Idaho Farmer Copes With Water Crisis

President Joe Biden met Wednesday with Cabinet and emergency officials and, remotely, with Western governors to discuss the heat wave, wildfires and drought in the West. Each poses a threat in different communities, and as VOA’s Mike O’Sullivan reports, an Idaho rancher is trying to keep his farm alive despite a lack of water.

your ad here

Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Activist Arrested Again

A Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and human rights lawyer was arrested for the second time in less than a month Wednesday, marking the city’s first year under the national security law. Chow Hang Tung, a vice chair for the nonprofit Hong Kong Alliance, was arrested for inciting illegal assembly, which was scheduled to take place July 1. She was also arrested June 4 for the same charge, according to Richard Tsoi, the group’s secretary-general.  Anniversaries in Hong Kong are common this time of year. June 4 marks Beijing’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989, while July 1 marks the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China, 24 years ago. July 1 also marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Chow was initially arrested in early June for allegedly inciting unauthorized assembly to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown. She was released on bail two days later, but according to news reports, police have now revoked her bail. A FILE – Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, center, who founded local newspaper Apple Daily, is arrested under the new national security law by police officers at his home, Aug. 10, 2020.The law prohibits secession, subversion and foreign collusion. Since its enactment, it has been the catalyst for a political crackdown in the city. Dozens of activists have been charged under the law, including Jimmy Lai, the billionaire tycoon and founder of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily. The newspaper was forced to close last week after authorities arrested several executives and froze the company’s financial assets. Next Digital, Apple Daily’s parent company, is set to close July 1. In an interview Wednesday with VOA, Chow, who anticipates more arrests and crackdowns, spoke candidly about her constant push for change in Hong Kong. “I believe that we should not dissolve or disarm ourselves just because of the political pressure,” she said. 

your ad here

Pew: US Seen More Favorably Than China Among Advanced Economies

A recent Pew Research survey among 17 advanced economies shows the global opinion of the United States has improved, while the view of China continues to be mostly negative. Both countries experienced historically low ratings in a similar poll last year. South Korea has the highest positive view of the U.S., with 77% having a positive view. In Italy, Japan, France and the United Kingdom, about two-thirds of those polled viewed the U.S. positively. “These broadly positive views reflect a significant shift since last summer, when ratings of the U.S. were at or near historic lows in most countries,” Pew said in a press release. With China, the numbers are almost the reverse, with Japan having an 88% negative view of China, Sweden having an 80% negative view, Australia having a 78% negative view and South Korea having a 77% negative view.  NEW: #China failing to win over publics in many advanced economiesA median of 69% in 17 countries have unfavorable views of #Beijing, per @pewresearchpic.twitter.com/kqAd9m4Gax— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) June 30, 2021In each of the 17 countries, “in many cases a large majority” say #China fails to respect personal freedoms”The sense that China does not respect the personal freedoms of its people is also at or near historic highs in most publics surveyed” per @pewresearchpic.twitter.com/pczMKJl6Nm— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) June 30, 2021Pew said China’s numbers are nearly unchanged from last year’s historic lows. Singapore was the only country surveyed where a majority, 64%, had a favorable view of China. The Pew survey also found that half or more in each country said strong economic ties with the U.S. were more important than with China. Singapore and New Zealand were exceptions. The surveys were conducted between February 1, 2021, to May 26, 2021, and included 18,850 respondents. 

your ad here

Kenya’s Successful Life-Business Partners Navigate Roles, Boundaries

The COVID pandemic has strained families forced to work and study at home together with an added stress for couples who are also business partners. In Kenya, such life-work partnerships experience a struggle not only to earn a living but also to keep their families together.  Brenda Mulinya reports from Nairobi.

your ad here

Britain Faces Travel Bans Amid Soaring Delta Variant Infections

Several countries have imposed restrictions on travelers from Britain amid rising cases of the delta variant of the coronavirus. Scientists say the delta mutation is more infectious and now makes up around 95 percent of new cases in Britain. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

your ad here

Zimbabwe Imposes Curfew to Contain Rising COVID-19 Cases

Zimbabwe’s new COVID-19 lockdown includes a curfew, a ban on intercity travel, and a vaccination blitz aimed at border towns and vendors.  But vendors and rights activists say the government should make more vaccine available instead of tightening regulations.President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the new measures, including a 6:30 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew, on national television Tuesday. He said the restrictions were the result of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.“Commerce and industry are to open from 0800 hours to 1530 hours. Travelers from countries with alpha and delta COVID-19 variants will be quarantined and tested on the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 10th day, at their own expense. Those deported back to Zimbabwe will be subject to self-quarantine or will be quarantined in identified places. Travelers with fake COVID-19 documents will attract custodial sentences,” said the president.The new measures to contain COVID-19 include what the government is calling a “vaccination blitz” targeting borders and vendors.The head of the Zimbabwe Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation, Samuel Wadzai, has welcomed the new regulations allowing vendors to operate for limited hours.But Wadzai said the vaccination program should be voluntary, not compulsory.“What we can urge the government is for the vaccine to be accessed without queueing for long hours. Let’s decentralize. This is the only way we can do away with these lockdowns. In their nature lockdowns are restrictive and they don’t give us space to operate as informal traders. So, we urge the government to quickly ensure that the vaccines are available,” he said.  About 771,000 Zimbabweans out of a population of 14 million have received their first shots, and 545,000 have received their second inoculations since the program started in February. The country had a monthlong shortage of vaccine until it received 500,000 Sinopharm doses from China on Saturday.People queue for COVID-19 vaccine shots at Zimbabwe’s largest health institution, Parirenyatwa Hospital, in Harare, June 08, 2021. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)Zimbabwe has about 48,533 confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,761 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University in the United States, which tracks the global outbreak.Dewa Mavhinga, head of Human Rights Watch in southern Africa, told VOA the infection figures do not justify a dusk-to-dawn curfew.“It seems excessive. The government is focusing more on restrictions than on other efforts that are needed to contain the coronavirus — efforts such as ramping up vaccinations, ensuring that all essential workers are vaccinated and ensuring that the adult population in Zimbabwe is vaccinated. There is no movement in that regard,” said Mavhinga.Zimbabwe’s seven-day average infection rate has increased five times in the last two weeks, according to official figures released this week.The government says it is importing more vaccine in July and in August to achieve herd immunity for about 10 million people by the end of the year.

