Former Malawi Lawmaker Commits Suicide at Parliament

A former high-ranking lawmaker in Malawi committed suicide Thursday afternoon in the country’s parliament building.

Clement Chiwaya, 50, a former second deputy speaker, fatally shot himself in the head with a pistol while inside the National Assembly. Details about what led Chiwaya to kill himself remained sketchy.

The parliament said in a statement that the public would be informed at an appropriate time, as the Malawi Police Service was investigating the incident.

When in office, Chiwaya represented the opposition United Democratic Front.

According to the statement from parliament, Chiwaya recently was involved in a court case regarding his vehicle. The car was in an accident before the transfer of ownership was completed, and the insurance had expired.

Chiwaya sought help from the government’s Office of the Ombudsman, who made a determination in his favor, but Malawi’s High Court set the determination aside.


The parliament statement said guards have the proper equipment and protocols to ensure safety in the building. However, Chiwaya’s suicide raised concerns.

Former military officer Sheriff Kaisi, a security expert based in Blantyre, said, “To me, I would say that there is negligence on how security should be provided at high-risk places like parliament. This is a wake-up call in the management of security. There is no way you can manage security in that sense, when you have cameras and detectors.”

Chiwaya had used a wheelchair for a number of years. In its statement, the National Assembly said that while Chiwaya’s entrance had set off alerts when he passed through metal detectors Thursday, the alerts were deemed to be from the wheelchair, and therefore guards did not look for any firearms.

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NY Hospitals Start Firing or Suspending Unvaccinated Health Care Workers

Thousands of health care workers in New York received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as the deadline for a statewide vaccination mandate neared. Workers at New York hospitals and nursing homes had until Monday to get their first vaccine doses or lose their jobs. More with VOA’s Mariama Diallo.

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US Immigration Agents to More Narrowly Target Migrants for Deportation 

The U.S. government will narrow whom immigration agents target for arrest and deportation, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Thursday, in a marked departure from the hardline approach taken by former U.S. President Donald Trump. 

New guidance issued Thursday gives agents more discretion to make case-by-case decisions, Mayorkas said, focusing primarily on those who pose national security or public safety threats as well as recent border crossers. 

Immigrants who have been in the United States for a long time, who are elderly or minors, or whose family members might be adversely affected by deportation could be spared enforcement, according to a memo issued Thursday. Some other mitigating factors given consideration could be service in the military by the immigrant or an immediate family member or having been a victim of a crime, the memo sent to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said. The new guidelines take effect in 60 days. 

U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, pledged a more humanitarian approach to immigration than that of his Republican predecessor, Trump. Under Trump, ICE agents were told no immigrant would be exempt from immigration enforcement, including low-level offenders and noncriminals as well as people who have been in the United States for many years. 

“It is estimated there are more than 11 million undocumented or otherwise removable noncitizens in the United States,” including teachers, farmworkers and people working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, the memo said. “We do not have the resources to apprehend and seek the removal of everyone.” 

The new guidelines do not include categories. Instead, they instruct the agents to look at the totality of circumstances as a way to prioritize resources. 

“In the area of public safety, very often guidelines in the past have defined who is a public safety threat by looking at the issue categorically — if you have done X, then you are public safety threat,” Mayorkas said. That approach “could lead to ineffective and unjust results,” he said. 

Earlier interim guidelines by the Biden administration instructed ICE agents to focus on categories of immigrants deemed security threats and those who entered the United States after November 1, 2020. A federal judge blocked those guidelines in August, siding with two Republican-led states — Texas and Louisiana — that had challenged them.

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UN Chief ‘Shocked’ as Ethiopia Expels 7 Aid Officials

The U.N. secretary-general expressed “shock” Thursday after the Ethiopian government announced the expulsion of seven senior U.N. humanitarian officials working in the country.   

“In Ethiopia, the U.N. is delivering lifesaving aid — including food, medicine, water, and sanitation supplies — to people in desperate need,” Antonio Guterres said in a statement. “I have full confidence in the U.N. staff who are in Ethiopia doing this work.”   

He said the organization is engaging with the Ethiopian authorities “in the expectation that the concerned U.N. staff will be allowed to continue their important work.”   

The seven officials have been given 72 hours to leave Ethiopia. They include the U.N.’s deputy humanitarian chief, the deputy humanitarian coordinator, and the U.N. Children’s Agency (UNICEF) representative.   

In a tweet, the ministry of foreign affairs said the seven were “meddling in the internal affairs of the country.” 

Conflict-induced hunger 

The Ethiopian federal government has been engaged in an armed conflict with rebels in the northern Tigray region for nearly one year. The government declared a unilateral cease-fire and withdrew its forces in June, but the conflict has continued to spill into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar. 

Of the 6 million people who live in Tigray, the U.N. says 5.2 million need some level of food assistance. Over 400,000 people are already living in famine-like conditions, and another 1.8 million people are on the brink of famine. 

On Wednesday, U.N. Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths said that after 11 months of conflict and three months of a de facto government blockade, the humanitarian crisis in Tigray is spiraling out of control. 

In an interview with The Associated Press, Griffiths said the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia is a “stain on our conscience,” as civilians starve because aid workers are being blocked from getting enough supplies to them. 

One hundred aid trucks are needed daily in the region, but in the past week, only 79 in total were allowed in, a U.N. spokesman said. 

“Trucks carrying fuel and medical supplies still cannot enter into Tigray,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday. “Trucks are waiting in Semera, in Afar, to travel to Mekelle.” 

The federal government headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, blames the rebels for blocking the aid deliveries. 

White House condemnation

“The U.S. government condemns in the strongest possible terms the government of Ethiopia’s unprecedented action to expel the leadership of all of the United Nations organizations involved in ongoing humanitarian operations,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday. 

Earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order allowing the government to impose financial sanctions on those who prolong the conflict. 

“We will not hesitate to use this or any other tool at our disposal to respond quickly and decisively to those who obstruct humanitarian assistance to people of Ethiopia,” Psaki said. 

Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.

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Nigerian Police Deny Killing Members of Banned Shiite Group

Nigerian police have denied killing any members of a banned Shiite Muslim group during a gathering this week in the capital, Abuja.

The Islamic Movement of Nigeria said police on Tuesday shot and killed eight of its members as they marked the religious ritual of Arbaeen. 

The Abuja police command denied the allegation in a statement Wednesday, saying operatives intervened during the Islamic Movement of Nigeria procession to prevent a breakdown of law and order.

The command said members of the IMN attacked security officers before officers shot tear gas into the air, arrested 57 of them, and seized petrol bombs and bags of stones. 

An Abuja command spokesperson couldn’t be reached for a comment, but national police spokesperson Frank Mba backed the command’s statement on the matter. 

Statement approved

“That statement is comprehensive enough, and it answers all questions. I am okay with that statement,” Mba said.

The IMN rejected claims by the police that its members attacked officers, however, and said it would file a lawsuit against authorities. 

Spokesperson Abdullahi Muhammed Musa said it was IMN members who were attacked at the group’s procession to mark the religious ritual.

