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Newgarden Gives Penske His 19th Win in Dramatic Indianapolis 500

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 17:37
Josef Newgarden finally captured his long-awaited Indianapolis 500 on Sunday and gave team owner Roger Penske his 19th win and first since buying Indianapolis Motor Speedway, making an audacious pass of defending race winner Marcus Ericsson during a frantic four-kilometer sprint to the finish. After the race was red-flagged for the third time in the closing laps, Newgarden was moved from fourth to second by race control. The two-time IndyCar champion, who had been 0 for 11 in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," took advantage of it by slingshotting around Ericsson on the restart and then holding him off through the last two turns for the win. Newgarden brought his Chevrolet-powered car to a stop on the front stretch, jumped out and found a hole in the fence, diving into part of a crowd estimated at more than 300,000 to celebrate. Then he climbed the fence to mimic longtime Team Penske driver and four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves. Ericsson finished second in a Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. He was followed by Santino Ferrucci, who gave 88-year-old A.J. Foyt his team's best finish in the race he won four times since Kenny Bräck won it in 1999. Pole sitter Alex Palou, the race favorite, was fourth for Ganassi and Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five for Arrow McLaren.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 17:00
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Nearly a Decade On, Over 80 of Nigeria’s ‘Chibok Girls’ Still in Captivity

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 16:58
Nigeria’s military this month rescued three more schoolgirls abducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram more than nine years ago in northeastern Borno state. In that 2014 incident, Boko Haram raided a government secondary school in the town of Chibok and seized nearly three hundred schoolgirls. Many of the girls have been freed through negotiations, but scores more remain captive. From Abuja, Timothy Obiezu has this report, narrated by Vincent Makori.

UK Health Minister Says Will Not Negotiate on Pay With Nurses' Union

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 16:12
Britain's health minister, Steve Barclay, said on Sunday that the government would not negotiate on pay with the nurses' union, as the threat of further strikes looms. The government's offer, which includes a one-off payment equivalent to 2% of salaries in the 2022/23 financial year and a 5% pay raise for 2023/24, was rejected by the members of the Royal College of Nursing in April. When asked by Sky News whether the government would resume talks with the union, Barclay said, "Not on the amount of pay." The union is already balloting its 300,000 members on further strike action over the next six months. The union did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for a comment on Barclay's remarks on Sunday. It has said that the government must pay National Health Service staff "fairly." The relationship between the union, which has staged multiple strikes that have disrupted patient care, and the government became strained in late April when the health department limited the length of a strike after legal action against the RCN.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 16:00
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In Nigeria's Hard-Hit North, Families Seek Justice as Armed Groups Seek Control

