01001, Київ, Україна

Researchers Test Fungus That Kills Malaria Mosquitos

The World Health Organization says nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting malaria. Efforts to fight the disease take two paths, fighting the disease itself and fighting the mosquitos that carry the disease. University of Maryland researchers are testing a novel new way to kill mosquitos in Burkina Faso. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

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A North Dakota Prairie, Home to One of America’s First Mosques

Muslims started settling in America in the 1600s. From the Northeast to Midwest, they have left their mark on U.S. history. Even in some Midwestern states where few Muslims live, there are historic milestones of their presence. Muslim homesteaders in Ross, North Dakota, built a mosque in the 1920s, making it one of the first mosques built in America. Saqib Ul Islam gives us a look in this report.

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Istanbul Goes Back to Polls in Critical Vote

Istanbul votes again in a mayoral election Sunday, after authorities voided an opposition victory in March that ended 15 years of control by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP Party.

The CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu, a once-obscure opposition figure, pulled off the political upset, but it was eventually undone by Turkey’s president, who cited mistakes in the appointment of polling station officials. Imamoglu was booted out of his office and Turkish officials ordered a re-run.

Erdogan, in what is being seen as a last-minute bid to win Sunday, is looking to an imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader in an effort to deny the opposition key Kurdish votes.

Jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, in a handwritten letter, called on Kurds to remain “neutral” in Sunday’s vote.


Istanbul Goes Back to Polls in Critical Vote video player.

Now, Imamoglu is back on the campaign trail, targeting electoral strongholds of his opponent.

Thousands turned out Wednesday to hear his message in Istanbul’s Sancaktepe district, a faraway suburb dominated by AKP supporters.

“What do we love?” Imamoglu asked, speaking on top of a campaign bus. “We love democracy. We love freedom, we love fraternity (brotherhood), we love peace. We love being united with our nation.”

This Imamoglu supporter says the re-run of the Istanbul vote is undemocratic. (VOA/D. Jones)

Defending democracy slogan

Imamoglu’s message of reaching across Turkey’s deep political divide is widely seen as having been key to his victory in the March poll. Coupled with his slogan of defending democracy in Turkey, some see him picking up steam on the campaign trail.

“We are definitely putting up a struggle for rights, law and justice. We are putting up a fight against those who stole our democratic rights on March 31st,” he said to the cheering crowd.

The message of democracy resonated with some voters listening to Imamoglu.

“For me, Imamoglu had already won,” said a retiree, who declined to be named. “As this is a case of stealing, we will go and vote for Imamoglu again just to spite them.”

With 1 in 3 Istanbul youths unemployed CHP opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu pledge to create jobs is seen as a vote winner. (VOA/D. Jones)

With 1 in 3 youth unemployed in Istanbul, a city hit hard by the country’s economic slowdown, it is the economy that matters most for some.

“He promises jobs. We are unemployed. We are university graduates but have no jobs. We don’t get posts,” said Neslihan, who only gave her first name. “People are hungry. They cannot take bread to their homes. All the beautiful things will come with Imamoglu.”

“Republican People’s Party (CHP) received a very positive reaction that it had not seen for a long time and could increase its share of votes compared to past,” says Nazli Okten, who teaches sociology at Istanbul’s Galatasaray University.

AKP candidate Binali Yildirm seeks to rally the base saying the opposition stole his victory in March poll for Istanbul mayor. (VOA/D. Jones)

AKP candidate fights back

Across the city in the Kucukcekmece district, AKP candidate Binali Yildirim avoids talking about the economy and focuses on his claim the March election was stolen from him by fraud, a charge not upheld by the electoral authorities.

“Do not forget that we have unfinished business left from March 31st,” said Yildirim in a speech to supporters in Istanbul.

The crowd shouts back, “We will not forget.”

Kucukcekmece is an AKP stronghold. Yildirim is also seeking to rally the base with a message of defending democracy.

“Justice will be served, that is how we should call it,” said Hanife, a shop owner. “Justice will be served. Our votes were not counted, in the last election. Where did they disappear? Where has my vote gone?”

Hanife, an AKP supporter, backs the Istanbul revote saying the March vote was unfair. (VOA/D. Jones)

Hanife is one of many who credit their success to AKP party rule in Istanbul.

“I am a shop owner for 12 years and have been living here for 22 years. I own a clothing store, a boutique, and I opened it with my state’s support. I got a credit from our state and opened it. That is why I support them,” Hanife said.

With Istanbul accounting for a third of the Turkish economy and its $8 billion budget, the stakes are high in Sunday’s poll.

“Politically, this is a vital importance in terms of the use and distribution of Istanbul resources,” sociologist Okten said. “The side that uses these resources wisely will get a significant share of votes in the general elections in the long run.”

In a last-minute move, Erdogan has stepped into the campaign as the latest opinion polls point to a resounding defeat for his candidate, a signal the Istanbul election could prove to be as much about his future as the city’s.

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Africa 54

If you want to know what’s trending in news, health, sports and lifestyle, then tune in to Africa 54. Airing Monday through Friday, this 30-minute program takes a closer look at the stories Africans are talking about, with reports from VOA correspondents, and interviews with top experts and analysts. Africa 54 also serves viewers with timely information about health, education, business and technology. And for the young and young at heart, Africa 54 provides a daily dose of pop culture, including music, fashion and entertainment.

On our Programs:
Watch for more political, health, sports, and feature stories on YouTube.

Meet the Team:

Vincent Makori is the Managing Editor of Africa 54, Voice of America’s daily TV program for Africa. He also serves as a producer and writer for Africa 54. Vincent is a versatile journalist with 20 years of experience, working in Africa, Europe and the U.S. He has been at VOA for more than 11 years.

Vincent has covered a wide range of stories including the Africa Union Summit in Lusaka, Zambia, The U.N. General Assembly in New York, International Trade and Technology Fairs in Berlin and Hanover Germany. The International AIDS Conference, in Mexico City, Mexico, and the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He has interviewed people of all walks of life, including high ranking officials and presidents, among them, former U.S. President George W. Bush, President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, former President of Ghana John Kufuor, President Ifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia ; Noble Laureate Wangari Maathai and academic luminaries like Professor Ali Mazrui.

He holds a post-graduate degree in mass communication from the School of Journalism of the University of Nairobi and a Bachelor of Arts Degree, majoring in English Literature from Moi University, Kenya. He has attended numerous training programs in journalism, in Kenya, Germany and the U.S.

Linord Moudou is the producer & host of the Africa Health Network on Africa 54. She also produces and hosts Health Chat on the Voice of America radio, a live call-in program that addresses health issues of interest to Africa.

She started her career with Voice of America television as the producer & host of Healthy Living, a weekly health news magazine covering African health issues including malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS. She also shared new discoveries and medical breakthroughs, and provided tips and advice on how to prevent diseases and live a healthier life.

Before joining VOA, Linord worked as a broadcast and print journalist, traveling between Africa, Europe and the United States. In 2000, she created, produced, and hosted “Spotlight on Africa,” a bilingual (French-English) television and radio program on Public Access Television and New World Radio in Washington, D.C. With “Spotlight on Africa,” Linord dedicated herself to promote a more positive image of Africa internationally, through information and entertainment.

