Global markets started the new week and quarter with very muted trading in Asia as most key markets including Australia, New Zealand , Hong Kong, Canada, UK and most parts of Europe remain closed for Easter holidays. US stock futures are lower... ...and equities in Asia have given up the gains seen early in the session amid fears of escalating trade wars, while European markets remain offline. As a reminder, overnight China announced that that starting Monday it would impose tariffs on U.S. products including frozen pork, wine and certain fruits and nuts in response to U.S. duties on imports of aluminum and steel. MSCI’s world equity index ended up 1.2% last week, but it lost about 1.5% in the first quarter, pushed away from record highs as tensions over global trade escalated, turmoil in the White House deepened and market-leading technology firms wobbled on fears of regulation and other issues. Still, so far the S&P 500 has tested and held the 200d MA twice and has again begun to bounce / stabilize, as all eyes remain on this key technical support level. “We expect strong and broad-based growth to continue globally,” wrote strategists at Barclays who warned that there were looming risks: “Trade protectionism, U.S. economic policy uncertainty, concerns about higher cross-market volatility and risk premium in core rates markets call for a more tactical approach to risk assets.” With FX markets on a standstill (more below), the key focus of note today will be China’s new tariffs on 128 US products which officially start today, as well as softer manufacturing PMI data from many countries in Asia. The main themes remain the same: trade tensions, a dovish start to life under Powell at the Fed, soggy wages and potentially further changes to the Trump administration, Brexit headline risks, rate hike outlooks being pushed forward in the antipodeans, uncertainty around ECB, JPY’s volatility and political risks in EM and for Oil. What Asian markets were open saw aggressive profit-taking into the close: Chinese stocks erased gains to end Monday at session lows, following their worst quarter in two years. Brokers bucked broad market declines after the central government announced a trial program for Chinese Depositary Receipts. The Shanghai Composite closed down 0.2%, wiping out an earlier advance of 0.7%. Similarly in Japan, the Topix closes down 0.4%, erasing gain of as much as 0.4%, with volume 20% below 30-day average. Banks were the biggest drag on benchmark, outweighing gain in "other products" gauge. The Nikkei also slumped 0.3% after wiping out a 0.7% rise. Ovenright we got the latest Japan Tankan data: large manufacturers tankan came at 24 (expected 25), with the Japan Tankan manufacturing outlook disappointing at 20 (vs expected 22). The budget rate for USDJPY was lowered a bit from 110.67 to 109.66 during FY2018. CitiFX Strategist Osamu Takashima says, “I believe most of manufacturing companies have lowered it further toward 105 more recently.” Asian manufacturing PMI for March have mainly disappointed today and while this is not having an impact on the immediate price action, it is something to keep an eye on. Of note, China's March Caixin manufacturing PMI data came lower than expected at 51.0 versus exp. 51.7. It has been a quiet start to the FX week as well, with the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index falling 0.1%, extending the three-day slide to 0.4% although staying within a tight range, amid muted trading due to the Easter holiday. The pound led gains among G-10 currencies at the start of a week flooded with tier-one data releases out of the U.S, while the yen was marginally weaker after Tankan survey slips. Of note: for Monday, the The People’s Bank of China raised the daily reference rate for the yuan to strongest since Aug. 11, 2015, aka the "day of the devaluation", as the dollar weakened: PBOC raised the yuan reference rate by 0.19% to 6.2764 per dollar. The fixing was in line with expectations: average estimate in Bloomberg survey of 17 traders and analysts was 6.2762. Some of the other notable FX moves, from Bloomberg: The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index falls 0.1%; the measure declined for a fifth straight quarter, ended March 30, its worst run since March 2008 The pound is the biggest mover amid thin trading as some markets in Asia and Europe remained shut for Easter holidays Sterling rises for the first time in five days versus the dollar, climbing 0.4% to $1.4064; rises 0.3% to 87.67 pence against the euro The Japanese yen is little changed during London hours after weakening slightly in Asia; analysts project it will weaken against all its G-10 peers this quarter; USD/JPY is forecast to climb to 108 by the end of June, from the current level of 106.35, the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey shows U.S. 10-year Treasury yield climbs 2bps to 2.76% after its third straight quarterly advance in the period through March 30 Crude oil prices extended gains, lifted by a drop in U.S. drilling activity as well as by expectations that the United States could re-introduce sanctions against Iran. U.S. drillers cut seven oil rigs in the week to March 29, bringing the total count down to 797. It was the first time in three weeks that the rig-count fell. U.S. crude futures rose 0.3 percent to $65.14 a barrel and Brent advanced 0.5 percent to $69.67 a barrel. Bahrain said it has discovered its biggest oil field in more than 80 years. The “highly significant” oil and deep gas resource is thought to dwarf the Gulf kingdom’s current reserves, according to an official announcement on Sunday. It is located in the Khaleej al-Bahrain basin, located off the country’s west coast. “Initial analysis demonstrates the find is at substantial levels, capable of supporting the long-term extraction of tight oil [light crude] and deep gas,” said Bahrain’s minister of oil, Shaikh Mohamed bin Khalifa al-Khalifa. This week, Fed Chairman Jay Powell will be giving his first speech since the FOMC March meeting. He will be giving a speech on the economic outlook on Friday, April 6 during a visit to Chicago. The speech is at 12:30 Chicago time, which is 11:30 EST and 16:30 BST. This will come just after the latest payrolls and AHE report. U.S. data due this week include Monday’s Institute for Supply Management (ISM) manufacturing index, Wednesday’s ISM non-manufacturing index and the non-farm payrolls report on Friday. Below is a list of the top Bloomberg Economics news to start the week: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was on a tear in a series of speeches Saturday, attacking supporters of high interest rates, Israel for its actions in Gaza and Kosovo’s leader for protecting Turkey’s political enemies Electricite de France SA is among companies that have warned the U.K. government about the business threats of Brexit, according to a report in the Mail on Sunday that cites confidential documents More trade spats. While China’s retaliatory tariffs on 128 kinds of U.S. imported goods take effect Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump renewed his threat to dump Nafta if Mexico didn’t stem the flows of drugs and people from Central America into the U.S. Opening the wallets. Japanese businessmen say they’ll boost investment this year even as the stronger yen puts a dent in their confidence China’s Caixin PMI eased in March, in contrast to a rebound in the official PMI released over the weekend, clouding the growth picture for the end of the first quarter Music diplomacy. K-Pop girl band Red Velvet on Sunday headlined the first of two concerts packed with South Korean music groups to an audience that included North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures down 0.3% to 2,635.25 STOXX Europe 600 up 0.4% to 370.87 MSCI Asia Pacific unchanged at 172.76 MSCI Asia Pacific ex Japan up 0.3% to 565.48 Nikkei down 0.3% to 21,388.58 Topix down 0.4% to 1,708.78 Hang Seng Index up 0.2% to 30,093.38 Shanghai Composite down 0.2% to 3,163.18 Sensex up 0.7% to 33,195.21 Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.5% to 5,759.37 Kospi down 0.07% to 2,444.16 Brent Futures up 1% to $70.02/bbl Gold spot up 0.5% to $1,331.70 U.S. Dollar Index down 0.08% to 89.90 German 10Y yield unchanged at 0.497% Euro up 0.05% to $1.2330 Brent Futures up 0.8% to $69.91/bbl Italian 10Y yield fell 5.4 bps to 1.532% Spanish 10Y yield unchanged at 1.164% Top Overnight News China urged trade talks with the U.S. to prevent greater damage to relations while saying that previously announced retaliatory measures on American imports took effect Monday Trump administration to unveil the list of Chinese imports targeted for tariffs this week, according to unnamed officials: Reuters Investors, strategists and traders remain bullish on emerging assets for the rest of 2018, a Bloomberg survey shows. Top picks are Asian stocks, followed by Latin American bonds, according to the survey of 15 participants conducted March 22-28; In currencies, Asia came top again, ahead of Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Latin