Trump Praises Teachers Amid Wave of US Teacher Strikes

U.S. President Donald Trump met with teachers of the year from several states Wednesday at the White House. Trump conferred the 2018 National Teacher of the Year award, as public teachers in many states protest low pay and criticize the administration for what they see as siphoning education funds from public schools into private alternatives. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke has more.

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Pompeo Sees Chance to ‘Change the Course of History on the Korean Peninsula’

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says President Donald Trump’s plan to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides “an unprecedented opportunity to change the course of history on the Korean Peninsula.” Pompeo was formally sworn in as the 70th U.S. secretary of state in a ceremony attended by Trump. As VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from the State Department, the secretary has been preparing for the summit and dealing with Iran and other foreign policy challenges.

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About Half of Caravan of Asylum Seekers in US

At least 88 Central American asylum seekers from a caravan through Mexico had crossed into the United States by Wednesday, a movement that prompted U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to beef up legal resources on the border.

Dozens more remain just outside the entrance to the port of entry in a makeshift camp, waiting to plead their case.

Women, children and transgender people were among those who waited for hours inside the walkway to the U.S. gate before being allowed to pass through to begin the asylum process.

Those remaining wandered among boxes of cereal and diapers in a labyrinth of giant tents, near-luxury conditions for the bedraggled migrants, compared with the scarcity they had endured for weeks on their journey through Mexico to the U.S. border.

​Dramatic uptick

On Wednesday, U.S. officials let in three groups totaling 63 migrants, a dramatic uptick from the trickle permitted since Monday.

Border officials had allowed through only a few at a time, saying the busy San Ysidro crossing to San Diego was saturated and the rest must wait their turn.

In response, the Justice Department was sending 35 additional assistant U.S. attorneys and 18 immigration judges to the border, Sessions said, linking the decision to the caravan.

“We are sending a message worldwide: Don’t come illegally. Make your claim to enter America in the lawful way and wait your turn,” he said, adding that he would not let the country be “overwhelmed.”

Despite unusual attention on the annual, awareness-raising caravan after President Donald Trump took issue with it last month, the most recent data through December does not show a dramatic change in the number of Central Americans seeking asylum.

Apprehensions of people crossing to the United States illegally from Mexico were at their highest in March since December 2016, before Trump took office.

More than 100 members of the caravan, most from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, have been camped in the square near the entrance of the San Ysidro pedestrian bridge from Mexico to the United States, waiting for their turn to enter the checkpoint.

Pleading their case

At least 28 migrants who made it into the United States Wednesday had anxiously filed through the walkway to the U.S. gate the night before. Two by two, they walked up to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer standing in the gate to ask if they might pass through.

First to try was a man and his small nephew, a football under his arm; then a mother and child; then a woman with her grandsons.

Throughout the caravan’s 2,000-mile (3,220-km) odyssey from southern Mexico, its members maintained hope they would ultimately get the chance to plead their case for asylum in the United States, all the while knowing that U.S. officials might reject them.

The Trump administration cites a more than tenfold rise in asylum claims versus 2011 and growing numbers of families and children, who are more likely to be allowed to remain while their cases await hearing, as signs that people are fraudulently taking advantage of the system.

Trump wants to tighten laws to make it harder for people to claim asylum. For now, though, despite his orders to keep such migrant caravans out of the country, international and U.S. law obliges the government to listen to people’s stories and decide whether they deserve shelter.

The U.S. Department of Justice said on Monday it had launched prosecutions against 11 “suspected” caravan members on charges of crossing the border illegally.

Nicole Ramos, an attorney advising caravan members in Mexico, said she did not believe the individuals facing U.S. criminal charges were part of the caravan group.

“Quite a few people have claimed to be part of the caravan, including a sizeable contingent of Guatemalan men who were never part,” Ramos said.

 

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Trump to Meet with Carmakers on Trade, Pollution

President Trump plans to meet next week with leaders from U.S. and foreign carmakers on trade and changes to emission standards.

“When the White House wants to meet with us about our sector and policy, we welcome the opportunity,” Alliance of American Automobile Manufacturers spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist said Wednesday.

The time and agenda of the talks are still to be announced. But the car builders want to make their concerns about possible changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement known to the president.

They are also expected to talk about Trump administration plans to revise strict Obama-era emission standards for U.S. cars and light trucks.

Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., are suing the administration over the plans, accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of breaking the law.

“This is about health. This is about life and death,” California Governor Jerry Brown said Tuesday. “Pollutants coming out of tailpipes does permanent damage to children. The only way we’re going to overcome this is by reducing emissions.”

Brown accused Trump of wanting people to buy more gasoline and create more pollution.

The lawsuit argues the EPA acted arbitrarily and violated the Clean Air Act when it decided emission standards were too high.

In 2012, former president Barack Obama ordered emission standards to be raised to about 21 kilometers per liter of gasoline by 2025. The goal was to cut pollution and make cars and small trucks more energy efficient.

The EPA is seeking to freeze fuel efficiency requirements at 2020 levels until 2026.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt said last month that Obama’s decision was politically based and the emission standards Obama set were too high and did not “comport with reality.”

Pruitt said his EPA will set fresh standards so new cars that use less gas and are safer than older models will be affordable.

But environmental groups said the American public overwhelmingly supports the stricter standards.

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Trump to Meet with Carmakers on Trade, Pollution

President Trump plans to meet next week with leaders from U.S. and foreign carmakers on trade and changes to emission standards.

“When the White House wants to meet with us about our sector and policy, we welcome the opportunity,” Alliance of American Automobile Manufacturers spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist said Wednesday.

The time and agenda of the talks are still to be announced. But the car builders want to make their concerns about possible changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement known to the president.

They are also expected to talk about Trump administration plans to revise strict Obama-era emission standards for U.S. cars and light trucks.

Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., are suing the administration over the plans, accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of breaking the law.

“This is about health. This is about life and death,” California Governor Jerry Brown said Tuesday. “Pollutants coming out of tailpipes does permanent damage to children. The only way we’re going to overcome this is by reducing emissions.”

Brown accused Trump of wanting people to buy more gasoline and create more pollution.

The lawsuit argues the EPA acted arbitrarily and violated the Clean Air Act when it decided emission standards were too high.

In 2012, former president Barack Obama ordered emission standards to be raised to about 21 kilometers per liter of gasoline by 2025. The goal was to cut pollution and make cars and small trucks more energy efficient.

The EPA is seeking to freeze fuel efficiency requirements at 2020 levels until 2026.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt said last month that Obama’s decision was politically based and the emission standards Obama set were too high and did not “comport with reality.”

Pruitt said his EPA will set fresh standards so new cars that use less gas and are safer than older models will be affordable.

But environmental groups said the American public overwhelmingly supports the stricter standards.

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IMF Censures Venezuela    

The International Monetary Fund censured Venezuela on Wednesday for failing to hand over essential economic data to the fund.

“The [Executive] Board noted that adequate data provision was an essential first step to understanding Venezuela’s economic crisis and identifying possible solutions,” an IMF statement said.

The board is giving Venezuela another six months to comply or face possible expulsion from the IMF.

“The Fund stands ready to work constructively with Venezuela toward resolving its economic crisis when it is prepared to re-engage with the Fund,” the IMF said.

Venezuela has not responded to the IMF’s action. But President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government has long declined to provide data to the IMF. It regards the IMF as a U.S. tool and part of a Washington-inspired economic war against Venezuela.

Corruption and the collapse of world energy prices has led to an economic calamity in oil-rich Venezuela, including hyperinflation and severe shortages of many basic goods.

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IMF Censures Venezuela    

The International Monetary Fund censured Venezuela on Wednesday for failing to hand over essential economic data to the fund.

“The [Executive] Board noted that adequate data provision was an essential first step to understanding Venezuela’s economic crisis and identifying possible solutions,” an IMF statement said.

The board is giving Venezuela another six months to comply or face possible expulsion from the IMF.

“The Fund stands ready to work constructively with Venezuela toward resolving its economic crisis when it is prepared to re-engage with the Fund,” the IMF said.

Venezuela has not responded to the IMF’s action. But President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government has long declined to provide data to the IMF. It regards the IMF as a U.S. tool and part of a Washington-inspired economic war against Venezuela.

Corruption and the collapse of world energy prices has led to an economic calamity in oil-rich Venezuela, including hyperinflation and severe shortages of many basic goods.

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Data Firm at Center of Facebook Privacy Scandal Will Close

The data firm at the center of Facebook’s privacy scandal is declaring bankruptcy and shutting down.

In a statement, Cambridge Analytica says it has been “vilified” for actions it says are both legal and widely accepted as part of online advertising. The firm says the media furor stripped it of its customers and suppliers, forcing it to close.

Cambridge Analytica has been linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The British firm suspended CEO Alexander Tayler in April amid investigations. 

Cambridge Analytica sought information on Facebook to build psychological profiles on a large portion of the U.S. electorate. The company was able to amass the database quickly with the help of an app that appeared to be a personality test. The app collected data on tens of millions of people and their Facebook friends, even those who did not download the app themselves.

Facebook has since tightened its privacy restrictions. Cambridge has denied wrongdoing, and Trump’s campaign has said it didn’t use Cambridge’s data.

The firm has said it is committed to helping the U.K. investigation into Facebook and how it uses data. But U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in March the firm failed to meet a deadline to produce the information requested.

Denham said the prime allegation against Cambridge Analytica is that it acquired personal data in an unauthorized way, adding that the data provisions act requires services like Facebook to have strong safeguards against misuse of data.

 

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Data Firm at Center of Facebook Privacy Scandal Will Close

The data firm at the center of Facebook’s privacy scandal is declaring bankruptcy and shutting down.

In a statement, Cambridge Analytica says it has been “vilified” for actions it says are both legal and widely accepted as part of online advertising. The firm says the media furor stripped it of its customers and suppliers, forcing it to close.

Cambridge Analytica has been linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The British firm suspended CEO Alexander Tayler in April amid investigations. 

Cambridge Analytica sought information on Facebook to build psychological profiles on a large portion of the U.S. electorate. The company was able to amass the database quickly with the help of an app that appeared to be a personality test. The app collected data on tens of millions of people and their Facebook friends, even those who did not download the app themselves.

Facebook has since tightened its privacy restrictions. Cambridge has denied wrongdoing, and Trump’s campaign has said it didn’t use Cambridge’s data.

The firm has said it is committed to helping the U.K. investigation into Facebook and how it uses data. But U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in March the firm failed to meet a deadline to produce the information requested.

Denham said the prime allegation against Cambridge Analytica is that it acquired personal data in an unauthorized way, adding that the data provisions act requires services like Facebook to have strong safeguards against misuse of data.

 

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Facebook Taps Advisers for Audits on Bias and Civil Rights

Facebook has enlisted two outside advisers to examine how it treats underrepresented communities and whether it has a liberal bias.

Civil rights leader Laura Murphy will examine civil rights issues, along with law firm Relman, Dane & Colfax. Former Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, will examine concerns about a liberal bias on Facebook.

The moves come as Facebook deals with a privacy scandal related to access of tens of millions of users’ data by a consulting firm affiliated with President Donald Trump. CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress on the issue last month. Facebook also has faced criticisms over a deluge of fake news and Russian election interference.

The audits were reported earlier by Axios. Facebook says the feedback will help Facebook improve and serve users more effectively.

 

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