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ISSUES IN THE NEWS: Trump’s Fight Against Campaign to Kick Him Off State Presidential Ballots in Hands the Supreme Court

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 20:05
the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday on Donald Trump’s appeal to prevent his removal from the presidential ballot in the state of Colorado, where the state Supreme Court ruled he was ineligible to run for office because of his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Joel Paul, professor of constituional law at the University of California Hastings Law School in San Francisco breaks down the arguments and what the Court’s decision could mean for the 2024 presidential election. Israel pressed on with its bombing campaign as diplomats sought to salvage ceasefire talks after Netanyahu rejected a Hamas proposal that also envisaged the release of hostages held by the Palestinian militant group. Nimrod Goren, Senior Fellow for Israeli Affairs at the Middle East Institute joins VOA’s Steve Miller to discuss the latest developments in the conflict between ISrael and Hamas, as well as the impact on the region. Early Thursday morning, NASA, the US-space agency, launched its next climate and Earth monitoring satellite. NASA Atmospheric Scientist Kirk Knobelspiesse provides insights into the U.S. space agency’s mission and what it hopes to achieve.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 20:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Globe Breaks Heat Record for 8th Straight Month

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 19:45
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Earth has broken heat records each month since last June, the European climate agency has reported. That was obvious in the northern United States, where about 1,000 people were golfing last month in snow-starved Minneapolis during what the state is calling “the Lost Winter of 2023-24." For the first time, the global temperature pushed past the internationally agreed-upon warming threshold for an entire 12-month period, with February 2023 to January 2024 running 2.74 degrees Fahrenheit (1.52 degrees Celsius) hotter than pre-industrial levels, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service of the European Space Agency. That's the highest 12-month global temperature average on record, Copernicus reported. January 2024 broke the old record from 2020 for warmest first month of the year by 0.22 degree Fahrenheit (0.12 degree Celsius) and was 3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.66 degrees Celsius) warmer than the late 1800s, the base for temperatures before the burning of fossil fuels. Even though January brought record heat, the level above normal was lower than in the previous six months, according to Copernicus data. Climate scientists blame a combination of human-caused warming from the burning of fossil fuels and a natural but temporary El Nino warming of parts of the Pacific, saying greenhouse gases have a much bigger role than nature. This is the time of year that El Nino warming often peaks, said Texas A&M University climate scientist Andrew Dessler. “This is both disturbing and not disturbing. After all, if you stick your finger in a light socket and get shocked, it's bad news, sure, but what did you expect?” Dessler said. Just because the globe exceeded the 1.5-degree warming threshold for 12 months, that's not what scientists mean by reaching the warming limit of 1.5 degrees, said Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald, co-author of a U.N. science report about the harm of exceeding more than 1.5 degrees. The 1.5-degree limit, adopted by the 2015 Paris climate agreement, is more about 30-year averages. “These are much more than numbers, ranks and records — they translate to real impacts on our farms, families and communities from unprecedented heat, changing growing seasons and rising sea levels,” said North Carolina State Climatologist Kathie Dello. International Falls, a Minnesota city on the Canadian border that proudly bills itself as the “icebox of the nation,” recorded its first-ever 50-degree high for January on the 31st, when the temperature hit 53 Fahrenheit (11.7 Celsius). Minneapolis has already set a record for the number of 50-degree days for a winter. About 70% of Minnesota currently has bare ground, with most of the state so far getting less than 25% of normal snowfall. Authorities have rescued dozens of ice anglers from normally solid northern Minnesota lakes after ice floes broke off and carried them along. The annual Art Shanty Projects festival on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis in January had to be cut short because of open water and unsafe ice. The Montgomery National Golf Club, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) south of Minneapolis, should be blanketed under a thick layer of snow this time of year. Instead, it’s doing a booming business. “We did about a thousand golfers in January. If we had had just one golfer, that would have been a record,” owner Greg McKush said. “After today, we will have had about a thousand golfers for February, which is unheard of.” McKush said he reopened two Saturdays ago and figures he might be able to stay open all winter if temperatures continue to reach at least into the 40s.  It seems like the fairways are trying to green up, he said, and a lot of the frost has come out of the ground. Most golfers are telling him conditions are “better than expected.” In Wisconsin, fourth in the U.S. in maple syrup production, the mild winter weather prompted many farms in the state’s northern and central regions to begin tapping their trees in mid-January — up to two months earlier than normal, depending on the area, said Theresa Baroun, executive director of the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association. “There’s a wide range of the state that are tapped and cooking syrup already. It’s very unusual. This is one of the most abnormal weather patterns for starting out the maple season we’ve seen,” she said Wednesday. “For maple trees to run, it needs to be freezing at night, above freezing during the day. And this weather has been perfect for the maple trees to run.” Baroun, whose family has about 1,200 maple trees at its Maple Sweet Dairy in De Pere, Wisconsin, south of Green Bay, said the farm began cooking sap this week and that’s the earliest her family can remember since production began in 1964. The February sturgeon season on Michigan's Black Lake was canceled for the first time because of lack of ice for safe fishing. At Isle Royal National Park, an island in Lake Superior between Michigan, Minnesota and Canada, scientists couldn't conduct their annual wolf and moose count because the ice was so weak, they couldn't land ski-planes on it to get there. One of the stranger consequences has been the early emergence of ticks. The Metropolitan Mosquito Control District in Minnesota reported its first deer tick of 2024 on Monday, posting a creepy photo on social media of a tick in a vial against the backdrop of February 5 on a calendar. District officials said they haven’t found any mosquito larvae yet — but it’s not from a lack of searching.