‘We have videos’

He said at least eight people were shot, while dozens of people scampering to safety were injured.

“Armed police and soldiers come out and attack unarmed, innocent citizens that are carrying out their religious activities, which is their constitutional right, but they’re denying that they didn’t kill anybody,” Musa said. “We have videos, we have people around that you can come and investigate.”

Muhammad Rufai was at the procession Tuesday. He said he heard gunshots and saw bodies soon after.

“We saw these joint taskforce vehicles. I think they’re up to 20-something,” Rufai said. “They started shooting tear gas and bullets immediately, as at that time, I saw three persons that they shot down.” 

The Shiite minority Muslim group in Nigeria has long complained of discrimination and repression. 

IMN banned in 2019

Authorities banned the IMN in 2019 following violent clashes with security during protests to demand the release of their leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky. 

Zakzaky and his wife had been detained since 2015 after a clash in which the army killed an estimated 350 Shiites.

In July, a Nigerian court acquitted the IMN leader of all criminal charges, and Zakzaky and his wife were released from prison.

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Government Relief Programs Slashed US Poverty Rate

The number of people living in poverty in the United States dropped to a record low last year following government relief programs to offset the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Struggling families have been kept afloat because of the government lifelines, as VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias reports.

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Turkey Eyes Economic Bonanza in Nagorno-Karabakh

As Armenia and Azerbaijan mark the one-year anniversary of the start of their campaign in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, Baku is vowing to rebuild the region, and Turkish companies see an economic bonanza. Dorian Jones in Istanbul reports.

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London Policeman Sentenced to Life for Sarah Everard Murder

A London Metropolitan Police officer has been sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty in July to the murder of Sarah Everard, whose disappearance and death in March sparked nationwide grief and outrage.

Wayne Couzens confessed to abducting Everard on the evening of March 3, 2021, during a 50-minute walk home from her friend’s house in south London. Prosecutors said he falsely accused her of violating COVID-19 restrictions to lure her into his car.  

Everard’s body was discovered a week later near Ashford in County Kent, about 90 kilometers southeast of London.  

Following Couzen’s sentencing Thursday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick told reporters she was “absolutely horrified” Couzens used his position as a police officer to deceive and coerce Everard into his vehicle. She said his actions were “a gross betrayal of everything policing stands for.” 


She said she knows for some, the bond of trust in the police has been damaged, but she pledged the police department’s dedication to the public remains undiminished.  

Sarah Everard’s disappearance caused a nationwide outcry in Britain, with thousands expressing grief and anger regarding the safety of women in London and elsewhere. Women also then began sharing experiences of being threatened or attacked – or simply facing the everyday fear of violence when walking alone.

The incident prompted British opposition Labour Party lawmaker Jess Phillips to pay tribute to the 118 women in Britain who have died at the hands of men over the last 12 months by reading their names aloud in Britain’s House of Commons.


Some information in this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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The Inside Story – Biden and the Borders


The Inside Story: Biden and the Borders (Episode 07, September 30, 2021)


Show Open:

Voice of PATSY WIDAKUSWARA, VOA White House Bureau Chief:

Another immigration confrontation at the U.S. southern border.   

Thousands of Haitian migrants amass concern for the Biden Administration.   




U.S. President Joe Biden:


Of course, I take responsibility.  I’m President.  But it was horrible what — to see, as you saw — to see people treated like they did.





While challenges remain at the southern border, thousands of Afghan refugees are entering the United States.   


The President campaigned on changing immigration policies.   


Who gets in?   

Who is not getting in?  

And why …  


On “The Inside Story: Biden and the Borders.”     





I’m Patsy Widakuswara at the White House.  President Joe Biden is facing rising criticism over his handling of Haitian migrants at the U.S. southern border.   


More than 14,000 migrants crossed the U.S.-Mexican border in recent weeks, setting up camps underneath a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.  


Images of Border Patrol agents on horseback chasing Haitian migrants has sparked outrage and questions about the Biden administration’s immigration policies.  We begin our coverage in Del Rio, Texas.  



Thousands of migrants, many of them Haitians living in South America, have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas, seeking asylum.


Hundreds have been expelled by the administration back to Haiti, a country mired in poverty and violence. It’s an “inhumane, counterproductive” response, said U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote, who quit his job in protest Wednesday.



Voice of PATSY WIDAKUSWARA quoting former U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote:


“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed,” Foote said in his resignation letter.



Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State:


The fact is, there have been multiple senior level conversations on Haiti, where all proposals, including those put forward by Special Envoy Foote, were fully considered in a rigorous and transparent process.





U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected Foote’s accusation, as did White House press secretary Jen Psaki.



Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary:


Special Envoy Foote had ample opportunity to raise concerns about migration during his tenure. He never once did so.






Still, the Biden administration continues to be haunted by images from the border, including of agents on horseback chasing migrants.





U.S. President Joe Biden:


Of course, I take responsibility. I’m President. But it was horrible what – to see, as you saw – to see people treated like they did: horses nearly running them over and people being strapped. It’s outrageous. I promise you those people will pay. They will be, there’s an investigation underway now, there will be consequences.






Immigration analysts say this change in policy does not address the bigger question of what to do with the influx of people at the border — a real challenge for the administration.



Julia Gelatt, Migration Policy Institute:


The Biden administration really wanted to send the message that it was breaking completely with the immigration policies of the Trump administration that were seen as cruel and inhumane. But at the same time, the Biden administration, I think, fears that if they treat the Haitian migrants all as asylum-seekers and allow them in, that will send a message to people around the world that the U.S. border is open.







Daniel Foote declined VOA’s request for an interview. In his resignation letter, he pointed out Haiti cannot possibly absorb the deported migrants.


The country is facing numerous crises, including last month’s earthquake, the assassination of its president in July and rampant gang violence, causing many to flee.




Cristobal Ramon, Immigration Analyst:


COVID has made it difficult for them to be able to work to sustain themselves. These are individuals who came from Haiti in the wake of a lot of earthquakes and went to South America.







Democrats in Congress have urged the administration to stop expulsions. The United Nations, which rarely criticizes U.S. policy, has also denounced the expulsions of Haitians as “inconsistent with international norms.





President Biden sets U.S. immigration policies and priorities. His Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, is responsible for seeing they are carried out.  


Secretary Mayorkas recently took questions from the White House Press Corps, explaining how the administration can expel people because of COVID-19, under Title 42 — a law code used in the same way by the Trump administration. 




Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary Department of Homeland Security


Migrants continue to be expelled and under the CDC is title 42 authority title 42 is a public health authority and not an immigration policy, and it is important to note that title 42 is applicable and has been applicable to all irregular migration. During this pandemic, it is not specific to Haitian nationals, or the current situation.

To date, DHS has conducted 17 expulsion flights to Haiti with approximately 2000 individuals, those who are not expelled under Title 42 are placed in immigration removal proceedings.

Individuals, as I mentioned, with acute vulnerability, can be accepted from the title 42 application. Approximately 12,400 individuals will have their cases heard by an immigration judge to make a determination on whether they will be removed or permitted to remain in the United States.  

