Erdogan Watched Guards Beat Protesters

U.S. officials and lawmakers may have been outraged when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s bodyguards attacked and beat peaceful protesters in Washington as their leader watched. Back in Turkey, however, that hard-line approach is welcomed by many of the president’s nationalist supporters.

The clash Tuesday began when Erdogan’s motorcade pulled up in front of the Turkish ambassador’s residence, returning from a visit to the White House and a meeting with President Donald Trump. 

Erdogan, emerging from his limousine, stood and watched as his guards and supporters began punching and kicking their way through a group of mostly Kurdish protesters across the street. Eleven people were injured.

Two senators protest

Two U.S. senators protested to Erdogan Thursday about his guards’ behavior.

“The violent response of your security detail to peaceful protesters is wholly unacceptable,” Senators Dianne Feinstein and John McCain said in a letter to Erdogan. They added that the incident was “unfortunately reflective of your government’s treatment of the press, ethnic minority groups and political opponents.”

While some Turks also decried the use of force to quash a peaceful protest, calling it a blemish on the country’s international reputation and a violation of free speech, those who support Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule felt it was justified.

Protesters ‘deserved to be beaten’

“Those terrorists deserved to be beaten,” Atakan, a taxi driver from the city of Erzurum, told a VOA reporter. “They should not be protesting our president. They got what they asked for.”

Yusuf Kanli, a newspaper columnist and political analyst, said no matter how bad it may have looked, the scene played right into Erdogan’s image.

Watch: Anti-Erdogan Protesters Say They Were Attacked by President’s Bodyguards

“I believe Erdogan makes use of this type of brawl for internal politics, to solidify his electorate and to get more nationalists to move to his party,” Kanli said. “If you are an anti-Erdogan citizen in Turkey, you think like the civilized world and do not approve of beating people who think different from you. But if you are a pro-Erdogan citizen, you applaud when people who don’t think like you do get beaten up.”

Erdogan has bolstered his power base, particularly since a coup attempt last year. He has cracked down hard on dissent, jailing journalists and the leaders and other legislators of the PKK, a Kurdish party that was the second-largest opposition group in Parliament, on allegations of terrorism.

Growing political divide

The result has been a growing political divide in the country, as shown by results of a referendum last month in which voters narrowly approved even more sweeping powers for Erdogan.

“People who support Erdogan approve a show of force,” Orkan, an engineer from Istanbul, told VOA. “So at the end, the sharp polarization within the country deepens more.”

A similar clash between Erdogan’s men and protesters broke out a year ago when he visited Washington for a nuclear conference.

“Turkish people who support Erdogan’s AK Party see this sort of incident as legitimate,” said Ilhan Tanir, a freelance Turkish journalist and analyst. “Pro-government newspapers and columnists are proof of that. They say they had to teach the PKK terrorists a necessary lesson.

“Erdogan’s bodyguards remind me of Moammar Gadhafi’s bodyguards,” Tanir said. “They liked to get into fights, too. But with Erdogan’s guards, violence has almost become a habit.”


Greek Parliament Approves More Economic Austerity

The Greek Parliament approved another round of tough economic cuts and austerity measures Thursday to assure itself another installment payment of European bailout funds.

Greece may have again faced bankruptcy in July without the payment.

More cuts for pensioners

All 153 lawmakers in Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftist coalition voted for the cuts; all 128 opposition members voted no.

More than 10,000 Greeks weary of the nation’s economic problems, including elderly pensioners facing more cuts, marched outside Parliament against the measures.

Several dozen young marchers wearing masks broke away from the crowd to throw gasoline bombs at police, who responded with tear gas.

Greece desperately needs about $8 billion of bailout money from its eurozone lenders in order to make a scheduled debt payment.

Tax hikes part of deal

In exchange, the government agreed to EU demands for more austerity measures, including tax hikes and programs aimed at easing poverty.

With Thursday’s vote, Greek officials hope they can renegotiate payment terms on the nation’s massive debt payment — nearly 180 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product. The International Monetary Fund calls this number unsustainable.

Greece has been relying on international bailouts since 2010, when the outgoing conservative government badly underreported the country’s debt.


