Category Archives: News

worldwide news

Traditional Pakistani Bamboo Curtains Gaining Popularity

Traditional handicrafts from Pakistan are exported to many countries around the world. One item that appears to be gaining in popularity are the country’s hand-made bamboo curtains. VOA’s Saman Khan has more in this report from Lahore, Pakistan, narrated by Sarah Zaman.

Traditional Pakistani Bamboo Curtains Gaining Popularity

Traditional handicrafts from Pakistan are exported to many countries around the world. One item that appears to be gaining in popularity are the country’s hand-made bamboo curtains. VOA’s Saman Khan has more in this report from Lahore, Pakistan, narrated by Sarah Zaman.

NY’s Immigrant Taxi Drivers Despair as Taxi Industry Slumps

A financially distraught yellow cab driver from Romania recently hanged himself in his New York garage, marking the fourth suicide among city taxi drivers in as many months. In the tragedy’s aftermath, members of New York’s taxicab drivers union are renewing their calls for a cap on the number of app-based for-hire vehicles, such as Uber and Lyft, which they say are driving workers of a once-thriving industry into the ground. VOA’s Ramon Taylor reports.

NY’s Immigrant Taxi Drivers Despair as Taxi Industry Slumps

A financially distraught yellow cab driver from Romania recently hanged himself in his New York garage, marking the fourth suicide among city taxi drivers in as many months. In the tragedy’s aftermath, members of New York’s taxicab drivers union are renewing their calls for a cap on the number of app-based for-hire vehicles, such as Uber and Lyft, which they say are driving workers of a once-thriving industry into the ground. VOA’s Ramon Taylor reports.

Kentucky Teachers Latest to Protest Public Worker Pay, Benefits

Hundreds of Kentucky teachers called in sick Friday to protest last-minute changes to their pension system, forcing nearly two dozen districts to close while angry educators rallied outside the governor’s office to demand he not sign the bill.

With thunderous chants of “shut it down” echoing throughout the Capitol Rotunda, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear used a megaphone to announce he would sue to block the bill’s implementation if Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signs it into law.

Bevin had not signed the bill as of Friday afternoon. Thursday night, he tweeted public employees owe lawmakers a “debt of gratitude” for passing the bill.

​Growing educator unrest

The show of force comes amid growing unrest among public educators nationwide, led by thousands of West Virginia teachers who walked off the job for nine days earlier this year to secure a 5 percent pay raise. Teacher unrest spread to another deep red state in Oklahoma, where the GOP-led legislature approved money for teacher raises and more school funding. Teachers are mulling whether the current offer from lawmakers is enough to avert a work stoppage.

Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler said the union did not organize Friday’s school closures, saying “I can’t control what teachers do.”

“I support their right to call in sick if they are ill, and they are sick,” Winkler said during a news conference at KEA headquarters, prompting some teachers in the crowd to begin coughing.

Schools close for the day

Jefferson County officials in Louisville, one of the largest school districts in the country, said they couldn’t get enough substitutes to cover all their classes Friday. In Fayette County, officials said more than a third of school employees in the Lexington district were staying home.

North of Lexington, the Scott County school district called off classes. It said on Facebook that since the bill’s passage, dozens of teachers requested substitutes to fill in for them Friday.

“We can currently only fill 54 of the nearly 150 that we need,” the statement said. “That leaves too many classes not covered, which causes a situation that is unsafe and unproductive for students and staff.”

Winkler said a statewide work stoppage is still an option. The union is planning a rally Monday at the state capitol when much of the state is on spring break and lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene to possibly vote on a two-year operating budget.

“If this budget is not in the best interest of public education students and public service then we will react,” Winkler said.

​Pension funding among the worst

Kentucky’s pension system is among the worst-funded in the country. The state is at least $41 billion short of the money it needs to pay retirement benefits over the next 30 years, placing a strain on state and local government finances.

On Thursday night, the state legislature passed a bill that preserves most benefits for current public workers. But it would require all new teachers to use a hybrid plan that does not guarantee them a set pension amount when they retire. Instead, they would live off the money accumulated in their accounts from contributions and investment returns, which would be guaranteed not to lose money.

