Zuckerberg Apologizes for Data Breach, Promises Change

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified on Capitol Hill for the first time Tuesday, answering lawmakers’ concerns about the social media giant’s failure to protect the private information of as many 87 million users worldwide from Trump-affiliated political firm Cambridge Analytica. VOA’s Congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson has more from a key day in the internet privacy debate on Capitol Hill.

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Zuckerberg Apologizes for Data Breach, Promises Change

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified on Capitol Hill for the first time Tuesday, answering lawmakers’ concerns about the social media giant’s failure to protect the private information of as many 87 million users worldwide from Trump-affiliated political firm Cambridge Analytica. VOA’s Congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson has more from a key day in the internet privacy debate on Capitol Hill.

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IMF Chief Warns Global Trade in Danger

The head of the International Monetary Fund is warning that the global trading system is in danger of being “torn apart.”  

In a speech prepared for delivery in Hong Kong Wednesday, Christine Lagarde urged nations to “steer clear of protectionism.”  That may be a reference to Washington’s recent moves to slap large tariffs on imported steel and other products.  China responded by raising tariffs on U.S.-made products, beginning a cycle that some experts warn could escalate further into a trade war.

Lagarde says the benefits of trade far outweigh the costs and has credited unfettered global trade for drastically reducing the number of people around the world living in extreme poverty.  Lagarde and other experts say everyone loses in trade wars, particularly the 800 million people around the world who, the World Bank says, remain mired in poverty.

While Lagarde’s comments implied criticism of the Trump administration, she also urged nations, presumably including China, to do a better job of protecting intellectual property. President Trump and many foreign businesses operating in China have complained that they are pressured to turn over technology secrets to Chinese partner companies in exchange for access to the huge Chinese market.  She also urged economic reforms, including ending policies that unfairly favor state-owned enterprises.

Lagarde says the global economy is experiencing a strong upswing, and says now is the time for nations to make economic reforms such as opening up the service sector in developing economies, and doing more to use digital technology to improve the the delivery of government public services. She warns that economic reform is more urgent now because of the growing uncertainties arising from trade tensions, uncertain geopolitics and rising fiscal and financial risks.

Lagarde’s speech comes ahead of next week’s meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, where top economic and financial leaders and experts from around the world will gather to seek solutions to problems in banking, trade, deficits and many other topics.

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IMF Chief Warns Global Trade in Danger

The head of the International Monetary Fund is warning that the global trading system is in danger of being “torn apart.”  

In a speech prepared for delivery in Hong Kong Wednesday, Christine Lagarde urged nations to “steer clear of protectionism.”  That may be a reference to Washington’s recent moves to slap large tariffs on imported steel and other products.  China responded by raising tariffs on U.S.-made products, beginning a cycle that some experts warn could escalate further into a trade war.

Lagarde says the benefits of trade far outweigh the costs and has credited unfettered global trade for drastically reducing the number of people around the world living in extreme poverty.  Lagarde and other experts say everyone loses in trade wars, particularly the 800 million people around the world who, the World Bank says, remain mired in poverty.

While Lagarde’s comments implied criticism of the Trump administration, she also urged nations, presumably including China, to do a better job of protecting intellectual property. President Trump and many foreign businesses operating in China have complained that they are pressured to turn over technology secrets to Chinese partner companies in exchange for access to the huge Chinese market.  She also urged economic reforms, including ending policies that unfairly favor state-owned enterprises.

Lagarde says the global economy is experiencing a strong upswing, and says now is the time for nations to make economic reforms such as opening up the service sector in developing economies, and doing more to use digital technology to improve the the delivery of government public services. She warns that economic reform is more urgent now because of the growing uncertainties arising from trade tensions, uncertain geopolitics and rising fiscal and financial risks.

Lagarde’s speech comes ahead of next week’s meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, where top economic and financial leaders and experts from around the world will gather to seek solutions to problems in banking, trade, deficits and many other topics.

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Gazprom Says Gas Transit via Ukraine to Europe May Fall to 10-15 bcm per Year

Future Russian gas transit flows through Ukraine to Europe may be between 10 and 15 billion cubic metres per year, Alexei Miller, head of Russian gas giant Gazprom, said on Tuesday, which is a significant decline from current levels.

