Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tata Steel plans to sell UK plants; Impeachment looms for Brazil president; Gender markings to go in New York college

1 Tata Steel plans to sell UK plants (BBC) India's Tata Steel plans to sell its loss-making UK business, putting the jobs of thousands of workers at risk. Its European holding company has been told to "explore all options for restructuring", including the partial or entire sale of its UK operations. Union leaders travelled to Mumbai in a bid to persuade Tata to keep making steel at plants including Port Talbot.

The UK and Welsh governments said they are working "tirelessly" to ensure the future of the British steel industry. Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said that her party wanted the Welsh Assembly to be recalled to discuss the crisis.

Tata's restructuring decision, which was announced after a board meeting in Mumbai, will also affect workers its other UK plants. Tata said trading conditions had "rapidly deteriorated" in the UK and Europe due to a global oversupply of steel, imports into Europe, high costs and currency volatility.

Unions expressed concern at the announcement and urged Tata and politicians to work at finding a buyer for the business. Tata Steel has been operating in the UK since 2007 when it bought Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus. In January the company announced more than 1,000 UK job cuts. And last October Tata Steel said nearly 1,200 jobs would go at plants in Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire.

There have been allegations that Chinese steel is being "dumped" on world markets at prices that UK plants cannot hope to compete with. At the same time China's economy has remained sluggish, meaning that the demand for steel from its construction sector is now weaker. Other factors affecting the wider UK steel industry include relatively high energy prices and the extra cost of climate change policies.

2 Impeachment looms for Brazil president (San Francisco Chronicle) Brazil's largest party abandoned President Dilma Rousseff's governing coalition, a decision that diminishes the possibility that she will survive mounting pressure in Congress for her impeachment.

The Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, known as the PMDB, said after a meeting that six Cabinet ministers belonging to the party as well as some 600 federal government employees who are members must step down. The announcement was made after more than 100 lawmakers approved the decision.

The session ended with chants calling for the end of Rousseff's Worker's Party and for Vice President Michel Temer to become Brazil's president. Temer, who is the leader of the Democratic Movement, would assume the presidency if Rousseff was impeached for breaking fiscal laws.

The break increases the chance that Rousseff, whose popularity has plunged amid Brazil's worst recession in decades and corruption scandals, will be impeached in the coming months. Brazilians have been staging wide protests demanding the president's impeachment and protesting the sprawling corruption scandal at state-run oil giant Petrobras that has been moving closer to Rousseff's inner circle.

Rousseff, a former chairwoman of Petrobras' board, has not been implicated in the unfolding scandal at the oil company, which prosecutors say is the largest corruption scheme ever uncovered in Brazil. Rousseff backers say impeachment is a power grab by opponents who themselves have been sullied by the probe into kickbacks and bribery at Petrobras.

The embattled leader will now search for new allies and will try to form a new government before the end of the week, Rousseff's chief of staff, Jaques Wagner, said. A recent poll by the respected Datafolha agency says 68 percent of people surveyed want to see lawmakers vote to impeach Rousseff, but only 11 percent believe they would be better off under Temer.

3 Gender markings to go in New York college (Molly Redden in The Guardian) Last fall, the oldest building on the Cooper Union campus underwent a sudden renovation. A group of students, agitating for their transgender classmates, stripped the words “men” and “women” off the doors of the Foundation Building’s restrooms.

The act expressed years of pent-up frustration that in lower Manhattan, at one of the most liberal colleges in the country, students who failed to conform to gender norms nevertheless risked harassment whenever they went to the bathroom.

But then, the unexpected happened. The signs were never replaced. And in an apparent first for a US college, the Cooper Union administration this month moved to remove the gender designations from all the bathrooms on campus by taking down the rest of the men’s and women’s signage from bathrooms.

The decision stands in contrast to many of the bitter fights over bathroom and locker room access transpiring across the country. This year alone, states have considered more than two dozen bills to restrict transgender individuals from using bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity.

Placards outside what was formerly the men’s room will read “restroom with urinal and stalls”, and outside the former women’s room, “restroom with only stalls”. The change represents a triumph even as the student activists say that the campus can still be an unfriendly place for transgender individuals and those who do not identify with either gender. The dorms remain divided by gender, although the school says it is accommodating of students who request different arrangements.

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