Archive Month: March 2017

President Donald Trump talked tough on trade on the campaign trail, vowing to renegotiate a slew of major deals and to label China a currency manipulator on “Day One.”

Now his administration appears to be taking a more cautious approach.


On Friday, the president will sign a pair of executive orders aimed at cracking down on trade abuses, according to top administration officials. The first calls for the completion of a large-scale report to identify “every form of trade abuse and every non-reciprocal practice that now contributes to the U.S. trade deficit,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.


Officials will have 90 days to produce a country-by-country, product-by-product report that will serve as the basis of future decision-making by the administration on trade-related issues, Ross told reporters at a Thursday night briefing.


“It will demonstrate the administration’s intention not to hip-shoot, not to do anything casual, not to do anything abruptly, but to take a very measured and analytical approach, both to analyzing the problem and therefore to developing the solutions for it,” he said.


While Trump has long argued that trade deficits imperil U.S. workers, Ross cautioned that they aren’t necessarily all bad. In some cases, for instance, the U.S. simply can’t produce enough of a product to meet domestic demand. In others, foreign countries may make products substantially cheaper or better than in the U.S. Deficits in trade can also mean that foreign countries and entities are investing in U.S. assets.


Still, Ross argued, the U.S. has the lowest tariff rates of any developed country. The report, he said, will examine whether deficits are being driven by things like cheating, specific trade obligations, lax enforcement and World Trade Organization rules.


Ross said the report would not focus extensively on currency manipulation, which is under the purview of the U.S. Treasury Department, despite Trump’s campaign rhetoric.


The second order will focus on stepping up the collection of anti-dumping and countervailing duties, which are levied against foreign governments that subsidize products so they can be sold below cost.


Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, said the U.S. is leaving billions of dollars on the table as a result of lax enforcement of commitments in trade pacts. The order will establish more effective bonding requirements, among other measures.


The orders come a week before the president is scheduled to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for talks at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.


Trump tweeted Thursday evening that his first meeting with the Chinese leader would “be a very difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits … and job losses.”


“American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives,” he wrote. The U.S. deficit with China was $347 billion last year.


But Navarro insisted the orders had nothing to do with the visit or sending a message to China.


“Nothing we’re saying tonight is about China. Let’s not make this a China story. This is a story about trade abuses, this is a story about an under-collection of duties,” he said, later adding: “We’re not here for tweets.”


The U.S. trade deficit totaled $502.3 billion last year, a slight increase from 2015, according to the Commerce Department. The trade gap rose to its highest level since 2012 last year, though the imbalance remains below its 2006 high, shortly before the Great Recession struck.


Trump has portrayed trade deficits as strangling economic growth and devastating factory jobs at home. Research last year by academic economists, including David Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that China’s emergence hurt some communities and they have yet to fully recover.


But foreign trade has also helped reduce prices for clothing, cars and furniture, among other items. This has created savings for U.S. consumers.


While economists concede the benefits of trade can be uneven, they argue the job losses that Trump blames on trade pacts can largely be attributed to automation. A study released this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that robots account for up to 670,000 lost factory jobs between 1990 and 2007.


Both exports abroad and imports into the United States fell in 2016, but exports declined by a greater sum in part due to a stronger dollar making American-made goods and services more expensive overseas.

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Rain-fed wildflowers have been sprouting from California’s desert sands after lying dormant for years — producing a spectacular display that has drawn record crowds and traffic jams to tiny towns like Borrego Springs.


An estimated 150,000 people in the past month have converged on this town of about 3,500, roughly 85 miles (135 kilometers) northeast of San Diego, for the so-called super bloom. 


Wildflowers are springing up in different landscapes across the state and the western United States thanks to a wet winter. In the Antelope Valley, an arid plateau northeast of Los Angeles, blazing orange poppies are lighting up the ground. 

What is a super bloom?


But a “super bloom” is a term for when a mass amount of desert plants bloom at one time. In California, that happens about once in a decade in a given area. It has been occurring less frequently with the drought. Last year, the right amount of rainfall and warm temperatures produced carpets of flowers in Death Valley. 


