US Commerce Department Urges Curbs on Steel, Aluminum Imports

The Commerce Department is urging President Donald Trump to impose tariffs or quotas on aluminum and steel imports from China and other countries.

Unveiling the recommendations Friday, Secretary Wilbur Ross said in the case of both industries “the imports threaten to impair our national security.”

As an example, Ross said only one U.S. company now produces a high-quality aluminum alloy needed for military aircraft.

Raise US capacity

The measures are intended to raise U.S. production of aluminum and steel to 80 percent of industrial capacity. Currently U.S. steel plants are running at 73 percent of capacity and aluminum plants at 48 percent.

Ross emphasized that the president would have the final say, including on whether to exclude certain countries, such as NATO allies, from any actions.

China’s Commerce Ministry said Saturday that the report was baseless and did not accord with the facts, and that China would take necessary steps to protect its interests if affected by the final decision.

Last year, Trump authorized the probe into whether aluminum and steel imports posed a threat to national defense under a 1962 trade law that has not been invoked since 2001. He has to make a decision by mid-April.

Three options

Ross is offering the president three options:

To impose tariffs of 24 percent on all steel and 7.7 percent on aluminum imports from all countries.

To impose tariffs of 53 percent on steel imports from 12 countries, including Brazil, China and Russia, and tariffs of 23.6 percent on aluminum imports from China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam. Under this option, the U.S. would also impose a quota limiting all other countries to the amount of aluminum and steel they exported to U.S. last year.

To impose a quota on steel and aluminum imports from all sources, limiting each country 63 percent of the steel and 86.7 percent of the aluminum they shipped to the U.S. last year.

From: MeNeedIt

Young People with Disabilities Skate Toward Glory at the Special Olympics

As the world watches the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea, some American athletes in Washington are lacing up their skates to train for their own, major sporting event. Special in every way, these young people work to overcome their developmental obstacles to compete for gold — just like the world’s top athletes in Pyeongchang. Arash Arabasadi reports from Washington.

From: MeNeedIt

Robot Drives Itself to Deliver Packages

Delivery robots could one day be part of the landscape of cities around the world. Among the latest to be developed is an Italian-made model that drives itself around town to drop off packages. Since the machine runs on electricity, its developers say it is an environmentally friendly alternative to fuel powered delivery vehicles that cause pollution. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.

From: MeNeedIt

In Troubling Times, Curling Might be Just What We Need

The world, some fret, is falling apart. Politicians spar viciously on social media. Leaders lie. Former heroes fall like dominoes amid endless scandals. Cruelty has come to feel commonplace.

But never fear: We have curling.

The sport with the frenzied sweeping and clacking rocks has rules that require players to treat opponents with kindness. Referees aren’t needed, because curlers police themselves. And the winners generally buy the losers a beer.

At the Pyeongchang Olympics, curlers and their fans agree: In an era of vitriol and venom, curling may be the perfect antidote to our troubled times.

“Nobody gets hit — other than the rock,” laughed Evelyne Martens of Calgary, Canada, as she watched a recent Canada vs. Norway curling match. “And there’s nothing about Trump here!”

​Thanks, Scotland

In the 500 years since curling was conceived on the frozen ponds of Scotland, it has remained largely immune to the cheating controversies and bloated egos common in other sports. This is thanks to what is known as “The Spirit of Curling,” a deeply ingrained ethos that dictates that curlers conduct themselves with honor and adhere to good sportsmanship.

The World Curling Federation’s rules state: “Curlers play to win, but never to humble their opponents. A true curler never attempts to distract opponents, nor to prevent them from playing their best, and would prefer to lose rather than to win unfairly.”

Kindness is the baseline for what curling is all about, says Canadian Kaitlyn Lawes, who won the gold medal this week in curling mixed doubles.

“We shake hands before the game, we shake hands after. And if someone makes a great shot against you, we congratulate them because it’s fun to play against teams that are playing well,” Lawes says. “I think that spirit of curling can be used in the real world — and hopefully it can be a better place.”