The title 42 authority has been applied to irregular migration since the very beginning of this administration and before. And it has applied to individuals from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and other countries. It has been applied equally, and the exceptions that I cited have been the exceptions that have applied to all.

There are three exceptions. The Convention Against Torture, acute vulnerabilities such as extreme medical needs, and operational capacity. Those are the three exceptions. Title 42 authority has been applied, irrespective of the country of origin, irrespective of the race of the individual, irrespective of other criteria that don’t belong in our adjudicative process, And we do not permit in our adjudicative process.



Migrants from Haiti trying to get into the United States is not a new phenomenon.  U.S. policy regarding Haitians is complex and goes back decades shaped against a backdrop of natural disasters, political instability and violence.  VOA’s Arash Arabasadi explains.    





It recently began in July, with the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and an investigation that seems stuck in park.  A little more than a month later in August, a magnitude seven-point-two earthquake shook much of the southern part of Haiti to the ground. The ongoing crises persuaded thousands of Haitians to seek asylum somewhere else. 




Robert Fatton, University of Virginia Professor:


It’s not that Haitians necessarily want to exit.  It’s simply that the situation is so bad and so desperate that they do not have another choice.






Haitians fleeing the country is a phenomenon that began in the 1960s but gained momentum because of an uprising against the country’s first democratically elected president.




Robert Fatton, University of Virginia Professor:


It started again… major wave after the coup that overthrew Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and because of political problems, the waves continued.  And then the earthquake of 2010 was one of the major, if you wish, triggers that led the Haitians to the United States and elsewhere.






Fatton says a weak global economy in the 1970s triggered, in part, the mass migration of Haitians to the US. 


In the 1980s, the administration of U.S. President Ronald Reagan sent back Haitian migrants who were intercepted at sea trying to come to the U.S. Those who made it to the U.S. faced prison.


More than 25-thousand Haitian migrants were sent back.


In 1991, a coup ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power, creating years of instability, only for the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton to bring him back to power to oversee what Fatton calls a neo-liberal economy that collapsed and never recovered. 


In their search for a better life, some Haitians spend their life savings just to leapfrog from countries like Brazil and Chile to get to the United States.




Robert Fatton, University of Virginia Professor:


It was a very long trek, and they’d assumed that they could in fact get into the United States.  Most of them found that that was simply wrong.






More than 12 thousand of the 30 thousand Haitian migrants who amassed at the border in September were eligible to seek asylum in the U.S. Another eight thousand went back to Mexico voluntarily. About two thousand were flown back to Haiti.




Robert Fatton, University of Virginia Professor:


The situation in Haiti is getting really desperate, especially for very poor people.  The economic situation has deteriorated significantly.  Poverty has increased.  The rural areas have suffered significantly because of bad agricultural policies and also because life in rural areas is a life of deprivation.  So people move to the urban areas. They create those huge slums, and there are no jobs to satisfy their economic needs.  In addition to that, they’re confronted with gangs, and you have a government that’s completely dysfunctional.









Fatton says Haiti’s problems are problems Haitians should solve on their own.  He says he’s hopeful for the future as the country has hit rock bottom but adds he has been saying the same thing for the past 20 years. Arash Arabasadi, VOA News.






Protecting the border and managing immigration are challenges faced by every American president.  As the Biden administration manages criticism over its handling of the Haitian migrant surge, concerns remain over the future of U.S. immigration policies.   


VOA reporter Aline Barros has covered immigration policy under both Democratic and Republican administrations.  


She explained the evolution of America’s immigration policy in a conversation with ‘The Inside Story’ producer Elizabeth Cherneff.





Aline, what US immigration policies were executed in order to deal with this most recent influx of Haitian migrants?


ALINE BARROS, VOA immigration reporter:

So there are a few things happening right now, we have title 42 in place, which is basically a federal health code that was put in place under the Trump administration that the Biden administration decided to keep it, and the title 42 basically allows immigration officials at the border to expel migrants. What does that mean? It means that they do not go in front of an immigration judge, it means that they are immediately sent back to the home country and it’s it’s the same guideline is the same policy that it’s happening to all migrants,

It’s not just Haitian migrants so migrants from Central American and other nationalities, they are met with the same policy. But the Biden administration, they made a few exemptions right, so when a company minors and family units with tender age children might be paroled and they are usually paroled.

Immigration officers at the border, they have the discretion to parole them in to allow them to be paroled under humanitarian conditions, and they might be one fighting a removal proceeding, a potential order of deportation, while asking for asylum, while asking for the possibility of staying, you know, permanently in the US.

A number of Haitian migrants, they were paroled in. But, however, they are, they will be able to, to ask for asylum, they will be able to go in front of an immigration judge, or an asylum, officer. But at the same time, they’re fighting already the possibility of being sent back. So, while some people were sent back, the folks who were allowed in, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to stay here.




Right. You touched on a really interesting point that I think is confusing to a lot of our audience. Why are we seeing some people sent back to the country of Haiti on planes, and yet others are allowed to stay in the USA?


ALINE BARROS, VOA immigration reporter:

That’s exactly because of title 42. Because we have exemptions, right? Because CBP officer a custom border protection officer might they have the discretion, they have the authority according to immigration wall. To look at you and say, you are a woman with a tender a child, you are very in a very vulnerable situation, I’m going to parole you in, you know, but here’s the thing, and this is based on the interviews that I’ve done with people at the border in the past with now immigration lawyers, a lot of these people, they understand that they need help.

When you are asking for help at the border, you don’t have access to lawyers easily as someone who is already inside of the United States, right, their advocate groups, their immigrant advocate groups at the border. But the amount of people that need help is much higher than the amount of lawyers available so you’re going to be fighting your removal proceedings, you’re going to be fighting a potential deportation order, while trying to get your asylum at the same time.



How is this latest wave being handled in comparison to prior waves of migrants arriving at the border?


ALINE BARROS, VOA immigration reporter:

So Haitians have come to the US to seek asylum at borders for decades but in every presidential administration since 1970s has treated migrants differently so some rejected asylum seekers, while others held them longer in detention. Some administration’s they had the US Coast Guard basically intercepting boats and sending them back right away. We also had an administration sending Haitian migrants to Guantanamo. So, it depends on the administration they are dealing with the migrant Haitian migrants in waves, um differently, right now. The position of the US government is, don’t come, you’re going to be sent back.


Those terms, I think there’s a lot of confusion about what those terms mean. The terms, seeking asylum, refugee expulsion, deportation.


ALINE BARROS, VOA immigration reporter:

If you are an asylum seeker, if you are a migrant, and you need help, the key is for you to be an asylum seeker for you to go through asylum. You have to be in an us territory to do that as a refugee, you go through a process, outside the country you go through the UN. You apply, you actually receive refugee status so when you come to the United States, you already have the path for permanent residency, which in five years will allow you to file for your citizenship if you wish

If you were expelled. It doesn’t carry legal consequences to you as an a potential asylum seeker again. But if you went through an immigration proceeding, if you went through removal proceedings and you lost your case and you actually received an order of deportation from an immigration judge according to US law. If you come back, you might be barred from entering the U.S. So, so that’s basically the difference. 



