Today’s collection of headlines from the worlds of politics, economics, and the environment — plus the latest episode of Fukushimapocalypse Now! Beguns with a frightener from The Observer:

Why global recovery could depend on China’s taste for luxury

Attitudes are changing in China, but western export hopes are pinned on a swelling middle class embracing its inner consumer

China’s looming coronation as the world’s largest economy, years ahead of schedule, is probably not particularly surprising in one sleepy corner of Oxfordshire. Around half of the international visitors who flock to Bicester retail village are Chinese nationals, making the one-hour train trip from London, or using the fleet of special coaches that head there each day – to stock up on luxury goods.

A World Bank-backed report has declared that the country’s national currency, the yuan, will go further than previously thought in the hands of the Chinese consumer and that this supercharged purchasing power will push the world’s second-largest economy ahead of the US this year.

This could be the century of the Chinese consumer, now a figure of central importance for luxury goods companies including some of the biggest retail names in Britain.

Closer to home with disorder in the courts from the Los Angeles Times:

Cutbacks in California court system produce long lines, short tempers

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye remembers the moment she learned that the Kings County Superior Court had resorted to holding a garage sale to raise money.

“That was a day of extreme humiliation and embarrassment to me,” Cantil-Sakauye said.

During her three years as chief justice, recession-driven cutbacks in California’s huge court system have produced long lines and short tempers at courthouses throughout the state. Civil cases are facing growing delays in getting to trial, and court closures have forced residents in some counties to drive several hours for an appearance.

TechCrunch covers hypocrisy from Obama appointees:

FCC Said To Tweak Proposed Net Neutrality Rules, But Preserve Pay-For-Speed

Call it a non-fix: According to the Wall Street Journal, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has tweaked the language of his proposed rules to allow content providers to pay for faster delivery of their content across an ISPs network.

He has not recanted that proposal. Instead, according to the Journal, “the new language by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to be circulated as early as Monday is an attempt to address criticism of his proposal unveiled last month that would ban broadband providers from blocking or slowing down websites,” but would still let companies that are content-intensive “pay [ISPs] for faster delivery of Web content to customers.”

Doesn’t that feel precisely the same as the plan before? Yes, but, this time, the Journal continues, we’re going to have “language that would make clear that the FCC will scrutinize the deals to make sure that the broadband providers don’t unfairly put nonpaying companies’ content at a disadvantage.” So, the paid advantage would be “fair.” Defining that isn’t going to be easy.

Heading north of the border, Canada’s effort to sway American legislators via the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Canada’s $207,000 oil sands ad: Putting a price on deception

The ad in The New Yorker is pretty, if not quite arresting. The full-page photo on the inside back cover – prime real estate in the United States’ leading upmarket magazine – features a pristine river meandering through a lush mountain valley, untouched by humanity. It is not a tourism ad. It is designed to convince influential Americans that the Keystone XL pipeline is environmentally safe, even desirable.

What is clever about the ad is not the photo; it is the headline and the succinct lines of copy beneath it. They are slick pieces of propaganda – misleading without being outright lies. Of course, advertising is all about propaganda. But this ad is unconscionable because you, the Canadian taxpayer, paid for it. The rate for a full-page ad in that location, according to Condé Nast, publisher of The New Yorker, is $207,000 (U.S.).

The ad appeared in the April 14 issue and was sponsored by GoWithCanada.ca, the federal government site that is trying to convince the skeptical that the Alberta oil sands – known as the tar sands to non-Canadians – and the export pipelines that would allow the megaproject to thrive for decades are a “secure, responsible source of energy for the global market” (“Keystone” does not appear in the ad).

On to Europe and another hint of darker days to come from the Guardian:

Mario Draghi drops hint of imminent move to tackle risk of deflation

European Central Bank boss signals that a move could come once his economists produce forecasts for inflation in June

European Central Bank boss Mario Draghi has dropped his broadest hint yet of imminent moves to head off deflation when he said policy makers at the bank were “comfortable” about action in early June.

Upward pressure on the euro eased and yields on government bonds fell after the ECB president expressed concern that weak growth and the possible knock-on effects from the Ukraine could derail the eurozone’s fragile recovery.

Although Draghi announced no change in policy following the meeting of the ECB’s general council in Brussels, he signalled that a move could come once his in-house economists produce updated forecasts for inflation in the first few days of next month.

