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Official: US Will Fly ‘Massive’ Number of Haitians to Haiti

The Biden administration plans on “massive movements” of Haitian migrants in a small Texas border city on flights to Haiti starting Sunday, an official said Friday, representing a swift and dramatic response to thousands who suddenly assembled under and around a bridge.

Details are yet to be finalized but will likely involve five to eight flights a day, according to the official with direct knowledge of the plans who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. San Antonio, the nearest major city, may be among the departure cities.

U.S. authorities closed traffic to vehicles and pedestrians in both directions at the only border crossing in Del Rio, Texas, after chaos unfolded Friday and presented the administration with a new and immediate challenge as it tries to manage large numbers of asylum-seekers who have been reaching U.S. soil.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it was closing the border crossing with Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, “to respond to urgent safety and security needs.” Travelers were being directed to Eagle Pass, Texas, 91 kilometers away.

Haitians crossed the Rio Grande freely and in a steady stream, going back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico through knee-deep water with some parents carrying small children on their shoulders. Unable to buy supplies in the U.S., they returned briefly to Mexico for food and cardboard to settle, temporarily at least, under or near the bridge in Del Rio, a city of 35,000 that has been severely strained by migrant flows in recent months.

Migrants pitched tents and built makeshift shelters from giant reeds known as carrizo cane. Many bathed and washed clothing in the river.

The vast majority of the migrants at the bridge on Friday were Haitian, said Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens, who is the county’s top elected official and whose jurisdiction includes Del Rio. Some families have been under the bridge for as long as six days.

Trash piles were 3.1 meters wide, and at least two women have given birth, including one who tested positive for COVID-19 after being taken to a hospital, Owens said.

Val Verde County Sheriff Frank Joe Martinez estimated the crowd at 13,700 and said more Haitians were traveling through Mexico by bus.

About 500 Haitians were ordered off buses by Mexican immigration authorities in the state of Tamaulipas, about 200 kilometers south of the Texas border, the state government said in a press release Friday. They continued toward the border on foot.

Haitians have been migrating to the U.S.in large numbers from South America for several years, many of them having left the Caribbean nation after a devastating earthquake in 2010. After jobs dried up from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, many made the dangerous trek by foot, bus and car to the U.S. border, including through the infamous Darien Gap, a Panamanian jungle.

It is unclear how such a large number amassed so quickly, though many Haitians have been assembling in camps on the Mexican side of the border, including in Tijuana, across from San Diego, to wait while deciding whether to attempt to enter the United States.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment. “We will address it accordingly,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on MSNBC.

The Federal Aviation Administration, acting on a Border Patrol request, restricted drone flights around the bridge until Sept. 30, generally barring operations at or below 305 meters unless for security or law enforcement purposes.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican and frequent critic of President Joe Biden, said federal officials told him migrants under the bridge would be moved by the Defense Department to Arizona, California and elsewhere on the Texas border.

Some Haitians at the camp have lived in Mexican cities on the U.S. border for some time, moving often between them, while others arrived recently after being stuck near Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, said Nicole Phillips, the legal director for advocacy group Haitian Bridge Alliance. A sense of desperation spread after the Biden administration ended its practice of admitting asylum-seeking migrants daily who were deemed especially vulnerable.

“People are panicking on how they seek refuge,” Phillips said.

Edgar Rodriguez, lawyer for the Casa del Migrante migrant shelter in Piedras Negras, north of Del Rio, noticed an increase of Haitians in the area two or three weeks ago and believes that misinformation may have played a part. Migrants often make decisions on false rumors that policies are about to change and that enforcement policies vary by city.

 

U.S. authorities are being severely tested after Biden quickly dismantled Trump administration policies that Biden considered cruel or inhumane, most notably one requiring asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while waiting for U.S. immigration court hearings. Such migrants have been exposed to extreme violence in Mexico and faced extraordinary difficulty in finding attorneys.

The U.S Supreme Court last month let stand a judge’s order to reinstate the policy, though Mexico must agree to its terms. The Justice Department said in a court filing this week that discussions with the Mexican government were ongoing.

