Teenagers from around the world were on Google’s campus this week to compete in a science competition. Their projects brought novel approaches to address health, disability and environmental issues. Michelle Quinn visited their booths to find out more.
Doctors’ scrawls and scribbles are notoriously hard to read. Electronic prescriptions remedy the problem but around the world and especially in developing countries, the technology isn’t always accessible. One possible solution? Blockchain, the same technology underpinning cryptocurrency transactions. Tina Trinh reports.
Tanzania is planning to build a car cable service on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak and a world heritage site. The country wants to boost tourist numbers but a quarter million porters and mountain guides worry the quick ride up the mountain is a threat to their livelihoods. Charles Kombe reports from Kilimanjaro.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his guest, director of the World Food Program David Beasley, planted tree seedlings on Tuesday in a salute to Ethiopia’s Green Legacy Initiative, which seeks to combat climate change through mass tree planting. Volunteers in the Horn of Africa state planted 350 million trees in the past week in an effort to curb climate change effects.
Boat cruises on the Potomac River in the Washington, D.C. area are a popular way to see famous monuments and other landmarks. But a special cruise gives dogs a chance to relax on a scenic trip with their owners. VOAs Deborah Block takes us on a cruise for canines.
A dispute between the ruler of Dubai and his estranged wife over the welfare of their two young children will play out over the next two days in a London courtroom amid reports the princess has fled the Gulf emirate.
The case beginning Tuesday in Britain’s High Court pits Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum against Princess Haya, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan.
The princess is believed to be in Britain, where she owns a gated mansion.
The clash between Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya is the latest sign of trouble in Dubai’s ruling family. Last year, a daughter of Sheikh Mohammed tried to flee Dubai after appearing in a 40-minute video saying she had been imprisoned.
As U.S.-China trade talks are set to begin, U.S. President Donald Trump is warning China against negotiating a deal after the 2020 U.S. presidential election — declaring a delayed agreement would be less attractive than a deal reached in the near term.
“The problem with them waiting … is that if & when I win, the deal that they get will be much tougher than what we are negotiating now … or no deal at all,” Trump said in a post Tuesday on Twitter.
…to ripoff the USA, even bigger and better than ever before. The problem with them waiting, however, is that if & when I win, the deal that they get will be much tougher than what we are negotiating now…or no deal at all. We have all the cards, our past leaders never got it!
The tweet came as U.S. and Chinese officials gathered in Shanghai to revive talks, with both sides trying to temper expectations for a breakthrough.
The world’s two largest economies are engaged in an intense trade war, having imposed punitive tariffs on each other totaling more than $360 billion in two-way trade.
The negotiations come after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at June’s G-20 summit to resurrect efforts to end the costly trade war over China’s technology ambitions and trade surplus.
China is resisting U.S. demands to abolish government-led plans for industrial leaders to enhance robotics, artificial intelligence and other technologies.
The U.S. has complained China’s plans depend on the acquisition of foreign technology through theft or coercion.
Days prior to the Shanghai meeting, Trump threatened to withdraw recognition of China’s developing nation’s status at the World Trade Organization. China responded by saying the threat is indicative of the “arrogance and selfishness” of the U.S.
The U.S. delegation in Shanghai will be represented by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. They are due to meet with a Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Liu He, who serves as the country’s economic czar.
A top U.N. official warned Monday that Yemen’s devastating five-year civil war has knocked the country back 20 years in terms of development and access to education.
Yemen was already the Arab world’s poorest nation before the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people. In 2014, rebels known as Houthis took over the capital, Sanaa, prompting a Saudi-led military intervention. The stalemated conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, thrust millions to the brink of famine and spawned the world’s most devastating humanitarian crisis.
“Much of the Yemeni economy has collapsed. People literally do not have any money to buy food,” Achim Steiner, U.N. Development Program administrator, told The Associated Press.
“Thousands of schools are closed, millions of children aren’t able to attend school, missing a generation of education,” he said. “Yemen has lost… 20 years of development.”
