Powell Signals More Hikes Ahead if US Economy Stays Strong

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Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell signaled Friday that he expects the Fed to continue gradually raising interest rates if the U.S. economic expansion remains strong. Powell added that while annual inflation has risen to near the Fed's 2 percent target rate, it doesn't seem likely to accelerate above that point. That suggests that he doesn't foresee a need for the Fed to step up its rate hikes. Late next month, the Fed is widely expected to resume raising rates. Speaking to an annual conference of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Powell said the Fed recognizes that it needs to strike a careful balance between its mandates of maximizing employment and keeping price increases stable. He said a gradual approach is the best way for the Fed to navigate between…


Facebook Bans 2nd Quiz App on Concerns User Data Misused

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Facebook banned a quiz app from its platform for refusing an inspection and concerns that data on as many as 4 million users was misused.   The social media company said Wednesday that it took action against the myPersonality app after it found user information was shared with researchers and companies “with only limited protections in place.” Facebook said it would notify the app's users that their data was misused. It's only the second time Facebook has banned an app, after it blocked one linked to political data mining firm Cambridge Analytica that sparked a privacy scandal.   The company said myPersonality was “mainly active” prior to 2012, and it wasn't clear why Facebook was taking action now.   The app was created in 2007 by researcher David Stillwell and…


US, China Exchange New Round of Tariffs in Trade War

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A new set of tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by the United States and China on each other's goods took effect Thursday. The U.S. announced earlier this month that it would impose 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese goods, on top of the 25-percent tariffs it imposed on $34 billion worth of Chinese products in early July. Beijing has followed suit in each case with an identical percentage of tariffs in retaliation. China's commerce ministry issued a statement Thursday criticizing the U.S. tariffs as a violation of World Trade Organization rules, and says it will file a legal challenge under the WTO's dispute resolution mechanism. The new round of tariffs took effect the day after delegations from both nations met in Washington for first of two days of talks…


Study: Many Teens – and Parents – Feel Tethered to Phones

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Parents lament their teenagers’ noses constantly in their phones, but they might want to take stock of their own screen time habits.  A study out Wednesday from the Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of parents are concerned about the amount of time their teenage children spend in front of screens, while more than a third expressed concern about their own screen time.  Meanwhile, more than half of teens said they often or sometimes find their parents or caregivers to be distracted when the teens are trying to have a conversation with them. The study calls teens’ relationship with their phones at times “hyperconnected” and notes that nearly three-fourths check messages or notifications as soon as they wake up. Parents do the same, but at a lower if still substantial…


After Summer’s Growth Revisions, Macron Has Budget Work Cut Out

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French President Emmanuel Macron will make the tough political choices needed to meet his deficit commitments, his government spokesman said, as he looked to put a bodyguard scandal behind him at his first Cabinet meeting after the summer break. Macron and his ministers in all likelihood need to find savings in next year's budget, to be presented to parliament next month, if they are to prevent the deficit from ballooning once again. The president faced his first crisis in the summer when video surfaced of bodyguard Alexandre Benalla beating a protester. Macron's own aloof response fanned public discontent. Now the 40-year-old leader returns to work facing difficult political choices as he embarks on a new wave of reforms to reform the pensions system, overhaul public healthcare and shake-up the highly…


EXCLUSIVE – Sources: Aramco Listing Plan Halted, Oil Giant Disbands Advisors

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Saudi Arabia has called off both the domestic and international stock listing of state oil giant Aramco, billed as the biggest such deal in history, four senior industry sources said on Wednesday. The financial advisors working on the proposed listing have been disbanded, as Saudi Arabia shifts its attention to a proposed acquisition of a "strategic stake" in local petrochemicals maker Saudi Basic Industries Corp., two of the sources said. "The decision to call off the IPO was taken some time ago, but no-one can disclose this, so statements are gradually going that way — first delay then calling off," a Saudi source familiar with IPO plans. Saudi Aramco did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. The Saudi Royal Court had no immediate comment. The proposed listing of…


Disney Offers Tuition for Hourly Workers in Tight Job Market

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Disney is offering to pay full tuition for hourly workers who want to earn a college degree or finish a high school diploma. The Walt Disney Co. said Wednesday it will pay upfront tuition to workers who want to take classes starting in the fall. Disney initially will invest $50 million into the "Disney Aspire" program and up to $25 million a year after that. Other large corporations have begun paying tuition for workers in a job market with low unemployment. In May, Walmart said it will offer workers the chance to get a college degree at three universities with online programs. Disney is rolling out its program in phases, with the first limited to online classes. It is being administered by Guild Education, the same firm operating Walmart's program.…


