Category: USA

NATO chief wants more Ukraine weapons flexibility

U.S. and NATO leaders in Brussels are at odds over the extent to which Ukrainians can use Western-provided weapons to hit military targets inside Russian territory. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has more.

Reporter’s lawsuit secures rights for US jail staff to speak with media

South Florida rainstorms lead to flight delays, streets jammed with stalled cars

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — A tropical disturbance that brought a rare flash flood emergency to much of southern Florida delayed flights at two of the state’s largest airports and left vehicles waterlogged and stalled in some of the region’s lowest-lying streets.

“Looked like the beginning of a zombie movie,” said Ted Rico, a tow truck driver who spent much of Wednesday night and Thursday morning helping to clear the streets of stalled vehicles. “There’s cars littered everywhere, on top of sidewalks, in the median, in the middle of the street, no lights on. Just craziness, you know. Abandoned cars everywhere.”

Rico, of One Master Trucking Corp., was born and raised in Miami and said he was ready for the emergency.

“You know when it’s coming,” he said. “Every year it’s just getting worse, and for some reason people just keep going through the puddles.”

Travelers across the area were trying to adjust their plans on Thursday morning. More than 50 centimeters of rain had fallen in some areas of South Florida since Tuesday, with more predicted over the next few days.

Ticket and security lines snaked around a domestic concourse at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport just before noon Thursday. The travel boards showed about half of that terminal’s flights had been canceled or postponed.

Bill Carlisle, a Navy petty officer first class, had spent his morning trying to catch a flight back to Norfolk, Virginia. He had arrived at Miami International Airport about 6:30 a.m., but 90 minutes later he was still in line and realized he couldn’t get his bags checked and through security in time to catch his flight.

“It was a zoo,” said Carlisle, a public affairs specialist. He was speaking for himself, not the Navy. “Nothing against the [airport] employees — there is only so much they can do.”

He used his phone to book an afternoon flight out of Fort Lauderdale. He took a shuttle the 32 kilometers north, only to find that the flight had been canceled. He was then heading back to Miami for a 9 p.m. flight, hoping it wouldn’t get canceled by the heavy rains expected later in the day. He was resigned, not angry.

“Just a long day sitting in airports,” Carlisle said. “This is kind of par for the course for government travel.”

Wednesday’s downpours and subsequent flooding blocked roads, floated vehicles and even delayed the Florida Panthers on their way to Stanley Cup games in Canada against the Edmonton Oilers.

The disorganized storm system was pushing across Florida from the Gulf of Mexico at roughly the same time as the early June start of hurricane season, which this year is forecast to be among the most active in recent memory amid concerns that climate change is increasing storm intensity.

The disturbance has not reached cyclone status and was given only a slight chance to form into a tropical system once it moves into the Atlantic Ocean after crossing Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.

In Hallandale Beach, Alex Demchemko was walking his Russian spaniel Lex along the still-flooded sidewalks near the Airbnb where he’s lived since arriving from Russia last month to seek asylum in the U.S.

“We didn’t come out from our apartment, but we had to walk with our dog,” Demchemko said. “A lot of flashes, raining, a lot of floating cars and a lot of left cars without drivers, and there was a lot of water on the streets. It was kind of catastrophic.”

On Thursday morning, Daniela Urrieche, 26, was bailing water out of her SUV, which got stuck on a flooded street as she drove home from work on Wednesday afternoon.

“In the nine years that I’ve lived here, this has been the worst,” she said. “Even in a hurricane, streets were not as bad as it was in the past 24 hours.”

The flooding wasn’t limited to the streets. Charlea Johnson spent Wednesday night at her Hallendale Beach home barreling water into the sink and toilet.

“The water just started flooding in the back and flooding in the front,” Johnson said.

By Wednesday evening, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and mayors in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Miami-Dade County each declared a state of emergency.

It’s already been a wet and blustery week in Florida. In Miami, about 15 centimeters of rain fell Tuesday and 17 centimeters fell in Miami Beach, according to the National Weather Service. Hollywood got about 12 centimeters.

More rain was forecast for the rest of the week, with some areas getting another 15 centimeters of rain.

The western side of the state, much of which has been in a prolonged drought, also got some major rainfall. Nearly 16.5 centimeters of rain fell Tuesday at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, the weather service said, and flash flood warnings were in effect in those areas as well.

Forecasts predict an unusually busy hurricane season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates there is an 85% chance that the Atlantic hurricane season will be above average, predicting between 17 and 25 named storms in the coming months, including up to 13 hurricanes and four major hurricanes. An average season has 14 named storms. 

American held by Taliban needs urgent medical care, UN expert says

GENEVA — The Taliban must provide Ryan Corbett, an American held in Afghanistan for nearly two years, with immediate medical care to prevent irreparable harm to his health or even his death, a United Nations expert said on Thursday.

“The Taliban must provide Ryan Corbett with medical treatment in a civilian hospital without delay,” said Alice Jill Edwards, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Corbett, an aid worker, has been held without charge in conditions “utterly inadequate and substantially below international standards,” she said.

“This is having a significant impact on his physical and mental health, which is declining rapidly,” Edwards added. She said she had raised the issue directly with the Taliban.

“Without adequate medical care, he is at risk of irreparable harm or even death,” she said.

The United States is in contact with Edwards’ office and welcomes efforts to call for more humane conditions for Corbett and others held by the Taliban, a spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations in New York said.

“We consider Ryan’s detention to be wrongful and we will continue to work securing his immediate release,” the spokesperson said.

Corbett and his family moved to Afghanistan in 2010. He worked with nongovernmental organizations and then started his own — Bloom Afghanistan — to bolster the country’s private sector through consulting, microfinance and project evaluation.

He left with his family following the Taliban takeover in 2021 but continued working with his organization, returning in January 2022 to renew his business visa.

Despite having a valid visa, he was arrested by the Taliban in August 2022 after he returned to pay and train his staff, his lawyers said. A German and two Afghans with whom Corbett was arrested have since been released.

The U.N. expert said Corbett has developed several medical problems, including ringing in his ears, and severe weight loss. He has also repeatedly expressed intentions of suicide and self-harm.

The United States has had no diplomatic presence in Kabul since it fell to the Taliban in August 2021 as U.S. troops pulled out after 20 years of war.

