If you’re in Brazil on Wednesday …

… why not stop down to South America’s premier recycling convention, Expo Sucata, in Sao Paulo? I’ll be speaking at 3:30 regarding the Asian recycling markets, and how to tap into them. I’ll also be showing off some premium Asian scrap yard photos (oh yes). If you’re there – and I know some of my scrap readers will be – please stop over and say hello.

And if you won’t be there, I can assure you that some semblance of regular blogging will resume after all of this travel ends on the weekend.

A banking advertisement you won’t see at US airports.

Spotted in Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris:

For my non-French speaking readers, the caption reads: Pakistan is the world’s second largest textile exporter. We see a world of opportunities. And you?

Needless to say, this advertisement is pretty much unthinkable in a US airport, and that underlines for me the unfortunately black-and-white understanding of Pakistan (Pakistan = scary Muslims) that seems to prevail in the US, stoked – in large part – by a mainstream media that seems determined to cover the country as a conflict zone, solely, rather than as something more nuanced and complex. Of course, parts of Pakistan are conflict zones – but presumably there’s very little overlap between those parts, and the parts that make it a major textile exporter. It’s be nice to see more coverage of the latter, in part as a primer on how to deal with the latter.

Of course, I could be wrong, and this ad is running in English all over US airports. If so, please let me know.

Who’s surprised by the rare earth embargo? Not Toyota.

I’ve been traveling for the last week, and only now catching up on China’s possible decision to place an embargo on rare earth elements to Japan (or not – according to the WSJ). I’m not in the habit of commenting on headlines, but in this case, I’d like to make a point that I haven’t seen brought up elsewhere. It is this: Japan’s economic and manufacturing mavens saw this coming years ago. Below, two images that I took at the Toyota Metal Facility outside of Nagoya in June 2009. For those who don’t know it – and that’d be most of humanity – Toyota Metal is the industrial behemoth’s in-house recycling, and recycling research, facility. First, a pile of crushed cars – those are hybrids in the foreground.

And next, the hybrid batteries extracted from those test vehicles (and others), awaiting recycling.

Now, Toyota wouldn’t tell me how, precisely, they’re extracting rare earths from these batteries. But they were quite upfront about the fact that rare earth recycling was a top priority for the company, and had been for a long, long time. They were also quite upfront that¬† – rather than doing it for environmental reasons – they were funding it due to supply concerns, ie China. I might add that – last December – I had similar conversations with individuals connected to the Korean steel industry. [in both cases, the reporting was done in the course of my work for Recycling International].

So what to make of this possible non-event? Well, Toyota, at least (and other members of Japan, Inc) saw it coming long ago, and have been upgrading technology to deal with the development. Obviously, this speaks to the deep suspicions that continue to exist between the respective industrial bureaucracies of Asia’s two biggest economies. In any case, it’d be nice if the general media covering this mess would stop to note that – in its quest for alternative supplies of rare earths – Japan and other importers have possible recourse to sources other than mines. Or, at least, they’re working on it.

Offline Until September 24

I’m traveling this in a region where phone and internet connectivity is a bit hit or miss. So, barring an unexpected improvement, I’ll be offline until Thursday. Quite likely, I’ll be slow responding to emails, as well, but I will get back to you. Photo, below, and proof that great architecture does not equate with great wi-fi.

Pawlenty in Shanghai

I’ve been busy with a number of projects over the last two weeks, but perhaps none hits closer to home – quite literally – than my coverage of Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s current (for 36 more hours) trade mission to China (continuing onto Japan). I usually don’t post links to my Minnesota-oriented China coverage, but in this case I will, for two reasons. First, because Governor Pawlenty is now a national figure in the Republican Party and, as a result, what he thinks about China is important. And second, because Minnesota has long been a US leader in building bridges to China (the University of Minnesota has been engaging in students exchanges with China since 1914!), and how it relates to China is worth considering, and perhaps emulating.

My first dispatch, from Friday, presents the case that – in an age of slow to no growth US states – Minnesota businesses need to grow via exports, especially to Asia. That dispatch is here. The second dispatch includes excerpts from a lengthy exclusive interview that I conducted with Governor Pawlenty on the topic of China and US competitiveness on Sunday. Whether you agree with him or not, he’s speaking about China in a way that few national-level politicians have yet attempted, and I think that fact – in itself – is interesting. You can decide whether your agree or not, by reading here.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that my Pawlenty trade mission pieces have been publishedy b MinnPost, the online newspaper of the Twin Cities. It’s a relatively new outfit, but in its few years of existence it has not only proven itself a worthy counterpart and rival to its fossilized print predecessors, but also a brave and respectful voice that respects the intelligence of its readers. Put differently: no other Minnesota media outlet – print or otherwise – bothered to cover Pawlenty’s trade mission in any form. MinnPost, to its everlasting credit, not only covered it, but allowed me to do so in two lengthy pieces that – I hope – give readers a deeper understanding of the issues than the 600-word bite sized summaries so typical in contemporary newspapers. Viva MinnPost!

Being Jewish in Shanghai

Ten days ago I had the distinct privilege of attending the first bat mitzvah ever held at the 83-year-old Ohel Moshe Synagogue (now, the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum) in Shanghai’s Honkou District. And today, on the occasion of the Jewish High Holidays, the Atlantic is publishing my dispatch from the event, Being Jewish in Shanghai. And take note: the dispatch includes some terrific photos by my friend and colleague, Sue Anne Tay, author of the outstanding Shanghai Street Stories blog (and the really good @sueannetay twitter feed). Shanghai Scrap readers will be hearing more from Sue Anne in the near future … so, for now, her portrait of new bat mitzvah Sophie Rosen.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about religion in China (long-time readers know that it’s a deep interest), and I’m very glad to be returning to it, albeit modestly. In fact, I’ve never written about Chinese Judaism before, though it’s a subject to which I’ll be returning at some length in the future. In 2006, I did write about the city’s World War II refugee community for the now-defunct Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine (article available here). And on Shanghai Scrap I’ve written about the ongoing demolition of historic Hongkou.

L’shanah tovah tikatevu.

Shanghai Sends Unsubtle Hint to Expanding Residents

Last night I walked into the lobby of my Shanghai apartment building and found long and narrow blue boxes protruding from most of the (100 or so) mailboxes. Here’s mine, unpacked:

The title of the book is “Shanghai Residents Guidebook to Self-Managed Fitness” [thanks, SLS], and if it’s not obvious, the device in the upper left-hand corner is a tape measure with a Body-Mass Index [BMI] calculator built into it. The BMI is a handy short-hand for assessing whether or not someone is obese (or underweight); meanwhile, waist circumference is a good way of assessing a person’s risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other weight-associated diseases. So, below, note the green and red zones on the tape, as well as that easy-to-use BMI spin wheel.

I think it goes without saying that – when somebody sends you a BMI calculator via the postman – it’s not without purpose. I also think that anyone who has spent any time in Shanghai over the last decade knows that waistlines are expanding here (and throughout affluent urban China). No doubt, China’s obesity problem dwarfs in comparison to the US’s pathetic, beluga-sized obesity crisis, but it’s er, growing, and so I interpret this uninvited package as akin to one partner saying to another: “Darling, don’t be offended, but please take care of this before you start looking like that American couple next door.”

Government paternalism [fraternalism?] at its best.

Cry for Help: I’d love to know how widespread this mailing was. If you live in Shanghai, and received one, could you let me know in the comments or via an email?

Addendum: Back in January, Beijing, always less subtle than its Shanghai cousin, skipped the mail slot and instead sent the BMI tape measures home with school kids, telling them to assess mom and dad, then report back.