Ivanka Trump, Education Secretary DeVos Promote STEM Careers

Ivanka Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday exhorted young girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, saying those fields will provide the jobs and innovation for the future.

Their tour of the National Air and Space Museum with a group of middle school students came as the Trump administration proposed further cuts to education and science, drawing harsh criticism from teachers’ unions and others.

Ivanka Trump, a successful entrepreneur who considers herself as a women’s rights activist, lamented that women make up 48 percent of America’s work force but only 24 percent of STEM professionals.

“This statistic is showing that we are sadly moving in the wrong direction. Women are increasingly underrepresented in important fields of science, technology, engineering and math,” Trump said. “But I dare you to beat these statistics and advance the role of women in STEM fields.”

She said she and her 5-year-old daughter Arabella plan to take a coding class together this summer because “coding truly is the language of the future.”

Astronaut Kay Hire and female researchers at NASA also spoke to the students and DeVos urged the children to follow in their footsteps by studying, working hard and mentoring younger peers.

“You can do your part to improve the lives of women in the future,” DeVos said.

As she praised the role of women in the American space program, Ivanka Trump also said her father’s administration has expanded NASA’s space exploration to add Mars as a top objective. But as she spoke, the Trump administration sent Congress a series of “options” for budget cuts, including slashing $3 billion from Education Department, as well as cuts to NASA and the National Institutes of Health.

The American Federation of Teachers accused the administration of hypocrisy.

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump are feigning an interest in STEM careers with a photo op at the National Air and Space Museum while eliminating all funding for NASA’s education programs. This takes chutzpah to a new level,” AFT president Randi Weingarten said in a statement. “The next generation of astronauts, scientists, engineers and mathematicians need support, not budget cuts eliminating the very programs being promoted.”

Trump Rolls Back Obama-era Environmental Rules

President Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order Tuesday that would effectively dismantle Obama-era environmental regulations, rekindling the highly charged partisan debate about how human activity affects the earth’s climate, and deepening concern that decades of work on global climate treaties may be unraveling.

“We will put our miners back to work” and produce “really clean coal,” Trump said during the signing ceremony.

“Many agree that would be disastrous,” Dutch Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen told VOA in a telephone interview. “Whatever has been achieved could be destroyed, so I don’t think many scientists would be pleased with this,” said Crutzen, who won the 1995 Nobel Prize for work explaining the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump believes he can balance twin goals of protecting the environment while promoting energy production in the U.S.

“The president strongly believes that protecting the environment and promoting our economy are not mutually exclusive goals,” Spicer said during his daily White House media briefing. “This executive order will help to ensure that we have clean air and clean water without sacrificing economic growth and job creation.”

Trump’s order will seek to suspend, rescind or identify for review more than a half-dozen rules, in an attempt to increase domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels. It directs federal agencies to identify rules the administration says impede domestic energy production, as a first step in a 6-month process to create a blueprint for the administration’s future energy policy. Included in the review will be the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.

The rollback also scraps many of former President Barack Obama’s environmental initiatives and removes the requirement that federal officials weigh the impact of climate change when making decisions.

Trump has repeatedly signaled disdain for his predecessor’s climate policy. On the campaign trail, he called Obama’s Clean Power Plan “stupid,” largely because it put in place what he called “job-killing” regulations. The executive orders he signed Tuesday direct the Environmental Protection Agency to thoroughly revise regulations outlined in the Clean Power Plan.  

Trump’s 2018 budget proposal slashes EPA funding by 31 percent, including an almost total cut of climate research funds. Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told a White House briefing, “We’re not spending money on that anymore.”

International effect

Less clear is the president’s commitment to international agreements such as the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, signed by Obama. Trump has an aversion to treaties that cede U.S. authority to global bodies, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, speaking Sunday on ABC’s This Week, called the Paris treaty a “bad deal.”

A hot issue

Leaked details of the executive orders ignited a firestorm among climate scientists.

Tim Barnett, emeritus research geophysicist at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in California, says even he, a Trump supporter, would find it “unconscionable” to roll back regulations contained in the Clean Power Plan.

“Global warming is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue,” he said. “If you look at what’s going on the Arctic, the Antarctic, by continuing to put carbon dioxide in the atmosphere we’re making the oceans more acidic. It is thought that by 2040, half the planktonic creatures will be under stress.”

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune called Trump’s order “the single biggest attack on climate action in U.S. history, period.” Brune said the action ignores the growing clean energy economy that serves as the best way to protect both workers and the environment.

In Washington, views on climate change generally split along party lines. With Republicans controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, the views of climate skeptics, largely marginalized during the Obama years, are finding fresh voice.

