US Senator Bob Menendez resigning following corruption conviction

TRENTON, New Jersey — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is resigning from office August 20 following his conviction for taking bribes for corrupt acts including acting as an agent of the Egyptian government, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Tuesday. 

Menendez had insisted after the July 16 verdict that he was innocent and promised to appeal. The person who told the AP about Menendez’s resignation did so on the condition of anonymity because the New Jersey Democrat’s decision hadn’t been made public. Menendez’s attorney hasn’t returned messages seeking comment. 

The resignation gives New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, the ability to appoint someone to the senate for the remainder of Menendez’s term, which expires on January 3. The seat was already up for election on November 5. Democrats have nominated U.S. Representative Andy Kim, who’s in a strong position in the Democratic-leaning state. He faces Republican Curtis Bashaw. 

Menendez, 70, was convicted of charges that he sold the power of his office to three New Jersey businessmen who sought a variety of favors. Prosecutors said Menendez used his influence to meddle in three different state and federal criminal investigations to protect his associates. They said he helped one bribe-paying friend get a multimillion-dollar deal with a Qatari investment fund and another keep a contract to provide religious certification for meat bound for Egypt. 

He was also convicted of taking actions that benefited Egypt’s government in exchange for bribes, including providing details on personnel at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, and ghostwriting a letter to fellow senators regarding lifting a hold on military aid to Egypt. FBI agents found stacks of gold bars and $480,000 in cash hidden in Menendez’s house. 

After his conviction, Menendez denied all of those allegations, saying “I have never been anything but a patriot of my country and for my country. I have never, ever been a foreign agent.” 

But numerous fellow Democrats had urged him to resign, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Murphy had urged the Senate to expel Menendez if he didn’t quit. Only 15 senators have ever been expelled. Senator William Blount, of Tennessee, was ousted in 1797 for treason. The other 14 were expelled in 1861 and 1862 for supporting Confederates during the Civil War. 

Menendez faces the possibility of decades in prison. A judge scheduled his sentencing on October 29, a week before the election. 

His resignation bookends a career spent in politics that started with him getting elected to his local school board just a couple of years after high school graduation. He has held office at every level in his home state and had vowed to run as an independent in November for a fourth term. 

The son of Cuban immigrants and an attorney by training, Menendez was a Union City, New Jersey, school board member at age 20 — before graduating from law school — and later became the mayor of the city, where he still has deep connections. 

His own biography says he wanted to fight corruption early in his political career, testifying against Union City officials and building a reputation as tough. From there, he was elected to the state Assembly, then the state Senate before heading to the U.S. House. 

He was appointed to be a U.S. senator in 2006 when the seat opened up after incumbent Jon Corzine became governor. He was elected outright in 2006 and again in 2012 and 2018. He served as chair of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee beginning in 2013. 

Menendez’s political career looked like it might be over in 2015, when he was indicted in New Jersey on charges that he had accepted bribes of luxury overseas vacations, private jet travel and campaign contributions from a wealthy Florida eye doctor, Salomon Melgen. 

In return, prosecutors said Menendez pressured government officials on Melgen’s behalf over an $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute and a stalled contract to provide port screening equipment in the Dominican Republic. They said he also helped obtain U.S. visas for the doctor’s girlfriends. 

The defense argued that the gifts were not bribes but tokens of friendship between two men who were “like brothers.” 

A jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict, resulting in a mistrial in 2017. U.S. prosecutors didn’t seek a retrial. 

New Jersey voters then returned Menendez to the Senate for another term. Melgen was convicted in a separate fraud trial, but his 17-year prison sentence was later commuted by then-President Donald Trump.

У Міноборони розповіли, від чого залежать терміни появи закону про демобілізацію

Речник Міноборони нагадав, що коли ухвалювали закон про посилення мобілізації, норма про демобілізацію зникла після звернення головнокомандувача ЗСУ

India to spend billions of dollars on job creation

New Delhi — The government in India will spend $24 billion on boosting employment opportunities for young people, as job creation emerges as the biggest challenge confronting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his third term. 

The government also announced financial support for development projects in two states ruled by its regional allies.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party failed to win a clear majority in recent elections and has formed a coalition government. Although the country’s economy is growing briskly, high unemployment and distress in its vast rural areas were cited as the key reasons for the party’s loss of support.

Presenting the annual budget in parliament on Tuesday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will “facilitate employment, skilling and other opportunities” for more than 40 million young people over the next five years.

She said the government will provide paid internships in the country’s 500 top companies to improve opportunities for job seekers.

India posted 8.2% growth last year, the fastest among major economies in the world. But critics say only some have benefitted from the boom, while millions struggle to earn a livelihood.