your ad here

Biden Pledges More Federal Help for Western States to Battle Wildfires

Western U.S. states vulnerable to wildfires and suffering from drought amid extreme heat are to receive more help from the federal government, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday during a virtual meeting with governors.”Climate change is driving the dangerous confluence of extreme heat and prolonged drought. We’re seeing wildfires of greater intensity that move with more speed,” Biden said in the White House South Auditorium, with other top officials of his administration, including Vice President Kamala Harris and five members of the Cabinet, in attendance.Biden said federal firefighters would get a boost in their minimum wage and be kept on the job as long as needed beyond the traditional wildfire season.’Year-round mission’Because of climate change, battling wildfires is “no longer a seasonal job. This is a year-round mission,” the president said.Biden and other administration officials spoke from the White House, with the governors joining by video.Those attending included Democratic Governors Gavin Newsom of California, Jared Polis of Colorado, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Steve Sisolak of Nevada, Kate Brown of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington, along with Republican Governors Spencer Cox of Utah and Mark Gordon of Wyoming.Not among the group were three other Republican governors from the region: Doug Ducey of Arizona, Brad Little of Idaho and Greg Gianforte of Montana.Gianforte was “disappointed to learn in news stories” that the president “didn’t offer a seat at the table to Montana and other states facing a severe wildfire season,” he said in an earlier tweet.FILE – This photo provided by her office shows Oregon Gov. Kate Brown during a visit to the front line of the Beachie Creek Fire, in Beach Creek, Ore., Sept. 16, 2020.Only part of Wednesday’s meeting was open to the media, including opening remarks from Biden and Harris, as well as two of the governors.”Just this weekend, my state of Oregon experienced three consecutive days of record-breaking high temperatures across the Willamette Valley, reaching upwards of 117 degrees [47 C],” Brown told the president. “It is unprecedented. And unfortunately, it follows one of the most devastating wildfire seasons in our state’s history.”Newsom said the White House attitude toward the problem had shifted significantly since Biden took office six months ago.”I’ve been waiting almost 4½ years to hear a president say what you just said,” Newsom said.”We have an opportunity here to turn the page on the finger-pointing,” added Newsom, noting that the country was “literally debating raking policies in this country in the last few years.” That was a reference to former President Donald Trump’s repeated assertion that not raking floors of woodlands was a bigger cause of devastating wildfires than climate change.Grim outlookThe National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates the mobilization of resources to battle wildfires in the United States, has warned that many Western states are facing a greater than usual likelihood that significant wildfires will occur in the next few months.The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that wide areas of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah are experiencing extreme or exceptional drought.FILE – Firefighter Raymond Vasquez battles the Silverado Fire, in Irvine, Calif., Oct. 26, 2020.”This year of drought in the western U.S. is unusually extensive with unusually high temperatures, likely worsened by climate warming. The high temperatures worsen the drought by evaporating more precipitation before it can reach rivers and aquifers,” said Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California-Davis.The climate of the western United States has more variable precipitation than most of the country, and that has helped cities and farmers prepare for drier years. But in this unusually dry year, “farms in much of the state are having more difficulty and are fallowing some less profitable crops. Hydropower production is reduced,” said Lund, who is co-director of the university’s Center for Watershed Sciences.In his conversation with the governors, Biden also highlighted the need to invest in wildfire prevention and risk mitigation efforts, including the nearly $50 billion in the bipartisan infrastructure framework legislation Congress is soon to debate.The White House also announced Wednesday that two military units, each with 200 personnel, were to receive training and specialized equipment to support firefighting operations. The Defense Department will also be ready to supply National Guard and Air Force Reserve cargo plane and helicopter transport crews and equipment to support medical evacuation or water drops for fire responses.Government satellites and other sensors will be used to improve prediction and detection of wildfires, according to White House officials.

your ad here

Spain Honors Chef Andrés for Humanitarian Kitchens

Chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen were awarded a prestigious Spanish prize Wednesday for their international relief work promoting healthy food.The jury that decides the Princess of Asturias Awards gave Andrés, 51, and the nonprofit group he founded the Award of Concord for “offering extraordinarily fast and efficient on-the-ground response to social and nutritional emergencies.”Born in northern Spain in 1969, Andrés moved to the U.S. in 1991 and was later naturalized as an American citizen. He helped popularize Spanish cuisine, especially the tapa, in the U.S. before he also became heavily involved in humanitarian work.Andrés founded the World Central Kitchen in 2010 following a trip to Haiti to do aid work. Since then, it has been active in deploying field kitchens to respond to food crises both in the United States and abroad. The organization served over 3.6 million meals in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017. Last year, Andrés dedicated some of his own restaurants in the U.S. to help feed people in need during the coronavirus pandemic.A recipient of many honors, Andrés was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama in 2015.The 50,000-euro ($56,700) Princess of Asturias Award of Concord is one of eight prizes, including for the arts, social sciences and sports, handed out annually by a foundation named for Spanish Crown Princess Leonor.

your ad here