Day: June 13, 2017

Aspirin Linked to Higher Risk of Serious Bleeding in the Elderly

People who are aged 75 or older and take aspirin daily to ward off heart attacks face a significantly elevated risk of serious or even fatal bleeding and should be given heartburn drugs to minimize the danger, a 10-year study has found.

Between 40 percent and 60 percent of people over the age of 75 in Europe and the United States take aspirin every day, previous studies have estimated, but the implications of long-term use in older people have remained unclear until now because most clinical trials involve patients younger than 75.

The study published on Wednesday, however, was split equally between over-75s and younger patients, examining a total of 3,166 Britons who had suffered a heart attack or stroke and were taking blood-thinning medication to prevent a recurrence.

Researchers emphasized that the findings did not mean that older patients should stop taking aspirin. Instead, they recommend broad use of proton pump inhibitor heartburn drugs such as omeprazole, which can cut the risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding by 70 to 90 percent.

While aspirin — invented by Bayer in 1897 and now widely available over the counter — is generally viewed as harmless, bleeding has long been a recognized hazard.

Peter Rothwell, one of the study authors, said that taking anti-platelet drugs such as aspirin prevented a fifth of recurrent heart attacks and strokes but also led to about 3,000 excess-bleeding deaths annually in Britain alone.

The majority of these were in people older than 75.

“In people under 75, the benefits of taking aspirin for secondary prevention after a heart attack or stroke clearly outweigh the relatively small risk of bleeding. These people needn’t worry,” Rothwell said.

“In the over-75s the risk of a serious bleed is higher, but the key point is that this risk is substantially preventable by taking proton pump inhibitors alongside aspirin.”

Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine President Alan Boyd, who was not involved in the study, said it had been considered that the benefits of aspirin outweighed the risks of bleeding in all patients and that the new research would force a reappraisal.

Rothwell, director of the Center for Prevention of Stroke and Dementia at Oxford University, and his colleagues found that the annual rate of life-threatening or fatal bleeds was less than 0.5 percent in under-65s, rising to 1.5 percent for those aged 75 to 84, and nearly 2.5 percent for over-85s.

Because the majority of patients studied were taking low-dose aspirin, rather than more modern anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel or AstraZeneca’s Brilinta, the study could not draw conclusions about combined drug use.

However, a commentary in The Lancet medical journal, where the study was published, noted that patients on dual anti-platelet therapy were known to have a higher risk of bleeding than those on monotherapy and that the research showed the need for regular evaluation of older patients.


1960s Rock Icons Recall Groovy, Gritty Summer of Love

The Summer of Love in 1967 marked a turning point in rock and roll history: It introduced America to the exciting new sounds coming out of San Francisco’s local music scene.

There was the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, which launched Janis Joplin’s career, and Country Joe and the Fish, another signature band of the era.

The Associated Press talked to members of these bands to discuss their memories of that legendary summer and how it shaped their careers and influenced their lives. Here’s what they said:

BOB WEIR, 69. Grateful Dead, guitarist, vocals.

On how that summer shaped his life: “We were sort of forced into a divorce from what we’ll call the straight culture. They had a war going on that, Number One, didn’t look good to us, and then even worse boded quite ill for us. If I had fallen to the draft, I probably wouldn’t be here now. So what the straight culture had to offer for us, for me, was death. In our culture, in the Summer of Love, I had the life that I’ve lived to this day to look forward to.”

On making music history: “We were remaking the rules for music. I think we had a notion that we were remaking the rules a bit more than we actually ended up doing. But we did change music, our generation.”

On Jerry Garcia: “When I first met Jerry, he wasn’t a hippie. He was basically a banjo player. He was a talented guy, and a great guy to hang with and an accomplished musician. And I figured I could do a lot worse than hooking up with that guy and playing music because I could see that we could go places together.”

On Jimi Hendrix: “I found myself jamming with him at the Monterey Pop Festival backstage. I didn’t know who he was, and I don’t think he knew who I was. But we were plugged into the same amplifier and had a great time together basically destroying that amplifier. And we became friends after that.”

On fame: “Our great fame didn’t come right away, believe me. It was a long time in coming, which is one of the reasons that those of us who are still here are still here. Because we never got a chance to suffer from that ‘too much, too soon’ syndrome, which is almost invariably quite destructive.”

COUNTRY JOE McDONALD, 75. Country Joe and the Fish, lead singer, guitar.  

