Category Archives: News

worldwide news

Brazil Braces for Big Changes in its US Relations

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was among of former President Donald  Trump’s most outspoken ideological allies when Trump was in office. Now, with President Joe Biden in the White House, many in Brazil are expecting changes that some dread and others welcome.  For VOA, Edgar Maciel reports from Sao Paulo. 
Camera: Edgar Maciel   Producer: Marcus Harton

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US Tech Competition With China Draws Bipartisan Support

This week a U.S.-government backed commission of technology experts completed a three-year review of the country’s artificial intelligence capabilities, urging the development of a new national technology strategy to stay competitive with China.The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) has been studying how artificial intelligence and machine learning can address U.S. national security and defense needs. It recommended spending billions of dollars more on research, diversifying the American industrial supply chain for microchips and other high-tech products, and reforming immigration policies to attract talented researchers and workers.Some of those steps are under way. Republican and Democratic lawmakers are now focusing more on ways to address technological competition with China, following years in which officials say China carried out corporate espionage and forced technology transfers to rapidly advance its technological capabilities.Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., talks to reporters on Jan. 28, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington.On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation aiming to help the U.S. government develop more technology partnerships with allies to counter China’s rise in artificial intelligence, 5G, quantum computing and other areas.The bill, led by Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner, a former technology entrepreneur, would create a new interagency office within the State Department focusing on coordinating tech strategies with other democratic nations. It would also create a $5 billion fund supporting research projects between government and private companies.In this image from video, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., speaks in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged a bipartisan effort to draft a bill investing in disruptive new technologies to challenge China.Also last week, President Joe Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 12, 2018.Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told VOA Mandarin he believes the bill will receive broad bipartisan support.“On the broad issue of China, supply chain is one element of it. But we are working on the broader issue of how do we both compete with China and how do we confront China,” Menendez said, “I think there’s plenty of room where there should be a common ground that we can come together.”He added that he has been discussing America’s China policy with Secretary of State Tony Blinken, and the State Department is conducting its own comprehensive evaluation on current China policies.“There’s a whole of government review vis-a-vis China, which I applaud,” Menendez told VOA.Similar efforts are ongoing in the U.S. Congress, where several Republican legislators are pushing the White House to maintain former President Donald Trump’s hardline posture on China.Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla, speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on July 29, 2020 in Washington.Representative Greg Steube, a Florida Republican, introduced the Keep Huawei on the Entity List Act on Wednesday, which would continue export controls and keep China’s telecommunication firm Huawei on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s entity list.“Huawei is one of the most powerful tools that the Chinese Communist Party can use for espionage and potential destruction against the United States,” Steube said in a statement.James Lankford, a Republican senator from Oklahoma, said that he and his colleagues have been talking with the White House about keeping some of the Trump-era policies on China.“We want to make it very clear. And that policy shouldn’t be thrown aside just because they have the name Trump in front of them,” he told VOA. “If there were good policies, and they were good policies, and they should remain.”Artificial intelligence for the futureThe artificial intelligence report recommends that the Department of Defense must have the foundations in place by 2025 for widespread adoption of artificial intelligence systems.The commission also addressed the ethics of using AI-enabled and autonomous weapons. For now, it said the Defense Department has adequate protections in place so that such weapons do not require a global ban and can continue to be used in accordance with international humanitarian law. It recommended establishing systems to build confidence in AI technology and keeping humans in the decision chain for deploying nuclear weapons.Lin Yang contributed to this report.

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US, Britain Suspend Tariffs in Bid to Settle Aircraft Row