Miller issued his comments after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the planned new Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany could not go ahead without clarity on Ukraine’s role as a transit route for gas.

“We have never raised an issue about abandoning the Ukrainian transit. However, the Russian resource base has been moving northward and there won’t be the same resources in the central gas transportation corridor as it was in the past,” Miller said in a statement.

“That’s why a certain transit could still be in place, in the amount of 10-15 bcm per year, but the Ukrainian side has to explain the viability of the new transit contract,” he said.

He did not give a time frame for when the transit could be 10-15 bcm a year.

Ukraine has been a key route for carrying Russian gas to Europe where it supplies around a third of gas needs, but Moscow and Kiev have clashed frequently over energy.

Last year, the transit amounted to more than 93 bcm, while Gazprom’s total exports to Europe and Turkey reached an all-time high of 194 bcm.

Last year, Ukraine earned around $3 billion in Russian gas transit fees.

Gazprom said last month it would terminate its gas contracts with Ukraine after it lost a court case, escalating a dispute which had left Ukraine struggling to stay warm and which the European Union said could threaten gas flows to Europe.

A Stockholm arbitration court ordered Gazprom in February to pay more than $2.5 billion to Ukrainian energy firm Naftogaz – a ruling meant to conclude a long legal battle that has run alongside Ukraine’s broader political stand-off with Russia.

Gazprom wants to bypass Ukraine as an export route and plans to build two more undersea gas pipelines to Europe: TurkStream to Turkey and Nord Stream 2 to Germany.

Eastern European and Baltic states fear Nord Stream 2, planned to run through the Baltic Sea, could increase reliance on Russian gas and undermine Ukraine’s role as a gas transit route.

The plans for the pipelines were given new impetus after relations between Moscow and Kiev plunged as Russia-leaning president Viktor Yanukovich fled Ukraine in 2014 following street protests and a pro-Moscow revolt subsequently flared in eastern Ukraine.

The current deal between Russia and Ukraine on gas purchases and transit expires at the end of 2019 and Kiev has been worrying about losing its transfer fees for shipping the Russian gas westwards to Europe.

 

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Gazprom Says Gas Transit via Ukraine to Europe May Fall to 10-15 bcm per Year

Future Russian gas transit flows through Ukraine to Europe may be between 10 and 15 billion cubic metres per year, Alexei Miller, head of Russian gas giant Gazprom, said on Tuesday, which is a significant decline from current levels.

Miller issued his comments after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the planned new Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany could not go ahead without clarity on Ukraine’s role as a transit route for gas.

“We have never raised an issue about abandoning the Ukrainian transit. However, the Russian resource base has been moving northward and there won’t be the same resources in the central gas transportation corridor as it was in the past,” Miller said in a statement.

“That’s why a certain transit could still be in place, in the amount of 10-15 bcm per year, but the Ukrainian side has to explain the viability of the new transit contract,” he said.

He did not give a time frame for when the transit could be 10-15 bcm a year.

Ukraine has been a key route for carrying Russian gas to Europe where it supplies around a third of gas needs, but Moscow and Kiev have clashed frequently over energy.

Last year, the transit amounted to more than 93 bcm, while Gazprom’s total exports to Europe and Turkey reached an all-time high of 194 bcm.

Last year, Ukraine earned around $3 billion in Russian gas transit fees.

Gazprom said last month it would terminate its gas contracts with Ukraine after it lost a court case, escalating a dispute which had left Ukraine struggling to stay warm and which the European Union said could threaten gas flows to Europe.

A Stockholm arbitration court ordered Gazprom in February to pay more than $2.5 billion to Ukrainian energy firm Naftogaz – a ruling meant to conclude a long legal battle that has run alongside Ukraine’s broader political stand-off with Russia.

Gazprom wants to bypass Ukraine as an export route and plans to build two more undersea gas pipelines to Europe: TurkStream to Turkey and Nord Stream 2 to Germany.

Eastern European and Baltic states fear Nord Stream 2, planned to run through the Baltic Sea, could increase reliance on Russian gas and undermine Ukraine’s role as a gas transit route.

The plans for the pipelines were given new impetus after relations between Moscow and Kiev plunged as Russia-leaning president Viktor Yanukovich fled Ukraine in 2014 following street protests and a pro-Moscow revolt subsequently flared in eastern Ukraine.