Are we seeing consistency and how the Biden administration is implementing immigration policies?


ALINE BARROS, VOA immigration reporter:

So that the immigration, while at the Biden administration is, is, abiding is, is using it is the what is the same one that the Trump administration had and the difference is that Trump wanted to, you know, continue construction of the border wall he wanted to work on policies to restrict not only unauthorized immigration, illegal immigration as well, you know, cutting visa caps and things like that.

Biden administration he’s in a way, pushing for a more positive tone on immigration, however, he has been heavily, heavily criticized but immigrant advocates for keeping title 42 in place, and for the continuation of expelling migrants at the border.



It seems like the images and the videos this past week of border patrol agents on horseback, those images have just resounded with viewers and audiences really around the world. What can you tell us about the administration’s reaction to this how they’re handling it the fallout?


ALINE BARROS, VOA immigration reporter:

There will be investigation there is an ongoing investigation according to immigration officials, Biden said that he took full responsibility, and the horseback unit has been suspended for now. So that was, that was something that Mayorkas came out and said he has been suspended. We’re using horses. As of now, because we’re having an investigation.

The administration has been saying don’t come to the US don’t come to the US illegally, but when you have border patrol officers, you know, at ports of entry, and some advocates are saying that migrants are not allowed in. So migrants will in turn to try to get into the country in between ports of entry because again, in order for them to ask for help, they need to be in the US. So that’s a point that immigrant advocates have been pushing a lot saying, this idea of not allowing immigrants, through ports of entry to ask for asylum the right way pushes them to come in between ports of entry and pushes them to cross illegally.



Okay. Aline Barros, VOA immigration reporter Thank you very much for speaking with us.


ALINE BARROS, VOA immigration reporter:

Thank you for having me.



As the U.S. completed its military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, thousands of evacuated refugees are waiting to be resettled.  


Here, in the city of Washington, DC, local business owners, some refugees themselves, are stepping up to collect donations and supplies for their new neighbors.  VOA’s Karina Bafradzhian tells us more.   




 KARINA BAFRADZHIAN, VOA Reporter:                   


The owners of this Washington, D.C., restaurant, called Lapis, have spent the last few weeks collecting donations for Afghan refugees that were evacuated to the United States. Wine shelves hold hundreds of boxes full of everything from clothing and personal hygiene items to dinnerware and cleaning supplies. 


The person behind this makeshift donation center is Fatima Popal, the owner of a number of D.C. restaurants. She says her desire to help the refugees stems – among other reasons – from personal history. 




Fatima Popal, Popal Group:


We are also refugees, from a different time period of war in Afghanistan. So, we do understand how most of these refugees feel. Of course, our time period was a little bit different – it wasn’t the Taliban regime. 






Popal’s family left Afghanistan in the 1980s when Fatima was just six months old. They have been living in the U.S. since 1987 – and today own three restaurants in the U.S. capital. She decided to spread the word about the donation center on social networks – and was flooded with gratitude and responses. 







Fatima Popal, Popal Group:


And both my brother and I woke up with just a social media blast of people wanting to help, not only to donate but also to help and volunteer their time for us. And it was just beautiful to see how the community has come together, how everyone wants to help and donate.






Receiving the donations, sorting through them, filling up trucks with the necessary items – and then doing it all over again – this is what Popal and dozens of volunteers have been doing since.   


A lot of business owners in the Washington, D.C., area are collecting donations for the Afghan refugees, both small local businesses and giants like Airbnb that promised to provide 20,000 Afghan refugees with free accommodations around the world.  


A myriad of charity organizations in the U.S. have also volunteered to do what they can to help. Catholic Charities located in Virginia is one of them.  




Emily Wood, Catholic Charities of Arlington:


What we have here is just one day’s worth of donations. Amazon drivers have been dropping them off a truckload after truckload all donated. 






Stephen Carattini, CEO of Catholic Charities in Arlington, Virginia, says the numbers of Afghan refugees are quickly rising.




Stephen Carattini, Arlington Catholic Charities:


I think it’ll continue to be an increasing number over the next few months and even years. When they come to this country, we’re usually the first faces that they see – we meet them at the airport. Then things happen very quickly after that. The priority is to help these people into housing, find permanent housing as quickly as possible and then also begin the search for employment.




Volunteers – on top of physical help – don’t forget about psychological help as well. They keep in touch with the refugees, help with advice, help them calm down. No one wants to leave their home country like that, says Fatima Popal. But if they must, she adds, the least others can do is to help the refugees find a second home in the U.S. 

Karina Bafradzhian for VOA News, Washington.






Stay tuned at and our social media for the latest on U.S. immigration policy. Stay connected with me on twitter @pwidakuswara. From the White House, I’m Patsy Widakuswara.  See you next week for The Inside Story.    










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South Africa’s Coal Energy Sector Under Mounting Pressure

Coal provides more than 75% of South Africa’s energy supply, but in the wake of global warming, pressure is mounting for that to change. Protests were seen across the country last week and now a proposed Chinese-backed coal power plant may be scrapped.

It’s what keeps the lights on and industries running.

But South Africa’s coal energy sector is facing mounting pressure at home and abroad to end its use of coal for good.

Frustrated with regular blackouts and the effects of pollution, citizens of the mineral-rich country rallied last week, demanding cleaner, more reliable and affordable alternatives.

Urika Pais was among the protesters from Soweto.

“Electricity has always been a problem in our community. So, community members went forward and they fought for electricity. But when the electricity came, it came at a very high price. We know that solar power is a better solution and it will be cheaper,” said Pais.

South Africa is among the world’s top 15 largest emitters of carbon dioxide. Its reliance on coal stems from having vast quantities of the resource underground.

This week, though, South Africa’s government told the United Nations it is setting more ambitious climate targets.

While environmentalists welcomed the commitment, they say change to the energy sector is not happening fast enough.

Nicole Loser is an attorney with the Centre for Environmental Rights.

“We have to drastically reduce our emissions and reduce our reliance on coal by about 80% within the next 10 years, less than 10 years. We aren’t seeing those changes happening fast enough. We also know that we need to essentially double our renewable energy build our plants — that also is not happening,” said Loser.

As the rest of the world races to tackle climate change, analysts say pressure from business and foreign governments can force a faster green transition in South Africa.

Chris Yelland is an energy analyst with EE Business Intelligence.

“If we do not reduce our dependence on coal, we will be punished by our trading partners who will set up cross-border tariff. And ultimately, South Africa relies on trade with the rest of the world,” he said.

China announced last week that it would no longer fund foreign coal projects. That means a Chinese-backed coal project slated to power a new industrial complex in South Africa’s northern province of Limpopo may not materialize. 


Analysts like Chris Yelland say China’s decision will have long-term ramifications.

