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US Army Dog Given Posthumous Award

A U.S. Army dog who saved the lives of his platoon during the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943 has been posthumously awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal, which recognizes the actions of animals serving in military conflict and is seen as the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

“Chips” began life as a beloved pet of the Wren family in Pleasantville, New York. His owners first laid eyes on him when a family living nearby offered the Wrens a puppy. John Wren, who was a young boy at the time, recalls his parents’ reaction.

WATCH: Chips awarded Army medal

“The runt of the litter was this German Shepherd-husky mix thing. And they said to my mother, ‘Would you like him?’ And she said, ‘I’d love to have him.’ So, she took him, and she named him Chips. And he was smart and obeyed well. And then the war effort came on, and they asked for dogs to go into the K9 Corps. And they thought he was a perfect fit for it. Although they were sorry to have to do it, they knew it was the right thing to do. And they did it.”

Chips passed his military entrance tests with flying colors. He was attached to the Third Infantry Regiment of the Seventh United States Army and was shipped out to North Africa.

In January 1943, Chips was a sentry at the Casablanca Conference in Morocco, where then-U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met to plan the war.

The same year in July, Chips joined “Operation Husky,” the Allied invasion force landing on the Italian island of Sicily.

“After his team and handler came under direct fire, Chips broke away from them and essentially forced the surrender of an enemy machine gun team,” says Lt. Col. Alan Throop, who attended the ceremony Monday in London.

Chips’ handler described at the time how the dog emerged from the machine gun hut with his jaws clamped around a German soldier’s neck and had to be called off before the man was killed.

The dog suffered burns and injuries but survived, having saved the lives of the men in his platoon. Chips was awarded the Silver Star and was nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross. But the medals were later rescinded over complaints that they were not intended for animals.

Seven decades later, Chips has been posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal — an award for military service bestowed by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a British charity.

In a ceremony Monday in London, Ayron, a U.S. military working dog based in Britain, accepted the award on Chips’ behalf, alongside Throop. The presentation was held at the Churchill War Rooms, named after the former British prime minister, who along with the British government, plotted military strategy there. Among those attending the ceremony was Randolph Churchill, Winston’s great-grandson.

Chips survived the war and returned home, much to the delight of then- four-year-old Wren, who was with his parents to welcome Chips off the ship. Wren said he is touched by the Dickin Medal.

“It’s just a nice way of honoring a war hero,” he told VOA.

Heroics now officially recognized, 75 years later.

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Freedom House: Democracy Scores for Most Countries Weaken for 12th Consecutive Year

Two thousand-seventeen was the 12th consecutive year of decline in global freedom, according to Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World Report. While experts say China, Russia, and North Korea, among other countries, put global stability at increased risk, there are signs of progress and global development across other regions, including Latin America and Africa. VOA’s Elizabeth Cherneff reports.

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U.S. Army Dog Given Posthumous Award

A U.S. Army dog who saved the lives of his platoon during the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943 has been posthumously awarded the PDSA ‘Dickin’ Medal – which recognizes the actions of animals serving in military conflict. Chips, a Husky-cross, took part in the beach landings on the Mediterranean island as the United States and its allies tried to turn the course of the war. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

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S. Africa Summons US Diplomat Over Trump’s Reported Vulgar Remarks

South Africa is the latest country to call in an American diplomat to explain U.S. President Donald Trump’s reported vulgar remarks about African and Haitian immigrants to the U.S.

Trump stunned lawmakers in a recent White House meeting on immigration when, according to multiple reports, he asked, “Why are we having all these people from s—hole countries come here?”

Trump reportedly said the U.S. should allow in more people from places such as Norway. Norway’s population is predominantly white. The populations of the African countries and Haiti are mostly black.

Statements from international and domestic organizations are expressing concern that the U.S. and its president are going down a racist path. Trump has denied he is a racist and insists he didn’t make the reported vulgar remarks.

South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) was scheduled to talk Monday with the second in command at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria about Trump’s remarks.

DIRCO said is a statement “Relations between South Africa and the United States, and between the rest of Africa and the United States, must be based on mutual respect and understanding.”

The State Department says American diplomats in Haiti and Botswana have also been summoned to discuss Trump’s remarks.

The African ambassadors to the United Nations said its group “is extremely appalled at and strongly condemns the outrageous, racist and xenophobic remarks attributed to the President of the United States.”

The group said in the statement that it “demands a retraction and an apology.”

