Voice of America

  • Trump: US to Cut Aid to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador
    President Donald Trump says the United States "will now begin cutting off or substantially reducing" the amount of foreign aid given to three Central American countries, saying they were "not able to do the job" of stopping migrants from leaving their countries and "coming illegally" to the U.S. "Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador — they're paid a lot of money," Trump told reporters Monday afternoon. "Every year, we give them foreign aid. And they did nothing for us. Nothing. They did nothing for us. So, we give them tremendous amounts of money. You know what it is, you cover it all the time — hundreds of millions of dollars. They, like a lot of others, do nothing for our country." The president's comments came as a group of several thousand migrants, mostly from Honduras, spent Sunday night in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula as they continued their trek toward the United States and away from what they say is unbearable violence and poverty at home. Trump, in a tweet earlier in the day, claimed "criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in" the caravan. Reporters traveling with the caravan say they have spotted no people from the Middle East in the group. Asked by a reporter on the White House south lawn what evidence he had of Middle Easterners in the caravan, Trump replied, "I had reports, and they have a lot of everybody in the group. It's a horrible thing, and it's a lot bigger than 5,000 people, and we got to stop 'em at the border. And unfortunately, you look at the countries, they have not done their job." When pressed further about his assertion, Trump told journalists if they take their cameras into the caravan, "You're going to find MS-13. You're going to find Middle Eastern. You're going to find everything. And guess what, we're not allowing them in our country. We want safety." Two weeks ahead of U.S. congressional elections, Trump, a Republican, again laid the blame for the latest mass migration toward the southern U.S. border on opposition Democrats. The United Nations refugee agency said it has 32 workers in Mexico to provide humanitarian assistance to the migrants and legal advice, with its local partners offering asylum information to those who want to stay. The International Organization for Migration announced on Monday that large numbers of migrants arrived in Mexico, with many likely to remain for an extended period. IOM estimates that more than 7,200 people are in the caravan, with many of them planning to continue their march northward. Authorities in southern Mexico largely left the migrants alone Sunday as they walked toward the day's destination in Chiapas state. The Mexican government has pledged to process asylum requests for migrants who apply. The country's interior ministry reported that on Friday, Saturday and Sunday a total 1,028 people had requested refugee status. Mexico's National Migration Institute said it reiterates its duty to safeguard the human rights of migrants who enter its territory. Pueblo Sin Fronteras, an organization that helps the migrant caravans in Central America, said governments in the region have adopted "a policy of fear and racism imposed by the United States" and are not considering the reasons why people are seeking somewhere new to go. "They are walking in mass exodus because they cannot live in their country anymore due to extreme violence, lack of opportunity, and the corruption and impunity that has expelled them from their homes," the group said in a statement Sunday. Mexico's incoming president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told supporters at a rally Sunday in Chiapas he would be sending a letter to Trump proposing Mexico, the United States and Canada work together to invest in development in Central America to address poverty. Lopez Obrador, who takes office December 1, said people who leave their home do so not because they want to, but out of necessity. He has pledged to offer migrants work visas, and said Sunday that Mexico has to guarantee human rights and that above all, the migrant families, women and children will have protection. "Nothing bad will happen to the Central American migrants," Lopez Obrador said. Aid group Save the Children expressed concern Sunday about children who were sleeping outside in Tapachula and Suchiate either because places were full, or the children feared they would be detained once inside. The group estimates one in four members of the caravan are children.

  • Trump Remains Unsatisfied with Saudi Accounts on Khashoggi
    U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he was still not satisfied with what he has heard from Saudi Arabia about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but did not want to lose investment from Riyadh. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler, disappeared three weeks ago after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage. Riyadh initially denied knowledge of his fate before saying he was killed in a fight in the consulate, a reaction greeted skeptically by several Western governments, straining relations with the world's biggest oil exporter. "I am not satisfied with what I've heard," Trump told reporters at the White House. "I don't want to lose all that investment that's been made in our country. "But we're going to get to the bottom of it." Trump made similar comments Saturday about being unsatisfied with the Saudi response to the killing. Trump on Monday said he spoke with the crown prince and that there are Americans in Saudi Arabia and U.S. intelligence officers in Turkey working on the Khashoggi case who are returning Monday night or Tuesday. Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate by Saudi agents and his body cut up. Turkish sources say authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting the killing of the 59-year-old. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will release information about the investigation in a speech Tuesday. As incredulity deepened over Saudi Arabia's account, comments from Trump have varied. He has appeared at times to play down Riyadh's role in the incident, but also warned of potential economic sanctions. He has repeatedly highlighted the kingdom's importance as an ally. Earlier on Monday, Trump's son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner, said he had urged Saudi Arabia's crown prince to be transparent about Khashoggi and told him "the world is watching" Riyadh's account of the journalist's disappearance. Kushner has cultivated a personal relationship with Prince Mohammed and urged Trump to act with caution to avoid upsetting a critical strategic and economic relationship, a senior administration official said. In an interview with CNN on Monday, Kushner said he had told the crown prince: "Just to be transparent, to be fully transparent. The world is watching. This is a very, very serious accusation and a very serious situation." Asked how the prince responded, Kushner said: "We'll see."

