Economy & business

South Korea Feeling Pressure to Appease Trump on Trade

American business leaders in South Korea are urging leaders in Seoul to increase market access to U.S. companies to dissuade U.S. President Donald Trump from enacting protectionist policies. 

During the U.S. presidential election campaign Trump threatened to pull out of the U.S.-South Korea bilateral free trade agreement (KORUS FTA) that he called a “job killing deal” that “doubled our trade deficit with South Korea and destroyed nearly 100,000 American jobs.” 

Non-tariff regulations 

The American Chamber of Commerce in Korea (AMCHAM Korea) wants to preserve the KORUS FTA that took effect in 2012 and eliminated 95 percent of tariffs on consumer and industrial products over a five-year period.  But to convince Trump it is worth saving, James Kim, the president of GM Korea and Chairman of AMCHAM Korea said Seoul needs to end practices that circumvent the FTA by imposing non-tariff related regulations on imports. 

“We need to make the Korean economy more transparent and predictable, by making the regulatory process more deliberative,” said Kim at a recent press conference in Seoul. 

The American auto industry in particular has complained that they spend an inordinate amount of time and money to deal with unwarranted environmental standards and certification procedures that are often introduced without notice or clear explanations. 

In South Korea, foreign cars make up only 15 percent of the market, compared to 40 percent import penetration in developed countries like the U.S. and European nations. 

Nearly 80 percent of the current $28 billion U.S. trade deficit with Korea is in the automotive sector, according to the American Automotive Policy Council. 

South Korean authorities have downplayed charges of unfair trade practices, saying most complaints have been resolved through negotiations, and arguing the FTA has also benefited the U.S. economy. 

U.S. auto imports into South Korea, for example, have increased over 20 percent in the last two years, according to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA.) 

However, international investment attorney Jeffrey Jones said President Trump’s tough talk on trade adds new urgency to clearing up any misunderstandings over alleged unfair trade practices and ending discriminatory policies that unfairly favors domestic industry over American imports. 

“I think the message that we would like to achieve is that we are out of time,” said Jones, who is a former AMCHAM Korea chairman and advisor to the Seoul International Business Advisory Council. 

American jobs 

AMCHAM Korea is sending a delegation to Washington to defend the KORUS FTA, and discuss with lawmakers the mutual benefits of trade with South Korea. 

The AMCHAM Korea chairman views President Trump not as a hardcore proponent of protectionist trade policies, but more as a pro-business advocate trying to negotiate more equitable trade terms. 

“Given that Trump is a respected business person with many senior leaders in his administration coming from a business background, we believe a pragmatic and practical approach by business will be received very, very well,” said Kim. 

The way to persuade Trump to support the U.S.-Korean trade agreement, Kim said, is to first and foremost point out the increase of American exports to South Korea from steel and semiconductors that rose by close to 8 percent over the last decade. Also since the FTA was put in place, some U.S. agricultural exports to Korea improved dramatically. Cheese exports grew by 500 percent and pork bellies increased by over 90 percent. 

Kim said South Korean companies like Hyundai and Kia, which have opened manufacturing plants in the U.S, have created more than 45,000 American jobs. 

After Reuters reported last week that Samsung was considering opening a new manufacturing facility in the U.S, Trump tweeted “Thank you” to the company, “We would love to have you.” 

The Korean electronics giant did not confirm it will build a new U.S. plant, but said in a statement that it is making significant investments that include the existing $17 billion semiconductor manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas. 

The Korea Herald newspaper reported last week that Samsung, LG and Hyundai all have plants in Mexico that export to the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  The Korean companies are concerned they may face increased tariffs if Trump renegotiates NAFTA and are reportedly feeling pressure to expand their operations into the U.S.

Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

Arts & Entertainment

New England Patriots Stage Historic Rally to Win Super Bowl 51

The New England Patriots have won the first overtime Super Bowl game in U.S. National Football League history, coming back from a 25-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in Super Bowl 51, played in Houston, Texas.  

This was New England’s record-setting fifth Super Bowl win since the old NFL and the American Football League merged in the late 1960s. 

The Patriots – down 28-3 late in the third quarter after a first half dominated by the Falcons –  launched a furious comeback, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by running back James White and a two-point conversion on a pass from quarterback Tom Brady to Danny Amendola that tied the game at 28-28 in the final minute of regulation.  

