French Prosecutors Want Air France Tried for 2009 Crash 

PARIS — French prosecutors want Air France to stand trial for manslaughter in the 2009 crash of a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris that killed all 228 people aboard, a judicial official said Wednesday.  
Prosecutors also have asked that the case against Airbus, maker of the doomed aircraft, be dropped for lack of evidence. The official wasn’t authorized to speak about the case and asked to remain anonymous. 
Air France Flight 447 left Rio de Janeiro for Paris but crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009. The Accident Investigation Bureau found that external speed sensors were frozen and produced irregular readings on the aircraft, which went into an aerodynamic stall.  
A plethora of problems appear to have doomed the flight as it traveled through turbulence. The captain was on a rest break when the emergency arose, the autopilot disengaged and the co-pilots struggled to fly the aircraft manually. 
In their final summing up on Friday of the investigation, prosecutors cited negligence and insufficient training that led to chaos in the cockpit.  

Airbus had warned pilots a year earlier about possible incorrect speed readings from the plane’s external sensors, known as Pitot tubes, but changed them only after the crash.  
A report last year that was part of the judicial investigation blamed the Flight 447 pilots for failing to apply correct procedures, thus losing control of the aircraft.  
A victims group, AF 447 Victim Solidarity, contested the 2018 report, saying it freed Airbus of all responsibility in the accident. 


У Боснії встановили пам’ятний хрест монахам-студитам УГКЦ

У місті Баня-Лука в Боснії і Герцеговині духовенство Української греко-католицької церкви освятило пам’ятний кам’яний хрест з нагоди 150-ліття від дня народження блаженного УГКЦ, отця Климентія Шептицького. Цей знак, як згадка про Лавру Святого Обручника Йосифа, яка була другим монастирем монахів Студійського Уставу. У 1908 році митрополит УГКЦ Андрей Шептицький неподалік Бані-Луки заклав Студитську лавру і рівно 100 років тому, у 1909 році, Апостольська Столиця на прохання митрополита офіційно заснувала монастир.

У монастирі у 1912-1914 роках отець Климентій Шептицький і отець Леонід Фьодоров готувалися до вступу у чернече життя, тобто проходили новіціят. Обидва греко-католицькі монахи-студити померли мученицькою смертю і Папа Іван Павло ІІ у 2001 році проголосив їх новомучениками (блаженними).

«Митрополит Андрей відновив чин монахів-студитів, спричинився до реформи сестер-василіянок і служебниць, покликав в Україну редемптористів, салезіан, бенедиктинців, єзуїтів і навіть капуцинів. Він вважав, що осередками єдності Церкви мусять стати монастирі. Така концепція мала бути реалізована тут, у боснійській Камениці, коли митрополит Андрей понад 100 років тому засновував Лавру», – зауважив керівник у справах монашества у Львівській архієпархії УГКЦ Юстин Бойко під час вшанування ювілею отця Климентія Шептицького у Боснії.

У місцевій греко-католицькій церкві зберігся унікальний документ – антимінс (освячена хустина із зашитою частинкою мощів святих на престолі), підписаний митрополитом Андреєм Шептицьким 11 квітня 1913 року. На цьому антимінсі і сьогодні у Бані-Луці під час служби здійснюється таїнство євхаристії (святе причастя).

На заходах з нагоди встановлення пам’ятного хреста і вшанування 150-ти ліття Климентія Шептицького була українська громада Боснії-Герцоговини. У Бані-Луці, яка є адміністративним центром Республіки Сербської (так називається один із країв цієї держави), проживають переважно серби, але є понад 40 українських родин. За офіційною статистикою у Боснії мешкає понад 3 тисячі греко-католиків. Українці з Галичини масово переселялися в Боснію з 1908 року, коли ця територія приєдналася до Австро-Угорщини.