  • Russia Signals Willingness to Consider US Complaints about Arms Treaty
    Russia signaled Monday it is willing to consider mutual complaints the United States and it have about their continued implementation of the 1987 nuclear weapons treaty between the two world powers. Russian Security Council chairman Nikolai Patrushev expressed Moscow's "readiness for joint work" on the pact as he met in the Russian capital with his U.S. counterpart, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton. For his part, Bolton said that the U.S. had not made any decision to deploy missiles in Europe targeting Russia if the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is scrapped. Their talks came two days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to pull out of the agreement that bans the United States and Russia from building, testing, and stockpiling ground-launched nuclear missiles with a range from 500 to 5,000 kilometers (310-3,400 miles). The U.S. leader accused Russia of building and testing missiles that violate the accord. Since Trump's declaration, Moscow has defended the treaty, with Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, saying the U.S. decision "will make the world more dangerous." He rebuffed the U.S. claim that Russia had violated the terms of the pact. The Russian Security Council said Patrushev had told Bolton that the treaty's "abrogation would deal a serious blow to the entire international system of nuclear non-proliferation and arms control."  The two security officials, according to the Russian statement, also discussed a possible five-year extension of another arms control agreement, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that took effect in 2011 and is set to expire in 2021. Bolton also held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and is set to meet Tuesday with Putin. Before the Patrushev-Bolton talks, Putin spokesman Peskov contended that "it is the United States that is eroding the foundations and main elements" of the three-decade-old nuclear agreement with its missile defense systems and use of drones. Russia to respond in kind  The Kremlin spokesman said that if the United States goes on to develop new missiles, then Russia would be forced to respond in kind. He said Russian officials want to get more information about the U.S. plans regarding the treaty in their talks with Bolton. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the deal with the late U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, at the White House in 1987. "Do they really not understand in Washington what this could lead to?" Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Gorbachev as saying. "Washington's desire to turn back politics cannot be supported. Not only Russia, but all those who cherish the world, especially a world without nuclear weapons, must declare this." Without specifying how Russia violated the treaty, Trump on Saturday appeared to say Moscow will not get away with it. "Russia has violated the agreement. They have been violating it for many years. And we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we are not allowed to," he said. U.S. officials going back to the Obama administration have accused Russia of deliberately deploying a land-based cruise missile to pose a threat to NATO.  Russia has denied violating the INF agreement and says U.S. missile defense systems are a violation. Defense advocates in Washington say the INF treaty keeps the U.S. from developing a new generation of weapons in a world that faces new global security challenges. Trump said, "We'll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say let's really get smart and let's none of us develop those weapons, but if Russia's doing it and if China's doing it, and we're adhering to the agreement, that's unacceptable." China is not part of the INF agreement. Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons — the coalition that won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize — said, "By declaring he will leave the INF Treaty, President Trump has shown himself to be a demolition man who has no ability to build real security. Instead, by blowing up nuclear treaties, he is taking the U.S. down a trillion-dollar road to a new nuclear arms race."  Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent Russian political analyst, told the Associated Press, "We are slowly slipping back to the situation of Cold War, as it was at the end of the Soviet Union, with quite similar consequences, but now it could be worse because Putin belongs to a generation that had no war under its belt. These people aren't as much fearful of a war as people of (former Soviet leader Leonid) Brezhnev's epoch. They think if they threaten the West properly, it gets scared." 

  • Brazil's Right-Wing candidate Scolds Son for Threat to Shut Top Court
    Brazil's leading presidential hopeful, Jair Bolsonaro, publicly upbraided his son on Monday for threatening to shut down the Supreme Court in comments that set off a storm of criticism and prompted his main opponent to call the far-right candidate a threat to democracy. Over the weekend, social media exploded over a video of comments made in July by Eduardo Bolsonaro saying the top court could be forcibly disbanded by the Army if it stripped his father of an electoral victory. Chief Justice Josà Antonio Dias Toffoli issued a statement saying any attack on the judiciary amounted to an attack on democracy and urged all authorities to respect the constitution. Bolsonaro's leftist rival, Fernando Haddad, who is trailing in opinion polls, said if the former Army captain wins Sunday's run-off vote, military hard-liners will threaten democratic institutions and undermine the country's young democracy. Brazil emerged in 1985 from a repressive 21-year military dictatorship. Following the firestorm, Bolsonaro, a federal lawmaker, expressed his  respect for the separation of powers and disowned the comments by his son, a 34-year-old member of Congress. "I've already warned my boy. It was his responsibility. He has already apologized. It happened four months ago. He was asked a senseless question and gave an absurd answer," said Bolsonaro, 63, in a interview with the SBT television network. "The judiciary is obviously important. I was even hard on the boy. Anyone who says such a thing needs to see a psychiatrist," he said. "As far as we are concerned, this is a closed chapter." Yet Haddad seized on the controversy to tell Brazilians that democracy was in peril. The Workers Party (PT) candidate has issued increasingly dire warnings as the latest opinion polls show the race seemingly out of reach, with nearly three in five voters backing Bolsonaro. "If he has the courage to threaten democracy before the election, what do you think he will do if he wins?" Haddad said in Sao Paulo, a day after Bolsonaro renewed a vow to jail him for alleged graft and wipe the PT from Brazil's political map. "Either we toss aside this authoritarian tradition that Brazil has always had ... or we are in danger, including physical, if we do not alert the country that the political opposition, judges and journalists are being threatened before the election has been decided," he said at a press conference. Bolsonaro is a seven-term member of Congress who has found wide appeal with an electorate seeking order after five years of economic and political crises. Haddad has faced strong headwinds as his party, a dominant force in politics in recent years, is one of many ravaged by corruption scandals. Until his presidential run, Bolsonaro was best known for his defense of the 1964-1985 military government and being charged with hate crimes for misogynist, racist and homophobic rants. The Supreme Court rejected the racism charge, but has not ruled on a case in which he told a fellow lawmaker she was not pretty enough to rape. He has called the cases political persecution. Classroom video In a video taken in July of him speaking in a classroom, Eduardo Bolsonaro said the Supreme Court could be shut down if it countered his father. "One wouldn't even need a Jeep. Sending a soldier and corporal would be enough to close the STF," he said, using the acronym for the court. The younger Bolsonaro posted another video Monday on his Twitter account criticizing the top court and backing his father's proposal to increase its size from 11 to 21 members — something that Haddad said was a clear attempt to neutralize the court's current justices. Justice Celso de Mello, the court's oldest judge, called Eduardo Bolsonaro a "coup-monger" in a written statement. Mello said the junior congressman's "unacceptable authoritarian view" was a danger to Brazil's democratic system and disregarded the country's constitution. Another justice, Alexandre de Moraes, asked public prosecutors to investigate the threat to close the Supreme Court as a possible violation of the country's national security law. "You don't joke with democracy, the state of law or republican stability," he said in a statement that did not name Bolsonaro. An MDA opinion poll published on Monday by transportation lobby CNT showed that Bolsonaro had 57 percent of voter support, compared to Haddad's 43 percent. The numbers were in line with other polls that show Bolsonaro taking 59 percent (Datafolha) or 60 percent (BTG/FSB) of the votes. The race came down to Bolsonaro against Haddad after the first round of voting on Oct. 7. As Brazil's most polarized presidential campaign in decades entered its last week, tens of thousands of Bolsonaro's backers gathered in several cities across Brazil on Sunday, where the vibe was more of victory parties than pre-election rallies. Anti-Bolsonaro protesters gathered in fewer cities on Saturday for events that were mostly organized by a Facebook group of women voters who oppose him.

