Author: Fworld

Giant US Bank Reveals 29 Percent Pay Gap Between Men, Women

Female employees at Citigroup Inc around the world are paid just 71 percent of what men earn, the giant bank said on Wednesday, declaring its intentions to close its gender pay gap.

A Citigroup shareholder group that sought data on the pay gap said the bank is the first U.S. company to disclose such figures.

The U.S.-based bank employs more than 200,000 people in more than 100 countries, and more than half those employees are female, it said.

Tackling the 29 percent gap means increasing the number of women in senior and higher-paying roles, promoting women to at least 40 percent of assistant vice president through managing director jobs, Citigroup said in a statement.

Citigroup said it disclosed the data in response to a shareholder proposal from Arjuna Capital, an investment management firm.

The bank said its “raw pay gap” showed median pay for females globally was 71 percent of the median for men.

The raw gap measures the difference in median total compensation not adjusted for job function, level and geography.

With those adjustments, women are paid an average of 99 percent of what men are paid, it said.

“We have work to do, but we’re on a path that I’m confident will allow us to make meaningful progress,” Sara Wechter, head of human resources, said in a statement.

In the United States overall, women last year working full-time year-round earned 80 percent of what men earned, according to commonly cited data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Congress outlawed pay discrimination based on gender in 1963, yet public debate over why wages still lag drastically for women has snowballed in recent years.

Globally, the World Economic Forum reported an economic gap of 58 percent between the sexes for 2016, costing the global economy $1.2 trillion annually.

Last January, Citigroup said it was increasing compensation for women and minorities to bridge pay gaps in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, becoming the first big U.S. bank to respond to a shareholder push to analyze and disclose its gender pay gap.

This past year it expanded its pay equity review beyond those three countries to its workforce globally, it said.


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Rights Groups Worry Barr Will Continue Sessions’ Policies

A day after reassuring members of Congress that he’d allow the special counsel to complete his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, attorney general nominee William Barr drew fresh criticism Wednesday over his support for the controversial policies of his ousted predecessor, Jeff Sessions.

A parade of character witnesses and subject matter experts appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to offer sharply divergent views of the nominee, a tough-on-crime former attorney general who has praised Sessions. While friends and associates lauded Barr’s integrity and commitment to the rule of law, civil rights leaders worried that he would carry on Sessions’ policies.

“For the past two years, the Justice Department has been led by an attorney general intent on restricting civil and human rights at every turn,”  said Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, a leading civil rights advocacy organization. “The nation needs an attorney general who will dramatically change course and enforce federal civil rights laws with vigor and independence. Based on his alarming record, we are convinced that William Barr will not do so.” 

NAACP opposition

Other major civil rights organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation’s oldest, have opposed Barr’s nomination, which is widely expected to be approved by the Senate, where Republicans hold a majority.

Although Sessions was praised by many for cracking down on violent crime and illegal immigration, he was criticized by the NAACP and others for undoing key Obama-era Justice Department policies, including reform agreements with police departments involved in shootings and rights violations, as well as protections for LGBTQ students.

Barr has supported many of the initiatives enacted by Sessions. In an opinion piece he co-authored with two other former Republican attorneys general after Sessions’ ouster in November, he praised Sessions for “[restoring] law and order” by reinstituting tough sentencing guidelines for drug dealers, cracking down on illegal immigration, overseeing a record number of prosecutions of violent crime defendants and “refocusing” the Justice Department’s efforts to protect freedoms of expression and religion.

Asked whether he’d continue Sessions’ policies, Barr told lawmakers on Monday that he supported ending the police department reform agreements known as consent decrees and opposed a controversial decision by Sessions to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states where marijuana use is legal. But he was noncommittal on other initiatives, saying he’d have to examine their legal bases before deciding which to keep.

Barr also offered strong support for enforcing civil rights statutes and laws against hate crimes, which have been on the rise in recent years. 

“We must have zero tolerance for such crimes,” he said. 

‘Prisons work’

Barr has drawn scrutiny in recent weeks for his past opposition to criminal justice reform. In 1992, he said “our system is fair and does not treat people differently.” Also in 1992, the then-attorney general wrote the preface to a Justice Department report, The Case for More Incarceration, that argued “prisons work” and “we need more of them.”  As recently as 2015, he opposed bipartisan legislation on sentencing reform.

Under questioning, Barr defended his position, saying he advocated for incarcerating violent and chronic offenders at a time of rising crime in the country. He also acknowledged that heavy penalties for crack offenses had “harmed the black community.”

