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Free-trade zone for Shanghai Mr Li's big idea Jul 16th 2013, 5:34 by V.V.V. | SHANGHAI IF PRESS reports are to be believed, Shanghai's dreams of surpassing Hong Kong to become the region's leading financial centre may have a powerful supporter in Beijing. According to Xinhua, the official government newswire, the ruling State Council has approved plans championed by Li Keqiang, the newish premier, for an ambitious free-trade zone in the mainland's second city. The idea has set the country's press and local wags alight with speculation about how far such an idea could go. Take the conservative view, and the project is a useful albeit limited boost to trade and regional integration. On this view, the new free-trade zone would integrate modern transportation and communications infrastructure with a tax-free framework for domestic and foreign firms. This would help boost China's efforts to become a pan-Asian supply chain hub. Allowing the free movement and warehousing of metals, for example, could also allow Shanghai to develop world-leading commodities exchanges. But if you listen to the plan's more enthusiastic boosters, this idea represents nothing less than a crucible for all of the liberal economic reforms that the new administration hopes will eventually take off across the country. Those dreaming of faster financial liberalisation say that the new zone will allow foreign banks, currently inhibited by red tape from achieving scale or much profitability, to expand rapidly and easily. Domestic banks, currently restricted in their overseas activities, are supposedly going to be allowed to experiment in the new zone with products and services currently banned at home. Technology enthusiasts are claiming that the long-standing ban on video game consoles will be lifted—if consoles are themselves manufactured in the Shanghai free-trade zone. What to make of all this? It is not yet clear what the government really intends to do. However, one problem that officials will confront is that of leakage: since innovations are sure to produce price differences inside and outside the zone, how exactly will they keep enterprising locals from finding ways to arbitrage the difference? The more ambitious the scheme, the more likely it is to fail; the more conservative it is, the less relevant it becomes. That is why the only serious and sustainable way forward for China is to liberalise the entire economy, not just a tiny sliver of it. http://www.economist.com/blogs/analects/2013/07/free-trade-zone-shanghai?fsrc=scn/fb/wl/bl/libigidea
Vibrant Montreal brings new Canadian rock sound to world scenes Posted on Thursday, May 10, 2007 (EST) Montreal, the Canadian city known for its fierce winters, has become an international hotspot for a new wave of indie bands. The Montreal band "Arcade Fire" during a performance © AFP/GettyImages/File Kevin Winter PARIS (AFP) - Led by trailblazers Arcade Fire, guitar-wielding groups have been touring overseas, winning fans and have everyone wondering about the secret of the city’s sudden success. Alongside the rock scene, electronic acts such as DJ Champion, Kid Koala and Tiga have made "based in Montreal" a fashionable stamp of quality. In the process, the image of Canadian music, once dominated by pop crooners Bryan Adams and Celine Dion, has been redefined. "Montreal is an extremely cosmopolitan and open city," said homegrown singer Pierre Lapointe, giving his reasons for the new vibrancy. "We couldn’t care less about origins. What we look for is good music and interesting ways of doing things," he added during a stop in Paris. Montreal is home to about two million people, making it the biggest city in the French-speaking eastern province of Quebec. Music journalist and commentator for Canadian cable channel MusiquePlus, Nicolas Tittley, puts the vitality of the guitar scene down to North American influences. The Montreal band "Arcade Fire" during a performance © AFP/GettyImages/File Kevin Winter "Rock, country, blues, folk. Basically, all the music movements linked to North America are not foreign for 'les Montrealais'," he said in an interview. Indie rockers Arcade Fire have sold a million albums worldwide, according to their record label, and fellow groups Wolf Parade, The Bell Orchestre, Patrick Watson, Stars, The Besnard Lakes or The Dears are following in their footsteps. The francophone movement includes Ariane Moffatt, Karkwa, Ghislain Poirier, Les Trois Accords and Malajube. Malajube is threatening to cross the language divide and break into English-speaking markets after the group’s new album "Trompe-l'oeil" won plaudits from US reviewers. Although Montreal is a majority francophone city, most people can speak (and sing in) both languages and the city is also home to a large, well-integrated ethnic population. "The openness that we have in Montreal is quite unique," said Laurent Saulnier, programmer for the Montreal International Jazz Festival and Francofolies de Montreal event. "Few cities in the world have access to so many sorts of music from everywhere: France, USA, Europe, South America, or Africa." The cross-over of influences and culture is also seen in the music collaborations. Pierre Lapointe, The Dears, Les Trois Accords and Loco Locass, a rap group similar to the Beastie Boys, make guest appearances on the Malajube’s album. Critics snipe that the hype will not last, but for the moment at least, a new, fresh face has been put on Canadian music overseas. ©AFP