America With pressure escalating after one of the worst weeks in its almost 15-year-history, Tesla Inc. raced to manufacture and deliver its mission-critical Model 3 sedan to burnish the numbers it’s about to report to rattled investors More American consumers than at any time in 27 years are convinced that it’s better to make big purchases now because retailer discounts and deals won’t be around much longer, according to the University of Michigan’s latest survey of consumer sentiment The U.S. Treasury Department plans to meet with market makers and other electronic trading firms to discuss ways to bring more transparency to the $14.5 trillion market for government debt, according to a person familiar with the matter President Donald Trump threatened to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement if Mexico doesn’t stop people and drugs from flowing into the U.S. from Central America Japan 1Q Tankan index 24 vs 25 est, outlook 20 vs 22 est Asia equity markets were mostly higher but with gains contained amid a holiday-quietened tone (Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, EU and UK are all closed) and as participants digested several key data releases including mostly better than expected Chinese PMI figures. Nikkei 225 (+0.7%) was positive as the index shrugged off a disappointing BoJ Tankan where large manufacturers’ sentiment deteriorated for the first time in 2 years and large industry numbers mostly missed forecasts, as the data also showed a strong all industry capex component and increased confidence across smaller businesses. Elsewhere, KOSPI (+0.2%) was also higher amid the improved geopolitical climate in the Korean peninsula, while Shanghai Comp. (+0.3%) was underpinned after better than expected Chinese Official Manufacturing and Non-Manufacturing PMI data over the weekend. Conversely, the Caixin Manufacturing PMI release was less inspiring and fell short of estimates while China also confirmed tariffs on US products in retaliation to US protectionist measures on steel and aluminium, which in turn capped advances in the mainland. Finally, 10yr JGBs were uneventful with price action range-bound amid gains in riskier assets as well as an unchanged BoJ Rinban announcement Top Asian News China Urges More Trade Talks as Tariffs on U.S. Goods Begin Japan Stocks to Watch: Oriental Land, Retail, Shimamura, Toyota Gold Climbs as Investors Weigh Rise in Trade Tensions Indonesia May Need to Follow Fed Hikes, Ex-Finance Chief Says Indian Road Builders Jump on Outlook After Year of Record Orders Markets across Europe are closed for Easter Monday. Top European News Russian Stocks Are Cheap, And With Good Reason: Markets Live Portugal’s CP Has Some Train Services Halted Due to Strike: TSF UAE Weighs Investment in Baikonur Cosmodrome Upgrade: Interfax Ukraine’s Privatbank Says It Sues PwC in Cyprus Court Orthodox Policies May Boost Russian Bonds Prosafe Says Standstill Pact With Cosco Extended to May 20 Russia Fintech Will Make Winners, Just Not for Stocks In FX, the dollar was steady at 106.350 yen, while the euro was almost unchanged at $1.2317. The greenback had gained about 0.6 percent against a basket of six major currencies last week helped by a combination of factors including perceived progress on North Korea issues. The dollar index still lost more than 2 percent last quarter, marking its fifth straight quarter of declines. “A list of important indicators will be released this week, which could help steady market sentiment even though U.S.-China trade concerns and other geopolitical risks continue to linger in the background,” said Koji Fukaya, president at FPG Securities in Tokyo. In commodities, crude oil prices extended gains, lifted by a drop in U.S. drilling activity as well as by expectations that the United States could re-introduce sanctions against Iran. U.S. drillers cut seven oil rigs in the week to March 29, bringing the total count down to 797. It was the first time in three weeks that the rig-count fell. U.S. crude futures rose 0.3 percent to $65.14 a barrel and Brent advanced 0.5 percent to $69.67 a barrel. “Investors took their cue from falling U.S drilling counts,” Wang Xiao, head of crude oil research with Guotai Junan Futures said. “But increasing trade friction between China and U.S. is likely to rock global markets and tarnish bullish sentiment in crude oil markets.” US Event Calendar 9:45am: Markit US Manufacturing PMI, est. 55.7, prior 55.7 10am: Construction Spending MoM, est. 0.45%, prior 0.0% 10am: ISM Manufacturing, est. 60, prior 60.8;
Фондовые индексы Азиатско-Тихоокеанского региона закрылись в основном со снижением, следуя смешанным сигналам с Уолл-стрит. Рынок не отреагировал на позитивные данные из Китая. Согласно данным Китайской Федерацией Логистики и Снабжения (CFLP), индекс деловой активности (PMI) в производственном секторе в ноябре вырос до 51,8 с предыдущего значения 51,6. Экономисты ожидали более слабый рост показателя до 51,4. Также официальное исследование показало, что индекс PMI сектора услуг Китая в ноябре вырос до 54,8 с 54,3 в октябре. Японские акции достигли трехнедельного максимума, поскольку доллар укрепился против йены, а прибыль в финансовом секторе компенсировала слабость технологических компаний. Банки Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Mizuho Financial и Sumitomo Mitsui Financial закрылись с ростом примерно на 1% каждый, а брокерская компания Nomura Holdings увеличила капитализацию более чем на 3%. А вот производитель полупроводникового оборудования Tokyo Electron утратил -1,1% стоимости бумаг. Акции Oriental Land Co. выросли в цене на 3,6% после того, как газета Nikkei сообщила, что оператор Tokyo Disneyland будет инвестировать более Y300 млрд или $2,7 млрд в модернизацию и расширение своего курорта в Японии. Австралийские акции отступили. Банковские акции упали в цене после того, как премьер-министр Австралии Малкольм Тернбулл назначил комиссию по расследованию проступок в банковском секторе Австралии. Акции ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank и Westpac торгуются со снижением в диапазоне от -1,1% до -1,9%. Фондовый индекс Южной Кореи Kospi упал -1,45% до 2476,37 после того, как центральный банк страны впервые повысил процентные ставки более чем за шесть лет, заявив, что существует риск накопления финансовых дисбалансов. NIKKEI 22724.96 +127.76 +0.57% SHANGHAI 3317.58 -20.28 -0.61% HSI 29177.35 -446.48 -1.51% ASX 200 5969.89 -41.22 -0.69% KOSPI 2476.37 -36.53 -1.45% NZ50 8186.82 +44.86 +0.55% Информационно-аналитический отдел TeleTradeИсточник: FxTeam
Фондовые индексы Азиатско-Тихоокеанского региона торгуются в основном со снижением снижается, следуя смешанным сигналам с Уолл-стрит и снижению цен на сырьевые товары. Рынок не отреагировал на позитивные данные из Китая. Согласно данным Китайской Федерацией Логистики и Снабжения (CFLP), индекс деловой активности (PMI) в производственном секторе в ноябре вырос до 51,8 с предыдущего значения 51,6. Экономисты ожидали более слабый рост показателя до 51,4. Также официальное исследование показало, что сектор услуг Китая продолжил демонстрировать солидный рост. Официальный индекс активности непроизводственного сектора в ноябре вырос до 54,8 с 54,3 в октябре. Австралийский фондовый рынок снижается. Банковские акции упали в цене после того, как премьер-министр австралии Малкольм Тернбулл назначил королевскую комиссию по расследованию проступок в банковском секторе Австралии. Акции ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank и Westpac торгуются со снижением в диапазоне от -0,8% до -1,2%. Среди основных горнорудных компаний, бумаги BHP Billiton и Fortescue Metals подешевели почти -1% каждый, в то время как Rio Tinto снизил капитализацию более чем на -1%. Рыночная стоимость Woodside Petroleum снизилась на -0,2%, Oil Search - на -0,5%, а Santos снизился почти - на -2%. Японский рынок торгуется около нулевого значения, следуя смешанным сигнала с Уолл-стрит. Основные экспортеры и технические запасы торгуются со снижением, несмотря на более слабую иену. Акции Sony снизилась более чем на -2%, Panasonic - более чем на -1%, Mitsubishi Electric - почти на -1%, а Canon - на-0,3%. Рыночная стоимость Nintendo уменьшилась на более чем -2%, а SoftBank - почти на -3%. Акции Oriental Land Co. выросли более чем на 3% после того, как ежедневная ежедневная газета Nikkei сообщила, что оператор Tokyo Disneyland будет инвестировать более Y300 млрд или $2,7 млрд в модернизацию и расширение своего курорта в Японии. NIKKEI 22610.61 +13.41 +0.06% SHANGHAI 3329.09 -8.77 -0.26% HSI 29245.91 -377.92 -1.28% ASX 200 5975.30 -35.81 -0.60% KOSPI 2494.90 -18.00 -0.72% NZ50 8186.82 +44.86 +0.55% Информационно-аналитический отдел TeleTrade Источник: FxTeam
Oriental Land Co, operator of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, is planning to spend roughly 300 billion yen to expand the two theme parks, sources with knowledge of…
There is no denying the fact that a strong performance by the Parks & Resorts and movie businesses have acted as catalysts for The Walt Disney Company (DIS).