The score capped a 91-yard drive that included a miraculous catch by Julian Edelman who nabbed the ball off the leg of one of three Falcons defenders as they were falling to the turf. 

In the overtime period, New England received the ball and methodically marched down the field before White scored his third touchdown that capped the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.  No team had ever come back from more than 10 points down to win.  White also had a Super Bowl record 14 receptions for 110 yards – the most ever by a running back in the title game. 

The 39-year-old Brady, who finished with a title game record 466 passing yards and two touchdowns, was named the game’s most valuable player, the fourth such award of his Hall of Fame worthy career. His five Super Bowl wins, all of them with New England and head coach Bill Belichick, makes him the most decorated quarterback in NFL history. 

Brady connected on 43 of 62 passes – the most completions in Super Bowl history. 

President Donald Trump tweeted after the game “Tom Brady, (team owner) Bob Kraft and Coach B are total winners. Wow!!” 

Fans in Boston poured into the streets after the stunning victory, turning parts of the city into a big post-game party.  The mayor has announced a victory parade for Tuesday.

In Photos: Super Bowl LI

Science & Health

WHO, Medical Experts, Warn of Rising Health Costs in Asia

Asia faces a growing burden in treatment costs due to rising numbers of patients diagnosed with cancer, as well as those suffering from stroke and dementia over the next decade.

While Asia’s economic progress has led to sharply lower levels of poverty, it has resulted in social and lifestyles changes ranging from diets to increasing urban pollution, that extract an increasing toll on communities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says in Southeast Asia, late treatment of cancer results in 1.3 million deaths a year. WHO says of the 8.8 million deaths from cancer annually, two thirds are in Africa and Asia.

Cancers, along with diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic lung diseases, were responsible for 40 million – or 70 percent of the world’s 56 million deaths in 2015, WHO said.

But globally treatment costs are rising. In 2015, the spending on cancer drugs rose by 11.5 percent to $107 billion, and is forecast to rise to $150 billion by 2020 – due largely to the expense of newer and more specialized drugs.

The Boston Consulting Group said in a recent report the “cancer burden in developing countries is reaching pandemic proportions,” seen as a leading cause of death in India with some 2.5 million patients. They forecast that India has “a chance of the disease rising five-fold by 2025”.

China reported four million new cancer cases in 2016, with the national health bill set to soar “fourfold” to 12.7 trillion yuan ($1.84 trillion) by 2025, the consultants said.

Increased costs

Gregory Winter, a Cambridge University professor leading a research team in antibody engineering and modification technology for the treatment of degenerative diseases and several types of cancer, said while scientific progress has been made, treatment costs remain prohibitive for most populations.

“The challenges are much more in costs than in feasibility. I’m not saying everything is possible but I think in rolling [treatments] out to populations in general we will be struggling with cost problems.  The cost of antibody treatment can be in the order of $15 to $75,000 per year and that’s a lot for anybody,” Winter said.

In China, reports say cancer patients and family care givers faced with the high cost of approved drugs lead to them seeking out generic drugs on the grey market to save costs. But the drugs may also be ineffective or fake.

Delays in China’s drug approval process has sometimes led to drugs coming onto the Chinese market up to 10 years after they appeared in the U.S. market. Winter says a similar story of delay is also found in India, and says a solution may require some countries in Asia to “take more risks during the drug approval process”.

“My own view is they should consider having a different drug approval process that is not so onerous and in return this should enable costs to be brought down for launching drugs in these markets,” Winter said.

Stroke and dementia

Asia is also facing rising health costs in the treatment of growing numbers of patients in Asia affected by strokes and dementia.

The WHO, in a 2012 report, estimated globally 35.6 million people worldwide living with dementia – with the numbers forecast to reach 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million by 2050.

The report said nearly 60 percent of the burden of dementia is concentrated in low and middle income countries, and is expected to increase in the years ahead.

“The catastrophic cost of care drives millions of households below the poverty line,” with the numbers and economic burden making it a “public health priority,” the WHO said.

Canadian, Vladimir Hachinski, a leading global specialist in stroke and vascular dementia, at the University of Western Ontario, said a growing bank of evidence links high rates of pollution, evident across Asia, with strokes and dementia.

In 2016, research by Valery Feigin, a director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at Auckland University of Technology, set a clear link between air pollution and strokes.

