Nineteen Hours of Ramadan Sunlight for Muslims in Alaska

Muslims in the U.S. state of Alaska face nearly 20 hours of daylight during the fasting month of Ramadan. VOA Hausa reporter Yusuf Harande went to Alaska to see how some Muslims are adjusting to the long days.

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Muslim Americans Run for Charity During Ramadan Fast

During the month of Ramada, millions of U.S. Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. This year, Ramadan has fallen in May. Already temperatures in Washington, D.C., have risen above 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit.) Running while fasting on hot days can be challenging and ill-advised. Still about 70 fasting Muslims took part in a fundraising run to help raise $100,000 for children with special needs. VOA’s Niala Mohammad has more.

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National Spelling Bee Crowns 8 Co-Champions

Eight contestants won the Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday night, the first eight-way tie in the 94-year history of the competition.

The six boys and two girls ages 12 to 14 and from six states, Alabama, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

“We’re throwing the dictionary at you, and, so far, you are showing the dictionary who’s the boss,” the bee’s pronouncer, Jacques Bailly, told the remaining eight after 18 rounds of competition.

They were: Rishik Gandhasri (auslaut), Erin Howard (erysipelas), Abhijay Kodali (palama), Shruthika Padhy (aiguillette), Rohan Raja (odylic), Christopher Serrao (cernuous), Sohum Sukhatankar (pendeloque), and Saketh Sundar (bougainvillea).

The self-dubbed “octo-champs” spelled words that included aiguillette, bougainvillea, erysipelas, and pendeloque.

Each winner will receive $50,000 in cash and a trophy.

This year’s tournament at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland began with 562 contestants from across the United States, its territories and six other countries.

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Chinese Scientists Find CO2 Better for Fracking than Water

Chinese scientists have discovered that carbon dioxide is more efficient to use in fracking than water.

Fracking is the controversial process in which water or other fluids are injected into underground rocks at high pressure to release oil and natural gas deposits. 

U.S. environmentalists have denounced the process because of the huge amounts of water needed, the contamination of underground water supplies, and small earthquakes it triggers.

In a new report in the journal Joule, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and China University of Petroleum discovered that using CO2 instead of water resulted in as much as 20 times more oil.

​”These real-world results revealed that as compared to water fracturing, CO2 fracturing is an important and greener alternative,” especially in arid areas where the water has to be trucked in, the report says.

Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. 

The scientists say the CO2 used in fracking would stay underground and not be released into the atmosphere.

The scientists say further research is needed as well as the winning over of cooperation from the industry.

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CDC: US Reports Most Measles Cases in 25 Years

Government health officials say there have been 971 cases of measles in the United States so far this year, the most cases since 1994, when there were 963 cases for the entire year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday if current outbreaks in and around New York City continue into the fall, the United States could lose its status as a country that has eliminated measles.

“That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health,” a CDC statement said.

Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and the CDC says one of the primary reasons is the availability and widespread use of a safe and effective vaccine.

Fighting anti-vaccine propaganda

The CDC, World Health Organization, and other experts are fighting propaganda from parents and anti-vaccine activists who refuse to inoculate their children, insisting the vaccine is dangerous.

“Again, I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism. The greater danger is the disease that vaccination prevents,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said. “Measles is preventable and the way to end this outbreak is to ensure that all children and adults who can get vaccinated do get vaccinated.”

Before vaccine, 4 million cases

Before 1963, when the measles vaccine was considered perfected, the CDC says as many as 4 million Americans got the disease every year and up to 500 victims died.

The measles virus is highly contagious and is spread primarily by coughing and sneezing.

Along with the refusal of some people to vaccinate their children, the CDC says the current nationwide outbreak is linked to travelers who are suspected of bringing back the virus from countries with their own large outbreaks, including Israel, the Philippines and Ukraine.

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Energy Secretary: US Aims to Make Fossil Fuels Cleaner 

The Trump administration is committed to making fossil fuels cleaner rather than imposing “draconian” regulations on coal and oil, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Thursday at an energy conference in Salt Lake City.

Perry previously said the administration wants to spend $500 million next year on fossil fuel research and development as demand plummets for coal and surges for natural gas. 