US, Japan Accelerate War Drills to Deter China 

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 19:32
washington — The U.S. and Japan wrapped up a joint command post exercise late this week that analysts said was aimed at improving the coordination of their capabilities in dealing with threats from China. The Keen Edge 24 computer simulation exercise was intended "to practice responses in the event of a crisis or contingency," said the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command as it began the exercise on February 1 and ended Thursday. It is part of an annual bilateral exercise that alternates with field training exercises Keen Sword. The Australia Defense Force participated in Keen Edge for the first time this year. The U.S. and Japan named China as a hypothetical enemy for the first time in their exercise instead of a provisional name used previously, the Kyodo News reported Sunday, citing unnamed government sources. The Japanese Defense Ministry reportedly classified the exercise scenarios under the country's secrecy law, Kyodo reported. Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Martin Meiners told VOA's Korean Service on Wednesday that "we do not discuss specific exercise scenarios" and that "Keen Edge 2024 provides a realistic training environment" for the U.S., Japan and Australia to respond to various crisis and contingency situations. Lawrence Korb, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said in a telephone interview, "The United States is working with our allies in the region to basically deal with threats from China" and to warn Beijing against using military force to achieve its objectives in the region. 'Gravely concerned' In response to the Kyodo report, Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said via email that authorities in Beijing "noted the relevant report and are gravely concerned over the United States and Japan stuck in the Cold War mentality, putting together exclusive military blocs, and deliberately seeking bloc confrontation." He continued, "Taiwan is part of China," and "if anyone insists on interfering in China's domestic affairs and obstructing China's reunification, it will not only be a problem of 'imaginary enemy,' but it will pay a heavy price for that." China has been making assertive moves in the South China Sea since then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a longtime foe of Beijing, visited Taiwan in August 2022. China often flies its jets in a show of force over the independent island nation that it claims as its sovereign territory. Chinese President Xi Jinping called for reunification with Taiwan in his New Year message delivered on the last day of 2023. The U.S. and Japan held several naval exercises in the region recently. They held a Multi-Large Deck Event in the Philippine Sea east of Taiwan, according to the U.S. Navy. The joint exercises were held January 29-February 1, according to a statement by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) on January 31. The drills involved the nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Theodore Roosevelt, seven U.S. guided-missile destroyers and two U.S. cruisers joined by JMSDF helicopter destroyer JS Ise. The U.S. and Japan also held trilateral naval drills with Australia in the South China Sea on February 7-8. Ralph Cossa, president emeritus and WSD-Hana Chair in peace studies at the Pacific Forum, told VOA in an email on Tuesday that the command post and naval exercises were "aimed at improving defensive (and offensive) capabilities against whatever threat comes along." He continued, "In the case of U.S.-Japan, the most likely threat is China and North Korea, but the exercises are only 'against' them if they do something hostile toward the allies." He said it was important for the U.S. and Japan to demonstrate to potential adversaries such as China and North Korea that they have significant military capabilities "to deter or defeat potential intended actions." The U.S. and Japan named China as a major threat alongside North Korea and Russia in a joint statement released after their Security Consultative Committee convened in Washington in January 2023. They view Beijing’s strategy as "aimed at reshaping the international order" and oppose China's moves to seize Taiwan as well as Japan's Senkaku island chain, which China calls the Diaoyu Islands. Japan's Coast Guard said on Tuesday that it had urged four Chinese vessels to leave its territorial waters near the islands. The U.S. and Japan have been ramping up their efforts to deal with threats in the region, including any potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. In addition to increasing its defense spending, Japan has been working with the U.S. to update command-and-control arrangements by establishing a permanent joint headquarters as well as improve allied capabilities in the southwest islands, according to Zack Cooper, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who served as a special assistant to the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy at the Defense Department during the George W. Bush administration. "Each of those efforts would be useful in a Taiwan-related contingency but are also vital regardless of what the exact scenario is that might involve Japan," Cooper said.