Justice Thomas took more trips paid for by Harlan Crow, Senate panel reveals

Washington state’s Makah tribe clears hurdle toward resuming whale hunts

Seattle, Washington — The United States granted the Makah Indian Tribe in Washington state a long-sought waiver Thursday that helps clear the way for its first sanctioned whale hunts since 1999.

The Makah, a tribe of 1,500 people on the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, is the only Native American tribe with a treaty that specifically mentions a right to hunt whales. But it has faced more than two decades of court challenges, bureaucratic hearings and scientific review as it seeks to resume hunting gray whales.

The decision by NOAA Fisheries grants a waiver under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which otherwise forbids harming marine mammals. It allows the tribe to hunt up to 25 Eastern North Pacific gray whales over 10 years, with a limit of two to three per year. There are roughly 20,000 whales in that population, and the hunts will be timed to avoid harming endangered Western North Pacific gray whales that sometimes visit the area.

Nevertheless, hurdles remain. The tribe must enter into a cooperative agreement with the agency under the Whaling Convention Act, and it must obtain a permit to hunt, a process that involves a monthlong public comment period. 

Animal rights advocates, who have long opposed whaling, could also challenge NOAA’s decision in court. 

Archeological evidence shows that Makah hunters in cedar canoes killed whales for sustenance from time immemorial, a practice that ceased only in the early 20th century after commercial whaling vessels depleted the population. 

By 1994, the Eastern Pacific gray whale population had rebounded, and they were removed from the endangered species list. Seeing an opportunity to reclaim its heritage, the tribe announced plans to hunt again. 

The Makah trained for months in the ancient ways of whaling and received the blessing of federal officials and the International Whaling Commission. They took to the water in 1998 but didn’t succeed until the next year, when they harpooned a gray whale from a hand-carved cedar canoe. A tribal member in a motorized support boat killed it with a high-powered rifle to minimize its suffering. 

It was the tribe’s first successful hunt in 70 years. 

The hunts drew protests from animal rights activists, who sometimes threw smoke bombs at the whalers and sprayed fire extinguishers into their faces. Others veered motorboats between the whales and the tribal canoes to interfere with the hunt. Authorities seized several vessels and made arrests. 

After animal rights groups sued, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned federal approval of the tribe’s whaling plans. The court found that the tribe needed to obtain a waiver under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act. 

Eleven Alaska Native communities in the Arctic have such a waiver for subsistence hunts, allowing them to kill bowhead whales — even though bowheads are listed as endangered. 

The Makah tribe applied for a waiver in 2005. The process repeatedly stalled as new scientific information about the whales and the health of their population was uncovered. 

Some of the Makah whalers became so frustrated with the delays that they went on a rogue hunt in 2007, killing a gray whale that got away from them and sank. They were convicted in federal court.

Diplomat: US committed to work with Bangladesh on corruption

WASHINGTON — The United States is “committed to working with Bangladesh to fight corruption,” Donald Lu, U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, told VOA’s Bangla Service.

Lu visited Bangladesh in mid-May and met with senior government officials and civil society leaders. Shortly after his visit, the U.S. announced sanctions against former Bangladesh army chief General Aziz Ahmed for what it termed his involvement in “significant corruption.”

In an interview conducted by email on Monday, Lu spoke about topics that included economic cooperation, the climate crisis, women’s rights and the commitment of the United States to work with the people of Bangladesh on issues of democracy and human rights. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

VOA: In your recent visit to Bangladesh, you expressed the administration’s intention to move beyond the tension between Bangladesh and the U.S., which was caused by your administration’s initiative to promote democracy and a free, fair and peaceful election in Bangladesh in January this year. Is this an indication of a U.S. policy shift toward Bangladesh where you intend to focus more on geopolitical, economic, environmental and strategic bilateral issues rather than promoting democracy?

Donald Lu: As I said during my recent visit to Dhaka, we are looking forward, not back. We are ready and eager to advance our partnership with Bangladesh across a broad range of issues. We hope to continue deepening our trade ties with Bangladesh. We want to advance our shared interest in women’s economic security. We are already working together to address the climate crisis. We are optimistic about the opportunities for continued partnership on our shared priorities.

Promoting democracy and human rights in Bangladesh remains a priority for us. We will continue to support the important work of civil society and journalists and to advocate for democratic processes and institutions in Bangladesh, as we do in countries around the world.

VOA: Opposition political parties in Bangladesh and sections of civil society have criticized the U.S. administration for being “soft” on the current government of Bangladesh regarding the January 7 election issues, which include human rights violations. How would you respond to this criticism?

Lu: The United States staunchly supports free and fair elections and is firmly committed to promoting respect for human rights. Throughout the election cycle, we regularly engaged with the government, opposition, civil society and other stakeholders to urge them to work together to create conditions for free and fair elections. We were outspoken in our condemnation of the violence that marred the election cycle and we have urged the government of Bangladesh to credibly investigate incidents of violence and hold perpetrators accountable. We will continue to engage on these issues.

VOA: In your recent visit, you did not meet with the representatives from the opposition parties who boycotted the election, although you met with members of the civil society. Why did you decide not to meet with the opposition members?

Lu: It is true that last year ahead of the elections I had the opportunity to meet with a roundtable of leaders from several political parties. It’s not a pre-election period, so I didn’t meet with political parties during this visit.

I was fortunate to meet with a diverse group of Bangladeshis while in Dhaka, from civil society representatives to government officials, to the Bangladesh National Women’s Cricket Team, who taught me a thing or two about bowling and batting.

VOA: You highlighted your government’s plan to work together with Bangladesh to fight corruption and ensure financial good governance. Is the recent sanction against the former Bangladesh army chief General Aziz a part of that fight against corruption? Are you satisfied with the Bangladesh government’s willingness to cooperate to mitigate these issues?

Lu: When I was ambassador to Albania and the Kyrgyz Republic, we sanctioned corrupt officials. This was not popular with the governments at the time, but now those sanctioned former corrupt officials are all in jail. Societies around the world are eager to see justice for corruption.

We are committed to working with Bangladesh to fight corruption, and on May 20, we announced the public designation of former General Aziz Ahmed under Section 7031(c), due to his involvement in significant corruption. We welcome statements by government ministers that this corruption allegation will be fully investigated.

VOA: You have offered Bangladesh authorities free real-time use of satellite data to monitor the impact of climate change. How has Bangladesh responded to this? Which areas, in your opinion, should be prioritized in the cooperation between the two countries regarding climate change?

