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Palestinian PM Submits Government's Resignation

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 08:54
JERUSALEM — The Palestinian prime minister announced the resignation of his government on Monday, paving the way for a shake-up in the Palestinian Authority, which the U.S. hopes will eventually take on a role in postwar Gaza.  Many obstacles remain to making a revamped Palestinian Authority a reality. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces were driven from Gaza by Hamas in 2007, has made clear that he would like the PA to govern the enclave after the war. But it is deeply unpopular among Palestinians, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has roundly rejected the idea of putting the authority in charge of the territory.  Abbas must still decide whether he accepts the resignations of Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh's government. But the move signals a willingness by the Western-backed Palestinian leadership to accept a shake-up that might usher in reforms sought by the United States, as international negotiations ramp up to bring about a cease-fire. The authority, created under interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals in the early 1990s, administers parts of the West Bank but is beset by corruption.  "The next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the new reality in the Gaza Strip," Shtayyeh said at a Cabinet meeting.  Netanyahu has vowed to destroy the military and governing capabilities of Hamas — which has ruled Gaza since 2007 and staged the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that set off the current war. He has called for Israel to maintain open-ended security control in the territory after the conflict, with Palestinian officials in charge of civilian affairs.  The Palestinians have rejected such a limited role and seek an independent state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.  Abbas is expected to choose Mohammad Mustafa, chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund, as the next prime minister. Mustafa is a U.S.-educated economist who has held senior positions in the World Bank and served in senior posts in the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian officials say he has a good, longstanding working relationship with American officials. 

Uganda Authorities Say 30 Ugandans Stuck in Myanmar Scam Compounds

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 08:14
The Ugandan government says about 30 Ugandans are stuck in Myanmar, being forced to work as online scammers. Officials say they were lured there by traffickers with the promise of a job and are now being held by gangs who run the scamming operations. Halima Athumani and Mukasa Francis have more from Kampala where they spoke with other Ugandans who managed to make it back home.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 08:00
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Donations as Patriotism: Ukrainians Support Army During Two Years of War

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 07:33
During two years of war, Ukrainians have supported their army financially. Despite the tough economic situation in the country, the level of donations remains high, and volunteers find new ways to raise funds. Lesia Bakalets has the story from Kyiv. Video: Evgenii Shynkar

Satellite Images Reveal Floating Barrier at Mouth of Disputed Atoll in South China Sea 

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 07:11
HONG KONG/MANILA — Satellite images of the hotly disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea show a new floating barrier across its entrance, near where Philippine ships and China coast guard vessels have had frequent run-ins. One of the images taken by Maxar Technologies on Feb. 22 and viewed by Reuters showed the barrier blocking the mouth of the shoal, where the Chinese coast guard last week claimed to have driven off a Philippine vessel "illegally intruding" into Beijing's waters. The Philippines, which last week deployed a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel to patrol the shoal and transport fuel to Filipino fishermen in the area, said that China's claims were "inaccurate" and that Manila's activities there were lawful. China claims the Scarborough Shoal, although it is inside the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. An international arbitration tribunal in the Hague said in 2016 that China's claims had no legal basis - a decision Beijing has rejected. That makes the atoll one of Asia's most contested maritime features and a flashpoint for diplomatic flare-ups over sovereignty and fishing rights. The satellite image bolsters a report and video distributed by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Sunday showing two Chinese coast guard inflatable boats deploying floating barriers at the shoal's entrance on Feb 22. The PCG said that a China coast guard ship shadowed the BFAR vessel, "conducted blocking maneuvers" about 2.4 km off the shoal, and closely approached it. "We can assume that [the barrier] is intended for Philippine government vessels because they install it every time they monitor our presence within the BDM vicinity," Jay Tarriela, a spokesperson at the Philippine Coast Guard said, referring to Bajo de Masinloc, Manila's name for the shoal. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said "Huangyan Dao", China's name for the shoal, was "China's inherent territory." "Recently, the Philippine side has taken a series of actions to violate China's sovereignty" in the shoal's waters, she said. "China has to take necessary measures to firmly safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests." Another satellite image showed what Maxar technologies described as "possible Chinese interception of a BFAR vessel" at Scarborough Shoal. China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion in annual ship commerce. Its territorial claims overlap with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. "What we are seeing at the Scarborough Shoal now is likely the beginning of Beijing's pushback against Manila's pushback," said Ian Storey, a senior fellow at Singapore's ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. Since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr took office in June 2022, the Philippines has challenged China's presence at Scarborough and its attempts to stop the resupply of Filipino troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal, he said. "China's attempts to prevent Filipino fishermen from fishing at Scarborough Shoal is absolutely illegal," Storey said. "The 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling gave fishermen from both countries the right to (fish there). Manila is merely supporting the legitimate rights of Filipino fishermen." The shoal is coveted for its bountiful fish stocks and a stunning turquoise lagoon that provides a safe haven for vessels during storms. The Chinese removed the barrier a few hours after the BFAR vessel left, Tarriela said. It was not clear from the photos how robust the barrier was and whether it would have posed an obstacle to larger warships. In an article on Sunday, state-media outlet Global Times said "the Philippines has abused and unilaterally sabotaged the foundation of Beijing's goodwill to Manila" that allowed Philippine fishermen to operate nearby, by working against China's sovereignty and jurisdiction. "If such provocations persist, China could be forced to take more effective measures to control the situation," the article said, citing experts.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 07:00
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Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 06:00
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Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 05:00
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Taliban Execute Convicted Killer in Afghan Sports Stadium