Mnuchin: Cut Taxes, Regulations to Boost Growth to 3 Percent

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the nation’s economic growth can rise to 3 percent annually if taxes and regulations are cut.

The Treasury secretary spoke Thursday to a Senate committee in his first congressional testimony since he was confirmed in the new job. Mnuchin’s boss, Donald Trump, says tax and regulatory reform will boost the economy, and he made the promise of such changes a key part of his campaign for president.

Recently, annual economic growth has been at 2 percent or lower, and most economists say that is due to a large number of retirements by aging workers and meager productivity growth.

Trump’s efforts to change taxes have been moving slowly in Congress, where they face strong opposition from Democrats, and skepticism from some of his Republican allies who worry that cutting taxes will make government debt problems worse.


Trump Administration Begins NAFTA Renegotiation Process

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration says it has notified Congress it intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

In a letter sent Thursday to congressional leaders, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the administration plans 90 days of consultations with lawmakers over how to rewrite the agreement followed by negotiations with Canada and Mexico that could begin after August 16.

Renegotiation of NAFTA was a key promise of Trump’s during his presidential campaign, when he frequently called the treaty a “disaster.”

Lighthizer told reporters NAFTA has helped strengthen the U.S. agriculture, investment services and energy sectors, but it has hurt U.S. factories and resulted in well-paying manufacturing jobs being sent to Mexico.

Lighthizer said in the letter that NAFTA needs to be updated to more effectively address matters involving digital trade, intellectual property rights and labor and environmental standards.

At a news conference Thursday at the State Department with Mexican officials and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other U.S. officials, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said Mexico “welcomes” the renegotiation of NAFTA.

“We understand that this is a 25-year-old agreement when it was negotiated,” Videgaray said. “The world has changed. We’ve learned a lot and we can make it better.”

Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement, “Since the signing of NAFTA, we have seen our manufacturing industry decimated, factories shuttered, and countless workers left jobless.  President Trump is going to change that.”

VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report


At Hong Kong Trade Fair, Funerals Go Green, High Tech

Death is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be bad for the environment. 

 

Caskets made of paper and wicker coffins on display at a recent Hong Kong funeral industry trade highlighted a trend toward “green burials” in an industry booming as Asia’s population rapidly ages.

 

Chinese businessman Alex Sun’s company, Shandong Ecoffin International, makes wicker and seagrass coffins, which first became popular in the West and are now catching on in Asia. Basket-weaving dates to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) in northeast China’s Shandong province, where Sun’s factory uses fast-growing willow reeds to make caskets that are an eco-friendly alternative to wood. 

 

“Eco funerals are a global trend,” Sun said. “European customers already know about this product, while Asian customers are also interested in it and would love to learn more,” he said. Interest is especially high in the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam as well as mainland China, he said. 

Mood is light at funeral expo

The mood was bright, not funereal, as coffin makers, morticians, funeral home operators and entrepreneurs converged on Hong Kong this week for the Asia Funeral and Cemetery Expo & Conference, a trade fair held every other year.

 

Participants were pitching caskets for pets, Italian hearses, German cremators with high-tech filters and Japanese mobile embalming units. From China, Truthkobo Jewelry offered pendants made with ashes from deceased relatives or pets while Shenyang Roundfin was looking for international distributors for its autopsy tables, morgue fridges and body bags. 

 

Aging populations

The death industry is a lucrative market: Asia’s aging population is projected to hit 923 million by midcentury, according to the Asian Development Bank, putting the region on track to become the oldest in the world. 

 

The region’s funeral services market has been growing steadily and is now worth about $62.6 billion a year, with China accounting for nearly half of that, according to data from market research firm Euromonitor. 

 

“This is a very promising industry in China,” said Gloria Chuang, marketing director at Yu Fu Xiang Memorial Group, a Chinese funeral services company. 

 

But she said the industry in China needs to expand and modernize. Most funeral home operators are family-run outfits selling one-size-fits all services. They’re not transparent about prices and other information for services and products like coffins and urns, she said. 

