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US Touts Public-Private Partnership to Assist Refugees 

Seeking to reinvigorate America’s historic role as a destination for refugees, the Biden administration this week announced a sponsorship initiative to boost and facilitate private sector involvement in supporting recently arrived refugees.

The effort is initially focused on helping newcomers from Afghanistan but is expected to serve as a model for assisting other refugee groups in the future as Washington ramps up refugee admissions after years of drastic cuts imposed by the former Trump administration.

The State Department announced a partnership with more than 250 nonprofit groups that have banded together to help Afghan families resettle in the U.S. under the umbrella Welcome.US.

The site serves as a hub for donations, volunteer efforts and stories of how ordinary Americans are making a difference in the lives of uprooted Afghan families. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as a host of celebrities, have lent support to the initiative.

“The generosity displayed by the American people in welcoming newly arrived Afghans … has been nothing short of remarkable and is a clear demonstration of our values as a nation of immigrants that welcomes refugees and vulnerable populations from across the world,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

For decades, the federal government has worked with U.S. refugee resettlement agencies to help new arrivals enroll in language training and employment services, register children in schools, apply for Social Security cards and perform other basic tasks.

The new partnership, which comes amid fierce criticism of the administration’s handling of evacuations from Afghanistan during and after the pullout of U.S. forces, aims to greatly augment the system and “catalyze support from Americans from all walks of life to support newly arriving Afghans,” according to the State Department.

According to a recent poll, 90 percent of Democrats said Americans should welcome Afghans, and 76 percent of Republicans support admitting refugees who aided the U.S. military.

More can be done

Many immigrant advocates and analysts welcomed the initiative, but some said even more could be done.

David Bier, immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said in an email to VOA that although it was “great” the Biden administration was acknowledging the private sector’s willingness to accept refugees, he urged the government to allow private individuals and organizations to sponsor refugees outside the existing publicly funded refugee caps.

“Americans’ ability to accept refugees should not be dependent on the U.S. government’s willingness to fund it and raise caps as it is now,” Bier said.

The number of refugees accepted into the U.S. each year is set by the president in consultation with Congress. As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden promised to admit up to 125,000 refugees annually, up from the cap of 15,000 set in the final year of former President Donald Trump’s administration. Once in office, Biden initially retained Trump’s lower cap but then raised it to 62,500 amid an outcry from within his own Democratic Party.

So far in fiscal 2021, which ends September 30, the U.S. has admitted fewer than 7,000 refugees, not including Afghans.

Scrambling to help new arrivals

Although private citizens are not involved in the immigration cases of resettling refugees, U.S. officials hope the private sector’s collection and sharing of resources to assist new arrivals will alleviate burdens on resettlement organizations that often scramble to arrange housing and other basic necessities for refugees.

“In the last few weeks, we served more than 100 people,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, chief executive of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a resettlement agency, speaking with reporters. “Some are coming with little more than a backpack. We know the importance of an orderly system that processes and prepares these new Afghan arrivals, helping them make informed decisions on where they ultimately want to resettle.”

Afghans who were evacuated to the U.S. without immigrant visas are being legally designated as “parolees” and not technically as refugees. That distinction, under current U.S. law, means they have a complex immigration road ahead of them.

Though they are temporarily protected from deportation and are permitted to apply for work authorization, being paroled into the country does not confer immigration status, grant access to public benefits or constitute a path to U.S. citizenship.

Immigrant advocates have urged Congress to pass legislation that would protect those under parole designation and allow them to apply for permanent residence.

Others have arrived under the Special Immigrant Visa program, which automatically places them on a path to permanent residency followed by U.S. citizenship, a process that can take more than five years.

As of September 14, 64,000 evacuees from Afghanistan had arrived in the United States, joining roughly 132,000 Afghan immigrants in the country, most of whom arrived in the last decade.

Immigrant advocates say new arrivals from Afghanistan will greatly benefit from the support system provided by Welcome.US as, initially, they will have lower incomes than America’s overall foreign and native-born populations. 

Blinken Vows to Urge Arab Countries to Normalize Ties With Israel

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday he would urge Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel.


Blinken spoke at a virtual gathering with officials from Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. The meeting was held on the first anniversary of U.S.-brokered diplomatic agreements reached last year known as the Abraham Accords.


Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said during the meeting he would visit Bahrain later this month, the first such visit by an Israeli minister to the country since the pacts were reached. He said the accords were open to new members as well.


U.S. President Joe Biden has supported the agreements brokered by former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.  


The Palestinians have perceived the deals as a betrayal because they further weakened a longstanding Arab position that recognition of Israel should be linked to progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.


Senior Biden administration officials have said they want more Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel, but until Friday’s meeting, the administration had been reluctant to observe the anniversary of the agreements.


Blinken touted the deals and their economic benefits and said, “This administration will continue to build on the successful efforts of the last administration to keep normalization marching forward.”


The secretary of state said he would also help Israel develop better relations with Sudan, which reached a breakthrough with Israel last year, and Egypt and Jordan, countries with longstanding peace deals with Israel.


Some information in this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.


WHO: Political Polarization, Legal Hurdles Hamper Closure of Guantanamo Bay

The U.S. has ended its longest running foreign war, with the full withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan on August 31. But several challenges remain, including what to do with terror suspects still detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. VOA’s Yuni Salim explores in this report narrated by Nova Poerwadi. 

Camera: Yuni Salim   Produced by: Yuni Salim


Fighting Fire with Fire in US to Protect Sequoia Trees

With flames advancing toward the signature grove of ancient massive trees in Sequoia National Park, firefighters on Thursday fought fire with fire.

Using firing operations to burn out flammable vegetation and other matter before the wildfire arrives in the Giant Forest is one of several ways firefighters can use their nemesis as a tool to stop, slow or redirect fires.

