Mar 21, 2018

Chairman Expresses Enthusiasm About Military Dimension in Afghanistan

Chairman Expresses Enthusiasm About Military Dimension in Afghanistan
By Jim Garamone

The hard work of Afghan and coalition personnel in the train, advise, assist strategy is already paying off, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is encouraged by the progress.

Published March 21, 2018 at 10:39AM

Fed Raises Interest Rates Slightly, May Push Them Higher Later This Year

Top officials of the U.S. central bank raised the key interest rate slightly Wednesday, amid strong job gains and moderate economic growth.  The rate is one-quarter of a percentage point higher, putting it in a range between 1.5 and 1.75 percent.  Federal Reserve officials said that is still "accommodative," meaning it is still fairly low, compared to the average rate during the past few decades. Fed officials said they will probably raise interest rates a few more times this year if the economy continues along its current path. The Federal Reserve tries to manage the economy to maximize employment and keep prices stable.  The bank slashed interest rates nearly to zero during the financial crisis in 2008 to stimulate economic growth. However, economists say keeping rates too low for too long could push inflation up fast enough to damage the economy.  While inflation is below the 2 percent rate the Fed thinks is best for the economy, the bank said inflation seems likely to rise a bit.  
by [email protected] (Jim Randle) via Economy - Voice of America

Hostens Launches the Most Affordable VPN Service

Vilnius, Lithuania – With a focus on individuals as well as small businesses, Lithuanian-based web hosting company Hostens has introduced a VPN service. Hostens VPN service is safe, fast, and reliable. Furthermore, it is available in three continents: Europe, North America, and Asia. As a significant ...

Senior DoD Official Discusses Future of Directed Energy Weapons

Senior DoD Official Discusses Future of Directed Energy Weapons
By Marine Corps Sgt. David Staten

As stated in the National Defense Strategy, the United States needs to invest and accelerate the modernization of key capabilities to build a more lethal force.

Published March 21, 2018 at 08:31AM

African Continental Free Trade Facing Slow Road, Many Challenges

Handshakes, smiles and jubilation accompanied the long-awaited launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area on Wednesday in Rwanda's capital, Kigali.  The trade bloc has been in negotiation since 2012, when the African Union first decided on a continent-wide plan. It aims to create a single market for goods and services, allow free movement of business and investments, and establish a Customs Union to regulate tariffs. As part of a related action plan, the African Union aims to double intra-African trade by 2022.  "Africa is one continent that does not trade with itself like the rest of the world," said Erastus Mwencha, former deputy chairperson of the African Union Commission and former secretary general of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). "And, because of that, the huge demographic dividend of the continent is not of any advantage to the continent because Africa has not taken advantage of its market size, which is 1.3 billion people plus a GDP of over 2.3 trillion [U.S. dollars]."  But the Kigali launch — while significant — is largely symbolic, as many challenges remain before the trade deal can be implemented.  Gerrishon Ikiara, associate director of the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies at the University of Nairobi, notes that Africa faces many political, social and economic barriers to integration.  "There is also often a bit of conflict between the French-speaking Africa, the English-speaking Africa, the Maghreb Arab part of Africa in North Africa. Then you have a few dominant economies like South Africa, Nigeria and small ones like Rwanda," Ikiara said. African trade is dominated by the export of raw materials to Asia and the West, and import of finished goods. One of the reasons is because national markets operate like silos, says Mwencha. "If you look at some of the economies in Africa with a population of half a million people, a population of three million people, a population of five million people — with very little purchasing power. You cannot be able to really advance economically. And so, you require a bigger market," he said. Intra-African obstacles The African Union says reducing barriers to trade within the continent will boost manufacturing and value-added products and services.  Chairperson of the African Union — and president of Rwanda — Paul Kagame noted in his keynote address at the summit Tuesday that less than 20 percent of Africa's trade is internal, compared to three times that in other trade blocs like the European Union.  Part of the problem is that incentives for trade are skewed toward off-continent partners.  Mwencha says intra-African tariffs average 12 percent, while Africa charges the rest of the world about 8 percent. "So, that is a misnomer that … charity begins at home," Mwencha said. "I mean, we're not giving each other advantage. And, because of that, the cost of doing business on the continent, whether it is trade facilitation, is also very high. So this is, to me, a significant movement." But just days before the launch, Nigeria — Africa's largest economy — announced President Muhammadu Buhari would not attend.  A government statement said key stakeholders, a reference to the business community and trade unions, had not been consulted about their concerns on the treaty. Some economists warn that without Nigeria's participation, the African CFTA will be severely handicapped. However, national consultations are understandable, says Mwencha.  "That is OK," he said. "But one hopes that this doesn't drag, because Nigeria perhaps may take a position that it is a large country, with almost 170 million people, that they can do without [the] continent. That would be an unfortunate position." Next step For the 44 countries who signed on to the deal this week, the next step will be getting their national parliaments to ratify the free trade deal, which could take years. The 10 other countries in the AU would also have to sign on for the deal to be continent-wide. Regional integration could be a bigger challenge for Africa than it was Europe. But while the EU took more than half a century to establish itself with 28 members, economists such as Ikiara expect it will take years — not decades — for Africa. "Right now, also we're having improvements in terms of infrastructure," Ikiara said. "Ports which are connected with each other, railways and roads which are interconnecting in more African countries. And I think that connectivity, I see it as being a major push. Because, once the … interconnectivity is improved, the private sector becomes even more effective." Despite the challenges ahead, the trade bloc's launch Wednesday is another step by African nations toward closer integration. 
by [email protected] (Daniel Schearf) via Economy - Voice of America

