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Memorial Day Weekend Events in Washington Honor Soldiers’ Ultimate Sacrifice

Memorial Day is a U.S. holiday dedicated to those who died while serving in America’s wars. To commemorate the day, which falls on the last Monday in May, people flock to Washington to decorate the graves of fallen military service members, attend parades and visit national monuments. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

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Russia Launches Largest Drone Attack on Ukraine’s Capital

Russia hit Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, overnight with the largest drone attack on the city since the start of the war. The attack came as Kyiv prepared to celebrate the anniversary of its founding on Sunday. Mayor Vitali Klitscho said one person was killed.  

Ukraine’s air force said it downed more than 50 drones, but it was not immediately clear whether all the drones were over Kyiv or around the country.   

“The history of Ukraine is a long-standing irritant for the insecure Russians,” Andriy Yermak, the head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, said. 

“Today is another sanction day,” Zelenskyy said on Saturday. He said 220 companies and 51 individuals are being sanctioned, “most of them are Russian — who work for terror.”  

“When Russia started this aggression, they looked at the world as if they were looking at themselves in a mirror,” he said. “They thought that supposedly everyone in the world was as cynical and despised people in the same way as the masters of Russia do. But the world is different — the world helps us protect life.” 

Meanwhile, the British Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update that Russian-state backed media and business groups want the Economic Ministry to authorize a six-day workweek “in the face of the economic demands of the war, apparently without additional pay.”  

The groups already have petitioned the Russian ministry for the longer work week, the British ministry posted on Twitter. 

The update said Margarita Simonyan, described as a “leading Russian propagandist,” recently called for citizens to work for two extra hours in munitions factories every day, after their regular jobs.  

These calls for a longer work week without additional pay “echoes a Soviet-style sense of societal compulsion,” the British update said, adding that the Russian “leadership highly likely identifies economic performance as a decisive factor in winning the war.”  

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Turkey Votes for a President in Second Runoff

Voters in Turkey are going to the polls Sunday to decide who will be the country’s president.

Sunday’s vote is the second runoff vote for the presidency. Incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has led Turkey for 20 years, fell just a few points short of winning the election in a first runoff poll earlier this month.

The president’s challenger is 74-year-old Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of a six-party alliance and leader of Turkey’s center-left main opposition party.

Kilicdaroglu is facing a formidable candidate in the 69-year-old Erdogan, who was able to survive the presidential election for the runoff despite Turkey’s crippling inflation and the aftermath of a destructive earthquake three months ago.

A victory Sunday for Erdogan would mean the beginning of his third decade as Turkey’s leader. Under his watch, Turkey’s government has become increasingly authoritarian.

Polls indicate Erdogan remains just a few points ahead of his opponent.

Voting ends at 5 p.m. and results are expected within hours.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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GOP-Controlled Texas House Impeaches Republican Attorney General

The GOP-led Texas House of Representatives impeached state Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday, a sudden, historic rebuke of a fellow Republican who rose to be a star of the conservative legal movement despite years of scandal and alleged crimes.

The vote triggers Paxton’s immediate suspension from office pending the outcome of a trial in the state Senate and empowers Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to appoint someone else as Texas’ top lawyer in the interim. Final removal would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, where Paxton’s wife’s, Angela, is a member.

The 121-23 vote constitutes an abrupt downfall for one of the GOP’s most prominent legal combatants, who in 2020 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn President Joe Biden’s electoral defeat of Donald Trump. It makes Paxton only the third sitting official in Texas’ nearly 200-year history to have been impeached.

Moments after the vote, Paxton’s office said the impeachment was “based on totally false claims” and pointed to internal reports that found no wrongdoing. House investigators said the attorney general’s probe into Paxton’s actions includes false and disproven claims.

“No one person should be above the law, least not the top law enforcement officer of the state of Texas,” Representative David Spiller, a Republican member of the committee that investigated Paxton, said in opening statements. 

Representative Ann Johnson, a Democratic member, told lawmakers that Texas’ “top cop is on the take.” 

As the articles of impeachment, which include bribery and abuse of public trust, were laid out, some of the lawmakers shook their heads.

Paxton has been under FBI investigation for years over accusations that he used his office to help a donor and was separately indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, though he has yet to stand trial. Until this week, his fellow Republicans had taken a muted stance on the allegations.

Lawmakers allied with Paxton tried to discredit the investigation by noting that hired investigators, not panel members, interviewed witnesses. They also said several of the investigators had voted in Democratic primaries, tainting the impeachment, and that they had too little time to review evidence.

“I perceive it could be political weaponization,” said Representative Tony Tinderholt, one of the House’s most conservative members. Republican Representative John Smithee compared the proceeding to “a Saturday mob out for an afternoon lynching.”

Texas’ top elected Republicans had been notably quiet about Paxton this week. But on Saturday both Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz came to his defense, with the senator calling the impeachment process “a travesty” and saying the attorney general’s legal troubles should be left to the courts.

“Free Ken Paxton,” Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social, warning that if House Republicans proceeded with the process, “I will fight you.”

Abbott, who lauded Paxton while swearing him in for a third term in January, has remained silent. The governor spoke at a Memorial Day service in the House chamber about three hours before the impeachment proceedings began. Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan also attended but the two appeared to exchange few words, and Abbott left without commenting to reporters.

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Erdogan Positioned to Extend Rule in Turkey Runoff Election

Turks vote Sunday in a presidential runoff that could see Tayyip Erdogan extend his rule into a third decade and intensify Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian path, muscular foreign policy and unorthodox economic governance.

Erdogan, 69, defied opinion polls and came out comfortably ahead with an almost five-point lead over his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the first round May 14. But he fell just short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff, in a race with profound consequences for Turkey itself and global geopolitics.

His unexpectedly strong showing amid a deep cost-of-living crisis, and a win in parliamentary elections for a coalition of his conservative Islamist-rooted AK Party (AKP), the nationalist MHP and others, buoyed the veteran campaigner who says a vote for him is a vote for stability.

Kilicdaroglu, 74, is the candidate of a six-party opposition alliance — and leads the Republican People’s Party (CHP) created by Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. His camp has struggled to regain momentum after the shock of trailing Erdogan in the first round.

The election will decide not only who leads Turkey, a NATO-member country of 85 million, but also how it is governed, where its economy is headed after its currency plunged to one tenth of its value against the dollar in a decade, and the shape of its foreign policy, which has seen Turkey irk the West by cultivating ties with Russia and Gulf states.

