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Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 18:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Will donors help prevent famine at Sudan support conference? 

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 17:55
new york — Humanitarians said an international support conference next week for Sudan must be a success, as 18 million Sudanese face crisis levels of hunger while funding for lifesaving programs is running out. “It is essential that we get the levels of funding that will allow us to scale [up] to the extent required,” Michael Dunford, World Food Program regional director for East Africa, told reporters from Nairobi.   On Monday, ministers will gather in Paris for a two-part conference co-hosted by the European Commission, France and Germany. There will be discussions on how to move toward a political solution to the conflict, and a separate meeting of humanitarians and international donors for a humanitarian conference for Sudan and its neighbors. This will take place on the one-year anniversary of the outbreak of the civil war, which has seen food insecurity surge and millions displaced.  “As intense fighting continues, the humanitarian tragedy grows worse by the day,” Justin Brady, head of the U.N. office for humanitarian affairs in Sudan, told reporters from Port Sudan. “Already, nearly 5 million people are one step away from famine,” he said. “Recent analysis indicates that famine is expected in parts of Khartoum and Greater Darfur – especially in hard-to-reach areas.” Children are particularly affected, with an estimated 730,000 suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Brady said more than 200,000 children could die in the coming weeks and months if they do not receive urgent assistance. Humanitarians are especially worried because these are record-high numbers during the harvest season, when food should be available and affordable. But because of the yearlong war between rival Sudanese generals, farmers and pastoralists have fled and their crops and cattle have withered, died or been destroyed.    The lean season will be upon Sudan in June, and then the number of people who are acutely food insecure will likely grow from the current 18 million people. “This is why we are desperately concerned that the 5 million population in emergency levels of food insecurity are likely to move into catastrophic levels in the coming months,” said WFP’s Dunford. “This is really a very real risk of becoming the largest hunger crisis anywhere in the world — if not already.” Despite dangers, bureaucratic difficulties, funding shortages and other constraints, Brady says humanitarians have reached more than 8 million people with aid since the war started. That assistance is in jeopardy, though, as the U.N. humanitarian appeal for $2.7 billion is just under 6% funded. About $400 million is needed immediately so aid workers can pre-position supplies ahead of the lean season, and an additional $700 million to sustain the response in the coming months as humanitarians launch a famine prevention plan. Neither of the warring parties is expected to be represented at the Paris conference, but members of Sudanese civil society have been invited to participate. Sudan is now home to the world’s largest internal displacement crisis, with 6.3 million people forced from their homes in search of safety. Another 1.7 million have fled to neighboring countries. More than 70% of health facilities in conflict areas have stopped functioning.   

