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Voice of America’s immigration news - April 18, 2024 - 03:00
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.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 18, 2024 - 02:00
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.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 18, 2024 - 01:00
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.

In India’s election, Modi flags development, while opposition says democracy ‘at risk’

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 18, 2024 - 00:53
India’s mammoth phased election that begins April 19 will pit Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party against an opposition alliance of over two dozen parties. While Modi is wooing voters by promising to continue the country’s development, the opposition has raised concerns about threats to democracy. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Dehli.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 18, 2024 - 00:00
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.

Western countries are pleading for a restrained response from Israel

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 17, 2024 - 23:35
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is steadfast that Israel will make its own decisions about how to defend itself after a barrage of Iranian missiles and drones launched from Tehran last Saturday. Western countries meanwhile are pleading for a restrained response from Isarel. Jordan’s King Abdullah says his country will not be a battleground for any party in the confrontation between Israel and Iran and the protection of its citizens and sovereignty are paramount. Michael Cohen, who once said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump, is now poised to serve as a star prosecution witness in the former U.S. president's criminal trial on charges of covering up hush money paid to an adult film star.

Egyptian firm offers escape from Gaza – for $5,000 a head

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 17, 2024 - 23:08
London/Cairo — From her home in Cairo, Etemad Abu Tahoun watches with terror as -- hour by hour -- the television news relays the devastation wrought on Gaza. Her only son, 23-year-old Momen, is trapped in the Palestinian territory. A brief, broken video call confirms he is still alive – before the signal cuts off. She is trying to crowdfund enough money to pay for her son’s escape. "I will help him to escape from the killing," she said. "And his presence will be my support as I navigate the challenges that lie ahead." But escaping Gaza isn’t easy. Egypt has closed the Rafah crossing to most Palestinians, fearing an exodus of refugees. Since the Israel-Hamas war broke out in October, Egypt has permitted just a single travel agency, called Hala, to operate cross-border journeys from Gaza into Egypt – what it terms a "coordination." The firm is based in the office of its parent company, Organi, in Cairo. Its fees have reportedly risen 14-fold from the pre-war price, to $5,000 per adult and half that for children. That’s far beyond the means of most Palestinians – especially those who have lost their homes and livelihoods in the war. Mohammed Ra’ed, a Palestinian medical student based in Cairo, is crowdfunding to pay for six displaced family members to escape a refugee camp in Gaza. "If I want to continue my studies here and succeed in my life, I want to see it [that satisfaction] in the faces and eyes of my family. If they're not here with me, all my efforts, all the things I do, it's all in vain," he said. Hala did not respond to VOA requests for comment. The agency now accounts for 40% of all crossings from Gaza into Egypt, according to the Cairo-based Arab Organization for Human Rights. Organization director Alaa Shalaby said accusations of profiteering are an attempt to divert attention from Israel’s actions – and praises Egypt’s effort to send aid into Gaza. "We commend the admirable efforts of this community and country, grappling with their own economic difficulties, for providing significant support," Shalaby said. Despite protests in Cairo calling for a change of policy, the Egyptian government says it has no plans to open the Rafah crossing with Gaza. Hamada Elrasam contributed to this report.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 17, 2024 - 23:00
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.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 17, 2024 - 22:00
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.

Security agencies warn election officials to brace for attacks on US presidential race