  • Saudi State TV Says Crown Prince Meets US's Mnuchin
    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Riyadh on Monday, Saudi state TV said in a tweet. Mnuchin said on Sunday Saudi Arabia's explanation of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a "good first step but not enough," adding that it was premature to discuss sanctions against Riyadh over the incident. The Saudi crown prince and Mnuchin "stressed the importance of strategic partnership and the future role of this partnership through Vision 2030," the Saudi TV tweet said, referring to the kingdom's long-term development plan. The U.S. official said on Sunday he would not attend a major investment conference to be hosted in Riyadh this week, and that his visit was to hold talks on joint efforts toward countering terrorist financing and curbing Iran's military and political influence.

  • Transgender Activists Rally Against Reported Plan to Redefine Gender
    LGBT activists rallied Monday in front of the White House following a report over the weekend that the Trump administration is considering creating a strictly binary definition of gender that could deny federal recognition and civil rights protections to transgender Americans. "The Trump administration thinks that there aren't very many transgender people," Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality told the gathered crowd. "They think that we're weak. They think that we don't have any friends. And we're here to show them today we are here, we are strong, we are resolute. And boy, do we have some pretty good friends." The protest was part of a swift backlash to a New York Times story that the Department of Health and Human Services has been contemplating defining gender as a biological condition determined immutably by genitalia at birth under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs. Protests took place in New York and Washington, trending nationally on Twitter under the hashtag #WontBeErased. The Times said the proposed definition could submitted to the Justice Department by the end of the year. Other agencies would have to adhere to the same definition. Critics fear the new definition would mean an end to all federal protection of transgender people. The HHS released a statement that neither confirmed nor denied the accuracy of the Times story, instead saying it did not comment on "alleged leaked documents." The agency admitted it was reviewing its definition of sex, stating it was bound to do so following a Texas-based federal judge's finding in 2016 that the Obama administration's definition of sex was "overbroad." LGBT activists, who have promised legal challenges if the reported definition becomes law, say several other courts had issued rulings contrary to the one in 2016.

  • WADA Says Russia Critics Harming Doping Fight
    Unnerved by public disputes and bullying claims, the World Anti-Doping Agency is urging critics of the decision to reinstate Russia to cease their distracting attacks. WADA director general Olivier Niggli told The Associated Press it's more beneficial to work with the country, as the three-year suspension of its anti-doping agency comes to an end, rather than forcing the government to confess to orchestrating the abuse of drugs and cover-ups. The move proved so contentious that Olympic champion Beckie Scott quit her role on a panel reviewing Russia's conditions of reinstatement. She later accused WADA officials of bullying her over her opposition at an executive committee meeting. "There was a heated discussion,'' Niggli confirmed to the AP. "Board meetings are there for arguments to be made and discussions to take place. It's not abnormal.'' Scott, a Canadian former cross-country skier, felt belittled and targeted with inappropriate comments at the Seychelles executive committee meeting which she attended as head of WADA's athlete committee - a position she still holds. "I hope going forward ... everyone understands it is not a personal attack,'' Niggli said. "There are disagreements on some points but between that and bullying there is a gap that I would not want to cross.'' WADA has asked for what it described as an independent expert to review recordings and transcripts of the debate ahead of the next meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Nov. 14. "We have acknowledged Beckie's concerns,'' Niggli said. "We have agreed to talk to her before our next meeting. I think that is what needs to be done among responsible persons who all want the same thing, which is to move the fight against doping forward. The irony of this whole discussion is, I am convinced, that all of us want to move things forward and I think it is actually rather sad that we cannot concentrate our efforts on that because of this kind of issue being raised.'' Throughout the telephone interview with the AP, Niggli referenced "political'' attacks on WADA without specifying who was coordinating them. "I am not sure what is the agenda, what is the endgame ... because I only see it as weakening the system globally, not just WADA, which is totally counterproductive,'' Niggli said. "Now is the time to concentrate on the real work, stop the political arguments and move forward.'' Justifying the watchdog's ongoing value, Niggli said those claiming "WADA is becoming irrelevant are simply part of political rhetoric with absolutely no substance.'' Athletes and national anti-doping agencies decried WADA for caving in even as Russia repeatedly declined to accept full culpability at the state level for a doping scheme that investigators said included dirty samples being switched for clean ones at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. "I wouldn't say WADA was bullied by Russia,'' Niggli said. "But there was discussion led and proposed by our compliance committee which was trying to find the best way forward in a totally independent fashion, not controlled by any of our stakeholders.'' Russia's anti-doping agency (RUSADA) was suspended in 2015 after the first in a series of WADA reports that found top athletes could take banned drugs with near-impunity since RUSADA and the national laboratory would cover for them. Under the new arrangement, Russia has a deadline of Dec. 31 to provide access to data and samples from the former Moscow laboratory that was at the center of the plot. Without the data, doping cases that came out of the Russian scheme could not be completed. "I think rather than weakening the process, everybody should try to reinforce it so that we get the data and we can move forward with that which is only in the interests of clean athletes,'' Niggli said. "If you look at this bluntly, it's actually a win-win situation. ... Don't forget Russian athletes are competing at the moment and obtaining this data will allow us to really clarify a number of cases with the missing pieces of a lot of the information. "If it doesn't work, if we don't get the data, we are in a position to go forward and take new decisions on a different legal basis on Russia. Both camps are actually better than the status quo.'' Track and field was one of the few sports to impose a ban on Russians competing. Even though the IOC prevented Russia from entering a team at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February, more than 160 athletes were still cleared to compete as "Olympic Athletes from Russia.'' WADA is willing to let Russia operate its own anti-doping program again despite mounting evidence about how Moscow retaliated against the initial punishment. The U.S. Department of Justice outlined last month how serving officers of the GRU military intelligence body hit the sports world with a wave of cybercrimes to access athlete data at anti-doping agencies that was published online by the "Fancy Bear'' group. "I would hope Russia would stop cybercrimes and other countries in every field of society and life,'' Niggli said. "There is a huge political context which goes way beyond our mandate. I hope Russia will be a very good, responsible partner.''

