San Francisco, Oct 7 (AP/UNB) — California voters are right to think they already weighed in on how big cages should be for egg-laying hens.
In 2008, voters ushered in Proposition 2, which sought to free egg-laying hens from tiny cages. It didn't outlaw cages but barred California farmers from keeping hens — as well as calves raised for veal and breeding pigs — in pens so small they virtually couldn't move.
Since then, supermarket shelves have filled with cage-free egg varieties. Corporations like McDonald's, Costco and Taco Bell have committed to using cage-free products.
But a decade later, voters are being asked to revisit the issue with Proposition 12, the Farm Animal Confinement Initiative.
The Humane Society of the United States, the issue's primary proponent, says the measure is needed to update California standards and to apply those standards to out-of-state farmers selling their products in California. The earlier initiative simply stated the three types of animals must be able to turn around freely, stand up and fully extend their limbs — but set no specifics.
A "yes" vote for Proposition 12 would create new minimum size requirements for confinement pens for all three animals and require that all egg-laying hens be cage-free by 2022.
It would also ban the sales from other states not meeting California's standards.
The Humane Society calls the measure a "commonsense reform" that strengthens a decade-old animal cruelty law and gives farmers a phase-in time to shift to more humane practices.
"Most of the eggs sold in California come from birds confined in cages where it's hard for them to even move. They have to eat, sleep, defecate and lay eggs in the same small space every day for their entire life," said Josh Balk, vice president at the Humane Society of the United States. "Proposition 12 ensures that the pork sold in California, the veal sold in California and the eggs sold in the state come from (animals) not confined in cages."
Specifically, the measure would require, starting in 2020, a calf confined for production to have at least 43 square feet (4 square meters) of floor space to roam in, while each pig would have to be given 24 square feet (2.2 square meters) of floor space starting in 2022.
Egg-laying hens, starting in 2020, must be given 1 square foot (0.1 square meter) of floor space each, and have to be cage-free by 2022, according to Proposition 12.
According to findings of the state's nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office, the measure would likely result in an increase in prices for eggs, pork and veal partly because farmers would have to remodel or build new housing for animals.
"Changes in housing systems, which come with significant costs that increase food prices, should be driven by consumer purchasing decisions, not the agenda of any activist group," Jim Monroe, National Pork Producers Council spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times.
The Association of California Egg Farmers also opposes the measure, saying the expedited timeline could lead to supply disruptions, price spikes and a shortage of eggs for sale.
The Legislative Analyst's Office concluded that if approved, the measure could cost the state as much as $10 million a year to enforce, and millions of dollars more per year in lost tax revenues from farm businesses that choose to stop or reduce production because of higher costs.
Other opponents of Proposition 12 say it doesn't go far enough to stop animal cruelty.
Bradley Miller, a spokesman for Californians against Cruelty, Cages and Fraud, which is leading a "No on Proposition 12" campaign, says the measure is misleading because the phase-in period implicitly makes cages legal until at least 2022.
"We're opposed to legalizing cages in our state," said Miller, who is also president of the Humane Farming Association. "These are ever-changing, never-arriving deadlines."
London, Oct 6 (AP/UNB) — The chances of Britain and the European Union striking a Brexit deal on their divorce are rising, one of the bloc's leaders said, amid reports the two sides are moving closer on the fraught issue of the Irish border.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told three Austrian newspapers in comments published Saturday that "the rapprochement potential between both sides has increased in recent days."
Negotiations faltered after the EU said last month that British Prime Minister Theresa May's proposal for post-Brexit economic relations was unacceptable.
The two sides spent days trading bad-tempered barbs, with EU leaders demanding an apology after British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt compared the bloc to the Soviet Union.
But officials have been meeting behind the scenes before a key summit in Brussels on Oct. 17 and 18. EU leaders say there needs to be major progress at the meeting for there to be a deal before Britain leaves the bloc on March 29.
The main obstacle is ensuring there are no customs posts or border checks along the frontier between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. Both sides say the border must be kept open, but haven't agreed on how that can be accomplished.
The Irish border impasse has heightened fears that the U.K. could find itself crashing out of the bloc without a deal. The U.K. government has acknowledged that could leave planes grounded and trucks backed up at British ports.
Juncker said a "no-deal" Brexit would be bad for both Britain and the EU.
"Our will is unbroken to reach agreement with the British government," he said.
Singapore, Oct 5 (AP/UNB) — Asian markets were mostly lower on Friday after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence claimed China had meddled with its midterm elections to unsettle the Trump administration, which Beijing has denied.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 0.8 percent to 23,784.64, and the Kospi in South Korea dropped 0.6 percent to 2,261.89. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 percent to 26,512.16. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 6,193.30. Stocks fell in Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia. Markets in Chinese mainland were closed for a national holiday.
WALL STREET: A sell-off in U.S. Treasury bonds, particularly longer term ones, sent interest rates sharply higher on Thursday. Fears that higher interest rates could eventually slow economic growth by making borrowing more expensive weighed on major U.S. indexes. The S&P 500 index gave up 0.8 percent to 2,901.61, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.7 percent to 26,627.48. The Nasdaq composite tumbled 1.8 percent to 7,879.51. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks was 1.5 percent lower at 1,646.91.