Jailed Uighur Scholar’s Daughter Pleads for His Freedom

STATE DEPARTMENT — “My father is a fixer, a bridge-builder, a connector. He knows that a better future is one where Han Chinese and Uighur children are in school together, are friends together and have the same opportunities,” said Jewher Ilham, who pleaded for the release of her father, prominent jailed Uighur scholar and economist Ilham Tohti. 
She also petitioned Chinese authorities to release all Uighur girls from so-called re-education camps before Beijing hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics.  
Tohti has been serving a life sentence on separatism-related charges since 2014. Chinese authorities accused him of encouraging terrorism and advocating separatism in his lectures, articles and comments to foreign media.

The scholar and economist founded the website Uyghur Online, which is aimed at promoting understanding between Uighurs and Han Chinese. He also has been outspoken about Beijing’s treatment of the minority Muslim Uighurs in the far-western Xinjiang region.  
“I have not spoken to him since 2014, and I have not seen him since we were separated at the airport in 2013. We were on our way to Indiana University, where my father was supposed to start a yearlong residency,” Jewher Ilham told participants of the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, hosted by the U.S. State Department on Tuesday.  

U.S. lawmakers’ push
The appeal came amid a renewed push from American lawmakers urging China to change how it treats Uighurs in Xinjiang. 
“The violations [in Xinjiang] are of such scale, are so big, and the commercial interests are so significant that it sometimes tempers our values in terms of how we should act,” said Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said Tuesday at the ministerial.  
“Unless we are willing to speak out against the violations of religious freedom in China, we lose all moral authority to talk about it any other place in the world,” added Pelosi.  
The House speaker also called for U.S. sanctions against Chinese Communist Party leaders in Xinjiang, who are responsible for the re-education camps. 
More than 1 million Muslim Uighurs have been detained in re-education camps that critics say are aimed at destroying indigenous culture and religious beliefs.  
American officials say the United States has stressed to Chinese authorities the importance of differentiating between peaceful dissent and violent extremism. They say Tohti’s arrest “silenced an important Uighur voice that peacefully promoted harmony and understanding among China’s ethnic groups, particularly Uighurs.”  
In January 2019, Tohti was nominated by a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers for the Nobel Peace Prize.
China rejected the nomination, calling Tohti a separatist.  
“Ilham Tohti is convicted of dismembering the nation. What he did was meant to split the country, stoke hatred and justify violence and terrorism, which cannot be condoned in any country. The international community should have a clear understanding of this,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said this year.  


NATO Commander Meets with Serb Leaders, Agrees to Kosovo Hotline

This story originated in VOA’s Serbian Service. Some information is from AP.

WASHINGTON —  NATO’s supreme commander met with Serbian political and military leaders in Belgrade on Wednesday in his first visit to Serbia since assuming the alliance’s top military post.

U.S. Air Force General Tod Wolters, who in May was sworn in as supreme allied commander in Europe, a post always held by a U.S. military officer, was first hosted by General Milan Mojsilovic, head of the Serbian Armed Forces, before meeting jointly with President Aleksandar Vucic and Defense Minister Aleksandr Vulin.

“We spoke about a wide range of topics and I am glad to say that through hard work and dedication, Serbia is promoting peace and stability in the Western Balkans,” Wolters told VOA’s Serbian Service in a prepared statement.

Wolters did not immediately respond to questions about whether or not he planned to visit Kosovo on this trip to the region.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as a country, but the EU has set normalized relations between the two countries as a condition for Serbia to advance to EU membership.

Talks mediated by EU officials have been stalled for months.

President Vucic issued a statement after meeting with Wolters, in which he called NATO-led international peacekeepers on the ground in Kosovo a guarantor of security for Serbs living in Kosovo.

Vucic also said Wolters agreed to set up an emergency communications hotline between Serbian forces and the NATO-led international peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) to rapidly defuse tensions or episodes of violence.

“Good communication between the Serbian Armed Forces and the KFOR is important so that any crisis situation in Kosovo and Metohija could be immediately prevented,” Vucic said. “This is a security guarantee for the Serbian people in Kosovo.”

