[UPDATED 10/23: This morning I received an email from Mark Ritchie, Minnesota's Secretary of State, in regard to this post. He explained that Minnesota overseas voters are no longer required to obtain witnesses (unlike local voters). Most likely, the SLP elections officials simply gave me the wrong application, and then proceeded to send the ballot to Minnesota, anyway. He indicated that he's looking into adding some "large letters of warning" to the absentee ballot application to prevent local officials, and voters, from making similar mistakes.
Thanks Mark - there aren't too many statewide officials, anywhere, who would go through the trouble of looking into this, and getting back to me.]
I’ve spent seven years abroad, and in that time I’ve cast a ballot in every presidential and mid-term election dating back to the Fall of 2002. In one case, for sure, I cast my ballot in person, back home. But otherwise my ballots have been cast absentee, from overseas, and for that I must thank the good folks at the Hennepin County Elections Division. Despite the fact that state law requires them to send out the ballots no earlier than 30 days before an election, my ballots have made it through the notoriously slow Chinese postal system – both directions – to be counted.
Which brings me to the local elections to be held November 3 across Minnesota. Continue reading
[With apologies to Rene Magritte.]
Not the sexiest topic in the world, but certainly important: on Wednesday, the US Department of Commerce into whether or not to impose anti-dumping and countervailing duties on imports of steel pipes from China. This follows upon the mostly symbolic mid-September imposition of duties on Chinese tire imports, and recent EU duties against the same products.
For reasons that I won’t go into right now, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in factories that manufacture the sort of pipe in question here, and I’m personally acquainted with some of the factory owners. Though I’ve no interest in excusing the alleged dumping in question here, I think I can offer some limited perspective on why – in fact – the situation is more complex than the one suggested by the aggressive proponents of imposing new duties. In truth, I don’t expect I’m going to hold many of my casual readers with a discussion of seamless pipe dumping, but I do think that – if you’re interested in how greed and a total mis-comprehension/mis-trust of motives can contribute to trade disputes – this is as good an example as any.
Above, an image of a seamless pipe factory in Qinghuangdao, taken two years ago.
Seamless steel pipe is just what it sounds like: a pipe with no seams suitable for use as a conveyance for high-pressure fluids such as oil and natural gas. To the casual observer, a pipe is a steel pipe; but if you drill for oil, say, you’re going to want every assurance that your pipe is manufactured to certain industry-mandated standards (for example, so that the pipe can handle the threads that may be cut into it at a later date). Continue reading
[To non-IOC members who also haven't heard of her, here's a wiki to help you along]
An official, non-China-related Shanghai Scrap tirade:
I’ve traveled widely – perhaps, not as widely as some of my colleagues – but widely enough to know a few things. First, never exchange money at an airport; two, always pack single cup packets of instant coffee; and three, nobody outside of the United States has ever heard of Oprah Winfrey.
It’s this latter lesson that I’d like to discuss, briefly, as a result of the fact that many (US) commentators are shocked that the International Olympic Committee [IOC] had the nerve to snub her and – by the way, the Obamas – in turning down Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics (full disclosure: I love Chicago). The AP, for example, raised a headline announcing that “Chicago, Obama, and Oprah lose in powerful Olympic bid.” And the otherwise sober-minded Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN writes: “The two Obamas. Oprah. David Robinson. Daley. That’s a pretty impressive starting five for schmoozing.”
Yes, it is Gene … if you’re schmoozing a group of US Olympic Committee members in hopes of landing the 2016 USOC trials. Continue reading
[UPDATED: Not sure how I did it, but somehow I managed to delete this entire post - including the comments - earlier this morning. Thanks to the generous help of an anonymous citizen at NFG World (who read my tweeted cry for help!), the full post has been restored - minus the half-dozen comments that readers had left behind over the last 12 hours or so (sorry about that).]
Back in June, before I placed Shanghai Scrap on a needed hiatus while I dealt with several issues located outside of China, Shanghai Scrap visited – and documented – a northern Chinese plywood factory. Among other notable features of that infernal facility, was the acknowledged news that the several hundred migrant laborers who work within it can expected to contract a fatal illness – most likely, cancer – within two to three years of employment (the full post, with photos, can be found here). That facility is one of many, many dozens of similar plywood facilities in that northern Chinese region, all of which have similar issues. There’s no epidemiological data for this plywood manufacturing region (and the local government would never allow it, anyway), so it’s hard to say what – exactly – is killing workers there. Most likely, though, high concentrations of formaldehyde are the problem (my eyes became inflamed in the plant – a symptom common to people over-exposed to formaldehyde).
With me during that visit were two academics – an American and a Chinese – and we left the area with the same question: “What can we do?” No surprise, many of the comments to my blog post relating that visit asked the same question. There are no simple answers: the local and provincial governments are supporters of the industry; the attention of environmental groups will only serve to push the industry elsewhere (within China). Continue reading
Two things I want to make clear from the outset. First, despite appearances, Shanghai Scrap is not becoming all US Expo 2010 Pavilion, all of the time. It just seems that way. Rest assured: I’ll be back with some quality iron ore/Rio Tinto blogging next week (for the record: I was blogging Rio Tinto and price-fixing in China back in 2007 [ie, before it was cool, ed.]). And second, nobody was more pleased to see the United States break ground on an Expo 2010 pavilion than me. I was there, and I clapped.
Now, for some reason, the pavilion groundbreaking – and other Expo-related news – just doesn’t seem to capture the imagination of the US media. So, in the interest of bringing Expo to the world, Shanghai Scrap offers the following images with limited commentary (orders from above: commentary and reporting must be saved for a future publication). First, the actual “groundbreaking.” From left to right, Beatrice Camp, US Consul General in Shanghai; Jose Villarreal, Commissioner General of the US Pavilion; Gary Locke, US Secretary of Commerce; Yang Xiong, Vice Mayor of Shanghai; Ma Xiuhong, Vice-Minister of Commerce; and Hong Hao, Director General of the Shanghai Expo Organizing Committee.
No, that sandbox is not the future location of a budget-rate US Expo pavilion. But it is a sandbox, no doubt about it. In fact, the actual pavilion site, not more than 10 meters away, has had construction crews working on it for some time, already (not sure how long – but clearly, the Shanghai organizers were determined that the site be used by someone, US or otherwise), and wouldn’t have made for a very attractive setting. But whatever. See after the jump for three images of the actual site. Continue reading