So far this year, the natural show has been concentrated in the 640,000-acre (1,000-square-mile) Anza Borrego State Park that abuts Borrego Springs. 


It is expected to roll along through May, with different species blooming at different elevations and in different areas of the park. Anza Borrego is California’s largest state park with hundreds of species of plants, including desert lilies, blazing stars and the flaming tall, spiny Ocotillo.



Deputies were brought in to handle the traffic jams as Borrego Springs saw its population triple in a single day. 


On one particularly packed weekend in mid-March, motorists were stuck in traffic for five hours, restaurants ran out of food, and some visitors relieved themselves in the fields. Officials have since set up an army of Port-A-Pottys, and eateries have stocked up. The craze has been dubbed “Flowergeddon.” 


Locals call those who view the tiny wildflowers from their cars “flower peepers.” Thousands of others have left their vehicles to traipse across the desert and analyze the array of delicate yellow, orange, purple and magenta blooms up close in the park. Many carting cameras have taken care to step around the plants.


Tour groups from as far as Japan and Hong Kong have flown in to catch the display before it fades away with the rising temperatures. 

Rare sightings tracked


Wildflower enthusiasts worldwide track the blooms online and arrive for rare sightings like this year’s Bigelow’s Monkey flower, some of which have grown to 8 inches (203 millimeters) in height. The National Park Service has even pitched in with a 24-hour wildflower hotline to find the best spots at the state park.


“We’ve seen everything from people in normal hiking attire to people in designer flip-flops to women in sundresses and strappy heels hike out there to get their picture. When I saw that, I thought, ‘Oh no. Please don’t go out there with those shoes on,’” laughed Linda Haddock, head of the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce.


On a recent day, a young woman sat among knee-high desert sunflowers and shot selfies against the backdrop of yellow blooms that looked almost neon in contrast to the brown landscape. A mother jumped in the air as her daughter snapped her photo among yellow brittlebushes. 

Blooms draw insects, birds 

The blooms are attracting hungry sphinx moth caterpillars that munch through acres. The caterpillars in turn are attracting droves of Swainson hawks on their annual 6,000-mile (9,656-kilometer) migration from Argentina.


“It’s an amazing burst in the cycle of life in the desert that has come because of a freakish event like a super bloom,” Haddock said. “It’s exciting. This is going to be so huge for our economy.”


Desert super blooms always draw crowds, but lifetime residents said they’ve never seen the natural wonder attract tens of thousands like this time. The park is about a two-hour drive from San Diego and three hours from Los Angeles. 

A lot of rain, a lot of blooms


This year’s display has been especially stunning, experts say. The region received 6½ inches (165 millimeters) of rain from December to February, followed by almost two weeks of 90-degree temperatures, setting the conditions for the super bloom. Five years of drought made the seeds ready to pop. 


Humans also helped. Park staff, volunteers and female prisoners have been removing the Saharan Mustard plant, an invasive species believed brought to California in the 1920s with another plant, the date palm. Saharan Mustard stole the thunder of another super bloom six years ago, said Jim Dice, research manager at the Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center.


“It completely took over the usual wildflower fields and starved out the wildflowers so what we had were giant fields of ugly mustard plant,” Dice said. “That galvanized the community, which depends on tourism largely brought in during the good wildflower years.”


Lia Wathen, a 35-year-old investigator in San Diego, took a Monday off from work so she wouldn’t miss the desert flowers.


“Any single color that you can think of, you’re going to find it right here,” said Wathen, walking with her Maltese dogs, Romeo and Roxy, before stopping to examine a magenta bloom on a spikey Cholla cactus.


Sandra Reel and her husband drove hundreds of miles out of their way when they heard about the super bloom. 


“It is absolutely phenomenal to see this many blooming desert plants all at the same time,” she said. “I think it’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing.” 

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Уряд планує проаналізувати процес розщеплення плати за газ та змоделює формулу, за якою формуються платіжки. Про це прем’єр-міністр України Володимир Гройсман заявив 31 березня на зустрічі з представниками регіональних засобів інформації.