US: China strengthens Russian war machine with surging equipment sales

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 17:21
WASHINGTON — China has surged sales to Russia of machine tools, microelectronics and other technology that Moscow in turn is using to produce missiles, tanks, aircraft and other weaponry for use in its war against Ukraine, according to a U.S. assessment. Two senior Biden administration officials, who discussed the sensitive findings Friday on the condition of anonymity, said that in 2023 about 90% of Russia’s microelectronics came from China. Russia has used those to make missiles, tanks and aircraft. Nearly 70% of Russia’s approximately $900 million in machine tool imports in the last quarter of 2023 came from China. Chinese and Russian entities have also been working to jointly produce unmanned aerial vehicles inside Russia, and Chinese companies are likely providing Russia with the nitrocellulose used in the manufacture of ammunition, the officials said. China-based companies Wuhan Global Sensor Technology Company, Wuhan Tongsheng Technology Company and Hikvision are providing optical components for use in Russian tanks and armored vehicles. The officials said that Russia has received military optics for use in tanks and armored vehicles manufactured by Chinese firms iRay Technology and North China Research Institute of Electro-Optics, and that China has been providing Russia with UAV engines and turbojet engines for cruise missiles. Russia’s semiconductor imports from China jumped from $200 million in 2021 to over $500 million in 2022, according to Russian customs data analyzed by the Free Russia Foundation, a group that advocates for civil society development. Beijing is also working with Russia to improve its satellite and other space-based capabilities for use in Ukraine, a development the officials say could in the longer term increase the threat Russia poses across Europe. The officials, citing downgraded intelligence findings, said the U.S. has also determined that China is providing imagery to Russia for its war on Ukraine. The officials discussed the findings as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to China this month for talks. Blinken is scheduled to travel next week to the Group of 7 foreign ministers meeting in Capri, Italy, where he's expected to raise concerns about China's growing indirect support for Russia as Moscow revamps its military and looks to consolidate recent gains in Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden has previously raised concerns directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping about Beijing indirectly supporting Russia’s war effort. While China has not provided direct lethal military support for Russia, it has backed it diplomatically in blaming the West for provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch the war and refrained from calling it an invasion in deference to the Kremlin. China has repeatedly said it isn’t providing Russia with arms or military assistance, although it has maintained robust economic connections with Moscow, alongside India and other countries, amid sanctions from Washington and its allies. “The normal trade between China and Russia should not be interfered or restricted," said Liu Pengyu, spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Washington. “We urge the U.S. side to refrain from disparaging and scapegoating the normal relationship between China and Russia.” Xi met in Beijing on Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who heaped praise on Xi's leadership. Russia’s growing economic and diplomatic isolation has made it increasingly reliant on China, its former rival for leadership of the Communist bloc during the Cold War. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who returned to Washington this week from a visit to Beijing, said she warned Chinese officials that the Biden administration was prepared to sanction Chinese banks, companies and Beijing’s leadership if they assist Russia’s armed forces with its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Biden issued an executive order in December giving Yellen the authority to sanction financial institutions that aided Russia’s military-industrial complex. “We continue to be concerned about the role that any firms, including those in the PRC, are playing in Russia’s military procurement,” Yellen told reporters, using the initials for the People's Republic of China. "I stressed that companies, including those in the PRC, must not provide material support for Russia’s war and that they will face significant consequences if they do. And I reinforced that any banks that facilitate significant transactions that channel military or dual-use goods to Russia’s defense industrial base expose themselves to the risk of U.S. sanctions.” The United States has frequently downgraded and unveiled intelligence findings about Russia’s plans and operations over the course of the war with Ukraine, which has been fought for more than two years. Such efforts have been focused on highlighting plans for Russian misinformation operations or to throw attention on Moscow’s difficulties in prosecuting its war against Ukraine as well as its coordination with Iran and North Korea to supply it with badly needed weaponry. Blinken last year spotlighted intelligence that showed China was considering providing arms and ammunition to Russia. The White House believes that the public airing of the intelligence findings has led China, at least for now, to hold off on directly arming Russia. China's economy has also been slow to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese officials could be sensitive to reaction from European capitals, which have maintained closer ties to Beijing even as the U.S.-China relationship has become more complicated.