From Sky News, elite-a-palooza:

Billionaire Britain: New Nation Of Super-Rich

This year’s Sunday Times Rich List reveals Britain has more billionaires per head of population than any other country.

More than 100 billionaires are now living in Britain – the first time the milestone has been reached.

According to this year’s Sunday Times Rich List, 104 billionaires with a combined wealth of more than £300bn are now based in the UK – more than triple the number from a decade ago.

Britain has more billionaires per head of population than any other country, while London has more than any other city with 72.

News Corp Australia covers a British plutocrat behaving badly:

British millionaire Shoja Shojai ‘fathered seven children with harem of women he held against their will in Spain’

A BRITISH millionaire accused of fathering seven children with a harem of aspiring models he kept against their will has been arrested.

Shoja Shojai, 56, allegedly met many of the women in London and convinced them to move to his mansion in Spain, telling them he was an oil tycoon who was friends with Barack Obama.

Police were called to the luxurious Arabic-style mansion in the hills above Marbella when one of the women filed a domestic violence claim against him, T he Telegraph reports.

Nine of the women, mostly in their 20s, who live at the mansion claim Shojai lured them to Spain under false pretences, abusing them and forcing them to cover the 6500 pound ($11,6700) monthly rent.

From the Guardian more of London’s billionaire attracting power:

London property empire amassed by controversial German landlord

Henning Conle, who has reputation for shabby buildings and disgruntled tenants in Germany, has snapped up almost £2bn of prime London real estate

A German landlord with a reputation for shabby buildings and disgruntled tenants has emerged as one of the biggest investors in London property in recent years.

Henning Conle, 70, has snapped up almost £2bn of prime real estate, including a series of historic buildings in central London, raising inevitable questions about where he got his money from.

The portfolio includes buildings that house department stores such as Liberty and House of Fraser, the Kensington Roof Gardens complex, the London offices of Manchester United and the art deco Shell Mex House on the Strand.

While Sky News covers more austerian casualties:

‘Overworked’ Doctors Fear Missing Illnesses

More than eight out of 10 family doctors say they worry about failing to spot serious conditions because of their workloads.

More than eight out of 10 GPs have said they fear missing serious illnesses in patients because they are so overworked, according to a survey.

Nine out of 10 family doctors, meanwhile, feel their general practices do not have sufficient resources to provide high quality care.

The survey was carried out by the Royal College of General Practitioners, the professional membership body for family doctors.

Off to Scandinavia with the Christian Science Monitor:

Nordic cuddly capitalism: Utopia, no. But a global model for equity

The cuddly capitalism of the Nordic nations provides an economic equity that makes a middle class lifestyle the norm, where the sharp edges of worry about the cost of health care, elder care, child care, and education simply don’t exist. But is it a sustainable model for anyone but the pragmatic North?

And these countries have pioneered public policies, the effects of which – if not the tax burden – are the envy of the common man worldwide: from universal preschool and paternity leave to vocational training schools and voucher programs for private schools.

Some of it is hype, which naysayers love to shoot down, as in the recent viral Guardian article that spelled out “the grim truth behind the ‘Scandinavian miracle.’ “ Much of Nordic success has happened because the countries are small, nimble, and, until recently, homogenous. But problems do loom on the horizon, with growing inequality and anti-immigration sentiment, stubborn youth unemployment, and education scores dropping in Sweden and one of the world’s star education performers, Finland.

But by so many measures, the Nordic countries simply work well, sustaining the security of a welfare state while being unabashed capitalists and innovators, adapting to change, and doing so with a long tradition of pragmatic consensus. The region tops charts on equality, transparency, and innovation.

New Europe covers risks:

Norway’s economic risks predicted by OECD

Norway’s economy faces two risk factors that threaten its overall development, warned the OECD in its latest Economic Outlook which was released on May 6.

These two risk factors, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, are the price of oil and the real estate market.

“The ripple effects from a weak oil sector may be greater than expected,” the OECD concludes in its report, which also notes that the country is still volatile when it comes to changing oil prices.

On to France and another green movement from RT:

Hundreds march across France to legalize cannabis

Hundreds of protesters all over France have been rallying demonstrating in favor of legalizing cannabis. The event coincides with the so-called world march for the legalization of the drug.

In Paris, protesters gathered on Bastille Square on Saturday, after Cannabis Without Frontiers, an organization struggling to legalize marijuana in the country, called for the rally.