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 17, 2024 - 21:40
washington — U.S. intelligence and security agencies are trying to prepare election officials for a wave of new attacks aiming to destroy voter confidence in November's presidential election, just as a series of reports warn some familiar adversaries are starting to ramp up their efforts. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), along with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the FBI, issued a new warning on Wednesday that "the usual suspects" — Russia, China and Iran — are looking for ways to stoke tensions and divide American voters. All three countries, the guidance said, are "leveraging influence operations exploiting perceived sociopolitical divisions to undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions." The new guidance warned that the three countries are using fake online accounts and various proxies, including state-sponsored media organizations, to spread disinformation and sow doubt. It also cautioned that Russia, China and Iran are using real people, including social media influencers, "to wittingly or unwittingly promote their narratives." "The elections process is the golden thread of American democracy, which is why our foreign adversaries deliberately target our elections infrastructure with their influence operations," CISA senior adviser Cait Conley said in a statement to reporters. "CISA is committed to doing its part to ensure these [state and local] officials — and the American public — don't have to fight this battle alone." Agency warns of new tactics The latest guidance, posted on CISA's website, warns that in addition to resorting to familiar tactics, Russia, China and Iran are likely to employ new tricks to try to  confuse U.S. voters and erode confidence in the election process. One such technique is voice cloning — using a fake recording of a public official or figure to try to cause confusion. The agencies cited an example from last year's election in the Slovak Republic, when a fake recording of a key party leader purported to show him discussing how to rig the vote. The guidance also warned that Iran could try to employ "hack and leak" cyberattacks in the U.S., using lessons learned from similar operations against Israel in recent months. And it said Russia and China have separately sought to spark alarm among voters by spreading fake documents alleging to show evidence of security incidents impacting physical buildings or computer systems. China denied the allegations. "China has always adhered to noninterference in other countries' internal affairs," Liu Pengyu, the spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said in an email to VOA. "Speculating or accusing China of using social media to interfere in the U.S. politics is completely groundless and malicious," Liu added. VOA also contacted representatives for the Russian and Iranian governments, who have yet to respond. For now, CISA, ODNI and the FBI are advising U.S. election officials that they can try to mitigate the impact of election meddling attempts by creating trusted portals for information, such as official U.S. government websites, and by proactively debunking false information. But the challenge is likely to grow. Russia already interfering, says Microsoft Tech giant Microsoft warned on Wednesday it is seeing signs that Russia, at least, is already ramping up its election interference efforts. "The usual Russian election influence actors kicked into gear over the last 45 days," according to a report by Microsoft's Threat Analysis Center. The Russian effort so far, the report said, "employs a mix of themes from 2020 with a renewed focus on undermining U.S. support for Ukraine." Microsoft further warned that Russia, China and Iran have "leveraged some form of generative AI [artificial intelligence] to create content since last summer." "We anticipate that election influence campaigns will include fakes — some will be deep, most shallow — and the simplest manipulations, not the most complex employment of AI, will likely be the pieces of content that have the most impact," the report added. At the same time, there is concern about domestic extremists impacting the presidential election. "There is a serious risk of extremist violence," the Council on Foreign Relations wrote in a report issued Wednesday. "While the risk of far-right election-related violence is greater, the possibility of far-left extremist violence cannot be dismissed," it said, pointing to the possibility of attacks on pre-election political events or gatherings, on polling places during Election Day, and against election offices in the days following the election. Such warnings are consistent with those issued by U.S. officials in recent months. "Some DVEs [domestic violent extremists], particularly those motivated by conspiracy theories and anti-government or partisan grievances, may seek to disrupt electoral processes," the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned in a threat assessment issued this past September. "Violence or threats could be directed at government officials, voters, and elections‑related personnel and infrastructure, including polling places, ballot drop box locations, voter registration sites, campaign events, political party offices and vote-counting sites," it said.

UK, EU face significant medicine shortages, study says

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 17, 2024 - 21:21
LONDON — Patients in the U.K. and European Union are facing shortages of vital medicines such as antibiotics and epilepsy medication, research published Thursday found. The report by Britain's Nuffield Trust think-tank found the situation had become a "new normal" in the U.K. and was "also having a serious impact in EU countries." Mark Dayan, Brexit program lead at the Nuffield Trust think tank, said Britain's decision to leave the European Union had not caused U.K. supply problems but had exacerbated them. "We know many of the problems are global and relate to fragile chains of imports from Asia, squeezed by COVID-19 shutdowns, inflation and global instability," he said. "But exiting the EU has left the U.K. with several additional problems -– products no longer flow as smoothly across the borders with the EU, and in the long term our struggles to approve as many medicines might mean we have fewer alternatives available," he said. Researchers also warned that being outside the EU might mean Britain is unable to benefit from EU measures taken to tackle shortages, such as bringing drug manufacturing back to Europe. It said that this included the EU's Critical Medicines Alliance which it launched in early 2024. Analysis of freedom of information requests and public data on drug shortages showed the number of notifications from drug companies warning of impending shortages in the UK had more than doubled in three years. Some 1,634 alerts were issued in 2023, up from 648 in 2020, according to the report, The Future for Health After Brexit. Paul Rees, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), said medicine shortages had become "commonplace," adding that this was "totally unacceptable" in any modern health system. "Supply shortages are a real and present danger to those patients who rely on life-saving medicines for their well-being," he said. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the U.K. was not alone in facing medical supply issues. It said most cases of shortages had been "swiftly managed with minimal disruption to patients." 

