Archive Month: May 2017

Кабінет міністрів України погіршив прогноз зростання ВВП України в 2017 році до 1,8% з раніше прогнозованих 3%, а прогноз інфляції – до 11,2% з 8,1%. Відповідну постанову було ухвалено сьогодні на засіданні уряду. 

Уряд переглянув прогноз номінального ВВП із 2 584,9 мільярда гривень до 2 845,8, а прогноз зростання з 3% до 1,8%.

При цьому прогноз середньомісячної заробітної плати становитиме 7 104 гривні замість 5 988 гривень.

Наприкінці березня Національний банк погіршив прогноз зростання валового внутрішнього продукту України в 2017 році з 2,8% до 1,9%. 

Світовий банк зберіг помірний прогноз зростання валового внутрішнього продукту України в 2017 році у розмірі 2%.

З нового року в Україні вдвічі зросла мінімальна зарплата. Тепер де-юре роботодавці не можуть платити своїм працівникам менш ніж 3200 гривень.


your ad here

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said Tuesday that he would sign deals for U.S. goods and services worth $15 billion to $17 billion during his visit to Washington, mainly for high-technology products and for services.

“Vietnam will increase the import of high technologies and services from the United States, and on the occasion of this visit, many important deals will be made,” Phuc told a U.S. Chamber of Commerce dinner.

Phuc, who is due to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday at the end of a three-day visit to the United States, did not provide further details of the transactions.

GE Power Chief Executive Officer Steve Bolze told the dinner that General Electric Co. would sign deals worth about $6 billion with Vietnam, but also offered no details.

Phuc’s comments came after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressed concern about the rapid growth of the U.S. trade deficit with Vietnam, saying this was a new challenge for the two countries and that he was looking to Phuc to help address it.

“Over the last decade, our bilateral trade deficit has risen from about $7 billion to nearly $32 billion,” Lighthizer said. “This concerning growth in our trade deficit presents new challenges and shows us that there is considerable potential to improve further our important trade relationship.”

Reducing deficits

Lighthizer and other Trump administration trade officials have pledged to work to reduce U.S. bilateral deficits with major trading partners. The $32 billion deficit with Vietnam last year — the sixth-largest U.S. trade deficit — reflects growing imports of Vietnamese semiconductors and other electronics products in addition to more traditional sectors such as footwear, apparel and furniture.

The trade issue has become a potential irritant in a relationship where Washington and Hanoi have stepped up security cooperation in recent years, given shared concerns about China’s increasingly assertive behavior in East Asia.

Phuc’s meeting with Trump makes him the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House under the new administration.

It reflected calls, letters, diplomatic contacts and lower-level visits that started long before Trump took office in Washington, where Vietnam retains a lobbyist at $30,000 a month.

Vietnam was disappointed when Trump ditched the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, in which Hanoi was expected to be one of the main beneficiaries, and focused U.S. trade policy on reducing deficits.

your ad here

Mexico’s foreign minister says the country is “inevitably” set to review rules of origin when renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, giving a boost to President Donald Trump’s manufacturing push.

Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray said Tuesday at an event in Miami that NAFTA has allowed Mexican industry to enter the U.S. market with lax rules of origin. The rules dictate how much U.S. content a product assembled in Mexico must have in order to escape tariffs when being imported into the United States. Currently set at 62.5 percent for the auto industry, that number could increase.

“One part that must inevitably be reviewed is the chapter on rules of origin,” Videgaray said at the University of Miami. “Over time, the free trade agreement has sometimes been used — not always, of course, but sometimes — as a way to access the U.S. market perhaps with laxity in some ways of rules of origin.”

The Trump administration told Congress this month there would be 90 days of consultations on the renegotiation of the 23-year-old pact before beginning talks with Canada and Mexico. Annual trade of goods between Mexico and the U.S. was worth $525 billion in 2016, with the U.S. running a trade deficit of more than $63 billion.

The foreign minister said Mexico won’t entertain any talks on building a wall along the border. Videgaray maintained it is seen as an unfriendly sign and questioned its efficiency. Trump’s budget seeks $2.6 billion for border security technology, including money to design and build a wall along the southern border. Trump repeatedly promised voters during the campaign that Mexico would pay for a wall.

your ad here

A man investigating working conditions at a Chinese company that produces Ivanka Trump-brand shoes has been arrested and two others are missing, the arrested man’s wife and an advocacy group said Tuesday.