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 15:53
Christian Jonathan's mother was holding the 9-month-old boy in her arms when she was shot dead during an attack on their village in northwestern Nigeria. The assailants cut off one of Christian's fingers and abandoned him by the side of the road with a bullet wound in his tiny leg. "They left him on the ground beside his mother's body," said Joshua Jonathan, Christian's father. "They thought the boy was dead." The late-night attack in April in Runji in Kaduna State left 33 people dead, most of them burned alive or shot dead. Many more have been killed since in the continuing clashes between nomadic cattle herders and farming communities in northwest and central regions of the West African nation, including more than 100 this month in Plateau state. The decades long violence is becoming deadlier, killing at least 2,600 people in 2021, according to the most recent data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. Once armed with sticks, the groups now fight with guns that have been smuggled into the country. Both sides accuse the government of injustice and marginalization, but the clashes have also taken on a religious dimension, giving rise to militias that side with the herders, who are primarily Muslim, or the farmers from Christian communities. The growing security crisis presents a huge challenge for Nigeria's incoming president, Bola Tinubu, who rose to power in Nigeria — Africa's largest economy and among its top oil producers — promising to improve the lives of affected communities and address the root causes of the crisis by providing jobs and ensuring justice. Tinubu's inauguration is scheduled for Monday. If the violence isn't reined in, analysts say, it could further destabilize the country and drive more of its 216 million people into poverty. U.N. agencies say the violence affects mostly children, who are already threatened by malnutrition, and women, who are often abducted and forced into marriage. The response of security forces can be slow and arrests are rare, prompting a growing number of communities to defend themselves when they come under siege. "There is a substantial loss of confidence in the government as a protector of citizens," said Nnamdi Obasi, the senior adviser for Nigeria at the International Crisis Group. Obasi warned that the failure of the incoming administration to speedily resolve the conflict would lead to "more people seeking their own self-defense, more proliferation of weapons, more criminal groups and a rise in organized armed groups." In Runji, an agrarian village, The Associated Press spoke to some survivors in hospital beds and others touring a mass grave and their razed houses. They said they were under attack for hours and that the gunmen fled long before security forces arrived. Every household bears a scar. Christopher Dauda's family was trying to escape when the gunmen caught up with his wife and four children, killing all five. Danjuma Joshua's two daughters were shot in the back while they tried to flee. In the home of Asabe Philip, who survived but has burns all over her body, the assailants burned five children alive as they cowered in one room. Christian's aunt has tried to fill the void left by the killing of his mother. His father said Christian cries a lot and barely sleeps, although his physical wounds are gradually healing. "We try to manage with what we have left," Joshua Jonathan said. On the other side of the conflict, the herders say they are also under attack. They complain of cattle rustling and extrajudicial killings by local security groups working as community vigilantes. Abdullahi Bello Bodejo, the president of the national herders' association, denied that anyone in the group was responsible for the violence. Most of the herders belong to the Fulanis, an ethnic group. "Fulanis are not the killers. Any person carrying out killings is not our member. Sometimes, when communities accuse us of killings, 75% is not true; they have their own crisis but always blame Fulanis," said Bodejo. Nigerian security forces say they have arrested dozens of gunmen and recovered their weapons. But the assailants are estimated to number in the thousands and can easily recruit new members, according to Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, a conflict researcher. "There is a limit to the kinetic (military) operations, as it doesn't address the socioeconomic issue that gave rise to banditry in the region in the first place," said Oluwole Ojewale of the Africa-focused Institute for Security Studies. He said the incoming Tinubu administration must work with state governments to address unemployment, poverty and social injustice. The recent violence has led to the formation of community, state and regional security outfits that experts say could create bigger problems for Nigeria's security architecture if not properly monitored. And their recruits are young. Felix Sunday, a college student in Kaduna, said that he was 16 when he joined a local vigilante group in 2021, and that he struggles to combine the night watch with his studies. Across much of West and Central Africa, porous national borders facilitate the smuggling of weapons. A survey-based report published in 2021 by the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey in collaboration with the Nigerian government found that at least 6 million firearms may have been in the hands of civilians in the country at the time. The military and police have recovered hundreds of firearms in Nigeria in the last year, but weapons dealers elsewhere are exacerbating the problem. "Things have gotten considerably worse. Some are large military weapons imported from other countries," said Confidence MacHarry with the Lagos-based SBM Intelligence security firm. With sophisticated weapons, the gunmen have launched daring attacks in areas with a heavy security presence, including a military base and an airport in Kaduna, indicating that the problem may be the motivation of the security forces themselves. Survivors of the attack in Plateau told the AP that the police didn't arrive until the next day, echoing comments from people living in Runji, which has a security checkpoint nearby. "When we call the soldiers, it is after the attackers have left that the soldiers come. Even if we hear they (the attackers) are coming and we report to the government, they don't take proactive action," said Simon Njam, a vigilante leader near Runji who uses bows, arrows and locally-made guns to secure the area. Part of the problem is that the security forces are disorganized and unprepared to respond to the attacks, according to Kabir Adamu, the founder of Beacon Consulting, a security firm based in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. "We don't have a coordinated security sector that identifies and counters threats," he said. "They need to work together to protect lives and currently, we are not seeing enough of that." The Nigerian military and police didn't respond to written and phone inquiries seeking a response to the claims. As more families mourn the loss of their loved ones, forced to replace farmland with graveyards, their priority is demanding justice. "How can people just come and kill and nothing will happen?" asked Dauda in Runji, remembering his life with his wife and four children. "They cannot bring back my lost family, but the government can at least rebuild my home and ensure justice."