Mnuchin: US Will Take New Look at TPP After Other Trade Priorities

The United States will consider re-entry to the Trans-Pacific Partnership once Washington accomplishes its goals on other trading relationships, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday while on an official visit to Chile. Trans-Pacific Partnership is aimed at cutting trade barriers in some of the fastest-growing economies of the Asia-Pacific region. The original 12-member deal was thrown into limbo early last year when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from it, citing concerns about protecting U.S. jobs. "Our focus at the moment is, obviously, we're working on renegotiation of NAFTA, we're very focused on our trading relationship with China, which is way too much in one direction. Our markets are open to them, their markets are not open to us, on the same basis," Mnuchin said at a news conference. He was in Chile following a two-day meeting of officials from the world's 20 biggest economies in neighboring Argentina on Monday and Tuesday. "But as we accomplish our goals on these other trading relationships, this [TPP] is definitely something that we will consider and Chile will be a big partner of ours in that at the right time," Mnuchin said. Chile Finance Minister Felipe Larrain said the South American nation would welcome U.S. participation in the partnership. "We would very much like to have the United States back in the TPP," he said. Venezuelan sanctions Addressing U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, Mnuchin said they are directed not at the population but at individuals who are taking resources from the Venezuelan people. Trump on Monday signed an executive order barring any U.S.-based financial transactions involving Venezuela's new petro cryptocurrency, as U.S. officials warned that it was a "scam" by President Nicolas Maduro's government to further undermine democracy in the OPEC country. Mnuchin said the upcoming presidential election in Venezuela on May 20 would not likely change that strategy. "Under President Trump, the Treasury has been very aggressive in using its sanction powers," Mnuchin said. Mnuchin said it was important that other countries and the European Union join in sanctioning Venezuela. "We're having discussions with the EU about them putting sanctions, and matching our sanctions, so that they come along and that we have a united front," Mnuchin said. Critics accuse Maduro of turning Venezuela into a dictatorship. His government says the sanctions break international law.
by [email protected] (Reuters) via Economy - Voice of America

US Central Bank Expected to Raise Interest Rates Slightly

Top officials of the U.S. central bank are expected to raise the key interest rate slightly Wednesday at the end of two days of private meetings and debate. Economists surveyed by news organizations say the rate will probably go up one quarter of a percentage point, to a range between 1.5 and 1.75 percent.That is still fairly low compared to the average rate during the past few decades. The Federal Reserve tries to manage the economy to maximize employment and keep prices stable. The Fed slashed interest rates nearly to zero during the financial crisis to simulate economic growth.But economists say keeping rates too low for too long could over stimulate the economy and push inflation up fast enough to damage the economy. With the economy recovering from the economic crisis, unemployment at its lowest point in years, and inflation low, but rising, the Fed governors are nearly certain to raise the key interest rate Wednesday.Investors and economists are watching closely for word on how soon and how high future rate hikes will come. They will get some insight late Wednesday when the Fed publishes updated economic assessments of growth, employment, and inflation. The new chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, will also meet with journalists to explain the Fed's actions.This is Powell's first such news conference.
by [email protected] (Jim Randle) via Economy - Voice of America

Chairman Expresses Enthusiasm About Military Dimension in Afghanistan

Chairman Expresses Enthusiasm About Military Dimension in Afghanistan By Jim Garamone The hard work of Afghan and coalition personnel in ...