 

“Instead of punishing fuels that produce emissions through regulation, we’re seeking to reduce those emissions by innovation,” Perry said at the conference.

Fossil fuel emissions have been cited by scientists as a major source of global warming. 

 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently said the world must change how it fuels factories, vehicles and homes to limit future global warming.

Perry said the Trump administration has proven it can make energy cleaner, but he provided no details involving coal and other fossil fuels, other than the closing of old, inefficient coal-burning power plants and exporting increasing volumes of natural gas, an alternative to coal.  

Department of Energy spokesman Dirk Vande Beek didn’t immediately return an email and voicemail seeking more details about Perry’s claim.

Perry pointed to an overall drop in emissions as proof of progress.

Greenhouse gas emissions dropped 13 percent from 2005 to 2017, according to the most recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lindsay Beebe of the Sierra Club in Utah said trying to make fossil fuels cleaner is misspent energy.

“I don’t know that it’s possible right now, but what is ready right now are renewables. Wind, solar and geothermal are commercially viable and at scale,” Beebe said.

The summit Thursday was briefly interrupted when 15 protesters took the stage to criticize the administration’s fixation on fossil fuels. 

 

They said the misguided approach ignores climate change. Police then escorted them out.

After they left, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who sponsored the event, said he and other leaders appreciated the “youthful enthusiasm” but their call to immediately discard fossil fuels and shift entirely to renewable energy isn’t realistic.

They would like us to quit by Friday and not take anything out of the ground,'' Herbert said.That obviously doesn’t work from a practical standpoint.”

Americans burned a record amount of energy in 2018, with a 10% jump in consumption from booming natural gas helping lead the way, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

Fossil fuels in all accounted for 80% of Americans’ energy use. 

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IMF Denies Pressuring Venezuela to Release Economic Data

The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday it had not pressured Venezuela to release economic indicators after years of silence, while two sources said the country’s surprise data release this week was due to pressure from China.

The central bank on Tuesday unexpectedly released data confirming Venezuela is suffering hyperinflation and massive economic contraction. The release reversed President Nicolas Maduro’s unofficial policy of classifying economic indicators as state secrets.

The data reported a 22.5 percent contraction in Venezuela’s economy in the third quarter of 2018 from the same period of the previous year. The bank did not provide a full-year 2018 figure for economic activity.

Monthly inflation in April 2019 was 33.8 percent, while 2018 full-year inflation reached 130,060 percent, the bank said.

The IMF said it suspended work with Venezuela on its economic data in January, when opposition leader Juan Guaido invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

Most Western countries, including the United States, have backed Guaido as the OPEC nation’s interim head of state.

However, Maduro and ruling socialist party continue to control state institutions including the military, state oil company PDVSA and the central bank.

The Fund said in March it was awaiting guidance from member countries on whether to recognize Guaido as the country’s leader. The United States and Venezuelan ally China are important IMF members, as they have the world’s two largest economies.

“Work in this area has been suspended since late January as political developments gave rise to questions regarding government recognition,” the spokesman said.

Last year, the IMF issued a “declaration of censure” against Venezuela for failing to report timely and accurate economic data, such as gross domestic product and inflation.

The move was a warning that Caracas could be barred from voting on IMF policies, and eventually expelled, unless it resumed timely and accurate reporting.

Maduro has repeatedly dismissed the IMF as an agent of U.S. colonialism and criticized the institution for leading harsh austerity programs in developing countries.

China, which has for years sought to increase its influence within the IMF, had pressured Maduro’s government to release the data, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.

One of the sources said China had hoped releasing the data would help bring Venezuela into compliance with the IMF, making it harder for the institution to recognize Guaido.

An IMF spokesman said the fund could not fully assess the quality of the data because there was no contact with the government.

“We cannot offer a view on data quality as we have not had the opportunity to make a full assessment in the absence of contacts with the authorities,” the spokesman said.

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Wall Street Slump Continues on U.S.-China Trade Uncertainty

U.S. stocks lost ground again on Thursday, as conflicting comments on trade talks from President Donald Trump and Beijing  reinforced investor nervousness that a lengthy battle could be in the offing and harm global growth.