Hua Haifeng was accused of illegal surveillance, according to his wife, Deng Guilian, who said the police called her Tuesday afternoon. Deng said the caller told her she didn’t need to know the details, only that she would not be able to see, speak with or receive money from her husband, the family’s breadwinner.

China Labor Watch Executive Director Li Qiang said he lost contact with Hua Haifeng and the other two men, Li Zhao and Su Heng, over the weekend. By Tuesday, after dozens of unanswered calls, he had concluded: “They must be held either by the factory or the police to be unreachable.”

China Labor Watch, a New York-based nonprofit, was planning to publish a report next month alleging low pay, excessive overtime and the possible misuse of student interns. It is unclear whether the undercover investigative methods used by the advocacy group are legal in China.

For 17 years, China Labor Watch has investigated working conditions at suppliers to some of the world’s best-known companies, but Li said his work has never before attracted this level of scrutiny from China’s state security apparatus.

“Our plan was to investigate the factory to improve the labor situation,” Li said. “But now it has become more political.”

Disney decision

Walt Disney Co. stopped working with a toy maker in Shenzhen last year after the group exposed labor violations. China Labor Watch has also published reports on child labor at Samsung suppliers and spent years investigating Apple Inc.’s China factories. In the past, the worst thing Li feared was having investigators kicked out of a factory or face a short police detention.

That has changed.

The arrest and disappearances came amid a crackdown on perceived threats to the stability of China’s ruling Communist Party, particularly from sources with foreign ties such as China Labor Watch. Faced with rising labor unrest and a slowing economy, Beijing has also taken a stern approach to activism in southern China’s manufacturing belt and to human rights advocates generally, sparking a wave of critical reports about disappearances, public confessions, forced repatriation and torture in custody.

Another difference is the target of China Labor Watch’s investigation: a brand owned by the daughter of the president of the United States.

White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks referred questions to Ivanka Trump’s brand. The Ivanka Trump brand declined to comment for this story.

Abigail Klem, who took over day-to-day management when the first daughter took on a White House role as presidential adviser, has said that the brand requires licensees and their manufacturers to “comply with all applicable laws and to maintain acceptable working conditions.”

No reply from police

Li said China Labor Watch asked police about the three missing investigators on Monday but received no reply. Li added that a friend had tried to file a missing-person report on Li Zhao in Jiangxi, where the factory is located, but was told he had to do so in the man’s hometown.

AP was unable to reach the other investigators’ families. China’s Ministry of Public Security and police in Ganzhou city and Jiangxi province could not be reached for comment Tuesday, which was a national holiday in China.

All three men were investigating Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co.’s factory in Jiangxi province, just north of Guangdong province. Su Heng had been working undercover at the factory since April, Li said. The parent company is known as Huajian Group.

In January, Liu Shiyuan, then spokesman for the Huajian Group, told AP the company makes 10,000 to 20,000 pairs of shoes a year for Ivanka Trump’s brand — a small fraction of the 20 million pairs the company produces a year. A current spokeswoman for the company, Long Shan, did not reply to questions Tuesday. “I told you I could not check until tomorrow,” she said. “If your official letter contains a stamp and signature, we can confirm whether the media is real or not.”

Li said investigators had seen Ivanka Trump-brand shoes in the factory, as well as production orders for Ivanka Trump, Marc Fisher, Nine West and Easy Spirit merchandise.

“We were unaware of the allegations and will look into them immediately,” a spokeswoman for Marc Fisher, which manufactures Ivanka Trump, Easy Spirit and its own branded shoes, said in an email. Nine West did not respond to requests for comment.

Li Zhao and Hua Haifeng were blocked from leaving mainland China for Hong Kong in April and May — something that had never happened to his colleagues before, Li said. Hua Haifeng was stopped at the border Thursday and later questioned by police, Li said. During their final phone conversation on Saturday, Hua told Li that police had asked him to stop investigating the Huajian factory — another turn of events that Li said was unprecedented.

Excessive overtime, low wages

Li said the men had documented excessive overtime, with working days sometimes stretching longer than 18 hours, and a base salary below minimum wage. They were working to confirm evidence suggesting that student interns, some of whom allegedly quit in protest, were putting in excessive hours on work unrelated to their field of study, in violation of Chinese law, Li said.

The use of student workers in China is legal, but meant to be strictly regulated. Rights groups and journalists have documented widespread abuse of the system over the years.