Jailed Ex-Pakistan PM Khan Uses AI to Deliver Election 'Victory Speech'

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 19:19
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE, PAKISTAN — The party of Imran Khan delivered what it said was a "victory speech" by Pakistan's imprisoned former prime minister Friday, using a computer-generated voice to simulate that of Khan.   "I congratulate you all for your election 2024 victory. I had full confidence that you would all come out to vote … and your massive turnout has stunned everybody," Khan's AI-generated voice said.  Official results from Thursday's elections showed that a group of candidates affiliated with Khan's opposition, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, claimed the largest number of parliamentary seats.  The results trickled in after an unusually long delay and amid allegations that they are being manipulated to favor military-backed parties.  By Friday night, the Election Commission of Pakistan had released the results for 242 of the 266 National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, seats up for grabs. These results showed that PTI-backed candidates had won 98 seats, more than any other party, despite being targeted by a state crackdown before the election.     Candidates of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or PML-N, led by three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, had won 61 seats. Sharif is viewed as the powerful military's favorite.     The Pakistan Peoples Party, headed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was third with 52 seats, while smaller regional parties trailed.  Khan's speech was broadcast through the PTI social media platforms because mainstream media is banned from airing his name or images. His party said the text had been approved by Khan.     "According to independent sources, we were ahead in 150 National Assembly constituencies before manipulation of results began. And, at this time, we are ahead in more than 170 National Assembly seats," the 71-year-old politician claimed.      Thursday's vote occurred amid a nationwide suspension of mobile phone and internet services and sporadic violence, fueling doubts about the credibility of an already controversial election.     Just hours before Khan spoke, Sharif made his own victory speech despite being 30 seats behind PTI on the official results. His remarks, made in his native eastern city of Lahore, were broadcast live on state and private TV stations.     He claimed that his PML-N "has emerged as the largest party" in the country and would form a coalition government in Islamabad. Sharif suggested that all political parties should come together and form a government to navigate Pakistan out of the difficulties it is currently facing.  "PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif has declared victory. But final results haven't been announced, and results so far show PTI independents still in the lead," said Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington.     "The army, with its intervention in the electoral process, and now its preferred party have conspired to subvert the public will," Kugelman wrote on X. Tallies disputed  Based on local constituency counts, unofficial overnight tallies from Pakistani media outlets showed PTI-backed candidates leading races nationwide, in some cases by as much as 30,000 to 50,000 votes. However, early official results released on Friday showed the party had narrowly lost or was trailing in some of those races.  The election commission blamed the delay in processing the results on an "internet issue," while the Interior Ministry defended the election day suspension of mobile phone and internet services as "a result of preventive measures taken to ensure foolproof security" of the vote.  The services were reinstated Friday morning. "We knew there would be noise from every side over the decision, but I would take this decision again if I had to," Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz told a news conference in the Pakistani capital.  The suspension of phone and internet services sparked widespread allegations of an attempt by Pakistan's military-backed interim government to rig the polls, mainly to prevent candidates loyal to Khan's party from gaining an upper hand.  "Unfortunately, the integrity of the ballot has been trampled," said Asma Shirazi, a prominent prime-time political talk show host, during a live broadcast on her Urdu-language Hum news channel. "The way candidates, with some winning by huge margins overnight, have been declared losers has made this election even more contentious." Pakistan's information and interior ministers told reporters Friday the election commission is the only authorized body to respond to allegations of rigging, claiming that "all major political entities are generally satisfied with the results." Protesters allege election rigging  In the northwestern town of Shangla, police clashed Friday with angry PTI supporters protesting alleged election rigging. A PTI statement later said the clashes left four of its workers dead and many more injured.  PTI-led rallies also erupted outside election offices elsewhere in Pakistan.  The European Union urged relevant Pakistani authorities Friday to ensure a timely and full investigation into reported election regularities.  "We regret the lack of a level playing field due to the inability of some political actors to contest the elections, restrictions to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, both online and offline, restrictions of access to the internet, as well as allegations of severe interference in the electoral process, including arrests of political activists," said the EU statement.  The United States condemned restrictions on access to the internet and telecommunication services on Friday and expressed concern about allegations of interference in the electoral process.  "We now look forward to timely, complete results that reflect the will of the Pakistani people," said U.S. State Department spokesman Mathew Miller. "We join credible international and local election observers in their assessment that these elections included undue restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly." Pakistan has nearly 190 million cellular subscribers, including 128 million using mobile broadband services. The suspension of service prevented many voters from accessing the election commission's data system to retrieve polling station locations and other details.  Journalists with mainstream Pakistani television channels said they could not promptly report rigging incidents and other irregularities from the field throughout the day because of the suspension. 