A pandemic-related order to immediately expel migrants without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum that was introduced in March 2020 remains in effect, but unaccompanied children and many families have been exempt. During his first month in office, Biden chose to exempt children traveling alone on humanitarian grounds.

The U.S. government has been unable to expel many Central American families because Mexican authorities have largely refused to accept them in the state of Tamaulipas, which is across from Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings. On Friday, the administration said it would appeal a judge’s ruling a day earlier that blocked it from applying Title 42, as the pandemic-related authority is known, to any families.

Mexico has agreed to take expelled families only from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, creating an opening for Haitians and other nationalities because the U.S. lacks the resources to detain and quickly expel them on flights to their homelands.

In August, U.S. authorities stopped migrants nearly 209,000 times at the border, which was close to a 20-year high even though many of the stops involved repeat crossers because there are no legal consequences for being expelled under Title 42 authority.

People crossing in families were stopped 86,487 times in August, but fewer than one out of every five of those encounters resulted in expulsion under Title 42. The rest were processed under immigration laws, which typically means they were released with a court date or a notice to report to immigration authorities.

U.S. authorities stopped Haitians 7,580 times in August, a figure that has increased every month since August 2020, when they stopped only 55. There have also been major increases of Ecuadorians, Venezuelans and other nationalities outside the traditional sending countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. 

 

 

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Space Tourists Call Actor Tom Cruise While Orbiting Earth

While orbiting Earth, four space tourists called U.S. actor Tom Cruise to talk about life aboard the spacecraft.

Representatives for SpaceX’s first privately chartered flight said the crew members spoke Friday with Cruise, who is hoping to take part in a movie made in space.

The Twitter account for the flight mission said, “Maverick, you can be our wingman anytime,” referencing the call sign for Cruise’s character in the movie Top Gun.

No further details were released about the conversation.

Last year, NASA said it was in talks with Cruise about filming a movie at the International Space Station.

In the first space flight without any trained astronauts, the space tourists are orbiting Earth at an altitude of 585 kilometers.

The crew is led by billionaire Jared Isaacman, 38, and includes two contest winners and a hospital worker.

Crew members spoke with mission control Friday in a 10-minute live webcast.

Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, showed off her ability to do flips in zero gravity.

Arceneaux, a childhood cancer survivor, had spoken earlier with child cancer patients at St. Jude.

Chris Sembroski a 42-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran, played his ukulele while Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old community college teacher, showed a picture she drew of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule.

The flight, named Inspiration4, took off Wednesday and is due to splash down Saturday in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.

SpaceX was founded by billionaire Elon Musk, who tweeted Thursday, “Missions like Inspiration4 help advance spaceflight to enable ultimately anyone to go to orbit & beyond.” 

 

 

 

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France Recalls US, Australian Ambassadors Over Submarine Deal 

France has recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia after Australia ended a deal to buy French submarines in favor of one to pursue nuclear-powered vessels using U.S. technology.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement Friday that the move “is justified by the exceptional seriousness” of the matter.

He said the decision by President Emmanuel Macron followed “unacceptable behavior between allies and partners.”

This is the first time France has recalled its ambassador to the United States, according to the French Foreign Ministry. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1778.

A White House official said that the U.S. regretted the French decision and would be engaged in the coming days to resolve its differences with France.

At the State Department, spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement, “France is a vital partner and our oldest ally, and we place the highest value on our relationship.”

U.S. President Joe Biden announced Wednesday the deal between the United States, Australia and Britain to provide U.S. nuclear submarine technology to Australia.

Macron has not commented on the issue.

France had been planning to sell conventional submarines to Australia in a multibillion-dollar deal.

The country has also been pushing for several years to create a European strategy to boost economic and defense ties in the Indo-Pacific region.

In an interview Thursday with France Info radio, Le Drian described the deal between the United States and Australia as a “stab in the back.”

“We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” he said, adding that Biden had acted like his predecessor, Donald Trump.

“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” he said.

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

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Leaders to Gather at UN Against COVID-19 Backdrop

New York next week will see one of its first large gatherings since the coronavirus pandemic, when more than a hundred world leaders are expected to return to the United Nations for their annual meetings. VOA U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer reports.