The government’s announcement that it will raise spending on loans for small and medium-sized businesses to boost job creation was welcomed by several economists. Opposition parties have long criticized the Modi government for giving billions of dollars in subsidies to big business and not extending enough assistance to smaller ones.

“The support to smaller businesses is critical because these are the enterprises which create jobs. Big corporations on the other hand use capital intensive technologies, which don’t result in any significant employment generation,” economist Santosh Mehrotra told VOA. “The government appears to have taken serious note of the jobless crisis we face for the first time in 10 years since it has been in power.”

He said providing internships could be a crucial step in tackling the unemployment problem. Mehrotra said it remains to be seen how the proposals are implemented.

Economists say jobs have failed to grow because India’s manufacturing sector is relatively small, accounting for only 17% of gross domestic product.

According to official figures, the unemployment rate is close to 6%, but an economic research group, the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, estimates that it is about 9%. The biggest challenge confronts young graduates, among whom the unemployment rate is about 29%. In the world’s youngest country, an estimated 10 million people enter the workforce every year.

A World Bank report released in April, “Jobs for Resilience,” said that while growth in South Asian countries like India is strong, the region is not creating enough jobs to keep pace with its rapidly increasing working-age population. According to the report, the employment ratio for South Asia was 59%, compared to 70% in other emerging market and developing economy regions.

India’s economy will continue expanding at a brisk pace, according to government estimates, which have pegged growth this year at 6.5% to 7% – lower than that posted last year but still high among major economies.

“The global economy, while performing better than expected, is still in the grip of policy uncertainties,” she said. “In this context, India’s economic growth continues to be the shining exception and will remain so in the years ahead,” Finance Minister Sitharaman said.

Modi said the budget will lead India toward “better growth and a bright future.”

With an eye on keeping its coalition allies on board, the government also announced financial assistance for two states — Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. The two regional parties that govern these states have pledged support to Modi and are crucial for his BJP to stay in power. 

В уряді визначили, коли стартує новий навчальний рік в українських школах

«Сьогодні окремою постановою визначаємо початок нового навчального року в загальній середній школі з понеділка, 2 вересня та його завершення 30 червня 2025 року»

A look at Harris’ views on U.S. policy toward China

WASHINGTON — U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris has not yet won the Democratic Party’s support for her presidential candidacy, but she has the endorsement of U.S. President Joe Biden, along with several senior Democrats, after his withdrawal from the race on Sunday.

If chosen by the party, and elected president, analysts agree Harris would likely continue the Biden administration’s foreign policy, including the management of one of the most tense and consequential relationships — that with China. 

When she first became vice president, Harris, a former U.S. senator and attorney general for California, was considered by many analysts to be somewhat of a novice in foreign policy. Over the past 3 ½ years as vice president, she has visited more than 19 countries and met with more than 150 foreign leaders, according to the White House website.

VOA compiled some of Harris’s remarks on China policy during her tenure as vice president and earlier as a U.S. senator.

US-China economic relations

In September 2023, Harris traveled to attend the ASEAN summit in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. After the meeting, she spoke about U.S.-China relations and Indo-Pacific policy on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“We, as the United States, in our policy, it is not about decoupling, it is about de-risking. It is about understanding,” she said.

“It’s not about pulling out, but it is about ensuring that we are protecting American interests, and that we are a leader in terms of the rules of the road, as opposed to following others’ rules,” Harris said.

China’s economic downturn

“It’s no secret that China is experiencing economic problems,” she said during the “Face the Nation” interview.

“And what you will find — certainly in my conversations with American business leaders — is that they are looking at the future in terms of their capital investments and taking into account which countries are engaged in practices that are about abiding by the rule of law and international rules and norms in a way that they can be guaranteed that there will be some stability so they can make long-term investments.”

“There is increasingly an understanding that China may not be the best bet when you are looking for stability, when you are looking for an investment in a place where there is an adherence to and respect for international rules and norms,” Harris added.

International aid

During her visit to Africa in March 2023, at a news conference with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, Harris reiterated her call for “all bilateral official creditors to provide a meaningful debt reduction for Zambia” — an oblique reference to China, Zambia’s top foreign creditor. However, she stressed that “our presence here is not about China.”

US-China relations

Harris’ first meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping was at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok in 2022, when she held brief talks with Xi and stressed the importance of maintaining “open lines of communication to responsibly manage the competition between our countries.”

Taiwan

In a September 2022 meeting with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, Harris reaffirmed that the U.S. would continue to support Taiwan and oppose any unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo.