 

That’s partly because, as in many places, talk of death is taboo. 

 

“Our culture dictates that Chinese people are very sensitive to talk about matters of death. Therefore this industry has become a very closed one,” she said. 

Elaborate funerals

 

Under Mao Zedong, who ruled China until his death in 1976, elaborate funerals, like many other customs, were officially condemned as feudal superstition fell out of favor, though they persisted in many rural areas. Such rituals have seen a revival in recent years as the economy boomed, as the newly rich use lavish funeral rites to show off their social status and the accumulation of wealth. 

 

In 2013, the government banned Communist Party members from holding extravagant funerals for family members, seeking to curb waste, corruption and pomp. 

At the expo

On the Hong Kong show floor, the Luen Hing Coffin Co.’s paper casket looked deceptively like a traditional one. It costs more because of a specialized manufacturing process for its honeycomb paper construction, but burns twice as fast as wood in a crematorium, saving funeral operators time and money, said General Manager Carol Chan. 

 

On display at Yu Fu Xiang’s booth were custom-designed cremation urns adorned with faces of the deceased and an ornate “elite longevity costume” resembling robes worn by Chinese emperors. Chuang said attitudes are changing and demand is growing for more personalized service as the children of the older generation become wealthier and more tech savvy.

Cultural sensitivities regarding death are starting to ease, making it more acceptable to talk about preparing for the afterlife, she said at one of the fair’s seminars. 

 

Other speakers said that despite lingering resistance, there’s growing interest in online memorials that let family members upload pictures to the cloud and pay respects using their smartphones. 

Investors interested

 

The prospect of a lucrative investment opportunity even drew investors from outside the industry to the fair. 

 

Piyanuch Wattanasiritananwong and a friend came from Thailand, where they run a property business, after hearing about the show from a contact. 

 

“We want to know what opportunities there are in this industry because everybody dies,” she said. 

 

She pondered the possibility of starting a coffin business based on recycling — an elaborate outer shell is removed and re-used while the plain inner box is cremated with the body. 

 

“I don’t want people to spend a lot of money but still have a nice farewell,” she said.


‘Ladies and Gentlemen, This is Your Co-Pilot (and King)’

Some Dutch passengers on KLM flights might have recognized the co-pilot’s voice when he introduced himself on the airline’s Cityhopper services.

 

It was not just their co-pilot telling them weather conditions and estimated time of arrival. It was their king.

Regular guest pilot 

King Willem-Alexander told national newspaper De Telegraaf in an interview published Wednesday that he has ended his role as a regular guest pilot after 21 years on KLM’s fleet of Fokker 70 planes and before that on Dutch carrier Martinair. He will now retrain to fly Boeing 737s as the Fokkers are being phased out of service.

 

While it is no secret that Willem-Alexander is a qualified pilot who sometimes flew KLM passenger flights, it was not clear how frequently it happened. De Telegraaf said he does it twice a month. As a guest flier, the king is always co-pilot.

Flying relaxing

The 50-year-old father of three and monarch to 17 million Dutch citizens calls flying a hobby that lets him leave his royal duties on the ground and fully focus on something else.

 

“You have an aircraft, passengers and crew. You have responsibility for them,” the king told De Telegraaf. “You can’t take your problems from the ground into the skies. You can completely disengage and concentrate on something else. That, for me, is the most relaxing part of flying.”

 

Willem-Alexander said he is rarely recognized by passengers, especially since security was tightened on board planes in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

 

“Before Sept. 11, the cockpit door was open. People regularly came to have a look and thought it was nice or surprising that I was sitting there,” he said, adding that very few people recognize him as he walks through Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in KLM uniform and cap.

 

And even when he makes announcements to passengers, Willem-Alexander says that as a co-pilot he doesn’t have to give his name. So while some people recognize his voice, it is far from all passengers.

 

“But most people don’t listen anyway,” he added.


Anti-Erdogan Protesters Say They Were Attacked by President’s Bodyguards

The United States has expressed concern about Tuesday night’s violence outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington. At least two people were arrested and 11 people were injured in the altercations involving protesters and Turkish security personnel. The incident took place while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with President Donald Trump at the White House. Zlatica Hoke reports.