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US Touts Public-Private Partnership to Assist Refugees 

Seeking to reinvigorate America’s historic role as a destination for refugees, the Biden administration this week announced a sponsorship initiative to boost and facilitate private sector involvement in supporting recently arrived refugees.

The effort is initially focused on helping newcomers from Afghanistan but is expected to serve as a model for assisting other refugee groups in the future as Washington ramps up refugee admissions after years of drastic cuts imposed by the former Trump administration.

The State Department announced a partnership with more than 250 nonprofit groups that have banded together to help Afghan families resettle in the U.S. under the umbrella Welcome.US.

The site serves as a hub for donations, volunteer efforts and stories of how ordinary Americans are making a difference in the lives of uprooted Afghan families. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as a host of celebrities, have lent support to the initiative.

“The generosity displayed by the American people in welcoming newly arrived Afghans … has been nothing short of remarkable and is a clear demonstration of our values as a nation of immigrants that welcomes refugees and vulnerable populations from across the world,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

For decades, the federal government has worked with U.S. refugee resettlement agencies to help new arrivals enroll in language training and employment services, register children in schools, apply for Social Security cards and perform other basic tasks.

The new partnership, which comes amid fierce criticism of the administration’s handling of evacuations from Afghanistan during and after the pullout of U.S. forces, aims to greatly augment the system and “catalyze support from Americans from all walks of life to support newly arriving Afghans,” according to the State Department.

According to a recent poll, 90 percent of Democrats said Americans should welcome Afghans, and 76 percent of Republicans support admitting refugees who aided the U.S. military.

More can be done

Many immigrant advocates and analysts welcomed the initiative, but some said even more could be done.

David Bier, immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said in an email to VOA that although it was “great” the Biden administration was acknowledging the private sector’s willingness to accept refugees, he urged the government to allow private individuals and organizations to sponsor refugees outside the existing publicly funded refugee caps.

“Americans’ ability to accept refugees should not be dependent on the U.S. government’s willingness to fund it and raise caps as it is now,” Bier said.

The number of refugees accepted into the U.S. each year is set by the president in consultation with Congress. As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden promised to admit up to 125,000 refugees annually, up from the cap of 15,000 set in the final year of former President Donald Trump’s administration. Once in office, Biden initially retained Trump’s lower cap but then raised it to 62,500 amid an outcry from within his own Democratic Party.

So far in fiscal 2021, which ends September 30, the U.S. has admitted fewer than 7,000 refugees, not including Afghans.

Scrambling to help new arrivals

Although private citizens are not involved in the immigration cases of resettling refugees, U.S. officials hope the private sector’s collection and sharing of resources to assist new arrivals will alleviate burdens on resettlement organizations that often scramble to arrange housing and other basic necessities for refugees.

“In the last few weeks, we served more than 100 people,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, chief executive of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a resettlement agency, speaking with reporters. “Some are coming with little more than a backpack. We know the importance of an orderly system that processes and prepares these new Afghan arrivals, helping them make informed decisions on where they ultimately want to resettle.”

Afghans who were evacuated to the U.S. without immigrant visas are being legally designated as “parolees” and not technically as refugees. That distinction, under current U.S. law, means they have a complex immigration road ahead of them.

Though they are temporarily protected from deportation and are permitted to apply for work authorization, being paroled into the country does not confer immigration status, grant access to public benefits or constitute a path to U.S. citizenship.

Immigrant advocates have urged Congress to pass legislation that would protect those under parole designation and allow them to apply for permanent residence.

Others have arrived under the Special Immigrant Visa program, which automatically places them on a path to permanent residency followed by U.S. citizenship, a process that can take more than five years.

As of September 14, 64,000 evacuees from Afghanistan had arrived in the United States, joining roughly 132,000 Afghan immigrants in the country, most of whom arrived in the last decade.

Immigrant advocates say new arrivals from Afghanistan will greatly benefit from the support system provided by Welcome.US as, initially, they will have lower incomes than America’s overall foreign and native-born populations. 