Fresh Deadly Clashes Reported in Northeast India

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 15:51
Fresh deadly clashes were reported Sunday in the remote northeastern Indian state of Manipur although the exact number of fatalities was not immediately clear.  Manipur has been on edge after an explosion of inter-ethnic violence this month killed at least 70 people and left tens of thousands displaced.  The state's chief minister N. Biren Singh told local media, in comments confirmed by a government official to AFP, that 40 suspected militants had died along with two police in the past two days.   "The terrorists have been using M-16 and AK-47 assault rifles and sniper guns against civilians. They came to many villages to burn down homes," local media quoted Singh as saying.   "We have started taking very strong action against them with the help of the army and other security forces. We have got reports some 40 terrorists have been shot dead," Singh was quoted as saying.   However, while a military source confirmed an uptick of unrest, he said four people had been killed in the past 24 hours.  "At least three armed miscreants — who were trying to set fire to empty houses and fired at the security forces when they tried to stop them — died in retaliatory firing," the source told AFP, declining to be named.  "One more armed miscreant was killed in Moreh and three others, including two security personnel, were injured," the source said.  The far-flung states of northeast India — sandwiched between Bangladesh, China and Myanmar — have long been a tinderbox of tensions between different ethnic groups.  The violence in Manipur earlier in May was between the majority Meitei, who are mostly Hindus and live in and around the state capital Imphal, and the mainly Christian Kuki tribe in the surrounding hills.  Most victims are believed to be from the Kuki community, with some of their villages and churches destroyed by Meitei mobs. But the Meitei were also targeted by the Kukis in some places.    The initial spark was Kuki anger at the prospect of the Meitei being given guaranteed quotas of government jobs and other perks in a form of affirmative action.    This also stoked long-held fears among the Kuki that the Meitei might be allowed to acquire land in areas currently reserved for them and other tribal groups.    Thousands of troops were deployed to restore order, while around 30,000 people fled their homes for the safety of ad-hoc army-run camps for the displaced. Mobile internet has been cut for weeks.  

New International Push Underway to End Plastic Pollution

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 15:37
A meeting of a United Nations committee dedicated to eradicating plastic pollution begins in Paris Monday. Plastic piles up from ocean beds to landfills. Manufacturers have begun the shift to biodegradable materials, but the billions of tons of plastic waste already in our environment are here to stay, at least for now. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has more.

Amid Some Objections, Confidence on US Debt Ceiling Deal Grows

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 15:16
Republican and Democratic House leaders expressed optimism Sunday that they will get enough votes in favor of raising the debt ceiling. VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias has details on a deal that has in principle, been struck. Video editor: Marcus Harton.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 15:00
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Former US Congresswoman Liz Cheney Urges Graduates Not to Compromise With the Truth

