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Germany’s Leader, Olaf Scholz, Walks a Fine Line in China

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany tried to strike a delicate balance on a trip to China this week, promoting business ties with his country’s biggest trading partner while criticizing its surge of exports to Europe and its support for Russia.

Mr. Scholz met with China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Tuesday, the culmination of a three-day visit with a delegation of German officials and business leaders. He was also expected to meet with Premier Li Qiang, as the two countries navigate relations strained by Russia’s war in Ukraine and China’s rivalry with the United States, Germany’s most important ally.

Throughout his trip, Mr. Scholz promoted the interests of German companies that are finding it increasingly hard to compete in China. And he conveyed growing concern in the European Union that the region’s market is becoming a dumping ground for Chinese goods produced at a loss.

It was Mr. Scholz’s first visit to China since his government adopted a strategy last year that defined the Asian power as a “partner, competitor and systemic rival,” calling on Germany to reduce its dependency on Chinese goods.

Germany’s economy shrank last year, and its weaknesses have exposed a reliance on China for growth. Energy prices have risen because of the war in Ukraine, which has been facilitated by Beijing’s support for the Kremlin. German companies have pushed for more access to China and complained that they face unfair competition.

During his trip, which began in the sprawling industrial metropolis of Chongqing in China’s southwest and continued in Shanghai and Beijing, the chancellor visited German companies with extensive investments in China, met with trade representatives and talked with university students.

“Competition must be fair,” Mr. Scholz told a group of German-speaking students in Shanghai on Monday. “We want a level playing field,” he said.

Mr. Scholz’s trip was an example of the difficult dance that Germany is trying to do: maintaining economic ties with China while managing U.S. pressure to align itself more closely with Washington against Beijing. He was also expected to convey European leaders’ geopolitical and trade concerns to China.

In his meetings, Mr. Scholz highlighted Germany’s commitment to doing business with China, but he also warned that Beijing had to curb the flood of Chinese goods into Europe. At the same time, he expressed reservations about the European Union’s investigations into China’s use of subsidies for green technology industries, saying that any discussion about trade must be based on fairness.

“This must be done from a position of self-confident competitiveness and not from protectionist motives,” Mr. Scholz told reporters on Monday.

China’s manufacturing push in green sectors like electric cars and solar panels has touched off trade disputes with Europe and the United States, where such industries have also received government support. But with 5,000 German companies active in the Chinese market, Germany stands to lose more than many of its European partners would if Beijing were to retaliate against the European Union.

“If the E.U. goes too hard against China, we could expect countermeasures and this would be a catastrophe for us,” said Maximilian Butek, the executive director of the German Chamber of Commerce in China.

“For us it’s extremely important that the Chinese market remains open,” he said.

In his meetings with Chinese leaders, Mr. Scholz was also expected to raise concerns about Beijing’s support of Moscow’s wartime economy, especially its continued sale to Russia of goods with potential uses on the battlefield.

In his discussion with students in Shanghai, Mr. Scholz alluded to Russia’s war in Ukraine, saying that the world functioned best when all nations embraced some basic shared principles.

“One of these is that one should not have to fear its neighbors,” Mr. Scholz said, without naming any nations. “Borders cannot be changed with force.”

China is hoping to drive a wedge between Europe and the United States by courting leaders such as Mr. Scholz. State media reports depicted his visit as demonstrating the strength of China’s relations with Europe, playing up its economic ties with Germany.

Beijing is sure to welcome the message that German businesses are committed to China. The Asian giant is trying to court foreign investment to reinvigorate its economy, which has faltered because of a housing slowdown. Some Western businesses and investors have also been rattled by Mr. Xi’s emphasis on national security, which they regard as making it riskier to operate in the country.

From China’s perspective, Germany may be its best hope of delaying or watering down any trade restrictions from Europe, said Noah Barkin, a senior adviser in the China practice at the Rhodium Group, a research firm.

German carmakers have invested billions of dollars in China, and much of their revenue comes from there. Many worry that if the European Commission imposes higher tariffs on Chinese exports, and Beijing retaliates, German businesses will suffer most.

Chinese officials “know that German companies are heavily invested and they use that politically to influence political decision making in Berlin,” Mr. Barkin said.

Germany’s biggest companies, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz and BASF, are heavily invested in China and have strong, effective lobbies in Berlin, Mr. Barkin added. Executives from those companies, along with several others, traveled with Mr. Scholz to China.

“The supply chain in China is stuffed with German goods,” said Joerg Wuttke, a former president of the E.U. Chamber of Commerce in China. “If China has a price war with Germany, than no one will make money anymore.”

