Report suggests age is used to justify bias against women in the workplace
Report suggests age is used to justify bias against women in the workplace
Seven months after the Carter Center announced he was entering end of life hospice care, former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn made a rare, surprise appearance during a peanut festival in their hometown of Plains, Georgia.
As they waved to bystanders while riding in an SUV that proceeded down the main street of Plains, it marked the beginning of a week celebrating Jimmy Carter’s 99th birthday on Sunday – a milestone few thought the longest living U.S. President might reach.
“I think there is a misunderstanding about hospice that its only for people who are days away from death,” explains author Jonathan Alter. “That’s not what the hospice movements says.”
Alter, who wrote a biography about Jimmy Carter titled His Very Best, says the Carters are choosing to spend the end of their lives in much the same way as the rest of it. “Do as much as you can for as many as you can for as long as you can,” he says.
While retired from public life, Alter says announcing Carter’s transition to hospice, and revealing that Rosalynn Carter has dementia, provides the former president and first lady the opportunity to use their journey as another teachable moment for others.
“It was very intentional on their part to do some good for the world by sending a message that you don’t have to shrink from these end-of-life decisions, and there are other options for letting go,” he says.
While they have let go of the day-to-day operations of the global non-profit they founded in 1982, Carter Center CEO Paige Alexander says thousands of employees and volunteers around the world continue their work without interruption promoting peace and combating neglected tropical diseases.
“The last time we talked, he didn’t ask me about politics, he didn’t ask me about anything except guinea worm numbers,” Alexander told VOA during a recent Skype interview.
In a 2015 press conference announcing he was battling life threatening cancer, which he recovered from, Carter expressed his greatest wish: “I want the last guinea worm to die before I do,” he told the assembled crowd.
When the Carter Center took on guinea worm in the 1980s, there were 3.5 million cases in 21 countries. Alexander says the complete eradication of the neglected tropical disease is now closer than ever. “We’re down to six human cases in two countries,” she says.
Alexander told VOA she continues to have occasional phone conversations with President Carter.
“When I spoke to him last to wish him a happy birthday early, he said ‘I’m not quite sure how happy it is to be turning 99.’ His body is failing him. He doesn’t have the same physical abilities he used to have, but mentally, he remains pretty sharp, and I think that keeps him going,” Alexander said.
She notes that Carter is aware, and appreciative of the continued outpouring of support and admiration, most recently the stream of happy birthday wishes by video and photos the Carter Center is collecting for an interactive online mosaic.
“I think it might be the special sauce of what keeps him going right now. That and peanut butter ice cream,” she said.
It is a special dessert Alexander says the Carters enjoy together, sometimes surrounded by family, in the small community they have called home since the 1920s.
“They are exactly where they want to be – together … in their hometown of Plains, Georgia,” says Alexander.
President Joe Biden has signed a bill to fund the U.S. government through mid-November and avoid a shutdown, less than an hour before money for federal agencies was set to run out.
Biden posted a picture of himself signing the bill on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter, late Saturday night. In the message, he urged Congress to get to work immediately to pass funding bills for the full fiscal year.
The U.S. Senate, in a rare weekend meeting, approved a funding bill Saturday night, sending it to President Joe Biden for his signature and averting a widely dreaded shutdown of the federal government.
The bill, which passed the Senate 88-9 after winning approval in the House of Representatives, would fund the federal government through Nov. 17. The bill contains $16 billion in disaster aid sought by Biden but did not include money to help Ukraine in its war against Russia’s invasion.
After the vote, Biden released a statement saying the bill’s passage prevented “an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hardworking Americans.”
“We will have avoided a shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement after the vote. “Bipartisanship, which has been the trademark of the Senate, has prevailed. And the American people can breathe a sigh of relief.”
Had the bill not been approved by Congress and signed by the president by midnight Saturday, the federal government would have shut down.
More than 4 million U.S. military service personnel and government workers would not be paid, although essential services, such as air traffic control and official border entry points would still be staffed. Pensioners might not get their monthly government payments in time to pay bills and buy groceries, and national parks could be closed.
For days all of that seemed inevitable.
The abrupt turn of events began Saturday when Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy changed tactics and put forward the funding bill that hard-line members of his Republican caucus opposed.
The House passed the bill, 335-91. More Democrats supported it than Republicans, even though it does not contain aid for Ukraine, a priority for Biden, Democrats and many Senate Republicans.
“Extreme MAGA Republicans have lost, the American people have won,” top House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries told reporters ahead of the vote.
Republican Representative Lauren Boebert criticized the passage of the short-term stopgap bill.
