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Voice of America

Voice of America is an international news and broadcast organization serving Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia, the Middle East and Balkan countries


Keillor: Relationship With Accuser Simply 'Romantic Writing'

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 22:57:19 -0500

Garrison Keillor described several sexually suggestive emails he exchanged with a former researcher who accused him of sexual misconduct as "romantic writing" that never resulted in a physical relationship, and the radio host rejected the idea that because he was her boss — and the driving force of a hugely popular radio program — it could be sexual harassment. The woman responded, via her attorney, that Keillor's power over her job made her afraid to say no to him. In one of his first extended interviews since Minnesota Public Radio cut ties over the allegations against the former A Prairie Home Companion host in November, Keillor said he never had a sexual relationship with the woman, a freelance contributor to the show at the time. "No button was unbuttoned and no zipper was unzipped," Keillor told The Associated Press. "I never kissed her. ... This was a flirtation between two writers that took place in writing." Keillor also downplayed his power over the woman by portraying himself as uninvolved in the mundane operations of the radio show he created nearly a half-century ago and built into a powerhouse that attracted millions of listeners nationwide each Saturday evening, spun off assorted businesses and tours, and inspired a movie. "I was not really the boss around Prairie Home Companion," Keillor said. "I was a writer sitting in a dim office at a typewriter, back in the old days." He also said: "I had no control over her whatsoever. She worked at home." Power imbalance The woman said in an emailed response through her attorney that Keillor "had the power to provide or take away job assignments and opportunities. He also acknowledged several times that power imbalance between us, recognizing how his conduct could be offensive when it was coming from the person for whom I work." She also said she wasn't interested in anything but a "collegial" relationship with Keillor. "He was my mentor and employer," she said. "As such, he had power over me. Every time I said 'no' or tried to avoid him I feared I was saying 'no' to my future." The Associated Press does not typically name alleged victims of sexual harassment unless they have chosen to go public. MPR spokeswoman Angie Andresen said the station stood by its handling of the claims against Keillor. In January, the company said the woman had accused Keillor of dozens of sexually inappropriate incidents over several years, including requests for sexual contact and explicit sexual communications and touching. "Our decision was not based on flirtations or fantasies, but based on facts confirming unacceptable behavior in the workplace by a person in a position of power over someone who worked for him," Andresen said by email. Kelly Marinelli, founder of Solve HR Inc., a human resources consulting company in Colorado, said even when a relationship seems reciprocal, there could be problems when one person is the boss.    "In a situation where someone has power over another person and whether or not they continue to receive work ... it's very difficult for that to be a real mutual, consensual relationship," she said. ​AP views emails Before the interview, Keillor's attorneys allowed the AP to view hundreds of emails between Keillor and the woman dating from 2004 to 2017, on condition that they could be described but not quoted directly. Some were work-related, including details from her research and Keillor's critiques. But many were personal, sharing details about their families and emotional struggles from their home email accounts, and some were overtly sexual. The tone began changing in 2013, as the pair began sharing more about their lives and signing off by saying they loved and missed each other. By 2014 and 2015, the emails became more amorous. They both shared wishes or fantasies of being intimate, sometimes in detail. In one July 20, 2015, email, Keillor wrote of his desire to reach into the woman's blouse and hold her breast in his hand. Keillor was married at the time and still is. "I agree that there are adolescent [...]

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Trump Tells Defense Department to Plan Military Parade for Veterans Day

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 22:55:33 -0500

President Donald Trump said he has asked the Pentagon to stage a military parade in the nation’s capital on Veterans Day. Trump was interviewed live via telephone by Jeanine Pirro, host of Justice with Judge Jeanine on Fox News, Saturday night. They discussed the recent mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, as well as other issues, including a proposed military parade. He told Pirro that the parade would be held “probably Veteran’s Day,” which is celebrated Nov. 11, “but I like July 4th.” He said it would be “up and down” Pennsylvania Avenue, the street in Washington that runs from the White House to the U.S. Capitol. “We’ll see if we can do it at a reasonable cost,” Trump said. “If we can’t, we don’t do it.” He said the parade would include “a lot of flyovers” of Air Force planes. The Veterans Day holiday this year coincides with the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I. The military reportedly favors the November date to divorce the aura of the parade and its symbolism of U.S. military strength as much as possible from the contentious U.S. political scene, since the parade would then fall days after congressional elections, set for Nov. 6. The inspiration to hold a military parade began after Trump watched Bastille Day events in Paris last July 14, when he and first lady Melania Trump were the guests of French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte.