Mideast tensions loom ahead of Biden meeting with Iraqi PM al-Sudani  

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 17:11
washington — President Joe Biden is set to welcome Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani on Monday, with the threat of a Gaza war spillover looming in the background. Security officials are on guard against expected Iranian retaliation for an attack on its consulate in Damascus earlier this month.  On Friday, Iran-backed group Hezbollah launched a barrage of rockets and drones from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. While Hezbollah and Israel have exchanged frequent cross-border fire, the timing of the attacks may trigger a significant escalation of the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, another Iran proxy.   Washington has been pressing Baghdad and other partners in the region to urge Iran to show restraint following the killing of seven Iranian military officers in an April 1 strike attributed to Israel. Tehran has made it clear that it will respond.   Biden on Friday warned Iran against any attack, saying the United States is “devoted to the defense of Israel.”  A potential escalation will be front of mind for Biden and al-Sudani, who are keen to prevent Israel’s war from spreading into Syria and Lebanon.  In the earlier months of the Gaza war, Iran-backed groups such as Kataib Hezbollah repeatedly targeted American troops in the region, including in an attack on a U.S. base in Jordan near the border of Iraq and Syria in January that killed three American soldiers and wounded more than 40 others.   Under pressure from Baghdad, shortly after the attack, Kataib Hezbollah announced it was suspending all its military operations against American troops.  The suspension of hostilities from Kataib Hezbollah and other anti-U.S. groups was a condition placed by the U.S. for the Iraqi prime minister’s visit, said Sajad Jiyad, a fellow from the Century Foundation think tank.   Troop withdrawal  A top goal in Washington for al-Sudani is progress toward an agreement on U.S. troop withdrawal from his country before a potential change in U.S. administration after the November election.  There are approximately 2,500 U.S. troops still deployed in Iraq, part of the global coalition formed in 2014 to defeat the Islamic State terror group, mostly focusing on counterterrorism roles. On Monday, a U.S.-Iraq military committee launched in January met to hash out a troop withdrawal timeline.  Biden administration officials have declined to provide details. However, in a background briefing to reporters Thursday, a State Department official said the U.S. has been “very satisfied” with its partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces and has seen “steady improvements” in their capabilities.  Energy independence  Biden and al-Sudani will also discuss “ongoing Iraqi financial reforms to promote economic development and progress towards Iraq’s energy independence and modernization,” the White House said in a statement announcing the visit. Washington wants Iraq to wean itself off Iranian energy despite routinely providing sanctions waivers to allow Baghdad to continue importing electricity from Iran. The State Department official said Iraqi reliance on Iranian electricity has “significantly decreased,” citing an Iraq-Jordan electricity project and ongoing talks for more electricity lines between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.  Baghdad is also set to ask Washington to ease restrictions on the flow of revenue from Iraq’s oil sales.   Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the funds have been held in an Iraqi government account at the U.S. Federal Reserve System and distributed upon Baghdad’s request. Since late 2022, Washington has restricted its transfers to prevent money laundering benefiting Iran and Syria.  Baghdad will highlight its efforts on that front, focusing on “reform in the financial system, especially in the bank system,” Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein told VOA in a recent interview.  New phase of strategic partnership  Al-Sudani said he aims for a new phase of strategic partnership that “supports the sovereignty and independence of Iraq without forgoing fruitful cooperation between Baghdad and Washington.”  “Our discussions will emphasize the continued importance of our economic relationship, cooperation on combating money laundering and terrorist financing, and using political and diplomatic tools to defuse regional tensions,” the Iraqi prime minister wrote in a Foreign Affairs article ahead of his visit.  “The fight against terrorism will continue to be a central topic for both of our governments.”  The leaders are also set to discuss cooperation on oil and gas, Hussein said. “We are talking about American companies coming there and helping the Iraqis in these fields, as well as health, agriculture, high education.”  The State Department official confirmed that Biden would also raise the case of journalist Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israeli-Russian citizen kidnapped in Iraq in 2023 by Kataib Hezbollah. Jeff Seldin, Hero Rahim and Farhad Pouladi contributed to this report.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 17:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Botswana objects to G7-EU diamond-tracking system 

