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Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 12:00
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.

Supreme Court Takes Up Key Voting Rights Case From Alabama

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 11:57
The Supreme Court is taking up an Alabama redistricting case that could have far-reaching effects on minority voting power across the United States.  The justices are hearing arguments Tuesday in the latest high-court showdown over the federal Voting Rights Act, lawsuits seeking to force Alabama to create a second Black majority congressional district. About 27% of Alabamians are Black, but they form a majority in just one of the state's seven congressional districts.  The court's conservatives, in a 5-4 vote in February, blocked a lower court ruling that would have required a second Black majority district in time for the 2022 midterm elections.  A similar ruling to create an additional Black majority district in Louisiana also was put on hold.  Conservative high-court majorities have made it harder for racial minorities to use the Voting Rights Act in ideologically divided rulings in 2013 and 2021. A ruling for the state in the new case could weaken another powerful tool civil rights groups and minority voters have used to challenge racial discrimination in redistricting.  The case also has an overlay of partisan politics. Republicans who dominate elective office in Alabama have been resistant to creating a second district with a Democratic-leaning Black majority that could send another Democrat to Congress.  Two appointees of President Donald Trump were on the three-judge panel that unanimously held that Alabama likely violated the landmark 1965 law by diluting Black voting strength.  The judges found that Alabama has concentrated Black voters in one district, while spreading them out among the others to make it impossible for them to elect a candidate of their choice.  Alabama's Black population is large enough and geographically compact enough to create a second district, the judges found.  The state argues that the lower court ruling would force it to sort voters by race, insisting that it is taking a "race neutral" approach to redistricting.  That argument could resonate with conservative justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts. He has opposed most consideration of race in voting both as a justice and in his time as a lawyer in Republican presidential administrations.  Tuesday's arguments are the first Supreme Court case involving race for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black female justice.  A challenge to affirmative action in college admissions is set for arguments on October 31.  

Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner's Daughter and US country Music Queen, Dies 