On the hippies: “The main thing about the Summer of Love and that period of history is that we were incredibly poor and disenfranchised. Our clothes were hand-me-downs, and our instruments were cheap musical instruments, and the artists were lucky to get paid $50 or $100. The bands were making $200 a night, split five, six, seven ways.

On the vibe at the time: “It was exciting. It was small, and it was new. It was empowering and inclusive. Anyone could participate and was encouraged to participate. It had something that people wanted. It was also a period of invention and creativity, and with each new creative moment and invention, our morale was boosted.”

On what led to the Summer of Love: “In 1965 and ’66 we had had enough. We couldn’t stand it anymore. We weren’t going to do what the status quo asked us to do. I grew up with a T-shirt with nothing on it. There was, like, one haircut for men. There was death in Vietnam, for black Americans, for minority Americans of all kinds. There was nothing for homosexuals except prison. For women, there was nothing except marriage and nursing, but there wasn’t opportunity. We created opportunity. We created a mindset.”

On how it shaped his life: “It gave me a life. I didn’t feel comfortable in the old life I had. I was part of it, I was successful in it. I was in the Navy, but I didn’t feel safe in my own skin and comfortable in it. There wasn’t a world for me to be part of, and now I’m part of history. I’m not just talking about some song I wrote that made a lot of money. I got so much more out of it than money.”

DAVE GETZ, 77. Big Brother and the Holding Company, drummer.

On the scene in San Francisco: “It was a cultural movement of artists, musicians, dancers, the gay culture, the writers. It was just all kinds of people interacting with each other and discovering each other and dropping acid. It was just a real exciting time. It was a revelatory time, and there was this great energy happening.”

On how the Summer of Love changed that scene: “By the spring of 1967, everybody knew that there was going to be an influx of people … that there was going to be this mass invasion of young people in San Francisco. Nobody was really sure whether that was a good thing, or what would happen. It was what it was.”

On bandmate Janis Joplin: “After Monterey [Pop Festival], from 1968 on, it really became inevitable that she was going to go off and be a star. … I think it would have happened anyway, because she was just destined for greatness.”

“I think toward the end, she was starting to become somewhat of a caricature of this certain part of her personality … some part of herself that wasn’t quite real anymore. Because she was a much more complex person than that. She wasn’t Mae West. She was something else. She was very, very intelligent, very literate and very thoughtful on some other level. She just had a lot of sides to her that I thought maybe she was burying under this other image of herself, this sort of swaggering Mae West boozy character.”

On one epic night at the band’s house in late ’66: “We had a massive party when we knew we were going to move out. And all the people from the different bands came and it was like a big jam session. It was a great moment where everybody got high and everybody drank a lot. There was a lot of playing and animals running around. One of the things I remember was that someone brought a goat, and the goat ate my bedspread. I got back to my room in the morning, there was half a bedspread and a goat walking around the place.”

On how that era affected him: “I think there were moments at the time when I kind of thought to myself, ‘This will be the seminal moment of my life. And take it in, because it’s never going to be the same.”‘

DAVID FREIBERG, 78. Quicksilver Messenger Service, bassist and vocals. Joined Jefferson Airplane in the early 1970s.

On the Summer of Love: “It just felt like walking down the street was magic. Just to be there was amazing.”

On the Haight-Ashbury: “For a while, it was kind of like everyone was there, doing their own thing, whether you were a poet, an artist, everybody existed in an enlightened state of existence. It felt very special.”

“It felt like a community for that short period of time until everybody got so big that they never saw each other anymore.”

On what changed the Haight-Ashbury: “It was doomed as soon as it made the cover of Time magazine, as soon as the [tour] buses pulled up with people to look at Haight Street.”

On the 50th anniversary: “It seems kind of tame to be marking the Summer of Love with museum exhibits and looking at posters.”


US Weighs Sanctions on Countries Doing Business with North Korea

The United States is weighing imposing sanctions on countries that do business with North Korea and looking for ways to revive strained relations with Russia, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday.

At a committee hearing, he also defended President Donald Trump’s plans for steep reductions in U.S. spending on diplomacy and foreign aid. Senators from both major parties charged that such cuts would ultimately hurt America.

At the start Tillerson told lawmakers that North Korea had released Otto Warmbier, a U.S. university student held captive for 17 months, and the United States was seeking the release of three other detained Americans.

Washington has sought to increase economic and political pressure on Pyongyang because of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The North has conducted five nuclear tests and is believed to be making progress toward an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the United States.

Tillerson said Washington is discussing North Korea with all of its allies, and seeing some response from China, its biggest trading partner. He said North Korea would top the agenda at next week’s high-level talks between U.S. and Chinese officials.

