Justice department watchdog opens inquiry on 2020 election

On the same day the Department of Justice’s inspector general opened an investigation as to whether any current or former officials “engaged in an improper attempt” to overturn the 2020 presidential election, the U.S. Senate accepted the Articles of Impeachment against former President Donald Trump. Plus, a court in Uganda has ordered security forces to end the de facto house arrest of opposition leader Bobi Wine, calling it unlawful and a violation of his rights. And using technology to empower youth.

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Justice department watchdog opens inquiry on 2020 election

On the same day the Department of Justice’s inspector general opened an investigation as to whether any current or former officials “engaged in an improper attempt” to overturn the 2020 presidential election, the U.S. Senate accepted the Articles of Impeachment against former President Donald Trump. Plus, a court in Uganda has ordered security forces to end the de facto house arrest of opposition leader Bobi Wine, calling it unlawful and a violation of his rights. And using technology to empower youth.

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Russian protesters remain behind bars

Hundreds of people remained behind bars in Russia Sunday, a day after they were arrested for joining nationwide street protests demanding the release of jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny. But what impact will their actions have on the Kremlin? Plus, Former US President Donald Trump’s Impeachment trial will begin the week of February 8th. But that’s not the only legal issue he’s facing.

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Argentina’s Abortion Law Enters Force Under Watchful Eyes

Argentina’s groundbreaking abortion law went into force Sunday under the watchful eyes of women’s groups and government officials, who hope to ensure its full implementation despite opposition from some conservative and church groups.  Argentina became the largest nation in Latin America to legalize elective abortion after its Senate on December 30 passed a law guaranteeing the procedure up to the 14th week of pregnancy and beyond that in cases of rape or when a woman’s health is at risk.  The vote was hailed as a triumph for the South American country’s feminist movement that could pave the way for similar actions across the socially conservative, heavily Roman Catholic region. But Pope Francis had issued a last-minute appeal before the vote and church leaders have criticized the decision. Supporters of the law say they expect lawsuits from anti-abortion groups in Argentina’s conservative provinces and some private health clinics might refuse to carry out the procedure.  “Another huge task lies ahead of us,” said Argentina’s minister of women, gender and diversity, Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, who has acknowledged there will be obstacles to the law’s full implementation across the country.  Gómez Alcorta said a telephone line will be set up “for those who cannot access abortion to communicate.”A smiley pillow sits on a gynecological table at Casa Fusa, a health center that advices women on reproductive issues and performs legal abortions, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.The Argentine Catholic Church has repudiated the law and conservative doctors’ and lawyers’ groups have urged resistance. Doctors and health professionals can claim conscientious objection to performing abortions but cannot invoke the right if a pregnant woman’s life or health is in danger. A statement signed by the Consortium of Catholic Doctors, the Catholic Lawyers Corporation and other groups called on doctors and lawyers to “resist with nobility, firmness and courage the norm that legalizes the abominable crime of abortion.” The anti-abortion group Unidad Provida also urged doctors, nurses and technicians to fight for their “freedom of conscience” and promised to “accompany them in all the trials that are necessary.”  Under the law, private health centers that do not have doctors willing to carry out abortions must refer women seeking abortions to clinics that will. Any public official or health authority who unjustifiably delays an abortion will be punished with imprisonment from three months to one year. The National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, an umbrella group for organizations that for years fought for legal abortion, often wearing green scarves at protests, vowed to “continue monitoring compliance with the law.” “We trust the feminist networks that we have built over decades,” said Laura Salomé, one of the movement’s members. A previous abortion bill was voted down by Argentine lawmakers in 2018 by a narrow margin. But in the December vote it was backed by the center-left government, boosted by the so-called “piba” revolution, from the Argentine slang for “girls,” and opinion polls showing opposition had softened. The law’s supporters expect backlash in Argentina’s conservative provinces. In the northern province of Salta, a federal judge this week rejected a measure filed by a former legislator calling for the law to be suspended because the legislative branch had exceeded its powers. Opponents of abortion cite international treaties signed by Argentina pledging to protect life from conception. Gómez Alcorta said criminal charges currently pending against more than 1,500 women and doctors who performed abortions should be lifted. She said the number of women and doctors detained “was not that many,” but didn’t provide a number. “The Ministry of Women is going to carry out its leadership” to end these cases, she said.  While abortion is already allowed in some other parts of Latin America — such as in Uruguay, Cuba and Mexico City — its legalization in Argentina is expected to reverberate across the region, where dangerous clandestine procedures remain the norm a half century after a woman’s right to choose was guaranteed in the U.S. 

