Feed aggregator

Globe-trotting archeologist who drew comparisons to Indiana Jones has died

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 08:25
MADISON, Wis. — Schuylar Jones, a globe-trotting American adventurer whose exploits drew comparisons to iconic movie character Indiana Jones, has died. He was 94. Jones' stepdaughter, Cassandra Da'Luz Vieira-Manion, posted on her Facebook page that Jones died on May 17. She said she had been taking care of him for the last six years and "truly thought he might live forever." "He was a fascinating man who lived a lot of life around the world," she wrote. Da'Luz Vieira-Manion didn't immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press on Saturday. Jones grew up around Wichita, Kansas. His younger sister, Sharon Jones Laverentz, told the Wichita Eagle that her brother had visited every U.S. state before he was in first grade thanks to their father's job supplying Army bases with boots. He wrote in an autobiography posted on Edinburgh University's website that he moved to Paris after World War II, where he worked as a photographer. He also spent four years in Africa as a freelance photographer. In his 1956 book "Under the African Sun," he tells of surviving a helicopter crash in a marketplace in In Salah, Algeria, the Wichita Eagle reported. After the helicopter crashed he discovered he was on fire; gale-force winds had reignited the ashes in his pipe. "Camels bawled and ran, scattering loads of firewood in all directions," Jones wrote. "Children, Arabs and veiled women either fled or fell full length in the dust. Goats and donkeys went wild as the whirling, roaring monster landed in their mist ... weak with relief, the pilot and I sat in the wreckage of In Salah's market place and roared with laughter." He later moved to Greece, where he supported himself by translating books from German and French to English. He decided to drive through India and Nepal in 1958. He said he fell in love with Afghanistan during the trip and later enrolled at Edinburgh to study anthropology. "He was more interested in the people and cultures he was finding than he was in photography and selling those," his son, archeologist Peter Jones, told the Wichita Eagle. After graduating he returned to Afghanistan and began study natives living in the country's remote eastern valleys. He parlayed that research into a doctorate at Oxford University and went on to become a curator and later director at that university's Pitt Rivers Museum. Upon retirement, he was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire award, one step below knighthood. Similarities between Jones and George Lucas' Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr. character are striking. Aside from the name and the family business — Indy's father, Henry Sr., was an archaeologist, just like Schuyler Jones' son, Peter, are archeologists — they were both adept at foreign languages and wore brown fedoras. And like Indy, Schuylar Jones believed artifacts belonged in museums, Da'Luz Vieiria-Manion told the Wichita Eagle. Eric Cale, executive director of the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, told the newspaper that Jones permanently donated his grandfather's artifacts to the museum. Jones wrote in his 2007 book "A Stranger Abroad" that he wanted to find the Ark of Covenant and donate it to a museum, which is exactly what Indy accomplished in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" — at least until the U.S. government seized the relic and hid it away again at the end of the movie. Pat O'Connor, a publisher who worked with Jones, told the newspaper that Jones had a "low tolerance" for slow-witted and pretentious people. "I've never met a man so talented and capable and at the same time approachable," O'Connor said. "But if you transgressed . . . by trying to present yourself as somewhat above your station intellectually, then that is the end." Jones wrote in "A Stranger Abroad" that he first heard of Indy in the 1980s when a museum director in Madras asked him if he was the real-life version. He wrote that he had no idea what she was talking about, but later thought the comparison was driving more students to attend his lectures at Oxford. Jones was married twice, first to Lis Margot Sondergaard Rasmussen, and then to Da'Luz Vieria-Manion's mother, Lorraine, who died in 2011. He later began a relationship with actress Karla Burns, who died in 2021, the Wichita Eagle reported. He is survived by his son, three daughters, a sister, six grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild, the newspaper reported.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 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.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 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.