The crowd chanted “Marie-Jeanne!” in a reference to the nickname for marijuana in France. Many of the protesters held joints or leaves of marijuana, dancing to reggae music.

From TheLocal.fr, the Great Game continues:

Hollande bids to boost Caucasus ties

French President Francois Hollande starts a three-day visit to the South Caucasus on Sunday as he seeks to bolster European ties on Russia’s southern doorstep amid the crisis in Ukraine.

French President Francois Hollande starts a three-day visit to the South Caucasus on Sunday as he seeks to bolster European ties on Russia’s southern doorstep amid the crisis in Ukraine.

Hollande was due to arrive in the Azerbaijani capital Baku around 6:00 pm Sunday, on the same day separatists in eastern Ukraine held referendums on breaking away from the country.

And the London Telegraph covers the bankster blues:

Cinema producer warned over ‘Dominique Strauss-Kahn film’

French producer of film closely inspired by downfall of IMF boss warned that Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s wife will “destroy his life”

The producer of a film which appears to chart the spectacular downfall of Dominique Strauss-Kahn has said he was warned that the estranged wife of the former IMF chief would “destroy his life”.

The accusation will heighten controversy over the film Welcome to New York, which premieres next weekend at Cannes despite being shunned by festival organisers.

Producer Vincent Maraval also repeated his claims that the French political and media “elite” had done their best to prevent the film, which has Gérard Depardieu in the lead role, being made

On to Lisbon and moderately good news from the Portugal News:

Unemployment slightly down

Portugal’s unemployment rate closed the first quarter on 15.1%, down 2.4% on the same period in 2013 and down 0.2% on the previous quarter according to figures released by the National Institute of Statistics.

The institute reported some 788,100 persons were without employment and down by 138,700 and 19,900 people on annual and quarterly bases respectively with the former figure amounting to a 15% drop but also accounting for those who have left the workforce in the meanwhile.

The figures show that there was a total of 4.427 million people in employment, an annualised rise of 1.7% but down 0.9% on the final quarter of 2013.

Italy next, and a populist pander from EUbusiness:

Italy’s Grillo makes Nazi jibe against Schulz

Italian anti-establishment firebrand Beppe Grillo on Sunday likened European Commission presidency candidate Martin Schulz to a Nazi comic book character after Schulz compared him to Stalin and Hugo Chavez.

Grillo’s blog carried a photoshopped picture of Schulz as a Nazi whipping Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his post said that the European Parliament’s German president “has no shame in talking crap”.

Grillo said Silvio Berlusconi was “not completely wrong when he called him a kapo”, or concentration camp guard, recalling an infamous speech made by the then prime minister to the European Parliament in 2003.

Grillo called Schulz a “sturmtruppen” — a reference to a comic book series — and said he was a “krapo”, a combination of the word “kapo” and “crapun” — a dialect word meaning “big head” that was used to refer to Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

From BBC Sport, more overt racism, soccer-style:

AC Milan: Bananas thrown at players by Atalanta fans

AC Milan players had bananas thrown at them during a 2-1 defeat at Atalanta.

Guinea international Kevin Constant and Netherlands midfielder Nigel de Jong picked up two bananas thrown onto the pitch, while Milan players appeared to sarcastically applaud the home support.

Fans were warned the game would be suspended if there was a repeat.

“Whoever threw the banana on the pitch deserves to have a coconut thrown back at them,” Atalanta boss Stefano Colantuono told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“They’ve ruined what was a great afternoon.”

After the jump, good news for Greek neoNazis, electoral violence in the Ukraine, Brazilian angst, waiting for Chinese promises in Africa, Indian elections and hankering for U.S. fracking, Indonesian Shariah second thoughts, Thai troubles continue, economic warning signs from China, Japanese casino dreams, environmental woes, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . .

From Greece, a new day for Golden Dawn via EUbusiness:

Greek Supreme Court clears neo-Nazi party for EU vote

Greece’s Supreme Court has allowed neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn to participate in upcoming European parliament elections, a party lawyer said on Sunday.

“We expected this decision. We have faith in Greek justice,” lawyer Pavlos Sarakis told AFP.

The authorisation came despite an ongoing criminal probe against the political party, six of whose lawmakers including its leader are in prison awaiting trial.

On to the Ukraine, first with a dressing down from EUbusiness:

EU threatens new Russia sanctions but more aid to Ukraine

The EU looks set to try to expand its role in the Ukraine crisis with a fresh show of public support for the Kiev government and threats of new, wider sanctions against Russia.