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 19:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 18:00
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.

ECOWAS Faces Uncertain Future Following Members' Exit Plans

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 17:05
abuja, nigeria — Officials from countries of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS met in Nigeria's capital Thursday to discuss the exit of three members, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, who announced their departure from the bloc last week. The bloc is also dealing with a brewing crisis in Senegal, where the president has delayed elections until December. Thursday's meeting of officials of the Economic Community of West African States, known as ECOWAS, was to address regional political developments, including the declared exit of three of the bloc's 15 member states.  After a closed-door session that lasted several hours, ECOWAS said it will continue to pursue dialogue with Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.  But the bloc also said their decisions to leave will have consequences for the regional body and its citizens.  "Indeed, while we were waiting and hoping to see more progress in the countries in transition, we find ourselves with more problems — problems that have been compounded by various factors," said Omar Alieu Touray, ECOWAS commission president. "Despite our collective efforts to create a conducive and peaceful environment for our community citizens, the facts on the ground show that we still have more work to do."  ECOWAS accused of pandering Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, all ruled by military juntas, announced their immediate withdrawal from the regional body in a joint communique last week.  The three nations accused ECOWAS of abandoning its founding ideals and pandering to foreign powers.  They also criticized the regional bloc's sanctions against military-led governments in the region, calling the sanctions inhumane.  Then, days after the withdrawal, protests broke out in Senegal after President Macky Sall postponed the country's presidential elections from February to December.  The decision was approved by Senegal's National Assembly but has been criticized by many, such as political analyst Ahmed Buhari, who calls it a constitutional coup.  "Anytime you interfere with the emergence of leaders in a democratic space, it's going to create shaky ground," said Buhari. "Clearly this is an assassination on the constitution of the good people of Senegal. The executive, the legislative and the judiciary are under the full control of the president, they're unable to make any decision that will not be convenient for the president."  Senegal's foreign minister attended Thursday's meeting. He told journalists his country's political situation should not worry the regional bloc.  Bloc struggles with coups  ECOWAS was created in 1975 to promote economic prosperity among member states. But in recent years, the bloc has been struggling to deal with a wave of coups.  Experts say bad governance is to blame for the trend and said the regional bloc must impose sanctions on Senegal over the election cycle delay.  Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister Yusuf Tuggar said authorities will fix the problem.  "We're also here to review the unfolding situation in Senegal and develop a plan to navigate the resulting complexities," said Tuggar. "We have faced similar crises in the past and as a region we have not been found wanting. This meeting can come up with far-reaching decisions to transform our challenges into opportunities."  Last year, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger created a bloc known as the alliance of Sahel States and promised to defend their countries.  For now, it remains unclear whether ECOWAS will take a firm stance against Senegal or make a concerted effort to bring Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso back into the fold.  

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 17:00
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.

USCIS Finalizes Increase in Fees for Immigration-Related Applications

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) finalized its long-awaited fee rule on January 30, which impacts the filing costs for almost all the agency’s applications. The new fees will take effect April 1, 2024. The agency’s fee increases significantly impact the cost for family-based and employment-based applications and petitions. In addition, USCIS is charging a […]

The post USCIS Finalizes Increase in Fees for Immigration-Related Applications appeared first on Immigration Impact.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 16:00
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.

Data Snapshot: The Number of Black Immigrants in the US Continues to Rise

By Karen Aho and Quinn Bankson Black immigrants not only contribute to America’s rich political and cultural history—think rapper Wyclef Jean, U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, or basketball’s Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, to name but a very few—they also play an important and growing role in our economy, making outsize contributions in industries facing critical worker […]

The post Data Snapshot: The Number of Black Immigrants in the US Continues to Rise appeared first on Immigration Impact.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 15:00
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.

Art in Action

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 14:40
VOA Connect Episode 317 - Creativity Takes Many Forms

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