South Korea, China agree to launch diplomatic and security dialogue

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 06:38
SEOUL/TOKYO — South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Chinese Premier Li Qiang agreed on Sunday to launch a diplomatic and security dialogue and resume talks on a free trade agreement, Yoon's office said. Yoon and Li held talks a day ahead of a summit with their Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida, their first three-way talks in more than four years. Yoon told Li the two countries should work together not only to promote shared interests based on mutual respect, but also on regional and global issues to tackle common challenges, citing the Ukraine war, the Israel-Hamas conflict and global economic uncertainties. "Just as Korea and China have overcome various difficulties together over the past 30 years and contributed to each other's development and growth, I hope to continue to strengthen bilateral cooperation even in the face of today's global complex crises," Yoon said at the start of the meeting, according to his office. Li told Yoon their countries should oppose turning economic and trade issues into political or security issues and should work to maintain stable supply chains, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported. In recent years Chinese leaders and diplomats have frequently condemned the U.S. and its allies over export controls targeting its semiconductor industry by calling on these countries to stop "overstretching the concept of national security." Since 2021 Chinese companies and state entities have been increasingly cut off from ready access to the world's most advanced chips, many of them produced by South Korean tech giants like Samsung and SK Hynix. Li expressed hopes for continuing efforts to "build consensus and resolve differences" through "equal dialogue and sincere communications." At a separate meeting with Kishida, Yoon lauded progress on diplomatic, economic and cultural exchanges with Japan, and they agreed to foster deeper ties next year when the two countries celebrate the 60th anniversary of normalizing relations, Yoon's office said. Practical cooperation The three neighbors had agreed to hold a summit every year starting in 2008 to boost regional cooperation, but bilateral feuds and the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the initiative. Their last trilateral summit was in late 2019. Yoon, Li and Kishida will adopt a joint statement on six areas including the economy and trade, science and technology, people-to-people exchanges and health and the aging population, Seoul officials said. Kishida also plans to meet Li separately on Sunday, NHK reported, citing the Japanese government, and, according to the broadcast, is expected to raise a Chinese ban of Japanese seafood imports and Taiwan, among other topics. Speaking with reporters before departing for Seoul, Kishida said he would seek "open and frank" discussions and hoped to foster future-oriented practical cooperation by revitalizing the trilateral process. At the talks with Li, Kishida said he would like to "firmly confirm the direction of the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests and constructive and stable Japan-China relations". The summit comes as South Korea and Japan have been working to mend ties frayed by historical disputes while deepening a trilateral security partnership with the United States amid intensifying Sino-U.S. rivalry. China has previously warned that U.S. efforts to further elevate relations with South Korea and Japan could fan regional tension and confrontation. Seoul and Tokyo have warned against any attempts to forcibly change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, while Beijing on Tuesday criticized a decision by South Korean and Japanese lawmakers to attend Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te's inauguration. The summit might not bring a major breakthrough on sensitive issues but could make progress in areas of practical cooperation like people-to-people exchanges and consular matters, officials and diplomats said.  

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 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.

Aid trucks begin entering Gaza under agreement with Egypt to bypass Rafah

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 05:44
DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Aid trucks entered Gaza from southern Israel on Sunday through a new agreement to bypass the Rafah crossing with Egypt after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of it earlier this month. But was unclear if humanitarian groups would be able to access the aid because of ongoing fighting in the area. Egypt refuses to reopen its side of the Rafah crossing until control of the Gaza side is handed back to Palestinians. It agreed to temporarily divert traffic through Israel's Kerem Shalom crossing, Gaza's main cargo terminal, after a call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. But that crossing has been largely inaccessible because of fighting linked to Israel's offensive in the nearby city of Rafah. Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks to enter, but United Nations agencies say it is usually too dangerous to retrieve the aid on the other side. The war between Israel and Hamas, now in its eighth month, has killed over 35,800 Palestinians, according to Gaza's Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and fighters in its count. Around 80% of the population's 2.3 million people have fled their homes, severe hunger is widespread and U.N. officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine. Hamas triggered the war with its October 7 attack into Israel, in which Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seized some 250 hostages. Hamas is still holding some 100 hostages and the remains of around 30 others after most of the rest were released during a cease-fire last year. Egypt's state-run Al-Qahera TV aired footage of what it said were trucks entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom. Khaled Zayed, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in the Sinai Peninsula, which handles the delivery of aid from the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing, told The Associated Press that 200 aid trucks and four fuel trucks are scheduled to be sent to Kerem Shalom on Sunday. It was not immediately clear if the U.N. was able to retrieve the aid from the Gaza side. Southern Gaza has been largely cut off from aid since Israel launched what it says is a limited incursion into Rafah on May 6. Since then, more than 1 million Palestinians have fled the city, with most having already been displaced from other parts of the besieged territory. Northern Gaza, which has been largely isolated by Israeli troops for months and where the U.N.'s World Food Program says famine is already underway, is still receiving aid through two land routes that Israel opened in the face of worldwide outrage after Israeli strikes killed seven aid workers in April. A few dozen trucks have also been entering Gaza daily through a U.S.-built floating pier, but its capacity remains far below the 150 trucks a day that officials had hoped for. Aid groups say the territory needs a total of 600 trucks a day to meet colossal humanitarian needs. Stormy weather sent a strip of docking and a small U.S. military vessel ashore near the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on Saturday. The U.S. Central Command said four of its vessels were affected by rough seas with two of them anchoring near the pier off the Gaza coast and another two in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel must take over Rafah in order to eliminate Hamas' last remaining battalions and achieve its goal of "total victory" over the militants, who have recently regrouped in other parts of Gaza where the military had already operated. Netanyahu faces growing pressure from the Israeli public to make a deal with Hamas to free the remaining hostages, something Hamas has refused to do without guarantees for an end to the war and the full withdrawal of Israeli troops. Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have ruled that out. Scuffles broke out between Israeli police and protesters in Tel Aviv on Saturday after thousands gathered to demonstrate against the government and demand the return of the hostages. The protesters called for Netanyahu's resignation and demanded new elections. International pressure is also growing, as the war leaves Israel increasingly isolated on the world stage. Last week, three European countries announced they would recognize a Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, along with three Hamas leaders. On Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to end its military offensive in Rafah. The top United Nations court also said Israel must give war crimes investigators access to Gaza. Israel is unlikely to comply with the orders and has sharply condemned the ICC's move toward arrest warrants for its leaders. Israel says it makes every effort to avoid harming civilians and blames their deaths on Hamas because the militants operate in dense, residential areas.

