U.S. lawmakers remain unable to agree on a deficit-reduction package, one day before severe austerity measures automatically take effect. VOA Senate correspondent Michael Bowman reports that hopes of a deal continue to dwindle as the hours tick down to a New Year’s Eve deadline for averting across-the-board tax hikes and deep spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff."
President Barack Obama and members of Congress are cutting their holiday breaks short, returning to Washington to resume negotiations aimed at avoiding a looming fiscal crisis. With just days to go before the so-called "fiscal cliff," many worry the political one-upmanship is already causing harm to the US economy. Mil Arcega has more.
Thailand this month threatened to deport more than a million migrant workers, most from Burma, if they failed to become documented by December 14th. The deadline came and went without mass deportations, but the pressure underscored flaws in the documentation program, known as nationality verification, and the abuse of migrant labor. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Samutsakhon province.
African and world leaders say they will not let Mali become a terrorist safe haven, a failed state, a so-called "Afghanistan" in the Sahel. The U.N. Security Council has backed a regional military deployment to Mali next year to deal with an ongoing political crisis in the capital and help the Malian army retake the north from Islamist militants. Will 2013 be the year that Mali pulls back from the brink? If so, at what cost? VOA West Africa correspondent Anne Look has this report.
Egypt held the second round of its constitutional referendum Saturday, with about half the country voting. The other half voted last Saturday. The vote was split over two days because thousands of judges refused to help supervise voting to protest the quick adoption of the draft by an Islamist-dominated assembly, after the Islamist president had taken on extraordinary powers. Still, the constitution was approved by 57% of voters last week, leaving liberal opponents with a lot of ground to make up. VOA spoke to voters in Giza's Dokki neighborhood, and to a judge who was supervising a polling station in spite of the boycott by many of his colleagues.
As Burma's government promises reform and change, hundreds of political prisoners still languish behind bars, under terrible conditions - victims of the previous government's iron-fisted rule. Even those who have been freed warn that they still face challenges after leaving prison.