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Spain Investigating Letter Bombs Sent to Prime Minister, Ukraine Embassy

Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 08:37
Ukraine’s foreign minister said Thursday a letter bomb sent to the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid was act of terror and pledged to ensure that those responsible receive the maximum punishment. Authorities in Spain say the bomb was one of several that went to various addresses around the Spanish capital, including that of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, and intercepted. The one that arrived at the Ukrainian embassy exploded Wednesday, injuring an employee. Speaking on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Romania, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the letter bomb was a very serious matter, and they were carefully following it. He said, “This is an attack against the diplomatic establishment that is defended by international law,” and he had ordered all foreign diplomatic Ukrainian establishments to immediately increase security measures.    Kuleba pledged to “defend each Ukrainian not only in Ukraine, but also abroad with all available means.”   Spanish officials said packages also arrived Thursday at Spain’s defense ministry and the Torrejon de Ardoz air base. Another package arrived Wednesday at Instalaza, a company that makes grenade launchers Spain has sent to Ukraine. The investigation into who sent the packages is continuing. Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

Ukraine Urges EU to Sanction Russian Missile Production

Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 08:06
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Thursday he had called on the European Union to sanction Russia’s missile production industry. Kuleba tweeted that Russia’s missile production “must be put to a halt.” He said he communicated the message in a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and also thanked the EU for defense aid it has provided to Ukraine. Russia has used missiles to carry out attacks on Ukrainian cities, including striking key infrastructure sites such as parts of the country’s electrical grid. Ukraine’s military said Thursday that Russian forces were shelling several towns in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, including Bakhmut, Soledar and Opytne. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces also said Russia was using tanks and artillery to target Ukrainian positions in the southern city of Kherson. The United States said Wednesday that Russia’s weekslong campaign targeting attacks on Ukraine’s vital heating, electrical and water infrastructure would not diminish Western resolve to support Kyiv in its nine-month fight against Moscow’s invasion. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, following a two-day NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, said at a news conference that Russian President Vladimir Putin had focused his “fire and ire” against the Ukrainian civilian population as the brutally cold winter months settle in. “Heat, water, electricity — these are President Putin’s new targets. He’s hitting them hard. This brutalization of Ukraine’s people is barbaric,” Blinken said. The top U.S. diplomat accused Putin of trying to divide the Western coalition supporting Ukraine as world energy prices spike while Ukrainians face routine, widespread electrical blackouts. “This strategy has not, and will not, work,” Blinken said. “We will continue to prove him wrong. That’s what I heard loudly and clearly from every country here in Bucharest.” Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for a special court to prosecute Russian crimes against Ukraine. Von der Leyen proposed a court backed by the United Nations “to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crime of aggression.” She also said Russia and Russian oligarchs need to pay for costs to rebuild Ukraine from the damage done by Russian forces since they invaded Ukraine in February. “Russia’s horrific crimes will not go unpunished,” von der Leyen said in Bucharest as the NATO foreign ministers discussed continued support for Ukraine. Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 08:00
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Afghans Show Mixed Feelings About US More Than a Year After Withdrawal

Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 07:07
Despite its chaotic military and diplomatic withdrawal from Afghanistan over a year ago, U.S. global leadership approval has seen a slight uptick among some Afghans, a new survey conducted inside the country says. Approval of U.S. leadership among all Afghans is measured at 18%, slightly more than the 14% measured last year, while U.S. popularity is sharply different among different ethnic groups in Afghanistan. “The U.S. remains popular among Afghanistan’s Hazara ethnic community; 53% are still supportive of U.S. leadership,” Gallup said in a statement about its latest survey in the country. The Shia Hazaras are an ethnic and religious minority in Afghanistan making up 10 to 12% of the country’s estimated 36 million people. Gallup says its surveyors interviewed 1,000 men and women from 21 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces this year. Among Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, the U.S. remains widely unpopular with only an 8% approval rate, while among Tajiks, the second largest ethnic group, it’s reported at 23%. Most Taliban leaders are Pashtuns who fought against the United States in Afghanistan from 2002 until U.S. and Taliban representatives signed a peace agreement in February 2020. Despite its complex history of engagement in Afghanistan, the U.S. remains more popular in the South Asian country than China and Russia, whose leadership approval rates are equally ranked at 14% in the survey. The U.S. spent about $2 trillion on the Afghan war for over two decades. More than 150,000 people lost their lives in the war, including at least 2,400 U.S. military personnel. A majority of Americans, 69%, said the U.S. mostly failed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan, according to an August 2022 Pew survey. Loss of hope The drastic changes Afghanistan has seen over the last year seem to have disappointed an overwhelming majority of ordinary Afghans, according to the Gallup survey. Nearly all Afghans, 98%, rated their living conditions as “suffering” under the new regime and only 11% said they have hopes for better opportunities for the next generation. Afghans are also increasingly concerned about a sharp deterioration in women’s rights. “A record-low 22% of Afghans say women in their country are treated with respect and dignity — down from the previous low of 31% in 2021,” reads a Gallup statement. “The one positive we did see was in relation to the safety that Afghans feel within their communities. The percentage of Afghans who feel safe walking alone at night in their communities increased from 22% to 52%,” said Julie Ray, a Gallup analyst. The Taliban’s return to power has crippled the Afghan economy, pushing 90% of the population into poverty, the United Nations has reported. “Taliban’s rules of the 90s and currently can be encapsulated in one word: suffering,” Malaiz Daud, senior research fellow with the European Foundation for South Asian studies, told VOA. “They lack the management, organizational and resource mobilization skills to run a polity designed to look after an entire country.” Taliban officials, however, redirect all criticisms of economic paralysis to the West saying financial sanctions, assets freeze and a cessation of development assistance have pushed the country to the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed a quote from Gallup analyst Julie Ray.

Mixed Feelings About US in Afghanistan More Than a Year After Withdrawal

Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 07:07
Despite its chaotic military and diplomatic withdrawal from Afghanistan over a year ago, U.S. global leadership approval has seen a slight uptick among some Afghans, a new survey conducted inside the country says.  Approval of U.S. leadership among all Afghans is measured at 18%, slightly more than the 14% measured last year, while U.S. popularity is sharply different among different ethnic groups in Afghanistan.  “The U.S. remains popular among Afghanistan’s Hazara ethnic community; 53% are still supportive of U.S. leadership,” Gallup said in a statement about its latest survey in the country.  The Shia Hazaras are an ethnic and religious minority in Afghanistan making up 10 to 12% of the country’s estimated 36 million people.  Gallup says its surveyors interviewed 1,000 men and women from 21 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces this year.   Among Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, the U.S. remains widely unpopular with only an 8% approval rate, while among Tajiks, the second largest ethnic group, it’s reported at 23%  Most Taliban leaders are Pashtuns who fought against the United States in Afghanistan from 2002 until U.S. and Taliban representatives signed a peace agreement in February 2020.  Despite its complex history of engagement in Afghanistan, the U.S. remains more popular in the South Asian country than China and Russia, whose leadership approval rates are equally ranked at 14% in the survey.  The U.S. spent about $2 trillion on the Afghan war for over two decades. More than 150,000 people lost their lives in the war, including at least 2,400 U.S. military personnel.  A majority of Americans, 69%, said the U.S. mostly failed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan, according to an August 2022 Pew survey.  Loss of hope The drastic changes Afghanistan has seen over the last year seem to have disappointed an overwhelming majority of ordinary Afghans, according to the Gallup survey.  Nearly all Afghans, 98%, rated their living conditions as “suffering” under the new regime and only 11% said they have hopes for better opportunities for the next generation.  Afghans are also increasingly concerned about a sharp deterioration in women’s rights.  “A record-low 22% of Afghans say women in their country are treated with respect and dignity — down from the previous low of 31% in 2021,” reads a Gallup statement.  “The one positive we did see was in relation to the safety that Afghans feel within their communities. The percentage of Afghans who feel safe walking alone at night in their communities increased from 22% to 52%,” said Khorshied Nusratty, a Gallup spokeswoman.  The Taliban’s return to power has crippled the Afghan economy, pushing 90% of the population into poverty, the United Nations has reported.  “Taliban’s rules of the 90s and currently can be encapsulated in one word: suffering,” Malaiz Daud, senior research fellow with the European Foundation for South Asian studies, told VOA.  “They lack the management, organizational and resource mobilization skills to run a polity designed to look after an entire country.”  Taliban officials, however, redirect all criticisms of economic paralysis to the West saying financial sanctions, assets freeze and a cessation of development assistance have pushed the country to the ongoing humanitarian crisis. 