Russian attack on Ukraine's Kharkiv kills 12, injures dozens

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 05:25
KHARKIV, Ukraine — A Russian strike on a crowded DIY hardware store in Kharkiv killed 12 people and wounded dozens more, Ukrainian prosecutors said on Sunday morning, the death toll rising as the country's second-largest city reeled from two attacks a day earlier. Two guided bombs hit the Epicentr DIY hypermarket in a residential area of the city on Saturday afternoon, Regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said on national television. The strikes caused a massive fire which sent a column of thick, black smoke billowing hundreds of meters into the air. Forty-three people were injured, the local prosecutors' office said, adding that 10 of the 12 dead had still not been identified. Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said about 120 people had been in the hardware store when the bombs struck. "The attack targeted the shopping center, where there were many people - this is clearly terrorism," Terekhov said. In a post on the Telegram app, Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Ihor Klymenko, said 16 people were still missing after the strike. The past week has seen an uptick in strikes on the city after Russian troops stormed across the border, opening a new front north of the city. Russia has bombarded Kharkiv, which lies less than 30 kilometers from its border, throughout the war, having reached its outskirts in a failed bid to capture it in 2022. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a plea to Ukraine's Western allies to help boost air defenses to keep the country's cities safe. French President Emmanuel Macron, writing on social media platform X, denounced the attack on the store as "unacceptable." A separate early evening missile strike hit a residential building in the center of the city of 1.3 million. The number of people wounded by that strike had climbed to 25 by Sunday morning. The missile left a crater several meters deep in the pavement at the foot of the building, which also housed a post office, a beauty salon and a cafe. Emergency workers ushered away residents of nearby apartment buildings. Some of the injured had blood on their faces. Just over the border, in Russia's Belgorod region, the regional governor said four residents died in Ukrainian attacks on Saturday. Firefighters battle blaze Andriy Kudinov, director of the suburban shopping center, told local media the hardware store was full of shoppers buying items for their summer cottages. It took 16 hours to fully extinguish the fire at the center, which had raged over an area of 13,000 square meters, Interior Minister Klymenko said. Rescuers, medics and journalists occasionally had to rush away from the scene of both strikes on the city and take cover on the ground, fearing another strike, as has occurred during several recent Russian attacks. Dmytro Syrotenko, a 26-year-old employee of the DIY center, described panicked  scenes. "I was at my workplace. I heard the first hit and ... with my colleague, we fell to the ground. There was the second hit and we were covered with debris. Then we started to crawl to the higher ground," said Syrotenko, who had a large gash on his face. Syrotenko told Reuters he was taken to safety by a rescue worker who helped him, several colleagues, and shoppers. Zelenskyy, in his nightly video address, denounced the strike as "yet another example of Russian madness. There is no other way to describe it." "When we tell world leaders that Ukraine needs sufficient air defenses, when we say we need real decisive measures to enable us to protect our people, so that Russian terrorists cannot even approach our border, we are talking about not allowing strikes like this to happen," he said. Writing later on Telegram, Zelenskyy noted air raid alerts had been in effect in Kharkiv for more than 12 hours and 200 emergency workers and 400 policemen remained at the scene dealing with the aftermath of the attacks. Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilians, but thousands have been killed and injured during its 27-month invasion of Ukraine.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 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.

Thousands flee as cyclone barrels towards Bangladesh

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 04:53
Patuakhali, Bangladesh — Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis left their coastal villages Sunday for concrete storm shelters further inland as the low-lying nation prepared for the expected landfall of an intense cyclone, officials said. Cyclone Remal is set to hit the country and parts of neighboring India on Sunday evening, with Bangladesh's weather department predicting crashing waves and howling gales with gusts of up to 130 kph. Cyclones have killed hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh in recent decades, but the number of superstorms hitting its low-lying, densely populated coast have increased sharply of late -- from one a year to as many as three -- due to the impact of climate change. "The cyclone could unleash a storm surge of up to 12 feet [4 meters] above normal astronomical tide, which can be dangerous," senior weather official Muhammad Abul Kalam Mallik told AFP. Authorities have raised the danger signal to its highest level, warning fishermen against going to the sea and triggering an evacuation order for those in vulnerable areas. "Our plan is to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people from unsafe and vulnerable homes to the cyclone shelters," the government's disaster management secretary Kamrul Hasan told AFP. The authorities have mobilized tens of thousands of volunteers to alert people to the danger. He said some 4,000 cyclone shelters have been readied along the country's lengthy coast on the Bay of Bengal. The state-run Bangladesh Meteorological Department said Cyclone Remal would make landfall Sunday between 6 p.m. and midnight (1200-1800 GMT). In addition to the villagers and fishermen, many of the multistory centers have space to shelter their cattle, buffaloes and goats, as well as their pets. "Some 78,000 volunteers have been mobilized to alert coastal people and evacuate the vulnerable people," Hasan said. Helal Mahmud Sharif, the chief government administrator of Khulna province, told AFP some 20,000 people had been evacuated to shelters in the most vulnerable coastal regions. Another 15,000 people and about 400 domesticated animals have been evacuated in the coastal Patuakhali and Bhola districts. On the low-lying Bhashan Char island, which is home to 36,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, 57 cyclone centers have been readied, deputy refugee commissioner Mohammad Rafiqul Haque told AFP. The country's three seaports and the airport in the second-largest city Chittagong were closed, officials said. 

