For Desperate Migrants, Hope is in Breach at US Border Wall

Gladys Martinez’s voice is almost lost in the crackling midday heat of Arizona as she steps onto U.S. soil. “We come seeking asylum,” she whispers as she thrusts forward pictures she says show her murdered daughter. Martinez, a Honduran, is one of dozens of people who arrive daily in Yuma, a small city on the Mexican border where there are gaps in the wall that separate the two countries. She has travelled more than 4,000 kilometers, some of it on foot, from her native Colon, fleeing violence and poverty, desperately hoping she will be given sanctuary in the world’s wealthiest country. She has nothing but the clothes she stands up in and some documents in a small backpack. “Here are the papers, look! Look!” she says, pointing to some grisly photographs that show the lifeless face of a young woman. “They killed my daughter, they choked her to death with a pillow and a bag,” she sobs. Wall The wall that separates the United States from Mexico crosses dunes and hills as it snakes its way from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Despite the promises of politicians, it is not solid or insurmountable. In some places it is 9 meters high, but desperate migrants still climb it. Some of them fall. Some die. In other places, like in Yuma, there are gaps large enough just to walk through. U.S. border officers say — off the record — a gate should have been built here to allow for official access, but work was halted when President Joe Biden took office. Most of the people who arrive at the wall have come from Central or South America. Many fly to Mexico or Nicaragua and then continue overland, often paying a coyote — a human trafficker — to get them there. The stories they tell of their journeys are all different, but all contain the same phrase: “It is very painful.” ‘We don’t like questions’ On the Mexican side, a few meters from the opening, hardscrabble plants cling to life in shifting sand as the hot desert sun beats down. Every few minutes, vehicles pull up on the roadside, and migrants spill out, most just carrying a small backpack. They are guided through the blistering landscape by men and women who melt away as they near the wall. “Everyone has their own routes here, and no one likes it when one … Continue reading “For Desperate Migrants, Hope is in Breach at US Border Wall”

First Formula Flights From Europe to Arrive This Weekend

The first flights of infant formula from Europe, authorized by President Joe Biden to relieve a deepening U.S. shortage, will arrive in Indiana aboard military aircraft this weekend, the White House announced Friday. The White House says 132 pallets of Nestle Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior formula will leave Ramstein Air Base in Germany and arrive in the U.S. this weekend. Another 114 pallets of Gerber Good Start Extensive HA formula are expected to arrive in the coming days. Altogether about 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of the three formulas, which are hypoallergenic for children with cow’s milk protein allergy, will arrive this week. While Biden initially requested that the Pentagon use commercially chartered aircraft to move the formula from Europe to the U.S., the White House said no commercial flights were available this weekend. Instead, U.S. Air Force planes will transport the initial batch of formula. The Biden administration has dubbed the effort “Operation Fly Formula,” as it struggles to address nationwide shortages of formula, particularly hypoallergenic varieties, after the closure of the country’s largest domestic manufacturing plant in February due to safety issues. U.S. regulators and the manufacturer, Abbott, hope to have that Michigan plant reopened next week, but it will take about two months before product is ready for delivery. The Food and Drug Administration this week eased importation requirements for baby formula to try to ease the supply crunch, which has left store shelves bare of some brands and some retailers rationing supply for parents nervous about feeding their children. …

