Will Russia join next year’s G-7 summit? The question is being considered after U.S. President Donald Trump raised the idea ahead of the group’s annual summit this week in France. The group voted to suspend Moscow’s membership in 2014 after it annexed Crimea, which Russia continues to hold. Trump says it’s time for them to rejoin. Anna Rice reports on whether that’s likely to happen.
 


President Donald Trump has abandoned his fight with Congress over slashing $4 billion in foreign aid and will allow the appropriated funds to be spent. But the State Department says it agreed with the White House to “redirect all funding that does not directly support our priorities.” VOA Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more from Washington.
 


VOA State Department Correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report.

WHITE HOUSE — The trade war between Washington and Beijing further escalated Friday.

The United States will additionally hike tariffs on Chinese products, President Donald Trump announced.

Terming China’s announcement Friday of additional tariffs on $75 billion worth of American products “politically motivated,” Trump said he is retaliating by increasing the 25% tax, effective October 1, on $250 billion on goods of products from China to 30%.

Additionally, Trump announced on Twitter, the tariffs on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese goods to be imposed September 1 will rise from the 10% level to 15%.

….Sadly, past Administrations have allowed China to get so far ahead of Fair and Balanced Trade that it has become a great burden to the American Taxpayer. As President, I can no longer allow this to happen! In the spirit of achieving Fair Trade, we must Balance this very….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019

…Additionally, the remaining 300 BILLION DOLLARS of goods and products from China, that was being taxed from September 1st at 10%, will now be taxed at 15%. Thank you for your attention to this matter!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019

Trade talks between the United States and China are tentatively set to resume next month in Washington.

VOA asked Trump Friday night if he still wanted those negotiations to proceed.

“At this moment they want to do that,” the president replied before he boarded the Marine One helicopter for the start of his trip to the G-7 leaders’ summit in France. “I’m always open to talks.”

FILE – China Shipping Company containers are stacked at the Virginia International’s terminal in Portsmouth, Va., May 10, 2019.

Ordering companies to leave China

Hours earlier, Trump declared he is “ordering” American companies “to immediately start looking for alternatives to China” after Beijing announced it is raising tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. goods and resuming 25% tariffs on American autos, in retaliation against Trump’s September 1 duty increase.

In a series of tweets, the U.S. president said the companies should bring their manufacturing home. 

Our Country has lost, stupidly, Trillions of Dollars with China over many years. They have stolen our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year, & they want to continue. I won’t let that happen! We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019

Asked, as he departed the White House, under what authority he could do that, Trump told reporters to look up the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, enacted in 1977, which authorizes the president to regulate international commerce after declaring a national emergency in response to extraordinary threats originating outside the United States.

“I have the absolute right to do that,” Trump stated.

FILE – Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell speaks at a news conference following a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, May 1, 2019, in Washington.

Markets drop

The escalating trade war unsettled markets Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average of the New York Stock Exchange closed down more than 620 points, a loss of 2.37%.

Trump, before boarding the helicopter Friday night, brushed off the plunge in share prices, saying that since the time of his November 2016 election “we’re up 50 percent or more.”

Trump, earlier on Twitter, also criticized Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, both before and after he made a closely watched speech at the institution’s annual symposium in the state of Wyoming.

Powell indicated that the Federal Reserve, which cut interest rates last month for the first time in a decade, is willing to make another reduction to keep the U.S. economy growing, but he did not specify the amount or the timing of such action.

That angered the president, who tweeted: “As usual, the Fed did NOTHING! It is incredible that they can speak’ without knowing or asking what I am doing, which will be announced shortly.” The president then added: “My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or (Chinese Communist Party) Chairman Xi?”

Xi is also China’s president.

Our Country has lost, stupidly, Trillions of Dollars with China over many years. They have stolen our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year, & they want to continue. I won’t let that happen! We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019

Trump has repeatedly referred to Xi as a friend and touted his relationship with Xi as a way to achieve significant breakthroughs on trade and other major issues.

China’s commerce ministry, earlier Friday, stated it will be imposing additional tariffs of 5% or 10% on a total of 5,078 products originating from the U.S., including agricultural products, crude oil, small aircraft and cars.

Chinese tariffs on some U.S. products would take effect September 1 and on others December 15.