UN migration agency estimates more than 670 killed in Papua New Guinea landslide

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 04:39
MELBOURNE, Australia — The International Organization for Migration on Sunday increased its estimate of the death toll from a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea to more than 670. Serhan Aktoprak, the chief of the U.N. migration agency's mission in the South Pacific island nation, said the revised death toll was based on calculations by Yambali village and Enga provincial officials that more than 150 homes had been buried by Friday's landslide. The previous estimate had been 60 homes. "They are estimating that more than 670 people [are] under the soil at the moment," Aktoprak told The Associated Press. Local officials had initially put the death toll on Friday at 100 or more. Only five bodies and a leg of a sixth victim had been recovered by Sunday. Emergency responders in Papua New Guinea were moving survivors to safer ground on Sunday as tons of unstable earth and tribal warfare, which is rife in the country's Highlands, threatened the rescue effort. Crews have given up hope of finding survivors under earth and rubble 6-8 meters deep, Aktoprak said. "People are coming to terms with this so there is a serious level of grieving and mourning," he said. Government authorities were establishing evacuation centers on safer ground on either side of the massive swath of debris that covers an area the size of three to four football fields and has cut the main highway through the province. "Working across the debris is very dangerous and the land is still sliding," Aktoprak said. Beside the blocked highway, convoys that have transported food, water and other essential supplies since Saturday to the devastated village 60 kilometers from the provincial capital, Wabag, have faced risks related to tribal fighting in Tambitanis village, about halfway along the route. Papua New Guinea soldiers were providing security for the convoys. Eight locals were killed in a clash between two rival clans on Saturday in a longstanding dispute unrelated to the landslide. Around 30 homes and five retail businesses were burned down in the fighting, local officials said. Aktoprak said he did not expect tribal combatants would target the convoys but noted that opportunistic criminals might take advantage of the mayhem to do so. "This could basically end up in carjacking or robbery," Aktoprak said. "There is not only concern for the safety and security of the personnel, but also the goods because they may use this chaos as a means to steal." Longtime tribal warfare has cast doubt on the official estimate that almost 4,000 people were living in the village when a side of Mount Mungalo fell away. Justine McMahon, country director of the humanitarian agency CARE International, said moving survivors to "more stable ground" was an immediate priority along with providing them with food, water and shelter. The military was leading those efforts. The numbers of injured and missing were still being assessed on Sunday. Seven people including a child had received medical treatment by Saturday, but officials had no details on their conditions. Medical facilities were buried along with houses, several small businesses, a guest house, school and gas station, officials said. McMahon said there were other health facilities in the region, the provincial government was sending health workers and the World Health Organization was mobilizing staff. "There will be some support, but it's such a spread-out area that I think it will be quite a challenging situation," McMahon said. "The scale of this disaster is quite immense." While Papua New Guinea is in the tropics, the village is 2,000 meters above sea level where temperatures are substantially cooler. Papua New Guinea Defense Minister Billy Joseph and the government's National Disaster Center director Laso Mana were flying from Port Moresby by helicopter to Wabag on Sunday to gain a firsthand perspective of what is needed. Aktoprak expected the government would decide by Tuesday whether it would officially request more international help. The United States and Australia, a near neighbor and Papua New Guinea's most generous provider of foreign aid, are among governments that have publicly stated their readiness to do more to help responders. Papua New Guinea is a diverse, developing nation with 800 languages and 10 million people who are mostly subsistence farmers. Marape has said disaster officials, the Defence Force and the Department of Works and Highways were assisting with relief and recovery efforts. Social media footage posted by villager Ninga Role showed people clambering over rocks, uprooted trees and mounds of dirt searching for survivors. Women could be heard weeping in the background.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 04:00
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.

