Prince Harry: ‘Powerful Media’ Is Why He’s Stepping Away

Prince Harry has taken aim at the journalists who have dissected his life since the day he was born as he expressed regret for the way he has had to step down from royal duties.
In a personal speech at referenced his late mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car accident while being pursued by paparazzi, Harry said Sunday he had “no other option” but to step away as he and his wife, Meghan, seek a more peaceful life.
“When I lost my mum 23 years ago, you took me under your wing,” Harry said at a dinner in London for Sentebale, his Africa-based charity supporting youngsters with HIV. “You looked out for me for so long, but the media is a powerful force. And my hope is one day our collective support for each other can be more powerful, because this is so much bigger than just us.”
The comments were Harry’s first public remarks since Saturday night, when his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, announced the terms under which the prince and his wife will walk away from most royal duties, give up public funding and try to become financially independent. The couple are expected to spend most of their time in Canada while maintaining a home in England near Windsor Palace.
The queen’s statement said the agreement, reached after crisis talks, was a “constructive and supportive way forward.”
But Harry’s speech made it clear that the couple had not gotten their wish to be able to carry on with some royal duties while becoming independent.
“Our hope was to continue serving the queen, the Commonwealth and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible,” he said.
“For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this,” he added. “The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always got it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”
Harry, 35, has made no secret of his disdain for Britain’s tabloid media in the past, with both he and Meghan filing lawsuits against press outlets last fall. At the time, Harry gave an interview drawing parallels between the treatment of his wife and the media frenzy that contributed to the death of his mother.
Harry praised his grandmother, the queen, and the rest of his family for supporting him and his wife in recent months. He called the decision to change both jobs and continents “a leap of faith” and said he hopes the move will allow him and his family to achieve a “more peaceful life.”
Under terms of the deal announced Saturday, Harry and Meghan will stop using their “royal highness” titles this spring and will lose all access to public funds once they stop carrying out official functions.
Harry opened his speech by noting that many in the audience had watched him grow up and said he wanted them “to hear the truth from me, as much as I can share, not as a prince, or a duke, but as Harry.”
He framed the decision to leave as his own, made on behalf of Meghan and their young son, Archie. He spoke of both during his remarks, telling the audience that eight-month-old Archie had seen snow for the first time a few days ago and “thought it was bloody brilliant.”
He then turned to his relationship with the queen and other members of his family.
“I will always have the utmost respect for my grandmother – my commander in chief – and I’m incredibly grateful to her and the rest of my family for the support they have shown Meghan and I over the last few months,” he said.
Meghan and Archie and the couple’s dogs are already in Canada, and it was not clear how soon Harry would join them or where in Canada they would live. The couple spent the holiday season on Vancouver Island, and Meghan worked for seven years in Toronto filming the TV series “Suits.”
 

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Abe: New Unit Will Defend Japan From Space Tech Threats

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that Japan will form a space defense unit to protect itself from potential threats as rivals develop missiles and other technology and the new unit will work closely with its American counterpart recently launched by President Donald Trump.
The Space Domain Mission Unit will start in April as part of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, Abe said in a policy speech marking the start of the year’s parliamentary session.
He said Japan must also defend itself from threats in cyberspace and from electromagnetic interference against Japanese satellites. Concerns are growing that China and Russia are seeking ways to interfere, disable or destroy satellites.
 
“We will drastically bolster capability and system in order to secure superiority” in those areas, Abe said.
The space unit will be added to an existing air base at Fuchu in the western suburbs of Tokyo, where about 20 people will be staffed ahead of a full launch in 2022. The role of the space unit is to conduct satellite-based navigation and communications for other troops in the field, rather than being on the ground.
Abe’s Cabinet in December approved 50.6 billion yen ($460 million) budget in space-related projects, pending parliamentary approval.
 
The unit will cooperate with the U.S. Space Command that Trump established in August, as well as Japan’s space exploration agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Underscoring the need to step up cyber security, Mitsubishi Electric Corp. revealed Monday that it had suffered a cyber attack last June that may have compromised personal and corporate data involving thousands of its job applicants, employees and retirees. Mitsubishi said there was no breach of sensitive data in the company’s operations involving defense, space, transportation, electric power and other businesses sectors. It promised to enhance security measures and monitoring.
Abe has pushed for Japan’s Self-Defense Force to expand its international role and capability by bolstering cooperation and weapons compatibility with the U.S., as it increasingly works alongside American troops and as it grows concerned about the increasing capabilities of China and North Korea.

