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Teen’s Parents Fly to US Hoping to Meet Driver Who killed Him

Parents of the British teen killed when his motorcycle collided with car allegedly driven by an American diplomat’s wife are on their way to the U.S. hoping to seek justice.

Harry Dunn, 19, died in August in near the Croughton Royal Air Force base in Northhamptonshire, which is used by the U.S. Air Force as a communications center.

Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, told the BBC the family hopes to meet with the suspected driver, identified by British police and Prime Minister Boris Johnson as Anne Sacoolas, wife of an American intelligence officer based at Croughton.

Sacoolas claimed diplomatic immunity and returned to the United States while the case was still being investigated. She has since written a letter of apology to Dunn’s family.

But Charles said Sunday, “It’s nearly seven weeks now since we lost our boy, sorry just doesn’t cut it.

“That’s not really quite enough,” she told Sky News. “But I’m still really open to meeting her, as are the rest of us. I can’t promise what I would or wouldn’t say, but I certainly wouldn’t be aggressive.”

Charles also said the family was thankful to receive a letter Saturday from the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab that said since Sacoolas had left Britain, “immunity is no longer pertinent”.

The family is hoping Sacoolas will return to Britain.  They have even called on U.S. President Donald Trump to intervene on their behalf.

But Trump told a news conference Wednesday that Sacoolas would not return. Harry Dunn’s death was a “terrible accident,” the president said but he noted that driving on the worn side of the road “happens”.



California Becomes First US State to Ban Fur Products

California has become the first U.S. state to ban all production and sale of animal fur products.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill that will make it illegal to make, sell and even donate any new item made using animal fur starting in 2023.

The bill excludes used items, taxidemy products, fur taken with a hunting license and fur used by Native American tribes for religious purposes.

Violators of the ban will face fines of up to $500, or even $1,000 for repeat offenses.

“The signing of AB44 underscores the point that today’s consumers simply don’t want wild animals to suffer extreme pain and fear for the sake of fashion,” Kitty Block, the head of the Humane Society of the United States said in a statement.

But the Fur Information Council of America condemned the ban as being part of a “radical vegan agenda” and has threatened a court challenge.

Along with the fur ban, Newsom also approved a ban on the use of most animals in circuses. Exceptions will be made for dogs and horses.

“California is a leader when it comes to animal welfare, and today that leadership includes banning the sale of fur,” Newsom said in a statement. “But we are doing more than that. We are making a statement to the world that beautiful wild animals like bears and tigers have no place on trapeze wires or jumping through flames.”

First Asian American Presidential Candidate Scrutinized by Asian Americans

There are more than a dozen candidates running against U.S. President Donald Trump in the next presidential race, but one Democrat who is standing out in the Asian American community is entrepreneur, Andrew Yang. He may not be one of the top three candidates in the Democratic Party, but he is the first Asian American candidate to make a serious run for the White House.  He has qualified for the next Democratic presidential primary debate near Atlanta, Ga., Oct. 15, while other Democrats have not. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee reports from one of his rallies in Los Angeles.

Washington Celebrates Freedom to Read With List of Banned Books

Banned Books Week happens every year as many children in America begin a new school year. In honor of the occasion, local libraries organize readings of Harry Potter, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird and hundreds of other novels. Despite many of them being considered classical literature, they continue to be banned in some school libraries. Natalka Pisnya has the story narrated by Anna Rice. 

Ecuador Closes Border with Venezuela, Stranding Refugees

There are thousands of Venezuelans stranded at the border after the Ecuadorian government imposed new rules that bar people from entering the country without a visa. But many of the refugees are stuck because they can’t afford the $50 fee to get a visa. VOA’s Celia Mendoza reports from the Rumichaca International Bridge in Colombia.