The tactic comes with considerable risks if conditions change. But it is routinely used to protect communities, homes or valuable resources now under threat from fires, including the grove of about 2,000 massive sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest by volume.

Here’s how it works:

It’s all about the fuel

Three things influence how hot and fast a fire burns: the landscape, with fire burning faster up steep slopes; weather, with winds and dry conditions fanning flames; and fuel, the amount of material that can burn.

The first two can’t be controlled, but there are ways to reduce fuels long before any fire breaks out — or even as one is approaching.

“Of all the things that affect fire behavior, the fuels is really where we can take action,” said Maureen Kennedy, a professor of wildfire ecology at the University of Washington.

Historically, low- to moderate-severity fires every five to 30 years burned out excess brush and timber before deadly fires in the early 20th century led to aggressive firefighting and a U.S. Forest Service policy to suppress all fires by 10 a.m. the day after they were reported.

That led to dense forests of dead trees, fallen logs and overgrown brush that accumulated over the past century, fueling more massive fires.

Slowing fire by creating fire

For centuries, Native Americans have used fire to thin out forests.

Prescribed burns set under favorable weather conditions can help mimic the lower-intensity fires of the past and burn off excess fuels when they are not at risk of getting out of control. If fire eventually burns the area, it will likely do so at lower intensity and with less damage.


The idea is the same during a wildfire. Fire chiefs try to take advantage of shifting winds or changing landscapes to burn out an area before the fire gets there, depriving it of the fuel it needs to keep going.

“They’re trying to achieve the same effect,” Kennedy said. “They’re trying to moderate the fire behavior. They’re trying to remove the fuels that make the fire burn so intensely.

Of course, their goal there is to better contain and control the fire and protect the more valuable resources.”

Safely setting mild fires

All wildland firefighters learn about burnout operations in basic training, but it takes a higher level of training to plan and carry out firing operations.

“You need to know how to fight fire before you light fire,” said Paul Broyles, a former chief of fire operations for the National Park Service.

Burning an area between the fire front and a projected point — such as a firebreak or the Giant Forest in Sequoia — requires the right conditions and enough time to complete the burnout before the fire can reach a fire line constructed by firefighters.


Often such operations are conducted at night when fires tend to die down or slow their advance as temperatures cool and humidity rises.

The convection of a fire pulls in winds from all direction, which can help. As fires climb steep terrain, burnouts are sometimes set on the other side of a ridge so any embers will land in an area where dry grasses and brush have already burned.

The firing operations require a crew making sure the fire does not spread in the wrong direction. It may also include bulldozers cutting fire lines or air tankers dropping retardant to further slow the flames.

All of it has to work in sync, Broyles said.

“Air tankers by themselves do not put fires out unless you follow up with personnel,” he said. “It’s like the military. You don’t just bomb the hell out of your enemy without ground troops.”

While burnouts are commonly used, they can backfire if winds shift or they aren’t lit early enough.

“When you put more fire on the ground, there is a risk,” said Rebecca Paterson, a spokesperson for Sequoia National Park. “It carries the potential to create more problems than it solves.”

Broyles said there were times he didn’t get a burnout started in time and firefighters had to be evacuated.

“Fortunately, in my case, we didn’t have any losses,” he said.

Small flames to protect giant sequoias

Firefighters on Thursday were conducting burnout operations in the Giant Forest at almost a micro level, moving from tree to tree, Paterson said. Ground cover and organic debris known as duff close to the trees was being set on fire, allowing the flames to creep away from the tree to create a buffer.

The General Sherman and other massive conifers were wrapped in aluminum blankets to protect them from the extreme heat.

The park was the first in the West to use prescribed fire more than 50 years ago and regularly burns some of its groves to remove fuels. Paterson said that was a reason for optimism.

“Hopefully, the Giant Forest will emerge from this unscathed,” she said. 


Republican Who Voted to Impeach Trump Exits 2022 Race

Congressman Anthony Gonzalez, one of 10 US House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in January, said Thursday he would not seek reelection, citing the “toxic” atmosphere in a party that remains enthralled by the former president.

The two-term back-bencher from Ohio stressed that family considerations played a substantial role in his decision, but he acknowledged the difficult political scenario, one in which he would have had to face a Trump-endorsed primary challenger next year.

“While my desire to build a fuller family life is at the heart of my decision, it is also true that the current state of our politics, especially many of the toxic dynamics inside our own party, is a significant factor in my decision,” he said in a statement.

Gonzalez was more blunt in an interview in Thursday’s New York Times, assailing Trump as “a cancer for the country” for inspiring his supporters to launch the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.

“I don’t believe he can ever be president again,” he told the daily.

Gonzalez, a 36-year-old conservative, is the first among the House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump to retire rather than endure what is undoubtedly a brutal season of primaries ahead.

Trump, who remains hugely influential in the party, has made clear he will work tirelessly to help defeat those Republicans who sought to oust him.

They include Liz Cheney, who lost her House Republican leadership position when she refused to tone down her criticism of the former president.

Trump has already announced his support for a former Trump aide, Max Miller, running for Gonzalez’s seat.

Several House Democrats tweeted out their appreciation of Gonzalez after his announcement.

He and the other Republicans who voted to impeach Trump “are paying a price for doing the right thing,” congressman Brendan Boyle said. “But they will be vindicated by history.” 

Lawyer Charged in Probe of Trump-Russia Investigation 

The prosecutor tasked with examining the U.S. government’s investigation into Russian election interference charged a prominent cybersecurity lawyer on Thursday with making a false statement to the FBI. 

The case against the attorney, Michael Sussmann, is just the second prosecution brought by special counsel John Durham in 2½ years of work. Yet neither case brought by Durham undoes the core finding of an earlier investigation by Robert Mueller that Russia had interfered in sweeping fashion on behalf of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and that the Trump campaign welcomed that aid.

