EU Court Rules Uber Should be Regulated Like Taxi Service

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The European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday that ride-hailing company Uber should be regulated like a taxi service instead of a technology firm, a decision that limits its business operations in Europe. The decision was handed down in response to a complaint from a Barcelona taxi drivers association, which tried to prevent Uber from expanding into the Spanish city. The drivers maintained that Uber drivers should be subject to authorizations and license requirements and accused the company of engaging in unfair competition. The San Francisco-based Uber contends it should be regulated as an information services provider because it is based on a mobile application that links passengers to drivers. The European Union's highest court said services provided by Uber and similar companies are "inherently linked to a transport service" and…
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Displaced by Mining, Peru Villagers Spurn Shiny New Town

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This remote town in Peru's southern Andes was supposed to serve as a model for how companies can help communities uprooted by mining. Named Nueva Fuerabamba, it was built to house around 1,600 people who gave up their village and farmland to make room for a massive, open-pit copper mine. The new hamlet boasts paved streets and tidy houses with electricity and indoor plumbing, once luxuries to the indigenous Quechua-speaking people who now call this place home. The mine's operator, MMG Ltd, the Melbourne-based unit of state-owned China Minmetals Corp, threw in jobs and enough cash so that some villagers no longer work. But the high-profile deal has not brought the harmony sought by villagers or MMG, a testament to the difficulty in averting mining disputes in this mineral-rich nation.…
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US Sees Foreign Reliance on ‘Critical’ Minerals as Security Concern

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The United States needs to encourage domestic production of a handful of minerals critical for the technology and defense industries, and stem reliance on China, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Tuesday. Zinke made the remarks at the Interior Department as he unveiled a report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which detailed the extent to which the United States is dependent upon foreign competitors for its supply of certain minerals. The report identified 23 out of 88 minerals that are priorities for U.S. national defense and the economy because they are components in products ranging from batteries to military equipment. The report found that the United States was 100 percent net import reliant on 20 mineral commodities in 2016, including manganese, niobium, tantalum and others. In 1954, the U.S.…
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Greek Lawmakers Approve 2018 Budget Featuring More Austerity

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Greece's parliament on Tuesday approved the 2018 state budget, which includes further austerity measures beyond the official end of the country's third international bailout next summer.    All 153 lawmakers from the left-led governing coalition backed the budget measures in a late vote, while the 144 opposition lawmakers present rejected them. Three were absent from the vote. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras promised that the country would smoothly exit the eight-year crisis that has seen its economy shrink by a quarter and unemployment hit highs previously unseen during peacetime. Tsipras argued that international money markets — on whose credit Greece will have to depend once its rescue loan program ends — are showing strong confidence in the country's prospects, with the yield on Greek government bonds dropping to a pre-crisis low…
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Ex-Odebrecht CEO, Symbol of Brazil Graft Probe, Leaves Jail

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One of the most prominent people convicted in Latin America's largest corruption scandal left prison Tuesday for house arrest after serving two-and-a-half years behind bars at a time when many Brazilians are becoming disillusioned with the graft investigation once hailed as a political game-changer. Marcelo Odebrecht's release came a day after Brazil's top court halted investigations into several lawmakers, underscoring the limitations of the "Car Wash" investigation that uncovered nearly institutionalized corruption involving senior politicians in several countries and several major Brazilian companies. Odebrecht, who was CEO of his family's company of the same name, cooperated with prosecutors and testified that executives routinely paid bribes and made illegal campaign contributions to politicians in exchange for favors. He was originally sentenced to 19 years in prison but, once he began cooperating,…
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Analysis: US Tax Cut to Deliver Corporate Earnings Gift

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A planned massive Republican tax overhaul has led Wall Street strategists to revise their 2018 corporate earnings forecasts sharply higher, but the jury is out on how long the accelerating effect on profits will last. The tax bill, which the U.S. House of Representatives approved on Tuesday, will cut the corporate income tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, beginning Jan. 1, and would be the biggest positive factor for U.S. earnings in 2018. A Senate vote was still awaited. Although there is a wide range of profit estimates for 2018, the expected tax plan benefit has strategists now calling for double-digit profit gains in 2018 over 2017, compared with their forecasts for mid-single-digit gains without the tax cuts. S&P 500 earnings growth for 2017 was an estimated 11.9…
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Facebook to Notify Users When Photos of Them Are Uploaded

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Facebook Inc said on Tuesday it would begin using facial recognition technology to tell people on the social network when others upload photos of them, if they agree to let the company keep a facial template on file. The company said in a statement it was making the feature optional to allow people to protect their privacy, but that it thought some people would want to be notified of pictures they might not otherwise know about. The feature would not immediately be available in Canada and the European Union, Facebook said. Privacy laws are generally stricter in those jurisdictions, though the company said it was hopeful about implementing the feature there in the future. Tech companies are putting in place a variety of functions using facial recognition technology, despite fears…
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Amnesty: Failed and Exploited, Nepal Migrant Workers Trapped in Debt Cycle

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Nepali migrant workers are trapped in a vicious cycle of debt and exploitation due to a failure by authorities to crack down on recruitment firms that charge illegally high fees for jobs abroad, human rights group Amnesty International said on Monday. Wages sent back by an estimated four million Nepalis - mainly employed working in construction or as domestic workers in the Middle East, Malaysia and South Korea - make up more than a quarter of the poor Himalayan nation's gross domestic product. Nepal permits recruitment agencies to charge 10,000 rupees ($100) from each migrant as a service charge for finding them work with foreign firms, who pay for workers' travel and visa. But a survey of over 400 Nepali migrants by Amnesty found workers are not only forced up…
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CryptoKitties Brings Blockchain to the Masses

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How do you explain the abstract concepts of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies? With adorable, digital kittens of course. CryptoKitties, an online game and marketplace featuring virtual kittens, has become an entry point for curious outsiders looking to dabble in cryptocurrencies - decentralized digital monies that rely on blockchain technology to enable peer-to-peer transactions. Company reps say their main goal is to teach people how to use blockchains; open, distributed ledgers of cryptocurrency transactions. Bitcoin is the most famous cryptocurrency and blockchain protocol, but there are others. “As part of launching this project, we were really trying to educate people who haven’t perhaps bought Ethereum before, people who aren’t in the crypto space.” said Elsa Wilk, marketing director at Axiom Zen, the Canadian tech consultancy that created CryptoKitties. That may have…
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US Blames North Korea for Global Cyber Attack

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The United States is publicly blaming North Korea for unleashing a cyber attack that crippled hospitals, banks and other companies across the globe earlier this year. In an op-ed piece posted on the Wall Street Journal website Monday night, Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert said that North Korea was "directly responsible'' for the WannaCry ransomware attack, and that Pyongyang will be held accountable for it. "The attack was widespread and cost billions, and North Korea is directly responsible," Bossert writes. "North Korea has acted especially badly, largely unchecked, for more than a decade, and its malicious behavior is growing more egregious." Bossert says President Donald Trump's administration will continue to use its "maximum pressure strategy to curb Pyongyang's ability to mount attacks, cyber or otherwise.'' Pyongyang has previously denied being…
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Brazil Court Approves Compensation for Decades-old Depositor Losses

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A Supreme Court justice on Monday approved an agreement to compensate bank depositors for losses caused by government policies several decades ago, settling more than a million legal disputes that have hung over Brazil's banking system since the 1980s. Depositors who lost their savings due to economic programs applied in the 1980s and 1990s to tackle hyperinflation will have two years to sign up for the compensation deal, Justice Dias Toffoli ruled. Those who are owed up to 5,000 reais ($1,520) will be fully reimbursed, while those with larger liabilities will get between 8 percent and 19 percent less. Around 60 percent of the depositors covered by the agreement are owed up to 5,000 reais, according to the Brazilian Federation of Banks (Febraban). The total value of reimbursements will depend…
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Facebook Reveals Data on Copyright and Trademark Complaints

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Facebook announced Monday that it removed nearly 3 million posts, including videos, ads and other forms of content, from its services during the first half of 2017 following complaints of counterfeiting and copyright and trademark infringement. The worldwide data on intellectual property-related takedowns is a new disclosure for Facebook as part of its biannual “Transparency Report,” Chris Sonderby, a deputy general counsel at the firm, said in a blog post. “We believe that sharing information about (intellectual property) reports we receive from rights holders is an important step toward being more open and clear about how we protect the people and businesses that use our services,” Sonderby wrote. Transparency report The ninth Facebook transparency report also showed that government requests for information about users increased 21 percent worldwide compared with…
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US Bars Drones Over Nuclear Sites for Security Reasons