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Bolivian Couple Works to Save Honeybees’ Shrinking Habitats

Honeybees in Bolivia’s mountains are in trouble. Their natural habitat is disappearing, being replaced by an environment they cannot call home. One couple in one of the country’s forest regions is fighting to save them. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi reports.

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UN Security Concerns Rise Following Murders in Syria’s Al-Hol Camp 

U.N. officials are expressing alarm over worsening security at Northeast Syria’s al-Hol refugee camp after multiple murders between January 1 and 16. Fears for the safety and protection of camp residents and humanitarian workers are growing following the murder of 12 Syrian and Iraqi residents, including one female Iraqi refugee.  Another person was critically injured during a violent attack.   Al-Hol, which is controlled by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, is the largest camp for refugees and Syrians who have fled their homes, with nearly 62,000 residents.  Most are women and children of Syrian and Iraqi origin.  They fled to the camp after a U.S.-led coalition ousted Islamic State militants from their stronghold in the northern city of Raqqa in 2018.   The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs laments the tragic loss of life in al- Hol.  OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke, says the recent rise in violence also threatens the security and the ability of aid workers to provide crucial assistance to the residents.  “What they are delivering is primary health care, water, shelter, nonfood items, food and hygiene distribution, nutrition and protection.  All of that delivery is being thrown into jeopardy when the level of insecurity rises to what we have seen now,” he said.     UNICEF says 14% of camp residents are women and children from 60 countries.  They include family members of former IS fighters, as well as their supporters and victims.  They are being kept in a separate, guarded section for their safety.   FILE – Women stand together al-Hol displacement camp in Hasaka governorate, Syria, April 2, 2019.Laerke says foreign governments are reluctant to repatriate their nationals because of their relationship with the former militants.  He says the U.N. is calling on governments to treat the many thousands of children trapped in al-Hol as children and do what is in their best interest.    “I do not think anybody can be in doubt that it is not in their best interest to be stuck in this camp for years on end.  So, repatriation of not least particularly children would be most welcome,” he said.     U.N. officials say the safety and well-being of people at al-Hol is of utmost importance.  They urge greater protection for the camp residents and for humanitarian workers.  They note the current situation is not sustainable and durable solutions for all people in the camp must be found.     

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Michigan Mega Millions Ticket Wins $1.05 Billion Jackpot

Someone in Michigan bought the winning ticket for the $1.05 billion Mega Millions jackpot, the third-largest lottery prize in U.S. history.The winning numbers for Friday night’s drawing were 4, 26, 42, 50 and 60, with a Mega Ball of 24. The winning ticket was purchased at a Kroger store in the Detroit suburb of Novi, the Michigan Lottery said.”Someone in Michigan woke up to life-changing news this morning, and Kroger Michigan congratulates the newest Michigan multimillionaire,” said Rachel Hurst, a regional spokeswoman for the grocery chain. She declined to comment further.The Mega Millions top prize had been growing since September 15, when a winning ticket was sold in Wisconsin. The lottery’s next estimated jackpot is $20 million.Friday night’s drawing came just two days after a ticket sold in Maryland matched all six numbers drawn and won a $731.1 million Powerball jackpot.The jackpot figures refer to amounts if a winner opts for an annuity, paid in 30 annual installments. Most winners choose a cash prize, which for the Mega Millions game would be $776.6 million before taxes and $557 million after taxes, Michigan Lottery spokesman Jake Harris said.”No way!” Ryan Gabrielli told The Detroit News after shopping Saturday at the lucky Kroger. “We meant to play the lottery but forgot to.”Advice for winnerHarris said the ticket holder should sign the back and keep it in a safe place.”I wouldn’t be surprised if the winning ticket holder held on to that ticket for a little bit, got their affairs in order, put together a financial plan and then reached out to contact us,” he said.Only two lottery prizes in the U.S. have been larger than Friday’s jackpot. Three tickets for a $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot were sold in January 2016, and one winning ticket was sold for a $1.537 billion Mega Millions jackpot in October 2018.In Grosse Ile, a suburb south of Detroit, 126 people bought more than 600 tickets for the Friday drawing but didn’t win the jackpot. They hoped to win enough money to replace a publicly owned bridge on their island in the Detroit River that has been closed indefinitely for major repairs. The only other transportation option for the island’s 10,000 residents is a privately owned toll bridge.”We used this to lift our spirits and dream a little bit,” said organizer Kyle de Beausset. “Of course, we’re open to any help with the bridge, but I can’t imagine the winner would want to finance it.”The odds of winning a Mega Millions jackpot were steep, at one in 302.5 million. The game is played in 45 states as well as Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

