Category Archives: News

worldwide news

After Big Election Victory, Armenia’s Leader Calls for Reconciliation

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is calling for reconciliation after winning a snap election held in a bid to unite a nation deeply polarized in the wake of its defeat in a recent conflict with Azerbaijan.  Jonathan Spier narrates this report from Pablo Gonzalez in Yerevan and Ricardo Marquina in Moscow.Camera: Pablo Gonzalez 
Produced by: Ricardo Marquina  

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EU Investigates Google’s Advertising Business

The European Union announced Tuesday it is once again investigating Google for what could be anti-competitive activities in digital advertising.The investigation will try to determine if Google is harming competitors by restricting third party access to user data that could better target advertising.”We are concerned that Google has made it harder for rival online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad tech stack,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.Google said it would cooperate in the investigation.”Thousands of European businesses use our advertising products to reach new customers and fund their websites every single day. They choose them because they’re competitive and effective,” a Google spokesperson said.The EU has fined Google more than $9.5 billion over the past decade for restricting third parties from online shopping, Android phones and online advertising.In the past year, online ads generated $147 billion in revenue for the U.S.-based company.Google’s ad business also is facing scrutiny in the U.S., where several states and the U.S. Justice Department are suing the company for alleged anti-competitive behavior.  

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STEM Jobs Lead List of Fastest-Growing Occupations

The number of STEM jobs — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — have sped past the number of non-STEM jobs by three times since 2000. And experts say there might not be enough graduates in those fields to fill the jobs.  “Look around at how many times a day you touch a computer, tablet, phone … these industries are accelerating so much that these high school kids will have jobs that don’t even exist yet,” said Kenneth Hecht, the leader of the National STEM Honor Society, an membership program that engages students from kindergarten into their career in STEM project-based learning (NSTEM). STEM covers both high-tech and long-established professions. For example, STEM jobs in demand include those in cloud computing, informatics and other software developers that write code for computation. They also include occupations for actuaries, cartographers, critical care nurses and epidemiologists.  Jobs in the medical and healthcare fields have boomed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as populations age, but traditionally, computer technology, or tech, is the number one major that international students pursue within STEM, according to a study by the Institute of International Education. Jobs in computer and information technology are projected to grow 11% from 2019 to 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website, “much faster than the average for all occupations.”These occupations are projected to add about 531,200 new jobs to the U.S. workforce by 2029. Jobs in cloud computing, big data, and information security will be in high demand, according to BLS.COVID plus and minuses Recent enrollment declines because of the COVID-19 pandemic have slowed the pipeline between graduates and jobs, as most international students rode out the pandemic in their home countries. But recent graduates who land STEM jobs show greater availability and higher salaries.  “A STEM education and a STEM career can change the trajectory of one family’s path and even others,” said Kenneth Hecht, leader of the National STEM Honor Society that engages students from kindergarten into their career in STEM project-based learning (NSTEM).  Nidhi Thaker, a Ph.D. student in the biochemistry and molecular biology department at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, also is optimistic about the promise of STEM opportunities.    “Applying and combining a biology background with technology that can be helpful in making a product, and by product, I mean, it could be a machine, it could be a drug, it could be any other thing, to help medicine itself and to help the field grow,” is what biotechnology means to Thaker.   Her experience working in the Boston area, one of America’s biotech hubs and close to several top U.S. universities like Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, has been largely positive.  “It’s not just work, work, work. They also incorporate, like, team-building exercises, going out and having parties and things like that,” Thaker noted. “It’s a very well rounded, cultural approach that they’re taking, in regard to giving all the benefits.”   Lack of people skills One problem, though, is many graduates have a proficiency in tech skills but lack people skills, said Sahil Jain, senior enterprise architect at Adobe.    “This means they are good at coding. You can give them a digest code, they will do it very well. But they cannot speak to the senior leadership at the customer site.” Jain explains that both soft and hard skills are necessary to do well in emerging technology jobs, yet students often excel at one or the other, not both.    “That means they are good at speaking, but when it comes to technicalities, the customer brings his architects on the call, ‘Oh, tell me how this will work? Can you give me some architectural aspects as well?’ … That is where the big gap is,” he explained. In addition, Jain said the STEM job market is crowded with numerous evolving technologies.    “The industry is evolving a lot. It’s no longer only cloud computing based. There are many, many areas of blockchain,” a way to code to enhance the security of the information.   “We have machine learning, we have [artificial intelligence] …” said Jain, who has recently enrolled in Georgia Institute of Techology, a public university in Atlanta, to keep his skills up to date.  Filling needed roles Even with initiatives to alert students to STEM opportunities, like NSTEM, there were an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled in STEM fields in 2018, according to a study by Impact Science, a California teacher-founded initiative to engage young students with science.“Being on the educational side, these numbers are well published and well recognized in the world, and the question is and has been, ‘What do you do about it?’” Hecht asked.  “If you look at the differences in ethnicities and gender it would be even worse,” which inspires one of NSTEM’s missions to help close equity divisions in STEM, he added.  Immigration issues An April 2021 study by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) found that “enrolling more international undergraduate students does not crowd out U.S. students at the average American university and leads to an increase in the number of bachelor’s degrees in STEM majors awarded to U.S. students.”  “Each additional 10 bachelor’s degrees—across all majors—awarded to international students by a college or university leads to an additional 15 bachelor’s degrees in STEM majors awarded to U.S. students,” the study found. The data suggests that U.S. students are more likely to major in STEM fields if they go to school with international students.    “In much of the U.S., STEM graduates are in short supply. Students who graduate with a STEM major typically earn more than other graduates, especially early in their careers,” according to the NFAP study.  “The finding here that the presence of international students actually increases the number of U.S. students graduating with a STEM major is another reason to encourage international students to come to the United States,” stated Madeline Zavodny, the study’s author.  “America’s future competitiveness depends on attracting and retaining talented international students,” according to companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter with other parties in a group letter to Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) in July 2020. ICE had announced it would revoke international student visas during the COVID-19 pandemic if those students were not in person to study on campus.  ICE Won’t Compel Foreign Students to Be on Campus Immigration agency retreats from ruling that risked student visa status

