South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar returned to the country on Saturday to meet with President Salva Kiir less than a month before their deadline to form a unity government after a five-year civil war.

Machar last met face-to-face with Kiir in September, when they discussed outstanding issues in a fragile peace deal. His two-day visit includes a meeting with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who arrives Sunday with a U.N. Security Council delegation.

The delegation is expected to encourage progress in the peace deal signed a year ago but fraught with delays.

The opposition has said Machar won’t return to form the government by the Nov. 12 deadline unless security arrangements are in place.

The U.S. has said it will reevaluate its relationship with South Sudan if that deadline is missed.

The civil war killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions.

Before Machar’s return a unified army of 41,500 opposition and government soldiers needs to be ready along with a 3,000-person VIP protection force.

But so far there are only 1,000 unified soldiers and security arrangements won’t meet the deadline, deputy opposition spokesman Manawa Peter Gatkuoth said.

The previous Machar-Kiir meeting focused on speeding up the screening and reunification of forces, but parties left the talks with differing views.

Deputy chairman for the opposition Henry Odwar called the meeting “lukewarm,” while government spokesman Michael Makuei called it “highly successful” and said everything was on track for next month’s deadline.
 


Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said Saturday the murder suspect whose case was the spark that started the fire of the Hong Kong protests — an extradition proposal to allow Hong Kong to transfer suspects to Taiwan, as well as  mainland China, among other places, that Lam has announced will be withdrawn — is ready to turn himself in to Taiwanese authorities.

Lam said Chan Tong-kai wrote to her, saying he would “surrender himself to Taiwan” in connection with his alleged involvement in a murder case.

Chang is accused of murdering his girlfriend in Taiwan.  When he fled back to Hong Kong, he was arrested on money laundering charges but is expected to be released soon.

Hong Kong is facing the 20th straight weekend of anti-government protests, after both sides revealed this week that they are digging in.

Protesters say they won’t back down from their “five demands” on Hong Kong’s government, and Lam said she would make no concessions to protesters.

Lam’s hardline position was echoed earlier this week by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who went a step further and warned that anyone advocating Hong Kong’s independence from China risked “crushed bodies and shattered bones.”

But protesters say they’re not giving up. On Friday, more than 1,000 people flooded the city’s financial center, marching past banks and luxury stores, drawing hordes of curious onlookers and bringing traffic to a halt.  

The protesters’ main demands include universal suffrage, an investigation of police violence, amnesty for protesters and the full, official withdrawal of the extradition bill, which would allow mainland China to try people arrested in Hong Kong.
 
Protests have been a near-constant presence in the city since June, even though police have outlawed unauthorized protests and the wearing of face coverings during public gatherings.  

Police have not granted permission for protests planned for this weekend.   

Protests are also planned for every weekend for the rest of the year — or until one side gives in.

Fern Robinson contributed to this report.


At least 15 gold miners were killed on Saturday when a dam collapsed, flooding an artisanal mining encampment in a remote part of Siberia, officials said.

Heavy rains had weakened the dam and water broke through, sweeping away several cabins where the artisan miners lived, about 160 km (100 miles) south of the city of Krasnoyarsk.

President Vladimir Putin ordered all necessary measures to be taken to help those affected, to identify the cause of the disaster and prevent any impact on a nearby residential area, Interfax quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

Russia is one of the world’s top gold producers with most of its output coming from large professional industrial mines.

However, alluvial production, which is usually operated by small firms, still contributes some of the country’s gold.

Alluvial or artisanal gold mining in Russia is usually small-scale, but is still conducted by officially registered firms which are supposed to abide by health and safety rules.

Krasnoyarsk officials said in a statement that water released by the dam partially flooded two dormitories of the rotational camp in which 74 people lived, adding that 13 people were still missing.

A Russian investigative committee said it had launched a criminal probe into violation of safety rules at the gold mining spot, while local authorities said the collapsed dam was not registered by official bodies.

Interfax said the miners were part of Siberian privately-held Sibzoloto, which unites several artisanal mining teams.

Sibzoloto was not immediately available for comment.

Sibzoloto produced about 3 tons of gold in 2018, Sergei Kashuba, the head of Russia’s Gold Industrialists’ Union, a non-government producers’ lobby group, told Reuters. Sibzoloto is not a member of the union, he added.

Russia produced 314 tons of gold in 2018.

 


Netflix has released a movie based on the so-called Panama Papers despite an attempt by two lawyers to stop the streaming premiere.

“The Laundromat,” starring Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas and Meryl Streep, debuted Friday on Netflix after a limited release in theaters.

