Daily: 16/03/2018

Tens of Thousands Rally in Slovakia, Demand Early Election

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Slovakia Friday to call for snap elections, saying the prime minister’s resignation is not enough to address their concerns following the murder of an investigative journalist.

In a third day of demonstrations, protesters rallied in 35 towns and cities. About 50,000 people gathered in the capital, Bratislava, despite Thursday’s resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico and his government. Demonstrators chanted “early elections’’ and said the whole government needs to change.

Investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, 27, and his fiancee were found shot to death at home last month. Kuciak reported on fraud allegations against businessmen with political ties, and protesters have demanded a through investigation of his killing as well as of the alleged government corruption.

Police said Kuciak’s death was most likely related to his investigation into alleged ties between top Slovakia politicians and the Italian mafia. Nobody has been charged in the killings.

On Thursday, Slovak President Andrej Kiska accepted Fico’s resignation and asked Peter Pellegrini, Fico’s deputy prime minister, to form a new government. The move keeps the government’s current three-party coalition in power and avoids an early election.

This week’s demonstrations have been the largest in Slovakia since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that toppled Communism in the former Czechoslovakia.

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Visa Tests Biometric Fingerprint Reader on Cards

Fingerprints can unlock doors, phones and more, but are consumers ready to pay with them? Visa thinks so. More companies are exploring biometrics, the analysis of unique biological traits to verify identity, but how secure is the technology? Tina Trinh reports from New York

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A Sweet Way to Help Syrian Refugees in US

Namoura. Ma’amoul. Barazek. The names are unfamiliar to American consumers, but the tastes of honey, cinnamon and nuts are not. 

These Syrian pastries are for sale at the Syrian Sweets Exchange in Phoenix, Arizona, held at local farmers markets and a series of special sales like one recently at Changing Hands Bookstore. Bake sales are a fundraising fixture of American life, so it was no stretch for a group of volunteers who wanted to do something to help the 300 Syrian families in the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas.

Syria is famous for its sweets, but program co-founder Tan Jakwani said volunteers learned about them firsthand.

“When the volunteers would visit the Syrian refugees … to bring them donated furniture, they would bring out delicious sweets to greet the volunteers,” she said.

Through the exchange, the bakers’ skills have been turned into revenue. All proceeds are given back to the 20 bakers, who are licensed by the state of Arizona to bake goods at home and sell them.

The bakers

“I sell my sweets every Saturday in the farmers market … and it sells very well,” said baker Noor al Mousa. “I have customers every Saturday coming for me for selling my sweets and thank me. And I thank them.”

Al Mousa was an engineer in Syria. Now, her husband supports the family of seven — four children born in Syria and one in the U.S. — by driving cars at the Phoenix airport while she bakes.

“We send a lot of money to my family in Syria and in Jordan,” Al Mousa said. “My sister and my aunts and the brother of my husband are all in Syria. … I am very worried for them.”

After al Mousa and one of her young daughters were shot in Syria and their house collapsed, the family walked to Jordan overnight where they stayed for four years before arriving in the U.S.

“I made sweets just for family in my country,” al Mousa said. “Now volunteers help me sell my sweets in farmers markets.

“When I bake, I am happy. I am very happy,” she added. 

The volunteers

The sweets exchange is part of a larger group called Refugee Connection Phoenix, whose volunteer members have grown from 60 to 800 over the last year. The Facebook-based group also has other programs, such as helping expectant mothers and teaching refugee children to read.

The Syrian Sweets Exchange founders and other volunteers, who drive the bakers to the sales and interpret for them, are mostly women who come from various walks of life and from different faiths. 

Tan Jakwani’s motivation to help refugees stems from her own background. Her father — a major in the South Vietnamese Army — was evacuated at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and took refuge in the U.S. It was 10 years before Jakwani, her mother and three siblings arrived in the U.S.

“When we came, he already had a small house for us. So we did not have to go through the phase of living as refugees,” Jakwani said. “But my dad always told us about the time when he first came. He had a family sponsor who helped him with getting his driver’s license, getting a library card, and helped him get a job.”

