Recycling Rubbish into Revenue, Plan Brings Hope to Women in Jordan

Sameera Al Salam folds a discarded piece of newspaper into a long strip then loops it round her finger to form a tight circle, the first stage of making the upcycled handbags, trays and bowls the Syrian refugee hopes will help her earn a living.

Al Salam, 55, was a hairdresser with a passion for “art and making things” before she fled her war-torn homeland for Irbid in northern Jordan with her family in 2012.

Now she has two teenagers and a husband left paralyzed by a stroke to support in a country where she has no automatic legal right to work, and they are three months behind on their rent.

“We were living a really happy life. I had a garden where I grew everything,” Al Salam told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We had to leave because of the airstrikes. We were always trying to put things in front of the door to protect the children. Whenever I remember, it breaks my heart.”

Like most of the more than 655,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan — and many Jordanians — poverty, debt and unemployment dominate the family’s existence.

Al Salam hopes her involvement in a new rubbish collection and recycling plan that aims to alleviate the poverty of both refugees and locals and bring the two communities closer will help turn things around.

The project, managed by charity Action Against Hunger, employs 1,200 people to collect and sort waste from the streets and provides temporary work permits to refugees who take part.

Nearly half the participants are female in a country where women can face cultural and family obstacles to employment, including a culture of shame around going out to work.

One in three Syrian refugee households in Jordan is headed by women and more and more are now seeking jobs in an already crowded market.

More than 80 percent of the Syrian refugees in Jordan live below the poverty line, according to Care International.

Awsaf Qaddah, a 39-year-old Syrian widow, said working as a rubbish collector initially felt like “a kind of shame,” but she now feels only pride.

“The job took me out of this atmosphere I was living in at home. Women can and should go out and work, especially with the circumstances we’re facing,” she said. “I have no husband or father or brother to help — I’m proud to do it.”

Fellow worker Berwen Misterihi, who is Jordanian, was forced to earn after her husband left her and their four children.

“Women and men would make comments about me picking up waste,” she said.

“I said to one man, ‘I’d rather work than come to you for the money’ and he apologized.”

‘Like Siblings’

The project workers were given 50-day contracts paying 12 Jordanian Dinar ($16.90) a day, plus training and social security provisions. Some of the waste was sold to scrap dealers for extra cash.

Al Salam was among a group of women who started an upcycling project, turning the waste paper and plastic they collected into objects to sell.

Action Against Hunger, which has managed the waste project since 2017 with German government funding, is now setting up a second phase focusing on equipping cooperatives and workers to continue waste processing and upcycling unaided.

“First there was a focus on breaking the culture of shame for women. Then we wanted ideas of how they could benefit from waste,” said Sajeda Saqallah, programme manager with Action Against Hunger. “Upcycling is a new concept here, so we took them to Amman to learn about it.”

Al Salam said her husband did not object to her taking part in the project. She now hopes she will get training on marketing and trademarking and win one of a number of new contracts Action Against Hunger is providing to carry on upcycling for wages.

The women in her upcycling group meet regularly and share ideas and news in a WhatsApp group.

At a workshop filled with their creations – from handbags to light shades to side tables, all made from recycled newspaper and cardboard – Sahira Zoubi, a Syrian refugee and mother of five excitedly points to the gold handbag she made.

Zoubi, who has not seen her husband since the Syrian army captured him in 2012, has made close friends through the project from both Syria and Jordan who she says are “like siblings.”

“Doing this project is so joyful because you come here and forget about your problems,” she said.

Al Salam breaks down as she tells how the project has allowed her to overcome her fears of being a refugee in a strange country.

“I never really mixed with people before this. I was afraid to go outside, I wasn’t involved in the community,” she said. “I was from a different country. I didn’t know what people were going to do to me or what they would say. Now I like to mingle.”

($1 = 0.7100 Jordanian dinars)

Travel for this story was covered by Action Against Hunger.

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China Calls Trump Threat of More Tariffs ‘Blackmail’

China calls President Donald Trump’s threat to slap more tariffs on Chinese exports to the U.S. “extreme pressure and blackmail” and threatens to retaliate.