How would our next president deal with major environmental challenges? To that end, there are a number of key questions that need to be posed to the candidates of both parties on the campaign trail. Who is going to ask these politically sensitive questions? Hopefully the media will step forward, although they have yet to display much inclination to do so in any significant way. Perhaps some plucky member of the audience in a town hall meeting will compel the candidates to go on the record in public. What questions are we talking about? Let's start with climate change. Fifteen of the last 16 years have been the warmest on record, giving credence to climate change concerns. If elected, what actions if any would your administration take to counter this trend? How would you follow up on President Obama's Paris climate Summit commitment and his carbon reduction arrangement with China? What if any initiative would your administration take to mitigate the rising sea levels that are already plaguing coastal communities, especially along the Atlantic seaboard? Is there anything you would do to speed the transition from the nation's fossil fuel dependency to a clean, renewable energy-based economy? Would you consider a revenue neutral tax on carbon emissions, considering that the idea has been endorsed by prominent economists at both ends of the ideological spectrum? Given fracking's suspected link to ground water contamination and earthquakes, should a government investigation of the oil shale extraction process continue? Climate change is not the only topic that needs clarification in the presidential race. What actions would you take to curb environmental discrimination against low income Americans? (Reference could be made to the scandalous lead contamination of the water supply of Flint, Michigan, an economically depressed, minority-dominated community.) Should the Endangered Species Act be strengthened, weakened, or left as is? (Foes of the law complain that environmentalists are using it to block commercial development.) What changes if any would you make in the operations of the Environmental Protection Agency? What is your position on ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty that governs nations' activities in international waters? (Ratification has been supported by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, but approval has been stymied by a bloc of Republican senators over the years.) Some questions about public lands are in order. Should the protesters illegally occupying a national wildlife refuge in Oregon be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law? What is your take on their demands that the Constitution requires national wildlife refuges and other federal lands to be turned over to local control? Would you consider adding to the national park system and other public conservation-oriented lands? At the very least, eliciting answers from the candidates on these issues should reduce the chances of unpleasant post-election surprises. Americans are entitled to know where their president truly stands before receiving their votes much less taking the oath of office. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
The Republican presidential primaries are laying a political environmental minefield for the eventual nominee. Would-be White House occupants feel compelled to ingratiate themselves with the relatively thin, ultra-conservative sliver of the American public that represents the swing vote in the Republican primary contests. Whoever ends up as the GOP nominee will then be left to defend environmental positions that may resonate with the party's ultra-conservative base but not the general electorate. One assertion common to all the Republican primary participants that should come back to haunt the ultimate nominee is criticism of President Obama for labeling climate change a greater threat than terrorism. It is a distortion that a majority of voters are likely to hold against the GOP ticket. President Obama has not downplayed the dangers of international terrorism. He simply differentiated it from climate change in terms of a time continuum. Terrorism poses an immediate threat; unchecked climate change has long term ramifications with graver, more far reaching global consequences. In any case, Obama advocates that we be fully engaged to meet both challenges, leaving the Republican nominee to justify his party's hyperbole. Furthermore, it is a president's job is to anticipate future threats as well as deal with current ones. If the scientific consensus is correct that climate change has already increased the intensity of extreme weather events, then such disturbances have already claimed more lives than acts of terror. Also echoed by candidates throughout the GOP primaries has been a skeptical view of climate change's dangers. It is a view that the latest polls indicate is in conflict with that of the majority of Americans (and prospective voters). Another unpopular stance that the primaries' scrum will bequeath to the nominee is empathy for transferring national wildlife refuges and other federally owned conservation-oriented lands to the states, or better yet, private interests. This anti-big government fervor for property transfer is not shared by an overwhelming majority of Americans. That is true even in the western United States where most of the federally-owned land is located. Grassroots opposition into the land transfers is based on the untenable fiscal burden that the various states would assume, as well as on fear of reduced access to and excessive commercial use of conservation-oriented public lands. The Republican stance, however, has earned the support of anarchists, insurrection-minded militants, and other extremists, not a vote-getting inducement for the party's nominee. Denouncing regulations to protect the health of human beings and their surroundings as excessive and detrimental to the economy has been common GOP primary campaign rhetoric. But the nominee will have to answer to the many voters who differentiate between red tape that stifles businesses and regulations that reduce health risks. The eventual Republican choice for president will undoubtedly dial back some of the primaries' most controversial environmental positions in a bid to win support outside of the party base. Yet it is a no-win proposition. Many of the party faithful will fear the candidate's retreat is really genuine, and many non-committed voters will suspect it isn't. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Правительство Японии готово всячески способствовать тому, чтобы на месте американской базы Футэмма в городе Гинован на Окинаве был построен парк аттракционов и развлечений, подобный Диснейленду, сообщил генеральный секретарь кабинета министров Есихидэ Суга. «Мы получили предложение от администрации города (о создании на месте базы Футэмма парка аттракционов и развлечений Диснея) и со стороны правительства хотим оказать помощь, какую мы только можем», - приводит его слова РИА «Новости». Накануне генеральный секретарь встречался с мэром города Ацуси Сакимой и получил предложение от городских властей устроить на месте, где сейчас располагается авиабаза ВМС США, развлекательный парк после того, как база будет перенесена в другое место. Во время встречи Суга заявил о поддержке правительством этого начинания и даже познакомил Сакиму с руководством компании Oriental Land Co. Ltd., которая по лицензии от Disney Company управляет токийским Диснейлендом и соседним парком Tokyo Disney Sea. Живое участие правительства в создании центра развлекательной индустрии неслучайно. Согласно существующим день планам, база должна быть закрыта к февралю 2019 года. Для этого ее необходимо перенести в другое место. По замыслу правительства и прежней администрации префектуры Окинава, ее должны перенести в район Хэноко в городе Наго в той же префектуре. Для переноса базы в Хэноко необходимо засыпать около 157 гектаров прибрежной морской полосы. Местное население выступает против, так как это нанесет непоправимый ущерб коралловым рифам. Избранный год назад губернатором Окинавы Такэси Онага также выступил против переноса базы в пределах той же префектуры и отозвал прежние разрешения. В результате центральные власти и государство попытаются разрешить конфликт в суде, что неизбежно затянет процесс переноса базы. Поддержка правительством проекта создания Диснейленда или подобного ему парка аттракционов на месте базы может поколебать сопротивление жителей Окинавы ее переносу. Закладки:
The UN has confirmed that the chemical used in Damascus last month was sarin – a lethal poison with no taste, no smell and no colour. Which makes it one of the most murderous weapons in modern warfareNow we know. On the morning of 21 August, as the air above Damascus cooled, rockets filled with the nerve agent sarin fell on rebel-held suburbs of the Syrian capital and left scores of men, women and children dead or injured. UN inspectors had been in the country for three days, on a mission to investigate allegations of earlier atrocities. They quickly changed tack. They brokered a temporary ceasefire with the regime and the rebels and made straight for Ghouta. Video reports from the area showed hospital staff overwhelmed and desperate.Never before had UN inspectors worked under such pressure and in the midst of a war zone. The small team, headed by the Swedish chemical weapons expert Åke Sellström, was threatened with harm. Their convoy was shot at. But their 41-page report was completed in record time.Sarin was that breed of accident that scientists come to regret. Its inventors worked on insecticides made from organophosphate compounds at the notorious IG Farben chemical company in Nazi Germany. In 1938, they hit on substance 146, a formula that caused massive disruption to the nervous system. The chemical name was isopropyl methylfluorophosphate, but the company renamed it sarin to honour the chemists behind the discovery – Schrader, Ambros, Ritter and Van der Linde – according to Benjamin Garrett's 2009 book The A to Z of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare. The chemical they created had the