The White House said Harris underscored that the effort to preserve peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is an essential element of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. 

During a visit to Japan that same month, she said aboard the destroyer USS Howard at Yokosuka Naval Base, “We have witnessed disturbing behavior in the East China Sea and in the South China Sea, and most recently, provocations across the Taiwan Strait.”

China considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province that must one day reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary, and often sends military air and watercraft nearby to assert its claim to the self-governing island. 

South China Sea

During her visit to Japan, Harris commented on China’s aggression in the South China Sea.

“China is undermining key elements of the international rules-based order. China has challenged the freedom of the seas. China has flexed its military and economic might to coerce and intimidate its neighbors,” she said.

“We will continue to fly, sail, and operate undaunted and unafraid wherever and whenever international law allows,” Harris added.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea as its own, putting it in conflict with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Chinese ships on several occasions this year used water cannons and blocked its rivals’ ships in the disputed territories. 

 

Last year on “Face the Nation,” Harris said, “What is happening in terms of unprovoked actions against the Philippine interests in the South China Sea is significant and we have been very clear that we stand with the Philippines.”

Beijing and Manila on Sunday announced a deal they say aims to stop the clashes.

China’s human rights, Hong Kong

During her tenure as a U.S. senator for California, Harris actively pushed for legislation to uphold human rights in Hong Kong, which analysts say has seen its autonomy gradually stripped away by Beijing.  

 

In 2019, she co-sponsored the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act introduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, which aims to promote human rights in Hong Kong and sanction officials involved in “undermining Hong Kong’s fundamental freedoms and autonomy.” The bill was later signed into law by then-President Donald Trump.

Xinjiang

Harris also co-sponsored and facilitated the passage of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019, which became law in 2020. The bill authorizes the United States to impose sanctions on “foreign individuals and entities responsible for human rights violations in Xinjiang,” China’s westernmost province that is home to the ethnic Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim minority.        

China denies there are any rights violations in Xinjiang.

Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.

South Africa presses to maintain preferred trade status with US

Johannesburg — Some members of the U.S. Congress have called for South Africa to be excluded from the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a U.S. program that grants duty-free access to the enormous U.S. market for many South African exports. South Africa presses to remain eligible for the trade program and its evolving relationship with the U.S.

Sonwabile Ndamase remembers when U.S. President Bill Clinton came to Soweto in 1998. Ndamase, a fashion designer who created the iconic “Madiba” shirts worn by then-South African President Nelson Mandela, got a last-minute request from Mandela’s office.

“[T]hey wanted to give something as a gesture and as a gift to President Bill Clinton and then they called me. They said, listen, you need to do something — the president, Bill Clinton, would be coming in. So I had to go to the house of late President Nelson Mandela and deliver the shirt,” he said.

That was during a period of good relations between the U.S. and Africa as a whole and the U.S. and South Africa in particular. In 2000, Clinton initiated the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, allowing duty-free access to the U.S. market for most agricultural and manufactured products from eligible African countries.

But times have changed. As U.S. lawmakers consider whether to extend AGOA past its September 2025 expiration date, there are calls in Washington to exclude South Africa due to its geopolitical stance on key issues, such as its refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calling Israel’s actions in Gaza a genocide.

Political analyst Daryl Glaser from the University of Witwatersrand said tension has existed between the United States and South Africa’s longtime ruling African National Congress party since 2000.

“Yeah, there has always been a tension at the heart of ANC foreign policy between, on the one hand, a kind of human rights focus and a desire to appear to the West a human rights and democracy champion, and on the other side what you might call anti-imperialism or anti-Western imperialism, in particular combined with a kind of loyalty to the countries that supported South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle,” he said.

Those countries include Soviet-era Russia.

Despite the tension, South Africa has sent a delegation to Washington to advocate for its continued participation in AGOA.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2020, South Africa has become America’s largest trading partner in Africa, with over $20 billion in two-way trade volume.

Economist Dawie Roodt said South Africa cannot afford to lose AGOA, given the country’s high unemployment rate and slow economic growth.

He thinks a new coalition government, the result of inconclusive May elections, will help the country’s cause.

“I think what is important, what happened in South Africa in the last couple of weeks, South Africa now has a national government of unity and that’s the message that we need to send. Basically, it’s a coalition between the ANC and the DA, a political party slightly to the right. We’ve got a government now that is not a left-leaning government — it’s a government that is forming a coalition with a more business-friendly alliance partner,” he said.

If its status in AGOA is revoked, South Africa can still trade with the United States, but it won’t receive the preferential rates enjoyed by other African nations.

