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Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 11:00
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 - 10:00
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.

Hungary, EU Face Off Over New 'Sovereignty Protection' Law

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 09:42
Hungary has rejected criticism of its new ‘sovereignty protection’ law, after the European Union instigated legal action against Budapest Wednesday. The EU has concerns that the legislation breaches basic democratic rights. Henry Ridgwell has more from the Hungarian capital. Camera: Ancsin Gábor

VOA Newscasts

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

Will Immigrants Save US Economy as Baby Boomers Retire in Droves?

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 08:46
About 10,000 people born between 1946 and 1964 leave the workforce each day

IMF Flags BRI Partner Maldives' High Debt

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 08:39
New Delhi — The Indian Ocean archipelago of Maldives, one of the first South Asian countries to join Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, faces the risk of “debt distress,” according to the International Monetary Fund.   The term refers to countries unable to meet their financial obligations and require debt restructuring.  The February 6 IMF warning comes as its new president, Mohamed Muizzu, builds closer ties with China, which has pledged to extend assistance to the tiny country.  Muizzu took office in November after defeating former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who during his term in office had raised concerns about the cost of China’s construction projects in the country.  China established its footprint in the Maldives a decade ago, when under a pro-Beijing administration, it built infrastructure projects that included a four-lane bridge connecting the capital, Male, with the international airport, which is on a different island, and housing projects on land reclaimed from the sea.  “Even the previous government had flagged the issue that Maldives is seriously indebted to China,” Sankalp Gurjar, assistant professor in geopolitics and international relations at India’s  Manipal Academy of Higher Education, told VOA.  He said the Maldivian gross domestic product is just over $5 billion “so its high debt is a problem, especially because the country needs foreign exchange for imports of basic necessities such as fuel and food.”  Maldives owes China $1.37 billion, adding up to about 40% of the country’s public debt, according to World Bank data. That makes Beijing its biggest bilateral creditor. In its review of the Maldivian economy, the IMF projected growth of around 5% for this year, but called for "urgent policy adjustment," saying the country remains at “high risk of external and overall debt distress.” It did not mention China.  During a visit to Beijing last month, Muizzu said he had appealed to Chinese authorities to restructure the payment of loans made tohis country. The visit was a strong signal that he is building closer ties with Beijing, pivoting away from the previous government’s “pro-India” policy.  Calling Beijing “one of our closest allies and development partners,”  Muizzu praised the Chinese infrastructure projects in his country and said that he was keen to explore partnerships under China’s Belt and Road initiative, including the expansion of the country's main airport and commercial port.  Analysts say the country’s high debt makes it the latest South Asian country whose economy has faced pressure because of Chinese loans to build projects. China has built ports, bridges and highways in countries stretching from Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan for a trade and transit corridor across Asia. Sri Lanka ran out of foreign exchange to pay its foreign debt in 2022 and the problem was blamed partly on its heavy borrowing from China. Beijing rejects accusations that its loans to developing economies contribute to their economic woes.  The huge infrastructure deficit in South Asian countries prompted them to turn to China to join its Belt and Road Initiative, Manoj Joshi, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, told VOA.   “The logic is that whoever gives the money, lets build the infrastructure but more often than not what happens is that these are badly planned and badly financed and that becomes a burden,” Joshi said. “Maldives definitely faces a debt problem due to loans taken for Chinese projects that were probably given from a strategic point of view. But I think both China and other countries have become more cautious than they were in the past,” he added. Although Maldives is a small country of half a million people, its geostrategic significance is high -- the more than 1,100 tiny Maldivian islands in the Indian Ocean are along vital waterways for much of Chinese trade.  Earlier this week, Muizzu said in Maldives that there were difficulties in carrying out development projects while "we are trying to manage debt," according to local media reports in Maldives.  “The situation in Maldives is fragile. There has been this worry about its vulnerability to Chinese debt trap diplomacy, so if it goes on borrowing further it will make it even more vulnerable,” according to Gurjar. “It is after all a small country with a tiny population dependent on tourists.”   Adding to concerns about its high debt, there are also worries that tourism, which is the major source of revenue for Maldives, may take a hit following a strain in ties with India. A diplomatic row erupted between the two countries after three Maldivian ministers made disparaging comments about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It prompted a “Boycott Maldives” campaign on social media in India, which accounted for the largest number of visitors to its tropical beaches last year. Muizzu has appealed to China to send more tourists to the country.

Putin's Talk with Tucker Carlson... and America: A Mixture of Blunt Lies and Toxic Propaganda

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 08:39
Putin replayed thoroughly debunked falsehoods and pedaled the Kremlin’s traditional propaganda narratives.