CHINESE MEDDLING: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused China of taking public and covert measures to interfere in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. This includes targeting Chinese tariffs to industries in states that are crucial to Trump, intimidating scholars, and coercing U.S. businesses to speak out against the Trump administration, he said. Pence charged that Russian influence operations in the U.S. "pales in comparison" to Chinese operations. "China wants a different American president," he said. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Pence's allegations were "groundless." Separately, Bloomberg reported that China had inserted tiny chips into computer equipment manufactured for the U.S. to steal its technology secrets, citing corporate and government sources. Apple has dismissed the report.
ANALYST'S TAKE: "Risk sentiments remain fragile, especially with overnight news about China's tiny chip hack and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's tough words on China's alleged interference in U.S. politics, which could point to a further escalation of the ongoing US-China trade war," said Selena Ling, chief economist at OCBC Bank.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 47 cents to $74.80 a barrel. The contract lost 2.7 percent to settle at $74.33 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 37 cents to $84.95 per barrel. It shed 2 percent to $84.58 per barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 113.91 yen from 113.86 yen on Thursday. The euro fell to $1.1506 from $1.1515.
Bangkok, Oct 4 (AP/UNB) — European shares followed Asian markets lower Thursday after yields on U.S. Treasury bonds surged to multi-year highs as U.S. central bank officials expressed confidence in the staying power of the current expansion.
KEEPING SCORE: The DAX in Germany lost 0.3 percent to 12,247.20 while in France the CAC 40 sank 0.8 percent to 5,450.10. Britain's FTSE 100 also tumbled 0.8 percent, to 7,448.91. The S&P future contact dropped 0.6 percent to 2,914.20 and the contract for the Dow lost 0.5 percent to 26,732.00, auguring a dismal start for Wall Street.
ASIA'S DAY: India's Sensex tumbled 2.2 percent to 35,237.49 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index sank 1.7 percent to 26,623.87. Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.6 percent to 23,975.32, while the Kospi in South Korea sank 1.5 percent to 2,274.49. Australia alone posted gains, as the S&P ASX 200 jumped 0.5 percent to 6,176.30. India's Sensex lost 1.8 percent to 35,332.22. Shares also fell in Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand. Markets in mainland China are closed for a weeklong holiday.
INDIAN SELL-OFF: Shares sank in India on concerns over continued weakness in the rupee and over the country's trade deficit thanks to surging costs for oil imports. Reports said the commerce minister planned to convene a meeting Thursday to discuss the problem. The rupee was trading at 73.71 to a U.S. dollar after hitting a record low of 73.81. The currency has lost 15 percent this year.
BONDS SURGE: The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note spiked to its highest level in more than seven years and was hovering at 3.22 percent during the Asian trading day. The surge in bond yields to multi-year highs has been driven by U.S. interest rate hikes, buttressed by bullish commentary from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and other U.S. central bank officials.
ANALYST'S VIEWPOINT: "Asian stocks are not faring so well which is not so untypical when the U.S. dollar strengthened markedly versus Asian currencies, notably vs the (Chinese) yuan, which is a crucial bellwether of local sentiment," Stephen Innes of OANDA said in a commentary.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 13 cents to $76.28 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped 1.6 percent to settle at $76.41 a barrel in New York. U.S. crude has hit four-year highs this week. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 14 cents to $86.15 per barrel. It rose 1.8 percent to $86.29 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 114.32 from 114.48 yen. The euro was flat at $1.1475.
Tokyo, Oct 4 (AP/UNB) — Japan's No. 1 automaker Toyota Motor Corp. and technology giant SoftBank Group Corp. are setting up a joint venture to create mobility services in what they called a "united Japan" effort to face global competition.
The venture, Monet Technologies Corp. is meant to be running by the end of March. It will work on on-demand vehicle services, food deliveries and hospital shuttles with onboard medical exams, the companies said Thursday in a news conference at a Tokyo hotel.
"This may look like an unusual combination," SoftBank's executive in charge of technology, Junichi Miyakawa, acknowledged, referring to the odd-couple union of an old-style manufacturer like Toyota with a relative newcomer like SoftBank. The energy and telecoms company's past tie-ups have tended to be with overseas startups.
"But Japan must compete with the rest of the world. That is why we are shaking hands today," Miyakawa said after shaking hands with his counterpart at Toyota, Shigeki Tomoyama.
Tomoyama said the joint venture will deliver services that combine Toyota's manufacturing know-how with SoftBank's technology prowess, which includes the Internet of Things, IoT, technology.
The services will roll out in Japan first, but a global expansion is in the works, the companies said.
Toyota is developing autonomous vehicles in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Monet plans to roll out a business featuring autonomous vehicle services by the second half of 2020, they said.
Automakers around the world are forming tie-ups in the race to develop the next-generation of transportation, such as self-driving cars.
Earlier this week, Toyota's Japanese rival Honda Motor Co. said it was investing $2.75 billion in GM Cruise, an autonomous-vehicle unit run by General Motors Co. of the U.S.