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Myroslava Gongadze reports from Kyiv

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 09:43
After a sleepless night due to Russian drone attacks, residents of the Ukrainian capital marked Kyiv day, the birthday of the 1541-year-old city. VOA’s Myroslava Gongadze has this report from Kyiv.

Stephen Hawking's Last Collaborator on Physicist's Final Theory

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 09:29
When Thomas Hertog was first summoned to Stephen Hawking's office in the late 1990s, there was an instant connection between the young Belgian researcher and the legendary British theoretical physicist. "Something clicked between us," Hertog said. That connection would continue even as Hawking's debilitating disease ALS robbed him of his last ways to communicate, allowing the pair to complete a new theory that aims to turn how science looks at the universe on its head. The theory, which would be Hawking's last before his death in 2018, has been laid out in full for the first time in Hertog's book "On the Origin of Time," published in the UK last month. In an interview with AFP, the cosmologist spoke about their 20-year collaboration, how they communicated via facial expression, and why Hawking ultimately decided his landmark book "A Brief of History of Time" was written from the wrong perspective. The 'designed' universe During their first meeting at Cambridge University in 1998, Hawking wasted no time in bringing up the problem bothering him. "The universe we observe appears designed," Hawking told Hertog, communicating via a clicker connected to a speech machine. Hertog explained that "the laws of physics -- the rules on which the universe runs -- turn out to be just perfect for the universe to be habitable, for life to be possible." This remarkable string of good luck stretches from the delicate balance that makes it possible for atoms to form molecules necessary for chemistry to the expansion of the universe itself, which allows for vast cosmic structures such as galaxies. One "trendy" answer to this problem has been the multiverse, an idea that has recently become popular in the movie industry, Hertog said. This theory explains away the seemingly designed nature of the universe by making it just one of countless others -- most of which are "crap, lifeless, sterile," the 47-year-old added. But Hawking realized the "great mire of paradoxes the multiverse was leading us into," arguing there must be a better explanation, Hertog said. Outsider's perspective A few years into their collaboration, "it began to sink in" that they were missing something fundamental, Hertog said. The multiverse and even "A Brief History of Time" were "attempts to describe the creation and evolution of our universe from what Stephen would call a 'God's eye perspective'," Hertog said. But because "we are within the universe" and not outside looking in, our theories cannot be decoupled from our perspective, he added. "That was why (Hawking) said that 'A Brief History of Time' is written from the wrong perspective." For the next 15 years, the pair used the oddities of quantum theory to develop a new theory of physics and cosmology from an "observer's perspective." But by 2008, Hawking had lost the ability to use his clicker, becoming increasingly isolated from the world. "I thought it was over," Hertog said. Then the pair developed a "somewhat magical" level of non-verbal communication that allowed them to continue working, he said. Positioned in front of Hawking, Hertog would ask questions and look into the physicist's eyes. "He had a very wide range of facial expressions, ranging from extreme disagreement to extreme excitement," he said. "It's impossible to disentangle" which parts of the final theory came from himself or Hawking, Hertog said, adding that many of the ideas had been developed between the pair over the years. 'One grand evolutionary process' Their theory is focused on what happened in the first moments after the Big Bang. Rather than an explosion that followed a pre-existing set of rules, they propose that the laws of physics evolved along with the universe. This means that if you turn back the clock far enough, "the laws of physics themselves begin to simplify and disappear," Hertog said. "Ultimately, even the dimension of time evaporates." Under this theory, the laws of physics and time itself evolved in a way that resembles biological evolution -- the title of Hertog's book is a reference to Darwin's "On the Origin of Species." "What we're essentially saying is that (biology and physics) are two levels of one grand evolutionary process," Hertog said. He acknowledged that it is difficult to prove this theory because the first years of the universe remain "hidden in the mist of the Big Bang." One way to lift this veil could be by studying gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space time, while another could be via quantum holograms constructed on quantum computers, he said.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 09:00
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.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 08:00
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.

