October 12, 2018

This is VOA news. I'm Tommie McNeil.

As Florida began to recover Thursday from the trail of devastation left by Hurricane Michael. The storm unleashed tropical force winds and heavy rains on several southeastern U.S. state as it moved in the northeasterly direction.

Florida governor Rick Scott promised a strong relief effort from his administration after the state was slammed by Michael, the most powerful storm on record in Florida's Panhandle and the third strongest on record to hit the U.S. mainland.

"So many families have lost everything. Homes are gone, businesses are gone. Roads and infrastructure along the storm's path have been destroyed. This hurricane was an absolute monster. And the damage left in its wake is still yet to be fully understood. Today, the top focus is search and rescues."

The National Hurricane Center downgraded Michael to a tropical storm early Thursday, saying its maximum winds had dropped below the threshold for a hurricane but still dangerous.

Speculation is growing that Turkey could allow American Pastor Andrew Brunson to return to the United States, ending a diplomatic standoff between Ankara and Washington. U.S. President Donald Trump has condemned Brunson's prosecution on terrorism charges.

Washington has expressed cautious optimism about his release.

In a sign of Brunson's possible release, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, appeared to distance himself from a decision. Right now, Erdoğan has been at the forefront of strong advocacy of Brunson's prosecution as relations with Washington deteriorated.

The American pastor is facing up to 35 years in jail on terrorism and espionage charges. His next court hearing is scheduled for Friday. Prosecutors accuse him of supporting followers of the U.S.-based Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gülen, blamed by Turkey for the 2016 failed coup there. The pastor is also accused of aiding a banned Kurdish separatist group, the PKK.

This is VOA news.

U.S. President Trump said Thursday that the U.S. has investigators in Turkey trying to determine what happened to the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, last seen entering Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul last week, but acknowledged that his life is imperiled.

Turkish officials say that they believe that Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who wrote opinion articles for The Washington Post, was murdered inside the consulate last week by a team of 15 Saudi agents who flew into Istanbul, a contention Saudi Arabia has called "baseless."

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says information he has reviewed suggests that Jamal was killed the day he went to the Saudi consulate.

"... the killing, if it has occurred at the consulate, but everything points to the fact that likely he has been murdered. So this American [center] citizen, that again it all, everything points to the ???Saudi kingdom"

Under current law, President Trump would have 120 days to report to the Senate with a determination and a decision on the imposition of sanctions.

A watchdog organization is accusing the U.S. government of "human rights violations" against asylum-seekers on the country's southern border.

In a report issued Thursday, Amnesty International singled out policies by the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees federal [bureau], I should say, border and immigration agents, for what the organization calls a "systematic campaign of illegal pushbacks" that kept thousands of asylum-seekers from reaching the United States.

Booster rockets carrying a spacecraft with a Russian cosmonaut and a U.S. astronaut on board headed for the International Space Station actually failed midair.

Reporter ??? Francesca Renai reports.

"Liftoff." "... and there is liftoff of the Soyuz MS-10 to the ...."

A booster rocket heading for the International Space Station has failed midair.

"... emergency, the failure of the booster."

The rocket was carrying a Soyuz spacecraft and American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin were on board.

The malfunction happened just minutes after liftoff in Kazakhstan.

Photos from inside the spacecraft showed two men being shaken around at the moment of failure.

The International Monetary Fund says that Pakistan has formally requested financial assistance from the lender to help address the country's economic challenges.

Pakistani Finance Minister Asad Umar submitted the request to the IMF managing director during a meeting on the sidelines of the IMF and World Bank annual conference in Indonesia.

The statement did not specify how much Pakistan is asking for, but the prime minister says that the government needs about $12 billion.

I'm Tommie McNeil, VOA news.