Her print experience includes “Africa Journal,” a Corporate Council on Africa publication, and AMINA Magazine, a Paris-based magazine about women of Africa and the Diaspora.

Linord Moudou was born and raised in Côte d’Ivoire. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and media productions from George Mason University, and a certificate in television and radio productions from the Columbia School of Broadcasting. The veteran broadcaster is fluent in French, English and conversational in Spanish and Creole.

Internship Opportunities

In the competitive and changing television industry, nothing is more valuable for job-seekers than “real world” experience. The Straight Talk Africa internship program offers motivated and outstanding students exciting opportunities to experience practical journalism. In addition to helping to get our weekly studio programs on-the-air, interns also produce a final project for their portfolios. Projects include writing and producing promos, stories, and even full-length documentary or magazine shows.

Watch our interns in action

For more information and/or send your resume to: 
Attention to Clara Frenk.

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Straight Talk Africa

Join us every Wednesday as Shaka and his guests discuss topics of special interest to Africans, including politics, economic development, press freedom, health, social issues and conflict resolution.


Broadcast Schedule

Straight Talk Africa is broadcast live every Wednesday from 1830-1930 UTC/GMT simultaneously on radio, television and the Internet.


Join the Discussion

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Watch us on YouTube

Contact Us:
E-mail africatv@voanews.com

Postal Mail
Voice of America
TV to Africa – Suite 1613
330 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20237

Internship Opportunities

In the competitive and changing television industry, nothing is more valuable for job-seekers than “real world” experience. The Straight Talk Africa internship program offers motivated and outstanding students exciting opportunities to experience practical journalism.  In addition to helping to get our weekly studio programs on-the-air, interns also produce a final project for their portfolios. Projects include writing and producing promos, stories, and even full-length documentary or magazine shows.

Watch our interns in action

For more information and/or send your resume to: 
Attention to Roblyn Hymes.

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Зеленський хоче змінити Конституцію України і надати собі диктаторські повноваження


Представник президента Володимира Зеленського у Верховній Раді Руслан Стефанчук вважає, що Конституцію України потрібно змінити, а конституційну комісію відновити.

Стефанчук підкреслив, що Конституція точно буде змінена. Однак, поки що в ЗЕ-команді не в курсі, зміниться якась частина або повністю Конституція!?!?

Він також вказав, що робота конституційної комісії буде відновлена, тому що президент і влада повинні “задавати напрямок, а саме професіонали повинні формувати структуру і логіку”.

При зміні Конституції будуть звертати увагу на права і свободи людей, а не на повноваження Верховної Ради або президента, як це робилося раніше. Там маса декларативних прав, які абсолютно не мають ні механізму реалізації, ні механізму захисту цих прав. Це треба міняти, – сказав Стефанчук.

Раніше повідомлялося, що у Зеленського заявили про ймовірність правок до мовного закону.

Мережа Правди

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Зеленський покарав юриста, бо той публічно заявив, що Андрій Богдан потрапляє під люстрацію

Андрій Богдан

Зеленський виключив з міжнародної делегації, яка вирушить до Гааги, заступника міністра юстиції Сергія Пєтухова, який повинен був очолювати цю делегацію. Про це свідчить указ №400 на сайті АП.

Зе вирішив виключити Пєтухова зі складу делегації на дипломатичну сесію Гаазької конференції з міжнародного приватного права. Замість нього поїде український посол в Нідерландах Всеволод Ченцов.

Сергій Пєтухов публічно заявляв про те, що нинішній глава Адміністрації президента Андрій Богдан потрапляє під люстрацію. Відповідно, на посаді він перебуває незаконно.

Нагадаємо, у Порошенка вірять, що Пристайко призначать на посаду глави МЗС. Геращенко вважає, що міністра закордонних справ потрібно призначити якомога швидше.

Мережа Правди

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Бендер Давид Арахамія за гроші хвалив Порошенка, а тепер просить мільйон доларів у Зеленського

Давид Арахамія

Давид Арахамія, який балотується в парламент від партії “Слуга народу” заявив, що зможе перетворити 1 мільйон доларів в 10 мільйонів, а якщо цього не станеться, то він піде у відставку!?!?!

Він вважає українців ідіотами.

Давид хоче провести експеримент, для якого йому потрібен один мільйон доларів на рік. Він каже що буде їздити на світові виставки і знаходити інвесторів. Цим людям Давид планує продавати ідею України як країни, де є багато можливостей.

Він точно вважає українців ідіотами.

Раніше повідомлялося, що Давид Арахамія, який в списку партії “Слуга народу” йде під №4 ще після другого туру виборів президента влаштовував флешмоб на підтримку Петра Порошенка. На сторінці в соціальній мережі Арахамія пропонував писати пости на підтримку колишнього президента з хештегом #спасибіПОП. Давид вказав, що жив по сусідству з Петром Порошенко і бачив, у скільки той повертався додому, як багато сил і енергії вкладав в роботу. Кандидат в депутати від партії “Слуга народу” подякував Порошенку за те, що той не зрадив Україну в вирішальний момент.

Мережа Правди

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Daybreak Africa

Each morning, Daybreak Africa looks at the latest developments on the continent, starting with headline news and providing in-depth interviews, reports from VOA correspondents, sports news as well as listener comments.

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137 Years After Construction Began, Spanish Church Gets Building Permit

After 137 years of construction, overseen by 10 architects, one of Spain’s tourist attractions finally has been granted a building permit. 

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s modernist masterpiece, was granted the permit in what may be a new high mark for bureaucratic sluggishness. 

Janet Sanz head of the Barcelona’s urban planning said the city council had finally managed to “resolve a historical anomaly in the city — that an emblematic monument like the Sagrada Familia… didn’t have a building permit, that it was being constructed illegally.”

The Sagrada Familia foundation said it hopes to finish construction by 2026, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of chief architect Antoni Gaudí’s death. 

Even though construction of the neo-Gothic church began in 1882, authorities only discovered in 2016 that it never had a building permit, although Gaudi had applied for one. 

Gaudi died after being hit by a tram when only one of the church’s facades was finished.

Since then, 10 architects have continued his work, based on Gaudi’s plaster models, and photos and publications of his original drawings, which were destroyed in a fire during the Spanish Revolution. 

Every year more than 4.5 million people visit the basilica, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

When completed, its central tower will make La Sagrada Familia the tallest religious structure in Europe, at 172.5 meters, according to the builders.

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Moldovan Court Ousts President, New Elections Called

Moldova has plunged deeper into political crisis after the Constitutional Court stripped pro-Russian President Igor Dodon of his power over his failure to form a new government after months of political deadlock.

The court on Sunday also appointed former Prime Minister Pavel Filip as interim president.

Filip immediately dissolved the parliament and called for snap elections on September 6 as thousands of his supporters gathered in the capital, Chisinau, for a rally.

Dodon’s Socialist Party had said on Saturday it was forming a coalition government, but the court ruled that the move had come a day after the 90-day deadline for forming a new government had passed.

The coalition has rejected the ruling, saying the deadline is three months rather than 90 days.

Dodon accused the court of being biased in favor of Filip’s Democratic Party and asked the international community to intervene.


