Category: Новини

Ukraine shoots down 2 of 7 Russian missiles as Russia says it downs 50 Ukrainian drones

US beach aims to disrupt Black students’ spring bash after ’23 chaos

TYBEE ISLAND, Georgia — Thousands of Black college students expected this weekend for an annual spring bash at the largest public beach in the U.S. state of Georgia will be greeted by dozens of extra police officers and barricades closing off neighborhood streets. While the beach will remain open, officials are blocking access to nearby parking.

Tybee Island east of Savannah has grappled with the April beach party known as Orange Crush since students at Savannah State University, a historically Black school, started it more than 30 years ago. Residents regularly groused about loud music, trash littering the sand and revelers urinating in yards.

Those complaints boiled over into fear and outrage a year ago when weekend crowds of up to 48,000 people daily overwhelmed the 4.8-kilometer island. That left a small police force scrambling to handle a flood of emergency calls reporting gunfire, drug overdoses, traffic jams and fistfights.

Mayor Brian West, elected last fall by Tybee Island’s 3,100 residents, said roadblocks and added police aren’t just for limiting crowds. He hopes the crackdown will drive Orange Crush away for good.

“This has to stop. We can’t have this crowd anymore,” West said. “My goal is to end it.”

Critics say local officials are overreacting and appear to be singling out Black visitors to a Southern beach that only white people could use until 1963. They note Tybee Island attracts vast crowds for the Fourth of July and other summer weekends when visitors are largely white, as are 92% of the island’s residents.

“Our weekends are packed with people all season, but when Orange Crush comes, they shut down the parking, bring extra police and act like they have to take charge,” said Julia Pearce, one of the island’s few Black residents and leader of a group called the Tybee MLK Human Rights Organization. She added: “They believe Black folks to be criminals.”

During the week, workers placed metal barricades to block off parking meters and residential streets along the main road parallel to the beach. Two large parking lots near a popular pier are being closed. And Tybee Island’s roughly two dozen police officers will be augmented by about 100 sheriff’s deputies, Georgia state troopers and other officers.

Security plans were influenced by tactics used last month to reduce crowds and violence at spring break in Miami Beach, which was observed by Tybee Island’s police chief.

Officials insist they’re acting to avoid a repeat of last year’s Orange Crush party, which they say became a public safety crisis with crowds at least double their typical size.

“To me, it has nothing to do with race,” said West, who believes city officials previously haven’t taken a stronger stand against Orange Crush because they feared being called racist. “We can’t let that be a reason to let our citizens be unsafe and so we’re not.”

Tybee Island police reported 26 total arrests during Orange Crush last year. Charges included one armed robbery with a firearm, four counts of fighting in public and five DUIs. Two officers reported being pelted with bottles, and two women told police they were beaten and robbed of a purse.

On a gridlocked highway about a mile off the island, someone fired a gun into a car and injured one person. Officials blamed the shooting on road rage.

Orange Crush’s supporters and detractors alike say it’s not college students causing the worst problems.

Joshua Miller, a 22-year-old Savannah State University senior who plans to attend this weekend, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the crackdown was at least partly motivated by race.

“I don’t know what they have in store,” Miller said. “I’m not going down there with any ill intent. I’m just going out there to have fun.”

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson was one of the Black students from Savannah State who helped launch Orange Crush in 1988. The university dropped involvement in the 1990s, and Johnson said that over time the celebration “got off the rails.” But he also told reporters he’s concerned about “over-representation of police” at the beach party.

At Nickie’s 1971 Bar & Grill near the beach, general manager Sean Ensign said many neighboring shops and eateries will close for Orange Crush though his will stay open, selling to-go food orders like last year. But with nearby parking spaces closed, Ensign said his profits might take a hit, “possibly a few thousand dollars.”

It’s not the first time Tybee Island has targeted the Black beach party. In 2017, the city council banned alcohol and amplified music on the beach only during Orange Crush weekend. A discrimination complaint to the U.S. Justice Department resulted in city officials signing a non-binding agreement to impose uniform rules for large events.

West says Orange Crush is different because it’s promoted on social media by people who haven’t obtained permits. A new state law lets local governments recoup public safety expenses from organizers of unpermitted events.

In February, Britain Wigfall was denied an permit for space on the island for food trucks during Orange Crush. The mayor said Wigfall has continued to promote events on the island.

Wigfall, 30, said he’s promoting a concert this weekend in Savannah, but nothing on Tybee Island involving Orange Crush.

“I don’t control it,” Wigfall said. “Nobody controls the date that people go down there.”

Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say

NEW YORK — A man who doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire outside the courthouse where former President Donald Trump is on trial has died, police said. 

The New York City Police Department told The Associated Press early Saturday that the man was declared dead by staff at an area hospital.

The man was in Collect Pond Park around 1:30 p.m. Friday when he took out pamphlets espousing conspiracy theories, tossed them around, then doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire, officials and witnesses said.

A large number of police officers were nearby when it happened. Some officers and bystanders rushed to the aid of the man, who was hospitalized in critical condition.

The man, who police said had traveled from Florida to New York in the last few days, hadn’t breached any security checkpoints to get into the park. 

The park outside the courthouse has been a gathering spot for protesters, journalists and gawkers throughout Trump’s trial, which began with jury selection Monday. 

Through Friday, the streets and sidewalks in the area around the courthouse were generally wide open and crowds have been small and largely orderly. 

Authorities said they were also reviewing the security protocols, including whether to restrict access to the park. The side street where Trump enters and leaves the building is off limits.