“We should have forced the Senate to take up the four appropriations bills that the House has passed. That should have been our play,” she told CNN. “We should have forced them to come to the negotiating table, to come to conference, to hash out our differences.”
McCarthy is likely to face a motion from the right-wing members of his party to remove him as speaker.
“If somebody wants to remove me because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy said of the threat to oust him. “But I think this country is too important.”
Ukraine aid still likely
In his statement, Biden noted the lack of funding for Ukraine in the bill and said, “We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted.”
Support for Ukraine remains strong in Congress and late Saturday night, a bipartisan group of Senate leadership members, led by Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, released a statement vowing to ensure the United States continues “to provide critical and sustained security and economic support for Ukraine.”
NBC News quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying Biden and the Defense Department have funds to meet Ukraine’s battlefield needs “for a bit longer,” but it is “imperative” that Congress pass a Ukraine funding bill soon.
In the House, the lone Democrat to vote against the funding bill was Representative Mike Quigley of Illinois, the co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus. “Protecting Ukraine is in our national interest,” he said.
“This does look very chaotic, but this is not the first time it’s happened,” Todd Belt, director of the school of political management at The George Washington University, told VOA. “There is a price that has to be paid here. But that is the price of democracy. It does seem very messy sometimes. But eventually, usually you get some compromise.”
Such shutdowns have occurred four times in the last decade in the U.S., but often have lasted just a day or two until lawmakers reach a compromise to fully restart government operations. However, one shutdown that occurred during the administration of former President Donald Trump lasted 35 days, as he unsuccessfully sought funding to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein returned Saturday to her hometown for the final time when a military jet carrying the late Democratic senator’s body landed at San Francisco International Airport.
The long-serving senator and political trailblazer died Thursday at her home in Washington, D.C., after a series of illnesses. At 90, she was the oldest member of Congress after first being elected to the Senate in 1992.
The arrival of her body was not open to the public. No details have been shared about services.
The former San Francisco mayor was a passionate advocate for priorities important to her state, including environmental protection, reproductive rights and gun control. But she also was known as a pragmatic, centrist lawmaker who reached out to Republicans and sought middle ground.
Her death was followed by a stream of tributes from around the nation, including from President Joe Biden, who served with Feinstein for years in the Senate and called her “a pioneering American” and a “cherished friend.”
California’s junior senator, Democrat Alex Padilla, called her “a towering figure — not just in modern California history, but in the history of our state and our nation.”
Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters said Feinstein “spent her entire career breaking glass ceilings and opening doors into areas that had been perpetually dominated by men.”
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to soon appoint a replacement for the vacant Senate seat.
The Supreme Court is returning to a new term to take up some familiar topics — guns and abortion — while concerns about ethics swirl around the justices.
The year also will have a heavy focus on social media and how free speech protections apply online. A big unknown is whether the court will be asked to weigh in on any aspect of the criminal cases against former President Donald Trump and others or efforts in some states to keep the Republican off the 2024 presidential ballot because of his role in trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election that he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
Lower profile but vitally important, several cases in the term that begins Monday ask the justices to constrict the power of regulatory agencies.
“I can’t remember a term where the court was poised to say so much about the power of federal administrative agencies,” said Jeffrey Wall, who served as the deputy solicitor general in the Trump administration.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
One of those cases, to be argued Tuesday, threatens the ability of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, to function. Unlike most agencies, the bureau is not dependent on annual appropriations from Congress, but instead gets its funding directly from the Federal Reserve. The idea when the agency was created following the recession in 2007-08 was to shield it from politics.
But the federal appeals court in New Orleans struck down the funding mechanism. The ruling would cause “profound disruption by calling into question virtually every action the CFPB has taken” since its creation, the Biden administration said in a court filing.
The same federal appeals court also produced the ruling that struck down a federal law that aims to keep guns away from people facing domestic violence restraining orders from having firearms.
The three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said its decision was compelled by the Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling expanding gun rights and directing judges to evaluate restrictions based on history and tradition. Judges also have invalidated other long-standing gun control laws.
The justices will hear the Texas case, in November, in what is their first chance to elaborate on the meaning of that decision in the earlier case, which has come to be known as Bruen.
The abortion case likely to be heard by the justices also would be the court’s first word on the topic since it reversed Roe v. Wade’s right to abortion. The new case stems from a ruling, also by the 5th Circuit, to limit the availability of mifepristone, a medication used in the most common method of abortion in the United States.
The administration already won an order from the high court blocking the appellate ruling while the case continues. The justices could decide later in the fall to take up the mifepristone case this term.