Tillerson said the United States would have to work with other countries to deny North Korea access to basics such as oil and will have to consider whether to impose sanctions on those doing business with North Korea.

“We are in a stage where we are moving into this next effort of, ‘Are we going to have to, in effect, start taking secondary sanctions because countries we have provided information to have not, or are unwilling, or don’t have the ability to do that?'” Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Because the United States has no trade with the North, its strongest way to impose economic pressure is through “secondary sanctions” that threaten companies from third countries with losing access to the U.S. market if they deal with Pyongyang.

Ties With Russia at a Low

Asked whether the United States wanted to see an Iran-style global embargo to deny exports of petroleum and other products to North Korea, Tillerson said that this would only work if Russia and China, the North’s main suppliers, cooperated.

Tillerson repeated his view that U.S. relations with Russia were at an all time-low and still deteriorating. Ties have been strained by differences over Syria, Ukraine and allegations, denied by Moscow, of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

He said the administration was trying to find a way to re-establish a working relationship, notably on Syria.

It took years of diplomacy with Russia and China to achieve consensus among major powers to impose the sanctions on Iran and a similar result with the North seems unlikely given Beijing’s reluctance to destabilize its neighbors.

Asked if China had lived up to its pledges to crack down on the North, Tillerson said its actions had been “uneven,” but added: “They have taken steps, visible steps that we can confirm. We are in discussions with them about entities inside of China.”

The purpose of Tillerson’s appearance, his first of four congressional hearings this week, was to discuss the budget. In all, the Trump proposal cuts about 32 percent from U.S. diplomacy and aid budgets, or nearly $19 billion.

Committee members, including some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, spoke sharply against the plan. Republicans control both houses of Congress, which sets the federal government budget.

Separately, 16 retired senior generals and other ex-military officers said they would submit joint testimony to the Senate on Wednesday about the importance of foreign aid to national security.


16th Century Painting Heads to Los Angeles After 250 Years in Britain

A 16th century painting that’s been in private hands for more than four centuries and in Britain for nearly 250 years has been acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.


“Virgin With Child, St. John the Baptist, and Mary Magdalene” will be the Getty’s first work by Parmigianino, who painted and made prints in Italy during the late Renaissance.


The sale was contingent on whether a British buyer stepped forward to make a competitive offer, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.


An export license allowing the Parmigianino to leave Britain was deferred in February to allow British institutions a chance to bid for the work, but the deferral expired June 9.


The National Gallery of London, which has shown the painting, considered a purchase but ultimately decided against it.


Art News reported that the painting dating from around 1530 to 1540 was sold via Sotheby’s by the Dent-Brocklehurst family of Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire. The publication put the value at more than $31 million.


In an interview last year with the Times, Getty Museum Director Timothy Potts called the Parmigianino “one of the few late Renaissance paintings still in private hands. It’s in fantastic condition, which is so rare for this period.”


The museum said it hopes to put the piece on view with other 16th century Italian works but provided no specific timeline.


Britain, France Announce Joint Campaign Against Online Radicalization

British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron are joining forces in order to crack down on tech companies, ensuring they step up their efforts to combat terrorism online.

Britain and France face similar challenges in fighting homegrown Islamist extremism and share similar scars from deadly attacks that rocked London, Manchester, Paris and Nice.

May traveled to Paris on Tuesday to hold talks on counterterrorism measures and Britain’s departure from the European Union.

She said major internet companies had failed to live up to prior commitments to do more to prevent extremists from finding a “safe space” online. Macron urged other European countries, especially Germany, to join the effort to fight Islamist extremist propaganda on the Web.

The campaign includes exploring the possibility of legal penalties against tech companies if they fail to take the necessary action to remove unacceptable content, May said.

After the Islamic State group recruited hundreds of French fighters largely through online propaganda, France introduced legislation ordering French providers to block certain content, but it acknowledges that any such effort must reach well beyond its borders. Tech-savvy Macron has lobbied for tougher European rules, but details of his plans remain unclear.

Britain already has tough measures, including a law known informally as the Snooper’s Charter, which gives authorities the powers to look at the internet browsing records of everyone in the country.

Among other things, the law requires telecommunications companies to keep records of all users’ Web activity for a year, creating databases of personal information that the firms worry could be vulnerable to leaks and hackers.


Drones Carrying Defibrillators Could Aid Heart Emergencies

It sounds futuristic: drones carrying heart defibrillators swooping in to help bystanders revive people stricken by cardiac arrest.