“We may have to shut this area down,” New York City Police Department Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry said at a news conference outside the courthouse, adding that officials would discuss the security plan soon.

US to withdraw its troops from Niger, source says

washington — The United States will withdraw its troops from Niger, a source familiar with the matter said late on Friday, adding that an agreement was reached between U.S Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and Niger’s leadership. 

As of last year, there were a little more than 1,000 U.S. troops in Niger, where the U.S. military operated out of two bases, including a drone base known as Air Base 201 near Agadez in central Niger at a cost of more than $100 million. 

Since 2018, the base has been used to target Islamic State militants and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, an al-Qaida affiliate, in the Sahel region.  

Last year, Niger’s army seized power in a coup. Until the coup, Niger had remained a key security partner of the United States and France.  

But the new authorities in Niger joined juntas in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso in ending military deals with one-time Western allies like Washington and Paris, quitting the regional political and economic bloc ECOWAS, and fostering closer ties with Russia. 

In the coming days, there will be conversations about how that drawdown of troops will look, the source told Reuters, asking not to identified. 

The source said there would still be diplomatic and economic relationships between the U.S. and Niger despite this step. 

Earlier Friday, The New York Times reported that more than 1,000 American military personnel will leave Niger in coming months. 

Last month, Niger’s ruling junta said it revoked with immediate effect a military accord that allowed military personnel and civilian staff from the U.S. Department of Defense on its soil. 

The Pentagon had said thereafter it was seeking clarification about the way ahead. It added that the U.S. government had “direct and frank” conversations in Niger ahead of the junta’s announcement and was continuing to communicate with Niger’s ruling military council. 

Hundreds took to the streets of Niger’s capital last week to demand the departure of U.S. troops after the ruling junta further shifted its strategy by ending the military accord with the United States and welcoming Russian military instructors. 

Eight coups in West and Central Africa over four years, including in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, have prompted growing concerns over democratic backsliding in the region. 

US emergency rooms refused to treat pregnant women

WASHINGTON — One woman miscarried in the lobby restroom of a Texas emergency room as front desk staff refused to check her in. Another woman learned that her fetus had no heartbeat at a Florida hospital, the day after a security guard turned her away from the facility. And in North Carolina, a woman gave birth in a car after an emergency room couldn’t offer an ultrasound. The baby later died.

Complaints that pregnant women were turned away from U.S. emergency rooms spiked in 2022 after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, federal documents obtained by The Associated Press reveal.

The cases raise alarms about the state of emergency pregnancy care in the U.S., especially in states that enacted strict abortion laws and sparked confusion around the treatment doctors can provide.

“It is shocking, it’s absolutely shocking,” said Amelia Huntsberger, an OB/GYN in Oregon. “It is appalling that someone would show up to an emergency room and not receive care — this is inconceivable.”

It’s happened despite federal mandates that the women be treated.

Federal law requires emergency rooms to treat or stabilize patients who are in active labor and provide a medical transfer to another hospital if they don’t have the staff or resources to treat them. Medical facilities must comply with the law if they accept Medicare funding.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday that could weaken those protections. The Biden administration has sued Idaho over its abortion ban, even in medical emergencies, arguing it conflicts with the federal law.

“No woman should be denied the care she needs,” Jennifer Klein, director of the White House Gender Policy Council, said in a statement. “All patients, including women who are experiencing pregnancy-related emergencies, should have access to emergency medical care required under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA).”

Pregnancy care after Roe

Pregnant patients have “become radioactive to emergency departments” in states with extreme abortion restrictions, said Sara Rosenbaum, a George Washington University health law and policy professor.

“They are so scared of a pregnant patient, that the emergency medicine staff won’t even look. They just want these people gone,” Rosenbaum said.

Consider what happened to a woman who was nine months pregnant and having contractions when she arrived at the Falls Community Hospital in Marlin, Texas, in July 2022, a week after the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion. The doctor on duty refused to see her.

“The physician came to the triage desk and told the patient that we did not have obstetric services or capabilities,” hospital staff told federal investigators during interviews, according to documents. “The nursing staff informed the physician that we could test her for the presence of amniotic fluid. However, the physician adamantly recommended the patient drive to a Waco hospital.”

Investigators with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services concluded Falls Community Hospital broke the law.

Reached by phone, an administrator at the hospital declined to comment on the incident.

The investigation was one of dozens the AP obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request filed in February 2023 that sought all pregnancy-related EMTALA complaints the previous year. One year after submitting the request, the federal government agreed to release only some complaints and investigative documents filed across just 19 states. The names of patients, doctors and medical staff were redacted from the documents.

Federal investigators looked into just over a dozen pregnancy-related complaints in those states during the months leading up to the U.S. Supreme Court’s pivotal ruling on abortion in 2022. But more than two dozen complaints about emergency pregnancy care were lodged in the months after the decision was unveiled. It is not known how many complaints were filed last year as the records request only asked for 2022 complaints and the information is not publicly available otherwise.

The documents did not detail what happened to the patient turned away from the Falls Community Hospital.

‘She is bleeding a lot’

Other pregnancies ended in catastrophe, the documents show.

At Sacred Heart Emergency Center in Houston, front desk staff refused to check in one woman after her husband asked for help delivering her baby that September. She miscarried in a restroom toilet in the emergency room lobby while her husband called 911 for help.

“She is bleeding a lot and had a miscarriage,” the husband told first responders in his call, which was transcribed from Spanish in federal documents. “I’m here at the hospital but they told us they can’t help us because we are not their client.”

