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worldwide news

Half of US, Japan Teens ‘Addicted’ to Smartphones

About half of teenagers in the United States and Japan say they are addicted to their smartphones.

University of Southern California (USC) researchers asked 1,200 Japanese about their use of electronic devices. The researchers are with the Walter Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism. Their findings were compared with an earlier study on digital media use among families in North America.

“Advances in digital media and mobile devices are changing the way we engage not only with the world around us, but also with the people who are the closest to us,” said Willow Bay, head of the Annenberg School.

The USC report finds that 50 percent of American teenagers and 45 percent of Japanese teens feel addicted to their mobile phones.

“This is a really big deal,” said James Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, an organization that helped with the study. “Just think about it, 10 years ago we didn’t even have smart phones.”

Sixty-one percent of Japanese parents believe their children are addicted to the devices. That compares to 59 percent of the American parents who were asked.

Also, more than 1-in-3 Japanese parents feel they have grown dependent on electronic devices, compared to about 1-in-4 American parents.

Leaving your phone at home is ‘one of the worst things’

“Nowadays, one of the worst things that can happen to us is, like, ‘Oh, I left my phone at home,’” said Alissa Caldwell, a student at the American School in Tokyo. She spoke at the USC Global Conference 2017, which was held in Tokyo.

A majority of Japanese and American parents said their teenagers used mobile devices too much. But only 17 percent of Japanese teens agreed with that assessment. In the United States, 52 percent of teens said they are spending too much time on mobile devices.

Many respond immediately to messages

About 7-in-10 American teens said they felt a need to react quickly to mobile messages, compared to about half of Japanese teens.

In Japan, 38 percent of parents and 48 percent of teens look at and use their devices at least once an hour. In the United States, 69 percent of parents and 78 percent of teens say they use their devices every hour.

Naturally, that hourly usage stops when people are sleeping, the researchers said.

The devices are a greater cause of conflict among teens and parents in the United States than in Japan. One-in-3 U.S. families reported having an argument every day about mobile device use. Only about 1-in-6 Japanese families say they fight every day over mobile devices.

Care more about devices than your children?

But 20 percent of Japanese teens said they sometimes feel that their parents think their mobile device is more important than they are. The percentage of U.S. teens saying they feel this way is 6 percent.

In the United States, 15 percent of parents say their teens’ use of mobile devices worsens the family’s personal relationships. Eleven percent of teens feel their parents’ use of mobile devices is not good for their relationship.

The USC research was based on an April 2017 study of 600 Japanese parents and 600 Japanese teenagers. Opinions from American parents and teenagers were collected in a study done earlier by Common Sense Media.

Bay, the Annenberg School of Communications dean, said the research raises critical questions about the effect of digital devices on family life.

She said the cultural effects may differ from country to country, but “this is clearly a global issue.”

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World Bank: Sub-Saharan Africa to Grow at Slower Rate This Year

 Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be 2.4 percent in 2017, the World Bank said on Wednesday, down from the 2.6 percent projected in April.

It said the downgrade was due to a number of reasons, including Nigeria’s failing to meet expectations but also broader conditions.

“Regional per capita output growth is forecast to be negative for the second consecutive year, while investment growth remains low, and productivity growth is falling,” it said.

Growth across the region, however, was seen rising 3.2 percent in 2018 and 3.5 percent in 2019, forecasts unchanged from earlier this year.

In its latest Africa Pulse report, the Bank said the region would be helped by better commodity prices. Sub-Saharan African economies have been hit by lower commodity prices which slowed growth in the last few years, cutting government revenues.

Albert Zeufack, World Bank chief economist for Africa, said the region’s growth recovery would partly be driven by the continent’s two largest economies — Nigeria and South Africa — exiting recession.

He said the two countries need “deeper reforms” to get back to pre-2014 levels of growth and their political uncertainty needs to be reined in. He said they make up about half of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP growth.

The World Bank said Nigeria’s economy, the largest in the continent, was expected to expand by 1 percent in 2017.

South Africa’s economy, hit by political worries, was expected to grow just 0.6 percent this year.

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Facebook’s Zuckerberg Apologizes for Virtual Tour of Devastated Puerto Rico

Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for showcasing Facebook’s virtual reality capability with a tour of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

The Facebook founder and another executive discussed the platform’s virtual reality project through avatars in a video recorded live Monday.

The video begins with the avatars pictured on the roof of Facebook’s Mountain View, California, headquarters before heading to Puerto Rico by using a 360-degree video recorded by National Public Radio as a backdrop.

Zuckerberg later responded to critics, writing that his goal of showing “how VR can raise awareness and help us see what’s happening in different parts of the world” wasn’t clear. He says he’s sorry to anyone who was offended.

Facebook is also working to restore internet connectivity on the island and has donated money to the relief effort.