The initial election showed larger-than-expected support for nationalism — a powerful force in Turkish politics which has been hardened by years of hostilities with Kurdish militants, an attempted coup in 2016 and the influx of millions of refugees from Syria since war began there in 2011.

Turkey is the world’s largest host of refugees, with some 5 million migrants, of whom 3.3 million are Syrians, according to Interior Ministry data.

Third-place presidential candidate and hardline nationalist Sinan Ogan said he endorsed Erdogan based on a principle of “nonstop struggle (against) terrorism,” referring to pro-Kurdish groups. He achieved 5.17% of the vote.

Another nationalist, Umit Ozdag, leader of the anti-immigrant Victory Party (ZP), announced a deal declaring ZP’s support for Kilicdaroglu, after he said he would repatriate immigrants. The ZP won 2.2% of votes in this month’s parliamentary election.

A closely watched survey by pollster Konda for the runoff put support for Erdogan at 52.7% and Kilicdaroglu at 47.3% after distributing undecided voters. The survey was carried out May 20-21, before Ogan and Ozdag revealed their endorsements.

Another key is how Turkey’s Kurds, at about a fifth of the population, will vote.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) party endorsed Kilicdaroglu in the first round but, after his lurch to the right to win nationalist votes, it did not explicitly name him and urged voters rather to reject Erdogan’s “one-man regime” in the runoff.

More Erdogan

Polls will open at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) and close at 5 p.m. (1400 GMT). By late Sunday there should be a clear indication of the winner.

“Turkey has a longstanding democratic tradition and a longstanding nationalist tradition, and right now it’s clearly the nationalist one that’s winning out. Erdogan has fused religious and national pride, offering voters an aggressive anti-elitism,” said Nicholas Danforth, Turkey historian and non-resident fellow at think tank ELIAMEP.

“More Erdogan means more Erdogan. People know who he is and what his vision for the country is, and it seems a lot of them approve.”

Turkey’s president has pulled out all the stops on the campaign trail as he battles to survive his toughest political test. He commands fierce loyalty from pious Turks who once felt disenfranchised in secular Turkey and his political career has survived the failed coup and corruption scandals.

Erdogan has taken tight control of most of Turkey’s institutions and sidelined liberals and critics. Human Rights Watch, in its World Report 2022, said Erdogan’s government has set back Turkey’s human rights record by decades.

However, if Turks do oust Erdogan, it will be largely because they saw their prosperity, equality and ability to meet basic needs decline, with inflation that topped 85% in October 2022.

Kilicdaroglu, a former civil servant, has pledged to roll back much of Erdogan’s sweeping changes to Turkish domestic, foreign and economic policies.

He would also revert to the parliamentary system of governance, from Erdogan’s executive presidential system, narrowly passed in a referendum in 2017.

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Putin Orders Stronger Russian Border Security

President Vladimir Putin on Sunday ordered stronger border security to ensure fast Russian military and civilian movement into Ukrainian regions now under Moscow control.

Speaking in a congratulatory message to the border service, a branch of Russia’s Federal Security Service, on their Border Guard Day holiday, Putin said their task was to “reliably cover” the lines in the vicinity of the combat zone.

Attacks inside Russia have been growing in intensity in recent weeks, chiefly with drone strikes on regions along the border but increasingly also deep into the country, including on an oil pipeline northwest of Moscow on Saturday.  

“It is necessary to ensure the fast movement of both military and civilian vehicles and cargo, including food, humanitarian aid, building materials sent to the new subjects of the (Russian) Federation,” Putin said in a message posted on the Kremlin’s Telegram messaging channel.  

Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk are the four regions in Ukraine that Putin proclaimed annexed last September following what Kyiv said were sham referendums. Russian forces only partly control the four regions.

On Saturday, officials said three people were injured in Ukrainian shelling in Belgorod, a region that was the target of pro-Ukrainian fighters this week that sparked doubts about Russia’s defense and military capabilities.

The Kursk and Belgorod Russian regions bordering Ukraine have been the most frequent target of attacks that have damaged power, rail and military infrastructure, with local officials blaming Ukraine.  

Kyiv almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia and on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine but said that destroying infrastructure is preparation for its planned ground assault.

Ukraine indicated on Saturday that it was ready to launch a long-promised counteroffensive to recapture territory taken by Russia in the 15-month war, a conflict that has claimed the lives of thousands and turned Ukrainian cities into rubble.

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Waters Rejects Berlin Incitement Accusations over Concert Outfit

Police in Berlin said Friday that they have opened an investigation of Roger Waters on suspicion of incitement over a costume the Pink Floyd co-founder wore when he performed in the German capital last week.

Images on social media showed Waters firing an imitation machine gun while dressed in a long black coat with a red armband. Police confirmed that an investigation was opened over suspicions that the context of the costume could constitute a glorification, justification or approval of Nazi rule and therefore a disturbance of the public peace.

Once the police investigation is concluded, the case will be handed to Berlin prosecutors, who would decide whether to pursue any charges.

Waters rejected the accusations in a statement early Saturday on Facebook and Instagram, saying that “the elements of my performance that have been questioned are quite clearly a statement in opposition to fascism, injustice, and bigotry in all its forms.”

He claimed that “attempts to portray those elements as something else are disingenuous and politically motivated.”

Waters has drawn ire for his support of the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel. He has rejected accusations of antisemitism.

Authorities in Frankfurt tried to prevent a concert there scheduled for Sunday, but Waters challenged that move successfully in a local court. In Munich, the city council said it had explored possibilities of banning a concert but concluded that it wasn’t legally possible to cancel a contract with the organizer. His appearance there last Sunday was accompanied by a protest attended by the local Jewish community’s leader.

Last year, the Polish city of Krakow canceled gigs by Waters because of his sympathetic stance toward Russia in its war against Ukraine.

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US Commerce Secretary: US ‘Won’t Tolerate’ China’s Ban on Micron Chips

The United States “won’t tolerate” China’s effective ban on purchases of Micron Technology MU.O memory chips and is working closely with allies to address such “economic coercion,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Saturday.

Raimondo told a news conference after a meeting of trade ministers in the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework talks that the U.S. “firmly opposes” China’s actions against Micron.

These “target a single U.S. company without any basis in fact, and we see it as plain and simple economic coercion and we won’t tolerate it, nor do we think it will be successful.”