Emergency crews, who arrived 20 minutes later and transferred the woman to a hospital, appeared confused over the staff’s refusal to help the woman, according to 911 call transcripts.

One first responder told federal investigators that when a Sacred Heart Emergency Center staffer was asked about the gestational age of the fetus, the staffer replied: “No, we can’t tell you, she is not our patient. That’s why you are here.”

A manager for Sacred Heart Emergency Center declined to comment. The facility is licensed in Texas as a freestanding emergency room, which means it is not physically connected to a hospital. State law requires those facilities to treat or stabilize patients, a spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services agency said in an email to AP.

Sacred Heart Emergency’s website says that it no longer accepts Medicare, a change that was made sometime after the woman miscarried, according to publicly available archives of the center’s website.

Meanwhile, the staff at Person Memorial Hospital in Roxboro, North Carolina, told a pregnant woman, who was complaining of stomach pain, that they would not be able to provide her with an ultrasound. The staff failed to tell her how risky it could be for her to depart without being stabilized, according to federal investigators. While en route to another hospital 45 minutes away, the woman gave birth in a car to a baby who did not survive.

Person Memorial Hospital self-reported the incident. A spokeswoman said the hospital continues to “provide ongoing education for our staff and providers to ensure compliance.”

In Melbourne, Florida, a security guard at Holmes Regional Medical Center refused to let a pregnant woman into the triage area because she had brought a child with her. When the patient came back the next day, medical staff were unable to locate a fetal heartbeat. The center declined to comment on the case.

What’s the penalty?

Emergency rooms are subject to hefty fines when they turn away patients, fail to stabilize them or transfer them to another hospital for treatment. Violations can also put hospitals’ Medicare funding at risk.

But it’s unclear what fines might be imposed on more than a dozen hospitals that the Biden administration says failed to properly treat pregnant patients in 2022.

It can take years for fines to be levied in these cases. The Health and Human Services agency, which enforces the law, declined to share if the hospitals have been referred to the agency’s Office of Inspector General for penalties.

For Huntsberger, the OB/GYN, EMTALA was one of the few ways she felt protected to treat pregnant patients in Idaho, despite the state’s abortion ban. She left Idaho last year to practice in Oregon because of the ban.

The threat of fines or loss of Medicare funding for violating EMTALA is a big deterrent that keeps hospitals from dumping patients, she said. Many couldn’t keep their doors open if they lost Medicare funding.

She has been waiting to see how HHS penalizes two hospitals in Missouri and Kansas that HHS announced last year it was investigating after a pregnant woman, who was in preterm labor at 17 weeks, was denied an abortion.

“A lot of these situations are not reported, but even the ones that are — like the cases out of the Midwest — they’re investigated but nothing really comes of it,” Huntsberger said. “People are just going to keep providing substandard care or not providing care. The only way that changes is things like this.”

President Joe Biden and top U.S. health official Xavier Becerra have both publicly vowed vigilance in enforcing the law.

Even as states have enacted strict abortion laws, the White House has argued that if hospitals receive Medicare funds they must provide stabilizing care, including abortions.

In a statement to the AP, Becerra called it the “nation’s bedrock law protecting Americans’ right to life- and health-saving emergency medical care.”

“And doctors, not politicians, should determine what constitutes emergency care,” he added.

Idaho’s law allows abortion only if the life, not the health, of the mother is at risk. But the state’s attorney general has argued that its abortion ban is “consistent” with federal law, which calls for emergency rooms to protect an unborn child in medical emergencies.

“The Biden administration has no business rewriting federal law to override Idaho’s law and force doctors to perform abortions,” Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador said in a statement earlier this year.

Now, the Supreme Court will weigh in. The case could have implications in other states like Arizona, which is reinstating an 1864 law that bans all abortions, with an exception only if the mother’s life is at risk.

EMTALA was initially introduced decades ago because private hospitals would dump patients on county or state hospitals, often because they didn’t have insurance, said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Some hospitals also refused to see pregnant women when they did not have an established relationship with physicians on staff. If the court nullifies or weakens those protections, it could result in more hospitals turning away patients without fear of penalty from the federal government, she said.

“The government knows there’s a problem and is investigating and is doing something about that,” Kolbi-Molinas said. “Without EMTALA, they wouldn’t be able to do that.”

While under Russian attack, Ukraine pleads to West for more military aid

Ukraine has appealed for its European allies to urgently step up weapons supplies as it struggles to hold ground against invading Russian forces. As Henry Ridgwell reports, Germany has called for allies to provide more air defense systems, as Russian drones and missiles rain down on Ukrainian cities.

Man sets self on fire outside New York court where Trump trial underway

new york — A man set himself on fire on Friday outside the New York courthouse where Donald Trump’s historic hush-money trial was taking place as jury selection wrapped up, but officials said he did not appear to have been targeting Trump.

The man burned for several minutes in full view of television cameras that were set up outside the courthouse, where the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president is being held.

“I see a totally charred human being,” a CNN reporter said on the air.

Officials said the man survived and was in critical condition at a local hospital.

Witnesses said the man pulled pamphlets out of a backpack and threw them in the air before he doused himself with a liquid and set himself on fire. One of those pamphlets included references to “evil billionaires” but portions that were visible to a Reuters witness did not mention Trump.

The New York Police Department said the man, who they identified as Max Azzarello of St. Augustine, Florida, did not appear to be targeting Trump or others involved in the trial.

“Right now, we are labeling him as sort of a conspiracy theorist, and we are going from there,” Tarik Sheppard, a deputy commissioner with the police department, said at a news conference.