Air pollution

The research found air pollution in the form of fine particulate matter ranked seventh in terms of impact on healthy lives.

The findings found the impact of air pollution in causing harm to the lungs, heart and brain had previously been underestimated.

“This is a global problem because there are currents between the continents. There are currents in the atmosphere that carry air from one continent to another and also within the continents. So what happens in Beijing matters in Bangkok because the whole atmosphere is one in the biosphere,” Hachinski said.

A recent report by the environmental group Greenpeace said as many as 1.2 million deaths occurred each year in India due to air pollution, just a fraction less than deaths from tobacco usage.

In China, cities such as Beijing continued to face regular bouts of choking smog during the current winter season amid high reported levels of harmful particle matter.

Studies indicate that smog leads to more than a million premature deaths in China each year, cutting life expectancy by two to five years.

Hachinski said Asia has to confront the issues of pollution as it faces a significant rise in pollution induced strokes, as well as dementia in increasingly ageing populations.

“At the rate we are going, we cannot afford more patients having strokes, more patients having dementia – particularly Asia – 61 percent of the world’s population is on Asia.”

“In some countries like China, stroke is the leading cause of death and in Japan, of course, you have an aging population, you have high rates of stroke and dementia,” he said.

Science & Health

Staying Active Mentally Helps Protect Your Brain From Dementia

Because we face a looming global epidemic of dementia, scientists the world over are looking for ways to preserve the memories of older adults. 

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health project that one out of every 85 older adults worldwide will develop Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. 

With aging on the rise globally, the big question becomes how can people preserve their thinking skills and memory? 

Some research shows that staying physically active helps the brain stay healthy, both mentally and physically. 

Other studies look at challenging the brain’s thought processes: by studying languages, doing Sudoku or crossword puzzles and the like. 

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, found that mentally stimulating activities help reduce the chance of developing mild dementia, known as MCI, or mild cognitive impairment.  

MCI doesn’t interfere with everyday life, but those who have are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s. 

Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Dr. Yonas Geda co-authored a study published January 30 in JAMA Neurology. Nearly 2,000 adults without memory issues, aged 70 and older, participated in the study. The research went on for ten years, from 2006 to 2016, but the average participant was followed for four years. 

“This study is very important because dementia, MCI, these conditions are really common as we get older,” Geda said, “We need to find out non-pharmacological approaches to decrease the risk of MCI or dementia.” 

The researchers found that playing games, doing crafts, using a computer and staying socially active could reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment even for those with a genetic risk for dementia. 

The researchers were interested in the research because so far, few studies have investigated whether keeping the mind busy is related to the outcome of MCI, the intermediate zone between normal cognitive aging and dementia. 

The results found that only 15 percent of the participants developed MCI over an average of four years, although not all activities were equal. 

Those who used a computer and those who participated in crafting activities saw their risk decrease by 30 and 28 percent respectively. Social activity and playing games reduced the risk by 23 and 22 percent. 

The researchers found that reading didn’t seem to provide the same protection for thinking and memory. 

The mental activity doesn’t have to become a chore, Geda said. Just participating in something mentally stimulating two to three times a week helped, and that seemed to be the key. The study showed this group significantly decreased their risk of developing new-onset MCI compared with people who participated in fewer mentally stimulating activities. 

Arts & Entertainment

Cameroon Claims African Nations Soccer Cup Title, Beating Egypt 2-1

Cameroon beat seven-time champion Egypt 2-1 in the final match of African Nations Football Cup in Libreville, Gabon, Sunday. It is the fifth time for Cameroon to claim the trophy.

Egypt’s midfielder Mohamed Elneny put his team ahead when he scored in the 25th minute of the first half.

Watch: Egyptians Gather in a Cairo Narrow Alley to Watch the Game:

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi telephoned the team during the half-time break to voice his support after Elneny netted the goal, Egyptian media reported.

In the second half, Cameroon’s  Nicolas Nkoulou leveled the score with a brilliant header, then Vincent Aboubakar scored the decisive goal about three minutes before the final whistle.

Support for the Egyptian team was little noticed as the majority of the nearly 40,000 soccer fans who packed up the stadium in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, supported Cameroon.