“China was seen to be perhaps the last outpost of finance that could be available for new coal. And there is nobody else to pick up this ball to finance this new coal-fired power. So, I think the days of new coal in South Africa are over,” he said.

The prospect of canceling coal is a major victory for protesters who want to see South Africa embrace renewables on a larger scale.


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Germany’s Political Parties Bargain to Determine Next Government

The wrangling over who will control Germany’s government has begun among the top four finishing parties following parliamentary elections.

The Social Democrats (SPD), led by Olaf Scholz, defeated outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) 25.8% to 24.1%, handing the conservative party its worst ever defeat.  

But since neither party won enough votes to control the Bundestag – the lower house of parliament – they must work with the third-place finishers, the Green party, which received 14.8% of the vote, and fourth place finishers, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), which received 11.5%.

The Greens and FDP agreed Tuesday to meet with each other first before discussions with the SPD or CDU. A photo was released to the media showing Green party candidate Annalena Baerbock with FDP leader Christian Lindner.

While the two parties have some common ground, they have traditionally belonged to rival ideological camps and have different approaches to issues including the economy and fighting climate change.

During media briefings with reporters Wednesday, both parties said they have scheduled meetings with the SPD and CDU, as well another meeting with each other.  

But traditionally, the Greens have leaned more toward the SPD’s left-center politics, and the FDP has been more aligned with the more conservative CDU, and their leadership indicated Wednesday that may not have changed.

When asked which coalition his party preferred, FDP General Secretary Volker Wissing said, “Our preference was based on content and since the parties’ content has not changed, the preference of course remains the same.”

At her own news conference, while stressing they were meeting with all parties, the Green party leader Baerbock, said that since SPD was the winner of the election, it was important to meet with them first.  

The Green and FDP leaders said they scheduled talks with the two first-place finishing parties for this Saturday and Sunday, followed by deliberations with their own party membership.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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Kosovo, Serbia Reach Deal to End Border Tensions

Kosovo agreed on Thursday to withdraw police units from its northern border with Serbia to end a mounting dispute over vehicle license plates that briefly escalated into violence and prompted NATO to step up its patrols.

The accord negotiated in Brussels calms the latest flare-up in a decades-old standoff between Serbia and Kosovo but does not resolve a bigger issue blocking European Union membership talks: that Serbia and its former province Kosovo should normalize relations following Pristina’s 2008 independence.

“We have a deal,” said Miroslav Lajcek, the EU’s envoy dealing with one of Europe’s toughest territorial disputes. “After two days of intense negotiations, an agreement on de-escalation and the way forward has just been reached,” he said on Twitter, where he posted the details.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar was in Brussels to show support for E.U.-led talks, which he said showed the potential for more progress in the Balkans.

“I think we can make enormous strides in helping the Balkans get over a very difficult period during the ’90s and hopefully, eventually become more integrated with the European Union,” Escobar said on a briefing call with reporters.

However, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic played down hopes of any broader breakthrough for now. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence.

“I think the agreement is fair for the citizens. I would like us to be able to find more lasting solutions. That would not include recognition of Kosovo,” Vucic told a news conference in Serbia, where he was hosting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.


Special stickers


Under the agreement, NATO troops will replace the Kosovar police units on the border, who will withdraw from Saturday. From Monday, both countries will place special stickers on car license plates to remove national symbols and allow the free movement of citizens.

NATO has had some 5,000 troops in Kosovo under a United Nations mandate since June 1999, overseeing a fragile peace following a U.S.-led bombing campaign to end ethnic conflict.

The new agreement ends a ban instigated by Kosovo for all drivers from Serbia to show a temporary, printed registration. Pristina said its move was in retaliation for measures in force in Serbia against drivers from Kosovo since 2008.

Lajcek said he was working on a longer-term solution.

The confrontation was a reminder to the wider world of the larger Kosovo-Serbia dispute that was the EU’s to resolve, diplomats said. One senior diplomat in Brussels said the latest flare-up was, in part, an attempt to get Brussels’s attention as the process towards EU membership has stalled.

Ahead of a Balkan-EU summit on Oct. 6 in Slovenia, Reuters reported on Tuesday that the 27 member states have so far been unable to agree a declaration reaffirming their 18-year-old pledge of future EU membership for the western Balkan states.

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Ivory Coast Enlists New Tool Against Counterfeit Medicines

In Ivory Coast, there’s a new tool in the fight against counterfeit pharmaceuticals. A start-up company now helps pharmacies digitally trace the sale of drugs to their customers. Yassin Ciyow has more in this report narrated by Lionel Gahima.

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US Jobless Benefit Claims Edge Higher Again

First-time claims for U.S. unemployment compensation edged higher again last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, as the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to play havoc with the world’s largest economy.

A total of 362,000 jobless workers filed for assistance, up 11,000 from the revised figure of the week before, the third straight week the figure moved higher. The increase last week was at odds with projections of economists, who had predicted a declining number.

Still, the claims figures for the last month have been on the whole the lowest since the pandemic swept through the U.S. in March 2020, although they remain well above the 218,000 average in 2019.

The increase in unemployment compensation claims comes as the U.S. government in early September ended extra $300-a-week payments to jobless workers on top of often less generous state benefits.

The jobless claims total has fallen steadily but unevenly since topping 900,000 in early January. Filings for unemployment compensation have often been seen as a current reading of the country’s economic health, but other statistics are also relevant barometers.

Even as the U.S. said last month that its world-leading economy grew by an annualized rate of 6.6% in the April-to-June period, in August it only added a disappointing 235,000 jobs, a figure economists said was partly reflective of the surging delta variant of the coronavirus inhibiting job growth. The September jobs figure is due out in a week.

The August total was down sharply from the more than 2 million combined figure added in June and July. The unemployment rate dipped to 5.2%, which is still nearly two percentage points higher than before the pandemic started in March 2020.

About 8.7 million workers remain unemployed in the U.S. There are nearly 11 million available jobs in the country, but the skills of the available workers often do not match what employers want, or the job openings are not where the unemployed live.

The size of the U.S. economy – nearly $23 trillion – now exceeds its pre-pandemic level as it recovers faster than many economists had predicted during the worst of the business closings more than a year ago. Policy makers at the Federal Reserve, the country’s central bank, have signaled that in November they could start reversing the bank’s pandemic stimulus programs and next year could begin to increase its benchmark interest rate.

How fast the U.S. economic growth continues is unclear, with the delta variant of the coronavirus posing a threat to the recovery. In recent weeks, about 120,000 or more new cases have been identified each day in the U.S. and on some days more than 2,000 people have been dying from COVID-19.  

Political disputes have erupted in numerous states between conservative Republican governors who have resisted imposing mandatory face mask and vaccination rules in their states at schools and businesses, although some education and municipal leaders are advocating tougher rules to try to prevent the spread of the delta variant.

U.S. President Joe Biden has ordered workers at companies with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated or be tested weekly for the coronavirus. In addition, he is requiring 2.5 million national government workers and contractors who work for the government to get vaccinated if they haven’t already been inoculated.

