Category Archives: World

politics news

Social Media Companies Face Tough Congressional Questions on Russian Election Interference

Facebook, Twitter and Google executives testified in public before Senate and House investigations into Russian election interference for the first time Wednesday, amid disclosures that Russian influence on social media platforms was much wider in scope than previously understood. The lawmakers had tough questions for the Silicon Valley executives as VOA’s Katherine Gypson reports from Capitol Hill.

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New York Uzbeks Seek Greater Community Outreach, Societal Inclusion

As U.S. authorities seek motives that might have led 29-year-old suspect Sayfullo Saipov to run down and kill innocent pedestrians and cyclists in Lower Manhattan, New York’s Uzbek community believes his radicalization can be attributed in part to a lack of language and culture-specific inclusion among Uzbek nationals attempting to integrate into U.S. culture.

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Trump Election Anniversary Approaches

Wednesday, Nov. 8, marks the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s election as the 45th U.S. president. Trump’s surprise election sent shockwaves across the country and around the world, but his first nine months in office have often been chaotic. Trump has followed through on some of his election promises, but failed on others. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

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Trump Tweets NY Attacker Had Diversity Visa

According to a tweet by President Donald Trump Wednesday morning, the Uzbek attacker who killed at people Tuesday night in Manhattan came to the United States on a diversity immigrant visa.

For would-be Americans who don’t have family in the U.S., or an employer to sponsor them, or who aren’t refugees, the diversity visa, also known as the green card lottery, is the only option. It requires a high school degree or a few years of work experience just to qualify.

The State Department noted, however, that visa information is confidential under U.S. law, and that they could not comment on any specific visa application.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer played an important role in drawing up legislation for the program in the 1990s. In a statement released Tuesday, he said “I have always believed and continue to believe that immigration is good for America,” proposing that Trump focus on the “real solution” of anti-terrorism funding.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. State Department announced that all entries to the lottery this year had been lost and must be resubmitted.

Earlier this year, republican senators proposed scrapping the program altogether.

If the application to the Green Card lottery is valid, your number is chosen and you pass the other requirements for immigrants, you still need the money to get to the U.S. It’s a small portion of immigration to the U.S. every year, but larger than other cornerstones of the program, like employment-based immigrant visas.

In Fiscal Year 2015, the U.S. issued 48,097 diversity visas out of 531,463 total immigrant visas.

Natives of all countries qualify except Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, the United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. People born in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are eligible.

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On Climate Change, It’s Trump vs Markets

Though the Trump administration has taken steps to undo regulations aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions, experts say economic forces are helping to push down U.S. emissions anyway.

U.N. climate negotiators will meet in Bonn, Germany, November 6-17. It will be their first gathering since President Donald Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Trump considers efforts to fight climate change a barrier to economic growth. Promising to dominate global energy markets and put struggling U.S. coal miners back to work, he has taken a series of steps to roll back regulations aimed at fighting climate change. They include moving to revoke the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama’s primary tool for cutting carbon emissions from power plants.

Energy transition

Losing those regulations won’t stop the transition in energy sources that’s already underway, according to George Washington University Solar Institute Director Amit Ronen.

“We’re still going to meet the goals of the Clean Power Plan in most states, even if it’s withdrawn,” he said, “just because we’re substituting so much natural gas and renewables for coal.”

Coal-fired power plants — the most climate-polluting source of electricity — are shutting down across the country. More than 500 closed between 2002 and 2016, and additional plants are slated for closure, according to the Department of Energy. Electric utilities are replacing them with cheaper, cleaner natural gas.

And renewable sources, such as wind and solar, are booming. Prices have plummeted. Renewables are beginning to be cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

Solar tariffs

Though electric utilities are choosing natural gas and renewables over coal, the Trump administration may influence energy markets in other ways.

A case before the International Trade Commission will soon give the president the authority to put tariffs on imported solar panels — and nearly all of them are imported.

The case is billed as an effort to help domestic solar manufacturers. While Trump has not embraced renewable energy, he has said he wants to support U.S. manufacturing jobs.