  • Sandra Day O'Connor Withdraws From Public Life
    Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, has stepped back from public life. For more than a decade after leaving the court in 2006, O'Connor kept up an active schedule: serving as a visiting federal appeals court judge, speaking on issues she cared about and founding her own education organization. But the 88-year-old, for more than two decades often the deciding vote in important cases, is now fully retired. She made her last public appearances over two years ago. This summer she turned over an office she had kept at the Supreme Court to the court's most recently retired justice, Anthony Kennedy. Her son Jay O'Connor said in a recent telephone interview with The Associated Press that his mother, like many who reach their upper 80s, began to have challenges with her short-term memory. That made some public events more difficult. Hip issues have meant she now primarily uses a wheelchair. And she now stays close to her home in Phoenix, he said. "When she hit about 86 years old she decided that it was time to slow things down, that she'd accomplished most of what she set out to do in her post-retirement years, that she was getting older physically and her memory was starting to be more challenging, so the time came to dial back her public life," said Jay O'Connor. His mother is no longer doing interviews. Over about the past year, Jay O'Connor and his brother Brian cleared out O'Connor's Supreme Court office and went through hundreds of boxes of files and other items she had in the building's basement. A gavel used at her 1981 confirmation hearing, her Presidential Medal of Freedom and T-shirts made annually by an exercise class she started at the high court are among the items O'Connor has now donated to the court's collection, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. O'Connor was a state court judge before being unanimously confirmed to the Supreme Court at 51. She had graduated third in her class from Stanford Law School and was the first woman to lead the Arizona state senate. On the Supreme Court, her votes were key in cases about abortion, affirmative action and campaign finance as well as the Bush v. Gore decision effectively settling the 2000 election in George W. Bush's favor. She was 75 when she announced her retirement from the court in 2005. It was a decision influenced by the decline in the health of her husband, John O'Connor III, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Her departure was a moment not unlike Kennedy's retirement this summer. The fellow Reagan appointees were moderate conservatives who often held the key vote in high-profile cases. O'Connor's retirement and replacement by Justice Samuel Alito shifted the court right, making Kennedy's vote the often-pivotal one. Kennedy's replacement by Justice Brett Kavanaugh is expected to shift the court right again. For her part, O'Connor wasn't always delighted with the court's more conservative direction after she left. Asked at a 2009 event how she felt about the court retreating from or undoing rulings she was instrumental in shaping, she responded: "What would you feel? I'd be a little bit disappointed. If you think you've been helpful, and then it's dismantled, you think, `Oh, dear.' But life goes on. It's not always positive." After the court's 2010 Citizens United ruling allowing corporations to spend freely on elections for Congress and president, she told an audience: "Gosh, I step away for a couple of years and there's no telling what's going to happen." Still, that year she told an interviewer that she didn't "regret for one minute" retiring when she did. O'Connor found other ways to make a mark off the court. In 2009, the same year her husband died, she founded the group iCivics, which promotes civic education in schools through free, educational online games. O'Connor has called it "the most important work I've ever done." Last year, the group's 19 games were played by 5 million students. Even as she was championing iCivics, O'Connor was working on other projects. She wrote a children's book and a book about the history of the court. She served as a visiting appeals court judge, participating in more than 175 cases on appeals courts nationwide. And she campaigned to persuade states that judges should be appointed, not elected, to preserve judicial independence. One of the last times O'Connor made public comments was in 2016, after Justice Antonin Scalia's death. Interviewed by an Arizona television station, O'Connor was asked what she thought about Republican senators' argument that the conservative justice's seat should be filled not by President Barack Obama but his successor because the vacancy happened in a presidential election year. She said she disagreed. "I think we need somebody there, now, to do the job, and let's get on with it," she said, a recommendation Republicans didn't heed, holding the seat open until President Donald Trump could choose Scalia's successor, Neil Gorsuch. Though O'Connor has stepped back from public life, the court's other retired justices have varying degrees of public presence. David Souter, 79, lives in New Hampshire but rarely speaks publicly. Kennedy, 82, has already started making post-retirement appearances. Florida resident John Paul Stevens is still making appearances at 98. Three women now serve on the Supreme Court, a development O'Connor approved of. "It's all right to be the first to do something, but I didn't want to be the last woman on the Supreme Court," she said in 2012.