Lu: I felt firsthand the impact of climate change during my visit to Dhaka in May as I sweltered alongside Bangladeshis in the extreme heat. We are committed to partnering with Bangladesh to address the climate crisis. We’re focused on building clean energy capacity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in sectors like agriculture and power, and conserving ecosystems to maintain biodiversity and reduce vulnerability to climate change. Our discussions with Bangladeshi officials were extremely positive.

VOA: In what ways can Bangladesh play an important role in the U.S. government’s Indo-Pacific policy? What are the priority areas where you seek Bangladesh government’s cooperation?

Lu: The United States and Bangladesh share a vision of an Indo-Pacific region that is free and open, connected, prosperous, secure and resilient. With a dynamic and fast-growing economy, Bangladesh is positioned to act as a bridge for commerce and an anchor for prosperity in the region. We’re focused on working with our Bangladeshi partners to boost inclusive economic growth in the region, as well as increasing security cooperation, addressing the climate crisis, and promoting democracy and human rights. Coordination on these and other issues benefits the people of both of our countries.

Houthi attacks take steady toll on international shipping

Washington — Unrelenting attacks on international shipping by Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen are taking a toll on commerce and aid efforts despite attempts by the United States and its partner to dampen the effects.

A just-released report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) finds Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden have affected at least 29 companies across more than 65 countries, driving up costs in multiple ways. 

“As of mid-February, insurance premiums for Red Sea transits have risen to 0.7-1.0% of a ship’s total value, compared to less than 0.1% prior to December 2023,” according to the DIA report.

The report also noted companies that continue to transit the region face increased costs for additional “war risk” insurance and bonuses for crew members.

As a result, the DIA assessment found container shipping through the Red Sea, which normally accounts for up to 15% of international maritime trade, fell by 90% from December 2023 through mid-February of 2024.

Shipping companies seeking to avoid the Red Sea are also seeing increased costs, with trips around Africa adding about $1 million to the price of the journey.

There is also a cost to aid efforts.

“As of February, humanitarian relief for Sudan and Yemen is being delayed by weeks and costing aid organizations more because of longer routes around Africa,” the report said.

In all, the DIA counted at least 43 Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden between November 19 [2023] and March 23.

The Houthis have said their campaign in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden is in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza amid the war between Israel and Hamas.

And the attacks show little sign of slowing down.

According to U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations across the Middle East, Houthis militants in Yemen have launched at least 10 missiles, two aerial drones and one surface drone against targets in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since Sunday [June 9].

On Wednesday, a Houthi-launched naval drone hit the M/V Tutor, a Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned ship that had recently been docked in Russia, CENTCOM said. The attack caused severe flooding and damage to the engine room.

This past December, the U.S. and eight other countries launched Operation Prosperity Guardian to help protect ships in the region from Houthi attacks.

In February, the European Union launched its own mission, ASPIDES, to help further protect maritime traffic. 

The U.S. and its allies have also conducted a series of strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen to deter further attacks on shipping, most recently late last month.


AI copyright fight turns to disclosing original content

Artists and other creators say their works have been used to build the multibillion-dollar generative AI industry without any compensation for them. Matt Dibble reports on a proposed U.S. law that would force AI companies to reveal their sources.

India beats US at cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup

WESTBURY, New York — There was no upset this time for the United States as the home team was easily beaten by cricket heavyweight India at the Twenty20 World Cup on Wednesday.

Suryakumar Yadav’s half-century powered India to a seven-wicket win over the U.S., which had shocked Pakistan last week.

With the win, India reached the Super 8 round. The U.S. can advance by beating Ireland on Friday.

In a later match at Brian Lara Stadium in Trinidad, Sherfane Rutherford scored an unbeaten 68 from 39 deliveries to help the West Indies in their great escape — the co-hosts beat New Zealand by 13 runs.

The Caribbean lineup, 149-9 in its 20 overs, was 76-7 before its Rutherford-led recovery. Alzarri Joseph snared four New Zealand wickets and Gudakesh Motie took three — including New Zealand captain Kane Williamson for 1 — to restrict the Black Caps to 136-9 in reply.

On Long Island, Yadvav’s 50 runs came off 49 balls and included two boundaries and two sixes. He put on 72 runs off 65 balls in an unbeaten fourth-wicket stand with Shivam Dube, who scored 31 not out as India finished with 111-3 in 18.2 overs in reply to 110-8 by the United States.

Left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh returned figures of 4-9 — including two wickets in the first over — to restrict the co-hosts after India had won the toss and opted to field at the Nassau County International Stadium.

India was in early trouble in its chase as Indian-born medium pacer Saurabh Netravalkar continued his golden run for the Americans.

After bowling the co-hosts to the upset over Pakistan, he celebrated the wickets of Indian superstars Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli.

Kohli was caught behind for a golden duck — dismissed off the first delivery he faced — in what surely will become a career highlight for Netravalkar. Sharma (3) fell to a slower delivery as Netravalkar finished with 2-18 in four overs.

Rishabh Pant scored 18 off 20 balls batting at No. 3 before he was bowled by Ali Khan delivery. With India struggling at 39-3 in 7.3 overs, the U.S. team momentarily raised visions of an even bigger shock.

West Indies advanceLeft-hander Rutherford turned the home team’s fortunes around, going to the crease with the West Indies reeling at 22-4 after 5.4 overs. Rutherford scored 18 off the last over that culminated with a six and a boundary.

The loss left New Zealand with a strong possibility it will not make the second round. If Afghanistan beats Papua New Guinea on Thursday, three-time runner-up New Zealand will be out of contention.

For most of the first half of the game, the Black Caps were on top.

But Rutherford went on the attack as the West Indies added 58-2 in the last five overs of their innings.

He was 15 off 14 deliveries when star allrounder Andre Russell was out for 14 in the 13th over, and he accelerated with the lower-order in a counter-attacking, 72-minute innings containing six sixes and two boundaries.

“It’s a good feeling, to help my team. That is what we live for and work hard for,” man-of-the-match Rutherford said during the innings break. “It was a very tough surface to start on. I think 149 is a brilliant score on this wicket.”

After the match, Rutherford had a more optimistic tone: “It is only the start of something big to come and hopefully we can keep winning and momentum going.”