China’s cyberspace regulator said May 21 that Micron, the biggest U.S. memory chip maker, had failed its network security review and that it would block operators of key infrastructure from buying from the company, prompting it to predict a revenue reduction.

The move came a day after leaders of the G7 industrial democracies agreed to new initiatives to push back against economic coercion by China — a decision noted by Raimondo.

“As we said at the G7 and as we have said consistently, we are closely engaging with partners addressing this specific challenge and all challenges related to China’s non-market practices.”

Raimondo also raised the Micron issue in a meeting Thursday with China’s Commerce Minister, Wang Wentao.

She also said the IPEF agreement on supply chains and other pillars of the talks would be consistent with U.S. investments in the $52 billion CHIPS Act to foster semiconductor production in the United States.

“The investments in the CHIPS Act are to strengthen and bolster our domestic production of semiconductors. Having said that, we welcome participation from companies that are in IPEF countries, you know, so we expect that companies from Japan, Korea, Singapore, etc, will participate in the CHIPS Act funding,” Raimondo said.

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Death at US-Mexico Border, Shelter Rules Top Week’s Immigration News

Editor’s note: Here is a look at immigration-related news around the U.S. this week. Questions? Tips? Comments? Email the VOA immigration team:

8-Year-Old Girl Sought Medical Help 3 Times on Day She Died, US Immigration Officials Say

An 8-year-old girl who died last week in Border Patrol custody was seen at least three times by medical personnel on the day of her death — complaining of vomiting, a stomachache and later suffering what appeared to be a seizure — before she was taken to a hospital, U.S. immigration officials said Sunday. The Associated Press reports.

Citing Migrant Influx, New York Mayor Asks Court to Suspend Long-Standing ‘Right to Shelter’

New York’s mayor asked a judge on Tuesday to let the city suspend its long-standing “right to shelter” obligation, saying officials are no longer able to house every homeless person because of the arrival of tens of thousands of international migrants. The Associated Press reports.

Day in Photos: Police evict migrants, mostly from Venezuela, from a camp that was located in front of the migration detention center where migrants died during a fire in March, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, May 22, 2023.

Immigration around the world

UN Moves Sudanese Refugees in Chad Away from Border

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, is moving tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees in Chad away from the Sudan border and into new camps. The UNHCR’s visiting deputy says concerns about security and access to aid are increasing, along with the number of refugees. Henry Wilkins reports from the Gaga refugee site in Chad.

UN: Sudan Conflict Displaces Over 1.3 Million

The fighting between Sudan’s military and a powerful paramilitary force has displaced more than 1.3 million people, the U.N. migration agency said Wednesday. The International Organization for Migration said the clashes have forced more than 1 million people to leave their homes for safer areas inside Sudan. Some 320,000 others have fled to the neighboring countries of Egypt, South Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and Libya. The Associated Press reports.

HRW Calls for Halt to Rohingya Repatriation from Bangladesh to Myanmar

As Bangladesh and Myanmar gear up to repatriate about 1,100 Rohingya refugees in a pilot project, rights group Human Rights Watch says conditions in Myanmar’s state of Rakhine are still not favorable for sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees. Produced by Shaikh Azizur Rahman.

Humanitarian Group Blasts Greece Over Treatment of Asylum-Seekers on Island

A prominent humanitarian group on Thursdayblasted Greece for its treatment of asylum-seekers on the island of Lesbos, repeating allegations of illegal deportations back to Turkey and claiming authorities are using hunger as a weapon against some migrants. The Associated Press reports.

Greece Probes Video Purportedly Showing Migrants Forcibly Abandoned at Sea

Greek authorities have been caught on film apparently forcing asylum-seekers into a life raft and abandoning them at sea. Human rights groups have long accused Athens of such practices. Greece denies carrying out so-called pushbacks and says it has launched an investigation into the video. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

News Brief

—The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced an agencywide policy on body worn cameras.

In the next 180 days, the DHS agencies and offices “will draft and issue, or update their own body worn camera policies that meet or exceed the requirements set forth in the departmentwide policy.”

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Tehran: Zelenskyy Using Iran to Gain West’s Support

Iran struck back at Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday, saying his accusation the Islamic republic is arming Russia was an attempt to gain the West’s military and financial support.

The United States and the European Union have sanctioned Iran over its drone program, alleging it had supplied Moscow with unmanned aerial vehicles during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — a charge Tehran denies.

On Wednesday, during his daily speech, Zelenskyy said Tehran’s “support for evil cannot be denied” and appealed directly to Iranians, asking: “Why do you want to be accomplices in Russian terror?”

In response, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Zelenskyy’s “repetition of false claims” against the Islamic republic was “in harmony with the propaganda and media war of the anti-Iranian axis.”

“It is done with the aim of attracting as much military and financial aid from Western countries as possible,” Kanani said.

Ukraine, he added, had “specific political goals and motives behind such accusations” and was “avoiding expert negotiations with the Iranian side to investigate the claims.”

Russia has reportedly used 1,160 Iranian-made Shahed kamikaze drones in attacks against Ukraine.

“Even though we have learnt to shoot down most of your kamikaze drones… there are still hits,” Zelenskyy said Wednesday.

“When an Iranian drone kills a pregnant Ukrainian girl and her husband in their home, why do you, mothers and fathers in Iran, need this?” he added.

“When your Shahed hits a dormitory with our students, people die, a fire starts, rescuers arrive, and in a few minutes a second Shahed hits.”

Russia invaded its neighbor in February 2022, sparking the biggest conflict on European soil since World War II.

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Police and Serbs Clash in Kosovo

Serbian troops near Kosovo’s border were placed on high alert Friday, after clashes between police and Kosovo’s Serbian population injured at least 10 people.

Serbs in Kosovo had taken to the streets to prevent newly-elected Albanian mayors from entering their offices.

Clashes erupted when Kosovan police attempted to move the protesters to allow the politicians to enter their offices.

Authorities say at least five police were injured in the skirmishes Friday and several cars were set on fire.

Britain, France, Italy, Germany and the United States have issued a joint statement urging Kosovo “to de-escalate.”

The Western powers said they are “concerned by Serbia’s decision to raise the level of readiness of its armed forces at the border with Kosovo.”

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Friday, “We will preserve peace — but I am telling you that Serbia won’t sit idle the moment Serbs in northern Kosovo are attacked.”