Steiner recently returned from a visit to Yemen, including the strategic port city of Hodeida. He waned that one in every three Yemenis are at risk of starving to death, out of a population of 30 million.
In Hodeida, he said the U.N. Development Program has been working to remove land mines from Hodeida’s port, which handles 70 percent of Yemen’s food imports and humanitarian aid. He said he met with local authorities to create an agreement on “the priorities that are now needed in terms of repair spare parts, technologies that are needed in order to be able to allow the port to function again.”
Both sides of the conflict agreed in December to withdraw from Hodeida, considered an important first step toward ending the war. But the implementation of the U.N.-brokered deal has since been delayed, as the agreement was vague on who would control Hodeida’s key port facilities after the withdrawal, saying only that a “local force” would take over.
Steiner urged both sides to help U.N. agencies “deliver fast and with little obstruction, the kinds of services, support, food, medicines” that ordinary Yemenis need.
“We would like to see that port up and running again in a matter of months. It can be done but only with the full cooperation of both sides,” he said.
Steiner said the UNDP in Yemen faces financial difficulties, as the pledges for humanitarian support in Yemen were close to $3 billion this year, but less than $1.1 billion has been delivered.
“We will have to stop programs, we will have to cut rations, and probably in the next two to three months, 21 support programs in the country have to be stopped,” he warned.
A Tanzanian investigative journalist, Erick Kabendera, was abducted Monday from his home on the outskirts of Dar es salaam, the country’s business capital.
A leading Tanzanian newspaper Mwananchi reports that Kabendera who writes for local and international newspapers was abducted Monday evening by people who are said to be police officers. Police have immediately denied being involved.
The journalist’s wife Loy Kabendera, told Mwananchi newspaper that the journalist was “picked up by six people who forcibly stormed into the house and left with a Toyota Alphard” car. She said the people identified themselves as police but refused to produce their badges. They also left with cellphones belonging to Kabendera and his wife.
In November 2017 a Tanzanian journalist Azory Gwanda disappeared mysteriously while investigating a series of killings of local government officials and police officers by unidentified assailants near Kibiti in Pwani region. He has not been since.
In early July, Tanzania’s Foreign Minister Palamagamba Kabudi said during an interview with BBC that Gwanda had “disappeared and died.” He later retracted his statement.
Iraqi officials are displaying stolen artifacts from the country’s rich cultural heritage that were recently recovered from Britain and Sweden.
Many archaeological treasures from Iraq, home of the ancient “fertile crescent” considered the cradle of civilization, were looted during the chaos that followed the 2003 U.S. invasion and whisked out of the country.
Now Iraq is making a massive effort to bring these pieces home, working closely with the U.N. cultural organization.
The artifacts on display Monday at the foreign ministry in Baghdad include archaeological and historical items, such as pottery fragments and shards with writing dating back at least 4,000 years to the ancient Sumerian civilization.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim said his country is determined to recover its lost heritage, whatever it takes.
The International Monetary Fund says the cumulative decline of the Venezuelan economy since 2013 will surpass 60% and is among the deepest five-year contractions the world has seen over the last half century.
Alejandro Werner is director of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere Department. He describes the Venezuelan decline as a “historical case” because it is unprecedented in the hemisphere and also because it is the only one of the top global five-year contractions that is unrelated to armed conflicts or natural disasters.
The IMF on Monday also adjusted its 2019 forecast for the South American country to a contraction of 35% — up from the 25% decline expected back in April — due to a sharp fall in the oil production, which has already plunged to its lowest level in seven decades.
The United States is not ruling out working-level talks with North Korean officials on the sidelines of Southeast Asian regional meetings in Thailand this week, with experts noting Pyongyang’s recent missile launch is unlikely to reverse Washington’s current diplomatic efforts.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will arrive in Bangkok on Aug. 1, where he will co-chair the U.S.- Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial.
On Aug. 2, Pompeo will participate in the East Asia Summit (EAS) Ministerial and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Ministerial, and will hold a bilateral meeting with Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai to discuss ways to further strengthen the U.S.-Thai alliance.
