WPH

France’s secularism increasingly struggling with schools, integration

MARSEILLE, France — Brought into the international spotlight by the ban on hijabs for French athletes at the upcoming Paris Olympics, France’s unique approach to “laïcité” — loosely translated as “secularism” — has been increasingly stirring controversy across the country. The struggle cuts to the core of how France approaches not only the place of religion in public life, but also the integration of its mostly …

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Italian museum recreates Tanzanian butterfly forest

TRENTO, Italy — In a lush greenhouse high in the Alps, butterflies of various species and colors flutter freely while butterfly pupae are suspended in a structure as they grow into adult insects. This is the Butterfly Forest in the tropical mountain greenhouse in Trento, Italy, a project by the Museo delle Scienze (MUSE), an Italian science museum. It’s modeled on Udzungwa Mountains, a mountain range …

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Limits on climbing Mount Fuji are being set to fight crowds, littering

tokyo — Those who want to climb one of the most popular trails on Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji will have to book a slot and pay a fee as crowds, littering and climbers who try to rush too fast to the summit cause safety and conservation concerns at the picturesque stratovolcano.  The new rules for the climbing season, July 1 to September 10, apply for those …

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All-women rock band jams out as conservative Saudi society loosens up

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Leaning into the microphone in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Nora let loose a primal scream. Guitars wailed and drums throbbed behind her as part of a set with her bandmates during a recent show. The performance by Seera, an all-women psychedelic rock band that blends traditional Arabic melodies with the resurgent psychedelia of bands like Tame Impala, would have been unthinkable just years …

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Despite Biden’s ICC rejection, US sometimes sides with court

white house — The Biden administration denounced an International Criminal Court announcement this week that it is pursuing arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders over alleged war crimes during Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and the militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel.   “We made our position clear on the ICC,” President Joe Biden said Thursday. “We don’t recognize their jurisdiction, the way it’s …

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Myanmar violence draws global condemnation

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Allies prepare to mark D-Day’s 80th anniversary in shadow of Ukraine war  

Carentan-les-Marais, France — Agnes Scelle grew up listening to her parents’ stories about life in occupied France, living near the Normandy town of Carentan-les-Marais. She heard of the knife pushed up against her father’s throat for trying to block a strategic river, of how German soldiers held her mother at gunpoint. “They were very afraid,” said Scelle, a former postal worker and village mayor, who still …

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Allies prepare to mark D-Day’s 80th anniversary in shadow of Ukraine war 

Some of the last surviving World War Two veterans gather in Normandy, France, next month to mark the 1944 allied landings that began the country’s liberation from Nazi German control. But another war on Europe’s doorstep — in Ukraine — casts a dark shadow on this 80th anniversary of D-Day. Lisa Bryant reports from the Normandy town of Carentan-les-Marais. …

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French court issues life sentences to three senior Syrian officials for war crimes 

washington — A court in the French capital on Friday ordered life sentences for three senior Syrian government officials in a landmark case.  After a four-day trial, the Paris Criminal Court said three Syrian officials had been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the war-torn country.  The case against Ali Mamlouk, former director of Syria’s National Security Bureau; Jamil Hassan, former head …

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Mali, Russia start work on major solar plant 

Dakar, Senegal — Mali and Russia on Friday launched the construction of the largest solar power plant in West Africa, Malian Energy Minister Bintou Camara said on national television.  It comes as the country continues to be plagued by electricity supply problems, with only half of the population having access to electricity.  The power station, “the first [in terms of size] in the country and even …

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Hungary to seek to opt out of NATO efforts to support Ukraine, Orban says

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary will seek to opt out of any NATO operations aimed at supporting Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday, suggesting that the military alliance and the European Union were moving toward a more direct conflict with Russia.  Orban told state radio that Hungary opposes a plan NATO is weighing to provide more predictable military support to Ukraine in coming years to repel …

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Iran: Raisi’s helicopter caught fire after crash, no sign of attack

TEHRAN, Iran — The helicopter carrying Iran’s late President Ebrahim Raisi caught fire soon after it crashed into a mountain and there was no sign it was attacked, state media reported, citing the military’s crash investigators. The statement from the general staff of the armed forces in charge of investigating the crash was read on state television late Thursday. The first statement on the crash did …

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy marks 5 years as president of Ukraine

May 20 marked Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s fifth anniversary as Ukraine’s president. By law, the president serves five years, but elections have been postponed while the country remains under martial law. Katerina Besedina examines Zelenskyy’s challenging term so far. Anna Rice narrates. VOA footage by Elena Matusovky. …

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US, allies urge Taiwan participation in World Health Assembly

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Thai American soccer player dazzles on the pitch

Women’s soccer in the U.S. has been on the rise, bringing more girls than ever into the fold. Thai American Madison Casteen embraced soccer at a young age and aims to be one of the few Asian Americans to break into the professional leagues. Warangkana Chomchuen has the story, narrated by Neetikarn Kamlangwan. …

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More than 100 feared dead in Papua New Guinea landslide

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Thailand moves toward ratifying UN convention against enforced disappearances

BANGKOK, THAILAND — Thailand is set to ratify a U.N. convention that would see new ways to protect at-risk individuals from being extrajudicially abducted, kidnapped or disappeared.  The Southeast Asian country with a poor human rights record in recent years is seeking a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, and apparently hopes ratification will help its candidacy later this year, human rights advocates say. The …

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Russian prison population fell by 50,000 last year, media report

LONDON — The number of people held in Russian prisons dropped by 58,000 last year, Russian independent media reported on Friday, continuing a steady fall spurred in part by the recruitment of convicts to fight in Ukraine. In total, some 105,000 prisoners were released between 2022-2023, media reported, citing data published in the official journal of Russia’s prison service. Russia has one of the highest rates …

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Top UN court to rule on South Africa Gaza cease-fire bid

The Hague, Netherlands — The top United Nations court on Friday will rule on a plea by South Africa to order a halt to the Israeli military offensive in Gaza, with Pretoria accusing Israel of “genocide.” Pretoria has urged the International Court of Justice to order an “immediate” stop to Israel’s campaign, including in the southern area of Rafah, and facilitate access of humanitarian aid. Israel …

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New Caledonia airport to stay closed to commercial flights until Tuesday

Noumea, New Caledonia — The international airport in the New Caledonian capital, Noumea, will remain closed to commercial flights until at least 9 a.m. Tuesday (2200 GMT Monday), Charles Roger, director of the body that operates the facility, told AFP. That would extend the shutdown to nearly two weeks in total, after flights were halted on May 15 in the face of deadly rioting that broke …

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Sellers of Arctic land unconcerned by potential Chinese buyers

Private land in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard is being auctioned off by its owner, with strong interest from Chinese buyers, according to a lawyer responsible for the auction. Such a sale would likely cause geopolitical headaches for Norway and NATO because of Svalbard’s strategic location in the Arctic Ocean. Henry Wilkins has more. Camera: Henry Wilkins …

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Macron says he will not force voting reforms in New Caledonia

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3 US servicemembers suffer noncombat injuries during Gaza pier operation

washington — Three U.S. servicemembers suffered noncombat injuries in the effort to make a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza into a conduit for humanitarian aid, with one in critical condition at an Israeli hospital, U.S. officials said Thursday.  The injuries were the first for U.S. forces during the latest operation to deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinians.  The pier was announced by U.S. President Joe …

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Russian satellite launch renews concerns about conflict in space

The U.S. assertion this week that Russia has launched a satellite capable of inspecting and destroying other satellites prompted a denial from the Kremlin and concern from U.S. lawmakers. VOA Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson reports. Camera: Saqib Ul Islam. …

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