't realize that using the U.S. banking system would be their undoing." Chad and Uganda are ranked the 15th and 25th most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International's 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index. The embassy of Chad in Washington and Uganda’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not respond to requests for comment.

    Asia - VOA / 1 d. 3 h. 28 min. ago more
  • CBS Suspends Rose, PBS Halts his Show Following AllegationsCBS Suspends Rose, PBS Halts his Show Following Allegations

    Charlie Rose is the latest public figure to be felled by sexual misconduct allegations, with PBS halting distribution of his nightly interview show and CBS News suspending him Monday following a Washington Post report with the accusations of eight women. The women, who all worked for Rose or tried to work for him, accused the veteran newsman of groping them, walking naked in front of them and telling one that he dreamed about her swimming nude. Rose, 75, said in a statement that he was "deeply embarrassed" and apologized for his behavior. "PBS was shocked to learn today of these deeply disturbing allegations," the public broadcasting service said in a statement. "We are immediately suspending distribution of Charlie Rose." Three women went on the record in the Post's deeply-reported story. Reah Bravo, a former associate producer for Rose's PBS show who began working for him in 2007, told the newspaper: "He was a sexual predator, and I was his victim." She said Rose groped her on multiple occasions and once, during a business trip to Indiana, called her to his hotel room where he emerged from a shower naked. Kyle Godfrey-Ryan, one of Rose's former assistants, was 21 when she said Rose repeatedly called her to describe his fantasies of her swimming naked at the pool at his Long Island home while he watched from his bedroom. She said she was fired when Rose learned she had spoken to a mutual friend about his behavior. Megan Creydt, who worked as a coordinator on Rose's PBS show in 2005 and 2006, told the newspaper that she was sitting in the passenger seat as Rose drove in Manhattan one day when he put his hand on her thigh. Five women interviewed by the Post described similar grabs to their legs in what many interpreted as an attempt to see their reactions. Rose said that he has behaved insensitively at times "and I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate. I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken. I have learned a great deal as a result of these events, and I hope others will, too." Rose's interview show is seen in 94 percent of the country on PBS stations. It is rebroadcast on Bloomberg's cable network, which also announced Monday it was suspending the show. He interviews a wide circle of people in the media, politics and entertainment — this month including Harvard President Drew Faust, rapper Macklemore and the Post's Robert Costa, who talked about that paper's sexual harassment investigation of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. He also hosts CBS This Morning with Gayle King and Norah O'Donnell, a critically-acclaimed morning news programs which has been gaining the past few years on its better-known rivals. Rose also conducts interviews for 60 Minutes. Despite his age and heart troubles in the past, Rose had been one of the busiest figures in television. Two hours after the Post story went online, one of its authors, Amy Brittain, tweeted that "sadly, my inbox is already flooded with women who have had similar, disturbing encounters with Charlie Rose." Allegations against others Stories of sexual misconduct have been coming in a flood since The New York Times first reported on Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's behavior in early October. Even on Monday, the Times suspended White House reporter Glenn Thrush while it looked into a story about him making drunken, unwanted advances on women. In the news business alone, NBC political reporter Mark Halperin and top National Public Radio news executive Michael Oreskes have lost their jobs. Interviewed last April outside a Time magazine gala, Rose was asked by The Associated Press about Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, who lost his job when it was revealed his network had paid millions of dollars to settle claims women had made against him. "All of the cases that raise the issue of sexual harassment, which is a terrible thing, [and] has probably been not exposed enough," Rose said. "Not enough in the sense of the attention in the past, so that people were afraid to come forward. I think people are coming forward now."

    Entertainment - VOA / 1 d. 3 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Scientists Solve the Mystery of America's Scuba-diving FlyScientists Solve the Mystery of America's Scuba-diving Fly

    A small fly that thrives at an inhospitable California lake east of Yosemite National Park long has perplexed observers who watch as it crawls into the severely salty and alkaline water, snacks on some algae or lays some eggs, then emerges dry as a desert. Research published on Monday finally explains the secrets of this scuba-diving insect. These quarter-inch-long (6-mm) alkali flies possess specialized traits that let them conquer Mono Lake, scientists found. They are covered in a large quantity of fine hairs coated with special waxes that let them encapsulate themselves in a body-hugging bubble that protects them from water that would doom an ordinary insect. “The flies have found a great gig — all the food they want with few predators. They just had to solve this one tricky problem,” said California Institute of Technology biologist Michael Dickinson, co-author of the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. All insects are hairy and water repellant to some degree.   These alkali flies, whose scientific name is Ephydra hians, have magnified both traits to overcome the extreme conditions of Mono Lake, considered among the “wettest” water on Earth with a slippery, nearly oily feel. The water tends to attach to any surface due to exorbitant amounts of sodium carbonate, a chemical used in laundry detergent. “The study provides a clear example of evolution in action,” added co-author Floris van Breugel, a former Caltech postdoctoral scholar now at the University of Washington. “The flies have evolved to crawl under water so they can feed on the abundant food, alga, that grows there. The lake has no fish because the fish cannot live in the harsh chemicals of the lake. Thus, the flies have no major predators in the lake. Fish are why most insects would be crazy to crawl under water.” American author Mark Twain was among those who remarked about these flies at the 12-mile-wide (19-km) Mono Lake, which is three times saltier than the Pacific Ocean. They also live at Oregon's Lake Abert and Utah's Great Salt Lake, also salty and alkaline. The flies use sharp foot claws to crawl into the water from rocky outcroppings. Their hairy bodies trap a layer of air that envelops them in a protective bubble, except for the eyes to permit good underwater vision. After eating or laying eggs, they let go and float to the surface, where the bubble pops, leaving them safe and dry.

    Health - VOA / 1 d. 5 h. 21 min. ago more
  • UN Envoy Says Conflict Likely If Palestinians Fail to UniteUN Envoy Says Conflict Likely If Palestinians Fail to Unite

     The U.N.’s Mideast envoy says reconciliation talks between Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas must succeed, warning that failure “will most likely result in another devastating conflict.” Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council Monday that “critical intra-Palestinian talks” are scheduled to open in Cairo on Tuesday.   He said the Oct. 12 agreement between the rivals, aimed at restoring the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority’s rule in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, started “a long road that could lead to reconciliation.” But he said the rival factions must first solve the humanitarian crisis for Gaza’s two million residents and return the territory to full civilian and security control by the Palestinian Authority. Tuesday's talks are expected to focus on the Palestinian Authority’s expansion of its rule in Gaza.  

    Middle East - VOA / 1 d. 6 h. 32 min. ago more
  • Opioids Haunt Users’ Recovery: ‘It  Never Really Leaves You’Opioids Haunt Users’ Recovery: ‘It Never Really Leaves You’

    Businessman Kyle Graves shot himself in the ankle so emergency room doctors would feed his opioid habit. Ex-trucker Jeff McCoy threatened to blow his brains out if his mother didn't hand over his fentanyl patches.   Bianca Knight resorted to street pills when her opioids ran out, envisioning her law career dreams crumble.   These are three Americans who started using powerful painkillers legitimately but, like millions of others, got caught in the country's worst drug epidemic. Now they’re fighting the same recovery battle, on anti-addiction medicine similar to pills that nearly did them in. Their doctor, Dan Lonergan, a Vanderbilt University pain and addiction physician, sometimes recommends the same drugs to pain patients that brought his addiction patients to the brink.   He’s heard criticism about doctors “who get ’em hooked on drugs and then turn around and treat ’em for addiction.” And he’s seen the finger-pointing from those who think faith and willpower are the only answer. “Doctors have contributed to this problem. In the past three decades we have gotten a lot of patients on medications that can be very dangerous,” he said. “The pharmaceutical industry has contributed significantly to this problem. This is a problem that we all need to own.”   This is a snapshot from Nashville of America's addiction crisis. More than 2 million people are hooked on opioids. Overdoses kill, on average, 120 Americans every day. Even for survivors, success can be precarious. An unsure future At 53 and on disability, Kyle Graves still feels stabbing pains that a daily handful of pills used to ease. His troubles began more than a decade ago when he sought relief for excruciating arthritis. He was prescribed oxycodone, opioid pills that can help short-term pain but can become addictive when used long-term.   When he lost his finance manager job, they helped with that pain, too. When his sixth child, a baby boy, died from spinal meningitis, Graves sunk deep into addiction. He'd use up a month's supply in days, followed by terrible withdrawals — vomiting, shaking uncontrollably, intense pain.     After a doctor refused more refills, Graves grabbed a pistol from his nightstand, pulled the trigger, then called an ambulance.   At the hospital, two shots of morphine for the ankle wound “did the trick.''   Graves thinks only his wife suspected the ruse; she left with the kids.   “It just devastated and ruined my life,” he said. Graves went to rehab, treated with hard work and prayer. It worked for a time, but after relapsing Graves sought help three years ago from Lonergan, who prescribed recovery medicine containing buprenorphine, an opioid that reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms.   He hasn’t relapsed for two years, but tries not to dwell on the future.   “Anything could happen,” Graves said.   Problem for a lifetime    Jeff McCoy has been a drummer, a Harley rider and long-haul trucker. These days he prefers baking cookies and doting on his wife, Joanne. Recovery from opioid painkillers prompted the turnaround.   It started nearly 17 years ago, after surgery for a back injury — maybe from too much time on the road, he's not really sure, but it forced him to quit trucking. His doctor prescribed Vicodin — painkillers that contain the opioid hydrocodone. Soon he was hooked.   “I just went full bore,” McCoy says. “I was popping pills like crazy.”   When those stopped working, he was prescribed powerful fentanyl skin patches that deliver medicine gradually. McCoy found that chewing them worked faster.   McCoy needed ever more to avoid withdrawals.   His wife would lock the patches in a safe, but when he found the key, his mother stored them at her house nearby. “Got to the point where I got on the phone with mom, ‘You better bring me that patch right now else I'm splattering my brains all over this living room.’” When his wife threatened to leave, he checked in to a detox center, in 2009, enduring two hellish weeks of withdrawal.   Now he calls his wife his addiction and figures he'll be on anti-craving medicine for life. “I finally wanted to stop,” McCoy said. “If I can survive with no life, come on, it's worth it, but you gotta want to.” Do I have problem?   After law school graduation, Bianca Knight had a nagging question: “How do I know if I have a problem?”   After injuring her back carrying law books, Knight had spent the past two years medicated, on hydrocodone pills from a different doctor. They eased the pain, but “also gave me a euphoric feeling and helped me get through my long day in law school,” she said.   Knight is nearly blind from a rare optic nerve condition. A state program paid for a reader to help with school work. A doctor warned vaguely about addiction risks but Knight thought she’d be immune. Soon she was taking far more than the prescribed amount.   “Toward the end, I resorted to buying off the street,” Knight said. That's when she sought out Lonergan. He explained that the average person doesn't think about opioid pain pills 24/7.   Knight started buprenorphine treatment. Church and support group meetings also help, she says. Her baby girl, born this past summer, is extra incentive for her to stay clean.   Still, Knight said, “For anyone in recovery, it is a daily struggle and I'd be a fool not to think so.”                