“We have no choice but to appeal to the international community to mediate in the process of a peaceful transfer of power and/or to call on the people of Moldova for an unprecedented mobilization and peaceful protests,” Dodon said in a statement.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Washington “calls on all Moldovan parties to show restraint and to agree on a path forward through political dialogue.”

“The February 24 parliamentary elections were competitive and respected fundamental rights,” she said in a statement on Sunday. “The will of the Moldovan people as expressed in those elections must be respected without interference.”


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Boris Johnson to EU: I Won’t Pay Unless Deal Improved

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is stepping up his campaign to be Britain’s next prime minister by challenging the European Union over Brexit terms.

Johnson told the Sunday Times he would refuse to pay the agreed-upon 39 billion-pound ($50 billion) divorce settlement unless the EU offers Britain a better withdrawal agreement than the one currently on the table.


The contest for leadership of the Conservative Party officially begins Monday. The post was vacated Friday by Prime Minister Theresa May, who will serve as a caretaker until a new leader is chosen and moves into 10 Downing Street.


The party expects to name its new leader in late July.


Johnson, the early frontrunner in a crowded field, told the newspaper he is the only contender who can triumph over the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.


Johnson is a hard-line Brexit advocate who vows to take Britain out of the EU on the Oct. 31 deadline even if there is no deal in place.


He and other contenders say they can get better terms from EU leaders in Brussels than the deal that May agreed to but was unable to push through Parliament. Those failures led to her decision to resign before achieving her goal of delivering Brexit.


But EU officials have said they are not willing to change the terms of the deal May agreed to.


One of Johnson’s main rivals for the post, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, continued to be sidetracked Sunday by questions about his acknowledged cocaine use when he was a youthful journalist.


He told BBC Sunday that he was “fortunate” not to have gone to prison following his admission of cocaine use. He said he was “very, very aware” of the damage drugs can cause.


Nominations for the leadership post close Monday afternoon.



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Search and Recovery Operations Continue After Dutch Boat Crash

Search and recovery operations continued in in the Danube River in Hungary’s capital Budapest on Sunday to help raise a sunken sightseeing boat with the help of a floating crane.

Hungarian rescue officials said Saturday that the tour boat is unlikely to be raised out of the water before Tuesday.


The Hableany (Mermaid) was carrying 33 South Koreans and a two-man Hungarian crew when it collided with a much larger cruise ship on the river in Budapest on May 29.

Seven South Koreans were rescued after the nighttime crash in heavy rain but eight of the passengers and the boat’s captain are still missing.

At least 19 people are confirmed dead.


Hungarian and South Korean divers have been working for days to prepare the Hableany to be raised off the river floor.

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Dozens Detained In Kazakhstan as Nazarbaev’s Chosen Successor Set to Win Election

Police across Kazakhstan have detained dozens of protesters as the country holds a snap presidential election, with the chosen successor of authoritarian ex-President Nursultan Nazarbaev expected to win easily.

More than 100 protesters were detained in the in Astana Square in Kazakhstan’s largest city of Almaty as they were calling for a boycott of the election in which Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev is running against six government-approved candidates.

Several foreign and local journalists, including RFE/RL reporter Pyotr Trotsenko, were also briefly detained in Almaty.

Security measures have been stepped up in Almaty, with dozens of police officers deployed in Astana Square and elsewhere in the city, RFE/RL correspondents in Kazakhstan report.

In the capital, Nur-Sultan — newly renamed after the former president — police detained dozens of opposition supporters holding a protest rally near the Palace of Youth, as well as several journalists covering the event.

RFE/RL correspondent Sania Toiken is among those detained in the capital.

The protesters in Nur-Sultan were calling for free and fair elections and were holding blue balloons, a sign of support for a banned opposition group, Kazakhstan’s Democratic Choice (DVK).

The movement’s leader is Mukhtar Ablyazov, a vocal critic of Nazarbaev and his government, who lives in self-imposed exile in France. Ablyazov has urged people in the past to hold blue balloons at anti-government rallies.

Police have deployed about 10 buses near the Palace of Youth and also blocked the Respublika and Abai streets near at the city center.

Meanwhile, 20 protesters were detained in the southern city of Shymkent.

Most polling stations opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. on June 9. Some polls opened an hour earlier, and 65 stations outside the country are also taking ballots.

Toqaev, 66, was tapped by longtime authoritarian President Nazarbaev as his successor when he stepped down on March 19 after nearly 30 years leading the energy-rich country, the largest in Central Asia.

Russian state-run TASS news agency reported that Toqaev voted at a station in the Astana Opera House in the capital, Nur-Sultan.

“Our people are concerned about many social and economic issues,” he told reporters. “This is why elections are a good opportunity to decide who is going to lead the country, what our country will be like in the future.”

Toqaev, who is running against six government-approved candidates, said that the election “will be open and transparent.”

“At least, from the side of the government, we have done everything possible to achieve this,” Toqaev added.

The other six candidates are virtually unknown to voters and have little campaign or public support.

The early election, which was called by Toqaev on April 9 to avoid “political uncertainty,” is being criticized by Kazakh opposition activists an unfair and noncompetitive.

None of the elections held in Kazakhstan since it became independent in 1991 has been deemed free or fair by international organizations.

There have been an unusually large number of public demonstrations in Kazakhstan since Nazarbaev’s resignation, with protesters calling for political reforms and many urging voters to boycott the vote.

Many activists have been detained and given fines or jail sentences, while some young male activists have been suddenly drafted into the army.

Large groups of Kazakh mothers have held numerous rallies in recent months to demand increased social benefits and housing, underscoring a general dissatisfaction with the government seen in other demonstrations and civil meetings.

Despite officially stepping down as president, Nazarbaev holds many important political positions and still wields considerable power within the country and inside his political party, Nur-Otan, whose presidential candidate is Toqaev.

Nazarbaev’s reign was marked by economic progress fueled by plentiful reserves of oil and natural gas, but it was largely overshadowed by despotic rule that shut down independent media, suppressed protests, and trampled democratic norms.

Human Rights Watch wrote recently that Kazakhstan “heavily restricts” basic freedoms such as speech, religion, and assembly, while Freedom House calls the Kazakh government a “consolidated authoritarian regime.”

A career diplomat educated in Moscow and considered an expert on China, Toqaev has served as Kazakh prime minister, foreign minister, and chairman of the Senate. He also worked for the United Nations in Geneva in 2011-13.

Toqaev has said publicly that he will continue the same policies as Nazarbaev if elected as president.

In preelection moves likely aimed at consolidating support for Toqaev, the state recently increased salaries for government employees and hiked welfare payments.

Nazarbaev’s daughter, Darigha, replaced Toqaev as Senate leader in March and would be first in line to the presidency should anything happen to the president.

The six candidates permitted to run against Toqaev in the election are parliament deputies Jambyl Ahmetbekov and Dania Yespaeva, labor union leader Amangeldy Taspikhov, state sports executive Sadybek Tugel, scientist Toleutai Rahimbekov, and journalist Amirjan Qosanov.

Kazakhstan’s voters among the population of 18.7 million will vote at 238 polling stations nationwide as well as at the Kazakh Embassy in Moscow and consulates in St. Petersburg, Kazan, Astrakhan, and Omsk.