PM Abe says Japan will form a space defense unit to protect itself from potential threats as rivals develop missiles and other technology and the new unit will work closely with its American counterpart recently launched by President Trump.Abe, in marking Sunday’s 60th anniversary of the signing of Japan-U.S. security treaty, vowed to bolster Japan’s capability and cooperation with the U.S., including in the areas of space and cyber security.
He said he is determined to settle Japan’s “unfortunate past” with North Korea, as he hopes to “sum up” his country’s postwar legacies before his term expires next year.
He reiterated his intention to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without the conditions he had demanded in the past — denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and resolving the decades-old issue of abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea.
Part of Abe’s plan while in office is to achieve his long-cherished goal of revising Japan’s U.S.-drafted constitution that prohibits use of force in settling international disputes. Despite Abe’s push, chances are fading for the revision due to a lack of public interest and the opposition’s focus on other controversial issues such as Japan’s recent dispatch of naval troops to Middle East and questionable public record-keeping at Abe’s annual cherry blossom-viewing parties.
In a sign of a thaw in Japan’s recently tense relations with South Korea, Abe said he planned to cooperate closely with South Korea in dealing with a harsh security environment in northeast Asia.
Abe, however, repeated his demand that South Korea resolve the issue of compensation for the former Korean laborers during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule. “I hope [South Korea] to keep its promise between the two countries and build future-oriented bilateral relations,” he said.   
 

 

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Ukraine Asks OSCE to Expand Its Monitoring Mission

Ukraine has asked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to expand its monitoring mission in the country, Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said Monday after a meeting with the organization’s chairman.
The OSCE’s special monitoring mission has been present in Ukraine since 2014, when fighting between Ukrainians and Russia-backed separatists broke out in the country’s eastern regions after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The mission’s civilian monitors observe the situation in Ukraine in general and in the war-torn regions in particular, with a special task of facilitating dialogue between the sides of the conflict. Its mandate expires on March 31.

FILE – Members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine walk as they arrive for monitoring ahead of a proposed withdrawal of troops, in Petrіvske, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Oct. 9, 2019.Prystaiko said Kyiv asked the OSCE not only to extend the mission, but to “expand its possibilities and human resources” and support it financially.
OSCE chairman Edi Rama, in turn, called the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine “the most pressing challenge to security and stability in Europe today.”
The move comes amid Ukraine’s efforts to end the war that has killed more than 14,000 people and ravaged the country’s industrial heartland. In December, leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany sat down for talks, hoping to revive a 2015 peace deal. The negotiations didn’t produce a breakthrough, but were hailed by both Russia and Ukraine as progress.
 

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Davos Bolsters Security as Protesters March Toward Venue

Hundreds of disgruntled protesters against the elite World Economic Forum are marching through the Alpine snows toward its annual gathering in Davos, as officials on Monday detailed extra security measures like vehicle checks and webcam shutdowns with U.S. President Donald Trump and other notables set to arrive.
Zurich regional police said some 130 attendees who are “protected under international law” — including royalty, presidents and prime ministers — were expected to pass through toward the Davos gathering from Tuesday to Friday. All told, nearly 3,000 leaders from civil society, business, politics and elsewhere from 118 countries are expected as the Forum marks its 50th year.

FILE – A Swiss national flag waves in the wind during last year’s World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 25, 2019.Protesters with the “Strike-WEF” collective, who began marching toward Davos on Sunday, have taken issue with one security measure: An order from regional police that no more than 300 people can attend a planned protest near the town hall. Authorities insist the square is too small to hold more people. They call such limits anti-democratic.
 
“When they can have space for 3,000 people — the majority of who are the richest people on the planet  — but for only 300 among the 99% of the rest of us, it’s a joke,” said Payal Parekh, a spokeswoman for the collective. Members of the group and its supporters — some dressed in get-ups like Ronald McDonald outfits — were marching toward Davos but have been barred from the main roads to get there.
“There are ways to get to Davos,” she said. “We are creative and flexible.”
Rosalina Mueller, a spokeswoman for the Young Socialists that is helping organize the demonstration in Davos, applauded the idea of having leaders come together, but said they’d failed to help the world over the last half-century.
“They say they want to make the world better, but for 50 years they haven’t done anything,” she said. Forum organizers have pointed to scores of initiatives like planting trees, enlisting businesses in advocacy programs, and rallying thousands of promising youths to help their communities in scores of countries around the world.
 
The Swiss national authorities were restricting airspace and have authorized up to 5,000 troops to take part in enhanced security. Authorities and Forum organizers have set aside a budget of $9 million for extra security measures during the event.
Zurich authorities were boosting security checks of people and vehicles and advising Zurich airport visitors to use public transport for Trump’s expected arrival on Tuesday.
 
 

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Push for Landmark Paid Family Leave Law in US to Extend Nationwide

For the first time, most of the United States’ 2.1 million federal workers will be eligible to get twelve weeks of paid family leave following the birth or adoption of a child. The new benefit – under the annual National Defense Authorization Act – goes into effect on Oct. 1. Dozens of other countries around the world already offer paid family leave to civil workers. Now advocates are pressing for the law to extend to workers across the U.S. VOA Correspondent Mariama Diallo has more.

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Extradition Hearing for Huawei Executive Begins in Canada

The first stage of an extradition hearing for a senior executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei begins Monday in a Vancouver courtroom, a case that has infuriated Beijing, set off a diplomatic furor and raised fears of a brewing tech war between China and the United States.  
Canada’s arrest of chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s legendary founder, in late 2018 at America’s request shocked Beijing.   
Huawei represents China’s ambitions to become a technological power, but has been the subject of U.S. security concerns for years. Beijing views Meng’s case as an attempt to contain China’s rise.  
“This is one of the top priorities for the Chinese government. They’ve been very mad. They will be watching this very closely,” said Wenran Jiang, a senior fellow at the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia.  
Washington accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It says Meng, 47, committed fraud by misleading HSBC Bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.   