Federal Judge Blocks Biden From Ending Title 42 Border Restrictions

A federal judge on Friday ruled that a pandemic-related public health order must continue, allowing the federal government to turn away migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, including those seeking asylum. U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays of Louisiana sided with the 24 Republican-led states that sued the federal government to keep the guidelines in place. He said the states had established a “significant threat of injury” that lifting the order would have on them. “The record also includes evidence supporting the Plaintiff States’ position that such an increase in border crossings will increase their costs for healthcare reimbursements and education services,” Summerhays wrote. “These costs are not recoverable.” The judge’s ruling means that the Title 42 restrictions won’t end Monday, as the Biden administration had planned. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the administration would continue to enforce the restrictions in line with the court’s decision; however, the Justice Department is appealing the ruling. “The authority to set public health policy nationally should rest with the Centers for Disease Control, not with a single district court,” she said in a statement. The administration’s appeal will be heard by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has ruled against the Biden administration on several policies.  Title 42 is a health policy, part of the Public Health Service Act of 1944, that gives authorization to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to put in place measures to stop the spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States. The chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Democratic Representative Raul Ruiz, said the court ruling was “outrageous, ridiculous and erodes our asylum system.” “Title 42 is a public health emergency policy that can be initiated and ended by an administration. It is not a way to manage the border,” he said in a statement. Republican Representative John Katko, ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, hailed the ruling as “a win for our homeland security, Border Patrol agents and the safety of Americans.” “When I was at the border last month, every frontline Border Patrol agent we spoke to said that without Title 42 authority to immediately expel migrants, they would lose operational control,” he said in a statement.  Title 42 was imposed in March 2020 under the Trump administration at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has denied migrants a chance to request asylum … Continue reading “Federal Judge Blocks Biden From Ending Title 42 Border Restrictions”

Afghan Evacuees Fear Losing US Support 

During the mayhem of his evacuation flight from Kabul last year, Sultan Ahmad was separated from his wife and his elderly mother. “It was so chaotic, and women couldn’t get through to the airport,” Ahmad said, recalling events of August, when thousands of fearful Afghans rushed to Kabul airport to board U.S. military planes. Over the past several months, as he received settlement assistance in the state of Virginia, Ahmad asked almost everyone for assistance to reunite his family with him. “I fear for their safety and well-being in Afghanistan,” the young Afghan man told VOA as he spoke about his wife and mother. Their immediate reunification appears unlikely, if not impossible, partly because of Ahmad’s temporary status in the U.S. and also because evacuation and resettlement programs for Afghans still remaining in Afghanistan have nearly stalled, according to refugee support organizations. Last year, the U.S. government brought tens of thousands of Afghans to the U.S., most of them lacking travel documents, and offered them humanitarian paroles. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security started a Temporary Protected Status registering process for Afghan evacuees. “To be eligible for TPS under the Afghanistan designation, individuals must demonstrate their continuous residence in the United States since March 15, 2022, and continuous physical presence in the United States since May 20, 2022,” DHS said in a statement. About 72,500 Afghan evacuees may be eligible for the TPS registration, the statement added. The DHS announcement came days after the U.S. House of Representatives dropped a provision in the Ukraine support bill that sought a legal pathway for Afghan evacuees to become permanent residents. On Thursday, the Senate approved the bill without the Afghan provision. Dwindling support? Congress often puts changes into or rejects parts or all of a proposed bill. Lawmakers’ decision to remove the Afghan settlement provision from the Ukraine support bill, however, can also be a sign of eroding bipartisan support for Afghan evacuees, some advocates say. “Unfortunately, it seems that the same rhetoric we hear about immigrants, any kind of immigrants, is what we’re hearing about Afghans here, despite them having stood with us for years and years,” Shawn VanDiver, a Navy veteran and founder of AfghanEvac, an umbrella organization supporting Afghan evacuees, told VOA. The provision might have been dropped because it could be perceived as unrelated to the Ukraine support bill, which specifically asked for funding for the … Continue reading “Afghan Evacuees Fear Losing US Support “

