Category Archives: News

worldwide news

Trump to Meet Jordan’s King Abdullah at White House June 25

 U.S. President Donald Trump will welcome King Abdullah of Jordan to the White House on June 25, the White House said in a statement on Thursday.

“Trump looks forward to reaffirming the strong bonds of friendship between the United States and Jordan. The leaders will discuss issues of mutual concern, including terrorism, the threat from Iran and the crisis in Syria, and working towards a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” it said.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Intel CEO Resigns After Probe Into Relationship With Employee

Intel Corp Chief Executive Brian Krzanich resigned on Thursday after a probe found his consensual relationship with an employee violated company policy.

The head of the largest U.S. chipmaker is the latest in a line of powerful men in business and politics to lose their jobs or resign over relationships viewed as inappropriate, a phenomenon highlighted by the #MeToo movement.

“An ongoing investigation by internal and external counsel has confirmed a violation of Intel’s non-fraternization policy, which applies to all managers,” Intel said in a statement.

The board named Chief Financial Officer Robert Swan as interim CEO and said it has begun a search for a permanent CEO, including both internal and external candidates.

Intel declined to give any further information about the probe. Intel shares fell 1.5 percent in early trade.

Wall Street took Krzanich’s unexpected departure in stride.

“Although we respect Krzanich’s efforts in redirecting Intel’s strategy from a computer-centric to a data-centric company, we view Intel as a process-driven company with a deep bench of CEO candidates that can continue to drive the corporate strategy,” said Kevin Cassidy, an analyst at Stifel.

Krzanich, 58, was appointed Intel CEO in May 2013, and was in charge of moving the company’s focus to growing data centers from personal computers. Intel shares more than doubled during his tenure.

He was recently credited with containing the fallout from the disclosure of some security flaws in the company’s chips that could allow hackers to steal data from computers, although his sale of some Intel stock before the flaws were disclosed to investors attracted some criticism.

“There are no new payments as part of his departure,” a source familiar with the company told Reuters.

Temporary replacement Swan has been Intel’s CFO since October 2016 and previously spent nine years as CFO of eBay Inc.

Intel on Thursday raised its second-quarter revenue and profit forecast, saying it expects quarterly revenue of about $16.9 billion and adjusted profit of about 99 cents per share, up from a previous forecast of $16.3 billion in revenue and adjusted earnings per share of 85 cents.

Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $16.29 billion and adjusted profit of 85 cents per share.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Lawmakers Grill Commerce Secretary Over Escalating Trade Battles

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross faced tough questions during a Senate hearing Wednesday on the Trump administration’s tariff proposals and actions. Senators on both sides of the aisle criticized the administration’s rollout of proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. VOA’s Elizabeth Cherneff has more on the fallout from Washington.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Immigrant Families Could End Up at Military Facilities

The U.S. military is prepared to provide housing for men, women and children detained for trying to enter the country illegally along the country’s southwestern border.

The executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Wednesday calls for the U.S. secretary of defense to “take all legally available measures” to provide housing for the immigrants either at existing facilities or at facilities to be constructed if needed.

“We support DHS [Department of Homeland Security],” Mattis told reporters earlier in the day, before a meeting at the Pentagon with the German defense minister.

“This is their lead,” he added. “We’ll respond if requested.”

Four installations considered

Already, four military installations, three in Texas and one in Arkansas, are being considered as possible locations for housing house children detained at the border.

Pentagon officials say that so far, the facilities at Fort Bliss, Dyess Air Force Base and Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas and at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas have been assessed only as potential sites and that no final determination has been made.

They also say that if the sites are used, the military would not be responsible for providing security or other services.

Mattis noted this would not be the first time the military has been asked to help house civilians.

“We have housed refugees. We have housed people thrown out of their homes by earthquakes and hurricanes,” he told reporters. “We do whatever is in the best interest of the country.”

​No direct military role

The Pentagon has not played a direct role in addressing the situation along the country’s border with Mexico, though it has facilitated the deployment of National Guard forces to border states.

Those troops have been helping with some aerial surveillance, logistics and infrastructure support but have not been carrying out any patrols and have not been making any arrests.

In a symbolic protest against the president’s initial “zero-tolerance” policy of separating children from their families, the governors of almost a dozen U.S. state announced they would be recalling their National Guard units.

Asked if those withdrawals had made any impact on the National Guard’s mission at the border, Mattis said, “Not right now, no.”

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Instagram Announces Video Expansion

Social media app Instagram announced Wednesday that it would be increasing its time limit for videos posted on its platform from one minute to 10 minutes, as part of a general expansion of the app’s video capabilities.