Aware of the uptick in anti-government protests since Nazarbaev stepped down, the deputy mayor of the Kazakh capital  — newly reminted Nur-Sultan, in honor of the former president — said authorities were prepared for any “provocations.”

“We are ready for any provocations [and are] working on different scenarios, but all this will be nipped in the bud as nothing must stand in the way of the voting,” Erlan Kanalimov told TASS.

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Albania’s President Cancels Elections, Citing Tense Climate 

Albania’s president on Saturday canceled upcoming municipal elections, citing the need to reduce political tensions in the country. 


President Ilir Meta said he acted because “the actual circumstances do not provide necessary conditions for true, democratic, representative and all-inclusive elections” at the end of the month. The president said he would clarify his decision Monday. 


Thousands of Albanians who support the political opposition assembled for an anti-government protest on Saturday. Opposition parties planned to boycott the municipal elections and threatened to prevent them taking place. 


After sundown, smoke from tear gas and flares clouded the streets of Tirana. Some protesters hurled flares, firecrackers and Molotov cocktails at police officers outside the parliament building. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons.  

“This union [of people] imposed the annulment of the June 30 election,” Lulzim Basha, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, said, pledging to continue the battle. 


Speaking at an election rally, Prime Minister Edi Rama said Meta’s decision was wrong and insisted the local votes would be held as scheduled to prevent political “blackmail” from being used to force the calling of early parliamentary elections.  


The Albanian opposition, led by the center-right Democratic Party, accuses the left-wing government of links to organized crime and vote rigging. Opposition leaders are demanding Rama’s resignation, the naming of a transitional Cabinet, and an earlier date for the next general election.    

Opposition lawmakers also have relinquished their seats in parliament, where the government holds a comfortable majority. 


The government denies the allegations and said opposition-organized protests that started in February have hurt the country’s image as the European Union is set to decide this month whether to launch negotiations to include Albania as a member.  


The United States and the European Union urged protesters to disavow violence and sit in a dialogue with government representatives to resolve the political crisis. 


In an interview with private TV station Top Channel, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mathew Palmer warned opposition political leaders, “if there are acts of violence in future protests, we will consider them responsible.” 

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Libyan Coast Guard Intercepts 22 Migrants 

Libya’s coast guard said Saturday that it had intercepted nearly two dozen Europe-bound migrants off the country’s Mediterranean coast. 


Spokesman Ayoub Gassim said a wooden boat carrying at least 22 African migrants, all men, was intercepted Friday north of the Bouri offshore oil field, around 105 kilometers (65 miles) from Tripoli. 


He said the migrants were given humanitarian and medical aid and then were taken to a refugee camp in the Tajoura district of eastern Tripoli. 


Libya became a major conduit for African migrants and refugees fleeing to Europe after the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi. 


Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants, with European assistance. 

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NSC Deputy: Kosovo’s 100% Tariff on Serbian Goods Risks Setback

A White House deputy national security advisor says Kosovo’s excessively high tax on goods from Serbia precludes direct U.S. involvement in normalization talks, which President Donald Trump has been pushing for since December.

The EU-mediated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, which started in 2011, broke down last fall over a proposed land swap and Kosovo’s levy of a 100-percent tax on imports from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Last month, Kosovar President Hashim Thaci said Washington must have a “leading role” in the process of normalizing relations with Serbia because the European Union is too “weak” and “not united.”

But John Erath, deputy senior director for European Affairs on the U.S. National Security Council, says that’s a non-starter unless Pristina suspends or kills the tariff to lure Belgrade back to the negotiating table.

“We’ve heard that it’s important for the U.S. to be involved in the dialogue, to play some kind of facilitating role, but we can’t do this until there’s an actual dialogue—that is, until the tariff goes away,” he told VOA’s Albanian Service.

“I sit in my office and I have plans for how I can help and what the U.S. contribution can be, and I can’t start to implement them until we get past the question of the tariff,” said Erath.

‘Territorial adjustments’

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton raised eyebrows last fall when he broke from a long-held U.S. position on the issue by stating that the United States would not be bothered if Serbia and Kosovo agreed to “territorial adjustments.”

Also known as land swaps or border corrections, territorial adjustments are politically sacrilege to EU leaders and most regional experts involved in normalization talks. They’ve described them as a form of “peaceful ethnic cleansing” that risks reigniting border quarrels in other politically fragile parts of the region and reopening wounds from the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Erath, however, said Bolton’s statement doesn’t contradict Western messaging on the issue.

“Our position, very simply put, is that anything agreed between the two parties would be fine with us,” he said. “Our goal is to see an agreement and see normalized relations. The Germans emphasize that a little bit differently. But in effect, it is the same thing, because … I don’t see any practical way that you could work out a large territorial change that would be acceptable to both parties.

“The U.S. upholds the OSCE principles, including territorial integrity, and it is for the people in Kosovo to decide what is the question of their territorial integrity,” he added, largely echoing statements recently made by Matthew Palmer, deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs at the U.S. State Department.

“This is all just a rehash,” he added. “We went through this back in 2007 in the Ahtisaari process, where some of the so-called experts were proposing partitions and things like that. It was nonsense then and it’s nonsense now. There can be no partition.”

Retired U.S. Ambassador Frank Wisner, who served as the U.S. special envoy to U.N.-backed talks that led to Kosovo’s declaration of independence, agreed.

“I don’t think any of us on the outside should second guess the Serbians or the Kosovars in their trying to resolve the issues that divide them, and if they want to do it with some territorial adjustment that’s fine, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he told VOA, calling it logistically unrealistic.

“There’s insufficient public support inside Kosovo, insufficient political support,” he said. “And inside Serbia, without some measure of progress, [citizens] are not going to buy a territorial solution, so I don’t see a way forward.”

Twenty years on

June 10 marks 20 years since the cessation of violence in the region, when then-President Bill Clinton announced the 78-day U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign against Serbia concluded.

Reflecting on the intervening two decades, Wisner said current EU-led negotiations should proceed “in the lowest-key possible fashion,” with much greater public emphasis on financial support and foreign investment.

“While of course there will be continuing negotiations, there won’t be an easy or early answer to those negotiations,” he said. “Rather, the obligation falls principally on the European Union to invest in the region and to increase its efforts to bring the region into Europe—to increase road connections, electricity, internet connectivity, and economic activity of a wide variety.”

Political solutions alone, he explained, are too easily derailed by regional actors.

“That was the case inside Kosovo, and it’s been the case in Bosnia where local political realities overcame the best intention of external negotiators,” he said.

Majority-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after NATO airstrikes ended Belgrade’s control of the territory following a brutal counter-insurgency there by Serbian security forces.

But Serbia, whose constitution still sees Kosovo as Serb territory and the cradle of their Orthodox Christian faith, has been blocking Kosovo from joining international institutions such as Interpol and UNESCO, and still provides financial aid to ethnic Serbs in Kosovo.

Both Kosovo and Serbia aspire to join the EU, which has made the normalization of relations a precondition for membership.

