China Launches Lunar Probe  

China successfully launched an unmanned spacecraft to the moon Monday to land, gather soil and rock samples, and return them to Earth.  If successful, it will be the first mission by any nation to retrieve samples from the lunar surface since the 1970s, and the third nation, after the United States and Russia, to retrieve such samples. The Chang’e 5 probe, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, will seek to collect material that can help scientists understand more about the moon’s origins and formation.  U.S. space agency NASA says the mission’s goal is to land in a previously unvisited area of the moon known as Oceanus Procellarum and operate for one lunar day, which lasts 14 earth days, and return a 2-kilogram sample of lunar soil, possibly from as deep as 2 meters.  Matt Siegler, a research scientist at the Arizona-based Planetary Science Institute who is not part of the Chang’e 5 mission, told Reuters the area where the spacecraft is to land is 1 to 2 billion years old. “That is very young for the moon — most of our samples are 3.5 billion years old or more,” Siegler said in an email. “We want to find out what is special about these regions and why they remained warm longer than the rest of the moon,” Siegler added. The sample will travel to Earth in the return capsule and land in the Siziwang Banner grassland of the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in China. During a brief government-organized visit to the launch center, reporters were taken to a place where they could see in the distance the Long March 5 rocket that carries the Chang’e 5 probe. The launch took place between 4:30 a.m. Beijing time Tuesday (2030 GMT Monday). The Reuters news service reports that China made its first lunar landing in 2013. In January 2019, the Chang’e 4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, the first by any space probe. Within the next decade, China plans to establish a robotic base station to conduct unmanned exploration in the south polar region. 

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China Set to Launch Lunar Probe

China is scheduled to launch an unmanned spacecraft to the moon Monday to land, gather soil and rock samples, and return them to Earth.  
 
If successful, it will be the first mission by any nation to retrieve samples from the lunar surface since the 1970s, and the third nation, after the United States and Russia, to retrieve such samples.
 
The Chang’e 5 probe, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, will seek to collect material that can help scientists understand more about the moon’s origins and formation.  
 
 U.S. space agency NASA, says the mission’s goal is to land in a previously unvisited area of the moon known as Oceanus Procellarum and operate for one lunar day, which lasts 14 earth days, and return a 2-kilogram sample of lunar soil, possibly from as deep as 2 meters.  
 
The sample will travel to Earth in the return capsule and land in the Siziwang Banner grassland of the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in China.
 
During a brief government-organized visit to the launch center, reporters were taken to a place where they could see, in the distance, the Long March 5 rocket that carries the Chang’e 5 probe. The launch is expected to take place between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. (2000-2100 GMT) on November 24.
 
The Reuters news service reports China made its first lunar landing in 2013. In January 2019, the Chang’e 4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, the first by any space probe. Within the next decade, China plans to establish a robotic base station to conduct unmanned exploration in the south polar region.
 

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Gig Workers Beware: California Ballot Initiative Could Spell Big Changes

The recent passage of a ballot initiative in California that defines so-called “gig-economy” workers as independent contractors rather than employees could impact labor laws for the rest of the United States and beyond. Deana Mitchell reports.Camera: Matt Dibble
Producer: Deana Mitchell

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Israel Media Report Netanyahu Met with Saudi Crown Prince

Israeli media reported Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a secret visit Sunday to Saudi Arabia for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The reports said the Israel delegation also included Yossi Cohen, the chief of Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency and cited flight tracking data showing a private jet traveling from Tel Aviv to Neom, Saudi Arabia and returning hours later.U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to the country, in Riyadh, Nov. 22, 2020.Netanyahu’s office did not make any public comment about any such trip. The U.S. State Department did not include any mention of Netanyahu in its Sunday statement about Pompeo’s meeting with Mohammed bin Salman, which took place in Neom. “They discussed the need for Gulf unity to counter Iran’s aggressive behavior in the region and the need to achieve a political solution to the conflict in Yemen,” Principal Deputy Spokesperson Cale Brown said. Pompeo visited Israel last week and celebrated with Netanyahu the recent agreements Israel signed normalizing relations with Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. Pompeo has urged Saudi Arabia to normalize its ties with Israel as well. The United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia also share a strong interest in countering Iran. 

