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China’s Economic Growth Steady Amid Tariff Fight With US

China’s economic growth held steady in the latest quarter despite a tariff war with Washington, in a reassuring sign that Beijing’s efforts to reverse a slowdown might be gaining traction.

The world’s second-largest economy expanded by 6.4% over a year earlier in the three months ending in March, the government reported Wednesday. That matched the previous quarter for the weakest growth since 2009.

“This confirms that China’s economic growth is bottoming out and this momentum is likely to continue,” said Tai Hui of JP Morgan Asset Management in a report.

Government intervention

Communist leaders stepped up government spending last year and told banks to lend more after economic activity weakened, raising the risk of politically dangerous job losses.

Beijing’s decision to ease credit controls aimed at reining in rising debt “is starting to yield results,” Hui said.

Consumer spending, factory activity and investment all accelerated in March from the month before, the National Bureau of Statistics reported.

The economy showed “growing positive factors,” a bureau statement said.

​Recovery later this year

Forecasters expect Chinese growth to bottom out and start to recover later this year. They expected a recovery last year but pushed back that time line after President Donald Trump hiked tariffs on Chinese imports over complaints about Beijing’s technology ambitions.

The fight between the two biggest global economies has disrupted trade in goods from soybeans medical equipment, battering exporters on both sides and rattling financial markets.

The two governments say settlement talks are making progress, but penalties on billions of dollars of each other’s goods are still in place.

China’s top economic official, Premier Li Keqiang, announced an annual official growth target of 6% to 6.5% in March, down from last year’s 6.6% rate.

Li warned of “rising difficulties” in the global economy and said the ruling Communist Party plans to step up deficit spending this year to shore up growth.

Beijing’s stimulus measures have temporarily set back official plans to reduce reliance on debt and investment to support growth.

Also in March, exports rebounded from a contraction the previous month, rising 14.2% over a year earlier. Still, exports are up only 1.4% so far this year, while imports shrank 4.8% in a sign of weak Chinese domestic demand.

Auto sales fell 6.9% in March from a year ago, declining for a ninth month. But that was an improvement over the 17.5% contraction in January and February.

Tariffs’ effect long-lasting

Economists warn that even if Washington and Beijing announce a trade settlement in the next few weeks or months, it is unlikely to resolve all the irritants that have bedeviled relations for decades.

The two governments agreed Dec. 1 to postpone further penalties while they negotiate, but punitive charges already imposed on billions of dollars of goods stayed in place.

Even if they make peace, the experience of other countries suggests it can take four to five years for punitive duties to “dissipate fully,” said Jamie Thompson of Capital Economics in a report last week.

Chinese leaders warned previously any economic recovery will be “L-shaped,” meaning once the downturn bottomed out, growth would stay low.

Credit growth accelerated in March, suggesting companies are stepping up investment and production.

Total profit for China’s national-level state-owned banks, oil producers, phone carriers and other companies rose 13.1% over a year ago in the first quarter, the government reported Tuesday. Revenue rose 6.3% and investment rose 9.7%.

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China’s Economic Growth Steady Amid Tariff Fight With US

China’s economic growth held steady in the latest quarter despite a tariff war with Washington, in a reassuring sign that Beijing’s efforts to reverse a slowdown might be gaining traction.

The world’s second-largest economy expanded by 6.4% over a year earlier in the three months ending in March, the government reported Wednesday. That matched the previous quarter for the weakest growth since 2009.

“This confirms that China’s economic growth is bottoming out and this momentum is likely to continue,” said Tai Hui of JP Morgan Asset Management in a report.

Government intervention

Communist leaders stepped up government spending last year and told banks to lend more after economic activity weakened, raising the risk of politically dangerous job losses.

Beijing’s decision to ease credit controls aimed at reining in rising debt “is starting to yield results,” Hui said.

Consumer spending, factory activity and investment all accelerated in March from the month before, the National Bureau of Statistics reported.

The economy showed “growing positive factors,” a bureau statement said.

​Recovery later this year

Forecasters expect Chinese growth to bottom out and start to recover later this year. They expected a recovery last year but pushed back that time line after President Donald Trump hiked tariffs on Chinese imports over complaints about Beijing’s technology ambitions.

The fight between the two biggest global economies has disrupted trade in goods from soybeans medical equipment, battering exporters on both sides and rattling financial markets.

