Refugees Turn Skills From Home into New Business

Once they acclimate to their new environment, overcoming language, social and cultural barriers, refugees in the U.S. often thrive. Some translate their experiences into assets that are valuable to their new community, as did Parvin and Yadollah Jamalreza. VOA’s June Soh visited their popular tailoring shop in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Growth Slows in April in China’s Manufacturing Sector

Growth in China’s manufacturing sector slowed in April, official data showed Sunday, pointing to an unsteady recovery in the world’s second-largest economy. 

 

The monthly purchasing managers’ index by the Chinese Federation of Logistics and Purchasing fell to 51.2 in April, lower than the 51.8 recorded in March. 

 

The index is based on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate expansion.

 

National Bureau of Statistics statistician Zhao Qinghe said in the release that April’s figure was affected by sluggish growth in market demand and supply, and slower expansion in imports and exports.

 

April’s index still represented a ninth consecutive month of expansion. 

 

China saw its slowest growth in nearly three decades in 2016. China’s huge manufacturing sector is seen as an important indicator for the wider Chinese economy. It has cooled gradually over the past six years as Beijing tries to pivot it away from heavy reliance on export-based manufacturing and investment toward consumer spending.

 

The official full-year economic growth target for 2017 is 6.5 percent. 


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

EV Manufacturers Expect Surge in Demand

Despite lingering anxiety over their range, interest in electric cars is rising, especially in industrialized countries. Manufacturers say they are improving the mileage by building more charging stations, but the industry is still waiting for a major breakthrough in battery technology. VOA’s George Putic reports.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

IT Workers, Companies Cautious on H1B Visa Program Review

His birthplace in a small village outside Mumbai, India, in a home with no running water or electricity, is a far cry from the technology-filled cubicles Pete Tapaskar has come to know well as an information technology (IT) worker.

Tapaskar’s journey from India to the United States through Canada came courtesy of an H1B immigrant visa.

“H1B has been a great contributor for the innovation of America,” Tapaskar told VOA.

Now an American citizen who lives in suburban Chicago, Tapaskar has spent the past 15 years working for the IT company ProSoft as a manager in their immigration program.

Lengthy process

Most of the people Tapaskar has hired have come from India, but he said hiring those workers has not always been ideal.

“It would be cheaper for us to hire Americans where they are available,” he said, “because bringing them from outside, we have to go through the lengthy H1B process and then wait for (a) longer time, and by that time, demand would have changed.”

But Tapaskar says there aren’t enough Americans with experience to fill the jobs.

“We are not able to employ Americans fast enough into the job market to meet the challenges,” he said.

1.4 million jobs unfilled

Richard Burke is CEO of Chicago-based Envoy Global, which sells services to U.S. companies looking to hire foreign workers.

“The U.S. Department of Labor has said 1.4 million unfilled software development — software development alone — 1.4 million unfilled jobs by 2020. So the skills gap is real,” Burke said.

“Envoy helps companies with their visa and immigration needs,” he told VOA from his desk situated in the same workspace as many of his employees. “What we do is help companies bring talented foreign nationals into the country, we help companies deploy their own employees overseas to pursue opportunity, and we provide software that makes reporting and compliance much easier.”

Burke said the skills gap that drives the demand for foreign workers exists because not enough Americans are receiving education or training in high demand jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also called STEM fields, and many foreign students educated in the U.S. aren’t staying to work.

“Every year American universities graduate over 300,000 foreign nationals with STEM degrees. We don’t give them any opportunities to stay,” he said. “So what is the wisdom of a policy when we know we have a skills gap, when we know we are graduating the best and brightest — 300,000 — and sending them home to compete with us.”

Review process

During a recent visit to Wisconsin, President Donald Trump announced he was signing an Executive Order reviewing the H1B visa process. About 85,000 workers come to the United States annually through the program, far fewer than the number of jobs U.S.-based companies say they need experienced technology workers to fill.

Burke hopes the review will lead to an increase in the number of visas issued, to fill the skills gap before the jobs flee the U.S.

“Work is mobile,” Burke said. “Companies are telling us and they are saying to one another, ‘If I can’t get the work done here, I’ll just move it overseas.’”

