Macedonian-Born Soccer Coach’s Winning Legacy in Maryland

For 31 years Macedonian-born Sasho Cirovski coach has instilled his passion for excellence into the University of Maryland’s soccer program. The result is success on and off the field. VOA’s Jane Bojadzievski reports. Camera, edit: Larz Lacoma

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US House Speaker Faces Ouster Threat 

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing a threat to his leadership position after a fellow member of the Republican Party, Rep. Matt Gaetz, filed a motion to force a vote on removing McCarthy.

Gaetz filed the motion to vacate on Monday, setting the stage for a vote in coming days.

McCarthy seemingly dismissed the challenge in a post on X, writing, “Bring it on.”

A vote to remove McCarthy would require a simple majority in the 435-member House. Republicans hold control of the chamber with a 221-212 majority over opposition Democrats.

The challenge from Gaetz came days after McCarthy relied on votes from a Democratic bloc to pass a short-term funding measure and avoid a federal government shutdown.

McCarthy became House speaker in January after repeated rounds of voting that saw Gaetz and other Republicans oppose his candidacy. One concession that led to McCarthy’s ultimate election was agreeing to allow any single member to call for a vote to oust the speaker.

No speaker of the House has ever been removed from the post.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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Judge Plans May Trial for US Senator Bob Menendez in Bribery Case

A judge is planning a spring trial for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife, who are accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold bars and a luxury car from three New Jersey businessmen who sought the senator’s help and influence over foreign affairs.

The tentative trial date of May 6 would come just one month before New Jersey’s June 4 primary, meaning it could still be underway when voters start casting ballots on whether to return Menendez to the Senate. An attorney for the government gave the judge an estimate of four to six weeks.

An indictment last month charged the Democrat, formerly the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with taking payouts in exchange for corrupt acts that included passing information to Egyptian military and intelligence officials. Among other things, prosecutors accused Menendez of ghostwriting a letter for Egyptian officials that sought to influence U.S. policy on military aid.

The indictment also said Menendez used his influence to try and pressure state and federal prosecutors in New Jersey into giving lenient treatment to friends or associates who were the subject of criminal investigations and interceded with U.S. regulators to protect an associate’s business deal.

Authorities found nearly $500,000 in cash, much of it hidden in clothing and closets, as well as more than $100,000 in gold bars in a search of the New Jersey home Menendez, 69, shares with his wife, Nadine.

Menendez has pleaded not guilty and said the cash found in the house was personal savings he had squirreled away for emergencies.

Menendez was excused from being present for Monday’s court hearing in New York City after his lawyers said he needed to be in Washington for Senate business. The judge declined similar requests from Nadine Menendez and her co-defendants, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes. All four have also said they are innocent.

Prosecutors have accused Hana of being a conduit between Menendez and Egyptian officials. They said Hana gave Nadine Menendez a job, gave her money to make mortgage payments, wrote checks to her consulting company, promised envelopes of cash and gave her gold bars. They said Menendez used his post to facilitate foreign military sales and financing to Egypt, which gave Hana’s business a lucrative, worldwide monopoly over religious certification for imported meat.

More than half of Senate Democrats have said that Menendez should resign, including fellow New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has as well. Menendez has said he intends to stay in the Senate, saying he is certain he will ultimately be exonerated.

Monday’s court hearing in the Menendez case took place just a short walk from where former President Donald Trump was appearing in court in a civil fraud lawsuit.

Besides setting a trial date, Judge Sidney Stein gave prosecutors a December deadline to turn over certain evidence to the defense.

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Montana Appeals Landmark Climate-Change Ruling Favoring Youth Plaintiffs

The office of Montana’s Republican attorney general is appealing a landmark climate change ruling that said state agencies aren’t doing enough to protect 16 young plaintiffs from harm caused by global warming.

The state filed notice Friday that it is going to appeal the August ruling by District Court Judge Kathy Seeley, who found the Montana Environmental Policy Act violates the plaintiffs’ state constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. The 1971 law requires state agencies to consider the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects and take public input before issuing permits.

