G-7 Assures Aid to Ukraine, Pain to Russia, as Russia Strikes Ukrainian Targets

Giving aid to Ukraine and pain to Vladimir Putin – those are the measures leaders of the world’s wealthiest liberal democracies zeroed in on Monday as they listened to Ukraine’s president plea for more help. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell reports from Telfs, Austria.

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Jan. 6 Panel Calls Surprise Hearing to Present New Evidence

The House Jan. 6 panel is calling a surprise hearing this week to present evidence it says it recently obtained, raising expectations of new bombshells in the sweeping investigation into the Capitol insurrection. 

The hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday comes after Congress left Washington for a two-week recess. Lawmakers on the panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection said last week that there would be no more hearings until July. 

The subject of the hearings is so far unclear. A spokesman for the panel declined to comment on its substance. 

The committee’s investigation has been ongoing during the hearings that started three weeks ago, and the nine-member panel has continued to probe the attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Among other investigative evidence, the committee recently obtained new footage of Trump and his inner circle taken both before and after Jan. 6, 2021, from British filmmaker Alex Holder. 

Holder said last week that he had complied with a congressional subpoena to turn over all of the footage he shot in the final weeks of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, including exclusive interviews with Trump, his children and then-Vice President Mike Pence while on the campaign trail. The footage includes material from before the insurrection and afterward. 

It is uncertain if Holder’s footage is the subject of the hearing Tuesday, or if Holder himself will be there. Russell Smith, a lawyer for Holder, declined to comment. 

Rep. Bennie Thompson, the panel’s Democratic chairman, told reporters last week that the committee was in possession of the footage and needed more time to go through the hours of video Holder had turned over. The British filmmaker came in for a deposition Thursday that lasted two hours, Smith said last week. 

Smith said then that it was Holder’s “civic duty” to come forward and that the footage had shown some inconsistencies with previous testimony during the hearings. 

The panel has held five hearings so far, mostly laying out Trump’s pressure campaign on various institutions of power in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress that eventually certified Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory. The committee detailed the pressure from Trump and his allies on Vice President Mike Pence, on the states that were certifying Biden’s win and on the Justice Department. 

The panel has used live interviews, video testimony of its private witness interviews and footage of the attack to detail what it has learned. 

Lawmakers said last week that the two July hearings would focus on domestic extremists who breached the Capitol that day and on what Trump was doing as the violence unfolded. 

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Abortion Rights Could Drive Democratic Voters to Polls in November

For decades, the contentious issue of abortion rights has motivated American voters from both parties. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to overturn the 1973 decision guaranteeing women a constitutional right to abortion could have a defining impact on upcoming congressional midterm elections, when Democrats attempt to hold on to their narrow edge in the U.S. House and Senate.    

Midterm elections traditionally do not drive voter turnout in the same numbers as presidential elections. But recent polling suggests the overturn of the nearly 50-year-old law could motivate voters.   

A May poll from American news network CBS found that 40% of Democratic voters said they would be more likely to vote if Roe v. Wade was overturned. Forty-eight percent of Democratic voters said in a May Monmouth University poll that they were basing their vote on candidates’ positions on abortion rights.    

In the hours after the decision was handed down, sending the issue of legalizing abortion back to the state level, U.S. Democratic lawmakers warned this was just the beginning of the fight over reproductive rights.    

“We need to restore the protections of Roe as law of the land. We need to elect officials who will do that. This fall, Roe is on the ballot. Personal freedoms are on the ballot,” U.S. President Joe Biden said Friday.  

A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted after Friday’s announcement found 40% of the American public strongly disapprove of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and leave abortion laws up to states.   

Former U.S. President Donald Trump was elected partly on the strength of his campaign promise to nominate Supreme Court justices who opposed abortion rights. In a 2016 debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Trump said, “I am putting pro-life justices on the court — it will go back to the states.”   

He eventually nominated three Supreme Court associate justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. All three told lawmakers in their confirmation hearings that Roe v. Wade was the settled law of the land. All three were confirmed and eventually overturned the law, becoming the key votes in the decision. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday the overturn of Roe v. Wade was the direct result of the election of Trump and warned that Trump’s “Make America Great Again” wing of the Republican Party would result in further loss of reproductive rights if voters were not careful.    

“Elect more MAGA Republicans if you want nationwide abortion bans, the jailing of women and doctors, and no exemptions for rape or incest. Or elect more pro-choice Democrats to save Roe and protect a woman’s right to make their own decisions about their body, not politicians,” Schumer said at a press conference in New York.  

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned Friday that if Republicans gained control of Congress in November, they would move to even more serious action.   

“Republicans are plotting a nationwide abortion ban. They cannot be allowed to have a majority in the Congress to do that. But that’s their goal. This is deadly serious,” Pelosi said.    

But outside the Supreme Court on Friday, 23-year-old abortion rights supporter Anabelle (whose last name was withheld by request), told VOA that electoral politics was not the solution.    

“Even if we codify Roe, it’s pretty clear the Supreme Court is just going to rule it unconstitutional. So, I think in theory, Roe is on the ballot. In reality, it would require 60 Democratic senators who are willing to actually take action on cracking the code on ending the filibuster on making sure that this is here to stay,” she said.  

Various public opinion polls show that about 70% of Americans support legalized abortion in some form. But some analysts say the Democratic Party needs to do a better job of developing an action plan.    

“There is this sort of fantasy of the apathetic, young voter who won’t turn up for midterms,” Sarah Clarke Kaplan, director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, told VOA. “But I think that really one of the things that we’ve seen in years is that actually what affects the turnout of young voters is how much they feel they are represented by the progressive bent of the Democratic Party.”  