It lays bare the wide-ranging and evolving nature of Durham’s investigation. In addition to having scrutinized the activities of FBI and CIA officials during the early days of the Russia probe, it has also looked at the behavior of private individuals like Sussman who provided the U.S. government with information as it scrambled to determine whether Trump associates were coordinating with Russia to tip the election’s outcome. 

Suspect worked with Clinton campaign

The indictment accuses Sussmann of hiding that he was working with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign during a September 2016 conversation he had with the FBI’s general counsel, when he relayed concerns from cybersecurity researchers about potentially suspicious contacts between Russia-based Alfa Bank and a Trump organization server. The FBI looked into the matter but found no connections. 

Sussmann is a former federal prosecutor who specializes in cybersecurity.

Sussmann’s lawyers, Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth, said their client is a highly respected national security lawyer who had previously worked in the Justice Department under both Republican and Democratic administrations. They said they were confident he would prevail at trial and “vindicate his good name.” 

“Mr. Sussmann has committed no crime,” they said in a statement. “Any prosecution here would be baseless, unprecedented, and an unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Department of Justice is supposed to do its work.” 

The Alfa Bank matter was not a pivotal element of the Russia probe and was not even mentioned in Mueller’s 448-page report in 2019. Still, the indictment may give fodder to Russia investigation critics who regard it as politically tainted and engineered by Democrats. 

Sussmann’s former firm, Perkins Coie, has deep Democratic connections. A then-partner at the firm, Marc Elias, brokered a deal with the Fusion GPS research firm to study Trump’s business ties to Russia. That work, by former British spy Christopher Steele, produced a dossier of research that helped form the basis of flawed surveillance applications targeting a former Trump campaign official, Carter Page. 

Firm accepts resignation

A spokesman for Perkins Coie said Sussmann, “who has been on leave from the firm, offered his resignation from the firm in order to focus on his legal defense, and the firm accepted it.” 

The Durham investigation has already spanned months longer than the earlier special counsel probe into Russian election interference conducted by Mueller, the former FBI director, and his team. The investigation was slowed by the coronavirus pandemic and experienced leadership tumult following the abrupt departure last fall of a top deputy on Durham’s team. 

Though Trump had eagerly anticipated Durham’s findings in hopes that they’d be a boon to his reelection campaign, any political impact the conclusion may have once had has been dimmed by the fact that Trump is no longer in office. 

The Durham appointment by then-Attorney General William Barr in 2019 was designed to examine potential errors or misconduct in the U.S. government’s investigation into whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was conspiring with Russia to sway the outcome of the election. 

A two-year investigation by Mueller established that the Trump campaign was eager to receive and benefit from Kremlin aid and documented multiple interactions between Russians and Trump associates. Investigators said they did not find enough evidence to charge any campaign official with having conspired with Russia, though a half-dozen Trump aides were charged with various offenses, including false statements. 

Until now, Durham had brought only one criminal case — a false statement charge against an FBI lawyer who altered an email related to the surveillance of Page to obscure the nature of Page’s preexisting relationship with the CIA. That lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation. 

Blinken Defends Deal to Share Nuclear Submarines with Australia

The United States, Britain and Australia are hailing the announcement of a new security pact that will see Australia getting U.S. nuclear-powered submarine technology in a bid to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. China has condemned the deal, and France is outraged, after Australia abandoned its submarine deal with Paris. VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports.

Producer: Bakhtiyar Zamanov

Judge Blocks Expulsions of Migrant Families Under Trump-Era Order

A U.S. district judge on Thursday blocked the expulsion of migrant families caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, exempting them from an order put in place by former President Donald Trump’s administration early in the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Judge Emmett Sullivan said the block of the order would go into effect in 14 days. 


U.S. President Joe Biden has faced growing pressure from some immigration advocates, health experts and fellow Democrats to end the so-called Title 42 order that has essentially cut off access to asylum for hundreds of thousands of migrants. 


Title 42, which has been in effect since March 2020, will still apply to single adults, who represent most of the migrants arrested trying to enter the United States. 


Biden in February exempted unaccompanied children from the expulsion policy, and his administration has been applying it to fewer families apprehended at the border. 

Many NYC Employees Disappointed with Return to Work Order

Nearly all of New York City’s 300,000 employees were required to be back at their workplaces this week as the city ended remote work. But not everyone is pleased with the way the return was rolled out. More with VOA’s Mariama Diallo.

Vietnam President to Seek Allies Against COVID-19 During US Visit

The global battle against COVID-19 is expected to be top of mind for Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc when he travels to the United States for the U.N. General Assembly session next week, following a weekend stopover in Cuba. It remains unclear whether he will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden or other Western leaders on the sidelines of the U.N. session. 


Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry announced plans for the visit Wednesday, saying Phuc will pay an official visit to Cuba from September 18 to September 20 before arriving in New York to attend the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly. He will be in the United States from September 21 to September 24. 


In his first overseas trip since being elected president by the National Assembly in April, Phuc is expected to introduce Vietnam’s diplomatic policy to the United Nations. In an interview Thursday with Vietnamese media, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dang Hoang Giang stressed that Phuc would express Vietnam’s desire to work with other countries on COVID-19 prevention and other urgent problems. 


Giang said Phuc will meet with other leaders in New York to discuss ways of controlling the pandemic and speeding economic recovery. The former prime minister also will meet with leading U.S. vaccine manufacturers to seek the “earliest, fastest, and most effective possible delivery commitments for Vietnam, as well as medicine, equipment, and medical supplies to prevent COVID-19.” 


Aside from the pandemic, analysts will be paying close attention to see who Phuc meets on the sidelines of the General Assembly debate, particularly since this will be the first U.S. visit by a Vietnamese leader since the 13th National Party Congress in late January. 