The African ambassadors said they are “concerned at the continuing and growing trend from the U.S. administration towards Africa and people of African descent to denigrate the continent and people of colour.”

The U.S. Congressional Black Caucus said, “President Trump’s comments are yet another confirmation of his racially insensitive and ignorant views. It also reinforces the concerns that we hear every day, that the President’s slogan Make America Great Again is really code for Make America White Again.”

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Russia Does Not Support Trump Push to Alter Iran Nuclear Deal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Russia does not support U.S. President Donald Trump’s calls to renegotiate the international agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program.

Trump said Friday he was waiving for the last time sanctions the U.S. agreed to lift under the 2015 deal, and that Congress and European partners had 120 days to come up with ways to fix what he called “disastrous flaws” in the agreement.

Lavrov said Monday if Trump does go through with his threat to withdraw from the deal if no changes are made there would be unthinkable consequences with Iran sure to consider itself no longer bound by the agreement’s requirements.

The United States, Russia, Britain, China, France and Germany partnered in long, difficult negotiations with Iran in order to make sure the Iranian nuclear program is not being used to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has insisted its nuclear work was solely peaceful, and in exchange for limiting its uranium enrichment, among other concessions, it won relief from economic sanctions that badly hurt its economy.

Lavrov also cautioned against altering the agreement in light of the current international focus on North Korea and its tests of nuclear material and ballistic missiles, questioning what incentive North Korean leaders would have to agree to a similar deal if promised sanctions relief ends up not being reality.

Trump has criticized the Iran deal as giving up too much, while leaving too much of Iran’s nuclear program in place. The United States has also said Iran’s ballistic missile tests go against the spirit of the agreement.

Under the text of the nuclear deal, ballistic missile tests are not expressly prohibited. But the document was endorsed by the U.N. Security Council in a resolution that further says Iran is “called upon” not to undertake any ballistic missile related activity.

Trump wants a new version of the nuclear deal to cover the ballistic missile tests.

Iran insists it has the right to conduct its missile program and has accused the United States of working to undermine the nuclear deal.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in August the U.S. is not a “good partner.”

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Trump’s Reported Slur Complicates Immigration Push in Congress

Fallout from U.S. President Donald Trump’s reported slur against impoverished, predominantly black nations further complicates a push for bipartisan immigration legislation that has eluded U.S. lawmakers for more than a decade. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, a failure to reach a deal on thorny immigration topics could make a partial U.S. government shutdown more likely by the end of this week, when federal funding expires.

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US Homeland Security Chief Vows to Correct Hawaii’s Missile Alert System

U.S. Homeland Security Chief Kirstjen Nielsen said Sunday it was “unfortunate” there was a false emergency alarm about an incoming missile in Hawaii, but said authorities are “all working to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Officials continued to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Saturday incident in which residents of the western-most U.S. state, in the Central Pacific, were erroneously sent emergency alerts on television, radio, email and mobile devices that warned: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

Just a few weeks ago, Hawaii reinstated its Cold War-era alarm sirens amid growing fears of nuclear aggression by North Korea.

Authorities blamed Saturday’s incident on human error.

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard told CNN, “The fact that these processes failed so epically that caused this trauma, caused this terror all across the state of Hawaii, must be fixed immediately, and those responsible for this happening need to be held accountable.”

Gabbard said it “was unacceptable that this happened, but it really highlights the stark reality the people of Hawaii are facing” in being the U.S. state closest to North Korea at a time when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump have traded months of insults over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons development program and its frequent test missile launches.

WATCH: Hawaii Governor: Redundancy System in Place to Prevent False Alarms

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the false missile alert that panicked islanders Saturday morning was “totally unacceptable” and told reporters he is “angry and disappointed” by the situation. “Today is a day that most of us will never forget — a day when many in our community thought that our worst nightmares might actually be happening,” he said.

Questioned repeatedly by reporters about how such a mistake could happen, the governor said his administration is doing everything possible to make sure it does not happen again.

Vern Miyagi, administrator of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Administration, told reporters that the person responsible for the erroneous message “feels terrible” about it. Told by reporters that emergency sirens had actually gone off in some communities, Miyagi said he would have to look into the matter.

Panic

Hotel guests were herded into basements, while residents tried to find the safest places inside their homes. Some people were seen on video opening manhole covers to shelter underground.

Donna McGarrity of Oahu was at home with her 30-year-old son when they got the alert. She said they took shelter in the center of the house, where she called her daughter who lived out of state “just to actually tell her I love her, just in case we got bombed,” she told VOA.