For the first time in the months-long crisis, one of its top officials, EU Council president Herman Van Rompuy who represents the bloc’s 28 leaders, will fly to Ukraine on Monday to meet the interim government.

“I will travel to Kiev,” he said in a statement “to continue our talks on how to stabilise the situation in Ukraine ahead of the presidential elections on 25 May, how to put an end to violence in Ukraine, and how to create an inclusive national dialogue.”

Xinhua dismisses:

No recognition of eastern Ukraine referendums – US

The United States on Sunday rejected the referendums being held in two regions of eastern Ukraine over their future status, saying it would not recognize the results.

“As the United States has said, the referendums being planned for May 11 in portions of eastern Ukraine by armed separatist groups are illegal under Ukrainian law and are an attempt to create further division and disorder,” State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said in a written statement.

“If these referendums go forward, they will violate international law and the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” she added. “The United States will not recognize the results of these illegal referendums.”

And the Associated Press counts the costs:

Ukraine guardsmen open fire on crowd

Armed men identified as Ukrainian national guard opened fire Sunday on a crowd outside a town hall in eastern Ukraine, and an official for the region’s insurgents said there were fatalities.

The bloodshed in the town of Krasnoarmeisk occurred hours after dozens of armed men shut down voting in a referendum on sovereignty for the region. One of them identified the group as being national guardsmen.

An Associated Press photographer who witnessed the shooting said two people were seen lying unmoving on the ground and insurgent leader Denis Pushilin was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency as saying there were an unspecified number of deaths.

And preliminary results from Al Jazeera America:

Pro-Russia rebels hail turnout in autonomy vote

Hundreds of thousands went to the polls on Sunday to support a poll hastily organized by activists

By lunchtime on Sunday, the all-female volunteer team at Donetsk’s Polling Station No. 1 had declared Sunday’s referendum vote on regional sovereignty for the Donetsk People’s Republic to be a jubilant success.

Although official results will not be released for another three days, according to the leaders of the pro-Russia rebel group organizing the referendum, volunteers like Galina Gryukonova were confident as they broke for lunch midday Sunday that turnout had been strong.

“We are very happy, we are freeing ourselves from those fascists running Kyiv who do not understand our culture, our heroes and our mentality,” the retiree said, as she shared a lunch of cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh, homemade yogurt with her fellow volunteers. “Anyone who has a Ukrainian passport can come to us to register immediately, and vote to protect our freedom and human rights.”

On to Latin America and some liberating news from Reuters:

Venezuela frees most students detained in camp raids

Venezuela said on Sunday it had freed most of the 243 youth activists arrested in raids last week on street camps set up to protest against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government.

Although the government hoped the demolition of four camps in Caracas would snuff out a three-month protest movement, activists vowed the measure had only strengthened their resolve to demonstrate against Maduro.

The students had been camping for weeks outside U.N. offices on a major highway, and in several other public squares.

The Venezuelan public prosecutor’s office said in a statement that 11 detainees had been kept behind bars, accused of a range of crimes including possession of arms and drugs.

RT covers a Brazilian deployment:

‘Largest mobilization ever’ as Brazil deploys troops to borders ahead of World Cup

Brazil is to deploy more than 30,000 troops in a huge military operation to secure its borders in what authorities there are calling the country’s “single largest mobilization ever” ahead of next month’s World Cup championship.

The Brazilian Defense Ministry has begun deploying 30,000 army, navy and air force troops along its lengthy 17,000 km border, which it shares with another ten South American nations, officials said in a statement Saturday.

In what is being codenamed Operation Agata 8, troops will be looking for drug trafficking, arms smuggling and illegal immigration during the June 12 to July 13 World Cup soccer tournament.

On to Africa and a waiting game with South China Morning Post:

Africa must wait and see on Li Keqiang’s ambitious promises, analysts say

Premier pledges mutual benefits and no-strings funding on four-nation tour, but it remains to be seen if Africans are convinced, analysts say

During his week-long visit to Africa, Premier Li Keqiang secured economic and trade deals while simultaneously trying to persuade his hosts China had learned from mistakes on how to engage with the continent.

Brushing aside criticism about China’s motives for its growing presence in Africa, Li announced a series of initiatives during stops in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya that Beijing hoped would convince Africans that Chinese involvement would help their communities.