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 14:39
Former U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney implored new college graduates to not compromise when it comes to the truth, excoriating her House Republican colleagues for not doing enough to combat former President Donald Trump's lies that the 2020 election was stolen. In a commencement speech at Colorado College, the Wyoming Republican repeated her fierce criticisms of Trump but steered clear of talking about his 2024 reelection campaign or her own political future. Cheney, who graduated from Colorado College in 1988, recalled being a political science student walking into a campus building where a Bible verse was inscribed above the entrance that read, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." "After the 2020 election and the attack of January 6th, my fellow Republicans wanted me to lie. They wanted me to say the 2020 election was stolen, the attack of January 6th wasn't a big deal, and Donald Trump wasn't dangerous," Cheney said Sunday in Colorado Springs, connecting her experiences as a student to her work in the U.S. House of Representatives. "I had to choose between lying and losing my position in House leadership." In three terms in office, Cheney rose to the No. 3 GOP leadership position in the House, a job she lost after voting to impeach Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol and then not relenting in her criticism of the former president. Cheney's speech touched on themes similar to those she has promoted since leaving office in January: addressing her work on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and standing up to the threat she believes Trump poses to democracy. She also encouraged more women to run for office and criticized one of the election-denying attorneys who worked for Trump after the 2020 election for recent remarks about college students voting. "Cleta Mitchell, an election denier and adviser to former President Trump, told a gathering of Republicans recently that it is crucially important to make sure that college students don't vote," Cheney said. "Those who are trying to unravel the foundations of our republic, who are threatening the rule of law and the sanctity of our elections, know they can't succeed if you vote." In an audio recording of Mitchell's presentation from a recent Republican National Committee retreat, she warns of polling places on college campuses and the ease of voting as potential problems, The Washington Post reported. Most students and parents in the audience applauded throughout Cheney's remarks, yet some booed. Some students opposing the choice of Cheney as speaker turned their chairs away from the stage as she spoke. Cheney's busy speaking schedule and subject matter have fueled speculation about whether she may enter the 2024 GOP presidential primary since she left office. Candidates ranging from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley have calibrated their remarks about Trump, aiming to counter his attacks without alienating the supporters that won him the White House seven years ago. Though some have offered measured criticisms, no declared or potential challenger has embraced anti-Trump messaging to the same extent as Cheney. She did not reference her plans on Sunday but has previously said she remains undecided about whether she wants to run for president. Though she would face an uphill battle, Cheney's fierce anti-Trump stance and her role as vice chairwoman of the House committee elevated her platform high enough to call on a national network of donors and Trump critics to support a White House run. A super PAC organized to support of her candidacy has remained active, including purchasing attack ads on New Hampshire airwaves against Trump this month. After leaving office and being replaced by a Trump-backed Republican who defeated her in last year's primary, Cheney was appointed to a professorship at the University of Virginia and wrote "Oath and Honor," a memoir scheduled to hit shelves in November. Two of Cheney's five children as well as her mother are also graduates of the liberal arts college. Cheney's speaking tour appears to be picking up. She is scheduled to appear Thursday at the Mackinac Policy Conference in Michigan.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 14:00
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US Farmers Buffeted by War in Ukraine, High Interest Rates

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 13:38
Last year, just as farmer David Isermann was coming out of years of chaos created by the coronavirus pandemic, he was heading into the fields to plant his crops when the war in Ukraine started, throwing even more uncertainty into his annual farm management plan.     “It totally disrupted the whole system,” Isermann told VOA from his farm outside Streator, Illinois. “Prices went up in anticipation.”     The biggest price hikes were for a farmer’s “inputs” like fertilizer. “The problem is that Russia and their ally, Belarus, are major suppliers of the three things we use, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium,” Isermann said. “So, that interrupted our supply line of that. When you take out two of the world’s major suppliers, it affects things.”     But as the war in Ukraine grinds on in its second year, Isermann is in the middle of a new growing season at a time when the impact on global supply chains have eased. “Things have kind of worked themselves out a little bit,” he said. “Prices are dropping.  Grain prices are down, so people are not as aggressive on fertilizer purchases, so that kind of helps demand a little bit.”     Joe Camp with Comstock Investments, an agriculture risk management firm, said the overall price for grains, including corn and soybeans, and wheat in particular, stabilized after Russia and Ukraine agreed to the Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in 2022.     “Since then, we’ve not seen a material increase in demand, but we know that that can change going forward,” particularly if the grain deal, which was only recently extended by two months, falls apart as the war rages on. “It’s actually taken prices lower as we compete with cheap wheat, continue to do that, the same thing with corn,” Camp said. “It keeps prices generally lower than they otherwise would be if we had that demand flowing back from Russia and Ukraine.”     The U.S. Agriculture Department reports that millions of tons of grain travels through the Black Sea each year, making the region a major supplier of commodities globally, particularly to Africa. Any change in the ability to move those grains through the international waters of the Black Sea can impact the global price of commodities.     Camp said the Black Sea grain deal also affects a U.S. farmer’s input prices, despite international sanctions against Russia. “Even the grain export deal allows for Russia to keep sending out fertilizer, so relative to what we feared, we’re well stocked and benefiting from low prices heading into the new season,” he told VOA.     But while the prices for what Isermann needs to grow his crops are lower this year, the rising cost of everything else – including loans – because of soaring inflation is cutting into his profits. “It affects everyone we touch,” he said.     Low unemployment in the United States also affects Isermann, who admits it’s hard to find people to do some of the work he and his family must outsource on the farm. “You try to find somebody to haul grain for you. If you don’t have your own truck, it’s very difficult. That problem is there. We just don’t have the people to drive the trucks anymore.”     While Isermann is slowly incorporating automation into his farming equipment, the one thing he can depend on is the manpower to plant and harvest the crops he grows this year, because either he or a member of his own family is the one driving the tractors.