Case in point: After losing the curling mixed doubles gold medal to Canada, Switzerland’s Martin Rios swallowed his disappointment during a press conference to say that the Canadians had deserved to win, declaring: “They were the better team.”

The Canadians returned the favor by heartily applauding their Swiss opponents not once but twice. And before the women’s round-robin match Thursday, the Korean team presented their Canadian competitors with a gift bag of Korean curling banners and pins.

​A certain morality

Children new to the sport are coached about the spirit of curling from the very start, says Willie Nicoll, chairman of British Curling. Fair play is not an afterthought, he says. It is the heart of the game.

“It’s always been looked at as being a very gentlemanly sport,” says Kate Caithness, president of the World Curling Federation. “Where does that happen in sport, when you say to your opposition, ‘Good shot?’”

It’s not that curling isn’t competitive. Like every other Olympian in Pyeongchang, curlers all want the gold — just not at the expense of their integrity.

Perhaps the best example of this is the lack of referees. Officials rarely get involved in matches because players call themselves out for fouls. If a curler accidentally hits a stone that’s in motion with their foot or broom — a situation known as a “burned stone” — he or she is expected to immediately announce the mistake. Aileen Geving, a member of the U.S. Olympic curling team, says it would be unthinkable for her not to own up to such a goof.

“We all have to be true to ourselves and I know I would feel way too guilty not to say anything if I hit it!” she says, laughing. “I think there’s a certain morality behind that.”

On Friday, an exceedingly unusual controversy over a burned stone erupted that — unsurprisingly — meandered its way to a mild end. In a tense match against Canada, a Danish player accidentally hit a moving rock. Canada, which had the right to decide what happened, chose to remove the rock from play rather than allow it to remain.

The “aggression” stunned some observers. Canadian media covering the game launched into frenzied discussions, and some curling fans tweeted shock over what they considered unsportsmanlike behavior.

This, though, was the measured reaction from the Danish team’s skip a bit later: She wouldn’t have made the same choice, but she also wasn’t mad.

For the fans, seeing such displays of warmth — or, in the above case, lack of heat — can be a welcome respite from the harshness of the outside world.

Sinking into her seat at the Gangneung Curling Centre, Crystle Kozoroski was still stressed from attending the previous night’s rough and rowdy hockey game. Watching curling, she said, was just the therapy she needed.

“I’m still tense from last night’s game — my body is literally sore,” said Kozoroski, of Manitoba, Canada. “It’s nice just to sit and relax.” Curling is, she says, a “very calming and soothing sport.”

​A typical game

Here is how a typical game starts at Gangneung: Opponents turn to each other, share a handshake and wish each other “Good curling!” A bouncy organ tune blasts across the arena and the stadium announcer cheerfully bellows, “Good luck and GOOD CURLING!” The crowd whoops with glee. Even if you have no idea what is happening, it is almost impossible not to smile.

There’s a sense that everyone is welcome. And with curling, that’s kind of true. Both women and men compete in all three versions of the sport — traditional curling, mixed doubles and wheelchair — and members of curling clubs range in age from 7 to 90.

That feeling of inclusiveness is intertwined with a deep camaraderie that goes back to curling’s inception. Take “broomstacking,” named for the original practice of opponents stacking their brooms in front of a roaring fire after a game and enjoying a drink together.

These days, rivals still socialize after matches, with the winner generally buying the loser a round. The other day, Canadian gold medal curler John Morris posted a photo on Instagram of himself sharing a locker room brew with U.S. rival Matt Hamilton, their arms slung around each other and grins stretching across their faces.

Mae Polo, whose son Joe Polo is a member of the U.S. Olympic curling team, says she and her family have formed tight bonds with curlers across the globe. Those friendships have traversed any competitive or cultural divides, she says, with the curlers’ families all helping each other sort out travel logistics to the Olympics.

Curling is one big family, she says. And maybe, just maybe, curling could serve as a blueprint for us all.

