Georgian police crack down on ‘foreign agent’ bill protesters with water cannon, tear gas

tbilsi, georgia — Georgian security forces used water cannon and tear gas against protesters outside parliament late on Tuesday, sharply escalating a crackdown after lawmakers debated a “foreign agents” bill, which is viewed by the opposition and Western nations as authoritarian and Russian-inspired.

Reuters eyewitnesses saw some police officers physically attack protesters, who threw eggs and bottles at them, before using tear gas and water cannon to force demonstrators from the area outside the Soviet-built parliament building.

Earlier, riot police used pepper spray and batons to clear some protesters who were trying to prevent lawmakers from leaving the back entrance of parliament. Some protesters shouted “Slaves” and “Russians” at police.

The bill has deepened divisions in the deeply polarized southern Caucasus country, setting the ruling Georgian Dream Party against a protest movement backed by opposition groups, civil society, celebrities and Georgia’s figurehead president.

Parliament, which is controlled by the Georgian Dream and its allies, is likely to approve the bill, which must pass two more readings before becoming law. Lawmakers ended Tuesday’s session without a vote, and the debate will resume on Wednesday.

The bill would require organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.”

Georgian critics have labeled the bill “the Russian law,” comparing it to Moscow’s “foreign agent” legislation, which has been used to crack down on dissent there.

Russia is disliked by many Georgians for its support of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia lost a brief war with Russia in 2008.

The United States, Britain and the European Union, which granted Georgia candidate status in December, have criticized the bill. EU officials have said it could halt Georgia’s progress toward integration with the bloc.

‘Prolonging the inevitable’

Tina Khidasheli, who served as Georgian defense minister in a Georgian Dream-led government in 2015-2016, attended Tuesday’s protest against her former government colleagues and said she expected the demonstrators to win eventually.

“The government is just prolonging the inevitable. We might have serious problems, but at the end of the day, the people will go home with victory,” she told Reuters.

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators have shut down Tbilisi’s central streets on a nightly basis since parliament approved the bill’s first reading on April 17.

On Monday, a government-organized rally in support of the bill was attended by tens of thousands of people, many of whom had been bussed in from provincial towns by the ruling party.

At that rally, former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire who founded Georgian Dream, harshly criticized the West and hinted at a post-election crackdown on the opposition.

Ivanishvili told attendees that a “global party of war” had hijacked the EU and NATO and that it was bent on using those institutions to undermine Georgian sovereignty.

Ivanishvili, who says he wants Georgia to join the EU, said the foreign agent law would bolster national sovereignty, and he suggested that the country’s pro-Western opposition was controlled by foreign intelligence services via grants to NGOs.

He added that after elections due by October, Georgia’s opposition, which is dominated by the United National Movement Party of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, would face “the harsh political and legal judgment it deserves.”

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Protesters take over Columbia University building, demand school divest from Israel

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Paying sources for news stories raises alarms

At former U.S. President Donald Trump’s trial in New York, an ex-tabloid publisher testified about his efforts to help then-candidate Trump by buying negative stories about him and suppressing them. “Catch and kill” is part of a practice known as checkbook journalism. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi explains.

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Kenya’s Ruto orders evacuations after deadly floods

Mai Mahiu, Kenya — Kenyan President William Ruto on Tuesday deployed the military to evacuate everyone living in flood-prone areas in a nation where 171 people have been killed since March by torrential rains. 

Seasonal rains, amplified by the El Nino weather pattern, have devastated the East African nation, with floodwaters engulfing villages and threatening to unleash even more damage in the weeks to come. 

In the worst incident, which killed nearly 50 villagers, a makeshift dam burst in the Rift Valley before dawn Monday, sending a torrent of water and mud gushing down a hill and swallowing everything in its path. 

The tragedy in Kamuchiri village, Nakuru county, was the deadliest episode in the country since the start of the March-May rainy season. 

Ruto, who visited the victims of the Kamuchiri deluge after chairing a Cabinet meeting in Nairobi, said his government had drawn up a map of neighborhoods at risk of flooding. 

“The military has been mobilized, the national youth service has been mobilized, all security agencies have been mobilized to assist citizens in such areas to evacuate to avoid any dangers of loss of lives,” he said. 