grim distinction of being many times more lethal than cyanide.Substance 146 is not hard to make, but it is hard to make without killing yourself. There are more than a dozen recipes that lead to sarin, but all require technical knowhow, proper lab equipment and a serious regard for safety procedures. One major component is isopropanol, more commonly known as rubbing alcohol. Another is made by mixing methylphosphonyl dichloride with hydrogen or sodium fluoride. But methylphosphonyl dichloride is not easy to come by. Under the Chemical Weapons Convention it is listed as a schedule 1 substance, making it one of the most restricted chemicals in existence.Last year, the US and other countries stepped up efforts to block sales to Syria of chemicals that might be used to make sarin. But the country had already amassed substantial stocks of the precursors needed to make the agent. This month, it emerged that Britain had approved export licences to Syria for the sale of more than four tonnes of sodium fluoride between 2004 and 2010, though business secretary Vince Cable said there was no evidence they had been used in the Syrian weapons programme. The exports came on top of sales approved last year for sodium and potassium fluoride under licences that were later revoked on the grounds that they could be used in the manufacture of weapons.Though referred to as a nerve gas, sarin is a liquid at temperatures below 150C. To maximise its potential as a weapon, the substance is usually dispersed from a canister, rocket or missile in a cloud of droplets that are fine enough to be inhaled into the lungs. Inevitably, some evaporates into gas, much as spilt water turns into vapour. The chemical enters the body through the eyes and skin too. Sarin has no smell or taste and is colourless, so the first people may know of its use is when victims start to fall.Sarin takes such a dreadful toll on the body by interfering with a specific but crucial aspect of the nervous system. It blocks an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase, with devastating consequences. Nerves that usually switch on and off to control muscle movements can no longer be switched off. Instead, they fire constantly. There are mild effects: the eyes become irritated, the vision blurred; people's pupils shrink, they drool and vomit. Then there are the lethal effects. Breathing becomes laboured, shallow, erratic. Unable to control their muscles, victims have convulsions. The lungs secrete fluids and when people try to breathe, foam comes from their mouths, often tinged pink with blood. A lethal dose can be as small as a drop and can kill in one to 10 minutes. If people survive the first 20 minutes of a sarin attack, they are likely to live.Soon after sarin was invented, the recipe for the agent was passed to the German army, which set about manufacturing stocks of the weapon. The agent was loaded into shells, but never used on Allied forces in the second world war. At Nuremberg in 1948, one of the inventors, Otto Ambros, was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to eight years in prison. He was released after four years, and whisked off to the US where he worked as a consultant on that country's own chemical weapons programme. In military circles, sarin came to be known by a secret name: GB.A unique document from 1952, one year after Ambros arrived in the US, describes the gruesome effects of sarin poisoning after an unfortunate military accident. On the morning of 7 November 1952, a jet aircraft sped towards Dugway Proving Ground in Tooele, Utah. The sky was clear and the wind was a gentle breeze of 3-4mph. Each of the plane's wing tanks were filled with 100 gallons of sarin.The plan was for the plane to spray the sarin over a target site, but because of a malfunction, each tank still contained 90 gallons of sarin when they were jettisoned in an isolated area of the site at 8.29am. The tanks fell from 2,000ft on to the salt crust of the open desert and burst open as they struck the ground. The sarin, dyed red to help gauge how far it had dispersed, was spread over 38,000 sq ft.An inspection crew was sent out in an ambulance to investigate the site where the tanks had landed. Half an hour before arriving, they all donned gas masks. All except one 32-year-old man. He promptly climbed out of the ambulance and walked towards a crater made by one of the falling tanks. Within 10 seconds, he turned, clutched his chest and made quickly back to the ambulance. He called for his gas mask and stumbled. According to the report: "As he staggered, one arm extended and flexed in a jerky manner. He collapsed upon reaching the ambulance."Medics swiftly administered a deep injection of atropine into the man's thigh. This is the standard antidote for sarin, and it works by blocking the agent's effects on nerves. As he breathed, he made screeching sounds and low-pitched gargles. He had rapid, violent convulsions for a minute, his legs and spine extending, his arms flung above his head. He then fell into a flaccid paralysis and stared straight ahead. Two minutes later he made only the occasional gulp for air. Soon his pupils were pinpoints. "No arterial pulse could be detected by the aid man," the report says.The details of the exposure continue, recorded in minute, excruciating detail. Miraculously, the man survived after being hooked up to an "iron lung" resuscitator at a hospital. Nearly three hours after the accident, the report notes: "The patient appeared alert and oriented although he complained of severe malaise." The man held the unenviable title of the most severe sarin casualty of the time.The US was not the only country to experiment with sarin in the cold war years. The USSR produced the agent for chemical warfare. And Britain took an interest too. A year after the incident at Dugway, a 20-year-old RAF engineer called Ronald Maddison took part in an experiment at Porton Down, the UK's chemical warfare facility in Wiltshire. At 10.17am on 6 May, Porton scientists dripped liquid sarin on to the arms of Maddison and five others who, for the scientists' safety, were held in a sealed gas chamber. Maddison fell ill and slumped over the table. He was taken to the on-site hospital but died at 11am. In 2004, more than 50 years later, an inquest found that the Ministry of Defence had unlawfully killed Maddison after one of the longest cover-ups in cold war history.Accidents and unethical experiments gave only a glimpse of the horrors that scientists had made possible with the invention of sarin. In the hands of a nation's military, sarin and other agents were a means to kill swiftly such large numbers of people that the figures are quoted as rounded hundreds, even thousands. Saddam Hussein's bombardment of Halabja in northern Iraq lasted two days in 1988 and killed 5,000 people. The attack against the Kurdish people was recognised as an act of genocide by the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal in 2010. It was the largest chemical weapons attack against civilians in history.In 1993, 162 countries signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlawed the manufacture and stockpiling of chemical weapons. Gradually, nations began to destroy their stocks, itself a complex and dangerous task. Engineers came up with some blunt but effective ways of dealing with the problem. One is to strap explosives to rockets, shells or canisters filled with chemical agents and blow them up in an armoured blast chamber. Another is to burn the munitions in an armoured kiln. Stores of chemicals held in barrels are incinerated or "neutralised" by mixing them with other chemicals. Sophisticated facilities use airtight vessels and process their waste, but they are a luxury. In Iraq in the 1990s, chemical agents were mixed with petrol and burned in a furnace built from bricks in a trench in the desert.The convention did not put the raw chemicals for sarin out of reach. Two years later, in 1995, the Aum Shinrikyo sect punctured bags of homemade sarin in the Tokyo subway. Though only a dozen people were killed, more than 5,500 sought medical help, the vast majority being the "worried well" who feared they had been exposed. The psychological impact did not end with the attack. Kenichiro Taneda, a doctor at St Luke's International Hospital in Tokyo, recalled the awful realisation that he would have to wheel a young woman who had died in the emergency department past a large crowd to reach the hospital mortuary. So as not to cause more worry he "transferred her by keeping an oxygen mask on her face and covering her body with a blanket".Physicians who treated the victims of the Tokyo attack ran extensive tests to look for signs of sarin in blood, urine and other medical samples. The tests, and others developed by the military, have become standards for chemical weapons inspectors looking for evidence that sarin has been used.Sarin itself reacts easily with water and so it breaks down when it meets rain, moisture in the air or sweat. The agent's fragility in water led hospital staff in Syria to uses hoses to drench rooms where they received victims after chemical attacks. For the same reason, sarin does not hang around for long in the environment, or in people. Laboratories can test for the substance, but more often will find breakdown products. The first substance sarin degrades into is isopropyl methylphosphonic acid (IMPA), which is generally regarded as proof positive for sarin. But IMPA itself breaks down, into methylphosphonic acid (MPA). Finding MPA in blood or urine is not a smoking gun for sarin: it can come from other organophosphates. Knowing which one matters.The UN inspectors found concrete evidence that sarin was used with lethal effect in Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus on 21 August. The team plans to go back soon, to visit Khan al-Assal, Sheik Maqsood and Saraqueb, before submitting a final report. That will end another grim chapter in the story of sarin, and open a new one focused on destroying the weapon.Chemical weaponsSyriaUnited NationsMiddle East and North AfricaWeapons technologyChemistryNeuroscienceHuman biologyIan Sample theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
