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Undaunted, US global media chief plows ahead with changes – 570 News

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WASHINGTON — Despite a barrage of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, the new chief of U.S. global media is plowing ahead with changes to the Voice of America and other international broadcasters that are heightening concerns about their future as independent news organizations.

Although Agency for Global Media chief executive Michael Pack has assured Congress that VOA and its sister networks will remain independent and pledged he would consult lawmakers on significant developments, last week he initiated personnel changes and began a review of visas for foreign employees.

Some fear the moves will damage the institution’s credibility and its ability to fulfil its congressionally mandated mission to broadcast impartial news around the world by turning the operation into a propaganda machine for President Donald Trump. Others, though, see them as important and long-needed reforms.

Pack on Wednesday fired the executive editor of Radio Free Asia, Bay Fang, whom he had demoted from president shortly after assuming office last month. A day earlier, Pack installed a South Carolina politician with little, if any, relevant experience to run the Open Technology Fund, which works to provide secure internet access to people around the world.

In addition, Pack launched a case-by-case review of visas for foreign agency employees, many of whom bring critical language skills needed to communicate with the foreign populations that are the primary audiences for AGM broadcasts. Although the review is not complete and no visa actions have yet been taken, some believe the review itself sends a chilling message to journalists.

As those moves were happening, the agency on Thursday publicly boasted of removing the Iranian and North Korean flags from a display at its Washington headquarters, prompting questions about the priorities of its new leadership at a tumultuous time in world events amid rising tensions between the U.S. and China and disputes over how to handle the coronavirus pandemic.

“As of today, the flags of regimes hostile to America no longer fly in the halls @USAGMgov, the taxpayer-funded home of U.S. international broadcasting,” the agency’s public relations bureau tweeted. The post included before and after photos of the flag display and the hashtags: “#America” “#freedom” and “#SpotTheDifference.”

Pack, a conservative filmmaker and associate of former Trump political adviser Steve Bannon, has defended the moves as necessary to reforming the agency, which critics have long said is beset by bureaucratic and journalistic issues. That criticism exploded earlier this year when the White House attacked VOA for its coverage of COVID-19.

Democrats, who suspect Pack wants to promote Trump over broader American values and interests, and some Republicans have demanded explanations for his abrupt dismissal of the heads of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Open Technology Fund. (The director and deputy director of VOA resigned within days of Pack taking control of AGM.)

On July 1, seven U.S. senators, including four Republicans who voted for his controversial nomination, sent a letter to Pack expressing concern about the dismissals and possible politicization of AGM. “These actions, which came without any consultation with Congress, let alone notification, raise serious questions about the future of USAGM under your leadership,” they wrote.

Pack did not respond to the letter from Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Jerry Moran of Kansas until a week later, when he sent a polite but firm reply that said he was only doing what he had been hired to do.

“The president, the American people, and the Senate asked me to make bold and meaningful changes,” he wrote in his July 8 response, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. “Indeed, throughout the confirmation process, and in the weeks since taking the helm, I made clear my commitment to fixing the widely-known management issues that have long beleaguered USAGM and, in turn, its institutions.”

‘During the confirmation process, I pledged to respect and protect the independence of the USAGM journalists, and I stand by that pledge,” he said. “I also wish to reiterate my firm commitment to honouring the VOA Charter and to supporting the missions of the other USAGM networks and our heroic journalists around the world. As an agency, through accurate and reliable reporting, we have to get the truth to those starved for it.”

Yet, the review of visas, known as J-1 visas, for foreign staffers and the appointment of 78-year-old former South Carolina Secretary of State James Mills to run the Open Technology Fund have raised questions about that commitment.

The visa review, in particular, “will be perceived as a threat to many reporters,” said Matt Armstrong, a former Republican appointee to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which was the AGM’s predecessor. “Mr Pack is finding his ways to influence VOA’s output without direct intervention. Failing to renew (visas) may result in harsh penalties for some of these reporters and their families, from jail to even death.”

In response to reports that visas had already been or were about to be cancelled, the agency responded that the review was not yet complete and that “it appreciates the value of critical-language skills offered by U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.”

“To improve agency management and protect U.S. national security, it is imperative to determine that hiring authorities and personnel practices are not misused,” it said. “As such, USAGM is undertaking a comprehensive, case-by-case assessment of personal services contractors who are J-1 visa holders.”

It did not give a projected date for the completion of the review.

Matthew Lee, The Associated Press

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Premier League star Zaha racially abused on social media – CNN International

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Ahead of a game in the English Premier League on Sunday, Zaha wrote on Twitter, “Woke up to this today,” then showed what he had been sent by a user who appeared to be a fan of Palace’s opponent in Sunday’s match, Aston Villa.
“You better not score tomorrow you black c**t. Or I’ll come to your house dressed as a ghost,” the person wrote.
There was an accompanying image of the Ku Klux Klan and a cereal box named, “c**n flakes.”
Crystal Palace called the abuse “an absolute disgrace” on Twitter and said it “should not be happening.”
Aston Villa then retweeted the London club’s statement, vowing to issue a lifetime ban to the individual who posted the abuse.
“We deplore the disgusting racist messages sent to @wilfriedzaha. We condemn all forms of racial discrimination and stand with @CPFC,” the club based in Birmingham, central England, wrote.
“We are working with the police in investigating this extremely serious matter and when the culprit is identified AVFC will issue a lifetime ban.”
Later that day, the West Midlands Police announced on Twitter that it had made an arrest — of an individual whose lifetime ban could be very long indeed.
“We were alerted to a series of racist messages sent to a footballer today and after looking into them and conducting checks, we have arrested a boy. The 12-year-old from #Solihull has been taken to custody. Thanks to everyone who raised it. Racism won’t be tolerated,” the police force tweeted.

