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Ukraine's top diplomat to visit China this week to talk peace, Kyiv says

KYIV/BEIJING — Ukraine's top diplomat will visit China on Tuesday at the invitation of Beijing for talks that Kyiv said would focus on how to end Russia's war in Ukraine and on a possible Chinese role in reaching a settlement. Nearly 29 months since Russia's full-scale invasion, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will discuss bilateral ties at talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a trip to China from July 23 to 25, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said. "The main topic of discussion will be the search for ways to stop Russia's aggression and China's possible role in achieving a stable and just peace," the Ukrainian ministry said in a statement on its website. The Chinese statement said Kuleba's visit would run from July 23 to 26 and provided less detail. The trip is unusual as China is widely seen as close to the Kremlin, with which Beijing declared a "no limits" partnership in 2022 just days before Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Though the world's second largest economy has not condemned the Russian invasion and helped keep Russia's war economy afloat, Kyiv has been cautious in its criticism of Beijing. China meanwhile says its ties with Russia are built on the basis of non-alliance and do not target any third party. Various peace initiatives have emerged in recent months as the fighting has dragged on ahead of a U.S. election in November that could see the return to power of ex-president Donald Trump who has threatened to cut vital aid flows to Ukraine. Kyiv held an international summit without Russian representation in Switzerland in June to promote its vision of peace and now says it hopes to be ready to hold another one in November that would feature Russian representation. China, which did not attend the Swiss summit, together with Brazil published a separate six-point peace plan on May 23, saying they supported an international peace conference being held that would be recognized by both sides in the war. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that only the world's powerful countries would be able to successfully bring an end to the war, singling out China as well as Kyiv's close U.S. ally as two possibilities. The Ukrainian leader has said that China should play a serious role in helping to resolve the war.

Israel's Netanyahu walks political tightrope on Washington trip following Biden's exit from race 

Jerusalem — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left for Washington on Monday, leaving behind a brutal war to make a politically precarious speech before the U.S. Congress at a time of great uncertainty following Joe Biden’s withdrawal from the presidential race. With efforts ongoing to bring about a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, rising concerns about the war spreading to Lebanon and Yemen, and the U.S. in the midst of a dizzying election campaign, Netanyahu’s speech has the potential to cause disarray on both sides of the ocean. The risks only increased with Biden’s decision Sunday to drop out of the race for president, especially since the choice of a replacement Democratic nominee — and the potential next American leader — are still up in the air. Before stepping on the plane, Netanyahu said he would emphasize the theme of Israel's bipartisanship in his speech and said Israel would remain America's key ally in the Middle East “regardless who the American people choose as their next president.” “In this time of war and uncertainty, it's important that Israel's enemies know that America and Israel stand together,” he said, adding that he will meet Biden during his trip and thank him for his support for Israel. A person familiar with Biden's schedule confirmed Sunday that the president will host Netanyahu at the White House. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly, said the exact timing of the meeting has not been established because Biden is recovering from COVID-19. Netanyahu is scheduled to address Congress on Wednesday. He is also expected to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Netanyahu will deliver his congressional address with an eye on several audiences: his ultranationalist governing partners, the key to his political survival; the Biden administration, which Netanyahu counts on for diplomatic and military support; and Donald Trump’s Republican Party, which could offer Netanyahu a reset in relations if he is reelected in November. His words risk angering any one of those constituencies, which the Israeli leader cannot afford if he hopes to hold on to his tenuous grip on power. “There are a few land mines and pitfalls on this trip,” Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israel relations at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, said before Biden's withdrawal. “He is thought of as a political wizard who knows how to escape from traps. I am not sure he still knows how to do that.” It is Netanyahu’s fourth speech to Congress — more than any other world leader. During his address, his far-right governing partners will want to hear his resolve to continue the war and topple Hamas. The Biden administration will look for progress toward the latest U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal and details on a postwar vision. Republicans hope Netanyahu besmirches Biden and bolsters the GOP’s hoped-for perception as Israel’s stalwart supporter. The war, which was sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, has tested Israel’s ties with its top ally as never before. The Biden administration has stood staunchly beside Israel. But it has grown increasingly alarmed about the conduct of the Israeli military, the continued difficulties of getting humanitarian aid into Gaza, especially after the short-lived U.S. military pier off Gaza coast, as well as Israel’s lack of postwar plans and the harm to civilians in Gaza. Similar concerns will likely persist if Americans elect a new Democratic president. Biden earlier this year froze the delivery of certain bombs over fears they would be used in Israel’s incursion into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which at the time sheltered more than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million. The U.S. abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote in March that called for a cease-fire and the release of hostages but did not link the two. Netanyahu called the decision a “retreat” from a “principled position” by Israel’s ally. Biden has had to walk a fine line of his own. He has faced harsh criticism from progressive Democrats and many Arab Americans. Even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking elected U.S. Jewish official, lambasted Netanyahu in March for his handling of the war. Some Democrats will likely demonstrate their anger toward Biden and Netanyahu by skipping Wednesday’s speech. Netanyahu is also likely to be hounded by pro-Palestinian activists during his trip. The last time Netanyahu spoke to Congress in 2015 was at the invitation of the Republican Party. The trip drove Israeli-American politics deep into the partisan divide as Netanyahu railed against then-President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu has not shied away from making Israel a partisan issue. With his nationalist conservative ideology, he has been perceived as throwing his support behind Republican candidates in the past, rankling Democrats and Israelis who want to keep the U.S.-Israel relationship bipartisan. It's unclear if he will meet Trump. If there is a meeting, it could expose Netanyahu to accusations that he is once again taking sides. But if he doesn’t meet with Trump, the former president could feel slighted. The speech also offers Netanyahu opportunity. He will be able to show Israelis that despite the tensions with the Biden administration, U.S. support for him remains ironclad. “He wants the Israeli public to believe that he is very much still very welcome in the United States. And this shows that the American people are with him,” said David Makovsky, director of the program on Arab-Israel Relations at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. For critics of Netanyahu, that embrace is unacceptable and grants legitimacy to a deeply polarizing leader whose public support has plummeted. Netanyahu faces widespread protests and calls to resign over the failures of Oct. 7 and his handling of the war. In a letter to Congress, 500 Israeli writers, scholars and public figures expressed their dismay over the invitation to Netanyahu, saying he will use the platform to advance misguided policies that align with his far-right governing partners. “His only interest is preserving his own power,” they wrote. “Does the United States Congress wish to support such a model of cynical and manipulative leadership in these times?” Israeli media reported that Netanyahu will be joined by rescued hostage Noa Argamani and her father. But for many of the families of hostages held in Gaza, the trip is an affront. “This is not the time for trips,” Ayelet Levy Shachar, whose daughter Naama was kidnapped on Oct. 7, told reporters. “Netanyahu: First a deal, then you can travel.”