The visit coincides with Biden’s first in-person meeting with his fellow QUAD leaders — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Phuc held phone talks Wednesday with Suga, but it remained unclear whether he will meet in New York with Biden or any of the other QUAD leaders. 


A source familiar with the matter told VOA that Phuc is expected to meet in New York with Korean President Moon Jae In. VOA also learned that Vietnam has been trying to arrange such a meeting with the U.S. side. 


Vietnam considers the annual U.N. session in New York, which attracts dozens of world leaders, as a good opportunity for party-to-party and people-to-people diplomacy. Phuc also may reach out to thank Americans who have worked to help Vietnam overcome the impact of the toxic defoliant Agent Orange, which was widely used by the United States during the Vietnam War. 


“Bilateral activities in the United States are expected to make important contributions to enhancing the cooperation between Vietnam and the new U.S. administration, promoting the well-developed Comprehensive Partnership, and be consistent with the shared goals and interests of both Vietnam and the United States,” Giang said Thursday. 


He said Phuc also will meet with members of the U.S. business community to “inform about Vietnam’s efforts in controlling and repelling the pandemic and restoring production, thereby helping strengthen confidence and attract more investment from U.S. investors, businesses and partners.” 


Earlier this month, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh received U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Christopher Klein and representatives from U.S. enterprises and investors in Hanoi. The Americans told the Vietnamese leader about their operations in Vietnam, describing their problems and making proposals related to supply chains, logistics, work permits and access to vaccines.


Chinh affirmed Vietnam’s commitment to its vaccination campaign and said the country will double down on efforts to advance the proposals made by the U.S. businesses. 


Vietnamese state media reported that Chinh also asked the Americans “to boost closer coordination with Vietnamese ministries, sectors and localities so as to effectively implement pandemic containment measures, maintain production activities, ensure social welfare for workers and facilitate Vietnamese businesses’ investment in the U.S.” 

Amid Pandemic, Harlem Groomer Gives Back to Community

Brian Taylor, an immigrant from Sierra Leone who is known in New York City as the Harlem Groomer, lost 80% of his non-essential business during the pandemic. But he found a unique way to keep doing his job, and along the way inspired a national movement. Elena Wolf has the story, narrated by Anna Rice. 

Camera: Max Avloshenko, Dmitrii Vershinin 


FDA Says Third Dose of Pfizer Vaccine Boosts Immunity

A review issued Wednesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says a third dose of Pfizer’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine boosts a person’s immunity against the virus, but said the current regimen still provides enough protection against severe illness.

The FDA is considering Pfizer’s request to offer a third shot of its vaccine, which the drugmaker says is needed as its effectiveness wears off between six to eight months after the second dose. Pfizer submitted a preliminary study to the FDA that suggested a third dose of the vaccine given to more than 300 people boosted their immunity levels three to five times higher than after the earlier shots.

Pfizer also cited a study from Israel, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, that showed infection rates were 11 times lower among people age 60 and older who received a third dose of the vaccine. About 1 million people took part in the study.

Pfizer has applied for permission to offer a third dose as the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 has triggered a dramatic new surge of infections, hospitalizations and deaths around the world.

But the FDA said in its review that recent studies “indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death in the United States.”

The U.S. government drug regulator’s vaccine advisory committee will meet Friday to discuss whether the agency should approve Pfizer’s request. The committee’s recommendation is non-binding, meaning the FDA could approve the third Pfizer dose even if the committee recommends against it.

Both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month recommended a third shot of the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine for some people with weakened immune systems.

The FDA meeting will be held days after an international group of vaccine experts published an essay in The Lancet medical journal in opposition to providing booster shots of current vaccines to the general population.

Experts say recent studies show the current vaccines in use around the world continue to provide strong protection against the virus, including the delta variant, especially against severe illness and hospitalization.

The authors include two key officials in the FDA’s vaccine review office who are leaving their posts before the end of the year. The New York Times recently reported that Dr. Marian Gruber and Dr. Philip Krause are upset over the Biden administration’s recent announcement that booster shots would be offered for some Americans beginning next month, well before the FDA had time to properly review the data.

The authors suggest that modifying the vaccines to match the specific COVID-19 variants is a better approach than providing extra doses of the original vaccine.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, has called on wealthy nations to forgo COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for the rest of the year to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have more access to the vaccine.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters. 

US Jobless Benefit Claims Increase, but Still Near Pandemic Low

First-time claims for U.S. unemployment compensation increased last week but remained near the low point during the 18-month coronavirus pandemic, the Labor Department reported Thursday. 


A total of 332,000 jobless workers filed for assistance — up 20,000 from the revised figure of the week before. In part, benefit claims increased because Hurricane Ida’s drenching rains played havoc with the economy in the southern state of Louisiana. 


Still, the claims figures for the last month have been on the whole the lowest since the pandemic swept through the U.S. beginning in March 2020, although they remain above the 218,000 average of 2019. 


The jobless claims total has fallen steadily but unevenly since topping 900,000 in early January. Filings for unemployment compensation often have been seen as a current reading of the country’s economic health, but other statistics are also relevant barometers. 


Even as the U.S. government said last month that its world-leading economy grew by an annualized rate of 6.6% in the April-to-June period, in August it added only a disappointing 235,000 more jobs. Economists said that figure was partly reflective of the surging delta variant of the coronavirus inhibiting job growth. 


The number of new jobs was down sharply from the more than 2 million combined figure added in June and July. The unemployment rate dipped to 5.2%, which is still nearly two percentage points higher than before the pandemic started in March 2020. 


About 8.7 million workers remain unemployed in the U.S. There are nearly 11 million available jobs in the country, but the skills of the available workers often do not match what employers want, or the job openings are not where the unemployed live. 


The size of the U.S. economy – nearly $23 trillion – now exceeds its pre-pandemic level as it recovers faster than many economists had predicted during the worst of the business closings more than a year ago. 