Energy conference delegates push to make clean cooking accessible to all 

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 03:00
NAIROBI, Kenya — Participants at a global conference on how to reduce the world's energy use called for universal access to clean cooking through government incentives and subsidies to unlock more private sector funds.  The Paris-based International Energy Agency's ninth annual conference on energy efficiency, held Tuesday and Wednesday in Nairobi, brought together ministers, CEOs and thought leaders from around the world to discuss how to speed up progress on energy efficiency, which experts say can drastically reduce planet-warming emissions. How to deliver affordable clean cooking, which involves using electricity, solar and other solutions instead of more polluting fuels like charcoal, wood and kerosene, was on the agenda.  "There are many practical barriers to energy efficiency, and of course the barrier of the need for investment up front," said Brian Motherway, head of IEA's office of energy efficiency and inclusive transitions. "The key to unlocking efficiency is in the hands of governments. Strong, coordinated policies by governments will unlock finance and enable business and consumers to take the actions required to lower their bills."  This year's conference focused on accelerating progress toward doubling energy efficiency by 2030 as agreed upon by governments at the COP28 climate change conference in 2023.  Rashid Abdallah, executive director of the Africa Energy Commission, said at a panel discussion on Tuesday that "clean cooking should be part of any energy policy" or socioeconomic development plan.  Globally, around 2.3 billion people cook using solid biomass fuel – such as wood and charcoal – and kerosene. In Asia, 1.2 billion people lack access to clean cooking facilities, and in Africa, more than 900 million people use biomass as their primary energy source. These energy sources release harmful toxic fumes and smoke that lead to illnesses and deaths and contribute to climate change.  There's also evidence that household air pollution from cooking with dirty fuels can lead to diabetes and adverse pregnancy outcomes such as stillbirth and low birth weight, said Matt Shupler, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "There are many known health effects," he said.  Cleaner alternatives include electric and ethanol cookers that emit fewer pollutants.  High prices are an obstacle to making clean, green and affordable cooking available to all, but positive trends are emerging in the sector, with investment in clean cooking enterprises surging to an all-time high of $215 million in 2022 and the number of clean cooking enterprises with revenue exceeding $1 million growing to 11 that same year, according to a report by the Clean Cooking Alliance.  Despite this progress, a huge capital gap remains in achieving universal access to clean cooking by 2030. IEA estimates that $8 billion will be needed annually as investment in clean cooking stoves, equipment and infrastructure to meet the goal.  One of the countries that have significantly scaled up affordable, high-quality, clean cooking is Indonesia. In 2007 the government started implementing a program to transition its primary cooking fuel from kerosene to liquefied petroleum gas. The proportion of the population with access to clean cooking doubled from 40% in 2010 to 80% in 2018. Regulation and incentives have been key to the program's success, said Dadan Kusdiana, secretary-general of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. "What we do is to provide the energy with affordability," he said at a panel discussion on Tuesday. "They need this kind of energy, but they can't afford it at the commercial price."

Average US vehicle age hits record of 12.6 years 

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 03:00
detroit — Cars, trucks and SUVs in the U.S. keep getting older, hitting a record average age of 12.6 years in 2024 as people hang on to their vehicles largely because new ones cost so much.  S&P Global Mobility, which tracks state vehicle registration data nationwide, said Wednesday that the average vehicle age grew about two months from last year's record.  But the growth in average age is starting to slow as new vehicle sales start to recover from pandemic-related shortages of parts, including computer chips. The average increased by three months in 2023.  Still, with an average U.S. new-vehicle selling price of just over $45,000 last month, many can't afford to buy new — even though prices are down more than $2,000 from the peak in December of 2022, according to J.D. Power.  "It's prohibitively high for a lot of households now," said Todd Campau, aftermarket leader for S&P Global Mobility. "So I think consumers are being painted into the corner of having to keep the vehicle on the road longer."  Other factors include people waiting to see if they want to buy an electric vehicle or go with a gas-electric hybrid or a gasoline vehicle. Many, he said, are worried about the charging network being built up so they can travel without worrying about running out of battery power. Also, he said, vehicles are made better these days and simply are lasting a long time.  New vehicle sales in the U.S. are starting to return to pre-pandemic levels, with prices and interest rates the big influencing factors rather than illness and supply-chain problems, Campau said. He said he expects sales to hit around 16 million this year, up from 15.6 million last year and 13.9 million in 2022.  As more new vehicles are sold and replace aging vehicles in the nation's fleet of 286 million passenger vehicles, the average age should stop growing and stabilize, Campau said. And unlike immediately after the pandemic, more lower-cost vehicles are being sold, which likely will bring down the average price, he said.  People keeping vehicles longer is good news for the local auto repair shop. About 70% of vehicles on the road are six or more years old, he said, beyond manufacturer warranties.  Those who are able to keep their rides for multiple years usually get the oil changed regularly and follow manufacturer maintenance schedules, Campau noted.