Trump Pays Fine, Must Submit Paperwork to End Order

Former President Donald Trump has paid the $110,000 in fines he racked up after being held in contempt of court for being slow to respond to a civil subpoena issued by New York’s attorney general.  Trump paid the fine Thursday but must still submit additional paperwork in order to have the contempt order lifted, the office of Attorney General Letitia James said Friday.  A message seeking comment was left Friday with Trump’s lawyer.  A Manhattan judge declared Trump in contempt of court on April 25 and fined him $10,000 per day for not complying with a subpoena in James’ long-running investigation into his business practices.  Judge Arthur Engoron agreed May 11 to lift the contempt order if, by Friday, Trump paid the fines and submitted affidavits detailing efforts to search for the subpoenaed records and explaining his and his company’s document retention policies.  Engoron also required a company hired by Trump to aid in the search, HaystackID, to finish going through 17 boxes kept in off-site storage, and for that company to report its findings and turn over any relevant documents. That process was completed Thursday, James’ office said.  Engoron told Trump to pay the money directly to James’ office and for the attorney general to hold the money in an escrow account while Trump’s legal team appeals the judge’s original contempt finding.  Engoron stopped the fine from accruing May 6, when Trump’s lawyers submitted 66 pages of court documents detailing the efforts by him and his lawyers to locate the subpoenaed records. He warned that he could reinstate it, retroactive to May 7, if his conditions weren’t met.  James, a Democrat, has said her three-year investigation uncovered evidence that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misstated the value of assets like skyscrapers and golf courses on financial statements for over a decade.  Trump, a Republican, denies the allegations. He has called James’ investigation “racist” and a politically motivated “witch hunt.” James is Black. Trump’s lawyers have accused her of selective prosecution. Trump is also suing James in federal court, seeking to shut down her probe.  Last week, a lawyer for James’ office said Friday that evidence found in the probe could support legal action against the former president, his company, or both.  The lawyer, Andrew Amer, said at a hearing in Trump’s lawsuit against James that “there’s clearly been a substantial amount of evidence amassed that could support the filing … Continue reading “Trump Pays Fine, Must Submit Paperwork to End Order”

Justice Department Reports More Than 35 Hate Crime Convictions

With hate crimes on the rise, U.S. federal prosecutors have charged more than 40 people with bias-motivated crimes since January 2021 and obtained more than 35 convictions, according to Justice Department. The department released the figures Friday as it marked the first anniversary of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and announced new measures to deter and combat hate crimes.  The law required the Justice Department to speed up a review of hate crime cases.   “No one in this country should have to fear the threat of hate fueled violence,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “The Justice Department will continue to use every resource at its disposal to confront unlawful acts of hate, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them.” The number of hate crime prosecutions and convictions released by the Justice Department appears slightly higher than recent historical trends. A 2021 Bureau of Justice Statistics study found that federal prosecutors had charged an average of about 21 defendants and obtained an average of 19 hate crime convictions per year over a 15-year period.  Under the Trump administration, the Justice Department faced criticism for deprioritizing civil rights enforcement.  Trump administration officials rebutted the charge, with the Justice Department’s top civil rights official stating in January 2021 that his division had brought the highest number of hate crime charges during Trump’s final year in office.  He did not provide a number.    A Justice Department spokesperson did not respond to a VOA request for figures on hate crime prosecutions during the Trump administration. Federal law makes it a crime to target a victim because of their race, gender or gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity. Criminal offenses prosecuted as hate crimes range from acts of violence to damage to a religious property.    Most hate crimes are prosecuted at the state and local level, and federal prosecutors bring charges in exceptional circumstances.  In fact, the vast majority of hate crime cases referred to the Justice Department do not get prosecuted.  There are several federal hate crime statutes, and they carry harsh penalties. But hate crimes are difficult to prosecute.  To obtain a conviction, prosecutors must prove that the defendant was motivated by bias and not simply that the victim belonged to a protected class.  Last year, hate crimes in 37 major U.S. cities increased by nearly 39%, with attacks on Asian and Jewish Americans accounting for … Continue reading “Justice Department Reports More Than 35 Hate Crime Convictions”