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Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 07:00
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Taliban Defend Ban on VOA, RFE/RL Broadcasts in Afghanistan

Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 06:56
The Islamist Taliban government has defended banning FM radio broadcasts from two U.S.-funded news media, including the Voice of America, in Afghanistan, alleging they were offending local laws. The ban on VOA and Azadi Radio, an Afghan extension of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, or RFE/RL, went into effect Thursday, a day after the Taliban’s ministry of information and culture said it had received complaints about programing content but shared no specifics. It is unclear whether the ban will apply to other international broadcasters that have used the same system for FM broadcasts in Afghanistan. "Afghanistan has press laws and any network found repeatedly contravening these laws will have their privilege of reporting from and broadcasting within Afghanistan taken away," Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the Taliban foreign ministry spokesman, said in his written comments to VOA. "VOA and Azadi Radio failed to adhere to these laws, were found as repeat offenders, failed to show professionalism and were therefore shut down," Balkhi asserted. The two U.S. government-funded news organizations operate with journalistic independence and aim to provide comprehensive, balanced coverage. VOA’s Afghan services broadcast 12 hours a day on 15 FM channels and two medium wave (MW) channels, with programming split between Pashto and Dari, reaching millions of listeners across improvised Afghanistan, where radio remains a primary source of information. The Taliban retook control of Afghanistan in August 2021, just days before American and NATO troops concluded their withdrawal from the country after 20 years of war with the then-insurgent Islamist group. The Taliban have since implemented their harsh interpretation of Islamic law to govern the conflict-ridding country, restricting rights and freedoms. The restrictions and financial hardships have forced dozens of private television channels, radio stations and print media reportedly to cease operation in Afghanistan, with thousands of journalists losing jobs. Hundreds of Afghan media personnel also have fled the country, fearing Taliban persecution. France-based global media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, known by its French acronym RSF, has reported that the country has lost 40% of its media outlets and 60% of its journalists since the Taliban takeover. Dari and Pashto radio programs of VOA started broadcasting to Afghanistan in the1980s when the South Asian nation was being occupied by Soviet forces. The local language broadcasts are widely respected as credible and reliable. VOA also reaches a large Afghan audience via digital media. In March the Taliban stopped VOA’s Ashna TV news shows, which had been broadcast on Afghan National Television, Tolo News and Lamar for a decade, VOA Pashto reported. Amnesty International said Thursday on Twitter that the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan "has resulted in sweeping changes to the lives of all Afghans, but even more for women and girls. They face dire restrictions on their rights in their daily lives." Since taking over the country, the Taliban have barred women from undergoing long road trips without a male relative, have ordered women to cover their faces in public and have prevented teenage girls from returning to secondary schools. Akmal Dawi contributed to this report.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 06:00
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Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 05:00
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Zimbabwe Scores Another First Against HIV In Africa

Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 04:59
In October, Zimbabwe became the first African country to approve the use of the injectable HIV prevention drug called cabotegravir. A 32-year-old Zimbabwean woman, who requested not to be identified, said she received an injection of the HIV prevention drug while she was working in the United States. She had been taking HIV prevention pills daily for seven years. But after she received the shot in April, and now that Zimbabwe has approved it, she is hoping to take the injection every two months. "I am excited that there is cabo in Zimbabwe," she told VOA. "It is good news. Well, I prefer the injection to the pill because the injection is convenient. You only get a shot after every two months, unlike the pill — you have to take it every day at the same time, and there is a risk of defaulting because there are a lot of things that happen during the day. In life, actually, you might go to a funeral and forget your pills at home. With this injection, you get an injection after every two months, which is six shots per year compared to tablets." Zimbabwe is the first African country to approve the use of cabotegravir, or CAB-LA. The United States approved the drug in December 2021, and Australia in August 2022. In 1999, Zimbabwe introduced a 3 percent AIDS levy to help fund the country’s response to HIV and AIDS. Individuals pay 3 percent income tax, and employers and trusts pay 3 percent on profits for the effort. The World Health Organization has commended Zimbabwe for approving cabotegravir, saying it would pave the way to providing more safe and effective options for HIV prevention. Farai Masekela, the head of evaluation and registration for the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe, or MCAZ, says for now, cabotegravir is only allowed for HIV prevention, not treatment. "There are going to be other preparations containing cabotegravir, which may be submitted at a later time by the applicants or manufacturers of the product which will be used for treatment," Masekela explained. "But the current one, which was approved, is meant only for prevention of HIV, not for treatment." Dr. Nyaradzo Mgodi of the University of Zimbabwe Clinical Trials Research Center, who headed trials in nine African countries, said the drug is very effective and is calling for Zimbabwe to roll out cabotegravir as soon as possible. "Because as African women, we continue getting HIV/AIDS at alarming rates, and one infection is one too many," Mgodi said. "When we have something that works, we should make it available to the person or persons who need it." Supporters say access to drug will also help Zimbabweans stop relying as much on other countries for drugs to treat HIV/AIDS.