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 17, 2024 - 21:00
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.

Georgia presses on with 'foreign agents' bill opposed by EU

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 17, 2024 - 20:46
TBILISI, GEORGIA — Georgia's parliament gave initial approval on Wednesday to a bill on "foreign agents" that the European Union said risked blocking the country's path to membership and triggered protests for a third straight night. The fate of the bill is widely seen as a test of whether Georgia, 33 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, intends to pursue a path of integration with the West or move closer toward Russia. Critics compare the bill to a law that Russia has used extensively to crack down on dissent. As many as 10,000 opponents of the bill gathered outside the parliament, sitting atop cars and buildings — a day after police used pepper spray to clear protesters away from part of the building. Several thousand protesters moved over to the government building, heavily guarded by police, to demand a meeting with Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, the bill's principal backer. Some demonstrators, many wearing helmets and masks, scuffled with police outside the building. Eighty-three of 150 deputies voted in favor, while opposition MPs boycotted the vote. The bill must pass two more readings before becoming law. It would require organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as agents of foreign influence. Soon after the vote, the EU said in a statement, "This is a very concerning development, and the final adoption of this legislation would negatively impact Georgia's progress on its EU path. This law is not in line with EU core norms and values." It said the proposed legislation "would limit the capacity of civil society and media organizations to operate freely, could limit freedom of expression and unfairly stigmatize organizations that deliver benefits to the citizens of Georgia." The EU urged Georgia to "refrain from adopting legislation that can compromise Georgia's EU path." The United States and Britain have also urged Georgia not to pass the bill. The prime minister, in comments quoted by the Interpressnews, said Western politicians had not produced a single valid argument against the bill, and their statements would not prompt the government to change its mind. President Salome Zourabichvili, whose role is mostly ceremonial, said she would veto the law if it was passed. But parliament has the power to override her veto. The ruling Georgian Dream Party, which has faced accusations of authoritarianism and excessive closeness to Russia, says the bill is necessary to promote transparency and combat "pseudo-liberal values" imposed by foreigners. Protesters call bill 'Russian' The Interior Ministry said two people were detained at the latest protest. On Tuesday, 11 were detained, and one police officer was injured in altercations. Protesters who denounced the bill as the "Russian law" appeared undaunted. "It is very hard to predict any scenario, because the government is unpredictable, unreliable, untruthful, sarcastic and cynical," said activist Paata Sabelashvili. "People here are just flowing and flowing and flowing like rivers." Parliament passed the law on first reading in a rowdy session during which four opposition lawmakers were removed from the chamber amid shouts of "No to the Russian law" and "Traitors." Russia is viewed with deep suspicion by many in the South Caucasus country of 3.7 million people, which in 2008 lost a brief war with Moscow over the Moscow-backed breakaway territory of South Ossetia. Russia defends legislation as 'normal' Russia said on Wednesday it had nothing to do with the law and defended it as a "normal practice." Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it was being used by outside actors to stoke anti-Russian sentiment. The bill was initially introduced in March 2023. but was shelved after two nights of violent protests and has increased divisions in a deeply polarized Georgia. A coalition of opposition groups, civil society, celebrities and the president have rallied to oppose it.