Researchers tested the idea and found drones arrived at the scene of 18 cardiac arrests within about five minutes of launch. That was almost 17 minutes faster on average than ambulances — a big deal for a condition where minutes mean life or death.

Drone-delivered devices weren’t used on patients in the preliminary study, but the results are “pretty remarkable” and proof that the idea is worth exploring, said Dr. Clyde Yancy, a former American Heart Association president who was not involved in the study.

Cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death worldwide, killing more than 6 million people each year. Most incidents happen at home or in other nonmedical settings, and most patients don’t survive.

“Ninety percent of people who collapse outside a hospital don’t make it. This is a crisis and it’s time we do something different to address it,” said Yancy, cardiology chief at Northwestern University’s medical school in Chicago.

The researchers reached the same conclusion after analyzing cardiac arrest data in Sweden, focusing on towns near Stockholm that don’t have enough emergency medical resources to serve summer vacationers. The analysis found an emergency response time of almost 30 minutes and a survival rate of zero, said lead author Andreas Claesson, a researcher at the Center for Resuscitation Science at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

To see whether care could be improved, Claesson’s team turned to drones.

Drones are increasingly being tested or used in a variety of settings, including to deliver retail goods to consumers in remote areas, search for lost hikers and help police monitor traffic or crowds. Using them to speed medical care seemed like a logical next step, Claesson said.

The study was done last October and was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Not heart attacks

More than 350,000 Americans suffered cardiac arrest in a nonmedical setting last year, the American Heart Association says. The condition is often confused with heart attacks, but they’re different.

Heart attacks occur when a clot or other blockage stops blood flow to the heart. Cardiac arrest occurs when electrical impulses controlling the heart’s rhythmic pumping action suddenly malfunction. The heartbeat becomes very irregular or stops, preventing blood from reaching vital organs. Death can occur within minutes without treatment to restore a normal heartbeat, ideally CPR and use of a defibrillator.

The researchers used a small heart defibrillator weighing less than two pounds, featuring an electronic voice that gives instructions on how to use the device. It was attached to a small drone equipped with four small propeller-like rotors, a Global Positioning System device and camera.

They launched the drone from a fire station within about six miles (10 kilometers) of homes where people had previous cardiac arrests.

In the study’s video footage simulating a rescue, a drone soars over residential rooftops and then lands gently in a backyard. A man dashes out of the house, grabs the defibrillator and carries it inside.

There were no crashes or other mishaps during the study, Claesson said. He plans a follow-up study to test drone-delivered defibrillators for bystanders to use in real-life cardiac arrests.

The test results show “a great potential for saving lives,” he said.


Bhutan, Maldives Have Eliminated Measles, WHO Says

Bhutan and the Maldives have eliminated measles, becoming the first countries in their region to eliminate the highly infectious disease that is a major child killer globally, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

The milestone was reached after no measles cases originating in the Maldives had been recorded since 2009 and none in Bhutan since 2012, the WHO said.

Both countries launched immunization programs about 40 years ago, with mass vaccination of people at high risk.

“The strongest political commitment, alongside concerted efforts of health workers, officials and partners at all levels, has helped achieve this landmark success,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of WHO Southeast Asia, said in a statement.

The WHO has set a 2020 deadline for the elimination of measles in the 11 countries it categorizes as the Southeast Asia region.

The region has averted an estimated 620,000 measles deaths in 2016 after carrying out vaccinations in the 11 countries, the WHO said.

Nearly 107 million children were reached with an additional dose of measles vaccine in the region between 2013 and 2016, according to the WHO.

Globally, measles remains a leading cause of death among young children in the developing world. The viral disease is spread through coughing and sneezing and can lead to pneumonia, brain inflammation or death.

Last year, the Americas became the first region in the world to be free of measles, but last month an outbreak was reported in the U.S. state of Minnesota.

Gaps in vaccination coverage against measles also have led to several outbreaks of the disease in Europe in the past year, with both children and young adults affected, according to health officials.

The U.N. children’s agency said in April that cases of measles had surged in famine-threatened Somalia.


R2-D2, Lightsaber: Force Strong in Star Wars Auction

Die-hard Star Wars fans will need to rely on more than the force if they want to bid on an R2-D2 droid that appeared in several of the franchise’s movies.

A couple million dollars might also help.

Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, Darth Vader’s helmet and shoulder armor, as well as imperial and rebel weapons are on the block, but the centerpiece is no doubt the squat blue, white and silver droid famous for communicating in a series of electronic beeps and squeaks.