In an online manifesto, a man using that name said he set himself on fire and apologized to friends, witnesses and first responders. The post warns of “an apocalyptic fascist coup” and criticizes cryptocurrency and U.S. politicians, but it does not single out Trump in particular.

Witnesses said they were disturbed by his actions.

“He was on fire for quite a while,” one witness, who declined to give his name, told reporters. “It was pretty horrifying.”

The smell of smoke lingered in the plaza shortly after the incident, according to a Reuters witness, and a police officer sprayed a fire extinguisher on the ground. A smoldering backpack and a gas can were visible.

The downtown Manhattan courthouse, heavily guarded by police, drew a throng of protesters and onlookers on Monday, the trial’s first day, though crowds have dwindled since then.

The shocking development came shortly after jury selection for the trial was completed, clearing the way for prosecutors and defense attorneys to make opening statements next week in a case stemming from hush money paid to a porn star.

Librarians in Ukraine and their wartime struggle to save libraries

In Ukraine, more than 200 libraries have been destroyed and about 400 damaged since Russia launched its war, say Ukrainian officials. Lesia Bakalets reports from Kyiv on how librarians are trying to ensure libraries survive the war. Camera: Vladyslav Smilianets


French police detain intruder at Iranian consulate in Paris

Paris, France — French authorities Friday detained a man suspected of entering the Iranian consulate in Paris and falsely claiming to be armed with an explosive vest, police and prosecutors said. 

No explosives or arms were found on the man or the premises after he surrendered to police following the incident. 

The man, born in 1963 in Iran, had been convicted for setting fire to tires in front of the entrance of the Iranian embassy in Paris in 2023, the Paris prosecutor’s office said. 

Police arrested the suspect, who has not been named, when he left the consulate of his own accord after appearing to have “threatened violent action” inside, it said. 

According to a police source, who asked not to be named, he was wearing a vest with large pockets containing three fake grenades. 

Police earlier told AFP that the consulate called in law enforcement after a witness saw “a man enter carrying a grenade or an explosive belt.” 

The neighborhood around the consulate in the capital’s 16th district was closed off and a heavy police presence was in place, an AFP journalist reported. 

Traffic was temporarily suspended on two metro lines that pass through stops close to the consulate, Paris transport company RATP said. 

Iran’s embassy and consulate share the same building but have different entrances on separate streets. 

The incident came with tensions running high in the Middle East and Israel launching an apparent strike on central Iran overnight. 

However, there was no suggestion of any link. 

The office of the Paris prosecutor confirmed that the same man was to appear in court on Monday over a fire at the diplomatic mission in September 2023. 

A lower court had handed him an eight-month suspended sentence and prohibited him from entering the area around the consulate for two years and carrying weapons.  

But he is appealing the verdict. 

At the time, the man had claimed the action as an act of opposition to Iran’s clerical authorities as they faced the “Woman. Life. Freedom.” nationwide protests. 

Reports said that the man left Iran in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution and has expressed sympathy toward the former imperial regime. 

France raised its national security alert to its maximum level following an attack on a concert venue in Moscow on March 22, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility. 

The incident at the Iranian consulate prompted the Paris embassy of the United States to issue a security alert for its citizens. 

How South and Central Asia’s footprint in US population is growing

Washington — The U.S. immigrant population from South and Central Asia has swelled to new heights over the past decade and continues to grow rapidly.

Between 2010 and 2022, the number of immigrants from these regions residing in the United States soared to nearly 4.6 million from 2.9 million — a jump of almost 60%, according to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The surge dwarfs the 15.6% rise in the overall “foreign-born” population of the U.S. during the same period, the data show.

Jeanne Batalova, a demographer at the Migration Policy Institute, said the rise was “incredible.”

“We’re talking about a rate of growth of four times higher,” Batalova said in an interview with VOA.

The Census Bureau defines “foreign-born” as anyone who was not a U.S. citizen at birth, including naturalized citizens and lawful permanent residents.

The total foreign-born population of the U.S. was 46.2 million, or nearly 14% of the total population, in 2022, compared with 40 million, or almost 13% of the total population, in 2010, the Census Bureau reported April 9.

The Census Bureau data underscore just how much immigration patterns have changed in recent years. While Latin America was once the main source of migration to the U.S. and still accounts for half of the foreign-born population, more immigrants now come from Asia, Africa and other parts of the world.     

Between 2010 and 2022, the foreign-born population from Latin America rose by 9%, while the flow from Asia swelled at three times that rate, with South and Central Asia accounting for the bulk of the surge.

“We are reaching out to a broader spectrum of countries than we were before,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “The old image of immigration to the U.S. as being lots of Latin Americans and Mexicans coming to the U.S. only is wrong.”

To understand immigration trends from South and Central Asia, VOA dove into the census data and spoke with demographers. Here is a look at what we found.

How many immigrants from South and Central Asia live in the U.S.?

The Census Bureau puts 10 countries in its South and Central Asia bucket: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan.

The agency’s foreign-born population estimates are based in part on an annual survey known as the American Community Survey. Each estimate comes with a margin of error.

In 2022, the foreign-born population from South and Central Asia was estimated at 4,572,569, up from 3,872,963 in 2010. The margin of error was plus or minus about 55,000.

Numbering more than 2.8 million, Indians made up by far the largest foreign-born group from the region. That was up from nearly 1.8 million in 2010.

The second largest group came from Pakistan — nearly 400,000, up from nearly 300,000 12 years prior — followed by Iran with 407,000, up by more than 50,000.