She added, “We’re going to have to first see on the level of political parties a kind of progressive actionable stance around what the Democratic Party’s response plans to be for maintaining access to abortion for young people and for all people.” 

On the Republican side, the path forward is clearer. On Friday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said the overturn of Roe v. Wade was the result of decades of hard work but added, “The work just begins now to go and protect life even more, because the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, correcting that flawed decision, finally allows states and Congress to protect life in ways that we never were able to for the last 50 years.”    

Anna Lulis, a digital engagement strategist for Students for Life of America, said outside the Supreme Court on Friday that this is the right approach.  

“I think it’s super important to push pro-life legislation. What you’re going to see with a post-Roe America is probably a polarization among the states. You’re going to have some states ban abortion, and then you’re going to have some states probably push radical pro-abortion laws. So, what we need to do, and what we hope to do, is go to those states, those radical pro-abortion laws, and educate them about the issue of abortion. But also, and hopefully, encourage them to push, eventually, pro-life legislation by cultivating a culture of life,” Lulis said. 

 

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3 Killed When Amtrak Train Hits Truck, Derails in Missouri

Three people were killed and others were injured when a passenger train traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago struck a dump truck and derailed in a remote, rural area of Missouri on Monday, officials said.

It was not immediately clear how many people were hurt beyond the three people who died, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.

At least eight medical helicopters were responding from around the state, Matt Daugherty, Lifeflight Eagle director of business development, told The Kansas City Star. Daugherty said he knew there were a number of injuries and some people were in critical condition.

The Southwest Chief was carrying about 243 passengers and 12 crew members when the collision happened near Mendon at 12:42 p.m. local time, Amtrak said. The Highway Patrol said seven cars derailed. Amtrak had previously said eight cars had.

Helicopter video shown by KMBC-TV in Kansas City from the scene showed rail cars on their side as emergency responders used ladders to climb into one of them. The video also showed six medical helicopters parked nearby waiting to transport patients.

Three passengers were taken to University Hospital in Columbia, hospital spokesman Eric Maze said. He did not have information on their conditions. 

Passengers on the train included high school students from Pleasant Ridge High School in Easton, Kansas, who were headed to a Future Business Leaders of America conference in Chicago, Superintendent Tim Beying told The Kansas City Star.

The Southwest Chief takes about two days to travel from Los Angeles to Chicago. Mendon, with a population of about 160, is about 84 miles (135 kilometers) northeast of Kansas City. 

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US Urges Israelis, Palestinians to Calm Tensions Ahead of Biden Visit 

The United States expressed concern Monday about “palpable and dangerous” tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, ahead of a visit next month by President Joe Biden to the region.

“We once again call on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that increase tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution, such as settlement activity, demolitions, incitement to violence and evictions,” the deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Mills, told a meeting of the Security Council on the issue of Israeli settlements.

Biden will visit Israel and the West Bank and then continue to Saudi Arabia from July 13 through July 16.

The White House says the president plans to meet with Israeli leaders to discuss that country’s “security, prosperity, and its increasing integration into the greater region.” Biden will also visit the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority officials.

Mills said that during the trip, Biden will “urge calm and explore ways to promote equal measures of security, freedom and opportunity for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

U.S.-Palestinian relations hit a low in 2020, when the Trump administration unveiled its Middle East peace plan. The Palestinians rejected it outright, saying it heavily favored Israel and did not give them a sovereign, contiguous state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Trump administration also moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, angering the Palestinians. Biden has criticized that move but has not reversed it.

The United Nations says violence has increased in recent months in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel. Since mid-March, the U.N. says 49 Palestinians, including several children, have been killed in demonstrations and clashes with Israeli forces, while 11 Israelis and three foreign nationals have been killed in attacks inside Israel.

“As events over recent months have demonstrated yet again, managing the conflict in perpetuity is not a viable option,” Tor Wennesland, U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the council from Jerusalem. “There is no substitute for a legitimate political process that will resolve the core issues driving the conflict.”

Palestinian-American journalist’s death

Biden is also likely to face questions from Palestinian officials about the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot and killed May 11 while covering an Israeli operation in the West Bank city of Jenin. Abu Akleh was also a U.S. citizen.

The U.N. office for human rights said Friday that information it had gathered was “consistent with the finding” that Abu Akleh was killed by fire from Israeli Security Forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as Israeli authorities initially claimed. The U.N. rights office said its monitors also found no information suggesting activity by armed Palestinians in the immediate vicinity of Abu Akleh and her colleagues.

“We, like others on this council, are concerned with the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,” Mills told the Security Council. “We continue to stress the importance of accountability for Abu Akleh’s tragic death. The United States will not relent on our calls for transparent accountability for those responsible for this tragedy until justice is done.”

Asked last week by a reporter if Biden would raise Abu Akleh’s killing during his trip to Israel, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the administration wants her death “fully investigated,” and the president would not be “bashful” about raising human rights and press freedom issues “with any foreign leader anywhere in the world.”

VOA’s Anita Powell contributed to this story.

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Pride Parades March on With New Urgency Across US

NEW YORK — Pride parades kicked off in New York City and around the country Sunday with glittering confetti, cheering crowds, fluttering rainbow flags and newfound fears about losing freedoms won through decades of activism.

The annual marches in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and elsewhere took place just two days after one conservative justice on the Supreme Court signaled, in a ruling on abortion, that the court should reconsider the right to same-sex marriage recognized in 2015.

‘We’re here to make a statement,” said 31-year-old Mercedes Sharpe, who traveled to Manhattan from Massachusetts. ‘I think it’s about making a point, rather than all the other years like how we normally celebrate it. This one’s really gonna stand out. I think a lot of angry people, not even just women, angry men, angry women.”