    Health - VOA / 1 d. 7 h. 14 min. ago more
  • Technology Companies, Retailers Send US Stock Indexes HigherTechnology Companies, Retailers Send US Stock Indexes Higher

    U.S. stocks are higher Monday as technology and industrial companies, banks and retailers all make modest gains. Drugmakers and other health care companies are trading lower. Companies that make opioid pain medications are down sharply after the government released a much higher estimate of the costs of the ongoing addiction crisis. Keeping score The Standard & Poor's 500 index picked up 5 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,584 as of 2:15 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 94 points, or 0.4 percent, to 23,452. The Nasdaq composite advanced 7 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,789. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks edged up 6 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,499. Tech tie-up Chipmaker Marvell Technology Group said it will buy competitor Cavium for $6 billion in the latest deal in the semiconductor industry. Cavium climbed $7.48, or 9.9 percent, to $83.31 and it is up 22 percent over the last two weeks on reports Marvell would make a bid. Marvell rose $1.02, or 5 percent, to $21.31. Other technology companies climbed as well. IBM added $2.01, or 1.3 percent, to $150.98 and Applied Materials picked up $1.12, or 2 percent, to $57.61. Cisco Systems gained 55 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $36.45. Retail rising again Retailers continued to move higher. They climbed last week following solid quarterly reports from Wal-Mart, Gap and Ross Stores. That's given investors hope that shoppers are ready to spend more money. Home improvement retailer Home Depot rose $2.68, or 1.6 percent, to $170.42 and clothing company PVH rose $2.90, or 2.2 percent, to $136.02. Sporting goods retailer Hibbett Sports, after a 15-percent surge Friday, added $1.85, or 10.8 percent, to $18.95. General electric slide Industrial companies rose, as 3M gained $2.56, or 1.1 percent, to $231.92 and Boeing added $2.39 to $264.65. General Electric missed out on those gains as investors continued to wonder about the company's direction. On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal said that directors with energy and financial backgrounds, as well as GE's two longest-tenured directors, are likely to leave the board as it shifts its focus away from those industries. The company said earlier this month that it will reduce the number of directors to 12 from the current 18. GE lost 24 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $17.97. Drugmaker downturn A White House group said the opioid drug epidemic cost the U.S. $504 billion in 2016, far larger than other recent estimates, and companies that make those pain medications traded sharply lower. Last year a separate estimate said the crisis cost the country $78.5 billion in 2013, including lost productivity and health care and criminal justice spending. The Council of Economic Advisers said the new figure reflects the worsening crisis and that earlier figures didn't calculate deaths or include the use of illegal drugs. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries fell 77 cents, or 5.6 percent, to $13.07 and Allergan gave up $3.78, or 2.2 percent, to $171.10. Endo International lost 26 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $7.28. Insys Therapeutics shed 20 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $6.18. Executives including Insys' founder and its former CEO have been charged with offering kickbacks to doctors to get them to prescribe its fentanyl spray Subsys. Its stock traded above $40 in mid-2015. Merck-y future? Merck stumbled after Genentech, a unit of Swiss drugmaker Roche, reported positive results from a study of its drug Tecentriq as a primary treatment for lung cancer. Genentech said patients who were given Tecentriq as part of their treatment regimen were less likely to die or see their cancer get worse. The results could affect sales of Merck's drug Keytruda and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo. Merck fell $1.10, or 2 percent, to $54.10 and Bristol-Myers Squibb lost 66 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $60.63. Energy Benchmark U.S. crude fell 50 cents to $56.05 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, dropped 67 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $62.05 a barrel in London. Currencies The dollar rose to 112.64 yen from 112.13 yen late Friday. The euro slipped to $1.1737 from $1.1796 after a group of German political parties couldn't agree to form a government, which might mean new elections are on the way. A weaker euro is good for companies that export a lot of products, and the German DAX was up 0.7 percent while France's CAC 40 rose 0.5 percent. The FTSE 100 in Britain added 0.2 percent. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index lost 0.6 percent and South Korea's Kospi shed 0.3 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added 0.2 percent. Bonds Bond prices edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.37 percent from 2.35 percent. Metals Gold slumped $21.20, or 1.6 percent, to $1,275.30 an ounce. Silver sank 53 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $16.84 an ounce. Copper gained 3 cents to $3.09 a pound.

    Economy - VOA / 1 d. 7 h. 15 min. ago more
  • Yellen to Leave Fed Board When New Leader Sworn InYellen to Leave Fed Board When New Leader Sworn In

    Fed Chair Janet Yellen says she will leave the U.S. central bank's board when her successor is sworn in early next year. Jerome Powell was chosen by President Donald Trump to head the Federal Reserve when Yellen's term expires. Powell must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before he can take office, but analysts say his approach to managing interest rates is similar to Yellen's. She is credited with managing the economy in ways that boosted recovery from the 2007 recession and cut unemployment in half. In her resignation letter to Trump, Yellen said she is "gratified that the financial system is much stronger than a decade ago." She also noted "substantial improvement in the economy since the crisis.” Yellen is the first woman to lead the Fed, and was a member of its board of governors before taking the leadership role. Her term on the board does not officially expire until 2024, and she could have stayed on if she wished to do so. Candidate Trump criticized Yellen during his campaign, but praised her work after he became president. Yellen has served as vice chair of the Fed, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and head of President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers. She has researched and taught economics at the University of California at Berkeley.

    Economy - VOA / 1 d. 7 h. 16 min. ago more
  • Amsterdam, Paris Picked to Host EU Agencies After BrexitAmsterdam, Paris Picked to Host EU Agencies After Brexit

    The European Union went back to its roots Monday by picking cities from two of its founding nations — France and the Netherlands — to host key agencies that will have move once Britain leaves the bloc in 2019. During voting so tight they were both decided by a lucky draw, EU members except Britain chose Amsterdam over Italy's Milan as the new home of the European Medicines Agency and Paris over Dublin to host the European Banking Authority. Both currently are located in London. "We needed to draw lots in both cases," Estonian EU Affairs Minister Matti Maasikas, who chaired the meeting and in both cases made the decisive selection from a big transparent bowl. Frankfurt, home of the European Central Bank, surprisingly failed to become one of the two finalists competing for the banking agency. The relocations made necessary by the referendum to take Britain out of the EU are expected to cost the country over 1,000 jobs directly and more in secondary employment. The outcomes of the votes also left newer EU member states in eastern and southern Europe with some bitterness. Several had hoped to be tapped for a lucrative prize that would be a sign the bloc was truly committed to outreach. Some 890 top jobs will leave Britain for Amsterdam with the European Medicines Agency, giving the Dutch a welcome economic boost and more prestige. The EMA is responsible for the evaluation, supervision and monitoring of medicines. The Paris-bound European Banking Authority, which has around 180 staff members, monitors the regulation and supervision of Europe's banking sector. After a heated battle for the medicines agency, Amsterdam and Milan both had 13 votes Monday. That left Estonia, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, to break the tie with a draw from the bowl. Copenhagen finished third, ahead of Slovakian capital Bratislava in the vote involving EU nations excluding Britain. One country abstained in the vote. "A solid bid that was defeated only by a draw. What a mockery," Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Twitter. Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra was elated. "It is a fantastic result," he said. "It shows that we can deal with the impact of Brexit" The European Medicines Agency has less than 17 months to complete the move, but Amsterdam was considered ideally suited because of its location, the building it had on offer and other facilities. Even though rules were set up to make it a fair decision, the process turned into a deeply political contest. Zijlstra said that "in the end, it is a very strategic game of chess."

    Europe - VOA / 1 d. 7 h. 44 min. ago more
  • Analysts: Germany Political Chaos A Sign Merkel's Power WaningAnalysts: Germany Political Chaos A Sign Merkel's Power Waning

    Germany has been plunged into political crisis after coalition talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and two smaller parties broke down. Analysts say the indecisive election result in September has revealed a splintering of German society and politics, posing a serious challenge to Chancellor Merkel. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the political chaos could have a much wider impact on issues like climate talks and European Union reform.

    Europe - VOA / 1 d. 8 h. 4 min. ago more
  • Forbes Names Beyonce Music's Highest-earning WomanForbes Names Beyonce Music's Highest-earning Woman

    Forbes has crowned Beyonce as the highest-paid woman in music. Forbes magazine says the singer earned $105 million over a yearlong period stretching from June 2016 to June of this year. Beyonce's earnings were boosted by her "Formation" world tour last year, which Forbes says grossed $250 million. Runner-up Adele also enjoyed a successful year on the road. Her tour helped contribute to $69 million in earnings. Taylor Swift, Celine Dion and Jennifer Lopez complete the top five highest female earners in the business. Dolly Parton is a surprising sixth. Forbes says the 71-year-old brought in $37 million with the help of 63 shows during the yearlong period.

    Entertainment - VOA / 1 d. 8 h. 30 min. ago more
  • Merkel Signals Readiness for New Election After Coalition Talks CollapseMerkel Signals Readiness for New Election After Coalition Talks Collapse

    Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would prefer a new election to ruling with a minority after talks on forming a three-way coalition failed overnight, but Germany's president told parties they owed it to voters to try to form a government. The major obstacle to a three-way deal was immigration, according to Merkel, who was forced into negotiations after bleeding support in the September 24 election to the far right in a backlash at her 2015 decision to let in over 1 million migrants. The failure of exploratory coalition talks involving her conservative bloc, the liberal pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmentalist Greens raises the prospect of a new election and casts doubt about her future after 12 years in power. Merkel, 63, said she was skeptical about ruling in a minority government, telling ARD television: "My point of view is that new elections would be the better path." Watch related video by Henry Ridgwell Her plans did not include being chancellor in a minority government, she said after meeting President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Steinmeier said Germany was facing the worst governing crisis in the 68-year history of its post-World War Two democracy and pressed all parties in parliament "to serve our country" and try to form a government. His remarks appeared aimed at the FDP and the Social Democrats (SPD), who on Monday ruled out renewing their "grand coalition" with the conservatives. "Inside our country, but also outside, in particular in our European neighbourhood, there would be concern and a lack of understanding if politicians in the biggest and economically strongest country [in Europe] did not live up to their responsibilities," read a statement from Steinmeier, a former foreign minister who has been thrust center-stage after taking on the usually largely ceremonial head of state role in March. Steinmeier's intervention suggests he regards a new election — desired by half of Germany's voters according to a poll — as a last resort. The SPD has so far stuck to a pledge after heavy losses in the September election not to go back into a Merkel-led broad coalition of center-left and center-right. Merkel urged the SPD to reconsider. "I would hope that they consider very intensively if they should take on the responsibility" of governing, she told broadcaster ZDF, adding she saw no reason to resign and her conservative bloc would enter any new election more unified than before. "If new elections happened, then ... we have to accept that. I'm afraid of nothing," she said. Business leaders also called for a swift return to talks. With German leadership seen as crucial for a European Union grappling with governance reform and Britain's impending exit, FDP leader Christian Lindner's announcement that he was pulling out spooked investors and sent the euro falling in the morning. Both the euro and European shares later recovered from earlyselling, while German bond yields steadied near 1-1/2 week lows, as confidence about the outlook for the euro zone economy helped investors brush off worries about the risk of Germany going to the polls again soon. Fear of far-right gains Earlier, Merkel got the strong backing of her CDU leadership. Josef Joffe, publisher-editor of Germany weekly Die Zeit said she could rely on CDU support for now, but added: "I will not bet on her serving out her entire four-year term." The main parties fear another election so soon would let the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party add to the 13 percent of votes it secured in September, when it entered parliament for the first time. Polls suggest a repeat election would return a similarly fragmented parliament. A poll published on Monday showed a new election would bring roughly the same result as the September election, with the Greens set to see the biggest gains. If Germans voted next Sunday, Merkel's conservatives would get 31 percent, the SPD 21 percent, the Greens and the AfD both 12 percent, the FDP 10 percent and the Left party 9 percent, the Forsa survey for RTL television showed. This compares with the election result of 32.9 percent for the conservatives, 20.5 percent for the SPD, 12.6 percent for AfD, 10.7 percent for FDP, 9.2 percent for the Left party and 8.9 percent for the Greens. The failure of coalition talks is unprecedented in Germany's post-war history, and was likened by newsmagazine Der Spiegel to the shock election of U.S. President Donald Trump or Britain's referendum vote to leave the EU — moments when countries cast aside reputations for stability built up over decades. Any outcome in Germany is, however, likely to be more consensus driven. "The problem is stagnation and immobility, not instability as in Italy," said Joffe. The unraveling of the German talks came as a surprise since the main sticking points - immigration and climate policy — were not seen as FDP signature issues. Responding to criticism from the Greens, FDP vice chairman Wolfgang Kubicki said a tie-up would have been short-lived. "Nothing would be worse than to get into a relationship about which we know that it will end in a dirty divorce," he said. Even if the SPD or the FDP revisit their decisions, the price for either party to change its mind could be the departure of Merkel, who since 2005 has been a symbol of German stability, leading Europe through the euro zone crisis. The inability to form a government caused disquiet elsewhere in Europe, not least because of the implications for the euro zone reforms championed by French President Emmanuel Macron. Germany's political impasse could also complicate and potentially delay the Brexit negotiations — Britain has just over a year to strike a divorce deal with the EU ahead of an exit planned for March 29, 2019. "It's not in our interests that the process freezes up," Macron told reporters in Paris, adding he had spoken with Merkel shortly after the failure of talks.