Beijing reacted Tuesday to Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on another $200 billion of Chinese goods “if China refuses to change its practices.”

“China apparently has no intention of changing its unfair practices related to the acquisition of American intellectual property and technology,” a presidential statement said late Monday. “Rather than altering those practices, it is now threatening United States companies, workers, and farmers who have done nothing wrong.”

The president has ordered Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to identify a list of $200 billion in additional Chinese goods subject to a 10 percent tariff — a move that would bring on another round of Chinese penalties on American products.

Trump has already ordered 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese products. Those penalties are scheduled to take effect next month and will likely be followed by Chinese countermeasures.

The U.S. has long accused China of stealing U.S. technology secrets, requiring U.S. firms to share intellectual property as a condition for doing business in joint ventures in China. China denies such theft and accuses Washington of “deviating from the consensus reached by both parties.”

The Director of White House National Trade Council, Peter Navarro, told reporters Tuesday the White House has given China every opportunity to change its “aggressive behavior.”

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a summit last year at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. But that meeting and several rounds of trade talks between high-level officials in the past year have not yielded any progress.

“It is important to note here that the actions President Trump has taken are purely defensive in nature. They are designed to defend the crown jewels of American technology from China’s aggressive behavior,” Navarro contended. 

U.S. stock market tumbled on Tuesday following the latest salvos between Washington and Beijing. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 1.1 percent at the close of trading and other major indexes posted losses as well. 

But Navarro dismissed concerns about how the administration’s trade policy would affect the financial markets and global economy, saying it will have only a “relatively small effect.” He argued the U.S. steps will ultimately benefit the country and global trading system. 

Navarro did not reveal plans for further trade talks between Washington and Beijing, but added, “our phone lines are open, they have always been open.”

Trump has said he has an excellent relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but has also said “the United States will no longer be taken advantage of on trade by China and other countries in the world.”

He has imposed tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union and is feuding over trade with some of the United States’ closest allies.

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Trump’s Tariffs: What They Are and How They Would Work

Is this what a trade war looks like?

The Trump administration and China’s leadership have threatened to impose tariffs on $50 billion of each other’s goods. Trump has proposed imposing duties on $400 billion more if China doesn’t further open its markets to U.S. companies and reduce its trade surplus with the United States. China, in turn, says it will retaliate.

In recent years, tariffs had been losing favor as a tool of national trade policy. They were largely a relic of 19th and early 20th centuries that most experts viewed as mutually harmful to all nations involved. But President Donald Trump has restored tariffs to a prominent place in his self-described America First approach.

Trump enraged U.S. allies Canada, Mexico and the European Union earlier this month by slapping tariffs on their steel and aluminum shipments to the United States. The tariffs have been in place on most other countries since March.

Trump has also asked the U.S. Commerce Department to look into imposing tariffs on imported cars, trucks and auto parts, arguing that they pose a threat to U.S. national security.

Here is a look at what tariffs are, how they work, how they’ve been used in the past and what to expect now.

Are we in a trade war?

Economists have no set definition of a trade war. But with the world’s two largest economies aggressively threatening each other with punishing tariffs, such a war appears perilously close. All told, the White House has threatened to hit $450 billion of China’s exports to the U.S. with punitive tariffs. That’s equivalent to 90 percent of the goods that China shipped to the United States last year.

It’s not uncommon for countries — even close allies — to fight over trade in specific products. The United States and Canada, for example, have squabbled for decades over softwood lumber.

But the U.S. and China are fighting over much broader issues, such as China’s requirements that American companies share advanced technology to access China’s market, and the overall trade deficit the U.S. has with China. So far, neither side has shown any sign of bending.

What are tariffs?

Tariffs are a tax on imports. They’re typically charged as a percentage of the transaction price that a buyer pays a foreign seller. Say an American retailer buys 100 garden umbrellas from China for $5 apiece, or $500. The U.S. tariff rate for the umbrellas is 6.5 percent. The retailer would have to pay a $32.50 tariff on the shipment, raising the total price from $500 to $532.50.