  • Zimbabwe Authorities Worried by Medical Drugs on Black Market
    Authorities in Zimbabwe say the country's economic crisis has resulted in an acute shortage of essential medical drugs. Officials say the shortage has pushed some people to turn to the black market for medicines, some of which are not certified by the drug control authority. For nearly 10 years now, Lena Lukwani has been taking five different types of medication to ease her diabetes and hypertension.  The 77-year-old Lukwani said she used to pay about $50 for her medication, but says the situation has become dire in the past few months, with prices doubling. She says some drugs are in short supply.  "These days it is difficult," Lukwani said. "Out of the five I only got two; it has been like that for two months. So I have been limiting my diet — especially starch. I am blessed because of the children I have, but that is not the same for my colleagues who are also diabetic and are hypertensive."  Her seven children living around the globe managed to send her medication that was not readily available for three months. Otherwise, Lukwani said, she would have continued on her controlled diet or turned to the black market for help.  Shingai Gwatidzo is the spokesperson of the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe. "A lot of people try and take advantage of the current situation," Gwatidzo said. "You have a lot of unregulated markets that are coming up; those medicines are being smuggled into the country, we have not tested to see if they are safe. So one will be taking a risk in buying medicines on the streets." Portifa Mwendera, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe, acknowledges the health sector is failing to import enough antibiotics as well as drugs for ailments such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension. "The drug situation is pretty dire currently," Mwendera said. "Our main worry is that if the prevailing situation continues, we get more complications in our patients. And we might actually lose some patients. What is propped up — which is more worrying — is the parallel market for medicines. We are seeing a lot of people advertising that they can sell and send medication into Zimbabwe." On a number of occasions, police and vendors with medicines have engaged in street battles in Harare, only to see the vendors back on the streets the next day.  The vendors argue that they have no other source of income and if the market has demand, they will remain in business by importing the drugs from neighboring countries. 

  • October 22, 2018
    A look at the best news photos from around the world.

  • Coalition Targets Islamic State in 2nd Mosque in Less than a Week
    The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group has targeted a second mosque in eastern Syria in less than a week, saying the normally protected religious building was used as an insurgent command and control center. Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. Sean Robertson told VOA the strike Monday killed Islamic State fighters who "were actively firing on coalition partner forces from the mosque" in as-Sousa, near the border with Iraq. He said IS's use of protected buildings to shield their fighters from coalition strikes was an "ongoing pattern" seen in recent weeks. The mosque targeted Monday was 2.5 kilometers away from a mosque struck last week. The law of land warfare protects mosques, but the use of these buildings as a headquarters by IS caused them to lose that protected status, Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Robert Manning said Monday. "They are nasty, they are brutal, they are unethical, and they certainly have no problem at all putting civilians at risk," Manning said of the terror group. A coalition press release Monday said the mosque was deliberately struck during an attack on several buildings controlled by IS. It called the use of a mosque an act of "desperation." The U.S. military said it had closely monitored the buildings targeted Monday and struck "when only their [IS] fighters were present." It is unclear whether any civilians were killed in the attack. Manning said the U.S. military would investigate any credible claims of civilian casualties. Syrian state media and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes in as-Sousa last week killed and wounded dozens, including civilians and IS fighters. As-Sousa is in the last IS-held area of Syria, where coalition-backed forces have been fighting extremists for weeks.

  • Humble Pomegranate Seed Provides Clue to How Yemen's War Fuels Hunger
    The tiny, red pomegranate seed may not look like much but it helps explain why Yemen's civil war has brought millions of people to the brink of famine. Pomegranate exports were a key source of income for people in Saada in northwest Yemen, a province under the control of the Houthi movement aligned with Iran. Before the war began in 2015, farmers exported 30,000 tons of the fruit. Those exports have fallen by around a third and farmers blame lack of fuel and water for irrigation and the impact of aerial bombing by a coalition of forces led by Saudi Arabia and armed by the United States, France, Britain and other Western countries. Markets and roads have been targeted, making it much more dangerous and, crucially, more expensive to get pomegranates by truck to Yemen's main port in Hodeidah, the farmers say. The coalition is fighting to restore the internationally-recognized government that was ousted from the capital Sanaa by the Houthis. Many bombs have fallen on civilian areas. The coalition denies targeting civilians deliberately. "The pomegranates are dying because of lack of water because of the blockade," said farmer Rabeea al-Abdy. He was referring to stringent measures put in place by the coalition on imports into Yemen that have slowed trade flows, including of commercial goods and vital supplies such as fuel, medicine and humanitarian aid. The coalition says the measures are necessary to prevent the Houthis smuggling in weapons from Iran. Both the Houthis and Iran deny engaging in such smuggling. Ali Saleh, an agricultural sales manager in Saada, said exports are down by a third from their pre-war peak. "The war ... led to a rise in the prices of fuel. Farming necessities ... have seen a crazy rise in prices in comparison to the farmers' costs which has had a huge impact on production," he said. Three-quarters of the Yemeni population, or 22 million people, require aid and 8.4 million people are on the brink of starvation, according to U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths. The United Nations is trying to broker talks to end the war but in the interim aid officials say the key to reducing the risk of famine is not charity but improving the economy: exports of the humble pomegranate could be a small part of the answer.