Modi Inaugurates New Parliament Building in New Delhi 

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 07:52
India’s prime minister presided over the opening of the country’s new massive and controversial parliament building in New Delhi Sunday. Many of the opposition parties refused to join in the opening ceremonies. They have criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s takeover of the ceremony and called for President Droupadi Murmu’s participation in the event. The parties said in a joint statement last week, “ ...Modi’s decision to inaugurate the new Parliament building by himself, completely sidelining President Murmu, is not only a grave insult, but a direct assault on our democracy...” Rahul Gandh, head of the main opposition Congress Party, tweeted that Modi was treating the occasion as his coronation ceremony. Modi has said he will seek a third term in next year’s elections. Many people have also argued that the nearly $120 million used to build parliament could have been put to better use or a portion could have been used to renovate the old parliament. The new building replaces the parliament from the British era. Modi said in his address Sunday that India has left behind its colonial past. Information from Associated Press was used in this report.  

Border Clashes Subside Between Iran, Afghanistan  

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 07:37
Afghanistan's Taliban authorities and neighboring Iran said Sunday deadly clashes between their border security forces had subsided, with both sides engaging in talks to ease tensions. The skirmishes erupted in the Afghan border province of Nimroz Saturday, killing two Iranian security forces and a Taliban border guard, officials in both countries said. Both sides traded blame for the heavy exchange of cross-border gunfire, escalating Iran's tensions with Afghanistan amid a dispute over water resources. Sunday, the Iranian state-run IRNA news agency quoted a senior official as saying that "the situation is under control" in the conflict zone near the Sasuli border post in Iran's Sistan-Baluchistan province. Alireza Marhamati, the deputy provincial governor, said that "local Iranian and Afghan officials have held negotiations on the cause of the clashes and agreed to continue their talks." A spokesman for the Afghan Interior Affairs Ministry said in a statement that his government "does not want to fight with its neighbors" and insisted Iranian forces started the conflict, prompting Afghan border forces to retaliate. Bilateral tensions have recently escalated over Iranian allegations that the Taliban are breaching a 1973 water-sharing treaty between Tehran and Kabul by blocking water flow from Helmand River, which flows from Afghanistan to Iran's arid eastern border regions. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, during a visit to the border province, called on the Taliban to respect the treaty, which envisions shared water resources and outlines access to monitoring of the water level. Raisi warned the de facto Afghan rulers against violating the agreement and vowed to defend Iran's water rights. "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan believes dialogue and negotiation are a good path to addressing any issue. Making excuses for war and negative actions do not serve the interest of any of the parties," Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Enayatullah Khowarazmi wrote on his official Twitter account. The United Nations says Afghanistan and Iran have suffered from a prolonged drought, and drought conditions have worsened over the past decade. Last week, Afghan Foreign Affairs Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, responding to threatening statements by the Iranian leadership, said that Kabul was committed to the water treaty. In a televised speech, Muttaqi urged Tehran not to overlook the region's drought and try to resolve the issue in "face-to-face talks instead of making noises" through media. "We also expect the officials of Iran to adjust their expectations in line with the treaty and base the criteria for judgment and comments on the provisions contained in the treaty," he added. Analysts warned that Afghanistan and the region at large could ill afford another conflict. Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan official, said the Taliban would avoid a standoff with Iran. He noted that Afghanistan is fragile after 40 years of war, and four million Afghans live on Iranian soil as refugees. "Sure, skirmishes and then a war can start with Iran, but soon Afghanistan will end up as the terrain for proxy wars with Teheran," said Farhadi. "Arms and munitions will flow to Afghanistan to fight Iran, but the fighters would be Afghan youth, and the destruction will occur in Afghanistan. Not a good perspective." Iran has retained its embassy in Kabul along with nearly two dozen neighboring and regional countries since the Taliban seized power nearly two years ago, but it has not recognized the new Afghan government nor has the world at large. The Taliban’s restrictions on women’s right to education and work as well as a lack of political inclusivity in their government have deterred the international community from granting them legitimacy.