In the United States, tariffs — also called duties or levies — are collected by Customs and Border Protection agents at 328 ports of entry across the country. Proceeds go to the Treasury. The tariff rates are published by the U.S. International Trade Commission in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, which lists U.S. tariffs on everything from dried plantains (1.4 percent) to parachutes (3 percent).

Sometimes, the U.S. will impose additional duties on foreign imports that it determines are being sold at unfairly low prices or are being supported by foreign government subsidies.

Do other countries have higher tariffs than the United States?

Most key U.S. trading partners do not have significantly higher average tariffs. According to an analysis by Greg Daco at Oxford Economics, U.S. tariffs, adjusted for trade volumes, on goods from around the world average 2.4 percent, above Japan’s 2 percent and just below the 3 percent for the European Union and 3.1 percent for Canada.

The comparable figures for Mexico and China are higher: Both have higher duties that top 4 percent.

Trump has complained about the 270 percent duty that Canada imposes on dairy products. But the United States has its own ultra-high tariffs — 168 percent on peanuts and 350 percent on tobacco.

What are tariffs supposed to accomplish?

Two things: Raise government revenue and protect domestic industries from foreign competition. Before the establishment of the federal income tax in 1913, tariffs were a big money raiser for the U.S. government. From 1790 to 1860, for example, they produced 90 percent of federal revenue, according to Clashing Over Commerce: A History of US Trade Policy by Douglas Irwin, an economist at Dartmouth College. By contrast, last year tariffs accounted for only about 1 percent of federal revenue.

In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the U.S. government collected $34.6 billion in customs duties and fees. The White House Office of Management and Budget expects tariffs to fetch $40.4 billion this year.

Those tariffs are meant to increase the price of imports or to punish foreign countries for committing unfair trade practices, like subsidizing their exporters and dumping their products at unfairly low prices. Tariffs discourage imports by making them more expensive. They also reduce competitive pressure on domestic competitors and can allow them to raise prices.

Tariffs fell out of favor as global trade expanded after World War II.

The formation of the World Trade Organization and the advent of trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement among the U.S., Mexico and Canada reduced tariffs or eliminated them altogether.

Why are tariffs making a comeback?

After years of trade agreements that bound the countries of the world more closely and erased restrictions on trade, a populist backlash has grown against globalization. This was evident in Trump’s 2016 election and the British vote that year to leave the European Union — both surprise setbacks for the free-trade establishment.

Critics note that big corporations in rich countries exploited looser rules to move factories to China and other low-wage countries, then shipped goods back to their wealthy home countries while paying low tariffs or none at all. Since China joined the WTO in 2001, the United States has shed 3.1 million factory jobs, though many economists attribute much of that loss not to trade but to robots and other technologies that replace human workers.

Trump campaigned on a pledge to rewrite trade agreements and crack down on China, Mexico and other countries. He blames what he calls their abusive trade policies for America’s persistent trade deficits — $566 billion last year. Most economists, by contrast, say the deficit simply reflects the reality that the United States spends more than it saves. By imposing tariffs, he is beginning to turn his hard-line campaign rhetoric into action.

Are tariffs a wise policy?

Most economists — Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro is a notable exception — say no. The tariffs drive up the cost of imports. And by reducing competitive pressure, they give U.S. producers leeway to raise their prices, too. That’s good for those producers — but bad for almost everyone else.

Rising costs especially hurt consumers and companies that rely on imported components. Some U.S. companies that buy steel are complaining that Trump’s tariffs put them at a competitive disadvantage. Their foreign rivals can buy steel more cheaply and offer their products at lower prices.

More broadly, economists say trade restrictions make the economy less efficient. Facing less competition from abroad, domestic companies lose the incentive to increase efficiency or to focus on what they do best.

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Russia’s Record-Breaking $15 Billion World Cup Price Tag: What Does It Buy?

The World Cup in Russia is the most expensive ever – with the official price tag around $15 billion. The result: several huge new stadiums, railroads and upgraded airports, plus the chance to reboot Russia’s global image. So, will the tournament represent a good value for Russians? As Henry Ridgwell reports from Moscow, the government appears to have used the World Cup to bury some bad economic news.