In this file photo taken on Nov. 6, 2019, the logo of Chinese telecom giant Huawei is pictured during the Web Summit in Lisbon.Meng, who is free on bail and living in one of the two Vancouver mansions she owns, denies the allegations. Meng’s defense team has pointed to comments by U.S. President Donald Trump they say suggest the case against her is politically motivated.  
Meng was detained in December 2018 by Canadian authorities in Vancouver as she was changing flights — the same day that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for trade talks.  
Prosecutors have stressed that Meng’s case is separate from the wider trade dispute, but Trump undercut that message weeks after her arrest when he said he would consider intervening in the case if it would help forge a trade deal with Beijing.   
China and the U.S. reached a “Phase 1” trade agreement last week, but most analysts say any meaningful resolution of the main U.S. allegation — that Beijing uses predatory tactics in its drive to supplant America’s technological supremacy — could require years of contentious talks. Trump had raised the possibility of using Huawei’s fate as a bargaining chip in the trade talks, but the deal announced Wednesday didn’t mention the company.   
Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for cellphone and internet companies. Washington has pressured other countries to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft.  
“I think this is the beginning of a technological war along ideological fronts,” said Lynette Ong, an associate professor at the University of Toronto. “You are going to see the world divided into two parts. One side would use Chinese companies and the other side would not use Chinese companies because they are weary of the political implications of using Chinese platforms.”
James Lewis at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said the U.S. wanted to send a message with Meng’s arrest and that there is good evidence that Huawei willfully violated sanctions.  
“The message that you are no longer invulnerable has been sent to Chinese executives,” Lewis said. “No one has held China accountable. They steal technology, they violate their WTO commitments and the old line is, ‘Oh, they are a developing economy, who cares.’ When you are the second-largest economy in the world you can’t do that anymore.”  
The initial stage of Meng’s extradition hearing will deal with the issue of whether Meng’s alleged crimes are crimes both in the United States and Canada. Her lawyers filed a a motion Friday arguing that Meng’s case is really about U.S. sanctions against Iran, not a fraud case. Canada does not have similar sanctions on Iran.   
The second phase, scheduled for June, will consider defense allegations that Canada Border Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI violated her rights while collecting evidence before she was actually arrested.  
The extradition case could take years to resolve if there are appeals. Virtually all extradition request from Canada to the U.S. are approved by Canadian judges.   
In apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor. The two men have been denied access to lawyers and family and are being held in prison cells where the lights are kept on 24-hours-a-day. “That’s mafia-style pressure,” Lewis said.   
China has also placed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including canola oil seed and meat. Last January, China also handed a death sentence to a convicted Canadian drug smuggler in a sudden retrial.   
“Canada is fulfilling the terms of its extradition treaty but is paying an enormous price,” said Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “This is the kind of world we’re living in now, where countries like Canada are at risk of getting squeezed in major power contests.”

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‘Parasite’ Wins at SAG Awards, So Do Pitt and Aniston

“Parasite” has officially infected Hollywood’s award season. Bong Joon Ho’s Korean class satire became the first foreign language film to take top honors from the Screen Actors Guild on Sunday, setting itself up as a legitimate best picture contender to the front-runner “1917” at next month’s Academy Awards.   
The best ensemble win for “Parasite” came over the starry epics “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and “The Irishman.” It was a surprise but only to a degree. “Parasite,” up for six Oscars including best picture, has emerged as perhaps the stiffest competition for Sam Mendes’ “1917,” which won at the highly predictive Producers Guild Awards on Saturday.  
But “Parasite” was the clear crowd favorite Sunday at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, where even the cast’s appearance introducing the film drew a standing ovation. Yet until the SAG Awards, the many honors for “Parasite” have seldom included awards for its actors, none of whom were nominated for an Oscar.   
“Although the title is ‘Parasite,’ I think the story is about coexistence and how we can all live together,” said Song Kang Ho, one of the film’s stars, through a translator.   
Because actors make up the largest percentage of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, their picks are closely watched as an Academy Awards harbinger.

Jennifer Aniston accepts the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series for “The Morning Show” at the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall, Jan. 19, 2020, in Los Angeles.But the last two years, the SAG ensemble winner has not gone on to win best picture: “Black Panther” last year and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in 2018. And this year’s front-runner, “1917,” more acclaimed for its technical acumen, wasn’t nominated by the screen actors.   
If “Parasite” can pull off the upset at the Feb. 9 Oscars, it would be the first foreign language film to do so.
Before the win for “Parasite,” the SAG Awards were most notable as a reunion for Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. They each took home awards and celebrated the other’s win.   
Pitt is headed toward his first acting Academy Award for his supporting performance in “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” and he added to his front-runner status with a win from the actors’ guild. Along the way, his speeches have been  full of one-liners and he didn’t disappoint Sunday. Pitt, who said he was nursing a flu, looked down at his award and said, “I’ve got to add this to my Tinder profile.”
He added: “Let’s be honest, it was a difficult part. A guy who gets high, takes his shirt off and doesn’t get on with his wife. It was a big stretch.” The audience laughed and clapped, including — as the cameras captured — Aniston, his ex-wife.
Aniston later won an award of her own for best female actor in a drama series for the Apple TV Plus show “The Morning Show.” “What!” she said upon reaching the stage. Aniston finished her speech with a shout-out to her “Murder Mystery:” co-star Adam Sandler, whose performance in “Uncut Gems” has gone mostly unrewarded this season despite considerable acclaim. 
“Your performance is extraordinary and your magic is real. I love you, buddy,” said Aniston.  
Backstage, Pitt watched Aniston’s acceptance speech. After she got off stage, they warmly congratulated each other on their first individual SAG Awards. 
Along with Pitt, all the Oscar favorites kept their momentum, including wins for Renee Zellweger (“Judy”), Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”) and Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”).  