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 16:36
Gaborone, Botswana  — African diamond producers, led by Botswana, are demanding a review of the tracking and verification system that European Union and G7 nations introduced March 1. Under the arrangement, diamonds entering EU and G7 countries - which represent 70% of the global diamond market - have to be sent to Antwerp, Belgium, for certification, in an effort to prevent the importation of sanctioned Russian diamonds. The traceability initiative has resulted in clearance delays and disruption to the supply chain. African diamond producers argue that has resulted in added costs.  But Belgium and the EU say steps are being taken to minimize delays. A Belgian official told VOA the turnaround time for the certifications has improved, with all shipments processed within 24 hours. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said delays resulted from importers not providing the necessary documentary evidence. He said African countries were bearing no increase in production costs, because expenses were borne by the mining companies. “From the onset, we have taken the concerns raised by African diamond producers about the introduction of G7-EU sanctions against Russian diamonds seriously," the official said. "This is the reason why we have taken those concerns into account from the very beginning of our discussions and have tried to fully address them. "Belgian authorities have also reached out to a number of African producers between September 2023 and February 2024 to listen, explain and adjust the ongoing work on the implementation of sanctions against diamonds from the Russian Federation.”  An EU official responding to VOA inquiries also said African producers’ concerns were considered from the onset. She said meetings were held among the EU bloc’s representatives, the United States and Botswana's government. Botswana’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, recently said the EU and G7 countries had not officially responded to a letter from African producers regarding concerns about the new tracking system. The EU representative said the response had been delayed because it was being drawn up as a collective G7 reply. On Thursday, Masisi told France’s minister of state for development and international partnerships, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, that G7 countries should reconsider the traceability initiative.  "Tell them that will be a regression in terms of our own development and an ominous threat to our own existence, and everything that we base our growth on," Masisi said. "We just think that because they did not engage sufficiently, they haven’t come to appreciate what the threats are to industry and to livelihoods and the economies.” Botswana is the world’s second-largest producer of diamonds after Russia. Its diamond exports last year were worth $7 billion.

UN: Massive aid must enter Gaza to avoid catastrophic outcome

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 16:13
geneva — A senior U.N. official warned of a catastrophic outcome for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living precariously in war-torn Gaza if humanitarian aid delivery into the territory is not massively expanded in the coming days. "We have to have a system that allows us to be safe and protected when we deliver aid, and that is the responsibility of Israel as we operate in the territory that they occupy," said Jamie McGoldrick, outgoing U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories. Speaking Friday from Jerusalem, McGoldrick told journalists in Geneva that it was difficult and dangerous for aid workers to move around and deliver aid in Gaza, noting that a UNICEF vehicle was hit Tuesday by live ammunition while waiting to enter northern Gaza. That incident followed the April 1 killing by Israel of seven World Central Kitchen workers who were delivering aid to Gaza, and the attack upon and looting of a 14-truck World Food Program convoy destined for northern Gaza last month. Such developments illustrate that "the system that we use for our own protection and safety is not working," he said. Referring to the convoys that were attacked, McGoldrick said, "I think the humanitarian workers there then feared for their own safety. And as far as we know, the deconfliction and notifications system has got flaws. "We do not have communications equipment inside Gaza to operate properly as you would have in another situation, and secondly, we do not have a hotline or an emergency number to call in case of an emergency incident that arrives, and so it is important that we get that addressed." McGoldrick said he met with Major General Yaron Finkelman, head of the Southern Command of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), this week and presented him with a list of requests that would enable the delivery of humanitarian aid "safely, effectively and at the necessary scale throughout Gaza." He said he told the Israeli major general that "we are working in a very hostile area, without the possibility of contacting each other. We do not have radios. We do not have mobile networks. "If we have a serious security incident, we do not have a hotline. We have no way of communicating with the IDF that we are facing problems at a checkpoint or facing problems en route." McGoldrick said the major general told him that he would move things forward and that a member of the IDF would be part of a new humanitarian coordination and deconfliction cell to improve the situation of Palestinians in Gaza. "We have the commitment from the major general, and we are going to keep him to that commitment and make sure we get that set up and running as soon as possible," he said. McGoldrick noted that not enough aid was entering northern Gaza to satisfy the enormous needs of tens of thousands of people who have been deprived of food, medical care and other lifesaving essentials. "We can see by the health situation. We can see by the nutritional situation," he said. "Children are showing serious signs of malnutrition, and the fact that the IPC [Integrated Food Security Phase Classification] highlights that 70% of the population is in danger of slipping into famine, we need to see a change in that, but that is not happening." Another area of great concern, one that is uppermost in the minds of humanitarians, is a potential incursion by Israel into Rafah. McGoldrick said people he met on a visit to Gaza a few days ago were extremely worried about a possible offensive, concerns he shared with Finkelman. "We have been insisting since day one that we would require time to prepare and pre-position supplies to places where people might move," he said. "We cannot do that right now because we do not have enough supplies coming in on a regular basis. "We are barely able to feed the people and support the people currently. And if we were to add on another dimension of that contingency planning process for a Rafah incursion, we are nowhere ready for that," he said. To counter a health system that no longer is functioning, he said, WHO is setting up emergency medical field hospitals all the way up north and in the middle part of Gaza, to try to provide services "if Rafah gets locked into some sort of military incursion and we cannot operate from there." "We face a real dramatic situation ahead of us," he said. "And if there were to be a Rafah incursion, figures being mentioned are that of evacuating some 800,000 people from Rafah. There is no space as we see it right now where you can accommodate that number of people," he said. "We are ringing the alarm bells that we are nowhere near ready to address the needs.  We will not be part of helping any people move or be part of any evacuation, but we have to be ready to support them if they arrive at another destination," he said. "Some people have been displaced five or six times already."