How fast the growth continues remains an open question. 


For months, the national government had sent an extra $300 a week in unemployment compensation, on top of often less generous state aid, to jobless workers. But that extra assistance has now ended throughout the country. About 7.5 million jobless workers were affected by the cutoff in extra funding. 


In addition, the delta variant of the coronavirus poses a new threat to the economy.


Political disputes have erupted in numerous states between conservative Republican governors who have resisted imposing mandatory face mask and vaccination rules in their states at schools and businesses, although some education and municipal leaders are advocating for tougher rules to try to prevent the spread of the delta variant. 


U.S. President Joe Biden has ordered workers at companies with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated or be tested weekly for the coronavirus. In addition, he is requiring 2.5 million national government workers and contractors who work for the government to get vaccinated if they haven’t already been inoculated. 


In recent weeks, about 150,000 new cases have been identified each day in the U.S., and more than 1,500 people are dying from COVID-19 daily.


More than 65% of U.S. adults now have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and overall, 54.1% of the U.S. population of 332 million. 

US Backs Lithuania in Row With China Over Taiwan

The United States is backing Lithuania in the face of what American officials describe as China’s “coercive behavior” after Vilnius recently became the first European country since 2003 to allow Taiwan to open a representative office.On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis met for talks at the State Department. The meeting followed a call on August 21 in which Blinken “underscored ironclad U.S. solidarity” with Lithuania in the face of China’s “coercive behavior.”“Lithuania and the United States are very strong partners in NATO. We stand together for collective defense and security. We stand against economic coercion, including that being exerted by China,” Blinken said Wednesday.Wednesday was the United Nations’ International Day of Democracy. Landsbergis said it’s “truly symbolic” that the NATO allies “reaffirm our commitment to defend democracy, liberty, human rights across the globe.”On this International Day of Democracy, we celebrate a system that responds to the will of the people, respects human rights, and benefits the many, not the few. We look forward to the upcoming #SummitforDemocracy to demonstrate #DemocracyDelivers.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) September 15, 2021Members of Congress have also expressed support for Lithuania’s position on Taiwan. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez in a tweet praised “Lithuania’s courageous efforts to stand up for Taiwan, as well as democracy activists in Belarus, Russia and Cuba.” Menendez met with Landsbergis on Tuesday.Honored to meet my friend @glandsbergis and discuss Lithuania’s courageous efforts to stand up for Taiwan, as well as democracy activists in Belarus, Russia and Cuba. pic.twitter.com/F8L7EX18kd— Senate Foreign Relations Committee (@SFRCdems) September 14, 2021China has long had a policy of urging countries not to develop closer ties with Taiwan, and this week a spokesperson in Beijing pushed back against American officials’ characterization of Beijing’s tactics.“The label of coercion can never be pinned on China,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during a Tuesday briefing.“The U.S. should immediately stop ganging up with others to wantonly smear China and stop provoking confrontation and disputes. Such tricks wouldn’t work on China,” Zhao said.In July, Lithuania became the first European country to allow Taiwan, a self-governed democracy, to open an office in Vilnius with the name of “Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania.” Other nations often designate such offices with the name “Taipei Representative Office” or “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” to avoid offending China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory.The Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania is set to open this fall, marking the first time in 18 years that Taiwan has opened a new representative office in Europe. The last time Taiwan established a representative office in Europe was in 2003, with the name of “Taipei Representative Office in Bratislava, Slovakia.”Lithuania’s move has already led to repercussions and economic retaliation from China. In August, China’s government asked Lithuania to withdraw its ambassador to Beijing while recalling its own envoy to Vilnius. In a statement, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged “the Lithuanian side to immediately rectify its wrong decision, take concrete measures to undo the damage, and not to move further down the wrong path.”The Baltic Timesreported on August 22 that Beijing had stopped approving new permits for Lithuanian food exports to China. The report cited a Lithuanian official saying the country’s talks with China on export permits for feed, non-animal products and edible offal had stopped.China has also reportedly halted direct freight trains to Lithuania.A Lithuanian Railways spokesperson, Gintaras Liubinas, told Newsweek: “We have received information through our customers that several freight trains from China will not arrive in Lithuania at the end of August and in the first half of September. Meanwhile, transit trains pass through Lithuania in the usual way.”On September 3, Lithuania recalled its ambassador to China. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry expressed regret over China’s actions, but said the Baltic country is ready to develop mutually beneficial ties with Taiwan. The top EU diplomats in China also met to show solidarity with Lithuania Ambassador Diana Mickevičienė as she departed Beijing.@SecBlinken is meeting with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis @GLandsbergis Wednesday. In their 8/21 call, Blinken “underscored ironclad U.S. solidarity” with #Lithuania “in the face of the People’s Republic of #China’s coercive behavior,” per @StateDept#立陶宛https://t.co/1HqFO1f9HW— VOA Nike Ching 张蓉湘 (@rongxiang) September 15, 2021The meeting between the top diplomats of the United States and Lithuania follows Monday’s call between U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė of Lithuania.Sullivan reaffirmed strong U.S. support for Lithuania as it faces attempted coercion from the People’s Republic of China, according to the White House.In another move to show solidarity with Lithuania, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa has urged the EU to stand with Lithuania against Chinese pressure. Slovenia holds the six-month EU presidency.Jansa said in a letter, dated Monday, that China’s decision to withdraw its ambassador to Lithuania over a dispute about Taiwan was “reprehensible” and would hurt EU-China ties, according to Reuters report.