Xi and Modi Meet, Focus on Trade, Border

Indian and Chinese leaders at an informal summit Saturday sidestepped their differences and said they will tackle a huge trade deficit that has been troubling India, and enhance measures to strengthen border security.  
In the coastal heritage town of Mamallapuram in southern India, where the two leaders met, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that “we have decided to manage our differences prudently,” and not let them become “disputes.” He said both sides will remain sensitive to each other’s concerns so that the relationship “will be a source of peace and stability in the world.”
Without elaborating, Chinese President Xi Jinping said “we have engaged in candid discussions as friends,” as they sat down for talks.
Their sharp differences over the disputed region of Kashmir that came to the fore in the weeks ahead of the summit did not figure into the one-on-one talks held for several hours between Xi and Modi, according to Indian officials.
China has strongly backed Pakistan in raising strong objections to India’s move to scrap autonomy in the disputed Himalayan region, angering New Delhi, which says it is its internal affair.
Saying that there had been “visible progress” since Modi and Xi held their first informal summit in China last year, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters that the summit had underlined that “there is no fundamental disruption and there is a forward-looking trajectory,” in their ties.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (3rd R) and China’s President Xi Jinping (3rd L) lead talks in Mamallapuram, on the outskirts of Chennai, India, Oct. 12, 2019.

The informal summits are aimed at getting past decades of mistrust that have dogged their ties since they fought a war in 1962. Parts of their borders are still disputed and both sides claim parts of each other’s territories.
The immediate focus appears to be on addressing a $55 billion trade deficit in Beijing’s favor that is a huge irritant for India, especially as it is grappling with an economic slowdown.
The two countries will establish a high-level economic and trade dialogue led by senior leaders to improve business ties and better balance their trade.  
Calling the trade deficit economically unsustainable for India, Gokhale said “there is a very significant market in China and we need to find ways in which we can enhance exports and China can increase imports.”
Gokhale said Xi had welcomed Indian investment in pharmaceuticals and textiles – areas in which New Delhi has been seeking market access.

“China is ready to take sincere action in this regard and discuss in a very concrete way how to reduce the trade deficit,” he said.  
Indian officials also said that both leaders also resolved to work together in facing the challenges of radicalization and terrorism, which continues to pose a common threat.  
The Chinese leader has invited Modi for a third informal summit in China.
From India, Xi travels to Nepal, the tiny Himalayan country wedged between the two Asian giants. The first visit by a Chinese head of state to Nepal since 1996 comes as the two develop closer ties, raising some concern in India, which worries about Beijing’s growing influence in its immediate neighborhood.
Kathmandu hopes to sign agreements to begin infrastructure projects under Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, which India has stayed away from but Nepal has joined.


Second Group of African Libya Evacuees Arrives in Rwanda

A second evacuation flight of 123 asylum-seekers from Libya landed in Rwanda late Thursday at Kigali International Airport.  Most of the 123 are young Africans who were detained in Libya on their way to Europe.  They have been taken to a transit facility in Gashora, where the United Nations refugee agency is providing them assistance. This is the second group following the first plane of 66 asylum-seekers who arrived Sept. 27 as part of a U.N. and African Union agreement with Rwanda to host 500 African evacuees.

Smaller Hong Kong Protests Held Saturday

Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrations Saturday were smaller and less disruptive than recent massive rallies that shut down much of the city.
The largest event on Saturday was a march that included thousands of protesters in the Mong Kok shopping district in Kowloon, across from the business and financial centers on Hong Kong Island.
Some black-clad protesters spray-painted government offices and subway stations with anti-Chinese messages. Others set up impromptu roadblocks. Some vandalized shuttered shops that protesters say have expressed support for Beijing.
Riot police nearby displayed a black flag to indicate they would fire tear gas but took no action during the afternoon long march. Some protesters passing by shouted obscenities at the police.
Most of the protesters were young and masked but the crowd also included a few parents with young children and babies. One father marching with his young daughter, both in masks, said he was not concerned for their safety at the demonstration but is more worried about the possible repressive control of Hong Kong by the “Chinese government in the future.”
Emergency measures
Saturday’s turnout was less that last week’s demonstrations, when tens of thousands came out, and much less than the nearly 2 million people that participated in anti-government protests in June.
For over four months, Hong Kong has been in the midst of an uncompromising standoff between increasingly defiant pro-democracy protesters and equally determined government forces backed by Beijing.

Riot police remove barricades erected by demonstrators during a protest in Hong Kong, Oct. 12, 2019.