May 28, 2023

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 13:27
A look at the best news photos from around the world.

Biden, McCarthy Urging Passage of Increase in US Debt Ceiling

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 13:15
U.S. President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are urging Congress to approve an increase in the government’s borrowing limit to avoid a first-ever default, but progressive Democratic lawmakers from the party’s ideological left and right-wing Republicans on Sunday immediately voiced opposition to the deal agreed to by the two leaders. Biden late Saturday said in a statement, “The agreement represents a compromise, which means not everyone gets what they want. That’s the responsibility of governing.” He called the pact “an important step forward that reduces spending while protecting critical programs for working people and growing the economy for everyone.” He said, “The agreement protects my and congressional Democrats’ key priorities and legislative accomplishments. And this agreement is good news for the American people, because it prevents what could have been a catastrophic default and would have led to an economic recession, retirement accounts devastated, and millions of jobs lost.” McCarthy, on the “Fox News Sunday” show, said that from Republicans’ perspective, “There’s so much in this that is positive. It will not do everything for everyone, but this is a step in the right direction.” “I think you are going to get a majority of Republicans voting for this bill,” McCarthy said. While acknowledging some conservative pushback, “We were able to do this when the president said he wasn’t even going to talk to us.” Not all details of the “agreement in principle” that Biden and McCarthy reached late Saturday were publicly known early Sunday. White House officials and McCarthy’s negotiators from the Republican majority in the House of Representatives were fine-tuning the text of the legislation Congress will need to pass to suspend the country’s existing $31.4 trillion debt ceiling to an unspecified figure nearly two years from now in the first quarter of 2025, months after the November 2024 presidential election. The debt ceiling needs to be increased so the government can borrow more money, or the U.S. government will run out of cash to pay its existing bills on June 5, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned Congress. Yellen has said that without an increase in the debt ceiling or a suspension of the borrowing limit, interest on U.S. bonds held by foreign governments and individual American investors would be imperiled, as well as stipends to U.S. pensioners and salaries to government workers and contractors. Without enough tax receipts coming into U.S. coffers to pay its bills, the government would be forced to prioritize which payments to make. Under the deal, non-defense spending will remain relatively flat in the government’s 2024 financial year starting October 1, while increasing a meager 1% in 2025. After 2025, there would be appropriation spending targets, but they would not be enforceable. The agreement calls for expansion of work requirements for some Americans receiving food stamps to buy food, increasing the age requirement from 49 to 54 to which the work rules apply. It would also speed up the approval process for new energy projects. The pact left in place Biden’s plan to write off up to $20,000 in student loan debts but says that loan recipients will have to start making loan payments that had been paused during the coronavirus pandemic. The provision would become moot if the Supreme Court overturns Biden’s authority to revoke the debt in a challenge to his action that it is expected to ruled on by the end of June. McCarthy said, “There is not one thing in this bill for Democrats. We’re going to spend less and encourage people to go back to work.” Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the leader of the House Democrats, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” show that the agreement “protects the American people from the devastating effects of the cuts proposed by Republicans.” He said the pact keeps intact pensions and health care insurance for older Americans as well as government assistance for impoverished people. “I do expect we will have Democratic support” for approving the debt ceiling increase, Jeffries said. There was, however, grumbling from progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans. Representative Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the 102-member House progressive caucus, told CNN’s “State of the Union” show that Biden and Jeffries should worry about progressives’ support for passage of the debt ceiling increase. Jayapal criticized expanding work requirements for food stamp recipients and said she did not know whether she would vote for the debt ceiling increase. “I’m not a big fan of in-principle [agreements] frameworks,” she told CNN’s “State of the Union” show. “That’s always, you know, a problem if you can’t see the exact legislative text. And we’re all trying to wade through spin right now. But I think it’s going to come down to what the legislative text is.” Among Republicans, Representative Bob Good wrote on Twitter, “No one claiming to be a conservative could justify a YES vote” on the package. Another Republican critic of the deal, Representative Ralph Norman, tweeted, “This ‘deal’ is insanity.” He said a possible $4 trillion increase in the debt over the next two years “with virtually no cuts is not what we agreed to. Not gonna vote to bankrupt our country. The American people deserve better.”