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Blinken Vows to Urge Arab Countries to Normalize Ties With Israel

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday he would urge Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel.

 

Blinken spoke at a virtual gathering with officials from Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. The meeting was held on the first anniversary of U.S.-brokered diplomatic agreements reached last year known as the Abraham Accords.

 

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said during the meeting he would visit Bahrain later this month, the first such visit by an Israeli minister to the country since the pacts were reached. He said the accords were open to new members as well.

 

U.S. President Joe Biden has supported the agreements brokered by former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.  

 

The Palestinians have perceived the deals as a betrayal because they further weakened a longstanding Arab position that recognition of Israel should be linked to progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.

 

Senior Biden administration officials have said they want more Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel, but until Friday’s meeting, the administration had been reluctant to observe the anniversary of the agreements.

 

Blinken touted the deals and their economic benefits and said, “This administration will continue to build on the successful efforts of the last administration to keep normalization marching forward.”

 

The secretary of state said he would also help Israel develop better relations with Sudan, which reached a breakthrough with Israel last year, and Egypt and Jordan, countries with longstanding peace deals with Israel.

 

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

 

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WHO: Political Polarization, Legal Hurdles Hamper Closure of Guantanamo Bay

The U.S. has ended its longest running foreign war, with the full withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan on August 31. But several challenges remain, including what to do with terror suspects still detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. VOA’s Yuni Salim explores in this report narrated by Nova Poerwadi. 

Camera: Yuni Salim   Produced by: Yuni Salim

 

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Fighting Fire with Fire in US to Protect Sequoia Trees

With flames advancing toward the signature grove of ancient massive trees in Sequoia National Park, firefighters on Thursday fought fire with fire.

Using firing operations to burn out flammable vegetation and other matter before the wildfire arrives in the Giant Forest is one of several ways firefighters can use their nemesis as a tool to stop, slow or redirect fires.

The tactic comes with considerable risks if conditions change. But it is routinely used to protect communities, homes or valuable resources now under threat from fires, including the grove of about 2,000 massive sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest by volume.

Here’s how it works:

It’s all about the fuel

Three things influence how hot and fast a fire burns: the landscape, with fire burning faster up steep slopes; weather, with winds and dry conditions fanning flames; and fuel, the amount of material that can burn.

The first two can’t be controlled, but there are ways to reduce fuels long before any fire breaks out — or even as one is approaching.

“Of all the things that affect fire behavior, the fuels is really where we can take action,” said Maureen Kennedy, a professor of wildfire ecology at the University of Washington.

Historically, low- to moderate-severity fires every five to 30 years burned out excess brush and timber before deadly fires in the early 20th century led to aggressive firefighting and a U.S. Forest Service policy to suppress all fires by 10 a.m. the day after they were reported.

That led to dense forests of dead trees, fallen logs and overgrown brush that accumulated over the past century, fueling more massive fires.

Slowing fire by creating fire

For centuries, Native Americans have used fire to thin out forests.

Prescribed burns set under favorable weather conditions can help mimic the lower-intensity fires of the past and burn off excess fuels when they are not at risk of getting out of control. If fire eventually burns the area, it will likely do so at lower intensity and with less damage.

 

The idea is the same during a wildfire. Fire chiefs try to take advantage of shifting winds or changing landscapes to burn out an area before the fire gets there, depriving it of the fuel it needs to keep going.

“They’re trying to achieve the same effect,” Kennedy said. “They’re trying to moderate the fire behavior. They’re trying to remove the fuels that make the fire burn so intensely.

Of course, their goal there is to better contain and control the fire and protect the more valuable resources.”

Safely setting mild fires

All wildland firefighters learn about burnout operations in basic training, but it takes a higher level of training to plan and carry out firing operations.

“You need to know how to fight fire before you light fire,” said Paul Broyles, a former chief of fire operations for the National Park Service.

Burning an area between the fire front and a projected point — such as a firebreak or the Giant Forest in Sequoia — requires the right conditions and enough time to complete the burnout before the fire can reach a fire line constructed by firefighters.