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China Warns US of ‘Countermeasures’ Against Possible New Tariffs

China says it will take appropriate countermeasures if the United States follows through with additional tariffs on Chinese goods. 

U.S. President Donald Trump announced Monday that he had asked the U.S. trade representative to identify a list of products to subject to 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of goods. The president said the move was in retaliation to Beijing’s decision to impose tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. goods, matching the first set of tariffs imposed by Trump.

In a statement issued Tuesday, China’s commerce ministry criticized Trump’s latest move as nothing more than “extreme pressure and blackmail” that “deviates from the consensus reached by both sides” during multiple talks. 

“China apparently has no intention of changing its unfair practices related to the acquisition of American intellectual property and technology,” Trump said in his statement Monday. “Rather than altering those practices, it is now threatening United States companies, workers and farmers who have done nothing wrong.”

He threatened even more tariffs if Beijing again hits back with tit-for-tat duties on American goods.

Trump’s comments came hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a Detroit business meeting that China was engaging in “predatory economics 101” and an “unprecedented level of larceny” of intellectual property.

He said China’s recent claims of “openness and globalization” are “a joke.” 

Pompeo said he raised the issue last week in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying, “I reminded him that’s not fair competition.”

Trump said he has an “excellent relationship” with Xi, “but the United States will no longer be taken advantage of on trade by China and other countries in the world.”

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Trump’s Tariff War Threatens to Erode Support of Farmers

President Donald Trump’s tariff battle with key buyers of U.S. apples, soybeans and corn threatens the support of some of his biggest backers – U.S. farmers now seeing their livelihoods in jeopardy.

Farmers overwhelmingly supported Trump in the 2016 election, welcoming how he championed rural economies and vowed to repeal estate taxes that often hit family farms hard.

Now those same farmers are seeing crop prices fall and export markets shrink after Trump’s tariffs triggered a wave of retaliation from buyers of U.S. apples, cheese, potatoes, bourbon and soybeans.

“A lot of people in the ag community were willing to give President Trump the benefit of the doubt,” said Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade. “The reason you are seeing people increase the pressure now is because thepressure is increasing on them. Now the impact is really starting to hit. It is not something you can just take lightly.”

His group, along with the U.S. Apple Association, will start running television ads on Tuesday attacking Trump’s tariffs in Pennsylvania and Michigan, apple-growing states that could play a role in which party controls Congress after the November elections.

Trump, a Republican, has said farmers will not become a casualty in any trade war, floating ideas like subsidizing those hurt by tariffs.

Even before trading partners imposed tariffs, U.S. farmers were facing a tough year. Net farm income was expected to fall 6.7 percent to $59.5 billion in 2018, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Now an even more bearish tone hangs over agricultural markets due to trade spats with NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico, plus mounting tensions with China and Europe.

After Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, Mexico imposed a 20 percent tariff on imports of U.S. apples, potatoes and cranberries.

Last week, Trump imposed $50 billion in tariffs on China.

Beijing retaliated with a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans and other goods starting July 6, sending soybean futures to a two-year low and throwing into doubt forecasts for U.S. soybean exports to rise 11 percent this marketing year.

China’s tariffs could contribute to a 30 percent drop in income for Ohio corn and soybean farmers this year, said Ben Brown, manager of an Ohio State University farm program.

If the tariffs stay in place, net farm income in Ohio could drop as much as 63 percent in 2019, he said.

Last week, the American Soybean Association said it was disappointed and for weeks had implored the Trump administration to “find non-tariff solutions to address Chinese intellectual property theft and not place American farmers in harm’s way.”

The group added that the White House has ignored its requests for meetings.

The timing also hurts farmers, as it is too late in the season for farmers to adjust planting plans.

“Crops are in the ground and will soon be ready for harvest,” said Casey Guernsey with Americans For Farmers and Families. “We need the certainty of knowing that there will be market availability in order to sell them.”