«Згідно з ухваленим законом про ринок газу та згідно з Кодексом транспортних мереж, нам з 1 квітня треба розмежувати ціну газу та вартість його транспортування і постачання. І це, власне, призвело до зменшення ціни газу на 800 гривень. Фактично відбулося розщеплення. Наразі я хочу подивитися на структуру платежу», – сказав Володимир Гройсман.

За його словами, розщеплення платежу жодним чином не позначиться на отримувачах субсидій.

Національна комісія, що здійснює державне регулювання у сферах енергетики та комунальних послуг, наприкінці березня затвердила щомісячну абонплату за газ, яка стягуватиметься з 1 квітня.

Відтепер українці щомісяця платитимуть певну суму, яка не залежатиме від споживання газу. Абонплата вираховуватиметься залежно від приєднаної потужності (газового лічильника) кожного споживача.

Відповідно до рішення НКРЕКП кожен споживач платитиме за газ як за товар (4942 гривні за тисячу кубометрів плюс гранична торгівельна націнка газопостачальної компанії, яка становить 3,2%), окремо нараховується плата за користування приєднаними потужностями. Витрати «Укртрансгазу» на транспортування газу складатимуть 23% тарифу.

У НКРЕКП стверджують, що «методологія, за якою визначено тарифи, розроблена з урахуванням досвіду країн ЄС та погоджена з усіма зацікавленими органами виконавчої влади».

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Hundreds of ships are switching off their tracking devices and taking unexplained routes, raising concern the trafficking of arms, migrants and drugs is going undetected.

Ninety percent of the world’s trade is carried by sea. Every vessel has an identification number administered by the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization or IMO. But crews are able to change the digital identity of their ship, making it possible to conceal previous journeys.

The Israeli firm Windward has developed software to track the changes. Its CEO, Ami Daniel, showed VOA several examples of suspicious shipping activity, including one vessel that changed its entire identity in the middle of a voyage from a Chinese port to North Korea.

“It’s intentionally changing all of identification numbers. Also its name, and its size, and its flag and its owner. Everything that’s recognizable in its digital footprint. This is obviously someone who is trying to circumvent sanctions [on North Korea],” says Daniel.

Transfers at sea

In a joint investigation with the Times of London newspaper, Windward showed that in January and February more than 1,000 cargo transfers took place at sea. Security experts fear traffickers are transporting drugs, weapons, and even people.

Suspicious activity can be highlighted by comparing a vessel’s journey with all its previous voyages. In mid-January a Cyprus-flagged ship designed to carry fish deviated from its usual route between West Africa and northern Europe to visit Ukraine, deactivating its tracking system on several occasions.

“It’s leaving Ukraine, transiting all through the Bosphorus Straits into Europe, then drifting off Malta,” explains Daniel, as the Windward system plots the route of the reefer [refrigerated] vessel on the screen. “On the way it turns off transmission a few times … then it comes into this place east of Gibraltar. This area is known for ship-to-ship transfers and smuggling, because of the proximity to North Africa.”

Under global regulations all vessels must report their last port of call when arriving in a new port.

“But as you can understand, when it does ship-to-ship transfers here, it doesn’t actually call into any port, right, because it’s the middle of the ocean. So it’s finding a way to bypass what it already has to report to the authorities,” Daniel said.

Finally the vessel sails to a remote Scottish island called Islay, but again it anchors around 400 meters off a tiny deserted bay. The specific purpose of this voyage hasn’t yet been identified.

Lack of political will

Daniel shows another example of a vessel leaving the Libyan port of Tobruk before drifting just off the Greek island of Crete, raising suspicions that it is involved in people smuggling.

But he says using information like this to investigate suspicious shipping activities requires political will as well as technological advances.

“Regulation, coordination, legislation. And then proof in the court of law. And not all of this necessarily exists. The high seas, which means 200 nautical miles onwards by definition, are not regulated right now. The U.N. is still working on it.”

Meanwhile the scale of smuggling around the United States’ coastline was underlined this month, as the Coast Guard intercepted 660 kilos of cocaine off the coast of Florida, with a street value of an estimated $420 million.



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Hundreds of ships are switching off their tracking devices and taking unexplained routes, raising concern that the trafficking of arms, migrants and drugs is going undetected. New technology enables authorities to follow the routes of suspect vessels, but security experts say taking on the smugglers will require greater coordination. Henry Ridgwell reports.