“It is the role of the police to prevent that kind of independent investigation,” said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director for Amnesty International. “The threshold is much lower today than it was one year ago, two years ago, and if this is something that has a foreign diplomacy dimension, that would make national security personnel even more willing to stop it.”

Hua’s wife, Deng, meanwhile, has yet to tell the couple’s children, ages 3 and 7, about their father’s plight. But they seem to know anyway, she said.

“My son suddenly burst into tears. He said he missed Papa,” Deng said by phone from her home in central China’s Hubei province. “I said Papa would come home soon and buy you toys.”

She said the child looked at her and answered: “Papa was taken away by a monster.”

your ad here

The Brazilian government decided on Tuesday to wait until next week to put a bill modernizing labor laws to a vote in the Senate Economic Affairs Committee, its leader in the upper chamber, Senator Romero Jucá, said.

Speaking earlier at an investment forum in Sao Paulo, Budget and Planning Minister Dyogo Oliveira said the bill that will lower labor costs for businesses would clear the Senate this week and be ready for President Michel Temer to sign into law.

The bill, which has already been approved by the lower house, has faced fierce opposition from labor unions that will lose power over workplaces. It also allows more temporary work contracts and outsourcing, eliminating mandatory union dues.

Leftist parties in Congress had vowed to obstruct a vote in the Senate committee where it will be debated this Tuesday.

The vote will take place next Tuesday, said Juca, who leads the coalition of pro-government parties in the Senate. He said the reason to postpone the vote was to avoid a “battle over procedures” in the committee.

Quick passage of the labor reform bill was important for the government to show that its reform agenda aimed at restoring economic growth and business confidence is on track.

Temer’s main proposal for reducing Brazil’s gaping budget deficit is reform of the costly pension system.

But its progress in the legislature has been slowed down by the political crisis sparked by allegations that the president condoned corruption. The fate of the unpopular measure is uncertain.

your ad here

Nigerian lawmakers passed a bill aimed at cracking down on money laundering by urging foreign countries where currency crooks are hiding to cooperate in prosecuting them, a senior official said on Tuesday.

According to the bill, Nigeria may ask any country where a money launderer is hiding to help it prosecute the offender, or prosecute that person itself. In the second case, Abuja would supply the country with evidence to support a conviction.

Development in the OPEC member, which has Africa’s largest economy, has been stunted by endemic corruption. Most people live on less than $2 a day despite the country’s vast energy wealth, much of which has been plundered by a rich elite.

“This act will facilitate the needed cooperation with other states to prevent individuals from escaping prosecution by fleeing to another country,” said Senate President Bukola Saraki.

The bill was originally presented by President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected in May 2015 after vowing to fight corruption.

The 74-year-old president is on medical leave in Britain for an unspecified ailment. He has handed over power to his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, in his absence.


your ad here

The Thai economy, under the military’s stewardship for the past three years, is again witnessing steady growth but lags behind regional competitors as uncertainties remain, keeping foreign investors at bay.

The World Bank and United Nations (UN) say the Thai economy is in a slow growth lane compared to regional rivals, with a projection of over 3.0 percent growth between 2017 to 2019.

The UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) says the Thai growth outlook stands in contrast to Cambodia’s economy, which is set for 8 percent growth in 2018, Malaysia at 4.5 percent, the Philippines at 7.0 percent and Vietnam at 6.7 percent.

‘Slow’ economic growth in Thailand

A slow revival has been underway since 2016, in contrast to a sharp downturn in 2014 in the midst of political street demonstrations against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, which eventually triggered a coup.

Three years later recovery has returned, with first quarter 2017 growth at 3.3 percent, and business analysts saying the trend will be sustained.

Krystal Tan, Asia economist with analysts, Capital Economics, said the recovery will continue. “For a start the export sector will benefit from relatively string external demand,” Tan said in a market commentary.

Capital Economics said the “current state of relative political calm” since late 2016 was providing support in areas such as tourism. The UN Economic Commission (UNESCAP) in a recent annual survey said the Thai economy “after years of uneven output growth record” regained momentum in 2016.

UN economists said the key contributors were “robust tourism revenue” as well as government fiscal and budget measures through soft loans and tax breaks for farmers.

Military control, political uncertainty

But economists also say the unsettled political environment has undermined progress in economic reform and strengthening the competitiveness of Thai industries.