Joaquin Phoenix reacts as he accepts the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role for “Joker” at the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.As expected, Phoenix took best performance by a leading male actor. After individually praising each fellow nominee, Phoenix concluded with a nod to his Joker predecessor. “I’m standing here on the shoulders of my favorite actor, Heath Ledger,” said Phoenix.  
Dern also further established herself as the best supporting actress favorite with a win from the actors guild. On her way to the stage, she hugged her father, Bruce Dern, part of the “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” ensemble.   
Phoebe Waller-Bridge continued her awards sweep for “Fleabag,” a winner at the Emmys and the Golden Globes. Waller-Bridge added a SAG win for best female actor in a comedy series and took a moment to reflect on the show’s parade of accolades.  
“This whole thing really has been a dream, and if I wake up tomorrow and discover it was just that, then thank you,” said Waller-Bridge. “It’s been the most beautiful dream.”   
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” also continued its streak, winning best comedy series ensemble for the second straight year, along with a win for Tony Shalhoub. But accepting the ensemble award, the show’s shocked Alex Borstein said she had voted for “Fleabag.”   
“Honestly this makes no sense,’ said Borstein. “‘Fleabag’ is brilliant.’”  
Robert De Niro was given the guild’s lifetime achievement award, an honor presented by Leonardo DiCaprio who, like De Niro, is a frequent leading man for Martin Scorsese. (The two co-star in Scorsese’s upcoming “Killers of the Flower Moon.”) A raucous standing ovation greeted the 76-year-old actor. 
De Niro, a fiery critic of Donald Trump, referenced the president in his remarks. 
“There’s right and there’s wrong. And there’s common sense and there’s abuse of power. As a citizen, I have as much right as anybody — an actor, an athlete, anybody else — to voice my opinion,” said De Niro. “And if I have a bigger voice because of my situation, I’m going to use it whenever I see a blatant abuse of power.”   
“Game of Thrones” closed out its eight-season run with wins for Peter Dinklage for best male actor in a drama series and for best stunt ensemble work. “The Crown” took best ensemble in a drama series. And both “Fosse/Verdon” stars — Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell — won for their performances in the miniseries.

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Chiefs, 49ers Earn Super Bowl Spots

The field for this year’s Super Bowl is set, with the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers earning the right to play for the National Football League championship on Feb. 2 in Miami.
The Chiefs defeated the Tennessee Titans 35-24 on Sunday to claim the American Football Conference crown and the team’s first trip to the Super Bowl since 1970.

Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates a touchdown pass with Eric Fisher (72) and Mitchell Schwartz (71) during the second half of the NFL AFC Championship football game against the Tennessee Titans, Jan. 19, 2020, in Kansas City.The 49ers have had more recent success, last appearing in the Super Bowl in 2012.  They beat the Green Bay Packers 37-20 in the National Football Conference championship game Sunday.
Fans can likely expect a high-scoring Super Bowl.  During the regular season, the 49ers ranked second in the NFL in points scored, while the Chiefs were fifth.
San Francisco’s offense is more focused on running to advance the ball down the field. Kansas City prefers to pass the ball, with star quarterback Patrick Mahomes leading its offense.
The Super Bowl is enjoyed not only by football fans, but also many others who may not watch any other football game during the rest of the year. The television broadcast is annually one of the most watched shows in the United States with about 100 million people tuning in.
Interest goes beyond the game itself, with many people eager to enjoy the commercials shown during the broadcast. Companies spend $5 million for a 30-second spot to showcase new and special ad campaigns they create.

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Afghan Immigrants Find a Home in Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada is often called ‘Sin City.’ It’s known as a place where people behave in more self-indulgent or decadent ways, famously summed up in the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” But some Afghan immigrants who lead quiet religious lives have a different view of this gambling mecca. VOA’s Samir Rassoly visited a few local Afghan businesses and filed this report from Las Vegas.