    Europe - VOA / 1 d. 8 h. 41 min. ago more
  • US State of Nebraska OKs Keystone Oil Pipeline RouteUS State of Nebraska OKs Keystone Oil Pipeline Route

    Regulators in the U.S. state of Nebraska have voted to approve a route for TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL pipeline - the last major obstacle to complete the oil pipeline that President Donald Trump has supported. The regulatory body, which by state law could not consider the risk of leaks or potential environmental impacts, voted to approve the project just days after a leak in a separate pipeline - also named "Keystone" - spilled 5,000 barrels of oil in the nearby state of South Dakota. The 3-2 decision by the Nebraska Public Service Commission is likely to be challenged in court by environmental activists in the nearly decade-long debate surrounding TransCanada's project linking Canada's Alberta oil sands to refineries in the United States. The commission's vote does not approve TransCanada's proposed route, but a modified one which could prove more costly and difficult to build. It was not immediately clear whether the corporation would go through with the project as it considers its commercial viability. In 2015, the Obama administration rejected construction of the pipeline, saying it would detract from America's global leadership on issues related to climate change. But the Trump administration overturned the decision in March, saying that the pipeline is safer than other methods used to transport oil, and calling its completion "long overdue." The 1,900-kilometer-long pipeline is designed to transport up to 830,000 barrels per day of tar sand oil from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska, where it would then enter existing pipelines to the Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline construction sparked months of protests by Native Americans and activist groups, who say the project could pollute local water supplies.

    Economy - VOA / 1 d. 8 h. 56 min. ago more
  • Bitcoin Hits Record High After Smashing Through $8,000 for First TimeBitcoin Hits Record High After Smashing Through $8,000 for First Time

    Bitcoin hit a new record high on Monday after smashing through the $8,000 level for the first time over the weekend, marking an almost 50 percent climb in just eight days. The new high came after leading U.S. payments company Square Inc. said late last week that it had started allowing select customers to buy and sell bitcoins on its Cash app. Bitcoin traded as high as $8,197.81 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange, up over 2 percent on the day and around 48 percent up since dipping to $5,555 on Nov. 12. An eye-watering eightfold increase in the value of the volatile cryptocurrency since the start of the year has led to multiple warnings that the market is in a bubble, and institutional investors are broadly staying away. Retail investors, however, as well as some hedge funds and family offices, are piling into the market. The "market cap" of all cryptocurrencies hit an all-time high of over $242 billion on Monday, according to trade website Coinmarketcap.

    Economy - VOA / 1 d. 11 h. 19 min. ago more
  • Roche Win Boosts Case for Adding Chemo to Cancer ImmunotherapyRoche Win Boosts Case for Adding Chemo to Cancer Immunotherapy

    Cancer doctors struggling to work out the best way to use modern immunotherapy drugs now have further evidence of the benefits of adding them to chemotherapy, despite earlier skepticism. News that Roche's immune system-boosting drug Tecentriq delayed lung cancer progression when given alongside chemo and its older drug Avastin validates the approach for the first time in a large Phase III clinical trial. It is a significant milestone for physicians, patients and investors, who are trying to assess the competitive landscape as drugmakers race to develop better ways to fight tumors in previously untreated lung cancer. Lung cancer is by far the biggest oncology market and first-line treatment provides access to the most patients, opening up potential annual sales forecast by some analysts at $20 billion. Roche and Merck & Co have led the way in pioneering so-called "chemo-combo" treatment, while AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers are betting primarily on mixing two immunotherapies. AstraZeneca notably failed to show a similar benefit in a high-profile clinical trial in July. Stefan Zimmermann, an oncologist at Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland, said the Roche data would help scotch concerns that chemo might hamper the new class of immuno-oncology medicines. "Many experts in the field will be relieved because there has been uncertainty ... I think this will really encourage many of us to use this combination upfront," he told Reuters. "For now, the only positive data that we have is for chemo combination." Merck, in fact, already has U.S. approval to add chemo to its immunotherapy drug Keytruda - but this was based on a small trial and the company withdrew a similar European application last month, knocking confidence in its strategy. Since Keytruda, Bristol's Opdivo, Roche's Tecentriq and AstraZeneca's Imfinzi are all rival inhibitors of biological switches known as PD-1 or PD-L1, the market is "largely a zero-sum game," according to Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson. "Roche's good fortune means there is less to go around for other companies," he said. In the case of Merck, the U.S. drugmaker now faces a rival with a different and perhaps superior drug combination. Roche believes adding Avastin in addition to chemo can further help restore anti-cancer immunity. For AstraZeneca and Bristol, the bar has just been raised for two other key clinical trials sponsored by the drugmakers that are expected to report results in 2018. Roche itself will present full results on the ability of its new combination to delay the worsening of lung cancer at a European Society for Medical Oncology meeting in Geneva on December 7. Data on whether it also helps patients live longer is expected in the first half of next year. Overall survival is the gold standard in cancer care but proving a treatment extends the time before disease progresses is an important marker on the way. "If there is positive progression-free survival then I think it is very, very likely this will also translate into an overall survival benefit over time," said Zimmermann. Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Mark Potter.

    Health - VOA / 1 d. 12 h. 32 min. ago more
  • Search Effort Stepped Up for Missing Argentine Sub With 44 Aboard  Search Effort Stepped Up for Missing Argentine Sub With 44 Aboard

    Argentina's navy says noises detected near where a submarine went missing last week did not correspond with a typical distress signal and were not believed to have come from the vessel. The sounds had raised hopes that those among the 44-member crew of the ARA San Juan were intentionally signaling search crews in the South Atlantic Ocean. The navy also said Monday that the submarine reported electrical problems and had been ordered to return to port in Mar del Plata, 400 kilometers south of Buenos Aires, when it disappeared. Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, the United States, and Britain have all joined the search effort that has been hampered by high winds and waves. Britain, which fought a war with Argentina in the 1980s, is using an Arctic research vessel with scientific sensors in the search. The United States has sent a NASA research plane, a submarine-hunting plane, along with a submarine rescue team.  The 66 meter long, German-built diesel-electric submarine has been in service since 1985. Argentina's first female submarine officer (Eliana Krawczyk) is a member of the crew.  

    Americas - VOA / 1 d. 12 h. 44 min. ago more
  • Miami Responds to Threat of Rising SeasMiami Responds to Threat of Rising Seas

    Preparing for a century of steadily higher tides is a central challenge for city officials from Boston to Bangkok. The U.S. city of Miami, Florida, and its neighbors are home to nearly 3 million people and billions of dollars of real estate development. VOA's Steve Baragona has a look at what rising seas mean for one of the most vulnerable cities in the United States.

    Health - VOA / 1 d. 13 h. 28 min. ago more
  • A School of Robot Fish Is Testing the Water in VeniceA School of Robot Fish Is Testing the Water in Venice

    Lily pads, fish and mussels of the electronic variety are being deployed in and around the canals of Venice. It's part of a project designed to monitor the water quality of the watery city. VOA's kevin Enochs reports.

    Science - VOA / 1 d. 20 h. 52 min. ago
  • Musicians Unite at AMAs in Wake of Tumultuous YearMusicians Unite at AMAs in Wake of Tumultuous Year

    The 2017 American Music Awards marked a night of unison, positive vibes and American pride as musicians spoke about coming together in a year dominated by natural disasters, violence and divisive politics. Kelly Clarkson and Pink kicked off the three-hour show Sunday with a performance honoring those affected by tragic events of the year, from hurricanes to hate crimes. First responders stood behind Jamie Foxx, who gave a heartfelt speech before the pop stars sang R.E.M.'s “Everybody Hurts.” This year “was a year that tested our faith. In these moments of crisis, heroes emerged,” he said. “As this year comes to a close, we look forward to 2018 with hope ... together we can unite as a people and a nation.” “Black-ish” actress Tracee Ellis Ross said the show - taking place in the wake of multiple sexual allegations against powerful men in Hollywood, the media, business and politics - would honor women who “own our experiences, our bodies and our lives.” “This is the country I know, which is of powerful women, talking about our women, talking about empowering our LGBTQ youth,” said Dan Reynolds of the band Imagine Dragons, which won favorite pop/rock duo or group. “May we continue to progress as a nation as one of love and equality. No divide. There's been way too much of that this last year.” Before her performance, Demi Lovato said, “There's so much hate in this world. We have to rise above and never say sorry for who you are.” And while Lady Gaga performed “The Cure,” a song about healing, she told the audience: “Who's gonna be there? We got to be there for each other America. Hands up!” Gaga sang from her concert in Washington, D.C. Later in the show, she was in tears when she was named favorite female pop/rock artist. “If you feel different ... don't you dare give up on who you are,” she said. Bruno Mars was also not in attendance at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Mars, who on tour in South America, picked up multiple awards, including artist of the year. “I wish I could be partying with y'all,” said Mars, who appeared in a video. Iconic entertainer Diana Ross was honored with Lifetime Achievement Award, and she received touching video messages from Barack and Michelle Obama, and Taylor Swift. The 73-year-old was cheerful and energetic as she ran through well-known songs onstage like a veteran, singing “I'm Coming Out” and “Ain't No Mountain High Enough,” among other hits, with her signature big hair. Foxx, Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson and others sang along, while some of Ross' grandchildren danced onstage near the end of the performance. Pink was also impressive as she continued to show her athleticism and acrobatic skills during a second performance at the AMAs, performing from the side of a high-rise building alongside aerial dancers. The K-pop group BTS, who have a feverish and fanatic social media following, earned the night's loudest applause after they performed their song, “DNA.” Another highlight of the night came when Linkin Park - whose lead singer Chester Bennington killed himself earlier this year - won favorite alternative rock artist. “We want to dedicate this award to him, to his memory, to his talent, to his sense of humor, to his joy,” band member Mike Shinoda said onstage. “I want you guys to take a moment to appreciate what you've got and make Chester proud.” Selena Gomez, who had a kidney transplant this year due to her struggle with lupus, sang “Wolves” while lying on the floor in a short nightgown. Her knees, hands and forehead covered in faux bruises and blood. Christina Aguilera was shaky when she sang a medley of Whitney Houston's songs to honor the 25th anniversary of Houston's film, “The Bodyguard.” The band Portugal. The Man, who sang their pop hit “Feel It Still,” opened their performance with the words: “No computers up here, just live instruments.” And rapper Macklemore gave his grandmother a birthday shout out at the end of his performance. Like Mars, Keith Urban also won multiple awards, including favorite country album, country male artist and country song. “Absolutely you should be sharing these, my love,” the country singer said as “This Is Us” actor Justin Hartley passed two of the trophies to Urban's wife, actress Nicole Kidman, who sat in the audience. Shawn Mendes won favorite adult contemporary artist, beating Mars and Ed Sheeran. “Ed and Bruno are basically the two reasons I started singing,” he said. Former One Direction singer Niall Horan won new artist of the year; the Chainsmokers were named favorite electronic dance artist; and Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber won collaboration of the year for the hit song “Despacito.” DJ Khaled won favorite rap/hip-hop song for “I'm the One,” his No. 1 hit featuring Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne. While the performers at the AMAs were evenly split between men and women, the nominees were not - a reflection of the year in pop music where male acts dominated.