Spain Holds Regional Elections Ahead of Year-End National Vote

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 07:15
Spanish voters head to the polls on Sunday in regional and municipal elections, the results of which will serve as a barometer for an end-of-year general election. Voting is taking place in 12 regions and 8,000 towns and cities, most currently run by the governing Socialist Party (PSOE). Polls are predicting gains for the conservative People's Party (PP), which if replicated later in the year could unseat the current left-wing coalition. Voting opened at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) and will close at 8 p.m. Over 35 million people are eligible to vote. Campaigning has been marked by several controversies, from allegations of voter fraud in small towns to an unprecedented case of kidnapping. Races will be tight in many areas, with few clear majorities, election polls and experts predict, except in the region of Madrid, where regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso of the PP could win re-election with an absolute majority. Some polls suggest a close race in the Valencia region, which with a population of almost 5 million would represent a major setback for the PSOE. Aragon and the Balearic Islands could also swing to the PP, according to polls. The elections may also mark the beginning of a return to a two-party system dominated by the PSOE and PP after a decade of greater involvement for smaller parties such as the left-wing Podemos, the government's junior partner, and centrist Ciudadanos. Both may struggle to reach the 5% vote to qualify for representation in many regions. On the other hand, the PP will likely have to rely on the far-right Vox to form governments in several regions, in a possible precursor to a right-wing coalition government after the general election.

Nigeria's Buhari Defends Election Outcome, Economic Record 

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 07:07
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday defended his record on the economy and the outcome of a disputed presidential election, saying he was leaving a legacy of credible and fair votes, a day before he hands over power to his successor. Buhari first came to office in 2015 after promising to reboot the economy and end corruption and insecurity, but many Nigerians say these issues have worsened under his watch. Incoming President Bola Tinubu's victory is being challenged by his two closest opposition rivals, and on Tuesday a tribunal will begin to hear the main arguments in the election petition. Buhari, an ascetic 80-year-old retired general, said the February vote had helped entrench democracy in Africa's most populous nation and that Tinubu, who ran on his ruling party's ticket, was the best candidate to emerge from the election. "I am leaving behind an electoral process which guarantees that votes count, results are credible, elections are fair and transparent and the influence of money in politics reduced to the barest minimum," Buhari said in a farewell national broadcast. Tinubu is inheriting anemic economic growth, record debt and shrinking oil output. Double-digit inflation, which has eroded savings and wages, is one of the biggest issues that will confront him when he is sworn into office. But Buhari said his government had made some difficult choices to reset the economy, some of which "led to temporary pain and suffering for which I sincerely apologized to my fellow countrymen, but the measures were taken for the overall good of the country." Life is tough for Nigerians, and a tangle of protectionist economic policies and foreign currency interventions have caused dollar shortages and spooked investors. 