Last month’s municipal elections were generally ignored by Kosovo’s Serbs. That move allowed Albanians to win offices.

Serbian politicians in several Serbian-majority municipalities left their offices last year after Kosovan officials prevented them from establishing an organization to coordinate their approaches to social and economic concerns.

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Czech Leaders See Democratic Solidarity as Way Forward

Values-based diplomacy lies at the heart of the Czech Republic’s support for Ukraine and Taiwan alike, the country’s Chamber of Deputies president emphasized this week during a visit to Washington. Newly elected Czech President Petr Pavel sounded a similar note at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit earlier this month as he laid out how Prague views the threat posed by Moscow and Beijing. 

Marketa Pekarova Adamova was 5 years old when the Velvet Revolution swept the communists out of power in winter 1989. Stories of how people suffered under communism shaped her worldview, she told VOA during her visit to Washington as leader of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, which is comparable to the U.S. House of Representatives. 

“For example, my mother couldn’t study what she wished to study,” due to the government’s severe control of everyday life, she recalled. “This is why we know, even in my generation, what communism is about.” 

The fact that dissidents such as Vaclav Havel were forced to spend years in prison also “had a huge impact on me,” she added.   

The 38-year-old led a parliamentary delegation to engage with U.S. officials in Washington and the states of Maryland and Georgia this week to bolster bilateral ties and common approaches to global issues including Ukraine and Taiwan. 

While in Washington, Adamova told a news briefing that undergirding her country’s strong support for Ukraine and Taiwan is the value her government and people attach to democracy, freedom and human rights. 

“Our current government’s diplomacy is focused on these values” personified by Havel, the dissident playwright who became the first elected president of her country, she said. 

Adamova said her trip to Taiwan earlier this year was guided by this spirit. While they dealt with cyberattacks “on our mobile phones and other equipment,” she said they faced much less pressure than did Czech Senate Leader Milos Vystrcil and the delegation he led to visit Taiwan in 2020. 

Back then, she explained, her Senate colleague had to endure pressure from Beijing and from critics within the Czech government, most notably then-President Milos Zeman, who cultivated economic and political ties with both Beijing and Moscow. 

Vystrcil was “very brave and a great example to follow,” she said. Unlike his experience, she and her delegation had the full support of the Czech government that came to power following the October 2021 election. 

Speaking at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit held May 15-16 in the Danish capital, Petr Pavel, who succeeded Milos Zeman as president of the Czech Republic after winning a nationwide election in March, gave his full support to the values-based diplomacy in which Adamova – and Vystrcil before her – believe. 

In a keynote speech, “Defending Global Values,” Pavel assessed the challenge to peace and democracy posed by Moscow and Beijing. He cast the battle in Ukraine as a conflict not only about territory and of regional impact, but as one that tests the strength of democratic aspirations — as well as democratic solidarity — in the face of aggression by a state armed with power and the desire to subjugate another people and society. 

Pavel, along with other senior Czech officials, is a strong proponent of supporting both Ukraine and Taiwan.  

In the long run, China poses a greater danger to world peace and rules-based order than Russia, which is being weakened by the current conflict in Ukraine, he argued. 

China has emerged “much bigger and much stronger than Russia,” he warned, and the more power wielded by a nondemocratic and aggressive government, the more danger it poses to peace and democracy worldwide, especially Taiwan. 

While Beijing is often said to have learned from the conflict in Ukraine that Western democracies were quick to form an alliance and issue punishing sanctions against the aggressor, Pavel cautioned that is not the only lesson Beijing has learned. 

“China has learned that under pressure, we’re able to be united quite quickly,” he said. “But they also learned that we also had difficulties providing direct support from the very beginning,” he pointed out. “Just look at how long it took for major European countries to provide major support to Ukraine with heavy equipment. 

“So, they learned that we need time, and we prefer not to sacrifice too much,” the Czech president noted. 

“It is learning from the whole situation, first with regard to [a potential conflict with] Taiwan, as well as with regard to global competition,” he said. 

“If we want to preserve a world order where the rules – and not the biggest stick – matter, we should stick together, work together, be more flexible in cooperation with all willing countries.” 

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Mechanical Sails? Batteries? Shippers Forming ‘Green Corridors’

It’s among the world’s busiest container shipping routes — a stream of vessels packed with furniture, automobiles, clothing and other goods, traversing the Pacific between Los Angeles and Shanghai.

If plans succeed, this corridor will become a showcase for slashing planet-warming carbon emissions from the shipping industry, which produces nearly 3% of the world’s total. That’s less than from cars, trucks, rail or aviation but still a lot — and it’s rising.

The International Maritime Organization, which regulates commercial shipping, wants to halve its greenhouse gas releases by midcentury and may seek deeper cuts this year. “Shipping must embrace decarbonization,” IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said in February.

Meeting agency targets will require significant vessel and infrastructure changes. That’s inspiring plans for “green shipping corridors” along major routes where new technologies and methods could be fast-tracked and scaled up.

More than 20 of these partnerships have been proposed. They’re largely on paper now but are expected to take shape in the coming years.


Los Angeles and Shanghai formed their partnership last year.

“The vision is that a container will leave a factory on a zero-emissions truck (in China),” said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

“It will arrive at the port of Shanghai, be loaded onto a ship by a zero-emissions cargo handling equipment unit and move across the Pacific Ocean on a vessel that emits zero carbon. Once it gets to Los Angeles, the reverse happens,” with carbon-free handling and distribution.

Los Angeles entered a second agreement in April with nearby Long Beach and Singapore. Others in the works include the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River; a Chilean network; and numerous corridors in Asia, North America and Europe.

C40 Cities, a global climate action coalition of mayors, advocates green corridors as “tools that can turn ambition into action, bringing together the entire shipping value chain,” said Alisa Kreynes, a deputy director.

Pressure builds

From tea to tennis shoes, stuff in your pantry and closets likely spent time on a ship.

Roughly 90% of traded goods move on water, some in behemoths longer than four football fields, each holding thousands of containers with consumer products. About 58,000 commercial ships ply the seas.

Their emissions are less noticeable than onshore haulers such as trucks, although noxious fumes from ships draw complaints in port communities.

Maritime trade volumes are expected to triple by 2050, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Studies predict the industry’s share of greenhouse gas emissions could reach 15%.

Yet the 2015 Paris climate accord exempts maritime shipping, partly because vessels do business worldwide, while the agreement covers nation-by-nation goals.