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Spain to Pardon Catalan Separatist Leaders

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said his government on Tuesday would pardon nine jailed leaders of the Catalonia region’s 2017 move for independence.
 
Sanchez told a group of civil society leaders in Barcelona that his Cabinet would approve the pardons.
 
Opposition parties have said they would challenge the pardons in court. Opinion polls showed a slim majority of the public opposed the pardons.
 
Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan leaders to jail in 2019 for sedition and other offenses, with the sentences ranging from nine to 13 years.
 
The government in Madrid had banned Catalonia from holding its independence referendum, but the leaders went ahead with the vote anyway. The pro-independence side scored an overwhelming victory. The poll was boycotted by most unionists.
 
Sanchez said in his address Monday that for the two sides to move forward, “someone must make the first step.”
 
The current regional leader in Catalonia, Pere Aragones, welcomed the pardons as an initial move, but said he would push for amnesty and a new, authorized independence referendum.
 
The pardons do not affect the status of former regional leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium shortly after the 2017 referendum and was not among those convicted.

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Hitler’s ‘War of Annihilation’ Caught Stalin by Surprise

“On Saturday, the day before the war, we met with friends in the park,” Red Army engineer Col. Il’ya Grigoryevich Starinov noted years later. “Orchestras and brass bands played, people danced, and we were happy. It was lovely and pleasant,” he wrote in his memoir Over the Abyss. It was 21 June 1941 and Starinov was in the town of Brest — a strategic town earmarked to be captured on the first day of Operation Barbarossa, the code name for the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Within hours, Brest would be rocked by infantry gunfire and artillery bombardments. Eighty years ago Tuesday more than three million German soldiers advanced on an 1,800-mile front from Estonia to Ukraine and invaded communist Russia, taking autocrat Joseph Stalin by surprise, despite warnings from Britain’s wartime leader Winston Churchill and from some Soviet military commanders and spies. Stalin reckoned Adolf Hitler wouldn’t invade for another year and he had only started a few weeks earlier to redeploy Red Army divisions to the western front. Operation Barbarossa was the biggest military operation in history and Hitler and his generals started the meticulous planning for it nine months earlier. As far as Hitler was concerned, it was to be a “war of annihilation” — against Jews and Slavs, both considered subhuman by the German Führer.  Eight decades on, Germany has been marking the 80th anniversary of an invasion some military historians say lost Hitler the Second World War. Buoyed by the ease of their Blitzkrieg victories over France and Poland, Hitler and his senior generals underestimated the caliber of the Red Army, the superiority of Russian tanks and the resolve of ordinary Russians, says British broadcaster and author Jonathan Dimbleby in a new book on the invasion, Barbarossa: How Hitler Lost the War. But Hitler’s strategic miscalculation was far from the mind of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier Friday when opening a Barbarossa exhibition in Berlin. He said the anniversary offered an opportunity to rethink events in 1941 when German soldiers unleashed “hatred and violence” and the war moved “towards the madness of total annihilation.”German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier addresses the media at his residence Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, Friday, May 28, 2021. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier announces he will seeks for a second term.“From the very first day, the German campaign was driven by hatred: by antisemitism and anti-Bolshevism, by racial mania against the Slavic and Asian peoples of the Soviet Union. As difficult as it may be for us, we must remember this,” he said. An estimated 27 million people, including 14 million civilians, were “murdered, beaten to death, allowed to starve to death or worked to death” by the Wehrmacht and SS Death Squads, or Einsatzgruppen, Steinmeier said. Germany, he added, had for too long suppressed the “unprecedented brutality and gruesomeness” of its soldiers during the war with the Soviet Union. “It weighs on us that our fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers were involved in these crimes,” he said.  