Trump's tariff talk triggers EU retaliatory plan
Newsletter: A deeper dive into the day's most notable stories
Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.
- EU reveals list of American-made items that will be subject to new 25 per cent import duties if the U.S. President follows through on his plan to impose tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum
- Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were attacked with a nerve agent, U.K. police say
- Thirsty Cape Town to offset demands of big cycling race and marathon by trucking in drinking water, using "recycled" water for ice
Hitting American where it hurts
It looks like Donald Trump is going to get his trade war.
This morning, the European Union unveiled its list of American-made items that will be subject to new 25 per cent import duties if the U.S. President follows through on his plan to impose tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum.
As had been previously hinted — and slyly reinforced by Malmström's choice of apparel, a black leather jacket — the EU list includes Harley Davidson motorcycles, blue jeans and bourbon.
But there were close to 100 additional items, including self-tapping screws, step-ladders, bed linen, lipstick, manicure sets, kitchen sinks, and appliances for "baking, frying and grilling." (We're looking at you, George Foreman.)
As will more rarified, one-percenter purchases like yachts, sail craft and power boats.
Trump's proposed tariffs — 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum — are being levied under a 1962 act that gives the president power to limit trade for reasons of "national security."
But today, Malmström wondered aloud how the act applies to "traditional allies."
"We cannot see how the European Union, friends and allies in NATO, can be a threat to international security in the U.S.," she said.
And this morning, the U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross indicated that the resident's position might be more flexible than it appears -- at least when it comes to Canada and Mexico.
"We're not trying to blow up the world. There's no intention of that," Ross said in an interview on the CNBC network. "We're not looking for a trade war. We're going to have very sensible relations with our allies."
Although Trump's daily tweet-fest suggests otherwise.
From Bush 1 to present, our Country has lost more than 55,000 factories, 6,000,000 manufacturing jobs and accumulated Trade Deficits of more than 12 Trillion Dollars. Last year we had a Trade Deficit of almost 800 Billion Dollars. Bad Policies & Leadership. Must WIN again! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MAGA?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MAGA</a>—@realDonaldTrump
Today the U.S. Commerce Department announced that the country's trade deficit hit $56.6 billion US in January -- a nine-year high.
And America's trade imbalance with China — the world's No. 1 steel producer — is only getting worse, up 16 per cent to $36 billion.
Skripal poisoned by nerve agent
British authorities say they now know what the mystery substance was that caused a former Russian spy and his daughter to fall deathly ill last weekend — a nerve agent.
Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, remain in critical condition in a hospital in Salisbury, England. On Sunday evening, they were discovered passed out on a park bench near a downtown shopping mall.
At Scotland Yard this afternoon, Mark Rowley, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told reporters that lab tests suggest that the illnesses were caused by a nerve agent, and that the victims were "targeted specifically" in an act of "attempted murder."
He was pardoned by then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in July 2010, and was included in a swap for 10 deep-cover "sleeper agents" that the Russians had placed in the United States.
Skripal was later granted U.K. residency and obtained a house in Salisbury, the sleepy cathedral town southeast of London where Sunday's incident took place.
His daughter Yulia was visiting from her home in Russia.
In an appearance on Russian television in 2010, Putin was asked about the spy swap that saw Skripal and three other Russians sent to the West.
"Traitors will kick the bucket. Trust me. These people betrayed their friends, their brothers in arms," Putin said. "Whatever they got in exchange for it, those 30 pieces of silver they were given, they will choke on them."
Today, Rowley refused to specify which nerve agent police believe was involved.
But Russia is among the handful of nations that have stockpiles of both Sarin and VX.
VX, invented by a British scientist in the 1950s, comes in liquid, gas and cream form, and exposure to just 10 milligrams can be fatal. VX is what authorities believe was used to kill Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, in an attack at a Malaysian airport last year.
British authorities say they don't believe that there is any health risk to the general public, but a restaurant and a pub that Skripal and his daughter visited on Sunday remained closed while investigators combed the premises.