Representing “the pinnacle of the Star Wars collecting universe,” it could fetch up to $2 million in the June 26-28 auction, according to Calabasas, California-based auction house Profiles in History. The bidding is being handled by Boston-based online auction marketplace Invaluable.

Nothing like a complete R2 unit has ever been sold at auction before, said Stephanie Connell, a London-based movie memorabilia consultant not involved in the sale.

“This is not just a normal movie prop,” she said. “This is instantly recognizable, the creme de la creme of movie props.”

Connell wracked her mind, but said she could not recall any single piece of Star Wars memorabilia ever selling for anywhere close to $2 million.

The 43-inch tall R2 unit for sale is sort of a Frankenstein’s monster of droids, pieced together over several years from different original components used in the first five Star Wars movies. There is no other known complete original R2 unit in the public domain, according to the auction house.

For the sequels after the original “Star Wars: A New Hope” in 1977, production designers took the aluminum, steel and fiberglass R2 units, retired old and worn out parts and added new features to save time and meet production deadlines.

Fans outbid for the droid may want to take a shot at landing the lightsaber. Carried by actor Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in the first two Star Wars movies, it is expected to sell for anywhere from $150,000 to $250,000.

Unfortunately, the prop does not emit a blade of blue light.

The 10.5 -inch lightsaber comes directly from the archive of Gary Kurtz, producer of “Star Wars: A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” and is accompanied with a letter of authenticity signed by Kurtz.

Not a Star Wars fan? Props from some of Hollywood’s most famous movies are also for sale, including the illuminated disco dancing floor from “Saturday Night Fever,” which is expected to get as much as $1.5 million; and the clothes worn by Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson in “Titanic.”

In terms of movie memorabilia, Star Wars rates as one of the most popular with collectors, right up there with “The Wizard of Oz,” “Casablanca” and the Harry Potter films, Connell said.

For that reason, a collector of fine artwork or classic cars could end up buying the R2-D2.

“This is something you could put right next to a Picasso.” She said.


Trump Clings to Coal as Worldwide Demand Plummets

Market demand for the dirtiest of fossil fuels is plummeting worldwide, according to industry data published Tuesday, even as President Donald Trump has made reviving the long-struggling U.S. coal mines the bedrock of his administration’s energy policy.

The BP Statistical Review of World Energy shows global coal production fell by more than 6 percent last year. That’s the largest decline in the history of BP’s survey, which the British energy company has issued annually for more than six decades.

It is the second straight year that coal demand has declined. Production at U.S. coal mines fell by 19 percent. China’s coal production fell by nearly 8 percent.

On the whole, coal’s share of global energy consumption fell to 28 percent, the lowest since 2004.

The numbers reflect the trend of nations shunning coal in favor of cheaper, cleaner ways of producing electricity — chiefly natural gas, wind and solar.

Trump announced earlier this month he will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. The agreement signed by 195 nations in 2015 aims to decrease global carbon emissions in an effort to head off the worst predicted effects of global warming, including worsening storms, catastrophic droughts and city-drowning sea level rise.

As Trump doubles down on coal, the rest of the world appears headed in the opposite direction.

Renewable energy made big gains, growing 14 percent in 2016. More than half that growth came for new wind turbines. China, where the government in investing hundreds of billions in green energy programs, overtook the United States as the world’s largest producer of renewable energy.

With coal’s demise, growth in planet-warming carbon emissions has flattened even as global demand for energy continues to rise. CO2 emissions from energy consumption increased by only 0.1% in 2016. Since 2014, the average emissions growth has been the lowest over any three-year period since the early 1980s.


Experts: Fake News, Propaganda, Disinformation Has Always Existed

Fake news, propaganda and disinformation has always existed. What sets today apart from years gone by is its rapid dissemination and global reach, experts say. 

Concerns raised by the instant propagation of fake news in the digital age and the harmful impact it has on the credibility and independence of journalism, democratic values and human rights were examined by a panel of experts Tuesday at a side event of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“It is interesting how the perception of the term fake news has evolved and been manipulated because it described fabricated, inflammatory content, which very often is distributed through social media,” said Thomas Hajnoczi, Austrian Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.

He said this posed dangers because “in our digital age, every individual has access to the internet where fake stories can be read by millions around the globe, and for many it is always hard to know what is true and what is incorrect.”

Eileen Donahoe, executive director of the Center for International Governance Innovation at Stanford University and former U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Council, called digital technology a force for good.

She said it has played “a very positive role in facilitating the free flow of information, access to information, blossoming of freedom of expression globally.

“It has also made possible the democratization of the means of distributing media and information.  And, it just generally has been a positive force for the human rights movement.”

