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VOA news 2019-05-18

This is VOA news. I’m David Byrd.

Amid a trade war with China, President Donald Trump Friday moved to ease tensions with allies.

AP Washington correspondent Sagar Meghani has details from the White House.

The president’s lifting import taxes on Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum, clearing the way for approval of a trade pact between the three nations.

He slapped on the tariffs last year in the name of national security and Canada had resisted approving the deal while they were in place.

“They were hurting Canadian consumers, Canadian workers, and American workers and American consumers.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ontario shortly before President Trump spoke here in Washington where he did not address the tariffs but pushed Congress to approve the deal. “A fantastic deal for our country.”

The White House says he is now holding off and deciding whether to put tariffs on foreign vehicles which would have a big impact on Europe and Japan.

Sagar Meghani, at the White House.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defied a congressional subpoena and refused to give the House Ways and Means Committee copies of President Trump’s tax returns on Friday.

Mnuchin has said the request amounts to government overreach and that there is no legitimate legislative purpose for Trump to turn over the returns.

Committee Chairman Richard Neal said the case will head to court now, possibly as early as next week.

Neal said he was consulting with attorneys on the best way to proceed.

Trump’s refusal to cooperate in numerous congressional investigations of him, his presidency, his family and his finances is forcing House Democrats to use the courts to enforce their oversight powers under the U.S. constitution.

A down day on Wall Street, with all three major indices finishing in negative territory. The Dow lost 0.38 percent. The S&P fell 0.58 percent. The NASDAQ dropped 1.04 percent.

This is VOA news.

The United Nations says that hospitals and health care facilities are being deliberately targeted for airstrikes in rebel-held areas of northwest Syria.

Mark Lowcock, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and the emergency relief coordinator, told the U.N. Security Council Friday that the death toll from the Syrian civil war continues to climb.

“In total, the WHO and health actors have reported 20 attacks on these 18 facilities. Almost one a day for the last 3 weeks. Some facilities have been hit twice. Other hospitals are closing for fear of being attacked.”

Russia has denied that its fighter planes are targeting hospitals and civilian infrastructure.

Syria’s ambassador to the U.N. said that terrorist organizations had taken over schools and hospitals as military barracks and are using civilians as human shields.

Dozens of humanitarian and relief organizations said Friday the violence has reached a new crisis point as government troops pushed to take the rebel stronghold.

Bangladeshi authorities and the U.N. refugee agency have registered more than a quarter million Rohingya refugees and presented them with identity documents.

As Lisa Schlein reports, those documents grant them a number of rights and safeguards.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says the ID card includes a photo and key information, such as name, date of birth and place of birth. It also indicates Myanmar as the country of origin.

“…that we do not know only how many people there are, that we have a detailed profile which allows us with the more accurate data to deliver far better assistance to this massive refugee population.”

Mahecic says the UNHCR and Bangladeshi authorities hope to complete the registration process for the entire refugee population by November.

Lisa Schlein, for VOA news, Geneva.

Taiwan’s legislature voted to legalize same-sex marriage Friday, a first in Asia.

AP correspondent ??? has details.

Thousands of people, including same-sex couples, celebrated outside parliament, many carrying rainbow-colored flags and placards reading “the vote cannot fail.”

Lawmakers pressured by LGBT groups as well as church organizations opposed to the move approved most of a most government-sponsored bill that recognizes same-sex marriages and gives couples many of the tax, insurance and child custody benefits available to male-female married couples.

That makes Taiwan the first place in Asia with a comprehensive law both allowing and laying out the terms of same-sex marriage.

I’m ???.

For more on these stories and the rest of the day’s news, be sure to visit our website voanews.com. I’m David Byrd, VOA news.

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