Wolters, in response, expressed his support for Serbia’s efforts to maintain stability and develop cooperation in the region.

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic shake hands during an event at Veliki Kalemegdan Park in Belgrade, Serbia, July 15, 2019.

French President Emmanuel Macron met with Vucic in Belgrade on Monday, when he vowed to help jumpstart stalled negotiations to resolve Serbia’s independence dispute with former province Kosovo so a lasting solution can be found for the decades-long Balkan crisis.

Macron, making the first visit to Serbia by a French president since 2001, also expressed support for the country’s stated goal of joining the European Union even as he reiterated his belief that the EU must adopt reforms before adding more members.

Historically close ties between Belgrade and Paris were severely damaged when NATO forces bombed Serbia in 1999 over the country’s actions in Kosovo, and by France’s recognition of Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

Serbia has officially been on the path to becoming an EU member since 2008. The country also maintains close ties with Russia and China, whose mounting influence in the Balkans has raised Western concerns.

“I urged France to help us on our European road and in solving the Kosovo crisis,” Vucic said of his meeting with the French president.



Trump, Condemned for ‘Racist’ Comments, Hits Campaign Trail

U.S. President Donald Trump heads to a campaign rally in North Carolina Wednesday night, promising to continue to talk about four “vicious young Socialist Congresswomen,” a day after the House of Representatives condemned him for “racist” remarks targeting the minority lawmakers.

Trump on Twitter said he would talk to his supporters in the university town of Greenville about the U.S. economy — “the best it has ever been” — but “also about people who love, and hate, our Country (mostly love)!”

Big Rally tonight in Greenville, North Carolina. Lots of great things to tell you about, including the fact that our Economy is the best it has ever been. Best Employment & Stock Market Numbers EVER. I’ll talk also about people who love, and hate, our Country (mostly love)! 7:PM

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2019

He cited rising poll numbers in the early stages of his 2020 re-election contest and thanked the lawmakers, but told them, “America will never buy your act!”

New Poll: The Rasmussen Poll, one of the most accurate in predicting the 2016 Election, has just announced that “Trump” numbers have recently gone up by four points, to 50%. Thank you to the vicious young Socialist Congresswomen. America will never buy your act! #MAGA2020

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2019

Four Republicans joined every Democrat in the House on Tuesday night to approve a resolution condemning Trump’s “racist” remarks. At the center of the dispute was Trump’s tweet telling Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayana Pressley and Rashida Tlaib to “go back” to their countries to fix them before attacking the United States, even though all four are U.S. citizens, Somali refugee Omar as a naturalized citizen and other three citizens by birth.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks as, from left, her colleagues Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley, listen during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, July 15, 2019.

A staunch Trump supporter, Senator Lindsey Graham, said he does not think it was appropriate for Trump to tell the lawmakers to “go back” to their homelands when the U.S. is their home.

But Graham concluded, “I think the president is in a tug of war with his opponents. The question is do I think the President’s a racist? No, and let me tell you why. If you’re a Somali refugee and you’re wearing a (Trump-themed “Make America Great Again”) hat, and you’re a big Trump fan, you’d probably be having dinner at the White House. So, he lashes out at people who are critical of him, and, in his view, are hurting the country and that’s what this is all about.”

FILE – Senator Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters after a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2019.

Republican Sen. John Kennedy said he has respect for the four congresswomen and that they are “entitled to their point of view.” But he added, “I think they’re left wing cranks, and I don’t think that most Americans agree with them.”

The House resolution, which was passed 240-187, “strongly condemns” Trump’s “racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the chamber to unite “in condemning the president’s racist tweets.”

Her remark prompted a formal objection from Congressman Doug Collins, who argued the speaker’s phrase violated House decorum. A vote of the full House, however, rejected the Republican’s call for Pelosi’s comments to be struck from the record.

FILE – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 11, 2019.