Poachers Pluck South Africa's 'Succulent' Plants for Chinese Market

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 07:06
South African customs officials recently became suspicious when they noticed that shipments of "Made in China" children's toys were being sent, oddly, back to China. On closer inspection, the packages did not contain toys at all but were filled with poached contraband. Chinese criminal syndicates, often the very same ones that already have established smuggling routes in South Africa for illegal abalone or rhinoceros horns, have now moved on to trafficking in elephant's foot. But elephant's foot is not what you think. It is a type of succulent — unique plants with fleshy parts that retain water and grow in arid areas like South Africa's vast Karoo — and its greyish wrinkled bulb bears a startling resemblance to a pachyderm's pad. It's just one kind of succulent that's being pulled out of the wilderness at what scientists say are alarming rates, and many of the rare plants — some of which are up to 100 years old and may only be found on a single rocky outcrop — are now nearing extinction. Social media craze The Succulent Karoo biome is a globally recognized biodiversity area that stretches all the way from Namibia right down into South Africa's Western Cape province. "We have incredibly special plants that occur nowhere else in the world, and it is part of South Africa's heritage," said Ismail Ebrahim, a scientist with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). He said some species, particularly succulents like conophytums, are now "on the brink of extinction." Some 1.5 million South African succulents have been removed from the wild over the past three years, according to SANBI. While succulents were always beloved by amateur botanists and collectors, they've gained a broader fan base since the pandemic, experts told VOA on a recent trip to the Little Karoo organized by WWF South Africa, which is coordinating efforts to combat the illegal trade. With people in lockdown, isolated and unable to go out into nature, a trend for houseplants started on social media, with influencers — or "plantfluencers" — calling themselves plant moms and dads and extolling the virtues of ornamental houseplants. "I would see the appeal of having something in my house because … they're very unique," said Emily Norma Kudze, senior scientific coordinator for the illegal succulent trade with SANBI. "Ornamental value is now becoming a thing. I think just because of how they grow has brought in the trendiness of having them in your homes." The number of plants confiscated by South African law enforcement has increased by more than 200 percent since 2018, with over 242,000 succulents seized last year alone, according to CapeNature, a government organization that looks after wilderness areas in the Western Cape. The South African government has developed a national action plan to try and address the growing trade. Smuggling syndicates Paul Gildenhuys, a CapeNature enforcement specialist, has been involved with cracking down on smuggling syndicates. The collecting and export of succulents without a permit is prohibited under South African law and those caught poaching them can face a fine or prison time, Gildenhuys said. The poaching of endangered flora carries the highest penalty, a 400,000 rand fine or 10 years jail. More than 90 arrests were made last year according to CapeNature. Thanks to informants, the majority of people are caught in vehicles on the highway while transporting the plants. But prosecutions often lead to relatively small fines and suspended sentences and those caught are usually on the lower rungs of the trafficking groups — locals working for international syndicates who go and dig up the plants. Still, with high levels of unemployment and poverty in the area, succulent poaching can be an attractive option for South Africans despite the low amounts of money they make. "The succulent Karoo is a very vast, very arid landscape and there are very limited economic opportunities," said WWF-SA's Katherine Forsythe. "[In] the illegal trade unfortunately, all of the benefit is going overseas, while people on the ground in South Africa aren't receiving any benefit." The poached plants are sent to an address in China or Hong Kong — sometimes through Johannesburg's busy O.R. Tambo Airport, but often simply through the mail or by courier, said Gildenhuys. Officials VOA spoke to did not want to give exact monetary figures, to avoid encouraging the trade in succulents, but said the profits to be made by foreign-run smuggling syndicates were significant. Carl Brown, another CapeNature enforcement officer, said while there's some illegal trade of South African succulents to the U.S. and E.U., China dominates. Of the almost 400,000 plants seized in the Western Cape between 2019 and 2022, 98.7% of all plants were destined for the Chinese market, according to CapeNature. "Hundreds of thousands of succulents are going to China weekly," he told VOA. Brown said he thinks the demand in China is partially due to the growing urban middle class in the world's second-largest economy. "Now you have the average Chinese citizen with disposable income looking for things that they can decorate their house with, and if you're living in a high-rise building, you only have a certain amount of space," he said, adding that sometimes a houseplant is the only bit of green in a person's home. Chinese efforts to stop trade Brown said buyers might not even be aware their plant was illegally pulled out of the ground in South Africa — and admitted the issue does not get people as worked up as something such as rhino poaching. But he stressed that the trade is having devastating effects. "A plant the size of my hand that's being smuggled to China could be 150 years old, and that's one of the plants that's setting seeds to replace itself in the ecosystem that's now been removed," he said. There are various pages on the internet that offer succulent plants for sale, such as eBay and Etsy, and Chinese social media, according to CapeNature. Scientific books on succulent types have also been translated into Mandarin recently, so people know what they are looking for. Asked by VOA what the country is doing to try to end the poaching, the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria replied by email saying South Africa and China have been cooperating on combating such crimes. "Over the years, the law enforcement departments of the two countries have always maintained close cooperation in cracking down on crimes such as smuggling ivory, rhinoceros horns and rare plants. Our smooth cooperation has produced fruitful results, especially in intelligence sharing, evidence exchange and arresting suspects," the embassy said. Additionally, the embassy said, Chinese diplomatic missions in South Africa have repeatedly reminded Chinese citizens and tourists in South Africa to avoid picking wild plants at will.

Succulents: South Africa's New Plant Poaching Pandemic

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 07:03
Along with the poaching of elephants for their ivory and rhinos for their horns, wildlife officials in South Africa are dealing with a new problem -- the trafficking of succulents, plants that don’t need much watering. Many types of succulents in South Africa's semi-arid Karoo region are now critically endangered because of a sharp rise in illegal harvesting for international markets -- with China being the main destination. Kate Bartlett reports from the Little Karoo, South Africa.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 07:00
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.