 

Often such operations are conducted at night when fires tend to die down or slow their advance as temperatures cool and humidity rises.

The convection of a fire pulls in winds from all direction, which can help. As fires climb steep terrain, burnouts are sometimes set on the other side of a ridge so any embers will land in an area where dry grasses and brush have already burned.

The firing operations require a crew making sure the fire does not spread in the wrong direction. It may also include bulldozers cutting fire lines or air tankers dropping retardant to further slow the flames.

All of it has to work in sync, Broyles said.

“Air tankers by themselves do not put fires out unless you follow up with personnel,” he said. “It’s like the military. You don’t just bomb the hell out of your enemy without ground troops.”

While burnouts are commonly used, they can backfire if winds shift or they aren’t lit early enough.

“When you put more fire on the ground, there is a risk,” said Rebecca Paterson, a spokesperson for Sequoia National Park. “It carries the potential to create more problems than it solves.”

Broyles said there were times he didn’t get a burnout started in time and firefighters had to be evacuated.

“Fortunately, in my case, we didn’t have any losses,” he said.

Small flames to protect giant sequoias

Firefighters on Thursday were conducting burnout operations in the Giant Forest at almost a micro level, moving from tree to tree, Paterson said. Ground cover and organic debris known as duff close to the trees was being set on fire, allowing the flames to creep away from the tree to create a buffer.

The General Sherman and other massive conifers were wrapped in aluminum blankets to protect them from the extreme heat.

The park was the first in the West to use prescribed fire more than 50 years ago and regularly burns some of its groves to remove fuels. Paterson said that was a reason for optimism.

“Hopefully, the Giant Forest will emerge from this unscathed,” she said. 

 

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Republican Who Voted to Impeach Trump Exits 2022 Race

Congressman Anthony Gonzalez, one of 10 US House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in January, said Thursday he would not seek reelection, citing the “toxic” atmosphere in a party that remains enthralled by the former president.

The two-term back-bencher from Ohio stressed that family considerations played a substantial role in his decision, but he acknowledged the difficult political scenario, one in which he would have had to face a Trump-endorsed primary challenger next year.

“While my desire to build a fuller family life is at the heart of my decision, it is also true that the current state of our politics, especially many of the toxic dynamics inside our own party, is a significant factor in my decision,” he said in a statement.

Gonzalez was more blunt in an interview in Thursday’s New York Times, assailing Trump as “a cancer for the country” for inspiring his supporters to launch the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.

“I don’t believe he can ever be president again,” he told the daily.

Gonzalez, a 36-year-old conservative, is the first among the House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump to retire rather than endure what is undoubtedly a brutal season of primaries ahead.

Trump, who remains hugely influential in the party, has made clear he will work tirelessly to help defeat those Republicans who sought to oust him.

They include Liz Cheney, who lost her House Republican leadership position when she refused to tone down her criticism of the former president.

Trump has already announced his support for a former Trump aide, Max Miller, running for Gonzalez’s seat.

Several House Democrats tweeted out their appreciation of Gonzalez after his announcement.

He and the other Republicans who voted to impeach Trump “are paying a price for doing the right thing,” congressman Brendan Boyle said. “But they will be vindicated by history.” 

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Lawyer Charged in Probe of Trump-Russia Investigation 

The prosecutor tasked with examining the U.S. government’s investigation into Russian election interference charged a prominent cybersecurity lawyer on Thursday with making a false statement to the FBI. 

The case against the attorney, Michael Sussmann, is just the second prosecution brought by special counsel John Durham in 2½ years of work. Yet neither case brought by Durham undoes the core finding of an earlier investigation by Robert Mueller that Russia had interfered in sweeping fashion on behalf of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and that the Trump campaign welcomed that aid.

It lays bare the wide-ranging and evolving nature of Durham’s investigation. In addition to having scrutinized the activities of FBI and CIA officials during the early days of the Russia probe, it has also looked at the behavior of private individuals like Sussman who provided the U.S. government with information as it scrambled to determine whether Trump associates were coordinating with Russia to tip the election’s outcome. 

