10 November 2017   Leave a comment

US President Trump delivered a speech to the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) group, outlining his vision of the US role in the region.  Interestingly, he referred to the region as the “Indo-Pacific” rather than the more commonly used term “Asia-Pacific” ten times.  The chosen term downplays the significance of China from the American perspective and emphasizes the role of India, the US’s preferred partner in the region.  President Trump also identified several trade practices which have habitually been leveled against China without mentioning China by name:

“We will no longer tolerate the audacious theft of intellectual property. We will confront the destructive practices of forcing businesses to surrender their technology to the state, and forcing them into joint ventures in exchange for market access.

“We will address the massive subsidizing of industries through colossal state-owned enterprises that put private competitors out of business — happening all the time.

“We will not remain silent as American companies are targeted by state-affiliated actors for economic gain, whether through cyberattacks, corporate espionage, or other anti-competitive practices.

I am not sure what Chinese President Xi’s reaction to this rhetoric might have been, particularly since China had treated President Trump extravagantly just a few days earlier.

President Trump also singled out the World Trade Organization, one of the pillars of the liberal international system championed by the US since its earlier incarnation as te General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade, for harsh criticism:

“Countries were embraced by the World Trade Organization, even if they did not abide by its stated principles. Simply put, we have not been treated fairly by the World Trade Organization. Organizations like the WTO can only function properly when all members follow the rules and respect the sovereign rights of every member. We cannot achieve open markets if we do not ensure fair market access. In the end, unfair trade undermines us all.”

At this point, it does not appear as if there were any major decisions made at the summit, but we will wait to see if some were made secretly.  Chinese President Xi offered a very different view of the global economy, declaring that globalization was “irreversible”.

 

There is a mystery in Europe.  A cloud of radioactive material, ruthenium-106, has settled over the continent and the evidence suggests that it arose someplace in southern Russia.  The levels of radioactivity in Europe does not pose an immediate threat to health, but the concentrations suggest that the levels would have been dangerous at the point of release.  The Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (ISNR) has issued a report on the contamination and it concluded that

“Because of the quantities released, the consequences of an accident of this magnitude in France would have required to implement locally measures of protection of the populations on a radius of the order of a few kilometres around the location of the release. Map identifying, on the basis of the model-measurement comparison, the most plausible release zone. For a simulated release at each point of the mesh, the comparison consists in estimating the percentage of modelled data which are within a factor of 2 compared to actual measurements. The area with the highest percentage is identified as the most plausible release zone.  The exceeding of maximum permitted levels3 for foodstuffs (1250 Bq / kg for Ruthenium 106 for non-milk products) would be observed over distances of the order of a few tens of kilometres around the location of the release.”

So far neither Russia or Kazakhstan has admitted to a nuclear accident.  But such matters cannot remain secret for long.

Map of the Ruthenium-106 over Europe

Map showing the plausibility of the origin of the release of Ruthenium 106 in Europe

 

The publication of the “Paradise Papers” has rekindled interest in offshore banking and the institutional infrastructure devoted to the purpose of helping the extremely rich avoid paying taxes.  We periodically re-acquaint ourselves with this legalized corruption but very little is ever done to prevent it.  Spiegel has an article which explains why it has proven to be impossible to assure that everyone pays their fair share of taxes which inevitably leads to higher taxes on the poor and a reduction of services to people in desperate need of help.

 

Smile Time

 

Posted November 10, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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