Refugees Turn Skills From Home into New Business

Once they acclimate to their new environment, overcoming language, social and cultural barriers, refugees in the U.S. often thrive. Some translate their experiences into assets that are valuable to their new community, as did Parvin and Yadollah Jamalreza. VOA’s June Soh visited their popular tailoring shop in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Growth Slows in April in China’s Manufacturing Sector

Growth in China’s manufacturing sector slowed in April, official data showed Sunday, pointing to an unsteady recovery in the world’s second-largest economy. 

 

The monthly purchasing managers’ index by the Chinese Federation of Logistics and Purchasing fell to 51.2 in April, lower than the 51.8 recorded in March. 

 

The index is based on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate expansion.

 

National Bureau of Statistics statistician Zhao Qinghe said in the release that April’s figure was affected by sluggish growth in market demand and supply, and slower expansion in imports and exports.

 

April’s index still represented a ninth consecutive month of expansion. 

 

China saw its slowest growth in nearly three decades in 2016. China’s huge manufacturing sector is seen as an important indicator for the wider Chinese economy. It has cooled gradually over the past six years as Beijing tries to pivot it away from heavy reliance on export-based manufacturing and investment toward consumer spending.

 

The official full-year economic growth target for 2017 is 6.5 percent. 

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Artificial Womb Provides Hope for Premature Babies

Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born prematurely. It’s believed 1 million children die around the world each year of complications of pre-term birth. Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia may have developed a technology that could change that outlook. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

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EV Manufacturers Expect Surge in Demand

Despite lingering anxiety over their range, interest in electric cars is rising, especially in industrialized countries. Manufacturers say they are improving the mileage by building more charging stations, but the industry is still waiting for a major breakthrough in battery technology. VOA’s George Putic reports.

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Senegal to Introduce HPV Vaccine to Battle Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is preventable, yet it remains the most common type of cancer in Africa, the World Health Organization says.

WHO data show that Senegal currently has one of the world’s highest rates of the disease, with over 1,400 new cases diagnosed each year.

The country’s health officials have stepped up efforts against the disease with a nationwide campaign to vaccinate girls against the virus that causes cancer.

On a recent day at the Philippe Maguilen Senghor health center on the outskirts of Dakar, women lined up for free breast and cervical cancer screenings. The event was run by young Senegalese volunteers from Junior Chamber International (JCI), a nonprofit organization.

Sassy Ndiaye waited patiently for her turn. At age 60, this was only the second time she had been tested for the disease.  

“Before we didn’t know about this,” she said. “I went through eight pregnancies and never did a cervical cancer screening with my gynecologist. I did it after my menopause.”

For comparison, in the United States, it is common for women of all ages to be screened for abnormal cervical cells every three years.

In Dakar, gynecologist Mouhamoudou Moustapha Yade said that by the time patients come to see him, their cervical cancer can be advanced.

“At a later stage, recovery is painful and difficult. And more importantly, the prognosis is not good,” he said. “This is why screening is so important. When you catch the cancer early, treatment is easier and much less expensive.”

But most women in Senegal cannot afford the cost of cervical cancer screening. Doctors and women interviewed at the Philippe Maguilen Senghor clinic said the cost was 40,000 francs ($66).

“Every time we organize free screening days, I am impressed by the number of women that turn up,” said Thiamel Ndiade, a JCI volunteer. “This shows you they are actually informed, but that money is the main issue.”

Ndiade added that most clinics lack the machinery needed to detect the illness, meaning women have to travel long distances just to get checked.

 

“Not all health centers have a video colposcope, for example,” Ndiade said. “We had to bring our own here today, which shows you just how inaccessible this technology is.”

HPV link

The arrival of a vaccine could help Senegal address these challenges.

Cervical cancer is caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus; those who are infected with HPV often do not initially display any visible symptoms. A vaccine against HPV has been in use in the United States and other parts of the developed world since 2006, but it has only recently arrived in Africa.

In 2013, Senegal was among 10 African countries chosen by Gavi — a global alliance that strives to create access to vaccines in the world’s neediest countries — for pilot vaccination programs.

The nationwide rollout in Senegal followed a successful pilot program last year in two parts of the country. Ethiopia and Zimbabwe are also set to introduce the vaccine soon.

