Category Archives: News

worldwide news

CO2-reducing XPRIZE Competition Enters Final Phase

Nonprofit international organization for public competitions XPRIZE has announced 10 finalists in its race to develop new technologies to lower carbon-dioxide emissions. Each team will get an additional incentive of $5 million to scale up their ideas and present them for the top prize of $20 million. VOA’s George Putic reports.

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CO2-reducing XPRIZE Competition Enters Final Phase

Nonprofit international organization for public competitions XPRIZE has announced 10 finalists in its race to develop new technologies to lower carbon-dioxide emissions. Each team will get an additional incentive of $5 million to scale up their ideas and present them for the top prize of $20 million. VOA’s George Putic reports.

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Trump Task Force to Study Postal System Finances

After weeks of railing against online shopping giant Amazon, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday creating a task force to study the United States Postal System.

In the surprise move, Trump said that USPS is on “an unsustainable financial path” and “must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout.”

The task force will be assigned to study factors including its pricing in the package delivery market and will have 120 days to submit a report with recommendations.

The order does not specifically mention Amazon or it owner, Jeff Bezos. But Trump has been criticizing the company for months, accusing it of not paying its fair share of taxes, harming the postal service, and putting brick-and-mortar stores out of business. Trump has also gone after Bezos personally and accused The Washington Post, which he owns, of being Amazon’s “chief lobbyist.”

The U.S. Postal Service has indeed lost money for years, but package delivery has actually been a bright spot for the service.

Boosted by e-commerce, the Postal Service has enjoyed double-digit revenue increases from delivering packages. That just hasn’t been enough to offset pension and health care costs as well as declines in first-class letters and marketing mail, which together make up more than two-thirds of postal revenue.

Still, Trump’s claim the service could be charging more may not be entirely far-fetched. A 2017 analysis by Citigroup concluded that the Postal Service, which does not use taxpayer money for its operations, was charging below market rates as a whole on parcels. Still, federal regulators have reviewed the Amazon contract with the Postal Service each year, and deemed it to be profitable.

 

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Trump Task Force to Study Postal System Finances

After weeks of railing against online shopping giant Amazon, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday creating a task force to study the United States Postal System.

In the surprise move, Trump said that USPS is on “an unsustainable financial path” and “must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout.”

The task force will be assigned to study factors including its pricing in the package delivery market and will have 120 days to submit a report with recommendations.

The order does not specifically mention Amazon or it owner, Jeff Bezos. But Trump has been criticizing the company for months, accusing it of not paying its fair share of taxes, harming the postal service, and putting brick-and-mortar stores out of business. Trump has also gone after Bezos personally and accused The Washington Post, which he owns, of being Amazon’s “chief lobbyist.”

The U.S. Postal Service has indeed lost money for years, but package delivery has actually been a bright spot for the service.

Boosted by e-commerce, the Postal Service has enjoyed double-digit revenue increases from delivering packages. That just hasn’t been enough to offset pension and health care costs as well as declines in first-class letters and marketing mail, which together make up more than two-thirds of postal revenue.

Still, Trump’s claim the service could be charging more may not be entirely far-fetched. A 2017 analysis by Citigroup concluded that the Postal Service, which does not use taxpayer money for its operations, was charging below market rates as a whole on parcels. Still, federal regulators have reviewed the Amazon contract with the Postal Service each year, and deemed it to be profitable.

 

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China Posts Rare Trade Deficit for March; Surplus with US Narrows

China’s exports growth unexpectedly fell in March, raising questions about the health of one of the economy’s key growth drivers even as trade tensions rapidly escalate with the United States.

March import growth beat expectations, however, suggesting its domestic demand may still be solid enough to cushion the blow from any trade shocks.

That left China with a rare trade deficit for the month, also the first drop since last February.

The latest readings on the health of China’s trade sector follow weeks of tit-for-tat tariff threats by Washington and Beijing, sparked by U.S. frustration with China’s massive bilateral trade surplus and intellectual property policies, that have fueled fears of a global trade war.

China’s March exports fell 2.7 percent from a year earlier, lagging analysts’ forecasts for a 10 percent increase, and down from a sharper-than-expected 44.5 percent jump in February, which economists believe was heavily distorted by seasonal factors.

For the first quarter as a whole, exports still grew a hefty 14.1 percent.

Stronger currency

Some analysts had expected a pullback in March exports following an unusually strong start to the year, when firms stepped up shipments before the long Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February. That scenario did not alter their view that global demand remains robust.