“America’s manufacturing workers will bear the brunt of these retaliatory tariffs, which will make it even harder to sell the products they make to customers in China,” said Jay Timmons, the president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Manufacturers.

“While we share the president’s frustration, we believe that continued, constructive engagement is the right way forward,” said Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Time is of the essence. We do not want to see a further deterioration of U.S.-China relations.”

Rick Helfenbein, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, said: “This is not how you negotiate. This is tit-for-tat exercise that is hurting Americans and distracting from the task at hand — creating a sustainable trade agreement that solves long-standing and deep-seated issues.”

“The administration needs to rise above the fray and start negotiating for the American people,” Helfenbein added.

Analysts are expressing fears that if there is no truce soon in the trade war with China, it could lead to a recession in the United States.

However, Trump is holding firm to his policies.

“Our economy is doing great. We’re having a little spat with China and we’ll win it …” he said Friday night. Adding, “I think that our tariffs are working out very well for us, people don’t understand that yet…”

“We’re not going to lose close to a trillion dollars a year to China,” Trump told reporters Friday. “This is more important than anything else right now, just about, that we’re working on.”
 


Міністр закордонних справ Литви Лінас Лінкявічус привітав українців із 28-ю річницею незалежності держави, звернувшись через соцмережі українською мовою.

«Шановні друзі, шановні українці! 80 років тому пакт Ріббентропа-Молотова поділив Європу, але не зруйнував єдності наших народів. Литва та Україна завжди йшли разом шляхом свободи, Литва підтримувала і підтримуватиме боротьбу України за свободу і територіальну цілісність. З Днем незалежності, Україно! За Вашу і нашу свободу!» – ідеться в привітанні Лінаса Лінкявічуса.

Литва є послідовним союзником України. Вона підтримує територіальну цілісність та незалежність України як за допомогою дипломатії, так і наданням військової допомоги.

Литва була першою державою, від якої Україна отримала летальну зброю. Литовські військові інструктори працюють на українських полігонах із серпня 2015 року.


Сьогодні, 24 серпня, Україна святкує 28-й День Незалежності.

Акт незалежності було ухвалено Верховною Радою УРСР в 1991 році. На його підготовку розробникам дали півтори години.

Один із авторів, колишній дисидент Левко Лук’яненко пригадує, що документ вийшов коротким не стільки через брак часу, скільки через острах, що комуністи захочуть прискіпливо його обговорити.

«Треба було такий документ скласти, щоб він не викликав ніяких дискусій, щоб за нього проголосували «змаху», – пригадує Левко Лук’яненко. 

Зрештою, після кількох правок у документі залишилося чотири речення. 24 серпня вдень текст оприлюднили у парламенті, а ввечері акт проголосили на Софійській площі. 

«Убезпечити» проголошену незалежність України у парламентській опозиції вирішили проведенням Всеукраїнського референдуму. Колишній голова Інституту національної пам’яті, а в 1991-му член президії Верховної Ради Ігор Юхновський був першим, хто висловив цю ідею.

За його словами, він наполягав на референдумі, бо був упевнений, що без цього заходу пізніше акт можна буде скасувати. «Референдум був найважливішим з усього. Щоправда, проти нього виступали навіть деякі члени Народної Ради. Але я наполягав: референдум є обов’язковим», – додає Ігор Юхновський.

1 грудня на Всеукраїнському референдумі понад 90% учасників підтримали Акт проголошення незалежності.

Напередодні в Україні відбулися урочистості з нагоди Дні державного прапора. Підняття державного прапора з участю президента України 23 серпня 2019 року відбулося на Софійській площі в Києві.


A wildfire burning north of Anchorage has destroyed 51 homes and three businesses, officials said Friday.

Another 84 buildings between the communities of Willow and Talkeetna, about 70 miles north of the state’s largest city, also have been destroyed, fire information manager Kale Casey said.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated because of the fire that started Sunday night along the Parks Highway, the main thoroughfare that connects Anchorage to Denali National Park and Preserve and Fairbanks. 

The exact cause of the fire is under investigation, but officials have said it was human-caused.

Homeowners at one of two evacuation centers had closed-door meetings Friday with officials from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to learn the fate of their homes, Casey said. Others who were not at evacuation centers have not been notified.

The wildlife is one of two major blazes in Alaska.