Chief of relief agency UNRWA pushes back against Israeli accusations

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 17, 2024 - 20:46
UNITED NATIONS — The head of the embattled U.N. agency that assists Palestinian refugees said Wednesday that as famine is taking hold across Gaza, the agency is facing an Israeli campaign to push it out of the occupied Palestinian territories and prevent it from carrying out its humanitarian mission. "In Gaza, the government of Israel seeks to end UNRWA's activities," Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini told the U.N. Security Council. "The agency's requests to deliver aid to the north are repeatedly denied. Our staff are barred from coordination meetings between Israel and humanitarian actors." He also accused Israel of targeting UNRWA staff and premises, saying that 178 staff have been killed, and that more than 160 UNWRA premises, mostly used as shelters, have been damaged or destroyed, killing more than 400 people since the war started in October.  Lazzarini said Israeli security forces have also detained UNRWA staff, who have described mistreatment and torture in detention. "We demand an independent investigation and accountability for the blatant disregard for the protected status of humanitarian workers, operations and facilities under international law," Lazzarini told the council. "To do otherwise would set a dangerous precedent and compromise humanitarian work around the world." Israeli criticism Israeli officials have criticized UNRWA for years, alleging that Hamas uses its schools for terrorist activities and promotes an anti-Israel curriculum. After the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks on Israel, the rhetoric intensified. Lazzarini said Israeli allegations against UNRWA are politically motivated because Israel wants to end the refugee status of millions of Palestinians. "Accusations that UNRWA deliberately perpetrates refugee status are false and dishonest," he said. "The agency exists because a political solution does not." He said dismantling the agency would in the short term deepen the humanitarian crisis and speed the onset of famine, and in the long-term, hurt reconstruction of Gaza. In January, Israel alleged that 12 UNRWA staffers were involved in Hamas' deadly Oct. 7 attacks. The staffers were immediately fired, and an internal investigation was launched. But in the aftermath, 16 donors, including top contributor the United States, suspended contributions totaling around $450 million. Since then, several donors have resumed funding, but the U.S. Congress has frozen further contributions until at least March 2025. Lazzarini said the agency currently has funding to cover operations through June. "The time has come to defund UNRWA," Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan told the council. He accused the Palestinians of having "hijacked" and "weaponized" the agency shortly after its creation in 1949. "UNRWA's goal is not aid or real education," Erdan said. "In practice, UNRWA is creating a sea of Palestinian 'refugees' — millions of them — indoctrinated to believe Israel belongs to them. And the end goal is to use these so-called refugees and their libelous 'right of return' — a right that doesn't exist — to flood Israel and destroy the Jewish state." Since 1948, U.N. resolutions have called on Israel to facilitate the return of Palestinian refugees and provide compensation for their loss of land and property. Jordan requested Wednesday's meeting. Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said with 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza facing hunger and famine, UNRWA is needed more than ever. "The suffering is beyond words," Safadi said. "Only one agency has the knowledge, the ability and the infrastructure to help ease it. It is UNRWA, the backbone of humanitarian efforts in Gaza, and Israel wants to break it. Do not allow it to do so." While Washington has suspended its funding, it says UNRWA is still necessary. "We recognize UNRWA's indispensable role in distributing humanitarian assistance and maintaining continuity of care in Gaza, and we urge UNRWA's continued humanitarian access in Gaza and the lifting of onerous restrictions on its work," U.S. envoy Robert Wood said. "The United States is gravely concerned about the dire food insecurity and the very real risk of imminent famine. UNRWA is critical to averting this." He urged UNRWA to implement reforms and strengthen its management and oversight. The General Assembly established the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, in 1949 to assist some 700,000 Palestinian refugees displaced in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War that broke out after Israel became a state in May that year. Today, it operates not just in the Gaza Strip and West Bank but also in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, where there are large Palestinian refugee communities. Nearly 6 million Palestinians are eligible for UNRWA services, which include education and health care.