Observers said the latest moves indicated China was keen to boost its image in the continent, although the effectiveness of the strategy remained to be seen.

Asia next, starting in India with electoral news from the Times of India:

2014 election potboiler heads for grand climax in Varanasi

A long and bruising election season will end on Monday with polling in 41 Lok Sabha seats that could have a crucial bearing on BJP’s final tally. Today also marks the last chance for regional heavyweights Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party to check the saffron advance.

The 18 seats in east Uttar Pradesh that go to polls include Varanasi, where BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is locked in a blockbuster battle with Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal and Congress’s local challenger Ajay Rai.

The temple town has turned into a fortress with over 45,000 security personnel being deployed to ensure free and fair polls today. Senior police officers have descended here to personally assess the situation. Central paramilitary forces have been deployed in all the 1,562 polling stations which are also under CCTV coverage.

And from Sky News, some sobering numbers:

‘Sixth Of Indian Election Candidates On Charges’

Research by an Indian think tank reveals nearly 1,400 prospective MPs face criminal allegations including murder, kidnap and rape.

More than a sixth of candidates in the Indian elections have criminal cases pending against them, according to a think tank.

The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) said some candidates are facing allegations of murder, kidnapping, extortion, trafficking and rape.

The group, which keeps track of national and state elections, political parties, contestants and legislators, found 1,398 of the 8,230 candidates (17%) are facing criminal charges – an increase of 2% compared to the last elections of 2009.

Hankering for American fracking with the Financial Express:

Securing supply behind GAIL’s shale gas push

State-run gas marketer GAIL (India) has drawn up plans to invest in upstream hydrocarbon assets overseas, including in the unconventional but fast-emerging area of shale gas acreages in the US, mainly eyeing the comfort such investments would bring to its LNG import business.

The gas trading and transmission company is willing to spend $500-700 million to pick up minority stakes in US shale assets and also some conventional hydrocarbon projects in Africa, according to its chairman and managing director, BC Tripathi.

With gas demand in India projected to far outstrip domestic production, GAIL has tied up LNG imports of 5.8 million tonnes (mt) a year from the US alone and the 20-year fuel supply in India would commence from 2017. Contracts for LNG imports of another 2.5 mt a year have been signed up with Russian gas firms.

Sober Sharia second thoughts in Indonesia with the Jakarta Globe:

Shariah in Question Over Aceh Caning Controversy

The order by authorities in Aceh to have a woman and her married lover caned for adultery, even after she had been gang-raped by vigilante enforcers of Shariah, has spurred a maelstrom of criticism and soul-searching about the place of Islamic jurisprudence in Muslim-majority but secular Indonesia.

The alleged mob of vigilantes, one of them just 13 years old, stormed into the woman’s home in the town of Langsa and accused the 25-year-old of having an affair with her 40-year-old companion. The accusation carried extra weight in Aceh as a violation of the province’s partial adoption of Shariah, which, among others, forbids intimacy of any kind between unmarried couples.

The vigilantes, eight of them, are accused of gang-raping the young woman and beating up her companion before marching them to a local police station.

Thailand next and the latest turmoil from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

Grenade blasts as Thai protesters keep up campaign

Two people were injured when unknown assailants fired two grenades late on Saturday outside the Government House in Bangkok, where anti-government protesters were camped.

Police and bomb disposal experts were investigating the sites on Sunday.

The blasts also damaged a car and shattered glass from a nearby phone booth.

More from Xinhua:

Thai police forces ready to arrest anti-govt protest leaders

Thai police forces have been prepared to take action to put anti-government leaders in custody only if an arrest warrant for them is approved by court on Monday.

Tharit Pengdit, secretary general of the caretaker government’s Center for the Administration of Peace and Order, announced Sunday that the police forces, including the Arintharat special police unit, will immediately arrest protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and 50 others on rebellion charges if the arrest warrant, already submitted by public prosecutors, is approved by the Criminal Court on Monday.

Suthep, a former deputy premier and former secretary general of the opposition Democrat Party, has pressed the Senate speaker and heads of the judicial branch to name a non-elected prime minister instead of allowing the Election Commission to hold a new election to pick one from among elected lawmakers.

China next and a sobering note from Bloomberg News:

Xi Says China Must Adapt to ‘New Normal’ of Slower Growth

Chinese President Xi Jinping said the nation needs to adapt to a “new normal” in the pace of economic growth and remain “cool-minded” amid a slowdown that analysts forecast will lead to the weakest expansion since 1990.

