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Armenia Protest Leader on Course to Become Prime Minister

The ruling party of Armenia indicated it will support the opposition leader’s bid to become prime minister in a parliamentary vote scheduled for May 8. The decision follows weeks of protests that culminated in blockades and strikes this week. The opposition called a halt to the demonstrations Thursday as all sides negotiated a political solution. The protests erupted last month after the former prime minister was accused of manipulating the constitution to cling to power. Henry Ridgwell reports.
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National Guard Effect: A Deterrence for Would-Be Crossers?

Nearly a month has passed since President Trump called on the National Guard to beef up security along the US-Mexico border. His order, which came as a caravan of some 1,500 migrants were headed through Mexico toward the border, cited a rise in illegal crossings and called the situation a crisis. VOA’s Ramon Taylor and Arturo Martinez spoke with immigration officials and the National Guard to determine the effects of the deployment on border security and the lives of potential border-crossers.
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At Film Festival, Virtual Reality Films Merge the Digital and Physical

Virtual reality experiences are becoming more physical and more interactive. No longer just a “lean back” experience, the immersive technology is taking viewers out of the living room and into entirely new worlds. At the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, VOA’s Tina Trinh met with creators who are pushing the boundaries of the digital and physical divide.
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Rights Groups Highlight New Threats on World Press Freedom Day

As the world marks Press Freedom Day, journalists around the world face arrests, intimidation or death for doing their jobs. And while the list of the world’s most censored countries is more or less the same, new hostility against media is emerging from previously friendly quarters. Rights organizations say freedom of the press, rather than improving, is increasingly at risk. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
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Astronomers Given Detailed Map of 1.7 Billion Stars

The European Space Agency has released an updated catalogue of more than 1.7 billion stars in our galaxy, as well as other celestial bodies, such as exoplanets, asteroids and quasars. The new data gives astronomers an unprecedented three-dimensional map for studying the origin of the universe and searching for habitable planets. VOA’s George Putic has more.
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Uganda’s #Metoo Moment?

Is the #metoo movement coming to Uganda’s largest university? The school recently suspended a staff member accused of demanding sexual favors from a female student. Meanwhile, trial preparations are underway for a landmark civil suit filed by a former student who says the university failed to protect her from sexual harassment and violated her rights. For VOA, Halima Athumani reports from the university in Kampala.
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Trump Praises Teachers Amid Wave of US Teacher Strikes

U.S. President Donald Trump met with teachers of the year from several states Wednesday at the White House. Trump conferred the 2018 National Teacher of the Year award, as public teachers in many states protest low pay and criticize the administration for what they see as siphoning education funds from public schools into private alternatives. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke has more.
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Journalists Continue to Risk Their Lives for the Story

The April 30 killings of 10 journalists in Afghanistan highlight the dangers journalists face in covering some parts of the world. On VOA’s Plugged in with Greta Van Susteren, experts discuss why worldwide freedom of the press is more important now than ever. VOA’s Jesusemen Oni has more.
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Pompeo Sees Chance to ‘Change the Course of History on the Korean Peninsula’

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says President Donald Trump’s plan to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides “an unprecedented opportunity to change the course of history on the Korean Peninsula.” Pompeo was formally sworn in as the 70th U.S. secretary of state in a ceremony attended by Trump. As VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from the State Department, the secretary has been preparing for the summit and dealing with Iran and other foreign policy challenges.
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Retreat Ceremony at India-Bangladesh Border

India’s Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) last week held a joint retreat ceremony in Fulbari town of eastern West Bengal state. Held similarly like the ceremony that takes place every day before dusk at Wagah-Attari border involving Indian and Pakistani border guards, joint drills by the BSF and BGB for lowering of flags have been going on for the last few years. Hundreds of spectators were present at the retreat ceremony which was jointly inaugurated by Director Generals of BSF and BGB, Krishan Kumar Sharma and Maj Gen Md Shafeenul Islam. ‘Beating the Retreat’ has emerged as an event of national pride. The ceremony traces its origins to the early 1950s when Major Roberts of the Indian army indigenously developed the unique ceremony of display by the bands. It marks a centuries old military tradition, when the troops ceased fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew from the battlefield and returned to the camps at sunset at the sounding of the Retreat.

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Inter Korean Summit Highlights

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in April 27 in the Demilitarized Zone at Panmunjom. Their discussions centered around the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and a peace settlement.

Key facts:

– This was the first inter-Korean summit in 11 years

– It marked the first visit of a North Korean leader to the South since the Korean War

The Trump administration appears to be satisfied with the results of the meeting, believing it paved the way for the coming U.S.-North Korea summit and leaving room for U.S. President Donald Trump to pursue the specific measures he wants.

Four takeaways from the summit:

1. Inter-Korean ties:

It appeared that inter-Korean reconciliation was not aimed at resuming large-scale economic projects between the two sides, but rather, to focus on reducing military tensions, addressing humanitarian needs in the North, and people-to-people exchanges. This shows that Seoul, at least for now, is trying to reconcile with Pyongyang without undermining international sanctions against the North.

Before the summit, Moon repeatedly said the resolution of the nuclear issue would be key to meaningful progress in Seoul’s relations with Pyongyang. Seoul, however, is likely to embark on ambitious economic projects with Pyongyang once the nuclear issue is resolved and sanctions are lifted.

2. Nuclear issue

The North vowed to work toward “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula. Critics in Washington say that commitment lacks specifics. Some point out that the North’s interpretation of the peninsula’s denuclearization might be different from that of Washington, saying Pyongyang often demanded the United States withdraw its forces from South Korea and remove its nuclear umbrella from the South in return for the North giving up its nuclear weapons.