South Africa election: How Mandela's once-revered ANC lost its way

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 03:00
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — For years, the African National Congress rose above politics in South Africa. It was a movement dedicated to freeing Black people from the oppression of white minority rule and to the lofty principle of democracy, equality and a better life for all South Africans. It was widely revered as a force for good under Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for his opposition to the apartheid system of racial segregation. But 30 years after the ANC transformed from a liberation organization to a political party in government at the end of apartheid in 1994, it faces growing dissatisfaction from South Africans who feel it has failed to live up to its promises. South Africans will vote on May 29 in a national election that could be the biggest rejection yet of the ANC, which has governed one of Africa's most important countries largely unchallenged since it led the fight to bring down apartheid. Now, the ANC is for many a byword for graft and failed government. Here's how the famous party lost its way: Broken promises While the end of apartheid gave every South African the right to vote and other basic freedoms, the challenge for the ANC was to convert that into a better life, especially for the Black majority who had been systematically repressed. That has been difficult for the ANC government to sustain after some early success in raising living standards in its first 10 years in power. South Africa sits today with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, is still ranked as one of the most unequal countries, and its widespread poverty — which still disproportionately affects Black people — spurs most of the criticism of the ANC's three decades in charge. The ANC has often pointed to the difficulties in reversing nearly a half-century of racist laws under apartheid and hundreds of years of European colonialism before that, which kept millions in poverty. It maintains that South Africa is a better country than it was under apartheid and that is undoubtedly true. But the most pressing problems for many South Africans in 2024 boil down to a failure of basic government services, with communities across the nation regularly protesting against the lack of electricity in their neighborhoods, broken or nonexistent water and sewage systems, garbage piling up on streets, and a shortage of proper housing that leaves millions living in shacks. Corruption While around half of South Africa's population of 62 million live under the poverty line, according to the World Bank, ANC officials have been implicated in enriching themselves in a succession of corruption scandals. Corruption is alleged to have been especially bad under former President Jacob Zuma, who was accused of allowing a decade of rampant graft to play out before he stepped down in disgrace in 2018. There were countless stories of wrongdoing, with politicians receiving bribes in return for influence or lucrative state contracts as a culture of graft pervaded all levels of government. South Africans heard how senior ANC figures allegedly received money to buy expensive suits, throw lavish parties or renovate their homes. The disappearance of $15 million designated for the removal of harmful asbestos from the houses of poor people was one of many cases that enraged the country. President Cyril Ramaphosa promised to clean up the ANC when he succeeded Zuma, but he was involved in his own scandal and survived an impeachment vote. The ANC's reputation hasn't recovered. Infighting The ANC has been hampered by infighting since Mandela stepped down as president in 1999 after one term and handed over to a younger generation. His successor, Thabo Mbeki, was forced out as Zuma undermined his position as the head of the ANC. The party turned on Zuma, who is disqualified from running in next week's election, when the corruption allegations became overwhelming. Ramaphosa has spent his first term as president since 2019 battling a part of the party still loyal to Zuma. In its early days, the ANC celebrated that it was a "broad church" of people dedicated to freedom and democracy. It now has factions much like any other political party, affecting its ability to solve South Africa's problems. The future From a dominant position when it once commanded 70% of the vote, the ANC has seen people gradually desert it, especially among a new generation of South Africans who don't remember apartheid. The election is widely expected to be a landmark moment for the country's post-apartheid democracy as recent polls have the ANC's support at less than 50%, suggesting it might lose its parliamentary majority for the first time. The ANC is still expected to be the biggest party but dropping below 50% would lead to it having to govern alongside others in a coalition. That would be the biggest political shift in South Africa since the ANC ascended into the government and a humbling moment for a party Zuma once said would rule "until Jesus comes back."

