US Official: AI Threat Demands New Approach to Security Designs

The potential threat posed by the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) means safeguards need to be built into systems from the start rather than tacked on later, a top U.S. official said on Monday.

“We’ve normalized a world where technology products come off the line full of vulnerabilities and then consumers are expected to patch those vulnerabilities. We can’t live in that world with AI,” said Jen Easterly, director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

“It is too powerful, it is moving too fast,” she said in a telephone interview after holding talks in Ottawa with Sami Khoury, head of Canada’s Centre for Cyber Security.

Easterly spoke the same day that agencies from 18 countries, including the United States, endorsed new British-developed guidelines on AI cyber security that focus on secure design, development, deployment and maintenance.

“We have to look at security throughout the life cycle of that AI capability,” Khoury said.

Earlier this month, leading AI developers agreed to work with governments to test new frontier models before they are released to help manage the risks of the rapidly developing technology.

“I think we have done as much as we possibly could do at this point in time to help come together with nations around the world, with technology companies, to set out from a technical perspective how to build these capabilities as securely and safely as possible,” said Easterly.

your ad here

Hundreds of Volunteers Get White House Ready for Christmas

Every year, thousands of people from across the United States volunteer for a very exclusive holiday experience – the chance to decorate the White House for Christmas. Of all of those applicants, only 300 lucky people are chosen. VOA’s Dora Mekouar reports. Camera: Hakim Shammo

your ad here

Niger Junta Repeals Law Aimed at Slowing Migration to Europe 

Niger’s junta said Monday that it had revoked an anti-migration law that helped reduce the flow of West Africans to Europe, but that was reviled by desert dwellers whose economies had long relied on the traffic. 

The law, which made it illegal to transport migrants through Niger, was passed in May 2015 as the number of people traveling across the Mediterranean Sea from Africa reached record highs, creating a political and humanitarian crisis in Europe where governments came under pressure to stop the influx. 

Niger’s junta, which took power in a July coup, repealed the law on Saturday and announced it Monday evening on state television. 

The junta is reassessing its relations with former western allies who condemned the coup, and is seeking to shore up support at home, including in the northern desert communities that had benefited most from migration. 

The number of migrants moving through Niger, a main transit country on the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert, dropped sharply over the years because of the law, but the change drained the lifeblood from towns and villages that had fed and housed migrants and sold car parts and fuel to traffickers. 

In return, the European Union launched the nearly $5.5 billion Trust Fund for Africa in 2015, aimed at eradicating the root causes of migration, but many felt it was not enough. Unemployment soared in places like the ancient city of Agadez, a popular gateway to the Sahara. 

How European leaders greet the news and what the impact will be on migration to Europe are yet to be seen. 

But some people welcomed it. Andre Chani used to earn thousands of dollars a month driving migrants through the desert before police impounded his trucks in 2016. He plans to restart his business once he has the money. 

“I’m going to start again,” he said via text message from Agadez on Monday. “We are very happy.”

your ad here

Trump to Testify Again Next Month in Civil Fraud Trial

After a scorching first turn on the witness stand, former President Donald Trump plans to testify again next month in his civil fraud trial, his lawyers said Monday. 

He is to return December 11, defense attorney Christopher Kise said.

Trump was called to testify last time by his adversaries in the lawsuit, the New York attorney general’s office. This time, the Republican 2024 presidential front-runner’s own lawyers will open the questioning and can ask about a wider range of subjects than they could on cross-examination.

Not that those limitations stopped Trump from lambasting the suit and defending himself and his business against Attorney General Letitia James’ claims. Her lawsuit says he and his company misled lenders and insurers by giving them financial statements that greatly inflated his asset values and overall net worth.

“I’m worth billions of dollars more than the financial statements,” Trump insisted on the stand last time. “This is the opposite of fraud. … The fraud is her.”

Now finishing its second month, the trial is putting a spotlight on the real estate empire that vaulted Trump into public life and eventually politics. He maintains that James, a Democrat, is trying to damage his campaign.

Financial statements

At the heart of the case are Trump’s 2014-21 annual “statements of financial condition,” which were used to help secure loans and other deals.