But a stronger currency could also be starting to erode Chinese exporters’ competitiveness. The yuan appreciated around 3.7 percent against the U.S. dollar in the first quarter this year, on top of a 6.6 percent gain last year.

No hard timeline has been set by either Washington or Beijing for the actual imposition of tariffs, which leaves the door open to negotiations and a possible compromise that could limit the damage to both sides.

But with the threat of tariffs hanging over nearly a third of China’s exports to the United States, analysts say its companies and their U.S. customers may try to front-load shipments before any measures kick in.

China’s exports to the U.S. rose 14.8 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, while imports rose 8.9 percent.

That sent its quarterly trade surplus with the U.S. surging 19.4 percent to $58.25 billion, though the March reading narrowed to $15.43 billion from $20.96 billion in February.

China’s total aluminum exports in March rose to their highest since June, just as the United States imposed a 10 percent tariff on imports of the metal on March 23 along with a 25 percent duty on steel imports.

Outlook cloudy

China’s exports rode a global trade boom last year, expanding at the fastest pace since 2013 and serving as one of the key drivers behind the economy’s forecast-beating expansion.

But the sudden spike in trade tensions with the United States is clouding the outlook for both China’s “old economy” heavy industries and “new economy” tech firms.

Washington says China’s $375 billion trade surplus with the United States is unacceptable, and has demanded Beijing reduce it by $100 billion immediately.

In a move to further force China to lower the trade surplus running with the U.S., Trump unveiled tariff representing about $50 billion of technology, transport and medical products early this month, drawing an immediate threat of retaliatory action from Beijing.

China’s tech sector, which is key part of Beijing’s longer-term “Made in China 2025” strategy to move from cheap goods to higher-value manufacturing, may be particularly vulnerable.

High-tech products have been among its fastest growing export segments. China exported $137.8 billion worth of high-tech products in the first quarter, up 20.5 percent on-year.

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China Posts Rare Trade Deficit for March; Surplus with US Narrows

China’s exports growth unexpectedly fell in March, raising questions about the health of one of the economy’s key growth drivers even as trade tensions rapidly escalate with the United States.

March import growth beat expectations, however, suggesting its domestic demand may still be solid enough to cushion the blow from any trade shocks.

That left China with a rare trade deficit for the month, also the first drop since last February.

The latest readings on the health of China’s trade sector follow weeks of tit-for-tat tariff threats by Washington and Beijing, sparked by U.S. frustration with China’s massive bilateral trade surplus and intellectual property policies, that have fueled fears of a global trade war.

China’s March exports fell 2.7 percent from a year earlier, lagging analysts’ forecasts for a 10 percent increase, and down from a sharper-than-expected 44.5 percent jump in February, which economists believe was heavily distorted by seasonal factors.

For the first quarter as a whole, exports still grew a hefty 14.1 percent.

Stronger currency

Some analysts had expected a pullback in March exports following an unusually strong start to the year, when firms stepped up shipments before the long Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February. That scenario did not alter their view that global demand remains robust.

But a stronger currency could also be starting to erode Chinese exporters’ competitiveness. The yuan appreciated around 3.7 percent against the U.S. dollar in the first quarter this year, on top of a 6.6 percent gain last year.

No hard timeline has been set by either Washington or Beijing for the actual imposition of tariffs, which leaves the door open to negotiations and a possible compromise that could limit the damage to both sides.

But with the threat of tariffs hanging over nearly a third of China’s exports to the United States, analysts say its companies and their U.S. customers may try to front-load shipments before any measures kick in.

China’s exports to the U.S. rose 14.8 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, while imports rose 8.9 percent.

That sent its quarterly trade surplus with the U.S. surging 19.4 percent to $58.25 billion, though the March reading narrowed to $15.43 billion from $20.96 billion in February.

China’s total aluminum exports in March rose to their highest since June, just as the United States imposed a 10 percent tariff on imports of the metal on March 23 along with a 25 percent duty on steel imports.

Outlook cloudy

China’s exports rode a global trade boom last year, expanding at the fastest pace since 2013 and serving as one of the key drivers behind the economy’s forecast-beating expansion.

But the sudden spike in trade tensions with the United States is clouding the outlook for both China’s “old economy” heavy industries and “new economy” tech firms.

Washington says China’s $375 billion trade surplus with the United States is unacceptable, and has demanded Beijing reduce it by $100 billion immediately.

In a move to further force China to lower the trade surplus running with the U.S., Trump unveiled tariff representing about $50 billion of technology, transport and medical products early this month, drawing an immediate threat of retaliatory action from Beijing.