Chinese-Language Newspaper: Gunman Mailed Documents Before Attack

The man charged in a California church shooting, allegedly motivated by his political hatred for Taiwan, had mailed several documents to a Chinese-language newspaper before the incident, the newspaper reported. On Wednesday, World Journal, the largest Chinese-language newspaper in the United States, reported that before Sunday’s shooting, David Chou, 68, mailed seven photocopied volumes of handwritten Chinese text and a flash drive to its Los Angeles branch. The documents, which were titled Diary of an Angel Destroying Independence, were received by the news outlet Monday. World Journal said it did not report on the contents of the mailed materials, instead turning them over to Orange County police for its investigation. The Public Affairs Office of the Orange County Police Department told VOA Mandarin by phone on Wednesday that “we are aware and investigating” the materials. Chou has been charged with one count of first-degree murder, five counts of attempted murder and four counts of possession of an explosive device, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said on Tuesday. Policy said Chou drove to Orange County in Southern California on Saturday, and on Sunday attended a lunch held by senior parishioners of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church before he opened fire, killing one and injuring five. Chou, who lived in Las Vegas, was a U.S. citizen whom authorities said grew up in Taiwan. On Monday, Orange County police said Chou was motivated by anti-Taiwan hatred. China considers self-ruled Taiwan a breakaway province and has not ruled out the use of force to reunify the two sides. The FBI said it has opened a federal hate crime investigation into the case. The Orange County Register reported that an April 3, 2019, article in the Las Vegas Chinese News Network showed Chou had attended the inaugural meeting of the Las Vegas Chinese for Peaceful Unification. The organization aims to promote the peaceful unification of mainland China and Taiwan. “Asking for peace from Beijing, and asking for unification from Taiwan,” its slogan says. Gu Yawen, the president of Las Vegas Chinese Peaceful Unification, denied to VOA that Chou has any relationship with her organization. “We don’t have any ties with him,” she told VOA via phone Tuesday. “He did come to our inauguration and came on the stage to promote his book in support of then-presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu, but that’s about it.” Han was the presidential candidate for the pro-unification Kuomintang (KMT) party … Continue reading “Chinese-Language Newspaper: Gunman Mailed Documents Before Attack”

Rosmarie Trapp, Whose Family Inspired ‘Sound of Music,’ Dies

Rosmarie Trapp, whose Austrian family the von Trapps was made famous in the musical and beloved movie “The Sound of Music,” has died. She died Friday at the age of 93 at a nursing home in Morrisville, Vermont, Trapp Family Lodge announced. Her brother Johannes is president of the Stowe resort. Rosmarie was the first daughter of Austrian naval Capt. Georg von Trapp and Maria von Trapp, and a younger half-sibling to the older von Trapp children portrayed on stage and in the movie. The family escaped from Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938 and performed singing tours throughout Europe and America. They settled in Vermont in the early 1940s and opened a ski lodge in Stowe. “She traveled and performed with the Trapp Family Singers for many years, and worked at the Trapp Family Lodge in its infancy when the family first began hosting guests in their home,” Trapp Family Lodge said in a statement. “Her kindness, generosity, and colorful spirit were legendary, and she had a positive impact on countless lives,” the statement said.  “The Sound of Music,” was based loosely on a 1949 book by Maria von Trapp. Georg von Trapp and his first wife, Agathe Whitehead von Trapp, had seven children. After his first wife died, Georg married Maria, who taught the children music. Georg and Maria von Trapp had three more children, Rosmarie, Eleonore and Johannes, who were not portrayed in the movie. Eleonore “Lorli” von Trapp Campbell died in October in Northfield, Vermont. When she became a U.S. citizen in 1951, she signed her name as Rosmarie Trapp, leaving out von, according to the lodge. Rosmarie worked for five years as a missionary and teacher in Papua New Guinea with her sister Maria, her relatives said. In Stowe, she was known for walking everywhere, frequently pulling her purchases home in a wagon or cart. She also wrote frequent letters to the local newspaper, where she was given her own space, “Rosmarie’s Corner,” for her stories, they said. She led sing-alongs, knitting circles, spun wool, owned multiple thrift shops and loved to teach people to sing, they said. …