“Senegal is one of the first three countries in Africa [after Rwanda and Uganda] to introduce the HPV vaccine on a national scale,” said professor Mamadou Diop, head of oncology at the Aristide Le Dantec hospital. “It will be integrated within the country’s national vaccination program and reach the whole targeted population of girls.”

 

The aim is to roll out the vaccine in two phases, starting with a mass vaccination campaign reaching 889,445 girls aged between 9 and 15 by May 2018. After this, the vaccine will be administered to all girls at age 9 as part of routine immunization programs.

“The vaccine has been jointly subsidized by Gavi and the Senegalese state,” added professor Ousseynou Badiane, head of the Immunization Division for the Ministry of Health in Senegal. “This means it will be free and accessible to all.”

New vaccines can be met with suspicion, so health practitioners are urging the government to also launch a public education campaign. If the rollout is successful, Gavi estimates the HPV vaccine could help prevent up to 90 percent of cervical cancer cases.

Senegal unveiled its action plan as countries across the continent celebrate the 7th African Vaccination Week, an annual event to strengthen immunization programs in Africa by raising awareness about every person’s need and right to be protected against disease.

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People’s Climate March Brings Thousands to Washington

Thousands rallied Saturday in Washington for the People’s Climate March. Organizers said they hoped the day’s events would send a clear message to the Trump administration and lawmakers in Washington about their climate policies. VOA’s Elizabeth Cherneff has more.

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IT Workers, Companies Cautious on H1B Visa Program Review

During a recent visit to Wisconsin, President Donald Trump announced he was signing an Executive Order reviewing the visa program that brings many technical workers to the United States, known as the H1B visa. About 85,000 workers come to the United States annually using an H1B visa. More from VOA’s Kane Farabaugh

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Thousands of Environmentalists March in Washington

Thousands of environmental activists marched in the U.S. capital Saturday to try to draw support for climate-related causes.

The People’s Climate March was meant to coincide with President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office, according to its organizers, who have condemned what they see as the administration’s lack of concern for environmental issues.

“The Trump administration’s policies are a catastrophe for our climate and communities, especially low-income and communities of color, who are on the front lines of this crisis,” the People’s Climate Movement, a collection of about 50 liberal activist groups, said in a statement.

Protesters marched from the Capitol to the White House, where they held a rally. Dozens of “sister” marches were held in cities across the country.

The group of partner organizations making up the event’s steering committee consisted mainly of environmental groups, but also included several trade unions, anti-war and minority advocacy groups, like the NAACP.

WATCH: People’s Climate March Brings Thousands to Washington

The presence of so many non-climate-related sponsoring organizations was reflected in the group’s “platform,” which lists issues the activists find important but don’t feel are being adequately addressed by the Trump administration.

The platform blends the problems organizers say are created by climate change with economic and social justice issues, and it calls for such changes as increasing the national minimum wage to $15 an hour and fighting “the corporate trade-induced global race to the bottom.”

“This is a moment to bring the range of progressive social change movements together,” the group says on its website.

A similar event last weekend saw thousands of activists show up for the March for Science to protest what they said were denials of scientific truths by the Trump administration.

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Strato-glider to Explore Little-known Mountain Waves

Later this year, two pilots in a sailplane will try to break the world altitude record for a glider, soaring more than 27 kilometers above sea level. But their primary mission will be to explore the little-known phenomenon called “mountain waves” and to carry a number of experiments designed by school students. VOA’s George Putic reports.

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On 100th Day in Office, Trump to Focus on Trade

President Donald Trump will spend his 100th day in office talking tough on trade in one of the states that delivered his unlikely win.

 

The president is expected to sign an executive order Saturday that will direct his Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative to perform a comprehensive study of the nation’s trade agreements to determine whether America is being treated fairly by its trading partners and the 164-nation World Trade Organization.

It’s one of two executive orders the president will sign at a shovel factory in Pennsylvania’s Cumberland County, the kind of place that propelled his surprise victory.

Rally in Pennsylvania 

The last week has been a frenzy of activity at the White House as Trump and his team have tried to rack up accomplishments and make good on campaign promises before reaching the symbolic 100-day mark. In addition to the visit to the Ames tool factory, which has been manufacturing shovels since 1774, the president will hold one of his signature campaign rallies in Harrisburg to cap the occasion.

