Skopje, Sep 10 (AP/UNB) — An American lawmaker who chairs a U.S. Senate subcommittee on regional security in Europe is urging Macedonia's voters to back a deal that would change the country's name and allow it to join NATO.
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin who chairs the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on European and Regional Security Cooperation, met with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in the capital of Skopje on Sunday.
He told reporters he was visiting to encourage people to "get out and vote" in an upcoming referendum on the agreement.
The Sept. 30 referendum vote is on the agreement Zaev reached with his counterpart in Greece to change the former Yugoslav republic's name to North Macedonia. Greece in return would drop its objections to its small northern neighbor seeking NATO and European Union membership.
Juba, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — A commercial plane crashed into a lake in South Sudan on Sunday and killed 20 people, a local official said.
The 19-seater commercial Baby Air plane had been traveling from the capital, Juba, the minister of information for the town of Yirol, Taban Abel Aguek, told The Associated Press.
Officials were investigating the cause of the crash.
Among the dead were at least three children and the bishop of Yirol, authorities said.
The three survivors are a 6-year-old child, an adult man and an Italian doctor with an aid organization who was in surgery and in serious condition, Aguek said.
"There were people everywhere," the official said of the crash site.
Yirol is in the central part of the civil war-torn East African country.
Ramallah, Sept 9 (AP/UNB) — The director of an east Jerusalem hospital said Sunday that a U.S. decision to cut funding to hospitals serving the Palestinians will have a "severe effect."
Bassem Abu Libdeh, of the Makassed hospital, said the U.S. covers 40 percent of costs in six east Jerusalem hospitals that provide care for Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The Trump administration announced the $25 million funding cut on Saturday, saying it would redirect the money toward "high-priority projects elsewhere."
The U.S. has also cut funding to UNWRA, which serves Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants across the region.
The moves have added to Palestinian mistrust of the U.S. as it prepares to unveil a peace plan.
Beirut, Sept 9 (AP/UNB) — Syrian troops and Russian forces resumed their bombing of the opposition's last stretch of territory in the country, killing an infant girl on Sunday and damaging a hospital, rescuers and a war monitoring group say
The Syrian Civil Defense, first responders known as the White Helmets, says the girl was killed in bombing on Hobeit, in Idlib province.
Mustafa al-Haj Youssef, of the White Helmets, says government helicopters dropped unguided barrel bombs on the village.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Russian and Syrian government airstrikes on the towns of Latamneh and Kafr Zeita in the neighboring Hama province. It says a hospital in Latamneh was damaged in airstrikes and was taken out of operation.
Moscow, Sept 9 (AP/UNB) — Opponents of a Russian government move to increase the age for collecting state retirement pensions held protests throughout the country on Sunday and scores of arrests were reported.
The protests were called by Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who is President Vladimir Putin's most prominent foe. Navalny is serving a 30-day jail sentence connected with an unsanctioned protest in January unrelated to the pension proposal, which was introduced in June.
Opposition to the proposal spans the political spectrum. Protests organized by the Communist Party were held across Russia earlier this month.
The plan calls for the pension age to be raised five years — to 65 for men and 60 for women.
Olga Sokolova, a 52-year-old factory worker, said she was "dumbfounded" when the proposal came, because she had hoped to retire from her physically taxing job at 55, the current pension age for women.
"I can't keep being afraid anymore," she said of her decision to risk detention by showing up at a protest in Moscow's Pushkin Square that attracted several hundred people. Protesters in Moscow chanted "Russia without Putin" and held signs including "Putin, when will you go on pension?
Demonstrations also were held in cities in Siberia and the Far East as well as St. Petersburg. Photos on social media indicated most of them were attended by 100 or more protesters, but the crowd in St. Petersburg appeared to exceed 1,000. An Associated Press journalist counted at least 30 people detained at the St. Petersburg protest, which was adjacent to the Finlad Station rail terminal.
News reports and tallies from the OVD-Info organization that monitors political repressions showed at least 40 arrests connected with the protests elsewhere, including 12 each in the cities of Khabarovsk and Tomsk.
A lawyer for Navalny's Anti-Corruption Fund was arrested in Moscow before the rally.
Raising the pension is opposed both by older people, who fear they won't live long enough to collect significant benefits, and by younger Russians worried that keeping people in the workforce longer will limit their own employment opportunities.
"The reform is a robbery of my parents and grandparents. We're stealing our future, too. Right now the only thing we can do is protest," 24-year-old Igor Panov said at the Moscow demonstration.
Putin's trust rating in public opinion polls dropped notably after the proposal was put forward and last month offered some concessions, including dropping the age for women from 63 to 60.
But Putin and government officials say the age hike is necessary because rising life expectancy in Russia could exhaust pension resources if the eligibility age remains the same.