VOA Newscasts

Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

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. 

VOA Newscasts

Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

VOA Newscasts

Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

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.

Hundreds of migrants in new caravan headed for US border

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico — Hundreds of migrants from around a dozen countries left from Mexico's southern border on foot Sunday, as they attempt to make it to the U.S. border. Some of the members of the group said they hoped to make it to the U.S. border before elections are held in November, because they fear that if Donald Trump wins, he will follow through on a promise to close the border to asylum-seekers. "We are running the risk that permits (to cross the border) might be blocked," said Miguel Salazar, a migrant from El Salvador. He feared that a new Trump administration might stop granting appointments to migrants through CBP One, an app used by asylum-seekers to enter the U.S. legally — by getting appointments at U.S. border posts, where they make their cases to officials. The app only works once migrants reach Mexico City, or states in northern Mexico. "Everyone wants to use that route" said Salazar, 37. The group left Sunday from the southern Mexican town of Ciudad Hidalgo, which is next to a river that marks Mexico's border with Guatemala. Some said they had been waiting in Ciudad Hidalgo for weeks for permits to travel to towns further to the north. Migrants trying to pass through Mexico in recent years have organized large groups to try to reduce the risk of being attacked by gangs or stopped by Mexican immigration officials as they travel. But the caravans tend to break up in southern Mexico, as people get tired of walking for hundreds of kilometers. Recently, Mexico has also made it more difficult for migrants to reach the U.S. border on buses and trains. Travel permits are rarely awarded to migrants who enter the country without visas and thousands of migrants have been detained by immigration officers at checkpoints in the center and north of Mexico and bused back to towns deep in the south of the country. Oswaldo Reyna, a 55-year-old Cuban migrant, crossed from Guatemala into Mexico 45 days ago and waited in Ciudad Hidalgo to join the new caravan announced on social media. He criticized Trump's recent comments about migrants and how they are trying to "invade" the United States. "We are not delinquents," he said. "We are hard-working people who have left our country to get ahead in life, because in our homeland we are suffering from many needs."