Pavida Pananond, an associate professor of international business at Thammasat University, said the economy has under-performed over the past three years.

“It’s not declining, but it’s not going anywhere. In three years the economy under the coup government has not improved much and now faces new risks that comes from the political situation of Thailand,” Pavida told VOA.

The Bank of Thailand, in its latest assessment for the March quarter, was upbeat. “Private consumption accelerated thanks to an increase in spending on durable goods, as supported by higher farmer income and greater overall consumer confidence,” the Bank said.

But the economy’s “main driver” was still government spending, while private investment contracted in the March quarter, marking a reversal of previous periods.

But Asian Development Bank (ADB) senior country economist Luxmon Attapich was positive recent gains would continue.

“A sustained recovery in major economies, robust domestic consumption, and the continued implementation of large public infrastructure projects are the key reasons for (the ADB’s) projection,” Luxmon told local media.

Thailand’s national assembly recently accepted a new constitution, setting the way for new elections in 2018.

But analysts say a 250 member military-appointed Senate, including representatives from the armed forces along with pro-military political parties in the House of Representatives, will continue to hold sway and are in a position to elect the next prime minister.

Cautious private investors

Thailand has been torn apart by political conflict over the past 16 years as populist parties, led by deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have challenged an establishment centered on Bangkok’s urban middle class, military and bureaucracy.

Pavida Pananond said Thailand’s political conflicts have yet to be reconciled despite the military’s calls for reform, leaving the added risk of Thai political instability.

“Everyone knows that without the military, the conflicts and everything is still there. Without the guns all this conflict would rise up again. So foreign investors know that political instability is still there. The root causes have not really been addressed; reform or reconciliation have not really taken place where it should be,” she said.

The military, in a bid to resolve issues of wide gaps in income and also to raise its popularity, has been promoting “grass-roots” economic stimulus programs.

The government’s Pracha Rath project has looked to link local village communities with major regional department stores to offer products and boost local incomes.

But analysts say the government has fallen short in pressing ahead with business reforms as part of its promoted vision towards a digitally advanced economy.

The military is maintaining a tight grip over the media and social media, including a crackdown on the social media website Facebook, amid official concerns over commentary on the Thai Royal Family.

Pavida said the attempts to block Facebook or seek out and warn people who view prohibited social media content sends “alarming signals to investors,” especially those focused on progress in the Thai digital economy.



your ad here

Farmer Simon Kahari recently sold tobacco worth more than $6,000 at an auction in Zimbabwe, a small fortune reflecting the golden leaf’s resurgence in this southern African country. Yet because of Zimbabwe’s dire economic problems he ended up sleeping in an auction house toilet that night, hungry and wondering if and when he would be able to access his earnings.

“I don’t have any money for food or anything,” Kahari said. “I came here expecting to be paid, so now I will have to borrow.”


Many of Zimbabwe’s tobacco farmers share the same plight during the ongoing selling season of the crop, Zimbabwe’s second biggest earner after gold. While exported tobacco rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars, small-time farmers feel left out of the lucrative cycle.


A cash shortage that underlines the country’s deepening economic woes has left farmers who travel long distances to auctions unpaid, stranded and desperate.


Farmers like Kahari are not paid in cash because of the currency shortage. But they need the money because much of Zimbabwe, especially rural areas where there is little infrastructure, is a cash-based society.


Instead, their earnings are deposited into accounts that they must open at bank branches at the auction houses. Then the farmers must stick around for weeks, hoping for the daily withdrawal limit of $100 but often getting no more than $50.


Meanwhile, tobacco sales have jumped 30 percent from last year, earning $300 million so far, according to the country’s Tobacco Industry Marketing Board.


President Robert Mugabe and many in his government point to rebounding tobacco production as justification for often violent land seizures years ago. Many tobacco farmers were resettled on farms forcibly taken from whites, 20 years after Zimbabwe became independent from white minority rule in 1980.


Mugabe’s deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, said this month that tobacco sales mean “the cake is now spread to ordinary families in the countryside,” but many distressed people at a tobacco sales floor wore torn clothes. On May 4, police fired tear gas to disperse tobacco farmers protesting non-payment and hazardous living conditions at auction floors.


“Relax. It has been three weeks for me and I am still here,” Luckson Mutaya told fellow farmer Kahari, who appeared fidgety after waiting only several hours.