Both sides hopeful

Serbian President Aleksandr Vucic has repeatedly said revoking the 100-percent tariff is Belgrade’s only requirement for resuming talks, while Kosovar officials have demanded that Serbia first recognize Kosovo’s independence.

Although more than 110 countries recognize Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia, Russia, China and five European Union countries, remain opposed to its independence.

Tensions in the region spiked last week when Kosovar police raided Serb-populated areas in what officials called a crackdown on organized crime. Serbia’s president responded by putting its border troops on full alert. Only a day before, he’d told Serbian lawmakers the country had to accept that it had forever lost control of Kosovo.

Speaking at an event in Slovakia on Friday, Vucic told reporters that despite his pessimism about prospects for a breakthrough in negotiations, “both sides must keep seeking a compromise.”

Kosovo’s president expressed hope while speaking at the same event about reaching a normalization deal with Serbia this year, and that a planned meeting on July 1 in Paris might prove a turning point.

“I hope so,” he told reporters. “If not, we will lose a decade.”

This story originated in VOA’s Albanian Service. Some information is from Reuters


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Conservatives Battle to Replace Theresa May

The race to succeed the Brexit-fouled Theresa May as Conservative party leader and the country’s prime minister got underway Saturday in earnest, two days after Britain’s governing party suffered one of its worst ever humiliations in a parliamentary by-election.

The Conservative leadership contest risks deepening the rift in the party over when, how or even if to leave the European Union — with a few of the nearly dozen contenders ruling out serving in a future cabinet — if they are vanquished and lose out to a rival.

Some Conservative lawmakers and activists fear the party is in the grips of an existential crisis and could be permanently sundered by Brexit — easily split in two. That would leave the way open for Britain’s main opposition party, Labour, to win the next general election. Some observers suspect that poll will have to be held later this year because of the long-running parliamentary deadlock over Brexit.

“The future survival of the Conservative party is at risk,” according to onetime deputy prime minister Damian Green.

On Friday, May formally quit as party leader without fanfare or ceremony, sad testimony to a ruined and brief premiership that was buffeted from the start by the challenge of pulling off Brexit. She broke all records with the number of ministers who quit her government during her less than three years at Downing Street .

She held no public events Friday and remained secluded in her constituency in southern England, with the country’s newspapers having to make do with a blurred photograph of her being driven away from Downing Street.

She left her role just as the scale of the setback the Conservatives suffered midweek in a by-election in the English market town of Peterborough sank in. Labour managed to hold the seat by a wafer-thin majority of 683 votes with a candidate who’s been accused of anti-Semitism. The Conservatives saw a 25-percent drop in voter share

The Conservatives weren’t the runners-up in a constituency they have only lost control of three times since 1880. The eight-week-old Brexit Party of Nigel Farage came second, attracting the backing of thousands of Conservative defectors. It also is raising the specter of being able to do so in other marginal constituencies up and down the country, dooming the Conservatives in a future general election.

Although Farage celebrated the result for his party, which won 29 seats in last month’s European Parliament elections, trouncing both the Conservatives and Labour, the outcome in Peterborough wasn’t entirely good news for the Brexit party either.

Peterborough voted by an overwhelming majority for Brexit in the 2016 referendum. So if Farage’s party can’t win a British parliamentary seat in Peterborough, it augers badly, according to some pollsters, for it to actually capture seats elsewhere.

Farage had clearly thought Peterborough would mark a triumphant entry for the Brexit Party into the House of Commons.

May will remain in office as a powerless caretaker prime minister until the leadership election is concluded likely late next month. After that she’ll be “another portrait on the Downing Street staircase, cruelly remembered as the prime minister who failed to deliver Brexit and left her party on the brink,” according to the Daily Telegraph newspaper’s associate editor, Camilla Tominey.

Former foreign minister Boris Johnson is seen by the bookmakers — and many party activists — as the favorite in the race, which now features 11 candidates. New party rules designed to speed up the race means that number could be reduced to six by Monday. Johnson was seen three years ago as a shoo-in to replace David Cameron, but he lost out to May. That was partly thanks to the defection of his Brexit ally Michael Gove, who withdrew as his campaign manager, and stood against him, saying his friend and Oxford University contemporary was unfit for the highest office.

Gove, a brainy politician with greater ministerial experience than Johnson, is running again and is seen by some party insiders as the dark horse in the heated contest. The other strong contenders are the current foreign minister, Jeremy Hunt, who’s running on his businessman credentials and positioning himself as a compromise candidate, and Dominic Raab, a former Brexit minister, who’s trying to compete with Johnson as the most muscular and hardline Brexiter.

Raab has provoked a fierce political dispute after saying midweek he wouldn’t rule out suspending parliament for several weeks if he wins, in order to force through Britain’s departure from the EU, whether the country has a finally agreed to withdrawal agreement or not.

Suspending parliament — officially it would be called proroguing — would render lawmakers powerless and unable to vote to block the government from leaving the EU on the latest departure deadline of October 31.

Such a bid would trigger a constitutional crisis, drawing the queen into party politics as her approval would first have to be secured. The idea has been denounced by other contenders, both Brexiters and Europhiles.

Rory Stewart, a candidate in the race, said such a suspension would be “unlawful, undemocratic and unachievable.” Amber Rudd, a current pensions minister and a Europhile, said, “I think it’s outrageous to consider proroguing parliament,” citing King Charles I, who shuttered parliament in the 17th century, triggering a civil war.

Rabb’s supporters argue the move would help “save parliament from itself,” insisting parliament has been blocking the will of the people by failing to observe the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum and seeking delays.

May concluded a withdrawal agreement with the EU last November after two years of ill-tempered haggling with Brussels, but parliament has withheld its approval of the exit deal. Europhiles, who favor continued participation in the European Union, fear it doesn’t keep Britain tied closely enough to the EU, Britain’s biggest trading partner, while hardline Brexiters, who want a sharp break with the EU, argue it would turn Britain into a “vassal state.”

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Norway Mediation Effort in Venezuela’s Crisis Slows

Venezuelan leader Juan Guaido said Friday that the opposition’s demand for presidential elections is not negotiable, slowing mediation efforts by Norway aimed at resolving Venezuela’s political crisis. 


“A new meeting isn’t planned at the moment, we can get what we’ve proposed on the agenda,” Guaido said at an event in the central city of Valencia, dismissing earlier comments from Russia’s foreign ministry that a third round of exploratory talks with representatives of Nicolas Maduro would take place next week. 


“Nobody who is straight in the head would sit across from a dictator thinking he is negotiating in good faith,” he added.

Guaido’s biting comments, coming as mediators from Norway were in Caracas trying to prevent the talks from derailing, highlight the huge obstacles to negotiating a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela, which has endured economic and political turmoil for years. 


Guaido, who heads the opposition-controlled congress, revived a flagging opposition movement in January by declaring himself Venezuela’s rightful leader, quickly drawing recognition from the United States and more than 50 nations that say Maduro’s re-election last year was illegitimate.

But Maduro, backed by the military as well as Cuba and Russia, has held on to power in the face of U.S. oil sanctions that are adding to misery in a nation hit hard by hyperinflation and widespread fuel, food and power shortages.

Norway has hosted two rounds of exploratory talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition in an attempt to break the ongoing stalemate. 