Muted remembrance While Germany has had high-profile events to mark the anniversary, Russian commemorations Tuesday will be more low-key and muted — in contrast to the pomp and circumstance afforded other notable wartime events, especially of Red Army triumphs.  In 2018, the 75th anniversary of the Russian victory at Stalingrad was marked with somber memorials and patriotic military parades with President Vladimir Putin highly visible throughout the ceremonies as well as during the lead up to them. On Friday, a Kremlin spokesman said the media would be informed of any special events in due course, but supplied no details of any major commemoration plans for Putin.  Even so, as in other years, the anniversary of Barbarossa, known as the Day of Remembrance and Sorrow, will be marked with candlelit parades and the laying of wreaths in most Russian towns and cities. Some commentators suggest Operation Barbarossa doesn’t fit so well with the Kremlin’s efforts the past few years to rehabilitate Stalin. Nine days before the invasion, the Kremlin ordered Moscow radio to assure listeners there was no prospect of a German invasion. An official TASS report dismissed “rumors” of a coming German attack as “clumsy propaganda” spread by countries hostile to Soviet Russia. Even as the offensive unfolded, Stalin still thought it was a provocation by German generals. “I’m sure Hitler isn’t aware of this,” Stalin told military aides. In the months preceding the invasion, which was originally codenamed ‘Otto,’ Hitler and his generals massed seven armies, consisting of 120 divisions, along a line stretching from the Gulf of Finland to the Black Sea. The invasion force included 600,000 vehicles, 750,000 artillery pieces and nearly two thousand aircraft. More than a hundred landing strips were prepared in Nazi-occupied Poland for an invasion that would trigger three and half years of bloodshed and barbarity.  German officers and men were told little of where eventually they would be heading, but many guessed. Secrecy was the order of the day. To try to disguise what was happening from the Soviets, German troops in some populated areas were ordered to wear civilian clothes; tanks and troop movements were made under the cover of darkness. “We ourselves became aware around 20 June that war against the Russians was a possibility,” infantrymen Gerhard Gortz noted in a journal quoted by historian Robert Kershaw in his book War Without Garlands. That was just two days before the invasion got underway. “There was a feeling in the air. No fires were allowed, and one could not walk about with torches or cause any noise,” he added.  As he scribbled in his diary, Russian trains were still transporting raw materials and agricultural produce to Germany, exports agreed in the nonaggression pact Hitler and Stalin struck in 1939. German infantryman, Theo Scharf, observed on the eve of battle: “Oil tank trains rolled continuously westward, past us, from the oil fields on the Soviet side.” Russian military commanders bordering the frontier were aware of the German military buildup, according to Kershaw, but no orders were issued by Moscow for them to raise their state of readiness and “where measures were taken on the initiative of individual staffs, they were ordered to be reversed,” he says.  Russian historian Dimitrij Wolkognov, who was a Red Army officer during the war, later wrote: “Stalin was like God on earth. He alone said, ‘the war will not happen now.’ It was his isolated belief, and he wanted to believe it.”  As bombs rained down on Soviet positions and Wehrmacht infantrymen and German tanks launched their assault, Russian units on the front were ordered to observe and not to act as the attack was still viewed in Moscow as a provocation. Nazi forces advanced quickly into Russia rapidly. But within six months the hubristic offensive sputtered after the Wehrmacht suffered at least 800,000 casualties and the Soviets six times that number. The winter took its toll of German soldiers who had not been supplied with cold-weather clothing.  As the invasion got underway, a German platoon commander noted in his journal that almost 129 years before, Emperor Napoleon had launched his Russian campaign. “We all know what happened. Will we do better?”  They didn’t and Hitler’s gamble failed, sealing Germany’s fate in the Second World War. 