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Turkey Pardons are a Long Presidential Tradition

In one of the more unusual American traditions, every year around Thanksgiving a turkey is spared from becoming a family dinner by being pardoned by the sitting U.S. President. This annual presidential tradition has a long history, as Iacopo Luzi reports. 

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Survivor of Ethiopian Fighting Warns ‘People Will Slowly Start to Die’

Shaken by the gunfire erupting around her town in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the woman decided to get out. She joined a long line at the local government office for the paperwork needed to travel. But when she reached the official, he told her she had wasted her time.”This is for people who are volunteering to fight,” he said.As Ethiopia’s government wages war in its Tigray region and seeks to arrest its defiant leaders, who regard the federal government as illegitimate after a falling-out over power, the fighting that could destabilize the Horn of Africa is hidden from outside view. Communications are severed, roads blocked and airports closed.Tigray region, EthiopiaBut as one of the few hundred people who were evacuated this week from Tigray, the woman in an interview with The Associated Press offered rare details of anger, desperation and growing hunger as both sides reject international calls for dialogue, or even a humanitarian corridor for aid, in their third week of deadly fighting. The United Nations says food and other essentials “will soon be exhausted, putting millions at risk.”Supplies blocked, communication difficultWith supplies blocked at the Tigray borders and frantic aid workers using a dwindling number of satellite phones to reach the world, it is extremely difficult to hear accounts from those suffering on the ground. At least several hundred people have been killed, and the United Nations has condemned “targeted attacks against civilians based on their ethnicity or religion.”The woman, an Ethiopian aid expert who spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern for herself and loved ones, gave one of the most detailed accounts yet of a population of some 6 million short of food, fuel, cash and even water, and without electricity as Ethiopia’s army marches closer to the Tigray capital every day.”I am telling you, people will slowly start to die,” she said.Men who fled the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region wait for UNHCR to distribute blankets at Hamdayet Transition Center, eastern Sudan, Nov. 21, 2020.Not all of her account could be verified. But the description of her passage through the Tigray capital, Mekele, to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, fit with others that have trickled out from aid workers, diplomats, a senior university official and some of the more than 35,000 refugees who have fled into Sudan after the fighting began November 4. She was connected with the AP by a foreign evacuee.As borders, roads and airports swiftly closed after Ethiopia’s prime minister announced that Tigray forces had attacked a military base, the woman felt torn. She had family in Addis Ababa and wanted to be with them.Banks had closed, but loved ones gave her enough money to travel to Mekele. As she drove, she squeezed her car through makeshift barriers of stones piled up by local youth. She said she did not see fighting.’It was a panic’In Mekele, she met with friends around the university. She was shocked by what she saw.”It was a panic,” she said. “Students were sleeping outside the university because they had come from all over.” There was little to feed them. Supplies in the markets were running low.While in Mekele, she said, she heard three “bombardments” on the city. Ethiopia’s government has confirmed airstrikes around the city. When Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in televised comments told civilians in Tigray not to congregate for their safety, “that was a big panic,” she said. “People said, ‘Is he going to completely bomb us?’ There was huge anger, people pushing and saying, ‘I want to fight.’ “When she visited a loved one at a university hospital, “a doctor said they have no medicine, no insulin. At all!” she said. “They were hoping the [International Committee of the Red Cross] would give them some.”Seeking to travel on to Addis Ababa, she found fuel on the black market but was warned her car could be a target. But the U.N. and other aid groups had managed to arrange a convoy to evacuate nonessential staffers to the Ethiopian capital, and she found a space on one of the buses.”I think I was quite lucky,” she said.But as the buses pulled out of the capital, she was scared.Tigray refugees who fled the conflict in Ethiopia ride buses en route to Qadarif to seek refuge at Hamdayet Transition Center, Sudan, Nov. 21, 2020.The convoy of some 20 vehicles made its way through the night to the capital of the arid Afar region east of Tigray, then through the restive Amhara region, going slowly from checkpoint to checkpoint, not all of the security forces manning them briefed on the evacuation.”It took four days in total,” the woman said of the journey, which would have taken a day by the direct route. “I was really afraid.” Tigray special forces watched over the convoy in the beginning, she said. Near the end, federal police accompanied it. They were “very disciplined,” she said.Now, after arriving in Addis Ababa earlier this week, she adds her voice to the growing calls for dialogue between the two governments, which now regard each other as illegal after the once-dominant Tigray regional party and its members were marginalized under Abiy’s reformist two-year rule.’What about the people?'”I think they should negotiate,” she said. “And we really need a corridor so food and medicine can go in. What about the people?”The prospect of dialogue appears distant. The U.S. Embassy this week told citizens remaining in Tigray to shelter in place if they could not get out safely.Like other worried families in Ethiopia and the diaspora, the woman cannot reach her relatives left behind. Many foreigners are still trapped in Tigray, too, she said.”No one knows who is alive, who is dead,” she said. “This is a catastrophe for me.”On Thursday, she said, she managed to speak with a university friend in Mekele. The university had been hit by an airstrike. More than 20 students were wounded.”She was crying,” the evacuee said. “She’s a strong woman, I know that.” Her voice was shaking.