Study: Many Teens — and Parents — Feel Tethered to Phones

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Parents lament their teenagers' noses constantly in their phones, but they might benefit from taking stock of their own screen time habits. A new report from the Pew Research Center says two-thirds of parents are concerned about the amount of time their teenage children spend in front of screens. But more than half of teens said they often or sometimes find their parents or caregivers to be distracted by screens when trying to have a conversation with them. And more than a third expressed concern about their own screen time. The study surveyed 743 U.S. teens and 1,058 U.S. parents of teens from March 7 to April 10. The margin of error is 4.5 percentage points. ...


New Technology Aims to Prevent Newborn Deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Around the world, 2.6 million newborns die within a month after they are born, according to the World Health Organization. A project called NEST360°, in the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health in Houston, is trying to reduce the number of preventable newborn deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. The key is to provide appropriate medical devices for hospitals in this region of the world. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has the details. ...


‘Leakage’ of Coal From North to South Korea Worries Experts

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Following Seoul's announcement that South Korean companies have illegally imported North Korean coal, U.S. experts are worried about North Korean trade that contravenes international sanctions. The Korea Customs Service (KCS) announced earlier this month that three South Korean companies illegally imported North Korean coal that was transshipped at Russian ports, in violation of United Nations resolutions. The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution on August 5, 2017, banning North Korea from exporting coal, iron, lead and other materials. Another resolution later that year, on December 22, called for U.N. members to seize and inspect vessels suspected of transporting prohibited items.  According to the KCS, in seven shipments between April and October of last year, three South Korean companies imported a total of 35,038 tons of North Korean coal and pig iron…


Facebook, Twitter Remove Accounts Linked to Iran, Russia

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Social media giants Facebook and Twitter said they have removed hundreds of pages and accounts linked to Russia and Iran ahead of the midterm elections in the U.S. Facebook said it had removed 254 Facebook pages and 116 Instagram accounts that originated in Iran and were part of a disinformation campaign that targeted countries around the world, including the U.S. and Britain.   The social media companies acted on a tip from cybersecurity firm FireEye, which said on Tuesday that the accounts were promoting Iranian propaganda, including discussion of "anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian themes." "We've removed 652 Pages, groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Iran and targeted people across multiple internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, UK and US," Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity…


Chile’s Pinera Promises to Spur Investment with Tax Reform

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Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said on Tuesday that his overhaul of the country's tax structure would "modernize" Chile's revenue system and stimulate investment by local and foreign companies. The conservative leader said in a televised address that reform would, among other proposals, calibrate taxes paid by conventional companies with those paid by digital technology companies. The reform aims "to create a simpler and more equitable and fully integrated tax system for all Chilean companies." Digital commerce companies with local operations like Netflix and Uber are likely to be affected under the reform. E-commerce is gaining traction in Latin America after a slow start. Last month, an Amazon Web Services vice president met with Pinera to discuss Amazon investing in the country as part of a longer-term regional expansion plan. Pinera,…


With Sensors and Apps, Young African Coders Compete to Curb Hunger

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From an app to diagnose disease on Zambian farms to Tinder-style matchmaking for Senegalese land owners and young farmers, young coders have been finding solutions to hunger in the first Africa-wide hackathon on the issue. Eight teams competed in the hackathon, organized by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and a Rwandan trade organization in the country's capital Kigali this week. Experts say keeping young people in farming is key to alleviating hunger in Africa, which has 65 percent of the world's uncultivated arable land, but spends $35 billion a year on importing food for its growing population. "In our families, agriculture is no longer a good business. They don't get the return," said Rwandan Ndayisaba Wilson, 24, whose team proposed a $400 solar-powered device that can optimize water…


IATA: Mexico’s New Airport Crucial for Passenger Growth

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Mexico risks losing long-term passenger growth and billions of dollars if it fails to go through with building a new hub in the capital to alleviate congestion, an executive with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Tuesday. Mexico's incoming government last week postponed a decision on whether to complete a partially constructed new airport in Mexico City, saying the public should be consulted on the fate of the $13-billion hub, which the next president initially opposed. President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the project was tainted by corruption prior to his July 1 landslide election victory, and had pressed for an existing military airport north of the capital to be expanded instead. Without the new airport, around 20 million fewer passengers would fly to Mexico City starting in…


Judge: 3D Guns Are Issue for President, Congress

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A federal judge hearing arguments over a settlement between the Trump administration and a company that wants to post plans for printing 3D weapons on the internet said Tuesday that the issue is best decided by the president or the Congress. U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik that while he will still rule on the legal issues involving the settlement, "a solution to the greater problem is so much better suited'' to the president or Congress. The settlement prompted 19 states and Washington, D.C., to sue the Trump administration for allowing a Texas company to distribute instructions on how to make printable three-dimensional guns. Lasnik issued a temporary restraining order blocking the online release of the blueprints. Now, the states and Washington are seeking a permanent ban. A lawyer for the…


Small Firms Thrive as Customers Seek More Unique Clothing

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Claudio Belotti knows he cut the denim that became the jeans Meghan Markle wore on one of her first outings as the fiancee of Britain's Prince Harry.   That's because he cuts all of the fabric for Hiut Denim Co., a 7-year-old company that makes jeans in Cardigan, Wales. Belotti is a craftsman with 50 years of experience that gives his work a personal touch — something that's not quite couture but not exactly mass-produced either.   "There's a story behind each one," Belotti said. "You're paying for the skill."   Customer demand for something unique is helping small companies like Hiut buck the globalization trend and set up shop in developed countries that had long seen such work disappear. While international brands like H&M and Zara still dominate the clothing…


South Africa’s Land Bank: Land Expropriation Could Trigger Default

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South Africa's state-owned Land Bank said on Monday a plan to allow the state to seize land without compensation could trigger defaults that could cost the government 41 billion rand ($2.8 billion) if the bank's rights as a creditor are not protected. Land Bank is a specialist bank providing financial services to the commercial farming sector and other agricultural businesses. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Aug. 1 that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is forging ahead with plans to change the constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation, as whites still own most of South Africa's land more than two decades after the end of apartheid. Land Bank Chairman Arthur Moloto said in the company's 2018 annual report that the bank has approximately 9 billion rand of…


Born Out of the Financial Crisis, Bull Market Nears Record

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The bull market in U.S. stocks is about to become the longest in history.   If stocks don't drop significantly by the close of trading Wednesday, the bull market that began in March 2009 will have lasted nine years, five months and 13 days, a record that few would have predicted when the market struggled to find its footing after a 50 percent plunge during the financial crisis.   The long rally has added trillions of dollars to household wealth, helping the economy, and stands as a testament to the ability of large U.S. companies to squeeze out profits in tough times and confidence among investors as they shrugged off repeated crises and kept buying.   "There was no manic trading, there was no panic buying or selling," said Jack…


Trump: It Is ‘Dangerous’ for Twitter, Facebook to Ban Accounts

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U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that it is "very dangerous" for social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to silence voices on their services. Trump's comments in an interview with Reuters come as the social media industry faces mounting scrutiny from Congress to police foreign propaganda. Trump has made his Twitter account — with more than 53 million followers — an integral and controversial part of his presidency, using it to promote his agenda, announce policy and attack critics. Trump previously criticized the social media industry on Aug. 18, claiming without evidence in a series of tweets that unnamed companies were "totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices." In the same post, Trump said "too many voices are being destroyed, some good & some bad." Those tweets followed actions taken…


PepsiCo Buys Israel’s SodaStream for $3.2 Billion

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Beverage giant PepsiCo on Monday purchased Israel's fizzy drink maker SodaStream for $3.2 billion, a boon for a company that has enjoyed a resurgence after being targeted by anti-Israel boycotters in the past. PepsiCo said it was acquiring all SodaStream's outstanding shares at $144 per share, a 32 percent premium to the 30-day volume weighted average price.   Earlier this month, SodaStream reported its strongest results in company history, a 31 percent year-over-year jump in revenues to $172 million, an 89 percent leap in operating profit to $32 million and an 82 percent climb by net profit to $26 million.   PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi called the companies "an inspired match" since both companies aim to reduce waste and limit their environmental footprint.   "Together, we can advance…