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Governors Welcome New Gun Debate, Skeptical Congress Will Act

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 22:01:44 -0500

Governors assessing the fallout from the latest school shooting said Saturday that the gun control debate has changed after the sorrow in Florida, a shift driven by public outrage and student activists. But they are skeptical Congress can seize the moment, overcome its partisan divide and enact measures intended to prevent more tragedies, so governors are preparing to take the lead and have states push ahead with new gun restrictions. The Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that claimed 17 lives is drawing much of the attention at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington. School safety and gun violence are expected to dominate the governors’ discussions Monday with President Donald Trump at the White House. ​'A different environment' “There’s no question we’re in a different environment,” said Gov. Bill Haslam, R-Tenn. “There’s a lot of folks looking like, is it common sense to rule out someone to buy a beer at 20, but we’ll let him buy an assault rifle?” Trump has not made any proposals to Congress. He spent much of the past week voicing support for strengthening federal background checks of gun buyers, banning “bump stock” type devices like the ones used in last year’s Las Vegas massacre, and keeping assault weapons out of the hands of anyone younger than 21. In public discussions last week with students and teachers, state and local leaders, he mused about the need for more mental institutions and allowing some trained school personnel to carry concealed weapons. Trump said he phoned Republican congressional leaders Friday, and White House officials said Trump is looking to begin meetings with lawmakers this coming week on considering a legislative response to the shooting. In a tweet Saturday, he lowered expectations that he would promote on Capitol Hill the idea of putting “gun-adept” teachers and staff in schools with concealed firearms. Democratic governors ​Democratic governors at the conference said they had little faith that Trump, who enjoyed significant support from the National Rifle Association during his 2016 campaign, would keep his word about trying to find a legislative response or that the issue would retain his attention. “What can you trust coming out of the president’s mouth on this particular issue? Particularly when you know that the NRA invested $30 million making sure he got elected,” said Gov. Dannel Malloy, D-Conn., who dealt with the aftermath of the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown. The Democratic governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island announced a partnership last week to address gun violence. The agreement would allow the governors to share data on suspects and gun purchasers. “Congress needs to act, but we’re not going to sit around and wait for them to act. We’re taking action on our own to keep people safe,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo, D-R.I. Republican governors Even Republican leaders fretted about the prospects for progress in Congress, which failed to pass gun control or background check legislation after the Connecticut shooting and has long ground to a halt on issues such as health care and immigration. Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, told The Associated Press on Friday that he has convened a diverse group of advisers on gun policy to help him develop new approaches. He also said he was looking to raise Ohio’s minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles like the one used in the Parkland shooting. Governors are watching GOP Gov. Rick Scott, who announced Friday that he would seek to raise the minimum age for purchasing any firearm in Florida to 21, and strengthening rules meant to keep guns away from those with mental health issues. It would mark the strongest gun control laws in the state in decades, defying the NRA, but falling short of what gun control advocates have demanded. “We are a strong Second Amendment state and so our focus is going to be on [...]

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Testy Exchange With Trump Leads Mexico President to Cancel Visit to White House

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 21:52:49 -0500

After a testy exchange this past week over a proposed U.S. border wall, Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled plans to visit the White House, according to a report Saturday by The Washington Post. Pena Nieto and Trump spoke Tuesday, spending a considerable amount of their nearly hourlong call on discussions of the border wall, according to sources who spoke with the Post. During his run for president, Trump made it a campaign promise that he would have a wall built along the U.S.-Mexico border to help reduce illegal immigration. He told his enthusiastic crowds that Mexico would pay for it. In the phone call Tuesday, however, the two men argued over that issue. Pena Nieto wanted the U.S. leader to say publicly that Mexico would not pay for the building of the wall, but Trump refused. One Mexican official said Trump “lost his temper” during the phone call, but U.S. officials countered that he was instead “frustrated and exasperated,” the newspaper reported. There had been plans for the Mexican leader to make an official visit to the White House in the coming weeks. A planned visit in 2017 was scrapped after the two men disagreed over the proposed wall and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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Security Council to Vote on Yemen-Related Resolution That Would Condemn Iran

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 21:09:56 -0500

The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Monday on a British-drafted resolution that would condemn Iran for violating a U.N. arms embargo by providing missiles and drones to Shiite rebels in Yemen — and commit to future action against Tehran. Kuwait's U.N. Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaiba is the current council president. He told reporters Saturday, "We are still working on the text, but the intention is to adopt it Monday morning.'' Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said this week that he opposed the draft, saying it should be about renewing the work of experts monitoring sanctions against Yemen, not condemning Iran.  The experts said in a January report that they'd identified Iranian missile remnants and other equipment introduced into Yemen after the 2015 arms embargo that were fired into Saudi Arabia. 