The opposition, mindful of the collapse of past dialogue attempts that only served to strengthen the government’s hand, has insisted the starting point for negotiations be a willingness by Maduro to hold presidential elections within a reasonable time frame. Maduro has balked at that call, blaming the opposition for boycotting last year’s presidential ballot and insisting instead on elections to revamp the opposition-controlled legislature.

“As long as both sides are hurting and don’t see a way out, there’s a possibility negotiations can succeed,” said James Dobbins, a senior fellow at the Rand Corporation who served as special U.S. envoy to several crisis hotspots including Haiti and Afghanistan. “It’s really the only hope left.”

The setback in Norway’s mediation effort comes amid a frenzy of regional diplomacy tied to the Venezuelan crisis.

Talks with Cuba

Also on Friday, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez traveled to Toronto for talks with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, hours after he met Venezuelan socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello in Cuba. 

“Cuba has a different position and that’s one reason why it’s important for us to talk to Cuba” about a solution to the Venezuelan crisis, Freeland said after meeting Rodriguez. She said “free and fair elections” is the way forward for Venezuela. Canada has joined the Trump administration in pressuring Maduro to resign.

Cabello had arrived in Cuba on Thursday. One of his first meetings was with Rodriguez, who said on Twitter they “discussed themes of international interest.” 

Maduro’s alleged crimes


Also Friday, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, urging him to set up a unit to investigate and prosecute alleged crimes by Maduro and his associates. 


“The long list of Maduro’s crimes includes the illegal mining and trafficking of minerals, transnational drug trafficking, and theft of substantial sums of money from the Venezuelan government and hiding it in offshore bank accounts worldwide,” Rubio said. 


Maduro has denied any illegal activity and says the U.S. wants to overthrow him as a way to exploit Venezuela’s vast oil resources.

Venezuelan passports

In another development, the Trump administration said it will recognize the validity of Venezuelan passports for five years beyond their printed expiration dates. The State Department announced that the passports will be considered valid for visa applications and entry into the United States in recognition of a decision by Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly.

Getting a new passport or an extension is expensive and lengthy for many Venezuelans. Many of the more than 4 million Venezuelans who fled the country in recent years had left without a valid passport.

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Putin Open to Talks With Ukraine’s New President 

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is open for talks with Ukraine’s newly elected president. 


Asked Friday why he didn’t congratulate comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy on taking office as Ukrainian president last month, Putin pointed at Zelenskiy’s statements in which he called Russia an aggressor.    

Relations between the two countries have been strained since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and Moscow’s support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine. 


Putin said that Zelenskiy is a talented actor, but noted that “there is a difference between playing and being.”  


He softened the statement by adding that Zelenskiy may have the makings of a leader and said that he is open for a meeting with Ukraine’s new leader.

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US Starts ‘Unwinding’ Turkey from F-35 Fighter Jet Program

The United States on Friday raised the stakes in its standoff with Turkey over Ankara’s deal to acquire a Russian air defense system, laying out a plan to remove the NATO ally from the F-35 fighter jet program that includes halting any new training for Turkish pilots on the advanced aircraft.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart, seen by Reuters on Friday, that laid out the steps to “unwind” Turkey from the program.

Reuters on Thursday first reported the decision to stop accepting more Turkish pilots for training in the United States, in one of the most concrete signs that the dispute between Washington and Ankara is reaching a breaking point.

The United States says Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 air defense system poses a threat to the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealthy fighters, which Turkey also plans to buy. The United States says Turkey cannot have both.

Shanahan’s letter explicitly states there will be “no new F-35 training.” It says there were 34 students scheduled for F-35 training later this year.

“This training will not occur because we are suspending Turkey from the F-35 program; there are no longer requirements to gain proficiencies on the systems,” according to an attachment to the letter that is titled, “Unwinding Turkey’s Participation in the F-35 Program.”

In his letter, Shanahan warns that training for Turkish personnel on the F-35 at Luke Air Force Base and Eglin Air Force Base will be discontinued at the end of July.

“This timeline will enable many, but not all, Turkish F-35 students currently training to complete their courses prior to departing the United States by July 31, 2019,” Shanahan said in his letter, which noted: “You still have the option to change course on the S-400.”

Turkey has expressed an interest in buying 100 of the fighters, which would have a total value of $9 billion at current prices.

Strained relationship

If Turkey were removed from the F-35 program, it would be one of the most significant ruptures in recent history in the relationship between the two allies, experts said.

Strains in ties already extend beyond the F-35 to include conflicting strategy in Syria, Iran sanctions and the detention of U.S. consular staff in Turkey.

The disclosure of the decision on the pilots follows signs that Turkey is moving ahead with the S-400 purchase. 

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on May 22 that Turkish military personnel were receiving training in Russia to use the S-400, and that Russian personnel may go to Turkey. The head of Russian state conglomerate Rostec, Sergei Chemezov, said the country would start delivering S-400 missile systems to Turkey in two months, the Interfax news agency reported.

‘Devastating’ deal

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday it was “out of the question” for Turkey to back away from its deal with Moscow. Erdogan said the United States had not “given us an offer as good as the S-400s.”

The Turkish lira declined as much as 1.5% on Friday before recovering some losses. The currency has shed nearly 10% of its value against the dollar this year in part on fraying diplomatic ties and the risk of U.S. sanctions if Turkey accepts delivery of the S-400s.

Kathryn Wheelbarger, one of the Pentagon’s most senior policy officials, said last week that Turkey’s completion of the transaction with Russia would be “devastating,” dealing heavy blows to the F-35 program and to Turkish interoperability within the NATO alliance.

“The S-400 is a Russian system designed to shoot down an aircraft like the F-35,” said Wheelbarger, an acting assistant secretary of defense. “And it is inconceivable to imagine Russia not taking advantage of that [intelligence] collection opportunity.”

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China’s Panda Diplomacy Comes to Moscow

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is on a three-day state visit to Russia aimed at underscoring Russian-Sino cooperation — and his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the face of strained relations with the United States. 


“In the past six years, we have met nearly 30 times,” said Xi of the Russian leader. 


“Russia is the country that I have visited the most times, and President Putin is my best friend and colleague,” added Xi. 


While ostensibly timed to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, the state visit comes as both leaders bristle over their treatment by the U.S., which has levied sanctions against Russia since 2014 and currently is engaged in a trade war with China.  


“People generally tend to go to the places where they are liked,” said Mikhail Korostikov, Asia-Pacific observer for the Kommersant daily newspaper, in explaining the personal chemistry between Putin and Xi. “But the conflict with the U.S. that both countries are facing made them closer.” 


Military ties 


Indeed, beyond their grudges with Washington, a shared worldview on global security has helped both sides overcome distrust that once plagued the Soviet-China relationship, which fractured over differing interpretations of communist ideology and border disputes.   

Case in point: inclusion of 3,200 Chinese troops alongside 300,000 Russians in the Kremlin’s massive Vostok-2018 military training exercise in Russia’s Far East last year, according to official sources.


From their perch at the U.N. Security Council, Russia and China now regularly form a global counterweight to the U.S. on thorny issues such as Syria, North Korea and Iran — a point noted by Putin in a statement after meeting with Xi on Wednesday.  