Refugees have a lot of needs, Jakwani says, but she adds that if everyone does a little, “a lot can be done” to help.

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Президент доручив готувати зміни до Конституції для вступу України до НАТО та ЄС

Під час поїздки на Донбас президент також зазначив: «Російські генерали вважають війну на Сході України лише першим етапом війни з Альянсом»

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Порошенко: наш месидж Росії такий же, як і британський – «заткніться і забирайтеся геть»

«Хімічна атака» Кремля у Великій Британії – не що інше, як посягання на суверенітет Великої Британії»

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У Білорусі з’явилася можливість факультативно вивчати українську мову в школах

Міністерство освіти Білорусі 15 березня затвердило навчальну програму факультативних занять «Українська мова» для V-IX класів шкіл з білоруською та російською мовами викладання.

На національному освітньому порталі йдеться про те, що мета відповідної програми – «формувати в учнів уміння і навички нормативної усної і письмової української мови, в основі яких елементарні знання про особливості української мови в порівнянні з російською та білоруською», а також «розвиток почуття любові і поваги до українського народу, інтересу до його мови, культури, літератури, звичаїв, традицій».

Посольство України у Мінську відзначає, що це відбулося у контексті розвитку співпраці України з Білоруссю у сфері освіти, про що йшлося на торішніх переговорах президента Олександра Лукашенка до Києва.

Як повідомляє кореспондент Радіо Свобода, викладачів української мови та літератури вже готують на філологічних факультетах в університетах Мінська та Бреста. У Мінську та Гомелі наразі діють курси української мови для дорослих та дітей, організовані українською діаспорою.

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Обвал пішохідного мосту у США: 4 людини загинули, 9 травмовані

Чотири людини загинули і дев’ять були госпіталізовані 15 березня внаслідок обвалу пішохідного мосту на автомагістраль у американському штаті Флорида, повідомила місцева влада. Раніше влада Флориди заявляла, що від шести до десяти людей загинули в результаті інциденту.

Згідно з повідомленнями, вісім транспортних засобів також залишилися під завалами.

Міст завдовжки 53 метри і вагою 950 тонн відкрили лише 10 березня. Він перетинає вісім смуг руху транспорту і сполучає територію Міжнародного університету Флориди з невеликим містечком Світуотер в районі Майамі.

Трагедія сталася під час щорічних весняних канікул, тому студентів в університеті було менше, ніж зазвичай.

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US Congress Weighs Next Steps in Gun Law Debate

What comes next in the U.S. Congress to address gun violence, after thousands of students walked out of their classrooms to demand action in the wake of the Florida school massacre? As VOA’s congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson reports, it appears there is still no clear path forward as lawmakers consider gun laws and how to deal with school safety.

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After Britain, US Imposes New Sanctions Against Russia

The United States has imposed sanctions on several Russian organizations and individuals for alleged destructive cyberattacks and interference in the 2016 U.S. election. The 19 entities sanctioned Thursday include 13 individuals charged last month by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller. U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday Russia is likely behind the poisoning of a former Russian agent in Britain. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke has more.

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Putin Set to Secure Another 6 Years in Power Amid Heightened Russia-West Tensions

Russians vote Sunday for their next president, with Vladimir Putin all but certain to secure another six-year term. Putin remains popular among Russians who admire his strongman leadership. Eight candidates are running, but there are accusations the genuine political opposition has been silenced. The election comes at a time of high tension with the West following British accusations that the Kremlin directed the poisoning of a former double agent on British soil. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell has more.

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Experts: US, North Korea Heading for Collision Over Meaning of ‘Denuclearization’

A difference in how the United States and North Korea define denuclearization could potentially derail the summit scheduled for May between President Donald Trump and Kim Jon Un, according to experts.

Last week, Trump accepted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s summit invitation, which was conveyed by South Korean envoys who had met with Kim in Pyongyang.