New Zealand started well after winning the toss and fielding, with Trent Boult (3-16) bowling opener Johnson Charles to end the first over.

Tim Southee (2-21), recalled after missing New Zealand’s opening loss to Afghanistan, dismissed dangerman Nicholas Pooran for 12 in the fourth over, trigging a run of three wickets for three runs.

Lockie Ferguson deceived Roston Chase with a slower ball to make it 21-3 and skipper Rovman Powell (1) was caught behind off Southee five balls later.

Russell went on the attack but his dismissal — caught in the deep of Boult’s bowling — appeared to be an insurmountable setback until Rutherford took up the challenge.

“The quality of Sherfane’s innings was high,” New Zealand skipper Williamson said. “The batting depth in their side was beneficial for sure. We cannot make excuses and have to find ways.”

Anti-Muslim hate groups in US surge back into spotlight

Washington — Once seemingly fading into obscurity, anti-Muslim hate groups in the United States have surged back into the spotlight in recent months, reinvigorated by the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

Many of these groups, such as Jihad Watch and ACT for America, emerged in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. and thrived on public fears of terrorism. But as those fears waned in recent years, so did the groups’ sway. Some disbanded, while others gravitated to other hot-button issues.

From a peak of 114 in 2017, their number dropped to a mere 34 last year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks hate groups.

In early 2023, “Islamophobia was down to a slow trickle,” SPLC senior research analyst Caleb Kieffer said.

Then came the October 7 Hamas assault on Israel, which claimed about 1,200 lives and triggered a massive Israeli military response in Gaza.

Anti-Muslim groups that had “opportunistically” seized on divisive issues, such as critical race theory and LGBTQ-inclusive policies, swung back into action.

“These anti-Muslim groups went right back to their core messaging,” Kieffer said in an interview with VOA. “They’ve been going hard on the rhetoric since October last year.”

Take ACT for America. Founded in 2007 by Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese American political activist and self-described “survivor of terrorism,” it grew into one of the country’s leading anti-Muslim organizations.

At its peak, the group had more than 50 active chapters, each counted as a separate hate group by the SPLC. But in recent years, most of those chapters either shut down or shifted into other areas, leaving ACT for America with just eight on SPLC’s most recent list.

According to the SPLC, ACT for America embraced a “nativist tone” before October 7, circulating, among other things, a petition calling to “Stop the Taxpayer Funded Border Invasion.”

After October 7, the group launched another petition more in line with its agenda and with a call by former U.S. President Donald Trump to stop admitting Palestinian refugees from Gaza.

Warning her followers about homegrown jihadi terror, Gabriel, a staunch Trump supporter, began peddling her bestselling anti-Muslim book, Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America, in exchange for a $25 donation.

In a video titled “Wake Up America” in October, she claimed, “Hamas has a large network of cells spreading all across America,” from Laurel, Maryland, to Tucson, Arizona.

Other groups that had also latched onto contentious issues similarly pivoted back to their core agenda.

Jihad Watch, a website run by prominent anti-Muslim figure Robert Spencer, published an article last October claiming, “We’re in a war between savages and civilization. Everything else is a detail.”

Eight days later, an affiliated political website called FrontPage Magazine ran a piece titled “It’s Islam, Stupid,” arguing that everything Hamas did “has been done by Muslims throughout history and is still being practiced today.”

FrontPage Magazine is published by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, another leading anti-Muslim group. Jihad Watch is a project of the center.

ACT for America, Jihad Watch and the David Horowitz Freedom Center are part of what experts describe as a well-funded, close-knit anti-Muslim industry, with each group playing a distinct role in the ecosystem.

With chapters across the country, Washington-based ACT for America provides the “grassroots muscle” to the movement, Kieffer said. The Center for Security Policy serves as its think tank, he said.

The SPLC-designated groups appear on other hate lists. Several SPLC-branded groups contacted by VOA condemned their designation.

In a statement to VOA, a spokesperson for ACT for America rejected the “anti-Muslim” label, saying the organization has “always welcomed and included members of all faiths,” including Muslims, and hosted Muslim keynote speakers at its conferences.

ACT for America works “on a broad range of issues, none of which are anti-Muslim,” the spokesperson said.  “As a matter of fact, since the defeat of ISIS and al-Qaida between 2018 and 2024, you didn’t hear a blurb from ACT for America about radical Islam.”

In response to a VOA query, Jihad Watch’s Spencer accused the SPLC of smearing and defaming “organizations that oppose its far-left political agenda by lumping them in with the likes of the KKK and neo-Nazis.”

In a brief interview with VOA, J. Michael Waller, a senior analyst for strategy at the Center for Security Policy, called the designation “slander,” saying it was tied to his group’s criticism of the Iranian government and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Kieffer defended the SPLC’s methodology, saying it only designates groups that “vilify” and “demonize” people because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The SPLC defines anti-Muslim hate groups as organizations that “broadly defame Islam and traffic in conspiracy theories of Muslims being a subversive threat to the nation.”

Not every anti-Muslim hate group has stood the test of time. In recent years, dozens of ACT for America chapters have closed.

The ACT for America spokesperson said most of its member groups have “turned into digital chapters meeting via zoom or other technology platforms.”

Last year, an anti-refugee and anti-Muslim blog called Refugee Resettlement Watch became inactive and was dropped from SPLC’s list of hate groups.

Another well-known anti-Muslim group called Understanding the Threat announced last year it was shutting down. The group was operated by a former FBI agent known for spreading anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.

Other groups have rebranded. One former ACT for America chapter now operates as AlertAmerica.News, according to SPLC. Its focus ranges from “strengthening national security” to “fighting communism and American Marxism.”

Kieffer said while the group’s central focus may have shifted away from Islamophobia, it continues to invite well-known, anti-Muslim speakers to its events.

With the war in Gaza still raging, the resurgence in Islamophobia remains unabated, Kieffer said. But that’s likely to change in the run-up to the presidential election in November.

“I imagine that we’re going to slowly see a decline again as these groups start to push other issues,” he said.

Brian Levin, a criminologist and hate crime researcher, noted that anti-Muslim hate crimes have surged in recent years, even as the number of hate groups has dwindled.

That’s because hatred has found a new home in the mainstream, rendering niche groups such as Islamophobic outfits increasingly obsolete, he said.