“No one wants to take responsibility,” said Allyson Browne of Pacific Environment, an advocacy group. “A ship may be flagged in China, but who takes ownership of emissions from that ship when it’s transporting goods to the U.S.?”

The IMO responded to mounting pressure with a 2018 plan for a 50% emissions reduction by midcentury from 2008 levels. An update scheduled for July may set more ambitious targets favored by the U.S., Europe and small island nations. Opponents include Brazil, China and India.

The Biden administration wants a zero-emission goal, a State Department official told The Associated Press.

But fewer than half of large shipping companies have pledged to meet international carbon objectives. And there’s no consensus about how to accomplish them.

“Global shipping is hard to decarbonize … because of the energy required to cover long distances with heavy cargoes,” said Lee Kindberg, head of environment and sustainability for Maersk North America.

Mechanical sails. Batteries. Low- or zero-carbon liquid fuels.

They’re among propulsion methods touted as replacements for “bunker fuel” that powers most commercial ships — thick residue from oil refining. It spews greenhouse gases and pollutants that endanger human health: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, soot.

Finding alternatives will be a priority for green shipping corridors.

For now, liquid natural gas is the runaway choice. Worldwide, it’s used by 923 of 1,349 commercial vessels not powered by conventional fuels, according to a study last year by DNV, a Norway-based maritime accreditation society. Vessels with batteries or hybrid systems placed a distant second.

Many environmentalists oppose LNG because it emits methane, another potent greenhouse gas. Defenders say it’s the quickest and most cost-effective bunker fuel substitute.

Of 1,046 alternative-energy ships on order, 534 are powered by LNG while 417 are battery-hybrids, DNV reported. Thirty-five others will use methanol, which analysts consider an up-and-coming cleaner alternative.

Moller-Maersk plans to launch 12 cargo vessels next year that will use “green methanol” produced with renewable sources such as plant waste.

Norsepower offers a new twist on an ancient technology: wind.

The Finnish company has developed “rotor sails” — composite cylinders about 33 yards (30 meters) tall that are fitted on ship decks and spin in the breeze. Air pressure differences on opposite sides of the whirring devices help push a vessel forward.

An independent analysis found rotor sails installed on a Maersk oil tanker in 2018 produced an 8.2% fuel savings in a year. Norsepower CEO Tuomas Riski said others have saved 5% to 25%, depending on wind conditions, ship type and other factors.

Thirteen ships are using the devices or have them on order, Riski said.

“Mechanical sails have an essential role in the decarbonization of shipping,” he said. “They can’t do it alone, but they can make a great contribution.”

Who goes first?

Before building or buying low-emission vessels, companies want assurances clean fuels will be available and affordable.

Companies producing the fuels, meanwhile, want enough ships using them to guarantee strong markets.

And both need port infrastructure that accommodates new-generation ships, such as electrical hookups and clean fuel dispensing mechanisms.

But ports await demand to justify such expensive upgrades. Switching onshore cargo handling equipment and trucks to zero-emission models will cost the Los Angeles port $20 billion, officials say.

“Once you put a (green) corridor on the map,” said Jason Anderson, senior program director for the nonprofit ClimateWorks Foundation, “at least they’re heading in the same direction.”

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Court Monitor Said Death of Girl in Custody ‘Preventable’

A court-appointed monitor said in January that child migrants held in medical isolation may be overlooked when Border Patrol stations get too crowded, a warning issued five months before an 8-year-old girl with a heart condition died in custody during an unusually busy period in the same Texas region he inspected.

Dr. Paul H. Wise, a pediatrics professor at Stanford University, called the death of Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez of Panama “preventable” during an interview this week while in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley to look into the circumstances.

“Any child who is ill, but particularly kids with chronic problems, there should be little hesitation to refer them to local hospitals, preferably a children’s hospital or hospital with good pediatric capabilities,” Wise told The Associated Press.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has acknowledged the girl was seen at least three times by medical personnel the day she died — complaining of vomiting, a stomachache and suffering what appeared to be a seizure — before she was taken to a hospital. CBP did not respond to a request for comment on Wise’s January report or his latest comments.

Report flagged concerns

Wise authored a lengthy report in January on Border Patrol custody conditions for children in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso, Texas, that gave satisfactory reviews on many counts but also flagged serious concerns. Last year, a federal judge asked him to examine custody conditions in the two busy regions as part of a 1997 court settlement to ensure safe treatment of child migrants.

Wise plans to submit a report soon on the May 17 death of the girl, who died on her ninth day in custody after being transferred to a station in Harlingen, Texas, with her family after being diagnosed with influenza. The agency limits custody to 72 hours under its own policy.

While his findings are not yet known — he declined to discuss them — some of his earlier warnings may resurface.

Wise previously expressed concern about crowding of children in medical isolation. His January report tells how “one medical team” in El Paso was responsible for 125 ill patients, a number that “far surpasses” the team’s capabilities.

The Border Patrol also struggled to meet a requirement to conduct regular medical assessments of children when they came in families and were in crowded stations, Wise said in January.

“The 5-day repeat medical assessment is most important when families are being held for protracted periods in overcrowded conditions,” he wrote. “However, because of other important demands on available medical staff, this medical protocol appears to be given relatively low priority under these conditions.”

Wise further raised concerns about chronic conditions going undetected and “relevant medical information” being unknown or not shared among staff.

CBP’s relatively detailed public account of the girl’s time in custody does not directly address the requirement for exams every five days or how crowded the Harlingen station was when she was there.

Acting commissioner orders review

The government’s responsibilities for medical care of children is clearly defined in the recently updated agreement for the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors. “CBP shall promptly activate the 911 system or refer juveniles to the local health system whenever appropriate for evaluation and treatment. Further, CBP shall refer juveniles with urgent or emergent medical issues to the local health system,” the agreement stipulates.

During his visit, Wise interviewed Anadith’s mother, Mabel Alvarez Benedicks, who told the AP that agents repeatedly ignored pleas to hospitalize her medically fragile daughter as she felt pain in her bones, struggled to breathe and was unable to walk.

Agents said her daughter’s diagnosis of influenza did not require hospital care, Benedicks said. They knew the girl had a history of heart problems but was told to return if she fainted, the mother said.

Troy Miller, CBP’s acting commissioner, has since ordered a review of all medically fragile detainees to ensure limited time in custody. Wise said he spoke with U.S. officials, including medical staff, to convey concerns from his recent visit.