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US, Taiwan Increase Economic Cooperation

The United States and Taiwan signed a five-year agreement Friday in Washington to create an annual U.S.-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue to increase bilateral cooperation.The Washington meeting covered economic areas such as supply chains, investment screening and renewable energy.“Future EPP Dialogues will help strengthen the U.S.-Taiwan economic relationship, further magnify the two societies’ respect for democracy, and strengthen our shared commitment to free markets, entrepreneurship, and freedom,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.The U.S. delegation was headed by the Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach, and the Taipei delegation by Taiwanese minister without portfolio John Deng.U.S. officials from the American Institute in Taipei, the de facto U.S. Embassy for Taiwan, and the Taiwan government officials participated in the meeting virtually.The EPP Dialogue will operate under the auspices of the AIT and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office.According to data from the United States Trade Representative’s office, U.S. trade with Taiwan in 2019 amounted to $103.9 billion.Under the Trump administration, U.S. has been selling more advanced weapons to Taiwan, including Harpoon missile systems announced in October, at a cost of $2.37 billion.

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‘No More Room for Delay’: Biden Wants Emergency COVID-19 Aid

President-elect Joe Biden is calling on Congress to enact billions of dollars in emergency COVID-19 assistance before the year’s end, according to a senior adviser who warned Friday that “there’s no more room for delay.”Biden transition aide Jen Psaki delivered the remarks before Biden’s first in-person meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer since he was projected the winner of the presidential election. Biden hosted the pair Friday afternoon at his makeshift transition headquarters in a downtown Wilmington, Delaware, theater.Biden sat with Schumer, Pelosi and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, all wearing masks and spaced out around a bank of tables.”In my Oval Office, mi casa, you casa,” Biden said during the brief portion of the meeting that journalists were allowed to witness. “I hope we’re going to spend a lot of time together.”Pelosi said at an earlier news conference that she and Schumer would be talking with Biden about “the urgency of crushing the virus,” as well as how to use the lame-duck session of Congress, legislation on keeping the government funded and COVID-19 relief.FILE – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks after the Senate Republican GOP leadership election on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 10, 2020.But prospects for new virus aid this year remain uncertain. Pelosi said talks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP leadership on Thursday did not produce any consensus on a new virus aid package.”That didn’t happen, but hopefully it will,” she said.Also Friday, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, proposed that Congress shift $455 billion of unspent small-business lending funds toward a new COVID-19 aid package. His offer came after a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.Biden’s new governing team is facing intense pressure to push another COVID-19 relief bill and come up with a clear plan to distribute millions of doses of a prospective vaccine, even as Biden is just days away from unveiling the first of his Cabinet picks, which are subject to Senate confirmation.Psaki said that Biden, Pelosi and Schumer are working together on a pandemic relief bill before Congress adjourns for the year.”They’re in lockstep agreement that there needs to be emergency assistance and aid during the lame-duck session to help families, to help small businesses,” Psaki said. “There’s no more room for delay, and we need to move forward as quickly as possible.”The president-elect has also promised to work closely with Republicans in Congress to execute his governing agenda, but so far, he has focused his congressional outreach on his leading Democratic allies.The meeting came two days after House Democrats nominated Pelosi to be the speaker who guides them again next year as Biden becomes president, though she seemed to suggest these would be her final two years in the leadership post.FILE – President Donald Trump walks down the West Wing colonnade from the Oval Office to the Rose Garden to speak to the press, at the White House in Washington, Nov. 13, 2020.President Donald Trump continues to refuse to allow his administration to cooperate with Biden’s transition team. Specifically, the Trump administration is denying Biden access to detailed briefings on national security and pandemic planning that leaders in both parties say are important for preparing Biden to govern immediately after his January 20 inauguration.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday on “CBS This Morning” that Biden’s charge that the transition delays would cost American lives was “absolutely incorrect.””Every aspect of what we do is completely transparent – no secret data or knowledge,” Azar said.