“The world needs to take a lesson from it,” she says. “Let’s just love each other.”

From: MeNeedIt

Facebook Forges Ahead With Kids App Despite Expert Criticism

Facebook is forging ahead with its messaging app for kids, despite child experts who have pressed the company to shut it down and others who question Facebook’s financial support of some advisers who approved of the app.

Messenger Kids lets kids under 13 chat with friends and family. It displays no ads and lets parents approve who their children message. But critics say it serves to lure kids into harmful social media use and to hook young people on Facebook as it tries to compete with Snapchat or its own Instagram app. They say kids shouldn’t be on such apps at all — although they often are.

“It is disturbing that Facebook, in the face of widespread concern, is aggressively marketing Messenger Kids to even more children,” the Campaign For a Commercial-Free Childhood said in a statement this week.

Lukeward reception

Messenger Kids launched on iOS to lukewarm reception in December. It arrived on Amazon devices in January and on Android Wednesday. Throughout, Facebook has touted a team of advisers, academics and families who helped shape the app in the year before it launched.

But a Wired report this week pointed out that more than half of this safety advisory board had financial ties to the company. Facebook confirmed this and said it hasn’t hidden donations to these individuals and groups — although it hasn’t publicized them, either.

Facebook’s donations to groups like the National PTA (the official name for the Parent Teacher Association) typically covered logistics costs or sponsored activities like anti-bullying programs or events such as parent roundtables. One advisory group, the Family Online Safety Institute, has a Facebook executive on its board, along with execs from Disney, Comcast and Google.

“We sometimes provide funding to cover programmatic or logistics expenses, to make sure our work together can have the most impact,” Facebook said in a statement, adding that many of the organizations and people who advised on Messenger Kids do not receive financial support of any kind.

Common Sense a late addition

But for a company under pressure from many sides — Congress, regulators, advocates for online privacy and mental health — even the appearance of impropriety can hurt. Facebook didn’t invite prominent critics, such as the nonprofit Common Sense Media, to advise it on Messenger Kids until the process was nearly over. Facebook would not comment publicly on why it didn’t include Common Sense earlier in the process. 

“Because they know we opposed their position,” said James Steyer, the CEO of Common Sense. The group’s stance is that Facebook never should have released a product aimed at kids. “They know very well our positon with Messenger Kids.”

A few weeks after Messenger Kids launched, nearly 100 outside experts banded together to urge Facebook to shut down the app , which it has not done. The company says it is “committed to building better products for families, including Messenger Kids. That means listening to parents and experts, including our critics.”

Wired article unfair?

One of Facebook’s experts contested the notion that company advisers were in Facebook’s pocket. Lewis Bernstein, now a paid Facebook consultant who worked for Sesame Workshop (the nonprofit behind “Sesame Street”) in various capacities over three decades, said the Wired article “unfairly” accused him and his colleagues for accepting travel expenses to Facebook seminars. 

But the Wired story did not count Lewis as one of the seven out of 13 advisers who took funding for Messenger Kids, and the magazine did not include travel funding when it counted financial ties. Bernstein was not a Facebook consultant at the time he was advising it on Messenger Kids.

Bernstein, who doesn’t see technology as “inherently dangerous,” suggested that Facebook critics like Common Sense are also tainted by accepting $50 million in donated air time for a campaign warning about the dangers of technology addiction. Among those air-time donors are Comcast and AT&T’s DirecTV.

But Common Sense spokeswoman Corbie Kiernan called that figure a “misrepresentation” that got picked up by news outlets. She said Common Sense has public service announcement commitments “from partners such as Comcast and DirectTV” that has been valued at $50 million. The group has used that time in other campaigns in addition to its current “Truth About Tech” effort, which it’s launching with a group of ex-Google and Facebook employees and their newly formed Center for Humane Technology.

From: MeNeedIt

Postal Service Marks Lunar New Year with Stamp by Kam Mak

You may not be familiar with the name Kam Mak, but you’ve probably seen his work.  In 2008, the Chinese-American artist was selected by the U.S. Postal Service to create an annual stamp through 2019 for its Celebrating Lunar New Year series.