The assortment of cases from the 5th Circuit could offer Chief Justice John Roberts more opportunities to forge alliances in major cases that cross ideological lines. In those cases, the conservative-dominated appeals court, which includes six Trump appointees, took aggressive legal positions, said Irv Gornstein, executive director of the Georgetown law school’s Supreme Court Institute.
“The 5th Circuit is ready to adopt the politically most-conservative position on almost any issue, no matter how implausible or how much defiling of precedent it takes,” Gornstein said.
The three Supreme Court justices appointed by Trump — Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — have been together in the majority of some of the biggest cases in the past two years, including on guns, abortion and ending affirmative action in college admissions.
But in some important cases last term, the court split in unusual ways. In the most notable of those, Kavanaugh joined with Roberts and the court’s three liberal justices to rule that Alabama had not done enough to reflect the political power of Black voters in its congressional redistricting.
Roberts and Kavanaugh, this time joined by Barrett, also were in the majority with the liberal justices in a case that rejected a conservative legal effort to cut out state courts from oversight of elections for Congress and president.
Those outcomes have yet to do much to ameliorate the court’s image in the public’s mind. The most recent Gallup Poll, released last week, found Americans’ approval of and trust in the court hovering near record lows.
It is not clear whether those numbers would improve if the court were to adopt a code of conduct.
Questions about ethics
Several justices have publicly recognized the ethics issues, spurred by a series of stories questioning some of their practices. Many of those stories focused on Justice Clarence Thomas and his failure to disclose travel and other financial ties with wealthy conservative donors, including Harlan Crow and the Koch brothers. But Justices Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor also have been under scrutiny.
Behind the scenes, the justices are talking about an ethics code, and Kavanaugh has said he is hopeful the court would soon take “concrete steps.”
Justice Elena Kagan, who backs a high court code of ethics, said in an appearance at the University of Notre Dame that her colleagues are trying to work through their differences.
“There are, you know, totally good-faith disagreements or concerns, if you will. There are some things to be worked out. I hope we can get them worked out,” Kagan said. There’s no timetable for the court to act.
Democratic lawmakers and progressive critics of Alito and Thomas said those justices’ impartiality in some cases is in doubt because of financial ties, joint travel or friendships with people involved in the cases.
Alito has rejected calls to step aside from a tax case, and Thomas, who has been silent in the past about recusals, seems exceedingly unlikely to bow to his critics’ wishes now.
Editor’s note: Here is a look at immigration-related news around the U.S. this week. Questions? Tips? Comments? Email the VOA immigration team: ImmigrationUnit@voanews.com.
What Happens to Immigration if US Government Shuts Down?
With congressional leaders gridlocked over the nation’s budget and the deadline to pass spending bills fast approaching, the federal government could shut down on October 1. And that could affect some immigration services and visa programs. If the federal government closes, only essential personnel will be working. All other federal workers will not be allowed to work. So how will that affect immigration in the U.S.? VOA’s Immigration reporter Aline Barros.
Why Immigrants Are More Optimistic Than US-Born Americans
Despite any hardships they might face, immigrants in America are more optimistic than U.S.-born Americans, according to a new survey of 3,358 immigrant adults. “They said, ‘You know, I face challenges here in the U.S., but it’s far better than where I came from. And I have this belief that things will be better for my children,’” says Shannon Schumacher, a senior survey analyst at KFF, a nonprofit organization focused on health policy formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Whether that’s their education, their safety, their economic opportunities — on a number of measures, they think that they’re better off and their children are better off.” Produced by Dora Mekouar.
After Lull, Asylum-Seekers Adapt to US Immigration Changes
A group of migrants from China surrendered to a Border Patrol agent in remote Southern California as gusts of wind drowned the hum of high-voltage power lines. They joined others from Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia and elsewhere in a desert campsite with shelters made from tree branches. The Associated Press reports.
Second Texas City at ‘Breaking Point’ as Migrants Flood Border, Mayor Says
The surge of migrants crossing the U.S. border from Mexico has pushed the city of El Paso, Texas, to “a breaking point,” with more than 2,000 people per day seeking asylum, exceeding shelter capacity and straining resources, its mayor said Saturday. “The city of El Paso only has so many resources and we have come to … a breaking point right now,” Mayor Oscar Leeser said. Reuters reports.
