Ukrainian Community in Indiana Bands to Help Motherland

According to the U.S. census, there are over a million Americans of Ukrainian descent. They are a diverse group, but Russia’s war on Ukraine has brought many of them together. Iryna Matviichuk visited one small group in Indiana, in this story narrated by Anna Rice.

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Georgia Voters Are Set to Decide the Final Senate Contest in the Country

Georgia voters on Tuesday are set to decide the final Senate contest in the country, choosing between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican football legend Herschel Walker after a four-week runoff blitz that has drawn a flood of outside spending to an increasingly personal fight.

This year’s runoff has lower stakes than the two in 2021, when victories by Warnock and fellow Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff gave Democrats control of the Senate. The outcome of Tuesday’s contest will determine whether Democrats have an outright 51-49 Senate majority or control a 50-50 chamber based on Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote.

The runoff brings to a close a bitter fight between Warnock, the state’s first Black senator and the senior minister of the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached, and Walker, a former University of Georgia football star and political novice who has waged his bid in the mold of former President Donald Trump.

A victory for Warnock would solidify Georgia’s status as a battleground heading into the 2024 presidential election. A win for Walker, however, could be an indication that the Democratic gains in the state might be somewhat limited, especially given that Georgia Republicans swept every other statewide contest last month.

In that election, Warnock led Walker by about 37,000 votes out of almost 4 million cast but fell shy of a majority, triggering the second round of voting. About 1.9 million votes already have been cast by mail and during early voting, an advantage for Democrats whose voters more commonly cast ballots this way. Republicans typically fare better on voting done on Election Day, with the margins determining the winner.

Last month, Walker, 60, ran more than 200,000 votes behind Republican Gov. Brian Kemp after a campaign dogged by intense scrutiny of his past, meandering campaign speeches and a bevy of damaging allegations, including claims that he paid for two former girlfriends’ abortions — accusations that Walker has denied.

Warnock, whose victory in 2021 was in a special election to serve out the remainder of GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term, sounded a confident note Monday during a packed day of campaigning. He predicted that he had convinced enough voters, including independents and moderate Republicans who supported Kemp, that he deserves a full term.

“They’ve seen that I will work with anybody that helps me to do good work for the people of Georgia,” said the 53-year-old senator. “I think they’re going to get this right. They know this race is about competence and character.”

Walker campaigned Monday with his wife, Julie, greeting supporters and offering thanks rather than his usual campaign speech and full-throated attacks on Warnock.

“I love y’all, and we’re gonna win this election,” he said at a winery in Ellijay, comparing it to championships he won as an athlete. “I love winning championships.”

Warnock’s campaign has spent about $170 million on the campaign, far outpacing Walker’s nearly $60 million, according to their latest federal disclosures. But Democratic and Republican party committees, along with other political action committees, have spent even more.

The senator has paired his push for bipartisanship with an emphasis on his personal values, buoyed by his status as senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. And, beginning with the closing stretch before the November 8 general election, Warnock added withering takedowns of Walker, using the football star’s rocky past to argue that the political newcomer was “not ready” and “not fit” for high office.

Walker, who used his athletics fame to coast to the GOP nomination, has sought to portray Warnock as a yes-man for President Joe Biden. Walker has sometimes made the attack in especially personal terms, complete with accusing Warnock of having his “back bent” and “being on his knees, begging” at the White House — a searing charge for a Black challenger to level against a Black senator about his relationship with a white president.

A multimillionaire businessman, Walker has inflated his philanthropic activities and business achievements, including claiming that his company employed hundreds of people and grossed tens of millions of dollars in sales annually, even though later records indicate he had eight employees and averaged about $1.5 million a year. He has suggested that he’s worked as a law enforcement officer and said he graduated college, though he has done neither.

Walker was also forced to acknowledge during the campaign that he had fathered three children out of wedlock whom he had never before spoken about publicly — in direct conflict with Walker’s yearslong criticism of absentee fathers and his calls for Black men, in particular, to play an active role in their kids’ lives.

His ex-wife has detailed violent acts, saying Walker once held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. Walker has never denied those specifics and wrote of his violent tendencies in a 2008 memoir that attributed the behavior to mental illness.

