Chinese Americans Divided Over Ban of Shark Fin Soup in California
A bill to prohibit the sale of shark fins - a Chinese delicacy - has divided the Chinese-American community in California, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Shark fin soup has long been considered a status symbol among the Chinese: The soup is served at festive occassions and in high-end restaurants, where the price of a bowl can go up to $80.
Proponents of the bill to ban the sale and possession of shark fins offer the scientifically valid argument that the practice of shark finning has catastrophic effects on the marine ecosystem - a decline in the shark population disrupts the balance of the ecosystem and allows other predators to thrive, which threaten other species of marine life used for human consumption. A more compassionate consideration is the pain and suffering inflicted on the sharks - often, fisherman will cut off the fins of sharks and toss them back into the sea, injured and disabled but still alive.
Opponents of the bill argue that it singles out and violates a culturally significant Chinese custom. Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who is running for San Francisco mayor against two Chinese American proponents of the bill, called it an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine that creates a disparate impact on a subset of a particular culture because the ban only applies to shark fin, not shark meat.
High-profile celebrities like Scarlett Johansson and Leonardo DiCaprio have joined in solildarity with environmental groups in support of the ban. Chinese NBA star Yao Ming was featured in an effective WildAid PSA (now viewable on YouTube) that discourages people from consuming shark fin soup.
A ban on shark fin soup goes into effect on Friday in Washington and Hawaii, which the first U.S. state to vote to ban the sale, possession, and manufacture of shark fins. Washington state followed, signing a ban into law in March 2011.
The bill passed the Assembly last month by a wide margin, but is expected to be subject to further negotiations and revisions before it reaches the Senate, which will likely not be earlier than August.
China set to hit 8 percent growth goal in 2009
BEIJING - China is on course to hit its 8.0 percent growth target this year and become the first major economy to pull decisively out of the global slump, according to a Reuters poll.
The survey of 20 economists, conducted last week, suggests the momentum generated by massive fiscal and monetary stimulus will carry over into 2010 and lift the rate of gross domestic product growth to 8.8 percent.
The forecasts are 0.2 and 0.3 percentage points higher than the median results of the previous survey in March, reflecting Beijing's increasing determination to use all the policy levers at its disposal to make up for a collapse in exports.
This recovery is sustainable until the end of next year at least, said Mingchun Sun, an economist with Nomura in Hong Kong who has long been confident that Beijing would achieve 8 percent growth -- the minimum deemed necessary to hold down unemployment.
Sun see the risks on the upside because investment is likely to be stronger than now expected, while consumption will benefit from government incentives and the wealth effects of rising property and stock markets.
Sun's bullish forecast of 10 percent growth for 2010 is eclipsed by that of Su Chang, an economist with CEB Monitor, a Beijing consultancy, who has pencilled in 10.2 percent for next year on the assumption of a rebound in exports.
If the U.S. economy grows 3 percent, China's exports can jump 15 percent, Su said.
Even if the U.S. economy remains weak in 2010 and Chinese exports are flat, that would be much better than the 22 percent plunge so far this year in overseas shipments. As a result, China would still be able to achieve 9 percent growth, Su added.
Projections for China's trade surplus vary widely due to differing assessments of the strength of domestic demand and the speed with which export markets will recover. The median forecast is for the surplus to fall to $230 billion this year from $295.5 billion in 2008 before rebounding to $253.5 billion in 2010.
Underlying China's recovery is the rapid execution of a 4 trillion yuan stimulus package, announced on November 9, and a record-breaking surge in lending by China's state-owned banks.
Banks lent a staggering 7.37 trillion yuan in the first six months, almost 25 percent of annual GDP.
It is here that the biggest risks to China's economy lie: analysts shake their head at the thought of the bad loans that lax lending will spawn, while regulators are openly fretting about new real-estate and stock market bubbles.
The consensus among analysts is that China will not raise interest rates or reimpose credit caps this year given Beijing's concern that economic recovery is not yet on a solid footing.
With inflation in negative territory and the global recovery in a fragile state, we expect macro policies to remain loose until 2010, Merrill Lynch economists said in a note to clients.
The Reuters poll suggests consumer prices will rise 2.5 percent in 2010 after dropping 0.5 percent this year.
Tao Wang with UBS in Beijing said the current shock and awe phase of stimulus was drawing to a close. An abrupt shift in policy was unlikely, but policymakers would probably enforce lending regulations more strictly and push up money market rates.
The problem, she said, was that this might not be enough to rein in dangerously fast lending growth in time.
In that case, a further rise in inflation expectations and asset prices, and concerns of the quality of bank assets, could lead to a more abrupt macro tightening later. When that happens, while annual growth for 2009 may still exceed our current forecast of 7.5 percent, a 'double dip' of growth could occur in the beginning of 2010, Wang said in a report.
Tootling Turtles Traipse through JFK Runway, Delay Flights
Nearly 150 turtles crawled up onto the tarmac at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport today in search of a beach to lay their eggs. The odd event caused dozens of flight delays, aviation authorities in New York said.