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On the Edge of America, Census Begins in a Tiny Alaska Town

TOKSOOK BAY, ALASKA — There are no restaurants in Toksook Bay, Alaska. No motels or movie theater, either. There also aren’t any factories. Or roads.
But the first Americans to be counted in the 2020 census live in this tiny community of 661 on the edge of the American expanse. Their homes are huddled together in a windswept Bering Sea village, painted vivid lime green, purple or neon blue to help distinguish the signs of life from a frigid white winterscape that makes it hard to tell where the frozen sea ends and the village begins.
Fish drying racks hang outside some front doors, and you’re more likely to find a snowmobile or four-wheeler in the driveway than a truck or SUV.
In this isolated outpost that looks little like other towns in the rest of the United States, the official attempt to count everyone living in the country will begin Tuesday.
The decennial U.S. census has started in rural Alaska, out of tradition and necessity, ever since the U.S. purchased the territory from Russia in 1867.
Once the spring thaw hits, the town empties as many residents scatter for traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and the frozen ground that in January makes it easier to get around by March turns to marsh that’s difficult to traverse. The mail service is spotty and the internet connectivity unreliable, which makes door-to-door surveying important.
For those reasons, they have to start early here.
The rest of the country, plus urban areas of Alaska such as Anchorage, will begin the census in mid-March.
Some of the biggest challenges to the count are especially difficult in Toksook Bay, one of a handful of villages on Nelson Island, which is about 500 miles (805 kilometers) west of Anchorage and only accessible by boat or plane.
Some people speak only Alaska Native languages such as Yup’ik, or speak one language but don’t read it.

People ride through town on all-terrain vehicles, Jan. 18, 2020, in Toksook Bay, Alaska.The U.S. census provides questionnaires in 13 languages, and other guides, glossaries and materials in many more. But none is one of 20 official Alaska Native languages. So local groups are bringing together translators and language experts to translate the census wording and intent so local community leaders could trust, understand and relay the importance of the census.
It wasn’t an easy task. Language can be very specific to a culture.
For example, there’s no equivalent for “apportionment” — the system used to determine representation in Congress — in the language Denaakk’e, also known as Koyukon Athabascan. So translators used terms for divvying up moose meat in a village as an example for finding cultural relevancy, said Veri di Suvero, executive director of the agency partner Alaska Public Interest Research Group
When the official count begins this week, the Census Bureau has hired four people to go door-to-door. At least two of them will be fluent in English and Yup’ik.
Places such as Toksook Bay that run this risk of being under-counted also desperately need the federal funds assigned based on population for health care, education and general infrastructure.
Yet mistrust of the federal government is high. That’s true in many parts of the U.S., but especially in Alaska, where many have strong libertarian views, and even more in a rural community where everyone knows everyone, and someone asking for personal information is seen with suspicion.
“The No. 1 barrier to getting an accurate count throughout Alaska is concern about privacy and confidentiality and an inherent distrust of the federal government,” said Gabriel Layman, chairman of the Alaska Census Working Group. “And that attitude is fairly pervasive in some of our more rural and remote communities.”

A girl waits for her mother, Jan. 19, 2020, in Toksook Bay, Alaska.The census is entirely confidential, Layman reassures people, and the Census Bureau can’t give information to any law enforcement, immigration official to even to a landlord if you report if you have 14 people living in your rental. Violating that privacy could land a Census worker behind bars with a hefty fine.
When the count begins on Tuesday, a Yup’ik elder who is part of a well-known Eskimo dancing group will be the first one counted.
Lizzie Chimiugak, whose age isn’t known because records weren’t kept but is anywhere from 89 to 93, is “the grandma for the whole community,” said Robert Pitka, the tribal administrator of the Nunakauyak Traditional Council in Toksook Bay.
Steven Dillingham, the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, will be on hand for Tuesday’s start.
Village officials will greet him at the town’s airstrip and bring him to the school, where community members will bring traditional food, which could include seal, walrus, moose or musk ox. They’ll have a ceremony with the dance group that includes Chimiugak, who will come to the school and dance in her wheelchair if the weather allows.
Mary Kailukiak, a town councilwoman, said she’s one of the cooks.
“I’m thinking of maybe cooking up dried fish eggs, herring fish eggs,” she said, pausing to speak to a reporter while ice fishing for tomcod and smolt on the Bering Sea, dressed in a black parka and snow pants and sporting a hat made by her daughter from sealskin and beaver. The eggs will be soaked overnight and served with seal oil.
Then Dillingham will conduct the first official census count, or enumeration as it known, with Chimiugak, out of earshot of others to satisfy federal privacy laws.
Pitka is hoping for nice weather — it’s been as cold as -20 Fahrenheit (-29 Celsius) lately — as the nation’s eyes turn west for the event: “It’s going to be a very special moment.”
Simeon John, who leads a youth suicide prevention group, stood before about 120 people at the end of the Sunday service at St. Peter the Fisherman Catholic Church. In Yup’ik, he told parishioners to expect strangers in town this week and why.
Beyond helping prepare for Tuesday’s kickoff, he also encouraged them to take part in the census when a worker knocks on their door.
“That was one of the reasons why we encourage people to participate in as much as we can because of the benefits that we will be getting,” said John, a community census helper.
Responses in the 2020 census could help residents in the future get improvements to the water facility, airport, port and even roads.
Besides announcements at church services, community leaders will repeat the same message this week to townspeople over marine VHF radio and through more modern means, including texting.
 