Trump said talks with China were going well but those comments were countered by a senior Chinese diplomat who said provoking trade disputes is “naked economic terrorism.”

The lack of clarity around the trade battle has rattled investors of late, after the S&P 500 had risen more than 17% through the first four months of the year on optimism a trade deal between the two countries could be reached.

That optimism has faded, however, as the escalating dispute between the two countries has weighed heavily on Wall Street in May, with each of the three main indexes declining at least 5% for the month. The benchmark S&P 500 is nearly 6% lower from its closing high on April 30.

“The market is coming to that realization that we are not getting really clean or clear information and it is going to be a lot of noise and just prepare for that,” said Ben Phillips, chief investment officer at Eventshares in Newport Beach, California.

“It is a difficult market right now. There are a lot of macro signals that are starting to roll over and the question is the trade dispute causing that or is it other factors.”

A government report on Thursday showed U.S. inflation was much weaker than initially thought in the first quarter on a sharp slowdown in domestic demand, while growth was also slightly lower than estimated in April.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 27.59 points, or 0.11%, to 25,098.82, the S&P 500 lost 2.11 points, or 0.08%, to 2,780.91 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 9.19 points, or 0.12%, to 7,538.12.

The trade jitters helped sustain demand for safe haven debt, as U.S. Treasury yields held near 20-month lows. The yield curve between three-month bills and 10-year notes remained inverted, the inversion the widest in nearly 12 years.

That, in turn, weighed on interest-rate sensitive bank stocks, which dropped 1.5% and were on track for a third straight day of declines, while the broader financial sector declined 0.8%.

The energy sector fell 1.3%, as oil prices continued their slump in part due to a smaller-than-expected decline in U.S. crude inventories. The sector has fallen more than 10% this month.

Among stocks, Dollar General Corp jumped 7.2% after the discount retailer’s same-store sales and profit topped expectations.

Viacom Inc climbed 3.6% after report that CBS Corp is preparing for merger talks with the media company. CBS rose 2.5%.

PVH Corp plunged 14.2% as the worst performer on the S&P 500, after the Calvin Klein owner cut its annual profit forecast as it grapples with tariffs and slowing retail growth.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.11-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, a 1.38-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 had 1 new 52-week high and 25 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite 25 new highs and 119 new lows.

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Superman Building Makes National List of Endangered Places

Providence’s iconic Superman Building is included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual list of the nation’s most endangered historic places.

 

The 2019 list highlights 11 architectural and cultural sites the private nonprofit deems at risk because of neglect, development or other threats.

 

The 91-year-old vacant skyscraper is Rhode Island’s tallest building at around 430 feet (131 meters). Formally the Industrial Trust Building, it resembles the Daily Planet headquarters in the old TV show.

 

Katherine Malone-France, the National Trust’s interim chief preservation officer, says few buildings in Providence are as iconic or beloved, but the Superman Building has deferred maintenance needs after six years of vacancy.

 

The National Trust says the list can mobilize support for preservation. This year’s list also includes Nashville’s Music Row and the National Mall Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.

 

 

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WHO: More Than 40% of Smokers Worldwide Die from Lung Diseases

The World Health Organization warns that more than 40 percent of smokers globally die from lung diseases, such as cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and tuberculosis. The warning comes ahead of World No Tobacco Day this Friday, with the theme being, “Don’t let tobacco take your breath away.”

The World Health Organization says that every year, tobacco use kills at least eight million people. The U.N. agency reports 3.3 million users will die from lung-related diseases. This number includes people exposed to second-hand smoke, among them more than 60,000 children under age five who die of lower respiratory infections due to passive smoking.

Vinayak Prasad, the acting director of the WHO’s Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, says the global economic cost of using tobacco is $1.4 trillion. This is due to health expenditures, loss of productivity from illness and other expenses resulting from smoking-related diseases. He says both lives and money could be saved if people stopped smoking.

“What we see also is that if people who are smoking, almost 20 percent of the world is smoking, if they quit, some of the benefits actually come very quickly, especially the lung diseases. Within two weeks, the lung functions actually start to become normal,” he said.