 

It’s a return to fundamentals for a president who has, in recent days, sounded wistful reflecting on his term so far.

 

Earlier this week, Trump announced his intention to work to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. He also said he would begin renegotiating a free trade deal with South Korea, with which the U.S. has a significant trade deficit.

Trade discussed every day

 

“There isn’t a day that goes by that the president doesn’t discuss some aspect of trade,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said at the White House Friday.

 

The executive orders signed Saturday will mark Trump’s 31st and 32nd since taking office, the most of any president in his first 100 days since World War II. It’s a jarring disconnect from Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign, when he railed against his predecessor’s use of the tool, which has the benefit of not needing congressional sign-off.

The more significant of the two orders will give the Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative 180 days to identify violations and abuses under the country’s trade agreements and recommend solutions.

World Trade Organization outdated 

Ross said the WTO, the Geneva-based arbiter of world trade rules, is bureaucratic and outdated and needs an overhaul. Ross downplayed the possibility that the United States would consider leaving the organization but didn’t rule it out. 

“As any multilateral organization, there’s always the potential for modifying the rules,” he said.

 

The administration argues that unfair competition with China and other trade partners has wiped out millions of U.S. factory jobs. Ross said dissatisfaction with trade policy is one reason voters turned to Trump.

 

“They’re fed up with having their jobs go offshore. They’re fed up with some of the destructive practices,” he said. “So in effect, the country said in this last election: It’s about time to fix these things. And the president heard that message.”

 

Trump, who campaigned on a vow to crack down on China and other trading partners, has announced several other moves on trade in recent weeks. He ordered the Commerce Department to study the causes of the United States’ massive trade deficit in goods, $734 billion last year, $347 billion with China alone. The administration is also imposing duties on Canadian softwood timber and is investigating whether steel and aluminum imports pose a threat to national security.

 

Ross said Friday that the WTO is too narrowly focused on limiting traditional tariffs — taxes on imports — and does little to counter less conventional barriers to trade or to police violations of intellectual property rights.

 

Trump has pushed a model of “reciprocal trade” agreements in which the U.S. would raise or lower tariffs on a country’s imports depending on how that country treats the U.S.

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Trump Signs Order Opening Arctic for Oil Drilling

President Donald Trump is re-opening for oil exploration areas that President Barack Obama had closed, a move that environmental groups have promised to fight.

In an executive order Friday, the president reversed the Obama administration’s decision to prohibit oil and gas drilling in the Arctic waters off Alaska.

The order also instructs the Interior Department to review current restrictions on energy development in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. In addition, it bars the creation or expansion of marine sanctuaries and orders a review of all areas protected within the last 10 years.

Trump cites advantages

The White House says 90 billion barrels of oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are buried off the U.S. coastline, but 94 percent of the area is off limits.

“Renewed offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless new jobs and make America more secure and far more energy independent,” Trump said at a signing ceremony at the White House.

The action is the latest from the Trump administration aimed at boosting domestic energy production and loosening environmental regulations.

In his first 100 days, Trump has relaxed coal mine pollution rules and ordered a review of vehicle efficiency standards and power plant greenhouse gas rules. His administration has stopped defending Obama-era pollution regulations challenged in court.

The energy industry has cheered the moves. Environmental groups have promised strong opposition.

Fragile ecosystems

Conservationists have long opposed oil drilling in the Arctic. A spill would devastate the region’s fragile ecosystems, they say, while extreme conditions raise the risks of a spill and make cleanup harder.

Fishing and tourism on the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico would suffer from an accident, too, environmentalists note.

“By his actions today, President Trump has sent a clear message that he prioritizes the oil and gas industry over the needs of working Americans in our coastal communities who depend on healthy fishing and tourism economies for their livelihoods,” Environmental Defense Fund Vice President Elizabeth Thompson said in a statement.

Reviewing and rewriting the current offshore drilling plans are expected to take several years. Environmental groups plan legal challenges to the changes.

 

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Beyond ‘Fake News:’ Facebook Fights ‘Information Operations’

Facebook is acknowledging that governments or other malicious non-state actors are using its social network to sway political sentiment, including elections.