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 11:36
Loretta Lynn, the Kentucky coal miner's daughter whose frank songs about life and love as a woman in Appalachia pulled her out of poverty and made her a pillar of country music, has died. She was 90. In a statement provided to The Associated Press, Lynn's family said she died Tuesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. Lynn already had four children before launching her career in the early 1960s, and her songs reflected her pride in her rural Kentucky background. As a songwriter, she crafted a persona of a defiantly tough woman, a contrast to the stereotypical image of most female country singers. The Country Music Hall of Famer wrote fearlessly about sex and love, cheating husbands, divorce and birth control and sometimes got in trouble with radio programmers for material from which even rock performers once shied away. Her biggest hits came in the 1960s and '70s, including "Coal Miner's Daughter," "You Ain't Woman Enough," "The Pill," "Don't Come Home a Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)," "Rated X" and "You're Looking at Country." She was known for appearing in floor-length, wide gowns with elaborate embroidery or rhinestones, many created by her longtime personal assistant and designer Tim Cobb. Her honesty and unique place in country music was rewarded. She was the first woman ever named entertainer of the year at the genre's two major awards shows, first by the Country Music Association in 1972 and then by the Academy of Country Music three years later. "It was what I wanted to hear and what I knew other women wanted to hear, too," Lynn told the AP in 2016. "I didn't write for the men; I wrote for us women. And the men loved it, too." In 1969, she released her autobiographical "Coal Miner's Daughter," which helped her reach her widest audience yet. "We were poor but we had love/That's the one thing Daddy made sure of/He shoveled coal to make a poor man's dollar," she sang. "Coal Miner's Daughter," also the title of her 1976 book, was made into a 1980 movie of the same name. Sissy Spacek's portrayal of Lynn won her an Academy Award and the film was also nominated for best picture. Long after her commercial peak, Lynn won two Grammys in 2005 for her album "Van Lear Rose," which featured 13 songs she wrote, including "Portland, Oregon" about a drunken one-night stand. "Van Lear Rose" was a collaboration with rocker Jack White, who produced the album and played the guitar parts. Born Loretta Webb, the second of eight children, she claimed her birthplace was Butcher Holler, near the coal mining company town of Van Lear in the mountains of east Kentucky. There really wasn't a Butcher Holler, however. She later told a reporter that she made up the name for the purposes of the song based on the names of the families that lived there. Her daddy played the banjo, her mama played the guitar and she grew up on the songs of the Carter Family. "I was singing when I was born, I think," she told the AP in 2016. "Daddy used to come out on the porch where I would be singing and rocking the babies to sleep. He'd say, 'Loretta, shut that big mouth. People all over this holler can hear you.' And I said, 'Daddy, what difference does it make? They are all my cousins.'" She wrote in her autobiography that she was 13 when she got married to Oliver "Mooney" Lynn, but the AP later discovered state records that showed she was 15. Tommy Lee Jones played Mooney Lynn in the biopic. Her husband, whom she called "Doo" or "Doolittle," urged her to sing professionally and helped promote her early career. With his help, she earned a recording contract with Decca Records, later MCA, and performed on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Lynn wrote her first hit single, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl," released in 1960. She also teamed up with singer Conway Twitty to form one of the most popular duos in country music with hits such as "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man" and "After the Fire is Gone," which earned them a Grammy Award. Their duets, and her single records, were always mainstream country and not crossover or pop-tinged. The Academy of Country Music chose her as the artist of the decade for the 1970s, and she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988. In "Fist City," Lynn threatens a hair-pulling fistfight if another woman won't stay away from her man: "I'm here to tell you, gal, to lay off of my man/If you don't want to go to Fist City." That strong-willed but traditional country woman reappears in other Lynn songs. In "The Pill," a song about sex and birth control, Lynn writes about how she's sick of being trapped at home to take care of babies: "The feelin' good comes easy now/Since I've got the pill," she sang. She moved to Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, outside of Nashville, in the 1990s, where she set up a ranch complete with a replica of her childhood home and a museum that is a popular roadside tourist stop. The dresses she was known for wearing are there, too. Lynn knew that her songs were trailblazing, especially for country music, but she was just writing the truth that so many rural women like her experienced. "I could see that other women was goin' through the same thing, 'cause I worked the clubs. I wasn't the only one that was livin' that life and I'm not the only one that's gonna be livin' today what I'm writin'," she told The AP in 1995. Even into her later years, Lynn never seemed to stop writing, scoring a multi-album deal in 2014 with Legacy Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. In 2017, she suffered a stroke that forced her to postpone her shows. She and her husband were married nearly 50 years before he died in 1996. They had six children: Betty, Jack, Ernest and Clara, and then twins Patsy and Peggy. She had 17 grandchildren and four step-grandchildren.

LogOn: Building a Greener Bitcoin Can Help Transition to Clean Energy

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 11:35
Matt Dibble has the story of a US company that says cryptocurrency can help power the transition to cleaner energy. Camera: Tina Trinh