The current deal between Russia and Ukraine on gas purchases and transit expires at the end of 2019 and Kiev has been worrying about losing its transfer fees for shipping the Russian gas westwards to Europe.

 

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Campaigners Call for Ban on Killer Robots

The group known as the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots says fully autonomous lethal weapons that can strike selected targets are no longer within the realm of science fiction. The coalition says it wants pre-emptive action taken to ban them. Government experts will spend the next two weeks discussing the issue at a meeting of the U.N. Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

The Campaign to stop Killer Robots – a coalition of 65 non-government organizations – says the world is running out of time to prevent these systems from becoming a dangerous reality.

Campaign co-founder Richard Moyes warns the world is moving closer to situations where machine intelligence, instead of humans, may make life and death decisions on the battlefield.

“We need humans involved in these processes and it needs to be a substantial engagement that allows sort of human ethical judgment and human moral engagements with the decision about the use of force…From my perspective, I think there is a real risk in thinking that violence and killing people can ever be a really clean business,” said Moyes. “I think…we should be very wary about thinking that machines and computers can solve that.”

Campaign co-founder Mary Wareham tells VOA autonomous weapons systems with decreasing levels of human control are currently in use and development by six countries – the United States, China, Israel, South Korea, Russia and Britain. She says the U.S. is the most advanced.”

“I think all of them have commented that these weapons systems, the fully autonomous weapons systems, lethal autonomous weapons systems, do not exist yet,” said Wareham. “That is the common refrain that we hear in the room; but, there is acknowledgement that this is the direction that it could head in.”   

Human Rights Watch – a founding member of the campaign – has said previously that precursors to killer robots include armed drones.  

The campaign says the government experts have made some progress in identifying key issues of concern regarding autonomy in weapons systems. It says 22 countries are calling for a ban on fully autonomous weapons and many others agree some human control must be retained over future weapons systems.  

The activists say they are heartened by the increasing number of countries that have expressed interest in negotiating a new international law on killer robots. The campaign says it wants member states to conclude a legally binding treaty “prohibiting the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons systems by the end of 2019.”

 

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Campaigners Call for Ban on Killer Robots

The group known as the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots says fully autonomous lethal weapons that can strike selected targets are no longer within the realm of science fiction. The coalition says it wants pre-emptive action taken to ban them. Government experts will spend the next two weeks discussing the issue at a meeting of the U.N. Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

The Campaign to stop Killer Robots – a coalition of 65 non-government organizations – says the world is running out of time to prevent these systems from becoming a dangerous reality.

Campaign co-founder Richard Moyes warns the world is moving closer to situations where machine intelligence, instead of humans, may make life and death decisions on the battlefield.

“We need humans involved in these processes and it needs to be a substantial engagement that allows sort of human ethical judgment and human moral engagements with the decision about the use of force…From my perspective, I think there is a real risk in thinking that violence and killing people can ever be a really clean business,” said Moyes. “I think…we should be very wary about thinking that machines and computers can solve that.”

Campaign co-founder Mary Wareham tells VOA autonomous weapons systems with decreasing levels of human control are currently in use and development by six countries – the United States, China, Israel, South Korea, Russia and Britain. She says the U.S. is the most advanced.”

“I think all of them have commented that these weapons systems, the fully autonomous weapons systems, lethal autonomous weapons systems, do not exist yet,” said Wareham. “That is the common refrain that we hear in the room; but, there is acknowledgement that this is the direction that it could head in.”   

Human Rights Watch – a founding member of the campaign – has said previously that precursors to killer robots include armed drones.  

The campaign says the government experts have made some progress in identifying key issues of concern regarding autonomy in weapons systems. It says 22 countries are calling for a ban on fully autonomous weapons and many others agree some human control must be retained over future weapons systems.  

The activists say they are heartened by the increasing number of countries that have expressed interest in negotiating a new international law on killer robots. The campaign says it wants member states to conclude a legally binding treaty “prohibiting the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons systems by the end of 2019.”

 

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America’s Equal Pay Day Dismay

Tuesday, April 10, is Equal Pay Day in the United States. Advocates designated the day to mark how much longer women must work, on average, to earn as much as men averaged in the previous year. 