A Trump Organization executive testified Monday that the company no longer produces such statements.

The company continues to prepare various audits and other financial reports specific to some of its components, but “there is no roll-up financial statement of the company,” said Mark Hawthorn, the chief operating officer of the Trump Organization’s hotel arm.

He wasn’t asked why the comprehensive reports had ceased but said they are “not required by any lender, currently, or any constituency.”

Messages seeking comment on the matter were sent to spokespeople for the Trump Organization.

Hawthorn, a certified public accountant, has worked since 2016 for the company’s Trump Hotels arm. Parent company Executive Vice President Donald Trump Jr. testified earlier that Hawthorn is functioning as the entire Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, calling him “the finance guy within Trump world now” and saying the CPA “has taken on all those decisional responsibilities.”

But Hawthorn said that statement was wrong, that using “the word ‘all’ makes it incorrect.”

Hawthorn was testifying for the defense, which argues that various companies under the Trump Organization’s umbrella have produced reams of financial documents “that no one had a problem with,” as lawyer Clifford Robert put it.

A lawyer for James’ office, Andrew Amer, stressed that the suit is about Trump’s overall statements of financial condition, calling the other documents irrelevant.

Trump asserts that his wealth was understated, not overblown, on his financial statements. He also says the numbers came with disclaimers saying that they weren’t audited and that others might reach different conclusions about his financial position.

Judge Arthur Engoron, who will decide the verdict in the nonjury trial, has already ruled that Trump and other defendants engaged in fraud. The current proceeding is to decide remaining claims of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records.

James wants the judge to impose over $300 million in penalties and to ban Trump from doing business in New York — and that’s on top of Engoron’s pretrial order that a receiver take control of some of Trump’s properties. An appeals court has frozen that order for now.

your ad here

Biden Convenes New Council on Supply Chain Resilience 

U.S. President Joe Biden convened the new White House Council on Supply Chain Resilience on Monday, where he announced new actions aimed at strengthening America’s supply chain to lower costs for U.S. families, while warning companies against taking advantage of inflation by price gouging.

“We know that prices are still too high for too many things, that times are still too tough for too many families,” Biden said. “But we’ve made progress.”

Among the new 30 actions, the council invoked the Cold War-era Defense Production Act, to ensure investments in domestic manufacturing of medicines designated as key to American security. Some $35 million has been earmarked to be invested in the production of materials for injectable medicines.

It’s hoped that the initiatives lower overall costs for Americans and ensure timely production and deliveries of goods.

Biden was joined by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who said the U.S. is seeing lower inflation and fewer supply chain issues since problems peaked during recovery from the COVID pandemic in 2021.

“The pandemic had led to the most profound and widespread set of disruptions to our transportation systems since 9/11, including enormous strain on our supply chains,” Buttigieg said. 

Biden also announced a new agreement with “13 countries in the Indo-Pacific” that is aimed at identifying supply chain bottlenecks before they turn into more widespread issues.

The new council will be co-chaired by Lael Brainard, director of the White House National Economic Council, and Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser.

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

your ad here

Kenya to Begin Privatization Drive, Offers Stakes in 11 Companies

Kenya will start its privatization drive by offering stakes in 11 companies including the state oil pipeline, the finance ministry said Monday.

The 11 firms are among more than 35 companies that are slated for sale to partially help the government raise revenue in the face of growing debt repayments.

Apart from the Kenya Pipeline Company, which is wholly owned by the government, investors can buy stakes in one of the main convention centers in Nairobi, a textbook publisher, agribusiness firms and industrial companies, the ministry said.

The pipeline firm, which is profitable, has a monopoly on the transport of gas and white oil products, the ministry said in a notice, which also invited the public to share its comments on the plan by Dec. 11, as required by the constitution.

“Privatization and restructuring is geared towards the government’s efforts for fiscal consolidation and spurring economic development,” the ministry added.

The East African nation last privatized a state-owned company in 2008 with an initial public offering of a 25% stake in telecommunications firm Safaricom SCOM.NR.

