All posts by MTechnology

Citizenship Path for ‘Dreamer’ Immigrants in US Remains Uncertain

U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday said he remained adamant about the need to create a pathway for U.S. citizenship for so-called Dreamer immigrants, but it “remains to be seen” if that will be part of a $3.5 trillion budget measure.

“There must be a pathway to citizenship,” Biden told reporters as he returned to the White House after spending the weekend at his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Dreamers are immigrants brought to the United States as children who are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Democrats hope to provide legal status to some immigrants in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation measure they plan to pass with a simple majority, but details have not been released.

Asked if the reconciliation measure needed to include the pathway to citizenship, Biden said that “remains to be seen.”

Senate Democratic leaders have said the budget measure would open the door to legislation on climate measures, social spending, and extension of a child tax credit.

However, it remains unclear if the Senate parliamentarian, who decides which provisions may be included in a budget package, will approve inclusion of an immigration measure.

The DACA program, created by former President Barack Obama while Biden was vice president, faces new legal challenges.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen this month sided with a group of states suing to end the program, arguing that it was illegally created by Obama in 2012.

Biden last week vowed to preserve the DACA program and urged Congress to provide a path to citizenship.

DACA protects recipients from deportation, grants them work authorization and access to driver’s licenses, and in some cases better access to financial aid for education. It does not provide a path to citizenship. 

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Fauci Sounds New Virus Warnings

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, sounded new alarms Sunday about the surge in coronavirus cases in the country, especially in regions where people have been resistant to getting vaccinated even as the delta variant spreads rapidly.

“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union” show. “Fifty percent of the country is not vaccinated. That’s a problem.”

“We’re putting ourselves in danger,” said Fauci, the top medical adviser to President Joe Biden.

In the United States, hospitalizations and deaths are far below their peaks last winter. But the number of new infections has been rising sharply in parts of the country where skepticism about the need to get vaccinated, the safety of the vaccines and resistance to government suggestions to get inoculated remain a potent force.

More than 51,000 new infections were recorded in the U.S. on Saturday, a 172% increase over the last two weeks, and more than 250 deaths have been occurring daily in recent weeks.

As it stands, the government says more than 162 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, which corresponds to 49% of the country’s population and nearly 60% of adults.

But polls have shown that as many as 80% of unvaccinated Americans say they definitely will not get inoculated or are unlikely to, no matter how many officials urge them to get the shots.

Many conservative politicians previously had adopted a more cautious approach toward vaccinations or said whether to get inoculated was a matter of personal choice. Now some are voicing their exasperation at those refusing to get vaccinated.

Republican Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama said last week of the unvaccinated, “These people are choosing a horrible lifestyle.”

Another Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, has long urged vaccinations in his southern state but it still has one of the lowest rates of inoculations. Two adolescents recently died of COVID-19 in his state. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“These are alarm bells,” he told CNN. Nonetheless, he noted, “Certainly the resistance (to inoculations) has hardened.”

But Hutchinson voiced optimism that the unvaccinated will change their minds. 

“People can change their resistance,” he said. “That should be our focus.”

Fauci said those vaccinated “are highly protected,” including against the delta variant. But the pace of vaccinations has dropped in the U.S. by more than 80% since mid-April.

Some cities, including Los Angeles in the West and St. Louis in the middle of the country, have imposed new orders for people to wear masks in public indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status. Other cities are considering similar directives.


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Criminal Probe Sought After Malawi Police Compensate Rape Victims

Malawi’s government has paid thousands of dollars in compensation to women who allegedly were sexually assaulted by police officers during post-election protests. Lawyers for victims and human rights campaigners, however, say the money alone is not enough. They want suspects to be arrested and tried in court.  Police have promised a fresh investigation.     

The Malawi Human Rights Commission accuses police officers of raping victims in the capital city of Lilongwe in apparent retaliation for the fatal stoning of a police officer by residents during post-election violence on Oct. 8, 2019.  

In his ruling on August 13, 2020, High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda ordered the Malawi Police Service to compensate 18 women and arrest 17 police officers implicated for the crimes. Nyirenda said the victims needed to be compensated for trauma they suffered at the hands of police.

Now that compensation has been paid, though, lawyers for the victims and human rights campaigners say money alone is not enough.

Atupele Masanjala is the spokesperson for the Women’s Lawyers Association, which represented the rape victims.

She says the compensation marks the end of the civil case but there is a need to look at the criminal aspect.

“Because even if those women are compensated, the people who have done the wrong have not been held accountable,” Masanjala said. “The police officers are not the people who paid that money. That was the government paying on behalf of the police. But those police officers haven’t been identified, they haven’t been held accountable, they haven’t been arrested. So, as it is now, they are criminals just walking free and that’s unacceptable.”  

Habiba Osman is executive secretary for the Malawi Human Rights Commission. She says a criminal proceeding is needed.

“It means that now there is going to be individual liability or responsibility whenever people commit such crimes that would be seen to be violating the rights of other people,” Osman said. “So, what this is to also tell us is that even if they are state’s agents [tasked] to be enforcing the law, if they commit the crime the same organization can bite them.”

The government has paid $160,000 to the 18 victims, with compensation ranging from $5,000 to $12,000 per victim.

One victim from the Msundwe area, who did not want to be named in this report, said the compensation is too low.