Conoco Says Venezuela Will Pay $2 Billion Arbitration Award

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U.S. oil giant ConocoPhillips says it has reached an agreement with Venezuela's state-owned oil company to recover nearly $2 billion it was awarded as part of a decade-old expropriation dispute. Monday's statement from Houston-based Conoco says that PDVSA has agreed to recognize the judgement by an international arbitration panel and will make the first $500 million payment within 90 days and the rest over a period of some four years. In exchange, Conoco will suspend legal actions to seize PDVSA's facilities in the Dutch Antilles that had threatened to disrupt Venezuela's already-depressed oil exports at a time of widespread shortages and hyperinflation. PDVSA hasn't commented comment. The award is equivalent to more than 20 percent of cast-strapped Venezuela*s foreign currency reserves. ...


Amid Fiscal Woes, Malaysia PM Calls for China’s Understanding

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Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says he hopes China will understand his country's "internal fiscal problems" as he seeks to renegotiate billions of dollars worth of Beijing-funded projects. Mahathir spoke Monday in Beijing during a joint news conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Before traveling to China last week, Mahathir suspended three major infrastructure projects that are funded with Chinese loans worth more than $20 billion, including an ambitious rail line and two energy pipelines. The prime minister said he halted the projects due to Malaysia's massive national debt, which has ballooned to $250 billion. The projects were initiated under Mahathir's predecessor, Najib Razak, who has been charged with several counts of corruption in the embezzlement scandal involving the state-owned 1MDB sovereign wealth fund. The scandal led to a stunning…


Euro Fund: Greece Has Officially Exited Bailout Program

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"For the first time since early 2010, Greece can stand on its own feet," the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) rescue fund said as Athens exited its final, three-year international bailout program on Monday. The ESM allocated about $71 billion over the past three years, after an agreement was reached in August 2015 to help the country cope with fallout from an ongoing debt crisis. "Today we can safely conclude the ESM program with no more follow-up rescue programs," Mario Centeno, the chairman of the ESM's board of governors, said in a statement. "This was possible thanks to the extraordinary effort of the Greek people, the good cooperation with the current Greek government and the support of European partners through loans and debt relief." In 2010, Greece was declared at risk…


Maduro Unveils New Banknote, Other Economic Reforms

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Uncertainty reigned in Venezuela Saturday after President Nicolas Maduro unveiled a major economic reform plan aimed at halting the spiraling hyperinflation that has thrown the oil-rich, cash-poor South American country into chaos. Ahead of a major currency overhaul Monday, when Caracas will start issuing new banknotes after slashing five zeroes off the crippled bolivar, Maduro detailed other measures he hopes will pull Venezuela out of crisis. Those measures include a massive minimum wage hike, the fifth so far this year. But analysts say the radical overhaul could only serve to make matters worse. “There will be a lot of confusion in the next few days, for consumers and the private sector,” said the director of the Ecoanalitica consultancy, Asdrubal Oliveros. “It’s a chaotic scenario.” ​‘Pure lie’ The embattled Maduro, a…


Kabul IT Company Designs Buber, the City’s Own Online Taxi App

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People in big cities around the world typically enjoy a wide range of public transportation options. Those who own smartphones also have the choice of using some of the increasingly popular ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. And now, Kabul residents in Afghanistan can, too. VOA's Haseeb Maudoodi takes a look at Kabul's newest online taxi service called Buber, which means 'take me' in Dari. Bezhan Hamdard narrates. ...


Dragonfly, Privacy Issues Keep Google in the Headlines

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Google has been in the headlines recently, and the news was not good. The technology company left the Chinese market eight years ago to protest Beijing's censorship, but now appears ready to return with a new search engine. But the project is shrouded in secrecy, even as Google's employees demand transparency. Meanwhile, the company tries to defend itself against accusations it has been invading user's privacy, despite claiming it doesn't. Faiza Elmasry has the story. Faith Lapidus narrates. ...


Turkey’s Economic Crisis Rattles Global Markets

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A budding trade war between the U.S. and Turkey over a detained American pastor is having global consequences. A sharp drop in Turkey's lira, inflation and the threat of loan defaults, could drag down other economies, particularly in emerging markets. Turkey's troubles are causing ripple effects in countries as far away as Argentina and Indonesia, while weighing on Asian currency rates and triggering currency fluctuations. VOA's Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington. ...