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Philippines Looks for Safer Homes for Volcano Residents

Philippine officials said Sunday the government will no longer allow villagers to return to a crater-studded island where an erupting volcano lies, warning that living there would be “like having a gun pointed at you.”
Taal volcano has simmered with smaller ash ejections in recent days after erupting on Jan. 12 with a gigantic plume of steam and ash that drifted northward and reached Manila, the capital, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) away. While the volcano remains dangerous, with large numbers of local villagers encamped in emergency shelters, officials have begun discussing post-eruption recovery.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said officials in Batangas province, where the volcano is located, have been asked to look for a safer housing area, at least 3 hectares (7 acres) in size, for about 6,000 families that used to live in four villages and worked mostly as tourist guides, farmers and fish pen operators on Volcano Island. The new housing site should be at least 17 kilometers (10 miles) away from the restive volcano to be safe, he said.
The island has long been declared by the government as a national park that’s off-limits to permanent villages. The government’s volcano-monitoring agency has separately declared the island a permanent danger zone, but impoverished villagers have lived and worked there for decades.
“We have to enforce these regulations once and for all because their lives are at stake,” Ano said, adding that closely regulated tourism work could eventually be allowed on the island without letting residents live there permanently.

An aerial view shows the landscape of Buso Buso, Philippines, covered in ash following the eruption Taal volcano, Jan. 19, 2020.Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has approved a recommendation for the island to be turned into a “no man’s land,” but he has yet to issue formal guidelines. After an initial visit last week, Duterte plans to return to hard-hit Batangas province on Monday to check conditions of displaced villagers, Ano said.
Although it’s one of the world’s smallest volcanoes, the 311-meter (1,020-foot) -high Taal is the second most-active of 24 restive Philippine volcanoes. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has placed Taal and outlying cities and towns at alert level 4, the second-highest warning, indicating a more dangerous explosive eruption is possible within hours or days due to fewer but continuous earthquakes and other signs of restiveness.
“They lived on the volcano itself with 47 craters. That’s really dangerous. It’s like having a gun pointed at you,” Renato Solidum, the head of the volcanology institute, told The Associated Press.
Taal left more than 200 people dead in a powerful 1965 eruption, then again exploded in 1977. Officials of the government institute said they began issuing advisories about Taal’s renewed restiveness as early as March last year, helping local officials prepare and evacuate thousands of villagers rapidly from Volcano Island hours before the volcano erupted thunderously.
Lucia Amen, a 45-year-old mother of six, said she started packing up clothes in bags in November after hearing from her children that their teachers were warning that the volcano was acting up again. When the volcano erupted, she said she was ready with her family and rapidly moved out of Laurel town, which lies near Volcano Island.
Amen wept quietly Sunday while attending Mass in an evacuation center in Tagaytay city in Cavite province, saying she was worried about her children as the eruption dragged on.
A senator from Batangas, Ralph Recto, has recommended the creation of a commission to oversee the recovery of the volcano-devastated region. It will be similar to a government body that was established after Mount Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption north of Manila.
A long-dormant volcano, Pinatubo, blew its top in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing hundreds of people and devastating the Philippines’ main rice-producing region.
The disaster-prone Philippines lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a string of faults around the ocean basin where many of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.
 

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Governor: 2 Police Officers Die After Hawaii Shooting

Hawaii’s governor says two police officers have died after a shooting in Honolulu on Sunday.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that officers had responded to an assault call when they encountered a male with a firearm, who then opened fire, striking two officers.
“Our entire state mourns the loss of two Honolulu Police officers killed in the line of duty this morning,” Governor David Ige said in a statement.
The neighborhood where the shooting occurred is at the far end of the Waikiki Beach between the Honolulu Zoo and the famed Diamond Head State Monument. The area would be packed with tourists and locals, especially on a weekend.
“It sounded like a lot of shots, or a lot of popping, loud noises going on,” said Honolulu resident Peter Murray. “So hope everybody is all right. Some people got hurt today.”
“We grieve with HPD and other first-responders who put their lives on the line to keep us safe,” said Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine.
A home the suspected gunman was believed to be inside caught fire and was quickly engulfed by flames. The fire at the home has since spread to several neighboring homes and a parked police vehicle.
The Honolulu Fire Department was battling the blazes.
No arrests have been made.
Police have closed several streets nearby. The public has been asked to avoid the area.
 

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China Reports 139 New Coronavirus Cases Over the Weekend

Chinese health officials in Wuhan report 136 new cases of a newly confirmed coronavirus over the past three days – bringing the total number of cases of the potentially deadly virus to nearly 200.
This is a huge and troubling spike in the number of cases in just one weekend.
Most of the confirmed cases are mild, but at least three deaths are reported.
U.S. health officials began screening passengers arriving from Wuhan at three at three airports – San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.
The virus is believed to have started in Wuhan. It belongs to the same family of coronaviruses that includes the common cold as well as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). SARS killed nearly 800 people globally during an outbreak 17 years ago. It also started in China.
 

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Trump Senate Impeachment Trial to Hear Opening Arguments

Opening arguments in the impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump begin this week in the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats from the House of Representatives will present their case against the president with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi reports.