The Year of the Dog stamp is his latest, and Mak says it highlights some of the holiday’s traditions.

“In the Year of the Dog stamp I decided to use three stalks of lucky bamboo. In Chinese tradition, three lucky bamboo symbolize first, blessing and luck, second is long life, and third is wealth. I also included the pasting of the Fu character, and that means blessing and luck.”

The Lunar New Year stamps date back to the 1980’s, when the Organization of Chinese Americans, now known as OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, began urging the postal service to issue a stamp honoring the contributions of Chinese Americans in the U.S.

Mak explains that Jean Chen, one of their members, led the way after she came across a book about the history of the Transcontinental Railroad with a photo showing only Caucasian workers celebrating the completion of the railroad in 1869.

“She was incensed to not see one Chinese American in any of those photos. And she felt that is not right. And she came up with the idea of lobbying the U.S. Postal Service to have some kind of stamp to pay honor to these Chinese Americans who helped build the railroad. That railroad transformed America and a lot of Chinese people gave their lives building that.”

The first Lunar New Year stamp, issued in 1992, was designed by Hawaii graphic artist, Clarence Lee. Due to its popularity, the U.S. Postal Service commissioned Lee to design a series depicting all 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.  Mak’s series, which celebrates some of the holiday customs and traditions that have endured throughout time , incorporates Lee’s paper-cut designs.  

His favorite, he says, features narcissus flowers, issued in 2010 for the Year of the Tiger.  “It comes with lots of memory, because it was something that my grandmother would cultivate right before the lunar new year and as a little boy (I) always watch her doing it …And the fragrance from the flower always reminds me lunar new year is coming and always brings back, really fond memory being with my grandma.

Mak, who was born in Hong Kong, immigrated to America with his family in 1971, and grew up in New York City’s Chinatown.  There, the 10-year-old faced language barriers and the challenge of adjusting to a new life.

“My Dad was a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant and he worked six days a week,” he said.  “And my Mom was working in a sweatshop, six days a week, 12 hours a day.  They struggled, because the pay’s really low … they struggled just to take care of us.”

Mak recalls during that time, gangs that were rampant in Chinatown and trying to recruit new members.  His friend joined a gang.  “One day I heard that my friend got shot in a Chinese Theater,” Mak said.  “And the whole scenario, really scared me straight.  And I realized, ‘Oh boy, I want to make sure that I don’t end up being in that situation.’  And think from then on, I really started taking school very seriously.  Because I think that was really my way out.”

Mak was not a good student, but he was good at making pictures.  Before long, he got involved with the City Art Workshop, which allowed inner-city youth, like him, to explore the arts.  Today, in his 50s, Mak is a professor at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, where he teaches painting.  He’s also illustrated numerous books, including a retelling of an old Chinese folktale, The Dragon Prince, by renowned author Laurence Yep.

Eventually, Mak illustrated and wrote his own picture book called My Chinatown: One Year In Poems.  It’s about a little boy growing up in Chinatown.  Through an organization called Behind the Book, he shares his immigrant experience with New York City students.

“[They] are mostly Latinos and African American kids (from the) inner city.  So besides reading them the book, I take them out to Chinatown and have them experience all the things that I experienced growing up … I just want to stir their imaginations and want them to learn about other cultures, besides what they only know in their own neighborhood.”

And he wants the people he meets to be proud of who they are, and not feel ashamed if they’re different. He recalled a talk at a public school in Chinatown.

“And so after my presentation to these group of kids, a bunch of Chinese kids came to me very emotionally (and said), ‘Kam, I’m so happy there’s a book that is about me.’   I say, ‘Yes, this book is about all our experiences, our similar experiences.’  So at that moment, I felt really emotional because, wow, the book itself had moved other kids, and they would not feel that they are isolated, that there’s actually a book that actually plays a very positive light about how they grew up and it’s something they can relate to.  And so I think that’s a very positive thing.”