Saudi Prince has Immunity in Khashoggi Killing Lawsuit, Say Lawyers

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 11:14
Lawyers for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, facing a U.S. lawsuit over the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, told a court on Monday the crown prince's appointment as prime minister last week ensured him immunity from prosecution.  Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by Saudi agents in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in an operation which U.S. intelligence believed was ordered by Prince Mohammed, who has been the kingdom's de facto ruler for several years.  The prince denied ordering Khashoggi's killing, but acknowledged later it took place "under my watch."  Last week his elderly father King Salman named him prime minister in a royal decree which a Saudi official said was in line with responsibilities the crown prince was already exercising.  "The Royal Order leaves no doubt that the Crown Prince is entitled to status-based immunity," lawyers for the prince said in a petition requesting a federal district court in Washington dismiss the case, citing other cases where the United States has recognized immunity for a foreign head of state.  U.S. President Joe Biden, who fist-bumped the crown prince on a visit to Saudi Arabia in July to discuss energy and security issues, had told Prince Mohammed that he considered him responsible for Khashoggi's killing.  He said Prince Mohammed denied involvement and asserted those involved had been held to account.  Khashoggi, who had criticized the crown prince's policies in Washington Post columns, had traveled to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain papers he needed to marry Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish citizen.  The lawsuit was filed jointly by Cengiz and a human rights group founded by Khashoggi, and sought unspecified damages against the crown prince, known in the West as MbS. It also named more than 20 other Saudis as co-defendants.  It charged that MbS, his co-defendants and others carried out a plot to "permanently silence Mr. Khashoggi" after discovering he planned to use the group as "a platform to espouse democratic reform and promote human rights."  The court had asked the U.S. Department of Justice to express a view on whether Prince Mohammed had immunity, setting an October 3 deadline for a response.  After the prince's appointment as prime minister last week, the department said on Friday it was seeking a 45-day extension to prepare its response to the court "in light of these changed circumstances."  On Monday, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates granted the request for an extension but said absent compelling evidence, this would be the only extension he would allow.  The United States should file any statement of interest no later than November 17, Bates said in a court document. 

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 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 - October 4, 2022 - 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.

Angela Merkel Wins UNHCR Nansen Award for Protecting Syrian Refugees

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 10:20
Former German chancellor Angela Merkel has won the prestigious Nansen Award from the U.N. refugee agency, for providing a haven for more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution in Syria. Angela Merkel welcomed the desperate people at the height of the Syrian conflict in 2015 and 2016, when other countries were turning their backs on them. In announcing the award, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Merkel displayed great moral and political courage by helping more than a million refugees survive and rebuild their lives. UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh says Merkel has helped to highlight the plight of refugees globally. He says she has shown what can be achieved when politicians work to find solutions to challenging situations rather than shifting responsibility to others. “As well as protecting people forced to flee war, persecution and human rights abuses, the former chancellor was the driving force behind Germany’s collective efforts to receive them and to help them integrate into their new homes through education and training programs, employment schemes, and labor market integration," said Saltmarsh. The award is named after Norwegian explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen. It is given to an individual, group or organization that has gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect refugees. The award selection committee also has honored four regional winners. They are an all-volunteer refugee firefighting group in Mauritania in West Africa; a refugee support cacao cooperative in Costa Rica in the Americas; humanitarian organization Meikse Myanmar that assists internally displaced people among others in Asia and the Pacific; and an Iraqi gynecologist who provides medical and psychological care to Yazidi girls and women in the Middle East and North Africa. The Nansen award will be presented to Merkel and the four regional winners at a ceremony in Geneva October 10. For Merkel, the award carries a cash prize of $150,000. Each of the regional laureates will receive $50,000.