“The bottom line is, the way we associate to express and amplify hatred has changed,” Levin said in an interview with VOA. “Up-and-coming bigots of all sorts will find an array of xenophobic bigotry and conspiracism within general mainstream platforms.” 

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US Federal Reserve sees inflation progress but envisions only one rate cut this year

washington — Federal Reserve officials said Wednesday that inflation has fallen further toward their target level in recent months but signaled they expect to cut their benchmark interest rate just once this year. 

The policymakers’ forecast for one rate cut was down from a previous forecast of three, because inflation, despite having cooled in the past two months, remains persistently elevated. 

In a statement issued after its two-day meeting, the Fed said the economy is growing at a solid pace, while hiring has “remained strong.” The officials also noted that in recent months there has been “modest” further progress toward their 2% inflation target. That is a more positive assessment than after the Fed’s previous meeting May 1, when the officials had noted a lack of progress. 

Still, the central bank made clear Wednesday that further improvement is needed. 

“We’ll need to see more good data to bolster our confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2%,” Chair Jerome Powell said at a news conference after the Fed meeting ended. 

As expected, the policymakers kept their key rate unchanged at roughly 5.3%. The benchmark rate has remained at that level since July of last year, after the Fed raised it 11 times to try to slow borrowing and spending and cool inflation. Fed rate cuts would, over time, lighten loan costs for consumers, who have faced punishingly high rates for mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and other forms of borrowing. 

The officials’ rate-cut forecast reflects the individual estimates of 19 policymakers. The Fed said eight of the officials projected two rate cuts. Seven projected one cut. Four of the policymakers envisioned no cuts at all this year. 

“What everyone agrees on,” Powell said at his news conference, is that the Fed’s timetable for rate cuts is “going to be data dependent.” 

The Fed’s latest projections are by no means fixed. The policymakers frequently revise their plans for rate cuts — or hikes — depending on how economic growth and inflation evolve over time. 

On Wednesday morning, the government reported that inflation eased in May for a second straight month, a hopeful sign that an acceleration of prices that occurred early this year may have passed. Consumer prices excluding volatile food and energy costs — the closely watched “core” index — rose just 0.2% from April, the smallest rise since October. Measured from a year earlier, core prices climbed 3.4%, the mildest pace in three years. 

“We welcome today’s reading and hope for more like that,” Powell said. 

Though inflation has tumbled from a peak of 9.1% two years ago, it remains too high for the Fed’s liking. The policymakers now face the delicate task of keeping rates high enough to slow spending and defeat high inflation without derailing the economy. 

US inflation cooled in May in sign that price pressures may be easing 

WASHINGTON — Inflation in the United States eased in May for a second straight month, a hopeful sign that a pickup in prices that occurred early this year may have passed. The trend, if it holds, could move the Federal Reserve closer to cutting its benchmark interest rate from its 23-year peak.

Consumer prices excluding volatile food and energy costs — the closely watched “core” index — rose 0.2% from April to May, the government said Wednesday. That was down from 0.3% the previous month and was the smallest increase since October. Measured from a year earlier, core prices rose 3.4%, below last month’s 3.6% increase.

Fed officials are scrutinizing each month’s inflation data to assess their progress in their fight against rising prices. Even as overall inflation moderates, such necessities as groceries, rent and health care are much pricier than they were three years ago — a continuing source of public discontent and a political threat to President Joe Biden’s re-election bid. Most other measures suggest that the economy is healthy: Unemployment remains low, hiring is robust and consumers are traveling, eating out and spending on entertainment.

Overall inflation also slowed last month, with consumer prices unchanged from April to May, in part because of sharp falls in the cost of gasoline, air fares and new cars. Measured from a year earlier, consumer prices rose 3.3%, less than the 3.6% increase a month earlier.

The cost of auto insurance, which has soared in recent months, actually dipped from April to May, though it’s still up more than 20% from a year earlier. Grocery prices were unchanged last month, after declining slightly in April. They’re now up just 1% on a year-over-year basis.

The Fed has kept its key rate unchanged for nearly a year after having rapidly raised it in 2022 and 2023 to fight the worst bout of inflation in four decades. Those higher rates have led, in turn, to more expensive mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and other forms of consumer and business borrowing. Though inflation is now far below its peak of 9.1% in mid-2022, it remains above the Fed’s target level.

Persistently elevated inflation has posed a vexing challenge for the Fed, which raises interest rates — or keeps them high — to try to slow borrowing and spending, cool the economy and ease the pace of price increases.

The longer the Fed keeps borrowing costs high, the more it risks weakening the economy too much and causing a recession. Yet if it cuts rates too soon, it risks reigniting inflation. Most of the policymakers have said they think their rate policies are slowing growth and should curb inflation over time.

Inflation had fallen steadily in the second half of last year, raising hopes that the Fed could pull off a “soft landing,” whereby it manages to conquer inflation through higher interest rates without causing a recession. Such an outcome is difficult and rare.

But inflation came in unexpectedly high in the first three months of this year, delaying hoped-for Fed rate cuts and possibly imperiling a soft landing.

In early May, Chair Jerome Powell said the central bank needed more confidence that inflation was returning to its target before it would reduce its benchmark rate. Several Fed officials have said in recent weeks that they needed to see several consecutive months of lower inflation.

Some signs suggest that inflation will continue to cool in the coming months. Americans, particularly lower-income households, are pulling back on their spending. In response, several major retail and restaurant chains, including Walmart, Target, Walgreen’s, McDonald’s and Burger King, have responded by announcing price cuts or deals.

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US Rep. Nancy Mace overcomes McCarthy-backed challenger to win Republican primary in South Carolina  

COLUMBIA, S.C. — U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace has won the Republican nomination after a tumultuous second term in South Carolina that saw her go from a critic to an ally of former President Donald Trump and make headlines for plenty of things off the House floor. 

Mace defeated challengers Catherine Templeton and Bill Young in voting that ended Tuesday. She will face a Democratic opponent in the general election in the 1st District, which is the closest thing South Carolina has to a swing district in the Republican-dominated state. 

Trump’s endorsement — after he called her crazy and terrible in 2022 — is just one of many ways Mace has attracted a spotlight far greater than a typical second-term member of Congress. 

She’s a regular on interview shows, often antagonizing the hosts. She calls for her party to moderate on abortion and marijuana but joined seven of the farthest right members to oust former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. 