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Ethiopia: Verge of Civil War?

Ambassador David Shinn, former Ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, currently professor of International Affairs at George Washington University, and Susan Stigant, Director of Africa Programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace, discuss with host Carol Castiel the major factors which led to the military, political and humanitarian crisis engulfing Ethiopia and explore its implications for Ethiopia and the region.

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Mnuchin Denies Trying to Hinder Incoming Administration

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin denied Friday that by ending several emergency loan programs being run by the Federal Reserve, he was trying to limit the choices President-elect Joe Biden will have to promote an economic recovery.Mnuchin said his decision was based on the fact the programs were not being heavily utilized. He said Congress could make better use of the money by reallocating it to support grants to small businesses and extended unemployment assistance.”We’re not trying to hinder anything,” Mnuchin said in a CNBC interview. “We don’t need this money to buy corporate bonds. We need this money to go help small businesses that are still closed.”However, critics saw politics at play in Mnuchin’s decision, saying the action would deprive the incoming administration of critical support the Fed might need to prop up the economy as coronavirus infections spike nationwide.FILE – Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is pictured during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 19, 2017,”There can be no doubt, the Trump administration and their congressional toadies are actively trying to tank the U.S economy,” Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said in a prepared statement Friday. “For months, they have refused to take the steps necessary to support workers, small businesses and restaurants. As the result, the only tool at our disposal has been these facilities.”Mnuchin on Thursday had written Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell announcing his decision not to extend some of the Fed’s emergency loan programs, which had been operating with support from the Treasury Department. The decision will end the Fed’s corporate credit, municipal lending and Main Street Lending programs as of December 31.The decision drew a rare rebuke from the Fed, which said in a brief statement Thursday that the central bank “would prefer that the full suite of emergency facilities established during the coronavirus pandemic continue to serve their important role as a backstop for our still-strained and vulnerable economy.”Move ‘ties the hands”The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also criticized the move. “A surprise termination of the Federal Reserve’s emergency liquidity program, including the Main Street Lending Program, prematurely and unnecessarily ties the hands of the incoming administration and closes the door on important liquidity options for businesses at a time when they need them most,” said Neil Bradley, the chamber’s executive vice president, in a prepared statement.Private economists argued that Mnuchin’s decision to end five of the emergency loan facilities represented an economic risk.”While the backstop measures have been little used so far, the deteriorating health and economic backdrop could shine a bright light on the Fed’s diminished recession-fighting arsenal and prompt an adverse market reaction,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.Under law, the loan facilities required the support of the Treasury Department, which serves as a backstop for the initial losses the programs might incur.In his letter to Powell, Mnuchin said he was requesting that the Fed return to Treasury the unused funds appropriated by Congress.FILE – Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell testifies during a Senate Banking Committee hearing, Sept. 24, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.He said this would allow Congress to reappropriate $455 billion to other coronavirus programs. Republicans and Democrats have been deadlocked for months on approval of another round of coronavirus support measures.In public remarks Tuesday, Powell made clear that he hoped that the loan programs would remain in effect for the foreseeable future.”When the right time comes, and I don’t think that time is yet, or very soon, we’ll put those tools away,” he said in an online discussion with a San Francisco business group.The future of the Main Street and Municipal Lending programs has taken on greater importance with Biden’s victory. Many progressive economists have argued that a Democratic-led Treasury could support the Fed taking on more risk and making more loans to small and midsized businesses and cash-strapped cities under these programs. That would provide at least one avenue for the Biden administration to provide stimulus without going through Congress.Relatively few loansNeither program has lived up to its potential so far, with the Municipal Lending program making just one loan, while the Main Street program has made loans totaling around $4 billion, to about 400 companies.Republicans including Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo of Idaho and Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania supported Mnuchin’s move.”Congress’ intent was clear: These facilities were to be temporary, to provide liquidity and to cease operations by the end of 2020,” Toomey said in a statement. “With liquidity restored, they should expire, as Congress intended and the law requires, by December 31, 2020.”