Afghans Confused Over Status in US

Thousands of Afghans, after undergoing traumatic experiences leaving their home country, are relieved to be safe in the United States. But many find the U.S. immigration system confusing and hard to decipher on their own. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look at how evacuees are coping with starting the next chapter of their lives in a foreign country.
Camera: Mike Burke

California Grove of Giant Sequoias Threatened by Wildfire

One of California’s most famous groves of giant sequoias is threatened by a small but intense wildfire burning in Sequoia National Park, officials said Wednesday. The roughly 7,000-acre KNP fire complex is burning about a mile away from the Giant Forest, home to the largest tree on earth by volume, dubbed General Sherman, said Rebecca Paterson, a public information officer for the National Park Service in Three Rivers, near where the fire is burning. About 115 employees have been evacuated from the park, along with residents of the eastern part of the town, Paterson said. The park was closed Tuesday as the fire began to threaten the Giant Forest, one of about 30 such groves and most visited, she said. FILE – A tourist stands next to the General Sherman giant sequoia at Sequoia National Park in California, March 9, 2014.The fires making up the complex grew significantly on Tuesday with zero containment, the federal InciWeb fire information system said Wednesday. The complex, made of two blazes that are burning near each other, was started by lightning strikes on September 10. It is burning in steep canyons, fueled by dry timber and chaparral. Dry conditions and winds of up to 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph) may help the fire expand in coming days, the InciWeb system said. Air quality in the area is poor, and parts of Three Rivers where people have not been ordered to leave have been warned to be ready to evacuate, Paterson said. The National Park Service has been conducting prescribed burns in the area, which officials hope will ameliorate the impact on the giant sequoias if the complex does reach them, she said. Sequoias depend on fire as part of their life cycle, but some massive, intense fires fueled by climate change may do more damage than in the past. “Even if fire does reach the Giant Forest, that does not mean it will be devastating once it gets there,” Paterson said. Three Rivers is near the Ash Mountain Main Entrance to Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to the town’s website. It is home to about 2,400 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Ex-Minneapolis Police Officer’s Murder Verdict Reversed in Australian Woman’s Death

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed the third-degree murder conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an Australian woman in 2017, saying the charge doesn’t fit the circumstances in the case.
Mohamed Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a dual U.S.-Australian citizen who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home. He was sentenced to 12 1/2 years on the murder count but was not sentenced for manslaughter.
The ruling means his murder conviction is overturned, and the case will now go back to the district court, where he will be sentenced on the manslaughter count. He has already served more than 28 months of his murder sentence. If he is sentenced to the presumptive four years for manslaughter, he could be eligible for supervised release around the end of this year.
Caitlinrose Fisher, one of the attorneys who worked on Noor’s appeal, said she’s grateful that the Minnesota Supreme Court clarified what constitutes third-degree murder, and she hopes that will lead to greater equity and consistency in charging decisions.  
“We’ve said from the beginning that this was a tragedy but it wasn’t a murder, and now the Supreme Court agrees and recognizes that,” she said.  
Messages left Wednesday with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, were not immediately returned.
The ruling could give former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin grounds to contest his own third-degree murder conviction in George Floyd’s death in May 2020. But that wouldn’t have much impact on Chauvin, since he was also convicted of the more serious count of second-degree murder and is serving 22 1/2 years. Experts say it’s unlikely Chauvin would be successful in appealing his second-degree murder conviction.
The ruling in Noor’s case was also closely watched for its possible impact on three other former Minneapolis officers awaiting trial in Floyd’s death. Prosecutors had wanted to add charges of aiding and abetting third-degree murder against them, but that’s unlikely to happen now. The trio are due to go on trial in March on charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.
In Wednesday’s ruling, the court said that for a third-degree murder charge, also known as “depraved-mind murder,” the person’s mental state must show a “generalized indifference to human life, which cannot exist when the defendant’s conduct is directed with particularity at the person who is killed.”
The justices said that the only reasonable inference that can be drawn in Noor’s case is that his conduct was directed with particularity at Damond, “and the evidence is therefore insufficient to sustain his conviction … for depraved-mind murder.”  
State law has defined third-degree murder as “an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.” A central dispute has been whether “dangerous to others” must be read as plural, or if the fatal act can be directed at a single, specific person.
Fisher argued on appeal that the language requires that a defendant’s actions be directed at more than one person, and that the law is meant for cases such as indiscriminate killings.
But prosecutors urged the Minnesota Supreme Court to uphold the third-degree murder conviction, saying that nearly all killings by officers are directed at a specific person.
“If you maintain that a person cannot be convicted of third-degree murder … if their actions are directed at a particular person, there is not going to be an officer-involved shooting that can be prosecuted under Minnesota’s depraved-mind murder statute,” Hennepin County prosecutor Jean Burdorf said during oral arguments in June.
Noor testified in his 2019 trial that a loud bang on his squad car made him fear for his and his partner’s life, so he reached across his partner from the passenger seat and fired through the driver’s window. Fisher told the Supreme Court justices that “it would be very hard to imagine” that an officer’s “split-second reaction to a perceived threat” would count as a “depraved-mind murder” but that other charges could be justified instead, such as manslaughter.
“Mohamed Noor did not act with a depraved mind. Mohamed Noor was not indifferent to human life,” Fisher said during her arguments before the Supreme Court. “With the benefit of hindsight we now know that Mr. Noor made a tragic split-second mistake. But if there is to be any meaningful difference between murder and manslaughter, that mistake is not sufficient to sustain Mr. Noor’s conviction for third-degree murder.”
She said Wednesday that she had not yet talked to Noor, but knows the opinion will mean a lot.
“He really believed that he was saving his partner’s life that night, and instead, he tragically caused the loss of an innocent life,” she said. “Of course, that is incredibly challenging, but I think just having reaffirmation that a mistake like that isn’t murder will mean more than words can say,” Fisher said. 