People living in the affected areas will have 48 hours to move, he said. 

“The forecast is that rain is going to continue, and the likelihood of flooding and people losing lives is real. Therefore, we must take preemptive action,” Ruto said. 

“It is not a time for guesswork, we are better off safe than sorry.” 

The Kamuchiri disaster — which killed at least 48 people dead — cut off a road, uprooted trees and destroyed homes and vehicles. Some 26 people were hospitalized, Ruto said, with fears the death toll could rise as search and rescue operations continued. 

The Cabinet warned that two dams — Masinga and Kiambere — both less than 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of the capital, had “reached historic highs,” portending disaster for those downstream.  

“While the government encourages voluntary evacuation, all those who remain within the areas affected by the directive will be relocated forcibly in the interest of their safety,” a statement said. 

Monday’s tragedy came six years after a dam accident at Solai, also in Nakuru county, killed 48 people, sending millions of liters of muddy water raging through homes and destroying power lines. 

The May 2018 disaster involving a private reservoir on a coffee estate also followed weeks of torrential rains that sparked deadly floods and mudslides. 

Opposition politicians and lobby groups have accused Ruto’s government of being unprepared and slow to respond to the crisis despite weather warnings, demanding that it declare the floods a national disaster. 

Kenya’s main opposition leader, Raila Odinga, said Tuesday the authorities had failed to make “advance contingency plans” for the extreme weather. 

“The government has been talking big on climate change, yet when the menace comes in full force, we have been caught unprepared,” he said. “We have therefore been reduced to planning, searching and rescuing at the same time.” 

Environment Minister Soipan Tuya told a press briefing in Nairobi that the government was stepping up efforts to be better prepared for such events. 

“We continue to focus on the need to invest in early warning systems that prepare our population — days, weeks and months ahead of extreme weather events, such as the heavy rainfall we’re experiencing.”  

The international community, including the United Nations and African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat, have sent condolences and pledged solidarity with the affected families. 

The weather has also left a trail of destruction in neighboring Tanzania, where at least 155 people have been killed in flooding and landslides. 

Late last year, more than 300 people died in rains and floods in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, just as the region was trying to recover from its worst drought in four decades. 

El Nino is a naturally occurring climate pattern typically associated with increased heat worldwide, leading to drought in some parts of the world and heavy rains elsewhere. 

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Botswana’s diamond industry gets boost amid global uncertainty

Gaborone — Botswana’s diamond trade is on the rise despite industry uncertainty over efforts to sanction Russian stones. De Beers has relocated its auctions headquarters from Singapore to Botswana, while the secretariat of the Kimberley Process, a trade regime that certifies rough diamond exports to eliminate trade in conflict gems, also moved to the African nation.

De Beers, which has a long-standing sales agreement with Botswana, sells 10 percent of its diamonds through auctions.

De Beers’ Executive Vice President Paul Rowley said the relocation of its auctions office is part of an effort to streamline its business operations and facilitate the further development of Botswana’s diamond sector.

“The auction platform coming across, it will bring some additional customers and also auction sales will also enable us sell to small players and perhaps some Botswana nationals will be able to register and engage in that platform. That will be very exciting from that perspective,” he said.

The relocation comes as the diamond industry reels from effects of a traceability initiative introduced by the Group of Seven leading industrialized countries, or G7, in a bid to sanction Russian diamonds.

Under the arrangement, all diamonds entering G7 markets are routed through Antwerp, Belgium, to ascertain their origin.

The tracking system, however, has caused disruptions to the supply chain, according to Rowley.

“Obviously there have been the G7 issues in the past few months. We continue to work closely with the G7 and try to find a solution that works for the industry as well as for the G7. We obviously all support [Russian] sanctions; it’s absolutely understandable. What we are concerned about are the unintended consequences of perhaps having a single node, which we think is very inappropriate,” he said.

The relocation of De Beers’ auctions office coincides with the Kimberley Process secretariat commencing its operations in Botswana. 

The Kimberley Process is a global initiative by the diamond industry to eliminate trade in conflict gems.

In mid-May, the Kimberley Process will hold its intersessional meeting in Dubai, where the G7’s tracking system is expected to come under intense debate.

The G7 countries and Russia are all members of the Kimberley Process. 