Seeking Asylum and Work, Migrants Bused Out of NYC Find Hostility 

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 06:59
Before he left Mauritania, the West African nation of his birth, Mohamed thought of New York as a place of "open arms," a refuge for immigrants fleeing dire circumstances. Now that he's here, seeking political asylum from a government he feared would kill him, he doesn't feel welcome. The 19-year-old has become a pawn in an escalating stand-off between New York City and suburban and upstate communities, which are using lawsuits, emergency orders and political pressure to keep people like him out. Mohamed is one of about 400 international migrants the city has been putting up in a small number of hotels in other parts of the state this month to relieve pressure on its overtaxed homeless shelter system. Some of the relocated asylum seekers say they now regret leaving the city, pointing to a lack of job opportunities and resources to pursue their asylum cases, as well as a hostile reception. "It's better in New York City," Mohamed said. "There, no one cursed at you and said 'go back to your country.'" The Associated Press is withholding Mohamed's full name at his request to protect the safety of his family in Mauritania. In his home country, Mohamed said he had joined a group of young people to decry the government's corruption and human rights abuses, including allegations of ongoing slavery. Days later, he said a group of men threw him in an unmarked car, took him to a secret room, and beat him viciously for two days. After a journey that took him across the U.S. border with Mexico, he landed in a shelter system in New York City he found frightening and overcrowded. In one Brooklyn shelter, a room with 40 beds, someone stole his few remaining possessions as he slept. So when outreach workers offered him the chance to relocate earlier this month, promising more space and chances to work, Mohamed took it. He joined other asylum seekers at two hotels a few miles outside the small Hudson River Valley city of Newburgh, about two hours north of the city. Republican county officials there have accused the city of dumping its problems on its neighbors, while insinuating that the new arrivals pose a danger. Last week, Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus won a temporary restraining order barring the city from sending additional migrants. More than two dozen other counties across New York state have declared emergencies in an attempt to block migrant arrivals, even in places where none are planned. As far as 400 miles (644 kilometers) north of the city, Niagara County officials have warned of an imminent safety threat, vowing criminal penalties for hotels found to be housing asylum seekers. New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, says he will continue his efforts to disperse some of the more than 40,000 asylum seekers currently in the city's care. Meanwhile, some who joined the initial wave of relocations have since returned to New York City's shelter system. Those who don't have money for transportation, such as Mohamed, say they are stuck. "It's like the desert," lamented Mohamed, who studied law and taught himself English in Mauritania. "There's nothing here for us." Some asylum seekers described a sense of being lured upstate on false pretenses, saying outreach workers described local economies in need of off-the-books migrant labor. Instead they have suffered a stream of harassment. "There are people driving by pretty constantly in big pickup trucks telling them to go back to their country," said Amy Belsher, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union, describing a phenomenon also witnessed by an AP journalist. "It's a completely predictable outcome of the local county executives jumping on the migrant ban bandwagon," she added. The NYCLU has brought a lawsuit against Orange and Rockland counties alleging discrimination against migrants. An attorney for Orange County, Richard Golden, said it was "utterly ridiculous" to accuse the county of fostering xenophobia. The county's lawsuit against the city, he said, rests on a 2006 state administrative directive requiring municipalities to meet certain requirements before transferring homeless individuals. Misinformation among local residents has not helped, including a false allegation that migrants displaced homeless veterans inside the hotels — a widely-circulated story that has fallen apart. Peruvian Jhonny Neira offered a more mixed assessment of his time in Newburgh. The 39-year-old asylum seeker described a recent Sunday visit to a church where he felt welcomed by the congregation, even if he couldn't understand the English sermon. "I'm a respectful, hard-working person," he said in Spanish. "I think after getting to know me, they would trust me." The number of U.S.-Mexico border crossings has declined since May 11, when the Biden administration put new rules in place intended to encourage migrants to apply for asylum online rather than enter the country illegally. But New York and other migrant destination cities are still dealing with thousands of people who entered the U.S. before the new rules. The Crossroads Hotel in Newburgh is now home to men from South and Central America, Senegal, Egypt, Mauritania, and Russia. They speak in French and English and Spanish, as they kick a soccer ball in the hotel parking lot, beside a diner and a tangle of highways. A few yards away, a man who once worked as a barber in Venezuela offers haircuts for $5, as another sweeps up. In order to gain asylum in the United States, they will have to prove they have a "well-founded fear of persecution" over their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Mohamed's experience tracks with a report by the U.S. State Department, which found Mauritania has overseen an expanded crackdown on political dissidents since 2021 and cites allegations of torture in unofficial detention centers. If his story passes a credibility check, it would likely constitute a legitimate asylum claim, according to Jaya Ramji-Nogales, an asylum law professor at Temple University. But getting to that stage will require navigating an immigration system under severe strain. "It was always an under-resourced system but now it's really at a breaking point," Ramji-Nogales said. "There's not the political will to put aside the money it needs to function." Mohamed said his goal is building his asylum case — something he's come to believe is not possible in Newburgh. A few days ago, he missed a key immigration appointment after a car that was supposed to take him to the city never showed up. "You can't stay here just sleeping, eating, after that going back to sleeping," he said. "If you make no progress in your case, they will send you back home. For me, that would be very bad."