Suspect worked with Clinton campaign

The indictment accuses Sussmann of hiding that he was working with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign during a September 2016 conversation he had with the FBI’s general counsel, when he relayed concerns from cybersecurity researchers about potentially suspicious contacts between Russia-based Alfa Bank and a Trump organization server. The FBI looked into the matter but found no connections. 

Sussmann is a former federal prosecutor who specializes in cybersecurity.

Sussmann’s lawyers, Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth, said their client is a highly respected national security lawyer who had previously worked in the Justice Department under both Republican and Democratic administrations. They said they were confident he would prevail at trial and “vindicate his good name.” 

“Mr. Sussmann has committed no crime,” they said in a statement. “Any prosecution here would be baseless, unprecedented, and an unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Department of Justice is supposed to do its work.” 

The Alfa Bank matter was not a pivotal element of the Russia probe and was not even mentioned in Mueller’s 448-page report in 2019. Still, the indictment may give fodder to Russia investigation critics who regard it as politically tainted and engineered by Democrats. 

Sussmann’s former firm, Perkins Coie, has deep Democratic connections. A then-partner at the firm, Marc Elias, brokered a deal with the Fusion GPS research firm to study Trump’s business ties to Russia. That work, by former British spy Christopher Steele, produced a dossier of research that helped form the basis of flawed surveillance applications targeting a former Trump campaign official, Carter Page. 

Firm accepts resignation

A spokesman for Perkins Coie said Sussmann, “who has been on leave from the firm, offered his resignation from the firm in order to focus on his legal defense, and the firm accepted it.” 

The Durham investigation has already spanned months longer than the earlier special counsel probe into Russian election interference conducted by Mueller, the former FBI director, and his team. The investigation was slowed by the coronavirus pandemic and experienced leadership tumult following the abrupt departure last fall of a top deputy on Durham’s team. 

Though Trump had eagerly anticipated Durham’s findings in hopes that they’d be a boon to his reelection campaign, any political impact the conclusion may have once had has been dimmed by the fact that Trump is no longer in office. 

The Durham appointment by then-Attorney General William Barr in 2019 was designed to examine potential errors or misconduct in the U.S. government’s investigation into whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was conspiring with Russia to sway the outcome of the election. 

A two-year investigation by Mueller established that the Trump campaign was eager to receive and benefit from Kremlin aid and documented multiple interactions between Russians and Trump associates. Investigators said they did not find enough evidence to charge any campaign official with having conspired with Russia, though a half-dozen Trump aides were charged with various offenses, including false statements. 

Until now, Durham had brought only one criminal case — a false statement charge against an FBI lawyer who altered an email related to the surveillance of Page to obscure the nature of Page’s preexisting relationship with the CIA. That lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation. 

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Blinken Defends Deal to Share Nuclear Submarines with Australia

The United States, Britain and Australia are hailing the announcement of a new security pact that will see Australia getting U.S. nuclear-powered submarine technology in a bid to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. China has condemned the deal, and France is outraged, after Australia abandoned its submarine deal with Paris. VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports.

Producer: Bakhtiyar Zamanov

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Judge Blocks Expulsions of Migrant Families Under Trump-Era Order

A U.S. district judge on Thursday blocked the expulsion of migrant families caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, exempting them from an order put in place by former President Donald Trump’s administration early in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Judge Emmett Sullivan said the block of the order would go into effect in 14 days. 

 

U.S. President Joe Biden has faced growing pressure from some immigration advocates, health experts and fellow Democrats to end the so-called Title 42 order that has essentially cut off access to asylum for hundreds of thousands of migrants. 

 

Title 42, which has been in effect since March 2020, will still apply to single adults, who represent most of the migrants arrested trying to enter the United States. 

 

Biden in February exempted unaccompanied children from the expulsion policy, and his administration has been applying it to fewer families apprehended at the border. 

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Many NYC Employees Disappointed with Return to Work Order

Nearly all of New York City’s 300,000 employees were required to be back at their workplaces this week as the city ended remote work. But not everyone is pleased with the way the return was rolled out. More with VOA’s Mariama Diallo.