World Diamond Council President Feriel Zerouki told VOA that the G7 traceability scheme needs to be reviewed.

“The WDC believes that mechanisms for assuring a diamond’s provenance should be efficient, effective and equitable. However, we don’t believe that the approach of a single Antwerp entry point meets this test. Antwerp is not the source of any diamonds, so it’s basically not the best place to certify where a diamond has originated from,” she said.

Botswana’s minister of minerals, Lefoko Moagi, meanwhile, hailed the establishment of the Kimberley Process secretariat in Gaborone.

“The Kimberley Process is an international and multi-stakeholder organization whereby we aim to increase ethical conduct in diamond trade and to prevent conflict diamonds from entering legitimate trade in rough diamonds. Therefore, this is very key for us; we will protect our diamonds with everything that we have,” said Moagi.

Botswana is the world’s second-largest producer of diamonds after Russia and is leading calls for the G7 traceability initiative to be revised.

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Seeking mediator role, Turkey courts Hamas

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is stepping up his efforts to play a more prominent role in the Gaza conflict. The Turkish leader recently hosted Hamas’ political leader, Ismail Haniyeh. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

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China prepares to start building EVs in Europe

China’s share of the European electric vehicle market has doubled in less than two years, with Chinese automakers accounting for 20 percent of EVs sold in Europe last year. The trend is raising alarm among European carmakers, and they are considering pushing for new tariffs. Elizabeth Cherneff narrates this report from Alfonso Beato in Barcelona. VOA’s Ricardo Marquina contributed.

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South Africa prepares to end captive-bred lion hunting

South Africa’s treatment of its big cats has long tarnished its reputation for conservation, from allowing captive-bred lion hunting to selling lion bones to East Asia for their purported “medicinal” qualities. But now, the country is ending all that. Kate Bartlett reports from Lionsrock Sanctuary in Free State province. Camera and video editing by Zaheer Cassim.

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Democrats say they will save Speaker Mike Johnson’s job if Republicans try to oust him

WASHINGTON — House Democrats will vote to save Republican Speaker Mike Johnson’s job should some of his fellow GOP lawmakers seek to remove him from the position, Democratic leaders said Tuesday, avoiding a repeat of when eight Republicans joined with Democrats to oust his predecessor, former Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

Johnson, R-La., has come under heavy criticism from some Republicans for moving forward with aid for Ukraine as part of a $95 billion emergency spending package that passed this month. It would take only a handful of Republicans to remove Johnson from the speakership if the Democratic caucus went along with the effort.

But Democratic leaders took that possibility off the table.

“At this moment, upon completion of our national security work, the time has come to turn the page on this chapter of Pro-Putin Republican obstruction,” said a statement from the top three House Democrats, Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark and Pete Aguilar. “We will vote to table Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Motion to Vacate the Chair. If she invokes the motion, it will not succeed.”

Greene, R-Ga., earlier this month filed a resolution with the House clerk — called a motion to vacate — that would remove Johnson from office if approved by the House. And while Greene did not force the resolution to be taken up immediately, she told reporters she was laying the groundwork for future consideration. She had two co-sponsors, Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.

Johnson was quick to distance himself from Democrats on the issue, saying he had no conversations with Jeffries or anyone else about saving his job.

“I was laser-focused on getting the supplemental done,” Johnson said, referring to the aid package. “I’ve had colleagues from both parties come up to me on the floor, of course, and say we won’t stand for this. … I’ve not requested assistance from anyone. I’m not focused on that at all.”

Many House Republicans are eager to move past the divisions that have tormented their ranks ever since taking the majority last January. At a closed-door session Tuesday morning, much of the discussion focused on how to create unity in the party heading into the November elections.

Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., said Republicans heard from Michael Whatley, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, who emphasized that Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, wants to unify the majority in the House. He said that’s a message that certainly helps Johnson.

“What he wants is a unified Republican majority, so my message is singing from the same song sheet as President Trump,” Barr said.

Still, Greene indicated she may still move forward with the effort to remove Johnson, tweeting on X that she believes in recorded votes to put “Congress on record.” She also called Johnson “officially the Democratic Speaker of the House” and questioned “what slimy deal” he made for Democratic support.