Memorial Day Weekend Events in Washington Honor Soldiers' Ultimate Sacrifice

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 06:57
Memorial Day is a U.S. holiday dedicated to those who died while serving in America’s wars. To commemorate the day, which falls on the last Monday in May, people flock to Washington to decorate the graves of fallen military service members, attend parades and visit national monuments. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

US, Saudi Arabia Call for Extended Cease-Fire in Sudan

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 06:56
Saudi Arabia and the United States called on Sunday for the extension of a cease-fire deal that has brought some let-up in a six-week war between military factions but little humanitarian relief for civilians. There were clashes overnight in the capital Khartoum and Omdurman, an adjoining city across the Nile, residents said, while human rights monitors reported deadly fighting in El Fashir, one of the principal cities in the western region of Darfur. The conflict between Sudan's army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that erupted on April 15 has left the capital reeling from heavy battles, lawlessness and a collapse in services, driving more than 1.3 million people from their homes and threatening to destabilize the region. A week-long cease-fire brokered in Saudi and U.S.-led talks in Jeddah is due to run until Monday evening. Both countries are remotely monitoring the truce, which has been repeatedly violated, and called on the army and the RSF "to continue discussions to reach agreement on extending the cease-fire." "While imperfect, an extension nonetheless will facilitate the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the Sudanese people," Saudi Arabia and the U.S. said in a joint statement. The RSF has said it is ready to discuss the possibility of renewal and that it would continue to monitor the truce "to test the seriousness and commitment of the other party to proceed with the renewal of the agreement or not." There was no statement on the possible renewal of the ceasefire from the army. More than 300,000 people have crossed Sudan's borders since the fighting erupted, with the largest numbers heading north to Egypt from Khartoum or west to Chad from Darfur. In Khartoum, factories, offices, homes and banks have been looted or destroyed. Power, water and telecommunications are often cut, there are acute shortages of medicines and medical equipment, and food supplies have been running low. "We left because of the impact of the war. I have children and I fear for them because of the lack of medical treatment," said one resident of the capital, 29-year-old Samia Suleiman, speaking to Reuters from the road to Egypt. "I also want my children to have a chance of schooling. I don't think things in Khartoum will be restored soon." Some respite from fighting The truce deal has brought some respite from heavy fighting but sporadic clashes and air strikes have carried on. The United Nations and aid groups say that despite the truce they have struggled to get bureaucratic approvals and security guarantees to transport aid and staff to Khartoum and other places of need. Warehouses have been looted. Violence has flared in several parts of Darfur, already scarred by conflict and displacement, with hundreds of deaths recorded in El Geneina near the border with Chad. In recent days there has also been fighting in El Fashir, capital of North Darfur State. One El Fashir hospital had recorded three deaths and 26 injuries on Saturday, including children, according to the Darfur Bar Association, an activist group. Many more people were missing, it said. Across the country, the Health Ministry has said at least 730 people have died in the fighting, though the true figure is likely much higher. It has separately recorded up to 510 deaths in El Geneina.