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Wife of Russian Dissident Navalny Among Hundreds Arrested at Rallies Across Country

The wife of opposition leader Alexei Navalny is among hundreds of Nalvany supporters Russian police have arrested Saturday during protests across the country.Yulia Navalnaya confirmed her arrest in Moscow in an Instagram post created from inside a police van, apologizing for the look of her posting. “Sorry for poor quality. Very bad light in a paddy wagon,” she wrote Saturday.FILE – Yulia Navalnaya, wife of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, speaks with the media outside a hospital, where Alexei receives medical treatment in Omsk, Russia, Aug. 21, 2020.Thousands of Navalny’s supporters were in the streets of more than 60 Russian cities Saturday to demand the Kremlin critic’s immediate release, defying the measures taken by police to break up the protests, which they have declared illegal.The protests started in the Far East and Siberia, including Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Chita, with thousands of participants, according to Navalny supporters.In Khabarovsk, a Russian city on the border with China, about 8,000 kilometers east of Moscow, pro-Navalny protesters clashed with police trying to prevent the gathering.Law enforcement officers stand guard during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021.The nationwide protests are the first organized by Navalny’s supporters since he returned from Germany, where he was recovering from poisoning by a nerve agent. He was arrested immediately on his arrival in Moscow.Navalny has openly accused President Vladimir Putin of ordering Russia’s security services to carry out the poisoning, a charge the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.The United States and other Western countries have strongly condemned Navalny’s arrest and demanded his unconditional release.

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US Television Host Larry King Dies Aged 87: CNN

Larry King, who quizzed thousands of world leaders, politicians and entertainers for CNN and other news outlets in a career spanning more than six decades, has died at age 87, CNN reported Saturday, citing a source close to the family.  King had been hospitalized in Los Angeles with a COVID-19 infection, according to several media reports. He had endured health problems for many years, including a near-fatal stroke in 2019 and diabetes.  He had been hospitalized at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for more than a week, CNN reported.  Millions watched King interview world leaders, entertainers and other celebrities on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” which ran from 1985 to 2010. Hunched over his desk in rolled-up shirt sleeves and owlish glasses, he made his show one of the network’s prime attractions with a mix of interviews, political discussions, current event debates and phone calls from viewers.  Even in his heyday, critics accused King of doing little pre-interview research and tossing softball questions to guests who were free to give unchallenged, self-promoting answers. He responded by conceding he did not do much research so that he could learn along with his viewers. Besides, King said, he never wanted to be perceived as a journalist.  “My duty, as I see it, is I’m a conduit,” King told the Hartford Courant in 2007. “I ask the best questions I can. I listen to the answers. I try to follow up. And hopefully the audience makes a conclusion. I’m not there to make a conclusion. I’m not a soapbox talk-show host … So, what I try to do is present someone in the best light.” 
 