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Zambia is attempting to convert the nation to energy-saving light emitting diode (LED) lightbulbs to help plug crippling power shortages that have hit mining and agriculture and imposed daily rationing on parts of the country.

If all homes and industries switch to the longer-lasting bulbs, the country could save up to 200 megawatts of electricity annually — about 30 percent of its power deficit — according to the state-owned Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO).

The company is planning to distribute 5 million free LED bulbs by June in exchange for conventional ones, at a cost of $20 million. The aim is to replace every incandescent bulb in the country.

“With such initiative, we are going to save a lot of energy. Just imagine moving from 40 watts energy consumption for an ordinary bulb to … only 5 watts for LEDs,” Thomas Sinkamba, manager of the LEDs rollout at ZESCO, told Reuters.

So far, 3 million of the low-energy bulbs have been bought for $5 million, ZESCO senior manager Bessie Banda said.

The government in January banned the manufacture, sale and import of energy-hungry incandescent lightbulbs and several other inefficient devices.

It has also lifted import taxes on LED bulbs, solar panels and other energy-saving equipment, while imposing taxes on inefficient electrical devices.

Rozaia Mapika, a 53-year old a meat seller living in Lusaka, who received six LED bulbs free in December under the government scheme, said the new lightbulbs have cut her monthly electricity bill.

“We used to spend 300 Zambian kwacha [$30] monthly on electricity [for] household use,” said Mapika, who uses electricity for cooking, heating and lighting.

“Now, we are not exceeding more than 240 ZMW [$25] per month,” she told Reuters.

Some people, however, are concerned about the safe disposal of long-lasting LED bulbs and their impact on people’s health.

“[LED lightbulbs] contain mercury, which is highly toxic even in small doses,” said Robert Chimambo a board member for the Zambia Climate Change Network.

The LED bulbs are more expensive to buy than conventional bulbs, costing $5 compared to $1.50. But they last six times longer, promoters said.

Providing the bulbs free of charge is key to driving the switchover in a country where about 65 percent of the population live on less than $1.90 a day.

Powering a nation

The country’s electricity demand in the last five years has risen to 1,800 megawatts, up from 1,600 megawatts, as more areas have been electrified, putting increased pressure on the national electricity grid, according ZESCO.

The rising demand, coupled with two years of drought that lowered water levels in the country’s hydroelectric dams, have led to the country’s power shortages.

Electricity from the national grid has been rationed for up to six hours a day in parts of the country as a way to cushion the shortfall.

“Increased economic activities and [not enough] rainfall have severely impacted the power deficit,” Sinkamba said.

Insufficient investment in electricity generation has also worsened the country’s power deficits, the ministry of finance said in November.

The demand for power is likely to grow, as the government attempts to roll out electricity supplies to more people.

More than two-thirds of Zambia’s 15.5 million people have no access to any power, according to USAID, the U.S. government’s aid agency, which is working with Zambia to help improve its power supplies.

Justine Mukosa, a manager at the government’s Rural Electrification Authority, said that as demand for power increases nationally, other energy sources will be needed to reduce pressure on the national grid.

“We need to intensify other energy sources like solar mini-grid, wind energy and others,” Mukosa said.

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The priorities laid out in President Donald Trump’s budget message have some small business owners strategizing how they might benefit from a big boost in defense spending, and others thinking about how to make up for revenue they could lose to cuts in grant programs and subsidies.

While Trump’s plan, released March 16, is far from the final word on the subject, he has called for a $54 billion increase in the Pentagon’s budget. He has proposed cuts elsewhere, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Commerce Department, and no funding at all for 19 agencies including the National Endowment for the Arts. Departments and agencies across the government have programs that benefit small companies or offer them contracting opportunities.

“It’s the opening bid in the negotiations,” says David Primo, a professor of political science and business at the University of Rochester. The formal request that will go to Congress is expected in May, and even that version will be subject to negotiations among lawmakers.

Still, the proposal does give small business owners a sense of Trump’s goals, not only for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, but for the rest of his term.

A look at how four business owners believe Trump’s objectives could affect them:

An end to subsidies?