Which is what happened to Tapaskar, the IT worker.

His employer, ProSoft, was sold to another company, which outsourced his specific job to India, Tapaskar said.

After 15 years, he’s starting over with a new company and works to help other IT workers as the president of the American Small and Medium IT Employers Association (ASMITEA).

Hope for review

Tapaskar said he supports Trump’s Executive Order, hoping it helps curb any misuse of the program. But he doesn’t want to see those visas only going to companies offering the highest salaries.

“It should be made available for all the sectors,” he told VOA. “(It) should be linked with training programs. America really lacks the training infrastructure at the moment.”

This year, U.S. Immigration officials report almost 200,000 petitions were filed for the 85,000 available H1B visas during the lottery period that ended in April.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

IT Workers, Companies Cautious on H1B Visa Program Review

During a recent visit to Wisconsin, President Donald Trump announced he was signing an Executive Order reviewing the visa program that brings many technical workers to the United States, known as the H1B visa. About 85,000 workers come to the United States annually using an H1B visa. More from VOA’s Kane Farabaugh


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Strato-glider to Explore Little-known Mountain Waves

Later this year, two pilots in a sailplane will try to break the world altitude record for a glider, soaring more than 27 kilometers above sea level. But their primary mission will be to explore the little-known phenomenon called “mountain waves” and to carry a number of experiments designed by school students. VOA’s George Putic reports.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

On 100th Day in Office, Trump to Focus on Trade

President Donald Trump will spend his 100th day in office talking tough on trade in one of the states that delivered his unlikely win.

 

The president is expected to sign an executive order Saturday that will direct his Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative to perform a comprehensive study of the nation’s trade agreements to determine whether America is being treated fairly by its trading partners and the 164-nation World Trade Organization.

It’s one of two executive orders the president will sign at a shovel factory in Pennsylvania’s Cumberland County, the kind of place that propelled his surprise victory.

Rally in Pennsylvania 

The last week has been a frenzy of activity at the White House as Trump and his team have tried to rack up accomplishments and make good on campaign promises before reaching the symbolic 100-day mark. In addition to the visit to the Ames tool factory, which has been manufacturing shovels since 1774, the president will hold one of his signature campaign rallies in Harrisburg to cap the occasion.

 

It’s a return to fundamentals for a president who has, in recent days, sounded wistful reflecting on his term so far.

 

Earlier this week, Trump announced his intention to work to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. He also said he would begin renegotiating a free trade deal with South Korea, with which the U.S. has a significant trade deficit.

Trade discussed every day

 

“There isn’t a day that goes by that the president doesn’t discuss some aspect of trade,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said at the White House Friday.

 

The executive orders signed Saturday will mark Trump’s 31st and 32nd since taking office, the most of any president in his first 100 days since World War II. It’s a jarring disconnect from Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign, when he railed against his predecessor’s use of the tool, which has the benefit of not needing congressional sign-off.

The more significant of the two orders will give the Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative 180 days to identify violations and abuses under the country’s trade agreements and recommend solutions.

World Trade Organization outdated 

Ross said the WTO, the Geneva-based arbiter of world trade rules, is bureaucratic and outdated and needs an overhaul. Ross downplayed the possibility that the United States would consider leaving the organization but didn’t rule it out. 

“As any multilateral organization, there’s always the potential for modifying the rules,” he said.

 

The administration argues that unfair competition with China and other trade partners has wiped out millions of U.S. factory jobs. Ross said dissatisfaction with trade policy is one reason voters turned to Trump.

 

“They’re fed up with having their jobs go offshore. They’re fed up with some of the destructive practices,” he said. “So in effect, the country said in this last election: It’s about time to fix these things. And the president heard that message.”

 

Trump, who campaigned on a vow to crack down on China and other trading partners, has announced several other moves on trade in recent weeks. He ordered the Commerce Department to study the causes of the United States’ massive trade deficit in goods, $734 billion last year, $347 billion with China alone. The administration is also imposing duties on Canadian softwood timber and is investigating whether steel and aluminum imports pose a threat to national security.

 

Ross said Friday that the WTO is too narrowly focused on limiting traditional tariffs — taxes on imports — and does little to counter less conventional barriers to trade or to police violations of intellectual property rights.