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Despite Cease-Fire, Clashes Continue in Syria’s Idlib

Fierce clashes continued Sunday between Syrian government forces and rebel fighters in the northwestern province of Idlib, despite a cease-fire brokered last week by Russia and Turkey.
The recent surge in violence began after Syrian and Russian warplanes resumed their airstrike campaign in Idlib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The war monitoring group said severe clashes took place Sunday in the southeastern part of Idlib, where rebel fighters and jihadist factions have been trying to regain control of several towns and villages recently recaptured by Syrian government forces and their allies.  
Local news reports said at least 28 Syrian government troops and 19 rebel fighters, including 15 jihadists, were killed in Sunday’s clashes.
Idlib, the last main rebel stronghold in Syria, is home to nearly 3 million people. The Syrian province is largely controlled by the Islamist militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a former al-Qaida affiliate in Syria.  
Failed truce
On Jan. 12, Turkey announced a new cease-fire in Idlib after an agreement with Russia. Ankara and Moscow support opposing sides of the Syrian conflict.
Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Turkey and Russia had agreed on a cease-fire and a halt of ground and air operations in the so-called de-escalation zone in Idlib.
The de-escalation zone was announced in September 2018, after Moscow and Ankara reached an agreement that postponed a planned Syrian government offensive on Idlib and other areas near the Turkish border.

FILE – A boy, sitting in a car, cries following airstrikes by government forces, in the town of Ariha, in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 15, 2020.As part of that agreement, Turkey was required to remove all extremist groups from the province, some of which are tied to the al-Qaida terrorist group. But Turkey allegedly has failed to implement its part of the deal.
In April 2019, the Syrian military and its allied militias launched a major offensive to recapture Idlib from rebel forces.
The U.N. says that since then it has documented more than 1,500 civilian deaths, nearly half of them are women and children. Local rights groups, however, say the death toll is much higher.  
Jihadi coalition
HTS and several other jihadist groups have joined forces in a coalition to battle Syrian government troops, HTS said in a statement released Friday.
Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory, says the jihadi coalition in Idlib aims to make a last stand against the Syrian government troops and their Russian allies.
“This alliance will continue and will not end anytime soon now that Turkey has told them to confront the regime forces,” Abdulrahman told VOA.
In an interview with CNN Turk Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Syrian “opposition must protect itself from [Syrian] regime attacks,” adding that there have been violations of the Idlib cease-fire that Turkey and Russia agreed on.
In addition to HTS, the so-called coalition includes the Turkish-backed National Liberation Front and several al-Qaida-linked groups such as Ansar al-Tawhid.
“Despite their ideological differences, these groups have always maintained a level of cooperation throughout Syria’s war,” said Sadradeen Kinno, a Syrian researcher who closely follows Islamic militancy in the war-torn country.”

FILE – Men carry the body of a man retrieved from the rubble of a building following an airstrike by government for on a vegetable market in Syria’s last major opposition bastion of Idlib, Jan. 15, 2020“This time around, however, their alliance is more important than ever before because the ongoing battle in Idlib is a matter of life and death for all these extremist and jihadist groups,” he told VOA.
Displaced people
According to the U.N, about 350,000 civilians, mostly women and children, have fled the Russian-backed Syrian military offensive that began in Idlib in early December.
Amina Ose, a senior official at the Kurdish-led administration in northeast Syria, said at least 300 families from Idlib have sought shelter in areas under the control of U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“We are building a camp near the town of Manbij to host these families. We expect to receive more displaced people from Idlib as the fighting intensifies there,” she told VOA.
Other displaced people reportedly have fled to safer areas under rebel control along the Syria-Turkey border.
 
US Stance
U.S. officials have repeatedly called on the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies to stop their attacks against civilians in Idlib.
“Russia, Syria and Iran are killing, or on their way to killing, thousands of innocent civilians in Idlib Province…,” President Donald Trump said in tweet last month.
The United States, which has led a coalition to combat the Islamic State (IS) terror group in eastern Syria, does not have any military presence in northwestern Syria, including Idlib, but U.S. forces have occasionally carried out airstrikes targeting al-Qaida and other militant leaders in Idlib.
In October 2019, the U.S. conducted an operation in Idlib that killed IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had been hiding in the northwestern Syrian province since March of the same year after the military defeat of his group in eastern Syria.
 

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Key Players Squabble Over Trump’s Impeachment Trial

Key players in the impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump and his defense argued sharply Sunday whether his efforts to get Ukraine to launch investigations to benefit him politically were impeachable offenses that warranted his removal from office.
Trump’s Senate trial formally opened last week and is set to hear opening arguments on Tuesday. But combatants in the political and legal fight over Trump’s fate waged verbal battles across the airwaves on Sunday morning news talk shows in the U.S. that offered a glimpse of the Senate drama the American public will witness in the days ahead.
Criminal defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz, one of the team of lawyers defending Trump, told CNN’s “State of the Union” show that he will tell the 100 members of the Senate, who are acting as jurors deciding Trump’s fate, that “even if the facts as presented are true, it would not rise to the level of impeachment” to convict Trump and oust him from office.
The lawmakers will be deciding whether Trump committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the standard the U.S. Constitution set for removing a president from office. As the trial nears, the Republican-majority Senate remains highly unlikely to convict Trump, a Republican, since a two-thirds vote against Trump would be necessary to oust him from the White House.