If the U.S. military threat to North Korea is removed and the safety of the Kim regime is guaranteed, the “North side clearly affirmed its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” said South Korean National Security Chief Chung Eui-yong after meeting with Kim. Days later, Chung delivered Kim’s proposal to Trump.

WATCH: US Moving Forward with Proposed US- North Korea Talks

What is denuclearization

But the fate of the summit scheduled could hinge on the definition of denuclearize, which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “to remove nuclear arms from or prohibit the use of nuclear arms in” — in this case, North Korea.

In the past, Pyongyang has interpreted denuclearization as the removal of what it perceives as threats, including the U.S. nuclear umbrella over the Korean Peninsula, the U.S.-South Korea security alliance, and the presence of the U.S. troops in the South, according to experts, while Washington interprets denuclearization as the complete dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

“A rift in views of denuclearization could make Trump-Kim summit difficult and possibly even be canceled,” said Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Evans Revere, a former State Department official who was involved in previous talks with North Korea, warned that Trump should not expect denuclearization to be the topic that Kim wants to discuss at the summit.

“A very complicated situation has just gotten a lot more complicated primarily because the invitation seems to have been accepted on the premise or with the assumption that the North Korean leader is interested in denuclearization, even though I see no evidence whatsoever that he’s actually interested in discussing denuclearization,” Revere said.

North Korea’s focus

North Korea will most likely attempt to shift the focus from dismantling its nuclear program to demanding the U.S. remove what North Korea perceives as threats posed against its regime as a condition for giving up its nuclear program, according to experts.

Withdrawing its military from the South, “will be unacceptable to the U.S.,” Manning said.

Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at the Center for Naval Analyses, thinks divergent demands resulting from the differing views of denuclearization will prevent the U.S. from finding “a common ground to begin negotiations.”

Former State Department official Revere believes diplomatic progress will be severely impeded if Trump and Kim have different outcomes in mind.

“There is a rule in diplomacy that you never agree to a summit unless you understand the outcome that you are seeking in the summit, and your adversary also understands and agrees with the outcome that both parties are seeking. That doesn’t seem to be the case here,” Revere said.

​North Korea’s commitment

North Korea’s commitment to denuclearize is highly deceptive, according to Revere. 

“What Ambassador Chung, whom I have a lot of respect for, … heard from the North Koreans is not a commitment to denuclearization,” Revere said. “It’s a commitment to North Korea’s vision of the end of the U.S.-South Korean alliance and the end of the U.S. military presence. And that’s not an acceptable condition.”

North Korea has not made an official public pledge to give up its nuclear weapons program. The message that Pyongyang is willing to denuclearize was conveyed by the South Korean envoys who met with Kim. Without a direct statement from Kim, there is room to misinterpret North Korea’s definition of, and willingness to denuclearize, according to experts.

Manning warned that possible clashes over denuclearization at the summit could potentially lead to a diplomatic breakdown and raise the possibility of U.S. military action.

“There is a danger that if there is a Trump-Kim summit and President Trump feels played or betrayed, military action might be more likely,” Manning said.

“If diplomacy fails, the voices in the U.S. calling for military strikes will gain momentum,” Gause said. “The voices for diplomacy will be drowned out.”

Trilateral diplomacy

The trilateral diplomatic move began when South Korean envoys traveled to Pyongyang early in March at Kim’s invitation. Their trip was followed by the announcement of the inter-Korean summit to be held in April. The delegation then visited Washington to deliver Kim’s invitation for the U.S-North Korean summit that Trump agreed to have by May.

Youngnam Kim from VOA Korean Service contributed to this story.

 

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Бойовики стріляли 4 рази, втрат у ЗСУ немає – штаб

У штабі української воєнної операції на Донбасі повідомили, що через обстріли підтримуваних Росією бойовиків 15 березня ніхто із українських воїнів упродовж дня не постраждав. Згідно з повідомленням на сторінці штабу у Facebook, упродовж четверга бойовики здійснили 4 обстріли позицій ЗСУ.