Flooding drives Liberia to mull capital city move

Monrovia, Liberia — Severe flooding in Liberia has led a group of senators to propose relocating the capital city away from overcrowded and poorly managed Monrovia, a suggestion met with a mixture of enthusiasm and hesitancy in the West African country. Flash floods triggered by torrential rains between the end of June and early July left nearly 50,000 Liberians in urgent need, the national disaster management agency said. The flood-prone capital was particularly badly hit, owing in part to overpopulation, a poor sewage system, and a lack of building regulation. Meeting to discuss the persistent flooding problem, a senate joint committee in early July suggested establishing a new city to replace Monrovia. "It's a good idea because our current capital city is a mess," said Chris Kpewudu, a young motorbike driver in the capital. "There is garbage all over the city and also when it rains, there is flooding everywhere, but with a new city, it will be well laid out and our capital city could look like, or more than, Abuja," he added. Nigeria's Abuja is one of a handful of planned capital cities on the African continent. Tanzania's capital Dodoma and Yamoussoukro in Ivory Coast were also established as administrative capitals towards the end of the 20th century, with all three cities occupying geographically central positions in their respective countries. Monrovia is home to 1.5 million people and lies on the Atlantic coast of Liberia, one of the poorest countries in the world. The city is the economic, political, and cultural hub of the country, with the Freeport of Monrovia providing a gateway for Liberian exports including iron ore, rubber, and timber to reach the United States and Europe. But the city's poorly functioning infrastructure can barely keep up with its ever-expanding population. The Ministry of Public Works told AFP it was carefully reviewing the proposal, adding that the the plan did not yet include an exact location for the move, and that any decision would come down to economic viability. "Having a new city is capital-intensive," said T. T. Benjamin Myers, the ministry's communications director. "As a country, our national budget is still around $600 million... so having a new city will require a lot of technical, financial, and economic factors to be seriously considered," he added. 'Not a quick fix' The proposal to replace the capital is not a new one in Africa's oldest republic. In 2012, then-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf suggested relocating Monrovia to a new city called Zekepa in the center of the country. "We were all enthusiastic and looking forward to that," Marayah Fyneah, the national program officer of the Liberian Women's Legislative Caucus, told AFP. "But unfortunately, we did not even see a plan to show what the city would look like," she added. Fyneah said she was skeptical that a new Liberian capital would ever materialize in her lifetime, given the failure of the previous attempt. Some residents interviewed by AFP were also hesitant and said the government should first prioritize improving infrastructure and tackling poverty before searching for a new capital. "Our lawmakers are forgetting the issues that we have on hand as a country. Even the city of Monrovia is poorly managed in terms of sanitation and a lot more," said one commentator, the journalist Princess Elexa VanjahKollie. Experts have also warned of the extensive urban planning needed to create a viable new capital. "To establish a new city is not a quick fix," Christopher Wallace, an economics lecturer at the University of Liberia, told AFP. "You want to consider the economic activities that would make the economy vibrant in that area, and you must have done zoning to have a clear layout of what such a city will look like," he added.

VOA Newscasts

Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Israel orders evacuation of part of Gaza humanitarian zone