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 04:59
ISLAMABAD — Afghanistan’s Taliban Monday carried out another public execution of a man charged with murder, defying international calls to stop the “inhuman” punishments. It was the third public execution within a week. The Taliban Supreme Court said in an announcement that the execution had taken place in a sports stadium in Sheberghan, the capital of the northern Afghan province of Jowzjan. It said that government and judicial officials, as well as residents, were among the spectators.   The executed person was found guilty of stabbing to death a young man in 2022. The statement said he was tried in three Islamic courts and subsequent appellate tribunals before the judicial “order of retaliation was issued and approved” in line with Islamic law of Sharia. The punishment was enforced after the Taliban supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, examined the ruling and endorsed it, the court said.     Last Thursday, the fundamentalist authorities carried out a double public execution at a football stadium in the southeast city of Ghazni, saying both men had been convicted of murder in separate cases. That announcement outraged the United Nations and global human rights groups. They denounced the executions as against international law and called for ending them immediately, “We oppose all executions as a violation of the right to life,” Amnesty International said in a statement in response to the double execution. It added that the protection of the right to a fair trial “remains seriously concerning” under the Taliban rule. “It’s high time that the international community and the U.N. up the pressure on the blatant human rights violations by the Taliban and help ensure that international safeguards are respected in Afghanistan,” said Livia Saccardi, Amnesty International’s interim deputy regional director for South Asia. The Taliban have executed five convicted murderers and flogged several hundred others, including women, in sports stadiums since regaining power in August 2021 and imposing their harsh interpretation of Islamic law on Afghanistan. The de facto Afghan rulers have rejected criticism of their policies, saying the criminal justice system and governance at large are based on Islamic rules and guidelines. The Taliban have imposed sweeping restrictions on women’s rights to education and public life, barring female visitors from parks and gyms and forbidding girls from attending schools beyond the sixth grade. The international community has rejected the Taliban’s calls for granting their administration formal recognition, citing their treatment of Afghan women and other human rights concerns. 