The United States on Thursday agreed to a four-month suspension of retaliatory tariffs imposed on British goods such as Scotch whisky over a long-running aircraft subsidy row, with both sides pledging to use the time to resolve the dispute. The U.S. administration under former President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on Scotch whisky and other European Union food, wine and spirits, which the industry says have put its future at risk. The multibillion-dollar tit-for-tat tariff battle involving the United States, the European Union and Britain relates to a long-running row over state subsidies for plane manufacturers Airbus and Boeing. Britain is party to the dispute as a former member of the EU and maker of key Airbus components. “The United Kingdom and the United States are undertaking a four-month tariff suspension to ease the burden on industry and take a bold, joint step towards resolving the longest running disputes at the World Trade Organization,” a joint statement said. “This will allow time to focus on negotiating a balanced settlement to the disputes and begin seriously addressing the challenges posed by new entrants to the civil aviation market from nonmarket economies, such as China.” FILE – The vertical tail wing of an Airbus A350 is seen on the final assembly line in Toulouse, southwestern France, Oct. 23,2012.White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the decision would give both sides time to work out a solution. “It was meant to deescalate the issue and create space for a negotiated settlement to the Airbus and Boeing disputes,” she told a White House briefing. The tariff truce is separate from broader U.S.-Britain talks on a post-Brexit trade agreement but sends a positive signal about those discussions. Psaki declined to say if the U.S.-Britain tariff deal foreshadowed a similar truce with Brussels. Britain and the United States were hoping to reach a trade deal before the expiration of fast-track trade promotion authority granted to the U.S. federal government by Congress in July. To hit that deadline, U.S. trade officials would have to notify Congress about a likely trade deal sometime in April. Reaction to suspensionAirbus spokesman Clay McConnell welcomed the suspension of what he called “lose-lose tariffs” and said the company supports all efforts to reach an agreement. U.S. company Boeing said: “A negotiated settlement will allow the industry to move forward with a genuinely global level playing field for aviation.” Ivan Menezes, chief executive of Diageo, the maker of Johnnie Walker and Talisker whiskies, said a permanent solution would help safeguard thousands of jobs across Scotland and the rest of Britain. The agreement to lift tariffs is temporary and applies only to British goods. U.S. tariffs will continue to apply to EU goods, according to a U.S. administration official. U.S. President Joe Biden’s top trade nominee, Katherine Tai, is headed to confirmation by the full Senate next week. She told the Senate Finance Committee last month that Washington had completed four rounds of negotiations with Britain since announcing the start of talks. She said she would make it a priority to resolve the aircraft subsidy dispute. Tai, asked if she would prioritize an agreement with Britain, told the committee in written responses to questions released this week that Britain was “an important trading partner and ally.” The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States welcomed Thursday’s decision but said it was disappointed that British tariffs on U.S. whiskey relating to a separate dispute over steel were still being applied.

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WHO Reports Rise of New COVID-19 Cases in Europe

The World Health Organization’s Europe director reported Thursday that new COVID-19 cases rose 9% to just over a million in the region last week.  
 
Hans Kluge said it was the first increase in new infections after six weeks of decline.
 
At a virtual news briefing from his headquarters in Copenhagen, Kluge told reporters that more than half the region saw increases in new cases.
 
Kluge said most of the resurgence was seen in central and eastern Europe, although new cases were also on the rise in several western European countries where rates were already high.  
 
 “Over a year into the pandemic, our health systems should not be in this situation. We need to get back to the basics,” he said.
 
He said the high rates of transmission and rapid spread of variants require increased vigilance, improved testing and isolation of cases, tracing and quarantining contacts, and care.  
 
Kluge said the so-called British variant has been reported in 43 of 53 countries in the region; the South African variant in 26 countries; and the variant originally identified in Brazil and Japan in 15 countries.  
 
The WHO Europe chief urged nations to accelerate the rollout of vaccines, saying they are already saving lives, with hospitalizations and deaths in most at-risk groups declining significantly.  
 
Kluge said 45 countries have started vaccinations in the European region.
 
He also called on leaders to reengage with their communities to counter “pandemic fatigue” to prevent people from putting aside preventative measures.

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Despite Setbacks, Europe’s Far Right Finds New Ammunition for Its Cause

Europe’s far right has suffered some setbacks recently: Germany’s top opposition party is under surveillance for extremism and France shut down a right-wing youth group.  Experts say these groups are using old and new grievances and are inspired by their U.S. counterparts. For VOA, Lisa Bryant reports from Paris.

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Homeland Security Will Decide Whether to Extend TPS for Haitians, Biden Administration Says