Fickle Gods of Global Warming REX MURPHY May 9, 2009 Commentator with The National and host of CBC Radio's Cross-Country Checkup I believe there's a God, and while it is legendarily difficult to pronounce on such questions, I believe he lives in Texas or Fort McMurray. It's one or the other. I'm driven often to the Bible, both for its wisdom and its prose. Strange that the only text that seriously can be said to rival Shakespeare in trenchancy and power of expression should be a work primarily of religion, not literature, a compound book by many authors and, for English readers, a work of translation as well. The King James Bible is the only - as we say these days, though perhaps with some impiety considering my subject - standalone creation that can claim equal status, for its literary excellence, with the otherwise unmatchable harmonies of Shakespeare. Apocalypse and end days are naturally powerful themes in biblical literature as they are in the traditions of most religious movements. The end of terrestrial or earthly history, the great summoning to judgment are urgent concerns of all religious minds as, for example, the quickest reference to modern-day environmentalism will very easily confirm. Not surprisingly, dramatic material produces the most vivid, electric prose. There is the Book of Revelation, with its many arresting images and surreal visions, but also other moments in the Bible, perhaps referencing post-apocalypse, the New Jerusalem, which address the end of all disharmonies, the mutual embrace of all that before was in conflict. These passages almost always speak of a bringing together in harmony of prior opposites, conjure scenes of exemplary reconciliation. Perhaps the most famous is from Isaiah: "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox." It is hauntingly arresting stuff: hunted and hunter, prey and predator, their differences resolved, the carnivorous lion going vegetarian, all with innocence their guide - the "little child." Well, there are signs, for "those who have eyes to see them" that these days may be upon us. On April 19, an expedition team set out from Plymouth, England on a 5,000-mile carbon emission-free roundtrip to the Greenland ice cap. It was planned by an organization called Carbon Neutral Expeditions, one of whose founders explained the journey's focus, and very endearing it was: "The expedition will hopefully show how it is possible to explore some of the most beautiful places on Earth without contributing to their destruction." Their boat, the Fleur, was a 40-foot yacht fitted with solar panels and a wind turbine. On arrival, they planned to trek to the highest point of the ice cap, then return to their boat and make the journey home, by sail. The return, they noted, was the most significant part: "Return journeys are in the true spirit of expeditions, and essential if this is to be carbon neutral." Unfortunately even the most glassy-eyed idealism can be confronted by reality, and such was the case with Carbon Neutral's expedition. They hit a bad patch of weather. Their poor boat was thrice capsized. And the fickle Gods of Global Warming must have been taking a siesta, for in one of those incidents one of the team "hit his head and the wind generator and solar panels were ripped from the yacht." I can only imagine them at this moment, staring soulfully into the hurricane-whipped sky, and pleadingly imploring: "Al Gore, Al Gore, why has thou forsaken us? " They were in a powerless pickle. Solar and sail had failed them and green intentions will not float your boat - they were not so much "carbon neutral" as carbon deprived. Bobbing around the North Atlantic in a gale without motor power of any kind is not the most soothing experience. Fortunately, Providence, in one of its most artful facsimiles, was on hand in the shape of the Overseas Yellowstone - a ship that was, to put it mildly, not relying on solar power or a wind turbine. It was a 113,000-ton oil tanker, carrying 680,000 barrels of crude oil. We may reach for many adjectives to describe the Overseas Yellowstone but "carbon neutral" will not be among them. Indeed, the Overseas Yellowstone, looked at from a carbon-neutral perspective, is the Life Raft from Hell. Nonetheless the oil tanker picked up the eco-people. They are now being taken to Maine, from whence presumably they will fly home. By jet. Not kite. And verily, it is written, the carbon-spewing wolf shall lie down with the global-warming lamb ... the petroleum-devouring lion shall eat straw like the carbon-neutral ox, or something like that. And the Overseas Yellowstone shall lead them. The voyage was followed by up to 40 schools across Britain to promote climate-change awareness. And how.