Under a change to that law passed by the 2023 Legislature, the state Department of Environmental Quality does not have to consider the effect of greenhouses gases when issuing permits for fossil fuel projects unless the federal government declares carbon dioxide a regulated pollutant.

The plaintiffs argued they were already feeling the consequences of climate change, with smoke from worsening wildfires choking the air they breathe and droughts drying rivers that sustain agriculture, fish, wildlife and recreation. The state argued that the volume of greenhouse gases released from Montana fossil fuel projects was insignificant compared to the world’s emissions.

Seeley’s ruling, which followed a first-of-its-kind trial in the U.S. in June, added to a small number of legal decisions around the world that have established a government duty to protect citizens from climate change.

Last week in France, the European Court of Human Rights heard arguments from six young Portuguese people and their lawyers who said 32 European governments were violating their human rights by failing to address climate change.

It will likely be several months before the state of Montana files its brief laying out its appeal of Seeley’s ruling, Bowen Greenwood, clerk of the Montana Supreme Court, said Monday.

In the meantime, the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is asking Montana residents to weigh in on potential updates to the Montana Environmental Policy Act, or MEPA. The administrative rules to implement the law were passed in the 1980s.

“These regulations are showing their age and it’s time to hear from Montanans about what MEPA should look like today and into the future,” Chris Dorrington, director of the DEQ, said in a statement.

Montanans are being asked what changes, if any, are needed to modernize the regulations and how greenhouse gas emissions and climate change should be analyzed. At least three public hearings are scheduled this month, including one Monday night in Billings. The DEQ is also taking public comment online through the end of the year.

The issue is being considered now, Dorrington said, in part because of the successful legal challenge by Montana youth.

“We want to start a thoughtful dialogue about greenhouse gas emissions and other topics, and we are seeking input that is balanced and driven by sound science,” he said.

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Eagle Pass Mayor Declares State of Emergency as Migrants Flood City

After a decline in illegal immigration at the border, there was a sudden surge in migrants crossing the Rio Grande in September. The rapid influx of thousands into the Texas border city of Eagle Pass prompted city officials to declare and extend a state of emergency. Verónica Villafañe narrates this report by Divalizeth Cash.

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Philadelphia Journalist Fatally Shot Inside Home

A Philadelphia journalist was shot and killed inside his home early Monday morning. City police say it’s too early to tell whether he was targeted over his work.

Police responded to reports of gunshots and screams just before 1:30 a.m. local time in the Point Breeze neighborhood in southern Philadelphia. There, officers found local journalist Josh Kruger shot seven times in the chest and abdomen and collapsed in the street outside his home.

Kruger was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly before 2:15 a.m.

No arrests have been made, and the motive remains unclear, police said. Philadelphia Police Corporal Jasmine Reilly said it’s too early to know whether Kruger was killed over his reporting.

“It’s really early in the investigation,” Reilly told VOA. “We’re going to be looking at every different angle in this incident to make sure that we get to the bottom of the motive and get the individual that did this horrible homicide.”

There was no sign of forced entry. Police believe someone entered the reporter’s home, then shot him at the bottom of his stairs. The shooter ran away, police believe, and Kruger then went outside to get help from his neighbors.

“We hope in this case that the police conduct a thorough and quick investigation so that we can better understand the killer’s motives,” said Katherine Jacobsen, the United States program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ.

While it’s unclear whether Kruger was killed over his work, Jacobsen said, “It’s important to use this moment to highlight the dangers that journalists in the United States face.”

Those dangers include increased harassment online, according to Jacobsen. But journalist killings are quite rare in the United States.

While CPJ documented at least 67 killings of journalists and media workers around the world in 2022 alone, the press freedom group has documented just 17 cases in the United States since it began tracking killings in 1992.

Of the 17 cases, which do not include Kruger, CPJ confirmed that 15 were over the reporter’s work.

Before returning to journalism in 2021, Kruger worked for the city of Philadelphia for about five years, including as a communications director and spokesperson for the city’s Office of Homeless Services.

As an award-winning freelance journalist, he reported for outlets including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Citizen and LGBTQ Nation on topics ranging from the LGBTQ community to city and state politics.