The most important economic historian ever to teach at U.C. Berkeley died last month: my old teacher David S. Landes taught at Berkeley starting in 1958 until Harvard lured him away until 1964. From a student's perspective, he was ideal: he knew more than you did, was eager to share, could and did make everything interesting and entertaining, and--best of all--knew that his job was to help you learn how to think rather than to tell you what to write. Those of us who got to sit at his feet were lucky. Those of you who did not can still be lucky. There are four books very much worth reading--in order, I would rank them as Dynasties, Bankers and Pashas, Revolution in Time, and The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. And there is a fifth book which is absolutely mind-blowing: The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present. In email, another of my teachers, the University of Pennsylvania's Jeff Weintraub, asked a question: Let's imagine that one wants to give students (or any other set of non-expert readers) a sweeping and illuminating introductory overview on the industrial revolution…. As far as I can tell, the best available single piece of this sort is still David Landes's 39-page ["Introduction"] to The Unbound Prometheus. At least, I'm not aware of a superior substitute that meets all those criteria… There isn't one. And Rich Yeselson asked: As I look at [Landes's "The Unbound Prometheus"] as an interested non-specialist, it… changes the subject completely, engenders countless augmentations/rebuttals/extensions/revisions/reconsiderations. Foundational work. Like The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Or The Interpretation of Cultures (despite being an essay collection). Ground shifts. It would be interesting to think of just the postwar books in the social sciences/humanities that meet that standard. And how many? Six? Ten? 25? After some further discussion with the History Department's Patrick Iber and others, I have come up with my own--very personal--list of twenty such books, or sets of writings, written since 1930 that have shifted the ground on which I think. But it is a personal list: your will surely be different: Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering Milovan Djilas, The New Class Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, "The Use of Knowledge in Society" Albert Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, "The End of Laissez-Faire" Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions David Landes, The Unbound Prometheus W. Arthur Lewis, The Evolution of the International Economic Order William McNeill, Plagues and Peoples Barrington Moore, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, 1984, The Road to Wigan Pier J.G.A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation Edward Said, Orientalism E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class
Authors: Suparna KarmakarThe 2013 World Trade Report (henceforth WTR 2013), published in the third week of July by the World Trade Organisation, identifies as key trends the greater incidence of non-tariff measures beyond WTO disciplines, the rise of new forms of regionalism and rise of emerging markets (EMs). The report argues that these developments will pose new challenges for the WTO, especially as a significant amount of trade opening is likely taking place outside the WTO, which also calls for maintaining coherence between WTO rules and non-trade regulations in other multilateral fora. The report also stresses that the emergence of new players will surely affect global governance in ways that are not yet understood. However, the report seems to have fallen short in identifying new and viable means of addressing these challenges, though it rightly notes that the challenges are best tackled multilaterally and in an open-economy mode, given the externalities generated by the high degree of integration among world economies across the development spectrum thanks to the emergence of global production and supply chains. This article outlines some of the inconsistencies of the WTR 2013 proposals. To increase the WTO’s relevance, the WTR 2013 calls for further expansion of the WTO agenda, in particular by adding new issues reflecting present realities, so that major participants in the multilateral trade negotiations have sufficient reasons to engage meaningfully in the dialogue. It also hopes that the recent proliferation of the mega-regionals such as the transpacific and transatlantic trade agreements will help to bring challengers to the WTO system back into the fold. This builds on the Uruguay Round’s achievements in extending the range of issues to provide for (1) multi-issue trade-offs for key trade partners, and (2) encouragement for many of the hold-out countries to sign up to the multilateral system. This strategy could be frustrated, however. The experience of the Doha Round negotiations clearly indicates that the Uruguay Round principle of simultaneously negotiating a large number of issues by promoting trade-offs across subjects in a single undertaking mode may have run out of steam, if only because the new issues of interest require complex regulatory coordination and the establishing of coherent standard between economically powerful nations. Bundling such topics by expanding the WTO’s remit may thus actually impede progress in future multilateral negotiations, similar to what is feared in the ongoing transatlantic trade negotiations (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP). It is not at all obvious that an expansion of the WTO agenda, with or without a safe landing of the Doha Round, will work its magic like the previous GATT-WTO rounds. The counterfactuals are rather more convincing. It is also not clear if the mega-regional agreements under negotiation will have any definitive influence on expanding the multilateral trade agenda. Taking the example of the transatlantic trade negotiations, even if the EU and US manage to create a ‘transatlantic (regulatory) fortress’ as a defence against competition from the rising Asian emerging markets, especially China, it is uncertain that they will be able to entice large EMs such as China and India into adopting those rules simply out of fear of exclusion. In a recent development, both China and India have ruled out joining negotiations on a US- and EU-backed proposal to expand the 1996 Information Technology Agreement (ITA), though both have benefited from the ITA in different ways. A more likely medium-term outcome is the possibility of creation of a dual regulatory regime in EMs in key areas such as product standards and intellectual property (IP), with the export-oriented firms in these economies adopting the higher standards, while a large part of the remaining producers servicing the domestic market continue to use the old, less rigorous standards and IP regimes. If the latter group is significantly large, as is likely, the incentive for national EM governments to sign up to more rigorous multilateral regulatory standards will diminish. Even the most pro-TTIP analysts do not seem to expect that a truly ‘deep’ agreement outlining ‘gold standard regulatory cooperation’ will be operational in the medium term. Much therefore will depend on the credible threat of ‘economically meaningful discriminatory outcome’ that the new mega-regionals can actually create.Read more...
Peter Higgins: Wolfhound Century Amanda Ripley: The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way Vaclav Smil: Creating the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations of 1867-1914 and Their Lasting Impact Giorgio Riello: Cotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World David Landes: The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present Dennis Showalter: Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk: The Turning Point of World War II Robert Irwin: Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Supreme Court argued over same-sex marriage cases, including Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Though the ruling may not be determined until late June, the nine justices attempted to solidify an opinion that will impact society for years to come. Same-sex marriage is the most controversial topic tackled by the Supreme Court since Roe v. Wade in 1973, which legalized abortion. The majority of the 50 states have proactively fought to legalize civil unions, domestic partnerships and same-sex marriage. However, the act of same-sex marriage is currently legal in 11 states -- New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington and Native American tribal jurisdictions. Other countries such as Sweden and Belgium have also recognized same-sex marriage. But, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done in order to establish equal marriage rights for all, not just some. For the better part of the 20th century, gay marriage has been a pressing topic. The individuals for it argue that love is love, no matter what. The individuals against it argue that a marriage between a man and a woman should be the only recognizable union. Many also quote the Bible to emphasize their distaste toward the matter. The Supreme Court now holds the power to make the ultimate decision on whether gay marriage will be upheld as a legal union in the U.S. The fact that the highest power of the land has decided to take on this case proves how widespread same-sex marriage is. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, "What gives the federal government the right to be concerned at all about the definition of marriage?" Sotomayor is correct. They have no right to impede on sexual orientation. They have no right to impede on relationships. And, they certainly have no right to impede on whom we choose to love. After two days of arguments over same-sex marriage, results are still inconclusive. Ultimately, the nine justices have agreed to disagree. If the Supreme Court is given the final say on the matter, then a decision needs to be made soon. America is waiting. Families are waiting. Equality is waiting.