Silicon Valley & Technology

Women Thriving in Computer Science at California College

In a computer lab at Harvey Mudd College in California, a small robot performs the graceful movements of tai chi, an ancient Chinese meditation exercise. Student Jane Wu writes instruction codes from a nearby computer, showing a visitor a simple form of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Wu is a third-year student in mathematics and computer science at the college, a leader in attracting women to high technology.

“I think the moment for me was during my freshman robotics elective [class] that I took, called Autonomous Vehicles,” she said of her decision to pursue a computer science career, “and in that class we got to make our own autonomous robots from scratch.”

Harvey Mudd College, with just 800 students, stresses engineering, and is part of an educational cluster called The Claremont Colleges, in the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles. It was named after a mining engineer who helped to found the school.

The school overhauled its computer science program a decade ago to make the discipline less intimidating to those with little background in computers. The effort has yielded results: last year more than half of the college’s graduates in computer science were women. Students are initially placed in academic streams based on their knowledge of computers to reduce the intimidation factor, and many later come to understand that computer science is “a beautiful intellectual discipline,” says professor Ran Libeskind-Hadas, “but also, or course, a useful and practical one.”

Taste of coding

The introductory computer class, a requirement for all students, sparked the interest of senior Veronica Rivera, who is majoring in computer science and mathematics.

“It was a very balanced class,” she said, “and I think the professors also do a very good job of making sure everyone feels welcome, regardless of their coding ability.” 

Rivera hopes to develop computer applications to help people with motor impairments.

Women were prominent coders in the early days of computers when Grace Hopper, who was later became a U.S. Navy rear admiral, helped invent programming languages, says Jim Boerkoel, an assistant professor who oversees the robotics lab.

“She [Grace Hopper] is the original coder,” Boerkoel said. “It was only in later decades, the 1980s and 90s, that computer games and the idea of computer programming got heavily marketed toward boys rather than girls.”

Women technologists

At Harvey Mudd, some women who come to study engineering rediscover programming, and each year, dozens attend the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the world’s largest conference of women technologists.

“With coding, I can just have my computer, have some programming language I’m working in, and I can make almost whatever I want,” said computer science major Emilia Reed, who is helping create computer apps to enhance the productivity of workers and students.

Internships in industry are part of the training, and third-year student Samantha Andow will intern at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, later this year. 

“I’m really excited to see all the problems that computer science is working on right now,” she said.

Computers are integral to all areas of life, and the field needs the best and the brightest, notes Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd.

“If we don’t manage to get a more diverse community into technology,” she said, “we’re not going to get as good solutions, as much progress as we need on the problems facing the world, whether it’s climate change or education, health care.”

Klawe says today’s challenges require the creativity that diversity brings, and that the field needs more on women and minorities — both underrepresented in the high-tech industry — as future programmers.

Arts & Entertainment

Super Bowl A Hit With Thousands of Fans

Kickoff is just around the corner for Super Bowl LI (51). The city of Houston, Texas hosts the big game, but for thousands of fans the sideshow to the spectacle of the Super Bowl is a way to spend family time without breaking the bank.

The Super Bowl is a show so big that fans of all shapes, sizes and… species can’t help but get in the game.

“I think they have a lot of fun coming out here. I think they really enjoy just coming out of the house and doing something different. You know, getting the experience for them; something new, something different. It’s really nice,” said Esmeralda, a Houston resident.

It’s also free to enter this fan festival, which likely sounds good to most families.

“Oh it’s amazing. A lot of people are going to spend upwards of $5,000 on a ticket alone, so being able to come out in my community and actually experience it for a reasonable cost is great,” said Baytown resident Patrick.

There’s a street-party feel to all of this.

“You have to be in the atmosphere. You really do, because I’m not one that even would have ever went to a Super Bowl, but now, it seems like every city it’s in, I want to go there, because it’s exciting. It’s nothing like being here,” said Houston resident Tonya.

Tonya isn’t going to the game, but Chris and his wife spent nearly $10,000 for their tickets to the Super Bowl.

“Just really the energy and the vibe… it’s good.We like it.Just ready to experience everything. Tomorrow tailgating and then going into the game.It’s kind of a compressed weekend, but we’re excited,” said Christ, who lives in Denton.

The game is now just hours away.But as anyone who’s seen a Super Bowl can tell you, between multi-million-dollar commercials and spectacular halftime performances, there is much more to the Super Bowl than just football.