US independent booksellers continued to expand in 2023

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 03:00
NEW YORK — Three years ago, Erin Decker was a middle school librarian in Kissimmee, Florida, increasingly frustrated by the state's book bans and worried that she couldn't make a difference remaining in her job. So, she and fellow librarian Tania Galiñanes thought of a way to fight back. "We just put our heads together and decided a bookstore would help make sure students could get to books that were being pulled from shelves," says Decker, whose White Rose Books & More opened last fall in Kissimmee. The store is named for a resistance group in Nazi Germany and features a section — ringed by yellow "caution" tape — dedicated to such banned works as Maia Kabobe's Gender Queer, Jonathan Evison's Lawn Boy and John Green's Looking for Alaska. White Rose Books is part of the ever-expanding and diversifying world of independent bookstores. Even as industry sales were slow in 2023, membership in the American Booksellers Association continued its years-long revival. It now stands at 2,433, more than 200 over the previous year and nearly double since 2016. Around 190 more stores are in the process of opening over the next two years, according to the ABA. "Our numbers are really strong, and we have a solid, diverse pipeline of new stores to come," says Allison Hill, the book association's CEO. She cites a range of reasons for people opening stores, from opposing bans to championing diversity to pursuing new careers after the pandemic. "Some are opening to give back to their community. And some still just love books," she said during a phone interview this week. Recent members include everyone from the romance-oriented That's What She Read in Mount Ayr, Iowa; to Seven Stories in Shawnee, Kansas, managed by 15-year-old Halley Vincent; to more than 20 Black-owned shops. In Pasadena, California, Octavia's Bookshelf is named for the late Black science fiction author Octavia Butler and bills itself as "a space to find community, enjoy a cup of coffee, read, relax, find unique and specially curated products from artisans from around the world and in our neighborhood." Leah Johnson, author of the prize-winning young adult novel You Should See Me In a Crown, was troubled by the surge in book bans and by what she saw as a shortage of outlets for diverse voices. Last year, she founded Loudmouth Books, one of several independent sellers to open in Indianapolis. "I'm not a person who dreamed of opening a bookstore. I didn't want to be anybody's boss," Johnson says. "But I saw a need and I had to fill it." Most of the new businesses are traditional "brick and mortar" retailers. But a "bookstore" can also mean a "pop-up" business like Loc'd & Lit, which has a mission to bring "the joy of reading to the Bronx," the New York City borough that had been viewed by the industry as a "desert" for its scarcity of bookstores. Other new stores are online only, among them the Be More Literature Children's Bookshop and the used books seller Liberation Is Lit. Nick Pavlidis, a publisher, ghost writer and trainer of ghost writers, launched the online Beantown Books in 2023 and has since opened a small physical store in suburban Boston. "My goal is to move into a larger space and create a friendly place for authors to host events," he says, adding that he'd like to eventually own several stores. Independent bookselling has never been dependably profitable, and Hill notes various concerns — rising costs, dwindling aid from the pandemic and the ongoing force of Amazon.com, which remains the industry's dominate retailer even after the e-book market stalled a decade ago. Last month, the booksellers association filed a motion with the Federal Trade Commission, seeking to join the antitrust suit against Amazon that the FTC announced in 2023. The motion states in part that Amazon is able to offer prices "that ABA members cannot match except by forgoing a sustainable margin, or incurring a loss." Just opening a store requires initiative and a willingness to take risks. Decker says that she and Galiñanes had to use retirement money because lenders wouldn't provide credit until they were actually in business. The owner of Octavia's Bookshelf, Nikki High, is a former communications director for Trader Joe's who relied on crowdfunding and her own savings to get her store started. "Even with tons of planning, and asking questions and running numbers, it's been very difficult," High says. "I don't know that I could have prepared myself for what a shrewd business person you have to be to making a living out of this." High cites a variety of challenges and adjustments — convincing customers they don't have to order items from Amazon.com, supplementing sales by offering tote bags and journals and other non-book items. Knowing which books to stock has also proved an education. "I would read a book and think it's the best thing ever and order a bunch of copies, and everybody else is like, 'No, I don't want that book,'" she explains. "And when we started, I wanted to be everything for everybody. We had a ton of different categories. But I found out that short stories and poetry almost never sell for us. People want general fiction, bestsellers, children's books. Classics sell very well, books by James Baldwin and Toni Morrison and bell hooks and June Jordan." "It's incredibly important to listen to your customers."

New cars in California could alert drivers for breaking the speed limit

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 03:00
SACRAMENTO, California — California could eventually join the European Union in requiring all new cars to alert drivers when they break the speed limit, a proposal aimed at reducing traffic deaths that would likely impact motorists across the country should it become law. The federal government sets safety standards for vehicles nationwide, which is why most cars now beep at drivers if their seat belt isn't fastened. A bill in the California Legislature — which passed its first vote in the state Senate on Tuesday — would go further by requiring all new cars sold in the state by 2032 to beep at drivers when they exceed the speed limit by at least 16 kph. "Research has shown that this does have an impact in getting people to slow down, particularly since some people don't realize how fast that their car is going," said state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco and the bill's author. The bill narrowly passed Tuesday, an indication of the tough road it could face. Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle said he voted against it in part because he said sometimes people need to drive faster than the speed limit in an emergency. "It's just a nanny state that we're causing here," he said. While the goal is to reduce traffic deaths, the legislation would likely impact all new car sales in the U.S. That's because California's auto market is so large that car makers would likely just make all of their vehicles comply with the state's law. California often throws its weight around to influence national — and international — policy. California has set its own emission standards for cars for decades, rules that more than a dozen other states have also adopted. And when California announced it would eventually ban the sale of new gas-powered cars, major automakers soon followed with their own announcement to phase out fossil-fuel vehicles. The technology, known as intelligent speed assistance, uses GPS technology to compare a vehicle's speed with a dataset of posted speed limits. Once the car is at least 16 kph over the speed limit, the system would emit "a brief, one-time visual and audio signal to alert the driver." It would not require California to maintain a list of posted speed limits. That would be left to manufacturers. It's likely these maps would not include local roads or recent changes in speed limits, resulting in conflicts. The bill states that if the system receives conflicting information about the speed limit, it must use the higher limit. The technology is not new and has been used in Europe for years. Starting later this year, the European Union will require all new cars sold there to have the technology — although drivers would be able to turn it off. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 10% of all car crashes reported to police in 2021 were speeding related — including an 8% increase in speeding-related fatalities. This was especially a problem in California, where 35% of traffic fatalities were speeding-related — the second highest in the country, according to a legislative analysis of the proposal. Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended federal regulators require all new cars to alert drivers when speeding. Their recommendation came after a crash in January 2022 when a man with a history of speeding violations was traveling more than 100 miles per hour when he ran a red light and hit a minivan, killing himself and eight other people. The NTSB has no authority and can only make recommendations.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 03:00
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.