    Entertainment - VOA / 1 d. 22 h. 36 min. ago more
  • Online Abuse Silences Women and Girls, Fuels Violence, Survey ShowsOnline Abuse Silences Women and Girls, Fuels Violence, Survey Shows

    Pervasive online abuse and harassment pressure women and girls into censoring themselves on social media and fuel gender-based discrimination and violence, rights groups said on Monday. About one in four women in Britain, the United States and six other countries said in a survey they had experienced online abuse or harassment. More than 40 percent said the online abuse made them fear for their physical safety and more than half reported trouble sleeping, loss of self-esteem and panic attacks after the incidents, according to rights group Amnesty International. About a third stopped expressing their opinions online or withdrew from public conversations as a result, Amnesty said. "It's no secret that misogyny and abuse are thriving on social media platforms, but this poll shows just how damaging the consequences of online abuse are," said Amnesty researcher Azmina Dhrodia. "This is not something that goes away when you log off." Online harassment starts at a young age and may be more common for girls and teenagers than adults, according to U.K.-based child rights group Plan International. Nearly half of girls aged 11-18 in the U.K. said they had experienced abuse or harassment on social media, Plan found in a survey earlier this year. Like women, most of the girls said they stopped sharing opinions or otherwise changed their online behavior out of fear, according to Plan. "Very young girls are learning that they need to take responsibility for harassment and abuse," Kerry Smith of Plan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "What they are saying is that they are holding themselves back." Parents, teachers and police often respond to online abuse by taking away girls' phones or telling them to go offline, which teaches victims that they are responsible for the problem, Smith said. Online harassment, including crude comments on pictures or sexual references, teaches boys that it is okay to treat girls as sexual objects and to exercise power over them, which can lead to physical abuse and rape, she added. Social media attacks are so common for female politicians that they deter women from running for office around the world, advocates and female lawmakers have said. Companies and governments need to step up to make the internet a safe space for girls and women, campaigners said. "Social media companies have a responsibility... to ensure that women using their platforms are able to do so freely and without fear," said Amnesty's Dhrodia.

    Science - VOA / 2 d. 1 h. 23 min. ago more
  • White House: Opioid Crisis Cost US Economy $504 Billion in 2015White House: Opioid Crisis Cost US Economy $504 Billion in 2015

    Opioid drug abuse, which has ravaged parts of the United States in recent years, cost the economy as much as $504 billion in 2015, White House economists said in a report made public on Sunday. The White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) said the toll from the opioid crisis represented 2.8 percent of gross domestic product that year. President Donald Trump last month declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. While Republican lawmakers said that was an important step in fighting opioid abuse, some critics, including Democrats, said the move was meaningless without additional funding. The report could be used by the Trump White House to urge Republicans in Congress - who historically have opposed increasing government spending - to provide more funding for fighting the opioid crisis by arguing that the economic losses far outweigh the cost of additional government funding. Using a combination of statistical models, the CEA said the lost economic output stemming from 33,000 opioid-related deaths in 2015 could be between $221 billion and $431 billion, depending on the methodology used. In addition, the report looked at the cost of non-fatal opioid usage, estimating a total of $72 billion for 2.4 million people with opioid addictions in 2015. Those costs included medical treatment, criminal justice system expenses and the decreased economic productivity of addicts. The CEA said its estimate was larger than those of some prior studies because it took a broad look at the value of lives lost to overdoses. The CEA also said its methodology incorporated an adjustment to reflect the fact that opioids were underreported on death certificates. "The crisis has worsened, especially in terms of overdose deaths which have doubled in the past ten years," the CEA said. "While previous studies have focused exclusively on prescription opioids, we consider illicit opioids including heroin as well." Opioids, primarily prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, are fueling the drug overdoses. More than 100 Americans die daily from related overdoses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Economy - VOA / 2 d. 1 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Pinera Wins First Round of Chile Election, Faces RunoffPinera Wins First Round of Chile Election, Faces Runoff

    Conservative billionaire Sebastian Pinera will face center-left Senator Alejandro Guillier in a runoff for Chile's presidency next month, after placing first by a wide margin in Sunday's first-round election. Both candidates would keep in place the top copper exporter's longstanding free-market economic model, but Pinera has promised investor-friendly policies to turbocharge growth, while Guillier wants to press on with outgoing President Michelle Bachelet's overhaul of education, health care and pensions. With 81.75 percent of votes counted, Pinera, a 67-year-old former president and businessman, had clinched 36.67 percent, falling short of the 50 percent needed for an outright victory, Chile's electoral agency Servel said, adding that the remaining votes would not change the overall outcome. Guillier, a 64-year-old bearded former TV news anchor elected to the Senate in 2013, had 22.64 percent, two points ahead of the third placed candidate, radical leftist Beatriz Sanchez, whose better-than-forecast showing could translate into gains for her party in Congress. Pinera came in under expectations by pollsters, indicating that the December 17 runoff may be a closely-fought contest. The last opinion survey by CEP last month had forecast Pinera securing 42 percent of likely votes in the first round, and easily defeating Guillier in the runoff. "We're going to have a very competitive second round," Pinera's campaign chief Andres Chadwick told journalists as official election results were still coming in on Sunday evening. Support for Guillier could surge if he can unite his five left-leaning rivals behind him. Bachelet cannot run again this year because of term limits, and Guillier is one of two candidates her center-left coalition Nueva Mayoria was backing in the first-round. Guillier faces a sunnier and more polished opponent in Pinera, who oversaw robust economic growth in his 2010-2014 presidential term that overlapped with higher copper prices. "Today we're going to make a decision that will impact our lives for many decades," Pinera told journalists after voting on Sunday morning. "I know we're going to pick the right path, the one that takes us to better times." Pinera has vowed to double Chile's economic growth rate, with proposals that include trimming corporate taxes, making state-run miner Codelco more self-sufficient, and tweaking the pension system to include incentives for later retirement. But he must ease fears that he would wipe out gains made in Bachelet's government for students, women and workers – from expanding free education to strengthening unions. And he will also need to make gains in Congress, narrowly controlled before Sunday's vote by Bachelet's coalition. Chileans were also voting for all the lower house and half the Senate seats on Sunday, with results expected by Monday. Should Guillier triumph in the runoff, he has pledged to tackle stubbornly high inequality in one of Latin America's most business-friendly economies. He wants to diversify Chile's dependence on copper, increase access to free higher education and write workers' rights into a new constitution. "I voted for Guillier because I think we have to continue to provide free education. It's a social right," said unemployed voter Mario Giannetti, 53. Since its transition to democracy from dictatorship in 1990, Chile has stood out as one of the region's most developed countries. But public debt has grown as lower copper prices hit government revenues in recent years, and Bachelet's critics say she failed to court investments or prioritize economic growth that slowed to an annual average of 1.8 percent. In a first since the 1990s, credit ratings agencies Fitch and S&P downgraded Chile's debt rating this year. While investors see Pinera as a safe pair hands for the economy, his previous term was marred by massive student protests seeking an education overhaul. His responses were often seen as out of touch and grassroots groups still oppose him.  

    Americas - VOA / 2 d. 1 h. 57 min. ago more
  • With Little Movement, NAFTA Talks Said to Run Risk of StalemateWith Little Movement, NAFTA Talks Said to Run Risk of Stalemate

    Talks to update the North American Free Trade Agreement appeared to be in danger of grinding toward a stalemate amid complaints of U.S. negotiators' inflexibility, people familiar with the process said on Sunday. The United States, Canada and Mexico are holding the fifth of seven planned rounds of talks to modernize NAFTA, which U.S. President Donald Trump blames for job losses and big trade deficits for his country. Time is running short to reach a deal before the March 2018 start of Mexico's presidential elections, and lack of progress in the current round could put the schedule at risk. "The talks are really not going anywhere," Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, the largest Canadian private-sector union, told reporters after meeting with Canada's chief negotiator on Sunday. "As long as the United States is taking the position they are, this is a colossal waste of time," said Dias, who is advising the government and regularly meets the Canadian team. Hanging over the negotiations is the very real threat that Trump could make good on a threat to scrap NAFTA. Canada and Mexico object to a number of demands the U.S. side unveiled during the fourth round last month, including for a five-year sunset clause that would force frequent renegotiation of the trade pact, far more stringent automotive content rules and radical changes to dispute settlement mechanisms. Calls for greater US flexibility "Our internal view as of this morning is that if any progress is to be made, the United States needs to show some flexibility and a willingness to do a deal," said a Canadian source with knowledge of the talks. "We are seeing no signs of flexibility now," added the source, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation. However, a NAFTA country official familiar with the talks said Canada had not yet submitted any counterproposals to the U.S. demands. Dias said the United States was showing some signs of flexibility over its sunset clause proposal after Mexican officials floated a plan for a "rigorous evaluation" of the trade pact, but without an automatic expiration. U.S. negotiating objectives that were updated on Friday appeared to accommodate the Mexican proposal, saying the revised NAFTA should "provide a mechanism for ensuring that the Parties assess the benefits of the Agreement on a periodic basis." Canada and Mexico are also unhappy about U.S. demands that half the content of North American-built autos come from the United States, coupled with a much higher 85 percent North American content threshold. Officials are due to discuss the issue from Sunday through the end of the fifth round on Tuesday, Flavio Volpe, president of the Canada's Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, said there was little chance of making substantial progress on autos in Mexico City, as the U.S. demands were still not fully understood. "I don't expect a heavy negotiation here," he said in an interview on the sidelines of the talks.

    Americas - VOA / 2 d. 4 h. 16 min. ago more
  • Longtime Country Singer, Songwriter Mel Tillis DiesLongtime Country Singer, Songwriter Mel Tillis Dies

    Mel Tillis, the affable longtime country star who wrote hits for Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs and many others, and overcame a stutter to sing on dozens of his own singles, has died.   A spokesman for Tillis, Don Murry Grubbs, said Tillis died early Sunday at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. He was 85.   Grubbs said Tillis battled intestinal issues since 2016 and never fully recovered.  The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure.   Tillis, the father of country singer Pam Tillis, recorded more than 60 albums and had more than 30 top 10 country singles, including  "Good Woman Blues,"  "Coca Cola Cowboy" and "Southern Rain." Among the hits he wrote for others were "Detroit City" for Bobby Bare; "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," by Rogers and the First Edition; and "Thoughts of a Fool" for George Strait.   Country music stars Charlie Daniels, Crystal Gayle and Blake Shelton offered their condolences on Twitter.   "He once spent an entire day at his place in Tennessee showing me all the memorabilia he'd gathered over the years where he gave me a pair of his stage boots," Shelton's account said.  "He even took time to talk me through some hard times in my life on a couple phone calls."   Although his early efforts to get a record deal were rebuffed because of his stutter, he was a promising songwriter in Nashville in the 1950s and 1960s, writing tunes for Webb Pierce and Ray Price.   In all, the Country Music Hall of Fame member wrote more than 1,000 songs and in 2012 received a National Medal of Arts for bringing "his unique blend of warmth and humor to the great tradition of country music." He also dabbled in acting, appearing in such feature films as Clint Eastwood's "Every Which Way But Loose," and the Burt Reynolds movies "Cannonball Run I and II" and "Smokey and the Bandit II."  He starred in several television movies and briefly had a network TV show, "Mel and Susan Together," with Susan Anton.   In 2007, Tillis became a regular performer on the Grand Ole Opry country music show.   "You know what?  Another part of the dream has been fulfilled," he said at the time. "It's been a long, hard road."   Tillis was raised in Pahokee, Florida, and developed his stutter as a child while being treated for malaria.  He dropped out of the University of Florida and instead served in the Air Force and worked on the railroad before relocating to Nashville in 1957.   Musical from an early age, he started performing in the early 1950s with a group called The Westerners, while stationed in Okinawa and serving as a baker in the Air Force.   He held a variety of odd jobs before breaking out, including being a truck driver, a strawberry picker, a firefighter on the railroad and milkman, which inspired his breakthrough song.  Feeling down one day he began singing to himself, "Oh Lord, I'm tired.  Tired of living this ol' way."  He turned his lament into "I'm Tired," which became a hit for Webb Pierce.   Price, Skaggs, Brenda Lee and hundreds of others would cover his songs.   Tillis, meanwhile, became a major success on his own in the late 1960s and toured for decades, often using his stutter as a source of humor - though his stutter disappeared when he sang.   "One of the reasons I worked it into my show is that it's my trademark," he once told The Associated Press.   He said that when he was in the Air Force as a flight leader, he marched airmen right into a wall.   "I couldn't get out the word `halt," he said.   Grubbs says the Tillis family will release information about funeral services in Florida and Nashville.