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — The Israeli military on Monday ordered the evacuation of part of an area in the Gaza Strip it has designated a humanitarian zone. The military said it is planning to begin an operation against Hamas militants who have embedded themselves in the area and used it to launch rockets toward Israel. The area includes the eastern part of the Muwasi humanitarian zone, which is located in the southern Gaza Strip. Many Palestinians have been uprooted multiple times in search of safety during Israeli's punishing air and ground campaign. Earlier this month, Israel said it estimates at least 1.8 million Palestinians are now in the humanitarian zone it declared covering a stretch of about 14 kilometers (8.6 miles) along the Mediterranean. Much of that area is now blanketed with tent camps that lack sanitation and medical facilities and have limited access to aid, U.N. and humanitarian groups say. Families live in the midst of mountains of trash and streams contaminated by sewage. The announcement came during delicate negotiations seeking a cease-fire in Gaza, with U.S. and Israeli officials expressing hope that an agreement is closer than ever, and as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to make a much-anticipated trip to the United States to meet with President Joe Biden and address Congress. A negotiating team will be sent to continue talks on Thursday, Netanyahu's office said. Egypt, Qatar and the United States continue to push Israel and Hamas toward a phased cease-fire deal that would stop the fighting and free the hostages. The war in Gaza has killed more than 38,900 people, according to the territory's Health Ministry, which doesn't distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count. The war began with an assault by Hamas militants on southern Israel on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took about 250 hostages. About 120 remain held, about a third of them believed to be dead, according to Israeli authorities. The Israeli military said on Monday that it is continuing to operate in central and southern Gaza. On Sunday, Israeli airstrikes killed at least 15 people, including women and children, in Gaza, according to hospital officials and a body count by an Associated Press journalist. The already precarious humanitarian conditions inside besieged Gaza have worsened with the discovery of the polio virus as water and sanitation services have deteriorated for the territory's 2.3 million people, most of them displaced. Traces of the virus were found in sewage samples in Gaza. The World Health Organization has said no one has been treated for symptoms caused by the disease. Israel's military said soldiers would be vaccinated and it would work with organizations to bring in vaccines for Palestinians. Netanyahu has vowed to wipe out Hamas' military and governing capabilities and secure the return of the remaining hostages. Families of hostages and thousands of other Israelis have held weekly demonstrations to urge the prime minister to reach a cease-fire deal that would bring their loved ones home.

Economy booms but India's young hanker for government jobs

PRAYAGARAJ, India/MUMBAI, India — Sunil Kumar, a 30-year-old, has spent the last nine years of his life chasing a job in the Indian government. Packed with scores of others in makeshift classrooms under tin roofs with barely enough light and air, Kumar has spent years cramming for a variety of tests, including the prestigious civil services exam needed to get a job as a federal government bureaucrat. He has also tried for a provincial civil services post and two other tests for lower-level government positions. He has been unsuccessful in 13 attempts to get a job. A resident of Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous state, Kumar says he will continue to try for a government job until he turns 32, three years short of the cut-off for him to appear in a civil services exam. "There is more security in government jobs," said Kumar. "If it happens in 2-3 years, the struggle of 10 years will be worth it." According to government figures, 220 million people applied for federal jobs between 2014-2022, of whom 722,000 were selected. Many of those would have been repeat attempts, but still, tens of millions of young Indians chase government jobs every year even though the economy is booming and the private sector is expanding. The trend underscores cultural and economic anxieties facing many Indians. Despite living in the world’s fastest-growing major economy, many are grappling with an uncertain employment market where job opportunities, let alone job security, are hard to come by. Many see government employment as more secure than private-sector jobs in the world's most populous nation. "If one person in the family gets a government job, the family believes they are settled for life," said Zafar Baksh, who runs a training institute for those appearing in tests for such jobs.   In neighboring Bangladesh, student protests against reserved quotas in government jobs killed more than 100 people last week. Since 2014, India's GDP has grown from $2 trillion to near $3.5 trillion in fiscal 2023-24 (April-March) and is expected to expand 7.2% in the current year. The aspirants say the government offers lifelong security, health benefits, pensions and housing, which they may not get in private employment. Few will admit to it, but many of the government jobs also offer the prospect of money under the table. Growing demand for the cram school classes has attracted large players and lessons have moved online too, said Baksh, who sees it as a lucrative and perennial business. "There will always be demand." Not enough good jobs Discontent over employment opportunities was cited by analysts as a key reason for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party failing to win a majority on its own in the April-May general election, and returning to power only with the support of allies. Government data released this month showed 20 million new employment opportunities were generated in India each year since 2017/18 but private economists said much of this was self-employment and temporary farm hiring rather than formal positions with regular wages. The government, which presents the first budget since the election next week, is likely to push job creation by giving tax incentives for new manufacturing facilities as well as by encouraging local procurement across sectors like defense, Nomura said in a note this month. But these will take time to yield jobs. "It's not just that there aren't enough jobs out there, it's also that there are not enough jobs that pay well and give you security of tenure and other benefits," said Rosa Abraham, assistant professor at the Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University in Bengaluru city. For 22-year-old Pradeep Gupta, who hopes to land a government job, working in the private sector is the "last option." "There is honor, job security and less pressure" in a government job, he said, speaking in the Uttar Pradesh city of Prayagraj. Nearly 5 million students applied for 60,000 vacancies in the Uttar Pradesh police force earlier this year and an exam for the post of constable in central government security agencies saw 4.7 million applicants for 26,000 posts. Another giving applicants a shot at positions such as office boys and drivers in government departments, drew close to 2.6 million applicants in 2023 for about 7,500 jobs. Across all levels of government, including armed forces, schools, health services and the military, nearly 6 million jobs remain unfilled, India's main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, has estimated. An email to the federal government seeking data on government employment and vacancies was not answered.