UN Raises Appeal for Flood-Hit Pakistan to Address Hunger, Health

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 10:06
The United Nations dramatically hiked its lifesaving appeal Tuesday to help Pakistan, where erratic rains and a combination of riverine, urban and flash floods have unleashed an unprecedented global climate-change-induced disaster since June. The international funding appeal, jointly launched with the Pakistani government from Geneva, is seeking $816 million — five times more than the $160 million flash appeal issued in August, in the wake of the immensity of the calamity and growing needs. Pakistani officials say the floods have inundated huge swaths of the country of about 220 million people. The calamity has claimed the lives of nearly 1,700 people, one-third of them children, and it has displaced almost 8 million people. Women and children make up 70% of the 33 million affected across 84 districts nationwide, with an estimated 3.4 million children in need of assistance. “The water has stopped rising but the danger has not,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s chief, told Tuesday’s televised launch event. He said an urgent and robust response is needed, along with sustainable funding, to control the spread of outbreaks of malaria, cholera, dengue, and an increase in skin infections in flood-ravaged areas. “We're on the verge of a public health disaster. Many more lives than were lost in the floods could be lost in the coming weeks if we don't mobilize greater support for Pakistan … We estimate that more than 2,000 women are giving birth every day, most of them in unsafe conditions,” Tedros said. Pakistani Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said while addressing the ceremony that 16 weeks later, 34 districts are still crisis-affected, with 11 districts still under water. Rehman said her government is still in what she described as “the longest rescue, relief and lifesaving phase” since the disaster struck and her country can’t afford recovery from the flooding on its own. “[The] 33 million people affected are 7 million more than the entire population of Australia. We have been working around the clock. But honestly, ladies and gentlemen, we literally need a new coalition of the willing. It can be done for wars so it can be done to save lives,” the minister stressed. Rehman said Pakistan was in urgent need of medicine for 8.2 million people and must import extra supplies of food. U.N. officials warned of growing hunger in Pakistan, saying the deluge inundated more than 3.6 million hectares of farmland and killed more than 1.1 million livestock. Pakistani officials estimate the flooding has inflicted more than $30 billion in damages on national infrastructure, washing away roads, bridges and about 800,000 houses. “The people of Pakistan are bearing the brunt of the world's inaction to face up to climate change or to prepare for its consequences. It’s a stain on our conscience internationally,” said U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths, while speaking at the Geneva event. “The people of Pakistan have not caused this crisis for which they are undeserving victims and they're paying the unimaginable price of its impact.”

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 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.

Solomon Islands Says It Signed US-Pacific Island Accords After China References Removed  

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 09:43
The Solomon Islands foreign minister says the country signed on to an agreement between the United States and its Pacific Island neighbors only after indirect references to China were removed. The U.S. and Pacific Island leaders signed an historic 11-point Declaration on U.S.-Pacific Partnership last week during a summit hosted by President Joe Biden at the White House. The declaration covers such key issues as sustainable development, tackling climate change, preserving security of the Pacific region and trade. The Solomon Islands sent a diplomatic note to the regional Pacific Islands Forum ahead of the summit saying it would not sign the declaration. Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele told reporters Tuesday in Wellington, New Zealand, the initial draft of the accord included “some references that we were not comfortable with.” When pressed further, Manele said the references involved China. "There was some references that put us in a position that we would have to choose sides, and we don't want to be placed in a position that we have to choose sides,” he said. The Solomon Islands’ initial refusal to sign the declaration came just five months after it signed a security agreement with China that has raised concerns in the United States and Australia that Beijing would establish a military presence in the Solomon Islands, located less than 2,000 kilometers from Australia. A draft of the agreement that emerged on social media included a provision that could allow Beijing to send armed police and soldiers to the Solomon Islands, as well as base its navy ships off the Solomon’s coast. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare insisted he would not allow the creation of a Chinese military base, saying the deal instead will help provide domestic security. During the summit, President Biden announced more than $810 million in expanded programs to aid the Pacific Islands. The U.S. has provided upwards of $1.5 billion to support the Pacific Islands over the past decade, according to a senior administration official. The U.S. also pledged to recognize the Cook Islands and Niue as sovereign states, following appropriate consultations. While both Cook Islands and Niue have full constitutional independence from New Zealand and act as independent countries, the U.S. considers them as self-governing territories and has not established formal diplomatic relations. Biden will appoint the first U.S. envoy to the regional Pacific Islands Forum. USAID will reestablish its mission in Suva, Fiji, by next September. Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.