Hezbollah launches rockets, drones into Israel as US warns Iran

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 16:07
Washington — U.S. President Joe Biden delivered a stern, one-word warning to Iran on Friday as the world braced for Tehran to exact revenge for a deadly Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Damascus, Syria. “Don’t,” Biden said to reporters following a speech on domestic policy at an event in New York City. “We are devoted to the defense of Israel,” the president said in response to questions from reporters. “We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel, and Iran will not succeed." Biden’s comments followed similar expressions of support from top U.S. defense and diplomatic officials over the past several days and come as the U.S. military takes steps to ensure growing hostilities between Israel and Iran do not engulf the Middle East in a wider war. "We are moving additional assets to the region to bolster regional deterrence efforts and increase protection for U.S. forces," a U.S. defense official told VOA Friday. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, declined to share additional details. Even as U.S. officials warned Iran against seeking revenge, a key Iranian proxy sprang into action. Lebanese Hezbollah late Friday fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel. The Israel Defense Forces said it detected about 40 rockets crossing from Lebanon into Israel, some of which were intercepted by air defense systems. The IDF also said it was able to intercept two explosive drones that Hezbollah militants had used to target Israel earlier Friday. It is unclear whether the rocket and drone attacks by Hezbollah were part of an effort by Iran to retaliate for the Israeli strike on Iran’s diplomatic compound earlier this month, which killed three senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders, including General Ali Reza Zahdi, who led Iran’s elite Quds force. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned Wednesday that Israel "must be punished and will be punished” for the April 1 attack, days after one of his advisers said Israeli embassies are "no longer safe." U.S. diplomatic officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have been reaching out to counterparts in Turkey, China and Saudi Arabia, urging them to make clear to Tehran “that escalation is not in anyone’s interest,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters Thursday. But the U.S. push for de-escalation has been accompanied by expressions of strong support for Israel in the face of potential Iranian aggression. “We are in constant communication with our Israeli counterparts about making sure that they can defend themselves,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters early Friday, describing Iran’s threat to retaliate as “very credible.” “We take our commitment to helping Israel with their self-defense very seriously,” Kirby said. “It is an ironclad commitment.” During a call Thursday with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also offered Washington’s backing to Israel. “Secretary Austin assured Minister Gallant that Israel could count on full U.S. support to defend Israel against Iranian attacks,” according to a Pentagon readout of the conversation. The U.S. statements and the movement of additional resources to deter Iranian aggression, however, have done little so far to ease growing concerns. “We are very worried about potential escalation in a situation that seems to be escalating on a daily basis,” said United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric. “Our message, which has been sent publicly and privately, is to avoid any escalation and work toward de-escalation of the tensions,” Dujarric told reporters Friday. VOA’s Patsy Widakuswara and Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 16:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Kagame’s claims that M23 rebels protect Tutsis’ rights are misleading

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 15:20
Kagame is condoning and supporting a group that stands accused of serious human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The U.S. and the U.N., both of which have sanctioned the M23 militants, have accused Kagame’s government of supporting the group.