For Kam Mak, carrying on the legacy of the Lunar New Year stamps, and Chinese culture and heritage, is not only a huge responsibility, but a personal mission, as well.

From: MeNeedIt

EU Not Happy With Facebook, Twitter Consumer Rule Remedies

The European Commission says social media giants Facebook and Twitter have only partially responded to its demands to bring their practices into line with EU consumer law.


The Commission asked the two companies a year ago to change their terms of service following complaints from people targeted by fraud or scams on social media websites.


The EU’s executive arm said Thursday that the firms only partly addressed “issues about their liability and about how users are informed of possible content removal or contract termination.”


It said changes proposed by Google+ appear to be in line with demands.


Europe’s consumer affairs commissioner, Vera Jourova, said “it is unacceptable that this is still not complete and it is taking so much time.” She called for those flouting consumer rules to face sanctions.


From: MeNeedIt

Airbus Expects Strong Growth, Looks Past Plane Troubles

Shares in European plane maker Airbus flew higher on Thursday after the company reported improved earnings and was more upbeat about the future following problems to several of its key aircraft programs.


The company said that it surged to a net profit of 1 billion euros ($1.25 billion) in the fourth quarter, from a loss of 816 million euros a year earlier, while revenue was stable around 23.8 billion euros. Airbus delivered a record 718 aircraft last year and expects that figure to rise further in 2018, to 800.


CEO Tom Enders credited “very good operational performance, especially in the last quarter.”


Shares in the company jumped about 10 percent on Thursday in Paris. Investors seem optimistic that the company is putting behind it the worst of its troubles with three airplane production programs.

Airbus, which is based in Toulouse, France, said it took another charge of 1.3 billion euros on its A400 military plane, which has had cost overruns for years. It said, however, that it had reached a deal with the governments that are buying the planes on a new delivery schedule that should rein in any new charges on the program.


The company also acknowledged that it had had more struggles with engines supplied by Pratt & Whitney for the A320neo, a narrow-body plane that’s popular with regional airlines. The supplier had had problems with the engines last year, which it fixed, but reported a new issue more recently that could affect 2018 deliveries, Airbus said.


Another of Airbus’ troubled plane models, the A380 superjumbo jet, now has a more stable outlook after the company reached a deal with Emirates airline that will cover the cost of production for years.


The various problems with these production programs risked overshadowing what was otherwise a strong year for Airbus in terms of earnings, as global demand for commercial aircraft grows. Airbus raised its dividend by 11 percent and said it expects one of its key earnings metrics — earnings before interest and tax — to rise 20 percent in 2018.




From: MeNeedIt

Former Ebony Editor Author Lerone Bennett Jr. Dies at 89

Lerone Bennett Jr., an African-American history author and former editor of Ebony magazine, has died at age 89.

A.A. Rayner and Sons Funeral Home in Chicago said Thursday that Bennett died Tuesday. Ebony magazine tells the Chicago Sun-Times that Bennett had vascular dementia.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Thursday called Bennett an “activist historian” and said “a global force for justice he was, a mighty pen he had.”

Bennett grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and worked on his high school newspaper and edited the student newspaper at Morehouse College, where he went to school with Martin Luther King Jr. Bennett went on to work at the Atlanta Daily World before joining Jet and then Ebony. He worked at Ebony for about 50 years.

“He was the guiding light for the editorial vision of Ebony,” Ebony CEO Linda Johnson Rice said Wednesday. “Lerone was not just essential in the formation of Ebony’s historic trajectory, he was a pillar in the black community.”

Bennett chronicled the civil rights movement. Among his books was “What Manner of Man, a Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” along with “Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America” and “The Shaping of Black America.”

Bennett took on national roles, including as a member of President Bill Clinton’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and as an early adviser to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. His footprints are in pavement at the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in Atlanta.

Bennett’s wife, Gloria, was a Jet journalist. She died in 2009. He is survived by three children.

From: MeNeedIt