“In discussing important international and regional problems, I can say that in most of them, the views of Russia and China are aligned or very close,” said the Russian leader. 


So, too, increasingly, are their economies. 


Russian ‘pivot’ 


In the wake of Western sanctions levied over the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Putin announced Russia would “pivot” its economy toward Asia. 


Russian officials now tout trade deals with China worth more than $100 billion annually — making China Russia’s top trading partner — as proof Russia has weathered the storm. Russia is only 10th on China’s list, with the United States first. 


Xi also will appear alongside Putin at the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday. While the Chinese delegation to the event is 1,000 strong, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Huntsman Jr., is boycotting the event over the detention of an American businessman in Moscow.   

Yet, in all likelihood, the lasting image of the state visit will prove to be Ru Yi and Ding Ding, two giant pandas from China’s Sichuan province that Xi gifted on loan to the Moscow Zoo for the next 15 years.  


With the gesture, Xi tapped into China’s famed panda diplomacy — the use of furry diplomatic gifts to help repair relationships or forge ties anew. 


It certainly seemed to have the desired effect on the Russian leader.  


“When we talk of pandas,” noted Putin, “we always end up with a smile on our faces.” 

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Fiat Chrysler Drops Renault Merger Idea

Italian-U.S. carmaker Fiat Chrysler on Thursday pulled the plug on its proposed merger with Renault, saying negotiations had become “unreasonable” because of  political resistance in Paris.  


Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, or FCA, had stunned the markets last week with a proposed “merger of equals” with the French group that would — together with Renault’s Japanese partners, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors — create an auto giant spanning the globe.  


The French government, which controls 15 percent of Renault, gave the deal a conditional green light, with analysts suggesting it wanted more control over the combined group alongside Fiat’s Agnelli family. 


FCA said late Wednesday that it “remains firmly convinced of the compelling, transformational rationale” of the tie-up, which it said was “carefully balanced to deliver substantial benefits to all parties.”


“However it has become clear that the political conditions in France do not currently exist for such a combination to proceed successfully,” it said in a statement.  


On Thursday, FCA chief John Elkann stood by the decision to start, and then leave, the merger talks. 


“When it becomes clear that the conversations have been brought to the point beyond which it becomes unreasonable to go, it is necessary to be equally brave to interrupt them,” Elkann wrote in a letter to employees published by Italian media.  

Renault expressed its “disappointment” at the turnabout. 


“We view the [Fiat] opportunity as timely, having compelling industrial logic and great financial merit, and which would result in a European-based global auto powerhouse,” it said in a statement. 


The combined group, including Nissan and Mitsubishi, would have been by far the world’s biggest, with total sales of 15 million vehicles, compared with both Volkswagen and Toyota, which sell around 10.6 million apiece. 


Shares in Renault plunged by more than 6 percent on the Paris stock exchange. In Milan, FCA shares also initially slid but then recovered to close up 0.1 percent.

Nissan holds key

Despite the verbal sparring that erupted after FCA’s announcement, industry experts did not rule out talks being resumed.  


“The collapse of the proposed Fiat Chrysler/Renault merger leaves both firms exposed to the shifting dynamics of a sector at a crossroads,” Ilana Elbim, credit analyst for Hermes Investment Management, said in a note.  


Pointing to falling sales volumes in major auto markets, she said “mega-mergers designed to save on capital expenditures remain inevitable.” 


On Tuesday, Renault’s board had said it was studying FCA’s offer “with interest,” but held off final approval pending further deliberations.  


By Wednesday, all Renault directors had come around in favor of the merger, with the exception of the employee representative affiliated with the powerful CGT union and two from Nissan who abstained, according to a source close to Renault.   

The two Nissan directors were said to have asked for more time to approve the deal. There was no official comment from Nissan headquarters in Tokyo. 


Relations between Renault and Nissan have come under strain since the arrest in November of their joint boss, Carlos Ghosn, who awaits trial in Japan on charges of financial misconduct. 


French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had laid down conditions for the tie-up with FCA, insisting there be no plant closures and that the Renault-Nissan alliance be preserved.  


The Renault source said Le Maire had asked for another board meeting next Tuesday following his return from a trip to Japan, where he was to discuss the proposal with his Japanese counterpart at a meeting of G-20 finance ministers.  

Blame game

A source close to FCA said it was the “sudden and incomprehensible” objections by Le Maire’s ministry that had caused the deal to collapse. 


Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said: “When politics tries to intervene in economic procedures, they don’t always behave correctly, I don’t want to say any more.”   

But Le Maire stressed that, of his conditions, only the explicit approval of Nissan remained to be secured, while aides denied that the ministry had played politics with the deal. 


A source close to the finance ministry said the French government “regrets the hasty decision of FCA.” 


“Despite significant progress, a short delay was still necessary so that all conditions set by the state could be met,” it said. 


Le Maire indicated the French government was amenable to changes at Renault despite FCA’s U-turn. 


“We remain open to the prospect of industrial consolidation, but once again, in calmness, without haste, to guarantee the industrial interests of Renault and the industrial interests of the French nation,” he told the French parliament. 


For his part, Elkann said FCA “will continue to be open to opportunities of all kinds that offer the possibility of strengthening and accelerating the realization of this strategy and creating value.” 

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Trump Hails ‘Unbreakable’ Transatlantic Bond At D-Day Ceremony

U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron attended a ceremony Thursday at the American Military Cemetery in Normandy to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and then held a bilateral meeting. Some 2,500 U.S. troops were killed on June 6 1944, the first day of the Allied invasion to liberate Nazi-occupied France. Ceremonies have been taking place across the region as Britain, Canada and other Allied nations pay tribute to the fallen. As Henry Ridgwell reports from Normandy, the poignant ceremonies come at a time of heightened tension and fears over the future of the transatlantic alliance.

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Fighting Germans & Jim Crow: Role of Black Troops on D-Day

It was the most massive amphibious invasion the world has ever seen, with tens of thousands of Allied troops spread out across the air and sea aiming to get a toehold in Normandy for the final assault on Nazi Germany. And while portrayals of D-Day often depict an all-white host of invaders, in fact it also included many African Americans.


Roughly 2,000 African American troops are believed to have hit the shores of Normandy in various capacities on June 6, 1944. Serving in a U.S. military still-segregated by race, they encountered discrimination both in the service and when they came home.


But on Normandy, they faced the same danger as everyone else.


The only African American combat unit that day was the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, whose job was to set up explosive-rigged balloons to deter German planes. Waverly Woodson Jr. was a corporal and a medic with the battalion. Although Woodson did not live to see this week’s 75th anniversary – he died in 2005 – he told The Associated Press in 1994 about how his landing craft hit a mine on the way to Omaha Beach.


“The tide brought us in, and that’s when the 88s hit us,” he said of the German 88mm guns. “They were murder. Of our 26 Navy personnel there was only one left. They raked the whole top of the ship and killed all the crew. Then they started with the mortar shells.”