The photo-sharing app also announced it would be launching a stand-alone app called IGTV to host these long-form videos. The app will be available this week, according to technology website, The Verge.

“When you watch longer video, you need a different context,” Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom told The Verge. “We really wanted to separate those two, so you could choose which adventure you wanted to go down.”

The longer videos will also be available through a tab in the original Instagram application. Accounts with wide audiences will be able to post videos of up to an hour.

The update comes as Instagram, which Facebook bought in 2012 for $1 billion — is looking to compete with fellow video platform YouTube for young users.

Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion. Since then, the video-sharing website has ballooned to a user base of 1.8 billion, becoming a platform for aspiring content creators looking to strike it big.

Systrom told The Associated Press he hoped his app would gain similar success with the IGTV update. At a release event for the app Wednesday, the company announced IGTV now had over 1 billion users.

The IGTV app will function similar to television. Videos will begin playing as soon as the user opens the app and will fill be full-screen vertically — contrasting with YouTube, which requires users to turn their phones horizontally for full-screen capabilities.

Facebook announced Tuesday it would be launching a series of interactive shows on its own video outlet, Facebook Watch.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

New Credit Rating Speaks of Vietnam’s Complicated Makeover

A decent rating from Fitch this month has Vietnam riding high on the small victory, despite some of the less favorable economic trends connected to this first-of-its-kind rating.

The state monopoly Vietnam Electricity, or EVN, clinched a “BB” score June 6 from Fitch Ratings, which until then had never officially assessed the credit of a non-financial company owned by the Hanoi government. That prompted a cross-section of officials in the southeast Asian country to gush about the promise in store for one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

“This positive rating enables EVN to issue international bonds, diversify our financing sources, and reassure domestic and foreign institutional investors,” said Dinh Quang Tri, the acting CEO of EVN. “We are now on a stronger footing to deliver more reliable electricity to Vietnam.”

The ebullience, however, is tempered by two questions: Will this be enough for investors to trust EVN? And how much should government become involved in business?

Renewable energy

EVN underscores the mixed sentiments that analysts express about Vietnam, a communist country transitioning to capitalism. The fact that the government runs EVN contributed to Fitch’s confidence in its report card.

“We believe the company can secure adequate funding in light of its position as an entity closely linked to the sovereign,” it said in a media release.

Yet businesses want even more promises from the government. Vietnam has spent years courting investment in renewable power, for example, but with limited success. That is in part because businesses that generate wind, solar, and other alternative energy sources can sell it only to EVN, and they are afraid of losing money if the company does not buy their electricity.

For renewables, “there is no provision for any form of government guarantee, assurance, or support to enhance the creditworthiness of EVN as the sole off-taker/purchaser,” corporate law firm Baker McKenzie said in a September report.

State vs. free market

Some would like to see more government involvement in general, especially to bail out companies in trouble. Others would like to see less involvement, as evidenced in the push for Vietnam to privatize further by selling stakes in its many state-owned enterprises. The country has not settled on a balance between the free market and the government.

Hanoi used to give iron-clad pledges that it would pay up in case of default at one of its state firms or public works projects. The government is doing that less often now because it is moving away from a centrally-planned economy, as well as reducing its sovereign debt.

Public anxiety mounted in recent years as Vietnam approached its debt ceiling of 65 percent of gross domestic product, though the country has made progress in reining in the debt.

That means EVN must tread lightly. Now that the power company has a Fitch Rating, it is eyeing international bonds to borrow money from investors around the world.

Going through this financing process is “helping EVN benefit from the discipline that comes with access to capital markets,” said Jordan Schwartz, who is the director of the World Bank group overseeing infrastructure, guarantees, and public-private partnerships.

The World Bank gave EVN funds and technical assistance to prepare for the Fitch assessment. Its credit rating shows how tightly EVN’s fate correlates with that of the government. Electricity prices, for example, will have to increase for the utility to make profits and improve its rating. Big increases, however, require approval from Hanoi, which also wants to keep power affordable for citizens.

The correlation is even blunter in Fitch’s analysis. The overall credit rating for Vietnam’s government itself also is BB. If that improves, so could the score for EVN, Fitch said, “provided EVN’s linkages with the state do not deteriorate significantly.”

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Poll: Voters Give Trump Mixed Grades on Foreign, Domestic Issues

More than half of American voters say U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reduced the likelihood of nuclear war, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The poll, administered by Quinnipiac University, found that 54 percent of voters thought the summit, which took place June 12 in Singapore, reduced the risk of war. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they felt it did not reduce the chance.

“American voters say President Donald Trump deserves a pat on the back for his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the poll.