Farm workers in one of the biggest orchards in the country have been studying their Bibles during this season of Lent. That doesn't surprise me -- immigrants, including both documented and undocumented, are the fasting growing population in the American churches. What is unusual is that they are using the very same Bible study as thousands of Anglo churches across the country are using -- especially white evangelical churches. The Biblical course is called "I Was A Stranger." Each of the 40 days during Lent, it examines one of the many verses in the Bible that addresses how we are to treat "strangers in the land." What's even more unusual is how many of these Christians have also persuaded their elected representatives in Congress to do the biblical study with them! For Christians, there is no day that more exemplifies hope and renewal than Easter. Each year on this day, we celebrate that the darkness of this world does not have the final say. When so much of the news from Washington, D.C. is bleak and inspires such little hope for the future, it is good to be reminded that more is possible than ever seems probable in our bleakest moments. While it remains to be seen, the issue of immigration just might be a reminder for us all of this reality. Many of those farm workers are feeling a lot of hope these days that the broken system that has endangered their lives and separated their families may about to be reformed. For them, this Easter seems especially hopeful. It would be an overstatement to say that Republican politicians suddenly discovered the case for comprehensive immigration reform in the exit polls of the 2012 election. But, there is truth to it. The shift in the party's approach to the debate since the returns came in has been stark. However, this shift on immigration for many conservative Christians started well before any election results came in and is now driving the conversation on immigration reform more than most realize. Here is the story you might not know. There were seven days in Washington, between June 12 and June 19, 2012 -- one week -- in which a public policy discussion begun to turn around. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama had tried to pass comprehensive immigration reform but were blocked in Congress by political maneuvering. But now, the winds are changing and reform seems close. And, a surprising group of evangelicals are helping to fuel the change. On Tuesday, June 12, over a year's worth of work and building relationships was revealed with the public announcement of a new "table" of evangelicals committed to immigration reform. We launched a statement of principles that was signed by more than 150 evangelical leaders from prominent Hispanic evangelicals like Luis Cortez, Samuel Rodriguez, and Gabriel Salguero to prominent Anglo pastors such as Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, and Joel Hunter -- and even to Richard Land of the Southern Baptists Convention and Jim Daly of Focus on the Family. The political disagreements of those who signed the statement are enormous, but still each person was united over their concern for the millions of people caught in a broken immigration system. Instead of dividing over ideology and politics, we came together for the sake of morality and the common good. Early that Friday morning we got a call from the White House telling us that the president had decided to make a major announcement that day: young people under 16 years of age who had come to this country illegally when they were only children would no longer be subject to deportation. If they were law-abiding residents and had been to school, they would instead receive work permits that could be renewed every two years. It was similar to, though not as expansive as, the Dream Act, which Congress had previously voted against. That was very good news for the million and a half young people who have a dream of staying in the country they have lived in most of their lives. Instead of being placed in the deportation pipeline, they would now be enabled to contribute to the nation and help build America's future. Two days later, on Sunday, there was great joy in churches across the country, with reports of many celebrations of Christians, both Hispanic and Anglo -- often together -- singing, dancing, and thanking God. It was also Father's Day, and many immigrant fathers felt for the first time in their lives the relief of not having their children living in the shadows of fear. On Monday, the media pundits assessed the political situation. Contrary to many expectations, the Republican opposition to the president did not offer much pushback. Rather, some conservative Republican commentators now supported the action, described it as a good policy decision, and said it should have been done sooner -- which, of course, it should have. By Tuesday, a poll showed that 70 percent of all Americans supported the decision to no longer deport young people who had lived here all of their lives and instead allow them to contribute to their real home country; only 30 percent opposed the move. That week opened the door for a new bipartisan hope for immigration reform. But bipartisan results in politics are increasingly difficult to accomplish. It took moral pressure from outside the political system to get the system to slowly begin to work. Some politicians have found themselves convinced by voting patterns and others by concern for immigrants, but what has fueled the change in opinion among the evangelical community has been clear. It all boils down to scripture and relationships. The Old Testament refers to immigrants 92 times throughout the text and almost all of those references have to do with treating immigrants with concern and respect. Jesus explicitly tells his followers in Matthew 25 that how they treat immigrants and "strangers" is equivalent to how they treat him. Christians are hearing the message the Bible has for them: if they treat immigrants and "strangers" well, they are treating Jesus well. If they treat immigrants and "strangers" poorly, they are treating Jesus poorly. At the same time, more and more Christians are finding themselves sharing their pews with immigrants on Sunday. And while many of the country's major denominations are losing members, immigrant communities are increasing church rolls. To worship with someone is to know them better; many Americans are finding immigrants to be hard working, family oriented, and committed to both God and their communities. These shifts had been happening naturally and informally in many ways over the past 10 years but now they are occurring in a focused and purposeful way. The Evangelical Immigration Table that launched last June has been methodically blanketing evangelical college campuses with conferences and summits discussing immigration reform. Tens of thousands of Christians and churches have responded to the 40-day scripture reading challenge. Radio ads are up or going up in key states across the country on Christian radio stations with pastors talking about the moral case for immigration reform. Often times the legislation in Washington, D.C., is seen in terms of a "zero-sum game" -- when one person or party benefits, the other suffers. But, on immigration reform, that view is being challenged. Ultimately, it is not just immigrants that benefit from fixing our immigration system but churches, communities, law enforcement, and businesses will all benefit from these changes. If we can bring 11 million people out of the shadows, the whole country will be a better place. It requires a change in thinking and perspective. It necessitates us going beyond an analysis of who is up or down in the polls or what congressional districts are up for grabs. It makes us ask the question that before party or ideology, how can we serve the common good? It is a question that can sometimes be harder to answer because it requires us to think outside of our normal boxes, but when we do wrestle with the answer, we all benefit. Most people in America have lost their faith in Washington; the current and bitter "sequester" battle is a prime example of how some have lost sight of the common good. But in the same Capitol City at the same time and with the same players, the immigration debate is becoming an alternative example. That stark contrast bears some reflection. So the common good is still possible in Washington, D.C., but only when we get beyond Washington. What hope requires is replacing bitter ideological battles with the search for the common good.
I hate name calling. It's disrespectful, offensive and just plain stupid. If you're not like me and love name calling, then (no surprise) the Internet is the perfect place for you, especially social media sites like YouTube and Twitter. Or maybe you should just have your own blog. There are lots of really offensive name callers out there, but in my experience the worst ones are the gun advocates. I'm talking about minuteman militia-type guys who laugh at the idea that the Second Amendment is about self-defense. They say you're a moron if you think that. You see, it's really about the need to arm yourself against the federal government. The militia guys are afraid that at any second the government is going to land in Black Hawk helicopters on their front lawns, storm their compounds and take away their guns. They know that the U.S. government is pretty well-armed. After all, they have thousands of nuclear weapons, and the militia guys don't want to be caught flatfooted. So they are looking to stockpile as much high-powered weaponry as they possibly can. You see, that's what the founding fathers intended. If you're thinking about sending out a really radical gun control tweet, like saying that having more than 300 million guns floating around the country might actually make us all less safe, be sure to cancel your schedule for the rest of the day. You'll have your hands full fighting off a name-calling barrage of apocalyptic proportions from a host of Second Amendment "experts" who want you to know in no uncertain terms that you are absolutely one of the dumbest mofos ever to crawl across the face of the Earth. So I do indeed hate name calling. It's typically a self-indicting waste of time and an embarrassing admission of intellectual bankruptcy. But is name calling always wrong? No, actually it's not. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Emerson's wisdom applies in the case of name calling. Specifically, if somebody is a bigot, you have a right -- in fact, you have a responsibility -- to call them out and say, "Hey, you're a bigot." Most bigots don't think they're bigots. They think they're right. When I was growing up in an all-white working-class suburb just outside Philadelphia, almost all the adults in my neighborhood were racists. Some of them were rabidly racist. They called black people "niggers" and "coons." Others were less obvious. But all these people had the same view: They all thought that black people were inferior to white people, intrinsically inferior, that is. They thought that black people were by nature stupid, immoral and dangerous. Yes, dangerous. Ironically, the white racists in my neighborhood were afraid of the people they looked down upon. They also all thought that they themselves were good, god-fearing Christians. They didn't think they were racists. They didn't think they were bigots. They thought they were right. It's the same today with most people who are anti-gay and anti-transgender. I'm sure the entire congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church thinks of themselves as good, god-fearing Christians. They think they're not bigots. They think they're just right. I mean, their website is called GodHatesFags.com. Clearly, if somebody is a bigot, we need to call that person a bigot. But in calling out bigots, let's start with the biggest bigot of all. To paraphrase the Westboro Baptists, God, or at least the god of the Old Testament, is anti-gay and anti-transgender. But obviously the Old Testament god's bigotry doesn't make bigotry right. It just makes the Old Testament god a bad god. Shame on him, and shame on anybody who uses the Bible to justify their own bigotry against gay and transgender people. Of course, "the Bible tells me so" is the single most popular way that people justify anti-gay and anti-transgender bigotry. It's the number-one justification that Republicans use for continuing to oppose marriage equality. John Boehner made exactly that justification earlier this month when he said, "I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. ... It's what I grew up with. It's what I believe. It's what my church teaches me. And I can't imagine that position would ever change." John, I'm here to tell you and all your anti-marriage-equality Republican colleagues in the House that that's bigotry. Of course, all fundamentalist Christian ministers and their followers are anti-gay and anti-transgender as well, and they all base their opposition to gay and transgender people on the Bible. There's little need to call out the Westboro Baptist types. They pretty much call themselves out. It's the nicer ones who seem kind of moderate and reasonable whom we need to confront. They're much more dangerous, because they make anti-gay and anti-transgender bigotry seem so righteous and holy. I'm talking about nice, reasonable, moderate ministers like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen. Rick does donate millions of dollars to fight HIV/AIDS, and Joel is always so very, very nice, but Rick and Joel are both anti-gay, and they both oppose marriage equality. It really comes down to this: If, based on your religious beliefs, you demonize people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and you deny people the right to have sex and marry, then you are against freedom and equality for those people. You are practicing bigotry. You are a bigot, and you deserve to be called a bigot. Yes, it is right to call a bigot a bigot. In fact, it is a responsibility. I will embrace that responsibility whenever necessary, and I call upon everyone who values freedom and equality for all people to do the same.