The World Health Organization reports that globally, the prevalence of smoking has gone down from 27 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2016. But the WHO, notes that the number of tobacco users worldwide has remained stable at 1.1 billion because of population growth.

Kerstin Schotte, WHO technical officer in the same department as Prasad, notes a steeper decline in the prevalence of smoking in wealthier countries, compared to poorer ones.

“And, some low-and-middle income countries even have increasing smoking prevalence rates. This is where the tobacco industry is going at the moment,” she said. “They know a little bit that it is a lost cause in Europe and North America, so they are going into the low-and-middle-income countries, targeting especially women and children there.”

The World Health Organization recommends a number of effective, low-cost measures countries can adopt to reduce tobacco consumption.

These include the creation of smoke-free environments, imposing a ban on all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. WHO also suggests putting a high tax on the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to make them unaffordable for many, especially young people.

 

 

 

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Trump: China Maybe Regrets Backtracking on Trade Provisions

President Donald Trump said Thursday he still believes China “would love to make” a new trade deal with the United States and might now regret backtracking on some agreements negotiators for the two countries had reached.

“We had a deal and they broke the deal,” Trump said at the White House. “I think if they had to do it again they wouldn’t have done what they did.”

Trump contended that tariffs he has imposed on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese imports has prompted some manufacturers in China to move their production to other countries.

“I think we’re doing very well with China,” he said, adding that tariffs have had little effect on inflation in the U.S.

Trade talks between officials of the world’s two biggest economies broke off recently, but U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he likely will travel to Beijing “in the near future” to continue negotiations.

Meanwhile, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui  accused the U.S. of engaging in “naked economic terrorism” in the trade war. He leveled the accusation in Beijing during a news briefing on President Xi Jinping’s official visit to Russia next week.

Beijing and Washington have been engaged in a trade war since last July, when Trump first imposed tariffs on hundreds of Chinese products worth billions of dollars, leading to a set of retaliatory tit-for-tit tariff increases. Trump and Xi had agreed to de-escalate the trade war last December while they started negotiations to reach a lasting deal.  

But Trump recently boosted taxes on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods after accusing Beijing of reneging on promises to make structural changes to its economic practices. He has threatened to add tariffs to all Chinese imports, which could amount to levies on another $300 billion worth of Chinese exports to the U.S.  

Zhang said while China does not want a trade war, it is not afraid of it, and described the Trump administration’s actions as “economic bullying.”

Beijing countered Trump’s levies by announcing new tariff increases on $60 billion worth of U.S. exports that will take effect Saturday.

An editorial Wednesday in The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, warned that China could end exports of rare earth minerals to the U.S. as leverage in the trade war. Rare earths are a group of 17 chemical elements used in everything from smartphones and other high-tech electronics to military equipment. 

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Telecoms Giant EE Launches Britain’s First 5G Services

British mobile phone operator EE on Thursday became the first in the country to launch a high-speed 5G service, but without smartphones from controversial Chinese technology giant Huawei.

EE, which is a division of British telecoms giant BT, has launched 5G in six major cities comprising Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Manchester — and more hubs will follow.

“From today, the U.K. will be able to discover 5G for the first time thanks to EE,” it announced in a statement, after an official launch featuring a performance from chart-topping grime act Stormzy on a boat on London’s River Thames.

Next-generation 5G mobile networks offer almost instantaneous data transfer that will become the nervous system of Europe’s economy in strategic sectors like energy, transport, banking and health care.

EE had announced last week that it would make its 5G network available to the public — but would not sell Huawei’s first 5G phone, the Mate 20 X 5G.

However, the Chinese company still provides 5G network infrastructure equipment to EE.

“We are very pleased to be one of the partners supporting EE with a new era of faster and more reliable mobile connectivity over 5G in the U.K.,” a Huawei spokesperson told AFP on Thursday.

Rival British mobile phone giant Vodafone will launch its own 5G services on July 3 in seven UK cities — but it has also paused the sale of the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G smartphone.