The two governments say settlement talks are making progress, but penalties on billions of dollars of each other’s goods are still in place.

China’s top economic official, Premier Li Keqiang, announced an annual official growth target of 6% to 6.5% in March, down from last year’s 6.6% rate.

Li warned of “rising difficulties” in the global economy and said the ruling Communist Party plans to step up deficit spending this year to shore up growth.

Beijing’s stimulus measures have temporarily set back official plans to reduce reliance on debt and investment to support growth.

Also in March, exports rebounded from a contraction the previous month, rising 14.2% over a year earlier. Still, exports are up only 1.4% so far this year, while imports shrank 4.8% in a sign of weak Chinese domestic demand.

Auto sales fell 6.9% in March from a year ago, declining for a ninth month. But that was an improvement over the 17.5% contraction in January and February.

Tariffs’ effect long-lasting

Economists warn that even if Washington and Beijing announce a trade settlement in the next few weeks or months, it is unlikely to resolve all the irritants that have bedeviled relations for decades.

The two governments agreed Dec. 1 to postpone further penalties while they negotiate, but punitive charges already imposed on billions of dollars of goods stayed in place.

Even if they make peace, the experience of other countries suggests it can take four to five years for punitive duties to “dissipate fully,” said Jamie Thompson of Capital Economics in a report last week.

Chinese leaders warned previously any economic recovery will be “L-shaped,” meaning once the downturn bottomed out, growth would stay low.

Credit growth accelerated in March, suggesting companies are stepping up investment and production.

Total profit for China’s national-level state-owned banks, oil producers, phone carriers and other companies rose 13.1% over a year ago in the first quarter, the government reported Tuesday. Revenue rose 6.3% and investment rose 9.7%.

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Argentine Presidential Hopeful Massa Says Would Revamp IMF Deal

Argentine presidential hopeful Sergio Massa would renegotiate the country’s unpopular financing deal with the International Monetary Fund if he wins office later this year, the former congressman told reporters on Tuesday.

The $56 billion IMF standby financing agreement includes fiscal cuts that have enraged wide segments of the public, denting the popularity of President Mauricio Macri.

“We need to find a longer-term mechanism to ensure that Argentina meets its debt obligations, ” the 46-year-old Massa said in a briefing with international correspondents.

Macri was forced to negotiate the IMF deal last year amid a sell-off in the peso that raised questions about Argentina’s ability to pay dollar-denominated bond obligations. Many Argentines blame the IMF for policies that set the stage for the country’s 2002 sovereign debt default and economic meltdown.

Popular protests supported by Massa’s Peronist party have gained momentum in recent weeks as the Macri administration pursues IMF-backed public utility subsidy cuts and other austerity measures aimed at erasing the primary fiscal deficit this year, a goal included in the IMF pact.

Massa, who wants to unseat Macri in the October election, spoke just hours after Macri’s government announced that consumer prices shot 4.7 percent higher in March alone, bringing 12-month inflation to 54.7 percent.

More than three years into his first term, Macri’s re-election is less than certain as his government strains to jumpstart a shrinking economy while cutting the fiscal deficit and trying to tame one of the world’s highest inflation rates.

Previous Argentine leader and possible October candidate Cristina Fernandez, a free-spending populist with wide support among low-income voters, has risen in the opinion polls while discontent rises over Macri’s policy of cutting public utility subsidies and other austerity measures.

Massa once served in Fernandez’s cabinet but broke with her over what he called her top-down leadership style. He is running behind both Fernandez and Macri in the opinion polls.

Argentina’s economy will remain subject to shocks until clarity emerges regarding the country’s October presidential election, ratings agency Moody’s said this month.

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Argentine Presidential Hopeful Massa Says Would Revamp IMF Deal

Argentine presidential hopeful Sergio Massa would renegotiate the country’s unpopular financing deal with the International Monetary Fund if he wins office later this year, the former congressman told reporters on Tuesday.

The $56 billion IMF standby financing agreement includes fiscal cuts that have enraged wide segments of the public, denting the popularity of President Mauricio Macri.

“We need to find a longer-term mechanism to ensure that Argentina meets its debt obligations, ” the 46-year-old Massa said in a briefing with international correspondents.