The Biden administration has declined to comment on whether Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will be extended for Haitians.“By law, TPS designations are made by the Department of Homeland Security after consultation with the appropriate agencies,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told VOA. “So, we wouldn’t want to comment on any sort of internal deliberations when it comes to TPS.”TPS is a designation made by the secretary of homeland security to individuals from countries severely impacted by natural disasters or armed conflicts. It allows beneficiaries to live and work in the United States for a period of time.The TPS status Haitians currently hold was enacted by the Obama administration on January 21, 2010, nine days after a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the island nation, killing at least 250,000 people and displacing 5 million others.In October 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden made a campaign stop in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, Florida, where he courted the Haitian-American vote and promised to act on an immigration issue high on their list of priorities, the TPS program.More than 55,000 Haitians are enrolled in the program, according to the Bocchit Edmond, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States. (Twitter)Haiti’s position Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S., Bocchit Edmond, has called on the Biden administration to work with Congress to find a solution.“We do hope that the Biden administration, with the help of the U.S. Congress, will find a final resolution to this very sensitive issue impacting a number of Haitians. The human impact should be considered,” Edmond told VOA. “The Embassy of Haiti will continue to work with U.S. officials as we advocate for Haitians in the United States.”Prominent Haitian immigration advocate reaction Reacting to the State Department’s stance on TPS, the Miami-based Family Action Network Movement (FANM), a grassroots immigration advocacy group, called on the Biden administration to act quickly.“This is something FANM has been advocating for, along with other immigrant rights organizations. The time to do this is now,” Marleine Bastien, executive director of FANM, told VOA.Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holder Kerlyne Paraison, foreground, of Haiti, holds up a sign as she demonstrates during a rally for a permanent solution for TPS holders in front of the Citizenship And Immigration Services Field Office.What’s happening in Haiti?Haiti has battled political turmoil and a spike in violent crime over the past year. President Jovenel Moise is at odds with members of the opposition about when his term expires. He plans to step down on February 7, 2022, when a newly elected president takes power. But the opposition cites an article in the Haitian constitution that states Moise’s term should have ended on February 7, 2021.Moise was sworn in on February 7, 2017, for a five-year term after winning a 2016 presidential election. That vote was a re-do after the 2015 election results were annulled over fraud allegations.The U.S. and much of the international community back Moise’s claim that his term will end next year.However, both the Trump and Biden administrations have repeatedly criticized Moise for ruling by decree since January 2020, when two-thirds of the parliament’s terms expired. They have also called on him to organize elections as soon as possible.The United Nations, the Organization of American States and the European Union have expressed the same concerns.Moise defended his decision not to organize elections last year, citing the pandemic, a crippling economic crisis, a spike in violent crimes and “peyi lok,” a series of massive anti-government protests that halted operations of businesses, schools and transportation.Moise announced in February that a constitutional referendum was planned for April and legislative and presidential elections would be held in September.A demonstrator takes part in a march during a protest against Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti February 14, 2021. REUTERS/Jeanty Junior Augustin TPX IMAGES OF THE DAYNew wave of asylum seekers?Asked by VOA if the current political instability in Haiti could cause more Haitians to seek asylum in the U.S., the State Department’s Price did not give a direct answer.“What I would say is that it is the responsibility of Haiti’s government to organize elections in 2021 that are free, that are fair, that are credible,” Price told VOA. “We join the international community in calling Haitian stakeholders to come together to find a way forward. What we have said is that the Haitian people deserve the opportunity to elect their leaders and to restore Haiti’s democratic institutions.”Nike Ching at the State Department and Elizabeth Lee in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Russia Ends Ban on Hundreds of Jobs Previously Unavailable to Women

It’s a new era for Russian women, at least if they’re aspiring truckers, boat drivers, or pilots. Russia’s government has opened up several hundred professions that previously barred women under late-Soviet-era labor restrictions.  From Moscow, Charles Maynes reports.Videographer: Ricardo Marquina Montanana, Producer: Henry Hernandez

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A Taste of The Islands Makes COVID Lockdown Easier

Glenda Andrew pulls a tray of salmon from the oven, filling the community center’s kitchen with the aroma of garlic, cayenne and lemon rising from its crackling skin.
It is the scent of memory, of family dinners and church socials — the warmth of the Caribbean in the middle of a gray English winter made gloomier by COVID-19.  
This is food for the soul, Andrew says, and it’s needed now more than ever by Britain’s older immigrants who have been isolated from friends and family by the pandemic. Once a week the 57-year-old joins other volunteers to prepare hot meals with the zing of the islands, which they distribute for free to people in Preston and surrounding communities in northwestern England.
The area has recorded some of the U.K.’s highest coronavirus infection rates.
“It’s a great way to connect and build that relationship, but I didn’t know that at the time,” Andrew said of the project’s beginnings. “I just knew that I wanted to do something and make sure that they were getting a hot meal — not sandwiches, not soup — getting something that they’re accustomed to eating and hope that they would enjoy it.”
Once a week, for the last 42 weeks, the lucky seniors on Andrew’s list have been treated to delicacies such as jerk pork, curry goat and cow foot soup accompanied by rice and peas, yams and plantains. Portions are hefty, so there’s enough to go in the freezer for another day. Last week, some 400 meals were packed into yellow foam packages and delivered by volunteers.
The meal program grew out of Andrew’s work with Preston Windrush Generation & Descendants, a group organized to fight for the rights of early immigrants from the Caribbean and other former British colonies who found themselves threatened with deportation in recent years.  
The Windrush Generation, named after the ship that carried the first migrants from the Caribbean in 1948, came to Britain in response to a government call for workers from throughout the Empire to help rebuild the country after World War II.
The Windrush Scandal rocked Britain in 2018 amid a crackdown on illegal immigration. Long-term legal residents lost jobs, homes and the right to free medical care because many arrived as children and couldn’t produce paperwork proving their right to live in the U.K. Some were detained, and an unknown number were deported to countries they barely remembered.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck Britain, the free-spirited Andrew didn’t want the community to be victimized again. She decided to create her own food program tailored to the taste buds of the people she grew up with.
Nothing is too good for Andrew’s people. They get the best. No pilchards here.
“Salmon is a delicacy, isn’t it? You know what I mean? They’re worth it,” she said. “They brought us up, they’ve taught us so many things. They gave up their life in the Caribbean to come here.”
In addition to food, the volunteers offer a bit of human contact.  
The loneliness and isolation of the past year is painful for many of the seniors. When deliveries arrive, they seek out friendly gossip with the volunteers about what their neighbors are up to.
Sylius Toussaint, 81, who came from Dominica in 1960, said chatting with volunteers like Dave Williams helps as much as the food.
“They say hello and give you a meal, and maybe for just a few seconds at least you see someone new; someone you haven’t seen all week,” Toussaint said as his wife, Bridget, shot him a bemused look. “If you are on your own, it is so nice to see a fresh face — especially bringing gifts.”
Andrew wants to keep the meals flowing, even as optimism grows that Britain’s mass vaccination program may soon allow lockdown restrictions to be eased.
The project runs on donations and the energy of Andrew, who seemed to be in a dozen places at once as she marshaled her volunteer chefs last week. For now, they use a donated kitchen in a community center, but there’s a glimmer of hope for a more permanent venue at some point — maybe a place the community can gather.
But that’s in the future. For now, the volunteers plan to just keep going, gluing the community together with plates of rice and peas.
“Initially it was the food and, as I said, I didn’t know what we were creating,” Andrew said. “And it’s been amazing.”