On Kruger’s website, he wrote that he is “known for weaving his unique lived experience with homelessness, HIV, Philadelphia’s ‘street economy,’ trauma, and poverty throughout his commentary and writing.”

“All these taboos, he felt, are just as much a part of the human condition as are dinnertime, football, and car payments, and he wanted to give voice to the kinds of troubles that people often agonize over in silence,” his former editor at the Philadelphia Weekly, Stephen Segal said.

Kruger’s death has devastated those who worked with him, like Segal, who met Kruger 10 years ago in 2013 when Segal was the editor in chief of the Philadelphia Weekly.

Kruger was only about one year past being homeless, Segal said, and he was determined to make a career out of writing. Kruger became a regular freelance columnist at the Weekly.

“Josh was already a gifted storyteller when I met him. Helping him develop his journalistic talents and working with him to tell stories that really mattered to people was one of the most meaningful chapters of my life as an editor,” Segal said. “I am so, so unspeakably sad at the news of his death. I am so thankful I got to know him as a friend.”

Kruger was also an avid bicyclist and an Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian. He lived with his one-toothed senior cat named Mason.

In a statement, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he was “shocked and saddened” by Kruger’s killing.

“Josh cared deeply about our city and its residents, which was evident both in his public service and in his writing,” Kenney said. “His intelligence, creativity, passion, and wit shone bright in everything that he did — and his light was dimmed much too soon.”

Regardless of whether Kruger was killed over his work, Jacobsen said his slaying could still have serious ramifications for the media community in and beyond Philadelphia.

“Anytime a journalist is harmed, in any way, shape or form, even if it’s not in retaliation for their reporting — because they have more public profiles — it creates a sense of fear,” Jacobsen said.

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Trump Says He Will be in Courtroom for New York Trial

With control over some of his most prized real estate holdings in jeopardy, former President Donald Trump says he will make a rare, voluntary trip to court in New York on Monday for the start of a civil trial in a lawsuit that already has resulted in a judge ruling that he committed fraud in his business dealings.

“I’m going to Court tomorrow morning to fight for my name and reputation,” Trump wrote Sunday night on his Truth Social platform.

Trump lashed out in his post at New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is suing him, and Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the non-jury trial and made the fraud ruling last week.

“THIS WHOLE CASE IS SHAM!!!” Trump wrote. “See you in Court — Monday morning.”

The trial is the culmination of a yearslong investigation by James, who accused Trump and his company of habitually lying about his wealth in financial statements.

Last week, Engoron resolved the lawsuit’s top claim before the trial even began, ruling that Trump routinely deceived banks, insurers and others by exaggerating the value of assets on paperwork used in making deals and securing loans.

The former president and a who’s who of people in his orbit — his two eldest sons, Trump Organization executives and former lawyer-turned-foe Michael Cohen are all listed among dozens of potential witnesses.

Trump isn’t expected to testify for several weeks. His trip to court Monday will mark a remarkable departure from his past practice.

Trump didn’t come to court as either a witness or a spectator when his company and one of its top executives was convicted of tax fraud last year. He didn’t show, either, for a trial earlier this year in which a jury found him liable for sexually assaulting the writer E. Jean Carroll in a department store dressing room.

In some ways, though, this new trial comes with higher stakes.

James, a Democrat, is seeking $250 million in penalties and a ban on doing business in New York.

Engoron’s ruling of last week, if upheld on appeal, would also shift control of some of his companies to a court-appointed receiver and could force him to give up prized New York properties such as Trump Tower, a Wall Street office building, golf courses and a suburban estate.

Trump called it a “a corporate death penalty.”

“I have a Deranged, Trump Hating Judge, who RAILROADED this FAKE CASE through a NYS Court at a speed never before seen,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

In his post Sunday night, Trump wrote that Engoron is “unfair, unhinged, and vicious in his PURSUIT of me.”

Engoron will decide on six remaining claims in James’ lawsuit, including allegations of conspiracy, falsifying business records and insurance fraud.

James’ lawsuit accused Trump and his company of a long list of fibs in the financial statements he gave to banks. In a recent court filing, James’ office alleged Trump exaggerated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion.