Warnock has countered with his individual Senate accomplishments, touting a provision he sponsored to cap insulin costs for Medicare patients while reminding voters that Republicans blocked his larger idea to cap those costs for all insulin-dependent patients. He hailed deals on infrastructure and maternal health care forged with Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, mentioning those GOP colleagues more than he did Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer or other Democrats in Washington.

After the general election, Biden, who has struggled with low approval ratings, promised to help Warnock in any way he could, even if it meant staying away from Georgia. Bypassing the president, Warnock decided instead to campaign with former President Barack Obama in the days before the runoff election.

For his part, Walker was endorsed by Trump but avoided campaigning with him until the campaign’s final day: The pair conducted a conference call Monday with supporters, according to a Republican National Committee spokesperson.

Walker’s candidacy is the GOP’s last chance to flip a Senate seat this year. Dr. Mehmet Oz of Pennsylvania, Blake Masters of Arizona, Adam Laxalt of Nevada and Don Bolduc of New Hampshire, all Trump loyalists, already lost competitive Senate races that Republicans once considered part of their path to a majority.

Walker has differentiated himself from Trump in a notable way. Trump has spent two years falsely claiming that his loss in Georgia and nationally was fraudulent, despite the fact that numerous federal and local officials, a long list of courts, top former campaign staffers and even his own attorney general have all said there is no evidence of the fraud he alleges.

At his lone debate against Warnock in October, Walker was asked whether he’d accept the results even if he lost. He replied with one word: “Yes.”

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Biden to Visit Arizona Computer Chip Facility

U.S. President Joe Biden is traveling to Arizona on Tuesday to visit a computer chip facility, underscoring the Grand Canyon state’s position in the emerging U.S. semiconductor ecosystem.

Biden will visit a Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) plant in north Phoenix. He will tour the plant and deliver remarks celebrating his economic plan and the “manufacturing boom” it has caused, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Monday’s briefing.

TSMC is the world’s largest contract manufacturer of semiconductor chips.

In August, Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, legislation aimed at countering China’s massive subsidies to its chip industry. It includes about $52 billion in funding for U.S. companies for the manufacturing of chips, which go into technology like smartphones, electric vehicles, appliances and weapons systems.

 

Arizona is among the states trying to attract federal funding.

The president will be on hand in Phoenix to celebrate the TSMC plant’s “first tool-in,” which is the moment when a building is ready for manufacturing equipment to move in.

Projects in the region are creating thousands of new jobs including the TMSC facility in north Phoenix, the technology firm Intel expanding southeast of the city and suppliers from around the world moving in.

A 3,700-square-meter cleanroom at nearby Arizona State University in Tempe is helping to meet the workforce demands of Arizona’s burgeoning semiconductor sector. There, students, companies and startups work on hardware innovations.

With 30,000 engineering students, Arizona State is home to the country’s largest college of engineering and a driver in meeting next-generation demand.

“Chips and Science Act is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is the moment. This is the moment to build out capabilities, infrastructure, expertise,” Kyle Squires, dean of engineering schools at Arizona State University, told VOA recently. “We’re bringing this capability back into the U.S. You’ve got to have a workforce ready to engage it.”

VOA’s Michelle Quinn contributed to this report.

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Kirstie Alley, Emmy-Winning ‘Cheers’ Star, Dies at 71

Kirstie Alley, who won an Emmy for her role on “Cheers” and starred in films including “Look Who’s Talking,” died Monday. She was 71. 

Alley died of cancer that was only recently discovered, her children True and Lillie Parker said in a post on Twitter. Alley’s manager Donovan Daughtry confirmed the death in an email to The Associated Press. 

“As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother,” her children’s statement said. 

She starred opposite Ted Danson as Rebecca Howe on “Cheers,” the beloved NBC sitcom about a Boston bar, from 1987 to 1993. She joined the show at the height of its popularity after the departure of original star Shelley Long. 

Alley would win an Emmy for best lead actress in a comedy series for the role in 1991. She would take a second Emmy for best lead actress in a miniseries or television movie in 1993 for playing the title role in the CBS TV movie “David’s Mother.” 

She had her own sitcom on the network, “Veronica’s Closet,” from 1997 to 2000. 