‘How Dare You!’: Grief, Anger From Buffalo Victims’ Kin

Relatives of the 10 Black people massacred in a Buffalo supermarket pleaded with the nation Thursday to confront and stop racist violence, their agony pouring out in the tears of a 12-year-old child, hours after the white man accused in the killings silently faced a murder indictment in court. Jaques “Jake” Patterson, who lost his father, covered his face with his hands as his mother spoke at a news conference. Once she finished, Jake collapsed into the arms of the Rev. Al Sharpton, the veteran civil rights activist, and cried silently, using his T-shirt to wipe his tears. “His heart is broken,” said his mother, Tirzah Patterson, adding that her son was having trouble sleeping and eating. “As a mother, what am I supposed to do to help him get through this?” she said. Her ex-husband, Heyward Patterson, a 67-year-old church deacon, was gunned down Saturday at Tops Friendly Market. So was Robin Harris’s 86-year-old mother and best friend, Ruth Whitfield, on a day when they were supposed to go see the touring Broadway show Ain’t Too Proud. “That racist young man took my mother away,” Harris said, trembling and stomping her feet as she spoke. “How dare you!” Harris shouted. “I need this violence to stop,” she added. “We need to fix this, and we need to fix it now.” Earlier in the day in another part of town, Payton Gendron, 18, appeared briefly in court to hear that he was indicted in the killings. “Payton, you’re a coward!” someone shouted the courtroom gallery as he was led away. Gendron, whose lawyer entered a not guilty plea for him at an earlier court appearance, didn’t speak. His attorneys later declined to comment. He is being held without bail and is due back in court June 9. Authorities are investigating the possibility of hate crime and terrorism charges against Gendron, who apparently detailed his plans for the assault and his racist motivation in hundreds of pages of writings he posted online shortly before the shooting. It was livestreamed from a helmet-mounted camera. “We need to hold all that have aided and abetted the hate in this country accountable,” Sharpton said at the news conference outside Buffalo’s Antioch Baptist Church. The civil rights activist’s group, the National Action Network, plans to cover funeral expenses for those killed. The carnage at the Tops supermarket was unsettling even in a nation that has … Continue reading “‘How Dare You!’: Grief, Anger From Buffalo Victims’ Kin”

Biden to Highlight US Chip Production in South Korea

President Joe Biden opens his trip to Asia with a focus on the U.S. tech sector, touring a Samsung computer chip plant Friday that will serve as model for a $17 billion semiconductor factory that the Korean electronics company is building outside Austin, Texas. The visit is also a nod to one of Biden’s key domestic priorities of increasing the supply of computer chips. A semiconductor shortage last year hurt the availability of autos, kitchen appliances and other goods. This supply crunch caused higher inflation that has crippled Biden’s public approval and caused his administration to focus on increasing domestic manufacturing. Biden will grapple with a multitude of foreign policy issues during his six-day visit to South Korea and Japan, but he also crafted an itinerary clearly meant to tend to the concerns of his home audience as well. Previewing the trip aboard Air Force One, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Samsung’s investment in Texas will mean “good-paying jobs for Americans and, very importantly, it will mean more supply chain resilience.” Greeting Biden at the plant in South Korea will be the country’s new president, Yoon Suk Yeol, and Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong. Yoon is a political newcomer who became president, his first elected office, slightly more than a week ago. He campaigned on taking a tougher stance against North Korea and strengthening the 70-year alliance with the U.S. Part of the computer chip shortage is the result of strong demand as much of the world emerged from the coronavirus pandemic. But coronavirus outbreaks and other challenges also caused the closure of semiconductor plants. U.S. government officials have estimated that chip production will not be at the levels they would like until early 2023. Global computer chip sales totaled $151.7 billion during the first three months of this year, a 23% jump from the same period in 2021, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association. More than 75% of global chip production comes from Asia. That’s a possible vulnerability the U.S. hopes to protect against through more domestic production and government investment in the sector through a bill being negotiated in Congress. The risk of Chinese aggression against Taiwan could possibly cut off the flow of high-end computer chips that are needed in the U.S. for military gear as well as consumer goods. Similarly, the hermetic North Korea has been test-firing ballistic missiles amid a coronavirus … Continue reading “Biden to Highlight US Chip Production in South Korea”