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Colombia Extradites Major Drug Suspect to US

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 20:57:43 -0500

A suspected drug chief known as the "Pablo Escobar of Ecuador" was extradited to the United States on Saturday, Colombia's chief prosecutor's office announced. Washington Edison Prado had tried unsuccessfully to prevent extradition by claiming membership in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a status that would have made him eligible for a type of amnesty under a peace deal. The prosecutor's office said in a statement that Prado was escorted by a detail of 50 commandos and agents of various police agencies as he was turned over to U.S. authorities. U.S. officials accuse Prado, also known by the alias "Gerald," of shipping more than 250 tons of cocaine to the United States. Police say he ran the most sophisticated smuggling route on the Pacific coast of South America, and they compared it to Escobar's Medellin cartel of three decades ago because it sought to dominate the entire cocaine supply chain from production to its distribution in the U.S. Police say his group sent as many as 10 go-fast boats a week, each carrying around a ton of cocaine. He allegedly began as a boatman running drugs along Ecuador's coast and rose to become head of a small army of smugglers spread across five countries. Prado was arrested in Colombia in April on an indictment by a Florida federal court. 

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'Touch Me Not' Wins Top Prize at Berlin Film Festival

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 20:37:51 -0500

Touch Me Not, a film about intimacy and sex that shocked some viewers with explicit scenes, won the Golden Bear prize for best film at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday. Romanian director Adina Pintilie said she had not expected to win the award for her film, which blurs reality and fiction as it follows characters who seek intimacy yet also fear it. Speaking at a news conference after collecting her Golden Bear trophy, Pintilie said the film invited viewers to feel empathy, embrace otherness and reconsider their ideas about everything. It holds a mirror up to the audience, she said. "This is why I think for many people this film might not be comfortable but at the same time we challenge you, the viewer, to dialogue and to look at yourself," Pintilie said. The Silver Bear award for best director was given to U.S. director Wes Anderson for Isle of Dogs — an animated movie about a Japanese city that deports its dogs to a garbage dump island during an outbreak of canine flu. Bill Murray, who was the voice of one of the dogs, collected the award at the gala ceremony on Anderson's behalf. "I never thought that I would go to work as a dog and come home with a bear," he joked as he held the Silver Bear trophy. Anthony Bajon received the award for best actor for his role as a drug addict who tries to kick his habit with the help of religion in Cedric Kahn's La priere (The Prayer). "I prayed a lot to receive a bear," Bajon told reporters after the awards ceremony, adding: "It's very important to show drug addicts that there is a way out of their addiction — in this movie it is the monastery, it is religion that helps this person." Brun takes best actress prize Ana Brun received the best actress award for her role as a reclusive woman who ends up taxiing older ladies around when her partner gets sent to prison in Marcelo Martinessi's Las herederas (The Heiresses). That film also won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer prize for a feature that opens new perspectives. The best screenplay award was given to Manuel Alcala and Alonso Ruizpalacios for Museo (Museum), about students stealing artifacts from Mexico City's National Museum of Anthropology in a 1985 heist that shocked the nation. Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska's Twarz (Mug) — about a man who has a face transplant after an accident — took the Silver Bear grand jury prize. Elena Okopnaya won an award for outstanding artistic contribution for costume and production design in Russian director Alexey German Jr.'s biopic Dovlatov about the 20th-century writer Sergei Dovlatov. The awards were decided by a six-person jury headed by German director Tom Tykwer. At the 11-day festival, which runs through Sunday, about 400 films are being screened. Of those, 19 were competing for the top Golden Bear prize. The "Berlinale" is one of the oldest and most prestigious film festivals in the world. While there was no overarching theme this year, there were many films about migration and portraits of artists.

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Brazil Seeks Extradition of Man Arrested in Miami for Alleged Gun Trafficking