In the 1989 comedy “Look Who’s Talking,” which gave her a major career boost, she played the mother of a baby whose inner thoughts were voiced by Bruce Willis. She would also appear in the 1990 sequel “Look Who’s Talking Too.” 

John Travolta, her co-star in both films, paid her tribute in an Instagram post. 

“Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had,” Travolta said, along with a photo of Alley. “I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again.” 

She would play a fictionalized version of herself in the 2005 Showtime series “Fat Actress,” a show that drew comedy from her public and media treatment over her weight gain and loss. 

And in recent years she appeared on several reality shows, including “Dancing With the Stars.” 

A native of Wichita, Kansas, Alley attended Kansas State University before dropping out and moving to Los Angeles. 

Her first television appearances were as a game show contestant on “The Match Game” in 1979 and Password” in 1980. 

She made her film debut in 1982’s “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.”

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US Expands Deportation Relief to About 264,000 Haitians

The Biden administration will expand deportation relief and access to work permits for Haitians who are already in the United States, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said on Monday, as Haiti’s government struggles to stabilize the country.

The administration will offer Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to an estimated 264,000 Haitians for 18 months after the current designation expires in February.

Of those, about 101,000 have the status and 53,000 have pending applications, according to DHS. Another 110,000 more recent arrivals would also be covered by the new extension.

TPS provides deportation protection and permission to work to foreigners who cannot return to their home countries because of natural disasters, armed conflicts or other extraordinary factors.

Armed gangs in Haiti have expanded their power in the country following the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Since then, Prime Minister Ariel Henry has faced challenges restoring order. The United States first designated Haiti for TPS in 2010 following an earthquake that devastated the island nation.

Former Republican President Donald Trump tried to end TPS for Haiti and other countries but was blocked by federal courts. Biden, a Democrat, expanded Haiti’s designation in August 2021 to include Haitians who had arrived in the past decade.

In September 2021, thousands of Haitian migrants crossed into the United States, setting up a makeshift camp in southern Texas. U.S. border agents on horseback confronted some of the migrants crossing the Rio Grande River. Photographs of the encounter triggered outrage from advocates and lawmakers.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, had pushed for the extension of TPS to recent arrivals, saying that Haitians “have been met at our doorstep with unimaginable indignity.”

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Arizona Certifies 2022 Election Despite Republican Complaints

Arizona’s top officials certified the midterm election results Monday, formalizing victories for Democrats over Republicans who falsely claimed the 2020 election was rigged.

The certification opens a five-day window for formal election challenges. Republican Kari Lake, who lost the race for governor, is expected to file a lawsuit after weeks of criticizing the administration of the election.

Election results have largely been certified without issue around the country, but Arizona was an exception. Several Republican-controlled counties delayed their certification despite no evidence of problems with the vote count. Cochise County in southeastern Arizona blew past the deadline last week, forcing a judge to intervene on Friday and order the county supervisors to certify the election by the end of the day.

“Arizona had a successful election,” Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said before signing the certification. “But too often throughout the process, powerful voices proliferated misinformation that threatened to disenfranchise voters.”

The statewide certification, known as a canvass, was signed by Hobbs, Republican Governor Doug Ducey, Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, a Ducey appointee.

When the same group certified the 2020 election, Ducey silenced a call from then-President Donald Trump, who was at the time in a frenetic push to persuade Republican allies to go along with his attempts to overturn the election he lost.

“This is a responsibility I do not take lightly,” Ducey said. “It’s one that recognizes the votes cast by the citizens of our great state.”

Republicans have complained for weeks about Hobbs’ role in certifying her own victory over Lake in the race for governor, though it is typical for election officials to maintain their position while running for higher office. Lake and her allies have focused on problems with ballot printers that produced about 17,000 ballots that could not be tabulated on site and had to be counted at the elections department headquarters.

Lines backed up in some polling places, fueling Republican suspicions that some supporters were unable to cast a ballot, though there’s no evidence it affected the outcome. County officials say everyone was able to vote and all legal ballots were counted.

Hobbs planned to immediately petition the Maricopa County Superior Court to begin an automatic statewide recount required by law in three races decided by less than half a percentage point. The race for attorney general was one of the closest contests in state history, with Democrat Kris Mayes leading Republican Abe Hamadeh by just 510 votes out of 2.5 million cast.