  • South China Sea Code of Conduct Gains Momentum as China Moves to Complete Militarization
    As China moves to complete the creation of military outposts in the South China Sea, Beijing’s negotiation with southeastern Asian nations over a binding code of conduct is gaining momentum.   But U.S. officials and experts warn China’s insertions in the draft South China Sea code of conduct may put Washington and Beijing on a collision course. The text of the draft also shows that deep divisions remain among claimants.   One of the Chinese provisions in the text states, “The Parties shall not hold joint military exercises with countries from outside the region, unless the parties concerned are notified beforehand and express no objection.”   China also proposed cooperation on the marine economy “shall not be conducted in cooperation with companies from countries outside the region.”   A State Department spokesperson told VOA the United States is concerned by reports China has been pressing members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations “in the closed-door talks, to accept restrictions on their ability to conduct exercises with security partners, and to agree not to conduct oil and gas exploration in their claimed waters with energy firms based in countries which are not part of the ongoing negotiations.”   “These proposals, if accepted, would limit the ability of ASEAN nations to conduct sovereign, independent foreign and economic policies and would directly harm the interests of the broader international community,” added the State Department spokesperson. Competing for influence   For China, the benefits are apparent. The United States and China are competing for influence in the Indo-Pacific region.   China and Southeast Asian navies are heading to their first joint exercises from October 22 to 28. An inaugural ASEAN-U.S. maritime exercise will be held next year.   “In other words, China would like a veto over all the military exercises held by ASEAN countries with other nations. I think this really provides some evidence that China indeed is trying to limit American influence in the region, one might go so far as to say to push American military presence out of the region eventually, but certainly in the area of the South China Sea,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.   While the United States is not a claimant to the sovereignty of disputed islands in the South China Sea, Washington has said China's efforts to militarize outposts in the contested waters endanger the free flow of trade and undermine regional stability, a claim Beijing rebuts.   The United States is also calling for ongoing discussions on the South China Sea code of conduct to be transparent and consultative with the rest of the international community. U.S. officials said the international community has direct stakes in the outcome. Code of conduct draft In August, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan announced China and ASEAN’s 10 member countries had reached a draft agreement. (Single Draft South China Sea Code of Conduct Negotiating Text or SDNT). ASEAN leaders are to meet next month in Singapore.   Highlighting the importance of such a draft, a Center for Strategic and International Studies report said for the first time in many years, an effective diplomatic process to manage South China Sea disputes seems possible.   ASEAN and China have been discussing a potential code of conduct (COC) to manage the South China Sea maritime and territorial disputes for more than two decades.   Leaked details of the draft state the code of conduct is “not an instrument to settle territorial disputes or maritime delimitation issues.” Managing disputes The draft shows deep divisions among South China Sea claimants over many issues, according to experts, especially over the most sensitive issues like the agreement’s geographic scope, potential dispute settlement mechanisms, and details of resource exploration.   “What the code of conduct is intended to do is to manage the disputes to prevent them from escalating, and basically to allow the freezing of the thorny territorial questions, while states can manage the resources and manage tensions in the near to medium term,” said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative” at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).   In August a trilateral statement from Japan, Australia and the United States called for the Code of Conduct “to not prejudice the interests of third parties or the rights of all states under international law; to reinforce existing regional architecture; and to strengthen parties’ commitments to cease actions that would complicate or escalate disputes.”   Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Amy Searight said Washington’s “concrete position” on no prejudice against third parties “is to really criticize China's attempt to marginalize U.S. influences” in the region.  

  • Bolton Meets with Russian Officials on Trump Plan to Withdraw from Arms Treaty
    U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton met Monday with top Russian officials about President Donald Trump's announced intention to pull out of a key Cold War arms deal with Moscow. Bolton discussed the fate of the three-decade-old treaty in Moscow with Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev ahead of a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Bolton is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the U.S. decision "will make the world more dangerous." He rebuffed the U.S. claim that Russia had violated terms of the agreement that bans the U.S. and Russia from building, testing, and stockpiling ground-launched nuclear missiles with a range from 500 to 5,000 kilometers. "It is the United States that is eroding the foundations and main elements of this pact" with its missile defense systems and use of drones," Peskov said. The Kremlin spokesman said that if the United States goes on to develop new missiles, then Russia would be forced to respond in kind. He said Russian officials want to get more information about the U.S. plans regarding the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in their talks with Bolton. Trump has accused Russia of building and testing missiles that violate the 1987 treaty. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the deal with the late U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, at the White House in 1987. "Do they really not understand in Washington what this could lead to?" Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Gorbachev as saying. "Washington's desire to turn back politics cannot be supported. Not only Russia, but all those who cherish the world, especially a world without nuclear weapons, must declare this." Without specifying how Russia violated the treaty, Trump Saturday appeared to say Moscow will not get away with it. "Russia has violated the agreement. They have been violating it for many years. And we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we are not allowed to," he said. U.S. officials going back to the Obama administration have accused Russia of deliberately deploying a land-based cruise missile to pose a threat to NATO. Russia has denied violating the INF agreement and says U.S. missile defense systems are a violation. Defense advocates in Washington say the INF treaty keeps the U.S. from developing a new generation of weapons in a world that faces new global security challenges. Trump said, “We’ll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say let’s really get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons, but if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it, and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable.” China is not part of the INF agreement. Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons — the coalition that won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize — said, "By declaring he will leave the INF Treaty, President Trump has shown himself to be a demolition man who has no ability to build real security. Instead, by blowing up nuclear treaties, he is taking the U.S. down a trillion-dollar road to a new nuclear arms race." Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent Russian political analyst, told the Associated Press, "We are slowly slipping back to the situation of Cold War, as it was at the end of the Soviet Union, with quite similar consequences, but now it could be worse because Putin belongs to a generation that had no war under its belt. These people aren't as much fearful of a war as people of [former Soviet leader Leonid] Brezhnev's epoch. They think if they threaten the West properly, it gets scared."