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Joint NASA-ESA Satellite Which Will Monitor Sea Levels to Launch Saturday

The U.S. space agency, NASA, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), is set to launch a satellite Saturday designed to monitor rising sea levels, the latest in a series of orbiting spacecraft monitoring the status of the world’s oceans.
 
NASA says the satellite, called the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California early Saturday.  Named after former NASA Earth Science Division Director Michael Freilich, the U.S.-European satellite will be carried into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
 
The Sentinel-6 is about the size of a small pickup truck, and it will measure sea-surface height, wave-height and windspeed, allowing scientists to monitor changes in sea levels caused by climate change.  
 
The data that it collects on sea level variations near coastlines will provide information to support coastal management and with planning for floods, while its atmospheric measurements will enhance weather and hurricane forecasts.
 
NASA Sentinel 6 mission scientist Craig Donlon says the data gathered by the craft will be used alongside information provided by previous Sentinel satellites to build a more complete a picture of the oceans.  
 
“Sentinel-3 is providing the sea surface temperature and the ocean biology measurements. Sentinel-1 is providing radar imaging measurements of ocean swell waves, of sea ice. Sentinel-2 provides high resolution measurements in the coastal zone,” Donlon said.
 
Unlike previous Earth observation missions, the Sentinel-6 observatory will collect measurements at a much higher resolution and be able to measure smaller sea level variations near coastlines.
 
The satellite will be followed in 2025 by its twin, Sentinel-6B. Together, the pair is tasked with extending a nearly 30-year-long record of global sea surface height measurements. 

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Pompeo Visits Israel Museum Honoring Christian Zionists

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrapped up a trip to Israel on Friday with a visit to a museum in Jerusalem that honors Christian Zionists and was founded by a prominent evangelical adviser to the Trump administration.
        
The museum visit came a day after Pompeo became the first secretary of state to visit an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. He also announced a new policy allowing settlement products exported to the U.S. to be labeled “made in Israel” and a new initiative to combat the Palestinian-led international boycott movement.
        
Christian Zionism is a belief by some Christians that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 were in accordance with biblical prophecy.  
        
The Friends of Zion Museum was founded by Mike Evans, a prominent evangelical supporter of Israel. Evangelical Christians are among President Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters and have hailed his unprecedented support for Israel. They would also be an important constituency should Pompeo pursue elected office following Trump’s presidency.
        
Pompeo did not deliver any public remarks at the museum and departed Israel midday.
        
The Trump administration has broken with decades of U.S. policy to support Israel’s claims to territory seized in war and to isolate and weaken the Palestinians.  
        
It moved the U.S. Embassy to contested Jerusalem, adopted the position that settlements are not contrary to international law, recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights – which Pompeo also visited on Thursday – and released a Mideast plan that overwhelmingly favored Israel and was rejected by the Palestinians. It has also adopted a “maximum pressure” campaign against Israel’s archenemy Iran while brokering normalization agreements with Arab nations.
        
The moves Pompeo announced Thursday are largely symbolic and could be easily reversed by President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration. But it was a powerful show of support for Israel and its Christian allies.
        
Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state. The Palestinians view the settlements as a violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace, a position shared by most of the international community.
        