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 19:36:25 -0500

Brazil's government is seeking the extradition of a Brazilian man it said was arrested by U.S. authorities at his Miami home early on Saturday, allegedly for shipping automatic weapons to the South American country. The arrest of Frederik Barbieri, confirmed by a Brazilian law enforcement officer, comes one week after Brazil resorted to the military to try to control violence and crime in Rio de Janeiro, where heavily armed drug gangs control the city's slums. The United States is the largest source of guns entering Brazil that end up in the hands of armed criminals and drug traffickers, according to a Brazilian police report seen by Reuters last month. Brazil has sought Barbieri's arrest since 60 automatic riles, including AK-47s and other combat rifles, were found at Rio de Janeiro airport in June hidden in a shipment of pool heaters. Barbieri denied involvement in gun running at that time, but Brazilian police have suspected his involvement since a container of ammunition was found in his name in 2010 at the port of Salvador in northeastern Brazil. Fabricio Oliveira, head of the Federal Police's disarmament unit in Rio, told reporters that Barbieri was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who seized 40 automatic weapons at his Miami home. Brazil's Ministry of Justice said it has already asked for his extradition and is waiting for a Brazilian court to approve additional documents requested by U.S. authorities. U.S. citizen Barbieri moved to Florida in 2012 and obtained U.S. citizenship, which could rule out his extradition and lead to his prosecution in the United States. "The US continues to be the largest indirect source of illegal handguns and assault rifles as a result of unrestricted sales in stores and fairs in American cities," the Brazilian Federal Police report seen by Reuters said. The December 2017 report said a study of more than 10,000 arms seized by police in Brazil since 2014, mostly in Rio de Janeiro, found that roughly 1,500 guns originated in the United States. The guns often traveled through a third country before arriving in Brazil, with Paraguay being the top intermediary. Guns from the United States tended to be assault rifles and higher caliber handguns, while guns already circulating in Brazil or arriving from other countries were smaller handguns. Eight foreign stores were named selling the most high caliber guns that ended up in Brazil, with five located in Florida, although a store in Paraguay was the largest individual seller, the report said.

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Venezuela Opens Nominations for Presidential Vote as US Protests

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 19:13:47 -0500

Venezuela is now accepting candidate registrations for its April 22 presidential elections, but opposition politicians and the United States are rejecting the terms of the poll. Tania D'Amelio, an official of the National Electoral Council (CNE), said nominations would be accepted through Monday. The council will announce which nominations are accepted by Thursday. Opposition politicians have accused the CNE of being under the thumb of President Nicolas Maduro. The presidential elections, with Maduro seeking a new term that would keep him in office until 2025, are traditionally held in December. They were moved forward by the ruling Constituent Assembly, which is controlled by the governing party. Maduro called Wednesday for snap legislative elections for the National Assembly, proposing to bring them forward by nearly two years to coincide with the April 22 poll. And he hit back at the opposition MUD coalition, which had said it would not take part in the early elections without guarantees they would be free and fair. "We are going to [hold] the elections come rain, shine or lightning, with or without the MUD," said Maduro. U.S. rejection But the United States, which under President Donald Trump has been deeply critical of Maduro's leadership in crisis-torn and economically suffering Venezuela, on Saturday rejected the call for an early legislative vote. "We reject ruling party calls to replace the democratically elected National Assembly simultaneously, rather than in 2021, as provided for under the 1999 Constitution," said a State Department statement. "Deepening the rupture of Venezuela's constitutional and democratic order will not solve the nation's crises." The statement called for "a free and fair election" involving full participation of all political leaders, the immediate release of all political prisoners, credible international observation and an independent electoral authority. The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) said Wednesday that it would not register presidential candidates, believing there were no guarantees of transparency. But it left the door open to taking part if conditions were improved. Delcy Rodriguez, president of the Constituent Assembly, has said that that body will consider possible dates for the legislative vote when it meets next week.

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French Farmers Heckle Macron at Agricultural Fair

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 18:59:00 -0500

President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday faced heckles and whistles from French farmers angry with reforms to their sector, as he arrived for France's annual agricultural fair. For over 12 hours, Macron listened and responded to critics' rebukes and questions — only to return home to the Elysee Palace with an adopted hen. "I saw people 500 meters away, whistling at me," Macron said, referring to a group of cereal growers protesting against a planned European Union free-trade pact with a South American bloc, and against the clampdown on weedkiller glyphosate. "I broke with the plan and with the rules and headed straight to them, and they stopped whistling," he told reporters. "No one will be left without a solution," he said. Macron was seeking to appease farmers who believe they have no alternative to the widely used herbicide, which environmental activists say probably causes cancer. Mercosur warning He also wanted to calm fears after France's biggest farm union warned Friday that more than 20,000 farms could go bankrupt if the deal with the Mercosur trade bloc (Brazil, which is the world's top exporter of beef, plus Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) goes ahead. Meanwhile, Macron was under pressure over a plan to allow the wolf population in the French countryside to grow, if only marginally. "If you want me to commit to reinforce the means of protection ... I will do that," he responded. And he called on farmers to accept a decision on minimum price rules for European farmers, "or else the market will decide for us." But it wasn't all jeers and snarls for Macron at the fair. He left the fairground with a red hen in his arms, a gift from a poultry farm owner. "I'll take it. We'll just have to find a way to protect it from the dog," he said, referring to his Labrador, Nemo. It was a far cry from last year, when, as a presidential candidate not yet in office, Macron was hit on the head by an egg launched by a protester.

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