Hong Kong Delays Jimmy Lai Trial

Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 04:40
A court in Hong Kong has adjourned the trial of newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai until December 13 after the government sought to block a British lawyer from representing Lai.  Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee asked China’s top lawmaking body to decide whether foreign lawyers could participate in national security cases.  Authorities accuse Lai of colluding with foreign forces, and he is also facing a charge of sedition. If convicted, he faces a possible life sentence.  Lai is the founder of the Apple Daily newspaper that was forced to close in 2021 after its assets were frozen under a security law imposed after pro-democracy protests.  Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters. 

Modi's Home State Votes in Local Polls Projected as Easy Win for BJP

Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 04:19
In India's western state of Gujarat, voters began choosing a new state government on Thursday in an election where Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to cruise to an easy victory. Political analysts say that while there is disenchantment with the BJP in a state that it has ruled for 27 years, the party is on course to win an unprecedented seventh term, mainly due to the popularity of the Indian leader. Gujarat is Modi's home state, which he headed for about 13 years as chief minister before he became the country's prime minister in 2014, and the BJP is depending on his charisma to pull in votes. In recent weeks, Modi has addressed dozens of rallies in the state. "Overall, the Modi magic remains. A lot of people want change and those who are voting for the BJP are only doing it because of those three words: Narendra Damodardas Modi," Neerja Chowdhury, an independent political analyst said. "If the party is in the reckoning, it is only because of him." Observers say there is dissatisfaction with the track record of the government, particularly among poorer groups. Although Gujarat is a bustling hub of commerce and one of India's most prosperous states, it has also witnessed growing economic distress and joblessness in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inflation and high fuel prices are hurting poor households. However, the lack of strong opposition is helping the BJP in its bastion. Two opinion polls conducted in the run-up to the polls have projected that the party will win a larger share of seats than it holds in the present state assembly. The challengers are the main opposition Congress party and a regional party that has entered the electoral fray in Gujarat for the first time, hoping to establish a national footprint. Led by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Aam Aadmi Party, that rules Delhi and Punjab in the north, has campaigned extensively in the state. The party has been wooing voters from lower socioeconomic backgrounds such as roadside vendors, small traders and small-scale industrial units, with pledges of subsidized power, and promises to improve schools and medical facilities on the model that it is following in Delhi. "The wild card in this election is the Aam Aadmi Party. Because it is starting on a clean slate, it remains to be seen how well it does. But I found first-time voters, and lower classes drawn to it," Chowdhury, who visited the state recently, said. "And it is cutting into the BJP vote, which has made them a bit nervous of late." A strong showing for the party, which grew out of a nationwide anti-corruption movement in 2012, will indicate whether its appeal has widened. The BJP's appeal to voters has focused on development and a strong nationalist appeal. It has pledged to set up an "anti-radicalization cell" to identify and eliminate potential terror threats if it comes to power. The elections are being held in two stages with another round of polling due on Monday. The BJP has already won convincing victories in four out of six states where polls were held this year including Uttar Pradesh which is India's largest and electorally most significant state. The results for Gujarat and the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, which cast ballots last month, will be announced on December 8. If the BJP can secure a victory in Gujarat, it will add to the party's momentum ahead of national elections. "If they win convincingly, it sets Modi up very much on the road to 2024," said Chowdhury, adding that this "will reaffirm his popularity.

