Thursday

N. Korea to Reconsider Summit if US Continues 'Evil Acts'


North Korea is saying it will reconsider a summit with President Donald Trump if the U.S. continues with what it calls “evil acts.”


Pyongyang was reacting to comments by Vice President Mike Pence who appeared on Fox News Monday to warn Kim Jong Un he would be making a “great mistake” to play around with the United States before the talks.


Pence also said North Korea could wind up like Libya if Kim does not make a deal.


Libya has been been in political and social turmoil since it gave up its nuclear ambitions and its longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was killed.


North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hiu made no attempt to soften her government’s offense, calling Pence’s words “unbridled and impudent.”


“As a person involved in U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing from the mouth of a U.S. vice president,” the state run news agency reported Thursday.


Choe also hinted that the North does not need a summit with Trump.





FILE - A combination photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump, left, in Washignton, May 17, 2018, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Panmunjom, South Korea, April 27, 2018.

FILE – A combination photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump, left, in Washignton, May 17, 2018, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Panmunjom, South Korea, April 27, 2018.

“We will neither beg the U.S. for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us.”


Trump said Wednesday the U.S. will know by next week whether he will meet with Kim on June 12 in Singapore as scheduled.


“It could very well be June 12th,” Trump Wednesday. “If we go, it’ll be a great thing for North Korea.”


Trump had earlier said if the June 12 date does not work out, the summit could be held later.


Verifiable denuclearization


North Korea previously hinted it may call off the summit because of U.S. demands it unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons.


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday he is “very hopeful” there will be talks, but said whether they happen is “ultimately up to Chairman Kim.”


Pompeo, who has already met with Kim twice, told the lawmakers the U.S. position has not changed and there will be no easing of sanctions on North Korea “until we see credible steps taken toward the complete, verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”


He said the U.S. will not hesitate to walk away from the talks if a bad deal is on the table.


‘Now is the time’


But visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters at the State Department that Beijing believes the summit should take place as scheduled.


“If you want to solve the problem, now is the time. If you want peace, now is the time. If you want to make history, now is the time,” Wang said.


Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday approved travel to Singapore by a North Korean delegation for the summit.


Sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program and missile tests include a travel ban on a large number of senior North Korean officials.


In GOP Immigration Battle, Factions Split Over Citizenship



Divisions over whether to provide a conduit to citizenship for young “Dreamer” immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally loomed as the pivotal sticking point Wednesday as House Republicans searched for a solution to their campaign-season standoff over an issue that has split them for years.


GOP leaders, moderates and conservatives bargained anew, with some saying the talks were productive. But there was no evidence an agreement was at hand, while there were signals the party’s long-standing chasm over whether to help immigrants here illegally become citizens remained unresolved.


Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., a leader of moderates trying to force leaders to hold votes on the issue, told reporters that of all his immigration priorities, permanent status for Dreamers was “most important” and “essential.” But Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., leader of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, said that “no special pathway to citizenship” would be acceptable to conservatives.





FILE - Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-S.C., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Divisions over whether to provide a conduit to citizenship for young “Dreamer” immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally loom as the pivotal sticking point.

FILE – Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-S.C., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Divisions over whether to provide a conduit to citizenship for young “Dreamer” immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally loom as the pivotal sticking point.

“Why would we give blanket waivers to people who came here illegally?” Meadows said to reporters.


Middle ground


Curbelo and Meadows both said it was possible to find middle ground between their positions. But compromise has eluded party leaders for years, and it remained unclear how they would resolve the impasse by next month, when House leaders have promised showdown immigration votes.


Leaders set a pivotal closed-door meeting on immigration among House Republicans for June 7, days after lawmakers return from a weeklong recess. Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., said he and other moderates would see if that session could produce an accord among Republicans before pressing ahead on a petition drive that could force votes on the issue.


“If they come to a good agreement, great. If they don’t we’re going forward,” he said.


Bills backed by moderates would give hundreds of thousands of Dreamers a way to become permanent U.S. residents, a status that can later lead to citizenship. Dreamers were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and have been temporarily protected by an Obama-era program that President Donald Trump has terminated, though courts have kept alive for now.