 While China regained sovereignty over this former British colony in 1997, Hong Kong has maintained a degree of political autonomy and civil liberties including free speech and a free press that is not tolerated on the mainland.
The protests erupted over a failed extradition bill to China but has since grown into calls for direct elections for all Hong Kong officials, instead of the current system under which Beijing appoints the chief executive and committees representing Hong Kong business interests select a number of seats in the legislature.  The protesters are also demanding a release of jailed protesters, an inquiry into police abuse and even the disbandment of the police force.
Hong Kong police have used increasing force to quell the protests, employing water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets, and last week an officer shot a young protester with lethal ammunition during a scuffle with activists.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam also invoked partial emergency powers in outlawing the use of face masks that protesters have used to hide their identities and to protect themselves from tear gas attacks by police.
Since June, Hong Kong police over apprehended over 2,000 demonstrators, and nearly one-third of those arrested are under the age of 18.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip, head of the New People’s Party, credits the increased law enforcement measures with discouraging more people from risking arrest by participating in marches.
“Well in terms of the numbers of the so-called peaceful rational nonviolent protesters, those are the real peaceful demonstrators. The numbers are down a lot you know,” she said.

Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest in Hong Kong, Oct. 12, 2019.

Fire and gasoline
It is not clear, however, if the lower turnout at Saturday’s march shows declining support for the democracy movement or is a temporary lull in activity. A march last Saturday attracted only about 1,000 protesters but support rebounded with a massive demonstration the next day.
Protesters who came out on Saturday said they would not be discouraged by the threat of arrest for participating in an illegal assembly or breaking the anti-masks law.
If “enough people break the law,” one masked woman protester said, “it won’t be illegal anymore.”
The activist group Citizen’s Press, in a statement, likened the Hong Kong emergency measures taken to suppress the protests “to extinguishing a fire with gasoline.”
Gasoline bombs were ignited at a subway station in Kowloon, likely by pro-democracy activists who have been increasingly engaging in vandalism and clashes with police. No one was injured in the incident, according to the Hong Kong government.
The subway system, which had been shut down during past protest marches, was operating Saturday but scheduled to close early at 10 p.m.
Some young protesters were seen at one point changing from the black clothing associated with the protester into more colorful attire and blending into a crowd of shoppers after being told police were approaching.
Also on Saturday a group of senior citizens calling themselves the “Silver-Haired Marchers” began a 48-hour quiet sit-in at police headquarters to show support for the predominately young protesters and “uphold the core values of Hong Kong and defend the future of our younger generations,” the group said in a statement.


The Coal Industry, Composting and Art

VOA Connect Episode 91 – We learn that the transition to cleaner energy isn’t always about climate change, as coal miners in the American West are finding out. Yet those working in and running unprofitable mines are having to rethink their future, too, adapting their skills to survive.  Also on the show this week, looking back on Andy Warhol and how his artwork still resonates today.

As Trump, Moon Face Domestic Woes, Kim Jong Un Sees a Chance

Connie Kim in Washington contributed to this report.

When North Korea walked away recently from its first working-level nuclear talks with the United States in months, its negotiators cited what they referred to as U.S. inflexibility and hostile policies.

In some ways, it was a classic North Korean negotiating tactic: citing long-standing complaints about Washington as justification to yet again leave nuclear negotiations.

But the move also shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be emboldened to hold out for a better deal, believing his counterparts in the U.S. and South Korea have been weakened amid domestic political scandals, some analysts say.

FILE – U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden responds to a question in Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct. 2, 2019.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump faces a fast-expanding impeachment inquiry related to his attempts to get foreign governments to investigate political opponents, including former Vice President Joe Biden. Most opinion polls show the Democratic front-runner with a substantial lead over Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in is dealing with his lowest approval ratings ever, amid a slowing economy and a corruption scandal surrounding his new justice minister. Moon’s signature policy — engagement with North Korea — has also stalled, with Pyongyang recently labeling him a “meddlesome mediator.”

It’s not clear whether Trump and Moon’s domestic problems will necessarily prompt either leader to change his approach toward North Korea; but, the scandals could change North Korea’s calculus, making a nuclear deal more difficult, according to observers.

“I think they have good reasons to take a maximalist position,” says Chun Yung-woo, a former South Korean national security adviser. “I don’t blame Kim Jong Un for having high expectations.”

Confident Kim

Among the possible reasons for Kim’s confidence: He may believe the political calendar works in his favor, and that even the status quo brings important benefits.

FILE – Former National Security Adviser John Bolton gestures while speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Sept. 30, 2019.