Thousands of people — many decked in pride colors — lined the parade route through Manhattan, cheering as floats and marchers passed by. Organizers announced this weekend that a Planned Parenthood contingent would be at the front of the parade.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the top court ruling a ‘momentary setback’ and said Sunday’s events were ‘an opportunity for us to not only celebrate Pride, but be resolved for the fight.’

‘We will not live in a world, not in my city, where our rights are taken from us or rolled back,’ said Lightfoot, Chicago’s first openly gay mayor, and the first Black woman to hold the office.

In San Francisco, some marchers and spectators held signs condemning the court’s abortion ruling. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who rode in a convertible holding a gavel and a rainbow fan, said the large turnout was an acknowledgement that Americans support gay rights.

‘Even in spite of the majority on the court that’s anti our Constitution, our country knows and loves our LGBTQI+ community,’ she told KGO-TV.

The warning shot from the nation’s top court came after a year of legislative defeats for the LGBTQ community, including the passage of laws in some states limiting the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity with children.

As anti-gay sentiments resurface, some are pushing for the parades to return to their roots — less blocks-long street parties, more overtly civil rights marches.

‘It has gone from being a statement of advocacy and protest to being much more of a celebration of gay life,’ Sean Clarkin, 67, said of New York City’s annual parade while enjoying a drink recently at Julius’, one of the oldest gay bars in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

As he remembers things, the parade was once about defiance and pushing against an oppressive mainstream that saw gays, lesbians and transgender people as unworthy outsiders.

‘As satisfying and empowering as it may be to now be accepted by the mainstream,’ Clarkin said, ‘there was also something energizing and wonderful about being on the outside looking in.’

New York’s first Pride March, then called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, was held in 1970 to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, a spontaneous street uprising triggered by a police raid on a gay bar in Manhattan.

San Francisco’s first march was in 1972 and had been held every year since, except during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Celebrations are now global, taking place throughout the year in multiple countries, with many of the biggest parades taking place in June. One of the world’s largest, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was held June 19.

In the United States, this year’s celebrations take place amid a potential crisis.

In a Supreme Court ruling Friday striking down the right to abortion, Justice Clarence Thomas said in a concurring opinion that the court should also reconsider its 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage and a 2003 decision striking down laws criminalizing gay sex.

New York City parade spectator Jackie English said she and her fiancee Dana had yet to set a wedding date, but have a new sense of urgency.

‘Now we feel a bit pressured,” she said, adding they might ‘jump the gun a little sooner. Because, what if that right gets taken away from us?’

More than a dozen states have recently enacted laws that go against the interests of LGBTQ communities, including a law barring any mention of sexual orientation in school curricula in Florida and threats of prosecution for parents who allow their children to get gender-affirming care in Texas.

Several states have put laws in place prohibiting transgender athletes from participating in team sports that coincide with the gender in which they identify.

According to an Anti-Defamation League survey released earlier this week, members of LGBTQ communities were more likely than any other group to experience harassment. Two-thirds of respondents said they have been harassed, a little more than half of whom said the harassment was a result of their sexual orientation.

In recent years, schisms over how to commemorate Stonewall have opened, spawning splinter groups events intended to be more protest-oriented.

In New York City, the Queer Liberation March takes place at the same time as the traditional parade, billing itself as the ‘antidote to the corporate-infused, police-entangled, politician-heavy Parades that now dominate pride celebrations.”

San Francisco’s parade was marked by the return of uniformed police, who were banned in 2020 after a 2019 confrontation with protesters who staged a parade-stopping sit-in. Critics accused them of using excessive force. On Sunday, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott, in full dress uniform, passed out small rainbow pride flags to spectators.

Despite the criticism of growing commercialism, a strong streak of activism was apparent among attendees this year.

‘The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade has caused a very strong uproar about what went down,” said Dean Jigarjian, 22, who crossed the river from New Jersey with his girlfriend to take part in the New York City parade. ‘So as you can see here, the crowd seems to be very energized about what could be next.’

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Action Needed on Austin Tice, Says Family of US Journalist Missing in Syria

American journalist Austin Tice has been missing in Syria for 10 years. His family from Texas advocates tirelessly to bring him home. VOA’s Sirwan Kajjo has more.

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Avalanche Defeat Lightning to Win Stanley Cup

The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 Sunday night to win the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup. 

The Avalanche won the best-of-7 series four games to two, denying the Lighting in their quest to become the first team to win three consecutive NHL championships since the New York Islanders in the early 1980s. 

Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos gave the lightning an early 1-0 lead with a first period goal. 

But the Avalanche responded in the second period, with center Nathan MacKinnon evening the game 1-1 less than two minutes into the period. 

Colorado winger Artturi Lehkonen put the Avalanche ahead 2-1 midway through period, the score that would hold as they defeated Tampa Bay on their home ice. 

Colorado defenseman Cale Makar won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player during the playoffs.

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G-7 Summit to Address Global Threats

U.S. President Joe Biden comes to the Group of Seven summit with the war in Ukraine showing no signs of stopping and China’s ambition spreading. The White House says they are committed to countering these issues. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell reports from Telfs, Austria.

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‘Elvis,’ ‘Top Gun’ Tie for Box-Office Crown With $30.5 Million Each

Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic “Elvis” shook up theaters with an estimated $30.5 million in weekend ticket sales, but — in a box-office rarity — “Elvis” tied “Top Gun: Maverick,” which also reported $30.5 million, for No. 1 in theaters.

Final figures Monday, once Sunday’s grosses are tabulated, will sort out which film ultimately won the weekend. With a high degree of accuracy, studios can forecast Sunday sales based on Friday and Saturday business, though numbers often shift by a few hundred thousand dollars.