FILE – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and U.S. President Donald Trump face reporters during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2019.Trump last July asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch an investigation of one of his top 2020 Democratic challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company, and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine sought to undermine Trump’s 2016 campaign.  The phone call between the two leaders happened at the same time Trump was temporarily blocking release of $391 million in military aid Kyiv wanted to help fight pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Dershowitz argued that Trump’s actions did not amount to criminal conduct. He said that “if my argument prevails” and the Senate decides no impeachable offenses occurred, “There’s no need for witnesses” at Trump’s Senate trial and “the Senate should vote to acquit [Trump] or dismiss” the case against him.

FILE – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 3, 2019.Congressman Adam Schiff, the leader of seven House of Representative managers prosecuting the case against Trump, told ABC News’ “This Week” show, “The facts aren’t seriously contested, that the president withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to an ally at war with Russia, withheld a White House meeting that the president of Ukraine desperately sought to establish with his country and with his adversary the support of the United States in order to coerce Ukraine to helping him cheat in the next election.”
Schiff added, “They really can’t contest those facts. So the only thing really new about the president’s defense is that they’re now arguing that because they can’t contest the facts that the president cannot be impeached for abusing the power of his office.”
On Saturday, both the House lawmakers pushing for Trump’s conviction, and Trump’s defenders, filed legal arguments in the case.
The House managers said it was clear that the “evidence overwhelmingly establishes” that Trump is guilty of both charges in the two articles of impeachment he is facing.

FILE – President Donald Trump listens to a question during an event on prayer in public schools, in the Oval Office of the White House, Jan. 16, 2020, in Washington.Meanwhile, Trump’s legal team called the impeachment effort against him “a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president.”
His lawyers called the impeachment effort “a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election, now just months  away.”
But Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that heard weeks of testimony about Trump and his aides’ attempts to pressure Ukraine for the Biden investigations, said the White House legal stance is “surprising in that It doesn’t really offer much new beyond the failed arguments we heard in the House.”
“So the only thing really new about the president’s defense is that they’re now arguing that because they can’t contest the facts that the president cannot be impeached for abusing the power of his office,” Schiff said. “That’s the argument I suppose you have to make if the facts are so dead set against you. You have to rely on an argument that even if he abused his office in this horrendous way that it’s not impeachable. You had to go so far out of the mainstream to find someone to make that argument you had to leave the realm of constitutional law scholars and go to criminal defense lawyers.”

FILE – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., signs the resolution to transmit the two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate for trial on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 15, 2020.The Senate has yet to decide whether it will hear witnesses in the impeachment trial, with new testimony opposed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
Democrats want to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and others to testify about their knowledge of Trump’s Ukraine actions. Trump eventually released the Ukraine military aid in September after a 55-day delay without Zelenskiy launching the Biden investigations, which Republicans say is proof that Trump did not engage in a reciprocal quid pro quo deal — the military aid in exchange for the investigations to help him politically.
“We’ll be fighting for a fair trial,” Schiff said. “That is really the foundation on which this all rests. If the Senate decides, if Senator McConnell prevails and there are no witnesses, it will be the first impeachment trial in history that goes to conclusion without witnesses.”
He said, “We don’t know what witnesses will be allowed or even if we’ll be allowed witnesses. The threshold issue here is, will there be a fair trial? Will the senators allow the House to call witnesses, to introduce documents. That is the foundational issue on which everything else rests. There is one thing the public is overwhelmingly in support of and that is a fair trial.”
One of Trump’s staunchest Senate defenders, Sen. Lindsey Graham, on the “Fox News Sunday” show, called the impeachment effort “a partisan railroad job. It’s the first impeachment in history where there’s no allegation of a crime by the president.”
He said if Democrats demand to hear testimony from Bolton, Mulvaney and others, Trump will seek to invoke executive privilege against their testimony to protect the sanctity of private White House conversations.
“Clearly to me any president would ask for executive privilege regarding these witnesses,” Graham said, adding that if they were that important to the House case against Trump, Democrats should have sought their testimony during the House investigation.
Democrats did seek more testimony from White House aides, but Trump ordered them to not cooperate with the impeachment investigation; several aides complied with Trump’s edict while others did not. Democrats dropped their efforts to compel some testimony out of a fear that it would result in a lengthy legal battle that could have been tied up in U.S. for months.
Trump is spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago retreat along the Atlantic Ocean in Florida. Late Saturday, he resumed his almost daily attacks on the Democrats’ impeachment campaign against him, saying on Twitter, “What a disgrace this Impeachment Scam is for our great Country!” 

“Nancy Pelosi said, it’s not a question of proof, it’s a question of allegations! Oh really?” @JudgeJeanine@FoxNews What a disgrace this Impeachment Scam is for our great Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 19, 2020
Trump’s Senate impeachment trial is only the third such event in the nearly 2 1/2 centuries of U.S. history. Two other presidents — Andrew Johnson in the mid-19th century and Bill Clinton two decades ago — were impeached by the House but acquitted in Senate trials and remained in office. A fourth U.S. president, Richard Nixon in the mid-1970s, faced almost certain impeachment in the Watergate political scandal, but resigned before the House acted.
 

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