“Americans deserve to see the Uniparty on full display. I’m about to give them their coming out party!” Greene tweeted. “Uniparty” is a derisive term some Republicans use to describe cooperation between some fellow Republicans and Democrats.

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Gabon divided over dialogue proposal to suspend political parties

YAOUNDE, CAMEROON — Gabon’s opposition is divided over a measure proposed at the country’s national dialogue to suspend close to 200 political parties until further notice and bar members of ousted President Ali Bongo’s Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) from taking part in elections for three years.

Backers of the measure say it eliminates parties created for reasons of corruption and personal ego, and prevents alleged vote-buying by PDG officials. Opponents say it will snuff out democracy.

Leaders of the talks, billed as Gabon’s Inclusive National Dialogue, say they have given a wide range of recommendations to the transitional president, General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema.  

The resolutions and recommendations were handed to Oligui on Tuesday in the presence of Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera. Touadera is the regional mediator for Gabon’s planned return to civilian rule following an August 30 bloodless coup that ousted Bongo. 

The Bongo family had ruled the oil-producing nation for 57 years before the military takeover. 

In addition to the idea of indefinitely suspending political parties and temporarily banning PDG leaders from elections, officials say the dialogue recommends that legislation be enacted to avoid what it calls the proliferation of political parties for egoistic reasons. 

However, some dialogue participants say suspending political parties would allow Oligui to cruise to victory in the August 2025 elections. 

Joel Ngouenini, president of the political party Seven Wonders of Gabon’s People, or 7MP, said Tuesday on Gabon state TV that the country should not attempt to behave as if it were inventing a strange form of democracy.

Democracy, he said, means people should be given the right to express themselves through the ballot and it is not the duty of a government to decide if civilians love a political party or not. Ngouenini warned that Gabon will sink to a dictatorship should Oligui accept a recommendation that silences political freedom. 

Noel Bertrand Boundzanga, who heads the commission that recommended suspending all political parties, said he has received many petitions from opposition and civil society groups describing the proposal as highly undemocratic. 

He maintains that the move will benefit the country in the long run.

He said the recommendation was made unanimously by members of the political commission for the sake of democracy and the general well-being of all citizens. Boundzanga added that such a suspension would show politicians who created political parties in order to illegally obtain favors that Gabon has entered a new era. 

On other matters, dialogue officials recommended that the two-year period for transitioning to democratic rule should be maintained but could be extended for a maximum of 12 months in case of a crisis or unforeseen circumstance. 

Under the recommendations, Gabon would move from a semi-presidential to a presidential system, with a directly elected president presiding over the executive branch, which has separate powers from the legislative and judicial arms of government.   

Officials also proposed a seven-year presidential mandate renewable once from August 2025, when presidential polls are expected. No recommendations would prevent Oligui from running for president. 

The month-long dialogue wrapped up Tuesday with Oligui saying a new constitution will be prepared, taking the dialogue’s recommendations into account. He said a referendum on the new charter will be held in June. 

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Sword-wielding man attacks passersby in London, killing a 14-year-old boy and injuring 4 others

LONDON — A man wielding a sword attacked members of the public and police officers in a east London suburb Tuesday, killing a 14-year-old boy and injuring four others, British authorities said.

A 36-year-old man was arrested in a residential area near Hainault subway station, police said. The incident is not being treated as terror-related or a “targeted attack.”

Police said the 14-year-old died in the hospital from his injuries. Two police officers were in hospital being treated for stab wounds. Two other people were also injured.

Chief Supt. Stuart Bell described the incident as “truly horrific.”

“I cannot even begin to imagine how those affected must be feeling,” he said outside the homes in east London where the crime happened.

The Metropolitan Police said they were called early Tuesday to reports of a vehicle being driven into a house in a residential street and people being stabbed.

Video on British media showed a man in a yellow hoodie holding a long sword or knife walking near houses in the area.

Witnesses say they heard police shouting to the suspect urging him to put down the weapon as they chased after him.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said police do not believe there is a threat to the wider community.

“We are not looking for more suspects,” he said. “This incident does not appear to be terror-related.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the incident was “shocking,” adding: “Such violence has no place on our streets.”

King Charles III said his thoughts and prayers were with the family of the young victim, and he saluted the courage of emergency workers, Buckingham Palace said.