But solar manufacturing is mostly automated. Far more people work in labor-intensive installation. The Solar Energy Industries Association has opposed measures limiting imports, saying it would cost jobs.

The International Trade Commission recommended tariffs smaller than what the plaintiffs asked for. But Trump gets the last word, expected before mid-January.

Even more severe trade restrictions would not extinguish the renewables industry, however.

“[A tariff] certainly adds cost and might stifle solar development,” said Rhodium Group analyst John Larsen. “But the overall clean energy picture doesn’t get hit too hard.”

That’s because many states and cities have policies requiring electric utilities to use renewable energy, Larsen noted. They are stepping up their efforts to cut greenhouse gases, even as the federal government is pulling back. If solar dips, wind may fill in the gap.

Subsidizing coal, nuclear

The proposal that could have a bigger impact on electricity markets comes from the Trump administration’s Department of Energy.

With so many coal plants shut down and eight nuclear plants on the brink of closure, Secretary Rick Perry said the reliability of the U.S. electric grid is in jeopardy.

Because coal and nuclear plants provide constant power and have their fuel supplies on-site, Perry suggested paying them more than other sources for their electricity.

The proposal has made unusual allies of the natural gas, solar and wind industries. They wrote joint comments opposing it. And critics across the political spectrum have blasted it.

“This has no intellectual depth. It’s unprofessional. It’s badly thought out,” said finance director Tom Sanzillo of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Sanzillo noted that the Department of Energy study on which Perry based his recommendations does not show that grid reliability is threatened. And Perry himself rejected a similar proposal as governor of Texas, where the growing influx of wind power was pushing coal plants out of business.

Not fast enough

Ultimately, experts say, the Trump administration has limited powers to save the coal industry.

While coal’s decline is helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, however, experts say they are not falling fast enough to avoid the worst of climate change.

Under the Paris climate agreement, nations agreed to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Former President Obama pledged that the United States would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Even the Clean Power Plan, plus other Obama-era regulations, still would have left the United States short of that goal, Larsen said.

“The current U.S. trajectory is not in line with Paris, and the U.S. commitment in Paris wasn’t necessarily on track for 2 degrees,” he said. “It was a starting point, a down payment.

“Hopefully, other countries step up to the plate to fill in some of that gap. But that’s a big if.”

The latest report from the U.N. Environment Program says pledged emission cuts worldwide add up to just one-third of what is needed to keep the planet below the 2-degree target.

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NY Mourns, Tightened Security, After Bike Path Rampage

Authorities in New York are trying to determine what led the driver of a rented pickup truck to mow down people on a busy bike path Tuesday in the deadliest terrorist incident in the city since the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001.

At least eight people were killed and 11 others injured in what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called “a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.”

New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said around 3:05 p.m. local time, a man driving a rented commercial pickup truck entered the bike path, striking riders and pedestrians. The truck also struck a school bus, injuring two adults and two children.  

The man then “exited the vehicle brandishing two handguns,” O’Neill said. A paintball gun and a pellet gun were later found at the scene. The suspect was shot in the abdomen by police and taken into custody.

Law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told media outlets the suspect was a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan named Sayfullo Saipov, who entered the United States in 2010. He underwent surgery and is expected to survive.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told CNN he believes the suspect was “radicalized domestically.”  News reports indicate a note was found at the scene referencing Islamic State.

In a tweet Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump said, “The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty.  I want merit based.”

Tuesday night, Trump said he ordered “Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!”

There has been no official claim of responsibility from IS, but Greg Barton, a professor of global Islamic politics at Deakin University in Australia, said it seems as if the attacker was inspired by the terror group.

“Islamic State doesn’t claim attacks when the attacker is held in custody and so they probably won’t claim this one,” Barton told VOA.  “But there’s no question that we’ve seen many attempted attacks in New York and there will be more attempts in the future.”

WATCH: Ramon Taylor reports from the scene

Uzbek reaction

Uzbekistan’s president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, said Wednesday the attack was ruthless and cruel, and that his government stood ready to use all means to assist in the investigation.