Air Choice One would lose revenue if the administration succeeds in ending funding for the Essential Air Service program, says Shane Storz, the company’s CEO. The St. Louis-based carrier gets federal subsidies under the program aimed at making it easier for people who live in rural areas to catch flights nearer their homes.

The company has 56 subsidized flights a day, sending eight-seater turboprops carrying about 2,000 passengers a month to seven small cities in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee and Arkansas. The federal program subsidizes 60 percent to 70 percent of the cost of Air Choice One’s flights, Storz says. If the program’s funding is reduced or eliminated, the airline would have to cut flights, forcing many passengers to drive two or more hours to an airport served by a major airline.

“We get a lot of elderly travelers who don’t want to drive,” Storz says.

Air Choice One’s subsidized flights run at 80 percent of capacity, a number consistent with major carriers. Storz is trying to increase ridership so the subsidized routes can be sustained even if funding is cut. The Trump administration says ending funding entirely would save the government $175 million.

“If the program ended, it would hurt tremendously,” Storz says.

Higher defense spending, higher sales

Inquiries about Frontline Selling’s sales management software shot up after the call for higher defense spending was released, co-owner Mike Scher says. His customers, technology providers to government contractors and subcontractors, are hoping for a jump in sales under the budget plan and from Trump’s call during a speech to Congress for $1 trillion in government and private spending on infrastructure.

“They believe that’s going to come to fruition,” says Scher, whose company is based in Alpharetta, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb. “They’re ramping up their business.”

That has already helped Frontline Selling. Scher expects that his company’s first-quarter revenue will rise 10 percent to 15 percent from a year ago, and there’s a growing backlog of orders to fill. He’s optimistic enough about government spending that he plans to hire five employees in the next quarter, increasing his staff to 55.

Hopes for fewer regulations

Charles Markman looks at the budget proposal’s call for a 13 percent reduction in Department of Transportation funding and hopes that would mean no new regulations governing the drone industry. The co-owner of Galaxy Media, which uses drones for aerial photography in central and southern Florida, says Federal Aviation Administration regulations slowed the progress of the company’s startup three years ago.

“For the better part of a year, we were significantly impeded by rules,” Markman says. “The new administration recognizes the need for greater regulatory predictability.”

The budget proposal did not mention regulations, but Markman noted that Trump signed an executive order in January requiring federal agencies to identify two regulations they will eliminate for every one they request.

Markman expects the budget that ultimately goes to Congress will prevent the FAA from adding staff who would write new regulations.

Arts funding cuts mean less business?

The possibility that the National Endowment for the Arts might lose all its funding has Shaun Breidbart concerned that some nonprofit theaters where he puts on stand-up comedy shows may take longer to pay him, or even shut down.

Any funding cut to the agency could mean individuals and organizations lose grants that range from $10,000 to $100,000. Many of the theaters where Breidbart has shows get some of their operating budgets from those grants. Executive directors of some theaters have already told him that if they lose grant money, they might not be able to give him a deposit upon signing a contract, the usual procedure.

“They’re not sure they’re going to be able to spare the cash,” he says. And if Breidbart doesn’t get those deposits, which can be several thousand dollars, he cannot pay other comedians who appear with him.

He’s also afraid if the NEA is eliminated, “that next year, when I show up at a theater expecting to do a show, I’ll arrive only to discover that the theater is closed.”

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Qatar Airways is offering loaner laptops to its business class passengers in the wake of a U.S. ban on them on flights from several countries.

“As an award-winning and global airline we truly appreciate the importance of being able to work on board our aircraft and that is why I have insisted on offering only the best possible solution for our customers,” said Akbar Al Baker, the company’s CEO. “By providing this laptop loan service we can ensure that our passengers on flights to the US can continue to work whilst on-board. This unique ability to offer ‘business as usual’, above and beyond the competition, is yet another example of Qatar Airways justification for being the ‘World’s Best Business Class.’”

A news statement from the airline did not say what kind of computers the loaners will be, nor what software will be available. Photos posted with the statement show a MacBook Pro.

The airline says customers will be able to bring their own USB sticks so they can have access to documents they may be working on.