Most of Bangladesh Left Without Power After National Grid Failure

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 09:39
Large swathes of Bangladesh were left without electricity on Tuesday after a partial grid failure, a government official said, adding that authorities were working to gradually restore power supply in the country of 168 million people. The country's power grid malfunctioned at around 2 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Tuesday, leading to blackouts across 75-80% of the Bangladesh, Bangladesh Power Development Board official Shameem Hasan told Reuters. "We are trying to restore the system," Hasan said, adding that utilities were currently producing around 4,500 megawatts (MW)of power, compared to nationwide demand of 14,200 MW. An investigation is underway to ascertain the reason for the grid's collapse, Hasan said. Bangladesh peak power demand on Tuesday was 3% higher than the 13,800 MW forecast earlier this week by the Bangladesh Power Development Board, according to government data. "Hopefully within three hours, power supply will be restored in Dhaka," Junior Power Minister Nasrul Hamid said, referring to Bangladesh's capital city that is home to some 20 million people. Many parts of Bangladesh have been facing frequent power cuts this year despite efforts to ration gas supplies amid high global natural gas prices. Natural gas accounts for nearly three quarters of the country's power generation. Over a third of the 77 gas-powered units in Bangladesh were facing a gas shortage, government data showed on Tuesday. Power demand growth in Bangladesh in recent years has largely been driven by the residential segment, compared with industries.

Cameroon's Biya Orders Enforcement of Bilingualism Law

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 09:34
Cameroon's president has ordered officials to enforce a 2019 law on bilingualism and make life easier for English speakers in the French-speaking majority country. Complaints of discrimination against English speakers sparked a separatist conflict that, since 2017, has left more than 3,500 people dead. Civilians assembled at Yaounde's city council this week to complain about difficulties they encounter in Cameroon's public offices because they speak only one of the central African state's two official languages. Emmanuel Ngong, a 26-year-old engineer, said he was denied service in a public office because he spoke English. "Many government workers behave as if French should be the only language that should be spoken in Cameroon," Ngong said. "I was irritated when I went to an office and I spoke in English and one man said "je ne connais pas votre Anglais la." The French sentence means "I do not know your English." Civilians who fled the fighting in western Cameroon between troops and separatists say they often face discrimination in public offices when speaking English. A December 2019 law states that English and French have the same value and should be used equally in public offices, and says Cameroonians should be able to express themselves in either language. Jean Marie Bodo, one of the officials dispatched to enforce the bilingualism law, said people abuse public office by refusing to attend to civilians who speak either in English or French. Bodo said Cameroon President Paul Biya will no longer tolerate French-speaking workers imposing the French language on English-speaking citizens, and English- speaking workers should also be patient when they receive French speakers in public offices. Bodo said all official documents should be translated into both English and French languages and English and French speakers should be given equal access to jobs to stop marginalization that is causing tensions and threatening Cameroon's unity. Bodo said messages on all signboards should be in the two official languages, printed in the same character to stop giving the impression that one language is superior because characters are larger. The government says after educating citizens on the importance of the two languages co-existing peacefully, it is now ordering people who do not speak the two languages to register in language schools. Signboards written in one language are being pulled down and replaced. Among the 10 towns the delegation is visiting this week are Yaounde, Garoua, Maroua and Cameroon's economic capital, Douala. Tamandjo Jeanneaux, an official in Douala's 5th district, said that to encourage living together and stop the dominance of the French over the English language, his council made it compulsory for French speakers to speak only English every Wednesday, and English speakers are expected to speak only French on Wednesdays. Tamandjo says many French speakers tell him that council workers are reluctant to speak English. The crisis began in 2016 when English-speaking teachers and lawyers took to the streets to denounce the dominance of French. The government responded with a crackdown and separatists took up weapons, saying they were defending civilians from government troops. Cameroon rights groups say at least 3,500 people have since died in five years of fighting.

Hong Kong's 'Shoebox' Residents Struggle Amid Sweltering Heat, Cramped Living Conditions