Chinese officials, for their part, have brushed off the European accusations of unfair trading practices, calling them groundless and an act of “typical protectionism.” They have hinted that they could retaliate for any actions taken by the E.U., saying that China was “strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposes” its investigations.

Wang Wentao, China’s commerce minister, went to Europe last week to show Beijing’s support for Chinese companies and push back against the accusations that China was dumping goods on the region and posing a risk to global markets.

In an interview with the German newspaper Handelsblatt, Wu Ken, China’s ambassador to Germany, said the competitive of Chinese electric vehicles “relies on innovation, not subsidies.”

“The challenge faced by developed countries lies more in the fact that Chinese companies are more efficient,” the ambassador said.

Zixu Wang contributed reporting from Hong Kong.



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Plan to shoot Catalina deer from helicopters is scrapped

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Santa Catalina Island’s evasive mule deer dodged a bullet — or several — on Wednesday.

At a special meeting of the Los Angeles County Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Catalina Island Conservancy, which controls 88% of the island, announced it was scrapping plans to eradicate the nonnative species by shooting them from helicopters with high-powered rifles.

L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose district includes the island, confirmed in a statement that the conservancy has “taken the aerial shooting proposal off the table.”

“I appreciate the Conservancy for listening to the serious concerns people had about this plan, especially from people living on the island,” Hahn said in a statement. “I heard from residents who were terrified at the thought of bullets raining down from helicopters over their beloved island and others who couldn’t stand the thought of the deer carcasses that would be left in their wake.”

Lauren Dennhardt, the conservancy’s senior director of conservation, did not respond to a request for comment. The group previously indicated that it would be open to considering other options for the best way to rid the island of the nonnative deer.

In her statement, Hahn said Dennhardt told the meeting that the conservancy was revising its plan “to prioritize other methodologies” in light of the concerns raised by Hahn and island residents.

Mule deer were introduced to the island in the 1930s as a game species for hunting, according to the conservancy.

Protesters hold picket signs on Catalina Island.

Protesters with the Coalition Against the Slaughter of Catalina Deer hold signs as island visitors arrive on the Catalina Express boat on Oct. 30, 2023.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Their population can range from 500 to 1,800, according to the conservancy. The group claims the invasive deer have destroyed natural habitat — including vegetation found only on the island — and exacerbated the risk of soil erosion in overgrazed areas.

As the conservancy continues to plot how to hasten their demise, the deer are starving and dying of thirst.

Photos presented at Wednesday’s meeting included a young dead deer lying on a paved walkway. Another showed a male deer scavenging through an Avalon resident’s trash can.

“The island and the deer are both fighting for survival, and neither one is winning,” Whitney Latorre, the conservancy’s chief executive, said in an interview in the fall. “Unless we address the deer issue, the island will become more and more vulnerable to the devastating consequences brought on by rising temperatures and drought.”

Hahn drafted a letter that the supervisors unanimously approved on April 23 opposing the proposal to hunt the deer from helicopters, calling it “inhumane and drastic.”

She said her letter was prompted by “an intense public outcry” that sprung up after the aerial sharpshooting proposal became public last year.

The conservancy’s original plan was to hire sharpshooters from the Connecticut-based nonprofit White Buffalo Inc. The group would use AR-15-style rifles with lead-free bullets, to avoid poisoning natural scavengers.

Some carcasses would remain where they fell, and those closer to Avalon and roadsides would be removed.

Ultimately, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife will decide whether to allow whatever plan the conservancy files to remove the deer. The agency hadn’t made a ruling on the helicopter proposal because it had been waiting for additional paperwork from the conservancy, a Fish and Wildlife spokesperson said.

 A mule deer doe licks its fawn on Catalina Island.

A mule deer doe licks its fawn on Catalina Island in 2023.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

It’s unclear what will happen next.

Hahn is asking that the conservancy reconsider alternative proposals previously dismissed, although she didn’t endorse any specific course of action, a spokesperson said.

The conservancy had considered fencing, recreational hunting, the introduction of natural predators, relocation, sterilization and chemical contraceptives before settling on aerial sharpshooting, which it said was an efficient way to quickly eliminate a large number of animals.

The main drawbacks included the loud sounds of gunfire, which could distress wildlife and residents.

In comparison, fencing was described as costly and challenging, given the island’s topography, while recreational hunting was generally ineffective, the conservancy said. Between 200 and 300 hunters visit the island annually, according to the conservancy.

Overall, there are about 4,200 residents and 1 million visitors to Catalina, which spans about 48,000 acres.

Opposition to aerial hunting has been intense. The advocacy group Coalition to Save Catalina Island Deer has collected more than 18,000 signatures since Sept. 23 on a petition opposing the concept.