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US Seeks to Extradite Turkish Businessman Over Fraud Charges

The United States will seek to extradite a Turkish businessman from Austria so he can appear before a U.S. judge in Utah, where he is facing charges of conspiring to commit money laundering and wire fraud, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday.   Sezgin Baran Korkmaz laundered more than $133 million in fraud proceeds through bank accounts that he controlled in Turkey and Luxembourg, the Justice Department said in a statement. Korkmaz, it said, was arrested in Austria on Saturday at the department’s request, following the unsealing of a superseding indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and obstruction of an official proceeding. Reuters was not immediately able to identify Korkmaz’s lawyers for comment. The businessman is also being investigated by Turkey, where prosecutors in December detained 10 executives working at Korkmaz’s companies, after Turkey’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) said the companies were used for money laundering, Turkish state-news agency Anadolu reported. The Turkish ambassador to Austria told Dogan News agency on Sunday that Korkmaz was detained on Saturday in a town about 260 kilometers (160 miles) from Vienna and that Turkey had initiated an extradition process with Austrian authorities.   The Turkish Foreign Ministry did not return a call for comment.   It was not immediately clear where Korkmaz would be extradited. He is believed to have left Turkey in December before the police raids. U.S. prosecutors say the fraud proceeds stemmed from a scheme involving the filing of false claims for more than $1 billion in renewable fuel tax credits for the production and sale of biodiesel by Utah-based Washakie Renewable Energy LLC. Washakie could not immediately be reached for comment. Korkmaz and co-conspirators allegedly used the proceeds from the scheme to buy the Turkish airline Borajet, hotels in Turkey and Switzerland, a yacht named the Queen Anne and a villa and an apartment on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, the Justice Department said. 

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STEM Jobs Lead Fastest-Growing Occupations

The number of STEM jobs — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — have sped past the number of non-STEM jobs by three times since 2000. And experts say there might not be enough graduates in those fields to fill the jobs.  “Look around at how many times a day you touch a computer, tablet, phone … these industries are accelerating so much that these high school kids will have jobs that don’t even exist yet,” said Kenneth Hecht, the leader of the National STEM Honor Society, an membership program that engages students from kindergarten into their career in STEM project-based learning (NSTEM). STEM covers both high-tech and long-established professions. For example, STEM jobs in demand include those in cloud computing, informatics and other software developers that write code for computation. They also include occupations for actuaries, cartographers, critical care nurses and epidemiologists.  Jobs in the medical and healthcare fields have boomed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as populations age, but traditionally, computer technology, or tech, is the number one major that international students pursue within STEM, according to a study by the Institute of International Education. Jobs in computer and information technology are projected to grow 11% from 2019 to 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website, “much faster than the average for all occupations.”These occupations are projected to add about 531,200 new jobs to the U.S. workforce by 2029. Jobs in cloud computing, big data, and information security will be in high demand, according to BLS.COVID plus and minuses Recent enrollment declines because of the COVID-19 pandemic have slowed the pipeline between graduates and jobs, as most international students rode out the pandemic in their home countries. But recent graduates who land STEM jobs show greater availability and higher salaries.  “A STEM education and a STEM career can change the trajectory of one family’s path and even others,” said Kenneth Hecht, leader of the National STEM Honor Society that engages students from kindergarten into their career in STEM project-based learning (NSTEM).  Nidhi Thaker, a Ph.D. student in the biochemistry and molecular biology department at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, also is optimistic about the promise of STEM opportunities.    “Applying and combining a biology background with technology that can be helpful in making a product, and by product, I mean, it could be a machine, it could be a drug, it could be any other thing, to help medicine itself and to help the field grow,” is what biotechnology means to Thaker.   Her experience working in the Boston area, one of America’s biotech hubs and close to several top U.S. universities like Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, has been largely positive.  “It’s not just work, work, work. They also incorporate, like, team-building exercises, going out and having parties and things like that,” Thaker noted. “It’s a very well rounded, cultural approach that they’re taking, in regard to giving all the benefits.”   Lack of people skills One problem, though, is many graduates have a proficiency in tech skills but lack people skills, said Sahil Jain, senior enterprise architect at Adobe.    “This means they are good at coding. You can give them a digest code, they will do it very well. But they cannot speak to the senior leadership at the customer site.” Jain explains that both soft and hard skills are necessary to do well in emerging technology jobs, yet students often excel at one or the other, not both.    “That means they are good at speaking, but when it comes to technicalities, the customer brings his architects on the call, ‘Oh, tell me how this will work? Can you give me some architectural aspects as well?’ … That is where the big gap is,” he explained. In addition, Jain said the STEM job market is crowded with numerous evolving technologies.    “The industry is evolving a lot. It’s no longer only cloud computing based. There are many, many areas of blockchain,” a way to code to enhance the security of the information.   “We have machine learning, we have [artificial intelligence] …” said Jain, who has recently enrolled in Georgia Institute of Techology, a public university in Atlanta, to keep his skills up to date.  Filling needed roles Even with initiatives to alert students to STEM opportunities, like NSTEM, there were an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled in STEM fields in 2018, according to a study by Impact Science, a California teacher-founded initiative to engage young students with science.“Being on the educational side, these numbers are well published and well recognized in the world, and the question is and has been, ‘What do you do about it?’” Hecht asked.  “If you look at the differences in ethnicities and gender it would be even worse,” which inspires one of NSTEM’s missions to help close equity divisions in STEM, he added.  Immigration issues An April 2021 study by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) found that “enrolling more international undergraduate students does not crowd out U.S. students at the average American university and leads to an increase in the number of bachelor’s degrees in STEM majors awarded to U.S. students.”  “Each additional 10 bachelor’s degrees—across all majors—awarded to international students by a college or university leads to an additional 15 bachelor’s degrees in STEM majors awarded to U.S. students,” the study found. The data suggests that U.S. students are more likely to major in STEM fields if they go to school with international students.    “In much of the U.S., STEM graduates are in short supply. Students who graduate with a STEM major typically earn more than other graduates, especially early in their careers,” according to the NFAP study.  “The finding here that the presence of international students actually increases the number of U.S. students graduating with a STEM major is another reason to encourage international students to come to the United States,” stated Madeline Zavodny, the study’s author.  “America’s future competitiveness depends on attracting and retaining talented international students,” according to companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter with other parties in a group letter to Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) in July 2020. ICE had announced it would revoke international student visas during the COVID-19 pandemic if those students were not in person to study on campus.  ICE Won’t Compel Foreign Students to Be on Campus Immigration agency retreats from ruling that risked student visa status