“I head to Asia tomorrow midday, I’ll be in Bangkok for a couple of days. We hope that we can have working-level discussions starting again very soon,” Pompeo said Monday when asked about diplomatic engagement with North Korea during an event in Washington.
“We’re not going to talk about the specific bilateral meetings, other than the ones that have been announced,” said a senior State Department official in a briefing when asked if U.S. officials will hold talks with North Korea officials on the sidelines of ASEAN meetings.
In recent days, the U.S.-led United Nations Command said it will continue to support confidence-building measures setting the stage for dialogue, and for diplomats to work toward permanent peace and final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.
After North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test last Thursday, Pompeo suggested talks could still continue.
“I think we’re still going to proceed,” said the top U.S. diplomat in an interview with Fox News. “I mean, I think we’re still going to go sit down and have a conversation about this. North Korea has engaged in activity before we were having diplomatic conversations far worse than this.”
Media reports said North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho will not attend this week’s ASEAN related meetings in Bangkok. While in the past North Korea’s foreign minister had skipped the forum from time to time, Pyongyang has always sent other diplomats to attend.
“We are clearly going to be continuing to talk to our allies who face this issue quite closely,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told VOA on Monday.
Foreign ministers from Japan and South Korea will also attend the East Asia Summit in Bangkok.
North Korea’s July 25 missile tests were a “relatively modest [action] along the North Korean messaging spectrum,” argued Todd Rosenblum, a nonresident senior fellow of the Atlantic Council. He said Pyongyang’s latest missile launch “should not and likely will not have much impact on current negotiating efforts.”
South China Sea
Pompeo’s meetings with ASEAN foreign ministers also come amid China’s increasingly assertive actions in the South China Sea, a resource-rich region contested by several ASEAN members, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, as well as Taiwan and China.
China has landfilled and militarized islets over the past decade.
“We have an interest in ensuring stability there,” said a senior State Department official.
The U.S. strongly opposes China’s efforts to assert its unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea. Washington is calling for a code of conduct between China and ASEAN to be “in line with” existing international laws.
“We’re very concerned,” Ortagus told VOA in an interview Monday, referring to recent Chinese anti-ship missile launches from man-made structures in the disputed South China Sea, and a standoff between China and Vietnam.
Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs Congressman Eliot Engel recently issued a statement on Chinese interference in Vietnamese-controlled waters.
“China’s recent aggression in the South China Sea is a disturbing demonstration of a country openly flouting international law,” said Engel. “Just as importantly, China’s behavior threatens the interests of U.S. companies operating in the area.”
Australia, Pacific Islands
From Thailand, Pompeo will head to Australia on Aug. 4. Newly sworn-in U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will join Pompeo in Sydney for the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN).
“The United States has no better friend or ally than Australia,” said a senior State Department official in a phone briefing to reporters. Pompeo will safeguard “sovereignty in Pacific Island countries and Southeast Asia,” according to the State Department.
On Aug. 5, the top U.S. diplomat embarks on a trip to the Federated States of Micronesia, making him the first sitting U.S. secretary of state to visit the Pacific Island nation. The visit comes days after an inauguration ceremony of its new President David Panuelo.
Pompeo will also meet with leaders from Pacific island nations that have compact associations with the U.S., including Palau and the Marshall Islands. The U.S. provides more than $350 million in projects and economic assistance to the Pacific island nations during the last fiscal year.
The U.S. is working with the Federated States of Micronesia “in keeping the Western Pacific and Indo-Pacific region free and open,” said State Department’s Director for Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Islands Nicholas Dean in a recent briefing.
In a series of tweets over the weekend, U.S. President Trump lashed out against one of his most vocal Democratic critics, attacking Congressman Elijah Cummings and calling the Maryland lawmaker’s district “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” The comments sparked backlash from critics calling the language racist and unacceptable. VOA’s Elizabeth Cherneff has more.
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