Eagle Pass, Texas, Sees Continuing Influx of Migrants
The Eagle Pass area in Texas continues to experience an influx of migrants — the majority from Venezuela, the largest displacement in the Western Hemisphere and the second-largest globally, trailing only behind the Syrian refugee crisis, per the U.N. refugee agency. U.S. border authorities said they are managing the situation, but the noticeable rise in migrant arrivals in Eagle Pass has strained local resources and overwhelmed already crowded facilities. VOA’s Immigration reporter Aline Barros.
VOA Day in Photos: Asylum-Seekers Journey through Mexico to Eagle Pass, Texas
Asylum-seekers waiting on the banks of the Rio Bravo River after crossing during their journey through Mexico to Eagle Pass, Texas, in Piedras Negras, Mexico, Sept. 26, 2023.
Immigration around the world
Illegal Migration to Greece Surges, Sparking Measures to Shield Borders
Thousands of migrants have made their way illegally into Greece from Turkey, using rickety rafts to cross the Aegean Sea, the narrow waterway between the two countries. United Nations data in September shows sea arrivals have already more than doubled the roughly 12,000 migrants who were caught trying to illegally enter Greece last year. Illegal entries along the land border and the massive Evros River, which snakes along the rugged frontiers of the two countries in the northeast, also count record increases of more than 65% in the last two months alone, police said. Produced by Anthee Carassava.
Australian Lawmakers Urge Outside Help for Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Refugees
Seven Australian lawmakers have toured a refugee camp in Armenia, as thousands of ethnic Armenians flee their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh. Forces from Azerbaijan took control of the contested region last week. The delegation of Australian lawmakers visited Armenia this week and toured a camp for those fleeing the unrest. Produced by Phil Mercer.
Pakistani Vocational School Helps Afghan Women Refugees Build Businesses
In a small workshop in the bustling northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, a dozen Afghan women sit watching a teacher show them how to make clothes on a sewing machine. Reuters reports.
Charity Urges Court to Force Australia to Repatriate Detainees in Syrian Refugee Camp
Australia’s decision not to repatriate more than 30 women and children from a detention camp in northeast Syria is facing a legal challenge. The women are the wives and widows of Islamic State fighters and have been held in custody for the past four years. Produced by Phil Mercer.
Medics: Hundreds Dead From Dengue Fever in War-Torn Sudan
Outbreaks of dengue fever and acute watery diarrhea have “killed hundreds” in war-torn Sudan, medics reported Monday, warning of “catastrophic spreads” that could overwhelm the country’s decimated health system. In a statement, the Sudanese doctors’ union warned that the health situation in the southeastern state of Gedaref, on the border with Ethiopia, “is deteriorating at a horrific rate,” with thousands infected with dengue fever. Produced by Agence France-Presse.
Violence, Human Rights Violations Risk Future Stability of Syria
United Nations investigators say that human rights violations and abuse in Syria are sowing the seeds for further violence and radicalization, despite diplomatic efforts to stabilize the situation in the country, including through its readmission to the League of Arab States. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.
Senior US Officials Travel to Armenia as Karabakh’s Armenians Start to Leave
Senior Biden administration officials arrived Monday in Armenia, a day after ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh began fleeing following Azerbaijan’s defeat of the breakaway region’s fighters in a conflict dating from the Soviet era. Reuters reports.
Spain Turns to Tractors to Tackle Migrant Unemployment, Farm Labor Shortage
Spain’s agricultural sector is threatened by an aging population and a shortage of farm labor. Now a program in Catalonia is training migrants, largely from Africa, to operate tractors to help them gain meaningful employment. Elizabeth Cherneff narrates this report from Alfonso Beato in Barcelona. Videographer and Video Editor: Alfonso Beato.
— A government shutdown would affect the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s ability to respond to cyberattacks; protect and save lives on land, at sea, and in the air; secure the nation’s borders and critical infrastructure; deploy across the country to help Americans recover from disasters, among others.
Former President Jimmy Carter is set to mark his 99th birthday on October 1 while in hospice care. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on an outpouring of admiration and well wishes for the onetime peanut farmer and Georgia governor who promoted peace and fought tropical diseases after leaving the White House.
The U.S. West Coast produces over 90% of America’s wine, but the region is also prone to wildfires — a combustible combination that spelled disaster for the industry in 2020 and one that scientists are scrambling to neutralize.
Sample a good wine and you might get notes of oak or red fruit. But sip on wine made from grapes that were penetrated by smoke, and it could taste like someone dumped the contents of an ashtray into your glass.
Wine experts from three West Coast universities are working together to meet the threat, including developing spray coatings to protect grapes, pinpointing the elusive compounds that create that nasty ashy taste, and deploying smoke sensors to vineyards to better understand smoke behavior.
The U.S. government is funding their research with millions of dollars.