 

Trump has pushed a model of “reciprocal trade” agreements in which the U.S. would raise or lower tariffs on a country’s imports depending on how that country treats the U.S.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Trump Signs Order Opening Arctic for Oil Drilling

President Donald Trump is re-opening for oil exploration areas that President Barack Obama had closed, a move that environmental groups have promised to fight.

In an executive order Friday, the president reversed the Obama administration’s decision to prohibit oil and gas drilling in the Arctic waters off Alaska.

The order also instructs the Interior Department to review current restrictions on energy development in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. In addition, it bars the creation or expansion of marine sanctuaries and orders a review of all areas protected within the last 10 years.

Trump cites advantages

The White House says 90 billion barrels of oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are buried off the U.S. coastline, but 94 percent of the area is off limits.

“Renewed offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless new jobs and make America more secure and far more energy independent,” Trump said at a signing ceremony at the White House.

The action is the latest from the Trump administration aimed at boosting domestic energy production and loosening environmental regulations.

In his first 100 days, Trump has relaxed coal mine pollution rules and ordered a review of vehicle efficiency standards and power plant greenhouse gas rules. His administration has stopped defending Obama-era pollution regulations challenged in court.

The energy industry has cheered the moves. Environmental groups have promised strong opposition.

Fragile ecosystems

Conservationists have long opposed oil drilling in the Arctic. A spill would devastate the region’s fragile ecosystems, they say, while extreme conditions raise the risks of a spill and make cleanup harder.

Fishing and tourism on the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico would suffer from an accident, too, environmentalists note.

“By his actions today, President Trump has sent a clear message that he prioritizes the oil and gas industry over the needs of working Americans in our coastal communities who depend on healthy fishing and tourism economies for their livelihoods,” Environmental Defense Fund Vice President Elizabeth Thompson said in a statement.

Reviewing and rewriting the current offshore drilling plans are expected to take several years. Environmental groups plan legal challenges to the changes.

 


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Beyond ‘Fake News:’ Facebook Fights ‘Information Operations’

Facebook is acknowledging that governments or other malicious non-state actors are using its social network to sway political sentiment, including elections.

That’s a long way from CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s assertion in November that the idea that bogus information on Facebook influenced the U.S. presidential election was “pretty crazy.” It also illustrates how the world’s biggest social network has been forced to grapple with its outsized role in how the world communicates, for better or for worse.

In an online posting Thursday, the company said that it would monitor efforts to disrupt “civic discourse” on Facebook. It is also looking to identify fake accounts, and says that it will warn people if their accounts have been targeted by cyber-attackers.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

US Economy Grows at Disappointing 0.7% in First Quarter

The latest economic data indicate the U.S. economy is growing at the slowest rate in three years. The GDP or gross domestic product, the broadest measure of all goods and services produced in the country, increased at a disappointing 0.7 percent annual rate, according to new government estimates released Friday.  That’s the weakest performance since 2014, as consumer spending stayed flat and business inventories remained small.  

Analysts say that’s bound to be a disappointment to U.S. President Donald Trump who predicted strong economic growth on day one, once he took over the White House. 

“Remember candidate Trump talked about GDP of about 5 percent and paraphrasing, perhaps something much, much stronger,” said Bankrate.com senior analyst Mark Hamrick. 

“Most economists believe the track for the U.S. economy for the intermediate future is going to be very familiar to what has been seen over the last number of years, and that’s somewhere between one and probably 2.5 percent on an annual basis.”

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.1 percent pace in the fourth quarter of 2016.  But economists say first quarter estimates tend to be notoriously low for a number of reasons.  

“In some years it’s been because of bad weather that kept people in their homes, keeping them from purchasing things but it’s also believed to be somewhat flawed statistically — meaning that what’s actually happening in the economy isn’t being perfectly captured by government statistics,” Hamrick tells VOA.  “It ends up being an estimate and most of them are not perfect”.

Most economists say the first quarter estimate should not be seen as a true measure of U.S. economic health. 

Other indicators suggest a more positive outlook. The U.S. unemployment rate is near a 10-year low at 4.5 percent, consumer and business sentiment are rising and major U.S. stock indexes are near record highs.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...