Bernd Blossey, a natural resources and environment professor at Cornell University, said in an interview in April that aerial shooting was a standard form of extermination.

Blossey, who chairs the university’s deer management program, pointed to aerial shooting efforts used to eradicate feral goats on the Galapagos Islands and in New Zealand earlier this century.

Blossey also believes that calls to relocate the animals — as some conservationists want — may be more harmful than helpful.

“The capture is traumatic, the transport is traumatic and the success rates of doing both are poor,” he said. “Then they’re moved to areas that they don’t know and it’s just not a good thing.”

The American Assn. of Wildlife Veterinarians endorsed the aerial shooting on Wednesday via a letter, while the American Bird Conservancy, the California Botanic Garden and several others backed permanently removing the nonnative deer.



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Virginia mom says white students told her Asian American son to sit at ‘segregated’ table

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An after-school game took a troubling turn last Tuesday at Lyles Crouch Traditional Academy in Alexandria.

Mom Kathryn Kelley says a group of white students allegedly told her fifth-grade son, who is half Asian, that he couldn’t sit with them.

“[They were] saying that mixed race kids had to sit at a table that was away from the white kids, and then African American and Black kids had to sit even further,” Kelley told News4. “They said that they were segregated and that they couldn’t play with the white kids.”

Kelley says some students also allegedly teased the students of color, based on race and class.

“It was of course very difficult, it was confusing. He was trying to understand what was going on while also trying to stand up for his friends and trying to interrupt the situation, but not really knowing what to do,” Kelley said.

News4 obtained a letter sent by the school’s principal to parents last Friday, acknowledging an “inappropriate game” that caused some students to feel uncomfortable, as part of a “role play of a social studies lesson.”

The letter said, “Students often want to discuss troubling topics from class in a variety of ways, some of which may cause offense. This is certainly a challenge in educating our students and one that we must be keenly aware of when difficult topics are presented.”

Kelley feels there are steps that should have been taken.

“When kids are learning these things, like about segregation, learning about the history of white supremacy in the U.S. — they have to learn that, they need to learn that, but it’s not a game, and they need to learn the seriousness of these things.”

In the letter to families, the school’s principal said she plans to work with her team to incorporate lessons into the curriculum on thinking before you speak and act. The principal also said the school community has a collective responsibility to make sure all students feel valued and respected.

“I think we do it by perhaps starting with what children know,” said Greg Carr, an Afro American studies professor at Howard University.

Carr said lessons on inclusion can be simple, such as asking kids how they feel when they see TV characters who look like them. He also says guest speakers can be helpful.

“So a lesson on segregation could incorporate elders who lived through that period,” Carr said. “You know the implications of it now, from an elder who can tell you how much it hurt to be segregated.”

It is not yet clear if any students involved in the game faced discipline. The principle, in her letter to parents, said she could not say.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com



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How to ‘File Fold’ Clothing the KonMari Way

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You can use whatever method you want to declutter your home, but they all require you to find a good way to organize the items you choose to keep when you’re done. KonMari, arguably the most famous decluttering and cleaning technique, even advises you on how to fold your clothes when you’re finished deciding which ones spark joy for you—but this tip from Marie Kondo is too often overlooked in favor of her structured approach to paring down how much you own. Don’t let Kondo down by only following half her advice.

What is file folding?

This technique is one of Kondo’s original, most long-standing tips and comes straight from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Sometimes called “file folding,” this involves folding your clothes in a way that allows you to stand them up vertically in your drawers. 

The way you fold each kind of clothing will be different and you can try a few approaches until you figure out how to get each one to look like a triangle or rectangle and stand straight up. Here’s how Kondo recommends doing it on a few kinds of clothing items:

Once you get everything folded so it’s vertical, you can stack it front to back in the drawer. You’ll know you’re doing it right if you can see every item. 

Why file folding works

There are a few different benefits to folding your clothes this way. First, storing them vertically and with chunkier folds reduces wrinkles, especially because there are no items on the bottom that are being weighed down by ones on the top. 

Second, this allows you to see all your clothes, so you have a better sense of what you’ve got. It’s easy to forget what you already own, buy duplicates, or waste space on things you never wear if you can’t see your stuff, but this prevents all of that. 

Finally, you can store more this way than you can just plopping everything on top of each other, especially if you make crisp, small folds. While the ability to store more doesn’t necessarily help you declutter or reduce how much you have, it at least makes the drawers more organized, which prevents clutter and the space getting overwhelming. 

Make this easier by picking up a few flat baskets, like this set of four for $15.99, to keep every type of clothing separate and maintain structure even when some items are removed. 





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