The government revised the law governing the sale of state companies last month to the eliminate bureaucracy that had made the process grind to a halt, the president said last week.

your ad here

US Military: Somali Pirates Likely Behind Attempted Tanker Seizure

An attempted hijacking of a commercial vessel in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday appears to have been carried out by armed Somali pirates and not Yemeni Houthis, despite the firing of missiles from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen afterwards, the Pentagon said Monday.

“We’re continuing to assess, but initial indications are that these five individuals are Somali,” said Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder.

“Clearly a piracy-related incident,” Ryder added.

A U.S. Navy warship responded to a distress call on Sunday from the chemical tanker Central Park. The attackers were taken aboard the U.S. warship Mason, the U.S. military said, and the Central Park and its crew were safe.

There have been a series of attacks in Middle Eastern waters since a war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas broke out on October 7.

Central Park is a tanker managed by Zodiac Maritime Ltd, a London-headquartered international ship management company owned by Israel’s Ofer family. The Liberian-flagged vessel was built in 2015 and is owned by Clumvez Shipping Inc, LSEG data showed.

Ryder told reporters that U.S. Navy personnel fired warning shots when the attackers were trying to escape, but there were no injuries.

He added that there were three Chinese military ships in the area but they did not respond. China’s embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment on the assertion.

The U.S. military has said that two ballistic missiles were later fired from Houthi-controlled territory in the general direction of the Mason and Central Park, but they landed about 10 nautical miles away from the ships.

“It’s not clear to us who they were targeting exactly,” Ryder said.

The attempted tanker hijacking followed a seizure of an Israeli-linked cargo ship by Houthis, allies of Iran, in the southern Red Sea last week.

your ad here

Obama Portraitist Turns His Brush to African Presidents

Acclaimed American artist Kehinde Wiley — known for portraying former US president Barack Obama and U.S. pop star Michael Jackson — has turned his brush to Africa. His “A Maze of Power” exhibit in Paris, portrays 11 former and current African presidents, exploring power through the lens of historical European portrait painting. Lisa Bryant went to the show and has this report from the French capital

your ad here

Pakistan: Nationwide Polio Campaign Targets Over 4 Million Children

Pakistan launched a week-long nationwide polio vaccination campaign Monday, as the country remains one of only two around the world where the paralyzing virus still exists.

This year, so far, Pakistan has reported five cases of the highly infectious disease. The latest polio eradication campaign will target more than 4.4 million children across much of the country, as well as in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.  

The South Asian nation came close to eradicating polio in 2021 when it reported only one case of paralysis from the virus. However, last year the country saw a spike with 20 cases on the record. The virus generally spreads through the fecal matter of a carrier that has contaminated the water supply. 

Two of this year’s five cases were detected in the country’s most populous city Karachi in the southern province of Sindh. This came after the city recorded zero cases in the last two years.  

A spokesperson of the provincial Emergency Operation Center, Syed Nofil Naqvi, told VOA both cases are children from Afghan families settled in Pakistan for years.  

Naqvi blamed cross-border movement between Pakistan and Afghanistan for the disease. Afghanistan, the only other country fighting to eliminate the virus has reported six cases so far in 2023.  

“The environmental samples found across Pakistan are genetically linked to Afghanistan,” Naqvi said.  

To counter the spread of the virus through travelers, Naqvi said, polio teams vaccinate children at bus stops and other transit points.   

All of Pakistan’s remaining polio cases this year came from Bannu, a town in the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Muhammad Zeeshan Khan, deputy coordinator for the provincial Emergency Operation Center, told VOA all three families had refused to vaccinate their children.   

“We tried a lot to convince them. One child’s family agreed to giving polio drops but the child had not received an [initial] injection [to build immunity]. This [refusal] is the reason that all three children succumbed to paralysis.” Khan said the families worried the vaccine might harm their children.  

Parents’ refusal to give the oral polio vaccine to their children is one of the primary reasons polio virus still exists in Pakistan.   

Polio workers and the security personnel protecting them frequently come under lethal attacks from parents and militants who see the vaccination drive as part of a foreign conspiracy to render Pakistani children impotent or to give them ingredients not permissible for Muslims to consume.