The majority of Republicans rejected the resolution that condemned the president from their party.

“This ridiculous slander does a disservice to our nation,” Congressman Dan Meuser said.

Trump, who has been under fire since making the comments in a tweet Sunday, has not backed down.  He used late Tuesday tweets to praise the Republicans who voted against the resolution.

“So great to see how unified the Republican Party was on today’s vote concerning statements I made about four Democratic Congresswomen.  If you really want to see statements, look at the horrible things they said about our Country, Israel, and much more.”

Trump, who has said the lawmakers should leave the United States, was asked by a reporter during an earlier Tuesday Cabinet meeting where they should go.

“It’s up to them. Wherever they want, or they can stay,” replied the president. “But they should love our country. They shouldn’t hate our country.”



Колишній міністр закордонних справ Румунії став заступником очільника НАТО

Колишній міністр закордонних справ Румунії Мірча Джоане став заступником генерального секретаря НАТО Єнса Столтенберґа.

Північноатлантичний альянс заявляє, що Джоане «є переконаним прибічником трансатлантичних зв’язків і принесе великий досвід роботи як державний діяч і дипломат». Він стане першим румуном на посаді заступника очільника НАТО та замінить американку Роуз Гетемюллер.

61-річний Джоане раніше очолював Соціал-демократичну партію Румунії. У 2000-2004 році працював міністром закордонних справ. У 2009 він балотувався на посаду президента, але мінімально поступився Траяну Бесеско в другому турі.


Португалія припинила видавати візи громадянам Ірану

Міністерство закордонних справ Португалії припинило видавати візи громадянам Ірану та посилило охорону свого консульства в Тегерані.

Візи припинили видавати тимчасово, для надання іранцям проїзних документів застосовуватимуть альтернативні механізми. У своїй заяві міністерство наголошує, що рішення не є «політичним».

15 липня міністр закордонних справ Португалії Августо Сантуш Сілва розповів парламентському комітету, що тимчасове припинення видачі віз спричинене невказаними «безпековими причинами».


Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens Dies at 99

John Paul Stevens, who served on the Supreme Court for nearly 35 years and became its leading liberal, has died. He was 99.

Stevens’ influence was felt on issues including abortion rights, protecting consumers and placing limits on the death penalty. He led the high court’s decision to allow terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay to plead for their freedom in U.S. courts.

As a federal appeals court judge in Chicago, Stevens was considered a moderate when Republican President Gerald Ford nominated him. On the Supreme Court he became known as an independent thinker and a voice for ordinary people against powerful interests.

He retired in June 2010 at age 90, the second oldest justice in the court’s history.


AP Explains: Questions and Answers on New US Asylum Ban

A major immigration policy shift took effect Tuesday to deny asylum to anyone who shows up on the Mexican border after traveling through another country.

The dramatic move will likely have the biggest impact on Guatemalans and Hondurans, who must pass through Mexico to reach the U.S. by land. Together, they account for most Border Patrol arrests, and they tend to travel in families. The change drew an immediate lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center in federal court in San Francisco.

Here are some answers to questions about the policy, how Europe has confronted similar challenges, and how Mexico and Central American nations have responded.

How does the new policy work?

Asylum-seekers must pass an initial screening called a “credible fear” interview, a hurdle that a vast majority clear. Under the new policy, they would fail the test unless they sought asylum in at least one transit country and were denied. They would be placed in fast-track deportation proceedings and flown to their home countries at U.S. expense.

FILE – Central American migrants walk along the highway near the border with Guatemala, as they continue their journey trying to reach the U.S., in Tapachula, Mexico, Oct. 21, 2018.

There are exceptions and ways around the rule.

People fleeing persecution can apply for other forms of humanitarian protection that are similar to asylum but much harder to get. Applicants must pass an initial screening called a “reasonable fear” interview, which means that a U.S. official finds they are “more likely than not” to win their cases. The “credible fear” standard for asylum requires only that there is a “significant possibility” of winning.