But for now, the unlikely pair of “Elvis” and “Maverick” are locked in a dance off (if you favor “Elvis”) or a dead heat (if you prefer “Maverick”). That it was this close at all was due to both a better-than-expected opening for “Elvis” and remarkably strong continued sales for “Top Gun: Maverick.” The “Top Gun” sequel reached $1 billion in worldwide box office in its fifth week of release.

“Elvis,” starring newcomer Austin Butler as Presley, came into the weekend with expectations closer to $25 million. Among recent music biopics, a $30.5 million debut puts the King ahead of the pace of Elton John (“Rocketman” launched with $25.7 million in 2019) though not in the same class as Freddie Mercury (“Bohemian Rhapsody” opened with $51.1 million in 2018).

“I’m less concerned with who’s number one and who’s number two, and I’m more concerned that we hit this big number given that this audience has been the slowest to return to movie theaters,” said Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief for Warner Bros.

About 60% of the audience for “Elvis” was over the age of 35. Older audiences have been among the most hesitant to return to theaters in the pandemic but that’s changing — in part, Goldstein noted, because of “Top Gun,” which brought back fans of the 1986 original.

“Elvis,” which cost about $85 million to make, was propelled by strong reviews (78% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), good word of mouth (an A- CinemaScore) and a glitzy Cannes Film Festival premiere. It added $20 million overseas over the weekend.

“Elvis” ranks as Luhrmann’s second best opening after 2013’s “The Great Gatsby” ($50.1 million). Luhrmann was on the cusp of beginning production in Australia when, in an indelible early moment in the pandemic, star Tom Hanks tested positive for COVID-19.

“‘Elvis’ was a risky proposition: the music is dated, the character is not directly familiar, and the lead actor is unproven on the big screen,” David A. Gross of Franchise Entertainment Research wrote in a newsletter. “But critics and audiences are responding. This is the Baz Luhrmann show, a music, dance and sex appeal spectacular — it’s a hit.”

Meanwhile, “Top Gun: Maverick” continues to soar. The Paramount Pictures film became the first 2022 release to reach $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales, and the first starring Tom Cruise to do so.

In its fifth weekend of release, “Maverick” dipped just 32% domestically to bring its total so far to $521.7 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters. It continues to move up the record books, sitting 15th all-time domestically, not accounting for inflation. Internationally, the “Top Gun” sequel added another $44.5 million.

The “Elvis”/”Top Gun” showdown — along with the new Blumhouse horror release “The Black Phone” and big holdovers in “Jurassic World: Dominion” and Pixar’s “Lightyear” — made for one of the most competitive, and busy, weekends in movie theaters in the pandemic era.

Most studios came away celebrating, though Disney’s “Lightyear” dropped a steep 65% in its second weekend. After opening softly last week, the “Toy Story” spinoff grossed $17.7 million domestically, falling to fifth place. “Lightyear,” which has made $152 million worldwide to date, will soon face more competition for families with the Friday release of “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

Counterprogramming came from Universal Pictures’ “The Black Phone,” the Scott Derrickson-directed supernatural thriller starring Ethan Hawke as an escaped killer. The Blumhouse production rode strong reviews (84% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) to a better-than-expected launch of $23.4 million.

After two weeks in first place, Universal’s “Jurassic World: Dominion” took in $26.4 million, sliding to third. It’s now passed $300 million domestically and hauled in $746.7 million globally.

A much smaller-scaled film, “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” debuted with good sales in limited release. The warmly received stop-motion animation film, in which Jenny Slate voices a one-inch-tall mollusk with a googly eye, opened with $169,606 on six screens, for a per-screen average of $28,267.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

  1. (Tie) “Elvis,” $30.5 million.

  2. (Tie) “Top Gun: Maverick,” $30.5 million.

  3. “Jurassic World: Dominion,” $26.4 million.

  4. “Black Phone,” $23.4 million.

  5. “Lightyear,” $17.7 million.

  6. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” $1.7 million.

  7. “Jugjugg Jeeyo,” $725,000.

  8. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” $533,000.

  9. “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” $513,000.

  10. “The Bad Guys,” $440,000.

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US Supreme Court Eliminates Constitutional Right to Abortion

A conservative supermajority in the U.S. Supreme Court struck down on Friday the constitutional right to an abortion by overturning Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized the procedure in the United States. The 6-3 court decision follows a move by the high court to loosen restriction on guns in America despite modest gun control measures passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has more on the rulings.

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US Abortion Foes, Supporters Map Next Moves After Roe Reversal

A Texas group that helps women pay for abortions halted its efforts Saturday while evaluating its legal risk under a strict state ban. Mississippi’s only abortion clinic continued to see patients while awaiting a 10-day notice that will trigger a ban. Elected officials across the country vowed to take action to protect women’s access to reproductive health care, and abortion foes promised to take the fight to new arenas.

A day after the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade ended the constitutional right to abortion, emotional protests and prayer vigils turned to resolve as several states enacted bans and both supporters and opponents of abortion rights mapped out their next moves.

In Texas, Cathy Torres, organizing manager for Frontera Fund, a group that helps pay for abortions, said there is a lot of fear and confusion in the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexico border, where many people are in the country illegally.

That includes how the state’s abortion law will be enforced. Under the law, people who help patients get abortions can be fined and doctors who perform them could face life in prison.

“We are a fund led by people of color, who will be criminalized first,” Torres said, adding that abortion funds like hers that have paused operations hope to find a way to safely restart. “We just really need to keep that in mind and understand the risk.”

Tyler Harden, Mississippi director for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said she spent Friday and Saturday making sure people with impending appointments at the state’s only abortion clinic — which featured in the Supreme Court case but is not affiliated with Planned Parenthood — know they don’t have to cancel them right away. Abortions can take place until 10 days after the state attorney general publishes a required administrative notice.