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Australia Contemplates Controversy Surrounding Its National Day

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended the date of the country’s national holiday and has criticized cricket bosses for omitting the words “Australia Day” from promotions for its matches. The first fleet of British convicts arrived in Sydney on Jan. 26, 1788, but Aboriginal groups mourn what they call “Invasion Day.”Australia’s national day is controversial because it is held on a date marking British colonization. Aboriginal Australians have led the charge for it to be commemorated at a different time of the year.Cricket bosses have removed the term “Australia Day” from promotional material for matches because they insist it was a time of “mourning” for many Indigenous players.Prime Minister Scott Morrison, though, wasn’t happy.“Look, I think Australian cricket fans would like to see Cricket Australia focus a lot more on cricket and a lot less on politics,” he said.Australia Day has been a national public holiday since 1994. Morrison believes Jan. 26 is a significant date.“It is all about acknowledging how far we have come,” he said. “When those 12 ships turned up in Sydney all those years ago, it wasn’t a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either. I think what that day, to this, demonstrates is how far we’ve come as a country and I think that’s why it’s important to mark it in that way.”Historians say the first fleet of British convicts comprised 11, not 12, boats.Mick Dodson, a celebrated Indigenous activist, believes the prime minister’s broader grasp of history is poor.“He seems to have a total lack of empathy of the impact of the British coming to Australia on Aboriginal people,” he said. “There is no empathy there at all. It’s all about self-praise and aggrandizement of white fella colonization. He is very lightweight when it comes to understanding Australian history.”Many Australia Day events this year are being scaled back or postponed because of COVID-19 restrictions, but the clamor for the date to be altered is likely to be undiminished.Australia’s Indigenous peoples make up about 3% of the national population. They believe that high rates of unemployment, poverty and incarceration are the direct result of the dispossession and marginalization caused by European colonization that began in 1788.

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Biden Inauguration: Way Forward

Against the backdrop of unprecedented security and coronavirus social distancing restrictions, Joseph R. Biden is inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. Kamala D. Harris is the first woman and person of South Asian and African-American descent to be sworn in as Vice President. Frances E. Lee, Professor of Politics and Public affairs at Princeton University and Elaine Kamarck, Senior Fellow at the Governance Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, discuss the domestic and international ramifications of this transfer of power with host Carol Castiel.

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Impeachment Charge Against Trump to Be Sent to Senate Monday 

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday will send an article of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate, Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday, beginning a trial at which the former president could be convicted of inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.”There will be a trial,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “It will be a full trial. It will be a fair trial.”Democrats rejected Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s request to delay Trump’s impeachment trial until next month on the ground that Trump’s legal team needs more time to develop a defense strategy.Trump is the first U.S. president to be impeached twice and the first to go on trial after leaving office. Schumer did not say when Trump’s second impeachment trial would begin, but if he is convicted of the single charge of incitement of insurrection, he could be barred from holding federal office again.GOP reservationsA conviction would require at least 17 Republican Senate votes, but to date only a handful of Republicans have indicated they would consider convicting Trump, and most have questioned the legality of trying a president after his term has ended. Republicans also have complained a trial would be divisive and distract the new Biden administration.As preparations for the trial continue, Schumer and McConnell, the Senate’s majority leader until Democrats narrowly won control earlier this month, are vying for advantage in the evenly divided Senate, where Democrats now have an edge because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote.Shortly before the January 6 insurrection that resulted in the deaths of five people, Trump told thousands of supporters at a rally near the White House to “fight like hell” against his election loss, which Congress was in the process of formally certifying.Thousands of his supporters marched to the Capitol and hundreds of them broke in, delaying the certification of the results. A Capitol Police officer was among those who died in the rioting. The House impeached Trump one week later, with the support of 10 Republicans who joined Democrats in voting to impeach.

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Senate leaders rebuke Trump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell placed the blame for the deadly riot on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol on President Trump and others saying the mob was “fed lies” and “provoked.” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called Trump a “threat to our constitutional order.” As the nation prepares for the transfer of power, what’s the security like in Washington? Plus how technology is being used to address gender violence.

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Senate leaders rebuke Trump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell placed the blame for the deadly riot on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol on President Trump and others saying the mob was “fed lies” and “provoked.” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called Trump a “threat to our constitutional order.” As the nation prepares for the transfer of power, what’s the security like in Washington? Plus how technology is being used to address gender violence.

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The U.S. prepares for inauguration

Law enforcement and National Guard troops were out at the nation’s 50 capitols ahead of planned demonstrations prior to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. How are authorities preparing for the big event? Plus, Russia’s Alexi Navalny was arrested in Moscow after returning from Germany. And we look back at the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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