Germany recognized Equal Pay Day on March 10. The Czech Republic will observe it on April 13. While assigning a date to the gender pay gap is a way to make a point, it makes for an easy gauge of whether the pay gap is getting worse or better from one year to the next. In 2017, the U.S. Equal Pay Day was April 4 — meaning the pay gap is slightly worse this year than last.

There are a number of explanations for historic gender gaps in pay.

One of the major ones is known as “occupational segregation,” meaning a particular job is seen as “men’s work” or “women’s work” and is dominated by that gender. In a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2017, among the most common occupations for women and for men in the United States, only six occupations overlap.

In the fields that pay best, men tend to dominate, said the IWPR’s Chandra Childers. She adds that when men start to leave a field and women start to move in, the average pay for that field begins to drop.

Some say the pay gap is due to more women taking time off work or assuming less demanding professional roles so they can care for their families. “Women often choose lower-paying jobs that are closer to home and have better, more flexible hours,” conservative commentator Carrie Lukas said in an April 4 column for Forbes.

Childers says she hears that argument often. But “when you look at the pay gap,” she said, “a lot of it is because women are concentrated in low-wage service jobs. Many of these jobs are not flexible. They’re not family friendly,” and they are less likely to have paid family leave.

The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank that advocates for low- and middle-income workers, found in April 2017 that women are paid less than their male colleagues in almost every occupation, regardless of whether that occupation is traditionally held by men or women. The average wage for preschool and kindergarten teachers was $16.33 per hour for men, and $14.42 per hour for women. Male nurse practitioners made $42.74 an hour, compared to $37.50 per hour for female nurse practitioners. Male software developers made $38.98 an hour, while women software developers made an average $33.65 an hour.

#MeToo movement

Hollywood has recently gotten much attention for starkly different salaries paid to women and men working on the same project. To highlight this point, several high-profile actresses turned up at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony with women’s rights activists as their dates.

Actress Meryl Streep brought Ai-jen Poo, the executive director of the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance. Poo used the opportunity to talk about how attitudes toward women — including those behind the sexual harassment scandal wracking the entertainment industry — affect pay levels at both the bottom of the income scale and the top.

“Equal Pay Day looks different in the #MeToo moment,” Poo said in a column in In Style magazine on April 4. “Each #MeToo story amplified the voice of a woman who has been underpaid, shut out, harassed, assaulted, undermined, ignored, or threatened. We can see clearly how it is that women are paid less when the gender discrimination that leads to the wage gap is exposed.”

Poo goes on to say that pay inequality and sexual harassment are “inextricably linked. They are both the result of a culture in which women’s lives and contributions are devalued.”

Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer recently told People magazine how she and Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain teamed up for a tiny experiment in collective bargaining, a tool activists recommend to fight against unfair compensation practices. The two women told producers that they would only take the roles if they were paid the same amount. Spencer — the Oscar winner — said she ended up making five times the amount she had expected for the film.

Technology sector

Women also face tough hurdles in the technology sector. A survey by the job-hunting website Hired.com showed that 63 percent of the time, men were offered higher salaries than women for the same role at the same company. The differences in starting pay for the same job ranged from 4 percent to 45 percent.

Notably, the Hired survey found that 54 percent of the women it surveyed said they had found out at some point in their careers that they were making less money than a man with the same job. Only 19 percent of men had had the same experience.

Equal-pay supporters say the benefit of equal pay is not just confined to the individual earners; it also benefits the employer and the community in which it is based.

Power to employees

There’s no silver bullet, says Jessica Schieder of the Economic Policy Institute, but an important tool in the fight for equal pay is transparency.

“You can’t know you’re underpaid and have a problem until that information is available,” Schieder said. She also recommends collective bargaining, a higher minimum wage, and any other tools that give employees more power. The social taboo against talking about personal income, she says, is not helpful either.

Jess Morales Rocketto of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and We Belong Together, a feminist campaign for immigration reform, says there is one other idea that can’t be overlooked. “There’s nothing more powerful than women coming together. … In the next 10 years, I want to see us close the pay gap. But also, I want ALL working people to be covered by our labor laws. And I want women at every level of public office.

“Our job is to address all forms of gender inequality to ensure that no woman, regardless of where she’s from, is left behind,” she said.

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America’s Equal Pay Day Dismay

Tuesday, April 10, is Equal Pay Day in the United States. Advocates designated the day to mark how much longer women must work, on average, to earn as much as men averaged in the previous year. 