Moon’s supporters in Seoul maintain that persuading Kim to put his verbal commitment to denuclearization into writing was the goal of the summit, and the goal was achieved. They argued that specific measures of denuclearization need to be worked out between Trump and Kim at the planned summit.

3. Potential Washington-Seoul conflicts:

Whether Moon intended it or not, the outcome of the inter-Korean summit could put a strain on relations between Washington and Seoul. For example, Moon and Kim agreed to “completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain,” which could give Pyongyang an excuse to demand the suspension of joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea. Some Washington experts found the agreement too vague and warned that it could result in sweeping consequences.

The inter-Korean agreement also could have some negative implications for the overall future of the U.S.-ROK alliance. For many decades, deterrence against threats from North Korea through combined forces of the U.S. and South Korea has been the cornerstone of the alliance. As the two Koreas move closer to eachother and tension eases, the value of the U.S.-ROK alliance will begin to decrease.

Some in Washington remain skeptical Kim will denuclearize, believing his motivation for the peace offensive is to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul.

4. Kim Jong Un’s strategy:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen at Peace House of the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea, April 27, 2018.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen at Peace House of the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea, April 27, 2018.

Many experts wonder what might have motivated Kim to engage in the peace offensive. There are mainly two theories:

– Kim’s move is a show of confidence in his position on the nuclear issue. In November 2017, he declared the completion of the country’s nuclear force after the successful launch of an ICBM. Experts who believe this theory are highly skeptical of Kim’s pledge to denuclearize.

– Kim has come to grips with the reality that he must denuclearize to survive as his regime is feeling pain from international pressure. Some Washington experts questioned when and how Kim would deliver his peace offensive toward the world to his own citizens. During his meeting with Moon, Pyongyang launched a massive media campaign to get its version of the story out. North Korea’s official newspaper Rodong Sinmun ran a front-page story on the summit headlined, “a historic meeting that opened a new era of national reconciliation, unity, peace, and prosperity.”

What next?

Kim and Moon said they would pursue talks with the U.S. and China to formally end the Korean War, which ended in 1953 with a truce but not total peace.

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Spot the Fake News (VOA Connect Ep 15)

How does one avoid confirmation bias and get the real news? You fact check. But how? We go to a school in Arlington, VA where teachers are taking the initiative to help students decipher what’s real news and what’s not. And how healthy debates and critical thinking skills can make spotting fake news a little easier. Deborah Block, Camera: Mike Burke/Adam Greenbaum, producer: Zdenko Novack

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Rohingya Refugees Brace for Rainy Days

May and June bring cyclones and floods to southeastern Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled ethnic cleansing in Myanmar live in low-lying, crowded camps across the border. Aid groups warn of landslides, floods and disease outbreaks. Jason Patinkin was at the camps and spoke to refugees and aid workers frantically preparing for the storms.
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Mike Pompeo Swears In as US Secretary of State

U.S. President Donald Trump made his first visit to the State Department Wednesday for the ceremonial swearing-in of his new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“Mike is a true American patriot,” Trump said as he praised the new top U.S. diplomat.

Pompeo has vowed to bring back the “swagger” to the State Department.

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World Cup Trophy Arrives in Russia

The FIFA World Cup trophy finished its world tour on May 1, arriving back to the host country Russia. The trophy visited 51 countries across six continents. While in Russia, the trophy will go through the cities of Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Samara, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Saint Petersburg and Moscow. The worldwide football tournament will begin on June 14.

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World Record Drone Light Show

1,374 drones lit up Xi’an, China last week, breaking the record for most unmanned aerial vehicles simultaneously airborne. The drones, courtesy of the Ehang Egret UAV company, flew for 13 minutes in an organized dance of sorts. The drones spelled out political slogans, made shapes and changed colors.

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Football For the Blind

The third National Blind Football Tournament came to a close recently in Kerala, India. The Indina Blind Football Federation was established in 2016 in partnership with the Paralympic Committee of India. The aim of the federation was to promote the possibility of sports within the blind people’s community. The position players all wear face-masks to ensure that all players are on an equal plane. However, the goalies are allowed to remain partially sighted.

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Protesters Are There, But Spirit of May ’68 Missing on France’s Streets

As France marks the half-century anniversary of May 1968, a profound period of social upheaval, protesters are back on the streets, venting their anger against reforms being pushed through by the year-old centrist government of President Emmanuel Macron. But from Paris, Lisa Bryant reports the spirit today is very different from that watershed year that left an indelible mark on French politics and society.
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Rights Groups: Press Freedoms Under Threat in East Africa

World Press Freedom Day is this Thursday [May 3rd], and rights groups are warning of a deterioration of press freedom in East Africa. While countries like Eritrea and Sudan are almost always near the bottom of the global rankings on the subject, activists say the past few years have seen a troubling downturn throughout this part of the continent, including in countries like Kenya and Tanzania. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Nairobi.
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Young Nigerians Say It is Their Turn to Lead

A new generation of Nigerians under the banner “Not Too Young To Run” is striving to take its place in the halls of power. A bill to lower age requirements for political offices will soon be in the hands of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Chika Oduah reports from Kaduna State where a 28-year-old woman is running for state parliament.
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South Korea Wants US Troops to Stay After Any Peace Deal

South Korea said on Wednesday the issue of U.S. troops stationed in the South is unrelated to any future peace treaty with North Korea and that American forces should stay even if such an agreement is signed.

“U.S. troops stationed in South Korea are an issue regarding the alliance between South Korea and the United States. It has nothing to do with signing peace treaties,” said Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for the presidential Blue House, citing President Moon Jae-in.

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