    Entertainment - VOA / 2 d. 6 h. 54 min. ago more
  • Foul Weather Slows Search for Missing Argentine Sub With 44 AboardFoul Weather Slows Search for Missing Argentine Sub With 44 Aboard

    An international fleet of ships and planes is fighting eight-meter high waves and 74 kilometer per hour winds searching for the ARA San Juan, a missing Argentine submarine with a crew of 44. The 2,000-ton, 66 meter long, German-built diesel-electric submersible disappeared Wednesday 430 kilometers off the coast of Argentina.  The San Juan has been in service since 1985. Argentina's first female submarine officer, Eliana Krawczyk, is a member of the crew.   Saturday, a series of satellite calls, lasting just a few seconds, that might - or might not - have come from the missing sub, raised hopes for the crew. Military and research ships and planes from Brazil, the United States, Chile, Uruguay and Britain have joined the search.  Britain, which fought a war with Argentina in the 1980s, is using an Arctic research vessel with scientific sensors in the search.  The United States has sent a NASA research plane, a submarine-hunting plane, along with a submarine rescue team.   Pope Francis, a native of Argentina, is said to be praying "fervently" for the crew's safe return.

    Americas - VOA / 2 d. 7 h. 55 min. ago more
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  • Britain to Submit 'Brexit Bill' Proposal Before December EU MeetingBritain to Submit 'Brexit Bill' Proposal Before December EU Meeting

    Britain will submit its proposals on how to settle its financial obligations to the European Union before an EU Council meeting next month, finance minister Philip Hammond said on Sunday. British Prime Minister Theresa May was told on Friday that there was more work to be done to unlock Brexit talks, as the European Union repeated an early December deadline for her to move on the divorce bill. "We will make our proposals to the European Union in time for the council," Hammond told the BBC. Last week, May met fellow leaders on the sidelines of an EU summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, to try to break the deadlock over how much Britain will pay on leaving the bloc in 16 months.   She signaled again that she would increase an initial offer that is estimated at some 20 billion euros ($24 billion), about a third of what Brussels wants.

    Economy - VOA / 2 d. 14 h. 31 min. ago more
  • European Cities Battle Fiercely for Top Agencies Leaving UKEuropean Cities Battle Fiercely for Top Agencies Leaving UK

    Brexit is still well over year away but two European cities on Monday will already be celebrating Britain's departure from the European Union.   Two major EU agencies now in London — the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority — must move to a new EU city because Britain is leaving the bloc. The two prizes are being hotly fought over by most of the EU's other 27 nations.   Despite all the rigid rules and conditions the bloc imposed to try to make it a fair, objective decision, the process has turned into a deeply political beauty contest — part Olympic host city bidding, part Eurovision Song Contest.   It will culminate in a secret vote Monday at EU headquarters in Brussels that some say could be tainted by vote trading.   The move involves tens of millions in annual funding, about 1,000 top jobs with many more indirectly linked, prestige around the world and plenty of bragging rights for whichever leader can bring home the agencies.   "I will throw my full weight behind this," French President Emmanuel Macron said when he visited Lille, which is seeking to host the EMA once Britain leaves in the EU in March 2019. "Now is the final rush."   At an EU summit Friday in Goteborg, Sweden, leaders were lobbying each other to get support for their bids.   The EMA is responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines in the EU. It has around 890 staff and hosts more than 500 scientific meetings every year, attracting about 36,000 experts.   The EBA, which has around 180 staff, monitors the regulation and supervision of Europe's banking sector.   With bids coming in from everywhere — from the newest member states to the EU's founding nations — who gets what agency will also give an indication of EU's future outlook.   The EU was created as club of six founding nations some 60 years ago, so it's logical that a great many key EU institutions are still in nations like Germany, France and Belgium. But as the bloc kept expanded east and south into the 21st century, these new member states see a prime opportunity now to claim one of these cherished EU headquarters, which cover everything from food safety to judicial cooperation to fisheries policy.   Romania and Bulgaria were the last to join the EU in 2007 and have no headquarters. Both now want the EMA — as does the tiny island nation of Malta.   "We deserve this. Because as we all know, Romania is an EU member with rights and obligations equal with all the rest of the member states," said Rodica Nassar of Romania's Healthcare Ministry.   But personnel at the EMA and EBA are highly skilled professionals, and many could be reluctant to move their careers and families from London to less prestigious locations.   "You have to imagine, for example, for the banking authority, which relies on basically 200 very high-level experts in banking regulatory matters to move to another place," said Karel Lannoo of the CEPS think tank. "First of all, to motivate these people to move elsewhere. And then if you don't manage to motivate these people, to find competent experts in another city."   As the vote nears, Milan and Bratislava are the favorites to win the EMA, with Frankfurt, and perhaps Dublin, leading the way for the EBA.    

    Economy - VOA / 2 d. 15 h. 27 min. ago more
  • Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip to Celebrate 70th AnniversaryQueen Elizabeth, Prince Philip to Celebrate 70th Anniversary

    When Britain’s 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth married 26-year-old Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey in 1947, the wedding sparked joy and celebration in a country just recovering from World War II.    Seven decades on, the couple who would become Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, both now in their 90s, are still going strong, their marriage a bedrock in British public life amid a world of change.   On Monday, they mark their 70th wedding anniversary, though officials say the milestone will be celebrated privately and no public events are planned. The royal family is reportedly marking the date with a gathering at Windsor Castle.    The queen is the first monarch in British history to celebrate a platinum wedding anniversary.  At their 50th wedding anniversary, Elizabeth praised her husband as “quite simply... my strength and stay all these years.”   Elizabeth first met Philip, a naval officer and the son of Prince Andrew of Greece, as they attended the wedding of Philip’s cousin in 1934.    The pair wed at Westminster Abbey in London on Nov. 20, 1947. It would be nearly another six years before Elizabeth would be crowned as monarch, also at Westminster Abbey.    In the decades that followed, Philip, who also holds the title Duke of Edinburgh, spent almost the entire duration of their marriage supporting his wife in her role as head of state. Both have cut back on their public engagements in recent years, and Philip retired from official duties earlier this year.    The royal couple has four children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

    Entertainment - VOA / 2 d. 17 h. 24 min. ago more
  • Afghan Youth Team Beats Pakistan to Win Asian Cricket ChampionshipAfghan Youth Team Beats Pakistan to Win Asian Cricket Championship

    Afghanistan defeated Pakistan Sunday, winning their first under-19 cricket Asia Cup final in Kuala Lumpur, offering a rare opportunity for celebrations in a country desperate for a break from relentless rounds of deadly violence. Batting first, the Afghan team scored 248 runs in their allotted 50 overs. The opposition Pakistani side while chasing the target was dismissed within 23 overs for just 63 runs, enabling Afghans to win the match by a massive margin of 185 runs to lift the championship trophy. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tweeted his pride in the team, posting to his official Twitter account: “Indeed, our young colts showed that our future in cricket is bright.” And Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah tweeted, though he is out of Afghanistan on an official trip, “I feel proud to congratulate our nation on this very unique, rare and prideful occasion of our country’s cricket as Afghanistan’s U19 clinches historic win over Pakistan at the ACC U-19 Asia Cup and lifts the trophy for the first time in the history.” The win demonstrated significant improvement in Afghan cricket, which spread in the war-torn country from refugee camps in neighboring Pakistan and has become one of Afghanistan's most popular sports in recent years. The International Cricket Council in this year inducted Afghanistan as its 12th full member, recognizing the strides the Afghan national side has made in the game. The other full ICC members, are traditional cricket-playing nations: England, Australia, Bangladesh, South Africa, New Zealand, Pakistan, the West Indies, India, Ireland, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

    Entertainment - VOA / 2 d. 18 h. 8 min. ago more
  • In Chile, Former President Favored in Sunday VoteIn Chile, Former President Favored in Sunday Vote

    Voters in Venezuela are going to the polls Sunday to select a president. Billionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera is favored to win, but is not expected to gain the 50 percent of the ballots, needed to avoid a December runoff. Pinera, who is 67, ran a campaign proposing to cut taxes on businesses to promote growth. The Harvard-educated entrepreneur was president from 2010 to 2014. Pinera’s closest competition is center-left Senator Alejandro Guillier, a former television anchor. He campaigned with promises to continue President Michelle Bachelet’s plan to increase corporate taxes to pay for an education overhaul and other initiatives. Bachelet previously served as president from 2006 to 2010, when Pinera succeeded her. That scenario seems likely to repeat this year. Six other presidential candidates are also on the ballot. Voters on Sunday will also select lawmakers for congressional seats. Voter apathy could be an issue in the election. Since compulsory voting was dropped in 2012, a growing number of voters have declined to cast their ballots.