She says, “I left my village [scene of the incident] to settle somewhere because people were laughing at me for what happened. So, I though the compensation would be enough to buy land and build a house. But this is not the case.”

She says she is looking forward to the arrest of the culprits, although she could not identify her attacker because she says he covered his face when he raped her.  

James Kadadzera is a spokesperson for the Malawi Police service.

He told VOA police are ready to start a new investigation after their previous investigation failed to identify suspects.

“In fact, there were many police officers that were on duty on that particular day,” Kadadzera said. “Probably 100 plus, so it was difficult to identify the suspects.”

Kadadzera hopes this time, however, they will identify the suspects because he says the investigation team will include members of the Malawi Human Rights Commission, Women Lawyers Association and other human rights organizations.

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South Africa Turmoil

On this edition of Encounter, Ambassador Michelle Gavin, senior fellow for Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and former Ambassador to Botswana, and Frans Cronje, CEO of the Johannesburg-based Institute of Race Relations, analyze with host Carol Castiel the political, economic and social situation in South Africa following the arrest and detention of former South African president Jacob Zuma given the protests, looting and violence which this incident triggered.  How did the celebrated multiracial democracy led by Nelson Mandela reach this critical juncture point, and what does the future hold for South Africa? 

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Japan’s Top Male Gymnast Fails Qualifying Event

Kohei Uchimura, Japan’s top male gymnast, looking to end his long career in glory, instead slipped and fell Saturday during his high bar qualifying event.  Known for winning all-around gymnastic championships for years, the 32-year-old athlete was looking to compete only in the high bar this year, but his fall leaves him out of the competition.  

Tropical Storm Nepartak is headed for Japan, bringing the threat of heavy rains and strong winds. Olympic officials are rescheduling some rowing events to take place earlier than originally planned.     

Richard “The Locomotive” Carapaz is taking home the gold for cycling, Ecuador’s first cycling medal.  

The International Judo Federation has suspended Algerian athlete Fethi Nourine and his coach Amar Benikhlef after they both withdrew from the games to avoid a match against an Israeli athlete and in support of the “Palestinian cause.”   

Nourine told Algerian television, “We worked a lot to reach the Olympics, but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all this.”

The federation has confirmed the men’s withdrawals from the games and said in a statement, “The immediate response of the IJF Executive Committee was to form an investigative commission, which confirmed all the facts, leading to a temporary suspension of the athlete and the coach and assigning the case to the Disciplinary Commission of the IJF for further investigation, judgment and final sanctioning beyond the Olympic Games.”

The youngest Olympic athlete is out of the competition in Tokyo after losing her first match Saturday. Twelve-year-old table tennis athlete Hend Zaza of Syria lost to 39-year-old Liu Jia of Austria.  

Zaza told People magazine, “The main lesson was the loss of this match, especially in the first match so next time I will be working hard to pass the first, second, third round,” the youngster said. “Because I want to be in this competition longer, not only for the first round.”

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US Infrastructure Proposal May Move Forward Despite Senate Stall

Issues in the News moderator Kim Lewis talks with VOA senior diplomatic correspondent, Cindy Saine, and senior reporter for Marketplace, Nancy Marshall-Genzer, about growing congressional challenges on infrastructure, police reform, COVID-19 and the economy facing the Biden administration, the ramifications of a widespread cyber-attack on Microsoft allegedly conducted by China, controversial Israeli phone surveillance software allegedly misused amid a global hacking scandal, the Tokyo Olympics and global concern over the spreading of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

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US Top Diplomat Blinken to Visit India, Kuwait

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to India next week, the State Department said on Friday, in the top U.S. diplomat’s first visit to the world’s largest democracy and an important U.S. ally in Asia.

Blinken will also visit Kuwait and meet senior officials there at the end of the July 26-29 trip.

The United States sees India as an important partner in efforts to stand up to China’s increasingly assertive behavior. Blinken’s trip will follow a visit by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to China and coincide with one to Southeast Asia by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

In New Delhi on Wednesday, Blinken will meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

Among the subjects on the agenda will be “Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values, and addressing the climate crisis” as well as the response to the coronavirus pandemic, a statement said.

Blinken is likely to discuss plans for an in-person summit of the Quad group of countries – Indian, Japan, Australia and the United States – that is seen as a counter to China’s rising influence. The meeting later this year is expected to focus on ways to develop regional infrastructure in the face of China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative.

The United States hosted a virtual summit of the Quad countries in March at which they agreed that Indian drugmaker Biological E Ltd would produce at least a billion coronavirus vaccine doses by the end of 2022, mainly for Southeast Asian and Pacific countries.

However, India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, was subsequently hit by a catastrophic wave of COVID-19 infections and halted vaccine exports amid intense criticism of Modi’s domestic vaccination efforts.

Washington sent raw materials for vaccines, medical equipment and protective gear to India after the spike.

India expects to receive 3-4 million doses of U.S.-made vaccines by August.

“(India) is such a critical country in the fight against COVID-19,” Blinken told MSNBC on Friday, explaining that India would eventually become a vital source of vaccines to the world.

“Of course, they’re focused understandably on their own internal challenges now, but when that production engine gets fully going and can distribute again to the rest of the world, that’s going to make a big difference.”

Last November, India, the United States, Japan and Australia conducted their largest joint naval exercises in over a decade as part of efforts to balance China’s growing military and economic power in the region.

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