Many companies imposed their own vaccination mandates before Biden acted and are now starting to fire workers who have balked at getting vaccinated.

Nearly 67% of U.S. adults have now been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and overall, 55.5% of the U.S. population of 332 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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US Health Officials Renew Plea for Pregnant Women to Get COVID Vaccine

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is once again urging pregnant women in the country to get vaccinated against COVID-19.  

The advisory issued Wednesday also includes women who are trying to get pregnant or have recently been pregnant. The agency warns the virus poses a severe risk during pregnancy of serious illness and death, as well as increased risk of premature birth, stillborn infants or other complications.

The CDC says about 125,000 pregnant women in the United States have tested positive for COVID-19, with 22,000 hospitalized and 161 who have died, including a record high of 22 deaths in August.  The advisory said 97% of pregnant women hospitalized with COVID-19 were not vaccinated.

An advisory issued by the CDC last month said evidence showed that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risk of miscarriage or any other potential complications.

Separately, U.S.-based pharmaceutical company Merck says its experimental COVID-19 antiviral drug appears to be effective against known variants of the disease.  The company said Wednesday that early-stage clinical trials revealed the new drug, molnupiravir, was most effective when given to patients within five days of their initial diagnosis.

Merck says it has begun two widespread late-stage trials of molnupiravir — one as a therapeutic treatment of COVID-19, and the other as a post-exposure prophylaxis, or preventative treatment.

In other developments, the International Olympic Committee announced COVID-19 restrictions for next year’s Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games in Beijing.  The IOC said a plan presented by Olympic organizers includes a “closed-loop management system” in which all athletes, journalists and staffers will have to compete, work and live within a limited area during the entire duration.  The “closed-loop” system is similar to the so-called “bubble” created by the U.S. National Basketball Association in mid-2020 when it resumed its 2019-20 season at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The plan also mandates that athletes who are not fully vaccinated will have to enter a 21-day quarantine period after arriving in Beijing.  Unlike this year’s Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, spectators will be allowed to attend competitive events, but tickets will be limited to those living in mainland China.

The Beijing Winter Olympics will take place from February 4 to 20 next year, while the Paralympics will run from March 4 to 13.

In a related matter, authorities in Australia’s southern Victoria state say an increase of more than 50% in new COVID-19 cases to 1,438 on Thursday is partly due to the large crowds that attended an Australian Football League match in the western city of Perth last Saturday. The match between the Melbourne Demons and its inter-city rival Western Bulldogs was moved to the coastal city because of the ongoing lockdown in Australia’s second-largest city, the capital of Victoria state.

Jeroen Weimar, the head of Victoria state’s COVID-19 response office, said the new infections is the result of people “dropping their guards” during the weekend event.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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5 Ways US Debt Default Would Echo Through Global Economy

U.S. lawmakers have less than three weeks to avert a default on the country’s sovereign debt by raising the limit on the amount of money the Treasury Department can borrow. Failure to do so would result in the United States purposely defaulting on its debts for the first time in history. 

By now, the extent of the damage that economists predict the U.S. economy would suffer in the event of default triggered by bitter conflict between Congressional Democrats and Republicans has been widely reported.

An estimate from Moody’s Analytics earlier this month predicted that in a prolonged default scenario, the U.S. would slide into recession, with the Gross Domestic Product falling by almost 4%. Some six million jobs would be lost, driving the unemployment rate up to 9%. The resulting stock market sell-off would erase $15 trillion in household wealth. In the short term, interest rates would spike, and in the long term, they would never fall back to pre-default lows. 

But the damage from a U.S. default would not be contained to the United States itself. Securities issued by the U.S. have been so trustworthy for so long that they are treated as essentially risk-free in financial markets, and are used to underpin a vast number of financial contracts worldwide. 

“The U.S. Treasury market is the world’s anchor asset,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “If it turns out that that asset is not actually risk free, but that it can actually default, that would basically detonate a bomb in the middle of the global financial system. And that will be extremely messy.” 

Immediate fallout 

In the event of a default, it is generally assumed that there would be a broad sell-off of Treasury securities, known as Treasuries. This would happen for multiple reasons — from individual investors being spooked by the default, to companies that had collateralized loans with Treasuries being forced to replace them with something the lender sees as more secure. 

The sell-off would make it more expensive for the U.S. to borrow in the future, driving up interest rates in the United States and driving down the value of the dollar against other world currencies. 

Here are five ways those effects would echo through the global economy. 

Reduced global trade 

If a default drove the U.S. into recession, U.S. consumers and businesses would reduce the amount of goods and services they purchase from outside the country. 

While this would impact virtually all countries to some extent, emerging market countries that rely on exports to the United States for much of their income would be particularly hard-hit. 

The expected devaluation of the dollar would have a similar impact — making it more expensive for U.S firms to purchase supplies overseas, resulting in trade being reduced even further. 

Dollarized economies would suffer 

The U.S. dollar is a common currency in much of the world. Some countries have adopted it as the official currency, while in others it exists side-by-side with a local currency that is often “pegged” to the dollar to keep its value stable. 

In the event that a default drove down the value of the dollar, countries with highly dollarized economies would see the buying power of existing currency stock diminished.

“Emerging markets would suffer greatly from this, because they wouldn’t have a domestic currency that’s very credible,” said Kirkegaard. 

Business contracts affected 

Around the world, many cross-border transactions carry requirements that they be settled in U.S. dollars. In ordinary times, this is seen as a practical way to be sure that sudden swings in the value of a local currency don’t dramatically disadvantage one party in a transaction that is to be settled in the future. 

A sudden and sharp decline in the value of the dollar would mean that individuals and companies anticipating payment on existing contracts in dollars would effectively be receiving less than they had expected for their goods and services. 

More sophisticated trade contracts may contain anti-default clauses that require agreements to be renegotiated in the event of a default that drives down the value of a reserve currency. While this would keep both parties to a contract whole, it would also complicate and likely slow down many transactions. 

Capital flows away from the U.S. 

One of the economic advantages the United States has long enjoyed is that it is a magnet for global capital. When the global economy is strong, investors seeking growth funnel money to U.S. firms. When times are bad, investors seek shelter in U.S. Treasuries. Either way, global markets are directing capital into the U.S. 

But when interest rates go up for the wrong reason — because investors don’t trust the U.S. government to pay its debts — that system is broken. 

The result is that to some degree, investors seeking shelter would be more cautious about assuming that Treasury securities are the go-to investment to protect the value of their assets. The logical move would be for them to begin directing at least some of their investments to securities issued by other governments and denominated in different currencies. 

New reserve currency 

A side effect of those new capital flows could be a challenge to the dollar as the world’s “reserve currency.” 

A reserve currency is money held by a country’s central bank and large financial institutions in order to facilitate global trade for domestic companies, to meet international debt obligations, and to influence domestic currency exchange rates, among other reasons. 

The stability of the dollar has made it the dominant global reserve currency since the end of World War II. This has generated constant global demand for dollars, making it possible for the U.S. government to borrow at lower interest rates than other large nations.