The news broke around 9:30 a.m. as low-cost air carrier JetBlue apologized to customers via Twitter.
JFK is experiencing delays as the airport clears turtles off the runway, tweeted the airline, later joking that the turtles were of the ninja variety but that they hope for faster animals next time.
The migration of diamondback terrapin turtles happens every year at JFK, which is built on the edge of Jamaica Bay and a federally protected park. In late June or early July the animals heave themselves out of the bay and head toward a beach to lay their eggs.
The peak of the turtle trouble usually lasts a few days
The slow-motion parade began today around 6:45 a.m., and within 3 hours there were so many turtles on Runway 4L and the nearby taxiways that controllers were forced to move departing flights to an alternative runway.
We ceded to Mother Nature, said Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the airport.
Workers from the Port Authority and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were scooping up turtles and moving them across the airport, he said. Flight delays averaged about 30 minutes.
The main concern is for the turtles themselves, Marsico said. He added that crews were loading the turtles into pickup trucks and giving them rides to the nesting beaches.
We are trying to help wildlife out a bit here, Marsico said. We built on the area where they were nesting for generations, so we feel incumbent to help them along the way.
You can now follow the JFK turtles on Twitter @JFKTurtles.
Porsche debt balloons to over $15 billion: sources
Sports car maker Porsche SE aims to use a capital increase and the sale of a stake to Qatar to cut its net debt that has ballooned to more than 10 billion euros ($14.05 billion), two sources close to Porsche told Reuters on Wednesday.
They said Qatar and the two families that control Porsche were poised to pump around 5 billion euros into the company via a capital injection, helping offset debts which have risen from 9 billion at the end of January.
Qatar would get voting shares in Porsche through the capital increase, while the families would receive voting shares as well as non-voting preferred shares in the company.
The capital hike plan is part of a concept drawn up by Porsche Chief Executive Wendelin Wiedeking to untangle the debt mess of Porsche and bolster its position in merger talks with Volkswagen after efforts to seize control the fellow Germancarmaker failed.
The plan also includes Qatar taking over Porsche's derivative contracts that control around 20 percent of Volkswagen's voting shares, the sources said.
The total package would provide around 10 billion euros in relief for Porsche's stretched balance sheet and reduce its net debt to a manageable level, the sources said.
But it remains unclear whether Ferdinand Piech, a co-owner of Porsche and chairman of Volkswagen, supports the plan. He has been pushing a rival idea for VW to buy a minority stake in Porsche's healthy Porsche AG sports car business.
Porsche labor leader Uwe Hueck demanded the owners keep the sports car business, citing Piech's vow to Porsche shareholders in 1993 that as long as I live Porsche will stay independent.
BOARD MEETINGS LOOM
The Porsche and Piech families -- which control all the voting shares at Porsche SE -- have been at loggerheads for months over how to resolve the company's debt woes and the role Volkswagen would play in the whole deal.
Porsche now owns nearly 51 percent of VW -- Europe's biggest carmaker with a comfortable cash cushion -- but had to abandon plans to take full control of its much larger peer as its debt mounted just as global car markets collapsed.
Porsche shares fell as much as 7.4 percent but recovered to trade down just 0.8 percent by 1346 GMT (9:46 a.m. EDT), lagging a 3.6 percent gain in the DJ Stoxx European car sector index <.SXAP>.
Five-year credit default spreads on Porsche debt tightened about 30 basis points to 319 basis points on hopes a deal to ease its debt burden was nearer.
Volkswagen common stock rose 5.4 percent while its more liquid preferred shares firmed 1.5 percent.
Porsche declined to comment.
Porsche's supervisory board meets on July 23 and was originally due to discuss the possible sale of a stake to Qatar as well as Volkswagen's plans to acquire a 49.9 percent stake in Porsche AG, sources have told Reuters.
Germany's Bild newspaper, citing company sources, reported the agenda would now only address the possible deal with Qatar and not VW's proposal to take a stake in Porsche AG.
Bild said the VW plan would now be discussed as a point of information rather than something that needed to be decided.
Volkswagen said its supervisory board would hold an extraordinary meeting as well on July 23 in Porsche's home town of Stuttgart.
A source had told Reuters last week that Porsche Chairman Wolfgang Porsche called the extraordinary supervisory board meeting for July 23 to discuss a possible stake sale to Qatar worth over 5 billion euros.
(Editing by David Cowell)
Texas Anti-TSA Bill Dies, But Controversy Lives On
A Texas bill against intrusive TSA pats died in the state house.
The Texas state senate and house had different versions of the anti-TSA bill. The Senate adjourned on Tuesday without passing the House version. On Wednesday, the House failed to pass the Senate version.
The house will not assemble for another session, which leaves the bill dead. If passed, the bill would have made it illegal to punish TSA officers for touching travelers' private areas at Texas airports without reasonable suspicion.
If found guilty, the punishment is up to one year in jail and up to $4,000 in files, according to the Start-Telegram.