    Americas - VOA / 2 d. 18 h. 56 min. ago more
  • Defector’s Condition Indicates Serious Health Issues in North KoreaDefector’s Condition Indicates Serious Health Issues in North Korea

    Parasitic worms found in a North Korean soldier, critically injured during a desperate defection, highlight nutrition and hygiene problems that experts say have plagued the isolated country for decades. At a briefing Wednesday, lead surgeon Lee Cook-jong displayed photos showing dozens of flesh-colored parasites, including one 27 cm (10.6 in) long, removed from the wounded soldier’s digestive tract during a series of surgeries to save his life. “In my over 20 year-long career as a surgeon, I have only seen something like this in a textbook,” Lee said. The parasites, along with kernels of corn in his stomach, may confirm what many experts and previous defectors have described about the food and hygiene situation for many North Koreans. “Although we do not have solid figures showing health conditions of North Korea, medical experts assume that parasite infection problems and serious health issues have been prevalent in the country,” said Choi Min-Ho, a professor at Seoul National University College of Medicine who specializes in parasites. The soldier’s condition was “not surprising at all considering the North’s hygiene and parasite problems,” he said. ​Hail of bullets The soldier was flown by helicopter to hospital Monday after his dramatic escape to South Korea in a hail of bullets fired by North Korean soldiers. He is believed to be an army staff sergeant in his mid-20s who was stationed in the Joint Security Area in the United Nations truce village of Panmunjom, according to Kim Byung-kee, a lawmaker of South Korea’s ruling party, briefed by the National Intelligence Service. North Korea has not commented on the defection. While the contents of the soldier’s stomach don’t necessarily reflect the population as a whole, his status as a soldier with an elite assignment would indicate he would at least be as well nourished as an average North Korean. He was shot in his buttocks, armpit, back shoulder and knee among other wounds, according to the hospital where the soldier is being treated. ‘The best fertilizer’ Parasitic worms were also once common in South Korea 40 to 50 years ago, Lee noted during his briefing, but have all but disappeared as economic conditions greatly improved. Other doctors have also described removing various types of worms and parasites from North Korean defectors. Their continued prevalence north of the heavily fortified border that divides the two Koreas could be in part tied to the use of human excrement, often called “night soil.” “Chemical fertilizer was supplied by the state until the 1970s, but from the early 1980s, production started to decrease,” said Lee Min-bok, a North Korean agriculture expert who defected to South Korea in 1995. “By the 1990s, the state could not supply it anymore, so farmers started to use a lot of night soil instead.” In 2014, supreme leader Kim Jong Un personally urged farmers to use human waste, along with animal waste and organic compost, to fertilize their fields. A lack of livestock, however, made it difficult to find animal waste, said Lee, the agriculture expert. Even harder to overcome, he said, is the view of night soil as the “best fertilizer in North Korea,” despite the risk of worms and parasites. “Vegetables grown in it are considered more delicious than others,” Lee said. ​Limited diets The medical briefing described the wounded soldier as being 170 cm (5 feet 5 inches) and 60 kg (132 pounds) with his stomach containing corn. It’s a staple grain that more North Koreans may be relying on in the wake of what the United Nations has called the worst drought since 2001. Imported corn, which is less preferred but cheaper to obtain than rice, has tended to increase in years when North Koreans are more worried about their seasonal harvests. Between January and September this year, China exported nearly 49,000 tons of corn to North Korea, compared with 3,125 tons in all of 2016, according to data released by Beijing. Despite the drought and international sanctions over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, the cost of corn and rice has remained relatively stable, according to a Reuters analysis of market data collected by the defector-run Daily NK website. Since the 1990s, when government rations failed to prevent a famine, North Koreans have gradually turned to markets and other private means to feed themselves. The World Food Program says a quarter of North Korean children 6-59 months old, who attend nurseries that the organization assists, suffer from chronic malnutrition. On average North Koreans are less nourished than their southern neighbors. The WFP says around 1 in 4 children have grown less tall than their South Korean counterparts. A study from 2009 said pre-school children in the North were up to 13 cm (5 inches) shorter and up to 7 kg (15 pounds) lighter than those brought up in the South. “The main issue in DPRK is a monotonous diet — mainly rice/maize, kimchi and bean paste — lacking in essential fats and protein,” the WFP told Reuters in a statement last month.  

    Health - VOA / 2 d. 19 h. 19 min. ago more
  • Medical Watch Uses AI to Monitor HealthMedical Watch Uses AI to Monitor Health

    Another wearable health monitor is poised to enter the market. As Faith Lapidus reports, this one is on permanent watch for any signs of illness.

    Health - VOA / 2 d. 22 h. 19 min. ago
  • Toyota Banking on Hydrogen Fuel Cell TechnologyToyota Banking on Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology

    When it comes to cars, generally there are three options, there is gas, a gas-battery hybrid, or a full electric car. But for a fourth option, some car companies are banking on hydrogen as the fuel of the future. VOA's Kevin Enochs reports.

    Science - VOA / 2 d. 22 h. 23 min. ago
  • Report: No Fireworks — or Progress — at NAFTA TalksReport: No Fireworks — or Progress — at NAFTA Talks

    Negotiators at high stakes talks to update NAFTA have so far kept their tempers but are not making much progress on tough U.S. demands that could sink the 1994 trade pact, a well-placed source said Saturday. Officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico are meeting in Mexico City for the fifth of seven planned rounds to update the North American Free Trade Agreement, which U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from. Time is running short to seal a deal by the deadline of end-March 2018. Officials say next year’s Mexican presidential election means talks after that date will not be possible. US demands The U.S. administration has made a series of demands that the other members say are unacceptable, such as a five-year sunset clause and tightening so-called rules of origin to boost the North American content of autos to 85 percent from the current 62.5 percent. “It is very slow moving but there are no fireworks,” said a Canadian source with knowledge of the talks, adding there had “not been much conversation at all” on the more contentious U.S. proposals. Officials have so far discussed other issues such as labor, gender, intellectual property, energy and telecommunications but it is too soon to say whether there will be any breakthroughs during this round, added the source. The talks are due to end next Tuesday. Though the mood in the fifth round has been calmer than the tense scenes seen last month during the fourth round in Arlington, Virginia, the negotiations are now beyond the halfway point of an initial schedule with few clear signs of process. ‘Things Mexico won’t accept’ Mexican officials say they hope chapters on telecommunications and e-commerce will be concluded in the fifth round, but there has been no indication of this yet. Although negotiators are scheduled to discuss rules of origin every day starting Saturday, the source said detailed talks on boosting North American content would not be held before the end of the round. Canada and Mexico say the new rules of origin are unworkable and would damage the highly integrated auto industry. “I hope the United States understands there are things ... that Mexico won’t accept, and (I hope) the negotiating process becomes more rational,” Moises Kalach, head of the international negotiating arm of Mexico’s CCE business lobby, told Reuters late on Friday. Congressional action The U.S. Trade Representative’s office on Friday revised its official objectives to conform to demands that it currently has on the negotiating table. The move prompted U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, to remove a “hold” he had put in place to block the confirmation of two Trump administration nominees for deputy USTR positions, a Wyden aide said. Wyden complained the trade office had been keeping members of Congress “in the dark” about its tactics and was not in compliance with U.S. trade negotiating laws.

    Economy - VOA / 3 d. 0 h. 14 min. ago more
  • US Navy Deploys Undersea Rescue Command to Help Search for Argentinean SubUS Navy Deploys Undersea Rescue Command to Help Search for Argentinean Sub

    The U.S. Navy has ordered its Undersea Rescue Command to deploy to Argentina to assist with the efforts to locate an Argentine Navy submarine that disappeared four days ago with 44 crew members aboard. A U.S. Navy Submarine Rescue Chamber and underwater intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle, were transported Sunday to Argentina.  A U.S. space agency P-3 explorer aircraft and a U.S. P-8A Poseidon plane are already deployed for the search.   The Argentine navy said late Saturday it had detected seven failed "satellite calls," likely from the crew of a submarine that went missing earlier this week. The Defense Ministry said the "satellite calls" were likely from the crew of the ARA San Juan, and officials saw it as a sign the crew of 44 was trying to reestablish contact. Submarines underwater can deploy to the surface a location beacon that can then emit emergency signals via satellite, according to a Reuters report. The navy said a U.S. company that specializes in satellite communications was involved in trying to help locate the signals, according to Reuters. Contact lost Wednesday The navy lost contact with the German-built, diesel-electric submarine on Wednesday as it was returning from a routine mission from the naval base at Ushuaia, in Argentina’s extreme south, to its base at Mar del Platamand. Despite turbulent weather that included strong winds and 6-meter waves, base commander Admiral Gabriel Gonzalez said naval forces were increasing efforts above and below the water’s surface and were preparing to comb the bottom of the ocean. “The underwater search is obviously much more complicated than the search at the surface because it requires a combination of high-tech tools,” Gonzalez said at a news conference. The navy, which launched an air and sea search Thursday, said an initial search at the vessel’s last known position, about 430 kilometers off the southeastern Valdez peninsula, turned up no clues. US joins the search Argentine officials said they accepted an offer from the United States to participate in the search. A NASA P-3 explorer aircraft that had been stationed in Ushuaia has joined Argentine military aircraft that have been flying over the area. Late Friday, the U.S. Southern Command announced a P-8A Poseidon plane departed an air base in El Salvador to join the search. Argentine navy commander Carlos Zavalla encouraged family, friends and colleagues of the crew members to remain positive.  “So far, the only concrete thing is the lack of communication,” he said on local TV. Pope Francis, a native of Argentina, was among many from around the world to offer support. The pope’s office said on Saturday he was praying fervently for the crew to safely return to their families soon. The navy has said it believed an electrical outage may have caused communication problems on the vessel. Navy protocol directs submarines to rise to the surface when communication is lost.

    Americas - VOA / 3 d. 1 h. 7 min. ago more
  • Kafatos, Distinguished Greek Biologist, Malaria Researcher, Dies at 77Kafatos, Distinguished Greek Biologist, Malaria Researcher, Dies at 77

    Fotis Kafatos, a Greek molecular biologist who had a distinguished academic career in both the United States and Europe and became the founding president of the European Research Council, has died. He was 77. His family announced his death in Heraklion, Crete, on Saturday "after a long illness.'' Born in Crete in 1940, Kafatos was known for his research on malaria and for sequencing the genome of the mosquito that transmits the disease. He was a professor at Harvard University from 1969 to 1994, where he also served as chairman of the Cellular and Developmental Biology Department, and at Imperial College in London since 2005. He had been an adjunct professor at the Harvard School of Public Health since 2007. Kafatos was also a part-time professor at the University of Crete in his hometown since 1982. He also was the third director of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, a life sciences research organization funded by multiple countries, from 1993 to 2005. Kafatos considered the 2007 founding of the European Research Council under the auspices of the European Commission as his crowning achievement. The council funds and promotes projects driven by researchers. He stepped down as president in 2010. He came to be disillusioned by the heavily bureaucratic rules that, in his mind, hampered research. "We continuously had to spend energy, time and effort on busting bureaucracy roadblocks that kept appearing in our way,'' Kafatos told scientific journal Nature soon after he left the post. But, he added, "We delivered to Europe what we promised.''

    Health - VOA / 3 d. 4 h. 17 min. ago more
  • Argentina Intensifies Search for Navy Submarine With 44 Crew MembersArgentina Intensifies Search for Navy Submarine With 44 Crew Members

    The Argentine navy said Saturday it has intensified its search for a submarine carrying 44 crew members that went missing Wednesday, but efforts are being hindered by strong winds and six-meter waves. The navy lost contact with the German-built diesel-electric submarine as it was returning from a routine mission from the naval base at Ushuaia, in Argentina's extreme south, to its base at Mar del Platamand. Despite the turbulent weather, base commander Admiral Gabriel Gonzalez said naval forces were increasing efforts above and below the water's surface and were preparing to comb the bottom of the ocean. "The underwater search is obviously much more complicated than the search at the surface because it requires a combination of high-tech tools," Gonzalez said at a news conference. The navy, which launched an air and sea search on Thursday, said an initial search at the vessel’s last known position, about 430 kilometers off the southeastern Valdez peninsula, turned up no clues. Argentine officials said they accepted an offer from the United States to participate in the search. A NASA P-3 explorer aircraft that had been stationed in Ushuaia has joined Argentine military aircraft that have been flying over the area. Late Friday, the U.S. Southern Command announced a P-8A Poseidon plane departed an air base in El Salvador to join the search. Argentine navy commander Carlos Zavalla encouraged family, friends and colleagues of the crew members to remain positive. "So far, the only concrete thing is the lack of communication," he said on local TV. Pope Francis, a native of Argentina, was among many from around the world to offer support. The pope's office said on Saturday he is praying "fervently" for the crew to safely return to their families soon. The navy has said it believed an electrical outage may have caused communication problems on the vessel. Navy protocol directs submarines to rise to the surface when communication is lost.  