There are other disadvantages. Unlike asylum, people who obtain “withholding of removal” status or protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture cannot bring relatives or be put on a path to citizenship. The anti-torture convention holds out a possibility of being sent to a third country where they would not be tortured or even sent back to their home countries if conditions improve.

The new policy also spares victims of “a severe form” of human trafficking.

How has Europe dealt with similar challenges?

The 28-member European Union applies a safe-third-country system internally. Asylum-seekers are supposed to apply for protection in the first EU country they enter. If an asylum-seeker in Germany, for example, is found to have entered Italy first, that person can in many cases be sent back to Italy to have their claim processed there. 
This system was suspended temporarily in 2015, when about 1 million migrants entered Europe irregularly, mainly by crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands before making their way through the Balkans and on to central and northern Europe.

There is also debate in Europe about which countries outside the EU can be considered safe third countries. Turkey was presumed to be a safe third country under a 2016 deal that helped reduce the migrant flow to Europe. But human rights groups questioned whether Turkey offered adequate protection to refugees.

So far, efforts to create an EU-wide list of safe third countries have not been successful. EU members make such decisions individually.

What do Mexico and Central American nations think?

Mexico has resisted U.S. efforts to become a safe third country for people fleeing persecution who are headed to the U.S. On Monday, Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico would not negotiate on the matter without congressional authorization.

FILE -The words “Tijuana, Mexico” stand on the Mexican side of the border with the U.S. where migrants wait to apply for asylum in the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, June 9, 2019.

As part of a deal to head off threatened U.S. tariffs, Mexico has, however, agreed to U.S. expansion of a program under which thousands of asylum-seekers from third countries have been forced to wait in Mexico while their claims are considered in backlogged U.S. courts. Mexico has also assigned some 6,000 members of the new National Guard to support immigration enforcement.

Under the U.S.-Mexico deal, if migration flows do not diminish significantly, both parties would enter into new talks on sharing responsibility for processing asylum claims, perhaps as part of a broader regional agreement.

Central America’s “Northern Triangle” countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have largely been silent on migration and done little beyond blaming political opponents for the problem (Honduras) or doing publicity campaigns to warn people of the dangerous journey (El Salvador).

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales was reportedly close to signing a third-country deal with Washington — which aides have denied. But on Sunday the Constitutional Court blocked it. A planned meeting between Morales and U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on Monday was abruptly called off. 
Are Mexico and the Northern Triangle safe?

The new U.S. policy does not require that transit countries be safe, but the lawsuit filed Tuesday says Mexico and Guatemala are not, citing U.S. government statements.

Gangs such as MS-13 and 18th Street are widespread in the Northern Triangle, particularly in El Salvador and Honduras. The gangs are the de facto authority in large swaths of terrain, and they extort businesses and workers. They are known to forcibly recruit teens and young men to join their ranks, and girls and young women to become “girlfriends.” In either case, saying no can mean a death sentence.

Something as innocuous as walking in the wrong neighborhood, wearing the wrong clothes or being on the wrong bus at the wrong time can get a person killed.

Honduras and El Salvador have some of the world’s highest murder rates. Last year El Salvador had a homicide rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, down half from an eye-popping 103 per 100,000 people in 2015. Honduras’ murder rate last year was 41 per 100,000 inhabitants, after peaking at 86 in 2011.

All three of the Central American nations also struggle with high poverty and scarce employment opportunities — factors that not only drive emigration but would also make it hard for refugees to build stable lives there.


Planned Parenthood to Defy Trump Abortion Referral Rule

Federally funded family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood, are defying the Trump administration’s ban on referring women for abortions, drawing a line against what they say amounts to keeping patients in the dark about legitimate health care options.

“We are not going to comply with a regulation that would require health care providers to not give full information to their patients,” Jacqueline Ayers, the group’s top lobbyist, said in an interview Tuesday. “We believe as a health care provider it is wrong to withhold health care information from patients.”