Vodafone does not use Huawei in its core UK network but uses a mixture of Ericsson and Huawei technology in its radio access network or masts, according to a company spokesman. He added that there are “multiple” layers of security between the masts and the core network.

Huawei faces pushback in some Western markets over fears that Beijing could spy on communications and gain access to critical infrastructure if allowed to develop foreign 5G networks.

The Chinese company flatly denies what it describes as “unsubstantiated claims” about being a security threat.

US internet titan Google has meanwhile started to cut ties between its Android operating system and Huawei, a move that affects hundreds of millions of smartphone users, after the U.S. government announced what amounts to a ban on selling or transferring technology to the company.

Earlier this week, Huawei asked a U.S. court to throw out US legislation that bars federal agencies from buying its products.

The U.S. moves against Huawei come as the Washington and Beijing are embroiled in a wider trade war.

 

 

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Should Facebook Delete Fake Pelosi Video?

When a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — one altered to show the Democratic leader slurring her words — began making the rounds on Facebook last week, the social network didn’t take it down. Instead, it “downranked” the video, a behind-the-scenes move intended to limit its spread.

That outraged some people who believe Facebook should do more to clamp down on misinformation. Pelosi derided Facebook Wednesday for not taking down the video even though it knows it is false.

But the company and some civil libertarians warn that Facebook could evolve into an unaccountable censor if it’s forced to make judgment calls on the veracity of text, photos or videos.

Facebook has long resisted making declarations about the truthfulness of posts that could open it up to charges of censorship or political bias. It manages to get itself in enough trouble simply trying to enforce more basic rules in difficult cases, such as the time a straightforward application of its ban on nudity led it to remove an iconic Vietnam War photo of a naked girl fleeing a napalm attack. (It backed down after criticism from the prime minister of Norway, among others.)

But staying out of the line of fire is harder than it used to be, given Facebook’s size, reach and impact on global society. The social network can’t help but run into controversy given its 2.4 billion users and the sorts of decisions it must make daily — everything from which posts and links it highlights in your news feed to deciding what counts as hate speech to banning controversial figures or leaving them be.

Facebook has another incentive to keep its head down. The deeper it gets into editorial decisions, the more it looks like a publisher, which could tempt legislators to limit the liability shield it currently enjoys under federal law. In addition, making judgments about truth and falsity could quickly become one of the world’s biggest headaches.

For instance, Republican politicians and other conservatives, from President Donald Trump to Fox News personalities, have been trumpeting the charge that Facebook is biased against conservatives. That’s a “false narrative,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia. But as a result, he said, “any effort to clean up Facebook now would spark tremendous fury.”

Twitter hasn’t removed the doctored Pelosi video, either, and declined comment on its handling of it. But YouTube yanked it down, pointing to community guidelines that prohibit spam, deceptive practices and scams.

Facebook has a similar policy that prohibits the use of “misleading and inaccurate” information to gain likes, followers or shares, although it apparently decided not to apply it in this case.

None of these companies explicitly prohibit false news, although Facebook notes that it “significantly” reduces the distribution of such posts by pushing them lower in user news feeds.

The problem is that such downranking doesn’t quite work, Vaidhyanathan said. As of Wednesday, the video shared on Facebook by the group Politics Watchdog had been viewed nearly 3 million times and shared more than 48,000 times. By contrast, other videos posted by this group in the past haven’t had more than a few thousand views apiece.

Further complicating matters is the fact that Facebook is starting to de-emphasize the news feed itself. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has outlined a broad strategy that will emphasize private messaging over public sharing on Facebook. And Facebook groups, many of which are private, aren’t subject to downranking, Vaidhyanathan said.

Facebook didn’t respond to emailed questions about its policies and whether it is considering changes that would allow it to remove similar videos in the future. In an interview last week with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Facebook’s head of global policy, Monika Bickert, defended the company’s decision , noting that users are “being told” that the video is false when they view or share it.

That might be a stretch. When an Associated Press reporter attempted to share the video as a test, a Facebook pop-up noted the existence of “additional reporting” on the video with links to fact-check articles, but didn’t directly describe the video as false or misleading.

Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former security chief, tweeted Sunday that few critics of the social network’s handling of the Pelosi video could articulate realistic enforcement standards beyond “take down stuff I don’t like.” Mass censorship of misleading speech on Facebook, he wrote, would be “a huge and dangerous increase in FB’s editorial power.”

Last year, Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook that the company focuses on downranking so-called “borderline content,” stuff that doesn’t violate its rules but is provocative, sensationalist, “click-bait or misinformation.”

While it’s true that Facebook could just change its rules around what is allowed — moving the line on acceptable material — Zuckerberg said this doesn’t address the underlying problem of incentive. If the line of what is allowed moves, those creating material would just push closer to that new line.

Facebook continuously grapples with the right way to deal with new forms of misinformation, Nathaniel Gleicher, the company’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in a February interview with the AP. The problem is far more complex than carefully manipulated “deepfake” videos that show people doing things they never did, or even crudely doctored videos such as the Pelosi clip.

Any consistent policy, Gleicher said, would have to account for edited images, ones presented out of context (such as a decade-old photo presented as current), doctored audio and more. He said it’s a huge challenge to accurately identify such items and decide what type of disclosure to require when they’re edited.

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Washington Restaurants Urged to Cater to Muslims During Ramadan

At a mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, outside Washington, a large number of Muslims are reciting evening prayers before they break their daily fast at sunset for Ramadan.

Afterward, some go home to eat Iftar, the daily meal shared with family and friends after fasting, while others break their fast at a restaurant. The problem with going out is that many restaurants close too early. That mostly leaves some 24-hour restaurants that serve fast food.

Now there is a new initiative to give Muslims in the Washington area more dining options during Ramadan, called Dine After Dark. The idea is for restaurants to open a couple of hours earlier or later during the holy month, to accommodate Muslims who fast from sunrise to sunset.

Dine After Dark a win-win

Katherine Ashworth Brandt, a graduate student at George Washington University and a Christian, came up with the idea.

Brandt said religious holidays like Christmas are celebrated, so why not Ramadan for people who belong to the third-largest religion in the United States?

In the Washington area alone, Muslims make up about 2% of the population, according to the Pew Research Center. Brandt thinks giving Muslims more places to dine during Ramadan, and restaurants more customers to serve is a win-win for everyone.

“I just want this to be a common business practice because I think it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “I think treating Muslim customers with respect and appreciation during their holiday season is something customers like and it’s also good for business.”

Be welcoming

So far, only a few restaurants that are already open late have joined the effort, with the hope other eateries will follow.

Among them is a trendy local restaurant group called Busboys and Poets. Owner Andy Shallal hopes by calling attention to the issue that places now closed after dusk will join the Dine After Dark idea to extend their hours during Ramadan and make it a yearly habit.

“Me being a Muslim, I understand the significance of Ramadan, how important it is to people and families to come together and break bread together during this time,” he explained. “It’s not so much what the food is or what you are offering, it’s really about being welcoming.”

Customers like it

Some 80 people from the Muslim Writers Collective of Washington came to Busboys and Poets in downtown Washington to an Iftar to catch up and enjoy traditional food like halal chicken and vegetable dishes.

“I think it’s a great idea to have restaurants open later since Washington is not a city that caters to people late at night,” journalist Nesima Aberra said.

During entertainment on stage, local comedian Louie Al-Hashimi, made the group laugh as he talked about Muslim families.

“A lot of younger people move to Washington for jobs and might not have family nearby or know many people,” he said. “Ramadan is a good time to get to know one another. So, the more places we have to eat together late at night, the better.”

Shallal said he looks forward to the day when spending Iftar in restaurants as well as at home will be considered nothing out of the ordinary.

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China Cheers State TV Anchor in Face-Off with FOX

The highly-anticipated showdown on Wednesday night between Trish Regan of Fox Business and Liu Xin of China Global Television Network (CGTN) — the overseas arm of state-controlled China Central Television (CCTV) — turned out to be a tame question-and-answer session with little exchange of barbs.

 

Some observers say that, as both are neither policymakers nor experts on trade, their “disappointing” talks contributed nothing of substance, but stoked up emotions of national pride in China.