    Americas - VOA / 3 d. 9 h. 41 min. ago more
  • ‘Godfather of Coral’ on New Mission to Help Save Australia’s Great Barrier Reef‘Godfather of Coral’ on New Mission to Help Save Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

    The so-called ‘godfather of coral’ is part of a new research mission to unlock some of the secrets of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  Dr. Charlie Veron is part of a scientific team searching for the “super corals” that managed to survive consecutive years of bleaching on the world’s largest reef system.   Charlie Veron is one of the world's leading experts on coral reefs.  Born in Sydney, he is known as the ‘godfather of coral’ because he has discovered so many different species.  He is part of the Great Barrier Reef Legacy mission, which is taking eight teams of scientists on a voyage to map and test the health of remote parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.   They are searching for so-called ‘super corals’ that managed to survive the past two years of devastating coral bleaching events. Veron says the reef is in sharp decline. “It is gut-wrenching and I have lived with this now for close on 20 years," he said. "The predictions that scientists made well over a decade ago have all turned out to be spot on.  Well, this is a very important trip because we are actually seeing for ourselves what corals are vulnerable to mass bleaching and what corals are surviving mass bleaching.  So, once we know that we will be able to make smart decisions about coral, so the trip is really quite pivotal.” In April, researchers discovered that for the first time mass bleaching had affected the Great Barrier Reef in consecutive years, damaging two-thirds of the World Heritage-listed area.   When it bleaches, the coral is not dead, but it begins to starve and can eventually die.  The reefs, though, are resilient, but what concerns scientists is that more frequent bleaching, which is caused by rising water temperatures, makes it harder for the coral to recover. Bleaching occurs when corals under stress drive out the algae that give them color.   Scientists believe that the main threat to the reef that stretches 2,300 kilometers down the Queensland coast in northern Australia is climate change. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is about the size of Italy or Japan and is so big it can be seen from outer space.  It is home to more than 3,000 types of mollusks and 30 species of whales and dolphins.    

    Health - VOA / 3 d. 15 h. 9 min. ago more
  • Post-Harvey Houston: Years Until Recovery, Plenty of Costs UnknownPost-Harvey Houston: Years Until Recovery, Plenty of Costs Unknown

    When the heaviest rain of tropical storm Harvey had passed, Kathryn Clark’s west Houston neighborhood had escaped the worst. Then the dams were opened — a decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prevent upstream flooding and potential dam failures by releasing water into Buffalo Bayou, just a few hundred feet from the end of Clark’s street. When she and her husband returned to survey the damage later that week, they entered their two-story home by kayak in roughly three feet of water. In the kitchen, a snake slithered past. Nothing like that had happened in the nearly 11 years the Clarks have lived there; it got Kathryn thinking about their long-term plans, including whether to rebuild. “What if they decide to open the dams again?” she asked. “But if you don’t rebuild, you just walk away, and that is a big loss.” The Clarks ultimately opted to reconstruct, a process that will take another half-year before they can move back in. Elsewhere in the city, the waiting will be longer. ​A sprawling concrete jungle In early November, Texas Governor Greg Abbott told reporters that Texas will need more than $61 billion in federal aid, to help fund a reconstruction plan that he said would curtail damage from future coastal storms. However, he added, there will be more requests: “This is not a closed book.” Hurricane Harvey, the costliest storm in U.S. history, will affect Houston for months, and years. Apart from tens of thousands of ongoing home rebuilding projects, civil construction is in the evaluation phase. “With Katrina, it actually took them 12 years before FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] made their final payment to the city of New Orleans,” said Jeff Nielsen, executive vice president of the Houston Contractors Association. “That’s how long it takes to really test and figure out where all the repairs and where all the damage occurred.” Houston covers a landmass of 1,600 square kilometers, compared to New Orleans’ 900, and is much more densely populated. The impermeable concrete jungle experienced major runoff during the storm, and that translates to high civil construction costs in roads, bridges, water, sewage and utility lines that are difficult to determine. WATCH: Post-Harvey Houston: Years Until Recovery, Unknown Costs Nielsen explains to VOA the immensity of the task.  “You may be driving down the road one day and, all of a sudden — boom — there is a 10-foot sinkhole underneath the road because there is a water line or a sewer line or a storm sewer line that runs underneath that road. “There is no way to tell that that’s happening without going through and testing each and every line,” Nielsen said. ​Waiting, waiting Rob Hellyer, owner of Premier Remodeling & Construction, says Houston has seen an uptick in inquiries for both flood and nonflood-related projects — good for business, but a challenge for clients. “A lot of those people come to the realization that ‘If we want to get our project done in the next two or three years, we better get somebody lined up quick,’” Hellyer told VOA. But industrywide, much of the workforce is dealing with flooding issues of their own, while simultaneously attempting to earn a living. “It really has disbursed that labor pool that we have been using for all these years,” Hellyer said. Labor shortages in construction-related jobs have long been a challenge despite competitive wages, according to Nielsen, who describes his field — civil construction — as less-than-glamorous. “Outside, it’s hot. What could be more fun than pouring hot asphalt on a road?” he asked. Networking barriers With construction costs up and waiting periods long, the hands-on rebuilding effort is typically attractive for some lower-wage immigrant communities. Among the city’s sizable Vietnamese population, though, that’s not exactly the case, said Jannette Diep, executive director of Boat People SOS Houston office (BPSOS), a community organization serving the area’s diaspora population. “[Vietnamese construction workers] face not only a language barrier but that networking piece, because they’re not intertwined with a lot of the rules and regulations,” Diep said. “‘Well, how do I do the bid; what’s the process?’” Overwhelmed with paperwork and often discouraged by limited communication skills in English, Diep says many within the industry opt to work only from within their own communities, despite more widespread opportunities across Greater Houston. The same barriers apply to the Asian diaspora’s individual post-recovery efforts. BPSOS-Houston, according to Diep, remains focused on short-term needs — food, clothing, cleaning supplies — and expects the longer-term recovery to take two to three years, particularly in lower-income neighborhoods. Love thy neighbor Loc Ngo, a mother of seven and grandmother from Vietnam, has lived in Houston for 40 years, but speaks little English. In Fatima Village, a tightly knit single-street community of mobile homes — comprising 33 Vietnamese families — she hardly has to. “They came to fix the home and it cost $11,000, but they’re not finished yet,” she explained, through her son’s translation. “The washer, dryer and refrigerator — I still haven’t bought them yet, and two beds!” Across the street, the three-generation Le family levels heaps of dirt across a barren lot that’s lined by spare pipes and cinderblocks. They plan to install a new mobile home. At the front end of the road is the village’s single-story church, baby blue and white, like the sky — the site of services, weddings, funerals and community gatherings. Victor Ngo, a hardwood floor installer, typically organizes church events. But for now, his attention is turned to completing reconstruction of the altar and securing donations to replace 30 ruined benches. “At first I had to spend two months to fix up my house, and now I finished my house, and I [have started] to fix up this church,” Ngo said. “So basically, I don’t go out there to work and make money. Not yet.” In the village, made up largely of elders, Ngo stresses the importance of staying close to home to help with rebuilding, translation, and paperwork, at least for a while longer. “We stick together as a community to survive,” he said.

    Economy - VOA / 3 d. 16 h. 52 min. ago more
  • A Gastronomical Virtual Experience: Enjoying the Taste of Food Without the CaloriesA Gastronomical Virtual Experience: Enjoying the Taste of Food Without the Calories

    Through a headset around the head and over the eyes, virtual reality can take us to computer-generated environments very different from the physical environment we're in. Now, virtual reality technology is offering the food industry a new life. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, virtual reality can change the future of our dining experiences and make food tastier and healthier. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Science - VOA / 3 d. 21 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Scanner Allows Early Diagnosis of Diabetic UlcersScanner Allows Early Diagnosis of Diabetic Ulcers

    A 2014 study by the World Health Organization concluded that there are 400 million people around the world living with diabetes. One of the many complications of diabetes is the prevalence of foot ulcers, which if untreated can lead to amputations, and in many cases death. But a simple scanner being developed in Britain can give some important warning for doctors who want to prevent the ulcers from happening. VOA's Kevin Enochs reports.

    Health - VOA / 3 d. 21 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Some Republicans Nervous NAFTA Talks Could FailSome Republicans Nervous NAFTA Talks Could Fail

    Pro-trade Republicans in the U.S. Congress are growing worried that U.S. President Donald Trump may try to quit the NAFTA free trade deal entirely rather than negotiate a compromise that preserves its core benefits. As a fifth round of talks to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement kicked off in Mexico on Friday, several Republicans interviewed by Reuters expressed concerns that tough U.S. demands, including a five-year sunset clause and a U.S.-specific content rule, will sink the talks and lead to the deal’s collapse. Business groups have warned of dire economic consequences, including millions of jobs lost as Mexican and Canadian tariffs snap back to their early 1990s levels. “I think the administration is playing a pretty dangerous game with this sunset provision,” said Representative Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican from eastern Pennsylvania. He said putting NAFTA under threat of extinction every five years would make it difficult for companies in his district, ranging from chocolate giant Hershey Co to small family owned manufacturing firms, to invest in supply chains and manage global operations. Hershey operates candy plants in Monterrey and Guadalajara, Mexico. Lawmakers' letter Nearly 75 House of Representatives members signed a letter this week opposing U.S. proposals on automotive rules of origin, which would require 50 percent U.S. content in NAFTA-built vehicles and 85 percent regional content. They warned that this would “eliminate the competitive advantages” that NAFTA brings to U.S. automakers or lead to a collapse of the trade pact. Representative Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican who has long been a supporter of free trade deals, said he disagreed with the Trump approach of “trying to beat someone” in the NAFTA talks. Texas is the largest U.S. exporting state with nearly half of its $231 billion in exports last year headed to Mexico and Canada, according to Commerce Department data. “We need to offer Mexico a fair deal. If we want them to take our cattle, we need to take their avocados,” Sessions said. Still, congressional apprehension about Trump’s stance is far from unanimous. The signers were largely Republicans, with no Democrats from auto-intensive states such as Michigan and Ohio signing. Democratic support Some pro-labor Democrats have actually expressed support for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s tough approach. “Some of those demands are in tune,” said Representative Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee. “We don’t want to blow it up, Republicans don’t want to blow it up. But we want substantial changes in the labor, the environmental, the currency, on how you come to an agreement when there’s a dispute, and on problems of origin.” Farm state Republicans are especially concerned that a collapse of NAFTA would lead to the loss of crucial export markets in Mexico and Canada for corn, beef and other products. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Lighthizer in a recent meeting agreed that a withdrawal from NAFTA would be hard on U.S. agriculture, which has largely benefited from the trade pact. U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico quintupled to about $41 billion in 2016 from about $9 billion in 1993, the year before NAFTA went into effect, according to U.S. Commerce Department data. Grassley said, however, that Lighthizer’s approach was “taking everybody to the brink on these talks.” Other Republicans are taking a wait-and-see approach to the talks. Representative Frank Lucas of Oklahoma said he was willing to give Trump “the benefit of the doubt” on NAFTA talks, adding that farmers and ranchers in his rural district were strong Trump supporters in the 2016 election. “The president’s a practical fellow. When push comes to shove, he understands the base,” Lucas said.

    Americas - VOA / 3 d. 22 h. 26 min. ago more
  • Mexico to Create, Fund System to Solve DisappearancesMexico to Create, Fund System to Solve Disappearances

    Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto has signed a new law aimed at addressing the country’s staggering number of unsolved disappearances. Mexico has more than 30,000 missing people, many victims of the country’s drug violence or corrupt security forces. Advocates are hailing the law as a long-awaited start, but caution that the law’s implementation will be critical. Roberto Campa is the Interior Department’s deputy secretary for human rights. He said Friday on Radio Formula that Mexico’s two earthquakes in September had tightened government finances, but there would be enough funding to launch the effort. The law signed Thursday would create a National Search System with local branches in the states. It would also create new special prosecutors to handle disappearances and provide more forensic resources to investigations.  