Among the allegations were that Trump claimed his Trump Tower apartment in Manhattan — a three-story penthouse replete with gold-plated fixtures — was nearly three times its actual size and worth an astounding $327 million. No apartment in New York City has ever sold for close to that amount, James said.

Trump valued Mar-a-Lago as high as $739 million — more than 10 times a more reasonable estimate of its worth, James claimed. Trump’s figure for the private club and residence was based on the idea that the property, now a private club, could be developed for residential use, but deed terms prohibit that, James said.

Trump has denied wrongdoing, arguing in sworn testimony for the case that it didn’t matter what he put on his financial statements because they have a disclaimer that says they shouldn’t be trusted.

He and his lawyers have also argued that no one was harmed by anything in the financial statements. Banks he borrowed money from were fully repaid. Business partners made money. And Trump’s own company flourished.

James’ lawsuit is one of several legal headaches for Trump as he campaigns for a return to the White House in next year’s election. He has been indicted four times since March, accused of plotting to overturn his 2020 election loss, hoarding classified documents and falsifying business records related to hush money paid on his behalf.

The trial could last into December, Engoron said.

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Late-Night Shows Return After Writers Strike as Actors Resume Talks That Could End Their Standoff

Late-night talk shows are returning after a five-month absence brought on by the Hollywood writers strike, while actors will begin talks that could end their own long work walk-off.

CBS’s “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” were the first shows to leave the air when the writers strike began on May 2, and now will be among the first to return on Monday night.

Comedian John Oliver got his first take on the strike out, exuberantly returning Sunday night to his “Last Week Tonight” show on HBO and delivering full-throated support for the strike.

Oliver cheerily delivered a recap of stories from the last five months before turning serious, calling the strike “an immensely difficult time” for all those in the industry.

“To be clear, this strike happened for good reasons. Our industry has seen its workers severely squeezed in recent years,” Oliver said. “So, the writers guild went to strike and thankfully won. But it took a lot of sacrifices from a lot of people to achieve that.”

“I am also furious that it took the studios 148 days to achieve a deal they could have offered on day (expletive) one,” Oliver said. He added that he hoped the writers contract would give leverage to other entertainment industry guilds – as well as striking auto workers and employees in other industries – to negotiate better deals.

Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns HBO, is among the studios on the other side of the table in the writers and actors strikes.

Network late-night hosts will have their returns later Monday.

Colbert will have Astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson on his first show back. Kimmel will host Arnold Schwarzenegger. Matthew McConaughey will be on Fallon’s couch.

All the hosts will surely address the strike in their monologues.

“I’ll see you Monday, and every day after that!” an ebullient Colbert said in an Instagram video last week from the Ed Sullivan Theater, which was full of his writers and other staffers for their first meeting since spring.

The hosts haven’t been entirely idle. They teamed up for a podcast, “Strike Force Five,” during the strike.

The writers were allowed to return to work last week after the Writers Guild of America reached an agreement on a three-year contract with an alliance of the industry’s biggest studios, streaming services and production companies.

Union leaders touted the deal as a clear win on issues including pay, size of staffs and the use of artificial intelligence that made the months off worth it. The writers themselves will vote on the contract in a week of balloting that begins Monday.

Meanwhile, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists will begin negotiations with the same group, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, for the first time since they joined writers in a historic dual strike on July 14.

Actors walked off the job over many of the same issues as writers, and SAG-AFTRA leaders said they would look closely at the gains and compromises of the WGA’s deal but emphasized that their demands would remain the same as they were when the strike began.

It was just five days after writers and studios resumed talks that a deal was reached and that strike ended, though an attempt to restart negotiations a month earlier broke off after a few meetings.

The late-night shows will have significant limits on their guest lists. Their bread and butter, actors appearing to promote projects, will not be allowed to appear if the movies and shows are for studios that are the subject of the strikes.

But exceptions abound. McConaughey, for example, is appearing with Fallon to promote his children’s book, “Just Because.”

And SAG-AFTRA has granted interim agreements allowing actors to work on many productions, and with that comes the right of actors to publicly promote them.


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