Macri was forced to negotiate the IMF deal last year amid a sell-off in the peso that raised questions about Argentina’s ability to pay dollar-denominated bond obligations. Many Argentines blame the IMF for policies that set the stage for the country’s 2002 sovereign debt default and economic meltdown.

Popular protests supported by Massa’s Peronist party have gained momentum in recent weeks as the Macri administration pursues IMF-backed public utility subsidy cuts and other austerity measures aimed at erasing the primary fiscal deficit this year, a goal included in the IMF pact.

Massa, who wants to unseat Macri in the October election, spoke just hours after Macri’s government announced that consumer prices shot 4.7 percent higher in March alone, bringing 12-month inflation to 54.7 percent.

More than three years into his first term, Macri’s re-election is less than certain as his government strains to jumpstart a shrinking economy while cutting the fiscal deficit and trying to tame one of the world’s highest inflation rates.

Previous Argentine leader and possible October candidate Cristina Fernandez, a free-spending populist with wide support among low-income voters, has risen in the opinion polls while discontent rises over Macri’s policy of cutting public utility subsidies and other austerity measures.

Massa once served in Fernandez’s cabinet but broke with her over what he called her top-down leadership style. He is running behind both Fernandez and Macri in the opinion polls.

Argentina’s economy will remain subject to shocks until clarity emerges regarding the country’s October presidential election, ratings agency Moody’s said this month.

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Venezuelan Scavengers Vie with Vultures for Brazilian Trash

Surrounded by vultures perched on trees awaiting their turn, Venezuelan migrants scrape out a living scavenging for metal, plastic, cardboard and food in a Brazilian border town’s rubbish dump.

Trapped in a wasteland limbo, they barely make enough to feed their families and cannot afford a bus ticket to get away and find regular work in Brazilian cities to the south.

They blame leftist President Nicolas Maduro for mismanaging their oil-producing nation’s economy and causing the deep crisis that has driven several million Venezuelans to emigrate across Latin America.

“I left because I was dying of hunger. We are trying to get ahead looking through this rubbish. Every night I pray to God to take me out of here,” said Rosemary Tovar, a 23-year-old mother from Caracas.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have fled the political and economic upheaval in their country through Pacaraima, the only road crossing to Brazil, overloading social services and causing tension in the northern border state of Roraima. More than 40,000 Venezuelans have swollen the population of state capital Boa Vista by 11 percent, Mayor Tereza Surita told Reuters.

The influx has also been a headache for Brazil’s new, far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has so far resisted U.S. pressure to take a more forceful attitude against Maduro. About 3.7 million people have left Venezuela in recent years, mostly via its western neighbor Colombia, according to the World Bank.

A dozen Venezuelans scramble to grab bags of rubbish that tumble from the Pacaraima trash truck twice a day. They then sift through the piles as fetid plumes of smoke rise from the smoldering landfill. Sometimes they scavenge at night using headlamps.

“We are looking for copper and cans, and hopefully something valuable, even food,” said Astrid Prado, who is eight months pregnant. “My goal is to get out of here. Nobody wants to spend their life going through garbage.”

Charly Sanchez, 42, arrived in Brazil a year ago and has not been able to get to Boa Vista to get his work papers so that he can find employment.

“We live off this. We make enough to buy rice, maybe some sausage, but not enough to buy a ticket to Boa Vista,” he said.

Copper pays best, 13 reais ($3.30) a kilo, but it takes Sanchez a whole week to gather that much “wire by wire.”

On a lucky day he said he had found a discarded cellphone, but not today. Some spaghetti, a small jar of sugar and a bit of cooking oil was Sanchez’s pickings for the day.

Samuel Esteban, using a breathing mask for the smoke, stuffed cardboard into a large sack. For 50 kilos he will earn five reais, one third of the minimum monthly wage in Venezuela but just enough to buy a liter of milk in Brazil and some bread.

Tovar criticized Maduro for denying that Venezuela is facing a humanitarian crisis.

“He is so wrong. Look at us here in this dump,” she said. “If Maduro does not leave Venezuela, I will never return there.”

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Venezuelan Scavengers Vie with Vultures for Brazilian Trash

Surrounded by vultures perched on trees awaiting their turn, Venezuelan migrants scrape out a living scavenging for metal, plastic, cardboard and food in a Brazilian border town’s rubbish dump.