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Biden Administration: Homeland Security Will Decide Whether to Extend TPS for Haitians

The Biden administration has declined to comment on whether Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will be extended for Haitians. “By law, TPS designations are made by the Department of Homeland Security after consultation with the appropriate agencies,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told VOA. “So, we wouldn’t want to comment on any sort of internal deliberations when it comes to TPS.” TPS is a designation made by the secretary of homeland security to individuals from countries severely impacted by natural disasters or armed conflicts. It allows beneficiaries to live and work in the United States for a period of time. The TPS status Haitians currently hold was enacted by the Obama administration on January 21, 2010, nine days after a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the island nation, killing at least 250,000 people and displacing 5 million others. In October 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden made a campaign stop in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, Florida, where he courted the Haitian-American vote and promised to act on an immigration issue high on their list of priorities, the TPS program. More than 55,000 Haitians are enrolled in the program, according to the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holder Kerlyne Paraison, foreground, of Haiti, holds up a sign as she demonstrates during a rally for a permanent solution for TPS holders in front of the Citizenship And Immigration Services Field Office.Prominent Haitian immigration advocate reaction   Reacting to the State Department’s stance on TPS, the Miami-based Family Action Network Movement (FANM), a grassroots immigration advocacy group, called on the Biden administration to act quickly. “This is something FANM has been advocating for, along with other immigrant rights organizations. The time to do this is now,” Marleine Bastien, executive director of FANM, told VOA. What’s happening in Haiti?Haiti has battled political turmoil and a spike in violent crime over the past year. President Jovenel Moise is at odds with members of the opposition about when his term expires. He plans to step down on February 7, 2022, when a newly elected president takes power. But the opposition cites an article in the Haitian constitution that states Moise’s term should have ended on February 7, 2021. Moise was sworn in on February 7, 2017, for a five-year term after winning a 2016 presidential election. That vote was a re-do after the 2015 election results were annulled over fraud allegations. The U.S. and much of the international community back Moise’s claim that his term will end next year. However, both the Trump and Biden administrations have repeatedly criticized Moise for ruling by decree since January 2020, when two-thirds of the parliament’s terms expired. They have also called on him to organize elections as soon as possible. The United Nations, the Organization of American States and the European Union have expressed the same concerns. Moise defended his decision not to organize elections last year, citing the pandemic, a crippling economic crisis, a spike in violent crimes and “peyi lok,” a series of massive anti-government protests that halted operations of businesses, schools and transportation. Moise announced in February that a constitutional referendum was planned for April and legislative and presidential elections would be held in September. New wave of asylum seekers?Asked by VOA if the current political instability in Haiti could cause more Haitians to seek asylum in the U.S., the State Department’s Price did not give a direct answer.“What I would say is that it is the responsibility of Haiti’s government to organize elections in 2021 that are free, that are fair, that are credible,” Price told VOA. “We join the international community in calling Haitian stakeholders to come together to find a way forward. What we have said is that the Haitian people deserve the opportunity to elect their leaders and to restore Haiti’s democratic institutions.”

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