Agriculture and Wine

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 15:17
We explore innovative farming and experience Ethiopian wine.

Regenerative Farming

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 15:17
Mike Sands leads ecologically farming at Bean Hollow Grassfed, in Flint Hill, Virginia. He uses regenerative agriculture methods to rejuvenate a run-down piece of land and establish a sustainable, profitable model that challenges conventional farming norms. Reporter| Camera | Producer: Zdenko Novacki, Additional Camera: Philip Alexiou    

Farm Store

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 15:17
Bean Hollow Grassfed operates as a self-service farm store, providing a diverse selection of animal welfare-approved, certified grass-fed meats. Customers have the freedom to select their cuts, weigh them, and make purchases through an honor system. Reporter| Camera | Producer: Zdenko Novacki, Additional Camera: Philip Alexiou     

Honey Wine

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 15:16
Gize Negussie aims to introduce Ethiopian culture to Americans by offering the experience of Tej, known as honey wine. Reporter | Camera | Producer: Philip Alexiou

Nature | Pumpkin Patch

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 15:16
In Franconia, Virginia, the annual Pumpkin Hill tradition, spanning 30 years, showcases pumpkins of various sizes, gourds, and squash, presenting a colorful autumn display. Reporter | Camera | Producer: Philip Alexiou

Nature | Seattle Japanese Garden

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 15:16
The Seattle Japanese Garden is a 3.5-acre urban sanctuary in the heart of the city, and has been open to the public since 1960. Reporter | Camera | Editor: Gabrielle Weiss

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 15:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Saving animals during war: Ukrainians honored for their work

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 14:45
Animal rights groups and political leaders are honoring volunteers and activists who are saving animals affected by the war in Ukraine. Among those being recognized is Maria Vronska, who runs a Kyiv-area shelter that cares for more than 700 dogs and cats. Anna Kosstutschenko reports. Camera: Pavel Suhodolskiy. 

Israel prepares for Iranian attack

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 14:35
Israel prepares to be attacked by Iran and the FBI is concerned about a terrorist attack inside the United States. An update from Kyiv on Ukraine’s new military conscription law, and a look at the Japan-U.S.-Philippines summit and the plight of Sudanese refugees in need of health care.

US House passes controversial surveillance bill on 4th attempt

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 12, 2024 - 14:01
WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize a controversial surveillance program Friday, in a major step toward keeping a key element of the United States' foreign intelligence-gathering operation in place. The House passed a bill reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in a 273-147 vote. The FISA bill now moves to the Senate, which is expected to give it bipartisan approval. Without congressional action, the program will expire on April 19. Approval came after the duration of the bill was changed to two years from a previous version of five years, as some Republicans had sought. FISA has attracted criticism from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, who argue it violates Americans' constitutional right to privacy. The bill was blocked three times in the past five months by House Republicans bucking their party.   The White House, intelligence chiefs and top lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee have warned of potentially catastrophic effects of not reauthorizing the program, which was first created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The reauthorization was thwarted earlier this week when House Republicans refused to support the bill House Speaker Mike Johnson had put forward, which fell short of the changes they wanted.   "We will go blind on April 19" without the program, Representative Mike Turner, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters Wednesday. Although the right to privacy is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, the data of foreign nationals gathered by the program often includes communications with Americans and can be mined by domestic law enforcement bodies such as the FBI without a warrant.   That has alarmed both hardline Republicans and far-left Democrats. Recent revelations that the FBI used this power to hunt for information about Black Lives Matter protesters, congressional campaign donors and U.S. lawmakers have raised further doubts about the program's integrity. A key issue has been an amendment which would require domestic law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants before searching the database. Executive branch officials argue that such a change would undermine the program's utility for agencies such as the FBI. The amendment barely failed in a 212-212 vote ahead of the vote on the bill's final passage.