Fifty percent of voters, however, said they did not think the summit would lead to peace between the two nations, and seven out of 10 disagreed with Trump’s June 13 claim that North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat,” the poll found.

During the summit, Trump and Kim signed a document pledging both countries would “work to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” and attempt to establish “new U.S.-DPRK relations.”

North Korea, however, has made several pledges to denuclearize in the past to no avail. In 2016, during the Obama administration, the North “signal[ed] a willingness to resume negotiations on denuclearization,” according to arms control advocacy group the Arms Control Association.

No to Nobel Prize

According to the poll, 66 percent of voters disagreed with the notion that Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. In May, 18 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to the Norwegian Nobel Committee to formally nominate him. The committee is in charge of awarding the prize.

“Since taking office, President Trump has worked tirelessly to apply maximum pressure on North Korea to end its illicit weapons program and bring peace to the region,” the letter read.

Overall, 52 percent of voters said they disapproved with Trump’s performance as president, whereas 43 percent said they approved. The last Quinnipiac poll, released June 6, also found more voters disapproved than approved of the president’s performance by a margin of 51 percent to 40 percent.

Trust in media

Fifty-three percent of those polled said they trusted the news media more than Trump, while 65 percent believed that the media is an important part of democracy.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and the press. Trump, however, has often attacked leading news outlets such as CNN and The New York Times, often claiming that they are biased against him. In February 2017, Trump called the media “the enemy of the American People” in a tweet.

November elections

Ahead of this November’s midterm elections, in which all 435 seats of the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats are up for election, the poll found American voters wanted Democrats to take control of both Republican-held chambers of Congress. Voters favored Democrats over Republicans 49-43 in the House, and 49-44 in the Senate. Democrats need to gain two seats to take control of the Senate, and 24 to take control of the House.

J. Miles Coleman, an electoral analyst for American election calling group Decision Desk HQ, told VOA while Trump’s approval numbers appear to be stable, Democratic incumbents are doing better than he would expect at this time.

On Wednesday, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who was first elected to office as a Republican before becoming an Independent in 2007, announced he would be pledging $80 million toward helping Democratic candidates in the elections.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

McCaskill’s Husband Invested $1 Million in Offshore Hedge Fund

Four years after Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill co-sponsored legislation targeting tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, her husband began investing in a hedge fund registered in the Caribbean nation — an investment that has paid off handsomely.

The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that Joseph Shepard has invested $1 million in Matrix Capital Management and that it has earned him between $230,000 and $2.1 million in income. The Star cited McCaskill’s financial disclosure forms, which only show a range of income.

Shepard declined the newspaper’s request for comment. He and McCaskill file their taxes separately.

McCaskill is running for re-election this year. Campaign spokeswoman Meira Bernstein told the Star that the senator has no involvement in her husband’s investments, and doesn’t consider his business interests when doing her job in the Senate.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

European Business Lobby Presses China to Stop Dragging Feet on Reform

As the United States and China teeter on the brink of an all out trade war and tit-for-tat tariffs loom, a European businesses lobby is urging Beijing to stop dragging its feet on reforms and using unfair trade policies to pamper Chinese companies.

 

Each year, foreign trade groups in China roll out a laundry list of concerns about market access, regulatory hurdles and other policies that tilt the playing field in the world’s second largest economy.

 

This year, for the first time ever, the European Chamber of Commerce’s annual survey of the business climate found that 61 percent of its 532 company members saw their Chinese counterparts as equally or more innovative.

Increased spending on research and development, targeted acquisitions of foreign high-tech firms and growing demand for innovative products from consumers were helping driving that shift, the chamber said.

 

The high response is significant. Policies linked to innovation and competition are a key part of the intensifying US — China trade debate and concerns of foreign companies operating here.

 

European Chamber President Mats Harborn said that as Chinese companies become stronger and more competitive, it is time for Beijing to “remove the training wheels.”

 

“It’s time for China to lift or reduce the pampering of its own enterprises and expose them to even more open and fair competition for them to develop into the champions that China wants them to be,” Harborn said.

 

Currently, Chinese companies account for 115 of the Fortune 500 list of global enterprises. The Chinese government claims that of the world’s 260 “unicorns” — start up companies valued at more than a billion dollars — more than 160 are from China.

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered an address at the World Economic Forum in Davos early last year, China has repeatedly pledged to further open up the country’s economy.

 

According to the group’s survey of its members 52 % said that the government’s promises of opening up had yet to be realized. And looking forward, 46 percent said they thought the number of regulatory obstacles would increase over the next five years.

 

Harborn said that time is running out for China and 2018 has to be the year that it delivers on its promises.