Mississippi will ban the procedure except for pregnancies that endanger the woman’s life or those caused by rape reported to law enforcement. The Republican speaker of the Mississippi House, Philip Gunn, said during a news conference Friday that he would oppose adding an exception for incest.

“I believe that life begins at conception,” Gunn said.

Harden said she has been providing information about funds that help people travel out of state to have abortions. Many in Mississippi were doing so even before the ruling, but that will become more difficult now that abortions have ended in neighboring states. Florida is the nearest “safe haven” state, but Harden said, “we know that that may not be the case for too much longer.”

At the National Right to Life convention in Atlanta, a leader within the anti-abortion group warned attendees Saturday that the Supreme Court’s decision ushers in “a time of great possibility and a time of great danger.”

Randall O’Bannon, the organization’s director of education and research, encouraged activists to celebrate their victories but stay focused and continue working on the issue. Specifically, he called out medication taken to induce abortion.

“With Roe headed for the dustbin of history, and states gaining the power to limit abortions, this is where the battle is going to be played out over the next several years,” O’Bannon said. “The new modern menace is a chemical or medical abortion with pills ordered online and mailed directly to a woman’s home.”

Protests broke out for a second day in cities across the country, from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City to Jackson, Mississippi.

In the LA demonstration, one of several in California, hundreds of people marched through downtown carrying signs with slogans like “my body, my choice” and “abort the court.”

Turnout was smaller in Oklahoma City, where about 15 protesters rallied outside the Capitol. Oklahoma is one of 11 states where there are no providers offering abortions, and it passed the nation’s strictest abortion law in May.

“I have gone through a wave of emotions in the last 24 hours. … It’s upsetting, it’s angry, it’s hard to put together everything I’m feeling right now,” said Marie Adams, 45, who has had two abortions for ectopic pregnancies, where a fertilized egg is unable to survive. She called the issue “very personal to me.”

“Half the population of the United States just lost a fundamental right,” Adams said. “We need to speak up and speak loud.”

Callie Pruett, who volunteered to escort patients into West Virginia’s only abortion clinic before it stopped offering the procedure after Friday’s ruling, said she plans to work in voter registration in the hope of electing officials who support abortion rights. The executive director of Appalachians for Appalachia added that her organization also will apply for grants to help patients get access to abortion care, including out of state.

“We have to create networks of people who are willing to drive people to Maryland or to D.C.,” Pruett said. “That kind of local action requires organization at a level that we have not seen in nearly 50 years.”

Fellow West Virginian Sarah MacKenzie, 25, said she’s motivated to fight for abortion access by the memory of her mother, Denise Clegg, a passionate reproductive health advocate who worked for years at the state’s clinic as a nurse practitioner and died unexpectedly in May. MacKenzie plans to attend protests in the capital, Charleston, and donate to a local abortion fund.

“She would be absolutely devastated. She was so afraid of this happening — she wanted to stop it,” Mackenzie said, adding, “I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that this gets reversed.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

Since the decision, clinics have stopped performing abortions in Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Women considering abortions already had been dealing with the near-complete ban in Oklahoma and a prohibition after roughly six weeks in Texas.

In Ohio, a ban on most abortions from the first detectable fetal heartbeat became law when a federal judge dissolved an injunction that had kept the measure on hold for nearly three years.

Another law with narrow exceptions was triggered in Utah by Friday’s ruling. Planned Parenthood Association of Utah filed a lawsuit against it in state court and said it would request a temporary restraining order, arguing it violates the state constitution.

Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, where abortion remains legal, signed an executive order shielding people seeking or providing abortions in his state from facing legal consequences in other states. Walz also has vowed to reject requests to extradite anyone accused of committing acts related to reproductive health care that are not criminal offenses in Minnesota.

“My office has been and will continue to be a firewall against legislation that would reverse reproductive freedom,” he said.

In Fargo, North Dakota, the state’s sole abortion provider faces a 30-day window before it would have to shut down and plans to move across the river to Minnesota. Red River Women’s Clinic owner Tammi Kromenaker said Saturday that she has secured a location in Moorhead and an online fundraiser to support the move has brought in more than half a million dollars in less than three days.

Republicans sought to downplay their excitement about winning their decades-long fight to overturn Roe, aware that the ruling could energize the Democratic base, particularly suburban women. Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said she expects abortion opponents to turn out in huge numbers this fall.

But Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, said Saturday he believes the issue will energize independents and he hopes to translate anger over Roe’s demise into votes.

“Any time you take half the people in Wisconsin and make them second-class citizens,” Evers said, “I have to believe there’s going to be a reaction to that.” 

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Biden Arrives in Europe for Summits Focused on Ukraine, Economy

President Joe Biden touched down in Germany on Saturday, where he will attend the G-7 summit with the leaders of key U.S. allies to discuss their united front against Russia and troubling weakness in the world economy. 

Biden flew from Washington to Munich, then boarded the Marine One helicopter for the short flight to the summit location, Schloss Elmau. His first talks during his three-day stay will be with Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany on Sunday. 

The leaders of the seven wealthy democracies, the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, will meet in a luxurious castle in Germany’s Alps. 

Then they all head to Madrid for a NATO summit. 

Both sessions will take place in the shadow of Russia’s Ukraine invasion, but also a global surge in inflation, fears of recession, and the ever-growing challenge of containing China while avoiding open conflict. 

Biden has gained widespread praise for restoring U.S. leadership of its European and Asian alliances. The response to Russia in particular has seen strong transatlantic unity, both for arming the Ukrainians and imposing powerful economic sanctions against Moscow. 

But Biden, like several European leaders, is facing pressure at home over fallout from the sanctions, which have helped drive up fuel prices, imposing a heavy drag on economies exiting the COVID-19 shutdown. 