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Trial starts for Vietnam tycoon in $146 million graft case

Hanoi, Vietnam — A former Vietnamese property and aviation tycoon charged with $146 million in fraud and stock market manipulation went on trial in Hanoi on Monday, the latest corruption case targeting the communist country's business elite. Trinh Van Quyet, who owned the FLC empire of luxury resorts, golf courses, and the budget Bamboo Airways, had nearly $2 billion in stock market wealth before his arrest, according to state media estimates. But on Monday the 48-year-old, handcuffed and dressed in a white shirt, was led into court by police officers. The trial comes just days after the death of former Communist Party of Vietnam leader Nguyen Phu Trong, who is credited with spearheading a crackdown on graft at the highest levels. Trong, 80, died on Friday at a military hospital in Hanoi "due to old age and serious illness," the party said, a day after announcing he was standing down to seek medical care. Tycoon Quyet is accused of illegally pocketing more than $146 million between 2017 and 2022. Following his arrest in March 2022, 49 other alleged accomplices were picked up, including his two sisters and the former chairman of the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange and its chief executive officer. According to the prosecution indictment, Quyet set up several stock market brokerages and registered dozens of family members to, ostensibly, trade shares. But police said while orders to buy shares were placed in hundreds of trading sessions, pushing up the value of the stock, they were cancelled before being matched. The case is part of a national corruption crackdown that has swept up numerous officials and members of Vietnam's business elite in recent years. In April, a top Vietnamese property tycoon sentenced to death in a $27 billion fraud case, launched an appeal against her conviction. The head of one of Vietnam's top soft drinks companies, meanwhile, was jailed for eight years in April in a $40 million fraud case.

Philippines ‘to assert our rights’ after China sea deal

Manila, Philippines — Manila insisted Monday it will continue to "assert our rights" over a hotspot South China Sea reef, after reaching a deal with Beijing for resupplying Filipino troops stationed on a grounded warship.  The Philippine foreign ministry also rejected suggestions by China that the "provisional arrangement" announced Sunday required Manila to give Beijing "prior notification" and verification of deliveries to the BRP Sierra Madre on Second Thomas Shoal.  China claims almost the entire South China Sea, including Second Thomas Shoal, which lies about 200 kilometers from the western Philippine island of Palawan and more than 1,000 kilometers from China's nearest major landmass, Hainan island.  "The principles and approaches laid out in the agreement were reached through a series of careful and meticulous consultations between both sides that paved the way for a convergence of ideas without compromising national positions," foreign ministry spokeswoman Teresita Daza said in a statement.  "The (Chinese foreign ministry) spokesperson's statement therefore regarding prior notification and on-site confirmation is inaccurate," Daza said.  Daza said the Philippines "will continue to assert our rights and jurisdiction in our maritime zones," which included Second Thomas Shoal.  The fish-rich shoal has been a focus of violent clashes between Chinese and Philippine ships in recent months as Beijing steps up efforts to push its claims to almost the entire South China Sea.  A Filipino sailor lost a thumb in the latest June 17 confrontation when Chinese coast guard members wielding knives, sticks and an axe foiled a Philippine Navy attempt to resupply its troops.  A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Monday Beijing had agreed to an arrangement with the Philippines over Filipino resupply missions "based on our principled position" that the shoal was part of Chinese territory.  "Should the Philippines need to send living necessities to the personnel living on the warship, China is willing to allow it in a humanitarian spirit if the Philippines informs China in advance and after on-site verification is conducted," the spokesperson said.  But it would "absolutely not accept" the delivery of large amounts of construction materials to the ship and attempts to "build fixed facilities or permanent outpost."  The resupply arrangement followed talks with Beijing this month when the countries agreed to "de-escalate tensions" and increase the number of communication channels to resolve maritime disagreements between them.  A handful of Filipino troops are stationed on the decrepit BRP Sierra Madre that was deliberately grounded on Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 to assert Manila's claims to the area.  They require frequent resupplies for food, water and other necessities as well as transport for personnel rotations. 

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