Provincial officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded more than 16,000 refusals in October. According to Khan, Peshawar, the provincial capital, recorded nearly 8000 refusals followed by Bannu, and North Waziristan where most of Pakistan’s polio cases were recorded last year.  

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded 14 incidents of violence against polio teams this year.   

To counter such misconceptions, authorities have been engaging local clerics and influencers, and running expensive TV and radio campaigns to convince parents to vaccinate their children.   

Still, other parents refuse and bargain for unmet civic needs. The National Emergency Operation Center’s plans for the latest campaign show several communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have refused to vaccinate their children until gas, roads or teachers are provided.  

“For us, the biggest concern is the child whose family has refused [to vaccinate],” said Khan.  

In any campaign cycle thousands of children are also “missed” because they are not home, or the family is unwilling to allow the vaccination team inside if a male member of the household is not present.  

Data shows over 13 percent of children in Quetta, Baluchistan’s provincial capital, missed getting the vaccine last time. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, nearly 1.2 percent of children or more than 90,000 were missed as well.  

However, Khan said many of the missed children get vaccinated as guests in whichever community they are temporarily present.   

In Quetta too, nearly half the children who were missed at one point were eventually covered, according to data.  

Still, in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan that border Afghanistan the vaccination campaign will either be conducted later or postponed indefinitely, primarily due to security reasons.

As hundreds of thousands of polio workers and security personnel go door to door this week in areas facing a high risk of polio, Naqvi is hopeful Pakistan will get closer to eliminating the crippling disease.   

“We are using a positive way of giving the message,” Naqvi said. From posting signs that said “Caution! Your area has polio,” he said, we now say, “we can eliminate polio.”

your ad here

Rescuers in India Switch to Manual Digging to Extricate Workers From Collapsed Tunnel

Rescue teams will switch to digging by hand in an effort to extricate 41 construction workers trapped in a collapsed road tunnel in northern India for the past 16 days. 

Officials said Monday that workers will use a so-called “rat hole” mining technique to access the collapsed tunnel, digging a narrow passageway through the remaining rocks and debris to reach the men. 

“There is no other way left except the manual method and this is also the safe one through which we can reach the laborers,” former Lt. Gen Harpal Singh, who is at the site to provide technical assistance to the operation, said on Monday. “Our people are also taking care of the safety measures of those who will go inside for manual drilling. Safety is our priority.”

The tunnel, being built as part of a massive highway project in the northern state of Uttarakhand, caved in on November 12.

Efforts to reach the workers have hit repeated setbacks in the difficult Himalayan terrain, with sophisticated drilling equipment breaking down several times as it encountered rocks and boulders. 

The latest setback came on Friday when the drilling machine was damaged irreparably about 14 meters away from the tunnel.    

A team of Indian army engineers joined the rescue effort Monday, assisting other teams who had been already working on the site. They include international tunnel experts.

Work is also in progress to create an alternate escape route with workers drilling vertically from the top of the mountain toward the tunnel. 

“We have to drill around 86 meters to be done within four days, that is, by November 30th. Hopefully, there will be no further hurdles and the work will be completed on time,” Mahmood Ahmad, managing director of the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited said on Sunday.

However drilling into the mountain poses higher risks, with geologists warning that it could destabilize the hilly terrain.

Plummeting temperatures and forecasts of hail, thunderstorms and rainy weather pose another challenge to the rescue teams.  

“Everyone has been trying,” Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Pushkar Singh Dhami said on Monday. “We hope that the work is completed at the earliest.” 

Contact has been maintained with the 41 men since they were trapped, first via radio and then with a camera that was inserted last Tuesday through a 15 centimeter pipe that is being used to send hot meals and medicines to the trapped men. Oxygen is being supplied through a separate pipe.

Doctors and psychologists are on standby to ensure their physical and mental well-being of the mostly migrant workers, who had come to work on the project from some of India’s poorest states. Mobile phones have been sent in so that they can talk to their families as well as board games such as Ludo to help them stay occupied.

“They have electricity and a two kilometer passageway along which they can walk. This will help in ensuring their well-being. Counselors are constantly in touch with them. We are giving them what they need,” Syed Ata Hussain, a member of the National Disaster Management Authority told a press conference Monday.   