Ballot Fiasco Delays Results in Oregon, Vote-by-Mail Pioneer 

Thousands of ballots with blurry barcodes that can’t be read by vote-counting machines will delay results by weeks in a key U.S. House race in Oregon’s primary election, a shocking development that is giving a black eye to a vote-by-mail pioneer state with a national reputation as a leader on voter access and equity.  The fiasco affects up to 60,000 ballots, or two-thirds of the roughly 90,000 returned so far in Oregon’s third-largest county. Hundreds of ballots were still coming in under a new law that allows them to be counted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day, and 200 Clackamas County employees were getting a crash course Thursday in vote-counting after being redeployed to address the crisis.  Elections workers must pull the faulty ballots from batches of 125, transfer the voter’s intent to a fresh ballot, then double-check their entries — a painstaking process that could draw the election out until June 13, when Oregon certifies its vote. The workers operate in pairs, one Democrat and one Republican, in two shifts of 11 hours a day.  Voters from both political parties milled about in a narrow room with windows that allowed views of workers opening ballots, transferring votes, reviewing flagged ballots and using the vote-counting machines. They expressed shock at the error and anger at the slow reaction by Elections Clerk Sherry Hall, who has held the elected post for nearly 20 years. By Wednesday night, workers had counted 15,649.  “It blows my mind,” said Ron Smith, a Clackamas County voter. “It’s a little bit questionable. That’s why I’m here. … With all that’s going on, we don’t need extra suspicion. It seems like something like that would have been tested correctly at the beginning of this whole entire process.”  The debacle has stunned Oregon, where all ballots have been cast only by mail for 23 years and lawmakers have consistently pushed to expand voter access through automatic voter registration, expanded deadlines and other measures. It’s also thrown into question a key U.S. House race in a redrawn district that includes a large portion of Clackamas County, which stretches nearly 5,180 square kilometers, from Portland’s liberal southern suburbs to rural conservative communities on the flanks of Mount Hood.  Key race In the Democratic primary for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, seven-term Representative Kurt Schrader, a moderate, was trailing in the vote behind progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner. The outcome … Continue reading “Ballot Fiasco Delays Results in Oregon, Vote-by-Mail Pioneer “

Oklahoma Passes US’s Most Restrictive Abortion Ban

Oklahoma’s Legislature gave final approval Thursday to another Texas-style anti-abortion bill that providers say will be the most restrictive in the nation once the governor signs it. The bill is part of an aggressive push in Republican-governed states across the country to scale back abortion rights. It comes on the heels of a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that suggests justices are considering weakening or overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago. The bill by Republican Rep. Wendi Stearman would prohibit all abortions, except to save the life of a pregnant woman or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest that has been reported to law enforcement. “Is our goal to defend the right to life or isn’t it?” Stearman asked her colleagues before the bill passed on a 73-16 vote mostly along party lines. The bill is one of at least three anti-abortion bills sent this year to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has indicated he’ll sign it. Another Texas-style abortion bill that prohibits the procedure after cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo, which experts say is about six weeks, has taken effect and has dramatically curtailed the practice in Oklahoma. Another bill set to take effect this summer would make it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. That bill contains no exceptions for rape or incest. “At this point, we are preparing for the most restrictive environment politicians can create: a complete ban on abortion with likely no exceptions,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which stopped providing abortions at two of its Oklahoma clinics after the six-week ban took effect earlier this month. Like the Texas law, the Oklahoma bill would allow private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion. There are legal challenges pending in Oklahoma to both the bill to criminalize abortion and the six-week Texas ban, but the courts have so far failed to stop either measure. …

Abortion Rights Rollback in US Could Ripple Across Globe

The right of American women to have an abortion will be severely restricted if the Supreme Court reverses its 1973 decision to legalize the procedure. VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias spoke to activists on three continents and found grave concern about what impact a U.S. ruling overturning Roe v. Wade could have around the world. Videographer/Video editor: Veronica Balderas Iglesias …

Grand Jury Indicts Suspect in Buffalo Shooting

The 18-year-old suspect in the Buffalo, New York, grocery store mass shooting last weekend was formally charged with first-degree murder during a brief court appearance Thursday. Payton Gendron was escorted into the courtroom flanked by police officers, wearing an orange jumpsuit and a white face mask. He was handcuffed and shackled. He remained silent throughout the one-minute proceeding attended by some relatives of the victims. Assistant District Attorney Gary Hackbush presented the indictment, which was handed down on Wednesday. In New York, prosecutors can charge a defendant with first-degree murder only under special circumstances, including when multiple people are killed in a single incident, like in the Buffalo shooting. The single count against Gendron covers all 10 deaths at the supermarket. Gendron was ordered held in custody without bail for further action from a grand jury and is next expected in court on June 9. Gendron’s attorney, Brian Parker, had no comment. As he was led from the courtroom, someone in the audience shouted “Payton, you’re a coward!”  Gendron is charged with killing 10 people and wounding three others last Saturday at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Eleven of the victims who were shot were Black.  The FBI is investigating the attack as a hate crime. U.S. President Joe Biden visited the scene on Tuesday.  Investigators are studying a racist 180-page document, purportedly written by Gendron, that said the assault was intended to terrorize all non-white, non-Christian people and get them to leave the United States.   Some information in this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters. …