McCarthy threw his weight against Mace and the other defectors. His political action committee gave a $10,000 contribution to Templeton, and the American Prosperity Alliance, where a McCarthy ally serves as a senior adviser, donated to a group called South Carolina Patriots PAC, which spent more than $2.1 million against Mace. 

Mace has said her positions and beliefs aren’t erratic — she is just reflecting the values of the 1st District, which stretches from the centuries-old neighborhoods of Charleston down the coast to Beaufort County’s booming freshly built neighborhoods of retirees moving to South Carolina from somewhere else. 

Mace, the first woman to graduate from South Carolina’s military academy The Citadel, thanked her voters for tuning out the “senseless noise” from her opponents and realizing she is unafraid to stand up to powerful people. 

“When you are the first woman to sit in The Citadel’s barber chair to get all of your hair chopped off, you don’t get your feelings hurt when you don’t get invited to the fancy cocktail parties in Washington, D.C.,” Mace said. “While sometimes I may be a caucus of one, I’m not alone because I’m not there for me — I’m there for each and every one of you.” 

Mace’s opponents argued that by seeming to land everywhere on issues, Mace is nowhere. 

Templeton ran South Carolina’s health and environmental agency to some angst a decade ago and in her only political race finished third in the 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary won by Gov. Henry McMaster. Young is a Marine veteran and financial planner. 

Templeton didn’t mention Mace’s name, but asked Tuesday for her voters to keep backing Republicans. 

“I think it is safe to say everybody in here has the conservative values that we share, and in November we are all going to stand behind our president and we are all going to join together to support the Republican Party,” Templeton said. 

In the Democratic primary, businessman and former International African American Museum CEO Michael Moore defeated Mac Deford, a Citadel graduate and lawyer for a couple of the larger bedroom communities in the district. 

South Carolina lawmakers drew the district to be more Republican after the seat flipped for one term in 2018. The 1st District was the only congressional district won by Nikki Haley over Trump in the 2024 South Carolina Republican presidential primary. 

4th District  

For the second election in a row, U.S. Rep. William Timmons has fought off a spirited challenge in the Republican primary. 

Timmons defeated state Rep. Adam Morgan, the leader of the state House Freedom Caucus who argued Timmons was too liberal. 

Timmons’ divorce — and a widely shared Instagram post by a husband who said Timmons had an affair with his wife — complicated his reelection bid. Timmons has denied the allegations. 

Timmons has Trump’s endorsement as he seeks a fourth term in the district anchored by Greenville and Spartanburg. 

Timmons was not in his district Tuesday night, instead staying in Washington, where Republicans only have a two vote majority in the U.S. House. 

He said he was thankful his voters recognized his strong conservative record and saw through the “countless lies” from his opponent.  

“In Washington I am focused on policy not headlines, on representing my constituents not myself, and working with my colleagues instead of working against them,” Timmons said in a statement on social media. 

In November’s general election, Timmons will face Democrat Kathryn Harvey, who helps nonprofit organizations with marketing, fundraising and leadership, and Constitutional Party candidate Mark Hackett. 

3rd District  

South Carolina’s 3rd District is open after Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan decided not to run again after seven terms. Duncan’s wife of 35 years filed for divorce in 2023, accusing him of several affairs. 

The Republican nomination is going to a runoff between a candidate endorsed by Trump and another endorsed by his good friend McMaster. 

Mark Burns is a Black pastor who has backed Trump since before his first race for president and made it to the runoff after losing twice before in the GOP primary in the neighboring 4th District. 

His opponent is nurse practitioner Sheri Biggs, who along with her husband have been faithful contributors and friends of McMaster for years. 

They defeated five other candidates including South Carolina Rep. Stewart Jones and Kevin Bishop, who handled communications for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham for more than two decades. 

Sherwin-Williams paint store manager Byron Best from Greenwood won the Democratic nomination in the 3rd District. 

Other races  

The only other U.S. House incumbent facing a primary challenger is Republican Rep. Joe Wilson who won the party’s nomination as he seeks a 12th full term in the 2nd District, which stretches from suburban areas around Columbia west and south toward Aiken. 

Wilson will face David Robinson II. The U.S. Army veteran who enlisted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and is an advocate for missing people after his son disappeared in the desert in Arizona won the Democratic primary. 

Attorney Duke Buckner won the Republican 6th District primary and will face Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, who is seeking a 17th term in the state’s majority-minority district that is bounded by areas around Charleston, Beaufort and Columbia.

In the 7th District Democratic primary, teacher Mal Hyman, who calls himself an independent Democrat, faces Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom veteran Daryl Scott. The winner takes on Republican U.S. Rep. Russel Fry, who is seeking a second term in the district that stretches from Myrtle Beach to Florence in the northeast part of the state.

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UN Chief puts Israeli military, Hamas on blacklist for harming children

united nations — The United Nation’s secretary-general has included Israel’s military and Hamas on the annual blacklist of perpetrators who harm children.

“I am appalled by the dramatic increase and unprecedented scale and intensity of grave violations against children in the Gaza Strip, Israel and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” Antonio Guterres said in the report, which was sent to U.N. Security Council members on Tuesday but has not yet been published.

The annual Children and Armed Conflict report names and shames those who recruit, kill, maim or abduct children, commit sexual violence against them, deny them humanitarian assistance, or attack schools and hospitals. Guterres’ special representative Virginia Gamba is mandated by the Security Council to work to prevent and end these violations.

In the report, obtained by VOA, the United Nations said it has verified 8,009 grave violations against Israeli and Palestinian children, but the process is ongoing and slow due to the conflict. Of them, 113 were against Israeli children, and the rest were against Palestinian children in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The report says most child casualties in Gaza from October 7 to the end of last year were caused by “the use of explosive weapons in populated areas by Israeli armed and security forces.”

In addition to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad was also listed. Both groups are listed for the first time, accused of killing, maiming and abducting children.

The report covers the period from January to December 2023. Hamas carried out its terror attack in Israel on October 7, 2023, triggering the war that is now in its ninth month. The report covers only the casualties reported or verified in 2023.

This is the first time either Israel or Hamas has been included on the report’s blacklist, despite the killing and maiming of hundreds of children in at least three previous wars in Gaza.

Israel’s armed and security forces are listed for the killing and maiming of children and for attacks on schools and hospitals.