Premier League statement

The Premier League, widely considered the most watched football league in the world, also condemned the actions of the offender.
“This behaviour is completely unacceptable and the Premier League stands alongside @wilfriedzaha in opposing this, and discrimination in any form. There is #NoRoomForRacism, anywhere,” it tweeted.
“We will continue to support players, managers, coaches and their family members who receive serious discriminatory online abuse. Through our dedicated reporting system we can take immediate action on cases like this.”
Late last month, the league launched the system that would “enable players, managers and coaches to notify” it “of serious discriminatory abuse” received via direct messages on social media platforms.
“Each case will be reviewed, reported to the relevant social media company, investigated and legal action taken where appropriate,” said the league.
Speaking before the Villa game, Palace manager Roy Hodgson said the actions of the individual were “cowardly” and “despicable.” He praised Zaha for going public.
“It is very saddening on the day of a game that a player wakes up to this cowardly and despicable abuse,” Hodgson told Sky.
“I think it is right that Wilf made people aware of it. I don’t think it is something he should keep quiet about.
“I think it is very good that our club, Aston Villa and the Premier League are doing everything they can to find out who this despicable individual is and one can only hope that they will get identified and they will get called to account and they will pay for these actions.
“There is literally no excuse. There is no excuse at all.”

Past instances

Zaha was racially abused last year and said he received death threats after winning a penalty for Palace against Arsenal in October 2018.
The head of Kick It Out, which according to its Twitter handle has “campaigned for equality since 1993,” told CNN in February that he believed racism in sport is “worse now than it was five years ago.”
“Football is very different to what it was in the 1970s, racism is not the endemic thing that it was in the 1970s,” said Sanjay Bhandari. “Over a 40, 50 year period? We’ve definitely [made progress]. But it’s worse than it was five years ago, and it’s worse than it was seven years ago.”
Kick It Out said Sunday on Twitter: “We are extremely disappointed that Wilf Zaha has once again been the subject of targeted racial abuse.”
“Those who continue to select professional sports people in this way, need to be brought to justice and face the strongest consequences.”

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After issuing social media plea, Saint John, N.B., woman still waiting for live kidney donor – Globalnews.ca

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A Saint John woman who made a social media plea last year for someone to donate a kidney to her is still waiting and hoping.

Kara Phinney was born with small kidneys. She said her health has been pretty good since childhood, despite numerous medical appointments and constant bloodwork.

“I’m working two jobs, so, I mean, I’m doing okay,” said the 26-year-old.

“You have your good and bad days.”

A bad day can include extreme fatigue, among other things.

Read more:
Stranger aims to help Edmontonian find urgently needed kidney donor

Phinney has been on home dialysis for more than year. It runs nine hours per day. She said she does it at night and sleeps through the majority of it, but it does wake her up if she inadvertently rolls over on the tubing.

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Phinney’s mother, Patti, went through a lengthy testing process to become a potential donor for her daughter, but was rejected.

“All in all it was quite a disappointment, thinking you’re going to give her this gift and it’s not going to happen,” Patti Phinney said.

“And then, you know, what’s the next phase?”

Just over a year ago, Kara posted a plea on Facebook asking for someone to donate a kidney to her. She said it was shared thousands of times, and got another round of shares when it popped up as a memory on her profile.

She said she turned to social media to help raise awareness about the need for donations, both for herself and others.

“I don’t really tell people about it,” Kara said of her condition.

“A lot of people found out from it because you don’t really see that I’m sick. It looks like everything is fine, but it’s not.”






6:19
Emergency goalie David Ayres supports Green Shirt Day organ donation campaign


Emergency goalie David Ayres supports Green Shirt Day organ donation campaign

Interim Health Services Manager of the Multi-Organ Transplant Program (MOTP) of Atlantic Canada Shelby Kennedy said social media is becoming a more common way for people seeking organs to try to find someone willing to make a live donation.

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However, she cautioned that some posts include too much personal information, which could be misused.

Kennedy said she sees merit in the use of social media, but stressed that it needs to be done safely.

“So we’re trying to work with recipient and donor sides to make that more of an option if that’s the route that you choose to go to try to get a transplant,” Kennedy said.

“We’ve seen some successes across Canada with those, but we have not seen it happen here in Atlantic Canada.”

Read more:
Nova Scotia’s presumed consent law for organ donation to go into effect on Jan. 18

MOTP performs all transplants for Atlantic Canadians in Halifax. Kennedy said there have been nine kidney transplants on New Brunswick residents in 2020, including two live donations.

She admits that’s about half the usual figure for this time of year, but the numbers were impacted by COVID-19-related cancellations of all transplants for more than six weeks.

The Phinneys are hopeful New Brunswick follows Nova Scotia’s lead in enacting a presumed consent law, which will require people to opt out of donating organs, rather than opting in.

That Nova Scotia law comes into effect in January.

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Read more:
Nova Scotia’s presumed consent law for organ donation to go into effect on Jan. 18

“I think it’s going to help a lot of people,” Kara said.

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Patti. “And I think they’re going to have to encourage doctors and specialists to come to Halifax to be able to perform (these surgeries).”

Kara’s brother-in-law is now being tested to see if he could donate to her. He went through testing once before, but the tests expired and had to be redone.

As she seeks a live donor, Kara is not on the wait list for a kidney from a deceased person. She said people on the wait list have to drop everything and rush to the hospital once they get the call that a kidney is available for them.

As long as she stays reasonably healthy, she said, she’ll continue to aim for a live donor.

“You get stressful some days,” she said. “I think if you overthink about it, is when it gets a little more stressful and frustrating.

“And it is frustrating, you know. It’s a wait.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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