Barr also pledged to “diligently” enforce the First Step Act, a sweeping new criminal justice reform law that lowers some mandatory sentences and gives prisoners added opportunities to earn reductions in jail time.

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Ex-Marine Held in Russia on Spying Charge Gets Prison Visit 

The brother of a former U.S. Marine with multiple citizenships says Irish government representatives have visited Paul Whelan at the Russian prison where he is being held on an espionage charge.

David Whelan said in a Wednesday statement that according to diplomatic staff members from Ireland, conditions were good in the Moscow prison where his brother was detained. The statement said U.S. officials were expected to visit Thursday; the U.S. ambassador saw him on Jan. 2.  

Whelan was detained Dec. 28 and charged with spying, which carries a potential sentence of 20 years upon conviction. Russian officials have not released details of the allegations against him.

Whelan, who was living in Michigan and working as global security director for a U.S. company, also holds British and Canadian citizenships.

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Jonathan Nez Sworn In as Navajo Nation President

Jonathan Nez delivered a message of hope, resilience and change Tuesday in his inaugural address as president of the Navajo Nation, drawing from the tribe’s history as a way to move forward.

He and Vice President Myron Lizer took the oath of office before a large crowd at an indoor sports arena in Fort Defiance, near the tribal capital, that dwindled as the ceremony ran longer than scheduled.

The two easily won November’s general election to lead the tribe on the nation’s largest Native American reservation for the next four years. They will have to confront a loss of about $40 million in annual revenue and hundreds of jobs held by Navajos if a coal-fired power plant and its supply mine close in December, as expected.

Nez and Lizer said they would support Navajo entrepreneurs and Navajo-owned businesses, eliminate redundancies in the tribal government and restore people’s trust in their leaders. They also vowed to work with tribal lawmakers.

“We have to begin to view the situation as an opportunity to re-evaluate ourselves on the way we do business,” said Nez, 43.

The inauguration was a mix of traditional Navajo elements and Christianity, which wasn’t received well among everyone in the audience, with speeches in Navajo and English. A traditional practitioner blessed the men, as did pastors. Nez quoted scripture in his address and highlighted the strength of Navajos who were forcibly marched off their homeland 150 years ago and of Navajo women.

He spoke about self-reliance, a healthy lifestyle, and returning to lessons learned in the sheep camp and rooting oneself in the Navajo language.

His words about instilling hope in Navajo youth facing adversity because of bullying, depression and rates of suicide among Native Americans that are higher than the general population were reassuring for Kathleen Bowman, who heads the tribe’s public defender office.

​”What I’d like to see is for our leaders to think in terms of helping our people overcome addiction to substance abuse, help them find ways to heal from what they’ve suffered from growing up,” she said. “There should be a message of hope because we certainly need change.” 

Nez proudly proclaimed he’s from Shonto, Arizona, and had leaders from the community and his own parents depicted in faint images over pictures of Shonto Canyon displayed behind the stage. Also in the backdrop were two large Navajo rugs woven in the Ganado style, symmetrical geometric designs that look like dazzling eyes in colors that aligned with Nez’s campaign. Two rugs featuring the Navajo Nation seal were on either side. 

More modern art was placed at the front of the stage showing vibrant corn stalks and moccasins around a basket, in what inauguration director Curtis Berry said was meant to honor youth.

“To me, the youth are our future, and the way they’re depicting our culture is different, is changing,” he said.

The Navajo Nation Council delegates took the oath of office together, picking items from a basket that’s referred to as their medicine bundle in blessing themselves.

Delegate Nathaniel Brown said the council should make the expected shortfall in revenue a priority, a sentiment echoed by his colleagues, and think well ahead in to the future. A Navajo energy company is studying the purchase of the Navajo Generating Station near the Arizona-Utah border and the Kayenta Mine, and the council would have some say if it moves forward.

“What are we going to leave for our children?” Brown said. “Are we going to preserve our language, our culture, our way of life? We need to look deep into the future and have a massive plan.”

Other leaders of Arizona tribes and past Navajo leaders attended the inauguration. But the Navajo Nation’s immediate past president, Russell Begaye, did not. He ran for re-election but didn’t make it beyond the tribe’s primary in August. 

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US Condemns Failed Iranian Attempt to Put a Satellite in Orbit

The United States is criticizing Iran’s failed attempt Tuesday to launch a satellite into orbit.