Japan Moon Lander Revives After Lunar Night

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 04:30
Tokyo — Japan's moon lander has produced another surprise by waking up after the two-week lunar night, the country's space agency said Monday. The unmanned Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) touched down last month at a wonky angle that left its solar panels facing the wrong way. As the sun's angle shifted, it came back to life for two days and carried out scientific observations of a crater with a high-spec camera, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said. It went to sleep again as darkness returned and, since it was "not designed for the harsh lunar nights," JAXA had been uncertain whether it would reawaken. "Yesterday we sent a command, to which SLIM responded," JAXA said on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday. "SLIM succeeded in surviving a night on the Moon's surface while maintaining its communication function!" It said that communications were "terminated after a short time, as it was still lunar midday and the temperature of the communication equipment was very high." But it added: "Preparations are being made to resume operations when instrument temperatures have sufficiently cooled." SLIM, dubbed the "Moon Sniper" for its precision landing technology, touched down within its target landing zone on Jan. 20. The feat was a win for Japan's space program after a string of recent failures, making the nation only the fifth to achieve a "soft landing" on the moon, after the United States, the Soviet Union, China and India. But during its descent, the craft suffered engine problems and ended up on its side, meaning the solar panels were facing west instead of up. The latest news comes after JAXA toasted a successful blast-off for its new flagship H3 rocket on Feb. 17, making it third time lucky after years of delays and two previous failed attempts. Countries including Russia, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates are also trying to reach the moon. The first American spaceship to the moon since the Apollo era, the uncrewed Odysseus lander built by a private company and funded by NASA, landed near the lunar south pole on Thursday. But its maker said the US spacecraft is probably lying sideways following its dramatic landing, even as ground controllers work to download data and surface photos from it. Private Japanese firm ispace also attempted to land on the moon last year but the probe suffered a "hard landing" and contact was lost.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 04:00
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The Rise of Female Skateboarders in South Africa

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 03:36
In South Africa, skateboarding is enjoying something of a revolution. The once predominantly male pursuit is attracting more and more women. VOA’s Zaheer Cassim reports from Johannesburg.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 03:00
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Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 02:00
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South Korea Sets Thursday Deadline for Return of Striking Doctors

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 01:22
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's government gave striking young doctors four days to report back to work, saying Monday that they won't be punished if they return by the deadline but will face indictments and suspensions of medical licenses if they don't. About 9,000 medical interns and residents have stayed off the job since early last week to protest a government plan to increase medical school admissions by about 65%. The walkouts have severely hurt the operations of their hospitals, with numerous cancellations of surgeries and other treatments. Government officials say adding more doctors is necessary to deal with South Korea’s rapidly aging population. The country's current doctor-to-patient ratio is among the lowest in the developed world.  The strikers say universities can’t handle so many new students and argue the plan would not resolve a chronic shortage of doctors in some key but low-paying areas like pediatrics and emergency departments. Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo said during a televised briefing Monday that the government won’t seek any disciplinary action against striking doctors if they return to work by Thursday. “We want them to return to work by the end of this month, Feb. 29. If they return to the hospitals they had left by then, we won’t hold them responsible” for any damages caused by their walkouts, Park said. But he said those who don't meet the deadline will be punished with a minimum three-month suspension of their medical licenses and face further legal steps such as investigations and possible indictments. Under South Korea’s medical law, the government can issue back-to-work orders to doctors and other medical personnel when it sees grave risks to public health. Refusing to abide by such an order can bring up to three years in prison or $22,480 in fines, along with revocation of medical licenses. There are about 13,000 medical interns and residents in South Korea, most of them working and training at 100 hospitals. They typically assist senior doctors during surgeries and deal with inpatients. They represent about 30% to 40% of total doctors at some major hospitals. The Korea Medical Association, which represents about 140,000 doctors in South Korea, has said it supports the striking doctors, but hasn't determined whether to join the trainee doctors' walkouts. Senior doctors have held a series of rallies voicing opposition to the government's plan. Earlier this month, the government announced universities would admit 2,000 more medical students starting next year, from the current 3,058. The government says it aims to add up to 10,000 doctors by 2035.  A public survey said about 80% of South Koreans back the government plan. Critics suspect doctors, one of the best-paid professions in South Korea, oppose the recruitment plan because they worry they would face greater competition and lower income.  Striking doctors have said they worry doctors faced with increased competition would engage in overtreatment, burdening public medical expenses.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 01:00
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Voice of America’s immigration news - February 26, 2024 - 00:00
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