 

“Dragging the feet on delivering on promises that have been made in China will cause reactions around the world,” Harborn said.

 

The United States response to that has led to reactions such as the $50 billion, and more recently $200 billion, in possible tariffs that Washington could levy on Chinese goods.

 

“We don’t agree with that action but it is the result of what we have warned about earlier,” he said.

Washington and European companies alike have long voiced concern about trade policies in China that protect domestic companies and State Owned Enterprises through subsidies, regulatory barriers and unequal treatment.

 

The Trump administration has alleged that Beijing is stealing American intellectual property and forcing technology transfers. Beijing denies that is the case.

 

Still, the European chamber’s survey found that about one in five of its companies “felt compelled to hand over technology in exchange for market access,” despite Chinese government assurances to the contrary.

 

According to the survey, 19 percent said they felt compelled to transfer technology.

Harborn said that while the percentage may seem small, the value it represents is much larger. Numbers were even higher among companies in the aerospace and aviation sector (36 percent), civil engineering and construction (33 percent) and automakers (27 percent).

 

“And no foreign company going to Europe has to even consider the issue of giving up technology for market access,” Harborn said.

 

Reciprocal treatment is a key concern from companies in China, regardless of whether they are from Europe and America. It is also a key aim of Washington’s trade dispute with Beijing and effort to make trade fairer.

 

But as the rhetoric in the U.S.-China trade dispute has heated up, some analysts argue that the focus has shifted too heavily to reciprocal and damaging tariffs. Actions that risk hurting not only the United States and China, but the global economy as well.

 

Harborn said confrontation through tariffs is not the most efficient way to get reforms and opening up that companies have been asking China to deliver.

 

“We are afraid that when you are exerting pressure this way [through threats of tariffs] that China keeps its aces up its sleeve and is presenting what is needed to defuse the tension at the time and is not addressing the fundamental and broader issues,” Harborn said.

 

Besides, he add, reforms are not only important for foreign companies but China’s own economic development as well.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Amazon, Buffett, JPMorgan Pick Gawande to Lead Health Firm

Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway have picked well-known author and Harvard professor Dr. Atul Gawande to transform the health care they give their employees.

The three corporate titans said Wednesday that Gawande will lead an independent company focused on a mission they announced earlier this year: figure out ways to improve a broken and often inefficient system for delivering care.

Health care researchers have said any possible solutions produced by this new venture will be felt well beyond the estimated 1 million workers the three companies employ in the United States. Other businesses that provide employee health coverage are eager to find solutions for health care costs that often rise faster than inflation and squeeze their budgets in the process.

Berkshire Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett has described health costs as a “hungry tapeworm on the American economy.”

Leaders of the three companies have said little about how their Boston-based venture plans to tackle this problem, but they have noted that it will take time to figure out solutions, a point they emphasized again on Wednesday.

“We said at the outset that the degree of difficulty is high and success is going to require an expert’s knowledge, a beginner’s mind, and a long-term orientation,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a prepared statement. “[Gawande] embodies all three, and we’re starting strong as we move forward in this challenging and worthwhile endeavor.”

Employer-sponsored insurance covers about 157 million people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s nearly half the total U.S. population and the biggest slice of the country’s patchwork health insurance market.

Neither companies nor many of their employees are happy with how the system currently works. Employers have reacted in part to rising expenses by raising deductibles and other costs, asking their workers to pay more of the bill and to shop around for better deals. Many patients, especially the sickest, struggle with that.

Gawande is surgeon and professor at both Harvard’s Medical School and its T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He said in a statement Wednesday that he has devoted his career in public health to building solutions for better care delivery, and that while the current system is broken, “better is possible.”

The consortium’s leaders have said they aren’t looking for a quick fix. JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said during an appearance on CNBC earlier this month that fraud in the system, high administrative costs and the overuse and underuse of some drugs are among the many complications that must be improved.

The three companies said in late January that their new venture will focus on technology that provides simplified, high-quality and transparent care.

Amazon’s participation and customer-first focus will be crucial, according to Brian Marcotte, CEO of the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit that represents large employers.

He noted that employers already offer ways to help patients shop for care or see a doctor remotely through telemedicine. But people don’t use this technology unless they need it, so they haven’t grown comfortable with it.

That could change if they go through a well-known platform like Amazon, which could then reach into its vast trove of customer data to personalize the shopping, Marcotte said. If, for instance, you are a runner considering knee surgery, Amazon could lay out the best or common practices for your condition and maybe show that surgery isn’t your only option.

“It’s not only reaching people in the moment, it’s the possibility to reach people with relevant personalized messaging that will engage them,” Marcotte said.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!