“The inclusion of Israeli forces on the U.N.’s ‘list of shame’ is long overdue and reflects overwhelming evidence of grave violations against children,” Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, told VOA in an email.

Israeli officials have expressed outrage at being included on the list, which also includes the Taliban and terror groups al-Qaida and Islamic State.

A U.N. spokesperson said last week that Israel was notified of its inclusion “as a courtesy.” The country promptly sought to get ahead of the report’s publication, dismissing it as more anti-Israel action by the United Nations.

“Today, the U.N. added itself to the blacklist of history when it joined those who support the Hamas murderers,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday. “The IDF is the most moral army in the world. No delusional U.N. decision will change that.”

His United Nations ambassador went further, publishing the video of part of his phone call with Guterres’ chief of staff.

“I’m utterly shocked and disgusted by this shameful decision of the secretary-general,” Gilad Erdan said in the call on Friday, adding that it would reward Hamas and extend the war.

Russia makes blacklist again

Last year, Russia’s armed forces landed on the blacklist for their war in Ukraine. This year, they remained listed despite a significant drop in the number of violations attributed to them. The United Nations verified the killing of 80 children and the maiming of 339 others attributed to Russian forces and affiliated groups.

A senior U.N. official said a decrease was not enough. Russia must continue this trend for at least a year and also sign a joint action plan with Gamba’s office to be delisted.

No party previously on the list was delisted this year.

Both sides in Sudan conflict make list 

The situation in Sudan, which devolved into brutal violence in April 2023 when two rival generals went to war in a power struggle that continues today, has seen the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces both land on this year’s blacklist.

The report found a dramatic increase in 2023 in the military recruitment and use of children in Sudan, as well as their killing, maiming and sexual abuse. Attacks on schools and hospitals were also reported.

“I urge all parties to take preventive and mitigating actions to avoid and minimize harm and better protect children, including to refrain from the use of explosive devices,” Guterres said in the report.

The 2023 report verified nearly 33,000 grave violations committed against the world’s children in several countries experiencing conflict — an increase of 21% over the previous year. There were 11,649 confirmed child killings and maimings. Recruitment is again on the rise, after trending downward for the past two years.

Grave violations were reported in countries including Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Congo, Myanmar, Somalia and Syria, among others.

At G7, Biden to push plans for frozen Russian assets, Chinese overcapacity

At the Group of Seven summit this week, U.S. President Joe Biden will seek agreement on using interest from frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine’s war effort. He will also push for unity in tackling global challenges such as infrastructure funding, artificial intelligence, and Chinese overcapacity in green technologies. However, as White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara reports, a shift right in the European political landscape could complicate his plans.

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Hunter Biden convicted of all 3 felonies in federal gun trial

WILMINGTON, Del. — Hunter Biden has been convicted of all three felony charges related to the purchase of a revolver in 2018 when, prosecutors argued, the president’s son lied on a mandatory gun-purchase form by saying he was not illegally using or addicted to drugs.

Jurors found Hunter Biden guilty of lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, making a false claim on the application by saying he was not a drug user and illegally having the gun for 11 days.

He faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Maryellen Noreika, though first-time offenders do not get anywhere near the maximum, and it’s unclear whether she would give him time behind bars.

Now, Hunter Biden and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, the chief political rival of President Joe Biden, have been convicted by American jurors in an election year that has been as much about the courtroom as it has been about campaign events and rallies.

Joe Biden has steered clear of the federal courtroom in Delaware where his son was tried and said little about the case, wary of creating an impression of interfering in a criminal matter brought by his own Justice Department. But allies of the Democrat have worried about the toll that the trial — and now the conviction — will take on the 81-year-old, who has long been concerned with his only living son’s health and sustained sobriety.

Hunter Biden and Trump have both argued they were victimized by the politics of the moment. But while Trump has continued to falsely claim the verdict was “rigged,” Joe Biden has said he would accept the results of the verdict and would not seek to pardon his son.

After the jury’s decision was announced, President Biden said he accepts the outcome of the case and “will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal.”

“Jill and I will always be there for Hunter and the rest of our family with our love and support. Nothing will ever change that,” the president said in a statement.

Hunter Biden’s legal troubles aren’t over. He faces a trial in September in California on charges of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes and congressional Republicans have signaled they will keep going after him in their stalled impeachment effort into the president. The president has not been accused or charged with any wrongdoing by prosecutors investigating his son.

The prosecution devoted much of the trial to highlighting the seriousness of Hunter Biden’s drug problem, through highly personal testimony and embarrassing evidence.

Jurors heard Hunter Biden’s ex-wife and a former girlfriend testify about his habitual crack use and their failed efforts to help him get clean. Jurors saw images of the president’s son bare-chested and disheveled in a filthy room, and half-naked holding crack pipes. And jurors watched video of his crack cocaine weighed on a scale.

Hunter Biden did not testify but jurors heard his voice when prosecutors played audio excerpts of his 2021 memoir “Beautiful Things,” in which he talks about hitting bottom after the death of his brother Beau in 2015, and his descent into drugs before his eventual sobriety.

Prosecutors felt the evidence was necessary to prove that Hunter, 54, was in the throes of addiction when he bought the gun and therefore lied when he checked “no” on the form that asked whether he was “an unlawful user of, or addicted to” drugs.

Defense attorney Abbe Lowell had argued that Hunter Biden’s state of mind was different when he wrote the book than when he bought the gun — when he didn’t believe he had an addiction. Lowell pointed out to jurors that some of the questions on the firearms transaction record are in the present tense, such as “are you an unlawful user of or addicted to” drugs.

And Lowell suggested Hunter Biden might have felt he had a drinking problem at the time, but not a drug problem. Alcohol abuse does not preclude a gun purchase.

Hunter Biden had hoped last year to resolve a long-running investigation federal investigation under a deal with prosecutors that would avoided the spectacle of a trial so close to the 2024 election. Under the deal, he would have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor tax offenses and avoid prosecution in the gun case if he stayed out of trouble for two years.

But the deal fell apart after Noreika, who was nominated by Trump, questioned unusual aspects of the proposed agreement, and the lawyers could not resolve the matter.

Attorney General Merrick Garland then appointed top investigator David Weiss, Delaware’s U.S. attorney, as a special counsel last August, and a month later Hunter Biden was indicted.

Hunter Biden has said he was charged because the Justice Department bowed to pressure from Republicans who argued the Democratic president’s son was getting special treatment.