He advised Kahari on a few basics, especially the need to hold a place in one of the toilets to avoid enduring the cold night in the open.


“Oh, and you have to write down all the essential phone numbers. Very soon you won’t be having that phone,” Mutaya added, puffing a large cigarette of tobacco leaves rolled in an old newspaper. He cannot afford processed cigarettes selling for 10 cents each.


Mobile phones and national identity cards are the new currency as farmers taking food on credit surrender their phones and identity cards as security to vendors.


One food seller, Maria Mandebvu, complained that farmers leave without paying their bills and recalled happy years when farmers were paid cash on the spot. Then, the auction floors transformed into one huge bazaar, with traders hustling anything from cars to solar panels, beds, alcohol and sex.


Dozens of traders are still camped there this year. Music blares from makeshift wooden and plastic stalls. But no one is dancing. On the auction floor, business is hectic as buyers swiftly go through rows of tobacco bales, negotiating prices.


By 10 p.m. the male and female toilets are fully occupied by farmers deep in sleep.


Nearby, breastfeeding mothers and children squeeze next to male strangers in the open on parched grass and tarmac. Some sleep on top of steel storage shipping containers, others on stairs and conveyor belts.


“The country is making money from our tobacco, we deserve some dignity,” said Lloyd Muponda, who traveled 300 kilometers (186 miles) to sell his crop two weeks ago.


Joseph Made, the agriculture minister, said his office is negotiating with the finance ministry to ease the farmers’ plight. It may be too late for 78-year-old Agnes Hanja, who badly needs cash to pay off debts and laborers back home.


“I will not grow tobacco again,” Hanja said. “This is dehumanizing.”



your ad here

At Café Bar-Ba-Reeba on Chicago’s north side, there is one key ingredient that could make or break Executive Chef Matt Holmes’ menu.

“We feature it in our paeallas, which are our signature dish here at Café Bar Ba Reeba, as well as use it in a dessert and some other dishes as well, so its incredibly important to have high quality saffron,” Holmes explained to VOA from his test kitchen above the restaurant, where he was preparing one of those signature dishes.

Saffron has long been one of the world’s most expensive spices, at times traded as currency. The saffron “crocus” that produces the spice grows mostly in parts of Europe, Iran and India.

It is a staple in cuisine throughout Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, but less so in the United States, where saffron — while a $60 million market  has limited appeal.

But Rumi Spice, Holmes’ saffron supplier, is hoping to change that.

“We are named after Juhalladin Rumi, he was a 13th century poet and philosopher who was born in present day Afghanistan, and a Sufi mystic,” says founder Kimberly Jung.  “One of his most famous sayings is, ‘Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure.’”

Veterans inspired by relationships

Kimberly Jung, Keith Alaniz and Emily Miller are three of the founders of Rumi Spice, U.S. military veterans who served in Afghanistan who returned with more than just combat experience.

“I was never able to resolve just going to Afghanistan, spending time, and then leaving and never thinking about the place again, especially when you form relationships with people who live there,” says Alaniz.

Those relationships inspired the business strategy for Rumi Spice — increasing demand in the U.S. for saffron produced by Afghan farmers they met in Herat province. Saffron has very limited demand in Afghanistan, leaving the market for it outside the country.

“Afghanistan has essentially been cut off from the international market for 30 years,” says Alaniz.  “They are producing a great product but they aren’t able to get a fair value for their goods because they are not able to export it anywhere.”

Another challenge

Afghanistan’s enduring instability isn’t the only challenge to getting Afghan saffron to market.



“Near to 20 years we’ve been growing saffron, there are still no certificates for our saffron product,” says Abdullah Faiz, chancellor of Heart University, which is working with Purdue University in Indiana to develop a “department of food technology,” with Afghan saffron farmers in mind.

“The department of food technology will teach and give training for the farmers to produce the saffron with hygiene quality,” says Faiz, adding that it could help increase demand for Afghan saffron in new markets.

Quality, taste is key

A lack of international certification hasn’t stood in the way of Rumi Spice, which conducts rigorous tests to make sure the saffron it is importing is clean and pure before arriving in the United States.


The quality and taste of Rumi Spice saffron is what attracted Matt Holmes as a customer.

“It’s much higher potency,” says Holmes.  “So while we pay a premium to use Rumi, it actually goes a longer way, so that’s another benefit of using a higher quality product  you can stretch how much you are using each time.”

