The White House bulked up its tariff muscle over China yesterday afternoon when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Trade Sanctions Bill in an overwhelming vote of 348-79. The bill is meant to be a warning to China and other countries with undervalued currencies. Obama yesterday in a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, “People generally think that they are managing their currency in a way that makes our goods more expensive to sell there and their goods cheaper to sell here.”
As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it, in the last 20 years, America’s trade deficit with China has gone from $5 billion annually to $5 billion weekly. This deficit is estimated to have cost over 2 million jobs across the U.S.
The first military talks between North Korea and South Korea ended unsuccessfully (and unglamorously) today after major disagreements over a sunken South Korean warship that North Korea denies sinking. The South also demanded that the North “immediately stop its military threats and aggressive behaviors at sea borders.” Needless to say, the two sides—which are still technically at war—found little common ground. No date has been set for the next round of talks.
In other Korean news, North Korea officially revealed its new leader today: Kim Jong Eun, the youngest son of current leader Kim Jong Il. He is pictured in the Los Angeles Times seated stiffly among a battalion of advisers and military personnel. News agencies, having hoped for a long-awaited glimpse at the enigmatic successor, seem less than impressed.
Pakistan has announced that it will stop all supply runs to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan this morning, after a dispute over an alleged cross-border helicopter strike that killed three Pakistani frontier troops. The blockaded supply line, a vital one for American troops, promises to place tremendous strain on U.S.-Pakistan relations.
Rehman Malik, Pakistani interior minister, said that the possible NATO strikes were being taken very seriously. “We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies,” he said this morning.
In response, CIA director Leon Panetta has claimed to be “profoundly concerned” about the missile strikes and helicopter incursions. “Pakistan, being a front-line ally in the war against terror, expects its partners to respect its territorial sovereignty.”
Actor Tony Curtis died last night at 85 in his Las Vegas home, leaving behind a legacy of acclaimed (and some not-so-great) performances. Curtis, who shared a racy scene with Marilyn Monroe (albeit in drag) in the 1959 film Some Like it Hot, won an Oscar for his role in the previous year’s The Defiant Ones, which also starred Sidney Poitier.
At 60, he reportedly said, “I’m not ready to settle down like an elderly Jewish gentleman, sitting on a bench and leaning on a cane. I’ve got a helluva lot of living to do.”