The fallout from the confrontation between the Trump administration and the clinics remains to be seen, but groups like the American Medical Association have been warning that many low-income women could lose access to basic services like contraception. Planned Parenthood’s announcement came on a day when it also replaced its president, although it’s unclear if there was any connection.

The Department of Health and Human Services formally notified the clinics Monday that it will begin enforcing the new regulation banning abortion referrals, along with a requirement that clinics maintain separate finances from facilities that provide abortions. The rule is being challenged in federal court, but the administration says there is currently no legal obstacle to enforcing it.

It’s part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to remake government policy on reproductive health.

In a statement, HHS did not address Planned Parenthood’s decision, but said the agency is committed to working with clinics so they can comply with the new rules. While abortion referrals are prohibited, HHS noted that clinicians can still offer neutral “nondirective counseling” on abortion.

With about 400 affiliated clinics, Planned Parenthood is the largest provider in the federal family planning program for low-income women, known as Title X. The program does not pay for abortions, but until now clinics had been able to refer women for the procedure. Planned Parenthood clinics have long been a target for religious and social conservatives closely allied with the administration because the clinics separately provide abortions.

Emergency funding

Planned Parenthood acted after its Illinois affiliate and an independent provider, Maine Family Planning, announced they were dropping out of the federal program. Planned Parenthood also abruptly announced the departure of its president, physician Leana Wen, who cited “philosophical differences” in a letter to the staff. Political organizer Alexis McGill Johnson was named as acting president.

FILE – Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen speaks during a protest against abortion bans outside the Supreme Court in Washington, May 21, 2019. Wen, who became the president in November 2018, was forced out of her job July 16, 2019.

Ayers said Tuesday that Planned Parenthood clinics will stop accepting federal money and tap emergency funding as they press Congress and the courts to reverse the administration’s ban. She said she’s not sure how long that backup funding will last.

The federal family planning program serves about 4 million women annually through independent clinics. Taxpayers provide about $260 million a year in grants to clinics. But that money by law cannot be used pay for abortions.

Court cases

The family planning rule is being challenged around the country in court cases that have yet to resolve the core issues involved. However, a nationwide preliminary injunction that had blocked the administration was recently set aside, allowing HHS to begin enforcing the rule.

Other administration regulations tangled up in court would allow employers to opt out of offering free birth control to female workers on the basis of religious or moral objections and would grant health care professionals wider leeway to opt out of procedures that offend their religious or moral scruples.

Abortion opponents welcomed the Trump administration’s action.

The religious conservative Family Research Council said in a statement the rule would “draw a bright line between abortion and family planning programs” and cheered the news that clinics that had been longtime participants are dropping out. That’s “freeing up funding opportunities for clinics that do not promote or perform abortions,” the statement said.

Social conservatives are a bulwark of President Donald Trump’s political base.

Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the woman.

Another requirement of the Trump administration’s rule, to take effect next year, would bar clinics and abortion providers from sharing physical space.

Abortion rate

The AMA is among the professional groups opposed to the administration’s policy, saying it could affect low-income women’s access to basic medical care, including birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

Religious conservatives see the regulation as a means to end what they call an indirect taxpayer subsidy of abortion providers.

Although abortion remains politically divisive, the U.S. abortion rate has dropped significantly, from about 29 per 1,000 women of reproductive age in 1980 to about 15 per 1,000 in 2014. Better contraception, fewer unintended pregnancies and state restrictions may have played a role, according to a recent scientific report. Polls show most Americans do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.

The Trump administration’s policy echoes a Reagan-era regulation that barred clinics from even discussing abortion with women. It never went into effect as written, although the Supreme Court ruled it was appropriate.

The policy was rescinded under President Bill Clinton, and a new rule took effect requiring “nondirective” counseling to include a full range of options for women. The Trump administration is now rolling back the Clinton requirement.