Conservatives want legislation that would let those immigrants stay in the U.S. in renewable but temporary increments. They have opposed creating a new way for them to move toward citizenship and would instead limit them to existing pathways, such as marrying a U.S. citizen.





Ivon Meneses of Las Vegas wrote "We need a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers" on her arm as she and other supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program attended an action in support of DACA recipients, March 5, 2018, on Capitol Hill.

Ivon Meneses of Las Vegas wrote “We need a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers” on her arm as she and other supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program attended an action in support of DACA recipients, March 5, 2018, on Capitol Hill.

Moderates push for votes


Curbelo and other moderates gained their 21st Republican signature Wednesday on a petition that would force a series of votes on immigration bills that House leaders are trying to avoid. With all 193 Democrats expected to sign, the moderates need just four more Republican names to reach 218, a House majority, and moderate leaders say they have enough commitments to reach 25.


The moderates want votes on four bills, including measures by conservatives and liberals.


Under that process, the measure likeliest to prevail would let Dreamers stay in the U.S. permanently and bolster border security, but not finance the border wall with Mexico that Trump wants. Since that bill would be backed by virtually all Democrats but just a smattering of Republicans, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has tried to derail the drive.


Instead, GOP leaders plan for the House to vote on immigration the third week in June, a week before the votes moderates want could be held. Republicans say the only measure leaders have committed to consider is a conservative package that would reduce legal immigration, help Trump build his wall and punish “sanctuary cities” that hinder federal authorities pursuing immigrants here illegally.


Under House rules, if the chamber votes on that measure first, it would force the moderates to begin their petition drive all over again, Republicans say.


That would be a blow to moderates because many face difficult re-election races in pro-immigration districts and want to show voters progress before November’s elections.


Ukraine Denies Paying Trump Lawyer for White House Meeting



Ukraine is bitterly denying a BBC report that it paid Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, $400,000 to set up a meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.


Poroshenko’s office called the story a “blatant lie, slander and fake.” Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko told VOA he was “very sorry” to hear that even “the most notable Western media outlets don’t abide by the principle of balanced reporting and don’t attempt to get the other side of the story.”


According to the BBC, Poroshenko desired to meet with Trump in 2017.


He wanted to open a so-called back channel to Trump because Ukrainian lobbyists in Washington could arrange only a brief photo opportunity and handshake. Poroshenko wanted much more, something that could be portrayed as full talks with the U.S. president.


The BBC said two Poroshenko intermediaries paid Cohen at least $400,000 and as much as $600,000 to set up the meeting.


There is no indication Trump knew about the payment.


There has been no comment from the White House on the BBC report. Cohen and the two Ukrainian intermediaries have denied it.


Cohen is being investigated for alleged money laundering and campaign finance violations tied to hush money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an affair she claims to have had with Trump in 2006.


VOA’s Ukraine service contributed to this report.


WorkFusion adds $50 million from strategic investors as it bulks up for acquisitions

WorkFusion, a business process automation software developer, has raised $50 million in a new, strategic round of funding as it prepares to start adding new verticals to its product suite.

The company’s new cash came from the large insurance company, Guardian; health care services provider New York-Presbyterian, and the commercial bank, PNC Bank. Venture investor Alpha Intelligence Capital, which specializes in backing artificial intelligence-enabled companies also participated in the new financing.

Certainly WorkFusion seems to have come a long way since its days hiring crowdsourced workers to train algorithms how to automate the workflows that used to be done manually. The company has raised a lot of money — roughly $121 million, according to Crunchbase — which is some kind of validation, and in its core markets of financial services and insurance it’s attracted some real fans.

“Guardian uses data to better understand and serve customers, and WorkFusion will bring new data-driven intelligence capabilities into the company,” said Dean Del Vecchio, Executive Vice President, Chief Information Officer & Head of Enterprise Shared Services at Guardian, in a statement. “We look to invest in and deploy RPA and AI technology that can help us leap forward in operations and improve outcomes– WorkFusion has that potential.”