But in percentage terms, several other communities from the region posted considerably larger increases.

The number of foreign-born Afghans jumped to 194,742 in 2022 from 54,458 in 2010, an increase of 257%. Batalova said much of that was due to the flood of refugees triggered by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

“In terms of speed of change, [Afghanistan] outpaces all other countries in South and Central Asia,” she said.

Foreign-born Nepalese posted the second highest percentage increase, rising from 69,458 to 191,213 — a 175% jump.

There were increases of 91% and 60% respectively among immigrants from Bangladesh and Uzbekistan.

When and how did immigrants from South and Central Asia arrive in the country?

While Indians have been immigrating to the U.S. for decades, a significant proportion of immigrants from South and Central Asia are recent arrivals.

More than 42% of them entered the U.S. in 2010 or later, outpacing the nearly 27% of the total foreign-born population that settled during the same period, according to Census Bureau estimates.

Batalova noted that immigrants from South and Central Asia follow distinct paths to the United States. Indians, for instance, largely rely on student and work visas and family reunification.

Many Central Asians gain entry through the diversity visa program, with about 36% of Uzbek green card holders benefiting from the scheme. Bangladeshis, too, took advantage of the so-called “Green Card Lottery” before Bangladesh became ineligible for the program in 2012 after 50,000 Bangladeshis immigrated to the U.S. over a five-year period.

As for the recent influx of Afghan immigrants, most were admitted into the country under special immigrant visa and humanitarian parole programs following the Taliban takeover of the country.

How do educational levels and other characteristics of South and Central Asians compare with the overall foreign-born population?

Immigrants from South and Central Asia tend to have higher levels of education than the general population and are more likely to work in sought-after professional jobs.

More than 70% had a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared with nearly 34% for the overall foreign-born population, according to Census Bureau estimates for the 2018-2022 period.

Nearly 68% worked in management, business, science and the arts, compared with 36% for all immigrants.

Immigrants from India, especially, tend to enjoy high levels of education and professional jobs. Nearly 48% of Indians had graduate or professional degrees, while more than 77% worked in management, business, science, and the arts.

Where do most immigrants from South and Central Asia live?

More than half of immigrants in the United States live in just four states: California, Texas, Florida and New York.

For immigrants from South and Central Asia, however, the top four states of residence are New Jersey, California, New York and Virginia.

In New Jersey, located south of New York state, foreign-born South and Central Asians made up 3.6% of the state’s population of 9 million. In California, they account for 2.31% of the state’s population of 39 million.

How large are the diaspora communities?

The foreign-born population from South and Central Asia should not be confused with the number of U.S. residents claiming ancestry from the region.

Including second- and third-generation immigrants, the diaspora community represents a larger number.

Demographers from the Migration Policy Institute estimate that about 5.2 million people in the U.S. identify as “South Asian Indians.” About 250,000 claim Afghan ancestry.

The 2020 U.S. census found that 687,942 people identified as “Pakistani alone” or in a combination with other groups, far surpassing the estimated 400,000 foreign-born Pakistanis in the U.S.

As for the other diaspora communities from the region, “they would not be much [larger] than the total immigrant populations just because they’re more recent immigrant groups,” Batalova said.

Ukraine, Israel aid advances in rare House vote as Democrats help Republicans push it forward

VR exhibition walks viewers through war-torn Ukraine

“War up Close” is a 360-degree virtual reality exhibition in Los Angeles that takes visitors through the streets of Ukraine and lets them see the devastation inflicted by the war. Angelina Bagdasaryan has the story, narrated by Anna Rice. 

USAGM names Freedom House president as new VOA director 

washington — The U.S. Agency for Global Media on Friday named Michael Abramowitz as the new permanent director of Voice of America. 

In an email to staff Friday, USAGM chief executive Amanda Bennett said that Abramowitz, a former journalist and current president of the think tank Freedom House, will take up the position in coming months. 

“I am sure he is familiar to many, if not most of you, for the remarkable work Freedom House has led advocating for democracy and human rights — and especially in defending and advocating for speech and press freedom around the world,” Bennett said in her email. 

Abramowitz has been the president of Freedom House since 2017. A graduate of Harvard College, he began his career at the Washington Post, where he worked for 24 years. He also worked on genocide prevention and Holocaust education for eight years at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

“Because of this expertise and experience, he has a deep understanding of the same work we have all devoted our lives and careers to,” Bennett said in her email. 

Abramowitz is expected to begin his role at VOA in the early summer. In a video message to staff, he said he was honored to be appointed.

“This is a storied institution which has an incredible history and most of all an incredible mission,” he said. 

“The mission is deeply inspiring to me: the idea that every day we are providing authoritative, fair, comprehensive news and information to large parts of the world with a huge audience. And for many people VOA is the only source of that kind of information they have,” Abramowitz said. 

Bennett herself served as VOA director from 2016 until 2020, when she resigned following the congressional confirmation of conservative filmmaker Michael Pack to lead USAGM. 

Appointed by then-President Donald Trump, Pack’s time as head of USAGM was marked with lawsuits and whistleblower complaints. He resigned when Joe Biden became president and an independent investigation later determined that Pack repeatedly abused power and engaged in severe mismanagement, including attempts to interfere editorially.

Following his departure, Congress added checks and balances to the USAGM chief executive role, including over hiring and firing of network heads. 

Abramowitz will be VOA’s first official director since the brief tenure of Pack’s appointee Robert Reilly, who was in the role from December 2020 to January 2021.

After Reilly’s dismissal, VOA was headed by acting directors Yolanda Lopez from 2021 until her September 2023 resignation, and current incumbent John Lippman. 