Cape Town's water crisis isn't going to end anytime soon.
As of Monday, average reservoir levels across the Western Cape of South Africa stood at 20.83 per cent of capacity. On Wednesday, the Theewaterskloof Dam, which supplies most of Cape Town's potable water, was at just 10.9 per cent of capacity.
So what do you do if you are organizing events that bring tens of thousands of thirsty visitors to drought-stricken Cape Town?
Truck it in from the wetter parts of South Africa.
The Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust announced Tuesday that it will add 2.2 millions litres of potable water to the city's reservoirs to make-up for what 15,000 participants and spectators will drink and flush during the March 11 event.
Race organizers have also committed to other measures to limit consumption, including:
- Reducing the number of hydration stations along the route to a "medically essential" 14.
- Bringing in 360 "grey water" porta-potties.
- Installing waterless hand washing stations.
- Using cement blocks rather than H2O containers to weigh down temporary structures.
The move follows similar conservation measures instituted by Cape Town's Two Oceans Marathon, which is scheduled for Easter Saturday and attracts some 26,000 runners each year. Drinking water for this year's 49th edition will come from a natural spring, rather than municipality taps. Ice used to keep everything cool will be made from "recycled," not-for-human-consumption water sources. Organizers have also made the switch to chemical toilets, and done away with shower stations at the marathon finish.
Day-Zero plans call for a ration of 25 litres per day per person — half of the current, and often ignored, daily limit for Cape Town residents.
Police don't expect the transition to go smoothly. Late last month, provincial police commissioner Major General Mpumelele Manci told legislators that his force and the army are ready to guard and escort water truck deliveries to the city's distribution points — managing to make it sound like a Mad Max sequel.
"Whatever threat is coming, we shall be able to deal with it," he said.
The 187 planned water pod locations have already been categorized by risk — low, medium and high. Some 600 armed cops and soldiers will be dispatched to oversee the distribution to the public, while the riot squad will be on "permanent standby" in case of unrest.
Two South African academics recently the crunched the numbers surrounding Cape Town's emergency distribution plan and came to the conclusion that the lines will be long, and likely unruly.
Each of the distribution points will have to operate smoothly for 12.5 hours a day to get everyone their daily ration, according to their modelling. A figure that shoots up to 25 hours in the event of "random shocks" or conflict.
- Enjoying this newsletter? You may also like our early-morning newsletter, the Morning Brief. Start the day with the news you need in one quick and concise read. Sign up here.
Quote of the moment
"What happened to (Sergei) Skripal has been immediately used to further incite the anti-Russian campaign in Western media. It's a traditional campaign. The tradition is to make things up."
- Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, reacting to questions about Kremlin involvement in the suspected poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter.
What The National is reading
- Syrian forces step up attacks on Ghouta as death toll rises (CBC)
- Holocaust museum revokes award to Aung San Suu Kyi (NY Times)
- Why Coca-Cola is finally getting into the booze business (Fortune)
- Nova Scotia school closed following racist graffiti, social media threat (CBC)
- Wisconsin company set to suck 7 million gallons out of Great Lakes (Chicago Tribune)
- NME to end print edition after 66 years (Telegraph)
- U.S. tech billionaire seeks to limit beach access rights through Supreme Court (LA Times)
- 'Super Monster Wolf' a success in Japan farming trials (BBC)
Today in history
March 7, 1978: Pro-seal hunt media campaign escalates
It was never going to be a fair fight — Newfoundland Premier Frank Moores and a panel of fisheries experts versus French actress Brigitte Bardot and some cuddly harp seal pups. The Newfoundland government spent $160,000 trying to get its side of the story out before the beginning of 1978's sealing season. And it was a total waste, thanks mostly to the efforts of the hunt's most outspoken critic, Brian Davies, founder of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Sign up here and have The National Today newsletter delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.