The United States’ global competitors, including China and Russia — but even allies, like the European Union — have for years suggested that it would be better if the dollar’s dominance were not as complete as it is. 

There has been little movement to unseat the dollar in recent decades, but a shock like a default on U.S. debts could persuade some countries to hedge their bets by taking on other currencies, like the euro or renminbi, as additions to their reserve holdings. 

“If you are China or, for that matter, the euro area, you have been wanting to replace or supplant the dollar’s dominant role in the global economy with either the renminbi or the euro,” said Kirkegaard. “You couldn’t ask for a better thing.” 


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US Opioid Overdose Deaths Soar

In the shadows of Washington’s government office buildings, Gary Hayes searches for another dose of heroin, chasing a high that will last only a few hours before he wants more.

“It’s hard to stop using when you are living on the streets and there’s no treatment help,” Hayes told VOA. The 28-year-old Black man, who lives in a homeless tent encampment in the nation’s capital, has struggled with substance abuse disorder for a decade.

“I overdosed twice in the last year, but I know several people who died,” Hayes said, reflecting on the deadly opioid epidemic playing out during another health tragedy, the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 93,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020, the highest number on record, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics released in July. U.S. health officials attribute the rise in deaths to powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Overdose deaths: Black vs. white

In the District of Columbia, more than 400 people died from opioid overdoses last year, and most were African American. The medical examiner’s office reported that fentanyl or fentanyl analogs were present in many cases.

“In some communities, we’ve seen deaths among African Americans eclipse the death rates among whites over the past several years,” said Dr. Caleb Alexander, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. “Many people who have died from the opioid epidemic or otherwise developed addiction are African American or other people of color living in urban areas.”

Opioid overdose deaths among African Americans have been on the rise since 2013, according to a study published in the journal Addiction. Simultaneously, opioid use among white Americans leveled off for the first time since the 1990s, when doctors began overprescribing the opioid painkiller that sparked the health crisis.

“Historically, the opioid epidemic has at times been painted as an epidemic of rural white working-class families, but opioids don’t discriminate,” Alexander told VOA. “The addiction that one develops looks just the same, regardless of the color of your skin.”

Pandemic’s impact

According to the CDC, between 1999 and 2019, nearly 500,000 lives in the U.S. were lost to overdoses involving opioids, both prescription and illicit types. The epidemic has impacted many communities, and U.S. health officials believe the crisis has worsened since the pandemic started.

While overdose deaths were already increasing in the months preceding the COVID-19 outbreak, the latest data show a sharp rise in overdoses during the pandemic.


“It’s gone from being called the opioid crisis to the overdose crisis,” said harm reduction activist Britt Carpenter, director of the Philly Unknown Project, a group that advocates for the homeless. He says the pandemic has reversed progress made in reducing opioid addiction in recent years.

Carpenter walks the streets of the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, trying to help the homeless people he sees using opioids. “It’s been a younger demographic of users from the suburbs in their 20s, coming into the city to live on the streets and use drugs,” Carpenter told VOA. “In the last 18 months, some of the neighborhood streets have become overwhelmingly filled again with people.”

In August, Philadelphia city workers and police cleared out two large homeless encampments in Kensington, where, according to officials, hundreds of people had been living and several drug overdoses had been reported. “The outreach and recovery world have their hands full now,” Carpenter said.

In Philadelphia County, illicit fentanyl was present in more than 80% of drug overdose deaths in 2020, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In September, the DEA issued a public safety alert warning Americans of an alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.

“Drug traffickers, both here and abroad, are increasingly using counterfeit pills to package and distribute the poison that illicit fentanyl is,” said Thomas Hodnett, acting special agent in charge of the DEA’s Philadelphia Division. Law enforcement officials say most of the counterfeit pills coming into the United States are produced in Mexico and China.

Opioid vaccine?

U.S. health officials believe the pandemic lockdowns and the availability of potent drugs last year dramatically increased overdoses and addiction rates.

“I know a lot of people who had made progress in their recovery, then relapsed,” Arman Maddela, a recovering addict, told Reuters. Maddala, who lives in San Diego, California, lost his sobriety and began using heroin and fentanyl last year. “Being alone and isolated in your living space without any reason to leave the house is enough for someone struggling with addiction to relapse and dig themselves into a hole,” he said.

Harm reduction advocate Carpenter agrees. “One trait of addiction is isolation. The pandemic lockdowns made it hard for people to attend support group meetings in person or visit their therapists.”

With the easing of many pandemic restrictions this year, more drug counseling programs reopened in-person services. At the same time, U.S. medical researchers are working to develop new treatments for opioid addiction with further hopes of reducing fatal drug overdoses.

Clinical trials are under way for the first vaccine to be tested in the U.S. for opioid abuse disorder. The vaccine would create antibodies that prevent opioids such as oxycodone from reaching the brain and later impairing a person’s breathing. The serum could be given in combination with other opioid-based medications used to treat addiction.

“A vaccine that lasts for several months could help many more people beat their addiction and potentially protect them from an overdose death if a patient relapses,” said Sandra Comer, a professor of neurobiology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, where the research is being conducted.

With billions of dollars being spent on the coronavirus pandemic, some health care specialists are calling on the government to allocate more money for comprehensive addiction prevention and treatment programs.

“We need to be sure these treatments are available and that individuals with addiction have unfettered access because it can reduce the risk of dying by as much as 50%,” said Alexander. “We know this can be done because there are millions of Americans living healthy successful lives in recovery today.” 








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International Safe Abortion Day Marked by Battles in US, Latin America

Protesters around the world marked International Safe Abortion Day this week as high-profile cases in the United States and Latin America once again focused attention on the debate over reproductive rights.VOA’s Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson reports on the fight over a Texas abortion law that has reached Capitol Hill.

Producer: Bakhtiyar Zamanov

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North Korea Dismisses US Calls for Talks

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has dismissed the United States’ offer to resume a dialogue but says he is open to improving ties with South Korea.

In a speech published Thursday in North Korean state media, Kim said the willingness of the U.S. to hold talks was only a “show” to cover up what he called Washington’s “hostile policy.”

“There is no change in the U.S. military threat to and hostile policy toward us at all, and instead, their expressions and methods get more cunning,” Kim said, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly called for North Korea to resume negotiations, stalled since 2019, on the country’s nuclear program.

Responding to Kim’s speech, the State Department stressed in an email to the VOA Korean Service that the U.S. “harbors no hostile intent” toward North Korea, whose official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Our policy calls for a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy with the DPRK to make tangible progress that increases the security of the United States, our allies, and our deployed forces. We are prepared to meet with the DPRK without preconditions. We hope the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach,” the U.S. statement read.

Kim delivered his speech Wednesday, the same day North Korea announced the details of its latest weapons test, which involved a new hypersonic missile apparently designed to evade U.S. missile defenses.

North Korea has conducted three missile tests this month, even as it signals it is open to dialogue with its neighbor South Korea.

In his speech, Kim said he would consider reestablishing communications hotlines with South Korea starting in early October.