Transport for London said Hainault station was closed due to a police investigation in the area.

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Myanmar refugees flee conflict and conscription

MAE SOT, THAILAND — The battle between Myanmar’s military and rebel groups for control of the southeastern border town of Myawaddy has seen thousands of refugees cross into neighboring Thailand in April.

But while many return to Myanmar when there is a lull in the fighting, others are seeking a more permanent escape from the conflict.

Myanmar is experiencing a critical time during its over three-year-long post-coup conflict with rebel groups gaining significant territory and launching unprecedented attacks on the Myanmar regime. 

Armed ethnic groups have captured bases in northern Shan state and Rakhine state since October.

The most significant success came via the Karen National Union, or KNU, who earlier in April announced it had forced the surrender of hundreds of Myanmar’s military soldiers who had been in control of Myawaddy.

The junta have since regained a foothold by occupying a base in Myawaddy, but are still fighting to retain full control from the KNU and its allies.

Local media report that junta reinforcements were advancing on Myawaddy as of Monday evening.

The border town connects billions of dollars’ worth of trade passing between Myanmar and Thailand each year.

Saw Thoo Kwei is a small business owner in Myawaddy. He said the situation in the town has deteriorated since the recent conflict. 

“During a particularly intense period of conflict, I found myself having to seek refuge near the border in Myanmar for one night,” he told VOA. “As the situation gradually cooled down, I returned home. [But] I can’t stay here long because of the conflict,” he added.  

The 30-year-old owns a grocery store in Myawaddy, but the weeks of fighting between government troops and rebels have affected everyday life in the town.

“Currently, there is no policing in Myawaddy, not even traffic police. Most government offices are closed. There is no fighting in the city, but people are living in fear. Many civilians are worried about heavy artillery like mortar shells,” he said.

His business is also suffering from the uncertainty, which has prompted Saw Thoo Kwei to make plans to leave Myanmar.

“Small businesses don’t have many stocks to sell due to road blockages. The fighting in Myawaddy has really hit our business hard. We’re seeing fewer customers, which means sales are down, and sometimes we have to shut the shop.

“With the power cuts and prices shooting up, it’s getting tough. We have to worry about thieves targeting our shop when things get tense, showing how unsafe Myawaddy can be. My only viable option is to relocate to Thailand,” he said.

Since April, the fighting has continued despite the KNU announcing its forces had retreated from one base in the town. The tussle for control of Myawaddy led to at least 1,300 refugees crossing from Myanmar into Thailand, The Associated Press reported on April 20, citing Thai officials. 

But that number may be higher as volunteers aiding the refugees told Myanmar Now that 3,000 were returned to Myanmar when fighting in the border town had temporarily quietened.

Thailand shares a 2,400-km (1491-mi) -long land border with Myanmar. 

Thailand’s border town Mae Sot, which sits across the Moei river from Myawaddy, has long been accustomed to receiving thousands of people from Myanmar, with many fleeing the war.

In one undisclosed safehouse in Mae Sot, nearly a dozen Myanmar refugees have fled the conflict in recent weeks.

Kyaw Zin Oo, a physics teacher from the Ayeyarwady region, told VOA he needed to leave Myanmar to avoid being conscripted by the junta.

“I arrived here 17 days ago. I had two choices, to go with the [Myanmar military] or here. I chose to come to Thailand because I see more of a future here. I have friends who have joined the revolution. I thought about joining but I thought I can still support them from here by donations and sending food to them.”

Other refugees, who didn’t want to be identified, said they left Myanmar because the junta had targeted them and their family because of their participation in anti-military protests.

Myanmar’s military enacted a conscription law in February that makes 14 million men and women eligible to be drafted into the military and says it will conscript up to 60,000 new recruits a year. The Irrawaddy reports that the military has begun recruiting Rohingya people despite the ethnic minority group suffering appalling atrocities by Myanmar’s military in 2017.

The junta is looking to bolster its ranks so it can resist the momentum gained by rebel groups in recent months.

Chi Lin Ko, a farm worker from Yangon, sits in a bamboo-crafted hut in a highway lay-by in Mae Sot, pondering his next move. The 19-year-old farm worker left Myanmar over a month ago.