Others, however, welcome such dialogues that allow free exchange of differing views to continue and set an example for U.S. and Chinese officials to resume their trade negotiations.

 

The media hype has not only shed light on the increasingly sharp divide between the two countries over trade but also press freedom in China as well, they add.

 

Face-off

 

The buildup for the debate started last week when Liu released a commentary, accusing Regan of “economic warmongering,” which led to Regan’s invitation via Twitter for an “honest” debate and Wednesday’s face-off between them.

Liu appeared as a guest, via satellite from Beijing, on Regan’s U.S. based show.

Citing rights issues, CGTN wasn’t allowed to live-stream the segment, but many Chinese appeared to watch it on the internet.

 

As expected, during the 16-minute-long segment, Liu stuck closely to China’s talking points on every question Regan raised, be it China’s intellectual property (IP) theft, state capitalism or tariffs.

 

When asked by Regan to respond to a hypothetical question if the United States “forces” China’s Huawei to share its technological developments, Liu replied: “if it is through cooperation, if it is through mutual learning… if you pay for the use of this IP or this high-tech knowledge, I think it’s absolutely fine. Why not? We all prosper because we learn from each other.”

 

Liu, however, admitted that cases of IP theft do exist, but that doesn’t mean all Chinese people are stealing. And IP protection has been a consensus in China, she added.

 

Analysts, in general, believe Liu is on a mission to defend China’s trade stance although Liu insisted she is neither a member of the Communist Party of China, nor speaks for the party, which controls her station.

 

State mouthpiece?

 

“They [state media broadcasters including Liu] all come on the debate or shows with a mission. Many won’t show their true color as the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, but in fact, deep in their mind and thoughts, they have long joined the party,” Lu Nan, an outspoken Chinese dissident, who now lives in the United States, said during a Mingjin TV discussion.

 

Lu added that he gave Liu credit for having skillfully argued her way out in a language that is not her mother tongue although truth beat many of her arguments.

 

David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project, an independent research program in partnership with the Journalism & Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong, also noted “the seemingly ever-present hand of the Chinese party-state,” saying that Liu can’t afford to act as she pleases in a country, where media professionals are asked to pledge loyalty to the party-state.

 

Stoking nationalistic emotions

 

“Their debate, so-called… could play a substantial role in stoking emotions of national pride in China, regardless of the outcome. Liu is already being portrayed on social media as a national champion,” Bandurski told VOA in an email, adding the show has little substance.

 

The show has indeed attracted so much attention in China that, right after it ended, the top-trending sentence on Weibo — a Twitter-like microblogging platform in China — was “Liu was interrupted by Trish three times in the first 30 seconds of the show.”

 

Many Chinese netizens cheered for Liu’s success.

 

One Weibo user praised Liu to be “neither overbearing nor servile and have showed good demeanor from a big country” while another wrote that Liu “stands to reason and has done a good job.”

 

There were, however, others who said they were disappointed with the show because it came nowhere near a heated debate.

 

Set an example

 

Nevertheless, Harley Seyedin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in South China, said the conversation between Regan and Liu could set an example for both the United States and China to follow and reach a final resolution for the trade dispute.

 

“As these two super anchors can come to together and held a very civilized conversation on very difficult issues, I think, as two nations, we should be able to sit down at the table and resolve the issues,” Seyedin told a CGTN show right after the Regan-Liu talk.

 

Xu Huiming, an associate professor of journalism at Guangzhou University, agreed, saying talks are better than no talks.

 

“Shall there be no exchange of views, you won’t know what’s on the mind of the others. Any exchange of views, even if they differ from one another, raises attention to those who are interested in the matter,” the professor said.

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Washington Restaurants Encouraged to Cater to Muslims During Ramadan

In the Washington area, there is a push to give Muslims more dining options during Ramadan. Local restaurants would open a couple of hours earlier or later during the holy month to accommodate Muslim customers who fast from sunrise to sunset. The moves give Muslims more places to dine and restaurants more customers to serve. A couple of restaurants that are open late have joined the effort with the hope others will follow. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about the initiative called Dine After Dark.

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