Згідно з повідомленням, обстріли бойовиків тривали неподалік Луганського, Станиці Луганської, Водяного і Лебединського. 

Бойовики з угруповання «ДНР» звинуватили українських військових в обстрілі ввечері 15 березня околиць окупованого Донецька та сіл Ленінське і Саханка. В угрупованні «ЛНР» стверджують, що напередодні військові ЗСУ здійснили 1 обстріл захоплених бойовиками територій.

Тристороння контактна група щодо врегулювання ситуації на Донбасі оголосила про чергову спробу відновити режим припинення вогню, як «повний і безстроковий», з 00:01 години 5 березня. Але він був порушений уже в перші години дії, як і попередні перемир’я. Сторони заперечують свою вину в цьому і звинувачують противників у провокаціях.

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Former Siemens Executive Pleads Guilty in Argentine Bribery Case

A former midlevel employee of German industrial giant Siemens pleaded guilty Thursday of conspiring to pay tens of millions of dollars to Argentine officials to win a $1 billion contract to create national ID cards.

Eberhard Reichart, 78, who worked for Siemens from 1964 to 2001, appeared in federal court in New York to plead guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the anti-bribery Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to commit wire fraud.

Reichart was arraigned last December in a three-count indictment filed in December 2011 charging him and seven other Siemens executives and agents with participating in the decadelong scheme, the Justice Department said Thursday. 

The men were accused of conspiring to pay more than $100 million in bribes to high-level Argentine officials to win the contract in 1998. 

As part of his guilty plea, Reichart admitted in court that he engaged in the bribery conspiracy and that he and his co-conspirators used shell companies to conceal the illicit payments to Argentine officials.

The Argentine government terminated the contract in 2001, but the Siemens executives “sought to recover the profits they would have reaped” through an illicitly obtained contract, said Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, in 2011. 

“Far too often, companies pay bribes as part of their business plan, upsetting what should be a level playing field and harming companies that play by the rules,” acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan said Thursday.

In 2008, Siemens pleaded guilty of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the Argentine bribery scheme, agreeing to pay the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission $800 million in criminal and civil penalties.

The company paid the German government another $800 million to settle similar charges brought by the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bars U.S. companies and foreign firms with a presence in the U.S. from paying bribes to foreign officials.

Last year, 11 companies paid just over $1.92 billion to resolve charges brought under the anti-bribery law, according to data compiled by the FCPA Blog.

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Україна в ООН закликала посилити санкції проти Росії через анексію Криму

Санкції щодо Росії мають бути посилені, заявила 15 березня на спеціальному засіданні Ради безпеки ООН щодо ситуації в Криму заступник міністра закордонних справ України Олена Зеркаль.

«Необхідно нарощувати чинні багатосторонні і двосторонні санкції… Україна вже висловила рішучий протест Російській Федерації щодо цих виборів (вибори президента Росії на території окупованого Криму – ред.). Ці вибори – ще один виклик міжнародному співтовариству та ООН. Ми не повинні приймати ще одне порушення міжнародного права. Ми повинні діяти спільно, щоб припинити анексію Криму, і я закликаю вас до дій, посиливши санкції проти Росії, або ж активніше заявляти про себе в ООН та на інших платформах», – заявила Зеркаль.

«Російські окупаційні сили не обмежуються переслідуванням окремих фізичних осіб, гноблять активістів Меджлісу, представників легітимного представницького органу кримських татар», – сказала Зеркаль.

15 березня Рада безпеки ООН проводить засідання щодо ситуації в окупованому Криму у форматі Арріа. Цей формат передбачає участь не тільки членів Ради безпеки, а й інших держав, представників громадянського суспільства.

1 березня Верховна Рада закликала Генеральну асамблею, Раду безпеки ООН, ОБСЄ, Європейський союз, НАТО, міжнародні організації, іноземні парламенти і уряди не визнавати легітимність російських виборів в окупованому Криму, що мають відбутися 18 березня – в річницю анексії Криму.

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