But the prospect of fighting for the military spooked him.

“I received a [military conscription] pamphlet at my home. My neighbors joined, but I came here because I didn’t want to join the military. I’ve heard there is a paid salary, but by enlisting in the military there’s no way I can leave after I’ve joined,” he said.

If Chit Lin Ko were to ever pick up arms, it wouldn’t be for the Tatmadaw. “If I didn’t have any family, I would go and fight with the revolutionary groups,” he said.

One of the reasons the teenager left Myanmar was to financially support his family.  Myanmar’s conflict has devastated the country’s economy, which is 10% lower than it was in 2019, according to a December report by the World Bank.

“I have a family and need to look after to them, so I need to make money,” Chit Lin Ko said.

The U.N. says at least 45,000 Myanmar refugees have entered Thailand since the military coup over three years ago.

Although Thailand’s government has recently pledged to welcome “100,000” Myanmar refugees, Thailand is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and has no specific domestic legal framework for the protection of urban refugees and asylum-seekers.

Since the military seized power in Myanmar, nearly 5,000 people have been killed and over 26,000 people arrested, according to rights groups. 

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Florida Democrats hope abortion, marijuana issues draw young voters

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA — Jordan Vassallo is lukewarm about casting her first presidential ballot for President Joe Biden in November. But when the 18-year-old senior at Jupiter High School in Florida thinks about the things she cares about, she says her vote for the Democratic incumbent is an “obvious choice.”

Vassallo will be voting for a constitutional ballot amendment that would prevent the state of Florida from prohibiting abortion before a fetus can survive on its own — essentially the standard that existed nationally before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the constitutional protections to abortion and left the matter for states to decide.

Passage of the amendment would wipe away Florida’s six-week abortion law, which Vassallo says makes no sense.

“Most people don’t know they are pregnant at six weeks,” she said.

Biden, despite her reticence, will get her vote as well.

In Florida and across the United States, voters in Vassallo’s age group could prove pivotal in the 2024 election, from the presidency to ballot amendments and down-ballot races that will determine who controls Congress. She is likely to be among more than 8 million new voters eligible to vote this November since the 2022 elections, according to Tufts University Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

While some of those voters share Vassallo’s priorities of gun violence prevention and abortion rights, recent protests on college campuses about the war between Israel and Hamas, including at some Florida campuses, have thrown a new element of uncertainty into the mix. In Florida and elsewhere, observers across the political spectrum are looking on with intense interest.

Florida Democrats hope young voters will be driven to the polls by ballot amendments legalizing marijuana and enshrining abortion rights. They hope the more tolerant views of young voters on those issues will reverse an active voter registration edge of nearly 900,000 for Republicans in Florida, which has turned from the ultimate swing state in 2000 to reliably Republican in recent years.

According to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of the electorate, about 8 in 10 Florida voters under age 45 in the 2022 midterm elections said the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade had an impact on their decision to vote and who to support. The youngest voters, under age 30, appeared more likely than others to say the decision was the single most important factor in their votes, with about 3 in 10 saying that, compared with about 2 in 10 older voters.

Nathan Mitchell, president of Florida Atlantic University’s College Republicans, questions how impactful abortion will be in the election.

According to AP VoteCast, relatively few Florida voters in the 2022 midterms believed abortion should be either completely banned or fully permitted in all cases. Even among Republicans, just 12% said abortion should be illegal in all cases. About half of Republicans said it should be banned in most cases.

Voters under 45 were slightly more likely than others to say abortion should always be legal, with 30% taking that position.

Mitchell said while abortion is a strong issue, especially for women, he doesn’t think it will drive many younger voters to the polls.

“I think other amendments will probably do that, especially the recreational marijuana amendment,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s going to bring out a lot more voters than abortion will.”

The AP VoteCast survey lends some credence to his thinking. About 6 in 10 Florida voters in the 2022 elections favored legalizing the recreational use of marijuana nationwide, the survey found. Among voters under 45, that was 76%. Still, it’s unclear how important that issue is for younger voters compared with other issues.

The big question is whether other issues can override Biden’s enthusiasm problem among young Florida voters and elsewhere.