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 09:15
Just a harbor away from a cluster of skyscrapers, in the poorest district in Hong Kong, Szeto, a resident who declined giving his full name to maintain his privacy, struggles to endure the heat inside his shoebox apartment. The heat wins. “It’s so stuffy,” says the 47-year old. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe and had to go out.” Szeto shares his 6-square-meter apartment with nine other people in Hong Kong’s infamous “sub-divided flats” because the territory’s rental rates are among of the highest in the world. His life is particularly difficult this year. Hong Kong’s summer heat has been scorching, as July and September saw record-high temperatures amid the region’s most severe heatwaves since 1961. Climatologists attribute the frequency and severity of heatwaves around the world to global warming. The United Nations says that will only increase in the decades to come. In Hong Kong, the heatwaves have pushed residents like Szeto into a more desperate situation, according to social worker Esther Wu. “We have did a survey [a] few months before, and we found that in cubicle in subdivided unit, the temperature is much more hotter than outside,” said Esther Wu, adding it’s “like five to six degrees hotter than outside because of the bad design of the structure of the inadequate housing.” There are about 200,000 Hong Kongers living in subdivided flats. Many live in the cramped units because they can’t afford to rent a larger studio, and it currently takes six years on average to get a public housing apartment. Szeto’s room has no windows, and he has to rely on his air conditioner to be able to fall asleep. “The AC is not good enough,” says Szeto, “so even if I turn AC on the temperature [inside the room] is just as hot as outside.” For some residents, like Chun Lai, even if they have a functioning air-conditioning unit, they can’t afford to use it. Lai says she does not have much extra money to pay for electricity after paying the rent. She asks, “How can I afford that?” A local NGO survey indicated about 70% of residents living in subdivided flats have found it hard to afford utility expenses, such as water and electricity, in summer. Like Lai and Szeto, many take refuge in parks or air-conditioned shopping malls during the day. The government has provided 18 heat shelters in different districts in the past few years to tackle urban heat. But social worker Wu says this measure hardly helps, as such shelters are only open at night. She says officials should consider a heat subsidy from CLP (the China Light and Power utility company) for people living in poor conditions. “Many residents reflect that it’s the hottest summer in recent years so we have to apply some subsidies from CLP,” said Wu. “It’s a subsidy at HK $1,000 … to release the burden.” While passing a spot in the corridor where some of his roommates choose to sleep, Szeto says he’s not hopeful things will change.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 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.

Hurricane Ian Rescue, Recovery Efforts Continue in Florida

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 08:49
More than 500,000 homes and businesses in Florida remain without power nearly a week after Hurricane Ian struck the southeastern U.S. state and left a trail of destruction and devastation. Ian struck Florida September 28 as a dangerous Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 240 kilometers an hour, and left more than two million customers across the state without power.  Officials with utility companies say it will likely be Friday or Saturday before electricity is restored to at least 95% of its customers. More than 1,500 people have been rescued as search and rescue crews engage in a painstaking door-to-door search for victims among destroyed homes and buildings. The U.S. death toll from Ian has risen to more than 100 people from Florida to the state of North Carolina, with the majority of the fatalities in Florida.  More than 50 deaths were reported in Florida’s Lee County, which bore the brunt of Hurricane Ian when it came ashore. Reuters says another 21 deaths have been reported by state officials from nine other counties. Four deaths were reported in North Carolina.  Lee County includes the hard-hit areas of Fort Myers and Sanibel and Pine Islands.  The two barrier islands are cut off from the mainland after Ian destroyed the only bridges that connected them, prompting rescue crews to drop supplies by helicopter on Pine Island.  Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters Monday that temporary bridges will be built to reconnect Sanibel and Pine Islands to the mainland.  DeSantis on Monday defended officials who have come under increasing scrutiny over the timing of their evacuation orders.   U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Florida Wednesday.  The Bidens visited Puerto Rico Monday to get a first-hand look at the devastation from Hurricane Fiona, which struck the island just days before the emergence of Hurricane Ian.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 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.