The House Science Committee has scheduled hearings this week to look into the methods of climate scientists, as Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, pushes forward a bill to require the EPA to make public the data it uses to justify environmental regulations. The hearing will feature three prominent academics who question the scientific consensus, alongside Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University and author of the “hockey stick” graph that suggests a steep rise in the earth’s temperature since fossil fuels came into wide use.

Speaking to VOA, Mann said the rising profile of climate change doubters in Washington is part of a well-funded campaign by big energy industry interests, mainly Charles and David Koch, who are major contributors to conservative political and policy groups.

“Trump’s administration has been filled with individuals who have close ties to polluting interests, ExxonMobil obviously, but the Koch brothers, the largest privately owned fossil fuel interests in the country,” Mann said.  “… and their agenda has long been to gut all government regulations so they can increase their own profits from the sale of fossil fuels.”

Climate skeptics agree money has corrupted the scientific debate, but they differ on its effect. The dissenters argue that fierce competition for the billions of dollars in government research grants has forced academics to exaggerate the danger of climate chance.

Richard Lindzen, professor emeritus of meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, represents the small minority of scientists who find fault with the overwhelming consensus on climate change. He argues universities have given in to the temptation to exaggerate climate change as they have become increasingly dependent on billions of dollars in government research funding, effectively making bureaucrats the real judges of science.

“We went way backward in studying climate and replaced it with this single variable, [CO2] and increased funding by 1500 percent and created a whole new community that had never studied climate but was willing to attribute everything to it,” he said.

‘Electric Sands’ Cover Titan

To build a sandcastle here on Earth, the sand needs to be wet so it can stick together. Not so on Saturn’s strange and largest moon Titan, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology say the moon’s non-silicate sand is “electrically charged” and “resistant to motion.” Researchers liken the charge to the static electricity generated when you rub a balloon on your hair.

“If you grabbed piles of grains and built a sand castle on Titan, it would perhaps stay together for weeks due to their electrostatic properties,” said Josef Dufek, the Georgia Tech professor who co-led the study. “Any spacecraft that lands in regions of granular material on Titan is going to have a tough time staying clean. Think of putting a cat in a box of packing peanuts.”

The electrical charge, according to researchers, can last for days or months.

The charge is likely generated by the winds on Titan, which blow at around 30 kilometers per hour. As the sand moves, it begins to hop and collide, becoming charged.

Researchers say the electrification of Titan’s sands could explain why dunes on the moon, some of which are more than 90 meters tall, form in the opposite direction of the prevailing winds.

“These electrostatic forces increase frictional thresholds,” said Josh Mendez Harper, a Georgia Tech geophysics and electrical engineering doctoral student who is the paper’s lead author. “This makes the grains so sticky and cohesive that only heavy winds can move them. The prevailing winds aren’t strong enough to shape the dunes.”

To reach their conclusions, researchers built a model to replicate conditions on Titan. For the model, they put grains of “naphthalene and biphenyl — two toxic, carbon and hydrogen bearing compounds believed to exist on Titan’s surface — into a small cylinder.”

The cylinder was then rotated in a nitrogen environment similar to Titan. Then, they measured the electric characteristics of the grains.

“All of the particles charged well, and about two to five percent didn’t come out of the tumbler,” said Mendez Harper. “They clung to the inside and stuck together. When we did the same experiment with sand and volcanic ash using Earth-like conditions, all of it came out. Nothing stuck.”

Sand on Earth also can pick up an electric charge, but the grains are much smaller and dissipate rapidly.

“These non-silicate, granular materials can hold their electrostatic charges for days, weeks or months at a time under low-gravity conditions,” said George McDonald, a graduate student in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences who also co-authored the paper.

The study was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Twitter to Let Advertisers Buy Video Ads on Periscope

Twitter Inc, trying to boost its sagging advertising revenue, will allow brands to buy commercials on its video streams for Periscope, signaling a major push to make money off the live-streaming platform, the company announced on Tuesday morning.

With sponsors growing more wary of exactly what kind of online videos their ads are being placed against, Twitter is allowing a select group of advertisers to purchase pre-roll videos, meaning those that run prior to the publishers’ content, on Periscope streams.

Twitter acquired Periscope in 2015.

Google’s YouTube, long the dominant force for online video ad dollars, has seen an exodus from brands upset to find their ads running alongside anti-Semitic and other videos that shocked customers. Companies that left included Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc and Johnson & Johnson.

YouTube’s selling process automatically places ads next to videos that meet the criteria for the audience advertisers want to reach, but the Alphabet unit has had difficulty policing the vast array of videos that are uploaded.