Six in 10 adults under 30 nationally said in a December AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll that they would be dissatisfied with Biden as the Democratic Party nominee in 2024. About 2 in 10 said in a March poll that “excited” would describe their emotions if Biden were reelected.

Young voters were crucial to the broad and racially diverse coalition that helped elect Biden in 2020. About 6 in 10 voters under 30 backed Biden nationally, according to AP VoteCas. A Pew Research Center survey showed that those under age 30 made up 38% of new or irregular voters in that election.

In Florida, Biden won 64% of young voters — similar to his national numbers.

New issues that concern young voters have emerged this year. Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war has sparked protests at college campuses across the country, and Biden’s inability to deliver broad-based student loan forgiveness affects many young voters directly. Concern about climate change also continues to grow. AP-NORC data from February shows that majorities of Americans under 30 disapprove of how Biden is handling a range of issues, including the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, immigration, the economy, climate change and abortion policy.

But in Florida, it will be abortion rights and marijuana that give voters actual control over issues beyond a presidential rematch most did not want but got anyway, said Trevian Briskey, a 21-year-old FAU student.

Tony Figueroa, president of Miami Young Republicans, said the abortion issue is important to many young voters, regardless of where they stand. He noted, however, that Florida “is a very conservative state.” That means some of the young voters motivated by the issue favor stricter abortion laws.

“Given how Florida has become so much more red over the past couple of years, really it’s more of a way to galvanize or mobilize young voters where this is an important issue for them,” Figueroa said. “It’s really a way to get them to come out in droves.”

Matheus Xavier, 21, who studies biology at Florida Atlantic University, said he considered voting for Trump at some point, but changed his mind since Biden fell more in line with the things he cares about, including the preservation of abortion rights.

“At the end of the day, you got to go with what you support,” he said. “I guess Biden kind of shows more of that. If there was another option that was actually good, I’d probably go for that.”

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Scottish government faces no-confidence vote Wednesday

LONDON — The Scottish government will face a no-confidence vote Wednesday, one it is expected to win after First Minister Humza Yousaf said he would resign.

Yousaf’s resignation Monday came just 13 months after he replaced Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s leader and sparks another leadership contest in the Scottish National Party.

The crisis in the SNP gives an opportunity for the U.K. opposition Labour Party to regain ground ahead of a national election expected this year.

The motion of no confidence in the government was submitted by Scottish Labour last week, after Yousaf said he was ending a coalition with the Scottish Green Party. Scottish parliament listings showed the vote was scheduled for Wednesday.

Facing a separate vote of no confidence in his own position as first minister, Yousaf said he would step down as Scotland’s leader, as opposition parties, including the Greens, lined up to vote against him. That vote now won’t take place.

However, Labour’s wider motion of no confidence in the whole government is set to be opposed by the Greens, meaning that it will likely fail and that the SNP will have chance to form a new minority government under another leader.

Former leader John Swinney has said he is considering standing, while Yousaf’s former leadership rival Kate Forbes is seen as a possible candidate.

If the Labour no confidence motion passes, it will result in the resignation of the government and likely Scottish elections thereafter.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said it would be a democratic outrage for the SNP to choose another leader — and thus First Minister — without a parliamentary election.

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Maldives expected to accelerate shift away from India toward China after parliamentary polls

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu is expected to strengthen ties with China following the landslide win by his party in recent parliamentary elections. The polls, held under the shadow of rivalry between India and China for influence in the archipelago, are being seen as a setback for India’s bid to limit Beijing’s presence in the Indian Ocean region. Anjana Pasricha in New Delhi has a report.

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Biden pledges cooperation with Egypt, Qatar to implement proposed Israel-Hamas cease-fire

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Pro-Palestinian encampment protesters hold ground on both US coasts

Campus protests of the war in Gaza continue, despite college administrations’ warnings — and new ones are being launched. VOA Natasha Mozgovaya reports from an encampment set up Monday at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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Civil society groups train more youth as human rights advocates in Rwanda

Human Rights Watch has released crucial archives from the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda, revealing ignored warnings that could have saved lives. These warnings by rights defenders highlight their vital role in safeguarding communities. Thirty years on, civil society groups are intensifying efforts by training more youth advocates to protect human rights in Rwanda. Senanu Tord reports from Kigali, Rwanda.

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