  • Taiwan Closely Monitored Two US Warships' Path Through Taiwan Strait
    The United States sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait, the U.S. Navy and Taiwan's defense ministry said on Monday, in a move that could anger Beijing amid heightening U.S. tensions with China. The ministry said it was in full control of the situation during the U.S. warships' journey through the Taiwan Strait, the self-ruled island's defense ministry said in a statement. "The Ministry of National Defense stressed that the army was in full control when the U.S. warships passed through the seas around Taiwan and has the ability to maintain the security of the seas and the airspace to ensure regional peace and stability," it said. The U.S. navy conducted a similar mission in July and any repeat would be regarded in Taiwan as a show of support by President Donald Trump's government though it risks irking China, which views Taiwan as a wayward province Beijing has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island. Taiwan's foreign ministry declined comment. Last week, Reuters reported that the United States was considering a new operation to send warships through, aimed at ensuring free passage through the strategic waterway. Taiwan's relations with China have deteriorated since the island's President Tsai Ing-wen from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party swept to power in 2016. This year, China increased military and diplomatic pressure, conducting air and sea military exercises around the island and persuading three of the few governments still supporting Taiwan to drop their backing. Tsai said earlier this month she will maintain the status quo with Beijing, but also vowed to boost Taiwan's national security and said her government would not submit to Chinese suppression.

  • Turkish Investigators Turn up Heat on Riyadh Over Khashoggi's Death
    Turkish investigators are stepping up pressure on Riyadh over the killing of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepares to reveal key details about the case. On Monday, CNN showed footage, leaked by Turkish investigators, of a man purported to be a double of Khashoggi wearing the journalist's clothes leaving from a backdoor in the Saudi Istanbul consulate a few hours after Khashoggi entered the building on October 2. Sources close to the investigation claim the double was part of a 15 member Saudi hit team that arrived and left the same day as Khashoggi's killing. Initially, Riyadh insisted Khashoggi left the consulate. On Friday that story changed with the Saudi government admitting he was accidentally killed in the consulate following a fight. Sunday, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said Khashoggi was murdered. "By drip-feeding, the gory press details of Khashoggi's murder, Turkey managed to keep interest alive and prevented a deal between Trump's team and Mohammed bin Salman to hush the affair with little damage," said analyst Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners. A Western diplomat speaking anonymously suggested Turkey's Intelligence chief Hakan Fidan is orchestrating the leaks to the media, thereby dictating the narrative and direction of the unfolding crisis to Turkey's advantage. "President Erdogan will make a profit again, making points both nationally and internationally," said international relations professor Huseyin Bagci of Ankara's Middle East Technical University. Milking the crisis Observers say Erdogan has been uncharacteristically restrained during the crisis, making few comments and not directly attacking Riyadh. That stance is set to change Tuesday, with the Turkish president promising to reveal what he calls the "naked truth" of the investigation. "He is a political animal; he knows when to act instinctively," Bagci said, "so he probably senses this is the right time to act." Ankara is starting to face growing international pressure to reveal its findings, especially numerous reports by anonymous sources of secret recordings of the last minutes of Khashoggi's life. Turkey's Yeni Safak newspaper, which has close ties to the government, reported the recording of the torture, killing and dismembering of the body. Until now Erdogan has not commented on the existence of the recordings. But last week U.S. President Donald Trump called for the tapes. Analysts suggest what Erdogan says Tuesday is likely to be dictated by the outcome of ongoing diplomatic talks. "I don't expect he [Erdogan] will break up his relations with Saudi Arabia. He will at the end have the same policy as Donald Trump," Bagci said. "Of course Saudi Arabia will have to pay" he added, "but I don't know what. But Erdogan will use this situation for economic and political advantages for Turkey. They [Saudi Arabia Turkey] probably haven't still agreed; they are still talking. I don't know how the Saudi government can satisfy Turkish expectations — the president's expectations." Turkey's economy is facing recession after its currency collapsed this year. Analysts warn the outcome of the talks could have far-reaching consequences. "Riyadh will owe Turkey a favor, which shall be cashed in, in terms of investments, loans or probably a more pro-Turkey stance in Syria," analyst Yesilada said. "If Ankara wishes to shame Riyadh by releasing the evidence it claims to have, namely the grisly details of the journalist's murder in the hands of a Saudi hit squad in the presence of the charge d'affaires to Istanbul, this affair could still spin out of control," he said. In a possible move to control the volatile diplomatic situation, Trump telephoned Erdogan on Monday. "Erdogan and Trump agreed the Khashoggi case needs to be cleared up with all aspects." wrote Turkey's State Anadolu news agency. Resetting US ties "What we do not know yet is how Trump is planning to thank Erdogan for not escalating the Khashoggi crisis further," wrote columnist Cansu Camlibel of Hurriyet Daily News. "Whether or not Ankara will be granted generous waivers from the upcoming U.S. sanctions on Iran, which aims to cut oil and gas imports from Tehran, is definitely a crucial part of the negotiations." Washington is set to impose tough financial and economic sanctions on November 4 over Tehran's nuclear energy program. Turkey relies heavily on oil and gas from its neighbor and is lobbying for dispensation from the sanctions, which previous Washington administrations granted when targeting Iran. U.S. Turkish relations are strained for several reasons, which resulted in Washington hitting Ankara with economic sanctions in August, triggering a collapse in the currency. However, this month's release of American pastor Andrew Brunson by a Turkish court, a key Trump demand, has improved relations. Analysts suggest Erdogan's goal of resetting U.S .relations could eventually facilitate a diplomatic way out for Riyadh. "Turkey is trying to improve relations with America," said Bagci, "Turkey has had enough of economic and diplomatic crisis with America."