In a nod to economy passengers, the airline says it will offer one hour of free wi-fi as well as full wi-fi access for the entire flight for $5.

The ban on devices, which as announced earlier this month, includes tablets, e-readers, portable DVD players or any electronic device bigger than a smartphone.

The policy only covers nonstop flights to the U.S. from 10 airports in North Africa and the Middle East. Some of the airports include busy hubs like Istanbul, Turkey, and Dubai in the UAE.

Flights to these destinations from the U.S. are not subject to the ban.

Other airlines affected by the ban are taking similar steps. Emirates is letting passengers use laptops up to the moment they board, and Etihad is offering free wi-fi and iPads to its premium customers.

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U.S. economic growth was a little stronger that first thought in the last few months of 2016.

Thursday’s updated report from the Commerce Department says the economy grew at a 2.1 percent annual rate in October, November and December.  Growth was helped by stronger consumer spending.

PNC Bank economist Gus Faucher says the world’s largest economy is in “solid shape” and expects growth will be stronger this year than in 2016.

During the campaign, U.S. President Donald Trump promised to boost economic growth to four percent or better by cutting taxes and regulations, and boosting investment in roads and bridges.  Many private economists doubt this growth rate can be achieved.  Some argue that Trump’s stimulus efforts cannot overcome the economic drag from slow productivity growth and an aging workforce that is losing members to retirement.  

A separate report from the Labor Department said new unemployment claims declined by 3,000.

The data show that the total number of applications for unemployment (258,000) is still low enough to show a healthy labor market.  The number of jobless claims has been below 300,000 for more than two years, the longest stretch since 1970 when the labor force was smaller.  

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«Ощадбанк» запровадив комісію за оплату комунальних послуг у касах. 

«Комісія за комунальні платежі в касах банку залежить від наявності укладених договорів між постачальниками послуг та банком і може несуттєво відрізнятись залежно від регіону», –повідомили Радіо Свобода у фінустанові, зауваживши, що комісія залишається найнижчою на банківському ринку і спрямована на забезпечення беззбитковості проведення операцій.

В«Ощадбанку» зазначили, що, наприклад, у Києві така комісія винятково для готівкових платежів у касах від 29 березня становитиме 3 гривні. 

При цьому у фінустанові наголосили, що пенсіонери зможуть оплачувати комунальні платежі через каси банку без комісії при розрахунку пенсійною карткою Ощадбанку.

В «Ощадбанку» також зазначають, що без комісії, як і раніше, за послуги ЖКГ можна сплатити в інформаційно-платіжних терміналах, через «комунальний додаток» у мобільних пристроях, через інтернет-банкінг «Ощад 24/7», сайти ГІОЦ і ЦКШ.

Наприкінці минулого року «Ощадбанк» повідомив, що у відділеннях установи по всій Україні буде встановлений тариф – 3 гривні за один платіж у касі за послуги ЖКГ. До цього рішення «Ощадбанк» був єдиною фінансовою установою, де касири безкоштовно обробляли платежі громадян за комунальні послуги. Проте після звернення президента України Петра Порошенка з проханням переглянути це рішення «Ощадбанк» вирішив відтермінувати введення в дію стягнення комісії за оплату послуг ЖКГ. 

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A group of strawberry pickers from Bangladesh has won a case against Greece at Europe’s highest human rights court, after being shot at by employers for demanding unpaid wages.

The Council of Europe’s Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday in favor of 42 Bangladeshi nationals, and ordered the Greek state to pay them damages of 12,000-16,000 euros ($13,000-$17,000) each for having “failed in its obligations to prevent the situation of human trafficking, to protect the victims.”


The 2013 incident occurred near the southern Greek town of Manolada, 260 kilometers (160 miles) west of Athens, when more than 20 migrant strawberry pickers were shot and wounded by foremen wielding shotguns after demanding delayed pay.


The European case was launched after a Greek court convicted two of the shooting suspects but they were released pending their appeal.


Morsed Chowdury, the lead applicant in the European case, and the human rights watchdog Amnesty International welcomed the decision taken by the court in Strasbourg, France.