“I have enough information at this point to make urgent recommendations to CBP, [the Department of Homeland Security] and to the court. And this will be focused around the steps that should be taken, in my view, to ensure that no preventable deaths occur to children in CBP custody,” he said.

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Bush-Era US Officials Discuss How China Has Changed Over Last 15 Years  

This week, U.S. and Chinese officials held meetings in Washington aimed at building ties following months of tension since Beijing’s surveillance balloon floated across the U.S. in early February.

For the former U.S. officials who used to broker such talks 15 years ago, the tensions reflect how Beijing itself has changed under leader Xi Jinping.

Stephen Hadley, who served as national security adviser for former President George W. Bush, said Beijing has gone from wanting to be a part of the international system at the end of the Bush administration to trying to challenge it now.

“The China we faced was a China that wanted a benign international environment so they could focus on their own domestic development,” Hadley, one of the highest-profile U.S. foreign policy specialists of the past 25 years, told an audience in Washington this week.

“It was a China that did not want to overturn the international system but wanted to be a part of that system and made that very clear. It was a China that wanted a constructive relationship with the United States. And we tried to build that,” he added.

Hadley and other former Bush administration officials gathered this week to discuss relations with China during the Bush administration, just as China’s leader Xi Jinping was rising to power.

Dennis Wilder, a senior fellow for the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues at Georgetown University, who appeared with Hadley at the event, said the Bush administration “did try to figure out Xi Jinping” during its first meeting with the Chinese leader. Wilder served as the National Security Council’s special assistant to Bush.

“When we went to the 2008 Olympics, Xi Jinping was actually in charge of the Olympics. … It was one of the most boring meetings I’d ever been in. Xi Jinping gave nothing. He was cardboard. He wasn’t going to tell us a thing about himself. He was not going to show his hand. And this is how he got to the top of the Chinese system. He did hide his cards,” Wilder said.

Wilder added that many thought Xi Jinping was “another reformist Chinese leader,” but everyone was surprised by him.

Xi’s vision

Xi is enhancing Beijing’s diplomacy, economic strength and military capability, believing the United States is in “terminal decline,” according to Hadley, whose book Hand-Off: The Foreign Policy George W. Bush Passed to Barack Obama was published in February.

Xi, Hadley said, views that “the West is in decline” and “the United States is in terminal decline.”

“Xi was prepared to put his power center stage and then to use it to intimidate his neighbors and others abroad, with his enhanced diplomacy, economic strength and military capability,” he said.

VOA contacted the Chinese Embassy in Washington for comment but received no response. But China’s official media outlets such as the People’s Daily and the Global Times have published pieces recently discussing various aspects of what is described as America’s decline, according to a collection published by CSIS.

In 1978, Deng Xiaoping, who is widely considered the father of modern China, kick-started the country’s economic reform that embraces a free-market economy while maintaining the political model of one-party dictatorship. The reform led China to open up to the world economically and politically, achieving double-digit GDP growth rates for over 30 years by becoming the global manufacturing hub. Today, China is the world’s second-biggest economy.

Hadley said Deng’s “hide and bide” strategy, which guides China to build power while hiding from international leadership responsibility, continued to be prominent in the Chinese leadership until Xi came to power in 2012.

The U.S. sees China as its main strategic and geopolitical challenge. The U.S. national security strategy published on October 2022 states that “the People’s Republic of China harbors the intention and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order in favor of one that tilts the global playing field to its benefit.”

Bonny Lin, director of the China Power Project at CSIS, who also attended the event, said the U.S. right now is not necessarily able to communicate with China the way it could during the Bush administration. But she added that there is a “continued emphasis on President [Joe] Biden being able to speak directly with Xi Jinping.”

“Given how much China has centralized power under Xi – very different than under Hu Jintao, who was going in sort of the opposite direction, inviting more collective leadership – that is even more important for the two leaders to maintain that personal bond,” Lin said.

Hadley said the foreign policy of the Bush administration that was passed to the Obama administration was to try to cooperate and engage with China and to “bring China into the international system,” but China’s shift to challenge the system was not anything the U.S. can control.

“Who leads countries really matters,” he said. “And I think if China decided in 2012 for a Jiang Zemin- or Hu Jintao-type leader, and we had that leader for 2012 to 2022, I think China would be in a very different place today. And America’s relationship with China would be very different today.”

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UPS Strike Looms in World Reliant on Everything Delivered Everywhere All the Time

Living in New York City, working full time and without a car, Jessica Ray and her husband have come to rely on deliveries of food and just about everything else for their home. It has meant more free time on weekends with their young son, rather than standing in line for toilet paper or dragging heavy bags of dog food back to their apartment.

“I don’t even know where to buy dog food,” said Jessica Ray of the specialty food she buys for the family’s aging dog.

There are millions of families like the Rays who have swapped store visits for doorstep deliveries in recent years, meaning that contentious labor negotiations now underway at UPS could become vastly more disruptive than the last time it happened in 1997, when a scrappy upstart called became a public company.

UPS delivers millions more packages every day than it did just five years ago and its 350,000 unionized workers, represented by the Teamsters, still seethe about a contract they feel was forced on them in 2018.

In an environment of energized labor movements and lingering resentment among UPS workers, the Teamsters are expected to dig in, with the potential to cow a major logistical force in the U.S.

‘Something’s got to give’

The 24 million packages UPS ships on an average day amounts to about a quarter of all U.S. parcel volume, according to the global shipping and logistics firm Pitney Bowes, or as UPS puts it, the equivalent of about 6% of nation’s gross domestic product.

Higher prices and long wait times are all but certain if there is an impasse.

“Something’s got to give,” said Thomas Goldsby, logistics chairman in the Supply Chain Management Department at the University of Tennessee. “The python can’t swallow the alligator, and that’s going to be felt by all of us.”

In other words, brace yourself for Supply Chain Breakdown: The Sequel.

In the second half of 2021, the phrase “global supply chain” began to enter casual conversations as the world emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses struggled to get what they needed, raising prices and wait times. Automakers held vehicles just off the assembly line because they didn’t have all the parts.

Some of those problems still linger and a strike at UPS threatens to extend the suffering.

Household routines at risk

Those who have come to rely on doorstep deliveries for the basics might have to rethink weekly schedules.