US Senate panel takes first step towards possible Menendez expulsion

Washington — The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee told Senator Bob Menendez, who was convicted of corruption last week, that it has taken the first step of a review that could end in his expulsion, the heads of the panel said on Monday.

“The Committee anticipates completing the adjudicatory review promptly,” Democratic Chairman Chris Coons and Republican Vice Chairman James Lankford said in the statement.

The senator’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Menendez has remained defiant in the face of calls for his resignation, including from the governor of New Jersey, his home state, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, after he was convicted on 16 criminal counts including bribery in federal court in New York. Menendez, who has represented New Jersey in the U.S. Senate since 2006, has said he will appeal the verdict.

Menendez and his wife accepted cash, gold bars and car and mortgage payments as bribes from three businessmen in exchange for steering billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Egypt, where one of the businessmen had ties to government officials.

Menendez, a Democrat, is running for reelection as an independent. His party has nominated U.S. Representative Andy Kim to fill his seat in November.

Суддя ОАСК Літвінова, у якої «Схеми» знайшли російське громадянство, зібралася у відставку

В разі задоволення заяви судді про відставку, вона буде отримувати щомісячне довічне грошове утримання в розмірі 50 відсотків винагороди судді

Democratic officials, donors back Harris after Biden exits US presidential race

WASHINGTON — Momentum appeared to be on the side of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday, as a groundswell of Democratic lawmakers, governors and financial donors expressed their support for her to be the party’s presidential nominee in the November election after President Joe Biden dropped out of the race.

Biden followed his surprise announcement Sunday by issuing his own endorsement of Harris to face former President Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s nominee.

Harris, who is 59, quickly announced that she would seek the nomination. She was a senator from the country’s most populous state, California, when Biden picked her in 2020 as his running mate after Harris’ challenge to Biden and other primary contenders fell apart.

Her approval ratings in national surveys have largely reflected the president’s, but some surveys of likely voters show Harris faring slightly better than Biden against Trump and, in a few, she has polled ahead of Trump.

Harris said in a statement that Biden, by withdrawing from the race against Trump, “is doing what he has done throughout his life of service: putting the American people and our country above everything else.”

“I will do everything in my power to unite the Democratic Party – and unite our nation – to defeat Donald Trump,” she said. “We have 107 days until Election Day. Together, we will fight. And together, we will win.”

ActBlue, a leading Democratic fundraising platform, said late Sunday it had collected $46.7 million in small-dollar donations for the Harris campaign on Sunday alone. That stood in contrast to weeks of waning support for Biden, particularly among top donors, following his performance in a late June debate against Trump.

The Association of State Democratic Committees said in a statement that an “overwhelming majority” of state party leaders backed Harris as the party’s nominee, with several abstaining for procedural reasons.

Sunday’s outpouring of support for Harris also included at least one Biden Cabinet member, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who said he would do “all I can” to help elect Harris.

If Harris is accepted by the party to replace Biden, she would be the first Black woman and South Asian major party presidential nominee in the 248-year history of the United States. 

Biden’s announcement Sunday followed a rising chorus within the Democratic Party urging him to “pass the torch” amid his declining national poll numbers and concerns raised by his debate performance.  During the debate, the 81-year-old president often appeared to lose his train of thought, failed to forcefully press his case against the 78-year-old Trump or defend his own tenure in the White House. 

Biden persevered, insisting he would not quit the race unless “the Lord Almighty” asked him to or if he was shown polling numbers that he could not beat Trump a second time or advised by his doctors he was not physically able to continue.

“I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as president for the remainder of my term,” he said in a statement Sunday. His term ends in January.

Biden said he plans to address the nation about his decision later this week.

Trump responded to the announcement by assailing both Biden and Harris.

“Crooked Joe Biden was not fit to run for President, and is certainly not fit to serve – And never was!” Trump posted on social media, adding that Harris was just as bad as Biden.

“Harris will be easier to beat than Joe Biden would have been,” Trump told CNN.

Many Republicans reacted by calling for Biden to resign as president.

House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, who is second in the presidential line of succession behind Harris, called on Biden to step down, claiming if he is unfit to keep his candidacy alive for another four-year term, he is also unfit to remain as president until Jan. 20.

If Biden were to resign, Harris would immediately be sworn in as president, at least until the inauguration for the victor of November’s election.

Names of other prominent Democrats have been floated as potential candidates other than Harris, including several state governors: Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois and Gavin Newsom of California. Shapiro and Newsom endorsed Harris on Sunday.

Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of State under President Barack Obama, endorsed Harris in a statement. Obama, whom Biden served with as vice president for eight years, thanked Biden for his patriotism, but did not indicate whether he was supporting Harris or any other potential contender.