However, Donahoe warned that there were many forces working in the opposite direction and there was no guarantee that digital technology “would be a net force for good.”

She singled out emerging dangers from the so-called weaponization of information in the post-Brexit, post-U.S. presidential election world.

“It can be a very potent force in undermining democratic discourse and disrupting democratic processes, and that fake news … itself destroys the quality of discourse in democracy and undermines the relationship between citizens and their government,” Donahoe said.

Speaking from personal experience, Rasha Abdulla, associate professor in the Journalism and Mass Communication department at the American University of Cairo, agreed.

She said that in the past few weeks, her government has been blocking websites, particularly news websites.

“Right now, we are estimating that between 53 and 57 websites, mostly news websites, independent websites, have been blocked.

“So, if you block sources to proper independent journalism, you are only left with fake news. I mean, where else are you going to get the news,” Abdulla said.

Social media groups such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have come under increasing criticism for producing and swiftly disseminating fake news on their sites.

Peter Cunliffe-Jones, chairman of the International Fact-Checking Network, an umbrella organization for independent nonpartisan fact-checking organizations, noted that tech companies have been coming under a lot of pressure — particularly in the U.S. election — to put the brakes on fake news.

“We have been seeing since then, Google, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms starting to work on strategy to tackle, themselves, the fake news problem at their level,” he said.

For example, he said that Facebook has agreed in several countries to work with independent nonpartisan fact-checking organizations to examine disputed claims of fake news signaled by Facebook users.

“We are living in what I think of as an age of information hysteria,” said David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. “The easiest way to deal with information we do not like is to censor it, to shut it down, to block a website.”

He called censorship a lazy way to deal with information we do not like.

“I think there is a growing dissatisfaction with freedom of expression and it is simply reflected by states. I am not saying that fake news, or whatever we want to call it — disinformation or propaganda — is not a problem,” said Kaye. “But what I am saying is that we should not be moving toward solutions … that are all about prohibition and censorship.”


Prom Still Iconic Rite of Passage for Teens in US

Tony Sabia walks into a barbershop in Vienna, Virginia, for a haircut and shave. About 30 minutes later, he is on his way home for a shower. With his suit already pressed, it takes him only a few minutes to get dressed for the big dance.

For Kailey Margolies, it takes hours. “I had to get my dress, I had to get my shoes, I had to get a bracelet,” said the James Madison High School junior. “I had to put on all my makeup, I had to get my hair ready, and my friend, Allison, actually did it three times, ’cause we couldn’t decide how we wanted to do it.”

It’s a spring ritual common in the United States. The boys don tuxedos or suits, and the girls wear elegant dresses, shedding any appearance of adolescence, if just for one night.

A decades-old tradition, high school prom has been a defining feature in the teenage experience — a celebration for seniors and juniors weeks before graduation.

Lynn Sabia, Tony’s mother, remembers her prom night vividly. Her eyes light up as she describes the puffy-sleeved dress with the bare back that she wore. However, there are some fashion choices she would rather forget, like the big curly hair and side ponytail she sported to the dance.

Now, 27 years later, it’s her son’s turn. By hand, she presses out the wrinkles from his shirt and straightens his tie. Prom, she says, now has a different feel.

“It’s nostalgic. It’s a bittersweet thing because I’m so happy for him. I know he’s going to have a great time. And it’s prom, you’re a senior, you’re graduating, you’re going to go away,” she said.

For 18-year-old Tony Sabia, it’s about having fun his second “go round” at the dance. “Last year I went without a date and this time I do have a date,” he said. “While that doesn’t make the entire night, it definitely does change a lot of things.” This year, he adds, he plans to have no regrets.

He bought his girlfriend a red and white corsage to match her red dress. The corsage, a small floral arrangement fitted to the wrist, is an iconic staple boys present to their dates for prom. In return, the girls gift them a boutonniere, a simple flower pinned to the lapel of their jacket.

While traditionally seen as a couple’s event, more high schoolers are choosing to go alone or with a group of friends — such as Kailey Margolies, who says the real stress is for the seniors.

“This really is their last hurrah,” said Margolies. “They’re going to graduate in about a week, so I think there’s a lot of pressure for it to be like the night of all nights for high school.”

Adding to the pressure, moms and dads encircle the teens, demanding various poses for the many, many photos.

Lynn Sabia, 45, wanted lots of photos to show her husband, an Air Force fighter pilot who was finishing out a tour of duty in Iraq at the time of the dance.  