Authorities have not said what caused the partial collapse of the under-construction tunnel, which is part of an ambitious but controversial $ 1.5 billion highway project to improve access to important Hindu pilgrimage sites in Uttarakhand. Reports say it happened due to a landslide. 

Several experts had opposed the “Char Dham” highway project saying that cutting of hillsides and felling of trees would disturb the geology of the Himalayas, the world’s youngest mountain chain, as well as pose a risk to communities living in the vicinity. 

“This is a region that has become increasingly prone to disasters such as landslides. So whatever we are building, we must take the fragility of the Himalayas into account,” Anjal Prakash, research director, Bharti Institute of Public Policy at the Indian School of Business, told VOA. 

“There is a need for infrastructure but how do we plan, that is a conundrum. We need to ensure that the construction being done is environmentally benign and meets international standards for road safety. It looks to me as if some of these issues have been compromised in the present case.”

your ad here

Bangladesh Arrest Thousands in ‘Violent’ Crackdown: HRW

Bangladesh has launched a sweeping and violent crackdown on opposition parties to “eliminate competition” ahead of general elections, including arresting almost 10,000 activists, Human Rights Watch said Monday.


As well as the thousands arrested — many from the key Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) — a staggering number also face charges.


According to the BNP, about half of its five million members “face politically motivated prosecution,” HRW said.


“The arrests, they are not leaving anyone behind, from senior level to the ground level,” one activist told HRW.


Prisons are now at more than double their capacity, the rights group said.


The South Asian nation of around 170 million people holds a general election on Jan.7, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina eyeing her fourth consecutive term in power.


“Bangladesh authorities are carrying out mass arrests of political opposition in a clear attempt to quash the opposition and eliminate competition ahead of the general elections,” HRW said.


New York-based HRW, who called it a “violent autocratic crackdown,” said at least 16 people have been killed since protests escalated in October, including two police officers.


More than 5,500 people have been injured.


There was no immediate response by the government to the HRW report, but authorities say that those arrested should face justice for a range of violent crimes.


‘Extrajudicial killings’


HRW based its report on multiple witness interviews, as well as analysis of videos and police reports.


It said it had found “evidence that security forces are responsible for using excessive force, mass arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings.”


Bangladesh is one of the world’s largest garment exporters — accounting for around 85% of its $55 billion in annual exports — with many global brands purchasing clothes from its factories. 


“Diplomatic partners should make clear that the crackdown will jeopardize economic cooperation,” HRW said.


Julia Bleckner, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said credible elections could not be held under such conditions.


“A free election is impossible when the government stifles free expression and systematically incapacitates the opposition, critics, and activists through arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearance, harassment, and intimidation,” Bleckner said.


The BNP on Sunday said at least 16,625 members had been arrested since October.


They include most of its leadership, most notably the BNP’s de facto chief Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.


Prosecutors and lawyers said in the past two weeks at least 526 BNP officials and activists were convicted and sentenced, mostly in absentia, over what the party said were “trumped up” charges.

your ad here

Indian Rescuers Change Tactics to Reach 41 Trapped Tunnel Workers

Indian rescuers began drilling vertically Sunday from the top of a mountain under which 41 workers became trapped two weeks ago while working on a highway tunnel in the Himalayas, government officials said.

The men, construction workers from some of India’s poorest states, have been stuck in the 4.5-km (3-mile) tunnel being built in Uttarakhand state since it caved in early on Nov. 12. Authorities have said they are safe, with access to light, oxygen, food, water and medicines.

But rescuing them will take much longer than previously hoped as rescuers have switched to manual drilling following damage to the drilling machine, officials said Saturday.

Rescuers had hoped to finish the drilling late Thursday but had to suspend the operation after the platform on which the machine was placed was damaged.

Work resumed Friday evening only to be suspended soon afterward as the machine ran into a new obstacle, officials said, without elaborating.

Vertical drilling started Sunday and it will take about 100 hours, the officials said.

Initially, the rescue plan involved pushing a pipe wide enough to pull the trapped men out on wheeled stretchers.