“We express our feelings of full solidarity to the people of the United States of America,” Mirziyoyev said in a statement posted on the Uzbekistan Foreign Ministry website.

“We strongly condemn the terror truck attack on the innocent civilians in New York City. Our deepest sympathy and condolences to the families who lost their loved ones,” said the Turkistanian American Association of New York and New Jersey, on behalf of the Uzbek community, in a statement sent by email to the Voice of America.

The Cato Institute told VOA only about 40,000 Uzbeks have entered the United States as migrants in the last 20 years, and that of those, only 2 percent arrived as refugees.

David Bier, a policy analyst at the Washington-based research institution, said he believed this is the first time an Uzbek national has killed anyone on U.S. soil in a terrorist attack.

Witnesses describe chaos

For some witnesses, the chaos was reminiscent of images of deadly attacks from across Europe.

“It always seems really distant but then when it’s right next to you, obviously it’s really shocking and disturbing, and you don’t want it to happen to anybody,” said Elizabeth Chernobelsky, who witnessed the crime scene.

Others were left in disbelief. College student Jake Saunders, who barely missed a train at a crucial moment, told VOA he considers himself lucky.


“If I had made that train, I would be right where the shooting is, right there, because that was my destination,” Saunders said.

Police said the driver shouted “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” when he got out of the truck. But when O’Neill was asked whether the suspect shouted the phrase, he replied: “Yeah. He did make a statement when he exited the vehicle,” though he declined to elaborate.

The New York Police Department said they will increase the number of officers throughout the city “out of an abundance of caution.”

Ramon Taylor in New York and Victor Beattie in Washington DC contributed to this report


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White House: Trump Has ‘Warm Rapport’ with Philippines’ Duterte

The White House said Tuesday that President Donald Trump has developed a “warm rapport” with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte even though the Manila leader has verbally attacked the United States in profane terms.

A senior Trump administration official, talking about details of Trump’s five-nation Asia visit that starts Friday and includes a stop in Manila, said Trump and Duterte have become friendly during telephone conversations and exchanges of letters.

“I think there’s a warm rapport there and he’s very much looking forward to his first in-person meeting with President Duterte,” the official said. Their meeting is scheduled on the last stop of Trump’s 12-day trip that includes visits to Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam.

Anti-drug campaign praised

Duterte has alleged that the U.S., despite its long-standing alliance with the Philippines, has treated it “like a dog,” and a year ago, before Trump assumed power, announced a “separation” from the U.S. The Philippine leader was angered that the administration of former President Barack Obama voiced objections to the country’s extrajudicial killings of people involved in drug transactions.

But Trump, in a May call to Duterte, praised his anti-drug campaign, saying Duterte was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

The White House official said, “The amount of cooperation that’s taking place below the leader level, made possible by our long-standing relationship and alliance with the Philippines, is still very robust. And that expands to areas like counter-terror, all of the close people-to-people ties between the countries, and human rights as well. The president will have frank and friendly discussions in his first meeting with Mr. Duterte.”

Elsewhere on his trip, Trump is planning to advance efforts to force North Korea to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and pushing countries in the region to adhere to United Nations sanctions to limit trade with Pyongyang that it needs to fund its missile and nuclear tests.

No DMZ visit

But the White House official said Trump, unlike some other U.S. presidents, “is not going to visit the DMZ,” the heavily armed buffer zone between North and South Korea.

He said, “There’s not enough time in his schedule. It would have had to be DMZ or Camp Humphreys,” a military base south of Seoul, the South Korean capital, to highlight the military cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea.

“No president has visited Camp Humphreys, and we thought that that made more sense in terms of its messaging, in terms of a chance to address families and troops there,” the official said.

“It’s becoming a little bit of a cliche, frankly” to visit the DMZ, the official said, noting that Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all visited the buffer zone this year.