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Ukraine ‘Corruption Park’ Shows Ill-Gotten Gains

A pop-up “Corruption Park” has opened in Ukraine to highlight the scale of the problem with interactive exhibits and displays of ill-gotten gains including a $46,000 crystal falcon.

One of the first things visitors see in the EU-funded show is a tent shaped like the gold loaf of bread found in the house of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych after he fled Ukraine in 2014.

Elsewhere, they can inspect a $300,000, limited-edition BMW seized from a corrupt official, and a copy of a 8-million-euro chandelier that, the display says, could have paid for a family’s electricity bill for 64,000 years.

In another tent, visitors lie back in a four-poster bed and watch a multimedia film of the imagined nightmares of a guilty government functionary.

The EU Anti-Corruption Initiative, which staged the show in Kiev’s botanical gardens, said it was meant to show the scale of corruption in Ukraine, and what it costs governments and citizens.

Ukraine’s Western-backed government has accused Yanukovych and his pro-Russian administration of widespread abuses and excesses.

But activists have also accused the current authorities of failing to crack down on graft, which is estimated to cost the country about 2 percent of its economic growth, according to the International Monetary Fund.

“For the kids, it’s a good example and revealing about the scale it all happens at,” Kyiv resident Lyuba said, as she queued with her children to don goggles and join a virtual reality anti-corruption investigation.

‘Corruption has taken so much’

The chandelier appears in a mock-up of an official’s room, decked out with the fruits of his corruption.

Other exhibits explain different schemes used for illegal enrichment.

“Corruption concerns everyone. This is one of the main ideas and goals of the project – to explain the direct relation between top level corruption and ordinary Ukrainians,” said Volodymyr Solohub, spokesman for the EU Anti-Corruption Initiative, which paid for the 140,000 euro ($162,000) park.

“A lot of people just come out disappointed that corruption has taken so much from the country,” he said.

One tent called ‘The Fight’ explains what the current authorities have done to combat graft, including the establishment of anti-corruption agencies.

Depicting the various government bodies as pieces in a puzzle, the exhibit illustrates that there is one missing piece: an independent court dedicated to prosecuting corruption cases, whose creation has been repeatedly pushed back.

Earlier in June, parliament voted to establish the court, but activists have said the law contains an amendment that would undermine the court’s effectiveness and Ukraine’s commitments to external backers such as the International Monetary Fund.

 

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WHO Classifies Gaming as a Mental, Addictive Disorder

For the first time, the World Health Organization is adding Gaming disorder to the section on Mental and Addictive Disorders in its new International Classification of Diseases. The ICD provides data on the causes of thousands of diseases, injuries and deaths across the globe and information on prevention and treatment.

The International Classification of Diseases was last revised 28 years ago.

Changes, which have occurred since then are reflected in this edition. Gaming disorder has been added to the section on mental and addictive disorders because demand for services to tackle this condition has been growing.

Gaming disorders usually are linked to a system of rewards or incentives, such as accumulating points in competition with others or winning money. These games are commonly played on electronic and video devices.

WHO officials say statistics, mainly from East and South Asian countries, show only a very small two to three percent of people are addicted to Gaming.

Director of WHO’s Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Shekhar Saxena, describes some of the warning signs of addictive Gaming behavior.

“Be careful if the person you are with, a child or another person is using Gaming in an excessive manner… If it is consuming too much time and if it is interfering with the expected functions of the person, whether it is studies, whether it is socialization, whether it is work, then you need to be cautious and perhaps seek help,” said Saxena.

In the previous WHO classification, gender identity disorders, such as transsexualism were listed under mental and behavioral conditions. Saxena says this now has been moved to the chapter on disorders of sexual behavior along with some other conditions.

“The people with gender identity disorder should be not categorized as a mental disorder because in many cases, in many countries it can be stigmatizing, and it can actually decrease their chances of seeking help because of legal provisions in many countries,” said Saxena.

A new chapter also has been added on traditional medicine. Although traditional medicine is used by millions of people worldwide, it never before has been classified by WHO in this system.

 

 

 

 

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