Two Panamanian lawyers, Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca, sued Netflix in federal court in Connecticut this week, saying the movie defamed them and could prejudice criminal cases against them. Netflix asked a judge to dismiss the suit but did not address the allegations.

The Panama Papers were more than 11 million documents leaked from the two lawyers’ firm that shed light on how the rich hide their money.

A judge ruled there was no valid reason to file the case in Connecticut and ordered it transferred to the Los Angeles-area federal court district.
 


John McAnear, a 77-year-old Air Force veteran, stood in an audience of hundreds in suburban Des Moines with an oxygen tank at his side, wheezing as he implored Pete Buttigieg to protect the Department of Veterans Affairs. 
 
The Democratic presidential hopeful skipped any attempt to bond over their mutual military service. Instead, Buttigieg offered a list of proposals to fix the VA. 
 
Of the many ways the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is different from his better-known rivals, there is this: his ingrained emotional restraint in a show-all-tell-all era. 
 
“You don’t really get the warm fuzzies from him,” said Lisa Ann Spilman, a retired Air Force officer who attended Buttigieg’s event. “But I really like how intelligent and down-to-earth he is.” 

Personal connection
 
As Buttigieg, whose campaign appears better positioned organizationally in Iowa and financially overall than former Vice President Joe Biden’s, attempts to climb into the top tier of Democrats, voters will be taking a measure of him in all ways, including whether he can make the kind of personal connection they have come to expect, at least since Bill Clinton showed he could feel their pain. 
 
Buttigieg chafes at being labeled an emotionless technocrat, and his supporters cite his intellectual agility as his main draw, particularly against someone like President Donald Trump, whose strained relationship with the truth is so frequently on display.  

FILE – Pete Buttigieg speaks during a Democratic presidential candidates debate at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, Oct. 15, 2019.

In a candidate debate Tuesday, Buttigieg showed rare outward fire, pointedly challenging Senator Elizabeth Warren on her health care plan and former Representative Beto O’Rourke on gun control. “I don’t need lessons from you on courage, political or personal,” Buttigieg said to O’Rourke. 
 
“I don’t mind being a little professorial at times,” Buttigieg acknowledged in a conversation with reporters last month. He added, “Sometimes I think I’m misread because I’m laid back. I’m misread as being bloodless.” 
 
But to describe him as wooden or mechanical gets it wrong. Upbeat in his trademark white shirt with sleeves half-rolled, Buttigieg projects energy and youthful diligence. 
 
He’s not a fiery podium speaker like Senator Bernie Sanders. He isn’t given to big hugs or open self-reflection, like Biden and Warren. 
 
In interactions with voters, Buttigieg’s style is evolving. During a late-summer stop in southeast Iowa, he noted his mother-in-law “is alive because of the Affordable Care Act,” but he moved on without describing her illness or asking if his audience had similar experiences. 
 
It’s notable because Buttigieg is trying to frame his message around empathy in what he calls the nation’s “crisis of belonging.” 

Misfiring
 
And it does not always work. When the question turned to cancer at the Iowa State Fair, he said before discussing his plans, “Cancer took my father earlier this year, so this is personal,” skipping over any elaboration of the pillar Joe Buttigieg was to his only child. 
 
When the questioner noted her family’s loss, he said politely, “I’m sorry. So, we’re in the same boat,” and then turned to a discussion of research. 
 
Buttigieg’s mother, Anne Montgomery, said that in boyhood her son was fun, curious, literate and multitalented but “a reserved person.” 
 
“It’s been a part of his life for a long time,” she said in an Associated Press interview. 
 
What Buttigieg suggests is his tendency to “compartmentalize” has been a liability for some other candidates, most notably for the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis.  

FILE – Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks with local residents at the Hawkeye Area Labor Council Labor Day Picnic, Sept. 2, 2019, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

He offered an almost programmatic answer when asked during a nationally televised debate if he would support the death penalty if his wife were raped and murdered. 
 
Dukakis, who lost in a landslide, acknowledges today that he “botched it” and that his answer fed the narrative that the pragmatic, policy-oriented Massachusetts governor was emotionless. 
 
Buttigieg, Dukakis told the AP, is warm and thoughtful, “but he also happens to be very, very bright, and that, I think, is the biggest part of his appeal.” Dukakis has endorsed his home state senator, Warren. 
 
“He’s not a typical politician,” said Kelsie Goodman, an associate principal for a Des Moines area high school who first saw Buttigieg at an event last month. “And he’s an intellectual judo master.” 
 
As the campaign progresses, there are signs Buttigieg is becoming more comfortable opening up. 
 
At an outdoor event at Des Moines’ Theodore Roosevelt High School last Saturday, he ignited laughter and cheers for his answer to a question about how he would approach debating Trump. 
 