Popular Philippine Radio Journalist Gunned Down 

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 07:48
A popular Philippine radio host and prominent critic of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte was shot and killed late Monday night. Authorities say Percival Mabasa was sitting in his car outside his home in Las Pinas when two people on a motorcycle opened fire and later escaped. Mabasa, known professionally as Percy Lapid, accused Philippine government officials of corruption and other abuses and irregularities on his popular radio program for decades. The New York Times says Mabasa criticized ex-President Duterte’s violent anti-drug campaign and perceived attempts by supporters of the Marcos family to portray the current president’s father, who ruled the Philippines as a dictator from 1965 to 1986, as a victim of his political enemies. Mabasa had also criticized the Marcos administration in recent weeks for what he said was corruption involving discrepancies in sugar imports through a state agency. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines says Mabasa is the second journalist killed since Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. took office in late June. Mabasa’s fellow radio broadcaster, Renato “Rey” Blanco was stabbed to death last month in the central Philippines. The union said Mabasa’s death underscores how journalism remains “a dangerous profession” in the Philippines. Some information for this report came from Reuters.

Artificial Intelligence Is New Weapon Against Australian Wildlife Smugglers

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 07:34
Australian scientists are harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence in the fight against wildlife trafficking.   The technique uses 3-Dimensional X-rays at airports and post offices to detect animals being smuggled in luggage or the mail, and algorithms then alert customs officers.   This technology uses artificial intelligence to identify the shapes of animals being trafficked. Australia has a rich diversity of flora and fauna, which has fueled an illegal trade in wildlife. The number of live animals seized by the Australian Border Force has tripled since 2017, according to official data.   Australian reptiles and birds are highly prized overseas.   Exotic species, including snakes and turtles, are also brought into the country potentially bringing pests and diseases that could threaten farming industries and fragile native ecosystems. "We are teaching computers to look for trafficked wildlife in both mail and traveler luggage pathways, said Vanessa Pirotta, a wildlife scientist at Macquarie University in Sydney. "The way in which we do that is we scan animals - dead animals in this case - and what we do is we scan that using 3D X-rays and then we produce a reference library.  So, lots of images with the animals presented in different ways so the computer can go, oh, okay, I have seen this animal before.  Oh, it looks slightly different, but I think that is a lizard." Australia is aiming to protect its biodiversity with a new plan announced Tuesday that aims to prevent future extinctions, updating an existing environmental policy.  Among other things, the plan includes adding fifteen animals and plants to the endangered species list due in part to the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20 and land clearing. The government intends to curb the impact of feral species, such as foxes and cats, that inflict untold damage on native wildlife, along with invasive weeds. The strategy also includes reserving almost a third of Australia for conservation to improve biodiversity. Dozens of countries, including France and Britain, have already set similar targets. Australia is "the mammal-extinction capital of the world," according to Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, who says previous strategies to protect biodiversity have failed.

Former Australian Government Staffer Goes on Trial for Rape

Voice of America’s immigration news - October 4, 2022 - 07:13
A former Australian government staffer went on trial Tuesday for the alleged rape of a former co-worker in Parliament House. Bruce Lehrmann has been charged with sexual intercourse without consent stemming from an accusation by Brittany Higgins that he raped her in the office of then-Defense Minster Linda Reynolds in March 2019.   The trial is expected to run between four and six weeks. Lehrmann, who has denied the charges, is facing 12 years in prison if convicted. The case is among several sexual scandals that rocked the government of former Prime Minister Scott Morrison last year. Reynolds came under intense criticism when she called Higgins “a lying cow” after Higgins publicly came forward with her allegations. Reynolds said she was not referring to Higgins’ allegations, but the description of how she was treated after coming forward. Reynolds later apologized for her comments.   Then-Attorney General Christian Potter came under fire after reports surfaced that he was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in 1988 when he was 17 years old, an allegation Potter denied. Police did not bring any charges against Potter since his accuser has since died.  Both Reynolds and Potter were relieved of their posts in a cabinet reshuffle. The scandals prompted mass rallies across Australia with protesters demanding an end to sexual violence against women.  In addition to the scandals involving Potter and Reynolds, the center-right Liberal Party was hit with reports alleging several male staffers had filmed themselves performing sex acts in Parliament House, including on the desk of at least one female lawmaker, and shared the images on a special Facebook group chat page. Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.

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