“We finally reached a point where we finally feel pretty good about it,” Ray said. “We can take a Saturday afternoon and do a fun family activity and not feel the burden of making everything work for the day-to-day functioning of our household.”

UPS workers feel they have played a part in the transformation of how Americans shop since the last contract was ratified in 2018, while helping to make UPS a much more valuable company.

Annual profits at UPS in the past two years are close to three times what they were before the pandemic. The Atlanta company returned about $8.6 billion to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buybacks in 2022, and forecasts another $8.4 billion for shareholders this year.

The Teamsters say frontline UPS workers deserve some of that windfall.

“Our members worked really hard over the pandemic,” said Teamsters spokesperson Kara Denize. “They need to see their fair share.”

Union members rejected the contract they were offered in 2018, but it was pushed through by union leadership based on a technicality. The acrimony over the current contract was so fierce that last year workers rejected a candidate to lead the Teamsters favored by longtime union head James Hoffa, instead choosing the more combative Sean O’Brien.

O’Brien went on a nationwide tour of local Teamsters shops preparing frontline workers ahead of negotiations.

In addition to addressing part-time pay, and what workers say is excessive overtime, the union wants to eliminate a contract provision that created two separate hierarchies of workers with different pay scales, hours and benefits. Driver safety, particularly the lack of air conditioning in delivery trucks, is also in the mix.

Possible ripple effect

A win at UPS could have implications for the organized labor outside the company.

Teamsters are attempting to organize Amazon workers and dozens of company delivery drivers and dispatchers in California joined the union last month. There are also prominent labor organization campaigns at Apple, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Apple, even strippers at a dance club in Los Angeles.

“This has just huge implications for the entire labor movement in the United States,” said John Logan, the director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University, referring to labor talks at UPS. “There’s greater assertiveness and militancy on the part of a lot of young labor activists and some sectors of the labor establishment. Sean O’Brien is representative of that.”

When dozens of UPS locals met with Teamsters leadership early this year, O’Brien delivered a message of urgency.

“We’re going into these negotiations with a clear message to UPS that we’re not going past August 1,” O’Brien told the gathering.

It would be the first work stoppage since a walkout by 185,000 workers crippled the company a quarter century ago.

UPS CEO Carol Tome has remained optimistic publicly, telling investors recently that the company and the Teamsters were not far apart on major issues.

“While we expect to hear a great deal of noise during the negotiation, I remain confident that a win-win-win contract is very achievable and that UPS and the Teamsters will reach agreement by the end of July,” Tome said.

If Tome is wrong, Americans might need to put aside more time to shop like they used to do.

“It has the potential to be significantly impactful,” said Ray, the New York City resident. “My husband and I have invested a lot in figuring out how to remove the burden of just making sure we always have toilet paper.”

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Top-Level Meetings Signal Warming of US–China Ties

Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao was in the U.S. this week, meeting with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. The meetings took place days after President Joe Biden signaled a thaw in bilateral relations strained by trade and security issues and the takedown by a U.S. fighter jet of a Chinese espionage balloon over American territory in February. White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara reports.

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Debt Ceiling Deadline Is Extended to June 5, Yellen Says

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Friday the projected debt ceiling deadline is extended to June 5, four days later than previously estimated.

Yet, Yellen renewed her warning in a letter to Congress that inaction on raising the borrowing limit would “cause severe hardship.”

Yellen’s latest letter to legislators on the “X-date” came as Congress broke for the long Memorial Day weekend. She said that the Treasury Department had deployed an extraordinary measure not used since 2015 to get the U.S. financial position to this point.

The X-date arrives when the government no longer has enough of a financial cushion to pay all its bills, having exhausted the measures it’s been using since January to stretch existing funds.

Earlier Friday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said his Republican debt negotiators and the White House were straining to wrap up an agreement with President Joe Biden to curb federal spending and lift the nation’s borrowing limit ahead of the fast-coming deadline.

They had hoped to end weeks of frustrating talks and strike a deal by this weekend. Treasury now says the government could start running out of money as soon as a week from Monday, sending the U.S. into a potentially catastrophic default with economic spillover around the world.

“The world is watching,” said International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva after meeting Friday with Yellen. “Let’s remember we are now in the 12th hour.”

Democrat Biden and the Republican speaker were narrowing differences, laboring to lock in details on a two-year agreement that would restrain federal spending and lift the legal borrowing limit past next year’s presidential election.

Any deal would need to be a political compromise, with support from both Democrats and Republicans to pass the divided Congress.

“We know it’s a crunch,” McCarthy said as he arrived at the empty Capitol, acknowledging more progress needed to be made.

In remarks at the White House honoring Louisiana State University’s champion women’s basketball team, Biden gave a shoutout to one of his top negotiators saying she’s “putting together a deal, hopefully.”

He was referring to Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young who attended the event as did Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana, a top Republican negotiator.

While the contours of the deal have been taking shape to cut spending for 2024 and impose a 1% cap on spending growth for 2025, the two sides remain stuck on various provisions. The debt ceiling, now at $31 trillion, would be lifted for two years to pay the nation’s incurred bills.

Lawmakers are tentatively not expected back at work until Tuesday, just two days from the June 1 “X-date” when Treasury Secretary Yellen had said the U.S. could face default.

Biden will also be away this weekend, departing Friday for the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, and Sunday for his home in Wilmington, Delaware. The Senate is on recess and will return after Memorial Day.

Weeks of negotiations between Republicans and the White House have failed to produce a deal — in part because the Biden administration resisted negotiating with McCarthy over the debt limit, arguing that the country’s full faith and credit should not be used as leverage to extract other partisan priorities.

Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings agency placed the United States’ AAA credit on “ratings watch negative,” warning of a possible downgrade.

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Pentagon Promising to Unleash Cyber Campaigns if Needed

U.S. military leaders are starting to unveil the updated Defense Department cyber strategy, calling for troops to “campaign in and through cyberspace” in order to defend the country. 

The Pentagon on Friday announced it shared a classified version of its 2023 Cyber Strategy with Congress earlier this week and promised to produce an unclassified summary of the new strategy in the coming months.

The new cyber strategy updates the previous one, issued in 2018, and “is informed by years of real-world experience of significant [Defense Department] cyberspace operations,” according to a Pentagon statement.

Those operations include 47 deployments to 22 countries by U.S. Cyber Command “hunt forward teams,” most recently to Latvia and Albania.