    Americas - VOA / 4 d. 0 h. 26 min. ago more
  • UN Panel Agrees to Move Ahead With Debate on 'Killer Robots'UN Panel Agrees to Move Ahead With Debate on 'Killer Robots'

    A U.N. panel agreed Friday to move ahead with talks to define and possibly set limits on weapons that can kill without human involvement, as human rights groups said governments are moving too slowly to keep up with advances in artificial intelligence that could put computers in control one day. Advocacy groups warned about the threats posed by such "killer robots" and aired a chilling video illustrating their possible uses on the sidelines of the first formal U.N. meeting of government experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems this week. More than 80 countries took part. Ambassador Amandeep Gill of India, who chaired the gathering, said participants plan to meet again in 2018. He said ideas discussed this week included the creation of legally binding instrument, a code of conduct, or a technology review process. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an umbrella group of advocacy groups, says 22 countries support a ban of the weapons and the list is growing. Human Rights Watch, one of its members, called for an agreement to regulate them by the end of 2019 — admittedly a long shot. The meeting falls under the U.N.'s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons — also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention — a 37-year old agreement that has set limits on the use of arms and explosives like mines, blinding laser weapons and booby traps over the years. The group operates by consensus, so the least ambitious goals are likely to prevail, and countries including Russia and Israel have firmly staked out opposition to any formal ban. The United States has taken a go-slow approach, rights groups say. U.N. officials say in theory, fully autonomous, computer-controlled weapons don't exist yet, but defining exactly what killer robots are and how much human interaction is involved was a key focus of the meeting. The United States argued that it was "premature" to establish a definition. Dramatic depictions The concept alone stirs the imagination and fears, as dramatized in Hollywood futuristic or science-fiction films that have depicted uncontrolled robots deciding on their own about firing weapons and killing people. Gill played down such concerns. "Ladies and gentlemen, I have news for you: The robots are not taking over the world. So that is good news, humans are still in charge. ... We have to be careful in not emotionalizing or dramatizing this issue," he told reporters Friday. The United States, in comments presented, said autonomous weapons could help improve guidance of missiles and bombs against military targets, thereby "reducing the likelihood of inadvertently striking civilians." Autonomous defensive systems could help intercept enemy projectiles, one U.S. text said. Some top academics like Stephen Hawking, technology experts such as Tesla founder Elon Musk and human rights groups have warned about the threats posed by artificial intelligence, amid concerns that it might one day control such systems — and perhaps sooner rather than later. "The bottom line is that governments are not moving fast enough," said Steven Goose, executive director of arms at Human Rights Watch. He said a treaty by the end of 2019 is "the kind of timeline we think this issue demands."

    Science - VOA / 4 d. 3 h. 58 min. ago more
  • Tesla Adds Big Trucks to Its Electrifying AmbitionsTesla Adds Big Trucks to Its Electrifying Ambitions

    After more than a decade of making cars and SUVs — and, more recently, solar panels — Tesla Inc. wants to electrify a new type of vehicle: big trucks. The company unveiled its new electric semitractor-trailer Thursday night near its design center in Hawthorne, California. CEO Elon Musk said the semi is capable of traveling 500 miles on an electric charge and will cost less than a diesel semi considering fuel savings, lower maintenance and other factors. Musk said customers can put down a $5,000 deposit for the semi now and production will begin in 2019. “We’re confident that this is a product that’s better in every way from a feature standpoint,” Musk told a crowd of Tesla fans gathered for the unveiling. ​One-fourth of transit emissions The move fits with Musk’s stated goal for the company of accelerating the shift to sustainable transportation. Trucks account for nearly a quarter of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to government statistics. Musk said Tesla plans a worldwide network of solar-powered “megachargers” that could get the trucks back up to 400 miles of range after 30 minutes. Tesla, Musk stretched But the semi also piles on the chaos at Palo Alto, California-based company. Tesla is way behind on production of the Model 3, a new lower-cost sedan. It’s also ramping up production of solar panels after buying Solar City Corp. last year. Musk has said Tesla is also working on a pickup and a lower-cost SUV and negotiating a new factory in China. Meanwhile, the company posted a record quarterly loss of $619 million in its most recent quarter. Musk, too, is being pulled in many different directions. He leads rocket maker SpaceX and is dabbling in other projects, including high-speed transit, artificial intelligence research and a new company that’s digging tunnels beneath Los Angeles to alleviate traffic congestion. “He’s got so much on his plate right now. This could present another distraction from really just making sure that the Model 3 is moved along effectively,” said Bruce Clark, a senior vice president and automotive analyst at Moody’s. Uncertain market Tesla is venturing into an uncertain market. Demand for electric trucks is expected to grow over the next decade as the U.S., Europe and China all tighten their emissions regulations. Electric truck sales totaled 4,100 in 2016, but are expected to grow to more than 70,000 in 2026, says Navigant Research. But most of that growth is expected to be for smaller, medium-duty haulers like garbage trucks or delivery vans. Those trucks can have a more limited range of 100 miles or less, which requires fewer expensive batteries. They can also be charged overnight. Long-haul semi trucks, on the other hand, would be expected to go greater distances, and that would be challenging. Right now, there’s little charging infrastructure on global highways. Without Tesla’s promised fast-charging, even a midsized truck would likely require a two-hour stop, cutting into companies’ efficiency and profits, says Brian Irwin, managing director of the North American industrial group for the consulting firm Accenture. Irwin says truck companies will have to watch the market carefully, because tougher regulations on diesels or an improvement in charging infrastructure could make electric trucks more viable very quickly. Falling battery costs also will help make electric trucks more appealing compared to diesels. But even lower costs won’t make trucking a sure bet for Tesla. It faces stiff competition from long-trusted brands like Daimler AG, which unveiled its own semi prototype last month.  Fleet operators want reliable trucks, and Tesla will have to prove it can make them, said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst with the car shopping site Autotrader.

    Science - VOA / 4 d. 21 h. 5 min. ago more
  • FCC Upgrade: Better Picture, Less Privacy — And You’ll Need a New TVFCC Upgrade: Better Picture, Less Privacy — And You’ll Need a New TV

    U.S. regulators on Thursday approved the use of new technology that will improve picture quality on mobile phones, tablets and television, but also raises significant privacy concerns by giving advertisers dramatically more data about viewing habits. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to allow broadcasters to voluntarily use the new technology, dubbed ATSC 3.0, which would allow for more precise geolocating of television signals, ultra-high definition picture quality and more interactive programming, like new educational content for children and multiple angles of live sporting events. The system uses precision broadcasting and targets emergency or weather alerts on a street-by-street basis. The system could allow broadcasters to wake up a receiver to broadcast emergency alerts. The alerts could include maps, storm tracks and evacuation routes. The new standard would also let broadcasters activate a TV set that is turned off to send emergency alerts. Advertisers excited Current televisions cannot carry the new signal, and the FCC on Thursday said it was only requiring broadcasting both signals for five years after deploying the next-generation technology. Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. last month called the new standard "the Holy Grail" for the advertiser because it tells them who is watching and where. But Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan said the new technology "contemplates targeted advertisements that would be 'relevant to you and what you actually might want to see.' This raises questions about how advertisers and broadcasters will gather the demographic information from consumers which are necessary to do targeted advertisements." New TV, higher costs Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the new technology would force consumers to buy new televisions. "The FCC calls this approach market driven. That's right — because we will all be forced into the market for new television sets or devices." FCC Chairman Ajit Pai defended the proposal, calling concerns about buying new devices "hypothetical." He added five years is "a long time. We'll have to see how the standard develops." One issue is whether broadcasters will be able to pass on the costs of advanced broadcast signals through higher retransmissions fees and demand providers carry the signals. The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents Tegna Inc, Comcast Corp., CBS Corp., Walt Disney Co., Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. and others, petitioned the FCC in April 2016 to approve the new standard. "This is game-changing technology for broadcasting and our viewers," the group said Thursday. Many companies have raised concerns about costs, including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. Cable, satellite and other pay TV providers "would incur significant costs to receive, transmit, and deliver ATSC 3.0 signals to subscribers, including for network and subscriber equipment," Verizon said. Many nations are considering the new standard. South Korea adopted the ATSC 3.0 standard in 2016.

    Science - VOA / 5 d. 1 h. 40 min. ago more
  • Did Data Mining Influence Kenya’s Annulled Election?Did Data Mining Influence Kenya’s Annulled Election?

    Kenya’s annulled 2017 presidential election was among Africa's most expensive.  President Uhuru Kenyatta and main challenger Raila Odinga spent tens of millions of dollars on their campaigns, including sizeable investments in global PR firms that mined data and crafted targeted advertisements. As experts sort through the historic election’s aftermath, the involvement of data analysis companies has come to the forefront, raising questions about privacy, voter manipulation and the role of foreign firms in local elections. Mercenary outfits Data mining and PR companies conduct surveys to gauge public sentiment and sift through reams of data across social media.  They stitch that information together to build detailed profiles and deliver targeted, customized messages aimed at changing behaviors. Some see it as smart campaigning.  But others point to the ethical concerns of manipulating voters with false information. “You have a lot of these organizations, these PR firms, lobby firms, out there, and they’re essentially just mercenary outfits that do work for the highest bidder, regardless of their bloodstained track record,” Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, an organization that advocates for good governance on the continent, told VOA. “It’s all legal.  It’s a business, and these businesses exist to make a profit ... It’s the ethical and moral side where I tend to question.” Democratic practices falling behind According to media reports, Kenyatta’s campaign paid $6 million to Cambridge Analytica, the analytics and PR firm tied to the Brexit referendum, the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and, as recently reported by The Wall Street Journal, WikiLeaks. Owned in part by the influential Mercer family, U.S.-based billionaires and political donors, Cambridge Analytica compiles demographic information to build vast databases of voter profiles.  It then delivers personalized advertisements to key voters in an attempt to sway them. Kenyatta wasn’t the only candidate to enlist the services of a high-tech PR firm.  According to new reporting by The Star, one of Kenya’s leading newspapers, Odinga’s campaign employed Aristotle International, a U.S.-based company focused on campaign data mining. The exact impact of these firms on the outcome of the August election is impossible to gauge, but their prominence in Kenya points to the role high-tech campaigning will play in future elections across the continent. That’s raising questions about whether these companies undermine the democratic process by giving their clients an unfair advantage and manipulating the public. “We have reached a point where our technological advances now exceed the ability of democratic practices to catch up,” said Calestous Juma, a professor of international development at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. “That has created a window where people can exploit platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google to amplify certain messages that play on ethnic stereotypes for purposes of creating fear and winning elections,” Juma told VOA. Previous involvement This isn’t Cambridge Analytica’s first foray into Kenyan politics.  Although it won’t acknowledge working on the recent campaign, the company boasts of its role in the 2013 elections, when Kenyatta contracted with the firm. According to its website, Cambridge Analytica “designed and implemented the largest political research project ever conducted in East Africa” by sampling and interviewing 47,000 respondents to provide key political issues and identify voting behaviors, from which it drafted an “effective campaign strategy based on the electorate’s real needs (jobs) and fears (tribal violence).” New frontier Cambridge Analytica and other data-driven PR firms have worked throughout Europe, the Middle East and the Americas.  The African market, with a projected population of 2.5 billion people in 2050, represents an enticing new frontier, with Kenya emerging as an especially appealing place to do business. A unique mix of high mobile phone penetration, fast mobile internet, pervasive social media use and a young electorate — people under 35 comprise more than half of Kenya’s 19 million registered voters — makes the country ripe with opportunities for data mining and digital PR companies to invest in, or exploit. For Smith, the lack of transparency inherent in how companies like Cambridge Analytica operate undermines the democratic process. “What they do is essentially help propagate false news stories,” Smith said.  “Me and my organization, Vanguard Africa ... were portrayed as somehow financing and supporting the Kenyan opposition, which was fundamentally not true,” he said. “That didn’t make those stories go away, of course.  The truth becomes the victim in all of this.”

    Science - VOA / 5 d. 4 h. 20 min. ago more