“Why would anybody go into teaching now in the state of Kentucky,” asked Whitney Walker, a government teacher at Lafayette High School in Fayette County, the state’s second-largest district that was forced to close Friday. “We need good teachers, not just anybody who would walk in the door.”

Beshear, a potential candidate for governor in 2019, said the bill violates the state’s inviolable contract by freezing the accumulation of sick days to boost retirement benefits. Winkler said the KEA supports Beshear and will join him in any potential lawsuit. But Republicans who support the bill noted a proposal the KEA supported included similar language.

Another option would be to challenge the way lawmakers passed the bill. A state law requires the bill to have a financial analysis before passing. But acting House Speaker David Osborne said the Supreme Court has interpreted that law as a House rule, which lawmakers can suspend at any time.

Kentucky Teachers Latest to Protest Public Worker Pay, Benefits

Hundreds of Kentucky teachers called in sick Friday to protest last-minute changes to their pension system, forcing nearly two dozen districts to close while angry educators rallied outside the governor’s office to demand he not sign the bill.

With thunderous chants of “shut it down” echoing throughout the Capitol Rotunda, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear used a megaphone to announce he would sue to block the bill’s implementation if Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signs it into law.

Bevin had not signed the bill as of Friday afternoon. Thursday night, he tweeted public employees owe lawmakers a “debt of gratitude” for passing the bill.

​Growing educator unrest

The show of force comes amid growing unrest among public educators nationwide, led by thousands of West Virginia teachers who walked off the job for nine days earlier this year to secure a 5 percent pay raise. Teacher unrest spread to another deep red state in Oklahoma, where the GOP-led legislature approved money for teacher raises and more school funding. Teachers are mulling whether the current offer from lawmakers is enough to avert a work stoppage.

Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler said the union did not organize Friday’s school closures, saying “I can’t control what teachers do.”

“I support their right to call in sick if they are ill, and they are sick,” Winkler said during a news conference at KEA headquarters, prompting some teachers in the crowd to begin coughing.

Schools close for the day

Jefferson County officials in Louisville, one of the largest school districts in the country, said they couldn’t get enough substitutes to cover all their classes Friday. In Fayette County, officials said more than a third of school employees in the Lexington district were staying home.

North of Lexington, the Scott County school district called off classes. It said on Facebook that since the bill’s passage, dozens of teachers requested substitutes to fill in for them Friday.

“We can currently only fill 54 of the nearly 150 that we need,” the statement said. “That leaves too many classes not covered, which causes a situation that is unsafe and unproductive for students and staff.”

Winkler said a statewide work stoppage is still an option. The union is planning a rally Monday at the state capitol when much of the state is on spring break and lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene to possibly vote on a two-year operating budget.

“If this budget is not in the best interest of public education students and public service then we will react,” Winkler said.

​Pension funding among the worst

Kentucky’s pension system is among the worst-funded in the country. The state is at least $41 billion short of the money it needs to pay retirement benefits over the next 30 years, placing a strain on state and local government finances.

On Thursday night, the state legislature passed a bill that preserves most benefits for current public workers. But it would require all new teachers to use a hybrid plan that does not guarantee them a set pension amount when they retire. Instead, they would live off the money accumulated in their accounts from contributions and investment returns, which would be guaranteed not to lose money.

“Why would anybody go into teaching now in the state of Kentucky,” asked Whitney Walker, a government teacher at Lafayette High School in Fayette County, the state’s second-largest district that was forced to close Friday. “We need good teachers, not just anybody who would walk in the door.”

Beshear, a potential candidate for governor in 2019, said the bill violates the state’s inviolable contract by freezing the accumulation of sick days to boost retirement benefits. Winkler said the KEA supports Beshear and will join him in any potential lawsuit. But Republicans who support the bill noted a proposal the KEA supported included similar language.

Another option would be to challenge the way lawmakers passed the bill. A state law requires the bill to have a financial analysis before passing. But acting House Speaker David Osborne said the Supreme Court has interpreted that law as a House rule, which lawmakers can suspend at any time.

Border Agency Clarifies Building, Location of Border Wall

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Great briefing this afternoon on the start of our Southern Border WALL!”