Germany recognized Equal Pay Day on March 10. The Czech Republic will observe it on April 13. While assigning a date to the gender pay gap is a way to make a point, it makes for an easy gauge of whether the pay gap is getting worse or better from one year to the next. In 2017, the U.S. Equal Pay Day was April 4 — meaning the pay gap is slightly worse this year than last.

There are a number of explanations for historic gender gaps in pay.

One of the major ones is known as “occupational segregation,” meaning a particular job is seen as “men’s work” or “women’s work” and is dominated by that gender. In a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2017, among the most common occupations for women and for men in the United States, only six occupations overlap.

In the fields that pay best, men tend to dominate, said the IWPR’s Chandra Childers. She adds that when men start to leave a field and women start to move in, the average pay for that field begins to drop.

Some say the pay gap is due to more women taking time off work or assuming less demanding professional roles so they can care for their families. “Women often choose lower-paying jobs that are closer to home and have better, more flexible hours,” conservative commentator Carrie Lukas said in an April 4 column for Forbes.

Childers says she hears that argument often. But “when you look at the pay gap,” she said, “a lot of it is because women are concentrated in low-wage service jobs. Many of these jobs are not flexible. They’re not family friendly,” and they are less likely to have paid family leave.

The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank that advocates for low- and middle-income workers, found in April 2017 that women are paid less than their male colleagues in almost every occupation, regardless of whether that occupation is traditionally held by men or women. The average wage for preschool and kindergarten teachers was $16.33 per hour for men, and $14.42 per hour for women. Male nurse practitioners made $42.74 an hour, compared to $37.50 per hour for female nurse practitioners. Male software developers made $38.98 an hour, while women software developers made an average $33.65 an hour.

#MeToo movement

Hollywood has recently gotten much attention for starkly different salaries paid to women and men working on the same project. To highlight this point, several high-profile actresses turned up at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony with women’s rights activists as their dates.

Actress Meryl Streep brought Ai-jen Poo, the executive director of the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance. Poo used the opportunity to talk about how attitudes toward women — including those behind the sexual harassment scandal wracking the entertainment industry — affect pay levels at both the bottom of the income scale and the top.

“Equal Pay Day looks different in the #MeToo moment,” Poo said in a column in In Style magazine on April 4. “Each #MeToo story amplified the voice of a woman who has been underpaid, shut out, harassed, assaulted, undermined, ignored, or threatened. We can see clearly how it is that women are paid less when the gender discrimination that leads to the wage gap is exposed.”

Poo goes on to say that pay inequality and sexual harassment are “inextricably linked. They are both the result of a culture in which women’s lives and contributions are devalued.”

Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer recently told People magazine how she and Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain teamed up for a tiny experiment in collective bargaining, a tool activists recommend to fight against unfair compensation practices. The two women told producers that they would only take the roles if they were paid the same amount. Spencer — the Oscar winner — said she ended up making five times the amount she had expected for the film.

Technology sector

Women also face tough hurdles in the technology sector. A survey by the job-hunting website Hired.com showed that 63 percent of the time, men were offered higher salaries than women for the same role at the same company. The differences in starting pay for the same job ranged from 4 percent to 45 percent.

Notably, the Hired survey found that 54 percent of the women it surveyed said they had found out at some point in their careers that they were making less money than a man with the same job. Only 19 percent of men had had the same experience.

Equal-pay supporters say the benefit of equal pay is not just confined to the individual earners; it also benefits the employer and the community in which it is based.

Power to employees

There’s no silver bullet, says Jessica Schieder of the Economic Policy Institute, but an important tool in the fight for equal pay is transparency.

“You can’t know you’re underpaid and have a problem until that information is available,” Schieder said. She also recommends collective bargaining, a higher minimum wage, and any other tools that give employees more power. The social taboo against talking about personal income, she says, is not helpful either.

Jess Morales Rocketto of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and We Belong Together, a feminist campaign for immigration reform, says there is one other idea that can’t be overlooked. “There’s nothing more powerful than women coming together. … In the next 10 years, I want to see us close the pay gap. But also, I want ALL working people to be covered by our labor laws. And I want women at every level of public office.

“Our job is to address all forms of gender inequality to ensure that no woman, regardless of where she’s from, is left behind,” she said.

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