Russia Launches Largest Drone Attack on Ukraine's Capital

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 06:34
Russia hit Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, overnight with the largest drone attack on the city since the start of the war. The attack came as Kyiv prepared to celebrate the anniversary of its founding on Sunday. Mayor Vitali Klitscho said one person was killed.   Ukraine's air force said it downed more than 50 drones, but it was not immediately clear whether all the drones were over Kyiv or around the country.    "The history of Ukraine is a long-standing irritant for the insecure Russians," Andriy Yermak, the head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office, said.  "Today is another sanction day," Zelenskyy said on Saturday. He said 220 companies and 51 individuals are being sanctioned, "most of them are Russian — who work for terror."   "When Russia started this aggression, they looked at the world as if they were looking at themselves in a mirror," he said. "They thought that supposedly everyone in the world was as cynical and despised people in the same way as the masters of Russia do. But the world is different — the world helps us protect life."  Meanwhile, the British Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update that Russian-state backed media and business groups want the Economic Ministry to authorize a six-day workweek "in the face of the economic demands of the war, apparently without additional pay."   The groups already have petitioned the Russian ministry for the longer work week, the British ministry posted on Twitter.  The update said Margarita Simonyan, described as a "leading Russian propagandist," recently called for citizens to work for two extra hours in munitions factories every day, after their regular jobs.   These calls for a longer work week without additional pay "echoes a Soviet-style sense of societal compulsion," the British update said, adding that the Russian "leadership highly likely identifies economic performance as a decisive factor in winning the war."  

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 06:00
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.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 05:00
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.

Debt-Ceiling Deal: What's In and What's Out of the Agreement to Avert US Default

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 04:49
U.S. President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have reached an agreement in principle on legislation to increase the nation's borrowing authority and avoid a default. Negotiators are now racing to finalize the bill's text. McCarthy said the House will vote on the legislation on Wednesday, giving the Senate time to consider it ahead of the June 5 deadline to avoid a possible default. While many details are unknown, both sides will be able to point to some victories. But some conservatives expressed early concerns that the deal doesn't cut future deficits enough, while Democrats have been worried about proposed changes to work requirements in programs such as food stamps. A look at what's in and out of the deal, based on what's known so far: Two-year debt increase, spending limits The agreement would keep non-defense spending roughly flat in the 2024 fiscal year and increase it by 1% the following year, as well as provide for a two-year debt-limit increase — past the next presidential election in 2024. That's according to a source familiar with the deal who provided details on the condition of anonymity. Veterans care The agreement will fully fund medical care for veterans at the levels included in Biden's proposed 2024 budget blueprint, including for a fund dedicated to veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances or environmental hazards. Biden sought $20.3 billion for the toxic exposure fund in his budget. Work requirements Republicans had proposed boosting work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents in certain government assistance programs. They said it would bring more people into the workforce, who would then pay taxes and help shore up key entitlement programs, namely Social Security and Medicare. Democrats had roundly criticized the proposed changes, saying they would lead to fewer people able to afford food or health care without actually increasing job participation. House Republicans had passed legislation that would create new work requirements for some Medicaid recipients, but that was left out of the final agreement. However, the agreement would expand some work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. The agreement would raise the age for existing work requirements from 49 to 54, similar to the Republican proposal, but those changes would expire in 2030. And the White House said it would at the same time reduce the number of vulnerable people at all ages who are subject to the requirements Speeding up energy projects The deal puts in place changes in the National Environmental Policy Act that will designate "a single lead agency" to develop environmental reviews, in hopes of streamlining the process. What was left out Republicans had sought to repeal Biden's efforts to waive $10,000 to $20,000 in debt for nearly all borrowers who took out student loans. But the provision was a nonstarter for Democrats. The budget agreement keeps Biden's student loan relief in place, though the Supreme Court will have the ultimate say on the matter. The Supreme Court is dominated 6-3 by conservatives, and those justices' questions in oral arguments showed skepticism about the legality of Biden's student loans plan. A decision is expected before the end of June.

Turkey Votes for a President in Second Runoff

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 04:10
Voters in Turkey are going to the polls Sunday to decide who will be the country's president. Sunday's vote is the second runoff vote for the presidency. Incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has led Turkey for 20 years, fell just a few points short of winning the election in a first runoff poll earlier this month. The president's challenger is 74-year-old Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of a six-party alliance and leader of Turkey's center-left main opposition party. Kilicdaroglu is facing a formidable candidate in the 69-year-old Erdogan, who was able to survive the presidential election for the runoff despite Turkey's crippling inflation and the aftermath of a destructive earthquake three months ago. A victory Sunday for Erdogan would mean the beginning of his third decade as Turkey's leader. Under his watch, Turkey's government has become increasingly authoritarian. Polls indicate Erdogan remains just a few points ahead of his opponent. Voting ends at 5 p.m. and results are expected within hours. Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - May 28, 2023 - 04:00
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