The fire had blackened nearly 6 square miles (16 sq. kilometers) and was 10% contained, said Tim Mowry, a spokesman for the Alaska Division of Forestry. 

About 100 firefighters, 20 engine crews and three helicopters were fighting the fire, he said. Another 100 firefighters were expected to arrive Sunday.

“They’re dropping water and retardant on and around it, but we really need people on the ground to reinforce those aerial assets,” Mowry said.

Conditions were dry, giving the fire ample fuel, Casey said. A forecast of increased winds for Saturday has fire managers on edge, and additional residents were told to be ready to evacuate if needed.

“With conditions so dry in this area, a 15 mph (24 kph) wind is a significant event,” Casey said. “The ground fuels are extremely resistant to control.”

Alaska’s fire season is usually over by now, but hot, dry conditions have extended it. Alaska recorded its warmest month ever in July.

It’s unusual for firefighters to be sent to Alaska from other states this time of the year.

“Usually, our crews are in the Lower 48 by now, helping out there,” Mowry said.

Another large wildfire is burning south of Anchorage, in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. It started in June but was reinvigorated. It had burned about 222 square miles (575 square kilometers) and was 20% contained.

Smoke from the two fires has made Anchorage smoky, prompting health warnings and leading schools to cancel outdoor activities.


Work crews in Arizona and New Mexico forged ahead Friday with construction of taller border fencing funded through a national emergency declaration by President Donald Trump.

The work on his hallmark campaign promise involves mostly replacement fencing along a 46-mile stretch of desert west of Santa Teresa, New Mexico, and on 2 miles of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. 

At the New Mexico site, about 20 workers placed rebar frames for concrete footers along the path of the wall. A 50-foot crane towered over the site, standing out on the treeless brushland and cracked washes that stretch for miles in every direction.

Workers broke ground between Columbus and Santa Teresa — small towns near ports of entry along the border between New Mexico and the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. 

In Arizona, crews were installing 30-foot (9-meter) steel fencing to replace older barriers next to a border crossing known as Lukeville Port of Entry.

Funds redirected from Defense Department

Both projects are being funded with money initially allocated to the Defense Department that was redirected by Trump’s executive order.

Use of the money was previously frozen by lower courts while a lawsuit proceeded. Last month, however, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the use of about $2.5 billion.

A border wall was a keystone of the president’s 2016 election campaign, but Congress has resisted funding all of it. This year it allocated $1.4 billion, but the president wanted much more. 

The administration has awarded $2.8 billion in contracts for barriers covering 247 miles (390 kilometers), with all but 17 miles (27 kilometers) of that to replace existing barriers instead of expanding coverage. 

Various forms of barriers already exist along 654 miles (1,046 kilometers) — about a third — of the border.

The construction comes as immigrant apprehensions have fallen sharply over the past two months due to the summer heat and a clamp down in Mexico.

Tens of thousands of people have come to the U.S. over the past year. Most are Central American families with children who turn themselves in to agents instead of trying to dodge them.

Environmentalists turn to courts

Environmentalists have sued over some of the construction contracts for the fencing, saying the government unlawfully waived dozens of laws so it could build on protected lands.

Conservationists say a wall — and its construction— would be detrimental to wildlife habitat and would block the migration of animals such as bighorn sheep and wolves. Two cases are pending in U.S. courts.

“It’s astonishing and sad to see Trump’s border wall being built through the most spectacular Sonoran desert ecosystem on the planet,” Laiken Jordahl, borderlands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity, said Thursday.

Jordahl hoped the courts would step in to protect Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

The vast park is known for its oddly shaped cactuses that resemble organ pipes and for its many saguaros.

Vistors warned

Signs all over the park warn visitors that they might encounter smuggling activity. Until five years ago, large swaths of the park were closed to the public due to dangerous conditions and following the 2002 shooting death of Kris Eggle, a park ranger who died while pursuing suspected drug cartel members.

Groundbreaking occurred Thursday along the portion of existing fencing that stretches west from Lukeville Port of Entry, Border Patrol spokesman Jesus Vasavilbaso said. 

Many Arizona residents use the crossing on their way to Rocky Point, a beach destination in Mexico.

Construction is expected to take about 45 days. The government then plans to tackle two other projects in Arizona, including nearly 40 miles (64.4 kilometers) of fencing in other parts of the national monument and areas of Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.