Famous investor

“Our supply is outpacing our demand,” says Alaniz, “which is good for us because it keeps our prices low at the moment, but we hope to increase more demand here in the U.S. so we can purchase more saffron.”

“The good thing about Rumi is they have a premium product that’s fantastic to use,” says Chef Matt Homes.  “You are kind of doing double duty with the program that they have with helping farmers in Afghanistan and helping women, being a positive influence instead of just selling a product, so you really get the best of both worlds.”

These are qualities investors also are noticing.  Rumi Spice was recently featured on the U.S. reality television show “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneur Marc Cuban committed $250,000 for a 15 percent stake in the company, signaling his faith in Rumi Spice, and the future potential for saffron grown in Afghanistan.

your ad here

Cross-border fighting between Afghanistan and Pakistan has suspended trade worth millions of dollars and stranded hundreds of trucks loaded with fruits and vegetables at the border, where the produce stands to spoil in the rising heat.

Pakistan had temporarily closed the Chaman border crossing, across from Afghanistan’s Spinboldak, after a frontier skirmish earlier this month between Afghan and Pakistani border guards left more than 10 people dead. Global economic institutions say South Asia is one of the world’s least economically connected regions, and the periodic closures of border crossings complicate things further.

Summer is peak time for fruit and vegetable production in the two countries. Under normal circumstances around this time of the year, a significant portion of Afghanistan’s grapes and pomegranates is ferried overland to Pakistan.

Pakistan’s mangoes and vegetables go the opposite direction, along with bilateral trade in many other commodities — some legal and some otherwise.

Part of the Afghan fruit produce is sold in Chaman and nearby villages; the remainder finds its way to markets across Pakistan.

It’s a long-established system that relies heavily on trust: Pakistani fruit traders send advance payments to their Afghan counterparts, who then send the fruit after it’s harvested. But so far this year, the Chaman businessmen say they have not cut the usual deals because the border closure have created the risk of coming up empty-handed.

Amant Khan, a fruit trader in Chaman, said he suffered losses last year as tensions rose between the two countries.

“This season we did not give the grape or melon dealers anything,” he said. “In fact, we decided not to do business with Afghanistan.”

For traders in Waish Mandi, a thriving Afghan market town across from Chaman, these are hard financial times, too. Hundreds of people, who used to benefit from border trade, have lost work. Unable to move their merchandise across the border, goods worth millions of dollars are stranded in truck containers.

Apart from the fruit trade, bilateral trade between Afghanistan and Pakistanonce worth $3 billion a year has dropped to $1.2 billion, said Khan Jan Alkozai, president of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Pakistan’s own fruit exports to Central Asia via Afghanistan, which usually average 2 million pounds, also suffer because of border closures, Alkozai said.

Daro Khan, former vice president for the Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Chamber of Commerce, said Pakistani farmers and businessman have not recovered from losses due to border closures last year.

your ad here

A new ban imposed by India’s government on the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter to protect animals considered holy by many Hindus is drawing widespread protests from state governments and animal-related industries.

Many state governments criticized the ban as a blow to beef and leather exports that will leave hundreds of thousands jobless and deprive millions of Christians, Muslims and poor Hindus of a cheap source of protein.


The rules, which took effect Friday, require that cattle traders pledge that any cows or buffalos sold are not intended for slaughter.


At least one state government is planning a challenge in court. Some have said the ban infringes on states’ commercial autonomy and are calling for a nationwide protest.


Others say the ban will hurt farmers who will be forced to continue feeding aged animals, and that millions of unproductive cattle will be turned out on the streets.


The new rules also propose the setting up of a vast animal monitoring bureaucracy, including animal inspectors and veterinarians, to ensure the rules are followed. Traditionally, cattle fairs and markets allow the sale of animals headed to abattoirs to provide raw materials used in dozens of industries, including leather making, soap and fertilizer.


The state governments have appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal the order, which they say was issued without consultations with them. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has been pushing a Hindu nationalist agenda since it came to power in 2014.


Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the top elected official in southern Kerala state, wrote to Modi on Sunday describing the restrictions as a “drastic move” that would have “far-reaching consequences and would be detrimental to democracy.”


He said the move amounts to “an intrusion into the rights of the states” in India’s federal structure and violates the principles of the Indian Constitution.


The government of West Bengal state also protested the move, saying the Modi government cannot make such decisions unilaterally.


Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the state would not accept the imposition of such restrictions on its commercial authority. She described it as a step by the Modi government to “destroy the federal structure of the country.”


“We won’t accept the decision. It is unconstitutional. We will challenge it legally,” Banerjee told reporters Monday.


Hindus, who form 80 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people, consider cows to be sacred, and for many eating beef is taboo. In many Indian states, the slaughtering of cows and selling of beef is either restricted or banned. India has the highest number of vegetarians in the world as a result of Hinduism’s predominance, although not all Hindus are vegetarians.


While the eating of beef is not a crime in many states, slaughtering a cow carries a punishment of up to seven years in jail throughout the country. In Gujarat state, lawmakers have approved a bill increasing the punishment for killing a cow to life imprisonment.


Critics say the new rules, ostensibly to protect the way animals are treated and transported, are in keeping with demands of Hindu nationalists, who have long been pressing for a nationwide ban on the sale of beef. The past two years have also seen a rise in vigilante attacks on Muslims and lower caste Hindus involved in the cattle trade. Several deaths have occurred.


On Monday, police arrested seven people on suspicion of assaulting two Muslim men who were transporting meat in western Maharashtra state. The men were beaten and forced to chant Hindu slogans by a vigilante group on Sunday, police said.


Meanwhile, leather and meat industry groups said the ban could push them out of business.


Fauzan Alavi of the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association said beef exports, which had been growing rapidly, have already been affected. “Such a drastic move is bound to hit the industry,” Alavi said Sunday.


The government “has handed a death certificate to us,” said Ramesh K. Juneja of the Council of Leather Exports.



your ad here

British Airways passengers continue to face delays, cancellations, and overcrowding Sunday at Heathrow Airport as the airline reels from a computer failure.

The airline said that all long-haul flights will continue Sunday, but to avoid further overcrowding, passengers will only be allowed to enter the airport terminal 90 minutes before their scheduled departure.

Passengers should still expect delays and cancelations for shorter flights, British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz said, adding that the airline was at “near-full operation” Sunday.

“I know this has been a horrible time for customers,” Cruz said, apologizing in a video statement posted online.

The airline was forced to cancel flights Saturday at Heathrow and Gatwick airports as officials tried to fix a global computer failure.

British Airways has not said what caused the glitch, but did report there is no evidence pointing to a cyber attack.

The failure occurred on a particularly busy weekend in Britain, where a public holiday will be observed on Monday and when many children are starting their mid-term school breaks — prompting some stranded travelers to express their frustration on Twitter.

British Airways has experienced other recent computer glitches. Passengers were hit with severe delays in July and September last year because of problems with the airline’s online check-in systems.


your ad here

Saffron has long been one of the world’s most expensive spices. The saffron crocus that produces the spice grows mostly in parts of Europe, Iran and India. Now, a U.S. company seeking to “cultivate peace” is attracting attention to this historic spice and trying to develop new markets for saffron grown in Afghanistan. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more from Chicago.

your ad here

U.S. President Donald Trump has told “confidants,” including the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, that he plans to leave a landmark international agreement on climate change, the Axios news website reported Saturday, citing three sources with direct knowledge.

On Saturday, Trump said in a Twitter post he would decide whether to support the Paris climate deal next week.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A source who has been in contact with people involved in the decision told Reuters that a couple of meetings were planned with chief executives of energy companies and big corporations and others about the climate agreement ahead of Trump’s expected announcement later in the week. It was unclear whether those meetings would still take place.

“I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!” Trump tweeted on the final day of a Group of Seven (G-7) summit in Italy at which he refused to bow to pressure from allies to back the 2015 agreement.

Six against one

The summit of G-7 wealthy nations pitted Trump against the leaders of Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Japan on several issues, with European diplomats frustrated at having to revisit questions they had hoped were long settled.

Trump, who has previously called global warming a hoax, came under concerted pressure from the other leaders to honor the 2015 Paris Agreement on curbing carbon emissions.

Although he tweeted that he would make a decision next week, his apparent reluctance to embrace the first legally binding global climate deal, signed by 195 countries, clearly annoyed German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying,” she told reporters. “There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not.”

your ad here

Bitcoin, the controversial digital currency, recently made headlines for reaching a record high valuation of more than $2,700, but perhaps the bigger growth potential lies in blockchain. The technology behind bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies is being explored by more conventional companies and businesses. VOA’s Tina Trinh reports from New York.

your ad here