VOA Newscasts

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

Acclaimed Japanese Conductor Seiji Ozawa Dies at Age 88

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 07:57
TOKYO — Seiji Ozawa, the Japanese conductor who amazed audiences with the lithe physicality of his performances during three decades at the helm of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, has died, his management office said Friday. He was 88. The internationally acclaimed maestro, with his trademark mop of salt-and-pepper hair, led the BSO from 1973 to 2002, longer than any other conductor in the orchestra's history. From 2002 to 2010, he was the music director of the Vienna State Opera. He died of heart failure Tuesday at his home in Tokyo, according to his office, Veroza Japan. He remained active in his later years, particularly in his native land. He was the artistic director and founder of the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival, a music and opera festival in Japan. He and the Saito Kinen Orchestra, which he co-founded in 1984, won the Grammy for best opera recording in 2016 for Ravel's "L'Enfant et Les Sortileges" ("The Child and the Spells"). In 2022, he conducted his Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival for the first time in three years to mark its 30th anniversary. That turned out to be his last public performance. Ozawa exerted enormous influence over the BSO during his tenure. He appointed 74 of its 104 musicians and his celebrity attracted famous performers including Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman. He also helped the symphony become the biggest-budget orchestra in the world, with an endowment that grew from less than $10 million in the early 1970s to more than $200 million in 2002. When Ozawa conducted the Boston orchestra in 2006 — four years after he had left — he received a hero's welcome with a nearly six-minute ovation. Ozawa was born Sept. 1, 1935, to Japanese parents in Manchuria, China, while it was under Japanese occupation. After his family returned to Japan in 1944, he studied music under Hideo Saito, a cellist and conductor credited with popularizing Western music in Japan. Ozawa revered him and formed the Saito Kinen (Saito Memorial) Orchestra in 1984 and eight years later founded the Saito Kinen Festival — renamed the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival in 2015. Ozawa first arrived in the United States in 1960 and was quickly hailed by critics as a brilliant young talent. He attended the Tanglewood Music Center and was noticed by Leonard Bernstein, who appointed him assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic for the 1961-62 season. After his New York debut with the Philharmonic at age 25, The New York Times said "the music came brilliantly alive under his direction." He directed various ensembles including the San Francisco Orchestra and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra before beginning his tenure in Boston in 1970. At the time there were few nonwhite musicians on the international scene. Ozawa embraced the challenge and it became his lifelong passion to help Japanese performers demonstrate they could be first-class musicians. In his 1967 book "The Great Conductors," critic Harold C. Schonberg noted the changing ranks of younger conductors, writing that Ozawa and Indian-born Zubin Mehta were the first Asian conductors "to impress one as altogether major talents." Ozawa had considerable star quality and crossover appeal in Boston, where he was a well-known fan of the Red Sox and Patriots sports teams. In 2002, Catherine Peterson, executive director of Arts Boston, a nonprofit group that markets Boston's arts, told The Associated Press that "for most people in this community, Seiji personifies the Boston Symphony." Ozawa is largely credited with elevating the Tanglewood Music Center, a music academy in Lenox, Massachusetts, to international prominence. In 1994, a 1,200-seat, $12 million music hall at the center was named for him. His work at Tanglewood was not without controversy. In 1996, as music director of the orchestra and its ultimate authority, he decided to move the respected academy in new directions. Ozawa ousted Leon Fleisher, the longtime director of Tanglewood, and several prominent teachers quit in protest. Despite glowing reviews for his performances in Europe and Japan, American critics were increasingly disappointed in the later years of his tenure with the BSO. In 2002, Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times wrote that Ozawa had become, after a bold start, "an embodiment of the entrenched music director who has lost touch." Many of the orchestra's musicians agreed and even circulated an anti-Ozawa newsletter claiming he had worn out his welcome in Boston. Ozawa won two Emmy awards for TV work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra — the first in 1976 for the BSO's PBS series "Evening at Symphony" and the second in 1994, for Individual Achievement in Cultural Programming, for "Dvorak in Prague: A Celebration." Ozawa held honorary doctorates of music from the University of Massachusetts, the New England Conservatory of Music, and Wheaton College in Norton, Mass. He was one of five honorees at the annual Kennedy Center Honors in 2015 for contributing to American culture through the arts. In later years, Ozawa's health deteriorated. He was treated for cancer of the esophagus in 2010, and in 2015 and 2016 he canceled performances for various health problems. Ozawa's management office said his funeral was attended only by close relatives as his family wished to have a quiet farewell. He cancelled some appearances in 2015-16 for health reasons, including what would have been his first return to the Tanglewood music festival — the summer home of the Boston symphony — in a decade.