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the same war and later annexed it. Last year, the U.S. became the first country to recognize it as part of Israel, a position Pompeo reaffirmed during his visit to the strategic plateau on Thursday.  
        
Biden is opposed to settlement construction and has vowed to adopt a more evenhanded approach aimed at reviving peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
 

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Mexico Takes a Step Toward Legalizing Marijuana

Mexico is a step closer to becoming one of the world’s largest legal marijuana markets.Senators voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve a marijuana legalization bill.The bill’s next challenge is clearing the lower house of Congress.The legislation is supported by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s Morena party, which holds a majority in both chambers of Congress.The legislation would become law only if it’s signed by Lopez Obrador, who has not spoken openly about his position on legalizing marijuana.The movement to decriminalize marijuana in Mexico comes after lawmakers approved its use for medicinal purposes last year, and the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 recreational marijuana should be allowed.Under the legislation adults would be allowed to possess no more than 28 grams, grow up to four plants and purchase marijuana from authorized businesses.Children would be banned from any use, sale or taking part in growing the drug.

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Vietnam Tells Facebook: Yield to Censors or We’ll Shut You Down, Source Says

Vietnam has threatened to shut down Facebook in the country if it does not bow to government pressure to censor more local political content on its platform, a senior official at the U.S. social media giant told Reuters.Facebook complied with a government request in April to significantly increase its censorship of “anti-state” posts for local users, but Vietnam asked the company again in August to step up its restrictions of critical posts, the official said.”We made an agreement in April. Facebook has upheld our end of the agreement, and we expected the government of Vietnam to do the same,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the subject.”They have come back to us and sought to get us to increase the volume of content that we’re restricting in Vietnam. We’ve told them no. That request came with some threats about what might happen if we didn’t.”The official said the threats included shutting down Facebook altogether in Vietnam, a major market for the social media company where it earns revenue of nearly $1 billion, according to two sources familiar with the numbers.Facebook has faced mounting pressure from governments over its content policies, including threats of new regulations and fines. But it has avoided a ban in all but the few places where it has never been allowed to operate, such as China.In Vietnam, despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, the ruling Communist Party retains tight control of media and tolerates little opposition. The country ranks fifth from bottom in a global ranking of press freedom compiled by Reporters Without Borders.Vietnam’s foreign ministry said in response to questions from Reuters that Facebook should abide by local laws and cease “spreading information that violates traditional Vietnamese customs and infringes upon state interests.”A spokeswoman for Facebook said it had faced additional pressure from Vietnam to censor more content in recent months.In its biannual transparency report released on Friday, Facebook said it had restricted access to 834 items in Vietnam in the first six months of this year, following requests from the government of Vietnam to remove anti-state content.‘Clear responsibility’Facebook, which serves about 60 million users in Vietnam as the main platform for both e-commerce and expressions of political dissent is under constant government scrutiny.Reuters exclusively reported in April that Facebook’s local servers in Vietnam were taken offline early this year until it complied with the government’s demands.Facebook has long faced criticism from rights group for being too compliant with government censorship requests.”However, we will do everything we can to ensure that our services remain available so people can continue to express themselves,” the spokesperson said.Vietnam has tried to launch home-grown social media networks to compete with Facebook, but none has reached any meaningful level of popularity. The Facebook official said the company had not seen an exodus of Vietnamese users to the local platforms.The official said Facebook had been subject to a “14-month-long negative media campaign” in state-controlled Vietnamese press before arriving at the current impasse.Asked about Vietnam’s threat to shut down Facebook, rights group Amnesty International said the fact it had not yet been banned after defying the Vietnamese government’s threats showed that the company could do more to resist Hanoi’s demands.”Facebook has a clear responsibility to respect human rights wherever they operate in the world and Vietnam is no exception,” Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for campaigns, said. “Facebook are prioritizing profits in Vietnam, and failing to respect human rights.”  

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What’s Your Risk of Catching COVID? There’s an App for That

As the deadly coronavirus continues to rage across the U.S. and around the world, people are turning to COVID-19-related apps to figure out their day-to-day risks. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.
Producers: Julie Taboh, Adam Greenbaum

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