In a statement, Abramowitz said he was looking forward to working at VOA given the concerning rate of disinformation coming from authoritarian governments around the world. 

“VOA is a bulwark for truth and press freedom, and I am excited to take the helm of this organization and work alongside its talented journalists and staff. Together, we will win the information war,” he said. 

Freedom House on Friday released a statement that thanked Abramowitz for his leadership. 

“For the better part of a decade, Mike has been the driving force behind Freedom House’s growing success, setting a vision for the organization that amplified its effectiveness in the fight for freedom around the world,” said Jane Harman, a co-chair of the Freedom House board of trustees.

As VOA director, Abramowitz will oversee 48 language services that reach around 354 million people weekly with independent TV, radio and digital media.

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Biden looking to triple some Chinese steel tariffs  

U.S. President Joe Biden wants to triple tariffs on some steel imports from China because he says they are unfairly undermining U.S. jobs. It’s an appeal to American workers in a state that is central to this presidential campaign. VOA correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

White House says plans to address causes of migration show results

washington — The White House’s strategy for curbing migration to the United States from Central America zeroes in on job creation, economic investment and support for human rights. Biden administration officials say is showing results, but analysts caution against unrealistic expectations.

A sharp increase of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border presented a political crisis for President Joe Biden at the beginning of his administration. He asked Vice President Kamala Harris to spearhead a “root causes” strategy, banking heavily on using American investments to improve living conditions in three Central American nations known as the Northern Triangle: Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Specialists in migration say reducing irregular migration through investments will take decades.

“And I think this administration knows [that],” said Ariel G. Ruiz Soto, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.

“The problem is in the public sphere,” he said, explaining that the public expects to see real-time results in one or two years, “and that just simply is not the case economically, even if we had the investment capacity to do so.”

Ruiz Soto says the success of this strategy depends on more than what the White House is doing. It needs governments in the region that are committed to significant improvements.

“For example, if Microsoft wanted to set up a hub in Guatemala, they would need not only to include money to build the building, to hire workers, provide training, but also a counterpart allocation from the Guatemalan government to build the roads, to have the infrastructure for the electricity, to have broadband internet,” he said.

That it is not something that can be accomplished in just a few years, Ruiz Soto said.

Not new

The strategy is not new. Under former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, there was a U.S. strategy for engagement in Central America that focused on pillars similar to the five in the Biden administration strategy.

“The difference is that they are prioritizing different things, but investing in Central America with the efforts to reduce irregular migration is not new,” Ruiz Soto said.

In March, the White House published an updated fact sheet showing $5.2 billion in financial commitments from private organizations. The investment, the White House said, is expected to create economic opportunities in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

“And I think that perhaps the best achievement of the Biden administration has been the investment in Central America has become more localized. It is more targeted, and it has become more realistic. But it has not become less political, because everybody wants results right away, and that’s not going to happen,” Ruiz Soto said.

Symptom of larger issues

Administration officials argue the border situation is a symptom of larger issues. Many migrants are driven to come to the U.S. seeking better economic prospects or to escape violence.

Biden officials say fewer individuals would risk the dangerous journey northward if the economic, security and political challenges in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are addressed.

“Migration needs to be understood in context — with the number of migrants increasing globally, including from countries that have only recently become so-called migrant source countries,” a U.S. National Security Council spokesperson told VOA by email. They spoke on background, a method often used by U.S. authorities to share information with reporters without being identified.

The NSC spokesperson wrote that through the administration’s root-causes program, more than 250,000 jobs have been created in the region, and 3 million young people are being supported through education and job training.

“As a result of these investments in the region, we have seen double-digit [percentage] decrease in people from Central America who intend to migrate,” the NSC spokesperson said.

Border numbers fluctuate

According to an April analysis by the human rights organization Washington Office on Latin America, or WOLA, December saw the highest monthly of apprehensions at the border since 2000, but those numbers dropped by half over the next three months.

Some Republicans have criticized Harris’ Central America plan, arguing that it is ineffective or that it focuses too much on foreign aid rather than border security. They say Harris has focused too much on long-term solutions rather than the immediate border migrant flows.

Working together

In an email to VOA, the NSC spokesperson drew attention to the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection that brought together more than 20 countries across the Western Hemisphere to cooperate on deterring irregular migration through border enforcement in the region, expanded lawful pathways, and expand new measures to address the root causes.

“We have begun building the foundation for a more competitive regional economy that will galvanize investment and create better job opportunities throughout the Americas,” the spokesperson said.

Ruiz Soto said continuity is key.

“The problem is, or at least the way that’s been implemented, is that there are differences in how the U.S. is engaging in the region across presidents,” he said.

He added that even with U.S. funding, it is not enough to try to improve the situation in these countries by itself.

As the United States seeks strategies for responding to the growing number of migrants fleeing poverty, violence and other challenges in the Central American region, Ruiz Soto said governments from the Northern Triangle countries must commit to governance based on accountability, transparency and development.

“It is fundamentally required that Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador put in more than what the U.S. does to try to increase the conditions that they have. One, in funding, but also in political assistance and political will to change the institutions,” he said.

In Corsica, autonomy measure stirs debate and doubt 

CORTE, CORSICA   — The colorful graffiti sprinkled across this mountain town offers one clue about some political sentiments here.

“Liberty for Stephanu Ori,” is plastered on one peeling wall, referring to a Corsican militant arrested last month. Another pays tribute to nationalist Yvan Colonna, killed in jail where he was serving time for the assassination of a top French official.