China’s tech sector, which is key part of Beijing’s longer-term “Made in China 2025” strategy to move from cheap goods to higher-value manufacturing, may be particularly vulnerable.

High-tech products have been among its fastest growing export segments. China exported $137.8 billion worth of high-tech products in the first quarter, up 20.5 percent on-year.

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Fight to Replace Ryan Could Blow Up Budget Deal

A six-month budget truce stitched together by Congress in March could unravel if Republican leaders vying to replace U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan indulge party conservatives who want to renege on critical parts of the pact.

At issue is a resurgent move by conservative Republicans to rescind, or cut, about $60 billion in non-defense domestic spending increases that were key to winning Democratic votes.

That deal also significantly raised U.S. military spending this year as demanded by Republicans.

Provocative cuts

Those seeking the cuts would need the support of Republican House leaders, such as Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise, both seen as potential rivals to replace Ryan as the No. 1 House Republican and, if the party retains its majority in November elections, as speaker.

McCarthy, the House majority leader, talked up the provocative spending cuts Thursday. In a statement, he said Republicans were “looking at other tools to cut spending” and added: “We have nothing to lose by making big changes.”

One of several Republicans who will have a say in the budding battle, McCarthy explicitly mentioned using a procedural tool known as rescissions in which President Donald Trump could team up with Republicans to kill off the non-military spending increases.

Allowing that to happen could rekindle the budget battles that consumed Congress for much of 2017 and early 2018, a scenario lawmakers had hoped the $1.3 trillion March spending bill had averted through November’s congressional elections.

‘Chilling effect’

Both Democrats and moderate Republicans warned against such an outcome. 

“Bad idea,” said Republican Representative Charlie Dent. “If they want to go down this path, which won’t be successful … we wouldn’t be able to pass an appropriations bill” for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, he said.

More broadly, he added, trashing the spending deal would “have a chilling effect” on all sorts of future legislation.

Ryan and enough rank-and-file Republicans could link arms with Democrats to defend the spending deal enacted into law March 23 and prevent a resumption of hostilities over the budget.

Doing so, however, could risk alienating Republican conservatives such as Representative Jim Jordan, a leading member of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, at a politically delicate time given the looming leadership shake-up in the House and November’s elections that have Republicans struggling to persuade voters of their fiscal conservatism.

“Let’s get aggressive,” Jordan told reporters just hours after Ryan said Wednesday that he would quit Congress at the end of 2018, setting up an internal struggle to replace him.

FBI oversight

Jordan urged pushing for the cuts to Democrats’ domestic priorities, along with welfare changes and tougher oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has investigated Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Any ambitious House leader could help his or her cause by agreeing to the conservatives’ demands, in part a response to the huge deficit expansion created by the spending deal and December’s Republican tax overhaul package.

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US to Hike Fees to $35 at Popular National Parks

The U.S. Interior Department will hike fees at the most popular national parks to $35 a vehicle, backing off a plan that would have cost visitors $70 a vehicle to visit Yellowstone and other well-known parks, the agency said Thursday.

The new plan boosts fees at 117 parks by $5, up from the current $30 but half the figure the Interior Department proposed in October for peak-season visitors at 17 heavily visited parks, it said in a statement.

The fee increase would help finance a $11.6 billion backlog of maintenance and improvements. The proposal generated a wave of protests, and the Interior Department had to extend its comment period by 30 days to accommodate the more than 100,000 responses it received.

“This new fee structure addresses many of the concerns and ideas provided by the public regarding how to best address fee revenue for parks,” the department’s statement said.

The new charges go into effect June 1, and more than two-thirds of national parks will remain free to enter, it said.

Federal law requires that 80 percent of revenue generated at a national park remains where it is collected. The remaining funds can be funneled to other projects within the system.

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Federal Jury Finds Ex-Congressman Guilty of Fraud

A federal jury in Washington on Thursday convicted former Texas Republican Congressman Stephen Stockman of numerous counts of fraud, including stealing charitable contributions for campaign and personal expenses.

U.S. attorneys said Stockman used his position as a public servant to defraud donors and break federal law.

They say his conviction shows no one is above the law.

Stockman was charged with 23 counts, including money laundering, mail and wire fraud, and lying to federal election officials.

Among the charges, Stockman solicited more than $1 million in charitable contributions on false pretenses and used much of the money to pay for his election campaign and other personal expenses.

He also spent some of the funds to illegally spy on a political opponent in his failed 2014 campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Two former Stockman aides already had pleaded guilty in their roles in the scheme.

Stockman, a Republican, served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas, from 1995 to 1997 and again from 2013 to 2015.

He is to be sentenced August 17.

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