Woodson was wounded in the back and groin while on the landing craft but went on to spend 30 hours on the beach tending to other wounded men before eventually collapsing, according to a letter from then-Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Van Hollen, now a U.S. senator, is heading an effort to have Woodson posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day. But a lack of documentation – in part because of a 1973 fire that destroyed millions of military personnel files – has stymied the effort.


Another member of the unit, William Dabney described what they encountered on D-Day in a 2009 Associated Press interview during the invasion’s 65th anniversary.


“The firing was furious on the beach. I was picking up dead bodies and I was looking at the mines blowing up soldiers. … I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not” said Dabney, then 84, who passed away last year.


Linda Hervieux detailed the exploits of the 320th in her book “Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War.” She said the military resisted efforts to desegregate as it ramped up for World War II. Instead they kept separate units and separate facilities for black and white troops.


“This was a very expensive and inefficient way to run an army. The Army … could have ordered its men to integrate and to treat black soldiers as fully equal partners in this war. The Army declined to do so,” she said. The Army wanted to focus on the war and didn’t want to become a social experiment, Hervieux said, but she notes that when African American soldiers were called on to fight side by side with whites, they did so without problems.

By the end of World War II, more than a million African Americans were in uniform including the famed Tuskegee Airmen and the 761st Tank Battalion. The Double V campaign launched by the Pittsburgh Courier, a prominent African American newspaper, called for a victory in the war as well as a victory at home over segregation, including in the military.


During World War II, it was unheard of for African American officers to lead white soldiers and they faced discrimination even while in the service. Black troops were often put in support units responsible for transporting supplies. But during the Normandy invasion that didn’t mean they were immune from danger.


Ninety-nine-year-old Johnnie Jones Sr., who joined the military in 1943 out of Southern University in Baton Rouge, was a warrant officer in a unit responsible for unloading equipment and supplies onto Normandy. He remembers wading ashore and coming under fire from a German sniper. He grabbed his weapon and returned fire along with the other soldiers. It’s something that still haunts his memories.


“I still see him, I see him every night,” he told the AP recently. In another incident, he remembers a soldier charging a pillbox, a selfless act that likely ended the soldier’s life. “I know he didn’t come back home. He didn’t come back home but he saved me and he saved many others.”

After defending their country in Europe, many African American troops were met with discrimination yet again at home. Jones remembers coming back the U.S. after the war’s end and having to move to the back of a bus as it crossed the Mason-Dixon line separating North from South. He recalls being harassed by police officers after returning to Louisiana.


“I couldn’t I sit with the soldiers I had been on the battlefield with. I had to go to the back of the bus,” said Jones, who went on to become a lawyer and civil rights activist in Baton Rouge. “Those are the things that come back and haunt you.”


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Former German Nurse Guilt of Murdering 85 Patients

A former nurse who liked to put patients into cardiac arrest because he enjoyed the feeling of being able to resuscitate them was convicted Thursday of 85 counts of murder, making him what is believed to be the worst serial killer in modern German history. 

Oldenburg court judge Sebastian Buehrmann sentenced 42-year-old Niels Hoegel to life in prison and noted the “particular seriousness of the crimes” in his verdict.

Hoegel worked at a hospital in the northwestern city of Oldenburg between 1999 and 2002 and another hospital in nearby Delmenhorst from 2003 to 2005, and the killings took place between 2000 and 2005, dpa reported. Hoegel’s victims were between 34 and 96 years old.

2015 conviction

Hoegel was convicted in 2015 of two murders and two attempted murders and is currently serving a life sentence. There are no consecutive sentences in the German system, but the court’s ruling on the seriousness of the crimes all but ensures he will remain incarcerated after the standard 15-year term is up.

During his first trial, Hoegel said he intentionally brought about cardiac crises in some 90 patients in Delmenhorst because he enjoyed the feeling of being able to resuscitate them. He later told investigators that he also killed patients in Oldenburg.

Authorities subsequently investigated hundreds of deaths, exhuming bodies of former patients.

100 counts of murder

In all Hoegel was tried in Oldenburg on 100 counts of murder but the court found him not guilty on 15 counts for lack of evidence. 

During the seven-month trial, Hoegel admitted to 43 of the killings, disputed five and said he couldn’t remember the other 52.

In his closing statement to the court Wednesday, Hoegel expressed shame and remorse, saying he realized how much pain and suffering he had caused with his “terrible deeds.”

“To each and every one of you I sincerely apologize for all that I have done,” he said. 

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Death Toll Rises to 15 in Hungary Tour Boat Crash

Hungarian police say two more bodies have been recovered from the Danube River tour boat crash, raising the death toll to 15, with 13 of the 33 South Koreans on board and the two Hungarian crew members still missing. 

Seven South Korean tourists were rescued after the May 29 collision between the Hableany (Mermaid) sightseeing boat and the Viking Sigyn river cruise ship. 

A huge floating crane may be able to lift the Hableany out of the water in the coming days.

However, the Adam Clark, named after the Scottish engineer who oversaw construction of Budapest’s Chain Bridge completed in 1849, was docked Thursday in north Budapest, as the Danube’s high water level is not allowing it to reach the site of the wreckage, near the Hungarian Parliament building.

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US Expats, Dual Nationals Seek Protection From Tax Law They Call Unfair

Banking problems, administrative worries, threats of tax reassessments or lawsuits — thousands of French people have problems because U.S. law demands they pay U.S. taxes, even though they have few connections to the United States. They are American citizens who were born in the U.S., but left the country as children. A French parliamentary report says Paris should do more to protect such dual nationals from a tax law they see as unfair.

The U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, known as FATCA, forces banks wanting to operate in the U.S. to report assets held by American citizens overseas. France signed onto FATCA in 2013, creating problems for many American expats and dual nationals who have since been rejected by retail banks seeking to avoid hassle and risk.

The European Banking Federation estimates there are about 300,000 accidental Americans in Europe.

By “accidental,” they mean people who have dual citizenship and who are U.S. born but left as children — some only few weeks after their birth — and never established a life in the U.S.

Still, the Internal Revenue Service or IRS says they must declare their income and pay taxes on it.

Fabien Lehagre is president of the Accidental Americans Association (AAA), which has more than 800 members. Lehagre left the U.S. at 18 months and returned once as a tourist 26 years later.

To avoid bureaucratic headaches dealing with the IRS, many banks simply refuse to deal with American customers.

Lehagre complains that when he wants to invest money in stocks or life insurance, or open a bank account online, it is impossible, as he is seen as a U.S. person and banks do not want to take risks. “Our first hurdle is banking,” he said.

FACTA is intended to fight tax evasion. However, the U.S. Congress never voted to help other nations track their citizens’ tax obligations, so foreigners can open bank accounts in the United States without their own country being notified.

French lawmaker Laurent Saint-Martin studied the issue and says France should renegotiate its FATCA tax treaty with the U.S. and consider unilaterally pulling out if it can’t win concessions to protect dual nationals.

He wants a moratorium on the agreement between France and the United States, as long as Europe does not get reciprocity from Washington. It would also be an opportunity to review the full agreement to solve the specific issue of accidental Americans who should not pay U.S. taxes.

Several European delegations have discussed the issue at the U.S. State Department and the IRS, but so far, the Trump administration has not shown any willingness to renegotiate FACTA to end the burden on accidental Americans.


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