Wineries are also taking steps to protect their product and brand.
The risk to America’s premier wine-making regions — where wildfires caused billions of dollars in losses in 2020 — is growing, with climate change deepening drought and overgrown forests becoming tinderboxes.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, grapes are the highest-value crop in the United States, with 1 million acres (405,000 hectares) of grape-bearing land, 96% of it on the West Coast.
Winemakers around the world are already adapting to climate change, including by moving their vineyards to cooler zones and planting varieties that do better in drought and heat. Wildfires pose an additional and more immediate risk being tackled by scientists from Oregon State University, Washington State University and the University of California, Davis.
“What’s at stake is the ability to continue to make wine in areas where smoke exposures might be more common,” said Tom Collins, a wine scientist at Washington State University.
Researcher Cole Cerrato recently stood in Oregon State University’s vineyard, nestled below forested hills near the village of Alpine, as he turned on a fan to push smoke from a Weber grill through a dryer vent hose. The smoke emerged onto a row of grapes enclosed in a makeshift greenhouse made of taped-together plastic sheets.
Previously, grapes exposed to smoke in that setup were made into wine by Elizabeth Tomasino, an associate professor leading Oregon State’s efforts, and her researchers.
They found sulfur-containing compounds, thiophenols, in the smoke-impacted wine and determined they contributed to the ashy flavor, along with “volatile phenols,” which Australian researchers identified as factors more than a decade ago. Bush fires have long impacted Australia’s wine industry. Up in Washington state, Collins confirmed that the sulfur compounds were found in the wine that had been exposed to smoke in the Oregon vineyard but weren’t in samples that had no smoke exposure.
The scientists want to find out how thiophenols, which aren’t detectable in wildfire smoke, appear in smoke-impacted wine, and learn how to eliminate them.
“There’s still a lot of very interesting chemistry and very interesting research, to start looking more into these new compounds,” Cerrato said. “We just don’t have the answers yet.”
Wine made with tainted grapes can be so awful that it can’t be marketed. If it does go on shelves, a winemaker’s reputation could be ruined — a risk that few are willing to take.
When record wildfires in 2020 blanketed the West Coast in brown smoke, some California wineries refused to accept grapes unless they had been tested. But most growers couldn’t find places to analyze their grapes because the laboratories were overwhelmed.
The damage to the industry in California alone was $3.7 billion, according to an analysis that Jon Moramarco of the consulting firm bw166 conducted for industry groups. The losses stemmed mostly from wineries having to forego future wine sales.
“But really what drove it was, you know, a lot of the impact was in Napa [Valley], an area of some of the highest priced grapes, highest priced wines in the U.S.,” Moramarco said, adding that if a ton of cabernet sauvignon grapes is ruined, “you lose probably 720 bottles of wine. If it is worth $100 a bottle, it adds up very quickly.”
Between 165,000 to 325,000 tons of California wine grapes were left to wither on the vine in 2020 due to actual or perceived wildfire smoke exposure, said Natalie Collins, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers.
She said she hasn’t heard of any growers quitting the business due to wildfire impacts, but, “Many of our members are having an extremely difficult time securing insurance due to the fire risk in their region, and if they are able to secure insurance, the rate is astronomically high.”
Some winemakers are trying techniques to reduce smoke impact, such as passing the wine through a membrane or treating it with carbon, but that can also rob a wine of its appealing nuances. Blending impacted grapes with other grapes is another option. Limiting skin contact by making rosé wine instead of red can lower the concentration of smoke flavor compounds.
Collins, over at Washington State University, has been experimenting with spraying fine-powdered kaolin or bentonite, which are clays, mixed with water onto wine grapes so it absorbs materials that are in smoke. The substance would then be washed off before harvest. Oregon State University is developing a spray-on coating.
Meanwhile, dozens of smoke sensors have been installed in vineyards in the three states, financed in part by a $7.65 million USDA grant.
“The instruments will be used to measure for smoke marker compounds,” said Anita Oberholster, leader of UC Davis’ efforts. She said such measurements are essential to develop mitigation strategies and determine smoke exposure risk.
Greg Jones, who runs his family’s Abacela winery in southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley and is a director of the Oregon Wine Board, applauds the scientists’ efforts.
“This research has really gone a long way to help us try to find: Are there ways in which we can take fruit from the vineyard and quickly find out if it has the potential compounds that would lead to smoke-impacted wine?” Jones said.
Collins predicts success.
“I think it’s increasingly clear that we’re not likely to find a magic bullet,” he said. “But we will find a set of strategies.”