The men have been getting cooked food via a lifeline pipe that was pushed through to ensure steady supplies of essential goods.

More than a dozen doctors, including psychiatrists, are at the site, talking to the men and monitoring their health. The fact that the tunnel is closed by the debris keeps the men warm.

They have been told to do light yoga exercises and walk around in the 2-kilometer tunnel space they have been confined to, and keep talking to each other.

Deepak Patil, one of the officers in charge of the rescue mission, told Reuters authorities had sent in two mobile phones and memory cards with Hindi films and electronic games.

Priyanka Chaturvedi, a spokesperson for one of India’s opposition parties, asked Sunday for an investigation into the accident and asked the government to ensure the safety of the men.

A member of a panel of experts investigating the disaster said Friday the tunnel does not have an emergency exit and was built through a geological fault.

your ad here

Tanker in Middle East Safe From Attackers After US Navy Responds

A U.S. Navy warship responded to a distress call from a commercial tanker in the Gulf of Aden that had been seized by armed individuals and is now safe, U.S. officials said on Sunday.

The tanker, which had been carrying a cargo of phosphoric acid, was identified as the Central Park by the vessel’s company. The officials did not identify the attackers.

One of the U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the USS Mason warship had responded to the distress call and the tanker was now free.

The incident is the latest in a series of attacks in Middle Eastern waters since a brutal war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas broke out on Oct. 7.

It followed a seizure of an Israeli-linked cargo ship by Yemen Houthis, allies of Iran, in the southern Red Sea last week. The group, which also fired ballistic missiles and armed drones at Israel, vowed to target more Israeli vessels.

Central Park, a small chemical tanker (19,998 metric tons), is managed by Zodiac Maritime Ltd., a London-headquartered international ship management company owned by Israel’s Ofer family. The Liberian-flagged vessel was built in 2015 and is owned by Clumvez Shipping Inc., LSEG data showed.

Zodiac Maritime said in a statement Central Park, which is carrying a full cargo of phosphoric acid, was involved in a suspected piracy incident while crossing international waters, approximately 54 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.

Phosphoric acid is mostly used for fertilizers.

“Our priority is the safety of our 22 crew onboard. The Turkish captained vessel has a multinational crew consisting of a crew of Russian, Vietnamese, Bulgarian, Indian, Georgian and Filipino nationals,” the statement added.

There was no immediate comment from Houthi officials.

Britain’s Maritime Trade Operations agency (UKMTO) said on Sunday it was aware of a possible attack in southwest Aden and called on other vessels to exercise caution.

The U.S. has blamed Iran for unclaimed attacks on several vessels in the region in the past few years. Tehran has denied involvement.

A container ship managed by an Israeli-controlled company was hit by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean, causing minor damage to the vessel but no injuries, a U.S. defense official said on Saturday.

Hamas fighters rampaged into Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 240 people hostage. Since then, Israel’s all-out offensive on Gaza has killed about 14,000 people, roughly 40% of them children, Palestinian health authorities say.

The fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was back on track Sunday as the militants freed 17 more hostages, including 14 Israelis and the first American, in a third exchange under a four-day truce that the U.S. said it hoped would be extended. In turn, Israel released 39 Palestinian prisoners.

A fourth exchange is expected on Monday — the last day of the cease-fire during which a total of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners are to be freed. Most are women and minors.


your ad here

Church Official Says Kidnapped German Priest Freed in Mali

German missionary Father Hans Joachim Lohre who was kidnapped in Mali’s capital Bamako last year has been freed by his captor, a church official told Reuters on Sunday.

Patient Nshombo of the Missionaries for Africa told Reuters by telephone that Lohre had been released.

“Yes, he has been freed, but we have to wait for further details from the authorities,” Nshombo said.

The government of Mali did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the German foreign office declined to comment.

Lohre, who had been living in Bamako for 30 years, was meant to celebrate Mass on a Sunday morning in the Malian capital last year when his colleagues noticed that his car remained parked in front of his house and his telephone was switched off.

your ad here

Argentina President-Elect Milei Heads to US on Private Visit

Argentina’s president-elect Javier Milei was traveling Sunday to the United States to meet with U.S. and international lending officials, diplomatic sources told AFP.