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Vietnam President to Seek Allies Against COVID-19 During US Visit

The global battle against COVID-19 is expected to be top of mind for Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc when he travels to the United States for the U.N. General Assembly session next week, following a weekend stopover in Cuba. It remains unclear whether he will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden or other Western leaders on the sidelines of the U.N. session. 

 

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry announced plans for the visit Wednesday, saying Phuc will pay an official visit to Cuba from September 18 to September 20 before arriving in New York to attend the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly. He will be in the United States from September 21 to September 24. 

 

In his first overseas trip since being elected president by the National Assembly in April, Phuc is expected to introduce Vietnam’s diplomatic policy to the United Nations. In an interview Thursday with Vietnamese media, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dang Hoang Giang stressed that Phuc would express Vietnam’s desire to work with other countries on COVID-19 prevention and other urgent problems. 

 

Giang said Phuc will meet with other leaders in New York to discuss ways of controlling the pandemic and speeding economic recovery. The former prime minister also will meet with leading U.S. vaccine manufacturers to seek the “earliest, fastest, and most effective possible delivery commitments for Vietnam, as well as medicine, equipment, and medical supplies to prevent COVID-19.” 

 

Aside from the pandemic, analysts will be paying close attention to see who Phuc meets on the sidelines of the General Assembly debate, particularly since this will be the first U.S. visit by a Vietnamese leader since the 13th National Party Congress in late January. 

 

The visit coincides with Biden’s first in-person meeting with his fellow QUAD leaders — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Phuc held phone talks Wednesday with Suga, but it remained unclear whether he will meet in New York with Biden or any of the other QUAD leaders. 

 

A source familiar with the matter told VOA that Phuc is expected to meet in New York with Korean President Moon Jae In. VOA also learned that Vietnam has been trying to arrange such a meeting with the U.S. side. 

 

Vietnam considers the annual U.N. session in New York, which attracts dozens of world leaders, as a good opportunity for party-to-party and people-to-people diplomacy. Phuc also may reach out to thank Americans who have worked to help Vietnam overcome the impact of the toxic defoliant Agent Orange, which was widely used by the United States during the Vietnam War. 

 

“Bilateral activities in the United States are expected to make important contributions to enhancing the cooperation between Vietnam and the new U.S. administration, promoting the well-developed Comprehensive Partnership, and be consistent with the shared goals and interests of both Vietnam and the United States,” Giang said Thursday. 

 

He said Phuc also will meet with members of the U.S. business community to “inform about Vietnam’s efforts in controlling and repelling the pandemic and restoring production, thereby helping strengthen confidence and attract more investment from U.S. investors, businesses and partners.” 

 

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh received U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Christopher Klein and representatives from U.S. enterprises and investors in Hanoi. The Americans told the Vietnamese leader about their operations in Vietnam, describing their problems and making proposals related to supply chains, logistics, work permits and access to vaccines.

 

Chinh affirmed Vietnam’s commitment to its vaccination campaign and said the country will double down on efforts to advance the proposals made by the U.S. businesses. 

 

Vietnamese state media reported that Chinh also asked the Americans “to boost closer coordination with Vietnamese ministries, sectors and localities so as to effectively implement pandemic containment measures, maintain production activities, ensure social welfare for workers and facilitate Vietnamese businesses’ investment in the U.S.” 

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Amid Pandemic, Harlem Groomer Gives Back to Community

Brian Taylor, an immigrant from Sierra Leone who is known in New York City as the Harlem Groomer, lost 80% of his non-essential business during the pandemic. But he found a unique way to keep doing his job, and along the way inspired a national movement. Elena Wolf has the story, narrated by Anna Rice. 

Camera: Max Avloshenko, Dmitrii Vershinin 

 

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Amid Pandemic, Harlem Groomer Gives Back to Community

Brian Taylor, an immigrant from Sierra Leone who is known in New York City as the Harlem Groomer, lost 80% of his non-essential business during the pandemic. But he found a unique way to keep doing his job, and along the way inspired a national movement. Elena Wolf has the story, narrated by Anna Rice. 

Camera: Max Avloshenko, Dmitrii Vershinin 

 

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