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Trump Discusses NAFTA Renegotiation with Canada and Mexico

U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet at the White House Wednesday to discuss the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement amid growing animosity over how to reshape the pact.

Trade experts predict the fourth round of the talks will probably stall as the U.S. aggressively pushes for controversial changes to a rule governing how cars are made.

The rule currently requires at least 62-percent of the parts of a car sold in North America come from the region to avoid import taxes. The Trump administration is calling for an 85-percent threshold, with a 50-percent requirement for U.S.-specific content.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Tuesday accused the Trump administration of attempting to undermine the negotiations with a “poison pill proposals.”

The Trump administration has imposed duties on Canadian Bombardier airliners and lumber exports in recent months and has criticized Canada’s wine and dairy industries. But Canadian officials deny Trump is targeting Canada, saying the aircraft and softwood differences have continued for years.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Trudeau will try to persuade Trump to focus on Mexico, which is also participating in the talks, as a source of potential problems at the negotiations to update NAFTA.

“We are your biggest client,” is the message Freeland said Canada will bring to the table. Freeman said Canada is not the cause of lost U.S. manufacturing jobs under NAFTA, as it buys more from the U.S. than China, Britain and Japan combined.


Many U.S. manufacturing jobs have instead relocated to Mexico, where wages are far lower than those in the U.S. Mexico has lured U.S. auto plants and other manufacturers to the country, resulting in a $64 million trade surplus with the U.S. last year. Trump administration officials have promised to cut the surplus.

Mexico Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray warned that an end to NAFTA would significantly damage U.S.-Mexican relations and adversely impact bilateral cooperation in non-trade areas.

Other contentious U.S. proposals opposed by Canada, Mexico and much of the U.S. business community include a five-year sunset provision on deals, an overhaul of NAFTA’s dispute arbitration systems, revisions to intellectual property requirements and new protections for U.S. seasonal produce growers.

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US Researchers Genetically Modify Corn to Boost Nutritional Value

U.S. researchers said this week they have discovered a way to genetically engineer corn, the world’s largest commodity crop, to produce a type of amino acid found in meat.

The result is a nutritionally rich food that could benefit millions worldwide, while also reducing the cost of animal feed.  The breakthrough came in a report in the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal. 

Researchers say the process involves infusing corn with a certain type of bacteria in order to produce methionine, an amino acid generally found in meat.

“We improved the nutritional value of corn, the largest commodity crop grown on Earth,” Thomas Leustek, professor in the Department of Plant Biology at Rutgers University and co-author of the study, told VOA. “Most corn is used for animal feed, but it lacks methionine — a key amino acid — and we found an effective way to add it.”

The new method works by adding an E. coli bacteria into the genome of the corn plant, which then causes the methionine production in the plants leaves. According to the study, methionine in the corn kernels then increases by about 57 percent.

The scientists fed the genetically modified corn to chickens at Rutgers University in order to show it was nutritious for them, co-author Joachim Messing said.

Normally, chicken feed is prepared as a corn-soybean mixture, the authors said in a press release, but the mixture lacks methionine.

“Methionine is added because animals won’t grow without it. In many developing countries where corn is a staple, methionine is also important for people, especially children. It’s vital nutrition, like a vitamin,” Messing said.

If the genetically modified corn can be successfully deployed, those who live in developing countries “wouldn’t have to purchase methionine supplements or expensive foods that have higher methionine,” Leustek said.

Victor Beattie contributed to this report.

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Trump: Tax Overhaul Would Boost Stocks Even More

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the country’s surging stock markets would grow even faster if Congress enacts his proposed overhaul of the country’s tax laws.

Trump is heading to a Pennsylvania airport hangar to talk to a group of truckers about the tax plan, contending they would get “a $4,000 pay raise” with the changes he wants, although economists say that benefit would only materialize over eight years, at a rate of about $500 annually.

Trump’s speech to hundreds of truck drivers, the most common job in 29 of the country’s 50 states, is intended to counter the views of independent analysts that the Republican tax blueprint Trump is advancing would mostly benefit the highest income earners. These analysts contend that at least some middle-income taxpayers would pay more, not less, to the government under Trump’s proposal.

So far, Trump has detailed only some of the specifics of the proposal, including trimming the number of tax rates applying to certain levels of income from seven to three categories under the progressive U.S. tax system of levying higher rates on taxpayers who have earned more than others.

But the Republican-controlled Congress has yet to determine at what levels of income the new rates would apply, leaving the analysts to guess what effects the changes would have on any individual taxpayer. Trump also wants to trim corporate taxes to further boost the U.S. economy, already the world’s largest.

In Twitter comments ahead of his speech, Trump said, “Stock Market has increased by 5.2 Trillion dollars since the election on November 8th, a 25% increase. Lowest unemployment in 16 years and if Congress gives us the massive tax cuts (and reform) I am asking for, those numbers will grow by leaps and bounds.”