When Mark Twain wrote in 1894, "My business and your law practice ought to make a pretty gay team," he was not musing about the sexual orientation of the occupations. To be sure, the law has long been said to be a jealous mistress, and if corporations are people, then perhaps a business too can be a woman. It was not until after the "Gay" Nineties, however, that the adjective took on its current sense. As the Supreme Court considers a case about the constitutionality of laws prohibiting gay marriage, some insist that because the ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause in 1868 did not see it as a bar to such laws, nor should we today. To the naysayers, anointing sexual orientation as a status worthy of "equal protection of the laws" would be an analytical anachronism tantamount to interpreting Twain as intimating something intimate. That facile view conflates the disparate interpretive roles of definition and application. As a threshold matter, an interpreter must of course define the terms at issue. For that modest inquiry, the denotation at the time of the writing does indeed control, even when a word has, like Twain's, evolved. Nobody would argue that the constitutional language about foreign invasions and "domestic Violence" concerns spousal abuse. And even if 40 is the new 30, Americans respect the constitutional text ("No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years") enough to recognize the legitimacy of Chris Murphy, the junior senator from Connecticut at age 39. Having made that mechanical, time-sensitive determination -- the definition of "gay" or "thirty," or in the case before the Court, "equal" and "protection" -- the interpreter proceeds to a judgment call of how the definition applies to the dispute at hand. For example, the Second Amendment's reference to "Arms" undeniably describes weapons rather than limbs, but does an AR-15 or an ICBM qualify? Such taxonomical questions can be hard enough, but issues about whether vague adjectival phrases such as "equal protection" embrace complex human interactions are even thornier. Opponents of recognizing a constitutional right to gay marriage argue that once a principle is enacted, it forever retains its original unwritten baggage. Exalting that reductionistic approach, Justice Antonin Scalia commented in a recent speech that cases about whether the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishments" are "easy," as are those about the constitutionality of abortion bans. Why? "Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion." He then telegraphed his take on the current case: "Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state." Sure enough, at the oral argument on Tuesday, Justice Scalia badgered Ted Olson, the attorney for two couples, repeatedly demanding that he identify a precise year when same-sex marriage bans became unconstitutional. Olson sidestepped the loaded question, instead characterizing constitutional law as "an evolutionary cycle." That response predictably left Scalia unsatisfied: "You can't give me a date when the Constitution changes?" But it is not the Constitution that changes. It is we, the people. When applying an old principle to a modern situation, we need not be hostages of history. Semantic integrity does demand that we respect a word's time-sensitive definition per se, but who is to give content to the flexible terms that are the currency of the Constitution, such as "unreasonable" searches and "due process" of law? Not our forebears. It is one thing to consent, tacitly, to be governed by the document some of them wrote. It is another to submit to their presumed applications of its principles. Had the Fourteenth Amendment provided that "No State shall ... deny to any heterosexual person ... the equal protection of the laws," then the debate in 2013 would be about amendment rather than interpretation. Instead, the Constitution enshrined a powerfully pure -- but not precise -- principle. The lasting resonance of ringing foundational tenets flows from such vague simplicity. The Declaration of Independence would be a mere relic had it proclaimed that "all men are created equal, except for men of certain races, and women are not equal at all." In 1776, such qualifiers may have been implicit, but over the years, enduring expressions inspire newly enlightened perspectives. It is now time to interpret "equal protection" in a way that reflects a modern appreciation of equality. Sir Walter Scott's 19th-century verse announcing that "Prince Robert has wedded a gay ladye" was, like Twain's comment, sexually unremarkable. He surely was not implying that the "ladye" was repressing her orientation. Still, it would be no great surprise if she had in fact been gay in the modern sense; such marriages of "convenience" were once common. Today, more truly convenient marital options exist in many states. After the Supreme Court's ruling, ladyes all across the land may be free to marry princesses.
If public polling can be believed, over half of the American public now supports the concept of gay marriage, or "full marriage equality," as it is now more properly called. For the overwhelming majority of those who now support the idea, this position has come after personal introspection and a change in thinking. As President Obama put it, we've all had to "evolve" on the question of letting gay Americans get married, for the most part. While I tend to shy away from relating personal stories in the political columns that I write, I thought today would be a good day to do so, on this particular subject (I've already written this week on how I think America has truly reached the political tipping point on gay marriage, and to reiterate my predictions on how the Supreme Court will rule on the two cases it is now hearing). For me personally, my recent journey didn't involve a lot of change of heart over gay rights, but over political strategy. And I'd just like to start off by saying I was on the wrong side of the argument. I was wrong -- and not so very many years ago -- on the advisability of pushing hard for the right of gays to marry. My conversion to the cause of supporting gay rights (in general) happened much earlier, I should mention. This doesn't excuse my previous stance on gay marriage -- in fact, it makes it somewhat worse. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll start at the beginning, instead. Growing up where and when I did, gays were something only dimly understood on the school playground. The epithet of choice (on our playground, at least) was "queer," and resulted in a game called "smear the queer" which consisted of one guy with a football running away from everyone else until tackled and pummeled to the ground and forced to give up the ball. The next person to get it would quickly run, and everyone would chase him next. That's about as far as the anti-gay feelings went in elementary school, and I doubt any of us could have adequately defined what "queer" actually meant, at that age. Later, this developed into a macho sort of attitude towards sexuality in general. Gays were, largely, invisible. This was definitely the Era of the Closet, at least as far as we could tell. The closest gays ever really intruded upon our consciousness was watching the antics of John Ritter on Three's Company, or possibly in admitting that Freddie Mercury was probably not all that interested in girls (seeing as how his band's name was "Queen," after all) -- but this didn't stop any of us from enjoying "Bohemian Rhapsody" or "We Will Rock You" in any way. I hope I'm not painting all this in too good of a light. I grew up bigoted against gay people. I say it with no small embarrassment today, but I have to in all honesty admit: I started out as a bigot. So did most everyone around me, but that's not really any sort of excuse. As far as we could tell, as kids, this is what everyone believed and seemed both right and natural. But then, we didn't have any gay-bashing incidents or anyone making a big issue out of it, so it mostly remained unspoken. It was a fairly soft bigotry, but only because of the lack of immediate targets, I suppose. As I said, the Era of the Closet. Then (like many) when in college, I actually met gay people. They were intelligent, interesting to be around, and I became great friends with some of them. Sure, they had a different orientation in matters sexual, but that didn't mean they were any different in any other way. In fact, they were some of the most interesting people I met (at a college chock-full of fascinating students, I might add), and I became quite close to many of them. I'd walk down the street with a lesbian friend, watch a gorgeous woman stroll by in the opposite direction, and both our heads would turn (after which, we'd look at each other and laugh). Reaching this attitude, however, meant admitting that I had, up to that point, grown up bigoted. It meant confronting my bigotry in bizarre and unexpected ways -- those moments where you stop cold and ponder: "I know I think this, but I have no idea why I think this way -- maybe I'm wrong to think this...?" This was my real evolution on gay rights. Right after I left college, I spent some time living in San Francisco, during the AIDS crisis. If I hadn't been convinced previously, this likely would have done it. Gay people were people, and that's really the only criterion anyone should use to weigh any attempt at discriminating against them. Ever. For any reason. Back then, however, I don't think I ever heard anyone even argue that gay marriage should be a right recognized by all. At the time, I supposed, it was just too outlandish or far-fetched a concept to realistically conceive. But two things pushed the idea forward, at least in my political consciousness. The first was the number of gays dying from the AIDS epidemic, and the second was the Religious Right trying to paint all gays as "promiscuous." Gay men were dying, and their partners had no legal rights. No inheritance rights, and even more heart-wrenching, no hospital visitation rights. The movie Philadelphia truly exposed to America what people were going through, and it had a profound impact on the public's viewpoint, as did the AIDS quilt project. At the same time, the anti-gay forces were denouncing gay promiscuity (often over gay bathhouses), thus implying gays would be more accepted if they formed committed partnerships. The politics shifted on gay rights, to pressing for civil unions. Some sort of legal standing for committed gay partnerships would allow for legal rights that married couples enjoyed. Gay marriage became a concept that was openly spoken of, but mostly in the way Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of "the promised land" -- something to be devoutly hoped for and something to work towards, but not something that you should expect to see any time soon. The anti-gay-rights side then did a complete about-face, and started fighting any sort of legal recognition for committed gay couples, ignoring their previous complaints about promiscuity. Civil unions began to get some political traction. States started passing laws carving out a "separate but equal" type solution -- which was seen as an enormous step forward by most gay rights supporters. The backlash from the Religious Right was fierce, and unrelenting. For approximately two decades, the anti-gay forces won at the ballot box in state after state, passing "heterosexual-only" definitions of marriage into the legal code. The federal "Defense Of Marriage Act" was passed and signed into law by a Democratic president. In fact, gay marriage became a winning cultural "wedge issue" for Republicans, and they exploited it for all it was worth. In the 2004 election, 11 states had anti-gay-marriage initiatives on the ballot. While it is debatable how much actual effect this had on George W. Bush's re-election, it's easy to see that Republicans saw it as a winner and saw it as driving turnout (whether they were right or wrong about that). Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, began provocatively performing gay marriage ceremonies at City Hall. This is all setting the stage for how I was wrong. In 2005, I had an extended email conversation with a gay minister who was arguing for pushing very hard for gay marriage as a basic civil right. I held the position that gay rights activists should be content with moving forward on civil unions, and that gay marriage would be nice... but wasn't realistically going to happen any time soon. Perhaps in a few decades, after America had gotten used to the idea. But not now -- now, it was killing Democrats' chances to get elected and change the direction of the country. I wasn't the only one making this argument back then -- there were many on the Left who were getting tired of having the gay marriage issue linked around their ankles like a ball and chain, dragging their electoral chances down. There were many voices saying: "Can't we just put this aside for a while?" But the number of people who took this position didn't make it the correct one. In the short term, perhaps those of us saying "wait" were right -- perhaps more Democrats could have gotten elected sooner without the issue. But in the long term, both they and I were very wrong. And I have to admit -- that "long term" arrived one heck of a lot sooner than I ever would have expected. Nobody -- even those most optimistic about gay marriage -- could have predicted back in 2005 where we'd be in eight short years. I cannot provide citations to the discussion I had back then, because this was just before I got into blogging. In fact, this exchange was one of the instrumental reasons I did decide to become a blogger -- the idea that discussions which I'd previously held over email or bulletin boards could be a lot more interesting in a lot bigger online realm. But, once again, the stance I took back then has now been proven wrong. The argument I made at the time seemed valid, and seemed realistic and pragmatic in the world of politics. But while I argued for (in a word) "patience," the counter-argument which destroyed this stance was indeed more compelling: "It is never the 'right time' to stand up and demand your civil rights -- there is always a reason why we should just wait and sit content with whatever scraps we can get." Or, to put it another way: "Damn the politics, full steam ahead!" Incrementalism is always hard to argue. That's one of the lessons both this particular issue and my years spent blogging on politics has taught me. There are times (and issues) where the only justifiable course of action is to stand up and say: "This is wrong, and we must change it." And also, "I don't care how this plays politically, it is still the right thing to do." Times where the possibility of victory or defeat doesn't even really enter into the political (or moral) calculus. Gay marriage has become such an issue for me. I didn't start out holding this position. In fact, I started out as a bigoted little child. But even eight years ago, I was still wrong -- even while strongly supporting gay rights, in the abstract. Marriage is a fundamental human right, and it should be seen as an "unalienable" right -- meaning that no government should be able to take that right away. Gay people are people, just like you and me. They have (or should have) this same fundamental human right. I am married to a wonderful woman, which will change in no way whatsoever if lesbians and gays can also marry the person of their choice. That's how I feel now. But I would not be honest if I didn't admit I did have to evolve to get here. As President Obama said, the path of this evolution is there for all to walk. Those further along the path should not demonize those who haven't walked as far -- they should instead offer help towards navigating that path to those behind them. I hope my personal story will, in some small way, help to do so. Chris Weigant blogs at: Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigantBecome a fan of Chris on The Huffington Post
The project Liaoning Coastal Economic Zone Urban Infrastructure and Environmental Management Project has changed to Active
The project Liaoning Coastal Economic Zone Urban Infrastructure and Environmental Management Project has changed to Active. To see more information, see the project information in the World Bank project database The objective of the Liaoning Coastal Economic Sustainable Development Project for China is to improve the efficiency of urban transport and address water scarcity issues in selected cities in Liaoning Province. The project has 3 components. (1) Improving urban transport systems component will invest in improving public transport systems and fostering transit oriented development along selected public transport corridors by integrating land use and transport planning. The project will finance new urban roads and rehabilitation of existing roads, and ensure the engineering designs incorporate traffic management and traffic calming features and include facilities that promote cleaner alternative modes of transport, such as bicycling and walking. (2) Improving urban wastewater treatment and reclamation component will invest in wastewater treatment facilities and water reclamation systems, while also separating sewage and drainage networks in selected cities. The main objective is to rationalize the use of scarce water resources, reduce groundwater abstraction, and reduce water pollution. Investments include the construction of new and rehabilitation of existing wastewater plants, separation of sewage and drainage networks, and replacement of groundwater supply systems by water reclamation systems. (3) Project management and capacity building component is closely linked to the infrastructure investments under components 1 and 2 and will help increase impacts and sustainability of investments, as well as build the capacity of the local staff and officials involved in delivering water and urban transport in participating cities.
Under a recently-announced new agriculture plan, vacant lots on Chicago's South Side could be transformed into thriving — and profitable — urban farms in just three years. Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel's new plan, Farmers for Chicago, will make up to five acres of city-owned lots available to local non-profits who will in turn cultivate the land and create a network of area farmers, according to a Friday release from the city. In a statement, Emanuel said the farm lots will help "stabilize" the surrounding communities and help relieve food desert-related issues. “Farmers for Chicago will give local residents a chance to not only learn how to grow food in their communities, but also build their own food enterprise.” The local agriculturally-oriented NPO's like Growing Home and the Chicago Botanic Garden will train up to 25 recruits for the new program and provide the technical assistance for farmers-in-training to learn how to run a food business. The environmental blog Grist notes the incubator network will "only take applicants with prior farmer training who submit a business plan." Training a new crop of farmers is key if Chicago is to become an urban agri-business hub. Grist reports it takes the work of one farmer to care for just a quarter-acre of land among the 15,000 vacant lots the city owns. Additionally, with requirements like new soil, compost, fencing, and adding a water supply, Grist says it costs the city $250,000 to get a half-acre of vacant land suitable for farming. One of the Growing Homes farms grew and sold more than 13,000 pounds of local, USDA Certified Organic produce with an earned income topping $45,000, according to the city. The Associated Press reports food from the farms will be distributed to more than a dozen farmer's markets, corner stores, restaurants and grocery chains in the area. The city program will be a partnership with Growing Power, a Milwaukee-based urban farming organization whose founder Will Allen was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" grant for his agricultural work in 2008. South Side neighborhoods such as Englewood, with plenty of vacant lots but sparse commerce, have drawn the attention of urban agriculture leaders in recent months; The neighborhood is ground zero for the city's Department of Housing and Economic Development’s (DHE) Green Healthy Neighborhoods initiative announced in November. The city hails the program among the first of its kind in the nation.
Orient Paper ([[ONP]] -11.2%) slides after announcing preliminary unaudited financial results for Q4 and FY13. In Q4, its EPS came in at $0.11, a 62% decline Y/Y, on revenue of $43.5M. Full-year revenue was $151.1M, an increase of 0.3% compared to the previous year. The company released its preliminary results prior to the filing of its 10K because it has entered into negotiations for a potential sale of the land and buildings of its headquarters compound.
Orient Paper (ONP -11.2%) slides after announcing preliminary unaudited financial results for Q4 and FY13. In Q4, its EPS came in at $0.11, a 62% decline Y/Y, on revenue of $43.5M. Full-year revenue was $151.1M, an increase of 0.3% compared to the previous year. The company released its preliminary results prior to the filing of its 10K because it has entered into negotiations for a potential sale of the land and buildings of its headquarters compound. Post your comment!