Still others offer the shorthand call — AFF — for French to leave the island.

Perched on a hill of rugged northern Corsica, Corte is the undisputed cultural and political heart of this French Mediterranean island, which has long fought for greater self-rule from Paris. Today, some some are hopeful that could happen following an agreement last month to insert language in France’s constitution recognizing “an autonomous status” for Corsica.

Top Corsican official Gilles Simeoni called the March agreement — since approved by Corsica’s legislature — a “decisive step,” but cautioned it was just a beginning.

The measure still needs to be approved by both France’s lower house and Senate, where right-wing lawmakers fiercely oppose it. Even if the measure is approved, it is unclear just how much of a difference it will make.

“It’s a step, not necessarily a big one,” said Andre Fazi, a political scientist at the University of Corte. “it could end up making no real change, with the central power retaining the final say when it comes to Corsican national assembly decisions.”

“What is clear is nobody is thrilled about this reform,” he added of the mixed reaction. “Those who support a strong French state will be against this reform. Those who support Corsican independence will say it doesn’t go far enough.”

Even some Corsicans, fiercely proud of their identity, are worried about giving local authorities too much say on some matters.

“I am for Corsican autonomy, but I have real questions about the competence of those managing Corsica today,” said Dominique, a Corsican retiree and former senior French public servant. He declined to give his last name because of the sensitive topic. “If they can’t manage basic things like garbage, why give them more power?”

Paoli’s legacy

The fleeting years when Corsican did have self rule — more than two centuries ago — are cemented in Corte’s history. Dominating a central town square is the statue of 18th century independence leader Pascal Paoli. A key figure in first ousting Genoa then briefly France from the island, Paoli created the Anglo-Corsican kingdom, with its capital based here. He helped usher in schools and a university — and drafted a constitution that inspired that of the United States — before going into exile and dying in Britain, in 1807.

By that time, Corsica was firmly back in France’s orbit, under the rule of another Corsican — Napoleon Bonaparte.

At Corte’s Pascal Paoli University, a few minutes’ walk from Paoli’s statue, graduate student Andrea Nanglard said she is not interested in politics, but supports more autonomy for the island.

“I consider myself more Corsican than French,” said Nanglard, who was born on the French continent but moved to Corsica as a teenager, and speaks the Corsican language. “But I’m not sure if greater autonomy would really change things.”

Another Corsican student, Julien Preziose, also backs inserting a Corsican autonomy reference in the French constitution.

“I think it’s important to fight for the Corsican identity, because otherwise it could disappear,” said Preziose, who is studying ancient Corsican history and archeology. “But it’s not like we think about being Corsican all the time. It’s when we leave Corsica, when that happens.”

In the 19th and 20th centuries, many Corsicans did leave in search of work. Some headed to the Americas; others to French colonies or the mainland. Today, some are coming back to retire, and a few to rediscover their roots. New schools have opened teaching the Corsican language to youngsters.

But among Corsica’s 350,000 residents, many are also French retirees from the mainland. Foreign tourists are similarly flooding in, lured by the island’s beauty. Their arrival has notched up real estate prices and stirred tensions.

“Corsicans are no longer speaking Corsican, they’re losing their roots, their history,” said Dominique, the retired public servant. In the village where he now lives, he said, young people can no longer afford to buy property. “Corsicans are forced to sell their land because they can no longer make ends meet.”

Growing divide

Calls for independence resurfaced in the 1970s, with the creation of the National Liberation Front of Corsica, or FLNC, which staged attacks against symbols of French governance. The most spectacular was the 1998 assassination of French prefect Claude Erignac, the island’s top French state official. The FLNC formally laid down its arms in 2014, although the nationalist movement remains active — especially in Corte. Corsican crime families are also anchored into the landscape.

While nationalist bombings and other attacks have largely ended, tensions still simmer. The 2022 killing by a fellow prisoner of Yvan Colonna, serving a life sentence over Erignac’s killing, sparked protests and rioting in Corte and elsewhere on the island.

Meanwhile, Fazi, the political scientist, believes the fracture between Corsicans and mainland French has grown bigger in recent years. Common memories that bound the two populations a few decades ago — military service, World War II or serving in former French colonies — have now faded.

“There are a lot of Corsican youth today who don’t feel themselves to be at all French,” he said. “And there’s been a lot of immigration to Corsica by people who do feel themselves to be French. And that kind of psychological rupture between the two could be a worry for the state.”

Even so, France’s highly centralized government has loosened up modestly in recent years, including granting Corsica greater political say through a series of small steps. In 2015, Corsican nationalists came to power in regional elections for the first time. The island’s legislature is today dominated by autonomists, like Simeoni, who want more local powers but not a full split with France.

If France’s parliament greenlights this new autonomy measure, the island’s registered voters — both Corsican and French — also will have their say, said President Emmanuel Macron. The majority of both groups, said analyst Fazi, would likely support the measure — one key element bringing the two groups together.

“Autonomy has become mainstream — it’s not subversive like it was 40 years ago,” he said. Still, Fazi added, if the autonomy measure amounts to little more than constitutional language with no substance, Corsica could see new tensions.

“The more the reform is timid, the more it could reinforce the contestation” against the French state, he said. “We may not see a big resurgence of attacks, but more and more violent protests.”

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25 years after Columbine, trauma shadows survivors of school shooting

Denver, Colo. — Hours after she escaped the Columbine High School shooting, 14-year-old Missy Mendo slept between her parents in bed, still wearing the shoes she had on when she fled her math class. She wanted to be ready to run.