Tony Sabia drove his father’s BMW to the prom. Other students used party buses, limousines and luxury cars.

When they arrive, the room is energized by a sea of familiar faces, moving to beats reverberating through the speakers.

“It really gets even the most introverted person going,” said Tony Sabia.

Dancing continues for hours, with teens pausing only for selfies and water breaks.

“It’s all about making memories that you can kind of look back on and say, ‘Yeah, I was happy,”‘ Sabia said.


Uber CEO Takes Leave of Absence Amid Controversies

Uber’s embattled CEO Travis Kalanick announced Tuesday that he is taking a leave of absence from the company for an unspecified amount of time.

He made the announcement to employees over email saying he needed to mourn the loss of his mother, who died in a boating accident last month. He also said he need to learn to become a better leader.

Kalanick’s announcement came as former U.S. attorney general under former President Barack Obama released a list of recommendations for the company. One of those included removing Kalanick from certain responsibilities and giving them to a chief operating officer.

Eric Holder, whose firm, Covington & Burling LLP, as well as a second firm, Perkins Cole, conducted separate looks into Uber’s corporate culture after charges of sexual harassment made by a former employee, Susan Fowler. She claims her charges were not taken seriously.

Holder’s firm also said Uber should hold senior managers more accountable and should improve diversity.

Uber reportedly did make changes after Fowler’s allegations, including starting a 24-hour employee hotline and firing 20 after Perkins Cole investigated complaints about sexual harassment, bullying and other workplace problems.

Other recommendations included limiting alcohol at work parties and forbidding intimate relationships between employees and bosses.

Uber was controversial from the start as it turned the taxi market in hundred of cities upside down. At its peak, it was valued at more than $70 billion.


Apple Issues $1B Green Bond After Trump’s Paris Climate Exit

Apple Inc. offered a $1 billion bond dedicated to financing clean energy and environmental projects on Tuesday, the first corporate green bond offered since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement.

The offering comes over a year after Apple issued its first green bond of $1.5 billion — the largest issued by a U.S. corporation — as a response to the 2015 Paris agreement.

Apple said its second green bond is meant to show that businesses are still committed to the goals of the 194-nation accord.

“Leadership from the business community is essential to address the threat of climate change and protect our shared planet,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook was one of several CEOs who directly appealed to Trump to keep the United States in the pact before he made his decision.

The tech giant said proceeds from the green bond sales will be used to finance renewable energy, energy efficiency at Apple facilities and in its supply chain and procuring safer materials for its products.

The offering also includes a specific focus on helping Apple meet a goal of greening its supply chain and using only renewable resources or recycled material, reducing its need to mine rare earth materials.

Last year, Apple allocated $442 million to 16 different projects from renewable energy to recycling from its first bond offer.

One of the projects it funded was a robotic system called Liam to take apart junked iPhones and recover valuable materials that can be recycled, such as silver and tungsten — an attempt to address criticism that Apple’s products, while sleek and

seamless in design, are so tightly constructed that their components can be difficult to take apart.

Although green bonds comprise a small fraction of the overall bond market, demand has grown significantly as investors seek lower-carbon investments.

In 2016, $81 billion of green bonds were issued, double the number from 2015, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative, an organization that promotes the use of green bonds.

Governments are also embracing the use of green bonds as a way to meet a 2015 pledge by world leaders to limit global warming this century to below 2 degrees Celsius.








GM Says It Has Made 130 Self-driving Bolts

General Motors says it has built 130 self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric cars at a factory in suburban Detroit.

The cars are equipped with GM’s second-generation self-driving software and equipment. They will join 50 self-driving Bolts that are already being tested in San Francisco; Scottsdale, Arizona; and the Detroit area.

CEO Mary Barra says GM is the first automaker to assemble self-driving vehicles in a mass-production facility. GM has been building self-driving Bolts at its Orion Assembly Plant since January.

Barra says GM eventually plans to place the self-driving Bolts in ride-hailing fleets in major U.S. cities, but she gave no target date. She says the new vehicles will help GM accelerate its testing in urban environments.


Trump Administration Looks to Curb CFPB Powers, Change Bank Rules

The Trump administration is proposing to curb the authority of the consumer finance watchdog created following the economic crisis as it drives toward easing restrictions on banks and financial institutions.

The Treasury Department issued Monday the first part of a review that was ordered by President Donald Trump in one of his earliest acts as president.

The report reviewing the Dodd-Frank financial oversight law also urges changes to rules for banks that were put in place under the 2010 law. The law aimed to restrain banks – which received hundreds of millions in taxpayer bailouts – from the kind of misconduct that many blamed for the crisis.