Hunt forward teams also played a role in securing the 2020 presidential election.

U.S. officials have likewise been learning from Russia’s attempts to use cyberattacks as part of its invasion of Ukraine.

“The department will maximize its cyber capabilities in support of integrated deterrence, employing cyberspace operations in concert with other instruments of national power,” the Defense Department said Friday in a separate, unclassified fact sheet.

It also warned that U.S. military cyber teams “will campaign in and through cyberspace below the level of armed conflict to reinforce deterrence and frustrate adversaries.”

In line with previous statements and congressional testimony from top Pentagon officials, the new cyber strategy lists China as the main threat.

“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) represents the department’s pacing challenge,” according to the strategy fact sheet. “The PRC has made significant investments in military cyber capabilities and empowered a number of proxy organizations to pursue malicious cyber activities against the United States.”

Earlier this month, the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, warned that China would very likely turn to cyberspace should tensions between Beijing and Washington boil into something more.

“In the event of a conflict with the U.S., we will almost certainly see China use aggressive cyber operations against our critical infrastructure and almost certainly be able to disrupt critical infrastructure,” Jen Easterly told a forum organized by the Special Competitive Studies Project.


Just this past week, CISA, along with the FBI, the U.S. National Security Agency and partners from Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, issued a warning about cyber activity by a China-linked threat actor known as Volt Typhoon. 


A separate report this week, issued by tech giant Microsoft, warned that Volt Typhoon “is pursuing development of capabilities that could disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises.”

It also cautioned that the Chinese-backed cyber actor already “has targeted critical infrastructure organizations in Guam and elsewhere.”

Other top threats in the 2023 Pentagon Cyber Strategy include Russia, North Korea, Iran, terror organizations and crime syndicates.

Additionally, the Pentagon said the new strategy complements the 2023 National Cybersecurity Strategy, launched by the White House earlier this year.

White House cybersecurity officials said the national strategy calls for a more aggressive response from all aspects of the U.S. government to any malicious cyber activity.

“We are certainly in a more forward-leaning position to make sure that we’re protecting the American people from these threats,” a senior administration official said during the rollout in March, adding that that included the use of military tools.

“These are options that the president has, and we’re certainly open to using all of them,” the official noted. 

Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.

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Turkey’s Presidential Candidates Eye Nationalist Support to Win

Ahead of Turkey’s presidential runoff election on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his main contender Kemal Kilicdaroglu are both eyeing voters who back the country’s various nationalist parties.

Nationalist parties like Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Good Party (IYIP), Victory Party (ZP) and Great Unity Party (BBP) received more than 23% of the votes in the parliamentary election on May 14, which made Turkish nationalists “the winner of the election,” according to some experts.

“Political parties and candidates that define themselves [as] nationalist achieved an outstanding number of votes that no one could foresee,” Ismet Akca, a political scientist formerly with Istanbul’s Yildiz Technical University, told VOA.

Kemal Can, a veteran journalist and commentator at digital media outlet Medyascope, does not find the increase in the nationalist votes significant, but thinks that the nationalist parties gained bargaining power.

“As a result of these elections, we can say that both the visibility and bargaining ability of nationalism increased rather than the numerical increase,” Can told VOA.


On Monday, the nationalist ATA alliance’s presidential candidate Sinan Ogan, who placed third in the first round of the presidential election May 14, announced his endorsement of Erdogan, who got 49.52% of the votes in the first round.

Ogan also highlighted that his candidacy made Turkish nationalists the key players in the election and explained why he is backing Erdogan as his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the People’s Alliance hold the majority in the parliament.

Even though Ogan received 5.2% of the votes in the first round, Kemal Can thinks that Ogan will not be able to carry his support in its entirety to Erdogan.

“Ogan was presented as a candidate in front of a group of voters and [received] a reaction,” Can told VOA.

“He did not collect these votes; they are not his own votes. They are the votes of an alliance and reactionary votes,” Can added.

On Wednesday, Umit Ozdag, the head of the far-right Victory Party, the leading party in the ATA alliance, endorsed Erdogan’s rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who received 44.88% of votes in the first round.

Kilicdaroglu has toughened his tone before the second round of the election as he pledged to send Syrian refugees back and to end terrorism in his campaign posters. At the same time, Erdogan has repeatedly suggested links between him and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Kilicdaroglu has denied this allegation.

Kurdish support

Ozdag and Kilicdaroglu also signed a seven-point protocol Wednesday on the principles of their cooperation. The protocol promises to deport all the refugees, including 3.6 million Syrians in Turkey, within a year and to replace elected mayors with state-appointed trustees with court rulings in case of legal proof that shows their links with terrorism.

Akca thinks the protocol is a success for Ozdag, but it puts Kilicdaroglu at risk of not receiving the Kurdish votes as he got in the first round because of the trustees.

Since the 2019 local elections, at least 48 out of 65 municipalities won by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party have been run by government-appointed trustees over terrorism allegations.

Following Ogan and Ozdag’s endorsements, the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party (YSP) on Thursday reiterated its support for opposition against Erdogan in the runoff without naming Kilicdaroglu. YSP endorsed Kilicdaroglu by name in the first round.

“Even though the party has declared its support for Kilicdaroglu, it remains a question how far it can mobilize its voters to go to the ballot box amid this radical nationalist frenzy,” Akca told VOA.

Key party

Kemal Can said that during this year’s campaign, the opposition asked the public if they wanted to see a change from the country’s current direction. The government instead framed the question as who should decide if there will be change: the Kurds or the nationalists?

“We see that nationalists entered into a power play demanding the decision-making power in a reactionary way,” Can said.

According to political scientist Akca, nationalists in Turkey see refugees and the Kurds as their main problems.

“Existing nationalism [in Turkey] has two main problems, and one is refugees because the nationalist movement has caught a streak over the refugee problem among the public. We see a nationalism based on xenophobia,” Akca told VOA.

“The second is the Kurds. ‘Let’s not allow the Kurds and the political movement representing them to become the key party.’ Sinan Ogan and the Victory Party voiced this as they were saying, ‘Everyone will see who the key is,’” Akca added.

Akca views the two different endorsements by Ogan and Ozdag, the two main actors of the nationalist ATA alliance, as “a gamble on their political futures.”

“Here, I find Umit Ozdağ, who has an organization like the Victory Party behind him, more advantageous than lone-wolf Sinan Ogan,” Akca said.