Even though this bill is now dead in Texas, the controversy is far from over. At least one Texas lawmaker has vowed to fight on to pass a law against intrusive TSA pats. One Texas citizen shouted if you cowards don't protect us, we'll protect ourselves after the bill had failed, reported the Texas Tribune.
Nationwide, the TSA pat downs have sparked a firestorm of criticism, notably over cases that defied common sense. Below are several notorious examples.
- In Florida, a TSA officer broke the urine bag of a bladder cancer survivor in the course of patting the man down, even after the man repeatedly warned the officer of his medical condition. The man said he was humiliated and had to fly with urine-soaked pants.
- In Florida, a 95-year-old wheelchair-bound woman with leukemia was forced to remove her adult diaper during a pat down.
- In Tennessee, TSA officials hand-searched a 3-year-old girl. At one point, the little girl screamed and cried: stop touching me.
- In Charlotte, a breast cancer survivor was forced to remove and show TSA agents her prosthetic breast.
Abbott profit hurt by dollar and generics
Abbott Laboratories Inc's second-quarter earnings fell 2.6 percent, with generic competition for its Depakote anti-seizure drug overshadowing strong sales of its Humira arthritis drug and its Xience heart stent.
Shares of the suburban Chicago drugmaker fell 1.6 percent as its global revenue came in slightly below Wall Street forecasts, stymied by a strong dollar that crimped the value of overseas sales.
Abbott earned $1.29 billion, or 83 cents per share, compared with $1.32 billion, or 85 cents per share in the year earlier period.
Excluding special items, Abbott earned 89 cents per share, matching the average forecast of analysts polled by Reuters Estimates.
Global quarterly sales rose 2.5 percent to $7.5 billion, a bit shy of the Reuters Estimates forecast of $7.55 billion.
Shares of the diversified healthcare company slumped 1.6 percent to $45.75, from their closing price on Tuesday of $46.49 on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Derek Caney)
Kentucky Basketball: Calipari Has a Stacked Team in 2011-2012
With unsubstantiated rumors floating around that University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari might be headed to the New York Knicks, sanity has overcome baseless speculation as Calipari will remain the Wildcats' coach perhas up until 2018-2019 after signing a two-year extension.
Calipari is perhaps the most high-profile coach in college basketball, and judging by his recruting classes, it's easy to see why.
The Wildcats have lost Brandon Knight, Josh Harrellson, DeAndre Liggins, and Enes Kanter to the NBA Draft, but will have plenty of reinforcements next season.
The upcoming recruiting class is perhaps the best in the nation, as next year around this time, there might be five or six UK players being selected in the NBA Draft.
Power forward Anthony Davis, small forward Michael Gilchrist, center Kyle Wiltjer, and point guard Marquis Teague were among the best high school players in the nation this past year, and they're on their way to Lexington.
Add to those players the ones on the current roster, starters Darius Miller, Terrence Jones, and key reserves Doron Lamb and Eloy Vargas, and the Wildcats will be serious players next season after falling short to eventual champions Connecticut in the Final Four.
Calipari will need the freshman to contribute immediately. Calipari loses Knight's 17.3 points per game average last season, Harrellson's 8.7 rebounds per game, and Liggins's excellent defense.
High school statistics mean little in projecting college statistics, but Anthony Davis's averages of 32 points, 22 rebounds and eight blocked shots per game might be an indicator that he will be the major contributor from the outset.
Davis was considered the best high school player in the nation, and his length should serve him well in the Southeastern Conference.
Other programs within the conference are not expected to be stronger next season, particularly Tennessee. Florida did not have a strong recruiting class -- adding only one highly touted recruit, Brad Beal -- and lost two key starters. The Gators will be among the best teams in the SEC, but they likely have trouble contending with Kentucky because of their lack of big men.
Calipari is now in his 17th season has a head coach of a college basketball coach. While other coaches have faded off a bit, Calipari continues to dominate as a recruiter and his teams consistently win.
The bottomline for Calipari is despite the early departure of players, he manages to make up for them with an endless stream of strong freshmen.
Next season should be much of the same for the Cats as they pursue their first championship since 1998.
The greatest duo in women's beach volleyball history took home the gold once again at the 2012 Olympics on Wednesday.
The U.S.'s Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings defeated fellow Americans April Ross and Jennifer Kessy in the finals in London. They won their third straight gold medal after also winning the event at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
The pairing had another dominant run, winning every match this year and losing just one out of 15 sets in the tournament.
It will be the last time May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings compete together at the Games. Walsh Jennings plans to continue her career, but her teammate is ready to retire.
"My mind says it's time. My body says it's time. And it's the right time," said May-Treanor.
The women help the USA continue its dominance in volleyball. Since it became an official Olympic sport in 1996, the United States leads all other nations with six gold medals between the men and women.
May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings leave the Games as champions, but it may have been the toughest road to winning the gold that they ever had to overcome.
Here's a look at the women's volleyball team's victory through a gallery of some of the best pictures of their road to victory: