World Water Day 2019: Leaving No One Behind

March 22 is the annual observance of World Water Day. This year’s theme is “No One Left Behind.” But according to a report from UNICEF and the World Health Organization, nearly a billion people today live without access to clean drinking water. Arash Arabasadi reports.

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US Meteorologists Retire Hurricane Names Florence, Michael

Hurricanes Florence and Michael, which caused widespread death and destruction in the United States last year, have earned the dubious distinction of having their names retired. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday that the two names will be replaced with Francine and Milton, starting with the 2024 hurricane season. 

The United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization maintains six lists with 21 names each that are organized alphabetically and alternate between male and female names. 

Each list is used once every six years. The current group goes from 2018 to 2023, with the cycle restarting in 2024. 

Names are retired when meteorologists determine that a hurricane has been so destructive that reusing its name would be insensitive.

The first hurricane name to be retired was Carol, in 1954. So far, 88 names have been dropped from the list. 

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Federal Reserve Foresees No Interest Rate Hikes in 2019

The Federal Reserve left its key interest rate unchanged Wednesday and projected no rate hikes in 2019, dramatically underscoring its plan to be “patient” about any further increases.

The Fed said it was keeping its benchmark rate — which can influence everything from mortgages to credit cards to home equity lines of credit — in a range of 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent. It also announced that it will stop shrinking its bond portfolio in September, a step that should help hold down long-term rates. It will begin slowing the runoff from its bond portfolio in May.

Combined, the moves signal no major increases in borrowing rates for consumers and businesses. And together with the Fed’s dimmer forecast for economic growth this year — 2.1 percent, down from a previous projection of 2.3 percent — the statement it issued Wednesday after its latest policy meeting suggests that it’s grown more concerned about the economy.

With the prospect of no rate hikes ahead anytime soon, the stock market reversed losses it had suffered before the Fed issued its statement and was up modestly soon after.

The Fed’s decision was approved on an 11-0 vote.

Economic activity slows

Some Fed watchers say they think the next rate move could be a cut later this year if the economy slows as much as some fear it might.

In signaling no rate increases at all this year, the Fed’s policymakers reduced their forecast from two that were previously predicted in December. They now project one rate hike in 2020 and none in 2021. The Fed had raised rates four times last year and a total of nine times since December 2015.

The Fed’s pause in credit tightening is a response, in part, to slowdowns in the U.S. and global economies. It says that while the job market remains strong, “growth of economic activity has slowed from its solid rate in the fourth quarter.”

The Fed laid out a plan for stemming the reduction of its balance sheet: In May, it will slow its monthly reductions in Treasurys from $30 billion to $15 billion and end the runoff altogether in September. Starting in October, the Fed will shift its runoff of mortgage bonds into Treasurys so its overall balance sheet won’t drop further.

Change in direction

The central bank’s new embrace of patience and flexibility reflects its calming response since the start of the year to slow growth at home and abroad, a nervous stock market and persistently mild inflation. The Fed executed an abrupt pivot when it met in January by signaling that it no longer expected to raise rates anytime soon. 

The shift toward a more hands-off Fed and away from a policy of steadily tightening credit has encouraged the view that the central bank is done raising rates for now and might even act this year to support rather than restrain the economy. Though the U.S. economy is on firm footing, it faces risks from slowing growth and trade conflicts. 

All of which suggests that the Fed may recognize that it went too far after it met in December. At that meeting, the Fed approved a fourth rate hike for 2018 and projected two additional rate increases in 2019. Chairman Jerome Powell also said he thought the balance sheet reduction would be on “automatic pilot.” 

That message spooked investors, who worried about the prospect of steadily higher borrowing rates for consumers and businesses and perhaps a further economic slowdown. The stock market had begun falling in early October and then accelerated after the Fed’s December meeting.

Trump weighs in

President Donald Trump, injecting himself not for the first time into the Fed’s ostensibly independent deliberations, made clear he wasn’t happy, calling the December rate hike wrong-headed. Reports emerged that Trump was even contemplating trying to fire Powell, who had been his hand-picked choice to lead the Fed. 

But after the December turmoil, the Fed in January began sending a more comforting message. At an economic conference soon after New Year’s, Powell stressed that the Fed would be “flexible” and “patient” in raising rates — a word he and other policymakers have invoked repeatedly since — and “wouldn’t hesitate” to change course if necessary. 

Powell, appearing last week on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” denied that pressure from Trump had influenced the Fed’s policy shift. Private economists generally agree that a slowing economy and a sinking stock market, which eased Fed worries about any possible stock bubble, were more decisive factors. 

Stocks have rallied

After sharply falling in December, stocks have rallied and recouped most of their late-year losses in trading since the start of 2019, a rebound credited larger to the Fed’s easier monetary stance. 

Some analysts say they think the Fed won’t raise rates at all this year if the outlook becomes as dim as they are forecasting. 

That view is supported by the CME Group, which tracks trading in futures contracts on the Fed’s benchmark rate. It says traders now put the probability of any Fed rate hike this year at just 1 percent and project a roughly one-in-four chance that the Fed will actually cut rates by year’s end to help prevent a slowing economy from toppling into a recession.



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Even With Trade Deal, US Tariffs on China Could Remain

U.S. tariffs on China are likely to remain in place for a while, even if a trade deal is reached, President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday. 


“The deal is coming along nicely,” the president said about the trade talks with Beijing, noting U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would be heading to China within days to continue discussions.  


“We’re taking in billions and billions of dollars right now in tariff money, and for a period of time that will stay,” Trump said.

The president’s remarks indicated that Washington’s tariffs could stay in place until U.S. officials are convinced the Chinese are adhering to the terms of the agreement. 


“They’ve had a lot of problems living by certain deals,” the president noted on the White House South Lawn just before boarding the Marine One helicopter.   

China might accept a deal in which most of the U.S. tariffs are rolled back, according to Brookings Institution senior fellow David Dollar, but he said he expected President Xi Jinping would not accept any pact in which no tariffs were lifted. 


“It’s very hard for the Chinese president to agree to a deal that’s so clearly asymmetric. Chinese people are so active on the internet and social media, and President Xi will hear about it from the people if he makes a deal that looks bad for China,” Dollar told VOA.  


Tit-for-tat tariffs imposed last year ignited fears of a trade war between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, which annually trade more than a half-trillion dollars’ worth of goods.  


The value of Chinese products sold in the United States far outweighs the value of those sent to China, and that deficit alone represents about 80 percent of America’s overall trade gap in goods. 

A pillar of the Trump presidency has been reducing that huge gap by negotiating bilateral trade deals and rebuilding the U.S. manufacturing base.

Trump traveled Wednesday to an area in Ohio where General Motors is set to shutter a car assembly plant, affecting about 1,500 jobs and undercutting the president’s manufacturing revival message.  


“What’s going on with General Motors?” Trump asked during a speech. “Get that plant open or sell it to somebody and they’ll open it. Everybody wants it.”  


“Intervening to try to keep one factory open isn’t going to do much for the economy” at a time when manufacturing is declining as a share of the overall job market, said Dollar, of the Brookings Institution. “It’s a bad precedent for politicians to intervene like that.”  


A resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Claude Barfield, agrees presidents should not intervene in individual corporate decisions.  


“The president is woefully ignorant about trade and this part of the economy. He thinks it does help. I don’t think it does at all help,” Barfield, a former consultant to the office of the U.S. trade representative, told VOA.  

The closure of the GM plant in Lordstown, according to a Cleveland State University study, will result in a total loss of 7,700 jobs in the region, including supply chain and consumer services employment tied to the auto plant, cutting 10 percent of the gross regional product in the greater Youngstown area. 


Trump, in his remarks on Wednesday, placed some of the blame on the United Auto Workers, the union representing the GM workers.  


“Your union leaders aren’t on our side,” Trump declared. “They could have kept General Motors” operating the Lordstown plant.  

Trump spoke at a facility in Lima that makes the M1 Abrams tank for the U.S. Army, about 300 kilometers from the idled auto factory.  


“You better love me. I kept this place open,” Trump told workers at the General Dynamics facility, which was nearly closed six years ago after Army officials told Congress they did not need the additional tanks.  

Ohio, which Trump won in the 2016 election by 8 percentage points, again will be a key battleground state in next year’s presidential election. 


Polls in the Buckeye State, where the president relies on a strong base of working-class voters, show his approval rating slipping. 


Trade and tariffs are “not even the core issue about retaining the manufacturing jobs in this region,” University of Akron associate professor Mahesh Srinivasan, who is director of the school’s Institute of Global Business, told VOA. 


Srinivasan said the focus by the Trump administration should not be so much on trade agreements as on “the inevitable march of automation and technology that has displaced workers from traditional jobs. The need of the hour is doubling down with even more emphasis on worker training and education to prepare the workforce for tomorrow’s jobs.”  


Tariffs on imported automobiles — as are being contemplated by the White House — “would be counterproductive, like we have seen with steel tariffs,” said Srinivasan, who was part of former President Barack Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership task force. “It could attract retaliatory tariffs that will negatively impact numerous automobile manufacturers in Ohio and other Midwestern states, which today are supplying to automobile manufacturers globally.”  


Some trade analysts agree that Trump’s metals tariffs on Canada and Mexico have hurt American manufacturing, including making U.S. auto plants less competitive.  


Patsy Widakuswara and Elizabeth Cherneff contributed to this report. 

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Аеропорти Стамбула і Бухареста почали писати коректно назву Києва на своїх табло – МЗС

На початку жовтня МЗС України розпочало онлайн-кампанію #CorrectUA

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Кримськотатарського активіста Бекірова перевели в медчастину СІЗО – журналіст

Кримськотатарського активіста Едема Бекірова, якого російські силовики затримали в Криму за підозрою в незаконному зберіганні боєприпасів і вибухівки, перевели з камери в медичну частину СІЗО, повідомляє російський журналіст Антон Наумлюк у Facebook.

Координатора громадського об’єднання «Кримська солідарність», фігуранта «справи Хізб ут-Тахрір» Сервера Мустафаєва, який перебував з Бекіровим в одній камері і надавав йому допомогу, перевели в іншу камеру, також двомісну.

19 березня уповноважена Верховної Ради України з прав людини Людмила Денисова надіслала звернення російській колезі Тетяні Москальковій про стан здоров’я кримськотатарського активіста Едема Бекірова.

Житель селища Новоолексіївка Херсонської області Едем Бекіров був затриманий російськими силовиками на в’їзді до Криму вранці 12 грудня 2018 року. Він прямував до Криму до 78-річної матері та родичів.

Адвокат Олексій Ладин повідомив, що Бекірова підозрюють у скоєнні злочину за статтею 222 частина 2 і 222.1 частина 2 Кримінального кодексу Росії (зберігання і передача вибухових речовин і боєприпасів). Юрист Ліля Гемеджі зазначила, що активісту закидають поширення і транспортування понад 10 кілограмів тротилу і 190 бойових патронів.

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ЦВК відмовила ОБСЄ в реєстрації 24 росіян спостерігачами на виборах в Україні

В ЦВК уточнили, що серед запропонованих ОБСЄ 684 осіб у 24-х були анкети і ксерокопії паспортів осіб, які є громадянами Росії

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WHO: New Oral Treatment More Effective in Combating Multidrug-Resistant TB

Tuberculosis has plagued humans for thousands of years and continues to do so. In advance of this year’s World TB Day, March 24, the World Health Organization is issuing a call to action to eradicate the disease by 2030.  

As part of these efforts, the WHO is launching an oral drug regimen it says can more effectively treat people with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.  

TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease, killing nearly 4,500 people a day and infecting 10 million people a year.


Despite the grim statistics, much progress has been made in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the disease.  The WHO says 54 million lives have been saved since 2000.  But the WHO also warns the gains risk being lost with the emergence of multidrug-resistant TB or MDR-TB.


The current treatment for MDR-TB involves a two-year treatment course of painful injections, which provoke many bad side effects.  


The WHO says it is hopeful the new oral treatment program it is launching will be more effective in controlling the spread of the particularly virulent form of tuberculosis.  


The director of the WHO’s Global TB Program, Tereza Kasaeva, told VOA the new oral drug treatment the WHO is recommending has far fewer adverse side effects.


“Of course, it will be definitely much, much easier and there will not be a need for regular frequent visits of the physicians or health workers for making these injections.  No doubt, as we see from the data, the effectiveness, the treatment success will be definitely much, much higher,” Kasaeva said.


The South African government has announced it plans to adopt the injection-free treatment.  Kasaeva said the cost of the oral treatment is around $2,000, which is largely unaffordable for low-income countries.   


She said South Africa is engaging in talks with pharmaceutical companies to drop the price to $400.

The WHO says South Africa is one of the 20 countries most affected by MDR-TB.  Others include Russia, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam.


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