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Brazil’s Congress Passes Bill to Privatize Electric Utility

Brazil’s Congress passed a bill Monday paving the way to privatize the biggest electric utility in Latin America, state-controlled company Eletrobras, in a victory for far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s privatization agenda. The bill, which sets up a share issue that will dilute the government’s stake in the company, passed the lower house by a vote of 258 to 136. Lawmakers must still vote on a series of amendments before sending it to Bolsonaro. It had already passed in the Senate. The legislation will reduce the government stake in Eletrobras from 51.82% to 45% via a share issue penciled in for early next year that the state estimates will raise around $5 billion (25 billion reais). The government will, however, retain a “golden share” in the company, giving it the final say on strategic matters. Created in 1962, Eletrobras is one of Brazil’s “big four” state-controlled firms, along with oil company Petrobras and banks Banco do Brazil and Caixa Economica Federal. Bolsonaro’s ultraliberal economy minister, Paulo Guedes, has said the privatization will save Brazilians up to 7.4% on electricity. 
 

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Millions Join Mexico Quake Drills After Pandemic Eases

Millions of people across Mexico on Monday took part in earthquake simulation drills for the first time since they were suspended last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The resumption of the emergency exercises follows a steady decline in new COVID-19 cases and deaths in Mexico, one of the countries worst hit by the virus. The drills, held regularly before the health crisis, aim to prepare the country for the inevitable next major tremor to strike one of the most seismically active regions on Earth. This year the authorities urged people to wear face masks and socially distance to avoid infection with the coronavirus, which the government says has killed more than 231,000 people in Mexico. People take part in an earthquake drill, the first since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Mexico City on June 21, 2021.In the capital, the exercises simulated an 8.1-magnitude earthquake with an epicenter off the coast of the southern state of Guerrero that was strongly felt in Mexico City. According to the authorities, around 6 million people participated in the capital, many of them evacuating buildings and pouring into the streets after warnings over the city’s more than 12,000 loudspeakers. About 200 of the devices failed, according to authorities. The warning system uses seismic monitors with the aim of giving Mexico City’s 9 million residents advance warning of earthquakes with epicenters along the Pacific Coast. “We must be prepared whenever earthquakes happen. Since we practice often, we already knew what to do,” Jose Ramirez, a 32-year-old head waiter, told AFP. On Reforma avenue, home to major hotels, corporations and government offices, thousands of people evacuated buildings when the alert sounded. People take part in an earthquake drill, the first since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Mexico City on June 21, 2021.Civil Protection helicopters flew overhead, and firefighters deployed as part of the simulation in a country sitting atop five tectonic plates, including three major ones. On September 19, 1985, an 8.1-magnitude quake killed more than 10,000 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings in Mexico City. Shortly after residents held a practice drill on the anniversary of that earthquake in 2017, a 7.1-magnitude tremor left 370 people dead, mainly in the capital. In other states with no seismic risk, such as Nuevo Leon in northern Mexico, Monday’s exercises simulated a fire. 
 

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