China’s growth fundamentals haven’t changed and the country is still in a “significant period of strategic opportunity,” Xi said, according to a Xinhua News Agency report on the central government website on May 10. At the same time, the government must prevent risks and take “timely countermeasures to reduce potential negative effects,” he said.

Another somber note via SINA English:

Let the bubble be squeezed

Does the jaw-dropping plunge in property sales in major Chinese cities during the May Day holiday indicate the country’s decade-old housing boom has finally come to an end?

Or is it just a blip during the course of China’s urbanization? The answer differs, not only between the two sides of the market but also among Chinese policymakers.

It is reported that only 169 new apartments were sold from May 1 to 3 in Beijing, down by nearly 80 percent from the same period last year, and a record low since 2009.

Still more from Xinhua:

China’s housing sector to enter “autumn season”: expert

China’s property market is entering an “autumn season” marked by a reasonable drop in house prices, an expert said Sunday.

“The property industry is indeed experiencing a turning point at present, but there will not be a sharp decline like the one that appeared in the United States in 2007 and 2008,” Li Daokui, professor with Tsinghua University and a former advisor to China’s central bank, said at a forum.

The market will enter an “autumn,” but not a “winter,” Li said.

From Want China Times, more ominous numbers:

China’s shadow banking system a threatening US$4.3tn

The size of China’s shadow banking system is around 27 trillion yuan (US$4.3 trillion), only around one fifth of the banking sector’s assets, said a Chinese official. The low proportion does not mean the system’s risks should be underestimated; the underground sector still has the power to drag down the traditional banking sector and the real economy, reports our Chinese-language sister newspaper Want Daily.

A report published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on Friday said shadow banking loosely has a scale of 27 trillion yuan (US$4.3 trillion) and amounted to 19% of the banking sector’s total assets. The most conservative estimate reads six trillion yuan (US$963 billion) if only including non-traditional and unmonitored loans and financings, said Hu Bin, vice director of the academy’s Institute of Finance and Banking.

The system was previously estimated at around 33 trillion yuan (US$5.2 trillion) and amounted to 23% of the 143 trillion yuan (US$22 trillion) in assets of China’s legal banking sector at the end of September last year. However, Hu claims the figure was overestimated since part the fund transfers were conducted within legitimate banking channels.

Still more from Bloomberg:

Tumble in Fuel Sales Adds to Evidence of China Slowdown

Declining demand for ship fuel in Singapore, the merchant fleet’s biggest refueling hub, is signaling weakening prospects for a rebound in Chinese growth.

Fuel oil for immediate delivery traded at the biggest discount to later supplies in 16 months on April 28, according to data from PVM Oil Associates Ltd. Sales of so-called bunker dropped for a third month in March, the longest retreat since November 2007, the latest Maritime and Port Authority data show.

The discount in Singapore’s fuel market shows how growth in demand to ship goods in and out of the world’s second-biggest economy weakened this year. While China’s trade volume unexpectedly rose last month, economists surveyed by Bloomberg anticipate the slowest annual economic growth in almost a quarter century.

And a neoliberal response from People’s Daily:

News Analysis: China eyes new tool to liberalize interest rate

China’s central bank is looking to negotiable certificates of deposit (NCDs) as calls for a fully liberalized interest rate grow.

In its quarterly monetary policy report released this week, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the country’s central bank, said it will gradually offer NCDs for enterprises and individuals to facilitate the country’s interest rate liberalization in an orderly way.

Economists expect NCDs could be launched as soon as this year as a step to give people more investment options other than the equity and fund markets.

On to Japan, a vultures circling with the Japan Times:

Casino moguls gamble on Japan

Adelson puts bet on Tokyo, Bluhm favors Osaka

Two U.S. billionaires are betting on rival cities, Tokyo and Osaka, to be the first in Japan to open casino resorts — once the government gives the go-ahead to legalize gambling.

Japan is one of the world’s last untapped gaming markets and could become the third-largest gambling destination after Macau and the United States, with annual revenue of over $40 billion, according to broker CLSA.

Lawmakers who support legalizing casino gambling hope to see initial draft legislation this year, with the first resort opening by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games.

In a race for first-mover advantage, 76-year-old Chicago real estate mogul Neil Bluhm has set his sights on Osaka, while Las Vegas gaming tycoon Sheldon Adelson, four years his senior, is putting his weight behind a Tokyo flagship resort.