Biden is also burdened at home by a tense political situation ahead of November midterm elections that could see Republicans take back control of Congress for the next two years. 

A ruling by the Supreme Court on Friday to end decades of federal protections for access to abortion has opened a new battlefield, with Biden calling on voters to make it a key issue in November. 

He returned to the issue on Saturday before departing for Europe, saying the Supreme Court had made a “shocking decision.” 

“I know how painful and devastating the decision is for so many Americans,” he said.

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Taliban Urges US to Lift Curbs and Unfreeze Funds to Help Quake-hit Afghanistan

The Taliban renewed their call Saturday for the United States to unfreeze Afghanistan’s foreign funds and lift financial sanctions to help the war-torn country deal with its deadliest earthquake in more than two decades.  

 

The United Nations said humanitarian organizations, in coordination with Taliban authorities, are continuing to provide aid to families in Paktika and Khost, the two southeastern Afghan provinces hardest hit by Wednesday’s 5.9 magnitude earthquake.  

 

“There are, however, unconfirmed reports that between 700 and 800 families are living in the open across three of the six worst-affected districts,” said a U.N. statement Saturday.  

 

“Families living in non-damaged and partially damaged buildings have also reportedly resorted to living out in the open out of fear that there may be further tremors,” the statement added.  

The quake killed 1,150 people, injured about 1,600 and destroyed nearly 3,000 homes, with hundreds more partially damaged, according to Taliban officials. The destruction hit some of the poorest and most remote mountainous Afghan areas near the Pakistan border which lacks the infrastructure to withstand calamities of this scale. At least 121 children were among those killed and the toll is likely to increase, according to the U.N. children’s fund UNICEF.  

Afghan authorities have called off the search for survivors, and they were struggling to deliver critically needed aid due to capacity challenges.

 

“In these testing times, we call on the United States to release Afghanistan’s frozen assets and lift sanctions on Afghan banks so that aid agencies could easily deliver assistance to Afghanistan,” Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said Saturday, while speaking to reporters in the capital, Kabul.

 

U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order in February that was aimed at freeing up half the $7 billion in frozen Afghan central bank assets on U.S. soil. The money would be used to benefit the Afghan people while the rest would be held to possibly satisfy terrorism-related lawsuits against the Taliban.

 

“We are urgently working to address complicated questions about the use of these funds to ensure they benefit the people of Afghanistan and not the Taliban,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Saturday.

 

But she reiterated the Biden administration was not waiting and was working through international partners to urgently get aid to the Afghan people.

 

The UNICEF representative in the country, Mohamed Ayoya, visited one of the worst-hit districts in Paktika and described the situation on Twitter.

 

“I saw despair, desolation, suffering, vulnerability but also resilience & acts of solidarity from national businessmen, international organizations & authorities,” Ayoya wrote.  

 

More foreign aid arrives  

 

Meanwhile, Afghan officials said cargo planes from neighboring Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and the gulf state of Qatar, carrying relief supplies for survivors, landed at the Khost airport.

 

 

Mansoor Ahmad Khan, the Pakistani ambassador in Kabul, said in a Twitter post that his country had also stationed “19 paramedics/doctors…at Khost Airport from 23 June with 3 ambulances & mobile hospital to treat injured & refer serious to hospitals in Pakistan.”

 

China said it would provide humanitarian assistance worth $7.5 million to Afghanistan, including tents, towels, beds and other supplies urgently needed in quake-devastated areas.  

 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Saturday the first batch of supplies was scheduled to depart for the crisis-hit neighbor by charter flights Monday.

 

“In the next few days, China will coordinate closely with the Afghan interim government to ensure the rapid delivery of the relief supplies into the hands of the people in need,” Wenbin said.

 

Britain has also pledged to provide $3 million for immediate life-saving support to Afghans affected by the devastating earthquake.

 

The international community has not yet recognized the Taliban’s interim government since the Islamist insurgent group took over Afghanistan last August, citing concerns over human rights and terrorism.  

 

The Taliban takeover came as U.S. and NATO partners withdrew their final troops, ending almost two decades of foreign military intervention in the South Asian nation.

 

Washington and other Western countries have since halted financial assistance to largely aid-dependent Afghanistan, seized its foreign assets worth more than $9 billion, mostly held by the U.S, and isolated the Afghan banking system.

 

The actions and long-running terrorism-related sanctions on senior Taliban leaders have thrown cash-strapped Afghanistan into a severe economic crisis, worsening an already bad humanitarian crisis blamed on years of war and persistent drought.

 

The United Nations estimates that 97% of Afghanistan’s 40 million people will be living below the poverty line this year.  

 

U.S. Acting Political Counselor Trina Saha told a U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday that the Afghan earthquake was a devastating blow to a population that is already suffering gravely.

 

“We call for urgent donor assistance to relief efforts,” she said. Saha added that “the earthquake highlights the vulnerability of the Afghan people and underscores the dire need for continued humanitarian assistance.”

 

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Protesters at US Supreme Court Decry Abortion Ruling Overturning Roe v. Wade

Hundreds of protesters descended on the U.S. Supreme Court Saturday to denounce the justice’s decision to overturn the half-century-old Roe v. Wade precedent that recognized women’s constitutional right to abortion.

The sweeping ruling by the court, with a 6-3 conservative majority, was set to vastly change American life, with nearly half the states considered certain or likely to ban abortion.

Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the court’s reasoning could also lead it to reconsider past rulings protecting the right to contraception, legalizing gay marriage nationwide, and invalidating state laws banning gay sex.

The crowd featured both abortion opponents wearing T-shirts reading “I am the Pro-Life Generation” and abortion rights supporters chanting “my body, my choice.”