Pyongyang opened the hotlines in late July for the first time in about a year, but it severed them two weeks later, after the U.S. and South Korea decided to move ahead with annual joint military drills that North Korea sees as a provocation.

Earlier this week, Kim Yo Jong, a senior North Korean official and sister of Kim Jong Un, said Pyongyang would also consider an inter-Korean summit as well as a formal declaration ending the Korean War of 1950-53.

The moves create a tricky situation for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a left-leaning politician who wants to resume talks with North Korea before his single presidential term expires in May.

The North’s strategy is unsurprising to many analysts, who say Pyongyang wants to both build up its nuclear deterrent and put pressure on the U.S.-South Korea alliance.

“There’s nothing new here,” said Jenny Town, a North Korea specialist with the Washington-based Stimson Center.

Though it’s not clear if the coming months will see the reestablishment of inter-Korean talks, Pyongyang has hinted it will not stop its weapons tests anytime soon.

In a speech Monday at the United Nations General Assembly, North Korean diplomat Kim Song defended his country’s nuclear missile advancement, calling it a response to the “hostile policy” of the United States and South Korea.

“Nobody can deny the righteous right to self-defense for (North Korea) to develop, test, manufacture and possess the weapons systems equivalent to the ones which are possessed or being developed by” the United States and South Korea, Kim said.

The North Korean ambassador also condemned the presence of U.S. troops in South Korea, recent U.S.-South Korea military exercises and South Korea’s military buildup. 

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Survey: Most Americans Want More Diplomacy, Less Military Action

A survey by the Eurasia Group Foundation finds that most Americans say they want more diplomacy and fewer U.S. military deployments around the world. It’s the first large-scale opinion poll conducted since the end of the 20-year U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports.

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With US Postal Service in the Red, Slowing of Mail Delivery Expected

A U.S. Postal Service (USPS) plan takes effect Friday to slow down some first-class mail deliveries as part of efforts to cut red ink as the U.S. Congress continues to consider a financial relief package for the cash-strapped Post Office. 

The new standards, which were finalized in August, revise existing one- to three-day service standards to one to five days and will impact about 40% of first-class mail. 

Delivery standards will be slower for about 7% of periodicals. Some major U.S. businesses are sending notices telling customers to account for additional time when mailing bills. 

USPS recommends that “if it would take you more than a day to drive your mail to its destination, make sure to give your long-distance mail some extra time to travel with USPS.” 

USPS also plans to again temporarily hike prices for some package shipments for the 2021 peak holiday season, beginning October 3. 

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in March proposed cutting $160 billion in predicted losses over the next decade, with the changes in service standards a key part. 

USPS has struggled with poor delivery performance over the past year, facing a huge boost in packages and staffing issues due to COVID-19. 

In late August, USPS raised prices of first-class stamps to 58 cents from 55 cents. 

USPS has reported net losses of more than $90 billion since 2007. One reason is 2006 legislation mandating it pre-fund more than $120 billion in retiree health care and pension liabilities, a requirement that labor unions have called an unfair burden not shared by other businesses. 

Congress is considering a plan to provide USPS with $46 billion in financial relief over 10 years, including eliminating the requirement that USPS pre-fund retiree health benefits for 75 years. 

United Postmasters and Managers of America President Daniel Heins said Wednesday in a note to members that the postal reform bill, which was approved in May by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, is waiting to be reviewed by the Ways and Means Committee. 

Heins said once that panel approves the bill, “we have the commitment of the leadership in the House of Representatives that they will bring it to the floor for a vote,” which is planned for October. 


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Vietnamese and Afghan Refugees: One Tale, Two People

Many Vietnamese Americans in southern California are stepping up to help Afghan refugees. Titi Tran spoke with residents of Orange County’s Little Saigon and Afghan refugees now living in a nearby Afghan American neighborhood and filed this report.

Camera and produced by: Titi Mary Tran

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US, Qatar Sanction 7 People for Supporting Hezbollah

The U.S. and Qatar together sanctioned seven individuals for supporting a financial network of the Islamist political party and militant group Hezbollah in the Arabian Peninsula.


The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement Wednesday that Qatari nationals Ali Reda Hassan al-Banai, Ali Reda al-Qassabi Lari and Abd al-Muayyid al-Banaiare were among the seven it identified as Specially Designated Global Terrorists for supporting Hezbollah financially or materially.


Treasury Department official Andrea Gacki accused Hezbollah of trying to “abuse the international financial system by developing global networks of financiers to fill its coffers and support its terrorist activity.”


“The cross-border nature of this Hezbollah financial network underscores the importance of our continued cooperation with international partners, such as the Government of Qatar, to protect the U.S. and international financial systems from terrorist abuse,” Gacki added in the statement.


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Treasury Department’s action was “one of the most significant joint actions” the U.S. has taken with a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and he called on other countries to also target Hezbollah.


The Treasury Department statement said the sanctions froze any U.S. assets the targets hold and generally prohibits Americans from conducting business with them.


There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah, which the U.S. and several other Western countries consider a terrorist group.


Agence France-Presse and Reuters provided some information for this report.

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IRC: 2.1 million Kenyans Face Hunger Due to Drought

The International Rescue Committee says more than two million Kenyans are facing hunger due to poor rainfall. Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, declared a national disaster this month because of drought.

Thirty-six-year-old Suleiman Ahmed Osman lost 50% of his livestock to drought in the past six months. He says more are dying now due to worsening drought. 

“When we lost this number of animals there is no other source of income,” he said. “To source our daily meal because we used to get milk and meat, sometimes selling the animals to get other food, sugar and other things. Now that the animals are very emaciated, nobody can buy them, no milk because the drought has affected them to the extent that no milk can come from the animal.” 


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) says Kenya received insufficient rainfall during the October to December 2020 and March to May 2021 rainy seasons, leading to the current drought situation. 


The IFRC report said that arid and semi-arid areas received less than 50% of the average rainfall in June. The three counties in northeastern Kenya received less than 25% of average rainfall. 


Abdullahi Musa has been buying animal feed and water for four months now for his more than 100 cattle in Garissa, along the Kenya and Somalia border. 

“There are two sets of livestock herders,” he said. “There are those who the drought in Kenya has affected them there are those who crossed to Somalia to get pasture but came back due to lack of water. I am among the people who are not so affected. I have lost some animals but most of them are alive. But 90% of animal herders have lost their livestock. They got nothing.” 


The International Rescue Committee says 2.1 million people in Kenya are now food insecure. 

The head of the organization in Kenya, Mohamed El Montassir Hussein, says he is concerned about the growing humanitarian situation in some 20 out of 47 counties.

“Our concern overall is the protracted drought situation and protracted aspect of drought in Kenya that’s been over the years coming again and again and also concern is extended to the growing humanitarian needs as people move out of their homes searching for places closer to water sources,” he said.

The IRC says climate change is the main driver of the region’s recurring drought and locust outbreaks. 


Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority predicts the food insecurity situation will persist until the end of the year. 


The drought management authority says people’s fortunes may change if the affected areas get rain in the next three months.




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