US Spy Agencies Urged to Fix Open Secret: A Lack of Diversity

The peril National Security Agency staff wanted to discuss with their director didn’t involve terrorists or enemy nations. It was something closer to home: the racism and cultural misunderstandings inside America’s largest intelligence service. The NSA and other intelligence agencies held calls for their staff shortly after the death of George Floyd. As Gen. Paul Nakasone listened, one person described how they would try to speak up in meetings only to have the rest of the group keep talking over them. Another person, a Black man, spoke about how he had been counseled that his voice was too loud and intimidated coworkers. A third described how a coworker addressed them with a racist slur. The national reckoning over racial inequality sparked by Floyd’s murder two years ago has gone on behind closed doors inside America’s intelligence agencies. Publicly available data, published studies of its diversity programs, and interviews with retired officers indicate spy agencies have not lived up to years of commitments made by their top leaders, who often say diversity is a national security imperative. People of color remain underrepresented across the intelligence community and are less likely to be promoted. Retired officers who spoke to The Associated Press described examples of explicit and implicit bias. People who had served on promotion boards noted non-native English speakers applying for new jobs would sometimes be criticized for being hard to understand — what one person called the “accent card.” Some say they believe minorities are funneled into working on countries or regions based on their ethnicity. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, the first woman to serve in her role, has appointed diversity officials who say they need to collect better data to study longstanding questions, from whether the process for obtaining a security clearance disadvantages people of color to the reasons for disparities in advancement. Agencies are also implementing reforms they say will promote diversity. “It’s going to be incremental,” said Stephanie La Rue, who was appointed this year to lead the intelligence community’s efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion. “We’re not going to see immediate change overnight. It’s going to take us a while to get to where we need to go.” The NSA call following Floyd’s death was described by a participant who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private discussion. The person credited Nakasone for listening to employees and making public and private commitments … Continue reading “US Spy Agencies Urged to Fix Open Secret: A Lack of Diversity”

North Korea Looms as Biden Makes First Asia Trip

Although U.S. foreign policy during the first part of Joe Biden’s presidency has focused more on issues such as a rising China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden this week will be confronted by another nagging foreign policy issue, a nuclear-armed North Korea. Biden, who departs Friday for his first trip to Asia as president, may be welcomed by a major North Korean weapons test, according to U.S. and South Korean officials. U.S. intelligence reflects the “genuine possibility” that North Korea will conduct either a long-range missile launch or a nuclear test, or possibly both, in the days surrounding or during Biden’s Asia trip, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Wednesday. “We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility that such a provocation would occur while we are in Korea or in Japan,” Sullivan said in a briefing. Much of Biden’s five-day trip is expected to focus on China, where he will work to reassure allies who have questioned long-term U.S. commitment to the region. During the trip, Biden is expected to launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a long-awaited economic initiative meant to increase U.S. involvement in Asia. In Tokyo, Biden will hold a meeting of the Quad, a four-country grouping made up of the United States, Japan, India, and Australia – democracies that have a strong interest in containing China’s rise. In Seoul, Biden will meet South Korea’s newly inaugurated president, Yoon Suk Yeol, who has vowed to take a tougher stance on China and who wants to expand cooperation with Washington on other global issues. However, South Korean officials have warned for days that a major North Korean test may upend Biden’s agenda. South Korean and U.S. officials have come up with a “Plan B,” which may include altering Biden’s existing schedule in the event of a North Korean provocation, according to Kim Tae-hyo, South Korea’s first deputy national security adviser. North Korea has often conducted major launches on or around visits to the region by U.S. presidents. Some analysts say such moves may be meant to attract U.S. diplomatic attention or increase North Korean leverage in potential nuclear negotiations. North Korea has conducted a dizzying number of missile launches this year. In March, the North launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile in almost five years. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service believes North Korea has also completed preparations for what would be its seventh nuclear … Continue reading “North Korea Looms as Biden Makes First Asia Trip”