U.N. Court Orders Japan to Halt Whaling Off Antarctica

A January 2013 image from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society shows three minke whales on the deck of a Japanese boat in the Southern Ocean. Credit Tim Watters/Sea Shepherd Australia, via European Pressphoto Agency

TOKYO — The decision to ban Japan’s annual whaling drive off Antarctica, handed down by the United Nations’ highest court on Monday, was a hard-won victory for conservationists who long argued that Tokyo’s whaling research was a cover for commercial whaling.

The ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague halts a Japanese program that has captured more than 10,000 minke and other whales in the Southern Ocean each year since 1988 in the name of biological research.

Japan may not be ready to lay down its harpoons entirely. Though the ruling is final, it allows the Japanese to continue to hunt whales under a redesigned program, said Nanami Kurasawa, who heads a marine conservation group in Tokyo.

And the court’s decision does not affect smaller hunts that Japan carries out in the northern Pacific, or coastal whaling carried out on a smaller scale by local fishermen.

“It’s an important decision, but it also leaves the Japanese government a lot of leeway,” Ms. Kurasawa said. “The Japanese government could start research whaling again but under a different name, and it would be out of the ruling’s purview.”

In a 12-to-4 judgment, the court found that Japan was in breach of its international obligations by catching and killing minke whales and issuing permits for hunting humpback and fin whales within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, established by the International Whaling Commission.

Reading a summary of the judgment, the presiding judge, Peter Tomka of Slovakia, said that the latest Japanese program, which was expanded in 2005, had involved the killing of thousands of minke whales and a number of fin whales, but that its “scientific output to date appears limited.” The ruling suggested that Japan’s whaling hunt was based on politics and logistics, rather than science.

Lawyers attending the proceedings said there was a gasp among the audience when Judge Tomka ordered Japan to immediately “revoke all whaling permits” and not issue any new ones under the existing program.

“I rarely heard such an unequivocal, strong ruling at this court,” said a lawyer with long experience at the court who asked not to be named because he is working on a case in progress.

Read more at The New York Times.

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The Magical World Where McDonald’s Pays $15 an Hour? It’s Australia

Even in countries with a high minimum wage, the golden arches manage to turn a profit. Here’s how.

Last week, fast-food workers around the United States yet again walked off the job to protest their low pay and demand a wage hike to $15 an hour, about double what many of them earn today. In doing so, they added another symbolic chapter to an eight-month-old campaign of one-day strikes that, so far, has yielded lots of news coverage, but not much in terms of tangible results.

So there’s a certain irony that in Australia, where the minimum wage for full-time adult workers already comes out to about $14.50 an hour, McDonald’s staffers were busy scoring an actual raise. On July 24, the country’s Fair Work Commission approved a new labor agreement between the company and its employees guaranteeing them up to a 15 percent pay increase by 2017.

And here’s the kicker: Many Australian McDonald’s workers were already making more than the minimum to begin with.

The land down under is, of course, not the only high-wage country in the world where McDonald’s does lucrative business. The company actually earns more revenue out of Europe than than it does from the United States. France, with its roughly $12.00 hourly minimum, has more than 1,200 locations. (Australia has about 900).

So how exactly do McDonald’s and other chains manage to turn a profit abroad while paying an hourly wage their American workers can only fantasize about while picketing? Part of the answer, as you might expect, boils down to higher prices. Academic estimates have suggested that, worldwide, worker pay accounts for at least 45 percent of a Big Mac’s cost. In the United States, industry analysts tend to peg the figure a bit lower—labor might make up anywhere from about a quarter of all expenses at your average franchise to about a third.* But generally speaking, in countries where pay is higher, so is the cost of two all-beef patties, as shown in the chart below by Princeton economist Orley Ashenfelter. Note Western Europe way out in the upper-right hand corner, with its high McWages and high Big Mac prices.

Read more at The Atlantic

Too many of America’s working poor have become victims of a bizarre kind of socioeconomic Stockholm Syndrome. I’m talking about poor people who vote the interests of rich people. They’re like dogs begging for scraps from the table of a master who has no intention of sharing anything. But I’m being unfair to dog owners. Most dog owners treat their pets better than some of America’s wealthiest treat their fellow citizens.