“We know what he’s going to do, and it just doesn’t get to me. Look, I can deal with bullies. I’m gay and I grew up in Indiana. I’ll be fine,” he deadpanned. 

Concern for husband
 
In a rare personal revelation, he told reporters on a bus ride across northern Iowa that he dreaded the thought of his husband, Chasten, being subjected to the cruelties of modern politics. 
 
“Another agonizing feeling is to watch that happening to someone you love,” he said. “At least if it’s happening to me, I can go out there and fight back.” 
 
Still, what Buttigieg’s most vocal advocates praise as his coolness so far seems to be doing little to dampen views of him in Iowa, where he has invested heavily in time and money in hopes of a breakthrough finish. In a September CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll, 69% of likely Iowa caucus participants said they viewed Buttigieg favorably, second only to Warren. 
 
Where Buttigieg clearly connects personally is along the rope line with supporters and when the merely curious meet him after he leaves the stage. 
 

FILE – Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg meets with people at a campaign event Aug. 15, 2019, in Fairfield, Iowa.

In these moments, he has met people who describe their own stories of stepping out of the shadows, as Buttigieg did coming out as a gay man in 2015. Buttigieg regularly mentions Iowa teenager Bridgette Bissell, who described the courage she took from meeting him to announce she was autistic. 
 
Similar moments, Buttigieg said, prompted him to build his campaign around repairing Americans’ sense of connectedness. 
 
In Waterloo recently, local organizer Caitlin Reedy introduced Buttigieg to hundreds at a riverside rally, explaining that she was drawn to him by having experienced the uneasiness of sharing her diagnosis with diabetes. 

Picturing ‘unification’
 
Leaning forward in his chair on the bus the next day, Buttigieg said the campaign was teaching him how people — feeling left out racially, ethnically, culturally, economically — yearn to connect. 
 
“Where it comes from is going through the process of understanding that you’re different,” he said, “and then understanding that that’s part of what you have to offer.” 
 
“Join me in picturing that kind of presidency,” he told more than 600 in Waterloo, “not for the glorification of the president, but for the unification of the people.” 


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his 27 counterparts from across the European Union are converging on Brussels Thursday for a summit they hope will finally lay to rest the acrimony and frustration of a three-year divorce fight.

Yet even before dawn, Johnson had a serious setback when his Northern Irish government allies said they would not back his compromise proposals. The prime minister needs all the support he can get to push any deal past a deeply divided parliament.

It only added to the high anxiety that reigned Thursday morning, with the last outstanding issues of the divorce papers still unclear.

Technical negotiators again went into the night Wednesday to fine tune customs and sales tax regulations that will have to regulate trade in goods between the Northern Ireland and Ireland, where the U.K. and the EU share their only land border.

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attends the weekly EU College of Commissioners meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Oct. 16, 2019. EU and British negotiators have so far failed to get a breakthrough in the Brexit talks.

And they were set to continue right up to the summit’s midafternoon opening. If a deal is agreed on during the two-day summit, Johnson hopes to present it to Britain’s Parliament at a special sitting Saturday.

After months of gloom over the stalled Brexit process, European leaders have sounded upbeat this week. French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that “I want to believe that a deal is being finalized,” while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said negotiations were “in the final stretch.”

Johnson, who took office in July vowing Britain would finally leave the EU on Oct. 31, come what may, was slightly more cautious. He likened Brexit to climbing Mount Everest, saying the summit was in sight, though still shrouded in cloud.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party added to those clouds early Thursday.  DUP leader Arlen Foster and the party’s parliamentary chief Nigel Dodds said they “could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues,” referring to a say the Northern Irish authorities might have in future developments.

Both the customs and consent arrangements are key to guaranteeing an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland — the main obstacle to a Brexit deal.

Foster and Dodds said they would continue to work with the U.K. government to get a “sensible” deal. The problem is that the closer Johnson aligns himself with the DUP, the further he removes himself from the EU, leaving him walking a political tightrope.

Brexit negotiations have been here before, seemingly closing in on a deal that is dashed at the last moment. But hopes have risen that this time may be different. Though with Britain’s Oct. 31 departure date looming and just hours to go before the EU summit, focus was on getting a broad political commitment, with the full legal details to be hammered out later. That could mean another EU summit on Brexit before the end of the month.

So far, all plans to keep an open and near-invisible border between the two have hit a brick wall of opposition from the DUP.


A warming planet is triggering extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels, and loss of wildlife habitats. An American art exhibit is delving into the effects of climate change, which include melting glaciers and the destruction of coral reefs.  VOA’s Deborah Block takes us to the University of Rhode Island to see how art is used to fight climate change.