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AP Fact Check: Trump Marginalizes Adviser Snagged in Probe

President Donald Trump is working to discredit and marginalize an adviser to his 2016 campaign who took steps to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from a Russian source close to the Kremlin. Trump branded George Papadopoulos “low level” and a “liar” Tuesday, a turnaround from describing him as an “excellent guy” when he joined his campaign team.


It’s become harder for Trump to speak dismissively of the Russia investigation now that his former campaign chief is under house arrest and Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying about his Russian interactions. But he’s trying.


A look at statements by Trump and spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders after the special counsel’s investigation unsealed criminal charges against Paul Manafort and his business associate and revealed Papadopoulos’ plea:


Trump tweet Tuesday: “Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar.”

The Facts: Papadopoulos, though not senior, was not obscure. Trump named Papadopoulos to his foreign policy advisory council in March 2016, where he joined a short list of experts helping the candidate with international affairs.


“He’s an oil and energy consultant,” Trump told The Washington Post at the time. “Excellent guy.” Trump tweeted a photo of his March 31 advisory council meeting, with Papadopoulos among several advisers at the president’s table. Jeff Sessions, then a senator and now attorney general, was helping Trump’s campaign and attended at least two meetings of the advisory council with Papadopoulos also there.


Papadopoulos was based in London at the time but did not operate in a bubble.


In April 2016, he met a Russian professor close to the Russian government for breakfast in London and was told Moscow had “dirt” helpful to Trump, namely Clinton emails. Investigators said Papadopoulos emailed a Trump campaign policy adviser the next day, saying “Have some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.”


Court filings say the adviser met later with an unidentified Russian woman who claimed to be related to Russian President Vladimir Putin and a third person who claimed connections with the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry. The two men then exchanged emails about a possible meeting between Trump campaign aides and Russian government officials.


Altogether, this episode has provided evidence in the first criminal case connecting Trump’s team to alleged intermediaries for Russia’s government. Papadopoulos is cooperating with investigators.


His lie? He told the FBI his Russian interactions came before he joined Trump’s team. These steps came after he joined.


Trump tweet Monday: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign.”

 The Facts: Not true, according to the indictment.


Manafort and his associate Rick Gates are charged with criminal activities that go back to 2006 but extend to February of this year. The charges do not refer to Manafort’s activities with the campaign but rather accuse him of laundering money and conspiratorial acts before, during and after he was campaign chairman.


Manafort and Gates face 12 counts, which do deal largely with activities from 2006 to 2015, before Manafort joined the campaign in March 2016.

But both are charged with conspiring together and with others to knowingly and intentionally defraud and commit crimes against the U.S. from 2006 to this year.


And both are charged with conspiring together to make false statements and conceal crimes against the U.S., and to causing others to do so, from November 2016 to February 2017.


The indictment alleges that Manafort and Gates acted as unregistered agents of Ukraine’s former pro-Russia leader, government and party from 2006 to 2015. The indictment says that “from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, MANAFORT and GATES laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts.”


Manafort was hired in late March 2016 as the campaign’s manager for the Republican convention in July. He was promoted to campaign chairman in mid-May, after he had essentially assumed control, and then was pushed out August 19 when questions intensified about his lobbying for Ukraine interests.


This indictment emerged from the broad investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It does not go to the heart of that matter.

Sanders: “Today’s announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president’s campaign or campaign activity.” – briefing Monday.


The facts: It’s true that Trump himself isn’t wrapped up in the charges, but his campaign adviser is.


Sanders said Papadopoulos’ work for the campaign was “extremely limited. It was a volunteer position.”

Yet investigators said his position was significant to those who wanted to pass on information helpful to the campaign. The allegations unsealed Monday state “the professor only took interest in defendant PAPADOPOULOS because of his status with the Campaign.”

Sanders: “What the Clinton campaign did, what the DNC did was actually exchange money …. actually paying money for false information.” – briefing


The facts: She is right that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party hired a firm that came up with sensational allegations about Trump’s connections to Russia. The material is unverified. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s false.

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Trump Disparages Ex-aide Cooperating With Prosecutors in Russia Probe

U.S. President Donald Trump disparaged one-time foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos on Tuesday, a day after it was disclosed that he pleaded guilty to charges of lying to federal agents but has been cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election.