Twenty-five years later, and with Mendo now a mother herself, the trauma from that horrific day remains close on her heels. 

It caught up to her when 60 people were shot dead in 2017 at a country music festival in Las Vegas, a city she had visited a lot while working in the casino industry. Then again in 2022, when 19 students and two teachers were shot and killed in Uvalde, Texas. 

Mendo had been filling out her daughter’s pre-kindergarten application when news of the elementary school shooting broke. She read a few lines of a news story about Uvalde, then put her head down and cried. 

“It felt like nothing changed,” she recalls thinking. 

In the quarter-century since two gunmen at Columbine shot and killed 12 fellow students and a teacher in suburban Denver — an attack that played out on live television and ushered in the modern era of school shootings — the traumas of that day have continued to shadow Mendo and others who were there. 

Some needed years to view themselves as Columbine survivors since they were not physically wounded. Yet things like fireworks could still trigger disturbing memories. The aftershocks — often unacknowledged in the years before mental health struggles were more widely recognized — led to some survivors suffering insomnia, dropping out of school, or disengaging from their spouses or families. 

Survivors and other members of the community plan to attend a candlelight vigil on the steps of the state’s capitol Friday night, the eve of the shooting’s anniversary. 

April is particularly hard for Mendo, 39, whose “brain turns to mashed potatoes” each year. She shows up at dentist appointments early, misplaces her keys, forgets to close the refrigerator door. 

She leans on therapy and the understanding of an expanding group of shooting survivors she has met through The Rebels Project, a support group founded by other Columbine survivors following a 2012 shooting when a gunman killed 12 people at a movie theater in the nearby suburb of Aurora. Mendo started seeing a therapist after her child’s first birthday, at the urging of fellow survivor moms. 

After she broke down over Uvalde, Mendo, a single parent, said she talked to her mom, took a walk to get some fresh air, then finished her daughter’s pre-kindergarten application. 

“Was I afraid of her going into the public school system? Absolutely,” Mendo said of her daughter. “I wanted her to have as normal of a life as possible.” 

Researchers who’ve studied the long-term effects of gun violence in schools have quantified protracted struggles among survivors, including long-term academic effects like absenteeism and reduced college enrollment, and lower earnings later in life. 

“Just counting lives lost is kind of an incorrect way to capture the full cost of these tragedies,” said Maya Rossin-Slater, an associate professor in the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Department of Health Policy. 

Mass killings have recurred with numbing frequency in the years since Columbine, with almost 600 attacks in which four or more people have died, not including the perpetrator, since 2006, according to data compiled by The Associated Press. 

More than 80% of the 3,045 victims in those attacks were killed by a firearm. 

Nationwide hundreds of thousands of people have been exposed to school shootings that are often not mass-casualty events but still traumatic, Rossin-Slater said. The impacts can last a lifetime, she added, resulting in “kind of a persistent, reduced potential” for survivors. 

Those who were present at Columbine say the years since have given them time to learn more about what happened to them and how to cope with it. 

Heather Martin, now 42, was a Columbine senior in 1999. In college, she began crying during a fire drill, realizing later that a fire alarm had gone off for three hours when she and 60 other students hid in a barricaded office during the high school shooting. She couldn’t return to that class and was marked absent each time, and says she failed it after refusing to write a final paper on school violence, despite telling her professor of her experience at Columbine. 

It took 10 years for her to see herself as a survivor, after she was invited back with the rest of the class of 1999 for an anniversary event. She saw fellow classmates having similar struggles and almost immediately decided to go back to college to become a teacher. 

Martin, a co-founder of The Rebels Project, named after Columbine’s mascot, said 25 years has given her time to struggle and figure out how to work out of those struggles. 

“I just know myself so well now and know how I respond to things and what might activate me and how I can bounce back and be OK. And most importantly I think I can recognize when I am not OK and when I do need to seek help,” she said. 

Kiki Leyba, a first-year teacher at Columbine in 1999, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder soon after the shooting. He felt a strong sense of commitment to return to the school, where he threw himself into his work. But he continued to have panic attacks. 

To help him cope, he had sleeping pills and some Xanax for anxiety, Leyba said. One therapist recommended chamomile tea. 

Things got harder for him after the 2002 graduation of Mendo’s class, the last cohort of students who lived through the shooting since they had been through so much together. 

By 2005, after years of not taking care of himself and suffering from lack of sleep, Leyba said he would often check out from family life, sleeping in on the weekends and turning into a “blob on the couch.” Finally, his wife Kallie enrolled him in a one-week trauma treatment program, arranging for him to take the time off from work without telling him. 

“Thankfully that really gave me a kind of a foothold … to do the work to climb out of that,” said Leyba, who said breathing exercises, journaling, meditation and anti-depressants have helped him. 

Like Mendo and Martin, he has traveled around the country to work with survivors of shootings. 

“That worst day has transformed into something I can offer to others,” said Leyba, who is in Washington, D.C. this week meeting with officials about gun violence and promoting a new film about his trauma journey. 

Mendo still lives in the area, and her 5-year-old daughter attends school near Columbine. When her daughter’s school locked down last year as police swarmed the neighborhood during a hostage situation, Mendo recalled worrying things like: What if my child is in danger? What if there is another school shooting like Columbine? 

When Mendo picked up her daughter, she seemed a little scared, and she hugged her mom a little tighter. Mendo breathed deeply to stay calm, a technique she had learned in therapy, and put on a brave face. 

“If I was putting down some fear, she would pick it up,” she said. “I didn’t want that for her.” 

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