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The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday it will bar drone flights over seven major U.S. nuclear sites, including Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The move is the latest in a series of growing restrictions on unmanned aerial vehicles over U.S. sites that have national security implications. The new restrictions begin Dec. 29 and include the Hanford Site in Washington State, Idaho National Laboratory, Savannah River National Laboratory in South Carolina, Pantex Site in Texas, and the Y-12 National Security Site and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The FAA said it is considering additional requests from other federal security agencies to bar drones. Earlier this year, the FAA banned drone flights over 133 U.S. military facilities. The Pentagon said in August that U.S. military bases could shoot down…
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Apple’s 2017 iPhone Models Give Taiwan’s Weary Tech Sector a Reprieve

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A boom in production of Apple iPhones is helping lift the economy of Taiwan, an industrial center that still relies on high-tech manufacturing contracts despite increasing competition from offshore. Apple’s phone sales in the third quarter this year grew 5.7 percent over the same period of 2016, ahead of a cross-brand increase of 3 percent to 383 million units, market research firm Gartner says. Orders for older iPhones as well as the iPhone X, which is seen taking off next year, have solidified orders for parts supplied by tech firms in Taiwan, analysts say. Tech specialists say the Silicon Valley icon is looking this year to Taiwanese firms for chip production, camera modules, displays and final assembly. Taiwanese-owned Foxconn Technology often assembles Apple gear at sprawling factories in China, for…
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Bitcoin Futures Begin Trading on CME, Price Declines

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Another security based on the price of bitcoin, the digital currency that has soared in value and volatility this year, began trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Sunday. The CME Group, which owns the exchange, opened up bitcoin futures for trading at 6 p.m. EST on Sunday. The futures contract that expires in January opened higher at $20,650, then declined steadily. The futures were trading at $18,775 at 9:00 p.m. EST, down $725. The CME futures, like the ones that CME competitor the Cboe started trading last week, do not involve actual bitcoin. The CME's futures will track an index of bitcoin prices pulled from several private exchanges. The Cboe's futures track the price of bitcoin prices on the particular private exchange known as Gemini. Each contract sold on…
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Stake in Vietnam’s Top Brewer for Sale, But Bids Few

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Vietnam is set to auction up to a $5 billion stake in top brewer Sabeco on Monday, with Thai Beverage the only potential bidder to have expressed interest in a majority stake. The keenly anticipated sale of the state-owned maker of Bia Saigon gained momentum in recent months after being hampered for years by political resistance, fickle policy-making and complications over valuations. The government has set a minimum sale price of 320,000 dong or $14.10 a share for Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp (Sabeco), whose shares have nearly trebled to 309,200 dong since its listing a year ago. Thai Beverage, through a partly owned Vietnam unit, is the only company that has expressed interest in owning more than 25 percent of the company, which has roughly 40 percent of the…
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Trump Sells Republican Tax Bill to Job Seekers, Middle Class

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U.S. President Donald Trump continued to tout the Republican tax bill Saturday, saying "everybody's going to benefit" if it is signed into law. "But I think the greatest benefit is going to be for jobs and for the middle class, middle income," Trump said to reporters on the White House South Lawn before departing for the presidential Camp David retreat in Maryland. Republican Senate and House negotiators finalized a final version Friday of their compromise $1.5 trillion tax bill, after appeasing Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who demanded an expansion of the child tax credit that provides benefits for low-income families. Republican lawmakers hammered out differences Wednesday between the House and Senate versions, and both chambers of Congress plan to vote on the final bill early next week, with the intent…
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New Kind of Retirement Community: A Little India in Silicon Valley 

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With people coming from around the world to work in Silicon Valley, some struggle with the best ways to care for their aging parents. Increasingly, the solution is an “affinity” retirement community, where older people from places like India and China can live near — but not with — their adult children. These communities break from traditional custom that parents and children live together. “The children are so busy these days, they are all the time working, taking care of their kids, so we do not want to interfere in their lives,” said Asha RaoRane, an Indian national who wanted to move to the U.S. to be near her three daughters who had immigrated to San Francisco. Her daughters started exploring the idea of a traditional senior retirement community, but…
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Indian Retirees Maintain Independence, Fun and Freedom Later in Life

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Young people come from around the world to work in Silicon Valley, California. As these workers build a life away from home, many struggle with how to bring their aging parents to their new community. But what happens to foreign parents entering their later years in a new country? VOA's Deana Mitchell visits a unique community in Silicon Valley that caters to retirees from India. ...
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Britain Seeks ‘Bespoke’ EU Trade Deal, Pact With China