The Republican president also took another shot at two of his favorite targets, the national mainstream news media and opposition Democratic lawmakers.

“It would be really nice if the Fake News Media would report the virtually unprecedented Stock Market growth since the election,” Trump said. “Need tax cuts. The Democrats want MASSIVE tax increases & soft, crime producing borders. The Republicans want the biggest tax cut in history & the WALL!” built along the southern U.S. border with Mexico to thwart illegal immigration.

The Trump administration, when it took office in January, predicted it would complete a tax overhaul by August, but now has its sights set on completing the reforms by the end of the year. However, congressional tax-writing panels have yet to hold hearings and Democratic and Republican lawmakers have widely divergent views on what changes should be made.

Under some scenarios, the tax cuts could add to the country’s long-term debt of more than $20 trillion, which would be anathema to many conservative Republican lawmakers. Democratic lawmakers are calling for tax changes to mostly benefit the country’s middle class and lowest-income taxpayers, not the wealthiest. 

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Trump Escalates Twitter War with Powerful Republican Senator

President Donald Trump’s escalated a Twitter war Tuesday with a powerful fellow Republican who had warned that Trump’s temperament and rhetoric could risk a third world war. Trump mocked the height of Senator Bob Corker – the influential chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. More from VOA’s Michael Bowman.

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President Trump Expected to Decertify 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal

On October 12, President Donald Trump is expected to announce whether his administration still finds Iran in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. VOA’s Margaret Besheer takes a look at the deal and what could happen if the president chooses not to certify Tehran’s compliance.

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Олигархам сегодня следует существенно пересмотреть свои «стратегии»

Кланово-олигархическая система в Украине дала колоссальную трещину. Поэтому сегодня не только украинское государство, но и его крупнейшие бенефициары – супербогатые и знаменитые – предстали перед грандиозным вызовом, констатирует ПравдаUA.

Издание пишет, что новая команда, которая пришла к власти на достижениях второго Майдана, «удовлетворилась» победой над авторитарной системой Януковича. Однако этого явно недостаточно. Поэтому олигархам сегодня следует существенно пересмотреть свои «стратегии». Есть три варианта как двигаться дальше, отмечает газета. Один из них на этой неделе продемонстрировал Дмитрий Фирташ. Его вариант – это притвориться, что «большой бизнес» не имеет вины в том, что Украина доведена до такого состояния. Он, просто, как и все остальные волонтеры-патриоты «готов» профинансировать спасение государства. Скажем, оплатить «лучших» из лучших экспертов мира, чтобы те рассказали Украине, куда ей идти.

Второй вариант пути продемонстрировал Игорь Коломойский. Он призвал депутатов начать процесс пересмотра результатов торгов госимуществом, чтобы вернуть стране незаконно украденное. Кто первым может оказаться под лупой правоохранителей, станет уже известно в апреле. Журналисты назвали эту дорогу, озвученную Коломойским – активный бой на внутреннем фронте старых проблем. И третий вариант заключается в том, чтобы осмысленно перевернуть страницу 90-х.

Какой запас прочности имеет гривна и где власть допустила самые ошибки? Еще со времен Януковича держали фиксированный курс и сожгли много валютных резервов – до 12 млрд долларов. Можно было тогда девальвировать гривну до 8,4-8,6 за доллар и перейти к политике плавающего курса. Поэтому, по подсчетам эксперта издания, вклад Януковича в падение курса – порядка 9 гривен за доллар, Путина – 11. Все, что выше, – ошибки новой власти. Чтобы ее спасти, нужно, чтобы президент, премьер, министры и глава НБУ договорились о реформах. Тогда курс опустится до 18-22 гривен за доллар с тенденцией к усилению. Можно дрейфовать до 16, даже до 8 за доллар – в течение пяти последующих лет.

Усилить правительство можно новой должностью – вице-премьером по экономическим реформам. На него можно будет все свалить и принести в жертву через год, как закончится основной этап изменений. Это – позитивный сценарий. О негативном говорится в материале «Мы вернулись в начало 1990-х. А экономический подъем начнется через два года».

А вот по мнению эксперта, для стабилизации украинской экономики нужно не менее, чем 3-5 лет тяжелого труда. Первый год надо остановить падение. Далее организовать подъем, стимулировать экономику. Цель следующей за этим пятилетки – догнать и перегнать Польшу. Этот план слишком амбициозный, уверяют зарубежные эксперты. Международная практика и опыт стран-реформаторов свидетельствует выбраться за десять лет из ямы, в которой оказалась Украина, можно, а вот выбраться из ямы и приблизиться к уровню Польши – невозможно. Это будет чудо, отмечают эксперты.

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