Residents of Town Near Gaza Start Coming Back

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 07:43
Four months after the Hamas attacks on Israeli communities bordering Gaza, some of the estimated 125,000 Israelis displaced from those areas are returning to their homes. Others, however, say they still don’t feel safe and are not sure when they will go back. Linda Gradstein reports for VOA from Sderot. Video: Ricki Rosen  This video contains graphic images and may not be suitable for all viewers.

VOA Newscasts

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

VOA Newscasts

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

VOA Newscasts

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

Pakistan Awaits Results of Contentious Election Amid Rising Political Tensions

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 9, 2024 - 04:21
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE, PAKISTAN — Preliminary official results of Pakistan’s parliamentary polls were slowly coming in Friday after an unusually long delay and allegations they were being manipulated in favor of military-backed parties. The vote was held Thursday amid the nationwide suspension of mobile phone and internet services and sporadic violence, fueling doubts about results and credibility concerns about an already controversial election. The Election Commission of Pakistan announced the first few results early Friday, 12 hours after the polling across the country of about 241 million people ended. The commission announced only 24% of the results by late afternoon. These results showed that a group of independent candidates, supported by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, party of jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan, performed better than expected despite being targeted by a state crackdown before the election. The contest was for the 266-seat National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament. The PTI-associated candidates were in a neck-to-neck race with those of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or PML-N, led by three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, viewed as the powerful military's favorite. The Pakistan Peoples Party, headed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was lagging behind in third place. In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Gohar Khan, acting PTI chairman, claimed his party was leading in more than 150 seats but that "attempts are being made to change the results." PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb claimed her party was in a "strong" position and would be able to form a government in Islamabad. Based on local constituency counts, unofficial overnight tallies from Pakistani media outlets showed PTI-backed candidates leading races nationwide. In some cases, they were ahead by 30,000 to 50,000 votes. However, according to early official results released on Friday, they were either lagging behind or lost the race by a small margin. The change in results was blamed on the delay in announcing what PTI alleged were manipulated results. "The die is cast. If the final results show anything other than a PTI victory, PTI will reject it as a rigged result, and understandably so: Its early gains led to a long delay in announcing final results. The military, intent on denying power to PTI, intervened in the process,"  said Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at Wilson Center in Washington. 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. The ministry cited deadly bombings in parts of Pakistan on and in the run-up to the polls for suspending the nationwide communication networks. 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. "We are also concerned about the steps that were taken to restrict freedom of expression, specifically around internet and cell phone use," Vedant Patel, the U.S. State Department principal deputy spokesperson, told reporters in Washington on Thursday. 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. Analysts say whoever wins the election will serve a public deeply disappointed in the political system, has little faith in the electoral process, and is extremely worried about the nation's economic survival. A military-backed crackdown on the PTI has left many disappointed in this democratic exercise. "I came out thinking that maybe my vote will improve something for this country and for us," said Faiza Tariq, a first-time female voter in the eastern city of Lahore. Fazal-Ur-Rehman was among those who did not vote, citing a lack of trust in the process. "It doesn't matter if I vote or not. Those who are supposed to come in power will come in power," he said. Nazward Atta, a Pakistani living abroad, said she returned only to vote to fight the alleged unfairness. "We just want to change the fate of Pakistan and the future of Pakistan," she said. Other voters, like Anam Khan, criticized the disruption of communication services. "Why? Is there a war going on here? Do they want to keep people from posting videos on social media? People can do that later, God willing," she said. The Pakistani government deployed more than 650,000 army, paramilitary and police personnel to provide security for tens of thousands of polling stations across the world's fifth most populous country, with an estimated population of 241 million. Khan a central figure Khan, the 71-year-old popular politician, has been convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms for highly disputed corruption and other charges in the lead-up to the vote. The cricket hero-turned-political leader's PTI has been subjected to a monthslong nationwide clampdown, in which hundreds of workers and candidates were arrested without charges and released only after quitting the party or withdrawing from the election. "Despite being in jail, Khan remains a central figure in the election. He retains a large base that will want to vote for the independent candidates sponsored by his party,” Kugelman told VOA. "But it appears the state is creating an enabling environment for rigging with its suspension of mobile services. This threatens to deny many Pakistanis the right to vote for who they choose, casting doubt on the government's insistence that this election will be free and fair," Kugelman said. More than 5,000 candidates were contesting for 266 general seats in the 342-member National Assembly. About 12,600 candidates were running for assembly seats in Pakistan's four provinces. The U.S.-based Gallup polling company found in a survey on the eve of the elections that more than two-thirds of Pakistanis "lack confidence in the honesty of their elections." 

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