The law was enacted by President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress to tighten regulation after the 2008-09 financial crisis that sparked the Great Recession that cost millions of Americans their jobs and homes.

Trump, however, has called Dodd-Frank a “disaster” that has crimped lending, hiring and the overall economy. He promised to do “a big number” on it.

“Properly structuring regulation of the U.S. financial system is critical to achieve the administration’s goal of sustained economic growth, and to create opportunities for all Americans to benefit from a stronger economy,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement Monday.

The report outlines what it calls core principles of financial regulation – including overhauling the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and having more “efficient” bank rules.

The CFPB oversees the practices of companies that provide financial products and services, from credit cards and payday loans to mortgages and debt collection. It has been a prime target of Republican lawmakers, who accuse it of regulatory overreach.

The new report urges Congress to remove the agency’s authority to supervise banks and financial companies, returning that power to other federal and state regulators, respectively. And it proposes enabling the president to remove the CFPB director at will without citing a cause for firing. That’s the subject of a battle now in federal court.

The CFPB’s structure and broad regulatory powers have led to “abuses and excesses,” and hindered consumer choice and access to credit, the report says.

The Treasury report comes a few days after the Republican-led House approved sweeping legislation to undo much of Dodd-Frank, repealing about 40 of its provisions. That was passed on a largely party-line vote of 233-186, but is unlikely to clear the Senate in its current form.

The administration’s report is narrower in scope and ambition than the House-passed legislation. It could provide a blueprint for regulators to rewrite the Dodd-Frank rules, as Trump continues to fill out his team of top financial overseers.

Mnuchin said in separate congressional testimony Monday that he expects to be able to work with the regulators on 70 to 80 percent of the proposed changes. But Congress would need to pass legislation to actually revamp the law – for example, to change the CFPB’s authority.

Among the banking rules, the new report focuses closely on the so-called Volcker Rule, established by Dodd-Frank to generally bar banks from trading for their own profit instead of for customers. The idea behind the rule was to prevent high-risk trading bets that could imperil federally insured deposits.

The report proposes exempting from the rule banks with less than $10 billion in assets and those that have over $10 billion with few trading assets. The House legislation would repeal it altogether.

So-called living wills, the plans that big banks must submit to regulators detailing how they would reshape themselves in the event of failure, should be required every two years instead of the current annual mandate, the report says.

Aaron Klein, a Treasury Department official in the Obama administration, said the proposed changes were unlikely to achieve the economic growth Trump is seeking.

“The financial regulatory system isn’t what is stopping 3 percent economic growth,” said Klein, now a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “If you’re looking in the wrong place, you’re not likely to find the answer.” Better for the administration to find ways to promote investment in the U.S., he suggested.

Klein said the changes proposed for the CFPB would inject more politics into financial regulation. He did see some positive ideas, however, such as increased coordination among financial regulators.

Bank industry groups, which had consulted with Mnuchin and other Treasury officials as they prepared the report, expressed approval of it Monday.

Looking outside Dodd-Frank, the report calls for a task force to reconsider the Community Reinvestment Act, a 1977 law designed to monitor banks’ practices in low-income and minority communities, such as new branch openings. Regulators can fine or sanction banks under the law when they find patterns of discrimination.

The law is widely promoted by Democratic lawmakers and community and civil rights groups.


Durant Leads Warriors to NBA Championship

The Golden State Warriors won their second National Basketball Association championship in three years Monday night with a 129-120 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Warriors forward Kevin Durant scored 39 points in Game 5 of the best-of-7 series on his way to being named NBA Finals most valuable player.

The championship is the first for Durant, a 10-year veteran who spent the first nine years of his career in Oklahoma City before signing with the Warriors before this season.

Golden State’s Stephen Curry scored 34 points and 10 assists Monday, while Andre Iguodala added 20 points.

Cleveland’s LeBron James, last year’s Finals MVP, had 41 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists in the loss.


Augmented Reality for Children’s Coloring Books

Augmented reality is slowly entering everyday life, and Swiss researchers say it can be used to study children’s behavior. A new app for tablet computers helps them study whether playing computer games can lead to something called augmented creativity. VOA’s George Putic reports.


Relationships Between Hollywood and China Film Industry Deepen

In recent years, China has become an increasingly attractive market for Hollywood producers, despite tight state controls. Chinese investors also have been looking at opportunities in the U.S. film and entertainment industry. While some people express concern over these growing ties, others say they are mutually beneficial. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.