“The Supreme Court has made some terrible decisions,” Democratic President Joe Biden said Saturday. He added that the White House would look to police how states enforce bans, with administration officials having already signaled they plan to fight attempts by states to ban a pill used for medication abortion.

“The decision is implemented by states,” Biden said. “My administration is going to focus on how they administer and whether or not they violate other laws.”

Christian conservatives had long fought to overturn Roe, with Friday’s ruling a cherished win that was the result of a long campaign to appoint justices opposed to abortion to the top court. The ruling had the support of all three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.

It is at odds with broad public opinion. A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month found that about 71% of Americans – including majorities of Democrats and Republicans – said decisions about terminating a pregnancy should be left to a woman and her doctor, rather than regulated by the government. That support is not absolute: 26% of respondents polled said abortion should be legal in all cases, while 10% said it should be illegal in all cases, with the majority supporting some limits.

The ruling will likely influence voter behavior in the November 8 midterm elections, when Biden’s Democrats face a high risk of losing their razor-thin majorities in the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. Some party leaders hope the decision will win over suburban swing voters, though activists expressed disappointment and demoralization at suffering such a defeat while their party held total power in Washington.

“They can ask for vote for more power, but don’t they already have the Congress and the White House?” said Patricia Smith, a 24-year-old supporter of abortion rights, who was headed to the Supreme Court to protest. “They have not been able to pass much in terms of legislation despite the power, so what is the point?”

The decision came just a day after the court issued another landmark ruling finding that Americans have a constitutional right to carry a concealed gun for protection – leading them to invalidate a New York state law that set strict limits on concealed carry permits.

The two rulings showed an aggressively conservative court ready to flex its muscle and remake American life at a time when Congress is often deadlocked and struggles to pass major policy changes.

It also signaled that Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative who preferred to act incrementally, no longer holds the power to slow the court’s action. Roberts had voted to support the Mississippi abortion ban that was the subject of Friday’s decision, but it did not vote to overturn Roe itself.

During a call with journalists Saturday, a group of Democratic state attorneys general said they would not use their offices to enforce abortion bans.

“We are not going to use the resources of the Wisconsin Department of Justice to investigate or prosecute anybody for alleged violations of the 19th century abortion ban,” said Josh Kaul, that state’s attorney general. “I’ve also encouraged district attorneys, sheriff prosecutors and police chiefs in our state not to use their resources to investigate or prosecute abortions.”

The White House on Saturday said it would challenge any efforts by states to restrict women’s ability to travel out of their home state to seek an abortion. 

Tears, Anger at the “Pink House”

The case that led to Friday’s decision revolved around a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, before the fetus is viable outside the womb.

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization, nicknamed the “Pink House” because of its bubble gum-colored paint, was named in the case. The clinic was still operating on Saturday morning, with escorts showing up to the state’s sole abortion clinic about 5 a.m. to prepare for the arrival of patients.

Anti-abortion protesters began setting up ladders to peer over the property’s fence and large posters with messages, including “abortion is murder” not long after.

Coleman Boyd, 50, a longtime protester outside the clinic who frequently comes with his wife and children to shout gospel through a bullhorn, incorrectly told women waiting for appointments that they were violating the law.

In truth, Mississippi’s law will not shut down the clinic for another nine days. Boyd called the Roe ruling “history” but “definitely not a victory,” noting that he wanted to see an end to abortion in all states.

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President Biden Signs Bipartisan Gun Safety Bill Into Law; Takes Swipe at Supreme Court

U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday signed a bipartisan gun safety bill into law — the first major federal gun reform in three decades, days after the Supreme Court expanded gun rights.

“This is monumental day,” Biden said at the White House, with his wife Jill by his side. “God willing, it’s going to save a lot of lives.”

The Supreme Court on Thursday declared for the first time that the U.S. Constitution protected an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense. Gun control has long been a divisive issue in the nation with several attempts to put new controls on gun sales failing time after time.

The new legislation includes provisions to help states keep guns out of the hands of those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others and blocks gun sales to those convicted of abusing unmarried intimate partners. It does not ban sales of assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines.

The law does take some steps on background checks by allowing access, for the first time, to information on significant crimes committed by juveniles. It also cracks down on gun sales to purchasers convicted of domestic violence.  

It provides new federal funding to states that administer “red flag” laws intended to remove guns from people deemed dangerous to themselves and others.

Biden said he would host an event in July for victims of gun violence to mark the bill’s signing.

“Their message to us was do something … today we did,” said Biden.

The President also repeated his criticism of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday, which eliminated the constitutional right to abortion nationwide, and said his administration was going to focus on how states implemented the decision and make sure they did not violate other laws.

“Is the Supreme Court broken? The Supreme Court has made some terrible decisions,” Biden said. “Jill and I know how painful and devastating the decision is for so many Americans and I mean so many Americans. We’re going to take action to protect women’s rights and reproductive health.”

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Protesters Gather in US Cities in Support of Abortion Rights

Protesters are gathering in cities across the United States to demonstrate against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overrule a constitutional right to abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years.

The ruling by the court leaves it to states to decide whether to allow abortions, overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had guaranteed women a right to an abortion in the initial stages of pregnancy.

Crowds gathered in New York, Atlanta, Detroit and Los Angeles, among other cities.

One person was hit by a truck in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Friday during a protest. The victim’s injuries were minor, police said.

Hundreds of protesters in New York City chanted “Overturn Roe, hell, no” and “Rise up for abortion rights.”

In Washington, both supporters and opponents of abortion rights began gathering outside the Supreme Court building after the court made its announcement Friday.

The crowd is expected to increase in size throughout the weekend.

A group of Democratic lawmakers addressed abortion-rights demonstrators outside the U.S. Capitol, with progressive U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chanting “into the streets.”