Biden Meets With Business Leaders to Discuss COVID-19 Vaccinations for Workers

U.S. President Joe Biden meets Wednesday with corporate executives to discuss COVID-19 vaccinations for workers as infections in the U.S. surge among the unvaccinated. Biden said Thursday the Labor Department was planning to impose a vaccine requirement on companies that employ at least 100 people. He said the companies must require workers to be fully vaccinated or provide a negative test at least once a week.About 100 million employees would be subject to the requirements, the president said.The new vaccination and testing requirements are part of a broader push by the Biden administration to contain the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus. The variant is the cause of a spike in infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S.Although vaccinations are free and widely available, only 55% of Americans have been fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Research Center.Biden and the business leaders will meet at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House. A White House official said the executives who will attend are with companies that have instituted vaccine requirements or are in the process of doing so.While the Business Roundtable and some other business groups support Biden’s vaccination and testing requirements, some Republican lawmakers have threatened to sue the Biden administration, arguing Biden has exceeded his authority.The White House official said the meeting hopefully will serve “as a rallying cry for more businesses across the country to step up and institute similar measures.”Some information in this report was provided by the Associated Press and Reuters.

2 Women of Color to Face Off in Boston Mayoral Race

A preliminary runoff election in the northeastern U.S. city of Boston has narrowed the field of mayoral candidates to two women of color, ensuring the city’s next elected mayor will be someone other than a white man for the first time in about 200 years. Two city councilors, Michelle Wu, who is of Taiwanese descent, and Annissa Essaibi George, a self-described Arab Polish American, won Tuesday’s runoff, defeating three other candidates that included acting Mayor Kim Janey. Wu and Essaibi George will face off in November.  Janey was the first woman and Black city resident to hold the position of acting mayor. She was appointed after Mayor Marty Walsh’s U.S. Senate confirmation as labor secretary in March. All five runoff candidates are people of color, an indication of the rapidly changing demographics in the city, where the latest U.S. census figures show that Boston residents who identify as white make up only 44.6% of the population. The figures also show that 19.1% of the city’s residents are Black, 18.7% are Latino and 11.2% are of Asian descent. Whichever woman wins the November election will govern a city with a history of racial strife. Violence erupted in the mid-1970s, when the city sought to racially integrate its public schools to comply with federal law. At that time, mobs of white adults and teens threw rocks at buses transporting Black students to all-white schools in South Boston.  Simmering racial tensions in Boston escalated again in the late 1980s, when Charles Stuart, a white man, falsely accused a Black man of killing his wife. Some information in this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters. 

China, US Tug-of-War Tightens as Both Try to Cement Friendships around Asia

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s Asia tour this month following visits to the same region by two U.S. officials will intensify a superpower tug-of-war. Analysts say smaller countries can get a bounty of assistance from both China and the United States as long as they avoid offending Beijing.Countries in Asia stand to get military equipment and training from Washington along with economic aid from Beijing, which is already building core infrastructure in much of Eurasia. Both nations are passing out COVID-19 vaccinations. Smaller, sometimes impoverished nations stand to be rewarded by both sides unless they get too cozy with Washington, scholars believe.“This soft power competition between the U.S. and China has some benefits to the smaller countries where they can be an object of courting in the soft power competition, but at the same time the room for maneuver for them is also increasingly narrowed,” said Alexander Vuving, professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii, a U.S. Department of Defense institute.Wang on Friday reached Vietnam, his first of four stops, to discuss trade, economic ties and political trust. Vietnam said it is taking “its relations with China as a top priority in its foreign policy.” This may cause tension with the U.S. which, since 2017, has pushed for a stronger partnership with Hanoi.Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi walk into meeting room in Hanoi, Vietnam, Sep.11, 2021.The Chinese foreign minister’s visit coincided with a deal Vietnam signed with Japan to allow for exports of Japanese defense equipment and technology. Vietnam’s acquisition of these goods appears to be in response to China’s growing aggressiveness and influence in the region.The United States looks to Asia for allies in checking the expansion of China, though analysts say it is not known for punishing smaller countries that hew toward Beijing.Vaccine diplomacyWang pledged 3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses after the U.S. government offered 1 million new doses in August. The U.S. also agreed to set up a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regional office in Hanoi. Vietnam’s case shows “a competitive flavor” between superpowers, said Yun Sun, co-director of the East Asia program at the Stimson Center in Washington.Over the weekend Wang took another 3 million doses to Cambodia, which also accepted a $270 million grant from China, the VOA Khmer service reported. Cambodia already leans strongly toward China over the United States, Vuving said, and Wang hopes to lock in that preference.The Balancing actIn Singapore on Monday, Wang said on his ministry’s website that China hopes to “deepen practical cooperation.” Both China and the United States see Singapore as a neutral, sometimes analytical force in Asia, with China particularly happy when the city-state calls for calm, Sun said.Vietnam and Singapore have achieved a “balancing act” between superpowers, Vuving said. Earlier this month, China deepened bonds with the Philippines through an aid pledge after the Southeast Asian state agreed to restore a Visiting Forces Agreement with the U.S. government, an analyst told VOA. Why China Would Give More Aid, Investment to Leery PhilippinesManila vies with Beijing over access to disputed South China Sea and has warmed this year toward United States, Chinese Cold War rivalU.S. forces have helped train Filipino counterparts for any potential operations in the South China Sea, parts of which Manila and Beijing dispute.Consequences of US tiesSouth Korea, which Wang visited Tuesday and Wednesday, shows what China can do when a country veers too close to the United States, said Stephen Nagy, senior associate professor of politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo.After Seoul agreed with Washington to install a missile detection system that might see into China as well as its archrival North Korea, in March 2017, Beijing banned package tours to South Korea and caused a double-digit percentage decline in Chinese visits.China also has “engaged in economic coercion” against Australia and Taiwan when once friendly ties became strained, Nagy added.This month South Korea became one of the world’s few countries with the capability to fire ballistic missiles from “extremely quiet” submarines. This is part of a “strategic arsenal” that will cause concern in China given Seoul’s longstanding alliance with Washington, said Steven Kim, a visiting research fellow with the Jeju Peace Institute in South Korea.Wang will probably talk to Korean counterparts about health and economic cooperation “with stern implicit comment” that it should value its economic ties with China, Nagy forecast.“I think that the overall diplomacy is one that would be characterized by trying to produce constructive engagement, but of course, telling states that Wang Yi will be visiting that they need to proceed carefully in terms of the kind of relationships they’re building with the United States,” he said.Experts: China Renewing Effort to Squelch US Influence in Southeast AsiaChinese defense head Wei Fenghe visited peers in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines last week. He suggested that maritime disputes be settled among Asian leadersBack-to-back diplomacyWang’s visit follows trips by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in July to Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines  as well as U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s trip to Vietnam and Singapore last month. US Vice President Raises Rights Issues During Visit to VietnamVietnam has been the target of global criticism for limiting free speech, a free press and clamping down on those it considers political dissidentsU.S. and Chinese officials have done back-to-back diplomacy in the past, including the Chinese defense minister’s whirlwind Asia tour a year ago this month following anti-China statements by then-U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.The recent flurry of visits shows a growing Sino-U.S. “rivalry,” Sun said. For smaller countries “to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks, that’s going to be hard because with great power competition in mind, neither Beijing nor Washington is leaving stones unturned to push for their own agenda,” she said.  