The far-right economist will arrive in New York on a private visit Monday before traveling that day to Washington, where he will meet with U.S. diplomat Juan Gonzalez, the sources told AFP, on the condition of anonymity. 

Gonzalez is deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs. 

Milei’s agenda through Tuesday also includes conversations with Treasury Department officials, the sources said. 

Milei will arrive with several members of his team, including Luis Caputo, an adviser on financial matters who is seen as a likely cabinet member.  

On Friday, the future president held a first remote chat from Buenos Aires with the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva. 

Buenos Aires has a $44 billion debt to the IMF, negotiated in 2018 by then-President Mauricio Macri, now Milei’s main ally. 

Milei will assume Argentina’s presidency on December 10, succeeding Peronist Alberto Fernandez.

It was announced Sunday that Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been invited to Milei’s inauguration.

your ad here

4 Employees of Germany’s Main Aid Agency Arrested in Afghanistan

Taliban authorities in Afghanistan arrested four local employees of Germany’s main government-owned aid agency, according to the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“I can confirm that the local employees of GIZ are in custody although we have not received any official information on why they are detained,” a ministry spokesperson told the Associated Press in a statement late Saturday.

“We are taking this situation very seriously and are working through all channels available to us to ensure that our colleagues are released,” she added.

The German Agency for International Cooperation, or GIZ, is owned by the German government. It operates in around 120 countries worldwide, offering projects and services in the areas of “economic development, employment promotion, energy and the environment, and peace and security,” according to the agency’s website.

The Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, after the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from the country. Many foreign missions, including the German embassy in Kabul, closed their offices.

The Taliban initially promised a more moderate approach than during their previous rule from 1996 to 2001 but gradually reimposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.

Girls were banned from education beyond the sixth grade and women were barred from working, studying, traveling without a male companion, and even going to parks or bathhouses and were forced to cover up from head to toe.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said in September that human rights are in a state of collapse in Afghanistan more than two years following the Taliban’s return to power and stripped back institutional protections at all levels.

your ad here

Russia Puts Meta Spokesperson Andy Stone on ‘Wanted List’

Russia has added the spokesperson of U.S. tech giant Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, to a wanted list, according to an online database maintained by the country’s interior ministry.

Russian state agency Tass and independent news outlet Mediazona first reported on Andy Stone’s inclusion on the list Sunday, weeks after Russian authorities in October classified Meta as a “terrorist and extremist” organization, opening the way for possible criminal proceedings against Russian residents using its platforms.

The interior ministry’s database does not give details of the case against Stone, stating only that he is wanted on criminal charges.

According to Mediazona, an independent news website that covers Russia’s opposition and prison system, Stone was put on the wanted list in February 2022, but authorities made no related statements at the time and no news media reported on the matter until this week.

In March this year, Russia’s federal Investigative Committee opened a criminal probe of Meta. It alleged that the company’s actions following Moscow’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 amounted to inciting violence against Russians.

After Russian troops moved into Ukraine, Stone announced temporary changes to Meta’s hate speech policy to allow for “forms of political expression that would normally violate (its) rules, like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders.'”

In the same statement, Stone added that “credible calls for violence against Russian civilians” will remain banned.

Mediazona claimed Sunday that an unspecified Russian court earlier this month issued an arrest warrant for Stone, on charges of “facilitating terrorism.” The report did not specify the source of this information, which could not be independently verified.

Western social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and X (formerly known as Twitter) were popular with young Russians before Moscow launched its full-scale war on Ukraine but have since been blocked in the country as part of a broad crackdown on independent media and other forms of critical speech. They are now only accessible via VPN.

In April 2022, Russia also formally barred Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg from entering the country.

your ad here

Digital Program Transforms Learning in Rural Malawi

The Malawi government has partnered with the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, and a mobile service provider to help students in rural Malawi learn how to use the latest digital technology. Through the Connect-a-School project, public schools are equipped with high-definition smart TVs, tablets and free internet connectivity to promote digital learning among students. However, some schools say a shortage of some gadgets presents a challenge. Lameck Masina reports from Dedza District in central Malawi.

your ad here

Suicide Bombing Hits Military Convoy in NW Pakistan

A suicide bomber struck a Pakistani military convoy in a volatile northwestern region Sunday, wounding at least 11 soldiers.