The races for superintendent of public instruction and a state legislative seat in the Phoenix suburbs will also be recounted, but the margins are much larger.

Once a Democratic stronghold, Arizona’s top races went resoundingly for Democrats after Republicans nominated a slate of candidates backed by Trump who focused on supporting his false claims about the 2020 election. In addition to Hobbs and Mayes, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly was reelected and Democrat Adrian Fontes won the race for attorney general.

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US Envoy: Iran Should Not Be Member of UN Commission on Women

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has again emphasized her opposition to Iran’s participation on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. 

In a post on Twitter on Sunday, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, “The Iranian government should not be on the @UN_CSW – an international body dedicated to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Removing Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women is the right thing to do.”

A draft resolution proposed by the United States, regarding the removal of Iran from the commission, will be up for a vote at the U.N. later this month. 

The draft reads in part: “The policies of the Islamic Republic are strongly in conflict with human rights and the rights of women and girls and the mission of the Women’s Authority Commission and are condemned. And the Islamic Republic of Iran should be removed from the Commission on the Status of Women immediately before the end of the current term.”

Tehran recently started the four-year term on the commission. The commission, which meets every year in March, aims to promote gender equality and empower women. 

Last month, Greenfield said that Iran’s membership on the commission is an “ugly stain” on the body’s credibility. “In our view, it cannot stand.” 

Thomas-Greenfield’s comments in November were made at an informal gathering of Security Council members, known as an Arria meeting, focused on the mass protests that started in Iran on September 16, following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, 22. The Kurdish woman was arrested in Tehran by so-called morality police for wearing her headscarf “improperly.”

 

Police say she had a heart attack while in custody, but her family disputes that. Iranian authorities have rejected the family’s request for a committee of independent doctors to investigate her death.

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Supreme Court Taking Up Clash of Religion and Gay Rights

The Supreme Court is hearing the case Monday of a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for gay couples, a dispute that’s the latest clash of religion and gay rights to land at the highest court.

The designer and her supporters say that ruling against her would force artists — from painters and photographers to writers and musicians — to do work that is against their faith. Her opponents, meanwhile, say that if she wins, a range of businesses will be able to discriminate, refusing to serve Black customers, Jewish or Muslim people, interracial or interfaith couples or immigrants, among others.

The case comes at a time when the court is dominated 6-3 by conservatives and following a series of cases in which the justices have sided with religious plaintiffs. It also comes as, across the street from the court, lawmakers in Congress are finalizing a landmark bill protecting same-sex marriage.

The bill, which also protects interracial marriage, steadily gained momentum following the high court’s decision earlier this year to end constitutional protections for abortion. That decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade case prompted questions about whether the court — now that it is more conservative — might also overturn its 2015 decision declaring a nationwide right to same-sex marriage. Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly said that decision should also be reconsidered.

The case being argued before the high court Monday involves Lorie Smith, a graphic artist and website designer in Colorado who wants to begin offering wedding websites. Smith says her Christian faith prevents her from creating websites celebrating same-sex marriages. But that could get her in trouble with state law. Colorado, like most other states, has what’s called a public accommodation law that says if Smith offers wedding websites to the public, she must provide them to all customers. Businesses that violate the law can be fined, among other things.

Five years ago, the Supreme Court heard a different challenge involving Colorado’s law and a baker, Jack Phillips, who objected to designing a wedding cake for a gay couple. That case ended with a limited decision, however, and set up a return of the issue to the high court. Phillips’ lawyer, Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, is now representing Smith.

Like Phillips, Smith says her objection is not to working with gay people. She says she’d work with a gay client who needed help with graphics for an animal rescue shelter, for example, or to promote an organization serving children with disabilities. But she objects to creating messages supporting same-sex marriage, she says, just as she won’t take jobs that would require her to create content promoting atheism or gambling or supporting abortion.

Smith says Colorado’s law violates her free speech rights. Her opponents, including the Biden administration and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, disagree.

Twenty mostly liberal states, including California and New York, are supporting Colorado while another 20 mostly Republican states, including Arizona, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee, are supporting Smith.

The case is 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, 21-476.

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