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British Finance Minister Philip Hammond said Saturday it is likely Britain will want to negotiate a bespoke arrangement for a future trade deal with the European Union, rather than copying existing arrangements like the Canada-EU deal. The European Union agreed Friday to move Brexit talks onto trade and a transition pact, but some leaders cautioned that the final year of divorce negotiations before Britain’s exit could be fraught with peril. Summit chairman Donald Tusk said the world’s biggest trading bloc would begin “exploratory contacts” with Britain on what London wants in a future trade relationship, as well as starting discussion on the immediate post-Brexit transition. No off-the-shelf deal Speaking in Beijing, Hammond it was probably not helpful to think in terms of off-the-shelf models like the Canada-EU deal. “We have…
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Huge Tax Bill Heads for Passage as GOP Senators Fall in Line

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After weeks of quarrels and qualms and then 11th-hour horse-trading, Republicans revealed their huge national tax rewrite late Friday, along with announcements of support that all but guarantee approval next week. The legislation would slash tax rates for big business and lower levies on the richest Americans in a massive $1.5 trillion bill that the GOP plans to pass through Congress before the year-end break. Benefits for most other taxpayers would be smaller. "This is happening. Tax reform under Republican control of Washington is happening," House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told rank-and-file members in a conference call. "Most critics out there didn't think it could happen. ... And now we're on the doorstep of something truly historic." According to the 1,097-page bill, today's 35 percent rate on corporations would fall…
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Facebook Highlights Dangers of Using Facebook

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With nearly 2 billion users, Facebook's survival depends on people continuing to use its service.  That's why observers were surprised by an unusual company blog post Friday that highlighted some of the potential harm of using the social media service.  Titled Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?, the company cited studies that suggested some of the possible downsides of using social media.  In one study, people who passively read about others' lives reported feeling worse about themselves. One possibility is "negative social comparison" when reading about others online, the company said, because "people's posts are often more curated and flattering" than how they are in their real, offline lives.  But there's a potential solution, according to Facebook, which reported $10 billion in revenue — its highest…
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Powerful CEOs Demand DACA Fix

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Two titans of U.S. business have come together to demand that Congress find an immediate solution for DACA recipients, whose legal immigration status will come to an end in March without intervention. Charles Koch, chairman and chief executive of Koch Industries, and Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, wrote in an opinion piece published Thursday in The Washington Post that “we strongly agree that Congress must act before the end of the year to bring certainty and security to the lives of dreamers. Delay is not an option. Too many people’s futures hang in the balance.” Dreamers is another term for participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children and provided them with work permits.…
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US Prosecutors Move to Cash in on $8.5M in Seized Bitcoin

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U.S. attorneys in Utah prosecuting a multimillion-dollar opioid drug-ring are moving quickly to sell seized bitcoin that’s exploded in value to about $8.5 million since the alleged ringleader’s arrest a year ago. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah cites the digital currency’s volatility in court documents pressing for the sale. The bitcoin cache was worth less than $500,000 when Aaron Shamo was arrested on drug charges, but the value of the digital currency has skyrocketed since then. Bitcoin was created as a digital alternative to the traditional banking system, and is prone to swings in value based on what people believe its worth. For federal prosecutors in Utah, sales of seized assets like cars are routine, but bitcoin is new territory, spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch said Thursday. Shamo is accused of…
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German Government Says It Backs ‘Open and Free Internet’

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The German government says it backs an "open and free internet" following the U.S. decision to repeal net neutrality rules. A spokeswoman for the Economy Ministry said Friday that Germany had "taken note" of the U.S. move but declined to comment directly on it. However, spokeswoman Beate Baron said the German government supports rules introduced across the European Union last year forbidding discriminatory access to the internet. Baron told reporters in Berlin that "an open and free internet is indispensable for the successful development of a digital society that everyone wants to take part in." The Republican-controlled U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Thursday repealed Obama-era rules requiring all web traffic to be treated equally. ...
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Scientists Working on Writing Five-day Forecast for Solar Storms

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Charged particles from the sun are responsible for the brilliant auroras at the earth's poles. But there can be cases of too much of a good thing. When huge solar storms push massive waves of energized particles into Earth's path, they can wreak havoc on our satellites and electric grid. That is why researchers are trying to figure out what causes solar storms. VOA's Kevin Enochs reports. ...
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