Media reports in the hours following Biden’s withdrawal quoted sources close to Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, now an independent, saying he was considering rejoining the Democratic Party to try to replace the president at the top of the party’s ticket.

There are two ways for Democrats to replace Biden as the party’s standard-bearer. 

One would be a virtual vote among delegates to the Democratic National Convention next month in Chicago that would lock in a new nominee in early August. Chances are this process would favor Harris, avoiding conflict at the Aug. 19-22 convention in front of a national television audience.

The other way Democrats could pick a new nominee would be an “open” convention in which several candidates, including Harris, would seek the presidential nomination, a scenario the party hasn’t experienced since 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson dropped his plans to run for reelection in face of widespread opposition to his handling of America’s war against North Vietnam.

Some Democrats are suggesting the party quickly hold a “mini primary” to allow Harris and anyone else to openly compete.

Biden has no public events on his schedule for Monday. The White House said details on his schedule for the rest of the week will be forthcoming. He had been set to meet with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to officials in Israel.

Some material for this article came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

Next-generation US jet fighter program may get hit by budget woes

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force’s ambitious next-generation fighter jet program, envisioned as a revolutionary leap in technology, could become less ambitious as budget pressure, competing priorities and changing goals compel a rethink, defense officials and industry executives said.

Initially conceived as a “family of systems” centered around a sixth-generation fighter jet, the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program is meant to replace the F-22 Raptor and give the United States the most powerful weaponry in the sky well into the mid-21st century.

When it was first proposed, expectations were high, including an unmatched stealth capability to keep it invisible from even the most sophisticated radar, laser weapons and onboard artificial intelligence to process masses of data coming from the latest in sensor technology.

However, sources said the current development budget of $28.5 billion over five years ending in 2029 could be spread out over more time or scaled-back as the Pentagon searches for a cost-effective solution.

Sources briefed on the Air Force’s internal budget deliberations said the anticipated 2026 fiscal-year NGAD budget of $3.1 billion would be slashed as funding shrinks, with one source adding that diminishing funds could stretch development by two more years.

While it is unclear how much the overall program will cost, it could eventually total well over $100 billion if 200 aircraft are produced, including initial costs – plus maintenance and upgrades over time. There are currently 185 F-22s in service – the plane NGAD is meant to replace.

The Air Force is also reviewing the concept for the jet – perhaps moving to a larger single-engine jet, from what is believed to be a two-engine design, or even shifting more funding to a less expensive unmanned drone to best address future air superiority needs given the potential budget cuts, industry experts said.

“NGAD was conceived before a number of things: before the threat became so severe, before CCAs (drone program) were introduced into the equation and before we had some issues with affordability that we are currently facing,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said on Saturday at Britain’s Royal International Air Tattoo, the world’s largest military air show.

“Before we commit to the 2026 budget, we want to be sure we are on the right path,” he added on a program that will be a popular talking point at the Farnborough International Airshow this week.

The shift in focus comes as the Air Force grapples with substantial cost overruns in several vital, and expensive, programs. For example, its Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program, which is set to replace the aging Minuteman III missiles, has ballooned 81% over budget, to around $141 billion.

Budget pressure has forced the Air Force to reassess its spending priorities across various modernization efforts which also include increasing production of the new B-21 bomber made by Northrop GrummanNOC.N.

U.S. aerospace and defense companies Lockheed Martin LMT.N and Boeing BA.N have responded to the Air Force’s request for proposal for the NGAD system, sources told Reuters.

While defense firms are not exactly desperate for orders with conflicts in Ukraine and Israel driving already-strong demand, NGAD was one of several potentially giant programs many hoped would feed the bottom line in the years ahead.

An Air Force spokesperson told Reuters the department is currently building its fiscal 2026 budget which will be released early next year. Representatives for Boeing did not return requests for comment. Lockheed would not comment on NGAD.

“The part that seems to be getting stalled and re-evaluated is the air vehicle itself, the central platform,” said J.J. Gertler, a senior analyst at aerospace and defense analysis firm the Teal Group.

“The Air Force is now making sure that that’s what they actually want and possibly changing their mind,” he added.

Possible new configurations might be shifting to a single engine for the jet to save on up-front cost and long-term maintenance. Twin-engine jets are much more expensive to buy and operate, but they are more dependable and faster, therefore more deadly in a dogfight than their single-engine foes.

Another key component emerging from this restructuring is the possibility of shifting funds toward the unmanned fighter drone known as the Collaborative Combat Aircraft initiative.

Development of the less expensive drone platforms, designed to operate alongside the main jet, does not face budget changes.