Abortion-rights opponents cheered Friday’s ruling, dancing, playing music and chanting “Goodbye, Roe.”

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said the city’s chief of police is working with federal authorities to “make sure that people have the ability to exercise their First Amendment rights [to demonstrate] safely.”

Meanwhile, Washington’s local police department announced Friday that its force has been fully activated.

U.S. President Joe Biden urged Americans on Friday to remain peaceful when protesting the Supreme Court decision.

While he said he knows many Americans are “frustrated and disillusioned,” he said violence must be avoided.

“Violence is never acceptable. Threats and intimidation are not speech. We must stand against violence in any form, regardless of your rationale,” he said.

Department of Homeland Security officials warned in a new, updated analysis obtained by VOA that domestic violent extremists (DVEs) will likely seek to exploit the Supreme Court ruling “to intensify violence against a wide range of targets.”

“We expect violence could occur for weeks following the release, particularly as DVEs may be mobilized to respond to changes in state laws and ballot measures on abortion stemming from the decision,” according to the analysis. “We base this assessment on an observed increase in violent incidents across the United States following the unauthorized disclosure in May of a draft majority opinion on the case.”

Friday’s ruling came less than two months after an early draft of the court’s opinion was leaked to a news site, setting off nationwide protests by abortion-rights activists.

The governors of the West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington issued a joint statement Friday saying their states will remain locations where reproductive health care will be accessible and protected.

VOA’s National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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US Supreme Court Ruling Could Trigger Anti-Abortion Laws in at Least 13 States

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which has guaranteed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion for almost 50 years, is set to activate anti-abortion laws in at least 13 states.

While some of the so-called “trigger laws” have been in place for years, others have been enacted more recently. Some states could activate their anti-abortion laws immediately, with others following shortly thereafter.

The 13 states that have laws that would ban or halt abortions with the Supreme Court’s overturn Friday of Roe are Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

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UN Weekly Roundup: June 18-24, 2022    

Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.

UN chief warns risk of multiple famines in 2021 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told an international conference on food security Friday in Berlin that the world is facing the “real risk” of multiple famines this year and that 2023 could be even worse. He said rising fuel and fertilizer prices are dramatically affecting the world’s farmers.  

UN Chief Says World Faces ‘Real Risk’ of Multiple Famines This Year 

Earthquake rocks Afghanistan as Security Council urges respect for rights 

The U.N. Security Council expressed sympathy for the Afghan people on Thursday in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake, while it continued to press Taliban authorities to reverse restrictions on women and to stabilize the country.   

At UN, Taliban Are Pressed to Reverse Rights Restrictions

Guterres appeals for renewal of cross-border aid operation for Syria 

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Monday that it is a “moral imperative” for the 15 members to renew a cross-border aid operation from Turkey into northwest Syria that assists more than 4 million people. The council must vote on renewing the mechanism by July 10. Russia says it prefers all aid to go through Damascus. U.N. humanitarian officials say that would be inadequate to meet the scale of need, which is the highest it has been since the war started in 2011.

UN Chief Appeals for Cross-Border Aid Into NW Syria

In brief    

— Friday marked four months since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The U.N. says more than 12 million Ukrainians have been uprooted by the conflict. It is scaling up its assistance and is now reaching nearly 9 million people with aid. In the east of the country, where fighting is intense, the organization says it needs access to civilians in need. 

— The U.N. expressed concern Thursday at reports that Myanmar’s military junta has transferred ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest to prison, where she is being held in solitary confinement. Antonio Guterres’ spokesman said the development “goes against everything we’ve been calling for, which was her release and the release of the president and all of the other political prisoners, and we are concerned for her state.” 

— The U.N. said Friday that across northern Ethiopia’s Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions, 13 million people need food and other assistance. The region had been cut off to aid for months, but since convoys started entering in early April, more than 120,000 tons of food and supplies have been delivered. But aid distribution is being hindered by fuel shortages. Two million liters per month is needed, but less than half of that has entered the region in the past three months.   

— A U.N. study says 222 million children and adolescents worldwide have had their education disrupted by multiple crises. Education Cannot Wait said Wednesday that conflict, displacement, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate-induced disasters are the main culprits. The study found that 78.2 million children have dropped out of school — a troubling development education, experts say, as they are unlikely to resume their education, which will have lifelong repercussions.

Quote of note     

“Access to safe, legal and effective abortion is firmly rooted in international human rights law and is at the core of women’s and girls’ autonomy and ability to make their own choices about their bodies and lives, free of discrimination, violence and coercion. This decision strips such autonomy from millions of women in the U.S., in particular those with low incomes and those belonging to racial and ethnic minorities, to the detriment of their fundamental rights.”  

— Michelle Bachelet, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Friday removing a 50-year-old constitutional right to a legal and safe abortion for American women.

Next week

The United Nations said Thursday it will broker new talks between Libyan politicians from rival institutions in a bid to break a deadlock on the rules for long-awaited elections.

Read more on the political situation here: UN to Hold New Libya Talks as Stalemate Persists

Did you know? 

Friday was the first International Day of Women in Diplomacy. The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution by consensus on June 20 put forward by the Maldives making it an annual commemoration. Only one-fifth of the current ambassadors to the United Nations in New York are women — about 44.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said in a tweet that the international community must keep fighting for women’s leadership.

 

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US Farmers Welcome New Approach to Indo Pacific Trade Policy

President Joe Biden’s proposed Indo Pacific Economic Framework with key Asian nations signals a new approach for U.S. trade policy in the region. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, U.S. farmers are optimistic the Framework will provide new markets for their goods.
Camera: Kane Farabaugh Producer: Kane Farabaugh

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