China Softens Tone on COVID Severity After Protests

Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 04:04
China is softening its tone on the severity of COVID-19 and easing some coronavirus restrictions even as its daily case toll hovers near record highs, after anger over the world's toughest curbs fueled protests across the country. Several cities in the world's second-largest economy, while still reporting new infections, are breaking with practice by lifting district lockdowns and allowing businesses to reopen. Health authorities announcing the relaxation of measures did not mention the protests, which ranged from candle-lit vigils in Beijing to clashes with the police on the streets of Guangzhou on Tuesday and at an iPhone factory in Zhengzhou last week. The demonstrations marked the biggest show of civil disobedience in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power a decade ago and come as the economy is set to enter a new era of much slower growth than seen in decades. Despite near-record case numbers, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who oversees COVID efforts, said the virus's ability to cause disease was weakening, state media reported. "The country is facing a new situation and new tasks in epidemic prevention and control as the pathogenicity of the Omicron virus weakens, more people are vaccinated and experience in containing the virus is accumulated," Sun said in comments reported in state media. Sun also urged further "optimization" of testing, treatment and quarantine policies. The mention of a weakening pathogenicity contrasts with earlier messages from authorities about the deadliness of the virus. Changing rules Less than 24 hours after violent protests in Guangzhou, authorities in at least seven districts of the sprawling manufacturing hub north of Hong Kong, said they were lifting temporary lockdowns. One district said it would allow in-person classes in schools to resume and would reopen restaurants and other businesses including cinemas. Some changes are being implemented with little fanfare. A community of thousands in east Beijing is allowing infected people with mild symptoms to isolate at home, according to new rules issued by the neighborhood committee and seen by Reuters. Neighbors on the same floor and three stories above and below the home of a positive case should also quarantine at home, a committee member said. That is a far cry from quarantine protocols earlier in the year when entire communities were locked down, sometimes for weeks, after even just one positive case was found. Another community nearby is holding an online poll this week on the possibility of positive cases isolating at home, residents said. "I certainly welcome the decision by our residential community to run this vote regardless of the outcome," said resident Tom Simpson, managing director for China at the China-Britain Business Council. He said his main concern was being forced to go into a quarantine facility, where "conditions can be grim to say the least". Prominent nationalist commentator Hu Xijin said in a social media post on Wednesday that many asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus in Beijing were already quarantining at home. The southwestern city of Chongqing will allow close contacts of people with COVID, who meet certain conditions, to quarantine at home, while Zhengzhou in central China announced the "orderly" resumption of businesses, including supermarkets, gyms and restaurants. National health officials said this week authorities would respond to "urgent concerns" raised by the public and that COVID rules should be implemented more flexibly, according to a region's conditions. Re-opening next year? Expectations have grown around the world that China, while still trying to contain infections, could look to re-open at some point next year once it achieves better vaccination rates among its elderly. Health experts warn of widespread illness and death if COVID is let loose before vaccination is ramped up. Chinese stocks and markets around the world dipped initially after the weekend protests in Shanghai, Beijing and other cities, but later recovered on hopes that public pressure could lead to a new approach by authorities. More COVID outbreaks could weigh on China's economic activity in the near term, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday, adding it saw scope for a safe recalibration of policies that could allow economic growth to pick up in 2023. China's strict containment measures have dampened domestic economic activity this year and spilled over to other countries through supply chain interruptions. Following downbeat data in an official survey on Wednesday, the Caixin/S&P Global manufacturing purchasing managers' index showed factory activity shrank in November for a fourth consecutive month. While the change in tone on COVID appears a response to the public discontent with strict measures, authorities are also seeking out for questioning those present at the demonstrations. China Dissent Monitor, run by U.S. government-funded Freedom House, estimated at least 27 demonstrations took place across China from Saturday to Monday. Australia's ASPI think tank estimated 43 protests in 22 cities.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 04:00
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What is Seditious Conspiracy?

Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 03:07
The conviction on Tuesday of militia leader Stewart Rhodes in connection with the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol marks the first time in more than two decades that the Justice Department has successfully used a criminal charge known as "seditious conspiracy." Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, an anti-government militia made up largely of military veterans and former law enforcement officers, was found guilty of seditious conspiracy along with Kelly Meggs, the head of the group's Florida chapter. Three other Oath Keepers tried alongside Rhodes were acquitted of the sedition charge but were found guilty of other changes, including obstruction of an official proceeding. All five face at least 20 years in prison. Here is what you need to know about seditious conspiracy and the significance of the verdict in the Oath Keepers trial: What is seditious conspiracy? Enacted after the American Civil War of 1861-1865, the charge of seditious conspiracy includes two elements: conspiracy and sedition. Conspiracy is an agreement by two or more people to commit a crime. Sedition is defined as incitement or advocacy of insurrection against an established authority. The federal law under which the Oath Keepers were charged defines seditious conspiracy as two or more people plotting "to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof…" Seditious conspiracy is among a handful of crimes related to attempts to overthrow the government, make war against the United States, or unlawfully oppose its authority, said Jordan Strauss, a former federal prosecutor who is now a managing director at Kroll, a security consultancy. "In a literal, legal sense, it isn't the constitutional crime of treason, but it is up there with treason in terms of severity," Strauss said. How rare is a seditious conspiracy prosecution? Seditious conspiracy is notoriously hard to prosecute. The last time prosecutors successfully applied the statute was in 1995 when Omar Abdel Rahman and nine of his followers were convicted of seditious conspiracy and other charges in connection with a plot to bomb New York City landmarks. The government's most recent seditious conspiracy prosecution failed, however. In 2012, a federal judge dismissed sedition charges against members of a Michigan-based Christian militia for plotting to kill a police officer. The judge determined prosecutors had failed to prove that the "defendants reached a concrete agreement to forcibly oppose the United States government." "You can commit a lot of crimes and you almost necessarily have to commit a lot of crimes up to and on the way to committing seditious conspiracy, but for it to be seditious conspiracy it really has to be against the U.S.," Strauss said. The January 6 attack sparked an internal debate among federal prosecutors over whether the action of right-wing groups accused of plotting the assault amounted to seditious conspiracy. In the end, prosecutors determined they had enough evidence to charge the group with seditious conspiracy, and the jury agreed with respect to two defendants, Strauss said. "At bottom, if you have laws on the books but don't enforce them, many people start to wonder why you have laws on the books," Strauss said. What did prosecutors need to present to win convictions? Rhodes was arrested in January 2022 and charged with seditious conspiracy along with 10 other members of the Oath Keepers. It was the most serious charge leveled against a group of January 6 defendants. To win a conviction, prosecutors had to demonstrate that Rhodes and others plotted together to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden's election on January 6, 2021. "So basically, they had to find that there was an agreement between two or more people to forcibly try to prevent Congress from certifying the election on January 6 through the attack on the Capitol," said Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor and now a law professor at George Washington University. While Rhodes remained outside the Capitol during the attack, prosecutors charged in court that he began preparing for the attack immediately after the presidential election, exhorting his followers to travel to Washington, buying weapons and equipment, and setting up a "quick reaction force" to deploy in case they were needed. In finding Rhodes and Meggs guilty of seditious conspiracy, the jury "decided that the ringleaders were responsible for the actual agreement and plan and the other three were more followers," Eliason said. What are the implications of the verdict for other January 6 prosecutions? Another group of Oath Keepers charged with seditious conspiracy and other crimes is set to go on trial on Monday. That will be followed by the trial of a group of the far-right Proud Boys, including their leader, Enrique Tarrio. While each case stands or falls on its own facts, the latest verdict "does put some wind in the sails of the prosecutors," Eliason said. "If you're the defense maybe you're feeling less good about your chances," Eliason said.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 03:00
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High Levels of Workplace Harassment Persist in Australia but Advocates Believe Progress Is Near

Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 02:41
The Australian Human Rights Commission said Thursday that levels of sexual harassment in Australia haven't changed markedly since 2018.  However, it said in its latest research into sexual harassment that the country is at a "turning point" because of its new powers and legal reforms.  The new report, Time for respect: the fifth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, was compiled by the Australian Human Rights Commission, an independent body established by the Federal Parliament.  It has a president and seven commissioners, responsible for such areas as Aboriginal justice, children and age discrimination.  Its survey has shown that one-third of Australian employees have experienced sexual harassment at work.    The commission has said similar findings were reported in its last survey in 2018, so little appears to have changed.  Kate Jenkins, Australia's sex discrimination commissioner, has said she still has cause for optimism.  In September, the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022 was introduced into Parliament in Canberra.  It requires employers to bring in measures to prevent sexual harassment, sex discrimination and victimization.  It also gives the Human Rights Commission new powers to monitor compliance with the new laws and to investigate allegations of "systemic unlawful discrimination" at work. The amended legislation aims to "eliminate, so far as is possible, discrimination involving workplace environments that are hostile on the ground of sex."  Jenkins told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.  Thursday that she is anticipating more pronounced progress in the year ahead and that "all the structures are now in place." She said, "So, while we still are outraged, we have now got the resources, the tools and actually the change in attitude that I absolutely expect in four years that we should see an improvement in results." The Human Rights Commission's latest survey has found that only a small number of victims report harassment at work.     The research surveyed more than 10,000 people.  It asserted that "sexual harassment continues to be an unacceptably common feature of Australian workplaces."    However, Jenkins believes Australia is at a "turning point." In March 2021, a national day of action was prompted by allegations that Federal Parliament was contaminated by misogyny and sexism.    Marchers were inspired by the #MeToo movement in the United States. They said they were also taking a stand against sexism in broader Australian society. 

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Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 02:00
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Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 01:00
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Kashmir Fruit Growers Demand Stiffer Controls on Iranian Apple Imports

Voice of America’s immigration news - December 1, 2022 - 00:50
Kashmiri apple growers are demanding that the Indian government take strong action to stop the alleged illicit movement of Iranian apples through Afghanistan to markets in India, saying the practice is depressing prices and undermining a $150 million (12 billion Indian rupees) in annual regional industry. The growers say there is evidence that the Iranian apples are being shipped through Afghanistan so they can be imported into India duty free under the terms of the eight-country South Asian Free Trade Area. Iran is not a party to the agreement. "We don't want a ban on Iranian apples. Rather we want that they should be imported to India through legal means by paying the import duty. After paying proper taxes, it will no longer be cheaper any more in Indian market," said Mir Mohammad Amin, a grower and trader from South Kashmir's Shopian district. Kashmir's cool climate makes it a favored region for growing fruit and nuts, some 2.6 million tons of which are shipped annually to more than 150 markets across India as well as overseas. The apple industry alone is an important source of livelihood for 3.5 million people in Indian-administered Kashmir. But a large share of this year's bumper crop is sitting unsold in cold storage sites, the result of a combination of unusual transport problems and, the Kashmiri growers say, unfair competition from Iran. "We still have lot of apple produce in our godowns and [climate controlled] stores that will get a hit because of the import of Iranian apples to various coastal states of India," said Bashir Ahmad Bashir, chairman of the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers/Dealers Union. He said the price of a box of high-quality apples this year is between $6 and $7.50 (INR 500-600), down from between $11 to $13.50 (INR 900-1,100) a year ago. Digvijay Gupta, joint director of the Jammu and Kashmir Horticulture, Planning and Marketing Department, suggested the growers are overstating the problem. He cited statistics showing just 40,000 metric tons of Iranian apples are reaching Indian markets, compared to 300,000 metric tons of apples from Kashmir. But the Kashmiri apple growers believe the volume of Iranian apples has grown significantly in recent years and is considerably larger than the official figures indicate. They also note that their concerns are shared by apple growers in the neighboring Indian states of Himachal and Uttarakhand. At a meeting of the Apple Farmers Federation of India this week, growers from all three states agreed to organize a protest in New Delhi on March 6.  The Kashmiri apple growers' problems have been compounded this year by maintenance and repair work on the main highway connecting the Kashmir Valley with central India during September and October, critical months for shipping their produce to market. Fayaz Ahmad Malik, president of the fruit growers and dealers association, Fruit Mandi Sopore, said the roadwork had caused lengthy delays, allowing apples and other perishable fruit to decay on the trucks. He estimated the loss to growers at about $18.5 million (INR 1.5 billion). Mehbooba Mufti, who served as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir until 2018, joined a group of fruit farmers protesting the road closure in September. "You have turned Kashmir into an open jail, pulverized our economy," she said in remarks aimed at the federal government. "I warn the administration if they don't immediately open the roads for trucks, I along with our workers will sit in a protest." In response to the public outcry, the traffic police insisted that they had not held up any trucks for longer than two days and threatened to arrest anyone circulating false rumors. "Over 10,000 [heavy motor vehicles], including 8,820 fruit-laden trucks, released through Navyug and Jawahar tunnels during the past 24 hours," Jammu and Kashmir's Information Department tweeted.  

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