Trump, who has suggested he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his outreach to Kim, is entering the final year of his first term as president, having made virtually no progress on getting rid of North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

Over the past several months, Trump has made several moves that suggest he is more eager to reach a deal, including firing National Security Adviser John Bolton, who disagreed with the North Korea talks, and speaking of the need for a “new method” to the nuclear negotiations.

Trump has also consistently downplayed the importance of North Korea’s 11 rounds of missile tests since May, including a recent firing of a medium-range ballistic missile designed to be launched from a submarine.

The U.S. president maintains that the missile tests are not long-range and therefore not a threat to the United States, even though they violate United Nations Security Council resolutions.

More leverage

By continuing medium- and short-range missile tests, Kim may be attempting to effectively erode the U.N. resolutions. And by dangling the possibility of bigger, more provocative tests, Kim appears to be attempting to gain additional leverage over Trump at a politically sensitive moment.

FILE – What appears to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) flies at an undisclosed location in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Central News Agency (KCNA), Oct. 2, 2019.

“(Kim) believes that he can influence Trump’s electoral chances,” says Chun. “Whether that’s true or not, that’s how he might believe he has the upper hand.”

Kim in April 2018 announced a moratorium on intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear tests, saying the country no longer needs such tests after having completed the production of nuclear weapons.

Although North Korea’s decision to pause those tests was self-imposed and never formalized in a written agreement, Trump later claimed credit for the change in Kim’s behavior.

With talks now stalled and a U.S. election approaching, Kim has begun routinely issuing threats to resume nuclear or ICBM tests.

“The moment Trump took credit for what Kim Jong Un did voluntarily, he gave power to Kim Jong Un to deny Trump’s self-claimed achievements,” Chun says. “Trump made himself a political hostage of North Korea.”

Kim overconfident?

But if Kim does believe he controls Trump’s reelection chances, the North Korean leader may be mistaken.

Foreign policy is rarely the deciding factor in a U.S. presidential election, and even if North Korea did resume nuclear or ICBM tests, Trump may be able to succeed in convincing the public of the need to return to a “tougher” approach, says Bong Young-shik of Seoul’s Yonsei University.

“If the North Korean nuclear threats get exacerbated, it may enhance popular support for the incumbent president, thanks to the increased sense of crisis,” says Bong.

The Trump impeachment threat, too, may not help give Kim what he desires. Even if Trump did give North Korea a favorable deal, there’s no guarantee his eventual successor would uphold it, many observers point out.

“It’s going to be very difficult, I think, for the North Koreans to be relying on anything that this administration commits to,” says Susan Thornton, who served as a senior U.S. diplomat in East Asia until 2018.

It will be “very erratic” for North Korea to deal with the Trump administration in the near term, Thornton told VOA’s Korean service.

Moon’s problems at home

How South Korea’s domestic politics may impact the North Korea negotiations is also unclear.

In some ways, Moon’s position is relatively stable; he does not leave office until 2022 and has no possibility of reelection.

Anti-government activists attend a rally in central Seoul, Oct. 9, 2019.

But with the North Korea talks stalled and South Korea’s economic growth slowing, Moon’s approval ratings have fallen into the low 40s. By comparison, Moon’s approval ratings were roughly twice that high during his first year as president.

While Moon remains more popular than many of his predecessors at this point in his presidency, he faces a growing wave of conservative opposition protests against his justice minister, Cho Kuk, who has been embroiled in fraud and corruption allegations.

So far the protests have been accompanied by mass demonstrations of support for Moon, and the situation has not prompted any major changes in his North Korea strategy, according to Jeffrey Robertson, who specializes in South Korean diplomacy at Yonsei University.

“There are much more significant hurdles to Moon’s plans, including other actors, such as the U.S. and North Korea itself,” Robertson says.

North Korea has explicitly rejected South Korea’s role as mediator, saying it no longer needs Seoul in order to meet with Washington.  

Despite the breakdown in talks, Seoul has attempted to portray the North Korea talks in a positive light, saying there is still momentum for denuclearization.

The U.S. State Department, too, has said the latest working-level talks were “good.”

The only party that seems to disagree is North Korea.

After walking out of the most recent talks, North Korea’s foreign ministry reiterated its end of year deadline, saying it will not engage in “sickening” negotiations unless the U.S. changes its unspecified “hostile policy.”