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Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 13:00
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Uncertainty Pervades as Macao Adopts National Security Law Amendments 

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 12:59
More than a week after Macao’s legislative assembly passed controversial amendments to the former Portuguese colony’s national security law, a sense of uncertainty pervades in the vibrant and popular gambling and tourist destination, with some people remaining mum about the law taking effect this week. Since the measure’s passage, some journalists, writers, and businesspeople contacted for this article have refused to be interviewed out of fear of repercussions for expressing concerns about the amended law. “It’s not appropriate [or convenient] to accept interviews on the national security law,” was the common response. Others, however, were seeking answers on how the law would affect day-to-day life. The amendments, passed unanimously by the legislature May 18, are aimed at upgrading the Law on Safeguarding National Security, first enacted in 2009, a decade after Macao returned to Chinese sovereignty. A statement on Macao’s government website said the amendments were necessary because “the country [meaning China] is facing a more complicated and changing security and development environment,” making safeguarding national security “increasingly arduous.” The amendments will enable Macao to “more effectively respond to future internal and external security situations,” it said. Without giving details about what those threats are, the website lists changes to the law, including: expanding the definition of secession to include acts carried out by nonviolent means; widening the definition of sedition to include “acts that incite participation in riots;” renaming the crime of “theft of state secrets” to “violation of state secrets.” The amendments also change the references to the crime of collusion with “foreign political organizations” to simply collusion with "organizations outside Macau” that are seeking to damage national security. This could be aimed at pro-independence groups in Taiwan, which Beijing considers to be a part of China. They also call for punishing “outside hostile forces” and locals who support them with the intention of harming national security by trying to influence Macao’s elections, advocating sanctions against the enclave, and trying to make Macao's people hate the central government in Beijing. Analysts said Beijing, alarmed by weeks of widespread and sometimes violent protests against an extradition bill in Hong Kong in 2019, wants to close loopholes in the law, to prevent such occurrences in Macao. They say China's government had nudged Macau's chief executive and legislature to pass such amendments in the past, but there was reluctance until now. “When Hong Kong experienced political turmoil in 2019, Beijing was definitely threatened by the social movement. … Therefore, the amendment of Macao’s national security law, in the eyes of Beijing, is to fill up the legal loopholes in Macao,” said Eilo Yu Wing-yat, associate professor at the University of Macau’s Department of Government and Public Administration. Asked why Beijing would feel the need to toughen control measures in Macao, given how peaceful it is compared to Hong Kong, Victor Gao, a professor at China’s Soochow University, agreed that the Hong Kong protests were the catalyst and Beijing felt it should take preemptive measures. “Any political system would not tolerate secession or rebellion,” Gao said, referring to some Hong Kong protesters advocating for the territory's independence and others storming the local Legislative Council building at one point. “Therefore, Macau needs to close the loopholes, so that if anyone tries the same thing in Macau, they will have the legal wherewithal to deal with these anti-social stability, sabotaging acts.” Other analysts, however, say the amendments widen the scope of actions under which individuals and groups can be punished, and this could harm Macao’s freedoms. “The expansion of national security offenses to include non-violent means and inciting participation in ‘riots' will further chill an already frosty civil society, media, and academic space,” wrote Jason Buhi, associate professor at Barry University’s School of Law in Florida and author of The Constitutional History of Macau, in an email. What is especially worrying is that crimes involving "incitement" and "state secret" are not well defined, which could have a major impact on the freedom of press and speech in Macao, and the public's right to know, according to a statement posted by the 100-member Macau Journalists Association on its Facebook page in March. The association said that while government officials have repeatedly stated that policy discussions will not be affected by the national security law, real discussions inevitably involve criticism of government policies or officials’ actions. It questioned whether these will now be seen as inciting hatred or confrontation against the government. “The arbitrary nature of legal interpretation is extremely high, making journalism a high-risk industry,” the association said. Not defining what is considered state secrets also puts journalists at risk of violating the law, the association said. It “is like a bottomless abyss for journalists who have to collect a lot of information every day,” the journalism group said. According to MacauBusiness.com, local officials have issued assurances that the amendments include safeguard mechanisms against abusive use and “shall not harm the human rights of suspects.” The journalists’ association has asked for clarification, arguing that the legislature and government have a responsibility to let the public clearly understand what constitutes a crime under the amended law. Like Hong Kong, Macao was promised a high degree of autonomy without changes to its political, social and economic freedoms for 50 years after returning to Chinese sovereignty. Some businesspeople who are not involved in politics said they also have to be cautious. “I see people who talk about it [the national security law] and they’re immediately targeted,” said a small business owner who requested anonymity. “If you become too vocal, then they pick on you. For instance, they can be strict about approving your workers’ work permits. I can’t say it’s a coincidence.” Unlike Hong Kong, however, Macao residents have shown no appetite for challenging the government’s authority. About half of its 674,000 population were born in mainland China. Many are familiar with the government’s heavy-handed control over society and see Macao as being much freer than the mainland. At the same time, some people are quietly worried. “To many Macao residents, they may feel powerless regarding the reform and may consider opposition against it would probably lead to the further suppression and repression … similar to the current Hong Kong,” Yu said.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 12:00
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Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 12:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Italy PM: Good Ties With China Possible Without Belt and Road 