According to chief executive, Alex Lyashok, the company now intends to begin looking at acquisition opportunities that can “compliment our technology,” he said. “WorkFusion today is focused on banking, financial services and insurance. This problem [of automation] is not endemic to those industries.”

Particularly of interest to the New York-based company are those industries that missed out on the first wave of automation and digitization. “Industries that have already invested in digitization are being very aggressive, but companies that have bene very manual and then have not developed a technology program internally,” also represent a big opportunity, Lyashok said.

Happy Snails Produce More Slime for Thai Farmers



In Thailand, the Giant African Snail, once condemned as a slimy pest that ruins crops, is now being bred for the same reason some people found them so unappealing in the first place — their slime. Experts say the slime produced by these giant snails is full of collagen and other ingredients that can regenerate skin cells for use in the cosmetics industry. VOA Correspondent Mariama Diallo reports.


Macron defends the European way of tech regulation

French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech at VivaTech in Paris, alternating between French and English. He defended a third way to regulate tech companies, which is different from the U.S. and from China.

Macron thinks Europe should have a say when it comes to regulation — and it shouldn’t be just about privacy. Of course, he defended GDPR and online privacy, but he also talked about taxes, cyberbullying, the protection of independent workers and more.

What is at stake is how we build a European model reconciling innovation and common good Emmanuel Macron

Yesterday, Macron hosted 50 tech CEOs to talk about leveraging tech for the common good, especially when it comes to education, labor and diversity. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talked about the event before Macron took the stage.

Macron first started with a few numbers on the French tech ecosystem. “I want to talk to the entire French ecosystem here today. What we’re all doing is essential for our country and the world,” he said.

Based on his numbers, startups raised $2.9 billion in France last year (€2.5 billion). That’s three times as much as in 2015. He then listed some of the recent changes, from corporate taxes to France’s open data policy and the French Tech Visa.

He didn’t have much to say about the tech industry in particular. You could feel that he has a lot on his plate right now and that tech is more or less an afterthought.

“France is changing like crazy. And that’s why we can say that France is back,” he said in English to conclude the first part of his speech.

“My second message is for Africa because you decided to invite Africa to VivaTech this year,” he said.

Macron then announced that France is going to invest some public money in the most promising African startups. “For the past six months, the French Development Agency has worked hard on this,” he said. “And the French Development Agency is going to announce in the coming weeks a new specific program of €65 million [$76 million] in order to invest small amounts, €30,000 to €50,000 per startup.”

Michel Euler / AFP / Getty Images

A message to big tech companies

Finally, Macron talked about the Tech for Good Summit and tech regulation in general. “We’re currently experiencing a revolution. I truly believe in that revolution and our country believes in it too,” he said. “But you can’t deny that some people in our country and in the world fear change.”

“Tech companies haven’t always been exemplary. Some haven’t complied with taxation laws and it has fostered mistrust — even from French entrepreneurs.”

Macron then defended France’s project to create a European tax on big tech companies. If the French Government can convince other European Governments, big tech companies would be taxed on local revenue in each European country. It could be a way to avoid tax optimization schemes. Smaller European countries with a lower corporate tax rate don’t seem convinced yet.

“I’m a big tech optimist and this country does believe in innovation,” he said. “But it’s not enough — making money, creating jobs and making shareholders happy is great. Especially creating jobs as far as I’m concerned.”

Macron also criticized U.S. regulation on tech companies, saying that the U.S. Government is not doing enough when it comes to online harassment, taxes, labor and more.

He then criticized the Chinese model, saying that the Chinese Government is not doing enough when it comes to privacy, human rights and gender equality.

“What is at stake is how we build a European model reconciling innovation and common good,” he said. “We have to work together to build this common framework.”

After yesterday’s commitments, the French Government is going to track tech companies every six months to see if they actually implement what they promised when it comes to tech for good.

He also finished by saying that the Tech for Good Summit should become an annual initiative. Tech CEOs will be invited once again to the Élysée next year ahead of VivaTech.