Ahead of another donor conference for Syria, humanitarian workers fear more aid cuts

Voice of America’s immigration news - May 26, 2024 - 02:09
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Living in a tent in rebel-held northwestern Syria, Rudaina al-Salim and her family struggle to find enough water for drinking and other basic needs such as cooking and washing. Their encampment north of the city of Idlib hasn't seen any aid in six months. "We used to get food aid, hygiene items," said the mother of four. "Now we haven't had much in a while." Al-Salim's story is similar to that of many in this region of Syria, where most of the 5.1 million people have been internally displaced — sometimes more than once — in the country's civil war, now in its 14th year, and rely on aid to survive. U.N. agencies and international humanitarian organizations have for years struggled with shrinking budgets, further worsened by the coronavirus pandemic and conflicts elsewhere. The wars in Ukraine and Sudan, and more recently Israel's war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip are the focus of the world's attention. Syria's war, which has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half the country's pre-war population of of 23 million, has long remained largely frozen and so are also efforts to find a viable political solution to end it. Meanwhile, millions of Syrians have been pulled into poverty, and struggle with accessing food and health care as the economy deteriorates across the country's front lines. Along with the deepening poverty, there is growing hostility in neighboring countries that host Syrian refugees and that struggle with crises of their own. Aid organizations are now making their annual pitches to donors ahead of a fundraising conference in Brussels for Syria on Monday. But humanitarian workers believe that pledges will likely fall short and that further aid cuts would follow. "We have moved from assisting 5.5 million a year to about 1.5 million people in Syria," Carl Skau, the U.N. World Food Program's deputy executive director, told The Associated Press. He spoke during a recent visit to Lebanon, which hosts almost 780,000 registered Syrian refugees — and hundreds of thousands of others who are undocumented. "When I look across the world, this is the (aid) program that has shrunk the most in the shortest period for time," Skau said. Just 6% of the United Nations' appeal for aid to Syria in 2024 has so far been secured ahead of Monday's annual fundraising conference organized by the European Union, said David Carden, U.N. deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria. For the northwestern region of Syria, that means the U.N. is only able to feed 600,000 out of the 3.6 million people facing food insecurity, meaning they lack access to sufficient food. The U.N. says some 12.9 million Syrians are food insecure across the country. The U.N. hopes the Brussels conference can raise more than $4 billion in "lifesaving aid" to support almost two-thirds of the 16.7 million Syrians in need, both within the war-torn country and in neighboring countries, particularly Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. At last year's conference, donors pledged $10.3 billion — about $6 billion in grants and the rest in loans — just months after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and much of northern Syria, killing over 59,000 people, including 6,000 in Syria. For northwestern Syria, an enclave under rebel control, aid "is literally a matter of life and death" this year, Carden told the AP during a recent visit to Idlib province. Without funding, 160 health facilities there would close by end of June, he said. The International Rescue Committee's head for Syria, Tanya Evans, said needs are "at their highest ever," with increasing numbers of Syrians turning to child labor and taking on debt to pay for food and basics. In Lebanon, where nearly 90% of Syrian refugees live in poverty, they also face flagging aid and increasing resentment from the Lebanese, struggling with their own country's economic crisis since 2019. Disgruntled officials have accused the refugees of surging crime and competition in the job market. Lebanon's bickering political parties have united in a call for a crackdown on undocumented Syrian migrants and demand refugees return to so-called "safe zones" in Syria. U.N. agencies, human rights groups and Western governments say there are no such areas. Um Omar, a Syrian refugee from Homs, works in a grocery store in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli — an impoverished community that once warmly welcomed Syrian refugees. For her work, she gets to bring home every day a bundle of bread and some vegetables to feed her family of five. They live rent-free in a tent on a plot of land that belongs to the grocery store's owners. "I have to leave the kids early in the morning without breakfast so I can work," she said, asking to be identified only by her nickname, Arabic for "Omar's mother." She fears reprisals because of heightened hostilities against Syrians. The shrinking U.N. aid they receive does not pay the bills. Her husband, who shares her fears for their safety, used to work as a day laborer but has rarely left their home in weeks. She says deportation to Syria, where President Bashar Assad's government is firmly entrenched, would spell doom for her family. "If my husband was returned to Syria, he'll either go to jail or (face) forced conscription," she explains. Still, many in Lebanon tell her family, "you took our livelihoods," Um Omar said. There are also those who tell them they should leave, she added, so that the Lebanese "will finally catch a break."

Pages