A year ago, Trump described Papadopoulos, a 30-year-old energy and oil consultant, as an “excellent guy.” But in a new Twitter comment from the White House, Trump said, “Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar. Check the DEMS!”

Trump said, “The Fake News is working overtime,” referring to mainstream U.S. news outlets’ widespread coverage of Papadopoulos’ guilty plea in early October and the indictment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his protege Rick Gates on money laundering and conspiracy charges linked to their multimillion-dollar lobbying effort for one-time Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych. Trump’s campaign was not implicated in the charges against Manafort and Gates.  

“As Paul Manafort’s lawyer said, there was ‘no collusion’ (between Trump aides and Russia) and events mentioned took place long before he came to the campaign,” Trump tweeted.

He added, “I hope people will start to focus on our Massive Tax Cuts for Business (jobs) and the Middle Class (in addition to Democrat corruption)!”

In a statement of facts underlying Papadopoulos’s guilty plea, special counsel Mueller detailed several emails Papadopoulos sent to high-level Trump aides during the height of the election campaign about his efforts to set up a meeting between Trump campaign and Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin. The meeting never occurred.

The statement did not name the Trump aides Papadopoulos emailed about his overseas contacts involving Russia, but The Washington Post said that it had identified Manafort, Gates, national campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis and one-time campaign chairman Corey Lewandowski as the recipients.   Clovis called Papadopoulos’s efforts “great work.”

The documents also say one of the contacts told Papadopoulos in April 2016 that the Russians had “dirt” about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”  Starting in July 2016, WikiLeaks released thousands of Democratic National Committee emails, with many of them showing embarrassing behind-the-scenes efforts by Democratic operatives to help Clinton win the party’s nomination. She has partly blamed her loss on the disclosure of the emails.

Monday’s allegations and disclosure of the Papadopoulos guilty plea have left Washington speculating where Mueller’s investigation is headed next, but legal experts expect more charges to be filed.

Mueller has been investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia and Turkey in recent years, ahead of his brief White House tenure at the outset of Trump’s presidency. Flynn was an outspoken campaigner for Trump last year, but Trump fired him as national security adviser as news surfaced that he lied to Vice President Mike Pence and others about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to Washington in the period before Trump took office in January.

Mueller is also probing whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired then-Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey last May while he was heading the agency’s Russia investigation before Mueller, over Trump’s objections, was named to take over the probe. Monday’s allegations against Manafort and Gates and disclosure of the Papadopoulos guilty plea were the first charges Mueller has brought in his five months as special counsel.

The White House says Trump has no intention of firing Mueller or pardoning the campaign aides charged so far.

Trump’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, told ABC News on Tuesday, “The president has not indicated to me or to anyone else that I work with that he has any intent on terminating Robert Mueller.”

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in a report made public in January that Putin personally directed a campaign to undermine U.S. democracy and help Trump win.  On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the allegations, saying there is no evidence of election meddling in the United States or other countries.

Both Manafort and Gates turned themselves in to the FBI in Washington for processing and later pleaded “not guilty” in a federal court.  A judge ordered both placed under house arrest.

The indictment against them alleged that Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager from June to August last year and was a key figure in the campaign before then, enriched himself with his lobbying for the Ukrainian leader before he was forced from power by a popular uprising in 2014 and fled to Russia.

Mueller alleged that Manafort hid his assets in accounts in Cyprus, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and the Seychelles and then “spent millions of dollars on luxury goods” to “enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States.”

The 12-count indictment alleged that more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts, with Manafort laundering more than $18 million to buy property and goods in the United States and Gates sending more than $3 million to accounts he controlled.

Mueller charged that Manafort and Gates conspired to carry out the scheme between 2006 and this year, failed to register as foreign agents and then offered “false and misleading” statements to federal agents about their activities.

In addition to Mueller’s investigation, there are three separate congressional probes into Russian meddling and possible links between Trump’s campaign and Russia.


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