That’s a long way from CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s assertion in November that the idea that bogus information on Facebook influenced the U.S. presidential election was “pretty crazy.” It also illustrates how the world’s biggest social network has been forced to grapple with its outsized role in how the world communicates, for better or for worse.

In an online posting Thursday, the company said that it would monitor efforts to disrupt “civic discourse” on Facebook. It is also looking to identify fake accounts, and says that it will warn people if their accounts have been targeted by cyber-attackers.

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US Economy Grows at Disappointing 0.7% in First Quarter

The latest economic data indicate the U.S. economy is growing at the slowest rate in three years. The GDP or gross domestic product, the broadest measure of all goods and services produced in the country, increased at a disappointing 0.7 percent annual rate, according to new government estimates released Friday.  That’s the weakest performance since 2014, as consumer spending stayed flat and business inventories remained small.  

Analysts say that’s bound to be a disappointment to U.S. President Donald Trump who predicted strong economic growth on day one, once he took over the White House. 

“Remember candidate Trump talked about GDP of about 5 percent and paraphrasing, perhaps something much, much stronger,” said Bankrate.com senior analyst Mark Hamrick. 

“Most economists believe the track for the U.S. economy for the intermediate future is going to be very familiar to what has been seen over the last number of years, and that’s somewhere between one and probably 2.5 percent on an annual basis.”

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.1 percent pace in the fourth quarter of 2016.  But economists say first quarter estimates tend to be notoriously low for a number of reasons.  

“In some years it’s been because of bad weather that kept people in their homes, keeping them from purchasing things but it’s also believed to be somewhat flawed statistically — meaning that what’s actually happening in the economy isn’t being perfectly captured by government statistics,” Hamrick tells VOA.  “It ends up being an estimate and most of them are not perfect”.

Most economists say the first quarter estimate should not be seen as a true measure of U.S. economic health. 

Other indicators suggest a more positive outlook. The U.S. unemployment rate is near a 10-year low at 4.5 percent, consumer and business sentiment are rising and major U.S. stock indexes are near record highs.

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Apple Cuts Off Payments, Qualcomm Slashes Expectations

Qualcomm slashed its profit expectations Friday by as much as a third after saying that Apple is refusing to pay royalties on technology used in the iPhone.

Its shares hit a low for 2017.

Apple Inc. sued Qualcomm earlier this year, saying that the San Diego chipmaker has abused its control over essential technology and charged excessive licensing fees. Qualcomm said Friday that Apple now says it won’t pay any fees until the dispute is resolved. Apple confirmed Friday that it has suspended payments until the court can determine what is owed.

“We’ve been trying to reach a licensing agreement with Qualcomm for more than five years but they have refused to negotiate fair terms,” Apple said. “As we’ve said before, Qualcomm’s demands are unreasonable and they have been charging higher rates based on our innovation, not their own.”

Qualcomm said it will continue to vigorously defend itself in order to “receive fair value for our technological contributions to the industry.”

But the effect on Qualcomm, whose shares have already slid 15 percent since the lawsuit was filed by Apple in January, was immediate.

Qualcomm now expects earnings per share between 75 and 85 cents for the April to June quarter. Its previous forecast was for earnings per share between 90 cents and $1.15.

Revenue is now expected to be between $4.8 billion and $5.6 billion, down from its previous forecast between $5.3 billion and $6.1 billion.

Shares of Qualcomm Inc. tumbled almost 4 percent at the opening bell to $51.22.

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Marchers to Protest Trump’s Climate Policies

Another protest march will take place in Washington Saturday. The People’s Climate March targets President Donald Trump’s efforts to undo action on climate change. A movement that began with a few scientists has grown to include everyone from low-income people of color to major corporations. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

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Recovery School Helps Addicts Take it Day by Day

Drug overdose deaths in the United States continue to rise. The majority of those deaths can be attributed to opioids, synthetic or natural drugs that when used correctly relieve pain. But, according to health authorities, nearly 100 Americans die every day from opioid abuse. While the nation tries to figure out ways to end the flood of opioids on U.S. streets, others are trying to help those who are trying to put opioid abuse behind them. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

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