Twitter is only offering up a select group of publishers for brands to buy ads against, which will let advertisers know exactly where their ads are showing up. “This is the solution to that problem,” Matthew Derella, Twitter’s vice president of global revenue and operations, told Reuters. “We believe the advertiser should have control.”

The video ads will only be seen when viewed within Twitter’s platform. Twitter allowed for Periscope streams to be integrated within Twitter last year. The advertisers will be able to purchase ads on Periscope videos through Twitter’s Amplify program.

Until now, Twitter has monetized Periscope by relying on brands to purchase Promoted Tweets, which are placed in user feeds, even for those who do not follow the company on Twitter. The goal is to draw more attention whenever the company is live-streaming something on Periscope.

Twitter is looking to turn around its sagging fortunes. Its stock has slumped 8 percent so far this year as investors have worried about slowed user and advertising revenue growth, along with mounting competition from Facebook Inc’s Instagram, and Snap Inc’s Snapchat.

In the fourth quarter of 2016, Twitter posted the slowest revenue growth since it went public four years earlier, and revenue from advertising fell from a year earlier. The company warned that advertising revenue growth would continue to lag user growth during 2017. The company is also considering a paid subscription offering.


Leonardo Masterpiece Unveiled After Facelift

Leonardo da Vinci is, simply put, one of the greatest artists of all time. The world still marvels at his genius and some of his most famous works, such as the Mona Lisa. One of his uncompleted works, Adoration of the Magi, had fallen on hard times, but thanks to more than five years of restoration, the painting is back on display. VOA’S Kevin Enochs reports.

From Syria to Detroit, We Are All Migrants, Sings Bluesman Bibb

“Migration Blues”, a new album from veteran bluesman Eric Bibb, uses the sounds of the American South to tell the tale of everyone from 1920s farmers fleeing the Dust Bowl for California to refugees crossing the Mediterranean to Europe in the 2010s.

Along the way are Mexicans seeking a future in the United States, families moving from land the government has just seized for corporate expansion, and a Cajun jig reminding listeners of the expulsion of French Canadians south down the Mississippi.

“We are all linked by one migration or another. We are all connected to migrants,” Bibb told Reuters ahead of the album’s release on March 31.

“The hysterical reaction against migrants is really hard to understand. Have we really forgotten our history?”

The album’s most contemporary subject is to be found in “Prayin’ For Shore”, a blues about the plight of millions of Syrians and others who have fled civil wars in the Middle East on sometimes fatal journeys to Europe across the Mediterranean.

“In an old leaky boat, somewhere on the sea/trying to get away from the war/Welcome or not, got to land soon/Oh lord, prayin’ for shore,” run the lyrics.

The song, Bibb writes in an accompanying booklet, is about remembering the drowned.

But the fleeing migrants of today are nothing new.

For Bibb, an African American, another key moment in history was “The Great Migration” of millions of southern blacks away from America’s segregated South.

By some estimates, more than 6 million left the rural areas for industrial places like Detroit, New York and Chicago between 1910 and 1970.

“(They were) not just looking for jobs but fleeing racial terror,” Bibb said.

Such a point is made in his mellifluous rendition of “Delta Getaway” about a man fleeing a lynch mob to Chicago.

“Saw a man hanging from a cypress tree/I seen the ones who done it/now they coming after me”.

The album is being released as anti-immigrant politics is on the rise across much of the world, including the United States where U.S. President Donald Trump wants to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep out immigrants.

Bibb said it was all laid down and finished before Trump’s election, but that he was nonetheless “astounded by the synchronicity of it”.

Most of the songs on the album are Bibb’s, although he offers covers of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”, originally an angry riposte from the dispossessed, and Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War”, about the merchants of destruction.

Bibb said that apart from “Prayin’ For Shore”, his favorite composition on “Migration Blues” is “Brotherly Love”.

He said it reflected his personal belief.

It offers more hope for the future, one in which people can live in peace.


На аукціоні у Чопі скульптуру Леніна продали за понад 250 тисяч гривень – міськрада

На Закарпатті у Чопі скульптуру Володимира Леніна на аукціоні продали за понад 250 тисяч гривень.

Як повідомляє прес-служба Чопської міськради, скульптуру передали у право користування, а бюджет міста Чоп поповнився на 253 931 гривню.

У міськраді зазначають, що 17 березня вперше в Україні провели аукціон, на якому продали скульптуру Леніна, у торгах взяв участь один учасник, який купив об’єкт за початковою вартістю.

За даними Українського інституту національної пам’яті, в Україні протягом 2016 року в рамках виконання закону про декомунізацію знесли 1 тисячу 320 пам’ятників Леніну. 

21 травня 2015 року в Україні вступили у дію декомунізаційні закони.