The tweet came amid much reporting about the president’s efforts to get the military to fund construction of the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border because the recent omnibus spending bill did not fully fund the  wall. 

The result has led to confusion about what is funded and what is actually being built.

Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) provided some answers.

The omnibus spending bill, passed by Congress a week ago, provides funding for approximately 161 kilometers (100 miles) of “border wall system,” CBP Deputy Commissioner Ronald Vitiello told reporters.

Most of this will be used to replace or repair existing barriers along the border. Only a small portion will be used to build new wall. 

“As [Department of Homeland Security] Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has pointed out, it does not fully fund our needs in the most critical locations,” Vitiello said.

“Our agents and officers have decades of experience and they know their operational needs. We provided Congress with a fact-based and needs-driven border security improvement plan that clearly sets out the requirements for securing the border.

“The truth is walls work and the data show it and agents know it,” he added.

Vitiello said CPB and its parent agency, DHS, want 10 times the length of wall for which Congress provided funding. The agencies would like to see barriers along 1,609 kilometers (1,000 miles) of the U.S. southern border. Right now, there are walls or fencing along 1,052 kilometers (650 miles).

VOA’s Immigration Unit contributed to this report.

Poll: Few Blacks Believe US Has Achieved Goals of Civil Rights Movement

A new poll shows that only 1 in 10 African-Americans thinks the United States has achieved all the goals of the civil rights movement, nearly 50 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The poll by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Friday shows that a majority of African-Americans believe there has been little or no progress on a range of civil rights issues, including fair coverage by the media, political representation and equal economic opportunities. 

The poll found that African-Americans were most pessimistic about the criminal justice system, with three-quarters saying there has been little or no progress on fair treatment by police. 

It found only one area — voting rights — where majorities of African-Americans believe a lot of progress or some progress has been made for racial equality since the civil rights movement. 

Thirty percent of Americans — 35 percent of whites and just 8 percent of blacks — said all or most of the goals of the civil rights movement have been achieved, according to the poll. Most of the remainder said partial progress has been achieved.

The poll shows that whites are more likely than blacks to think there has been progress in every area asked about in the poll.

Seventy-nine percent of African-Americans said blacks continue to face disadvantages to getting ahead in the United States, while only 44 percent of whites said the same. 

The poll also broke down the respondents by political party and found that 54 percent of Republicans compared to just 14 percent of Democrats think most or all of the goals of the civil rights movement have been achieved.

King was shot and killed on April 4, 1968, while he was at a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray, a segregationist, pleaded guilty of the killing and spent his life in prison before his death in 1998. 

The AP-NORC poll contacted 1,337 adults for the survey on February 15-19. 

Poll: Few Blacks Believe US Has Achieved Goals of Civil Rights Movement

A new poll shows that only 1 in 10 African-Americans thinks the United States has achieved all the goals of the civil rights movement, nearly 50 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The poll by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Friday shows that a majority of African-Americans believe there has been little or no progress on a range of civil rights issues, including fair coverage by the media, political representation and equal economic opportunities. 

The poll found that African-Americans were most pessimistic about the criminal justice system, with three-quarters saying there has been little or no progress on fair treatment by police. 

It found only one area — voting rights — where majorities of African-Americans believe a lot of progress or some progress has been made for racial equality since the civil rights movement. 

Thirty percent of Americans — 35 percent of whites and just 8 percent of blacks — said all or most of the goals of the civil rights movement have been achieved, according to the poll. Most of the remainder said partial progress has been achieved.

The poll shows that whites are more likely than blacks to think there has been progress in every area asked about in the poll.

Seventy-nine percent of African-Americans said blacks continue to face disadvantages to getting ahead in the United States, while only 44 percent of whites said the same. 

The poll also broke down the respondents by political party and found that 54 percent of Republicans compared to just 14 percent of Democrats think most or all of the goals of the civil rights movement have been achieved.

King was shot and killed on April 4, 1968, while he was at a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray, a segregationist, pleaded guilty of the killing and spent his life in prison before his death in 1998. 

The AP-NORC poll contacted 1,337 adults for the survey on February 15-19.