  • What is the INF Treaty?
    U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged to pull out of a key Cold War arms deal with Russia, accusing Moscow of violating it.Here is some key information about the treaty. What is the INF? The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which was signed in December 1987 by then U.S. President Ronald Reagan and then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, committed the two sides to eliminate all their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, along with missile launchers. By the mid-1970s, the Soviet Union had deployed newly-developed SS-20 intermediate-range missiles aimed at Europe. The United States and its NATO allies responded with a "dual-track" policy of deploying intermediate-range, nuclear-armed U.S. ground-launched cruise and Pershing II missiles, while at the same time seeking an arms control agreement with the Soviet side. Negotiations began to bear fruit once Gorbachev became Soviet leader in March 1985. The INF Treaty, which entered into force on June 1, 1988, originally applied only to U.S. and Soviet missiles. However, in 1991, following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the treaty was extended to cover former Soviet states, including Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Other European countries, including Germany, Hungary, Poland, the Czech, Slovakia and Bulgaria, eventually also eliminated their stocks of intermediate-range missiles. Why do some US and Russian officials oppose the treaty? Russian officials have complained the INF Treaty was unfairly preventing it from having weapons that neighbors like China possess, and raised the possibility Russia could withdraw from the agreement. Meanwhile, U.S. officials have accused Russia of developing and deploying a new ground-launched cruise missiles that violate the treaty. Similarly, John Bolton, who is now President Donald Trump's national security adviser, co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed published in August 2011 that cited China's "rapidly increasing" cruise and ballistic missile arsenals, as well as the potential missile threat from Iran and North Korea, as evidence the INF Treaty had "outlived its usefulness in its current form." "Despite the Kremlin's growing propensity for international troublemaking, both Moscow and Washington have a common interest in not having their hands tied by a treaty that binds them alone." the op-ed stated. Why do proponents say the treaty is worth keeping? IMF Treaty supporters argue, among other things, that withdrawing from it strategically benefits Russia, since its geography is better suited for using such intermediate range missiles. They say there is no chance the U.S. will be able to redeploy intermediate-range missiles in Europe, nor in South Korea and Japan, where they would be most effective against American adversaries like North Korea. They say withdrawing from the treaty essentially carries little to no strategic U.S. benefit, while giving Moscow a propaganda victory.

  • Late Saudi Writer Khashoggi Supported Arab Spring, Free Speech
    Khashoggi had a good sense of humor. He also had strong views on democracy and free speech in the Arab world. In recent years, he spoke with VOA's Edward Yeranian numerous times, expressing his views on democracy and many other regional issues and problems. He discussed the prospects of democracy in both Egypt and Libya during an interview in August. YERANIAN: Could Libya become a democracy? KHASHOGGI: "I think it can. I think it can if there was an American administration that has an interest and a clear plan to do that, they can do it. But right now, there is no plan. This administration will not do it." Some of Khashoggi's detractors have accused him of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that is outlawed in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. Washington Post commentator David Ignatius defended Khashoggi in an October 12 op-ed piece, writing that he supported the Brotherhood during his youth, but that by the mid 1990s, he "was moving towards his mature belief that democracy and freedom were the Arabs' best hope of purging the corruption and misrule he despised." Khashoggi discussed the prospects of one day establishing an Arab NATO along the lines of its European counterpart, but he was profoundly skeptical. "Why should we have an Arab NATO? To fight what? The Iranians? We have problems from within," he said, "within our system, we have more serious problems." During a conversation with VOA in the fall of 2017, Khashoggi expressed concern about the ambitious reforms being undertaken in Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He said he was "not optimistic about the reforms," but that he "would still like to be optimistic ... since everyone will suffer if they fail." He complained that "change is being done in very narrow circles [and that] ordinary people are not feeling engaged." Discussing the more than three year-old Saudi-led military effort to drive Yemen's Houthi militia from power, Khashoggi also criticized the Iranian-backed Zaidi-Shi'ite group. "We should remember that the Houthis are not there by popular demand," he said. "The Houthis [came] to power in Yemen by force, and they will stay by force. And it seems that the only way to fight them out is by force." Khashoggi expressed support, however, for a new democratic system in Yemen, as he did for other Arab countries. "[At] the same time, Saudi Arabia also needs to believe truly in democracy for Yemen," he said. "I think the Saudis are also reluctant, as much as the Iranians, about democracy. Each country wants to impose its blueprint in Yemen." Repeating a refrain that was dear to him, Khashoggi lauded the 2011 Arab Spring, insisting it had "brought positive forces to the forefront in Yemen and other Arab countries."  He said it is "important to go back and reassert those ideas."

  • NATO Says Service Member Killed in Afghanistan
    NATO says one of its service members was killed and two others wounded in in attack in Herat province. "Initial reports indicate the attack was committed by a member of the Afghan security forces," the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said in a statement. The Taliban claimed the assailant was one of its infiltrators in the ranks of Afghan security forces. Meanwhile, the U.S. army has confirmed that a brigadier general was one of two Americans wounded in an attack last week in Afghanistan that fatally wounded a powerful Afghan police chief. U.S. Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Smiley, in charge of NATO's military advisory mission in Afghanistan, was shot when a gunman wearing an Afghan security forces uniform opened fire on a group of officials leaving a meeting with the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller. Miller escaped injury, but a U.S. civilian was also shot. General Abdul Raziq, an anti-Taliban strongman, was mortally wounded, along with the local head of the NDS intelligence service General Abdul Momim. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack inside the highly secured compound, dealing a severe blow to the Afghan government in one of its most strategically important provinces. The incident demonstrated the insurgents' ability to strike top leaders. Ayaz Gul contributed to this report.

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