Good news for banksters from Nikkei Asian Review:

Japanese megabanks back to pre-crisis health

The nation’s three megabanks are on track to post record or near-record net profits for fiscal 2013 and planning dividend hikes, making a full comeback from the global financial crisis that struck in 2008.

Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group will likely announce a record net profit somewhere in the lower half of the 800 billion yen ($7.8 billion) range, besting the 794 billion yen reported for fiscal 2012. Rising share prices slashed unrealized losses in its stock portfolio.

Mizuho Financial Group is seen reporting a net profit in the upper half of the 600 billion yen range, beating the record 649.9 billion yen of fiscal 2005. Thanks to better earnings at borrowers, the bank was able to draw down reserves against defaults and book that money as profit.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group will likely post a net profit in the mid-900 billion yen range, a 10%-plus gain on the previous fiscal year. MUFG also plans to upgrade its fiscal 2013 annual dividend by around 1 yen from the currently forecast 14 yen. A fiscal 2014 increase under consideration would mark a third straight year of dividend hikes.

Next up, Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with a hunt from the Japan Times:

Physicist leads effort to image melted cores

Haruo Miyadera is spearheading a project to use subatomic particles called muons to peer into the damaged reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

“Finding out what is happening inside the reactors will be the first step toward dismantling them,” said the 36-year-old physicist at Toshiba Corp.’s Power and Industrial Systems Research and Development Center.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the power plant, wants to start removing the reactors’ melted fuel cores in 2020. It plans to install muon detection equipment next year that will help them examine the reactors’ interiors, which are too radioactive to probe by direct means.

Setting the stage with NHK WORLD:

Waste storage briefings planned outside Fukushima

The environment ministry is planning to hold briefing sessions outside Fukushima Prefecture on planned interim facilities to store waste materials from the ongoing decontamination work in the prefecture.

Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said on Friday that briefings are planned later this month for the local communities Okuma and Futaba towns near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The central government has asked the municipalities to host storage facilities. Ishihara said he will soon be able to announce the briefing sites and other details.

The municipal assemblies of the two towns agreed earlier this month to allow the government to brief residents on the proposed facilities.

The Hindu covers reactor reaction on the subcontinent:

Anti-nuke protest completes 1,000 days

Activists vow to step up agitation until Kudankulam project is scrapped

The thatched pandal abutting St. Lourdes Church at Idinthakarai in Tirunelveli district, just north of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) site, has become much more than a symbolic pilgrim’s centre for the activists, largely drawn from the fishermen’s community opposing the plant after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan over three years ago.

As another milestone was crossed in this prolonged and largely non-violent struggle on Sunday when their agitation, under the auspices of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), entered the 1,000th day, the protestors seemed even more resolute, holding candles at day-fall.

If anything, the PMANE, under the leadership of the political science professor-turned-activist, S.P. Udayakumar, now an Aam Admi Party candidate for the Lok Sabha elections from the neighbouring Kanyakumari, vowed to continue the agitation until the project was scrapped. The first of the two light water nuclear reactors of 1,000 MWe each, built with Russian assistance, had crossed the 900-MWe generation mark recently.

From the Associated Press and the Department of Other Fuels/Other Problems:

Fed govt failed to inspect higher risk oil wells

The government has failed to inspect thousands of oil and gas wells it considers potentially high risks for water contamination and other environmental damage, congressional investigators say.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press before its public release, highlights substantial gaps in oversight by the agency that manages oil and gas development on federal and Indian lands.

Investigators said weak control by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management resulted from policies based on outdated science and from incomplete monitoring data.

And for our final, a killer at sea with the San Francisco Chronicle:

Abalone massacre pinned on microscopic coastal killer

Scientists have identified a microscopic sea creature with a Jekyll and Hyde personality as the culprit in the death of tens of thousands of abalone three years ago along the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts, but they don’t know how to stop the elusive critter from killing again.

The toxic “red tide” in 2011 turned the pristine coastal waters into a graveyard, with the rotting carcasses of red abalone, sea urchins, starfish and other mollusks strewn along the shoreline from Bodega Bay and Fort Ross to Anchor Bay in southern Mendocino County.

A team of scientists and geneticists said this week that they used a sophisticated, new forensic genome testing technique to pin the carnage on a mysterious poison-producing micro-organism known as Gonyaulax spinifera, a species of phytoplankton virtually unheard of in this part of the world.

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