“We are very pleased and excited by today’s judgment. The Greek court’s acquittal of the farmers for the crime of forced labor was a great disappointment to us,” Chowdury said.


“We hope that the Greek government will learn from our experiences and recognize our important role in the Greek economy.”


The shootings were widely publicized, highlighting the frequent mistreatment of migrant workers in Greek farming jobs.


“Today’s judgment is an important vindication for them and their families and will hopefully help prevent future abuse,” Amnesty International’s Gauri van Gulik told the AP.


“Amnesty has met and interviewed the migrant workers about their exploitation in 2013 just after the incident and saw for ourselves their living conditions.”

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A Native American tribe in Montana filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration Wednesday, challenging its decision to lift a moratorium on coal leases on public land without first consulting with tribal leaders.

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe, located in southern Montana, said the administration lifted the moratorium without hearing the tribe’s concerns about the impact the coal-leasing program has on the tribe, its members and lands.

Earlier this month, the tribe sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who signed the order lifting the moratorium Tuesday, asking to meet with him to discuss the issue. Zinke did not respond to the letter.

“It is alarming and unacceptable for the United States, which has a solemn obligation as the Northern Cheyenne’s trustee, to sign up for many decades of harmful coal mining near and around our homeland without first consulting with our Nation,” Tribal Chairman Jace Killsback said.

Although coal leasing can resume on federal lands, Killsback said the tribe, which filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Great Falls, Montana, will bear the brunt of the impact.

“The Northern Cheyenne rarely shares in the economic benefits to the region generated by coal industry and other energy development projects,” he said.

Approximately 426 million tons of federal coal are located near the Northern Cheyenne Reservation at the Decker and Spring Creek mines in Montana, the tribe said.

Neighboring tribe, the Crow, rely on coal production to support their local economy and have called for the relaxation of coal regulations for years.

In a press call Wednesday, Zinke said the new executive orders are a boon for the Crow people, who rely on coal as their predominant industry.

“A war on coal is a war on the Crow people,” he said. He did not respond to a query about the Northern Cheyenne lawsuit.

In a separate lawsuit filed Wednesday by environmental group Earthjustice, a coalition of conservation groups challenged the administration’s moratorium decision, arguing that it imperils public health for the benefit of coal companies.

“No one voted to pollute our public lands, air or drinking water in the last election, yet the Trump administration is doing the bidding of powerful polluters as nearly its first order of business,” Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine said in a statement.

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Рада директорів Міжнародного валютного фонду планує розглянути виділення Україні наступного траншу за програмою розширеного фінансування 3 квітня. Про це повідомили в київському представництві фонду, інформують українські інформагенції.

«Розгляд радою виконавчих директорів МВФ третього перегляду програми України в рамках механізму розширеного фінансування – разом із результатами консультацій 2016 року зі статті IV угод МВФ – заплановано на 3 квітня 2017 року», – повідомив постійний представник МВФ в Україні Жером Ваше.

Завершення третього перегляду дозволить Україні отримати транш обсягом близько 1 мільярда доларів.

На офіційному сайті МВФ питання виділення Україні наступного траншу досі відсутнє в плані роботи Ради директорів, розписаному до 7 квітня.

У Міжнародному валютному фонді минулого тижня висловили сподівання, що нову дату засідання Ради директорів, що має розглянути надання Україні чергового траншу позики, оголосять найближчим часом.

Перед 20 березня з’ясувалося, що запланований на цей день розгляд питання про новий транш позики для України, що планувався в сумі 1 мільярда доларів, на засіданні Ради директорів МВФ зник із порядку денного.

У Міністерстві фінансів України пояснили перенесення розгляду питання щодо України потребою в уточненні розрахунків щодо економічних наслідків від заходів, застосованих Україною у відповідь на блокаду, та захоплення українських підприємств на непідконтрольних урядові територіях Донбасу, а також у зв’язку з визнанням російською стороною документів, виданих на цих територіях.

Президент України Петро Порошенко заявив, що Міжнародний валютний фонд відтермінував питання про черговий транш кредиту для України через «наслідки блокади» на Донбасі. Національний банк України оновив макроекономічні прогнози з урахуванням ефекту торговельної блокади ОРДЛО на позачерговому засіданні комітету НБУ з монетарної політики, щоб передати оновлені макропрогнози МВФ.