The mistake was discovered within 20 minutes, but it took 38 minutes for state officials to issue a correction on mobile devices, which brought criticism from islanders, government officials and the media.

Hours later, McGarrity said she and her son were still shaken.

“We just kept looking it up just to make sure that it was a false alarm,” she said after the event. If the alert had been real, she said, they had been told a missile could have hit as soon as 12 minutes after the alert.

“I’ve never had anything like this happen, where it could be imminent, where in just a couple of minutes we could all be dead,” she said.

Earlier, Ige told CNN that the mistake happened when an employee simply erred.

“It was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the changeover of a shift,” he said, “and an employee pushed the wrong button.”

The White House sent out a statement by deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters: “The president has been briefed on the state of Hawaii’s emergency management exercise. This was purely a state exercise.”

Ajit Pai, chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), tweeted Saturday that his agency was launching a “full investigation” into the false wireless emergency alert. The FCC has jurisdiction over the nation’s emergency alert system.

Hawaiian lawmakers react

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii tweeted, “What happened today is totally inexcusable. The whole state was terrified. There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process. … There is nothing more important to Hawaii than professionalizing and foolproofing this process.”

Scott Saiki, speaker of the state House of Representatives, released a statement saying, “This system we have been told to rely upon failed, and failed miserably today. I am deeply troubled by this misstep that could have had dire consequences. Measures must be taken to avoid further incidents that caused wholesale alarm and chaos today.”

Saiki’s statement continued, “Apparently, the wrong button was pushed, and it took over 30 minutes for a correction to be announced. Parents and children panicked during those 30 minutes. The Hawaii House of Representatives will immediately investigate what happened, and there will be consequences. This cannot happen again.”

Hawaii State Sen. Mazie Hirono tweeted a reassurance that the alarm had been false, adding, “At a time of heightened tensions, we need to make sure all information released to the public is accurate. We need to get to the bottom of what happened and make sure it never happens again.”

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Trump: Deportation Protection Program ‘Probably Dead’

U.S. President Donald Trump contended Sunday that a U.S. program to protect young immigrants from deportation is “probably dead,” saying that opposition Democrats “don’t really want it,” but just want to be able to talk about the issue.

The fate of the program protecting nearly 800,000 immigrants from deportation who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents years ago when they were children is at the forefront of the Washington political debate this week. It is part of discussions between the White House and Congress over new funding for the government to avert a partial government shutdown when U.S. agencies run out of money at midnight Friday.

Trump last week rejected a bipartisan proposal offered him by three Republican and three Democratic senators to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect the young immigrants from deportation. The lawmakers also called for other immigration policy changes, including increased funding for security along the southern U.S. border with Mexico, where Trump is demanding that a wall be built to thwart more illegal immigration.

But in the course of the White House meeting, Trump sparked an international uproar by reportedly describing Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “s—hole countries,” questioning why more immigrants from those countries should be allowed into the United States.

In a pair of Twitter comments Sunday, Trump accused Democrats of trying to “take desperately needed money away from our Military” as part of the immigration and funding discussions.

He said that as president he wants “people coming into our Country who are going to help us become strong and great again, people coming in through a system based on MERIT. No more Lotteries! #AMERICA FIRST.”

Trump is calling for the end of of an immigration lottery program under which some foreigners have through a yearly drawing been able to legally emigrate to the U.S. Trump claims that other countries have sent potential terrorists and their most poorly educated citizens to America.

Trump last year ended the DACA program that was created by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, but delayed deportations to give Congress until March 5 to weigh in on the issue.

Trump, at an unusual televised meeting with both Democratic and Republican lawmakers last week, told them he would sign whatever immigration legislation they could agree on, but then rebuffed the first compromise offered him by the six senators, with more conservative Republican lawmakers calling for tougher immigration restrictions.

Meantime, a U.S. district court judge in California last week, over protests from Trump, ruled that for the moment at least he cannot end the DACA program.

On Saturday, the government said it has resumed accepting requests to renew grants from the young immigrants to protect them from deportation. Many of the immigrants, called Dreamers by their advocates, have only known the U.S. as their home.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said in a statement on its website, “Until further notice… the DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded” by Trump last September 5.

The statement said that people who were previously granted deferred action under DACA may request renewal, but added that the agency is not accepting requests from individuals who were never granted deferred action under DACA.

A DACA deferment gives prosecutors discretion on enforcing immigration laws, effectively allowing the undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S.

 

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