US prepared to 'take further steps' as it warns China against enabling Russia

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 17, 2024 - 20:40
state department — The United States warned China on Wednesday against helping Russia in its war on Ukraine and said it is "prepared to take further steps as necessary." In Italy, foreign ministers from the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations gathered to reaffirm their support for Ukraine's defense. "We believe that the PRC is supporting Russia's war effort and is doing so by helping ramp up its defense production," State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters during a briefing in Washington. "Specifically," he said, "the PRC is providing Russia with significant quantities of machine tools, microelectronics, optics, UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones] and cruise missile technology, and nitrocellulose, which Russia uses to make propellants for weapons." Patel said the United States believes these materials "are filling critical gaps in Russia's defense production cycle" and helping to revitalize Russia's defense industrial base. "China's support is actively enabling Russia's war in Ukraine, and it poses a significant threat to European security," he added. "We've sanctioned relevant firms in the PRC and are prepared to take further steps as necessary." Blinken, G7 leaders talk In Capri, Italy, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is holding talks this week with foreign ministers from the other G7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom — as well as representatives from the European Union. Topics include Ukraine support, the Middle East crisis, Haitian instability and global partnerships. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday said the G7 ministers would discuss how to get more air defense to Ukraine as Kyiv faces increasing pressure from Russia. "We and our partners around the world must now be just as resolute in our defense against Russian terror from the air," Baerbock said in a statement. Blinken will later visit China, where he is expected to bring up Washington's concerns about China's support for Russia's defense industrial base. On the margins of the G7 meeting Wednesday, Blinken and Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani signed a memorandum of understanding to counter the manipulation of information by other countries. Blinken said the two nations are collaborating on "all of the most critical issues," including aiding Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression, addressing challenges in the Middle East and sharing approaches to challenges posed by China. Beijing rejected what Chinese officials described as Washington's "smear." "China regulates the export of dual-use articles in accordance with laws and regulations. Relevant countries should not smear or attack the normal relations between China and Russia and should not harm the legitimate rights and interests of China and Chinese companies," Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said during a briefing. China continues supporting Russia After Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit to Beijing last week, Chinese officials said China would "continue to support Russia in pursuing development and revitalization under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin." They said the two nations "have committed themselves to lasting friendship" and a deepened comprehensive strategic partnership. Russian missile kills at least 17 In Washington, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. The two discussed the U.S. Commerce Department's work with partners to coordinate export controls and restrict sales of advanced technologies to Russia. Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said G7 finance leaders have been working toward a plan to unlock the value of frozen Russian sovereign assets to aid Ukraine in the near term. But he noted the talks are still a work in progress. In Ukraine, officials said earlier Wednesday that a Russian missile attack hit the northern city of Chernihiv, killing at least 17 people and injuring 61 others. Denise Brown, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine, condemned the latest wave of strikes. She also emphasized that under international humanitarian law, civilians and hospitals must be protected. In Chernihiv, aid workers provided on-the-ground support to those affected by the strikes, including psychosocial and legal assistance. Their efforts complement the work of first responders and rescue services. Some information for this report came from Reuters.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 17, 2024 - 20:00
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.

Arizona Republicans fend off Democrats’ attempts to repeal 1864 abortion ban 

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 17, 2024 - 19:52
phoenix, arizona — Democrats in the Arizona House of Representatives on Wednesday tried repeatedly to repeal an 1864 ban on abortion but failed to get the Republican support they needed against the Civil War-era measure poised to become state law again.  In four votes, the chamber deadlocked 30-30 on a procedural motion that would have allowed a repeal bill to come to the floor, with one Republican joining the 29 Democrats.  One more Republican vote was needed to enable a vote on repealing a law that was written when Arizona was not yet a state and women lacked the right to vote.  Democratic leaders later told reporters they did not anticipate another vote on Wednesday but would try again in future sessions.   "I will continue to call on the legislature to do its job and repeal this law," Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs said in a statement. "A law from 1864 written by 27 men cannot be allowed to govern the lives of millions of Arizona women."  Before Hobbs could sign any repeal bill, it would need to pass both chambers of the state legislature.   A similar repeal attempt is taking place in the state Senate, where Republicans hold a 16-14 edge. Two Senate Republicans joined the Democrats on Wednesday and voted to advance the bill, but it needs two more such readings before it can reach the Senate floor.  Opposing abortion rights is seen as sacrosanct to many Republican voters, and crossing party lines on such a touchstone issue would be rare in highly partisan times.  But repealing the 1864 law would still leave in place a law passed by Republicans in 2022 that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. And some Republicans have softened their hard-line stance on abortion, mindful of the same polling that has emboldened Democrats.  Confident that public opinion is on their side in supporting abortion rights, Democrats have sought to elevate the issue since the U.S. Supreme Court rescinded the constitutional right to abortion in 2022 and Republican-led states went about setting new severe restrictions.   With or without repealing the 1864 law, Arizona Democrats are also attempting to place a ballot measure before voters in November that would restore abortion rights.  Democrats are hoping the ballot measure energizes their voters in a closely divided state that could swing toward either party, possibly determining the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, and control of both houses of the state legislature.   The old law was revived by a state Supreme Court ruling on April 9, and unless the legislature intervenes it could take effect within 60 days.   It imposes a prison sentence of two to five years for anyone found guilty of inducing an abortion except for a doctor who deems it necessary to save the life of the mother.  Arizona House Democrats sought to repeal the ban a week ago but were thwarted by the narrow Republican majority of 31-29. On Wednesday, Republican Representative Matt Gress joined the Democrats, but one more vote was needed.  Democrat Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, sponsor of the repeal bill, said that Democrats would persist and that she was confident it would eventually receive a vote. 

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