The reason that law enforcement raised any questions about the revolver is because Hallie Biden, Beau’s widow, found it unloaded in Hunter’s truck on Oct. 23, 2018, panicked and tossed it into a garbage can at Janssen’s Market, where a man inadvertently fished it out of the trash. She testified about the episode in court.

Hallie Biden, who had a romantic relationship with Hunter after Beau died, eventually called the police. Officers retrieved the gun from the man who inadvertently took the gun along with other recyclables from the trash. The case was eventually closed because of lack of cooperation from Hunter Biden, who was considered the victim.

At G7 Italy, Biden to push plans to deal with Russian frozen assets, Chinese overcapacity

White House  — The last time leaders of the world’s seven richest economies met, at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan in 2023, they denounced China’s rising economic security threats and vowed to support Ukraine against Russia’s invasion for as long as it takes.

This week in Apulia, Italy, U.S. President Joe Biden wants the group to restrain the same two adversaries while continuing to tackle common global challenges, including infrastructure funding and AI, or artificial intelligence.

However, a shift to the right of the European political landscape following EU parliamentary elections could complicate his plans.

The U.S. is aiming for the G7 to agree on a united front against Chinese overcapacity, when production of goods exceeds demand, in key green technologies and a mechanism to use Russian frozen assets to aid Ukraine’s war efforts, a source familiar with Biden’s plans told VOA.

On Russia, Biden is pushing a plan to give Kyiv tens of billions of dollars up front, using interest from the approximately $280 billion in Russian assets immobilized in Western financial institutions.

Weeks after announcing new tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, or EVs, and other strategic industries, Biden also wants leaders to confront Beijing’s practice of flooding global markets with cheap exports in those industries.

Much work still needs to be done on both fronts, and officials are scrambling to agree on a final communique before the summit ends.

Shifting political landscape in Europe

With far-right parties gaining support in the European Parliament elections over the weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have been weakened, while G7 host Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni consolidated her power.

The European far-right has divergent views on China and Russia, adding another layer of uncertainty to the G7’s posture. A key factor: whether Ursula von der Leyen can keep her job as president of the European Commission for another five years.

“If von der Leyen remains the likely candidate, we can expect continuity on the G7 agenda — she has been forward-leaning on Ukraine and on China,” said Liana Fix, a fellow for Europe at the Council on Foreign Relations.

While von der Leyen is in a strong position, her second term is not guaranteed. Snap French parliamentary elections in late June, as announced by Macron on Sunday following his party’s loss in the parliamentary election, could be the wild card, Fix told VOA. With the prospects of a far-right government, Macron may be hesitant to confirm von der Leyen just a few days before the French elections.

Russian retaliation

Moscow sees the freezing of its assets by Western financial institutions following its 2022 invasion of Ukraine as theft. It has threatened to retaliate, should the G7 agree to adopt the plan pushed by Biden.

The plan will provide Kyiv with a loan of up to $50 billion, which will be paid back to Western allies using interest earned from Russian assets, estimated at $3 billion a year or more until it is paid, or Moscow agrees to pay reparations.

It’s a more aggressive plan than the EU agreed to in May, which would provide Ukraine with the interest income as it is generated annually. It’s also riskier — there’s no guarantee that Russian assets would be immobilized for the duration it takes to repay the loan. Under EU rules, the sanctions regime that freezes the funds must be unanimously renewed every six months by the bloc’s 27 member states.

The push comes as Moscow’s forces gained strategic advances on the battlefield, and amid war funding fatigue settling deeper among American and European taxpayers. A deal will be an important signal of transatlantic unity against Russia ahead of the NATO summit in Washington next month and give a measure of relief as Kyiv faces the prospects of a changing political landscape in the U.S. and Europe.

“This used to be partly about (former president Donald) Trump-proofing support to Ukraine, but may now also be about (Marine) Le Pen-proofing it, considering the possibility of (the far-right) National Rally (political party) winning the French parliamentary election in a few weeks,” said Armida van Rij, director of the Europe program at Chatham House.

The prospects of more populist, Putin-friendly politicians coming to power in Europe may help further galvanize support for Biden’s loan plan for Ukraine, she told VOA.

Concern over Chinese overcapacity

“There is no question that the U.S. and Europe share the concern that China is trying to export its way out of its domestic industrial overcapacity problem,” said Desmond Lachman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

G7 finance ministers have highlighted Beijing’s “comprehensive use of non-market policies and practices” and said they will consider “steps to ensure a level playing field, in line with World Trade Organization principles.”

Just as “Trump’s greater economic nationalism has forced Biden to be more protectionist,” the rise of right-wing European parties could add more urgency to address Chinese overcapacity, Lachman told VOA.

However, it’s unclear if the G7 can agree on how it would do that. EU members that consider China a major export market, particularly Germany and France, are anxious to avoid a trade war.

The European Commission is expected to soon announce planned tariffs on Chinese EVs. The action could prompt retaliation from Beijing, which accuses the West of hyping overcapacity claims to blunt China’s competitive edge.

AI, migration and international development

Italy’s Meloni has made AI a key priority of her G7 presidency and invited Pope Francis to a special session to highlight the Rome Call for AI Ethics. The initiative urges governments and companies to follow the six ethical principles for AI: transparency, inclusion, responsibility, impartiality, reliability, as well as security and privacy.

Leaders will discuss how AI impacts labor, sustainable development, foreign policy, disinformation, and election interference.

A strategic partnership with Africa to curb migration to Europe is another key theme of Meloni’s G7 presidency. In January, she launched the “Mattei Plan,” an international investment initiative to boost development in the continent, in line with the G7’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, which is also known as PGI.

PGI was launched at the G7 2021 summit as “Build Back Better World,” echoing the Biden administration’s domestic agenda. The goal is to mobilize $600 billion in private infrastructure funding by 2027 as an alternative to the Chinese Belt and Road initiative that has increased Beijing’s political clout in developing countries.

PGI is now focused on developing economic corridors, including the Lobito Corridor that connects the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Angola, and the Luzon Corridor in the Philippines.

Following the U.N. Security Council resolution on a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the G7 is also expected to again voice its support for peace talks in Gaza.

The president is scheduled to leave for Italy on Wednesday, the day after his son Hunter Biden was found guilty on federal charges of obtaining a gun in 2018 while allegedly addicted to drugs.