Multiple official sources confirmed to VOA the attack occurred in Bannu, a garrison city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. They described the condition of at least three injured personnel as “critical.”

The army’s media wing did not immediately comment on the bombing.  

The anti-government Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, known to have close ties with neighboring Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Bannu and several adjoining Pakistani districts, including North Waziristan on the Afghan border, routinely experience militant attacks.

Pakistan alleges fugitive militants have intensified their violent campaign in the country from sanctuaries in Afghanistan since the Islamist Taliban reclaimed power there two years ago.

Officials say the violence has killed more than 2,300 Pakistanis, mostly security forces. The bloodshed has strained Islamabad’s relations with the de facto Afghan government in Kabul.

Most of the violence has been claimed by the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, an alliance of more than a dozen militant insurgent groups.

Pakistani officials say around 6,000 TTP members, including senior commanders, have taken refuge and operate freely out of Afghan soil to direct cross-border terrorism, charges Taliban authorities reject. 

your ad here

India’s LGBTQ Community Holds Pride March, Raises Concerns Over Country’s Restrictive Laws

Information in this report is confirmed by other sources and can be used with attribution to AP on websites and without attribution in broadcasts.  The Newscenter has no plans to match it. 



India’s LGBTQ+ Community Holds Pride March, Raises Concerns Over Country’s Restrictive Laws 


NEW DELHI (AP) — More than 2,000 people have danced, sang and cheered in a gay pride parade in India’s capital, while also raising their concerns over India’s restrictive laws. Dancing to drums and music, the participants Sunday carried rainbow flags, multicolored balloons and placards as they walked for more than two hours to the Jantar Mantar area near India’s Parliament. The annual event comes shortly after India’s top court refused to legalize same-sex marriages, which disappointed campaigners for LGBTQ+ rights in the world’s most populous country. In 2018, India’s top court struck down a colonial-era law that had made gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison and expanded constitutional rights for the gay community. 


NEW DELHI (AP) — More than 2,000 people took part in a gay pride event in New Delhi, waving rainbow flags and multicolored balloons as they celebrated sexual diversity in India but also raised concerns over the country’s restrictive laws.

Dancing to drums and music, the participants walked for more than two hours to the Jantar Mantar area near India’s Parliament. They held banners reading “Equality for all” and “Queer and proud.”

The annual event comes after India’s top court refused to legalize same-sex marriages in an October ruling that disappointed campaigners for LGBTQ+ rights in the world’s most populous country.

“It’s not about marriage. It’s about equality. Everybody should have the same right because that’s what our constitution says,” said Noor Enayat, one of the volunteers organizing this year’s event.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court’s five-judge bench heard 21 petitions that sought to legalize same-sex marriage in India.

The justices called for steps to raise awareness among the public about LGBTQ+ identity and to establish hotlines and safe houses for those in the community who are facing violence. They also urged the state to make sure same-sex couples don’t face harassment or discrimination in accessing basic needs, like opening a joint bank account, but stopped short of granting legal recognition to same-sex unions.

Legal rights for LGBTQ+ people in India have been expanding over the past decade, mostly as a result of the Supreme Court’s intervention.

In 2018, the top court struck down a colonial-era law that had made gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison and expanded constitutional rights for the gay community. The decision was seen as a historic victory for LGBTQ+ rights.

Despite this progress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government resisted the legal recognition of same-sex marriage and rejected several petitions in favor. Some religious groups, too, had opposed same-sex unions, saying they went against Indian culture.

Homosexuality has long carried a stigma in India’s traditional society, even though there has been a shift in attitudes toward same-sex couples in recent years. India now has openly gay celebrities and some high-profile Bollywood films have dealt with gay issues.

According to a Pew survey, acceptance of homosexuality in India increased by 22 percentage points to 37% between 2013 and 2019. But same-sex couples often face harassment in many Indian communities, whether Hindu, Muslim or Christian.

your ad here