Canada to Expand Sanctions Law to Honor Magnitsky

Canada’s government decided Wednesday to create legislation to expand the country’s international sanctions law to target gross human rights violators, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told Parliament. 

 

A Parliament committee agreed last month to support amending Canada’s sanctions rules to include rights violators, acting in honor of the Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after accusing officials of a $230 million tax fraud. Russia’s presidential council on human rights said the 37-year-old Magnitsky, who was an auditor for Hermitage Capital firm, was beaten and denied medical treatment while in jail.

 

The government’s decision is bound to further strain relations with Russia, which has reacted strongly to the imposition of Magnitsky-style legislation elsewhere. 

 

After U.S. President Barrack Obama signed such legislation into law in 2012, Russia responded by banning American citizens from adopting Russian children. As of May, there were 44 Russian officials on the U.S. Magnitsky Act sanctions list, including five Russian officials involved in alleged human rights violations in the Magnitsky case. 

 

Ottawa and Moscow have their own differences, which include a Russian travel ban on Freeland. 


МОЗ пропонує обмежити вміст трансжирів у харчових продуктах

У Міністерстві охорони здоров’я пропонують обмежити вміст трансжирних кислот у харчових продуктах.

«Майже повна заборона використання трансжирів у харчових продуктах як захід, спрямований знизити споживання, – це не український винахід. Аналогічні обмеження ввели Австрія, Угорщина, Ісландія, Норвегія, Швейцарія та Латвія», – сказала заступник міністра охорони здоров’я Оксана Сивак, яку цитує прес-служба міністерства.

МОЗ оприлюднило для громадського обговорення законопроект такого змісту.

У міністерстві очікують, що ухвалення цих змін знизить споживання трансжирів людьми усіх вікових груп, і ці обмеження сприятимуть покращенню поживної цінності харчових продуктів, зокрема, за рахунок збільшення частки здоровіших жирів (наприклад, мононенасичених або поліненасичених жирів).

Крім того, у МОЗ сподіваються, що ухвалення законопроекту дозволить значно знизити смертність внаслідок серцево-судинних захворювань, що може бути частково пов’язано із зменшенням споживання трансжирів із харчовими продуктами.

За даними МОЗ, споживання трансжирних кислот підвищує ризик розвитку низки порушень здоров’я, передусім – серцево-судинні захворювання і деякі форми раку. Трансжири найчастіше зустрічаються у технологічно оброблених харчових продуктах, що містять гідрогенізовані рослинні олії.

Найчастіше трансжири містяться у кондитерських виробах, випічці, снеках, напівфабрикатах, продуктах глибокої заморозки, маргарині. У МОЗ радять уникати технологічно оброблених продуктів, які містять гідрогенізований рослинний жир, кулінарний та кондитерський жир, маргарин.

Федеральна адміністрація США з харчової продукції та лікарських засобів у 2015 році офіційно повідомила про те, що гідрогенізовані рослинні жири не можуть надалі вважатись безпечними для здоров’я, та надала харчовій промисловості час до 2018 року, щоб повністю замінити такі жири у складі харчових продуктів.


US Stocks, Dollar and Bonds Falter Amid Political Worries

U.S. stocks, the dollar, and government bonds were down in Wednesday’s trading amid investor worries about controversial actions and comments from President Donald Trump. The major U.S. stock indexes fell 1.8 percent or more, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 372 points.

The faltering markets follow Trump’s firing of the FBI chief, his reported sharing of secrets with top Russian officials, and allegations that the president may have tried to block an investigation into actions by a top aide who was fired.

Following Trump’s election, the dollar rose and stocks climbed to a series of record highs as investors bet that Trump’s promises to cut taxes and regulations would boost economic growth and corporate profits.

Investors may be having second thoughts, though, after legislative efforts to repeal and replace a health care law stalled, and the tax cut agenda is tangled in political bickering.

Even Trump’s Republican allies say calls for congressional and other investigations of the administration’s actions are a distraction for lawmakers trying to move his agenda forward against determined opposition from Democrats.