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 11:42
Good relations with China are possible even without being part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) deal, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in an interview published Sunday, as her government weighs abandoning the project. Italy is the only major Western country to have joined China's BRI scheme, which envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with large infrastructure spending. In an interview with Il Messaggero daily, Meloni said it was too early to anticipate the outcome of Italy's decision on whether to remain part of the project, which it signed up for in 2019, drawing criticism from Washington and Brussels. "Our assessment is very delicate and touches upon many interests," said Meloni. The pact expires in March 2024 and will be automatically renewed unless either side informs the other that they are pulling out, giving at least three months' notice. In an interview with Reuters last year, before she won power in a September election, Meloni made clear she disapproved of the 2019 move, saying she had "no political will ... to favor Chinese expansion into Italy or Europe." Meloni noted that while Italy was the only one of the Group of Seven (G7) rich democracies to have signed the Belt and Road memorandum, it was not the European and Western country with the strongest economic and trade ties with China. "This means it is possible to have good relations, also in important areas, with Beijing, without necessarily these being part of an overall strategic design," she said. Earlier this month a senior Italian government official told Reuters Italy was highly unlikely to renew the Belt and Road deal. A first test of the right-wing government's attitude toward China looms as Rome vets a shareholder pact at tire maker Pirelli's, whose top investor is China's Sinochem. China is among the biggest markets for most countries in the G7 group, particularly for export-reliant economies such as Japan and Germany. At a summit last weekend, G7 leaders pledged to "de-risk" without "decoupling" from China, an approach that reflected European and Japanese concerns about pushing Beijing too hard, officials and experts said.