How a Dog Turned Lawyer’s Life Upside Down and Helped Thousands

In 2009, Mirah Horowitz was an ambitious lawyer working in the U.S. Senate. However, she felt lonely and decided to foster a dog. A black lab Sparkie became Horоwitz’s first rescue dog and seemed to effortlessly change her whole life. Liliya Anisimova has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.Camera: David Gogokhia  

US Justice Department Files Emergency Motion Against Texas Restrictive Abortion Law

The U.S. Justice Department has filed an emergency motion with a federal judge asking him to block the southwestern state of Texas from enforcing a new law that bans nearly all abortions in the state.   In a 45-page motion filed late Tuesday with a federal district court, the Justice Department argued that the new law, commonly known as Senate Bill 8, was drafted “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights” to obtain an abortion.  The emergency motion is the second legal action the Biden administration has taken against Texas over the new law, after filing a lawsuit last week citing the same legal grounds.   The new law, which took effect on September 1, outlaws abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy — which opponents say is well before most women are even aware they are pregnant — with no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.    Texas is among a dozen mostly Republican-led states that have enacted so-called “heartbeat” abortion bans, which prohibits the procedure once a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, often at six weeks, and sometimes before a woman realizes she is pregnant. Courts in the past have blocked such bans, ruling they did not conform to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision giving women in the U.S. the constitutional right to an abortion without excessive government interference.      The Texas anti-abortion law is also unusual in that it gives private citizens the power to enforce it by allowing them to sue abortion providers and anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks. Those winning such lawsuits would be entitled to at least $10,000.    The Justice Department called this provision “an unprecedented scheme that seeks to deny women and providers the ability to challenge S.B. 8 in federal court.” The U.S. Supreme Court declined to block Texas from implementing the new anti-abortion law in a 5-to-4 decision earlier this month that enraged supporters of Roe v. Wade, including President Joe Biden, who warned that  “complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women.”   Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.  

California Voters Reject Attempt to Remove Gov Newsom in Recall Election

Voters in the western U.S. state of California have rejected an effort to remove Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom from office.   Nearly 70% of voters overwhelmingly voted “no” in ending Newsom’s tenure early, with just more than 30% voting “yes,” according to figures released shortly after polls closed in the large state late Tuesday night.   The Associated Press, CNN and NBC News are all projecting the recall effort has failed. Speaking to reporters early Wednesday morning as the results showed him prevailing, Newsom said he was humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercised their fundamental right to vote.” WATCH: California election Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 4 MB480p | 6 MB540p | 8 MB720p | 15 MB1080p | 32 MBOriginal | 96 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioThe recall was launched by Republicans angered over Newsom’s strict COVID-19 rules throughout the pandemic, including school closures and restrictions on small businesses such as bars and restaurants.  Organizers secured enough signatures of registered voters to force the recall on the ballot. Voter opinion surveys in the days leading up to Tuesday’s vote showed Larry Elder, a staunch conservative radio talk show host, was the leading candidate among more than 40 would-be successors to serve out the remainder of Newsom’s term in office, which ends next year. Newsom equated the recall effort, and especially Elder’s presence on the ballot, to former President Donald Trump, a deeply unpopular figure among Democrats.  “We defeated Donald Trump, we didn’t defeat Trumpism. Trumpism is still alive, all across this country,” the governor said.   “I want to focus on what we said ‘yes’ to as a state: We said yes to science, we said yes to vaccines, we said yes to ending this pandemic,” he said earlier in his remarks.   Newsom is a prominent figure among national Democrats, having previously served as mayor of the city of San Francisco and California lieutenant governor before he was elected governor in 2018.  He enlisted the help of several Democratic luminaries in his effort to fight off the recall, including President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, a fellow Californian, and former President Barack Obama.   A potential defeat in a state dominated by Democrats could signal major problems for Biden and congressional Democrats heading into next year’s midterm legislative elections. He is the second California governor to face a recall vote. The first one in 2003 removed Democrat Gray Davis and installed popular Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Some information in this report came from Reuters and the Associated Press.  

Priorities Are Shifting for US Job Seekers in COVID Era

Now that federal unemployment benefits have expired, unemployed Americans are being encouraged to apply for about 10 million job vacancies nationwide. But as VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias explains, concerns about the COVID-19 delta variant and low wages are prompting some to reassess their job-hunting priorities.Camera and producer: Verónica Balderas Iglesias