Iranian officials say the launch failed when the rocket carrying the satellite did not reach the proper speed to propel it into orbit.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Iran for what he calls its “defiance of the international community…the launch yet again shows that Iran is pursuing enhanced missile capabilities that threaten Europe and the Middle East.”

Pompeo said the rocket that Iran used to try to put the satellite into orbit “incorporates technologies that are virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.”

He said the launch violates a 2015 UN Security Council Resolution urging Iran not to work on ballistic missile technology for eight years. 

The resolution is part of the six-nation nuclear agreement with Iran from which the U.S. withdrew last year.

Iran says its space launches and satellite program have no military intent and will continue.

It also says they do not violate the Security Council resolution which it says only recommends but does not bar Iran from such launches.

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When Mom’s Paychecks Stop, Kid Starts New Business

When Bella Berrellez learned her mother was furloughed, she looked for ways help the family.

Political bickering in Washington means Bella’s mom and hundreds of thousands of other U.S. federal employees won’t get paid until the dispute is resolved. Some federal workers have been sent home, while others work without pay.

Entrepreneur Bella, 11, created homemade body scrubs with various scents and sold them for $7 each to neighbors and online communities. In just two weeks, she has sold more than 400 jars.

“Some of them are from the area. Some are from all over the world. And some are from different parts of the country,” she said of her customers.

Many of them, including 16-year-old Lataija Bonner, are buying the products to show their support during the government shutdown.

“I send kudos to her, because I know a few young kids that are doing what she’s doing, and I’m really proud of her because I know me being 16 and Bella just turned 11 or 12, I know I probably wouldn’t have done it,” Bonner said. “I probably would have been like, ‘Oh sorry Mom. Sorry Dad.’ Like, I don’t know what to do.”

Bella’s mother works for the Food and Drug Administration and is currently furloughed. She is among the 800,000 federal workers who missed a paycheck on Jan. 11.

“My family is OK, and now I felt really, really happy and really good,” Bella said. “And now I’m putting my money back into the business and also donating my money to Nourish Now.”

Nourish Now is a nonprofit organization that collects food from donors like restaurants and cafeterias and distributes it to families in need. The organization also accepts financial contributions from the community.

“It’s amazing to see people from all ages, especially as young as Bella, trying to step forward and help her family out,” said David Joffee, chief program officer at Nourish Now. “It’s just admirable what she is doing. And as you can see in social media and the news, there are so many businesses and organizations out there that are willing to lend a hand. It’s great to see community members of different ages, types, sizes, etc., are willing to do this. It’s a really nice effort that we’ve seen so far.”

Recently, the organization set up a dinner for hundreds of people in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area impacted by the shutdown.

And Bella says she is happy that her effort is helping her family and others.

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Erdogan says Discussed Turkey Setting up Safe Zone in Syria with Trump

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he had discussed a safe zone which Turkey would set up inside Syria along the length of their border, during a phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump which he described as positive.

Trump, who announced he was pulling U.S. troops out of northeast Syria last month, suggested in a tweet on Sunday creating safe zone, without elaborating.

“The safe zone issue, including a safe zone along Turkey’s borders that will be formed by us — an issue that I have brought up since the Obama era — was reiterated by him as 20 miles,” Erdogan told members of his AK Party in parliament.

He later told reporters that the zone could be extended beyond 20 miles, but did not say by how far.

Turkey has promised to take over the fight against Islamic State in Syria following the U.S. withdrawal. However, bitter differences between Washington and Ankara over the Kurdish YPG militia had soured talks between the two NATO partners.

The YPG has been a main U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic State, but Turkey views it as a terrorist organization and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

Monday’s call between the two leaders came after Trump threatened Turkey with economic devastation if Turkish forces attacked the YPG militia.

Erdogan said he was saddened by Trump’s tweet but that the phone call later in the day was positive.

Trump’s threat to devastate Turkey’s economy also sparked concern among investors, sending the lira down as much as 1.6 percent on Monday. Erdogan said he and Trump had agreed to improve economic ties during their phone call.

“Turkey will continue to do what it has to in order to solve this issue in line with the spirit of its alliance, so long as our rights and laws are respected,” he said. “We reached a historic understanding with Trump last night.”

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Trump Denies, Denounces New Questions of Russian Influence

President Donald Trump has declared he has “never worked for Russia,” days after news reports suggested he might be beholden to Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s denial to reporters Monday was in response to a New York Times article published late Friday that the FBI had opened a counter-intelligence investigation into whether he was acting as a Russian agent when he fired James Comey as FBI director in May 2017. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

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