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Farmers around the world are using an unsustainable amount of well water to irrigate their crops, which could lead to an uptick in food prices as that water runs low, international researchers warned Wednesday.

Farmers are increasing their use of groundwater to grow staple crops such as rice, wheat and cotton, the scientists said. But much of that water use is unsustainable, as water is being pumped out faster than it can be naturally replenished.

“Groundwater depletion is increasing rapidly, especially in the last 10, 20 years, due to the increasing populations and also associated food production,” said Yoshihide Wada, deputy water program director at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, a science organization in Austria.

The shortages are occurring in some big agricultural producers such as India, China and the United States, he said.

But they could have an impact on a much wider area of the world because “much of the agricultural production is traded internationally,” he said.

An estimated 11 percent of crops irrigated with nonrenewable groundwater are traded internationally after harvest, the researchers said in a report published in the journal Nature.

Countries such as Pakistan, Iran and India, which use the most groundwater to grow food, are already suffering from water scarcity, the report said.

For many countries “it doesn’t really make sense that you’re exporting a lot of food that comes from groundwater depletion,” Wada said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Effect on food prices

Unsustainable use of groundwater could lead to rising future food prices, as countries are forced to spend more money to find water to irrigate their crops, he said.

Depleted supplies of groundwater could also hurt local people, who rely on the water for day-to-day use and for other things, including fighting fires or dealing with other emergencies, the scientists said.

Droughts, which are expected to increase as a result of climate change, could also increase the shortages of groundwater and affect food supplies, lead author Carole Dalin added in a statement.

“Where and how the products are grown is crucial, and basic foods like rice and bread could have a damaging impact on global water supplies,” said Dalin, a research fellow at University College London’s Institute for Sustainable Resources.

Unless both food producers and food buyers adopt strategies to use water more wisely, “most of the world’s population risks seeing increased food prices or disrupted food supply,” she warned.

Wada said governments should more closely monitor the use of groundwater and invest in things like drip irrigation technology, which can dramatically cut water use, to better prepare for the future and conserve natural resources.

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Venezuela has arrested a senior manager of state oil company PDVSA on suspicion of “irregularities” in contracts to supply fuel to the domestic market, authorities said on Wednesday.

The detention of international commerce manager Marco Malave, 47, followed a shakeup of personnel at PDVSA’s trade department since January and amid gasoline shortages around the South American OPEC nation last week.

“PDVSA representatives denounced a series of irregularities in the protocol for contracting companies with vessels to supply the referred hydrocarbon to the Venezuelan market,” the state prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

The situation affected fuel distribution in seven states, including the capital Caracas, it said. Malave was arrested last week in Caracas and his bank accounts have been frozen.

Vow to battle corruption

President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government and Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., familiarly known as PDVSA, have repeatedly vowed to take steps to combat corruption, which has affected Venezuela and its oil industry for decades.

Earlier this month, the heads of Venezuela-based subcontracting companies Castillo Max and Guevara Training were arrested and charged with corruption for overbilling in equipment sales at the main oil-exporting port Jose.

Jesus Osorio, the former manager of Jose terminal, was jailed in February over the purchase of two floating platforms costing $76.2 million.

Opposition leaders have said that PDVSA has been crippled by malfeasance under 18 years of socialist rule.

A probe last year by the opposition-run Congress said $11 billion had gone missing from PDVSA. The government dismissed that as part of a right-wing smear campaign.

Change at the top?

Rumors are rife inside PDVSA and in the wider oil sector that company president Eulogio del Pino may depart soon, to be replaced by Oil Minister Nelson Martinez. There has been no official word on this. Attempts to reach Del Pino have been unsuccessful.

“Del Pino’s apparent replacement Nelson Martinez is part of this broader trend of promoting loyalists,” Eurasia consultancy analyst Risa Grais-Targow wrote in a report on Wednesday.

“Martinez is close to Maduro, who has long wanted him to head PDVSA. Martinez represents the most viable alternative to Del Pino considering a shallow bench of skilled oil sector technocrats.”

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