Trapped in a wasteland limbo, they barely make enough to feed their families and cannot afford a bus ticket to get away and find regular work in Brazilian cities to the south.

They blame leftist President Nicolas Maduro for mismanaging their oil-producing nation’s economy and causing the deep crisis that has driven several million Venezuelans to emigrate across Latin America.

“I left because I was dying of hunger. We are trying to get ahead looking through this rubbish. Every night I pray to God to take me out of here,” said Rosemary Tovar, a 23-year-old mother from Caracas.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have fled the political and economic upheaval in their country through Pacaraima, the only road crossing to Brazil, overloading social services and causing tension in the northern border state of Roraima. More than 40,000 Venezuelans have swollen the population of state capital Boa Vista by 11 percent, Mayor Tereza Surita told Reuters.

The influx has also been a headache for Brazil’s new, far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has so far resisted U.S. pressure to take a more forceful attitude against Maduro. About 3.7 million people have left Venezuela in recent years, mostly via its western neighbor Colombia, according to the World Bank.

A dozen Venezuelans scramble to grab bags of rubbish that tumble from the Pacaraima trash truck twice a day. They then sift through the piles as fetid plumes of smoke rise from the smoldering landfill. Sometimes they scavenge at night using headlamps.

“We are looking for copper and cans, and hopefully something valuable, even food,” said Astrid Prado, who is eight months pregnant. “My goal is to get out of here. Nobody wants to spend their life going through garbage.”

Charly Sanchez, 42, arrived in Brazil a year ago and has not been able to get to Boa Vista to get his work papers so that he can find employment.

“We live off this. We make enough to buy rice, maybe some sausage, but not enough to buy a ticket to Boa Vista,” he said.

Copper pays best, 13 reais ($3.30) a kilo, but it takes Sanchez a whole week to gather that much “wire by wire.”

On a lucky day he said he had found a discarded cellphone, but not today. Some spaghetti, a small jar of sugar and a bit of cooking oil was Sanchez’s pickings for the day.

Samuel Esteban, using a breathing mask for the smoke, stuffed cardboard into a large sack. For 50 kilos he will earn five reais, one third of the minimum monthly wage in Venezuela but just enough to buy a liter of milk in Brazil and some bread.

Tovar criticized Maduro for denying that Venezuela is facing a humanitarian crisis.

“He is so wrong. Look at us here in this dump,” she said. “If Maduro does not leave Venezuela, I will never return there.”

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Microsoft Rejected Some Sales of Facial-Recognition Software

Microsoft recently rejected a California law enforcement agency’s request to install facial recognition technology in officers’ cars and body cameras because of human rights concerns, company President Brad Smith said Tuesday.

Microsoft concluded it would lead to innocent women and minorities being disproportionately held for questioning because the artificial intelligence has been trained on mostly white, male pictures.

AI has more cases of mistaken identity with women and minorities, multiple research projects have found.

“Anytime they pulled anyone over, they wanted to run a face scan” against a database of suspects, Smith said without naming the agency. After thinking through the uneven impact, “we said this technology is not your answer.”

Prison contract accepted

Speaking at a Stanford University conference on “human-centered artificial intelligence,” Smith said Microsoft had also declined a deal to install facial recognition on cameras blanketing the capital city of an unnamed country that the nonprofit Freedom House had deemed not free. Smith said it would have suppressed freedom of assembly there.

On the other hand, Microsoft did agree to provide the technology to an American prison, after the company concluded that the environment would be limited and that it would improve safety inside the unnamed institution.

Smith explained the decisions as part of a commitment to human rights that he said was increasingly critical as rapid technological advances empower governments to conduct blanket surveillance, deploy autonomous weapons and take other steps that might prove impossible to reverse.

‘Race to the bottom’

Microsoft said in December it would be open about shortcomings in its facial recognition and asked customers to be transparent about how they intended to use it, while stopping short of ruling out sales to police.

Smith has called for greater regulation of facial recognition and other uses of artificial intelligence, and he warned Tuesday that without that, companies amassing the most data might win the race to develop the best AI in a “race to the bottom.”

He shared the stage with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who urged tech companies to refrain from building new tools without weighing their impact.

“Please embody the human rights approach when you are developing technology,” said Bachelet, a former president of Chile.

Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw declined to name the prospective customers the company turned down.

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